Body Combat pt II

So here I am again. The battle with my body continues. This time mon corps has produced two little human beans (in short succession). It has nourished and harboured them safely until expulsion, and then produced sustenance for them until I handed the job over to my moo-ing friends and the wonder that is smashed banana. Those bébés are my absolute pride and joy. I’m floored constantly by how much I love and adore every tiny molecule of them. I want to stare at them, all day and all night. So how come I can’t look at my body, baby making véhicule extraordinaire, with that same pride and joy?

I’ve battled with my body confidence for a long time, maybe forever, and here’s the first thing I have realised of late: just because I had bebes I did not magically become something I wasn’t before I became a mum. Let me clarify. I was not an elite athlete or a gym bunny pre-kids. In fact, prior to having kids, I did not know what a gym was. I mean I had a rough idea of the sweaty horror-house, but I was scared of them. I counted walking to the pub as exercise and an olive in my martini as one of my five a day. At best I was “skinny fat” as my wise (and fit) littlest sister would say, which apparently is a technical term amongst actual fit and healthy people for those that can’t be referred to as “fat fat” but no matter the clothes size still wobble.

Questionable choice of top but remarkable waist. Strong male objectification efforts – getting our own back!

Looking back now, of course, I was just fine. But I didn’t like my reflection; I could point to 20 things I hated about myself before finding a single thing that was ok. I hated wearing swimwear and basically was a massive prude. But I was lucky in some ways- I didn’t like my body but it didn’t particularly knock my confidence. I was brought up to be grateful for what I have, and I was frequently reminded that we are all different and physical appearance is just one aspect of “you”. I don’t remember much other discussion or focus on the body (positive in itself) other than engaging in fun exercise opportunities, no doubt to wear us out as much as to get fit. I was – and remain – passionate about the fact (actual fact) that every body is different, each person is fortunate to have what they have, women lucky enough to carry a baby or to menstruate are blessed and strong, and I deplore the negative effects of advertising on women. The way a woman’s body “should” look and all the products and utensils we need to make ourselves more “perfect” or less “ugly”. How we are objectified. Check out some examples here and link through to Jean Kilbourne’s page and see her pioneering work on this topic.

When I was fresh out of hospital with my new bebes, Facebook ads told me I needed just 8 weeks to get my pre baby body back plus some abs and possibly also a job as a gym instructor. Are you freaking kidding me? I need 8 weeks to catch my breath. I need 8 months to physically recover from this – not to get my pre-baby body “back” – and I need 8 tonnes of patience not to punch you advertisers in the face. I am *never* getting my pre baby body back because I had a bebe. Unless you have a time machine my body will always and forever more be post baby. Let’s focus on that.

I was horrified to realise recently that the image of the internal human body, the muscles and the nervous system, the image we’ve all grown up seeing and studying, is a male body. Shocking news: men and women don’t look the same on the inside! There was a clue with the external aspects, but what do I know. So it turns out the female muscular anatomy is quite different to the male body. Ok you know that. Obvs. But seriously how did we get to 2019 without anybody really calling that out? Where are the mammory glands?!

Right here. Wow.

I digress. Back to moi and my doubly/ triply wobbly wobbly fat fat. I have had kids so now I’m the old me, squared. Ironically I’m probably “fitter” than I have ever been (apart from one time I did a half marathon – unbelieavabubble to me now); I actually occasionally go to a gym, I try to do yoga, I spend my time lifting wriggly worms of 10kg and above, or carting around my office in my bag, or chasing littles, or bending and stretching to get all their clothes washed, folded and away in the cupboards before starting the cycle again, and I am more conscious of what I eat. And drink. Because as someone older and wiser kindly informed me, it is harder to lose the excess flab post kids. *sobs as she puts away the crisps* But I am strong. I should be happy. I am confident that I am more than my cankles and my generously proportioned derrière. I just need to take that thinking and really apply it to my moments of mirror glaring.

