Feeding feelings…

Standard

After Scarlett was born when I ventured out of the house, my huge worry was that when I fed her, people would judge me for breastfeeding in public. 
Now Holly’s been born and I’ve started to slowly venture out of the house, my huge worry is that when I feed her, people will judge me for bottle feeding.
One of the reasons I’m not planning on having a third child is because, I’ve run out of feeding worry options that I’ll assume people are judging me for! I honestly think I’d feel no less worried about it all if I bottle fed without my top on, at least then all bases of judgement can be covered!
Scarlett was early, so my milk supply took a little time to come through but not too long but then only lasted for three months. Holly was premature, so added to the extra amount of medication messing with my bodies natural rhythm, my milk supply took even longer and there isn’t sufficient to exclusively breastfeed. I’m therefore supplementing what I can provide with top ups of formula to ensure she’s gaining weight. Currently as a team we haven’t quite got her back up to her birth weight but we’re certainly getting there now we’ve started combination feeding.
Anyway, getting back to my initial point. It made me realise that it really isn’t breastfeeding mums vs bottle feeding mums as some of these forums and magazines often portray. As soon as you have a child, your choices are questioned, sometimes by the strangest of demographics. As Mums, we all want to do the best for our children. Feeding choices are made for a variety of reasons, all valid. Some desperately want to breastfeed, but for whatever reason can’t. Some really want to bottle feed and then end up breastfeeding. I read an interview recently with a mother who desperately wanted to bottle feed as she felt uncomfortable breastfeeding, but couldn’t afford the powder and necessary equipment and ended up breastfeeding, and not leaving the house unless she was sure she’d be back home before baby needed a feed. 
My personal take on the matter is that breastfeeding is evolutionarily what breasts are for, I am comfortable enough with my body to not fear feeding in front of people or outside of the home, and it’s significantly cheaper than formula (a reason I always put last because it feels less noble but is equally as valid!). At first, I was upset at the idea at not being able to feed. It felt like failure; not because I think choosing to bottle feed is wrong or a failure. But because I made my choice and couldn’t do it. I’d feel the same if I’d chosen to bottle feed and then bought the wrong equipment.
But whichever decision you make, going out past the safe sanctuary of home immediately opens you up to what the rest of the world thinks. And I’m not sure what it is about the decision on how you feed your child that convinces ‘the rest of the world’ that they have a say. Having now done both, there are several differences but that anxious feeling of being judged or feeling I need to justify my actions remains the same. So although we most likely can’t change the world, maybe us Mums could at least make it easier by being on each other’s side regardless of personal choice. After all, we’re all aiming for the same thing, a happy, healthy, well fed baby. How we do it is surely somewhat irrelevant? So whether it be by breast or by bottle, let’s all try and give each other a reassuring smile when we see our fellow comrades out and about! 
That’s right world, we may have baby sick in our hair, we may have odd shoes on, we may even have come to a cafe without our phone/keys or purse…but we’re out, we’re…well we’re worrying about 4,000 things at once, but we’re feeding our baby’s, and that is all that really matters!

