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 …

IMG_1016

 

Boddler

What has just happened?! My tiny little baby, the one that fit in my belly, and then in a tiny basket, and then in those teeny oh so tiny 0-3 month clothes, which seemed almost too big when he first lay screaming next to them, and yet the smallest things in the history of the world when we were waiting for him to arrive … 10 months in and he’s grown up. I’ve had to squish him into a Christmas bauble to preserve his small stature and the memory of his babyhood. He’s starting to look like less and less like a tiny baby Jesus and more and more like the Michelin man (totes a pro pro). All his bodysuits are under extreme pressure and he’s working the ankle swinger look sans le savoir.

This is it. A moment of sadness flooded over me this week as I lifted him up: (A) he weighs a ton. Literally a ton. I won’t be able to haul him around in the pouch for much longer. Obviously I still will but I will need a Zimmer frame to support us both. I also need to work out more. Shameful lack of strength, but he’s really making me work for cuddles now. (B) he’s rock solid muscle. Apart from his bum. Ahem. He’s not really delicate anymore. (C) he’s moving and wriggling around so much, I won’t be able to sneak those long snuggles we used to have in bed or on the sofa. Or wrap him up tight in my arms because he can now wriggle out. And my arms don’t contain him any longer. Nothing does. Not even the jumperoo! He’s too big. (D) He can hold his bottle and drink his own water, soon he’ll be feeding himself and I’m basically redunant. My only use right now is changing his nappy when so commanded. This is it. He’s officially a Boddler.

Boddler, in case you were wondering, is the transitional period during which your baby turns into a toddler. The more I say it the more it sounds like a word. It’s amazing as you see your little bundle of joy turn into a big old box of joy. Unbelievable. But I can’t help but take a moment to feel a bit of a loss… it’s all happened so quickly and I wasn’t finished enjoying him as a baby. Between the time it takes to recover from childbirth, get over the shock of a new baby, sort through 20 different piles of clothes, test out your washer drier and bottle steriliser at least twice a day and spend your life savings on cake, takeaway and more clothes to add to the piles, you’ve eaten up most of your first 6 months with your babe. Then between testing every toy/ music and sensory club in your locality, braving a holiday or two and worrying about – and then actually doing-  the transition back to work, that’s it! Your baby is basically a teenager. Plus now he crawls and climbs the stairs and violently shakes his head “no” to everything; doubly confusing when he still opens his mouth for more food…. the changes happen so rapidly, even for a person that likes efficiency this is ridiculous.

To quote one of my favourite film characters, I’m stuck in a glass cage of emotion. Like Bebe FF in this awesome bauble. We had to have something festive in here being as it’s so close to Christmas but we’ve had to go quite light on the decor this year given the Boddler on the loose.

img_6666

Casually reading a book with Papa. Note legs crossed and concentration level high.

All of you out there with your little bundles BE WARNED – time flies far too fast. For those that have done all this, I now realise why you’re constantly told to enjoy every moment because it disappears before you know it.

Onwards and upwards to boddlerhood and beyond …

Bcp de festive love to y’all x X

 

 

Babbling, bubbles and baby food win

I usually try to keep my posts on one topic, but given that time is now even more limited and absolutely *flying* past I’m going to cover a few things in this post. I hope it makes some semblance of sense.

Number 1: omg. Mums and dads are legendary. Just totally AMAZEBOOBS. I’ve said this before but it’s worth noting again.  Every day as I travel to and from work, or talk to people in the business, or chat to my friends and family, I can’t help but wonder (breaking into a Carrie from SATC moment here…) how do people do it?  I regularly marvel at how people manage to get up and dressed and drop kids off and find the energy and time to make lunch or a coffee, and be polite and sociable, how they manage to muster the power to do their jobs and then go home and cater for their families. And in between plan for things like birthdays and holidays…  I mean where does on find the time?!

There is soooo much juggling required in being a parent and so little time to stop and take a breath (or tidy) it really is stupendous that people manage to function. And to work; whether it’s maintaining a house and providing for all the family’s needs or building your own business, or reporting to duty somewhere to perform surgery or teach kids or manage teams of other people with their own kids and life dramas, bloody well done. Well done for getting up and getting your pants on. I have concluded with my one little munchkin it is certainly not easy.

