Why we’re addicted to parenting forums

From the minute we find out we’re expecting a baby, we find ourselves turning to the internet for all manner of uncertainties (is this feeling normal?) parenting forums

This continues when we approach labour (what should I expect?), through the early days of parenthood (I’m clueless) and (I can only imagine) throughout your child’s whole life (she’s sick, she’s troublesome, she’s quiet…)

I admit that I have never actually posted anything on a forum, but I am a bit of a serial browser (or rather frantic scanner) as I trawl through the comment threads on Babycentre looking for the ‘answers’ to my daily queries about motherhood. The truth is, I don’t necessarily want answers, just confirmation that my inclinations are right. Unlike my health visitor, midwife and GP, forums provide me with thousands of answers to choose from and I will keep on searching until I find one that I like and agree with. Any answers that don’t back up what I already thought before I typed my query into Google just get swiped past – what do they know anyhow?

More often than not, I don’t find any answers at all. Just hundreds of parents who are all experiencing the same problems and facing the same challenges. This in itself is enough for me – it makes me feel better knowing that there are thousands of others out there having just as hard a time of it. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not being over-dramatic and that another parent who has experienced the same challenges as me thought that it warranted signing up and posting a comment about it.

I started to understand very early on this journey of motherhood that nobody really knows better than yourself. Forums serve this mindset nicely, allowing us to self-diagnose any problems and take and leave advice as we see fit. I’ve had no end of conversations with my parent friends who have tried to obtain advice from their health visitors/ GPs but have been disappointed (or darn right pissed off) by text book responses that leave no room for individual circumstances. My health visitor is actually pretty easy going about ‘just do what works for you’, but even I find myself just asking for advice for the sake of it, already knowing beforehand what I’m going to do regardless of her response (I already Googled it).

So here’s to another 18 years of stalking parenting forums. What would I do without you?

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Parenting fails

Being a new parent is no easy feat. Despite getting by on four hours’ sleep a night and having to adjust to a whole new way of life, there’s an expectation that because you are now a mother/father you should all of a sudden become the most organised, responsible and capable person overnight.

parenting fails

Alongside this, there are also those ‘rules’set out by the healthcare professionals that put the fear of god in you from day one – if you don’t abide by them you are a very bad parent. Not to mention your baby eyeing your every move with suspicion and wailing whenever you don’t quite understand her needs – ‘seriously, what kind of mother are you?’And to top it all off, there seems to be a whole host of very organised, responsible and capable parents everywhere you go – the ones with four kids in tow who don’t seem in the slightest bit flustered and smile at you with pity for not knowing that your pushchair wouldn’t quite fit in the lift.

So here is my list of those times (so far) I’ve been very aware of my ‘newbie mum’ status:

1) I realise baby has been in her car seat for a whole 2 hours and 10 minutes. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to baby during those extra ten minutes, but I know it’s really bad.

2) Baby wakes up from her nap early and I realise I haven’t even sterilised the bottles, let alone boiled the kettle and waited for the water to cool down. Shit, shit, shit!parenting fails

3) Those pesky vests are sooo difficult to put on, especially when baby’s screaming and throwing her arms and legs all over the place. After a particularly stressful episode, I finally get it on. Only to realise it’s on BACK TO FRONT.

4) I forgot the red book – again. The health visitor, nurse, doctor asks encouragingly, ‘has it been a bit of a stressful morning?’ No it hasn’t actually, I’m just a terrible mother.

5) I’ve been winding baby for at least 20 minutes now and she hasn’t burped yet. I convince myself that I must have just missed it and put her back in her crib and crawl back into bed. She’s immediately sick all over herself.

6) I was sure I tucked baby’s blankets into the mattress but wake up to find that she’s pulled them up over her face. I’ve been lead to believe that she will die if this happens. Luckily she’s alive and smiling.

7) I decide to go out for a nice walk. Half way through it starts to piss it down and I didn’t bring the rain cover for the pram. Baby is not happy.

8) I momentarily forget I have a baby and plan a night out…

The List

A belated apology to my dear mum

lesson

Dear Mum…

I don’t think I ever thanked you for those months at the beginning of my life when you doted on me no matter what. I confess that I was just testing you, trying to see how far I could push you – you were just so nice to me all the time…So  I played a few cruel tricks on you. Just for kicks really.

Now that I’m experiencing this first hand myself (karma hey?) I think a few apologies are long overdue. So here goes…

I’M SO SORRY FOR:

Taylor pretending

Taylor pretending

  • Throwing the dummy out of my crib for the seventh time that night. I decided I didn’t want it after all.
  • Letting you change my outfit and then weeing all over it in the 4 seconds you took to swap my nappy. I thought I was being funny. You clearly didn’t.
  • Pretending to be asleep every time the health visitor, midwife, friends, family visited so that you would look like a big fat fibber.
  • Letting you take ages swaddling me and then breaking out of it as soon as you put me down. I thought you were testing my motor skills.
  • Waiting until you settled down to watch the next episode of that drama you were in to and then screaming for you. I just wanted to see whodunnit.
  • Eye-balling and smiling at you during the night feeds. I knew you were trying not to look at me.
  • Crying for food for two hours and then falling back to sleep once you got up to make the bottle. I was just playing with you.

