Friday, 14 March 2014

Parenting: Men and Women

He clearly hasn't spent the day with a screaming baby...
Before I had a baby I (obv) thought about how it would change my life. 

Of course I knew about sleep deprivation (or thought I did, ha), and priorities changing, but what I hadn't considered is how different the experience is for men and women. My favourite Dubai blogger sums it up here  when she says:

"While DH, wallowing in the congratulations of his colleagues, put on his suit and skipped off to his adult world of coffees, meetings and the gym at lunchtime, I sat at home and felt robbed: robbed of my career, robbed of my figure, robbed of my sleep, and robbed of my sanity."

Because this is precisely what happens. Men, in the main, carry on as before. They get up, get dressed (usually after a full night's sleep,as feeding falls to women) and go to work. 

They do not see their salary disappear along with their sanity. They do not spend all day with a fractious, grizzling, clingy tiny tyrant. 

They make plans to see their friends and casually tell you as they head out of the front door. 

By the time they get home from work very likely the baby is asleep or passed out, exhausted from screaming, whilst you are slumped on the sofa in your pyjamas wondering where the day went.

Women on the other hand, have a huge adjustment:

One minute you're a sassy, stylish, slim girl about town. You are up and at 'em every morning sporting the latest Chanel lipstick and Michael Kors handbag. You go to the office where you are paid for your experience, opinion and skills. You talk and people listen. You interact with staff and clients. You laugh casually during lunches, people bring you coffee in meetings.

Next minute you're fat, bloated, in agonising pain. You can't lift your hands above your head to wash your hair. You have a small screaming baby attached to you 22 hours a day. 

You look in the mirror and literally do not recognise the haggard sweaty mess before you. 

You don't leave the house for weeks as you can't walk or drive and it's 45 degrees outside anyway. 

Your biggest brain challenge is how many scoops of formula go into each bottle/how many minutes since the last feed/minutes to the next feed.

People say to you "Oh, you can't possibly go back to work" as it is assumed that your career no longer matters and you are the primary care giver. (Note: No-one EVER says this to a man).

In order to leave the house and have a social life you plan weeks in advance and when you do get out of the door in the one pair of jeans that now fits you, you feel like Bella Emberg and weep in the taxi on the way home.

Now, I was one of the lucky ones. As I was formula feeding I got a couple of nights off every week IF DH wasn't working the weekend. Those 4 nights a month were beacons of joy and sanity. One time I slept for 13 hours without moving an inch and woke up in the same position I'd collapsed in - unheard of for me. DH  wondered if I'd died and had to come and check on me. 

So ladies: brace yourselves. You do start to claw back your personality and identity, but it takes time. 

For me it was around the 18 week mark when I started to plan for going back to work. I cleared out my wardrobe, binned all the maternity clothes, laundered and ironed my work 'uniform' and was reminded of a different world, a grown up world.  

And then comes the guilt......but that's a whole separate story!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Fat Girl Slim

I need a vat of this stuff!
I didn't do too badly on the weight gain front when pregnant.

I went from 58 kilos/9 stone to 72 kilos/11 stone. This still felt enormous and disgusting to me and totally out of character. An exercise ban plus the doctor's order to eat more, much more, really did my waistline in.

I'm hovering around the 62 kilo/9 stone 7 mark at the moment - only the second time in my life that I've ever weighed more than 58/9 stone.

I'm surprised that I actually care less than I thought, I know that I'm disciplined enough to get it off. And I'm simply not prepared to replace my entire wardrobe for size 12's, it could actually bankrupt me.

The issue I'm facing is that due to lack of sleep, I have zero energy. And without energy I can't run. And without running, this last half a stone ain't going to shift.

What to do?

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Voice of Experience - Ha!

We've all been there...
I met a lady with a ten day old newborn last week. He was a bundle of snuffly, snuggly warm joy, his little unseeing eyes trying to focus, his little body squirming and wriggling. At six pounds, he was relatively small, and I had to remind myself that this was still 30% bigger than Baby Britney (BB) when she arrived in the world.

The lady, let's call her "Nell the New Mother", had an all too familiar look about her: her eyes looked dead and cold, her whole demeanour screamed shock, combined with grim resignation.

She was clutching not one but TWO copies of the Gina Ford book, and I couldn't help but smile when I saw that she'd stuck post-its all the way through it, just like I did with mine. Foolishly thinking that those post-its would be my salvation. In the two hours I spent with her, her baby did not sleep once. He was bright and beady-eyed and reminded me a lot of BB.

