Rocking Motherhood?

About three weeks ago I was tagged by the lovely Ellie of @howtogrowaperson (find her lovely blog here). The idea was for mum bloggers to write about ten things they’re doing to rock motherhood.

I must confess, I’m a little stumped. Most days I’m 100% faking it.  However, over on our amazing Facebook group we have a lovely tradition we call WWRT? (What Went Right Today?) so I’ve decided to take that as my inspiration.

  1. Arthur seems to be thriving. He’s getting bigger, smiling, giggling and interacting all the time. What could be better than that?
  2. I’m still managing to get up, showered and dressed every day, and put on my all-important make-up. There are a lot of things I’ m not doing, including working on my idea for a novel or on this blog, but let’s gloss over that. I’m looking after a baby, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. I’m using my bullet journal again, which is making me feel way more organised.
  4. I’m participating in WWRT every single day and saving my posts to a google doc with a picture for every day. I realised it was ridiculous that I was worrying that I wasn’t keeping a record of Arthur’s first year, because I was already doing it and I could easily save it and look back over it using the magic of google docs. Now we can both look back over it in years to come. Google ain’t going anywhere.
  5. I’m finally managing to use the sling for proper trips rather than just round the house. That’s a massive step forward for me as it’s taken me a really long time to feel even slightly like my old self after pregnancy and my c-section.
  6. On a similar note, I’m now doing yoga every day. It’s making a huge difference to my physical and mental health.
  7. After a brief (one night) flirtation with the idea of combi-feeding (because I thought formula was the magic ticket for an unbroken night’s sleep), I’ve accepted that Artoo just wakes up in the night. He’s back to boob only. This too shall pass.
  8. We’re reading more books together. Arthur loves to hold his board books, turn the pages and gnaw on them. We don’t always finish a story, but that’s not the point at the moment!
  9. I’m taking loads of photos of Artoo and his Dad napping together. They do it a lot in the early mornings when I’m yoga-ing or showering, and it’s gorgeous. I have pictures of them sleeping together from our first day home from hospital, and it’s my little tradition now. I’m looking forward to making a collage for the wall or a picture book.
  10. Most days we make it out of the house. Winning.
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Wonderprods For New Parents

I’ve been promising a pregnant friend of mine I would write this post for quite some time now! There is so much baby stuff out there now. Some of it’s good, some bad, and a lot is overpriced. I’ll happily share what’s worked for us in the first (nearly) five months, but it’s worth bearing in mind that babies are all different! Little so-and-sos. Some of these products are cheap and some expensive, but I’ll tell you if I think you could save your money and not bother. I’m not sponsored by any of these people. Chance would be a fine thing.

Before I start, the best thing you can possibly do as a new mum is to get on Mumsnet and find the baby group for your month. More often than not someone sets up a Facebook group. Mine is my lifeline. These women are my friends, confidantes and more than made up for not being able to do NCT as we meet up monthly, sometimes more. There are women on there from all over the world and it is BRILLIANT. I’m sure there’s something similar for Dads, but I haven’t investigated.

These are in no particular order!

  1. Sleepyhead https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleepyhead-Deluxe-Months-Pristine-White/dp/B00ACK676E/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469023&sr=1-1&keywords=sleepyhead

This was a Godsend in the first three months. It’s pretty spendy for what it is, and I think there are cheaper things out there that do the same job, but just so you know about it. Arthur, like all babies, was teeny tiny when he was born. Even the small side sleeper cot we had at the time seemed huge to him. He didn’t really take to swaddling as he’s always loved being able to wave his arms around, so this was the expensive solution to the problem. It made him feel nice and cosy and cocooned, and improved his sleep almost immediately.

2. Ewan https://www.amazon.co.uk/ewan-the-dream-sheep%C2%AE-grey/dp/B011CCMOTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469196&sr=1-1&keywords=ewan

If anyone asks you what you’d like as a present, say this. In the first few weeks of a baby’s life they are pretty confused about where they are and what the hell is going on. This little sheep is a bit of a hero as he emits a glow similar to that baby would have seen in the womb, and he makes comforting noises. However…

3. FREE THING ALERT: White noise app

We have the app ‘Baby Sleep Sounds’ on our phones, and an old phone for when we need ours. Basically white noise works way better than lullabies and helps baby stay sound asleep when you’re still crashing around. Use liberally for naps and bedtime. The great thing about this is it’s completely free as long as you have a smart phone, and when Ewan no longer works (around month 3 for us) you can use this to great effect as you can get it much LOUDER, which is what baby needs at this point. Don’t ask me why, it just seems to work.

