Return to Hotel Hospital

It was 2 am when I woke.  Nothing unusual there.  Except, instead of Harry’s chattering, or whinging, or crying, it was a cough; an unmistakable, barking cough that made my heart sink.  Bloody croup.  As Harry had had croup before, I knew what it was and what to monitor for, so I went straight through to the nursery to check on his breathing.  His breathing was completely normal so, happy that he seemed content and there were no signs of stridor, I brought him through to sleep in our room so that we would know right away if anything changed.  Due to Harry having it twice previously, I was aware that the cough, though loud and often painful, is not actually dangerous – it’s the swelling of the throat that can happen and cause obstruction to breathing which can quickly turn croup from a run of the mill illness to a medical emergency.  On both the previous ocassions Harry did develop the stridor but, despite needing medical attention, his blood oxygen levels remained high and so, this time, though I was cautious, I wasn’t too concerned.  After all, history repeats itself, right?

Harry slept the rest of the night soundly, in my arms.  Morning came and, though he continued to bark sporadically, he seemed well; his breathing was normal, he was playing, laughing, eating.  Come lunchtime, though he still seemed well, the cough was more frequent and so, knowing that croup can get worse at night, I called the GP surgery and asked for a callback from a Dr.  I still wasn’t too worried, but thought that with the speed at which babies can deteriorate it was worth getting him checked out.  In hindsight, I had missed a sign hours earlier that something was amiss; he was still coughing in the day.  On both of the previous ocasssions he would bark all night and stop come morning, it’s one of croup’s weird foibles: the ability to terrify you all night and disappear come sunrise.  Kind of like a vampire.  Or princess Fiona in Shrek.

When the GP called me about 3pm I told her that Harry had a distinctive croup cough but was otherwise well; eating, sleeping, playing and, importantly, breathing as normal.  She said to bring him in for ten to six.  About forty minutes later, as if from nowhere, he began to get fractious.  I picked him up and he was hot to the touch.  I took his temperature – 38.5 degrees.  It had come from nowhere and had come on fast.  I gave him calpol but within another ten minutes the stridor had begun and was worsening really quickly.  I stripped him down and took his temperature again: 39.1 degrees.  Despite the calpol his temperature was on the rise; we had never experienced this with his previous episodes of croup.  Our doctors appointment could not come fast enough.

Sat in the waiting room in just his nappy, I held Harry as he sobbed and wriggled and sweated, sipping from his water cup and clinging to my chest.  I told the GP how quickly he had deteriorated.  She remained extremely calm as she measured his blood-oxygen levels – so calm in fact that I actually relaxed a little and told myself that, as with the previous incidents of croup, he must only sound like he was struggling to breathe.  She gave Harry a dose of steroids and took another look at the numbers on his oxygen monitor.  Still extremely calm, the Dr turned to me and said, “I need to call an ambulance.  His oxygen levels are much too low.”  She brought an oxygen tank for us with a teeny, tiny, baby face mask for me to hold in place whilst we waited for the ambulance.  She told me it was an emergency: they would be here soon.

I am not quite sure what my body did for the next however-long-it-was until the paramedics arrived; I worked on autopilot.  I held the oxygen as close to Harry’s face as possible.  At first he was lapping it up and he calmed, but then was panicked by it; like the virus it was yet another thing intruding on his space and happiness.  He kept batting it away as I tried my best to keep it close enough to help him, his little chest heaving away as he sobbed and writhed. This mask was something else that he didn’t understand about the situation, I wished there was a way of helping him to see that it was doing him a world of good.  The more he sobbed the harder he found it to breathe.  I held him a little tighter and kissed his forehead over and over, wishing those kisses could make it better the way they do a bumped head or a grazed knee.

When the paramedics arrived they were so gentle with him – and with me!  We placed him on the bed in the back of the ambulance and they brought out little body straps to hold him securely: my tiny baby on this huge bed, sobbing and wheezing, confused and upset, oxygen fixed in place in front of his sad little face.

Jonathan arrived just before the ambulance set off, allowing us to hand over the car keys for him to follow on behind.  I played “baby shark” on YouTube for Harry to distract him from the situation.   It seemed to work.  His sobbing eased off and, with that and the help of the steroids, his breathing calmed a little too.  A machine tied to his toe continuously monitored his blood oxygen levels; they were improving too, meaning the mask was also doing its job.  Both I and my thoughts were a little calmer.  We were in good hands.

