The baby hath murdered sleep and Mommy will sleep no more…!

The Toddler won’t sleep through the night. Not consistently anyway. And by consistently I mean for more than two nights in a row. We are currently in such a regressive sleep point that I’m up as often as I was when he was six months old (yep – he didn’t sleep through even then)… but now, I’m back at work and have tried to make a new ‘year’ resolution to find some me time in amidst the workload I love to heap around myself once things get going. And The Toddler is a giant compared to his six month old self so a subtle co-sleeping cuddle in mommy’s bed to get a few extra hours is becoming quite the joke.

I know what the thoughts are on co-sleeping; I’m aware that my desperate need for sleep will compromise some people’s beliefs about sleep time safety or even just prompt a comment about how I will have been making a rod for my own back and now I’m paying for it (trust me: I am well aware that I probably am). I also know that parenting is a personal thing. I’ve read books and blogs and the helpful hints that are delivered to my inbox weekly but they don’t all fit my boy. Or my parenting mode.

We’ve always had a problem with the sleep. The Fiancé told me that baby just loved his Momma and wanted extra snuggles. The health visitor told me that breastfeeding babies take longer to go through the night. My Mother assured me that breastfeeding would create a problem. My Nan told me my breastmilk wasn’t filling him enough. My Dad: he was spoilt. You can imagine the failure I felt. I persisted with the breastfeeding anyway and all of the ‘on-demand’ schedules that it created for me. But I did subscribe to the routine around bedtime in the hope that calm would perpetuate through his sleeping and coerce a longer, deeper sleep.

At four months a growth spurt hit. It was one of the hardest periods of Mommyhood so far. The excuses changed: once the food hit baby would for sure go through. He was likely just hungry. So he was weaned and then fed, milked, bathed, swathed in Jonson’s ‘purple magic’, dressed, snuggled and milked again to sleep. Soundly he went. For four hours.

People knew nothing.

My boy was booking every trend, breaking every rule. But then has it just been that this mother is too weak-willed and first time to have really tried to get a consistent full night’s sleep out of the baby…?

I’ve tried immediate soothing. I’ve tried withholding boob and just using the other bedtime cues to resettle. I’ve tried just shushing. I’ve tried dream feeding. I’ve tried bottling. I’ve bought night lights. I’ve used white noise. I’ve left music playing. I’ve put something I’ve worn in with him. I’ve tried sleeping bags. I’ve bought him in to the big bed. I’ve made sure he’s stayed in his own bed. I’ve lain next to him. I’ve sent The Fiancé in and tried to stay away so as not to provoke a milk rage. The rage has ensued anyway. Even when he has cried himself back off, he’s woken up a few hours later.

Obviously, I’ve not done all of those things at once. A variable has been exhausted until it’s put aside. On the ten nights that he has slept through, I cannot think what I’ve done differently to the other hundred and something… and yet I must have. The lack of sleep has me feeling like a failure. I worry that it will have a detrimental effect on The Toddler. I reach out to blogs and books to see what I could do better. I even raised my failure with a professional at the twelve month check up. The health visitor asked me if I’d tried a few options. They had fancy titles and pictograph explanations. I said yes to all but one: I won’t try controlled crying. Cue the look…

So here I am. 17 months after a 29 hour labour and a full night’s sleep still eludes me. I remember thinking during those first hours that I was so tired, that I’d lost a whole day of sleep and wondered when I might make a bit of it up. Oh how I laugh at my newly ‘mothered’ self now; how much I had to learn!

The Fiancé and my Mother have now just taken to telling me he will get there in his own time. They blame teething, settling in at The Childminder, having been on holiday, afternoon naps, car naps, belly ache when the sleep doesn’t come.

Other people look at me like I’m ridiculous when I say my twelve-month-plus boy doesn’t sleep through the night. Some look sympathetically. I mostly look tired. And for coffee.

Maybe I will find the magic way of getting him to go through the night. Maybe he will just do it one night and think it’s great and so do it again and again and again… And so as I sit at my desk on a Tuesday wondering how the hell I will get through my working week on three hours sleep a night I call upon the skills those blissful three hours teach me:

1. Patience – because mommy life is sent to try us and reward us bountifully if we just relax past the paranoia and see we aren’t doing so bad really;

2. Organisation – else I’d still be picking my clothes! Get everything ready pre-tired because you sure as hell won’t want to make a fashion / food / lesson plan decision at 6am having only slept from 3am…

3. Humour – there’s always some to be had. Usually at your own expense. I stopped, or tried to stop, taking myself so seriously a while ago. This motherhood malarkey is hard and there’s no perfect way, no matter what the books say. Grilling yourself for the little wrong things make the big problems seem terrifying.

