Settling in

Today was B’s first day at nursery (childcare / daycare). Fortunately for me it wasn’t a full day but a “settling in” day. So he was just to go for two hours and that was all. 

We turned up on time (I insisted) and I think they weren’t actually ready for us. Now we live on a big estate and this is the larger of the two nurseries so for various reasons (longer opening hours) we chose this one. But they do seem to be a bit… disorganised. I don’t know if that’s just nurseries or something. I have no experience of it. But it seems a bit chaotic. (Ripe for a bit of business process engineering!) Or maybe I’m just an over anxious first time mother. 

Anyway they were able to do the settling in. First day it’s two hours with parent(s). Next day it’s one hour with parent(s) and one hour left at the nursery and third settling in day is two hours left at nursery. 

There were three other babies when we went to look in the baby room. Although B won’t be in that room because he’ll be in the baby baby room! Ahhh. They’ve just redone it and it looks more like a bedroom / playroom. The next room up is for the babies who can sit up and are starting to toddle. But not many babies go to nursery at B’s age as most mums here take a year off. 

The lady said if there’s no-one in the baby baby room then they’ll go and hang out in the bigger baby room. It struck me that he’s basically starting his school journey! As he’ll be there until 5 (all being well) and then off to school! So crazy to think when he’s only 5 months old. 

B was pretty chilled about it all, but I reckon it’s because we were there and it coincided with his not very fussy time (day time). He looked around a bit, sat on someone’s lap, then fell asleep on someone else’s lap. 

I guess I’m probably more worried about it than he is! 

It’s weird for me right now because I am not really back at work full time. I’ve had to be in the office but I can leave early, plus I can work from home most of the time. For example this week I was in yesterday, and I have to go in tomorrow, but the rest of the week I can work from home. Working and traveling isn’t very pleasant right now as we are in the middle of a heatwave. We Brits love to complain about the weather but it’s truly horrible! We don’t have aircon in most places so we are just all melllllllting like the Wicked Witch of the West…

I think if I was properly back at work I would feel worse, but I feel like I am still with B a lot. And maybe when he goes to nursery full time I’ll feel worse. I think I’ve been lucky so far that I don’t feel we are apart as much as I anticipated and also so far he’s been at home with T when I’m away, so it’s not like I feel bad leaving him with his dad. 

So I guess next week will be the big week. I’ve just been called to work on a bid at work – which is the kind of work where people work long hours instead of the nice quiet time I’ve been having. In one way I’m happy to be back at work doing some actual work. But in another I think… waaah, he’s just too young! I’m trying not to think of it as a bad thing as I don’t want him to feel negative about it. 

We had to fill in loads of paperwork about preferences and care, and it just seemed soooo inefficient but I suppose they need to have a record of stuff. One of the things I am worried about is them not being able to figure out the feeding, as he’s still exclusively breastfed. I had to explain how he has bottles of expressed milk but the issue for nursery is he’s not really in a routine as he’s fed on demand. I hope they manage it as I have made a big effort to pump milk for him and it’s one thing I can do for him when I’m back at work. It’s strange how the small things just seem to matter more now… I would be really upset if he didn’t have my expressed milk for some reason, because it’s been such an effort. 

Trying to put my finger on how I feel right now. I think resigned… I mean I don’t feel as depressed as I thought I would, but I still deeply feel that I would prefer him not to be at nursery and to be with me. I feel that the amount of care given to kids at nursery is so much less… and maybe it’s just an over anxious mother talking, but I just don’t feel they care in the same way. I guess I feel a bit uneasy. Is that normal? I don’t know. 

My hair is falling out!

There’s a lot I could write about the slightly shoddy thing that is my post partum body, but the main thing of note is: my hair is falling out!

I’ve always had lots of hair. It’s the kind of hair my ex used to get annoyed about getting everywhere (because of course you can help your hair, right?!). Now we have a dog, my hair on any normal given day is intermingled with his among the general detritus of the house. 

But post partum my hair is just falling out all over the shop. 

I didn’t really worry at first because I have a lot of hair. I’ve always had a lot of hair. 

But lately it’s gotten beyond a joke. I first noticed a few strands were coming out but that was normal. 

Then when I brushed my hair, there was so much on the brush that I had to bin it every time instead of once every few times… but I thought that was because – with a new baby – I didn’t brush my hair as often so it was a bit knotty. 

Anyway in the last few weeks (B is now 22 weeks, 5 months old) my hair has started falling out in clumps. It’s everywhere!

I wonder how much I’ll be left with? I’m sort of hoping I can get by with less hair (as I always had a lot) and/or my hair is regenerating!

Although a friend of mine said hers never recovered after having her two kids…

Of course any amount of bodily discomfort is worth it because I had our miracle baby. And we are so happy being parents! I still thank my lucky stars every single day. Any complaining seems a bit… ungrateful. 

But I really would quite like to still have hair…

Life is short

In London, where I live, we’ve had so much bad news over the last few weeks. 

Already the Manchester suicide bombing of the Ariana Grande concert shocked us all. How anyone, least of all someone who was the child of a refugee, could do something like this to innocent children is beyond our understanding. 

And then suddenly it was close to home. Borough market and London Bridge – places we know and love and went out to in the evenings. It’s the last thing you’d expect in those hazy summer evenings spent at after work drinks, that people would go on a rampage. Just too close to home. And not long after the Westminster bridge attack. 

