Do what you gotta do

So tired
Ah, sleep deprivation.  The moan of all new parents.  There are many many things that took me by surprise when I first had my baby.  So many things that I felt were misrepresented to me or I was just plain naive about. 

However, I at least thought I knew what I was getting into on the tiredness front.  I mean, it’s the one thing that everyone tells you before you have a baby.  The fact that you will become a walking zombie is drilled into you again and again.  And I always knew that I was going to find that a bit tough.  I have always needed a solid 8 hours to really feel like a fully functioning person.  To the extent that even only getting 7 hours a night for a couple of nights in a row, and I feel quite ropey. 

So I braced myself for a rough ride.  And I’m afraid it was so much worse than I thought.  I’m so sorry if you’re reading this trying to prepare for what is coming but I think you should know what you might have to expect so you can plan better.  I think I would have appreciated a proper heads up.  

My baby didn’t sleep.  And I was breastfeeding so I couldn’t split the feeds with M.  We both agreed that there was no point us both falling apart, so he started sleeping in the spare room.  I didn’t need him disturbing me as well as the baby disturbing me.  Coz did I mention that my baby DID NOT sleep??  Not for more than an hour and a half at a time at best.  And 45 mins at the worst.  And the rest of the time she was SO DAMN NOISY!  Grunting and moaning and snorting and squeaking.   No bloody chance I could sleep through that!  I even resorted to ear plugs at one stage (don’t worry though, I could still hear her if she cried). 

And it broke me.  She would only sleep on me for naps so no chance to doze then.  And I suddenly realised why sleep deprivation is an effective form of torture.  You feel yourself going mad.  Totally mad.  Forget trying to drive anywhere safely.  Hell, I could barely make a cup of tea safely.  It was bad.  And I can honestly say that I did not enjoy the first two months of being a parent as a result.  I seriously wondered what the hell we had done.  Is that too honest?? Well it’s true and I think someone should say that it’s not all a bed of roses. 

So – having scared the pants off you, I’m here to say this.  Prepare for the worst.  Make a plan.  Do what you have to do!   Because there are things that I would have done differently.  Firstly, if you are breastfeeding – pump milk!  I know, it’s a pain and a faff and difficult to fit into your already screwed up day (you know, coz you have a new baby and all) and it’s so so boring.  But do it.  And then insist, INSIST that your partner gives the baby a feed in the early evening.  I’m talking anywhere between 8pm and 11pm.  And you go to bed at 7pm.  Just do it.  You need that time to sleep.  Your partner may not be thrilled.  Again, being honest, I think M found it harder to adjust to having the demands of a new baby in his life than even I did.  And there was certainly resistance to make sacrifices to what he called his ‘me time’.  I probably let him get away with that too much.  I needed help and I should have demanded it or at least set the expectation from day dot.  He got better though. ūüôā 

You should accept all and any help you can get.  My mum saved me.  She started coming to stay over so she could take the baby at about 4am when bubs would start to get really restless.  I was generally not getting any sleep from about 2.30am onwards.  I am eternally grateful to my mum for this help.  It was hard to accept because I hate admitting when I can’t do it all alone, but taking that help was vital. 

In my darkest moments at 3am, when I was going out of my mind, there were many things that I googled.  Many many things.  And one thing I came across was a ‘night nanny’.  Now, I never actually used one in the end but my god, they sound like a gift from heaven.  Essentially, at extremely short notice, they will come to your house and stay the night with the baby, only bringing her to you when she needs to feed.  Once fed they will then take and settle the baby again so you can rest.  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Sign me up for that!  It’s not cheap (bout ¬£100 per night?) but if we ever have another I will be putting my pennies away from the day the stick turns blue for this.  To know that even one night a week I might actually get some rest would be simply magic. 

Or, as my friend did after being woken 12 times a night for months, get a sleep consultant!  She swears it was the best money she ever spent.  Her baby slept for 9.5hours the other night as a result and as a new mum, I can tell you that this can make the difference between enjoying your baby and your life and, well, just not.  

