Friday, 26 August 2011

A little blip along the way

I have just got back from hospital an there is so much to say - I am going to rant first and then go back to tell you about my really positive experience of the hospital an Cesarean later. First I need to let off steam! I am sitting hear with cracked nipples and engorged breasts because I was not listened to until I registered on their system and then I was bullied into taking extreme action.

Beanie was born and was perfect! Despite being a Cesarean within 35 minutes of birth he had latched on perfectly and the transition from bump to bond was seamless. The downside to the Cesarean was that I know that he was not ready to be born and the vital body signals had not been fired. I remember the pattern with the Pickle - she latched on perfectly after birth but she would suck constantly and leave the breast furious, with angry tears. One night when she refused to settle a nursery nurse checked her out an saw the tell tale sign of urates (tiny salmon coloured crystals) and suggested that she was dehydrated as my milk had not come in and I should top up the breast feeding with a little formula. I tried expressing a little milk and sure enough there was nothing there - so the next 24 hours I breastfed and topped up with formula until my milk came in. It was hideous seeing her in thay way and despite wanting to avoid formula it seemed a reasonable price to pay to restore her good health. The Pickle then went from strength to strength and breastfed happily from there on in an I never saw her in such distress again.

Needless to say I remembered this  vividly as dehydrating my daughter was distressing to say the least. I could tell that I was going down the same path with Beanie. My breasts seem to know no half measures, they are barren then they miraculously gush! I flagged this up to the midwife and we gave him 5ml of formula then she dismissed further top ups as unwise - writing it up in my notes as a bad idea of mine. At the same time Beanie started to do rather spectacular mucus pukes, not little delicate possets but full on vomits. The midwife actually congratulated me saying that as a c-section baby it was great to see him bring up all the mucus that he could not expel while in the course of a natural delivery. I was changing him and his sheets continuously. Then to a final blow to the little Bean the sun came up over the building adjacent and started to bake our room.

I did not really think much about the overall impact of these factors as I had expressed my concerns and the professionals had allayed my fears. Anyway, at this stage my milk came in so I knew that Beanie would soon be as right as rain. All the focus seemed to be on me an my blood pressure the was slowly coming back down. Finally, on day four I was well enough to be released! hooray! One last formality was to weigh the Bean and I could be back home - simple? That was where the nightmare began!

He had lost 12% of his birth weight and that set off all the alarm bells! I was a bad Mum - Beanie had to be assessed at the specialist unit with blood tests and all sorts of prodding and poking.  He was both mildly jaundiced and dehydrated - erm, what had I been saying? That was just the start of the journey and the nursery nurses were delighted to be in control - as I was obviously failling.

The remedial routine was specific and it made Gina Ford look mild:
- breastfeed for no longer than 15 minutes (it was never explained why any longer would be detrimental)
- top up with 40ml expressed milk - as bottle fed milk feeds the mouth further back than breast milk so is better for babies. (later this particular fact was contradicted by everybody as being just daft)
- change him and play with him for the rest of the hour - but not over the hour that started with the 15mins of breastfeeding.
- put him down in the cot for exactly three hours for sleep. Any form of contact: cuddles etc will disrupt the benefits of the pure rest required. (This seemed at odds with all the posters they had advocating skin to skin contact and 'kangaroo' care.)

Just to prove that she was human and in touch she talked about her sister, having given birth six weeks previously. When I started to cry (it was on the notorious 3rd day after birth, when hormones would unsettle a cart horse) she explained how her sister was often in tears 'not that she has post natal depression or anything.' Is she so sure? I got the impression that she was saying that because her sister was not the kind of person to get post natal depression. Either way I was concerned that a professional dismissed so casually a condition that effects around 10% of mothers who have recently given birth and is still often subject to stigma.

Anyway I expressed 30ml in no time then prepared to start the regime. I breastfed (I forgot to set the stop watch) bottle fed the expressed milk, played and changed ready for the enforced sleep. Needless to say Beanie was not impressed and started to howl - so eventually to calm him down I fed him a little more and had a little more play. As a three day old baby I did not want to ruin the bond that I had forged with him on the basis of a concept that seemed a little extreme based on just his weight loss. A new Nursery Nurse had taken over and she came in to insult consult me, and say that she would be spying on looking after me, after an hour of rest in his crib he had woken, was ready for a feed and starting to let rip. The nurse was adamant that in order to help Beanie I must follow the routine, but that I could not breastfeed until I had the next lot of expressed milk on stand by.

Hold on, I had been running myself ragged getting into their routine - in little over an hour I had expressed my first batch and breastfed but not started to stock up supplies of milk for future use. The atmosphere was somewhere between glacial and police state. It was clear they felt I had failed and they were doing their best to save my baby. To make it clear she pressed her views home saying "You should have planned properly in advance" letting me know that it was my failure that was the issue. This condemnation was being played out to the strains of Beanie's hungry cries.The Hubster had taken Pickle for a walk and so it was left to my Mum to hold Beanie while I was trying to reason with the nurse and for her to offer fierce moral support.

Then the Doctor came in - and so did the rationale. With the words "there seems to have been a misunderstanding" my life started to take shape again. Gone were the proscriptive rules - and clarity was restored. Beanie needed feeding at least every 4 hours - the 4 hour gap just allows Mums some time to recover and sleep through the night and not get ground down and ill. Each feed period should be topped up by expressed milk just so we could guarantee that Beanie was getting the quantity. Apart from that there were no hard and fast rules.

Come shift change who should appear but the lovely Margaret who had been so amazing with the Pickle. I told her our story and she decided to help again. To give me the maximum sleep she woke me up at feed time during the night with bringing the last lot of expressed milk, then later when ready picked up the next lot milk for the fridge before letting me sleep again. She then suggested that she could weigh the Bean secretly before her shift ended - and if the weight gain was significant she would get me discharged that day. I felt that I was feeding up a veal calf - relentlessly forcing milk into the mouth of a newborn. I wanted Beanie well and at home where I could listen to his needs and respond to him rather than waiting for him to hit or miss standardised targets. Don't get me wrong, I respect the Doctors and think that everybody at the hospital were genuinely doing their best for both me and Beanie and that most of them were well informed and professional - just there is (as the saying goes) no place like home!

By the next morning Beanie had put on 200g and was less then 10% under his birth weight - and ready to leave the hospital for the first time. Home sweet home!

The most important thing is that Beanie is well and was never in danger. As a Mum the wellfare of my children is paramount and any personal discomfort is irrelevant compared with the importance of their health.  I am cross that my concerns were ignored until they suddenly they registered on a measurement that they accepted and then I was made to feel at fault. i was given contradictory advice, and had I not queried it I am concerned as to the impact it would have had. I was left with excruciatingly painful cracked nipples from the expressing and the temporary enforced catch up milk production left me with painful cannon ball boobs that looked more pneumatic Babewatch than human as they stretched to accommodate the extra milk. But three days on I can feed without screeching in pain, Beanie is eating his fill and his nappies indicate all is well. I predict a happy future!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

But I wanted a home birth...

I'm a natural kind of a girl - much as I love aesthetic form and function (well, handbags, shoes and Space NK) my philosophy is more trees and skies than pounds, dollars and conformity. When I was pregnant with the Pickle I had visions of a hypnobirthing home birth - and then I got pre-eclampsia and my body started to pack up and my choices became limited and to secure the health of me and the Pickle I had to have an emergency Cesarean.

This time around I was hoping to avoid the medical interventions. I was healthy and avoided stress and everything seemed to be going so well. The consultant gave me a reprieve and rather than the Cesarean at 40 weeks as threatened she was happy for me to try for a natural birth up to 42 weeks.

