Monday, 17 December 2012

Letting Go of the Little Things

Goodness, I have been trying to write this post for weeks and with one thing or another, finding time to do anything other than look after my little man and keep as close to on top of essential household / life chores as a Mummy of an almost one year old can, it has been impossible.

No matter. Here I am so let's get writing.

Inspired by a couple of different things lately, I've been working really hard on appreciating things more. The things that are enormous in my world, so big in fact and so always there and so always good that I almost forget to appreciate them because I have been too busy focusing on the not so good little things. Those things that happen day after day, that are always in your face saying, 'Hey, I'm here to make sure your day isn't a perfect one'. Those pesky little things that really, in the whole scheme of things, just don't matter at all, not even close to how much the big things matter and yet so many of us spend most of our time focusing on them because, grrrr, they're just so bloody pesky and so bloody there. I'm very guilty of this. Let me explain a little further what I mean.

Often, as I flick through the channels on the TV, the pages of a magazine, articles on a website or stations on a radio, I will stumble across something that really inspires me. Something that makes me feel incredibly foolish for moaning about the little things like the train being late; the rain falling too hard on my face; Dalton not eating yet another home-prepared meal but instead executing that face like I have just presented him with ricin. Something that makes me feel so lucky to have what I have and I promise myself that I will from this day forward behave differently - more admirably, rise above the little things, remember to appreciate what I have and tell the people that I do so greatly appreciate that I appreciate them. And then I step in a puddle, shout profanities and forget all about whatever it was that was going to change my view on the world and my place in it. This has happened a lot in my life but for whatever reason, two particular things I stumbled upon recently have really got to me and really given me a giant 'slap in the face' style wake-up call about appreciating the things I am so lucky to have and not being too busy 'being busy' to notice how great they are.  The great thing about both of these things that are attached to the giant slapping hand is that they keep prodding me in the arm weekly or sometimes even daily with new reminders about why I need to appreciate what I have and 4 weeks on from making several new pacts with myself, whilst I am possibly not always outwardly showing it, not a day has passed where I haven't taken some time to stand back and really appreciate the big things in my life and be very, very grateful for them.

The first kick up the @rse came from a campaign I stumbled across on Radio 2 called Bottle Stop. This truly inspirational lady's utterly heartbreaking story has had me in floods of tears more times than I care to remember and I've been following and supporting her campaign ever since hearing her story. In April of this year, the love of her life, and father of her two children, was tragically killed in an unprovoked attack in a night club with a broken glass bottle that severed 2 of the main arteries in his neck. This unbelievably brave and courageous lady has thrown all of her efforts in to trying to change the law on the use of glass bottles in late night bars and clubs - banning them in place of plastic ones - a campaign I hope she wins but what this lady does, almost daily, is open her heart and let you in to her world in a way that leaves you feeling like you know her and share her heartache. Every time she posts an update about her love for her husband, his love for his children, their shared love as a family, it breaks my heart and I can't help but instantly imagine the man in the posts being the love of my life and how I would feel if anything ever took my love or my son from me. It doesn't bear thinking about but one thing's for sure, every day, thanks to this amazing woman (who probably has no idea how much she is inspiring people in all sorts of ways other than just the plastic bottle push) I make sure I take some time out to appreciate how lucky I am to have met the love of my life, to have been able to make a little person with him and turn us in to a family and how lucky I am that both my boys are here and healthy (this is why I nag you all the time to take a day off and rest, Ron - it isn't just because I like to nag - it is because we love you and we need to you to be here and to be well for a very long time). Some people are not as lucky as us and I try to remember this every day and make sure I tell both my boys, at least once, if not several times a day, how much I love them.

The second kick up the @rse, and one that gives me more than a glimmer of hope that I can work really hard on relaxing my obsessional perfectionist nature in the Motherhood slice of my pie enough to one day become more of the relaxed type of Mummy that I have so much admiration for, would dearly like to be, and am more than a little bit envious of, is a fantastic blog called Hands Free Mama that was put under my nose by a very good friend of mine. Once more, I found this lady and her writing truly inspirational and since coming across her blog, I've dug deep in to the archives and found myself welling up a lot more times (yeah, so I cry a lot now I'm a Mummy - it's emotional, OK!) and making a million promises to myself about what I will and will not do in the future and try to remind myself every day how I am going to get there. Her philosophy, one which she refers to as 'hands free' is all about letting go of all the things that fill up your life daily causing you to over-commit, forever be too busy and essentially, with one thing or another, just too busy to enjoy that really important reason that we are all here - life! She describes her wake-up call brilliantly here and reading her blog was like reading my own words. Reading about the person that she was - the person I am - and reading about the person she has become overflowed me with a claustrophobic guilt because every day, I do all the things she talks about getting in the way of really enjoying life. Things like getting anxious because I didn't respond to that email a friend sent me or voicemail they left me within a few hours, just because that is what I do. That is what I have always done and that is what the world expects of me. Things like feeling like I have to say 'Yes' anytime I am asked to help someone / be part of a committee / help build a website for something because this is what I do, this is what I have always done and this is what people expect of me. To ensure I am never late. To anything. Because this is what I do, this is what I have always done and this is what people expect of me. Well, so fucking what?! I am finally starting to realise after almost 36 years of trying to be perfect that it doesn't actually make anyone around me happy and it certainly doesn't make me happy.

So, armed with these two great new inspirations in my life, the wordsmiths of both writing often enough to make sure I never forget about them or their message, I am working especially hard on two things:
  1. Appreciating the many wonderful things I have in my life - my family and friends
  2. Letting go, little by little of the many things in my life that I try to make perfect, sometimes at the expense of actually being happy
And I have to say, so far, it's going well. Don't get me wrong, I've got an enormous mountain to climb, particularly with the second goal. I still moan a lot about things (hey, a leopard never changed its spots overnight), I still find myself getting far too stressed when my boy isn't eating or sleeping well, I still get an instant urge to make sure I respond to mails, texts, letters, phone calls virtually instantly that I am working really hard to try to suppress, I still get quite deeply depressed that when times are particularly challenging (mostly when my little boy is stealing my sleep) that even after almost a year I still find being a Mummy very hard, but little by little, I believe I can get there. 'There' being a place I definitely want to be. It won't be easy or straight-forward and I won't climb this mountain overnight but I have definitely started my ascent.

And so I carry on, making it all up as I go, trying not to fuck it up too much, making sure I appreciate all the good things in my life I am very lucky to have and trying to let go enough to notice happiness washing over me.

My little boy turns 1 in just a few weeks and I can't help but reflect on this past year - the most oxymoronically amazing and most challenging year of my life by a million miles. There is no doubt that being a Mummy brings you moments that are the best you can ever feel and the worst you can ever feel - sometimes all in the same day. It never stops presenting you with challenges and you never stop thinking about whether you're 'doing it right' and beating yourself up about it just in case you're not but I can confirm that most days something happens that makes your heart feel like it is going to burst with pride and love for this little person you have made who is learning every day how to become a big person - beaming up at you every day, hoping you're not going to fuck it up too much too.