4. How to make a good coffee. When the patience and the humour fail, when the make up won’t cover the lines and the shadows; the coffee always works. At least, maybe, the second one does…

The sleeplessness won’t last forever. I know that. The tiredness might last a while after the full night’s sleep returns, I know that too. It’s easy to feel like a failure as a Mommy but if The Toddler wakes up everyday boundless and curious and happy then hopefully my rookie error isn’t causing too much of an issue and in our own time, we will find our way.

(If anyone has had a similar experience or has any ‘magic’ to share, then I’d be happy to read about it – please leave me a comment. Thank you)

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Working Mommy Woes; the guilt is real

As a teacher, results day always signalled that it’s time to stop making lists about the work I’ve got to do and actually do some work. This year, the looming return to work brought with it an overwhelming feeling of guilt and sadness – one that hit me in Sainsbury’s in Oxford, cradling a sleeping Toddler.

Before being a Mommy my career was my life; I lived to work and was often criticised for it. I had the luxury of time that only a non-parent can have and I threw it all in to the classroom. Whilst pregnant, people assured me that it would all change. I imagined I’d return to work happily, straight back in to my old five inch work heels as if I’d never been away.

That naivety was shattered when I returned to work earlier this year. Suddenly the job I had such a passion for felt like a foreign country. I was ridiculously anxious about my identity, I lacked confidence in confrontation, I didn’t seem to have the energy or time to keep up with my old self. Planning took longer, marking took longer, delivery was shabby, my clothes were covered in whatever breakfast baby had thrown at me, I didn’t have time to eat. I welcomed the six week break because I needed a rest. But mostly: I missed my baby.

Now I’m faced with a return to a new academic year. I have spent six undiluted weeks as Mommy and it feels like I’ve been on maternity leave all over again. I stood in Sainsbury’s holding a boy more than half my length as he dozed. I’d kept him out of the stroller to keep him awake so he could sleep instead of scream on the long drive home but he’d snuggled in to my neck as he used to when little. I’d been asked to put him down but refused; the extra cuddle time was precious anyway – the boy has more battery in him than a Duracell bunny and snuggle time is limited to as long as I can tickle him for (unless I fall asleep as I’m putting him down for the night in an exhausted slump on his bed) – but as I inhaled his lovely smell, I thought: only one more week of this.

I was broken. Had I not been carrying him, my fiancé may have had to carry me! The sadness was quickly swept aside by guilt. I hated myself for having to go back to work. And it is a having to. I’ve tried to think of several ways that I could not. Back to work means less time with my child. Less opportunity to develop his little foibles; to watch him giggle and dance and hear his cute, posh voice get its tongue around the new words he has learnt. Back to work means fewer pyjama mornings with Duggee and dancing. Back to work means no more spontaneous Ikea lunches mastering hand-with-spoon-to-mouth control.

Back to work means a rushed dinner-time with a regimented routine through to a too-soon bedtime; my mind already escaping to the pile of marking I’ve got waiting downstairs and the exercise I will never get round to so that what if I forget to kiss his little mouth goodnight? Back to work means daycare. And I loathe the thought of leaving my adorable little man with someone else. I fear that she will replace me in his affection, that he will see me as the one that leaves him and turn to someone who never does. Over the next few weeks I will come to resent this of my fiancé too – why do I have to be the one that faces the tears and the clinging arms and the sadness? Because I want to. I want the extra driving minutes that will afford me nursery rhyme time and car dancing that The Toddler has honed to perfection in the last few weeks. I want to be the last face he sees before the childminder takes him to play with his new friends. I want to torment myself all day if he cries because I feel I deserve it…

I know I have to work. Financially it isn’t viable for me not to and what principles would I be teaching my son if I didn’t? What part of me would I lose if I stayed out of the classroom? There’s a dignity to working, a sense of independent ‘earn’ that would be missed if I didn’t. And yet, I suspect I will hate it, every day. I am a full-time, full-on Mommy and hate the idea that as well as part-time teacher I would be a part-time parent by virtue of not being with my child 24/7.

As ‘Tuesday’ ticks closer, the guilt will overwhelm me. I will cry more, I will try to cuddle my boy more, I will find myself whispering that I love him just to make sure he knows. But then I will get up with the alarm. I will run around to catch and dress him and bungle us both in to the car and sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ while he moves like Jagger in the back seat. I will kiss him (if he will let me) and tell him I will see him soon while he calls his new favourite “bye” to me from the doorstep. I will cry on the lonely drive to school and wish we were at home, swimming, anywhere but separated. And then I will pack my guilt and my makeup in to my bag and return to working Mommy.

