Pregnancy guilt

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I wasn’t planning on becoming pregnant, and when I did it became less of a celebration and more of a waiting game, counting down the days until the next milestone.

Days and days of repeated pregnancy tests until I could get a GP appointment, then more days waiting for a scan. The scan was shocking, I was sure it couldn’t be true.

After that came the announcement and then the fear…now I’ve told people what happens if “something” happens?

A colleague (actually there were 6 pregnant colleagues at the time) was pregnant following a lot of time and treatment, and 2 friends of mine (both of whom have since had babies) had struggled for years and almost given up hope of pregnancy, so I really understand how lucky we were to become pregnant so easily.  However, it didn’t feel amazing, I just felt scared and guilty.

How was it that having never even had a pregnancy scare I fell pregnant so easily?

What did this mean?

Would something happen to the baby?

Did I really deserve this?

 

When people asked me if I was looking forward to the baby it was difficult, I hadn’t really wanted one so it was hard to get excited about it.  Yes we had agreed we would have a baby at some point, but the timing wasn’t great, having just moved into a derelict house we didn’t get planning permission until January 2013 (I was due in April) so we were living in difficult conditions and then had a race on to get somewhere suitable for a baby in time.  Financially it was always going to be difficult, but coming at a time when expenses were so significant was a bit of a nightmare.  I remember a midwife coming round to take an urgent blood test and having to let her into our room which was piled high with boxes and had a curtain over the door to try and keep the dust down, I was convinced she would report me to social services!

I spent so much time stressing over the house and finances that having a baby to stress about wasn’t ideal.  I remember dozens of sleepless nights worrying about high blood pressure and the birth before I got myself signed up to pregnancy yoga and antenatal classes.

I was convinced that because we had it so easy something was bound to go wrong.

After each midwife appointment I would wait anxiously for the next one, even when they became fortnightly I would start counting down to the next appointment on my walk home.  I didn’t feel my baby move until very late.  He was clearly nocturnal as he could go all day with not even a flutter until about 1am when he would have a jiggle for half an hour or so then go back to silence.  It was only when I was quite far along that I could rely on any sort of movement, even the tricks of cold water recommended by the midwives didn’t frighten him into movement!  Generally my pregnancy was really easy, which should have made me relax and feel better…but it didn’t.  It was just another nail in the box convincing me that something was bound to go wrong.

With hindsight and having spoken to other mums and read other blogs, I wonder if pregnancy guilt is in fact something that just comes to us all, however we become pregnant, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance.  I have a friend who was trying for a baby for a few months and when she did fall pregnant she didn’t realise and had attended a party and drunk alcohol.  It was easy for me, an outsider, to reassure her that she shouldn’t feel guilty, having lived a healthy and active lifestyle for six months while trying to fall pregnant then having 2 G&Ts when you think you’re not is NOT a reason to feel guilty.  Now, however, I can appreciate why she felt so bad about it.

Perhaps it’s the pregnancy hormones, or a sudden realisation of the wonder of the human body, or a massive reality check, or simply a practice run for the guilt that is to follow as a parent!  But I do think something sets off the guilt mechanism for a lot of women during pregnancy, at a time when one less stress really should be the order of the day.

Bye bye boobie

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25 May 2014.

Pegasus Air flight.

Somewhere over Europe…

What’s the significance?

It was my last breastfeed…

 

I struggled to start and continue breastfeeding, but once I had the hang of it I had set my mind on doing it until 6 months.  Once it settled down I decided to continue until a year old.  Whilst I had days and weeks moments of doubt where I felt trapped, like a milk machine and frustrated that no one else could look after my baby because of the boob addiction, by 9 months Jem went down to feeding only in the morning and last thing at night so it was manageable.  I even discovered that if I went out in the evening (about once a month I have an evening meeting for my voluntary work) although he wouldn’t take a bottle he would settle to sleep without milk with the Turk.  I began to question what he was really getting from breastfeeding, but given that it was only twice a day for about 5 minutes I figured that even if it was only for comfort or routine I could live with it.

