I think I’ve reached the good part…

Cub has just turned one, and I have to say, I am absolutely loving being a mum at the moment.

I make no secret of the fact that I found the first year really hard. For the first three or four months, he was colicky, refluxy, and generally fussy. That gave way at about four months, and we had a couple of lovely months when I started to get back the sanity that I thought I’d lost forever! Then we hit teething at six months, which seemed to continue for an eternity. At nine months, he started nursery, and picked up every bug going. Another two disastrous months with no sleep followed…

Don’t get me wrong, I would never say I didn’t enjoy the first year.  It was as amazing as it was difficult, and no matter how little sleep I’ve had, I would still do anything for the little man. But God, young babies are hard work! Really hard work!  There are people out there who think that the newborn period is the best. I regard these people with suspicion. I fear they have faulty memories- that, or nannies.

My newborn cried, a lot. I’m sure they all do. He was extremely cute, but you can’t really play with a newborn. You can’t even raise a smile for weeks! Tough crowd!

But now, he’s turned into a gorgeous, proper little person.  I sing, and he giggles. I dance, and he tries to copy me. He hears music, and he bobbles his head around like a nodding dog.  He waves and claps high fives, and he can say Mama. He squeals with happiness when we push him on the swing, and chuckles at the ducks on the pond. I’m sure he thinks dogs are strange little men doing a funny walk, and he laughs at every one that we see when we’re out.

He sees a goat and tries to climb it, because the world is a climbing frame….

He chats to himself constantly in his own language, and greets Mummy and Daddy with the biggest smiles. And he has his own, quirky little sense of humour. Light switches, animals, noses and tongues are all hilarious!

He has a personality all of his own. He is boisterous and energetic and curious. He is independent and loving and carefree.

Maybe I’m just not a tiny baby person. The first part was fascinating. But this is pure joy.

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This is really, really, really hard

Friends without babies often ask me what having a baby is really like.  Before the cub came along, I asked people that too. The response is almost always “hard work… but worth it.” Hard work? I thought. I’ve worked hard before, I’m not afraid of hard work. Everyone has babies, how hard can it be?

Over the past 9 months, I’ve learned what a huge understatement “hard work” is. I write this post while we are in the middle of dealing with a particularly nasty bug. The cub is puking randomly, and because of this I am at home looking after him (despite having only returned to work last week.) He is hot, cold, snotty and grumpy. He does not eat. He will not be distracted, played with or placated in any way. He cries, a lot. 

He is visibly exhausted, but he will not sleep at night. For the first two nights of the bug, he was awake at least every half hour, all night, 7pm-7am. And not just awake, but crying. I do not deal with listening to the cub cry very well, I find it deeply distressing. I hate not being able to help him , I hate feeling like a useless mum, I hate that he is tired and in pain. I want to fix it, and I want some quiet, and I want to go to sleep. If he is crying, I cry too. I can’t bear him being so upset.

And on a different level, the constant noise drills into my head, and I start to feel frustrated and angry, and I want to run away, far far away. All night, I listen to him cry, and I try to help him, and he goes to sleep momentarily, and wakes again, and cries again, and my brain tells me to hide, and I cry. I feel  guilty that I feel anything but compassion towards this sick, helpless little one. My self-esteem plummets, and I decide I am an awful human being.  I offer him my breast. He rejects me angrily.

All day, he cries and moans, and whimpers. My nerves are shredded to pieces and I feel like I can’t take another minute. I need to go somewhere quiet, and rest, and sleep, and dream, for more than half an hour. But there is nowhere to go, he only has me. I plan meals, which he does not eat, I try to read stories but he cries. I try to play, and he cries. I try to sit with him for a cuddle, and he cries, and struggles, and tries to get away.

I fantasise about sleep again. I fantasise about having a night away, child free, about that holiday to Vegas that we never went on, and that we probably never will now for years and years. Then I feel bad. He is just a poorly baby, and he depends on me completely. How selfish of me to choose to have a baby, then wish for all the things I took for granted before.  He needs me, so I carry on.

This is hard. This is really, really hard.

Fitness Friday: Week 2

Here’s my entry for week 2 of Fitness Friday- you can read all the other entries at Adele’s Monkeying Around blog.

