Back to work

This week I went back to work.  It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.  I cried. I was tired. I was grumpy.  I was a terrible wife and barely spoke to my husband at all (sorry Monsieur FF).  But you know what: I survived.  WE survived.

I was really happy to be back in the office: to see colleagues; to check emails; to read without interruption; to wear something that didn’t get covered in food and dribble (at least not until  I got home), to have a hot drink, a leisurely lunch, and sit down and talk business. Not babies.  Mais that’s not to say I didn’t miss my bébé like crazy. I did. I was beyond excited to get home and grab him.  I actually ran (hobbled: new shoes #error) to nursery to dramatically throw down my bag, fling my shoes at some poor child and embrace him.  But, honestly, it was nice to have both work time and bebe time.  This is how life is going to be now. I am a working mum. And I am going to embrace it.

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Back to work selfie

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This post is hard to write.  Whatever I say in here are my very personal thoughts, specific to me and my life, about going to work and having a baby in someone else’s care.  But I’m not alone.  There are so many people out there in a similar position, whether you are a mum, or a dad, trying to work out how to balance your “old” life with this new, exciting but terribly demanding one.

There are also loads of topics that could be covered by the post, predominantly focused on the impossible choices that (mainly) women face as professionals and mothers.  However, I don’t yet feel capable of broaching that one, not least because I can’t see an easy solution.  It’s just bloody hard.  Désolée.

I’m sure somewhere along the line someone is going to be offended by what I say.  I apologise.  This is such a sensitive subject  it is incredibly hard to discuss it without getting into the minutiae of your individual situation (your career/your current role/your family/your income/your aims in life/your marriage etc.)   I’m going to be frank because I think it’s important to document my journey, but also because I’m one of the lucky ones :  I work for a very flexible company and in a flexible team. More about that shortly.

When you have a baby, deciding if and when to go back to work is a massive deal.  Deciding on what basis to go back is complicated, not least because it is not just your decision.  Some people don’t have much choice because their child needs 24/7 care.  Some people don’t have much choice because they are the main breadwinner in the family.  Some employers don’t offer many real options.  There are so many factors in play, it’s really quite mind-boggling.  Not to mention the fact that, chances are, you are not exactly desperate to get back to work work (as opposed to all the hard but super rewarding mum work (which includes lots of cake and cute baby clothes)).

Deciding who is qualified to look after your bebe is like trying to decide who is qualified to run the country. That’s right: no-one.  But there are only a finite number of nurseries, or nannies, or childminders, and there are even fewer options that will fit with a reasonable commute and your financial viability.  I’ve always struggled with the concept of “paying to work” which is the bizarre situation you find yourself in when assessing whether to go back to work.  Unless you are in the very privileged position of having free childcare (usually down to amazing and local grandparents or relatives) or a job that pays a freaking fortune, or you’re just a straight-up millionaire, you are essentially paying to do your job because by the time you deduct the costs of having someone else care for your child, you’re probably barely breaking even.

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The whole subject has actually made me feel quite uncomfortable.  I have questioned myself on an hourly basis for the past month.  What am I doing? Why am I doing it?  If you asked me on what basis I was going back to work, you will have seen me pull a strange face as I reply “full time” and cast my eyes down.  I say “strange” because even I can’t recognise what emotion I’m experiencing… is it guilt?  Is it embarrassment?  Is it sadness?  Most likely it is confusion tbh. I literally don’t know how I feel.

Yes, I’ve gone back to work, and I’m going to do my job full time.  I work in London and like most people I have a commute of the best part of an hour.  So when I finish work in the office, I then need another hour to get back to bebe FF.  You are probably judging me right now. Analysing my decision. Not necessarily in a negative way, but you are wondering why and what led me to that decision, right?  I would be doing exactly the same.  Does she love her job that much? Can they not afford any other option?  Did she not have the option to do part time? Does she not like being a mother??!

Right – just to be clear – I absolutely adore being a mum.  

It is literally the best thing in the world ever.

See – bold, large and colour. Seriously. This is the shizzle. I could not feel luckier. Not a day goes past where I am not overwhelmed by the miracle that is Bebe FF, astonished by how much I love him, delighted by how happy I am in our little family unit, amused by his little bottom and tiny teef, amazed by how quickly he is growing and… scared.  Scared of life happening.

Notwithstanding all the above, I also enjoy being a lawyer.  I love my job. I worked hard to become a lawyer and get this job. I’m a professional woman in a global business.  Oh and the business is a toy company, the LEGO Group to be precise. You may well be familiar with it. The plastic bricks that last forever?  The ones that hurt when you walk on them? That’s us. I’m one of many lucky people to be employed by the Danish super brand and I should be rather proud of it.  My job is exciting and it is demanding.  To do it well, I believe that I need to be available most of the time.  In my experience thus far, it is also incredibly flexible.  Not only does the LEGO Company embrace flexible working, they positively encourage it.

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Bebe FF’s first trip to the office age 3 months – suspect he will be more excited about it in the future.

We don’t have a designated desk in our office.  We are taught “Activity Based Working”, to mix and mingle across departments and functional areas, and we are encouraged to work from home as often as we deem appropriate, provided we are able to perform our function, and judge when a meeting can be conducted from the office and when it can be handled remotely.  I know some people* struggle with the concept of “flexible working” (*the majority of UK employers for starters, and generations before us that aren’t so au fait with modern technology and still think sending a fax is high tech…)  It requires a level of trust and a recognition that a positive and enthusiastic workforce is good for productivity and, therefore, business.  Naturally there are financial advantages for the employers too, not just happy and driven, productive workers, but lower costs (rent, bills, general sustenance).  You need the right tools for it to work efficiently – flexible work spaces, portable laptops and remote video conf capability etc. but all of this stuff is so easily available nowadays, I find it hard to understand why it isn’t more widely adopted as a working standard.

Alas. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t as lucky as us LEGO UK employees, and who are having to fight for their employers to even consider more flexible working.  Check out Mother Pukka for starters.  Her Flex Appeal campaign is brilliant.  It’s all rather ridiculous when you look at the stats: clearly a flexible workforce is a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is far more productive than a morose bunch of reluctant 9-5 workers. Flexible working means working in a way that best suits you as an individual. As Mother Pukka puts it:

Flexible working doesn’t mean working less or slacking off, it means finding hours that suit your life and how you best work.

Self-evidently, if your employer gives you the flexibility to work the hours that fit in to your situation, then you are all the more likely to feel satisfied, and put in the hours and show the commitment to your employer – that improves your work and ethos, and their staff turnover (and all the costs associated with hiring and up-skilling new staff).  Also, critically for parents, it means you can work around your childcare.  Most people are awake for, let’s say 14 – 16 hours per day.  There’s no reason why all the fun stuff has to be crammed into the middle 8 hours is there?!

Family is a priority at LEGO, and having a REAL work life balance is considered to be a true demonstration of success.  It is perfectly normal and commonplace for the office to be near empty by 5pm.  Why?  Everyone has gone to pick up their kids, to spend some time with them before bedtime.  That doesn’t mean they have finished working for the day.  But working on the report due on Friday can be done anytime between now and Friday. Why not do it after the kids’ bedtime.  You are not rushing and you feel happy*.

(*Presupposes bedtime was a success and you don’t have a romantic diner a deux planned)

So, now you know that I am working full time, but it is not like most versions of full time that exist today in the UK.  I told you, I’m very lucky and I know it.

