Mellow Mummy: February 2010 : Taking life as it comes...

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Sunday Review – Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair

I have been using the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair products since early Autumn 2009. Both the Synchronized Recovery Complex and the Eye Recovery Complex have been very good to me over the past few months. They were prizes; I love entering competitions (read more about my hobby here) because its a great way to find out about new and existing products which you wouldn't otherwise buy; every once in a while, you get to try out a product where the competition really does achieve its goal – you become a convert and will go back to buy the product time and again. Now that I am approaching the end of the bottles of Advanced Night Repair, I have been evaluating whether or not I love them enough to justify forking out real cash for them when I run out.

Image courtesy of Estee Lauder

The Synchronized Recovery Complex is an anti-ageing serum that you apply to your skin each evening beneath your existing moisturiser. Using the integral pipette, you apply just four or five drops and then massage it onto your face and neck using your fingertips. The serum feels incredibly silky smooth on your skin and you'd be surprised how little you need to use in order to coat your entire face. Before I received these Estée Lauder products, I had been on the lookout for a new moisturiser (I've yet to find the perfect moisturiser and tend to flit from brand to brand). After using Advanced Night Repair for several months, I've found that no matter what moisturiser I use after the serum, that when I wake up in the morning my face feels well hydrated, soft and healthy. It has given me a chance to use up all the odds and ends of moisturisers with which I had previously fallen out of love.

The Synchronized Recovery Complex claims to both repair existing damage to the skin, and to protect against future damage. It's anti-ageing claims are three-fold:-

  • Reducing/preventing the appearance fine lines (check!)
  • Evening out skin tone (check!) and
  • Continuous hydration (most certainly check!)

The Eye Recovery Complex is a restorative eye gel designed to reduce the fine lines around the delicate eye area. It has its own funky applicator (but fingertips will do just as well). It is recommended for use both morning and night but one of the things I love most about using an eye gel is that feeling of refreshment and renewal I get when I apply it after a long day staring at a computer screen as I sink down into my pillows at the end of the day. Sadly, there was no sense of refreshment with the Eye Recovery Complex. Don't get me wrong, it does feel gentle and non-greasy but it is missing that wow factor, that sense of zing and immediate recovery that I look for in an eye gel. After about two weeks using the Eye Recovery Complex, I could notice a difference to the skin around my eyes but since then, there has been no further improvement. I would be interested to see how quickly those barely perceptible signs of age return if/when I stop using it.

So, would I spend my own money on Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair? Yes. Certainly (although I think I'll drop some hints to Mr. B. first and see where it gets me). I genuinely feel that over the past four or five months, my face has felt a lot healthier, more resilient to the winter weather than in previous years and generally more even in tone and hydration than I have ever known it before. I am very likely to be purchasing the Synchronized Recovery Complex but will have to consider carefully whether the benefits of the Eye Recovery Complex are great enough to compensate for the lack of wow factor.

The Synchronized Recovery Complex is available from £36 and the Eye Recovery Complex is available for £33.50.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Passing On Parenting Tips

This week, one of my bestest pals in the whole wide world announced that he is going to become a Daddy later this year. After a few hours of squealing with excitement, giggling to myself (my colleagues were giving me funny looks by this point) and generally smiling from ear-to-ear, I stopped to think about what advice I could offer a couple just starting out on their pregnancy and parenting adventure.

I could tell them to take advantage of any free baby bits and pieces they may be offered over the next few months. I could recommend they fill their freezer with lots of home-cooked meals (sans onion) to help them survive the first few days. I could scare them with humiliating stories of mummy-dom. I have lots of tips and advice on Mummy, Baby and Daddy products to buy (or not). But I don't want to overwhelm them with information at such an early stage in proceedings.

Perhaps I'll just recommend they do what we did – draw up a list of “stuff you want to do while there's just the two of you”. There's a tendency to focus too much on the birth of your first baby and to forget that up until that point you have the freedom to do whatever takes your fancy (within reason – I don't think I'd recommend bungee jumping) but that once your baby comes along, there are things you can only do with a lot of planning and/or a lot of confidence. I'll tell them to make the most of the next wonderful few months and to do all the things that they've been planning on doing for a while. For us it was:-
  • go for a Spa Day
  • watch a film at the cinema
  • see a West End show
  • go for dinner at a very posh restaurant
  • go for dinner at your favourite restaurant (posh or not!)
  • go on holiday, somewhere quiet and grown-up
  • play computer games (that was Mr. B, not me)

I think, looking back, the only thing I'd add to that list is “read loads of books because you won't get another chance for a while”.

