Life Lately - Working & Motherhood

Monday, January 25

Going back to work when you have a baby is tough.  I'm only working part time and Poppy is already 6 months old, but it's HARD. 

Practically, going back to work for me has meant that I need to be way more organised than I usually am.  Carefully managing my patient case load, doing my admin efficiently (usually after she is in bed at night) and making sure that I'm on top of grown up things like doing my online grocery order every week have been essential in surviving. 

We have also had to work on getting Poppy into more of a set routine during the day, especially with trying to conquer her refusal to fall asleep at home without being breast fed. (We are finally slowly winning with this!) Now that she eats solids, navigating life around her and her 3 meals a day, and not only just breastfeeding on demand in whatever coffee shop or friends house that we happen to be at, has been an adjustment too.  I am also still exclusively breastfeeding, so ensuring that I always have enough expressed milk and that I'm not going to feel like my breasts are going to explode halfway through a busy day of patients takes some forward thinking and planning too. 

(Thank goodness for breast pumps!)

But by far the biggest adjustment for me, has been the guilt factor.

In the UK, most women take around a year off, and so I've had a lot of "wow, you are going back to work SO early" comments which doesn't help the guilt factor at ALL.

In South Africa, lots of ladies go back to work full time at 3 or 4 months, so I do know that I am very lucky to be only doing part time currently. 

We have also been SO fortunate to have found the most wonderful nanny, and I seriously don't know how I would've survived the past month without her.

The complex emotions that arise from trying to work and Mother at the same time are immense. A minefield of self doubt and conflicting feelings that prior to having her I couldn't even fathom were inside of me.

Guilty that I'm leaving her with someone else.
Guilty if she cries as I'm leaving the house.
Guilty if she doesn't cry when I leave the house, does it mean that she doesn't need me as much now that I leave her with her nanny??
Guilty that while she is in someone else's care I'm treating and caring for other babies and children.
Guilty that we live so far away from her Grandparents and aunties and uncles who would love to see her more.
Guilty that I do so enjoy my job.
Guilty when I feel frustrated with my job, would I not be better off just being with her?
Guilty for feeling guilty when I actually have the 'perfect' set up job wise, I know so many Mothers who would love to be in my position, as I can work part time and I am completely my own boss.

Guilty, that I feel I want to have it all.

I want to be a Mother and continue with my career and business that I have worked so hard to setup. I also want to exercise regularly, catch up with friends, be creative, do fun things with Pete, travel, read and meditate.  I want to do all the physio courses that I can and treat as many interesting patients as I can.  I also want to have my house clean and tidy, catch up regularly with my Mummy friends and have people over for dinner.  I also want to have days where Pops and I just lie on the floor in the living room and sing songs as she knocks over the stacking cup tower that I have just built for the 100th time.  I want us to spend ages pulling silly faces in the mirror and tipping her upside down and smothering her with kisses until she squeals in delight.

But it's hard. Hard juggling all the above.

And the fact that MOST of all, I want to be the best Mother that I can be, and she is a million times over my number one priority.

I also recently had my follow up with my Oncologist and surgeon, and had to have another mole removed. She was pretty confident it wasn't a melanoma, but pretty certain it was a squamous cell carcinoma (still skin cancer, but not at all hardcore like the melanomas I have had in the past).  Unsurprisingly the 4 day wait between the appointment and the results coming back was pretty stressful.  

THANKFULLY she was both right and wrong, and the lab results came back all clear! 
Thank you Lord.

So far, the past three weeks have been both easier and harder than I expected them to be. From next week I will be seeing fewer patients than I have been, as my friend Stef who I have been covering for gets back and he will take back some of his regular clients. So maybe that will make it easier? Or harder? Or maybe it will feel the same?

I know that a lot of what I've written here is totally nonsensical, but such are the thoughts constantly racing through my mind...

Usually writing things down and reflecting like this helps me to make sense of things.  But as I finish typing this I'm not sure that it has.

