Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bye Bye Blogger!

Hello! I'm very proud to announce that I've moved to my own shiny new website, and I'd be delighted if you'd join me there for a cuppa and a chat :) I'm now over at mamacourageblog.com, with lots of shiny new gadgets that makes it easier to read the blog and connect! I'll be writing about my experiences as a parent and a young mama there. Bye bye!x

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ToddlerTalk

My first born is becoming less of a baby and growing into a little boy every day. His brain is visibly busy, making connections and forming concretes ideas about the world around him. He's forming full sentences, and his vocabulary is building at an impressive rate. He's learning to ask, answer, negotiate and recall from memory. I am so proud of him, but my heart aches a little as it dawns on me that his early years are drawing to a close.

Here's a few things that I want to remember forever about his toddler ways:

"Pink Mommy"
My name changes daily in response to the color I am wearing. Green Mommy, Blue Mommy. Lello(Yellow) Mommy. I am a shifting rainbow for him.

"Close your eyes"
Actually, it's more like "plose". He hasn't mastered the letter C just yet. He says this just before bed; he wants us to close his eyes so that he can go asleep. When we take our hands away from his face he keeps them squeezed shut.

"Carry you please"
He means, carry me.

"Mommy, Can I help you?"
Every time I'm making food, he drags a kitchen chair over to the counter and stands on it to "help" with dinner

"That's a lovely red dress"
His bath towel. Straight after he gets out I wrap it around him, and he marches to the full length mirror to admire himself. Refers to his brother's full length onesies as dresses too

"Can I kiss it better?"
When he notices that my knees are red and cracked(from a day of kneeling with them both), he always asks if he can kiss them better. No better cure

"Yes"
Whenever he's enjoying a special treat, I usually ask if I can have some. He will always oblige. Once I asked without realizing he had just popped the last bit into his mouth. I had to convince him that he didn't need to fish it out and hand it to me

"Mrs.Nana"
Cuteness.

"Doggy-Rabby-Bear"
Until recently he had three teddies that he could not sleep without; a dog, a rabbit and a bear. We would panic if one went missing underneath the piles of toys. When he asked for them, he would say their names as if they were one.

"Monsters, Beer Hunt, Fluffalow"
Where The Wild Things Are, We're Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo. Three of his favourite books. Every night before bed he loves reading some books with Mammy or Daddy. He curls in close and turns the pages.

These things are transient and beautiful.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Precious Peas of the Podcast

My son, just before we left the hospital after my second birth.


This week was a very exciting and busy one; we launched the first ever Irish Parenting Bloggers podcast, which features a mixture of live conversation and pre recorded blogpost from writers around the theme of Birthing in Ireland. We drew from vastly different experiences, from home births to c-sections, midwife to consultant led care, the most positive, joyful experiences to the nightmarish ones. We chatted about the common perceptions in Ireland today surrounding pregnant women, and whether they are being given full autonomy over their labour experience. We discussed Aja Teehan and her challenging the High Court in a bid to be able to birth her baby at home; we also talked about the 42weeks campaign, which is about giving women unbiased information about all things birthing.

I am so grateful for the brave bloggers who gave their time and wisdom to creating this pilot, and who were so patient with this podcasting novice in getting the project off the ground.
Ciara Mac Donnell from ouchmyfannyhurts.wordpress.com described her two births as being completely different, and urges every woman to listen to and trust her instincts when the time comes to bring your baby into the world.
Laura Murray from myinternalworld.wordpress.com gave an honest account of her poor treatment in a maternity hospital, and states that she is "still not healed" after the lack of care that was shown to her during her labour. She points out very big issues that currently exist in the prenatal care given to women.
Sylda Dwyer from mindthebaby.ie and Tracey Holsgrove from misebandia.wordpress.com joined me for a live conversation about women rights when birthing in Ireland. They gave accounts of their personal experiences and insights into what change is needed in the Irish maternity system.

This was such an informative experience, and a huge learning curve in terms of producing audio material for public consumption. Huge love to my husband who patiently sat for hours trying to figure the technical side out for us.
It also helped me on a personal level in coming to terms with my own negative birthing experience, which happened only six months ago. Connecting with other mothers and having an honest conversation about their experience helped me realize that I was not alone in my disappointment and shock at how labour went for me this time around.

