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Childbirth – secret or over share?

Shouting about childbirth

In my PB (pre-baby) life, I heard my fair share of birth stories. Some from friends and family who had recently become mums but most of the tales were from near perfect strangers who were eager to share some of the most personal details of their body and birth to my naive and unsuspecting ears.

I’m particularly squeamish and listening to the beautiful natural process (aka horror) of childbirth made me very uncomfortable. My friends knew this and would give me a PG-rated version of their experience. But it was those who I didn’t know well that spared no detail. And it’s not exactly easy to tell strangers to shut the hell up.

I recall being at a work event where a female member of the group talked to us all about her blood loss over a glass of Champagne – painting a vivid picture of what the delivery room looked like. There had seemed to be no stimulus to start this story; nobody had asked to hear it, nobody was pregnant and it wasn’t even something she had just gone through – her daughter was two years old. I nervously smiled and nodded, being too British to be rude enough to walk away from the conversation. On another occasion, this time I was at least pregnant, another acquaintance spent an entire lunch graphically describing their birth – no holds barred. By the end, I was nauseous and visibly shaking. I’d tried to laugh it off, explain that I was squeamish and that maybe it was best to leave me in ignorant bliss. But they just laughed at what a big shock I was in for…and continued.

Now I’m a mum too, my eyes have been opened. Birth is such a life changing, often long and traumatic experience – physically, emotionally and mentally – that you are compelled to talk about it. You are never prepared for it. You will never be able to predict what happens. It’s like watching the most intense, 24-hour movie that you can’t switch off with no precursor as to whether it’s a rom-com, drama or horror. Oh and you’re not actually watching it, you’ve got the lead role. Afterwards, you have to purge yourself. There is a need to expel the trauma from you body and sharing the story is the only way you can make sense of it. You’re also pretty amazed that you’ve achieved something so incredible. I certainly didn’t think I was capable.

However, while there is this need to purge, I do think that it should be accompanied with an element of restraint. One thing I learned from being the recipient of birth stories in my PB life, is the danger of over sharing and respecting your audience. When family and friends visited, I only spoke about the birth if I was asked. I didn’t volunteer anything. Or at least I hope I didn’t. Just because we go through such a physically life-changing experience, doesn’t mean that the social boundaries of communication are gone; do strangers want to hear about tears, stitches, blood loss and how long we had to push?

The best purging opportunity comes when you meet other new mums. This is where the rules change; anything goes. You’ve all given birth, you’ve all had a baby thrust in your arms and been sent home expecting to know how to look after it. And you’ve all suddenly been deprived of what should be one of your basic human rights; sleep. My NCT friends know more intimate things about me than nearly everyone I know. And this was within about eight weeks of meeting them. There were even times when I went to new mums meet ups which quickly descended into a run down of everyone’s birth – something that would have sounded dreadful pre baby. But this time I didn’t feel queasy because I’d already achieved the thing I was so terrified about going through and I needed to purge too.

While you’re pregnant, you’re told that birth will be a positive, natural experience and it’s easy in the early days to feel that you’ve let your baby down if it wasn’t because you needed intervention or drugs. However, almost every one of us around the room had some form of complication and had come out the other side with happy and thriving babies. It’s reassuring to share these tales, realise that your experience was totally normally and even to find humour in the midst of a delivery room horror movie. But spare a thought for those that don’t have a baby as a common denominator with you; do they want to hear the gory details?  Maybe save it for someone who does…

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Do mums moan too much?

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Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.

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Mum injuries

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For the past five weeks, I’ve had a bad shoulder. It’s constantly sore and is particularly painful when I sit down in the evening and lie in bed at night.

Could this be due to over exerting myself at my body combat class (which I’ve become addicted to)? I asked this very question at the doctors this morning. “No”, he replied. “You’ve got a mum injury”. Ah, I hadn’t heard of this new official doctor diagnosis.

The doctor explained that my right shoulder had larger muscles than my left – probably from carrying my toddler with such regularity which had caused a repetitive strain – and that they were in spasm. He went on to reassure me that it would subside as she got older and I had to carry her less…hmm.

However, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the label “mum injury”. Apparently the doctor sees them all the time – sore shoulders from lifting, cramped hands from carrying and bad backs from straining. Turns out we are suffering all in the name of motherhood. I don’t mean to make us sound like martyrs – although really, if you think about it, we kind of are – but we automatically put our babies’ needs, wants and desires ahead of any of ours. Even when it comes to our physical health.

For instance, yesterday with my sore shoulder, I took my baby girl to Monkey Music where I jiggled and danced with her. Then we had a walk around town and she did NOT want to sit in the pram – she wanted to be carried, then put down to walk for three steps, then carried some more (and repeat). In the afternoon, we went to soft play. Cue clambering up what is basically padded scaffolding, precariously negotiating rope bridges pretending I’m not scared of heights and facing my childhood fear of the death slide. (She’s only one and she loves it. I on the other hand am supposedly an adult and feel slightly faint even looking down the ‘slide of death’). Finally, fast forward to bedtime with rhythmic rocking back and forth to lull baby to sleep.

In hindsight, I’ve put my poor shoulder through a lot so is it any wonder that it’s struggling? And all this is a snapshot of just one average baby day. So what else are we doing to our bodies?

I’ve lost count of the number of minor mum ailments I’ve had or feel that are almost inevitable right from the beginning:
* Growing massive swollen feet while pregnant which were not only super attractive but throbbed all day.
* Childbirth. Enough said about this.
* Trying to walk any distance in the days after childbirth.
* A sore back from sitting for hours hunched over feeding the baby. Not to mention all the other issues from breastfeeding.
* The heavy arm feeling after you’ve propped up your newborn in the same position while they sleep.
* Hands and arms feeling they’re about to drop off after lugging a car seat, changing bag, shopping, toys around all day.
* The ‘about to pass out’ feeling after running all the way home with the buggy trying to get back for the next feed.
* Lack of sleep – any mum will tell you that this is indeed a physical injury.
* Being scratched in the eye by a baby with razor sharp talons that you’re too scared to clip for fear of nipping their finger.
* Walking on a spikey toy which your baby has flung across the floor – usually with bare feet as you’re trying to stealth sneak out of the nursery.
* Getting attacked by the pram as you’re trying to assemble it from the boot of the car with your baby under one arm.

And if you look on Google, there’s plenty more repetitive strain injuries being a mum can cause. Have you experienced any more? If so, add a comment, at least we can laugh about it together. And now that there’s an official doctor’s diagnosis which means that we’re allowed a lot more sympathy!

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It’s for the baby – a blog to keep me sane

A bit of a boring blog post I’m afraid, just to set the scene. Future ones will be more interesting. I hope…

When I found out I was pregnant in November 2012, I thought it would be a great idea to start a blog.

I think (and talk) a lot but it was excruciating not being able to share the biggest thing in my life. But even when it was official, I didn’t think the people I see every day would want me wittering on about babies constantly.

This blog would give me the opportunity to chronicle my journey through pregnancy into motherhood which would hopefully connect me with other new mums – perhaps people who would want to listen to me and it would also be something nice to share with my baby when she grew up. So off I blogged – anonymously until I could tell people I was pregnant.

However, after a few months, we had a little bit of a scare with the baby. It all turned out fine but at that moment, blogging wasn’t my number one priority. Then when the baby was born, I didn’t have the time let alone the mental capacity to keep it going. My baby is now 15 months old!

I’ve wanted get going on this blog again for a long time. In fact I’ve actually written a few blogs along the way and not published them. I had intended on back-publishing all my old blog posts but actually, I doubt anyone would back and read them. So I’ve spiked all my old blog posts and today I’m officially starting It’s For The Baby from the beginning (again).

What gives me the authority to write about babies and being a parent? I’ve got one of these…..

My first day

My first day

…and we’ve both survived – so far at least.

Right, hopefully I’ve explained myself. Boring post over.