Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Baby blues

It's like being trapped in a jar.  You can see everything going on around you.  Your house, family, life, world.  But you can't get to it.  Everyone comes and looks in on you fairly regularly, often making cooing noises about how you should be savouring every minute of this.  And you look around you and think, 'are you for real? This? THIS? You want me to savour this???'

Because it's rubbish inside the jar.  You can't get to your people or your kitchen or your shower or even reach your cup of tea.  All you can do is sit at the bottom of the jar wondering how you got stuck there.

And then you hear a noise.  A squeaky-grunty type noise and you remember that you're not alone in here.  There's a little bundle of needs in a Moses Basket that has suddenly become your responsibility.  You vaguely remember that you'd wanted this.  You'd planned it and looked forward to it but you don't want it so much.  In fact, the decision to bring this little person into the world seems like just about the dumbest thing you ever did.

You look at this child.  Your child.  No, it doesn't feel like it is your child right now but you know it is.  Somehow this makes it all more awful.  You go through the motions, nursing it, changing it, keeping it safe, but you resent it.

Sometimes people actually come into the jar to visit you.  In fact, you spend most of your time alone in there desperately looking forward to someone coming in to join you.  They walk in and within seconds you want them gone again.  The only thing that's worse than being trapped in a jar with a baby you can't make happy is to have someone else in there.  Someone telling you how lovely the baby is, suggesting you try feeding it when it screams, giving tips on how to get babies to sleep, eat, rest.  You're not really listening.  All you're thinking is 'either take this baby away from me or leave me alone to work it out myself'.

The worst visitor to the jar is most definitely your husband.  You hate him.  Not in a concsious, 'you did this to me' kind of way.  It's more that everything he does is wrong, not enough, too fussy.  He can't win.  There may or may not be a small voice in your head telling you that this is unreasonable but the emotions will win out and you will just want him as far away from you as possible.  Until he leaves the jar to go to the outside world, of course.  Then you will count down the seconds until he returns.  You envy his freedom.

And you cry.  A lot.  Sometimes because you haven't slept for days, sometimes because your body aches.  Sometimes you cry because the baby is crying, still crying, crying again.  You're out of ideas and energy.  You can only look on at the mess that surrounds you.  You feel helpless and hopeless.  You cry in mourning for your old life, your self, your marriage.  You cry because this is your life now.  There's no way back.  But mostly you don't know why you're crying.  It just seems to be what you d now.  You cry so much that your little jar starts to fill with tears and you wonder if you and the baby will float away.  Or drown.  For a while you welcome that thought.  Drowning.  Then you realise just how terrifying it is that you are having that thought.  You then cry some more.

Sometimes it's really hard to breathe in the jar.

Time passes in the jar but it's impossible to measure.  Days and nights blur into one relentless blur of feeding, changing, settling, waking, feeding, changing, settling...So you give up the fight.  You realise you will be stuck in here with this child forever so you start to figure out how to get along.  It's not quick or easy but it happens.  You have moments where you lock eyes with this little person and realise this is all pretty sucky for them, too.  They're also figuring out a gazillion things.  They can't feed, change or soothe themselves.  They're not out to get you, they're just doing their best with this situation, too.

And then you realise that the child is a she.  Or a he.  But definitely not an 'it'.  She wriggles when you tickle her.  She lifts her head during tummy time.  She starts flailing around in an attempt to roll.  And in these moments you forget about the jar.  You find yourself thinking, 'OK, this is not so bad'.  The moments don't last long but they make the time in jar a bit more bearable.  Not worthwhile, not yet, but bearable.

Then she starts crawling, pulling herself up, eating solids, interacting, walking, dancing, singing, talking.  And at some stage you realise that those OK moments have been growing in intensity and duration.  You now enjoy whole sections of your day.  Stretches of time when the jar doesn't exist.  Where you are in and part of the real world.  You enjoy your daughter.  Seeing her reach for you makes your heart jump.

And then you look up and realise the jar is hardly there at all anymore.

You will find you spend a lot of time sitting with your daughter, remembering the jar.  You will marvel at how far you two have come.  The love between you, the connection you have with each other and the world will make it hard to relate to the mum and baby who were stuck in that jar.  You won't wish for that time back, the jar time.  You may wish you could go back in time to have those weeks, months, years again outside the jar, but you don't miss those days.  These days are so much better.

You will never know how you ended up in that jar.  You and your pregnant belly went to sleep in a bed one night and you woke up in a jar with a baby.  Sounds crazy but it's true.  You know it is.  There was no avoiding that jar so you did your best once in it.  You worked with what you had.  And you worked hard.  So. flipping. hard.

You don't - can't - berate yourself for where you were, or what you did, or what you thought while you were in there.  You survived. You nurtured and nourished and mothered through the struggle and the hurt.  Give your child a kiss, give yourself the credit you're due.  You fought, you loved, you won.  You're out.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A toddler blogs...

A guest post from Dopey herself...

My mum is here a lot.  I believe that she uses this space to report and reflect upon her experiences as my mother.  I know that she gets a lot out of reading the words of mums.  She gets some comfort knowing that there are others out there who share her motherhood frustrations, love and confusion.  I'm very glad that she has all of you but I worry that she's getting so caught up in working out how to be a mum that she forgets that I'm learning on the job here, too.  I don't know how to be a daughter.  Heck, I still working out that I'm a human.

So, on behalf of the little people around here, I want to share a little bit about what it's like being mothered.

I want to start off by assuring you that I love my mum.  Honestly, I do.  She's great.  She feeds me, keeps me safe and tries her best to entertain me.  And, of course, she gave birth to me.  If nothing else I have to credit her with that.  But she's also pretty hard work.

I'm a pretty simple being.  The way I see it I just need a bit of food and a tiny bit of sleep.  I love life.  It's amazing.  Each and every day I see a gazillion new things; tree blossom on the ground, a bee buzzing at my window, fluff on the carpet where there's never been fluff before.  It's awesome!  And my body just keeps getting better and better.  I used to think I was pretty nifty lifting my head up during tummy time, but now I'm running, jumping, climbing, sliding.  It's so unreal and every day I discover something new that it can do.  So in addition to the food and sleep, I need a bit of time and space to process all of this wonderfulness.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

Apparently it is.  You see my mum doesn't seem to appreciate much of the above.  Sometimes she goes along with me and we have a good day.  We play together, read together, nap together, eat's fab.  Yes, there are some tough moments during those days.  She's a bit obsessed with wiping me, for example.  My nose, my face, my hands and let's not even get started on all the wiping that comes with a nappy change.  I doubt there is a single one of you out there who doesn't feel my pain on that one.  But overall, those days are good.  Agreed?

And then on some other days, things are harder.  Don't ask me to explain why because I just can't.  I do what I always do but for some reason mum doesn't.  Things that normally make her smile, like saying 'cheers' before every sip of water at breakfast or playing aeroplanes with my toast, suddenly don't make her smile at all.  She doesn't join in, she doesn't even just leave me to it.  She gets all stressy and exasperated and tells me to 'eat up!'.  She rushes me and sometimes even takes my breakfast away before I've finished.  Yes, fellow small people, it's THAT bad.

Then there's the unexpected upsets.  Things can be going so well and then, for no reason I can fathom, they plummet.  Take mealtimes.  Just as I get really hungry she wanders off to do her own thing.  She takes me to the kitchen and makes me think that food is coming, but then turns her back on me!  She expects me to play on the floor while she plays with her things on the kitchen counters.  I reckon that if she isn't going to feed me then she could at least let me see what she's doing up there.  But she doesn't.  She just tells me to stay back because 'there are hot things here'. Then she sends me to my toy box to find cars and cows and balls and whatever else she can think of.  She doesn't stop so we can play with these things together, she just says, 'wow! now can you bring me a...'  And this makes me mad.  I'm hungry and tired and ignored and fed up of fishing random objects out of a box for no reason.  At these moments I feel like grabbing her shoulders, looking her in the eye and calling a time out.  I want to tell her to just take a moment with me.  But I can't reach her shoulders so I grab her legs instead.  I can't call a time out, so I whine. I cry and cling and protest and hope that she stops what she's doing and looks at me.  But it never works.  In fact, it just makes her all stressy.  I know I should probably learn from this but you know what?  I'm 18 months old.  Crying and clinging and whining is pretty much all I've got.

