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Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part two

17 Oct

So yes.  My heartwarming discoveries.  Here they are:

1> The amazingness of nature

This is of course, the big one.  Despite feeling the kicks and seeing the scans, I never *really* believed that a perfectly perfect human baby was really in there.  But it totally, totally was.  After a gruelling 27 hour labour, Nancy flew out (kinda) and was handed to me – an absolutely perfect example of a human being.  I was in shock.  My body is a-maz-ing.  How did it know what to do to create such a thing?  And then how to eject it from my body (well, it got some of that bit wrong to be fair).  She had everything – fingers, toes (complete with nails), hair, a perfect pair of lungs.  Incredible.  I was suddenly a mother and I always would be.  In that moment I realised how incredible nature is, life is, the world is.  All those silly things that bothered me before, gone.  Insignificant.  Just like that.

2>  The kindness + generosity of people

Wow.  Where do I start with this one?  From the day I went into labour, I was exposed to a whole new level of human kindness.  Maybe it’s just that ordinarily I’m immersed in a world of deadlines and pressure where people really aren’t operating at their most calm, kind and caring.  But wow, the midwives, the health visitors, the GP who treated me with even more care than usual post-labour – what incredible people!  I know it’s their job – but they gave me so much time to make me feel at ease in an alien situation, to listen to how I felt about my labour and experience as a new mother.  To give me all the information and support I needed and reassure any concerns I had.

And then there’s the PRESENTS!  I actually got to know my Postman as packages arrived every single day for weeks!  We received so many flowers that we even had to buy more vases.  One of my school friends arrived at my door with two black bags full of amazing baby clothes that her little girl had grown out of.  I felt quite embarrassed when I realised the number of presents we’d failed to buy for friends and relatives when they had babies.  And also noticed how a large majority of the gifts were from people who’d had children – some of these people we hardly knew at all!  But I guess they knew quite what a big deal this whole thing is. And quite how hard it is in those first few weeks – when the kind wishes of the people around you go such a long way.

3> The wonderful community on my doorstep

This was something I hoped I’d discover on maternity leave.  Being around just in the evenings and the weekends doesn’t give you the chance to *really* get to know your area. I was excited to spend some proper time here – getting to know the people, the groups, the stuff that happens in the daytime when I’d normally be on the other side of town.  After I’d had Nancy I was amazed to discover so much more than this.  Those first 10-12 weeks were incredibly hard. But what helped is that all these lovely people would come and visit me.  The midwife came a few time, then the health visitor.  Then there was the weekly baby clinic where I could go for advice and to weigh Nancy.  I quickly learned that there was so much out there to help Mums deal with the many challenges of early motherhood.  Here are some of the things I came across:

Breastfeeding Cafes There are two ‘cafes’ (not actual cafes) each week that you can go to to get guidance and support from midwives on breast feeding.  How incredible!  I tried to go once and well, it didn’t quite happen.  Turned out I’d left it too close to feeding time and so I quite quickly had a screaming Nancy in the back of the car.  I then didn’t know where to park near the library it was taking place in, and I also realised that I wouldn’t actually have enough time to feed Nancy before it then closed.  So I ended up feeding her in an actual cafe instead.  But the point is that it was a huge comfort to know that it was there and lots of friends who had real trouble with breastfeeding would’ve given up if it hadn’t been for the cafes.

Sure Start Centres These are ace.  They are located all over the place (although due to cuts they are slowly disappearing 😦 ) They offer FREE classes, courses, groups that you can come to with your baby and meet other mums, learn all sorts of things or just get a change of scenery.  We did a baby massage course for nuffink!  Amazing.  And just so lovely that it makes this kind of stuff accessible to all.

The Nappy Lady  There is an actual nappy lady!  Again, I didn’t actually use her.  But awesome to know that she exists to help you with the whole disposable vs. washable nappy dilemma.

There’s also a Sling Library where you can go to to try different baby slings to find the right one for you.  You can even borrow it for a week to make doubly sure.  The actual library is of course awesome too.  They do baby groups, singing sessions and obviously you can also join and borrow books for free.

On top of all this baby stuff there’s everything else.  And when you have a baby everyone talks to you!!  People at the bus stop, people in the doctors, people on trains.  Also when you have a baby you feel braver to just talk to anyone too!  You just get to know everyone and everything.  Where to get the best coffee.  The best brownie.  That there is even a pub near here that runs a group called Crumpets – a playgroup for babies and a breakfast club for Mums!  Complete with pastries, coffee and of course, crumpets!  Omm nom amazing.  Anyway you get my point – you get to know where you live better and it’s ace.

