Textures and Tastes: Introducing Ezra 

There are many a stressful situation in life. Moving house, getting married, getting divorced,  having kids… starting a new job…

…but I never imagined that deciding how and when to introduce anything other than breastmilk to my child would be up there on the list of things that could ultimately turn me grey before my time.

It’s chaos, this feeding a baby milarky — at least for the seasoned stresshead like me, it is. 

I very quickly gave up on Google when it came to weaning because it’s all a bit much. Like a becoming a Mother for the first time, it’s information overload and scaremongering and, mostly, just opinion rather than fact, therefore I decided that I was going to do what feels right for us and take some cues from Ezra on this one. 

One thing was for certain: I wasn’t about to enter into a Mum debate on what/when/how I fed my son.

Ezra was just over 5 and a half months old when he had his first taste of anything other than breastmilk. His first food was less than a teaspoon of mushy avocado, fed to him with bated breath and a crushing fear of him choking to death.

He loved it, and over the next few evenings I once again gave him little bits of avocado to taste (we eat a lot of avocado in this house at dinner time!). Ezra responded with a lot of mmm noises, opening his mouth, smacking his lips eagerly every time he caught sight of the little green happy fats and quickly began reaching for it even when it wasn’t offered. I figured, at this point, that he was ready to start his journey. I had a sturdy, well-coordinated, curious baby on my hands and I knew it was time.

As I said in the beginning of the post, all the charts and feeding guides were enough to give me a nose bleed, so I made some basic baby weaning decisions and decided that we would just take things slowly, without any pressure — dabble, if you will,  after all food before one is meant just for fun (…an’ all that jazz)

Decision 1: I want to do a combination of traditional spoon feeding and also introduce Ezra to finger foods after he reaches the 6 month mark.

Decision 2: introduce savoury well before sweet to avoid him suddenly deciding that sweet flavours are life (because let’s be real, they are!) and therefore fuss over savoury — or worse — refuse savoury. 

Decision 3: avoid juices, stick to water for as long as possible.

Those were my only baby weaning decisions, the rest was very much a go with the flow scenario. 

After a few nights of trying a little bit of avocado on a tea spoon and realising that he probably wasn’t going to choke, I braved allowing him half teaspoons of mashed up sweet potato, which he loved more than the avocado and promptly began kicking off whenever I took it away from him. 

In the first week, those two things were all he tried. I was too nervous and anxious about the whole thing to put a weaning plan in place. It was clear that Ezra was definately ready to experiment with textures and flavours though, so I went out and hit the supermarkets in search of bowls and spoons and all things baby food related. Genuinely, I was very excited about the whole thing and couldn’t believe I’d turned into the woman who grew giddy at the sight of a feeding bib and a pouch of pureed spag bol.

The first edible things I bought for Ezra were a selection of the adorable little Ella’s kitchen ‘first tastes’ pouches — lovely smooth consistency and great as an introduction to flavour combinations. Over the course of the next week, I gave him the equivalent of half a pouch a day, usually around lunch time. He loved tasting peas, parsnips and mango for the first time.

Ezra then turned 6 months old and I then introduced porridge (made with water or expressed breastmilk) after his first morning nap. As it turns out, porridge is one of his all time favourite things to eat at any hour of the day, his eyes light up when he sees a spoonful of that stuff coming towards him. He’s also tried broccoli, buttered toast and scrambled egg, all of which were given in small quantities directly onto his high chair table for him to pick up/play with/navigate to his mouth when we were eating the same. (Of course, my scrambled egg/toast/broccoli always went cold because I was too concerned with watching everything Ezra did with his samples and making sure he didn’t choke) 

He went on to try tomato and basil melty puffs — great for grabbing on the go, bread dipped in soup, sausage, sultana pancakes, cucumber, tomato, cinnamon bagel and chopped banana. There has never been an order for us, as such, only that I would give him things to try around the times we would usually have breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

We love Ella’s kitchen purees: combinations such as broccoli, pears and peas are a hit, as are carrots, apples and parsnips, cauliflower cheese and chickpea and sweet potato mash. In fact, there hasn’t been anything, puree or finger food that Ezra has outright rejected yet. He liked the chunky texture of the Ella’s kitchen limited edition jingle belly Christmas dinner over the course of Christmas Day and Boxing day and I particularly like that the pouches just contain all the good stuff. I am evidently not much of a Pinterest Mama who blends everything and stores it all up in ice trays and freezer bags. As he grows and his needs and tastes become more complex, I may well be that girl, but for now I’m enjoying doing things this way. I’m all about that easy life.

Very recently I’ve introduced him to the fruity pouches and the yogurts, but I am a bit stricter on how much of these he has and always treat them as though they are a small dessert — strawberry and apples, mango yoghurt, blueberry yoghurt  — all eagerly received by my hungry little baby bear.

It’s so much fun watching him explore a new texture or taste for the first time. He pulls the most comical faces and will sometimes attempt to navigate the spoon into his own mouth . Whenever I give him finger foods, I (begrudgingly) leave it out on the table of his high chair for him to explore with his hands and usually sit back and watch him taking pure joy from making an absolute mess. 

