getting kids to eat vegetables

There are certain battles which you can guarantee every parent has fought.  The do-your-homework confrontation, or the find-your-shoes struggle.  But the age old fight must be the one we all face in the dinner table trenches – getting kids to eat vegetables.

Now, I will throw my hands up and admit that I know I’m lucky.  I think my kids do quite well when it comes to food.  They eat pretty much everything that Hubs and I would eat, and for the most part do it happily.  And even though vegetables can still get a bad rap in our house, I can get my boys to eat them with most meals.  So I thought I’d share my tips for getting kids to eat vegetables, based on what has helped us.

 

make veggies part of every meal

When dinner time becomes a battlefield it can seem easier to just cut your losses and avoid veg altogether.  But even if you know they wont touch it, I think it’s important to still have vegetables on the plate.  It may seem wasteful, but kids learn through routine and familiarity.  My 15 year old eats more vegetables now he’s older.  I think that only happened because they were available to him.  His natural curiosity grew stronger than his childhood pickiness!

 

find a food they love…

…and then find a way to sneak veggies into it!  Middle son is a soup fiend, and that’s probably the easiest food in the world to cram full of veg.  Blend it smooth and they’ll never know that the tomato soup contains all sorts of other sneaky goodies.  Dishes like bolognaise or chilli are also good to smuggle veggies in to.  You can really finely chop them or even blend them and cook them right down.  It makes me feel a bit smug when I watch my kids wolfing down food containing peppers and mushrooms.  If only they knew!

 

find a vegetable they love…

…and serve it all. the. time.  Maybe love is a strong word, but even the pickiest of eaters will have one or two veggies that they will actually eat.  And most kids will happily eat the same foods over and over again – if you’re on to a winning thing don’t feel like you need to shake it up too much.  I know with my kids that corn on the cob, onions, broccoli and salad all go down well.  Making sure at least one of those is included in every meal is a sure fire way of getting kids to eat vegetables.

 

getting kids to eat vegetables

 

encourage them to try one bite

Sometimes kids just hate a vegetable on sight.  They’ve never even tried it, but they hate it.  In our house, we encourage the kids just to try one bite.  Usually, they still decide they hate it (stubborn boys, never like to be proven wrong).  But I like to cultivate an attitude of trying new tastes.  Every now and then, something is just too yummy for them to resist.

 

make food fun

I try not to labour the point of how healthy and good for you vegetables are.  What kid cares about that?  Kids are about fun, and so tapping in to that with food can be a good way of getting kids to eat vegetables.

My boys love corn on the cob, but I think part of that is the cute little corn-shaped handles we use.  I’ve also managed to get my kids to eat vegetables more easily if they’ve been involved in preparing them – shelling peas, peeling mushrooms, or even learning safe knife skills can all be fun ways to get them excited about food.  And as I learned from our trip the pumpkin patch, a Pick Your Own farm (or even growing your own) can also spark a kid’s curiosity about veggies.

 

chill out

So, your kids wont eat a single vegetable and you’ve tried everything?  Well, good for you for trying.  As a parent, that’s all you can do.  A lot of the time, the best thing for getting kids to eat vegetables is to wait for them to grow out of the picky stage.  Until then, don’t stress it.  Just make sure they take a good multivitamin and keep setting a good example by eating the veggies on your own plate.

 

I hope my tips help ease some of the dinner time stress that can come when it#s kids versus veggies.  If you have a tip, I’d love to read it so drop me a comment below!

 

 
This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not getting paid for the content, but it does contain affiliate links.  You can read more about my affiliate policy here.

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home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies

Before our youngest son was born, I blogged about my plans to give birth at home.  It had been my hope all along to have a home birth, and I was very lucky that my dreams became a reality.  Now that our baby is nearly three months old, I wanted to reflect on our incredible experience…and the bullshit that comes with wanting to give birth in the comfort of your own home.

I thought I’d turn this in to a mini-series. In this first post I talk about why home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies.  Look out for future posts about my own experience, and why I think every woman should consider a home birth.

home birth - not just for crazy hippies

 

only hippies home birth

Thanks to stellar “news” sources such as Channel5 documentaries and the Daily Fail, we know that childbirth is a traumatic and dangerous experience.  So it stands to reason that only crazy hippies who care more about their birth experience than the safety of their unborn child would plan to give birth beyond the safety net of a hospital.

It may come as some surprise to you that I shave my armpits.  Or that I vaccinate my kids.  Or that I don’t breastfeed, I’m not vegan, I send my sons to mainstream school and I have never eaten/drank/planted any of my placentas*.  I also most certainly don’t think I know more than any midwives or obstetricians. Have I forgotten any stereotypes of your typical home birthing woman?  No?  Good.

 

what kind of weirdo are you?

I trained as a midwife many moons ago, so know that most of the time birth isn’t traumatic and it isn’t dangerous.  I also didn’t think that only deluded eccentrics gave birth outside the confines of the labour ward. But I’ll admit, home birth was something that was never on my personal radar.

Until I gave birth in a car park.

Trust me, that will change your perspective on most things.  An unattended delivery in my husband’s car with an audience of strangers was not on my birth plan. It made me certain that next time around I would do all I could to have a calm, positive experience.  It made sense that being in my own home would be the best way to ensure that happened.

 

announcing our home birth plans

I was embarrassed to tell people about my plans though, out of fear of what they might think.  I’m lucky that I don’t have many people in my life who are straight up arseholes, so I was never treated to some of the choice comments I know other home birth mums have received.  Like being accused of wanting a home birth purely to have a dramatic story to tell when it all went wrong.  Can you imagine saying that to someone?

But what I did experience a lot was The Look.  That split second where a person’s thoughts are displayed on their face before they remember to rearrange their features.  The Look is usually followed by “oh really?”  And about nine times out of ten the person then goes on to tell you they would never have a home birth because they/their partner/someone they met once on the bus had a horrible 5 day labour which ended up with failed forceps and an emergency Cesarean under general anaesthetic with a three week stay in hospital for an infection.  Thanks Belinda, for sharing your experience.

