Maternity leave – The reality of the situation!

thumb_IMG_2337_1024

“How many times in your life do you get to take time out of work?”, I asked myself. Once the pregnancy was public knowledge, and after all the usual questions about ‘Do you know what you’re having?’ ‘Have you got any names?’ and so on, came the next question ‘How much time are you taking off for maternity leave?’ Well I can’t say I had ever spent much time thinking about the answer to this before last October time. Having spent many years at school, six years at university and five years in a training scheme, I felt like I had stepped on a conveyor belt at age 4 and hopped off aged 29 with a qualification and the shock of finally having to get a permanent job – with a C.V. and everything. Now don’t get me wrong I’d had a C.V. before this but it was always more of a ‘for information’ only. It never needed to get me a job before! Anyway jump to last October and I was at another point in my life where I actually had to make another decision – how much time should I take off as maternity leave? So we talked about it and, being in a fortunate enough position to make such a decision, agreed I’d take a year out. Or at least aim for a year. I also had to decide when to finish work. Lots of people seemed to stop at 39 or 40 weeks, or use up some annual leave to finish a little earlier. Most people’s rationale was that they wanted to have the maximum time off with their baby. A colleague was just about to finish for maternity leave just as I was making the decision. With holiday to use she was finishing at 37 weeks. She sat with me one lunch and explained just how glad to finish she was. She was tired and struggling to get through a day of seeing 30-40 patients. With this advice I made a decision that I would finish at 37 weeks. I didn’t have annual leave to take.

Then came my husband’s jokes about me spending a year watching daytime television, whilst I explained how busy I would be with the baby (though secretly imagining days of meeting people for coffee and gardening).  I spent many times feeling like I was required to justify finishing at 37 weeks. I almost felt ashamed to say that I preferred to have 3 weeks to myself rather than an extra 3 weeks at home with the baby. I made many plans as to what I would do before Amelia arrived, what we would do together, and all of the tasks around the house that I should aim to do before the end of the maternity leave.

Fast-forward to March 2015. Having had exactly one week of maternity leave (just enough time for an eye check, dental check-up and a haircut) Amelia arrived at 38 weeks. Well that put paid to a spa day I had planned for the following week as last minute relaxation! I could only be thankful that I’d at least had one week off to run last minute errands because her arrival was a whirlwind. I had not packed snacks in my maternity bag. In fact I hadn’t even done any shopping. So for the first week parents and local takeaways mostly provided our meals! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I left the house in the first couple of weeks. I had a baby attached to my breast for half the day (more on that another time)! If I wasn’t feeding her I was feeding myself. I hadn’t really had many preconceptions of what maternity leave might be like to start with, but I guessed it would be tiring. I really didn’t appreciate how full on the day would be with such an intense feeding regime. The concept of ‘you sleep when the baby sleeps’ was mystifying since if I did literally that then I would not have eaten or washed for some time.

I wouldn’t say the first three months went by in haze as I can recall a lot of events and days vividly. But they certainly sped by. I really did spend quite a lot of time in front of the T.V. In fact I knew the daytime schedule like the back of my hand. Amelia also used to have the best and most sustained sleep of the day between 8am and 11-11.30 am. So generally I was not out of bed until late morning/lunchtime on most days. I was so lucky in the first three months to have relatives around for much of the time. My younger sister spent some time staying with us to help out, my dad would come over at the drop of a hat after calls to say I was just exhausted after a bad night, and my older sister, in total, must have spent probably a month on and off staying with us and helping out. In fact – my sisters, and my 15 year-old niece provided respite and undertook night feeds, giving myself and Daddy a chance to have some restful sleep.

When we got to three months I couldn’t believe just how quickly the time had gone. It was a quarter of the way through my maternity leave and I had really not achieved much. I had been a fool and decided to continue a Diploma I was undertaking so in this time I had sat and written two 1500 word reports. I cannot say for certain how this happened (I was supposed to do them before she arrived). I also had an exam to sit when she was 3.5months old. This really just highlighted the lack of insight into what it would be like. I think I thought that with all the time off I’d have time to sit and revise. I just hadn’t realised that my brain would be like mush. I have no more to say on this error in judgment! I have made other sleep deprived errors of judgment, for example buying nearly 150 plug plants (not that I knew exactly what this meant) when she was two months old and having to pot them up, and agreeing to undertake my annual appraisal when she was three months old.