Just the two of us…

It’s been longer than The Toddler is old since The Fiancé and I went out for a ‘date’. We haven’t the fortune of family living close by so finding a babysitter can be hard. Add to that my ridiculous levels of control-freak neuroses about The Toddler being looked after by anyone who isn’t me and it’s been difficult for us to break out of ‘Mommy and Daddy’ and just be Cat and Dan. The strain on the relationship has sometimes been telling.

In spite of much anxiety, I took advice from an @honestmum blog and kept a booked settling in day The Toddler had with his childminder so we could have a ‘day date’. He needed to be reacquainted with the routine and the person before next week’s return to normality and the time for ‘us’ might be nice…

I’m not going to lie: I thought about changing my mind. Several times. I also thought of using the time to do the food shop and clean out my wardrobe. But The Fiancé had other plans (this in itself is a rare phenomenon!)…

The Toddler was clingy at drop off. I was quietly glad. That makes me odd, I get. But I wouldn’t have liked him to rush in and forget me. Some of my ‘issues’ around The Toddler are based on the idea that I’m quite sure he’s on the lookout for a better person than me – that I’m not good enough for my boy. Crazy. Yes. Perhaps. So when he gave me an extra cuddle this morning some relief balmed my heart – he didn’t think The Childminder was his Mom!

Begrudgingly I drove away from the house and toward ‘breakfast’. I started to loosen up after a coffee. The man across from me is cute, funny, clever and so kind and kissable; I started to enjoy his company without any distractions other than Sue’s four attempts to take our order (I talk too much).

The breakfast was amazing. I completely undid the little green heart option next to my smashed avacado choice with a request for a bacon topper and a cheeky steal of hash brown from the other plate. I didn’t have to offer my food to anyone else having mashed it, chopped it, chewed or blown it first. I didn’t get any food thrown at me or the floor. The clothes I’d chosen to put on were, in fact, still clean six hours later! A novelty.

The plan was simple: breakfast; books; gallery; cake. I went with it. I’m not a massive foodie. But I was inspired by a F&B breakfast (and a loose pinafore) and the loveliness of my man who detoured to buy me some clothes from a shop I don’t visit anymore in case it isn’t ‘Mommy’.

I also haven’t spent so long in a bookshop for months. And months. I love books. I have lots of them. Over two hundred. There’s an embarrassing amount of those that are unread, having been purchased since I developed the talent of being so tired as to be able to fall asleep standing. Give me lines and lines of text and it’s a veritable white noise for the eyes. But today I didn’t care that I wouldn’t walk out of the bookshop without even purchasing one. It was just nice to browse. I’d forgotten the verb ‘browsing’ even existed… it was then that I realised some me time isn’t such a bad thing.

We spent the afternoon chatting, holding hands, chatting… The Fiancé is so used to my conversation having only two topics. I’m used to my conversation only having two topics. Unless my Mother calls. Or the man next door starts shouting at the dogs. Or the cats meow at a ridiculous volume as soon as I’ve put The Toddler to bed. But aside from moaning, The Toddler and work, I rarely mention anything else. I think even I forget who I am from time to time outside of the labels ‘Mommy’ and ‘Teacher’.

The Edwardian tea rooms in Birmingham’s Art Gallery was the perfect setting for the end of our date (aspirational wedding venue) but the relaxed and loved-up vibes continued in to the rest of the day. I’d, of course, sent messages to The Childminder to see how The Toddler was and of course: he was fine. His clingy mood had abated as soon as I’d turned my back. I should probably take a leaf out of his book – just carry on with what’s ahead of you; calm down. The Toddler is safe with his childminder. I vetted her carefully, I trust her care and education of him, what exactly is my problem?

We played outside and had lots of chuckles and cuddles. I missed him. And I will miss him next week. But I’ve also missed the man I fell in love with, who proposed to me in Paris two years ago. The world didn’t end whilst The Fiancé and I were out alone for a few hours, in fact: the world was a pretty lovely place.

Why some ‘time’ might do you (two) good:

1. (In his words:) ‘we are more compatible than we remember.’ There’s plenty of fizz left in us and lots and lots of love. We knew that. But it sometimes gets buried underneath rants and moans and piles of ironing and teatime schedules and unscheduled extra meetings. A reconnect before back to work has been ooh so yummy.

