Why it’s ok to hate being pregnant

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Is it sacrilege to even write this post? Isn’t pregnancy supposed to be all about linen kaftans, taking ‘bumpie’ photos with various fruit and casually glowing to new age music?

For some, pregnancy is a wonderful time of good vibrations, happy hormones and much excitement and anticipation.

For others, there may be moments where the world takes on a rosy glow, but these are only intermittent snippets in a long and dreary era of swollen feet, extreme tiredness and GUI (General Unexplained Irritability).

Blame PinInterest, blame the media, blame your mother… there seem to be endless idealized portrayals of what a mum-to-be should look like. Not feeling like a blessed flower child can have you feeling guilty for already failing at being a mum, guilty for not enjoying pregnancy as much as you should, guilty for wishing away this ‘precious’ time.

Let’s start at the beginning. Finding out that you are expecting is an exciting time – when the child is wanted and the timing is right. Yes, that’s right, some pregnancies are not wanted and many mothers go initial shock when they find they are pregnant. This has nothing to do with not respecting the sanctity of life and everything to do with the fact that we are living in the world of pressures and responsibilities: financial, career, time and otherwise. Not every unexpected surprise is a welcome one and for many parents the first days, weeks or months are more scary than exciting.

The first trimester can be a trying time. It’s the time many mothers find themselves the most exhausted, with nausea kicking in and hormones zooming around like fireworks. Cue random tears / tantrums. It’s also the most nervous period as the pregnancy is not yet established and can be fraught with worry. Many parents are counting the weeks until the pregnancy has settled and they can finally do the big reveal.

The second trimester frequently brings a time of relief and many mothers find that this is the loveliest time of pregnancy. HCG levels drop causing the nausea to subside, energy levels improve and now there is a proper proud bump developing to show the world that a new life is on its way!

The final trimester can be characterized by the three Ps: peeing, podge and panic. As the baby grows, the size of the bladder shrinks to a fraction of its size. I remember planning routes on my local walks so that I could plan out my pee breaks. If you haven’t swollen already, general baby weight starts to bloat your body into something resembling the size and consistency of a two-day-old trifle. Finally, panic sets in as you get into the home straight. When will the baby arrive? Is everything ready? Is the baby moving enough? How will I handle labour? How will I even know that I am in labour? Will the baby latch on ok to breastfeed? Questions, questions, questions!

Conclusion: being a mother and bringing life into the world is a sacred thing. It is also tiring, frustrating and exhausting. A melting pot where the magical melts into the mundane.

A lot of pregnancy can be spent feeling really positive, massaging your growing bump and in awe at your body and the miracle it can create. You can be almost overcome with emotion at the prospect of having a baby of your very own to love and what it will mean for you to take on a new motherly identity and make your house a home.

However, there is also plenty of time in those nine months to feel a range of emotions, from bliss to bonkers. On the lower end of the sensory spectrum, you are not only nauseous and exhausted, but also upset, worried, paranoid, unloved, frantic and just feeling downright fat.

Yes, pregnancy is a blessing, especially if it’s been difficult or a long time coming, but it is also a huge task for your body and mind. If you are not loving feeling that your body has been taken over by a little alien that has made you its host – you are not alone!

Being honest with yourself and respecting your feelings is healthy. Feeling depressed is not. If you are overcome with the whole experience of pregnancy and are experiencing anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness or any other negative emotion make sure to get help. Talk to your partner, talk to your friends. Call one of these: NHS Helplines.

Do not suffer in silence.

However you are feeling, remember that there are always moments that let the light in. A strong kick from your little friend reminding you that you are growing a soft, wonderful, gentle new human being. Special treatment on the bus / at the supermarket / everywhere else. An excuse to go shopping. An excuse for cake.

Being pregnant really is an incredible experience. Try to enjoy it. But if you are reading this 30 kgs heavier with stretch-mark that can be seen from space, feet the size of buckets and clumps of hair falling to the floor, forget all this and feel free to throw a proverbial tomato at the screen and curse my do-gooding in colorful language.

