Balls (and the juggling thereof)

Given my lack of blogging recently, you might fairly assume that I have gone into hibernation, like an old hedgehog, OR perhaps that my embarrassing parenting anecdotes have run dry. Mais non! ‘Edgehoggin I am not (I wish). I continue to embarrass myself and my family on a frequent basis. The only thing that’s run dry is my energy. I’m struggling with time management. Really struggling. It turns out that the juggling of deux children, busy job, a marriage, a relatively new home, family, friends and “other” (blogging) is actually quite the challenge (*imagine “challenge” pronounced in a dramatic french accent*).

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I’m not exactly sure what it is about having two little people as opposed to “just” one that makes daily life 359% more complicated, clearly the maths do not stack up, but it’s a parenting truth.

One —> two does not equal double the work. It equals there is no end to the work.

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The ball juggling skills required are next level magician standard. Quite often you are required to juggle with one hand behind your back, because one of the parenting duo arms are out of action (at work/ at social event/ hiding in toilet… not mentioning any names…). Or, you’re challenged in some other way like being exhausted, or hangry, or both of the above in a cafe with irritable children and you realise your wallet is not where you had hoped…

The balls you are juggling aren’t those cool squishy beany clown ones that bounce back if you accidentally drop one, they are fragile like eggs (smash eggs in shopping whilst trying to carry and grab Big Bro making a break for freedom), and hard like rocks when they hit you in the head (subjected to various head kicks and other bodily abuse with whichever child failed to find comfort in their own bed so came to occupy ours). The balls you are juggling aren’t easily replaceable (can’t readily replace child or house or car if I fail to protect and maintain them…probably best to lock them up then.)

Like most people, our day starts with getting up. That simple task that once used to mean exiting bed – to shower – to kitchen – to door – to commute – to work, with multiple coffees. patisseries and pleasant perusal of interweb en route. Then with Bebe FF I could just about manage changing and dressing and feeding him before myself and, with the help of Mondeiur FF, getting us all where we needed to be, but now, with two, it feels that little bit more like mission impossible. Unless I’m barking orders (which goes down a treat as you can imagine) the chances of both children having everything done plus the adults being anything close to ready are similar odds to Brexit ever making any sense…. It’s like we’ve got an egg timer above our heads and it’s constantly on “one tiny drop of sand to go! Hurry the F up!”

If I’m not jogging through the shower and putting my pants on whilst applying makeup and managing my hair (whatever that means, usually rubbing it against something to maximise the backcombed, never-washed look) then I am unlikely to leave the house on time. ‘On time’ means at any point. Certainly I won’t have coffee or food, and most likely I will forget some element of the necessary equipment for the day (wallet, keys, eco-friendly repurposed coffee recipient….) And that’s on the days when Monsieur FF does the drop. I know. The days that I drop, I’m lucky to have any semblance of warm clothing on my body and there’s little to no chance of the “nice to haves”. I have that slightly dazed, chaotic appearance about me that means the carers at nursery approach with caution. “Do you need a hand?” they kindly offer as they glance furtively at my dishevelled appearance and the children attached to my legs and arms. YES PLEASE you absolute wonder women and menfolk! I am rubbish at the “drop” because it’s more like a reluctant, slow and painful pulling at a plaster, twice, because I have to drop one child in after the other, and on a bad day we are all just clinging to each other. I truly enjoy my job, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be parted from the kids. I don’t like dropping them off.

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But look how cute they can be!

Short interlude whilst I work and juggle a few more manageable balls: load some washing, identify food required, have a hot hot drink, etc. Strangely, work time can be some of the calmest time of the day, especially when I don’t have to commute; I’m relatively in control, I am achieving small things without it causing me or anyone else to have a meltdown, and when I talk people (sometimes) listen, as opposed to having a loud chorus of “I want AN ICE CREAM” screamed at me whilst I explain how good vegetables are for you. Especially runner beans which make you run fast FYI. Btw you can’t have ice cream when it’s blinking freezing outside?!? I digress.

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When the end of the working day comes, it’s another mad rush to get to the kids before they hit the ‘extremely tired and unreasonable’ stage. For the avoidance of doubt, I’ve not worked out when that starts exactly, but it’s almost always well underway by the time we get home. I make food whilst the kids are playing (even though they’ve already had about 5 meals at nursery) and then watch them both spray it around their clothes, faces and the floor, chairs, and anything else within a 2 m radius, excluding their mouths, before I give up. Inevitably a “big boy cup” of something will by now be splashed across the table. I try to “whizz” around with the handy little Dyson and it immediately gets clogged with pasta. Should I wait for it to solidify?! I clean away, to make it look semi-passable for the rest of the grown up evening (lol!), and as I hoist the children out of their seats *merde* another portion of pasta falls from their laps and onto my semi-clean floor.

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Gimme gimme gimme 

Next is bath time which entails reservoirs of water, eczema-friendly bubbles and enough bath toys to amuse half of the United Kingdom. That’s not to say one doesn’t need to add some more, as Bebette did when she casually took some apple into the bath last night. Pourquoi pas. Of course then Big Bro desperately wanted to play with the apple and none of the other purpose-built jouets.

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Pretty much bathtime every night in our house… 

Big Brother generously offers to wash Bebette’s hair but isn’t so keen on doing his own, so we have a small battle/dance trying to get his hair clean whilst Bebette looks on in amusement, nibbling her bath-apple. Then we’ve got to exit both children, dry, cream, nappy-up, PJJ on and all trying to maintain some level of calm and pre-bed tranquility. One of the two-person gang (if we are fully armed) needs to disappear to locate milk/ water and sucking devices, as well as ensure beds are ready to receive children.  Stories are told, multiple rounds of Burglar Bill, “Grandma wolf”, Tabby McTat, and then a negotiation that any further reading is solo. “Ok but I want the big book Mummy!” Obviously the most ginormous book of vehicles is the final literature of choice before sleep time, and sleep is signalled by the dulcet sound of that huge book hitting the floor. ONE DOWN! Bebette has decided she doesn’t like to go down at the same time as Big Brother; I’m not sure if she’s cottoned on to the fact she gets all the attention in the evening or she genuinely just finds BB to be too noisey but she ain’t got time for bed with him. So she nods off eventually with us downstairs as we continue to attempt to nourish ourselves/ render the floor passable for another 6 hours/ catch up on any work that is outstanding and urgent/ generally not speak to each other or relax.

And this is the hardest of truths: with two small children and two full time jobs, the main thing that suffers is your relationship. The “leisure” time to unwind and politely converse about the highs and lows of the day is gone, for now. There is barking of further orders, refusal to follow orders, frustrated unclogging of Dyson, emptying of bins, cleaning of kitchen area, and then it’s time to hit the sack because otherwise there is a real risk that hours of sleep may total less than one hands’ worth. The absolute minimum for healthy survival is really 6 hours. Of late, with sickness and excitement and any other excuse they can come up with we’ve been receiving nightly visits to our bed. BB can wander in and just clambers over us and adopts a comfortable position such that he can headbutt one of us and kick the other. Bebette starts mewing when she wants to join the party and also has a magic ability to adopt the most bizarre positions to minimise the available space for the “growmops”. Real life:

 

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This matin

We wouldnt have it any other way. Of course. We are so super lucky. But jeezlouise, this is not easy! Mega hi5s to all parents out there, as always my understanding and respect levels of all that our parents have done, and all that those around me have been doing (don’t even go there with multiples) you are absolutely AMAZEBOOBS. Now to keep it up!

Awesome photos by the talented Clare Long Photography 💕

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Bébé blues

Gut-wrenching pangs of belly ache, uncontrollable emotions with unpredicatable smatterings of tears, irrational and snappy…. sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about PMS or your behaviour when you get to the end of your favourite Netflix blowout and run out of chocolate… These are all symptoms of what I like to call the bebe blues. When I say “blues”, this isn’t the day 5, post-partum hormone hit that knocks you for 6 (more like 10). Those early baby blues are a good introduction for what lies ahead. The bebe blues I’m talking about is the feeling you get when you are apart from your bebe(s). The sadness that washes over you in continuous waves. The feeling that there is something that is just not quite right in the moment, that you’ve forgotten something enormous, something as important and huge as your underwear (metaphorically). The feeling that nothing tastes or smells or even looks quite how it should.  Something is missing. I’m not going all Mel C on you, I’m just trying to verbalise something that doesn’t feel good. It is a bit like a terrible form of torture, as if torture wasn’t terrible enough.

Tu me manques literally means you are missing from me. That’s exactly it.

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I hate being away from the kids. I hate it. Anyone that knows me knows I don’t use the ‘H’ word very often. No need. But here it is necessary and appropriate. I didn’t understand these feelings before I had my own kids. I couldn’t comprehend why someone would want to go home and not go out adventuring. They will be there when you get back?! Enjoy! Go wild!! Forget everything! But now I know. Being away means missing them, missing precious moments with them. Home is where you find your family. Your tree (*stickman*). They want to cuddle you and look at you adoringly and tell you what they did on the potty.  It’s making me smile just thinking about it.

Whatever the reason for the separation from your children, and however long the break, I don’t imagine it ever gets any easier. The endless things to worry about and the “what if” scenarios; it truly is hard to turn off the parenting switch. It’s ironic really. For all the time spent wishing for just a single moment of calm, a toilet trip sans audience, a sleep that isn’t abruptly and rudely interrupted with someone declaring they have finished their “dodo”,… when you actually get that moment of peace, all you want in the world is to be back in the thick of the chaos.

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What chaos?!

Boddler and Bebette have had two parental breaks that were entered into knowingly, and one unplanned break each that we battled through back in November last year with the dreaded Bronchiolitis. I have acted blasée about both the occasions I’ve left my children, all smiles and saying of course it’ll be fine and it’ll do them good etc etc. But inside I’m melting. When the time comes to stretch the magical thread-bond that holds us together, the feelings that sweep over me are just overwhelming. The rational part of my brain (if indeed it exists) seems to close down. Anything could happen. My lungs feel like they are shrivelling up and my hearing seems to mute. I actively accepted this, I say to myself, I chose for this to happen. We needed a moment! But I’m still not convinced … I try to find a way out of the situation and back myself into a corner.

