Why I’m done apologising for being a mum of 4.

My Toddler Owns Me. Yes he most definitely does, actually all four of my beautiful babies own me (it’s just that the toddler thinks he rules the roost!!) And you know what, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Since becoming a mum of four I have felt incredibly self-conscious when out with all four of the children. That might sound utterly ridiculous but it’s true. I felt very conscious of strangers looking at me and judging me; whatever the intentions behind the judgment is irrelevant to be honest. I hate people looking at me if I could wear an invisibility cloak I would, most of the time. This is probably down to the fact I’m a bit of a hermit and feel like a socially awkward lemon most of the time.

Now I’m sure as you can imagine going anywhere with four little urchins does not enable you to be inconspicuous; it draws a fair amount of attention. I have encountered many experiences where strangers have felt the need to comment on the number of children I have. One very sweet lady started to chat to me in the supermarket as I was pushing the trolley with the two babies in it. She told me (in a very kind way) that I had my hands full with two little ones so close in age. Then my big boys appeared at my side she looked at my aghast “are these two yours as well?”, “yes” I answered, “4?!” again I answered yes (I’m not sure what else I was supposed to say to be honest). And off she went looking slightly stunned. I don’t think people mean to but I’m often left feeling as if having four children invites some kind of judgment.

I have found myself on occasion responding to people with, “oh but no more now” as if I need to reassure the public that I realise I have pushed the limits on acceptable breeding and will absolutely stop now!! There have been times when I have allowed myself to become unbelievably stressed when out with my little tribe simply because the older two have started to act a little rowdy. I become irrationally self-conscious and believe everyone is looking at me thinking that mother had too many children and she can’t control them or make them behave properly.

Enough!!! It’s all crap and most of the crap is my head so I’m evicting it!! In the last seven months since P was born I have grown as a mother and come to realise that I do not have to apologise for my children. I do not have to apologise because I chose to have four children; I do not have to apologise because those four children take up space or make a noise. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a shop with my four loves and an adult has barged past one of them. Yes they take up space, yes the 5 of us can easily block an aisle but they are human beings; talk to them, a simple “excuse me please” and they will happily move aside. It doesn’t matter if you have one child or ten they have the right to be there, to take up space. They have the right to make a noise, to laugh, to shout, to object, to be frustrated and to cry. Babies cry!! Real life shocker I know!!

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I met up with a wonderful friend for a cuppa and a catch up today; we didn’t get much catching up done thanks to my 2 little munchkins. But she didn’t make me feel guilty or bad for being totally distracted by my babies. She held the baby so I could have my cake and drink my tea, she chased the run-away toddler when I was holding the baby, and most importantly she smiled at me. A beautiful reassuring smile that said you are right where you should be, doing exactly what you should be doing.

As mamas we should be able to embrace our children, to enjoy them and not to have to stress and worry about fitting into societies restraints. If there’s one time that the moulds of society should be thrown out the window it is most definitely childhood. Let’s raise are children to believe that society is inclusive. Let’s raise our children to believe that everyone matters big or small. Let’s show our children that motherhood is the most important job in the world. We are raising the future and we want to do it right; so that the next generation may grow up kind and inclusive and respectful; and in doing so shape our society in that way.
Charlie xx

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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

Preparing for a Realistic Birth.

I’m not going to lie I spend a LOT of time at the moment thinking about Labour! I am 38 weeks pregnant baby’s head is engaged, my hospital bag is packed, my sister is on standby to babysit, we are ready to go whenever this lil munchkin calls time!! The thought of giving birth again fills me with both overwhelming anxiety and utter excitement. I have had three vaginal deliveries, I know I can push out a baby, I know how earth-stoppingly incredible it is when your baby emerges and you become a mummy for the first time or again. But I also know that I do not handle the pain of child-birth well; I have always wanted to manage on just gas and air and have always had to have pethidine to get me through the 2nd stage. I have always wanted a water birth or at least to be able to get into the birthing pool during labour and have always encountered some little complication which has prevented this. To be totally honest I have always felt like I haven’t remained in control during my labours and been left with a feeling of disappointment in myself.

This is my last baby, my last pregnancy and my very last labour, so what am I hoping to achieve? I am trying to prepare myself for a ‘realistic birth’. In an ideal world I would love to have a water birth. I imagine a really calm atmosphere, me in the birthing pool, just Rich and a midwife in the room maybe some music on and most importantly me feeling like I am in control. I would love to feel empowered in my labour; a strong, confident mama who believes in her own abilities to birth her baby!! But there is also the flip-side; what I don’t want. I don’t want to have a C-section the thought of being cut open completely freaks me out, I have the upmost respect for all the mums who go through that!! I don’t want to experience any significant complications in labour or to have to stay in hospital once the baby is born. The thought of being away from Archer when he is so young and extremely clingy still is a real worry for me. And possibly most obviously I want to birth a healthy baby.

