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

Names I Love But Won’t Be Using

Max showing off his personalised cushion from J&PR. Thanks guys!

I’ve seen lots of people recently talking about names they love but won’t be using for their children, mostly on YouTube. I love the idea and really enjoy thinking about baby names so I thought I’d join in on here! If you have a blog or YouTube channel then please share your list too!

Girls:

Georgina – when I was six months pregnant with Alexandra, we went to Thailand and while we were bobbing around in the pool, we had a theoretical discussion about what we’d call a second baby. We quickly decided we loved Georgina and that it went perfectly with Alexandra, who we’d already named at this point. We loved the nicknames, especially Georgie, although did worry people would hear Alex and George and assume we had boys! When we got pregnant with Max, we knew straightaway that was our girl name.

Imogen – this was one of the names we discussed during the pool times and was probably our choice for the third girl we knew we’d never have. I love the nickname Immy and think it’s a beautiful name.

Zara – I regularly use a baby names board on a popular pregnancy/parenting website, just for fun, and I’ve seen Zara discussed a few times. I absolutely love it but as Dylan has an older daughter called Cara it would have never been on the cards for us.

Avie – Avie is the name that I probably would have called my daughter had I had one at any point in my very early 20s. It was the name of Dolly Parton’s mom and I remember falling in love with it the first time I read it. She was called Avie Lee but I loved the sound of Avie Cavanagh as I’d already chosen my little girl’s middle name at the time. I love it as an alternative to the more popular Ava/Evie type names. However I’m so glad now we didn’t use it for Alexandra as I don’t think it would have suited her.

Quinn – this is a unisex name but I’ve always imagined it on a girl, maybe because I grew up watching the American cartoon series Daria and that’s her sister’s name. I think it’s a really lovely name that works well for a baby and an adult.

Boys:

Oscar – this has always been one of my favourite boy’s names but Dylan doesn’t like it so it was discounted both times. I think it’s really cute and again works for a small boy and an adult. My sister had it  on her list too as we have a fair few joint boy favourites (but differ quite a lot on girl options!)

George – this was a name I put forward as an option when we were pregnant with our second, but again Dylan wasn’t keen. I guess as I love Georgina so much it makes sense but it wasn’t to be!

Noah – just like Avie, this was a name I was a huge fan of when I was a bit younger. Isn’t it weird that had I named my children five years ago on my own without any input from Dylan they would be Noah and Avie, but I actually own an Alexandra and a Max which are pretty different styles.

Ace – even though we’re quite traditional with our name choices, we stumbled upon Ace in the early days of number one pregnancy and it was on our boy list for a while. We ended up deciding our boy would be called Max and then obviously didn’t need the name anyway when he turned out to be a she. I still harbour a love for the name but Alexandra’s initials are ACE so I guess that’s the closest I’m going to get.

Clark – I don’t like all of the American surnamey type names but I do like Clark, and again it was on our boy shortlist the first time round although not the second time as we felt we needed a less modern name to go with his older sister’s. I also love Blake but as it’s the surname of one of my best friends it would have been a little weird!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Taking Two Under Two Out

Getting ready to leave the house is a day’s work in itself.

When Alexandra was tiny, leaving the house seemed like a massive feat, like a trauma that would surely involve tears (from both of us) and probably a poonami or two (hopefully just from her). Over time I gradually learned to become more confident about taking a tiny human being everywhere with me.

As most the time I’m going to fairly busy civilised places rather than travelling to the jungle or desert, I’ve learned you can pretty much always buy whatever you’ve forgotten or the baby’s ruined. Yes sometimes that’s meant buying an emergency pair of leggings from the supermarket or borrowing a nappy from a friend but clearly neither of those options are the end of the world.

What do you do if the baby cries? Well the simple answer is to have enough food on you to rule that out as the cause any time they cry and then to carry on like you would at home. Work your way through the list of possibilities until you stumble upon the correct one.

I quickly realised that everyone has run home in the rain having forgotten the pram cover, everyone has left a bottle top open and leaked liquid all over the change back, everyone has coped with a baby meltdown so bad they’ve just had to give the sorry eyes to anyone passing.

And then the game changed. I fell pregnant with number two. I then spent a lot of time worrying about how you could possibly take two out when there’s only one of you.

But just as I did with my first, you learn to adapt and you pick up tips along the way. Things like always ensuring you’ve got a snack for the toddler to have during baby’s feeds, even if they wouldn’t normally eat at that time, because they will get bored being strapped into the pushchair not moving for that length of time. Things like taking a blanket for the toddler so they don’t steal the baby’s because they will even if they don’t normally have one anymore. Things like what order to put them in and out of the car to avoid any issues.