And then Grenfell tower. A large tower block of residential apartments, many or all of them social housing, up in flames. Hundreds presumed dead. A “stay put policy” the reasoning behind why many stayed in their homes whilst the building burned around them. But also the impossibility of escape when so far up. 

I live in a block of flats. Not so high up but we don’t have a lift (elevator) and we are right at the top. It makes me think. I think our building has better fire proofing than Grenfell. We have fire doors and dry risers. And it’s an old building, lots of brick and stone. But still. 

It’s the human stories that get me. With any of these, it’s the little things. I’m not saying I didn’t have the capacity to feel before. But since becoming a mother there is something primal I feel whenever I hear about children. 

At Grenfell, someone threw a baby out of the window from the 9th or 10th floor. The building was burning. Imagine what it must take, the terror in your heart, to throw your child out of a window in the chance they might be saved. Knowing that you probably won’t be. If either of our lives end, I want B to be with me and yet… a parent has chosen to be separated from their child at the point of likely death in the hopes that their child will live. I just can’t imagine the pain. (The papers are reporting the child survived. But nobody knows what happened to the parent.)

Another story: a 12 year old girl calls her mother in a state of fear and terror. She’s trapped on the 20th floor. Her mother is a cleaner working night shift. She rushes back to the tower and people hold her back. It’s too dangerous to enter. But her little girl, her baby is trapped up there. The smoke is too thick. She doesn’t get out. 

Grenfell is so terrible because it was not an act of terror – which is terrible in itself – but an act of negligence. Someone, somewhere approved the cladding that apparently created a chimney of inflammable material. Instead of the hour or so expected that residents would be safe in their flats, the entire building went up in a matter of minutes. The fire started on the fourth floor which meant those in the upper floors had little chance of survival. 

And the residents of Grenfell were from the poorer ends of society. Immigrants, Muslims, social housing, a diverse set of people living in a tower block just a stone’s throw from some of the richest. Kensington is one of the richest parts of London but side by side with some of the poorest. The great paradox of London – wealth and poverty side by side. 

The inflammable cladding was probably an aesthetic decision to try and protect the rich neighbours from the “eyesore” of poorer people on their doorstep. Part of an apparent £6m refurb project that didn’t fit the building with sprinklers or fire protection or alarms. Those people were often living with multiple occupants in flats, with larger families, which is why the death toll is predicted to be so high. Many of the residents were Muslim, and this happened during the holy month of Ramadan, which is why many were still awake at 1am when the fire broke out, otherwise the death toll might have been higher. 

In London everyone pulls together. People galvanised within hours to offer shelter, and bring food and drink and clothing and toiletries to the Grenfell residents who survived. Their immediate material needs can be met. But their emotional needs cannot. The horror of anyone who escaped dwarfs the horror of those who had to watch, helpless, as a tower block full of innocent people burned. And yet all any one of us can feel is horror. The stories of people trapped in their own homes, where they should feel safe. 

Today is the fifth anniversary of my friend’s husband’s death from cancer. He fought bravely through limb amputation – he was amazing, doing sports without a care in the world. But five years ago he passed away in his sleep. My friend now has a new husband and baby and she talks about the pain of knowing that her husband wanted her to be happy with someone new – and she is – versus wishing he was still here. It’s a painful paradox. 

My other friend who has cancer has finished chemo and first surgery and she’s recovering before her reconstruction surgery in a couple of months. I’m glad they caught the cancer but I hate what she is going through. It’s so taxing on her body. And it’s the second time she’s had cancer. I don’t know how she gets through it. Somehow she does. I try and let her know I’m thinking about her every day. But really I wish I could just take it all away and there was no such thing as cancer. 

It feels as though there has been such horror lately. It hurts to think about it. On a personal level I know I live in immense privilege, the fact that I have a roof over my head and a longed for baby and a great partner and dog, and I’m healthy. I am lucky to be here. And in any of those disasters we think: It could have been us. 

We have to be thankful for what we have. And I truly am, but in the past weeks I have been even more. With these horrible things happening all we can do is hold our loved ones a little tighter and enjoy every single moment. I thank my lucky stars every single day for what I have. Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. Be happy. 

That nursery rhyme is sexist!

It wasn’t until I had a baby that I realised how sexist the traditional nursery rhymes are. Especially The Wheels On The Bus!


 

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

The mummies on the bus go chatter chatter chatter…

The daddies on the bus go shhh shhh shhh…

I’m sure there are lots more examples although I’ve tried to block a fair few out of my mind… (The Farmer Wants A Wife springs to mind!)

On a slightly related note, I realised how much I like singing and clapping along to the B-I-N-G-O song. 

There was a man who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o

B – I – N – G – O

B – I – N – G – O

B – I – N – G – O and Bingo was his name-o!

(Repeat ad nauseam)

You can thank me for the earworm later…

Halfway somewhere

I seem to have fallen into a strange in between life. I’m supposed to be back at work, and for all intents and purposes I am, but my work has decided that they can’t really accommodate a breastfeeding mother, so I’ve been told to work from home when I don’t have meetings. 

