9 reasons why all mums need a kindle or e-reader

9 reasons why all mums need a Kindle (or other E-reader)

First: a disclaimer. I adore paper books, I do not think they are redundant and they are my go-to gift for adults and children alike. Thank God for my local independent book shop – they rock. However, since I was given an e-reader for Christmas last year I am a total convert from my luddite, paper-book addict self and feel they are an essential piece of kit for all parents. I now need my Kindle and here are my reasons:

1 – backlighting

Oh my Goddess I cannot tell you how much I value this feature on the e-reader I use. It’s a Kindle Paperwhite, in case you were wondering and the backlighting is an essential feature for the mum of small children. I am blessed that The Girl is a fairly decent sleeper (The Boy was awake for hours in the middle of the night) but I still have to settle her at bedtime and don’t want a light on while she feeds to sleep. I also have a husband who doesn’t always want to stay awake reading at the same times as me, plus hideous pregnancy insomnia while I was expecting both kids. Being able to read without a light on is AMAZING. Whilst I still adore paper books, this is the feature I miss the most when trying to read them.

2 – free books

I’m a fast reader. Like really fast. Especially when I spend hours feeding a baby and am not limited by being in a dark room (see above). I can get through a book in a day if the wind is behind me. I also don’t really remember much of what I read afterwards and commonly find myself re-reading books and not realising until more than halfway through that I’ve read it before. The ability to ‘buy’ free books suits my style of readership perfectly.

3 – one-handed

reading and feedingMost of the reading I do is one-handed because I do it whilst doing other things – feeding babies, eating dinner, walking along pushing a buggy etc. The problem with ‘real’ books is holding the pages apart with one hand – not something that’s an issue with an e-reader. The ‘book’ stays open and you can flip the page with your thumb… or your nose if necessary.

Apparently there are other reasons one might find one-handed reading useful, especially when reading bodice-rippers for cheap thrills, but I’m a mum to two under-4s, so reading is the most exciting thing I ever do in bed, other than sleep 😉

4 – lightweight

This goes (eh-hem bad pun alert) hand-in-hand with the one-handed reading. No worries about choosing a particularly hefty book, they all weigh the same (about 200g). I am currently carrying around (in addition to a library-full of chick-lit and tat) the full works of Shakespeare, Dickens, L.M. Alcott and the complete set of Anne of Green Gables.

5 – silent

See item no.1 for the times I actually get to sit and read. I’ve tried reading paper books whilst feeding my baby – nuh-uh. Every time I flip a page she turns her head to look and, well, I’m quite fond of my nipples, you could even say I’m attached to them. And she doesn’t. let. go. when she turns her head. Buh-bye paper books.

6 – discreet

God I read some right crap. Mostly I download free books and they’re mostly of the chick-lit/bodice-ripper variety (if you care to have a peek at the text visible in my feature image shot you might get an idea of how trashy some of the things I read are. His Captive Bride, in case you were wondering.)

Now, I do a fair bit of reading on the school run whilst The Girl naps in the sling and I could do without advertising my un-literary proclivities to the other school-run mums. I also don’t need my son querying me on “why is that lady no wearing no cloves Mummy?” as he did when I took a punt on a library paper-book copy of this type of novel.

Finally, The Man is well known for taking the piss remorselessly. Bad enough he knows I read this kind of literature without giving him further ammunition with some of the titles and cover art.

7 – immediate

For when you run out of reading in the middle of the night and/or need a parenting book on how to deal with your three year old’s aggression ishoos the immediacy of downloading a book is fabulous. No waiting. No postage. Super! Start taming the beast right away!

8 – don’t lose your place…usually

Have you any idea how often my children like to get involved with anything I do? Books are fair game as far as they’re concerned, and the number of times I’ve lost my page or had a page ripped out is absurd considering how rarely I read paper books these days. Now I can always be sure that my book will open on the page I left it… though I do get the occasional flailing hand flipping the page back or forwards whilst feeding.

9 – easy for others to locate

The Boy is often used for fetching/carrying. He doesn’t have many uses, but this is one of them (except when he gets distracted halfway through and disappears for 25 minutes only to reappear wearing a cowboy hat and tutu but missing one sock… but most of the time he succeeds in his task).