Honestly, occasionally I miss the times when it was, selfishly, just me. I was carefree. I didn’t have to miss anyone  and I could just crack on with business. Now, I’m weaker. I wouldn’t change it for the world, of course, but it’s sad, bittersweet, that it is always going to be so hard.

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Bittersweet facial expression goals 

I realise more and more that when you first have a bebe you’re at the optimal point of your bebe attachment – 0-6ish months, you’re connected, like glue, and they are stuck with you, and often to you. Milky and delicious. From that moment forward your whole life is a very, very long and slow pulling at those magical bonds, until your little bundle is eventually ready to fly the nest and then you have to sit back and watch as they grow their wings and (abw) make you proud. What a journey! And a useful reminder that these moments in life, especially in the early days of parenting, are incredibly intense but are also ones that we will look back on in years to come; the moments we could snuggle our babes so tight, and tell them we love them and enjoy their sleepy gazes and fluffy, sweet smelling heads without complaint. The fantastical thing about missing the kids is the moment you get them back in your arms. There is nothing quite like it.

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Never letting go

 

 

 

Bossy

It has been brought to my attention recently that I am bossy. Bossy! Moi? Shut the front door!!

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Boddler learning my facial expressions masterfully.

You are too fricking right I am bossy. I own bossy, and about 20 million pairs of bossy boots to go with it.

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Just as a quick reminder, I am the eldest of four girls; my mum saw fit to add more kids to the mix as a childminder when we were young, so there were literally hundreds of us. She was our boss and I was the (self-appointed) deputy boss (~Dad sensibly mostly took a pew in the quiet corner of the house). Throughout school and university I jumped at any opportunity to lead and to manage; games, teams, events, projects… I may not always win, or be the best, but I do always do it with a large dose of enthusiasm. And, the very reason I’m writing this and my biggest challenge of all: I’m a mother. I’m a mother of two strong-willed, energetic, feral and fantastic little children. Part of the mum job remit is to be “bossy”, otherwise you simply ain’t gonna get out of the house. You ain’t gonna get kids to bed. And you sure as heck won’t get anything productive done.

Oh please Boddler would you be so kind as to get your little lovely chubby feet into your sandals because we really must go to the shop to get you some milk, don’t you think, wouldn’t that be lovely?” Said no mum ever.

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SHOES ON! COATS ON! STAND BY THE FRONT DOOR!  The command still resonates with me and even as I write it I have to resist the urge to make a mad scramble to the front door, grasping for any stray sister I can en route. That command is how the Mothership got us all to school every single morning, and it mostly worked a treat. Only now am I starting to appreciate the #skillz required to do that.  She bossed us and she got the job done.  Go Mothership!  (Sidenote: for context this was shouted from the top of the stairs, whilst she was still in her nightgown, slowly approaching the bathroom, whilst hoovering and trying to sew a name badge on to something, slurping a cup of tea).

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“Mum, your baby is crying!” I was helpful, even in pint size. Perhaps holding screaming sibling under my arm like a loaf of bread not so helpful.

It is a such a shame that the use of the word “bossy” in this case, by my better half, wasn’t intended to be congratulatory. Or encouraging. He wasn’t telling me I was doing a good job moving a seemingly impossible mountain aka whining children around. It was pejorative (although still palatable with the French accent) and he meant to tell me to calm down and stop being “aggressive” (also his word).

What was it that made my behaviour a negative type of bossy exactly? There are a few factors: (a) Possibly I was hangry.  Fine. That is often the case, I need energy all the time.  I will do better with ensuring I have food supplies.  (b) I was giving instructions without a smile. Maybe. I do sometimes forget to say please and smile when I’m asking for someone to grab a nappy bag, and I am sorry about that. I’m working on it. But most likely it was (c) because I’m a woman. I’m a mum and I was giving instructions about things pertaining to the kids, and clothes, and food, and packing, and family logistics. “Boring mum” stuff. If I had been giving instructions to move a team of army officers, or dealing with an urgent response to a corporate crisis, or something, anything to do with driving a fast car whilst being chased by blokes with guns and dodging bullets (think The Rock), perhaps I would have been told I was leading like a boss. I was being assertive. Winning.  But navigating four people from A to B to C with bags and buggys and food supplies and beverages, on trains and in taxis, in seemingly impossible (sweltering hot) circumstances, simply doesn’t cut it. That’s not a real challenge.  And it doesn’t require bossing.  Apparently. Yes, I physically need help to do it all, I can’t carry a million things and clingy humans, but mentally, I’m juggling it all above my head. Solo.  There simply isn’t room for two people to juggle simultaneously, unless you can mind read, and we certainement can’t, so one of us has to take the command lead.  In this case, me.

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Anyway, it got me thinking again about the clear gender divide, the inherent sexism in the way we use language, still, today; the negative connotations that certain adjectives carry, versus the complimentary and empowering connotations associated with others.  Not surprisingly, the former tend towards women and female “characteristics”, whereas the latter tend towards the men of the world.

By way of example, the Cambridge Dictionary working examples for the word “bossy” (online version) are still largely focussing on an imaginary woman’s behaviour:

“My older sister was very bossy.” <was she indeed.  I hope that wasn’t you reporting me, Fawcett sisters!!>

“Girls of that age can get quite bossy.”  <what age exactly? today age?>

“Stop being so schoolmarmish and bossy!” <what is the male equivalent of a schoolmarm?>

Let’s compare to a few more positive, macho adjectives and their working examples:

Leader: “He’s a natural leader.” <Shocker.>

Powerful: “I get the impression Sheila is the powerful one in that relationship, not her husband!” <Wow. Go Sheila. Perhaps we ought to call the police and a schoolmarm to sort you out?>

Confident“His confident leadership inspired his followers”.  <Presumably referring to our friend Mr T and his twitter team….>

I recently saw a clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking at the Chatham House London Conference. Aside from being an eloquent speaker, and a fantastic author, she is also a strong feminist. Strong, I should note, and not “angry” as she finds she is often described:

“In our world, a man is confident, but a woman is arrogant.

A man is uncompromising but a woman is a ball-breaker.

A man is assertive, a woman is aggressive.

A man is strategic, a woman is manipulative.

A man is a leader, but a woman is controlling”

<and I would like to add: BOSSY>.

Well said.

So, what can we do about this?  Ladies, gents, let’s all make an active attempt to think twice before we describe someone’s behaviour using a pejorative adjective.  Let’s also work to take the perj away.  Be gone negative connotations! I want my children to be proud that they are bossy.  Being bossy is good.  I want them to look back, as I am today thinking of my mum, laughing and dashing to the door all at the same time, and be proud of all that we achieve together.  And also to be grateful.  Thank you Mothership for sorting us all out. Thank you for getting us to so many places and giving us so many opportunities.  Often times, it wasn’t in easy circumstances, and I’m sorry that I didn’t give you more credit for it all. Thank you for doing it and keeping it all together, 24/7.  Let’s be honest, most people would struggle getting out of the door with four children, I can confirm I struggle with a mere half the quota, so hats off to you.

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Mumming isn’t something you can dip in and out of, or that you can turn to mute when you’ve got a banging head or there’s something better to watch on TV.   When you are MumBossing, it’s usually against a backdrop of limited sleep, and questionable sustenance. That alone should render the “bossiness” respect to the highest levels.

I am going to try to be more pleasant as I boss, but I sure as hell won’t stop bossing, and next time Monsieur FF starts to tell me I’m being bossy, I shall thank him, highlight the wins of the day, which may or may not include exiting house and cleaning poo up, and look forward to a congratulatory glass of bubbles.  Go Mamas!  Cheers! X

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cake reward / bribe for all those achieving high boss levels

Boisterous

Boisterous is a word I use frequently to describe Boddler. From my perspective, it’s no coincidence that the word sounds like a hybrid of “boy” and “monstrous”. Boisterous actually means cheerful, noisy, energetic, like “a boisterous group of lads”. That’s a particularly apropriate example in this context.  Lads.

The terrible twos are hitting hard over here in BlablaLand. We’ve gone from cute, monkey-like mischief to full-on kicking, thumping, “go-away”ing madness. Madness because it is actually making me mad. As in, I almost can’t control my temper. It’s one thing to shout “Go away, wee wee!” into the toilet, whilst we frantically wave the little piddle away, but quite another to scream “GO AWAY!” at me when I’m trying to get the little man into bed, accompanied by the odd slap on the face, or worse, to shout it at some poor relative who is trying to say “goodbye” nicely.  Testing boundaries. That is what is happening, it’s normal. But it is hard. I don’t appreciate attitude, especially when it is coming from someone who is a third of my size and 1/17th of my age.  I’ve had to engage in some deep breathing, counting to 3 – for myself – and I can confirm that “Jaymie daddy” has been receiving some of my most deathly glares in the past weeks as we navigate co-parenting this little character.

The thing with toddlers is they are hard to control. There. I said it. I like to be in control and I can’t control my two year old. In fact he is already outsmarting me. That doesn’t say much for my smartness levels, but this really is sinking to a new low.

“Do you want to go straight to bed with no dinner?!”

“Yes”.

Hmmmm.  Plan foiled.

“What did you do at nursery today?”

“I hitting <insert victime name>!”

“Oh no! That makes mummy feel very sad!  That must have made <victim> unhappy.”

“I laughing.”

“Did you say sorry?”

“I say sorry.  I kicking football and played rugby BAM and…I kicking <victim number 2>.”

Nightmare.

“I want a ice cream.”

“What is the magic word?”

“…..”

“Please?”

“Peeeeeeezzzzz I want a ice cream.  MUMMY! I want a ice cream!  MUMMY!!!!!”

“Ok, there you go.”

“I want more!  Mummy, MUMMY!!! MORE!! Mummy, what is that?”

<mummy is discretely trying to eat her much more exciting chocolate covered ice cream…>  darnit.  I can’t even get my sugar hit!

Unfortunately with Boddler, he knows the right things to say. He says his sorry and duly gives his apologetic cuddle, once his crime has been committed.  But what then?  He just keeps repeating the same behaviour. It’s impossible to tell if it is improving as when he stops one mechantise he launches into another.