4. Side Sleeper Cot

My son is enormous and grew out of his by the start of his fourth month, but this was amazing in the beginning. There are a few versions out there, but it means baby feels the security of being next to you, and you’ll feel good about not having to get out of bed eleventy million times in the night. Be careful of your back when twisting and lifting though.

5. Red Kite Travel Cot

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Kite-Sleeptight-Travel-Black/dp/B001CMB2KC/ref=sr_1_3?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469564&sr=1-3&keywords=travel+cot

So this is what we’re using now so that Arthur can stay in our room until six months. This is brilliant, lightweight and approved by Mumsnet Grandmas. I first used one when staying at my parents and realised how much Arthur loved it, preferred it, in fact, to the side sleeper by this time. I figured for £35 plus a decent mattress it was worth it since we’d use it for travel all the time. Arthur LOVES it and starfishes out like a good’un. He also loves lying in it to play as it doubles as a play pen, and he rolls around cooing and playing with his feet. Also good for putting him in for nudey time before his bath. Babies LOVE being naked when they get a bit bigger.

6. The Haakaa (for breastfeeders)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Haakaa-Silicon-Breast-Pump/dp/B01KMSQC8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469806&sr=1-1&keywords=haakaa

WARNING: Do NOT waste your money on bottles and breast pumps before baby arrives if you’re planning to breastfeed. If you’re feeling anxious, get a self-sterilising MAM bottle (only one please, you won’t need any more at first). Take it from me; if you manage to successfully breastfeed it’ll be a massive waste of money, and if you don’t you can always get stuff when baby arrives. Important to know that NOT ALL BABIES WILL TAKE ALL TEATS. Seriously. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I’d know this. And if anyone wants some unused Tommee Tippees, give me a shout.

The Haakaa is pure witchcraft. As a breastfeeder, I wanted Arthur to be able to take a bottle if I needed to, you know, leave the house without him. We had an electric pump and a manual, but neither of them yielded much. The Haakaa is so easy. You just pop it on to one breast whilst you feed on the other and you get LOADS. And it’s really cheap. I love it and the £50 pump languishes in a drawer.

7. Massive Muslins

There are a few companies that make good ones, but my Mum picked mine up from TK Maxx. They’re made by an Australian company called Little Green. You can, however, find them on Amazon if you look for ‘mega’ or ‘giant’ muslins. Honestly, I hate using smaller ones. These double up as a bib and a nursing cover at the same time, and as a blanket in the summer. Arthur also loves to play with them and use them as a teething toy or snuggle blanket. In terms of feeding, I’m no longer bothered about getting a boob out in public, but I have a tendency to spray (ahem) if a distracted baby lets go. This stops my milk from hitting my dining companion in the eye. Top tip: Never get muslins that are completely white in colour. Trust me. They have a shelf life of five minutes.

8. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuddles-Collection-Twinkle-Nursing-Pillow/dp/B0173WU0PM/ref=sr_1_4?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491470600&sr=1-4&keywords=nursing+pillow

These are just great, and so cheap. They’re fab for something to prop everyone up when feeding, and great for sticking the baby on to keep them safe for a minute or two whilst you leave the room (you will be able to eventually, I promise). When baby is first starting to sit up these are great for support too. Arthur’s in his next to me on the sofa right now, kicking me in the ribs.

9. EXPENSIVE THING ALERT

http://www.pramworld.co.uk/brand/uppababy/uppababy-baby-prams-from-birth

Prams/buggies/travel solutions are very personal, and you really must go to a retailer and try them all out. Promise me you will. We had a very good piece of advice and went to Winstanley’s Pramworld in Orrell, Lancs and we landed on this one. The Cruz is light enough for city living, more manoeuvrable than any of the others we tried, and works for me (5’2) and husband (6’4). It’s amazing, and I can even get it up the ridiculous steps at the front of our house with no issues. The basket at the bottom is massive, too. Whatever you go for, I completely recommend Pramworld as they deliver nationwide and have a great website, and do bulk deals including car seats and carry cots. Be careful with second hand prams, and all advice is not to get a second hand car seat.