Clearly I’m not perfect, I don’t have this parenting thing sorted just yet (does anyone?), mostly I’m just winging two under two. But my point is there is absolutely no need to worry. Parenting is suffocating at first but if you try to remain as calm as possible and not let the fear take over, you CAN get out of the house on your own. There is no need to be trapped. One day everything will click and you’ll look back and wonder why you worried. You got this!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Bonding – A Rush Of Love?

Before I had children, I subscribed to the theory that you would experience this magical, other-worldly moment when your baby was placed on your chest and suddenly the stars aligned, you became a mother and you loved this being more than anything else you’d ever seen or known. It’s a popular theory touted around by the media and, I hate to say it, often by other mothers too.

For some people I don’t doubt that’s what bonding with their firstborn (and all their subsequent children) was like. For some I suspect it all falls into place.

For me, I loved Alexandra from the moment we knew she existed. Despite hating being pregnant, I already felt protective over this little being growing inside of me. When she arrived, again I felt protective over her. I felt like she was my child and I needed to do right by her.

But I didn’t feel like a mother.

I felt like an amateur when I watched the midwives swaddle her and rock her to sleep. I felt like I should have L-plates on when other mothers offered advice or support. And ultimately I felt like a failure as I returned home after nearly three months to begin the process of becoming a mom, when my husband and others had stepped in and filled in that role for me as I lay in a hospital bed for the first weeks of Alexandra’s life.

As well as repairing myself, I had to repair my confidence. I felt scared to take her out, I felt scared to be on my own with her, I felt like I had no idea how to be her mother. She was (and still is) beautiful, precious and amazing. But I still didn’t feel like she was truly mine.

I’d say it took until she was about six months old for me to start enjoying her properly. Now, she’s 20 months and I genuinely enjoy every day (not all of every day, that would be ridiculous), I find her hilarious, she’s like my little friend who I can laugh with and have proper conversations with.

Sometimes I look at her and feel overwhelmed by how much I love her. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. What’s also true is that didn’t happen the day she was born, it was probably about a year before I ever had that feeling. That’s not to say I didn’t love her – I did. But I had no idea how all-consuming that love could be, that the bond could deepen to a point where it would fundamentally change me as a person, that one day I would feel truly like a mother.

This time round I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps because I’d already been through that process with Alexandra, perhaps because I was well this time, perhaps because he was so poorly or perhaps because I got to spend so much one on one time with him in hospital, it was almost an immediate feeling with Max. And that’s not to say I love him more than her, I love them equally although in different ways (and at different times depending who’s crying!).

Of course during my second pregnancy I had times when I wondered how I would feel about this baby. They tell you your heart will expand and it does. There was a little part of me that never healed after our first experience – a little Max sized hole in my heart that doesn’t take away from how much I love Alexandra but reflects how much my heart needed two little babies to love!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

A Chatty One

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A bit of a chatty blog today. I sat down yesterday to write something, as I normally post on a Thursday, and quite honestly there was nothing coming to my brain. There’s not a whole lot more today hence probably just a bit of a ramble.

I finally took the plunge today and booked us in to visit a nursery for a little look round next week. Immediately I wanted to hold Alex and never let go but seen as she’s 14 months and much more interested in trying to dismantle her dolly’s pram (and anything else she can get her little hands on), that lasted all of about 0.0005 seconds so now I’m just sat looking wistfully at her while she plays slightly hoping she hates it and cries from the second her toes cross the threshold so I can whisk her away and go SEE I TOLD YOU IT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA. In reality (based on what happens every time we go anywhere new), what will actually happen is she’ll run off to play with all the new children and toys she can get her hands on and probably never want to leave. If she learns to talk in the next six days she’ll probably ask us if we can book her in full time.

We’ve had a very stroppy few weeks with her and I’ve uttered the sentence ‘why won’t you just give me a break’ more times than I care to remember. Which is why it’s a miracle that I actually feel slightly emotional about the whole nursery thing. Life has involved a lot of tears (both hers and mine), refusing to nap (just her, I’d utterly welcome one), destroying everything (her again) and Googling ‘why has my sweet angel baby turned into Satan overnight’ (me).

In the midst of this, she’s been growing a fourth tooth, running EVERYWHERE, developing a liking for playing with washing up sponges?! and she also appears to have had a growth spurt while at the same time her hair’s grown loads too.

We’ve enrolled in Tumble Tots which essentially involves her trying to go on the seesaw for 40 of the 45 minutes we’re there and then mooching around look at the rest of the equipment for the other five. It’s horrendously tiring running round after her and getting up and down off the floor repeatedly but on the plus side it might be making up for all the gym work I’m not doing.