Somehow, by around four months old, Amelia started to need me a little less. She was feeding less regularly and able to entertain herself a bit more. She didn’t need to lie on me to nap in the day, and the number of times I have been stranded on the sofa for an hour or two while she sleeps on me is such that I can count them on one hand. So we’ve been out and about more. I have done four mornings of work (though I don’t think I’d manage a full day until she can manage a full night of sleeping through), we’ve been to visit friends, and stayed over places. In the last month I have even managed to get out in the garden, with her taking her afternoon nap in her pram, and do some gardening. She’s now at an age where she’s far more interactive so we have signed up to some mother and baby sessions for the autumn term. It just feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and now we are nearly halfway through my planned time off.

I must admit I have enjoyed the mornings that I have been to work. My brain has been used in a way that it is used to. I have challenged it and ensure it still works (I sometimes have serious doubts about this when I realized I have left the washing powder on top of the washer, carried the T.V. remote to bed with me and told the same story several times to the same person). Yet I also really enjoy the days when we don’t get dressed and have a lazy day at home! So, as I enter month seven of maternity leave I look forward to our jam-packed schedule of baby groups and meeting friends and family for lunch or tea!

Working mum – the experience so far

 

I have been back at work now for almost three months, and life feels like it’s just starting to settle into a routine again. I was looking forward to returning to work and dreading it in almost equal measures. Not because I didn’t enjoy work, or because I hadn’t enjoyed being with Amelia, but simply because it was a change, and something I hadn’t experienced previously. I was going to be a working mum and be on duty both at work and home. When would I have those moments where I could come home from work and just lie on the sofa for hours without a care in the world? When would I have a day off that might involve a lie-in until lunchtime?

Prior to returning to work we were all set up with a plan of action. Amelia would be booked into nursery for three days per week, we would have Mondays and Thursdays off together to go to groups and have fun, Her grandparents would collect her on a Wednesday and bring her home ready for bed (as this would be my long day). It was perfectly fine initially – the routine seemed to work well, and Amelia was sleeping fairly well. Then we had some holiday and upon our return Amelia spent two weeks with a viral illness, and some more teething. During this time she would cry each time we dropped her at nursery, she would wake in the night for up to two hours a go, and then sleep in late so we had to wake her to get her ready in time. A couple of the days she was just too unwell to go to nursery (I felt I couldn’t really drop her off with a temperature of almost 39 degrees), and last minute care by Grandpa had to be organised. It was a really tough couple of weeks where exhaustion took over. As Amelia became well again some of the behaviours improved. However, she always seemed to know when it was Monday night and mummy had to go to work on Tuesday. She would have slept perfectly on Sunday night but come Monday night she would wake either in the middle of the night or at 5am. So the week always started with a sleep deficit. She continued to be clingy and cry when we would leave her at nursery. I think I spent quite a lot of the day on edge that nursery would call to tell me that I would have to come and collect her. They didn’t, and she was always fine by the time I collected her.

As time has passed she naps better at nursery, and she’s eating and drinking well both there and at home. He routine continues to evolve quickly, and I cannot predict how she will change from one week to the next. For instance, we have just finished a phase in which she was waking between 5-5.30 am every day and, as a result, being ready to nap just as its time to go to nursery. She’s a little better at entertaining herself in her cot for a while if she wakes early. I think she is also moving towards having a one nap per day routine.

As for me – the first two months of work were hard. I had to get back into a structured routine. I had been doing the odd half-day in the run up to starting back, and this had generally been fine. But working more, and not having as much time to switch off, and not sleeping as well were leaving me really tired. It impacted upon my decision-making, and thinking powers. Though I could still make appropriate decisions and provide what I think is good care it did sometimes take a bit more than the 10 minutes I have per patient. I found this quite tough to tolerate, having previously been very efficient and on top of things. I felt a bit like I was swimming in rough waters and the shore wasn’t getting any closer by the time I had finished each day. Now I feel like the waters are calmer and I manage to make it to shore pretty easily!

Where I do feel that progress is lacking is the days off. I find that they feel more like recovery days rather than days to fill with piles of activities. I feel guilt about this. Not least after her 1-year check when I was interrogated as to what baby groups we attend. It has been tough – the groups we had been going to and enjoying were on Wednesdays, and now I work all day Wednesday. There are alternative options for these classes but they’re a bit further from home, and at times where currently Amelia tends to nap. There doesn’t seem to be many other groups that run on our days off. It may just be excuses on my part, and I need to readjust my mind-set, or maybe it’s ok that we don’t go to specific groups on the days off. Is it ok to just spend time together – playing, seeing family and friends? Is it ok that I make sure she naps well on our days off so that she doesn’t have a bad nights sleep when I’m at work the next day? Am I being selfish or is this self-preservation? Or are they the same thing? I ask myself these questions a lot!