And then there is her insistence on doing absolutely everything for me, all of the time.  Whenever I try to feed myself or brush my hair or get my shoes on she always steps in.  This drives me nuts.  Yes, she can get things done more quickly than I can, but how am I meant to learn if she never lets me try?!  I must admit that on such occasions I do let out a fairly decent scream.  I know that this riles her and makes things a bit worse but what else can I do?  I'm not screaming to be an asshole.  I'm screaming because she's getting on my nerves and I have no other way of letting her know.

I wish I could read her mind.  I wish I could understand why I get a cuddle when I climb onto the couch with her in the afternoon but in the middle of the night I don't.  Why if I bring her a book to read while she is sitting on my bedroom floor she will read it but if I bring it to her while she's at her computer she won't.  Why some days we stay together all day and others she disappears out of the front door for hours.  It's just all so confusing and there's no guide.

But then there are some really nice moments. Moments when she stops what she's doing to read the book I've brought to her.  When she sits with me while I work out how to get my leg into my trousers.  When she stops swiping at the iPhone screen and chases me round the house.  And in these moments, I realise that this is what being mothered is all about.  That even though some days the good moments feel few and far between they WAY outshine the rubbish bits.  And so long as we both treat each other with love, show a bit of grace and recognise that we are both trying our best in the roles that we've been given, we're going to get through this just fine.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Buda Babble Diaries #1

This is what I believe the inside of my husband's head looks like; the balls are all of his thoughts and ideas bouncing around.  Which one comes out is completely random and does not necessarily follow on from the one before.

So it seems that a lot of you found my husband's ramblings amusing last week.  I thank you all for your comments. It's so reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who finds the workings of his mind so unfathomable.  

I once posted a transcript of one such conversation on my facebook page.  I think it received more likes and comments than any other post I've ever written - including announcing Dopey's birth.  Not sure if that says more about my friends' priorities or the novelty value of Buda's babbling.  Anyway, while I enjoyed the sense of shared experience this created, Buda wasn't so keen.  Pretty understandable, really.  Since kept our conversations between ourselves.  This is great for my marriage but denies me the opportunity to turn to someone and say, 'did you hear that?!'  You know, the way you would if you heard a dog singing Elvis or something.

So, I've decided to start a Buda Babble series.  Whenever he comes out with a gem, I will share it with you.  It's ideal because he doesn't read this blog so he won't feel mocked and I won't be alone in my bafflement.

Here's our first entry;

On time...
Me: What time is it?
Buda: Ten to.
Me: Ten to what, 8?
Buda: No, ten minutes left.
Me: Left until what?
Buda: Until half past seven.
Me: You mean it's 7.20?
Buda: Yes.

It's hard work, isn't it?

Till next time,

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Eye of the Storm

So today was a washout.  A total washout.  The type that makes you wish you shared the magic powers of a toddler.  That you could cover your eyes and that would be it.  No one else could see you or touch you or bother you.

I drove a 3 hour round trip for an important meeting.  The work I stayed up until midnight last night preparing missed the meeting because it was at home, sat on my printer.  I went to another meeting so late that I missed the people I was meant to be meeting.  

I received a text from a friend inviting me to a 'Mums to Marathons' club tonight.  A what now? was my reply.  I was stuffing myself with a McDonalds when I read this.  I'm having a good stab at the 'mum' part of this club, the 'marathon' aspect is most probably far beyond me. 

I got home to an overtired Dope.  She was clingy, whiny, teary, angry.  You know, all the best bits of a toddler.  Buda looked like a zombie and was just lying on the floor with her.

I started dinner.  I put the radio on and exhaled as I had the kitchen to myself.  I wondered how long I could stretch out my food prep to make this moment of respite last that bit longer.

Before I managed to even finish this thought, Dope burst into the kitchen.  She pulled and tugged on me, wound her way between my legs and squealed in frustration at me.  Then she left me alone and everything went quiet.  That ominous, my-child-is-up-to-something type of quiet.  Sure enough, she was waist deep in the washing machine.  I lifted her out and then she had me.  She put her arms and legs around me in a vice like grip.  I'd fallen into her trap and she wasn't letting me go.  The chicken was burning.  I peeled her off me and put her on the floor.  She screamed the type of scream that only a rebuffed toddler can scream.  

Buda arrived brandishing a mini karaoke machine.  My heart sank.  I had thought that would be a good birthday present for Dope.  I quickly reaslised it wasn't.  As I feared, the Oki-Koki begins. Dope continues some low level protesting and bangs the microphone on the floor but is appeased enough to sit still.

Buda starts washing the pots in the way only Buda can.  The tap goes on full blast, all of the dishes get clunked and banged into each other, Buda sings.  He sings a Nepali song.  If you're not familiar with Nepali music then you should now just take a moment to be thankful for that.  It is atonal, croony and - when Buda is singing - loud.

I gripped the pan handle and stared at the burning chicken.  The radio, the sizzling pan, the grizzling toddler, the Oki-Koki, the banging microphone, the tap, the clanking pots and now the Nepali singing.  It really was too much.  And believe me, I don't  do well in these situations.  My go-to response is to bang things around in stony silence to make my point.  I sometimes flounce out of the room.  I have been known growl loudly and tell my family to 'PLEASE. SHUT. UP.'  But something odd happened tonight.  I became the calm in the eye of the storm.

As I stood among the chaos and noise I realised that this was a good moment, one to be kept safe.  
I sensed a flash as my memory captured this moment.   One day when I'm old and Dope has left home and Buda off kayaking rivers or Kung-Fu-ing around the world, I will be lonely.  I won't be scrabbling after the quiet, it will be scary.  The silence then will be more deafening than any racket my family can make now.  And so the memory was kept.  It is tucked away now, stored alongside the thousands of other moments that I just couldn't let pass.  One day I will dig this particular memory out and mull it over.  And in that moment, I will remember that for a while we were all here together, doing life.  How great is that?

Rhyming with Wine

Monday, 2 May 2016

Everybody needs a wife

I remember learning that some years ago there was a anthropology textbook (or maybe a sociology one) that opened with a line something like, 'everyone, in every nation and every culture around the world has a wife'.  This caused (valid) outrage in feminist circles for its implication that only men were considered real people.  Women, presumably, did nothing of note other than become wives.

But, times have changed and now it's not only men who can have wives, women can too.  I think that's just great on a number of levels but mostly because I think that everyone, in every nation and every culture around the world NEEDS a wife.  Wives are fab.  Heaps better than husbands.  Even if you have a husband, you should get yourself a wife, too.

Let me explain.

I, like most wives, manage our house.  I know when the direct debits go out, when a shop needs to be done, when birthdays are and where the batteries are kept.  I organise the childcare, plan meals, book doctors appointments and generally manage the family diary.  I'm the team leader, if you like.  Buda, like most husbands, is best described as 'support staff'.  He manages the bins and the laundry.  Essential work, but not necessarily highly skilled.

My friends assure me that their menfolk are equally detached from the realities of being a grown up. Different breed, we scoff.  It brings us a sense of solidarity and some cold comfort.  We like to compare stories of just how useless these men are, how much they hinder us in the business of life.  I think that I win these conversations hands down.  Buda brings a whole new world of frustration to the party.  What follows are all snippets of true, real life conversations between us.  If your man can better these I would LOVE to hear how...

On directions
Buda: OK, so at this junction you have a choice, you can go up, down, left or right.

