A ramble about boobs

It was World Breastfeeding Week last week. A week in which to think about boobs more than usual (and indeed my Facebook feed seemed to consist of 50% breastfeeding, 45% Jeremy Corbyn and 5% the usual cats).

Considering breastfeeding stopped for us 8 months ago, I do still think a lot about boobs. Which I suppose is useful when you’re as breastfeeding peer supporter, which I’ve been for about a year and a half. I’m still not 100% sure why I trained when the opportunity arose. A lot of other peer supporters I’ve met had encountered difficulties with breastfeeding, which they’d overcome with support and they wanted to give something back. In some ways I feel a bit of a fraud as I was lucky enough not to really have any difficulties with it. Although maybe that’s not being fair to myself: I do remember a lot of tears, clenched teeth and desperate scrabbles for the Lansinoh in the middle of the night in those early days.

But then it got easier. And it suited me because, well, I’m lazy. And generally unprepared. And breastfeeding meant not having to remember things and sitting on my arse in front of Netflix for hours on end (the amount of Criminal Minds episodes we watched in those early days makes me worry what that small brain might have absorbed). It was easier, but not always easy. There was the time when I ventured out to get my hair cut for the first time, which was interrupted by my mum waving frantically through the window as they couldn’t get Ari to settle, so I had to haul myself home, hair dye still on (living a few doors down from the hairdressers has some benefits at least). And then there were the early days of breastfeeding in public when it felt like there were TOO MANY PEOPLE and they would all be LOOKING AT MY BOOBS. But I got over it once I’d fed in a Splott pub on a Saturday evening.

And then, after 18 months, Ari decided she was ready to finish. I felt somewhat cheated that it was such an easy end after learning about the different techniques women have had to use to dissuade a milk-crazy little one – Bovril nipples, lemon juice and, my favourite, painting scary faces on their boobs. I wanted to paint faces on my boobs! It also, again, made me feel something of a fraud to be supporting other women when it felt like my own breastfeeding journey didn’t last for very long. One thing I have learnt from being a mother is that there’s always someone to compare yourself to.

Velma breastfeeding a pumpkin

Breastfeeding group has finished for the summer now – not by choice but because when we turned up on Monday we were told they’d be closed for refurbishing for the month. (“Oh, we didn’t think you’d be here over the summer.” Babies don’t stop being born for the school holidays!) But there are bigger challenges than flaky venues for breastfeeding support. Like idiot talk show hosts ranting about “fat chavvy women” breastfeeding on the bus. Breastfeeding is ‘unnatural’ apparently. I just missed the Showstopper round on GBBO (don’t get between me and Bake Off!) emailing a complaint about Alex Dyke of BBC Radio Solent’s ridiculous rant.

I have become one of those people.

Carnival Time

It’ll be Cardiff Carnival this Saturday. The streets will be a riot of colourful costumes, sequins and feathers, dancing and drumming. The Carnival is in its 26th year, but I’ve only managed to catch the one, two years ago. Arianwen was about two months old.

Cardiff Carnival

It feels both like five minutes ago and forever ago. It’s a day that still sticks in my mind as being one when new motherhood felt completely overwhelming and I wondered what we’d let ourselves in for. A simple trip into town seemed so complicated and I wasn’t sure that life would ever feel ‘normal’ again.

Distracted by the parade going by, I made the mistake of missing some of the little one’s hunger cues. No worries, I thought. I’ll leave Andy in town with friends and I’ll take Arianwen home on the bus and feed her at home.

Except getting the bus is not that easy with a tank-like pushchair and a howling baby. Everyone was staring at me. Every last eye was on me (this is probably untrue but by God it felt like it at the time). I lasted all of one stop before I got off again.

Cardiff Carnival

Ok, I’ll stop off at the baby feeding room in the shopping centre I thought. Except the parade was still taking place, and a merry band of carnivallers blocked the route to my destination, all the while Arianwen screamed louder and louder for boob. I remember hopping there impatiently, waiting for a break in the crowd, before dashing in front of a brass band.

Finally I got to the dingy feeding room and started to feed. And got all of a few minutes in before some impatient knocking on the door. “Um, I won’t be long” I called, willing Ari to hurry up, knowing it didn’t really work like that. More knocking. And some more. Then someone unlocked the door and barged in. “Oh, I was just checking you weren’t a young couple having sex. They do that in here you know”, said the security guard and off she went.

Cardiff Carnival

Wriggly distraught baby was not up for latching on by this point. So I gave up and headed for home on foot, both of us crying by this point. I was willing everyone who passed us to make some sort of comment that “baby was hungry” just so I could let them know how I felt.