I am really aware that I have free will and can challenge the medical opinions and have a say in my treatment. I have spent much time unpacking some of their statements that initially could have cowed me into submission "Beyond the age of 40 the statistics of having a stillborn child are hugely increased if you go beyond term" or "After 42 weeks the risk of still birth is doubled". These quotes will send a chill down the spine of any Mum - but analyse the data and you can read that general in the UK, the risk of stillbirth is about 1 per 3000 pregnancies at 39 weeks, 4 per 3000 at 42 weeks and 8 per 3000 at 43 weeks - which while significant is the figures are not paranoia inducing.

However, despite my long held wish for a natural birth I am preparing for an elective Cesarean tomorrow. I have analysed the statistics, I am aware of my age, my history of pre-eclampsia and the fact I now have issues with rising blood pressure and the fact that it took us 5 years to conceive and then only with the assistance of clomed and a hormone jab. Already I have a miracle baby living in my womb, I am his Mum and I think that on balance at 41 weeks and 6 days that Cesarean is our collective best option for a positive outcome.

Rationally I know that I am doing the right thing, but I still have emotional reservations. I feel a failure that despite two attempts I can not deliver in the way that evolution intended; does that make me less of a woman - a failure. Will my milk come in and will we bond? Cesarean Mums are much more likely to suffer from post natal depression. After five years of focused attention suddenly the Pickle will not only have to share me with a brother but I will be sleep deprived and recovering from a major operation that will have cut through many layers of fundamental muscles. You see, I have a few issues over this course of action. I could refute each of my problems one by one - I know that they are not rational or I have put in place wonderful remedies, but I need to acknowledge these things so that I can move on.

I have also had many angels! I went into my final ECG monitoring today and had a long chat with the midwife. She did a final attempt at a Stretch and Sweep but my cervix was not just closed but almost welded close - unlikely that without the section we would have any movement fast. Forget the sweep though, this midwife was everything you could hope for. She, herself, had ended up having a Cesarean for each of her two children, and talked of the emotional impact, saying how rarely it is acknowledged. She talked about giving myself time to grieve for the changing course of my delivery and methods for dealing with post natal depression.

As I was wondering out of the hospital and I saw the head of the unit going into work, still off duty, and I stopped to say how amazing I found her team; regardless of being off duty we stopped and chatted and she gave me loads of advice on how to benefit from the Hubster's private health insurance (despite being firmly in the NHS, and yes I do love the NHS).

My second angel was, naturally, the Pickle. When I got back from the hospital she had made me a card. "To Mummy and Beanie Love Pickle. I hope when Beanie is born it does not hurt. ...I am am a little fairy I like to sing." That got the tears going! We then went upstairs and packed my hospital bags together, spending an hour or so just chatting and packing and calming each others anxieties with questions and reassurance.

When I was packed I had just the time to pick up an old friend from the station. This really was an angel - it was a friend who I knew from when I lived in Paris twenty years ago and she was in the country for a few days, on route to Portugal from her native San Fransisco. We all headed out for a chilled out afternoon of Ethiopian food and long chats. Just what you need the day before an operation!

Then Twitter has also been amazing. T-J from Bras for Mums sent me the most amazing link from You Tube about Natural Cesareans Okay I could not watch it in full, but it was great to have an alternative perspective. In in her 'Simpley Hayley' blog Hayley wrote so eruditely about The Planned C Section - which was amazing to read, an honest blow by blow account of the whole procedure.

So at 10.30am tomorrow I go under the surgeons knife - think of me. I am the lucky person with the angels looking out for me. Thank you! xx

Friday, 12 August 2011

Shh - just don't speak about it

 This post has been a while in the planning - and with my most emotional writing  I need to press 'Publish' before I think of a million reasons to delete or refine it out of existence. Back in June in my post Confessional or slander? mentioned some bloggers who have inspired me to write about this subject, they have finally prompted me to take my first step to blog about this subject. I hope that you enjoy the read.

Motherhood should be natural, easy and wonderful. It should be a coming together of generations and a way to celebrate the continuity of family and love. I say that it should....When Pickle was born I was besotted by her, I could watch her for hours, just marvelling at her perfection. We bonded, she latched on and everything seemed to be perfect. I remember the forms that the health visitor got me to fill out about my emotions and I ticked all the happy boxes and felt like the perfect new Mum.

Time went by and life was not that simple. I was living first with my step son then my step daughter (both recently out of University)  who took the news of a younger sibling as an invitation to have emotional meltdown, and I was to be the lightning conductor of their bile. On the surface things were fine and they were always superficially normal, but their was a strange and unsettling atmosphere in the home that made life poisonous. I longed for the happy family I had never experienced, but I was still high on euphoria of what I had - and that was an amazing daughter and husband I adored.

Little by little my facade started to crack. Work was shit (I even had to consult a lawyer) and the Pickle was not a great sleeper. I realised that things were not perfection, despite waking up feeling happy and loved, in unguarded moments I just found myself crying. I was functioning well, I was not acting out of character and it was not impeding my ability to be a wife and mother but I knew that something was amiss.

I went to the Doctor and asked for help - and left with the possible offer for a prescription if I pushed it further and an A4 print out of possible sources of help from the Samaritans to unaffordable therapy. I binned the flyer and dug deep in myself and found reserves and solutions to keep on going.

Shall I introduce you to my inner self? I am quite amazing! For over 20 years I have been assembling the jigsaw of my psyche. Most of my tools have been common sense, meditation and New Age philosophies - and most importantly a sunny disposition and an amazing ability to listen and see things from many perspectives. I have put in thought and effort into making myself a well functioning adult who can have mutually supportive relationships with friends and a couple of long term lovers (and when I found Mr.Right I had the sense to settle down with him). However I am also self aware enough to realise that life has been complicated and my emotional foundations could be a little shaky!

Motherhood affects us all differently, some of us have excellent role models and others of us are careful not to repeat dysfunctional patterns. I love my Mum, she has always done her best, but motherhood just is not her thing. There is a saying that the child of lovers is an orphan and my Mum's love for my father obliterated her bond for her children to the extent to which I remember asking my Nanny who the kind people were giving us such nice presents on Christmas day before they disappeared for their adult lunch: they were my parents! My hands on approach to motherhood could not have been more different to my mother's,  immersing myself the love the Pickle and my family was the richest reward.

I think that my emotional status quo would have been maintained, but sometimes life prompts you to take action. I read Oliver James' They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life - and it started me to question not only myself but more importantly myself as a mother. He advocates that everyone should do an emotion stock check of their lives and work out what messages their upbringing has enforced on their lives. There was one thing feeling a little weepy at times but the knowledge that inadvertently be passing on negative behavioural patterns to the Pickle was of real deep concern to me.

In spite of having drifted away from my New Age philosophies of old, feeling slightly amused by some of the platitudes and fluffiness of their certainties there were some common threads that I could see. Even James discussed how some elements of the theories were gaining scientific credence. Armed with  the fruits of my past soul searching and the tool kit described in the book I saw that this was an area that demanded closer scrutiny. I read other books, including the excellent Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain by Sue Gerhardt and started a re-examination of my life, the messages that informed who I was and how I act and those messages that I could be passing on.

The past 18 months have been revelatory, my understanding of myself and family relations have been transformed. The thread of my relationship with my mother has been woven through many posts in this blog - and maybe that could have been both the effort and rewards of my battle with delayed post natal depression. Maybe...but in reality it has been a stepping stone. It has taken me several seasons to find the words to describe the start of the journey - time for me to take a deep breath and hope that I can return with the next chapter in this particular journey.

Monday, 1 August 2011

5th Birthday Celebrations

Don't you hate it when you start to sound like your parents, but I'll inflict my first thoughts on you regardless. Where have five years gone? ....This weekend the Pickle was the grand old age of FIVE.

She loves her parties, she starts to plan one from the moment she has said goodbye to her last friend. My aim is to keep the parties as simple and innocent for as long as possible. Maybe I am just nostalgic for my parties - actually, it must be in part the reason as we had to have Iced Gems to make the party complete, a must for all 1970's children's parties!