It means I sort of feel like I’m back at work, but I sort of still feel like I’m on maternity leave because I’m at home like before. My friend sent me flowers to commiserate my first week at work and I felt like a bit of a fraud! But lovely flowers!


It means I’ve pulled back a bit from the SAHM / maternity leave group of people as I was going back to work, and yet I’m not really back at work yet because I’m still at home a lot of the time, so it’s a sort of limbo. 

My slightly grey mood is probably also a result of staying up late to watch the General Election last night – I feel like my brain is in a bit of a fog! (For those not in the UK, we had an election and there’s now a hung parliament which means nobody won with enough majority to govern on their own – so there’s change ahead.)
So I’m spending the majority of my time since being back at work, working from home. Of course I’m thrilled to spend more time with baby B, and Dog, and T. T thought he was going to be a single dad for a while but that hasn’t really happened. I did go into work to meet my boss and so T took B for the day to see his parents.

I met with my boss and he confirmed he wanted me to work on some internal stuff for a while, but because of the whole pumping thing I ended up leaving early and so T wasn’t home from his parents’ place so I felt kind of emotional to be wandering around by myself knowing my baby wasn’t at home. On the plus side I got to spend a bit of time with Dog, who probably feels a bit neglected by me lately (although I think he enjoys not being grabbed and cuddled all the time as I think he found it annoying!). 

So after the meeting with HR, they arranged a pumping room for me at work, which I duly used when I went to meet my boss. They actually banned me from using the disabled bathroom so that’s one thing. Which I can cope with, as it wasn’t particularly pleasant. However the pumping room is not exactly ideal either. I felt during the HR meeting (with three people) it was kind of trying to force me to accept the solution, which was that they make a meeting room slightly private for me but I have to give them 24hrs notice and I also have to tell them the exact times I want to pump on any given day. Anyone who’s pumped knows that’s not an ideal situation but I accepted it and I tried it when I went to meet my boss. For reference, the legal obligations are here: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/b/s/Acas-guide-on-accommodating-breastfeeding-in-the-workplace.pdf

The room they’ve given me is a small teleconference room. It’s actually fine size wise. It has a desk which means at least I didn’t have to put anything on the floor. And a power socket as the pump I have (Medela Swing Maxi) is a battery eater otherwise – it takes 6 AAA batteries for 1.5hrs pumping which is like three sessions! The problem with the room is that they don’t have a lock and it also has a big window (partly frosted opaque) which needs covering up. So their solution is to use 2 pieces of flipchart paper and to put a sign on the door saying not to come in, and then give me a doorstop to wedge in so people can’t open the door easily should they choose to ignore the sign! All this stuff needs taking down and reinstating in between sessions!

Anyway, I decided I would ask for a morning session just after I arrived at the office and then a lunchtime session. I’d leave early so didn’t do a late afternoon session. The whole thing worked okay, but I just get so much less milk during pumping at work than I do when I’m at home. 


I managed 2oz each session when I tend to get around 4oz or more from each side when I pump at home in the early evening. It took longer too. It just felt like a lot of work and hassle to do but then I guess I hadn’t done a full day’s work and also I haven’t done it at that time each day, so my body isn’t used to it then (and when I’m home with B, he doesn’t drink so much during the day). 

What I’m finding difficult about it is that if I’m partly working from home then I don’t really get into a routine with it. If I’m home with B then I’m not pumping as he just gets it from source, although I often try and do a pumping session in the evening to stock up so T can give him one bottle a day. 

Obviously when he’s at nursery he’ll need more than that, so I’m just trying to figure out when I’m going to pump to supply that. I’m feeling a bit confused by the whole thing because of the lack of routine that I thought I’d have when I went back to work.

I’m glad to be back at work in a way, in that everyone at my work is very nice. I’m kind of concerned about it because I don’t feel that I have enough to do right now, and maybe people find it weird I’d complain about not having enough work, but I sort of feel like if I’m going back and foregoing more maternity leave, I should be busy and doing well so I can get promoted etc etc! 

I just feel a bit torn between lives right now, but I suppose that’s normal. And I’m very lucky my job is allowing me all the working from home time. I guess they’ve kind of had their hand forced because they can’t accommodate the breastfeeding, but I still seem to get on well with my boss so I’m hopeful we can continue to have a good relationship. I guess I just want it to be worth going back to work. I don’t want to miss out on B for nothing.

Also, I think the going back to work has precipitated a change in my relationship with the local mums. Over the past few weeks I was kind of getting a little frustrated with them, because they cancel things at the last minute and don’t commit to things. I think maybe we are just different sorts of people but when I make an arrangement to meet up, I expect it to go ahead unless someone’s sick or something. Nowadays they seem less keen to meet up – maybe they just hate me! But also I find they only confirm stuff at the last minute or they cancel stuff the day before. 

Maybe it’s because my time off was more precious to me that I more wanted confirmation of what we were doing, but anyway, it has gotten to the stage where I kind of feel like we are not on the same page. The two mums I was most friendly with are more friendly with each other, as they live really close. And one of them especially is kind of making a bid to be one of the leaders of the local mums… This is the one I used to hang out with a lot. 

She tends to cancel stuff at the last minute and I just feel that she’s gotten a better offer. I’m fairly laid back but after a few times I started finding it annoying. She’s also very competitive in terms of sending updates on what her baby’s doing, and buying stuff for the baby, and I’m just not into it.

