Monday, 20 September 2010

Multi-tasking Mums

Ok, so it's a well known fact that mum's are amazing at multi-tasking, right?

This morning, I lazed in bed until gone 9am as I have a pretty bad cold and my husband kindly gave me the opportunity by dealing with the two year old until he had to go to work. I was expecting a casual day today so eventually had some breakfast and a quick shower.

At 10am, I got a call from our choir secretary. I sing with The Chanterelles, a national ladies choir who originated from a youth choir in Leicestershire - which of course, I was in. Would I be free to be interviewed LIVE on BBC Radio Leicester this morning... erm, well, I'm free, but I have no voice and a toddler to entertain. For some reason, I still said yes.

So I called the radio to say yes I'll do it and gave them my number. Then I got the macbook fired up and did some intense last minute research so that I wouldn't be caught out for not knowing my subject!

At 10.35, I decided to do a quick stinky nappy change - risky, but I thought necessary as I didn't know how long I'd be gone for once I was 'on air'. I changed him in front of the TV and pressed play on the DVD just as I pulled his trousers back up. Taking the stinky nappy to the kitchen thinking I'd just chuck it out of the back door and then prepare myself, my phone rang.


The lady on the other end said, "Hi, thanks for doing this, I'll just put you through to Tony."

I was expecting at least a short off-air chat in which I could get myself somewhere with good phone signal, grab a drink (for emergency coughing situations), a tissue (for emergency sniffing situations), my computer (for emergency notes, if asked) and my notebook with the info I wanted to cover.

No. I was put straight through to the studio. So I grabbed the aforementioned articles and legged it upstairs. Arriving in my bedroom I realised I had lost my breath from the fast movements and hoped to god he wasn't going to come to me straight away.

After a few minutes listening, I was introduced and had a short chat with the presenter and two members of the band Blake, with whom we are performing on Friday 1st October. They even got me to sing - I was cringing at the lack of tone in my poorly voice.

Interview over, I calmly returned downstairs and was thankful to find the toddler happily sitting watching his DVD. Honestly, there is no better babysitter than the TV on some occasions.

Here's a link to the interview, Start listening from 1:35 for the interview.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Boy/Girl? Who cares?

Well, I do, actually. I've been inspired to write this blogpost as I thought my comment on Garry from the BlogUpNorth's post might go on a little too long.

I made no secret when I first got pregnant that I really wanted a girl. Really really wanted a girl. At my 20-week scan, when they showed me what looked rather distinctly like male genitalia on the screen, I cried. They also informed me that my ovarian cyst was not only still there, but also, no smaller, which was bad news and slightly scary. This may have had a small impact on my crying, but I know it wasn't wholly responsible.

At my 20-week scan this time around, I yet again saw what was clearly male genitalia. Having told myself and anyone who cared to listen, that I didn't mind what sex baby we had this time (as we wanted 3 anyway), I was surprised to find my eyes fill up with water once more and my heart sink a little. I had obviously been harbouring a secret desire which I hadn't even registered myself.

We had always intended to try for a third, but now, I feel there is a little pressure as I still want a daughter so much. What will I do if I end up with three boys? Try again? I doubt it. It's not just that I want a girl... I have this notion that boys are harder work and am already nervous about how I'm going to cope with two of them. Let alone three.

Maybe I should try to explain why I feel such a strong desire for a girl.

I am one of two children. My brother is older than me. Many people say it's nice to have an older brother as he looks after you. Does he? Really? I'm sure there are many long-forgotten instances when my big brother did look out for me in some way, but he certainly didn't stand up for me at school if I needed it and I don't ever particularly remember feeling protected by him at home either. Maybe I have a selective memory as we're not very close these days.

I thought a family with an older sister would be nice, so that she could take a slightly motherly caring role as the oldest. Maybe I was still deluded and there was as much chance of this happening as an older brother protecting his younger siblings. It probably just depends on the individuals.

I also, could only ever envisage myself as a mother to a daughter. Of course, now I have a gorgeous little boy that has changed. But factors such as dealing with puberty also come into play. I've been through female puberty so can deal with explaining it. Male puberty - eek! I dearly hope that my boys will be close enough to me that they can talk to me about anything and I can deal with it. But I feel it would have been much easier with a girl. Been there, done it.

To justify that I think it's OK to have a preference let me continue: I've always been a bit concerned that I'm far too blasé about having children, full stop. Especially as I now only have one ovary. (I confess, I expected it to take a little longer to get pregnant with one ovary gone. I did NOT expect it to happen so instantly. But maybe this gives me good cause to be blasé.) I certainly don't think I, or anyone else should go around worrying about whether or not they'll be able to have children before they've even tried. Worrying for no reason does no-one any good.

I expected to be able to have children. Like I had some sort of right. Having been through the birth process (and such a good experience of it too), I do feel a little more humbled and incredibly honoured that I have been able to have children, both physically able and also finding that right moment in life and the right partner. Not everyone has that chance. So yes, I do understand it being offensive to get concerned about something so trivial as the sex of your child.