So, what piece of advice would you pass on to some new parents-to-be?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Stories & Songs – A Meme

I hadn't listened to any music for months and months but Mr B bought me the much-celebrated IPod for Christmas and now that I am back at work, slaving over a keyboard, I have had time to explore my music collection.

Hayley at SingleMotherhoodChallenges tagged me in the 'Stories & Songs' meme. So here's my song of choice, and the story behind it:-

I chose Dodgy's “Staying out for the Summer” because its reminds me of meeting and getting to know one of my best friends (who I don't see anywhere near enough these days). Meet James. Our paths first crossed in the summer of my 17th birthday party. If I remember correctly, he actually gate-grashed my party, stole the beer from the fridge and hid it in the woodland across the road from my house. Not exactly the best way to start a relationship, but at least it's memorable. James may not be my most frequently-visited friend these days, but he's one of the best; I love him to pieces, so much so that he was my maid of honour (sorry, mate of honour) at my wedding.

That year, as one of my birthday presents, my folks gave me a copy of the Dodgy album, 'Free Peace Sweet'. The single, 'Staying Out For The Summer' had just been released, I was half way through my A-levels, loving college life during the week, and discovering the joys of the local pubs at the weekends. In my head (if not in reality), the whole of the next 12 months were sunny, bright and a a huge amount of fun. Mind you, this was a good few years ago and my memory could be playing tricks on me. Although the song feels summery, I guess the lyrics aren't as cheerful as the music but for me, it is the anthem of that year.

The following summer James invited me to his summer ball at the Southampton Institute. For reasons you can probably imagine, I can't remember an awful lot about the ball itself but I remember this photo being taken in the afternoon before we started (properly) drinking. I spent a lot of money on that dress and now I look back, it makes me look quite ill and skinny, but at the time, it was perfect. I matched the dress with a pair of huge 12cm white chunky heels which meant I towered over everyone around, especially James. I can clearly remember watching Dodgy perform this track live at the ball inside a huge marquee and me having the perfect view because I was a clear head's height taller than almost everyone else in the room! It was a brilliant night.

I'm not planning on tagging anyone else with this meme because it has nearly run its course, but if you fancy it and haven't already been tagged, feel free to give it a go.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

NCT : An Expensive Introductions Agency?

Last week I had a very enjoyable lunch with the mummies from my NCT antenatal classes. All of our babies are now between 7 and 9 months old and it was great to get back together to compare stories, share tips and to calm each other's motherhood worries. While we ate, another group of brand new NCT mummies (and daddies) arrived in the restaurant. It was wonderful to see a new set of people starting out on their parenthood journey and comparing, sharing and worrying together. It got me thinking about the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and what I had got out of my antenatal lessons. Were the NCT classes I took more effective as a means of meeting other mums, than as a preparation for birth?

Now, I don't want to get involved in the NCT brainwashing/preaching argument, the likes of which featured on Mumsnet not too far back, but I will make this statement... I don't feel that my NCT antenatal lessons greatly shaped my birth choices but I do feel that with my NHS antenatal classes alone, I would have been shockingly unprepared for the birth of my daughter. After the very thorough NCT lessons, both myself and my husband were equipped with all of the information we needed to help us make the right decisions for us (for me, and for baby) during the chaotic hell-hole that is childbirth.

Mother And Baby by Anna Cervova

I took a lot of convincing before I forked out the cash for my NCT antenatal classes. It is a large amount of money to hand over when (a) you can theoretically get the same guidance for free from your local NHS services and (b) you consider the enormous financial burden that a new born child will put on you. The thing that finally convinced me to pay for the NCT classes was the fact that almost all of the daddies who I work with recommended them to me, not only for the fact that they felt they had learned useful stuff from them, but because they all felt that they had made at least one good friend for life from the group of people with whom they shared their classes.

For me, with very few female friends, it seemed like an ideal way to meet some local mums. The mummies I have met through the NCT are a wonderful mix of people of different ages and backgrounds whose paths I would never have otherwise crossed. We have at least one thing in common, a baby born between May and July last year. We have met up on a number of occasions since the birth for baby massage, coffees, walks, and extreme alcohol consumption. Online, we share our thoughts on mummy-related topics, seek advice from one another and share photos and videos of our little ones.