It took me a while to feel confident enough to state our plans.  I had a store of responses for the comments I was likely to get.  Most of the reactions focused on pain relief, so the fact I’d had a drug-free labour previously made it easier for me to prove to others that I was just fine on that front, thanks.  My midwifery experience also came in handy to bat off those who tried to scare me about safety aspects.  I was able to stop them in their tracks with the fact that in a healthy pregnancy with a history of uncomplicated previous deliveries, giving birth at home with a midwife was just as safe as delivering in a hospital1.

 

getting midwife support

I was still scared to tell people that I wanted to give birth at home, in case it didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to build up an image of the birth only for people to say “I told you so” if plans had to change.  Not just for my own self-preservation, but on behalf of home birthers everywhere.  I didn’t want to let the side down.

When a hospital birth doesn’t go the way the parents hope for, there is (quite rightly) sympathy and morale bolstering.  But when a home birth has to be abandoned or transferred to hospital, there is a lot of tutting and “well what did she expect” type comments.  Not always, not from all, but audible enough.

I was even nervous to ask the midwife if it would be possible.  As if I had to ask permission. I was worried that she’d see me as a trouble patient.  Someone who was going to be difficult or demanding or who would refuse all advice.  Because that’s what a typical home birth mum is like – tv tells us so.  Home birthers only believe in alternative therapies, and if they don’t agree with their care providers they’re liable to go rogue and freebirth in a forest somewhere.

I didn’t have the most supportive of midwives, either. The one I saw most frequently made a point at each appointment of up-selling the birthing unit.  She always cheerfully reminded me that if someone else went in to labour at the same time I’d have to go to hospital because there would be no staff.  Her argument was that I might want to save myself the worry and just go for a hospital birth anyway.  She sent me for growth scans, and started pushing for induction as soon as I went past my due dates2.

Thankfully I did also have some supportive midwives, as well as a close friend who is a midwife passionate about home birth.  I also joined various Facebook groups to get advice and reassurance from some incredibly knowledgeable women.  I was able to counteract the lack of professional support, but I don’t think it’s always so easy.

 

support women’s birth choices

Women – all types of women – deserve to have their birth options open. For some, a medical condition or a complication with their pregnancy means that hospital is absolutely the safest place to give birth.  But for so many other women, a home birth can be perfect.  It reduces their risk of medical intervention3, can help them cope better with labour and is ultimately more relaxing than being in a medicalised environment4.

Stereotyping those who chose home birth as weird or selfish means that so many women who might chose a home birth just wont even consider it.  We live in a society which is obsessed with negative birth experiences.  Many times I’ve seen people claim that women who share their positive experiences are showing off.  That they’re rubbing it in the faces of those who had more traumatic routes into motherhood.  But focusing on what can go wrong blinds so many to what goes right, the majority of the time.

Why perpetuate a myth which cheats a woman out of a positive birth experience?

If someone tells you that they’re planning to birth at home, the correct response is “good for you.”  Not “wow, I couldn’t do that…but good for you” or “you’re brave…but good for you.”  Just “good for you.”  Because after all, home birth is good for her.  Whether she’s a hippie or not.

 

 

* I’m not bashing any of these things, they’re all valid life choices.**  Except not vaccinating your kids…that just makes you dangerous.

** Whilst I shave my armpits, I have been known to leave it a very long time between shaves…

 

1 NCT – home birth
2 Home Birth Reference Site – you can’t have a home birth because…
3 “Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.”
4
AIMS – benefits of home birth

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first day of school – how we prepared for our baby starting primary

It’s that time of year. Summer holidays are over and the schools are back.  I’ve seen the Dear Teacher poem doing the rounds on social media, read blogs by mothers distraught at the thought of their little one walking through the doors of “big school” and clicked past countless adverts for iron-on name tags.  Parents all over the country are packing their babies off for their first day of school.

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby starting primary

This year we joined them, watching our four year old toddle off for his first day of school.  It’s a rite of passage, for parents as much as for the kids.  One which is meant to come with tears and bittersweet longing for the baby you were holding only yesterday.

But actually, I wasn’t one of the sobbing mums having to be peeled off her child and bodily removed from the classroom.  I found this next adventure exciting. I couldn’t wait to see him in his uniform and to share in his first day with him.  Hubs and I walked out of the school that first morning beaming.  Not distraught, but proud.

 

the build up to the first day of school

I hadn’t always expected to feel so positive on his first day of school.  When school sign-up time came around he still seemed far too small for that to be looming already.  I worried that school would be a scary and difficult place for our little guy who still needed us so much.

But there have been many steps up to the school gates.  With each of those steps we’ve felt a bit more ready. When we signed him up, he and I were given a tour of the school.  The nursery also took him to spend some time there, and the teachers visited the nursery.  Then came a couple of sessions where the kids spent a few hours in the classroom without parents or nursery staff.  The end of nursery was signalled by an adorable graduation day, and folders of all his work to bring home.

This all brought nursery to a gentle close, and opened the school gates to welcome our little man.  It meant I could happily watch him disappear into the classroom with a herd of other tiny little people without wanting to break down.  He was happy to go too, and has loved it every day since.  He’s become a bit of a role model, taking kids who aren’t so happy to be dropped off each morning under his wing.  He comes out of school grinning at 3pm, with his shoes all scuffed, shirt untucked and tie skew-whiff as if he’s been on the go all day!

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby's first day of primary

 

help prepare your little one (and you) for the first day of school

I know we’re quite lucky that our transition from pre-schooler to primary school kid has been so smooth.  And I know that not every child will find it so easy to make that leap.  Even children that have been through the exact same settling in process as our boy struggled on the first day of school.  A week later some are still crying and having to be coaxed through the gates.