Now of course, you may have one of the many many babies that sleep stretches of 5 or 6 hours from the very early days.  From everything that I’ve read and people I spoke to, my bubba was particularly poor on the sleeping front.  I mean, she wouldn’t cry (for which I was very grateful) but she sure as hell wasn’t asleep.  But that’s not necessarily going to happen to you if you’re reading this in anticipation of having your own bundle of joy.  I sincerely hope your baby sleeps for hours.  This is now the nicest thing I can wish for anyone.  

I will finish by the saying that if your kiddo turns out to the worst sleeper in the history of man, then you should know that it does get better. With no form of any sleep training, bubba is now almost sleeping through the night.   It does not last forever.  Honest.  

And I should say that if you are a single parent, doing this all alone, then you are, in my view, an honest-to-god superhero.  Seriously.  You are something special.  And your kid will grow up knowing that.  I send you all the hugs in the world.  You are a hero. 


To blog or not to blog: that is the question

Alpacas in the snow
Ok, well.  Not to give away the ending or anything but, given that I am indeed ‘blogging’, I guess the question is answered. But please feel to read on regardless of this spoiler. 

I think the trick to this here ‘blogging’ lark is to still write even when you’re not sure you feel like it.   

I’ve had a lovely lovely week just gone.  I had time off work and spent it with my family doing, well, not doing much actually.  Dog walks. Nice lunches.  Staying in and making my daughter giggle uncontrollably by tickling her.  It was epic.  I throughly recommend a week off mid-Jan.  Christmas is never exactly relaxing, what with all the excitement and a million people to see.  And having this week off definitely helped with the January blues that can sometimes kick in.  It felt like a proper proper break. 

But for various reasons it made me think about some stuff that is bothering me at the moment.   Nothing major, and writing the above now makes me realise that I don’t have much to complain about but nonetheless, I felt a bit blue about the state of affairs in some aspects of my life and, frankly, it kinda killed my blogging buzz.  I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to write about (and I’m still not, so sorry for the irritating vagueness) but it was mostly what was occupying my thoughts, so I didn’t know what else to say.  I’m not great at the ‘fake cheerful’ thing – it just comes off as creepy and weird.  Which is always hot. 

So I didn’t blog.  Which is dangerous because then I start wondering whether I should bother at all if I can’t rely on myself to write something regularly.  But I’ve pushed through.  I’m back to work and I’m back here.  Can’t get rid of me that easily after all.  And if you’re having your own January slump, I hope the above picture of alpacas in the snow helps cheer you up.

Who would have guessed

Before I had a baby I had a few set things in my head that I would and wouldn’t do. I’m sure every potential parent does.  Those things that are the line in the sand which must not and will not be crossed.  To my past self I now say, you are a moron.  Don’t be such a numpty.  You will do anything and everything you need to do to survive.  And if the baby is still alive at the end of the day you will feel that you have succeeded.  

Frankly I now firmly believe that there is too much pressure about the whole parenting thing.  You MUST breastfeed.  TV is the devil.  Dummies are evil.  You should or should not (depending on which way you lean) co-sleep.  And don’t even get me started on the ‘right or wrong’ ways to give birth to your baby!  That’s just a minefield asking for new mums to end up feeling horrible and guilty if they don’t have a beautiful, peaceful drug free birth with barely a whimper.  I gave birth unexpectedly on my hallway floor having taken just two paracetamol several hours before. Believe me, at that moment, I would have taken bloody horse tranquilliser if it had been offered.  One could say that I had a natural, drug free birth and isn’t that lovely.  Well it didn’t feel bloody lovely and I more than whimpered. I screamed the house down.   But that’s just me.  I edge towards the dramatic generally.  

Anyway – my point is that most of my ardently held beliefs about how I would raise my child have disappeared.  I have a general direction I’m steering in but other than that I’m pretty flexible.  I’m getting to grips with the whole ‘tiny new human’ business in general, although it hasn’t all come naturally.  More on that some other time.  What I hadn’t really considered before now was that bubs may have some ideas of her own that she wishes to implement.  Bit of a shocker that one! 

