The story of my year

Last night I watched the end of a film that we started while I was in labour (after the first time we had been to hospital…something to pass the middle of the night hours until I could go back again), and somehow had never had the time or the inclination to finish. A bit of a silly film, What I Did on Holiday, but harmless fun and a good cast.

More reflection, but it somehow felt like fully rounding off the year. I am back in London after a lovely weekend away celebrating baby bear and my grandfather’s joint birthdays (1 and 87), and having a stolen day today with baby bear on a wonderful sunny crisp Autumn/Winter day. Back to work tomorrow, and it feels like a bit of a new start again. I know what to expect this time and, although it doesn’t make it any easier to leave baby bear, I am ready to grit my teeth and get through it.

It really has been the most incredible year, and although it is another reflective post, I have decided to have a go at summarising it month by month:


November (Month 1): A haze of newbornness, dark evenings, learning how to be parents (armed with parenting books and daily lists noting down when baby bear had a nappy change or feed – I found these lists the other day, and it brought it all back!). Absolutely no structure to the days, and bedtime would be anywhere between 8pm and 1am with me desperately trying to get baby bear to settle. Walks and coffees with friends, and frequent visitors, helped me get through the days, but once it was dark (circa 4pm) that was it until 7 the next morning, and it was hard.


December (Month 2): Beginning to find our feet a bit more, we had our first excursions out of London, learning how to play car jenga with all the paraphernalia that baby bear brought with him. Should we take the moses basket or the pram? Attempted to take baby bear Christmas shopping (heralding probably the biggest meltdown of December). A lovely Christmas and New Year with family. Still in a haze of sleep deprivation, but we finally managed some 7pm bedtimes, which felt like a huge success.


January (Month 3): Back in London, and starting to get a bit of structure into our days and weeks. Baby bear was christened – a very special day. We went to our first Monkey Music, now an institution in our weeks. I finally plucked up the courage to start expressing, and introduced baby bear to the bottle just in case.


February (Month 4): Inching towards a weekly timetable, we started swimming this month, which was lots of fun for both us of. Baby bear also went on my sister’s hen, helped by daddy bear. Still no good sleeping patterns though, and as other friends’ babies started one by one to sleep through, I started to feel the sleep deprivation more keenly. Baby bear showing more interaction though, which helped to make up for it in a small way!


March (Month 5): Finally broke down from the sleep deprivation (started this blog as an outlet – which helped) and had a nasty bout of tonsillitis. Daddy bear was off thank goodness as I was confined to bed for two days. Shared parental leave did not come soon enough, and we headed to Wales for a break.


April (Month 6): Sleep regression (!) (we couldn’t believe this was possible…) but it mattered less as we were in Wales and daddy bear was around. My sister got married on a wonderful Welsh day, and we had 4 weeks off to be together. Weaning was commenced  and April also marked (unbelievably to think of this now) daddy bear and my first proper date night together since baby bear arrived. Very much enjoyed. Oo and baby bear could now roll both ways.


May (Month 7): Sleep was tackled, and we finally got somewhere. With daytime naps falling into place, so we got our first proper night’s sleep. And we both felt like new people. Daytimes suddenly were more limiting as a result, as I was too scared to change the napping pattern, but sleep has to prevail in these circumstances! May also marked the weekly pattern falling firmly into place, which held fast until July. One fixed “event” each weekday, and seeing friends around these. Summer arrived, and so we could properly start enjoying time with baby bear without the permanent headache!


June (Month 8): The playground came into its own – going to the swings became a regular fixture. Weaning continued in earnest as we crept towards an end of ice cubes and puree. Wonderful sunny days, mostly in London.


July (Month 9): A month of firsts – first teeth and first crawling! I started carrying a rug around for picnics in the park. We discovered that babies love boxes. And had a lovely holiday in Cornwall.


August (Month 10): A welcome break from London, most of August was spent out of it. Scilly Isles for the first week, and then Wales for the rest. A glorious glorious few weeks of watching baby bear grow (from crawling to cruising and pulling himself up, and properly discovering finger foods and feeding himself) and spending quality time with him in beautiful surroundings. Unforgettable. 


