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.
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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

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.

The working mother?

Ever since I was 13 years old, excluding the last 7 months, I have worked. I started off working part time in a local florist and then at 16 worked in a clothes shop. When I left sixth form at 18, I started working in an office and have dabbled in many different careers since. At 23, I decided I wanted to teach and so I left my job and started my degree.

In September 13 I got my first proper teaching job, classes of my own, essays to mark; my dream job. In December, that same year, I fell pregnant. I was overjoyed and it was perfect timing as it meant that I could complete my first year of teaching and then have my baby in the summer.

On that last day of work, I felt a mixture of sadness and excitement. Sadness for the job I was leaving behind, the friends I had made, the students that I had worked hard to build rapport with and the routine I clearly knew and enjoyed. Then excitement and anticipation for the journey I was about to embark on: motherhood.

As someone who likes routine and to plan in advance, I knew full well that this was about to change. There is no routine and plans in parenting and you very much have to go with the mood of your baby. I remember telling a close friend, who knows me well, about the pregnancy and she laughed and said I was ‘screwed’ because she knows how I like to be in control.

When this tiny, squishy newborn arrived, earlier than expected, work went out of my mind and I focused all my energy and attention on caring for my son. It became my new full time job, literally morning, noon and night. There was no home time from this job, no lunch break, no weekend but that was fine and I cherish all my time with him. Work became my past, almost an alternative world, something I heard about, other people did it, complained about it and even my husband disappeared there every day.

However, a horrible, guilt filled, unspoken reality is that those first few weeks, once your partner has returned to work, can be very lonely and sometimes, dare I say, boring. Please don’t get me wrong, I was never bored by my son. I loved watching him do new things for the first time, however small. I took photos when he slept, when he pouted his lips differently, even of the back of his head (to remember his full head of hair).

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But every day was very similar: eat, sleep, poop, repeat. When he was too little to really play, my days were mostly filled with feeding him on demand or watching him sleep while daytime TV slowly dissolved my brain. I became trapped inside by my mummy responsibilities, too scared to venture out in case I needed to breastfeed him in public. So I remained at home with the baby, the cats and the TV.

As is usual, when a baby is born, I was initially inundated with visits from friends; some of which I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. One of my friends, a SAHM, said to me ‘I bet you never want to go back to work do you?’ When I replied that I actually missed work a little she was disgusted and shocked. The look on her face will stay with me for a while. I clearly had said the wrong thing. I was meant to gush about how much I loved spending all my time at home and that I was constantly enthralled and excited.

My problem was that I wasn’t mentally stimulated. I had gone from a busy, hectic career to dirty nappies and This Morning. My brain was becoming unused and bored and I started to miss work a little. Then the guilt set in, how could I possibly be feeling this way? Didn’t I love him enough? Was I doing it wrong? Was I a terrible mother? A terrible person?

No. I wasn’t. I just needed to adapt to change.

Even though J is only 6 months old, it’s hard to think back to those first couple of months. They were so different to now. Now, he laughs, giggles and smiles at me; the only smiles I got before were when he had wind. There used to be limited interaction from him to me but now we play together and his firsts are now are exciting for us both, the first time he rolled, had his first food and now, as I write this, I am watching him trying his hardest to sit up. When I cuddle him to sleep during the day and look in awe at this beautiful face, I wonder how I made him. I am far from bored. He is my little person. My world. My everything.

Yet, in just two weeks time, I will find myself in a very different situation. Instead of cuddling my baby and enjoying his laugh, I will be at work and someone else will be protecting my world and making him smile instead of me (the childminder).

I am understandably nervous about going to work, it is a new job (my last one was temporary) so not only do I have the fear of returning to work after maternity but also the worry of it all being new.

I am also going back to work earlier than originally planned. The job came up and I had to go for it. It was the perfect location, the perfect hours and just what I had been looking for. Fortunately, it is only 3 days a week but I will miss him like crazy.

The longest I have really left him through the day is about 2 or 3 hours. I am not sure how I will be apart from him from 7.30 till 4pm. I am sad to be leaving him and wonder why someone else gets to have the fun with him. No doubt, in time, I will miss out on some other firsts and the childminder will see them instead of me. I am facing that common dilemma many women have of how to balance being a mum and having a job.

