Saturday, 21 January 2017

Parenting is Lonely

Something you don't often get told before you become a parent, is how lonely it is. And how isolating it can be. It definitely wasn't something I was prepared for; and it's a very real thing I struggle with now.

Before I had children, I was a bit of a social butterfly. I knew a lot of people and counted most of them as good friends. They lived all over Ireland, and some in other countries, and I had the freedom to come and go and visit whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was able to randomly decide to get a train to Dublin, not tell anyone I was coming, yet when I walked into a particular pub (Fibbers, FYI) I'd know most of the people there. I loved it. My life revolved around my friends and it was great.

But then I met Geth. We fell pregnant very early on in the relationship and almost immediately, everything changed. While I was head over heels in love and so happy and excited to become a Mum, life suddenly shifted on its axis and I had to learn some responsibility. And with that, spontaneity was replaced with structure, and partying gave way to parenting. My life moved on.

Sure, it's to be expected. My friends weren't facing this huge life change. It wasn't their problem that I wasn't able to come visit at the drop of a hat anymore. It wasn't their fault that I couldn't get a babysitter all the time. And I have to give it to them, they did try. For the first year or so, they came to see me, some travelling half way across the country to do so. They still invited me to things, on the off chance I could go. But you know, if you keep on getting the same no answer, you're eventually going to stop inviting. So I do understand. The paths of their lives hadn't taken this turn yet, so they stayed behind while I sprinted ahead.

The thing is, we need friends. Humans need to be with other humans. And cooing at your baby all day definitely doesn't count. Yelling at your obnoxious 4 year old definitely doesn't count. For me at least, I need a conversation about something other than poo or the importance of washing your hands. I crave some adult interaction.

There is a group of amazing women here in the town where I live. I go for coffee with them, I care about them and I adore their children. I enjoy the time I spend with them, and wish we could do it more often, yet I feel like an outsider. They are my sister's friends. I didn't get to know them and have a relationship develop organically. Rather, our friendships came about through association. I do love these women, and quite regularly I'm in awe of them for their strength and grace in the face of their own struggles. However, I do feel our friendships lack the depth of understanding that comes from developing naturally. They have that with my sister, not with me.

I'm looking for a 'tribe'. Even if that's just one person. Someone who 'gets' me. Someone who understands the complexity of being mum, wife, friend. sister, aunt and ME. I miss having 'in-jokes'. I miss having someone I can really be myself around. I'm waiting and waiting for that person to come along to just 'click' with. Because I am lonely. It is hard. I miss having friends. I just miss having someone to call. I can easily go days without seeing any adult other than Joshua's teacher and the girls in Arya's creche. As spoilt as it sounds, I really just want a friend who is mine.

Applications taken below!

Love, N.x

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Arri, Me & Boobie

To put the following ramble into perspective, let me just tell you that I'm a bit of a giver upper. My whole life, I've started things and then given them up. Various musical instruments, projects, hobbies all cast aside soon after I vow to dedicate myself to them. I've written countless introduction posts on this blog with the intention of posting more regularly, but given up soon after. I make excuses about how I don't have enough time or enough natural ability, or the kids get in the way, or even that my eyebrows haven't been waxed in a year. So for me to stick to anything for any extended period of time is nothing short of a miracle. Now, as you were.

Oh my gee, today has been an emotional day. Not just because Arya is now a bona fide subscriber to 'The Terrible Twos', but because today also marks the end of a very special period of our relationship.

To begin with, let me not that one thing I regret giving up on so easily was breastfeeding Joshua. I lasted 4 weeks before giving in to the voice in my head (and the voices all around me). Don't get me wrong, he's a strong, healthy, happy boy now, but I've always felt like I've let him down in some way because I selfishly decided I couldn't deal with breastfeeding. Nobody has ever said that to me, that I was selfish to stop, but my conscience reminds me that's it's just another thing I've given up on.

With Arya, I was determined. I did A LOT more research during my pregnancy with her, and as a result, I felt much better prepared for when she came along. Well along she did come and hallelujah, she latched on for that first feed with not a hint of a problem. The nurses told me she was a natural. They told me her latch was perfect, our positioning was great, that we were flying. 