When we arrived at the John Radcliffe we were seen very quickly.  The paediatric consultant told us that, though his oxygen levels had risen, they were still concerned about Harry’s breathing as so we would need to stay in to be monitored.  I was actually grateful that they wanted us to stay;  Harry had deteriorated so quickly that afternoon that I was scared to take him home.  Jonathan returned home to get me a toothbrush, change of clothes and phone charger and, once again, Harry and I were alone.  He was asleep in my arms, chest heaving and throat still wheezing  a little, seeming so, so small.

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When Jonathan returned we had been moved to the Paediatric Clinical Decision Unit, where we would be spending the night.  Harry was asleep in his cot.  The cot seemed huge and cold, with its metal bars and hospital stamped blanket; Harry seemed tiny, only wearing a nappy and hooked up to machines. As soon as Jonathan had left us to go home I updated my parents via text and just stared at Harry.  I didn’t know if I should tell anyone else.  Jonathan had told his parents, my parents and my sister knew.  Should I tell a friend?  How do I start that conversation?  “Hi, how are you?  Oh by the way my baby’s in hospital” seemed a bit weird.  I had taken some photos of him asleep for my parents and for a brief second I considered putting them on instagram, informing my friends that way, and suddenly I was fiercely protective.  Despite the thought entering my mind, it was the very last thing I wanted to do.  He was my baby and he was sick and I would protect him, I would shield him from the world, from everyone and anyone.  I didn’t tell another soul that night.

I barely slept.  Harry would wake every thirty to forty minutes screaming crying, terrified and confused.  I would pick him up as quickly as I could, cuddle and nurse him, kiss his sweaty brow and tell him that he would be okay.  A consultant came to see him at 6 am and said he was not happy to discharge him yet.  When Jonathan returned at 9 am though the weird curse of the croup had lifted with the sunrise, his wheezing subsided, Harry was playing with the toys on the ward and had even had a few spoonfuls of weetabix.  Another consultant came to see us and said that she was happy to discharge Harry.  So happy, in fact, that, though she would normally issue a prescription for a dose of steroids to be given before bed to prevent the symptoms returning overnight, she was confident that this was not necessary for Harry.  I wasn’t 100% happy about this, and I caught myself about to say “are you sure?”, before internally chastising myself for even thinking of questioning a Dr’s judgment.  Who was I to think I may know better?  Only his bloody mother after all.

At home that afternoon Harry began to wheeze again.  We took him straight back to the GP who said he seemed fine because, as babies often do, he made a miraculous recovery in the time it took us to get to the doctors surgery.  Babies have an excellent knack for doing this and then making you feel like the GP must think you’re a raving-lunatic-hypochondriac-time-waster…

Harry’s breathing remained fine the rest of the day.  Come bed time I was so nervous that I turned his monitor up full.  For reference, we normally have the volume on one, which is sufficient to wake me up if he coughs or chatters; it was now on six.  Every snuffle he made now sounded like an enormous godzilla-esque rabbit was sat in our garden, sniffing the roof of our house.  I considered showering because, quite frankly, following our night in hospital I was kind of gross, but decided that could wait until morning, sleep was more important.  I am sure you all know enough about Sod’s law to know that this was a rookie error…

We’d been in bed no more than an hour when Harry’s snuffles turned to stridor.  We woke instantly (as did probably most the street with the volume we had the monitor on!) and I ran straight through to him.  He was still asleep but I could see his face was flushed; he was red hot to the touch.  With the night light on I could see that his throat was sucking in deep with every breath he took; this is called a tracheal tug and is a sign that someone is struggling to breathe.  We knew exactly where we needed to be.

It is terrifying waiting for an ambulance when your child isn’t breathing properly.  Of all the things we do, I’m going to put breathing up there at the top of the list of importance!  Once again he seemed so tiny in my arms.  I couldn’t take my eyes of his throat; with every breath I stared as the skin regressed deep into the space between the bones and with each time it did I winced.  Please be able to breathe baby boy, they will be here soon.

And they were.  Despite feeling an age, a maximum of ten minutes passed before the blue flashing lights lit up our living room through the curtains.  The two paramedics were wonderful and, once again, Harry was hooked up to the monitor, administered the steroids and, for the second time in around thirty hours, Harry and I went in an ambulance to the John Radcliffe, Jonathan following behind.

