Sh’Bam! Girl power n all that…

It’s International Women’s Day. I’ve marked that by wearing purple. I also got up and insisted that Jamie have a lie in, and hoovered the living room, cleaned the kitchen, sorted the washing and filled and ran the dishwasher all while entertaining Adam. Perhaps not the most feminist way to spend IWD but in a sense I feel it was quite fitting.

I’m inspired to write because of IWD – the idea of empowerment and self-fulfillment is appealing at the moment. I have recently realised that I have not felt empowered to participate in things that make me feel good, and benefit me and my family.

After having a baby you (the new you – the mother) slip down your own list of priorities. You used to be near the top, maybe even number one on the list. But now there’s a little person occupying first place, and that’s the way it stays.

Next to that, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about my family and hoping things will all work out for the best. My folks are planning to sell their house (the house I consider to be my family home) and move to Scotland and it’s an uncertain time for us all – will the house sell? Where will they move to? Will we see more of them or less? Is it the right decision? How will I ‘go home’ and visit friends in Northern Ireland? Questions without answers vex me, and always have. I have avoided asking these questions for fear of not having the solutions.

Another big priority is family balance – as in Jamie and I juggling everything we need to juggle so that we can have a flat, a car, a baby, our jobs, some sort of social life and precious precious time to relax. We’ve learned to be incredibly accommodating towards one another and for that I am so so grateful. Well done me for marrying such a great person. Seriously.

And then there’s work – wow, work takes up a lot of my energy despite only being 21 hours a week. It’s a very busy time at work so I am flat out from the moment I arrive til the moment I leave – tethered to my childcare commitments meaning I just need to get it done in the hours I have. Lunch? I’ll eat it at my desk, thanks. And no I don’t have time to ask you about your weekend, in case you decide to tell me.

And hovering in various positions on my priority list: trying to keep in touch with friends; making sure bills get paid; wondering about whether we should move to a suburban starter home and abandon city-centre-living; thinking ‘must lose weight in order to regain some self respect’; feeling guilty about not keeping in touch with everyone I know…

Where’s the bit where I get to feel independent, empowered, nurtured and looked after all at the same time? I forgot that it was important and crucially, that it’s actually MY responsibility. So after a couple of days of fairly sullen soul-searching I decided to take back control. I need to be a priority sometimes too!

I still haven’t lost the ‘baby weight’ (AKA weight) I put on when I was pregnant. I’m not someone who is naturally thin, but nor am I always hopelessly fat. My weight has yo-yo’d since I was in my teens, and my relationship with food and exercise has changed depending on where I have been and what I’ve been doing.

Unsurprisingly, the times in my life when I have been most physically active have been the times when I’ve been thinner and felt better about myself. I think I’ve made two mistakes since putting on weight with Adam:

Dieting. I love food, but I don’t live on junk food. My diet is varied and I enjoy treats as treats, not as my normal food. So dieting merely makes me obsess about food and I ultimately feel like I have to deprive myself, while also making a huge effort to cook things that taste ok without having any calories. Dieting doesn’t work for me for the long term – I get bored and I fall of the wagon, feel bad about it, beat myself up, and reach for the crusty loaf. Conclusion: I need to stop dieting.

Exercise. Since Adam’s birth I have rarely made time to exercise. I assumed that hours of walking around with Adam asleep in the pram would just offset all the tea and cake I was having with my mummy-mates. Nope. There have been many, many weekends where I could have asked Jamie to watch Adam so I could go and do some activity. I went swimming a couple of times but it was more about relaxing and enjoying some ‘me time’ back then. I needed that badly so it took priority. And hey – I was f*cking shattered most of the time anyway. Conclusion: It’s time to get a proper amount of exercise. 45 minutes, three times a week. That’s a start, but I think it’ll help.

Not only will I (hopefully) change shape a bit and lose weight, I look forward to enjoying the endorphins as well as the me-time.

This week I’ve done 100 squats (big mistake – walking was difficult the following day!) three 20 minute yoga sessions, and a 45 minute dance class yesterday. I can’t be sure, but I think I feel distinctly more energetic as a result. Is this directly linked to the exercise, or is it just a feeling of taking pride, of empowerment? I have taken control, and I have taken some time just to be, to focus on where I am and how my body feels (creaky).

Yesterday’s class deserves some comment too. I chose the most random class I could find on a Saturday morning at my local leisure centre. Classes have names like ‘Insanity’ which put me off, but I chose Sh’Bam because it instantly made me smile, and I instantly knew what it would be like. And I was right.

I won’t say much more about Sh’Bam, other than the fact that the instructor was hilarious. He was really nice and encouraging with a good sense of humour, and when things were gong well he’d shout “C’mon ladies SH’BAM!” which made me laugh out loud. At one point he said “That’s why I love Sh’Bam!” with all the cheese and air-punching energy of an American evangelist. The dancing itself was fine, I did my best, and felt great afterwards.