Things I’ve learned on his weaning journey so far: 

  • There is no harm in going with the flow. Not every instruction manual, flow chart and guide needs to be followed. I’m glad I read up on the basics of weaning and made my own adaptations. 
  • The fear of choking will probably never go away and sometimes the urge to snatch things like toast or fruit out of my baby’s grasp can be overwhelming. I need to watch videos on you tube about choking hazards and how to handle that situation if ever it occurs. Or better still, book onto a baby first aid course. Pronto. I now spend half of my day in a cold sweat thinking about how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre.
  • Gagging is normal.
  • As is finding more food smushed into clothing/fingers/carpets and crevices than in mouth of said baby.
  • I don’t do well with this level of mess but I am trying to just go with it.
  • Ezra loves food. Like, seriously, he is not a fussy baby — that being said, I often repeat flavours for a few days to avoid overwhelming him with too many new tastes at once. 
  • Ezra sometimes forgets he likes something and so I have to reintroduce it to him. 
  • I would secretly eat Ella’s kitchen pouches as part of my own diet if the portions were bigger and Ezra wouldn’t judge me so harshly every time I feed him one spoonful and feed me two. They are DELISH.
  • Since starting solids, he has slept for much longer stretches, though this could be coincidental.
  • The Tommee Tippee ‘1st sippee’ cup is a con. I can barely figure it out and I’m 32 so god knows how a baby is meant to learn to drink water from it. (Still, I persist, at least until we try another cup!)

It’s been over a month since his first ever taste and his appetite and interest grows with each day. I continue to feed Ezra his milk first and foremost and I’ve found that weaning onto solids and now introducing formula has meant we have more of a feeding schedule which has happened entirely naturally. 

Some days he is not interested in having much more than his milk, other days he clearly wants more solids. There are days when he will taste tiny bits and days where he will smack his lips and grumble for more of what he’s enjoyed. Some days my floor is covered in crumbs and wedges of vegetables, some days Ezra actually tastes the food we put in front of him. I don’t sweat it and as such, this has so far been really easy and enjoyable.

His habits, tastes and demands will change, this I know, but so far so good!

Sleep Deprivation: You Gotta lotta explainin’ to do.


Recently, I fessed up to feeling like I’m struggling with this mothering gig on my Instagram account — not an easy task when this role is all you’ve ever really imagined being great at your whole life and somehow you manage to convince yourself that you’re a bit rubbish at it on the regular. At the time of posting I was scared that I was once again on a slippy, slidy ice-rinky road to some form of breakdown. When you have a long history of severe mental health issues, you kind of live in silent fear of the next episode. The brain is so powerful and delicate when you think about it and on a personal level, I am always waiting for depression to come crawling back to me, taking me as it’s prisoner once more. Yes, I have tools now to help myself. Yes, I know the warning signs. Yes I am stronger, emotionally, than I have ever been, but I know that mental health struggles are part of my makeup. I know it’s in me and therefore I have to tread very carefully and always be aware of my state of mind. 

Chronic sleep deprivation does things to a person. I’ve never ever been good with lack of sleep, so it’s running me ragged when, almost six months in, I am tending to my baby every two hours through the night.

After weeks of feeling all kinds of everything, I spent hours scouring the internet, asking Google things about Mama Burn Out and Losing Myself in Motherhood and Postnatal Depression as my eyes glittered with tears. I couldn’t find solace in the textbook definition of PND; I’m not apathetic or unable to bond with my baby — if anything I’ve bonded like industrial strength glue to my kid. Everything I read about burning out seemed to be late night Mumsnet ramblings from 2009 about a point only seemingly acceptable to admit you’d reached if you were a seasoned parent of multiple little humans. 

Then I found this cheeky little paragraph: 

 

 

Maybe the postwar ideal of “good parenting” has been replaced by one that is more competitive in nature – one that drives us way beyond our rational and sensible limits in our quest to be model parents. In holding up our hands and declaring we’re struggling or simply that we’re plain exhausted, we have somehow already conceded failure.” — Helen Walsh

 

I don’t know who Helen Walsh is, but her words were the first I found on the internet that resonated with where I’m at of late.



This model parent thing is where I think it began. Before I arrived at destination Motherhood, before I fell pregnant, even — every idealistic movie, advert, campaign and Facebook status — they all set unrealistic examples and offered inaccurate portrayals of parenting. Then pregnancy happened, and Pinterest added fuel to the fire of preconceived ideas. Then came the birth of new life and a new version of me and that’s when the Midwives piped up with their expectations and the Health Visitors threw in the rule books and Instagram became a gallery of perfect mothers, balancing babies on one hip and a bouquet of peonies on the other. I’m not saying that new mums need to be terrified by the whole truth of how challenging motherhood is, nor am I suggesting that motherhood is not also a gift and a blessing (enter other saccharine sweet words used to sum up it’s pleasures and rewards), I’m just thinking that maybe there needs to be more of a balance in the portrayal, to, you know, make it less of a shock.

 
But let’s get really real. While I point my finger at the media and literature of today for the notion and the braggy bullshit, I must take some responsibility for allowing these ideas to grow, for the seeds that manifested into roots, and for generally just accepting that pressure and giving it a home in my mind. I did that, and now I must undo it, for the sake of my sanity.

I never set out to be perfect; even in my hazy, emotional state I know it doesn’t exist. Yeah, I had ideas about how I wanted to parent any children I was lucky enough to have and values I knew I’d instil, but I never imagined that I would ever take everything I read and saw so literally, nor did I ever imagine a time where I would put so much pressure on myself to be better. I’m starting to get on my own nerves, but as ever, I’m wonderful at getting stuck in my own head.

Be better.

