Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two's company...

Phoebe now has company, in the form of Darcie Hannah, who was born on 10th June, looking like this:

We had a home birth, which was lovely - two days actually getting into labour and then 55 minutes from being 3cm dilated to actually having a baby. Maybe I'll write a whole post about that for people who like the gory details...

Having two babies is a challenge. I'm expecting it to become much more of a challenge when Matt goes back to work in a couple of weeks. It's difficult to manage breastfeeding and a toddler; night feeds; toddler tantrums; leaving the small baby to cry while I get the big one some food; but the hardest thing for me has been emotionally adjusting to not being able to respond to Phoebe immediately, or letting Daddy look after her while I look after Darcie - I feel like I am letting her down constantly. I have to remind myself that she did cry and have tantrums and get frustrated before we had another baby, and that the long-term benefits of her having a sister outweigh the short-term upsets. I did know this might be hard, but I didn't expect it to be quite as painful as it has been. But we're all surviving so far...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oops, I did it again...

So, we've had the scan and our second baby is another girl (yes, that's my pregnancy announcement...). We are delighted. I was convinced that we were having a boy so am still adjusting to the idea of two little girls. But it feels like quite a relief, in the end - we've already got lots of girl clothes (and it will be lovely to re-use some of the clothes we loved Phoebe wearing) and if necessary they can always share a room - it feels very practical.

Second pregnancies are very different to first pregnancies. For me, there's a lot less shock and upset to deal with as this one was planned, so it's much less stressful. Mostly, I feel less ill and when I do feel ill I don't have time to lie on the sofa feeling miserable as Phoebe's not that interested. Having said that, when I'm exhausted I can't just lie on the sofa and have a sleep as Phoebe's... not that interested.

It's not just Phoebe. People are very pleased for us but there's not the same excitement. A first pregnancy is a rite of passage, a transition from being non-parents to being parents. Second time round, you're just increasing your family size. I'm not complaining, just saying it's not worth having a second baby just to relive the attention of the first pregnancy.

I'm much less worried in many ways. I know I can carry a healthy baby, and I don't have time to think about my pregnancy in the same way that I did. I have a much better idea of what it will be like having a newborn - and I know I can survive (though coping with a newborn and an 18-month-old is not, I imagine, going to be fun). I'm more relaxed about getting ready for the baby - at least I was until the 20-week scan - now I know the baby is almost certainly ok I'm making lists and thinking about names etc... But there are new things to think about. Mainly Phoebe. Firstly, what are we going to do with her when I go into labour? Will she be ok? When do I ring whoever is going to look after her and ask them to come and get her? I don't really want her in the house during the early stages when I'm wandering round mooing like a cow. And I certainly don't want to leave it too late (giving birth at home with just Phoebe as a midwife? No thanks!). But then I don't want to call people out on numerous false alarms. And secondly, how is she going to cope with losing our complete and full attention and discovering an interloper in the family? I know millions of people have coped with this and I'm sure we will, but it's the new journey into the unknown...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Toby Young is an idiot

I am so rubbish at updating my blog. It isn't likely to get any better either. However...

Toby Young was on PM on Radio 4 today, commenting on the forthcoming changes to maternity leave. He is a father of four and said that most men wouldn't want to take more paternity leave as they were desperate to get back to work. He said he had felt useless at home and that his wife was glad for him to go back to work (if I was married to him I'd be glad for him to go back to work too). This, apparently, is because women intrinsically know what to do with babies, whereas men are too stupid to work it out. Or something.

I had to keep reminding myself that my one-year-old was sitting at the table with me to stop myself shouting "bollocks!" and "bastard!" repeatedly. So women intrinsically know how to look after a baby, do they? I certainly didn't. And it's still guesswork a lot of the time. I hated the first part of my maternity leave - when Phoebe was 5 months old I decided to go back to work earlier than I'd planned because I was so bored. Small babies are really dull. They just cry and need their nappy changing and need feeding. After 6 months they start getting interesting, and by 9 months Phoebe was a joy to be with (sometimes).

This idea some men have they they shouldn't have to care for babies because they find it boring and menial and tedious and they aren't very good at it is predicated on the lie that women find nappy changing fascinating and love walking around patting a small person's back to get wind up (winding a baby is the least rewarding activity ever. Is there no wind coming up because you need to keep going? Or because it's all out? No idea. Better keep going just in case). Seriously, babies are not stimulating company for anyone. That's not based on gender, that's based on having a brain.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

I am still alive, I just don't have much to say or much time to say it in. But I read this article just now and it made me laugh - actually laugh out loud, not just one of those times where you write 'lol' but actually aren't - and I wanted to share it with you.

How to feed your baby is one of the most contentious parenting issues around. There are hundreds of pages on the internet where you can share an opinion and get slated for it. Not all pro-breastfeeders are breastfeeding nazis, by a long way. Not all formula feeders are... well, whatever they get accused of being. But there's a lot of shouting and unpleasantness going on.