September (Month 11): Back to school – baby bear to nursery and me to work. Our glorious August came crashing down to reality. Settling-in time, for both of us. Learning how to juggle.


October (Month 12): Feeling a bit more settled, and getting used to the new routine. I miss him terribly, but baby bear is picking up some wonderful new things at nursery (among other things, starting to learn how to use a spoon, and now builds towers instead of always knocking them down!).  And I am a working mummy, at least for now. Finally stopped breastfeeding – felt the right time for both of us. 


And now into November. The times I spend with baby bear are very special. My ears are pricked for the first word, and my eyes for the first steps.

And with that, I have decided that this will be my last blogpost. At least for now. It has been a wonderful outlet, and a huge help to make sense of the last year, but the first birthday seems as good a time as any to say farewell. I have also broken my rule for once, and baby bear’s face appears in some of the photos in this post. He’s saying goodbye for now too. Thank you to all those that have followed me on this amazing journey. I have learnt so much, and hope I have given those of you reading something to smile about along the way. 

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* BABY BEAR IS ONE *

And so a year has past and baby bear is one year old! I really can’t believe it and I sat watching him for ages during our morning cuddle thinking about this amazing year gone by. He was particularly chatty this morning – maybe he knows it’s a special day!


We had a wonderful weekend celebrating, firstly with my NCT group (by way of a Gymboree party, just perfect for a group of one year olds all in one place!) on Saturday and secondly with some family and friends yesterday (us hosting, me baking!), which was really special. The weekend has all been about baby bear and I think he has loved it!  


Today, his actual birthday, I have had to leave him at nursery (where I know he will be very fussed over) and head off to work. Just as when my birthday falls on a working day though, it will just be a better-than-normal day, with lots to smile about! 

One new thing that happened at the weekend – baby bear has spent a lot of the weekend picking up the phone, holding it to (or at least near) his ear and making a sound that is awfully like “hello” – the most adorable thing to watch! He is very proprietorial over the phone as well – I’m not really allowed a look in… 


So happy birthday to our wonderful baby bear – it has been a very special year and we are just loving watching you grow. 

My pregnancy in a nutshell

This time last year was my due date for baby bear. A real moment for looking back over the last year, even though it was another 6 days before baby bear chose to make his arrival into the world. I really can’t believe it has been a whole year.

I wasn’t brilliant at being pregnant actually even though, in comparison to some of my friends, I had a much easier ride of it. Maybe it’s impossible to do, but I never really relaxed into being pregnant, but was just worried throughout, terrified of eating the wrong thing or getting into contact with a cat. There was a period of 4 days I remember when I inadvertently had some very off milk in my tea and had a sick feeling in my stomach which persisted until my next mid-wife appointment. Thank goodness for these appointments, I only wish they had been more frequent.


Anyway, my pregnancy in a nutshell went a bit like this:

The first few months – I didn’t know I was pregnant. I got my dates very mixed up and, for various reasons, didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was about 7/8 weeks in. Possibly a mixed blessing, as it meant I had two months less of worrying about it all, but it also meant I was very much leading a normal life until that point, exercising, drinking, etc. and I really was utterly shell-shocked and surprised when the blue line hit. Incidentally, when we found out (on a Monday morning just before we went to work), I had lost the pregnancy test instructions and had to do another test hiding in a work loo cubicle – really not how I would have chosen to find out!

Pre-scan – I really didn’t enjoy this bit.  I am a very open person and keeping the secret was not easy at all. Of course there were some people that slipped through the net, but it did become easier once it was all out in the open and I could finally talk about it. Luckily, I didn’t suffer particularly from morning sickness, but I definitely had waves of feeling unwell, and periods of tiredness, so it did become better once that improved.


“Waiting for the first kick” – I was desperate to start showing and feel movement because I felt that, once I could feel baby bear kicking and moving, I would worry less. Of course, as it happened, the reality was that I worried more because of the quiet periods (which I feel there were a lot of – baby bear was not the most active of bumps), but I didn’t know that then. This stage was also the time when I first noticed clothes beginning to get uncomfortable or just not do up (I had a funny moment with a work dress where the zip simply popped off one day, time to move into the maternity wear!) and my tummy beginning to look a bit “pregnant”.  As it happened, the showing started around the beginning of May, and the first kicks were not until the beginning of June, round about the 20 week scan.