I think the main thing that happens as the babies get older is that you realise that you all have different parenting styles and maybe that means you have less in common than you thought. I really felt like I got on with them all but everything with them seems a bit more high stress, with routines and so on. We haven’t had much trouble with B because we just kind of go with the flow. I never try and put him to bed early, and I guess we are what you’d call attachment parents, we co sleep and babywear, so he’s not really a big crier and he’s just generally an easy baby.

I say this not to sound smug but more to illustrate that we aren’t very organised parents or set in our ways… He just hangs out with us and we haven’t changed our routines too much. We still go to bed late and because we are off, we get up pretty late too. It means we don’t get up at 5am like the other mums seem to do. (I’m so glad as I can’t cope with 5am wake ups.) I think maybe they think I’m lazy or something because we don’t have all these fixed things we do, and I can’t relate to the constant stress they seem to have. 

Some people don’t even seem to enjoy having a baby – it’s like they are obsessed with trying to escape on a night out. I don’t feel I’m missing out at all – perhaps because I never thought we’d get to be parents. I don’t think that makes me a better person; just a different one. But anyway, I sense a distance growing between us.

Because T and I have both been off I’ve had a different experience too – they do a lot of mum stuff but I don’t do much of it as I feel it would be mean not to include T when he’s off too. It makes you realise how much parental stuff is left to the mums. I also can’t understand why mothers complain about it because it’s great. Maybe it’s great where we are in London, but there’s so much to do that socially you really wouldn’t suffer being a mum, unless like me you are going back to work. There’s stuff for mums and babies every single day. And loads of places you can go, and classes and so on. I actually feel exhausted just thinking about what some of them do. I think even if I was alone at home I’d want days where I just relax at home!

So overall, I think I feel a bit like going back to work has been an anticlimax. Right now I’m not fully back at work and I’m not at home on maternity leave any more, so I’m sort of stuck between two worlds. I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, but my mood has been a bit down over the past week, because of the whole back to work thing and then feeling like I’m half and half. 

I’m the sort of person who likes to go in 100% on things, and the problem is right now I’m spread thinly between both. I need to figure out how to be happy with the balance. 

Quite honestly I wish I could stay at home full time with B, but it’s not possible financially. And I should be grateful that I have a job with a sympathetic company which will allow me to work from home and relax a bit and still get a good salary! Maybe when we’ve moved house – hopefully next month – I will be able to relax into the new reality.

How not to pump at work

Aka what to do when your company hasn’t quite figured out how to accommodate the breastfeeding laws… Plus pictures!

Yesterday I had my first day in the office. It wasn’t quite a full day – I only had one meeting so I left early. I was catching up with a new manager in my team who may well end up being my (sub team) manager. My boss had said don’t bother coming in until we meet on Tuesday, and to work from home, but I said I’d try and meet this new manager as I wanted to use the time wisely and I really don’t have much (any!) work to do at home. 

The new manager is a woman (rare in my industry!). I actually interviewed her even though she’s about two grades above me. My boss tends to send me to do the cultural / female interview! As I love my company and so they usually want to work there after I’ve talked with them! (I wasn’t the deciding factor. More of an add on so a woman interviewing wouldn’t see only men!)

Anyway. It was kind of illuminating. For one thing, I got much more of an insight into the company’s stance on pumping for breastfeeding mothers. Turns out nobody has asked for it before! I suppose the law only came in relatively recently. 

The Equality Act 2010 states that it is illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. In practice this means that employers need to provide a room with a lockable door for breastfeeding and ideally with a power socket. It also means people can’t prevent you from feeding in shops and cafés, etc. 

Most clients have a suitable space in the shape of a meeting room or a first aid room. But our base office doesn’t. It’s not that fancy an office as we are a client facing business so most people who work at the company are usually out on client site. I had suggested to HR and the office manager that I could use one of the small meeting rooms and they could stick some paper over the window. But there’s no lock on the door… 

The HR woman (probably the first HR woman I’ve gotten on with so well!) was super apologetic and said that she’s told my boss they couldn’t accommodate breastfeeding mothers in that office so I should be allowed to work from home! The office manager agreed and she’s seven months pregnant and said she wouldn’t stand for it!

For my meeting, the first meeting in over four months, I had a good catch up with the new manager. She’s in her 50s and has kids and seemed relatively sympathetic. She said I definitely shouldn’t work longer hours than contractual hours, which was refreshing. (Official working hours are 9-5 but nobody ever works this. But I would have to leave at 5 or soon after to get back in time to pick up B from nursery, once he’s there all day.)

The kind of weird thing was that she said she’d gone back at 6 weeks each time she had a baby as she had to, being the main breadwinner*. And she said she didn’t need to pump at work. Apparently her breasts just adjusted and didn’t leak milk or whatever and she fed her kids when she was at home. (*I am too but didn’t feel the need to say this! But it’s the reason I am going back to work instead of being a SAHM which I would love to be.)

Now it’s a fairly recent development but B is kind of showing signs of moving towards reverse cycle feeding. He has a big feed or two at night and less during the day. So I thought in time this might happen, especially as B has been really bottle resistant. (We have tried giving him one small bottle of expressed milk a day and he typically takes 1-2oz under sufferance! And I mean sufferance! Screaming!)

