Friday, 28 February 2014

Last orders and magic feathers

I remember the night before Amelie was born, I had a little nostalgic moment with my bump, thinking how bittersweet it was that within 24 hours, my pregnancy would be over, and my new baby would be here. I would no longer have exclusive access to this little person, I would have to share her.
For 9 months, I had marvelled at what my body could do - it had nurtured, sustained and grown a tiny little person all by itself, without me having to do hardly anything!
Sometimes it had been painful, and uncomfortable, and felt like a scary responsibility, but for the most part, I had worn my bump with pride, and felt great about what I was doing to bring this little person into the world.
I was looking forward to the next stage, though - to having my body back, wearing different clothes and showing my baby off to the world.

Well, 9 months later, here I am again at the end of a 9 month journey, because I've decided to start weaning Amelie off the boob.

Oh yeah, baby. I'm deadly serious.
It's been a very similar journey to pregnancy - sometimes it's been painful and uncomfortable, and felt like a scary responsibility, but for the most part, I have breastfed with pride, and felt great about what I was doing to nurture, sustain and grow this tiny person all by myself.

So, why am I weaning?*

Basically, because it's time. Amelie is on 3 good meals a day, plus snacks, and happily takes formula and water from sippy cups during the day.
The only time I was ever really needing to feed her was during the night (yes, I'm sure you've heard about it - every 20 ****ing minutes). During the first few months, that amount of night feeding is totally acceptable.
At nearly 9 months? Totally effing unacceptable. (in my opinion)
You see, I was feeding Amelie every 20-30 minutes during the night because boobs had become my magic feather.

Remember Dumbo and the magic feather? He could totally fly all along, but didn't quite believe in himself. He was scared to take the leap of faith, so Timothy handed him a magic feather, telling him that as long as he held it, he could fly!
All well and good until he dropped it mid fall during a circus act, and panicked. How could he possibly fly without the magic feather?
Timothy told him - it was just a gimmick, he didn't need it! True enough, he tried for himself and he flew!

Well, for me, that was breastfeeding. My baby won't stop crying unless I give her a boob. My baby won't sleep unless I give her a boob. My baby won't sleep unless I give her a boob.
That was the trouble though, I was completely trapped. I couldn't go anywhere without Amelie, because she needed a boob. So, no days out for me. No sleep, no going anywhere, the boob was boss!
Even if it meant becoming so exhausted that I couldn't see straight.

What happened? I decided one night that WE could do this ON OUR OWN, and we did.
Don't get me wrong, breastmilk absolutely has magical sleepy dust in it, but the whole thing that babies need is comfort, stability, routine.
We're past the recommended 6 month stage, and her diet is brilliant, so it's time for me to hang up my nursing bra, reclaim my body and start sharing my baby with other people.
I've done brilliantly, and I've been on every side of the boobing fence. I've done it, hated it, been ill with it, not even tried it with Daisy, then finally had this amazing, prolonged and very positive experience with Amelie.

Plus, she bites now. 4 teeth on top, 4 on the bottom, she packs quite a chomp. And seems to really enjoy the funny squealing noises mummy tries not to make when she bites!

So yeah, time to start the process of stopping. I feel a bit sad, but all the closeness will still happen, I'll just be able to have a break now and then, and finally get out of those horrible saggy old nursing bras!
I might have to roll my boobs up from the floor now and tuck them into a bra, but I'm proud of them, they've come a long way, and it turns out, the milk might go, but the magic is still within us.

* Incidentally, you should probably know that asking a woman if she breastfeeds, why she breastfeeds and when she'll stop is a bit like asking her age - some people just don't want to talk about it, so best not to ask.
I'm explaining my reasons not because I need to justify it, just because it might help others who are making the same decisions.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A chink in the armour

I've always been a very positive thinker, to the point of being one of those irritatingly cheerful, rainbows and butterflies types that most people can't stand to be around. So it's surprised and annoyed me more than anyone what a whiny little bitch I've become.
Seriously, I bang on and on and ON about how tired I am, what the hell is wrong with me?
Normally, I suck it up, dig deep and find the strength I need, but lately, that's become more and more difficult.
I was horrified the other night when I found myself crying (again) at 2.30am, and I actually posted on Facebook that I was struggling to cope.
Wait, hold on, did I write that out loud? 
Like, in PUBLIC?

For the record (and I know that you know this, but let me clarify), I'm not struggling to cope. I was in that moment, but then I was okay. 
The thing with long term sleep deprivation, is that it's like swimming in a vast ocean, dotted with small islands. The islands represent when my baby sleeps,and the ocean represents when she's awake, and therefore, I have to be as well. 
For some people, the ocean might not represent a wakeful baby, it might represent a chronic illness, pain, being called into work, an ill relative, or whatever else might be keeping you awake. 
The islands are all different sizes - some are large enough for me to rest on, to eat, sleep and spend time on interests. Some are tiny, I might only get a few minutes on an island before I'm plunged back into the water. For the most part, I'm okay with being in the water, I can keep swimming for longer than I ever thought possible, confident that there's an island coming up soon.
However, sometimes, I'm plunged into the water one too many times, and I'm too exhausted to swim. I feel weak, and I panic, flail my arms and cry out for help.

That's when I do things that make me feel even more vulnerable, like posting on Facebook that I'm struggling to cope.

The thing is, it's scary to show weakness like that. What will people think?
Will they think I'm a bad mum? That I can't take care of my baby? That they knew I was taking on too much?

