Archive for Let it all out

The Breastfeeding Chronicles – Part the Third

(In case you missed them – part one; part two)

Before I had my babies I had very definite ideas about breastfeeding. I believed that breast was unquestionably best, but that breastfeeding was something I would have to try and potentially fail at, as I knew many people who had started off breastfeeding and had turned to bottles after a few weeks, despite being wracked by guilt. They just hadn’t managed to make it work, so I knew that it was quite possible it wouldn’t work for me either. (Quite what I thought happened to babies before formula existed I’m not sure; maybe I just thought a lot more babies must have died with so many mothers unable to breastfeed.) I expected I would breastfeed (if it worked in the first place) for around 6 months to a year. I thought that breastfeeding any longer than that was “weird” and that breastfeeding once a baby had teeth or was old enough to “ask for it” was even weirder. (I’m not quite sure when I thought babies got teeth!)

So I started breastfeeding when the girls were born, without having taken a class or really with any idea of the potential pitfalls. Luckily, Claudia took to it so well that I built up a good supply, which meant that Imogen was able to feed too, despite not seeming to latch as easily. I know now how lucky I was that Claudia took to the boob the way she did, understanding with 20:20 hindsight that all my friends who tore themselves up with guilt over having to stop through supply issues or agonising pain were in fact failed by the system and could have probably had very successful breastfeeding relationships if helped out by a qualified lactation consultant.

Upon leaving hospital after the birth, we were given a whole load of bumph by the midwives. It covered a whole range of things from safe sleeping to feeding and contained the fact that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. It took me a while to actually understand this. It means that for the first six months of life, infants should have breast milk and only breast milk – no formula, no baby rice, no purees. I initially thought it meant that you could stop breastfeeding after 6 months and couldn’t work out what you were supposed to do between 6 months and a year as babies are not allowed cow’s milk as a main drink until 12 months. It didn’t seem right that the only option was to put them on formula until they were old enough for cow’s milk.

So I looked into it a bit more and realised that the recommendation was for exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months, discovering that the WHO also recommends sustained breastfeeding until two years as part of a mixed diet.

TWO YEARS! How many people do you know who still breastfeed their two year old? And how many people do you know who would think it was weird (and maybe even a little bit wrong) to breastfeed a two year old? A lot, right? Most of them? Yeah, I was one of them.

So the girls turned one a couple of weeks ago and, with no clear plan in place for how long we will continue, I am currently still breastfeeding. Since about ten or eleven months they have been very aware of me feeding the other one. If I am in a room with both of them and pick one up to feed, the other one will make it very clear they do not want to be left out. Having retired my tandem feeding cushion months ago, when they were old enough to have a feed in five minutes or so and I realised I could do so quickly without needing to feed both at the same time, we are now back to tandem feeding more often than not. I lift them both up onto the sofa (or sit on the floor with them), place one either side of me and, basically, let them at it. They sit or squat or kneel beside me and have their milk, often trying to poke the other one in the eye at the time. Most of my energy is spent trying to stop them from poking their sister in the eye.

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Immie’s favourite trick is to wait until Claudie comes up for air or to change position and then clap her hand across my other nipple – the one Claudia was feeding from.

They are both now capable of “asking” for their milk. Immie will stand in front of me making a high pitched “eh-uh” noise. If she is in my arms she will pull my top down and reach inside my bra because waiting for me to get my boob out obviously just isn’t quick enough. Claudia has learned the sign for milk and I know when she wants it as she will be opening and closing both fists with some urgency. (The sign for milk is starting with an open palm and then making a fist as you bring your hand down, as if you were milking an imaginary cow.)

When they turned one, we decided that although we had no plans to actually try and force weaning, we would introduce a policy of “never offer, never refuse”. Whilst I had been back at work – and having to reintroduce the use of breast pads as I realised on the first day that I couldn’t last all day without becoming engorged and leaking (luckily I had a cardigan I could use to conceal this from children and colleagues!) – the girls had gone all day from their morning feed until I got back from work around 6pm without any milk. They were eleven months and eating a varied and healthy diet of solids so I figured they would be okay without milk during the day (I have never managed to get much from pumping and a school isn’t really the ideal environment for regular pumping either). I thought that this would then mean that, once I was home with them again, they probably wouldn’t want or need much milk during the day and that my “never offer, never refuse” policy would mean they were pretty much weaned other than maybe mornings and evenings, with a feed or two for Claudia in the night. Ironically, it feels like they are asking for milk more often than they were having it before I instigated NONR, but I’m not bothered by it (I might be a little bothered by Immie trying to get my boobs out in public) and plan to just see how it all pans out. I hope they will both self-wean before we decide that we want them to, because I feel like the act of forced weaning is not going to be much fun for anyone.

