Becoming

Not to be confused with Michelle Obama’s masterpiece (sorry Mrs O) but I needed a big old “B”title because this is a big old post…

Apologies for the radio silence for the past few months. I haven’t stopped parenting or writing imaginary posts in my head, I still have two very energetic, charismatic littles and a hefty, full time job: I went into serious survival mode and had to reduce screen time, and increase sleep and sustenance (beige food) time. That’s right folks… we have some news: we are in the process of becoming the FFF. The FF Five. Or FF cinq if you want to ruin the alliteration. You read correctly, ‘we’ have launched into the journey that is growing another little (and final, insofar as my manufacturing unit is concerned) addition to our family. And let’s be honest, by ‘we’ I, of course, mean mostly moi.

Anna Lewis the Sketchy Muma extraordinaire, also responsible for the Feature Pic. Love her work.

Why?! Mon dieu! Are you CRAZY? People have already asked when, at about 2 minutes pregnant I looked about 6 months gone… THREE!! Yes, we are cognisant that 2 + 1 newbie takes us to the momentous number of 3… but just as a quick refresher of the incredible journey we’ve been on, there was a time, not that long ago in the grand scheme of our lives, that we thought we might never be parents. We were not going to have our own babes and we were seriously exploring whether we could be candidates for taking care of someone that didn’t already have what we hoped we could give. That feels like a lifetime ago. Look at us now. Grateful and blessed doesn’t even begin to cut it… Anna Lewis nails it every time:

The amazing Sketchy Muma Anna Lewis

Chaos shall continue to reign supreme in our house for another 5 years or so. Nappies shall be strewn everywhere, along with odd socks and milky-smelling muslins. And we clearly don’t care for the environment … cheers for that HRH Sussex family. By the way we really do- and as a side note question to you parents out there: how do you communicate environmental responsibility to small kids? No matter what I say, Big Bro doesn’t understand that there isn’t an infinite supply of bath water, toilet paper and food in the world for him. “That’s a tree!” I cry in despair as he puts half a roll of toilet paper into the toilet. “No it’s not Mummy?! It’s toilet papier. Trees are much bigger. And green. Silly!” Ok “but where did that paper come from?” “The shop. Next question please.” Smarty pants. Any tips or book recommendations would be very welcome.

Anyway, back to being pregnant and slowly starting to contemplate the practical logistics of 3 under 5s. Panic face. It seems we need a new car? Or a bus? I’ve seen there are some sort of magical car seat inserts for most types of car, but anyone wiser and more experienced than me on this business, I would appreciate any guidance…

I can’t even contemplate a triple buggy! Is that a thing? Big Bro is going to have to deploy his most walky of walking legs at all times going forwards.

We’ve had a few incidents in the past weeks that just make me feel waves of panic about next year. Simple recognition that I don’t have enough hands. Or body strength to lift 3 humans. And what sort of gargantuan energy reserve can I call on to survive sleepless nights plus the intensity of the conversation topics we have these days around the table. How on earth will we get them all to go to bed? Bedtime has a tendency to be like a circus performance at the moment, minus the jazzy special effects, and plus an exhausted Mama who isn’t exaggerating when she offers to switch places and climbs into bed instead of the kids. Bedtime is question time in our house, and questions can come in thick and fast “why is two minutes too many Mummy?” Literally no idea what you’re talking about Big Bro. “But if a whale is swimming and you touch it’s nose, and then, well, a fish might go past.” Right. Then “but Mummy how does the baby come out? Is it from your belly bottom?” Can I save the answer until later? “Aii aiii aii blanky mulk, ans Bababaaaa blahb sheeeeep.” Bebette’s input.

By the way, this pregnancy journey has been hard so far. Wow I’ve been so tired, so so sick, and despite my very best intentions to be a fit and healthy mama to be, trying to maintain some semblance of my former self like the pregnancy unicorns out there that continue their regular exercise habits in their normal leggings… no chance. My maternity ones already look like they are ready to give up. The first three months I just about managed to get to the toilet, the kids beds, my computer to get my job done, and then the sofa. I was useless. I was unpleasant to be around. I was vomiting all the time. More than ever before. And I really didn’t know if I would make it through each day. Madness now to think that, as I feel so much better. Those first months are so all consuming. And you just have to keep every part of you crossed that you will get the opportunity to see it through.

