Motherhood is kicking my Arse!!

Motherhood is kicking my arse!! And then some!!!

It’s been a pretty tough couple of months for me. Now I know most people will think well yer you went and had 4 kids duh!!! But I feel like maybe I under-estimated how hard it was going to be with 4 or I over-estimated my capabilities as a mother because I am struggling. The reality is having 4 little people who need and want you is so intense, it literally doesn’t stop. Piper is such a happy, chilled-out baby we are incredibly lucky but she is still a baby who needs feeding and changing and cuddling constantly. Archer is about to turn 2 and is a full-on toddler-tornado!! He doesn’t stop from the second he wakes up he’s full of character and over-flowing with mischief!! Then there’s my big boys. Fin is in year 6 and while that means lots of exciting opportunities throughout this final year at primary school, it also means a hundred and one things for me to remember, organise and pay for. EB has moved into year 3 and needs a little adjustment time; school doesn’t suit him so it’s always a little work to make sure he’s happy and settled and not struggling. Of course everything I’m saying is just normal, everyday motherhood. But that in itself makes me feel like I should be able to handle it. Yet since my 2 big boys have gone back to school it’s been so full-on I feel like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath.

Running late for school, forgetting things the boys need, losing letters, running about like a headless chicken, getting stressed, losing my patience and shouting at the boys. This feels like it sums me up as a mum at the moment and I hate it!! Friday I was so late picking the boys up for school; they were the last 2 children at the gate. I ran down the path lugging Piper in the car seat in one arm and dragging a screaming Archer in the other. Trying desperately to avoid making eye contact with any parents coming towards me having already collected their children happily, on time. In my head I’m thinking “I’m failing, I’m failing!!!” I constantly feel like I’m being judged by everyone around me; as that mother who went and had 4 children and now she can’t cope. She’s doing a shit job and letting her kids down and it’s her own fault because she chose to have so many children!!

I got the boys in the car and drove to the woods. I strapped the babies in the buggy, stuffed a chocolate bar in the 2 big boy’s mouths to stop their protests and we walked. We walked and we talked about school, about life, about dreams, about the weird funny things that go through boy’s heads. Archer got out and walked through the wood sometimes chasing his big brothers, sometimes stopping to pick up acorns. Piper slept. We laughed. We collected sticks. The crunchy, orange brown leaves providing the carpet for our therapeutic footsteps. And when the sun started going down we got back into the car and headed home. Smiling, happy and reminded why I love being a mummy so much.

Motherhood is bloody hard. It’s so easy to get utterly consumed by all the external factors and pressures. When it all gets too much just stop and go hug and kiss your children. Go for a walk, talk, laugh together. These are the memories our children will remember and cherish. They won’t remember us being late for the school run sometimes or forgetting the random carrot or sock they need for the latest innovative school project!! Remember you’re doing a great job. Motherhood is not about being perfect, you are allowed to make mistakes, to get it wrong. It’s about travelling the journey together, hand in hand, making memories, laughing, loving one another hard, and being their mummy and them being your babies. Always.

Charlie xx

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Low Birth Weight Baby: My littlest love

As the arrival of baby number 4 is only weeks away we have been doing the standard get the baby clothes out of the loft for a good wash thing. Like all parents we started looking through the little baby vests and got that pang for how little our baby once was and how quick the time has gone. There are, however, a number of vests and baby grows in our box which aren’t little they are tiny. Because our Archer was really tiny when he was born. He weighed 4 lbs 14. Now Archer wasn’t a prem baby; he was born at full term, I was 39 weeks and a day. Ultimately Arch was healthy, something we are incredibly grateful for but having a low birth weight baby has brought some challenges for us and I wanted to share my experience for others mums who may go through this.

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Archer’s first vest, this was baggy!!

Firstly Archer was kept in hospital for 2 nights to keep an eye on his blood sugar levels; medical staff also insisted on giving him top-up formula feeds after I had feed him. This was difficult because as a family we weren’t really prepared for me and the baby to have to stay in hospital and I felt really guilty leaving my 2 older boys at home. In terms of feeding I knew he was feeding really well from me and I had committed to not letting him go longer than 2 hours without a feed because I wanted to exclusively breastfeed him myself. Yet the medical staff still insisted on the formula top-ups, I ultimately trusted their medical judgement but I didn’t feel that they way this is done is particularly supportive of the mother. A healthcare assistant came and sat on the end of my bed and fed Archer. Now I hold my hands up to being an insanely possessive mother but having a women I didn’t know feeding, cuddling and cooing over my new-born upset me.

