Gosh it’s been a while

Eight months without a blog post? Bet you thought i’d abandoned the whole thing didn’t you? Well, to be fair I had really. I ran out of things to say that didn’t feel pretty boring for anyone other than myself. I lost interest in thinking of entertaining or topical things to think about and generally though “what is the point?”
So my blog has just languished unloved in the unexplored backwaters of the web with not a single visitor to say hello. Not even me. Poor blog. I hope you feel sorry for it and want to give it a big hug to cheer it up. What an irresponsible blog owner I am. Remember folks, a blog is for life, not just for Christmas!
I won’t bore you with a massive list of everything I’ve been up to in the last 8 months. But I am back for a while. I’ve started to get some new ideas for things I want to talk about. Not just parenting related, but definitely me related. So I will use my poor, unloved blog platform to get those thoughts onto the page. More soon (I promise). x

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Mummy crisis

I have been having a mummy crisis this week.

Nothing has actually gone wrong, I’ve just been stressing about lots of bits and pieces and whether I’m doing the right thing or enough of the right thing.

It started last Saturday with a family meal out. We were discussing teething and the fact that Penny has been seemingly teething non-stop for the past three weeks or so. She doesn’t show huge amounts of symptoms. There is not really any significant dribbling and she is a bit snotty but her nose isn’t constantly running (although please don’t talk to me about bogies). But 16 months of being her mum has meant I just know when she has sore gums. It makes her really clingy, restless and unhappy and affects her sleep. Teething powders possibly give a bit of short term relief (although I think it may have more to do with the dummy I put them on to get them in her mouth), but really the only things that seem to offer any real relief for her are paracetamol and ibuprofen. It seems that she has had at least one dose of one or the other most days since this bout of teething started and when I mentioned this I got a reaction of disapproval. Cue days of guilt and self criticism. I have tried to avoid giving her any since but a couple of times over the last two days she has been really uncomfortable again, and when it’s stopping her from sleeping I don’t know what else to do. I have been reassuring myself that if they could do any harm in the doses I have been giving her they wouldn’t be licenced for toddlers, and it’s better than putting whisky on her gums like people used to do.

Then on Monday I faced the realisation and disappointment that a beloved weekly activity will no longer be part of our routine. We have been going to a weekly ‘bounce and rhyme’ session at a local library for the best part of a year. It has been great fun and I’ve learnt lots of new action songs which we also now sing at home. Sadly, local government cutbacks meant that they combined two groups into one, and it has just got busier and busier to the point where it is ridiculous and no longer enjoyable. A library boss spoke at the session this week to say that they knew there were too many people and it was a safety hazard (in fact there were twice as many people as there should be) but they did not have a solution. I made the decision that it just wasn’t enjoyable any more and we would no longer go. But I then felt bad that I’m not socialising her enough. She goes to one other weekly class, but that’s it for regularly meeting other children compared to children who go to nursery and play with other children every day. I plan to take her to Tumbletots soon (once she eventually starts walking), but in the mean time I will have to think about what else I can take her to to get her playing with other children.

My third crisis was actually prompted by something good. As my husband and I are both musical we thoroughly expect Penny to show some enthusiasm for music. But we have both found it exciting that she is now attempting to copy tunes and rhythms. She sings along with the tittifers on In The Night Garden and has started singing lines of the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star back at me. I started researching how to nurture musical talent at an early age and came across this great article. But I’m struggling to find live music to take her to during the day even though I live within easy access of two cities. I know that in reality she is getting plenty of exposure to music and I don’t need to sit her in front of an orchestra before the age of 18 months or I’ve wasted her potential talent! But it left my brain racing about all the experiences I could be introducing her to and haven’t done yet.

All in all these things have left my mind racing and given me terrible insomnia, which doesn’t help me in my attempts to become my idea of a ‘perfect’ mum. Nobody said being a mum was easy, and I know that really I am doing my best as I muddle along. But I do wish I could do better AND be much more relaxed about the whole thing!