10. GAME CHANGER

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Baby-Products/Ergobaby-baby-carrier-collection-bundle/B01JG0FF18/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1491471170&sr=8-2&keywords=ergo+360

I had very few expectations of birth and motherhood. I’m an older mum (36) and have watched friends and relatives go through the stress of making a ‘birth plan’ and wanting to breastfeed and ending up with emergency c-sections and formula feeding. Babies do not work to your plan. Ever. YOU have to be flexible, and be prepared that all of your dearest hopes might come crashing down around your ears.

Although my birth plan was ‘get the kid out’ and thus my EMCS didn’t really bother me the way I know it does some people, I was really committed to the idea of baby wearing. I wanted to be the mum who could throw her baby effortlessly into a sling, grab a light backpack and off we’d go to explore the city.

Yeah. When someone has cut open your core muscles with a scalpel, and you weren’t able to do any exercise for nine months because of HG, lugging a baby around in a sling is almost impossible. But oh, how I tried! I have been given no less than three different slings as well as being bought one, but nothing has actually worked until I stumbled upon a bag of jumble outside someone’s house with the Ergobaby 360 sitting on top. I know, right?

It’s BRILLIANT. The Ergo style carrier is best for babies as it supports their hips properly rather than leaving them to dangle, and it supports you properly too. I have an ergo original with a newborn insert which my best friend gave me and I loved this too, but the great thing about the 360 is that you can turn baby around to face outwards which they LOVE when they’re old enough. I carry Arthur happily now, making sure I take rest days when I need to. He’s a heavy lump.

 

Whew. That is one LONG post. Sorry everyone. Hope it was useful! Next time; gifts for new babies and their parents.

 

 

 

 

Have you tried ginger?

After four years of trying and a tough round of IVF I was finally pregnant. It was one of the best moments of my entire life, but I already knew I was thanks to the dreams I’d had all night long. Positive after positive. My body was trying to tell my mind. To finally get that result on the stick, to be able to rush into the bedroom and tell my husband “You’re going to be a daddy!” was just wild. I’ve never been so happy. We had a week of celebrating, opting to tell people rather than do the cautious wait as most of the family knew we were having IVF treatment. I think it’s something that should be discussed, not hidden away.

But that’s a story for another time.

Today I want to talk about what happened after the pregnancy test. After the euphoria. Today I want to talk about Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

We had a week of joy. Endlessly talking about the baby, what we’d do, where we’d live. Our best man came to stay for the night and shared the news that his wife, too, was expecting. We celebrated with pizza and toasted each other’s good fortune.

And then I got sick.

This wasn’t just morning sickness. This couldn’t be cured with ginger biscuits and eating little and often. This was absolutely off-the-charts vomiting. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, could barely move. All I could think about was the little life inside me, trying to survive whilst I puked and puked. At the end of my sixth week of pregnancy I ended up in A&E with severe dehydration. The hospital gave me a couple of bags of fluid and sent me home. By now I was on the entry-level drug for HG, cyclizine. It didn’t even touch it. Thankfully, an emergency scan showed the little heartbeat that was already going like the clappers, so we knew things were OK with the baby. But while he was cooking away, I couldn’t share a bed with my husband any more because his smell (I couldn’t believe how strongly he smelled all of a sudden) made me sick. We couldn’t even hug each other for comfort during those frightening days.

It was when I started vomiting blood that we got really scared. I remember a real low point. I was still trying desperately to struggle into work. I’d vomited on the train into a bag, then continued to vomit on the 20 minute walk from the station to the school where I worked. I just didn’t know how I could carry on. In the end I went on long-term sick leave, something I had never even considered I would need to do just for being pregnant. Over the course of six admissions to hospital, drips, overnight stays, chemo-strength anti-emetics and eventually steroids, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was a serious illness. On one overnight stay my mum lost count of how many bags of fluid they’d given me at 12.

