The First Year Is The Hardest?

When I was pregnant with Max and even when he was born, I read and heard a lot of people talking about how the first year with two small children is the hardest. That once you’ve got past that then you’ll be home and dry, pretty much.

It makes sense. The more independent they get, the better things should be. You’re in a routine and you kind of know what you’re doing. But I think I’m genuinely more tired right now than I’ve been at any point of having two – even the very early newborn days. Maybe it’s just me forgetting what the first few weeks and months were like, but even as I write this (at 10.54am) I feel like my eyes are closing and I could quite happily go to bed!

Maybe some of it is because I’m doing more now. In the early days, it was all about just keeping the kids fed and their nappies changed and trying to get at least one of them to nap. Now there’s work to think about, and we try and get out as much as possible. Now Max is on the move (nearly walking!) I feel like he requires so much more attention. Alexandra is pretty good at playing independently so I can get on with washing up or hanging out the clothes to dry, or whatever needs doing, and when Max was tiny I could just plonk him in his bouncer for a few minutes. However now I’ve constantly got him hanging off me! And then Alex will have a request – probably for a snack – and then before I know it, it’s taken ten times longer to get something simple done!

I try and be as organised as I can, get as much done as possible while Max naps, and not worry too much that there are jobs like cleaning the skirting boards or tidying out our shoe cupboard that have been at the bottom of the to do list for weeks and weeks. But I’m someone who likes getting things done!

Part of the issue is in the early days I was quite happy to maybe get out the house for 20 minutes for a walk, and that might be the only time we ventured out that day. Now the children are much more demanding of activities to do, and need wearing out a bit each day! So we’re physically out of the house much more – and when we are home I’m rushing around trying to tidy or clean up, or quickly send some emails, or pack bags and lay out clothes for the next day.

I’m also not helping myself as I’ve started watching Love Island so now I need an extra six hours a week on top of all the extra time I could do with for chores and productive things.

Red Bull are rubbing their hands with glee though as I’m basically treating it like water these days!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Paid To Breastfeed

This child would not have earned me £200.

Have you seen the most recent news about the results of a pilot scheme which sees mothers given up to £200 to breastfeed? The five-year trial saw moms in certain parts of the country given £120 in vouchers for certain shops if they said they were breastfeeding when their baby was six weeks old, and a further £80 if they were six months on

The experts are now recommending this be rolled out in a bid to up our breastfeed rates which are, when compared to the rest of the world, pretty shocking. Now let me start by saying I’m absolutely in favour of boob milk. If you can feed your baby and they’re happy and you’re happy then great! But this idea of paying people to do it makes me absolutely fuming! Seriously. My husband mentioned this story to me a couple of hours ago and I’ve been seething about it ever since. I think it’s disgraceful to essentially punish people (by not giving them the same financial opportunities as others) for something that could be entirely out of their control.

What about the mother who desperately wants to breastfeed and has spent days, weeks or even months trying to get their baby to latch on but they just won’t? (I had a baby who had six days of INTENSIVE breastfeeding support in hospital. Every single person who worked in the hospital she was born in had a go at trying to get her to latch, and she was just useless at it bless her. She was losing weight, she was in danger of becoming jaundice again and both she and I were pretty unhappy. Should I have stuck at it and potentially endangered her health?)

What about mothers who have conditions which mean they can’t breastfeed, or who are on medication that prevents them from doing so safely? Shall we just encourage people to delay their chemo for six months so they can get an Argos voucher? Or come off their antidepressants at the most vulnerable time of their life so they can pick up something nice from Debenhams?

What about those for whom breastfeeding, or the thought of doing so, has a completely negative effect on their mental health? I am absolutely all for breastfeeding where possible, but if it’s going to make you poorly doing it (or trying to do it) then you have to think about the long term health of yourself and your baby because clearly if you’re unwell that’s going to have an impact on them.

What about those who have to return to work really quickly after having their baby to support their family, perhaps if they’re not eligible for maternity pay or can’t afford to live on it, if dad isn’t around or is unable to work? Yes ideally you’d work somewhere where it would be possible to continue to breastfeed or express but we all know that’s not always feasible.

