baby and body 12 month update

Wah! One year! This time exactly twelve months ago (approximately 11am, as I write) I was lying on a trolley in the maternity unit, crying because I had done twenty four hours of early labour followed by a complete cease-fire in the contractions department, followed by a show of meconium, followed by an internal inspection and the announcement that my baby was, in fact, breech, and that due to various factors it was recommended I have an emergency C-section.

But I want to have a water birth with my snacks and my music! I wailed. Labour wards are bad! C-sections are only very rarely necessary! I moaned. Along with other bumph I’d read in my natural birthing books, which made the doctors roll their eyes and the duty midwife stomp off muttering swear words under her breath. Not that I’m criticising the natural birthing ideology, not by any stretch of the imagination – I wish wholeheartedly that I’d been able to breathe the baby calmly down my canal and out through my “love petals” – but none of that reading prepared me for medical intervention. It just said that I wouldn’t need it.

Anyway, all but a distant memory, because here I am a year later and we’re all in one piece. What a fabulous journey it has been so far – I’ve learnt so much about myself and pretty much nothing about babies. I can categorically say that I have one hundred percent muddled through. I don’t think I read a single baby book, apart from the breastfeeding one I read in the first few weeks and that parenting one I read when I was pregnant. I have stacks of baby development books and baby weaning books and baby sleep books – not one of them have I opened. And in a way I’m rather pleased about it – I’ve just gone with the flow rather than filling my head with rules and regulations and other people’s experiences and it has worked brilliantly. Yes I have Googled things, on a regular basis, so I suppose that counts as reading books sort of, but mostly this year has been a year of trying to stay calm and texting friends and family for reassurance if needed.

The fact that the baby is still mostly on astronaut food pouches should be ignored, as well as the fact that quite often she still spends the day in a babygrow (IT’S COMFY!) but her weight is good, she’s as tall as a bloody beanpole and seems relatively pleased with her lot. What more can you ask for?

Let’s go in for the twelve month update…

Baby

Angelica is very into her books. This is a new development, over the last few weeks – she loves them! Preferably pop-up books or books with flaps, but if there’s any sort of book lying about (even pamphlets for Brexit and takeaway menus) then she’ll make a beeline. I will do a post on her favourite books if anyone’s interested – I’ve bought loads and have to say that some have been a bit rubbish, and it’s hard to tell when you order from Amazon.

12 month baby and body update

Crawling is going strong, but we now have some walking happening so long as hands are held. It’s very wobbly progress and she looks like I used to after a night out, staggering from side to side and generally looking lairy. (See below, “Body”.) Her favourite thing to do at the moment is to hunt for my iPhone, so I use it as a bit of a carrot on a stick, getting her to pull herself up and climb onto the sofa.

baby blog

No words, yet, but a lot of babbling. Dadadadada. Wow! Oooohhhh! De-de. (Which I think is Dexter, because she only says it when the dog’s about.) She’s often a very calm and watchful baby; she’ll sit very quietly in her pushchair for a long, long time without wriggling to get out, and she’ll just stare and watch the world go by. Though she has her manic daily episodes, with high-speed crawling and banging things about and kicking at doors and laughing like a lunatic.

On the feeding front, she still loves the big chunky Ella’s Kitchen pouches. Supplemented with hunks of bread, cheese, fruit, whatever I have in the fridge, but until recently anything handheld just went straight onto the floor! Cheese and bread are the definite winners – I need to work on the veg situation. Oh and melon. She loves melon. It’s about time that we did one gigantic household diet overhaul, really, so I’m looking forward to cooking new things that we’ll all enjoy eating. I tried, last week, to get her to eat some steamed salmon and veg, but it was a definite no-go. Today, Birthday Day, I might see how she gets on with tuna. And a bit of hardboiled egg. I wonder what she’d think of asparagus? Good God, imagine the nappy after that!

Body

I think that this might be the last body update, because there’s nothing new to report apart from my stopping the breastfeeding. (See yesterday’s post.) I’ve been trying to work on my split abs, but nothing is changing very fast (I wrote about my abs on my main website here). I think it will be a longish process and I’m not expecting overnight changes and I have decided, in the last few months, to just be really kind to myself. I rarely stop and relax, I’m always on the go, always trying to do MORE and BETTER and I don’t think that it’s a particularly healthy way to be. Having a baby takes it out of you more than you realise, I think, and I’ve tried to add having a baby onto my usual workload, rather than accommodate it by cutting down on other commitments. Idiot! That way madness lies! More relaxation for me.