4> The kindness + support of other Mums

This is the sort of comment that I know now really pisses off non-Mums.  But it’s true – Mums are amazing.  Of course, it doesn’t apply to every single Mum.  And many non-Mums are also amazingly understanding and supportive to new Mums.  But there’s something about other Mums with babies at the same stage and also those with older babies / kids.  They know.  They know how exhausted you are.  How unsettling the dramatic change in your life is over just a few short weeks is.  How hard it is to remain patient while your darling child screams in your face for hours.  How you sometimes question yourself.  And they listen.  They empathise.  They know how desperate you can become, and they offer their help.  Even though they have their own things to deal with.

There was a time when Nancy would be awake at night and asleep in the day.  Just to get her off to sleep would take forever and a great deal of effort.  I was a mess.  My kind NCT friends offered to come over and watch Nancy while I slept.  These are women I’d known for just a few months!  I also had other friends in the area who’d had babies too and we’d all email at all hours – ‘Has anyone’s baby done this’.  ’Did you know that’.  ’He’s doing this, should I be worried’ and so on.  We’d all have read something or been through it already and be able to offer an answer or reassurance. Now that I’m back at work and am having worries about Nancy’s childcare, my Mum friends are all offering to get together to look after Nancy if I ever need this.  WOW!  It’s just incredible.  But I think, going back to point no.1, once you’ve given birth and been through this you suddenly realise what is important and what isn’t.  Being kind, listening and offering help and support to each other – these are all important things.  Normally many of us don’t find enough time to focus on this stuff.  Or don’t prioritise it.  But this is something that I really want to retain – in my personal life and at work.

5> A new, more confident, kind and patient me

I’m going to be quick here as I’ve written enough already.  And it kinda relates to no.4.  But yes.  To make this point, here are some things I have dealt with in the last 11 months:

  • Nancy screaming in my face for seven hours (yes SEVEN) while we try to work out why
  • Singing and rocking a screaming, overtired baby to sleep for up to an hour for her to then fall asleep but then wake up 45 minutes later.  An hour or so later I would then have to repeat this
  • Waking up every 3 hours through the night to feed her – after a day doing the above
  • Breastfeeding and cooking soup at the same time because clearly we were both so damned hungry!
  • Spending precious sleeping time chopping, steaming, blending various fruits and vegetables for Nancy to then just turn her head away in disgust

I mean these are just just a few things.  But the point is, I’ve had to find a way to deal with all these things whilst remaining patient, loving and comforting for Nancy.  I’ve therefore learnt a whole new level of patience, tolerance and consideration.  Being so out of control, vulnerable and in need of help and support has made me consider other people in my life who might be in need like this for all sorts of reasons.  We’re not all strong all the time.  And we have to be there for each other.

So that will do, I think.  It’s quite a lot.  And I know it’s all very soppy.  But that’s what happens to you when you become a Mum. And I’m glad of it.  I feel better, stronger, kinder and who can argue with that?

Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part one

12 Oct

Image source: Pinky VuDuu

I had a proper breakdown two Sunday nights ago.  The Sunday night before returning to work after 11 months off on maternity leave.  It involved full-on, inconsolable sobbing.  I wasn’t upset so much about having to leave Nancy for four days every week, as I felt really ready for this.  I really wanted a bit of balance to return to my life – a few days of doing ‘my stuff’ (work), with a special Friday for Nancy and me and then a lovely family weekend.  Perfect!  No, the issue I had was that it marked the end of our ‘special time’ together that had made me see the world in an entirely new way.

Literally as soon as they handed me my beautiful, newborn daughter the world was a different place.  My eyes were opened to the incredibleness of nature, the warmth and generosity of people, the community that I didn’t know existed around me.  All of it made the difficult first few months as a mother so much easier to deal with and made me feel incredibly positive about the world I’d just brought this little person into.  Every day something would happen that would warm my heart and give me a renewed appreciation of, well, everything.  So I think what I was worried about was that I would lose sight of all this as soon as I took on the stresses of work again, started rushing here, there and everywhere again, started dealing with difficult characters, a never-ending ‘to-do’ list and packed trains.