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For the avoidance of doubt

Also, on another note, I have taken 8 months of maternity leave – I could take up to a year and be guaranteed my job on my return.  I have friends in America who were lucky to get 3 months of maternity leave (apparently it can be as little as 6 weeks if your labour is “normal”). Likewise in France, a mere trois mois. THREE MONTHS.  WTF. I’m not being over dramatic when I say I don’t think my body had even recovered after 3 months, let alone my brain being functional and ready to juggle the challenges of motherhood and a career.  What kind of world do we live in?! The NHS encourages and promotes breastfeeding for the full first 6 months of a baby’s life. How do you manage that and be back at work? And I assume given the lack of flexibility on maternity leave, those American employers aren’t likely to be terribly flexible with the working hours either, or having a creche in the office…?

In any case, ladies, whenever you go back and if you go back, or decide not to, respect to you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this quandary and whatever you do, I hope you make the most of it.

Well folks thats all I’ve got for now. I’m just embarking on the journey and have a tough road ahead.  Bugs, sickness, work travel, socialising, emotional breakdowns, impossible decisions at home and work, brain failure… so much still to navigate.  But I leave you with this: My good friend, fellow lawyer and producer of Bebe FF’s birthday girlfriend (one hour before Bebe FF to be precise) Claire, shared with me a tip that was imparted on her as she rejoined her legal job, also full time, and a couple of months before us.  She said I should do the following:

  • when you are travelling in to work, think about something you are looking forward to; a meeting with a colleague, a nice lunch, a new exciting project.
  • on your way home, as you dash to pick up your precious little one(s) in time, focus on something you’ve done that day that you are proud of; concluding a project, some positive feedback, a significant learning, a job well done.

This will help remind you why this challenging time isn’t just about battling through and feeling guilty, it’s about being proud of yourself and your achievements, and making the most of each day.

 

 

Badass

This is how you feel when you take a 7 month old on a 10 hour flight (x 2, plus delays) and come out (a) alive (b) not covered in sick (c) with the same number of grey hairs (d)  still married and (e) with other passengers smiling and commenting on how great your bebe is.

We did it.  We went long haul and we had an epic time.  Yes, it was a massive headache preparing and packing; yes, it was weird being somewhere super hot and not sunbathing, and yes, it was strange not going out late in the evenings, drinking and raving.  Because Monsieur FF and I used to rave all.the.time.  But sacré bleu it was joyous.

Bébé FF swam through magical cold water cenotes, saw Miss America Latina, talked to parrots, patted iguanas, visited the Mayan ruins in Tulum and Xcaret, rode facing forward in a cab, and even sans seat (eek), slept in a swanky steak restaurant, ate fresh avocado, cucumber and melon (or at least touched and licked convincingly), swam with fish in the sea, tried a coconut, acquired a significant number of Mexican girlfriends and by all accounts had a pretty fantastical time.  Gracias!

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Senorita Mamacita

As you know, we enjoy travelling. Most people gawped at us when we said we were going to  Mexico, like “do you remember that time you gave birth to a BABY? IS HE STAYING BEHIND?!”  Er nope. He is coming. It’s called an adventure and we love them. However, “we” (mostly me) also recognise there is a lot of work and forethought involved in long haul travel, so you have to put the time in. Some people (*some people*) think you can wing it. Maybe a mix of both approaches is best. The type of  things that I don’t worry about day to day in my house in the UK that suddenly become concerning in a hotel resort in Mexico: water, milk source, baby friendly food, washing, sterilising, sleeping, swimming, bugs and mosquitos, safe travelling, general safety! Etc. So pretty much everything. Long haul avec bébé requires a lot of packing and unless you’re very brave with food and milk, careful planning and rationing. Listen to me! I can’t even plan my own dinner! 10 days worth of weaning friendly food and milk, milk receptacles and hot weather clothing was slightly mind-boggling. But we managed, and even had stuff spare! (In our three large luggage cases … ahem).

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During the planning and run up to the trip I was listening out for useful tips and learning as much as possible from other seasoned bebe travellers.One major tip I was given was to travel with bebe before he is crawling.  That was a good tip.  He was quite content to sit in the chair, on my lap or lie in the little cot bed on the plane without wriggling around too much.  He was content playing on his playmat in our hotel room whilst we got bits ready.  He’s trying to crawl but we are absolutely not encouraging it!

Another helpful tip I’ve mentioned before was to buy liquid milk supplies after security at the airport – you can preorder milk from Boots. We did this and had a good supply for each flight.

For those wanting to brave the wild wild wilderness of the world outside your country, here are a few tips, first on the actual travel part:

  1. get to the airport early and ensure they know you are travelling avec infant. It sounds obvious to us, as our little bundles rule our worlds, but the planes only have a set number of infant friendly seats and even fewer at the front with space for the portable bed/chair.  The person checking you in doesn’t care if you face many, many hours on a plane with a grizzly tired baby on your lap.  Be polite and firm and ensure you get a suitable space.  On our initial flight there were both chairs and cotbeds available, on the way back only a chair (looks like a bouncer) – we tested both and both were good. The chair was secured, safe, helpful sleeping material and the cotbed provided a little space Bébé FF could have his toys and play quietly.
  2. Take quiet, non violent toys and snacks that aren’t too messy – we love the Kiddylicious rice crackers as they are totally mess and stick free and very easy to bite and swallow. The mini rice cakes are also pretty good and were happily tossed on the floor when gummed enough. Slightly awks when you see it stuck to the air hostesses skirt, but if you will lean in a coo then you have to deal with the consequences 🙂 I say “non violent” because when a passenger realises he’s sitting in close proximity to a baby for 10 hours, he’s likely to be slightly aggrieved. When he is smacked around the head with a plastic rattle, has to clamber around a dumper truck to go to the loo and finds a teething ring in his dinner he’s going to go apesh1t. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Cuddly toys, small simple chew toys and things that can be safely affixed to something (with dummy ties) work well.
  3. Make sure Bebe is in comfy but sufficiently warm clothes, onesies / PJs are easy and help Bebe ease into sleep mode – the plane temperatures fluctuate but tend to be chilly I find. My legendary big and thin wool scarf/blanket was great for keeping me and Bebe FF at a snuggly temperature.
  4. Try not to stress. Ha! Pot, kettle. I know.  But if you stress, Bebe stresses and then all hell breaks loose. We had a few slightly fraught moments where we had trays of food and drinks and turbulence meaning Bebe FF had to come out of the carrycot and onto a lap – luckily Monsieur FF took the hit and managed to pile everything up around himself so that I was mobile to get the little man. Unfortunately our BA flight was very slow on the service and Monsieur FF was actually contemplating whether he could squeeze into a nappy when he was finally freed from his castle of carton and crusty stale bread to excuse himself to le toilette.  Anyway, keep your sh1t together. Literally.

 

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keep it in here

Tips whilst you are away:

  • you might not have a kettle (i know – who doesn’t drink tea seriously?!) or microwave and water may not be suitable for drinking so think about how you are going to clean/sterilise. We used bottled water which we heated through the cafetière. We used the cold water sterilising bags and Milton sterilising tablets. Check out my Instagram for more details:@be_my_bebe

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  • the milk powder might get sticky if you’re somewhere humid. Ours did and we ended up keeping it in the fridge. It was fine and Bebe FF guzzled it down but be careful as it can go off. Also watch out for little ants and creepy crawlies trying to make the container their new home. Yuk.
  • with fruit and food generally think about where you are and whether the not-so-clean tap water could have been used to rinse. The resort that we were in was fine but I wouldn’t have given him anything “freshly washed” outside.
  • bugs and mosquitos in particular are a pain in the arse. Literally. If like me you are insanely tasty and irrisistible to the blood guzzlers you need to lather yourself in sprays. We used some supposedly natural oil based bracelet things which were relatively effective on the limb they were closest to. After having my left leg mauled by 50 mozzies I started sporting an attractive anklet look. Fluorescent green (my desire to coordinate was quickly thwarted by the yellow blue green choices). FYI the bracelets can also double up as hair bands. I attached some of these to the pram and babybjorn. Babies and deet don’t mix well so we avoided spraying Bebe FF directly with our boots repellent product and instead tried to keep him under the mosquito net when out and about in the pram. When he was with me, I was prime target so he was safe. Motherly self-sacrifice. He didn’t seem to get bitten so it worked.
  • take some napisan and/or washing products with you in a mini container or take samples. Stains stick, and smelly milky stuff smells decidedly worse 10 days later. We managed a couple of washes of bits and luckily had no major poo dramas so felt pretty pleased with myself.