I think the most important question is - who CARES?
If people love you, they will support you, and if people are human (which I'm sure most of you are), they'll have struggled with things too. So many of us are scared to admit weakness, to ask for help.
I'm strong enough to show my weaknesses. Being a mum is the best thing ever, but sometimes it's unbelievably hard, especially when you've barely slept in months.

You know what, though? The only bad thing about weakness is letting it beat you. It's a simple case of recognising your weakness and finding a way to get over it.
We're starting a new sleep plan this week, which seems to be making a real difference, but in the meantime, I'm going to keep on sharing, keep on asking for help, and most importantly, I'm going to keep on swimming.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

24 Hours in A&E

Yay, another 24 hours post! Sometimes, it's all so exciting, I have to capture it all...

Thursday, 10pm:  Get to bed. It's been an exhausting day of zero sleep and even less housework. Amelie is still coughing and choking, but Daddy gave her a warm bath and a good dose of her inhaler before bed, so she's pretty settled. I fall into bed, exhausted, hoping for at least a couple of hours' sleep.

Friday, 2.30am: Amelie wakes up coughing and crying. She's slept well since bedtime, so I give her a good breastfeed and try to give her some Ibuprofen. She's having none of it, pushing it away and screaming. She can't stop coughing, and each one gets worse and worse. She's obviously full of mucus that she can't get rid of, and is really starting to struggle. Both of us try sharply patting her back, but she's properly choking and starting to get darker in the face. Her head and limbs are floppy and we're terrified. Phone 999 and get an ambulance.

Friday, 2.45am: Still on the phone to 999, waiting for the ambulance to come. Amelie seems to have cleared her blockage and is now cheerfully slapping Daddy in the face and shouting "DA DA DA!!!"
Sheepishly tell the 999 lady that she's perked up a bit, but was definitely choking when I phoned. She kindly tells me that this happens all the time, and of course, I'm just glad she's stopped choking.
The ambulance arrives with two lovely paramedics, who take one look at my poorly baby and decide to take her right into hospital.

Friday, 3.20am: Arrive at hospital, are ushered into a triage room with two small chairs, an examination table and a desk. Amelie is given a quick check by a nurse, and all vital signs are normal. Phew. She's still very chesty and wheezy, but alert and happy to sit.

Friday, 4am: Seen by a junior doctor, who explains what Bronchiolitis is and says that Amelie should be okay to go home, but will need to stay put for a few hours to get checked over. Okay, so we're here for a few hours. Might as well settle in, have a coffee and get comfy.
Oh, wait. There's only two small chairs and no hot drinks allowed in A&E. Okay, shuffling uncomfortably in small chairs while sipping water it is, then.

Friday, 5am: Having been shown how to properly administer Amelie's inhaler (one puff into spacer, hold over her struggling, squirming, crying face for ten excruciating seconds, repeat ten times), and given her a feed, she is asleep. Time to escape to the loo.
The loo, being in a chlidren's ward, has a large mirror that is at waist height to me. Catch sight of my tummy/bum area and realise with horror how chubby I've become.
Remind myself to lay off the chocolate and exercise more.
Remind myself that I have three kids, never stop, chocolate is essential for energy and when do I get time to exercise?
Remind myself that lots of people have three or more kids and are skinny, that's not an excuse.
Remind myself that most of them are celebrities, have nannies and personal trainers and I have none of the above.
Remind myself that I'm healthy and loved, and that's all that matters.
Remind myself to look for a vending machine selling chocolate on the way back.

Friday, 6am: Doctor comes back, saying that Amelie's breathing rate has improved and they'll look at her again in an hour. Another hour to kill. Read an interesting poster that cites a 5 year study that was done into the incidence of increased admissions to hospital following sledging injuries. The conclusions are groundbreaking - they have discovered after extensive research that sledging is a fun activity which can be made safer if adults always supervise, kids wear hats and gloves, and most importantly, if sledging only takes place when there is snow on the ground.
Have amusing conversation with Steve about how reckless he was with a sledge (or any large piece of discarded plastic/metal he and his friends could find) in the early 80's, when Health and Safety was a distant pipe dream.

Friday, 7am: I've decided to lie uncomfortably on the examination table holding a sleeping Amelie, while Steve tries to sleep sat upright on a chair, using my jacket as a blanket and the sink next to the chair as a pillow.
The doctor comes back, and says that it's very likely that Amelie has Bronchiolitis, but that there's nothing they can do in hospital that can't be done at home, so they send us home. Thank the good lord for that!

Friday, 8am: Get home, just in time for the school run. Thankfuly, Steve has taken the day off work, so he takes the kids to school and I sort Amelie out with medicine and boobing.

Friday, 9am-3pm: Blur of taking turns to nap while the other one takes care of the baby.

Friday, 3.30pm: Kids are home, and Charlie has had two attacks of hyperventilating. Eek. phone emergency doctor, and am told to take him in.

Friday, 4.30pm: Charlie has been given a heavy dose of steriods on a 5 day course for "asthma-like" symptoms. Nobody ever seems to give a diagnosis anymore.

Friday, 6pm: Daisy has a cheerleading practice, but we've not had time to make any dinner beforehand. Guiltily chuck some grapes in a tupperware box and promise her a fish supper afterwards. Run to asda for a last minute panic dinner of pizzas.

Friday, 6.30pm: Wolf down said pizzas before picking Daisy up again.