However when I was out yesterday, he ended up taking way more than usual from T via the bottle. Almost 5oz in 3 bottles! When he seems only to snack during the day lately and he always resists the one bottle a day we try to give him, so this was unexpected. I was thinking maybe 1-2oz not almost 5. I don’t know if he was comforting with the bottle but he’s pretty good at self soothing with his thumb now he’s realised where it is!

So to provide for a day like that in expressed milk, I would most likely have to express during the work day. Currently I express in the early evening when I’m at home, but I feed him a little bit during the day so it makes sense that I’d have to pump at least once during the day to provide that for the next day. Today I pumped once at work and once at home. But if I do the pumping when I’m back at work, I would really rather do it at work as I want to spend the time at home re-bonding with my son, not pumping. 

I think what this woman was saying was that her kids had formula when she went back to work. This is not what B is used to, and until today he wouldn’t even take more than 2oz under sufferance. I am really reluctant to give him formula given this is the only thing my body managed to get right! It’s all very well this manager woman saying she didn’t need to express milk, but I currently do! 

The thing that really annoyed me a bit was apparently she said this to my boss when he asked her, as she’s The Other Woman in the team. (“I didn’t need to express milk so she shouldn’t really need to and so you don’t really need a room for it.” Paraphrase.) Err that’s not how it works, honey! B is exclusively breastfed and he’s drinking/ feeding during the day – so I need to pump. Whether they like it or not. It’s protected by law! 

It kind of gets my goat when women are not all sisterhood-like about these things. It does us a disservice when there’s always one woman going “Don’t make allowances for women because I didn’t need them and I was fine!” I mean, she was nice and all but perhaps a bit old school in that way of showing how kick ass she is, how she didn’t need breastfeeding laws and whatnot. I appreciate previous generations had it harder, but why should we not want positive change?

My boss – who I’ve always adored in a work way and get on really well with – is apparently really stressed in general due to our targets and reorganisation and is really p*ssed off that this is one more thing that needs to be accommodated, and that our office doesn’t have the facility. (Now since I’ve been away four months they’ve built a whole new canteen so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect one small locking private room with power source!) It was definitely a bit demoralising to hear he’s not happy although the manager lady and HR assured me it’s not personal and he still likes me. 

I felt a bit upset as I was kind of a bit of teacher’s pet before I left and I don’t really want that to change! I feel like I’ve made a massive effort coming back so soon (most women here take a year) and they didn’t pay me for maternity leave so the least they could do is appreciate my effort! So I have to wait and see what he has in mind for me to work on, when we meet on Tuesday. We shall see. 

Anyway, I figured since I had brought all my pumping stuff I should give it a go. They had no room so I went in the disabled bathroom. I felt like I was well prepared with all my pumping gear and no idea!

Turns out that it is pretty horrible to pump in the disabled loo… Having done it once, I can totally see why HR didn’t recommend it. It was really difficult and it made me realise how much you depend on oxytocin and feeling relaxed to get the milk flowing! Suffice to say standing around in the disabled loo is not conducive to those warm smushy feelings!

Anyway, without further ado I give you: My day in pictures! This captures the full horror of pumping in the disabled bathroom… An experience I’d rather not repeat!

I left Baby B sleeping after feeding, around 08:00. You can see Tiger from our babymoon in the corner of his cot. It felt so hard to leave him. His little chubby legs!

My work outfit. It’s a Friday so I wore jeans! I’m a bit bad in that I often wear black jeans because I kinda think they just look like trousers anyway. My Sarah Wells pumping bag is in the bottom left corner. Check out the disabled loo! It’s nice and big but…


My Sarah Wells bag contains the Pumparoo (which you buy separately). If there is one thing I’d recommend pumping mums get, it’s the Pumparoo. Quite aside from the fact it’s in one of my favourite naval motifs, it is super handy for occasions just like this. It is a fabric bag which has a large waterproof zipped compartment and a smaller zipped compartment, plus a clip on/off “staging mat” (see next pic) and it folds up small when not in use. The idea is you can put your used pump parts in the office fridge in between pump sessions and you don’t need to sterilise more than once a day. 

The staging mat clips off the side with poppers and has one waterproof side. It means you have a clean surface to put your pump parts on. Believe me if you’re in a public bathroom you need this!


It was trickier than I thought getting everything set up. I do this every day at home but I have plenty of space there. I found it quite stressful!

At home I am very relaxed and I don’t have any issue getting milk out most of the time. At work, people were waking past and there was lots of noise and it took ages to get half of what I usually get. I tend to get 8-10oz in 15 min and at work I did 4.5oz in half an hour. It was a bit demoralising. But also I don’t know if my body’s used to making milk in the evening which is when I usually pump. So maybe I’m not used to milk making at lunchtime! B usually eats just little snacks during the day. 

It wasn’t much fun during this time as initially nothing was coming out and also people were making loads of noise outside the bathroom. I kept wondering if someone would be rattling the door handle trying to get in or wondering if I was depriving an actual disabled person from using the bathroom. (There aren’t any in our office as far as I know.)
 

It was pretty difficult and uncomfortable in the end. The disabled loo has no seat so I had to perch on the edge of the toilet seat, or stand up. I could hear people going past and it just didn’t get me in the zone. I kept worrying someone would come in. Turns out having a lock is important! But also knowing someone won’t try to get in is also important!