On birthdays
Me: Where have you been?
Buda: I went to mum's to give her some money to buy your birthday present with.  Oh, but don't tell her I told you.  It's a surprise.
Me: I think that the surprise was probably meant to be for me.

On booking a plane ticket (7 years into our relationship, 4 years after we married)
Me: Did you book the tickets OK?
Buda: I tried to but I couldn't because I didn't have all of the details.
Me: What else do you need?
Buda: I just need to know your full name.
Me: Seriously?

On buying clothes for his sisters
Buda: When you're out could you buy an outfit each for my sisters?
Me: Yes, but I need to know what sizes they are.
***Sometime later, after a phone call home...***
Buda: OK, so Bhima is a bit bigger, Pramila is a bit smaller.
Me: Than what? Than me?
Buda: No, than each other.
Me: Helpful, thanks.

On my weight
Buda; When we go to visit my parents in Nepal you know everyone is going to say you got fat, right?  Don't take it personally, it's just because you have.

Buda: How do you put weight on so easily?  I try really hard and I can't even get my legs to go as big as your arms.
Me: Thanks, Buda.

On learning his language
Me: How do you say 'gate' in Nepalese?
Buda: 'Gate'.
Me: That's still in English.
Buda: Oh, well, what I mean is that they don't have gates in Nepal. 
(For the record, people, I've lived there.  There are plenty of gates in Nepal).

On baby business
Me: Beth's picking me up to go to Trixi's baby shower.
Buda: Beth's going, too? How many of you need to wash this baby?

On Nepalese traditions
Me: When our baby is born are we going to have a rice feeding ceremony?
Buda: What's that?
Me: What do you mean, what's that?  We've been to loads of them.  The ceremony all Nepalese babies have to have before they can be weaned onto solid food.  The one between 5 and 6 months when the priest comes to bless them and all of the family and friends come to feed a bit of rice and curry to the child and offer a gift and blessing.  
Buda: I've never heard of it.
***Some months later after a phone call home***
Me: What's the news?
Buda: It was Pramila's son's rice feeding ceremony the other day.
Me: Really? What's that?
Buda: It's a ceremony all Nepalese babies have to have before they can be weaned onto solid food.  The one between 5 and 6 months when the priest comes to bless them and all of the family and friends come to feed a bit of rice and curry to the child and offer a gift and blessing.  We've been to loads of them.
Me: You don't say.

See, wives just wouldn't bring you this crap.  Keep your husband for all of the things you love about him already and bring a wife on board to do the hard stuff.

Till next time,

Proud to link up with:

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Friday, 29 April 2016


OK, so this one is from the heart.

Before you brace yourself to defend or challenge what I've shared here, please take a breathe.  Then, read on.  Read about my experience of breastfeeding and understand that that's all this is; my experience.  Please be kind with me.

I have no motive in sharing this.  None at all.  I'm not advocating for or against bottle or breast .  I just need to share.  I need to share because my breastfeeding journey was rough.  Really rough.  I'm trying to process what happened and what that meant for Dope and me and our relationship with each other.  Problem is, I'm stuck.  I'm going over and over the same thoughts and it's gnawing away at me.  So I'm writing it out.  I'm sharing it with you.

I exclusively breastfed Dopey until she was 13 months old.  But I don't think I should have done.

For me, I didn't decide to breastfeed.  It was a given.  Everyone knows that 'breast is best' and I don't mean that flippantly.  The nutritional benefits are huge, it boosts the immune system and is sterile, it's free and requires no faffing around with bottles.  Win, win, win.

Then there are the purported emotional benefits of breastfeeding.  That it helps mums and babies to bond and I so looked forward to this.  I couldn't wait to nurse Dope, knowing I was the only one who ever would or could.  Turns out it was this fact that undid me.  Almost undid us.

I found breastfeeding incredibly difficult.  It was painful, stressful and relentless.  Our feeding schedule was 40 minutes on, 40 minutes off.  Horrendous.  I had support worker after support worker come in to help me.  They watched her feed and all said we were doing 'really well'.  The most advice I was given was to try to stretch her top lip up and over the nipple more.  I couldn't do that.

I cried in agony through every feed for the first 4 months.  Every. Single. Feed.  Without exception.  As soon as the feed stopped, so did the pain.  I now realise that what I experienced wasn't the 'let down' pain experienced by most.  Cold cabbage leaves would do nothing.  Dope wasn't happy when feeding either.  She would bob on and off, arch her back, gag, splutter and choke.  She never seemed sated and was continuously rooting.

The GP, health visitor and community nurse shared my concerns when they saw how distressed Dope would get.  They each sent me to A&E to get her checked over after seeing her.  She was admitted to hospital and eventually referred to a consultant.  He felt it was silent reflux and she was medicated.  He told me to cut out dairy in case it was a dairy intolerance causing all of this.  Neither the medication nor dairy free diet made any difference, but we persevered.

(I'd like to point out that this meant me battling through all of this without chocolate.  I know, right???  On top of all of the pain I was denied the staple food group of a new mum).

I desperately wanted to give her one bottle of formula a night.  Actually, I wanted her dad to give her the formula so that I could sleep and give my nipples a break.  I was sore and exhausted and so was she.

But I knew that formula was 'bad'.  It had been drummed into me that only a nipple and breast milk should go in Dope's mouth.  In my sleep deprived, brain addled state this really stuck.

I felt that I was doing everything wrong.  Dope wasn't sleeping, growing or enjoying life very much.  Buda and I were ratty with each other and on the brink of collapse.  The only thing I was doing 'right' for this kid was the breastmilk.  I couldn't decide to withhold that.  It would mean I had totally bummed on this motherhood gig.

So I needed someone else to tell me it was OK, it wouldn't be too bad to introduce one bottle feed a day.  But nobody did.  The breastfeeding support service kept insisting that Dope was getting all that she needed from me and that there was no reason to expose her to the risks associated with bottle feeding.  Even when I sat in tears with a worker telling her that I was so exhausted that I kept falling asleep on Dope while feeding her.  I told her I needed one feed 'off'.  That I was scared that if I kept on with this schedule that I would fall asleep on Dope and smother her, kill her.  The worker didn't budge.  She told me to keep on breastfeeding.  That things would get easier.

They didn't.  Each time Dopey stirred I would panic.  Really, seriously panic.  My heart would race, my palms would sweat and I would start to cry.  I would then battle to get her latched on and cry some more.  My legs would twitch with the pain of feeding.  I would clutch Buda's hand to get through it.  Then she would bob off to scream, root again and we would go through it all over again.  And again, and again and again.

I was broken.  So very, very broken.  I needed a rest.  I needed someone else to do just one feed.  To let me sleep for more than one hour.

But I didn't get this and mine and Dope's relationship suffered immeasurably.  I was scared of her.  I didn't hold her because whenever I went anywhere near her she would root and I couldn't bear the thought of an extra feed.  When I fed her I couldn't wait for it to end and as soon as it did I would thrust her upon whoever was nearest to me.

My fear of smothering her during a feed has morphed into a fear of her dying from anything and everything.  I'm so convinced that she will die very soon that my life with her feels bitter sweet.  I love her so much that I ache.  I spend hours just watching her, soaking her all in.  When I'm watching her I hear a voice telling me to make the most of this because it will end.  I hate buying her clothes and gifts and get angry when other people do.  Not because I don't want her clothed or treated, but because all I can think of is how much it will hurt to clear them out after she has gone.  It's horrendous.

When Dope was around 11 months old we noticed she had a thick piece of skin joining her top gum to her lip.  She had a lip tie.  This would have been why she couldn't get her top lip up and over to latch on properly.  She would have been unable to create a seal around the nipple resulting in air being gulped in.  The reflux and wind were caused or exacerbated by this.  She would have been unable to draw down more than foremilk.  This explained her slow weight gain despite having an insatiable appetite.

