Saturday, 29 August 2015

Beginnings and Ends

Today is the day that I leave the job I've been doing (on and off) for eleven years of my life. That's over a third of my thirty years spent in various levels of service to the carpet and furniture industry, and I do consider myself to be quite the veteran. It was never a calling of mine; it was a job that I fell into by accident, but I was drawn to the sales side of things, and it's that which has kept me hooked. I get a genuine buzz from helping people to spend large amounts of their money, but however much I enjoy it, sales is a job; it isn't my dream.

So, today I'm parting ways with an industry, and indeed a family, that has been a huge part of my adult life. Living in a fairly small seaside town, most businesses tend to be family run and this one is no exception. The staff turnover is basically non-existent and even those who do leave eventually end up coming back at some point. The people I work with are more than colleagues; they're friends and family and I'll miss them. But the time has come to take my dreams off hold. My life isn't supposed to be spent sat behind a desk or telling people about the benefits of a wool twist over a polypropelene saxony. 

Of course, I'm actually leaving to have a baby, but that's not all. I have made the conscious decision to take some time out from doing a job to make space for a career; a career that matters and that follows the path of a long held dream whilst forging the way for some new ones. Obviously there will be writing. In some ways, there has always been writing, only now that I have small people in my life, this faraway fantasy has taken on a different urgency and meaning. I've made the move from writing 'boohoo' short stories about tortured souls and wronged individuals to writing far-fetched and fantastical stories for children. Children have become my new dream. Suddenly I'm aware of just how important the education and nurture of the next generation really is, and I want to play my part in developing their imaginations and love for stories.

It might be that I'm unsuccessful, although I largely refuse to acknowledge that as a a possibility, but should it become the case then I will finish my English degree and work towards teaching young children in some other way; perhaps sharing my stories in a classroom instead of via print. What was once a vague notion of something I wanted to do has suddenly become an intense hunger and I'm powerless to try and ignore it.

So I'm taking a leap of faith in myself, helped of course by my incredible husband who is having to go out and earn actual money while I indulge in what is seen by many to be little more than a whim. I, of course, know otherwise and I'm so, so, so frightened and excited. I'm also a little sad, because I will miss the laughter I've shared in this building. All I can do is think of the laughter my words might inspire in those who really matter, in our next generation, and keep on pushing on. 

I'm so ready.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How to Raise a Well Behaved Toddler

Ha! I'm kidding. Obviously I have no idea how to get your toddler to behave, but did you know that there is an abundance of articles out there that claim to be able to? All nonsense, of course. I'm inherently sceptical of advice pieces like that. For one thing, I believe that toddlers do exactly what they want one hundred per cent of the time,  but also I hate that they're not given credit as individual people; as though some formula will work on them all.

Doesn't make it any easier when your child hits the age at which they stop being able to see or hear you, though. Blake has reached that age. He spends the majority of the day refusing to acknowledge my existence, breaking from character only when he senses that my bottom has touched the toilet seat or that I might be secretly eating chocolate in the kitchen. Naturally, at those moments, he can't bear to be apart from me. The rest of the time, however, I'm invisible and my voice apparently functions on a frequency not detected by toddler ears.

Blake isn't naughty... as such. He doesn't throw enormous tantrums, nor does he get spiteful with me or other children. In fact, most of the scenarios you would automatically picture when told of 'bad behaviour' are alien in our house. What he does is ignorance, and he does it very well. In the course of an average day, I can say 'no' about six million times. The problem is: it doesn't mean anything. I know that he knows what the word means, because he used to react to it exactly as you'd expect, but somewhere down the line he has decided that it simply doesn't apply to him. 

There are a few simple rules in our house that I try to enforce. One of those rules is that if the child is outside playing and I'm in the house, then the screen door stays open. That's so that I can both hear him and access him quickly in the inevitable event that he trips over his own feet and hurts himself. Blake has decided that he'd prefer the screen door shut. I have tried everything to try and get him to see my point - from a calm explanation as to why the door needs to be open to basically yelling 'NO' at him as I carry him back into the house, right through basic bribery; when chocolate stops working, you know you've got issues. The fact is, he literally doesn't give a shit that I've said no. Somewhere in his head, a little switch has been flipped. He has gone from revering everything I say and do to thinking 'that one with the boobs? You can ignore her. She talks bollocks'.