I think there also seems to be some stigma at times about putting your child into nursery. I certainly don’t get any negative reactions from friends and family. Everyone I know is in a similar position – they either have to work, or they just really want to work because they’ve developed a professional career that they’re not ready to give up. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, just as much as there is nothing wrong with women who choose to stop working whilst they have young families. Everyone makes decisions appropriate to their individual circumstances. I’m fortunate enough that I probably could have stopped working for now, though it makes our lives a lot more comfortable with me working. I am also fortunate that I don’t need to work full-time, and my job enables me to undertake different types of activity to make my week varied. I also have a short commute, which makes it easier. So I am in awe of the women out there working full-time, having to undertake long commutes, and being a mummy!

I am sure that as time goes on, this balancing act of working and being a mummy will get easier. As Amelia gets older things will change again. There have certainly been benefits to being a mummy at work – I would say I am far better at managing my time, I am more pragmatic in my approach to working and on a clinical level I think I have better empathy, and can more understand the anxieties of parents, and those trying to juggle numerous aspects of life. It hasn’t suppressed my ambition to further my career, and I am always thinking about the future and how I might get there! Plus, having time off has given me a break from the pressures of working in the NHS, and the frustrations it sometimes brings. I have a renewed enthusiasm for work.

Has anyone else had a similar experience when returning to work after maternity leave? Or any tips for how I use my days off in a better way?

The glamorous world of motherhood!

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 22.53.00

Apologies in advance if this post seems to be somewhat of a rant! In all honesty it kind of is!

Maternity leave has brought about being awake at times of the day when there are few people to chat to, such as 4am. Or when you have a couple of minutes to yourself (admittedly I try to use this time to go to the toilet, or pretending to go to the toilet for a bit of peace). I have found that at these times I don’t have enough time to read a novel, or my eyes just wont stay open enough to concentrate on anything serious. Instead I find myself on Twitter or the Daily Mail TV and showbiz section reading trash.  It is here that I find myself feeling frustrated. Frustrated seeing all the celebrity new mums. The most refreshing story I could read would be a celebrity mum admitting that motherhood is not easy.

Reading articles about mum’s doing press tours with a two-week old, theatre runs with a six-month old and public engagements with a young baby does not do justice to how much work goes in to being a new mum. Unless I had a completely different experience to every other mum. I personally think Amelia is a pretty easy-going baby and we have it good. But if I look at all these women looking glamorous, dressed-up and looking as though they never had a baby I start to think perhaps I’m making a meal out of motherhood! Seeing photos of a celebrity on holiday just weeks after the birth of their baby with a flat tummy, no stretch marks and perfectly toned bum and thighs leaves me feeling inadequate. Admittedly I never had a flat stomach or super toned body as my baseline, but I wasn’t overweight. I couldn’t fit into my old clothes for the first 3-4 months after she was born. But then I didn’t want to get glammed up. Honestly, you’d be lucky to have seen me out of my pyjamas before noon. I also had to think about the practicalities of what I would wear because I might have to breastfeed at any moment.

This brings me to my next question – how many celebrity mothers genuinely breastfeed exclusively or at all? I couldn’t be away from Amelia for much time at all for the first three months or so. She was feeding so frequently, and if she took expressed milk then I needed to be expressing at regular intervals in order to not have breasts that felt as if they were ready to explode and so that I could produce enough milk to keep her fed. Again, maybe I just made more of breastfeeding than I needed to. Perhaps that’s why I’m in a state of anxiety wondering if she will be ok in nursery since she rarely accepts milk from a bottle any more.

I guess we don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, and who they have helping – relatives, nannies, and personal trainers – and perhaps this makes life a little easier. We also don’t see whether they have been forced to undertake such work commitments via contracts, etc. Plus I don’t need abs of steel to make a living. I don’t know whether celebrities claim statutory maternity pay. I guess not in most cases. Perhaps I also need to consider how they really feel about their situations. Maybe they’d like to be at home spending every minute with their little one and not worrying about how they look. But in order to keep the jobs coming in they must work hard to get back to their pre-pregnancy appearance. Plus, in some cases they probably have more opportunity to take their children with them to work. Once I return to work it wont be possible for me to have Amelia waiting on the sidelines whilst I am carrying out surgeries.

