Although I do a lot (most?) of my shopping online these days (life with small children…), I find it a bit of nightmare trying to find clothes I like. Often either feel overwhelmed with everything a Google search throws up or opt for a familiar website, even if it means not buying exactly what I was looking for.
I’m currently on the hunt for a maternity dress for an upcoming wedding so I’ve enjoyed looking through Lyst, a site that makes it easy to shop across a wide range of brands, putting together “lysts” you can review later. It’s a kind of wishlist system meets social network (you can follow people’s lysts). You can click straight through to purchase.
Above are a few bits that caught my eye when putting together my maternity lyst.
The pyjama bottoms are from Frugi, a brand I love because of its pretty prints and high quality manufacture as well as its commitment to using organic materials and ensuring fair production.
This boho swing dress is just the thing for easygoing summer style as the weather gets warmer. It is getting warmer, right?!
I have something of an unusual shape, small back size but big cup size so I’m really picky about what bras I’ll go for. Freya bras are the only ones that consistently give a shape I’m happy with. With it’s dotty pattern and lacy detailing, this nursing bra is anything but frumpy.
This form fitting lace maternity dress is probably the sort of thing I’m looking for wedding-wise. I’m not totally sure about the colour “berry” for me but I do love the look of it.
While I love getting my teeth stuck into bigger craft projects – I have a few on the go at the moment – there’s something surprisingly satisfying about quick projects that yield great effect with little effort.
So when Harveys Furniture sent me a few swatches from their sofas range with the challenge to use the fabric to craft a home accessory. I’m a sucker for little boxes so decided to quickly decorate a matchbox fit to hold the odd trinket. They have a fun quiz at the moment to find your “shape” with Sofas by You. I unsurprisingly got “comfort”!
A pair of pinking shears
Glue gun with glue stick
Stick the fabric to each side of the matchbox. Do the same on the other side.
Cut off any excess with pinking shears and repeat on the uncovered side. Le voila! A cute, handy little box for storing pins, jewellery or any other little bits you want to give a sweet home to live.
I’m 24 weeks pregnant and this is my second time breastfeeding while pregnant. Believe me when I say this is not something I imagined doing once, let alone twice.
Struggling for months to establish breastfeeding with Talitha (y’know, tongue tie, low milk production, the most stressful experience of my life), the idea of making it to a year seemed a vague “maybe”. So I couldn’t have expected that not only would age two find us still breastfeeding but that I’d fall pregnant around then and wind up breastfeeding her for two more years.
As I said before, baby number three wasn’t totally expected but we’d been talking a lot about having another. Somehow, in all that chat, I never considered about the possibility that I could be breastfeeding Ophelia while pregnant.
Even now that she’s two and we’re well beyond halfway through the pregnancy, I couldn’t place bets on whether or not I’ll go on to tandem breastfeed again when the new baby is born. The only certainty is that I’ve learned and am learning a lot through these less-discussed experiences. Here’s a little of what I’ve been reflecting on.
Every baby is different
This is obvious, isn’t it? Well, it should certainly be by now. From newborn days, Ophelia made it clear that she was not a carbon copy of her big sister. She breastfed differently, slept differently, learned to move differently, wanted different things and expressed those desires and needs in different ways.
Yet, my first child kind of laid my expectations for what would happen and when. I fell pregnant with Ophelia and night weaning was a relatively easy process. Laurence took over going to her in the night (at two, she’d just moved into her own bedroom) and she was upset about it at first but he stayed with her and within a couple of nights she accepted that this was the new arrangement. Soon after, she began to sleep through.
I have to say that this experience made me wonder when mothers said that their kids wouldn’t accept comfort from their partners whether it wasn’t simply a case of them needing to persist more. That’s because I hadn’t yet met Ophelia.
From the start, she has only wanted to know me. It took a long time for her to even let anyone else hold her and if she settled when I left the room, she would cry for me as soon as I re-entered it.
Unsurprisingly, when I fell pregnant again and discomfort kicked in, night weaning her was not an uncomplicated process. Rather, it took about three. bloody. months. Three months filled with a lot of waking for all of us and no sign of her willingly moving into her own bed either.
After repeatedly offering alternatives, reassuring and explaining the situation, she finally began to accept a quick cuddle to sleep when she woke. Gradually, she accepted this from Laurence instead of me. Now she’s starting to spend the odd night in her own bed but we really don’t mind having her in ours. She still wakes most nights but we’ve settled into a pattern that works for our family.
