Tuesday 27 November 2018

7 Things You'll Know If Your Toddler Loves Babies A Little Too Much

My two-year-old is obsessed with babies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, she is a huge fan of babies. She can’t get enough of them. She would happily spend all day staring at them, cuddling them and holding hands with them. They’re her favourites. She has little time for kids her age, but she loves babies (I should mention here that she calls anyone younger or shorter than her ‘baby’ so they’re not always actually babies). But her favourite babies are brand new, so fragile and immobile that they cannot physically get away from her.

I haven’t yet met another toddler with a baby obsession to match Ember’s, but I’m assured they exist. So this is for the other parents who, like me, find their toddler’s love of babies somewhat worrying. It’s not that I don’t want her to love babies, I’m all for it. It’s really lovely to see her be gentle and loving towards a baby, but I would prefer if it was a hobby she dabbled in rather than her life’s work. I haven’t seen her tire of a baby yet.

Here are 7 things you might be familiar with if you have a toddler who loves babies:

1. The baby fever
Ember will stop at nothing to get hold of a baby. She will run alongside fast-moving prams in an attempt to get a hold of a baby’s hand. She will elbow older siblings out of the way, climb on chairs and beg to be near babies. She has no shame. It’s almost as though she doesn’t know she’s acting strangely.

She has a radar for babies, as soon as one comes anywhere near us, she is over there in optimum looming position. Those poor babies and their terrified parents don’t stand a chance. She’s like one of the girls chasing The Beatles in the black and white grainy footage from the 60s. Apart from she’s not wearing a mini skirt, and she isn’t chasing after Paul McCartney, and she isn’t in a crowd. So, not that similar, but she runs with the same open-mouthed expression of pure excitement on her face, towards one baby, then another, then another.

2. The apologising
I literally spend all day apologising. Every time we leave the house I am forced to apologise to at least a handful of parents as my daughter stares at and looms over and tries to hold hands with their babies. I spend playgroup just making a continuous circuit of the room, apologising to all of the parents of babies as I go. Sorry, my daughter is nose-to-nose with your baby. Sorry, my daughter is trying to hold your baby’s hand. Sorry, my daughter keeps lying on the floor in front of your baby in the hope that he will crawl across her. Sorry that she likes babies so much.

3. The quarantine
Ember’s baby obsession is holding me back. She is holding me captive in my own house. Since November hit and her pet caterpillars have come out of hibernation from her nostrils, I’ve had to keep her at home. I can’t have her coughing, sneezing and snotting all over these tiny babies. It’s bad enough she’s getting so close to them as it is, without her being a walking petri dish of cold and flu season.

I’ve already missed a full week of playgroups this winter because she is coughing and spluttering germs everywhere she goes. And yeah, maybe I could explain that she’s not well and should avoid the babies for a while, but she’s two and she definitely wouldn’t listen to me. If anything, she would deliberately rub snot all over all of the babies just to make a point. And then we’d probably get barred from playgroup.

4. The fear
You know what is terrifying when you have a child like mine? Pregnancies. Yeah, nothing fills me with dread more than a friend announcing a pregnancy. Oh crap, I think, now I can’t be their friend anymore or Ember will be weird with their baby. Because she doesn’t want just one hold, she wants all the holds. I have a friend who recently had a baby and I actually think Ember has had more cuddles than the mum. It’s all she wants all of the time. Even at a playgroup surrounded by brightly coloured toys and kids her own age, she just wants the baby.

So, whilst I’m happy for my friends as they announce their pregnancies, I’m also sad that our friendships are over for the foreseeable future. Maybe Ember will grow out of the baby thing, I think hopefully, knowing full well that she won’t. She will be yanking those babies towards her for cuddles even as an adult, I can tell.

5. The comments
The problem when you have a baby-obsessed toddler is that people feel the need to comment on it. As she sits under a baby, her arms gently cradling the fragile baby, a wide smile stretched across her face, people can’t help but comment. You’ll have to have another, they say. Over and over again. It’s all anyone says. If you took a dog for a walk and that dog chased a rabbit to within an inch of his life, nobody would advise you to get a pet rabbit. Nobody would look at the wide petrified eyes of the rabbit and think that it was ok, yet people are more than happy to overlook the cries of the terrified baby in the arms of my unpredictable and unruly toddler.