First moment memories…

Standard

I’ve become a bit of a go to for questions in the ‘April 2016’ internet group I’m in. Reason being is that with Holly’s birth, I was in labour for a day and a half (some of which I didn’t realise!) and I had an emergency csection. 
So I have the (slightly dubious!) honour of experiencing the pain of contractions, and the recovery process from the csection. Cue a lot of questions about both. Now I had a rather substantial seizure in the middle of proceedings so there’s a lot of gaps in my memory due to that anyway; but I can honestly say that even less than a week on, it’s tricky to recall certain details. 
Csection recovery questions are not really ones I can answer just yet. So far? The fact that my husband makes me laugh is now a curse rather than one of my favourite things, and it’s amazing how many things you discover you use stomach muscles for when you suddenly can’t use stomach muscles without an incredibly large amount of pain! But it’s improving daily and knowing that the pain is a result of our baby’s safe delivery into the world makes it much easier to bear. I know that sounds like a horrendous cliche but it’s true. 
The contraction pains? I read up myself on what they felt like before the event (before it had been confirmed that a natural birth would be too high risk for us) and it seems other people were able to describe it better.
As for me I really struggled to come up with an adequate description beyond ‘indescribable pain’!
Then yesterday I was looking through the photos on my phone (there are a lot of the labour and birth process, something I requested of my husband because I knew that in the case of seizures, I was unlikely to remember a lot of it and wanted to at least be able to have a clear picture of how it all went in years to come.) and one of the photos I saw, I felt probably summed up the pain and emotion better than I could ever explain. 
Apparently it was taken when I was waiting for them to complete various tests before being able to head to the operating theatre when the contractions were very close and very strong. As they reached a peak I would grab onto my husband and he would grab my hand and try and help talk me through it until it subsided. 
I couldn’t have done it on my own. It was frightening, it was painful, and unfortunately in my case I had quite a lot of missing brain power! For me, the best person to be by my side was my husband, for others it can be a parent, a sibling, a friend etc. But having a person there, whoever your person may be, is a huge part of the whole experience in my opinion. You are vulnerable, you are being put through one of the most demanding physical experiences of your life. It’s so demanding and so intense, your body and your brain blocks a lot of it out post the event! You need someone there to give you strength, to pull you through the moments you think you can’t do it. 
And it’s tough for them too, as the mum you forget a lot of what goes on. Your person watches a person they love go through something without being able to do anything to help or take some it from you. They most likely don’t realise how valuable their moral support is.
With the various health complications, I will not be able to safely carry another baby without serious kidney implications, not to mention the increased epilepsy risk after this pregnancy. So from about half way through this one, we were aware it would be our last biological baby. So throughout all the relatively dramatic process of Holly’s birth, we tried to focus on how special it was being the last time.
And although I have rather clumsily typed all the feelings of the above out, when I came across this picture, it made me tear up. And not JUST because the new Mum hormones have kept me more emotional than normal! It means a great deal. I’m gripping onto my person in pain. He’s gripping onto me in support. And we’re doing it together for the last time. 
After a hugely difficult few months, this one moment feels like the most appropriate representation of how we both felt.
So as far as answering technical questions, in all honesty, I’m pretty rubbish! I think it’s such an incredibly personal experience. Chatting to friends only goes to prove to me that no labour story is the same. When you’re pregnant, all you have is questions, thoughts on how it’s going to go. After labour? I’m not sure you really have any answers! But you have moments. We had several across the entire pregnancy, but this is the one representation, the picture I will always go to. It’s not very helpful in answer to any questions I’m asked. But it’s the closest thing to an answer I have.

Early Arrival Euphoria…

Standard

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride and pleasure that I can happily announce the safe arrival of our second child; Holly Lily Kazimiera Jordan!
The full story of her birth (following in her sisters footsteps, it’s a dramatic one!) will follow at some point but for now I just thought I’d post the happy news! 
She was a very healthy 6lbs 11oz, born four weeks early, at 00:31 on 19th March, so we won our very own grand slam just before England won the Six Nations Grand Slam! 
As I type this, both Holly and I are still in the hospital but both doing really well and I’m hoping that this will be the last blog post when the two of us are in the hospital together! Over the last couple of months, we have fought together as a little team against infections, long standing ailments, as well as unsuitable pregnancy conditions and enough medication to keep us both rattling for years! Today should be our last night being woken up to have our temperatures taken, blood pressure monitored etc etc! Don’t get me wrong, I will have quite a few follow up appointments to ensure that post pregnancy; my kidney function starts to improve, my epilepsy calms down, and my iron levels pick up but that should hopefully be over a series of in eventful outpatient appointments instead of two, three day stays in hospital wards! 
For those people that have persevered through weeks of blog posts that keep starting ‘so, you’ll never guess where I am’ or similar, a big thank you. You, frankly make up some of the number of people in our lives that have followed our story, and even that seemingly simple act has got our little family through. Knowing that there are people there, cheering us on, following our progress.
I have mentioned many times that my husband is my hero, and he certainly takes poll position in the list of people who have got me through such a difficult time of my life. However; especially this last stretch where I barely knew who I was, couldn’t go anywhere without being told I have another flipping infection(!), it really has been a family affair! We’ve got through and been able to cope without our beautiful Scarlett being too negatively impacted (apart from perhaps wondering why her Mum doesn’t spend any time with her anymore!!) because of her four Grandparents. Whether it be living with us for a month to be an extra pair of hands in the household, regular meals being cooked and/or provided for us, or having Scarlett overnight, often at short notice to either allow us to try and get some rest or to head back to the hospital! 
It would take too long to explain the real value of their contributions but hopefully they all know how much we’ve really appreciated it. And as thanks…the gift of another new Granddaughter who already has them all wrapped around her little finger! (Which consequently is where she has us as well!) 
Anyway. My ‘short’ announcement post has turned into a much more substantial piece, my apologies! Our long awaited baby has arrived safely and we couldn’t be happier to have completed our little family of four!
The blog will continue as we take on our new life as parents of two young children under the age of two and muddle our way through the inevitable trials, tribulations, triumphant victories, spectacular failures and everything else in between! To all other parental teams, I salute you…and please send tips! 
Let the chaos commence!!

Wonderful women…

Standard

It was Mothers Day on Sunday. And mine started pretty lousy with a morning MRI scan, it then improved with a visit from my Mum and Mother in Law which I sadly can’t remember much of as I was pretty out of it. I then had a glorious hour or so with my little girl, cuddles, giggles and time that made up for any pain and difficulty I’m currently going through. I miss Scarlett so much at the moment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the limited time with my daughter is by far the hardest part of all this. 
But I had a bit of amazing time with her earlier and my husband caught a couple of said moments on camera. My heart always goes out to those who no longer have their Mums with them or for whom Mothers Day is a particularly difficult day. 