I thought I would share some of the things we did to prepare our son for school. I hope it will help even one other parent avoid the school gate heartbreak:

  • Talk about school
    We talked about school every day over the summer.  Sometimes it was just a comment – “you’ll get to do that at school.”  At other times we read books about school, or just had a chat about how he was feeling.  We also pointed out some things that would change too, like having to wipe his own bum!
    I took his lead – if he wasn’t interested I didn’t push it. I wanted school to be a positive topic.
  • Make school familiar
    We drove past the school whenever we could, and pointed out children in the uniform.  To give him ownership we referred to it as “your school” and we didn’t call it “big school” either, to avoid it seeming intimidating.
  • Try on the uniform
    I bought my son’s uniform way back at the start of the summer. We tried it on at the time, but it then lived in his wardrobe for weeks.  I tried it on him again the week before school started, more to make sure the trousers didn’t need taken up, but I think this made him more comfortable.  I wasn’t sure how he’d cope with a shirt and tie (he refused to wear one even for our wedding!), but he’d got used to it by the time the first day rolled around.
  • Build independence
    As a full time working mum trying to get two kids out the house by 7.15am each day, sometimes it was just easier to do certain things. But in the run-up to the first day of school I made an effort to encourage more responsibility.  Things such as dressing himself, carrying his own bag, finding his own belongings at the end of the nursery day and yes, wiping his own bum.  I also encouraged him to carry his own plate to the table. I even got him to use toilet cubicles on his own when we were out in public (I think that was scarier for me than him!).  This all built him up, and made me more confident that he’d be ok doing these things at school.
  • Get used to other kids
    Having been in childcare since he was a baby, our son is well used to other kids.  But they’re the same kids he’s been with for most of his life. The move to school meant new faces and personalities to get used to.
    Soft play was really helpful in teaching him how to deal with strangers, either turning them into friends or coping with behaviour that he didn’t like.  So far at school he sticks with his nursery friends, but they are very close so I’d expect that.  He is learning new names and getting to know other children too though, and is confident enough to say hi when we see them outside of school too.
  • Routine, routine, routine
    I think this is key to any aspect of a young child’s life, they thrive on routine. Again, we had it easy with this one.  We’ve been in a routine of getting up, fed, dressed and out the house for 7.15 every day since our son was tiny. But over the summer (and with a newborn) this routine slipped. In the weeks before school started I made an effort to impose structure to our day again.  That has helped our mornings run smoothly – we haven’t been late once so far!
    Routine also goes for what happens after school too. We use the walk home to unpack his day, get some fresh air and have a snack. Then we get homework out the way and make sure everything is ready for the next day when we get home.  That means the evening is his to play as he wants.

 

new school kid on the block

I’ve gone from thinking he wasn’t ready, to wondering if the teachers are ready for him!  Our son is a vibrant little boy who is always talking and wanting to know everything. We frequently describe him as “full on” because he doesn’t seem to have an off switch.  He is confident, articulate and picks things up quickly, and school hasn’t intimidated or unsettled him. He has big ideas and the vocabulary to match.  But  he can be stubborn and determined, even in the face of adult opposition, so I wonder how he’ll get on having to sit quietly or do the prescribed work if there’s something he’d rather be doing!

I guess we’ll find out when parents’ evening rolls around!

 

Good luck to any other parents about to send their little one off to primary school.  Each milestone takes them further away from the tiny babies they were, but see it as an exciting adventure. Think of all that they’ve got to look forward to!

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interview with a teenager – my son’s hopes, fears + thoughts

I’ve not had the chance to blog this week, we’ve been really busy.  Here in Scotland the summer holidays are over, and school starts back tomorrow.  I’ve been trying to cram a whole summer’s worth of days out into the last ten days, to make up to the teenager and the four year old for being busy with a new born for most of the holidays.

I feel sad that the end of the holidays has come around so soon.  Not least because the four year old will be starting primary school.  But that’s a whole other blog post of its own…which I’m not quite ready to process.  I thought I’d focus on my teenager today instead.

interview with a teenager

 

 

Old House In The Shires tagged me (a long while back!) in her “Questions For My Teens” tag, and I think that the start of the school year is a great time to interview my son.  I’m interested in what his answers will be, and to see what he thinks come the end of the school year.

 

back to school worries

The teenager is 15 now, and heading into fourth year at school.  That means his first exams are waiting for him in the shape of his National 5’s.  Does that worry me?  Not in the slightest.  He’s an incredibly smart kid who knows where he wants his studies to take him.  It’s what the school year holds for him that worries me.  As I mentioned before in my good, bad & ugly of parenting a teen, he has experienced bullying since high school started.

My son is a great kid. He’s kind and polite, clever and sporty. He gets on with adults.  He’s even helpful around the house (when he’s nagged!).  But these traits make him the subject of jealousy and a “soft target”, especially for one little shit in particular.  A little shit who unfortunately has a lot of cronies who blindly accept his opinion as their own. Things did start to get better towards the end of the last term, mainly because my son finally let me speak to the school.  Some of the perpetrators seem to have grown a conscience too, with one apologising for what he’d done.  But although I am hopeful that he can put it behind him, I can’t help but be concerned that it isn’t over yet.

I wonder if exams and bullying are on his mind too.  Will they come out in his answers, or is he less concerned about these things than me?

 

questions for my teenager

  1. What are your greatest fears at the moment?
    His first answer was that he was scared of the dark, which surprised me.  He also doesn’t like spiders but I knew that, as I’m the resident spider catcher in our house!  But when I asked him about bigger fears he said “I’m scared of not succeeding.  About not getting a good job or having a good life.”  I said that was pretty big stuff, and asked him if he was worried about exams – not at all!

  2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years time?
    He said he sees himself either travelling the world or at university.  He wants to travel before studying though, doing volunteer work in the third world but also going to places like New York.  He’s always wanted to study technology, and for the longest time wanted to be a games or software designer. So his answer surprised me when he said “I want to do something with music tech.”  This is a new subject that has opened up to him this year, which brings his love of tech to his natural talent for music (he’s been playing the piano for four years).  He said as soon as he started the subject he found it fascinating and so really wants to follow it.

  3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?
    He said he was torn between John Logie Baird (inventor of the television, and famous son of our town) and Einstein.  Why?  “Because both made massive changes to the world. If I could meet one of them I’d like to see them going through all their work to the end.”