However his reading skills are still limited to CVC type words and his own name so sending him for “Mummy’s Kindle” is significantly more successful and less confusing than sending him for “Mummy’s book, the one with the lady with no clothes and the man with a sword, you know, with the word H I S at the beginning…? Not not that one, the man is obviously holding a pitchfork, not a sword. Never mind. I’ll go.”

The clothes on the kids go round and round – the art of second-hand parenting!

I was sitting on the floor with my mum, surrounded by bags, boxes and towering piles of childrens’ clothing – boy and girl – when I had to jump up and take a photo. Ever since I first got pregnant with my first child I have been playing this game, where friends give you all the cast-off clothing from their kids and you go through them and get to decide what to keep (most of it) and what to bin (anything very stained) and what to charity shop (colours that don’t suit your kid, weird psychotic rabbit cartoon designs you can’t face looking at etc) and then, when the time comes, you bundle up all your kid’s things and pass them on to a friend with an appropriately aged child. Never, though, has this game seemed quite so absurdly funny as it has these last couple of months.

I have multiple streams of incoming clothing – two friends with boy and girl combos just slightly older than my two, two friends with girls the same age as my boy and boys just slightly younger than my girl, and it’s these last two who have me laughing the hardest. Let me paint you a picture.

One friend, let’s call her Lucy, shows up on my doorstep with four enormous bags. One full of girls’ clothes (age 2-4), one full of girls’ shoes and wellies, two full of baby boy clothes (2 – 4 months). She has a 3 year old girl and my girl has been getting all her old clothes. In return I pass her all The Boy’s old clothes for her baby boy born in May this year.  When he’s finished with those she brings them back to be passed on to my other friend, let’s call her Kate, who has a baby boy born in September.

That’s not the end of it though. Kate has a three year old girl also, so we get all her daughter’s old things for the Girl, too. We also all shared round our maternity clothes as our pregnancies were staggered. Are you following this?  I’m amazed if you are, because it makes my head spin and I’m living it.

So I turned up at Kate’s house triumphantly waving two large bags full of baby boy clothes, full of relief at getting them out of my (tiny) house. She smirks at me and produces a similar sized bag of yet more returned maternity clothes, plus two BOXES of girls’ clothes age 18mo – 3.

So a couple of days ago I decide to go through all these clothes, sorting out what I have, what I’ll keep of The Boy’s for The Girl, what I’ll pass on, what I’ll keep of the new batch of incoming clothes. Here’s a photo of the resultant chaos:

sorting childrens' clothes

You know the really scary thing? That’s not even all the stuff. That’s just what I could fit in the frame! I am not complaining, because in the last 4 years I have had to spend almost no money on children’s clothes, yet both my two are always beautifully dressed, but oh my word – the logistical nightmare of keeping on top of what fits, when, and storing the too-large stuff in a very small house. Well.

If you’re interested I have three super large clothes storage bags and keep everything in those, separated into age groups. These live in top of the wardrobe in The Boys’ room.  I periodically sort through these to make sure I’m only keeping things we will use – if there’re too many things to fit in just those three bags, some of it has to go. It’s the only way to stay on top of things.

I have now identified a boxful of childrens’ clothes, mostly girls’ (as the boys’ stuff is being passed along to friends) that needs a home. I will either give it away, sell it or charity shop it. Part of me hurts at having to let go of the things my babies have worn (I even did a post on the subject) but mostly I am relieved to have the space, both physical and emotional/mental – I‘m done having babies, after all – plus I need to keep paying the clothing karma forward.

Shame my sister isn’t close to having babies yet, I could offload on her! I doubt there’ll be anything left by the time she gets started. Oh well.

What do you do with your old baby things? Is it harder to pass them on if you bought them all new?

And time goes by so slowly…

The Girl, my little girl, is rising six months old already. How did that happen? I remember how long the first six months of babyhood took with The Boy and how much easier things seemed to get when we reached that milestone. The reverse seems to have happened here – the time has flown by and now she’s mobile, into everything, nosy, wanting to be entertained!