I want my children to grow up being comfortable in their own skin. We need to set that example and normalise real women’s bodies. I am thoughtful now about what I say about my own body: I don’t make a big deal about my squishy tummy. I try not to speak out about my mum boobs/ spaniels ears. I try not to hide behind too many layers of protection when we are going for a splash and I’m working on standing proud. “I made you in here!” I declare pointing at my tum “what a clever mummy I am!” And when Big Bro points to my chest and shouts out that “when I was a baby I drank milk from your boobies!” “Yes you did little man, and isn’t that magic!”. Rather than jump on the opportunity to insult myself I’m giving myself a high 5. I’m making a positive change.

Not my image but a glorious one it is!

Voilà the second realisation: linked to #1 above, stop being so hard on yourself. Bloody hell woman. You gave birth twice. You are not 15. You work, you play (in the children playing sense now, not playing hard with vodka martinis, just to be clear) ~ you juggle. Time is precious. Hanger is real. The odds are stacked against you having an easy ride to extreme fitness right now, but you can be healthy. And happy. And proud. Be proud of what your body has achieved. And speak up about it! I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out to the humans that you produced, and perhaps to the one that you produced them with, quite how clever it was that you produced them in your tummy, and perhaps your thighs and your arms and chins too. Normalise your baby-making body.

Third: try to refrain from commenting. Maybe don’t comment on other women’s appearances, unless it’s to give them a boost. And know your audience. This part is hard. But as you go deeper into friendships, you will know different friend’s attitudes on this stuff. It’s kind of hard if you are super self-conscious to receive any commentary on appearance, because no matter what is being said you can somehow derive a direct or indirect insult. Par exemple “Have you lost weight, you look great!” = “Was I too weighty before? Did I have weight I needed to lose? Why didn’t you alert me to my excessive weight?”

Someone said to me recently, in response to my mumbling about not being happy in a swimming costume, “don’t be hard on yourself, you’re only 18 months post partum”. Now that was sweet and well-intentioned, but doubling + my own ‘9 months in 9 months out’ motto feels cheeky. I mean I could say I’m only 12 years post partum someday… I like it but it doesn’t fly. My body “issues” aren’t purely those that are directly linked to portage of bebe. I’m sure they haven’t been improved by that gargantuan experience but pretty sure I can’t blame the kids for my cankles. Conversely I may well have gifted them our family cankleloom. We are the Fawcett family of powerful legs. De rien!

Mine were 100 times canklier at the end of pregnancy

Fourth: take your own advice. C’est tout.

Go forth and be bold and strong and proud of what you got. I also recommend some Chessie King @chessiekingg on Instagram if you want a regular boost of body confidence 💕

Boyzilla – the story of a threenager

A few weeks ago I thought about starting this post and simply didn’t know where to begin. I was truly starting to wonder if we had a serious problem. I don’t know, because I haven’t done this before, but just how naughty can little boys actually be?

Big Brother has been playing up, and down, and all around. He’s been causing havoc, and chaos, and red cheeks all over the place. The naughtiness scale has been exceeded multiple times. Per day. Even the wondrous human beings that dedicate their days to caring for him and his comrades have been getting to the very, very end of their tethers. Never have I had to apologise so much to so many people for things I genuinely didn’t do and had no input into whatsoever.

How big is the apology today!?

Where to start… the funniest and most ridiculous recent example of his cheeky character was when I put him in the naughty corner for being rude and not listening; after a tirade of various poo-based insults and tongue waving at me, interspersed with wild giggling, he looked me right in the eye, swung around, stuck his bottom out, wiggled it at me, and then – after a dramatic pause – actually did a fart. Genuinely. I really struggled not to split my sides with laughter and most importantly keep a straight face. It can be so hard. It takes some attitude and character to come up with some of his retorts, and his quite extensive energy levels really add something to the mix.

It has been standard for him to be screaming PooPooPants in response to just about anything, except when it actually relates to the state of his pants, he has been refusing to sit down, refusing to get in the car, refusing to get out of the car, hitting and kicking and dribbling profusely, shouting NOOOOOOOO at most everything I ask or offer except if I tried to, dare I say, trick him (unexpectedly, do you want… chocolate??) and then he picks it up straight away and demands the chocolate and nothing but chocolate forever more, because I offered it didn’t I?? merci beaucoup.