  4. What makes you angry and why?
    “Not getting to spend a lot of time on my computers and stuff. And sometimes I have to turn them off right in the middle of something as well.”  This makes me laugh so much, he really is obsessed with computers.  Oh to be 15 again. Imagine your biggest stressor being how much time you got (or didn’t get) to play computer games!

  5. Do you believe in having a soul-mate and true love?
    “Yes. Some people are meant to be with each other.” When I asked him if he thinks there is just the one person for each of us he said “there could be multiple people for different people.”  I’m glad of that. I think it’s a dangerous mind set to think there is only one person out there.  I’m happy my son will hopefully be less inclined to stay with someone bad for him in the misguided belief that they’re the one.

  6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?
    “Probably the worst part is always being tired. The best part is probably seeing yourself going through all these changes.” And yes, he meant puberty. I guess it’s nice to know he’s not scared or uncomfortable in his changing body!

  7. What would be your perfect day?
    Jeez, this one was like blood from a stone and his response was typically geeky.  You can count me out of joining him!  “Winning an eSports tournament (which is apparently gaming, but the best in the world). And getting to meet all the famous YouTubers and gamers.”

  8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
    “I would build a nice big house abroad, buy a nice car and then send a huge chunk to a charity, like Water Aid.”  Thankfully no computers!
This was quite a cool thing to do, I got the chance to speak to him about his ideas about travelling and his thoughts on other things which may not have come up in normal conversation. I think I’m meant to tag other bloggers with teens, but actually I don’t know any!  I’ll be linking up with the Tweens, Teens & Beyond linky with this though, so I’d love it if anyone from there wants to carry this on with their own interview with their teenager!

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my postnatal body after baby number three

 

Following on from my recent post about how to love your postnatal body, I thought now would be a good time to talk about my postnatal body following the birth of baby number three.  I don’t think we talk enough about what those first few weeks and days following birth are like.  I know after my first baby I was clueless about what was going to hit me!

By baby number three I knew what to expect, but with each pregnancy the postnatal changes and symptoms get stronger.  I can safely say that the initial postpartum period after this baby was the toughest of the three.  Considering this was the only time I’ve not had stitches after birth, that’s really saying something!

 

after pains and maternity pads

Why had no one warned me that the after pains this time around were going to be an absolute bitch?!  It seemed crazy that I was popping so many pain killers to cope with the cramps, when I’d had a drug-free labour.  And the bleeding that went along with the cramps…jeez.  Lets just say I didn’t know you could have lightning reflexes when sleep deprived, until I had to make the transition from shower to maternity nappy pad without making the bathroom look like the scene from Psycho.

 

boobs after birth

Considering I was slowed down by the lumps of concrete which had replaced my boobs, my shower time ninja stylings are even more impressive. For over a week after my milk came in, I had tits of steel.  Painful tits of steel. The slightest wobble made them ache, so I ended up wearing two bras to keep them steady.  As I’ve mentioned before, I formula feed for various reasons, including a previous breast reduction which has left me unable to breastfeed, so the engorgement with no way to get that milk to my baby was a bit of a kicker.  I’m glad I’d already been through the disappointment of not being able to breastfeed and made my peace with it.  Otherwise, hauling those useless uber boobs around could have really got to me.  As it was, I quite enjoyed the big postnatal cleavage but remembered why I’d had a reduction in the first place!

 

the mummy tummy

While my boobs were swelling, my belly shrank.  I feel that this time around, my bump disappeared almost as soon as I’d given birth.  My belly went back to normal within a matter of days.  This isn’t quite as miraculous as that sounds. I’ve never had a flat or toned stomach, so “normal” for me is a bit rounded and wobbly anyway! But I was back in pre-pregnancy jeans just over a week after giving birth.  I always thought that was the holy grail of postnatal statements, but actually I was upset to see my bump go.  I loved my pregnant body this time around.  As Hubs is still adamant that we’re done having babies, the end of pregnancy was quite a sad point for me.

 

symphysis pubis dysfunction and diastasis recti

Despite not suffering from SPD in this pregnancy, I ended up with a case of it after birth.  I could barely walk up the stairs at times, and my pelvis felt like it was grinding when I moved.  But it resolved itself, and was gone by the time I got a physio appointment.

I still went to the appointment though, and it was useful.  We talked about postnatal exercise and she checked me for any abdominal separation.  I was convinced I’d have some sort of diastasis recti.  Especially considering my midwife insisted on mentioning my “loose abdominal muscles” at every opportunity.  But if I did have any separation, it was gone by the time she examined me at four weeks postpartum.  We talked about the importance of starting with low impact exercise, and only introducing weight training gradually to avoid putting pressure on my weakened pelvis.

 

postnatal sweating and hair loss

I’m now six weeks after birth, and feel basically back to normal.  Albeit a very sweaty version of normal – I had forgotten about the post-baby sweats, especially at night.  I’ve got a permanent sheen on during the day, and am often soaked when I wake up for night feeds.  I feel constantly grotty, which is a cruel trick of nature when a limpet-like newborn makes it that fucking difficult to jump in the shower.

And speaking of washing, I’ve noticed changes to my hair already.  During pregnancy I only needed to wash it every three to four days (and even then just for cleanliness, as opposed to it being oily).  Now I’m back to needing to wash it almost every other day.  I’m just biding my time before the inevitable postnatal hair loss kicks in, to make me feel really sexy.

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how to love your postnatal body

I’m now five weeks postnatal following the birth of baby number three. Getting to a healthy weight and returning to fitness are on my mind, but I’m not rushing into making big changes. Part of that is because this is the first time I’ve looked in the mirror after having a baby and not hated what I saw.  I’d even go so far as to say I’m happy with what I see.  For me that is huge, as I’ve fought with my body for my entire life. I don’t think I even liked it very much at my slimmest.

To not be repulsed when I look in the mirror is ground breaking for me.  It’s empowering to be comfortable with my postnatal body. It means that I don’t have a dark cloud of  body hatred to add to the already stressful and exhausting emotions and challenges life with a new baby can throw at you.