In fact I was planning on continuing this pattern even when I returned to work, but Jem took a different view.  When we were on holiday shortly after his first birthday he didn’t seem bothered about his morning feed, in fact twice he went without it and didn’t bother at all!  By the final week of our holiday when I tried to feed him in the evening he actually burst into giggles (RUDE!) when I tried to feed him and was more interested in playing.

I can take a hint…

On the flight home Jem slept for an hour and then got very fussy, singing, toys, breadsticks, leftover simit, rice cakes didn’t do the trick so I broke out the failsafe booby distraction to try and stop invoking the rage from the other passengers.  He was still very tired so I thought it might make him nod off…it did not.

Anyway, what I didn’t appreciate at the time was that this was it.  When we came home I decided to start the “real” milk, and Jem loved it.  I was really surprised as he never really took to formula, it took months to get him to drink ANY water and when I tried cow milk before he wasn’t bothered.  Perhaps it was because I warmed it, or maybe he was just ready to move on, whatever it was I had expected to wind down from the breast and have a month or so of switching over, but it wasn’t needed.

I was reading other blog posts around the time and Donna from Red Head Baby Led was writing about her experience of finishing breastfeeding and my NCT friends whom mostly fed up to 12 months were going through the same thing.  It struck me that they were all experiencing pain, engorgement or other niggles from finishing bf…but I wasn’t.  In fact for a couple of months I’d been back in pre-pregnancy bras, I literally had no “side effects” from stopping…

…I suspect that Jem had been rather taking me for a ride for a little while!

Well I’m not complaining, it was mixed but overall I’m pretty glad it’s over.

Although as this is probably my last opportunity to comment on breastfeeding can I direct you to the Two Boys One Mum blog, here, for what is probably my favourite ever post on this topic.

Do you monitor your baby…?

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When I was pregnant I started shopping for a baby monitor.

This should have been simple, I applied my same system that I used for every baby related purchase:

  1. Make a new page on my spreadsheet, entitled “baby monitors”
  2. List every baby monitor that has ever existed and been sold in Europe the UK
  3. Panic about how many there are
  4. Read reviews of every single item on my list, making notes of particularly salient points on said spreadsheet
  5. Delete every monitor with a bad review
  6. Reinstate monitors with bad reviews which don’t appear to be justified
  7. Attempt to look up safety records
  8. Re-read reviews
  9. Go to shop and attempt to view each monitor
  10. Speak to 10 people and ask for their views
  11. Post in a forum about baby monitors asking for views on your top 10
  12. Check Kiddiecare website regularly to see which baby monitor is selling quickest
  13. Order remaining baby monitors in order of price
  14. Finalise decision
  15. Purchase baby monitor and learn to use it

Unfortunately on this occasion I didn’t get to the end of my 15 step programme before my baby arrived (…and he was 12 days late…)

During my NCT course our teacher had advised that baby monitors were largely unnecessary if you lived in a flat as you would be able to hear the baby.  Naturally we, the group, disagreed.  My own preference was for a monitor which had a pad under the mattress to monitor breathing, but others were adamant that they had to have video monitors.  We all had valid reasons, mine being how could I be assured that the baby was breathing if I didn’t have this?  I had never held a baby at this point, I assumed that this was an essential and therefore made me a good parent (surely with a video monitor I would have to watch constantly to check baby was still breathing…very time consuming and difficult when I will of course be doing many other vital and important things…)

Naturally I didn’t have the monitor by the time the baby was born (it was a lot of money and despite all my research the Turk was not convinced we needed to spend quite so much…

In fairness the NCT teacher did have a point, at the time we were living in 2 rooms right next to each other, even when not in the bedroom I could hear Jem breathing (he was, and still is, rather wheezy when he sleeps.)

However, we would one day be using more of our 5 bedroom house (you see I still had faith) so I persisted in my plan to buy a baby monitor.  My priorities had changed by this point…having passed the 4 month point I was a lot more relaxed about breathing (the baby rarely slept more than 2 hours at a time…I got over it and cared more about sleeping) and I was anxious to move into our real bedroom, and more importantly shift the baby into his.

