Babies and Holidays

We’ve just done a two-part holiday in Cornwall and Devon with the Little Droid, and it was fun (and exhausting). For context, our first place was a Yurt on a family campsite, the second an Air BnB flat. For our first go we decided to take it easy (ish) and stick with the UK, heading to sunny Devon and Cornwall in the family chariot  Here are my top tips. Some are specific to the type of holiday, but point one is a must wherever you go!

Washing Machine And Drier

Staying​ anywhere longer than four days? You really, really need this. You know how much washing you get through now? That doesn’t holiday when you do, sadly. If you can’t manage this, a launderette nearby is a must. In fact, that’s even more use than a place with a washer and no drier; as we had in our second place with no outside space to dry stuff. Then you just have a load of damp washing hanging around in a poorly ventilated flat.

Buggy Access

We really didn’t think about this. Not even one bit. We stayed in a place with steep steps up to the front door, which was doable but very annoying and turned popping out for some milk into a major performance. I think someone should have filmed us huffing and puffing our way up those steps with a 20lb kid and a load of shopping. All part of the fun!

Proximity To Shops

This was where our second place bested the first. We were minutes from everywhere, including the all-important launderette.

Highchair And Cot

Sounds obvious, but you’re going to need these unless your baby isn’t weaning yet and you’re seasoned co-sleepers who can fit in a normal-sized double bed. You may be able to hire either or both, but if you’re hiring then do remember a comfy mattress for the travel cot. They generally come with ones that are OK for one or two nights but not brilliant for longer. See also;

Space For The Cot

In the massive yurt this was no issue. In the flat we had to double up the living room as the baby’s room as both of the bedrooms were too small for the cot. This wasn’t ideal as it meant we had to leave baby sleeping on the bed in our room if we wanted to watch a bit of telly or, you know, talk.

Parking Nearby

If you’re driving, this is an absolute solid gold must. We spent every day at our second location playing free car park hopscotch. It was a massive bore.

Don’t Over Pack

No matter how much I try, I always pack too much. This time we had loads of unworn clothes between me and Husband. Mainly because we were washing as we went!

You can’t really over pack for a baby though. Unless you take a snowsuit in June. We had about a million bibs and still ran out. I was attaching flannels and towels to the poor child in the end. 

Long Car Journeys

Our boy is a remarkably good car traveller. He very rarely gets cross at being stuffed in his car seat. So it came as quite a shock when, on the journey home, he set up a grim, teeth-rattling wail that would have woken the dead. We ended up stopping at three consecutive service stations, skipped the next then stopped at another. Two hours were added to the journey. We hadn’t been faced with fed-up-of-the-car Arthur before; but then we realised.

We did the outward journey at night.

It was great. A sleeping baby and a very quick run. No problems at all. In future we’ll be doing it this way on the way back, too! At least until he learns how to say “Are we nearly there yet?”

Camping Vs Holiday Flat

Let’s be clear, now. It wasn’t really camping. If you’ve electricity, a heater, fridge, microwave and a proper bed, it just isn’t really. It was lovely though, a great big room, loads of space for Arthur to roll around in and the outside basically inside. The massive, massive downside is that with only one room (we had been mistakenly led to believe there were two on the website), bedtime was a challenge. But then, for us, bedtime is always a challenge. Arthur doesn’t​ do bedtime anyway, being a party baby, so really it was business as usual. With a couple of extra tantrums (from me). The other downside was the night it blew a gale. But we’ll gloss over that.

The flat wasn’t ideal for our purposes, I won’t lie. If we could have added a tumble drier, garden, assigned parking and a second bedroom with room for a cot (this time Arthur was in the living room as the second room was entirely bed so again, not ideal), it would have been great. What was irritating is that the cot space situation wasn’t clear from the flat blurb, and we didn’t know to ask. 

However, it did have a proper bath and en suite shower, always a bonus, and it meant we could give Arthur a proper bath. We were also moments from everywhere which was fantastic. No need to drive to the shops, and we had a lovely time pushing Arthur along the Quayside with lots of people commenting on his angelic demeanour. He gets his acting skills from me.

Whatever you’re doing for your holidays; UK trip, abroad, or just a nice week at home, have a great time. And take lots more pictures. As if you needed telling!