2. I got a treat. I ate without rushing. I drank five hot – yes, hot! – drinks. I sniffed books. The Fiancé even snook in a hair appointment for me. I felt almost half as attractive as he thinks I am. It’s not a bad feeling…

3. It’s chilled me out! This is a big deal. Whilst Mommy-guilt and separation anxiety will always kick in when I’m away (eventually I might get over this. But there’s like 29 years before he’s moving out so plenty of time yet), the attachment issues are calming down. I even mentioned doing it again. Write that down someone.

4. The Toddler wasn’t really all that bothered. He likes playing with his little friends. It’s good for him. And he knew his Mommy instinctively and has been the cuddliest and giggliest boy for the rest of the afternoon. And I’ve smiled lots. I’m not a big smiler. I hate my teeth.

5. The ‘Love’ has continued. As I write, The Fiancé is making coffee. We are putting a film on. We have bought a planner to get our shit together and make time for a whole raft of hobbies, intellectual bits and kissing that we want to do. I can’t wait.

Just don’t tell My Mother she was right. She’d never let it go!

Back to Work Like a Boss

Are you heading back to work after maternity leave? Does the end of the six weeks spell out a return to the classroom for Mommy (or Daddy) too?

I dreaded returning to work earlier this year and am not really looking forward to getting back in to the classroom in a week either – I love being at home with The Toddler. Maternity leave is a beautiful period with your little one and the end of it can be an upsetting upheaval that leaves us questioning whether we are really doing the best for our baby by leaving them behind with a family member, a childminder or in a nursery for hours while we disappear from their immediate consciousness.

The guilt of leaving can be overwhelming. But work is inevitable for most of us so whilst we are there we might as well Boss it. Here are a few things I learnt during my return (that I’m hoping to revise myself in the next week) and write them here to help you smash the working Mommy facade.

1. Don’t compare yourself to yourself.

This is key. I ignored it when I first returned to work. I won’t be ignoring it this year. I was almost super-human in my commitment to work BC (Before Child). I’d take on extra and work at home and get to work early. I loved it. When I went back, I found I was in a constant battle against that old standard. It doesn’t exist. Whether you’re starting a new job or returning to your previous one, it’s important that you go back with a ‘new normal’. Don’t over-stretch yourself; know your new limits – going back to work doesn’t add any extra hours in to the day! It doesn’t mean you’re weaker, less capable, less anything. You’re just a Mommy now. For me, this was massive. I would guiltily go through all I couldn’t do any more before going to bed and feeling like a bad Mommy and a bad Teacher. I’m not either. Think about what is a realistic standard of badass and be that.

2. Plan for micro goals. It’s all about the marginal gain

You might be returning to a job that doesn’t have big goals and long term plans. That’s a happy place to be! As Mommies, we know that anything can happen during any given hour to change a whole planned afternoon. The same will happen when you factor a job in to the mix, in fact: it may intensify the likelihood of everything going tits up. So: if you get through the morning rush without breakfast on your clothes then you’re ace. If you get your make-up on as well before leaving the house then you’re already smashing it. Don’t be afraid to reschedule, ask for extensions or call in sick when baby is ill. Be proud of being a working Mommy at all; it’s a massive achievement.

3. Make time in your day to breathe and chat

Time away from work could have caused some distance in working relationships. Days and weeks and months alone at home with a baby will no doubt have made you feel like your IQ has lessened to that of the pet hamster. It’s important to have some time in your work day to reconnect with acquaintances and your work persona or with yourself having rushed around like a whirlwind to get everything ready for yourself and baby before having left the house. Use ten minutes of your lunch break to sit and eat and have a chat. When I get in to work I make me a cup of coffee and eat some breakfast. Sometimes it’s the only, or quietest, ‘meal’ of my day. I switch my laptop on, fiddle with some stuff on my desk and make sure I’ve drunk my coffee before I start work or let the horde of students in that are gathering before the bell. I don’t feel bad for those ten minutes of calm; I need them and so will you!

4. Dress to impress yourself!

I quite like my work wardrobe. Most times in a month, it’s the most dressed up I get! Take time to make sure the clothes you’re in for work help you feel good about you. You spend a lot of time in work and so it’s important to feel empowered and confident during that time. The right clothes can make you walk a little taller, smile at your own reflection; feel like you’ve got a handle on things. For me, it’s heels. Most of the students I teach are taller than me – the heels are completely psychological. But my collection of quirky four inch heels have become an identity point for me at work and help me make the switch to ‘Miss’ from ‘Mama’. If you are in a job that has uniform restrictions then get a matching set on (I love the power of underwear), pucker up with some luscious lipstick or see that your nails are done. Dress to show the working world you’re rocking this working Mommy-hood – they’ll never know any different.

