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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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.

 

 

Baby-making

This post has been difficult to write. It is about baby-making. Hold that thought: I’m not going to tell you about the birds and the bees. I’m confident you probably have a rough idea of the physical actions required to get all the ingredients in the right place. What you possibly don’t appreciate is what an absolutely miraculous process it is, to go from having the ingredients to actually creating a little human bean.

We have some experience on the subject. Babbler took quite some time and magic to make.  Before he appeared in the world, we had lots of waiting, prodding and probing, questions, tears, not a single positive pregnancy test, multiple rounds of IVF and we suffered a miscarriage of what might have been twins.

Making a baby can be quite a difficult «thing to do». And like all good things in this world, the more you want one, the tougher the wait, and the harder you fall when you don’t get one.  You can’t just have a baby.

Starting a family

Starting a family is one of those things that seems completely alien when you contemplate it for the first time, a far off pipe dream, something you do when you’re “older” and “ready”… One day, quite suddenly, the people around you start to get married and couple up, everywhere you look you see bumps, and buggies and babies, you eat your body weight in pink and blue cupcakes, you start to enjoy perusing the baby clothes in your favourite stores, you start waking up early and you realise that you would rather be snuggled up at home than out somewhere loud and sticky-of-the-floor.  You have a job, you have some semblance of a home and potentially even a car. BOOM, just like that you realise that the time has come.  You are “ready”. Exciting! Scary. Let’s go! What do you do?! Having paid close attention in sex education you know that anything more than touching fingernails with your partner in crime could result in a bebe, so grappling with that possibility, you throw caution to the wind *in a completely controlled way* dive in and commence le proces.

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Let’s make a bebe! One day goes past.  Of course you buy a pregnancy test and immediately start to feel nauseous, and you are frantically prodding your boobs, because you are fully expecting to fall pregnant on the first go. Except that it is rarely that straightforward. Sorry.  No, your cheap pregnancy test isn’t faulty. No, your expensive one that tells you in actual words, not lines, that you’re not pregnant isn’t somehow confused about the bit of urine it sampled. You’re just not pregnant. Not this month.  You feel a bit silly, perhaps a bit sad, but you pull your big girl pants up and crack on to the next month. After all, it’ll probably happen next month. And that fits in better because, well, you have got that party this weekend you really want to go to, and then there’s that wedding next month that you just couldn’t be pregnant for, so it’s all fine.  Good.

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true dat

In fact, if you check the NHS website, it tells you that 80-90 out of every 100 couples trying to get pregnant will fall pregnant within one year. One whole year. First, that is potentially up to 12 long and disappointing months of “trying”.  Each month is made up of a familiar cycle: it begins with the period (doom), then waiting for ovulation, the ovulating days, and then the phantom pregnancy times, also known as the “two week wait” – the days you spend waiting for your period. The days you wonder if you might, possibly, be making a baby.  Just FYI that’s about 168 days of the year that you’re waiting. That’s a lot of waiting for those with a propensity towards impatience…. Second, that means that 10-20% of couples will take more than a year to conceive. They may need help. They may never conceive.

They may never conceive. Have you ever thought you might not actually get to have children? It’s quite a dramatic leap to go from trying not to “accidentally” get pregnant by fingernail contact, to contemplating that you may actually never have a child.  I don’t remember that coming up in sex ed.

For some people, that’s perfectly fine. Ideal actually. But for others, that wasn’t in the life plan.  You assumed you could have children. Whenever you felt like it. As you start to look around you, you realise there are indeed many couples that don’t have children. You had perhaps assumed it was their choice, that they didn’t want to have any kids, but now this new knowledge makes you think twice.  You cannot assume anything.  If there’s one major lesson I’ve learnt through all of this it is never assume. Don’t assume that everyone can just have a baby.  Don’t assume that people have chosen their current situation.  It may look like they just don’t have kids, or haven’t got any yet, but there is almost certainly a story there, a journey. Also try to avoid asking. I used to think it was perfectly normal to ask newlyweds when they would be trying for a babe. It’s the logical next step.  Is it?  If they want to talk about it, they will do so in their own time and in their own way. It is not an easy one to talk about, it is personal, it is often complicated, and if there’s one major benefit of all that we have been through, it is the awareness of the struggle. The struggle is really real. We now have enough experience to put ourselves out there, if you need to talk.  We can, I hope, relate to, and offer support to prospective parents in all their shapes and sizes.  And I hope this post will help a little.

Unexplained infertility

According to the same NHS page, one in seven couples in the UK will suffer “fertility issues”.  Those may be complications, difficulties, bits and pieces that are missing or not working, or blocked, but perhaps could work, they just need some help. Then, of those one in seven, 25% will have what is known as “unexplained infertility”, i.e. the common causes of infertility are not applicable, but there is no other medical explanation available. So there’s something wrong, you don’t seem to be making the babies, but there isn’t actually a medical reason pourquoi.  i.e. there isn’t much that the doctors can do to help you. Technically, we fell into this category.  Years of “trying”, plenty of questioning, eating well, bouts of not drinking (alcohol may affect fertility) trying to be calm (stress may affect fertility) and keeping track of what was happening when (knowing when your ovulating can help to ensure you are targeting the right days), but all to no avail, meant we were inexplicably infertile.