Plotting and planning to get all the chocolate

In fact he has been so ridiculous of late, unpredictable, opinionated, playing parental politics, I was fully anticipating a call from a certain president of a few States to recruit him as the next VP…

But just when I thought we were calling in the riot police, we turned a corner.

Suddenly we have a little boy in our midst. A boy who asks to get down from the table. Please Mama. A boy who tells his mama she is his best mummy and she looks “pretty” (and then says it to Papa and slightly ruins the moment). A boy who wants to be a daddy when he grows up. A boy who wants to put his own socks and pants on. A boy who can almost go to the toilet himself. A boy who can read himself a story and nod off to sleep. A boy who waits outside his Grandma’s room until she’s ready to see him.

And then, of course, he shouts POO POO PANTS at the top of his voice, because that, it seems, does not expire at the ripe old age of three.

Big Brother has come up with some absolute corkers of late. One of my favourites is the inevitable obsession with the fact he has a “willy” and Bebette has a “pajina”. He concentrates hard furrowing his brow when he wants to remember the magic word. It sounds a bit like a pyjama and makes me laugh every time he says it. He also talks a lot about what he will do in the future “when I’m a daddy”. He obviously wants to be taller and stronger and we often have to test his muscle growth during dinner time to ensure the spinach is going exactly where it’s supposed to go. He likes us to check his elbow as that has a particularly strong feel to it.

Muscle levels: off the scale

He’s getting wiser to the world, so curious, and has so many questions. Not a sentence goes by without a probing look and a big old “why?”. And when I return the favour and ask him a clarification question, he comes up with some sort of genius comment. “Mmmm! yummy pain au chocolat! Where do we normally eat delicious, fresh pain au chocolats little guy?” Withering regard: “At the table Mummy.”

Number of pain au chocs mummy ate earlier

Brilliant. He’s just as cheeky as ever but taking the chat up a notch. He wants to help with everything, mix up the eggs, carry the plates to the table, and if you dare to even consider opening the door before he gets to it when the doorbell rings, well then prepare for a meltdown of exponential proportions. One does not simply open the door at the FF house. Non non non.

‘Didn’t get to open the door’ face

And then, just as we start to get our little smirky faces back, the ones we had right before the terrible twos set in, when we thought we had somehow ‘avoided it’, before we started to experience real toddlerhood, we hear a little rustle from the other side of the room. Like the horror films that end with the final survivor furtively peering out into the empty road, and then closing their door behind them, locking it, multiple times, and as they walk down the hallway towards peace, and you breathe a sigh of relief, you suddenly catch sight of a little, knife-wielding-blood-splattered-monster grinning from the stairs…. we have another terrible twoer fresh on the heels of her Big Bro and, judging by the temper tantrums and crocodile tears, we are in for a ride.

Fasten your seatbelt Papa FF.

EEEeEeseeeeee

BB is fast asleep, time to blow him a little raspberry of sibling love

Bebe Bag – hospital essentials

Packing my hospital bag first time round was like a magical, mystical birth preparation ritual. The bag itself, the precise contents, the order in which they were packed… Pretty sure I did it at around 30 weeks pregnant, and it required extensive research and numerous *special* shopping trips, with a fellow preggo, to ensure all the essentials (and the rest) were covered. The bag was by the front door months before Bebe FF arrived – in fact I think it actually gathered some dust.

The second time round and I only got to thinking about the bag around 36 weeks; it was all a bit of a shambles. Like many things in my life at the moment, I started doing “the bag” and before I knew it I was lost in the dark depths of a wardrobe, knee-deep in Bebe FF’s old baby stuff, looking for an old nursing bra I didn’t even like, and listening to Hokey Cokey on repeat. Even locating a suitable bag was a challenge and I almost ended up going to hospital with a Trunki. When I got back to focusing the bag a week or so later, I actually genuinely couldn’t think what to put in it except pants. And PJs. And a snack  – obvs. I quickly realised why: to plan what went in the bag I would actually need to get to grips with what was about to happen. I would be giving birth and no matter how joyous that is, it’s also a little bit scary.  And the “planning process” also reminded me that I had no real clue what would happen on the day we would eventually go to the hospital, no matter how much I wanted to be in control.  I knew that from first time around. You have a theoretical birth “plan” but really what you’re going in to do is have a baby and there isn’t much more of it that you can actually plan….