5. It’s ok to ‘forget’ baby whilst you’re busy. 

My childminder told me she didn’t mind me texting her to see if The Toddler was ok. I guarantee she regrets that! However as my familiarity with working started to develop, or as I became busy, I’d find I’d gotten to break time without texting. Sometimes I’d not even mentioned him either. At first I was annoyed at myself. I accused myself of forgetting about my baby. What an idiot!

I can be a pretty neurotic Mommy. Most days, the messages in response to mine would be the same. Why? Because he was fine! It’s not forgetting, it’s just getting on with things. And work has to be gotten on with. In the hours I do ‘forget’ I’m much more productive, cheerful and organised. The busier the day, the quicker the time passes and Mommy or not – the end of the work day is always welcome!

I hope your return to work is supported and successful. Surround yourself with positive people at work. You may find that you’re less tolerant of time wasters but that’s ok; it’s less to get in your way. You’re a busy person with another shift to start when you get home; lots of luck!

We are in A&E. Don’t panic…

It must have been the most contradictory message I’d ever sent my Mother. But with The Toddler in arms at the check-in and a dying battery, I didn’t know what else to say to the message: ‘is it bedtime – how’s he settling?’

‘Don’t panic’ had been the mantra of my drive. The Toddler sat in his car seat whimpering every so often. He broke my heart. His face was suddenly not so ‘boy’ but baby; my baby. And he was in pain.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I would say when I walked to check in. I couldn’t remember where to park. I hadn’t been able to put a warm top on The Toddler before leaving for fear of further stressing him out. And he’d still got some remnants of pudding or something around his face. Now they’d think I didn’t look after him at all… the Mommy brain is a dangerous place and crisis had flung it into overdrive.

I gathered The Toddler up and we headed toward A&E. He was lethargic and sad. I was anxious and sad. I felt like a terrible Mommy. I clocked the paediatric wait time: 1 hour 40. I predicted I’d be at the end of the queue with a non-specific ‘I just know’ Mommy-instinct injury to the arm. There was no blood. No screaming agony. No lack of consciousness. But I knew there was something wrong with my boy.

As The Toddler and I arrived, so did The Fiancé as back up. I was glad. But didn’t tell him. I was mad. I’d left the house in a ‘I’ll sort this!” bluster. The accident had happened on his watch. I made him explain: ‘Tantrum. Put him down. He fell forward. Arm out. Sat and cried. I thought he was still having a tantrum. Then he only reached out for Mom with one arm. Then he wouldn’t move his left arm at all. Then he wouldn’t eat. Then he cried when we moved his arm. Nurofen. About forty minutes ago.’

We must have sounded ridiculous. I didn’t care. The Toddler sat having one of the longest Mommy cuddles he’s had in a long time. Normally my boy is like a Duracell bunny but tonight he was so still and still whimpered and winced whenever his arm moved.

An hour and forty? Really?

We were called through in five minutes. The Toddler’s arm was prodded and squeezed and a debate was held as to whether it was his wrist or his elbow. A consultant would come.

Hospital rooms are so dehydrating… I leaned in the hospital bed, adopting a position I’d become accustomed to having visited hospital several times whilst pregnant with reduced movement and other worries. Now I cradled my precious boy hoping he was ok.

The Consultant was sending The Toddler for an X-ray. I felt sick. And ashamed. My 16 month old baby was being sent for an X-ray? What would they be thinking?

We walked the hospital corridors – aren’t they so much quieter and darker at nighttime? – toward radiology. I donned the lead gown necessary to hold The Toddler through an X-ray. It was heavy. I don’t think I’d really been listening when the radiologist talked about it and made waiver my own health to sit within the rays. But I was quickly aware of the reality of the situation with the weight of the jacket. My poor boy, an x-Ray… what if? And if? No more time. I was told to hold his arm this way and that way. He screamed as his arm was ‘photographed’ in three different positions. As we exited the room, The Fiancé’s face revealed the audibility of his cries from the waiting room. He was sorrier than I was.

There was no sense of humour or sense of time in me. I don’t know how long we waited for The Consultant to reappear. Surely I’d have known if he’d broken a bone? Surely I would have…

In the time we waited The Toddler asked to ‘down’. He started to lift his arm a little. I was giddily hopeful that the worst-case-scenario-mini-films playing in my head were going to be shelved.