  
With Mothers Day being so early this year, it has coincided quite nicely being just two days before International Women’s Day today. Which makes me think of all the tremendously strong women in my life. Some of whom are mothers and some of whom are not. Funnily enough, some of those that aren’t mothers have provided me with love, support and strength which would make you think they were. But I think that’s testamount to the strength and spirit of women.
Firstly before I carry on, the below is excluding family members, only because I would like to hope they already know they inspire me, support me and are loved by me! 
Anyway, as any readers of my blog are bored of hearing by now, this third trimester has been an extremely difficult, frightening and challenging one. We have now luckily got to a point where although the preference is to still keep little one inside for a few more weeks, if they manage an escape, they will be ok. So in some respects, we’re now in the clear. My kidneys aren’t functioning very well which has led to frequent infections and a lot of repeat hospital visits. My epilepsy has been playing up, getting worse as the weeks have gone on, so lots of confusion, post it notes all round my room and I’m never on my own and someone else is always looking after Scarlett, mainly her amazing Dad. During this time more than any other, I have been struck by how the strength of people around me has really got me through. There are women in my life that have stopped me from falling, made it clear their hand is there should I need pulling up but with no obligation to take it. I am quite embarrassed by the epilepsy, I shouldn’t be, and I urge others with it not to be. But as someone with an academic career and who likes to be in control of her emotions. I find it very difficult to then let anyone see me so very out of control and having to keep asking my husband questions about simple day to day things. So I closed my door, I leave messages unanswered until I’m sure I can respond sensibly or without breaking down into an emotional mess. Sometimes this has simply meant I haven’t replied, usually even though I’ve been really touched to hear from someone and/or appreciated their kind message. However, even that hasn’t put people off being supportive, my weaknesses haven’t altered the strength they’ve shown. 
I would say something corny like they’ve been the wind beneath my wings but frankly it’s the copious amount of drugs in on that has made me feel like I’m flying…! However, they certainly have kept me from feeling like I can’t make it in the middle of the night when a fever makes me see things coming out from the walls, or when I’m gripping the side of the hospital bed because of the pain. They probably don’t know when they’ve made the biggest difference so I’d like to dedicate this post to the unsung heroes. My friends, who I adore and am grateful every day that my children will grow up around. (DISCLAIMER : there are unsung male friends too, and I will sing their praises on International Men’s Day on November 19th!)
(The examples below are by no means extensive or inclusive of all the thanks I should make, and to those I unintentionally miss out, I profusely apologise, you are all loved)
Holly – nicknamed ‘alcoholly’ after some of our exploits in our 20’s, telling Hols you’re out for a quiet night used to be a rather pointless endeavour (and I may add, her husband Sam, they both lead me astray on several occasions!) she now has two children so cheeky vimto based nights are few and far between (although I am very much looking forward to one after this pregnancy!) I get messages from Holly and she makes it clear that if I need anything or need company, she’ll be round. No agenda or annoyance that I’ve been rubbish at replying, just support. And tagging me in Facebook with memories from nights out/funny times we’ve enjoyed over the years. Posts that I’ve looked at in the middle of the night and smiled and realised that this difficult period has an end date and there are more good times to come. It keeps me going when it’s the dark, quiet part of the night that otherwise makes things feel worse.
Gemma – an incredibly strong woman who has a similar ‘let’s go for it’ attitude to myself, a close friend of mine for many years and someone who has been through her own fair share of difficult times that she dealt with with such grace and strength. She had seen my Instagram posts about having lots of baths and my slight current obsession with Lush products, and she dropped round a bag of Lush goodies to my husband on her way to a weekend away as she knew I liked them and wanted me to know she was thinking of me. Well, when I received them, floods of tears followed, so thoughtful, so appreciated and I just couldn’t have been more grateful. 
Bee – a friend who is much stronger than she realises and much more in tune with who she is than a lot of people I know, a quality I suspect she underestimates. I receive several text messages of support from her, one recently that without her knowing, couldn’t have been better timed. She doesn’t ask if I’m feeling better, (something a lot of well meaning people do which is a question I find hard to answer, I don’t want to be a complainer but it’s not going to get any better before baby arrives) she sends me positivity and good vibes. And however stupid it may sound, in the middle of the night I sometimes read her messages and it helps me reaffirm that I can do it.
Emily – when I first met Emily, she reminded me of myself when I was younger. A zest for life, bubbly, a bit ridiculous (OK a lot ridiculous!) but with a really clever and passionate brain. (I’m bigging myself up quite arrogantly there sorry!) my point is, over the last couple of years, my husband and I have prioritised/been super busy building a business/making and having children/buying a home/getting married, all the grown up things and it made me realise I’d let tiredness dull my sense of fun slightly. I met her when pregnant which didn’t help, my adventure levels were low! ANYWAY, bed rest doesn’t allow for much fun, but Emily doesn’t let me wallow. Not only does she send me snapchats that make me laugh and text me about non medical things which is very refreshing. She’s helped me hold onto a passionate zest for life that I had forgotten to prioritise for a while. She always makes it clear to my husband that if he needs any support with Scarlett etc, he is just to call. So she puts a smile on my face and gives my husband an unconditional safety net and I just love her for both. 
Be – this should really be the whole family really as throughout this time I have received a number of cards wishing me the best and sending good thoughts, always homemade and always just so thoughtful. But with an entry of her own because she has taught me a lot about the kind of mother I want to be. (Obviously I have learnt a lot from my Mum and my mother in law and I in no way want to belittle their influences because their influences are bountiful.) However, Be has taught me some thoughts and ideas that I would never have come to myself. And the homemade cards have made me feel loved and in some perhaps strange way protected, they all sit in my room to be looked at when I’m letting negative thoughts and feels take hold.
Sheila – I have known Sheila since I was 17 and when I first met her she terrified me! There is nothing that will stop Sheila achieving and bringing out the best in her students, and it is not unusual for past students to come back from all over the UK and beyond just to be a part of a new Sheila project! She could be called a tyrant, but only because of how deeply she cares about each and every person that comes into her life. I often joke that both pregnancies and my marriage are her fault anyway, my husband and I first met aged 5 but it was through Sheila that we were reacquainted. And she has been a huge supporter of both of us and our family since. Over this difficult time, despite being hugely busy, she always finds the time to send messages and when she says you’re in her thoughts and prayers she means it. An incredible woman who through her own life, shows me how strong women are capable of being.
There are so many other women that inspire me in different ways: Tri, Tessa, Laura, Erin, Amy, Sally, Sophie, Minky, Pip, Lotte, Cham Cham Lucy, Pano’s Jen and even that doesn’t cover them all. I only hope that I can be a tenth of the strength they show me in ways they may not even realise they do. And I hope they all know that if they ever need a boost from me there is little I wouldn’t do to try and remind them that they all kick ass, they’re all amazing.
I was saddened this morning to see Lorraine Kelly laugh and mock Kim Kardashians naked selfie that she recently chose to post. Especially as it came directly after a segment about International Women’s Day! I do not know Kim Kardashian, I do not follow her programme or her life. I do think she has a beautiful figure and respect and would fight for her right to post it on her terms if that’s what she chooses to do. I think that it’s a real shame that an influential woman like Lorraine would choose to belittle that choice or decide that there are times it’s ok to put another woman down in any way and feel like she’s justified to do so. She isn’t. 
I want my daughters growing up holding other people up, respecting their choices and holding their own steadfastly enough that if anyone tries to bring them down they are unaffected. I am proud that the influences they will have in their life include the people I’ve mentioned above. It makes me confident in the women they will become.
So happy International Women’s Day to all you amazing women out there. Carry on being fabulously you, celebrate those women around you and thank you; thank you for the bottom of my heart to those that have shaped me into the woman I have become, the mother I’m still learning to be, and the growth I will continue to make because of your light, strength, support and love.