By the 16th week of my pregnancy I had lost ten pounds in weight. I know that that was partially down to the vomiting, but also loss of muscle tone. I wasn’t able to move, so I was literally wasting away. On a visit to my parents’ in Lancashire, I was hospitalised again and found out for the first time what proper care looked like instead of being patted on the head and sent on my way.

By August I’d had a few ‘good’ days. My childhood friend (also my husband’s cousin) was getting married. He means the world to me, and I was determined to go. It turned out to be the final straw. I woke in the night shivering uncontrollably, and the vomiting started again. The next day, my husband drove me back to Lancashire and I transferred all of my care there. Away from the stews and smells of boiling hot London, cared for as an invalid by my parents, I made as much progress as I was ever going to. Thanks to my parents and the staff of Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, who finally prescribed the steroids I should have been given weeks earlier, I started to have a few vomit free days. I was still weak and terribly nauseous, but the worst had finally passed. By this time I was seven months pregnant. Without the drugs I was taking, managed carefully by my GP, there was no way I would have got to this point.I can’t imagine how I would have coped without the incredible support I received from my family; my brother even gave up a week of his holiday to care for me while my parents were away.

I’m really, really glad that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is in the news at present. People need to know about it, especially employers, and to understand that it is a real and debilitating condition. It makes me, and the other women I know who suffered, incredibly sad and angry that the BBC still saw fit to refer to it over and over again as ‘severe morning sickness’. That condition is bad enough, but HG is something else entirely.

 

I look at my beautiful, amazing 3 month old son and I’m so grateful that our fertility treatment worked, and we were able to bring him into the world with the help of the NHS, my parents and parents-in-law. But as to ever trying for another, I simply cannot imagine putting myself, my husband, and most importantly my son through it. We’d need more fertility treatment too, so it’s pretty much a non-starter. I know I’m not on my own in feeling this way. 

 I’d like to thank my parents, husband, in-laws, staff of the Albert Edward Infirmary for their amazing care of me and my baby Arthur. I’d also like to thank my head of department and headteacher, who were unfailingly supportive and understanding. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please encourage them to seek help from the wonderful women at www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk, where I found out what my care should be and found the strength to demand it.

The Scent of Nostalgia

Smell is our most powerful sense, linked completely with memory. Nothing can transport me back to a time and place like a particular aroma. It just does. Here are a few of my favourites, guaranteed to bring me comfort. I’d love to hear about yours, too. 

Channel No. 5

I’m starting with a big one. I grew up in the 80’s, and back then we weren’t the disposable nation we are now. Things were treasured, used and mended because we had a lot less stuff, and posh scents were a serious luxury. My uncle was a commander in the Royal Navy at the time, and he would always bring my Mum a gift when he came to stay. Sometimes a string of shells as a necklace, or a sarong, or a little bottle of Chanel. Mum only wore it on very special occasions, like Christmas or anniversaries. I would sneak into my parents’ bedroom, find the bottle on her dressing table, open the velvety cardboard box, stick my little nose in and inhale. I never dared spray myself with it; even back then I knew that this was a very precious scent for grown-up ladies. I was transported back to that time last week when I stayed with my parents-in-law. In the guest bedroom where we were sleeping, my mother-in-law had laid out some nice toiletries, including an atomiser of Chanel No. 5. I realised as I took that delicious forbidden sniff that I had never actually dared to wear it, and that aged 36 and with a three-month old son I might just qualify now. Reader, I wore it. It was delicious. 

McDonald’s and stale beer

Yeah, I know. I know! But hear me out. I have had all the jobs. All of them. I’ve worked since I was fifteen years old, and I tried my hand at a lot of things. One of my favourite jobs was when I was at sixth form college and a bunch of us got jobs at the local Maccy Ds. We had such a good laugh, made some drinking money and mostly spent it having nights out with each other. Every time I pass behind a McDonald’s I can smell that sweet, slightly rancid smell of discarded fat, and it takes me right back. 

The beer thing is similar. Once at university in London, I got a job waitressing at The Anchor Bankside, a lovely old pub that prides itself on being the ‘Second Oldest Pub in London’. Couldn’t tell you which is the actual oldest. When we’d finished a shift (around 11.30pm, no late opening in those days), we’d all meet downstairs in the bar and drink as many pints as we wanted. The scent of old beer, centuries of the stuff sunk into the floorboards, always seemed to me a heady scent of adulthood, nights out and fun.

