Tag Archives: Newborn

My best friend’s baby

There are days, like today, when I think I deserve a medal. I often joke to my husband that there are moments when we earn our parenting stripes, and with two sick kids stuck at home, I feel like I’ve earned my fair share this week.

But while I’ve been here playing on the world’s smallest violin, my best friend had her first baby.

A precious baby girl with strawberry blonde hair and a perfect button nose, chubby little arms and those unmistakably long  newborn fingernails.

This delicious package did not arrive into this world easily. She followed a 22hour labour which ended in an emergency c-section. Her arrival shattered long-held dreams about a natural birth, and triggered a serious physical recovery for her doting mother. (Side note: Anyone who thinks a C-section is the ‘easy way out’ needs to be taken somewhere quiet and bitch-slapped.)

The Emergency C-section; an unexpected and unwanted birthing experience.
The Emergency C-section; an unexpected and unwanted birthing experience.

This baby’s arrival threw me straight back to the time of my own daughter’s birth in an almost identical scenario (but, lucky for me, I only had to endure 14hrs of labour before my operation was demanded).

If we’re going to talk about earning our parenting stripes, then let’s talk about the day our children enter this world. They rarely enter it in the way we hope for (ie. A birth with no drugs, no stitches, no tearing, no emergency c-sections….). Emotionally we’re smashed against walls sideways. At times, we are so fuelled with love that we’re riding high on the hospital room’s ceiling. The next minute we’re crashing onto the floor with a thud as we learn that establishing breastfeeding sucks (pardon the pun!) and hurts like hell.

One minute, we are staring at our precious babies in their hospital bassinets, refusing to give our body the sleep it craves because we’re literally addicted to this incredible thing. The next minute, our necks are pressed against our chests as we’re hunched over sobbing, wondering why our baby is crying non-stop and why it has to be that everything hurts so damn much. 

So if we’re going to talk about our parenting stripes, let’s forget about sick kids,  or kids who don’t sleep through the night, or toddler tantrums, or nappy nightmares. Let’s remember the biggest stripe of all… the one we earn the day we become parents. When we learn our biggest lessons, often through a period of immense pain. When we take on immense responsibility while we are weighed down by uncontrollable hormones. When our capacity for loving enters a new dimension, but we’re so fogged up from the birthing experience we aren’t aware that we even stepped through the door into a new world.

To my beautiful best friend, a sister to me, a woman I couldn’t be more proud of…. You have yourself a wonderful gift, and you’ve given all of us a new person to love beyond reason. Well done, you are my hero. You’ve entered the parenting army, and you’ve definitely earned your stripes.

You are already doing an incredible job. Keep going.

XXX

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Four things no new mum wants to hear from you.

Have a friend with a new child? Here are some simple rules to help you get out of visiting her alive.

Rule 1.

If her newborn baby is crying, do not tell the mother her baby “must be hungry”.

What, do you have some sort of supervision power that enables you to see the content level of his stomach? No, Clark Kent, you don’t.

Chances are that even without your brilliant observation, she has already considered the question of hunger and ruled it out because she knows exactly when his last feed was and that it was only half an hour ago. She know this, because she is the one in charge of the food distribution. Not you.

Rule 2.

When a new mum tells you her baby is crying ALL the time, don’t tell her “that’s what all babies do.”

Every mother I know has read a book or two about parenting before having her child. They have also watched some TV in their lifetime and gave birth in full knowledge that babies cry. Newborns, incessantly.

So when a mum tells you her baby just won’t stop screaming, LISTEN properly to her before you patronise her by saying that all babies cry, and patting her on the head like a village idiot as you impart your wisdom.

My firstborn cried a lot. I believed it was “just what babies do” because I had been spoonfed this rubbish by many well-meaning people. I ignored my inner voice that told me “something isn’t right here”. I never saw the doctor until she started getting repeatedly sick at 10months. Eventually, an ear operation saw her come good. Turns out she wasn’t just crying because she was programmed to – she was also in a lot of pain.

I was much more savvy with baby no2 realising his was a pain cry and not an “I’m alive in this world – holy shit!” cry. I went to the doctors sooner, got some medication and (whether it’s colic or reflux, who knows) I had support from someone who BELIEVED my baby’s cry wasn’t the usual kind.

And even if the crying is normal , it doesn’t mean mothers can’t vent about it. Don’t dismiss them, whatever you do. Excessive crying is an evil kind of torture for anyone to have to endure.

Please, I beg you, avoid blanket responses at all costs. Instead…. Try to sympathise. Chances are, your friend is despairing and needs to vent to restore some kind of sanity.

Rule 3.

Do not, ever, tell a new mum about a newborn baby you know who already sleeps through the night.

This is just cruel. This is Theon-Greyjoy-Torture sort of cruel (sorry non Game of Throne addicts if the reference is lost on you). Put another way, this is fingers down chalkboard kind of stuff.

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It is 100 times worse if the baby you speak of is your own. That’s just bragging. And smug. (Unless of course you are modest with it. In that case I truly bear you no ill-will. But  if you post about it on Facebook, I will do a Liam Neeson on your arse…. I will find you and I will kill you.)