All in all we had a brilliant trip, we achieved so much and Bebe FF seemed très content for the whole duration.

We chanced things a few times and were glad we did. If you go in with low expectations and an open mind you will probably be pleasantly surprised. We went to a show about the history of Mexico one evening, with a dinner service, and expected to leave after the first few minutes.You should have seen our delighted and slightly smug faces when bebe FF decided to nod off at the start of the two hour performance and we were able to enjoy a multi-course dinner whilst watching the spectacle; he napped on the seat next to me oblivious. The ear defenders or “snugs” worked a treat.

It’s not worth thinking about what you’re “missing” when on holiday with a bebe. You’re not missing going out and drinking or burning yourself in the sun, you’re experiencing the trials and tribulations of a new place with your new person, where everything is new for them. And you’re bloody lucky too! We managed to enjoy many a margarita and cerveza – just mostly during the day and early evening 😁

So we’re there any downsides? Yes. Jet lag.

West to East is hard. Since we’ve been home we have had some jet lag issues, I’m not going to lie. The first couple of nights we had a very active and awake little trooper from 8pm-1 am, the very time we wanted to be asleep. Usually he’s down at 7.30pm. We had a very sleepy little guy at 9am that had to be woken up and really wanted to nap until 1pm.  He’s been teary and confused.  It’s been hard and he’s out of sorts.  We are too.  It’s called post-holiday blues. But we are coming out the other side. Ish. We’ve also started the initiation to nursery and working life (URGH), and transitioned to formula full time so it’s been a very challenging week. But more of that next time… Besos X

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Baby food and weaning

Weaning. Weaning Weaning. That’s all I’ve been thinking and talking about the past few weeks.  I know, compelling and rich.  You can imagine the conversations at the FF dinner table have been riveting.

So, what does “weaning” even mean? According to the dictionary it means to “accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother’s milk“.  N.b. the babes don’t suddenly stop having their milk, you just start to introduce solid food alongside the normal milk. The process isn’t a quick one.  It takes months.  The babes don’t stop their “baby” milk feeds until they are around a year old.  They gradually start to drop their milky requirements as they fill up on food.  This is why it is important to feed them healthily to ensure they are getting the vitamins and goodness they are currently enjoying in the milk. Oh and btw “solid” is sometimes a generous description for food that is really liquid gloop.

When you start weaning, you have the choice of adopting a “baby-led” weaning approach, or a… mummy-led approach?!  Basically you can give your baby actual solid pieces of food, that resemble the food that a normal human being might eat, and babe will attempt to grab them and chew or gum them, then lob them on the floor, or you can give them mush in a bowl with a spoon.  There’s a high chance the mush will also end up on the floor.

Here’s a quick run down of the pros and cons of each from my initial assessment:

Baby-led: looks fun. Chopping up veg is pretty easy. Sharing your food with bebe is nice (as long as it’s baby-friendly – not too much salt or sugar). Makes an enormous mess.  Slow to see any food actual enter bébé’s mouth and stay in there.  You can eat with bébé and (enjoy?!) the leftovers.

Mummy-led: looks fun. Mushing stuff is pretty easy.  Puréeing is strangely satisfying.  Lots of cool pouches of mush ready made in the supermarché.  You can do airplane spoon movements. Makes an enormous mess.  Less enjoyable eating the leftovers.

So, on the basis of my initial assessment I decided to adopt a mixed approach. i.e. when I have the time, and the patience, let Bebe FF lead the way. When I don’t, it’s pouchy gloopy mush on a spoon or rien.

As with so many things in the UK, weaning is not only a huge milestone but a giant marketing opportunity. As every marketeers dream customer, I am sucked in to purchasing all the “devices” and “equipment” and brightly coloured packets in order to ensure Bébé FF “eats” as much as possible, and to generally render this otherwise slightly painful process more joyous.

Why painful you ask? Surely a baby with gnashers that breastfeeds is the epitome of pain?! Yes, that’s true. Thanks for reminding me. He needs to start eating to relieve my AMAZEBOOBS. FYI I’m now combo feeding. The gnawing was too much. However, this weaning business has been a struggle, for me, as well as for Bebe FF. Why?

  • I LOVE food. I love it. I would eat (and drink) all day and all night if I could. Every day.
  • I hate waste. I was brought up to clear my plate, be grateful and not be wasteful.
  • You know what else I hate? Mess. Especially sticky brightly coloured food mess sprayed up my creamy wall.  Yes cream was an error.
  • We just got into a routine.  I knew when to feed Bébé FF and the rest of the time we were playing or napping and it was just parfait.  Suddenly my day has turned into milk feed, prepare food, watch food being thrown around and in some cases regurgitated, clean up bebe then clean up food during nap time, milk feed, prepare more food, watch food being thrown around, clean up food and bebe etc.
  • Finally, I’m not the world’s most advanced chef. Ahem. Perhaps an understatement. Ze garlic wrap and yoghurt surprise avec vitamins are a couple of uni “dishes” I will never live down … So when I “cook” it is out of pure love, and it pains me to see the results sprayed on the floor and up Bébé FF’s nose. (Hang on, you could count that as a win as technically it’s inside him…)

Ok let’s be positive here. Weaning is fun.  It is. *Grin face* And when bebe actually starts to eat and seemingly enjoy food, then you’re on a path to happy and healthy toddlerhood.  You are winning.  Plus there is not much in the world more delightful than your little bundle de joie with something delicious smeared all over his little chubby face.  Too. Cute.

And Bébé FF’s enormous grin when he discovers that I’m not trying to poison him and the banana purée with a hint of vanilla is actually pretty darn tasty – you can’t put a price on that.

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Let’s review.

When to wean?

It’s recommended by the NHS to start around 6 months. If your baby has allergies it is particularly recommended to wait for the 6 month mark, and then try to introduce the main allergens before the end of year one. When you start, the main recommendations (as far as I understand) are to try baby rice and porridge first, mixed with whatever milk your little one enjoys, then introduce vegetables and then fruit. Try to get them onto the veg because they have a sweet tooth, thanks to their milky diet, and they need to start to adapt to the world of savoury delights.  And that’s pretty much it. That’s about all you will get from most public sources on weaning.  After that you are on your own.

I spent a fair amount of time Eugoogling in the first few weeks because BébéFF seemed to gag every time anything hit the back of his throat.  It was a bit scary and I felt like I was torturing him.  I didn’t really find anything to allay my concerns, and my homegirls didn’t really seem to be experiencing the same issues (shout out to those mamas and their beautiful bundles who are by all accounts nailing this eating business, and the mamas are chefettes extraordinaire). In the end I just eased off for a week and tried again later. After what seemed like a few years (but was actually weeks), he began to swallow, and chew, and bits of food were slowly disappearing. And the detective in me was able to conclude he was actually consuming the food when I saw the popo.  Wow.  The real food popo.  Another thing I just wasn’t ready for.  My nose!  Poor Monsieur FF practically faints when he has to changé the nappy nowadays. But here’s a positive – it’s much more solid!!!