Anyone who has breastfed or pumped knows that you have to release oxytocin (“the love hormone”) to release the milk. When you’re with your baby, you naturally release it. When you’re pumping, you need to think of your baby. The pump bag even has a little pocket to put a picture of your baby in for that very purpose. 

When I left home that morning – I realised I’d forgotten the blasted ice blocks! The Sarah Wells pump bag has a section that is separate from the rest of the bag which acts as a cool bag. 

So what was I to do with all my hard earned milk?

Well, my office provides free soft drinks…


On the plus side, when I got home all the boys were pleased to see me. B was crying and he stopped as soon as he saw me. It made me feel happy!

A brief reprieve

So tomorrow (Wednesday 31 May, 2017) is meant to be my final day of maternity leave. Actually Monday 22 was meant to be my first day back at work, but I took annual leave to eke it out until the beginning of June. Somehow that seemed easier. 

My boss had told me he didn’t want me to go back to my previous client and to go to our base office instead. It’s 1hr away instead of half an hour so not ideal, but hopefully I’ll be back on a client soon. (My last client was a bit… interesting, and probably doesn’t warrant me working on them full time.) 

So I was calling around HR and the office manager to see if they’d get me a room for pumping (as per UK law for breastfeeding mothers). The office manager told me she had told my boss they don’t have anything suitable and so I should work from home!! 

Now ordinarily I’d think this is a great idea but realistically it’s just not going to work. The whole point of me going back to work is to get back to my career and do a good job and hopefully get promoted. Much as I’d like to sit around in the sun at home, my job is based on client work or being in the base office and other than occasional wfh Fridays it’s not really practical to spend all your time at home. 

I said I was totally willing to give it a go in our office. There’s a small videoconference room / phone booth I could use but there’s no lock on the door so they’d have to put a sign on (“Do not enter under any circumstances”) and there’s the small matter of papering over the window, but I was willing to try it. 

Thing is, this is a job that pays more than I’ve ever been paid and it’s miles better than my old one (no obvious misogyny/ possible racism for starters!) so I want to try and do well at it and keep it!

Anyway the office manager was completely against it and told my boss that it was unacceptable. (I think the law is in the UK that they need to give you a private room with a lockable door and power source… that’s not a disabled bathroom. Or something.) I said I didn’t mind trying it. As I said, realistically my job is not one you can do from home in the long term so I need to try and do something that works in the longer term. 

So my boss calls me and says he doesn’t want me to come into the office yet as he doesn’t think we can accommodate the pumping… so to work from home for my first few days until I meet him on Tuesday! I think he’s afraid I’ll sue them or something. 

So that’s three days I get back. I mean, I’m not sure how I can really work from home other than checking my emails… and maybe do an online course or something… but really. Not much work to do. 

It’s a strange feeling as I’d psyched myself up to start work in two days on Thursday and now I don’t have to go in until Tuesday. But to an office that’s an hour away rather than half an hour. With no pregnancy bump to use to get a seat! Ah well… We shall see. 

Some photos… mainly of food!

So… a few days reprieve! I’ll take it!

PSA: A quick note on boobs

Apparently there are two types of breastfeeders – those whose boobs grow to gigantic humungaboobs™ and those whose boobs remain petite, perky and lovely. 

Guess which one I am? 

Yeah, it turns out that my already fairly moderately sized 32C pair have turned into full on funbags. All the better to feed you with, B. (Aside: Baby B is such a chunker I sometimes think he looks like a mini sumo wrestler.) I really wish I could be one of the perky ones but alas, it’s not to be. 

Anyway, I’ve been wearing soft bras for the time being, because they’re comfortable and I am a lazy lounger at heart. (Currently wearing a mumba bra but I also have cheaper ones from Sia on Amazon, and H&M nursing bras.) They are the opposite of sexy, but it’s comfort I’m after right now. (Not sure how T could possibly find the gigantic boobs sexy, but he’s a boob man and we have a baby so I think he’s grateful for anything remotely sexy!) 

As I was planning to go back to work and having to figure out bf appropriate clothes, I’m on a breastfeeding clothing group where people post bf-appropriate clothes that you can find on the high street. It’s actually really good for getting general ideas about nice clothes for all different figures, and a bit of inspiration for when you’ve been out of the loop for a while. 

One of the things they push on there is the idea that most women are wearing the wrong size bra – whether they’re breastfeeding or not. The measuring site is called Boob or Bust and there’s a calculator there to work out your bra size (and it works whether you’re pregnant, nursing or neither).

Now, I’m wearing the soft bras right now so they’re not sized like bras. Just small, medium and large. And they can vary in size throughout the day due to breastfeeding and milk supply. But I thought I’d check it out anyway just to see what my post pregnancy breastfeeding boobs were. 

Well! Apparently my post pregnancy recommended bra size is 32H! 😮😮

Now, this sounds crazy until you realise that the number relates to your back size and that cup size is not all the same with every back size. You’d think it is, but the increasing circumference of your body increases the cup size for each letter cup. Who knew?!

This is best illustrated below:


As you can see, a 38D is far bigger in the cup than a 30D. 

