The 2-Year-Old Survivor Guide, by Jen

Like many brave war heroes before me, I know that entering a war zone or battle requires much strategic planning and preparation. It’s every woman for herself, there can be only one winner. Make sure it’s you.

Yes, I’m talking about parenting a two year old. Oh, he might seem harmless, sitting there with his cute little button nose and big blue eyes gazing up at you saying ‘I uvv you Mama, huggie!’ BUT DON’T BE FOOLED! These creatures are deceptive little feckers. They rope you in and make you remember all the cute adorable things you love about them, and make you wonder how you made something so precious in the first place and just as all your stupid mushy related hormones are making you melt in a puddle of maternal pride and joy, they scream in your face and wipe their snot all over your clothes. You’ve been Toddlered.

No sir, they must not be underestimated.

People don’t give two-year-olds enough credit. They are highly intelligent and strategic. They can play you off against your Second In Command (Yes Gavin, I have appointed myself as Chief. Or whatever the head army person is called.) You must be on guard at all times.

Lets start with the basics. First tactic is Distraction. This is key – they’ll fire whinge after whinge, demand after demand. Be vigilant and stay focused! You must deploy the Distraction tactic at once. I suggest you point out an aeroplane flying overhead, doesn’t matter if there is one or not, they love aeroplanes and helicopters and pretty much anything in the sky. This should buy you enough time to think of a new topic or activity for them to do. This also works well if they’re on the verge of a tantrum – it is your responsibility, Soldier, to recognise the signs in your own toddlers. Sticks! They love sticks – find a stick, preferably near a puddle, their day is made, and you will have averted disaster. Sticks and puddles can save you.

Bribery. This is one of your best weapons. But use it wisely –  they’ll know when you’re bluffing. You need to be prepared to follow this one through. For example, ‘For the love of God stop that!! If you stop that we can go to the Playground later’.

Now unless you’re willing to go to that playground and move endlessly from Swings! Slides! Swings! Round-bout!  and socialise with other mini dictators, withhold the bribe. Basically you’ll never know peace again otherwise. They have memories like Elephants and that’s all there is to it. But beware with Bribery. It could put you on a slippery slope to Expectation. Bribery must only be used in extreme cases, or really you’re not doing yourself any favours, and even worse, they’ll essentially have taken away some of your best armour!

Choose Your Battles. This is a war, it consists of many many battles. Some you’ll win, some you’ll lose, but choose them wisely. Measure up the pros and cons. So what if he wants to paint his head green. Let him do it if it keeps him quiet and you get a chance to feed child number 2 in peace. But if he wants to skip his nap? Hell no, this one is yours! You will not deprive me of that hour of peace! Even offer help. Here’s a paintbrush for your other hand – why not throw a bit of yellow in for good measure. But overall, I suggest you make sure you’re winning more of the battles than you lose. Apart from anything else, I just don’t like losing anyway.

Reverse Psychology. This one takes a bit of practice. It’s all about outwitting and outlasting. You want them to eat the dinner you’ve just slaved over – BUT DO NOT LET THEM KNOW THIS. Approach it casually. Oh hey! I’m just going to leave this dinner over here. Talk a bit to yourself about how nice the dinner is. Child 2 comes in quite handy here – ask him does he want some. He can’t talk yet, so naturally you pretend  he will of course want some. Mr Potato Head LOVES this dinner. But hey if you don’t want it, no problem. They’ll look at you suspiciously, yes they’re probably onto you, but curiosity and fear of missing out usually – not always! – but usually wins out. Mission complete.

Patience. This is the hardest one. You’ll need A LOT of it. You’ll think you have none, you’ll feel the pressure…but hang on in there! You can do this! They are TWO! You are.. well there’s no need to get into specifics here, but you’re a lot older than two. You’ve a lifetime of wisdom to work from. They, on the other hand, think they can put their hands over their eyes and turn completely invisible to the human eye for God sake. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have this one mastered either. I lose the plot like the best of them.. but I still try and that’s the main thing, ok?! It’s a bit like doing that horrific plank move at the gym. At first you can only manage .2 of a second. But before you know it, after say 5 years or so, you can hold it for a good 10 seconds!! Oh, ok maybe that’s just me. Normal people get it a lot sooner than that, but you get my point.  Patience is the same, it comes with practise and for me it’s an ongoing project. But I didn’t get where I am today with no patience, so take heart!

And remember Solider – we’re all in this together at the end of the day! We are all chiefs  (or whatever the correct term is!) of our own little army – all fighting the same battles, and winning and losing the same ones in the process. But at the end of a long day, when those little arms are around your neck and those mushy hormones are rushing back in…..well let them. Why else do we do this after all?!

 

This Jen’s Survival Guide. Fight the good fight. Learn it. Print it. Stick it on your fridge. Most of all, STAY STRONG!

