His first year

In just two weeks time, my little baby will turn one. This year has been the most tiring, most testing and most wonderful year of my life.

Watching him grow up over the last 11.5 months has been absolutely amazing and I feel so blessed to have him in my life.

He has changed from this extremely dependent, squishy baby into a confident, playful little boy. Every day he seems to learn something new and I can almost see him changing right in front of me.

My little boy is loving, playful, funny, confident, cuddly, spirited, cheeky and has a smile that melts my heart. When he rocks back and forth to me singing ‘Row Row your boat’ or when he puts his arms in the air when I ask him how big he is, I burst with pride at this little person we have created.

He loves to clap, to stand up unaided, to try to walk to you and knows what he wants to do and when (most of the time). Peekaboo, stacking rings, knocking down brick towers and climbing on to his toy boxes are some his favourite things to do.

We have ‘inside jokes’ where I give him a certain look and he laughs at me, or he gives me his cheeky look when he is being naughty and all is forgiven. I sometimes wonder who is learning more, him or me.

He has taught me patience and how to love unconditionally. He has taught me how to play again and how to shut off the world and just be us. He has forced me to come our of my comfort zone and breastfeed in public (in the early days), sing to him in the trolly in the supermarket or talk to strangers at baby groups. He has allowed my husband to become the amazing, wonderful dad that I knew he could be. He has turned us from a couple into a family.

He is completely amazing and I am overwhelmed by my love for him.

You know you’re a mum when…

Apologies as I know there are lots of these doing the rounds but it has occurred to me how much my life has changed recently and I wanted to add my own:

  1. Songs stuck in your head are now Row Row Row your boat
  2. You can’t name any of the current top 10 songs
  3. You know the Bing Bong song from Peppa Pig, it’s now in your head
  4. A late night is staying up till 10pm
  5. A lie in is sleeping past 7am
  6. Piles have now become a regular and acceptable topic of conversation
  7. You compare nappy brands and actually have an opinion on them
  8. You no longer make trips to the toilet alone
  9. A hot cup of tea is a novelty, or a dream
  10. Finger foods are no longer a buffet treat found at parties but have become a major part of your life
  11. You can’t spoon feed your baby without opening your mouth at the same time
  12. You have become a Facebook bore that constantly posts pictures of your baby (very guilty)
  13. You are sorry you ever said you were tired before you had children, you weren’t
  14. You have to eat when they’re not looking, and quickly
  15. You take note of another person’s bowel movements, frequency and consistency
  16. You get to work to realise you have snot on the shoulder of your cardigan, or in your hair
  17. You curse the postman for knocking during nap time
  18. You can name the characters from In The Night Garden
  19. You have random conversations with strangers in Aldi because your baby won’t stop staring at them
  20. You sob, uncontrollably, at DIY SOS or any programme with children in it, or pets, or old people, sometimes even at the adverts.
  21. When someone else matters so much more than you do.

Germs

I have never been a sicky person, some people get every bug going but I am usually one that manages to avoid it. However, in the last 3 months, I have been ill more times than in the last 3 years.

I can’t remember when 2 weeks have gone by when J hasn’t had some form of cold, sickness or tummy bug; this has definitely escalated since starting childcare.  It does;t help that I also work in a school so probably bring home bugs from there.

J has just had a bad cold including conjunctivitis, so I lovingly wiped his nose, used cooled boiled water and two different pieces of cotton wool to wipe his eyes, only for him to use the back of his hand to wipe the snot right back up into his eyes.

Inevitably, after a few days of wiping up snot, sick and cleaning numerous dirty nappies, I too am struck down by the illness, followed by my husband. As I write this I am actually off sick from work with laryngitis – no voice, terrible cough, sore throat.

It is an important life lesson to share but it seems like we are living on a carousel of germs passing them around to each other. A never ending snotty ride.

When can we get off?

Perfect parent pressure

What makes the perfect parent?

Is it the mum who attends five baby groups a week? The dad who bathes his child every night? The parents who teach their child three languages by the time they are five?

Is there a parent in the world who can, hand on heart, say that they have never made a mistake? Whose child has never banged their head on something as they learn to sit/crawl/stand/walk? Who has never given Calpol as a last resort when all attempts to stop crying have failed?

After recently putting J on the floor to have a go at crawling, a relative said to me: ‘His learning is very structured.’ I wasn’t sure how to take it. It wasn’t an insult but it certainly wasn’t a compliment. I asked what they meant and they explained that I have specific ways of doing things and structured time for things like ‘tummy time’. It apparently wasn’t a bad thing but just the way I do things is planned and it’s different to how it was in their day.

