Breast or Bottle, Which Is Best?

If you’d asked me this question at any point before the last eight months, I would have given you a smug look ( you know the one, the breastfeeding is easy, anyone who tries hard enough can do it kind of face) and answered quite clearly that breast is best.

Number One and I breezed through breastfeeding, she loved it from day one, she came out (albeit out of the escape hatch) knowing exactly what she was doing. I didn’t have to think about it, worry about it, or focus on it, it just happened. She had the knack and she taught me what to do. And we kept doing it for almost two years, it worked for us. I was more than a little bit proud, the difficulty of this I decided had been massively underestimated.

So when Number Two came along, I didn’t even contemplate not breastfeeding. This was the one part of being a second time mummy I wasn’t worried about. This I knew how to do.

How wrong I was. Number Two struggled from day one, rarely feeding for long, and even when he did having such a poor latch that feeding exhausted him, meaning he would quickly fall asleep. In the evenings he would scream from hunger, yet he didn’t seem to understand how to open his mouth to feed. Ultimately he stopped gaining weight, and would only feed when he was asleep. He hated every moment of breastfeeding. And if I’m honest I hated myself for putting him through it. Who was I really doing this for, for him or for me. Because it was what was best or because it was my ideal of what a mother should be?

I decided there and then, there was no best. Best was what was right for my baby. Best was feeding my baby. Best was not putting us through torture every single feed. Something needed to change.

We tried a bottle. Enough was enough. It was time to stop being so stubborn. For us it didn’t work. The flow was too fast, and he hated it more than the breast. But what had changed was me, my attitude, to what was right, to what should be done.

We were luckily, Number Two’s Reflux was diagnosed, and brought under enough control to enable him to feed. Now at almost eight months I still breastfeed, we have tricky days but he’s got the knack, and mostly enjoys it.

That doesn’t mean I was right. I will always wonder if I’d introduced a bottle earlier whether it would have saved him some of the pain, whether if he was taking some now it would be easier to find out which foods affect him; because what I am eating would be taken out of the equation.

The point is when it comes to our feeding choices, we need to stop judging (and that very definitely includes judging ourselves), we need to stop the smugness of the breast is best movement, we need to start realising that what’s right for each family is right. There is enough mummy guilt in the world, we need to take it out the equation for this one. It doesn’t matter how we feed our babies.

It does matter that we love our babies. It does matter that they are able to be fed. It does matter that as mums we make the decision to do what is right for us and our baby without feeling like we failed.

We are good mums. Breast, bottle, or tube. Whatever works for our babies. That is what is right.

Dear Bear and Beany

 

Dearest Reflux…

Dearest Reflux,

I know I’ve written to you before but you didn’t seem to listen. You’re still here, still hanging around, still driving us all crazy.

I’ve tried so hard to be patient; we’ve seen doctors, cranial osteopaths, feeding clinic co-ordinatiors, we’ve tried two different kinds of meds, we’ve moved to baby led weaning. We’ve listened, we’ve taken advice, we’ve changed our lives.

And it’s not been in vain. Our days are better, so much better. I love seeing him laugh and play. I love watching him crawl, seeing him delight in everything around him. I love that he’s freer than he was. I love that during the day he’s him again, my boy, my precious boy.

But then night falls and I remember that you are here. You still wake our baby from his sleep. You make him cry, scream in pain. You turn my happy smiley boy, into someone altogether different. You make him fight his feeds and push me away, you make him arch his back, you make him sob.

I hate you. I hate you so much. I hate that you’re still here torturing him. I hate that you’re keeping him awake. I hate that you’re making me resent him when I try to settle him for the 20th time in a row, I hate that I’m too tired to enjoy him. I hate that my tiredness is making me so irrationally grumpy with anyone and everyone who dares to breathe.

But it’s ok. We will survive. We have another plan. Another strategy in our fight to beat you. Because we will win this battle. We’ve cut out so much from our diets, but now we’re going to try dairy. And when I say we, I do mean we. We’re still breastfeeding, you made it hard, oh so hard at times, but we beat you. Together we learnt, me and my little man together. So we’re in this together too. The hot chocolate will be ditched, and so will the brownies. Because he is worth it. Because I love him to the moon and back again. And because I want you to go. I need you to go.

So please Reflux, please, if you are listening, let this be the answer. I’m ready to stop being a detective and concentrate on just being a mummy. I’m ready to cuddle my little boy to sleep, without dreading he’ll wake in pain, I’m ready to put my head on a pillow and sleep for longer than twenty minutes in a row, I’m ready for us both to be free.

