20 facts about me

I was recently tagged in a “20 facts about me” on Instagram and my goodness was it tough to think of that many things that might be of interest to other people! But here it is for anyone who wants to know a bit more about me.

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  1. My name is Jo and when I married I became Mrs J Lowe (which I still cringe about!)
  2. Before High school I was always known as Joanna (my full name) but on my first day someone introduced me to the class as Jo and it’s stuck ever since!
  3. I live in Milton Keynes but grew up in Nottingham
  4. Scarborough feels like another home to me because my grandparents lived there and we visited a lot when I was younger
  5. I’m a typical Virgo – I like routine & order, I’m not great with spontaneity and I’m a natural worrier!
  6. I’m a big fan of musicals – my fave is Wicked which I’ve seen 5 times!
  7. I changed Universities after not settling at my first. I felt like such a failure at the time and debated for a long time about whether I was cut out for Uni
  8. I met my husband at Uni in a lecture. It wasn’t quite love at first sight – I had a boyfriend at the time 😬- but we had such a spark and were best of friends instantly
  9. When I was 9 I got really into the Euros football tournament and very shortly afterwards my dad bought us season tickets for our local team (Derby County) – and we’ve been regularly ever since!
  10. I’m a big chocoholic and eat (at least) a little bit pretty much every day
  11. I’m incredibly soppy and cry at pretty much everything!
  12. New York is my favourite city and is where I got engaged
  13. I hate having my picture taken but I love having photos to look back on so I’m trying to get better!
  14. I lived in London for 5 years and surprised myself by loving the city life but knew I didn’t want to settle there forever
  15. I’m scared of most animals (even though I think they’re so cute to look at)
  16. I love playing netball – I gave it up when I was pregnant but would love to take it up again at some point in the future
  17. My dream car growing up was a Mini Cooper and I was over the moon to own one before having Archie
  18. My favourite meal is a Sunday roast and I’m lucky to have a mum who is the Queen of them!
  19. I’m a complete lightweight – so much so that it puts me off drinking 😉
  20. I’ve always wanted to be a mummy and knew my life wouldn’t be complete otherwise ❤
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Sleep training

Before I had Archie, I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d get him to go to sleep and I’d certainly never heard of sleep training before. About 4.5 months in and having endured 5 consecutive weeks of literally no sleep, the 3 of us were all completely miserable and my friend said I should consider sleep training. I’m so glad she did because it was a huge turning point and we’ve never looked back since.

sleep training

4 month sleep cycles

At around 4 months all babies go through a development change whereby their sleep cycles change and become more like that of an adult’s. It won’t always be hugely noticeable as some babies cope better with the change than others. For us, when Archie was just over 3 months old he started waking every 45 mins-1 hour in the night and was pretty much refusing to nap in the day.

I’ll admit that we made a few mistakes which didn’t help. Firstly, we never put Archie down to sleep when he was awake. Mostly we would feed him to sleep and in the daytime would hold him during naps or at bedtime we would have the fun battle of trying to put him down without him noticing! But after a while, babies will refuse to feed to sleep and so we began singing and rocking him instead but this quickly became exhausting when it took around 45 mins for him to actually fall to sleep.

He slept OK in the car but rarely slept in his pram. So after 5 weeks of literally no sleep, I was completely desperate and was lucky enough to speak to a friend who talked me through sleep training and ultimately gave me the push I needed to try it.

Sleep training in action

Sleep training is essentially just a way of teaching your baby to self-soothe so that when they wake up in the night they can soothe themselves back to sleep. It’s an important milestone for your baby to learn and some won’t need much encouragement whereas some will need your help to learn.

The very next day after speaking to my friend, we decided to put Archie in his own room and start sleep training. I appreciate not everyone would be happy to put their baby in his/her own room at this age (4.5 months) but we realised that we were all waking each other up in the same room and given we had a movement sensor/ monitor we were happy that he would be safe.

In terms of the sleep training method we used, essentially it goes like this:

  1. Put baby down awake (make sure they are well fed and dry first)
  2. Give them a kiss on the head and say “It’s night-time/ nap-time now” and walk out of the room
  3. If baby is crying after 2 mins, then go back in and repeat step 2
  4. Double the time you go back in each time, so after you went in at 2 mins, if they are still crying after 4 mins (6 mins in total since step 1) then repeat step 2
  5. And so on….

Essentially you can do any routine you want in step 2 but the key is to repeat it every time you go into the room and do not pick them up. That way, eventually they will understand that there’s no benefit in crying and they will fall to sleep more easily.

Of course, the above all sounds so simple in theory but in practice it can be very emotional and it will be very difficult for you to hear your baby crying and to not pick them up. The first few days were really tough but I made sure my husband was around for morale support and that made the world of difference. I also made sure I kept busy and away from his room (with the monitor) during the times when he was crying so I didn’t solely focus on it.

But to be honest, I was amazed at how quickly Archie took to it. Within a few weeks, he was mostly going down without crying at all (or very little) which I would never have believed previously. And even at the worst times, Arch would usually give in just before the 16 mins milestone (so 30 mins in total).

Nap times were probably the hardest because I would always doubt whether I called it wrong and maybe he wasn’t tired enough but it soon became a lot easier to know when he needed his sleep and his cues became more and more obvious (for him it was usually when he was becoming agitated for no apparent reason and when he rubbed his ears).