Don't even get me started on bedtime. We have never been able to defeat that monster.


"Are we seriously back on that?"

I finish most days feeling guilty that I've spent the entire day berating the poor boy, but I don't know any other way of instilling some sort of discipline into him. My sister babysat recently and acknowledged (with some frustration) that getting his attention was a lot like saying 'Blake' over and over again into an empty flowerpot and hoping for some kind of response. 

As I say, he's not really a naughty kid, so it's difficult to establish any serious discipline routines and I sincerely doubt that any of them would work on a child that refuses to allow any negative communication. Plus, the rest of the time, he is genuinely the cutest little snuggle bunny I have ever laid eyes on. Not to mention the fact that his somewhat defiant nature has spawned some cracking personality traits that I really don't want to discourage. 

I don't know what the point of this post is. I think I just wanted to put it out there; to perhaps reassure myself that I'm not just fucking terrible at this parenting lark. I don't think it's me. Perhaps he just is what he is. After all, haven't I said myself that we ought to treat small people as individuals? Perhaps Blake is just individually as deaf as a post when it comes to being told what to do... I think I'll blame that one on his father.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Fingers (Not Legs) Crossed for VBAC Victory

I can't quite believe I'm already in my third trimester of this pregnancy. It's gone so much quicker than my first, when every week seemed to drag along at a snail's pace as I laboriously approached my due date. Obviously, I've been giving a fair bit of thought to the birth itself and I am pleased to announce that I am officially a candidate for a vaginal birth after c-section (or a VBAC for those in the know).

Well, 90% pleased; the other 10% is fucking terrified. 

Mostly, I feel really positive about the whole thing. I laboured with Blake and got to 7cm without pain relief before my little womb monster decided that he'd had enough, so I think that I can cope with labour without too much trouble. What really scares me is the prospect of something going wrong.

In reality, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. There is such a thing as scar rupture in which the walls of the uterus are put under so much strain by the contractions that the old caesarean wound opens. This puts the life of both the mother and baby at incredible risk, so naturally I'll have a consultant on stand-by, ready to whisk me into surgery at the first sign of any rupture happening. For my part, I have to be super alert to any pain that lasts between contractions because what I feel will be the ultimate indicator to something going wrong. Well, bugger me, that's a lot of pressure. When I was in labour with Blake, I could have barely told you my name, let alone felt a deeply in-tune connection with what was happening in my nether regions.

 The obvious solution to anything going wrong will be to immediately take me in for another section, and therein lies my second biggest fear. The truth is, I just really don't want one. Any of you that might be thinking that a caesarean is the easy childbirth option would be wrong; they're horrible. The surgery is scary (especially under emergency circumstances when you've not had a chance to work out which way is up), and the recovery is long and painful. There are also these awesome anaesthetic shakes that no one tells you about beforehand, but that last ages after the operation itself. It's only when you're lying there, practically shaking yourself off the table and wondering if you're dying, that someone bothers to tell you it's normal. For the first hour of my son's life, I was too scared to hold him in case my violent shuddering threw him from the hospital bed. Not only that, but I had all manner of trouble once they took my catheter out.

Plot twist! I'm also scared of giving birth naturally because, well, ouch. My lady bits have largely remained unchanged in the long term by the birth of my son, but a VBAC will soon put paid to all of that. A day or two out from having Blake, I could go about my toilet business without too much thought; not like my poor episiotomy inflicted sistren. Sex was tricky at first, but eventually returned to normal after a few months; those who have had vaginal births complain of a permanent change in sensation. Also, how the hell do you go to the toilet when you have stitches in your bits? The whole thing sounds bloody brutal.