The consultant was the same man we had seen at 6 am that morning (and actually the same who had treated Harry when he was six days old and his umbilical cord was bleeding heavily);  he kept us in again, Harry and I returning to the same bed on the CDU and Jonathan heading home to get some much needed sleep.  For Harry and I, another night of very little sleep, a scared and unwell baby, a whole lot of oxygen monitoring and temperature taking and we were discharged at midday, this time with a prescription for more steroids for that evening.  They did the trick.  Our return to hotel hospital remained capped at two nights only.

This was in mid-May.  It took Harry a couple of weeks to return to his normal self, eating normally, and to stop having an intermittent fever and bad – but not croup – cough.  He lost a lot of confidence in playing away from me, needing to be by my side or with one hand touching me for most of the day.  It’s tiring but I didn’t mind though; I’d rather hold him all day and know he felt safe than ever let him believe he had a reason to be scared.  It took a long time but, as of the last few weeks, I would say he’s back to his old self.  It was quite an ordeal for such a tiny person – if I’m honest, it was quite an ordeal for me!  And though I cannot fault them, though the care we were given was impeccable and, if there were a trip advisor for hospitals it’d be getting top marks, I’d rather not return to hotel hospital for a long, long, loooong time.  At least not until baby number two please…

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Support your milk makers

It’s National Breastfeeding Week, so I thought I’d write a post all about that; breastfeeding.  It’s a magical, wonderful, difficult, exhausting, sometimes painful journey but, for me, I’ve loved it.  Have I loved every minute?  Absolutely not.  Overall though, I am so grateful that I have been able to feed Harry, and am still doing so at approaching thirteen months old.  We would not have made it this far though, without support.

Before having Harry I thought that the only support my boobs would need was a well-fitting bra (a normal one, not one of the monstrous, hideous, reinforced maternity bras that could probably be used to pull the leaning tower of Pisa back to an upright position with relative ease).  Once Harry was born I realised that there’s a lot more in the way of support that my breasts and I could do with!

  • When I was up all night – and I mean ALL night – on his second night earthside, feeding constantly, I received support from my wonderful husband in the form of cuddles and lots and lots of tea.
  • When at five days old, he’d succeeded in skinning my nippes (please refer to my post “what do we do now” if you want to read about this in more graphic detail… you weirdos) I received support from the Wantage Maternity Unit’s resident breastfeeding guru, Michelle.  The Lansinoh HPA Lanolin cream also offered me endless support during this period!!!
  • When I was desperate for the pain to end I received support from my sister and mother, promising that it would get better – it did.
    When a blocked duct turned my whole chest solid, red hot and agonising to touch, a close brush with mastitis, I received support from the NHS website (good old Dr Google!) and again from Jonathan, who held my hand as tears streamed down my face as I pumped to remove the blockage, praying Harry wouldn’t wake and want a feed, when even my own touch was almost too painful to bear.
  • When Harry was horrendously windy, crying and spluttering with every feed, I received support (and company) at our local breastfeeding cafe – the Wantage ‘Baby Bar’.  This is such an incredible resource.  Run by Michelle from the maternity unit, a health visitor and a nursery nurse who is also trained as a breastfeeding counsellor, the Baby Bar is an NHS provided service in our local health centre where, for one hour every Wednesday, you can drop in with your baby, breastfeed, chat to other mums and ask the amazing women who run it for any advice you may need.  You don’t have to need advice to attend, you can just go and have a cup of tea with other mums, but if you do then it is the perfect place.  I have been there countless times, sometimes for help, sometimes for company and a friendly face or two.
  • More recently, I have needed support from Jonathan, my sister, my friends, my mother, anyone who would listen when I experienced what is known as “feeding aversion” for the first time.  It is a weird sensation.  I have loved feeding Harry and, since his wind ended at around three months old, I’ve always done so with relative ease.  Getting up multiple times to feed him isn’t always so easy, but the actual feeding itself has become the most natural thing in the world.  Last week, exhausted and emotional already, I went through to feed him when he woke and cried out for me an hour after I’d lay my head on the pillow: I was shattered.  I sat in the chair in his nursery, bought specifically for this purpose, and he latched.  Quite quickly I tensed.  I wanted him to stop feeding.  No, I needed him to stop feeding.  My whole body was rigid and all of a sudden, this most natural and peaceful of things, the beautiful and calming act of feeding my child was making my blood boil; I felt angry.  I felt guilty for feeling angry, but angry that it wasn’t over.  When I lay him down in his bed, asleep, I was so grateful that the feed was over but also still wracked with guilt for the sudden disdain for feeding my child.  And then he cried out again.  He had been asleep all of around five minutes when he cried, and I cried.  I cried and I cried until I was sobbing.  Jonathan woke up; unable to deal with two crying family members he, quite rightly, went and saw to Harry first and resettled him.  When he returned to our room I was still sobbing away, I couldn’t stop.  What kind of mother doesn’t want to feed their child? Why would I feel this way?  Was I a terrible person?  I certainly felt like one.  Jonathan kept telling me I was just exhausted.  I went to sleep feeling awful; awfully guilty, just an awfully bloody awful person.
    Sleep is magic.  It can cure you of so many feelings and, yet, when I woke, I couldn’t quite shake the guilt.  I went through to give Harry his morning feed, dreading that same anger, the same shame that would inevitably go with it.  It never came – it was, as usual, a calm, peaceful feed, for both of us.  I was relieved but somewhat confused.  Better call Dr Google!  And that is when I learned about ‘feeding aversion.’  It is so common, particularly in mothers of older babies, or pregnant mothers and, is nothing to worry about.  It doesn’t make you a terrible person, a horrible mother; it usually just means you’re an exhausted, completely normal human being (the exhaustion explaining why, come morning, it had disappeared!).  I still told friends, my mother, even a health professional who I happened to talk to – likely just a side effect of my anxious brain being unable to fully trust I was normal so needing to just put the feelers out and see if someone turned around and said “You’re a terrible mother.  And a nutter.”  Spoiler alert – no one did.  They all said that was normal, undertsandable, some that they’d experienced it themselves and, the health professional, said she wished it wasn’t called a “feeding aversion” as it is, often, just the natural end of a process which can easily evoke these feelings.