At first I thought I was just engaging in a little light hyperbole when I made the supposition that the time actually had gone more slowly with my first baby. Perhaps because it was all new, or because it was so stressful to have a baby who needed a 45 minute feed every 90 minutes throughout the whole 24 hours of the day, but then I got to thinking – The Girl cosleeps with us (more on that here), something I stupidly didn’t catch onto until rather late in the game with The Boy, which means she sleeps longer and better and it’s easier to resettle her. I have definitely been getting more sleep. The reason that it felt like six months with The Boy took longer than it has with The Girl is because it actually was longer… in awake hours, anyway. I was probably awake for about 19 or 20 of the 24 hours, as opposed to the  15 or 16 I’m awake with The Girl.

time goes by so slowly3660 hours awake with The Boy
2745 hours awake with The Girl

That equals 915 more hours awake.

Equivalent to 38 days and 3 hours.

Thirty-eight DAYS!  That’s right. I was awake for over a whole extra month the first time round. No wonder time seems to have flown this time. No wonder I spent that first experience of motherhood constantly singing the Righteous Brothers…”And time goes by so slowly….” But wow – can’t time do so much? That little baby is at preschool now and, thank heavens, did learn to sleep eventually (although he still likes an early start) and now I look up and nearly four years has passed.

5 stupid questions to ask a babywearer

stupidquestionsbabywearerI don’t know what it is about babywearing that invites comment from strangers, perhaps just the mystic nature of carrying a baby close to your body wrapped about by yards and yards of fabric rather than in some hi-tech buggy or buckled contraption with steel struts in – who knows? All I know is that living in a town full of narrow sloping pavements and cobblestones a carrier is not just more attachment-parent-y, but more practical! Whilst I don’t get that many stupid questions where I live (the perks of being a lentil-weaving hippy in Hippyville central) I’m never quite prepared for how many daft queries come my way when I travel abroad. Never quite certain what to say I usually smile politely and say nothing, but I mentally roll my eyes and think of the –rather rude– response I’d like to have made.  This being so, I thought I’d compile a list of the most commonly asked questions and finally lance the boil by answering them as sarcastically as I wish I could in real life. What’s the stupidest comment you’ve ever had when babywearing?

1 – Is she comfortable like that?

Nah, she bloody hates it, that’s why she’s smiling and gurgling at you/fast asleep. Honestly! It’s only holding a baby like you would in your arms, but arms-free.

2 – Can she breathe in there?

Nah. I like to suffocate babies. It’s my dream in fact.  Pfft. Always makes me think of that Eddie Izzard sketch from Dressed To Kill “I put babies on spikes” – I mean really. Not only can she breathe, but her face is just inches away from my face so I can (and do) check on her regularly.

3 – Oh my goodness, there’s a baby in there!

“What?! Where?! Holy hell – where did that come from?!”

No shit Sherlock. What, you think I stuck a sunhat to my chest?  I mean, OK, the baby is fast asleep and kind of concealed by the wrap, but don’t say ‘there’s a baby in there’ like you’re informing me of something I might not have noticed. Trust me – it’s not news to me.

4 – Can’t you afford a buggy?

I can. In fact I own one. It’s great for putting all the slings on when I go to outdoor sling meets…

5 – But what if the knot comes untied?

baby in half wrapped sling

Almost completely unwrapped – but look – no hands!

OK, fair enough, I can kind of understand why people might be a bit nervous of this. If I have time, though, I like to freak these people out by untying the knot behind me and letting the fabric go suddenly and watch as they jerk forwards to catch my baby. Hey – I’m not putting her in danger. She won’t fall, I promise. In fact, I can even untuck these cross passes here and just let them hang so she’s only held in one layer of fabric and what do you know, still not hitting the ground with a loud splat.  Wearing a baby in a wrap is one of the safest ways to carry your baby, especially if you’ve been doing it as long as I have. I understand your concern, but trust me, my baby is safe – look – no hands!

Just editing to respond to a couple of comments I’ve had declaiming this post as (worst insult to hurl in the hippy-lentil-weaver world) ‘judgey’. To those people I would simply ask them to examine the kinds of questions I’ve mentioned and the tone in which they are usually expressed.