Because this was a first attempt, we would love feedback on what you thought of the podcast; length, content, sound, you name it, we want to know! Drop us a line at podcasts@irishparentingbloggers.com of you have any ideas for us.
Enjoy listening to our podcast here: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/podcast/birthing-in-ireland/id702799536?i=166476719&mt=2

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Baby Led Parenting-Letting Go Of Control

I have two milestones that both my children are due to reach sometime in the near future. One is at the stage that most children are saying goodbye to their nappies, and the other is at the development stage where solids are usually being introduced. If I were to follow the text books(which, being terrified of "screwing up" my first baby, I almost always did), they both seemed more than ready. But despite my praises, tactics, cajoling and encouragement both aren't taking the bait. I'm not trying as hard as I could be though, because I'm starting to believe more and more in the concept of baby led parenting.

It's a pretty self explanatory term, and sounds lovely in theory; baby leads the way, parents pick up and follow on their instincts. Rather than impose a schedule, little one calls the shots on when to feed, eat and sleep. This is in direct contrast to Gina Ford, who promises a contented little baby-once you show them who's boss, of course.

Our first born was a victim to the CLB experiment; he was woken up, fed the same time every day, and eventually succumbed to the pattern that Ford set out. Only now do I realise how conflicting this practice is to my values as a parent, which have grown and developed along with my children. The idea that there is an "average" baby, that follows a set pattern that all children must strive to be, is insane. You wouldn't apply that notion to a group of adults, so why do we do that to our children? Trying to fit your baby into a theoretical mould and "failing" can cause huge stress. It can also place undue pressure on a newborn, because we ask ourselves "why aren't you doing what a normal baby does?!" The line of thinking is that if my child has a rigid routine, and sleeps twelve hours a night, he will be contented. So the implication is that if you child deviates from this "norm", they are discontent.
How much truth is there in this idea though?

Our six month old is such a content, happy, child. He loves being held, chatted to, and generally won't cry for longer than a few minutes once his needs are met. He has zero routine. Every day is different, and he decides the course for the day. There is no expectation on him to follow a clock, and I believe that this is reflected in his positive nature.

Mind you, there are challenges to baby led parenting . Bub has slept through the night once in six months, and has never repeated it since. At the moment he is up at least three times a night for a few ounces; he's of the little, often persuasion. Up before six, down after eight. He's a big baby and physically sturdy enough to start on solids but looks at me with disgust if I suggest a taste.
Because I am a stay at home parent a formal routine isn't necessary; if our circumstances were different it might be impossible to let them take the lead.
We are shattered. But I haven't met a parent who isn't, even if their child manages a long stretch at night.

So for now, the nappies and broken nights stay, until the bosses decide otherwise.


Photo courtesy of Karina Bracken

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Love Letter To My Son

I loved you before I met you.

When we were one, you must have absorbed part of my soul, because a piece of me has stayed with you since the day you were born. When I first heard your heartbeat, it became the metronome to which I set the rhythm of the rest of my life. The chaos, the confusion, the fear faded in that moment and it was clear that you were mine to love. You and I, the iambic rhythm of a heart. Even now, the sound of your breath steadies me. Calms me. The pattern holds a small sense of certainty in a world that refuses to give any; in and out, light and heavy.

Your existence made me the bravest that I have had to be. I did what I thought impossible, faced what I felt I never could. I searched the deepest depths, to the fibre of my being, and found the purest love in your name. Some nights I have to dig deeper still, until I'm sure that I have no more left to give.

But there will always be more for you. More love, more protection, more courage. I promise you this; I'll give you everything I have to keep your beautiful soul joyous.

All I ask is you love yourself, including the small part of me that you keep. Because you are a bright spark; my firecracker. Know that I loved you before I met you, and that love has soaked me to the bone.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Touch and Go. Beautiful Baby Massage.

Slowly emerging from the postpartum cocoon and out into the big world together is an important step for mother and baby. Recently,we decided it was time to get involved in something that would give our second born quality one-on-one time with his adoring, if slightly distracted, parents. I was in a local cafe when I spotted a business card that had a picture of a beautiful, happy bub and advertised 'Little Ones Baby Massage'. Because I was no longer breastfeeding the idea of alternative skin-to-skin contact was so appealing; I just loved the thought of massaging that soft, perfect skin with a little more mastery than my instinctive touch. Given that our health insurance was offering compensation for the classes(a huge number of plans do!), it was a no-brainer. Because of how hectic our life is, I hadn't really thought about the course until we arrived at Rachel's welcoming doorstep for the first class. It sounds dramatic, but the experience was truly life changing.