Just try to remember the light waiting for you on the other side.

Baby, You’re The One! Entering the world of childcare.

2017-11-17_19-44-00_346Grandparents? Childminder? Nursery? Quitting the day job and staying at home to get your hair pulled by sticky fingers for years to come??

Leaving your child with someone else is no easy decision. Even that first time you escape for an afternoon to get your beehive hair under control and leave your little treasure with friends, or in the doting claws of grandparents, can be daunting. But that ominous End Of Maternity Leave deadline that looms ever nearer and spells out entrusting Baby with another caregiver might be enough to reduce a mother to a quivering wreck.

Whilst finding the right childcare very much depends on your personal situation, priorities and local options, below is a handy list of pros and cons to keep in mind when choosing a ‘home from home’ for your most treasured possession.

Option 1: Grandparents

Oh, the grandparents. They were there from the start, bearings gifts, good advice and endless cuddles. You know they have experience: they have managed to get at least one baby over the line to adulthood! But are they really the right care for your mini me?

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Pros:

  • Free (usually). Whilst you might want to give your parents something for their troubles, it is unusual for them to charge as much as a formal childcare provider
  • Loving. Other people might like your children, they may even come to love them, but is anyone going to just adore them as much as Nino and Nonna? No!
  • Flexible. Unlike formal care, grandparents don’t work set hours. If you are working flexi-time or building up your hours slowly, it is nice not to have to commit to a set schedule before you have figured out what’s going on. Similarly, if you are running late, you are not risking penalties (other than evil eye) and your general schedule can be more relaxed.

Cons:

  • Unreliable. This depends on your parents, of course, but here I am going to assume they want to live their independent adult lives too? Whilst they are able and willing to spend time with Baby, they are probably not committed to the realities of taking on full responsibility of looking after Baby All Day. You might have to work around their schedule for parts of the week or give them time off or bingo etc., which may not be right for you if you are going straight to full time work.
  • My way or the highway. Routine or rhythm? Cuddle or cry it out? Pick-them-up or leave-them-down? Everyone has different views on parenting. Whilst in formal care you might give instructions and ask certain rules to be respected, you may come to clash with grandparents that have firm views contrary to your own.
  • You’re simply the best… or are you? Childcare isn’t just about leaving Piccolo with someone who makes sure they won’t starve or stick forks in plug sockets. It can also be an investment in your child’s development. As the little one nears the end of their first year you can see their need to play, socialize, interact. Playing alone in grandma’s garden may not replace the stimulation and buzz of a nursery group.

In all, grandparents can be a wonderful option when you crave a much-needed escape, work from home or just have family ready and available and want to avoid childcare fees. However, if you are diving straight into full-time employment and are set on actively developing your child’s progress you might want to consider other options.

Option 2: Childminder

Friendly, informal, flexible, a good child minder can really create a home from home for your little one. Child minders are usually ladies with their own children or grown-up children that have flown the next and are looking to use their maternal instinct and earn some lifestyle cash. So what should you bear in mind when looking for a good one?

adult-black-and-white-books-77167Pros: 

  • Flexible. Whilst the child minder will need to know your child’s routine to plan their week around, they tend to be more flexible than nursery. This generally means that they can add extra hours or days if need be and are usually less strict with penalties for running late.
  • Personal. A good child minder will develop a relationship with your baby as a caregiver that will make your baby, and you, feel safe. If your baby is very young and you are cautious about handing them over to the zoo that is a nursery, a little home environment in loving care might be just the thing.
  • Convenient. A great child minder makes parenting easier. They can offer pick ups and drop offs to school that mean your day can work regular hours. They might even pick up essentials like milk and nappies and then just bill you for it. A great child minder is on your side and at your side.