The aim of weaning: to introduce bebe to flavours, smells, textures, and encourage a healthy desire to eat veggies and fruit and not Maccie Dees every day.

The leading authority on all things purée is a lady who sounds like my favourite sugary treat, and not a particularly healthy veggie fiend:  Annabel Karmel.  The baby-led arena is not as concentrated (or marketing friendly) but I have a good cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.  That makes it sound like I’ve got past page 5 – chopping up a cucumber.  When I really start cooking it will be great.  I know it.  We just aren’t quite there yet.

As mentioned, another positive is that it’s an excellent excuse to buy more brightly coloured bébé stuff.  Minimalist monochrome hasn’t hit the baby-weaning aisle yet.  What do you actually need?

  • A high chair – think minimal crevices and easiest to wipe. Ikea have nailed this.
  • A bib or ten.
  • Soft spoons. Bébé FF spends more time licking and chewing the spoons than anything else.
  • Little pots to serve the food. They are very tiny and cute.  And also help you be realistic about what bébé will be consuming in the first months.
  • Sippy cups so bebe can start to have sips of water. Particularly helpful when they start gagging as it helps wash down any food in there.
  • Most importantly the food itself!! Weaning is a great reason to go a discover your local grocery store or farmer’s market, and stock up on delicious fresh, organic, brightly coloured and may be even exotic fruit and veg.  You will look at the available options with a fresh pair of eyes.  It’s exciting.  You want bébé to have the best.  It’s a challenge sourcing the food and transforming it into something bébé wants to eat, but you can do it and when you do, and they like it, you feel proud.  Ref the riveting conversations 🙂

You may also even don an apron. I actually feel more matronly than ever before. I almost want to cook Mr FF elaborate meals. Almost.  Puréeing a carrot, it turns out, hasn’t completely transformed me in Mrs FF-Roux quite yet.

We shall return to this sujet again in a few months, by which time I may well have quit my job and be appearing on GBBO.  One thing is for sure – the photo ops are endless.

Bon appetit!

Bug-Agh!-Boo

Oh the dreaded baby bugs. The ones that get your baby and then they get you. And everyone else. I know I know, they are good really, helping bébé build and strengthen his immune system… But they are nasty. Apparently they are at their most prevalent when your bébé first starts nursery or goes to creche / pre-school or indeed anywhere they mix with other little ones. For some reason (je ne sais quoi) Mr FF and I assumed that we would be immune to these bugs. Bien sur! Bebe FF is made of special stuff. He won’t get sick! Nor will we! That supposition has already proven to be merdique. Zut alors.

Let me give you ze gory.

Last week we flew to France for an impromptu full “French F” family gathering. We had woken to the unusual sight, or rather smell, of a sicky Bébé FF. We didn’t have time to ponder other than to assume it was the end of his first cold, which happened earlier in the week, and went on our merry way to the airport. He seemed fine, just tired. Naturally we left ourselves -15 minutes to do the 45++ minute route through security and to Gate 5,638 at Gatwick airport, in order to join our Squeasyjet flight. We flew through the airport. Thanks to the legendary Babyzen we made it, boarded and were feeling pretty smug.

You may know that when flying with bébé you should try to get them to suck on something to prevent sore ears on departure and landing. Dumdum wasn’t cutting it, so I offered up the Mummadum aka babylons and sat back waiting for the flight to be over and another journey nailed. (Side note: Bébé FF has travelled a lot since he was born and has already flown, so this wasn’t quite as exciting as his first flight, but it is all still tres novel.  Second side note: Bébé FF is growing teeth. I didn’t particularly want to leave him chewing, if you know what I mean. Once in the air I removed him and gave him a good pat on the back.)

Bebe FF is very good at burping (like his father) and he emitted a rather noisey burp as we bounced through some clouds. I congratulated him, as I always do (it is going to be terribly confusing when I start telling him not to burp in public because it’s rude… ) and then he did it again. This one sounded a bit… “wet”. Yuk. He seemed fine so we laughed about it and I even whispered to Mr FF that it was a good job he wasn’t the type of baby to projectile vom everywhere because, well, could you even imagine!

Two minutes later and we didn’t need to use our imagination. It happened. Vomageddon. More milky sloppy stuff was coming out of Bébé FF then has been put in in a week. It was like the scene from Team America. Except it was just a centimetre away from my face and mostly aimed at my chest. And my lap.

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Vomageddon (Cred: Team America)

Poor little lamb was shocked by the whole thing and naturally quite restless. I was covered in vomito with Bébé FF held up in the air. Mr FF momentarily transformed into a French  version of Edvard Munch’s ‘Scream’. Paralysed in shock I had to shout out commands. FYI I’m good at that. The poor, smartly dressed young lady next to Mr FF practically jumped out of her seat and proceeded to pace the aisle for the next 20 minutes as we frantically tried to do something about all the sick. Lucky because I would have had her tasked with vom-cleaning had she hung around.

“Get sick bags!” I cried, not really sure why. Bit late. Bébé FF was a trooper and despite our frantic attempts at cleaning stayed calm and didn’t fuss. At one point, even the pacing smart lady got so frustrated with the level of faffing she literally grabbed the change bag, which Mr FF was trying to close – and failing (OK, we have a lot of emergency stuff in there. It came in useful so it’s worth the bag being so full it overflows!) and attempted to zip it herself. I think she was offended by the abuse Mr FF was giving the poor bag (it is a frenchie Longchamp), men just aren’t delicate with ze bags are they?!

The only positive about all of this was we finally got revenge on Squeasyjet for being so blinking ennuyant with their bag policy. For all those times you made me cram my handbag into my mini travel bag. Which was overflowing. In your face Squeasy! Or rather your seat. And all around the floor… Ahem. When you can read this, thank you Bébé, mummy owes you a treat.

Anyway this is already rather verbose so to cut a long story short, it turned out Bébé FF had a virus. He proceeded to be sick repeatedly until we took him to the docteur, who looked like Marion Cotillard and he naturally flirted with her for 15 minutes and was clearly fine. So Bébé FF has now just about recovered. We all got the bug (excepting une hardcore sœur), so the weekend reunion was mostly spent in and out of the salle de bain and with a few people missing for each repas. A real dommage but a novel experience ensemble nonetheless.

Buggeryboo. Which incidentally is what Momma F calls the Jumperoo.

 

Body Combat

People say your body will change when you have a baby. Those people are right. (Again, dammit). Even when your belly has eventually deflated, and your boobies too, you seem to be just a bit bigger, saggier and wider everywhere.  The unofficial rule “9 months on, 9 months off” seems fair when you’re not actually in the 9 months.  The 9 month “target” is looming close for me now. Why do I even have a target? Can’t we just appreciate what an immense job our bodies have done and be proud of the wobble? Sadly not.

When you think about having a baby you imagine being pregnant, the bump of joy, and then having this little bundle in your arms, but at no point do you visualise the person holding the bébé is not “you”. Not you as you know “you”. You know what I mean?!

Stay with me here.  Let’s recap.

Being pregnant is amazing: you’re glowing, your hair is thick and wondrous and you’ve got a little person wiggling around inside you that needs you to eat, sleep and generally be zen.  Heaven.

<ok the maternity clothes are horrific, as is the nausea and the burping is not very ladylike but let’s pretend we forgot about that already>

Being a new mum is kind of the opposite: you’re tired and pale, your hair has all fallen out and hasn’t been washed for a while <ahem>, and the little wriggly person is now dribbling milk down you whilst you try to sleep (but fail), try to eat (but fail – except for cake and chocolate) and generally are capable of being just absolutely frazzled. This is all normale. But it’s hard. It’s hard realising that (a) your body is pretty messed up right now and (b) you really don’t have the time to sort it out.  Bébé is your one and only priority.

