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Hello… I have decided to bite the bullet after much internal debate, and start myself a blog page. This is the sort of thing I tie myself in knots in for days/weeks/months/(years), as I make these things into a much bigger deal than it is in my head – fact you may or may not know about me, depending on who you are and how well you know me…

So, about me… I am a critical care nurse, currently on maternity leave for the second time in 2 years – actually precisely 2 years apart as our babies have 2 years and 4 days between them (November is forever going to be an extremely expensive month for us in this household!) – I digress… during my second round of maternity leave I feel I have had a slight identity crisis, I have genuine terror about returning to work this time around (having started a new role while pregnant with baby no.2) and I have found some solace in reading blogs by other people (ahem, parents) such as The Unmumsy Mum and Hurrah for Gin (among others..) as they have given me promise that I am not just a shadow of my former self, just a new version of myself, so I have decided it might be insightful/entertaining to document my journey to becoming a real person once again!

I don't really have a vision for the blog, as with most things in my life I will bumble along and see where it takes me.

 

A dog, a dog and a baby, a dog and 2 babies

Jay has not always been our dog, before living with us he lived with a very good friend of ours who had been through some major life changes and could no longer keep him. Before we took him on permanently, we regularly looked after him for days/weeks at a time, and we considered him part of our family before he officially became “our dog”. A big part of his heart still belongs with our friend, when he visits Jay instantly recognises him (in fact, he has just popped round and made Jay do an excitement wee ‘sprinkle’ on the floor), he is such a loving dog. Except if you’re another dog, he doesn’t care for them too much (more on that later…)

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Roadtrippin’ in the old days

Jay quickly settled into life as our dog, he enjoyed all of our attention and walks both locally and further afield. I found out I was pregnant with Sophie about a week after he came to live with us…

Pregnancy was a funny time; suddenly people I barely knew had no filters and felt they could ask/tell me anything; “was it planned?”, “are you sure there isn’t two in there?” and “wow, you’re so big!” were common place in conversation and I generally laughed along or changed the subject. But the question that really got on my nerves was “what will you do with the dog?”, literally anyone that found out in general chatter that we have a staffy/lab cross would ask me this question and I can honestly say it’s the only question that truly upset me (obviously it’s not nice to be told you’re huge, but that is just an unavoidable part of pregnancy).

I know that more times than not, the question was from a place of concern, but I found these comments particularly offensive because:

  • Jay is part of our family. I’ve never been overly soppy, and I don’t refer to him as my baby, but nevertheless he is a loved and irreplaceable part of our unit
  • I am not stupid enough to not be aware of the reasons for concern, it had crossed my mind that bringing a new baby home to a dog would have its problems and that we would need to watch his behaviour and responses carefully

Obviously, we kept Jay! There really was no other option. When people made their comments I initially became very defensive, explaining how loving Jay is, and how I would be ensuring that they’re kept separate etc, etc. After a few times, I just smiled and said he is part of our family.

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adventures in the sea

Then along came Sophie. Jay coped better than we could ever expected. Prior to bringing her home, we had introduced her scent as Simon had brought some of her clothing home for him to smell. When we walked in, with our little bundle in her car seat, he was so excited to see us, thankfully we had waited to bring her in until we had said our “hellos” but once we did bring her in, he gave her a quick sniff and then carried on as normal. It was almost an anticlimax.

As she has been growing, Jay has shown his true colours as a loyal, protective, patient and loving dog. He regularly navigates floors filled with toys, has been covered in flour during a particularly messy messy play session, has been ‘stroked’, put up with untold levels of noise, has been dressed up and more recently, has been patiently participating while Sophie demands that he sits or rolls over (as long as he is rewarded with a tasty treat!)

At the point of having a dog and a baby, there were a few adjustments, but Jay’s life didn’t really have to alter too much. We still managed to road trip fairly regularly (albeit a bit of a squash in the car!) and as Sophie was an excellent sleeper we still managed snuggles on the sofa in the evening as normal.

