Wednesday, 30 May 2012

My Blessings

It has come to my attention of late, there is a strong possibility that I might be turning into a cranky aul one.  I can be a right moan-y hole sometimes and I don’t seem to be improving.  I have heard it said, and I am in agreement, that you shouldn’t waste your energy worrying about what others think of you.  It is the opinion you have of yourself that is important.  Well, some days I don’t like myself.  I don’t like that I forget not to sweat the small stuff.  I forget that my boys are young but growing fast and this time will never, ever come round again.  I forget that cooking and cleaning will always win the battle so I should just give up and stop worrying about the Screecher Creatures falling down in a dead faint.  They haven’t died of starvation yet.  Even Screecher Creature No. 1 who was pretty much exclusively breastfed for 13 months and ate nothing but toilet roll tubes, tissue paper, newspapers, the contents of the recycling bin, cardboard and the odd yogurt for variety.  They’re still growing like steam so they must be ingesting something and they certainly have never noticed if the floor needs to be swept or washed.  But mostly, I don’t like that I forget my blessings.  I would have thought it hard to forget about something that is staring you in the face on a daily basis, but there you go.  I am well and truly blessed.  Blessed with four gorgeous, healthy, vibrant boys.  Mister Husband and I only had to discuss, in the broadest of terms, extending our family and I found I was pregnant within months.  I have had very happy and healthy pregnancies.  Screecher Creature No. 3’s entrance into the world was one of drama and urgency but he was perfect.  Yes, times are hard but they’re hard for everyone. Sometimes you just need to put your head down, point your arse to the wind and keep going.  Tomorrow is always another day.  So, I have decided that instead of being a glass half empty person, I am going to give the glass half full theory a shot and see how I get on.  I also have great faith in my back up plan. This being a daily pill pop of Super Evening Primrose Oil and Vitamin B6. I’m expecting wonderful things altogether from that little concoction.
It is widely recommended, or so I am told, that if you practice a little exercise each day, it really puts you back on track and makes you take better stock of all you have.  It’s called a Trio of Blessings and before you retire at night, you make a note of three things that happened that day. They can be as momentous or as bite sized as you like, they happened to you and if you are able to write them down, it means they’ve made their mark.  For example, on one particular day Screecher Creature No. 2 had his grommets fitted and announced that he could hear everyone again.  Screecher Creature No. 4 cut another tooth with relative ease.  And thirdly I knocked another minute off my walk slash run.   You get the picture.  I believe this is also an exercise used by those suffering from depression.  So I had a little think to myself and came up with a whole lot more than a Trio of Blessings.  The following are my blessings.  Please note this is not a definitive list.

  •   I love when any of the boys come into our room first thing in the morning, crawl into bed beside me and cuddle up for ten minutes before we start the day.
  •   I feel blessed when our 14 month old wraps his arms around my neck for a hug when I lift him out of his cot in the morning
  •   It’s a great feeling when Screecher Creature No. 1 hugs me at the school gates at home time.
  •  I get all warm and fuzzy when the Awesome Foursome fight over me.  I particularly like when the baby pushes the others out of his way if he wants a cuddle.
  •   I smile when Screecher Creature No. 1 refers to me as “his lady.”
  •   Ditto when the same fella gives out to his daddy for giving out to me.
  •   Being a mammy is the greatest feeling in the world.
  •   It is a special blessing being pregnant and coming out the other end to give birth.
  •   Breastfeeding could very nearly be described as my hobby!  It’s a gift.
  •   Sometimes I smile like an idiot when I watch our kids sleeping.
  •   When you hear your kids shriek with laughter, it makes everything in the world rosy.  Equally as nice is the sound of blessed silence when they are in bed for the night! 
  •   Nothing beats the way the baby wakes up from his afternoon nap; with mad fuzzy, bed head hair, a wide brown eyed stare and a smile.  He’s immediately ready to get at the toys on the floor.
  •   Except maybe the way Screecher Creature No. 3 wakes up from his sometimes afternoon nap; with crazy, curly, damp hair and a sleepy blue eyed stare.  He needs a ten minute cuddle to iron out the sleep kinks before he’s ready to go outside and play. 