One thing I’m officially incapable of now is planning anything in advance. I don’t know if that’s because my brain simply can’t handle the information or if it’s a defence mechanism when I know that almost certainly something will ‘go wrong’ and plans will change. ‘Go wrong’ includes not getting any sleep, being sicked on, realising I don’t have the physical capacity to move, having no clean clothes etc. To all those I’ve recently failed, especially my Xmas planning failings, je regrette. I will make it up to y’all (in about 10 years when I’m back in the game).  In the meantime, bear with.

I have said before that I believe it takes a typical “child” until around the age of 25 to really start to appreciate their parents and the work and sacrifice that has gone in to getting them “all growed up”. At over 30 (ahem) and now a parent myself I can confirm that this realisation becomes stronger and more powerful by the minute. How Mr FF’s and my parents each juggled FOUR little kids I literally cannot fathom.  Without google and Facebook. And they managed to stay married. Sleep-deprived parents do have a tendency to be a bit snappy. <Not mentioning any names*>.

*myself

I have so much respect but no words really do it justice. Sending a big old round of applause to all of you out there.

So that’s my babbling done (you thought I meant baby babbles?  Ha!)

img_5588

Pretty proud of these teef!

Number 2: Nursery. Bugs. Omg#2. I was warned that Bebe FF would get sick when he started nursery. I even documented it in an earlier post. But I assumed he would probably avoid most stuff given he’s robust and, well, half Yorkshire. Sadly not. Not a week goes by without him having some ailement that requires a trip to the doctors and entails a few dramatic nappy changes or middle of the night washes, and at least a couple of broken nights’ sleep. Plus being snotted on 24/7 (Mr FF calls it “snorting” :-)). The poor little coquin usually looks like he’s been through a hedge backwards when I pick him up from nursery. We are still trying to get to the bottom of what exactly it is that causes his eczema to flare up. It is totally random. Most times we also spend a not insignifiant portion of the day aimlessly debating what could be at the heart of the present problems. 97 times out of 100 we go for teeth. Blumming teeth. Other options are ear infection (hard to detect, no temperature), allergic reaction to something (unlikely as he’s been allergy tested) and not forgetting the non-joyous growing pains.

This week we’ve had, amongst other things, a wheezy cough, temperature and snot in quantities I cannot even compute. The reference to bubbles in the title would be the bubbles coming from his nostrils. That’s right. He’s got bogey bubble blowing skills. So proud of my boy.

img_5836

Anyway I wish I had a solution to the sickness but sadly I don’t think there is one. Even a mask and following Bebe FF around with anti-bacterial wipes and wash all day would not help. Yes I know he’s building his immune system and that’s great, but when he can’t speak to tell me what’s hurting or why he’s awake and uncomfortable it’s deeply frustrating. Part of being a mum is committing yourself to endlessly trying to make your little one(s) as comfortable as possible as often as possible. It’s difficult when you are clearly not being successful. So far we are trying to feed Bebe FF some abidec vitamin drops every day (naturellement that is easier said than done!), we use sterimar to unblock his nose which is much more effective than the calpol spray we were using before, and a nice warm bath before bed. Also obviously try to keep him as snuggly as possible. However if anyone has any magic remedies for the avoidance of bugs please do shout up!

Third topic: weaning. For those just starting out on the journey – fear not! Even though it’s the most collosal rigmarole, we hit a turning point in the wean of fortune and at 8 months Bebe FF decided that, yes, actuellement food is rather nice. We are by no means fully there yet, but we are making good headway and finally my frozen sweet potato surprise is being consumed by the intended consumer. Luckily Bebe FF doesn’t appear to have transformed into a giant banana wafer despite consuming half of the UK’s supply of the things whilst we waited! #WEANWIN

A bientôt ❤

 

Back to work

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

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

img_4844

Back to work selfie

img_4745

 

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

It is literally the best thing in the world ever.

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

For the avoidance of doubt

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Badass

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

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

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

image

Senorita Mamacita

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

image

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

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

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

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

 

image

keep it in here

Tips whilst you are away:

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

img_3977

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_3252

img_3098

Babywheels – the Venicci 3-in-1 travel system

I have been asked to do a review of the Venicci baby-mobile.  This was the “travel system” we chose to transport Bebe FF in his first months on the outside.  When we were looking, as I mentioned, we found all the information out there to be a bit confusing and unnecessarily complex; the car seat and adapter situation in particular.  There weren’t many helpful reviews and by their nature the reviews were super subjective (or sponsored) so it was hard to take much from them.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  So, to add to the confusion, here’s my subjective review of the Venicci 3-in-1 system.  Hopefully it will at least answer some questions – and if not feel free to ask.