I’d also like to state here that I’m no supermodel.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in reading about women who had flawless bodies before they got pregnant saying they love their postnatal bodies.  I know they say they’re doing it to help others, but seeing a woman who had a six pack pre-pregnancy post a picture of a slightly bloated belly with possibly two token stretch marks a week after giving birth doesn’t help me.  It depresses the shit out of me. Lets be honest here – even pre-pregnancy I was overweight, with loose skin from a big weight loss, covered in stretch marks from boob to bits from previous pregnancies and with cellulite over practically the whole back of my body.  So if I can say I love my postnatal body, I hope you can too.

I thought I’d reflect on what I think has brought me to this point.  I hope that it helps others.  There have definitely been things from before, during and now after pregnancy which have contributed to me feeling so positive. Hopefully there’s something here that strikes a chord with you. I hope it encourages you to make friends with your changing body.

 

Before Pregnancy

The biggest thing which has helped change my relationship with my body has been exercise.  I had stopped seeing exercise as a chore and found things I enjoyed doing.  I wasn’t consistent, and actually hadn’t worked out much for a couple of months by the time we got our positive test, but I was definitely seeing the benefits of being active.

Doing exercise I loved meant that for the first time in my life I was using my body for fun.  Before that, my body wasn’t an exciting place to be.  But with activity I wanted to do, suddenly my body and I were having a great time together.

I also gained an appreciation for what my body could do.  It turned out my saggy, sad shell wasn’t a write-off.  It actually could learn to dance, it could run further than I’d ever imagined and it could lift weights.  My body was strong and capable, it could meet the goals and challenges I set it.  That was an exciting revelation.  It has left me wondering how much it could achieve if only I give it the chance.

Exercise also prepared my body for pregnancy.  Without intending to, I set myself up to have the best pregnancy of my life by getting active.

 

During Pregnancy

Looking after my body during pregnancy and learning all I could about labour really helped me.

I’ve blogged before about how I managed my weight during pregnancy and that I continued to exercise during pregnancy.  The temptation to eat for two and hibernate is strong when you’re creating a tiny human. Especially in that nasty first trimester.  But nourishing and moving your body is key to coping with the general discomforts and tiredness of pregnancy. I was able to enjoy my changing body rather than freak out about feeling “fat” or out of control.  I actually felt pretty damn beautiful.

I’ve also blogged about my hopes for a hypnobirth, and how Hubs and I did a course to prepare us.  That experience was a refresher of all the amazing things your body does during labour. The hypnobirthing mind set is that you work with your body rather than fighting against perceptions of pain or fear.  My body and I became a team. I had a new appreciation of what it had to do to bring my baby into the world.

 

After Pregnancy

No matter how you give birth, you can reflect that your body went through a lot to ensure that both you and your baby are here. I was very lucky this time to finally get exactly the sort of birth I had always hoped for. For the first time I came away from birth in a positive state of mind.  Appreciating what my body achieved showed me that what I look like is not as important as what I can do.  I just have to gaze at my gorgeous new son to be in awe of the fact that I made this.  How can you hate a body that gave you your children?

A bit of self-kindness is vital.  Particularly in the time after birth where you’re leaking blood and milk and sweat and drool (seriously, I’ve started drooling in my sleep since having a baby – someone tell me this is normal?!). I cut myself slack when I wanted to fuel myself on chocolate and cake in the first few (ok, five) weeks. And whilst I’m really keen to get back into my exercise I’m also being realistic about my body’s need to recover, the limited free time I have and my non-existent energy levels.

I don’t want to emulate women in the public eye who “bounce back” to their pre-pregnancy size by dieting and hitting the gym before their baby’s cord has even fallen off.  I’m taking the time to just “be” in my postnatal body. I still have to get my head around juggling a new baby and all my other responsibilities. My squidgy tummy is not a priority!  Physical health isn’t achievable without a good state of mind. I’m focusing on that side of things first.

 

Loving Your Postnatal Body

It’s always possible to do things which will help you look at your postnatal body in a positive light.  If you’re yet to get pregnant you can start right now by finding exercise which you love and which shows you what your body is capable of.  If you’re pregnant, putting your health first will make you feel positive and learning about just how incredible the labouring body is will help you appreciate yourself more. And if your baby is already here, reflect on what a wonderful gift your body has given you and practice some self-kindness.

So much is made about “getting your body back” after a baby, but in reality you will never get the same body as you had before.  Instead, you have something even better – your postnatal body.

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newborns are hard work…even for us seasoned pros

Look at me, dipping my toe out of the newborn fog and back into blogging again. I apologise in advance if sections of this post don’t make sense, but it will either be because I’m typing one handed or because right now I struggle to think far beyond when the next bottle is due.

Baby number three is a month old now…how did that happen?! I’ve spent the last four weeks alternatively sitting immobile on the sofa gazing at the beautiful sleeping baby in my arms, or bouncing on the exercise ball trying to get him to stop crying, or plotting ways to kill Hubs as he dared to get 45 minutes more sleep than me. Baby boy is equal parts squishy newborn deliciousness and colicky all-nighter hard work, and I swing from thinking I’ve got this baby-wrangling thing down to wanting to hide in the cupboard under the stairs with a big bar of chocolate and a tranquiliser.

I’ve got to be honest, going from two kids to three has utterly floored me. The ten year age gap between my first two sons lured me into a false sense of security when I made the step from one kid to two – I wasn’t juggling two young children and at times even had an extra pair of willing hands to help. But adding a clingy baby to a household already ruled by a high maintenance, full-on four year old? Whole other ball game. A ball game at which I’m very much last-picked-for-the-team.

In the first few weeks of our baby’s arrival, I read posts by two separate bloggers who had also recently given birth. Both these women said the same thing – that their new addition fit perfectly into a little gap in their family which they hadn’t even known existed until their baby arrived to fill it. Beautiful. A lovely sentiment about completing a family with ease. It brought tears to my eyes both times I read it. But these weren’t blissful tears as I nodded in agreement at how wonderfully their words summed up my feelings. These were tears because how I felt couldn’t be further removed.  Baby number three hasn’t fit into a little gap to complete our family. No. Right now it feels as if he’s burst right through it like a tornado.