I was not (and still am not) a big baby person.  I completely adore my own but I’m generally the person who avoids other people’s kids.  I don’t really get their cuteness appeal.  Puppies, yes. Babies, not so much.  So due to my self-enforced lack of experience, it never occurred to me that an 8 month old may actually have an opinion!  That is, until we started buying bubs toys. 

I had always said that I didn’t mind messy toys. I’m really looking forward to when we can paint and play dough and generally create the crap out of stuff. Bring it on. But noisy toys?  No. No, no, no.  And preferably also a limit to the garish plastic monstrosities that seem to be inevitable with small children.  Of course, predictably, my house is now littered with singing cuddly toys, plastic flashing, music blaring toys and a massive, garish, impossible to store, Fisher-Price jumperoo which also sings and flashes lights, just to top the whole nightmare off.  And bubba loves it all.  Just bloody loves it.  C’est la vie. 

But I never ever imagined for a single second that I would spend a penny of our hard earned cash on the most disgusting doll I have ever seen.  See photo above.  It looks like the victim of a hideous accident.  But bubs chose it.  She saw it in a charity shop and her whole face lit up.  We had to get it for her.  And she is never happier than when she is trying to stick its whole face in her mouth.  It makes her world complete.  I give up.  Bloody child has a mind of her own.  Unbelievable.

Book love: No Impact Man

Photo credit:

I bloody love a library.  When I worked in my local town, I used to go all the time in my lunch break.  These days, by the time I find a moment to return the books I’ve borrowed, I’ve usually run up the equivalent of a small mortgage in fines.  So I don’t go as often.  Which is a shame.  Because what is better than a whole ‘bookstore’ of random books that you don’t have to pay for?! Nothing. It’s epic.  

It was as a result of a random library grab that  I ended up  reading “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan.   Changed my life.  Bit dramatic, yes, but not wholly inaccurate.  It’s just brilliant.  (Link to the book is below.)

I confess to not being the most environmentally conscientious of persons in the past. Lights stayed on. Recycling was a pain and generally the eco warriors could hug as many trees as they liked but that wasn’t gonna keep stop me running my fossil fuelled central heating full blast the moment the temp dropped below 20 degrees Celsius.  I like my crib warm, yo! 

But this dude, Colin, looked around his central New York apartment with his wife and kid and decided to take their standard high consumer lifestyle and radically change it for one year to produce no waste. None.  Not a scrap of waste or rubbish produced – that was the aim. And he documented the whole thing.  It’s brilliant. And hilarious. And really inspirational. So much so that I after I returned it to the library, I actually bought it.  On kindle. So no waste.  And I’ve read it repeatedly since. 

Although I do not aspire to live a completely waste free life – Colin’s experiment was a tad extreme – it does mean I now question the choices I make. It led to me deciding not to buy any more ‘new’ clothes. I have now, for several years, tried to buy my clothes only in charity and second hand shops.  Therefore I don’t contribute to the constant cycle of production and waste.  I wear what others have already discarded. There are some exceptions to this rule – underwear, socks etc. Or when I’ve desperately needed a really good fitting pair of jeans RIGHT NOW!  But I would say that about 99% of time now, my clothes are second hand.  And you know what?  Best thing I’ve ever done.  I have more fun shopping (coz you never know what you’re gonna find) and I have spent a ton less cash.  It also means I get to shop a lot more because I know it’s not going to break the bank.  I’ve started getting rather picky which means the quality of clothing I now buy is exponentially better than it otherwise would be. 

Take yesterday – I picked up a Ted Baker top and dress from Oxfam.  ¬£13.98 they cost me.  Together.  ¬£6.99 each. And I thought that was quite pricey compared to what I usually pay.  But I decided to treat myself!

I get to wear Superdry , Jack Wills, Hollister, Joules and quite a lot of Hobbs stuff for work.  If you’re in the market for something specific, eBay is a good bet.  Although eBay tends to be pricier and you can’t try on obviously, so it’s a bit of a risk.  I’ve had some disasters (black  A-line skirt which gaped at the waist and hung unattractively around my ankles at the bottom as an example. Ugh) but mostly it’s pretty good. The only thing I’ve struggled to find is a good quality fitted black jacket for work.  If it becomes urgent I will buy it new, but I’m loathe to do that coz I know I will find the right one eventually. I always do.  