I hope you don’t think I’m terribly vain. I’m not obsessed with how I look. But I tend to prefer to look like I’ve actually got dressed, as opposed to walking the streets in my PJs, and to make myself look vaguely presentable. I just want to feel normal.

New mommas and mommas2be, here is a quick reminder:

  •  Did you previously brush your hair? Yeah, you’re probably not gonna have time for that.
  •  Did you wash it? Yeah, sorry, unlikely to manage that unless you schedule your shower and have someone covering your back. I’m being serious. See post on Baby Steps to re-live my showering traumas.
  • Did you enjoy hot drinks? You do know tea tastes better cold? ….OK no, it doesn’t, I’m sorry.
  • Did you used to “pop” to the shops, or the gym or on a run? The only thing you will be “popping” for a while is your trouser bottoms and popcorn. If you do get out to exercise you’ve probably planned three milk feeds, left enough clothes out for a family of 6 and anticipated the possible protections required for bébé in the event of WW3. When you actually get out there you will wonder why on earth you’ve gone to so much effort in order to get outside and do something you used to find torturous. That’s right ladies, exercising is now a treat!!
  • Did you iron your clothes? Bahahahaha!! The only thing you will be ironing is …nothing. Maybe baby clothes. If you iron muslins you have too much time on your hands.
  • Speaking of hands, did you like having two of them?! Did you, once upon a time, enjoy having painted nails?  You probably won’t get round to locating your nail varnish, let alone applying it to your nails. And IF you do (well done) bébé will immediately start wailing, leaving you no option but to smear it all over their new outfit and your bed/sofa and leave a permanent reminder that you tried, but failed, to be glam. And also you’re a terrible mother. And when you finally get round to removing your manky, cracked and smeared nail varnish  and you cannot fathom why it’s taking so long to come off, you realise after seemingly endless rubbing that you are actually rubbing your nails with a wet wipe and Sudocrem. Aggggh.
  • Conclusion: first world problems. I know. But just get your other half to take bébé on a walk and get a shower, go for a swim, or to the whatever salon. Get some head space. Try to have some “you” time. Enjoy it.

The lack of “you” time is quite a shock to the system. In a way it makes me feel terribly selfish that I should want a bit of time to exercise, have a girly drink or “beautify”; that I have to ask Mr FF if I can possibly be allowed to go out for an hour to the nail place to do something he never even knew I did before. “Mais why do you need to Shelllack (sic) ze toes, doesn’t eet ‘urt? what does eet do?” Having to explain beauty treatments to your other half is quite depressing. Having to justify the need for these ‘treats’ is very depressing. But, heavens, if you get to escape for that pedicure, the time in the plastic chairs with the flip flops can be likened to a week in the Indian Ocean. Ok… maybe more like a weekend in France. Restorative. You will be skipping to the park later.

Ladies, “you” time is important. Getting out of the house is important.  Tu es important. Learning to love your new body is important.  Leaving le bébé is important. They do actually manage to survive just fine without us. (The other halves may struggle un petit peu…) But it’s important that we are surviving for them. Happy mummy means happy baby. And daddy.

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This horribly slim baby momma is winning at exercising and being happy. Also note she’s clearly had her nails done.

It’s hard not to feel a slight pang of longing or something, at the overwhelmingly different life you lead as a babymomma. And I don’t want to be ashamed of saying that or make you feel bad or apprehensive. It is different. Of course it is. But it’s also bloody amazing. You would never want it any other way. I can’t imagine not having bébéFF. He’s my everything. When Mr FF is making him giggle there’s nothing else in the world that matters. Not my waist or my wobbly bum (had that before anyway :-)), thin hair or manky nails. In fact all of those things remind me what a journey we have been on and how miraculous our bodies are. I MADE that little garçon. I made him, in my tummy. And I got him out! No need to go into the details on that part. And now I’m helping him grow and nurturing him. AMAZEBOOBS! The rest doesn’t matter. I’ve got plenty of time to worry about the physical repercussions of all this later.

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How I feel every single day!

Baby showers

When I found out we were having a baby boy (pretty much waved his business at us when we had our 20 week scan) one of the first things that sprung to mind was the zizi situation. Right, let’s be realistic here; I’m going to spend my first months of motherhood covered in wee. Baby boys, in particular, have a propensity for showering you with pipi at any opportunity.  Well, all babies do it, but boys are capable of more acrobatic waterworks n’est ce pas. Eek.

Having grown up surrounded by sisters, with limited real exposure to “Malian” babes and their zizi antics, I was genuinely worried about ensuring I safely and effectively managed / avoided the piddle. What if it goes in his eyes? Or up the wall? What if it goes in my eyes and then I accidentally knock him off the table or blindly attach his nappy to his head? What if we all go blind?? What if the wall caves in due to excessive moisture? What if we drown in wee? Etc. Bit dramatic. Sure. But all they do these bébés is drink liquids all day, so it’s fair to assume that you will be facing (literally) a lot of wee.

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As well as googling the latest designer raincoats, I did a bit of research on how to manage the pee.  Naturally I went straight to Amazon Prime. And bien sur Amazon had the answer. Fear not anxious new mums! For the small price of £22+ extortionate postage (wtf?!!) you can buy these Peepee Teepees “for sprinkling wee”!!

Seriously. Aside from being ridiculously expensive (are they stitched with golden thread perhaps?!), considering that they are going to be catching baby wee, they are a little bit tiny and – once your baby is more than about a month old he will wiggle around endlessly – you will surely find the Peepee Teepee is stuck to his chest in a way that would make Madonna proud.

I’m happy to report that for once I didn’t succumb to the Amazon middle-of-the-night-slightly-delirious-purchase of the Peepee Teepees. I resisted and I’m proud.

More importantly I also managed to escape being peed on quite effectively. Touch wood.  I needn’t have worried. Monsieur FF was not as fortunate. He seemed to attract the pipi. I suggested maybe Bébé FF was trying to make his daddy proud, nothing like a bit of willy waving between chaps. I won’t forget the panicked screams of “PIPI !!! PIPI!!!” in those early days when Bébé FF was mid-change and decided he wanted to relieve himself al fresco. I’m not sure what Monsieur FF thought that screaming would do, but putting his open hand up didn’t help much either. Sans designer raincoat he just had to man up and take it on the chin. Tee hee.

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Unknown man “taking it on the chin”. How to baby shower – nailed it.

I’ve developed a couple of techniques to prevent baby showers which I am happy to share:

  • Place a strategic wet wipe over the danger zone as soon as the nappy is off. This allows bébé bottom some air whilst protecting you.
  • Otherwise if going for a quick change prepare your clean nappy by inserting it in place under the existing nappy, whilst the dirty one is still on. When you are ready, fait attention, remove the sticky sides and then swiftly extract the dirty nappy with one hand whilst deftly lifting and fixing the new one into place.
  • Ensure the zizi is not sticking upwards otherwise bébé may end up with a wet belly button.
  • Purchase designer raincoat.
  • Umbrella hats are also a winner.

Voila….good luck! 💦💦

Boobies, Breasticlés, Amazeboobs

WARNING: This post contains graphic boobie-related content.  If you don’t have boobs, I suggest you don’t read this.  You may be traumatised.

As someone* once said:

“I don’t care about amazeballs, what about these amazeBOOBS?!”

*probably

As this week is apparently world breastfeeding week it seems opportune to celebrate the wondrous balls that are higher up, the boobies.  I have always been amazed by boobs and I’ve never really had any of my own to speak of. Having Bébé FF allowed me to grow a pair.  Literally.