The growing bump – The 20-30 week period for me fell over the Summer. I was horrendously busy at work for most of this time, which meant I spent a lot of this growing time alternating between floods of tears, trying to get in as much sleep as possible, and worrying about what effect all of it might be having on baby bear. I still wonder if the problems we had on baby bear’s arrival were at all affected by these difficult few months, but have to console myself that I will never know and that he made it through the horrible time quickly. Aside from work though, I moved into maternity wear (Seraphine and Jigsaw were perfect for this), had a few lovely holidays, and counted down days until the next midwife appointment.  There is a horribly long gap after the 20 week scan I seem to remember, and I just longed for the capable pair of hands telling me how bump was doing and listening to the heart beat.


30 weeks to term – This was probably my most relaxed time. I felt out of the danger zone if baby bear were to arrive early, enjoyed my growing bump, and was under much less pressure at work. This was August and September last year, and as the mid-wife appointments got closer together and Autumn began to set in, it all began to get quite exciting. Added to this, we finally decided to start buying things for baby bear’s arrival. We did a whip round the John Lewis baby department, spent hours trying out prams (finally landing on one in Peppermint), and had to try and resist (usually unsuccessfully) the gorgeous newborn baby clothes. AND it was time to paint and decorate the nursery – we didn’t know that baby bear was a boy so we went for green and grey stars – a year on and it still looks great. The nesting was really underway.


The waiting game – And so, 37 weeks came and went, I went on maternity leave not a day too soon (I really couldn’t wait to stop by the end), and now it was October and I was in countdown mode. I was among the last due dates in my NCT group, and the What’s App began to start buzzing with news of the little ones’ arrivals. Our weekly coffees began to diminish in numbers as we all just counted down (with a significant degree of apprehension) to the first contraction. As the weeks went on, I began to get, not impatient, but desperate for signs that baby bear was on the move. I tried to distract myself with last minute shopping, trips into London, swimming, and coffee with friends (with babies, which often made it harder when I was still very much a bump!). I must have read every single MumsNet post out there for signs of labour, and just kept on hoping that it must start sometime. And then of course it did, and baby bear arrived, 6 days late, on my Grandfather’s birthday, 86 years apart exactly.

It is amazing writing this all down, so many little memories of my pregnant year, because it really felt like the whole year, all adding up to making my little baby bear. What a journey it has been.

 

 

Reflections on breastfeeding 

Yesterday I breast fed my baby for the last  time. Maybe it’s taken 24 hours for the hormones to take effect, but it is only just now that it has hit me, and to be honest it has made me quite emotional. 

I have been lucky generally on the breastfeeding journey, feeding baby bear for nearly a year, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it comes to stopping. It doesn’t help that my boobs have the “ready to feed” feeling, calling out for baby bear – the power of those hormones is one of the miracles of this motherhood journey that still fascinates me. I think it will take a few days for this feeling to go away, so at the moment it is a constant reminder of how we have been for a year. 

In a moment of reflection, and while feeding is still forefront in my mind, I thought I’d write down a few things I have enjoyed about feeding baby bear myself, and also a few things that have probably made it more difficult for me, another moment of stubbornness. 

The good things:

1. Self-sufficiency – as long as I was around, and I have been around 99% of the time since baby bear was born, we never needed to worry about milk for baby bear, or bottles or sterilisers. I was the walking feeding machine and it did make life much easier. 

2. Bond – there really is something special about breastfeeding, and I have particularly enjoyed baby bear cuddling into me before bed and calming down after the day. Bedtimes have changed dramatically since that stopped being a part of it and I am not yet used to it. 

3. Ounces – except during weigh-ins at the health visitor, when I have usually been told that baby bear is small (cue guilty feeling that I am not giving him enough), I have never needed to worry about how many ounces of milk baby bear is or isn’t drinking. Which has been a bit of a relief actually – one thing less to worry about. 