So watch this space. I really hope I can change my lifestyle to include more exercise, enjoy being more active and reap some benefits – mainly weight loss – to feel happier about myself. Life is great at the moment and I love being a mum – but I also love being me, a woman – with all my faults and strengths, and I would do well to remember that more often.

The blind leading the blind? Who’s in charge here?

Since when did I become the one dishing out parenting advice? This morning I found myself ending a message with the legend ‘You can never have too many muslins’ while wishing a friend good luck on leaving the house with her newborn baby girl.

A few hours later it dawned on me just how far we’ve come from that point.

I still remember Adam’s first trip out to the Broughton Deli (still a regular hangout now; he has his regular highchair and we share lunch). He was snuggled into a stretchy wrap and we fussed about whether he was warm enough/too warm, if he would suffocate and if we had enough spare nappies etc for the 200 yard walk. I was all at sea, and my enduring memory is of a sense of ordered chaos. Its a fond memory now but seems like decades ago. A different me, a different Adam.

And what a learning curve it’s been. I want to caveat any advice I give you, should you be a new parent in my company: feel free to ignore me. Advice gets hurled at you from each and every direction in those first few weeks and months. Take on board the stuff that you like the sound of; that sits well with who you are; that suits the way you want to live. The rest is entirely redundant and belongs to another sort of parent.

What would I have done differently? Not much, actually. I believe you need to make your own mistakes to learn independently – something I’m trying to pass on to Adam now as he goes through some massive developmental changes.

I’d maybe have avoided springing out of bed to lift Adam as the first sob rang out of his cute wee bake; he’d maybe be able to settle himself to sleep by now (at 10 months I’ve still got to be in the room for him to nod off). Meh, he’ll do it eventually. I never heard of a three year old who couldn’t fall asleep on their own.

I’ve read a few articles about child development and been interested to find that independent learning is really important for babies. We’re conditioned to intervene almost constantly to keep babies doing what we want them to do, and stop them doing what we don’t. We engage them in structured play and games, songs and stories. We take them to classes and playgroups. We get disappointed when they don’t listen or take part, and allow ourselves to feel guilty or inadequate for that.

Since I stopped worrying about this (along with the sleep, the pressure to do baby led weaning, and the eternal fear that he will be emotionally damaged by something I must be doing wrong) and started letting him ‘free play’ I’ve seen how much fun babies can have when they just use their imagination.

We have a story at bedtime – most of the time he grabs the book (which has a cut out hole on the front cover) and opens it so he can ‘peep’ at me through the window. Once the hilarity of that is over with he will tolerate me reading to him because its a habit now. I know some babies love books and it used to vex me that Adam’s main interest involves trying to eat them.

But then I see him crawl over to his toybox and pull himself up to stand peering into it. He will carefully select what he wants and then spend a while interacting with toys, cruising around different parts of the room, overcoming physical obstacles and whooping with delight at inanimate objects. He doesn’t need any input at all! What is lovely is that he frequently comes over to me to ‘touch base’, give me a toy or pull me down for a cuddle, to make sure I’m watching. He knows I’m there and he feels secure enough to play independently – learning all the time.

So can’t a new parent learn this way too? I feel like I struggled to follow advice from books and websites and peers, to the point where my brain began to fizz and I found myself feeling quite down – as though I was a bit of a failure for not managing all the things I felt I should.

No one was harder on me than… well, me. And yet I’m still rushing to suggest stuff to new mums. I’ve reflected on this today and while I know its just out of a desire to help, I want to be mindful about it. Unsolicited advice can be helpful but can also weirdly make you feel under pressure, like you’re a sandwich short of the full picnic. I don’t want to perpetuate that so I’ll stick to answering questions I’m asked, and making sure my proverbial door is always open.

If I want Adam to learn anything from me, its that he can be confident and have faith in himself. I think I have been on an amazing journey over the past ten months, and have learned a huge amount – most of it just simply through experience. There is just no substitute for ‘on the job training’.

But it IS true, you really cannot ever have too many muslins.

I let him go and do what he wanted at the Mela. Turned out he wanted to join a Senegalese drum circle.

I let him go and do what he wanted at the Mela. Turned out he wanted to join a Senegalese drum circle.

 

Motherhood in full swing, diet… not so much

Well, it’s been a wee while, no? Any wonder, when I’ve been busy learning to be a mummy to beautiful, perfect baby Adam.

He is 10 weeks old today and I have enjoyed a short hiatus from blogging, while I got to grips with having a new baby for the first time. To cut my own long story short, it’s been a total whirlwind of love, joy, cuddles, tears, hormones and ebay.