Our “travel system” criteria were:

  • sturdy – i’m not being OTT here but I just grew a whole baby in my tummy, it took 9+ months (and the rest) and sh!tload of energy – he was safe and protected in there – if I have to put him in a box on wheels, and push him around the bumpy, dangerous and broken pavements of Britain, I want sturdy!
  • suspension – ref the aforementioned pavements
  • tall – we are not giants by any stretch (even stretching wouldn’t help) but being hunched over and lifting bebe from a low starting point didn’t appeal
  • portable for weedy, tiny weeny arm muscles
  • easy to assemble – for tired, delirious parents
  • weatherproof – Britain
  • not insanely expensive – it’s not an actual car
  • a bit different

I believe it was my sister Em who first sent me a link to the Venicci promo clip. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a joke.  A lady with high heels that Christian Louboutin would be proud of, painted nails and a mini skirt demonstrates how to assemble the different parts of the pram. I hadn’t heard of Venicci, and I can’t say the video massively swayed me to purchase, but it did give me new hope about the world of motherhood and, ok, it did look like it could potentially do the job.  I put the dramatic filmography down to “being Italian” and carried on with the endless research.

Anyway, long story short we had the romantic trips to test lots of the obvious models in M&P’s, Mothercare and, of course, John Lewis.  But we couldn’t decide, and always found more negatives than positives for each one.   So in the end (i.e. 3 months before bebe FF was due to arrive) we just went for it and ordered the Venicci online, without physically seeing one or testing it (we’re crazy like that).

le195a

Venicci

So what did we think? I’ll break it down into pros and cons.

PROS

  • the flatbed/bassinet/carrycot thingy (what are they actually called?!) was great.  Strong, warm, snuggly if you add a lambskin in there, big enough for bebe FF to sleep in until 5-6 months old, which is pretty good going (some babies grow out of them around 3 months).  It has an adjustable base so if bebe has a cough or as they start to want to see more, you can elevate the head area.  It also can be folded down flatfish for storage, and to squish in the boot. Bebe FF liked being in there so much that in the early days he would sleep in there downstairs, or even upstairs when he decided he didn’t like the moses basket.  Or his crib.  Coquin.
  • the frame is super sturdy.  There are no issues weighing it down with many mummy clips and your changing bag along with hundreds of bags of shopping (would I?!).
  • the suspension is excellent. Bebe FF is comfy riding his venicci and not being projected out into the road or having his two teef clattering against … his gums.
  • the handle bar is adjustable so catering to our giant needs.  It is easy to get it to a comfortable height.
  • the various pieces clip onto the frame easily – clips are in red, and you can clip and unclip one side at a time which is significantly easier than having to do the double whammy, especially when you’re balancing bebe on your hip!
  • The brake is very simple to use, a pedal on the chassis which is easily accessible.
  • The wheels come with covers (we immediately lost them), and there is also a rain cover (very handy) and a mosquito net (also MIA within minutes of being unpacked – Boots do a good back-up).
  • The basket size is fair, it’s not enormous but it seems to be as big if not slightly bigger than the competition. It is quite deep so things stay in.  I can fit my change bag in there, plus back up blanket and rain cover.  Occasionally a pizza comes sipping out but that’s my fault for overloading 🙂
  • We went for the white frame as it was a bit different and I’m glad we did. Purely aesthetically it is joyous.  Plus my mum always told me to try to “stand out in the dark” which explains a luminous white michelin puffa jacket I wore for most of my teens.
  • It has a cup holder, or “roadie” holder, which we dedicate to our Texas friends – handy for the endless water drinking required for feeding.
  • the price – the Venicci when we got it was just over £500 including the travel seat adapters.  That seemed like a reasonable middle of the road price, compared to say the “egg” which looked fabulous but was over £1,000 before you even added on the cotbed. As it turns out, I’m glad we didn’t spend more, as it won’t be in significant use for much longer.  As soon as you can use a stroller, you will!
  • Colour combos – quite simple but good, strong quality materials. Being semi-Parisienne we went for black with white chassis. I sometimes regret the choice of black as it is a bit morose in the sunlight, but I don’t think there were many other options when we bought it – it seems there are a few more now, and also a silver chassis.  I was nervous about getting a light colour, but I think the material would wear pretty well and stay clean.