We have spent some trying to justify his actions as resulting from him being (a) confused – he wants to rugby tackle, or hit a tennis ball, how does he know that you shouldn’t tackle a small baby, and that you only hit tennis balls outside with a racket, and ideally balls that are actually tennis balls and not wooden fruits … (b) disturbed by the arrival of his younger sister… except she just sits there grinning at him… (c) hangry / overtired… well that’s everyone in this house right now (d) a boy… the most likely problem.

Toddlers have a lot to learn at this age, they are absorbing everything like sponges, and the main things they need, as I understand it, are patience, love and support.  And possibly a naughty step.

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Casual meltdown en route to the plane. Papa is on it.

A major problem I have when I’m entertaining both kids is how to look after them both, protect and teach them, at the same time. Sounds obvious but it’s much harder than it sounds when they are little. A kindly health visitor suggested that when Boddler is playing up, or looking for attention, I should “take him out of the situation” and let him calm down.  Sadly I don’t have hundreds of different places that can accommodate a kicking, flailing, aggrieved child, and I don’t have a back up care-giver to keep an eye on him when he’s “out of the situation” and on the naughty step/ in his room.  In fact, I have to abandon a sobbing Bebette (who has likely been man-handled by her brother after giving him a big, toothy grin), take her brother away from her, but put him somewhere safe and secure (?! limited options) and then rapidly return to sobbing sister to give her excessive and loud moral support (that Boddler can hear from wherever he is) “OH POOR YOU SISTER, OUCH THAT MUST HAVE HURT!” – in theory I’m trying to show him if he is doing things to get attention, well he won’t get any attention. The person subject to the wrongful conduct (Bebette in this case) will get it all, and some.  Except in practice, I just have two screaming children, a beeping washing machine, and nowhere to hide…

What should one do when the terrible twos are getting the better of them?

  • first, stay calm.  Most of the time, the issue is that they are two.  That’s it.  The less you react, the quicker they lose interest in their naughty ways.  You can’t do anything except take a deep breath, be consistent in your approach and persevere.  So I am told.  *deep breathing*
  • second, purchase numerous books about child rearing entitled “how to talk to a two year old”. Because you clearly can’t do it so you need a dummy’s guide on how to get there.  Generally snort into the book and ignore most of the confusing guidance (“do not punish your child, do not say “no”,  do not say “naughty”, do not shout, do not reward your child, do not congratulate your child, do not say anything after the event as they won’t remember…do not actually speak to or look at your child for your own well-being.” Ok, these ones are quite good: how to talk so little kids will listen (for parents) and the “< body parts > are not for” series which we read on a daily basis, and they also use at nursery.  Any other recommendations welcome!

Reading quietly whilst someone causes pant-wearing chaos

  • third, consult with all the older wiser more experienced people you know, who will not miss an opportunity to remind you that, actually, it’ll only get worse and the kids will eventually hate you anyway. So, enjoy it! Yikes….
  • fourth, hang out with other parents and children and try to mentally note all the things they are doing that seem to work. Your notes might end up looking like this:
    • Offer choices, but not too many choices: your toddler wants some control but has the attention span of a gnat. Would you like vanilla or strawberry yoghurt?  Oui.  C’est bon. Would you like a yoghurt with fruit, or a french set, or perhaps a fromage frais with a little sprinkle of… zut, you’ve lost them.
    • Do praise your child. Do it quite often.  But not all the time. Not too much praise. Cancel the praise, limit praise to exceptional circumstances. Praise for sitting on bottom. Praise for eating carrot. Do not praise for eating toilet roll.  Praise for tidying up toilet roll.
    • Have a reward chart. Offer stickers for good behaviour. Try to keep stickers on the chart and avoid getting them stuck awkwardly to your bottom.
    • Distract your child. When they start to display signs of terrible twoism, rapidly locate an alternative activity / food type / person to play with.
    • Consistent consequences – actions have consequences and your toddler needs to know this. Bad behaviour means you have to say sorry, you make people sad, and you lose a privilege or you have to tidy up your mess.  Think about consequences that are realistic and practical (no more dinner ever again, for example, is not going to fly.)
    • Try to explain your feelings.  Tell child you feel happy, or sad. Demonstrate to child using dramatic facial expressions. Explain to child you are trying to show your feelings and not actually crying. Comfort child that thinks they have made you cry.  Everyone is crying. *Help*.

Ok, well that’s some food for thought. For me, writing this has helped me to see I need to really stay calm, try not to be triggered myself, and appreciate that Boddler is just being a two year old and probablement isn’t destined for even more terrible things.  However, minor shiver down the spine thinking of the threenagers that lie ahead…

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Usually I send love and strength to you all at this point, but this time I’m asking for a little bit of strength and love back! Merci bien ❤

 

 

 

Bittersweet bifurcating

I was flicking through some trashy magazines at the hairdressers last week (first time I’ve been solo since pre Bebette days – the hot tea and trash was amazing) and I couldn’t help but notice the number of distressing stories about couples with new babies whose partnership is “on the rocks”.  The story goes like this: they had a baby, they thought it would be fun; they got a cool LV-monogrammed buggy, Dior booties, and a Chanel high chair for consuming petits fours, then the baby arrived and they rapidly realised it was pretty hard work – no – actually bloody exhausting, the baby wrecked the booties and pooped in the chair, so one half of the couple decided they needed a break, a night out, and to let loose. Sadly for that half they went a tad overboard, momentarily forgetting about their other half and bundle of Dior-enrobed joie at home, paps got a pic, and *shock horror* the other half wasn’t too happy (and then rapidly sold story to aforementioned trashy mags). You can probably guess which half was maman and which was papa.

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We are all familiar with the story.  What I didn’t really appreciate until recently is quite the extent to which we women-mother-folk are in a bit of a no win no win situation here.  Aside from the bebes themselves, which is obviously the most gigantic win of our lives, when you are a mother, particularly a new mother, you quickly realise that juggling motherhood and your previous life as wifey / partner / daughter/ sister and friend is, well, slightly impossible.  Most often not only is it not physically possible to do everything you want to be doing, it is also an emotional minefield…exhaustipating is a word I use frequently.

Emotions emotions, so many of them flying around when you are avec bebes.  I’ve been thinking about all the things that swirl around in my hormone-filled head recently and have distilled into two key mots:

First, bittersweet.  

Bittersweet is a word that resonates with me in my current situation. Bittersweet because whatever I do now when I’m not with les petits, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, there’s a part of me that feels sad, bad, even, that I’m not with them.  I am missing them.  I am missing them achieving a milestone, or needing support, or some comfort or perhaps just pure selfishly missing them. If I am not with both of my bebes at the same time, I feel guilty, worried, sometimes nervous; I miss one, feel bad for wasting time missing one when I’m with the other, and then I’m just anxious to have them both in my sight and my arms again. If I’m not with Monsieur FF, I feel guilty, especially if he’s looking after the bebes and I’m out; I worry – does he have everything he needs, can he find the nappies, will he know how to distinguish a vest for Bebette and one that’s for Boddler? (*not always, it turns out, luckily Boddler survived being squished into 3-6 months, except his VP(N)L was pretty epic )…

I’m often counting down until we can all be reunited, trying to check everything is ok, trying to be present from afar, but failing.  Even when I’m with my family, we are safe and happy, I think of the people I haven’t seen, our families and parents and siblings and their own little bundles, the people I’ve not spoken to, the birthdays I’ve missed and the time that is flying by….and, you guessed it, I feel guilty.  I’m usually grumpy, and tired, because despite my best efforts, everything is tainted by a feeling deep down that I’m going to miss a moment, even as I’m living it.  Basically, I want it all, all the time.

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Try to make it a positive said the man

Bifurcate is the second mot du jour.

Bifurcate means split into two branches.  When I became a mother, my self, the person that I was, split.  There is the mother part, and then the rest. The split was uneven.  The mother branch is mammoth. It’s the main road, the M1 of my life right now.  There are “service stations” for nappies and washing and food preparation. The Rebecca that used to exist before mamahood is a little tiny, windy country road with trash-filled hairdressers, frivolous frolicking, wine bars with half drunk wine glasses, casual cafes and rainbow clubs with glittering disco balls littered along it.

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Bebette remembering the good old days for us, before everything was covered in a layer of slime.

I like to think of myself as an independent woman, I don’t need anyone or anything, although I’m very lucky to have plenty of both. I was incredibly fortunate to have an amazing, happy, relatively relaxed parenting duo who gave myself and my sisters everything we needed growing up. They taught me the value of love and education and money. I worked hard to get a job and before long I was able to support myself. I liked knowing I could fend for myself.  Then I met Monsieur FF, my partner in crime, and we decided to embark on marriage and a family.  That was back when we both had the ability to speak to each other reasonably, and rationally, without screams of “DAAAADDDDEEEEEE AI DONE A POO” and lentils flying around in the background.

Becoming a parent and a mother is something that transforms you overnight. Physically, one night you’re going to bed, a normal, slightly bulbous human being, with an almost equal share of a bed, and the next day (ish) you have somewhat reduced in size and in your shaking arms you hold a little mewing ball of bebe. Once you get over the shock (if ever), and the realisation that this is the new you, that there’s a little person who is entirely dependent on you (and no you can’t “give it back”), that’s it. There goes your independence (and your half of the bed). Because now you’re reliant on people and you can’t entirely rely on yourself. Your partner, your parents, your siblings, your friends… you need them all, more than ever. You need help, you need support, and you need a boost.

You also don’t feel particularly fierce when you’ve just given birth.  Of course, you’ve delivered a child, fricking amazeboobs, you deserve a medal, but for some reason, the saggy, wobbly vehicle that did all that hard work suddenly seems very ugly. Even when it produced something so beautiful.  It is not fair. But that is the way our minds work. I would speculate there are few women who truly feel they can strut around in the giant pads and with mammoth leaking breasts in those first weeks post-partum and feel like they are owning whatever it is they want to own.  Your self-confidence takes a massive hit. And let’s be realistic, if you don’t feel great about yourself, it’s hard to imagine someone else is feeling great about you.  