The green thing is going well – all the things we said we’d do are working out; the cloth nappies are wonderful (Adam’s skin is silky soft) and my home made baby wipes are excellent – we have bought two or three packets of disposable wipes and about 3 packs of disposable nappies since Adam was born. we have already saved a fortune, and I’m about to re-sell his first wee cloth nappies already! I will be keeping my favourite little cute nappy as a wee keepsake. I’ve also been able to pass on lots of his newborn sized clothes to other expectant mums, which feels nice.

We have made some amazing second hand purchases on Gumtree and eBay, like Adam’s bouncy chair where he naps during the day, and his baby swaddling blankets and later his sleeping bags – and of course nappies – my new obsession! My favourite purchase recently is the fab Ergo Baby organic carrier that I got on Gumtree second hand – it means I don’t have to lug the pram around each time I need to go out. Adam loves sleeping in the carrier up against me, and I love feeling him snuggling in while I plod around. It makes getting out of the house really easy and pleasant. After a c-section it’s a while before you can bear much weight so a sling or carrier is perfect. My recovery was ok, not easy but ok. 

I read this recently, and a friend posted it on my Facebook today which spurred me to dust off the laptop and write something. Its true, I felt enormous pressure to ‘get out and about’ and be a model new mum straight away. Now I am happy to declare a duvet day if we’ve had a restless night (like today, we’re watching Fargo and having cuddles) as I know the time will soon come when Adam won’t let me hold him captive in my arms all day. 

When I do go out I generally find it very easy to bring Adam to cafes and public places, and I no longer even bother with the breastfeeding cover that I bought – who cares about a wee flash of boob now and then? I’m just going with it. I was given a real baptism of fire last week when Adam had a mad screaming tantrum in the middle of Mimi’s Bakehouse, a popular cake place in Leith full of yummy mummies. My ladies from Pregnancy Yoga meet there every Friday and I was happily eating an excellent cheese scone when Adam suddenly burst into full on screams. I shushed, rocked, patted and swayed to no avail, and quickly felt colour rising on my cheeks as I noticed a few people looking over (none of the yoga mums batted an eyelid I must say, and I’m sure they were relieved it wasn’t their baby having a fit). One lady came right over and peered at me, then Adam, and pointed towards the ladies’ toilets saying ‘There is a corridor down there you can use’. I snapped at her that I was just about to go there, and stomped off with Adam still wailing. I spent a very unpleasant few minutes trying to calm him down – I even popped into the baby change room and tried to feed him – this usually cures anything – but he just wouldn’t stop!

Eventually I emerged, resigned to just grabbing our things and hailing a cab home, when a lovely lady appeared from the ladies’, and gave me so much sympathy and encouragement that I actually wept a wee bit with gratitude. She said she was a childminder and had four boys of her own. ‘It’s absolutely normal and you’re doing really well’ she said. At that moment Adam ceased his tantrum and pretty much passed out in my arms. I sagged with relief and joined the mums again, even finishing my scone before I headed home with Adam snuggled in the sling. It turned out the lady who’d directed me to the corridor was the owner of Mimi’s, and my Yoga chum says she passed comment about Adam and me after I’d left – ‘How can something so small make so much noise?’ and ‘It sounds like someone’s being murdered’. Well, thanks a bunch Mimi. Your cheese scones aren’t tasty enough to tempt me back again.

I feel I dealt with it really well but at the time I understood what it is to be a fussed out stressy mum. At the bus stop yet another woman who’d obviously witnessed it asked politely if he had cried himself to sleep. Yup, cheers for that.

So a duvet day seemed preferable to doing anything sociable today. I am needed by my baby so I’d better sign off. Before I go, here are a few pics.

The day we grew up

Wow. Today is Saturday. Six months ago we would be waking up about now, perhaps fighting off a bit of a headache after a few jars the night before. Our to do list, if one existed, might have said ‘buy papers’ or at its most strenuous ‘big shop’.

Today’s has a plethora of grown up stuff on it, as baby-prep is finally kicking off. We are off to a baby sale thing (I mentioned Jack and Jill markets before), then to IKEA (can our relationship handle it?) for a look at some other stuff. We are hoping to buy a pram and a cot today.
BUT that’s not all; we are also going to look for a sofa bed and some new carpet for the spare room, AKA THE BABY’S ROOM!

And Jamie tells me there is football on at 5:15pm. Are there enough hours in the day to accomplish this? Hmmm. If I don’t drop dead from exhaustion first, we may just do it.

Weekends used to be leisurely affairs. Now they’re for life admin and catching up on all the housework I’m too knackered to do during the week.

And it’s August, so naturally I’m fending off ‘offers’ from friends wanting to come and visit. It’s funny, in Edinburgh I think friend visits jump about 300% during the festival. Normally I love this but am just wrecked this year, and being teetotal doesn’t help me feel much empathy for my party-seeking friends. Still, Sunday will see the arrival of our last house guest (if we can help it) before the baby comes.

Anyway I’ve got to go and do a few things before we set off- I’ve been up for hours of course- so here’s the almost 25 wks bump pic:

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