I am certainly more cautious about feeding them in public now they are older (and looking more like toddlers than babies), because I don’t particularly want to attract any remarks, but I do also feel like I have a bit of a duty to normalise breastfeeding of toddlers in the eyes of our Western society who think it is more appropriate to have a topless model on page three of a national newspaper than to see a toddler being fed milk specifically designed for them direct from the source.

Imogen was (and is) still having a bottle of formula in the evening. We were giving both girls formula before bed, but at probably around 9 months, Claudia started refusing the bottle, so I went back to breastfeeding her to sleep in the evenings. We decided to stop formula altogether at 12 months, because it’s not “needed”. Immie can have cow’s milk or – even better – breast milk and it’s not good for babies’ teeth to either drink milk out of a bottle or drink it after brushing their teeth. The only reason we haven’t phased the formula out quite yet is because we knew it would mean a bit of a change of bedtime routine and we didn’t want to mess with that just before going on holiday. So the plan is to get rid of the post-bath bottle once we are back from Dorset and work on a bedtime routine that involves cuddles and stories rather than a bottle of milk.

Did you know it’s World Breastfeeding Week? Find out more here.

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Back to School

Tomorrow morning I go back to work for the first time. The girls will turn 11 months on Tuesday. It is exactly a year since I started maternity leave (and moved house the same day, if you recall).

We have found a great nanny who will care for the girls here in their own home, surrounded by their own things. We have all spent the weekend getting to know her, showing her where things are and explaining how things work.

It’s only temporary. It’s five and a half weeks until the summer holidays. I will be working four-day weeks until then. In September I will only do a couple of afternoons a week. And by early November I will finish for the foreseeable future.

But god I’m going to miss them.

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*Facepalm*

So last Thursday I found five minutes and sat down to finish off a blog post I had been struggling to write all week. It was a hard post to write – and deeply personal – so I wanted to make sure I found the right words and described everything clearly. Besides not having much time, my mind had felt foggy and despite planning phrases in my head at various points over the week, sitting down to write a flowing narrative felt much like cognitively wading through treacle.

I finished the draft on my phone and switched to the laptop in order to finalise the post. Because I had saved it as a draft earlier in the week, the publish date showed as a few days previous, so I set it to publish in about ten minutes time and hit ‘schedule’.

Nothing about this process was particularly different from the 100-odd other times I have published a post.

I set the laptop aside and went to get the twins from their nap. Later, I checked on my phone that the post had published. I checked my stats, I checked that the link had posted to Twitter and I opened my Facebook Pages app, to check the link had posted there too.

Weirdly, it hadn’t. I refreshed the feed a few times, but still the link didn’t show. I thought to myself that I must check the WordPress dashboard on the computer again later to see if I could figure out why it hadn’t posted. I was busy with the twins; I didn’t think much more about it.

The next morning I woke up to a Facebook notification saying that one of my friends had liked my blog post. “That’s odd,” I thought. “How does she know about my blog?” Some of my ‘real life’ friends know about the blog, but not many.

I loaded the notification. I did a double take. Instead of saying that my friend had liked Becoming Mums’ link, it said she had liked MY link, as in my own personal Facebook page.

Dun-dun-duuunnn

Dun-dun-duuunnn

I clicked onto my profile and there it was, bold as brass, right at the top of my timeline. My stomach lurched. This could have happened when I blogged about baby-led weaning; it could have happened when I talked about cloth nappies; in either of those cases I would still have been a little embarrassed – I don’t really know why, I think these days most people encounter blogs regularly if they are online at all, but I think maybe I’m carrying a bit of a hangover from when blogging wasn’t so well-known a pastime and wonder just what people will think of the fact that I basically put my life out there for people to scrutinise.