Oil of Olay (Ulay) Original Beauty Fluid

I still use this stuff. I adore it. It sinks into thirsty skin so well, works on my fairy reactive face and smells absolutely divine. It smells of Mum, and the 80s again. There are plenty of more advanced formulas to be had; there even were back then, but nothing quite touches it for that gorgeous, warm, feminine, pink smell. I slather it all over my hands and arms every night and go to sleep with it in my nostrils. 

The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

Ah, The Body Shop. A teenage girl’s dream shop. Lovely, well-mannered products aimed directly at me, with ethically sourced ingredients and nothing tested on animals. It was a wonderful place, and I would always stop in when I went on the bus to Preston with my friends. There were a lot of classic smells there. The lunatic perfumes spring to mind; Dewberry was my favourite, and White Musk will forever remind me of my piano teacher who spritzed it liberally. However, nothing can transport me back to that time like Satsuma Shower Gel. I love that they still make it. It was the one thing from that wonderful shop that Mum and I agreed on, and I bought some the other day just to see if it was still as good. I used it as a bath foam and oh my goodness, it was just as delicious as ever. 

Oven Pizza and Chips

Friday night. A new episode of Friends, pizza and chips in the oven. Pure 90s. 

Imperial Leather

The only soap in our house at one time. See also; Coal Tar. 

Yves Saint Laurent “In Love Again”

In 1998 I went on the French exchange from my Sixth Form College. It was utterly fantastic for a number of reasons, not least of which was that a snagged a gorgeous French boyfriend who looked like David Beckham, complete with blonde curtains. I also remember it as the holiday when I bought my first bottle of foundation (Bourjois, if you’re interested. That smelled amazing too). On one of the days we did a day trip to Paris. It was the day I began my lifelong love affair with the city that continues to this day. In one of the many, many shops we went into I was given a free sample of this wonderful perfume and always associate it with youth, love and PARIS. 

A few years later, well into my twenties and long after my bottle of ILA had run out and the perfume had been discontinued, I was shopping with my Mum on one of London’s department stores. We were just approaching the perfume department when I caught an unmistakable whiff. “Mum!!!” I yelled. “I’m sure that’s ‘In Love Again’!” Mum had always understood my love of this perfume and, I believe, was the person who bought my first bottle of it. That day I bought two, and still have a little bit left. 

It’s available again from the ‘Heritage’ collection at YSL for the princely sum of £77. It was always about £30 in my day!

What are the scents that send you hurtling back to a time and place? Tell me, you might remind me of one!

One Month, No Sugar



Time for a January review. It’s been a crazy busy month, and the first one where I’ve got a bit more into baby groups and getting out and about after my c-section. I’ve made loads of Mum friends, which has been lovely. It also feels like it was a really, really long month; but then when was January ever short?
My challenge for this month, if you can remember all the way back to when the decorations were still hanging limply from the drooping tree, was to give up sugar. Not in that mad way some real hardcore people do, cutting out everything except steamed fish and veg because ‘even fruit has sugar’. No, I just cut out all the fun stuff. The stuff I was glorying in after my very sicky pregnancy, when I could barely hold down an ice-pop. We’d been relying on sugar far too heavily for most of November and all of December, back in the days before little Artoo had any kind of sleeping pattern at all; and we were existing on chocolate, caffeine and carbs. I figured cutting out one of the three major food groups would probably be a good idea. 
Turns out, surprisingly, that it wasn’t too hard at all!* I’ve always been the kind of person who, when hungry, prefers something savoury over sweet. The sweet stuff for me has always been merely because it tastes nice and gives that instant lovely rush.
The good news is that giving up sugar has meant that I’ve lost a few pounds, my skin is clearer and my energy levels much more steady. I mean, they’re steady at a fairly low ebb thanks to Artoo, but still, steady all the same. Husband was dragooned into the challenge by his sister and mum, and it turns out he found it easier than expected too. 
This month: yoga every day. Stay tuned. 
* I must confess to one transgression. When waiting for a bus with another pram-pushing friend (you can’t fit more than one pram on a London bus, so if someone’s already one with one and there’s two of you trying to get on you’re stuffed), she ran to get us a coffee. Forgetting my challenge, said friend also bought a Cadbury Creme Egg for each of us. In the name of market research, because I’d heard they changed the recipe, I ate it. It was delicious. 