And the less good…

1. Public feeding – I perhaps persuaded myself that this was completely ok, but now I am out of the breastfeeding/new born haze, I do wonder about my complete inhibitions with feeding all over the place when baby bear was little. Pubs, buses, a lot of cafes, anywhere we happened to be when the moment hit. I’m sure I will feel exactly the same again with another one, but in this moment of reflection I am a little red-faced! 

2. Expressing – there have been moments where I haven’t been around for a feed, not many – usually because of a friend’s wedding – but some. And because of the stubborn streak again, I was adamant that baby bear would continue to get breast milk. So I went through the pumping, sterilising, freezing rigmarole and it has meant that baby bear, except on one occasion, has always been able to have breast milk. I am proud of that. On the flip side though, it has meant having to express during whatever event I was attending – the very unglamorous side of motherhood! 

3. Sleep – I am pretty sure that breastfeeding delayed baby bear’s ability to sleep through the night, and so made those first six months a lot more exhausting than they might have been. Whether it was the attachment, or the ability of my milk to fill his tummy, or perhaps it was simply because he slept next to my head and when the time came to feed I would just pull him into my lap and, not infrequently, would fall asleep with him in my arms (not intentionally – I always woke up a bit panicked). But there is a mummy myth out there that formula helps babies sleep better, and my experience has suggested this is probably true. 


Looking back on the last year, I am really pleased that I have managed to breast feed baby bear for the first year of his life. I have many friends who wanted to and weren’t able to in the end, or who had to stop sooner than intended because of one thing or the other. 

Now I am sitting here though wondering if I will be as assiduous (or call it stubborn) with another little one. I still truly believe that, if you can, you should. Though I also believe that, if you can’t, that is absolutely ok and “fed is best” – formula is amazing these days and maybe baby bear actually missed out on some of the key vitamins, I don’t know.) 

I do hope I will embark on another breastfeeding journey with as much stubbornness, and that I am able to do it all over again one day. Watch this space. 

Weekend of firsts 

A few weeks later, and there definitely are some changes in baby bear since he started at nursery. I don’t know if it’s nursery or his age, but they’re definitely things he didn’t do before. Specifically two things: 

1. Attachment to the comforter – he has been sleeping with “monkey blankie” for nearly 6 months now, but there has always been no problem leaving it in the cot after he wakes up. Now, monkey blankie really is a comforter, and he often carries it around (in his mouth! little pup) at home, and I am told needs it at nursery when he’s a bit mis. Definitely need that spare now (and maybe even a third) – blankies are on permanent rotation! 

2. Nappy tantrums – this one I do not understand. Baby bear since the beginning quite enjoyed nappy time. When he was little he would lie on his back gurgling or playing peekaboo and, a bit older, would happily play with a toy for at least the time it took to change the nappy. Now changing nappies or getting him ready in the morning or after bathtime is meltdown central – today he crawled away and hid behind the cot in floods of tears before I managed to get any clothes on him at all. A bit distressing, though luckily he cheers up as soon as he is fully dressed. It makes the “who’s turn is it” debate an even more loaded question though, as we now have to deal with tears as well as nappy changing! The tantrums aren’t confined to just nappy time either, putting him in the pram causes a similar tantrum. Confusing, distressing, and I hope short lived. 


We also had a real weekend of firsts this weekend that I wanted to write down. 

  • First hair cut. Over so quickly, all of about 7 minutes, but a very special 7 minutes. And he is a very smart boy now! 
  • First shoes. Pre-walkers at this stage, and just so sweet. Amazing what a difference shoes makes to how grown up he looks. 
  • First standing. Ok, I’ve already posted about this, but this standing was a bit different again, another step along the road to walking. He just suddenly let go of what he was holding on to, and there he was, standing! 

And so, the weekend finishes and another week starts tomorrow. I am, I think, getting used to the emotional wrench of being away from baby bear during the day, tough as it is. My new life as a working mummy is exhausting though – I’m looking forwards to the week longing for its end already, and wondering how I can possibly juggle everything I have to do. I suppose I can only try. 