All I can hope is that all the new mother’s, or mothers-to-be, out there appreciate that being a new mum is not a breeze. It is not about looking fresh-faced and perfect, or having the perfect figure within weeks. It’s about learning how to look after your little one and making the most of this period of time. It’s about sitting in your pyjamas as much or as little as you’d like. It’s about eating whatever you need to get you through the day (or whatever’s in the house), feeding your baby in whatever manner suits you and them best and doing the best you can. Whatever you’re doing, it’s most likely the right thing!

 

Back to the day job!

Today is the day. My last day of maternity leave. I’ve spent lots of time thinking about and planninthumb_IMG_9844_1024g my return to work, but it still feels like it’s crept up on me. February was supposed to be the month to really enjoy, but it passed by in a blur of illness and self-pity as a result of said illness!

 

I haven’t managed to finish all the little tasks and plans I set myself to complete during maternity leave, but it has been a wild time! I cannot believe that this time last year I was counting down the days until maternity leave started and guzzling Gaviscon like it was the nicest stuff ever. Now, almost 12 months on, I have an 11-month-old little girl and I’m starting a new job tomorrow.

 

I’m pretty confident that Amelia has no idea that our life is about to change, and that we wont be spending so much time together. Particularly since she doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about consistently sleeping through the night. As if to warn me of said fact she decided she was ready to get up at 11pm last night and stayed up until 1am. She then decided to wake again at 2.15am for another 45 minutes. I could only think about ‘what if she does it tomorrow night?’ (or any other work night for that matter). I still don’t have a plan for such occurrences, and would be grateful for any tips on how to perform at work after a bad nights sleep.

 

Lots of people have asked me whether I’m ready to go back or whether I’m looking forward to it. The honest answer is that I just haven’t thought about it all that much. I’ve been doing the odd half-day here and there since last July so I know I can still do the job. I’m going to be working in place that I’ve worked before and with people I know and like so I’m not worried about it being a different job. I am looking forward to doing a job again, and being my professional self a little more often. I’m looking forward to developing my career some more. I’m not the biggest fan of the unknown so I am most nervous about how Amelia is going to get on being at nursery more frequently, and how we will manage our new routine. I’m anxious about being organised enough to get us all out of the house on time, making sure we don’t forget anything and ensuring that the house stays clean and tidy, and the family fed well. I don’t want us to slip into bad habits.

 

I never contemplated not returning to work. There have been days where I have thought it’d be nice to potter around all the time, or that I can’t even be sure how I ever fitted having a job in amongst all of the other things I have to do with my day. Some days it has felt like being a student again. When Amelia has decided to have a mammoth morning nap and I’ve decided to get back in bed or just lounged around watching TV in my pyjamas. But I miss work. I miss having the responsibility, and a structure to my week. I love the detective work involved in medicine, and how it challenges me. I am now at the point where I sit and watch the TV show ‘GPs behind closed doors’ trying to diagnose the patients, or ponder how I would manage them! I’m not going to be doing as many days as I did before Amelia came along. We will have two full days in the week to do things together. I’m not ready to give up our baby groups just yet!

 

I’m looking forward to Amelia going to nursery regularly and watching her develop. She changes so quickly at the moment, and I hope that nursery will continue to nurture her and support her development. She seems to enjoy going. The last couple of weeks she has cried a little when I’ve left her. However, by the time I return to collect her she is usually focussed on some kind of toy or trying to ‘help’ with the paperwork! She eats well at nursery, and gets to try different food to those she might have at home. My only concern regarding nursery is that she doesn’t nap for as long as she would at home, and that can leave her overtired when she’s collected. It also seems to affect how she sleeps at night and if she hasn’t napped well in the day she tends to be more likely to wake in the night.

 

Returning to work is simply the start of a new chapter. I’m not the first woman to finish maternity leave, and I wont be the last. It will just be a change, and take a little getting used to. I will let you know how we are getting on. In the meantime, if anyone has any tips for staying organised, and making things a little easier I would be grateful for all advice!

Preparing for baby’s arrival – what you need now!