Every mother is different
Again, I should know this by now but the huge range of ways women experience breastfeeding in pregnancy still manages to surprise me. For me, pregnancy has quickly brought on nursing aversion and physical discomfort and it’s triggered my nausea in the first trimester both times. Other mums find it hurts but I’ve not had that as long as I’ve latched my toddler on carefully.
I have found that I absolutely cannot tolerate breastfeeding at night when pregnant, primarily because of nausea, and night weaning has been imperative for me. Other mothers manage not to night wean and even go on to breastfeed their toddler and baby at night.
Many highly motivated mothers find that they need to wean altogether. Others find the baby weans on their own, perhaps when supply dips or colostrum comes in. Yet others find that their milk never depletes at all.
I’m sure the older baby’s age can affect our experiences and choices in different ways but something breastfeeding while pregnant has taught me is that we can’t always predict what we’re going to do or how we’re going to feel.
Everything can’t be even
I think I’m a relatively easygoing person, happy to go with the flow on a lot of things. However, it’s upset my sense of order when I’ve realised that I can’t give my children the same things.
I fell pregnant with this baby when Ophelia was 20-months-old, my milk seemed to decrease more rapidly this time and I found myself offering her fewer opportunities to breastfeed during the day than I had with Talitha.
She’s always asked less than her sister did and so it’s unsurprising that we’ve breastfed less and less as the weeks have rolled by. Now most days she has just a feed before bedtime and maybe one at wakeup if I’m trying to convince her not to drag me out of bed just yet. Sometimes I have to initiate the end of the feed but most of the time now, she loses interest in moments, asks for a glass of water and a cuddle and just goes to sleep. So it’s not hard to imagine that she could possibly wean before the new baby comes.
The thought of her weaning so much earlier than her sister did makes me feel uneasy on one hand and relieved the next because if I’m completely honest with myself, I’m not certain that I want to tandem breastfeed again. There were a lot of pros. I really feel that it eased Talitha’s transition out of her position of “baby” in the family and it would be great to give Ophelia the same. Breastfeeding a toddler meant there was a plentiful milk supply for my newborn. In fact, Ophelia’s poo turned yellow on the day one, she never lost weight and I didn’t experience engorgement.
However, I never got the hang of latching them both on at once when the newborn needed so much support to stay in position and when I did, I felt hugely overwhelmed so it was only something I resorted to if desperate. That meant a lot of work in the early days helping Talitha to wait. Then again, waiting on a newborn is something older siblings must learn anyway and the early days are always challenging.
There’s a part of me that thinks the things that were difficult about breastfeeding two were simply things that are difficult about learning to parent two. As we all adjusted, it got easier and I really appreciated being able to maintain that bond with my older child, allowing her to move away in her own time, with some gentle encouragement, when she was ready.
I could lie awake at night stressing, measuring how long each one got breastfed. Yet I have almost as little control over this as I do the ability to go back in time and give Talitha the easy start to breastfeeding that Ophelia had.
I’m realising that, over the course of our lives, I will give them different things. That those things won’t always be “even” does not mean I don’t love them equally. If anything, this is just another reminder that love isn’t something we can measure.
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Ophelia turned two last month and I wanted to make a video of the day because it felt like a spectacularly big deal that she was now the age Talitha was when I found out I was pregnant with her. Now that we’re expecting another baby girl, I look at my second child, fast moving on from her baby days and feel a mix of things.
She has a great sense of humour and is often monkeying around, making all of us laugh. She’s adventurous, a bit of a risk taker. Her language is really coming along and she’s giving lots of hints that she understands a lot more than she can say just yet. She’s well into imaginative play right now, probably helped by having an older sister and she’s obsessed with puzzles. Typical two-year-old stuff but it’s a beautiful stage I want to remember because she’s my two-year-old and she won’t be two for long.
Every now and then I feel a stirring as I remember Talitha at this age. I really hope I’ve made the most of the years so far and that I’m enjoying the present as much as possible, even with all the tough bits involved in raising small children.
I keep finding myself responding to any of the question “How’s the pregnancy going?” with “Fine, thanks. Just tired.” It’s not totally inaccurate.