  •    I love telling the kids there is going to be a trip to the park or the pool or that it’s nana day.  Their whoops are something else.

I could think of hundred’s more to add here, but for now I’ll concentrate on the important ones. My time with my kids and my health.  Because when you’ve got that, you’ve got everything.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

For Una

A gorgeous little baby girl came into the world about two months ago.  Her mother is one of five members of a well-known girl band.  She is the Irish member, with gorgeous flowing red locks, fabulous skin and a figure perfectly befitting of a girl band member.  My heart goes out to her.  She has come in for a certain amount of flak of late due to her decision not to breastfeed her little girl.  She is the mother of a two month old child, living across in the UK thus away from her nuclear and extended Irish family, a regular face in the media due to her job, and back at work already.  Did I mention she is the mother of a two month old baby girl?  That is why my heart goes out to her. "The fact that I wasn't going to breastfeed her made me feel a bit of the blues. I would really love to, but because of work and everything I wasn't able to.” And "I just knew it wouldn't be practical to be performing on stage with big leaky boobs full of milk." she said.    And there you have it.  She would “really love to” feed and nourish her baby herself but work commitments made her decide otherwise.  In the event that a mother decides not to breastfeed her baby, for whatever reason, her body neither knows this nor does it care.  It just goes right on ahead and makes milk for the new arrival.  Milk will come in regardless.  I can remember sitting on the side of my bed, each and every time after four babies, feeling like my chests were about to explode when my milk came in. There is no way on this earth I could have entertained, even for one second, getting up on a stage and bouncing around to a backing track feeling like that.  Even after a missed feed, your body reminds you of that fact.  I bet given the chance, she would grab, with both hands, the opportunity to stay at home with her little girl over going back to work.  I bet if she felt she could be publicly honest about it, she would admit that is what she would prefer to do.  I have also seen photos of this new mother dressed in tight t-shits and wearing skinny jeans with not an ounce of extra flesh on her anywhere.  She is being congratulated and admired for this too.   More pressure.  Now, I’m guessing that she is in her 20’s, it is also her first baby and she most likely would have been very fit and healthy before and during her pregnancy so all of these factors help in shedding the baby weight.  But it’s still only two months after the birth.  There is a lot more going on with the post-partum mother other than a physical recovery.  Mental health is also an issue.  This lovely mother has already mentioned she suffered from the blues as a result of deciding not to breastfeed her baby.  Reading between the lines, she is not entirely happy with her decision but obviously felt this was the best option all round.  She has her band members to think of, she obviously doesn’t want to let them down.  I am sure she doesn’t want to leave the band herself, no doubt having invested a lot of her time and possibly made sacrifices to have achieved the status they are enjoying today.  Una, you deserve a big hug.  I hope that fiancé of yours is looking after you and is aware of the expression “mothering the mother”.  I hope your band mates are supporting you in this your new and probably most important role of your life.  It will be hard for them to understand exactly what you are going through.  And it will be hard for you to have patience with them because of that. Trying to explain what parenthood is like to someone who doesn’t have kids is like trying to explain to a man what period cramps are like.  I hope you will not be too hard on yourself for making the decision not to breastfeed your baby this time.  I have no doubt in my mind that you will get that opportunity at a later stage.  It is just one of the many decisions you as a mother will have to make.  I commend you on being able to get up, get dressed and put on all that slap, to catch a flight and make all of those early morning breakfast show appearances for the banal entertainment of the rest of the country when you have left your sleeping baby in the care of another.  Chances are you didn’t even get a chance to say good morning.  Your band mates, I fear, have no idea how lucky they are.  And also how lucky you are to be a mother.        

