Second Place


aand e copy*my two  boys in A&E, taken on my terrible camera phone

Over the last 24 hours I feel like we have been crawling out of a sinkhole.  In the first moment of quietness after what seems like days and days of noise and mess, I finally have got a moment to sit down and collect my thoughts about the last few days. Its been a really challenging few days weeks here in our little house. I don’t want this to be a long list of woes but the cliff notes appear to read redundancy, broncilitis, A&E, burst ear drum. Its funny how just when you think you are starting to get to grips with motherhood, something happens which takes you right back to the beginning- in our case, one very poorly baby and too utterly exhausted parents.

This all started last Saturday when we took the very rare decision to go out to a friend’s holiday party. We had discussed the practicalities of this in real detail, weighed up the pros and cons of dragging the baby to this party and disrupting his normal routine. We have never been ones to be totally governed by a fixed routine and having not seen the majority of our friends for nearly a year, we decided it was probably worth the risk. So we went, we tried and we failed. Forrest ended up in what we now know was the early stages of bronchitis. It was noisy, hot and disorientating for us and certainly for him. We arrived early and all our friends arrived late, just at the point when I was stressed out of my mind with a very irritable child.
We are in a somewhat unique position where none of our friends have children. Forrest is very much the first of our group and that perhaps is what made it all so difficult. I have been to countless parties like this before but never as a mother. I felt like I spent the whole evening desperately and pointlessly trying to clutch at the person I used to be whilst deep down knowing that things were different and perhaps these events are now beyond me. I am not sad about this in the slightest. I’ve never been much of a partier or drinker but I hold my friendships very dear and value conversation above most things. I suppose that is a reflection of spending my days with a baby! So there I was, trying to catch up with people, trying to enjoy myself, trying to be the same friend I would have been a year ago and it was horrible. I hated every minute of it. You have these images of going to these holiday parties (thanks internet) where you are just going to be yourself, but a bit more sparkly, with a well behaved baby balanced neatly on your hip. It doesn’t exist and that weekend not only taught me that now obvious fact but the more real truth that  I have changed. I cannot be my old self that just comes with a baby. Nor am I a completely different person. I am a newer version of myself. My responsibilities are radically different and I now know how very very different my life is from my friends. I wasn’t upset about leaving the party in the slightest or that it hadn’t worked out. I am glad we tried, even if it was to learn that Forrest (and possibly we) were not ready. I was just sad that for a moment, we had perhaps put our own needs above his. I was very sad and sorry about that.
Over the next week, Forrest got very poorly. Then we got poorly too. I make no secret of the fact that our baby is a terrible sleeper, but over the last week he has woken up virtually every hour, sick, cross, confused and desperate to feed despite not being able to breathe through his nose. I have been vomited on more times this week than in my entire lifetime and our mattress has certainly seen better days. Trying to feed your baby when you are sick yourself is one of most challenging experiences I have had in raising Forrest. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself but of course his needs are so much bigger and greater than mine. Putting Forrest first on a daily basis normally involves how I spend my time and how our day is shaped. This was the first time I had to put his physical well being above my own; battling with my own body in order to be present and nurturing for his. It was tough but the reality check I needed after Saturday’s meltdown. I felt that in feeding him, holding him while he slept and slowly nursing him back to help that I was somehow making it up to him. It made me feel better about myself in any case.
He did eventually get better and I am slowly getting my strength back. Then he decided to catapult himself off our bed and whack his head on the way down. So the week of doom ended with a cab ride to A&E and four glorious hours of observation, during which he mainly wanted to crawl around and eat the equipment. He is absolutely fine. Maybe it was the last straw but it sort of pulled us out of our slump. Seeing your baby ill is awful, but seeing them in hospital is quite simply something else.
I feel like the last few days (and weeks) have taught me a lot about myself and my place in the world. Losing my job and confusing my priorities has made me really question where I belong in the world right now. I think every new mum maybe goes through this but it seems that I was quite happily riding on the coat tales of maternity leave and now I have some decisions to make. For now, I am staying and home and loving my son and I could not be happier that I get these days with him. Motherhood is filling the gap where my job and my friendships once were but I imagine at some point, I will need to reclaim a tiny part of that space back for myself.
Billy and I made an agreement early on that we should never be apologetic for the decisions we make when in comes to Forrest. We know that mistakes will happen (all the time) and then we will often make bad decisions or have poor judgement. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad that my baby was poorly, stressed and sad. It just means I accept that parenting is difficult and a learning experience.
So thats it. A marathon week in the wolf-haus. As a mum, I will always come second (and as a wife, sometimes third) and this week I learnt that I am more than happy with that. Roll on the holidays now please.

Forrest and the rib


Not something I ever want to forget. He demolished it.

