Category Archives: breasts

The night is dark and full of nappies…

Seven weeks on, and there are so many things I could say about having a second child. I’ve drafted and re-drafted this blog post over the last few weeks and every time it’s run three or four pages long… What is the most important thing to talk about? The difficulties? The exhaustion? The new struggle of getting two little ones out of the door on time in the mornings? The unprecedented joys and crushing lows? It’s all there. It’s all relevant. But, for me, I guess the most significant revelation since the big arrival of number two is how much of the following I didn’t know, realise or had simply just forgotten…

  • Labour fucking hurts. I knew this the first time around. Then when Lara got to about 18 months old those sneaky, broody hormones snuck in and slowly wiped out the memories of the screaming-bad contractions, the long hours of pain so extreme I could not bear to stay still. It wasn’t that bad, I thought, It can’t have been that bad if I’m willing to do it again… Seven and a half weeks ago it occurred to me – with crashing immediacy – just how very much I had forgotten how very bad it had been. And although my labour this time around was a lot less traumatic because it wasn’t so long and there weren’t the complications or interventions of the first time around, it still really fucking hurt.
  • On TV a woman will give birth (after about 13 seconds of pushing and not nearly enough mooing) and out pops a squeaky clean, wide-eyed, cooing six-week-old giant. Real newborns do not look like this. My firstborn looked like a small, red, angry little frog when she was born. My second-born resembled a puce, incandescently furious old man complete with nose furrow and milk spots. I say this with all the love in the world – beauty comes later. Eyelashes form, the eyes open properly and then they start to fill out in all their cute, squishy glory. It’s all a work in process…
    newborn annabelle

    Five minutes old and raging…

    week 1 annabelle

    By day six things had improved significantly…

    cute-annabelle-e1503414557935.jpg

    By week three we had reached cute town

  • Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. With baby one we settled into a fairly consistent routine of three hourly wakings and feedings from day one. Baby two had her days and nights the wrong way round for at least the first week, meaning she was up sometimes every 40 minutes at night. Some people can function well with as little as three or four hours of fractured sleep at night. I am not one of those people. In my working days I’d be sluggish if I got less than seven. It’s not just a case of being tired; it’s feeling that soul-sapping exhaustion that sinks through your limbs and into your core, making everything so heavy, so dull and sad that you struggle to see the good bits of the day. Fortunately, with number two I knew – know – it won’t last for long in the grand scheme of things. Just knowing that makes all the difference.
  • Having 13 months of breastfeeding experience does not a breeze feeding number two make. Sure, she got the hang of it faster than Lara did – 10 minutes after birth as opposed to two days – but the exhaustion of trying to feed any which way I could in the first few nights lead to a poor latch, which resulted in a cracked nipple. A graze on one of the body’s most sensitive parts which was then relentlessly agitated by a baby’s mouth every hour or so did not make for a quick, easy healing process. But, barring that little complication, breastfeeding has been easier, on the whole, this time around. There haven’t been any bruises or stretch-marks. Expressing is easier. Supply is better. The process is altogether much quicker far earlier on. It’s like my boobs have settled, with not so much joy as resignation, back into their former roles.

    bfeeding

    No one will ever stare at your boobs with the same intense adoration as a breastfeeding infant. The feeling will not be reciprocated.

  • Small babies are not always consistent. Some nights she will sleep up to 6 hours in one go and not need a nappy change at all. Other nights we’re up every 2-3, nappy bulging, smells emanating. It’s a nocturnal, foul-smelling, eye-rubbing adventure.
  • The jiggly-shuffle. It still works on the evening grumps, although now it hurts my back. This baby is slightly larger than my last one, I’m *sure* that’s all it is.
  • Times can be dark. There are some days – especially in the first week – when people say “congratulations” and a part of you thinks “why?” On the flip-side, there are other days when you want to stop life just as it is because you can’t imagine it getting any better. The lows may be unprecedented, but so are the joys. Watching my firstborn flourish into her new role as big sister. Receiving those first gummy smiles. Having my nappy changing technique described as “like those pitstop trucks in Cars.
    It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s flabby. It’s new. It’s unprecedented, in wonderful ways. It’s Annabelle. She’s here.

     

    annabelle smile

    I woke up FIVE times last night!