The Magic of Make-up

I decided to name this blog muminmakeup even though my devotion to make-up’s healing properties is something I’ve never really talked about before. I have always been one of those women who cannot leave the house without mascara. Not a permanently high-maintenence, full-face-of-slap kind of a girl, but someone for whom a little bit goes a long way. 
The love affair began at school, as I looked with envy at the girls who wore make-up and flouted the rules. I’ve always had translucent, Tilda Swinton-style eyelashes. Unlike the great Ms Swinton, however, I refused to embrace them. I was desperate for gorgeous, long thick Bambi lashes. I can remember sneaking into my parents’ en suite to raid Mum’s make-up bag. I’d bypass the frosted 90s lipsticks and go straight for the brown mascara (which, as far as I know, Mum switched long ago to black). I loved the definition it gave to my eyes, the hint of glamour and the grown-up world to come. 
The problem was, you see, that I was a Good Girl. My school didn’t allow any make-up, not even a hint, let alone the full orange faces so many of the girls in my year sported. I had watched them all being called out at the end of assembly and shamed for their Jezebel-like behaviour, and vowed that would never be me. So I contented myself with the entirely useless trio of clear mascara (I mean, why), light dusting of powder on my spotty face (like throwing a cup of water on a raging inferno) and Boots vanilla flavoured lip balm (smelled amazing, did nothing).
All of this meant that when I finally reached the heady land of Sixth Form I was ready to develop my relationship with cosmetics. The perfect Shirley Manson-from-Garbage kohl-ed eye. The Rose-from-Titanic nude lip. The flawless skin out of a bottle I had always craved. I could wax lyrical about each part of the puzzle, every product and why it makes everything feel better. Make-up is one of the loves of my life, but I had genuinely never realised how much I relied on it until I became pregnant. 
I had the worst pregnancy. The absolute worst. Suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yes, like Kate Middleton only for the whole nine months), I could barely lift my head off the pillow most days. For six months I was in and out of hospital. Fluids, needles, vomiting until there was nothing but blood. It was truly awful, and I lost myself. It wasn’t until my parents took over and moved me back up North to be cared for that I could see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel. That was when I began to wear make-up again. 
It was like finding myself. I could look in the mirror at a woman I recognised as me again. I applied it lovingly, every day, in a sort of ritual. Foundation, eyeliner, mascara, bright lips. Make-up gave me a boost when I needed it most. I’m sure that towards the end of pregnancy most women are buying beautiful baby clothes and dreaming about their child. I still couldn’t get past the end of each day, so buying a gorgeous new Clinique matte lipstick was enough for me. 
Fast-forward to a week after the birth. I had done the staying in pajamas all day thing maybe once or twice, but it wasn’t for me. I started to approach parenthood like a job. Up at 7.30 for a shower whilst my husband and baby still slumbered. Outfit on, make-up on. It’s another ritual, albeit an incredibly fast one, a race against my son who’ll be waking up for a feed any moment. I can do the whole thing in seven minutes, start to finish. It’s amazing; there really should be a medal for it.
Strangely, no matter how bad the night, or how little sleep, a shower, proper outfit even if just leggings and a tee, skincare and make-up routine makes me feel polished. Makes me normal. Makes me me. What’s more, somehow I feel more able to cope with a baby. Make-up is my armour, my war-paint, my shield. And here’s the really strange part: It makes me feel like a better mother, even though I know that’s nonsense. It works for me the way fashion, caffeine or running works for others. 
I know there are people who think that a reliance on make-up has more to do with men than women. A symbol of the patriarchy, of how women feel they have to look to meet society’s beauty standards. This has been discussed elsewhere and shot down by far better writers and beauty officionados than I. It may well be that way for some; but for me it has nothing to do with it. 
It just makes me happy, and who doesn’t need that? 

*Please note: a version of this post will be appearing on http://www.themumclub.Com. Check them out, they’re great!