When I read all of this I cried.  I cried because my difficulties were real.  What's more, had the lip tie been identified sooner we could have dealt with it.  I cried for the lost months in our relationship.  I could have expressed and bottle fed and she would have grown and I would have rested and we would have bonded. I could have cuddled her.  I cried in frustration that nobody, not a single health professional or breastfeeding support worker ever once considered this or checked in Dope's mouth.  I cried in anger at myself for not finding out about it sooner.  I cried for the discomfort and pain I'd put Dope through.  For the medicine I had put in her unnecessarily.  I cried because I'd known it was real and been left feeling like it was just in my mind.  I just cried and cried and cried for 2 days.

And now she is fully weaned.  I have a more than a little sadness that Dope and I didn't get what I'd hoped from breastfeeding.  I'm sad that she weaned so much earlier than I'd expected her too.  I'm sad that I can't give you any happy ending to this post.  The only thing I'm glad about is that I can now keep my nipples tucked safely away in my bra.

So that's our story.  If you feel moved to comment, do so.  But remember, please be gentle.  I don't exaggerate when I say that breastfeeding was traumatic for me.  I'm on the other side now but there may be women reading this who are still in the thick of it.  Again, be gentle.

Till next time,

PS - Another gripe I have with breastfeeding is that it did not shed my babyweight quickly or at all.  This breastfeeding fact was brandished around all over the place yet somehow passed me by.  17 months on from Dope's birth I'm regularly asked if baby number two is on the way.  No, it's not.  I just never lost the baby bump shape from the first one.  That said, this bump may be more of a biscuit bump.  I eat a lot of them.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Open Day

OK, listen up.  I've had an idea - and it's a bit of a gem.  It's not very original, but it is most definitely effective and that's all that counts.

You know those days, weeks, periods when you feel really 'bleurgh'.  When you're stuck at home with nothing to do and no one to do it with.  When you're staring dolefully at your facebook feed as it goads you with status after photo after update of everyone else in the world having fun?  It feels pretty hopeless doesn't it?  Like you've been forgotten.  And it makes you mad because you can't understand why no one scoops you up and includes you.  Well, I have two things to say to you...

The first is a bit of tough love.  Yes, you probably have been forgotten.  Not because you're bad or boring, unloved or unwanted, but because you're off radar.  The people in your facebook feed don't know you're sat at home in your pjs, sobbing at the screen.  They don't know you want to hangout with them.  They don't know that you're not with someone else.  Now, yes, we could argue that some of them should pay more attention.  But then we would have to, too.  We would have to stop looking at all of the updates and scroll through our feeds looking for the people who aren't posting.  Who are most likely sat at home, like you, waiting for an invite.

This leads nicely onto my second point...

Extend an open invite to everyone you know to join you in some activity.

Sounds ridiculous, right?  And a little bit hard?  I hear you.

For the first 15 months of Dope's life I was the one at home.  I was alone and lonely and mad at the world for leaving me there.  As the fug of baby days left me I realised that actually, I had withdrawn.  No one was calling because I made out like everything was fine.  That's what I said when people asked me, 'I'm fine'.  But I wasn't.  Every bit of my heart and soul was crying out for them to see past this veneer.  They didn't.

I got so low,  I gave up hoping for any invite and resolved to make the most of my little family, screw the rest of them.  Then I started thinking about all of the other people like me out there.  All of the other isolated people being ignored by the 'in' crowd.  And this tugged on my heart a bit.  I changed tack.  Yes, it seemed too late for me, but it may not be too late for someone else.  I may be able to step in and BE their invite.

So that's what I did.  I thought and prayed on this for a little while, unsure what form this plan would take and who it would involve.  I settled on a single mum at church who I never saw included in anything either.  I reached out to her and made a play date.  Now, because I'm a bit socially awkward and felt like after the invite there was so little I could give, I panicked when she accepted.  I asked her if she would mind if we opened the invite up a bit and I posted on facebook that I would host a Valentine's afternoon for anyone who wanted to join.

What a result.  Two other women joined us.  First of all, this took the pressure off me conversation-wise and for that I will be eternally grateful to them.  They rescued my guest from an afternoon of being babbled at by me.  It also meant that I had pulled two more people in from the cold.  I felt pretty smug.  I had 'rescued' these women from their loneliness and, I felt, won a victory over my facebook feed by hosting an event rather than just gawping at one from afar.

But then something else happened.  A few people joked that they wished they didn't have husbands to spend Valentine's with because my idea seemed better.  They followed up with a suggestion that we arrange another day when we can hangout.  And those days happened.  Reaching out to one woman put me slap bang back on the social radar.  I now have plans and invites and feel included in life again.  I'm building relationships, connections and true friendships.  It's fab.

And you know what else?  All of those women, without exception - yes, even the thin, pretty, smart ones - tell me how they look at social media and feel left out.  That they feel worn out and left out, too.  I've learned that we're all struggling here, it's not just me.  Or you.  It's all of us.

There's a good lesson in here about loving others as you do yourself.  I love this commandment and it's one I live by.  But now, for the first time I realise that we weren't told to do this simply to make life nice for those around us.  This is God's way of ensuring that we stay connected to each other, it benefits the givers as much as the receivers.  By following his command we are forced to open up our own lives and that allows him to pour even more blessings in.  He's got this all figured out, hasn't He?

Tonight Buda is out at Kung Fu, Dopey's in bed and I'm relishing the solitude.  Tonight it doesn't feel lonely or imposed, it feels precious.  Time to relax, own my own space and reflect on all of the gifts I've been given.

So what are you waiting for?  Do it.  Do it now.  Post an invite, open up your world.  You may just be amazed at who comes in.

Till next time,


Friday, 15 April 2016

Life is puzzling

See that puzzle above? That's what my life feels like, friends.  The gap is my 'now', the moment I'm currently in.  All of the other pieces, all jumbled up, that's the rest of my life.  All of those pieces represent a person, a task, a responsibility that I have.  Each and everyone of them is jostling and demanding to get into my now.  Prioritising is impossible.  Each is as important as the next because they are all integral to the whole.  There is no sense of achievement or accomplishment in this puzzle because even when I finally get a piece in the right place, it soon gets slid aside so that another can pass. It's all very complicated.  And like a toddler attempting this puzzle, I feel completely overwhelmed and powerless to sort it all out.

Right now it is 8.23am.  I'm sitting at my desk with a pot of tea and writing to you.  Dopey stayed at her Gran's last night and so I'm well rested and ready to face the day.  All manner of chaos is waiting for me post 10am, but for now I don't need to worry about those other puzzle pieces.  I can breathe in the empty space.  It is the first time in such a long time that there is nothing else that I should be doing.  So I'm writing to you.

Believe or not friends I write to you more than you know.  Every day, in fact, I compose one, two or more posts.. Some are funny anecdotes, some are reflections on life and some are just plain rants.  The problem is, they are all composed in my head and never get poured out onto a page.  I'm talking to you as I'm driving my 60 minute commute to work, showering, settling Dopey for a sleep.  You get me?  You're in my mind constantly and I feel a crushing guilt that I don't talk to you more often.  You're very much a piece in my puzzle.  Unfortunately you're so often wedged behind work, child rearing and husband managing that try as I might, I just can't get to you.

I wish that this was a more encouraging, entertaining post and I'm sorry that it's not.  But I feel it is an important one.  I want you to know that I am committed to this blog, to you.  I love seeing how many of you read this.  After each and every post I spend a few days checking back, looking at the page view count on Blogger, delighting as it goes up.  I feel held by you a little bit.  Listened to.  Thank you.

I'd love to connect with you all more personally.  So if you're reading this and relate to my jumbled up life, please leave a comment and comment on each others comments.  I can't be the only one feeling like this so let's reach out to each other.  Say, 'yes, I hear you'.  Give advice, support, solidarity or a virtual hug.  It's what blogs are all about.  Let's use ours well.