Herein lies the problem: it’s a bit of a vicious circle.  We don’t need to be told we are loved 24/7, but it certainly feels nice. We don’t need to be told we are beautiful and we are nailing it in order to do our mothering jobs, but it sure does give you a bit of a boost when you are covered in someone else’s snot and poo, and you feel a tiny bit broken.  The times we have low confidence are the toughest times on our relationships because we need so much and we can give only a little.  Our partners need more, because someone else is in the picture now – where before it was one on one, now it is one on four and attention and energy levels are at an all time low – your partner in crime is suddenly way down the list of VIPs, in fact they are waiting over on the lay-by on your little B road, whilst you hurtle along the Motherhood M1.  The lower they go, the further down the B road, the more likely they are going to get, well, fed up.  And then they are off and next time you see them is in the hairdressers on the front cover of your trashy mag.  Doom.

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So what do we do? What about trying to find that little piece of ourselves that is not mumming, from time to time.  Is that the solution?  Is that even possible?  What about the little, winding B road?  Can you switch off from mothering mayhem and turn back into that vivacious lady that used to totter around in mad heels and go dranking? (sidenote: if this is me then “totter” should really read “violently clomp”.) Can you be a mother AND a woman, a wife, a nice partner?  Can we be mothers and still be FUN??

The trash magazines would suggest we had better bloody try! However much our partners and husbands might be nodding politely, the reality is this, mumming is a 24/7 job.  In the early days it’s more like 25/8.  It sucks you dry, literally and metaphorically.  There isn’t much of you left to spare.  If you are lucky, like me, your partner understands that you are giving your all to the little ‘uns and accepts that, for a while, “fun” has to be redefined as a glass of wine on the sofa whilst falling asleep to Netflix.  “Talking” means a couple of text messages during the course of the day.  And when the kids go to bed, you are likely to follow closely behind.  Our better halves may well need to go out and blow off steam.  This is certainly a change of pace.  They don’t need to recover from childbirth or adapt to their new bodies. They usually have a better chance of a complete night’s sleep.  Their bodies don’t start leaking when they hear a baby cry.  Their days may be structured differently and they also have plenty on their plate.  Lucky for them they even have a plate…. and it probably doesn’t have congealed egg on it.

Sometimes it would be nice to blow off steam and unwind too, although the logistics usually render the whole process of “unwinding” redundant.  The truth is, you can’t really “unwind” from mumming.  And honestly we probably don’t really want to.  By the time you’ve organised the kids and the various complexities of the milk/food/bedtime routine, you barely have time to get your own trousers on.  It’s just a lot of hassle and then, refer back to bittersweet section above.  However difficult it may be, you actually wouldn’t change it for the world. So, for a little while, we want different things.  And we just have to find a happy middle ground.  And also try to ensure we get a bit of time to veer off the M1 ourselves, and remember that little B road that was everything before everything changed.

 

 

Boys who (dress) like girls who (dress) like boys who (dress) like boys…

Gender neutrality. The hot topic of the moment. The words that scream equality and seek to avoid discrimination. In the world of bebes, this “movement” (for want of a better word) is increasingly reflected in the way we choose to dress our children, the books we read, the toys we give them, the way we speak to them and the activities we undertake together.  The aim: to encourage our children to think for themselves.  We want to avoid imposing limitations on our little people before they have had a chance to develop their own identity and to decide certain things for themselves.  Like who they are.

The considerations seem, simplistically, to start around colours and their association with sex: blue for boys and pink for girls.  Yellow, it seems, is the safest of neutral colours, excluding ‘non colour’ white, and its close friends grey and cream (and black, but that seems slightly sombre for a little ray of light).  Now where did those colour associations come from?  All those years ago, did someone from up high declare that “those colours deriving from and the same or similar to PINK  shall strictly be reserved to those of female disposition, and those colours deriving from and the same or similar to BLUE shall be strictly reserved to those of the male disposition.  Thou can use YELLOW if thou art not sure.” Hmmm doesn’t seem quite plausible does it.  This got me thinking, and by thinking I obviously mean googling because, let me be honest, I rarely actually think much anymore, I just ponder how best to get an answer quickly.  SO.  Google and my dear friend Wikipedia tell me that:

“Since the 19th century, the colors pink and blue have been used as gender signifiers, particularly for infants and young children. The current tradition in the United States (and an unknown number of other countries) is “pink for girls, blue for boys”

The leading expert on the topic seems to be a Ms Jo Paoletti, a (now retired) lecturer at the University of Maryland. She said, when interviewed on the topic for Smithsonian:

“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted” Paoletti says.

Nicely put in the usual direct, and brilliant, American way.  As I read on I’m told that, as well as world wars and women’s liberation movements, another major factor was the advent of prenatal testing, meaning people would find out what bebe they were having before it arrived.  This presented an enormous opportunity for businesses to sell their gender-specific wares, and – true fact, per Paoletti – the more individualised the clothing became, the more was sold. This quickly extended beyond clothes to all the bebe paraphernalia required (which itself continued to develop to take us into the realms of new car purchases when it comes to transportation devices) and – low and behold – those fortunate enough to be able to equip themselves with all the “must haves” bebe items, AND to have bebes of different sexes could then buy everything, twice.  Extreme consumerism. That does not sound familiar to me at all…not in the slightest. AHEM.

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NOT GUILTY.  I don’t even dress my children in clothes, let alone gender specific clothes.  Right, Bebette?

Right, ok so we’ve determined there is nothing set in stone, well not literally, on the colour gender signifier.  So we don’t have to get our knickers in a twist about girls wearing blue.  But the simple issue of colour/gender association has today, in a world of consumerism, intense advertising and new waves of gender expression, extended to all that we do with our children, like how we talk to them and what they play with: should a toddler girl drive a tractor or pretend to be a plumber? Can a boy wear nail varnish and play at being a midwife or a ballet dancer? Then the considerations spiral into personality and even sexuality: are all little girls “bossy”? If a girl wants to behave like a boy is that a bad thing? Are little boys that like dolls and dresses and pink going to be *whispers* gay?  Mon dieu.  Suddenly this topic seems a bit overwhelming.

We have a boy and a girl. The boy, Babbler, wears every colour under the sun, and up until recently his favourite toy was a microwave.  Now it’s a pink hoover. He has long “girly” hair and when we were on holiday, in his green and orange t-shirt and shorts, he was frequently mistaken for a girl. When he’s wrapped up warm and people can only see hair and big eyes poking out from under his hat, they ask if he’s a girl. Not literally, obvs, they say, with that wonderful hesitation “what a lovely… little person… is… sh-he cold??”  I have no issue with it. It doesn’t offend me, why should it. He bombards around “exploring” and discovering, smashing and crashing and hitting as he goes. He likes splashing, and throwing and kicking and shouting. He is loud and shy and cuddly and boisterous all at the same time. He seems, for now, to be quite the little lad. But what do I know.

We also have a baby girl, Bebette, and she’s displaying, one might say, classic characteristics associated with, dare I assume, being a baby girl (highly opinionated, slightly sensitive and lover of soft, snuggly things). Although perhaps those are just characteristics of being a bebe… again, what do I know.  She has already been subjected to tutus and hair bands. She has flowery dresses and pink tights. There are not so many questions about what colour baby she is when she had a big pink bow on top of her wild fluffy, lopsided hair tufts.

I’m a feminist.  By that I mean I recognise that men and women are different, and equally fantastic in their own, special ways.  I believe men and women deserve equal levels of respect and, in some circumstances, should be treated equally.  Not always, that is a very simplistic way to view the world.  But they should be treated fairly.  Women are not secondary to men.  Men do not bring more to a party.  Women can do things men can’t, and vice versa.  I also believe that men and women bring very different things to the table and those differences should be embraced.  Finally, I truly believe that women, in today’s society, are not always recognised for the incredible jobs they do, not least in circumstances where they are juggling careers and families.  It’s not always the case that it is women that deserve to be recognised, but I just highlight that as an example. Anyway, why am I harping on about this? I want my daughter and my son to grow up respecting each other, and believing they can both do whatever they want to do in life.  Whatever they have under their clothes should not hinder that.  Just because one of them, potentially, has a momentous task of building, ejecting and nourishing another human being should not render that one incapable of fulfilling other career goals, or achieving the same as male counterparts. Subject to a few caveats (not really keen on either of them being lion-tamers), and any obvious physical limitations, the world is their oyster.  I don’t want Bebette to feel that, because she’s a woman, a delicate little flower, she can only do some jobs, whereas Babbler who is big and strong and macho can do anything and everything he pleases.  And vice versa for Boddler.

So with that in mind, is there anything I should or should not be doing right now, as they are in the early stages of development? It seems hard to imagine, but is the way I am behaving with them now going to affect that mentality?  Is the way I speak to them affecting their perceptions of themselves and others?  Am I inadvertently rendering them weak and subordinate by dressing them one way or another?  Is Bebette a little fluffy, cuddly doll?  Do I need to get her into bebe power suits???  Why am I worrying?

Jo is already on it:

Some young mothers who grew up in the 1980s deprived of pinks, lace, long hair and Barbies, Paoletti suggests, rejected the unisex look for their own daughters. “Even if they are still feminists, they are perceiving those things in a different light than the baby boomer feminists did,” she says. “They think even if they want their girl to be a surgeon, there’s nothing wrong if she is a very feminine surgeon.”

Exactly. Good.  I’ll put a placeholder here to consider further…

But finally, just a note: as Bebette and I break back into the under 1 social sphere and start an array of jazzy baby classes, I realise that more and more people are dressing their babies “unisex”, or more often, dressing their girls with “traditionally” boyish clothing. This creates a world of worry for me as I strike up conversation. Now I’m the one with the awkward hesitation in my voice, the slightly panicked glance at the child searching for any clue about it’s gender. Dummy chord. Green. Shit. Toy attached to pram; fluorescent yellow. Crap. Can I make an assumption or should I just go with strategic, noncomital conversation starters: “gosh what beautiful eyes!” “That’s such a cute onesie” “how old is your little …. one?….”  Silly.  It doesn’t matter does it.

So, I’ve dabbled in this topic but there’s a lot more to read and to say.  For now, here’s my closing gripe: baby girls are dressed in traditional boy clothing. Where are the baby boys dressed as girls?

Breastfeeding: the sequel

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Love this by Amen Photography

I have blogged before about the mad journey that is breastfeeding and the wondrousness of boobies (here is the first instalment). Since then I have enjoyed the consequences of breastfeeding (read: saggymcsaggerson babylons) and I have produced a second Bebe, that I have also been feeding with my boobs. Even writing it like that reminds me how mind-boggling it is to nourish a human bean with something produced by my very own breasts. Crazy. (Obviously growing the bean in the first place is pretty stupenduous, but this part you can actually see with your own eyes!)

