10 things I’ve learnt since becoming a mum

Ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, and having just had my first full year as a mum, I thought I’d take a bit of time to reflect on 10 things I’ve learnt. To say it’s been a steep learning curve is a huge understatement so to be honest the below will never do it justice but I thought I’d try and pick out the main ones. I’d love to know what you think – please leave me a comment with yours 🙂

mummy and me edited

  1. Being a mum is really hard – I mean I never expected it to be a walk in the park but my goodness no one warned me that it would be the hardest job I’d ever do. The constant mental worries, the daily emotional rollercoaster, the physical strain when you’re so tired your eyes are burning and your back/ arms are aching. Of course it’s all completely worth it and makes it all the more rewarding but I don’t think I ever anticipated there would be a job where you never switch off – ever!
  2. There is no other love like it – I remember my dad telling me this before I had Archie and he said “one day, I promise you’ll see, it’s a love that’s impossible to describe. But there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your child. It’s a love that’s completely unconditional”. And of course, he was right, there really is no other love like the love you have for your child.
  3. I will always strive to be better – whether it’s providing Archie with the most balanced meals, getting his nap schedule completely right so he’s never overtired, making sure I’m interacting/ playing with him enough etc. there will literally never be a point where I feel like I can’t do better.
  4. It’s easy to forget about your relationship – it’s only natural that your relationship will take a backseat when you have a child but to be honest I never expected it to be as big a test as it’s been. And yet at the same time, I need my husband more than ever and we’ll never be part of a more significant team. The focus may no longer be on us but I do think it’s important to make time for each other and to be reminded of where it all started.
  5. No phase lasts – when things are feeling really tough and I’m not sure I can cope, I know it won’t last forever. And at the same time, when everything seems to be going to plan and we’ve had a good few days, I know to just soak it up because it also won’t last – there’s always another round of teething/ illness to get through but it’s those times that make you really appreciate the times before!
  6. My priorities have completely changed – whether it’s planning what we’re going to do for the day, planning out the future or simply who I choose to spend my time with, my number 1 priority is Archie and what’s best for him.
  7. Over-comparisons can be unhealthy – there are so many comparisons when you’re a mum – both about your child and the way you parent. Particularly from other mums – everyone wants to know about your child’s sleep, eating, feeding, pooing etc. – and of course most of it comes without malice, we’re all just sense checking to see whether we’re doing an OK job. But I do sometimes find it a bit too much and it plays on my own insecurities so I try my best not to pry too much into other’s routines these days.
  8. My support network is more important than ever – I think it’s natural that my support network has become smaller but it’s also so much stronger than it’s ever been. I honestly couldn’t cope without my closest family and friends who have got me through some of my toughest times but have made the good times so much better too.
  9. Finding time for myself is necessary – overcoming the “mum guilt” and putting myself first occasionally is something I still struggle with now. But I also know that to be the best mum possible, I need some time out sometimes to reset and recharge.
  10. There is no better job in the world – the biggest cliché going but it really is true. Being Archie’s mum is a huge privilege and there is no job more important or more rewarding.

 

Going abroad with my 8 month old crawler

In October last year my husband and I braved a 4.5 hour flight to Tenerife with Archie for a 10 day holiday, at which point he was 8 months old and a very competent crawler. Despite having a lovely time, if I’m honest it’s not something I’d rush to do again so I thought I’d share our experience and some things you may wish to consider if you’re thinking of doing similar.