What about those who are simply too physical unwell to breastfeed? ‘Sorry you were in a coma six weeks after your baby was born but you REALLY should have tried harder to keep feeding her. No voucher for you!’ Yes, it’s extreme, but it does happen. I have heard SO many stories in the last two years about women who have been pushed to the brink physically by carrying and birthing their child so for them, whilst a lovely year-long breastfeeding journey that came to a end naturally when baby decided to wean would have been ideal, it’s just not possible to do it.

I can think of so many more examples where mom may really want to breastfeed but not be able to get to that six month, or even six week, mark. It may be easy to look at it as a simple choice of ‘I want to breastfeed’ or ‘I want to formula feed’ but I think in the majority of cases it’s much more complicated than that.

I also slightly object to the thought that we may need to give financial incentives to people. We’ve all seen the facts, breastfeeding has many benefits. If it works then it’s great (and let’s face it, you’re already getting the financial benefit of not buying formula or bottles or sterilising equipment), but you should want to do it because you’re aware of the advantages not because you’ve seen a new coat you’d like to buy with the vouchers.

Why aren’t we putting that money towards educating people about the benefits of breastfeeding?

Why aren’t we putting that money towards having more support for people who desperately want to breastfeed but can’t?

My other questions are: what about combi feeding? We seem to concentrate so much on the whole BF/FF debate but do you still get the money if you’re combi feeding like we are? Do you get a percentage of the money depending how much breast milk your baby has?

And who’s checking whether these people actually are breastfeeding? Have we got spies sitting in the local Starbucks checking who’s got a boob out? Or hiding in people’s wheelie bins peeking through their window to check if they’re sneakily making up a bottle of formula?

What a truly sad state of affairs if the only way to drive up breastfeeding statistics is to throw a bit of cash at people!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

All I Want For Christmas Is…

Having an under-table party. I wasn’t invited.

We’ve all got something we’d like the big bearded man from the North to bring us on the 25th, right? This year my Christmas list is depressingly short. I don’t want clothes because the fanciest place I go to is baby group. I don’t want books cause the last time I read a book was during my first pregnancy. Alcohol and chocolates are both out of the equation. And I have far too many socks already.

So I got to thinking, what would I REALLY like as a mother this year? Aside from all that guff about cheer and happiness and world peace. What would make my life about a zillion times better? Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive-at-all-I-just-wrote-this-while-they-napped-SIMULTANEOUSLY-for-once-HURRAH list:

The ability to go for a shower and not have to stop the water at least five times because I can hear imaginary baby cries. Or just to learn that they’re never crying and it IS just my imagination.

To go to the shops without coming back with some sweets that I had to bribe the toddler with and a new outfit for the baby even though he has more clothes than the Kardashians.

To go out and come back with all the baby socks, dummies and sippy cups I left the house with.

A Sunday morning where you look at the clock and say ‘nah, it’s only half nine, I won’t get up just yet’.

Naps to continue until both children go to school.

Delivery drivers to never arrive when either child is sleeping.

The toddler to decide she wants the first thing I suggest for lunch, not the 47th.

A washing up fairy.

Never to have that awful feeling when you lose sight of your kid at soft play, frantically search for them for a minute and then they suddenly appear in a place you’ve already looked five times.

For them to finally make the episode of Bing where Flop finally flips and tells him what an ungrateful, whiny little nause he is.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a week.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a day.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Leaving The Kids

Who wouldn’t want to spend all their time with these adorable things?

If there’s one thing you learn when you become immersed in the world of motherhood (mothering? Motherdom?) apart from how to cut grapes correctly and how to poo in front of an audience, is how different we all are when it comes to our preferences and the way we bring/drag up our offspring.

Never is this more true than when it comes to leaving the kids. And by that I mean having someone babysit them while you have a break, not abandoning them on the steps of a local church when they’re being little shits. There are some women for whom dropping them off at the gates on their first day at school will be the longest they’ve left them for the entirety of their existence. For others, they’re jetting off on a kids-free holiday before the cord’s been cut.

I like to think I’m somewhere in between although I do veer more towards the ‘I made these children so I might as well spend some time with them’ camp.