Among all these times where I have worried, struggled and cried, there has been so much happiness, and so much to be grateful for.  Breastfeeding provides your child with the best start possible.  That’s not bottle-bashing, formula absolutely has its place and without it babies would die, but it is a fact that if you can breastfeed and choose to, you will provide your child with a nutrition custom made for their needs, packed full of vitamins and antibodies to keep them as healthy as possible.  It also reduces the chances of SIDS (this alone for me would have been enough to sway me, being a paranoid, anxiety-ridden, over-thinker – Harry sleeps on a mattress that is FULLY breathable ie. made of holes, I’m obsessed with the temperature in his room and for the first eight months of his life he went to bed with a monitor attached to his nappy that registered every breath he took, vibrating to rouse him should he miss a couple and setting off a deafening alarm should he miss a couple more).  Also, particularly for those of us on statutory maternity pay, breastfeeding is free.  It’s convenient, it’s hassle free – unless you forget to wear a booby-friendly top and then it’s like trying to wrestle your way out of a straight jacket, naked, whilst maintaining modesty… near on impossible!  – and it’s comforting for your baby.  Like I said, every parent has the right to choose how they feed their child, but these are just some of the reasons that breastfeeding has been my route from the start.

With all of this though, the support is vital; the support I received at home and in the community is, without a doubt, the reason I am still feeding Harry to this day.  That support is invaluable and I realised, quite early on, somewhere between cracked, bleeding nipples and never-ending wind, that I absolutely understand why, without it, women who are perfectly able to breastfeed choose to give up.  Without support and information women are taught to believe that if their child doesn’t sleep through the night by four, or six, or even eight or more months, there’s something amiss.  Women lose confidence in their breasts because they believe they can’t be fulfilling their role if their baby keeps waking for more – why is it common knowledge that formula will “make your baby sleep longer” (not always true!) but not that breastfed babies snack, that they suckle for comfort, and that that is 100% normal and not a problem they need “training” out of?  I was fortunate to receive the support that I did and that is why, come September, I will begin training as an antenatal / post-natal practictioner and breastfeeding counsellor, to enable me to help women who want to feed their babies do so with confidence and with ease; to do so knowing that they are supported through the tough times as well as celebrated through the good.  If I can help someone experience the same journey that I feel so fortunate to have taken, by passing on the support I have received, I think that will be a pretty amazing career to have.

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If you are breastfeeding and need some advice, you can call your Health Visitor, speak with your local breastfeeding support group (if you have one in your area), talk to a lactation consultant at your nearest hospital or get in touch with La Lèche League, The Assosciation of Breastfeeding Mothers or The Breastfeeding Network (amongst others) who all offer free support and guidance to mothers.