Please forgive me, I knew not what I did.

The List
Mummascribbles

Things you thought stupid before becoming a parent

baby on board image

‘Baby on Board’ car stickers

Before having a baby I used to get irrational irritated by these. I perceived them as a self-righteous indulgence by parents who want to tell the world that they made a baby (all by themselves) and are currently on their way to the park to make daisy chains, whilst the rest of us are running late for another shit day at the office. I thought they gave overly cautious parent drivers an unnecessary excuse to be even more cautious,  and shame on you if you get too close – don’t you know there’s a BABY in the car?? 

Yet since becoming mum, I now totally ‘get’ these.

On my first outing out with Taylor, I had this overwhelming sense of responsibility. Overnight my most precious possession went from being my engagement ring to a little human being. What if I lost her, or forgot I had her, or took my hand off the pram and she rolled in to oncoming traffic? What if someone stole her, or she stopped breathing and I didn’t notice??? The thoughts were endless. So being in the car was no different. I went from being a relatively impatient driver to being one of those in the inside lane dutifully sticking to the speed limit. “How dare you get up my ass – I have a bloody baby in the car and I don’t give a shit if you’re running late for work…arsehole.”

Saturday pushchair shoppers

I admit it. I used to judge parents who went shopping on Saturdays, charging their pushchairs through crowds of people whilst looking harassed and pissed off. Why bother? I thought. Doesn’t she have the whole week to get out? OUCH – that’s my bloody ankle! Bitch. 

Now, let me enlighten those without child. That mum did intend to get this shopping trip done and dusted before Saturday, but things just didn’t go to plan this week. So that’s why she’s here. She’s had to time the trip perfectly so that she’s back home or sat having a coffee in Costa in two hours as her baby will need feeding. So she’s in a bit of a rush. She had three hours’ sleep last night and the British public haven’t done much to help her mood so far, watching from the sidelines as she struggles to get the pushchair through various doors and up flights of steps. As she gets to the till to pay for her purchases she remembers that the basket in her pram is minuscule so she’s having to carry all of her bags on one hand, which is cutting off the circulation in her fingers. She now only has 30 minutes until the feed is due. Sod the coffee, she wants to get home. She’s ramming into you because you’re dawdling and you didn’t hear her say ‘excuse me’ because you’re having too much fun. Move out the way! Bitch. 

boring facebook updatesStatus updates 

You groan every time you see another baby picture that your friend’s uploaded onto Facebook. You really don’t need to know that she was up again all night, that she’s managed to change the bed today, or that her baby was sick all over the sofa. You don’t care. You have better things to do with your day.

So spare a thought for her. Whilst you’re instagramming your gourmet brunch, sharing your night on the town or tweeting your thoughts about that commentary you read in The Times today, your friend is changing nappies, watching CBeebies and speaking gaga language to a six week old. Any spare time she has is spent sterilizing bottles and folding laundry. She’s bloody proud of those clean sheets. Indulge her, it won’t be forever.

Parent/child parking bays

I was pretty ignorant before Taylor. I didn’t really see what the big deal was about parking with a child and why this gave parents the special privilege of having a space close to the entrance. They have buggies to transport the children after all. There always seemed to be too many of these spaces and not enough for everyone else.parent child parking

I found out the hard way why these bays are absolutely necessary when I embarked on my first trip to our local shopping centre. I felt pretty smug at first, privately gloating about the fact that I would finally be able to park in one of these spaces for the privileged people with children. The smugness was short-lived however when I entered the multi-storey car park and found that throughout the first six floors, not a single one of these bays was free. After 20 minutes of driving around, I accepted that I would just have to use one of the non-privileged spaces so drove into one only to find a concrete post within inches of my door. Before Taylor I would’ve simply climbed over to the passenger side and got out of the car that way. But ah, there’s not enough room to get the bloody car seat out anyway. It’s not like I could tell her to hop out whilst I straightened up. I drove into and reversed out of another five spaces before finally taking up two spaces on the TWELFTH FLOOR.

So much for privileged treatment.

The List

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MaternityMondays

Becoming mum: The part they don’t tell you about

becoming new mum

If I’m honest, I thought I would adapt to motherhood fairly easily. In comparison to working full-time and being out of the house for 12 hours a day Monday-Friday, I was actually looking forward to having a bit more free time. I had visions of finally doing all of those things that I never had time for – clearing out the cupboards, starting an exercise regime and trying out that recipe I pulled out of BBC Good Food over three years ago. After all, babies sleep a lot of the time, right?

