Post natal weight gain

Firstly, may I offer the usual apologies for not blogging and being A Very Bad Person At Keeping In Touch. I just seem not to get round to it lately. And sometimes I just think I have nothing to say. I’m happy. I’m leading my own happy little mediocre life. Nothing too exciting or blogworthy.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering a while: Have any of you breastfeeding mothers actually put on weight whilst breastfeeding?

Everyone goes on about how it burns All The Calories and “the weight just dropped off!”

See, that happened to me when I first gave birth. (I had a lot of fluid and an entire human I got rid of, weight wise.)

But now, 20 months on I find myself thinking I feel a bit stodgy. I didn’t weigh myself for ages – like I stopped with the obsessive weighing whilst pregnant and then I only restarted through curiosity a few months or so ago.

And I am feeling not my fighting weight.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy. Maybe it’s happy weight. But honestly I feel like I’d like to drop some and then I’d be totally happy, rather than happy and fat.

I’m a whole 20kg+ from my low weight. And maybe 15ish from my ideal weight. I could even cope with losing 10-12 kg. Right now I just feel a bit blubbery. I would rather not feel the overhang (though I guess the c section may leave a perma-shelf) and I would just feel better in myself if I could drop a dress size. I don’t need to be skinny. I’d just like to be more myself and less “chubby mum”.

Right now I’m about a UK dress size 12, which isn’t awful – which is why I don’t spend my time hiding away and I still enjoy eating. But I’m short (160cm / 5’2″ and a bit) so really that’s a bit chubby for a shorty. Yes a lot of it is boobage which will maybe go when B weans (20 months and counting) but a fair amount is stomach and I used to have a waist. I used to have arms I didn’t mind getting out!

Another thing I’ve been wondering is that I was told to take an asthma inhaler every day. It’s steroids – Fostair – a preventer as I had really bad hayfever and kept wheezing. I feel fine now, but they want me to take it. I finally connected the dots when I read about Jameela Jamil saying how she put on 20 pounds with asthma meds. And I realised I took steroids for immune therapy and put on a load of weight too.

The internet is kind of in disagreement about whether steroids actually make you put on weight. And I’ve found breastfeeding gives me a bigger appetite anyway. And… I’m happy and haven’t been watching my weight or doing a lot of exercise. And my recent vegetarianism maybe hasn’t helped, as I probably had some high protein low carb meals when I ate meat. (I wasn’t a particularly healthy meat eater anyway – I only liked processed meat you couldn’t tell was meat.)

So I did a few things. I took up Zumba. (It’s ridiculous but one of my very good friends, the one recovering from cancer, is a fan and we go together). I have tried (and probably failed) not to give myself such a free pass on eating. And I stopped taking the steroid inhaler, which I’ll probably get in trouble for but I know I’ve actually put on like 2 kg since I was told to take it every day a couple of months ago. And I haven’t had any asthma symptoms after hayfever season.

I won’t do any crash dieting at least until B weans. Right now we don’t have any immediate plans. We’d like to go until 2, and fortunately T is super supportive of bf and cosleeping, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have any sleep!

Anyway, I know my worth isn’t measured in kg. I feel generally fine about myself, and very happy and grateful for the life I have, and the chance to be a mother. I’d do it all over again even if you told me I could never be thin again. It’s more of a musing really. I hope I can lose a bit of the chub, but if it doesn’t happen I’m not going to hate myself for it. That would only drive me to chocolate, anyway!

A cow I met recently. Confirmed my decision not to eat them!

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On motherhood and happiness

Had one of my decompression nights last night – dinner with a few girlfriends. Three of us have one child; one has two, and the other two with one are trying for another. So naturally on mum’s night out the kids were a topic of conversation. (And bikini waxes, but that’s another story!)

We got onto the subject of “onlies” and the conversation didn’t go the way I expected…

It started the way I expected with the whole, “We want another so he won’t be on his own when we die.” (We all agreed that this probably wouldn’t happen!)

Then our friend with two said: It’s actually very hard with two. (She’s a single parent who co-parents with her ex.)

Then our friend with one said: We are actually really happy with our one, and if it doesn’t happen then we won’t be upset.