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Wednesday Whinge

Disclaimer: Due to the amount of whinging I feel I have been doing lately, I’ve come up with a disclaimer.  Here it is.  I am not a whinger.  Much.  I am not a miserable so and so.  I promise.  I am not a contrary aul one, although that might be left open to debate.  However, I do feel the need on (lots of) occasion(s) to let off a bit of steam and have a right old moan for myself.  It doesn’t mean anything; it’s just my way of letting off steam, lightening the load a little bit.  It should also be noted that my boys are the best thing that ever happened to me and I would not be without them for all the tea in China.  They wreck my head and my house but I still wouldn’t have it any other way.  We get on like a house on fire and they are well used to me giving out.                       Warning:  So buckle up, bitches, coz here I go again.  More honesty ahead alert.  Oh, before you read on, I’m not in “bad form” today. Au contraire.    I was a couple of weeks ago but that has passed.  I’m just clearing the air a little bit tonight.  My air. So if you don’t like it, log off now! 
Wednesday Whinge:  Kids do not strengthen your marriage.  That’s bullshit.  It’s the help you get from your partner when you have kids that strengthens your marriage.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is wandering around on Walton’s mountain.  And sometimes, just sometimes it is not “hormones” that send us off on one.   I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  Something was niggling at me, just scratching under the surface and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Then it clicked.  It’s guilt.  But its other people making me feel guilty.  Before I continue I would like to clarify that I truly believe nobody can put you under pressure or send you on a guilt trip except your own good self.  Others can start it off but it is our own high expectations and what we “think” we should be feeling or doing that ramps it up, and before you know it, you’re bogged down in a quagmire of shit that is entirely of your own making.  Of late I have been writing quite a bit about howharditis and feeling that parenting four young kids willnevereverend and ohpoorlittleoldmeno-oneunderstands. I haven’t changed my mind about that, thank you very much.  I am quite happy in my little isolated cocoon of self-pity; there is room for others if you want to join me.  After all, doesn’t misery love company?  Fuck it lads, it is hard.  Dam hard and I stand to that.  If you ask how I am doing and you receive the long version, well, tough.  You did ask and if you don’t like the response, don’t give out to me.  Don’t dismiss me or my feelings; they are just as valid as yours.  It just so happens that I may be tired.  You don’t need to point out to me how good I have it really.  I know this.  I’m well aware of how blessed I am.  It’s called letting off steam.  It’s still how I feel at that time.  No mother in the land would be without her children, despite how difficult she may be finding it.  It makes people uncomfortable to hear another admit that it’s not all plain sailing and surprise surprise, guess what? Sometimes it’s all a big bag of shite.  I was feeling guilty because those were my thoughts on the matter and I felt that I shouldn’t be feeling like this.  I had questions.   Why am I feeling like this?  Why aren’t I full of the joys of spring?  Why aren’t I gambolling through daisy filled meadows and doing fun make and do things with the boys?  Why am I shouting all the time?  Why am I bothering to take two strong multi vitamins a day, designed for “womanly” feelings and emotions when clearly they are not working?  Why am I so wrecked all the time and spending an unhealthy, regrettable amount of time wishing it all away?  Why aren’t I enjoying it more?  I would come away from chatting with various people, feeling very dissatisfied and angry afterwards with the conversation we just had.  I felt like they hadn’t got a clue what I was talking about, and they pasted that careful, blank expression on their face, the one that said “oh dear, she’s off again.  Don’t encourage her.”  I would regret opening my mouth at all, rue that I let my façade slip and dared to be honest with them.  They didn’t want to hear how I was really feeling or getting on.  They wanted me to tell them that I was fine and everything was dandy.   I wanted to tell them that myself but I couldn’t.  I decided to let off some steam instead.  Then I watched and listened to other people who had small kids to see how they were getting on, to see if they had more patience than me. Pick up a few tips from them.  I wanted to see if I was alone.  To see if I could fix it.  Fix me. I wanted to see if they had the answers.  And they kind of had the answer.  The first thing I noticed was they had only one child. You can do anything with one child.  If there was a second, there were a good couple of years between them.  