When I look back on my NCT lessons, I mustn't forget that I learned a great deal about the drugs options available during childbirth (about what they really do to you, not just their availability). I learned how long to realistically expect labour to take and some very useful tips on how and when to get to hospital. I learned some great methods for dealing with the pain, how to step back and evaluate my choices during labour and whether or not I should tick the 'Do you want us to give your baby the vitamin K injection' box in my hospital birth notes. I learned (to the extent that you can without your own baby at hand) how to latch a baby to my breast. I learned to ask my family for help in those first few bonkers days after the birth, and not to expect parenthood to be a breeze. But most of the 'personal' stuff I learned was just common sense, and all of the birthing lessons were only relevant for the 36 hours of labour. My post-natal lessons did offer some useful material on weaning, but I think by the time that you get there, your mummy instincts have kicked in and you no longer need lessons to teach you parenthood.

I can't help feeling a bit foolish if the only thing I feel I gained from my NCT classes was a new group of peers! That would make the NCT nothing more than a very expensive introductions agency! I know that's not the case, but sometimes I feel friends are the most valuable thing I have taken away from my NCT lessons.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Sunday Review – Maxi Cosi Axiss Group 1 Car Seat

The time has come to move Lara out of her Group 0 infant carrier into a “real” forward facing car seat. Lara is tall (like her Mummy) and heavy for her age so by about 6 months her feet and head were beginning to poke out of each end of her infant carrier. Lara has been using a Maxi Cosi Axiss Group 1 forward-facing car seat for about a month now and she has lots of little friends who are on the lookout for their next car seat so I thought I would share my thoughts so far on the seat that we bought her.

We bought a Maxi Cosi car seat because we had no complaints about our Maxi Cosi Cabrio infant carrier. It is high-quality, has a great safety record, is easy to use, easy to clean and looks great. There was no reason for us NOT to buy a Maxi Cosi replacement.

We chose to buy a Group 1 car seat. Maxi Cosi don't seem to make many car seats that span safety Groups. We did have the option to buy a Group 1, 2, 3 car seat from a different brand that would last Lara right up until she was 11 years old but we figured that by the time that Lara is old enough for the next size of seat, there is likely to be another monkey waiting in the sidelines who will be able to use the Group 1 seat. We also felt that until Lara is old enough to get in and out of the seat herself, that it would be easier to put her in and out of a raised seat specifically designed for smaller children.

The Maxi Cosi Axiss appealed to us due to its unique design feature. The whole seat swivels to face towards you making it easier to place your child in the seat and giving you more space and freedom of movement to fasten the belts securely. I'm a tall Mummy and I had been finding it hard on my back to bend down and into the car to fix the infant carrier in place so I was totally won over by the swivel function of the Axiss and hoped that it wasn't just a gimmick. The seat has about 9 different levels of recline for children of all ages.

For the luxury of a swivelly seat, you can expect to pay around 15% more than for the other Group 1 seats (Tobi and Priori XP) in the range. So is it worth it? Well, I certainly feel that it as made the process of getting Lara in and out of the car almost stress free and my back hasn't suffered at all. The seat is the great quality that you would expect from Maxi Cosi and the belts are very easy and intuitive to fit and tighten with great comfy shoulder pads to keep your little one comfy. I love the car seat but I still can't help worrying that we paid an awful lot of money for a product that Lara will grow out of in about 3 years time.

The car seat looks complex to install but, as with all Maxi Cosi products, it actually is a breeze because their special red/green indicators tell you once the seat is correctly fitted and fastened. It is fitted using your standard 3-point seatbelt and is very sturdy and secure once installed. For safety reasons (and because it rattles), the seat must always be facing forwards when the car is in motion, even if there is no-one sitting in it. Due to the bulk of the thing and partly due to the nature of the fastening, this car seat doesn't seem like the kind that you would want to take in and out of the car frequently.

My only complaint about the Maxi Cosi Axiss is a small, yet significant design flaw. The convenience of the swivel seat is almost totally negated in certain circumstances. The catches that you have to release in order to swivel the unit are on both sides of the seat, this means that if the seat is in the forward-facing position (which it is when we pick her up from the childminder in the evening), and you approach the car on your own, with a heavy baby in your arms, you don't have enough free hands to be able to release both catches. I find myself having to either place Lara on the front seat while I swivel hers around, or else placing her into her car seat without bothering to swivel it – in which case I might as well have bought one of the cheaper Maxi Cosi products. It's annoying, but I've learned to prepare the seat in advance (where I can) ensuring that I swivel the seat around before I fetch Lara in from the childminder.

You can read an alternative review of the Maxi Cosi Axiss at the Baby Genie blog.

I have ordered a second car seat for use when Lara is staying with relatives. Quite tellingly, I've chosen a much cheaper product that looks as if it will be easier to take in and out of the car. I've also plumped for a group 1, 2, 3 combination seat because I felt that for a 'spare' car seat, it would be better value for money if I didn't have to keep changing it every few years. I shall let you know how I get on with the alternative seat, and whether it can compete in quality, if not value, with the Maxi Cosi Axiss.