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A Day in Our Life

I published my last post a few weeks ago now, and it got a lovely response! I have to say it is one of my favourite posts. I also got a lot of compliments about the photos in it, and I just adore them, so I figured why not post a post about them too and how they came about!

A few months ago, an opportunity arose to do some writing for a friend of mine, and in return, he offered to document our family in a ‘day in the life’ style photography shoot. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I have 7,953 photos on my phone (I just checked) and about 99% of them feature one or both of the babies. Of that, I’d say maybe 10 have me in them where I didn’t take the photo myself in an effort to prove that I did exist in photographic form when they’re older and looking back at their own childhood photos. Let’s just say photography is not one of Gavin’s fortes! I don’t think it even dawns on him half the time to take a photo of something like Alex eating his first spoonful of food, or take a little video of Rian singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’. And that’s ok, but I’m just the opposite!

I adore photos. Some might think I overdo it – well ok I probably do. My Instagram account probably proves that. Some people might say, ‘You should live in the moment more’. I do live in the moment, and I love the moments so much that I don’t want to ever forget a single one. The time just goes so very fast – Alex is over 6 months already! He’s closer to 7 months actually. Every single day he is different, as is Rian. And what’s more, this time I have at home with them is fast running out so yes, I take a lot of photos. But I’m rarely actually in any of them.

So when this opportunity came up, as I said, I jumped at it. It wasn’t going to be a fancy, get my hair done especially type of thing. It was going to be a snapshot of just one normal day, no special occasion, no fancy outfit. Barely even any makeup (the tired circles under my eyes don’t necessarily need to be preserved in photos forever). Just me with my husband and our sons, doing our thing.

Why? Because aren’t they the best kind of days? Yes, sometimes there’s shouting, and crying, and really really bad nappies, and tantrums. And every day there’s fun and laughter, cuteness and absolute joy. And that’s our life right now! It will never be like this, the way they are now, ever again. And I love it. I was so thrilled to think that for a change I would be on the other side of the camera, when they held my hand, or hugged me, or I gave them a swing, I’d have a photo to capture that moment and treasure it. I didn’t care too much whether my hair looked perfect, whether my skin looked red or blotchy…this is how I am now, and most importantly, this is who I am to the boys. The last time I was going to a wedding I got my hair and makeup done – oh god that was so nice! – but when Rian saw me he actually squinted his eyes, put his face close to mine and tried to touch my eyes and said ‘Mama, what’s that on eye?’….!! So clearly, the makeup-ed me is not one he’s too familiar with at all.

So we settled on a day, and Johannes arrived early on a Sunday morning. We chose a Sunday, to do our normal Sunday routine which consists of nothing out of the ordinary. Within minutes he was taking pictures. At first it’s a bit strange having someone take photos of you doing normal every day stuff. But after a few minutes – no offence Johan! – I kind of forgot he was there. I had wondered what Rian would make of it, but you’d swear it was the most normal thing in the world for him to have his personal photographer document his every move!

We usually try to do something as a family on a Sunday, as it’s usually the only day of the week that the four of us can spend the day together without work or other commitments getting in the way. So we chose to go to the Japanese Gardens and National Stud in Kildare, which is not far from where we live. When we got home, it was naptime, so we read about Gruffalos and foxes and rabbits hopping to the moon and back as two-year-olds insist on doing before a snooze. Later on, we did some baking and played with some playdoh. We bathed the kids. Then we got changed into our pj’s and snuggled on the couch under a blanket and watched some Toy Story for the 4578th time. All normal things. But the thing that surprised both Gavin and I, on a normal Sunday we don’t really pay too much attention to those things, we’re just busy doing them. But because Johannes was there, it sort of made us focus on why he was there, it made us really live in the moment and appreciate it all the more. Even the non glamorous nappy times! It made us realise the other aspect of nappy times. The funny conversations that take place on the changing table. The cute little kissable baby toes. All the little normal things that make up our normal day, but full of magical moments which we now have recorded to look back on forever.

Huge huge thank you to our friend and seriously talented Johannes for the opportunity! I’ve a feeling we’ll be back for more during another chapter of our parenting adventures.

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This Too Shall Pass

I remember during one particularly tough phase of Rian’s first few months when he had colic, someone said to me ‘This too shall pass’ – and of course it does. I see it quite often in parenting groups; someone will ask for advice on dealing with some tricky new hurdle and usually all we can say is, hang in there, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass!

But do we ever stop to remember that the good things too shall pass? The little stages we love, their little quirks, the new thing they’ve discovered they can do…they change so fast because life is busy passing and we’re constantly just trying to catch up with ourselves. All of the little things they do that may seem inconsequential at the time, you might not even notice them. But I’ve only been a parent now for two years and already I want it to slow down. I want to remember all the little things about them that make me cry with laughter, or cry with frustration.  The things that make my heart want to jump out of my chest with pride and love. All of it.