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How to do a wedding with a toddler

Last weekend we attended the wedding of my other half’s stepbrother. Having attended a wedding-like event (a party for a certain big birthday of my mum and her best friend) with Lara back in June, we already had a few ideas on what not to do. The main one being the futile attempt to get Lara to sleep by walking her up and down in the buggy while infinitely more exciting things occurred in the party of which we all then, inevitably, missed the majority. I’m pleased to report the family wedding went without MUCH of a hitch, aside from the getting of which for the lovely James and Emma, and the unfortunate decision to let me supervise our five-year-old niece with a video camera (she only dropped it once. And proceeded to shoot the rest of the vow-taking upside down. Which I noticed REALLY QUICKLY. 45 seconds, tops.) So I thought I’d compile a (hopefully) useful list of tips for any other toddler-shackled party goers.

PREPARATION STAGE

  1. Probably best to get all mobile offspring ready before you. Otherwise you run the risk of tripping over the hem of your maxi dress (currently bagging around your waist due to the swift abandonment of the search for your most non-painful-yet-asset-boosting bra) as you chase your giggling, bare-bottomed child around the house. Although remember not to get them ready TOO soon, otherwise you run the risk of the cute outfit you’ve spent weeks imagining them looking SO gorgeous in getting covered in Weetabix. Or worse. Which brings us on to number 2:
  2. Make sure you take a photo of them in said cute outfit WITHIN TEN SECONDS OF PUTTING IT ON THEM. Especially if you have a little girl with an aversion to any kind of hair style and all un-rubberized footwear.

    She has honest-to-god ribbons in her hair. Ribbons.

    She has honest-to-god ribbons in her hair. Ribbons.

RIBBONS, though

RIBBONS, though.

THE CEREMONY

  1. Right, so you’ve made it to the venue, bra is doing what it’s supposed to, obligatory excruciating shoes are firmly on feet, adorable pigtails have long since been disgustedly pulled from child’s hair but their dress is still mercifully ungrubby. Now comes the most testing time of the child attendee’s patience. All I can say is make sure you bring plenty of un-noisy toys that won’t ruin the derriere of your outfit if you accidentally sit on them – books, stickers, magnets, teddies, poky-limbed dolls… Pretty much anything, but NOT play-doh. WOE BETIDE YOUR DAYGLO-COLOURED BOTTOM IF YOU BRING PLAY-DOH. We also loaded a tablet with Peppa Pig and Pixar and let her watch it on silent, which she did, not entirely silently. If all else fails, make sure you sit next to an outer aisle which will make you feel all Mi5 if you have to do the duck, scoop and bail.
  1. If the venue has a bar, make use of this before the ceremony. Children pick up on stress. Children pick up on calm. Particularly the calm of the parent who has just demolished their entire designated driver alcohol limit in one fell glug.

    Peppa PIg. Truly you earned the hours I've spent slaving over your cakey effigy.

    Peppa Pig. Truly you earned the hours I spent slaving over your cakey effigy.

FOOD

  1. Often, if they have invited a few young children, the bride and groom will bear this in mind when planning the meal. Ours provided fantastic little activity packs for each child and, as a result, what could have been a fiesta of whines, food-throwing, dress-staining and general misery of the type to send any designated driver straight into the arms of an open bar, was avoided. Yes, the corner of our table looked like a small bomb had hit a toy shop via the food court by the end of the meal. Yes, there were a few pouts and arguments between cousins about whose toy was whose. Yes, at one point I did have bubble mixture poured over my arm and spent the rest of the evening watching people wrinkle their nose in confusion at my vaguely chemical scent. But, all things considered, everything went extremely smoothly during dinner and the speeches.

    Our bride and groom provided this amazing activity pack for each child. Along with the occasional help of Mr Tablet, Lara was occupied throughout the whole meal!

    Our bride and groom provided an amazing activity pack for each child. Along with the occasional help of Mr Tablet, Lara was occupied throughout the whole meal!