I tell you one thing that has been really quite life-changing, though: not drinking. I mean I’ve had the odd bit, one night I even had three glasses of wine (check me out!), but drinking alcohol has become something very, very occasional rather than the norm. I used to love having a glass of red in the evening and would regularly go out to dinner or to someone’s house and drink just a bit too much. My hangovers were always horrific. I don’t think that I actually have the right constitution for lots of booze, though I liked to think that I did. So yes; no hangovers. Really quite marvellous. My general health has been a million times better and I find it easier to manage stress – I don’t need a glass of red to wind down, I just need to turn off my iPhone and my laptop and lie down with my eyes shut! I’m not saying that I never drink, just that it doesn’t figure in my normal life. I don’t think about it, really. The odd glass does me just fine. (Ha! I’ll be interested to see my status update in another year’s time. I’ll probably be writing it with an empty bottle of Malbec beside me!)

Right-o, there we go then. One year. I should take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and commenting – your anecdotes and advice have been a great source of entertainment and, on a more serious note, information and support. And there has never been a jot of negativity or judgemental tone or unfriendliness – I’m really grateful, truly. Here’s to year two!

You can read all of the previous monthly baby updates here….

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breastfeeding baby

Today is the first day that I will be with the baby but do absolutely no breastfeeds. Tomorrow she is one and our little breastfeeding journey seems to have come to a natural, contented end. I have to say that I would be more than happy to carry on with feeding her – I’ve really loved it, even though I didn’t ever intend to do it for so long – but my work trips are becoming more and more frequent, and though they are usually only for one or two nights, it’s simply too disruptive to a good breastfeeding routine.

Before I bang on about how much I love breastfeeding and annoy the hell out of people who don’t – or can’t – breastfeed, I should say that my relationship with it hasn’t always been plain sailing. (You can read all breastfeeding posts here and there’s usually a little update in each of the monthly diary posts.) The first few weeks were filled with setbacks as the baby had tongue-tie, I had severely cracked nipples that bled and wept and we were living in a tiny holiday cottage which was, in itself, stressful and not conducive to a relaxing breastfeeding experience. The week or so after the baby was born saw an immense heatwave in the UK, with temperatures reaching 37 degrees for almost five days – the baby wanted to feed almost constantly and things were pretty grim.

Then there was a mastitis episode which was even grimmer – and that happened when I thought that I had breastfeeding well and truly down to pat. It was quite the surprise to suddenly find bright red streaks across my breast and then develop a fever to end all fevers.

So it hasn’t always been easy, and I do feel extremely lucky to have been able to overcome these blips and have a good, lengthy breastfeeding relationship, but I realise that for many people it’s just not possible and I absolutely recognise that the pressure to breastfeed is immense. I mean, it’s everywhere. Posters on noticeboards, talks from midwives, even disclaimers on the websites of formula manufacturers, so that as you’re trying to look up how to prepare a bottle they’re telling you YOU DO KNOW THAT BREAST IS BEST, DON’T YOU? Give it a rest. It is not helpful, when you’re struggling with a swollen nipple and a crying baby and infected stitches, to also have some voice of doom in your head telling you that you’re a failed human if you can’t manage to feed your baby from the breast. Yes, it’s great to educate, but people also need a bit of tea and sympathy and – ultimately – to be told that it’s not the end of the world if they can’t manage it.

Phew.

And so here I am, one day shy of a year, later, sitting in bed feeling quite emotional as the baby has her morning milk downstairs. Not on my boobs. My boobs, as it happens, feel a bit sad and empty. Not the foxes’ noses that I had feared (or “marbles in socks” as one friend described her breasts post-feeding), but definitely not the proud, full, massive boobs of yore. They are decidedly soft and – would the word quiet be a strange word to use? Quiet.

Now the whole point of this post, before it became a ramble, was that I would like to do longer with the breastfeeding, I see no real reason to stop yet, but my work trips are – as I mentioned – becoming more frequent and it just doesn’t seem right to keep interrupting things. Not for the baby and not right for the old bangers. Things have already tapered off into a natural end, because various jaunts away have gradually chipped at our routine, and it seems crazy to jump-start my supply for it to be repeatedly messed about with. Had I not been on so many work trips then I think I’d still be feeding twice a day – I enjoyed it a lot and so did the baby. I assume. From the way she would enthusiastically launch herself at my chest. But a three day absence back in May, followed by another two days shortly afterwards and a spattering of one night trips away really messed with my milk supply. And though the baby seemed happy enough latching back on as though nothing had changed, she started to come back off very quickly and it became apparent that – certainly in the evenings – there wasn’t much there. So evening feeds (the soothing ones) stopped in the second week of May and since then it has just been the morning one. Today (I’m writing this at 8am) will be the first day that I’ve been home and not done a morning feed – not a single feed. I’ve been away for two days and missed two feeds and I just think that it’s time. Though the temptation to just check is overwhelming – maybe I should have a little try, bung her on, just to make sure? Ha!

