Life, Parenting

Feeling ‘Ready’ For A Baby

There’s a bit of a trend now with so many people waiting to have kids, that it’s meant that most of mine and Mr Robinson’s friends don’t have any babies yet. Obviously that’s very personal – not every couple even WANTS kids and some might not be able to. Every family forms in their own way at their own rate but one topic that comes up regularly is ‘readiness’. Were we ready to start a family? Were we TRYING? How did we KNOW we were ready?

Full Disclosure: our baby was very much planned and conceived pretty much immediately. For that we can always be grateful, many people won’t have it that easy. However, it meant everything went from 0-60 very quickly. One minute we were making the decision to go for it and see where the wind would take us: the next we were looking at a positive pregnancy test.

In many ways – all the practical, boring, adult ways – we probably were not ready on paper. We were less than a year away from getting married and paying for that wedding. We wanted to move, we had very little saved, and to top it all I had decided not to go ahead with a teaching career that I’d worked towards for my entire life. Within all that, we both knew we wanted kids.

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I’ve thought about this ‘readiness’ for a while and if I’m being honest, I don’t think any person is ever going to be Ready. It’s not possible. Emotionally and mentally you can never be Ready.

You can’t sell parenting to people because it’s impossible to explain to someone how it’s going to be worth it. Many people look at the pile of negatives and they can’t align themselves with that change in their lifestyle. Dirty nappies? Getting peed on? Vomit? Considerable sleep deprivation? Childcare? Career breaks? Play dates? Loads of laundry? A gazillion bottles? Colic? Screaming? Crying? A bundle of items that need bought? No-one in their right mind thinks “YES, SIGN ME UP”!

What you can’t explain when you look at that list is that it’s worth it. People tell you it will be but you don’t believe them. All of those nappy changes? Well, in total, they probably only take up 20-40 minutes of my entire day. Sleepless nights? Our baby loves to sleep and yes, there are often BREAKS in sleep but we’ve yet to have a night of literally NO sleep.

We weren’t ready, we were totally unprepared. We got through it. I’m still not ready: I’m not ready for toddler tantrums; weaning; 7 hours of kids shows; nursery; school; or any of the hurdles coming up in our future. There’s no way to prepare for that because it’s going to be completely new for us but we’re going to get through it and it’s going to be worth it.

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Life, mental health

Alcohol

cocktailssss

Standing at the bar of a nightclub, music blaring so loud I’ve nearly lost the ability to hear, my shoes are literally sticking to the floor and I’m trying to order a drink. University is a whole new experience at this point and I’m trying to embrace it as has been advised by most people I’ve spoken to. A girl much drunker than me – I’m T-total at this stage – slips on the spilt drink next to us and goes straight down. She’s fucked, she’s literally allowed me (a complete stranger) to pick her up and prop her against a bar. It’s enough to remind me that I don’t enjoy being drunk like that and assure me that I’m comfortable with that decision.

“Can I have a coke, please?” I finally ask when the guy at the bar gets to me.

He blinks. “JD and coke?”

“No. Just coke”

“Vodka?” He’s looking at me like I’ve lost the plot.

“Just coke, thanks.”

Now he’s laughing openly at me, shrugging his shoulders and pulling a clean (ish) glass out. “Ice?”

I consent to the ice. Money is exchanged and I walk away from the bar feeling smaller than I ever have in my life. The girl I picked up is now on the floor and she seems far more at place here than I do.

That moment happened six years ago and I still look back on it with hugely mixed feelings. When I went to University I was told a million times over that I should jump into it and make the most of having that chance to go a bit wild. What hadn’t been considered was how you reconcile the “Fresher’s Experience” with anxiety and panic attacks that are coming very close to ruling your entire life.

All things considered, I was already pushing my personal boundaries. I’d moved three hours away from home to a city I’d never been to, to attend a University I’d only looked at pictures of, and live independently for the first time with a bundle of strangers. At no point had I factored in how I was going to cope with the social life that seemed to be expected.

I already knew by this point that alcohol wasn’t my friend. Not being one to give in to peer pressure easily, I stayed fairly firm in my decision not to drink often. I didn’t always get it right and I didn’t live a life of sobriety but rarely was I drunk. This wasn’t something that went unnoticed and that reaction at the bar happened more than once: it seems an unfathomable idea to some people that a person can go out, have a good time, and have no alcohol in their system.