Better at what? Better for who? Better by what standards? My baby is mostly low maintenance, it’s not like he expects the moon on a stick, or needs more than I can give him. If you could climb inside my mind and take a listen to what it often says when I am deprived of sleep, you’d believe that Ezra lays in his crib, angrily demanding more from his inadequate Mama. Yeah, here I am, driving myself beyond the rational and sensible — defeating my whole purpose of being the model parent by exhausting myself. I want to be an exceptional mother and I can’t be her when I am forever trying to pour from the emptiest of cups.

my GP tells me it’s hormonal because my hardest times are very much at pinpointable parts of each month; of course, out comes the prescription for antidepressants and abbreviations such as PPD and PMDD get tossed, willynilly, into the air between us. But honestly, the ‘symptoms’ one feels can just bleed into so many variations of diagnosis — depression, premenstrual dismorphia disorder, exhaustion… or maybe just being a Mum to a very young baby for the first time. When you’re fucking shattered 24/7, hormonally, emotionally, physically, psychologically changed, bamboozled, overwhelmed and absolutely encumbered by the many strings on the bow of a mother, when all other relationships feel blurred and bent too — especially your most sacred one — your marriage (because who has the time to be an attentive wife when everything from your breasts to your brain power belongs to your baby? When you’re living life on some form of fuzzy caffeine-fuelled autopilot? When you only have each other for any real parenting support and one of you works and commutes for at least 12 solid hours of the day?) with all things considered, is there any wonder I’m feeling like this?

I don’t think I’m depressed. If this is depression, it’s a version I’ve never known before. What I know for certain is that the last ten weeks have seen a backwards roll in Ezra’s sleep — ie: he doesn’t for long periods of time and will not go down without a fight (sometimes literal – kicking, screeching, arching, clawing at me like a feral beast), It’s seen lots of extra nursing — boobs out to settle him, boobs out to comfort him, boobs out to feed him, boobs out to stand a chance at getting any rest for myself, boobs out a lot, almost as though he is newborn again. Boobing burns calories and takes energy from an already depleted source. I’m tired and full of self-doubt and undue pressure

Even Christmas got me like ‘….’ because I’ve spent months (maybe even years) painting idealistic pictures of our first family Christmas in my head – by now my child would be sleeping through the night and there would be time for mince pies and mulled wine and mistletoe kisses. There would be salt dough baby foot prints galore, matching family pyjamas, midnight mass, maybe even one sparkly festive cocktail, and oh how merry it would be. In reality my body vibrates with next-level dog tiredness and I’d be lucky to enjoy a sniff of prosecco before falling unconscious and face planting my turkey feast. I feel like I don’t have the energy for the expectation of glee, or for the high intensity of Christmas celebrations this year, which isn’t ever how I planned the yule tide in my mind, and I feel guilty for it. Ezra may not be old enough to understand, but I am, and sleep deprivation is making the whole situation hard to come to terms with. 

Its taken me weeks to find the energy to document this part of my motherhood journey on my blog and I cannot wait to hopefully look back at this period of time from the mindset that only 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep will allow. One day. One sweet day.

In the meantime, I will put on the tackiest Christmas jumper and the brightest red lipstick. I will watch my baby take more delight in wrapping paper than what’s inside and dance around the living room to Band Aid with him in my arms. I will eat Christmas dinner and pull Christmas crackers and let Ezra play with the brussel sprouts and broccoli in his high chair and I will drink bucks fizz out of champagne flutes and take too many pictures of this day with the family I’ve dreamed of my entire life of having. God damn it, I will watch a whole Christmas film, start to finish and eat Forrero Rocher til I feel sick. My hormones will not beat me into submission. And sleep deprivation? You will not win.

Dear Ezra: You’re five months old 

My darling boy, what a long month that was. Month 4 proved to be the most challenging for me yet and still, we made it. You went through your biggest developmental leap since birth and as such we have had a long battle with sleep regression and mood swings; your usual smiley, chatty self one minute and lots of frustrated, angry strops in the next. I’m exhausted, but I am in love. I am waning, but you are thriving. This too shall pass (people keep telling me) and I am trying my best to roll with you on this — I’m there when you need me, however you need me, for as long as you need me even if sometimes it feels like I’m going to drop like a dead fly. It has meant cosleeping again sometimes, it has meant frequent nursing again, it has meant crawling across the floor with a Muslin square on my head as I pretend to be Mamasaurus, just to turn your tears into smiles. 

This month you’ve learned to sit up unaided for a minute or so. You try to roll and get annoyed when it doesn’t quite work out, so we make a game out of it to encourage you. You’re my blood, though, so I know that means you will do what is right for you in your own sweet time. 

Our weeks are now busy and it’s good for us both: We go to Mini Me Social on Mondays (Mama gets to drink too much free coffee, you get to put an array of utensils and toys in your mouth/play in dry rice krispies/sing and dance), a church-run baby group on Tuesdays, a government run baby group on Thursdays and an official Baby Sensory session on Fridays, which are our favourite because there are themes and structure and real learning. We sign and sing and I spend the weekend with lots of really annoying sensory songs in my head as a result.

You’ve met a friend called Gabriel and his Mum and I often take you both out and about on little adventures together (note: we go to lunch a lot). It’s nice to have a Mum friend close by and I think it’s good for you to spend all this time with other babies. 

You’ve had your first cold (the aspirator is the devil according to you), you go through about 5 bibs a day in dribble, have found your feet, can reach to grab the cat and have tasted Avocado. 

Currently you love: being carried around, the front-facing sling, watching Trolls and jumping in your jumperoo to the songs, rides on Mummys shoulders, Christmas lights, kisses, watching the actions to ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, touching and looking at Marnie the cat.

Currently you don’t like: Sleep in general, Sleeping in your cot for long periods of time, being put down for long periods of time without being entertained in some way. 

Here’s to this next month together, lovebug. YOUR FIRST CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

😍

Dear New Mother: the letter I wish I’d read 

Dear New Mother,

Your life has changed in the beat of a brand new baby heart. You woke up this morning a different person to any version of yourself you’ve ever known. Have you even been to sleep yet? 