Name: Laura
Blog: Cake and Tea Blog
Twitter: @cakeandtealover
Starting Weight: Loads. That’s all I’m saying.
Target Weight: Lots less!
Amount Lost: I weigh in on Sundays- the first is this week so I’ll update a week behind. But after a quick mid week peek at the scales, I’m hoping for a good result!!
Amount to Lose: First of all, 2 stone 6lb to get to pre baby weight, then about the same again. It sounds better split in two!
Dress Size: 18
Target Dress Size: 12/14
Why I want to lose weight: Lots of reasons…. I have a wardrobe full of nice summer clothes that I would love to be able to wear this year. I worked so hard to lose weight before I got pregnant, and I am annoyed at myself for gaining again. And I didn’t reach my final goal last time, so I have unfinished business! I want to prove to myself i can do it. I want my fitness back. And I want to look amazing!
Changes To My Fitness Plan: I think I should aim for 4 exercise sessions a week instead of 5. I don’t want to feel like a failure for exercising 4 times!  And I need to be a bit more focussed with the running, that half marathon won’t run itself.
How I Feel This Week Went: I am very proud of myself! It was my first week back at work this week after maternity leave, and the Cub’s first week at nursery. Considering I’ve been in tears quite a lot at the idea of these huge changes, and we have had some truly dreadful sleepless nights, I have eaten well and managed to exercise. Normally I would have had my face in a bucket of ice cream! I feel really positive and motivated. Looking forward to posting my Sunday weigh in result next week!

Tips I Would Like To Share:

-Tell lots of people what you’re doing, so you know you’ll feel like a right loser if they catch you with a plate full of chips.

-Keep a food diary. If you are forced to admit to eating leftover fishfingers, you’re more likely to avoid them! It helps you to see what your trigger points are too (stress, boredom, etc)

-Have sugar free jelly in the fridge, and something like Options hot chocolate in the cupboard. they are great low calorie quick fixes if you need something sweet.

-Find someone to have a proper gamble with on who will lose the most weight- I have a bet on with my husband on who will lose the most in January, and the loser has to buy the winner a lovely present! Now I just need to decide what I’ll ask for… any suggestions???

Back to work…

This week, I returned to work after 9 months on maternity leave. I had really mixed feelings leading up to the big day. I was sort of looking forward to using my brain and socialising with adults, but I was dreading leaving my lovely little Cub. In fact, the day before, I cried virtually all day. I was an absolute emotional wreck.

It wasn’t just the fact that I had to leave him that was upsetting me- it felt like the end of an era, a reminder that my baby is no longer a tiny little thing that sleeps, coos and smiles- he is nearly a toddler, full of personality, crawling around at light speed and demolishing everything in his path in his curious, clumsy, irresistible way!

My husband and I took him to nursery together on his first day. We gave him to his key worker for a cuddle and some breakfast, and kissed him goodbye. I thought it was best to keep it short, so we left, and he didn’t really seem to notice- too busy making new friends!

I thought about him all day at work. It didn’t help that I had no PC access set up and no work organised, so I had a lot of time to think. I thought of calling the nursery to check on him, but decided against it. I made tea instead. Then I thought some more. Then I had lunch. Then I missed him some more, and willed it to be 3pm. At hometime, I walked so fast to the nursery that I looked like one of those bum wiggling olympic walkers, but I didn’t care, I was just dying to see his little face.

When I went back for him, he was tucked up in a buggy, snuggled up in a bundle of blankets, fast asleep. He had just come back from a walk.  We let him snooze while his key worker chatted me through his day- he had apparently eaten everything he had been given, and even made a bit of an attempt to take a bottle (I had been worrying that he wouldn’t take any milk at all.) He had slept a little, and played a lot.

And me? Well, work was ok. I’ve had a good catch up with my colleagues, but I don’t really have much to do yet, so we will see. In a way, it feels like a bit of a rest from full-time mothering. So far, so good.

I couldn’t have really hoped for a better start. I hope Cub will learn to nap there,  as he only had half an hour each day in his cot, leaving him frantic and overtired at home! But other than that, he seems happy, and I’ve just about stopped crying. Hopefully that’s the worst bit over with.

Crunchy or Chewy? A mum politics test!

This week, I came across the term “crunchy parenting” for the first time, referring to hippy parenting (“crunchy” like granola!) As far as I can fathom, crunchy parenting may include, but is not limited to, breastfeeding (especially over the age of one,) co-sleeping, cloth nappying, buying organic, babywearing, not using cry-it-out, baby led weaning, homebirthing, homeschooling, and possibly some form of vegetarianism or veganism.