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My big boys with one day old Archer in the hospital.

I don’t feel that having a low birth weight has affected Archer, he has developed totally in line with his age; he’s just always been small, on the 9th percentile for growth. The only area we have struggled with slightly is feeding. While he has always fed really well, he has been very sensitive to certain foods and suffered from reflux. While I was breastfeeding him I had to give up a number of foods because he just couldn’t tolerate them, including all spicy foods, cheese and coffee (coffee that was a killer for me exhausted mum of 3!!) Again when we weaned him he loved his food but he would get tummy aches after certain foods and we had to be very aware of what we gave him and try to keep an eye on what upset his little belly. There is of course no way of knowing if this was down to his low birth weight or not.

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My beautiful little baby boy with his Daddy

There are a number of reasons why a baby can have a low birth weight and the 3 main categories were explained to us as being some kind of infection during pregnancy, a health condition in baby or a fault in the placenta. We have never known the reason for Archer being so tiny, both him and me were healthy throughout pregnancy, no infection was ever picked up and they tested my placenta which all came back normal. As a mum of a low birth weight baby there are things I have found difficult. Firstly I had major mum guilt that I hadn’t done my ‘job’ properly in growing our baby. I worried that maybe other people thought I hadn’t eaten properly throughout my pregnancy or done something that had caused this. I do realise now that’s silly and I know none of my friends or family blamed me. Yet as a mum I did feel this sense of my body having failed in a way but the truth is it didn’t. You can do everything you’re meant to and sometimes things don’t go exactly as they should and not even the experts know why.

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Beautiful Boy, tiny but perfect

My advice to other mums who have a low birth weight baby; firstly the chances are there’s nothing you did wrong. Secondly you might not ever get an answer as to why it’s happened, and while this can be frustrating it’s also just life; us humans don’t know everything we forget that sometimes. Thirdly while you may face challenges with your baby because of their low birth weight so do all mums with their babies. These challenges simply vary, all babies are so wonderfully unique and that’s part of motherhood. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard or overwhelming we find things, we stand tall and face them down. There seems to be this unbelievable strength in us mothers when it comes to our children. Don’t forget that all you amazing mamas out there.

Charlie x

Can I hit the pause button?

Can someone else be the parent? Just for the day? Does anyone else ever feel like they need someone else to take over, hold the reins?? Maybe it’s the fact that in a few days it’ll be May, the month before baby is due and I become a mum of 4 and it all just got a bit real. Maybe it’s because life feels a bit complicated at the moment; this week has been kind of a rollercoaster. Or maybe it’s just down to crazy lady pregnancy hormones which I am full of; one minuet I’m snorting (yep full on pig-snorts) with laughter the next I’m trying not to cry into my chocolate milk!! But I find myself searching around for a parenthood pause button. I just want someone else to take over.

 

The thing that makes this so ridiculous is that I’m a total clingy, control-freak of a mother. I find it almost impossible to let anyone else do stuff with my children, their dad has to pretty much fight me off to get a look in. If I do leave them which is rare I’m pining for them after about an hour. (I know trust me I want to punch myself in the head too!!) I think I have a fear of missing out on something and I worry that no-one else will else will look after them the way I do. The problem is I’m not sure I’m doing that great a job right now, hence my desire to hit the pause button. I’m tired, being 32 weeks pregnant with a 17 month old is hard, and my little body is feeling it!! Truthfully there is this little bitch sat on my shoulder dripping self-doubt into my head. Because if I’m not managing now, how the hell am I going to cope with 4?? I don’t want things to slip through the cracks. I don’t want to be grumpy and negative, that’s so unfair on the boys.

That’s the thing about being a mum, there is no time-out, no pause button, no off switch. It’s not a hat you chose to put on or take off. From the second your baby comes into this world you’re a mummy and that doesn’t ever stop. And while motherhood is wonderful and rewarding and provides you with an indescribable love; it’s also exhausting, overwhelming and at times suffocating. So what are we supposed to do when it all gets too much? I guess the first thing is to know that it’s alright to admit it. It’s not always easy to hold your hands up and say you need a break but it shouldn’t carry any judgement and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It doesn’t mean you love or adore your children any less. In fact (and I know I’ve said this before) looking after yourself makes you a better mum. You’re giving your children a happy, rested mum; they’ll enjoy you more and vice versa.