You have a human. A tiny, all-consuming version of yourself suckling and squirming and sticking out their tiny tongue and flexing the smallest fingers you’ve ever seen. That tiny human is going to take more from you than you even know how to give: your time, your energy, your sanity, your unconditional love — all of it is going to wrap its self around your child and anchor that little babe to the very core of your existence. 

There is no going back, and even on the toughest days, you’re not going to want to return to a life sans baby, not really, even when sleep deprivation and frustration and lack of knowledge makes you believe that you want to.

And, see, here’s the thing. There are going to be a lot of tough days — especially at first. But you will get through. With or without an army of support from friends and family. With or without a partner. You will rise every day and be the best Mama you can be. You think you can’t do it — every fiber of your being will, at some stage, tell you that you are not cut out for this — but then you handle it — whatever ‘it‘ is: cluster feeds, Colic, hourly wakings, half-hourly wakings, endless pacing, a baby that won’t sleep, teething, illness, the chaos of weaning, toddler tantrums, a barrage of endless questions, Kids TV, hours of endless snot and tears — you were built for this and you will handle it all.

Look after your body. Give it credit for what it’s just done — it’s grown and sustained life through you. It’s recognised when that infant is ready for the world and it’s known how to give birth to it without a guide or a manual. Maybe you had a natural birth, maybe you had a caesarean section, maybe your labour was fast and furious, maybe it dragged on for all of eternity, but either way it has just done a truly extraordinary job and has been put through the ringer: give it chance to recover, go easy on it while it does, don’t judge the changes to it so harshly. It gave you your child.

There will be a sea of advice — lots and lots and lots of it — it will seem endless and sometimes unnecessary. People will anger you with their opinions. Similarly, people will have the power to remind you that you’re not alone on this new journey, which is so helpful in the small hours of the day when you feel most lonely. By all means, take it all in, but pick and choose the advice you heed. One size does not fit all.

It might feel like you don’t have the answers; like you need validation from strangers and answers to every question from anyone that will listen, but eventually you’ll come to realise that we are all absolutely winging this and that there is no such thing as the perfect mother who gets it right all the time. When that penny drops, it’s a lovely feeling. 

At some point you’ll be touched by the Breastfeeding Vs Formula feeding debate and someone, somewhere will apply unnecessary pressure on you — you may even be surprised to realise that the person putting pressure on you is you. I promise, however you choose to feed your child, everything will be okay and they will thrive. Make an informed decision based on what’s right for you and you alone — they’re your boobies/babies/bottles — do not let anyone interfere with your personal choice on this matter; it causes far more anxiety than is needed.

Find people who get you and make it a priority to make them your people. Find them online, find them offline, find them at groups and classes, find them in your family if you have one — you never have to be truly alone in this. Motherhood will test you, but it will also test the loyalty of others. Pay attention to that shit and act accordingly. 

Be the one who smiles in sisterhood at the fraught-looking woman with the screaming baby in Starbucks; you never know when it will be your turn.

It’s okay to wobble as you’re finding your footing. It’s normal to have hours, days, weeks that are spent questioning your ability and general life choices. There are going to be days when you reach for the wine at 6pm. There are going to be days when you throw your baby at your partner/friend/family member/health visitor the second they walk through the door. There are going to be days when you feel isolated and overwhelmed. There are going to be days when all you’ve managed to do is keep a child alive and demolish a full packet of chocolate hobnobs.  There are going to be times when you miss the old version of yourself — the one who had time to take leisurely showers, use the bathroom at her own pace, go out for romantic dinners, drink too much wine, have sex when she felt like it, take long weekend breaks with friends, have late nights, paint her nails. It’s okay to miss her, it doesn’t make you a bad mother, it makes you a human being.

There are going to be good days, too. Great days. Days you wouldn’t change for all the money in the world, all because of the same tiny human that has caused you to question your sanity before now. You’re going to feel love like you’ve never known it — instantly or eventually. Your tiny human will fill your heart with pride and joy in the bat of a sleepy eyelid. You will take too many photographs and fill your conversations with talk of them.  Every decision you make, every plan, every goal you set will be for something bigger and better and more important than just you. It will be for that tiny human of yours. All of it. 

You will spend hours watching them dream, memorising the parts of their face that match yours. They will smile up at you and change your mood in a breath, and when they hit milestones or look at you as though you are the wonder of the world, or laugh for the first time, you’ll question love, not really knowing if you’d ever really felt it in it’s truest form before your baby happened to you.

Your tiny human is here now. Your life is forever changed — shared, not even a little bit fairly — with them. Your baby is all kinds of everything, all of the time, at approximately 300 miles per hour. 

And you? Take a deep breath — you are now a Mother; the perfect woman for the job.

A Love Story: Co-Sleeping 

I felt a prang of low-level guilt every time someone would ask me where our son slept; that ever-present sense of failure (which often threatened to steal my enjoyment of getting to know my new baby in the first weeks) returned every time that question arose.

After all, babies are supposed to sleep in a Moses basket/snüzpod/bassinet/call-it-what-you-will beside their parents bed for the first six months of their lives, right? Because, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Because, the National Childbirth Trust recommends. Because, society. Social media. Betty next door.

So, really, who could blame me for feeling like I’d got it wrong? Who could blame me for thinking I was somehow ruining my child by going against the guidelines?

Let me take you back to my pregnancy days — when I would sit, cross-legged, in Ezra’s nursery, watching as my wife put the cot bed together. I genuinely imagined this scenario: Bring home baby. Allow baby a small adjustment period. Put baby in own bed in own room — alone. And they all lived happily ever after.