I redid the process.

Only with a baby it went more like this:

  1. Google “baby monitor with lullabies”
  2. Pick the top one
  3. Attend shop to buy it
  4. Discover that Tomy actually make a variety of these…
  5. Return home and read reviews on all Tomy baby monitors
  6. Debate between 2 for 2 weeks until the Turk says “just buy one and stop asking me what I think, I don’t care I can’t tell the difference between them”
  7. Order said baby monitor online
  8. Stress about whether it is the right one until it arrives…

First night of using baby monitor I put Jem into his moses basket awake (the Holy Grail of baby sleep), put the lullabies on, and he fell asleep…

…Love my baby monitor….

…Never worked again.

In short, what I have learned is this:

  • It is possible to overthink baby related purchases
  • Of course you want the best for your baby (I’ll tell you about the saga of the car seat another time) and what you buy should be right for you
  • What is right for you isn’t necessarily right for someone else
  • You will always worry, no matter what you buy
  • Just because the first time you play your baby electronic lullabies results in instant sleepage does not mean this will be repeated…ever…again

Post script:

What the NCT teacher did point out to me was that if I was so bothered about checking baby’s breathing I should probably go on a First Aid course to check that I would know what to do should breathing stop…I did a first aid course and would thoroughly recommend to all.

Do you NCT…?

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We debated a long time about doing the NCT course, it is a lot of money and although heavily recommended to me, it seemed essentially I was paying to make friends.  I already have friends, did I really need more?

A friend had a baby 18 months ahead of us and seemed to get on really well with her NCT group initially, even moving next door to one of them!  However as time went on some of the love appeared to be lost and I heard about competitiveness, in-fighting and flakiness (as the queen of flake I rather forgive the last one…)

During one of my many panics about having a baby I signed us up and forked out the extortionate amount to find new friends.  I  had to make the decision about whether to do evenings over a course of days or a weekend intense course.  Also the location on the basis of courses running around my due date, we were slap in between the “yummy mummies” of Crouch End and Tottenham…Crouch End was closer, but I was anxious about mixing with the better off…I decided to risk the posh and to close my ears to any talk of expensive buggies.

The course started on a Saturday morning, we were on time…ish (a great achievement when anything involves the Turk), and luckily there was a familiar face as I had met one of the other mums at my pregnancy yoga class the week before (more on this another time).  The tutor was a shock, she wasn’t what I expected, and she definitely rubbed some in the group up the wrong way, but luckily both the males and females in our group were so laid back that there was no fuss (just something to discuss in the pub later…)

The course in a nutshell – I learned loads, whilst she may not be everyone’s cup of tea the tutor was superb, not a rule follower, frank, honest and not overly “NCT”.  That may sound mean as the NCT is a fantastic charity, but I had always seen them as pushing breastfeeding and natural birth, whilst there’s nothing wrong with either of these things, you know sometimes, you just don’t need it ramming down your throat.  Of course we all wanted the best for the birth and feeding, but we also came out of there with a realistic attitude, which was handy as 3 out of 7 of our babies were born by c-section, one of them only a week after the end of the course!  She understood what was needed, I had never held a baby before so naturally I was forced to go hands on with the doll, but as someone who hates “roll play” I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point.  Even more importantly I didn’t freak out about the epidural and felt less scared of it (which was handy as I ended up having one…after 3 attempts by the anesthetist…fun).  Overall the course was worth the cost even if I did resent paying for it.

Even more importantly, whilst I still don’t believe money can buy you love,  I have made firm friends.  We were lucky, our group all get on really well, we met up every week for the first 6 months or so and took a really laid back approach, meeting in different places on an ad hoc basis, those who wanted turned up and those who didn’t or couldn’t wouldn’t!  Perhaps the weather helped, we spent a lot of time in the fabulous parks that Haringey has to offer, and a year on we had our first 2014 park meet up yesterday…those of us who weren’t at work…

It is getting more difficult, I am the only one not yet back at work, but as I am also going back full time I know that it is going to be hard for me to see much of those lovely ladies and their babies.  A couple of our group are planning on moving further afield and my heart sinks at the prospect of not seeing those babes on a weekly basis.  I would love to think that our children will grow up together, even as ‘out of school’ friends as we are spread across the borough, but I have to be realistic and just be thankful for the time we have.