tenerife

  • Build in more time than you think you need at the airport – I know this is a difficult balance because you don’t want to be waiting at the airport with a baby to entertain for hours but make sure you build in enough time for multiple nappy/ clothes changes and feeds.
  • Check your luggage restrictions – with most airlines under 2s travel for free but they usually have to sit on your knee and they won’t be given any luggage allowance. So consider whether you need to pay for an extra bag.
  • Carrying and making up formula feeds – for travelling days I’d recommend carrying ready-made formula bottles with you so you don’t have to worry about making it up. Then think carefully about how much formula you will need when you’re away and what facilities you need to make it up. For us personally we took ready-made bottles for the whole trip which made life very easy – apart from having to fit it all in our luggage! We did pre-order some to arrive at the Boots at the airport though which worked well so that we could carry some in our hand luggage.
  • Is your baby easy to entertain? – some babies (age will play a big part here) are fairly chilled and content sitting on your knee whilst others need constant stimulation and are not happy sitting still. Clearly the former makes travelling much easier and if yours is like the latter then it might be worth travelling with friends/ family to share the load! If not, then take a couple of toys with you for the journey but be aware that they’ll probably be more interested in the things they’re not allowed/ the people around them!
  • Transfer arrangements – do you need a car seat? – if you have arranged a private transfer it’s likely you will need a car seat. When I researched into taking our own I realised that there was a high risk it could be damaged in transit so we opted to travel by coach in the end so Archie could sit on our knee.
  • What pushchair will you take with you? – similar to the above in terms of taking a pushchair that you don’t mind potentially being damaged in transit. We took a foldable Mamas and Papas one which worked well but the steering is definitely not the same as it was to begin with!
  • Is your baby a good sleeper on the move? – this was a big one for us (and something we hadn’t considered in much detail before). Archie generally doesn’t sleep anywhere but his cot which made the travelling days pretty painful. It also meant we were slightly restricted when we were away too – see next point.
  • Does your baby have a fixed routine at home? – if your baby has set nap/ meal/ feeding times at home then it might be worthwhile replicating this whilst your away to make life easier. We learnt this the hard way and soon realised that if we let Archie’s schedule rule the roost then we were all much happier!
  • Sterilising – if you need to sterilise anything whilst you’re away the cold water systems are great and you can buy dissolvable tablets which take up less space than steriliser liquids. Whatever system you choose just remember to account for it in your luggage and consider what you would do if your luggage went missing.
  • Is your baby being weaned? – if so think about taking some food pouches with you – luckily we did because the availability in Tenerife supermarkets was very limited and we didn’t want Archie to eat too much salt by eating out all the time.
  • Crawlers and pools/ the beach do not mix well – when booking our holiday I had visions of us lounging by the pool/ on the beach in a shaded area with our chilled out baby – oh how wrong I was! Archie has never really been content sitting still (even as a fidgety young baby!) so I should have known really. Keeping a crawler in the shade and in a safe, secure area at the beach/ pool is near-on impossible so you will need to accept that you won’t be spending your days sunbathing.
  • An apartment/ villa will give you more options – yes an all-inclusive hotel is appealing because there won’t be a need to cook but it does limit your options and you will feel inclined to eat all your meals in one place. We booked a hotel which had apartment rooms with half board dining so we only had to think about buying lunch. And importantly we had a separate living space to our bedroom with basic kitchen facilities which meant we could prepare easy meals/ snacks and once Archie had gone to bed we had a space of our own to chill out. Plus we had sun loungers on our balcony which was a huge plus for daytime naps so we could embrace a little bit of that sun!
  • If not in self-catered accommodation, check your dining times – the downside of having food included is that you will need to fit around the hotel’s dining schedule although if you choose a family hotel then most likely they’ll accommodate for early diners. Luckily for us our hotel started serving dinner at 6:30 which was just early enough to stretch Archie out without any major tantrums.
  • Accept your holiday will be very different than pre-baby – this is not to say you won’t have a great time but it’s probably best not to compare it to holidays you’ve had before and to accept a new way of doing things. No you won’t be getting a lie in but you’ll be the first to breakfast before it gets picked over. And yes you might be having your dinner at a time when most are having a late lunch but at least that gives you more time to yourselves in the evening. And so on. It’s all about changing your perspective and embracing a new kind of normal – something that us parents are pretty used to anyway!

If you’ve been away with your baby/ toddler, I’d love to know your experience, please comment down below.

 

My experience of baby classes

Before having Archie I had no idea what types of baby classes were available and which ones I’d be interested in. I remember ‘googling’ for ones in my area and feeling pretty overwhelmed. So I thought I’d share our experience and a few ideas which might help to narrow down your search.

baby classes

Firstly, I’d say that in the first 12 weeks you’re unlikely to have any form of routine which might make attending classes difficult and a bit overwhelming. Plus most babies benefit more when they’re at the 3 month mark than any earlier so don’t put pressure on yourself unnecessarily.

Also I’d try not to do more than 2/3 classes because as much as it’s good to add a bit of structure to your week they can be quite tiring and again it can become a bit overwhelming.  For us 2 classes a week seems to work well and allows us to still meet up with friends/ family and do “unplanned” activities.

Most companies will offer a trial for their classes so I would recommend starting with this first because classes will vary massively depending on instructor/ location/ group size and so on. And for context of the following we’re based in the Milton Keynes area.

Baby massage – we did a 5 week NCT baby massage course when Archie was 8 weeks old and to be honest it just wasn’t for us. Archie suffered from reflux and hated being naked so making him lie on his back with little clothes on usually led to him screaming from start to finish! The sessions were too long I would say at 1 hour 15 mins and being a hungry baby Archie would need a feed so the amount of time I actually practised any massage technique was probably about 10 mins in total across all the sessions! I think it’s totally personal preference as I know some people who’ve loved it but mostly it seems to be a love or hate thing. And with hindsight I think 8 weeks was too early for us – I wish we’d left it until he was at least 3 months old – but I still wouldn’t do another course again.