I had been wearing a 36DD in pregnancy and this was clearly an effect of being larger in the cup… but it seems counterintuitive that I’d have gone up in circumference once the baby was out! I always kind of wondered how I could be a 36DD. But 32H seems like a kind of scary size!

So… I may go back to a standard sized bra rather than soft nursing bras (not really recommended before six months), at which point I’ll remeasure and see if I can get some decent bras to fit. Soft nursing bras may be comfortable, but they are not particularly supportive or pretty! Who knows… I may fit back into my 32Cs one day…

Give it a go if you dare, and let me know how you get on!

Boob or Bust

Back to work blues

I don’t know where the time has gone. It seems like just a week ago I was pregnant and waiting anxiously for B to arrive. And now he’s here and it’s almost like he’s always been here and suddenly I’m due back at work today!

I have given myself a small reprieve in that I have accrued all my annual leave for the year and I am going back almost mid year. So I have taken just over a week of annual leave so I can postpone my return to work until 1 June. It’s a bank holiday here in England which means we have the Monday off, so I do get a “free” day to add to all that. 
And yet… it seems so not enough. 

I know in the US and elsewhere that maternity leave tends to be short. I believe it’s sometimes even as short as six weeks. I’ll have had 19 weeks, but it seems so little time. I can’t believe I initially said I’d go back after two months!

It’s a bit of a drag workwise as my boss (who I managed to chase down after several weeks) said that he doesn’t want me to go back to my previous client. But he doesn’t want me to tell them either. So it’s a bit awkward. He also said when I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago to call him back when I have two weeks to go. I do, and I have, but of course he’s on holiday. 

So instead of going to my client which is about half an hour away, he wants me to go to our base office which is about an hour away and three trains. I’m really not thrilled about this prospect as I know I’ll just be sitting in the office with nothing to do until he appears, and apparently he’ll be traveling that week anyway, but I suppose at least that means I’ll just leave early if I have nothing to do. 

That’s my boss! He’s a great guy and I totally (platonically) love him, but he’s one of those people who has very little time and then if he ever gets round to giving you his time, you just have to drop everything and give it. 

Anyway. Aside from the obvious pain I have of being separated from B, I am concerned about the whole breastfeeding thing. If you’d have said this during pregnancy I would have had a very different view. But for us, breastfeeding just works and it’s the one thing I seem able to do without much effort. After the infertility and difficulties getting pregnant, and the emergency caesarean birth, I feel it’s something I can do for him that can bring him benefit, and I want to carry on doing it as long as possible. 

I’m not anti formula per se, but I don’t want to give him formula if I don’t have to. I have a good supply of milk and I’ve been pumping around once a day for the last month and a bit, and it seems to be fine. (We switched from a rather unpleasant Tommee Tippee to the Medela Swing Maxi I bought at the Baby Show – it’s way more expensive but a much better pumping experience.)

Unfortunately, B is rather resistant to the bottle. I have friends who have the opposite problem. But of course my child would have to be different! We’ve tried a bunch of different bottles… Tommee Tippee, MAM, Nuk, even the expensive Medela Calma which is meant to mimic the nipple (whose nipple, I have no idea… a bionic person’s!). Eventually we think we have found that he will take… the Lansinoh mOmma. Although apparently only from me. T has used the MAM bottles a while and he will take about 1oz extremely begrudgingly. Either way it’s about 1oz at a time. (Update: Yesterday he took 2.5oz and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Where’s the rest?!” So I had to breastfeed him! Maybe we’ve turned a corner?)

So last week I left B for the first ever time! Well I’ve left him before for a short time like to walk to the local shop or walk Dog, but not for an extended period. I am due back to work at the beginning of June so I am in dire need of a back to work wardrobe. My pre pregnancy stuff doesn’t exactly lend itself to breastfeeding or expressing, as I tend to wear higher cut dresses (and I sure as s*** am not going to sit around pumping in my underwear!

My mother very kindly gave me some money when we were on holiday, which was to put towards some new clothes and a haircut. It was so nice of her! Think she realised I was feeling a bit unconfident when I had a mini meltdown about what to wear to the family do we went to. 

I think when I first gave birth I sort of lost most of the pregnancy weight. 

And then… the brunger!!

Omg. The breastfeeding hunger is something else. Turns out I’m not one of those people who wastes away to nothing and I just want to eat all the time! Luckily breastfeeding also burns calories! But it’s not really my usual amount of eating. I’m a bit of a pig lately. Also I confess that during pregnancy I really didn’t worry about diet, although I also felt fuller quicker because B took up so much room. 

So the upshot of it is that I’m about a size larger than my pre pregnancy dress size. And that is two sizes larger than my fighting weight before IVF round 1 took its toll on me! And not to mention the boobs! Seriously they’re out of control. My usual size is 32C. I’ve been wearing 36DD and it’s not really the right size but I couldn’t really bear for my breasts to be touched during pregnancy and I’ve been wearing stretchy nursing bras anyway because they’re more comfortable for the Amazing Humungaboobs™ and their waxing and waning. 

Anyway I measured myself according to Boob or Bust (a nursing / bra measuring website) and it turns out I’m currently a 32H! OMG, WTF, etc! So obviously that necessitates different clothes as well, because a lot of nursing clothes are a bit low cut and quite frankly nobody wants my Humungaboobs™ in their face (least of all at work!). 