Resolution Revolution

January. The most miserable, grey, cold month of the year, and yet somehow also the month we’re supposed to use for strict physical self-improvement. Diets, exercise, cleanses, detox, running with a personal trainer at 5am before work…

It’s never really done it for me. I’ve always been a September goals kind of gal. As a teacher I adore September, with its gorgeous warm light, morning mists, new stationery (oh, how I love the new stationery. More on that another time), and the sense of a new beginning, the mental challenge of a new academic year. I’m a geek, you see, and I’ll always be much more into mental challenges than physical ones. 

This year, though. This year is different. I spent most of last year in and out of hospital with a very difficult pregnancy, suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the whole nine months. I couldn’t work, so when my colleagues and students were celebrating the start of a new year, I was starting my maternity leave two and a half months early. Not for me the lovely squeak of a new board pen on the whiteboard, new uniforms and fresh smiles. I was staying in Lancashire with my kind, generous parents, which nevertheless was all a good 200 miles from my own husband and home. 

So this year, I’m embracing the New Year. I’m even embracing the resolutions, which I normally shy away from and just pick a word of the year instead. (Last year’s word was ‘adventure’. That was an understatement).

There is no way, though, I’ll keep something going for an entire year. No way. I’ve tried it before and just failed on a hideous level, beating myself up with it from February to December. I can’t imagine that being much better with a little baby in tow, either. It’s a waste of my time. So I’m doing things a little differently. I had a good idea. 

I’ve seen people use old jars for things like this before. ‘Happiness’ jars, where you write down one nice thing that happened in a day and place it in. That kind of thing. So I decided to wash out an old coffee jar (I don’t have lovely Kilners hanging around, and any I do have are put to use), write down twelve different monthly challenges and pick one out on the last day of each month. Some of them are health-related, but many of them are just nice things I’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to. Like reading a poem every day. I adore poetry, and every now and then my husband and I spend a pleasant hour just reading our faves to each other. I’m aware this makes us sound like over-educated douches, and I must stress that we never plan it, but still, this is what we do sometimes. Or practising the piano every day for ten minutes, which is what I beg my students to do; ‘Just ten minutes a day and I swear you’ll notice a big difference!’

So… here’s what I came up with. 

Some of these are the more traditional health and fitness goals, but you’ll notice I’ve made them achievable. ‘Lose four stone’ is something I’d really like to do by December, but let’s face it, even breastfeeding like a demon I’m very unlikely to manage something that huge, and it’ll just haunt me and make me miserable. So I’ve made them tiny, bite-sized goals. I love the brain resolutions the best. I love listening to the ‘Coffee Break French’ podcast anyway, so doing that once a day will be a joy. Doing an online course? Ooh! Fun! In what? No idea, but I’ve got time to think about it. I’ve tried to do those pesky Morning Pages (from the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, every frustrated creative has a copy) so many times, but failed because I was expecting to do them EVERY MORNING FOREVER. Clearly unlikely. 

I’ve given myself permission to put a resolution back if it doesn’t seem like the right time for it. If I have loads of events then five fruit and veg per day might be a stretch, whereas reading the books might still be achievable. You get the idea. 

If you’d like to try it for yourself then please, go ahead! 

*Disclaimer: I still picked the most boring one for January. No sugary treats. Because, well, it’s January. 

Let me know what you’re doing this year!

Hindsight. 

Looking across the aisle of the train carriage, I realise that I’m looking at the old me.

 

She looks like a student on her way back to university after the holidays, with a backpack and battered suitcase. Her hair is scraped back, she wears no make-up (she doesn’t need any), she’s in a comfortable hoody and trainers, looking sweet and wholesome and on the cusp of life’s adventure with her problem skin and three day hair. I wonder if she had a big last night at home with her friends, perhaps a boyfriend at some other uni across the country who she’ll break up with when she realises what love really is. I wonder if she has siblings, a warm, loving family with a joker of a Dad and a fierce, house-proud career Mum. 

I wonder if she’s looking at me, the mother with the pram, and wondering about me, my baby and our life. Except I know she’s not. I never did. But nevertheless, in my heart I wish her the joy I have known since my own student days. Of falling in love, of wild nights and adventures spend with friends, of travel and joyful, meaningful work. Of the sweetness of returning home to her family. Of the magic of building a new one, with mortgage and car and marriage and baby. Of looking at pictures of herself as a younger woman, shaking her head as she realises how pretty she really was in her youth. I wish her all of it, and more. 

