Beware of the ‘sancti mummy’

It’s not often that I have the energy to read during night feeds, but last night I popped on to a blog I follow and had a little read. 

The post I stumbled upon concerned leaving a child at kindergarten (nursery/pre school) when they are hysterically crying. The author took her child home, saying she took no victory in leaving her child when they were so upset. She knows her child best and did what she felt was right. 

  
The comments from other mums! Wow. I’ve often noticed that, online, mums can be very ‘my way is the only way’, irrespective of different situations, the fact every child (and parent) is different, despite them never having met the parties concerned. 

Some comments implied she was ruining her child and would end up accompanying them on interviews and to work as an adult! Some accused her of failing to prepare her child for life. Others were teachers saying that parents like her made the situation worse by either removing the child or staying to check they were ok. 

Whether any of these views are right or wrong is irrelevant. What makes people think this is an acceptable way to talk to another person, another parent, a fellow mum? 

The Internet is faceless and anonymity is a mask so many people hide behind. I can’t put into words how vehemently I disagree with people pushing their opinions onto others or judging how other parents see fit to raise their children. THEIR children. Unless you have been there with those parents every day, you have no right to judge. 

Maybe her child suffers from serious anxiety…or maybe her child is just clingy. That does not make her decision to remove her child wrong. Sancti mums, please get off your high horse. 

As I have said time and time again. Parents should always do what is right for them.

 

The feeding dilemma

No matter how you feed your baby, people will have an opinion. No matter how comfortable you are with your choice, there is likely to be at least be instance of you feeling judged while feeding. 

Breastfeeders…ugh, you’re feeding your child naturally, in public? Put your breast away, we don’t want to see their real purpose! Put a muslin over your baby’s head or go feed elsewhere please. 

Bottle feeders…you’re feeding your child what? Put that bottle down, stop poisoning your child. You’re giving your baby expressed milk? It isn’t as effective as breastfeeding. Oh wait, hang on, don’t start breastfeeding them instead, cover your baby up!  

Ok…we’ll feed them by magic then…

It’s ridiculous. Does it really matter how you feed your baby? Is it anyone else’s business? No.

However, as Mums, we end up defending our decision or justifying our choices. Why? Because lots of people are incredibly judgemental – look up weaning on any forum and you’ll see how opinionated anonymous people can be. I’ve seen posts asking for advice that specifically state that they aren’t asking for judgement or to be told they’re doing it wrong, just a bit of help. No mum should need to say that. Who are others to push their choices as the only way? 

We are feeding our children and doing our best. Nothing else matters (unless you’re feeding your 2 month old a burger…don’t do that!). 

As you know, we have been trying to get Sam to take a bottle for weeks. Although he won’t yet take a full feed, he will happily accept a bottle or sippy cup. Progress! I’m still breastfeeding as well, since he needs both milk and formula, but that may change if his bottle feeding improves.

We’ve had a long and difficult road with breastfeeding and I’m proud that we are still going at 22 weeks (whether it’s my choice or not…!). I’m also proud that through a lot of patience and perseverance Sam is getting better with the bottle, just like he did with the breast at the start. 

So why, when I bottle feed in public, do I feel the need (if someone speaks to me) to point out that I also breastfeed.

Because it feels like people are looking. Judging. 

News flash to myself….they probably aren’t. 

In fact, if I looked around, I would likely see that most mums are bottle feeding, especially if their babies are a few months old. This also makes me sad. It’s all very conflicted in my head!

I am entirely comfortable with breastfeeding while out – more so than I ever thought I would be – I will feed Sam pretty much anywhere, but I’m sure other mums lack the confidence or feel they ‘ought’ to cover up. There has been so much in the media recently, perhaps too much. It’s the way women have always fed their babies, I fail to understand what the fuss is about. 

There is no right or wrong, just women feeding their babies however they can. 

Life at home

When you have a baby and begin your new life at home (whether long or short term), life changes in more ways than you can possibly imagine. However, what I personally hadn’t anticipated were how my friendships would change. I thought I would regularly see those friends who are around during the day, and hopefully catch up with others in the evenings or weekends. Sam’s lack of evening sleep has scuppered most evening plans, but we are nearly always around at weekends. I may partly be at fault for not contacting more people and inviting them round, but I haven’t really spoken to a large chunk of my friends since Sam’s birth. 