Oh my goodness, please say that it gets easier with time?

6 things I know for sure about having a Newborn

Saturday, January 16

I was whatsapping an old school friend today who has just had a little boy, (we haven't seen each other since 2001) but thanks to the amazing world of Facebook we have connected again over the common ground of having had a baby in the past few months.  I was advising her to make sure she gives her little boy a bottle of breast milk once a week so that they don't have world war 3 on their hands when suddenly she needs to go out and leave him with Daddy or Granny for a few hours.

It got me thinking about advice in general. And while I know that I have none of the answers when it comes to a lot of the tricky things that you need to navigate as a new parent; like the perfect latch or getting a baby to nap in the day, sleep at night or the very coveted and lesser spotted "baby sleeping through the night" there are a few pieces of advice that I feel I can give with utmost sincerity and confidence.

Reflecting on the past 6 months, these are things I know for sure.

1.  Having a newborn that likes to only sleep on you all day (or night) is not only totally normal but wonderful.  The best advice that my cousin Meg gave me when I confided in her that I knew we shouldn't be holding her while she slept, but that we were (a lot), was to just ENJOY it as it doesn't last for long. And how right she was! Pops never falls asleep on us anymore, and we miss it so much! I also think that when you consider how exhausted your body is from creating and birthing this tiny human, that Mother nature makes them eager to sleep on you, so that you (or your equally exhausted partner) are forced to be still and rest. I really think that is true - as I am yet to meet a newborn who doesn't like to be held while sleeping?

2. USE ALL THE NIPPLE CREAM, AFTER EVERY FEED.  Have tubes of that magical ointment strategically placed anywhere where you are likely to sit and feed your tiny little human.  
Mother nature certainly didn't intend for us to wear soft padded bras and clothes for our whole lives and then expect our nipples to survive a newborn suckling away for hours and hours a day for weeks on end.  I used tubes and tubes of Lansinoh, and it's safe for the baby to ingest too.  One day you will realise that you no longer need it anymore, but until that day comes - use LOADS of it, before your nipples get the chance to crack.

3. Ignore the naysayers.  Pete and I had a wonderfully easy first few weeks with Pops.  I really think that with my Dad dying on the day that she was born, and us flying to South Africa when she was 2 weeks old, that God kindly gave us a baby that slept and fed well.  When people asked us in the early days how things were going and we answered that we seemed to be doing ok and that we weren't as exhausted as we had expected to be...they DELIGHTED in telling us how quickly things were going to change. That we were bound to be in for endless crying, fatigue and all sorts of trouble later. So much so, that soon Pete and I were answering our 'it's going ok, but...we're sure it's going to change soon' or  'we know it's just the honeymoon phase'.
I was answering my friend Sam with the new standardised answer above, when she said to me 'oh please, ignore all those people who say it's going to get worse, it's awesome, all of it!'.
Now Sam is no stranger herself to sleepness nights or the challenges of having a small baby, but her words comforted and reassured me so much in the beginning.
So if you are finding it (dare I say it) a little easier than you expected it to - then please ignore the people who want to rain on your good fortune and EMBRACE it all.  You may have sleep regression or colic or teething or anything coming your way at any point. But if it's going well for now then just ENJOY it!

And if it's a whole lot worse than you ever expected it or dreamed it to be and you don't know how you going to survive one more day (me at 3 months), then please don't despair - it WILL get better and easier, I promise.

4.  If you are exclusively breastfeeding, give one bottle of expressed breast milk a week to your baby between weeks 3 and 8.  One a week means that it's unlikely your baby will become nipple averse (who even knew that was a thing pre motherhood!) and means that they won't refuse the bottle outright when you do need to leave them for a few hours at some point.  After 8 weeks it's thought that your supply has established and your baby will love the boob so much by then that they are unlikely to prefer the bottle so you can pretty safely give more than one a week. We got lazy and didn't give her a bottle in weeks 6, 7 or 8, and then paid the price in week 9 when I needed to go to a hen party for a few hours and thought we should practice with the bottle a few days before.  Poppy hated it so much that she began to scream when she saw it and it took days of practice (and advice from a lactation consultant) before she wasn't gagging as we touched it to her lips!
(I am obviously not a lactation consultant so liaise with with one if you have any concerns).