WRONG! Parenting is hard work. Not only is it a ‘full-time job’, but it’s the type of full-time job that would have you running to the HR department if there was one – expected to work 20 hour shifts on under four hours of sleep, getting screamed at if you don’t stand to attention quick enough, and absolutely no prior training provided to ensure that you’re fit for the job.

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a mum is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but why the hell didn’t anyone think to warn me about the first few weeks??

At first, we thought that perhaps we had a challenging baby. Taylor takes at least an hour and a half to settle to sleep after a feed and quite often doesn’t go to sleep between them, so waking up at 3am for a feed can mean that we’re still awake by the time the 6am feed comes around and then it’s hello to another day. Surely this isn’t normal? SOMEONE WOULD’VE WARNED US…

We attributed her restlessness to reflux (she screams after feeds), colic (she cries a lot), constipation (she poos very little), too much sleep in the day (yes she does sleep in the day), spoiling her (she just wants to be held all the time)…until finally accepting that she is just a NORMAL baby.

So here is my warning to you, since other parents may not be completely honest. Following the first couple of days out of hospital thinking that you have a little angel, things get pretty tough. Forget that you just went though the pain and exhaustion of labour and just want a good night’s sleep – your baby does not care.

In addition to the lack of sleep, the part I found particularly difficult to accept was the passing of days and not getting a single ‘productive’ task complete. Again, I caveat this by saying that I love spending my days with Taylor – feeding her, changing her, cleaning her, bathing her, playing with her. But I was kind of hoping (fully expecting) to be able to fit Taylor Time in between my other tasks (maintaining a spotless house, visiting friends, walking Max, cooking wholesome meals…)

The old me wrote To Do lists for fun, so realising that these are now redundant in my new life was difficult for me to come to terms with – getting to 5pm and realising that the house was still a mess and I hadn’t even bothered to put a bra on that day made me feel like a bit of a failure. Mr M would return from work and I was certain I’d see a glimmer of disappointment on his face as he critically assessed ‘what I had done all day’ (he assures me this was not the case). I even ignored the midwife’s advice to ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ and instead adopted the ‘do as much as possible when baby sleeps’ approach, but still couldn’t get 10 minutes to myself.

However, the very fact that I’m writing this post, is evidence that it DOES GET BETTER. Taylor is five weeks old tomorrow, and I do feel that we are starting to turn a bit of a corner. We’ve got more accustomed to her wants and needs and understand her better. Her night-time demands for feeding are gradually stretching past the three-hour mark, and we ourselves have accepted that we do actually need to be in bed for 9pm if we’re to get anything near a functional amount of sleep.

I’m sure I will look back fondly on these days in months to come and wish for my little oh-so-cute-when-not-crying newborn again. But for now, roll on week six.

“So, how was the labour?”

labour experience

The notion that women release a hormone post-birth that helps them to forget about the pain of labour must be a real one; my first thought after labour (obviously following the joy of meeting Taylor for the first time) was ‘I am NEVER doing that again!’ Yet now, I look back and think it wasn’t so bad at all…

In the grand scheme of things though, I think I was one of the lucky ones. My labour was considered ‘low risk’ from the off – baby had been engaged for weeks and she was in the right position for a natural, uncomplicated birth.

I requested a sweep at my 40+1 morning appointment with the midwife which she told me was apparently a ‘good sweep’ – my cervix was thin and baby was at the marks ready to get set. She told me that I might experience slight cramping so when I woke in the middle of the night with exactly that I didn’t panic too much. The cramps were a little too painful to sleep, but nothing too unfamilar, so after consulting Google about ‘how to tell when you’re in labour’ I decided that I wasn’t. I did feel though that labour was imminent – a feeling that was further confirmed when I had a show the next morning.

Throughout that day, the cramps had pretty much disappeared until 5.30pm when they started up again. I’d planned to cook tacos that night – as the pains increased it changed to Mr M cooking tacos, and then tacos being replaced with filled pasta which takes 4 minutes. I had visions of taking a long relaxing bath at this stage and maybe watching a film to sit it out until the contractions became more intense. The reality was quite different – I had a quick dip in the bath, wolfed down as much of the pasta as I could (my appetite was non-existent) and then frantically ran around the house throwing my tolietries, nightie, spare pair of clothes etc into a bag since although I’d packed for baby’s needs, I’d left my own packing thinking that I’d have more than enough warning to get sorted.