Till next time,

Diary of an imperfect mum

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is almost upon us again.  I’m quite excited about this.  I’ve put a lot of work into Dope and so I think I’ve earned a day of recgonition.  My newfound understanding of motherhood makes me appreciate my mum that bit more, too.  I plan to celebrate her with a little more gusto than usual.

In fact, this year I appreciate all mothers more than I used to.  In large part this is down to the mummy lenses through which I now view the world.  We often hear women start sentences with the phrase, 'as a mother...' and I used to think this was rather crass.  But now I kind of get it.  I don't believe mothers are trying to position themselves as distant and above those without children.  I believe that they are merely reflecting on how massively their perspective has shifted since becoming a mum.  You see, our post-kid selves are incapable of viewing any situation or event dispassionately.  Natural disasters, terror attacks, road accidents, they all pack so much more of a punch now than they used to.  We immediately picture our own babies there and identify viscerally with the mothers.

The situation that’s really being magnified by my mummy lenses right now is the refugee crisis in Europe.  The toddlers fleeing war and violence and then being held at border crossings, washed up on beaches or freezing in makeshift camps.  They’re all Dope.  And I am all of those mothers, trying to get them through.  I feel their fear, hope, regret and hopelessness.  I feel how forgotten they feel.  How shocking and unthinkable it is to be living the way they are while we watch on, carrying on living the way we are.

And it’s not just the enormity of their situation that gets me.  It’s the minutiae.  Knowing that among all of the life and death decisions that they are making, they are also dealing with the day to day life of being a mum.  Nappy changes, kids pestering them for food, asking ‘are we nearly there yet?’, crying over a lost favourite toy.  You know those days when EVERYTHING is catastrophic for your offspring.  They scream for food and then fling it onto the floor.  They demand to be picked up then wriggle and fight their way back down.  They are desperate to get out of the house but meltdown at the suggestion of wearing clothes and shoes.  An on and on and on.  We all know how exhausting that is.  Now, think about dealing with all of that whilst traipsing across continents, hungry, hurting and scared.  Worse, knowing your kids are feeling the same way and that there is nothing you can do to stop it other than to keep on going, hoping that the destination is worth it.  We can’t comprehend this level of motherhood.  We can, however, feel how unbearable this is.  It hurts both our heads and our hearts.

You see, we mothers FEEL.  We understand that everyone, absolutely every adult, child and tween on the planet, is someone else’s daughter, son, Dope.  We understand that every other mother on the planet is simply another version of ourselves.

So what’s my point?  This started off as a Mother’s Day post.  You were probably expecting something about gift ideas and I took you down a rather more sombre road.  Thanks for sticking with me.  The good news is that it really was about gift ideas all along.  Alternative gift ideas, that is.

This year, stop and think about whether you really want or need things like chocolates and flowers.  I love chocolates and flowers.  *They are scientifically proven to cheer the soul.  So if you are in need of such things, go ahead and enjoy them.  We know that plenty of extreme mothering is going on around here so we won’t begrudge you a single petal or bite.  In fact, if you’re in need of a Mother’s Day pick-me-up, message me with your address and I will make sure that something reaches you. 

If like me, however, you don’t want or need anything this Mother’s Day, please consider this.  Unicef– and many other charities, I just like this one because it focuses on children and mothers – have a whole range of gifts and gifts in kind that you can buy.  You could help deliver a baby, warm up a refugee child or provide nourishment to a hungry Dope.  You could also buy your mum some jewellery, a bath set or a purse and let Unicef to use the proceeds wherever they are needed.  That’s what we are doing this year and it feels GOOD.

Shifting our pounds from Hallmark et. al to places like Unicef shows that we get that we’re all in this motherhood gig together.  It allows us to act upon our feelings and demonstrate our compassion.  Most importantly it means that one of us out there who is feeling hopeless and forgotten will, though this gift, KNOW that her mothering is noticed, appreciated and recognised this Mother’s Day.

*I am aware of no such study about flowers and chocolates, it just seems that their healing powers are so widely acknowledged that there must be some science in there somewhere.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

How cool is this?

Not our actual glove, but pretty close - image taken from here
Things in the Dopey household were a little fraught this week.  Wednesday night saw Dope herself become really quite poorly.  I called the NHS on 111 and, to my alarm, they sent an ambulance for her.  Of course, she promptly perked right up, charming the paramedics with smiles and waves.  She bounced and pointed and squealed at everything in the ambulance and the crew empathised with me over the capacity of kids to make their parents look like big fat fibbers.  They could have chastised me for using their valuable time on a child that appeared healthy and well, but they didn’t.  They also didn’t seem to mind that she repeatedly reached for the hazardous sharps bin.  They simply blew up a latex glove and drew a smiley face on it so that she had something safe to play with.

At the hospital Dope was checked and monitored and cooed over.  She was admitted (see, we did need that ambulance!) and I was brought tea, given a bed to rest in and offered food.  A nurse came and good naturedly changed the bedding when Dope peed on it.  She didn’t grumble.  She also didn’t scold me for failing to catch the pee in the sample pot that I was supposed to.  Finally, Dope’s symptoms settled down and we were officially discharged.   

It was a worrying 12 hours but that’s not really what I’ve come here to tell you about today.  Instead, I want to remind us all that the NHS is amazing.  It’s most amazing points being;   

1.       It keeps people alive and healthy...
2.       For free...
3.       No matter who you are*
*There are exceptions for non-residents who pay for their treatment.

How cool is it that we can go to the doctors with niggles?  That we think nothing of getting ourselves checked out, ‘just in case’.  Would we look after ourselves quite so well if we faced a bill at the end of it?  Would we wait that bit longer to be sure that there really was an issue to be checked out?  Or would we wait until payday?   Every such delay would increase the risk of late diagnosis and treatment.  These are worries that we simply don’t consider.  The NHS protects us from those risks and difficult decisions by just being there.  Waiting for us, whenever we’re niggling, for free.

 ‘But the waiting lists!’ I hear you cry.  Yes, these are frustrating.  There are also more serious failings in the system; fatal misdiagnoses, neglect and abuse by staff, cuts taking away services, staff leaving for better pay and conditions elsewhere.  Please let’s not get into a debate about the whys and wherefores of this.  Let’s look at the bigger picture.  These incidences are heartbreaking and newsworthy because we expect MORE from the NHS.  We know they can do better because we normally leave hospitals healthier than we were when we went in.  I think that’s pretty cool.

What’s more, we know that there is a point to complaining because the NHS will respond and make changes.  We could be cynical about their motivations and efficacy in this, but the point is that reviews happen.  They, and we, understand that every life matters and that mistakes can’t just be written off.  Elsewhere, profit driven doctors and clinics take payment and glory for healing patients.  When things don’t go so well, they simply take payment.  The more people they see the more they earn, regardless of outcomes.  NHS staff earn the same regardless of the numbers they treat so individual doctors are driven and measured by quality outcomes for patients rather than quantity of patients for profit.  Again, cool hey?

When my sister in law in Nepal told me she was pregnant I was excited.  Buda not so much.  I chastised him for being a grump and he silenced me by reminding me that in Nepal you don’t celebrate a pregnancy.  You celebrate a birth that leaves both mother and baby alive.  And THAT’s the gift of the NHS.  It allows us to live freely and plan life with little caution.  We know that there is a safety net there for us that will almost certainly protect us.  Can you honestly say that a pregnancy announcement has left you worrying for the life of the mother?  I think this is the coolest point of all.

So people, please take a moment to consider what a gem we have here in the UK.  If you’re so inclined, take this one step further.  See it as a call to action to promote and protect the NHS.  If that’s not for you, just try really hard to imagine life without it.  Remind yourself and others of the freedoms it allows you and never miss an opportunity to highlight just how cool that is.