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Manchester

This morning I wanted to get my thoughts down about what happened in Manchester. Writing has always been the best mode of communication for me, and helps me make sense of things. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun sharing it with others. I know that the only people who will read this are my friends, and will forgive any half-formed thoughts.

Having Arthur sometimes feels as though I’ve been given the keys to the great, vast secrets of the universe. After four years of the toothache of infertility, this little boy’s smile cracks me open with the force of a hundred suns. It is mind blowing. You know those moments when you feel at peace with everything, at one, you don’t know what with and you can’t explain it? Those moments when you feel that maybe God really does exist? I have those daily now. It is overwhelming. And along with the love and peace and wonder comes something different, and darker.

Fear.

I know now what it must feel like to have a child caught up in something like that. The heart-stopping, gut-wrenching horror of it. To not know they are safe. I have always loved the children I teach, and I have always been able to imagine it. Now I know. There is nothing I can do, or say to make things better, but I grieve with those parents and all I can do is try not to feel it too much, because it is not helpful, it solves and changes nothing. I also know that the bomber was a boy once. A baby who giggled and rolled and cried and needed his parents, just like mine. And that’s perhaps the worst thing of all. That I feel for him too, and for his family, even though I will never understand his actions.

But after all that, under all that, is compassion. The beauty of humanity, the very best of us is always seen just after these all-too frequent events. The vigil in Manchester, Tony Walsh’s beautiful poem, the cab drivers who ferried people from the venue for free and helped distraught parents find their kids. The outpouring of love on social media.

So, today, I’m going to try a few things that might help me with finding my own compassion.

If I see something on social media that makes me angry, I am not going to reply. Hate breeds hate, and if I comment on it my friends and family will see it. I will put down the phone, close the laptop. I will choose to see only the wonderful things the internet brings us. I will go for a walk and look at the summer leaves. I will tickle my son and revel in his laugh. In this way, I will be kind.

If I find myself getting too sad about the news, I’ll turn it off. I’ll call my husband, or Mum, or a friend. I’ll take my son to a cafe and mingle with other people, the good ones. I’ll listen to good music and read meaningful poetry. In this way, I will be wise.

I love Manchester. I have so many happy memories of that metropolis. Choosing my piano and flute from Forsyth’s. Affleck Palace. The fountain near Victoria Station students used to fill with bubble bath. That bar where they serve cocktails in goldfish bowls. Long boozy lunches and Christmas shopping with my friend Ben. Those things are all still there, and always will be.

Today, I will head out into my own beloved city with my lipstick on, my head held high and my little son in his sling. Because that’s all any of us can really do. Humanity is terrible, but also beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Stretch Marks and Scars

I was 35 when Arthur was born which had never been my intention. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of those people with a “plan” to have two kids by 30 or anything, but I sort of thought it would be earlier (and easier) than this.

Having said that, being an older prima gravida does have some advantages. A lot of friends and family had their babies quite a while ago, so I’d already changed my fair share of nappies. I’d also heard a lot of truthful birthing stories, so my Birth Plan was basically “Get the baby out without killing either of us and we’re cool”. No home water births for us. I read the hypnobirthing book with a healthy dose of scepticism. (Read: I giggled like a loon at the idea of my atheist joker of a husband reading aloud the visualisations during birth. I thought it might give us a laugh though).

One of the most interesting personal developments to come out of all of this though is a genuine respect for my own body. The media likes to bang on about getting one’s “figure back” or being your “pre-birth weight”. Honestly I’ve realised that in the heat of parenting, when you got up more times in the night than an elderly incontinent, a bit of sugar is the least you deserve. I was back to my “pre-birth weight” pretty quickly, but that’s mainly because of HG and the fact I wasn’t skinny to begin with thanks to four years of comfort eating. My post-natal body is quite something.

My breasts are hilarious. Huge, saggy, stretch-marked and one is at least two cup sizes bigger than the other. My husband regularly sings “Hooray, up she rises/She’s got breasts of different sizes” when I wander round nude. Which I do all the time now, because I just Do Not Care. So liberating.

My belly has a lot going on, too. I remember thinking I’d got away without stretch marks until after the birth when I finally dared to look in the mirror. Ah. There they are then. I don’t really mind them at all now, despite my obsessive use of products to keep them at bay while pregnant (newsflash: these work about as well as wrinkle or cellulite creams).