These are most often not people with genuine queries, to whom I would obviously explain fully if I had time and by whom I would not be annoyed. No, these are ridiculous queries framed to be funny or mimic concern but portray a whole world full of judginess. I’m an intelligent fully-functioning adult. I know when someone is genuinely concerned for the ability of my baby to breathe (and reassure them) and when they’re just being snotty (and ignore them). Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so polite…

Behind the birth story

So we’re coming up to the five month mark since our little girl joined our family earthside and, since she and I are healthy and thriving you might be excused for thinking that I would have no lingering concerns over her arrival.  Birth trauma is a bitch, though, if you’ll pardon my language and even the most outwardly straightforward births can leave a new mother with anything from a lingering sadness through to flashbacks, post-natal depression or even psychosis, because what so many people fail to recognise is that birth is not a purely physiological process.behindbirthstory

Bringing a baby into the world may happen through a physical process, but that physical process is brought about and supported by emotional and hormonal reactions. Other people* have written far more widely and knowledgeably about the birth process and, as I have no pretension to medical expertise, I’ll leave that to them.  No, I’m going to share something more personal. My daughter was born at home, as planned, with kind and caring midwives who had looked after me throughout my pregnancy. I laboured in a pool, birthed her with no medication at all, even gas and air, and my husband supported me through the whole thing. She had nothing to eat but breastmilk.

This is the story I tell to strangers. It’s all true. It’s just not all of the truth. Even now I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail, but she got her shoulder stuck on my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia). She needed resuscitation as she didn’t breathe on her own for ten minutes. Paramedics were called and responded with urgency.  We transferred to hospital where I had a haemorrhage and a general anaesthetic. She was given donor milk, hooked up to machines, given a lumbar puncture, roomed away from me for the four most painful nights of my life. She’s fine. I’m fine. But that’s not all that matters.

As mothers we have hopes for our births and our babies. Not every mother’s is the same as mine, but I hoped for calmness, peace, an intimate experience and a babymoon at home in my own bed with my new baby. I laboured for 8 hours, brought forth a 10lb baby with shoulder dystocia and had no pain relief. I worked damn hard for the outcome I wanted and I feel cheated. And sad – so so sad.

I’m not sure what I hope to achieve with this post. It’s not really informative, unless you’re desperately interested in my personal life. I suppose I’m just asking for understanding for any woman who doesn’t seem ecstatic about her birth, perhaps there’s a reason. Be sensitive. What she’s telling you might not be the whole story, so don’t assume. Don’t judge. Despite the outward appearance of calm and happy maternity perhaps she, like me, is dreading bedtime because it means being alone with her thoughts and a long, sleepless night of tears and bitterness.  Motherhood is a baptism of fire and it can take a long time to move out of the flames.

*I recommend Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin if you want a beginner’s crash course in birth.

Extended breastfeeding – or just breastfeeding?

Thanks for hopping over from Renegade Feminist and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 5 Extended Breastfeeding we have over £700 worth of breastfeeding and baby goodies up for grabs including prizes from More4Mums providing a set of ‘Hot Milk’ Lingerie, a signed hardback limited edition copy of Milky Moments and a £30 voucher from Milk Chic  Full details of the Grand Prize can be found here and all entries to be completed via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

I dislike the term extended breastfeeding.  I, and many of my lentil-weaving hippyish friends, prefer to call it natural term breastfeeding, but only other lentil-weaving, hippyish people know what that means so I’m forced to use extended breastfeeding, because, in our modern-day 6-months-of-boob culture, anything past six months is seen as extended.  Just in case you’re still in the dark, though, allow me to enlighten you: extended breastfeeding is feeding your baby from the milk in your breast until an age where your family (either blood-related or in-laws) start openly asking you when you’re going to stop.  Naturally this is different for every family.extended breastfeeding

Yes, that’s right. In this age of tits on every billboard, buy a daily newspeper to admire some cleavage, décolletage being the selling point of every brand imaginable – whether relevant or not – it’s the sight of a mother feeding a child who (to quote a relative who should know better) “is old enough to ask for it” that really gets everybody clutching their pearls in abject horror.

I never set out to shock and dismay. I knew for sure that I wanted to breastfeed and, like many other mothers, had six months in my head as the goal I was aiming for. At the time I think I just believed this was how long you were ‘supposed’ to do it for. After three years of in-depth peer supporter training, I now know better.