Right now Alex is now happily banging the patio doors and shouting ‘ohhh’ into the garden. In the time it’s taken me to write this sentence she’s started shaking the plant in the corner of the lounge and throwing the placemats on the floor. Excellent.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Q&A First Few Months of Motherhood

Alexandra and Zachary

Alexandra and Zachary

You may have noticed if you’ve read a few of my posts that my sister Henrietta had a baby in May this year. Zachary is now nearly five months old and, as we did a question and answer post while Henrietta was pregnant, we thought it was time to update on her experience of motherhood so far.

How would you sum up your first few months of being a mother?
Tiring, lots of crying and lots of poo! But great overall.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you in terms of becoming a parent?
I feel like I sort of knew what to expect because of being around a newborn baby a lot when Alex was born. I prepared myself for the worst of everything and so far there’s not been any massive issues with him so I don’t think anything came as a massive shock to me.

Zachary was diagnosed as having silent reflux when he was six weeks old, what advice would you give to parents who think their child might have it?
Don’t delay getting them checked out. When we noticed there was something wrong, we went to get him checked within 48 hours. You know yourself if there’s something up and they’re not going to turn you away because you know your baby best and you know if there’s a problem. Also don’t trust everything you see on Google, they will be fine!

What’s been the best thing so far?
Smiles and laughs! Also newborn cuddles.

What did you buy which you’d recommend for any prospective parents?
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep has 100 per cent been the best thing. At night time, it makes everything so much easier. You don’t have to put up with a screaming baby for long. Also the bouncer we got, the Baby Bjorn one, was quite expensive and he didn’t really like it at first but now he does it gives you five minutes to get on with jobs you want to do as he’s quite happy to sit in there for a while. And muslin cloths. We’ve bought loads and they’ve been a daily essential.

When we talked about your pregnancy in a post back in January (here), you said you thought people treated you differently because you’re fairly young. Have you found this to be true since having him?
I think a little bit, more from older people to be honest. When we go to get him weighed or see midwives or health professionals they always comment how well he’s doing and that we’re doing a good job with him; so I think that proves you don’t have to be older to do well. I do sometimes miss the freedom I had before but I’ve got a good support network to have Zach when I’m ready to start going out again without him.

Harriet and Alexandra (and Henrietta and Zachary!) x

How To Prepare For Motherhood

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They say nothing can prepare you for the whirlwind of motherhood and I wouldn’t like to claim to be an expert since I’ve only been in the job since last August. But here’s a few of my thoughts on ways you could prepare to become the mother of a nine-month-old baby.

Attempt to wrestle a live octopus into an item of clothing with at least 500 buttons, poppers and zips. Extra points if you button it up right the first time, or even the seventh time.
Grow a third arm.
Balance something very delicate, perhaps an egg, somewhere where it’s likely to fall to the ground and smash. Practice turning away for a second, turning back and then using some sort of superhuman skill to run back to the egg and catch it before it smashes.
Chew everything you own to check you prefer it slightly dog-eared, torn and battered.
Play the same ten-second segment of music to yourself on repeat over and over again until you hear it in your dreams.
Smear sick, dribble, yoghurt and snot on all of your clothing.
Carry about a 20lb weight all day, while getting someone to poke your eyes, put their fingers up your nose and pull your hair.
Start eating all your meals in secret so they don’t get stolen.
Get someone to follow you around all day saying ‘dada dada dada’ and ‘nana nana nana’ repeatedly to check it won’t send you insane.
Grow a fourth arm.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Treasure Them

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Is it just me who wishes the old saying of ‘if I had a pound’ was true for the phrase ‘treasure them’ or any of its connotations? I think I’d be sunning myself on my own private island right now if I’d started when we announced our pregnancy.

I’ve posted a lot about things people say during pregnancy and motherhood that are either naïve, ridiculous or just plain dumb and it’s probably lead some readers to think I’m ridiculously grumpy (it’s true, I’m not ashamed). But this one’s been rubbing me up the wrong way for a while.

I know it’s true, I just don’t see the value in the phrase? It’s like some throwaway comment people offer when really they have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation. Everyone in the whole wide world knows that the portion of your life you spend being a baby is fleeting and thus it’s not a huge jump to arrive at the thought that being a mother to a baby is all too short an experience. I am (and was from before conception) aware that pretty soon Alexandra will be a toddler and then a pre-schooler and then a child and then a teen and then an adult. It’s logic. It’s the way the entire world operates.