6. Having to play babies
When we’re not following babies around the streets of Romiley, getting as close to babies as is physically possible at playgroup or talking about babies, we’re playing babies. Playing babies isn’t a game that she plays alone with her dolls like you might think. That would be ok. I would be happy for her to engage in some baby-themed independent play to free up a bit of my time. But no, that isn’t what she wants to do. She just wants to lie in my arms with her eyes closed pretending to be a baby. This game can last a long time and sometimes she yells Goo Goo Gaa Gaa in my face even though no baby has ever actually said that.

7. The love of second-time parents
When my firstborn was little, if a snotty-nosed toddler had come within an inch of my baby I would have done three things. Firstly, I would have smiled sweetly at the toddler while standing up quickly so they couldn’t get anywhere near my precious first born. Then I would have looked around for the parent, the sweet smile still forced across my face and pretended it was ‘fine’ while hoping my eyes communicated clearly that it was not. And lastly, I would have spent days waiting for my baby to come down with whatever life-threatening illness it was that caused the toddler’s snot.

Second parents aren’t like this. They don’t seem as nervous when their new babies are stalked by enthusiastically friendly toddlers. With first time parents, I have to rush over and immediately start my apologising. But these relaxed second-time parents seem much happier to have a toddler near their baby. I’m still apologising a lot, of course, that’s what I am forced to do since I am mother to the world’s broodiest toddler. If Ember spots the baby of a third-time parent then it’s like she’s won the lottery. They will happily let her paw, maul and sniff their baby to her heart’s content. To them, she is not a germ-infested personal-space-eschewing whirlwind of chaos, she’s just a willing babysitter.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Getting Your Family Home Organised

For some reason, the winter always feels more chaotic in my house. In the summer, we spend enough time outside that inside either stays relatively tidy or I’m just not indoors enough to witness the mess. In winter, however, when the dark evenings and cold weather leave us cooped up after school, the house gets untidy. As I type this, there is a pile of jigsaw pieces in the middle of the living room floor, a collection of children’s books dumped next to the designated book box, and the mantelpiece is full of things waiting to go upstairs. Add to that, the fact that we have an empty bedroom waiting to be decorated upstairs and a playroom upturned thanks to a pre-Christmas sort out and, well, you get the picture.

I found this article about time management in the Guardian really interesting, and it definitely struck a few chords with me. I am forever losing things and while I often blame this on things not having a place, usually it’s just that things have got lost amidst the clutter. School shoes, bobbles, white polo shirts and all homework just seem to disappear in our house. Inspired by the Guardian article, I wanted to share some ideas for how to get your family home organised, these are all things we have done or are planning to do:

1. Invest in some decent toy storage
Toys just get everywhere, don’t they? One thing I have found that makes this much easier to handle is everywhere having a place. And not an artfully chosen place on a designated shelf to ensure your home is always Instagram ready, but a place kids can reach to tidy away their own stuff. I hate the mess that my toddler can make, but I also love her having the freedom to choose and get out her own toys. I don’t want to put things out of her reach or put myself in charge of what she plays with. I want her to have control when it comes to her things. Storage baskets are the answer. You need to have storage baskets or boxes for everything so they can be tipped out but tidied away just as easily.

2. Don’t pretend it’s all the kids’ faults
If I look around my house, I can see as much of my mess as I can of the kids. I just seem to have so much stuff, and even though I know where it should go, it can take a long time to actually get there. We pretty much always have a bag of crap in the kitchen just waiting to go upstairs. The mantelpiece in the living room is full of things that should have been taken upstairs. And don’t even open the door to my office unless you’re feeling emotionally ready to see chaos. When I do eventually take things upstairs, I usually just dump them on the desk in my office because I don’t have the time to sort them out just yet. I really need to start making the time.

I have decided to create some designated areas for Crap That Should Be Upstairs and Crap That Needs Sorting Out. A couple of wicker baskets in the living room and kitchen would be enough to make a huge difference both to the space and to my stress levels.

3. Work your way through your home
All I really want is to feel like my house is nice when I first come in. If the entrance hall feels cosy and welcoming then I forgive the textured wallpaper (I can’t, I will never forgive it, it needs to come down). My worst thing is walking into an untidy hallway. We haven’t decorated the hallway, stairs or landing yet but I know we will at some point in the future (maybe before I am 60, fingers crossed) so it’s not an area I want to spend much money on in the short-term. We do have coat hooks but we could do with a couple of extras low down so that Ember has somewhere to hang her coat when she gets in. We are also in desperate need of shoe storage to try and stop shoes from spilling out all over the house.

So, start at your front door and work your way through your home making organisational improvements as you go. Doing it this way will allow you to immediately see your hard work paying off, and it will make coming home even nicer. Take a look at The Holding Company to see if any of their products could help to revolutionise your home.   

