I’m not the Mum I thought I would be

Ooh er, coming back after a blog hiatus and kicking things off with a controversial post title. This is, though, the one thing I want to say before all of the other things I want to say. It’s more vital I get this out than the fact my newborn is now over nine months old; that  breastfeeding is infinitely more rewarding (and initially harder) than I expected; that I’m finally feeling more like myself; or any of the other things I want to talk about. Because, actually, all of those things follow on from the simple truth that I’m not the mother I thought I would be. 

This is the mum I thought I’d be:

  • Don’t pick him up too much, he’ll be mollycoddled
  • Routine, routine, routine – this baby will fit into our lives not the other way round
  • Get him used to his cot as early as possible
  • Get him to sleep through the night as soon as poss because I love sleep
  • Breastfeeding is fine (although jeez everyone needs to stop banging on about it) but I’m not wedded to it so we will see how it goes.

The mum I’ve actually turned out to be is, basically, the complete opposite of the above. I’m pretty much baby led in most things, including feeding and routine. That’s to say – we follow a basic routine but it’s Bug that has laid out what we do and when, I just follow along. 

My baby is a terrible sleeper. I rock him to sleep, I boobfeed him to sleep, I cuddle him to sleep and then he sleeps with us all night with multiple wake ups where he rolls over for some food. This is the best and easiest way to ensure we all get some sleep. 

The above decision was made at 3am one night when, sweating and exhausted, I tried to put him down in his cot for the millionth time, only for him to wake up. I thought to myself, “I have to get him to sleep in his cot or else…” and I then tried to finish that sentence: or else what, exactly? What was the worst thing that could happen? My son is a happy, secure, lively baby. One day he’ll be able to sleep on his own because that’s how humans function. He will also be able to walk and talk but, for some reason, I wasn’t freaking out about the fact that he wasn’t doing either of those things yet. Just like walking and talking, he isn’t developmentally ready to sleep alone and unaided. I know this because I’m his mum.

Oh yes, that’s another thing I used to scoff at before I became a mum: the idea of a mother’s instinct. It’s pretty much the driving force of much of my decision making in relation to my son so, er, again not the mother I thought I’d be.

I’ve also become one of those people who bang on about breastfeeding. For my son, it’s so, so much more than just about nutrition, it’s how I calm him, how I relax him, how I help him to go to sleep. It’s by far the most important tool in my parenting box. It’s hard. They don’t tell you that in NCT and they really should because then it wouldn’t be such a shock. But if you manage to make it work, it’s absolutely fabulous.

My son and I both had a tough birth and he was not a happy bunny for the first few weeks of his life. So I carried him around in a sling. Again, this was not at all part of my parenting philosophy but my goodness it worked. He slowly stopped being so anxious, he became calmer, he started to enjoy the world instead of sending out “I WANT TO GO BACK IN” vibes all the time. 

I think what’s hardest about being the type of mother I’ve turned out to be is that my type of mothering (I should say parenting as my husband is similar) is not the mainstream. Telling people that you bedshare with your baby gets a similar reaction to telling people you feed your baby crack. I’m one of only a small handful of mums who are still breastfeeding, and I’m aware that I’ll continue to be in the minority as we approach Bug’s first birthday as only 0.5% of UK mums continue feeding to this milestone. It can feel a bit lonely being the only one doing things a certain way. But I strongly believe that I’m parenting my baby in the way that he needs. As long as he’s happy, so am I. 

So, here we are: nine months in and I’m absolutely not the mother I thought I would be. But, actually, I quite like the one I’ve become.

My Petit Canard

Keanu at 11 weeks

My baby boy is now 11 weeks old. I’ve noticed that time doesn’t move quite like it used to. These 11 weeks have gone by in a second and yet I can’t quite remember life without the little one here. My Mum, who has been here for most of the past 11 weeks, has now gone home so I’m finally doing this parenting thing on my own. 

I’m getting the hang of things. Someone once told me the first six weeks are really hard and every day after that gets better. That’s definitely been my experience. Everything has become easier – I feel like I understand what KP wants now, I can distinguish between his different cries. He is sleeping better. Oh and the feeding. We are breastfeeding and it’s working and I feel confident doing it. But I’m now no longer surprised that breastfeeding numbers are low – because it’s HARD. Even when it’s easy, it’s hard. But that’s a blog post for another day.

How baby is doing

Keanu is now 66cm and a hefty 14.5lbs. He loves balloons and light fixtures and our red cushions. He loves having a bath but detests being made to get out. He can tantrum for Britain. He’s discovered he can suck his thumb and loves lavishing lots of attention on it. He likes sleeping on people. He hates having a wet nappy and will wriggle and complain until it’s replaced (and will usually immediately make the new one wet and/or dirty!). He loves to smile. He loves talking and making noises and blabbers away to himself for most of the day. Even if he is mid tantrum he will momentarily stop if you stand him up – he loves that sh*t.

In the past week, he has taken to rolling over onto his side. He now enjoys it when I blow raspberries on his tummy (this took him a while, the first few times earned me a confused stare). He also loves it when I snort at him.

He has his second round of jabs next week. Oh help.

How I’m doing

11 weeks post-partum sounds like quite a lot but I still don’t feel exactly “normal”. I’m 2 kilos over my pre-pregnancy weight but haven’t been actively trying to get back into shape. I have started Pilates but now need to find a baby friendly class as my babysitter (my mum) isn’t around. I’m planning to try and get out walking with him every day. 

