Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life lessons for my son

That's a fairly dramatic title, I can hear you thinking. Damn right it is. There are a million things I want to teach my son, and I've only just started composing the list. Poor guy will be sick of listening by the time he's 18.

I can't write a post about the lessons I am currently teaching Sebby as it would go something like this:
  1. Do not sit in puddles
  2. Stickers are not edible
  3. A sheep says baa, it doesn't growl as you seem to think it does
  4. Just because you cover your eyes doesn't mean you have disappeared
  5. It is not good to poo in the bath
Nothing too life changing about that list.

So here are a few things I want Sebby to know as he grows up. Advice that I wish I could give to my young self and that hopefully Sebby will remember and take with him as he embarks on his own life education.

You will encounter fear at every junction. Acknowledge it, embrace it, rationalise it, let it drive you but don't let it stop you doing the things you love or want to try. 

Find something that you love to do and make a career out of it. Jobs exist that you couldn't even imagine, so if you have passion and drive, you can make a living doing just about anything. You will spend a lot of time working, you should make the most of that time.

Learn a language, play a sport and learn an instrument. You will have many times that you want to quit one or all of these hobbies but stick with it. You will be grateful later that you have.

Have ambition and don't let the fear of failure stop you going for it. Put your hand up in class. So someone says no or you're wrong. You will feel embarassed and think you have made a fool out of yourself. No one else thinks that and if they do, they have forgotten about it by tomorrow.

Travel - there is a lot more to the world that what you have seen so far. But don't live with a grass is greener attitude. You are lucky. Be grateful for what you have.

Be the best version of yourself. You are not perfect, you have weaknesses and things you want to change but you are amazing. Be the best you can be and the people around you will be very lucky.

Don't live with regret. You will make mistakes. You will make bad choices. You will hurt people. Learn from it, make amends and move on. Know where you've been but look where you are going - or you will fall.

Don't go to bed or walk out of the door angry. Pick up the phone, hug it out, apologise, vent or forgive but resolve it first.

Life is now. Don't go through life waiting for it to begin. This is it.

Invest in kindness. Kindness doesn't cost a penny but pays dividends. Small acts of kindness impact people hugely. A smile or kind word can transform someone's day. And it makes you feel good too.

Don't be intimidated by people who you believe are better than you. Because they are not. Each life is as valuable as the next and everyone deserves respect, regardless of wealth, status or background. They may have a big job title or a lot more money but we are all headed to the same place, we're just taking different routes. 

Phew I'm spent! I think that's more than enough wisdom for today.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Little Sponge

Whilst I believe children develop at their own rate and try not to buy into milestones too much, I have to admit I am delighted when people comment about how advanced Sebastian is.

Not that I would show this of course. I am British for goodness sake! I actually tend to go the other way and play it down to the point of insulting my poor boy. "Oh no, he can only walk a few steps and he's very wobbly - must be his big head putting him off balance." At which point I feel I have betrayed my son and silently berate myself and feel guilty for the next few hours. Oh, it's a party being in my head, let me tell you...

But I am very conscious that Sebby is learning at an incredible rate. I think it's just his age (doh, there I go again!). He picks things up very quickly. For example, he loves a bit of Mr Tumble on CBeebies, which if you don't know, uses sign language during outings with disabled and disadvantaged children. Yes, we're very equal opportunities in our house! After watching 20 minutes of the show, he generally has learnt one or two new signs that he remembers and repeats after seeing them just a few times. Clever eh?

This sponge-like learning, whilst fantastic, unnerves me. It makes me very aware that everything that we do around him now is being watched, imitated and noted. He's like a spy cam. Only without delete. So no longer can daddy drop an f-bomb into a conversation, and no longer can mummy make sarcastic comments that without understanding the tone just sound like insults (perhaps something I should work on?). We are a lot more conscious of what we say and how we say it and most worryingly, no longer can we eat biscuits during his waking hours unless we are prepared for them to be forcibly removed from our hands, licked several times then smeared on our new pale grey carpet.

But these small sacrifices are worth it because 15 months is such a great age. In fact, like George Clooney, being Sebby's mum just gets better and better with age. And what a special job it is to have such a huge influence on a little person's personality, intellect, morals, sense of humour and behaviour. Scary though.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sleep, my old friend, it's nice to see you again

My name is Rachel and my little boy sleeps through the night. There I said it. Words I never thought would come out of my mouth. But they're out. And they're true.

Dear God of Jinx, be kind to me and do not take this thing of beauty away from me. Amen.

You may have noticed that the blog has been very quiet for the last few months. In fact I can see that my last post was about whether or not to sleep train and what method to use. Whilst not the only reason for my absence (we've also refurbished and moved into a new home) the main reason has been exhaustion. A year of sleeping in 3 hour chunks (on a good night) and usually not for more than 2 of those blasted chunks really takes its toll. What limited down time I've had was spent in a vegetative state on the half a sofa that fitted into the tiny rental house.