Six months is just how old a child should roughly be before introducing anything other than breastmilk. Formula companies are banned from advertising in this country for babies under that age, so all their advertising (behind which there is much money) is aimed at ‘follow-on’ milks and so on for babies older than six months. I, like most others, mentally converted this into a maximum age limit for breastfeeding and honestly thought anything beyond that was unnecessary and, perhaps, a little odd.

And then I had my baby. My precious Boy. I held him in my arms, watched him stroke his cheek, my breast, his cheek, saw his wonder that he and I were the same person and two different people all at once. I fought to feed him despite birth trauma, bad advice, pain and post-natal depression and then, at about eight weeks it began to get easier, by 12 weeks it was easy (except for the sleep deprivation – oh God, was I deprived!) and by six months, when he started to mess around with bits of mango and fingers of toast I was laughing.

“Why would I give up now?!” I laughed to myself as I sailed out of the house with no paraphernalia other than nappies when he was five months old.
“Well I’m not giving up now!” I declared to myself, and others, when his molars started coming through aged one and feeding in the night was the best, easiest, quickest and most natural way to resettle him.
“Thank God I hadn’t given up!” I exclaimed through several stomach bugs at all ages where the only nutrition and fluids he took was endless, comforting suckles at my breasts.
“I don’t want him to give up now…” I murmured as I held my big two year old on my lap and stroked his hair and cuddled him in the only time he stayed still for more than a minute in his busy day.

By about two and half he was only having milk every couple of days and when I got pregnant and suffered horrendous pregnancy sickness for the first four months it was game over and the last of my milk went. He stopped wanting to suckle, even for the comfort.

If you’re wondering about feeding until your child weans themselves then I can honestly tell you it’s wonderful. It’s special. You can have time away from them (my son stayed away from me for five nights on two separate occasions and both times we managed to pick back up where we left off), but you don’t need to set yourself a goal now.  One of the very best things about breastfeeding is that (once you’re over the initial hump) it’s intuitive. You do it as and when. You know when it’s necessary and when it’s not and you can change your mind as you go.

For the family who wonder why you still do it, well, it’s none of their business really, but I always found “There’s a reason they keep their milk teeth until they’re five or six you know!” was a very effective deterrant. If nothing else the look of horror on their faces as they picture you still feeding a six year old is totally worth it!

For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to My Moo and Woo where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

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The journey of a lifetime – feeding my babies

Thanks for visiting from Adventures of a Novice Mum and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt  “Day 1 The Start of My Journey”.

Sponsors today include Boobie Milk with a £50 voucher, Cherub Chews who are offering a breastfeeding necklace and Loveyush who are offering a breastfeeding scarf for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

The start of my breastfeeding journey was, as so many are, a rocky one.  After a difficult and traumatic birth, with the masses of medical intervention that I had never wanted, my poor body was tired and battered already. Add into the mix a constantly hungry, velcro baby and some very very poor support and you have the recipe for a broken mama.

I had so desperately wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby and, after I had (as I saw it) ‘failed’ to give birth, it was even more important to me to succeed with feeding: to try and make up for the drugs he’d received, the being ripped untimely from his mother’s womb, the fact I was a sobbing, miserable mess who struggled to attach to him.  The hospital pushed me to use formula and, exhausted and fighting to the last, I eventually gave in, although I pumped and fed, fed and pumped as well – anything to escape the hospital and get back to my community midwives.

I was, however, one of the lucky ones. I had the most amazing support from my husband and mother, I found a good midwife at my local unit who helped me when I turned up in tears at 3am two weeks after giving birth, I also found a support group not too far away where gentle peer supporters listened to me endlessly rehash my birth and a trained midwife gave some decent advice on holding my baby so everything was more comfortable.

I was on my knees with exhaustion, traumatised, in pain, struggling to bond, but I gritted my teeth and kept right on going and gradually, after about six weeks, things began to improve.  I couldn’t believe that something that was supposed to come naturally could cause so many difficulties and 10 months later, when the chance was offered for me to train to become a peer supporter myself, I jumped at the chance.

Feeding my daughter

Feeding my daughter

It’s been a long journey, from that first attempt to latch my baby on post c-section, dazed, exhausted, ignorant – to here. Now I support and advise other women and argued with ignorant HCPs when I began feeding my second baby and they tried to offer unwelcome and poor advice as I fed her in the Neonatal High Dependency Unit after, yet another, difficult birth.