Telling us news of these wonder kids, implies – however unintentionally – that our own baby isn’t a “good egg”.

It leaves us thinking that there must be some secret trick to it that we don’t know of… Yet. We simply need to discover this secret and it will be the key to a future of uninterrupted sleeping bliss. Off we go, naively embarking on a mission to find said key, which heralds hours and hours of useless experimentation in newborn sleep behaviour.

“Maybe if I rock him for 6 minutes, sing him half a song, turn him upside down for 3 seconds holding him by the ankles and then finish the other half of the song he will go to sleep”.  Sound familiar?? This experimentation is wasted. Redundant. Try what you will most babies won’t respond to anything until they are good and ready.

Mums hear of these miracle babies and are left feeling nothing but disappointment and failure when it doesn’t work out for them. As they pace the floor at midnight, 2am, 315am and 4.45am it’s YOUR miracle baby that is on their mind. Your miracle baby they are craving as they drown in their sleep-deprived sorrow.

If you know a newborn who sleeps well, keep you mouth zipped shut. No one needs to know about it. I prefer to believe that babies who sleep well are like rainbow coloured French-speaking unicorns. Non-existent.

Thinking that these types of babies are fictitious helps me believe MY baby is normal. And that makes me feel calmer and less panicked about my mothering skills.

Rule four.

You tell your friend you will be over at 3pm.

You show up at 4pm.

Dont bother. Truly. Go home. (NB- rule does not apply to guests who have small children themselves. You are excused).

When you commit to visiting a newborn, know this… The mother has tried her best to force a routine upon her baby that means the child will be awake and settled when you arrive. This is NOT easy. And when you show up late, you will be showing up at a terrible time. It will be feeding time or settling time and all because the mother tried planning her day around the timeframes you agreed.

It’s never more important to be punctual… Got that, buddy?

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Stick to these rules and you will get nothing but love from the new parents you meet. Myself included.

What rules would you enforce??

 

My irrational vs. rational sample list

“I can’t bake a cake” and other self-limiting thoughts

My anxiety level seems to be building of late, and I am exhausted from running mental marathons. It seems that my thinkbox has started to overheat on this endless circuit of irrational thinking that it has been looping.

I have no clinical background to support this metaphor, but to me, a ‘normal’ person’s thoughts will roll around inside their heads like a fine London mist. A few light raindrops that aren’t overly troublesome and nothing that the help of an umbrella won’t fix.

An anxious person will have a thunderstorm raging inside their head. With that much ‘noise’ going on, it can be hard to make sense of anything. All your effort goes into managing the rain that relentlessly pummels you. Your umbrella is no use.  You try to control the thoughts that come wave after wave, but it is pointless. You decide, “heck, it’s not even worth going OUT in this weather” and you lock yourself up inside. You don’t think you will be able to survive this storm.

In short, I feel like my anxiety makes me lose my sense of perspective. I become irrational, and panicked as I sweat the small stuff. My molehills become mountains. I become increasingly scared of failure.

I give up. And I end up missing out on things because I’ve been too afraid to try. And too afraid to fail.

I call upon my friend and fellow anxiety sufferer, Ashleigh, for advice.

Ash is one step ahead of me because she’s already sought treatment for her condition, and now feels like she has the armour she needs to protect herself from the effects of irrational stress. She tells me about a management strategy recommended to her, and one that she found a useful lesson in finding perspective.

She tells me to draw two columns on a page and write down anything that I believe to be irrational. I am then to counterbalance this with a rational argument, thus making myself pause and reflect on what’s going on inside me. It’s an opportunity to get off the mental racetrack and stretch for a while. I decide to give it a go.

Here’s a taste of the inner workings of my mind. It is but a small sample of the thousands of thoughts that race through my head each day, but from this short list a pattern seems to be emerging.

My irrational vs. rational sample list
My irrational vs. rational sample list

“I am a bad baker. I’m poor. I have no taste. I have to give up blogging. I’m a bad mother…..” There are so many more irrational thoughts than I can fit onto one page.

“My partner would rather be at work than at home with me”; “I’ve not got enough time to exercise”; “If I change lanes when I drive, I will have a crash”;….. 

It is alarming to see how negative my thought stream is, and how the smallest of things (me not being able to settle my baby to bed) become huge dramas in my mind (my child will have sleep issues for the rest of its life and it’s my fault!).

With the advent of each day  I’m going into battle with myself. And at the end of a day, I’ve waged a war. No wonder I’m drained.

But what concerns me more is not the negativity in itself, but how self-limiting these thoughts are! I just give up, afraid to try something only to be judged and found wanting.

Upon reflection I realise that underpinning everything is a colossal fear of failure. This in itself is completely irrational. We only truly fail if we do not try.

My first list has led to some keen insights into how my thoughts shape my behaviour. A moment’s quiet reflection has helped me realise that the clothes I choose to wear, or the calibre of the cakes I make, do not define me.  And these decisions certainly do not warrant the hours of unnecessary energy I invest in them.

C’mon Paterson. It’s time to realise that when you take a break from all that worry, you start to see all that is wonderful.