I haven’t cooked a meal since I was pregnant and my house looks like it’s been robbed. The four year old is basically being raised by the iPad and the teenager has become a spare pair of arms to thrust a squealing baby into when a feed needs made up. Hubs is also under no illusions how much I hate his inability to whisper when I’m trying to sleep. The nursery run is always an hour late, I am fuelled by coffee and junk food, and I consider just showering an achievement. Dinner times are accompanied by the sound of baby cries bouncing off the dining room walls, and I’ve never watched so much shit daytime tv. I feel as if I’m barely functioning, and my hopes of a fun-packed summer holidays with my older boys whilst my newborn snuggled in the sling have evaporated faster than my breastmilk.

This isn’t to say I’m not enjoying our new wee bundle. He is incredible and I can’t get enough of his snuggles and velvety soft hair, watching him grow and change each day as I sit and gaze at him, filling my phone memory with pictures of his gorgeous little face. I love having him so much that I actually feel physical pain every time Hubs makes it very clear there will in no way be a baby number four, because if I had my way I’d be knocked up again already.

And so whilst having done the newborn thing twice before obviously hasn’t made third time around any easier, it has made me feel less guilty about not loving every single second. I’m feeling more hash-tag-stressed than hash-tag-blessed, but I’m totally fine admitting that. At least the kids are fed, and I’ve even managed to clean the bathroom a few times so we don’t need haz-mat suits just yet. The four year old is learning how not to be the centre of attention, the teen is in no rush to become a young parent, and Hubs has had a shag. Occasionally I’ll even remember to do my pelvic floor exercises, or eat a vegetable. None of that will make a nice Insta-brag, but we’re managing to keep things ticking over. I’m taking it all as a win.

I don’t do the soft-focus version of motherhood, so I shouldn’t have let those other bloggers’ descriptions of their newborns upset me. Blame hormones, blame my inability (again) to produce one of these mythical “easy” babies, or more accurately blame the insane pressure mums are under to hit the ground running floating when a new baby makes an appearance, but I did have a few days under a dark cloud of not being enough. But as time goes on I’ve got my perspective back. Newborns are hard work, clingy newborns with other siblings demanding your love and attention are even harder work, especially when you throw anxiety and depression into the mix. If anyone expects me to glide through that with a serene smile on my face and not a single swear word in my vocabulary, then they’ll need to dose me up with Valium first.

Actually…that doesn’t sound like too bad an idea.

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5 things i hate about having a baby

 

I’m aware I’ve become quite the baby bore on this blog, but you’ll have to indulge me.  I’m over my due date with my final baby, so my mind is totally one-track just now.  I seem to be fueled by biscuits at the moment too, so I’m not exactly living the healthy dream…I’d be a major hypocrite if I wrote about health just now.

The main stops on my single track are the birth, wondering just how squishy baby boys cheeks will be and the fear of broken sleep.  But there are some minor stops that I pause at now and again, and recently one of these was flashbacks to some of the things that really twisted my over-inflated melons when my older boys were babies.

So as I’m struggling to put together coherent sentences right now, how about a list – what sucks about having a baby?

 

  • Strangers touching my baby

    Now, I know – babies are irresistible to most of us.  It’s part of their survival schtick – you may be running from that saber toothed tiger, but of course you’re not going to leave this adorable little bundle behind.  They cry out (literally) to be held, stroked and fawned over.  But there are no saber toothed tigers kicking about the high street and a baby in a pram is in no immediate danger…so why do so many randoms feel the need to shove their dirty paws near my kid?  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be prodded by a grubby finger when I was dozing…
    I remember being at a craft sale once, and one of the vendors was selling little signs for prams. A lot of them were cutesy, pukey “princess on board” type things, but one caught my eye – “please don’t touch the baby.”  I’m not sure how I feel about that, it seemed a bit presumptive and aggressive for wee timid me.  But this time around I’m tempted to just keep the insect net over the pram, or hang a alcohol gel bottle in a prominent place as the world’s most ugly pram ornament, just to make my position clear.  Maybe some barbed wire too.

  • Parent and child parking spaces

    Or more specifically, the selfish bastards who use them when they don’t have kids. Or those who use them when their kid is old enough to get in and out the car unaided – if your son has started to shave, you don’t need that space.
    Now, I need to tread carefully here as my rage could bring on labour (and I can’t go into labour today because I’ve promised the four year old we’ll make scones. Don’t judge, at least it’s a change from biscuits).  But my god, just how lazy do you have to be to use a parent and child space when other spaces are literally 20 yards away?  And before some child-free troll jumps on that and thinks they’re smart by flipping it and asking me why don’t I just park in the spaces 20 yards away myself – *newsflash* the point of parent and child spaces is not just that they’re closer to the shop door.  For your fat arse, this may be the perk.  But for parents the perk is  s a f e t y .   I would happily use a parent and child space that was actually further away from the shop, if it meant that sloths who park without a thought for anyone else stayed well away.
    See how they’re wider than a usual space?  That is the crucial part – when you’re putting a car seat in a car or wrestling a toddler into their seat belt you need to fling those doors wide open.  I remember a few times when my youngest was little having to leave the pram unattended at the side of the road because I had to move my car out of a regular space before I could open the door wide enough to put the car seat in.  That’s dangerous, but when you’re on your own and some white van is sitting in the last parent and child space you literally have no choice.

  • Public baby change facilities

    Oh god…you can really tell an establishment by the state of its baby change facilities. And I don’t mean just whether they have them or not, or even the placement of them (right by the hand dryer? Really?).  I mean how often they’re cleaned.  And most places, I’d guess never. I carry antibacterial wipes with me everywhere when I have a baby, and more times than I can count I’ve dry heaved at the colour of the wipe after I’ve given the change unit a clean before setting down my mat.
    And who knew other parents were such skanky shit-smearers?  We all know about those nappies, the ones that make you just want to throw everything in the bin, baby included, because the prospect of cleaning your way through that mess is just too awful.  But guess what?  That doesn’t mean you make the best of it and then leave the carnage behind for the next poor parent to lay their kid in.  Just as I clean the unit before I use it, I also clean it afterwards…just in case of rogue poo crumbs.