What do you think? We were hoping to have a family together. Should we be together? I started to wonder if it meant we weren’t well matched as couple. Perhaps the French and Yorkshire genes just don’t work. C’est trop.  Rational thinking fell to the wayside as I watched bumps growing and buggy’s crashing into things around me. More scan pictures, more happy announcements, more people telling me they were winning on the fertility ferris wheel. Thankfully, we were very happily married, and everything was still quite new and joyous.  The monthly let down was really just a few hours of sadness followed by a rapid assessment that it was probably for the best, copious amounts of chocolate and realisation that I had lots more important things to do than having a baby that month.  Any misery I felt I managed to keep to myself, any misery Monsieur FF felt he also bottled, and we thoroughly enjoyed and relished spending time with our family and friends and their growing families.  We didn’t really talk too much about it.  Then time went on, our efforts became more concerted, our abstention from the vices of life more marked, and our patience for bebe FF increasingly failing.

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One of the hardest things about infertility struggles is knowing that people are rooting for you but that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to help.  Can you give me a baby? Nope. Our parents waited patiently for our grandchild offering, and waited some more, and then they quietly started to worry and then, once they knew that there was potentially some cause for concern, that we were trying, and were not getting, they offered their support and their love, but it couldn’t take away the angst we were experiencing.  It is so personal, so intimate, and yet once it is out there, it is so exposed.

Those that you share with know that you are trying, and that it is not working. It’s not funny. You don’t need to “try harder”. That doesn’t feel good.  It is impossible not to feel like a failure.  I was, at times, embarrassed. People would ask, casually, or directly, if we were planning to have children, and we would respond that we weren’t ready, or we weren’t really trying, or that we had a plan, something, anything, other than saying that we don’t seem to be able to have a baby.

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Would we ever have a family? Our respective families are sizeable, and for all accounts conception came without any issues for our parents.  There was no waiting, no struggles.  If you haven’t struggled to conceive, you simply do not know how it feels. I’m sorry.  You are lucky.  It’s not a case of “doing it more often” or “trying to be less stressed” or indeed “eating more salt”…

Just as another factoid, even if you hit the exact right times with the exact right mixture, and you’re under 35 (age is another major factor in the fertility Ferris wheel) then you still only have around 25% chance of conceiving. And let’s not forget, conception doesn’t necessarily equal a bebe.

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IVF

So where do you go from inexplicably infertile? In our case, we were advised to “try” IVF, in vitro fertilisation, as a means of identifying where things were working and where things might be going wrong.  What is IVF?  Technically:

During IVF, an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

Actually: you have a controlled menopause, loads of injections, you are stimulated to produce as many eggs as your ovaries can muster, more injections, then the eggs are vacuumed out of you whilst you are sedated, they are mixed with the contribution from your other half or a sperm donor.  A few days later, if all is well, the mixture is then returned to your womb, in the hope it will get comfortable and decide to stick around.  Your mixture might be 3 days or 5 days old, and could be fresh, or frozen.  You are instructed to take a pregnancy test around 14 days later, and not a day before.  This is the “two week wait” or “2ww“.  Websites are dedicated to it. Chatrooms go into overdrive on the topic. Sensible, rational, intelligent women have been known to lose their actual minds during this period.  It is ROUGH.

But, at the end of the day, or a long IVF cycle, you may end up with a stock of fertilised blastocysts, or even better a BFP – big fat positive pregnancy test – or, even better than that, an actual bebe.  In equal measure, in fact, a slightly higher probability, is a BFN or indeed a pregnancy ending in miscarriage.

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I don’t recommend taking IVF lightly. As something we “tried” it wasn’t like taking a car for a test drive.  It is by far the most invasive, uncomfortable and emotional experience I have voluntarily walked into. However, I am so grateful that (a) I got the opportunity to experience it, to pursue our dream of starting a family and (b) I am now able to better understand the difficulties and challenges many people face on their own journeys.

Miscarriage

The word fills me with sadness. I am just one of literally billions of women that have suffered a miscarriage.  One in every four women suffer a miscarriage. Miscarriages come in all shapes and sizes, none any more manageable than the others.  There is not a scale of horribleness for a miscarriage, depending on when it was or how it happened, the reality is that – in every single case – you had hope and you lost it. It slipped away. And it was out of your control.  Losing something you really want is never easy.  It is utterly devastating. Before 20 weeks it is known as miscarriage, and after 20 weeks gestation, still birth.

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According to the NHS:

For most women, a miscarriage is a one-off event and they go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.

But, sadly, it is not as simple as just brushing it away and starting again.  This isn’t just a medical process that had a bit of an unfortunate ending. You have to wait until you are emotionally fit.  You have to wait until you are physically strong enough and your body is prepared to try again.  For the women that aren’t “most women”, they may suffer multiple miscarriages.  Every pregnancy after a loss is wrought with anxiety and fear, every trip to the toilet could spell the end. Pregnancy is much less joyous when it’s filled with fear and questioning. You dare not get excited, you don’t know what to think, even though every cell in your body is screaming at you that it’s working on something miraculous. There aren’t really any words for the feeling of losing that miracle.

