RSS Feed

Tag Archives: motherhood

Breastfeeding my Toddler – Me! Eat! Your boobies!

Posted on

Ramona is two now and our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong. There is something incredibly special about having a nursing toddler who can vocalise their feelings about it- the first time she looked up at me with those wide dewy eyes, took a pause from nursing to exclaim “YUMMY!” was a bit heart melting, and I remember thinking every mummy should nurse long enough to get some verbal feedback on the quality of their milk!

This morning I was a little more difficult to rouse for Ramona’s first nurse of the day and her usual snuggling and murmurs of “Mummy. Milk. Please” weren’t getting much response. She began pulling at my PJ’s saying “Me! Eat! Your Boobies!”

Ooh, waking up with a (slightly nervous) chuckle is a good way to wake up.

(Another benefit of cosleeping I guess- waking up with laughter happens quite often as Ramona’s early morning chats are quite hilarious, ranging from random musing about her favourite things to giggling at her own first fart of the day.)

I am 5 months pregnant now and my milk seems to be changing week by week – as early as 12 weeks it seemed I just had colostrum. And Ramona has taken her grown-up food eating to another level, putting away whole bananas, plates of spaghetti and gingerbread in a way she hasn’t done before, so she is obviously getting much less full on my milk. I am entering the fairly well documented stage of, um, finding it a bit hard. She only nurses 4-5 times a day, and most of those are completely fine, joyous for us both even. But the lengthy ones just before nap time and sleep can provide a bit of teeth grinding and cross eyed-ness for me. It is not dissimilar to those first ever new-born feeds where you just had to grin and bear it.

If we can, I am keen to plough through it, hoping that for us, like many other mammas, it is just a short stage of pregnancy. I can just see so many benefits for us still. Breastfeeding such a simple way to fill up her cup – keeping the emotional energy of a wild and rambunctious toddler steady.

Nursing toddler

We had a tricky period early on in pregnancy, when she really cut down her nursing, and I failed to recognise the debt this left, emotionally. I guess people who don’t breastfeed (like her Daddy, who tends not to) really quickly identify other ways of topping up their kid’s well being- knowing the right balance of hugs, games and other “connecting” activities.  Having been reliant on nursing – and her being completely in control of this- there were a few weeks when my milk was changing and she was nursing much less, where we had a bit of disconnect; she was volatile and fractious.

The relationship side of breastfeeding really hit home, I had kind of taken it for granted. For so long Ramona’s nursing sessions had been providing these perfect moments of connection throughout our day, moments that both of us needed. It actually restored us, healed any little snags in our relationship.

We had to find a new rhythm, fresh ways of connecting. In a way it was like beginning another lesson in parenthood. My husband Tim was much more advanced in these activities, having identified the need a year ago, once I left them together half the week as I went to work.

But we had to find our own ways – I couldn’t just steal Tim’s and think they would work for us. (Gah, exclaims my lazy old self.)

Some of the best ways I have found to connect with Ramona, as she weans off nursing a bit include:

  • Taking more hot baths together (such a cool way of spending cold winter afternoons) – we can spend an hour, blowing bubbles, painting the sides, singing
  • Two person dance parties – we put the music up loud and throw down our shapes, impressing each other
  • Kissing Game – you take it turns to kiss funny parts of each other
  • Pulling faces- we try and out do each other with our weird and wonderful facial expressions
  • Hide and Seek – together, so not so much seeking but hiding from imaginary people, usually snuggling under blankets and duvets

I think the key is in activities that involve loads of eye contact, and have the potential to end up in squeals of giggles. Laughter is a healer, no?

Ramona has somehow figured out that sleeping between 11pm and 7 am is a good plan, and doesn’t nurse anymore. (There was a while when I thought she might do this forever) – which just gives me full confidence that these kids know exactly what they need.

Breastfeeding is so much about trust. Trusting ourselves and trusting our children. I am so glad I was able to discount the voices that suggested Ramona’s night nursing would continue forever. And I am so glad I am able now, to distrust the ones that say nursing toddlers will never quit.

They do. And for now, it is still just perfect for us. With a smattering of dancing, playing and splashing, we are connecting more than ever.