So thank you No Impact Man.  There’s so much else in the book that I would like to implement but this one small change is brilliant.  And I get to feel genuinely smug when I see how much my sister spends on clothes.  Because I’m nice like that!  

(Linky link to book:

Working mum: Bit of a rant

I didn’t actually intend this to become a rant. I was going to talk about some of the aspects that played a part in my decision to continue working after having bubs.  But the more I thought about what to say the more I began get worked up about a bugbear of mine and I thought I’d put it out there. 

Actually, it’s more than just a bugbear as far as I’m concerned. It’s a complete outrage.  For the sake of reference I should say that I was extemely lucky to receive a good education and a combination of hard work and good fortune means I had a decent career lined up by the time I got pregnant at 30.  I am aware that not everyone is in my position.  However my outrage is on behalf of everyone. 

My issue is this. We live in a country where women are still paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same work.  While deeply disappointing, this isn’t surprising since there is no country in the world where that isn’t the case. 

However, that problem is compounded exponentially when looking for childcare.  When I was considering our options for childcare I was genuinely and deeply shocked at how much it costs. I remember looking at the rates for a particular nursery in my area and seeing that it cost ¬£70.  Now perhaps I was terribly naive but genuinely my first thought was, “¬£70 a week? Ok, that’s not too bad.”  Of course it wasn’t ¬£70 for the week, was it? No, it was ¬£70 a day. And not even a full day at that. 9am – 5.30pm.  I honestly nearly died of shock. What the actual f*ck?!?  Firstly, I work 9am – 6pm and quite far from home at that. I leave my house at 7am.  I’m sure that’s not that unusual. What the hell am I supposed to do with bubba at that point?  And who is going to pick her up??  9am-5.30pm opening times is as much use to me as a bloody chocolate teapot.  Oh I’m sure there are additional options available for me to consider to accommodate those extra hours but they’re going to cost me a lot more on top of the (frankly stunning) amount of ¬£70 a day I’m already paying, aren’t they? I’m probably at looking nearer to ¬£100 a day by then. 

Now, yes. This was the first place I looked at and yes, with further research there were nurseries that opened longer (7am-7pm being the best) and others that were cheaper.  You do need to look around.  While I still don’t actually get home until 7.30pm at the earliest, M would be able to collect her on time.  So there was a viable solution. But – and I can’t stress this enough – these options were ONLY available to us because we both happen to have quite good jobs and could afford to consider them. 

Take a fairly typical scenario: woman gets pregnant.  She has always worked but she earns less than her male partner.  She then has her baby.  He is only allowed 2 weeks off paid and she has to take a minimum of two months.  They have the option to split the parental leave between them but can’t afford to – if he stops work to look after the baby, he will only be paid the statutory amount of ¬£140 a week and she doesn’t earn enough to support both of them (or, rather, all three of them by now).  So she then takes the full 9 months or year off work to look after their baby.  She may or may not want to do this but financially there is no alternative. 

Then she looks at returning to work. But turns out that with childcare being so astronomically expensive, most, all or even more, of her earnings would be spent on childcare. She would literally be leaving her kid with a stranger to go and work for nothing.  Now, if she wants to start or continue a career that is going to pay off years down the line, then actually this would be the sensible thing to do. But bloody hell that’s a hard choice to make!  Who can blame her when she decides not to go and graft all day to simply hand it over to a childminder who has had the benefit of seeing her kid grow up instead of her.  Instead she decides to stay home with her child until such time as they start school.  Then she may consider starting over and trying to return to the workplace. 

Of course by this time she is now miles behind her male counterpart who has not taken time off to look after his kid and, in fact, was likely to be paid more than her in the first place for doing the same thing, even if she hadn’t taken a break. 

And then we wonder why the top of the career ladder is so heavily male dominated!! The system is inherently designed to f*ck over women. It makes me absolutely raging.  Most people (sweeping generalisation here, I know) will probably want kids. Not just women. Men too. But biology dictates that only women can perform the vital function of keeping the human race going. It’s not our choice.  Believe me, ask any 9 month pregnant woman whether she would like to share that burden with her partner – chances are she’ll say yes!  But despite men also wanting to have kids, you don’t hear them worrying about the affect it will have on their career. It’s not something they have to worry about.  For women, it is a fight from the moment they get pregnant to stop it de-railing everything they may have worked for. 