We always start with a simple craft activity as this is a good way to get even the shy ones involved. In keeping with the Princess and Pirates theme that was demanded I customised the party hats with a little net - and they loved them - well, most of the girls did. I was delighted that one really cool girl made a pirate hat - just as well the boys ignored the craft activities altogether.

We had a few of the standard games - all running smoothly. Have I mentioned that the Hubster's family are something special? Well at 8 1/2 months pregnant they came to the rescue. I had a blissful sit down when the Hubster, assisted by his team of sisters and nieces ran around playing pass the parcel and making sandwiches, fruit salads and all manner of goodies. After tea came our speciality - the treasure hunt - you have to work for your party bag here.

This year we had a treasure map and each number hid a clue. They had to work out the clue, find the destination, then (in case it was too easy) find a decorated Post It note hidden somewhere to win their prizes. This is very much a group activity - as you can see from the Hubster being mobbed!

It must have been quite successful, one little Pirate has since told me that he wants to marry me when he grows up!

What did I learn this time around?
I still love the toy library for a few big garden toys
I love my sisters in law even more - and the Hubster is the best.
As well planned as you can make it it is still a sod of a lot of work
Sandwiches take forever, but less time if you take the butter out of the fridge in advance!
The cake was fun to make, but I should have turned it upside down to have a flat top and then the Castle towers may not have slid off until I rammed them upright with some cocktail sticks.
Bribing parents to stay with wine and extra pastries is a very cunning plan!
I thoroughly recommend having a party at 8 1/2 months pregnant - everybody helps and who, would have guess it, with a history of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure, at my next check up 2 days later my blood pressure had come down.
Yes, I am really yearning that first long glass of wine!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Three cheers for Robert Plant - Picks Disease is sh*t

I just read how Robert Plant plays a community hall gig. So, a mega star plays a tiny gig - why is that enough to rouse me from my nesting malaise to blog again? It was not so much the gig as the cause he did it for. He was raising funds for Picks Disease.

It is not often that you read about Picks Disease - so it jolted me a little, seeing it written about when I have not really thought about it for so long. The shadow of this disease has fallen over so many of my life's great events, in the way that the absence of a parent can. My Dad's death was bad, but the illness that preceded almost defines heartbreak for me.

Seeing a man transformed, humbled and dehumanised as an illness insidiously took away all that made him great, then robbed him of his life. I say insidious as it was hard to say when the illness first started to take a hold. He was always an individual, a free thinker with a bit of a speech impediment - and the illness seemed to exacerbate these attributes until they became to define him - rather than his charm, wisdom and kindness. Instead of having a speech impediment he became incapable of communicating with those outside the immediate family as his grasp of language evaporated; a gentle disregard for convention over time became erratic behaviour and eventually he was at the mercy of a, sometimes, violent conviction that his needs must be met (think of a toddler with super human strength).

Picks Disease is a form of frontotemporal dementia - hands up anyone who knows that means? The likelihood is that if you are not involved with the medical profession or have first hand experience you will have no idea what it involves. The truth is to the outsider the illness outwardly resembles a mental illness - a broken leg elicits sympathy, mental illness normally prompts concern and fear. Friends found it difficult to cope - although those that owned up to their incomprehension and fear are the ones that I respected, rather than those who chose to judge and even criticise.

His illness was beyond distressing - it is a little known disease and we had no way of understanding it or predicting how it would progress. For many years we stumbled on, seeing all aspects of his character and everything that made him human dissolve until one day when I was sitting with him his finally forgot how to breath and he slipped out of this world. Someone said that it is a great comfort to be with a loved one when they die, but I disagree. However, I found it almost impossible to leave the room until the Doctor arrived an hour or so later in case even then I was letting him down on his final journey.

Even in mourning the illness dictates your actions. The first great step was to remember the man before the illness - the stacks of letters we received was a great help with that. It took years before we could look back and think of the amazing man he once was, unclouded my memories of illness - even longer before we had the strength to see him as a human with all his attributes good and bad. He was amazing and he was human and Picks Disease robbed him of all this and kidnapped our memories was we struggled to cope with the devastation of this illness.

I hope that by Robert Plant in some way raising the awareness of this disease, helping families get support and advice to deal with this - support that was so lacking when we were trying to cope.

[Sorry, I'm going to press publish before I edit this post out of existence. He died in 2002 but it still feels very raw trying to write about it]

Monday, 11 July 2011

Individual Preparation

Two friends have asked about what to buy to prepare for a baby - I even collated a Baby Preparation List from many on-line versions and annotated it. But lists are one thing, but what is the real gossip and personal insight? Well once I started a survey about the most useless piece of equipment and, by contrast, what was the best bit of kit bought and somewhat surprisingly the same products appeared on both lists.

There are some universal tips that I would offer like always have a tea towel or cloth in your buggy as you never know when you have something to mop up at a cafe or in the playground (think swings or slides) and buy a hand bag insert (the type being marketed at at non-Mums who may have more than one handbag) this can really help keep the snacks, wipes, crayons and kiddie paraphernalia separate, handy if you are going back to work and want to appear professional.

So much depends on what type of parent you are. The most expensive item you will probably buy is the push chair. I know so many Mums, including myself, who have ended up by buying a second when they realise what a duff choice they made first time around. A pushchair is not just a pushchair to some but a status symbol that can put your car to shame, I discovered this listening to the appropriately named iCandy Mums at the school gate. There are websites dedicated to bringing you the latest on which celebrity has been spotted with which buggy. Likewise Bugaboo have the most loyal of all owners, and they certainly do offer flexibility and functionality and the choice of endless optional accessories (summer and winter linings anyone?). Why did some of us get it so wrong first time around, well for one friend needed an off road stroller as she became an ardent walker when she became a Mum, others have baby number two so quickly that they need a double buggy almost immediately. Me? As a Mum I wanted something that was light and highly collapsible and reasonably ethical as out favourite outings were into London to see the latest exhibition so I needed something that I could pick up in one one had while I popped the Pickle into sling adjacent to my bag and get onto trains, buses and tubes. To augment the pushchair I found a decent sling is really important and to my surprise a baby carrying backpack. I would never have bought a backpack, but we were given one and it was fabulous for family days out; it had the space for all manner of random 'stuff' and snacks in the capacious pockets.

Sleep? What is your attitude to sleep? Some parenting books advocate black out blinds - if so rush out and buy - I lined the Pickle's curtains with black out material but in reality we were never rigid about adhering to darkness and silence. Now Pickle is the perfect party girl, comes anywhere with us and when she is tired she drops off regardless of light and noise.

Bathing? The Hubster asked me if we even had a baby bath - and the answer was no. This highlights how personal decisions are; when pregnant I had been to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Copenhagen and seen a display about how the design group Normann came up with the final design for their silicon washing up bowl and so guess what I bought for a baby bath? Yup, a designer washing up bowl that worked perfectly and has not gone to waste when she grew too big and shared a bath with me.

Not only are buying decisions personal, but they are subject to irrational prejudice. Dummies are recommended by FSID and other highly credible sources, but somehow I could never bring myself to buy one. I know some Mums who find the idea of second hand or hand me downs as just not right  where some Mums swear by eBay and Freecycle. We were lucky that we have an excellent toy library nearby - so I could test before I bought; I discovered that the Pickle never got on with Activity Centres (and it was not a very stylish coffee table) and as Bumbos seem to be indispensable for a whole six weeks of development time it was great to borrow one for just that period (any other uses you can think of for a piece of molded plastic? a primary coloured plant pot?).

Few Mums know ahead of the birth if they will be able to breast feed. Fortunately the Pickle was a natural feeder and so I am really glad that I did not invest in bottles - in the same way that buying an expressing machine in advance would be a waste if your babe will not latch on. It also effects what baby bag you buy. Often change bags vary from other bags just by having a removable changing mat and have insulated pockets for bottles. I had a funky little changing mat that included pockets for nappies, wipes etc that could transfer from bag to bag and I just had to go out and buy myself a capacious leather bag that is still serving me well with the Pickle aged almost five.