Cons:

  • Unreliable. Sickness, injury, an unexpected event or a holiday (how dare they!)… all these can mean that your child minder is out of action – and so are you. If you are somebody who can not take time off, this is an important consideration to consider.
  • Informal. Whilst nurseries have to keep a development journal for your child along with other paperwork like incident books etc, child minders are more likely to overlook this and simply get on with the business of looking after your child. If you like to cross your Ts and dot your Is, this informal approach may not be for you.
  • Close and personal. I thought my child minder was absolutely wonderful… until they starting taking on too many kids, microwaving breastmilk (the horror), popping out to get nails done and leaving the babies with husband / assistant / daughter / son / family dog. Make sure the relationship you have with the child minder remains professional – you are paying for certain services and they have an obligation to play by the rules.

I am guilty of falling in love with my child minder. For all the forgotten / “quickly” microwaved bottles of breast milk and expensive bibs given by accident to other children she and her family were just so…. NICE I always felt like I my tongue was tied and I didn’t want to risk rocking the boat. Predictably, things didn’t end well and they ended up being investigated by the care inspectorate. So here is the lesson: feel free to love the child minder but remember: you are paying for a service. Never allow them to bend the rules for being ‘nice’.

Option 3: Nursery

Really? Will all the big kids? The riff raff that are going to pull my little Barnaby’s hair, spit in his morning porridge and hit him on the bum with a plastic spoon? Staff that will forget to change his nappy and swap so often that he’ll never see a familiar face? My list of concerns, stirred by the aforementioned child minder who often reminded me of the horrors of nurseries (and, indeed, other child minders…) I was slow to awake to the benefit of a good nursery. However, once there, I have never looked back. Here’s why.

boy-chair-children-1001914Pros:

  • Qualified staff. I might have thought my child minder was great while it lasted in terms of just being loving and caring in general, but the reality is that nursery staff inevitably have to be qualified over and above anything you might find in more casual care, including closely monitored qualification to staff ratios.
  • Stimulation. Yes, the aforementioned riff raff are going to be your little one’s best pals! Depending on the personality and attachment your baby has developed to mum and dad (influenced by the age at which you wish to place Baby in care, as well as other factors: other kids at home etc.) your mini me might react differently to being with other kids.  Still, your little primate is a social creature and will soon love to be with all their new mates. Plus there are tons of other people to get to know and multiple play rooms to terrorize. Do you really want to build a sand pit or mud kitchen at home? Point made.
  • Reliability a.k.a. avoiding being bitten on the bum by other people’s health, vacation schedules, bingo tournament dates (…) If you are about to go on a work trip and you don’t want to suddenly find that your regular care has picked up a nasty bout of cat flu, a nursery is for you.

Cons:

  • Strict schedule. Gone are the days of chatting away on the minder’s sofa long after official pick up time with the minion sleeping in the corner or suckling away unperturbed. Nurseries (generally) open at 8 and shut at 6. Fines for being late are steep (£7 for every 10 mins, in our case) as the staff understandably want to go home. If you cannot clock out on the dot, this may present a problem.
  • Inflexible. Our minder was quite happy for us to occasionally miss or swap days with no charge or charge half fees for our holidays. At nursery you are committed to keeping Baby for set days week in, week out, whether you come or not as they have to keep your place. If you don’t work the normal 9-5 and have a vocation that ebbs and flows between busy and calm, you may find nursery care to be bad value.
  • Poorly wee thing. Kids seem to pick up everything going, especially from other kids. Generally, this shouldn’t concern you as part of it is all in the name of strengthening the good old immune system. However, if you are tired of waging war on the next wave of vomiting bug / head lice / unidentifiable but annoying lurgy, nursery is not going to help you keep Piccolo out of trouble here.

Every baby is different and much of how they get on at nursery will depend on their personality and previous experience with other care takers. Much also depends on the nurseries in your area: newness / staff / location – remember, you are going to be dropping off / picking up most days of the week, so don’t underestimate what a toll picking an inconvenient location can take, no matter how good the place is!

Trust your instincts. I have seen some nurseries that were great on paper and with great facilities, but my little one just didn’t seem to take to them and just cried. When we came to the nursery he goes now, the staff were friendly and caring, the place looked clean and well-equipped, the other kids were cute, and Piccolo couldn’t wait to get off my lap, on the floor and going! That’s what everything clicked and I just knew – we found The One.