The Maxi Cosi Axiss is available in a subset of their standard colour range (red, blue, brown, pink white and black I believe) and can be found online from £185 (or less on a good day - ours was a bargain).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

What's In My Bag - A Meme

I have been tagged by Emily at Baby Rambles with the terrifying 'What's in your bag' meme. 'Terrifying' because there was a thick pile of gunk at the bottom of my bag which I really didn't want to expose you to; so, for Health & Safety reasons I have de-gunked and here, for the world to see, is the contents of my handbag!

My handbag was given to me about 10 years ago (gulp, that makes me feel old) by my Grandma as a celebration of me getting my first grown-up job after leaving university. It has come with me to work up and down the country almost every working day since. In my bag, I currently have...

My Ipod Touch
A gift from Mr. B. at Christmas, me and the Ipod have become inseparable. Not only does it mean I can check my emails and tweet in my lunch break, but it means that I have rediscovered my music collection.

I've always carried a diary, but since getting pregnant, it has become more vital than ever. Given the state of my baby-brain, how would I ever remember anything if I didn't write it down in my diary? And how would the OH ever remember that he had appointments if I didn't write them down and then nag him about them?

Gloves (and little gloves)
I suffer from something called Raynaud's Phenomenon which means that I often lose the blood supply to my fingers. For this reason it is important that I keep my long, spindly fingers as warm as possible. Even when the weather is a little warmer, I need to have my gloves at hand. These days my bag also contains Lara's little gloves. I can already feel that she has problems keeping her tiny hands warm so she'll probably suffer in the same way I do. All I can do is to try and keep her warm.

Lipbalms (plural)
I always carry a lipbalm whether I need it or not. You can never have too many lipbalms... they tend to disappear inexplicably, perhaps they even escape. I have recently been reviewing the Rescue remedy lipbalm which comes in a sturdy glass pot which won't work open in the bottom of your handbag. It smells great, is really light and nice to wear, but I haven't been that impressed with its effectiveness so far.

Phone Instruction Manual
OK, so the phone is currently charging, which explains its absence from my bag. I upgraded my phone about 3 weeks ago and although I'm a techy, I'm really struggling to get to grips with my new Samsung phone. Nothing seems instinctive and every time I start writing a text message, I give up and make a phone call instead! I have promised myself that I will learn how to use the blimming thing so I have been carrying the instruction book around with me, but as yet, it remains unopened.

I'm not sure that it merits its own bullet point, but I did find one more thing in my bag. A bulldog clip. Errr, who knows why, and your guess is as good as mine as to where it came from.

I tag Catherine at Baby Genie, Snaffles Mummy , Claire from Life Through the Slim Lens, and Pippa from A Mother's Ramblings.

So, go on, what's in your bag?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

This Time Last Year...

  • This time last year I had a small, but noticeable bump.

  • This time last year I had just seen the first recognisable images of the munchkin on my 20-week scan.

  • This time last year I was preparing for a week tucked away in a remote self-catering cottage on a farm in chilly Cornwall; Our last holiday together as a couple.

  • This time last year I was in the final week of development of my first software product as a technical team lead. Now I am in the final week of another development project as a bog-standard developer (boo).

  • This time last year I wasn't drinking alcohol, hated the taste of a cup of tea and was really only interested in eating curry. Now I'm drinking wine again, can't go a day without my evening cuppa and although I do love a good curry, other things take my fancy too.

  • This time last year I was about to start my NCT antenatal classes and meet a great, varied bunch of lovely ladies (now mummies).

  • This time last year it was just me, the man and the cat. Wow, how times change.

  • This time last year I was a brunette. Now I am back to my much-loved highlights. Mr. B says I look like 'me' again. Phew.

  • This time last year I had no idea what to expect of parenthood. Now I consider myself a pro (only joking!).

  • This time last year, my life was measured in weeks and all things revolved around the magic 'due date'. Now I can look back on the birth as a momentous occasion but one which disappears into insignificance when I look forward to a future, with my family, of parenting highs and lows.

Wordless Wednesday - Lara's First Pancake Day!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

GOAL! I've Lost The Baby Bulge

This weekend I celebrated a big milestone in my quest to lose weight in 2010. I finally reached my magic pre-pregnancy weight. It has taken 8 months which is at least 3 months longer than I had hoped. I put this down to my near total inability to walk for the first 3 months of Lara's life, and to general laziness and over-indulgence during the Christmas period.