If you have any tips that might help me get my life in order, please do share them with me.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Thursday 1 November 2018

Happy World Vegan Day

I get a lot of press releases. Most of the time they are about absolute shite like Kate Middleton’s pelvic floor, but sometimes they are interesting. I have had a few press releases about veganism this week which isn’t surprising because today marks World Vegan Day.

Life as a vegan has changed a lot over the past decade (read 10 things that have changed in my 10 years of being vegan). It is so much easier now. It is easier and more affordable to find vegan products, and there are so many substitutes out there. Vegan is a word people understand now (they really didn’t 10 years ago), and restaurants tell you in moments whether they cater for vegans. It’s easy to eat out, there are vegan Magnums and vegan makeup is readily available now. Unsurprisingly, it’s the young driving this change. While their grandparents are getting excited about Brexit, young people are making informed food choices for the planet.

Hitwise sent me a press release to let me know that online searches relating to veganism have increased by 84% in the past three years. And, after analysing the data, they have revealed that the following questions are the 10 most asked. So, I figured I would answer them.

1.     Who makes vegan strip lashes?
Superdrug! They make vegan everything, pretty much. And it’s always labelled so you know which products are suitable for vegans. Superdrug is my one-stop shop for all such things.

2.     When is vegan week bake off?
You missed it. But don’t worry, from what I heard, it was just Paul Hollywood walking around being condescending about vegan food, so you didn’t miss much. I decided not to watch it because I figured that was going to happen. A lot of people have been telling me about vegan meringue since watching it though so it clearly impressed the general public.  

3.     Who sells vegan pizza?
Everybody. It’s almost too easy to get vegan pizza nowadays. I’m almost tired of sampling them all. You can get vegan pizzas at supermarkets, restaurants and even some takeaways. The days of painstakingly making your own vegan pizza are long behind us. I kind of miss them, sometimes, but also there is nothing quite like an oven pizza on family movie night.

4.     What would happen if everyone turned vegan?
People would stop making fun of vegans. And, um, probably the word vegan would go extinct. And the planet might be a little healthier. And there would probably be a black market of meat products from unspecified sources. And animals wouldn’t spend their lives in factory farms. And Tunnocks would have to diversify and veganise Snowballs which would be, to be honest, my favourite thing about the entire world adopting a vegan diet.

5.     Why aren't avocados vegan?
Remember before that QI episode when nobody talked about how vegetables weren’t actually vegan? Man, I miss those days. So, basically, for those of you who missed QI, vegetables are farmed using bees to pollinate the plants. And this isn’t done in a happy-go-lucky ‘I hope a bee comes along soon’ kind of way, it’s done in a ‘I control the bees, work for me, bee-tch’ kind of a way. So, yeah, that doesn’t sound that vegan. Neither are pesticides. Or most medicines. Or screens (they have gelatin in). So, it’s pretty difficult to live an entirely vegan life in modern society, but that doesn’t mean there’s no point in doing your best. Eating avocados is vegan, you’re still vegan if you eat them, even if the farming methods suck. [Side note: isn’t it tedious how desperate people are to see vegans ‘break’ their veganism with stuff like this?]

6.     What happens to cattle if everyone becomes vegan?
Um, well, wild cattle would probably continue to be on the endangered list. Maybe people would be more interested in conserving them if they weren’t also eating them, so perhaps it would be a good thing for those populations. And, there would be no need to farm cattle anymore, so farmers would stop breeding them and then they wouldn’t live on factory farms or be slaughtered for food.

7.     What would happen if we all became vegan?
Um, I already answered this. See number 4. But, basically, it would be great.

8.     Where can I buy red vegan stew?
I don’t even know what this is!? I’ve never heard of it. I hope you find it soon. K, thanks.

9.     Where can I buy mini vegan sausage rolls?
Ocado, for sure. Probably other supermarkets, too. Also, you could just cut up regular sized vegan sausage rolls, right? In the 80s, you’d have had to make your own. Another reason to be thankful that the 80s are over.

10.  Why is honey not vegan?
(said very slowly) Because it is an animal product.
Honey isn’t vegan because animals are exploited to make it. They are bred, they die in transit, Queen bees have their wings clipped. It’s just not vegan. If you can get your head around not eating steak and not eating yoghurt, then honey is that far a leap from there.