So, I'm a bit of a contradiction really; I'm thrilled to be given the chance to give a VBAC a go, but I'm basically terrified of every option I have. I know that when the day comes, I'll just deal with whatever happens, but that doesn't stop me from obsessing about it a bit in the meantime.

Isn't childbirth fun?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Real World Reasons to Breastfeed

It is often drummed into us at antenatal appointments that breast is best. I'm not here to dispute that; as a mother who has successfully fed one child and is gearing up to feed the one growing inside her, I'm a big advocate of what can often be a contentious issue.

Not everyone can breastfeed, and not everyone wants to, but there does seem to be quite a lot of women who are somewhat on the fence about whether or not they want to try. For those ladies that are unsure, there is plethora of information available about the evidential medical benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and their babies. In my opinion, that's kind of the problem; not only is this onslaught of facts and figures somewhat overwhelming, but a lot of us hear words like 'cancer' and 'SIDS' and immediately close ourselves off.

With that in mind, I'm here to provide some benefits of breastfeeding that women can relate to their immediate lives. After all, isn't it all about stacking up the real world pros and cons?

1. It's free.

A bit of a no-brainer, that one. Formula is expensive, whichever brand you go for, and breast milk is completely and utterly free. Ok, not completely, because you'll need extra fuel and those cakes soon add up, but it's still a whole a lot cheaper than buying milk in.

2. Less washing up.

Bottles are a pain in the arse to wash. You need a special brush to get right up into the teats, and even then you'll be paranoid that it isn't quite clean. Once you're finally satisfied that any trace of earlier feeds has gone, the rinsing starts. The ever-lasting bloody rinsing...

Boobs require a quick wash in the shower, which I hope you would be doing anyway.

3. No sterilising

I have never once popped my breast into a steriliser, which is probably a good thing; I've retrieved bottles from those contraptions shortly after their cycles have ended and given myself third degree burns.

4. Less clutter

Things you need for bottle feeding: bottles, teats, formula, steriliser, bottle brush, bottle warmer... the list goes on.

Things you need for breastfeeding: breasts. Of course, you can get all sorts of paraphernalia to go with breastfeeding too, but if you're anything like me, you'll use approximately none of it.

5. Baby doesn't have to wait.

Picture the scene: it's 3am and you have a hungry infant who can only communicate in shrill screams of despair. You have two options - you can either go downstairs, boil the kettle, mix a bottle, wait for it to cool and try and pacify your angry husband who has a 6am shift that day, or you can pop a nipple into the baby's mouth and provide immediate milk, perfectly mixed and at the exact desired temperature within minutes of them waking.

6. You can eat more.

I mentioned the cake, didn't I? Breastfeeding uses up calories, so it stands to reason that you need to put more in. Bring on the carbs!

7. It's a good excuse.

Don't want to go to that Ann Summers party with the loud girl from work? Best you tell her that little Albert won't take a bottle yet and cluster feeds in the evenings. In fact getting home for a feed is a pretty good excuse to leave anywhere. I once got out of having to go and sit and exam thanks to my magical boobies.

8. You can be a bit smug.

You're doing something that's universally acknowledged to be difficult, so be as smug as you like. But never, ever get self-righteous; just because you can do it doesn't give you a free pass to preach. People don't like that.

9. You get quality Netflix time.

While breastfeeding is being established, it can take a long time. This naturally means an awful lot of time sat in one spot, plugged into a baby. This is time well spent catching up on your television consumption. I once watched four seasons of Misfits in less than two weeks.

10. It sends baby to sleep.

Mastering the side-by-side feed will be a powerful part of your "please nap" arsenal. The baby will drift peacefully into the land of slumber, comforted by the close proximity of their loving mother. Of course, you'll be obligated to wait until they wake up before attempting to remove your nipple from their maw, so bring reading material or a fully charged smartphone.


Still on the fence? Ok, I have to admit it's not the easiest thing in the world and it absolutely isn't for everyone, but my advice is try it; you might love it, and it'd be a crying shame to never really know...