The reason I write this post is because this Sunday we had a joint first birthday party for all our babies and it really moved me knowing all these mamas before they gave birth and having had the privilege of sharing their first year with them.  Whilst these may not have been the aim of the NCT course I thought I would share with you what I have learned as a result of it:

  1. Never judge mummies by their yumminess, much to my shock the group were neither posh, competitive or bitchy.  I love them all and their individual fabulousness.
  2. Babies are delightful, a bit scary, but worth it.
  3. Babies are all different in just about every way, there’s nothing wrong with asking advice, but don’t expect anyone else to have been through it.
  4. Everyone copes differently.
  5. Men need to know more about breastfeeding.
  6. True friends will be there for you when you suffer a poonami in the park, anyone who offers to help with said poonami is an angel.
  7. Wine always helps.
  8. Mums can still be super cool & a bit crazy.
  9. No one’s life is perfect.
  10. Life doesn’t need to be perfect.

 

PS. On a side note whilst our NCT tutor didn’t shove the benefits of breastfeeding down our throats, but took a sensible approach, all of us breastfed up to 7 months, and at 1 year 5 of us are still going 🙂

 

Maternity leave…take it or leave it…?

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It’s not that I don’t love my son, when he’s in a good mood (or asleep) he’s genuinely delightful.

Although I like my job it’s not the most glamourous or interesting job in the world and working for the Government is not the highest paying or most rewarding of things to do in all honesty.

I have lots of things I would like to do with my time off, I had grand plans a few years ago to do yoga teacher training should I ever end up with a year off.  I love to knit and (recently) crochet and (even more recently) blog.  The issue is I am finding after 11 months of maternity leave, I am not getting to do any of these things, and to be frank I’m bored.  On the face of it there’s no reason why I can’t spend my days knitting to my hearts content, or finishing the numerous cross stitch projects I have started over the years, this was always my impression of maternity leave.  But I find that the boy’s attention span is such that by the time I get started on something he has lost interest in whatever he’s doing and is demanding that I put down my wool and play with him/feed him/put him down/stop him doing something dangerous.  Now you may think that this is just an issue since he has been able to crawl and coast, but truth be told even before that I had my hands full as he fed near constantly until 8 months and screamed blue murder if I ever let him out of my arms.

Why does it matter I tell myself, the purpose of maternity leave is to be maternal.  Jem should demand all my attention and come above and beyond everything (even FB or Twitter!)  I should want to play with him and entertain him, and I do…just not for 12 hours a day.  I also have the benefit of being off work for 14 months (the boy was 2 weeks late so the first month I was in fact just bored and heavily pregnant) much to the envy of friends and colleagues both parents and non-parents.  But when I spend so much time gazing around at all the fun things I could be doing, but am not, it feels like way too long.

I am reaching the stage where my NCT friends are returning to work, so my baby social circle is reducing rapidly, and I fear our daily whatsapp conversations may be about to become a thing of the past.  Although the sun is returning, after 11 months I’m pretty sick and tired of exploring the local area avec buggy.  I’ve also started to have a strong desire to make sure we’re at home during nap time (baby free time in the house is a rarity and therefore precious).  Even more surprising, I’m bored of shopping…although this could have something to do with the lack of money.

I’m not actually complaining (though it may sound like I am) I appreciate that this is a one off opportunity for me and Jem and I will regret not making the most of every second in a few years.  I wonder if it’s something to do with becoming an accidental mother, at an age when I am far too selfish to want to do things someone else’s way.  I wonder whether it’s because I am an only child.  I wonder whether it’s because Jem and I are too alike for our own good…I wonder lots of things…it helps to pass the time…