Sleep training on reflection

I completely appreciate that the above is not for everyone and if you’re not completely desperate and can find another way then that’s great. But for us, it was literally a life-saver. Sleep had always felt like such a battle and it was so draining that I never really felt like I was coping before. The change in Archie was also huge – his development came on massively as soon as he was getting the sleep he needed and he was generally just so much happier. We’re lucky that he’s been a pretty good sleeper ever since and the only downside is that he rarely sleeps anywhere but his cot which can be a bit inflexible but for us, we’d rather just work our days round his routine for a happier life.

 

Bonding with your baby

When I gave birth to Archie, I was lucky enough to feel an instant bond with him. When I first held him, it was like I’d known him for ages and I just felt an overwhelming sense of love and protectiveness towards him. Unfortunately, a few weeks later and (I’m ashamed to say) that I no longer felt like his mummy and the initial bond we had seemed to be fading. 

bonding with your baby

I know I’m one of the lucky ones for feeling an immediate bond with my baby because not everyone does. I think partly it was down to the fact that he was 2 weeks overdue and there were honestly times when I thought I would never even meet him! So I just fell immediately in love with him and I know it sounds strange but I felt like we instantly knew each other and were just meant to be mummy and son.

I’m sad (and embarrassed) to say that over the next few weeks, I really struggled to connect with him and we grew further and further apart. It stemmed mostly from my inability to satisfy his hunger with my own milk (read more about our feeding journey here). He was constantly angry about this (understandably!) and would scream for hours on end unless attached to me. I felt like a complete failure and dreaded every moment I had to be alone with him.

It definitely wasn’t the way I’d read about it in the books or heard about it from other breastfeeding mums. They spoke of the amazing bond they felt with their baby when feeding. For me,  I just never felt this way.

Breastfeeding seemed to just tear us apart. I felt so disconnected from him. It was like I’d been handed someone else’s baby and I just didn’t feel like his mummy anymore.

I looked forward to the times when other people were around and could hold him for me. To give us some physical distance. And he seemed so much happier in other people’s arms which made me feel like such a failure (in hindsight it’s probably because they didn’t smell of milk like I did).

Luckily, introducing formula and (ultimately) bottle feeding helped to bring us closer together. I realised I could do so much more for my baby beyond feeding him. I became better at comforting him and knowing what he wanted. Simply making him smile/ giggle was (and still is) one of my favourite things to do!

It took a good few months to feel like we’d bonded again and it breaks my heart to even admit that we were so disconnected for that long. But I wanted to be honest and share my experience in the hope that it’s of comfort for anyone experiencing similar. And to know that there is hope – it really does get better and I can honestly say it hasn’t affected us in the long term.

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.

 

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?

Am I a good mum?

A little while ago, I was chatting to one of my mummy friends about what it means to be a good mum and how I hope one day I would feel like one. It got us chatting about self-doubt and how it’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling at the time. When in fact it’s probably the furthest from the truth.

goodmum

I’ve touched on this before but becoming a mummy has led me to doubt myself more than at any other time in my life. I guess being a first-time mum brings with it a whole new vulnerability – it’s completely natural for you to have no idea what you’re doing but for some reason you can feel like a failure for being that way.

I think partly it’s because looking around at the other mums they often look like they have it all together and you only notice when your own baby/ child is crying/ playing up.

Plus motherhood leads you to make so many different decisions and each time you have to make one there’s so much room for doubt. I’m a big believer that there’s no right way to “mother”. You have to make decisions that are right for you and your family. And only you (and your partner) are the ones that can make them. But the pressure when you’re making a decision for the most important thing in your life can sometimes feel a little much!

Almost a year later and I’ve started to open up more and more to a few of my closest mummy friends. And it’s clear that we are all in the same boat. Even with my nearly one year old, I still feel like I’m winging it every day. Every stage is new – weaning, teething, crawling, walking etc. – so it’s no wonder I don’t feel like a competent mummy yet. Do you ever get to a point where you feel that way I wonder?!

I look at my own mum and think of how amazing she is and how it all seems to come so naturally. But of course I never saw the early days when perhaps things weren’t as easy as they are now with 2 daughters who have grown up and fled the nest.

What I would say is the fact that EVERYONE has an opinion when you have a baby doesn’t help you to build self-confidence. I have no idea why but for some reason when women are often at their most vulnerable, people think it’s OK to judge and inflict their own (often strong) opinions on you – even strangers! And ironically, more often than not, it’s other women who have been first-time mums themselves once upon a time.

I hope that I never get to a point where I think I know better just because I’ve done it once (or even a few times). Because each person’s experience is different and each baby/ child is different too!

At the start of the year I vowed to believe in myself more. And if I’m being honest I haven’t done so well on that so far. We’ve had a raft of illnesses which seem to have set us back a bit and I’m fully aware that self-confidence isn’t something that happens overnight. But I am determined to work on it and I think the more honest I am about it is a decent starting point.

I once read that if you’re worrying about whether you’re a good mummy or not then the chances are the fact that you’re even worrying about it, means you already are one. I’m going to remind myself of this every time a bit of self-doubt creeps in and I’ll keep you posted as to how I’m getting on!