I said, we are happy and we don’t want another because we feel so very lucky with the one we have, and because I thought I’d never be a mother.

Then our friend who lost her first baby (tragically stillborn) said: We’d love to have another but we will just see what happens. It’s not the same as when we were trying to have our baby after our first died. We are happy.

Then she said something else: She said, “You know, I’ve never seen you become frustrated with him. You are so patient! I don’t think you’ve ever even raised your voice to him.”

And the funny thing is, I don’t think of myself as a patient person. I’m a hothead. But I think she’s right.

I’ve never had to shout at him. I don’t think I feel frustrated with him because – well, he’s a baby, and he can’t fully express himself and that must be frustrating for him, but also – I can’t tell you how much I wanted this.

Ten years. More than ten, depending on how you count it. A decade of barrenness. Operations, IVF, miscarriage, immune therapy. Thinking of a life where I would have to learn to be happily childfree. (And I think we would have been, but we needed to know we had tried everything first.)

I genuinely don’t feel that frustration because I think he’s the best thing that ever happened to me. And I’m lucky because a lot of good things have happened, and it almost fades the lonely and sad years of infertility and despair out of existence.

But not quite. I remember what it was like to be always the aunt, always the “fun childless friend”. I don’t take this – motherhood – for granted. I will relish all the days.

So – yes – I can be patient. But I’m not a saint. I’m just someone who knows how bloody lucky I am.

running

Can working mothers have it all?

My friend sent me this article in the Times about how working mothers can’t seem to have it all. You can read it here. (You have to register but you don’t have to pay anything.)

So I’m torn between: Yes, it’s hard being a working parent and – Seriously women, get a f&*$ing grip!!!!! I think most of these women having meltdowns seem like they are probably the kind of women who get stressed at having more than one project on at work. And I think those who struggled to have a much-wanted child ultimately have a different take on parenthood than those who take it for granted.

I think the key things are:

  1. Have one child, not multiple children, if you think you can’t cope with more than one thing at once, or will have difficulty affording it, or it will compromise your time management. (We have one because it would be extremely difficult to have another and I never wanted more than one, precisely because I don’t want to have to divide my time between multiples!)
  2. Set boundaries with your work and make sure that you aren’t working late / at home every night. I used to do a lot of out of hours work and now I don’t. And I started doing that way before I had a baby. I just stopped allowing people to expect I would be online at all times. If it’s out of hours and urgent then people have to call me. I do work late / out of hours on occasion but day to day I don’t. In my old job I’d answer emails on holiday. Two jobs ago I stopped doing that. I put an out of office on and I say unless you SMS me then it’s not urgent and I’ll respond when I return, and you can expect a delayed response because I’m literally not going to check my work phone more than once a day when I’m on holiday.

I agree that school hours and working hours don’t really seem to coincide. We’ve not reached that stage yet but I imagine you have to sort out some sort of wrap around care. Also I think it makes sense for one partner (doesn’t have to be the mother) to be slightly less driven in their career. I guess women are used to being that one. But there needs to be someone who can leave work if the kid gets sick etc. I think actually men can be more penalised than women for leaving at contracted times. I think women overall have a tougher time in the workplace but they are actually expected to be the caregivers etc. Swings and roundabouts.

Since becoming a mother I’ve definitely noticed that there seem to be different “types”… A lot of the women aren’t at a particularly senior level when they leave to have kids, and they take a lot of time off, and they aren’t that into the job when they come back. It’s annoying when people make assumptions about you when you have kids – that you won’t be interested in progression – but also it’s true for a lot of women, so I dunno what the answer is.

Really I think what would be most sensible would be to reset everyone’s expectations around what constitutes a normal working day. Corporations have gotten used to workers doing about 20% – 200% of their contracted hours for the same amount of pay. That’s what needs to stop. You need to be able to work your contracted hours: 9-5 or 9-6 with a full one hour lunchbreak and for that not to be considered slacking.

I went to a talk a while back by the European VP for Twitter, who wrote a new manifesto for work. I think it’s really good (and realised I already ascribed to most of it, hurrah!).

