Sunday, 18 September 2016

Revelations en France

Yesterday I returned from a week’s holiday in France with my husband and our boys.  There are many things that are really great about going on holiday, here are a few:

Having my husband to help me.  My poor hubby works in London so has a long commute to work and back every day, I am thankful that he is around in the evenings and at weekends and am well aware that many mothers don’t even have this, but to have him there 24/7 to help is really great.  (I also quite like him, you know, so it's nice having him around!)

Having only a few possessions with us.  I love this part of being on holiday, it always reminds me of how little I need to get by, be happy, have a good time.  I took a few luxuries with me like my Kindle for reading, my laptop so I could catch up on some writing, my journal, a hair dryer, that sort of thing, but not having to look around my house thinking about everything that needs doing, and not having so much stuff to tidy away daily provides such a break and a rest.

A change of scenery.  Being in a different place is great because you get to see different sights every day, being at home, although we get out and about a lot, it is often to the same places week in and week out, and seeing different types of buildings and streets, flora and fauna is really exciting.

Being more relaxed about what we eat.  We usually eat pretty healthily and I make about 80% of our meals from scratch but on holiday I excuse myself from this (although I like to eat healthy food, I do not particularly enjoy cooking it) and use frozen and easy to cook food when we are on holiday.

Sitting in the car.  As sad as It sounds this is probably one of my favourite things about being on holiday, we travel by car to visit different places, usually by the scenic route to enjoy the views and I get to read my book, the babies sleep and I can enjoy looking out of the window at the different sights, I find this most relaxing.

Enjoying my children more.  Although I am with them all week, they are often off playing in playgrounds, playing with friends in their bedrooms or taking part in activities, but on holiday there is a much more intensive closeness because we are doing things for them and with them.  So for example walking round a museum requires much more of our attention in stopping them running off/climbing on the exhibits/getting they to focus on something and we therefore get to experience them more.  I realise I am not selling this so far, it is hard work, but the things they come out with that I might otherwise miss, or might not be said are brilliant, (Biscuit said one evening “When I am older I am going to get a motorbike, then I will be the best man in the world, like Jesus!”) seeing them achieve new things (Boris went down the water slide in the swimming pool for the first time, he was really brave, he was scared, I could see by his face, but he did it anyway and I felt so proud) and watching them play together is priceless.  We also didn’t have TV or internet connection so were far less distracted than we would be normally.


I am sooo glad to be home.  Begin away makes you realise the things you miss doesn’t it, and it’s make me immensely thankful for some things that I haven’t really considered before. Here are some things I am newly thankful for:

Speaking English as a first language.  How lucky am I that I speak English??  It’s spoken in so many places around the world, and although I do make attempts to speak the language of the countries I am lucky enough to visit, I am not great at it and we can often ask “parlez vous Anglais?” and continue an otherwise disjointed and confused conversation in my native tongue.

Being born in the UK.  I am so thankful for being born in the UK, it has given me so many opportunities that people from other countries might not have had, we are so lucky to live in the UK with so much freedom and relative safety.  Also being able to speak the language of the people who are native to the country is so wonderful and I have renewed sympathy for people who have moved here and are not yet able to speak the language.

Access to lots of delicious vegan food. The French are great at food, but they aren’t great at vegan food!! And by vegan food I am talking about processed food because the fruits vegetables here are really great, fresh, tasty, huge variety, seasonal and without all the packaging you are encumbered with in the UK.  However if you are after a Linda McCartney sausage, and tin of baked beans, a carton of oat milk or some dairy free cheese you will be out of luck.   There is a growing variety of convenient vegan food in the UK which is so liberating and exciting.

Having a sofa to sit on.  We have spent this week in a static caravan and there is no sofa, just a bench round a table with a soft-ish pad of it.  I miss my sofa, it’s big and squashy and soft and fluffy and I love it and I am so happy to be back snuggled up on it with a big cup of tea (only small cups here, sad times). I realise that being able to afford a holiday at all is the height of luxury relatively speaking so I am well aware how ungrateful it sounds to be complaining about a lack of sofa, but you know #firstworldproblems.

So yeah, we had a great time, but I really am glad to be home. Now where’s my cup of tea?