As I alluded to in the first post written last year, I am entirely mindful that this is a very sensitive subject. Plenty of new mamas don’t breastfeed, either out of choice or because it’s not physically possible, or for many reasons they start and then have to stop, or have to modify what they are doing to suit their babe. No one journey is the same and whatever happens, having a happy, fed bebe is all that matters.  

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Pure happiness right there

As I said last time, this is just me talking about my journey.  I’m lucky / unlucky / weird / blessed / happy to have the chance to breastfeed again. However, I must say that living this a second time, it has been decidedly harder than the first time. Strange, as you would think boobs get used to it (they certainly look like they do) and as a second time mum, most likely I am already equipped, mentally and wardrobiley, for the job. Turns out not really.  Well, for me at least, the difference I think is down to (i) the bebe and (ii) the circumstances.  I consider these differences a bit below and then I will introduce you to my favourite breastfeeding clothing, in particular The B Shirt.

The Bebette journey is not the same

The bebe part: No pregnancy is the same, “they” say (the older wiser types) and the same goes for all that follows. This Bebette that we have, this little ray of light, is a petite lady who doesn’t gobble like her big brother. She is delicate. It’s more like she’s taking afternoon tea, or a small glass of champagne, than glugging a gallon of milk; I can almost see her little finger up in the air. Bebette can’t easily cope with the fast flow of milk that I have. She wants a skinny pizza with a side of dust, not the Super Mega menu with XL stuffed crust and extra deep-fried cake, and a beer or 10….

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The problem is that boobie milk systems need some sort of regulation – if Bebe is fussy, you end up with your boobs getting very confused about all this nibbling and they lose track of how much milk to actually make.  This, in my case, led to a bout of (very painful) mastitis (more on this below).  It has also resulted in the washing machine going into overdrive with milk-sodden clothing.  Poor Boddler has had the shock of his life a couple of times when he has come to inspect “Sista mulk” and been sprayed in the face himself. Luckily he has goggles.

After the double whammy hospital adventure we enjoyed last month, I’ve also spent a lot of time pumping this time round. Jeez, the hospital pump is hard.  Massive shout out to all the mamas out there that have had to pump, whether to encourage their milk production, or because their babe is hospitalised at birth or afterwards, or because their babe simply won’t latch. It is harrowing.  But massive cheers to the NHS for providing nourishment for hospital mamas, this really makes a huge difference.  Also, whilst pumping is hard, it is a little intriguing to see how much milk you are making – as a mildly competitive person, I kept challenging myself in hospital to make more and more, gallons of milk, feed my Bebette until she rolls out of hospital…. FYI I lost, but it was a good challenge.

As a side note, any newish breast feeders reading should be aware of the symptoms of mastitis (NHS link here).  When it happened to me, it escalated quickly, my boob felt bruised and sore in the morning, it was a bit red, then more disconcerting was the crazy headache and flu-like symptoms I developed that afternoon: I got fever and the shivers and ended up calling 111 the next morning, a Sunday (again!) and was able to get a prescription for antibiotics very rapidly for later that day. Hot showers, continuous feeding if you can, and massaging helps, but as soon as you feel fluey or sick, you need to get medical help asap, as it can be very painful.  *Shout out to my GP mama friends that helped me (and continue to help) with sound advice through these struggles.  Legends.*

The ease with which you can breastfeed may also be influenced by the circumstances, like whether you already have a child running around, and the time of year: last time I was breastfeeding it was spring – summer; I had little vests I could pull down, and limited additional clothing required in the warm weather (yes, yes, U.K. warm so you still needed a second layer…). I also had the time to sit down and wasn’t likely to get a ball lobbed at my head whilst I was feeding.  Shocker! Back then, Boddler was so greedy I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in pulling my top down to get to the food himself. There was almost no spillage or regurgitation. The whole feeding process was quite straight-forward and manageable, except for the odd leak and the teeth *panic face*.

Bebette is quite a different kettle of fish. She likes the warmth and comfort of my boobie area but is less bothered about the actual milk. She also feels more delicate, has a sensitive stomach and needs to be carefully positioned for her feeds.  This is in contrast to Boddler who was like a magnet to the nipple. Bebette needs a compass and guide dog and tends to fall asleep whilst feeding.

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Like my maternity wear this time round, I was armed with a bit more knowledge of what was required for nursing a babe. However when I went through my box of neatly organised maternity clothes (read: pile of clothes shoved in a corner that I wasn’t expecting to see for a loooong time) I couldn’t really find any good feeding tops in there. Just a lot of vests and the odd mamalicious or seraphine number. I had a couple of big shirts but, I confess, I hate ironing. So I am not wearing those.

the B shirt

A good feeding top requires stretchiness and also must be a material that can be scrunched up (or down) without being too thick, and without preventing bebe from breathing or making her get too hot. This time round I also have a decidedly more flabby tummy, and it certainly looks more traumatised with my new tiger stripes second time round. I am acutely aware when I try to cobble together my own feeding clothes (ie two tops on top of each other, one pulled down and one pulled up) there is a very high chance of embarrassing flab-flashing.  I am already getting my boob out, I don’t particularly want to extend the nudiness any further.

So, there’s a legit need for something new – where can I find a good breastfeeding top? After lots of googling in the middle of the night I found my answer.  Say bonjour to The B Shirt. The B Shirt is a breastfeeding dream – it keeps your tummy covered whilst you discretely locate your milkers and latch your bebe on. The B Shirt is stretchy and warm, long enough to cover you and your bottom, and it washes well. And it can deal with frequent washing too. But best of all, the B Shirt does good things.  It supports women that are struggling – more on this below.

The top comes in three basic colours; white, grey and black. No garish flower patterns or bold horizontal stripes that make you feel even more ginormous over here.  The boobie “flap” opens upwards discretely, without a full-on untangling or déshabille exercise, revealing two neat little boobie holes, so you won’t be flashing side boob either. It’s not rocket science and yet it is genuinely so hard to find anything even close to suitable for the job. This has been my saviour.

I particularly like the B Shirt because: (a) a couple of real mamas, who themselves have breast fed and supported numerous other mamas with breastfeeding, set up the business not only to help nursing mamas generally;  but also to raise awareness, funds and provide tops and support to breastfeeding mamas out there who are statistically less likely to continue to breastfeed. According to their research, a major reason women stop breastfeeding is embarrassment. Isn’t that sad?

81% of new mothers start off breastfeeding when their babies are born, however when their babies are just 6 weeks old only 36% are still breastfeeding. This means that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breast milk with all its magic properties is sitting in boobies, ready to go, like a cup of fresh water in the desert, or (more relatable) a delicious steaming pot of coffee on a grey Monday morning, and yet it’s not being served because the barista is embarrassed about the cups he is serving it in. Meanwhile there’s a ginormous advert for Starbucks, with a cup that runneth over, right outside. You get the point.

Money from the sales of the B Shirt and donations will go towards getting those mamas in need the right clothing to do this important job, without feeling embarrassed.  I concur that this top has reduced my embarrassment levels, which are all the higher when there’s also a toddler running around and therefore the possibility of large scale accidental flashing, and much more rushed boob-accessing. A comfortable, affordable top that does good beyond helping you on your breastfeeding journey – pretty epic. (b) it’s called the “B” Shirt – the logo is boobs – it’s like we were destined to be together! And (c) the ladies that came up with this beauty are located in Totnes, which is a magical place in Devon I happen to know thanks to my musical sister and her man who are very happily located there. Side note: it is glorious and definitely worth a visit. (d) they also sell reusable bamboo breast pads which are great.  Another winner, comfortable and environmentally friendly.  Boom.

The one thing missing at the moment with the B Shirt is sleeves, although I expect sleeves are in the pipeline along with more colours.  I also don’t think the lace trim is particularly necessary, but equally it adds something to remind you where the flap is – tired mamas need all the help we can get!  The only good feeding top I’ve found with sleeves is a Seraphine bamboo top, which is super soft, but I can’t find the link to that now, and as far as I’m aware Seraphine doesn’t boast the same mission and aims as the B Shirt so I would rather spend my money with the Totnes ladies.

I’m teaming my B shirt with the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra, available from John Lewis.  It’s a bestseller and I can see why – super comfy, supportive, and easy to get up and down. Also very easy to wash.  Feeding bras have caused me as much angst as the tops, but this bra has done the job and even comes with conversion kit so when you are done feeding you can continue to wear this.  Unlikely, for my fried eggs, but I appreciate the opportunity.

So, that’s me done on breastfeeding take 2 (so far) and what I’m wearing.  I hope this is helpful and good luck you wonder mamas!

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I leave you with this thought of the day.  Really orange carrots.

 

Bronchi Bébés and the bladdy amazing NHS

The last few weeks have been a far cry from our usual pre-Christmas shenanigans. Both Boddler and Bebette were taken ill, and not just poorly with a Christmas cold, they both had collapsed lungs, also known as chest infections, also knows as pneumonia, bronchitis, also known as hospitalisation and – in Bebette’s case – intensive care. It was horrific.

This post is about that experience and – given the nature of the events – probably won’t be as light-hearted as usual. It wasn’t really a funny situation. Actually it was certainement the most terrible thing I have ever experienced. As I write this I will cry as I try to process what happened, which I’ve been politely blocking.

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Northwards we go

The story begins when we optimistically / naively thought we could take our babes on a “quick trip” up North to visit family and friends and do a bit of Yuletide celebrating. I had been fretting about the long car journey (usually 4-5 hours) with Bebette who, up until then, in all her 7 weeks had not managed a car journey *ever* without screaming her head off. I mean the simple sight of the car seat sent her into meltdown. I spent the day packing and prepping a routine to attempt to get her to the North, without our ear drums giving up their day jobs.  Btw the key element of the plan is a bath, which she hates, but exhausts her sufficiently to fall into a deep sleep.