That all changed when Albie came along, now there is no space in the car when it is filled with both car seats, the pushchair and whatever other paraphernalia we have to bundle into the car to keep 2 babies hygienic, fed and warm. Jay now has to put up with purely local walks, thought he is pretty lucky as we live within walking distance of some pretty lovely places for a stroll!

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Strolling around Attenborough nature reserve – just over a mile from our house

Still, not as much fun as a road trip to the coast… He has also sacrificed some of his usual snuggle time, as much of our evening has been spent going up/down the stairs, attempting to get a sleep resistant baby to do the impossible.

Despite the changes Jay has remained ever patient and loving. I feel for him now though, as Albie has made his intentions quite clear and once he becomes mobile, I think Jay will have a new shadow…

The main change I noticed with Jay is his protectiveness. He has started barking when there is someone at the door – unless I just didn’t notice this before? It’s VERY noticeable when you have just put a baby down for a sleep though… The other thing is he has always been wary of other dogs, but since having babies, he has no tolerance at all (it may just be that he’s getting old and cranky… though Simon doesn’t seem to have any problems as when he walks him alone, Jay will ‘warn’ other dogs, and will never actively socialize with other dogs). If a dog comes near, especially if it is bigger than him, he will snarl and snap. On two occasions when I have walked him with Sophie and Albie in the pushchair, he has ‘attacked’ other dogs. I know I should have learnt after the first time, but at the time it was so out of character.

Now I keep him on the lead, unless there is literally no one else in the park (and watch all entrances like a possessed hawk), I do let him off if I feel I can as to Jay, it’s not a walk unless he’s chased his ball! His behaviour around other dogs makes me seem like a very antisocial person, but I feel so anxious that I tend to steer clear of anyone with a dog. Sophie has witnessed Jay’s reaction to dogs, and as a result is continually trying to reassure Jay and is very wary of other dogs herself (not necessarily a bad thing I suppose). The worst thing about walking him though, has got to be other people walking their dogs. I was prompted to write this blog after a particularly frustrating time that we had this morning – we walked (painfully slowly as Sophie insisted on ‘helping’ me to push the double pushchair) to our local park, I immediately spotted other dogs so opted to keep Jay on the lead, there was a man sat on the bench in the MIDDLE OF THE PARK with his Alsatian off the lead and going where ever she pleased. His dog started heading over to us and so I politely shouted to him to call her back, which he did, but she kept following us and he still just SAT THERE, this is like my idea as a nightmare as I had to plead with Sophie to return to her seat (not easy) and speed away, all the time with the Alsatian hot on our tale. I knew what would happen if that dog came near, I didn’t want to risk it, so when I requested, again, for him to call his dog back and he did (still just sat on the bench…) but she kept coming, I decided we would have to leave. And walk to the other park over a mile away, great. Got me plenty of steps on the Fitbit though, so shouldn’t complain…

These things are the only things I’d change about Jay (apart from the ridiculous levels of begging whenever anyone eats anything), as he really is the most lovely dog ❤

Though having a dog and 2 babies has its challenges, I stand by the feelings I had when I was pregnant first time round – Jay is part of our family and he makes our lives more fun: we always have at least one trip to the park per day, he is all kinds of enthusiastic to see us if we’ve gone out without him and I never have to clean up any of the food that gets launched from the high chair on a regular basis! (Raisins and malt loaf now firmly off the menu following an emergency trip to the vet after Jay ate an entire malt loaf off the kitchen work top..!)

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This will always be my favourite family selfie

Jay does put up with a lot, but I think he is more than happy to do so (especially when food regularly falls ‘from the sky’.

Alone time and trying to kick the guilt habit

Maternity leave is coming to end in less than 2 weeks, however I am rounding it off with 3 weeks of annual leave that has been accumulated during my time away. When I return to work, both babies will be attending nursery for 2 days a week while I go off to work 12.5 hour shifts. Since starting maternity leave, last october, Sophie has been attending for one day per week so that she doesn’t get out of the routine. Albie has never been away from me, apart from for short periods when I have left him to go to work for a few hours- during which time he has been with family.