Friday, 7pm: Pick up Daisy, think for a minute about how exhausting all of this is, but remember that really, we're lucky that the kids are well enough to be keeping us this busy. Anyway, no time for thinking, Charlie has scouts at 7.30pm!

Friday, 10pm: Having settled the girls while Steve did the scouts run, we finally get to sit down and watch a tiny bit of TV, before deciding that really, the best thing to do is head to bed.

Ahh, it'll all settle down someday....right?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dealing with it

It's 6am, and I've been up all night.
Just when Amelie started getting the hang of the sleep thing (still waking but happy to take water), she got a viral chest infection and has been suffering with it for about a week. During the day, she's not bad, the odd cough here and there, but during the night, it's awful.
She coughs, chokes and wheezes all night long, and even in the short spells she manages to sleep, it's only because I'm sitting bolt upright holding her, too afraid to sleep anyway because I want to make sure she's okay.
It's exhausting. It's been half term this week, so I've had the kids on the go all day as well as being awake all night, and yesterday I was really hitting the sleep deprivation wall. I had moved from Confused Daze to Emotional Sponge, soaking up and magnifying everyone else's feelings. You know the type, one of those days where you can't bear to hear the kids saying they're upset about something, because it feels like a stab in your own heart, and even seeing a child crying in the supermarket makes you want to scoop them up and save them. Not a good day for watching charity adverts.
Anyway, I went to bed at 10pm, and Steve offered to take the night shift. I settled down, hoping for at least an hour of uninterrupted sleep, and immediately Daisy started coughing, spluttering and crying in the other room. By the time I'd given medicine, water and cuddles, Amelie started crying and wouldn't settle for anything other than The Boob.
Daddy's nightshift was over, and mine had begun. This is the only downside I can see to breastfeeding, it's not just about food, it's about comfort, and when she's ill, I won't deliberately withold the only thing she wants. Sadly, it makes Daddy feel pretty useless and me feel beyond exhausted, but hey ho.
I sat up with her for several hours. Sometimes she slept, and during that time, I tried to doze. We'd been speaking in the evening about possibly sacrificing a small portion of our savings for a much needed holiday, so I lay thinking about my ideal holiday destination.
Beach? Ahh, lying on the sand, listening to the waves, could anything be more relaxing? No. Too stressful, how do you keep an eye on three kids, all running toward the ocean at different speeds?
City break? Oooh, I've always fancied Italy. Are you kidding me? Dragging hot, tired kids around a city that charges the price of a small car for one scoop of fancy ice cream? Forget it.
 Maybe I'll start a holiday company for exhausted mothers, where you pay an extortionate fee to have someone watch your kids while you go into a darkened room, take a heavy sedative and sleep for a week. Sounds good to me!

I'd reached the pinnacle of Trying To Sleep. Amelie was wide awake, shouting and poking us both in the face, and I just felt utterly defeated. Not by Amelie, I don't think for one second that she's chosen to be ill and miserable, but just by the situation. By tiredness.
You see, you can tell yourself all you like to count your blessings. To remember those worse off than yourself - people who have lost children, people who are battling diseases, people who are in horrific, terrifying situations. But you know what? In that moment, I'm not trying to outdo anybody's pain, or make anyone feel sorry for me. I'm just experiencing my own exhaustion.
You can't make yourself feel better by making yourself feel worse. I know I'm lucky, and I know that in all honesty, I've never been in a happier, more settled or more contented place in my entire life, and I will miss these days when my kids are up and grown.
I KNOW THIS. But right now, I'm tired.
So, I do what I always do in these situations. I ask myself, how are you going to deal with this?
I'm sick of spending hours trying to sleep through the night, then spending all day stressing about what needs to be done, and how I can't sleep through the day because I have too much to do. There must be a solution.

I find it by looking at Amelie's smiling, wide awake face, as she waves and says "Hiya" to Steve and I. I look at the clock and realise that even if I could sleep now, I'd only get an hour, half of which would be spent trying to get my racing mind to shut down, and the second half of which would be spent falling into such a deep sleep, I'd feel horrendous when I had to drag myself out of it.
I go into the bathroom, and as quietly as possible, I have a big, snotty, ugly face cry. I let all the boo hoos out, put on my big girl pants and deal with it.
So, I'm awake! What am I going to do about it?
I take Amelie downstairs, put her in her jumperoo and do the things I'd be stressing about during the day. I catch up on ironing, clean the kitchen, have a cup of coffee and feel better.
And now, of course, at 6.30am, she is sound asleep in my lap while I write down my sleep deprived ramblings. The kids will be up soon, and I'll do the school run, although this time it will be a bit less stressful because I've had literally hours to get them ready and I'm already wide awake.

I know that my baby girl's chest infection will pass, we'll get back to helping her learn to sleep through the night, and one day soon I'll get some sleep.
In the mean time, I'm taking it hour by hour, keeping myself aware of my feelings and doing whatever it takes to get through. If I need to cry, I do it. If I need to clean, I do it, and if I need to remind myself that this WILL pass, I do it.
I'm dealing with it, and for one more day at least, I'm kicking sleep deprivation's arse.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Secrets and Toys

As a child, I had LOADS of toys. My folks must have spent a fortune on them! You name it, I had it.
So, what was my favourite toy growing up? I'll tell you what I have the fondest memories of....

Was it my vast collection of My Little Ponies? Nope.

Was it my ridiculous amount of cuddly toys? No way!

Was it my three storey Barbie house that was as tall as me? Not a chance.