PS – It’s worth pointing out that neither I, nor anyone else connected to me, works for the NHS.  I just like to give credit where credit is due and to inject a bit of gratitude to areas where we can easily become complacent.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Playing Cupid

So, that's Valentine's Day done for another year.  For some there will have been flowers, romance, love and so on, but I suspect for most it will have been just another day.  For some, it was probably  a tough day.  A day when every shop, TV advert, facebook update felt like a personal attack.  Red hearts and pink champagne dangling just out of reach, saving themselves for those 'in love'.  That exclusive and excluding club that makes anyone outside feel a bit sucky, a bit less worthy.  And I don't like that.  Not one bit.

Earlier this week I had a friend over.  She is single and childless and hurting because of this.  She's 38 years old and working on accepting that she will never be a mother, not naturally at least.  She's a good and successful woman but feels rejected and alone.  For her, Valentine's Day magnifies of all of the gaps in her life.

After she left my house I got to thinking.  I got mad at Valentine's Day.  Stupid commercial, Hallmark holiday.  Callous shops, adverts and facebook statuses spurting out Disney-fied versions of love and relationships.  And couples...COUPLES!  You have each other.  You love and hold each other and share memories and homes and children and cars and fears and worries and hopes and dreams all year long.  Why spend a day looking further inward, leaving others hanging around on the edges alone?  I wanted to stop the whole thing.

Then I realised that stopping all of this nonsense is not the way to go.  Yes, Valentine's Day has been hijacked as a day of romance, but we can change that.  We can, and should, keep it as a day of love.  And here's the difference; romance might get one person interested, but love will make many people stick with us.  Love connects more than just couples.  It embraces friends, family, pets and communities.  It's long lasting, supporting, ever evolving and deserves to be celebrated.  So, this year, I reclaimed my Valentine's Day for LOVE.

I messaged my friend and invited her to my house this afternoon.  I then went on facebook and invited anyone who felt like being loved and happy on Valentines - regardless of whether they were single, married or anywhere in between - to my house for cake, tea and lovely times.

Two more women joined us.  Two awesome women raising kids on their own.  They have both been hurt by romantic love in the past.  They have no-one to take over mummy duty when it all gets a bit too much.  I simply cannot imagine how tired they must feel sometimes but they keep on keeping on regardless.  I don't know either of these women well but very much plan to change this.

I knew that the women coming to my house today needed to feel part of Valentine's Day, reminded that they DO have a claim to this festival.  Heck, I needed that too.  Yes, I have a husband but he's not particularly romantic.  No-one was going to spoil me, woo me or treat me so  I gave these women the type of Valentine's that would make me feel loved.

Each got a homemade card with an individual message and verse inside.  They got red roses tied up in ribbon and a favour bag with heart shaped chocolates, I made lunch and let their kids run riot in my house.  I wiped up their spills and assured them it was fine when they pushed my daughter to the ground.  We talked, we laughed and generally enjoyed each other.  When they left my house was upside down.  Nothing was in the same room as it was this morning - even the rug from Dopey's bedroom was lifted out into the living room.  It was perfect.  I plan on doing the same again next year.  Maybe with the same women or maybe they will have moved on by then.  I may have a room full or my invitation may not be accepted by anyone.  And that will be OK because it will mean everyone feels loved enough already.  But I will keep on inviting.  I will include the excluded and be the person who shows EVERYONE that they're loved, especially on a day that seems designed for telling us we aren't.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Family Fun Fail

Looking for ways to keep your kids entertained and your bank balance in credit?  Well, I'm afraid to say that you're probably in the wrong place.  I just failed miserably at this.  I planned on taking Dope to see the fish in the little aquarium on the 2nd floor of our nearest museum.  How cute!  Dope loves fish and the museum has free entry.  Perfect.  Free and fun.  Hurrah!

Unfortunately, people, the afternoon was neither.  I spent my life's savings on road tolls getting to the museum and then took out a bank loan to pay for the inner city car parking charge.  I sold a kidney to fund the cup of tea I had to buy to sit in the museum cafe and then finally had to sell one of Dopey's kidneys to buy another drink to re-hydrate us on the way out of the sauna cum aquarium.  Free day out it wasn't...*

In terms of fun, our starting point for the day was Dope's nursery.  I picked her up at lunchtime thinking that she could sleep for the car journey over to the museum.  She had other plans.  She apparently still hadn't forgiven me for abandoning her in that safe, caring, stimulating environment earlier on in the day.  She screamed and cried and shouted at me the whole way there, finally conking out as we pulled into the car park.  That nap cost me 40-odd minutes of city centre parking.  I could begrudge that, but it's in the past so I'm willing to let it go.

After battling through the howling wind and icy rain, I took her to the museum cafe.  Here, my friends, we were going to sit happily.  I would drink tea and Dope would eat her healthy, homemade snack and babble to me about her day.  Instead, I wrestled Dope into a highchair and she merely considered my culinary offering before swiping it out of my hand and down to the floor.  I offered it again, she screamed.  I re-packed the snack and she went into meltdown demanding I give it back to her.  I gave it to her and she threw it at me.  We repeated this cycle several times.  What fun!

We then headed up to the aquarium and finally had some success.  She made all of the right noises at the fish and the eels and the octopus.  She wandered up and down, delighting the pensioners around us.  She waved and pointed at everything and all was good.  Except that it was stinking hot.  So hot that I seriously thought I may pass out.  I bundled us both out of there quickly and back down to the cafe where I bought an extremely overpriced orange juice that most likely saved my life.  This is probably the only time its price tag has ever been justified.

Back home things got worse.  Buda was working late so it was still just me and Dope.  There followed a catalogue of errors that would keep you reading way past your bedtime so I will just give you a snapshot of the aftermath, as shared on my Facebook feed...

"So, I've managed to jam the bath plug in the bath; smash a glass in the kitchen sink; burn my daughter's taste buds with madras spiced scrambled eggs; drop her replacement dinner onto the floor; fill her up with rice cakes and fruit pot; fall while carrying her. My child, understandably, has grizzled and protested at me throughout this time. She then took 90 minutes to get to sleep. I'm also covered in baby snot from all of the consoling I've had to do. Oh, and I've just noticed that our electricity meter is almost at zero so we will most likely be plunged into total darkness fairly soon. Sorry Keshav, you work one evening shift and I've let our household crumble. ‪#‎proudmummy‬"

At this point the urge to fall asleep there and then was great.  But I decided to say NO to defeat.  A good mother never gives up, right? So I cleared up the mess and the house looked great.  Did I enjoy my well earned rest then? No I did not.  I decided I was going to finish the day UP on where I started rather than simply breaking even.  I went to the washing machine and saw, for the first time in my life, that I had dyed all of the white bits of my clothes pink.  I didn't think that this happened outside of detergent ads and predictable sitcom storylines.  But it does and it did.

Buda finally came home and laughed at my day.  At me, really, but he was kind enough to de-personalise his amusement.  He cheered me up with news of a cheesecake he had brought home with him, bringing me this with a cup of tea.  

Has anyone else ever seen such a cheesecake?  No, and I'll tell you why...because hemorrhage themed desserts have never caught on.  I was so horrified I knocked over my tea and then finally conceded defeat and headed to bed.

* Understand that my life savings, along with mine and Dope's internal organs did, in fact, remain in tact throughout this afternoon.  I didn't take any loans out either.  I did, however, have to dig very deep in my pockets to fund this folly.

Diary of an imperfect mum

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What to (honestly) expect when your expecting

Pregnancy is often presented to us as a 'journey'.  We expect to float along with our emotions and nesting skills expanding with our bellies.  In reality, the journey often takes you off-road.  It's bumpy, uncomfortable and mucky and we need better preparation for this.  My guide to pregnancy seeks to do just that.