We got caught in a downpour one day, Boris gave me two giant leaves to cover myself and Nut!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

My not-so-secret obsession

Ok, it has to be done, if you know me, you'll know, if you don't know me, you are about to find out.

I have a confession to make, I have a little obsession.  It all started on a breastfeeding facebook page, someone mentioned a fictional TV series which shows a woman hand expressing, I though "normalising breastfeeding! This I have got to see", and this is where my obsession began.  I watched the first two series of Outlander on Amazon Prime and I was totally hooked.

Let me give you a little background information.  The series is based on the books by Diana Gabaldon.  They center around the main character Claire who goes back in time (stay with me) from the 1940's to the 1700's in the Highlands of Scotland. Like any good story she falls in love and the series revolves around their relationship and their adventures through time, facing life and death situations.  It's romantic, thrilling, erotic, exciting, I haven't been able to put the books down for the past three months.

So why am I telling you about this? Well apart from the fact that I want every friend of mine to join me in my obsession so I have people to geek out with over it, it has actually changed my life.  I know that sounds dramatic, and probably makes me sound like a massive loser, but it's true.  Let me tell you how.

The relationship in the book between Claire and her Highland husband Jamie is perfection.  It is every woman's fantasy of a perfect relationship, and I suppose that's the point of fiction isn't it, to give us a fantastical alternate reality.  At first it bothered me, I started asking myself "well why isn't my relationship like this? How come my husband doesn't say all these terribly romantic things to me?", and then it struck me, these characters are constantly facing life or death situations which we rarely come across in our everyday lives (thank goodness) and thus they are given many opportunities where professing their undying love for each other is pertinent. And on reflection if I had to choose between a life filled with loving sentiments, yet being constantly in fear of losing your significant other, or a a life with professions of love written in a yearly valentines card, yet secure in the knowledge that the loss of ones husband to execution, murder, or falling down a cliff, I would rather take the latter.

I reflected on this and realised that, in fact, if my husband and I were constantly living in fear for our lives, he more than likely would profess his love for me more often and without inhibition in the most spectacularly romantic ways possible.  This led me to appreciate my husband more, because I know he loves me and has strong feelings, but that he just doesn't profess them that often.  I also remind myself that the book is written by a woman; for women, so she is writing what we want to hear, not what men actually say.

Reading the books has definitely sparked fresh joy in my relationship with my husband, new appreciation of everything he does for me and our family, I am trying to love him more and better and it's made me feel amazing about our relationship.  It's definitely inspired me in the bedroom too if you know what I mean.

Another way this series has changed my life is through a shift in my feelings about my children, in relation to my husband.  In those days children were seen as far less significant than these days, children were quite often seen as a bit of a nuisance, and in the story our couple are separated from their  offspring.  This made me realise that, as much as I love my children, one day they are going to leave home and it will just be me and my husband again, and with that in mind, the need and importance of nurturing the relationship with my husband, because that's the relationship I chose.  We chose to have children, but we didn't chose the people they are.  I sometimes see parents treating their children like little gods that must be appeased (not any of my friends by-the-way) and they quite simply aren't, they are little people who are going to go their own way one day and all we can do is prepare them for that and hope for the best, our relationships with our partners are the enduring ones and in some ways are more important than the relationship we have with our children.

Next reading the books has really helped to scratch a little selfsufficiency/prepper/survivalist itch that I haven't scratched for a long time.   I made some rosehip cordial yesterday!!
It's also motivating me to lose the baby weight; I am buying myself little Outlander related treats when I reach every weight loss target (Today I am buying myself a Sassenach car decal.  Read the books if you want to know what I am on about here.  Seriously read the books.)

Finally this series of books and the TV show have been an absolutely fantastic escape.  Not that I have a life that I need to escape from but during the end of my pregnancy and the first weeks with a new baby having a place I can retreat to away from the craziness was and is so incredibly valuable.  I am a strong believer in mum's (and anyone actually)  having some sort of diversion from every day life be that painting, sewing, cars, football, whatever it's an important part of what makes us human and just generally makes people more interesting I think.