On instagram, pages such as Little Peach  🍑 provide support and advice to breastfeeding and pumping mothers in an informal setting.

 

The big move

As I sit here in the nursery, cradling my baby, I’m crying.  Full on, tears streaming, bordering on sobbing, crying.  I know it’s silly – some people would probably think me ridiculous – but I can’t help it.  When I lay him down to bed last night, in his little wooden crib to the side of my bed, I didn’t know that it would be the last time that I would do so.  This morning when he woke me up in his usual way – chatting and smiling over at me – I didn’t know that it would be the last morning that I would be able to roll over and see him beam at me through the bars; I didn’t know that it would be the last morning that I would reach across and hold his hand the way that always makes him smile a little more brightly as he squeezes mine back.  Tonight, Harry has moved to his own room.  What a silly thing to be so sad about, I know.

Firstly, it is my fault that I didn’t know, because of my “rip the plaster off” approach where, this afternoon, as he napped, I turned to Jonathan and said “right, let’s move him tonight.”  Those of you who know me well will know that, rash as it may sound, this was absolutely necessary: if I plan it, I will find a reason to put it off, I already have done – three times!  He was, originally, due to move into his own room over a month ago.  He is now eight months old and, though there is nothing wrong with babies staying with their parents for far longer, for our family the time is right (and has probably been for at least a month!).  The second reason that my sadness is silly is that, if I really think about it, growing up is amazing!  How incredible that my little, wholly reliant on me baby, who simply fed and slept, now eats solid foods, he chatters nonsense, he rolls, he plays, sits, laughs, gives kisses and hugs… he is ever-changing, ever-growing and, this is simply a part of that growing up.  The third reason that I’m a silly turd is that, quite frankly, our house is so small that I am still only around five foot away from him!  Plus we have a video baby monitor.  He will be fine.

Tonight though, I am holding him a little longer.  He’s been asleep for at least fifteen minutes now in my arms.  Ordinarily, following his feed and falling asleep, I would put him down in the crib as soon as feasible and head downstairs for dinner, for some relaxing time with Jonathan and Nigel (if you can ever call time spent with Nigel “relaxing”), just to have some “me time” before bed – doing dishes is “me time” right?!  Not tonight though.  Tonight I am even more, somewhat painfully, aware of the brevity of his childhood, of his infancy, and so, tonight, I’m soaking up the smell of his hair, the sound of him breathing, the warm weight of his little body against mine just that little bit more.  I’m holding him a little tighter.  If it is possible, I even think I’m loving him a little more.  Goodnight baby boy.

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Holding him a little longer

It’s competition time

I have never been an overly competitive person.  I have always been quite content remaining in the background; fourth place suits me just fine – standing on the podium is my idea of hell!  Which is quite handy as, being a chunky little girl followed by a heavily smoking teenager, my chance of making the podium has always been pretty implausible!  I obviously enjoy succeeding, but I am not great at receiving praise and often end up downplaying my achievements… “Congratulations on having your baby Mrs Phillips…” “Oh… thanks… was nothing really I didn’t do much, it only grew in me and came out of a hole waaay too small for a baby… no biggie.”  In school and university I always liked it when my classmates did equally well to me or better.  If anyone ever did significantly worse than me I became an awkward clammy mess, afraid to breathe for fear someone may think I’m gloating.  As an adult I have been able to avoid too much competition – apart from the one on This Morning; I have done anything but avoid that one… still waiting for my phonecall from Holly and Phil though!  Then I became a mother. BOOM! Like a smack in the face (which in itself would probably be a competition of who smacks the hardest and who hurts the most) everything is a competition.  From baby-group mothers whose babies do everything first, to strangers whose children never misbehaved, or their babies never cried like yours, online platforms asking you to compare births and magazines asking you to submit your baby’s photo to see if it’s the cutest… I don’t need to. I know my baby is the cutest.  Just like every other mother knows theirs is.