So, to ease them in gently, I have opted to start Albie at nursery and increase their days to 2 per week from when my annual leave begins – so that any teething problems can be sorted before I am stuck at work and can’t get to them. And hopefully they’ll both be in the swing of things before I go back; which will make me feel better, selfish, I know. But not as selfish as the real reason that I have opted to do things this way, which is, to put it simply, SO I CAN HAVE SOME TIME ALONE. Alone alone (if you excuse Jay, the dog). For the first time in 9 months.

As with all things in life, as well as being extremely exciting, it throws up some less desirable feelings:

  1. Guilt. There is always guilt when I consider putting the babies in childcare so I can swan off and go to work, but this guilt is on the next level. Seriously, abandoning them so I can have some ‘me time’, especially when…
  2. Fear! I don’t think I’m much good at having me time, I’m well out of practice. And it may be the guilt tricking me into thinking like this, but I don’t think I really like my own company. I have always been surrounded by people, I shared a bedroom as a child and have never lived alone. I actually can’t remember the last time I was alone!

So to up the excitement levels I have pencilled some fun activities that I can only do when I am flying solo…

  • Get my car washed – Sophie is terrified of the jet sprays used at the hand car washes, and I have never managed to get out and wash it myself since having Albie. I’m going to get it completely valeted, it will be amazing!
  • Leisurely lunch with friends that I don’t see very often – last time we got together, I spent most of the time chasing Sophie around and/or feeding and changing Albie. There is going to be one baby there, but not mine, so I may actually manage some uninterrupted conversations!
  • Preparation for returning to work – i seriously need to spend a bit of time attempting to turn the mush in my head into something resembling a brain. I used to know so much stuff. I’m hoping it’s all in there somewhere, so I am going to dedicate one of my precious days to cramming as much critical care nursing related information in as possible (may not sound that exciting but it’s very much needed. And impossible with 2 babies around/after a day of handling 2 babies on very little sleep).
  • I’m hoping to squeeze in some opportunistic naps, but I think I may have lost that skill through lack of practice
  • Taking Jay to places other than to the local park, as without pushchairs in the car he can join me and we can go places!
  • What was that other thing, oh yeah, SPA DAY FOR ONE! I have booked myself a cheeky spa day at Aquasana, Centre parks, because I deserve it (I deserve it, I deserve it, I deserve it). If there’s one day I need to kick the guilt habit, it’s this one – it was really expensive and probably won’t happen again for quite some time!!

So that’s all I have got planned so far, the rest of the time I will just be bumbling around, perhaps I’ll get myself to the gym or for a swim or something. There probably will be some baking. Being alone presents so many opportunities, I hope I don’t ruin it with my irrational fear of being alone…

Does anyone else feel like that when they’re presented with being alone? If anyone has any other suggestions for how to deal with all this free time I have ahead of me, please comment 🙂

Feeding a baby

As it is World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I'd share my experiences of breastfeeding…

When I was pregnant first time around, I thought I prepared myself for what was to come, I had read the leaflets from the midwife and attended NCT classes. My overall impression of breastfeeding was that it was best for baby, completely natural and easy(!). Safe in the knowledge that everyone I knew that had babies had successfully breastfed, I felt pretty confident that was how I would be feeding my baby. So much so that I neglected to purchase any bottles/milk/sterilisers 'just incase'. I wasn't going to need them…