Hilarious.

I wanted our room to remain an adults domain. I wanted to set boundaries. What I imagined was a million miles away from any reality. My experience with babies was limited to say the least; I had no idea how vulnerable and tiny babies actually were, or how fierce and strong the mothering instinct was either. When my baby arrived,  gone were my fucks about boundaries or anything that would create distance between my tiny newborn and I.

That being said, co-sleeping had never been part of the plan either. I was truly terrified of the small human I made and couldn’t think of anything scarier than sharing our big grown-up bed with him. That first night, we tucked all 7lbs of him into his Moses basket at my side of the bed and I didn’t sleep a wink as I watched him breathe and monitored the basket for any potential hazards like some kind of lioness in the wild. I was breastfeeding on demand so I’d nurse in bed, hourly, before perservering with the routine of putting him back in the Moses basket come hell or high water.

But then Ezra turned 4 weeks old and Colic happened to him. And when Colic happened so did silent reflux and all hell broke loose for all of us. Cue screaming angry newborn baby, made worse by said Moses basket. I tried everything the health visitors suggested to ease his pain and help him sleep better but no amount of propping or independent sleep worked. I was the only comfort to him; nursing frequently and having him close to me, propped up on my pregnancy pillow, meant the difference between him sleeping or not sleeping. Me sleeping or not sleeping. Us functioning at all. I learned in super quick time that both Ezra and I slept longer and were much happier if we were doing it together. Yes, that meant that my wife was banished to the sofa for many, many weeks whilst Ezra’s symptoms were managed and we figured out a way to confidently and safely co-sleep, but eventually we nailed it and it became possible for the three of us to get quality sleep in our grown up bed — just like the three bears.

I began to love sleeping beside my baby in bed every night. Not only did exclusively breastfeeding and co-sleeping go hand in hand for both ease and comfort, I loved that I could settle him back to sleep in minutes by pulling him closer to me in the bed. I found the sound of him breathing a real reassuarance. His little snores and farts were reminders that all was right in the world. I enjoyed the fact that I would often wake up to feel his chubby little hand touching my face and that I would turn over in the bed and be able to watch him dreaming or catch him smiling at me the second he opened his eyes. My little lovestruck heart would melt each time I glanced over in the bed and see my two favourite sleeping faces, rather than just the one. I especially loved that part.

Eventually, as his doctor promised, Ezra grew out of the nasty Colic and silent reflux stage as he turned 3 months old but there he was, still snuggled up in his sleeping bag, nestled into my pregnancy pillow, taking up most of our bed like some sort of Lord, still reaching out to touch me in the night. I’d grown attached to this sleeping arrangement we had — to the sheer predictability of it. Despite the disdain from other people, another dimension of closeness had been created between my son and I, just when I thought that bond couldn’t get any stronger than the one breastfeeding had created.

But, as I said earlier, co-sleeping hadn’t ever been in the plan and I decided at just over 4 months, that I wanted to make some changes. I loved sleeping close to my baby more than ever but I also missed sleeping close to my wife and I knew deep down that Ezra wouldn’t be any worse off sleeping independently of me at this stage; he was happy and healthy and pain free — result.

I expected chaos the first time I swooped him up from his safe haven between us and put him into his shiny white cot at the foot of our bed, but the sad fact was that it bothered me more than it bothered him. I struggled with the lack of closeness and for the first few nights I would startle myself awake repeatedly, flaling my arms wildly about the bed in the dark searching for him. For the first week, whenever he would stir for his night feed it felt unnatural to have to get out of bed and go to him when I’d been so used to him being in such close proximity. It took a few days to adjust to not being able to hear, feel and smell him, to having room to starfish in the bed and sleep without caution and beside only an adult.

Ezra does have occasional nights where he will wake two or three times rather than just the once — to nurse or for comfort and reassurance or whatever. Sometimes I can hear him flapping about in his crib and I know he struggles to adjust to the space in the same way I did, but mostly he is as contented and as comfortable now as he was when we were cosy co-sleepers. I still enjoy bringing him into our bed in the morning for lots of cuddles and would not hesitate to share our space with him again on the occasion that he decides he needs the security of his parents. We plan to make the next big move from the foot of our bed to nursery around January time when he’s over 6 months old, but if I’ve learned anything since becoming a mother it’s to lay off the expectations — both of myself and of my child. Maybe we’ll be ready, maybe we won’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Whatever happens, I know it will work out.

The point of this co-sleeping story is the one I made right at the beginning about that low-level guilt caused by others. I’ve had people close to us — whose opinions I would usually value — pass comment about how much of a ‘mistake’ co-sleeping is and how we would ‘never get our child out of our bed’. I had health visitors tell me how ‘risky’ it was and acquaintances inform me that allowing our baby into our bed was ‘breeding bad habits’ — all utter rubbish in our experience. Bed sharing was something we enjoyed and the arrangment worked for as long as we needed it to and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I wish I hadn’t let the naysayers get to me — not about this.

Your bed. Your baby. Your business.

Dear Ezra: you’re four months old 

Here we are, Master E. Month 4. No sooner had I drafted your latest update than a month has flown by again. I look back at your newborn baby pictures and wonder how I missed all the growing you’ve done. One minute I was holding a seven pound wrinkled up brand new baby and now here you are, ‘talking’ to me, responding to your name, smiling at anyone who gives you attention and trying your very best to do the sit ups. Here I am, sending your 0-3m babygrows to charity, replacing everything with 3-6m and crying on the inside at how quickly this time is going.