Recently I was asked by a friend of mine to help put into words a way to describe his new venture in photography – a documentary style ‘day in the life’. While doing it, it made me focus on my own life with my two boys. And it made me realise I seem to be in a constant state of waiting for things to pass. Waiting for Rian’s colic to pass, waiting for his tantrum to calm, waiting for Alex to settle for the night so I might get a few hours sleep myself. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t enjoy all this – of course I do. But I realised that I hardly ever stop to actually look around me, to appreciate fully and more often just what it is we have been given. Especially since there was a time when we thought we’d never have any of this at all when we were told we’d need IVF. It’s always thinking of what job needs to get done next, what dinner needs to be cooked, what day the next round of vaccinations need to be given, the next time one is due a feed and one is due a dinner.

So I decided to stop and look, and started writing. When they’re all grown up, what will I want to remember?

How things feel. The softness of Alex’s little baby cheek, like a soft downy feather. The little grip of his whole hand clutching my thumb. Those little razorblade fingernails that seem to grow at a rate of knots and terrify me in trying to get them cut! The feel of Rian’s little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a ‘huggy’,  the drool that falls on my chest when he falls asleep cuddled into me. His little curls against my face when we snuggle in under the blanket to read a book, and the sticky little hands that chase me hysterically when they’re covered in the residue of his favourite snack of grapes and yoghurt.

 

 

How things sound. The gentle little sucky noise of Alex’s soother as he drifts off for a snooze. The sound of Rian singing at 6am about Gruffalos and trains and having adventures with Woody and Buzz. ‘To finnty…and bond!’ ‘There’s a sake in a b-oot!’ The sound Rian makes when I know he’s working up to a tantrum, and the swift noise I make in an effort to distract him from getting there! The sound of his little feet hopping out of bed when he’s supposed to be asleep and pattering across the hall. And best of all, the sound of Alex’s gurgly little giggles and warbly chats, and the beautiful sound of Rian’s belly laugh, so hard that tears run down his red little cheeks.

How things smell. The gorgeous new baby smell that still just about lingers from Alex. The milky drooly smell that comes from him after a feed. I could breathe that in all day. The lovely smell from Rian’s baby shampoo, and the smell of his bubble bath that he loves splashing around in. That unmistakable whiff that you knew was inevitable when he wolfed in all that fruit for lunch… ok ok maybe this isn’t something I’ll miss too much of when it’s over! And yet somehow, yes, I think I will because it’s part and parcel of who they are now, and I know it won’t always be this way.

One of Rian’s favourite things in life at the moment is Toy Story, and in particular, the third one. At the end of the movie Andy is heading off to college and is getting ready to leave. His mother walks into his empty room, all packed up, and gets emotional. She hugs him and says, ‘I just wish I could be with you always.’

And that’s my wish too, so much! It’s hard now to imagine them both old enough to be going to college, and I’m sure in some ways I’ll be only too delighted to get two smelly teenagers out of my hair, but obviously the day will come when they’ll be old enough to not need me anymore. Well, I hope they’ll always need me in some ways! Hopefully if I do this job right, they’ll want to keep me in their lives just as much as I’ll want them in mine.

 

 

I want to be able to look back, and still feel all those things, and the things still yet to come. To remember how things are, how they were, and how they will be. To be ever thankful that we were given the chance we thought we’d never have, to be their parents, and cherish them always, because as I’ve realised to be true, This Too Shall Pass.

 

*Huge thank you to Johannes for the amazing, and much treasured photographs of our little family; a day in our life.

 

Yesterday We Shouted

Yesterday was a tough day at the office. Toddlers are not easy people to understand, or reason with, because they  possess practically none of either thing. And yet I find myself arguing and trying to reason with one almost every day.

And not just any toddler, my toddler. He’s the image of his dad but he’s a mirror of me in lots of ways. Good ways yes, but like me he’s also stubborn, headstrong, and likes getting his own way. (Although when people accuse me of always wanting my own way I always wonder, who doesn’t?!) Every day I find myself trying to outwit a two year old, and feeling delighted with myself whenever I manage it. But yesterday I was not winning. And I resorted to shouting.

What did it achieve? Tears from him, followed closely by tears of frustration and guilt from me. I don’t want to be a shouty mother – so how can I preach at him every day not to shout if it’s what I resort to myself?

And so it was a day of watching the clock and waiting for Gavin to arrive home to save my sanity.  Even Alex – normally the most calm, smiley, happiest baby I’ve ever met – was having a bad day and wouldn’t accept being anywhere other than in my arms. Normally I love that and I’m happy to oblige in his pudgy cuddles, but yesterday wasn’t a normal day. And so it was a day of frustration, trying to catch up with myself, trying to calm a crying baby while trying to reason with a shouting toddler. And I cracked, and I shouted at him.