5.  There are days when the hours feel like years. And you can't believe that you have to do this all again tomorrow. KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  
When all you want to do is to lie on your bed and scroll aimlessly through instagram, and instead you are walking around the house showing your baby themselves in every mirror of your little flat for the 500th time, and listening longingly for Daddy to open the front door. Know that all over the world Mothers are doing exactly the same.

  When it's finally time for Daddy to give her her bath, and you really really would love to take that 15 minutes to sit down for some peace and uninterrupted iPhone time, but you know you need to get the vanish out and scrub to try and save the latest clothing victim of your newborns poonami, and you feel a little annoyed and then immediately guilty about resenting that mustard stained project. Know that all over the world there are Mothers that feel exactly the same.

And if you've (GASP) had to throw away a victim of a poonami (that you had forgotten in a plastic packet in the nappy bag 24 hours previously), because you just know no amount of vanish or napisan is rendering  that Mothercare vest all white again. Know that all over the world there are Mothers that have down exactly the same (please please say I'm not the only one?)

6. There are no better Parents for your baby than you.  Even though some days you will totally doubt yourselves.  Trust your instincts and love and care for your little person as best you can.  Some days will go well, the naps and feeds will be seamless, you will get smiles and gurgles and rushes of love that you didn't know were possible.  Others will be horrendous, there will be tears (baby and adult), exhaustion (again baby and adult) and your baby may have to have 2 baths and 5 outfit changes, while you realise that you haven't washed your hair for days - and that is totally normal.  
I loved Jen Hatmaker's latest book, and she advises that as Parents in a world where so often we try to aim for perfection, we need rather to strive for "mostly good".  Forget the perfect parenting pictures and anecdotes that people share, there is no more perfect parent for your baby than you.  So let us all aim for the days and weeks to be "mostly good" and if they go better than that then BRAVO, but if at the end of day you reflect and it's been a shocker, write it off and remember that tomorrow is another day and we are really and realistically aiming for "MOSTLY good" anyway!


P. S I LOVE hearing about other people's advice and experiences as new Parents, please share any of your tips in the comments on Facebook or Instagram!

6 Months!

Friday, January 1

Today our usually happy, big open mouthed slobbery kiss giving, perpetually on the verge of surely teething, I want to chew EVERYTHING (except for food) baby is HALF A YEAR OLD. 

My goodness the days have sometimes dragged but the weeks and months have certainly flown by!

Over all I am just besotted with our very own little human and consider myself ridiculously privileged to get to look after her. There are of course times where I feel like I am going completely crazy and she can (like any baby I guess) be a whining pain! I feel extremely frustrated when she won't go down for a sleep or murmurs again in her cot before I've even got back into bed.  Most of my annoyances are sleep related (like most parents I'm sure). Some self inflicted too. Like the fact that my little princess is again only falling asleep when we are at home if she is being breast fed.  Mostly its ok - but sometimes it drives me CRAZY. And it means that if we need her to sleep without me there - she needs to be pushed around in her buggy until she drops off.  We really need to try and do the whole controlled crying thing again - where she learns to put herself to sleep without needing to suck.  It worked a few months ago, although the crying is totally heart breaking.  (Even though we did the gentle version where we lean over the cot to comfort her and just don't lift her up until she has fallen asleep.)  The self soothing was working pretty well for a while but things slowly started going downhill again when my Mum and sister were here as they HATED her crying as she tried to soothe herself to sleep and so we went back to the less traumatic route of boob to sleep and mostly it works ok. It does also mean that if she wakes up at night it's only me that can get her back to sleep again...