What I’ve realised since is that this experience can’t get taken away from me.  Experiencing new motherhood is a life-changing thing, and I am after all, still a Mum. To keep sight of all these things could mean being a better human being, employee, partner, friend, daughter for ever.

Some of it I’m sure becomes engrained – especially those elements that you practise everyday just by being a Mum.  But I’m sure that it could be easy to lose sight of others.  Which is why I am writing this post – so that I can remind myself of everything I discovered on maternity leave and use it to remember to be patient, to look out for others, to make time for the important things and to not worry about the less important things.  

Next post – my actual heart-warming discoveries on maternity leave..

Sorry Kirsty-of-the-past

8 Oct

As I lay on the sofa cuddling a very sick Nancy to sleep in front of In the Night Garden earlier on today, I thought about what the Kirsty of six months ago would have to say about all this.

I’m sure that having spent weeks trying a number of different, inventive ways of just getting Nancy to go to sleep please; on her own, and for longer than just 45 minutes – she’d be none too pleased.  In fact I think she’d break down, hands over eyes, forehead on floor, foetal position and in a fit of frustrated tears.

But all that seems a long time ago now.  And Nancy has an ear infection.  She’s in pain and she doesn’t know what’s going on.  Who wouldn’t want to give their little one bundles of warmth and cuddles and reassurance when they’re feeling this way?  It’d be wrong not to.  And I have to (secretly) admit, it has been lovely having cuddles with an otherwise very wriggly little bug, who just wants to scurry around the place rather than have cuddles with her mama.  Even though it means I can literally do nothing else – if I try, she screams.

So I’m happy to deal with the consequences and go through a bit of pain once this is all over to get her sleeping well again as Kirsty-of-the-past achieved before me, all those months ago.  Which will probably mean being woken every 45 mins between midnight and 5am if last night is anything to go by – with Nancy needing my help to get back to sleep.

I only wish this had all been timed much, much better, as Tom is away and it’s my second week back at work.  How single parents do it I have no idea!  Those cuddles must have to be particularly incredible.

For sun, fun and tranquility WITH KIDS? Go here

18 Sep

Now I have to kick things off by saying that in my previous, childless life, the thought of going to a ‘baby-friendly bolthole’ would have made me cringe at the least and vomit at the most.  In fact, in the early days of Nancy I probably still would have felt like this.  However, after a weekend with Nancy at the sort of Mr and Mrs Smith hotel we’d have gone to before as a couple, my view changed completely.

The hotel was gorgeous.  Lovely big bed, goose down duvet, free-standing bath etc etc.  BUT what I hadn’t considered is that it would be a tight squeeze to fit in the baby gym, the travel cot and all of our other gear.  That it would be tricky to find a place for the steriliser to live.  That at 2.30am we would all wake up for Nancy’s feed because the light would need to go on.  And the biggest oversight – that come 7pm we’d have to sit in complete darkness once Nancy had gone to bed for the night.  We had no choice but to watch Mad Men on the laptop ‘til it was time for dinner (damn).  We even had a cup of tea in the bathroom!  Needless to say, the weekend wasn’t exactly the rejuvenating one we desperately needed and hoped for.  Suddenly a baby-friendly bolthole was the *only* way I’d go away again.

So yes, for our first official family holiday we found ourselves a ‘baby-friendly bolthole’ near Valencia in Spain.  Caserio Del Mirador looked incredible on the website.  Pretty much all the baby gear already there (huzzah!), only five apartments in total, a massage lady (heaven), the choice to cook for yourself or join in with kids’ tea and adult evening meals.  There was also a lovely pool, cute bunnies, pigs, goats and so on.  Sounded like perfection.

And it was.  It’s stress-minimising’ness kicked in before we’d even left the house, as we didn’t have to take anything like as much stuff as we’d have done with any other holiday.  ** We didn’t even come close to our maximum baggage allowance!! ** 

Sarah and Johnny Robinson who own and run the place with help from their kids couldn’t be more friendly and accommodating.  In fact, when my luggage was left behind in London, Sarah quickly became my personal stylist – delivering me a new batch of lovely clothes each day. You can’t get more accommodating than that! In terms of everything else, they manage to balance the needs of the kids and their parents perfectly.  