What do you say, will you give it a chance, let us just try?

Yours

Mummy

Stories Are For Life

There’s nothing like sitting curled up with a good book. Books can transport you anywhere. You’re no longer sitting bored looking round the four walls of your living room, instead you’re flying on a magic carpet, stepping back in time to a bygone era or fulfilling dreams you know you really haven’t got the talent to pursue. Books give you experiences, introduce you to new worlds, give you perspectives beyond your own.

Without reading, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be the person I am today. As a child I was rarely without a book in my hand, I devoured them, eagerly moving onto the next. There were special ones of course, ones I read again and again, and others that taught me lessons I’ll never forget. I mean, who will ever forget their first reading of ‘Anne Frank’; horror and humanity juxtaposed in perfect symmetry, but most of all the story of a girl just like me, the only difference being she was born in a different world, a different time.

This Christmas, as always I will be giving books to the people in my life, hoping as I always do that they will find the same kind of pleasure in them that I do.

Number One, will have a stocking with all the latest releases in. She has decided (like mother like daughter) that she wants a blog, and her blog  is going to be about books. Given she reads anything and everything she can get her hands on it’s probably a very good choice, I’m sure she’ll love writing about them, though will no doubt, as always, be somewhat painfully honest. One book I know she’s going to be excited about is Jacqueline Wilson’s newest release ‘Clover Moon’. I know she’ll being emersed in a Victorian London, but more than anything I know she’ll love the courage of its heroine. I hope it will make another era come alive for her in the way that reading ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ did for me.

The Other Half, isn’t escaping from books either. He’s been going on (and on and on) about how much he loved to read Terry Pratchett as a child – primarily because he’s hoping Number One will put his latest release on her Christmas list so he can steal it. Well, I’ve decided to make his day, and along with his ‘grown up’ presents ‘The Witches’ will be making its way into his stocking. After all who says grown ups can’t read children’s books too. (After all I didn’t read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses until I was 22, yet I’d still list it in my top ten all time favourite books.) I’m hoping the magic (and chaos) of rabbits, cheese sandwiches, yellow elephants and socks all mixed up with a mysterious vacuum cleaner will give him a little escapism amidst the converging relatives this Christmas!

As for my nephew, I think it’s time he had his first real Christmas story. He may be a little young to read it himself yet, but I know he’s going to love listening to ‘The Christmasasaurus’ at bedtime. Tom Fletcher’s magical adventure set in the North Pole, alongside an elf named Snozzletrump and of course the big man himself, can’t fail to get him in the Christmas mood, so I may just have to let him have this one a little bit early.

And as for me? Well of course, there can’t help be books on my Christmas list. But over the festive season it’s the children’s classics I’ll no doubt harm back to; ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘What Katy Did’, ‘Little Women’ and of course ‘Pollyanna’ and her unforgettable ‘Glad Game’. These are the books that capture the essence of childhood, the ones that remind me of being a young girl desperate to learn more about the world, these are the ones I hope that one day, in the not too distant future, Number One will also take pleasure in and enjoy.

How about you, what books will you be reading this Christmas?

(N.B. The Witches, The Christmasasaurus’ and ‘Clover Moon’ were given to us by Penguin Random House Children’s Books, in return for an honest mention. As always however, all opinions contained in this post are my own)

 

 

A Good Teacher and A Good Mum?

This week I made a decision, I resigned from my real world job. My dream job. The one I’ve always wanted to do. The one I loved.

As regular readers of the blog will know, the decision about whether to go back to work – or not – is something I’ve really struggled with. The truth was I wanted it all. My middle management teaching job with a two hour round trip commute, and to be there at home to drop Number One off at school, to do activities with Number Two, and to collect Number One again at the end of the day.

It didn’t compute though, no matter how hard I thought and tried to figure things out in my head, doing both properly just wasn’t going to happen, and well the idea of doing neither properly was I guess what made me make the final decision.

I love teaching. I’m passionate about it. I teach because I want to make a difference, to give chances to those others give up on, to provide continuity to those who need it the most. I love every moment I spend in a classroom, but I also know that I can’t just leave it at the classroom door. I bring home my job and metaphorically ‘my school children’ every night. I agonise about a system that is broken, a system that is letting them down, and I worry that no matter how much I give it won’t be enough. I could decide to be a different kind of teacher, one for who me teaching is just a job, but that just isn’t me.