AFTER FOOD

  1. For me, this was the most challenging time. Not just because it was now a good hour after Lara’s bedtime and my control pants were navigating ever further north, it was also around this time we suffered an unfortunate nappy incident, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a good ten months or so. Which brings me to emphasize: BRING SPARE CLOTHES. Kids sample all sorts of food they might not be used to at a wedding. Some handle it fine. Some have explosive diarrhoea.
  1. Find a place for your child to run around. After said incident of indigestion, I felt like we might be heading for a swift departure. Lara also happened to be in the snotty, unreasonable stage of getting a cold and I was by no means unconvinced that another incident of bowel excitement was on the cards. Fortunately, once we went outside and she discovered a little boy of her age to chase, all misery was soon forgotten and a good amount of energy was burned.

DISCO

  1. Having thought at around 8pm that we might have to call it a night by 9, I’m pleased to say we actually didn’t leave until well after 10.30pm. This is because, in no small part, to Lara’s discovery of the dance floor and the gaining of her third wind. As previously mentioned, we’d already experienced the option of trying to get her to sleep at this stage of an event and failed, so this time we decided to let her go for it, have a dance and pass out as and when she herself saw fit. And she had a riot. Actually, we all did. After all, it’s not every night you get to do the macarena in all your finery while your two-year-old clings to your hip and occasionally bats at you, uttering: “Mummy!” in a fairly appalled tone of voice.

Ode to my breasts, as we finish breastfeeding

Do you remember the time we gave the postman a fright?
We came to the door without doing our top up quite right…
And the time you sprang a leak in the parents room of John Lewis
Who’d have thought being a foodstuff would do these things to us?
Your modesty (and mine) have been well and truly defamed,
And I’m sorry, but your buoyancy will never be the same.

At the beginning, things certainly did look a bit bleak,
We weren’t sure we would make it past the first week.
But then we all got the hang of this breastfeeding game,
The baby gained pounds, though you felt aflame
With pain and colours vividly purple and red,
And you came to view the baby’s mouth with dread.
But slowly you got used to this strange new violation
(Thanks, in part, to a lanolin cream salvation)

The weeks rolled on and the pain subsided,
Into resigned numbness you happy resided.
The bruises and purple-struck nipples slowly faded
And though we had the odd hiccup when you got blockaded,
Nothing really went wrong once we got used to the sensation
Of needing milking, like cattle, on regular occasion.

Oh breasts, I’ve treated you ways you never dreamed of before,
Exposed you to strangers and grandparents in law.
I’ve even fondled you in public to see which is more full,
And written about you on the internet in rhyme – deplorable!

There isn’t a single word of appropriate ilk
To describe these thirteen months of expressing milk…
Painful, blissful, wonderful, worrisome,
Exhausting, uplifting, irritating – but awesome.
This is the most important job you’ll ever do
Yet at times it was a chore I thought we’d never get through.

But to the ignorant naysayers who say breastfeeding is vile
I feel sorry for you. You will never know that smile
When your baby breaks away to beam up at you above,
Surely there isn’t a more pure expression of love?

But enough of this sap, all I really wanted to say
Was that I’m sorry but glad I can finally put you away.
Not just the baby’s, you’ve also benefitted my health,
A job damn well done, if I do say so myself.

Dear breasts, you can rest now, your work here is done
Well at least [she whispers] till I have the next one…

IMG_1229


Mastering the Jigglyshuffle: Tips for Mums who Move (but don’t necessarily have any)

Exercising. It ain’t for every mother, but for those who’re game, there opens a new and unchartered territory of mammory-related injury, ever-craftier ways of keeping offspring from hurling themselves head-first onto a gym floor and – no way of dressing it up really – our old friend, occasional incontinence. I’m not an expert, but I would count myself as a fairly regular exerciser – I attend an excellent buggy spin class a couple of times a week, held by a friend from antenatal class, I walk with the buggy whenever I can (ie, whenever she needs a nap) and I recently completed the 5k Race for Life. Note the choice of word ‘completed’ rather than anything implying speed, prowess or grace. All I can say is that it was the first time I had attempted running with a buggy and though I take great pride in saying we were the first pushchair over the finish line, I must also admit that there were only about 5 or 6 buggies involved in the race… Anyway, more on that later, for now here are some tips/ pitfalls I have encountered along the bumpy, lumpy and leaky road of exercise for the postnatal and past caring:

  • Always use the toilet before embarking on any form of physical exertion otherwise your bladder will Rise Up and Sabotage You in a Manner Most Foul and Yellow. As mentioned in a previous post, the postpartum exerciser runs the risk of overly straining [what remains of] their pelvic floor. Although this does improve with time, that nagging, creeping squeam of bladder-fulldom (I could describe needing the toilet forever if I could; I even wrote a poem about it once) will indubitably make itself known approximately two minutes into any cardio activity in which said exerciser is partaking. At this point you are faced with a choice of three possible courses of action:
  1. Excuse yourself and find the nearest facility/suitable receptacle – be it a gym toilet, a sturdy looking bush or a nearby member of the UKIP party.
  2. Ride out the discomfort until it gradually disappears altogether, thus exposing your bladder as the treacherous, fat-loving fiend it is.
  3. In true, hardcore-mother style, complete your work out with the added onus of a sloshingly full bladder*… The downside of this option is, of course, the inevitable jigglyshuffle awkward-itch-around-your-lady-parts side effect which may befall your stride. But, on the plus side, you can pretend to be a horse when you finally get to deliver that wee of champions at the end of it.
    *Truly committed followers of this discipline may want to incorporate an aspect of the jigglyshuffle into their everyday walk, so that if someone you know happens to see you out jogging, they won’t immediately assume you’ve been caught short or have an unfortunately timed lady garden itch, they’ll merely clock it up to your fantastically individual gait.
  • Disaster bears mammory glands. Blokes, unless you are of a jolly size, will not be able to relate to the phenomena that is the shift in boob size during and after pregnancy. Especially if you’ve gone from a modest B/C cup to a bouncing pair of DDs and beyond. And in case those words conjure too happy a place for you, let me throw in a few more. Chafing. Sloshing. Leaking. Free movement with the momentum of two wrestling bowling balls. Never, ever can it be expressed more empathically than now to Get Them In A Sports Bra. Even if you are breastfeeding, like me, and have stupidly sensitive boobs, like me, which are prone to throwing painful blocked ducts if they find themselves ensconced in anything but the most loose, unsupportive nursing bra for more than three hours at a time. Wearing a sports bra for an hour or two is not going to do any harm. The alternative? Best case scenario, the jiggling will distract you from completing a good workout. Worst case scenario: double black eyes and facing the hereafter searching for your boobs under each arm.

Which brings us on to…

  • Injuries, both real and fantasy. By real, I mean broken ankle, ruptured stitches, and extreme exhaustion/nausea/pain which overcomes all gung ho attempts to convince yourself this is all good fun really. If this is you, chill the hell out for at least a few weeks and let yourself recover. Motherhood is hard enough.
    Then there are the fantasy injuries – a strange development I encountered around 400 metres after I decided to start running during last week’s RfL. Incongruously, I found myself inner monologuing along the lines of “Is my heart supposed to sound like this? Uh oh, I’m getting chest pains… Ooh, that ice cream looks good… Oof, this is really starting to hurt in the middle now… yeah, just around my c-section scar… or maybe it’s just a stitch… I’d forgotten how much stitches hurt… maybe not hurt so much as jiggle uncomfortably… and maybe not so much c-section as the loose ‘mummy apron’ of wobbles…” and so forth. Incidentally, I had stopped running around the time of the c-section scar revelation. Not that I ever actually had a c-section.
  • The Importance of Being Yelled At. This revelation came during the aforementioned incidents of (fake)injury, which, combined with hotness and just plain whybother-itis, meant that at momentary intervals along the 5k track I would just stop running. God knows how I used to run 10k and more. In buggy spin, I am routinely yelled at, 9 times out of 10 because of my habitually slow legs. They can’t help it – they are slightly shorter than average and therefore make up lack of height with an excess of girth which means they a) never look good in shorts, b) resemble boiled hams* and c) find physical exertion a torment. But being routinely yelled at does at least help spur them on, marginally. Anything to further their progress away from ham-dom.
    *Other Half: ‘Why hams?’ Me: ‘Because they are big and pink.’ OH: ‘Don’t be silly. They’re not pink, they’re white’
  • 30 Days of Toning Exercises From Hell with the One Saving Grace of Making Your Child Think You’ve Gone Totally Mental. I’ve never been able to do a sit up. From being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style as a member of the 200 Squadron Air Cadets at age 14, to being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style, during mummy circuit class at age 27, I just can’t do it. My tummy ain’t got the muscle. But I attempt them, risking toenails, flatulence and dignity. And, though I’ve never been able to see an abdominal muscle on my body (I secretly don’t think I have any) I did discover a unexpected perk the other day.