Nancy loved scurrying around our spacious apartment, eating and playing with the other kids, feeding the pig, manhandling the bunnies, swinging in the playground, swooshing about in the pool and eating dead wasps (hmm).  And let’s face it, happy baby = relaxed parents. The fact that we didn’t always have to think about her next meal, be constantly washing up and doing all the things we’d normally do at home, meant that we could actually relax.  When she napped we’d lay by the pool, read our books, enjoy a beer or espresso in peace.  Then when she woke up we’d play, swim and explore.  Once she was down for the night, we could take our monitor up to Sarah’s outdoor kitchen (where there was actually a shelf and plug sockets for baby monitors!) and enjoy a delicious meal and A LOT of booze with the other parents. And Sarah’s cooking was a-maz-ing.  She had us in stitches over hilarious stories of their time in Spain and her life back in London as she casually knocked up nothing short of an incredible meal.  As a vegetarian I often struggle in Spain, but I ate SO well here.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this place is.  It really is.  In fact, after a stressful day at the beach due to Nancy wanting to practise her crawling, (crawling + sand + sun cream is not an ideal combination) followed by a vomiting attack on the way home, we joked that we should never leave the Caserio again all week. And then we didn’t.  While this meant we didn’t exactly get the most Spanish experience, we really did relax and had a wonderful time together as a family – all we really wanted.  We met some lovely people in the other parents and especially in Sarah and Johnny and their wonderful family. Next year we WILL be back and we may even explore beyond the Caserio!!

Curious Mama: ***** muchos opportunities for chilling, eating + exploring.
Curious Bubba: ***** just endless fun!

Peckhead fun while we on hols (booo)

25 Aug

We always seem to be away when the best fun happens around here. So sad to be missing out on the Peckham Rye Fete next Saturday 1st September. While en route to Espana, trying to contain my wriggly little bug, I shall no doubt be wishing I were enjoying the dog show, Punch and Judy and the tea tent. What fun!

We’ll also be missing the bike-powered Nunhead Experience on Sunday 2nd September, which is just too exciting for words. Feels like a really creative and interactive day where you can make your own film, your own screen print, watch some performance art or enjoy some storytelling. Oh and they’re screening one of my favourite ever films, Bugsy Malone, in the evening.

…but at least it means I won’t have to make the difficult decision between this and my beloved West Norwood Feast.

(such beautiful artwork too, don’t you think?)

Clean and let cook!

24 Aug

I keep having this same conversation with other mums:

“What’s Nancy eating?”

“Bean cakes” (it’s not always bean cakes of course)

“Did you make them?”


(Raised eyebrows) often followed by something like, ”You know the pouches are just as good. They’re organic”.  Or “I just don’t know how you find the time”.

Some will call me an ‘organic mum’, or will say I’m uptight for wanting to only give my baby healthy, homemade food (what is this obsession with wanting to appear ‘chilled out’ anyway?)

This week the above conversation happened once again and afterwards I went back to the other mum’s house.  She then proceeded to clean obsessively.  Picking up every last tiny bit of dust that was on her kitchen floor.  In that moment I realised that where she spent her time keeping her house beautifully spotless, I used that time to cook Nancy’s meals*.  It’s actually all a matter of different priorities.  The fact is that we only have so many minutes in the day. So like with anything, we prioritise.  And things hold different levels of importance to each of us.  I’ve always been into nutrition and healthy eating.  This is particularly important to me due to stuff that happened in my past and also health reasons.  I always eat healthy, balanced meals with low sugar and salt myself – so why would I put anything different into the sparkly new body of my precious baby?

The problem is down to those cheeky little moments (or months!) of self doubt that we all have as new mums.  It’s the hardest job in the world…we all know this.  And we’ve never done it before.  The truth is that there is no right or wrong way – only ‘our way’.  To find the strength to find our way, we need the support of those around us.  Our friends, our family and the other new mums around us.  But because often us new mums are in a bit of a pickle, we sometimes feel the need to defend ‘our way’ when others do it differently.  That’s why conversations like that above happen.  But we must resist!  It’s not helpful.  Us mums need to stick together.

So yes, ‘Clean and let cook’, is what I say!

Show your Peckers ‘ppreciation

24 Aug

Oh how I love these Peckham souvenirs.  

Since my (tiny) statutory maternity pay has come to a tragic end, I am having to choose whether to invest in this AMAZE Peckham palm tree bag (£9.00)

Or this awesome ‘Peckham Jewels’ necklace (£22.00).  Both made by the talented lot at the Garudio Studiage (tongue twister indeed!)

What to do?