Since the turn of the year, having made my promise to lose weight publicly on this blog, I have managed to lose the last 10lb of baby weight. This is wonderful news, but it does present me with one problem. The only trousers that I have for work are ones that grew with me during pregnancy! There is only so much longer that I will be able to wear my maternity trousers to work and I foresee a shopping trip very near in the future (have I ever told you how much I hate shopping?).

And so, on to the next goal. I have no idea whether I will be able to make it (given that the opportunities for exercise are few and far between) but I would love to be able to lose enough weight to put me back where I was when I first got together with Mr. B. It's a long way to go (I'm not telling you how long, you'll just have to trust me) but if I stick at it, it should be just about achievable in time for my sisters un-wedding in June (its a long story, but think Alice in Wonderland and the un-birthday party).

Friday, 12 February 2010

Parental Leave – Are Your Rights Enough?

This week we experienced our first childcare 'issue'. Lara has been ill this week with a contagious eye infection. As such, we couldn't send her to Childminder #1 on Wednesday. This presented us with a problem that wasn't easy to solve and which inspired me to research my rights as a working parent – I was little disappointed.

Presented with the choice of (a) Mellow Mummy takes a day out of her holiday entitlement at short notice, seriously pissing off her project manager or (b) Mellow Daddy takes a day out of his holiday entitlement at short notice, seriously pissing of his project manager (who happens to be the same person as in a!); we started to explore our other options. I had heard an inkling that as a working parent, we were both entitled to (unpaid) time off work to care for your child so we looked it up on the DirectGov website.

You may not know that most working parents are entitled to 13 weeks leave (a maximum of 4 weeks each year) between the birth and the fifth birthday of their child. The time off is unpaid (boo) but it is in addition to your maternity or paternity leave and does not effect your annual holiday allowance. The government claim that the purpose of the unpaid leave is to, among other things:- help you care for your child if they are ill, allow you to help them spend more time with their family or to help find them a school or a childcare provider. I had rather imagined that I would qualify under the first point... I did not.

The caveat is that you must take your parental leave in full week blocks, and that you must give at least 21 days notice. So, next time Lara is going to be ill, I had best make sure that she is really ill so that it merits a whole week off work... and that she warns me a month in advance. How bonkers is that?

I'm surprised to find out that there is no government guidance on how employers should support employees if they need to take a small amount of time off work at short notice to care for their children. I can picture scenarios where this could cause a lot of aggravation for employers and employees alike.

Thankfully, we have a set of very friendly family members who were falling over themselves to look after Lara so in the end, neither of us needed to sacrifice a day of holiday. This week I swapped my day off work so that I could be with my little girl on the day when she was most unwell, ensuring that on the day when she did need to stay with her Auntie, she was a little healthier, and a little more cheerful. Things worked out for us, but it made me worry about how other people cope in a similar situation. What happens, when our normal childcare provider is not an option, to those of us whose employers aren't so understanding and to those whose family don't live locally, or perhaps who can't or won't look after their children under these exceptional circumstances?

I'd be interested to know what others do in this situation? Have any of you ever actually used your Parental Leave entitlement? What did you have/choose to use it for? How did it work out for you? Were your employers sympathetic? Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Reminiscing... My Wedding Dress – A Meme

Now, you may have already worked out that I'm not the giggly, gossipy girly sort. Chattering about wedding dresses isn't usually my thing, but I received such a lot of great comments about the picture of my dress on my Life Plan meme that I felt it only right to join in with the Wedding Dress meme when I was tagged by Kelly at 'You found Kelly's Hiding Place'. After all, if there's one thing a woman is allowed to get girly about, its her wedding dress.

Me with my 'Mate of Honour'

My wedding dress is festering in my loft. If I don't manage to find a buyer this year it is either going to Oxfam, or else (if I have met my new year's resolution and remembered how to use a sewing machine) I may possibly be adventurous enough to chop it up (the thought makes me shudder) and transform it into a gorgeous dress (or two) for Lara.

If you've read my Life Plan then you'll know that I had always set my sights on a brightly coloured wedding dress. Yellow was my colour of choice but despite it being my favourite colour, I look absolutely hideous dressed in yellow so I quickly ruled that out! Our wedding took place at Easter 2008 and we had a strong spring theme (yellows and greens) with traditional English daffodils, pale early roses and freesias. I was on the lookout for a green wedding dress; something classical, but with a hint of spring colour.

I had seen the dress I wanted in a magazine and managed to find a local supplier. On the day when my Mum accompanied me to the boutique to look for dresses, I tried my hardest to keep an open mind but I kept coming back to the one I had set my sights on and; when I tried it on, I knew it was right! I think its programmed in to us to KNOW… a bit like a wizard and his wand!