That day and those feelings still feel so clear to me. I wasn’t sure how things could ever be normal again if I couldn’t handle a trip into town. This baby seemed to be speaking a completely different language to me and I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d ever comprehend. But of course we worked it out together, and it’s amazing how different things feel two years on. We’re still working things out together of course, and I definitely still have days where the simple tasks of getting dressed and out the house on time seem to be beyond my grasp, but I don’t feel so raw and vulnerable any more. Like any big life change, it was all about finding that’new’ normal.

Cardiff Carnival

One thing I do remember from that day is how much fun it looked like to be in the parade, and I decided I would make it my mission to be in next year’s. I didn’t make it last year but all being well I should be parading tomorrow! Last summer I joined the dancers of our local community samba band and it’s been so much fun. You can see Ari watching them, looking somewhat unimpressed, below.

Cardiff Carnival

These days she enjoys watching the “bam-bams” a bit more luckily, as she’s had to spend a fair few weekends doing so!

 

Back again

So my run of posting a photo of Arianwen every week didn’t last very long did it? I started to have doubts, both about the general safety aspects of posting so many photos of her online (how will I persuade her to be ‘Share Aware’ in the future if I’ve not 100% thought through the implications of sharing photos myself). But it also started to feel uncomfortable as it felt like it implied that she was some sort of project to me, rather than the actual photos being the project, if that makes any sense at all.

I’ve been having vague thoughts about how we treat children and view childhood as a society. I wish I was articulate enough to, you know, articulate them. It boils down to a balance being wrong somewhere. By seeing children as ‘other’, and making such a big deal of childhood, does this make it harder for us to ensure that children have the rights they’re entitled to as human beings? Which is not to say that children should be treated as mini adults, as of course they do have different physiological and developmental needs.

So much energy seems to be spent on making childhood ‘magical’. I admit I’ve been drawn in by the shiny ideas on Pinterest and made rainbow spaghetti (which Arianwen ate rather than played with, then the cat ate it and got sick, and then the patio was covered in tiny spaghetti worms for weeks). But does all this emphasis on ‘sensory play’ make it so that normal life isn’t seen as enough? I actually saw a mum say on a Facebook group that her baby ‘hadn’t done anything sensory yet’, as if because she hadn’t spent time making cloud dough that her baby wouldn’t have experienced anything yet. It just seems another way of cutting off a child’s world from adult society. It doesn’t feel quite right to me how children are banded together in groups of the same age for so much of the time, rather than having the chance to interact and learn from older and younger people.

Oops, this hasn’t really gone anywhere. My thoughts aren’t really defined enough to go anywhere yet. I have no idea if this makes any sense. If anyone can articulate it for me that would be great! Or if anyone’s read anything that could shed some light on my thoughts? I guess it’s about how it makes sense that as a society we push children towards independence (wow, she sleeps all night in her own cot, what a good baby!) while also surrounding them in this big fluffy cloud of magical childhood rather than just, well, letting them get on with it with a bot of guidance. (By writing this I am no way saying I have any sort of balance right, in case you’re wondering).

This vague rant was brought to you by too much coffee, and a rare hour on my own.

Being a parent

A selection of things that have recently irritated me, possibly unreasonably, about being a parent.

Being referred to as a ‘mummy’ by anyone other than my daughter. ‘Mum’ is fine. Sian is even better.

The way every other mum at the swimming pool manages to dress their child without taking over half of the changing room with stuff, and without mad half-naked dashes to retrieve the already dressed toddler from legging it back into the pool.

The word ‘solids’ to refer to food. I think just because it makes me think of solid waste.

Having to go out of the way to pick non-holey, vaguely matching socks because of the amount of times I end up having to take my shoes off in public. See also, having to wear leggings instead of tights to avoid gusset-flashing while sitting cross-legged on the library floor.

Not being able to attempt any sort of floor-based exercise without MiniRegz deciding that I am not working hard enough, here have 25lb extra weight to work with. Plonk.

Whoever decided to put the electrical sockets at toddler eye height in the room where we hold breastfeeding group.

And so ends today’s rant. I am sure more will occur to me before too long.

I got a recipe book called The Green Kitchen out of the library yesterday. It’s written by a couple of food bloggers who live in Stockholm with their young daughter. It’s a really beautiful book but my goodness does it make me feel inadequate!

The Green Kitchen

One of their recipes is introduced with an idyllic description of their Sunday mornings. They take it in turns to get up with their daughter to put the oatmeal on to bake, and then return to bed for a bit, only getting up when their apartment is full of the scent of vanilla.