Sometimes I feel like, because we did IVF, that sometimes it’s as if I’m not entitled to complain about things. I had two pregnancies that I didn’t really enjoy, there was a lot of sickness and vomiting for months on end, and with Alex I had to have weekly blood transfusions to try and prevent a rare condition Rian had when he was born. It was tough. And yet I felt a huge guilt for  not enjoying them because of what we had to do to get there. And now I’m so grateful and so proud to be a mother of two, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t talk too much about how hard it sometimes is, because after all I should be on my knees every day, thankful for the fact we have two beautiful boys after the threat of never having any. Against the odds, we have two boys.

But some days I shout. And cry. Some days Gavin and I argue over the most ridiculous things – some days I don’t even remember what it is we’re bickering over. At one stage we argued over which of us got to have more sleep the night before! Some days I feel such ridiculous resentment that he can get up, swan into the shower and have a leisurely relaxing stand under the lovely hot water, when I have to wait for an opportunity when someone else is here before I can do the same. Whether or not my hair gets washed depends on how long someone else can watch the boys. He gets to go about his normal life; develop his career, make decisions over interesting things, have a lunch break, have a coffee that won’t go cold because someone threw up everywhere and by the time you finished cleaning it, the coffee was cold and you just aren’t bothered in making another one.

Sometimes I just miss me. Getting dressed properly – not just putting on something that looks like crap because at least when you get covered in baby puke and someone else’s dinner it doesn’t matter. Taking time to do something with my hair instead of just tying it up so it won’t get eaten and pulled. Being asked an opinion on something other than what episode of Thomas the Tank Engine we should watch.

Oh ok, enough of the poor me. Believe me, I know only too well just how lucky we are, how lucky I am to be feeling sorry for myself some days.  Given the choice, I don’t want to be back at work yet. I feel so lucky that I have this time with them both, I’m glad I’m the one that gets to stay at home with them. Given the choice, Gavin would happily stay with them and let me have a long shower or bath, he’s not a bit selfish, not one little bit. But I still can’t help it, some days, I just wish I could be the old me again, even just for a while!

I’ve no doubt, if Gavin was to write a similar article from his perspective, he would write about how he wishes he could have the cuddles and smiles and the gurgly chats from Alex. He’d wish he could listen to Rian’s hilarious stories each day and watch him change and grow, learning new words and new things, doing something every single day to make him laugh. It’s amazing being their mother.

I know how lucky I am, really I do. But some days, I guess there’ll be shouting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year to the Day

Today marks one year to the day that we found out that our third frozen embryo transfer had worked, that I was officially pregnant. That our Alex existed!

Anyone who has undergone fertility treatment will know the torture of that two week wait between the embryo being transferred and doing the test to find out if it has worked. I’ve done it three times now, that’s six weeks of pure hell. Six weeks of fear and dread, excitement and hope, then back to fear and dread again. All felt in the space of just one minute, every minute for two whole weeks.

And then the test result. Suddenly, you realise after having gone through two whole weeks of waiting, you can barely stand to wait the two minutes it takes for the test to show the result. You’re dying to know, and scared to death of knowing all at once. But there it was, in two pink lines! A positive. We could hardly believe our luck. To have success at this for a second time! Unbelievable. We joked we’d have to call the bump Patrick or Patricia for the day that was in it.

Looking at him now, smiling a gummy, drooly smile up at me from his little chair, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been one year. How much life can change in such a short space of time! To think that this day last year, I didn’t know Alex would be Alex. When you’re pregnant for the first time, you imagine what your child might look like. A mini me or a mini Gavin. A mini Gavin with red hair? Or a mini me with no hair?? Will he have my eyes, and Gavin’s smile? It’s fun to imagine.  And when you’re pregnant for a second time, you again imagine what your child might look like, but this time I just imagined another version of Rian.

But I could already tell Alex was going to be a different personality. It’s funny, after your baby is born and  you get to know them, learn their little personalities and traits, you realise that you’ve always known them, they’ve been themselves since before they were even born.

That might sound a bit ridiculous, but looking back at Rian’s pregnancy, he was the same as he is now. He stuck to his own rules; midwives advised I should feel at least 10 kicks a day. Not Rian. That child did things his own way! He didn’t like being woken up during his scans, and he doesn’t like being woken up now. He gets a new lease of life in the evenings, and he almost always only kicked my belly at that time too.

And looking back again on Alex’s pregnancy, I realise again that I’ve always known him even before we officially met. He’s a softer, gentler sort of person. The rare times he cries, it’s almost apologetic. His pregnancy was different too, much calmer in his movements and kicks.

Being someone’s mother forces you to ‘contemplate’ things a lot. A very serious sounding word which conjures up images of Oscar Wilde type people writing beautiful words about dewy grass and the passing sands of time and all that sort of thing. But it’s true! I find myself contemplating quite a lot, thank you!  What sort of men will Rian and Alex become? It’s something I take very seriously – we’re responsible for them, for their childhood and for their future. I really want to do my best to make sure that they become the best people they can be.