We were flying, while we were in the hospital at least. I soon learnt that breastfeeding at home was an entirely new beast to tame. I had no midwives to guide me, no prior positive experience to draw on, and a toddler zooming around, It was hard. So hard. There were many tears, both mine and hers. I had no idea what I was doing. All the research I had done evaporated out of my head and I was basically running blindfolded. Nobody at all in my family or Geth's family had any advice; everyone was formula fed on both sides. Arya lost more than the maximum 10% of her birth weight within the first 5 days. The health nurse started to push for formula top ups which I was loathe to agree to. All the research I had done suggested that formula top ups meant you never built up a good enough supply, resulting in more formula top ups being necessary. This in turn caused a drop in supply and quite often, a full switch to formula feeding. But, I digress.

Like I said, I was determined this time round, but even I reached my limit. A bout of mastitis a few weeks in floored me and had me tearfully sending Geth to Tesco at half 11 one night for some formula and bottles. Arya was screaming, I was sobbing, and poor Geth was at his wits end. He fully supported my decision to keep going, but I can't imagine how distressing it must have been for him to see Arya and me in that state. He gladly made up a bottle of formula and Arya gulped it down, falling asleep soundly straight away afterward. THAT was my moment. The moment I'd arrived at many times before. I usually picked the easy way. That voice was in my head again. You're being selfish trying to carry on breastfeeding, it said. She's obviously suffering, and it's your fault. I was so close to giving up once again.

So little! Arya at 3 weeks old.




But I didn't. This time, I took the hard way.

I told Geth I wanted to give it one more try. I wanted to take it a feed at a time and see how we went. That's what we did. I made a choice to see the pain, bleeding nipples, cluster feeds, mastitis, all as tests of endurance, which they definitely were. And, after 5 or 6 weeks, I was sat in bed one night feeding Arya and I realised that I hadn't had to think twice about this feed. She'd latched on perfectly. It had happened so instinctively, I didn't even recall doing it. But we did it. And from then on, we really did fly.

Breastfeeding became such an important part of my daughters and my relationship. Arya nursed whenever she could. Through teething, tummy bugs, weaning, hospital stays and eye surgeries, boobie was her comfort. It became part of her routine. She nursed when she came into the big bed with Joshua for morning snuggles. She nursed while I read her stories. She nursed whenever she hurt herself and sometimes, quite often, she nursed just because.

I always couldn't wait to feed her after she had an operation; nursing was a comfort for us both.

One of the side effects of breastfeeding can be that it can delay your menstrual cycle returning, and that was certainly the case for me. By Arya's first birthday, there was still no sign of my period returning and to be honest, I didn't mind that one bit! So you can imagine how bloody shocked I was to find out that I was pregnant 3 weeks after Arya turned one. It was inevitable then that the questions started coming. Curious family members, friends, acquaintances, people I'd talked to once on a night out ALL wanted to know what this meant for Arya. Here's a selection of some of the things I had people actually say to me:

Surely you'll stop now? No.

Won't it mean there'll be no milk for the new baby? No. 

She's too old for that now anyway. Says who?

She'll grow up weird. (This remark made me want to punch the person who said it.)

You'll never get a minutes peace for yourself. What's new there, I have kids?!

There's no health benefits past the age of one anyway so why keep up the bother? Totally untrue. The health benefits of breastfeeding extend way past the age of one.

She's too attached to you. I fail to see how it can possibly be a bad thing that she feels safe and loved around me.

It all got old really quickly. I had no intentions of stopping any time soon, pregnant or not. Being pregnant meant I was extra sensitive and for the first few weeks I cringed every time Arya nursed. She began to nurse less. I know that when you're pregnant, the taste of your milk can change, so maybe it was that. I also read that being pregnant can result in a loss of supply, which causes many babies and toddlers to self wean, but I didn't experience that at all. Throughout my pregnancy, Arya nursed on average 3 times a day; when she woke up, when she went for her nap, and before bed.

The same routine continued after Finn was born. He's breastfed too, so we experienced a touch of jealousy on Arya's part. Finn needing to feed obviously has to take priority over Arya nursing, so there have been a few tears when she's wanted boobie but her baby brother has needed it too. But for the most part, tandem feeding has been a relatively painless experience. Having a toddler feeding has definitely come in handy at times too. She was great for relieving that newborn engorgement, and feeding her has kept my supply up brilliantly too.

But.