Since I last wrote, I have taken thousands of photos of the (in my considerably biased view) most scrumptious boy in the whole of the world but I will leave you with just a selection of my boy getting in to the Christmas spirit as we approach our first Christmas together. What can I do? The boy just loves dressing up.

Mummy's Little Reindeer
Mummy's Little Elf
Mummy's Little Santa

There are, as ever, a million things I wanted to write about today and of course I have forgotten most of them but rather than doing what I usually do and spending hours trying to remember them, editing and re-editing, I'm just going to let it go and trust that there may be a few mistakes in this post and a few things I have forgotten to say but that you will understand the general essence of what I am trying to say and that's enough. It doesn't have to be perfect.

So I will just depart wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and to all of my very near and dear friends, thank you so much for all the love and support you have shown me over the last year and to my wonderful family - the one I live with now and the one I used to live with - I love you all very much and enormously appreciate you always being there for me, sometimes when I didn't need you but always when I did.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Going Back to Work: Part 2

It is easy to write optimistically about the pluses of going back to work and the perhaps somewhat selfish desire to have some balance back in your life when it is still a fairly distant reality. When I last wrote about going back to work, I knew we had secured a place for my son at a nursery that I felt happy with and whilst I knew it was going to be really hard actually leaving him when it came to it, until this prospect became a reality, like so many things with motherhood, it is impossible to know just how hard it really is leaving your child. Leaving them somewhere where the sole responsibility for the well-being and happiness of your child is with A.N. Other. It is much harder than I could possibly have imagined.

Since I last wrote about going back to work and how keen I was to get my work head back on and restore at least some portion of my life to 'Being Natalie' again, I now feel very differently about it all. Actually, that's not entirely true. I still want to work, I always have and I always will and I still think that, ultimately, an environment for my boy around other children day to day and the opportunity to be able to get used to change and be comfortable not being around Mummy all the time is absolutely the right thing and the best thing for Dalton but, as my return to work date approaches with increasing velocity and is now under three weeks away, I find myself feeling utterly, utterly miserable and guilty about going back to work. There are a few different things which have happened over recent weeks that have led to me feeling this way and below, I'd like to list the main factors.

1) As per my last blog post, my boy has turned in to a truly scrumptious and wonderful being that I just love spending time with. He continues to fascinate me and make me laugh more and more every single day. Cheesed off about missing a single moment of his development and leaving those wonderful moments for someone else to possibly experience first? Yup, just a little.

2) With immaculate timing, the onset of quite severe separation anxiety started around 4 weeks ago for Dalton. I now know that it is very common for this to start somewhere between 8 and 10 months old (another thing I really wish I had know about in advance before I arranged a return to work date slap bang in the middle of it) and Dalton seems to be suffering very badly (sometimes I feel a little hard done by that I have a child who seems to cope so badly with pain, discomfort, not being cuddled enough, not being fed IMMEDIATELYRIGHTNOW when he wants to be etc. but then he has so many other wonderful qualities, it's only fair that he has a few challenging ones too). He is currently at a stage where I literally can't leave the room for even a few seconds without him getting terribly upset and has started waking regularly at night and getting himself in a real pickle about being on his own - I'm talking proper protruding bottom lip upset. Apart from making it very hard to get anything done right now, this is also making for an extremely tired and emotional Mummy and Daddy. Good time to leave him with a stranger? Nope, not so much.

3) Teething is officially go, go, go and the boy is less than happy about this. We very recently had two horrific weeks where we literally barely slept at all as the little man was waking after every sleep cycle (about 30 mins for him) and screaming in pain. It was very clearly teething related (unlike the current rough nights which seem to all be about being left on his own) and nothing seems to help him feel more comfortable through it (trust me - there isn't a teething aid on the market that I don't know about - we have tried everything). He seemed to recover a little after his bottom two teeth had pushed all the way through and we were blessed with about three all night sleep throughs (just enough to pull us back from the brink of sleep deprived-related death!) but the teeth are clearly on the move again and so the rough nights resume. The sleep deprivation we are going through at the moment is something that only another parent who has been through the same thing would understand. We are both literally so tired that we are trembling and I hit rock bottom again and struggle to speak to anyone without crying when we have had a few nights in a row of completely disturbed sleep. I am terrified about how I am going to cope going back to work and "hitting the ground running", as I have been warned I will have to do, when I've had three hours of broken sleep over as many nights and, on top of that, will already be very anxious and pretty emotional about having had my right arm cut off leaving the most precious thing in the whole of the world to me with someone else.

It's strange, before I had a child, I naively just assumed that by the time he was a year old or so, of course he would be sleeping through the night regularly, I mean, why wouldn't he?! I knew there would be nights when he would be ill and sleep would be disrupted but I hadn't realised that the sleepless nights just go on and on and on for one reason or another. The only thing that seems to change is the reason! People just don't talk about this. Until you become a parent and open up to other parents that is, and then many of them will tell you that their three year old has still NEVER slept through the night or that their two year old still sleeps in bed with them as they are too frightened to sleep anywhere else etc etc. Some of them even break down in front of you just talking about how little sleep they are getting. I empathise with these people greatly. I'm starting to wonder how any parents of young children manage to make it through the working day without blubbing actually! Maybe they just run to the toilet and do it privately like I will have to. Maybe, they stay at home 'off sick' or 'WFH' on days after particularly rough nights. Maybe they are just more man than I will ever be and I seriously need to get a grip of myself. I don't know but what I do know is that crying in meetings is something I am genuinely concerned about when I return to work. Professional? No, not really.

4) Nursery settling in went VERY badly. I knew this was going to be tough. I really did but until you actually physically walk out the door (having of course sneaked out when he was looking the other way) and leave your child in the care of people you know absolutely nothing about, nothing can prepare you for how heartbreaking this feels. I'm talking about the kind of heartbreak where it feels like someone is actually stabbing you in the heart repeatedly with a blunt spoon (I always imagine this hurting more than a sharp one).

Anyway, this whole nursery thing has ended up catching me pretty off guard as, whilst I knew I would feel horrible about leaving Dalton with anyone that isn't immediate family, I was reasonably sure we had picked a good nursery for him all those many months ago that we registered him so I wasn't expecting to be completely overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety that this most definitely was NOT a place I could leave my boy - so overwhelmed in fact that I ended up suffering my first ever panic attack (I used to wonder whether people made these up - now I know they don't, they are terrifying). Being a slightly over-protective Mummy, I decided to book in lots more settling in sessions than the nursery normally suggests and we had even booked in and paid for 4 extra half days for Dalton so that by the time I went back to work, he and I would feel completely comfortable about his new 4-day-a-week environment. Sadly, these settling in sessions could not have reassured me less.