I’m mindful here that I can’t speak to how it must feel for a man to lose a baby, for a partner to lose a baby they weren’t carrying.  As the carrier, your body is reminding you every moment that passes that it couldn’t do its job, for whatever reason.  It takes a long time for that feeling to subside. A part of you is lost forever, in the same way that a part of you is exposed as it wanders around in front of your eyes.

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For anyone out there going through a loss, sending strength, and hope.  There is no plaster that patches up the pain, or drug that can block the dull ache you are feeling, but there is always looking forward, and upwards.

Through the difficult times we experienced, the things I valued most were the family and friends that took the time to sit with me, to listen, or to let me be silent. The friends that brought us some food when we didn’t feel like cooking, that invited us for drinks when we had not had a drink for a while, that showed up on the doorstep when we didn’t feel like getting dressed. The comments and support from the heart, allowing us to grieve and recover rather than jumping forward to what happens next. *Thank you to our friends and family that stood by us, shared their positive energy and hope and enabled us to move forwards.*

When you miscarry, you lose a piece of your heart and you make a dent in your relationship. What we also experienced, however, was a feeling of solidarity and a new level of caring we hadn’t felt before. Monsieur FF was so closely by my side through the horror show that was our drawn-out miscarriage, I could literally lean on him at any moment. His strength lifted me, as I was close to falling. We took some time out, some special memories away from our daily routine to realign and refocus. It seems like a lifetime ago back then, but we truly didn’t know if we would have a family. We agreed to start an adoption process. We agreed to go on a mad holiday. And we agreed we would not give up hope or each other. Our miscarriage made us stronger. We don’t mark any dates or talk about what happened now, for better or for worse, we move forward and, as it happens, we are in the incredibly fortunate position to now have had multiple babes.  It seems that we struck the jackpot, not once but twice.

Good luck and we are here if you need us.

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)

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 💓💓

 

 

 

 

Bebe to Big Bro

As this shock 2nd pregnancy rapidly races towards the inevitable finish line (panic face) I want to take stock of my beautiful Bebe FF and get lost in his joyousness for one last blog. Ok I know *technically* this whole blog is thus far dedicated to him, but so much has happened since he was a little crumpled ball of milky goodness – now he’s a proper little human bean. He can talk and throw tantrums and eat grown-up food.

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I need to document one more time the utter joy that he single-handedly brings to our lives, before Bebe #2 comes on the scene and things forever change again.* Call me hormonal (fair) but considering I’m about to eject a second Bebe I am feeling emotional about the changes that are ahead and leaving him, even for the ejection period …

*just a little side note for anyone reading that’s on the mad journey, dreaming of becoming a parent but not there yet ~ big love and courage to you. We have been there and it’s difficult. It makes you strong. Don’t give up. Miracles happen. 

Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, he will get used to it, he will survive not being the only child etc etc which of course is true – but – it is still a big shift from the status quo. Our status quo. However, my only experience in this area is when my own little sister (the first of three) came into the world around a similar age to the age Bebe FF is now. And yes, to be fair, in actual fact, I can’t remember a single thing about it other than I am delighted to have the three best sisters a girl could wish for. And we are super close. So probably true that it didn’t cause me (or her) any harm and for the long term, I’m confident this will be a very good thing for all concerned. However, short term, Bebe FF is at a stage where he requires approximately 130% of our attention. And we also like (/need) to give him ( – for risk of all manner of accidents occurring) exactly that amount of attention. So how the heckers do we manage to maintain that AND introduce into the mix the all-encompassing experience that is having a newborn? Oh la la la la la. I suppose that may well be my next blog… for now, let me focus on the centre of the universe for the last few weeks whilst he retains that title alone.

If you are lucky enough to have a toddler, I’m sure you can relate to these amazing things about having a mini person:

  • your heart feels like it might explode every time they laugh or cry or sneeze or attempt to say a word or run or basically breathe… basically you’re on the cusp of a heartattack 24/7.
  • listening to them learning to speak is just fantastic. Even if my name is “daddy” I couldn’t be more delighted every time he utters a noise which sounds like a real word. “Poo” made me disproportionately smug; doubly so when he indicated there was a smelly nappy present to accompany the word, so he wasn’t just saying it for shits and giggles. Genius. “EnCCore” confirms to me his bilingual abilities, even if it is often followed by a cheeky grin and a spluttering “peeeeez” <“please”>. Less happy about the declarative “mine!” but in the specific context it was actually his, so….”NON” is another naughty one but somehow in French it sounds … not as bad. So impressed.
  •  The nappy bum makes the running and tumbling all the more amusing. To be fair, I can hardly criticise when I’m adopting a similar waddle, however rather than a comfy large nappy, I have a head down there compromising my usual ability to strut. Ahem.
  • The extreme moods; epic thirst levels upon waking which require visual confirmation that milk is actually about to enter his mouth, otherwise the world could possibly end. Hyper energy when it is time to urgently run in and out of the playhouse 3,568 times just to confirm the doors are all properly affixed. The post-nursery, pre-bedtime hanger and tiredness than usually requires a fromage frais and a good cuddle and story, before the rapid revival effected thanks to a playful bath time.
  • Mealtimes: there is nothing quite like being sprayed with beans and watching a compote being sloshed all over your babes face and the surrounding walls. Once I got over the frustration of food rejection I started to enjoy the challenge of finding something that would make Bebe cheer when presented with his plate. Cheese is a guaranteed winner in our house – so français.
  • The sheer delight in his eyes as he turns the pages of the Gruffalo and Tabby McTat, examining every image and pointy-fingering endlessly. Now he actually likes to be left alone with the books, once we’ve read them 4 times, so that he can double-check we are actually telling the correct story. Takes after his mama.
  • The utter magic that is bubbles. Whether it’s actual floaty bubbles, bubbles in Peppa Pig or bubbles in the bath, “BUBbbbles” bring serious levels of happiness and should probably never end. Like so many “unique” things that Bebe FF does, I privately spent a few moments congratulating myself on my child genius and wondering if it’s Papa or me that gave him the extremely advanced linguistic skills… Then we saw a bubble-maker in the park and the chorus of “BUBELLLLS” from all the little human beans within a 20m radius made me realise we are not alone. Kids are just amazing.

