Sunday, 23 October 2016

Navigating Pregnancy with a Toddler: Confessions of a Mediocre Parent

I'm sure many people can relate to the ridiculously high standards you set yourself as a parent with your first born child. From the moment you find out you are pregnant you start developing what I now retrospectively look back on as 'notions'. These 'notions' are the things you are certain you will never do when you have your own baby. They are the sugar coated goals you aspire to, as the perfect parent. You have a strict set of ideas about how you will do things, what your choices as a parent will be and are very definite with yourself that you will never do 'this' and never do 'that'. Ah yes, this all sounds very familiar to me, I was that soldier. I was filled with these said 'notions'. I was sure I'd stick to my guns and everything would play out just as I had planned. Oh how wrong I was. I have to say I admire naive, pregnant for the first time me, so oblivious to the reality of the journey ahead. Then of course to top it all off, 10 months in I decided to do something to make things that much easier on myself, I only went and got pregnant. Genius.

12 Things Being Pregnant with a Toddler has Taught Me
  1. Feeling sick for 14 weeks leads to mediocre parenting coupled with no will to live. When said sickness and nausea finally ends, feeling guilty for being a shitty parent for a further 6 weeks is likely.
  2. Sometimes the easy option is the only option: 'Oh you don't want the homemade organic meal I prepared for you?'...'Grand, here have a bit of cheese'.
  3. 20 minutes of television in the morning did not cause my toddler to spontaneously combust. I have now accepted this fact and made peace with it. 
  4. It's ok to accept the help of family and not always have your shit together. When they say they don't mind, I'm pretty sure they mean it.
  5. Bringing your child for a walk on a lead like a dog becomes a necessity, despite how weirdly hilarious it feels. My inability to walk, not to mention run made this a must. 
  6. Teaching your toddler to mimic the dog whilst climbing the stairs is genius, despite the dog like scratching and spontaneous barking that goes with it. When you live in a 3 story house with 4 sets of stairs you come to realise carrying your 2 stone toddler when 9 months pregnant probably isn't the best idea. Sure who doesn't love the odd dog like mannerism anyway.
  7. The sympathy train left the station back when No.1 was born, and my other half is so wrapped up in how tired he is with our terrific toddler, I'm pretty sure he forgets I'm growing human life most of the time.
  8. Tears. There have been lots of them. Mostly mine. Being hormonal matched with chronic tiredness does make you act a little crazy....though you will never openly admit this despite the fact you frequently find yourself thinking how unhinged you sound. Toddlers don't have time for Mommy's deep rooted emotional episodes, in fact they sniff this type of weakness out and tend to go toddler 2.0 on these days to see if they can break you.
  9. Lowering your standards is probably advisable. Laundry, dishwasher, tidying away toys. As a self confessed clean freak, this took me some time to get used to. Now don't get me wrong, things still get tidied and put away every evening, I just have to fight the daily urge to continuously walk around after my toddler like a personal one woman clean up crew, persistently clearing the trail of destruction he leaves behind.
  10. Teaching your toddler to love cleaning and tidying is the best thing imaginable. In the last few weeks, Luke has come to love playing with the pan and brush more than his cars. He hoovers along side me, cleans up spills with a cloth and frankly is weirdly enthusiastic about checking the floor for dirt and putting said dirt in the bin. Did you know tidying up toys is also the highlight of playtime? These skills have been nurtured through my inability to bend, my flare up of pregnancy related self-pity, with a touch of a genetic predisposition to get shit done. Yesterday at his grandparents I found him out on the lawn sweeping up leaves with a pan and brush.....let's just say that kept him busy for a while.
  11. Your toddler's nap time will become your nap time. I fondly recall in pregnancy number one, hitting the couch every time I let out a little yawn. Obviously with a toddler in tow, you dare not turn your back not to mention close an eye in their waking hours. Sneaky nap times in the afternoon will become your much longed for golden hour in the late stages of pregnancy. You will long for these naps and should feel in no way guilty about this. Adult naps are the business.
  12. The intermittent guilt about your terrible eating habits will haunt you. Feeding your toddler obviously becomes the priority which often leads to you forgetting to eat at all or eating absolute rubbish. The weird thing being I love eating, it's definitely up there with my favourite things to do. But pregnancy makes me behave like a small child left unsupervised in a sweet shop. Regarding skittles as 5 of your 5 a day, drinking milk as an alternative to eating (sure if it works for babies?) and falling asleep before actually making or eating dinner have become shamefully common occurrences. Then hitting the pregnacare and iron tablets hard in the hope that they counteract some of the irresponsible carnage you have inflicted upon your body that day. The worst thing is waking up the next morning and actually believing you will do better.
All in all as I reflect back on this pregnancy I recognise the stark differences between pregnancy number one and pregnancy number two. Has there been a steep learning curve and a harsh collision with reality? Absolutely. That said, I also recognise that good enough really is good enough, and for my own sanity I have happily come to terms with this. At the end of every day I have a little face smiling back at me that reminds me my mediocrity is just fine. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