So then Sophie came along, I won't go into mega detail, but it was a long, traumatic birth and breastfeeding didn't get off to a great start. Thanks to complete exhaustion, Sophie and I both slept for around 12 hours after her arrival (longest sleep I have had in years!) and when I eventually attempted to feed her, with help from the midwives, she wasn't really interested. This led to problems with supply and 5 days after she was born, she was admitted to hospital with severe weight loss, jaundice and dehydration. Despite these problems, I was encouraged to continue to breastfeed and set up with a gruelling routine of feeding, expressing and then topping up with formula from a little cup – Sophie stopped crying for the first time in her short life but I felt immense pressure to continue. After 2 nights in hospital getting to grips with our new routine, we were out in the big wide world once again (cue an emergency dash to Boots for a breast pump, bottles and formula – you know, all of those things I would never need..). I HATED breastfeeding. It hurt, and Sophie never seemed satisfied until after her top up. But I was offended by the suggestion that I should try any alternative (poor Simon). There were a lot of tears. I was regularly praised for my efforts by the professionals, and sought as much support as possible. I was obsessed with weights, centile lines and the amount of milk I could express each time. I was encouraged to continue, but after 3 months Sophie was still failing to thrive, and I was still failing to enjoy life as a parent. After much soul searching, to-ing and fro-ing and (more) crying, I decided to call it a day. I gave Sophie a bottle… AND SHE WAS HAPPY!

It was such a turning point, Sophie began to thrive – actually plumped out a bit (a lot) and was a different baby. I was happier. Simon was happier. I loved her more than ever which I didn't know was possible, we were able to bond and get to know each other more. Probably because she wasn't hangry any more (hanger runs in my family). We all relaxed, and actually enjoyed life as a family. I don't feel resentful to the encouragement I was given, it was a lot of pressure, but what I failed to see at the time (but can see so clearly now), was that it was my choice. For some reason I had to feel like I was allowed to make the decision to stop breastfeeding, so being provided with endless encouragement was the last thing I needed. I don't regret trying to breastfeed Sophie, I learnt a lot from that time, but if I could change anything, it would be to have come to the decision to give up sooner. And to blame myself less, yes breastfeeding is natural but it doesn't always work for so many reasons. It was absolutely the right decision. The biggest lesson was happy mummy = happy baby (or is it the other way around..?), and as long as your baby is fed and loved, there's not much more they need.

SO with all of that in mind, when I was pregnant second time around, I had a much more realistic and relaxed approach to the way I wanted to feed my baby. We made sure we had formula available and dusted off the steriliser. I was going to give the breast a bash, but was fully prepared for the idea that it wouldn't work out. No pressure.

Then along came Albie, he was born via elective c-section, in a calm and relaxed environment. I had immediate skin-skin cuddles with him and fed him within 2 hours of him being born. And boy did he love it, he practically didn't stop feeding for the first… erm, actually he still feeds pretty regularly. That boy can EAT.

Albie didn't need any encouragement to get feeding, he took to it like a pro – I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would think he is an old soul. Maybe he was a champion eater in a previous life.

With a baby who is willing to feed, and a body that is able to provide for him, I have been able to relate to the statements of breastfeeding being easy and natural. Because when it works it really is the most easy and natural thing to do.  It has brought comfort during tough times when he was poorly with meningitis and in hospital for a week at only 9 weeks old. It is wonderfully convenient, Albie has fed in so many places, with no need for a steriliser or bottles etc. I have been fortunate enough to never have received any negativity around feeding Albie in public (and we have fed in some very public places..), I have actually been praised by a very kind (albeit slightly crazed) lady in a Sainsbury's cafe, who came over to tell me how nice it was to see. I can't actually get my head around why on earth anyone would have a problem with seeing a baby feed?! 1) if you can see anything 'rude' you're probably looking way too closely and for way too long 2) seriously, all you can see is the back of the baby's head 3) It's just a baby having food… and 4) surely seeing a baby breastfeed is better than having to deal with the alternative of screaming!

To be fair, with Albie, it has really been the only option as he won't take milk from any other source (Just like Sophie only really wanted it from a bottle I suppose..). It feels amazing to be able to provide him with immediate comfort, and to be so needed by him – but it also makes us quite inseparable.

Anyway, after my experience with Sophie, I never dreamed that I would be faced with the anxiety caused by a baby that WON'T STOP breastfeeding…