By some miracle my travel baby plan went… to plan, and Bebette slept the whole journey. As did Boddler. Peace. For 3.5 hours (quickest drive ever – thanks Papa FF). We could not believe it. Little did we know that karma was waiting just round the corner. The next days we had some joyous celebrations and visits, until Boddler went to bed and developed a mad temperature. Actual temperature unknown due to my inability to pack a thermometer. We got ourselves so worried, Papa FF went off to borrow Auntie Em’s thermometer at 3am, which obviously confirmed what our hands were telling us – he had a raging temperature and was looking sick as a dog. We cuddled everyone together until daylight and then the next day – a Sunday – we dashed to purchase another thermometer (there were no Braun in the ear ones left, so we got a head scanner – we do not recommend the scanners – Braun in the ear is the way forward). Of course it was Sunday so the doctors was shut, meaning I spent the day frantically scanning Boddler’s head, assessing his behaviour, and consulting friends and family to try to determine what level of panic I should be reaching.  Boddler was coughing a bit, seemed to be wheezy, and breathing quite rapidly, had a gunky eye, was teary and clingy.  And hot. The best advice I got was to “look at the child not the number” i.e. stop freaking out about the temperature and look at how your child is coping with the illness. There wasn’t much I could do about the situation other than wait to see if anything got markedly worse – however every dose of calpol seemed to have a magic effect and Boddler went from lethargic to pelting around the house.  Just to add to the stress, Papa FF had to voyage over to France to say goodbye to his Bonne-Maman.  We had agreed to stay behind in the interests of a peaceful sendoff, but that meant I was left with the two babes and a worried Papa trying to assist from afar.

Out of hours 

Boddler was gradually getting worse and was clearly pretty poorly. A call to 111 confirmed he was indeed unwell, based on all their questions, and ideally should be checked out in person by a medical professional, asap. However I also had 7 week old Bebette, who was very fussy and frankly couldn’t really be left on her own for more than 5 minutes without having a meltdown. I was with my parents, one of whom needed to be in work the next day and the other who has recently had a double knee replacement.  Quandary –  Do I (a) go to the hospital in the middle of the night on a rainy Sunday, with a sick and tired Boddler, tiny un-immunised Bebette, and a tired Grandad, or (b) not sleep a wink, worry all night, fear for the worst until the morning and hope to visit a local doctor asap? Just as I thought I had made my decision, Boddler started to vomit immediately after being given a dose of calpol, and I could not for the life of me understand from the instructions whether I could safely give him another dose or not. I knew then that we had to make the middle of the night doctor trip, even though an appointment at 11pm on the other side of Sheffield was far from ideal. Off we journeyed with Grandad F as my man of the hour, and Boddler did another big vomit upon exiting the car, just to confirm we were doing the right thing.

The initial diagnosis at 11pm was a chest infection, high temperature and some difficulty breathing aka a trip to the Children’s hospital for at least a few days oxygen and antibiotic support. Urgh. Poor Boddler. And poor us as we were not prepared for this. Despite walking around like a bag woman I had not actually packed any useful survival items, particularly not for myself. If you need a glossy scented lip balm or foot massage oil,  I have 5, but clean undies, deodorant and water, negative. By now it was 1am and we were waiting at the Children’s hospital to be seen again. In amongst the drunk teenagers, and sick little people, the triage nurse kindly asked if I had realised that Boddler had a “very high” temperature (oh really? we were actually just passing and thought we would nip in for shits and giggles!) – after a little bit of drama during which Boddler decided calpol was poison, he eventually took it and kept it down, and so perked up no end.  He discovered a whole host of joyous toys to play with (*hospital toys are possibly not the most prudent option if you want to avoid more germs*) – and by the time he was seen by the young doctor on duty, around 2.30am, he was almost back to his normal self. Diagnosis now amended to viral infection with calpolic treatment and basically go home.  I have to say at that point Grandad (who had rocked Bebette into a peaceful sleep on repeat for the past 3 hours with his guns of steel) and I sighed with relief and headed back to the car and home.

Btw – side note – exiting an empty car park at 3am on a Monday morning, with a screaming Bebette and whimpering Boddler was bizarrely one of the most excruciating experiences I have had of late. I didn’t know what was still to come, but at that moment, both me and Grandad, who wouldn’t say boo to a ghost, were using expletives I wouldn’t begin to repeat here, in our attempts to try to find the exit, which seemingly was somewhere in the sky and at an angle that no one could reasonably be expected to manoeuvre into unless they were driving one of those tiny smart cars for ants.  RIDIKCULOUS. Then the car park ticket didn’t want to go in the machine, nor be read, having been rained on and squished beyond recognition by my derriere, and I genuinely contemplated glugging the bottle of calpol and throwing myself under the stationary car wheels.

Home, Boddler breathing and Duchess

Anyway, *trying to hide rage problems* we then spent all day Monday taking it easy and waiting for Papa’s return. Calpol continued to work / mask the extent of Boddler’s sickness.  A bit of a fresh air the next day and we were off back down South to the quiet safety of our own home. Alas, as we arrived at home, at 11pm, Boddler suddenly started to gasp for breath and vomited again. This time he was really struggling for breath, and we knew we needed urgent help. We calmed him down, helping him to breathe and cleaned him up, whilst we called 111 and they sent an ambulance.  After a slightly fraught discussion about who should do what, and Boddler intervening with cries of “MUMMY” in a full yorkshire accent, I was loaded into the ambulance with a weepy hot Boddler, my purse and phone and not a lot else. We arrived at our local A&E with a terrified little Boddler who had decided that every piece of equipment posed a threat to his life and even the oxygen finger reader was number 1 worst enemy.  He was just in his nappy (massive error on my part, why I thought a blanket was sufficient is beyond me), and we were sitting in the waiting area trying to catch a urine sample (too bizarre for words).  After another dose of calpol, Boddler was back in action at the hospital toy station, and at around 4am had made a new friend called Duchess, who politely informed him that he shouldn’t throw anything inside (“my mum says throwing is for outside only” – so true Duchess, I entirely agree) and was mildly shocked when Boddler started chasing her around the hospital and his nappy fell down. Ploof. It was the highlight of my night.  The doctor was again erring towards sending us home with a virus assessment, but I insisted they wait to review Boddler once the calpol had worn off.  Papa FF arrived with Bebette who needed milk urgently, and we all watched as Boddler deteriorated and suddenly was in the emergency room requiring oxygen and nebulisers. Giving small children nebulisers is like a form of extreme torture and anyone that has had the horror of being present during the process will confirm it is sickening to witness. Of course there is good reason for administering such things but it is deeply unpleasant holding a mask over your child’s face.

Fast forward to us being admitted to a ward and Boddler getting a hearty dose of antibiotics, more oxygen reading and beeping, and dodging his oxygen mask at any opportunity.  Time for another quandary: Boddler was not well and had defaulted to screams of “MUMMY” for all communication needs. There was no way I could leave him.  Papa did his best but Boddler was having none of it, it was Mummy or meltdown.  Bebette, who by this time was doing little barking coughs of her own, really did not need to be in the hospital full of germs for extended periods of time.  And our fellow ward friends did not need to have a new baby screaming in the middle of the night. Very reluctantly I sent off my tiny 7 week old baby with Papa, with instructions on locating the frozen milk stocks.  I pulled up my bed next to Boddler, along with a mega breast pump, a hearty supply of snacks and water and tears running down my cheeks.  You cannot be in two places at once.

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Activity walls of joy in the hospital

The next morning, Boddler was absolutely on the mend, playing and exploring, but my Bebette was looking decidedly worse for wear.  Papa had brought her in against our original plan, knowing she wasn’t quite right, but not wanting to alarm me before he got to us.  After I took her in my arms and noticed how quiet she was, and one of the nurses confirmed “that bebe doesn’t look well” I panicked and rushed her downstairs to A&E, where we spent the day being observed. Another long day in bright white lights, listening to the hustle and bustle and drama of a busy A&E.  Ultimately the conclusion was yes, she is poorly too, yes she has bronchiolitis, yes she has a temperature, but there’s not a lot that can be done so go home and rest. Boddler was simultaneously released, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed home, to shower and bed.  We are done! What a nightmare.

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Bebette ups the ante

Alas, the relief was short-lived. After a trip to the GP with Bebette the day after A&E, and confirmation that her oxygen levels were fine, Bebette and I had a troubled night, with her feeding very little, doing little barky/ choking type coughs, and seeming again out of sorts, spiking temperatures. By Saturday morning she was visibly working hard for her breath and couldn’t feed comfortably.  (I made a video so if anyone is concerned and wants to see what a baby working for breath looks like, especially around the lungs and chest area, just get in touch and I can share it – it was useful to film to compare with the previous day to see that it was getting worse).

We packed our bags (being a bit more organised after the night with Boddler and nappy-gate) and dashed to A&E where Bebette was promptly put on oxygen and then opti-flow oxygen.  She hadn’t had any food for a good 16 hours.  Papa took Boddler back home for nap time and food, thinking all was under control.  Then the seriousness of Bebette’s situation really hit me. In my arms, she got very worked up with someone fiddling with her mask and then, suddenly, the colour drained from her face, she closed her eyes and passed out.  My heart fell through my stomach – I mustered a scream sufficient to get most of the emergency team into the room rapidly. Bebette’s forehead flashed spots of angry red and I looked around to see if anyone could explain what was happening, and to gauge if this was somehow normal… all I saw were terrified faces and at that moment I lost a piece of myself. Someone grabbed Bebette from my arms and started to rub her and pat her back, until her colour started to come back and she opened her eyes. There was a huge, collective sigh of relief and most people disappeared from the room as quickly as they had appeared, except the core team who continued to fuss around her and confirmed she needed to be admitted to the ward asap (we had been waiting for a bed for a long time).

I didn’t know what to do other than texting Papa to tell him to get in the car straight away.  I didn’t write much more because I couldn’t compute what was happening to our little lady or what we could do.

PICU

Fast forward a few hours, and a botched transfer up to the ward (it would have been perfect comical material if it wasn’t my beautiful daughter being jostled around) and Bebette is not improving. There’s a lot of talk about the “worst” part of bronchiolitis being days 3 – 5 of the illness. But of course it’s hard to determine when the illness officially begun.

Bebette is getting more and more frustrated by the masks and wires, she’s hungry, she’s absolutely knackered and almost certainly feeling like absolute rubbish as well. The lights are bright, the noise is loud and disturbing, she’s telling us she has almost had enough, and we are starting to really panic.  We start mobilising friends and relatives to look after Boddler because we need to be with Bebette.  Together, Because it is really serious.