When I was going stir crazy at 40 weeks I salvaged the bag packing situation and properly packed a bag for me and one for bebette.  Tip: You’re probably best having two bags. Especially as you will be instructing  your other half to do some of the critical bag-searching when you can’t move / are otherwise occupied pushing a baby out, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to locate things. If your partner is anything like mine, when asked to locate a particular item in a receptacle containing a number of items, the receptacle suddenly becomes a Mary Poppins style bag and the item requested is some sort of other worldly object the partner has never heard of. “Can I have my lip balm please?” Silence. Blank look. “Leep bolm?” *Monsieur FF plunges into the baby bag, pulls out a tiny nappy, is redirected to the mama bag (should have clearly labelled them…) and rifles around for about 15 minutes, spilling items all around the floor and eventually pulls out giant pants*: “Zis?”

I thought it would be worth a quick blog just to note what I took and used, whether it can help to prepare you or remind you, or make you laugh at the ridiculousness depending on which journey you’re on.  If I were a man looking at this I would probably be guffawing by now: “It is so typical of women to need a special detailed shopping list, and dedicated blog, just for the things they need to go to the bloody hospital! Pants and keys! That’s all tha needs! What a kerfuffle!” (*Yorkshire man, possibly my dad*) Well, men, when you’ve grown a human for nearly 10 months and then eject it from your body in a foreign place with foreign people all around you, and with those people playing with your bits and your bits being totes out of control, THEN you can come back and give us your fantastic opinion. Plus FYI menfolk, you would probably forget your pants and / or keys anyway. The hospital bag is not only essential (no one needs to be unnecessarily nude in the hospital) but may bring you a little bit of relief, even joy, at a very emotional time.

First and foremost: the pantaloons. You need giant comfy pants. Accompanying these are your maternity pads. However your bebe comes into the world you will spend the next 6 weeks or so leaking. The hospital will provide you with some pads whilst you are there but they don’t have any sticky. You need stick. You can get the giant maternity pads from chemists, most supermarkets and you can also try the organic variety available on Amazon.

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Actual size of maternity pad

Second: milk / feeding essentials. If you’re breastfeeding I strongly recommend some sort of nipple cream. You can also apply your own milk to your nipples (I.e. Rub it around your nipple to reduce soreness – this does work) but in the early days you don’t have milk as such, it’s colostrum and not so easy to get out. I used Lansinoh Lanolin religiously both times and have had no issues. You should pack a couple of nursing bras, in case you’re in for a few days, and some nursing pads, although again the leaky boobs don’t really set in until 3-4 days post partum. If you’re bottle feeding the formula producers have some handy mini bottles ready to go. I have taken one of these packs both times to the hospital just in case anything isn’t working with the boobs. They are also handy for short spates of freedom later.

Third: outfits for the Bebe. Your baby needs to be wrapped up warm. They’ve been in a spa for the past nearly 10 months and funnily enough don’t particularly enjoy being cold and naked. You need blankets, muslins and snuggly clothes. The softer and easier to put on the clothes the better. Despite appearances, the little nippers are hard to get into clothes and don’t always love it. They are also often very curled up and in our case, both times it was Papa’s job to get bebe dressed for the first time.  Zip onesies, soft vests (recommend M+S and Next) and a snuggly hat and cardi were winners for us. Also these awesome little “bundlers” – like a tiny baby nightie, they are open at the bottom for easy nappy change, no poppers, and long enough to keep bebe’s legs warm.

Fourth: nappies for the Bebe. And wipes. Or cotton wool. I’m sure the hospital could help you out with nappies, but newborns can go through them relatively rapidly, and the méconium poos are quite something. So come prepared! Enjoy the little tiny bum size as they grow so quickly!