And I’m reminded yet again of how much Rian & Alex are actually teaching me about myself. It’s mad really – you think you are there to teach them everything so it’s a big surprise when they start teaching you a few lessons in return.

They’re essentially like little mirrors, reflecting yourself back at you. You find out things about yourself that you simply just didn’t realise. Some are good – seeing Rian hug and cuddle people, and especially Alex, being so gentle and kind. Already knowing his Pleases and Thank Yous. Some, not so good – watching Rian stand at the door and shout ‘Oh Jesus!’ when he dropped his bag on his foot I thought……oh crap.  That sounds a bit like me. I’ll often hear him shout ‘OH CHRIST’! followed by his quick little temper, like little fireworks popping, over and gone in a flash. I can’t imagine who he’s copying with that one…! I think it just makes you look closely at the sort of person you are.

How different our lives are now! When I think of that day when we were told we’d only be able to conceive through IVF, from there to here, it’s more than we ever thought possible. Yet here we are now, a family of four – a year ago, to the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Failure to Thrive’: Breastfeeding & Me

** This post has also been featured on HerFamily.ie**

 

If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know you spend a good chunk of time carrying around your hospital chart while you wait for appointments. I liked having a good nose in mine to see what they’re really saying about me. Most of the stuff might as well be written in Greek but every now and then you pick up some interesting bits and pieces. And for some reason, if you’re caught reading your own chart you feel a weird need to apologise as if you’ve just been caught reading someone’s diary! Oh sorry, you caught me reading about my own body!!

After I had Alex, one particular afternoon in the hospital after they kicked Gavin out for mealtimes and Alex was asleep, I had nothing else to do so I decided to have a little read of the chart and see what was new. I happened to open it on a page that had been filled out post birth. Staring back at me were words that would stick in my brain for weeks to come:

Failure to Thrive.

At first I wasn’t sure whether it meant I was failing to thrive, or the baby. In my defence, reality and logic are very very hazy and foggy right after you grow and produce a human. Obviously it referred to Alex in this case, but it actually described me pretty well at the time too.

Before I delve too much further into this topic, it is worth mentioning how divisive a topic it can be. People have their own opinions and experience in this matter and these will shape what they think of it now, and it can shape what they think of other mothers who do or don’t breastfeed too. I want to make it clear that primarily, my intention is not to judge or divide, but to celebrate the fact we all have choices – and importantly to recognise that sometimes we do not have the luxury of maintaining these choices. Similarly, I refuse to be judged any further than I have already judged myself on the matter. And that was a lot.

Before I even had my first hospital checkup with this pregnancy, I had decided I wanted to try breastfeeding again. Why? Because I believe it is the most natural thing to do. A privilege.

I call it a privilege because even though it’s the most natural way to feed your child, it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. For me, my breastfeeding attempts turned into two of the most stressful experiences I’ve had. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons I think.

On my first, I struggled for weeks. On paper, it should have looked perfect. He latched on perfectly, but he just wouldn’t feed. Then he spent two days in the care unit being fed formula (not related to breastfeeding I should point out). In a haze of confusion, exhaustion, stress and based on varying pieces of advice from people who knew what they were talking about, I combination fed with formula and pumped around the clock for the first 7 weeks of his life. At that point, I admitted defeat and moved solely on to formula.

How do you describe that to someone? It’s hard. I wanted to do it so badly. I would sit with the pump – we even rented the big hospital grade pump – and watch while I produced minimal amounts of milk. I felt like a complete failure. Surely I could provide the most basic thing my child needs? His own mother’s milk? Seemingly not. The more I topped up with formula, the less of my own milk I was able to produce and my confidence in my ability to feed him packed its bags and left!

On my second pregnancy, I thought I knew all the traps leading to my failure to breastfeed. This time I was sure it wouldn’t happen again!

As before, the latch was called ‘perfect’ by the midwives. At first it all seemed to be going perfectly. Great, I thought, we’re ok. He was doing everything he should in the nappy department, a sign that all is well. And it was – yes, it was still very much a learning curve of latches and timings and positions, but I was feeling so confident that it was really working this time.

And then the midwife came in with her weighing scales.

Alex was born on a Friday. By the Sunday, he had lost 10% of his birth weight.  This was the first kick.

Don’t worry, I was told, this can be normal. Keep going. So I tried to keep going but the stress was creeping in. An elevated version of it… the memories and stress of my first attempt kept coming back. What if, what if..what if it happens again. I don’t think I can do it. And all the time I kept seeing those words, failure to thrive.

On I went. I had no idea if he was getting anything from me. My milk had not come in yet, but I knew there was colostrum there from doing some hand expressing, so on I went. Requests to see a lactation consultant were almost laughed at – this is a bank holiday weekend and the busiest time of year to give birth (people like getting pregnant around Christmastime it seems!), there’ll be no lactation consultant here until Tuesday.