However, it wasn’t either of those posts that had been linked. It was a post that went into quite raw detail of how I’ve been feeling. It was hard to write. It was hard to write even for all of you, the lovely people who follow our lives and who I’ve (mostly) never met. The thought of those words being read by someone I might see face-to-face within the next few days made me feel sick.

I deleted the link and texted L (something along the lines of: FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!) but it had sat there on my timeline for about 16 hours. The damage (if you like) had been done. I checked my stats for the previous day and, although they weren’t markedly different from the traffic I normally get on a day I publish a post, there were 17 referrals from Facebook. I can account for about three of those. The other 14 are unknown.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened. The WordPress dashboard insists it did nothing wrong.

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WordPress: it lies!

And believe me I’ll be closely monitoring Facebook when this post goes live.

I know that time will take the edge off the embarrassment I feel and already I am able to accept that it wasn’t the end of the world (although I think it will be a while before I am able to read that post back to myself again, as I’d rather not be confronted with the words I put out there for all to see).

Having said all that, I have to remind myself that whilst I choose not to announce each published blog post to my Facebook friends, I do little to disguise our identities and if someone I know were to stumble across my blog, the header image alone would be enough to tell them it was mine.

So if you’re someone who knows me in real life who is reading this because you got the link from Facebook, don’t worry. It is okay that you’re reading. Just maybe wait another week or two before you tell me!

Anti-social network

I am pretty addicted to Twitter and Facebook. They fulfil different needs in me – Facebook is mostly for keeping in touch with my “real-life” friends and my Twitter feed is more centred around my online life. I love both and have apps on my phone so I can check both at regular intervals during the day (although this has sadly decreased since the girls’ feeds have cut down to about five minutes a pop as that was prime internet time for me!).

However, spending an increased amount of time on both means I also get to experience increased frustration at the ridiculous ways in which some people choose to interact on Facebook and Twitter.

Now it’s unlikely that those of you reading this are the real offenders, but just FYI these are the things I would like everyone to PLEASE FORTHELOVEOFGOD STOP doing on Facebook and Twitter.

1) Don’t retweet your #ffs/praise
If I follow you, then I don’t need to know that someone else recommends I follow you. The end. Also, if someone says something really nice about you, I understand the impulse to want to share that with other people, but that’s why we have impulse control – to stop us coming off like a total knob, which is what happens when you retweet praise. And don’t try to “disguise” it by quoting the tweet and then adding a response like “aww thanks guys :-)”. Just @ reply them privately and stop trying to show me and the rest of the world how wonderful everyone thinks you are. Like my wife always says to the cockier kids in her sports teams, if you’re that great, people will know; you won’t have to tell them!

2) Your blog name is not a hashtag.
I don’t think I need to expand on this.

3) Don’t tweet celebrities asking for an RT
I don’t care if it’s your birthday. And neither do they, let’s face it. Write something witty, interesting or controversial and you are far more likely to get retweeted. Also, that way you know that at least your RT has been on some kind of merit, not just because some celebrity or other actually had 2 minutes to spare in their day and possibly felt ever so slightly sorry for you. It’s hardly something to be proud of.

4) I don’t care how many followers you have, don’t ask for my help to get more.

followersUnless you are a charitable organisation or a cause that needs to be seen by as many people as possible, you can just forget about me retweeting your requests for more followers. I have no idea how many followers I have. Every now and then I get an email telling me so and so has started following me – great. I usually click through and look at that person’s feed and decide whether or not I want to return the favour. I hope that when people have decided to follow me, it’s because they have seen something I’ve written – whether it’s on my personal blog, on someone else’s blog, a tweet etc – and liked it enough to want to follow me on Twitter. I don’t want followers for followers’ sake and it irritates me when other people go fishing for followers for followers’ sake. If someone likes what you have to say, they will follow you.

5) Okay, you blogged, I get it. Do we have to chat about it all day?
An automated tweet when you publish a new blog post is useful. Blogs I really like I usually add to my feed reader, so I never miss a post, but it’s still useful to see a link via Twitter. I have my blog set up to auto-tweet when I hit publish. You may even have come to this blog entry through Twitter. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. What I do have a problem with is when I see a tweet about a new blog post in my feed, then an hour or two later I see another link to the same blog post, possibly with different text content in the tweet. Then a couple of hours later it shows up again. Do you know what, if I’d wanted to read it I would have done the first time! Admittedly sometimes I don’t check Twitter for a while and my phone (because I only ever check Twitter on my phone) will show me that wavy grey line that means I’ve missed some tweets and I rarely click to expand it, so OKAY, I could have missed your OHSOVERYIMPORTANT blog post. But do you know what? If I want to see what you’ve been up to, I can check your website myself. I can tolerate a maximum of two tweets linking to the same blog post, but that really is it. Any more and you are likely to get yourself unfollowed, my friend. And don’t even get me started on taking a screen shot of your tweet/blog/etc and POSTING IT TO INSTAGRAM?! WTF?!