What is your breastfeeding story? Have you found the same thing? How have you found ways to connect with your kids?

Feel free to check out my other posts on breastfeeding, including “Nursing a Micromachine” and the letter I had to write to my rubbish, myth-making Doctor.

Advertisements

On ivy and being a little bit idle

Posted on

I did this painting for Camberwell Arts Week last year. It is an old plank of wood I found in the street, I placed ancient scraps of wallpaper and collaged sparrows against its gnarly scraped up paint work. I hammered in rusty nails to be branches, curling some words of Bob Marley alongside them and threw in a Bible verse in scrabble letters (obvs). We hung it half-heartedly it in the garden inbetween our bird feeders and slowly over the last couple of months it has been over run with our ivy. And it looks as if it was always meant to be this way.

Sometimes it is good to let things flow, uninterrupted, unmanipulated.

I have spent much of my life getting stuck in, negotiating, choosing, chasing. Grabbing life by the horns is a fun way to live (but beating up a bull takes a lot of energy.) I would insist and strive and work things out to be the very way I thought they should be.

It was only when I got married to Tim I began taking day time naps (C’mon people. Not afternoon delight styles, just snoozing.) I had never slept in the day before because I always felt I was missing out on life. Marrying Tim gave me a quiet happiness that meant I could rest a bit if I felt like it, thanks very much.

Since being mother to Ramona my contentedness has bloomed even more. I remember when she was about 5 months old waiting for a train that never came and having to change all my plans, and instead of being wall-climbing ragey, exhausting myself trying to hitch/bus/ skate to the destination I had planned on being at, I just settled for something else and felt wonderful. It was a significant moment, realising that I now hold onto my plans and strivings with such a looser grip.

I still have a long way to go in this practice of idleness. To yodle “Que, sera, sera” a bit more. To allow things to take their natural course without interrupting. (Ahem, ah, excuse me? Ivy? Where do you think your growing, eh?) To just see. And to just be.

I have gotten all the way to the end of this post without even the theme of the painting being in my mind, and now I have remembered, and it is ridiculously serendipitous.  If you look closely at my scrawls on the painting they say “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God” or Bob’s take on it, “Don’t worry about a thing. Cos every little thing is gonna be alright.” 


PS  Of course, I want to stay ambitious for a better world, want to grab at hope and fight for fairness. There are some things in life where idle will not do, don’t you reckon?

Routine Schmoutine – the tyranny of parenting Must-Dos

Posted on

You know when you read something that makes your heart leap? It was a sentence from a mother that I could have written myself, it just resonated that much. It was Adrienne Rich, a famous feminist mother who has since passed on, on what she experienced when she went on holiday and abandoned the usual routines.

“This is what living with children could be – without school hours, fixed routines, naps, the conflict of being both mother and wife with no room for being simply, myself.

“Driving home once, after midnight, from a late drive-in movie… with three sleeping children in the back of the car, I felt wide awake, elated; we had broken together all the rules of bedtime, the night rules, rules I myself thought I had to observe in the city or become a ‘bad mother’. We were conspirators, outlaws from the institution of motherhood; I felt enormously in charge of my life.”

I have been getting Baby Centre emails since I signed up excitedly when Ramona was but 4 weeks in my womb, every time they ping in to my inbox I open them to read about how absolutely, vitally, extraordinarily critical ROUTINES are. Even when she was 3 months old they were suggesting I schedule in naps and begin a pre-bedtime menu of bath, story, massage, songs.

I have dutifully read this and taken much of it on board. I don’t want to risk my daughter being sleep deprived or feral because of a routine failure! But more often than not, it just wasn’t the be all and end all for us.

I wore Ramona in a sling every moment of every day until she could crawl, this meant she just cat napped throughout the day. People would always ask about her sleep schedule. I was also obsessed, counting the minutes she slept to the SECOND. Paranoid that her catnapping wasn’t right – even though it felt perfect.

Then when she began sleeping less we went more or less down to 3-5 naps, depending on when she was tired. Despite reading of other babies on strict napping plans I felt like I should just let her do her thing. I want her to understand her own feelings- to know that when she is tired, that she should sleep. Not to just do something because it happens to be 12 o clock.