The midwife was back with her scales and this time she also had a little kit to test his blood sugars. ‘If it’s low, you’ll really have to give him formula’ I was told.

No, I don’t want that. I want to keep breastfeeding him…but she looked at me as if to say, well I want to win the lotto but that’s not going to happen either, is it? She did the tests and weighed him again, and yes, he had lost more weight and his blood sugars were too low. The second kick. She went off to get the formula and I just sat there and cried. Failure to thrive.

At this point I really started to question myself. Was I harming my baby by insisting on this need to breastfeed? Did I really know better than qualified medical nurses? My instinct was telling me to keep going, but my determination was really shaken and I was just full of doubt that I could do it.

By the time I got home from the hospital, when the public health nurse called to check him, he had lost more weight still. And that’s where I started to fear for my own mental health. I spoke to her about my concerns – and they kind of watch you like a hawk those first few days anyway for signs of post natal depression. I don’t think I had that, but honestly after you have a baby,  regardless of how you had it or how you’re feeding the baby, your head is just all over the place. You feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, you can’t move without pain, you’re severely sleep deprived, so you really don’t know your arse from your elbow. I told her I intended to hire a private lactation consultant and as luck would have it, her colleague actually is one, so she sent her in to visit me the next day. Ok, I was finally going to get proper informed help and honestly, I think at this point I just wanted someone to tell me what to do, I wanted the doubt and fear to go away.

Of course I have family and friends who had breastfed and who were still breastfeeding. They were such a massive support, all of them. They all went out of their way to contact me and offer support and solutions, and for that I am so grateful. Just those pieces of support, the calls and texts, were like comforting hugs each time, reaching into my doubt and chipping it away.

Despite all the support and visits from the lactation health nurse, Alex still was not gaining weight. The more weight he lost, the more stressed I got and the more I doubted myself. I started to dread the feeds. I was told my supply was low. I was also told that the fact I was on fertility drugs for so long (two attempts at IVF and three frozen embryo transfers equals a lot of drugs) could have played a part in that. I was pumping and getting virtually nothing. So yet again, the more I had to give him formula, the less I had of my own milk. Your body will only produce what it thinks you need. Alex was two weeks old at this stage, and I had to make a decision.

Did I want to breastfeed badly enough that I continue on this road? Is breastfeeding more important than my mental health, and therefore my ability to care for him in other ways than feeding? Not forgetting I have a 2 year old who also needed me to care for him.

Does that sound a bit over the top? I don’t think so. With Rian, those first 7 weeks are a complete blur. One minute he was born, and the next he was almost 2 months old.. and I had missed it. So caught up with my determination and need to be able to feed him myself. I missed it. I wasn’t prepared to miss out on Alex..those first few weeks when they’re so tiny. The smell of them and the sounds of them. It made me think about what we had to go through to get these two babies. So I decided that enough was enough.

So, looking back, what would I do differently?

Educate myself. My husband was horrified when I said that if we were to ever have another baby (although writing this has brought a lot of it back and at the moment I think this baby-growing shop is firmly closed!!), anyway, if we were to have another that yes of course I would attempt to breastfeed again.

But I would need support. If I’m ever in the situation again, I will hunt down that hospital lactation consultant Liam Neeson style! And I would hire one privately too for when I get home. I’ve read that there is always a breastfeeding solution to a breastfeeding problem. I’m a bit on the fence with this. As I said, I was told I just have low supply. Is this just the luck of the breastmilk draw? Do some women just not have a good enough supply? I should note that in 2006 I had to have a milk duct removed from one breast. Could this have played a part? Possibly. Anyone I asked could’t really say for sure.

But is there always a solution? In other words, did I just give up? I honestly don’t know. I hope not. And I tortured myself for weeks with guilt afterwards. Some might say I took the easier route – I think formula feeding is actually more work with the making of the formula and the sterilising routines – but in a way I did take the easier route for me. There was no more stress, I didn’t dread the feeds any more. My baby was no longer failing to thrive. And neither was I.

I still feel sad that it didn’t work as I planned, but I have gained in other ways. I really think there is a shocking lack of support for new mothers in this country. The midwives and nurses are so short staffed, they simply do not have the time to spend giving the support new mothers need – whether it’s your first baby or not. I’ve learned more about breastfeeding since I stopped doing it than I knew when I was – and there is a shocking amount of misinformation out there.

If you’re pregnant reading this, I would say go forth and breastfeed! For the short time I managed it, it was so precious. But if for whatever reason you don’t end up breastfeeding, don’t beat yourself up. I don’t feel I have any less of a bond with my baby than a mother who still breastfeeds hers. Either of them for that matter. For us, fed is most certainly best, however it happens.

****

I found I got the most supportive advice from friends and family, but also from http://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/index. I contacted one of their support volunteers by phone one day, and honestly could not have spoken to a nicer lady.