Of course, I would prioritise having a healthy baby over having one of my chosen gender. But could we not say that those of us who show a preference for gender are actually no worse than those who wish only for a 'healthy' baby. I mean, define healthy. Many people have children with disabilities or maybe just allergies. They still love their children but would they have been criticised for saying whilst pregnant "I don't mind the gender as long as it's healthy"?

I don't think we should judge people for expressing a gender preference unless it actually affects the way they feel about the child once it has arrived. I see no reason why older children should be offended by their parents wanting a 'different one' this time, if they are part of a happy, loving family. I will have no problem telling my eldest that I had wanted a girl first... but I shall be careful to explain that he was no disappointment. Just not how I would have planned it had planning been an option.

And when I am out exhibiting my two boys in the next few years, I also won't have a problem with people asking if we'll be trying again for a girl - because we will be. One day. If I'm lucky enough to have a third and it's a boy again, I will be gutted and yet still appreciate that I'm a very fortunate person. Any child of mine will be thoroughly loved, no matter how different the child is to what I had hoped.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Advice from an old veteran

Two of my best friends (there's a group of six of us from school who are still really close) are pregnant with their first child. Aside being more pregnant than both of them, I've also been there and done it all before... and survived the first two years, just. Thinking about offering them helpful insights and gems of advice has made me reflect a little. So here goes with my top tips for new mums-to-be.

1. The birth is the easy bit
I think many people spend pregnancy worrying mainly about getting a huge baby out through a relatively small hole. Of course, they do also worry about how they will cope afterwards, but I think for most, birth is the most scary part. It's not. It's really not.

2. How to have a good birth
Research beforehand, be that reading, antenatal classes, talking to people, watching TV births, etc., so you understand what is going to happen and know what your options and preferences are. Then, stay calm and in control.

3. Be strict with early-day visitors
If someone turns up uninvited, don't let them in. If you've already made certain decisions about how you're going to raise your baby, don't let things slip just cause you've got visitors. Ask for help, get people doing your shopping, cooking for you and cleaning the house. Tell them they can have a short cuddle before handing baby over, otherwise, 2 hours later, you'll be screaming inside to have your baby back in YOUR arms, willing it to be ready for a feed so the visitor says "I think (s)he needs mummy".

4. Don't buy everything you see
We still had things to buy when Felix turned up 6 weeks early. It was a blessing in disguise shopping wise, as we ended up ONLY buying what we needed. We could have wasted a lot of money on things that marketing people tell you a new baby needs.

5. Stick at the breastfeeding - for selfish reasons if nothing else
There is no better way to lose your baby belly and it's so much easier than carrying around bottles and sterilising stuff and boiling water and separate milk powder. But remember, it is tough to begin with. You've never done it before and the baby's never done it before either. Ask for help straight away if you're struggling as the longer you leave it the more difficult it will become. The best nipple cream in the world is breastmilk. After each feed, squeeze a little more out, rub in and leave to air dry. Easier to do this when no-one's around!!

6. Set good habits early
It's easier to take a dummy away from a 6 month old than a 1 year old. It's easier to take away a dummy from a 1 year old than an 18 month old. As hard as it seems to teach them to sleep on their own, it's easier to do it early. But... give yourself a break. You have to take the easy option sometimes. Don't punish yourself when you do, just get the good habits back on track as soon as you feel up to it.

7. Make friends with people with children the same age
One of the girls (who lives locally) is due to give birth about 4 months after me. So we'll both have babies at the same time. But 4 months in baby terms is massive. You need to have other mums to chat to who are going through the SAME things as you at the SAME time. For sympathy, understanding, advice and for comparing (in a positive way!).

8. Let your partner work things out for himself
As a mother, you tend to be the main carer for your newborn. You learn the best way to do things and when there's a small, helpless child screaming its lungs out, it's tooooo tempting to shove the father out of the way and do it yourself. But he has to learn the same way you have learned, by trial and error. Not just by being told by you what works and what doesn't. Sometimes, you have to walk away and leave them to figure it out.

9. Walk away
Talking about walking away, when the crying won't stop and you're losing your patience, put the child down somewhere safe, walk away and don't return until you are calm. Crying isn't going to harm the child. Your anger might.

10. Enjoy every minute of it
At the end of a tough day, try to smile about the positives. As cliche as it is, they do grow up quickly and you'll never get back the days of them being totally helpless and being cuddled as and when YOU choose! One day, they'll be off to school and then, leaving home. Eeek!

I really hope that my friends will come to me for help. I tried to be open with them when I did it all for the first time and not just pretend that everything was rosy all the time. Without having experienced it themselves, I suspect sometimes they just thought I was being a moaner, but it's really important to get it off your chest and not bottle it up. Being a parent is tough. But it's also the best thing in the world.