Having just started using Twitter, I am amazed at the amount of people whose bio basically repeats the list above. I think that’s amazing, and I can’t imagine how much effort goes into maintaining that sort of lifestyle.  I have always thought of myself as a hippy sort of soul, but when it comes down to the everyday stuff, I am fairly mainstream, to be honest. So, just for fun, I am going to formulate a quiz, and try and place myself somewhere on the continuum of crunchy, and the opposite, which I shall call “chewy.”  Let’s see where I end up…

Criteria 1- Milk Feeding

 I am a breastfeeder, but it always seems weird to me when people congratulate me on it. I’m really really lucky that I’ve never had any soreness, or problems with supply or latch, so it’s just what I’ve always done. I expect to feed past the age of 1 (can’t see the point of giving up when I go back to work, if I am only feeding morning and night.)  But I am not adverse to giving the odd formula  feed if I’m going out, and am certainly not a militant type that will  crusade for everyone to breastfeed, whatever it takes! It’s none of my business. Crunchy score 4/5

Criteria 2: Solid feeding

As I’ve posted before, we are doing baby led weaning, and I love it. I also really love meat, and am definitely not vegetarian.  I occasionally buy organic, but not if the price difference is significant. Overall, a bit crunchy, but not much. Crunchy score 3/5

Criteria 3: Attachment Parenting

Ok, time for some confessions. I have used CIO, and it saved my sanity. I have let my baby sleep in my bed, but I didn’t sleep a wink. He was in his own room at 10 weeks. I bought a carrier, and got the straps twisted, forgot about it, and never used it out of the house. I have no intention of home schooling. It surprises me a bit that I haven’ t done any of this stuff, because it sounds like something I would do, it just didn’t turn out that way. I suppose the only way to find out what sort of parent you are is to suck it and see. Crunchy score 1/5

Criteria 4: Nappies

Disposable. Sorry. I never really looked into the eco-friendly options. I really wish I had, but I didn’t. So I am chewy, chewy, chewy, like a treacle toffee. I feel lazy now! Crunchy score 1/5

Criteria 5: Birth choices

I had a hospital birth. I would have liked a water birth, but I was too high risk (more on that another time.) I did just have gas and air though… I sent for an epidural but the baby moved faster than the anaesthetist and it never happened! Next time, I would love a home birth, and I’m reasonably confident that I could handle just gas and air again. It would be lovely to move freely, and not to be strapped to monitors and surrounded by an ever-changing sea of faces. So, my experience has been mainstream, but I wasn’t keen. My ambition for next time is  crunchy as hell. Don’t tell the husband though, he thinks we’ve finished at just the one! Crunchy score 4/5

Total score:13/25

That puts me firmly in the middle, and I bet that most mums are. Kudos to you if can manage to go the extra mile, wash those cloth nappies, and get through those patches of sleeplessness without either sleep training, or going bonkers. Kudos too, if you make confident and balanced choices that make your family happy, and encourage your children to shine- whatever path you take.

 I think this highlights the sheer number of decisions parents have to make for the tiny people that depend on them. Quite often it feels like a minefield, but we muddle through. As long as our babies are happy and healthy, we should be proud of the choices we have made, for surely that is the only goal- and there is no easy way to parent!

 

Spontaneous Sobbing

This week, I went to a spinning class. I loved it, right up until we got off our bikes to stretch. The cool down song was Eric Clapton’s  Tears in Heaven, about the death of his 4-year-old son.  I promptly burst into tears, though I would have insisted I just had  sweat in my eyes, had anyone asked.

Since I had my little boy this year, this happens daily. I can’t listen to the news, read a newspaper, or watch a film, without becoming hugely emotional about any child related content.  When I was pregnant, I watched Three Men and a Baby. The “baby in mild peril” scenes were too much for me, and I turned it off. Not kidding.

This is the one thing no-one warned me about. I was warned I would be tired, sick-splattered, grubby and ungroomed. I knew I would be chubbier, less cool, and even less rich.  I knew I would love my baby. I did not know that loving a child is sometimes like having your nerves stripped bare. 

This is not weakness, it is a gift. I have gained a sense of deep empathy, and with it comes a fiercely protective instinct.  The two go hand in hand, and feel like internal sea-changes, but also essential and instinctive parts of my femininity. I will happily jump in front of a bus for my son. But in my everyday life, I care more deeply than I ever did about how we can make our lives better in small ways, like breastfeeding, recycling and buying organic if we can. 

So yes, I may cry spontaneously, randomly and constantly, but next time, I will be proud to do so. It means I am doing a great job as mum.