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I suppose the hard part is finding that ‘thing’ which you can do away from your children which makes you feel good. I know women for who work is their escape; where they find their sanity, for others its exercise and for lots of women I know they take refuge with their girlfriends when things get too much. If I’m being totally honest I haven’t figured out where mine lies yet (I’ll keep you posted). I guess what I’m saying is that as mums we should all take the time to figure out where it is we can recharge and have some seriously deserved me time. Remember this is about you and what makes you happy, you’re not looking for anyone else to validate what helps you. If it makes you happy, de-stressed and gives you the strength to get up in the morning a tackle motherhood like a boss then you bloody do it!! Enjoy the 3 day weekend mummies we have earned it.
Charlie x

Forgoing Happiness?

So I was sat at the dinner table last night, just me and the 3 boys; and as I watched them devour what I’m sure was about a ton of pasta between them I found myself smiling. I watched as the eldest two debated the pros and cons of finding crème inside a crème egg, (don’t ask, the crème egg obsession is a little out of control in my house at the mo!!) interjected with Archer’s grunts of agreement and his cheesy laughs at a joke no-one actually told. Being a mum makes me happy. Happiness is such a complex entity when you really break it down. It sits alongside things like success as this over-riding goal of life and yet one does not equate the other; despite expectations very often success doesn’t actually lead to happiness. What even is happiness? How do you define it? How do you measure it? More importantly how do you obtain it?

For me happiness can be found in a balance; a balance of releasing what stops me from feeling unhappy and indulging in what truly gives me joy. Give me a craggy, deserted beach where I can watch the sea or a forest to get lost under a canopy of green and the stresses and worries of life seem to be washed away. That’s what sucks out my happiness: stress and worry! I have really strong memories as a child of my beautiful, incredible mother being so stressed. Maybe that’s not surprising when I acknowledge she worked so hard as a nurse while bringing up 4 children and had a husband whose primary relationship was with the pub!! Yet it makes me sad looking back remembering how stressed she was, I’m not sure how much of motherhood she really got to enjoy. It’s certainly not something I want to replicate in my life. But it makes me wonder, do we as women and mothers sometimes not allow ourselves to be happy? Do we knowingly take on too much and refuse to ask for help?

I do not want my children to perceive motherhood as an all-consuming drain on the woman, it is a gift. Just as a mother is a gift; one which should be cherished and looked after. How often do we as mothers take on too much, how often do we over fill our days with chores and obligations? We are allowed to say “no” even to our children. I honestly believe it is good for our children to witness us put ourselves first. For our children to respect and value their mothers and learn gratitude for all the things we do for them. Yes the most astonishing strength exists within a woman, which often reaches its full potential when she becomes a mother. Our bodies endure in my opinion the most phenomenal act a human-being can experience, we create life. As mothers we love more passionately, protect more fiercely and give more unreservedly than we ever could have imagined possible. Reward yourself, allow yourself to be happy, indulge in your passions and interests, reside in places that offer you peace, rest and nurture your mental and physical being. Our children’s memories are being constructed right now; when they look back let them see their beautiful, incredible mothers happy, smiling and enjoying motherhood.

Charlie.

Lets talk about Sex (after) Baby!!

OK so let’s rewind a little bit. Back to when we first met our spouses, before all the parenthood and responsibility got involved when it was just the two of you. When I met my husband what drew me to him was the way he looked, it was a physical attraction and I’m going to hazard a guess that’s the same for the majority of us. Now let’s go a little primal for a second; as grownups that very quickly turns into a sexual attraction, it’s an animal instinct. So you find someone sexy, they find you sexy, which often makes you feel sexy and then there’s a whole lot of sexy sex – we get it it’s all very sexy!!! Then those precious, life altering, little blessings otherwise known as our children come along and very often the sex makes a sharp exit out the door labelled ‘I’m sorry you’re a parent you don’t get to have fun anymore!!’ I want to shout “Wait!! Come back!!!!”I definitely did not sign the bit in the parenting contract where I agreed to give up my sex life!!