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

Fifth: car seat for the Bebe. You can’t take your baby home without one so it’s kinda critical. We have the Maxi Cosi Pebble+ leftover from last time and bebette rode home just fine in it. Obviously she looks like a tadpole in there, but she was safe and cosy. We are also reusing our fabulous Morrck blanket which keeps her warm but can be opened up to let the air in once she’s in the warm car.

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A very happy Monsieur FF complete with bebette, headphones to block noise and awesome hand sewn bebe bag from a special auntie!

Sixth: PJs for mama. Take two pairs, even three. I had a couple of nighties with a dressing gown, plus some PJ trousers and top. You never know when your waters are going to break or you may be vomited on so have spares. You go from being very naked to being in a room full of new parents so I would recommend sensible PJs and sensible colours. A satin négligée prolly won’t be ideal (although very comfy I’m sure). If your breastfeeding think about accessibility to the boobs.  If you’re organised and thoughtful, at this point pack a Tshirt/pants for your other half.

Seventh: shower essentials. Your first shower after giving birth is quite an experience. You will be shaky and smelly and gross. When you have the shower you will feel human again. Your body feels lighter and thanks to the painkillers you mostly can’t feel anything. Take your favourite shower magic to make the experience even more pleasant. You will probably be showering with a midwife or someone else in tow though, so I don’t recommend bringing your full puff ball and exfoliation equipment.

Eight: snacks.  Now it depends how long you’re in hospital and what stage you’re at but these are critical for both your and your partner’s survival. Hospital shops, despite having a captive market (or perhaps because of that??) have a fairly grim and limited selection of goodies. Think easy to eat, energy boosters that won’t irritate your stomach, like M+M peanuts, cereal bars, haribos, candy kittens (yum!) Pom bear crisps, nuts, fruit, lots of water and energy drinks if you can handle them.

Nine: music, films and reading materials – if you’re in for induction you’re likely going to be there a while, especially if it’s your first, so pop your kindle or some trashy mags in for light relief as you start to experience your contractions. If you’re organised, you should download some series / films onto your portable devices and sit back and relax. You won’t have the same level of calm for a little while after all this…

Ten: pillow – both times I’ve taken my own pillow, just because there aren’t hundreds available in the hospital and it feels safe and smells of my bed.

Eleven: cooling off equipment and lip balm – water spray and flannels, lip balms galore (take a BIG one so your partner can find it in the bag…).  I personally didn’t get round to using these much as things went too rapidly but I often see OBEM ladies enjoying a nice cool flannel and your lips will get dry, especially if your sucking on that gas and air.  Also the maternity ward can get very snuggly, so if you’re in there any period of time, the cool spray will likely come in handy.  I also packed a Spacemask but that was a little optimistic. I could have used it during the induction, but I enjoyed it more in a short nap I was permitted in the first days post arrival of Bebette – interstellar relaxation indeed!

Twelve: change for the car park. Hopefully your partner will be on top of this but again, best to be prepared. You don’t know how long you will be there for and the last thing you want is a congratulations fine from the car park warden (btw I think it’s outrageous that the wardens even do the rounds but that’s a separate battle to be had another time).

Last but not least: your hospital notes!

So there we have the essentials in my humble opinion. Good luck with your packing and the journey that lies ahead – wishing you a beautiful squidge of a bebe!

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Bises from us 4 x x

 

Bumpologie: the magic of pregnancy

 

As I reflect, in the last days of my second pregnancy, on the experience of being pregnant and growing a couple of people in my abdomen, honestly I am still baffled by what has just happened. Je suis complètement bafflé (nb: not a real word – the French would never confess to such a state of mind). You would think after 9+ months of cooking time most people have got their head around what is happening inside them. But I continue to be floored by the whole process; the exact timing and precise, regular changes that happen along the way, the way your body just reorganises to accommodate a watermelon, and the fact that you can readily grow a penis and a brain whilst still retaining at least 56% of your own cognitive function and doing your job/ feeding your family/ getting around/ generally surviving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: how could women possibly be the weaker sex?!