There is also a great Facebook group specifically for breastfeeding support in Ireland, if you want the details just get in touch.

 

 

 

Diary of a 2 Year Old

Don’t even bother trying to figure them out. They’re miniature versions of us, except they are  certifiably crazy. And yet, we were all 2 at some point and turned out pretty normal – at least I did!

Here is a day in the life of my particular 2 year old, as told by him. (He’s a genius)

5.50am

Rise and shine, campers! Ten to six already! They’ll be delighted with this lie in, what a treat. They’re gonna love me. I think I’ll celebrate by singing some songs. Let me see now, I know half of Jingle Bells – who says that’s just for Christmas? Not me – most of the Seaside song…. I do love a bit of You Are My Sunshine… but I think we need a bit of the Wheels on the Bus. Especially the verse where they sing about the baby crying…best verse ever. Loudest voice, and off we go.

5.52am

Oh wow what a great singer I am. Sometimes I don’t even know the words so I just make up my own but man, that song about the bus is such a classic. I’ll sing it again!

5.54am

Hmm what’s that smell? Oh well not to worry. One of them will be along soon to clean me up. Maybe if I jump on the bed a bit it will make it more fun to clean up. Come on Sniffy, jump with me! We can sing and jump all at the same time!

6.00am

Oh Sniffy, you’re the best friend a 2 year old could have. Let me hug you so hard your stuffing will almost fall out. Funny how neither Mama or Dada have appeared yet, they’re probably crying into their pillows with happiness at such a great lie in. Let’s go and see how happy they are to see us! We can press our faces right up into theirs, it’s so much fun when we do that when they’re pretending to be asleep. Anyway, I need a drink of water. Are you thirsty Sniffy?

6.01am

Morning Mama! Morning Dada! Hang on, it doesn’t seem like you can hear me, let me get a bit closer –

MORNING MAMA! SMELLY BUM! SNIFFY THIRSTY!

6.10am

All clean again! Mamas are so handy. I was right about all that extra jumping helping matters. She’s definitely awake now. Breakfast time! But first I’ll play a game of saying I want to wear my Thomas the Tank Engine slippers when really I have no intention of wearing them. I think she loves that game.

7.00am

I was right, that slipper game was the best.

I think she’s making that white gloopy stuff for breakfast – oh I love that stuff. It goes great in my hair and makes my whole face really soft when I smear it all over.

Mama! Spoon!

I love when I ask for a spoon and only hold it in one hand while I feed my face porridge with my other hand. Isn’t that what spoons are for?!

9.00am

Oh look! A crayon! What can I do with this? So many possibilities. There are two lovely little holes in my face at the end of my nose where I love to shove crayons. And any other item that fits. I know a wall or two that can do with some decent artwork though, I know Mama loves when I try to decorate things with crayons for her. Especially the cream couch. But come on, they asked for that one really. A cream couch! LOL.

10.00am

Mama looks pretty tired although I can’t imagine why. The day is so young! Wait! We’re going to the park! I love the swings! And the slide! And the swings again! And then when I get back into the swing I usually decide I want to be back on the slide RIGHT THIS MOMENT. NO I DO NOT WANT ONE MORE SWING EVEN THOUGH I LITERALLY JUST GOT BACK HERE! SLIDE! SLIIIIIDE!

Ok no I don’t want to slide any more.

SWING!

11.00am

Mama wants us to go for a walk. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was trying to tire me out. Bahahahahahahahahaha silly Mama.

11.30am

We’re going to visit Nana and Grandad! YAAAY! I LOVE NANA AND GRANDAD! Nana and Grandad seem besotted with me so Grandad brings me around the house and lets me press loads of buttons on things. He lets me sit in his car and press all the buttons there too. Nana sings lots of songs and reads me books and whenever Nana tells me to do something,  I do it! First time too, she doesn’t even have to issue any threats like Mama does! Nana really needs to tell Mama how she gets me to do that for her.

12.30pm

Lunch time yaaaay! Sometimes I eat it and sometimes I don’t. I like to keep Mama guessing. Like that time I made it look like I LOVED bananas so she put bananas in lots of stuff for me but then I decided I hated them so I just stopped eating them. Good times. Or sometimes it just depends on what bowl Mama puts stuff in. I can’t believe the standards of this place sometimes. Imagine expecting someone to eat something out of a red bowl?!?

1.00pm

I’m feeling pretty sleepy now but they needn’t think I’m going down for a nap without a fight. Although it would be nice to catch up with Sniffy, I’ve so much to tell him. Maybe I will go to sleep for a little while after all. But not without a fight! I think I’ll pretend I’m not tired by crying really loudly any time someone looks at me.