So that’s that, then. My boobs are, once again, my own. I might go and get measured for some crazy uplift bra with padding and inappropriate nipple-skimming shape. I might go and get my ears re-pierced! Perhaps I’ll spend the morning packing up my various nursing bras and tops and putting them on the loft… Or perhaps, by the time you read tomorrow’s One Year Baby and Body Update, I’ll have caved in – just to see whether there’s any milk still in my boobs – and I’ll be back on the morning feed. Who knows?

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baby white noise maker

Well alright, not actually last night, a night about two months ago. Possibly longer, now. A Whisbear saved my life. Alright, it didn’t save my life, but it did save my sanity. And to think – I poo-poohed the idea of even reviewing one, thinking that Angelica was far too old, now, for white noise makers and the sound of the tumble dryer and nap times in the pram with the hoover running…

I thought that we had the sleep situation pretty much down to pat, but after a week or so of Angelica sleeping through, she began to wake up again multiple times a night (teeth? hungry? who knows) and the days of walking about like a knackered Zombie were back. I had a modicum of success with the iPhone app “Sound Sleeper”, but having to leave my iPhone in the baby’s bedroom all night, from 7pm, wasn’t ideal. I didn’t like the idea of the baby being next to the phone when it was on, either, so I used to put it on airplane mode, which meant that nobody could text or phone me after seven.

So the Whisbear, then. A battery-operated white noise maker (it’s just a continuous hushhhhhhhhh sort of sound) inside the head cavity of a strange-looking teddy that has a bear’s face and the legs of an octopus, except that there are only four of them. A bear-squid hybrid. It would be a thing of nightmares, if you allowed it to be – I can imagine it in Toy Story, next to a doll’s head mounted on a spider’s body. But if you look at it in a cute way (like you’re supposed to, if you have a normal mind that hasn’t been totally corrupted by an overactive, morbid imagination) then it’s very cuddly and sweet. And the legs, despite being long and weird, actually serve a great purpose: they are magnetised so that you can position the Wisbear over the side of the cot rails and the legs sort of pinch together so that it stays in place. Very clever!

To activate the white noise, you just need to squeeze the Whisbear’s head, hard. He then whispers his  hushing sound for about forty minutes until the noise fades out. But then here’s the good bit: if the baby starts to cry after this time, the Whisbear jumps into action and makes his shushing noise again! This, for me, is the standout feature – on my iPhone app, I had to set the white noise so that it played continuously through the night, which didn’t feel right (the things we do for a good night’s sleep) – the Whisbear stays silent until called upon. No having to get up to restart an app or jiggle the baby back to sleep…

My sister put my off buying a Ewan the Dream Sheep (very popular baby soother) when Angelica was tiny – it hadn’t worked for her own baby, but I wish I had used that beforehand so I could have done a comparison! From what I can see, Ewan has a few different sounds and a glowing tummy (check out the first review on Amazon that comes up, it made me laugh so much – Ramsay the Nightmare Goat!) but doesn’t have a cry sensor function. And for me, it’s the cry sensor that works so brilliantly – it doesn’t go off when a dog barks loudly, or a helicopter flies over, or the man next door, who is obsessed with powertools and building things in his garden, starts up his angle grinder – it seems to be quite adept at singling out a baby’s cry. Not like a baby monitor that just kicks in when there’s a noise above a certain volume.

So yes, the Whisbear is a permanent fixture at bedtime and both naptimes. It’s a little ritual now, where we put the sleeping bag on, squeeze the Whisbear’s head and then pop the bear on the rails of the cot. And then Angelica reaches up for the bear and pulls him down so that he’s lying beside her. It’s very sweet. I should just turn him on and put him straight in beside her, like a normal, mature adult would, but I can’t help my stubborn ways – I want him on the cot rails, she wants him in the cot. It’s a battle of wills.

You can find Whisbear on Amazon here – he’s (God knows why I’ve decided he’s a he) £41.98 with the cry sensor function and around £30 without, but I would definitely opt for the cry sensor. Without it, the bear has less to sing and dance about and is about the same price as Ewan the Sheep God.

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