If you've read any of my earlier posts, you will know that Sebby has always been a bad sleeper. He didn't sleep when he was first born and this has set the pattern for his infancy. He was (still is) breastfed, we started cosleeping at 4 months, we tried a routine and various gentle sleeping techniques and nothing helped. We never did Cry It Out as it went against all of our parenting instincts, and to be frank I was too gutless to listen to my baby cry when I could offer him comfort. 

We gave ourselves the deadline of getting into the new house and then knew we would have to seriously address his sleep. We were both the walking dead and would no longer have Grandma across the road to nip over and take first shift on particularly bad nights. Our plan was going to be to get him into his own room, at least for the first part of the night and then gently night wean (Sebby had been waking to feed at least 3 or 4 times a night) and that Dave would be the one to resettle him if he woke. This had worked for friends of ours and it felt like a good option. We were all set to start the new regime on the Thursday as Dave could handle a sleep deprived Friday at work then we would have the weekend to work on it. It apparently takes 3 days to make or break a habit.

We had managed to settle Sebby in his cot, albeit by one of us getting in there with him, for several nights that week and magically one night he just didn't wake up. Well actually he did, three times, but he lay back down and went straight back to sleep. And alas, that has continued. He's had my couple of nights where he has ended up in our bed when he has woken crying but on the whole he has done the majority of the last fortnight sleeping through in his own room. Hallelujah!

I still can't quite believe it. I have the monitor on maximum volume and still go in to check he's breathing. But the fear of going to sleep knowing I will be woken up as soon as I close my eyes is gradually passing. And the bone deep tiredness that I've lived with for 15 months is fading to an unpleasant memory. And all without sleep training. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Dilemma

I have always been quite decisive when it comes to major life decisions. It is in the day to day minutiae where I struggle to make my mind up. Stripy or spotty socks, toast or porridge, book or TV (not that I have time for either these days).

My dilemma is this. Should I sleep train Sebby or wait for him to learn to sleep on his own. Now I realise this is not a major life decision but it sure as hell feels like it. But I can't make my mind up whether or not it's worth it.

To give you a little context, we've had almost a year of broken sleep. The longest unbroken stretch I have had was 6 hours on my birthday back in April when I was sick and really needed it. Oh how I remember that day fondly...

He will not / cannot self settle even when fall down tired so until recently we had somehow found ourselves in the position of having to bounce him on a Swiss ball. I know it sounds ridiculous but apparently its more common than it sounds. 

When I discovered that bouncing our 2 month old insomniac baby sent him to sleep when nothing else would, I thought I had cracked it. Nine months and 7 kilos later and I don't feel quite so pleased with myself anymore. The Swiss ball has become the 4th member of our family. It comes on holiday with us, enjoys weekends away and features in many of our family photos. 

Alas, in the last few weeks Sebby has been falling asleep on the boob but generally wakes up 40 minutes later, looking for more. He usually goes back off within a few minutes but on a typical night he will wake up between 3 and 6 times every night. This means I sleep in chunks of (at most) 2-3 hours.You may know from a recent post that we are accidental cosleepers. I believe that we all get more sleep this way and my gut tells me this is how it should be but we would like the marital bed back at some point.

Now back to the dilemma. I have read all the literature about sleep, routines, cosleeping etc etc. I can recite Gina, Baby Whisperer, Tizzy, Ferber, No Cry Sleep Solution, Dr Sears. All very different. Our parenting philosophy is more baby led than hard ass "the baby must learn", but I admit to trying most of the approaches. Although we buckled after 25 mins of Cry It Out and swore never again.

You will only understand how hard it is listening to your own baby cry if you indeed have your own baby. When I heard babies cry before, it was an annoyance and a little sad. With your own, your heart aches, your gut churns, your breasts lactate (no? Just me?) and you cry. A lot. It goes against every instinct in your body. So full blown cry it out 'solutions' are off the table. I know it works for some people but it's not for us.

The most sensible approach I have read recently, and one that addresses our particular situation is Jay Gordon in this article Dr Gordon is an advocate of cosleeping and breastfeeding for as long as possible but he suggests that sometimes sleep patterns do need to change and offers a gentle, phased approach to retraining babies. The basic premise is to choose a 7 hour period (say 11pm to 6am) and to gradually withdraw feeds during that time, maintaining your usual routine outside of those times. If baby cries at 10.59 feed him. Whether or or not it works, I don't know. But I like the approach. 

Actually writing this post has given me some clarity. So thank you for listening. We will do nothing until we move into our new house at Christmas. We will then reassess and make a decision. But if and when we do some sleep training, it will be a gentle technique. 

