Hope for tomorrow

To anyone who may be reading this, I apologise for how long it has taken for me to write a new post. I was quite overwhelmed by the response to he last one, and by how many people read it. I had regrets about some of the phrases I used, felt embarrassed that I had not proof read and reworded it to make sure I was entirely happy. The truth is that I write my blog posts with one hand on my phone whilst breastfeeding my boy each night. Mostly I don’t re-read them, I just send them out in to the universe, unedited. In response to having my blog actually seen by people, I decided to take some time to write something personal, something that meant something.

So I started to draft a message of hope, inspired by news of missing Alice Gross, a story which has occupied my mind with worry and anguish. My own cousin also went missing when I was young, and despite all the odds, he was found alive many years later, and with support has been able to return home. The circumstances of his disappearance were very different – he was over 18 years old, does not live in the UK, and his decision to leave home was influenced by an undiagnosed mental health condition; however the experience of living with the unknown was the same.

I was just a child when my own family were going through our own hell, so I was protected from the reality of the situation, from the stress and the heartache. It wasn’t until I was a mum myself that I really thought about how it must feel to be offered the chance to have your child declared as dead after being a missing person for so long, as my Aunt did. The agony of not knowing the whereabouts of your own child must be unbearable, I cannot imagine it. Despite having no connection to Alice or her family, I felt the biting anxiety that each day of not knowing bought. I felt the nausea of every revelation in the news. I cried about her, prayed for her, hoped and wished for a positive outcome for her and her family. I thought back to my cousin and remembered that sometimes miracles do happen, people do return, gone does not mean gone forever.

So I wrote a post about this, I hoped that it might give some hope to someone. I was trying to put my faith in the power of positive thinking, I wanted to believe in a miracle.

But then yesterday morning, like everyone else, I read about the discovery of Alice, and I realised that she would not be able to return home. There was a sombreness in our house that was felt around the country, our collective heart was broken, for a moment we were united in our grief. But we are lucky, because we were able to move on from this moment, and although Alice will remain in our thoughts, we were able to get on with our day. For her family, friends, those who knew and loved her, the rest of the day would not be so easy. Suddenly my message of hope didn’t apply anymore, things had changed forever.

So sorry that this post is not of the quality or standard that it should be, as once again I am hodgepodging this together on my phone, babe in arms, life is as it always was. I feel that ultimately, parenting is all about hope for the future. We have to live in hope that things will be good, your child will thrive, succeed, be happy, feel loved and treasured. At times it feels impossible to look ahead and feel positive, but in time, as hearts heal, hope can return. I send my love and deepest sympathies to Alice’s family and friends at this very difficult time. She will not be forgotten.

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Do modern parenting trends fit with modern life?

Please allow me to begin this post by stating it is in no way my intention to judge or criticise choices made by any parents. I know how exhausting it is to manage the daily parenting decisions and dilemmas such as how to get the baby to eat his peas, let alone the big and important things that actually really mean something. I just wanted to get out some of the thoughts that are going round in my head this evening, and was wondering if there is ever a perfect answer to the question about how best to raise our children.

Before I had my boy or even became pregnant, I had a pretty well-considered idea about what sort of a parent I wanted to be, and what my life as a mum would be like. I then went along to my NCT classes and my ideas changed. I decided I would give breastfeeding a go. I would think about co-sleeping. I was worried about the effects of cortisol on the development of my baby’s brain, so Husband and I agreed we would try not to let him cry.

Once he arrived I decided to parent by instinct, and what felt best to me was holding him close to me at all times, carrying him in a sling, breastfeeding on demand, comforting him, being available, taking responsibility for fulfilling his every need. The mummy friends I made were making similar decisions. I discovered that natural parenting, attachment parenting and gentle parenting were pretty popular amongst the NCT allumini, and that skin-to-skin bonding and breastfeeding were actively encouraged by midwives and health visitors. Let’s not forget at this point that these things really don’t come easy. Breastfeeding on demand is exhausting to the point of madness; meeting the every need of your child comes at the expense of your own needs in the early days and weeks and months, meaning that the sense of achievement and pride from actually doing this stuff is beyond amazing. My pre-baby self set a goal of breastfeeding for the first 3 months. In reality, I was still exclusively pumping every feed at 8 weeks. Once my baby finally learnt how to latch on and nurse directly from the breast it was something I would not give up for anything or anyone, testament to this is that we are still feeding at 15 months with no plans to quit.

And so Baby R and many of his peers grew together, sharing life experiences cheek to cheek with their mums, secure and comforted, mother and baby entwined and coexisting symbiotically. Positively attached, if you will.

Just as life started to feel manageable again, that’s when the emails started. Invitations to team meetings, reminders about KIT days, discussions about return to work dates. Along with this came the reality that I would have to hand over my baby to someone else, put him in their care. They would not let him nap on their lap, sing his special happy song to him, or wear him in a sling. They would give him milk from a bottle. He would not be the centre of their world.