Even compared to my own two previous pregnancies, I’m physically feeling positively spectacular to the point of sometimes forgetting that I’m even pregnant. That is if you don’t count the fact that I almost always need the toilet and even if you don’t see me making millions of bathroom trips when we’re out and about, you can bet “Need a wee” is there on my mental list of things I’m trying hard to ignore.
When I say “tired”, though, I mean crushingly exhausted. By 2pm most days all I can think of is lying on the sofa and letting the kids do their thing, checking in with me now and then. Any afternoon activity that requires my involvement has become something I will pay for later, usually by needing a 7pm bedtime, which means stuff that needs to get done in the evenings does not get done.
That has a knock on effect with the other thing I’m not saying in “Fine, thanks. Just tired.” I know that I’m a bit depressed. I have been for a while.
Most days involve mustering all of me to get out of bed, stay out of bed, do the basics and try to be present with my kids. It helps that we have commitments to meet with other people most days and even if I don’t talk about what’s going on, the company and the change of scene help.
Heaviness and hurt walk around with me most days, with a little anxiety joining us when I’m not expecting it. I find myself obsessing over every detail of the day when I wake up for the loo in the middle of the night. What happened? What did I get wrong? Why did I say that?
There is actual stuff going on in my life that I can’t talk about here but mostly, I have every reason to be happy. And I am. I enjoy my children and my husband immensely, work has slowed but is still coming in here and there (probably for the best with the lack of time and energy), we are comfortable and I am really looking forward to meeting this baby.
The girls have dubbed her “Butterfly”. “Heh-oh, Buh-fy!” Ophelia says to my tummy, stroking and kissing it. Who could but melt? She really does seem to understand there’s a baby in there now.
On the flip side, I find myself getting needlessly stressed over small day-to-day details, I am irritable with my family, I often feel like I’m not doing anything well, I am not enjoying getting bigger, needing to wee all the time, having little energy, and at 22 weeks pregnant, I’m still scared about what adding another child to this family means.
She is unquestionably wanted but the thought of spreading my resources in yet another direction, of establishing breastfeeding again, of sleepless nights, of coping with my other two children’s changing needs, of helping my Ophelia transition from being the baby of the family, of delaying other things I want to do a bit longer, of the general upheaval that comes with a new baby, of the thousand other things I can’t help worrying about…
No amount of anyone saying, “You’ll be fine” actually sates these thoughts. Because along with some of the perfectly valid stuff on my mind trundles a whole load that doesn’t make any rational sense, not even to me. Yet they are taking up as much space. And that’s probably because I am so often feeling like I’m not coping right now.
At the same time, it’s been difficult to identify for myself that something is up, rather than that I’m just being a bit pathetic. This isn’t like the crushing lows I experienced pre-kids years ago where I was literally out of action and needed to be medicated or else.
I have been depressed at times since having children but I’ve somehow managed, as I am now, to keep going, even if I am operating at a lower level than is normal for me. So, I’ve remained reticent, questioning how bad it has to be before I can call it what I know deep down it still is, depression.
I see the strangeness in being unable to say this face to face yet being willing to speak it into a computer screen, knowing that people who do and don’t know me will read it. It’s been a back and forth debate over whether to talk about it here either.
Anything I write about here opens me up to criticism and well-meaning but sometimes misguided attempts to solve a problem that can’t be solved by someone else. It’s one of the reasons I tend to only blog about the hard bits of parenting through the lens of what I feel I am learning from them or once I’ve reached some sort of resolution I can reflect on.
Yet even though I’m only at the point of knowing that I need to do something, I feel it’s worth sharing in case it helps someone else feel less alone, and that maybe it’s OK to not be OK.
Looking back on the highlights of February, there’s a lot to choose from. But, actually, blogging about it is going to be a little like it was living it – I’m hugely grateful for all we’ve had access to but I’m too tired to dwell much on any of it. Our days at the moment revolve around a few planned fun things then me trying to recover from whatever we’ve done. It’s been amazing seeing both the girls developing in their own right and enjoying each other’s company so immensely.
Big highlights have got to include a field trip to a fire station. Another home ed parent arranged this and it made such an impression.
The firefighters explained a bit about fire safety, the kids got to try on their helmets (Talitha was sure to tell me how smelly it was!) and explore the fire engine, and we even got to see them get into their gear and dash off to emergencies a couple of times.