I economised on not buying much that was disposable and used my initiative to avoid buying many gadgets. Did I ultimately save? No way, when I bought I tended to buy organic and I enjoyed serious retail therapy when it came to dressing my little doll darling and always made sure that we had plenty of books and arts materials rather than waiting for birthdays and Christmas. Birthdays, Christmas and Pocket money...that is a whole different debate!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Confessional or Slander?

What do you write about on your blog? Mine is all about family life - but equally there are still things that I hold from discussing. So many bloggers state that blogging is a form of therapy. There is even an option to Blogonymous if what we have to say is too personal to be done from an acknowledged site. However, I was really stunned by Family Affairs post on Freedom of Speech, which has inspired this musing.

Please read the Family Affairs post and offer support if you have the time.  Her ex is threatening to withdraw support if she continues to blog about their marital breakdown - which seems pretty blimin awful. There are laws governing slander and defamation, but aside from things getting legal there must be a case for being allowed to be subjective - or to put it another way an argument always has two sides.

Still I got a shiver of dread when my Aunt showed an interest in my blog, as my Mum does not normally get mentioned in the most glowing of terms. The Mumster would be upset if she saw what I wrote, but I do try to be balanced and write about my response to her actions rather than take a condemning look at her personally. Still, should I write about her at all, if it is not positive. You know the maxim, 'If you don't have anything nice, don't say anything at all'. But then, my views have validity on my own blog too, so I continue to write.

Then are there some subjects that are just too sensitive or too embarrassing? I guess everyone has their own 'blog identity' that dictates how personal their posts are. Some relationships may just be too sensitive discuss in public, but how about issues. I have tried to be very open about my miscarriages and subsequent struggles to conceive as I believe that silence on the subject only served to reinforce the isolation you feel when afflicted.

Many Mums suffer from post natal depression and motherhood can open up cracks that we have successfully papered over when we have got on with our careers and made great home lives.  Some of the bloggers I most respect have written about their own struggles to combat their emotional concerns; do their posts make me think that they are weak or otherwise less worthy? Far from it! I respect their courage, strength and integrity. I love reading The Moiderer and Sleep if for the Weak. I also have huge respect for the writing and campaigning on Speaking Up - their badge has appeared on many respected blogs further bringing issues around mental health and well being to a wider audience.

I guess it is good to consider what and why we write. I really agree with Family Affairs that her ex should not bully her into stop writing about her own life from her perspective. But personally, there are still a few relationships and issues about which I am just trying to work out what I really want to say and how to find the words to write about it. I hope that in time I can find words and the style to address these remaining issues so that I can find renewed insight and possibly,  hopefully, help somebody else who may be wrestling with similar issues.

I'm Cross

I had the most  perfect weekend with extended family. The Pickle was on amazing form, so I had that smug Mum glow. How can your heart not melt she is so cute? She was playing happily when she asked Grandma to help and when Grandma admitted defeat saying that she was stupid Pickle comforted her saying, 'Grandma you are not stupid, you are good at lots of other things.'

So that is why I am so cross! Three of us in the close family (one honorary family) are pregnant and we were chatting about excitement and plans. It just occurred to me this morning that all plans seem to be eased by helpful Mums. I thought about it when I was doing my duty and trying to call my Mum for a chat - as she would rarely pick up the phone to me. Why have I had not had one offer of help from her around Beanie's birth? I was in hospital for 10 days over the Pickle's slightly traumatic arrival. I don't even know when and if she will bother to visit.

I normally rationalise that it is her loss. Besides, if she was around she would be more of a liability and the Pickle is not really comfortable with her. But, still I am cross, upset and pissed off. There are tonnes of us with crap Mums, and we can't blame any fault in our lives on them (well, I can't she has never been actively malicious) - it would be so good to have a Mum who is a support rather than a continual disappointment.

How would she feel reading this? For a start, she would not, unless it is printed in full in the Daily Mail or Telegraph she thinks that writing is a total waste of time. But imagine she did come across it, she would be devastated and that would be crap; as I said, she does her best and is not actively nasty, she is just either - at best - blinkered or at worst selfish. I'm seven months pregnant and emotional and I feel quite justified in feeling upset and cross!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


This blog is straight off the cuff - my preggy balance has gone awry and I managed to fall in a stream yesterday. It was more comedy than harm but it somewhat threw my day! At least the river was muddy as I waddled back home otherwise rather than looking like the abominable mud madam I would just have looked as if my waters had broken. But then again, since when did I really care about what I looked like? Anyway, back to The Gallery and Dads and my instant response to a great title.

Hubster, you are a great Dad. Two reasons, firstly because you love it and secondly because you look up to the perfect role model in your own Dad. You play the same silly games as he did, and view being a Dad as an active and important role rather than one where the main duty is fulfilled at conception.

But, ultimately parenting is about partnership. My in-laws had a successful 60 year marriage during which they brought up five wonderful and independent children. As Mum and Dad they have their own approach, but they stood together and reinforced the values and behaviour that they believed in. Equally neither of mine had a clue, too happy with each other to allow parenthood to intrude - if one had been interested maybe things could have been different; but we muddled by and the house at least was filled with love not conflict.

Yesterday morning the Pickle had a turn, normally it is me who has to deal with it, but instead the Hubster was on hand and I watched as he 'put his foot down'. It was almost like looking in the mirror: no messing, no shouting just the promised follow through. We have different approaches to life but in parenting our approach is almost scarily identical. Poor Pickle, no chance of trading us off against each other - is that emotional abuse, or consistent parenting I wonder?

Not all marriages survive - but that does not mean that parenting inevitably stops being a partnership game, or equally that the sole carer will do any the worse job than two parents together, it just makes it tougher. The Hubster has two children by a previous marriage (over for more than a decade before I turned up - and yes, he is that old) and seeing this dynamic can be heart wrenching. My step children adore their Dad and are in constant contact, but seeing their approach to emotional issues it is clear that there is some form of short-circuit in there. As happy as we are, there will always be residual heartbreak that we are at heart a somewhat dysfunctional family.

However, what we have, living at chaos cottage on a daily basis, is all about contentment. A fantastic Dad and Hubster, me, the Pickle, the Manic dog, fluffmonster cat and chookies. I know that everything I do is informed by the support of the Hubster, and he has made the most active decision to be there and be caring - and that means everything to us. We are a fabulous team - and three cheers to our team leader, the Hubster! xxx

Monday, 13 June 2011


So pleased to see Josie back on her feet again and the writing workshop back in operation again. I have missed it! Click on the link below to find out more about it.

There seems to be a running correlation between contentment and the comfort of my shoes. I teetered my way through my twenties in a succession of diva shoes and pairs of fabulous boots, from one party to another cultural opening, holidaying across the world in any number of glamorous destinations, always just before the destination became known as trendy. Days were spent dashing from meeting to meeting, both at home and abroad, evenings merged into nights as we drank and smoked our way to dawn sorting out the worries of the world and disentangling our complicated loved lives.

It was exciting and never dull, but was I content? No. A fantastic phase to have live through, but we need to fast forward in my life to find contentment.

Next pair of shoes are my Ethletic trainers. Fair trade, organic and generally really quite cool. The trainers see me settling into my new married life in Reading, discovering new interests and meeting new people. I have given up city life for a dilapidated cottage, garden and long walks and I love it! I still pop into London for culture and old friends, but I always return to my cottage sanctuary. Content? Yes, I have find my niche.

Roll on a few more years, and I am heavily pregnant and the Pickle has just started at school. The glamour has evaporated and the high heals have been thoroughly relegated to the back of the cupboard and out come the old trainers with Velcro fasteners. I don't really care what my shoes look like, so long as I can get them on comfortably as I am fast loosing sight of my toes. With these trainers I can keep on going and enjoy my walks with the dog and relish the constantly evolving progress of spring into summer.