Gone are the days where you needed to be syringe-fed ranitidine 3 times a day to manage your reflux — You’re doing much better with only a little bit of medicine each morning. Gone are the days where you needed to be religiously winded. You’re a big boy now and you can mostly burp all on your lonesome. You can see things the way I see things now, too, and as such you’re absolutely fascinated by everything — people, sounds, smells, sights. I catch you staring at me a lot when I’m drying my hair or putting on clothes and you will always give me the most beautiful smile when you see me. 

You’ve been in the swimming pool once and didn’t know what to make of that experience but you took it in your stride and didn’t cry once; even when we dipped you under the water. I can’t wait to take you swimming again. We’ve taken you to the seaside for the first time — Brighton, our favourite, we’ve taken you to a Pumpkin patch and you’ve enjoyed your first sensory play date. 

You now sleep in your cot bed at the foot of ours. I didn’t want to give up co-sleeping with you if I’m being completely honest, but we’re hoping to get you settled into your own room in January when you’re over the 6 month mark and I wanted to get you used to your big boy bed. So far, so good. 

This month you’ve started teething — everything is covered in dribble. You also recognise if I’ve left the room and will often shout about it ’til I come back. Stranger danger is slowly becoming a thing but that depends on what kinda mood you’re in — you’re generally a social butterfly and are willing to have cuddles with anyone so long as they give you a few moments to suss them out and they are lavishing lots of attention on you.

Nursing it’s getting interesting… it’s still your favourite time and it’s mine, too. When you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, in pain, or just generally wanting comfort, breastfeeding is the magic that calms, settles and soothes you and always has been. You’re very nosey though, so feeding you in busy places in the middle of the day can be tricky when you casually take a break to have a look at what the people at the next table in Starbucks are up to. 

Currently you love: sharing the bath with Mama, seeing Mummy for thr first time when shes been away at work all day, chewing on a flannel, fake coughing, a lot of one-on-one attention, putting everything in your mouth, chatting loudly – to everyone and everything – especially your teddies and your parents, your jumperoo, your own reflection in the mirror, short stints in front of anything colourful on the TV,  being sang to and being danced with.

Currently you don’t like: waking up from naps (still!), tummy time (still!), dummies (still!) taking too long to put your clothes on, having to wait to be fed for more than 30 seconds  (you are just like me when you’re hungry) or the first 5 minutes of being put in your car seat/pram.

You. Are. Amazing. 😍 I love you with all my heart. Here’s to the next month with you. 

​It Takes A Village To Raise a Child: the lonely Mama.

I wrote this on a hard day; one that had seen more tantrums than smiles, more hours with my boobs out than in a bra, more hours with a baby attached to me in some form than spent enjoying his array of toys and watching his sensory development and natural curiosity for the world unfold. It’s on the hardest days that I feel my loneliest as a mother.

There, I said it. Though confessing as much feels as taboo as the extended breastfeeder or the co-sleeper or the pregnant lady who enjoys the odd glass of wine. I never hear about mothers feeling lonely, yet I know I can’t be the only one. It denotes the notion that I am somehow ungrateful or selfish, that I am far too vocal about the darker side of motherhood and therefore am not worthy of this blessing. Perhaps you’re thinking these things about me, I’ll confess that at times I think them about myself, so judge away if you must.

But I had to write about it on a bad day because it’s a real element of new motherhood for me. I feel it right down to my bones on these days — I am completely lonely, yet never alone for a second, which feels really bizarre.

They say it takes a village to raise a baby, and on the days where I can’t catch my breath for solely trying to meet the needs of my child, I secretly wonder where my villagers are at. My wife works long hours to provide for her family, the three Mama friends who get me live in different cities across the country, my FAMILY family is non-existent. I do the very best job I can, nothing is more important to me than Ezra, but my balance is all off right now.

My son has no idea that he is mostly my only companion, nor does he understand why I struggle to cope on the days that I can’t even make it out of the house to get some exercise and fresh air. He doesn’t get that I miss actual adult conversation and that passing that stranger in the street with a smile, or ordering that latte in the coffee shop is all the grown up I’ll get for hours on end, day in day out. It never stops; if you’re a mother, you know that. You give so very much of yourself — more than you even knew you had the capacity to give, and in doing so, you have to consciously remember to take care of yourself also. It’s not easy. I don’t find it easy. Even when mothers sleep, there is a part of us that remains alert — reserved for our babies — waiting for them to wake for their night feed, waiting for them to let us know they are too warm, too cold, too alone, too awake. All it takes is one sniffle or squeak and we bolt up from the bed like the undead. We do it because we’re their mothers, we give so much of ourselves 24 hours a day because that’s our job and our privilege, but I never truly imagined that I would ever be so busy and so lonely at the same time. It’s another element of my motherhood journey  that I could never plan for.

I still haven’t managed to stomach a parent and baby group. Maybe thats where I’m going wrong. I talk myself out of them every week, knowing that I mostly want to chat about something other than children, knowing that I will mostly want to throw hot coffee at the first mum who chimes in on a conversation with ‘well, MY baby is walking/talking/dominating the world…’. I want to talk to women about women things, and mothers about real motherhood. I want to remove the competition from conversation. Good for you if your kid is milestoning the shit out of life, great if your child never cries and sleeps 13 hours straight, but let’s talk about how Mama is doing. Why don’t we do that? Why don’t we talk about these things? Why is it all about how clever child A is or how advanced child B is?

I doubt I’m the only one who is tired of Tiny Pop by 9.30am. I doubt I am the only one who sometimes struggles to know how to  constantly meet the emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual (!) and any other need a 4 month old baby has. I doubt I’m the only one wracked with guilt on the days where I fail in one or more of those areas because I am a person, not a specially programmed stepford wife. I doubt I am the only one who wants to fling off the cloak of responsibility and get white girl wasted after a day that has been filled with explosive nappies and teething screams.