I decided not to let it de-rail me. I fought. That was my personal choice and I know it’s not right for everyone. But to make sure that the decision my partner and I made to have children doesn’t undermine the career I have spent years working to build, I have had a massive uphill challenge and had to make sacrifices.  And I have needed and been given the complete support and help from not only my partner but also additional family members.  For the record, we did book a nursery slot but my mum then offered to look after her instead.  I am extremely grateful.  

If I was in a different position or if any one of the puzzle pieces wasn’t in place, I wouldn’t be able to afford to go back.  The system f*cks women.  And I hate that my daughter is going to grow up in a world where her choices might be limited purely because biology dictates that she must carry any future child she may have.  It makes me very very cross.   Not to get too political but the government need to look at sorting the situation out. I don’t know what the solution is (I haven’t had time to think about it – give me 5 minutes though and I’m sure I’d come up with something!) but I hope to god that someone is thinking about it. It’s completely bloody wrong. 

Rant over.  For now. 

A plague on both your houses

Gah! Illness has befallen us. Actually that’s not strictly accurate. Illness had already befallen (befellen?) me over the New Year.  I saw the New Year in with one eye open under the duvet.  Party animal, that’s me.  I’m on the road to recovery, thanks for asking.  But now the baby has befallen ill (enough with the befallen already) and we are all really suffering.  I have a horrible feeling I gave it to her, which adds another level of rubbish to the already crappness I am feeling.   Hooray for parenthood.
M is taking the brunt of the pain, poor man, even though he is currently holding out against catching this cold himself (he says he is resisting it by the force of his sheer awesomeness.  Um…yeah, ok.)  But even despite that, he’s struggling.  The thing is, the baby sleeps with a dummy.  It’s one of those things we said we’d never use and we lasted two solid days after her birth, before M made an emergency dash to Boots and came back with the life saving plastic silencers. She doesn’t have it while she’s awake any more but still wants it to nap and sleep.  If it falls out she wakes up. But have you ever tried breathing through a blocked nose while you have a plastic sucker in your mouth?  Well if not, let me enlighten you – it doesn’t work.  And so the baby can’t breathe. Which means she can’t sleep. Which means that M who does the night shifts with her at the moment doesn’t sleep either.  

Add that to the fact that bubs (who is normally the happiest baby you’ve ever met) is being whiny and clingy during the day because she feels poorly and you have a very sad household.  Poor baby girl.  And I’m feeling guilty for swanning off to work all day and leaving M to it. He’s only got a couple more weeks looking after her before he’s back to work and it’s a shame that it’s being spoilt. Bah. 

Anyway, I’m writing this on the train as I do the aforementioned swanning off.  Funnily enough the guilt of leaving is now fading fast with every passing minute towards my quiet, dummy free, work place… Sssh – don’t tell M.  Poor man.  Wish us all a swift recovery! 

10 ways to make your life infinitely more stressful 

1. Get pregnant (coz that’s never a barrel of laughs. Although resemblance to a barrel is unavoidable.) 

2. Change jobs while pregnant thereby ensuring that you miss out on the lovely enhanced maternity package you were entitled to at the old job whilst ensuring you are no longer entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay from your new job coz you haven’t been there long enough.

3.  Have your waters break and be sent home when you go to hospital because you’re not far enough along yet and ‘coping really well’.  Do not question how being on all fours in the waiting room, unable to speak, is classed as ‘coping really well’. 

4. Have an unplanned home birth a couple of hours later on your newly laid hallway floor with your terrified partner delivering the baby. Yeah, you heard me. Awesome fun. 

5. Give birth with only two paracetamol tablets for pain relief.  Yeah, paracetamol – that drug that barely touches a headache.  That’s the one. And only two tablets mind you. You don’t want to take the edge off or anything. Might ruin what we’re going for here. 