So the other day my mum said to me "I think your becoming obsessed with Outlander" and I was like "And that's a problem because...?"  Because I literally cannot think of a single reason why being obsessed would be a bad thing, it's changed my life for the better, made me a happier person and improved my love life.  Who could possibly complain? So now I am on a mission to get all my friends obsessed so I have other people to geek out with over this amazing series, if you have Amazon Prime you can watch it there or on Sky Starz, but even better are the books by Diana Gabaldon.  Get on board friends!  Get on Board.

And as for me, well I am waiting on series 3 which will be out next spring and continuing to devour the books, I am currently on book 4 (there are 8) and Gabaldon is writing number 9 as we speak so I have plenty to keep me going.

Now I am just going to leave you with this:

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Not pregnant, woo hoo!!

Hi lovelies.

So I haven't written for a while, and more importantly I haven't written my birth story down, not here, not on paper, not anywhere.  I am not even sure why I haven't, maybe it doesn't feel so mind blowing as my other two births, maybe I just haven't been able to find the time, or maybe I am just two damn tired!  I am not sure which it is, but I am starting to feel that the story needs telling, I am already forgetting the details, I am not sure I can even recall the pain any more (and there was a lot of that let me tell you).  So here goes.

The day he was born was a Thursday, the day after his due date, and I was feeling very very grumpy indeed.  Both my other babies had come before their due date and I had been ready since about 36 weeks.  Hospital bad packed, affirmations stuck up on the wall, absorbent pads at the ready.  So yes, I was a grumpy mama.  I waddled up to toddler group on the morning he was born.  Everyone was surprised to see me and I got the full range of the usual questions and comments, "not here yet then" ("no he's not humph"), "when are you due" ("yesterday, humph"), "any day now then" ("here's hoping, humph"), "Any sign he might be coming?", ("no nothing, humph").  Little did I know that just a few hours later I would be in the hospital pushing him out!  When we got home from toddler group I took this photo of the beautiful roses growing outside my house and shared it on facebook, it seems so strange that just 6 hours later I was holding a new baby in my arms:

I can't say for sure what made me think I was in labour.  I was getting some stomach ache, went to the toilet a few times, felt very restless.  I did lunch for the boys and at about 1.00 I mentioned to my husband I thought I might be in labour (he had been working from home for the past 2 weeks in the expectation that the baby would arrive early). I decided to have some lunch myself though I didn't really feel like it, but thought I might need the energy later.

I rang the hospital.  We were booked in for a home birth so informed them of this and waited for them to get back to me.  A few moments later I had the call to let me know that there were no home birth midwives available and that I would have to go into hospital. So this was pretty much my worst case scenario (save giving birth on the way).  I got off the phone and thought for a moment about crying.  Then I decided "Fuck it" and got to work.  I got on the phone to one of my friends from a group who had agreed to be on call for me when the time came (aka, my dream team) and I rang my mum to tell her what was happening and for her to get over here ASAP ("yes mum, please leave now, no mum I don't think you will have time for your chiropodist appointment").  I finalised the packing of my hospital bad,  and packed bags for the boys. My friend arrived sometime before 5 and she took the boys to her house and we set off for the hospital.  My husband driving like the clappers with plenty of horn honking and getting angry at other drivers! We arrived at the hospital at 5 and went straight up to the midwife led unit. 

We hung around waiting for a midwife.  They wanted me to go into an assessment room but I said I was declining an internal examination and I just couldn't bring myself to go into the examination room which had no windows and one of those horrid hospital beds so I walked around the entrance trying to find a comfortable position when I was having contractions.  Eventually the midwife realised we had been booked in for a home birth and took us straight through.  And then more waiting for someone to come and assess me and book me in.  The midwife led unit at the Royal Berks is really lovely. The rooms are much more like a home from home and not like hospital rooms at all, all the medical equipment is shut away behind white cupboards, there was a big bath in the room and a sort of big bed which was made of a big foam block with a bean bad and pillows, more like a treatment room at a spa than a hospital room.  

