Wanted: a better mood

I write this post whilst struggling to get to sleep. I thought hard about writing this  but I guess a blog is here to talk about what’s going on and how you’re feeling.

Well, at the moment I feel like crap. I feel like I’m just existing, and not living life at all. I’m wandering from one day to the next and just trying to make it through another day.

The hardest part is trying hard to not let Amelia see how I feel because all she wants to do is hang out with me and play, and be happy. It’s not her fault because I’ve felt like this much longer than she’s been around. I knew before she arrived that it’d be harder when she was here because I’d have to fill our time with something other than work.

I’ve lived in my current hometown now for 6 years. I moved to be with my husband, and as such had no-one other than him to move here for. I’ve spent the last six years training and working hard, and using that as the excuse when I realise that, though I have plenty of acquaintances, I haven’t really made any best friends. I could really do with one of those nearby right now.

Perhaps I don’t have the right personality for it but I always suspected it would be really tough being a new mum and trying to find people in similar situations. Rightly or wrongly I didn’t go to any antenatal groups. My reasoning to everyone at the time was that I didn’t need to pay for a course to tell me stuff I could read elsewhere. The truth – I kind of knew that everyone in the group would get on well and that somehow, eventually, I would end up on the sidelines. I didn’t want to feel like that so I didn’t put myself out there at all.

We tried baby groups and I’d have casual chats with other mums but it never went further than that, though I could see friendships evolving around me. I’ve watched friends have their babies, move house and make loads of friends to meet up with. But somehow I’ve just not managed it. I guess it’s something to do with me and my personality.

But I think what I’m finding really tough now is that I feel this pressure to conjure up some friends to make Amelia’s life more fun, and to allow her to grow up making friends easily, and having other children to play with. I love Amelia dearly but at the moment our conversations are still fairly one-sided!  And our lack of people to hang out with in the day, has led to me going out with her less and less. Put it this way – today we didn’t even get dressed. I don’t really know where to take her when it’s just there two of us because it just adds to this feeling of loneliness watching other mums out together, enjoying good company. 

I feel like I need to simply pull myself together but I have no idea where to start. All advice is greatly received (especially since I’d really like to be able to sleep whilst Amelia is sleeping peacefully). And sorry for the really crappy depressing post. I promise to make the next one more cheery.

15 months progress report!

 

I must apologise for my lack of new blog posts recently. Work and life have caught up with us, and time to myself has been lacking. However, Amelia is currently snoozing and will hopefully remain that way so I can squeeze in an update!

I can only describe Amelia as busy, very busy! As such it leaves Daddy and myself also very busy monitoring her activity. Over the last 6 weeks she has progressed from tentative steps on occasion to walking at all times. There was a short period where she would drop to her knees and crawl if she needed to be somewhere really fast (such as when the fridge door is opened), but now she just walks at full speed instead. It’s great that she’s walking because I think she feels independent and far less frustrated. But there are downsides. We had expertly taught her how to climb down the stairs and steps with a ‘feet first’ policy. It was going very well and she was relatively safe under observation. However, now she walks she tends to walk to the edge of the step and then try to step off. As such she must have someone in front of her ready to catch her as she attempts to walk down stairs. She also tries walking up stairs on occasion and doesn’t really appreciate that her legs aren’t long enough to undertake said activity just yet! She’s confident on her feet and pretty fast, and it’s really fun to watch her wandering about the place.

Once she started walking I took the decision to invest in some shoes. This was an event in itself because it turned out she didn’t find it as fun as I did. With respect to shoes she doesn’t take after mummy at all. I personally love a good pair of shoes…or 10! Amelia on the other hand screamed the shoe shop down when we tried to put the pair on her feet. It was like this for about 3 weeks every time we put them on. Then suddenly one day it wasn’t a drama anymore. Now she accepts them being put on and perhaps quite enjoys wearing shoes now….there’s still hope that we will be able to share a love of shoe shopping!

As for talking – she chats, mostly incomprehensibly, all the time now. She makes conversation, and at times you can make out a word that allows you to grasp what she’s trying to explain. She does have a few words – Mumma, Dada (or Diddy), yes, no, dog, der (for there), ta (for thanks) and on the weekend she clearly said scooter twice! She supplements her talking with plenty of pointing to help us understand what she’s trying to say. She also signs for milk, food, bird and duck. It’s amazing the dialogue we have despite her lack of words (it could just be that I make up her side of the conversation a little too much though)!