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It is amazing to share your children’s achievements with one another, and I enjoy hearing about them, I really do. We can all gain so much from sharing the good as well as the bad with one another – others mums experiences can be invaluable when you have a small baby.  I’m fortunate that in our group of friends there is no competition – some of us have babies who wake multiples times a night, others sleep through.  Some of us have babies who are excellent feeders, some have snackers or grazers who aren’t as interested.  Some of us breastfeed and others bottle feed.  Some nap for hours others (Harry being one of the usual suspects!) decide thirty minutes is enough and then proceed to spend the rest of the day teetering on the brink of emotional breakdown.  We discuss all of these things, and we give advice when it’s wanted and support when it’s needed and, importantly, don’t pit our babies against one another like an extremely cute episode of gladiators!  We all recognise that our babies are individuals – they’re human beings and, for all their similarities, they will have as many differences.  I won’t deny that there have been times where I’ve watched other babies, especially the ones younger than Harry, do things like clap and wondered why he didn’t, I think it’s only natural as you want to know that your children are developing as they should, but I quickly reminded myself of this fact: he is his own person, he will get there in his own time.  And he did. He now claps like it’s going out of fashion.

I have a theory that, if you get the wrong midwife in the hospital, as they pull the baby from your vagina they put a stick up your arse; it’s the only explanation for the way that some women talk to one another.  I went to a baby group when Harry was six weeks old – you can congratulate me on this achievement later – where I was breastfeeding Harry and talking to a lovely lady who was bottle feeding her baby.  She was telling me all about his severe reflux – though she needn’t have bothered, he soon showed me! – and was saying how it stinks.  Another woman, who was also breastfeeding at the time, chimed in with “well, if you’d chosen to breastfeed rather than bottle feed you wouldn’t be having that problem, as breastmilk doesn’t smell bad at all, it’s all natural.”  I was aghast.  The poor woman I had been chatting with now had embarrassment on her face to go with the vomit on her top.  I turned to the breastfeeding nazi and just chuckled, “Oh really? Mine certainly does!” throwing a smile at a very red faced woman.  Now I am all for breastfeeding.  I still breastfeed Harry and not only because it’s free and convenient, but most importantly it is custom made for your baby and all their needs.  If it was up to me everyone would give it a go, but I also completely understand that there are a number of reasons women don’t – from allergies, low supply, no supply, no support, affects on their mental health – it’s not always that they “just don’t want to.”  But, if it is, that’s their prerogative. I am not their midwife.  I am not their health visitor.  As long as their baby is happy and fed and safe and loved then it absolutely none of mine (nor anyone else’s!) business how they are fed – or what time they go to bed / where they have their naps / if they use a dummy for that matter!

Being a new mother is tough – it’s amazing, but it’s tough; emotionally and physically.  We have got to start supporting each other and stop looking for reasons to tear each other down.  It is part of the reason I despise sites like Mumsnet – it is a platform for women to belittle, bully and scorn each other, masquerading as a place where Mums can support one another.  Social media is an excellent platform for mothers to support each other, however, as with anything you put on the internet, you leave yourself open to criticism and it would seem, for all the supportive women out there, there are the same number again just ready to drag each other   down.  It seems that the message hasn’t quite reached the masses; criticising someone else doesn’t make you any better, calling someone a bad parent won’t make you seem a better one and just because your way of doing something is a good way, does not make it the only good way.

Let’s put the competition aside ladies, let our babies be babies, and help each other tackle this amazing, monumental challenge we have been blessed with.

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Why do we diss dummies?

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It is a small piece of plastic with a rubber teet, some babies love them, some aren’t keen but, for those that do they can bring so much comfort, so why then do they cause so much controversy?  Babies love to suck, it calms them, it comforts them and a dummy is the perfect tool for those of us who don’t have the time to walk around with our babies attached to the breast constantly (or those of us whose babies will not feed for comfort!  If he didn’t literally come out of my vagina before my eyes I would doubt that Harry is actually mine… nothing I love better than a bit of comfort eating!).

Before I was pregnant, before my friends began getting pregnant, I was a dummy dummy.  If someone had asked me I would have said I wouldn’t be giving my future children a dummy.  If you had asked me why, I probably would have struggled to answer you… maybe it is the way they look?  Maybe it was the resonating memory of being in school with six and seven year olds who still used them?  I don’t actually know for sure but, for some reason, I didn’t like them.  I never went so far as to say that other people shouldn’t use them, but I knew that I wouldn’t be giving one to my child (please see below for multiple photos of my baby with his much adored “dumbles” – yes we love it so much it has a name!).