6) Hashtag games
Okay I’ve actually seen some bloody hilarious hashtag games in my time, so this isn’t all hashtag games. I suppose, rather, it’s the ones that take themselves too seriously. There are no interesting examples trending right now, but I’m sure you’ve all seen them.  #ImThatTypeOfPersonWho #HowToMakeMeSmile God it’s boring.

7) The Passive-Aggressive Status Update of Mystery

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So you post an enigmatic status update that clearly only makes sense to one or two people. You’re pissed off about something, but you don’t make it clear what. You wait for people to ask if you’re okay or what’s wrong. And then you don’t reply to those comments. Guess what? That’s really fucking annoying! Don’t do it.

8) I said share, not scare.
Sharing, Facebook’s version of retweeting, seems to do nothing but clutter up my timeline with crap.  When you consider the fact that there are probably only two or three of my Facebook friends who share those stupid “inspirational” pictures (and I don’t know what proportion of my FB friends that is, because I don’t know how many FB friends I have either), it sometimes feels like my ENTIRE timeline is stupid picture after stupid picture.inspirationaldisney copy

In fact, there are so many, that they need subcategorising in order to explore in depth just how fucking irritating they are.

8a) The “I love my family member more than you because I’m prepared to fill my wall with stupid pictures” post.
You’ve seen them: “If you have a son who means more to you than anything in the world, who is the light of your life, even when they are crawling in drunk and pissing in the coat cupboard at 4 in the morning then share this post.” Because, of course, most people with sons, or daughters, or any other family member you like to think of don’t really give much of a shit about them. But if you post that on your Facebook wall then everyone will know that you REALLY love your son/daughter/grandma/goldfish. Um, OKAY?!

8b) The “Like this picture and see what happens” post.
I can tell you right now what will happen: NOTHING! You do understand how the internet works, right?

8c) The sob story post.
Bad shit happens. We all know this. And by all means share a link to a news story with a politically relevant comment. But don’t share a picture of a girl going through chemo and tell me to “like if you think she’s beautiful”. Don’t share horrific pictures of violence against animals or terribly injured children. I know these things happen; I don’t need to see them on my Facebook news feed when I only went on to see if my annoying co-worker is still going on about her break up. Don’t tell me to change my profile picture in support of awareness. I’m already pretty fucking aware thank you very much. And really, what is this abstract concept of “awareness” you’re banging on about? At least do something proactive. Raise money, volunteer your time, don’t post a fucking picture on Facebook!

8d) The ridiculously unchallenging “word game”.

Pike. Guppy. Trout. Fucking goldfish!

Pike. Guppy. Trout. Fucking goldfish!

Quite when this became a “thing” I don’t know, but there really is no challenge in the tasks that these stupid graphics set.  Name a band with no ‘T’ in, name a country without the letter ‘E’ in.  “I bet you can’t.”  Really??  How much would you like to bet exactly?  Because I think I’ll take that bet.  At least make it hard: think of an animal that begins with the letter ‘Q’ or something.  I’m seeing these all over my Facebook timeline at the moment and all it does is make me despair for humanity if people think this is HARD!  Plus you also get those ridiculous maths questions that are all 4 + 4 x 4 – 4 x 4 = ? which, okay are more of a challenge because BODMAS isn’t exactly at the forefront of your mind once you leave school (unless you’re a mathematician), but so many people get wrong.  And you look at the comments and they are just one long list of different answers.  It’s just depressing.

9) #aplaceforeverythingandeverythinginitsplace
Don’t use hashtags on Facebook. The whole point if a hashtag is so that you can click through and see related posts and okay, I pretty much only use them “ironically” rather than to actually provide a useful link, but hashtags don’t work on Facebook. That should be your first clue.

10) Check your spelling and grammar before you hit “post”.