Preparing for Amelia’s arrival was pretty daunting. Not least because we needed to make sure we were ready with all the right equipment we might need to look after a newborn. It was around this time last year that we were in the process of amassing all the ‘essentials’. A number of my friends are currently in the same position. I thought I would share with you what we found to be the most useful purchases in the run up to her birth. The best way to look at what is essential is that you need to be able to keep baby warm and clean, provide them with somewhere to sleep and move them from A to B!

 

Car seat

 

By far the most important piece of equipment! You are expected to take baby home in a car seat, and be able to strap them in with no assistance. We didn’t do a great deal of research on car seats, instead choosing to go with recommendations from friends. Most friends had gone with a Maxi-Cosi. Research that we did do showed that there was a lot of support for the Kiddicare Shuffle. However, we preferred to have a car seat that fitted in with isofix. We selected the family fix base to go with our Maxi-Cosi Pebble so that when she moves to the next size up we would not need a new base. The most reassuring part of the car seat is that the base lights up and beeps when it is correctly fixed into the car, and the seat is correctly attached to the base. In addition, the car seat fixes to our pram base with the correct adaptors. It is sensible to make sure the base is fixed into the car a couple of weeks before the due date, or that you’ve practiced fixing the car seat into the car. Being ahead of schedule the husband had to get the car seat fixed in whilst I was getting ready to leave for the hospital! We hadn’t tried fitting a teddy or doll into the seat and tightening the straps so we had to get a little advice ‘off the record’ from our midwife who discharged us. It can be a little fiddly to get out of the car, and one day I couldn’t get the seat back into the car because one of the fixings had not reset itself when I had last removed the seat from the base. Cue a lot of panic until my rational side took over and retraced all the steps!

 

Sanitary towels and breast pads

 

It’s easy to make sure you have everything ready for the baby but forget about yourself and what you might need. Trust me – these two things are crucial. Get plenty. Get the biggest maternity towels you can. They don’t need to be fancy – I had Tesco’s own brand maternity towels and found Asda’s breast pads to be perfectly comfy and functional. A tip – if you think your waters might have broken, but are not sure, then use a maternity towel. I used a standard sanitary towel and they’re actually very good at being absorbent. So much so that the midwife could not tell whether my waters had gone or not. Some other useful pointers related to these two items – I bought a couple of cheap packs of big pants from the supermarket, and used these after the birth. Some people suggest disposable pants but I found a pack of simple pants worked just as well, and are reusable. Get some good maternity bras. I really liked the M+S ones (http://www.marksandspencer.com/2-pack-maternity-non-wired-santoni-full-cup-bras/p/p22278630?prevPage=plp). They’re perhaps not the cheapest but they have stood the test of time (lots of wear, use and washing). I found I needed to wear bras at night, with the breast pads, for quite a long time and these were really comfortable. Plus they accommodate the wide changes in size that your breasts go through whilst breastfeeding. If breastfeeding I cannot recommend nipple cream enough. I used Lansinoh HPA lanolin cream. Numerous people recommended it, and one friend explained that though she had tried plenty of cheaper alternatives this was by far the best. You don’t need to remove it before feeding either. I found that it was most required in the early weeks as feeding was established. You don’t need much each time, and as such I only used one tube so it was pretty good value. A word of warning – it’s greasy. Make sure you put a breast pad on after using it as it stained my pyjama top to the extent that I couldn’t get rid of the grease marks and had to throw the top away.

 

Crib/Moses basket

 

We bought a moses basket following reading what we should buy in preparation for baby’s arrival. It lasted about three months before we decided to get a crib as she was outgrowing the basket but we weren’t ready to move her into a separate room, and therefore into her big cot. The moses basket was useful since it was portable around the house. However, our pram top was also suitable for moving around the house, and was designed so it could be used as a travel cot. In fact during the first couple of weeks she preferred to sleep in this compared to the basket. Though perhaps this was due to us not getting a better mattress than the one that came with the basket. On reflection I am note sure whether we would buy the moses basket again if we did it over again. I think we would go straight for the crib. Quite a few people I know bought the cribs that fit alongside the bed and have found these really useful. What I do wish I had bought earlier was the Sleepyhead. I wonder if she would have settled in the crib more easily from a younger age had we had this from birth.

 

Nappies and wipes

 

Stock up on these in the run up to the birth. I took advantage of baby events at the supermarket to buy the biggest sized pack of both. My initial supply of wipes lasted me about six months! Plus we had stocked up on enough of the first size nappies to last until she was ready for the next size up. It was great to not have to worry about last minute supermarket dashes or online orders. We bought one changing mat but some friends gave us a couple more. At the time we tried to resist being given them, thinking that we already had one. However, it was useful to have them as it meant we could keep them in different locations and not have to either a) change nappies in the same place each time or b) carry changing mats around the house.