Things are gradually changing. Between my two babies the hospital started to seek ‘Baby Friendly’ status and when I had my daughter they offered her donated breastmilk to supplement my milk.  There is still bad information out there, though, bad advisors, ignorant HCPs who, despite being medical personnel, have received less training on the mechanics and biology of breastfeeding than I, as a volunteer, have.

My breastfeeding journey has been a bumpy one, but it’s promising to be a lifetime one that carries on long after my own children have ceased to feed from me as I support generation after generation of other mothers to feed their children as they truly wish to do, and what a blessing that is.

Following on from my journey, please do visit Just Motherhood to see how her journey began and be in with more chances to enter the grand prize draw. Remember you need to earn 50 points to be eligible, full details can be found on the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Site.

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Keep Britain breastfeeding scavenger hunt 2015

Top 10 gifts to buy for a new baby

My sister’s boyfriend’s sister (convoluted connection I know) is due her first baby any day now and I was getting my brain picked for suggestions of really good presents for her and for the baby.  Seemed like a good topic for another lovely ‘list’ blog post so here we go – some of my top picks for babies! (And not forgetting something for the new mums, here are some really excellent ideas just for them.)giftsforababy1 – Ewan the sleep sheep – A cuddly sheep that lights up with a soft red glow and plays a range of soothing heartbeat-themed white noise tracks.  Not only has this been such a hit in our house that we have one for each child and The Boy still uses his, but the customer service is truly fabulous – speedy, helpful, good sense of humour! My number 1 top pick!

2 – Summer infant light projectors – these come in a great selection of animals and bugs, from ladybirds and butterflies to frogs and elephants. They play a twinkly tune and send stars onto the ceiling in a range of colours. As with Ewan this has a wide age appeal. The Boy uses it to keep monsters at bay, The Girl gets a sensory kick from lying in a dark room and watching the stars – never seen so many kicks! Amazon sell them for £14.99 (at time of publication) and if you click through from here you can help me keep this blog running at no extra cost to you!

3 – Bandanas – these cute little neck scarves might seem like a pointless fashion accessory but trust me – baby drool is the most slimy, soggifying substance known to humankind and one of these little fleece-backed beauties stops their clothes getting wet and prevents a sore, chafed chest. They’ll be dribbling before you know it! Plus they look utterly adorable and can be bought at bargainous prices.

4 – New clothes – always nice even if the baby is well stocked with hand-me-downs, but aim for 6 months and onwards as, not only will the outfit get more wear, but chances are there are a million 0-6 month clothes already.  If you don’t know what to buy then may I suggest dungarees? They’re gorgeous on all babies and eminently practical, especially once they start crawling and you need a grab handle!

5 – Something personalised with baby’s name, be it a blanket, doorplate or book it’s a special present that the parents won’t have bought. Especially good for subsequent babies.

6 – Cloth books or ‘That’s not my…’ touch and feel books.  The Girl is only 4 months old and already loves to examine these so they come in sooner than you might think. Black and white books are great for small babies as they love the high contrast images.

7 – Cuddly toys are always lovely, but be aware that these may be in rich supply and the parents may curse you forever. If you’re going to do it, though, make it a jellycat toy. All the children I know who have special cuddly friends it’s a jellycat friend.  The bunnies and monkeys seem to be especially popular, in our house at least. Super soft and with lovely beanie bottoms.

8 – A playmat. We always make these in our house, or have been given beautiful handmade ones with ribbon tags for little fingers to explore, but you can buy them and they are a baby essential until they start crawling.  Not only do they make a safe, clean (easily washable) surface to place a stationary bubba, but I’ve seen some fabulous photos of babies taken on a playmat once a month from newborn as they grow and you can use the images on the playmat as a reference to track their growth – just lovely.

9 – Hooded towels – not only are these great for snuggly post-bath cuddles (watch out for the obligatory nappy-free wee on your lap) but babies look super cute in these. Love this duckie one.

10 – Childproof cutlery and/or crockery.  These will be needed before you know it and will go on being useful for years, plus (unlike the wretched cuddly toys) you can’t really have too many, as it’s always handy to have one to wash and one to ‘wear’, and that’s before you even factor in having their little friends over for lunch!