Music classes – we went to a 3 week trial of Music Bugs when Archie was 8 weeks old but again I think I was being a bit too keen and it was too soon for us. So we signed up properly when Archie was 6 months and it’s now one of our absolute favourite classes (it goes up to the age of 4). The classes tend to be really sociable, high energy and of course involve lots of dancing and singing with a few props/ instruments thrown in for good measure. It really is worth giving it a try because it’s hard not to leave feeling better than when you arrived. There are quite a few other franchises that run music classes– Jo Jingles and Monkey Music are a couple I know of if Music Bugs doesn’t operate in your area.

Baby swimming – we started swimming lessons when Archie was 3 months old. There are loads of different companies to choose from but we opted for Water Babies because of the time/ location (we wanted to go on a weekend so Daddy could come with us and the options were more limited). The first term went well and it really gave us confidence to take him into the water by ourselves. However the second term was a bit of a disaster! Archie just hated every minute of being in the water. I think there were a few reasons – he suffers from eczema and his skin used to flare up in the chlorine, the times of his nap had changed and he was super tired plus the class had become very busy and the noisy environment just added to the chaos! To be honest looking back the content of the second term was very similar to the first – it’s all designed to get you confident in the water with your baby so I don’t think we will sign up again until he’s much older and can learn some techniques. Plus the sessions are expensive – around £14 per half an hour class – and it’s very easy to miss a few due to sickness.

Baby sensory – we started going to Baby Sensory when Archie was 3 months old and although he probably didn’t really benefit from it until he was older I did enjoy taking him and found the class structure worked really well for us. There was 20 minutes of structured play, following by 20 minutes of free play (which is where you can socialise with other mums/dads) and then 20 minutes of structured play again. In the structured sessions, these are instructor led and the activities stimulate pretty much all of your baby’s senses. We’re lucky to have an amazing instructor here in Milton Keynes (Sophie) and as well as being a fun and interactive class it was also very informative and gave me lots of ideas for things to try at home. The class is up to 13 months although we stopped just before Archie turned 1 because he was starting to become a little disruptive (mainly because he was walking and didn’t want to sit still!). The follow-on class is Toddler Sense which we’ve just started and we love that already too!

Baby college – we went to a trial of our local baby college class and although we enjoyed it I found it too similar to baby sensory to make me want to sign up. It’s maybe something I’ll try again when Archie is a bit older.

Messy play – we first tried a Little Learners messy play class when Archie was 9 months old. In terms of the format, there are lots of trays laid out on the floor with various “messy play” materials in each and it’s a bit of a free-for-all in terms of just letting your baby dive in to the ones they like. We went to a few classes and Archie did enjoy it but because he was teething everything would end up in his mouth – his favourite being a pencil or paintbrush! So I think with hindsight he was a little young and so it’s definitely something I will try again when he’s older.

Outside of baby class courses (where you need to commit for a full term) there are lots of things which operate on a pay-as-you-go basis and I like to add these into the mix on the days when we don’t have much on.

Baby gymnastics – several local leisure centres run baby gymnastics sessions where babies are free to run wild in the gymnastics area with toys and a bouncy castle. It’s a good one for meeting up with your fellow mummy friends and letting your babies play/ explore whilst you have a catch up. We regularly attend the Arabian Gym at Bletchley leisure centre.

Health centres – your local health centre will run coffee mornings/ play sessions so it’s worth asking your health visitor for more details

NCT Bumps and Babies (check your region) – weekly informal get-togethers for new mummies

Local village halls/ churches – often there is a weekly coffee morning/ play group held in these so if you have one near you it might be worth a look

Garden centres – there are lots of baby/ child friendly activities held at garden centres such as story/ music sessions so worth checking out your local one

Library – similar to the garden centre, usually there is a weekly story/ music time so worth checking out on your local council website

I really hope this has given you some inspiration if, like me, you didn’t really know where to start and I’d love to know how you get on if you attend any of these.