And yes, that’s Chalet Girl paused on the TV in the background. I partially blame Felicity Jones’ stupid hot tub scene where she flashes in all her bony glory, for this particular misdemeanour.

So there you are – the evolution of my former self’s take on Running in the Park and Goodness or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it is a bit more cynical, and perhaps the narrative is a bit more scattered (I’ve been drafting this post over several days due to Lara’s newfound disinclination to sleep in in the mornings and the dropping of one of her daytime naps) but hopefully it gives some small, discordant nuggets of advice for mums who exercise… Even if we have become the very creatures once bemoaned on this very blog vessel. What did I know anyway? Stupid size 8 bitch.


Nothing silences a bar quite like a good episiotomy story

It’s amazing how uninhibitedly candid having a baby will make the most inhibited and… can-didn’t… of people. Before the days of labour (yes, days. Sorry ladies), breasts liberated and leaking in the middle of Nero’s and very loud conversations about episiotomies in very quiet bars, I was such a person. I was about as keen for the world to see what was under my dress as the world was to see what was under Maggie Smith’s habit in Sister Act. I didn’t wear crop tops (which I and my mummy tummy now wholeheartedly regret) ‘topless’, to me, meant a wine bottle with the cork pulled out, and when faced with the daunting prospect of a communal changing room, I was the one hopping around under a towel tent, Miranda Hart style.

Pregnancy didn’t change matters much. If anything, I was more self-conscious than ever, what with the bowling-ball-cum-beachball belly and the bin bag clothes. During the last few months the temperature reached insane heights. I would get home from work, peel myself out of whatever bin bag creation I had poured myself into 12 hours earlier and shuck on a pair of my other half’s boxers along with mansize t-shirt from gigs I had gone to in my lighter years (knew they’d come in handy), before raiding the freezer for ice cream. But I never once slept without PJs.

It’s not that I have a problem with other people being nude. If you’ve got it and love it, wear what you want – or don’t, as the case may be. It’s just that when it comes to the question of me baring all I get extremely British. I don’t know where it comes from – my dad was American, my mum, although British, shares genes with a naturist resort frequentee.

It was around 8am on Tuesday, September 24th when I lost my sense of modesty. When the only thing standing between you (plus 26 hours of labour already clocked up) and a shot of pethidine is an examination down below, I defy anyone to open their legs slower than a reverse bear trap. From then on, it only got worse. Not to go into too much detail (I am, however desensitized, still British after all) but let’s just say the baby wasn’t the only one in her birthday suit once she finally deigned to make her appearance.

Seven months later and I’ve found myself baring my top half to all and sundry – from grandparents-in-law to hapless waiting staff, work colleagues and one extremely terrified postal worker (forgot. Thought it was just a breezy day.) Not only that, I’ve had discussions with friends, family and, yes, total strangers about nipples, poo, sick, pelvic floors, and – mother of all silence generators – episiotomies. Once I was discussing how breastfeeding gets so much simpler with another mum I’d just met in the John Lewis parents’ room when my baby abruptly detached herself – to check that the wall opposite was in fact still a wall and hadn’t transformed itself into an even bigger boobie whilst her attention had been elsewhere, one can only presume – leaving me hanging and literally, er, dripping in irony. Far from being mortified, we had a laugh about it.

I suppose it’s all part of that thing where you have a child and realise that there are much bigger things to prioritise over people desperately trying to look anywhere other than at your naked breast. Like your child’s most basic need for food, for example. But don’t get me wrong – just because a few dozen more people have seen my breasts now than this time last year, it hasn’t turned me into any kind of exhibitionist. Though it might sometimes seem like it to my poor family and friends, I don’t whip them out at every available opportunity. It’s just that having them out doesn’t bother me, because my particular form of toplessness is to serve the purpose of making my baby shut up (ahem, I mean, feeding and nourishing my daughter). In fact, there probably isn’t a better purpose for toplessness. Except, perhaps, that of a good bottle of Sauvignon.


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