My fondest memories are of playing laundrettes with my sister, using state of the art washing machines that my dad made using cardboard boxes and spray paint.

Going to my grandma's was another treat, because we would get together with my cousins and raid my grandma's collection of hats, shoes and handbags. Hours of entertainment, making up characters and scenarios with all those glamorous items!
That's when we weren't all fighting over my grandparents' wooden bowl filled with ornamental wax fruit. That was the holy grail of child's play, we loved it!
My poor parents, they must have been gutted to know that for all the money they spent on toys, our favourite memories are of playing with things that were, well, not toys.
What can I say? We were kids. We knew The Secret.

Of course, we got older, and we forgot The Secret. We had our own kids, and I for one spent a fortune on toys, especially for Charlie, being my first.
The sad thing is, not only had I forgotten The Secret, I'd forgotten how to play. These hundreds of toys were good and all, but not very inspiring. You press a button, the toy dog barks. You post the shapes through the shape sorter. You make up the jigsaw.
All very good, but they don't hold anyone's attention for long.
To my frustration, the things my kids were most interested in were my keys, the remote control, the wrapping paper from their expensive presents, and the phone. Always the phone.

Then, when the kids were 9 and 5, I met Steve, and without even realising it, he reawakened something within us all. We began to have adventures, playing in rock pools, making up games with stone circles, and playing shadow puppets at sunset. We rediscovered The Secret.

So, what is this Secret? I'll tell you. Come closer, let me whisper it.
Closer, come on, don't be shy! The Secret is.....

Kids don't need a lot of toys.

They really don't! In fact, not only do kids prefer playing with things that aren't toys, they actually learn more when they use their imagination to turn an everyday object into a toy. They become better problem solvers, they become more independent, more able to think outside the box, and better able to entertain themselves.

Now, three kids later, I've finally learned to chill out on the toy buying front. Amelie has toys of course, but she also has treasure baskets full of regular household objects that she loves to play with - wooden spoons, silicone egg poachers, sponges, various boxes, old sunglasses, old phones, you name it!
The best thing about these (apart from the fact that they cost nothing!) is that it means when we go out and about, I don't need to worry about taking bags of toys to entertain her, we can use our imaginations and find things to play with wherever we are.
Even better, it's reminded me how to play, and enjoy spending time with my kids.

More to come soon on making treasure baskets, and what to do with various household objects, to reawaken your imagination and let you in on The Secret, too.

In the meantime, what were your favourite toys as a child, and what do your little ones like to play with? Please share!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Thrifty Thursdays!

Welcome to a new weekly blog feature - Thrifty Thursdays!
If you're anything like me, you'll be finding life pretty darn expensive at the moment, so I wanted to have a weekly feature where we can create a fun, interactive space to share tips and ideas for living well and saving money. Are you in? Good!

Recipe of the week: I was in the supermarket the other day, and there were punnets of cherry tomatoes on their sell by date, selling for just 50p a punnet. I adore tomatoes of any kind, but especially the sweet, fragrant, smaller varieties like cherry and baby plum.
I bought 4 punnets, but obviously wouldn't have been able to eat them all before they went bad, so here's what I did with them...


1 punnet cherry or other small tomatoes
1 bulb garlic
Dried oregano
Fennel seeds
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Slice tomatoes in half and arrange them on a baking tray. Break the garlic into cloves and scatter them around the tomatoes. Sprinkle over a pinch of both the fennel seeds and oregano, then drizzle with olive oil and a tbsp of balsamic vinegar.
Roast at 140c for 2-3 hours, until they've shrivelled slightly and intensified in flavour.
These are amazing if you put them in a container, cover with olive oil and keep in the fridge to pep up salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, soups, the possibilities are endless!
That's if they make it into the fridge without "accidentally" falling into your mouth....

Bargain of the week: Carex Handwash, 90p Asda. This stuff is amazing! 
They have limited edition sweet shop fragrances, and I bought Cola Bottles, and Strawberry Laces. Both smell AWESOME, and are antibacterial. I can't stop sniffing my hands after using this stuff, they smell exactly like the real thing.Yummy! Asda has a health and beauty event on this week, so these babies are only 90p. Grab them while you can!

Cheapy of the week: Smartprice hot chocolate, 58p, 400g
My kids are hot chocolate fiends, and we get through a tub a week. Most hot chocolates are around £3 a tub, and with my tight budget, I could do without it!
I tried this because I figured it might be ok, and if not, I could always use it in a cake or something! It's actually really nice, as long as you use heaped teaspoons to make it strong, it's as good as any other - smooth, thick and nicely chocolatey, and super cheap!
Even better, the empty plastic jar can be decorated and filled with lentils/pasta,beads to make a fun shaker for your child ;)

Tip of the week: Amelie has really sensitive skin, so I like to use just plain water on her face. I've used an empty handwash bottle, filled it with water, and kept it in the toy tray under her highchair, along with some facecloths (you could use cut up towels). Super handy for quick post meal clean ups! I know it's hardly revolutionary, but something I hadn't thought to do before. Simple time and money saving ideas!

That's it for this week, please share your thrifty finds with me!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

New name, new look, new direction...

Good evening!

Following a very surprising and positive response, I've decided to get this little blog on the road, and share my inane ramblings with a wider audience.
You can now follow me on Bloglovin!

Simply follow the link to join in the fun:

Click here

Hope you enjoy the new look blog!

Jodes xxx

Operation: Tough Love - the story so far...