Especially if you are writing something to “share” with the whole of Facebook.  Seriously.  It’s embarrassing.

Fragility

Before the twins were born I knew they were safe and snug in my belly. I loved feeling them wriggle and kick (although I preferred it when they weren’t aiming for my ribs or bladder). I was prepared once they were born to feel a bit bereft to no longer have them inside me, and to feel anxious that my body was no longer protecting them, as I had heard others say. However, I felt neither of those things. I was overjoyed to meet them and be able to hold them in my arms and I knew that L and I would do everything in our power to keep them safe.

Occasionally I would allow myself a glimpse of what it might feel like if tragedy struck and I knew I would be absolutely destroyed if something were to happen to either of them. But I wasn’t scared.

I was pretty sniffy about the SIDS advice. I didn’t think we would want them in our room until they were 6 months and I was happy for them to nap in their cots rather than in the same room as me as soon as I felt I was reading the tired cues correctly. I put Claudia to sleep on her tummy for a while because she seemed to hate being on her back, screamed if we swaddled her and had a strong Moro reflex that made lowering her into her bassinet on her back a real challenge.

I always felt that the two of them seemed just so robust and strong – even at the beginning when they were weighing barely 5lb – and it just seemed impossible that anything could happen to them. When Immie first started sleeping in her own room (Claudie was still in with me), L made me check her when we came up to bed, and we used to debate whether it was worth the risk of disturbing her. She was always fine, as I always said she would be.

I never felt anxious; I took everything in my stride. My babies were strong and tough; SIDS was what happened to other people. L says she would have abandoned BLW weeks ago because the babies’ gag reflex freaks her out so much and she worries they are choking, but my calm and confident attitude to it reassures her, and they do always manage to either swallow or spit out whatever they are struggling with. I’ve never (yet) had to deal with an actual choking situation, but have always trusted the babies to move the food around their own mouths – and it’s worked. Claudia would sometimes look so still sleeping in her buggy that I would have to poke her to check she was still breathing, but I never really worried and would send L jokey picture messages saying Claudie was playing dead again.

In early February, however, I heard news of two babies dying in their bed, within a week of one another. These weren’t tiny, helpless newborns, but strong and robust babies of 9 and 15 months. Their parents didn’t smoke, hadn’t been neglectful, just suffered from awful, terrible luck. Both babies were still being breastfed. Both babies spent a lot of time in their parents’ beds or being carried in a sling…

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I have to keep checking the girls now when they sleep. They’ve been taking longer naps, which I’m not complaining about, but it has made me anxious and I’ve had to check on them several times. Immie has also started sleeping on her side or tummy, which is less desirable than her sleeping on her back.  One morning Immie fell asleep on her side diagonally across the top of her cot, with her forehead pressed against the cot bumper and I checked her every twenty minutes or so for the whole two hours she was asleep because I was just so afraid. I have felt the need to check on her on my way to bed again, which we haven’t done in ages.

The other night the babies were with L’s parents and we were walking back from a really lovely curry when a car sped past us doing way over the speed limit. We both glanced at one another, shocked that someone would drive so recklessly through a residential area. My stomach lurched and I had a horrible vision of the car careening across the pavement and taking us both out. Obviously I have no desire to be killed by a speeding car anyway, but the realisation that such an event would leave the girls as orphans sent shivers down my spine and my stomach churning.

There is nothing like parenthood to make you appreciate the fragility of life; to feel so terrifyingly out of control and unable to guarantee the safety of your progeny. The thought that something might happen to us and leave the girls without their mums is unbelievably gut-wrenching, and the concept of something happening to one of them is almost unthinkable. It’s like having your skin peeled back, exposing nothing but nerve-endings, each one screaming in agony as another fearful thought brushes roughly past.

But these things happen. God, tragedy happens every day and not because people were neglectful or careless, but because sometimes bad shit happens.

And all I can do is hug my girls a little closer and try to be a little more vigilant and hope and pray that tragedy won’t strike us. And as I sit here, writing this, with Claudia’s slightly clammy head tucked under my chin and her arms draped sleepily over my body and her little heart beating over mine, I know that I’m one of the luckiest people alive and I cling on to every precious moment I get with my beautiful family – my three wonderful girls.

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And that, Mr Jones, is a warm and safe environment.

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