We also really enjoyed the Chinese New Year celebrations at Bristol Museum. We’d been learning about the festival at home, reading books, watching videos, doing crafts and putting up a little display. Talitha got to try her hand at Chinese calligraphy and participated in a dance workshop. Ophelia is still very proud of the monkey picture she stuck sequins and feathers all over. The Bristol University lion dancers were truly the most memorable bit of the day.
We came to the end of Little House in the Big Woods and Talitha wanted to start another chapter book straight away. I remembered that we somehow managed to forget to continue The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton so we started that again late in February and we’re still enjoying it now. For some reason reading it now is flowing a lot better for both of us. For me, it’s probably because first trimester nausea has passed and for Talitha being that bit older means she’s getting the humour a lot more now.
It’s a bit hit and miss as to whether Ophelia will listen or at least occupy herself while we read or whether she’ll grab the book out of my hands and fling it across the room! She doesn’t really nap anymore so I’m finding ways around this by reading books she chooses beforehand then setting up an activity like playdough or cutting with scissors for her to do while I’m reading to them both.
Throughout February, Talitha was still using the Alphablocks Reading Programme and loving it. She stopped being keen for a bit so we put it away and then she realised that we’d accidentally skipped a magazine. She soon got back to enjoying that.
Both girls played with the Spielgaben set most days. Ophelia was happy to do her own thing but Talitha wanted “to do something” so she started going through the games and activities in the printed resources.
Talitha also started requesting Reading Eggs again which surprised me because she’d lost interest in it a while ago (I think it may have taken a leap and got a bit difficult). We still have our subscription so she’s back to playing it. Ophelia sits with her and watches, naming everything that comes on screen. How they’ve manages not to fight over it so far, I have no idea.
We also did some seasonal bits around Pancake Day, Lent and Trinidad Carnival. But I’ll just say that in passing because it’s late and I don’t have any vaguely thrilling photos to share. Laurence had the day off on Pancake Day so brought the camping stove to our home ed group and cooked pancakes for everyone. We were supposed to go to a National Trust Pancake Day event but we couldn’t find it so ended up just having a play in Leigh Woods instead.
We were also glad to be able to celebrate Laurence and Ophelia’s birthdays all together as a family and to go to the 20-week scan without, as it happened, having to try to book anyone off work or school. Laurence was around quite a lot with the ebb and flow of freelance so we were able to share time with the girls more than usual. That’s seen the girls get outdoors more than they would have done otherwise and do some bits in the garden like planting seeds and shoveling manure(!).
All in all, it was another month to be grateful that we’ve been able to choose this for our girls so far. I must admit that day to day, I question how well I’m doing just about anything (home educating, partnering, parenting, working – y’know, living) but Laurence and I feel very settled that this is what we’ll be doing next year as well. He’s brilliant at encouraging me on days when I just can’t see enough of the positives myself when the kids have gone to bed and I have little energy left over.
Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to share next time around. Do read more about it below and if you blog, consider linking up.
This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.
The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.
Two handmade cards were thrust at me over the table this morning, Ophelia’s with a new, developing sense of ownership as she proudly offered it to me, repeating, “Mine!”
I think Talitha might have thought that Mother’s Day was like birthdays or Christmas or something because she wanted to know who was coming over. She was disappointed when we said no one was but hearing the plans for church, lunch on the Bristol harbour side at Spokes and Stringer and a friend’s fifth birthday party later was instant redemption.
In truth, our celebration began last weekend with a little shopping trip at Cabot Circus Shopping Centre who’d given Laurence and the girls a voucher to spend on me (they opted for craft supplies and candles – I think they might know me) while I had a hand treatment at Origins in House of Fraser. They then treated us to lunch at Pizza Express.
Every Mother’s Day, I’m amazed by how life has changed and is changing. My girls are four and two now. I have another baby girl on the way. I live many, many miles away from my own mother. I now have a deeper understanding of what her mothering of me meant and continues to mean.
Fingers crossed this is the year I manage to avoid last-minute panic when friends’ Facebook updates remind me that it’s Mother’s Day over there. She might even get a card thrust at her over Skype, waved at the camera with shouts of, “Mine!”
In the meantime, to my mother, to my mother-in-law, to all the mothers who read this blog and to all women who choose to love, advocate for and nurture others in their lives, your mothering is worth celebrating.