Motherhood continues to amaze me on the regular. One minute I am literally holding back the tears because I still don’t know this version of myself, and the next minute my heart implodes in my chest because Ezra has just giggled in his sleep. One minute I am absolutely bewildered, terrified that I will never gain a sense of myself again, the next minute I am creeping up to Ezra’s cot during his nap to stroke his perfect little face because it’s been an hour since he’s tested my patience or looked at me lovingly with those gorgeous big blue eyes and I miss him. One minute I want to drop everything and run, the next I am bursting with a pride I’ve never felt before as Ezra beams at my wife the second she walks in from work. Ups, downs, swings, roundabouts.

I’m working on finding a balance. I’m working on being a bit less harsh on myself for feeling everything at once sometimes. I’m working on forgiving myself for being short-tempered because I’m tired. I’m really trying to keep one eye on these feelings of mine in case things become more of a serious issue for me. I need to take better care of myself, and maybe you’re reading this and you need to take better care of you, too. I’m not alone, and the trick is knowing that you aren’t either.

Mental Health Awareness: I am one in four 

It was world mental health day on October 10th and I wanted to speak up about it, but honestly, I didn’t have the time to give this topic, which is so very close to my heart, the attention it needed.

It’s a bit like having mental health problems in the first place: it’s a problem and it deserves serious and deliberate attention.

This picture was taken on December 30th 2013. I posted it to Facebook with the caption: things can only get BETTER.

So many people told me how lovely I looked. One Facebook friend suggested I looked blissfully happy. What you can’t see from this image is the excruciating emotional pain I was in. You would never know, from looking at my smiling face, that this was the height of a second deep, dark bout of depression since the age of 17. You wouldnt believe the measures I took to get that thin because society told me that thin meant happy. You would think I was lying if I confessed to the sleeping pills that didn’t work and the laxatives that caused so much pain and the overdose of antidepressants I took on Boxing Day.  I suffered such debilitation at the hands of mental illness and you would never, ever know. Because like so many people, I painted a picture I wanted people to see. This picture does not show the months I couldn’t face work, or colleagues, or food, or friends. It doesn’t show the insomnia or the dysmorphia, or the nightmares, or the mood swings, or the emptiness behind my ribs. It does not reveal a single shred of truth. I’d like to say that things did get BETTER after this photo, but it took years of ups and downs for me to claw my way back: years of medication that exacerbated the problem, a threat of being admitted into an eating disorder clinic, a warning that I would never conceive a child if I didn’t change my life. A warning that there would be no more living at all if I didnt get help.

 

 

This photo was taken in 2016 when I was once again battling various dangerous demons and addictions. You’d never guess that a smile that wide on a girl with hair that vibrant could be masking the kind of issues that kill people.

 
For so long I didn’t know how to escape the prison my poorly mind had put me in. Depression trapped me as it traps so many others. It made me believe the worst things about myself. It made me believe the worst about other people too. It made me believe things that weren’t real and forced me to neglect the things that were.

I felt my stomach bunch up in knots as I recently read an article about a 25 year old woman who was found hanged during a romantic holiday in Tenerife with her boyfriend. The article described her as bubbly and outgoing, with a promising future ahead of her.

Mental illness does not care about romance or dreams or lavish holidays, how wealthy or poor you are, if youve dependants or not, how pretty or ugly you are, if you have everything or nothing in your life. It doesn’t care about your age or your background or how successful or unsuccessful you are. It is as ruthless and as relentless and all-consuming as cancer, yet we are somehow made to feel weak for admitting we suffer — by our poisoned minds and by people who fail to educate themselves about it’s intricacies.

There are many silky threads which make up the web of my personal mental health problems, none of which need explaining or justifying. The entire point is that I did eventually get the right level of professional care and support at a time when I almost lost everything. I’m not ashamed to tell my story like I once was. I don’t feel I need to hide — if anything, I think it’s important that I don’t. I hope to never get lost again. I pray that if I ever get tangled up in my web that I know enough about myself to get help all over again if needs be. I hope to teach my little boy about these things too, and remind him often that it’s good to talk and to ask for help if he needs it.

Your mind can break in the same way your leg can. Just because you see a photograph of someone holding a fancy glass of wine and smiling into the camera does not mean they are okay. We need to ask each other how we are, learn to recognise the signs of mental illness and how it’s manifests its self. Talk. Open up. Share. Encourage others to do the same. You never know who you’re helping in the process.

I’m going to leave end blog post with my favourite quote:

“If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Be kind, always.

Reflection: the fourth trimester 

Before I had a baby, and even in the initial weeks, I thought trimesters stopped at three when pregnancy ended and life with a baby began. It took a lot of self-doubt, panic and, eventually, a good friend of mine telling me to look up the fourth trimester before the penny finally dropped.

Truth is, my decent into motherhood was every bit as overwhelming and scary as it is for every other new mum out there, I just felt, at the time, like I was the only woman ever to feel the way I felt — like a novice, drowning in feelings of doubt and anxiety — completely, utterly alone. I didn’t know what I was doing and no one else in the history of forever had ever felt that clueless, surely? Why wasn’t my baby doing anything other than feeding and screaming constantly?  Why wouldnt he sleep? Why wouldn’t he be put down? Was he broken? Was I breaking him? Whose stupid idea was it to have a baby anyway? He would scream and cry in my face and I would cry right back at him; convinced I was just the worst mother ever.