She barraged me with desperate questions: Why doesn't he sleep? They all said he would sleep? All my friends' babies sleep? Does yours sleep? When will he sleep? Why won't he be put down? Why doesn't he eat the amount he's supposed to? Why does he eat every hour, not every 3 hours, like all the books say?

She too had a career and a senior position pre-baby and was free falling through the sudden changes in her life. "I can never, ever go through this again," she croaked.

I wanted to envelop her in a giant hug, but as I'd only met her two minutes earlier I didn't think it hugely appropriate. The phrases "It gets easier/Enjoy it, it goes so fast/Trust your instincts" certainly never even crossed my mind.

So I did what I could and shared my wisdom (ha!) with her. This mainly revolved around the white noise app, white wine and swaddling. I told her that for the first few months new babies don't know the difference between day and night, they rely on smell, that they eat whenever and whatever they like, that attempting to get them into any routine before they are at least three months old could end up with you feeling like a total failure, so not to bother if it isn't working. 

I told her that she was doing a great job, that her baby was beautiful, that she would be ok. I told her that not all babies sleep straight away and it was nothing to do with anything that she was doing wrong. Just to keep on loving him and cuddling him and kissing him.

I told her to get her husband on board with the night feeds and to grasp any help she is offered with two hands.

I left feeling like a real professional. I had advice! I had opinions! I really knew what I was doing! I had come so far! I got home and cuddled BB, feeling like a real success. 

Then she refused food all afternoon and cried non-stop from 3-6 pm. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

Annoying things people say to you when you have a baby: Enjoy every moment, it goes so fast

Time with a baby......sloooow.
On the surface, this is true.

Babies do grow at an incredible pace. If you stare at their feet you can almost see it happening - a bit like those time lapse cameras of leaves unfurling in the rainforest. Which is why you shouldn't buy too many pairs of socks. Their toes burst out of them like the hulk at warp speed.

And it is truly amazing that in 5 months, Baby Britney (BB) has tripled her birth weight.

But here's the rub: when you are spending every minute of every hour of every week of every month with the tiny tyrants, and surviving on 3 hours of broken sleep a night, time does not go fast.

Likewise at 6 am when you've been up all night trying to settle a fractious whinging baby, I assure you, the time does not whizz by.

It goes sloooooooooooooooowly.

Sometimes I would look at the clock thinking that the screaming must surely have been going on for hours, when it had actually just been ten minutes. Likewise, it was hard to believe that anything so small could scream for four hours. FOUR. HOURS. Ear plugs became my new best friends.

I found myself counting the hours AND minutes until DH came home from work, as at that point, I could pass BB over to him and breathe/shower/dress. Also, she then became partly his responsibility if anything went wrong.

Of course, there are joyous moments in all this, and you grasp and cling to them like a sailor lost at sea. But let's be clear, unless you are some sort of masochist, you are not going to enjoy every please don't feel guilty when you don't.

NB: No sooner had I written this post than a friend shared this on her Facebook. Great minds clearly think alike....

Friday, 31 January 2014

The First Few Magical Days with a New Baby

I smiled for days....
I promised I'd be honest about pregnancy, birth and babies, but for fear of terrifying my pregnant friends to within an inch of their lives, let's turn our attention to some of the wonderful parts of life with a small baby.

I had a hideous pregnancy full of pain, sickness, surgery and stress beyond my wildest dreams, so for me the best bit about having a baby was: I wasn't pregnant any more. 

And let's be clear: Nature is very clever.  Small newborn babies (your own) are hypnotic and addictive. And I've never been a baby-cuddler before. I'm also certainly not one of those people who trills that you 'forget all the pain' of childbirth as soon as the baby is in your arms. I had a lovely, planned, calm elective c-section, but let's be clear: the agony that followed will stay with me for the rest of my life. It didn't magically disappear.

I digress.

I had really struggled to believe that there was a teeny tiny person inside my stomach. Even as I ballooned in size, even as I felt the kicking inside me, my brain just could not compute that there was a little human being in there, at all. In fact right up until the moment that Baby Britney (BB) was hauled from my stomach, I had visions of my consultant saying: "No, no, nothing to see here. It's just doughnuts and Twirls I'm afraid."

I was metaphorically holding my breath when they were getting her out....partly because it's just the weirdest thing ever, a c-section, but mainly because I couldn't believe what was happening, and we were terrified that there might be something wrong (they had warned us that the baby was small, hence coming out a month early).

So when this tiny screaming bundle was held up, when they announced that 'it' was a girl, and she was perfect, my first instinctive reaction was to shout: "NO WAY!!!" It's amazing how shouting echoes off an operating theatre walls. It was a little inappropriate looking back, I blame the drugs.