It seems to me there is a strong presumption that we women are the ones saying no to sex, that we simply have no need or desire for it. And that’s crap! It’s not that we don’t want to have sex but the reality is after having a baby it takes time for your body to heal, you’re exhausted and then there are all the physical and emotional changes to adjust to. The actual physical changes that your body goes through during and post pregnancy are immense; as the owner of that body your total lack of control is extremely difficult to adjust to. Don’t get me wrong being pregnant is an amazing gift, it’s what forges the incredible bond that you have with your child. You grew that baby; your body created that life, it sustained them, it protected them and it brought them into this world. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the entire process is also undeniably overwhelming. Compacted by the fact that our society continues to celebrate women based on a ‘smaller is better’ size scale; your newly enlarged figure can leave you feeling less Victoria secret model and more Mrs Potato-head in a bra.

So how do we get our sex lives back? While this undoubtedly takes two, (funny that!) both you and your partner have to work together. I honestly believe we as women have to take the first step in attempting to come to terms with the changes we have undergone physically and emotionally. And it’s important to point out these aren’t necessarily negative changes but any change requires adjustment. One of the biggest difficulties I have experience after having babies is regaining my confidence. Having seen my body change; the body that my husband fell in lust with, I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin, let alone sexy. Yet often it’s the smallest things which can start the ball rolling in making big differences. Half an hour in a bubble bath, a manicure, getting your hair done or just a bloody nap!! This isn’t about the way you look, it’s about the way you feel. It’s about acknowledging that you are important, that you deserve to be pampered and have time and money spent on you. Give yourself permission to be a priority, you do deserve it!!

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But let’s not forget those men, because they have such an integral part to play in all of this (and I don’t just mean the sex). If the men in our lives are also craving their sex lives back they need to do a little bit of leg work. So listen up fellas; men need to support their partners and build up their confidence as a whole. It’s not just about telling your spouse she looks beautiful, it’s about reassuring her that she’s doing an a amazing job in this all-consuming role of motherhood for which there is little preparation. It’s about encouraging her to take a break and coming to her aid when it all gets too much, because it does and it will. If you want to rediscover your passion as a ‘parent couple’ you have to adapt your relationship to fulfil the fresh needs of each other, now as parents. Remember to be patient with one another, it may simply take time and that’s OK. 

Being a mother shouldn’t prevent us from feeling like attractive, sexual women; the two don’t oppose each-other. You can be both. You are both. You can love and nurture your children, while also being passionate and intimate with your spouse. Being a mother is the very embodiment of womanhood but likewise so is your sexuality; your children wouldn’t exist without it. So embrace both; they are equally part of the incredibly beautiful, multifaceted experience which is being a woman.  

Charlie.

Yes to a cuppa!!

I don’t really like to admit this but my go to answer when invited to do things is “oh I think I’m busy, sorry”. That sounds awful I know!! I’m talking about invitations from other mothers that can range from a cuppa at their house or a baby group, to a night out. It’s not because I don’t want to go and do those things or because I don’t like the people inviting me (usually it’s the complete opposite). Genuinely I just lack the confidence; since becoming a mother I have found that my confidence has plummeted, and that’s my confidence in myself as an individual person and myself as a mother. Which sounds ridiculous when I point out that I’ve being doing this ‘mother’ thing for almost 10 years; you’d think I would have found my stride but no!

Before I had children I knew exactly who I was, what I liked and what I stood for. Admittedly I did become a mummy at quite a young age so maybe it was the beautiful, brazen ignorance of youth but I certainly wasn’t worried about what anybody thought of me! Then along came my amazing Fin, who transformed my life in the best way; and along with all the love, all the possibility came a shit load of doubt. I had been given something so unbelievably precious, most of all to me and the responsibility to nurture this little life and introduce him to our world rested on my shoulders. What if I got it wrong? Combine that with the fact motherhood changes so much about you, in so many different ways that you can feel like you have completely lost all sense of ‘yourself’. What makes you, you? So many of my values, beliefs and opinions changed with motherhood and because it’s such a journey I have found the change a continual thing.