I don't have the high life but I do have complete happiness. Beanie the bump wakes me first with his loving kicks, then a little later I hear a bump, crash, crash, crash and Cousin It appears. She clambers into bed, and I stroke away her hair to uncover the Pickle. I slowly come around from sleep in a full family cuddle: Hubster, Pickle, Beanie and I. Content? Blissfully!

I don't need glamour, excitement and beautiful shoes to feel content. I feel as if life has a Sarah shaped hole just there ready to welcome me.

Is contentment all about selling out on style? No, it is about realising that life is about more than just the highlights. The French talk about 'feeling good in your skin' well, for me it is more about feeling good in my own shoes. Well, comfort and contentment can also be infused with a little glamour and humour. After all, look at my slippers.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Why I am a Mum orientated Lactivist

Isn't it funny how a few comments can make you aware of your own prejudices. I was chatting to  young family member and suddenly he just clobbered me with a few really daft comments. I knew then how much I cared.

We were talking about his impending fatherhood and breastfeeding came up as a subject. He said that, obviously breast is best, but he did not want to see the Mum with 'droopy baps' (I quote) and besides neither he, nor his 3 siblings, were breastfed and they turned out okay. I almost spluttered that maybe if he had been breastfed he may have had some more sense - but I resisted.

Breast is best - there is no doubt about that. It protects both Mum and babe, it is free, no need to sterilise equipment and it is on there on tap. I appreciate this is tempered by the fact that I never had any difficulty with breast feeding and despite being a well endowed old bird (41) my 'baps' are still remarkably pert despite gravity and extended feeding (although I gave up publicly at a year).

I know though that breastfeeding is an emotive issue. For non parents it can be a taboo, there is little reason to form an opinion on breastfeeding until you have a baby, and in our culture breasts are either very private or highly sexualised.  I breastfed where ever I needed to, but always managed to find a quite area and used either a scarf or a sling to give us privacy and discretion . To be honest though, I have never too worried about the opinions of complete strangers but I do not impose my values.

I also care deeply about what Mums have to go through. One friend started to worry about feeding while still pregnant, having heard about the traumas that it may possibly cause, and another talks about sitting at a breast feeding clinic in a local church biting on a bit of rope as a way to try and combat the pain. Breast may be best for all concerned, but not at the expense of the vital bonding experience if it is going to cause undue stress.

That makes me think of another attitude that has failed to impress me: if a Dad gives baby a bottle it helps him bond, therefore, formula is better. Is feeding the only way that you can bond? The Hubster found his niche with burping (in this case winding the Pickle, no comment on his manners) - something he could excel at and a role that was very much his. This task was every bit as important as feeding and as he cuddled and stroked to relieve the wind he could bond over burping (seemed appropriate) and I could breast feeding secure in the knowledge that it was a win:win situation.

Is a Mum a better parent because she can breast feed? Certainly not - although being able to have milk on tap for the night time feed without having to get up and make up the formula certainly helped my energy levels. A good parent is one who takes the time to find sort the real facts from myths, suppositions and scare stories, who is prepared to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and is strong enough to seek help or advice when needed. While breast is best, if despite best informed efforts it is still not working I can't believe that any Mum should suffer and should gladly, and without guilt, find the best formula for their baby (I do have a prejudice here, I can't work out a good reason to use a Nestle formula but that is a whole different story).

I hate the way breast feeding has become a political issue, it deeply annoys me that the Daily Mail writes with glee about how 'Feminazis' are terrorising Mums into breastfeeding and that standing up to 'pro-breastfeeding propaganda' is a virtue. Bollocks, why polarise the debate along political lines? A Tory has the right to breast-feed as much as a socialist can use formula. Also feminism is a debate that can discuss and inform all areas of life, and there is a huge potential for feminist debate around the subject of objectification of the breasts (or as my young relative would put it, about what are baps are there for). However we should be able to consider breast feeding on the basis of the pros and cons the health and relationship attributes for Mum and Babe without becoming dragged into this tangential debate.

Do I hold a wishy washy belief? No, for me it is about balance and, if well informed, Mums can make up their own individual decisions, because when it comes to their child they really can know best! Can I be a lactivist who supports a Mum's decision to bottle feed? I don't care if I am allowed but that is my decision and I will stick by it!

Further Reading

Here is a starting point for help for breast feeding La Leche League offer great support as does the NCT through their website and a network of local councillors the NHS also actively supports it.

Here is an alternative view that this blog elicited from Delighting in the Detail aka @Sunflower26
This is a great post too from the perspective of one Mum who has a babe with food sensitivities Sisters n Cloth - Breastfeeding a baby with food sensitivities
Here are loads of links from Baby Friendly News on breastfeeding (which even has a link back here)

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Funny Engagement

I seem to have spent many years avoiding marriage - it is an old fashioned institution and, in the age of divorce, hypocritical. I finally broke of with my ex after he gave me an ultimatum after years of proposals: marry or split. I was independent, had my own income and debts and I lacked for nothing (well, maybe a few more pairs of shoes and handbags would have been welcome). So what happened?

I met The Man - and I realised I had a problem. It started with a jaw ache (bare with me, it is innocent) after two weeks of total togetherness I realised that I had not stopped... grinning! We were opposites and he was everything I was not looking for in a partner: I was creative and he was an engineer, I was independent and free spirited and he had, gulp, been in the Royal Navy...the list went on. But as polar opposites we had a magnetic pull! I had avoided living with the Ex for ten years, maintaining control and space, but The Man somehow managed to have a reason to spend every night at my house (even the time he went to watch rugby in Wales, almost drove past his house in Surrey to make it back to my West London home).

I was not looking for a relationship, I even tried to put him off. Knowing that he had children I told him that we could not have a relationship as my next partner would be the father of my children - saying that it was not to implicate him in my plans but to honestly inform him that ours was not a 'relationship'.

Strange things happened, we spoke countless times a day, saw each other daily - even if we had different parties at the beginning of the evening we would always meet where the party lasted longest. After months of being together we took a dramatic step I had not considered before in many years of hard partying in London - we had a night in. I started to write nights in to my diary so that we could have more.

I loved holidays and the wilder the better. I would disappear to meet friends in rural Zimbabwe coming back with long stories and even once a painted barbecue in my backpack - so how would this work with The Man? He always talked of beach holidays...something I had not done since we had our annual trip to the rented beach hut in Filey as a child. We compromised on Sri Lanka for culture, adventure, beach and curries and all I can say is that it was heaven. I was hooked - and realised that maybe The Man could become The Hubster.

At the Blue Lagoon - copyright The Pretty Good Life
I was doing a Masters Degree and coming up to exams so I packed up all my books, ready for a weekend visit to his parents. Put on my pink Stetson and I was ready to go. 'It is cold on the Island, why don't you wear your sheepskin hat' he said. Nobody tells ME what to wear - but very strangely I took his advice. Next, he says, 'If we weren't going to the Island would you take your books, after all you don't really need them'. I responded that we were and almost floored myself as I picked up the bag and headed for the door.

On the doorstep I asked if he had the car keys, but he replied that we were not taking the car. 'But you don't take the train to the Isle of Wight' but followed him anyway when he replied that we were not getting the train. 'But you don't take the tube to the Isle of Wight' but followed him anyway. We went past the station and on towards Heathrow 'But you don't take a plane to the Isle of Wight'. He looked at me and laughed - we were not going to the Isle of Wight!