I don’t know why I took offence to this and why it has stuck with me, surely trying to be organised about my son’s development should be a positive thing. Yet it felt like they were saying that all the fun had been taken away from play somehow and that their impression of me was that I watched the clock, saw it turn 3pm and immediately put him down for some ‘tummy time’. This is not the case at all. I am very much led by what he wants to do, which, to be fair, is fairly limited at this age.

I’ve said it before but it’s times like this that remind me that there is no right answer with parenting. There is no one perfect parent. It’s a subject that everyone has an opinion on depending on the way they did it with their children and how it was done in their day. I swear I would be rich if I got a pound every time someone told me how it was in their day…move on people, times are changing.

I read something recently that said that parenting is even tougher now; there is no village community feel where everyone mucks in with raising the baby, if you’re lucky enough to have supportive family and friends then that helps a bit but mostly, you’re on your own (with your partner). With social media taking over our lives, there is more pressure than ever to show everyone how brilliant your child is, to post pictures of being a smiley happy family and make sure everyone knows what a good time you are having. God forbid if you actually said what a crappy day you were having, posted a picture of your poo covered child and questioned whether you had really considered this parenting malarkey hard enough. Parenting is a minefield already without the added pressure created by social media and often, by other parents.

Yet I subject myself to this online battle on a daily basis and am an active member of several online mummy groups. On one of the aforementioned groups we discussed how many baby groups we went to every week, suddenly the posts started coming in, 3 a week, sometimes 4, like it was some kind of challenge or competition as to who could attend the most. I felt like I fell short of everyone else, even when I tried to keep up to attending 2 a week, there were always those mums that attended Baby Sensory on a Monday, Baby Sign on a Tuesday, Swimming lessons Wednesday, Ballet on a Thursday and Coffee mornings on a Friday. Yet I sometimes struggled to get us out of the house and organised on the two mornings I dare venture out. I couldn’t imagine doing more.

Competition also came in the form of child development. Posts about babies the same age as J crawling everywhere, saying Dada and Mama clearly, standing up, feeding themselves sandwiches, completing the Daily Mail’s Sudoku. Ok so the last one I made up but I was constantly looking at J’s stage and comparing him. It didn’t matter if he was doing things they weren’t; he wasn’t keeping up with every other single baby on the group. Whose baby was? It was a place to show everyone just how amazingly clever your baby was and I was waiting for the post saying ‘My baby has solved world hunger this morning whilst eating her breakfast that I freshly prepared and reading the morning paper – isn’t she a clever girl.’

So, it seems that for many parents, we have created this environment where we must compete. Must win. Must be this impossible perfect parent.

No one can possibly live up to the high standards we set ourselves. It is surely not possible to attend baby groups every day, bake buns for play group, prepare every meal from scratch and teach your child Mandarin whilst they throw your freshly prepared banana muffins on the floor. So we compromise. We do our best.

If I aim to be a perfect parent I will forever fall short. So I strive to be the best parent I can be for J, one that aims to make him happy and encourage him in whatever he does.

I may not be teaching my son a different language or taking him to Baby ballet but he seems happy enough, laughing away with glee as I pretend to ‘eat his hands’,

For us, this is as close to perfect as it can be.

Bogeys

When did I stop batting an eye at having someone else’s bogeys on my fingers?

When did I start putting my hand out to catch someone’s sick?

At what point in my life was it funny when someone weed on my clothes?

When did me cleaning up sh*t that was all up someone’s back and in their belly button become a spectator sport in which anyone visiting would have to come help or watch? Laughing when I inevitably got poo on my hands.

When did it seem ok to sit in the house wearing clothes that had a little bit of sick on the shoulder?

When I became a mother.

20 things I have learnt recently

  1. Poo, on the carpet, stains
  2. So does orange puree sick
  3. Tears rolling down your baby’s cheeks are the worst emotional blackmail ever
  4. 6am is apparently the new 7am
  5. A person can still function on a surprisingly little amount of sleep
  6. Baby teeth are really sharp
  7. Baby nails are even worse
  8. Sometimes explodapoo vests cannot be saved
  9. Some people still have very backwards views about mums who return to work
  10. Babies think it is brilliant to feed the cats from their highchair
  11. A baby’s laugh is the most infectious thing in the world
  12. You can co-exist in a house with another adult without actually knowing how their week has been (as you are both too tired to make conversation anymore other than to complain about nappies, sleep or some other baby related rubbish.)
  13. You need to make time for your partner.
  14. Good friends are hard to come by but really appreciated when things get tough
  15. Sometimes it’s ok to accept help
  16. Comparing a baby’s development against another is a waste of time. All babies are different and all get there in their own time.
  17. Everyone, whether they are a parent or not, has advice about raising a child.
  18. I don’t actually have to take said advice. This has been a tough one for me to learn. I can now nod, say yes and then totally ignore them.
  19. Being a mum is sometimes really hard
  20. It is also really amazing when they do something new for the first time

Testing times

Well it has been a testing few weeks. Apologies for not writing anything sooner. Work has kept me busy and worn out and then on top of that we have all had a bug.