As it turns out, the fourth trimester is a thing and my girl Rach was right — I wasn’t broken, Ezra wasn’t broken, I just needed to gain an understanding of his new world and all of the huge changes and adjustments he was going through to make sense of his behaviour. I could bearly walk in the new shoes of motherhood before I had to put myself quickly into those of my new son and ask myself: how would I feel if I only had my reflexes to work with? How would I feel if I’d been ‘held’ by warm amniotic fluid in a snug, dark space for 9 whole months before being ruthlessly thrust into daylight where predictability and security had to effectively be asked for? Wouldn’t I want to be next to the sound of the heartbeat I’d grown into a person listening to? Wouldn’t I want to be close to the only familiar smell and sound I knew? 

I genuinely think I often forgot that a baby is born knowing nothing other than it’s mother. What do you mean, you don’t understand that dark is night time and light is day time? Why won’t you just let me put you down so I can have a shower? What does that cry mean and why do you do it every time I make a cup of tea?

On reflection, those terribly testing 12 weeks postpartum make a lot of sense now I’m out of that fog of unpredictability and utter dependency. It makes sense, but it was also one of the hardest periods of my life and no matter how many times people tell me I will miss that newborn stage, I can categorically tell you that I won’t.

Yes, I do look at teeny tiny beautiful freshly baked babies and feel a pang of broodiness because they are delicious little miracle creations that are truly sent from some kind of God. Yes, I look at Ezra’s memory box that holds his birth band and his tiny baby onesie and the rather terrible off-violet blanket that I shamelessly stole from the hospital because he’d spent the first night swaddled up in it, and I feel all warm and lovely inside at the memory of how my whole body flooded with amazement and adoration when I gave birth. I seemed to float home on a fluffy cloud of pride and hormones that instantly made me want 10,000 babies in quick succession. I miss those feelings, my heart hurts at the memory, but those feelings are all I will miss.

I will not miss the recovery from birth, or the endless stream of ‘advice’ and visits from midwives and health visitors, the tiring ’round the clock feeds, or the colic or the reflux, or the crippling fear that my baby — so very, very tiny and very, very new to everything — would somehow not make it through the night. I won’t miss the painful latch or the explosive boobs or checking for urine output or the colour and consistency of baby poo; not for all the dinky newborn baby feet in the world. 

Some people may think I’m weird for saying as much, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s the truth. Most of the fourth trimester, for me, was filled with more Mama guilt and fear than I knew what to do with and I spent a lot of time just…eating biscuits and bawling my eyes out.

“Enjoy this time, it goes so fast!” 

People would say that so often and I during the hard times I couldn’t get on board with it. Because, while the fast part is very true, I found some weeks impossible to enjoy. 

When you can’t have a wee without sobbing and can’t feed your child the way you want to without biting down hard on a pillow to muffle the cries of blistering pain, enjoyment is hard to come by. When your tiny little bundle is wailing into the night and you’re feeding hourly for twenty hours of the day and you can’t remember the last time you ate anything with a knife and fork, enjoyment is hard to come by.

“Soak it up!” 

Soz, Wendy, the only thing I felt like soaking up was a bottle of wine.

This does not mean I wouldn’t do it again, or that I haven’t loved my son for every second of every day since he arrived. I would and I have. I just don’t miss those days like so many people told me I should.

So, fourth tri — peace out. Thanks for teaching me some lessons the hard way, but good riddance to you… until next time.

Dear Ezra: you’re three months old

Happy 3 months on this earth, little E. 

I know everyone talks about missing the newborn stage of life once it’s passed, and who knows, maybe one day I will, but right now I am so glad to be rid of the fourth trimester. There was so much more to it than tiny clothes and tiny toes. It was so overwhelmingly hard.

I absolutely adore the stage you’re at right now — still very much my little baby, but with bags of character shining through. I can see you learning all the time and it’s absolutely amazing to watch. You are little, but you constantly evolve and grow and change and I can tell that I’m gonna have my hands full with you later down the line. You’re so cheeky and dramatic and curious and determined. You have so many lovely expressions and we grow especially weak at the adorable little dimples in your brow when you frown (frimples), and the way you pout when you’re grumpy and those wide, glassy blue eyes that sparkle when you’re fascinated by the things that make up your world. You are so alert and aware, and the smallest and simplest things make you really happy. Of course, there are still tough days and tough weeks and moments where I don’t know how I’m gonna get through the day but we communicate much better now and I understand enough about your personality and needs, which means I worry far less and enjoy you so much more.

Can you stay three months old forever, please? I’m not sure I’m ready for the things that come next. Especially not teeth and breastfeeding; you’re already getting a bit chewy with those gums.

This month you’ve learned to grab things; my hair, the boob you aren’t feeding from, your toys. Your head is strong and your voice is loud and you can recognise your mummy just by a video on my phone. Your patterns are more predictable, you sleep better, feed faster and smile whenever you see your favourite things and hear your favourite sounds. There is no more Colic and your Reflux is still being kept at bay with medicine. You wake up with a grin in the morning and sleep soundly with us in bed each night and we are more than happy with the job we’re doing at raising you, little man, you’re literally the most tiring and wonderful thing to happen to us. 

Currently you love: morning chats, the sound of squeaky toys, Billy the bear, being naked, sucking your fist, grabbing, watching Mama sing, looking at bright colours, music, your play mat, seeing Mummys face when she gets in from work…. And boobs. Always boobs.

Currently you don’t like: being in the car seat for too long, being in your bouncer for too long, or tummy time in general. The dummy is still also hit and miss, depending on how tired you are, but that’s okay, I only give you that on occasion at nap time.

 Here’s to the next month, little babe. I wonder what it will bring?