2.30pm

Oh no! They tricked me into sleeping again. Sometimes they do get the better of me, but I don’t let them feel too smug about it for long. Anyway,  I have a baby brother now, so when they’re not looking I’m busy teaching him all the tricks of the trade for when he gets to my age. Me and Alex are going to have so much fun! I love Alex.  I like giving him hugs and kisses with my germ-ridden hands and my snotty face! Snots are so funny! I like pulling them out of my nose and rubbing them all over Mama’s clothes. Her face goes a funny colour, oh it’s just so funny! Dada laughs too although he pretends like he isn’t, but I know he is really!

3.30pm

Oh look! A crayon! I bet this would fit perfectly up Alex’s nose! I better go and see if it fits.

4.00pm

Mama is making dinner. Time to take everything out of the fridge when she’s not looking! That’s one of my favourite games. Sometimes Mama lets me stand on my chair beside her at the counter and help her. I’m such a good help! I know how to reach all the things that make the most mess. Sometimes I help Mama by pouring stuff on the floor and then I like to roll in it.

4.15pm

Mama needs to use the bathroom. I like to follow her in there and ask what everything is. I know she likes the company and I ask so many questions about what she’s doing. Then I like to put on the taps cos I can reach them now! I love washing my hands and splashing lots of water and helping her use lots of tissue so I unravel it all for her. My favourite bit is when she presses the button and all the water gushes into that big weird seat! It’s very mysterious. Sniffy and I wonder about that a lot, so one day I decided to send Sniffy in there to see what actually happens. Mama didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t see Sniffy for ages afterwards because he had to lie for a long time on the radiator but at least he was nice and warm after his swim.

4.20pm

Alex made a mess of his own. Mama is cleaning him up so it’s time to see how far I can jump off the couch – oh look! Mama’s phone! I know just how to press the buttons on this. Sometimes I press them too much and then nobody can use the phone at all for ages! Oh it’s so much fun!

4.30pm

Time to ask Mama what she’s doing again. I like to ask this a lot. Sometimes I might ask ‘Mama? Ah-doing?’ and when she answers, I’ll ask it straight away again. Just in case she’s doing something different. She’s not. But it’s best to check every 2 minutes, to be on the safe side. I hate missing out on stuff.

OH WAIT! I HEAR A VAN! NEE-NAW NEE-NAW! Even though Mama says that’s not the sound a van makes, I don’t care! I love vans. And fire engines! AND TRACTORS! But most of all I like trains! Percy is my favourite. Mama loves watching Thomas with me! Sometimes I make her put it on and rewind it again and again so I can see my favourite bit! AGAIN MAMA!  I heard her tell Dada that she knows all the words by now and sometimes even dreams about trains for the three hours a day she does get to sleep. She’s so lucky to have me to help her!

5.00pm

DINNER TIME! Oh I love dinner time. Especially when there’s dip to dip all the food into. I’ll eat stuff if it has dip on it. It’s funny how almost everything is called chips though, I need to figure that one out. But I do love chips so I’ll always eat them! Mama calls everything chips and I trust her because she would never just tell me that to get me to eat stuff. Sometimes chips are green and they don’t taste as nice but I dip them into my dip and I eat them anyway. I love dip! Mama says Sniffy eats all his chips too. I love Sniffy!

6.00pm

Oh Goodness, Mama is so silly. We were playing Peekaboo and I had the best hiding place EVER in the middle of the room with my hands over my eyes – and she STILL couldn’t find me! I gave her such a fright when I shouted PEEKOOO and she finally found where I was hiding! Oh it was so funny! You’d think she’d know my hiding place but she never figures it out! I’m such a genius!

6.30pm

DADA IS HOME! Mama looks very relieved. I’ve no idea why – today was so much fun! Now that Dada is home, I don’t want Mama to do anything for me for the rest of the night! Dada is my hero. He swings me around and throws me on things. I think I heard Mama shouting JESUS CHRIST once but I was laughing so hard she might have said something else! Dada is the best fun!

7.00pm

Time for bed! I don’t want to go to bed, so I start to shout a lot. They said I didn’t have to go to bed, but then I wouldn’t get to brush my teeth with my Thomas toothpaste. I love that Thomas toothpaste! They squeeze it on to my penguin toothbrush and it tastes so nice! Mama tells me not to eat the toothpaste but I do it anyway. Then I ask what everything in the bathroom is 20 times just in case I forget. I also want to know what it does and why it’s there. Then we get Sniffy and get into bed. Mama thinks I’m almost asleep but then I remember I need another drink! Then she thinks I’m almost asleep again but then Sniffy needs a drink! After all that drinking I need a song to celebrate so Mama sings another song. She hasn’t got a great voice so I help her. Just as Mama is leaving the room I remember that I have to tell her another story! And then we sing another song. Mama almost leaves the room but then my mouth feels like sandpaper because it’s 20 seconds since I last had a drink and I need another drink of water! After a while I forget what it is I want and I’m quite sleepy now anyway so I cuddle into Sniffy who gives the best hugs and say ‘night night Mama, I love-oo’ and as Mama closes the door I hear her blow me a kiss and say she loves me too.