My dress is an Alfred Angelo 1516 original in Hunter Green. It is a pale ivory colour with a stunning green panel that runs down the whole of the length of the dress and forms a round semi-cathedral train. I think my dress embodies my character extraordinarily well - traditional, elegant and yet with a streak of originality - something just a touch out of the ordinary. I like to push the boundaries without rocking the boat!

The front of the dress is decorated with a floral pattern made up of small beads and pearls around the bodice and in a diamond shape across the front of the dress. The floral pattern is continued on the train and up to the laced corset back.

If you are interested in buying my dress, make me an offer! If you're not, I guess I had better lift that sewing machine out!

I tag Claire of Life through the Slim Lens
and Catherine at Baby Genie

If you would like to carry on the meme, add a comment or tweet me to let me know and I'll tag you officially!

Monday, 8 February 2010

My 10 Most Surreal Mummy Moments

I haven't been a mummy for that long (nearly 8 months) but, inspired by the 'Best of British Mummy Bloggers' carnival over at Wives and Daughters, I've decided to record my 10 most surreal Mummy moments!
  1. Day two of motherhood. The hormonal meltdown. I'm strong, I wasn't prepared for the hormonal rush just a couple of days after giving birth. At one point I found myself curled up in a ball both crying with despair (from feeling helpless and useless) and laughing (at the ridiculousness and joyfulness) at the same time.

  2. Day three of motherhood. Lying on a hospital bed, legs akimbo, at the Birth Centre with a midwife oggling my bits and examining my rather painful haemorrhoids only to hear her exclaim “Oh my! I've never seen anything like it. It's as big as a golf ball!” I sooooo knew she wanted to call in her colleagues to enjoy the show.

  3. Week three of motherhood. Sharing the tales of episiotomy, piles, constipation and vaginal infection with my mother and her best friend. Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Grandmas are supposed to be there to share the highlights of a baby's life... not to gossip about the mother's gynaecological mishaps.

  4. Week four. Answering the front door to the postman with baby Lara still latched on to my boob! He didn't seem fazed at all. I've never done it since, mainly because Lara became a nosey little girl very early on and was liable to look up and leave my boob hanging out for all visitors to see!

  5. Month three. Sitting on an aeroplane (a broken one, on a runway, not going anywhere) for several hours in a seat that wasn't big enough for an average sized adult, let alone one carrying a three-month old baby. Trying to breastfeed Lara from full-to-bursting boobs without spraying milk on the complete stranger sitting next to me, or prodding them in the ribs with my elbows or flailing baby-limbs.

  6. Month four. Discovering that my head-banging skills make Lara squeal with glee every time! I'm hoping the comedy value never wears off because I LOVE to see her giggle.

  7. Month five. Our first full night away from the munchkin. Sitting in the audience of an Eddie Izzard gig in Brighton watching another Mummy breastfeeding her baby of a similar age to Lara. I was unable to keep my eyes of them and paid little attention to the show. It made me realise that I missed Lara an awful lot that night.

  8. Month six. A 'Girls Night Out' with the NCT ladies. The surreal thing here being that the last time I went out for an evening of any sort with a group comprising solely of females was a Take That concert when I was just 15! Even my hen night was more guys than girls. It felt weird being out with the ladies... but it felt good. Much white wine was consumed and an awful lot of rubbish dancing was done. I felt like a different person.
  9. photo by Sile Hickey
  10. Month six. Showing off Lara's new found swimming skills at Coral Reef Waterworld. Merrily pootling around the pool, giving Lara a piggy-back when a crazy alarm sounded. A woman near me asked, "do you know what that sound means?", "err... nope" I replied. Seconds later, a huuuuuuge water cannon burst out of the 'volcano' and blasted Lara in the face, splattering her right off my back. Lara seemed to think it was a lot of fun at the time but I suspect it may have scarred her for life as she now screams every time we have to do piggy-backs at Aquatots.

  11. Month eight. The day that Daddy took Lara for her swine flu jab. It was a case of role reversal. After 7 months of maternity leave with Mr. B at work and me at home looking after the munchkin, this was the first time that he had taken some time off work to care for Lara, leaving me working in the office. After I'd got over the weirdness of it all, I relaxed and realised that things were going to be a lot more equal now between me and Mr. B.

So there, I hope you enjoyed a laugh at my expense! I'm sure there will be plenty of more surreal moments over the coming years.

Friday, 5 February 2010

My Working Mum Resolutions – One Month On

You may have read my 'Working Mum Resolutions' which I wrote just before I returned to work after maternity leave. I have now been back at work for a month so I thought I'd evaluate how well I've been doing at keeping my resolutions.