Trimester One 
You have taken that life changing pee that tells you that you are, officially, with child.  You get that giddy, nervous feeling like you’ve embarked on something that could be really fun or really stupid – you know, like at the end of the night when someone says, ‘let’s camp out on a roundabout’ (true story, but for another time) and you say, ‘OK!’ But then you can’t get that niggly voice out of your head that’s saying, ‘are you sure this is you?’

Once you’ve made peace with this decision it’s time to start telling other people.  You will probably have had a scan by now.  This is an exciting day; you get to see your baby for the very first time.  Wahey!  You will also have drunk a gallon of water before you go in (a full bladder is mandatory fr this) which means that instead of being absorbed by the wonder of meeting your child, all you will think is, ‘ok yes, there it is, can I go pee now?’

You will have the same conversation with everyone you tell about you impending motherhood.  Everyone will ask you how far along you are and they will then chastise you for not telling them sooner.  They will want to know if you are finding out the sex and they will then chastise you for being a spoil sport for finding out.  Or for not finding out.  It wholly depends on their own, personal opinion.  They will ask you how many babies are in there.  They will then laugh, nudge you, say, ‘or so you think!’ and then go on to tell you a story of someone they knew who got themselves a surprise second baby on the delivery table.  They will want to know how you are feeling.  It may take a few attempts but you will quickly learn that they don’t really want to know how you’re feeling.  They want a quick, ‘I’m fine’, or ‘oooh, a bit sick’.  They don’t want to know that you are puking and subsequently carb-loading like a hyperactive bulimic,

Trimester Two
You should probably be feeling more human around now and will finally start reading the weekly emails you’ve subscribed to.  These will tell you every single cell mutation and development going on in your baby.  It is fascinating.  Its sex is determined pretty much on day one, it goes through a whole fruit salad of sizes, from grape to avocado to watermelon (OK, the last one is my addition, but that’s how it will feel soon enough).  Grandparents will love to learn where their grandbub is up to.  NOBODY else will.  Everyone else will be satisfied to know that you are pregnant and will then forget about this until Trimester Three when your bump will make it impossible for them not to remember.

 At some point you will learn something that will make you realise that THIS.IS.REAL.  For me, that moment was when I learned my baby had nails.  That was a) fascinating, b)terrifying.  This really is a person growing in there, with nails!!!! But then, could it claw its way out??? No, of course I knew that wasn’t possible.  I was, however, slightly worried that I may get my insides nicked.

You will start to ‘get organised’.  You will go to a baby retailer and look at all of the wonderful things they say you absolutely need.  But you’re above that.  You won’t be drawn in and you will only buy the essentials.  You head for the pram section and realise that you know nothing about prams.  You thought it was simply a wheeled vehicle for transporting small people in.  Wheels, handle and seat seem about all you would need, but no!  There will be apparently identical prams with £300 price differences.  You need to decide if you want a full travel system or just a pram.  Parent or front facing?  Isofix or...whatever the opposite of that is?  Will it fit in your car?  Is the basket underneath easily accessible?  Are there drinks holders? AAARRRGGGHHH! You will turn on your heel and leave, telling yourselves that you will come back another day once you have done the research.  You will never do the research.  You return to the shop several times and finally settle on whatever pram is on offer.  Post-birth, you will realise how inappropriate your pram is.  You will rue the day you didn’t put the effort in to work out just what was what.

Your bump will start to show and this gets you some nice perks.  I managed to queue jump AND pee for free at London Euston train station.  The cleaner saw me and screeched, ‘You! Come here pregnant lady!’ and pushed me through the turnstile.  People hold doors for you, bend down to pick up items that you have dropped and general treat you kindly.  They’re even patient when you have a full trolley of shopping bagged up and realise that your baby brain has forgotten your PIN.  No-one tuts, they just offer to help you unload everything again.  You will remember your PIN just as they finish this but you will decide its probably best not to mention this right now...Small hint: Make the most of this special treatment.  After your baby arrives it will come as a shock that people don’t somehow realise that you have actually grown, birthed and nourished another human with your body.  They will let doors slam in your face, make you wait your turn in line and expect you to know your PIN.

Trimester Three
Now you really do have to get yourself sorted.   You open all of the boxes and bags you have stashed away and realise you have three cot mobiles and no mattress.  You then read up on baby sleep safety and discover that bumpers and quilts and blankets will all kill your baby and so none of that will be used.  You then dash out to buy some blankets with holes in to let the baby breathe and a sleeping bag or two.

Everyone around you will know that d-day is near.  As in the first trimester, everyone you meet will reel of the same list of questions.  Unlike in the first trimester, you will be so bloated and tired that you have no energy to humour them with answers.  You may consider compiling a card to hand out to people to head off such interactions.  Feel free to print and hand out this template...

Finally, your baby will arrive early or late but almost certainly not ‘on time’.  Your birth will be what it will be and you will do amazingly.  Your baby will come out all slimy and screamy and scrawny.  Its umbilical cord stump will stink.  Everyone will coo and aaah and you will smile and wish your nipples would go back to being a part of your body you were mostly unaware of.  The searing pain emanating from them will be worse than the birth.  You will be exhausted, drained, overwhelmed, terrified and confused.  But at some point – maybe in the delivery room, maybe hours, days, weeks, months or years later – you will look at the being you have brought into the world and realise that, true to the cliché, it really was all worth it.

Friday, 15 January 2016

And now for the good bit

15 long, LONG months ago, I gave birth to Dope.  She arrived 4 weeks early and in record time.  My entire labour was 40 minutes long.  She came through her express delivery beautiful and healthy and so did I. OK, I was in physically good shape but perhaps aesthetically could have done with some help.  Everyone told me how lucky as I was.  And I was, but I was also unprepared.  My heart had yet to realise what I was signing up for and my head had yet to learn all the ins and outs of newborn rearing.  I had a rough few months.  14.5 of them to be precise.  Many tears and tantrums, feelings of frustration and helplessness.  Minimal sleep.  Soooooo little sleep.  Soul destroying exhaustion.  Many moments of doubt: what were we thinking?  This was not one of our better ideas...I was a fully fledged member of the 'motherhood is hard' club.  Yes, there were nice bits.  Moments whenI looked a Dope and thought it was all OK.  Moments when my heart swelled with love.  Moments we laughed, felt proud, happy, together.  But overall it was HARD.   

But now, it has all flipped around.  Now, for me, motherhood is good.  Yes, there are hard bits.  Moments when I look at Dope and realise this particular turn of events is not OK.  Moments when my brain is ready to explode with frustration.  Moments we cry, shout, stomp, despair and feel lost.  But overall it is GOOD.  

I don't know what has brought about this change.  If pressed, I could maybe say that this change happened after Dope and I attended a first birthday party recently.  I was there, whinging and whining about how little sleep we get and I realised I’m such a downer.  I’m always the mum complaining.  I don’t like how that makes me feel and more importantly I don’t like the reputation I’m giving Dope.  So I decided to stop blabbing on about my mama troubles and to only share good news stories.  And there are so many of them.  Insomnia aside, Dope is a delight.  She really is.  

I can only think that changing what comes out of my mouth is changing what’s going around in my head.  And, in turn, that has given my heart space to expand and feel all of the lovely, squishy feelings that my grumpy head has been blocking for so long.  Or it could be that Dope has had a cold and has actually slept OK for a few nights.  But I prefer to believe that my own personal growth is responsible for this ground-shift in our house.  I’m loathe to credit it to a germ.

With all of my pesky thoughts out of the way, I’m now simply overwhelmed with love for Dope.  Truly.  I can’t get enough of her.  And it seems to be infectious (the love, not the cold-germ).  Buda also seems more relaxed.  It must be so nice for him to come home to find me welcoming him in to some family time with all of us together.  He used to get home and I would fire some Dope-keeping instructions at him – dinner is defrosting, she needs a nappy change – before mumbling something about popping out for toilet rolls.  I would then spend 2 hours wandering the aisles of Asda to make me feel I was doing something constructive rather than just avoiding my daughter.  Our new way feels so much nicer. 