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The paedeatric consultant, the same woman that discharged Alex two days prior, was brilliant and explained to us that there were two potential routes forward; one presupposing this is the worst day of illness, and that Bebette starts to improve, then more oxygen, more monitoring, antibiotics, lumbar punctures to check for bacteria in the brain (she did explain this in more detail to allay the immediate heart attack reaction – but as I’m clearly not a qualified medical professional I am just giving you the layman’s highlights) and hopefully home soon… the other was more terrifying yet, sedation, intubating, travelling to another hospital where they had paedeatric intensive care, … The consultant clarified that by intubating Bebette and allowing her body to rest, and a machine to breathe for her, we were giving her more chance to fight the virus, whatever it was that was causing her lungs to be infected and one of them partially collapsed.

As the time went by, the doctors multiplied, they came and observed the little lady, frowned, muttered, and eventually decided on the second option. Cue more sobbing from this mama, as I saw my tiny baby girl being wheeled up to theatre to be knocked out and intubated. Then the anaesthetist team pitched up and this is where the experience got even more crazy: we were made to feel very safe, very comfortable, to the point that Papa and the team were cracking jokes.  Terrible jokes, but jokes nonetheless. Everything that was happening was clearly explained to us, we were offered a hot drink whilst they were doing their work, we reviewed the X-rays with the consultant, and the next thing we knew we were in an ambulance, it was 2am, Bebette was safely tucked into a little space rocket, and again we were being offered a biscuit and a drink for the journey.  As a tired and hungry breastfeeding mama, I actually needed that biscuit.  It was just so thoughtful.  The chap leading the team and driving made everything seem normal and explained we were going to have the blue lights and sirens on just because “we will just get there a bit faster – don’t worry about it”.  The South Thames Retrieval Service even gave Bebette a little teddy, which she had with her all through the journey and which is now in her bed.  The service and the team were just fantastic.

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Socks were also critical to keep tiny tootsies warm – we were lucky enough to have a newly knitted selection.

So we arrive with our entourage at Denmark Hill PICU and are greeted by another team of legends who tell us to go and sit in the parents room whilst they get Bebette comfortable. Thirty minutes later we are allowed to see her and she is all wrapped up, with her little teddy, and her special fox blanket from Grandma that I managed to grab on the way out of our house, what felt like days ago.  She has wires and tubes and tape all over and I find that I’m sobbing again, feeling crap and useless, my poor tiny little scraggle and I can do nothing to help her. I’m a waste of space. I’ve had a daughter for a grand total of 8 weeks and I haven’t looked after her well enough.  I haven’t told her how much I love her and how much I want to love her.  I don’t know her yet.  Not being able to take my baby in my arms was heartbreaking.  Seeing her tiny body frozen, rhythmically breathing but, to the uninitiated eye, lifeless, …. I can’t even find the words.  We have not had enough time.  My body aches to hold her and feed her and to comfort her.  I can’t look at Papa FF.  I feel broken.

I knew she was as safe as she could be, but she wasn’t with me, and it felt all wrong.  I was simply not prepared for anything like this to happen.

For what was left of that night, Papa and I curled up on tiny sofa chairs and tried to sleep, between tears.  By this time we had mobilised family support and had anxious relatives waiting to hear what was going on, but we couldn’t really provide much by way of update. Those days were the scariest days of my life so far. I just did not know what could happen.  The team in the PICU were unbelievably fantastic, supportive, reassuring, took the time to talk to us and answer Papa’s 4,590 questions (one of them who was partially deaf had a lucky escape and missed half of the French inquisition) and were generally mesmerising to watch in action. There was beeping coming from all angles, tubes everywhere, and a cleanliness regime so strict that I found myself day dreaming about antibacterial soap and wearing a giant glove.  During this time, I desperately wanted Bebette to keep getting my milk and so was frantically pumping at regular intervals. If you’re breastfeeding and in hospital you get meals to keep you going. At first I was non-plussed by this, but by the end of my stay I was positively salivating at the thought of my steamed fish and chips and chocolate custard pudding.  Any stress-related weight loss that occurred in the early phases of the drama were rapidly recovered thanks to the NHS food supplies, and Costa christmas coffees.

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We were sent home to get a proper nights’ sleep, and whilst we attempted some sleep, Bebette took matters into her own hands and extubated herself. What that means is she ejected her breathing tube, without asking the doctors to help her out. Forgive the lack of technical lingo. This would have been extremely stressful for the poor nurse caring for her that night, who had insisted we go home to rest, and who herself was 36 weeks pregnant, but she so kindly waited until morning to give us a courtesy call just to let us know what had happened and to tell us not to worry.  As Bebette was managing fine without the breathing tube, she didn’t need to have it reinserted (good news) but she had skipped the drug weaning process which required her to have small doses of various drugs until she was ok without them, rather than going from a high dose to nada cold turkey (not so good).  She spent a day or so frantically and silently crying (very bizarre, poor lamb had no voice), wide awake, which in hindsight was her withdrawing from the drugs.  I had convinced myself she was just very grumpy after so much drama and so many nappy changes, which btw she continues to absolutely hate. Her poor bottom was red raw from the antibiotics and she was just fed the fred up.

Anyway, the story is nearing its close now with a joyous happy ending, as the strong little fighter massively improved in the following days. Blood tests confirmed she had RSV virus, strains A AND B.  This had developed into a lung infection aka bronchiolitis. She did not have a bacterial infection and therefore no lumbar puncture required.  She was very much on the mend and fighting fit after her 2 days in ICU and night in high dependency.  We were in hospital for a total of 7 days from the second A&E visit, and I barely left her side or the hospital room for that time. I couldn’t do anything except stare into space, chat to the nurses in awe of their life-saving skills, mutter as I hooked myself up to the milking machine, question my value to society, and eventually get excited for the steamy, starchy, soggy surprise that was coming my way at 8am, 12pm and 5pm every day.  I can still hear the beeping machines.

Taking Bebette home and cuddling up with Boddler last Saturday was the most glorious thing that has happened to us.  These last weeks have been about realising how lucky we are to have our children and each other, how brave and strong those children are, how fantastic our health service is in emergency circumstances, how much support we are lucky to have from people around us, and how much we should REALLY appreciate every day we get, as parents, partners, members of a family and members of society.

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Please always be grateful for your little ones, please keep a close eye on them during the bronchi season (details and symptoms can be found here) and please don’t hesitate to seek help and get advice from the experts if you are in any doubt about the health of your bebe.

For anyone reading this that works for the NHS, thank you. There aren’t words that can really do this justice, but you are all amazing and we are so grateful.

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An extra special family snap (photo credit: the awesome Russ Jackson Photography)

Babies – how to handle two under twos…?

This post title is potentially slightly misleading: I have no freaking clue how to handle two under twos. Please note the question mark. If you do know any two under two magical tricks or spells – please feel free to share! The title of the this post should really read “how to attempt to survive two under twos” by someone a mere month in.

I remember skim reading a post on the same topic when I was in the mid-stage of pregnancy; i.e. I knew I may be getting into some hot water with two little people to look after, and I wanted to understand more specifically if it was tepid hot, hot hot or freaking boilymcboilerson.  The post was written from both the perspective of the new mother of two, and the new father of two, and to say it was slightly terrifying is an understatement. I have clearly blocked it from my memory now as I can’t recall the specific details, but they were both “au fond du seau” as they say in France – literally at the bottom of the bucket, or more accurately in a pit of despair. They each resented the other. Suffice it to say the boily hot water option was portrayed as being most accurate.

Determined not to let that shocking read get me down, I approached this new phase of life mindful of that old adage “this too shall pass“.  Yes it will be hard, intense, taxing… but it will last such a short period of time, it will be over before we know it. We will be looking back at it and (hopefully) laughing, crying at how quickly les petites change, and generally being delighted that we got to where we are today.  Considering we truly believed we would not have our own children (we even went to an initial adoption meeting) how magical and insane that we are here now with two little people we can call our own.

Two babies is hard. We knew this would be the case. We knew there would be adaptation period and we are very much still in that period. So how are we coping so far?  Here’s the truth, and the reasons why:

Number 1 : Monsieur FF. We literally could not function without him right now. Everyone needs a partner just like him (for the avoidance of doubt he’s not up for grabs, sossles, but he could happily offer up some tips to fellow malians over a beer).  The man has just survived 9++ months with a grumpy, super-sized wifeball of hormones; he is then accosted with the broken version of that wife ball, still with a John Wayne waddle, plus an additional, smaller wailing ball of hormones. This is to accompany the existing Boddler who incidentally is rapidly approaching terrible twos with a vengeance. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him: let’s be honest he brought this on himself, and he also got off pretty lightly in the grand scheme of things (quick reminder that it was the wifeball that carried and birthed the bebette). However, credit where credit is due, Monsieur FF is going above and beyond on father and hubber duties right now. Cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the Boddler in a happy place whilst maman is losing her sh*t silently in the room next door.  You are a legend Monsieur FF.  As I keep saying to him, this time will pass and we will look back and laugh. Meanwhile, just enjoy the craziness that is our life right now. And try to shower. In that five second window you have to yourself.  That is more important than researching holidays…. (Anyone that knows him will appreciate this man does. not. stop).

Also just a quick sidenote that I can’t put into words how much I take my hat off to those single parents out there that are parenting solo: epic levels of kudos to you.

Number 2: Boddler is in nursery. That’s right, I’m basically cheating. I am not really caring for two under twos at all. I’m caring for just one most of the day.  That said, the hours where we are doubling up are intense.  I’m still only a month in so things will change in the next weeks, but so far Boddler has continued in his usual routine at nursery with some surprise visits and treat days out interspersed.  This is working really well for everyone as it means he continues in his routine and isn’t too discombobulated by all the changes going on at home. It means we know he is properly watered and fed so that if we end up having a crazy soiree of screaming madness (there have been a couple) and I can only prepare cereal and cheese for dinner, he’s not going to starve.  If I’m beyond tired and have Bebette attached to my boob, it’s ok that we just read some stories with raisins, because I know he’s had a good day of energy releasing at nursery.  And when Papa gets home, we do our best to both have some time where we are completely focused on the Boddler. Nowadays bath time and story time are particularly raucous.