8 Things I Wish I'd Known When Having a Baby

So I find myself in the familiar position of lying on my left side on the couch, doing a pretty good impression of Moby Dick the last few days. Sleeping more than is acceptable during the day. Eating like a starved gremlin and frankly I've taken my resting bitch face to a whole new level.....I, ladies and gentlemen, am 39 weeks pregnant and frankly need baby No.2 to get his act together and move out. 

Pregnancy is amazing. Hands down, it's one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced, and second time round is no exception. Growing human life is an honour and a great privilege and seeing how a little human grows over time is undoubtedly fascinating and awe inspiring. That said, pregnancy is also lots of other things like tiring, a bit gross at times, frustrating and let's face it, scary. In all honesty, first time round I came to learn the less glamorous side of pregnancy and birth and so I feel way more prepared for this time. They say ignorance is bliss, and boy were they right. That said, I really wish I'd gotten the heads up on some of the "glamour" associated with the end stages of pregnancy and what was really going to go down once I got to the hospital. As I sit here, over-analysing every twitch and stitch wondering if it's showtime, I find myself thinking back to St.Patrick's day 2015, when Luke made his entrance to the world. 19 months have passed, and I can report that I'm definitely older, and I think a little wiser on what to expect. So I've compiled a list of eight things I wish I'd known when heading to the hospital.

1. The Dignity
The prep work, I remember it well. From painting my toenails, to shaving my legs and moisturising said legs, the grooming and preparation that I underwent before my trip to the hospital knew no bounds. Sure things weren't necessarily going to be pleasant, but my nails and hair would be in check. As the day progressed, and the contractions set in, my make up slowly slid away, my hair looked more fuzzy than curled and in fairness if I hadn't shaved my legs in a year, I'm pretty sure the midwife or the consultant wouldn't have noticed. Just to note here, I would be discreet in my dressing habits, by no means an exhibitionist by nature. This is probably why my lasting memory of my time in the hospital was just after Luke entered the world, lying with essentially no clothes on in the middle of the delivery suite, being washed down by a really lovely care assistant with the equivalent of a j-cloth. I remembering turning to my midwife and laughing saying 'Jesus I'm glad I painted my toenails for this'. The first time they examined me I was nervous and a little embarrassed, definitely self conscious. Skip forward 4 hours, half a tank of gas and air and an epidural later and I would have invited the Queen herself along to have a look, you just stop caring and relax. Remind yourself, they have seen it all. That said there's nothing wrong with a bit of make-up or nail painting along the way if it makes you feel less gross on the day, but don't be putting yourself under ridiculous pressure and be getting in any way worried about it.

2. The Time
People love to retell their labour stories like war stories. In fairness, who doesn't love a little embellishment and drama to spruce up a good story. I remember before labour hearing how quickly or horrendously slowly labour went for different people. I remember wondering how on earth could you survive it going on that long?! I was induced early in the day and went into proper labour at 3pm. Luke was born 12 hours later. When I say that 12 hours flew, I mean it absolutely flew, I haven't a clue what even happened in that time. So although it sounds like an awful long time, time ticks away and you get to know your midwife very well because you spend a lot of time chatting. I had an epidural, so once that kicked in for a good part of that time I was quite comfortable and capable of full on conversation.