Where eating is concerned she is doing really well. There was a period where she seemed to take little interest in food. She would try a variety of foods but never wanted much more than a few spoonfuls. But now she eats good amounts regularly throughout the day. I am actually so grateful for nursery because they have really encouraged her with eating, and she has such a variety of foods there. It has inspired mealtimes at home, and it makes life a little easier for me as I am not having to think of brand new meals every day! It is tough trying to come up with 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and trying to maintain plenty of variety. I’m sure I over think it but I’m so conscious of introducing her to as many new foods as possible. I know that when cooking for just myself and Daddy I tended to end up in a routine of rotating the same meals, and therefore buying the same stuff every week. Nowadays I try to add at least a couple of new foods to the basket each time to create variety. It’s easy to tell what she does and doesn’t like because if it’s on her list of dislikes she eats all the bits she like and then places those that she doesn’t to the side, or more annoyingly she likes to drop them on the floor for me. It’s at this point where I wish we had a pet who might like to munch her leftovers from the floor! She takes her time and eats at her own pace. I try to follow advice such as putting a small amount on her plate at a time and offering her more if she eats it all. I don’t try to force feed her. When she lets me know she’s done (and she does this by trying to mush the food up with her hands or wipe it onto the floor) then I take it away. I don’t push it at all. Most recently she really enjoys it if I load a bit of food onto a spoon or little fork and let her feed herself. I’m trying to introduce her to the use of cutlery so that she starts to get the idea of how to do it.

Finally, her sleep. That ongoing saga! When she’s not teething or unwell then she sleeps really well. And for maybe 2 -3 weeks she has been completely germ free and not teething. In the day she is transitioning to one longer lunchtime nap. This has thrown up a need to alter mealtimes but it is more consistent now and it means we can start engaging in morning groups because they don’t start at just the time she would be ready for a nap! The one aspect of her sleep that I would like to work on is getting her to go to sleep by herself a bit more. From about 6-9 months of age it was easy to put her down awake but tired and she would drop off by herself. Once she started being able to stand up it became difficult because as soon as you’d put her down she would stand up and start crying. The separation anxiety added to this situation because she doesn’t like being left alone. A couple of nights in a row she woke at 3.30am one night then 5am the next. I was just so tired I decided to leave it a little longer to see what happened. It took 45 minutes of her whingeing (not screaming because I couldn’t have put up with that) but she went back to sleep. If we had gotten up with her then she would’ve been up for a good couple of hours, or if waking at 5am wouldn’t have  gone back to sleep. The night following these two she slept through completely. So I know that she can settle herself. I’ve been a bit tougher the last week or so. If she has dropped off in my arms or its clear she’s tired I have put her in the cot and left immediately. She has stood up and cried for 5-10 mins but then gone to sleep. I think I need to continue doing this a little more to encourage her to settle herself to sleep.

She’s at a really great age. She changes on what seems like a daily basis and it’s fun to watch. It means that you can never really switch off until she’s fast asleep in bed because if you dare to look away for a matter of seconds then mischief has occurred. Daddy learnt this the hard way when she got the lid off the Metanium ointment and smeared it on the carpet. He had to explain what had happened, and watch helplessly as I frantically tried to clean it up. No one was in my good books that day. Luckily the carpet looks ok now (apart from the slight jaundiced appearance in certain lights).

Has anyone else had similar incidents? Should I just accept that my carpet is unlikely to survive her childhood stain-free?

 

Maternity leave – The reality of the situation!

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“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!

Finding the motivation…

rose garden

I sit typing this whilst sat in my pyjamas late on a Saturday morning, under a blanket, lounging on the sofa with the TV on in the background. I feel this has become a fairly standard scene for a weekend where we have no plans. Amelia has gone down for a nap, and there are plenty of useful things I could be doing. There’s the pictures that I’ve framed waiting to be hung, there’s pictures that I need to get frames for, there’s a pile of clothes in the hall that need taking to the charity shop (they’ve been sat there for a number of months), and there’s general tidying up I could be doing. Yet I have sat for the last hour and done very little! Where can I get the motivation from? Yesterday was a good day of sorts. I finished work at a decent time. I would describe my work day as ‘unsatisfying’ for some reason – it wasn’t terrible but it just consisted of several little things that left me feeling ‘blah’. So I came home, having had a good nights sleep two nights in a row, and felt a little productive. So I got in the garden and planted the plants that have been sat on my windowsill begging to be put in the garden for a week. I tied my roses into the tunnel structure I’m working on and I pulled up some weeds. I even managed to make Amelia’s dinner before collecting her from nursery.

But here’s the thing….when I collected her she was already tired because she had only had one 50 minute nap the whole day. That’s where the motivation waned. I might as well have not made her dinner because she ate all of 5 pieces of pasta, a couple of bites of broccoli and a pea or two before trying to throw it on the floor piece by piece. I presented her with a few berries. It started off well and then she took to squishing them in her hand to create maximal mess. Ok – lets just do bath time and bedtime then. Bath time involved her stood in the bath screaming in frustration whilst we washed her, and getting her into a nappy and pyjamas involved screaming and wriggling. The peace as she quickly fell asleep was a relief. But then there’s the realisation that we now need to eat dinner. This is where my motivation disappeared…..pizza it was. I then ate the pizza with the guilt that I hadn’t provided us with a healthy dinner, and I must improve upon this next week.