I’ve realised how important and useful it is to have family and/or friends near you once you have kids. We aren’t, as a society, that well set up to help new mums because the reality is that it really does that a village to raise a child. And when your village is full of people who you only sort of recognise through bleary eyes on the 07:36 into London Waterloo then they aren’t going to be much help. Some people do still live near their friends and family but, in my experience, those people are the lucky exceptions, not the rule. I want to go back to work after my year of maternity leave is up but I want to leave my precious little bundle with people that love him and that I can trust. That’s hard. 

I’m very stressed right now because tomorrow there will be a referendum that could, if it goes the wrong way, forever change my relationship with this country that I love. I am both European and British and I want to remain that way. I want my son Keanu to grow up thinking big, thinking outward, thinking together and different is much better than similar and apart. 

The European Union (as it is now) was created as the most incredible peace project that this world has ever seen. After decades of tearing itself apart, this continent decided to become so economically interlinked that it could never go to war with itself again. The EU is not perfect, but its objective is something so wonderful and so pure, and even more relevant in this century of war, displacement and terrorism. For that alone, I’m voting In. If you have a vote, please make sure you cast it tomorrow. 

I have a baby boy!

Celebratory “I’ve been born!” fist pump 
It’s taken me a while to post on here because, in summary, birthing a baby is bloody hard and then looking after them is bloody hard. I’ll go into a bit more detail but right there is basically the conclusion of everything I’m about to say. Birth and babies are hard. The end (not really).

But first! Let me introduce my son, Keanu Phoenix. He was born on 4 April 2016 at 15:25 weighing 9 pounds and 9 ounces. The labour was tough and the birth itself was tougher still. It was a ventouse delivery, I lost 2.5 litres of blood, HB went down to 6 and I had a second degree tear. Despite the sound of all that, it was a positive experience. The midwives and obstetrician, who delivered Keanu (and told an exhausted me to “get angry and have a baby” – just what I needed to hear), were brilliant. They kept me informed, let me know what was happening and allowed me to feel in control. 

What happened during the three days after the birth was not positive. I was on the labour then the postnatal ward because of the tear and blood loss and, by the time I got home, my mental health had taken a battering. I’d slept a total of about four hours in the three days since the birth, I’d refused a blood transfusion just so I could get out of there and I had a human to look after. At some point I will write about my post- birth experience. But not now. It’s going to take me a while to process it.

Since then, however, things have been on the up. Keanu was a big boy when he came into this world and he’s continued to grow! He’s now 13lbs4 at 6 weeks and 3 days. He has started to smile and giggle and gaze at everything. He’s got a massive temper which is amusing. He really disliked having his nappy changed at first but has realised that it’s preferable process to lying in a wet one, so no longer screams the house down. He hates being cold but is getting used to having a bath (except the getting out bit but, let’s be honest, no one likes that). He is quite a good sleeper at night although likes to keep us on our toes so will sleep for five hours straight or decide that he OMG has to wake up at 4am and have a party. He likes eating. A lot. He also recently discovered his fist and gets confused between that and the boob quite a lot, which is very amusing – the only thing that can make me laugh at 4am.

Speaking of which, boob feeding is going quite well. For the first week, I was totally convinced I was doing it wrong because it HURT. “If it hurts you’re doing it wrong” was fairly well drummed into me at various breastfeeding classes. Bloody tosh. It hurt. But I was doing it right and, by the end of the second week, it had stopped hurting. 

We are now slowly getting into the rhythm of daily life. I thought I was prepared for a baby but I wasn’t. It’s far and away the craziest, most amazing, hardest, trippiest trip I’ve ever been on. 

And this is just the beginning.

When to go on maternity leave?


Maternity leave start dates – what a nightmare. How are you possibly meant to magically guess how you’re going to feel at the tail-end of your pregnancy and, therefore, when you’re going to feel is the ‘right’ time to start your maternity leave?! I understand that it’s hard for employers, who can’t just wait around for their pregnant staff to either come in or not come into work. But it’s hard for those pregnant staff too.

I had confidently decided to go on maternity leave at 38 weeks. I hadn’t given it a huge amount of thought but had decided that Bug was likely to be late (based on…nothing) and that at-least-two weeks was an adequate amount of time to get all the things ready.

I then had my routine 25 week doctor’s appointment and he raised his eyebrows at my 38 week idea. I have quite a long commute – 1hr10 door to door – including a 25 minute train, two short tube journeys and about a 20 minute walk. He felt I might struggle.

Sooo, back to the drawing board. I’m now unsure whether to go for 22 February, when I’ll be 36 weeks, or 29 February, when I’ll be 37. It’s only a week but I have a feeling that a week at that size/point in pregnancy could feel like a lifetime.

The other factor is that we are considering getting our kitchen redone. The current one was put in when the house was built in the 80s and it’s naff and old. We had thought to get it replaced in a year but, actually, it makes more sense to do it before Bug joins us. If so, our timeline could be to get it done during the last week of February and, if I was already on mat leave by then, I could do a sort of faux project management/sitting around the house job. I think I could be quite good at that. Organising while watching daytime TV.

I am planning to take a year so I feel really lucky in that respect, but I don’t want to squander any of it, y’know? Decisions, decisions.