Positive Pregnancy Pain…

Standard

My breasts are sore. That’s a normal motherhood pain. 35 weeks in, and after 8 weeks so far on bed rest or in hospital, it’s finally a pain that is for our baby! 
My temperatures high, and I’m getting quite a few bouts of fever. I’ve been keeping the lamp on at night to avoid seeing things because the fever from the epilepsy tablets tend to make me see things. I refer to post it notes around my room and on my phone a lot because the epilepsy causes a lot of confusion. My back constantly hurts because my kidneys are rubbish. And I’m on painkillers and a few other medications because the recurrent infections & epilepsy medication have some rather unsavoury side effects. In total I take ten tablets each day at the moment. The difficult part of all of that, is that it’s all because of MY weaknesses, my body letting me & my baby down. I’m currently the biggest danger to our child and that breaks my heart.
But my breasts hurt because they’re preparing for our baby, it’s natural and it’s normal. My body is finally doing something that HELPS our baby. I’m finally having some pain thats an ACTUAL motherhood symptom and THAT I can deal with. I am practically giddy with enjoyment because of it. I think it may be the best Mother’s Day present I could possibly have received.
Our baby. My husband and I made her. We created her and I am finally doing something that protects her. Milk is coming through ready to nourish and protect our new arrival. I’m in a ridiculous amount of tears at finally feeling a pregnancy pain, a motherhood issue, I honestly can’t tell you how it feels! 
My breasts are sore. I couldn’t be happier!