So I spent a day clothes shopping at the big shopping centre. T was texting me updates with pictures of B looking remarkably happy without his mother! I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, but it was worth doing as it’s pretty difficult to try on clothes whilst babywearing (which we seem to do most of the time) and I’m the kind of person who likes to try on clothes on my own without an opinion! (Probably accounts for my dreadful dress sense!)

I’d already got some stuff from Mamalicious which I wore a lot during pregnancy, so that covered off nursing dresses. Also a couple of bits in the sale from Dorothy Perkins and New Look. (These are all fairly low end high street shops.) I’m really not a person who buys very expensive clothes often. I wish I could be one of those classic dressers but I’m not! Although I do seem to have a uniform of mainly black… On maternity leave I’ve mainly lived in jeans and JoJo Maman Bébé Breton feeding tops. Clearly not suitable for work!

Anyway, here are some headless pics to demonstrate some of my purchases. I was quite proud of myself!

Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Light jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Flat shoes from New Look. 

Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Court shoes from New Look. 


Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Midi skirt from H&M. Jacket from Top Shop. Shoes from New Look. 

I was pretty pleased with my haul. (Most of the pics were taken in New Look changing room so didn’t show all my stuff from H&M!) I also got some shirts which are good for a casual look. I’ve been living in stripy Breton feeding tops from JoJo Maman Bébé which are great for casual but not for work, so it’s good to have something a bit smarter. 

I mentioned I got a ridiculously expensive breast pump bag from Sarah Wells which is an American brand. I looked everywhere for some kind of multipurpose bag but it doesn’t so much exist round here because people tend to take maternity leave until the baby has been weaned. Also the UK has a really low rate of breastfeeding so mums who go back to work tend to move to formula if they haven’t weaned. Unfortunately I was hit with a gigantic customs charge which added insult to injury! However I’m fairly happy with the bag. Just as well! I have used it for my shopping trip and it’s massive, but I haven’t tricked it out for pumping yet. 

Anyway, I took some pics for interest…


Sarah Wells pumping bag, “Kelly”. 


Rucksack straps or handbag straps can be tucked away / pulled out as desired. The handbag straps are long enough to put it over your shoulder and carry it that way. Which is a good deal as it’s a big bag!

 

Pump compartment which is insulated and water resistant so you can store your pump and your pumped milk with ice blocks. There is a photo pocket where you can add a pic of your baby to aid expressing (oxytocin!). My Medela Swing Maxi double pump fits in there easily.  


Top view. You can easily fit a laptop in the laptop pocket. Also room for shoes, lunch, and loads of other paraphernalia. 

So I’m pleased with it all! I feel like I’m sort of physically prepared for work. Just not mentally. 

The other day I went to a breastfeeding and working coffee morning run by La Leche League. It was themed around going back to work so obviously I was interested. Anyway I’m completely mortified because when I introduced myself and started talking about going back to work, I cried! Wow. I’m so not a crier. It turns out that B has turned me into waterworks central! Everyone was really nice about it and I wasn’t the only one to get emotional but still! Shocking!

It was great to meet other members of “the breastapo”. I had had no intention of joining LLL but actually have found the fb group really helpful with tips on breastfeeding, and the book (tongue in cheek named The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) is really helpful and full of tips including on going back to work. 

I can’t believe my time with B is coming to an end. It’s not to say I won’t see him, but it will be different. He’s going to stay at home with T (his dad) for a while and then go to nursery a few weeks later. So we will be working parents. It just feels so soon to go back. I’m sure I will cry my eyes out when it happens. 

I have built up quite a stash of frozen milk. Hopefully we will not have a defrosting disaster like we did a while ago! It’s more for backup as my intention is to pump for him the day before. So if I pump at work I’ll just give the nursery that milk the following day. The freezer stash is more just in case. 


I do feel proud that after everything that happened with how difficult it was to have B, this is one thing my body seems to be doing right. 

Other than that we have been concentrating on making these last few weeks really awesome for baby B. He is growing up so fast! He can now roll, which first happened two weeks ago when we were on holiday, but was more of a sort of accidental roll than a purposeful one. Today (18 weeks+1) he did both types of roll (front to back and back to front) in a really purposeful way. 

He’s also gotten kind of sick of being in his rocker. I guess we didn’t really get the full money’s worth out of that but I’m planning to give it to my sister as they can use it as soon as my niece is born, so they’ll get longer to use it. My brother gave us a Baby Bjorn bouncer they were getting rid of, which is okay to put him in if you need a minute to go to the loo or something. Now he can roll, it’s not safe to leave him on the sofa!

So this weekend we took him swimming and picked up a present for him… a jumperoo! I think it pretty much was the best day of B’s life so far! He loved it!


If you’d have told me this was the kind of thing I’d be getting excited about, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s the most tacky piece of tat! And yet he absolutely loves it. If you can imagine a tiny little dude sitting in the middle of it, playing with the bits and making tinny music come out of it whilst giggling with glee – that’s B!

I don’t think I could love him more. 

The golden hour

One of my favourite parts of the day is after B has woken up for his morning feed and then gone back to sleep. Sometimes I go back to sleep too, but more often than not I’m just lying here surrounded by my three boys sleeping (B, T and Dog). B’s in bed next to me and I just marvel at the fact that he’s here, and softly breathing, and perfect.