Source: Eat Sleep Work Repeat

We all – whether mothers or not – need to stop putting up with being treated like $%£& for work, and start being happier! Easier said than done maybe, but just turning off your work phone at the weekends is a start…

Eek! We did it!

After my previous post about liking B’s long hair, I caved to the pressure (and the fact that it’s so hot here and the hair at the back was bugging him) and we got B’s hair cut for the first time!

We went to our local kids’ salon which is really quite cute and totally set up for kids. However this does mean that the kids scream the place down if they don’t like it. We arrived and some kid was already doing that… We decamped to the cafe before being called back.

B was fine. He’s a generally chilled kid. He enjoyed sitting in the little car and pretending to drive it whilst an annoying lady fiddled with his hair.

The other kid on the other hand SCREAMED the place down! Was sort of funny and sort of OMG YOU ARE RUINING MY SON’S FIRST HAIRCUT! (Jk)

We did the first haircut thing where you get a certificate and a lock of hair. There wasn’t much as she didn’t cut much off! We basically just trimmed the back bit that annoys him. (We can tell as he scratches at it and has scratch marks from his nails!) And a little bit round the sides by his ears. Left the top long so he still has a side parting and can have a top knot. She wanted to trim it more but I said no!

Not sure what made me cave when I do actually like his long hair. It’s mainly that it’s really hot here right now and impractical. I have long hair and I wear it up when I’m at home (messy bun I wouldn’t go out of the house wearing it!) so I can imagine he gets hot, although his hair is just light and fluffy.

Anyway, as T said – hair grows back.

Overall he’s had a positive reaction and it isn’t too drastic so hopefully we did the right thing! I know it’s not a big deal but it seemed like quite a big thing to have his first haircut. Now it’s out of the way I can be less sentimental about it!

Saying goodbye

(This refers to my previous post, entitled Today.)

It’s taken me a few days thinking and processing M’s passing and her funeral that I went to last week.

And honestly, it’s just too hard and I wouldn’t do it justice, so here are some messages I sent to friends about it.

Went to the funeral of my university flatmate today. She was our age. Died of lung cancer – she never smoked. Two little kids; happily married. It puts things into perspective, that’s for sure.

I’m fine, just very sad for her family. Seeing her little girl walk out was heartbreaking. (She’s 8 – her son is 5 so maybe doesn’t understand as much.) She just looked so much like her mother and so sad. 😔

She was a total character and at least the funeral reflected that and it was a lovely celebration of her life. She always liked to wear red so lots of us wore red or red accessories so it looked really nice as a tribute to her.

We did have a bit of drama – I arranged to meet my friend who knew M at the railway station to get the train to where the funeral was. I was super early. Then we got on the train.

We found out when the ticket inspector checked our tickets that we’d mistakenly boarded the 09:00 to [D—–] rather than the 09:03 to [D——-], which confusingly went from the same platform – they have two trains on one platform!

So the next station we could get off at was [K——-], an hour away from the funeral! You couldn’t make it up! We got off and I was like a total Londoner saying TAKE MY MONEY!!!! to the local bemused taxi driver.

Of course we then got stuck behind a tractor… and then a disabled bus… and made it to the church just in time for the eulogy. Thankfully we didn’t miss much of it.

It was a lovely service. Lots of red! M would have loved it. It didn’t seem real – we kept expecting her to pop up and do a speech. It was heartbreaking seeing her little kids, especially her daughter who looks just like her.

But they said something really beautiful during the speeches – that the depth of our sorrow reflected the depth of our love for M, and the love that she had to give – it was a very apt summary of her. She would have loved it and told everyone to be happy. It was just a very bittersweet day.

I still feel strange and sad about it. The thing is, M and I weren’t close any more – we lived in different countries so we kept up on Facebook. I kind of feel strange accepting condolences on my loss. It feels like maybe I’m claiming something that others feel more keenly – of course they do – our mutual friend was her best friend and she’s in pieces. I know we felt fondly about each other and we spoke periodically but she wasn’t a part of my daily life although I still considered her a friend. I would make the effort to see her if we were in the same city, but that hadn’t been for a few years.