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It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything here. For some time I wasn’t sure if I would again or whether to scrap the whole thing. I started this blog with lots to say and big ambitions. I have come across loads of mummy blogs and knew I could write just as well. I wanted to share my overwhelming enthusiasm for new mumhood with the world and stand on my soapbox about a good few things too. I confess I also had dreams of it taking off. I pictured myself as a successful career blogger with posts that went viral, spin off e-books, companies flooding me with fab things to review, minor celebrity status and the BBC asking me to be in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing! Ok, so I like to fantasize! After the initial enthusiasm, self doubt set in. I started wondering if anybody was actually interested at all and ever would be. I delighted when I looked at my stats (for the third time that day) and saw my posts had been viewed. But knew really that it was just friends and family, probably to be polite. Was my blog the equivalent of forcing people to sit through 5 rolls of holiday snaps (“this is me on the beach, this is a view from the hotel, this is another view from the hotel, this is a nice couple we met over a sangria and it turns out they used to live just down the road”)?
So I stopped writing. I couldn’t think of what to write about, and when I did think of something I doubted anybody was interested. And time has ticked on.
But I`m feeling the urge to write again. It would be nice if people do want to read it, but I`m not going to pressure anybody into it and I will resist the urge to base my enjoyment of writing on the stats. 2015 is the year of breaking some habits and forging others, so I intend to get into the habit of writing again. Even if it’s only small posts, even if they are really boring, I will write them anyway if I want to and people can read them if they want to.
Oh, and BBC if you are reading this, can I have Robin as my dance partner please?

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Fascinating times

I used to love wearing hats. As a teenager I often topped my outfit with one. My favourite being a gorgeous black trilby which I gained when someone left it (brand new) in the shop I had a Saturday job in, and never came back to claim it. But in recent years I’ve stopped wearing them. I think it tied in with me gaining weight and not wanting to stand out from the crowd.

I have found myself thinking about hats a fair bit though over the past few months. I was determined to wear one to my brother’s wedding, and found a great one in a charity shop for £10.

The hat I wore to my brother's wedding.

The hat I wore to my brother’s wedding.

I’ve also been thinking about making hats. I started imagining myself as a milliner. “How hard could it be?” I thought. So I started browsing the internet for classes. I soon discovered that it’s a far broader skill than I thought. Every different material has different techniques involved. ‘Blocking’ hats is not a cheap hobby, as every different shape and size needs a different block, and they are not cheap. I still liked the sound of it though, so when I came across a 1 day class to make a fascinator I begged my husband to look after Penny for the day and let me go. He was surprisingly amenable (possibly because I’d just let him spend £300 on a new keyboard).

So on Saturday I left Penny in daddy’s capable hands, along with a list of instructions of food, naps etc. Off I went to Abakhan Fabrics in Mostyn for the ‘Fascinator in a day’ workshop. I was excited about having a day off from being a mum, but a bit nervous too. Would I be rubbish at it? Would everyone else there know each other and I’d be Billy-no-mates. I needn’t have worried. It was just a small group (8 of us) and most were on their own so everyone was very friendly. The instructor showed us some examples of her work and taught us about sinamay, a fabric I had seen before but never knew what it was called or how to use it. Over the course of the day we learned how to cut and shape sinamay to decorate a fascinator (or hatinator technically) and do a few finishing touches.

I admit I had expected to learn more techniques over the course of the day, but as it was I was rushed to finish just the things we did learn. In fact I didn’t have time to add a birdcage veil on the day, but the instructor told me how to do it and I was able to finish off at home. I did find it very enjoyable though and I now have the skills and the confidence to learn and practice more at home. I definitely haven’t been put off and I am already looking at further classes to learn more hat making skills (although it will be a while before I have the time or money to go). In the mean time I’ll just have to get really good at fascinators and then find some places to wear them!

The finished fascinator.

The finished fascinator.

Top view.

Top view.

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Photo of the week – Dragonfly

Dragonfly at RSPB BurtonWe didn’t feel up to much yesterday as all three of us have colds. But we wanted to get out somewhere and make the most of the sunshine. So we popped down to our local RSPB reserve in Burton. As well as the birds, there were loads of dragonflies of all different colours flitting around, and I managed to get a few photos of this one when it settled for a minute.

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Photo a Day July: One month on

Every day throughout July I posted a new photo I had taken saying something about my day. I have had a DSLR camera for some time. I don’t use it enough, I don’t know how most of the features on it work, and I don’t know much about photography. My plan was that over the course of the month I would learn new skills and get into the habit of using the camera a lot more.

One month on, I thought it was time I reflected on the project.

Firstly I’m proud of myself for completing the challenge. I did not miss a single day. There were days when nothing interesting had happened, there were days when I was tired and feeling grumpy, there were days when I did great things but forgot to take the camera. But every day I made sure I photographed and posted something. Even if it was just my pizza!

Not my most exciting photo!