Motherhood tears you down physically and emotionally; the emotional and physical toll on the mother is huge. I found myself feeling totally lost and struggling, feeling as if I wanted to hide away from the rest of the world; much more so after my 3rd baby then I had with the previous 2. Yet ironically it’s at this time that we need the support of others, especially other mothers. Because they get it. We have all been there; when we feel incredibly low and totally inadequate, like we are getting it all wrong and constantly doubting ourselves. When you are trapped in your own little bubble filled with self-doubt it is all too easy to perceive other mums as doing a much better job than you and having it all under control. That’s definitely not the case!!image-2

It is INCREDIBLE the difference a cuppa and a chat can make when you’re feeling over-whelmed, tired or lonely. And that’s been the thing I’ve found hardest since having baby no3 is that I get lonely, despite knowing a lot of other mums. So I have made myself get out of the house much more recently; for both my own and Archer’s sake I’ve said “yes” to invites from other mums. I still get nervous about taking Archer out, I worry that something will go wrong or a situation will arise and I won’t deal with it properly. This could be anything from him having a meltdown or hurting another child or even just a nappy explosion that I’m not prepared for. I’m scared I’m going to look like an incompetent mum and that other mothers will judge me or my child. But the truth is its ok for things to go wrong, the baby/toddler years are bloody hard work!! So we will encounter meltdowns, tantrums, nappy explosions we’re not prepared for! We will lose our tempers, our minds, our keys!! But hopefully we will all have another mum who completely understands to make us a cuppa, lend us a nappy and laugh/cry at it all alongside us.

Charlie.

Shit our kids are Online.

So I have to be honest these last few weeks have been a bit of an eyeopener in the parenting department. Last week at school my eldest was given a talk regarding online safety and shown some videos to highlight the dangers of talking to strangers online. Following that an email was sent out to make parents aware that some of the children had set up an i-message group which the school did not deem as ‘age appropriate’. My initial reactions to both of these things was shock; are we really at this stage already? My eldest son Finley is only 9, he’s in year 5 of primary school; surely this is a topic for secondary school. And anyhow, seen as I don’t allow him to go on any form of social media or online gaming this really doesn’t apply to us??

So there I am sat up on my parenting pedestal and then I talk to that hubby of mine and he kicks that stool right out from under me (which is exactly what I needed and why he’s the father of my kids!!) No Finley isn’t on social media himself yet, but if some of his peers are then he is and will be exposed to it on some level. That level may simply be subjects being discussed in the playground at school, or it may be that he participates in social media round a friends house but it will happen. And by not acknowledging this and by not discussing it openly with him, we; as his parents aren’t equipping him to deal with the dangers and challenges that social media generates.

Equally we as parents need to be educated in understanding the negative effects of social media on our children. It is undoubtedly terrifying to contemplate the reality that a dangerous predator could contact a child online. Or similarly that social media may be used as a tool for bullying, yet there are other less high profile dangers of our children being online. A video by a British/American author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains this; I have copied the link below and the whole video is well worth a watch, however if you don’t have time just watch from 3:10 to 7:20.

It is in this section of the video that he discusses the effects of social media on our brains as releasing the chemical dopamine. He explains this is the same feel-good chemical released when you smoke, drink or gamble and it is highly addictive. We must be aware that this is what is happening in our children’s brains when they use social media. They become addicted to that feel-good high produced by the dopamine, they come to crave it and rely on social media for approval in themselves and their lives. At what age do our children have the emotional maturity to prevent themselves from being consumed by social media and its addictively self-gratifying nature? Aren’t we as parents responsible for setting boundaries and restrictions on our children’s use of social media? Should we be more conscious of our own relationship with social media, considering the continuous example we set for our children through our behaviours?

In all honesty I don’t want to deal with this because it’s bloody scary!! I don’t want to be entering the realms of attempting to keep my children safe online I want to stay in that early childhood bubble where my job is to protect them from monsters, cut knees and the ever dreaded lost teddy!! But hiding under my denial blanket constitutes being a pretty crap mum. So while my generation might pine for our own childhood of playing out in the park all weekend long the truth is our children are growing up in a society where social media is going to play a major role in their lives. I guess its a bit like riding a bike; some kids will get on it early, some may be late to the party but sooner or later they will all experience it. And when they do we as their parents need to make sure we have equip them with the correct protective tools.

Charlie.