Most nights we do have a bit of bookreading and quiet time before she drifts off to sleep at my breast. But it could be anytime between 7:30 and 9. It just depends on how much she has napped, and what time she wakes up. If I try putting her to sleep 12 hours after she woke up in the morning, having had a 1.5 hour sleep, she will be like “Whhaaat? You kidding me?”

But the best nights, the times when I feel so easy and relaxed and liberated, when I feel we are just like an ancient wild Tribe of Camberwell, is when she just falls asleep on the way home after dinner out, or snuggles down on my lap while Tim and I chat in the lounge.The times when any bed time routine soars out the window.

The funny thing is, I still feel kind of guilty when this happens. As if I have let down the Motherhood. As if Ramona might grow up to be an ASBO’d up delinquent.

Because my mind is bursting with wisdom words about routine and rules and schedules, as if it is the ONLY way. Even mamma’s who I respect so much that I feel sorry for Ramona that she isn’t THEIR daughter, even they hold fast and tight to routine.

I understand that for lots of mummies it is their key to sanity, and that for lots of children it works really well.

But what if it isn’t for everyone?

What if some children were just born to be a bit untamed?

It feels to me to be a bit of a feminist issue. Because I am sure these great grand parenting must-dos are oppressive and patriarchal in nature. They chip away at a mother’s natural instinct, cause us to question what we feel to be right. They undermine our inate, empowered, motherhood.

I have wanted to get this off my chest for a while. In the hope that writing about it would help purge me of any guilt for not following the Must- Dos. I hope I haven’t offended anyone, PLEASE don’t see it as a critique of your own parenting- we are all just loving and bringing up our children in the way that is best for us. But there must be other mamma’s whose best ways aren’t the Must- Do ways? Do you rebel against any Must-Dos?

I would like to be liberated from this parenting tyranny, to embrace life with Ramona as unfettered, guilt-free.

Perhaps the first step is unsubscribing from those Baby Centre emails.

International Women’s Day – Get Happy. Get Mad.

Posted on

It is International Day of the Woman! I love the eclecticness of this day. That it is a time to celebrate the inventors, the Nobel Prize winners, the mothers, the smiling bus drivers, the stereotype challenging female construction workers. But also that it is a chance to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of women – the women dying in childbirth, the women locked out of decisions,  the hungry ones (80% of the 1 billion hungry people are female), the everyday oppression that my daughter and I face sitting on a bus driving past objectified female bodies on billboards. It is simultaneously a day to get party popper happy and a day to get letter writingly furious.

(What? No one else writes letters when you are angry?! When something crap happens to me my most fire breathing response is: THEY ARE GETTING A LETTER!!!!!!! )

Recently a colleague asked me if things have changed for me since motherhood’s dawn- have my priorities shifted? I thought for a while before I answered. Might I have become a bit more locally focused? A bit more mum, a bit less global citizen? I answered with total honesty when I replied no. Things haven’t shifted. If anything being a mother adds a fury filter, a ragey lens through which I see things – how dare people make decisions that will drive more conflict into Ramona’s globe? How dare those advertisers create even more limitations on her future?  I wrote recently that being a mother IS enough. I believe that. Being a mother has the potential to be massively world changing. But motherhood definitely makes me more determined to nurture beauty and peace and equality and freedom. For Ramona’s sake and the sake of millions of other children around the world. 

I hope you find chance this International Women’s Day to be both delighted and cross. Personally I am going to use my anger with Equals because they have a HOST of suggestions for taking action and use my happiness on a smoothie date with another mum and child. Feel free to share what you are up to, would love to hear about it. If you have blogged about International Women’s day PLEASE link up – and take a chance to read and comment on the other posts.

Happy International Women’s Day! 

Activist mummy

I have been blathering on about crafty shenanigans and vintage hauls for quite a few posts now. I would absolutely forgive you for thinking that I have forgotten that there are many ways to make the world a more beautiful place.

I get a feeling that when I post about political/socioeconomic/protest stuff readers roll their eyes and think “DULLLLLL”. They tend to be my least read and least commented posts. Is it because it is alienating? Or lacking creativity? Or bereft of cute Ramona photos and stories?