My separation anxiety

You’ve probably heard of separation anxiety from the perspective of a baby/ child. But I’d never really thought of it in eyes of the parent before – and now it is something I really struggle with. As much as I know it’s healthy for me to spend some time away from Archie, I find it really hard to leave him and the anxiety I feel before sometimes makes me question, is it really worth it?

separation anxiety

The answer of course is most definitely yes. It’s not good for me or him to be permanently attached to each other. And when I do manage to spend time away I do actually enjoy myself but it’s certainly not as easy as it was before.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the spa with my mum and we had the loveliest time. I really switched out of mummy mode for a while and it was nice to have a break. The few days before though I was feeling really anxious – barely sleeping, mind racing, feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve only ever left him with my husband or my parents and I’m certainly not worried about whether they’ll be OK looking after him as he usually has the best time and they are more than capable, so what am I really anxious about?

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out and I really can’t put my finger on it.

I think part of it is because Archie has become my little comfort blanket. When we’re out and about he is the topic of conversation and everyone’s attention diverts immediately to him. So when he’s not there suddenly I feel very exposed and not quite sure what to do with myself. I worry about making conversation without him being the natural distraction and I just feel a bit lost without him.

I think some of it is because I’m a stay-at-home mum and he’s my whole world now. I used to be pretty career driven and would passionately chat about the industry I worked in but now I feel a bit disconnected from it all. When I’m not in mummy mode, who even am I? I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet.

And if I’m being truly honest I think that part of me is being selfish. I want to soak up every moment with him. And I want him to “need” me. I know it’s so irrational but I worry that if anyone can look after him (and effectively do my job) then what if he actually doesn’t need me after all. And is what I do really that purposeful?

I know it sounds crazy and it’s something that I really need to get on top of. I’ve been making a conscious effort to leave Archie on a more regular basis (where practically possible) because surely the more I do it the easier it will become? I’m so worried about the impact it has on him, I don’t want him to suffer as a result of my own struggles. I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this. Can anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom you’d be happy to share? I’m all ears 🙂

Tips for surviving the fourth trimester

I’ve mentioned before about my struggle with the fourth trimester and whilst I believe nothing can prepare you (and everyone’s experience is so different) I do look back and wish I’d done a few things differently. So, as always, I thought I’d share in case it’s useful for anyone else.

foruth trimester

I always knew the fourth trimester would be difficult and it’s one of the reasons I was so anxious in the latter part of pregnancy. But nothing prepared me for the physical and emotional strain it had on me when the time came.

As well as my struggles with breastfeeding (see post here), I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what I was doing and not feeling in control of what was happening. My life was being dictated by a tiny little human (!) and I felt lost without any structure to my day/night. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak and I love routine so this was really hard to deal with. Not to mention the ridiculous number of hormones circulating in my body and a body which was still recovering from a pretty intense labour.

I felt like I was just about coping until my husband went back to work 10 days after Archie was born. Suddenly I felt solely responsible for keeping our precious baby alive and well and it all got a bit too much. Looking back there are definitely a few things I could have done to help ease the pressure:

  • Accept that it’s just a phase and it will get easier – this is probably the most important and something my mum told me a lot but I just couldn’t see the woods for the trees at the time. Your baby will change quicker than you can ever imagine and I can assure you there will come a time when things feel so much easier. Parenthood is all about riding through the changes – nothing stays the same for long so when things feel too much just be reassured that it won’t last for long.
  • Remember you’re not alone – the support from your family and friends will be a massive lifeline – don’t be afraid to ask for help or to tell someone you’re struggling. Finding mummy friends with similar aged babies is also really helpful – just having that reassurance that you’re not alone in your thoughts/ feelings will be such a godsend.
  • Have a breastfeeding back-up plan – health professionals (and probably many others) will tell you that if you really want to breastfeed you can. But what they often forget is that there are 2 parties to satisfy here and you can’t always predict what your baby is going to do or how you’re going to feel when the time comes. Have a back-up supply of things you will need to bottle feed (bottles, steriliser, and formula) just in case.
  • Be kind to yourself – when you’re feeling overwhelmed imagine what you would tell a friend in a similar situation and tell yourself the same thing. Often we’re so much kinder to our peers than we are to ourselves and now is not the time to be self-critical.
  • Try and find just a little bit of time for you – I know it will seem almost impossible but even just giving yourself 5 mins in the day to enjoy a hot coffee will make such a difference to how you feel.
  • Get out of the house as often as you can – don’t go overboard with this one because you can definitely overdo it but just going for a 15 minute walk and getting out of the house will make the world of difference to how you’re feeling.
  • Don’t just eat junk food – it will be very tempting to eat everything in sight and you will no doubt have a treat box next to your bed for the night time feeds (I’d recommend this if not!) but try to make sure you have some fruit/ veg in there too because it will only make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Invest in some easy meals – whether you batch cook and freeze before baby arrives or buy ready meals to have on hand it will make your life so much easier in the first few weeks not to have to think about what to cook.
  • Believe in yourself – no one knows what they’re doing – even if they look as if they do. You are just as capable as everyone else so just keep the faith and believe in your own ability. Yes you’ll get things wrong but so does everyone. There will be plenty of differing advice/ opinions from those around you (including health professionals) so you can rest easy there isn’t a right way of doing anything! Have the confidence to do what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to go against the crowd.