This sense of disbelief stayed with me for days - especially as BB was taken away to NICU shortly after delivery. This meant that 45 minutes after giving birth, I had nothing to show for it, and didn't until lunchtime the next day.

But even without a baby, the hormones and the morphine (oh, the joyous morphine!) combine to make you feel immensely, overwhelmingly happy. And when BB was wheeled into my room in her funny little incubator bed, swaddled like a tiny fajita, there are really no words.

Her tiny size, her snuffly, snuggly, warm little body as she nestled into my neck...well she melted my heart. And I KNOW it's a reflex when they grab your finger, but it still feels like a monumental achievement when they do it.

Despite the pain and the gore, the 5 days I spent in hospital were pure bliss. A tiny baby bubble with nurses on hand to help with everything (I simply pressed a button if I needed them), a la carte meals brought to me every few hours, a comfy bed that moved up and down at the touch of a button.

Lying in the dark of the hospital room at 5 am, with DH sleeping on the sofa bed, DD snoozing on my chest, little legs twitching just as they had done inside of me, will remain one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. 

You're suddenly a family, your baby is perfect, you're not pregnant any more. You're also coursing with adrenaline and hormones so the exhaustion is somehow bearable. These chemicals will cary you through the first through weeks in a haze...enjoy them.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Annoying things people say when you've had a baby: "Trust Your Instincts"

God knows I'm trying!
I found this advice extremely frustrating. As an only child who grew up without being surrounding by children, and as an adult that had held only a very small handful of babies, I honestly didn't have a clue where to start.

I remember being rolled into NICU in a wheelchair to see Baby Britney (BB) for the second time, with me looking like Princess Margaret after the 'bath incident' only sadly, without having consumed any gin.

They passed BB to me to feed and I managed to a) let her head snap back (so terrifying, those wobbly heads) and b) choke her on the bottle teat simultaneously. I squeaked feebly: "I've never fed a baby before!" and dissolved into tears.

"You'll just know what to do!" well meaning people had said to me. "Nature is amazing!"

Well, nature is a wonderful thing. I was filled with a fierce instinct to protect her and care for her, no doubt. But when she was screaming endlessly in the middle of the night, no instinct told me how to soothe her. When she was awake hour after hour after hour, no instinct came to my rescue with a magic sleep solution. In those circumstances you can just cuddle and whisper and kiss and ssshh and pat...and download as much tv as you can onto your iPad.

Maybe if you're an earth mother type something does 'click' and you feel like you've been doing it all your life - I am not one of those women. And if you talk, really talk, to other mothers, many of them will confess that they're not either.

This blogger writes beautifully about what it's like becoming a parent and instincts when she says:

"Dr Spock told a generation of women that they didn't need to learn how to look after their babies, that it was instinctive and that they knew more than they thought they did. He was completely wrong. When you have no proper experience of babies, as most of us don't, and one arrives in your house, it is like suddenly being asked to re-sit your final school exams. In Russian."

As a good friend said to me: "You WILL be okay, it IS tough, it IS hard, every hour is an amazing achievement, there is NO induction manual, you have had NO training, you are doing the very BEST that YOU can possibly do... You are being a mother for the very first time - and that is true every single day."

Cling to friends like these, the ones who tell it like it is, who are honest. Whose instincts didn't suddenly take over and save the day.

They will save your sanity.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Annoying things people say when you've had a baby: 'It gets easier'

Any minute now, it will get easier...or not.
I almost feel bad listing this one. People are really trying to help when they say this. To make you feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel.

The problem with it is that for some people, it does get easier, but really, really, slowly.

The first milestone I was told about is 12 weeks. Apparently at this stage something magical happens to the little blighters. They've been through some major growth spurts, and for whatever reason, they start to settle better and magically they SLEEP.

Oh really?

I approached the day after Baby Britney's 12 week birthday with cautious optimism. Like Dubai's bid for Expo2020 I was confident, I was positive. Things would be DIFFERENT! She would EAT! She would SLEEP! She would NAP! She would stop screaming all the time! I would be able to get dressed before 6 pm!

Nothing changed.

If anything, I found it got harder rather than easier. At the outset you have so much adrenalin coursing through you that you seem to have more strength (mental and physical) than you thought you would. I also expected it to be tiring at the newborn phase. But by 7 or 8 weeks, you are ground down. 2 hours sleep a night has taken its toll and you feel like death. When you reach 15 weeks and it's still no better not only do you feel like death, but you feel cheated, and a little like a failure. Perhaps it's something that you are doing wrong, otherwise surely the tiny tyrant would be sleeping by now?