image

CONS

  • It is pretty heavy.  If you want strong and sturdy, you have to accept some weight.  I managed fine, but now I have the choice between the Venicci and the ultra-light Babyzen yoyo stroller, I know which my arms prefer.  The Venicci is still the vehicle of choice for local strolls and park trips, but it is a pain hauling it in and out of the boot.
  • The chair part is messy.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it, it just doesn’t look very comfy or slick.  Bebe FF is happy enough in there, and it can go forwards facing or facing mummy, although he seems to slump over a bit.  He likes putting his feet on the bar. But the hood and straps in particular look a bit cheap, for want of a better word.  The seat does recline and goes fairly upright.  It has a foot / body muff but it’s not very thick or lined, so unlike some of the competition would definitely require an additional blanket.
  • I don’t like the fastener on the chair – it is the type that catches your skin and gives you blood blisters. I’ve shouted merde! a few times…
  • The car seat is a bit of a waste of space as it’s very basic. There is limited padding in there and the material is the same as the rest of the set, i.e. sturdy and rough and not necessarily what you want rubbing up against your newborn’s delicate skin.  Most people I’ve spoken to opted for the MaxiCosi as their carseat, as others don’t really compare to the safety standards.  In any case you need to get the isofix base.  I think you can buy the set without the car seat, which would obviously save a bit of money – we didn’t know we could do that so didn’t explore that option.

So, from a quick squiz of the number of respective pros and cons, it is apparent that the Venicci, in my very humble opinion, was a good choice.

Any more specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Bisous

 

Body Combat

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

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

Stay with me here.  Let’s recap.

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

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

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

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

New mommas and mommas2be, here is a quick reminder:

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

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

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

image

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

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

image

How I feel every single day!

Boobies, Breasticlés, Amazeboobs

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

As someone* once said:

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

*probably

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I shall finish with this thought of the day.

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

You are welcome. ❤

 

BFFs

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

The BFFs (baby fast friends)

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

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

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

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

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

image

So how do you get these BFFs?

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

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

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

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

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

“What colour are bébé’s poos today?”

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

“How can I get Bebe to stop itching?”

“Have you got your period back?”

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

image

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

 

On the dad side it’s more:

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

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

“Is your wifey super grumps??”

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

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

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

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

image

My NCT crew 💞

The EFNMs (Existing friends, new mommas) and M2Bs

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

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

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

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

image

You mean “ca roule ma poule?”

The Mommas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Stuff #3 – Bathing, Dressing and Playing

The last instalment – for now – on baby stuff.

Baby bathing products. Yes, you need to bathe your baby. Eau de fromage can become quite pungent after a while.  You have to be careful about the umbilical cord, but once that’s off, you are free to bath.

When you look at your bath and then your baby, you see there is a distinct disparity in sizes.  For the first few weeks we actually used the sink! When the time comes to upgrade to the actual bath, there are some great bath seats around, some that swivel as your babe grows, and you can of course let them splash around pure and simples on their backs.  Careful though – water in the ear can cause ear infections.

Bébé FF LOVES the bath now.  Usually he demonstrates his excitement with a little piddle as his feet touch the water.  It wasn’t always like this.  The journey to loving bath time took a while – I remember his first bath with Auntie Em and Mary, and there was a lot of screaming.  And a few wees and maybe a trickle of poo. The first months were made up of a cacophony of screams (before, during and post bath) not to mention howling when it came to being dressed.

You may have received hundreds of samples of bath products for your baby, all claiming to make your babe’s super soft skin….softer.  Does it need to be softer?

Nope.  It turns out that – in our experience at least – you do not need the super-gentle-made-of-fluffy-marshmallows-and-clouds cream, in fact, you don’t need much at all.  Especially if your baby has sensitive skin, despite what the marketing tells you.  It is best to keep it very simple. (Every baby is different so do see your GP if you have skin concerns, it could be allergy related (washing detergent, moisturiser, bath products, your perfume, the air…) and lots of babies have baby eczema which will clear up.  We also had cradle cap (dentinox seems to be the universal winner on that). We received lots of mixed advice from the health visitors and the doctors – don’t bathe him, bathe him every day, jump up and down whilst you apply five layers of cream…etc.)