I am not going to go in to the details of most of the things I saw that caused me great concern as I don't think it is fair on the nursery for me to do that but the thing that pushed me over the edge was that when Ron and I returned to collect him having only left him for one hour, at a time when the staff knew we would be returning to collect our precious little soldier, the poor little man was sat outside in a stationary pushchair, facing the wall unable to see anything for their 'outside time', crying so hard that I could hear him from the door and so hard that his whole head had gone red and blotchy. Now, Dalton doesn't even like sitting in a stationary pushchair when he is with me and can see what is going on in the world so to see him like that, without anyone trying to console him literally left me feeling like someone had ripped my heart out. I couldn't get to my gorgeous little ball of wonderfulness quickly enough and the only good thing to come from that horrible experience was that I got my first proper, full on squeezy cuddle - with head nuzzling and everything. He was in quite a pickle and it took a while to calm him down. It took much longer to calm me down. Anyway, that night, as he woke inconsolably for about the 6th time, as I stood rocking him from side to side trying to stop him crying and reassure him the world was OK, that was when the panic attack struck. I felt so trapped - I only had three weeks until I went back to work. How could I change our childcare plans and find something else for him now, AND get him comfortable with that thing in time? But everything in my body was telling me I just couldn't leave him there and if that meant leaving my job if that's what it came to and I couldn't find something else, then I would have to do that. I just couldn't live with myself leaving my everything somewhere that he wasn't going to be happy.

And then I got to thinking, actually, this leaving my boy with someone else completely sucks. Yes, I am a perfectionist and suffer from fairly light-hearted OCD so I knew that no one else was going to make sure that the velcro nappy tabs were as perfectly aligned as I made them. I knew that no one else was going to part his hair with exactly 80% of hair follicles pointing to the right and 20% to the left. I knew that no one else was going to make sure the seams in his clothing were always symmetrically lined up and aesthetically pleasing. I knew all of that and I was OK with that but then I thought, who's going to tickle him with the giant tickle hand umpteen times a day (that makes him chuckle)? Who's going to hide below the table and pop their head up shouting "PEEEPOOO" so many times they end up with neck strain (this makes him chuckle too - the peepo bit)? Who's going to blow raspberries on his tummy every time he has his nappy changed (this makes him chuckle too)? Who's going to hold him by the bathroom mirror and let him open and close the door repeatedly over and over again for so long that their wrists actually start to give way and are probably permanently damaged as a result (this makes him chuckle too - again - the door opening bit)? Who's going to love him like nothing else in the world could ever matter and give everything they have within their soul to make that little boy happy? Well, the reality is that no one is and once I realised this, I really understood what my friend meant when she told me to prepare myself for 'Mummy Guilt'.

Anyway, so I realised that no one could make my boy as happy as I believe I can make him BUT I think he is the kind of child who would be happier in a less frantic and more family kind of environment, at least whilst he is so young, and it turns out that a fabulous childminder who I had been recommended more times than I have had hot dinners is by chance now free to take on a full time bubba in January. I snapped up that space immediately. Phew. Relieved. I feel so lucky to have caught her at a time when she has a space for my angel. I met her today and she seemed wonderful and made me feel everything positive that the nursery staff didn't and I could see instantly how happy all of the children she looked after appeared to be and Dalton seemed to take an instant like to her too. So, this is great and I feel so much better about going back to work and I know she is the best option for my boy. The only thing left to do now is to try to convince work to let me go back at the beginning of January instead of in three weeks time! They will not be happy about this but I am crossing everything that they will come round to the idea.

So, first major going back to work hurdle tackled I think, in that I am definitely happy that the person who will be looking after my boy is the next best thing to me or Ron looking after him. The next really big hurdle will be, well, actually going back to work! Come on, Wood, hold it together. You can do this.

I leave you now as I send myself off to 'manning up' classes with a few pictures of my beautiful little boy from his latest shoot (before I cut his hair - maybe these pictures prompted the scissor snipping ...)

Love and hugs to all you other Mummies out there. Especially those of you who have just gone back to work or are just about to. It's tough out there. XXX






Monday, 24 September 2012

Good Times

Today, I did two loads of laundry (and folded everything and almost put it away), made a roast dinner for one (Ron currently works away Mondays and Tuesdays), made some bread - from scratch, filled out a couple of forms and took a trip to the local post office to send them recorded delivery, cleaned the house and, well, did a number of other things too and all this on top of looking after my little munchkin all day (spending the morning at the local soft play area and the afternoon playing with his toys) and all the usual activities of the day such as getting bathed, dressed, hair brushed and scooped back in to my trademark ma'am bun and just generally keeping on top of 'house stuff'.

When Dalton was about 8 weeks old (somewhere around this point I think was my absolute lowest), I found it impossible to find time even to brush my teeth and get washed. If someone had told me then that in about 7 months time, my day could be as it was today, I just don't think I would have believed them. I don't think I would have believed that being Dalton's Mummy would ever be an enjoyable thing full stop to be honest so I wanted to share with you how far we have come and how much of an enjoyable thing being his Mummy has in fact become.

Looking back now, it is clear to me I was suffering from postnatal depression for probably about the first 16 weeks of Dalton's life. At the time, I just remember feeling so incredibly, incredibly hopeless. My life seemed over to all intents and purposes and I couldn't see a point to it all or a light at the end of the tunnel. People kept telling me that there was one and of course it is obvious to me now that there was but I was so physically and emotionally exhausted, I couldn't be bothered to believe there was. Most of the feelings I had at this time, mostly irrational ones, were simply brought on by the relentless, extreme sleep deprivation that comes with being a new Mummy. This affected me really badly but it is also clear to me now that Dalton wasn't like most other newborns. What, with his colic, severe wind issues and seemingly a very strong dislike for lying on his back and tummy or doing anything other than being permanently strapped to me, Newbornsville for me was pretty much like hell on Earth and I feel physically sick thinking back to how bad things were in those early weeks now.

Anyway, the good news (phew, you though this post was all going to be doom and gloom, right? Wrong!) is that things could not be further to the other end on the spectrum of 'goodness' from those days now and I wanted to take some time to capture the good bits, those so very special bits, as well as those that were more challenging as these are the times that I really want to remind myself of over and over again when Dalton isn't a little person anymore. And I want to share how I feel about being Dalton's Mummy now because it makes me burst with happiness and joy almost every day and it's just too wonderful a thing to keep to myself. I used to cry several times a day with hopelessness, worry, sadness, guilt, self-pity and a whole range of other unpleasant nouns. I still cry, I cry a couple of times a week now but it is almost always because I can't believe how lucky I am to have made a little boy like this one. One that makes me smile and chuckle every day and that just keeps on doing things that fascinate and amaze me. He really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Somewhere around 6 months, things started to get dramatically better for us and I started to really enjoy being a Mummy. Honestly, it probably took until then before things really improved and as one of my friends joked with me (I can laugh about it now, at the time I was still serving it), the first 6 months really is a penance. She told me that she remembers with both of her children there was a magical time around the 9 month mark which she looked back on as 'as close to perfect' a time as there can be. I believe her. Dalton is almost 9 months old now and the past 6 to 8 weeks have been an absolute bloody pleasure. It's an amazing time for so many reasons but here are just a few examples of why. It's amazing because he can sit completely unaided now (something that I knew would make him significantly happier as he has always hated lying on both his back and tummy) and yet can't move about the room on his own so I still have the luxury of being able to do something like run upstairs and grab the laundry that I know I won't be able to do in just a few short weeks (the definition of 'luxury' changes somewhat when you are a Mum by the way!). But the more mobile he gets, the more I love it because the more he fascinates me and the happier he is. It's also amazing because he is starting to make a lot of sounds that sound an awful lot like words and yet can't communicate with me well enough to refuse to do something or tell me he hates me, which is nice. It's amazing because he is becoming a personality, a huge personality and a cheeky one at that. And the biggest thing, undoubtedly the biggest thing for me which makes it amazing is that he has started consistently sleeping through the night (*fanfare effects*) and this makes Mummy a MUCH happier and saner lady and makes it immeasurably easier to deal with anything the boy throws at me.