 

Pram/Travel system

 

We probably spent the most time researching this. We took advice from friends, looked at awards for baby products, the Which website and product reviews on websites. We settled for an Uppababy Vista. The reasons for this being it’s multifunctional use and longevity of use. It has a great pram top that doubles up as a travel cot when required. I really love how much space the basket has – I can go around the supermarket with the shopping bags in the bottom and do the scan as you go. The car seat fixes to the pushchair base with an adaptor. I would say this is a little fiddly to remove. I don’t have anything else to compare this too so I don’t know if this would be the case with other car seats or buggy systems. This buggy is also great for future proofing. Using adaptors it can be doubled up to become a double buggy. I have used it for this purpose to transport Amelia and one of her little buddies, using the car seat and the pushchair seat. It worked very well and was easy to set up. The buggy is also really easy to manoeuvre and has a great turning circle for tight spaces! It is perhaps a bit bulky when collapsed down, compared to some others. However the wheels are easily removed which does make it more compact. I also like the height of the seat. I have noticed that some other systems are very low in height compared to the Uppababy. The handle bar is also adjustable which is fantastic for parents who are a foot apart in height difference!

 

Muslins, vests and babygros

 

A reasonable collection of these is very useful. It is likely you will be gifted with many babygros but it is useful to have a few of each to start with. Some inexpensive ones are all that’s required. Muslins are extremely useful for wiping any milk or vomit up. Or averting a spray of wee when incidents occur! Larger ones can be helpful for swaddling baby too. We had numerous poop escapes from nappies. Baby poop in the early days is amazingly good at dyeing clothes a nice yellowy colour. Therefore inexpensive vests are all that is required. I spent a lot of time soaking vests in vanish and washing powder.

 

Ewan the Dreamsheep

 

He may be seen as a luxury item to some but in our household he has become a necessity! We have used him from day one and found him to be of great help in settling Amelia. See the recommendations page for more details on him. The only piece of advice I will give on him is make sure you have a stock of AAA batteries to hand. Though we look back on it fondly, I am not sure my husband found searching the house high and low, at 3am, for batteries to bring Ewan alive, the highlight of paternity leave!

 

There were many items along the way that we couldn’t understand why you would ever need them, such as a mirror for the car seat, or a nappy disposal unit. However, we now have a mirror for the car seat, and we completely understand why you would want a nappy disposal unit. We bought the mirror soon after her birth and find it really useful to keep a check on what she’s doing whilst we are out and about driving. The nappies are pretty innocuous in the early days, but as soon as we started weaning her they changed! We haven’t given in to the nappy disposal unit so far but I think that time might come soon.

 

There are also things that are useful but just not straight away. Examples include monitors. We didn’t use a monitor until a few weeks after the birth. We started using it once we started putting her to bed upstairs. Even then we only used it until we went to bed and then she was in the same room as us. As I said at the start – the essential all relate to sleeping, travel and keeping baby clean and warm. I should add that it might be useful to have some basics for bottle-feeding, even if you are hoping to breastfeed. I meant to get around to this but with her arriving two weeks ahead of schedule I didn’t. Some friends had they baby over Easter weekend and needed some formula due to breastfeeding difficulties. It was not as easy as you’d think when the shops are closed for Easter. Think ahead if your EDD is close to a bank holiday!

 

If there are any items you found ‘essential’ or wished you hadn’t bothered with then please share!

10 month old terror!

IMG_3781The last 10 days have been hectic! Amelia’s been under the weather and so have I. I don’t think I’ve had such frequent bugs since I was little. In my years as a doctor I have managed to avoid most illnesses, but somehow Amelia seems to share hers with me, with ease! I also think she is teething because she is dribbling constantly. My carpet has a trail of dribble across it much of the time, and the edges of the sofa (and most other pieces of furniture) are a little damp! The two together have led to some bad nights sleep. The other night she was awake on and off for much of the time between 4 and 6am. It leads to the days being long and tiring for both of us. The combination of teething, a cold and frustration at not being able to walk have led to her being exceptionally whingey. She’s off her food – she wants to feed herself, but she wants to feed herself with the spoon which she cant really do just yet. So mealtimes have become increasingly frustrating because she eats just morsels of food most of the time, and spends more time breaking pieces of food up and then casually throwing them on the floor. Her minions (myself and daddy) are left to sweep the mess up off the floor as she continues to throw little bits of egg, toast and such like on to our heads. I feel like we’ve lost all the power in the house. The only food that she will reliably eat is toast or fruit puree.