What I'm really hoping for is that Sebby will soon have a bit more understanding and we can reason with him a little. Maybe I'm dreaming?? Nah, I'd have to be asleep for that, which ain't looking likely anytime soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pregnancy: what I wish I'd known

I'm not ready to start thinking about having another baby yet but I am ready to start thinking about starting to think about having another baby. We would like one or two more children (eggs and finances permitting) so we don't have the luxury of too much time to procrastinate.

So I've been thinking about what I will know this time around that I didn't know first time but wish I had:
  1. Some people get pregnant very quickly. I was pregnant the first month of trying which meant that I missed out on maternity pay by one month (outdated Australian maternity policy where you had to work somewhere two years before qualifying).
  2. You will have a dog like sense of smell. Pregnancy heightened all of my senses but in particular smell. I could smell garlic from streets away and became repulsed by my husband's usually quite pleasant breath.
  3. You can get prenatal vitamins without a separate Omega 3 supplement. I spent three months throwing up fish oil. Not pleasant. Get an all in one tablet, not a liquid capsule. 
  4. People will stare at you. Don't get paranoid. No they don't think you are just fat, you don't have your skirt tucked in your knickers and they are not judging you for having sex. They just like looking at pregnant bellies. It makes them feel warm inside. 
  5. Pregnancy actually lasts 10 months!
  6. Everyone describes the first kicks as 'flutters'. They mean it feels like wind.
  7. Once the baby grows bigger than a grapefruit it feels like you have an alien inside you that could break through at any moment. This is normal.
  8. Don't worry about the baby squashing your organs and killing you. Your ribcage expands and your organs rise up the body to accommodate the little monster.
  9. Don't talk about baby names with anyone other than your partner. I adhered to this advice but a friend of mine didn't and liked the same name that we had chosen. When she told me, cue an awkward conversation and disappointment on both sides.
  10. Buy lots of jersey clothes. Don't waste money on skinny maternity jeans that you will grow out of at 28 weeks, buy jersey dresses that stretch with you and lots of trackie bottoms. Invest in a few Seraphine dresses, which are lovely. And if you don't believe me, maybe you trust Duchess Kate? 
Kate in Seraphine jersey dress

And one thing I'm glad I didn't know? How bad morning sickness can be. Had I known I may never have got pregnant in the first place. Twelve weeks of hell. Constant vomiting, medication, exhaustion and only being able to keep down slices of red apple. Oh and sushi (of the cooked variety) coming back is not pleasant.

What would you tell your pre-pregnant self?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We're all going on a (late) summer holiday

Our last holiday was to Fiji for Christmas in 2011. We've had weekends away and a few days in Singapore on our way back to the UK but it has been nearly two years since what I would class as a proper holiday. So needless to say I'm ready for a break.

Now before you think I'm a brat for complaining about holidaying in Fiji, let me clarify - we were living in Sydney at the time and Australians think about Fiji much as we think about Spain. Cheap(ish) package deals, loads of tourists and short flights.

Anyway, my family has started a new annual tradition of Scuba Diving in Gozo, Malta, every year. My mum and step father hire a big villa and fill it with family and friends. We've missed the last couple of trips but have swallowed our nerves about taking a baby on holiday and decided to go. We won't be diving (not sure they make a diving tank in XXXXS) but we are looking forward to spending time exploring the island and taking Sebby to the beach. The villa looks quite nice too.

At Sebby's Christening last weekend, the sermon was about how parents get very carried away with all the stuff they "need" for their children. Whilst there is a certain amount of equipment necessary, we should be cautious about falling into the trap of listening to the media and advertisers telling us that we simply must have the latest "thing" for our babies, and focus a bit more on family, friends, community and faith. It resonated.

In the early days of having a new baby, I definitely bought way too much stuff that I believed would help with sleep, breastfeeding, development etc. etc. By far the biggest waste of money was the £90 electronic swing that I believed would solve of our sleep problems but in reality was a toe stubbing dust gatherer.   

I've tried to remember this lesson as I've been planning for our holiday - how much could we possibly need for 10 days away? I've decided not to buy a new, more transportable car seat and instead have bought a bag for our bulky car seat that we will pack full of nappies and other bulky things to check in the hold. I've also decided against buying a snazzy UV tent and will instead buy a cheap umbrella when we're there. But my list still looks awfully long as it currently stands:
  • Lightweight buggy, purchased specially for the holiday
  • Car seat
  • Baby carrier, new buy as Sebby no longer fits in the Baby Bjorn
  • Feeding equipment and food
  • Nappies, swim nappies and nappy supplies
  • Tons of clothes
  • Sunscreen, baby friendly bug spray and toiletries
  • Baby monitor
  • First aid kit 
  • Black out blinds
  • Plug adaptor 
  • Toys and books
I'm undecided about whether to take our Baby Dan bedguard or hope he will be happy in the cot but looking back at my list, weight restrictions may make this decision for me! Lets hope Dave packs light...

Trying out the new Papatum Toddler Carrier, £60 from Little Possums
Maclaren Techno XT in red, £175 from Mothercare