He whisked me off to Iceland, where I had always wanted to go. Even then The Proposal took me by surprise. We were in the Blue Lagoon and he asked, did I say 'Yes'? Well, not immediately, I was so surprised I asked him to repeat the question. Next, he went down on one knee - and as we were shoulder deep in water - my proposal was a plume of bubbles! What can a girl say with a proposal like that but, yes, Yes, YES! So The Man became The Hubster, and I had to develop new muscles so that I could continue to smile and grin for the next decade that we have been together.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

First Sports Day

They have practicing for weeks, the weather has been glorious and finally the big day has come - and so has the rain. Onto the sports field and we look at a sea of red uniformed children and finally make out the Pickle warm and snug inside her bright pink tracksuit. It appears that independence of spirit and a healthy disregard for convention seems to be a family trait!

First up was the dressing up race: on went the shirt, and (clutch my heart) she is in the lead, scarf goes on, oops, one sleeve slips off, on goes the hat, the shirt comes off  but never races on to the finishing line. Shirtless but victorious! Yes, our daughter has won. To give you a clue as to the surprise the first thing that my Mum says when I tell her about the day was a cheerful 'Was she as bad as you?'.

Next up and we have the egg and spoon race - and it is time for dirty tricks. She is off, doing well, racing away as other eggs go flying,  then she gets ambitious, or is it just that she fancies playing football, or maybe tennis, then - what the hell - she holds the egg, she has had the taste of victory and she flies over the finishing line. Another 1st sticker to add to her collection (she is cool, so it is not stuck on her track but coyly concealed on her t-shirt and zipped away from view; did I mention that she shows no sign of conformity?).

Third race is the running race. Would her guile make up for what she lacks in size, although that is not holding back Bo the Bullet, the speedy revelation of the day. On your marks, Get set, Go ... yes, really go...go? yes, go. She is off, finally, and she is doing her best racing along fantastically - just not particularly fast. She makes it to the finishing line - last - but greeted by one of the grown up children (who is maybe 8) and another sticker for taking part. 'Mummy, I won again!'.

Two more races to go, the assault course then the relay. The assault course is laid out and ready to go, and her little voice pipes up 'Mummy, is it the end of sports day yet.' Fortunately before discontent sets in she is off again, through the hoop, beanbag on her head at a particularly jaunty angle and she is zipping through the slalom. In pole position when from across the track a little boy races on, oblivious for the need to slalom. After her sharp tactics in the egg and spoon karma has caught up and she is pushed into second place. Any urge to ask for a stewards enquiry into dirty tricks is arrested by a huge downpour and the ensuing chaos.

Family picnic is cancelled and communications break down - bedraggled parents gather for cover as the children are herded back into classrooms. Sports day is over!

What a thoroughly British affair - everybody won regardless of where they came, rain and total chaos. The Pickle was victorious! Hurrah! Three cheers for sports day and the British summer.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

My Backyard

Thanks for Tara from Sticky Fingers for helping me reclaim this term. For too long in our house it has been tainted by association with four of the most nauseous characters in The Backyardigans - if you don't know it, don't find out; one of the toughest burdens a parent has to endure is toddler taste. It may be the sudden humming of the Nightgarden theme tune in the checkout queue, the insatiable desire the Pickle has for anything bubblegum pink or just having to endure her preferred TV programmes - but toddler taste takes over your life. (On the upside, a little brainwashing does work, the Pickle loves listening to Madness, her Ramones T-shirt and is very fond of Bagpuss and the Clangers).

I think that I have talked a little about our backyard - the Pretty Good Life is very garden focused. Until we had a staycation last year I knew next to nothing about the local attractions as we had always had so much fun just enjoying what we have on our own doorstep. We have forgone the 'Are we there yet' chorus for the joys of gardening, talking to the minibeasts (as insects are now called) and endless home entertaining.

The Pickle spends hours in her playhouse - I made the cutest curtains for it, so in her imagination she is there for days ('It is summer, Mummy, so nights are very short'). She even plants her own garden, this year it went a bit awry when she extended her garden to the patio and filled any cracks in the paving with a very efficient mix of grass seed and compost.

The other picture is of harmony! The chicken pecking over the veg patch as we start our annual planting. The Pickle's repertoire of veg has hugely increased with what we can grow in the garden, she likes the strange triple barrelled leaf called chard-fromthe-garden and tries most other things. Of course there is the law of the unintended consequences, after weaning she decided that she disliked most of her early foods - ruling out bananas, raising and cherry tomatoes - so I grew orange tomatoes to give tomatoes a second chance. Now she is convinced that she only likes orange tomatoes and no red ones will ever do.

I love the Pretty Good Life in all its simple splendours - and most of that is down to luck and our lovely backyard. I am sure that there must be some good sense in thinking that if you are happy with your backyard the whole rest of the world can only serve as a huge and exciting bonus.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Flashback Friday - Getting Married

I often try to follow Karin's lead on Flashback Friday, but as I have never vlogged or video blogged I can't begin to this week. Instead I am following the lead of many others and flashing back to our wedding nine years ago.

It was a very poignant day - my Dad had died six months before so my big bro had escorted me up the aisle. I say aisle, but we were not in a church but in the remains of an old priory, and I had to walk over the buried ashes of my Great Aunt Gertrude to get to where the Hubster and the vicar. (If you don't have a Great Aunt Gertrude, I recommend them, she is a great source of unlikely anecdotes most of which are even true).

As I reached the Hubster I could look at him to my right and a quick glance to the left and I could see my Dad's grave completely covered with flowers. He had been ill for some time with a hideous form of early onset dementia and from our engagement we did not know if he could make it to the wedding, and if he had, it may have been too horribly confusing for a once highly clever and dignified man. It was painful not having him there in person, but he was certainly there in spirit. After six months of mourning and incredible sadness it was as if our wedding brought out the sun again - metaphorically and in reality; as the vicar pronounced us man and wife the sun came out from behind the clouds. One way or another I feel as if it has been shining for us ever since!

Be inspired by Karin and others on Cafe Bebe's Flashback Friday

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Push Present?

Sonia Cheadle ring - image copyrighted so don't copy her design!

What a term - have you heard it? It refers to a gift a partner gives a new Mum in recognition of the birth. I hate it - the term, that is.

When the Pickle was born the Hubster gave me an eternity ring - we were well briefed that this is a tradition and had even considered an eternity ring when we commissioned the engagement ring; we were introduced by a friend who is a jeweller.

At our engagement party their was a queue circling the room twice of single friends waiting to be introduced to the lady who not only produced the ring but also the Mr.Right to deliver it. This is her site, she is a bit of a superstar she has just written a text book about how to be jeweller.

The photo is of one of Sonia's rings, with stones rather larger that grace my fingers. I love my rings, but fortunately for our budget I have never liked the kind of ring that seems to reflect your bank balance rather your aesthetic and for my stubby fingers small is beautiful (if I had piano playing fingers I may have lusted after more carrots than Benjamin Bunny's day dreams, but that is not the case).

If there is a tradition for an eternity ring at the birth of your first child, are there further traditions for subsequent children. Even the great Sonia has never suggested that she is aware of such traditions. Life as a Mum is much simpler, and I can't say that diamonds are top of my dream shopping list. Besides, having heard the term 'Push Present' I am quite keen to avoid the issue altogether.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Moustaches away!

Have I mentioned that we live the simple life here? This was taken last December when it just seemed like a good idea to play with moustaches. Simple pleasures for simple minds!

I'd love to hear about your simple pleasures, too. xx

This post was thanks to a wonderful prompt from Tara at Sticky Fingers. Take a look at the other entries at The Gallery

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Before and After - Flashback Friday

Inspired by Cafe Bebe's Flashback Friday and Karin's 'life after kids' pictures I thought that I should share these with you. Maybe some time I ought to tell some of the trials and tribulations of living at our cottage - but a summary is that we bought a semi-derelict cottage which had no heating, hot water or inside loo. Since then we have been very slowly and lovingly restoring our house, trying to make it into a comfortable family home. These pictures are not a reflection of the renovations, just the family room (or sun room as we call it).