Not my most exciting photo!

I did learn how to do some new things with the camera. I learned how to use different lenses for different effects and I learned to use manual focus to capture things that the auto-focus couldn’t cope with. I learned a few things about composition, and while I didn’t get to grips with it, I started to understand more about exposure. I got several books out of the library (and read them) and I have tracked down an ‘extended’ manual for my camera so I can learn more about the different settings (although I need to set aside some time to read and then try them out before I forget what I’ve read).

I only managed to get this photo by using manual focus. The auto-focus kept focusing on the leaves.

What I also gained from the exercise was the realisation that it doesn’t need to take two hours to write a blog post. I tend to get tied in knots when I’m writing, over-analysing every word and taking a long time to get anywhere. I have now learned that I can write something decent in just a few minutes with the right inspiration. Being limited for time needn’t prevent me from blogging.

Finally, I gained a positive response. It’s rewarding to know that people enjoyed looking at the photos I posted. I’m very grateful for my collection of friends who faithfully click on every new blog post I stick on Facebook, no matter how boring (thanks friends – you know who you are). But it’s also fantastic when people I don’t know look at my blog. I have received positive feedback and new followers from quite a few people I have never met. I feel popular!

One of my favourite photos also got a lot of positive response from people I don't know.

One of my favourite photos also got a lot of positive response from people I don’t know.

The only problem now is that my challenge’s legacy has been a bit limited. From using the camera every day in July, I have probably used it about once a week this month. It’s bulk has meant I have left it at home on most of my outings, and I have been forgetting to get it out and snap away at home to record every little adorable new thing Penny does. I have taken quite a few snaps on my phone, but the quality just isn’t the same. If I am to get a lasting legacy from my July photo challenge I need to set myself a new challenge. A photo a day would be a bit hard to stick to for any period of time. So I have decided that from now on I will post at least one photo a week taken with my proper camera. I’m sure many will still be proud mother photos of her little girl, but I will continue to try to keep it varied. I’ll see if I can learn a few more skills along the way too.

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Is Breast Always Best?

I have been intending to write this post for some time. For a while I was too worried that people would disagree and I would get upsetting comments (I’m a sensitive soul). But I now think what the hell, this needs to be said. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this, but it doesn’t really get spoken about and that is the problem.

So here’s the thing. I don’t think breastfeeding is always best.

I can hear the sharp intakes of breath from here. So let me explain myself. I don’t mean that breastmilk isn’t the best milk you can feed a baby. That is undebatable. What I mean is that when a new child comes into the world there is more than just nutrition to consider.

Perhaps it would help at this stage to explain my personal experience.

When I was pregnant I was certain I was going to breastfeed. I wouldn’t say that the books made it sound easy, but they did make it sound achievable for all. In other words, any problems that were encountered could be overcome by taking certain steps. At my antenatal appointments I was asked if I planned to breastfeed, and when I said “yes” a box was ticked and nothing more was said. When my husband and I went to our antenatal classes breastfeeding was covered, but bottle feeding was only touched on with words to the effect of “we won’t be covering bottle feeding, but if you plan to bottle feed you can talk to us afterwards”. I wasn’t planning to bottle feed so I didn’t have that chat.

My plans started to fall apart at the labour. Instead of the low-intervention water birth I had planned I ended up having a highly medicalised labour including the full cocktail of drugs. By the time my perfect little girl arrived I was uncontrollably shaking (and throwing up as a result of one of the post birth injections) and couldn’t hold her for more than a few seconds for fear of dropping her.

In the blur of the next few hours I can’t remember exactly how soon I first tried breastfeeding, or how successful the first attempt was. But I can say that over the following two days in hospital I really struggled to get Penny to latch on, and for her to stay latched on once she was in position. The overstretched midwives helped as best they could. She was cup fed donated breast milk several times and I was shown how to express colostrum into a syringe so I could feed her that. I was also helped by a fantastic breast-feeding consultant who taught me some different positions that worked a couple of times. By the time I left hospital I felt I was over the worst and feeding would now gradually get easier and easier.

But it didn’t.

Once I was home the same problems returned. No matter what I tried I could not keep her latched on. I was helped by the vising midwife and a breast feeding volunteer. According to the midwife she was getting some milk, but I could tell she was not a content baby. By the time Penny was a week old every breastfeeding session would get her extremely upset. I think she was frustrated because she couldn’t get latched on. I’m not talking a little cry here, I’m talking major newborn screaming. This would happen the moment we started trying, so in her worked up state she was even less likely to latch on. I was also getting very upset by all this. I just wanted to give my baby what she wanted. Why wasn’t it working?