Don't get me wrong, we still have the odd rough day. In fact, this weekend just gone was pretty rough as the poor little man's first tooth finally cut through after months of teething and this was clearly causing him a lot of pain. When Dalton's in pain he likes to tell you all about it. Really loudly. All night long. A couple of days of grumpiness that could only come from a son of mine then of course followed and well, that was a couple of rough days but let's put this in perspective, in the past around 6 weeks, we have had about 4 rough nights and for all of the others, the little champ has slept right through (ever since the sleep training) from 7 to about 6. He's much happier for a good night's sleep too so we are able to leave him in his cot making tarzan noises until around 7 and little by little, I am learning again to sleep through the night myself, so, happy days.

I still have some things I need to work on. My stress over whether the boy is napping when he needs to (which is not unjustified as not enough sleep turns Dalton from Jekyll in to Hyde) is still too obsessional and sometimes gets in the way of me showing Ron how much I still love him and how truly wonderful and amazing I think he has been since our scrumptious son was born, but I'm going to work on that as I think I have some making up to do.

Generally though, things are good, they're really great actually. And typically, just as my return to work approaches, hanging out with my little man has never been so much fun so I'm feeling pretty sad about going back and only getting to spend 3 out of 7 days with him. It sucks actually but I know I have to do it and I know in the long run it will make Mummy a happier and more balanced human being (and it also means I can continue to buy him lots of toys that I, I mean, he will love).

So, I wanted to share with you just a tiny handful of some of the very many things that I love right now about being Dalton's Mummy:
  1. I love the way that every morning at 7am when I slowly open his bedroom door as he's chatting away to himself, he stops, wiggles his legs a little in anticipation, waiting to see whose face is going to pop over the side of the cot, and when he sees it's Mummy's, he gives me the most enormous, gummy smile imaginable and wiggles his legs some more with excitement. Getting out of bed in the morning has never been so good!
  2. I love the way that he sits amongst a mountain of toys but all he wants to do is play with his invisible blocks and his invisible piece of string (as per video below)
  3. I love the way he tries really, really hard to crawl, to get his hands on that one toy he really wants which is just out of his reach but just can't get his big butt off the floor (as per video below)
  4. I love the way that all I have to do to make him laugh hysterically is hide behind something for a few seconds and then pop my head up and say, "PEEPOOOOOO" (this also works with just hiding behind hands, hell, sometimes just saying the word makes him chuckle) (as per video below) and I love the way that he has started to play peepo with himself. And still finds it hilarious!
  5. I love the way that whenever he poops, if I'm near him, he always stares me right in the eye and grabs my wrist as if to say, Mummy, look, I am doing a very important thing, you don't want to miss this. It might not sound cute - but it is (no videos of this one)
  6. I love the way he sits by Ron on the bed on weekend mornings and slowly and very carefully inspects all the intricacies of his tattoos, running his pinky all the way round the various markings as if they are the most amazing thing he has ever seen.
  7. I love the way he has started to copy me and I only have to get the bubbles container out now and he starts waving his arms around and saying,"pop pop pop pop pop"
  8. I love the way his face lights up when his favourite all time TV show comes on (Waybuloo - I was desperately his favourite all time TV show would be Judge Judy but he just never got in to it, I guess she's an acquired taste)
Goodness, I love so many things about being his Mummy right now that I could write forever. But I won't, it's late and even though nights are greatly improved, I still need my beauty sleep so I will leave you with a few clips of my beautiful baby boy and my favourite picture of me and him together.

Scrumptious. That's the best word I can use to describe my little ball of fluff.


video
Cool. Invisible blocks.


video
Look at me trying to crawl Mummy. Just. Can't. Quite. Reach it.


video
Peepo!




I will end this blog post with just a little shout out to all those Mummies out there who I know are finding the first few weeks of being a Mummy pretty tough. I have been right where you are and wasn't sure I believed everyone who told me things would get better but I dearly hoped that one day things would and that I would be the one helping a new Mum get through the tough days and I am ecstatic to report that it really is all true. It does get better. So much better and I am now the one able to help other people going through hard times and reassure them how much things improve. One day in the not too distant future, you will be the one telling people how much better things are and helping the next new Mummy through it. I promise.

Hang in there. The good times are coming.



Monday, 20 August 2012

Going Back to Work

When I first told my boss I was pregnant and he rushed straight in to asking me when I was coming back (which was the last thing I wanted to think about at the time!), I told him quite passionately that I would be taking the full year off, it being such a special time and all and us being in the very fortunate position that, whilst it wouldn't be a financial breeze for me to take a full year off, it was something we could afford to do so why wouldn't I want to?

And I meant it. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to go back early and not spending every last minute with their bubba but I merrily joked with my boss anyway that "you never know, I might want to come back early for a rest!" - not for a second believing that looking after my precious little soldier could possibly be harder work or more stressful than my job. Not that my job was actually that stressful anyway, I'm just an extreme perfectionist (this is like extreme ironing but without the thrill, fun, or ready-to-wear clotheage) and as my department don't do everything perfectly just like I want them to, there will always be a certain level of stress that goes with working there (or anywhere for that matter).

As I approach the 8 month mark in my little boy's life, "Going Back to Work" is something that has been on my mind an awful lot lately. Not because it is approaching too fast and like a freight train, I just can't stop it, but quite the opposite, because I was wrong about my assumption that looking after my precious little soldier would be easier / less stressful than work (the type of work you get paid for) and partly because I was SO wrong, that it has caught me a little off balance.