We were told he’d suffered a minor dislocation to his elbow. The Consultant conned him in to watching something and then pulled and clicked his elbow back in to place. The Toddler screamed again. I was close to tears myself. And violence. In fact, my tiger-rage was only distracted by the chattering of The Toddler who called for “Duggeeee, woof” and picked up a rice cake. He lifted it with his left arm. And The Consultant was saved.

I know it all sounds melodramatic. I know other babies have suffered worse. But in those hours last night, my baby was in the worst state I could imagine. He’s happy and healthy and I’m so careful with him. I cry when he gets a bad bruise from crashing into walls, beds, slides… that he’d been injured enough to prompt a visit to A&E was a nightmare.

We returned home three and a half hours after leaving with a hyperactive Toddler who ran around the house dancing and spinning on request for an hour, rattling a discovered mint Aero for it to be opened (it wasn’t, but this is one of his new favourite games). He finally climbed up for a cuddle and flaked out on my lap.

Today he woke at 06:30 like normal (who cares if four hours’ sleep was lost) and turned on his Dyson. He’s been to soft play and played cars with his brothers and ran in and out of a den with his Mommy. He’s my hero.

What a trip to A&E taught me:

1. Don’t go alone! The Fiancé’s presence was a welcome one, the only company I needed and wanted in fact. I’d called my sister on the drive because I needed to talk to someone. Hospitals are horrid and lonely. Mommyhood can be horrid and lonely. A poorly baby in a hospital with a panicked Mommy is the loneliest.

2. Don’t be angry! The Fiancé was gutted, heartbroken that an injury of this magnitude had happened on his watch. But again; hospitals are horrible places. And they’re no place for hostility. And besides: you need someone to fetch you hot drinks.

3. Trust your gut! You know baby best. If you think something is wrong then go and get it checked out. It doesn’t matter what people look at you like. Mommy guilt can handle a ‘is that all?’ look but not a sad and poorly baby.

4. Be patient! Hospitals are like vacuums of time. Clocks stand still and then pounce forward. You’ll know this from antenatal and labour… but when baby is ill, every clock seems to tell you that you’ve waited well beyond your allotted time and need to be seen right now! They know you’re there. Try and trust the staff.

5. Make sure a phone is fully charged. If not for the communication of the problem to people, then for amusement, procrastination or distraction of the poorly child or any other children with you. We’ve all got principles about screen time. Abandon them. The Consultant clicked The Toddler’s arm with as little resistance as she did because she had asked for him to watch something. He stared fascinated by Duggee’s ‘stick song’. He loves it. He’s fascinated every time it starts (and was dancing to it before we were discharged). Duggee is also now on the hero list.

Flying solo…

9F6BBDD5-0C6D-4235-9242-DC3AAC011E3F… with The Toddler isn’t exactly a first in the metaphorical sense, just as it isn’t for most Mommies. I love days off with The Toddler and in my working week, our Momday is my favourite day of the week. But actually getting to an airport, on a plane, through the baggage collection and to the car in the Long Stay car park on the other side with The Toddler? Well: that was a first.

Unforeseen circumstances had meant The Fiancé had had to fly home early and so The Toddler and I were left to soak up the rain ‘alone’ with the Irish contingent for a few days before our scheduled departure.

The journey had begun to fill me with dread 24hours prior to its actuality. I like to think I’m a pretty tough cookie. I have flown long-haul by myself a few times. I have spent nights alone with The Toddler on several occasions. I have been dealing with the tantrum almost daily. So I wasn’t sure exactly why the airport run was bothering me. Maybe it’s that my usually quite laid back Dad had checked I had got the passports and car key three times in the first two hours after The Fiancé had gone. Or that my Mother had checked to see if the oh so reliable air company was still actually scheduling the flight from Knock… I don’t know. But I was quietly unnerved. And I knew my Dad was too when he bought me a chicken wrap to take to the airport with me to make sure I had some food – he’s a man of few words (unless they’re swear ones)!

The agitation increased when I found my Mother had squirrelled away washing that she had told The Fiancé to take back in the bigger case with him, and upon finding that The Toddler’s new favourite distraction wouldn’t fit in the rucksack… so there I was with a case heavier than I’d planned to be lugging around and a backpack the size of which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a plane to Melbourne (TinkyWinky on the other hand would definitely not have liked the hostels). A4918DAE-83F8-4E7B-889D-FD84C36A022F.jpeg

We bid Nanny and Grandad an emotional farewell and trundled toward security. I was never great at getting this right. In the desire to fly fashionably I would invariably put on shoes that needed to be taken off and jewellery that would trigger a detector. I’ve been frisked more than once and argued that lip balm does not constitute a liquid. With all of the paraphernalia The Toddler carries, there was bound to be an errant bottle of 101ml that I’d neglected to inform the plastic bag police of. Or more likely would be The Toddler’s clingy need to stay cuddled like a lemur having woken only as we parked the car. However, The Toddler was impeccable as I put him down so I could perform the usual airport strip tease. He even volunteered to run through the scanning machine. No one but me was amused at that. He sat patiently whilst I re-packed and then we were through to the smallest departure lounge in the Western World. Boom!