6. Have a baby that doesn’t sleep. Not even a little bit. Certainly not for more than 45 minutes at a time.  If the above 5 points haven’t done it for you yet, this is a guaranteed winner. 

7. Repeat point 6 for at least 2 months.  Go mad. 

8. Fly to Australia with 3 month old. Oh go on, you know you want to. A 24 hour flight each way has never sounded so good. 

9. Look around lovely, beautiful house you only finished renovating and moved into a year and a half ago. Mumble the words ‘catchment area’ and ‘playroom’.

10. Sell beautiful home without having exchanged on the wreck of a place you are now buying in a good catchment area, with a playroom, that will need months if not years of work to make nice (did someone say ‘extension’?!) 

And one more for luck in case you’re still feeling all zen despite following the above steps: 

11. Move back in with the parents for an indeterminate period with a new baby in tow! 

You can’t fail. I promise you. 

Back to the daily grind

First day back to work after the Xmas break.  I’m sat on the train and the heating is broken and it’s absolutely freezing.  Plus it’s running late because of ‘slippery rails’.  I know it’s the age old commuter moan but for crying out loud – we live in England people! It’s often cold and it’s always wet and yet it apparently remains beyond the reach of the rail companies to somehow find a way of dealing with the most basic of weather conditions without everything coming to a grinding halt.  Amazing.  As you can tell I’m in a fabulous mood for my first day back!!

Actually, I’ve just realised it’s my first year’s work anniversary today.  Technically I joined my company a year ago but I was already pregnant when I joined (yes, that was a fun conversation to have with an employer I hadn’t even started with yet) so I was only there for 3.5 months before I went on maternity leave.  I was then off for 6.5 months looking after my little girl (aka ‘the munchkin’, ‘bubba’, ‘bubs’) before returning at end of October.  So I still feel very much the new girl.

M (the other half) has been looking after bubs since I went back to work.  We decided to do that terribly modern thing you can do now where you split your parental leave.  So he’s having 2.5 months off work on daddy duty.  I’m not sure he knew what he was signing up for when we agreed this (before baby arrived I might add).  He seemed to think it was going to be a three-ish month holiday! Hahahaha.  Hilarious man!  He’s done brilliantly though and bubba totally adores him.  It’s super cute.  She’s our first and I think it’s fair to say that parenthood has been a steep learning curve.  I’m miles away from being a ‘natural earth mother’!  I subscribe much more to the ‘scraping by’ method of parenting.  But she’s still alive and happy 8 months in and we’ve survived (so far) so I’m taking that as a win. I find if you set the bar really really low, it’s amazing how much you can achieve!

Oh god.  It’s now the end of my day as I’m finishing this and I’ve just been offered used tissue by a random stranger drinking beer on the bus. God bless you London public transport – you never fail to entertain.  Don’t even get me started on the time I found 3 random potatoes on a bus seat. Just three. All alone. I kid you not. I will now leave you to ponder how, what, and why ???? as I have done ever since…

New year, new blog, etc. etc.

It’s always tricky to know what to write for a first blog post. ¬†Chances of anyone reading it? Practically nil. But you need to say something to get things off the ground or you’ll never actually start and just spend forever playing around with WordPress themes.

I love writing and I love writing blogs. ¬† I have never really got to grips with twitter – it’s too restrictive. ¬†How am I supposed to condense my thoughts into such a limited space?? ¬†Simply not possible I’m afraid. ¬†However hard I try, I will always end up using ten words where two would do. ¬†And I’m in my thirties now, so it’s unlikely that will change. ¬†If there was ever a decade in your life for just accepting that you are the way you are, your thirties is it I’ve decided. ¬†Or is that just an excuse to quit making New Years resolutions? ¬†Maybe…

Anyway, I spent a while thinking about what this blog should be about. My favourite blogs are always about a central theme. ¬†But my life is too chaotic for that. ¬†If I restrict myself to only talking about a certain element of my life, I just won’t write anything when something else is dominating my head space. ¬†So instead this is just going to be me, saying it like it is.

Too cheesy to end the post with the blog name??  Yeah Рa bit.  Oh well.