I guess it’s affected me because it reminds me of the fragility of life, that anything could happen. And I feel a deep sense of grief not for myself but for her family, for those sweet children who have to grow up without their mother, and for her poor lost husband who has to carry on without his soulmate. The look on her little girl’s face as they exited the church – it will haunt me forever. The image of her mother combined with a grief no eight year old should ever have to feel.

I felt I had to go to honour her although she was no longer there. I am not religious. I felt she was gone. But funerals are for the living. And oh my goodness, it was well attended for a small town church on a Friday morning nowhere near a big city. People came to show up for M, to rail against the injustice of cancer and to support the living. Her husband gave the most loving eulogy and her mother a wonderful, grace filled tribute. Both of their love for M and M’s love for people. Reminding us all why we were her friends.

Another friend stepped up and sang, softly, delicately, because she sang at their wedding and M had asked her to sing this at her funeral, and how could she refuse?

I get no kick from champagne

Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all…

But I get a kick out of you

M! Typical M! You had to laugh. You had to cry. Our friend the singer was just about holding it together thinking of the last time she sang it at their wedding, when they were both happy and in love and alive and maybe it was my imagination but she was looking at M’s coffin as she sang it, because bloody hell M, we got a kick out of you.

She really did spend 99% of her time laughing. Sometimes infuriatingly so. She was talented at so many things. An artist, an actress, musical, everything. I used to joke about her “crazy theatrical music people” whilst I stomped around in DMs listening to grunge, whilst they wrote and performed their own plays. Everywhere she went, there would be little doodles of horses. You knew where she’d been!

Once she sent me a painting of our cat who died, that she’d painted from a picture and had framed. God! Why did I take her for granted? I thought we had the rest of our lives to reminisce about the times we were crazy kids at uni. We didn’t.

She wasn’t a saint. As a flatmate she could be kind of annoying at times! Aren’t we all. She wasn’t the best at doing the dishes and sometimes she’d use my food from the fridge! But we shared our lives and laughs and frustrations and we came through it and we grew up and still counted each other as friends. I felt like a part of her family for a while. Countless afternoons and evenings chatting to her and her mother round the kitchen table. And of all my uni flatmates there were only a few I stayed in touch with and she was one of them.

I’m sad she’s gone.

Long hair, don’t care…

So there’s a lot of things I didn’t think I’d do as a mother: extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, vegetarianism and whatnot.

What I didn’t think was that I’d be the mother of a long haired little boy.

I guess I always thought it was a bit… hippy… and I don’t really see myself as the natural earth mother sort. I actually was probably a little bit <whispers> judgy about the long haired boys…

And somehow I’ve ended up with one!

It’s not really a statement about anything but more the fact that I haven’t gotten around to getting his first haircut. (He’s 18 months.) And I don’t trust his dad to do it as he’s likely to end up with a pudding bowl!

I don’t think I’d want it particularly short anyway, but I think it looks cute how it is. He tends to have it in a little topknot or “man bun” because of the hot weather. I kind of think he can get away with it because he’s “ethnic”… and mainly because he’s cute!

But a part of me thinks it’s a bit hokey and at some point I’ll get it cut. His dad wants to get it cut but also doesn’t mind the ponytails… The nursery workers tend to put it into a braid and that looks cute as well, but is out of my ability range!

The more people tell me I “must” get it cut, the more I think – why?

Why do boys have to have short hair and girls long hair?

(I have long hair but it’s less through design than the fact that I hate having my hair cut.)

I’m not one of those gender neutral dressers of kids… (Not that there’s anything wrong with it; I just find it cute and comfortable for him to wear boys’ clothes. I’m happy for him to wear what he wants when he’s of an age to choose.) I’m not trying to make him look gender neutral or like a girl.

I just think there’s nothing wrong with his hair as it is.

First x rays…

So we had our first hospital trip of this year!

Last night we went to a street food market that has a soft play area and trampolines for kids. Well you can imagine what happened next…

B was having a lovely time. He’s getting more and more confident now. He’s just reached 18 months and he is talking, walking (and still breastfeeding- who knew I’d be one of those?!), generally becoming a real little boy.

We were in the trampoline room and it was just us and our friends with a kid of a similar age. There’s a limit of 6 people. Then two older kids came in and started bouncing on the trampolines that the toddlers were also on. One was quite a lot older and came and jumped on B’s trampoline, and B fell over and started crying.