So Bebe FF, as mummy frantically points to her giant belly and repeats 67 times “where is the Bebe??” And you grin and deliberately point to your own little belly, I’m curious to know how you will react to having such a noisy, tiny little distraction in the house. I’m nervous about the short amount of recovery time I’m going to get before you expect mama to be back in working, bending, cuddling order (I anticipate about 5 mins). I’m intrigued to see how Papa takes on this additional challenge and how you will bond and build new memories together as we expand into a family of 4. In short I want to pause time and enjoy you just a little longer – right now I’m watching your little naked bottom squeal with delight as Papa sprays you with water and it’s just the best… , but I also want to jump in to the next level of this adventure. I confess I also – selfishly – just want to not be a beached whale anymore. Pregnancy in quick succession is quite the challenge. But I still remember thinking I would never get to experience this feeling, so I do take a moment to remind myself of that fact when I’m silently muttering expletives. We can do this!

Bebe FF you made all my dreams come true. You make every day magic. I don’t have words for how you have changed our lives and our perspective on what lies ahead. Thank you for being such a delight.

Bumping and Groaning

OOF. I want to start by noting that time is absolutely flying, so much so I will have to interrupt my third instalment on Texas travels to blogulate about being preggo. Sorry about that. Mais why? Because I’m seven months in to this surprise pregnancy already. SEVEN MONTHS. Once Bebe FF2 arrives I suspect, for a short while at least, I will struggle to find the brain power required to even find my blog, let alone write it. So I need to get a pregnancy blog in pronto. Especially since this blog didn’t exist last time I was up the duff, so there’s a fairly important part of the mamahood journey missing from our story. HOWEVER – important note – seven months in I may be, but as you probably well know, that means I’ve got a good 2-3 months to go. Even writing it makes me want to cry a little bit. That’s right people, pregnancy isn’t just 9 months! It’s more like Harry Potter style 9 3/4. And what’s the big deal with those last months? Well it’s hot. We live in a country that is not accustomed to very much heat and that’s problematic when you’re lugging around a hot water bottle in your belly. I’m melting and sweaty and bloated *already* and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t remember it being this crazy last time – but that’s probably because Bebe FF was born at the end of winter, and the only complicated thing about that was finding a jacket and warm shoes that could circumnavigate the belleh and cankles. I could hide under layers and enjoy hot chocolates and mince pies galore. This time I need to find things that are floaty and light, but keep me decent and cover up the numerous areas of my body that are trying to compete with our forever friend Free Willy.  That essentially means the clothes can double up as a (king) bed sheet or a mammouth tent for Bebe FF to play with. (Side note: I should start calling him Boddler FF now.)

Trying to explain to Boddler FF that there’s another Bebe coming to join him is quite a challenge at 17 months. When I ask “where’s the Bebe?” he gleefully points to himself. Specifically his belly (I guess it does sound like “Bebe”) which btw isn’t totally disproportionate to mine considering his tiny stature. Eek. Non little guy – you’re going to be a BIG BROTHER! He grins again. Super. Don’t know what that is but it sounds like it will be delicious.

How can we prepare for a new Bebe with a Boddler requiring all our attention and full time jobs “in-between”?! I think it’s fair to say you can never prepare for a bebe. First or fourth it’s going to be a shock to the system and a momentous life changer. We are trying not to get too lost in the specifics and just take one step at a time. At least we have a vague idea of what lies ahead…

One advantage of the timing here is we have a lot of  the critical equipment  required that’s still in good working order and has not accumulated too much dust. Bottle sterilisers, baby sleep devices, slings… I almost have no excuse to shop… *almost, Monsieur FF, but not quite*.  There is the rather mad question of double buggys. Those things do not fill me with joy. The idea of lugging one around and trying to get in a shop door and not quite being able to make it through is quite traumatic. Imagine if it was a cake shop??! That would be like a form of torture. Sorry no cake for you lady, if you can’t get in you can’t get served. Panic face. So no, I have not got a double buggy and I intend to try and avoid having one at all cost. If I did get one it would be the baby jogger city stroller. But what I’m going to try to do is wear the new Bebe and push the Boddler. And the Boddler will have a little buggy board so in alternative circumstances Bebe will be in the Babyzen Yoyo+ 0+ (can’t wait to test it with a new Bebe) and Boddler will be boarding along. Obviously I will update on how that works out.