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So going back to my 3 previous labours while no I haven’t achieved my “ideal birth” I have been incredibly fortunate to avoid all the things I’ve wanted to (aside from staying in hospital 2 nights with Archer because he was so tiny). I am incredibly grateful for having experienced 3 straightforward births which have produced 3 healthy babies. So with my last impending labour I am reminding myself of this. My one failing in my 3 previous labours has been feeling disappointed in myself; I am not going to allow myself to feel that after this labour because I struggled or cried or needed strong pain relief to get me through it. Labour is bloody hard work, it’s incredibly painful and at times totally overwhelming. No woman is less of a superhero because of the level pain relief they require to get through it. No woman is less of a heroin if she requires assistance in any form to make sure both herself and her baby stay safe and healthy. Just like the baby born every labour is unique it cannot be compared to any other labour. Whether you pushed out a baby with no pain relief at home, you had every drug available in hospital or your baby was delivered by C-section it’s irrelevant. You made and birthed a baby and that makes you one hell of a…….I couldn’t think of which world to use here that does it justice which is stupid because of course it’s Mother/Mama/Mummy.
Charlie xx

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“If you want to change the world…” – After Manchester

It’s been one week since the atrocities in Manchester in which 22 people were killed. Like most of the country I sat and watched the news in utter horror that this kind of evil could exist in our world and that it had attacked innocent children and teenagers. As a parent this type of attack taps into your darkest, most terrifying fear; losing a child. And there were parents in our country, in some of our communities facing this unimaginable horror. My heart is broken for them.

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As a parent watching the reports on this attack, hearing the devastating news of the loss of life, seeing the wrenching images of grieving families; aside from my feelings of heartbreak and sorrow for those effected I felt helplessness alongside fear. Scared that my own children were growing up in a world where such evil exists and operates. A world in which as a parent you are rendered powerless to protect your children; the most basic of parental instincts. How do we as parents deal with that? How do we bring up our children in a world which can be so terrifying? And how should we react to such evil? Feeling so incredibly helpless where our children’s safety is concerned it’s not simply frightening it’s unbearable. Are we truly helpless? There is a very famous quote from Mother Teresa; “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” I believe therein lies our power; as parents we are raising the next generation. How that generation shapes our world and treats one-another is in our hands right now. As parents we have the ability to bring up our children to show kindness, to be accepting rather than judgmental of the differences we see within others and to stand up to the hate that spreads through our communities like a plague.

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As parents who have watched the atrocities of Manchester’s horrific terror attack on innocent children and teenagers; our future generation, we must find the strength to move forward shrouded not in fear but in hope. Hope that we can teach our children to be kind, teach them to love and teach them to except one another. Hate breeds nothing but hate. Let’s teach our children understanding, empathy and acceptance. We may never know the true extent of an individual act of kindness; just how big an impact it could have in driving hate out of our children’s lives, our communities, our world. There have been so many incredible stories of acts of bravery, of generosity and of love which have come from this act of pure evil. Individuals running towards the terror in order to demonstrate that love, that bravery and that compassion. Those people are true heroes and they are driven not by hate or anger but by love and kindness. Let us as parents raise the next generation of heroes not of haters.

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My prayers are with all those affected by the Manchester attack and I have added a link below to a justgiving page for those affected by the attack should you wish to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/westandtogethermanchester

Charlie xx

 

 

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

Easter: A time for new beginnings, self-acceptance or just lots of chocolate?

Tonight the bunny will visit our house and leave out Easter eggs for my boys, who will wake up delirious with excitement and require a full military operation to stop them raiding all their chocolate before breakfast. The bunny also hides little eggs in the garden and the highlight of Easter Sunday morning has to be the insanely excited, if a little competitive (between the big boys) egg hunt in the garden. The boy’s scrambles for eggs are intermingled with questions of “do you think there are any more”, while I try to remember the top secret info the bunny passed me on exactly how many eggs there are and where they are hidden!easter1

So besides all the chocolate and the cuteness of baby animals popping up everywhere what does this Christian holiday mean to me? What I love about this time of year is the freshness, that inspiring feeling of new beginnings. I’m not really a believer in re-inventing yourself. We spend far too much time being critical of ourselves. I do, however, believe that we can learn to accept ourselves and in doing so make little changes which make us happy. A “new you” isn’t required, love you as you are now. Its OK not to be perfect; in fact that’s actually what makes you bloody brilliant. Accepting your faults is so uplifting and refreshing, and not to mention GOOD FOR YOU. easter2

There are so many things I suck at and wish I could do better, there are also so many things I wish I did full stop. But at the end of the day I wake up every morning and live. Some days I do really bloody well and other days I pull on my invisibility cloak and crawl through the day. And you know what that’s OK! If you want to make a change then go for it, find that self-belief however deep down it may be hidden and give something new a try. I saw a social-media post the other day which said “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I thought about that for a while and there are lots of things I don’t do or try because I’m afraid. Afraid I’ll fail or afraid of what other people will think of me. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid, acknowledge your fear let it sit in the passenger seat but don’t let it drive your car.

As we walk along our path in life there will be lots of things we can’t change, or make better and accepting that can be incredibly difficult. Yet when we make peace with those things and let go of the anger or frustrations we may feel, we are actually making space for new solutions, acceptance and positive emotions. Life can be so full of pressure, worry and stress; and these things have such a detrimental effect on our mental and physical well-being. What we should take from Easter is to stop, smile and remember that life’s a gift. Don’t spend it worrying that your not good enough, don’t allow the superficial pressures of our society to weigh you down. Find what gives you joy, laugh and enjoy life with all its incredible imperfections.easter3

I really hope you all have a wonderful Easter; eat too much chocolate, get out in the sunshine, smell the flowers, smile and remember you are enough. Charlie xx