I picked him up and took him out and he seemed fine. We sat down for a bit and had some food. (Aside: I am in love with marinara pizza with fresh burrata…)

When we finished, I took B out of his high chair and put him back in soft play and he instantly fell over. I picked him up again and he fell again. It was like his leg was collapsing underneath him.

Suddenly I thought maybe the bigger kid had actually landed on him… It didn’t look like that, but now he couldn’t walk.

So we took a trip to A&E… on a Friday night! Alongside half the rest of London…

Luckily kids get triaged pretty quickly and sent to a kids’ waiting room. (My ex was an emergency nurse and he used to say avoid A&E at the weekends at all costs!)

We got there quite early and five and a half hours later we had experienced screaming fits of a greater magnitude than B has ever produced! He didn’t have any invasive treatment but I guess the waiting and the unfamiliar diagnostics (oxygen, temperature, x rays…) were too much for his little brain to handle. It took two of us to hold him down to be x rayed- the faces of people outside were a picture! I assume they thought someone was being murdered!

Luckily there were no broken bones although they did want to check as you can’t always tell with little kids, and they can’t tell you. They said they couldn’t see anything on the X-rays and it seemed that he was moving it okay, just not weight bearing, so was most probably a sprain.

We left the hospital at 2 in the morning. Although it was a long wait, we felt so grateful for the NHS (our national health service which is free to use, paid for in our taxes). Yes, we had to wait for 5.5 hours with a tired toddler – but he wasn’t the most seriously injured child there that night (thank goodness) and we managed to see triage nurses and a doctor, and get x-rayed, all in one night. We are lucky to have it.

As for B, he’s fine but a little sore today, and even participated enthusiastically in baby swimming class. So I think he’ll be fine.

No more trampolines for a while though!

Today

I received a text message from my old uni flatmate this morning.

“Sad news. Call me. x”

I thought – this is it. She’s gone into a hospice. Our other uni flatmate M, and her best friend – has had lung cancer. (Did you know lung cancer is the #1 killer cancer? And yet it’s unfairly stigmatised because sufferers are thought to have brought it on themselves.)
The thing is – M never smoked. She was a clean living freak. Not in the yoga way, but in the hale and hearty British gal way – she cycled everywhere, and only ever drank in moderation, and ate healthily. I remember back when we were at uni – she and I were both cycling devotees. She would be on her grown up bike and I’d be on my BMX, which was useless for the city’s hills – and we lived at the top of a hill – but I was proud then, and trying to convey something with my quirky persona. M was always M. And whereas I gave up the ridiculous BMX biking (I couldn’t do any stunts; it was literally for show), she carried on cycling into her forties. (We made it to our fortieths, M.)

Back when she was first diagnosed, M went to the doctor with a persistent cough she couldn’t shake off. Not one of us would have ever foreseen that it could be The Big C. They told her it was terminal. Imagine! A wife and mother of two young children, ages 5 and 2. How? Why? Cancer is so bloody unfair. I mean, even if you smoked forty a day you don’t deserve cancer – but a mother in her prime – a mother with two little children who need her – how can that happen?

Back then, she rallied. She set up a funding page because she wanted to feel she could do something, anything to provide for her family when she’d gone. She always was a provider. A nurturer. She underwent chemo, and she took a cocktail of drugs. Because her lung cancer wasn’t just lung cancer, but a rare form of lung cancer and They didn’t know exactly what it would do – only that it would kill her eventually.

But kill her it didn’t. Her page racked up the funds and she announced that she’d be donating it to lung cancer charities. Because she didn’t feel right taking it. Take it, we urged. Even if you’re fighting cancer and not dead from it – you deserve to have a buffer. You should give up work, have some fun. And yet she didn’t, because M was proud of her work, because she didn’t want to sit around at home feeling sorry for herself. We all wanted to go and visit her but she didn’t want that because it would be like saying there was a reason for saying goodbye, and she didn’t want to say goodbye.