Standing on his own two feet

Yesterday something exciting happened. Actually two things. The first was that we had the first giggles for a week – a sign my little baby is finally getting better. Thank goodness for antibiotics. 

He’s back at nursery today and super Dad Daddy Bear is doing the drop off solo for the first time. I’m pleased that we managed to give him three quiet days at home to battle it, but I really hope he’s ok today. 

But the other thing that happened yesterday was a first, and a very exciting one at that! 

Baby bear spent the afternoon with a baby friend a year older than him, who more and more he just loves making mischief with. It is such fun to see them playing together. And he is obviously picking things up from her as well. When I picked him up, he climbed up onto his feet holding my legs as he often does now, but then started batting my legs with both hands ie LETTING GO. 

There was one moment where he tried to wave at the same time as letting go, so would have been on his feet for a whole second. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but I was very excited!! 

9 hours until pick up. And counting. 

Sunday bedtime stories

It’s been a while since I posted anything about bedtime stories. There are a few reasons for this. One – the last few weeks have been extraordinarily busy learning how to juggle life as a working mummy. Two –  unfortunately one of the side effects of settling in at nursery has been a baby bear that is too tired at the end of the day to do anything other than fall into his cot into the arms of blankie and Ewan.

Well, tonight we had a lovely bedtime story with an interactive baby bear. His favourite thing to do is still to turn the pages backwards, or even better close the book, but any interaction at bedtime makes me smile at the end of the day. And, hopefully it is a sign that my little ill baby is feeling a bit better.

So here are the new favourites:

  1. Peace at Last: Bought on one of my last days on maternity leave from my favourite Nomad Books, I am finding it difficult not to read this every night at the moment. Not one I could have read during the six months of sleep deprivation perhaps…but it is a great one to read aloud, especially because of the sound effects. Baby bear’s favourite is the alarm clock – brrrrrrrrrrr!
  2. Paddington at Rainbow’s End: I love Paddington Bear, just one of the best bears. Another firm favourite at bedtime, this is another fun one to read as Paddington takes his way around London picking out colourful items on the way. I can’t wait until baby bear starts recognising the colours in the book, but until then, I just enjoy reading about them to him.
  3. Smelly Louie: I took a punt at the bookshop and picked this one up on a rainy day. Not about a bear perhaps (the only one in this list not to be!) but we all enjoy reading about Louie finding his special smell. Makes me smile every time Louie is put back in the bath again at the end and it’s nice to round off baby bear’s day with a smile.
  4. Winnie-the-Pooh: A childhood favourite, I always get a bit emotional reading this one to baby bear. This is the one where Pooh eats a little bit too much at lunch, and gets stuck on his way out. Although I am terrible at voices, I always have a go, but Rabbit’s voice changes every time. I have a audio tape in my mind that I keep trying to emulate, but I never quite get the accent right! This was tonight’s story though, seemed fitting for the end of a bit of an emotional week.

Not quite back to normal tomorrow, we are calling in a lot of favours from family and friends to give baby bear one more day off nursery (a big thank you if you are reading this), but fingers crossed for a better and bouncy baby bear – I am missing him terribly.

It never rains but it pours 

I’m sure I used to do things on Friday nights, fun things, going out things. Well, now I am collapsed in front of the West Wing at 9pm wondering if it’s too soon to go to bed. Motherhood. Is. Exhausting. 

It has been the most exhausting few days, and it’s not over yet. 

I was warned that when baby bear went to nursery he would pick up every bug and illness going, but I definitely wasn’t prepared. I also slightly deluded myself into thinking that breastfeeding would keep him safe from this onslaught. Well this week he has picked up his first infection – there is really nothing like being at work and being called to be told your son has a rash. Rashes scare mummies and this is baby bear’s first one. And I was in the wrong place. And even when I got home, I couldn’t commit to, or cuddle, my ill baby until a few hours later. Going back to work just really isn’t easy, and just as I was beginning to get used to it this happens. 