Your Other Options

If none of the above options seem right, here are some others to think about:

  • Nanny. I don’t have experience of nanny care as this was not an option for us. However, if you have the funds, the house and the need to fund a day or live-in nanny, this can work out well, especially if you have other kids. Remember to research your rights and obligations. You may wish to use a good agency to ensure you get the right references and support if things go wrong.
  • Shared parental care. If you are really not keen on giving your little one away full-time, perhaps you can consider working part-time and leaving them part time with any of the above or Parent Number Two.
  • Cousins unite. If you have a brother and sister who also recently ‘popped’, I have heard of siblings taking care of each other’s babies and swapping days so the other one can get to work. Added benefit of little ones being friends and together.
  • Working From Home. Perhaps your job allows or even encourages working from home, or perhaps you are considering going freelance and turning early nights and nap times to profit. The success of this depends on your job, but consider carefully if you can really commit to your work with the little one going rogue around the ankles. You may find yourself ‘sitting between two chairs’ – work not done and guilt as you have not been able to play with your adorable, cooing chid who may have essentially seen you ignore them for hours.
  • Quitting work. The big one. Having kids changes your life. All of it. If you have always had doubts about your Human Typewriter – type job and had dreams of being a kaftan-wearing Sitar-player, this may be your chance. Remember, there is no ‘Real World’ – only Your World.

Conclusion

Taking your little baby out from under your wing and placing them into the hands of other people can be frightening. It can make you feel sad, emotional and even have you questioning if you are ‘bad mum / dad’. Your heart may make you feel like you want to keep your little darling by your side forever. Your mind, however, might remind you of the bills, the missed career opportunities and the fact you want to keep your identity too, outside of ‘her / him indoors’ or ‘mum / dad of Baby B’.

Whatever you decide, remember that millions, nay, billions of human beings have survived and thrived whilst in the care of people other than their parents. Don’t be influenced by advice of parents / friends / lady in the supermarket. Every baby, parents, locality and financial situation is different and only worry about the choices that are right for you. If you go down one road and you don’t like it: change.

Remember, make decisions that are right for you, not what you think the baby will ‘thank you’ for.  Babies are master adaptors and as long as they are cared for and well-looked-after will soon settle and enjoy their new situation. You may feel like Parent of The Year for quitting work and staying at home, but your baby may be a social creature who would love to have the chance to make new friends. Oh, the joys of parenting where, one day, you will be blamed or thanked for things out of your control no matter what you do! So take heart, take courage, and take the step on your baby’s new journey of development and adventure.

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You CAN have it all – but you can’t DO it all: the importance of support in early parenthood.

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If you have kids, you know the feeling. You’re tired.  Wait, make that ANNIHILATED. You may have had, let’s see, 1 hour 36 minutes of sleep. You’re an interstate highway of hormones. You’re hungry. You’re thirsty. You are recovering from various possibilities of delivery with various degrees of success – or, if you’re the partner, supporting someone who is.

There have been blood, sweat and tears. There may be hemorrhoids. And, at the centre of it all, there is a tiny human being whose existence and survival you, and only you, are now entirely responsible for.

Welcome to the joys of parenthood! Yippee!!

Now, this is not to put anyone off having children. The human race must go on, after all. But facts are facts and it is important to realize that a living, breathing tiny human is no tamagotchi or a baby Annabelle doll that you can put away. No, Friend. This is life. FOREVER.

Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuun.

Amid the chaos and madness of life with a newborn comes the inevitable flurry of visitors and ‘friendly faces’ that poke about asking helpful things like ‘How much sleep are you getting?’ (none, thanks for reminding me), ‘How is breastfeeding going’ (Slow, sore and seemingly endless. Can I interest you in seeing some chafed nips?) and, personal favorite, ‘Is (s)he a good baby?’ (aaaarggggh gggggrrrrr rraaaaaaaargh).