Now, I love my boy more than anything else in the entire world. I love him so much it hurts sometimes and at least once a day, he does something that makes my heart melt so much I cry a little, even on the rough days but three things have prompted me to start thinking very seriously about going back to work:
  1. Whilst my son is full of character and I wouldn't change anything about him for the world, I am not going to pretend he is or has been an easy baby. He hasn't been an easy baby because:
    • He is enormous and from a few weeks in has far exceeded the weight of a normal baby his age. This has made him exhausting to carry around from the very early days and it gets a little harder every day, especially now my shoulder has given way under the strain (with no chance to heal whilst I am looking after him full time). He continues to get bigger and bigger but still requires me to move him from A to B (the poor little muffin is so heavy, he can't really even roll yet - something all the other babies in my NCT group were doing a few months ago!)
    • He has very unfortunately picked up his Mummy's character trait of being an extremist. An all or nothingist, an everything is black or whiteist - a character trait I really wish he hadn't picked up because it makes Mummy difficult to live with sometimes and it makes Dalton difficult to live with sometimes. He is either really happy and smiley all day (I LOVE these days) or he is REALLY grumpy. He either sleeps like a super hero and goes all the way through the night without any wakes (since crying it out sleep training - a post about this to follow) or we have a total disaster and he wakes all night every half an hour or so screaming his head off like someone is removing his left leg from his body with a blunt spoon (I HATE these nights).
    • He doesn't nap well, easily or consistently and we have zero routine as a result. This makes it particularly hard to plan anything at all in our day (unless you want to mess with his naps and you mess with his naps, he's gonna have something really loud to say about it I can tell you) and I regularly have to cancel meets, appointments and fail to achieve quite simple goals I have set myself for the day. Being the afore-mentioned perfectionist I made reference to, this makes me feel very uncomfortable in my own skin.
  1. I am hugely affected by lack of sleep. More than a lot of other mummies it seems. This is partly due to my ME but also, lack of sleep (to the level you experience when you are a new parent) just seems to affect some people worse than others. My mood is so massively affected by lack of sleep that days that follow our really rough nights, I find it very hard to cope (especially with a very heavy baby) and find myself getting ever so emotional and teary about even the tiniest thing. This is normally followed by me telling anyone that will listen that I am a rubbish mummy and just can’t do this anymore. Then, I get some sleep and everything seems OK again!
  1. Being a mum does not come naturally to me. It has been hard to admit this but it’s the truth. Now, I’m not saying I’m not a good mum. My boy will always have everything he needs, he will always be loved to the moon and back and as much as we can, we will have lots of fun together but sometimes, trying to give him everything he needs and loving him to the moon and back and wanting our days to go perfectly means that I put myself under enormous strain. I wasn’t a natural at breastfeeding (remarkably, we still do 2-3 boob feeds a day and disappointingly, I still bleed through most of them). I was never and will never be one of those martyr mothers who is so happy to be a mother that they just don’t mind being woken up countless times through the night because their sole function on this Earth is to give their baby everything they want – on demand. I am not someone who would ever be happy just being a mother (and when I say ‘just’, in no way do I under-estimate the challenge and hard work that goes in to being a mummy – quite the opposite, it is definitely the toughest job in the world, what I mean is, not having any other identity at all – you know, one that is just about me rather than me as a partner, daughter, mother or friend, one that is just about me being me).
So, the last few days, I've been giving a little thought to *sharp intake of breath* "Going Back to Work Early". Let's put things in perspective here though. I was thinking of going back to work after a year and I am now thinking of going back after 10 or 11 months so I'm not talking about giving up on the wee lad after just a few weeks but none the less, it makes me very sad to think that I didn't manage to make the 12 months, not because we couldn't afford for me to but because, quite frankly, I couldn't hack it! Whilst I am not always willing to change my faults or address my weaknesses, I am very aware of what they are and if I can't change them, I try to be a little realistic about how not to make everyone around me completely miserable and if that's going back to work a little early because I think that a) I will go insane if I don't and b) my body will completely give up if I don't, then that's what I have to seriously consider doing.

Plus, you know what, I want to feel like I am good at something again. I want to create a small piece of magic in Excel for my colleagues and watch their eyes sparkle in wonderment and amazement when they see all the little moving parts when they click a button. I want to pretend I don't need praise really when my boss is telling me what a great job I am doing. I want to pretend it means nothing when my work colleagues tell me they are desperate to have me back at work again. I want to go home at the end of my day having had some control over my day and having achieved most, if not all of the goals I have set myself. And most of all, I want to see my little boy smile because he is excited to see me and because I am happy and that makes him happy to.

You may think I am just trying to convince myself it's the right thing to do rather than any of you. And you'd be right. Of course I feel terribly guilty that some mothers would give their right arm to have been able to spend a full year with their bundles of joy and here I am with the opportunity to do so and don't feel I am up to it. Of course I feel terribly saddened that being a mummy didn't come completely naturally to me and that I need the balance of work and being a mummy to be completely happy with me and my life and of course I will my miss my little boy so much that it will hurt but I know it is the right thing to do and I write all this today not because I want you to feel sorry for me, not because I want anyone to worry about me but because I KNOW there are lots of other mummies who feel this way too and feel too ashamed to admit it. Well, don't. You are only human and different strokes for different folks and all that.

Also, I have never been one of those mums who is dreading sending their child to nursery. I am actually really looking forward to sending Dalton to nursery because I know he will love it. We have found a wonderful little Montessori nursery just round the corner from us and Dalton is never happier than when he is around lots of other small faces. He's such a sociable chap and would much rather be slapping other babies @rses (he likes to do this) than spending all day looking at my silly face and besides, the biggest skill you can ever have in life is to learn how to get on and get by with lots of other people (a skill that mummy never completely mastered) so nursery is a great start in the right direction I think.

So, I have agreed with work my terms for returning - 4 days a week with two from an office in Faversham (conveniently, this overlooks the play area at my little soldier's nursery!) - a nice balance with enough working days in the week to do my job competently I feel (I think I can easily do my 5 day week in 4 days - that's the confident Natalie talking - God I've missed her) and I still get to have that one precious day a week when it is just me and little D which I will cherish so enormously - even if it is a fussy day.

All that is left is to arrange a start date so I will give my boss an early Christmas present in the next few days I think by bringing my return date forward a bit and you know what, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm really looking forward to having a lunch hour again. I'm really looking forward to going to the toilet without a little face looking up at me. I'm really looking forward to finishing a cup of coffee again. I'm really looking forward to sitting on the train on my own, unaccompanied (apart from the millions of other commuters of course) and just reading a magazine (I don't even know which celebrities are seeing who or which are fat and which are thin right now) and relaxing. I'm looking forward to feeling good about something I achieve again in a day and most of all, I am looking forward to being me again and trying to restore some balance in to my life so that I can be the best mummy, partner, friend and daughter I can be.

Don't get me wrong. Having this time with my boy has been amazing and I have enjoyed giving it my best shot immensely but I want him to have a well-rounded mummy (I'm not referring to my physical appearance here) who isn't a little bit mad and being a full-time mummy isn't the way to achieve that for me.

To work *chink* (who'da thunk it?!) and to not being ashamed to admit that full-time mummihood is a little too tough for me *chink chink*.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How To Get Back To Your Pre-Pregnancy Weight

I decided to weigh myself yesterday. For the first time in a really long time. Actually, I wouldn't have weighed myself at all if it wasn't for the fact that I wanted to know how much my sack of spuds weighs (just because knowing how ridiculously heavy he is somehow makes me feel better that carrying him around these last 6 months has led to me having a broken (when I say broken, I don't mean the bone is broken, I just mean it doesn't work properly) shoulder, a broken hip, a broken knee and a broken ankle)).