I am left to feel guilty by some for going back to work early, and guiltier still by others for going back at all. The truth is, I need to go back for my own sanity and for some adult conversation. I may even get to have a hot cup of tea.

What scares me is, I have been a worker and I have been a mother, but I have never been both. Can I even be both? I feel like going back to work is almost denying his existence in some way as if I am returning to my previous life without him.

How will I manage when my days are not structured around nap times, bottle feeds, changing nappies and keeping him entertained? My life has a new focus: him. The purpose of my life now is not just to succeed in my job but as a mother too.

I hope that I am making the right decision in returning to work, many mothers do it and they all seem ok. I hope that J won’t be unhappy without me, but also that he won’t like the childminder more than me.

The Sunday night is going to be awful, full of sadness, guilt and tears. The Monday morning, when I drop him off with the childminder will probably be the hardest, most heart-wrenching thing I have done for a while. In fact, I am pretty much going to be leaving my heart there with him. I just need to focus on the Monday at 4pm when I see my boy after a day at work and hold him close to me and remember that he is mine, he hasn’t disappeared by me going back to work and I am the one that gets to take him home with me.

My life is different now. He is not just an addition to my life but he has made it so much better.

Just a little longer

Via Facebook, I have been sent many links to blogs that inspire me to write my own. They focus on a mother’s  relationship with her baby and how time is fleeting. I’d like to have a go at getting my own feelings down, though doubt I can compare to the beautiful words I have read from others.

At almost six months old, time really is disappearing before my eyes. How was it six months ago that I woke up in the night after a ‘pop’ and went to the bathroom to realise my waters had broken almost three weeks ahead of my due date.

I love him more every day and while I feel like I need his love and closeness more and more, his need for me is already changing. Yes, he is very much still reliant on me for almost every part of his life, but he tries to be more independent. Small things such as holding his own bottle when he feeds, learning to move, cuddling other people and laughing at things they do. He shows clear choices for toys and people now and it is not always me he choses.

So, when he does need his mummy cuddles, I ignore those internet voices or my elders telling me to put him down, and I cuddle him in closer, savouring every single second. I feel his breath on me and watch his chest rise and fall. He cuddles into me and I keep him as my baby for a little longer.

There will come a time, probably not long from now, when he doesn’t want to be cuddled to sleep in the day and I will have done it for the last time without realising that that was it.

We rush them to grow up, always looking at the next step, next development they need to make, encouraging them along the way and sometimes forgetting to stop and enjoy the moment we are in. Enjoy the time when he wants to snuggle in with me, when he enjoys my songs and the little games we play together.

Very soon, I will be returning to work and, while it is only three days a week, this is the last time when it will just be the two of us through the day, five days a week. Nothing in our way, time to spend as we choose. Other people will have an influence on his life and the way he does things.

So I enjoy this time, our alone time, our cuddles, our giggles, our little routines. I hold him in close for his naps when perhaps I ‘should’ be putting him to bed.

When he wakes in my arms after his quick cat nap, I shush and try to cuddle him back to sleep and think to myself, just a little longer.

11 things that I didn’t know…

There are lots of things I thought about when I imagined being a mum. I pictured these perfect scenarios cuddling my baby and going places with him but there are many things that I didn’t know I would feel or do for him:

  1. How much I would love him – it’s an enormous amount. It didn’t hit me instantly when he was born. Of course I loved him, from the moment we knew I was pregnant, but eventually this massive, overwhelming feeling of love hit me. Occasionally it  brings me to tears and I find myself crying because I love him too much.
  2. How protective I would be towards him – I will literally hurt people if they ever harm him – Mother lioness here!
  3. How much I would actually want to squish/bite him.
  4. How often I would smell him or his things – I fill my lungs with the scent from his head, especially after a bath with Johnsons’ Baby Bath. I smell his clothes and his mittens; they remind me of him when he’s in bed or somewhere else.  I also often find myself lifting him up to smell his bum to check his nappy and sometimes sniff his clothes to see if they smell like sick.
  5. That I would suck the snot out of his nose with some weird contraption – A weird device that I put to his nostrils and suck and listen as the snot drains from his nose. I also pull out bogeys without being too disgusted.
  6. That I would put my hand out to catch his sick – instead of dodging baby sick, as I would have done pre baby, I now try to catch it. It’s better than it going everywhere else.
  7. How much I would actually love my c-section scar – it’s my mummy mark and reminds me of his journey into this world. Plus I cannot begin to imagine how he ever fit through that space.
  8. How many photos I would take of him: sleeping, eating, smiling, bouncing, doing nothing at all even remotely interesting…but I can’t delete any of them.
  9. How amazing cuddling your sleeping baby is – yeah I know, I’m making a rod for my own back, he should be put down to sleep…blah blah blah…but one day he won’t want to cuddle me to sleep and I will never be able to get those days back. I’m happy to ‘have to’ cuddle him in my arms when he naps in the day. If he’s still doing this when he reaches Secondary school I may admit it was a mistake but for now it’s the best thing in the world.
  10. Just how much my heart would melt every time I watch my husband playing with him and when he makes him laugh, seriously my womb aches!
  11. That despite saying to the midwife, during labour, that she should never have children (she already had two and I asked her why she did it twice!) I can’t wait to have another!

Someone’s world.

Being a mum is a huge responsibility. You think about it before you have a baby and then while you’re pregnant but nothing can prepare you for how huge every decision feels when you are responsible for someone else’s life.

You go through life, trying to watch your weight, eating healthy when you remember and occasionally going walking as a token gesture to exercise. You’ve made it 30 years and managed to keep yourself alive. I’ve even managed to keep two cats alive so far. How hard can looking after a baby be?!

When he finally arrived, it didn’t seem that hard at all. He slept most of the time, woke up to be fed and cuddled to sleep and it was a lovely time. Even though I’d had a c-section we went out occasionally as a family, gentle walks, coffee shops, excessive visits to Mothercare and our world felt complete.

Then my husband went back to work. I was all alone with a tiny baby. One of the first days alone I changed his dirty nappy and he weed on me straight away, then threw up on himself. I didn’t know where to start and, while it all seems silly now, I had a moment of panic wondering how I could do this and I cried.

Things got a bit easier after that again for a while and I became braver and started venturing out of the house more.

Now, he is nearly six months old and responsibility is growing and I have to make choices, hopefully the right ones, much more often. When he is crying, even after I have changed, fed and cuddled, I question whether to give Calpol. Is he in pain? Is something wrong with him? I agonise over the decision and when I decide to give him the medicine, feel like a terrible parent ‘drugging my child’. I quickly Google the effects of giving too much Calpol and see horror stories about those that have overdosed babies on it, used it to get them to sleep or long term side effects of using it. However, he has stopped crying and at least, for now, it seems like I made the right choice for us.

Other decisions come in the shape of Feeding. Breast or bottle? Napping. Too much? Not enough? When to start weaning and then wondering if it was too soon.

You are suddenly faced with a variety of decisions and you just muddle through, hoping that along the way you have made the right one most of the time.

Guilt and worry are a large aspect of being a mum but it seems that this is just part of the deal.

However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cannot imagine my life without him now and all these choices and responsibility give me a gorgeous, mostly happy, little boy. He is gaining weight well, sleeps when he needs to, laughs and giggles and seems to be doing well, as far as babies go. I am doing alright so far.

No one can make him smile like me. He may smile at others but I have a special smile that he saves for mummy. I know which songs he likes and my heart fills when he laughs at my singing and actions. I cry for different reasons now; with the unbelievable amount of love I have for him. When he smiles at me and pulls me in to suck on my face, I could burst with love for him. All the worries, guilt and fears disappear. It is just me, and him and the love and bond we share. I am everything to him as he is to me.

I know that life will continue to bring us options and I will no doubt agonise over them, researching every possible choice but I will face each one as they come and try to feel like I have done my best for my boy.

Being someone’s world is huge but it is also the most amazing thing in the world.