As to the pregnancy, for someone that loved every moment first time round, this pregnancy has certainly been a different adventure so far. It’s an absolute miracle, but it’s strange when you have someone you want to devote all your energy to, and yet you are being zapped from the inside in order to build another human being. It’s bloody brilliant that I can do this. I still feel rather superhuman.  But I was not prepared for this on any level. So despite being 7 months in I confess I’m still in shock. I also didn’t have time to kiss goodbye to wine, carpaccio and goat’s cheese so that’s been a bit harder this time round. Right now Bebe is growing into the rather alarming winter squash size, and is almost at the point where a good jab in the ribs and bladder are possible simultaneously. My actual size is probably at least a month bigger than I was with Boddler FF. I am generally more swollen and don’t know if that’s the summer, the type of Bebe or the fact it’s number 2. In all cases I’m not at my most beauteous… The nausea has been more constant and the cravings less severe which is actually a bit less fun – who doesn’t want to do a KFC dash for chicken and gravy on a Sunday afternoon?! This new Bebe apparently.  But I tell you what’s really annoying and got me last time as well: maternity clothes. That’s right, the tents with the tapered side to “flatter your bump”.  Just to be clear, ‘bump flattering’ clothing doesn’t magically transform you into Kristen Cavallari. It makes you look a tiny bit more like a half human half whale than just going for two dress sizes bigger and looking potentially pure whale.

There are some people in this world that are pregnancy unicorns. I’m talking in particular about the media savvy, possibly photoshopped beauties that grace the pages of women’s mags, that women with high hormonal levels naturally turn to for comfort “reading” (why do we torture ourselves?!). True unicorns. They don’t swell or bloat or get extra cellulite. In fact, because they are pregnant they are even more radiant than ever and no doubt have a special healthcare regime, including having a minion work moisturising bear cub milk into their eyelashes, slowly massage placenta-boosting, ultra nourishing essential oil-infused baby dinosaur sponges around their lower backs whilst they are fed omega 3 rich nutrition cookies. These are the ladies that work out happily throughout their pregnancy, and naturally have the full extra-stretchy new gym kit to accommodate their tiny, neat baby bumps, as well as the requisite energy levels. These ladies lose weight and gain muscle during pregnancy. At least that’s what we are led to believe. Not to mention they spend their spare, non-workout time walking around the luxury babe shops in vertiginous heels which for most people on a good, non-pregnant day would require at least serious blister protection. But not for these ladies – they are practically dancing whilst toting the latest must-have bag no doubt filled with healthy almond-based energy balls.  Here are a few examples:

Urgh. Beautiful. Now let’s talk about reality.  At least the experience for most of the normal human population, myself included. My thighs don’t normally rub … well, they didn’t. Pregnancy gives me a special extra layer of thickness all around my thighs. “Pregnancy” or perhaps the food I’m eating or exercise I’m not doing…. it’s all same same. Why? Does the baby swim down there occasionally for a change of scenery? Er NO. Is it providing extra warmth? Yes. In summer. Just what I need. And what about my arms? Previously manageable bingo wings are now like giant eagle wings, they could knock a person out if they get too close. Am I storing milk in them? Not that I’m aware of. And a new one for me for the summer: double cankles. That’s right. I can’t blame pregnancy for my cankles which I proudly inherit from a line of strong (therefore thick-ankled ladies), but I had not appreciated they could expand further and start to engulf my feet. Heat plus pregnancy = canklesquared. So those shoes that the ladies above are trotting around in would literally not go over one of my toes right now. Not to mention the fact the heel would immediately splinter into a thousand pieces. Boom.

Maternity clothes for the normal pregnant lady that are big, floaty, eagle-wing, cankle-covering…. where does one find these delights? Can someone please tell me why maternity clothes are not available to  try in stores? Is it because they take up too much space in the store? Is it because they are so horrific and eye-offending that it’s best to make them available only online? Is it because stores are embarrassed about the lack of effort they’ve put into their maternity range? Or perhaps it’s because it’s not the most lucrative product in store – after all it requires double the amount of material and triple stitching to prevent popping. Perhaps that’s why they use the worst, most garish fabrics in the history of the world? I did a brief stint as a fashion lawyer but surprisingly I don’t recall particular legal battles around this highly important issue. That said it was for one of the few stores that actually bothers to stock clothes in store so big kudos to Topshop.

The one time I really need to try stuff on because I have no clue what maternity size I am, I can’t. Maternity size may mean the same size as pre-pregnancy but just with the elastic magic, ot you could suddenly find yourself going up 1-3 dress sizes. Luckily I’ve never had an issue with the number inside my clothes, provided it fits right and is comfortable I don’t care if it says 8 or 18. However in pregnancy attire, at a time of particular self-consciousness, going for maternity XL does make me rather nervous… have I really gone too far this time with the peanut butter on butter on toast? Am I growing a giant… logical next thought is how the heck do I get it out?!