Before I launch in, on a serious note I just want to say I know breastfeeding is a very  sensitive and sometimes controversial topic. I can only speak from my own experience on this. I understand that every woman is different, every baby is different and each new family’s circumstances and birth experiences are different. All of those differences mean that every single woman has a different boob-related experience when they have a baby. The main thing is ensuring your baby is fed. How you do it is your concern only.  You made a baby, you deserve a freaking gold medal.  Nuff said.

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So. Let’s talk about boobies.  If you didn’t already know, the effect of having a baby on your boobs can yield some quite extreme and often hilarious(ish) consequences.  I’m still using mine, but I have heard that things get worse, not better.  Quelle surprise.  This is really a post for the prospective and new mommas that have no clue what is around the corner, or have just recently shared some of the joys of being a milking machine.

As I said at the start, this is a very personal experience so I can only share what happened to me.  BébéFF is extremely gourmand and as a result had located my nipple and started suckling before I even had chance to get my eyes back in focus after the minor trauma of getting him out.  Pretty sure I was shouting ” Help! I  can’t actually see anything! Have I had a baby?!” whilst he got down to business.  I was lucky that he was a hungry baby.

I was also lucky to have a wonderful midwife who took the time to show me the ropes.  I explained to her that I probably wouldn’t be able to breastfeed given my boobs are so small.  She clarified to me that apparently “that is not a thing“.  Accompanied by a withering look. Fair.  In fact, small boobies really come into their own for this job.  You have just got to get set up.

Side note: There is nothing more bizarre than having a random lady grab your new baby and your boob and try to connect the two, but I have to tell you, it worked.  A few attempts at bouncing my boob against his unsuspecting mouth and he was latched.  If you can get a midwife to give you some tuition, do it.  The sooner you can get bébé on that boobie the better.

I was also very lucky to get home to a quiet, calm house quickly, and be waited on hand and foot.  I fully appreciate this is not always possible, and certainly not when you are on bébé number 2+.  Quick tip from our NCT classes: have a sports-capped bottle of water in every room.  Once you sit down to feed, you are not gonna be able to move, and you will only have one hand free, at best.  You will never know such thirst.  It’s like bébé is drinking directement from you.

The next thing to note is that in the first days postpartum you will be repeatedly asked if “your milk has come in“.  No, you’re not being asked if Monty the Milkman has been to visit (heaven knows you need the milk, but do milkmen even still exist?!).  In fact, after a few days (3-5 usually) of violent suckling of the magical creamy colostrum you have produced, actual milk will start to fill your boobs. You will know when it happens. Believe me. I’ve mentioned “the Pamela” effect before.  My babylons got so big I genuinely couldn’t put my arms down by my sides.  It was funny for 5 minutes.  Then I needed my arms back.

Unfortunately, I had to decline offers to be in the new Baywatch movie due to the rest of my body being used in Scream 9.

Another thing to note is that just because you are producing milk, you don’t actually need to drink milk.  Can you believe that? Yes, a health visitor genuinely took her time to explain that one to me. Brilliant.  Good job I’m here to tell you all this, eh?!

What you do need to do is drink plenty of liquids and you will likely find you are super hungry.  This is where the cake comes in particularly useful.  I was told to eat plenty. So I did. Don’t have to tell me twice! But seriously, it probably helps you to make the good milky stuff.  500 calories extra is just a rough indicator.  I aimed for about 2 million extra and pretty much nailed it.

Be sure to get yourself measured once you are established, as the boobies are in their element and will require a new range of boulder-holders.  When the assistant announced my new measurements, I had to hold myself back from asking them to announce it over the tannoy.  I almost got a T-shirt made.  They eventually neutralise but I was astonished by the sheer volume of material in some of my bras.  Epic.

I’m sorry to say that you will likely be bitterly disappointed with the range of nursing clothing that is available.  In part this is because you actually don’t need special clothes with hidden pockets and access areas.  You just need bigger tops and ideally button-up or zip-up top layers, with a vest top underneath.  I know, it’s annoying to hear, I’m not usually one to shy away from any opportunity to buy clothes you “need”, but like the maternity ranges available around here, you will mostly spend your time (and money) being disappointed by the poor quality “specially-designed” products, and resort to areas of your existing wardrobe you forgot you had.  So buy a load of vest tops and some comfy tees in a couple of sizes up from your normal size.  Gap, H&M and Toppers are always reliable.

(By the way, one of the most ridiculous things about maternity shopping is that most of the maternity ranges aren’t available to try in store.  The one time you really blumming need to try the clothes on and you can’t.  Seriously. What is that about?)

Some things you need to become familiar with if you are planning to breastfeed:

  • nursing bras – think soft, non-wired, clippy and probably the ugliest bras you will ever own.  I can recommend John Lewis for comfortable bras (satin crop tops are amaze) but if you have babylons the size of watermelons you probably need to just invest in two hammocks.
  • breast pads – equally exciting as other types of female pads.  You need these to prevent your boobs leaking.  Yes, your boobs may leak.  Like a tap. You can get the Lanisoh ones, but if you go through hundreds of these as you may well do at the start, look out for Boots mega boxes and similar supermarket versions. They are all have different levels of packaging, softness and stickyness on the back.
  • nipple creamLanisoh Lanolin. Buy two tubes of it immediately. Apply it every time bébé goes anywhere near your nipples.
  • breast pump – a contraption used to extract milk from ze boobies when you want to increase your supply / build up a freezer stock / escape for a mad night on the town (more likely to a yoga class or for a bit more sleep, but we can dream).  These come in “manual” or “electric”.  Both will make you feel a bit like a farmyard animal. Manuals are smaller, lighter, portable and cheaper.  Electrics are more efficient, more pricey but don’t require an impromptu forearm workout.  If you are planning to pump more than very occasionally, I recommend the electric variety.  You get used to the terrible repetitive buzzing noise fairly quickly.
  • bottles and pouches and freezing milk solutions.  I only discovered this later on, thanks to my lovely NCT friend, but the Tommee Tippee Express and Go pouches are excellent. Highly recommend.

 

Now I said the consequences of breastfeeding can be hilarious.  Well, I never thought I would be saying this, but I want this blog to be frank.  So when your boobs squirt milk all over your bébé, couch, and often an unsuspecting family member (or worse) you have got to laugh.  This really does happen.  I’ve lost count of the number of times BébéFF started squirming around under my various protective layers, and as I pulled him out I could see why.  Milk everywhere.  When bébé pulls off your boob, your boob won’t just stop what it’s doing.  Be warned. Always have a muslin to hand for those awkward moments.  It’s funny and a bit embarrassing.

I haven’t really mentioned breastfeeding in public, that’s another of those mummy milestones and slightly controversial topics I don’t feel ready to face today.  Suffice to say, my own view is you get on and feed your bébé wherever the heck you need to.  If you are in a place you are legally entitled to be (i.e. a public place) then you are legally entitled to feed  your bébé there too.  Pretty sure that is the law.

I shall finish with this thought of the day.

When crumbs fall down your top (which happens often) technically they have been boobie trapped.

You are welcome. ❤

 

Baby steps

Having a bébé is a big deal and it is not all cute babygrows, nursery rhymes and cake (although it is a lot of that).  I had not fully appreciated how this journey would change me; not just physically but emotionally.  I don’t think you can anticipate the change.  It is utterly mind-boggling.

This post is entitled “baby steps” but I’m not talking about actual “baby” baby steps, with mini Nikes (although those are awesome #wishlist). I’m talking about the transition from being a pregnant lady to a new mum, and a new mum to … well, a normal functioning mum.  The former isn’t a step, it’s more like a giant screaming projection into a parallel universe. The latter, well, it feels like you are taking a lot of tiny baby steps towards something, but you’re never entirely sure what.