At school I take breaks with the children, I eat my lunch with them, I hug them (yes I know it’s not technically allowed) after a meltdown, I fight their battles with mainstream staff. I’m the one they most want to lash out at when things go wrong, but I’m also the one they run to when things have gone well. My children stay with me for five years. I become, in school at least, their greatest confident, their biggest ally.

I will miss them. I will miss them more than words can say. There will be a new me. They will have someone else to fight their battles, someone else to reassure them, to have fun with them, someone else to create lessons around their special interests, someone else who will celebrate with them when they learn to learn. That person will be a lucky teacher. I hope they know how lucky they are. I hope they look past the swearing, the shouting, the spitting and the biting. I hope they love ‘my children’ on the bad days as well as the good.

But however sad I am about the decision I have made, I know that for now it’s the right one. My school children have had the best of me for so many years, now my children need that from me. They need the best of me; not the quarter of me they would get after a long day of fighting school politics or battling the education authority; but the mummy who has the energy to play, the energy to put them first.

I am not giving up teaching, I’ve already been offered a job as a classroom teacher for two half days a week. I know I will love those times. I know I will give my all, plan exciting lessons, do all I can to wow my students. I know that for that much time I can commit to being the kind of teacher I want to be. But I also know it will allow me to be the kind of mummy I want to be.

I’ve found a compromise, a way to have it all. A way to live with myself, to give myself to my children and a way to make a small difference in the world. It isn’t perfect, but then life never really is. I will love my chance to be a ‘better’ mummy, but I also know I will feel guilty about the children I’ve left behind. As with everything it’s a balancing act, a set of scales we never quite get right. A woman. A parter. A mother. A teacher. A way of being them all.

Dear Number One…

I hope you know how much I love you, how proud I am of you, how much I love watching you grow.

This year so much has changed, you’ve gone from being our only one, to one of two. You’ve had to learn to share our attention, to adapt, to accept a baby in your life. I haven’t always been there for you, you’ve been the big girl, the one who could wait. I know that’s made you sad at times, I’ve seen the disappointment in your eyes, even though you’ve not complained.

I know your brother gets so much more attention than you right now, but I need you to know that doesn’t mean I love you less. I will always love you. No matter how angry you get, how many times you leave all the lights on, rock on your chair at the table, or how many times you push me away, I will always love you. Even when your eyes tell me that right now you don’t love me, I still love you. I always will. That’s just the way it works.

You were my first baby, my whole world. Everything I did revolved around you. Everything we did, we did for you. You were always in our minds. When you were tiny and slept, the whole house was silent. You had the perfect nursery, a house full of toys. We watched your every move, marvelled at your brilliance, you were our everything. As you got bigger, I continued to be amazed by you. You mastered so much, achieved so much, surpassed my wildest dreams. You made me so very proud, every single day.

For so long there was only you, you wanted a brother or a sister but I wasn’t sure. I know how hard you find change, I wasn’t sure you’d cope with the invasion that a baby would bring into our lives. I thought you’d find the noise and the mess and the lack of attention too hard. So I waited and wondered if having another baby was the right thing to do.

I was so very wrong, you are the best big sister anyone could ask for. You adore him and he worships you. You hate leaving him to go to school and he can’t wait for you to come home. You’ve decided you’re too old now for a hug from me in front of your friends, but the moment you come out of school you hug him and hold him and I can see the stress of your day going away. You know his love is unconditional, you trust him and he trusts you. I thought you would be jealous. I was wrong. You are his biggest defender, his protector, his spoiler. He is your world.

You do things for him that you would never normally do. He has made you braver. This morning you asked me if we could see Father Christmas. I couldn’t believe my ears. I know how frightened you are of him, I know you’d rather hide inside than go anywhere near a grotto. But when I asked, you simply said, I’m not going to see Santa, I’m going to see my brother. You have done so many things over the years to make me proud, but I don’t think anything has compared to how proud I feel right now. Because I am your mummy. I know. I know you. I know how much it will cost you to do this. But I know you want to do it anyway.

You are my brave girl. The bravest. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring. I can’t wait to watch you grow, to form more friendships, relationships, maybe even have children if your own. I know now that you can do anything, be anyone you want to be

I love you my grown up girl. Always have, always will. I’m so glad you are ours and we are yours.

lots of love

Mummy x