Now, six years down the line, I can make informed decisions about my own alcohol consumption. Every time I decide to get drunk or spend a long weekend drinking regularly, my anxiety will wait in the wings until it can take centre stage. Every. Single. Time. Therefore, I have to weigh it up and I won’t always decide that spending three days fighting off panic attacks is worth it. It’s not personal. It’s not that I’m being boring. It’s just not worth the personal price every time.

Do I still drink? Yes, when I feel like it. Do I get drunk? Rarely but it does happen. Do I care if others drink around me? Nope. Do I care if others get drunk around me? Go right ahead, I’ll make sure you actually get home and unless you’re my husband, I won’t shame you in the morning. All I ask for in return is that you let my decide for myself if I want to drink, and how much, without the pressure.

Life, Parenting

Being Santa For The First Time

It has happened. I have become one of those parents that goes a little bit insane in preparation for Christmas. Now, it’s no real surprise that this was going to happen. Christmas is my favourite holiday and always has been. I love the shopping, the wrapping, the cards, the decorating, the tree, the food, the movies and Santa. This year is extra special because I get to instil that magic into my son for the very first time.

Yes, I know he’s only going to be six months old. I care not a jot.

What could possibly ruin this magical excitement? Other parents. There is not a single parent on this planet who doesn’t feel the pressure at Christmas. This is the first time I’ve had to wonder ‘am I spending too much?’ or ‘am I spending too little?’. How many physical gifts should my child be opening? Perhaps worst of all, I’ve had to wonder ‘will other parents judge me’?

Every year we spend Christmas Eve and Day with my parents. The house is filled with six adults and this year we’ll be adding one special little person to that mix. Those who know me will know that every Christmas Eve we take a picture of our gifts under the tree and I’ve never worried about other people’s judgement. I love that picture every year. For me it’s not really about what’s in those boxes. It’s all about the thought and consideration that went into every purchase and the excitement of watching my family’s face when they open something special.

 

Now I’m already wondering if people will look at my picture this year and think ‘she’s spoiled her six month old baby’. Many will not realise that the gifts under that tree will be for seven individuals as well as all the extended family we’ll see over the holidays. I also find myself wondering why I shouldn’t spoil my six month old baby. He’s OUR baby.

When I was pregnant last Christmas I noticed the level of aggressive debate on the Mummy Forums about ‘appropriate’ spending limits. The spectrum was real. Some only spent £20, some only bought EXACTLY what their child put on the list [even if this meant one child got fifty presents while their other child got three], some got no presents except from their extended family, some spent £600, some spent £1000, some got a stocking, and some parents followed a formula consisting of 1 book + 1 toy + 1 dvd + 1 new outfit.

Let me be clear: all of this is fair enough. Spend what you can. Spend what you want to. Do what works for your family.

My problem is not what a person spends on their child but the judgement many parents make on what other parents do. Last year I saw full blown rants about how parents who spend more should feel ashamed for raising spoilt children and how they should think about the parents who can’t spend as much. Equally, I saw parents make passing judgements on the parents who only bought one or two gifts.

I’m writing this as a pre-warning. Come December I’m going to be in Santa mode. I’m going to be excited about the experiences we give our child on his first Christmas. Even if he won’t remember them. Even if he’s only six months old. If you do things differently that’s brilliant too and I won’t be judging. I expect the same in return.

P.S SANTA IS COMING! JUST HAVE TO GET HALLOWEEN OUT OF THE WAY!

Life, Parenting

The 3 Month Mark

It’s been fifteen weeks [three and a half months] since we welcomed the newest member of our family into the world. If you’d asked me four months ago what I thought the first three months with our baby would be like, I’d have gotten it all wrong. I couldn’t have predicted the baby blues appearing from nowhere, hitting me with a hormone drop so hard that I thought I was losing my mind for the first three weeks. Nor would I have predicted the long and painful recovery or the consistently low iron levels that have yet to correct themselves.