You may be thinking I’ve missed one important one – the magic word of SLEEP! But I’m pretty sure I don’t need you to remind you to sleep when you can because you will be doing it already 🙂

If you’re pregnant and have read through to the end then thank you and I really hope I haven’t scared you. It’s tough but also a really precious time. You’ll soon look back and think where did my baby go?! Why didn’t I just embrace the chaos and every sleepy cuddle whilst I had chance?

Archie’s 1st birthday party

Ah I still can’t believe my baby is officially 1! I’ve been an emotional wreck all week but we started the celebrations off with a small family party at home which was just lovely. I thought I’d share a few details on here in case anyone needed some inspiration.

singing-happy-birthday.jpg

In terms of the guest list we invited our closest family and a few of my mummy friends with their children. We kept it small because we hosted it at home and it worked out really well. We told everyone to drop in anytime between 11am and 3pm so that the parents could work it around their bubba’s schedules!

For food, we loaded up from M&S the day before! We had pizzas, sausage rolls, crisps, sweets, crudités and we made sandwiches in the morning.

We also pre-ordered the cake from M&S – it was a rainbow cake and tasted delicious – much lighter than I was expecting. Arch was a huge fan too as you can probably tell! He also really enjoyed being sung Happy Birthday to – helped by my mum doing a very ‘original’ dance which was making him laugh! Sadly I didn’t capture the dance on camera but I did get some of his reaction on video – it’s on my Facebook page for anyone interested.

collage

In terms of decorations most of them were from Asda but the star of the show was a Chalkboard which I had made in a “Sing” theme because Archie is obsessed with this film! I thought it would make a nice keepsake for when he’s older too. His birthday balloon was also a major hit  – in fact it’s his favourite present to date – thank you very much to my Auntie. Oh and one final detail was his top which I absolutely love – again from Etsy – which had a 1 and his name on it.

And that was it really – the kids played with all of Archie’s many toys and the adults just chatted and let the children do the entertaining! It was the perfect way to mark the occasion and I’m so glad we kept it low key – we can save all the expensive parties for when he might actually remember them…!

A letter to Archie: 1st birthday

Dear Archie,

Wow a whole year old! Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.

first birthday

This year has gone surprisingly quickly and yet it’s hard remember a time without you. Thank you for giving me the best job in the world and for making me your mummy.

You are growing into the loveliest little boy. A little boy who is officially a toddler. You took your first steps just before Christmas and now there is nothing stopping you. In fact you run more than you walk most of the time!

Although you’ll always be daddy’s little mini-me you’re starting to look more like me now which I love. You have the most gorgeous blue eyes and cute little kiss curls at the back of your hair which is getting fairer by the day. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be a blondie like daddy.

Your love for food is also something that daddy and I share with you although unfortunately for you, I think you might have inherited our sweet tooth too! Your favourites are yoghurts, chocolate brioche, Philadelphia and any kind of fruit!

You love to be independent but also adore spending time with your family. In fact you save most of your smiles/ giggles for the ones you love which makes them all the more special for us.

You’re definitely not one for cuddles but you’re becoming more affectionate and the attachment you have for your little cuddly toy Doggie is very clear to see.

Your favourite toy is definitely a ball – you could spend all day chasing one round and you’ve even started to kick them – which has got daddy and grandad very excited that you might be a footballer when you’re older!

Your love for music just gets stronger by the day and you love to clap, sing and dance along! We’ve recently started to watch the film Sing together (on repeat) and it is by far the easiest way to get your face to light up (that and In the Night Garden but mummy doesn’t share your love of this!).

You’ve also just discovered how to play chase and the little look you give me before you turn around and run off is just the cutest.

You’re definitely a little boy who knows what he wants which I’m hoping will be advantageous as you grow up. You also have the most tenacious nature of any child I know – you’re always desperate to explore and are so determined – you will practice, practice and practice until you’ve achieved what you were trying to do.  This means you’ve already achieved a huge amount in your first year and we could not be prouder.

I cannot wait to see what life holds for you. You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to us and we will do everything we can to give you the happiest life you deserve.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy xxx