Well, it's now Tuesday, and we started this on Friday, so I'm here with a little update of how it's going
The difference is astounding! Before, we had no evening at all, Amelie would wake literally every 20-30 minutes, until we either took her downstairs, or gave up and went upstairs ourselves. We'd almost forgotten what our telly looked like, which isn't technically a bad thing...
On Saturday night, Amelie was settled in the usual way - 7.30pm, upstairs, brush teeth, story, boob and down in her cot once she fell asleep. I'm going to work on putting her down awake, but she actually falls asleep very quickly on the boob.
At 8.30pm, as predicted, she woke up crying. Daddy went up with a bottle of formula, and she took the most minuscule amount, but fell asleep quickly and went back down. Miraculously, she stayed there until we went up at 11.30pm!
She woke when we came in the room, but I gave her a cuddle and some water (we've decided on a no milk after 10pm or before 6am rule), and she was back down asleep by 11.50pm.
She slept solidly from then until 5.20am! Amazing! Another quick cuddle and sip of water (5 mins max) and she was back down until 7am. That's the best she's slept since she was born!

Sunday was a great day, I felt so refreshed! We went for a long walk in the morning (Amelie slept most of the time in her backpack), and then went out for lunch and visited Gamma and Gaga (Steve's parents), then Amelie slept again from 4pm-6pm.

all that fresh air knocked her clean out

Sunday night was a little trickier, because she'd slept late in the afternoon, she was wide awake and not keen to go down, but did eventually settle in her cot at 9.30pm. 
She even stayed asleep when we went to bed a while later, which was unheard of! Then, close to midnight, something amazing happened. She let out a little cry, and I immediately froze, waiting for the inevitable wail. It didn't come. She smacked her lips together a few times, rumbled about in the darkness and went quiet again. Her breathing slowed, regulated and she was back into a deep sleep.
I relaxed again, and was just falling asleep when it happened again. A little cry, a few lip smacks, a rumble and then silence. Deep breathing. Peace.
She's self settling! OMG, she's self settling!*
I was immediately proud, but also had that all-too-familiar pang of letting go. We all get it, when a child learns to do something alone and no longer "needs" us the same. I felt a little bad lying there, just letting her settle herself, but had to remind myself that this is important, and an essential part of growing up.

Anyway, I digress. Amelie would probably have slept for several hours, but started to cough really badly, and eventually I got her up and gave her some calpol and water. She was still coughing, so I put her into her bouncy chair once she fell asleep, and she stayed there for 4 hours.

Last night was great again, she has got the hang of the "no milk overnight" rule, and is happily taking water when she wakes, and going back down without a fuss.I can't believe the difference in such a short amount of time, and the next step is to try and get her to go down into her cot awake. Not quite yet though, let's just get this skill in the bag first!

* THIS is what they mean by "self soothing". Not screaming and screaming until they give up and fall asleep, just waking, realising it's still dark and quiet, and going happily back to sleep.
When you hear a baby screaming inconsolably, and their parent says "Oh, just leave him, I'm teaching him to self soothe", smack them. 
I completely agree with the attatchment parenting philosophy of responding to a baby's needs immediately. It doesn't teach them to be clingy or demanding, they become more independent, because they trust that they can do things on their own, but that someone will always, always be there when they need it.
In contrast, leaving a baby to scream doesn't teach them to be independent, it teaches them to be fearful and mistrusting. They don't know when you're coming back, so will go straight to frantic screaming when left alone.When that stops, it's not because they've learned to be "good", it's because they've given up.
I wouldn't recommend leaving a baby to cry alone in a room for any more than a minute or two at a time, it worked so much better for me to cuddle Amelie until she stopped crying (distraction works well, don't worry that it's waking them up because they're already awake. The priority is to get them to be calm without a feed/dummy/whatever you're trying to wean them off first), and then work on getting her to fall asleep.
I'm also now starting to put her into her cot for short periods to play while I tidy up or hoover, just to teach her that the cot is a nice, safe place. I'll be working on putting her down awake and reading to her during the day, and then progress to putting her down awake at night soon. One step at a time!

Just chillin' in my cot, all by myself, Nothin' to it!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

In this together

What did you do last night? I went on a one way trip to the end of my tether. Here's what happened...