The classes were baby led, so there was no pressure on my pink Buddha to perform. If he was hungry, tired, or restless, Rachel would take a break offer us tea and treats and chat about the ethos surrounding baby massage. It was during this time that this knowledgeable mammy taught me so much more than baby massage; we discussed babywearing, breastfeeding, stay at home parenting, natural birth, bonding and so much more. Each week we went through different techniques on different parts of the body, Eli lying on a soft cushion and enjoying his undivided attention. The course took on a holistic approach to caring for you and your baby; positive affirmations and calming exercises for parents introduced each session. There was also an impressive library of parenting books, free to lend and enjoy ourselves. Her calm, kind presence made the course such a positive, encouraging experience for both of us. At the end of each our hands would be filled with useful handouts, links, and residual oil from the body of a content, relaxed babe!

When we came home we tried massaging Eli once a day, and the toddler even wanted in on the action; some days he would smile and laugh thoroughout, and other times it was clear that he wanted to be left in peace. It made concrete for me the notion that children, even from infancy, have their own autonomy, and we need to respect that in so far as we can. Another huge insight I found in the cosy room was that there is so, so much information on parenting out there that often we become muddled and confused, particularly when the advice is conflicting. Taking a moment to remember and listen to your instinct is key to finding out what is right for your child. The techniques that were shown are simply malleable tools to help you to bond with your child; you can use them in whatever way works best for you.

From our experience, baby massage is ideal for parents who wanted to further their bond with their child, help them to relax, aide tensions or wind that the baby may suffer from, find a way to have calm, positive contact or simply spend quality time with the newest member of their family. It is clear that Rachel loves what she is doing, and this enhanced the experience for us; if you're trying to find a good class I would advise doing some online research beforehand. We were truly lucky to find her class!

Please note that this is an independent post. I wanted to publicly thank Rachel for her wonderful experience and spread the word of her course because of what she has done for our family.
Check out Little Ones Baby Massage




Monday, August 5, 2013

Hey, You! Be a BFF to your BFF(Breast Feeding Friends)

As part of World Breastfeeding week(August 1-7th), the wonderful Irish Parenting Bloggers group have organised a blog march around the theme of breastfeeding with the theme 'Every Feed Counts'. I am delighted to contribute my experience of feeding my babies, and what I think could help make Ireland a more breastfeeding friendly place!

 "Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world". Every expectant mother usually hears this when considering how they are going to feed their newborn baby. Most parents-to-be know the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby by picking up one of the many pamphlets supplied to us by midwives, doctors and hospitals. In Ireland, the government have in recent years pumped money and resources into promoting breastfeeding to improve our low rates of women who choose it over the bottle.  It is policy for health professionals to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding with every expectant mother. While the number of women who initially breastfeed has slowly increased over the years, there is little research done to determine how many continue to do so once they leave the hospital, and numbers are still low in the former group.
So why aren't these public health campaigns having a stronger effect? And what else can possibly be done to encourage breastfeeding?
This breastfeeding veteran thinks there's plenty.


Firstly, this often held notion that breastfeeding is natural and therefore easy is misleading. Breastfeeding is different for every woman; some find it comes to them without difficulty , many find it incredibly challenging. I had planned on feeding my first baby for at least six months; I made it to eight weeks on both my children through a series of trials and tribulations. On my first there was a point where I was feeding constantly, pumping, taking medication to enhance lactation and still his weight was becoming a growing concern for health professionals looking after him. It was with guilt, a feeling of failure and shame that I weaned him onto formula after one nurse warned that healthy weight gain was essential for his brain development. Having twice undergone the breastfeeding experience I believe the following changes could really help parents who are considering it.

For Mammy/Daddy: For those considering breastfeeding, learning as much as you can BEFORE baby comes can be invaluable. There is plenty of written material available, but I found practical advice from fellow mothers the most useful. There are online forums and bloggers that can give vital tips on ensuring you maximise your supply and minimize discomfort in those early days. There are breastfeeding support groups happening across Ireland, and they welcome those planning to feed as well as offering a social time for breastfeeding mothers to chat and share their experiences. Contact your local Cuidiu or La Leche League members, which can be found on their sites, and they can recommend groups in your locality, and most would be happy to offer over the phone advice too!
I found that women who had been through breastfeeding were more open and honest about the difficulties that can be encountered and how to combat these bumps; they could tell you what signs to look for, and what helped them personally. They help normalize and negative feelings you may have while breastfeeding, and that can reduce any isolation you may be feeling. Learning about potential issues means you are aware that problems can happen, but also that a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby is possible. They may also be able to recommend lactation consultants should the issues persist and interfere with your breastfeeding.
Because I wasn't aware of potential issues that arose with my first baby, I panicked because things weren't going as I had expected. This stress is not good for mother, baby or milk supply!