Number 3: Books are your friend.  Luckily the arrival of Bebette has coincided with a deep and intense love of reading for Boddler. By that I mean when he goes to bed, he needs at least three books in his bed with him.  And he needs the light on so he can work through each of the books, silently studying the images (I assume he’s not studying the words but wouldn’t be surprised obvs #childgenius).  That is after we have read the stories to him.  Whenever he gets a bit distressed, because Bebette is getting in the way of him having a cuddle with mummy, or he starts to throw things in my direction with a menacing look in his eye, I simply offer up a story and off he poddles to fetch the relevant story and plops himself down so we can get on with reading.

Number 4: Building bricks are your friend. Ok, I work at LEGO so I’m slightly biased towards DUPLO bricks. Seriously though one box of the fantastic plastic is good for a LOT of play.  Boddler FF can happily sit for tens of minutes building towers, trains, farms, “colicoptas”, and generally having fun creating and ensuring the bricks are in some sort of colour order.  It’s quite mesmerising to watch.  The only negative (aside from the damage to feet when you inadvertently stand on the stuff) is the noise – if I’ve managed to get Bebette to nap somewhere that’s not on me (hard, but not impossible), then you can rest assured that the sound of Boddler tipping his bricks all over the floor and then throwing himself into them will wake her up.  I recommend parental assistance in preparing the bricks for play and tidying up afterwards.

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Concentration levels: HIGH.

Number 5: Snacks are your BEST friend.  The first night I went to pick up Boddler on my own with the Bebette in tow (in the soft sling which was an error; not robust enough for Boddler-catching movements – recommend the BabyBjorn) I was reminded of the critical importance of having a snack handy at all times for bribing. Bribery goes against everything that I am, except in these circumstances.  I needed to get Boddler into the buggy and I needed not to tip Bebbette onto the floor, or give either of them concussion with a head clashing incident. The way to do this? Offer up a snack. Boddler leaps into the buggy and practically straps himself in, panting for his carrot crisp or handful of raisins.  Not entirely strapped in of course, and again, being completely honest I cheated in this specific case  because a fellow kind mama saw me flapping with Bebette dangling out of my coat, and rescued me, ensuring Boddler was properly and safely strapped in.  But I’ve since mastered the art and can also casually push the buggy with one hand whilst ensuring Bebette is fine with the other #winning.  I confess that there are certain things which were not available in abundance before, which now may be more frequently consumed due to arm’s length availability. For example, chocolate or “lolott” as some people call it. For some reason* there is usually some chocolate or cake or a biscuit near me at the moment (in the voice of Ali G it wasn’t me)

Number 6: Slings. Baby carriers. Pouches. Anything to facilitate baby carrying.  One thing you need more than anything with 2+ children is your hands free. There is no time for being trapped on the sofa with a babe in your arms.  I mean it does still happen, and is indeed necessary sometimes (have.a.rest), but if you have to do something with the older one at any point, like prepare food or get them dressed, which is required most day, and your new baby is still fussy and doesn’t like to be put down much (or at all… not mentioning any names…) then you really need to carry the baby in order to function. It means you can do things like get the big one into the buggy.  It also means, at least for the time being, you don’t need to have a double buggy.  Baby carrying is proven to have all sorts of positive effects for you and your babe.

Number 7: Sleep and Eat.  Just whenever you can.  Ok, none of this “sleep when they sleep” anymore – that simply doesn’t work when you’ve got two under twos. Boddler is going to wake up at 7am, or before, whether you like it or not. Bebette is going to need feeding at random intervals throughout the day and night, and will get colicky in the evening.  You need fresh air, coffee and food in your cupboards so – frankly – there isn’t really much opportunity for napping. You have just got to power through and go to bed when the little one lets you.  Ensure you eat because aint nobody got time for a hangry mama.

Number 8: Support network.  Second time round you won’t have you NCT group or equivalent.  I mean you hopefully still have your crew, I certainly do (check out my post on their awesomeness here), but we are first to ’embark’ on the second pregnancy in our group, and so it’s a bit different to the first time when we were all popping at the same time. Most of my crew are happily sleeping through the night and are well beyond worrying about breastfeeding and colic.  However, they are still as supportive as ever.  I’m also lucky enough to have a group of friends who have recently had number twos (lols – I mean babies).  Late night whatsapping, in-between crazed amazon priming, helps to maintain my sanity.  All you ladies rock.

Number 9: Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t forget these babes won’t remember any of this madness. You and your partner will, but even those memories will quickly fade.  Enjoy each day, and be grateful.  If you feel really, really stressed, watch an episode of one of the shows where someone is managing multiples e.g. these quintuplets.  That will quickly remind you that you can totes manage this.

Big love and lots of luck to you x x

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Bebette: Things I had forgotten about having a newborn

Despite the fact we were first time parents only last year (!) it is amazing how quickly you forget the highs and lows of newborn life. Here are a few of the things that I had entirely forgotten

New bébés are light as a feather. Literally a tiny baby pillow feather. Be warned: if you have a Boddler and you’re picking them up interchangeably, be sure to adjust to appropriate power levels. A few times Bebette has nearly hit the ceiling, and Boddler has been subject to some enormous groans as I collapse under his comparatively ginormous poids.

New bébés sleep a lot. Like a real lot. Except maybe not so much at night, and generally not so well if not on a warm humanoid. The combo of the first and second points above (light and sleepy) means you can cart or push them around to your heart’s content without worrying about very much at all. They don’t roll and they don’t need a high chair.  They won’t demand snacks and start crying uncontrollably when you try to get them in and out of the buggy. You can pretty much just plop them down somewhere cosy and safe and they are good. You can even keep them attached to you for hours and they are perfectly and deliciously happy. Hello walk! Hello restaurant! Hello hot coffee! (Although NB if eating and drinking with a Bebe attached be extra careful – best to drink tepid tea rather than risk an accident).

Bebe nappies are tiny. And they don’t like not having their nappy or clothes on. They don’t like it one bit. I recall this with Boddler and now with Bebette – there is nothing more sinister to be subjected to than a nappy change AND subsequent change of vest/ attire. Full and highest pitched screaming is required from the point at which they are laid down to the moment they are back at chest (read: boob/milk) level. The nappies are rather spectacular and somehow contain the most challenging of liquid ejections. I don’t know if Bebette is just more ladylike than Boddler FF but we seem to have had less poonamies so far (*touch wood). However I do get a sinking feeling each time I hear a squidgy spurty fart noise. Nappy change, potential full outfit change,… I need a moment to prepare and ideally some earplugs.

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Such a tiny nappy and yet it looks so massive! Bundler in action – no need to undo poppers. Boom.

Breatsfeeding is a challenge. It does hurt at the beginning. Just because you’ve done it once already doesn’t necessarily make it painless the second time round. Days 3-5ish are intense, sore and generally a bit uncomfortable. You need to feed all the time (at this point you don’t really have many other options if they are crying; stories, bribe snacks and Peppa Pig are not yet functional. You’re trying to understand this new baby and you only really have a couple of tools to work with – food and warmth/nappies). You do find yourself wincing with each latch. Then it is suddenly fine. Everything feels comfortable again. And it’s so worth it. If you are able and willing, it’s joyous.

Side note: last year I did a post on breasts and breastfeeding, check it out here.

I have the opposite problem to most people when feeding, which is trying to control the rapid flow of milk I have to Bebette and not all over the sofa / neighbour / carefully prepared meal. I have a rapid or heavy letdown (whatever it’s called – reminds me of Mean Girls and the lady with the heavy flow and wide-set VG) and a delicate little lady – basically I’m asking her to do a “down in one” for every meal and that’s a tough ask. She can’t handle my milk at the speed it comes out. So we have painful gas, a little bit of reflux and a lot of leaked on, milky clothes and bras, a high turnover of nursing pads and a residual atmosphere of damp cheese factory. Mmmmm.

New babies can sense when you’re about to eat and will do everything in their power to ensure you know they also need to eat. I find this truly amazing but as it only seems to affect me and my dinner directly, few others in the house see the remarkable coincidence. No matter what time, and seemingly in no way linked to Bebette’s normal feeding routine, whenever I’m about to be presented with hot food, it’s like my saliva sets off an alarm in her and she starts screaming. It is simply inconceivable that I should put Bebette down somewhere to eat prior to feeding her. And that is the case even when I “strategically” feed her right before. “Strategically” in quotes because I’m not sure my brain is up to anything purporting to be strategic or logical or planned…. but you know what I mean.

Then after urgent feed, she’ll likely poop. Bon appétit! Who needs to eat anyway?

The newbie poos are insanely colourful. Bright yellow bright green with little bits in… joy. On the plus side they really don’t smell. Lucky then I’m permanently attached to Bebette so know when they have arrived thanks to the machine gun farts. Otherwise I’d have no clue. Unlike with Boddler where you need to exit the room to breathe before going back in to remedy the situation.

How quickly they grow out of clothes in the early days. Newborn, 0-1 month, the tiny little items you either have in abundance or perhaps you don’t have enough of. Either way before you know it, literally two weeks in, they are starting to fill out. 3 weeks in and the big giveaway that she’s growing: Bebette’s toes are at the end of the little footsies and the legs look like they are starting to pull. THREE WEEKS! That’s not fair! Why do they grow so quickly? Or is it just me and my sugar milk that is made up of 70% cake and chocolate?!

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One hand you say?

You have to function with one hand. I’m writing this with one hand on my phone. You have to get on with life with a little milky hot water bottle attached to you either at the boob or in a sling. Eating in treacherous (as mentioned above), hot drinks must not be hot, you mostly only ever have one hand available for Boddler patting or trying to clean, and any time you do have your body back to yourself, there’s a 70% chance that there is someone crying somewhere in close proximity to you. I had forgotten that you literally can’t go to the loo or for a shower without a screaming serenade or taking the little one in with you. Given that Bebette isn’t a massive fan of any of her sleep receptacles yet, I have to rely on Papa to take over the snuggles and “release me” to the bathroom. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t have this problem second time round but it seems not…maybe I’m the cuddle monster…

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Off we go into week 4 – wish us luck!  Next post will be on the initial learnings with two under twos 💓💓