The easiest way for me to do this was to weigh myself on the scales and then get my mum to hand The SpudMeister to me. We both had a brief moment of total elation when we weighed ourselves on the carpeted lounge floor which had us both at about 8 stone but briefly checking out each other's lardy botties and bingo wings, we realised this couldn't possibly be right. Moving to the solid surface of the kitchen floor, we all discovered our true weights.

Firstly, the boy weighed in at a ridiculous 25 lbs which places him almost off the scale for his age.


That little green and red dot there - that's him.

More interestingly perhaps though, was that it turned out I had returned to my pre-pregnancy weight of ... of course I'm not going to tell you, you fool, but it was as per BD (Before Dalton) which I thought wasn't bad for 6 months.

So, how did I manage this feat you're all wondering (not that it's that special as most celebrities seem to get their figures back in a matter of hours)? Well, I thought I would share my top tips with you.


1.   Get yourself a REALLY heavy baby

Wave goodbye to those bingo wings every time you lift your child up or are holding them, which is pretty much like all the time in these early months. A ridiculously heavy child can improve your back muscles, shoulder muscles and arm muscles all at the same time and throw in a few extra squats whilst holding your sack of spuds and in no time at all you'll have buns of steel. Sure, the side effects of said really heavy child are you might get a few torn ligaments and dislocated joints along the way but hey, no pain no gain. And don't worry if they start out small, just feed 'em up until they reach the desired off the scale weight.

2.   Have yourself a baby that doesn't nap well

We all know that, as a new mummy, the chance of you getting to the gym or enjoying any kind of traditional exercise regime is slim to nothing (which is where we want to be, ladies). But, if you get yourself one of those babies that isn’t too clever at napping in the cot then you have your aerobic exercise answer – nap-time cot walks. Get yourself out with that buggy three times a day to co-incide with naps. Sure, you’ll be tired and pissed off because what you really want to do is Get Shit DoneTM or even sit around on your fat @rse for a bit but hey, you, yeah you, are you serious about this body sculpting shit or what? Right, so get walking. Come rain or shine – the more rain the better – it shows how dedicated you are.

3.   Forget sleep – sleep is for wimps

We all know that being awake burns more calories than being asleep so the answer is easy, don’t sleep, like ever. This can be achieved by two different methods:

a)   Get yourself one of those babies who wakes regularly through the night. Even better if you can find yourself one that doesn’t settle well too – that will be sure to keep you up pretty much all night. In the early days, you’ll struggle to stay awake all night as the precious little ones will often only wake for food but when you enter the golden teething era, this is when you can virtually watch the pounds fall away as you stay awake most of the night – almost every night – like the hardcore little weight watcher you are.
b)   If you’re finding you have a baby who blesses you with the occasional sleep through, no problem, just wake up multiple times anyway – initially to check if they are still alive but later, just because, well, it’s been about a year and a half since you have slept through the night yourself and your body doesn’t know how to anymore. Remember, sleeping is for the weak.

4.   Get stressed (related to points 2 and 3)

That’s right, you heard me, get stressed out. Really stressed out. Worrying about whether your little soldier will nap, has had enough sleep or will sleep that night. This is particularly easy to achieve if you attempt to go out for the whole day – especially somewhere really noisy like London. Stress is good. Stress helps kick those fat particles up the @rse and says “see you later, fatulator”


So, there you have it. That's how I achieved returning to my pre-pregnancy weight and you can too. To get this information sent to you on ten, that's right, ten great DVD's, please send a cheque for £129.99 to PO BOX 100, England or just phone 0800 800 800 to discuss the three easy payment plan.

I thank you.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Date Nights

First things first. The blog is going to take on a slightly new feel with much shorter (hold on, I can hear the champagne corks popping from here) theme based posts rather than age based ones. I kept thinking about things I wanted to blog about and then by the time I had reached the next big age milestone, I had forgotten what all those things were and ended up writing posts that were, well, sub-standard really and then a few days later thinking, oh, why didn't I write about this, or why didn't I write about that?

From now on, I'm just going to write about it when I think about something I want to blog about and because I will be drawing a conclusion to the tome-like posts I have previously bestowed upon you, I don't have to put aside 2 - 3 hours to write the post, you don't have to put aside half an hour to read it and well, I think it is what those management consultancy fuckbubbles folk would call a win-win situation.

I have blogged before about the battering your relationship takes as a new Mummy or Daddy. The battering appears to vary significantly but be fairly consistently related to and in proportion to how blessed you are with your new addition on the sleeping front. I can't stress enough how the lack of sleep takes its toll (and the utter relentlessness of it) and there is no doubt that Ron and I were far from the frankly fairly amazing place we were in our relationship when we first met and until I got pregnant really (that's when hormonal scary Nat first started appearing and probably became progessively more prevalent until recently when our little sack of spuds started to sleep a little bit better at night-time - although I know I'm still a way from my former self still).

It has long been my goal, well before the little man came along, to make sure that Ron and I always had time for each other, that we always made a special effort to nurture our relationship with each other, as well as our relationship with our son because it's just so incredibly easy as new parents to get caught up in the focus of this tiny but terribly energy sapping bundle of joy and just carry on doing that until you get to a place a few years down the line when you realise that you don't really know your partner at all anymore. I've seen it happen and it would have been devastating to me to lose the very special relationship I have with Ron or even to lose parts of it and I always knew that this would, at times, take a lot of hard work and effort.

So, the concept of date nights have always been very important to me. It's funny actually how much more precious they become when you are to all intents and purposes imprisoned in your own home from 6pm onwards (when the bedtime routine starts) and things like just popping out to the local for a quick drink, something Ron and I used to do several evenings a week, seem like such a distant memory and unattainable treat.

I managed to find a babysitter from the local children's centre who I trust enough to leave the most precious thing in the world to me in her care for a few short hours and I always knew the nights out would be hit and miss depending on whether the boy woke up or not while we were out but I want to be persistent with this one as it would be so easy to say, he'll probably just wake up and cry when he sees a complete stranger so let's not bother trying to go out for now and just keep doing that forever.

The last date night was a bit of a disaster all round really. Both of us were absolutely shattered for one reason or another, I found myself saying those fateful words halfway through the evening "Let's just please try to enjoy ourselves" (the evening is normally doomed when it has got to that stage) and then the babysitter called to cut our evening short suggesting it might be a good idea if we returned home. We returned to a hysterical little man who wasn't best pleased at the complete stranger in his nursery when he was expecting Mummy or Daddy (and why would he be)? And, well, it was a night not to remember.

Last night, however, apprehensive, we tried again, and thank goodness, the boy didn't wake up while we were out (which is more his normal behaviour if there is such a think) and for the first time in a really long time, Ron and I were able to go out and really enjoy ourselves as a couple again. It felt like the old us, and I felt like the old me (probably just because I was drunk and I quite like the drunk me - much more relaxed generally!) and it was lovely. We talked about a lot of the things that we have both been through over the past 6 months since the little man was born and we talked about a lot of other things in our past that we didn't know about each other yet and it was very special to feel like just me again, rather than a Mummy, for a moment and just enjoy the wonderful person who helped me make the very special little chunk muffin we have been blessed with.