I find watching her development fascinating.  The paediatric physio in me is pretty obsessed with watching how she moves and how motivated and intrinsically driven she is to gain control of her body.  I am a huge fan of crawling and tummy time and have always encouraged her to do tummy time, but Poppy has also been naturally strong physically since she was born. She has also been fortunate to not be hindered by any reflux so has been pretty happy to go along with daily time on her belly.  She learned to sit up on her own quite early (at 4.5 months) and is currently desperate to crawl. She can get herself into 4 point kneeling from sitting but collapses onto her belly when trying to move forwards. I don't think she is going to commando crawl first, I think she will go straight into 4 point kneeling.  Part of me is NOT at all ready for her to be on the move (we need to toddler proof and remove cables and wine bottles and things), but the other part of me can't wait to not have to lift her up from whining and shouting on her belly back into sitting 40 times every half an hour.

Her little personality is also really developing and she has recently started saying Ma -Ma which Pete and I just LOVE.  And making her giggle at loud kisses or flying through the air or being held upside down is just the best!

I am still breast feeding and she is yet to have any formula. I had hoped to be able breastfeed and other than two episodes of mastitis and the most horrendous abscess (that needed lancing by a surgeon) and produced more pus than I though humanly possible; I have been really lucky with breastfeeding. Good supply etc and after the above issues and initial pain when latching on cracked and bleeding nipples I have found it really enjoyable.  There is something pretty amazing in the fact that the baby that I grew inside of me is now being sustained solely by my body? That may sound weird. 

She now takes the bottle quite happily and so I leave her bottles of expressed breast milk when I need to go out and I have quite a stash of frozen breast milk in the freezer for when I start working again part time next week. I plan to try and feed her until she is a year old, but recently it's like trying to feed an energetic monkey. She turns her head at the slightest sound and before I know it she is side planking to try and look at something totally insignificant and is being sprayed on the face or in the ear with a stream of milk.  Oh yes it is very glamorous!  She has also started launching herself at her milk source with surprising accuracy.  A few days ago she spotted me doing my bra up (after once again losing interest in feeding and sitting herself up) and promptly threw herself from about 20 cms away directly onto my nipple!

I thought that Poppy was going to LOVE starting solids, but so far she really isn't very interested at all. Purees she can't stand and purses her lips and turns her head away from the spoon, as my heart slowly sinks at the thought of all the frozen portions I have so lovingly made and stored that she refuses to even try and taste.  She will nibble on steamed broccoli and bits of toast or rice cake though -so we are going to soldier forwards with the finger foods for now...

My body is slowly starting to feel more like my own.  I gained SO much weight in my pregnancy (26 kgs!) and I'm still struggling with losing the last couple of kilograms.  I also just still feel generally weak and out of shape.  I've been for 2 runs in the past week and have been doing yoga at home a few times a week recently so hopefully I will get there soon.

The thought of going back to work part time next week makes me feel really guilty at leaving her but I'm also looking forward to working with the amazing children with special needs that I treat.  I've seen the occasional patient over the past few weeks but next week I start for real. Venturing into the world of childcare options for your own child the first time is pretty harrowing.  We have managed to find a lovely nanny to take care of Pops while I'm working as the thought of having her in nursery before she can move around independently just breaks my heart. When she is a little bigger we will definitely consider it though as I'm sure she will enjoy the interaction with other kids.

This has been pretty rambling but I find reading other peoples commentary on Motherhood quite interesting so if you are still reading this thank you and WELL DONE!

I really should re read and edit this but Pete has been entertaining her while I write this and I think I need to go and give him a break! So my sincere apologies for any typos or poor grammar.

I post regularly on Instagram and on my Berry Diaries Facebook page so if you have any interest in seeing multiple selfies of Poppy and I or chatting or commenting there please do! (I have turned comments off here as I find it easier to remember (usually) to reply on instagram and Facebook. ) Talking of remembering - my goodness I could write a whole blog post on what pregnancy and caring for a baby do to your brain...
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