When I had Harry I had been given multiple dummies in gifts and, at around six weeks old, we gave one a try.  He had been crying for hours, feeding then crying then feeding then crying, never able to be soothed to sleep.  It was around 10pm, the crying had started at about 6pm, I put a dummy in his bellowing mouth and he was quiet.  He still didn’t sleep, but he calmed.  It was enough to give me ten minutes to go to the toilet, grab a drink of water and recharge my mind and body (a little at least!) before the struggle to get him to sleep continued.  It was on that evening, looking at him sucking away in relative peace, that I had the realisation that, actually, dummies are pretty fricking awesome.  He needed comfort, he did not want food, so my super-fast-flowing boobs were only upsetting him, my cuddles weren’t enough, he wanted to suckle, so super-hero dummy came to the rescue!  I realised that he actually looks pretty damn cute with his dummy in and, I realised, that the most important thing for me as his mother is that he is happy and comforted and if that means he needs a dummy sometimes well then I’m just damn grateful someone invented them!

From then on we’ve used dummies.  He has one when he’s very upset and struggling to calm down (usually when he’s fallen backwards and bumped his head on the carpet or, heaven forbid, I try to dry and dress him after swimming!).  He has one in the car sometimes and, more recently, he has one in the supermarket trolly to deter him from sucking the bar and making me nauseous.  And you know what, from time to time, he just has one because he’s seen it and he likes it so he’s reached for it.

I’ve noticed though, that I must still have some mixed feelings about dummies, as I catch myself making sure that I tell people why he has one in, like I best excuse this behaviour.  I hear myself before I can stop it “Oh he’s well thanks, he needs his dummy in though he’s tired and grumpy”, and “I best give him his dummy for the car in case he gets upset”.  Why do I need to justify giving my child the tools to comfort himself?  I, at first, thought this was just my personal problem, and then I started to notice it in people I know too.  A friend’s baby had his dummy in in a beautiful photo she posted, the caption read “baby’s name had a lovely afternoon. Needed his dummy though he was tired.”  I saw another friend out and when I spoke to her baby she quickly removed the dummy from his mouth “Oh you don’t need that do you.”  It seems as though a lot of us are justifying the fact that our children use dummies and it’s just yet another thing that can make us feel guilty or judged as parents.

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I wondered why at first, and then I realised that it is because some people do judge.  I was recently in the supermarket, Harry sat in the trolley seat happily sucking on his dummy.  An elderly man, seeing him from behind said “oh he’s cute, those are handy trolley seats”; then, as he came around the front of us and spotted the dreaded comfort device his face changed, and addressing Harry directly he said “you don’t need that.  Shall I take your dummy out for you?  I can throw it away you don’t need that do you.”  Instead of, as I should have, saying “f$ck off you interfering old man, don’t touch my child or his dummy”, I felt my cheeks flush as I quickly went “oh he does need it, otherwise he sucks on the bar, that’s why he has it in, I’ve only just put it in” to which the elderly baby-guru chuckled and agreed that the dummy was, in fact, probably better than the germ-laden bar.  But why did I need to justify it?  That is the reason Harry has his dummy in the trolley, every time without fail, but why do I need to tell people that?  What if he just wanted it?  What if it just makes my baby happy?  What is it to anyone else?  And yet people feel they have this right to tell you what to do.  On a separate occasion – also in the supermarket – a middle aged lady said “you should take that dummy out I can’t see his beautiful smile”; Err, have you thought about the fact that maybe if I take it out he won’t have a beautiful smile anymore?  Perhaps the dummy is the reason for his beautiful smile, as opposed to your interfering face?

 

We all have different ways of parenting, different tools we use and different things we like and don’t like and, if you don’t want to use a dummy, that is absolutely fine, but I just think this judgement surrounding them needs to stop.  I have heard so many people call them “dirty”… they’re actually usually extremely clean as, believe it or not, most parents sterilise things and don’t want their children sucking on germ infested rubber.  Far cleaner than the fingers some strangers have been known to extend towards your baby’s mouth!  They are a tool to comfort a baby – the clue is in the American name ‘pacifier’, they pacify! – and you would never turn to someone who breastfed their crying baby just to soothe them, not for hunger, and say “take that thing out of their mouth!” so I for one think we should cut dummies some slack!  And If I could explain to my past self how handy they are, I definitely would.

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You’ve got a friend in me

Those of you who know me may be concerned that this is going to be a blog post about that song… THE song.  The song that I have heard 1477828 times since Harry was born; 12716 of those times sung by yours truly, phone having run out of battery from playing that very same song on repeat.  I am, of course, talking about Randy Newman’s Toy Story classic, ‘You’ve got a friend in me.’  Or, in this household, the Holy Grail for making Harry stop crying and what will, more than likely, push me past the brink and into insanity.  I don’t even know why it makes him stop crying – maybe it’s his deep voice?  Perhaps I need to hire a Randy Newman sound-a-like, or offer the man himself a job as an au-pair?  What I do know is that, when you have a child, there is no worse sound than hearing them crying or distressed and so, if Randy Newman being the theme tune to our entire life is what it takes, then Randy Newman being the theme tune to our entire life is what we’ve got.  What we haven’t got are any construction standard earplugs, so if anyone would like to send some my way….