I wandered around the room trying to find a comfy way to be, I laid out my birth affirmations that my friends wrote for me at my mother blessing and read through them trying to focus on my visualisation (the waves of the sea going in and out).   I was feeling the contractions very strongly now and felt like I was beginning to transition.  The midwife said that they would monitor me every 4 hours, then every half an hour and then every 15 minutes etc.  I laughed to myself thinking "no bloody way am I going to be in labour for another 4 hours!" She palpated my belly and asked if I was feeling a lot of pressure in my back, (this led me later to wonder if the baby was back to back.)  My husband was rubbing my back during contractions and I settled on the floor by the bed on soft mats.  The midwife had filled the big bath (I thought why not make full use of the facilities, even though I knew I wanted to give birth on dry ground)  So I got in, it was lovely and did help with the pain, and the contractions were painful this time.  I felt my body starting to push and my waters went with a pop and a gush.  The midwife advised that as I didn't want to birth in the water I should get out now as the baby was probably on it's way, so I did.  I settled back on the floor but struggled to bring my visualisations to the front of my mind.  It was bright daylight and although there were blinds at the windows a gentle breeze blew them releasing flashes of sun into the room, distracting me from the image I was trying to focus on.  The pains were strong, and got stronger as the baby moved down.  I could feel his head coming very very slowly with each contraction, but he felt very far back and the pushing was hard work.  I was screaming now with he contractions and the pushing, I couldn't help it, it hurt! 

The midwife kept telling me to "breathe, breathe" and I was but I needed to scream too, that head! It finally came out, eventually followed by the body which flopped onto the floor and I breathed, really breathed, a huge sigh of relief. "Thank God that's over" was my first thought and I had to be reminded to pick up my baby (as specified in my birth plan) out of the pool off poo he immediately created!.  He was kind of blue and needed a bit of encouragement from a good rubbing down with a hospital grade towel to get him breathing, but there he was.  All 8lbs 15oz of him, phew!  

Was it more painful because he was back to back and had to turn at the last minute?  Or was it the flashing sun distracting me from my visualisation?  Maybe the fact he was my biggest baby? Or could it have been the mere fact of being in hospital rather than at home as I had wanted?  I guess I will never really know.  But what I can tell you in all honestly, 5 weeks on, I feel like none of that even matters.  I have had the most wonderful time riding the waves of post natal hormones, fully tripping out on Oxytocin and loving big time on my baby.  (Having a newborn baby is the most wonderful thing, did anyone tell you?).  I didn't get that feeling of elation when he was born as I did with Biscuit but the joy that has been bursting from my heart ever since fully makes up for it. 

He is more than likely my last baby (never say never) so I am trying to fully soak up every moment, fully savor his smell, the feel of his rose petal skin, the little tufts of hair on his ears, the way he does the most incredible beautiful heartbreaking smiles in his sleep, the snuffly noise me makes when he feeds and enjoying every moment with him.  I feel very blessed to have another healthy baby, and have learnt a lot through this delivery. Namely that every birth is different, and every mother experiences childbirth differently. Experiencing a painful birth doesn't mean you are less in tune with your body, or that you aren't as much of an earth mother as the next lady, maybe it just means your baby was big, or he was back to back or he came before he was ready or any number of other reasons.  Every birth is different and every mother and baby symbiosis is different, maybe you had an orgasmic birth, good for you, maybe you needed an epidural to get through the pain, I hear you, each journey is unique, each story our own, there is no one on earth who can fully know or understand your experience. It is totally unique to you. I have also learnt that how you feel after giving birth is also unique.  After I had Boris, I didn't feel right, I couldn't understand how my friends who had had really traumatic births felt normal and I was feeling totally messed up.  It wasn't till I had the healing experience of my home birth that I realised how the way I felt the first time really wasn't right.  This time, in spite of not getting all my wishes for the birth I feel amazing.  No rhyme or reason to it at all!  
I recently had an imagined conversation with God about it, it went something like this:

Me: "Hey God, I prayed for a midwife for a home birth and you didn't give me one, what's up with that?"

God: "Yeah, sorry about that, here, have some Oxycontin to make up for it."

I am told God gives us what we need not what we want.  I am not sure why God decided I needed a painful hospital birth this time, but I am bloody grateful for the wonderful gift of a joyful heart, He has given me since.  I really hope it lasts a long long time because it is becoming clear that life with three children under the age of five is going to be interesting to say the least!

I love how the post card in the back ground says "We can do it"