I found this thought too hard to manage, and so with great sadness I resigned from my job. I had not planned to, and I did not do it primarily for the reasons discussed here, I did it because I love my baby more than I loved my job, and I could not bear not to see him. But had he gone to nursery at 9 months, would it not have been kinder to my child to raise him is an unattached way, being used to receiving love and care from a variety of important people, minimising the inevitable devastation of separation? Why are we being encouraged to raise our babies in a way which seems so incompatible with a return to work early on in their precious lives? Are the benefits of attachment style parenting in the early months not undone through the act of returning to work and forcing the child to have to re-learn a new way of life, to discover how to exist in a world where conflicting expectations are placed upon them depending on whether they are with mummy or not?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I think it is important to start considering them. My experience of watching friends return to work is that the preparation for nursery happens through taking their baby to the childcare provider for a couple of visits, not through altering their own parenting style. In fact, most of them are re-doubling their efforts to keep the attachment strong. Suddenly they are once again co-sleeping. They begin breastfeeding more frequently. They carry their babies around when they are with them, unwilling to let them go. The differences between the two worlds their children inhabit are made more distinct not less, the stress of having to to constantly move between them and re-learn the rules must be overwhelming at times for babies of all ages.

Child vs husband: who is the worse patient?

After (only just) surviving a week of intense illness, in which I had to be the nurse whilst every possible type and colour of bodily fluid has been forcefully ejected from the bodies of my child and husband, it got me thinking – who really is the worse patient?

Coping strategies:
Child – manages illness by crying, clinging on to mama, snuffling and whining day and night. Coping strategies under-developed due to lack of life experience.
Husband – manages illness by moaning, slumping around the house, snoozing at every opportunity (particularly when in charge of the baby) and obsessively Googling symptoms until convinced he has only hours left to live (this time he convinced himself he had Ebola).
Best at comping with illness: Husband, although I’m sure he will be surpassed by child within the next year.

Crying:
Child – cries for attention, cries when hungry or thirsty, cries when too full and feeling sick, cries before and after being sick, before and after pooing, before going to sleep and after waking up. Crying intense at times but short in duration due to weakness.
Husband – tears were shed between periods of sickness, when I tried to talk to husband about him being sick, when he called his own mum to tell her he’d been sick, when he realised he only had days to live due to ‘Ebola’.
Least annoying crying: Child, as husbands continued weeping is inexcusable for a 30 year old man.

Reaction to vomit:
Child – did a couple of huge vomits, a couple of smaller ones, but mostly all vomit emerged whilst in his cot. On one occasion (following a quite frankly enormous vomit) baby simply rolled over and went back to sleep! On the positive he is clearly not stressed about sicking up, however the negative was that after sleeping and fidgeting around in a pool of sick, there was quite a pronounced smell in the house and literally the entire surface area of himself and the cot had become coated in his stomach contents.
Husband – had one night of vomiting, around two proper vomits and a few dry heaves. Lots of lip wobbling and tears followed each, as well as cries of ‘I’m never going to eat again’ and ‘I wish I was dead’ but he was at least able to tell me when he was about to be sick. Mostly by shouting ‘help me I’m going to be sick!’
Best at reacting to vomit: Husband – he cleaned up his own sick plus as the baby chundered in my hair he was never really going to win this round.

Overall pathetic-ness:
Child – managed to play and explore between periods of exhaustion, even when the act of turning a page in a book took almost all his effort and required a little lie-down afterwards.
Husband – flumped around like an adult baby for 3 days, sighing melodramatically as if auditioning for the role of a super sad and sorry-for-himself Eeyore in a live-action production of Winnie the Pooh.
Least pathetic: Child. It was so hard to feel anything but love for the sniffley little babe in his slightly too big PJ’s watching Big Barn Farm and whispering ‘woof’ at every animal, regardless of species *too cute!*

Recovery:
Child – soldiered on day after day, roughly respecting the normal rhythm and routine of life, giving Mummy occasional breaks during naps and only waking up at night when covered in sick or poo.
Husband – refused solid food for 3 days due to fear of vomiting, then broke his fast by eating 4 Chicago Town microwaveable pizzas (no, we don’t normally have these in the house, he sent me out specifically to buy them because otherwise he thought he might die). He then moaned that he might die from eating too much microwaveable pizza. No sympathy.
Best recovery: Child. Obviously born to be the next Bear Grylls, made of strong stuff and with an unshakable determination to play with MegaBloks even when on his sickbed.

My findings lead me to conclude that my husband is the worse patient, and should be protected from germs by keeping him in a sterile environment for the rest of his life just so I never have to nurse him through a gastric illness ever again!