This time round I’ve learnt to spend a bit more on a few nice pieces and accept the fact I will wear them repeatedly. Last time I made some bad choices late into my pregnancy, panic buying items that were nasty material, colours (poo brown anyone?) or that bobbled straight away. Last time I lived in H+M jeans, another store that, at least in London, bothers to stock in store. Thank you H+M. I also had a lot of GAP shirts and tees and Seraphine work items. The GAP stuff in particular was very comfortable and durable. Useful as this is the most effort I’ve ever put my clothes through!  This time I’ve tried out the pricey but high quality Isabella Oliver and got some more Seraphine dresses, as well as one of my favourites Mamalicious available on Asos. I have to say I don’t really recommend the Asos branded stuff itself as it seems pretty low quality, not up to the job, although I don’t love Asos generally so that could just be me. Asos is however very easy and it does provide helpful essentials like bump bands, tights and tees. It’s also the one stop shop for plenty of other brands e.g. New Look which also has some good basics – I’ve often been recommended their jeans.

If anyone is reading this in the fashion biz, please take note. We may only be pregnant for a short period of time in the grand scheme of life, but anything you can do to make this crazy time more comfortable and less eye-offending would be amazing. Merci!

Ps Happy Bastille x

BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas Baby! (Part 2)

Ok, now for the part that’s actually about Texas. Not the most obvious holiday destination, I accept. Beaches are few and far between, the only sand we played with was in a pit in the middle of the city, and I didn’t see one single coconut. However if you like to adventure and experience different cultures, and you have a fidgety boddler AND husband, it’s a fairly superb option. Pourquoi pas?

When you think about Texas what do you imagine? (If you’re from Texas obviously skip ahead!…) Cowboys? Guns? Wild West style desert lands? Horses? G W Bush and his predecessors? Atronauts? Did you think of Beyoncé? That fierce woman that has taken over the world? Texas is full of surprises. One thing that is definitely confirmed from our trip is that “everything is bigger in Texas”. Cars, the road, the food portions, even the human beings… and by that I mean taller, stronger, and generally appearing to be extremely healthy. I guess that’s partly thanks to the glorious Texas sun (which apparently transitions to hellish over the peak summer months but for our purposes was more than enough). There’s also the awesome food that keeps them functioning. We learnt the hard way that the trick in Texas is not to actually eat ALL the food. In fact, you take half away at the end in a “doggy bag” for you meal the next day or whatever. As diligent eaters brought up to finish our plates (otherwise no pudding – PANIC FACE), we had to reassess our manners and eating skills. Luckily Bebe FF is upping his eating game and was able to provide some limited assistance: even if he didn’t actually eat the food, he played with it and tossed it on the floor such that it felt like it had had a worthwhile journey to our table.

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So where did we go with our bundle of energy and bunnette in the oven? First stop was a flying visit to Houston, and a baseball game thanks to our legendary GOMO. Full on Texas experience within 24 hours of arriving; we came away kitted out with ball caps, sticky Blue Bell ice cream hands and a win for the Houston Astros. BOOM. I already mentioned Papasitos too – epic TexMex. We started and ended with it and it was ultra-delicious. Dammit every time I write the name I dribble a lottle.

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Then onwards to Austin, a couple of hours in the mega- mobile and a hotel right next to the Texas university campus.  In Austin we were lucky enough to have a hit list of restaus and things to see. We sampled the Texas staples that are “biscuits” (scones to you and me), traditional TexMex breakfasts of Huevos Rancheros, the famous Franklins BBQ (2 hour wait with a boddler was a challenge but we powered through with snacks and games) – when we made it to our steaming heap of meat, Bebe FF pounced on… the white bread?! (used to mop up the BBQ deliciousness). We had two super brunches at Snooze, and their OMG french toast came out as a top fave. We were impressed with the welcome reception we got almost everywhere we went with Bebe FF – restaurants went out of their way to accommodate him with crayons and colouring and special Bebe-friendly drinks. Often the former ended up in the latter but no one seemed to care too much. Everyone had baby seats and they were happy to use them. TexMex was a staple for him too, the rice and beans in particular warranted a hearty eyes-closed “MmmMMM”.

We visited the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which was my first experience of really trying to concentrate and Bebe FF doing everything in his power to prevent me from succeeding (along with the 500 school children that were also touring the museum). Bebe FF obviously decided that he would rather be hanging out with them, especially the girls, and delighted in stumbling after them, peering into their faces (or more accurately necks) and offering them his slobbery dummy. At least he’s learning how to share! He also realised he can actually make quite a lot of noise, and if he does he gets even more attention: cue large amounts of shouting “PAPPPAAAA” “DACKKKKKYYY” (any animal, mostly shouted at model horses in the museum) and “OOoOoOoo” (at girls and boys). I didn’t realise until that specific trip quite how noisy he can be. Luckily I’ve got a particularly loud “Shhhhh” response, so together we were by far the most annoying in museum. Btw during this time Papa FF was happily, and peacefully, watching the history of Texas in some quiet corner of the museum. When he emerged he seemed surprised to be faced with a frazzled wife and exhaspersted boddler. Bizarrely I was somewhat unamused by him recounting all he had learnt, because by this time I was seriously hangry. Mais quoi? Classic.