Photo by Ivana Milakovic on Unsplash

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Home Birth Awareness Week 2018

Ok, it’s over now. Home Birth Awareness Week has finished for 2018. I just wanted to write a quick post to thank everybody who took part. It was really exciting to see people joining in and sharing their home birth stories. If you search the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 on social media, you can see some of the posts. It was lovely to see women joining in and telling their stories, as well as midwives getting involved to promote home birth. Oh, and Emma Willis’ Delivering Babies show just happened to cover home birth in that week’s episode which was pretty awesome timing (you can see a clip here).

The whole point of the week was simply to normalise home birth. The more people hear about home births, the better. Hearing your home birth story could prompt somebody to ask their midwife whether home birth is an option for them. My home birth in 2012 was amazing and I will always be thankful to the people who told me about their home births and planted that seed in my mind.

If you want to remind yourself of how the awareness week went, search the hashtag on social media. According to Keyhole, the hashtag was used over 100 times on Twitter and Instagram, and reached over 100,000 people. Those stats don’t include Facebook but there were plenty more posts to be found there so the actual reach is probably a lot higher. Hopefully we have shown people how home birth works for real families, and perhaps even inspired a few couples to have home births of their own.

And now, because this is pretty much my Oscar’s speech, I wanted to thank the lovely, lovely Hannah from Make Do & Push for getting involved and sharing her experiences of home birth. She’s currently pregnant and has only a few weeks left until she will hopefully be able to have her third home birth! Keep an eye on her Instagram to see how she gets on, I’m so excited for her. She posted lots during the week and helped to keep the momentum going which really helped to get the hashtag out there.

If you want some home birth inspiration, the following stories were shared as part of Home Birth Awareness Week. Please have a read to find out a little more about home birth and what it looks like for different families here in the UK. Here you go:

Thanks again for taking part and helping to make Home Birth Awareness Week 2018 a success. See you next year!

Friday 26 October 2018

Home Birth Q&A

Today is the final day of Home Birth Awareness Week. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part, it has been wonderful reading all of your stories and seeing your beautiful photos. I said I would do a home birth Q&A to answer any commonly asked questions about home birth. So, here it is:

My partner isn’t keen on the idea, how can I convince him?
I think the best way to convince your partner is to arrange a meeting with one of the midwives on your local home birth team. They are best placed to answer any of his questions and address any of his concerns. Their experience and knowledge may help to get him on board with the idea of a home birth.

You should see if there is a home birth support group in your local area. These are often held in hospitals or community centres and run by people who are passionate home birth. Each local group will vary, but the meetings exist to support people considering a home birth. There might be a midwife there to answer questions, or new parents there telling their own home birth stories. There will be the opportunity to ask questions and hear from a number of people who have given birth at home.

What about the neighbours?
Ah, yes, the neighbours. Some people warn their neighbours in advance just in case it’s noisy on the night. We didn’t warn our neighbour and she didn’t realise we’d had the baby so she clearly didn’t hear anything (or just assumed there was a herd of cows passing that morning). She was 95 with bad hearing though, so I think we were pretty lucky.

When you’re giving birth, you won’t be worrying about whether the neighbours can hear. You’ll be too focused on the birth. If the noise is worrying you, you can plan some ways to reduce it. For example, don’t give birth right next to the party wall, instead set your pool up against an internal wall. Playing music will help to cover any mooing/groaning/yelling.

What about the mess?
Mess, what mess? Just kidding. There will be mess. A whole load of stuff is going to come flying out of you. If you give birth in a pool, all of that mess will be contained in the pool. But somebody will need to empty the pool and take care of the mess. If you don’t give birth in a pool, the mess will end up on the floor or sofa or wherever you choose to give birth. Use tarpaulin, old towels and sheets and whatever else you can find to protect your floors. It is perfectly possible to give birth at home without ruining your cream carpets.

What if something goes wrong?
Birth doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes, medical help is necessary to ensure both mother and baby are safe and healthy. When that happens at home, you might need to be transferred to hospital for additional help. Home birth midwives are qualified professionals. They are trained to look for problems before they arise and act accordingly. If you need to be transferred in, your midwife will ensure this is done as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that home birth midwives have a lot of medical kit with them when they turn up to a home birth. If you are worried about what will happen if something goes wrong, tell your midwife. She will be able to explain the transfer procedure and explain what they do in an emergency.

What if there are no midwives available on the day?
This was something I was really worried about in the lead up to my home birth. I was so worried that we’d be told a midwife was unavailable and that we’d have to go into hospital. In reality, we just rang up and they sent a midwife within half an hour, so there was no need for me to worry.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that. There are times when midwives may be unavailable due to staffing issues. This is something you will need to discuss with your midwife in advance so you can find out the best way of getting a midwife to your birth.