We snuggled up in bed for the first time in a really long time (for a long time after giving birth, a lot of ladies don't feel at all sexual for all sorts of reason and I know the idea of anyone touching my body for a while was not a pleasant one), chatted some more (I explained why I don't go to bed naked anymore as waking up in a pool of your own boob juice is less than desirable) and as we lay there spoonfully cuddling for hours, forgetting that we would probably be woken at any time by our little man, one question just kept repeating in my head over and over - "Would this be an inappropriate time to fart?"

Anyway, apart from that little indiscretion, date night was a success. And here's to many more.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

6 Months Old

MUMMY

Once again, I have been wanting to write a post for so long and not been able to find the time and now as I sit down to write one am I struggling to know where to begin as an unbelievable amount has happened since I last wrote. In fact, it feels like a million years ago since I last wrote and as though I am not even about to write about the same little boy because he has changed so much from 4 months old - mostly in a good way.

I wrote in my last entry how we didn't really have a magic turning point around the 12 - 13 week point as so many people do and it felt like we were starting to have one around 16 weeks. At the time, you never know if it is just a short phase and you will then be regressing once again (this felt like it was happening consistently every time I thought we were turning a corner up to 16 weeks) but I can honestly say, two months on, that 16 weeks was a major turning point for me and the little man.

I remain absolutely staggered at how tiring and exhausting being a Mummy is and what incredibly hard work it is and I think I probably always will but the rewards get greater every single day and whilst we still have rough days (mostly because of the rough nights and how much they affect me), on the whole, I really love spending time with my boy and often, when it's just me and him and we are doing something like having breakfast together, I have a little cry at how beautiful, amazing and full of character he is and how much he makes me smile and laugh every day and how lucky I am to have him in my life.

I find every single day just amazing really, particularly now. I am in awe and wonderment at the new things these little people learn to do every day and it's a very special thing to watch. The difference between what the Shrimp can do now from just a couple of months ago is enormous and I never could have imagined before that one day he would be able to sit up properly in his high chair, that he would be able to hold a spoon and attempt (and I mean just attempt) to feed himself, that he would start to give Mummy a cuddle - a proper squeezy cuddle - and, well, so many more things. Literally, every day these babies do a new thing or experience their first something or other and it is utterly fascinating.

Generally, things definitely do continue to get easier as these munchkins get older as well. They get easier for a few reasons. Firstly, your baseline for what a normal day is completely changes and you start to get a little bit more used to the chaos that is now your life for the foreseeable future and you start to get used to the fact that seemingly never again will you get a lie in, a rest, finish a cup of tea, eat and shower without rushing, put make-up on and generally make yourself look presentable. Basically, your life just isn't about you anymore. You only really care about how well you're doing because this little person relies on you being OK. But that's OK, that's OK because of the second reason why things get easier. They get easier because your little one starts to give more and more back to you every day. I am very lucky in that I have been blessed with a child who seems to be very, very happy and very, very smiley and this makes the somewhat erratic and ever so noisy but thankfully not too frequent crying episodes so much easier to deal with. It really does make me melt every time the boy gives me a big grin and I gets lots every day. In fact it is very easy for me to get the boy to smile and I love finding new things that make him laugh (his current favourite thing is the word 'boobies'). Only me and Ron can really make him smile the way he does when it lights up the whole room but I love that as that's how it should be really.

And the third reason things get easier is that you just get better and more confident at doing this whole mum thing. Every day, I learn some new tips from other mummies or stumble across something that will make my life just that little bit easier and I get better and quicker at doing things. I've still got a long way to go but you know, I'm doing OK, I'm doing OK at being a Mummy and it gets a little bit less terrifying every day. I remember the first time I started making up the powdered formula bottles. It seemed like such an enormous faff and I thought, screw this, I can't do this every day on top of everything else but now I barely even notice I am doing it as I just have a routine that works without it seeming like a faff. You get this way with many things. I now have a pushchair accessorised to the max, for example - coffee cup / bottle holder, parasol, hamster shopping bags etc. I am missing only the go faster stripes and the double rudeboy exhaust pipe (currently on order from Amazon). All these things make your life just that little bit easier and more convenient and that helps tremendously.

Things are certainly not without their challenges though and for me, it is the same old story really with tiredness being a major factor in the 'Things that Need to be Improved' area. I have mentioned this before but lack of sleep seems to affect me more than a lot of people, particularly with the ME and how achy my body gets when I don't get enough sleep and, well, I haven't had enough sleep for a really, really long time. I have been quite patient with the whole boy sleeping through the night thing as I knew the little man wasn't going to do it too quickly but I really thought it would have started to happen by 6 months so that at least it was the norm and we have a few bad nights around the good ones that were the exception. We still haven't actually had a single sleeping all the way through the night. And my definition is not the same as those in some of the books that tell you a 7 hour stretch is sleeping through the night. If your munchkin goes to sleep at 7, 7 hours takes him through to just 2am. To me, this is not sleeping through. To me, sleeping through is me being able to sleep for a whole night so putting the boy down at 7 and him waking at 7. This is my utopia. And one that I just fear will never happen really. I had got to a reasonably comfortable place a couple of months ago when we dream fed the boy (you basically feed them while they are still asleep to 'top them up' for the night) at around 10:30pm every night and he would generally sleep until 5 or 6am. This was totally manageable for me but a few weeks ago, he started refusing the dream feed, so we stopped giving it to him and now he sleeps through until somewhere between 3 and 4am as a general rule. It could be a lot worse, I know this, but with Ron getting up for work at 5am and the boy then generally waking about 6 - 6:30am to start his day, I am pretty much awake every night now from 3 or 4am. I could handle this if it was just every now and then but the cumulative effects of this every night and how battered my body is from carrying around officially the heaviest boy in the entire world all day long is really really taking its toll on me and without doubt affecting my mood, which is a shame really as it has probably been a really long time since Ron has seen the cheeky, funny girl he fell in love with. That makes me enormously sad.

Anyway, so, sleep is a factor and I dearly wish we could get that one sorted because when I have slept, I can deal with anything the day throws at me and am a completely different person. People actually like me when I am well rested believe it or not! I am utterly useless at letting the boy cry so I really don't think I am one of these people who will be able to do the cry it out thing but if he still hasn't started sleeping through in a couple of months I am going to have to consider it as I don't think I can cope with going back to work on so little sleep. On the plus side, the boy is napping well in his cot now and goes down really easily at night (something I never would have thought possible just a few months ago). He's not great at napping in the pushchair and gets woken up at the slightest noise or by the slightest moment of stationariness but hey, you can't have it all.