This is not my first rodeo (ok I’m not technically qualified to say that as I’ve never been to a rodeo – Texas friends help a girl out)- but I have been pregnant a few times. I should know how to handle this. But seriously, I struggled. I am struggling. The backlog of 3.5 years of exhaustion, the ongoing physicality of toddlers and working, plus co-running a house, was almost too much. Almost. Why? Monsieur FF pulled me from the edge of my cliff of despair, and took on the lion’s share of whatever he was able. I know if he could he would co-carry this babe with me. Kudos, again, to you Mr FF. You put the “TEA” and most of the “M” in TEAM – and I appreciate it, even if it was a struggle to shout it from the toilet.

We have also been extraordinarily lucky to have extra hands from our respective parents, and despite them being far afield, they’ve stepped in to offer extra care for the kids, and ensure we are nourished and enjoying basic survival during those first tough months of pregnancy. Thank you and Merci if you are reading. We are so so lucky to have our parents and sisters and brothers.

Things I had forgotten about the early stages of pregnancy, just as a quick recap:

  1. Every morning feels like you have a massive hangover. It is not remedied with a Burrito. And at no point are you pleasantly tipsy.
  2. Within seconds of peeing on the stick, I start to bloat and nothing fits me. For some reason, my babies start growing in my upper arms and thighs. And then spread to my whole legs and don’t even start on the derrière.
  3. I am acutely aware of my expanding shape and spend a lot of time rounding weeks up until my size feels proportionate to pregnancy level. So around 8 months I’ll be fine.
  4. I’m not exactly body confident at the best of times but pregnancy often has me avoiding my own reflection. It’s a shame as it’s such a huge honour and so blinking amazing, but I struggle not to see a pregnancy rhino. This is not helped with comments from friendly persons who remark on size of bump, and the age old “are you sure it’s only one?” – yes nowadays the scanning technology is pretty accurate. Thank you. After highlighting boys tend to be neat little bumps, “It must be a girl!” Cheers.
  5. Everything feels heavy. Especially my eyelids around 5pm.
  6. The smell of coffee, the thing that usually has me jumping out of bed in the morning, is enough to trigger a toilet dash. Going to Starbucks is like the equivalent of going to the Jorvik Viking Centre also known as Britain’s smelliest attraction. Perfume has me choking and any smell is too much smell. Which makes it hard to function with little people who walk around with pee in their pants and my own body struggling to adapt to the newly expanded bat wings and associated heat retention they bring.

You get the impression. That’s it for now folks. I’m back in the game, so more to follow soon. Meanwhile please do share with me any hints, tips or sanity checks you can as we toddle onwards into the heart of the chaotic storm that is FFF!

Bouncing and other funny stories

Ahhhh bouncing. How I miss you. How I loved a good bounce around back in the day. A bit of trampolining was my favourite. I mean I *really* loved it. Like going to my friend’s house and having a go on her trampoline and thinking she was the luckiest girl alive. Like the moment years of pestering finally paid off and I “persuaded” my parents (I now know this means whined them into submission) to get a trampoline for the garden. The pinacle of joy.  I joined every after school club possible and even made the trampolining team (that was for enthusiasm over skills, obvs). The fear and excitement and joy of getting a leotard on, and hair slicked back, ready to bounce in front of the judges. All eyes on you, your pointy toes and your major wedgie situation…

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Pretty much me

Remember:

Must point toes.

Must get arms up by ears and realllllly straight.

Must smile.

Try not to shake or you bounce off in a random direction.

You know what I never once thought about? Peeing myself. That’s right kids, I had complete and utter bladder control. I took it for granted. Today I don’t think I would make the team. I think the team would be mortified and the wedgie would be the least of my worries (although not insignificant :D).

Pelvic. Floor. There are few words in this world that trigger an immediate reaction in adult women, but I’m fairly sure those have to be number 1. You’re squeezing right now, aren’t you?

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Me explaining pelvic floor to Boddler using weird hotel art – he’s choosing to ignore me and singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

Pelvic floor muscles. The muscles that support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowels and uterus) and cover the bottom area of your pelvis. We all have them, we are warned about exercising them, during pregnancy we are reminded of the importance of the pelvic floor muscles on a regular basis by knowing midwives, but the truth is we rarely exercise them. Before motherhood you probably don’t have much need to. But, once you eject a bebe, whichever way that bebe comes out, your pelvic floor will take a hit and you need to work hard to restore it.

The wonderful NHS website states: “strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help stop incontinence, treat prolapse, and make sex better, too.”