 

How have we managed this behaviour? The teething is being managed with paracetamol and ibuprofen in an attempt to relieve the symptoms and improve her mood. I’m not really certain how much they’ve helped but they seem to provide some respite. Her cold is also being helped with medicine. It’s hard to manage her frustrations with lack of walking ability but we try to encourage her and help her learn how to cruise or use her little walker. We are trying to give her as much freedom as possible but it’s a steep learning curve for all of us! Oh I should say that nappy times have become a battle – there have been multiple times that she has escaped as soon as the nappy is off. She’s trying to crawl about with poo stuck to her bottom, and she’s doing her best to smear it on the floor. I’ve had to chase her around the floor with wipes, or try to clean her up whilst she’s emptying the pack of wipes and trying to eat them. She’s been nappy free (not through my own choice) many times because I simply can’t get a nappy back on due to her rolling, crawling, trying to strand or the mega tantrum she throws when I wont let her do any of the above! I have tried distracting her with toys with little benefit.

 

The mealtimes have been the toughest, and most frustrating. I guess she had just got her appetite back after being ill, and was starting to have more lumpy foods and feed herself more, so we finding it easier. Suddenly it became a battle. If we tried to spoon feed her she often cries and clamps her mouth shut. If we give her finger foods she will look at it and whinge or take it for a few bites then throw it on the floor. She’s developed a knack for becoming tired as soon as food is put in front of her, and rubbing her eyes to emphasise this, but as soon as the food is taken away she’s suddenly not tired. Every now and again she surprises us by eating really well. But this is rare currently. I am loath to give in to her preferences and feed her only sweet purees. I’ve read that up to 12 months the majority of their nutritional requirements still comes from milk, and food is more about learning about taste and texture. So I’m trying not to worry too much and accept that if she’s only had a few bites that’s that. I am still offering a wide variety of flavours and textures. Occasionally I will disguise her Bolognese with a fruit puree. I’m convinced there is some psychological element to it as she will watch me take a spoon from the bowl and refuse to eat it but seconds later she will happily take a spoonful of puree that’s come from a fruit pot or come out of the Ella’s Kitchen pouch!

 

Trying to get her to nap has become a battle at times too. Somehow daddy finds he can put her down in her cot and she will fall asleep after maybe a minute or two of crying. Admittedly he’s developed a nice little repertoire of songs he sings to her to help get her to sleep which helps. However, I have found that some days she will take 45 minutes to go to sleep. She will doze off in my arms but as soon as I put her in the crib the crying starts. Eventually I settle her and she sleeps for 25minutes before she wakes, crying, again.

 

I have found the last couple of weeks extremely frustrating. I have resorted to googling again. I have read that this may all be related to her making developmental milestone leaps. I guess if she’s teething as well, and a bit under the weather it all adds up. But because it’s leading me to be tired too I am becoming frustrated which adds to the atmosphere. I think she senses my frustration and probably feeds off it. Hence, I think I need to work on my reaction to her behaviour.

 

We are also trying to move her from breast milk to bottles now. Since she has been attending nursery I’ve noticed some more frustration during breast feeds. I suspect that the flow is reducing, especially since I never really notice them to be full with milk in the morning again or after she’s been at nursery for a half day. She doesn’t feed quite as easily as she used to and is constantly latching on and off and pushing her legs off the side of the chair or whatever is in leg reach. We’ve been doing well. Over the weekend she had one breastfeed per day and yesterday she had none. It’s a change for the both of us. I do miss the closeness of breastfeeding but I am also feeling reassured that she’s not dependant on me for milk. She doesn’t take her bottle as efficiently as she does the breast milk so feeding has become a bit longer again, but I guess that will change as she gets used to it now. She recognises the bottle now and reaches for it and tries to hold it. She is also just about doing the right baby signing for ‘milk’ if I show her the bottle.

 

I’m sure the last couple of weeks are just a phase, and that several things have been happening all at once but it has been tough. I’m particularly keen for any suggestions as to how to manage nappy changes or types of savoury finger foods I could be offering her. 