Yes, having a newborn to look after is not easy.  Luckily, there ARE some helpful people that come around bearing babygros, making tea in silence and even, joy of joys, offer to take your baby for a couple of hours so you can get some kip. However, there are also those saps that treat a visit to a family with a newborn with the same sick relish of bystanders of a car crash, wagging their tongues at gory details, pain and misery.

The truth is, as you settle to your little ‘bundle of joy’ (expectation, much?) there may be times when you are feeling anything but joyful. Yes, of course you are proud. Yes, of course you are ecstatic to see bump become baby and bring life into the world. Yes, of course you think your baby is the cutest and most beautiful thing ever and you are excited beyond words.

However, having gone through 9 months of physically supporting another human being inside of you and then delivering them into the light through a massive physical and mental effort, you could do with a week at a spa and a beach holiday sipping alcoholic drinks through a swirly paper straw. Instead, you’re wiping thick meconium from tiny nappies, surviving on biscuits and cat naps and generally trying desperately to make sure this helpless human being survives and thrives in the big wide world.

Tired has taken on a new meaning and you are TIRED.

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A taxing delivery or complications do not help matters. Nor does a lack of real support.

Ah, support. What is support? True support. Not the kind of support where people sit around barking rules, instructions and old wives’ tales. Not people telling you with all the sensitivity of a Rottweiler that you are ‘doing it wrong’, whatever it is in question. Not the kind where people ask you how you are and expect to see a gleaming smile and a blissful ‘wonderful‘ because they are uncomfortable dealing with real, raw emotion.

Support is getting the help with whatever you need in that moment. For parents of newborns, support commonly includes:

  • No. 1: help with bubbah so mum and dad can get some SLEEP!
  • cooking
  • shopping
  • having a tidy around the house
  • bringing clothes, nappies and equipment if baby comes a wee bit early and mum and dad are caught short
  • encouraging mama to breastfeed if she wants to and offering reassurance
  • if partner has to return to work, keeping mama company and coming over for cake and a chat so that she can have a shower, go the bathroom ALONE and generally get some adult company

Support ISNT:

  • coming up with unsolicited opinions / advice
  • asking questions that should be rhetorical – ‘How much sleep are you getting?’, ‘Is he a good boy?’
  • make mum / parents feel worried with questions like ‘Is that normal’? ‘Should she be doing that?’, ‘Are you sure he is getting enough milk?’
  • sitting around asking for cups of tea and meals. These are not normal times. If you are a guest, make your own tea – and for the parents whist you are at it.
  • ASKING IF THE BABY IS A ‘GOOD’ BABY.

This is a personal bug bear, but what is with people asking this question? Define ‘good’. The baby is just a baby. This question does nothing more than worry parents about being incompetent. Unless their baby is a heavenly angel who sleeps 12 hours straight, breastfeeds with the efficiency of an deep sea oil extraction pump and gives the parents back rubs in a quiet moment. In that case, feel free to make big, sparkly eyes and sing-song ‘Ooooh yes, a very good baby. We are so lucky, aren’t we, Lawrence? #Blessed“.

When the baby comes there is a seemingly continuous list of duties that will have you wondering how three simple tasks: feeding, changing nappies, sleeping, can occupy ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT, the two often indistinguishable and running into each other.

In addition, there is recovery from birth to be done, dealing with all the visitors and generally trying to get back a semblance of life that does not revolve around baby. Not easy when said baby suddenly decides to cluster feed in a services McDonalds parking lot on the way to the family’s first ‘big day out’. Nice one, baby.

Welcoming a newborn into your life is a time of happiness and celebration. It is also a time of exhaustion, big learning curves and walking about in a stained dressing gown. Everyone wants to know how you are but probably wouldn’t appreciate you detailing the ebb and flow of your lochia.

Today’s society does not make it easy for new parents to get along with things in their usual mad, messy and emotionally unstable way. Hectic, ecstatic and occasionally miserable, welcome to life! Not like some aspirational Instagram poster-mum in hot pants in Nikki Beach Cancun, Day 3 after birth.