The cramps (I refused to fully believe they were contractions at this stage) were increasing in intensity, but they were all over the place in terms of timing. My midwife had advised me not to call the hospital until they were 4-5 minutes apart. They were varying from 7 minutes to 4 minutes, back up to 10 minutes, and then down to 5 minutes again. By around 8.30pm they were pretty intense (too intense to talk) and after having a handful at 3-4 minutes apart we called the delivery suite to tell them we would be coming in. They told us that we shouldn’t really go in until they were 2-3 minutes apart or ‘until I needed something more than paracetamol for the pain’. I sat it out for another half an hour before deciding that I was definitely in labour and I was going in.

We arrived at the hospital at 9.30pm when they put us in a delivery room and told us that a midwife would be with us soon to examine me and see if I needed to stay in. I made quick work of changing into my nightie and slippers much to Mr Ms amusement. Admittedly, the contractions has slowed down since leaving home (apparently this always happens) but I definitely was not going home. I was examined at 9.50 and told I was 4cm dilated but would not be sent home as my cervix had thinned out which meant that everything could happen quite quickly. We were told to take a walk around the hospital to try and increase the frequency of the contractions.

In the run up to labour I often wondered what contractions felt like. I definitely would compare them to an intense period cramp that lasts over a minute and is combined with the feeling you get in your lower back and pelvis when you have a real urge to go to the loo (I’m not talking about for a wee). They come in waves and the more intense they get the quicker the peak of the pain comes on (within seconds) and the longer it lasts (well over a minute). I sat on a birthing ball and took long deep breaths throughout mine which I found really helped. So, although they definitely are painful, I would describe the pain as manageable – because a) it’s not totally unfamiliar and b) it’s not continuous.childbirthbig

When the contractions increased to between 1-2minutes the midwife asked if I’d like to try gas and air which I readily accepted. I’ve never had it before and after my first breath I felt as though I’d stood up too fast after 10 tequilas. I couldn’t figure out if I liked it or not since it seemed to space me out but never quite kicked in in time for the peak of the contraction pain. It did provide me with some sense of control though and a bit of a distraction so I kept going with it. By this point I was also scared of how bad the pain might be if it stopped but I do wonder in hindsight if I could’ve done without it. It did make me quite sick and a little paranoid at times because I couldn’t make sense of what was really going on around me. Mr M however told me that I was super loving on it so he was all for it!

At midnight the midwife informed me that they examine every four hours, so the next time would be at 1.50am. I said that was fine. At 12.30am I was demanding that Mr M get her back in the room “I want an epidural!” As soon as the midwife came back in the room my waters broke. She examined me soon after and said ‘”you’re going to have your baby very soon”. I was 10cm dilated and an epidural was out of the question.

From that point on it was all a bit of a blur and everything happened quite quickly. I remember thinking that I needed to go for it and pushing as hard as I could to try and get baby out as quickly as possible. This was met by a stern word from the midwife telling me to slow down otherwise I would tear. I know at one stage after a particularly energetic and excruciating push, Mr M said to me encouragingly, “you can see baby’s head!” To which I replied, “I thought the head was out already!?” And then all of a sudden the most perfect little baby was placed on top of me and nothing else mattered in the world.

I think I’d previously thought that once baby was born that would be the end to labour in the true sense of the word, but I remember thinking at the time that I was most definitely still in labour up until the placenta was delivered – however, I was so overwhelmed by those first moments of looking at our beautiful baby girl that the pain no longer mattered. She was born at 2am on the dot, weighing 7lb 9 and is perfect in every single way.

So, labour in my experience was definitely painful, tiring, completely undignified (bare in mind that you will likely poo yourself, be sick and need stitches amongst other things) and at times very scary, but I would go through it all again 100 times over for the little miracle that awaits at the end.

My advice to any Mum to be:

  • Try and sit out early labour for as long you can at home – I found a good indication was to wait until the contractions are too painful to talk. You will know in yourself when the time is right.
  • Don’t get too hung up on creating the perfect birth plan – in the end your body will decide how the baby gets delivered
  • Take a dark coloured dressing gown and change of clothes for yourself and be prepared for them to get messy
  • Prepare meals for your freezer in advance for after the birth – I didn’t do this which was a huge faux pas. You will definitely not want to be cooking in the days after you get home from hospital.
  • I took raspberry leaf tea from week 36 which is supposed to help speed up the second (most painful) stage of labour. I obviously don’t know for sure if that’s what made mine so speedy, but I will definitely be taking it again if there’s a second time.
  • Take some of your favourite snacks and drinks along to the hospital. I took some Irn Bru which helped with the sickness

Welcome to the world!

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On 18th December we welcomed our beautiful daughter Taylor Ann into the world! The best Christmas present we could ever dream of.

With Christmas and New Year festivities alongside getting to grips with parenthood and daily visits from family, friends and health visitors, I haven’t had a minute to myself. So I’m looking forward to getting into some sort of routine and enjoying having our little munchkin all to ourselves. Birth story post to follow but for now here are some shots of Taylor’s first two weeks…