Maybe Facebook and the ability to ‘like’ or or leave one-liner comments on statuses or photos gives us all the false illusion that we’re having a conversation and keeping in touch. It’s far too easy to do! What has surprised me is how little I’ve seen of the friends who are also around during the day either with children or different working hours. The people I see more than anyone are the girls from my NCT group. We still meet weekly and a couple of weeks ago I also ended up seeing two of them on other days during the week. It helps that the weather has been glorious and we’re all keen to get out and have a walk in the sunshine! Maybe it’s because you form a different bond when you’ve all sat round in a village hall practicing birth positions and have discussed births, nappies and all of the other grim subjects that accompany parenthood…

What has been really nice (and was unexpected) is how much I’ve ended up talking to old school friends who have young children. We may not be close any more, but I’ve seen and been chatting to one of my best friends from school for the first time in years. Her little boy is just adorable and I hope he and Sam end up being friends (when the year+ age gap doesn’t matter any more). I’ve spoken to other girls from my school days and we share the 3am chats with our ups and downs, with me often asking for advice, or sometimes validation, since their children are all older than Sam and they’ve been through this stage!

I’m not saying that my friends and I have parted ways, but my priorities have changed so much and – for the moment – I’m unable to pursue my main hobby, Am Dram, which is where most of us met. They’re all busy and I understand that. To be fair, I keep myself and Sam pretty occupied at times! I just hadn’t really taken in that there would be a new distance there when I’m more concerned with watching Sam waiting for any new steps he takes than with heading out.

Also…being awake after 9pm? Overrated!

Thank you pregnancy…

…for taking away a food I’ve been looking forward to eating for months. 

Sunday was Carl and my first anniversary. A whole year since our wedding…and what a year it’s been! To celebrate, my Mum, sister and future brother in law came round to look after Sam, allowing us to go out for our first meal as a couple since he was born. 

We chose Little Dudley House in Dorking. It’s a lovely restaurant; beautiful both inside and out, with great food. A long-standing favourite of ours, it was the obvious choice. 

 
A glass of champagne to celebrate and a three course meal, perfect. 

We spent 3 hours out of the house, chatting and laughing over our meal and remembering that as well as being parents, we are still a couple. It was a wonderful day. 

Until early evening. 

I started feeling a bit sick and by 8pm, since Sam had fallen asleep, I decided to go to bed. Carl kept Sam downstairs so I could get some rest, while I shivered in bed and hoped I could sleep it off. By the time Carl and Sam came up at midnight, I was feeling horrendous. Shivers had turned to hot sweats. Feeling sick but not able to be sick, I fed Sam but partway through the feed – typically – my body was ready. Hurriedly passing him to Carl, I ran for the bathroom. A few minutes later, I threw up the entire three course meal. The speed and quantity would almost have been comical if it hadn’t been so horrible. 

What I always forget about sickness is how weak it leaves you feeling. Last night I was still feeling incredibly delicate and not able to eat much, although trying to since I need the calories to feed Sam – never before have I wished so hard that he would take a bottle. 

There’s no way I could have handled a day of full on baby entertaining yesterday. However, fortunately for me, Sam may well have begun his 12 week growth spurt and slept for the majority of the day. For the first time, I was able to sleep when the baby does. 

The offending food? Goats cheese. I love a goats cheese salad from Viva, it’s one of my favourites. I can’t think of anything else I ate that would have had this effect. It may have been a one-off, but do I want to test it? No way. 

I forgot that pregnancy can alter your tastes and leave you with new allergies so, 11 weeks after giving birth, it seems I’m still feeling the after effects of it all. Oh the joys! 

Thank goodness for Carl helping with Sam in the middle of the night and on Monday both before and after work. 

Of course, since he slept all day yesterday, he woke every hour during the night. Fed badly, wriggled during feeds, thrashed around in his cot. All in all, a bad night. 

Why you should do what you think is right

For the first week of Sam’s life, he was almost exclusively bottle fed (expressed milk and formula) since he wouldn’t take the breast. 

After we got home from hospital when he was 5 days old, we continued offering the breast and – happily – he took to it the next day. For a while we continued combination feeding. However, this wasn’t seen as the right thing to be doing and a few days later we started exclusively breastfeeding

I’ll be honest and say that we did still occasionally give him a bottle of expressed milk or formula, but stopped within a couple of weeks. 

Sam is now 9 weeks old. 2 weeks ago, I restarted my singing lessons. 2 hours out of the house, every other week doing something just for me. This is important for my sanity. I fed Sam just before leaving in the hope he would last the 2 hours until my return, but had a bottle ready in case he got hungry. 

2 hours later I returned to find a screaming baby. He had decided he needed more food only half an hour after I left (this happens occasionally) and refused the bottle despite repeated attempts by my poor husband. 1.5 hours of hell followed until I returned and could feed him. 

I was meant to have a lesson today. However, Sam continues to refuse the bottle and since he rarely goes 2 hours between feeds, I’ve had to cancel. It’s not selfish to crave just a couple of hours to myself every 14 days but it’s currently impossible. I’ve been looking online to see what returning to work mums do and will have to start treating the situation that way, as if there’s no choice. 