I started to relax. What could be so bad? Me and my lovely boy could handle this. He could barely run around in Knock’s shelter anyway. And I’d spot him no problem amidst the two planes’ worth of people that were crammed in. In fact, if I could plop him on a seat and feed him PomBears and sing stupid songs our half hour wait till gate open, then that would be a dream. Of course I hadn’t counted on the possessiveness of passengers when it comes to the attainment of a plastic seat. You have to have one for yourself and one ‘that’s taken’ by your luggage ‘for someone’. So we sat on the floor. And sang stupid songs and ran around in to the sturdiest of advertisement barriers and dashed to and fro for PomBears with the happiest little grin. Bliss.

Then it came: the boarding announcement. And for anyone that’s flown Ryanair, you know that means the call to queue that only appears on the screen. Luckily, my tested peripheral vision and upward glancing position gave us more of an advantage than I’d usually have for timing the gate movement. The Toddler, case and steering wheel toy were no obstacle to my speed and agility as I darted to position no12 in the queue. I was feeling very pleased with myself. I’d even still got my hair down. And coat on.

And then we stood. And stood. And sweat. Placation method one: the rest of the PomBears. Two: the suitcase handle (I’m still sorry to the leg of the person that caught the case). Three: the phone. Four: a brief deluded moment of trust that resulted in a dash behind the check-in desk (“shit”). Five: the phone. Six: the passports (this actually worked the longest. The Toddler loved the story of the babba and the swan). Seven: the lollipop. I was disgusted with myself. I should have stuck it out. I should have never remembered that I had a lollipop in the bag. But having carried a starfish Toddler past the lady checking our boarding passes and out on to the runway (yes, you queue on the runway at Knock), I was desperate for something that would keep The Toddler quiet and happy on my hip and out from under the wheels of a baggage lorry…

I’m not sure if his hyperactivity upon seating was excitement, relief, or just a sugar overdose. His loveliness had lasted the cabin walk and several goodbyes to the strangers he passed to row 19. Then he wanted to bounce and bang and bounce and play ‘hi’ with a very patient boy in front. I was amused and exhausted and desperate for a comedown. Any Mother that does this as standard is amazing.

The flight was not actually as eventful as it’s opening predicted. The Toddler sat and drove his green car in the seat The Fiancé should have been in (small mercies), ate his celery snack and chatted about the dog as we landed.

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Then he shouldered his rocket reins and toddled happily through baggage claim. His fascination with the moving track made my dart for the suitcase easy and then we were off to the bus stop.

The panic dwindled even more as The Toddler ran in and out of the bus stop like a happy loon, grinning and singing and dancing and filling his nappy… the passengers on this side were much more generous in their seat possession and the bell button didn’t work so the driver wasn’t heralded to a stop fifteen times on the journey.

There were a few minutes of minor terror when I couldn’t remember where The Fiancé had parked the car and got cut off in a phone call to enquire because The Toddler was stroking a very nice Range Rover. But we found Big George – men love to name things don’t they – to the joy of The Toddler who’s now convinced he can sit shotgun (thanks Grandad).

Bum changed, a car-seat fight, a feisty exchange with the service station Burger King server and a rapid front seat pyjama party later and we were on our way home.

Eight hours after we set off in Ireland, The Toddler was cuddled up, milked, in bed. I wasn’t sure what all my drama was about – instinct and patience had won the day and perhaps I’d been taught the lesson that I’ve more of both than I think I have. So whilst I’m not sure I’d do it again in a hurry; it’s good to know that I can. 4AF788BB-747D-4A8D-99D0-617B01674A4F.jpeg

Boob at bedtime

0C20EF75-FE97-4650-AF1D-54F6E290B186.jpegI am a breastfeeding Mommy. It was my preferred method of feeding my boy even when pregnant. Since the first latch, he’s loved it and I feel that it’s intensified our bond and have enjoyed those moments of calm when a feed has meant a snuggle and a warm, dozy baby.

It hasn’t been an easy journey and I hadn’t planned to be breastfeeding for so long when I started. I asked my unsure parents and guilt-ridden Fiance to give me the obligatory two weeks I’d read about somewhere as being as little that was needed to ensure a healthier immune system. And so our breastfeeding journey began.