In the run up to Arya's 2nd birthday, something inside me changed. I've been getting a little bit tired of the constant pulling at my top, and the ever present hand in my bra. I've been feeling a sense of guilt for not allowing Finn full and sole use of my boobs. I never really had an end goal for this. At the beginning, 2 weeks seemed like an unobtainable goal. When I reached that, the goal became 6 weeks. Then 6 months. Then a year. After that, I stopped thinking about it. Honestly, I really thought Arya would wean herself off before she turned 2. I hoped she would, so it would be on her terms and it wouldn't be traumatic for her. But I think if I left Arya to self wean, she'd still be feeding after Finn has stopped! 

It's after midnight now, so technically, Arya had her last feed yesterday, at bedtime, on her 2nd birthday. It seemed fitting to do it then. She's no longer my tiny 6lb 8oz newborn. She's now a 22lb 2 year old. She received a special new big girl beaker for her birthday. We talked about how she can have warm milk in it at bedtime now, instead of having boobie. She knows that boobie is for Finn, who is only a little baby, whereas she's a big girl now.

Our last time.


That picture makes me feel so emotional. I'm sad for it to be the end, but I'm at peace with my decision. I do feel a little guilt that I'm forcing this to happen, but the fact is that Arya is growing up. She's becoming her own person, and she's finding her own mind. She starts creche in September. Her life is moving forward and she's leaving all traces of her baby self behind. This is just the natural progression of things. I'm incredibly proud of what we've achieved together. I would have laughed in your face if, 2 years ago, you'd have told me we'd make it to 2 years. I'm proud for the health benefits we've both received, and the knowledge we've gained.

Most of all though, I'm proud of the bond we share. I don't doubt we'd be close even if she were formula fed, but there's something special between us, and I'd like to think that breastfeeding has something to do with it.




Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Preparing for baby no.3: Starting to Panic!

I've found that with each pregnancy, time seems to move faster and faster.I'm 20 weeks pregnant this week. It's been 15 weeks since I found out I was expecting baby number 3 and I can hardly tell where the time has gone. If the last 15 weeks can move so fast, it stands to reason that the next 15 can too. There are plenty of things coming up in the next few months to help the time fly by faster as well. For instance, Halloween, my birthday, Christmas, New Year, mine and Mr. M's first wedding anniversary AND Valentine's Day all pop up before my due date, along with various other family birthdays and the prospect of a last minute holiday thrown in there too.

Realising all this has left me feeling a little bit panicked. With Mr. M being away with work, I'm also doing his share of the parenting too. Let me tell you, wrangling two small people single-handedly is a full-time job in itself! With so much going on, when am I ever going to have time to prepare for this baby?! I'm already 20 weeks; what if the baby comes early? What if the SPD I'm suffering rather badly with at the moment leaves me housebound and on crutches like last time? What if I get so caught up in whatever else is going on that I forget to buy something as essential as a car seat and I only realise when I want to take my newborn home?! Granted, that last worry is unlikely to happen, but still!

I've decided to put my organised hat on and MAKE A LIST. Or rather, several lists. I have lists for general baby must-buys, then more in depth lists with possible items, where they're from and how much they cost. I have a list for my hospital bag and one for baby's hospital bag even though I won't be packing them for another 10 weeks or so. I've even made a list of baby items I've seen recommended on YouTube or parenting blogs, just to see if any of them are worth me purchasing. All this may seem a little over excessive but to me, it's all completely necessary!

I am a worrier and an overthinker so all this is done in an effort to keep myself from stressing out too much. And check back, because I'll be posting more details about some of my efforts to prepare for this baby in future posts, along with hauls and other baby related stuff.

N x

Thursday, 10 September 2015

On the Topic of Refugees

To all my friends, I would like to ask you a question. 13 years ago, my family made the choice to move (migrate) here to Ireland from the UK. We are essentially immigrants. We fled no war, no religious persecution. We were not in fear of our lives. We CHOSE to move here. By the thinking of some things I've read lately, my family should not have been entitled to the financial support, education and healthcare we have received since moving here. Would you have us leave 'your country' even though we have done no wrong? Have we any more right to stay than those fleeing horrific situations abroad? Surely we have less of a right? Is it because we have the same colour skin as you and speak the same language as you that we are allowed to stay? Is it because our differences are less obvious? Would you stop your children from playing with ours because their parents aren't from here?