I had a lot of trouble getting going with breastfeeding. Actually, I was fine. I did everything right. Phoebe had a lot of trouble breastfeeding. She struggled to latch on, got a bit upset at some of the very vigorous help we received, and then screamed every time I tried to feed her. We ended up cup-feeding her formula. After 6 days, I got help from an excellent Infant Feeding Co-ordinator and we had a reasonably happy feeding relationship. I didn't love breastfeeding - I felt tied to my baby and stuck to the sofa - the baby decides when she'll start feeding and when she'll finish feeding and you lose any sense of control you might have once had. But I felt it was worth persevering with as I knew it was good for Phoebe - and I'd worked damn hard to be able to do it...

Until we got to 10 months. I went back to work, Phoebe grew top teeth, Phoebe started biting me. Every feed we had, she bit me. It wasn't the most painful thing that had ever happened to me (that would be labour, I think) but it made me nervous about feeding, which made things worse. And I just feel there are some places that you shouldn't have to be bitten. I did try to keep going for a while, but eventually I decided that I didn't want to be bitten any more and I didn't want breastfeeding to become a massively unpleasant experience. I really really wanted to keep going until Phoebe was at least one and probably beyond that and I think that would have been better for her. But she got 10 months of good milk out of me and I am very proud of that.

So... I've seen both sides of the debate - the "I can't breastfeed" part, the breastfeeding part, the switching to formula part. I believe that breastmilk is significantly better for babies than formula is. I believe that nearly all women can physically breastfeed. I think all women should receive much more support to breastfeed, and that breastfeeding should be normalised in the UK as the baby feeding choice. But I also think that the costs of succeeding at breastfeeding (for me it was a week of a nightmare three-hourly expressing and feeding schedule which left me with almost no sleep) shouldn't be underestimated and each family should be allowed to choose when they have reached the limits of their ability to pay that price.

Essentially, I think we should all be a little nicer to each other. And stop taking meth.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Phoebe's first festival

Longstanding readers of this blog may remember that each August Bank Holiday I go to Greenbelt, possibly my favourite place in the world, and I steward. Last year I didn't go as I was pregnant and too fat and tired to move.

Well, tomorrow is Greenbelt again. This year Phoebe and I are going with Sanctus1, our church community. Matt isn't coming but is on hand to come and pick us up if it's too terrible. I'm a combination of excited and nervous. Camping with an 8-month-old is a little frightening, particularly as she's teething and sleeping badly (maybe it's the rest of Sanctus1 who should be frightened). However, I grew up going on camping holidays in a trailer tent with my parents and four siblings - my brother even went in reusable nappies as disposables didn't agree with him. So I know it can be done.

I'm looking forward to seeing lots of my friends, showing off my beautiful baby, and getting lots of fresh air (hopefully not too fresh). I might even get to see a few bands and talks and take Phoebe to the children's festival (messy play on Sunday!). It's not going to be like my normal Greenbelt, though I expect I'll still be up at 3 am, but hopefully it will be a good one.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Over the past eight months (yes, really!) I've been asked many times variations on "how are you getting used to motherhood?"

Motherhood is shit. Literally. Dirty nappies. 3am wakings for feeds. Constant tiredness. No time for myself. Not much idea what I'm doing. Endless repetitive drudgery. Forgive me if I'm not really selling it. I read somewhere that 'motherhood is not a job that pays in cheques but in hugs and kisses' - but if it were a job I'd expect a pretty good salary and certainly wouldn't be fobbed off with kisses.

But let me tell you about Phoebe. She's just got the hang of crawling. She can sit herself up. And she is pulling herself up onto furniture so I expect she'll be walking soon-ish. She loves exploring and climbing on things - mainly me - and she loves being rolled around. Inexplicably she also loves being carried down the stairs by me while her daddy walks down behind us. She smiles when she sees me and cries when I go away. And I miss her if I'm away from her for more than a few hours - I relish the freedom too, but I miss her. It's not a job, it's a relationship.

However, I'm not prepared to be one of those people who say "when she smiles at me it's all worth it". I'm not sure it's an equation that can be balanced like that - one smile=3 dirty nappies? I don't really do it because I choose to or because it all balances out - here is just where I find myself, looking after my beautiful baby girl, enjoying the fun bits and just too tired to object to the rest.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baby on board?

I have always hated baby on board signs in cars. They suggest either that parents think you need to know they have a baby so you make a special effort not to crash into them (because it's ok to maim or kill the childfree in a car accident) or to warn you that they are going to drive badly due to being distracted.

Now I understand. It means 'expect exceptionally early braking when approaching stationary traffic or red traffic lights; I will do everything in my power to keep this car moving, however slowly, as otherwise my baby will wake up and cry all the way home'.

I still don't plan on having one.