Anyway, a doctor’s visit later, baby bear is now on antibiotics and I just hope he starts getting better now. He’s been so brave as I think he’s actually been ill since Tuesday, certainly teething and battling his first temperature. If only he could have told us it was his ears that were hurting, poor little thing. Maybe it’s good for his immune system, but I can’t help feeling terribly sad that this is my fault for going back to work. When babies are ill they suddenly seem very small and fragile, and it breaks my heart to see him fighting it so bravely. 

And to compound a busy work week and an ill baby bear, this week we also had a power cut that lasted two days. Food gone in the fridge, a house rigged up on extension cables, and things falling apart generally. Thank goodness back up and running now. 

Well, it’s the weekend now. I think it may actually rain tomorrow (to illustrate the week’s events) but maybe we need a day to regroup and look after baby bear at home. I certainly don’t want to be doing much more than holding him close and willing him to get better. 

First week back. Done.

Well, it’s been a week of busy working days, tired mummy and daddy bears, and a grizzly teething (and exhausted) baby bear, but we’ve all got through it and I for one am delighted it is the weekend!

A friend asked me yesterday if I’ve noticed any changes in baby bear since he started at nursery. I’m not sure if it’s nursery or not, but it got me thinking about those subtle changes in baby bear that I haven’t had a chance to really think about or write down:

  1. new babbling – when caught off guard in his own little world, baby bear’s babbling noises have changed. They now sound a bit like “doi, doi, doi, guda, guda, doi”, usually quite high-pitched – makes me laugh to write it down but if I don’t I’ll forget! My ears are pricked for the first proper word. I don’t even know if now is the right time for him to start talking, but I am listening.
  2. pressing buttons – of my iphone mostly (bad mummy), but he is just generally so much more able than he used to be. He points at things with a finger, can now get the toy rings onto their stand, and can pick up raisins and peas – I’m still mesmerised watching him do this!
  3. crawling to bathtime – no longer do I need to carry baby bear to the bathroom for bathtime. Now, I just start running the bath, and baby bear comes to join me. We are currently practising putting toys in the bath ready for bathtime, and pulling the plug at the end. Two days ago he refused to get out!
  4. playing with a ball – we got him his first proper ball last week, after noticing how much he enjoyed playing with them. He’s learning how to throw which is really sweet, hand goes up over his head, but then he’s not quite sure what to do next so the ball usually just ends up at his feet (that’s if he remembers to let go) – he’s getting there though.

BUT, no signs of walking yet. Lots of cruising, lots of crawling, lots of climbing, but no signs of letting go just yet!


One coda to this post. I was wondering as I was writing about how much I might be missing, and watching him grow, while he is at nursery. Of course I am realistic that he might start doing things without me there to watch him – I have already missed the first crawling – but that didn’t make it any less special the first time I saw him do it with my own eyes. I’ve said it before, but I just need to make the times I am with him now count. Today, Saturday, has already been the most wonderful day with him, and we’re not even half way through the weekend yet.

Monday mornings and 12 hour dramas

Well, it’s been quite a 12 hours. My first Monday morning since going back to work has got off to a rather hazy start. 

It all started with a Sunday evening trip (perhaps reminding me that Sunday evenings are for snuggling up on the sofa in front of Countryfile) to see the new Bridget Jones. Really enjoyed the film itself, but it was bookended by a supper that never showed, and a late fall into bed. Oh well, I thought, I can still just about get 8 hours in if baby bear is kind…

Poor baby bear. This week (on top of the nursery settling) he has been struggling with the next set of teeth. The top ones, which just seem to be causing him a lot of discomfort and pain. We tried all sorts of things last night (when the baby bear alarm went off at 2am) and ended up attempting to get him to fall asleep between us while watching Fireman Sam (original episodes of course). Well that didn’t work and we eventually returned him to his cot where, thank goodness, he went back to sleep. 

So when Monday morning arrived only to find that daddy bear is laid up in bed with food poisoning, poor daddy bear, it just added one more straw to the camel’s back of what is going to be a tough week all round. 

No time for breakfast, baby bear cried when I left him at nursery 😭 and I am on my way to work wishing I was at home.