However, for the most part, we’ve had a pretty amazing time. Our first week with our baby was a whirlwind with a long hospital stay, time in the NICU and trying to dress an oversized baby who had a foam pad covering most of his arm to stop an IV coming out. Now we’re dealing with an admittedly still quite large baby with extreme strength who shouts at the tv and chews his way through scratch mits.

Gone are the days when our baby’s eyes barely focused: now he smiles when he sees me every morning. It’s an indescribable feeling to wake up to that much unconditional love. He pushes his whole body upwards with such power that he could give gymnasts a run for their money, and all so he can cuddle with me.

In the early days we were so excited for him to smile for the first time, to show an interest in toys or his playmat, and to work out who he looked like more. His newborn baby look is beginning to fade and we’re getting a glimpse of what he might look like as he grows. When he was in the womb I told him that he wanted to get my nose and his daddy’s eyes: he’s done a good job with that. He’s managed to get my forehead too, and Mr Robinson’s ears.

My tiny jellybean is now a teething, beautiful boy that can sit supported and babble away at anyone who talks to him. In three months we’ll be celebrating the six month mark and his first Christmas. I can’t wait to reach that stage with him while also already feeling as though I’ve missed every day that has passed so far.

 

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Life, Parenting

The Morning Hour

Finding time to write a blog is quite tricky but this one is being written from the comfort of my sofa during the one hour of my day that is quiet. The Morning Hour. It is laughable what I go through to get this one hour to eat my breakfast in peace. In order not to wake the baby, I find myself trying to crawl out of bed like Action Man, desperately hoping that the springs of the bed don’t creak loudly enough for little eyes to spring open. Then there’s the tip-toe creeping, breath held, to the doorway. That doesn’t even begin to cover the fiasco of trying to pour a bowl of cereal and find the perfect volume on the tv.

Despite all that, it’s still completely worth it. Our baby is a good sleeper and after his 6-7am feed he’ll normally sleep through to 10am. That leaves me with the golden period between 8.30am and 9.30am completely to myself. It means I can eat a meal before juggling the nappy change, the fresh clothes, and the attempts to get the bottle ready at the perfect time.

More importantly, I get an hour without being stared at. My child is going through a demanding phase where he (quite literally) wants me to sit and look at him. This is no exaggeration. Those who say babies can’t manipulate have clearly never met my son. Firstly he’ll begin to cry and I’ll turn my head to check on him only to then find him smiling away. Assured that he is not, in fact, suffering in some way, I’ll turn my head away again. Wrong move. The crying begins again. I turn around again to giggling laughs. Turn away: crying. Turn back: giggles. It’s a good job he’s incredibly cute.

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mental health

Why I Do Things That Scare Me

It starts to trickle into my sense of being before I even reach the main event. Standing in the foyer, surrounded by multiple strangers and soaking up the smell of popcorn: you’d probably never notice how hard it is to be there. Many of my closest friends don’t even realise how difficult it is for me to go to the cinema. It’s a very firm, consistent, anxiety trigger that never reduces in intensity. Some would say I simply have no business attempting to walk into a cinema. I disagree.

Should you, unfortunately, come across some of the rhetoric posed at anyone with a mental health condition, you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s a cut and dry issue. “If you can do x, y, and z, then you can’t be REALLY unwell” is thrown out there consistently enough that it has created a paradox. It goes like this: if you have a mental health issue and you set limits for yourself and go easy then you are classed as not trying hard enough and succumbing to the illness (some will even tell you that you are creating the illness…) but if you go out into the world and push your boundaries and do things that scare you then you’re not REALLY ill.

Let me be clear: if you see me in a cinema, I still have anxiety and panic attacks. What you won’t see is dread slowly filling my entire body; the lightheaded feeling that is beginning to make me dizzy; the palpitations that I’m having to convince myself are not signs of a heart attack; the nausea stirring in my stomach; the hot flashes that I’m convinced will make me pass out; or the impending desire to cry and flee the building. Despite all of that, 80% of the time I’ll still force one foot in front of the other and wrestle my mind into a place where I can sit through a movie.

20% of the time I will fail.