I have received no remuneration of any kind, not even free products, for this article. All brands and items mentioned or linked have either been tried and tested at our cost or I just randomly Googled something that would demonstrate what I meant!

The List

When enough’s enough – having your last baby

I was told once, by a good family friend, that when you have your last baby you just know.  Something deep inside you clicks and you know you’ve completed your family. I thought this sounded like a bit of bunkum, quite honestly and suspected that, like the age gap between her children which was carefully planned, it was merely a fact of having reached the previously agreed number of offspring and stopping – as planned.last baby

Had I been asked about it before I would have told you that I wanted three children. I couldn’t say why, exactly. Four would probably have been nice too – I like the idea of a bigger family – but I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford four, so three seemed like a good compromise.  Even as I reached the final weeks of my pregnancy with The Girl and, each time I whinged about wanting my baby out, the midwife told me to try and savour every moment of having my baby inside me because it might be the final time, I brushed her wise advice aside because I knew, didn’t I, that we’d be having one more – our last baby.

The birth wasn’t easy. She was born at home as planned but there were a couple of complications and we ended up in hospital anyway and I dramatically instructed The Man not to let me do that again. “No more children!” I pronounced in a self-sacrificing way, not able to deal with the thought of going through the process again but secretly thinking “I’m sure I can get past this really.” I questioned the midwives about whether anything could have been done differently (there wasn’t) or whether I could do something different next time to make things easier (nope), so I was obviously thinking about Baby no.3. That, after all, was our plan. The Man and I; we like our plans.

About a week after we came home from hospital, when The Girl was just two weeks old, we were all sitting in the childrens’ room to read bedtime stories. I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember where everyone was sitting. The Man sat on a chair with our baby on his lap, The Boy was snuggled under his duvet and I sat on the bed by his feet and I looked around at my family and… I knew. This was my family. Right here. I was done.

My eyes stung with tears. I felt a happy sense of completion but also a grief. The Girl was my last baby. It was here already. No more bump stroking. No more sorting tiny baby clothes. No more getting to know a brand new person. No more holding this fragile new body and wondering at the very newness of them.  Every ‘first’, every ‘last’ that I have with my girl will be my last ‘first’, my last ‘last’.  I’ve had my last baby.

There is a peculiar sense of grief associated with this recognition – mourning a whole stage of my life. Never again will I be a pregnant woman or a new mother. I’m on the next stage of my life now (the drama queen in me wants to call it the gradual decline into menopause but I try to resist her melodramatic take on life).

However, a few more weeks down the line and I’m also realising a sense of peace.  We’ve made a decision – The Man feels the same sense of completion – and can look to the future now, and do. I’m excited about taking them on beach holidays – babies are not great on the beach.  I’m looking forward to sharing the world with them: teaching them to love books, learning and exploring.  All the great activities we’ll get to do together and the fun we’ll have as they grow.  I also know how exceptionally lucky I am to have two healthy, beautiful children. Both me and The Girl hovered on the brink of life when she came into the world and I just cannot risk my life knowingly again, risk leaving my babies motherless.

Part of my acceptance comes from finding my own passion again. I am writing and I love it. It in no way comes from the fact that I have been blessed with ‘one of each’, despite other peoples’ casual assumption that this has something to do with it.  I look forward to doing my posts each day and it’s not easy with a baby around – and gets exponentially harder with each additional child! Perhaps I can even make a career out of this thing that I love.

The main source of pain I have now is on behalf of the women who don’t get to choose, those who haven’t had ‘enough’, but have had to come to terms with two, or one, or no babies because of health or luck or circumstance.  To those women my heart goes out – I am sorry.

To those of you who wonder, though, you will know. Believe me. When enough’s enough you’ll know that you’ve had your last baby.

7 unexpected uses for a big, floaty scarf

I love my floaty scarves. Not only have they been a fashion staple for me for many years, they also act as a sort of grown-up comfort blankie (as my real one, an old white muslin with a yellow trim, has mostly disintegrated and is now kept in a hallowed and secret place to be tenderly stroked in times of great crisis).  Plus, teamed with a pair of sunnies you, too, can look like a celeb wannabe.