  1. Don't Offer My Time For Free
    I've been very good at leaving work on time, we don't have much choice if we are to get back to the Childminder before our alloted time is up. We arrive about 20 minutes early to work so I don't feel that guilty about legging it as soon as it turns 5.30. We are about to reach a big deadline at work, so it remains to be seen how I shall cope with the pressure.

  2. Don't Take Work Home
    I promised that I wouldn't get a laptop. Things were going well, I managed to decline the offer of one from my manager only to find out that my team leader had totally ignored my protestations and ordered one without me knowing. Grrrr. I've made it very clear that I shall only be using it in the event of severe snow, and certainly never on a Thursday.

  3. Make Thursdays Fundays!
    Lara's Aquatots swimming classes take up most of Thursday mornings. In the afternoons we go to visit family, or else I spend the afternoon cooking stuff I don't have time to cook on a working day. I really love my Lara days. Every week I'm surprised how tired I am on a Thursday compared to all of my working days – looking after a baby is DEFINITELY harder than a day in the office.

  4. Make the Most of Weekends
    Well, we've kept this promise with trips to see grandparents, long walks through Windsor Great Park and a total lack of housework. The trouble is that we don't do any housework on weekday evenings either (due to exhaustion, mainly) so the house is steadily disappearing under the layer of dust, part-chewed rice cake and cat hair.

  5. Keep On Blogging
    Well, I've certainly been doing this! I've blogged more frequently since going back to work. What's that about? Maybe I should spend more time doing number 7, and less time doing this???

  6. Feed The Family Well
    I think I've done pretty well at making meals for the whole family. We've only had one takeaway this month which is a bit of a record for us. Lara has had fresh, home-cooked goodies in her lunchbox every day and most evenings she joins us for dinner. My cooking time is my 'Me' time, it helps me wind down and chill out while Daddy looks after Lara.

  7. Make Time For 'Us'
    Hubbie and I work together. It feels good to be back. We share our lunch breaks and we have time to talk to one another (usually, but not always about work) to and from the office. Lara seems to be more shattered after a day with the childminders so she does to bed earlier than before which means that we get some grown-up time in the evening – shame I spend all my time on Twitter and Blogger really, isn't it?

  8. Stay in Touch With Mummies
    Hmmm, I have't done too well on this one. I have a lunch date with my NCT ladies at half term and we do get to see our swimming buddies on a Thursday. Could do better.

  9. Keep Healthy
    One of the best things about being back at work is that I can get out and about for a nice walk in the (freezing) fresh air hand-in-hand with my hubbie during our lunch break. The exercise is much needed! Since the start of the year I have managed to lose 9lb by eating sensibly and ensuring I go for a walk almost every lunchtime. Sadly, I have broken the 'no diet coke' promise that I made. Ho hum.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

10 Things I Wish I'd Known About Pregnancy & Birth

There are a number of things about becoming a Mum that I feel a little cheated about. Nothing major, just things that I'm surprised aren't common knowledge until you actually get pregnant, and get involved in the mum and mum-to-be community. So, here for the benefit of mums-to-be, and perhaps those people considering taking the plunge, are the things I feel the world kept secret from me!

  1. Why did no-one tell me about the existence of such a thing as an Episiotomy until I was 3 months pregnant and it was too late to change my mind? It turns out that having a great slash though your most private of parts is not all that rare and in fact, it can sometimes be safer, and quicker to heal than a natural tear but still... I may have had second-thoughts had I known this in advance!

  2. Piles. Another one of those things that nobody warns you about until its too late! Almost every new mum I've met since Lara was born has had problems with haemorrhoids and/or constipation. Its not pleasant to talk about but be aware, it happens, it can be awful, and your GP can help. With free prescriptions during pregnancy and right up to your child's first birthday, there's no point suffering alone.

  3. The average first labour lasts 12-16 hours. I don't think I'd ever really stopped to think about how long labour would last until I started my antenatal classes; everyone knows that it CAN be long and that it WILL be hard work but until you're there you don't really stop to think about the enormity of the task involved and the length of time you'll be in pain. That 12-16 hours (I think mine was officially 14) only counts from when you are first considered to be in 'established' labour and in fact, the whole process can last considerably longer, in many cases, several days. Ug.

  4. Periods. I feel like there's a secret here that mummies keep! I had no idea that my periods wouldn't return to their normal pattern immediately after giving birth. I guess I had a vague inkling that it might take my body a couple of months to sort itself out but I never for one minute imagined that they wouldn't come back at all until after I stopped breastfeeding. I'm still waiting!