A baby step could be doing a load of washing, washing your hair, it could be sending out your thank you cards, going for un petit jog, baking a gateaux, taking bébé out in the car, changing bébé in a restaurant changing room, drinking a hot drink that is actually hot, eating your lunch at lunchtime as opposed to 4pm, fitting into your pre-preggo jeans (ok that’s a big step – well freaking done!!)… All of these things seem like little nothings to anyone that hasn’t just had a baby.  But I can assure you, each one feels like a massive achievement to a new momma.

I remember emerging from a baby changing room for the first time, victorious after about 30 minutes of precarious balancing of wobbly-headed bébé on my hip, inevitable complete outfit change due to up-the-back-poonami and carefully ensuring all precious baby change items were returned to correct place in mary poppins-esque changing bag without dropping bébé or bag.  I genuinely expected a round of applause.  I felt like shouting out to the people sitting unsuspectingly at their tables that I have just changed my bébé for the first time in a strange space that wasn’t my home and he seems to have survived the experience!  I was so proud of myself.  Later I realised I had poo smeared down my top but you can’t win them all.

Taking a shower is another classic achievement.  In our NCT classes the lovely Caroline, our NCT guru, was asking us what we planned to do with our bébés when it came to shower time.  “Erm, put them in a chair and take a shower?” was my smartarse response.  I remember guffawing at the idea I wouldn’t be able to take a shower. Pah! Well.  Guffaw I did not when I realised Caroline was right. I was on my own for the first time with bébéFF and I was in dire need of a shower.  So I look at bébéFF and he looks back at me.  Silent. Not smiling at that age.  Just staring back up at me. Ok, I can do this. How hard can it be?  I will just put him in his little bouncy chair and he will be fine! Off I go to get the bouncy chair up the stairs (smash a few things en route) and carefully position it somewhere in the proximity of the shower which is basically outside the door.  In goes bébéFF.  He looks at me.  I look back.  Pause. Then he starts to scream. Not just a little cry but the full-lunged job. Right. Ok.  At this stage you are still trying to understand what the scream means – food? poo? gas? sleepy? need a cuddle? 30 minutes later I have addressed most of the aforementioned and he is ready, again, silent, in the chair.  I take a delicate step towards the shower, and I slowly start to extract myself from my milk and spit-sodden PJs. By the way it’s about 2pm.  Shameful. I’ve got a leg in the shower when the screaming starts again.  Seriously.  Then the doorbell rings. Amazon Prime. And so it goes on.  Eventually you progress to getting in the shower quite quickly, having your 5 minutes of calm, and then when you go to switch off the tap you hear the dreaded howling that was drowned out by the water.  You are a terrible person.  So, when you finally manage to have a shower AND wash your hair AND there is no crying at all for the duration – you are winning.

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New baby life really is like learning to walk all over again.  As the months go by, the steps increase in frequency and strength, and you become more confident.  But the terrain keeps changing and you need different shoes.  Usually it changes right about when you’ve got the hang of the current challenges.  I mean what is this weaning business? Bébé can’t possibly drink from a cup?! That’s soooo grown up!! He can sit in a high chair?! WTF! Next thing we know he’ll be crawling. Yikes. Then how will I do … Anything?? Can you actually put them in a cage? Mind. Boggled.

The message in this post is simply this: baby mommas are amazing creatures.  Don’t let the tiredness and exhaustion make you forget this.  Every step you take no matter how minuscule, is a step in the right direction and you are winning.  Felicitations! We need to be proud of each and every step.  Take your moment in the baby change to be proud of yourself.  Enjoy that 2 minute shower when you get in there.

You have probably seen the baby milestone cards, you know the ones: woohoo mon bébé smiled today! or yoohoo mon bébé rolled today (into the sofa leg… Awks). Well the mummy milestones are just as important. Maybe even more important. Happy mummy equals happy bébé.  I will say this a lot.

There are some great new baby momma achievements to be marked. But the milestones keep coming. Some are more critical than others. Leaving bébé with someone else for the first time, that’s a big one. Finishing a glass of wine, perhaps less of an achievement (to some), but still up there.

Luckily some clever mummapreneurs have come up with cards to help you celebrate your milestones. Mummy Milestones are available on Etsy and you can follow on Instagram @mummymilestones.

 

Hey, here’s a blogging baby step for me: – let’s attempt to get interactive! It would be great to hear about your mummy milestones.  Leave a comment and share – we can revel in your glory mamabears ❤

 

BFFs

One of the best things about having a baby is making new friends, solidifying existing friendships and generally realising how extraordinary mothers really are.

The BFFs (baby fast friends)

These are your new baby momma friends. They are all in the same boat as you: pregnant, and scared. You have been thrown together, in the same fast moving car, on the epic rollercoaster ride that is impending parenthood. You don’t know each other well, you haven’t checked if anyone is actually licensed to drive, you probably don’t know very much about them at all, but you are about to go on the most remarkable journey together.

These new friends are your saviours.  You’ve barely had time to learn each other’s surnames before you’re sharing intimate birthing stories and cake recipes (not on my side, obvs. I am excellent at eating cake, but leave the baking to those more qualified).

The friendships are established so quickly that, when a few months go past, you might not actually recognise your BFFs out of context.  That can’t be her, where’s the bump?! Why is she talking about work?  Does she have a job?!

It is around the 3 months post-partum stage, when you emerge from the bubble of new motherhood, briefly, because bébé kind of sleeps and eats regularly enough for you to leave the house without having a nervous breakdown, and you suddenly realise you need to actually get to know these ladies. Properly.  Absent some seriously bad behaviour, I can’t imagine when you could get so personal so quickly with people without actually knowing what they do, where they live, or how they came to be in the present, slightly compromising situation.

These ladies help you get up and out of the house when you feel like you are on a mission impossible (urgent feed, followed by poo, followed by realisation you are still in PJs with a boob out), comfort you during the painful and delicate post-partum recovery phase (don’t ask) and they are there for you, with bells on, in the middle of the night when hubby is snoring away next to you (anything to distract you from Amazon, ASOS *maternity and feeding*, John Lewis, Mothercare…. ).

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So how do you get these BFFs?

As well as random stalkering, you can pay to do NCT, hypnobirthing or other classes. You can also find local new parent groups through your GPs and community centres, libraries, leisure centres etc.

We did NCT, despite being told we were just “buying friends”. Well, buy friends we did, and frankly we got the Joey, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Phoebs we could only dream about. Warner Bros would be proud. I told you I’m good at shopping.  (OKKKAY, it was pure luck). Our NCT group is amazing. Genuinely, we couldn’t have wished for a more lovely group of thoughtful, kind and caring individuals. And beautiful babies.  These women and men (and their babes) will be our friends for life, not least because they shared the most precious, exhilarating and terrifying life experience we have ever had.  But they are also just bloody lovely people.  And they live around the corner. Parfait.

The NCT classes themselves are a blast, the highlight is the cup of tea and biscuit, and they are particularly pertinent for the papas, who up until circa 37 weeks into your pregnancy genuinely believe babies come out (from where?!) walking, and talking, and eating fish’n’chips like the rest of us. They think contractions are a type of mathematical operation and meconium is a precious metal. Through the classes they find out that “afterbirth” isn’t a general reference to after the birth but is far more gory, and that the birth itself will be days and days and not 15 mins as seen on TV.

These BFFs are there for you through thick and thin in the last months of preparation through pregnancy, and the first hazy and delirious months of parenthood. From frantic freezer filling to 3am Amazon Prime shopping, you are in this together.