The fact is, if you have a baby that sleeps (like winning the lottery, in fact, I would prefer it to winning the lottery) I am sure it does get easier, much more quickly. If you don't, well, there's no easy way to say this: it is going to be very tough for a very long time.

Take any help you can get. If a friend offers to walk the baby round the block, say yes. If a neighbour offers to hold the baby whilst you have a shower, say yes. Hell, if Mussolini had offered, I would have said yes. 

We are now at 19 weeks and baby Britney (BB) has JUST started doing some daytime sleeping. We're now up to 45 minutes, twice a day! This is a far cry from what other mums/books/experts will tell you - they should be cracking out two hour stretches at least, apparently.

But hey, I'm grateful for small mercies....

Monday, 27 January 2014

Annoying things people say when you have a baby: 'Sleep when the Baby Sleeps'

Yeah right!
Ah, there is nothing more homicide inducing than this phrase. 

It seems so simple, doesn't it? So obvious?

It conjures up images of your little bundle snoozing happily, whilst you snuggle up next to them. You drift into delicious, glorious sleep together, breathing as one. You do this, on and off, throughout the day, so you feel constantly refreshed, not at all sleep deprived. In fact, you hardly notice you've had a baby at all!

Just one small problem here: this advice assumes you have a baby THAT SLEEPS IN THE DAY.

I didn't.

The beady-eyed tiny tyrant simply refused.

Oh I tried everything. I shushed, I soothed, I 'placed the baby firmly down', I begged, I pleaded. Still nothing. One day I actually walked around the house with my sleep mask attached to my head, so eager was I to really get on board with this advice. I was ready, at a moment's notice, to drop onto the floor, in manner of bootcamp, but instead of doing press-ups, just press-downs, and sleep. Even if that meant face planting the kitchen floor.

That was the day that Baby Britney (BB) stayed wake for ELEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT. I kid you not. That's not even possible according to medical experts. Ha! We laugh in the face of medical experts here! Sleep is for losers.

As BB got older, she has started to nap a little in the day. But we're talking 20 minutes at a time, and this was at 15 weeks old. I don't know about you, but it takes me at least 20 minutes to drop off, even when exhausted. That means that just as you are drifting off, you are woken by a screaming tiny tyrant in your ear hole. Try this every day for 15 weeks, it really is an absolute treat. If anyone had told me before I had a baby that I'd be crying and dry-heaving into a sink through tiredness, I would have thought them a gross over-exagerator. Now I understand.

So do be careful if you're tempted to trill this in the face of a new mother. She may just muster up the energy to strangle you.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Remember Me?!


I'm back!

Yes, me!

Huge apologies for the radio silence. I've been a teeny tiny bit busy, what with, y'know, growing a human being, bringing that human being into the world, then dealing with the Vietnam style fall-out of trying to keep them alive for the last 18 weeks.

The good news is that they are alive, as am I. Older, fatter and more haggard, but nothing that a large box of wine and a full face of botox can't sort out. In fact, forget the Bounty bag they give you as they leave hospital, ever new mother should have a crate of Sauv Blanc and a surgeon with a hypodermic waiting in the wings.


I know you're full of questions: What's it like having a baby? What's it like being a mum? What's it like (braces self) GIVING BIRTH? 

Well, pull up a seat, relax, and if you're in Dubai, pop on your Ugg boots and hoodie (is there any need for this Winter's freezing temperatures?!) and I will tell all. I warn you, it ain't all pretty and there's no earth mother in sight.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Pregnancy Reading Material

As a voracious reader and someone with a thirst for knowing as much as possible about anything unknown, it will probably come as no surprise that I have been reading A LOT during this pregnancy. As one friend pointed out: "If Britney hasn't read the book, it's probably because that book hasn't been printed yet."

You could go wild in the book aisles (and I did) but here is a small selection of my favourites:

I LOVE Tess. This isn't a manual so much as a lovely memoir of pregnancy, birth and beyond. As someone who comes across as refreshingly normal, this felt a bit like having a chat with a friend rather than a preachy 'you must do la la la' book. Good fashion tips too.

This is HILARIOUS!! A week by week guide that has literally had me guffawing. It's possibly the only that one that i could persuade the husband to read (no luck yet). I cannot recommend this enough. Note: It was previously called 'The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth."

I know the next two books divide people, but I am all over learning anything that might help, in any small way. I'm a complete novice. A friend said she tore two pages out of this, stuck them on the fridge, threw the rest of the book away. Guess what's on my fridge?!

As above. I've enjoyed this book. Whether any of it is actually realistic or not, I shall have to find out.