Then – if there had been any doubt that I had lost motivation, as I peacefully slept I was awoken whilst it was still pitch black to her cries. What time is it? Oh – 1.40am…..really? So we spent the next two hours in a tag team trying to settle her back to sleep with minimal intervention. By this time I knew that Saturday would be a slow burner.

So as I sit in my pyjamas I think of all the things that I could and should do, whist all I really want to do is lie in bed and snooze on and off. I find that life currently seems to be a cycle of a few bad nights of sleep followed by a catch up. After the catch-up there is a couple of days of renewed energy and motivation until we start the cycle again.

So I ask the mums, and dads, out there – is it normal to feel like this? Is there a way to break the cycle, or it is just a waiting game?

Nappy changes!

It’s all about the nappy I’m told – the right brand, the right size, put on the right way!

In preparation for Amelia’s arrival I stocked up on pampers new baby size 1, whilst the supermarket baby events were on. We had no idea how many nappies she might get through. People seemed to say ‘lots’! The husband’s mother say if she was anything like he was it would be 10 plus (a poo for every feed)! I would subtly try and get an idea from mums who were bringing their baby’s for their checks to work out how many size 1’s I would need.

Anyway, Amelia arrived and our nappy journey began. We bypassed the cotton wool and cooled boiled water cleaning and went straight to using wipes suitable for new babies. I didn’t have the patience to boil water, cool it and wipe with hundreds of cotton wool balls (so why I bought 600 cotton wool balls in preparation for her arrival I don’t know, as they remain mostly unused).

We soon realised that the key to a successful nappy change was to make it quick, and to never change after the first wave of pooping (as it usually came in waves of 3 successive poops). It took having to do 3 nappy changes within the space of 10 minutes, and wasting new nappies, as they would be covered with wee before they were even put on, to get to this realisation.

We also found that Amelia liked to sabotage our punctuality. Just as we would be ready to leave the house the poop would come. We had warning – a staring look, some straining and then a sound similar to that of a female tennis player returning the ball for championship point! The other concern was would this be what we fondly referred to as a poo-losion (definition – escaping of poo out of the nappy so as to cover clothing). We now anticipate this at every sound of poop being expelled.

We have been covered in poop numerous times. Highlights include:

  • Top and tailing her (she was wearing a nappy) at the sink. Daddy felt something warm on his leg and looked down to find something resembling an eruption from Vesuvius pouring from the top of her nappy and down his pyjama bottoms.
  • Myself returning to the car to find her and daddy in the back of the car, after a poo-losion occurred in her car seat. We had to strip her down to a fresh nappy, cover the seat with muslin to protect her from the poop. We arrived at our friends in a frantic state needing to do emergency washing. I think daddy was pretty traumatised by this ‘emergency’. This incident has since been referred to as ‘poo-gate’.
  • Most recently I had a similar car experience, which led to her being covered in poo along with my clothes and myself too. (I only realised that I was covered with it just as I was about to take a bite out of my food and I looked down to find my leg, and then my cardigan, covered in her familiar yellow poop.

I feel like I am single-handedly keeping ‘vanish’ stain remover in business.  I guess I am not the only one. Suggestions have been ‘try a larger nappy’, ‘go back down a size’, and ‘try a different brand’. I have found nothing is foolproof other than anticipating a potential escapee at the first whiff of a poop being on the horizon. I can say with certainty that her Bumbo is a prime suspect for encouraging poops and escapees.

Since introducing vegetables her nappies have become far smellier and a bit more formed. I can now see why people choose to invest in odour-containing nappy disposal units. I am still not convinced they are anything but a gimmick. Can anyone convince me otherwise? I can only imagine things will change further as her diet become more varied.

What do I recommend with regards to nappy changes?  Having tried several different brands of baby wipes (I was given lots of packs by different people as part of gifts, and picked up different kinds when on offer), I really like Tesco loves baby fragrance free ultra soft wipes. They are great value and can be purchased in big jumbo packs. Plus they have a good plastic lid, you can easily pull just one out at a time, and for most nappy changes one wipe will suffice. Runner-up would be Asda little angels cotton soft baby wipes.  I swear by Metanium every day barrier ointment. It is often on offer during the baby events, but is admittedly more expensive than some of the other barrier creams. However, as a doctor I have found it is often recommended as treatment for nappy rash, where other measures have failed. She has not suffered with nappy rash so far, so fingers crossed it will continue!

I would love to hear your poop stories. I feel that discussing them is a little bit like therapy! However, I request that you do not poo-poo my thoughts on nappy time!

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?