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Like anyone going through the pregnancy journey, I have been excited but also slightly perturbed by the changes that occur in my body. I have tried to embrace the changes and I am always mindful of the privilege that is being pregnant.  However, the second time around it has been quite a different experience to the bubble-wrapped first pregnancy; more nausea, more stretching, more tiring, less bubble-wrapping, less pre-natal yoga, less cake and treats, less time to relax (see below) and to reflect on the milestones and changes (albeit seemingly more time at the very end this time round!!).  Whilst it’s utterly astounding to think that there’s a human inside me, the magical unknown of the exit process is now somewhat ruined.  As such “due date” carries both a sense of excitement and utter fear.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to think up an alternative exit route for this bebe, but there.just.isn’t.one.  YIKES.

Having the privilege of doing this whole thing twice, what did I do differently with the second pregnancy? The main things I’ve learnt this time around:

  • invest in good clothes (Isabella Oliver and Mamalicious remain top faves, larger sizes from Next and Séraphine also tend to wear well).  Towards the end you will wear the same clothes repeatedly. With a toddler, they will be covered in snot and food, so they really need to be durable.  I anticipate I will be wearing some of the trousers for the next few months.  Who wants to give up an elastic waistband anyway?
  • keep up with the belly oils and moisturisers – everyone has different skin and every pregnancy does different things to your body. Nonetheless, the moisturising of bump routine I nailed first time round was not strictly adhered to this time, until the final trimester when I spotted some suspicious looking marks.  Do not risk it and do keep those magic potions going.  My personal preference is the MamaMio range because it just smells so good.
  • don’t push yourself – when you’ve got a toddler in tow there is only so much you can do, and that’s no bad thing. Early to bed is not a crime, plenty of time for midnight parties up ahead.
  • there is no such thing as too many pillows – literally all the pillows are residing on my bed right now. I still can’t get comfy and roll around hurumphing all night, but at least it muffles my whining for Monsieur FF.
  • you can still benefit from a bit of reading. This time I was recommended Bumpology and thoroughly enjoyed it (until I lost my kindle) as a well-informed read by a science journalist au fait with actual scientific facts. There is a lot of speculation about pregnancy and labour and new babies, (and there will always be because unsurprisingly no-one wants to be a guinea pig at these times) but I found the book to be written frankly and some factual basis.  Lawyers love a few facts.
  • you don’t have to eat for two – saddest revelation from the Mothership when she pointed out, mid-way through my pregnancy that “you know you only actually need 200 extra calories per day”.  Not that I care about weight gain during pregnancy (I mean – I obviously moan about it but make no effort to stop eating whatever I need to eat), but when it comes from the Mothership you have to at least take note.  Boo.

I am also taking a moment to highlight some significant lifestyle differences between this pregnancy experience and le premier, i.e. being pregnant with a toddler in tow.

First obvious example: the prescribed “relaxing” before giving birth.

First time round we were all NCT classes, dinner dates, massages, “lots of sleep” (FYI not a real thing when heavily pregnant) and luxury bathing with lotions and potions and tranquil candle vibes in the house. Second time and IF I get a moment (and have the energy) for a bath, I have to, first, locate my bath products behind 15 different eczema potions and baby bath products. Then I have to manoeuvre into the bath around the obstacle course that is various musical fish, mats and safety devices. Once I’m in the tub (“wedged in” is probably a more accurate description), rather than resting my head on the soft bath pillow (which has been relegated to some sort of safety role), I get a sharp prod in the ear from the Nuby Octopus, before having the full foam alphabet assortment raining down on my oversized body. The baby belly that I’ve set out to have some quiet time with is now littered with brightly coloured letters reminding me I’m “OK” (ish) “OH” (so big) “FLABP” (flabby?! Or start flapping because you will shortly be in labour?!).  The letters move around as the bebe on the inside reminds me that my bladder is just one small kick away.  I have some old bath salts wedged in my toes and all around me are luminous receptacles for water, not candles. Cue gentle wails from my nearby Boddler, who, in his sleep, has sensed I may be having a quiet moment and is not at all in agreement. Immense waves of guilt wash over me (the only washing that’s occurring) as I tell myself “this could be the last night it’s just you and me buddy“… so I decide to exit the bath and provide urgent cuddles. As I haul myself out of the bath, and haul is no exaggeration, I make it to standing and notice that I’ve conveniently got an “X” and “L” wedged in my derrière.  Hearing various load grunts and groans, both from me and the bath tub, Monsieur FF calls out “t’es ok?!” (or has our bath just collapsed through the ceiling…???) “I’m FINE.”  Boddler wailing has naturally subsided by now, Boddler is quiet, but energy to re-enter the alpha-bath has depleted, so I give up. Now to find a towel that is bigger than half of my leg.