What do you think the biggest misconception is?
That it’s brave. People often tell women planning home births that they are brave. People mistakenly think home birth is dangerous and that anyone planning to do is being brave. In fact, these women are not brave. They are making informed decisions to try and ensure they have the birth experience they really want. By telling these women they are brave, the implication is that they are doing something risky and dangerous.

Another common response is ‘Aren’t you worried about ...xyw?’ Women planning home births meet negativity wherever they go. If somebody tells you they are planning a home birth, and you want to say something supportive instead of joining the nay-sayers, try saying “Wow, that will be amazing.”

If you have any other questions, comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Thursday 25 October 2018

The Importance of Telling Positive Birth Stories

This week is Home Birth Awareness Weekend and it was has been really lovely seeing so many people joining in and sharing their personal experiences of home birth. Less than 3% per cent of mums choose to have their babies at home. I meet so many women who say they didn’t realise home birth was an option, or they didn’t think they would be allowed one, or they didn’t have the support of their partner.

I wanted Home Birth Awareness Weekend to provide a platform for those of us with home birth stories to tell. The more we talk about our experiences, the more normalised home birth will become. And the more normal it seems, the more women will consider it and make an informed choice about where they want to give birth.

Negative experiences account for most of the birth stories retold on a daily basis. For some reason, society cannot get enough of those birth horror stories. When I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first child, negative birth stories were all I heard. It was as though the mere sight of my bump reminded people of the horrible birth story they’d once heard and, for some unknown reason, they would immediately tell me about it.

I was feeling understandably anxious about the birth. I just had absolutely no idea what to expect. It is impossible to imagine birth before you have experienced it. I had no idea what contractions would feel like or whether I would be able to cope with the pain. And the constant barrage of negative birth stories didn’t help. Luckily, I had a friend who had recently had a very positive birth experience which she shared with me. And my mum has always spoken positively about birth so that mindset helped, too.

Some women do have negative birth experiences, I am one of them. I had one beautiful and onenot-so-beautifull experience and the difference between them was huge. I know how important it is to be able to talk about negative birth experiences. I know how hard it is to keep all of those feelings of anger and disappointment and vulnerability inside. I know that I needed to talk so badly that I couldn’t keep it inside. And I know that talking helped. I know that talking and talking and talking that horrible day to death helped me to process my thoughts, it helped me to disect my feelings and move on. We cannot censor women’s experiences and we shouldn’t try to. Women should be free to tell their stories.

What we do need, however, is some balance. We cannot have a culture where only negative birth stories are heard. We need to make sure a mix of all experiences are spoken about often. Pregnant women need to hear positive birth stories to, to help them make informed choices about their own births. We need to speak up about our experiences so that people know not all births end in intereventions.

It isn’t always easy to speak up about your positive birth experiences. My first daughter was born in a pool in the living room at my first house. My labour was six hours long and the pushing stage lasted 29 minutes. I used gas and air for the last hour and a half, but before that had only the pool, paracetamol and breathing techniques to keep me calm. I focused on my breathing, I fought the fight and flight impulse, and I felt in control. The room was lit with candles and it was silent apart from the gentle encouragement from my husband and midwife. It was the best experience of my life. I felt amazing afterwards. I felt empowered and strong and loved. It could not have been more perfect. But it is hard to say that in a room of women sharing their bad birth stories.

I can remember sitting in a room with about 10 other women all sharing their birth experiences. The women spoke of birth interventions, forceps, emergency sections. They all spoke of the trauma of birth, and the fear they felt, and how they were still coming to terms with their experiences. The health visitor turned to me, “And how about you, Fiona? How was your birth?” I said it was nice and she was born at home, but that was all I said. It felt wrong to talk about how empowering it was or how much I loved it when I was sitting in a room of women who were struggling with their own experiences.

Occasionally, I stumble across other women who have had good birth experiences and together we talk about how amazing birth is. But, generally, I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want to make other women feel bad. I have had a bad birth, I know how much it stings to see that things went to plan for other women. I know how hard it is to deal with those emotions of jealously. And yet, I still want to hear those positive birth stories. I still want women to tell me about their birth experiences. I want those positive experiences to be shared as far and wide as the negative ones. I want pregnant women to know that birth can be beautiful and calm and empowering.

So, with all of that in mind, please join me in telling your home birth stories for Home Birth Awareness Weekend. Tell your friends about your experiences, share your story on social media and be sure to use the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 so that women considering home birth can find your story. The world is already filled with negative birth stories, so please join the conversation and make your voice heard.

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