The only other thing at the moment which I am finding a little challenging is that the poor little soldier has become very clingy to Mummy. I have worked quite hard to try to avoid this happening as I really wanted to be able to do my own thing every now and then (for the sake of my own sanity) so try to get other people to hold him and give him a cuddle as often as I can. In the earlier days, he was fine with anyone holding him but probably from when he was about 5 months old, if anyone holds him that isn't Mummy or Daddy, he is fine for about 3 minutes (even if I am stood right next to him) and then does the lip quiver and starts with some fairly inconsolable crying (which naturally completely breaks my heart to hear). My Mum comes up on a Monday afternoon and leaves Tuesday morning and the idea is that I go off for the whole afternoon and do something for myself like have a swim. Currently, it always seems to be a really rushed hour or two at the most and I really need to be able to have some me time in a more leisurely manner soon or I think I will go a little bit mad. Here's hoping the boy mans up soon and stops being such a wimp when Mummy isn't holding him. It's very sweet but come on lad, be a man and hold back the lip quiver.

We also started weaning when the boy was about 5 months old. This time it was very different to our disastrous false start around 16 weeks when he got terribly constipated (leading to some shocking nights for everyone) and I could really see he was ready this time. I am delighted to report that this is going really well. We had some constipation in the early days again but I started putting a bit of prune juice in his water at every meal and the magic potion is really working wonders. We haven't had a bullet stool since you will be pleased to know! I am very relieved though as I know lots of mummies who have found this a really stressful time and had very fussy eaters. The boy is a true Wood though and seems to love his food and I am actually really enjoying it. I love the way he waves his hands in the air and wiggles his little legs about in excitement. So sweet. Pears and toast (not together) appear to be his favourite thing and we're on to three fairly substantial meals a day now and have started to be able to eat some of the same things together (scrambled egg on toast, avocado, banana on toast etc.) which is really lovely and a huge improvement from the days when I used to have to eat a piece of toast standing up with the boy in the sling for my lunch, usually crying (me I mean), as it was the only way he wouldn't scream. God, that was awful.

So, as I say, most things definitely get easier and once Dalton can sit on his own and I don't have to hold him so much, I think that will make life easier too but there are some things that have become much more challenging too. Nappy and clothes changing time used to be quite an enjoyable experience but it is now really quite challenging and not so enjoyable at all! The boy wriggles and squirms around, grabbing every piece of clothing that goes anywhere near him making it really hard to dress him (and then of course he gets frustrated because he is only half dressed) and often I'm trying to put nappies on backwards with him rolling all over the place and well, it's not easy and I think this one is just going to get harder and harder until they are old enough to start dressing themselves. The other thing that is proving quite difficult at the moment is the milk feeds - particularly the breastfeeding (we are still alternating boob and bottle and I am really proud of myself for making it this far - it's a doddle now pain-wise, apart from when he uses me as a teething accessory, and my nipples are finally like bullets *sigh*) as Dalton is just so distracted by everything. I used to be able to watch the TV and catch up with things on my iPhone (aka my lifeline) but now I can't do any of that as the little nipper wants to look at everything and grab everything that is just out of his reach. Typically, if you give him the thing he was after, he doesn't want that thing anymore, he wants something else that is just out of his reach. This game just runs and runs!

Generally though, things are good. Really good. I really miss the things Ron and I used to do together and I really miss the way we used to be and the way I used to be in many respects but I wouldn't change anything for the world because the feeling I get every morning when I go in to the boy's room (even if it is stupid o'clock) and the little boy that Ron and I created gives me the most enormous grin in the world when he sees that it's me is just the most amazing feeling in the world. He's an adorable little chap and, whilst I appreciate I am incredibly biased, he really does seem to have the most awesome smile in the entire world!

We spend most of our time with the NCT ladies and I feel so lucky to have met them too as they truly are an amazing bunch of ladies. Genuinely, every single one of them is great and really supportive. Throwing 8 women together who don't know each other but have just one big thing in common isn't always going to work out so well but in this case it has and it's been quite an emotional experience we have shared together. I can't think of 7 other ladies I would rather have shared it with and I am sad that it ever has to end as we really are approaching the golden era now I think and I love experiencing it with them and watching all of their little men grow and change too. Damn you, work. What a shame any of us have to go back.

So, work lingers in the not too distant future now for me. I am intending to be back working in the office around the beginning of December when the boy will be about 11 months old. I am utterly dreading being away from him and I know I will feel like my right arm has been cut off (that's the one I do everything with) but I have to go back. Financially I have to go back but also for the sake of Dalton having a happy, balanced and sane Mummy I have to go back and actually, I think the boy will love nursery as he loves being around other babies so it will be great for him. Currently, I have submitted my flexible working request asking to return for just 4 days a week (with two of them being from home) and am waiting in suspense for the final decision. I hope they will agree to it as I won't be able to go back otherwise (with a 2 hour commute, I just wouldn't see Dalton on days I am working in the office and I am not prepared to do that any more than 2 days a week - that is already going to be more than hard enough). We'll see what they say but in some ways, I am looking forward to going back as I'm good at my job and it's nice to feel like you are doing something well and be told you're doing a good job (motherhood is, I'm afraid, a very thankless task). I am also relishing the thought of going to the toilet without an audience and having conversations about non-baby things and getting a hot coffee and being able to drink it before it goes cold. So, it's not all bad.

I thought I would just talk briefly also about how things are physically 6 months after the birth. Well, my body is battered if I am honest but that is more due to the sheer weight of my little unit and the strains of carrying him around a lot but the side effects from the birth are minimal for me. Obviously there was no war zone in the down below area as I ended up having to have a caesarean so the only real lasting effect is a small numb area still around the scar which lessens just that little bit every day and annoyingly an itchiness around the scar area but inside - inside so you can never get to it I mean. That's a little annoying but generally, not bad for having a little person cut out of me really. I'm still terrified of labour and giving birth naturally but if Ron ever lets me have little Wood no. 2 then I'd really like to try for a natural birth just to experience it so, we'll see what the future brings. My figure is surprisingly almost back to pre-pregnancy days (apart from the wider hips) as well. Being Dalton's Mummy keeps me surprisingly fit actually and apart from the excess skin that formerly formed my bump, which I guess will take a few more month's to restore itself, my tummy has almost gone back to how it was so not too horrific for 6 months on.

Now, once again, I have taken a million pictures and videos of the boy since I last wrote and there are so many more things I want to tell you about but I won't bore you with all the details and will just leave you with a few recent pictures of my sausage, The greatest sausage in the world (like a pepperami, only bigger).

Dalton and Grandma 'Beads'

Dalton and Daddy

Dalton on his new swing

Dalton in his inflatable ring

So, my final thought for this blog entry is one of happiness really. I may be tired (bloody exhausted actually) and I may look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards on a daily basis but every night when I go to sleep at night, I go to sleep smiling, just thinking about how lucky I am to spend every day with such a wonderful little man and that makes me very happy.

I don't know what the next 6 months will bring but I know one thing, I'm looking forward to it enormously and can't wait to get to know my munchkin more and more every day.

I'll write again soon. For now, signing off and going to bed for an early Saturday night! Phew.