3am. My baby has been in her usual sleep/wake cycle for three hours. By "usual sleep/wake cycle", what  mean is that she falls asleep at my breast, but won't be put down into her cot. Seriously, as soon as her back touches the cot, no matter how fast asleep she is, her eyes fly open and she yells. I swear, she's like a cot ninja. She can sense her cot from anywhere, and she Does Not Like It.
So, most of the time, I let her just stay in our bed. That should get me a better sleep, right?
She falls asleep at the breast, then I gently manoeuvre her onto the mattress, and get myself comfy. Then I lie there, listening to her breathing, mentally going through shopping lists, to-do lists, lists of what I did wrong that day and should aim to do better tomorrow, etc. Then, just as I'm drifting off to sleep, she drifts into a lighter sleep, her lips start smacking together, looking for the last thing she was aware of before she fell asleep. The boob isn't there anymore, so she wakes further, looking for it. I wake up, and manoeuvre myself back into a feeding position. Feed, feed, feed for about two minutes, and then she's asleep again. But I'm not. Back to square one.
Anyhoo, lately I've been trying to get her into her own cot for at least some of the night. I can't ever get into a deep sleep when she's next to me, both because I can't get comfy and because I'm paranoid about her getting suffocated by my pillows, duvet or uber soft mattress. So, for the past three hours, I've been in the cycle of boobing, then shuffling to the bottom of the bed with her in my arms (being careful not to wake her), and gently putting her into her cot. More often than not, she wakes as soon as she's put down, but sometimes she'll lull me into a false sense of security, staying asleep until I've got back into bed, and then wailing as soon as she hears me getting comfy.
Tonight, it's the latter. It's 3am, this has been going on since midnight (following an entire evening of her being next to us on the sofa), and I've had enough. I seriously, no exaggeration, haven't slept more than an hour or two in a row, for eight months. I need sleep. I've done so well, getting to eight months, without losing my temper or being grumpy during the day. I stay chirpy and positive, I tell myself that this is a drop in the ocean of my motherhood journey, that these endless nights will soon be a distant memory, but I'm incredibly close to breaking point.
I feel like running up to fresh faced strangers and saying "Did you sleep last night? Did you? I didn't! I never sleep! Sleep is for the weak! Hahahahahaha!!!!" and other such maniacal ramblings.
Anyhoo. Back to 3am. I'm exhausted, and I've just crept back to Amelie's cot for the gazillionth time, and gently placed her down. She stays asleep! Hurrah!
I creep back to bed, and lie down. The tiredness envelops me like thousands of arms, pulling me down, down, down...
I take a deep breath, and sigh loudly. I'm done. I am so tired of this constant routine.
I get up and drag myself over to the cot, where my beautiful baby girl is wailing frantically, and waving her arms and legs. I don't feel angry with her. In fact, I don't feel angry at all, just bloody knackered. I know it's not her fault, but we can't go on like this.
We've done what the Baby Whisperer might have patronisingly referred to as "accidental parenting", allowing her to use my boob as a "prop". I'm sorry to say this, but there was nothing "accidental" about it, we knew what we were doing. It's the sleep system I lovingly refer to as "whatever gets you through the night".
Well, it used to get me through the night, but now it totally doesn't. Now I need a different way of getting through the night, preferably with my eyes shut and my body resting.
So, what to do? I decide to go with Operation: Tough Love. Not that I plan on letting her cry it out or anything, I'm more than willing to cuddle her and provide bottles of milk or water, but just no more falling asleep at the boob. I want to teach her that there are other ways to fall asleep.

So, it's 3am. (I'm getting to the point, I swear) She's screaming blue murder, clawing at my top to try and get to the boob. She's not hungry, I know she's not, but I offer a bottle anyway.
She screams louder, shoving the bottle away. I rock her. Screams.
I shush her. Screams. I kiss her, cuddle her, pace up and down with her.
Screams, screams, screams.

What am I doing? Is it SO bad to just give her a boob? What kind of selfish, horrible woman am I to deprive my own child of such basic comfort? What harm would it do to just let her fall asleep at the boob, and repeat the same half hourly cycle as usual?
No. No, no, no. I'm EXHAUSTED. I feel like a speck, like I'm of no importance, like my only point in existing is to provide for everyone else, and leave nothing of myself for me. There is nothing left, I'm like a wrung out washcloth.
I start to cry. Big, heaving sobs matching those of my tiny daughter. I'm useless, worthless and horribly, horribly selfish.
Somehow, from somewhere, I have to find some strength to make this better. It's time to dig deep.
I hold my screaming baby close, whispering "I'm sorry, I love you so much, but no. No boob"
She continues to scream and scream, but I'm determined. We have to break this cycle, I have to get some sleep, and so does she.
I get up, and walk around with her. She stops screaming, distracted by what she sees as we wander the house in the darkness. I whisper how much I love her, and how we'll get through this together, her and me.
I'm not battling against her, I'm battling beside her. We're fighting together, for a solution to this exhausting situation.
I feel a sense of strength from thinking of it this way, it's her and I against the world, and we have the night as our battlefield, and the hearts of a thousand sleep deprived mothers as our army. I know, that out there are countless other parents going through the same battle, and I no longer feel alone. We WILL get through this.

By 5am, I'm starting to feel hungry. 5 hours on the battlefield will do that to a girl. I figure that Amelie might be hungry, too, so I offer her a bottle. She drinks about 2oz and falls into a deep, snoring sleep. I lay her down in the cot, and miraculously, she stays.
Sleep grabs me quickly and drags me under like a serpent, only I don't want to be saved from this one. The next thing I know, it's 8.45am, and I've had 3 3/4 glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep!
It's the longest I've slept in the eight months since she was born, and I feel like a new woman.

Who knows what tonight will bring? We will just have to wait and see, but I know that if my baby girl and I meet on the sleep battlefield again tonight, we'll be on the same side, and I'll be strong enough for the two of us.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A squillion times over