I have plenty of milk – as I always have – to express and feed this to him, so we just need to get beyond him pushing a bottle out of his mouth. Otherwise, it looks like I’m home bound until he’s weaned…which will consequently be started earlier than planned. 

Don’t think I regret breastfeeding or hate doing it (I’ve been through the stage of hating it and crying during feeds because I was only doing it because I ‘should’) but the knock-on effect is that it can make breastfeeding seem claustrophobic and means Carl is never able to help with feeds or even just taking him out for a couple of hours. 

With hindsight, I wish we had continued to do one bottle feed every day; it worked for us. 

Do whatever works for you, your partner and your baby. You’re a team and there is no reason at all as to why you shouldn’t be able to operate as such, with each person doing their bit and able to help with anything your baby needs. 

Go with the flow

We’ve had a difficult couple of nights. This week, we’ve started putting Sam into his cot at the start of the night but, surprisingly, this hasn’t bothered him. He seems quite content in his cot (provided we put him in it when he’s fast asleep…!!) and while he wakes up sooner than he does in our bed, he still sleeps up to 1.5 hours in it. Definitely a start…

What has caused disruption is my lack of ability to sleep well with him in the cot – that surely can’t be the right way round!? In our bed, I seemed to be able to sleep through his little noises and gurgles, only waking when he needed feeding. In the cot, every noise wakes me, just in case he has woken up and needs food. Sam is a noisy, fidgety sleeper (much like his parents!) so this is fairly frequent/constant. Night before last night, I was awake from 3-4.30am when I put him in his cot after a night feed, until he needed feeding again. Not quite what I’d intended! 

Last night. What can I say about last night. It felt like hell. Awake nearly all night feeding Sam until the early hours, then he was crying and seemed to be inconsolable. What was wrong? He was clean, fed, winded…what did we miss? Thinking he might be hungry, I fed him again…he ate…and then threw it all up, all over me. Not that then. 

After 1.5 hours of us alternating trying to settle him, I went to sleep – on the edge of a breakdown – and Carl figured it out. Sam was cold. He wrapped a blanket round him while walking round and he fell asleep straight away. He must have fed just for the comfort and maybe to be warmer in our bed, making himself feel better about being chilly. 

We’ve always kept him wrapped in a blanket, but this week we’ve become a bit remiss. Thinking it’s getting warmer, we haven’t been quite so vigilant and after a window being open for 2 days (although the room door was shut) while we had work done, he must have become pretty chilled. Poor little man. I felt awful when I realised that was the reason for him being so sad. 

Today, he started the morning off by crying again, with my thinking a nervous breakdown was just round the corner. Fortunately, he was just hungry. So, I cancelled my plans and we spent the whole morning in bed with him feeding and us both catching up on sleep. Much needed. 

We became best friends again when he smiled and gurgled through his nappy change; melted my heart. 

I’m pretty dead on my feet, but I count it as an accomplishment that we made it downstairs at all today, both freshly dressed and he has fed and napped as he usually does. 

I’ve noticed he struggles more at night when he doesn’t cluster feed in the evenings – he hasn’t done this for the last 2 nights…coincidence!? – so hopefully we’ll return to this tonight. 

While I look forward to him out growing cluster feeding, it helps him at night so I will embrace it for now! 

Sometimes plans need cancelling, sometimes a morning will be spent in bed. Sometimes you will feel like a terrible mother and like you can’t handle it anymore. You can. You just need someone to remind you of that, like Carl did for me today. Thank goodness for him. 

Here’s to a better night tonight. 

On-going support

imageOne of the most important things you can have during pregnancy is a support network; from your partner, friends, family, or whoever you would turn to… On the hard days they will be the people who pick you up again. On the good days, they’ll be the ones you want to tell.

A major positive we gained from our NCT classes was that additional support group. We all knew what the others were going through and had the same questions. Now that a few of the group have had their babies, we all get together weekly for lunch to have baby cuddles and spend hours chatting about any and everything.

Jude, as our teacher, was (and is) a great resource of information and encouragement. We bumped into her today and her continuing positivity, advice and upbeat personality was – as ever – incredibly helpful. She is always happy for us to call or email with concerns or for advice; she has gone above and beyond what I expected to gain from an NCT teacher.

No matter what sort of pregnancy you have, make sure you surround yourself with people you can talk to. I mentioned making pregnant friends where possible in an earlier blog post, which is also worth reading: ‘Make pregnant friends…who are due both before and after you‘.