J was sent home from the childminder in his second week there and after that, things went downhill. He was sick and went off food and then seemed to forget how to sleep in the night.

The last week or so has been full of sleepless nights, getting up to a crying baby who suddenly wants feeding again or cuddling back to sleep. So you feed, you cuddle and then you put them back down to sleep. The second you let go the crying starts again and you are back to the beginning.

It has been tough.

Work has been ok and I have settled in well but, combined with the lack of sleep, I have zero energy.

Then, when it seemed we were all coming out of the worst, my childminder tells me she is quitting. So I now have to find childcare again.

Many days this week I have felt like I have had to make a choice between staying home with my baby and going to work. Unfortunately, in a new job, I have to chose work. It was hard but J has been fine and probably didn’t really need me anyway.

As I write this, my eyes feel heavy; yet it is only the afternoon so I must go on.

It’s over! (Maternity leave)

At some point, I blinked and six months of my life disappeared. I return to work on Monday. How is it that time already?

I have made a lot of internet friends during this time and the return to work has always been a big discussion subject. When do you return to work? If at all. Part time? Full time? It’s a decision many mums have to face.

In the UK you are entitled to a whole year of maternity leave if you want it. 9 months paid (at various rates) and then the rest unpaid. Some, then, are able to use holiday entitlement incurred while on maternity leave to take more time still. I think that makes us very lucky indeed. When I compare this to other countries, some of which only get a few weeks or months, I feel privileged that I have been allowed this time with my baby. Time to bond, to recover and to adapt to being a parent.

I feel sad that my husband only hot to have two measly weeks off with us, many of which were spent in hospital for various reasons or housebound recovering after my c-section. But again, this is more than many people have and certainly more than my parents had. He had no choice but to return to work and just got on with it, muddling through the sleepless nights and then working all day. While many men get stick at this time in their life, I feel admiration for him that he got on with it without complaint.

Now, my turn to return to work has arrived. This time has been coming for a while but now it is here. I feel a mixture of emotions about this: sad that maternity leave is over, worried to leave my baby, anxious to meet new people (I had to get a new job) but also part of me is excited to be an adult again. I might actually get to have adult conversation that isn’t about dirty nappies, teething, reflux or sleep patterns. I might get to have a hot cup of tea that I made and didn’t have to microwave several times.

It is mainly my choice to return to work after 6 months rather than 12. Firstly, the money doesn’t cover the bills at the minute but, more importantly, I need to have this challenge in my life again. Part of me wonders whether this is the right decision. Am I turning my nose up at paid time off with my baby? Well, yes, but everyone has to decide what is best for them and their situation. Of course, for a second I considered being a stay at home mum (SAHM), but that was about as long as that thought lasted. I have a new respect for SAHM’s. I don’t know how they do it.

My previous job was temporary so I had to look for a new job and when I found the ideal role, they wanted me to start a little earlier than I had hoped. However, I thought long and hard about it and came to the decision that this was the best option in the long run for us all. J is still too little to really miss me so will hopefully adapt easier and I have only been out of work for 6 months so hope that I shouldn’t find the return so daunting.

When I look back at the last 6 months, I count myself as extremely lucky. I have had some lovely times with my son, met up with friends and family and made new ‘mummy’ friends. I am also fortunate that I have found a childminder that J seems to really like and that I trust. Luckier still that we can just about afford for me to return to work part-time. I feel for those mothers who have no choice but to work full-time. Obviously, some choose to, and that is fine but for others it is not an option.

While I mourn the end of this mini era, I look forward to the new challenges that lay ahead. I will, of course, share how my return goes.

I am already counting down to 4.30 when I can collect my son from the childminders and give him the biggest cuddle.

My 6 month old grown up.

Today, as I watched my son ‘planking’ in an attempt to crawl, I realised that I no longer have a tiny baby, but a little boy who is eager to grow up and get on the move.

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Two weeks ago, he learnt to roll – the first step towards mobility. Now, he spends all his time on his tummy trying to get to things. I, of course, encourage him and try to help him to learn but part of me desperately wants to pick him up, cuddle him in close and pretend he is a teeny weeny baby again.

When he isn’t tummy down, he tries to sit up on his own and can hold himself steady for a few seconds before wobbling and trying (with varied success) to balance himself.

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For breakfast, he now eats toast or crumpets like a grown person and, along with his milk, he drinks water from a tippee cup.

As much as I love watching him change, it all seems to be happening at once. He is becoming his own little person.

With crawling on the horizon, I really need to start to baby proof my house.