I know that all of this happy, lovey vibe could disappear.  A particularly sleepless night or a whiny, clingy day could be enough to get me shooting out SOS calls again.  But I hope not.   I hope that I’m grounded enough to keep this mood.  I’m not floating around in a mummy bubble of perfection.  I still have the tough moments.  I still feel desperate to handover parenting duties to Buda at times.  I still take a deep breath before responding to a cry.  But now, I recognise these tough moments for what they are.  Moments.  I no longer string all of these moments together and allow them to become the unbroken narrative of our lives.  I still read amazingly accurate, truthful and funny accounts of parenthood trials like this and chuckle knowingly.  But I finish article knowing that as true as all of that is, becoming a mum is still my finest idea.

And so now, I think it's safe to say that we're into the good bit.  We have finally reached the promised land of parenthood.  The bit where you say 'it's worth it', and you mean it.  And that feels really, really good.

PS - For mamas still firmly inside the ‘motherhood is hard camp’, don’t let my newfound love for motherhood add to your pressures.  Know that if I was with you, I would be making you a hot cup of tea and holding your baby so that you could enjoy it.  I would empathise, share horror stories and acknowledge what a bum deal mothering can be.  But I would also offer you hope.  Reassurance that things can change – maybe not for a long time, but that’s OK.  Motherhood is hard and the longer you’re in that tough place, the sweeter it will feel when you leave. 

PPS – those of you who have visited this post before may notice that it has changed somewhat.  Previously it was a pious, preachy, sickly post about how amazing I find motherhood these days.  It actually had the phrase, ‘we overloading on love’ in it.  Horrendous, gushy stuff written and posted late at night.  Whilst nothing in the earlier post was a lie, I figured it needed some balance added, particularly for people not at this stage of their mothering journey.  From now on, I promise to save and sleep on a post before publishing!

Monday, 11 January 2016

It's hard to be good enough!

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at Dope’s first ever music class 10 minutes early with a HOME BAKED muffin in my bag.  She had napped well in the morning, eaten a good lunch and got in to the car without a blip.  We were the first to arrive at the class.  Dope walked in, waved at the teacher and started bouncing and swaying in her own goofy way to the background music.  The teacher was delighted, Dope was delighted.  I was delighted.  I also had a pram and a bottle of milk in the car.  After the class she was going to drink her milk, get in her pram and nap while I took her for a walk along the beach.  We were then going to drive to pick Buda up from work where we were all going to sit in his cafe and enjoy family time while Dopey ate her muffin (home baked, by me, full of goodness).  I had made a plan that day, and it was happening, all around me, just as it should.  I had a moment of feeling all squishy and light.  And just like that, for the first time ever, I felt like a good mum.  A REALLY good mum.

But then two other mums arrived at the class.  Not just any two mums.  One is a mum I used to be very good friends with.  I’ve made efforts to rebuild our friendship but she has a busy and full life and sporadic catch ups seem to be as much as I can hope for.  Seeing her out with another mummy friend made me feel awkward, uncomfortable and rejected.  Silly, I know.  She didn't intend this.  I have no claim on her time, it's just how I felt.  She was just out with a friend and bumped into an old acquaintance.  She probably went away thinking it was nice to see someone she knew at the class.  I suspect she doesn’t know how much I miss her.

By the end of the class, I just wanted OUT.  Seeing my old friend made me sad and reminded me that I'm useless at making and keeping friends.  With the final song she said, 'I'll text you, we really must catch up soon'.  This was awkward as we both knew this wouldn't happen,  I rushed Dope out and stuffed her into the pram.  She wasn’t happy.  She screamed and refused the milk I’d given her.  I walked her up and down the prom and she still screamed.  I pushed the pram through dog pooh and got freezing cold.  After the LONGEST time she finally slept.  I then attempted to un-poop the pram wheels by scraping them along curbs and tufts of grass.  My hands and face were numb.  And it was late.  It was now the time we should have been getting in the car to pick up Buda.  But I couldn’t wake her because I’ve read all of the baby books and I KNOW that if she misses a nap, or naps too late in the day, she will not sleep through the night until she is a teenager, or married, or in a retirement home.  I figured she needed that sleep.  I left her wrapped up in the pram whilst I froze on the bench next to her.  Then it got really late.  Buda was just wandering out of his workplace to wait for us completely unaware that I was sitting on bench with a sleeping baby 30 minutes drive away.  Finally, I woke her up, endured her screaming protests, wrangled the pram into the boot and set off.  By the time we got to Buda he grumpy from sitting in the cold for 40 minutes.  Dopey was still grizzling at me and it was almost dinner time.  I abandoned the idea of family time in the cafe and we went straight home.  The muffin, in all its home baked glory, was left uneaten.  My wonderful plan was shot.  And just like that, I felt like a rubbish mum.  A REALLY rubbish mum.

There are many positives in this day.  I cared enough about my child to make a plan, and a muffin, for her.  I’m privileged enough to have a child who is healthy, happy and confident enough to walk up to a strange teacher to wave and start dancing.  I can afford to take her to these classes.  We have a car to get us to such classes.  We live in a beautiful area where a seaside stroll is easily achievable.  My husband has a job for us to pick him up from.  We have a home to come back to at the end of a day, however rubbish that day was.  Our home is warm and safe and ours.  There is food in the house to feed my kid with.  My life is so easy that this faded friendship is pretty much the biggest hardship I face.  I know all of this.  Really know it.  Each and every day I thank God for all of these blessings because I can SEE and UNDERSTAND how good my life is.  But I just don’t FEEL like it is.  Life feels like a battle and a struggle, mostly with myself.  I KNOW what I should be doing and I expect myself to do it.  I just seem incapable of getting my sh*t together and I don’t know why.  So that moment, before the class when I felt like a good mum, doesn’t leave me feeling warm.  It frustrates me because I know now how nice life could feel.  That feeling is now the standard that I am striving, and failing, to reach.  I know that getting it all together IS possible because I did it once.  That means that I’m falling short the rest of the time.

I recently read that aiming to be a ‘good mum’ is simply inviting failure, much better to settle happily with 'good enough'.  That's all your kids need.  I get that.  It is advice I have regurgitated to many a mummy friend.  I just can’t accept it for myself.  Being ‘good enough’ is nowhere near enough for me.  I want to be a good mum.  All of the time.  This is a big demand and near impossible, but that’s the standard I set myself.  And every stumble, every meal that gets spat out and thrown to the ground, every nap that is late or cut short, every night time waking, feels like a punch in my gut.  It’s the price I pay for my ineptitude.  I need to fix this.  I know.  I need redraw the criteria by which I judge myself, or even better, STOP judging myself.  

So, what can I do?  I need to try harder.  Not on being perfect, but on being 'good enough'.  THAT feels like a bigger challenge to me that the striving for perfection.  This 'good enough' strategy feels so risky to me.  This little person’s entire life, future and well-being is in my hands.  What if I tell myself that  I don’t need to be a good mum, just a good enough mum. Dopey is fine, happy and healthy. If I drop the ball every now and then she will probably be OK.  But what if she isn't? CRAP! I dropped the ball.  She didn’t nap for the 3rd day running and now she won’t sleep at night and her development will stall because she will be so tired all of the time...and on, and on and on.

But striving for perfection carries its own risks.  It damages my mental health and sets a bad example for Dope.  I don't want her see her to grow up running herself into the ground and then beating herself up when she falls short.  So rather than continuing to push myself towards some un-achievable ideal, I'm going to push for the achievable.  I resolve to accept the hits and teach my kid that sometimes it’s OK to stumble.  I now strive to be ‘good enough’ mum, raising a kid that knows that SHE is good enough, no matter what.