These people “got out” more.  But mostly, they had help.  I have help and I get out.  Don’t get me wrong. I do the shopping.   Some of the most liberating conversations I’ve had have taken place in the supermarket or at the school gate with people my own age or people with kids the same ages as my own.  It’s like a free for all, a mother’s “what’s said in the playground/supermarket stays in the playground/supermarket.”  Yes, it’s a whinge. Yes, it’s a moan but it feels great to get it all off your chest and be safe in the knowledge that the other person is not going to try and fix you or your problem.  They don’t say annoying things like “it’s a phase, it’ll pass” or “we all went through it.”  Newsflash.  We know all of this! But by saying that it’s sweeping our feelings and emotions, what we are going through, under the carpet and rendering them the “ranting’s and ravings” of a “hormonal” woman.  Someone who doesn’t know how lucky or good she has it.  I write a blog, you’re reading it so you know this, but I have a small confession to make. I don’t really read any other blogs.  I will dip in and out, there are one or two that I really enjoy and I tell the blogger that. But equally there are a few I avoid because these are the ones that make me feel like shite and I can do that all by myself thank you very much.  These are the ones who wax lyrical about how parenthood is the best job they’ve ever had.  I’m not arguing with that but nothing seems to be too much trouble for them; they co-sleep all the time, baby wear all the time, home educate all the time, grow their own fruit and veg all the time, their home is a veritable make and do Mister Maker wonder land for kids all the time, no-one ever raises their voice and if they feel a little stressed, well they take their kids out to the fields to play and then post up gorgeous feel good photos of it.  Are these people for real?  I mean, they do all of the above all of the time and there is still a homemade meal (from scratch) put on the table every day and what’s more their kids eat everything.  And come back for seconds.  Do they have body doubles?  A robot made in their likeness because I honestly don’t know how they can do it otherwise.  It’s just too much for me, a mere mortal, to take on board.  It makes me feel inadequate in an area where I know I am doing perfectly fine.  Room for improvement on some days, sure, but on the whole, my kids are well rounded individuals.  It’s nice to hear that others are embracing motherhood and all it entails but disheartening when there is a definite, for me anyway, subliminal implication that I am doing it all wrong and obviously not putting in enough effort because if I was, I’d be enjoying it more.  I chose to have a family and I am in the very fortunate position of being able to stay at home with my kids.  They used to be in full time day care and the guilt I felt when that had to stop is a whole other story! It used to kill me every Sunday might putting money into an envelope for crèche the following week.  God, what wouldn’t I do with that money today???  The things that money could buy for us now, the list is endless.  Mister Husband used to say it was a drop in the ocean compared to what he will probably end up paying for my future psychiatric treatment.  (He didn’t realise how close to the truth he was sailing)  I love coming across little “facts” such as “stay at home mothers, in particular those with kids under 6 (feel free to apply your own children’s age) are constantly in a state of high alert.  They are like fire fighters.”  I feel a very clear sense of vindication when I discover these titbits.  I’m all, I knew it, but you wouldn’t listen to me!  I think part of me just wants this job and all it entails to be acknowledged sometimes.  In other words, when I am in bad form.  There’s nothing like a little compliment to lift your mood.  I’m not interested in a “my job is better/harder than yours” debate.  We’ve all got “stuff” to do. But I will say one thing, when you don’t ever get a lunch break per se, when something as simple as going for a run has to be done whenever you get the chance as opposed to 5pm or another set time every day, when trying to organise a simple doctor’s appointment requires precision planning, when you seldom get ten minutes to yourself to drink a lousy cup of tea, when the stress and frustration of all of this gathers momentum, well sometimes there is a little big explosion.  Sometimes innocent bystanders/Mister Husbands/family members unwittingly find themselves caught in the crossfire.  We’re all trying to do our best, mostly.  It’s only human to want to pack it all in once in a while.  Like a lot of things lately, when I think about packing it in, I do it arseways and I also pack an overnight bag for the boys along with my own! Kind of defeating the purpose.   Again, I am not in bad form, I am just having a little rant for myself.  There are a lot worse off than me out there but it’s all relative.   In the words of Philip Larkin “Your life is the harder course, I see.  On the other hand, mine is happening to me.”  And don’t you dare forget it!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder

Whenever I see a fellow breast feeder Out and About I do “the stare” and I throw in “the smile” for good measure.  But first I usually get the David Attenborough of spying breast feeding mothers, Mister Husband, elbowing me in the ribs to inform me he has found a Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder. We must make a right pair.  I love to see a teeny tiny newborn baby enjoying their breakfast/lunch.  It’s enough to put the yearning on me!  But it’s becoming increasingly rare to see anyone feeding their baby in public.  I know lots of us still do it, I’ve chatted to you, but it must all be under the cover of darkness.  Where are you all?   Are we a dying breed; reluctant to feed our older children in public because society might frown upon it?  I get that because I was that Lesser Spotted Breast Feeder some years back.  When Screecher Creature No. 1 reached toddlerhood I was reluctant to feed him in public.  I used to bring a bottle of expressed milk for him and keep the cosy, uninterrupted feeds for at home.  Similarly when he was but a babe in arms, the day arrived when I was about to feed him in public for the first time. Again, I was very nervous, on edge, waiting for someone to pass a negative comment.    I selected a seat in the corner of the room and sat with my back to everyone.  Mister Husband was with me and I looked down at my feet the entire time.  Even though I was discreet, I felt every eye in the room was on me.  Of course that wasn’t the case at all.  We were in a public place and I would be willing to bet that no-one noticed me at all.  Hardly anyone does unless they’re familiar with “the hold.”  I discovered this when I had a friend visit me and I happened to be nursing. As is normal for a newborn, he was enjoying a lengthy feed and remained latched on for the duration of the visit.  She wasn’t even aware that I was feeding him and it only occurred to me afterwards that she was dying for “a hold.”   Another time with another Screecher Creature, I was signing some legal documents and the solicitor almost gave himself whiplash, recoiling when he realised the boy was having his lunch.  He, the solicitor, had leaned across to hand me the writ and copped a discreet eyeful.  I did laugh a little.  Today I would not hesitate to feed Screecher Creature No. 4, who is 13 months old, in public if he wanted.   I just challenge anyone to come within spitting distance of me with either a negative comment or so much as a disproving look.  Mama bear will come out in full protective force and that person could very well feel the taste of my wrath. But it has been months since he nursed in public.  He is just too afraid he will miss anything and I kind of miss it.  See, I’m a lot more confident about breastfeeding in pubic now and I also know my rights.  It sounds crazy but there is actually a law in place to protect mothers who nurse in public and might have the misfortune to encounter another who is not so comfortable with this normal way of life.  The first time I heard about this law I was a little relieved to be honest.  In a crazy kind of way I was thankful to have something there to speak out for me in the event that I wouldn’t be able to myself.  But then the other part of me, the one that can see the bigger picture, was all, “What?  But that’s crazy?  Why would there be a law for nursing mothers?”  It’s there because, unfortunately, some women have had to defend their right to breastfeed in public.  I remember hearing of one lady being asked to stop nursing her baby in a swimming pool because, wait for it, there was no food or drink allowed on the pool side.  I kid you not.   There are two pieces of legislation that protect breastfeeding mothers from discrimination or harassment whilst breastfeeding; The Equal Status Act (2000) and The Intoxicating Liquor Act (2003).  In a nutshell, a mother can nurse her baby whenever and wherever she needs to and with this law on her side, she can have anyone who discriminates against her or harasses her for doing so, removed from the premises.  If she is not protected from this harassment by management of the establishment, they, the management, could find themselves with a date for a hearing at a District Court for failing to abide the law.  Unfortunately for some, this isn’t sufficient enough to make them comfortable about nursing in public.  It’s a pity but there are lots of people out there doing wonderful things and not shouting about it publicly.  I suppose breast feeding in the privacy of your own home is just an extension of that. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Witch in a Tea-Cup