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We also visited the Thinkery which is as awesome as it sounds. A haven for little ones, but equally as mesmerising for the elders, this place was a hotbed of stimulants and safe playing opportunities. Suffice it to say the key sign of success was Bebe FF clambering into his own pushchair as we headed to the exit and immediately nodding off. THAT is what I’m talking about.

Next instalment we hit San Antonio and Dallas…

besos x X

BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas baby! (Part 1)

You may remember that last September, aka a lifetime ago, we went on a long haul voyage with Bebe FF (aged 7 months) to Mexico. It is fair to say we were somewhat apprehensive about the trip, navigating the journey, the heat, the bottle sterilisation… but it went swimmingly (literally 70% of the time spent in water) and we came away thinking “we should do this more often!”. Of course we didn’t because we are not made of money, but it gave us the confidence to book another long haul holiday; we were feeling empowered. We are parents and we can continue to travel!

Being in the very fortunate position of having our own Lone Star State family that were long due a visit, we decided we could do Texas. “Do Texas” we did… but boy was it a different experience with a boddler!

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Challenge un: finding out you are pregnant with Bebe #2 shortly after booking. Que?!! I will blogulate separately about the mind-blowingness of falling pregnant after a long journey of fertility drama, and when your first bébé is still… well, a bebe. For the purposes of this blog, you just need to imagine a tired, bloaty, nauseous, shocked Mama FF, at that stage of pregnancy where you are incapable of thinking beyond the end of the day, let alone for a 2+ week tour of the great Lone Star State. I would just like to sidenote that I was particularly looking forward to some giant margarita action with my Texas crew, which naturally had to be sidelined….*liver sighs in relief* …. I did however manage to maximise all my food dreams including eating TexMex for approximately 10 days straight and ordering multiple sides and additions “for the Bebe” (either the one on the outside or on the inside, and in any case all ending up in my belly: #win). Our Texas family started and ended our trip with Papasitos and we are still dribbling thinking about it.  SO GOOD.

Challenge deux: getting ourselves and our shizzle to the airport. You may be masterful at packing but I challenge you to pack effectively for yourself and a boddler when you are tired, fat, and from a country that is notoriously rainy going to a country where it’s insanely hot.    Turns out I’m truly terrible at packing expandable, hot, decent clothes and also not so great at packing for my Bebe. Mr FF did a pretty strong job on his side, but he hasn’t doubled in size and his wardrobe choices are approximately 0.3 of mine. For Bebe FF, even though he’s little, he needs a lot of paraphernalia and you kind of think the more of his own stuff you bring, somehow the more familiar it will seem and, therefore, he *will* be happy. Yes we need to take his cups, and bedding, and towel, and those 3 extra large teddies he once played with, 15,000 long sleeve tops (air conditioning is cold!) and every variety of Ella’s pouches *just in case*…. So all of this to say we basically had a shed load of stuff. We also have the actual Bebe.  Bebe FF is now getting big for carrying on me, and I also have a growing barrier to front carrying, aka Bebe #2, so we for sure needed the Babyzen yoyo (best thing ever). I’m also not enormously helpful as a bag carrier nowadays, so whatever we took, Mr FF essentially had to single-handedly get it from A to B and then to TX.

We decided on the basis of the  simple drama of packing that we would need to get to the airport in the car, and in that case we might as well just get a hotel by the airport the night before to give us some leeway before travelling. It was an excellent (and very grown up) plan (Mr FF gets full cred for that) and meant we had some sleep before our morning flight. Mr FF also got to enjoy loading and unloading the baggage a few extra times… trooper. Naturally Bebe FF was keen to show us what joy lay in store so decided he probably wouldn’t sleep in the hotel bed and would instead make loud banging noises throughout the evening. So “some sleep” is an accurate description, not all the sleep.

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brothers from another mother

Challenge trois: flying. I’m one of those people that doesn’t look forward to stuff until it’s pretty much happening. For holidays, I only get excited when I’m actually on the plane. However, that experience has recently changed. Once on the plane I suddenly realise the scale of the potential unknown that lies ahead… perhaps it’s the look of fear in people’s eyes as they glance in my direction, just at the moment Bébé FF loudly catapults out of my lap and onto the floor in a cloud of snot and food particles. Ten hours with that little monstre?! TEN HOURS. Even for a “normal” human being that’s a long time to sit relatively still. But we don’t have time to think about ourselves: Bebe FF doesn’t do sitting. He actually doesn’t do any one single thing for any extended period of time. He has recently realised that sitting still is for statues, and actually the best way to use every ounce of energy is to wriggle endlessly around, up and down, shaking his head whilst simultaneously making loud noises and – if possible – also pointing his finger. If you’re lucky he also throws in a slap.

The only distraction that is even remotely effective is food. The prospect of feeding him non-stop for 10 hours did occur to us and we ensured that one of the 17 carry-on bags we had was stuffed with copious amounts of relatively odourless and colourless “food”. Probably the best tip in this whole blog is the following: take Rice Krispies and other small cereal with you to travel. Take plenty. Fill little pots and even toys with the things. Watch with joy as your little one puts all their concentration into picking up a single one of those beauties and remind yourself there are 27,459 to go. There’s no stickiness or staining and they eventually just melt away, they aren’t bad for Bebe and shouldn’t hurt his teeth or belly. Voilà. Those ten hours quickly disappear into… erm eight. Ahem.