Parents are expected to look like this:

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The truth is, how easy or hard you find to adjust to parenthood does not always have everything to do with you. Adjusting to parenthood depends on a number of factors. Some are:

  • what kind of delivery you had
  • what kind of pregnancy you had
  • whether this is your first child
  • whether this is a planned pregnancy
  • proximity of family
  • proximity of friends with kids
  • whether you have a partner or are raising the child alone
  • your financial situation
  • your house (bungalow with garden? Fourth floor flat, no lift?)
  • the time of year you had your baby
  • your mental health prior to baby
  • whether your baby is healthy or there were complications
  • how baby and you are adjusting to breastfeeding
  • your partner’s attitude to you and baby

and many, many more!

Of course, babies pop out all over this big blue planet and the vast majority survive and thrive. A tiny studio flat on top of a chippy can be as good as a palace for a baby as long as it is loved and cared for. Nor is raising a baby in a palace any guarantee for an easy adjustment to life with a plus one. But there are many things, the first of which is having a network of trusted friends and family who can share in some of the childcare duties, that can ease and influence your transition into this bright new world.

The message of this blog is: Do NOT be afraid of experiencing raw emotion.

Don’t be afraid of being exhausted.

Don’t be afraid of being occasionally miserable.

Don’t be afraid to admit you are.

An estimated 1 in 5 mums and 1 in 10 dads experience baby blues, so if you are feeling down, you are not alone! Hey, if rich and gorgeous Chrissy Teigen can open up about postnatal depression with a full-time live-in nanny, that husband and those legs (!) (read her open letter in Glamour magazine here), why shouldn’t it happen to you??

Feeling down, crying, questioning things, snapping at your partner – this is the stuff some moments are made of. If you feel you are not ‘performing’ or handling things as well as you should, try to be gentle, forgiving and loving with yourself. Some tips are:

  1. Get some REST! Do NOT be superwoman. Bring in your parents or a good friend you can really trust or time share with baby care with your partner. Do what you have to do, but get some sleep. Sleep is important. A good night’s sleep can totally change how you feel.
  2. Make time for yourself. You are not JUST a mother (or father). Yes, your baby is number 1, but you can only give what you have. So look after yourself first and try to make time to do things that you enjoy, whether it’s taking a yoga class, going for a quick walk or having an uninterrupted phone call with a friend. Do NOT sit there getting thumb cramp checking Snapchat on your phone. Do NOT obsess with how baby is doing. Make this time count.
  3. Talk Talk Talk. Talk to your mum. Talk to your partner. Talk to your friends. Talk to your GP, your midwife and your health visitor. Talk to PANDAS. Get a doula and talk to her (Me: “Hello!”). Don’t try to keep it all inside or be embarrassed. The more people know about how you feel, the more people can help you. People can’t help you if they don’t know what’s wrong. Understand that it’s ok to be going through things and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad or incompetent mum or dad. Mental health is complicated and you feel what you feel – no shame in that.

The truth is, it’s ok to have those moments. Mind you, Moments. Maybe days. Certainly not weeks. If you have been feeling low for a week or more, it’s time to call a GP, talk to your midwife or health visitors or turn to a postnatal depression support group such as the PANDAS foundation. They are not going to judge you or take away your baby. They will help you find a way out so that you can start enjoying life and find yourself again.

Conclusion? Yes you can have it all. All the cuddles, all the surprises, all the explosive nappies, all the sleepless nights, all the drama, all the worry and all the love and joy of having a small baby. But, just like a busy executive or a famous pop star, getting good assistance around you frees up your time and energy to enjoy the really beautiful stuff.

You have had a baby and it’s ripped through the structure of your life like a firework. You are dealing with new challenges, new schedules and a new identity. It’s a period of change and it requires time to adjust to. But adjust to it you will. Soon, I promise you, you will wonder what on earth you did with all that time you had in the era of BB (before baby). And you will not be able to imagine NOT having your warm, fuzzy, incredible, beautiful, magical, loving, funny, adorable baby in your life.

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