  5. My biggest surprise as a new mum (however much I felt I had prepared for it) was the CONSTANCY of motherhood. 7 months down the line, I don't think its any different in terms of the constant demands on me as a mum, but maybe that's just because I've learned how to handle it. In the first few weeks of motherhood I felt like I was running at 100% CPU for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can't escape it, you can't take a breather, you just have to keep on going.

  6. Losing the baby weight takes longer than you'd expect. Maybe I was being naïve thinking that I'd be back in all of my old clothes within 3 months of giving birth! The very wise Claire Lancaster recently told me her mantra – 9 months on, 9 months off and I think we should all be prepared for it to take that long.

  7. I think its common knowledge that when you get pregnant, part of the pregnant 'glow' comes from shiny hair and gorgeous healthy long fingernails. I loved that part of pregnancy! However, I never stopped to think about when this would end. I was overjoyed that the healthy hair and nails didn't seem to disappear straight after the birth and had got used to it. Earlier this month I finally gave up breastfeeding and within a week my fingernails had started to break off. Within two weeks, every single one of them had broken. Damn it! Here's hoping I at least keep my hair in!

  8. Teething seems to last for ever! I'd been prepared for a few days here and there of grumpy baby syndrome due to teething but I was never prepared for it to last for days, or even weeks on end for what seems like eternity. I think I still have months, if not years of this ahead of me. Oh good.

  9. One of the best pieces of advice I had before the birth was to pack my freezer full of home cooked meals that we could turn to during those early weeks when you're too tired to cook. If you follow my twitterings you'll know that I'm a big curry fan so I put aside a whole load of different foods, curries of all sorts and a few less spicy, but equally flavoursome offerings. The trouble is, onions and breastfeeding don't get on very well! Lara had a very upset tummy and struggled with wind during her first 6 weeks. My Mum suggested it could be my diet. We cut out the onions and hey presto, the wind went away. So, next time I am preparing for childbirth, I shall remember to fill my freezer with onion-free meals.

  10. Brain Rot. Its not a myth, mums-to-be and new mums do suffer from mummy-brain! In the weeks following the birth, I honestly felt like my brain had turned to cheese. It is sooooo frustrating to get up, walk half way across the room and then realise that you have NO idea (none whatsoever) why you stood up. I was often surprised at how useless my brain - specifically my memory - had become. I think my turning point was when I went to work at 4 months in for my Keeping In Touch days. It was good for my brain to get the exercise and to get back to doing what its good at – solving complex technical problems. If you're suffering from mummy brain, don't worry, it does get better (although I'm told by my Mum that it never quite gets back to normal!) and for now... live for the list!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Staying Mellow – The Swine Flu Jab

Having read all the comments over at Yummy Mummy No1 I thought I'd tell you all about the reasons why I volunteered my baby girl for her swine flu jab before she even received an invite for it.

Lara is 7 months old. To the best of our knowledge, she is a healthy, well-fed baby with little to fear from a common cold or a minor tummy upset. She has coped incredibly well with all of her previous injections and I never had any reason to question the recommended immunisations she was given in her first few months.

Now that Lara spends 4 days a week with childminders, she is surrounded by lots of different children from different schools and playgroups, greatly increasing her chance of exposure to the virus. And, given that young children are considered a high risk group for contracting the swine flu virus, I see it as my responsibility to protect her from it. If someone offered her the seasonal flu jab (which has been used safely and successfully for a number of years now, admittedly not normally on infants), I'd take it.

I had no fears about taking her for the swine flu jab. I remain mellow about these things – if the NHS advice is to give her the jab, then who am I to question it? I know they've made mistakes in the past but medical science has moved on, we can be more certain about the steps they take these days. I'm not qualified to question the NHS's decision to vaccinate the over 6 months to the under 5s. All I know is that if I weren't to give Lara the jab, and that if she were to catch swine flu, the people I would turn to in order to help her fight it, perhaps even to save her life would be... you guessed it, the self same NHS. So, if I trust them to cure her, then it naturally follows that I trust them to protect her too.

Before Lara had the jab, I came across three other infants who had received the vaccination, all of whom had suffered from vomiting the evening after, achy limbs the day after, or a bit of general grumpiness. None of these things surprised me, and none were enough to put me off taking Lara for her appointment.

Lara had the jab on Wednesday, was grumpy with a bit of a temperature that evening but was right as rain again by the morning. No sign of a sore leg and no other symptoms. She has been a little madam ever since, but I put that down to two very sore teeth trying to peek through, and the fact that she has developed an 'attitude' since this time last week.

If you want to find out more about the swine flu vaccination programme, read the FAQs at NHS Choices.
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