I think it’s time I accepted it. The drugs aren’t working.  By drugs I mean my Super Evening Primrose and vitamin B6.  I have been taking both for the last 5 months now in an effort to combat brutal PMS. “That time” has rolled round again and I am still like a witch in a teacup, so I am going to invest my twenty plus euro in something else.  Maybe chocolate, a girly read or stick it in a tin can and save it up for a rainy day.  Although I did read something that was of great interest to me the other day. Apparently PMS is a Western phenomenon.   The feature wasn’t making light of those who suffer or saying that the experience does not exist.  Rather making the point that the reasons behind [the phenomenon] should be examined. Another theory on the subject fascinated me; we can blame artificial man made light for interfering with our natural cycle when once upon a time, everything was governed by the moon.   I have to admit that, today, I am all at sea when it comes to reading my body.  See, I was “chemically controlled” for over a decade and this made everything so nice and easy for me.  When we started our family, we opted to keep going with gaps of just 18 to 22 months between our four boys.  Breastfeeding is Mother Nature’s idea of natural family planning and it can delay your cycle until the baby is weaned entirely, sometimes up to three years even if it is just a morning and/or evening feed.  I breastfed the older three for 16 months and was 6 months pregnant on two occasions when they fully weaned.    Our youngest is almost 13 months and this year alone, it has come as a shock to find myself being held ransom to powerful hormones, sugar cravings, tiredness, impatience, bloating and the odd snot crying bout.   I have no recollection of these manifestations being so strong before I had children.  I realise my body has and still is changing.  PMS (Permanent Mental Stress!) might be a Western phenomenon but it’s proving to be a regular curiosity in my world!     I am very familiar with and a big believer in the expression that it takes a year to make a baby and a year for your body to “return” after your baby.  That old pregnancy buddy relaxin, the dote that makes everything all stretchy and relaxed in order for you to actually give birth to your baby, is still alive and well in your system up to 5 months later. You will be much more prone to injuries during this time.  I went over on my ankle a couple of weeks after my last birth so I know all about that.  Prolactin, an appetite stimulant, is still my frenemy.  Oxytocin and the gorgeous happy hormone, endorphin are still let loose in my body several times a day because I am nursing.  I love these.  No problems with my body thus far.   Even the sleep issue is not so much of an issue any more.  No, I am still not getting that other phenomenon, a full night yet, but close enough to.  Enough, at least, to have the presence of mind to slap a little bit of tinted stuff on my face in the morning and remember to drag a brush through my hair.  Sometimes I even remember to brush my teeth.  Yes, it’s an improvement.  I am healthier, having taken up running.  I have lost a little over two stone in 10 months.  I still have not reached that elusive two and a half stone which makes me fear that dropping another full stone is totally unobtainable.  If only I could stop eating chocolate I suspect I could reach it a lot quicker.  And therein lies the problem I think.  Chocolate.  Sugar in disguise.   Unfortunately it is just not disguised well enough.  I think we are all aware of the wham-bam-thank-you-mam rush that sugar gives.  Up, up, up we go and then crashing back down to earth seconds later. Instead we are advised to snack (Snack? Who snacks when they’re nursing?) on slow release foods like oats, whole grains, beans, pulses and other yokes that need chocolate poured on them to taste good.  In a nutshell, when it’s your witch in a tea-cup time, the body craves sugar to increase energy levels. This is the beginning of the vicious cycle.  (All about cycles, isn’t it?)  The more sugar that is consumed, the further sugar levels drop.  This plunge is what causes fatigue, bloating and mood swings.  I’m sick reading up on this.  Tired of doing research.  At this stage in the game, I know what causes it but I am helpless to do anything.  Or should I say, not strong enough.  I do not possess the will power that is required to say no to chocolate.  There are days where I would go through glass to get at a piece of the stuff.  I believe salt can help fight off a sugar craving but I’d have to pour the whole container on top of my food in order to prevent me from eating it.  What you’re really supposed to do is drink a quarter of a teaspoon of salt in warm water.  It knocks that sugar craving right on the head, so it does.  I don’t doubt it.  If I wanted a mouthful of warm, salty water I’d take the kids to the beach.  See how contrary and irritable I can be?  Witch in a tea-cup.  I just witch, I mean, wish I could cast a spell and make it all go away.