Another good one is the preparation of le stuff that you need for new Bebe. This preparation process was like a ritual with number 1; neatly washed, folded, laid out or hanging, delicately positioned in certain areas of the house which were previously bare, and well in advance of the little bonhomme arriving… this time, it’s about not mixing the tiny baby vests with the seemingly giant man vests worn by big brother, and using any “relaxing” time to half-heartedly fold neatly in the knowledge that, in a mere few days, the items will be piled in a basket covered in poop and baby milk. Anything strategically placed around the house (anywhere that isn’t already occupied by more brightly coloured FP necessities), like a Moses basket or crib, is promptly given the Boddler FF treatment, namely climbing in or on it, and leaving a trail of snot and dribble, not dissimilar to the star of the Snail and the Whale… except the message he leaves is not “save the whale” but “MINE“. Marking his territory. And technically correct because much of the equipment we are able to recycle given it’s all still fairly new. When it comes to jumperoo time I anticipate some fierce battles…

One rather dramatic change for the positive in the FF house is that we do now actually cook meals at home.  Partially due to the fact it’s pretty hard to go out for dinner when your toddler needs his bed at 7.30pm.  Any of my uni crew reading this are no doubt grimacing at the thought of the ultimate garlic flatbed, carrottes rapées followed by yoghurt surprise. Gousto is a game changer. (If you want to get 50% off your first two boxes try code REBEC269169.) So, now I’m pretty much a master chefette, I’ve obviously prepared weeks of frozen food, all ready to go when we have no time for cooking…. just kidding, we still have a ridiculous freezer which can only accommodate 3 tubs of Ben and jerrys and some frozen peas so I ain’t got time (space) for that. But I have got some delicious protein balls ready to go, if Monsieur FF doesn’t scoff them all before this Bebe#2 arrives.

So what now, what should I be doing in the last few days of freedom? I’m not used to waiting (patience levels: 0) but as I’ve alluded to recently in a few Insta posts, I’m very conscious that this time is really precious – soon we will be in the mad fog of newborn business and our Boddler has to adapt to the fact he can’t have our attention 100% of the time. More importantly for me to compute, I can’t give him all my energy because the newbie will have a number of demands that must be met. So rather than wishing this one would hurry out, I am trying to embrace the calm, the family of three vibes, and enjoy the excitement of not knowing when our lives are completely shifting again… except it had bloody better be within the next 5 days!!! As you can see I’m nailing the embracing.

Just to make life that tiny bit more interesting, in a deftly and ingenious move, Boddler FF has decided that the last days should go his way, and in a way that is bafflé-ing to all around him, including various health professionals, has managed some hybrid mix of chicken pox, foot and mouth, eczema flare up and standard nursery cold/snot-fest meaning he can’t go to nursery (the “normal” I wanted him to retain whilst home life catapults into chaos). Instead of putting my feet up with my super trooper Mothership, (who btw has just had a double knee replacement, but notwithstanding has still come “up” to me from the Great Yorkshire to give me strength and generally do the magic that mothers do at this time) I’m chasing around after the little spotty monkey. Despite the numerous ailments he seems to have energy in abundance. Du coup I’m not sure if his sibling is hiding on the inside to avoid the lurgy, aware of the chaos just outside and staying sensibly put, or – as I suspect may be the case – is brewing an exit performance so momentous that Boddler FF will have to sit on the sidelines for a little while. Let’s wait and see….