I love my c-section scar. I think it’s cool, like a tattoo or piercing. Sadly it’s not visible thanks to the overhanging spongy flesh. I won’t be wearing bikinis any time soon, but honestly I didn’t wear them before anyway.

I’ve called a truce with my body. We’re OK now. I’m unlikely to ever be a size 10 ever again and that’s fine. I recently watched an old family home movie on which 13-year old me was chasing around after my little brothers and cousins. I already had a big bottom. It was a revelation, frankly.

The really important thing to me now is health. After 9 months of throwing up every day, you stop taking that for granted. My body managed to grow a baby despite the fact I was barely feeding it. It has, in turn, fed that baby for six whole months. It can already walk long distances again, as well as perform complicated yoga routines. My body has healed itself admirably. Food is wonderful now; rather than restricting what I eat because I want to be smaller, I’m eating what I want because I can. I’m still enjoying food far too much to stop eating chips just yet. HG is great for perspective on dieting.

My body and I have always been wary allies. I’ve never loved it. But now? Now I think it’s amazing. 

6 Months

Yesterday marked half a year since Arthur was born. 

We’re past those newborn days. They were amazing and impossible and hilarious. We’ve had to learn how to be parents and get to know our boy. I thought I’d mark the occasion by writing him a letter. 

Dear Artoo (I call you this because R2-D2 has always been my favourite Star Wars character. Like him you’re brave, clever, and indispensable to the adventure)

You’re getting big. So big, in fact, that I’m starting to have to strain the 6-9 month vests and sleepsuits over your bottom. You have a sharp little tooth sticking out of your lower gum, only just through but it’s there. You’ve got a new cry that I think means “I’m bored, change it up” but I can’t quite be sure yet. Your hungry cry and tired cry are VERY clear now. You can sit without me holding you (although you still pitch to one side like a drunken sailor on deck, and once threw yourself backwards and gave your Dad a real fright), and you can roll. A lot. You’re working on the crawling which is more like a face slide with your bum in the air, but it’s coming along, and you chat to us all the time. These are all the obvious things that everyone does; you’ve also got some of your own going on too. 

1. In the bath you reject all toys except the little purple cup I use to rinse your hair. I have no idea why, but it’s your beloved. 

2. Cuddly toys aren’t really what you want when you go to sleep. You like to rub a muslin all over your face and clutch it with your chubby little hands instead. 

3. You always start laughing with what I call your “Roland Rat” laugh (look him up, he was 80s awesome) before the belly laughing. It’s the only way I can describe it. 

4. You adore your Daddy, and spend ages every morning gazing at him, chatting and grabbing his nose and beard.

5. You love books.  LOVE them. You’ve been turning the pages by yourself since you were four months, but now you’re finding it easier to do that without shouting at the book at the same time.

Over the next six months we’ve got some exciting things going on. Your first holiday with me and Daddy, our party with the other November Babies and another little cousin coming your way too. Tomorrow is your very first Eurovision Song Contest! I’m very much hoping you’ll be asleep for it, but still. 

In the future there’ll be babysitters, nursery, family, friends. Right now it’s all about the three of us. Because I can feed you with my boobs I get to keep you to myself, and if I’m honest that’s pretty fantastic. I’m not ready for anyone except Daddy to have you yet. We’re a team, the three of us. I’m clearly Han and Dad is Chewbacca.

I often ponder just how unlikely you are, my brave little droid. When me and your Dad went to the clinic I got the date wrong. I was so upset, thinking I’d blown it by taking my last injection at the wrong time, but they ended up managing to collect 13 eggs the next day. I’ll always wonder if you were the 13th egg, the one that might never have been if I hadn’t got the day wrong. Did you hear me when I told you to grab on? Of course not… but you did anyway. You wanted to be born, or at least that’s how I’ve always seen it. If your Dad and I had gone for IVF sooner, if we’d had kids without help, if scientists hadn’t invented IVF in the first place, if your grandparents had never met, if me and Daddy never met; it’s just the most unlikely cosmic chain of events really. 

Yet here you are. 

Thanks for picking us. 

Love Mum xxx

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.

 

 

 

 

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. 

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.