She lost a pompom. A pom?

Who knows. Let me try and remedy this by ticking ALL those boxes. Wish me luck!

This morning I woke up pretty stoked. We have had a brilliant few days having a sort out and beautifying our home with a few licks of paint (tick) and finally getting some of our lovely secondhand goodies on display (tick!) Ramona and I have been having so much fun chilling out together recently, her talking her little head off (it seems she tends to mostly talk about Gok Wan) me showing off all my moves as we crank the music and have dance parties, as we chase each other for HOURS around the living room, ending up rolling around in stitches.

The faces she pulls!

But as I tuned in to Twitter to find my timeline filled with the latest info on the UK’s corporate slave trade (Workfare in government lingo) and a link to a Suzanne Moore article about demonising poor people I became ANGRY. Like sweary angry.  Stomach crunchingly, teeth clenchingly mad.

What sort of a world are we putting up with? How can we be okay with increasing numbers of our neighbours being pushed further into poverty? Why is our government getting away with policies that consistently discriminate against vulnerable people? What am I going to do about it?

It has never been more easy for me to ignore these questions, to pat them down and say “Sit! … Stay..Stay” as if they are some persistent Jack Russel trying to get attention.  Being a mother is BUSY! It is physically exhausting all this running up and down the stairs, crawling around with a toddler clinging on, throwing a giggler into the air. But it is also meaningful. It is a wonderful and satisfying thing loving a new little person. It gives me a contentedness that makes my striving for other goodness in the world fade away just a little bit.

The truth is I do feel like being a loving parent is enough. I believe that children who have strong attachments and are loved and loved and loved are going to be the people who pour out more love later. By loving we create lovers. And the world definitely needs more lovers. We need lovers to run our countries, the IMF, the ECB. Lovers to paint and build. To organise our banks, to teach, and police the streets.

But still…

I do want Ramona to see me getting angry with the unfair status quo. I do want her to feel that individuals can be powerful, that action can change things. That letter writing, marching and tweeting can create a new mandate and a new story for our world.

I think I need to work on that balance, to make sure motherhood doesn’t ever blinker me to the reality of injustice and the power of fighting it.  Thank goodness for Twitter, where in those few chilled out moments as she drifts off to sleep I can get a little bit furious AND do something about it.

Work

Posted on

BIG day tomorrow! After 14 months of blissful maternity leave I am heading back to work.

My feelings are a tangle of nervousness, excitement, sadness and anticipation – a mix felt by most of the millions of mums returning to work I imagine. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster to get here- a year ago I looked towards this day with a pragmatic sense of “it’ll be fine”, then I swerved into panic; “I can not leave her!” (and spent hours writing business plans and creating logos for a career that I could do with Ramona slung on my back. Trust me breastmilk ice cream is not the weirdest thing a mumpreuneur could come up with) now fortunately I have arrived at a more balanced place of  “It will be hard but also fun and fulfilling.” *Smiles cheesily and poses for the government’s “Back to Work Mums!” pamphlet*

I am fortunate in that I don’t HAVE to work my two and a half days a week, it would be so hard to have this choice out of your hands for financial reasons. And for Ramona to be with my husband for half the week- what a balanced young women this will make her! It’s pretty jammy that we get to practice a parenting/ working model split exactly down the middle (don’t you just love how I am using the word Work as if parenting ISN’T up there with the hardest work evs!)

I have thought for the last few months that my primary reason for going back is because I didn’t want my career to halt, and to then have to start from scratch post offspringing. But today I feel that my reasons for returning are deeper than that – it is because I am passionate about making the world a bit of a brighter place and my work gives me a different way to do this. (With parenting being one of the fundamental way of doing it, of course.) I have found this last joyous year of motherhood to be one of the least cynical and least disenchanted times of my life and I hope I can take that into my nine to five. To see my job as a vocation, and to see the eradication of extreme global poverty as totally doable. (Extreme Global Poverty? Meh!  One time I got out the house with a baby with two matching socks, a picnic, my phone AND my oyster card AND made my train!)

But still…

My heart just about leaps out of my mouth when I imagine going a day without her little cheeky face within kissing distance.