The main part of the cottage is small so, before even buying, we asked the local listed planning officer if we could extend to build a family size reception room. He agreed, in part delighted that any fool would buy the property and keep it standing. The pictures tell the emergence of that room.

To start off with we had to build the room, then (finally - but that is a LONG story) it emerges in gleaming glory. In the second picture you can see the Pickle's toy box and a bean bag in the shape of a globe. Now the toys are exploded and threaten to take over the house, the bean bag is looking battered and has been moved to beside her bed, where I sit for bed time stories, and we struggle to keep the room pleasant for all generations. In the last picture you can see the room as it was tonight, her chair with a blanket fresh from making a tent, the TV poised for evening watching and a book that we have just been reading. It may not be so neat, but it is filled with love!

Pop over to Cafe Bebe's lovely site and have a read of other Flashback Fridays as well as Karin's original post that inspired this.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Are you BadMAM* if you work?

How to be a good mother? I agree with Viv Groskop*, eat all your children's Easter eggs and then there is no more evil sugar for them to face. Oops, no that is missing the point wilfully and salving the guilt. I do need that chocolate, as many Mums may empathise, I was awoken at 5.30 on a Saturday morning, could not get back to sleep and used it as the first opportunity to read last Sunday's newspapers.

Viv talks about the polar dialogue about the decision whether to return to work as a Mum or to stay at home. It would seem that pitchforks raised between the feminist cabal of working Mums and thunder of 'evidence' from those fed up at us BadMAM*'s prioritising our evil careers over our children's real needs.

The debate blusters on, bouncing from condemnation, to empathy, to random insults for even pursuing the subject. Every comment seems to come from a pre-set agenda. However, has any decision, from whether to work or stay at home to what to have  for dinner, ever been divorced not only from our own specific environment and our politics to the constraints of the society and economy in which we live?

Rational decisions can limited as mothers consider their options for work. Having worked for over fifteen years, studied for two degrees and run a small organisation I discovered that the job market is not, what you could call, welcoming. You have three main options: continue as before, fighting for acceptance in a job market that largely requires you to work for more than the standard 9-5; look for a part time job, where you either negotiate for a cut in hours and status or opt for post natal depression as you consider your suitability as a receptionist, call centre operative or maybe even a 'work from home' scam (employers seem to have established that Mums are desperate); or finally you just give up your decades worth of work ethic and cross your fingers that you can fudge your CV in five years time so that your former PA will take pity on your and re-employ you for old time's sake. Is this a plea for pity? Never, but it is worth pointing out that if you want to be a working mother your decisions may be made for you by the recessionary job market rather than the slightly deluded life plan that you made when considering motherhood.

The other great influencer on family life is finances. Can you afford to work, can you afford not to? I loved the comment on Viv's site that said simply: "Lots of women worked while being mothers in the 1800s. It's just that they were working class." My personal experience was a little different, my Mum was technically a stay at home Mum but being in, ahem, a different tax bracket to me she just employed the Nannie and disappeared regardless.

I agree with the comment that children are a responsibility not a right, but don't subscribe to the policy that the only possible option is to stay at home regardless of other mitigating factors. Is a staying at home the answer for children in families where generations have never worked and life's horizons are so limited? Likewise, watching highly educated former high achievers dutifully shoe horn themselves into the stay at home role while seeing their independence and confidence being replaced by anxiety and self doubt makes me worry that their resulting stress levels must not be entirely to the benefit of family life. This was particularly brought home for a friend whose clash with her teenage daughter centred on the fact that despite having given up a blue chip career for motherhood she an unworthy role model for a woman of today as she currently did not work.

If you want the science you can find plenty of evidence to back up need to stay at home but also read Dettling and colleagues' study in Psychoneuroendocrinology 25, or the digested version in Sue Gerhardt's book 'Why love matters'. An excerpt here gives you a flavour as to the lack of a clear argument; it indicates that the need for appropriate care is paramount, but that it may be offered by someone other than a Mum:
"What a small child needs is an adult who is emotionally available and tuned in to regulate his stress....One study  of nursery school children showed that it was not the mother's absence in itself that increase stress hormones such as cortisol, but the absence of an adult figure who was responsive and alert to their states moment my moment. If there was a member of staff who took on this responsibility, their cortisol levels did not rise."
Do I have any conclusions? I wish I could write with the lightness of touch and erudition of the original article, but other than that I can only say as Mums what ever we do we are bound to be condemned for even discussing the issue let alone for trying to balance our finances, children's welfare and our long term career and personal aspirations. I know that becoming a Mother changed me in ways that I could never have anticipated, but I am doing the best that I can do, however flawed I may be.

* BadMAMS - Dad Mothering Amnesty Movement. Read the article and the range of thunderous comments it provoked: Viv Groskop: I'm a bad mother. I work

Friday, 6 May 2011

Flashback Friday - an unconventional Christening

This subject is very revealing about me as a person and an idealist! I was brought up as an Anglican, but have spent much of my life questioning the role of the church and its actions across the globe and history. I can see the community and fellowship that it offers, how it can be a focal point for many rural communities and how it can act as a family for those who have lost so much. But then there is dogma and conflict that we read about - and the role of the church as an institution.

How can I reconcile my varied emotions? Particularly as walking through the woods means more to me spiritually than a rigid church service. Can I disregard the wishes and hopes of my family and the potential solace that it can off the Pickle?

Obviously I did things my way! The vicar was amazing and allowed me to take the unconventional route. The Christening takes places on consecrated ground in a ruined Priory where we got married, the Godparents were chosen to represent a range of spiritual beliefs, Judaism, Catholicism, Hedonism and a Jedi (the Anglican faith being well represented by family).

The service and the sentiment were amazing - each person considered what spirituality can offer a child, each person can offer their perspective. Joy and fun was almost tangible. I could not wish for greater role models for the Pickle - and it was all good naturedly blessed by a wonderful Anglican vicar.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Thinking about parties

I love parties - particularly planning them. I love the excitement, the cooking, the decorating and then seeing loads of happy people. I also love keeping to a traditional formula, keeping the Pickle's party in the garden with old fashioned games - not surprisingly the kids love it and they have never missed the glitz of some of the more modern alternatives that you can buy into.

This year I am stumped! The Pickle's birthday is less than a week away from Beanie's due date. I have already confessed that I am a bit of an admin case when it comes to giving birth, so while I am sure that by keeping myself healthy we will have the ideal birth, I must not be complacent and assume that I will be leaping and dancing by Pickle's party.

Up to last year things seemed less of an issue as parents came to parties too, but now the Pickle is at school, Mums drop off their darlings and rush off before the first tantrum is thrown. The easiest would be to go to a soft play area,  but I love the innocence of parties at home. Besides, looking back through rose tinted spectacles we always had our parties at home and they were always great (I don't think that was just the chemically enhanced memories of 1970's food of white bread, meat paste and the glamour of turbo charged colourings).

 So I am thinking of getting an entertainer. Why do I feel like this is an expensive cop out? Horror of horrors it may even be accompanied by a selection from the Waitrose party catalogue? Food can wait - but I need to work out my options now.

Has anybody got any inspired ideas for 5th Birthday parties? I have a few ideas - but somehow they lack the individual spark that has made past years so much of a joy. The Pickle will have tonnes of suggestions, but somehow I have difficulty following her ideas in theory let alone in practice (got to love the imagination).

In the meantime, if I have to 'worry' about something, I am going to enjoy pondering over this!

The first pic is of an early VERY hot party. I had still to learn how to make a decent cake (I have since practiced) so I found some chintz plates in Oxfam and couple of cocktail classes to make the funkiest cup cake holder. Worked a treat!
The second pic is just one of innocence, a few friends giving the Pickle presents before the others arrived - I love the simplicity of the quiet anticipation in their body language.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


I love April - not just as I celebrate my birthday, but it is when the promise of new beginnings start to become felt. Winter's barren landscapes evolved, now the timid appearance of Spring is giving way to the bold clamours for summer.