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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 2016: the year of the Bébé

Quelle année! In many ways 2016 has been a pretty epic fail; democratic delirium and disturbing deaths to highlight but a couple of reasons this has been THE annus horibilus. However, something very special happened to us this year that made this the best year of my grown-up life: like a shining star of hope and joy, firing out of my nether regions, Bebe FF dramatically entered the world and our lives in February and we haven’t looked back. Mainly because we literally haven’t had time and I can’t locate my glasses 😬

Since becoming a mother I’ve changed in so many ways, mostly good and a few bad (spaniel’s ears anyone?!)… I’ve learnt much about washing machines, controlling milk leakages, swaddling, hair styles for the great unwashed, yog-filled hair, baby eczema solutions, mushing food up, wiping food off the wall, cutting tiny baby fingernails, getting a poo nappy away from a wriggly baby before they put their hand in it, and extracting bogeys from a bebe – which by the way, somewhat ironically becomes far too easy as they grow and you might actually find yourself considering how on earth to keep all the snot in rather than it leaking out all over the babe’s face and your clean jacket) – all pretty critical life skills.

I’ve learnt that tiredness can indeed cause accidents…like a fist accidentally powering rapidly towards certain individual’s rib area in the middle of the night when Bebe needs attention but you are physically incapable of anything (except aforementioned punch), or the slightly unfortunate feeling of putting your pants on back to front.  I have a couple of times nearly applied nail varnish remover to my face, brushed my hair with a toothbrush and possibly only put one contact lens in (still not sure what happened…) and I’ve eaten far too much mushy food out of a sense of duty rather than because I desperately craved an apple, beetroot and turnip slush-puppy.

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Notwithstanding a few unfortunate moments, this year had by far been the most rewarding and challenging of my life. I have never felt so delighted and fulfilled as I did when Bebe FF was handed to me in those first seconds after birth, when he latched and started gulping away, when he smiled for the first time, then he giggled, then he got teeth and started crawling, saying “mama” and “dada” or “papa” (depends on his mood) and then stood up… basically he’s destined for a Nobel prize in the next few months. When he does something new, I’m like the cat that got the cream. I’m sorry, but it’s bloody brilliant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for him and for my family, for our family. The love and support has been just tremendous. The challenging aspects of parenthood are largely between the parents. Nappies aren’t that bad. You have to have a pretty solid foundation to battle through the months of sleeplessness and exhaustion with mutual love and respect. Mr FF has been a superstar, and is the most fantastic dad. I am insanely lucky. But don’t be fooled, we have screamed and eyeballed each other more in the last 10 months than ever before. Without food or coffee OR sleep, hanger becomes a highly dangerous state of EXHANGERSAUSTIPATED and that shizzle is scary. Faites attention.

Going back to work compounds the problem; there is even less time to recoup and get organised. Pyjama parties are involuntary events caused by a failure to wash your work clothes, or set the alarm, rather than a fun activity mit bebe, cake and Netflix.

So what lies ahead? What will Bebe FF have in store for us for 2017? What will the world have in store for us all? A sobering thought. Next year, i.e. Starting tomorrow, I intend to spend at least 15 minutes per day reflecting on how lucky I am and what I can do to make life slightly better for others and slightly calmer for us. I suspect the former will be on ze toilette (less vulgar if en français) and the latter will involve me clearing some serious clutter (agghhhhhhhhhh), sharing joy and possibly moving to the Maldives. I also endeavour to get my cook on, now Bebe FF is loving his food, I won’t have to throw it away or – worse – eat it myself. And this may be the year that the bilingual babbling really begins. But who knows. Bilinguals can take a little longer to get going, but I’m fairly sure when Bebe FF finds his voice we will know about it! And last on the list for now will be more travel, because who said you can’t travel to the Lone Star State with a boddler?!!

Happy new year and bonne année to you one and all

The FFs x

 

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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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Back to work selfie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is literally the best thing in the world ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For the avoidance of doubt

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

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

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

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

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