You will also likely have an obligatory WhatsApp group.  On the mum side, we have daily Q&As like:

“What colour are bébé’s poos today?”

“How many feeds are you doing through the night?”

“How can I get Bebe to stop itching?”

“Have you got your period back?”

“When can we go for more cake?” – btw the answer to this is always EVERYDAY.

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Just in case you had forgotten what cake looks like.                         get. in. my. belly.

 

On the dad side it’s more:

“Are we still going for a beer on thursday?”

“How about that new curry house up the high street?”

“Is your wifey super grumps??”

“So France lost against Portugal, eh Frenchie?!”

“Has Bèbé started rolling yet, I understand it should be happening around now?”

No, just checking you are reading thoroughly. I made that last one up. Aside from a  few comical exchanges during respective labours, alluding to various horror films, I’m pretty sure 90% of the content of the daddy2daddy chats is sport, food and beer. Correct me if I’m wrong lads.

Generally speaking new mommas are up for a chat. Any time. There are so many places and ways to make even more new baby momma friends, including going to baby classes (more on this later), chatting up other young mummies in the baby aisle at the supermarket, and conversing remotely on mumsnet chat rooms.

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My NCT crew 💞

The EFNMs (Existing friends, new mommas) and M2Bs

If you’re lucky, as I was, there are people in your existing circles who are also growing a bébé.  You’ve probably known these people a while and are close enough to ask the critical yet embarrassing questions in the run up, and immediately post partum. “Are these tiny baby mattresses or sanitary pads as they claim to be?” “Do I look like a fat Pamela Anderson right now?” You can also share tips and impart knowledge as you go.  Some of my friends are doctors and medical professionals and thankfully they put my mind at ease many a time. Thank you guys.

There are also those friends that are just embarking on the journey. The Mums-To-Be. They are getting or have recently got married, or are starting to take more notice of baby-related chat and generally getting a bit broody.  It may even include the mamas that already have babies and are going for number 2, 3,…

It is tres tres hard to resist the temptation to grab at these people and ask them on every meeting if there is a baby coming. That extends to Facebook stalking and zooming in on pictures trying to determine if there is a bump a-growing. Yes, you all do it, stop pretending. The actual sheer joy when it happens is the best. It’s a combo of excitement, love and a tiny pinch of “just you wait!!! Oh you have a major treat in store.” For a long time we were waiting for bébéFF and I can genuinely say, even through the waiting, hearing someone was pregnant was just the pinnacle of joy. I am always going to believe this is the biggest miracle in life. Can you even believe how monumentally complex it is, biologically speaking, to make a human being? I can’t. But we seem to be able to do it. (And I just want to note here that I am fully aware it isn’t possible or easy for everyone. I will blog about the struggles soon).

There is little more heart-warming than the excitement you feel when your friend is having a baby. Honestly. It’s just the most pure love. It’s also so special when you are on the receiving end of that love from a fellow friend. It certainly makes friendship bonds stronger.

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You mean “ca roule ma poule?”

The Mommas

These are the ladies in your life that have already *done* their babies. They have had kids and are still alive.  Legendaire.

After giving birth, you will look at these ladies with a new-found awe and appreciation. You will call on their profound knowledge and expertise, having got their bundles of joy to taille grande. Questions to these ladies include “how does the baby ACTUALLY come out?”  “Does this get any easier?” And “will I ever contemplate having another baby ever again? And if so, how might one go about that…?” Etc.

I’ve always found mums to be some of the most inspiring people in my life, even before I was lucky enough to have the chance to become one myself. I had a vague sense of the magnitude of the job they do, without ever fully comprehending. Mums have to balance themselves and the needs of someone else, commit to them and care for them. Unquestioning love and commitment. My own mother has shown us F-sistas how to love, care for and encourage children above all else. My own mother wasn’t satisfied with having 4 under 5s of her own so decided she would challenge herself with child-minding other kiddies too. Seriously. What on earth was she thinking??!

My appreciation of mums is infinite. I am inspired, on a daily basis, by the ladies out there that get on with their own lives, their marriages, their careers, their passions, whilst ensuring that their mini-me(s) have everything they could possibly need to grow and eventually build their own lives. This goes beyond just getting them out of nappies.  This includes getting them to school, to uni, supporting them in their relationships and generally being at the end of the phone when life gets a bit rough.

That’s not to say the dads don’t play an absolutely critical role. But I think we can agree that the roles are different. Growing a person inside you, expelling them somehow, and then nurturing them to adulthood…and beyond. It boggles my mind. Oooo there’s another good “b” word.

One of the reasons I had Momma F in the delivery room with me was a slightly gory and obscure way of recognising and thanking her for getting me to adulthood, and to a place where I was able to give birth, myself. Ultimately it is thanks to her (and Daggghhd, obvs). I also wanted her there to hold my hand (which she mostly squeezed rather than vice versa) and to help her to realise the freaking madness that is giving birth – four times. Holy moly. Her face was a picture. What a woman.

Bogeys

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Look at those nostrils….

It’s official. I am obsessed with bogeys. They are everywhere. And they need to be removed. Not my bogeys, I hasten to add: baby bogeys.

Bebe FF produces an insane number of big bogeys, that block his nose and he can’t breathe.  Most troubling – he can’t pick them.  They just sit there blocking his nasal passageways and dangling, temptingly, on the cusp of his nostril. Just a little bit, sticking out. It’s a shame because his little fingers would fit perfectly up that nostril, but he can’t do that because… Well, he’s a little baby and his hands are still scary foreign objects that wack him in the face from time to time. And they look like they are stuck on, Michelin man style.  Grabbing, yes, delicate picking, no.

So, what do I do? I’m his mother, I’m here to protect him and help him survive. He can’t breathe well with all those bogeys blocking his airways. I need to get them out! How do you get a little crunchy, gluey stone out of a tiny hole whilst the owner of the nostril is wiggling and screaming?? And if not wiggling and screaming, and the boy is in fact sleeping, is it worth the risk of waking him up just to get that bogey out? I’ve asked myself this MANY times over the past weeks.  The answer is usually no.

I’ve bought millions of devices (OK, two…) that claim to extract ze bogeys from ze nose. Zey do not. Zey are far too large to get close to the nostril, let alone suction out the little bogey monsters firmly affixed to the nasal passage. So I’ve resorted to my little finger nail. I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time with my little finger up baby FF’s nose trying to scoop out the bogeys and release his airways.  It’s like one of those slightly creepy long finger nails people grow to strum the guitar. Well, mine is to get baby bogeys.

I only realised I was truly obsessed when I was at a social gathering with my NCT pals and rather than join in on the conversation, I was furtively burrowing in the little man’s nose, having spotted the mother of all bogeys. After much wriggling and poking I eventually got it and slowly extracted it. I cried out “Ahagot ya!” before I realised I was in public and then had to explain that I was delighted to have retrieved a massive bogey… Silence. I then made a point of walking over to the bin to dispose of said bogey, which in my mind was the size of a rock. Of course it wasn’t and I lost it en route, but no-one needs to know that.  Then I felt lost, post adrenalin rush, no more bogeys to scoop …what next?!

My bogey addiction is real.

Update: I tried the crazy tube sucky device (pictured – the “Baby Nose-Clear“) yesterday in a moment of desperation. First seen in action in France I found the concept both terrifying and disgusting. However, it turns out you don’t actually suck the bogey into your mouth, obviously… There’s a filter! And guess what – it worked! The bogey came down and momma grabbed it! Woohoo!  Available on Amazon and in Boots.  Bath water also helps.

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Second update: Bébé FF’s nostrils have grown so much that this is no longer an issue! Took about 4 months…!!