From a few days in we considered trying a bottle feed. Just to fill her up and calm her down so we could have a less agitated fresh start at breast feeding. But I’d read that mixed feeding was a bad idea because the bottle teat would make it less likely the baby could latch onto the breast successfully. In addition, I felt I would be failing my baby in giving her formula milk. Formula milk was BAD!

On day nine, utterly exhausted mentally and physically, deep in baby blues and concerned it was going to turn into post-natal depression, and having made no progress in breastfeeding, my husband went and bought a tub of baby formula. We intended just to ‘give it a go’, and potentially mixed feed for a while. The instant difference was astounding. Whereas Penny had struggled for over a week to get any consistent latch on me, she took to the bottle instantly. Suddenly I had a contented baby. An air of calm descended over mother and baby as she lay in my arms gazing up at me and I bottle fed her. Wasn’t this what breastfeeding was meant to be like? By day ten I had abandoned breastfeeding altogether and Penny became a bottle fed baby.

But here is my point. At no point, either before the birth or during those ten days, did anyone attempt to prepare me for the possibility that breast feeding just might not work out. Not a single official source said to me that bottle feeding was ok. In my exhausted state I felt like a failure. I felt guilty. I felt like a bad mum. I was scared of telling my visiting midwife as I thought I would be told off. As it was, she was great. She was really supportive and gave me lots of advice. Gradually I overcame my guilt and realised that bottle feeding is fine. My little girl is thriving and happy, my baby blues passed and I haven’t regretted my decision once.

Every mum’s experience will be slightly different, but I know from my limited research that my experience is in no way unique. It seems that in its efforts to promote breastfeeding and reach certain targets, the NHS is neglecting this simple fact that it doesn’t work for everyone. I am not anti-breastfeeding, I am simply pro-choice. A mother cannot make a free choice when they are not fully informed. There are laws in place to prevent the advertising of baby formula and I do not disagree with this. But preventing NHS staff from discussing all the feeding options with expectant and new mums in a balanced, unbiased way is not beneficial to mothers or babies.

Surely it wouldn’t be too hard to get the balance right?

Just to show I am not alone I have included these links if you wish to read further;

When breastfeeding just isn’t going to happen

Fearless formula feeders

Breastfeeding versus baby formula is not an either or debate

Is breastfeeding inability causing depression?



I am neither a health professional nor connected in any way to either the NHS or companies that profit from bottle feeding. What is written above is purely my opinion based on my experience. I would encourage any expectant or new mother considering how to feed their baby to carry out their own research before making a decision.


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Rest In Peace Robin Williams

I woke up the sad news that Robin Williams had died from apparent suicide. Deaths of celebrities make the news on a fairly regular basis. Millions more, unknown except to their friends and families are mourned evey day. Yet I found myself surprisingly moved by the news. I found him entertaining, yes, in fact Disney’s Aladdin in one of my favourite films and he steals the show in it. But I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan. I knew little, if anything, about him as a person and I, like I’m sure many, had no idea he suffered from depression. I think this is what got me this morning. Having suffered from depression myself, I am familiar with the feeling of complete helplessnes and lack of ability to function as a human being. I am fortunate enough that I have never seriously contemplated suicide, but I know that feeling is common among fellow sufferers. It seems ironic that someone who made so many people smile, apparently felt like that. I am not religious these days. But I hope, if there is some consciousness somewhere out there that is/was Robin Williams, that he is at peace.

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Photo a Day July: Day 31 – Play

Penny in the playbarnThis afternoon we went the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm. Partly for the absolutely yummy ice cream (I had a very nice scoop of Banoffee) and partly for the fab toddler soft play area. The last time I took Penny there she had just learnt to crawl and it was fun, but a bit overwhelming for her. Today there was no stopping her. She was straight after the escaped balls from the ball pool and up against the mirror, waving at herself. We even got her to climb up the set of steps by putting a ball at the top. I thought we had worn her out completely, but apparently we also overexcited her because she was over an hour late to settle to sleep this evening. Grrr.

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Photo a Day July: Day 30 – Walking

Penny with her walkerPenny took her first step with a walker at the weekend. Today she decided one step wasn’t enough and made it across the room. She has also learnt to wave today. I think she’s showing off for Grandma!

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