Today The Toddler turned 16months… he’s snuggled against me in a bedtime feed that has stretched out almost an hour. He’s wriggled. He’s chatted. He’s twiddled and pinched and rubbed my chubby bits. He’s smiled and grizzled. Last night he took ten minutes to snuggle to sleep. Tonight: well I don’t know what his deal is. This has obviously meant that I’ve sat alone for almost an hour. Breast-feeding has meant that the bedtime routine has become mostly mine. We have tried to introduce a bottle but The Toddler has never really taken to it – at least not in my presence. Admittedly, I could have been more committed to the swap over but I’ve liked the sense of accomplishment that breastfeeding had brought with it. And I’ve quietly been afraid that the abandonment of it will cause our bond to break… it’s likely an irrational anxiety but it’s one that won’t quiet.

The Toddler is a strong-willed little Love – people often take a sidelong look at me when they say they don’t know where he gets it from – and he’s decided that he still doesn’t want to move to have a bottle at night. He would still prefer to have ‘molk’ that he can now paw at and lean toward mouth agape in the middle of Costa for his morning or afternoon milk too. I’ve tried to prevent public feeds of late (but after reading a blog from themummyadventures.com I am wishing I hadn’t been so sensitive) in the quandary that maybe The Toddler should be properly weaned off the boob… for a happy bedtime however, breast has remained best.

On nights like tonight though, I admit to questioning it. I come close to defeat. The Toddler is lain down in his bed and told it’s time for sleep while I find my inner yogi at his side. I give him a bottle, convinced that I’m just not making enough milk to settle him, and I continue to hum amidst his growing displeasure. My own patience could dwindle soon. Trapped in a room with a cheekily stubborn Toddler wasn’t how I envisaged my evening; The Fiancé and I have lost many plans for rekindled romance to the boob demands.

As if he knows my next move is to go to fetch a bottle and some strong resolve against his resistance, he stops moaning and rubs his eyes and puts his arms up and says “momma” and I’m won. My patience and boobs rebooted, we cuddle up and have another milky snuggle for the ten minutes it takes for him to settle to  sleep.

Breastfeeding has been a monumental part of our relationship and for now continues to be best for my baby. It wouldn’t be for everyone. It’s a very personal choice – it has taken much from me emotionally, physically, and temporally. With an 18month milestone looming, I may find myself reconsidering my choice to continue. But even on nights like tonight, his scrumptious little sucked up mouth makes me a happy Mommy.

A few things I’ve learnt whilst breastfeeding a Toddler:

1. It isn’t as easy as breastfeeding a ‘baby’. There has come a point, subtly and without warning, whereby The Toddler is a little too big to be nursed comfortably on his Mommy’s lap. We used to be able to fit in Costa chairs for discrete public nursing. Now he requires, and enjoys, quite a bit of space. So much so, that I don’t often feed him in public. I’m not embarrassed by it – he’s pretty much outgrowing it anyway – but it’s just not altogether practical. There have been a few blush worthy instances of the top being yanked down and him attempting to help himself when he’s tired and crabby and I’ve been having a coffee.

2. Awareness of the boob is a funny and irritating phenomenon. The Toddler has started to make his demands for boob quite clear. I get pounded on the chest with “that, that” told at me over again until we are sitting. The Fiancé finds this endearing. However, he’s also discovered that I have two boobs (The Toddler, not The Fiancé; he worked it out a while ago) and likes to try and ‘twiddle’ with the other one. This drives me up the wall!

3. People will likely think you’re off your rocker. The looks I get if I do nurse in public are much more obviously judgemental now than they ever were when The Toddler was littler. It’s as if there’s a socially acceptable age or baby size when breastfeeding should stop and anything past that is just deemed weird. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t plan to be breastfeeding this long, it’s just continued without definite altogether halting intervention. I wouldn’t stop it just to please the disgruntled lady two tables across from me in the M&S cafe though.

4. It is still a beautiful and intensely personal experience. I’d be lying if I said I had loved every minute of breastfeeding (and I know The Fiancé would be lying too if he said he’d been complete supportive of it – not least because he’s missed my boobs!) but the relationship I have with my child is definitely as it is because of feeding. I returned to work before The Toddler was 9 months old and so for me, possibly selfishly, the continued feeding has been anyway to secure our relationship. At nighttime, when we are both tired and want a cuddle, nursing The Toddler to sleep is one of my favourite moments of calm, sans nipple twiddling of course!