  • Public high chairs

    Speaking of the minging hygiene levels of establishments and fellow parents, why don’t we roll out the communal high chair?  With it’s crusty deposits and suspiciously gunky straps, or if you’re really lucky the entire remains of whatever crap the last inhabitant was eating playing with, my antibac wipes earn their keep on these babies.  I know a bit of dirt is good for the immune system, but I don’t think e coli is in the acceptable germs list…

  • Life getting in the way

    All the above rants have something in common.  They involve leaving the house.  And that is what I hate most about having a baby, particularly a newborn – life getting in the way when all you want to do is sit on the sofa and gaze at your little miracle.  Who wants to deal with other people, their selfish parking or grotty habits when in your arms is the whole world?

 

And on that last thought, the steam has stopped shooting from my ears and I’m brought back to what this is all about.  Because as much as there is a whole heap of crap to wade through when trying to raise a kid, it all pales into insignificance against a backdrop of snuggles, first smiles and that baby smell.

But seriously people…at least clean the change facilities after yourselves.

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my pregnancy at 40 weeks

So Tuesday was my due date, and as I’ve said all along it came and went without much sign of impending labour.  I’ll be honest, this is a scheduled post which I actually wrote on Wednesday so there is a chance I could have gone into labour by now…but I’m guessing probably not.  This little man really isn’t allowed to make an appearance until today anyway, as our four year old had his sports day on Friday and his nursery graduation yesterday so I wanted to hold on until after those!

The past few weeks have seen me doing some half-hearted nesting (though there was one day where I actually crawled under our bed to do a thorough hoover, dragging out all the storage boxes that live in there and sorting through their contents), and swinging from alternatively being ready for baby boys arrival to feeling as if I could still use a few days before he gets here!

So how have things progressed since I last updated at 37 weeks?

Body at 40 weeks

  • I am uncomfortable a lot of the time now!  I actually think I’ve been struck by some late-onset SPD, which is just fucking wonderful.  At least it didn’t rear its ugly head until now, unlike my last pregnancy where it plagued me from about 30 weeks.  Getting up from sitting, or rolling over in bed are when it’s worst, but it’s even making me avoid sitting on my birth ball as the discomfort afterwards makes my eyes water.
  • Weight wise, I’ve remained fairly stable and am still sitting about a stone heavier than I was when I being mindful about my weight at 18 weeks and probably 1.5 stone (21lbs) overall.  I’m still hopeful that at least 10lb of that is baby, fluid and placenta!
  • The trapped wind is back most days too, though not as painful as it was before.  Now I just have to put up with some crazy noises, which sound like little jets of gas going off in an empty tunnel…if I wasn’t reminded by a very wriggly baby that the opposite is true, I’d think my bump was hollow.

Mind at 40 weeks

  • I’ve still not really found that calm headspace I was hoping would come with maternity leave.  I’m constantly worried about the house not being clean enough to give birth in…and I know a lot of that is nesting, but it is driving me a little bit bonkers.
  • I do feel more ready to meet our boy now.  I know previously I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to let this last pregnancy go, but now my feelings of excitement and curiosity about meeting this wee bundle are taking over and I can’t wait to see what he looks like.  I still can’t quite imagine him being here, but I can’t wait until he is.
  • I am feeling a little isolated though.  I don’t have the energy to make plans to see anyone, and I think (hope) my friends are giving me space in my final days, so as a result I do feel a bit of a recluse.
  • On the flip side, my mum wont leave me alone and this is really stressing me out.  I’m tempted to not answer her calls, but I know she’d be up at the door if I left it too long.  And I know she’s just worried and wants to support me, but I’ve said all along that I don’t want her around when I’m in labour.  She is very full-on and smothers me, to the point where I think that’s why I made some choices in my last labour which I hadn’t planned to make.  I’ve asked her outright to give me some space, but she is choosing to ignore that…so maybe it isn’t just nesting that is stopping me from fully relaxing.

Baby at 40 weeks

  • After a few weeks of panicking that he was stubbornly lying back to back, he finally turned at 39 weeks and seems happy…maybe too happy, if the passing of his due date without event is anything to go by!
  • He is still ninja kicking like crazy.  I’m surprised he has any room in there for the antics he gets up to, but considering a woman I didn’t even know commented on how much she could see my belly moving from across a room the other day it would appear he can make room.
  • We had a clear out of the four year old’s room at the weekend, and got rid of some of the baby toys we had originally kept.  We’re aware that this wee one is going to be the hand-me-down kid, so figured we should create some space for him to at least get the odd new thing once in a while!

Fuel, Fitness & Rest

  • I have zero energy, even though I’m still sleeping most of the night.  A wander round the supermarket makes me need a lie down before I can function again, so it goes without saying that exercise has been non-existent.  I’m ok with that though, I did well to keep working out until week 38 and it would be stupid to push myself right now.
  • I’m fighting diet demons though.  I’m hungry all the time, but although my meals are generally still very nutritious I’m eating a lot of crap in between.  I don’t expect to be “dieting” right now and I think it’s fine to cut myself some slack, but I feel a bit out of control. I’m angry with myself at making such horrendous processed and sugary snack choices…I thought I knew better than that.
  • I’ve struggled to make time to work on relaxation, and I know that I could really benefit from it.  I’m planning on using hypnobirthing techniques in labour so I really should have been prioritising that.

 

So the end is in sight, and hopefully my next update will be to announce this little man’s arrival.  I can’t believe how quickly or how well this pregnancy has gone, I couldn’t have asked for a better one to end my childbearing days with.  I’m gutted I wont be doing this again!  All that remains is to trust that I will get the birth I have planned for, and to wait it out until I can hold my new baby in my arms.

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i formula feed…so what?

I’m aware that with my multiple posts on how I plan to give birth at home, in a birth pool using hypnobirthing techniques I may have given the impression that I’m something of an earth mother. A natural mother. A “proper” mother. So allow me to drop the bomb that will shatter that illusion…

I formula fed both my boys, and am planning on feeding this new baby that way too.