Unlike in my actual life, that is it for the Toy Story theme tune for today.  What I actually want to write about is my real-life human friends.  Prior to moving to Oxfordshire I had a close-knit group of friends; we’re still close, might I add, just not geographically!  When we first moved here I was pretty lonely; new area, new job – working from home, alone (well, with Nigel… it’s actually how Nigel ended up with his own Instagram, solitude will do funny things to a person!).  I then changed jobs and met some lovely people and made a couple of friends but, being work friends they – you guessed it – work!  So when I had first had Harry and Jonathan had returned to work I soon learned that you can spend your whole day with another human being (the best little human being in the world in fact) and still feel completely alone.  I would – and still do – talk to Harry all day long; I would tell him what we were doing, speak to him about our plans for the day, tell him how much I love him but, unsurprisingly, he didn’t have a lot to say back!  He slept.  A lot!  I would meet up with a friend from work usually one day every couple of weeks, sometimes once a week, but that still left at least four days just Harry, Nigel, me and my brain.

It is easy to become consumed by your own thoughts when you have all day to listen to them; it’s not healthy, I don’t think, to have too much time by yourself – especially when you’re not actually by yourself and therefore can’t dedicate that time to self-care.  I realised that I really needed some friends, I needed some adult conversation and I needed some structure.  I needed less time that I could spend self-analysing, self-criticising, self-doubting.  I tried and failed to go to a few drop-in baby groups when Harry was around six weeks old (I needed to work on my timing with a baby!) which didn’t really help with the self-criticising, and then made the best decision when I chose to sign up to a term of Mum and Baby Yoga and a term of Baby Sensory.  I decided that perhaps having pre-paid would encourage me to actually make it on time and give us some structure to our week; it worked!

From the first session I went to of both classes I knew that I had made the right choice; I arrived on time, I enjoyed myself, I got to spend an hour dedicated to Harry outside of our home and in the company of like-minded Mummies in the same situation.  At baby yoga I quickly began talking to Kate – I quickly found we had quite a lot in common and a friendship formed.  At Baby Sensory I felt so fortunate to have ended up sitting by Lucy who, super friendly woman she is, invited me for lunch with she and her group of friends after the very first session.  They had all done an NCT course together and had maintained strong friendships and I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed into their group.  Through Lucy I met and made friends with Rosie, Emily, Lucy (another one!) and Kat and now mine and Harry’s weeks are filled with play dates and baby groups and coffee and cake.  Probably too much cake.  I need to eat less cake.  Seriously.  Send help.

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As first time Mum’s I think it is so important to have these friendships because, through them, you can find a confidence you didn’t know you had.  I think we help one another to realise that we are all good Mums.  We never criticise or judge one another because we’re all going through it too and we know how effing hard it can be.  It is all too easy to feel like your baby is the only baby who doesn’t sleep through the night or your baby is the only one who still naps in your arms; that your child isn’t taking to weaning as well as they should or that you aren’t feeding them enough milk or are giving them too much milk; these worries, though seemingly small, can gather weight and grow when you only have the internet as a reference point.  All of a sudden, you make friends, you open up and realise that it’s all normal.  Every bit of it.  Some babies sleep, some don’t.  Some eat well, some don’t.  Some have reflux, wind, have happy days and cranky days.  Just like adults.  You realise that you have got this (as much as any new Mumma has!), but it’s okay to feel you haven’t sometimes too;  you realise that it is normal to feel shit sometimes – hell, it’s normal to look like shit sometimes too!  You realise it’s okay that you didn’t have time to wash your hair on Wednesday morning;  it’s okay that you were so exhausted you put your baby’s nappy on backwards twice before working out what looked wrong;  it’s not your fault that your baby has their fifth cold in as many months and it’s okay not to want to put them in their own room as soon as they hit six months; most importantly, you realise that, tough as it sometimes is, you’re a bloody good mother.

And, just like you do for them, there’s a group of kind, funny, amazing women there to remind you of that when you forget.  Thanks Mamas, you all rock.