We spoke on the phone. I didn’t know what to say when I found out, and I blethered on too much via SMS probably, and she said why don’t we have a chat on the phone. So we did. It was way back, pre-B, and we talked about everything, and it was probably over two hours or something whilst we poured our hearts out. She told me all about her husband (who I’d met once when he was her boyfriend – but they live a while away in a different country) and her two kids, and how she felt when she first found out about the cancer (suicidal – why don’t they tell people in a better way?) and how the cancer had responded to the drugs and somehow, miraculously, the cancer they’d said was terminal in a few months receded. In turn I poured out my heart about infertility and loss and she urged me to keep on trying and sympathised with me about the unfairness of it all. (The unfairness of which pales in comparison with a healthy young person struck down in their prime. I even knew that then.)

In the last three years she led an almost normal life, sandwiched around bouts of chemo. They holidayed. The kids got older, and she saw their milestones – the little one graduating from kindergarten, refusing to wear the gown and sulking; riding bikes… the school plays… The children making a video to raise money for lung cancer – heartbreaking; her daughter looking just like I remember M, earnest and passionate. Just a few weeks ago she went on a painting retreat and just like everything else she excelled at it and made a wonderful painting. She looked the picture of health. It was hard to believe she had lung cancer. And yet.

And yet.

It only receded. Borrowed time. We’re all on borrowed time, in our own ways, but somehow – unjustly – some of us have borrowed less than others.

I called back our friend this morning, after I’d finished feeding B, and she broke it to me, her voice breaking:

“She passed away last night.”

Shock.

I knew this day was coming. I knew she had terminal lung cancer. But if anyone was giving the middle finger to cancer, it was M. She was feisty and jolly and wouldn’t bloody give up. She still cycled everywhere, and was still going to work until last week when she had to be admitted to hospital, and finally a hospice. The end was quick, apparently, and she didn’t want everyone knowing, didn’t want them traipsing in to say goodbye. She left this life as she lived it – fighting, hoping. Hoping to see her darling children grow up. Fighting to stay with the love of her life.

F*** cancer.

Hold your loved ones a little closer today. Tell someone you love that you love them. And raise a glass (or a mug of strong British tea) to M, our brave, funny, wonderful friend who’s gone too soon.

To M. Mother. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Crazy cycling lady. Fighter. Horse lover. Artist. Whisky connoisseur. Red clothing wearer. All these things, and too many others. A lifetime of things. Too short a lifetime, but an amazing, full one. With love.

*     *     *

If you are able, please donate here to help fund lung cancer research, in honour of a wonderful woman who’s gone too soon. https://www.roycastle.org/donate

And so it begins…

The first of our antenatal group is pregnant with #2. She’ll just about make it to 2 under 2. (The second is due on the first’s birthday! Poor kid!) I don’t feel terrible about it… I just feel a bit, “meh.”

She was a complete nightmare during pregnancy and most of the first year – super anxious and burning up our group WhatsApp on a daily basis with hundreds of messages about herself and her (totally healthy) baby, so much that I had to mute the group when I had to go back to work at four months. (I’d be pumping in the loos and they’d all be whinging about their babies, when I desperately wanted to be with mine.)

Am now considering whether it’s time to leave the group… Whilst I’m okay (I think) with them moving to #2, I still have some difficult feelings when I hear of people getting pregnant really easily.

I guess it’s a rite of passage for parents of onlies, and I’m thankful we have our only after all the years of having none, but still…

Sunny days

B and I are on a little jaunt to see my BFF in Italy. It’s beautiful… and hot! I’ve been promising her for about five years I’d come and visit but with one thing and another, it’s taken so long to actually make it here.

I only took three days off work but it feels like it’s stretching out and we are in a bliss filled bubble of gelato and delicious Italian food! We also have a funny paddling pool on the balcony that’s big enough for us all to sit in.

It’s been great to catch up with my best friend and also to enjoy B in a longer, holiday mode! I always spend weekends with him but I can’t quite describe how fun it is to see the world through his eyes. It makes me remember the joy in little things. I do generally enjoy my job but it’s been a stressful few months and a holiday is exactly what I needed!

Looking forward to our proper summer holiday later in the year, and of course missing T and Dog, but relishing this short break while it lasts!

A few pics to entertain you…