The sight is the last thing that I notice - as I pace around the corner from the stream the view is heralded by the fanfare of bird song and that wonderful fresh smell of grass and open countryside. [Rational senses: there speaks the optimist again, we are talking about a strip of old grazing pasture adjoining a large rec on landfill in suburban Reading.]

I love this time of year, opening the windows and letting the Spring air awaken the house from hibernation. My morning walks are my lone passion, like a silent meditation where I prepare for the chaos inherent in being a WAHM. I used to listen to music, but I missed the sound and focus of watching the seasons unfold. I love watching the changes throughout the year: wrapped up against the bitter cold in the winter; slipping through the mud and rain in the spring as the first flowers emerge; the eruption of the undergrowth in April heralding the glorious Summer to come.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Impressed by the Royal Wedding?

I love the way little people can give life such balance. The Pickle is usually a girl of many words - and not just 'Mummy, what does that mean?' (which is where it may all spring from). She had three pronouncements on the Royal Wedding:

- Faced with the pomp and ceremony of our monarch, she took one look then bounced up and down singing 'The Queen looks like a daffodil' over and over.
- As soon as she had seen the bridesmaids arrive she declared 'Okay, I'm bored now'.
- Finally as the news mentioned the wedding on Saturday she said dismissively 'Don't they know the Royal Wedding is over, it was yesterday.'

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Nesting or compensating?

The first three months if pregnancy were exhausting. I became very intimately acquainted with the sofa - as a dozed my way through the weeks. By the time I  had walked that dog for an hour or so I seriously limited energy until the school run prompted the next bout of frenetic activity.

After three months the toll on the house was apparent. I'm not particularly tidy but, believe it or not, I have my standards, and things were starting to get me down. Besides when Beanie is born we will need to shoe horn in somewhere for his cot and his stuff (babies do have stuff, and alarming amounts for such little people).

Is this what nesting is all about? Being so exhausted that you can't do the housework until it can be put off now longer, then you have to blitz through the backlog? 

Things I have learnt while I have been blitzing the clutter:

-I am not a tidy person, but that does not make me a lesser mortal, I'm just an optimist and see the good side of things and can mentally airbrush away a few rough and ready details.

- I really don't wear 5 inch heals that often but I know they are almost irresistible (particularly when in the sales). I haven now taken up every spare nook in my room housing my expanding collection, and this must stop. 

- I was skint in the Pickle's baby years for a reason, a wardrobe full of Monsoon fairy embroidered jeans and delicate cotton dresses was not essential to her well being - but, boy, she did look cute!

- I used to believe that style is timeless. Looking at the Mumster this weekend in her once stylish culottes and 'Lady Di' high necked blouse,  I have had a rethink. Time to purge my wardrobe and make way for a little space. 

- Quentin Crisp says "After four years, you don't notice the dust." I am not going to test that theory.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Back in the Beginning

This is a really hurried post for Flash Back Friday. I love the posts and don't want to miss sharing this prompt.

I started this blog mainly thanks to Josie's writing workshop on Sleep is for the Weak (you can see the badge for her workshop. So often when I read a blog I noticed that it was linked to the workshop - either I am slow on the uptake or I just tend to do things my way rather than being a 'joiner'. Anyway, I was inspired and I set up this blog.

Looking back to the beginning I was pondering life at 40 and the impending big birthday. This is a pretty terrible photo, but it does say so much. It is me at our 90th Birthday birthday party (I was 40 and the Hubster was 50) being a friend and mother. The Pickle looked as if she needed a little Mummy attention, so I was carrying her while friends eat, drank and got very merry.

Three cheers to inspirations blogs, friends, family and all that make my life so wonderful. It has been great sharing the journey and it is not over yet.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Picture this Blog!

I have been flummoxed by Tara's Gallery Prompts for a few weeks now - but this week I was not prepared to be beaten again! The theme is: My Blog

My blog - is about family life, and musings about it. Life here is not all neat and tidy, but it is almost always fun. You can see the Pickle, grinning from ear to ear, wearing her hat back to front (she makes her own style statements) and her Daddy's paint splattered fleece. We are sitting in the garden, eating yummy home made food.

It may be a little rough around the edges, but it is full of home made love and laughter - that is my Pretty Good Life!

If you want to check out any more of this week's inspired posts, pop along to The Gallery

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Perfect Day

Having one of those simple but perfect days! We had a picnic in the most amazing field - a phone picture can not begin to show the flowers. There is a carpet of Snake's head fritillary - my favourite flowers. Up until a few years ago I had only ever seen small clumps planted from expensive garden centre bought bulbs, so imagine being lead to a field where wild fritillary stretch out into the distance. We sat by a river eating our sandwiches, watching the butterflies and listening to the birds - and as we were taken by a botanist - we also munched on a natural salad of ransoms and other random leaves that I normally dig up and throw straight into the compost.

Just imaging a hundred or so years ago fields across the country were bursting with flowers and wildlife like this one - but for now we just felt lucky to have been able to step by in time and enjoy the simple life!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Flash Back the beginning

So pleased that Karin of Cafe Bebe has given this wonderful prompt to have a Flash Back Friday.

The Pickle is now 4 1/2 and I can barely remember what the early months were like, except the profound love I felt for her that over came exhaustion and the whole nappy glamour. Well, Beanie is due in August so I had best start remembering...

Wasn't she cute. Can't wait to meet Beanie!

Have a lovely weekend

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A reflection on Mother's Day

I have been reading the most amazing range of responses to motherhood and mother's day. I was particularly inspired by Carol at Dance without Sleeping piece on 'Mothers Day is not always Special' and by Vegemitevix's 'What kind of a Mother are you'

With Vix there were many wry observations about parenting; she compares her 'band aid and hugs' parenting style with that of her Mother, and the modern tendency to molly coddle. How can I compare myself with my Mother who was notable only in her absence? I feel that I am bungling along with no role models other than common sense and what I have picked up about psychology. Is it easier to spoon feed as a way of feeling that you are being a good parent,   rather than allowing children their wings?

Carol talks heart breakingly about the absent mother and feeling alone and abandoned. My Mum never strictly speaking abandoned me, she was always around but never in my presence. She was so busy being busy that my first memory my parents was asking who were the lovely people were giving me such nice presents at Christmas. I can't blame my Mum - I believe that she genuinely did her best, just she had no idea or capacity for being maternal. When we were a little older (maybe six) I recollect going downstairs and diving into her bed; she would be giving my Dad a manicure while he slept and she was totally bemused by our presence, but at least she did not just shoo us away.

At least I can't fall into the trap of outdoing my own Mother's style of mothering - the Pickle has already had many more hugs in a week that my Mum gave me in a lifetime. I love the idea of being a Band Aid and Hugs Mum - but it is still early days; the Pickle is just 4 1/2 and Beanie a bump.

Carol suggests 'not to think about the past and focus on the future' I can't guarantee I'll be that reflective. In the heat of the moment I'll be bimbling along, clueless as to what to do - but we will all be having great fun (and normally mess) doing it.

Mother Love

Another Gallery post - and I was in doubt if I could deliver as my main computer was down and my camera is having battery issues. I originally discounted this picture then it became the perfect post.

There in the centre is my Mother in Law - and she is an inspiration. She has five amazing children and not one went off the rails, or is anything other than a caring and fun individual. Those five children have become excellent parents and grandparents. She could not have done this alone, by her side for 60 years was Leon, her husband my father in law. Together they created a warm loving family that enhance the lives of so many others.

The photo was taken at the Pickle's birthday party - and interestingly one person who is not there is my Mumster. She initially accepted the invitation but then declined when she realised that she had an important bridge game to attend the following day.

So I propose a toast, to amazing Mums and the support and love of Dads, if they to it right the love can last for generations!