It is no secret that the Irish government are corrupt; that funding for healthcare, education, social housing and public services needs to be improved drastically. I completely agree that the Irish government have failed in their obligations to the common people. People are homeless where there is more than enough housing available. People are dying when there is no need. Situations are being created which are entirely unnecessary and could be avoided. All because there are TD's out there who would rather ignore the problems their people are faced with every day than help and find solutions. Should we do the same? As citizens of the world, should we turn our heads and dismiss the crises going on in the world as 'someone else's problem'? We (and our government) don't just have a social obligation here in this country, we have a global social obligation too.

It is easy to tar everyone with the same brush. However, the fact is, more crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity than any other religion. This includes Islam. This is easily forgotten about though. While I am not at all naive enough to think that there aren't refugees out there who ally themselves with ISIS or similar terrorist/fundamental religious organisations, I do think it is unfair to generalise with this assumption. In the same way, but of course to a lesser and more trivial extent, the Irish hate the generalisation and stereotype forced upon them that they are all heavily drinking, ginger leprechauns.

I'm also not stupid enough to think that there aren't people who are profitting from this situation. The smugglers who are charging these poor people thousands of euro to transport them on dangerously overcrowded, unsafe dinghy's. Migrants who are using these methods to enter countries when they are safe in their own. That's another argument for another time. The plain fact is, that the vast majority of these displaced people are just searching for safety. They didn't ask for this and sometimes, that's easy to forget. Civilians are just that. They aren't soldiers or politicians. They're just normal people like we are, who have been forced to leave their lives behind and try and find a new life somewhere else.

You were born here in Ireland by chance. You didn't choose it. You're just lucky. While we work hard for what we have, we have a better place to start than a lot of people in the world. You would think that with Ireland's own turbulent history of conflict and unneccessary heartbreak, this nation would be more sympathetic to these people's problems. While Irish people have had to endure difficulties of their own, oftentimes in the name of religion, they have not had to flee devastating war, natural disaster or famine. That is except from between 1845 and 1855, when 2.1 million Irish REFUGEES had to do just that. Would you have had the USA,Canada etc. turn those Irish people away then, because the famine 'wasn't their problem?'

Many of my friends are parents. I know for a fact that if we ever found ourselves in the same situation that these people are finding themselves in today, we'd do whatever we could to ensure our children could grow up somewhere safe, without fear. Even if that meant leaving our home country in search of a new place to call home. And we would hope that we would be offered that sanctuary somewhere without resistance or suspicion.

My views may seem idealistic and naive to you, I don't mind. I believe there is enough room on this planet for everyone. We are all entitled to a home. As John Green says, "We are ONE species, sharing one, profoundly, interconnected world, and humans, ALL humans, are our people."

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Moving to France

I should really tell you a bit about my mother-in-law. Picture a small 70 year old lady with light hair and glasses. Now imagine her driving huge trucks all over Europe bringing aid to eastern European countries. Add a sheepdog that never leaves her side and you pretty much have my mother in law.

She's eccentric, spontaneous and so very generous and kind. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise to myself or Geth when she came to us in December 2012 with a crazy idea.

"Let's pack up our whole lives and move to the French countryside!"

Eh?!

We were surprised. I had just started back at work from maternity leave. My job as a community artist for my county council wasn't paid particularly well but I loved it. Geth worked as a PA at our local college. Shosha was just 6 months old.

So at first it was a bit of a pipe dream; something we mused over and day dreamt about. It pretty much stayed that way for the next year and a bit. In that time I had 3 miscarriages and fell pregnant with Arri.

It all switched gears in April 2014. I was 30 odd weeks pregnant with Arri and was suffering from crippling SPD. Of course it was a natural decision to hop into a camper van and go driving through France on a house hunt.

Amazingly, we found a dream home in the Dordogne department. A huge property with 4 'gites' attached, a huge garden and a pool! Gites are small properties which are usually let out to holidaymakers. We did some research and realised it would be a great business. What sold it to us was that we'd both be able to work from home and be with Shosha and Arri all the time.

Fast forward to now. We're here. In our French home. Our forever home. We have no mortgage. My mother-in-law has set us up with an incredible opportunity to establish and secure a better lifestyle for Shosha and Arri. The place needs a lot of work doing to make it ready for next summer. It's a fantastic challenge. I'm hoping to document the experience here so in years to come when we're millionaires or tycoons in the hospitality industry (!) I can remind myself where we started.

And most importantly, I think, WHY we started.