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Another important tip is get the bassinet friendly seats at the front. Get them, whatever you have to do. I wasn’t sure if Bebe FF would even fit in the seat still, but he did (didn’t look very comfortable but he was secured at least and not trying to squish Bebe #2) and he managed to nod off a couple of times much to our delight. Four more hours gone! The only annoying thing was when there was turbulence we had to get him out and back onto the lap – mildly traumatic when you’ve just spent the best part of an hour encouraging him to sleep.

Anyway, all in all, the combo of snippets of sleep and Rice Krispies saw us through and we got off the plane with smiling fellow travellers, including a grandmother who was fully prepared to take Bebe FF away with her, after he graced her with numerous cuddles and dribble-kisses.  This was in slight contrast to the return, where we were slightly less popular with the chaps who had opted for beds for the night flight, Bébé FF having missed the critical indication it was a “night” flight…

Challenge quatre: Getting three.5 tired bodies into a car and somewhere safe in Texas. We are going to a place where the roads are quadruple normal European size. They say everything is bigger in Texas, they are right.  So as relatively average-sized Europeans (pretend I’m not pregnant for a moment and ignore Brexit), the natural choice for a vehicle is the Suburban.  You can fit about 20 Europeans in there, plus the 95 bags that we have, with enough space for a couple of giant US portion drinks.  Mr FF was delighted with his monster truck.  Bebe FF immediately snuggled into his car seat of joy (which by the end resembled a giant Rice Krispie) with endless space to kick and throw water. After a few difficult discussions with the Sat Nav, which was in fact a human person kindly trying to provide directions, we were off towards Houston, our Texas friends, and a place where the sun shines and we, for a short while, don’t have to worry about the dramas left back home and can simply observe the drama around us.

Well, I haven’t even got into the juicy stuff yet: you will have to wait for the next instalment…. Bises x

 

bye bye boddler, hello toddler

Jeez what is happening with time? I know everyone says it flies, but this is like an extended wedding day on steroids! You blink and you’ve not only missed it, but there’s a trail of destruction to show you just what you missed.  We are 14 months in and Bebe FF is now a demi-man. That’s right. I can call him boddler to hold on to that baby “B”… but really he’s a toddler. I could even say he’s heading rapidly into terrible twos, based on the face-slapping I received last night…Ok it was couched either side with a bisous baveux (dribble kiss – sounds fractionally nicer in French right?!) but still. It has begun. He has a mind of his own and he’s not afraid to let us know about it.

So now is the time for discipline. According to wise ones (aka grandmas) this has to be done by the age of 2 -otherwise you’re in trouble. Right. How hard can it be to say “no” to a little person?? Presumably he can’t outsmart us? We adults are in charge, obviously! Right? Wrong. Actually it is quite hard to discipline it turns out. And this in my limited experience so far. Heaven knows what lies ahead. Mais why is it so hard?

1. You say “NO” *all the time*. It gets boring. No you can’t touch the charger, no you can’t have my phone, no you can’t throw your food on the floor. No! please don’t stand up in the bath! Stop! Do not eat that dirt etc. I vaguely recall once reading something that said “don’t say “no” too much, find a different way to send the message.” But which way? Absent some kind of telepathic skills I don’t possess, I can’t find any other way to communicate “No”. “Errr not really?” Or “maybe don’t do that” are not quite as effective. And tbh “no” isn’t exactly 100% success rate… Any tips gratefully received!

2. You sometimes kinda want to say “go on then, just do it” … but that would be irresponsible. Go on then, eat the dirt, and the little worm, in some places that would be a delicacy. But you can guarantee that will be the moment he starts to speak… “mummy said I could eat the dirt!” Or that there is a cat turd right there in the dirt and then, well, irresponsible.

3. It’s so hard to keep a serious face. There are so many exciting things to eat and lick, and if you go at the toilet bowl with your tongue hanging out, making a deliriously excited Gaga noise, I obviously don’t want you to lick it but it’s kind of hilarious that you even want to. No, you should not try to eat a tissue but it’s funny that you will have a go (and yet not eat mummy’s homemade yoghurt surprise?!).  Saying “no” without laughing is particularly tough. Grandma F tells me I have to adopt a strict tone. A strong “NO BÉBÉ!”. But what I actually do is “bebeeeeeee…. nnnn…. pleurghhhffhhh ….. Monsieur FF have you seen this little monkey?!!” It doesn’t help that Bebe FF has rapidly developed a very cheeky grin which he usually gives us as a quick warning he’s about to do a naughty – but being kind, he will give us rookie parents a chance to react. He goes for the phone charger, dangles it alluringly infront of his tongue, then turns to us, with that grin. “Hey, guys, just checking you’re watching me? Ok good. Here I go!”

4. You love them more than anything and don’t want to be mean. I knew this would be hard but never anticipated quite how hard. When you love a little person you don’t want to make them cry. You want to give them everything they want. Chargers and phones and dirt galore. You want to be the best parent ever. But we know that to be that parent, the Bebe has got to understand there are rules and appreciate who is in charge, for now at least. But it’s hard. Those eyes …

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