Oh shit, have I gone down in your estimation now?  Cos I can already see some pursed lips and was that a tut I just heard?  I know, right – I’m shortchanging my kids, I’m being selfish, I’m doing it wrong.

Ok, that’s very defensive of me and I’m only (half) joking.  I know that most people are not so judgmental, and the majority of folk couldn’t give a crap how I choose to feed my baby.  But just as I’ve seen a surge in women opting to breastfeed and in the support for normalising it, I have also seen a rise in bottle-bashing.  When it comes to an issue as sensitive and fundamental as how you decide to feed your child, it’s no wonder that emotions can run a little high.

I want to share why I came to the decision to use formula.

I’m going to slap on a huge old caveat to this – no one ever needs to justify their decision to anyone else.  Whether one woman’s decision to formula feed comes from a deep rooted tradition in her family or because she doesn’t like the thought of breastfeeding is as irrelevant as whether the woman down the street chose to breastfeed purely for budget reasons or from a passion for the immunity support breast milk provides.  A choice is a personal issue and no one owes anyone an explanation.

But I’m going to give mine…mainly because it gives me something to write about as I wait for this baby to arrive.

When breastfeeding just didn’t work for us

Even though I was only 17 when I got pregnant for the first time, it never even occurred to me to do anything but breastfeed.  Bottle feeding had never featured on my cultural radar.  So it was a shock when my baby and my breasts didn’t get the same memo.

A badly timed jab of diamorphine in labour left me with a sleepy and disinterested baby who was reluctant to feed.  When he did show an interest, I found myself looking at my breasts as if for the first time.  I kept trying to do everything the leaflet said, but started to despair – how was he supposed to latch on when my nipples didn’t look like the illustration?  Instead of nice little buttons for my baby to work with, there was nothing there…just flat, pink circles as if they’d been drawn on to my boobs.

I managed to coax a slight shape to my nipples, but struggled to get my baby to latch on.  I buzzed for help throughout that first night, but the midwives would only stay long enough to see him take a few sucks and then left me alone to watch him slide off again.  The more I tried, the more upset and frustrated we both became, and I felt like a nuisance both to the midwives and the other women sharing my ward who were trying to sleep.

I wasn’t allowed to take my baby home until he had fed successfully, so after another day and night of struggling and with a blood test showing that my baby’s blood sugars were low I gave in to the suggestion of giving him a bottle.  I remember looking at the “breast is best” poster on the wall as I gave him that first feed, and feeling like a total failure.  I rang my mum in tears, asking her to rush out and buy bottles, formula and a steriliser before coming to take me and my useless boobs (and of course, my beautiful and now contented baby) home.

Formula feeding worked for us

As it turned out, formula feeding wasn’t the evil I thought it would be.  I went back to college when my baby was 3 months old and so it suited us well.  I was also a single mother, and so it was nice that my parents could help with feeding to give me some sleep or a break when I needed it.

He’s 15 now and shows a mixed bag of the apparent impact of formula milk.  For example, he had horrendous eczema when he was younger which could have been down to how he was fed, but equally could have been because it runs in our family.  On the other hand, he’s excelling academically and has never had a weight problem, which goes against common beliefs about formula fed babies.

This is not me using anecdotes to argue scientific research.  If the research is there then we’ve just been lucky enough to avoid certain negative outcomes, though in a lot of cases the research isn’t conclusive.  This suggests to me that formula is a safe and good feeding option, it just isn’t as good as breast milk.  But I do believe that feeding method is but a part in a larger jigsaw of health components.  Breast milk may give a baby a head start, but there are a lot of other aspects of diet, upbringing and wellness that parents can influence which all contribute to a child’s health, attainment and quality of life.

Me and my useless boobs

Despite the positives, the guilt I felt about my feeding method stayed with me and I do think it played a contributing part to the postnatal depression I suffered.  This depression stayed with me for years and materialised in many different ways, one of which was a deep dislike of my body.  To tackle this I went on a diet and lost a lot of weight (which I’ve briefly blogged about before), which left me with a smaller clothes size but also with boobs I couldn’t stand to look at.  I’d always had big breasts, having to buy my f-cup bras in specialist shops and dealing with chronic back pain and unwanted comments.  But now all I had were saggy, empty sacks which left me looking 80 rather than 20.  I hated them – not only had they failed me when it came to feeding my baby but now they failed me every time I looked in the mirror.  So when I was 24 I made the decision to have them reduced.  I was warned that my ability to breastfeed in the future may be compromised, but at the time I didn’t care – my future fertility was in question (another story for another time), and my boobs had proven themselves to be worthless for feeding anyway.

Growing in confidence with my formula feeding decision

Ten years after my first baby, and against some pretty big odds, my second baby was on his way.  I did my research and found evidence to suggest that my breast reduction may not necessarily mean I couldn’t breastfeed.  And as a bonus, my surgery had given me some proper nipples.  I approached feeding with an open mind – optimistic that time had healed my breasts but realistically purchasing bottles and a steriliser.

When he arrived, my second baby showed all the markings of a breastfeeding champ – he latched on right away and things were looking good.  Except my boobs.  It became quickly apparent that there was nothing happening on my side of the equation.  But unlike this heartbreaking story of a woman who struggled post-reduction to breastfeed her baby, I was confident enough to know when to call it quits.

This time around with baby number 3, we have once again stocked up on formula and feeding equipment.  I’ll give my boobs another chance to redeem themselves, but I’m doubtful anything will have changed in the 4.5 years since we last tried to breastfeed.  I’ve made my peace with that entirely, and am happy with the prospect of once again exclusively formula feeding

Feed and let feed

I trained as a midwife and am passionate about breastfeeding in most circumstances.  But I’m not holding my story up as one of those exceptions to the rule that everyone should breastfeed.  I think the most important thing is that a baby is fed by a parent who is happy with their feeding choice and who isn’t made to feel less than or wrong or weird for whatever their method of choice is.  Just as I don’t think women should be shamed into breastfeeding in some grotty toilet, I also don’t think any parent should be expected to defend their choice to use formula.  Live and let live, feed and let feed.  I use formula…so what?

 

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