With Alexandra we were forced to spend a lot of time apart in the first three months while I spent all my time lying around contracting near-fatal illnesses (dramatic I know!). When I finally made it out of the hospital, Dylan and I went on a couple of ‘dates’ while my mom looked after Alex and then there was a bit of a gap as I’d kind of bonded with this little thing and was happy to spend all my waking hours with her.

Then nana started having her for a couple of hours some weekends to take her to the park or to eat cake and whatever other glorious things grandmothers spoil their grandchildren doing. When I got pregnant with Max, we decided it’d be a good idea to get her used to sleeping at nana’s so she went there – and still does – perhaps every month for a sleepover. Other than that she’s had some time with my sister when I’ve been off at hospital appointments and she obviously was looked after by a few different people when Max was in hospital and I was by his bedside every day.

In terms of social events I’ve been to without her, there’s probably been a handful in her life. I went to a theatre show once, went for a morning at a spa with my sister and went out for my second hen do last summer.

Since Max has been here, I’ve spent most my time with him or both of them (Alexandra goes to nursery twice a week and that’s the longest time I spend without her normally). I haven’t yet got to the stage where I feel the need to have a break from him so apart from when he was in hospital the first time round and I slept in parent accommodation nearby, we’re pretty much together 24/7. I’ve been to the gym a couple of times and once or twice popped to the doctor’s just taking Alex with me and leaving Max with my sister.

So why am I sharing all this? I guess to promote the fact everyone is different and that’s fine. I know people with babies younger than mine who’ve been on nights out already and equally I know parents with babies older than mine who wouldn’t even dream of going to the gym for an hour at this stage (and some who would take their baby with them to the loo. I say pee in peace until they’re old enough to follow you there and ‘help’ with the loo roll in the style of an Andrex puppy).

I think you just need to have the courage of your convictions so if family ask to look after your little one and you’re not ready, then tell them ‘thanks but no thanks’. Approach them and ask weeks, months or years down the line when you ARE ready. Equally you need to respect your partner’s views when it comes to leaving the kids.

Dylan’s off on holiday in September for a week by himself (our children will be two years old and five months old at this point). He’ll have minimal, if any, phone contact with us as he’ll be diving off a boat in southern Egypt. The thought of leaving our children for an entire week brings me out in a cold sweat but the point is he’s happy to do it and so that’s fine by me. However I may decide to jet off somewhere sunny by myself when the kids are teenagers as I have a feeling I really will want some time apart from them by then!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

22 Months And Three Months

I hope they always like each other this much.

As always, I’m back with a monthly update on both the children. Time marches on so they’re 22 months and three months now and both growing so well.

Alexandra:

Just two months away from her second birthday and Alex’s vocabulary has exploded. She’s much more willing now to repeat words you say which results in her attempting words like sausages and purple. Her particular favourite phrases are ‘see you soon’ ( said more like see soon so as a result I’ve started saying see soon in a really chirpy little voice to people), ta ta, ta da and of course no is used all the time in our house. She has occasionally started saying yes though!

It’s animal noises a plenty and she’s a firm fan of anything that roars (lion, tiger, dinosaur) as well as doing the best pig impression I’ve genuinely ever heard.

On the subject of animals, she still absolutely loves them and loved having a trip to the zoo this weekend. We also went to a farm in Wales where you could feed the animals and she spent so long with the goats feeding and stroking them bless her.

She’s just had a great report from nursery and will be starting her settling in sessions in the toddler room from next month. I’m not sure I’m ready for her to make the leap! I think she’ll cope better than me with the change.

Some exciting teeth news – all of her four canines have broken through in the last few weeks plus at least one of the back molars. I need to have another look soon but at the very most we’ve got three to go! We’ve been so lucky with teething as I know other children who’ve really suffered but she’s been largely unaffected which is great.

Alexandra loves her little brother and is mostly wonderful with him, although of course there are odd moments of jealousy and being silly. Overall she definitely knows how to throw a strop but when she’s not doing that she’s an absolute delight – eager to learn, confident, funny, loving.

Max:

Max is doing so fantastically well and we’re so proud as we really didn’t think he’d have progressed this well at three months.

At his last weigh in he was 10lb 3 and gaining nicely so they’re now happy for him to be weighed monthly rather than weekly. He’s also got longer and his head circumference has grown which are all really positive signs for his development.