It’s a beautiful life, little student girl. Enjoy. 

Sleep Deprivation and Retail Therapy

Artoo has a cold. Poor little mite’s eyes are streaming, he has a cough and has been delighting in wiping his snotty nose all over my clothes. I thought this was a development that came later, but apparently kids learn early. Sleep last night was broken broken broken; he wanted to sleep on me and nowhere else, thanks. 

After a delightful trip to the doctor this morning during which poor A screamed the place down whilst the bewildered man examined him (apparently having your ears looked at is excruciatingly painful), I needed a fix. 

I’m NOT a clothes shopper. I find it depresses me in the extreme. Everything I like is too expensive, or it doesn’t fit, and right now post-birth when I’m as big as I’ve ever been I couldn’t be less up for trying on clothes, particularly with a baby in tow. 

When it comes to appearance shopping, I am all about beauty products and accessories. If I’m not buying books and music, this is what I spend most on. Which is why I found myself trudging bleary-eyed to my local Sainsbury’s. Actually, the original plan was to get presents for the children of all my uni friends who I’ll be seeing at our Christmas celebration next weekend, but that died a death. “I’ll just get myself a little treat”, I thought. “It’ll cost the same as a coffee and sandwich, but last much longer.”

In the end I walked away with a new wrap which looks like it’ll be useful for breastfeeding, and a whole load of Dirty Works products which I haven’t tried before but have been recommended by beauty guru Sali Hughes. Well, the brand has, anyway. 

I’ll let you know if they’re wonder prods or not, but it’s certainly worth saying they didn’t break the bank. Not even my bank. £38 for all that seems a bargain to me. Now, I’m off to do a face mask and hope that King Arthur stays asleep.

A New Chapter

It’s 7.03am on 31st December 2016. Though really it’s so dark it could be the middle of the night. I’ve just spend an hour cuddling my seven-week-old son, as he’s been restless since his last feed at 5. I check his breathing religiously, every time I wake, which is often, even when he slumbers peacefully. I’m overwhelmed by responsibility to this tiny, beautiful person who relies on me for everything, rewarding me with the occasional wonky, drunken, joyful smile. For 35 years I have been responsible for no-one but myself, unless you count pets and my husband. I had a freedom I never knew or acknowledged; the freedom of walking through life able to go wherever I wanted, do whatever I liked, spend money like water and drink cocktails at 5pm, or even 5am. It was a beautiful life, a glorious life, with adventures and family and friendship. It was never “less than” just because I didn’t have a child. Still, the thought that I nearly missed out on this part, on the milk, the stories, the night feeds, the magic of Christmas with my own child, makes me catch my breath. I nearly didn’t have it, so nearly.

At seven weeks after his birth, life is beginning to get something of a rhythm for us. The early days of feeding constantly, of a newborn with no concept of night and day, of constant visits from relatives and friends are coming to a close. The three of us have developed our own world where the tiniest things are important and hold the universe together. We enjoy our days, with trips to see friends, walks in the cold when we’re all wrapped up, endless box sets on Netflix and Amazon with warm cuddles and eating one-handed.

When I was a kid, my Dad would get home around six, just before tea was ready. I’d be in the kitchen with Mum, chatting to her about the day and whatever drama had befallen me and my friends at school. I can still smell the cooking and see the steam on the kitchen windows, feel the warm hug of it. When my Dad’s key turned in the lock our heads would turn to him, and he’d come in bringing the cold, the smell of chewing gum and some treasure or other he’d picked up. He’d tell us a tale from his day whilst rummaging in the bread bin and thickly buttering a crust, talking between bites and handing the bread to me to share while Mum got cross we were spoiling our tea, shouting for my brothers to come down to eat. It was a feeling of complete wholeness, of family, of being surrounded by love. It’s security, belonging. It’s the feeling I get now when I hear my husband’s key in the lock and know we’re giving that to someone else. It’s a feeling we pass on to our children, if we’re lucky enough to have them.