My wild


It is probably the change in season and the drop in temperature but this week I have noticed a real change in my relationship with Forrest. My baby boy turns eight month tomorrow. Still tiny but yesterday I asked him if he could clap his hands and he responded by enthusiastically banging his palms together. Today he shared my lunch with me. He knows how to kiss and is desperately trying to follow me around our flat. 
On Wednesday was our first day together alone at the park and he laughed and laughed as I pushed him in the bitter cold. It was freezing on Wednesday but we wrapped up warm and walked the 30 minutes to the nearest playground. We crunched leaves with our palms, flew through the air and sat like a giant lump of pudding on the slide. So much of this playground he is still too little for but this week I saw a glimpse of what is to come. My tiny wild one is slowly becoming my wild little boy and bit by bit is waving goodbye to his babyhood. I know we have a long way to go yet but this week has been a special one. I suddenly felt so rooted in motherhood and at ease with my place in the world. Perhaps for the first time I feel that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing and how important this job of mine truly is. This is probably just a very long winded and overly indulgent way of saying that we had a wonderful morning in the park. But these days are so special so I am glad I have this little space to remember them. 

Taking time


There have been a few days in the recent weeks when this whole being a Mum thing has been really overwhelming. With Forrest starting to gain his mobility and independence, there has been a lot more standing and falling and catching and bumping going on in this house. Sometimes he falls over hard and it still upsets me even though I know it is part of his learning. This combined with the two new teeth have made things ever so challenging. Those teeth are super sharp considering they are only just poking out of the gums and nobody tells you that babies will bite. Sorry to Billy, a good friend and fellow punters for screaming so loudly in the pub on Sunday afternoon but it really really hurt. 

All of this has amounted to me feeling a lot more tired than normal. It was only a few days ago I realised that aside from a couple of occasions when Billy has taken Forrest for a walk or for breakfast, I have not spent more than a couple of hours away from my son since he was born. In fact, when he was a newborn these little breaks were far more frequent as he slept so much in the beginning. This has probably a lot to do with the fact that we never got around to introducing a bottle properly. I am a lazy pumper and I truly hate doing it. I find it much quicker and am much happier to just feed my baby myself. However, because of this and my commitment to breastfeeding in general, it is not possible for me to be away from my baby for long periods of time. Very few people understand this properly. Along with the countless lovely offers to babysit, I have had a few people question why we have not yet left Forrest for a date night or whatnot. It’s not their fault, they just don’t realise the logistics involved with his feeding and that leaving a baby who has no real experience of bottle feeding is a recipe for disaster!

But last week, probably somewhere amidst the biting and the wrestling, I realised that I was nearly ready to have some time alone and that I really needed it. Time just to have a bath, wash my hair properly, maybe read or browse the internet without a baby hanging on my legs or dribbling in my ear. Maybe just a coffee for an hour with a close friend or a tiny bit of shopping (a task I have found incredibly stressful since he was born). Billy has of course been offering to take Forrest pretty much every weekend since February but it’s only about now I have felt that maybe I am ready to take him up on his offer. It hasn’t happened yet. Understandably thinking about it makes me a little anxious but my birthday is coming up in a few weeks to who knows what I might get up to. I am hoping it will involve a haircut.

(these photos are a tad unrelated but my goodness I love him so)

Adventures in weaning


I always knew I was going to try out Baby-led weaning. This type of weaning appealed to me on several levels; my total laziness when it comes to making purees, the connivence of him being able to eat pretty much what I have and most importantly, him having total control over what goes into his mouth and when. He learnt to roll on his own yes? He learnt to chitter chatter in his own good time and he is now sitting up like a pro. So why would I suddenly, just because we hit the magical 6 month mark, decide now is the time to take back all control and start shovelling odd mushy concoctions down his throat? I can’t stand the sight of a baby spitting out some gunky mush (probably because they are confused, not interested or not keen) only for a parent to mop it up and pop it straight back in their mouths. It seems not only unfair but completely unnatural  If he can get all of his toys, his fist and all of my precious possessions into his mouth (goodbye iphone), then why not happily let him munch away on real food from the very beginning? Anyway, that’s just my take on it. We can argue about gag reflects and chocking hazards until the cows come home but so far I have a very happy hungry baby who is enjoying his dahl thank you very much.

We did take it slow for the first week, trying him out on some loaded spoons of mashed avocado, pears and typical baby fodder but quickly abandoned it in favour of more exciting and interesting textures. To date Forrest has tried all manner of fruits and vegetables, bagels and cream cheese, dahl, salmon, chicken pieces, this amazing Ottolegnhi pasta which I can’t stop making, homemade hummus, a cheese sandwich and he once has a lick of a Mr Whippy (in my defence it was 35 degrees and he snatched it). Today we are experimenting with lebanese foods and having homemade chickpea falafel and some sort of greek yogurty thing which I have yet to invent. 

Over the next month, I hopefully will be able to update you how BLW is going and come back with some more organised thoughts on the topic. But for now, I think the picture attests to how well it seems to be working out. There is nothing more spectacular than watching your chubby (very nearly) six month old enjoy the same dinner that you are having at the table. Although at this stage his grip is pretty poor and it’s doubtful that he is swallowing a lot, in a week there is a noticeable improvement of his coordination. Put it this way, it is quite unusual for him to miss his mouth. 

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