He’s been struggling with reflux which we knew was likely to happen due to his hernia. But with some medication, putting his mattress on a slant and letting him nap on his front in the afternoon (I know you’re meant to keep them on their back but he’s SO much more settled that way) he’s been just about coping.

Despite everything going on, he’s got such a lovely nature and we’re getting plenty of smiles from him now along with some cooing. He smiles the most for Alexandra and you can tell he thinks she’s great!

He’s in 0 to 3 clothes now which is good progress although some stuff is still way too big for him.

Medically, his FPIES and CDH are completely under control so they’re just doing more checks on his brain but other than that he’s continuing to impress the doctors. His paediatrician remarked on his double chin last time we went for an appointment – I’d be offended if someone pointed mine out but in Max’s case the doctor was thrilled to see it!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Dear Daddy…

Dear daddy,

Thanks for the hours you spend chasing me round because I think it’s hysterical. Thanks for the times you carry me when I’ve got too tired to walk. Thanks for the bedtime routine we add new things to almost every week. Thanks for the cuddles, kisses and high fives. Thanks for taking me to new places all the time like farms and parks where I can explore. Thanks for always making sure I have sauce on my dinner – yum! Thanks for letting me help with the gardening. Thanks for swinging me as high as you can at the park. Thanks for being the best daddy a little girl could ask for.

Love from Alexandra x

Dear daddy,

Thanks for the best snuggles on your chest when I’m struggling to sleep. Thanks for waking up in the night to feed me. Thanks for carrying me round in my sling so I’m really comfy. Thanks for being there for me right from day one when I was poorly. Thanks for singing to me and smiling at me all the time. Thanks for being the best daddy a boy could ask for.

Love from Max x

The Magic Moment

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It seems only logical to start this blog with an explanation of the ‘magic moment’ (not the conception for those with their minds in the gutter!) – when we found out I was growing a tiny person inside me. That sounds ridiculously twee but if you’re not allowed to be twee about creating a new life, when can you be? Dylan (bump’s daddy and my husband-to-be) and I weren’t really expecting things to happen so quickly. *Look away now mom, TMI coming up* We’d started trying to conceive in October last year (2014) but weren’t doing the whole testing, using apps, knowing when I was ovulating, me doing handstands for hours (do people really do that?) thing. It was more a ‘when it happens, it happens’. Although I did go a bit neurotic about it for a while, more on that in a separate post. *You can come back now mom*.

So whilst we weren’t actively trying to prevent a baby, it wasn’t a massive focus in our life and it was very much being left to whatever Mother Nature decided. So much so the following month (November) we booked our wedding for September this year and we kinda carried on as normal really, just occasionally doing a test just in case. January rolled round and I had been feeling really out of sorts, but just put it down to a variety of other reasons and didn’t want to be too over hopeful. On Friday evening mid-month we found an amazing honeymoon deal and booked it, swooning over the beautiful pictures and talking excitedly about all the things we would be seeing.

Less than 48 hours later Dylan was due to leave my house for the week (we were still living in separate houses at this point) and we decided it would probably be a good idea to see why Aunt Flo hadn’t turned up (three days late). I happened to have a pregnancy test in my bedroom so into the bathroom I went. I didn’t even need to wait three minutes, that line was there clear and bold for anyone to see within seconds. Yep, I was definitely up the duff, with child, bun firmly in oven.

But with honeymoon booking fresh in my mind and the clashing dates potential, the first thing I said to Dylan was ‘don’t be angry’ – as if he would be able to be irate at me. After all, I keep reminding him it IS his fault. Anyway, I laugh/cried hysterically for a while (read: probably an hour). Then we realised we had all sorts of practical things to do so off we went to Aldi and to drop a wedding invite round at his friend’s house. It was all very surreal. I don’t think I even took in at that point we were having a baby – I was still trying to process the whole ‘being pregnant’ thing. It probably doesn’t even make sense that those two things were separate in my mind but I think even now 13 weeks on I’m struggling to get my head round the concept of becoming a mom, although bump doesn’t let me forget the fact I’m actually pregnant.

So that about covers the finding out part, much more to share soon!

Harriet and bump x

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