We have tried lots of lovely stuff, including Mummy & Me, Oilatum and Neal’s Yard, coconut oil (yum) and currently use Aveeno and QV emollients.

image

The post-bath snuggles though are wonderful.   And baby bath towels with the little hood are the BEST.  The more soft and snuggly the better.

Then on to baby clothes, because these are kind of critical and also make up a large volume of the “stuff”.  You might assume clothes will be bargainous.  After all, they use significantly less material. Right?  Wrong. Despite the fact bebe is about 1/6th the size of a normal human being, his clothes are only about 1/2 of the price. Sometimes the same price. Ok slight exaggeration but don’t tell Mr FF….

Bebe won’t like his clothes. He doesn’t want his head shoved through a small hole ever again.  Whoever thought to put poppers on the back of newborn clothes clearly has never tried to dress a screaming newborn.  Think practical.  What is the easiest thing to dress your baby in?  I highly recommend zip-up items for the first few months. If not for your sanity, for the hubs.  (hint:  Don’t put them off dressing the babes, it adds to the general reluctance to change nappies…)

You will also quickly discover that those baby clothes will usually get approximately two wears. Yep, two goes on the item.  And n.b. that does not mean two full days’ wear. That means two wears.  It could quite literally be on and off in the space of a poo.  And, to be fair, the second wear presupposes you know how to fill and activate the washing machine – with one hand – and you have some pretty effective stain remover.  This can be bitterly disappointing and your favourite gift item, the little Petit Bateau onesie or the Bonpoint suit will be ruined…  I digress.

Last there’s the play equipment. This becomes critical after a few weeks of intense cuddling.  Your baby can barely see beyond a black and white cloud of blur at this point. But bien sur he needs a state of the art “gym” including tummy time, scrunkle noises, flying objects, bells, whistles, hooters and insanely bright and clashing colours EVERYWHERE. One similarity with adult life : when he comes out of the gym he is exhausted. When I say “Bebe FF had a great session in the gym and he’s zonked when he comes out” it’s brilliant – you can see people momentarily believing he’s actually been to the gym. Yes, he was totally nailing the cross trainer…

 

He also needs books and cuddly toys so that he can scream every time you place one close to him. Sometimes he will dribble or even vomit on them. Brillo.  He needs things to chew on to help those teef push through. N.b. your finger will always be first choice and you won’t loose that in the bottom of your interminable baby bag (I think I need to post separately about those…!)

All these things take up loads of space in your previously sparsely* inhabited living space and will, naturally, require special “baby” or “nursery” furniture for storage. Bam. Another wad of cash disappears.

So what’s the message here? Three posts about baby stuff.  Likely more to follow.  I haven’t even mentioned nappies, wipes, nappy bins and bags, mussies and milk!

Having a baby actually does cost a fortune, and takes up all the space in the house.  But that’s what a MasterCard is for.  You can’t put a price on your baby’s happiness or safety.  And some of the baby stuff is L’AMAZEBALLS.

New Parents:

If you’re about to embark on this journey of joy and you aren’t made of money, don’t panic.  There are LOADS of ways to get what you want without going bankrupt.

I will try to include tips as I go throughout this blog, but to begin with, a few obvious ones:

  • check out nearly new sales around your area, the NCT organise plenty – you can often get designer attire for primarni prices.  I’ve yet to get to one but Momma F loves a nearly new.  N.B. You have to get there early.
  • Explore Schpock and eBay for equipment that is new or in very good condition.  There are also lots of Facebook pages for local parents selling and looking for goodies.
  • When it comes to nappies and wipes, be sure to test out samples – if you sign up to sites like this one you will get bits and bobs through the post or vouchers to use in stores: http://free.emmasdiary.co.uk.
  • Sign up to Mothercare to get 10% off initial purchases.
  • Amazon Prime. Nuff said.
  • Before you buy your travel system check the auction / second hand sites to see how many are selling and why – useful way to gauge how long they lasted, how much they were used, and why they are being sold!!  If you see someone with a pram shopping for prams… consider asking them why. But don’t act like a stalker.
  • If you are looking the obvious choices are Bugaboo, Joolz, Stokke, Uppababy, MaxiCosi, Cossatto and we went with Venicci.  We also just got the amazing babyzen Yoyo 6+ – more on that later.

 

*anyone that knows me will appreciate the use of “sparse” is possibly slightly misleading.

image