‘How lovely’, I thought, reading that. Until it actually got to Sunday morning. Woken too early by screaming on the monitor. Brought the little one into bed, she demands, loudly, to watch cat videos on the phone (she already knows what the internet’s really for). After all the videos, I drag myself out of bed. In the time it takes to take her nappy off and get a new one she’s run across the other side of the room and had a wee. Clean up, head downstairs. She climbs up the stairs. I bring her back down. She climbs up again (stairgate is broken). Visions of french toast, blueberries, a sprinkling of icing sugar, served alongside steaming black coffee. Visions interrupted by crayons thrown across the kitchen. Demands to pick them up. On the floor again. I am made to draw 9 pictures of moons, 7 of pears and a galaxy of stars. The toast burns. Visions of coffee turn to gin. It is 9am. I am exhausted.

I guess I should finish by saying something along the lines of ‘but I wouldn’t change it for the world’…

I may just return the book to the library (if it’s still there by the time I go back – remember to complete the council budget consultation Cardiff people).

MiniRegz at 20 Weeks

MiniRegz in tinfoil

Taking a break from sifting through design bids while bouncing a grumpy teething baby on my knee. I swear I’m working harder at the moment than I did when I was at work! I’ve recently got involved as the lay person on the team revamping the information sent out to pregnant women and new mums in Wales. Really interesting project, and I’m really excited to be involved but trying to keep MiniRegz entertained while sitting in an office going through a PowerPoint presentation of all the bids might have been asking a bit too much of her! So I’m having to finish off at home.

I got involved in the project through being involved as a co-applicant on a research bid looking at breastfeeding peer support in deprived areas. Which I got involved in through my lovely friend (and service user activist extraordinaire) Bethan. I’m starting training myself next month to help out as a breastfeeding peer supporter which I’m excited about. I’m also part way through an OCN course in Working with Children Under 5, which I signed up for simply because a guy approached me about it when buying my vegetables! It’s been handy when thinking about future childcare arrangements though. And it’s meant I’ve had to leave MiniRegz in the creche next door which I guess has been good practice for next year. I’m starting to look at nurseries this week ready to go back to work next year. Feels far too soon!

So yes, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, and I say that I’ve been busy but that I’m not sure what I’ve been doing, I guess I’m being a bit unfair on myself.

MiniRegz has also been busy. She’s learnt how to roll on her front, but not back yet, causing me to spend half my days rolling her back again after she does her frustrated skydiver thing.

She’s been a pirate

pirate

And a pumpkin (I’m supposed to be Velma in case you’re wondering)

pumpkin baby

She’s chatting away to her teddies (although I think all she’s doing is warning them she’s going to eat them as they then just go straight in her mouth). And playing with new favourite toy, a space blanket I got for a quid.

Weaning next!

(I’ve just noticed how surprised MiniRegz looks in all these photos. I guess the world is a surprising place when you’re a baby).

 

New and Old

Last weekend we tried out some of the new and old attractions around here. Burrito has finally landed in Cardiff! Ever since Bar Burrito in Manchester was our pre-gig eatery of choice, and trips to Boojum in Belfast and Illegal Jacks in Edinburgh, I’ve been wondering when we’d get one here. The possibility of setting one up was a regular topic of conversation. Fortunately/unfortunately we no longer have to. Mission Burrito opened on Saturday so we popped along. It was good, and I’m glad Cardiff has finally entered the burrito ago. But I felt there was something missing in the vegetarian burrito (yes, meat, haha. Not that, silly). It almost tasted too healthy. At Illegal Jacks I had a veggie haggis burrito – which might not really suit Cardiff but something different might be nice. Anyway, this is just an excuse to talk about burritos (mmm, burritos), and to post this photo of MiniRegz gazing longingly at some nachos.

MiniRegz at Mission Burrito

On Sunday we visited the National History Museum at St Fagans, an old favourite. Goodness knows how many times I’ve been there now, I even did my school work experience there. It was such a gorgeous autumnal day. We’re so lucky to have such a lovely (and free!) place nearby.

It was also a good opportunity to try out our new baby carrier, the Moby Go. We’ve been using a Moby stretchy wrap which has been great, but the little pudding has started to get a bit fussy in it. As you can see, Andy did the carrying on this occasion and he said it was really comfy, and little MiniRegz slept for most of the way round, so she obviously likes it. You can’t do back carries in it, so it won’t last us as long as some other carriers, but for £30 in TKMaxx, you can’t go wrong really. I’d recommend it if anyone’s looking for a decent and reasonably priced baby carrier.

st fagans

Happy International Babywearing Week! (Weird term, makes the baby sound like a pair of shoes, but a handy thing – not sure how I’d have got anything done without the Moby in those early weeks).