3.The Tiredness
I arrived at the hospital at 8am the morning Luke was being induced. I didn't give birth until 3 am the next morning and it was after 4am when I got back to the ward. Factor in an hour of pushing, the aftermath of an epidural and being awake for 21 hours, to say I was tired is a slight understatement. I remember just getting into bed in the ward, Luke being wheeled alongside me, my husband being sent home and the midwife telling me to set an alarm on my phone as I would have to feed the baby again in two hours. I felt broken. I had never felt such tiredness and all I wanted to do was cry. But I did what she said, and I woke and he fed and although those memories are vague and hazy, sleep deprivation is a feature of parenthood and I came to realise the amazing things my body could do with little or no sleep.

4. Babies are Terrifying
I remember when my husband left after I got back to the ward and it was just Luke and I for the first time, feeling an overwhelming sense of terror. This tiny person was my responsibility, and frankly I hadn't a clue what I was at. Throughout my pregnancy I worried I wouldn't take to the whole 'motherhood' gig. I was never the type to throw myself at people with babies and goo and gah at how lovely they were. In all honesty I kind of thought all babies looked the same, and my inherent fear of dropping someone else's baby led me to become the one who admired babies from afar. Now here I was, alone in a hospital, responsible for 'my' baby. I won't lie, I shed a fear tears and had a mini internal melt down but then swiftly got my shit together. Once the hormones settled down, the sleep deprivation eased and it dawned on me just how amazing this little thing was, the terror was promptly replaced with pride and excitement.  

5. The Day After
During labour and birth you are most definitely on a high (not just from gas and air), fight or flight kicks in and you instinctively know that you will get through it all, and afterwards its a hazy blur of a day with the ultimate ending being the arrival of a mini person. And as my due date approached I remember anxiously playing out all the scenarios of what might happen during D day. What I never really thought about was the next day. And for me the next day was tough, really tough. I was in a lot of pain, I was sleep deprived, I had a little person who was reliant on my failing body for food, I was cranky, hormonal and overly sensitive. I remember my Mom coming to see me and whispering to her 'I am broken....I will never be right'. She smiled and reassured me that I would, and sooner than I thought. Needless to say she was right and once I got through that day and the beacon of hope that was discharge the next day began to shine all was right in the world again and I was a little less broken and a little more together every day that week.

6. The Shower
After giving birth and once I was back on my feet I remember craving a shower just so I could feel like a human again. That said I had never really given much thought as to how difficult having a shower was going to be. Given that I could barely walk, couldn't bend and had stitches in unimaginable places I was unsure as to how things were going to go down. You're warned and encouraged to shower often to avoid infection and the likes, but it's not like home, the shower head isn't exactly detachable (for obvious reasons) and now really 
wasn't an opportune time for me to bust out the yoga moves, mostly because I was physically unable to walk straight, don't mind bend. I was terrified of what had gone on down there just hours previously and touching said area was a no go because of the pain. I wish someone had warned me of this, given me the heads up or mentioned how underwhelming and unsatisfying my first post baby shower would be. I also wish someone had thought to tell me to bring a squirty water bottle into said shower with me so I could have avoided the stress.

7. The Adult Nappy 
Could I ever be truly prepared for the love I would feel for a ginormous green maternity pad? Probably not. I remember shopping in Boots with my Mom before the arrival of Luke and being horrified at the sheer size of a maternity pad and in all honesty not really comprehending what I would need it for. I was edging towards the discreet 'slim' maternity pads and was a little irked at my mothers amusement when she practically forced me to buy the industrial looking ones. Let's just say I thanked her after. They may not be pretty, but they sure are cushioned, and although I assure you it won't last I definitely felt 'delicate' for a few days and these bad boys were very much appreciated. A midwife mentioned to me in the hospital to try and avoid plastic coated backing on said pads they can prevent 'breath-ability' and encourage infection. The Medicare brand are used in the hospital and can be picked up in pharmacies and are definitely your best bet.

8. The Love 
And so I sit here, patiently awaiting the arrival of number two. A mixture of excitement and apprehension. And as Luke runs around the room singing me a questionably recognisable rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, I am reminded how I hadn't a clue just how much I was going to fall in love with this person. The love is overwhelming. The love is intense. The love is your reward for all the bloody hard work you put in to bringing this amazing person into the world.
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