For more information on NCT classes, see my earlier blog post ‘To NCT or not to NCT…that is the question‘ and the official NCT website, along with Jude’s page.

Morning sickness is normal…but not easy

When I was in the early stages of pregnancy, it felt like every other pregnant person was coasting through; no sickness, no tiredness, quite literally dancing their way through it all. Having spoken to them since, I believe this was true for 1 or 2 of the pregnant women I knew…but certainly not all or even most.

The thing with morning sickness and the hard side of pregnancy is that it’s behind closed doors. Why would you post on facebook or tell everyone that you’re feeling awful or have spent the last week either crying or trying not to? When you’re in that place you don’t need others knowing. My opinion was that I would far rather that everyone imagined I was glowing.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of time for self pity or people asking to be asked how they are (‘sad face’ statuses drive me mad), but it’s a private time and I only needed Carl as we made our way through those days. Every day, from weeks 12 to 24, I got up and threw up, before going to work and nibbled crackers to get through each day. Most nights, I cried and asked Carl (my rock) why it was so difficult. I think we both struggled through those weeks. However, if we went out or saw friends, this was all shoved in a closet and we would laugh the time away. Most of them had no idea.

This is why it looks like everyone coasts through – every pregnant women perpetuates the same myth. It is totally normal though and if you are feeling awful or not enjoying pregnancy, this is ok.

Although not 100% relevant in this context, this quote by Laura Stavoe remains as true as ever:
“There is a secret in our culture and it is not that birth is painful but that women are strong.”

Do what you feel is right for you

38 weeks

38 weeks

Now just over 38 weeks, we had a midwife appointment booked for tomorrow. However, after our uninspiring visit last time (when we were wrongly told our baby was Breech and sent for a scan she hadn’t actually booked us in for), we were less than keen to see her again.

I spoke to the wonderful Jude (our NCT teacher) who calmed me after the whole fiasco and advised that we go with what we feel is right. After a great deal of thought – since all the appointments are drummed into you – we have cancelled. Bud is still happily moving around, I feel fine and I will be straight on the phone to the hospital if I have any queries.

Yes, I’ve heard that movements aren’t everything, obviously the heartbeat is checked too along with measurements, but we have decided to go with our instincts. With (in theory) less than 2 weeks to go, if I feel that anything is amiss, we will be straight on the phone or heading to hospital. We are ready. Missing an appointment and (probably) a large amount of stress will not affect our baby’s health. I’m not the only person to have had these exact issues with this same midwife, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that tomorrow’s appointment will be a repeat of the 36 week one. Bud is in the same position, for one!

Do what you feel is right for you.

Disclaimer: My post ‘Nearly into the breech’ created quite a discussion on my opinion of midwives, so I feel I should point this out…

I am not knocking midwives in any way, shape or form. This one specific midwife just fills us with doubts and her ‘bedside manner’ leaves a lot to be desired. I have the upmost faith in midwives, or I wouldn’t be hoping to make use of the midwife-led birth centre at Epsom.

A good night’s sleep….all but a distant memory

No one tells you that when you get to the final weeks, you will physically feel that baby has no room. At times, my belly feels so tight that I can’t believe there are still a couple of weeks (or so) to go. I’ve had multiple dreams about hands and feet bursting out of my bump, or a particularly stressful one where I could hear Bud crying because there was no space but I couldn’t do anything to help. That dream was the most traumatising I’ve had.

Bud has a habit of stretching his/her long legs out – they are generally crossed over – which means the feet stick out of my side. Believe me, this really hurts, especially if they get caught under your rib cage! Fortunately, I can usually give the feet a little tickle and they’ll move back in quickly enough.

At night however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a comfortable way to sleep. I don’t know what was going on last night, but Bud seemed to be simultaneously stretching legs and feet one way, bottom pushing back the other way and head pushed down…with a furious bout of hiccups. A particularly uncomfortable moment!

After hours of lying awake, I gave up and retired downstairs to the sofa so my continual tossing and turning wouldn’t wake Carl up. Realising I didn’t know where our blanket is (I keep one downstairs for chilly winter nights), I huddled in my massive dressing gown and kept Percy company; he was more than happy with the unexpected hugs! Not the best night I’ve had. Fortunately, once Carl got up for work, I was able to return, rearrange my stack of pillows to be semi-comfortable and get snuggled in.

I am so lucky to have such a supportive husband; his offer of breakfast (after telling me off for not sending him downstairs) was amazing, so I had some toast with a hot Manuka honey drink, before all but passing out until 11.

For those bad nights, a supportive partner or friend is vital. Make sure you talk to someone rather than getting frustrated or angry. My advice is that if you can’t sleep, get up or move somewhere else. Lying in bed awake all night will just drive you insane.