After yesterday's 24 post, I got a lot of messages from people saying they don't know how I cope, I must be a supermum and they're sorry to hear I'm having such a tough time.
I love comments and messages, and I'm grateful for all of them, but wanted to clear some things up.
I don't ever want my blog to come across as a whinge, but it will always, always be an honest, warts and all account of motherhood.
I don't ever see myself as having a tough time or saving to cope with a lot. To me, losing your job is a tough time. Battling a chronic illness is a tough time. Dealing with abuse is a tough time. This is just being a mum. I'm eternally grateful for my kids, and they make me proud every single day, but yes, sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I have to stop and take a deep breath so I don't freak out. Sometimes, I forget to stop and take a deep breath and I do freak out. Then I feel guilty that my kids saw me lose it. Then I have to remind myself that it's important for kids to occasionally see their mother lose it because it teaches them that mums are human, too.
We have limits. We freak out. We get scared and we sometimes don't want to be the responsible adult anymore.
At the end of the day, what I do is no harder or easier than what any other mum does. Whether you have one kid or ten kids, whether your  social media features only edited highlights of you running joyfully through cornfields with your immaculately groomed children, or you regularly share photos of things your toddler has flushed down the toilet  (towels, lego, your social life...), we are all in the same boat - just taking one day at a time, trying to steer our kids in the right direction and get through it in one piece.
When I had a third child, some people said "You must be mad!"
Why is that? The way I see it, the more kids you have, the more fun it is.
Yes, you sleep less. Yes, you worry more. Yes, you will sometimes be so tired you could throw up.
But you know what? There will always be someone who wants to cuddle you. There will always be something to do, you'll never have time to be bored. And there will always be at least one moment a day when you feel so proud you could burst. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram will see those moments several times a day, because I shamelessly share at least some of my happy, proud moments!

So please don't think that having lots of kids is bad, nothing could be further from the truth.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
A squillion times over.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


I haven't done a 'Day in the life' post for a while, so here's how my Monday went...

6.30am - wake up. Well, I say wake up, I've been awake half the night anyway. Get up is what I mean.

7-9am - usual morning madness. Tidy, get kids breakfasted, showered and dressed, get kids off to school. Only two minutes late today - win!

9.15am - get home, take dog out, empty and reload dishwasher, clean kitchen, bleach sink, sort washing, general housework. Monday is my catch up with housework day, as we have no baby clubs. Should be relaxed, right?

10.20am - Oh crap, I have the dentist at 10.30, and have been warned that it's a half hour crown prep. Lots of drilling. Eek! Feel nervous.

10.30am - at dentist. He's running late. Continue to be nervous.

11am - finally get called, and spend the next half hour trying to pretend I'm a big brave girl while wishing I could be anywhere but in that chair. On the upside, it's half an hour of child free lying down, so can't be all bad.

11.40am - get home, haven't seen Amelie for ages, so spend the next 20mins cuddling her and thinking about how sore my mouth is.

12noon - start making soup for lunch, while running through to Amelie every 2 minutes because she screams the whole time.
While soup is cooking, tackle ironing pile, while loudly singing to Amelie, because she screams the whole time.

12.45-1.15pm - have lunch with Amelie, and take a video of her giggling, because it's adorable.

1.30pm - suddenly realise I've only got an hour to do housework before school run, because I need to leave at 2.30 to get money from the bank. Take Amelie upstairs and spend half an hour trying to get her to sleep.

2pm - give up, take her downstairs and try feeding her to sleep on the sofa.

2.30pm - she's asleep! Yay! Unfortunately, I should be leaving the house now, but I can swing by the bank after school, so will quickly do some housework before leaving at 3pm.

2.31pm - phone call from school. Charlie's had what sounds like an asthma attack and needs to be picked up IMMEDIATELY. Panic. Remember not to panic. Phone doctor, receptionist tells me duty doctor will phone back. Leave Amelie with mum and race to school for Charlie.

2.50pm - get in with Charlie. Doctor has phoned, appointment is at 3.20. The exact time I have to pick up Daisy. Panic. Remember not to panic. Frantically try to find someone who can pick up Daisy. Nobody can, so phone school and say I'm  picking her up early.

3.10pm - get to school for Daisy, who takes FOREVER to come out. Run back to car to find Charlie slupmed and unresponsive in the front seat. Shake him and shout his name. He looks at me all confused and says "What? I was just sitting quietly"
Swear that these children will be the death of me and race to the doctors.

I may have made that last bit up.
Get to reception, snippy receptionist says that someone else has gone in front of us and we'll just have to wait.

3.40pm - after 15 minutes of Daisy repeatedly asking "How much longer? How much longer? I have cheerleading at 4pm. How much longer?", we're seen. Charlie appears to be fine, but is given an inhaler. Stand in world's longest queue at pharmacy waiting for inhaler, then return to doctor, who shows us how to use it.

4.10pm - get home, already 10 minutes late for cheerleading. Race upstairs to get Daisy ready, but trip over Charlie's schoolbag on the stairs and hurt my shoulder. Swear a little bit. Realise I've never been to the bank yet. Panic. Remember not to panic. Mum gives me money, and off we go, only half an hour late.

4.45pm - get home, give Amelie a feed, start dinner, tidy up as best I can.

6.15pm - Steve comes home with Daisy, and we have dinner with minimal drama, the only little drama being when I drop a fork onto the table, and it smashes Daisy's plate right in front of her face. She's ok but got a scare. Try not to cry.

8pm - settle both girls and enjoy cuddles with both of them.

8.30pm - both girls asleep! About to sit down when I realise I've left my phone upstairs, so nip up for it, only to meet Charlie on the stairs, coming down for a snack. I whisper I'll be down in a minute but he calls "SHOULD I TAKE MY INHALER TOO?"
Piercing scream. Amelie is awake. Go in to settle her.

9.30pm - Steve comes looking for me, I'm still trying to settle Amelie, who is wide awake and joyfully pulling my hair. He goes and switches everything off downstairs, and we decide to stay upstairs for the night. Have a nice couple of hours chatting and cuddling, while Amelie snoozes between us.

11.30pm - close eyes, I'm so ready for a sleep. Which is Amelie's cue to wake up. Spend the next couple of hours dozing while Amelie uses my boob as a dummy, which basically means she wakes every 20 minutes and I have to contort myself into a position where she can 'feed' while lying down.