So, it’s really quite important.  What I find really astonishing is the lack of support and follow up that comes as standard here in Britain for this critical post partum area. Over the channel, in my second motherland, la Belle France, the attention to rehabilitation of the pelvic floor is second to none. Every single French mother gets 10 physio classes offert to assist them in getting their muscles back to full function. As I understand it they even get a magical wand which is used to expedite the process. How can our neighbours so clearly recognise the importance of this therapy and over here you are laughed out of the GP for time wasting, or told by your midwife they will refer you, eventually, if it’s “really bad”? It’s like you just need to deal with it. Now you’ve given birth, well, you’re a bit broken and you’ll just have to get on with it. Sorry. There’s almost a stigma attached to it. Why do you need your pelvic floor anyway? You don’t want to be the next face of Tena lady?!

It doesn’t really sit with my image of superwomen who have grown and ejected a bebe whilst doing their day jobs. If anything, women deserve a double dose of support having done all of that and still operating alongside our male counterparts. We still run around after the kids, we still lift and push and do all manner of strenuous things despite having put our pelvis through hell. And if you do have some struggles, some discomfort, or leaking, what does “really bad” look like compared to “normal”?

 

 

When I gave birth the first time with the epidural, I had no sensation when I was pushing and I pushed seriously hard. Maybe too hard, if that’s possible. I almost exploded my eyeballs, and I ejected my catheter twice. Once the little guy was safely in my arms, and sensations restored, I had approximately zero bladder control for the first few days. Loss of continence, or incontinence, went on for a week or so and then gradually, and thankfully, started to strengthen. During those initial days I really thought I was broken. I panicked. How would I carry on with my life if I needed nappies for the rest of my days? I tend to cough and laugh quite a lot. Do I need to stop those things?! I asked the midwife if I would ever be the same. “Give it time. We will refer you to a physio if it’s necessary.” Well on the first count, she was right. Time is a great healer and it is true that these wondrous bodies of ours will rapidly rehabilitate themselves. Remarkably in a few short weeks (although it feels long in the moment) your bodily functions start to restore. However, it’s hard to ascertain if you’re completely restored, or as restored as you are going to get.  How do you know? I practised regular squeezing along with post natal yoga when I was ready, and there was a lot of focus on exercising the pelvic floor. I was also told squeezing whilst breastfeeding expedites the strengthening process, but it may also be because you’re doing  it so often it’s a good distraction from the nibbling and dribbling going on elsewhere.  In any case, the pelvic floor exercises are critical.

 

 

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Fast forward to my second birth and I did a bit of research before the madness set in. I want a functioning pelvic floor (and abdominals) now and, importantly, as I get older and my muscles naturally start to weaken. I don’t want to wait until I’m so broken that I can’t function.  I want the French treatment. I found a physio team that offer post partum therapy and the therapists are familiar with, if not trained in, the French techniques. The London-based physiotherapists I’ve found are called Mummy’s Physio. My experience with them so far has been very positive. Ok, pelvic floor physio is about as glamorous as it sounds. For us prudish Brits, and I’m really up there on the red face scale (I don’t even like wearing swimwear in “public”, perhaps this stems back to the leotard wedgie horrors… anyway I digress) it’s hard. No one particularly wants to be prodded and probed, it’s an uncomfortable conversation to discuss your pelvic function and honestly it’s hard to remember and to make time to do the exercises, BUT I know it’s so important.  And certainly the team at Mummy’s Physio (and I’m sure many others) will make you as comfortable as possible.

I urge you to do your exercises, wherever you are in the parenting game. Download the NHS app, Squeezy, to remind yourself to do them. And don’t be afraid to explore rehabilitation options with your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed. If you have private healthcare you may well be covered.

We are powerful women.  Let’s keep our bodies strong. 

Precious pelvic floor power to you all x

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You are worth it!

PS. In case you aren’t familiar with them, this is how to do pelvic floor exercises from the NHS website:

How to do pelvic floor exercises:

  • close up your anus as if you’re trying to prevent a bowel movement
  • at the same time, draw in your vagina as if you’re gripping a tampon, and your urethra as if to stop the flow of urine
  • at first, do this exercise quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately
  • then do it slowly, holding the contractions for as long as you can before you relax: try to count to 10
  • try to do three sets of eight squeezes every day: to help you remember, you could do a set at each meal

As well as these exercises, practise tightening up the pelvic floor muscles before and during coughing and sneezing.