At one stage the percentage of failure was much higher. Those who know me will likely have seen my internal struggle as soon as I’ve bought a ticket. On more than one occasion I’ve walked straight out before the film has even started. At age 10 I paced back and forth in the bathrooms 3 minutes into Finding Nemo because I couldn’t fathom why I felt so dreadful. That is the extent of the problems I face when confronted with the cinema experience: a Disney film can tip me over the edge.

Now I’m at a stage where I know if I can just get past the advertisements at the start, I’ve got a 95% chance of making it through to the end. I still need to buy the biggest drink ever known to man in order to distract myself and ignore the world around me but I get there.

More than once I’ve been asked why I bother to put myself through it. More than once I’ve been told “it can’t scare you that much if you still do it” even if I’ve nearly fainted in the bathrooms. Really it’s very simple: if I don’t push my personal boundaries and claim ownership of my anxiety, then I’ll never do anything. I’d miss a million films, I’d never be able to take my son to see a movie, I’d never be able to include the cinema as a date night option with my husband. I would miss laughing with friends and debating plots.

Walking into my own personal ring of fire does not mean my mental health is in tip top shape. It means that on that one day, I won. I did something terrifying and I won. Recently I gave birth as a person with anxiety and panic attacks – and I won. I sat while large needles were put into my spine – and I won. I nearly lost my sanity entirely when needles needed to be stabbed into my stomach at home – but I won. Through the years I’ve put myself in a hundred scenarios that scare me: sometimes I’ve won and sometimes I’ve been knocked sideways.

Every single time I do something that scares me, my anxiety comes with me and my capacity for a panic attack is strong. When any person with a mental health condition manages to do something that any other person would consider ‘normal’ or ‘extroverted’ – they still have a mental health condition. I still have anxiety and panic attacks no matter what I do and that’s fine. I’ll keep doing the things that scare me so I know that I can win.

Parenting

The Different Cries

“You’ll soon learn all his different cries and what they mean!”: What bullshit is this?! Seriously. What person sat and thought up this utter lie that would then be thrown at new parents repeatedly until they think they are failing at life? I’ll admit my ability with foreign languages has always been a bit on the iffy side but I was led to believe that I’d pick up this bizarre language of baby cries.

Any person that is going to attempt to tell me that my baby has categorised his vocal chords to communicate his different desires should expect to be told where to take themselves. No parent – scratch that, no HUMAN BEING ON THIS PLANET – wants to hear this ridiculous piece of “advice” after many hours of continuous screaming.

I’ll admit this rant is being written after many days of dealing with a particularly difficult baby. Walking the length of the living room, patiently holding my beautiful, upset child while making calm and soothing hushing noises can only go on for so long. Very quickly it becomes a round of trying to wrestle a screeching, drooling, beetroot child into some sort of safe holding position while singing “Why are you still screaming?” to the tune of twinkle-twinkle….

Sometimes my baby is crying for no reason. Sometimes he wants nothing. No, he’s not cold. No, he’s not too hot. No, he’s not hungry – he ate thirty five minutes ago. No, he’s not got a wet bum. No, I’d definitely know if he’d done a poo. Yes, I have burped him – here, I’ll show you for the fifteenth time that he has no wind. He doesn’t want to be held. He doesn’t want to be put down. He doesn’t want his playmat, his toys, his moses basket, his cushion on the sofa, and God help you if you try to put him in the rocking-vibrating-music-playing-swing!

And then it sneaks into the back of your mind, because it’s been said so many times by so many different people. “You’ll soon learn all his different cries and what he needs?” When? When is this miracle of communication going to happen? And if it hasn’t happened yet then am I just failing at the whole parenting gig?

Mostly it’s a piercing, nasal cry but this week he’s developed a strange squeak that comes uncomfortably close to nails being dragged down a blackboard. He’s mastered a shout that sounds disconcertingly like “mum”: no, I’m not going insane, other people have heard it too! Forgive me if I don’t intend to listen carefully to each minor tweak in my child’s deafening screams and pop the differences into a spreadsheet to find some sort of correlating factor.

Perhaps some time in the future I will know which scream means “FEED ME!” and which means “LET ME SLEEP!”. Until then I’ll just wait and hope that neither of us ends up with concussion while he headbutts me in the face. Maybe I’ll buy ear plugs.