Bearing in mind the extensive and punishing use I subject my scarves to, though, I would recommend stocking up on a wide selection and not spending very much money on them. Market stalls, Primark and supermarkets are the ideal scarf-purchasing venues. Happy shopping!

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1 – Hides unfortunate stains. Yup, as a mama I quite often have to spend the day with food and sick stains on me (and am usually grateful it’s not worse, to be honest). In fact, if you look at this post you’ll realise that I even leave the house wearing them, rather than just acquiring them over the course of a day.  If, like me, you haven’t the time or capacity (whether mental or washing machine) to do something about this then a lovely big floaty scarf is definitely the answer. (here are some tips from the very attractive Wendy, I especially like the Waterfall for cover-ups purposes!)

2 – Sun protection.  I’m not a big fan of slathering suncream all over tiny babies. Heck, I even try to avoid doing it to my big boy or myself where possible. As compensation for this I have to work harder with covering up, instead.  Hats are both obvious and essential but, especially when you’re a sling mama like me, there are often bits of baby exposed to the sunlight that you’d like to keep shaded without having them in long sleeves, trousers and socks in the heat.  Tucking a floaty scarf into a sling over their legs, draping it over them when feeding outdoors or, even in a buggy, if the hood or umbrella doesn’t quite keep them in the shade. Large muslins and sarongs are also good for this.

3 – Modesty. I’m not a huge exponent of the ‘cover yourself when breastfeeding’ philosophy. If anything I tend more towards the #ostentatiousbreastfeeding club and feed whenever (and wherever) my baby needs it. However, I do find it a little uncomfortable when I’m wearing something that requires pulling down, under the breast, as this leaves an awful lot of bare chest exposed above the baby’s head which can feel rather exposed. For situations and outfits like this a lovely drapey scarf is ideal for just making you feel a little less vulnerable, and a scarf is rather prettier and less ‘breastfeeding-y’ than a muslin. Right?

4 – You can fashion impromptu clothes out of it.  This sounds a little weird, but bear with me. More than once we have had a series of nappy and/or food and drink incidents in a row (or, eh-hem, may have forgotten to pack a change of clothes. Oops) leaving my child with no clean clothes to wear.  Once I even had to pop a bottom-half-nudey boy on his bike seat and tuck his jacket around him to protect his modesty on the way home.  If you have a lovely big scarf then it’s no drama to create a quick sarong skirt, dress, or even some MC Hammer style droopy trousers if you’re feeling really creative.  It’s better than having to walk home with a wet, cold or naked child!  Could also be used as emergency turban type arrangement for hot days when you get caught without a sun hat.

5 – You can fashion impromptu nappies out of it. You thought the clothes thing sounded bad? That’s nothing darlin’.  My little girl had only been here 8 weeks before she managed to have a day where she blasted through all the nappies I had with me (perhaps it was 2nd time parent over-confidence that meant I hadn;t packed enough, who knows. She waited till I changed her into her last clean nappy before having the poo blow out to end all poos. Marvellous).

Luckily, as a cloth nappy user, I had a spare wrap (the waterproof bit) with me but no absorbent inserts. I didn’t even have a muslin which I have been known to use in a pinch before. Quick as a flash I grabbed my emergency floaty scarf, folded it into a neat pad and tucked it inside the wrap. Had I been sans wrap it still would have made a decent temporary nappy held together with knots and happy thoughts, although not as waterproof it would have stopped a total flood.  Naturally I hotfooted it home once the temporary solution was in place and even made it back before she did anything on the scarf.

6 – Emergency muslin. Yup. My darling husband subjected one of my scarves to this when The Girl executed a spectacular display of digestive pyrotechnics in the backseat of the car. He grabbed the nearest ‘muslin’ to hand which turned out to be a floaty white scarf of mine.  I think he was grateful for the extra coverage such a large piece of fabric provided as the sick just kept coming.  I was in no position to quibble bearing in mind the use I had put this poor scarf to just a few days previously (see item 5). Oh well. It all washed out!

7 – As mentioned in a previous post, Slutty Mummy – ten ways to save some precious time in your day but still look respectable, scarves are also a handy way to dress up an outfit to look completely different.  Take the same t-shirt and jeans, but wear a different colour scarf with it and you could easily make it last several days before it smelt so bad you had flies buzzing around you.