For Health Professionals: There is a lot of focus on encouraging breastfeeding itself, but plenty of encouragement for mothers is also needed. After giving birth, though elated, you are exhausted. It's almost unfair that instead of getting at least twenty four hours to recover, nature dictates that you must almost instantly begin the journey of breastfeeding, which is also physically demanding. It is day and night, and usually constant. It can be confusing, exhausting and painful. The easier option is to allow your partner to give baby formula and to get your well deserved rest. This brave act of soldiering on through this post labour should be highlighted and praised. A few positive words could be the difference between a mother continuing with breastfeeding or giving up entirely. When I had trouble sitting up and feeding due to pain on my first baby, a midwife responded that it was hard but I'd just have to get used to it for the time being. On my second baby, another midwife responded to my pain and taught me how to breastfeeding while lying in a comfortable position. This meant that when we returned home I could recover and feed my baby at the same time. This kindness and understanding was vital in me continuing my breastfeeding journey, and I highly advise every woman to ask to be shown a variety of feeding positions while still in hospital.
Once out of hospital, of all the general practitioners I came into contact with, none were able to give me practical advice with the issues that I had when feeding other than to supplement with formula. Though this happened to be the only solution for us, it mightn't be for many women, and so it is essential that doctors have up-to-date knowledge in this area. If we truly want to promote breastfeeding, it is not only midwives that should have this important information. When there are issues, putting effort into exploring what's happening and what could be hindering feeding will actively help women in need of it; if they feel like they are just being fobbed off their enthusiasm may dwindle because there is a sense that no one really cares either way, despite what all the posters in the doctor's clinic may declare.

For Family, Friends and Peers: Although we consider ourselves liberal, Irish society is slow to change. Breastfeeding can be still considered unusual and taboo in many places. Whenever I needed to feed my children at family or social gatherings, the room would clear within seconds, because it was perceived that I needed privacy. Once at a mother baby group no one would talk to me while I fed; I was self conscious about feeding in public from the outset, so this made me feel like a complete outcast. After that I decided to pump and feed my son with a bottle, which was so time consuming...I should have spent it sleeping! For a woman who wants to breastfeed her child for any length of time, this stigma makes leaving the house an uncomfortable and impractical notion. Some may argue that you shouldn't care what others think; but if people treat you like you are exposing yourself in public it is hard to ignore.
There is also a massive lack of understanding about the nature of breastfeeding out there. Countless times those near me reacted with incredulation that after a certain amount of feeding that my son would be want another feed straight away. Cluster feeding is almost universal in young infants, but because so few Irish people are used to feeding they assumed my sons were being greedy/wanting to be pacified. Because the babies didn't stick to the three/four hour rule that they had previously heard of, their actions warranted comment and surprise. Not in the least bit helpful to the exhausted, emotional mother who may be unsure herself of what is going on, and why this little one has been feeding all evening.
If a woman is breastfeeding near you and she isn't hiding herself away, do her a favour and treat her like a normal person who is simply feeding her child. And unless she is actively seeking advice, there is no need to comment about the length or frequency of feeds; trust that she understands her baby more than you do. Only when we, as a society, make women feel comfortable breastfeeding whenever and wherever their child is hungry, will breastfeeding become a prominent part of our culture again.

Finally, if you, like me, did not reach the breastfeeding goal that you had previously set out for yourself, I implore you; please do not feel guilty. I spent so much time on my first born carrying this burden of guilt over something that I had tried my best ot rectify, instead of just accepting the situation. I had made the decision to ultimately do what was best of the both of us, and this is the job of a parent. Not martyrdom. Only you know your limits, and that is different for every parent. There are a million other ways to show your love and devotion to your children. Although mine did not receive the minimum six month exclusive breastfeeding(as is the official guideline), they are happy, thriving babes, and they remind me that my best is enough for them.

Happy Feeding!x

PS For a full rundown of the Irish Parenting Bloggers involved in this week's breastfeeding blog march head on over to our fearless leader's blog! She's amazing! mama.ie