At one point we had no idea if I would ever make those stages and there’s still a part of me that remains convinced my condition will creep up and slap us in the face again one day and that with an already weakened heart I might not be so lucky next time. So I find it fairly insulting when complete strangers tell me to treasure my child. You think every time I hold her or watch her play or learn a new skill, I don’t say a silent thank you to whoever’s out there for that moment? You think every time all three of us wake up happy and healthy in the morning I don’t breathe a sigh of relief? You think I don’t hold back tears every day when I think about what might have been and how much I could have missed. The fact there won’t be a second, another baby to see transform from a newborn to a mobile, babbling infant, makes this feeling even more acute.

There’s hardly a single mother in the world who doesn’t absolutely treasure their child and realise them being tiny is so fleeting. Yes they may get stressed, tired, tear their hair out, despair, cry, moan etc. But believe me they’re still treasuring this little miracle they’ve been entrusted with. It’s a bit patronising to suggest otherwise!

Harriet and Alexandra x

Home V Work

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Ah, the age old debate. Who has it better? The parent staying at home to cater for baby’s every need and whim, or the poor soul leaving every morning to go and be a real grown up?

We talked about this in our NCT classes, about how it shouldn’t all descend into a ‘well you’re just sat at the computer all day’/’well you’re just playing all day’ argument with both of you claiming the other couldn’t hack what you’re doing. At the time I kind of thought I’d never feel resentful of Dylan getting to go to work. I’m spending time with our baby, bonding, watching them grow, how could I ever feel jealous of someone who’s not doing that. Right? Wrong!

I absolutely love being at home with Alex, my life has changed beyond all comprehension from spending Wednesdays deadlining a paper to spending Wednesdays sat on a mat surrounded by other babies singing songs, banging saucepan lids together and watching puppet shows. In many ways, what I do now is a hundred, million per cent better and more rewarding. But I don’t massively feel like a valuable member of society anymore. Yes I’m raising a baby but before I used to do so much stuff! Now anything I do outside of that (freelance work, volunteering, blogging etc) is crammed into precious seconds when baby’s asleep or, like now, I’m up earlier than the rest of the household on a weekend to get something done.

Most of the time I am simply ‘mom’. Even when I get out of the house to have lunch, or go to the park, or baby sensory everything is still very centred around Alexandra. And I get that it won’t be forever, and she is the most important thing in the world so it’s only right my life is so acutely focused on her. But somehow I’ve lost a bit of me in the process. I was looking at old Instagram pictures of myself the other day, ones from about three years ago. I am constantly at the gym in them or out with friends and in most of the pictures I’m wearing make up, have my hair done (properly, not just thrown up on top of my head), have gel nails and nail varnish on, have clearly thought about my outfit and put jewellery on too. Now I spend most of my days sat in leggings and a top which probably has some form of food and/or sick/snot down it (all Alex’s not mine, you must understand!).

Anyway I’m getting off topic, my point is I feel I’ve lost a little bit of myself in this ‘stay at home’ journey and maybe I’ll get that back at some point (when she goes to school? When she leaves home?) but maybe I’m destined to just be ‘Alexandra’s mom’ forever! Dylan on the other hand (who I think is frigging amazing for going out and supporting us and enabling me to be here with Alex just doing freelance work instead of having to go out the house to work) gets to go and be ‘Dylan the man with the important job who talks about things other than poo and weaning’ which I can’t help but be a tad jealous of.

Not jealous enough that I’d want to swap places (and for what it’s worth I think he’d get insanely bored staying at home after a while!) but jealous enough to think maybe one day a month I should be allowed to get dressed up snazzy and go to his office and answer serious phone calls while he does my role.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Motherhood is…

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I’ve been a mom for eight months now and while I’d never claim to be an expert, I wanted to share my thoughts about motherhood and to share some of the thoughts I have at this time, like a snapshot of my mind to look back on in future.

Motherhood is… looking at someone with snot coming out of their nose, dribble on their chin and breakfast mushed into their hair and thinking they’re the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

Motherhood is… worry. Constant worry.

Motherhood is…knowing exactly which stairs creak and avoiding them after putting baby to bed.

Motherhood is… convincing yourself tonight will be different and you’ll totally get loads done in the hours between baby’s bedtime and yours.

Motherhood is… feigning excitement about courgettes.

Motherhood is… using every single pillow in the house to make a safe fortress to stop bumped heads.

Motherhood is… veering wildly between being really excited about the next stages and being gutted they’re not a newborn anymore.

Motherhood is… having no barriers and no dignity.

Motherhood is… going to sleep each night with the jumparoo music playing over and over in your mind.

Motherhood is… the toughest and the best thing you’ve ever done.

Harriet and Alexandra xxx