2am - wake to see Daisy standing over me. She's had a nightmare and no amount of negotiation will get her back to bed. She squeezes in, and I lie uncomfortably in tge middle, with Steve on one side and both girls on the other.

4am - have had enough, can't get comfy. Move Amelie to her cot, where miraculously, she stays asleep. Get back to bed and try to enjoy the extra few inches of bedspace, but it's no good, Daisy is already stretched into the space Amelie had been in.

5am - still awake. Ask Daisy to go back to bed, which she does. Luxuriate in the now masses of space in the bed. Ahhh, finally!

5.01am - Amelie wakes up, take her into bed and contort myself into an awkward position so she can use the boob as a dummy.

6am - alarm goes off.

6.30am - wake up. Well, I say wake up, I've been awake half the night. Get up.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Little Miss Perfect

I'm a born homemaker. It's the only job I've ever had that I've truly loved, and felt good at.
While some people lust after Louboutin shoes and Prada handbags, I lust after Kitchenaid mixers and AGAs. While some people read Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, I read Country Living and Good Food. My role models are not movie stars and entrepreneurs, they're TV chefs and crafters.
I've always had this idyllic vision of being not just any housewife, but the best damn housewife EVER.
So much so, that I even once put "Domestic Goddess" down as my occupation on a loan application.
And the bank lent me £10k. They were very irresponsible lenders in those days.

However, I've noticed the following discrepancies between my dream life, and reality...

1) Clothing and sewing

THE DREAM:  All of our clothes are made from scratch. Anything my family wants to wear can be whipped up in seconds, using my trusty sewing machine and any random combination of recycled fabrics.
"Ooooh, I love your unique outfit! So unusual and stunning!"
"Oh, this old thing? I just made it seconds before I came out, using a pair of old curtains from the charity shop!"
"Wow! You're so clever!"
"Oh, now, you're too kind!"

THE REALITY: Sewing is complicated. And HARD. It takes an hour to drag everything out of the cupboard, set it up, and thread the needle, by which time Amelie has woken up. My sewing machine sits in the cupboard, taunting me, alongside a heap of unused sewing books, and several bags of charity shop 'finds', which are hideous, ill fitting and smell of biscuits.

2. Knitting and Crochet

THE DREAM: My house is full of quirky, handmade blankets, cushion covers and tea cosies. My kids play with jaunty knitted teddies and wear beautiful, exquisitely crafted hats, scarves and gloves. Friends and family regularly receive handmade yarn-tastic gifts.

THE REALITY: While some elements of knitting and crochet are fairly easy once you get started, it takes practice. Lots of practice, and patience. Once you've ripped out the same row eight times in a row, and said some very unladylike words, it stops being the fun, relaxing activity you had envisioned. Meh, I've got a couple of quite nice blankets and scarves, but I'm ready to hang up my hooks for a few years now.

3. Furniture

THE DREAM: My furniture is all reclaimed, recycled, upcycled and otherwise rescued, sanded down, painted and reupholstered. Each beautiful piece is one of a kind, and only cost pennies!

THE REALITY: After several years of tripping over unfinished projects, I decided to bin the lot and start again. These days, I barely even have the energy to build a flat pack.

4. Food

THE DREAM:  All of our meals are cooked from scratch, using a vast array of amazing kitchen equipment, and referring to endless amounts of cookbooks for inspiration. My greatest joy in life is meal planning and food shopping, and I'm regularly found wafting around the kitchen, surrounded by bluebirds, and whistling a cheery tune.

THE REALITY: Ok, this one is mostly true. Apart from the bluebirds, they'd poop everywhere and freak me out with their flappy wings.
Oh, and I can't whistle, but I do enjoy a belting showtune or some 80s rock ballads while cooking.

5. Grocery Shopping

THE DREAM: All of our food/toileteries/cleaning products are organic, locally produced, ethically sourced, environmentally friendly and/or foraged from an enchanted forest and/or blessed by vegan unicorns (local ones, of course).

THE REALITY: I shop at Asda. I don't feel good about it. In fact, this is one thing I am willing to work on, starting with a regular bulk meat order from the local butcher, and day trips to local fruit/veg farms, with maybe a monthly order of basic staples from the supermarket.

...and so on. I recently decided that actually, if I was given the choice to sell everything and go and live on a houseboat, I would. This ideal image of the perfect "simple life", where everything is homemade, is a myth.
In an attempt to perpetuate this "simple" ideal, we end up complicating our lives beyond belief.
The truth is, it's hard enough just keeping our heads above water in terms of keeping on top of the laundry pile, the neverending piles of kids' stuff, and coping with baby groups, cheerleading, scouts etc. If I ever get a minute's peace, all I really want to do if flop on the sofa with my husband and have a giggle.
The best times we've ever had have included properly simple things - rock pools, stone circles, sunsets, campfires and scavenger hunts. I don't need to put myself under unnecessary pressure to always be creating, it's okay to admit I'm not perfect.
So...I've donated all those books I'll never read to the library, I've given away all my knitting/crochet stuff and I'm selling my sewing machine.
You know what? It feels GREAT.

PLEASE NOTE: If you create things, and enjoy it, good for you. This is in no way a pop at people who do these activities, and in an ideal world, I'd still love to make everything on Pinterest, but for now, I've taken my foot off the pedal and decided to chill out. If you want to make me something, please do ;) xxx