New Year, New resolutions!

thumb_IMG_9569_1024

Have I made a New Year resolution? I’ve had ideas about them but in all honesty none have come to fruition thus far!

There are plenty of challenges to face this year – returning to work, continuing to learn how to parent, etc. As Amelia grows each day and reaches new milestones we are faced with new problems – the most current being how much do we need to baby proof the place and how many stair gates do we need!

Many New Year resolutions revolve around quitting something or dieting or getting fit. The last one is something that I real ought to incorporate into 2016. Just before becoming pregnant I was doing really well and exercising four to five times per week. I hadn’t made significant changes to my diet but liked to think I was eating healthily and making efforts to cut out as much processed food as possible. Things started off well in the early weeks as I was still maintaining the exercise and eating well. Then the morning sickness and tiredness arrived and my efforts waned. I probably lost some weigh in the first trimester due to a lack of appetite.  During the pregnancy I gained around 12kg in weight. I started out with a BMI in the ‘normal weight’ range and so this was around the right amount of weight gain for me. Each woman is different and the expected weight gain during pregnancy is influenced by your pre-pregnancy weight. The rumour that we need to eat for two is simply that – a rumour! Up until the third trimester we do not need to take in any extra calories, and during the third trimester we only need an extra 200 calories. This is equivalent to approximately two slices of wholemeal bread or a small bowl of cereal. It is safe to exercise in pregnancy, but you should bear in mind your fitness level and not go from zero exercise to all out high intensity exercise suddenly. Build it up gradually. There’s some good information on the NHS website athttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx#close

During the pregnancy I became very slack with exercise in all honesty. I tried to keep active but rarely participated in specific exercise sessions. From around 22 weeks I started a Pilates class specifically for pregnancy and also pregnancy yoga sessions. I found both of these really great for helping build strength and avoid aches and pains. The yoga also helped prepare me for labour with some breathing techniques and ways to manage the pain of contractions. I changed from standard yoga to aqua-natal yoga at around 33 weeks. The aqua-natal yoga was great as it gave a greater relief from the weight of the bump during the last few weeks. I continued this and the Pilates right up until the week of labour. I then restarted the Pilates after my six-week postnatal check. I continued this regularly until December but have been very slack over the Christmas period!

I have just recently reached my pre-pregnancy weight and fit back into all of my clothes (minus the odd top which still doesn’t accommodate my new chest size). As they rightly say – It takes nine months to make a baby, and your body goes through some significant changes, so expect it to take a similar time period to return to your pre-pregnancy state. At around 10-12 weeks after the birth I went through a period of feeling pretty good as well has having plenty of people about to watch Amelia whilst I exercised, but this didn’t last long and I have been mostly lazy. I can’t say it worried me massively, but in the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to resume some exercise. When I am in a good routine I feel better in myself, I have more energy (weirdly enough) and I sleep better. There is also the thought that if I were to become pregnant again in future I would like to start off from a good level of fitness and tone.

So in preparation for the New Year I looked at lots of options, including gym memberships. I was close to taking one out with a big chain, since they have crèche facilities. However, when I called them the rate on the website was less than the current rate available. Taking into account that I am now into my 10th month of maternity leave I felt it was a big expense, and considering my track record with gym subscriptions seemed like a possible money pit! So I will continue with my Pilates class and I have got the latest Davina McCall DVD. I have used her DVDs in the past and found them fun and easy to follow. Her latest one also has a five-week plan to follow. So I will give it a go. The aims – get fit and develop strength. I have no desire to lose weight. To support this I am making greater effort to eat well and healthy. I have so far cooked every day bar one this year which, considering the period around Christmas involved numerous takeaway meals, is good going for me! I have got myself a supermarket delivery pass because I find that if I shop online I tend to stick to the list and not end up with lots of snacks and wasted food. I will give you an honest update of how I am doing in February!

In addition to this obvious resolution, I would like to read more fiction, and not just limit it to holidays. I aim to continue to have fun with and give Amelia plenty of my time when I return to work. For her – I’d like to keep her trying a variety of food, and make sure we are really good about reading to her each bedtime. I’m also going to try and use the baby signing more at home so she picks it up and finds it helpful to communicate whilst her speech is developing.

 

If I can achieve the above this year then I will be more than satisfied. Everything else will be a bonus! Do you have any new years resolutions, or suggestions for how I can maintain mine?

thumb_IMG_9723_1024