I was looking at old photos of myself on Timehop (God bless Timehop, the regurgitator of past lives!) and realised that I was really skinny. This was something of a surprise to me as I spent a good proportion of my life and most of my adult life feeling fat.
It's like a lot of my old life is something of a shock to me now. I remembered with a jolt the other day that I didn't wear trousers for five years because my ex told me my legs looked a bit like sausages in them. Five years! When did I allow someone else to have such agency over my body?
Even before I met my ex, I think I had some pretty disordered eating. Not quite anorexia – I never really was one for seeing things through – but I did maintain a pretty low body weight that is significantly lower than I am now. (For context: I am around 5'2", and I used to be a UK size 8-10, and now I'm about a UK size 12. Generally not considered "overweight".)
I'm not sure when my disordered eating and strange body image first started. A lot of people (especially girls) start this around puberty, and perhaps that's what happened for me. I think it's a bit deeper than that, though. I was adopted as a baby, transracially, and I grew up around white people so all my life I've looked different from most of the people I was around growing up.
When I went to a predominantly white school, all of this got amplified. I remember that it was a shock because I slowly realised that I was "less than" because of my race. I realised that I was supposed to be blonde haired and blue eyed and I was about as far from that as possible. I started to find myself ugly (and people started to tell me I was ugly to my face). I never had the skinny white girl legs. Mine were muscular and I was just a different build. Really average for my race, as it turns out. But you don't know that as a child if you grow up with people who don't look like you.
Adoption is complex, and I don't know how much of this was tied up in adoption, but I do know I can't separate out being a different race from my overall experience of growing up. My feeling of not fitting in, even though that was all I knew. Anyway, I got kind of chubby. Although looking back, I wasn't chubby. I don't think I was ever actually chubby – I was just short, and not lanky.
Then one time when I was around 16, I went away on a holiday (to learn a language) and when I was there I got pretty sick and I couldn't really eat anything. And I dropped a load of weight. When I got back, suddenly everyone said how amazing I looked because I was skinny. I was suddenly approved of, and I liked it. So I maintained it.
I maintained it for a really long time. The thing is, I'm not naturally meant to be that weight. (It's about 20-30kg lighter than I am now. I don't know exactly how much as I don't know how much I weigh now.) So I got by on some disordered eating that kept me at my magic weight. My magic weight crept up over time… I kept in a 5kg weight range through school, and then it kind of crept up during my time at university, until it was +10kg, and then it was about +15kg in my last few years with IVF and everything. And even +20kg post miscarriage.
For me, I always thought I was "happy" when I was a lower weight. But when I look back, I was always kind of unhappy. I was happy that I'd managed to keep my weight down but I always felt a kind of anxiety about it. I used to weigh myself every day. The number on the scales made me feel like I was achieving something or I was failing something.
When I met T, after I'd split up with my ex – I had to adjust to a new way of being. I was always very controlled with my ex. He wouldn't think he was, but he controlled a lot about me. He had a huge effect on my feelings of self worth (or not). This was someone who had always dated very skinny women and even told me I was the fattest person he'd ever been with. It made me feel pretty bad about myself that I was that. The whole thing with my ex was that I never felt good enough. With T, I felt good enough. He really didn't care about weight. I actually met him when I was still pretty skinny and I piled on the relationship pounds… I let myself go.
I'm still conflicted about how I feel about it, because I recognise that my magic weight wasn't magic at all, but a strange idea of how I was supposed to look. And T tells me he loves me the way I am. But it was hard in the beginning putting on pregnancy weight – not just because of the weight itself, but the fear that it might be for nothing, like our first IVF and pregnancy was.
This pregnancy that gave me B also gave me a lot of weight. Firstly I had to take IVF drugs which make you put on weight. And also I had to take steroids which make you put on weight also. I got to halfway through pregnancy in a state of fear that it wouldn't work out, but then when I got halfway I decided I was going to try my best not to fear it any more.
I also decided to stop weighing myself. I have weighed myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day, since I was a teenager. I even recorded my weight every day in an app so I could see how much weight I put on. It's a bit crazy obsessive.
When I was properly pregnant, I gave myself permission to stop weighing myself. And I let myself relax into the pregnancy.
And you know what?
The strange thing is, I have no doubt I'm at least magic weight +20kg. Possibly +30kg. And I definitely have my moments of feeling a bit concerned about it (especially if I catch a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower – stretch marks and overhang and pendulous mammaries hanging out) but I generally feel absolutely awesome.
I don't know how it works for other people but for me – my body was always this thing that failed me. I wasn't the same as my white friends. I looked different. I was ultimately not enough – I wasn't enough for my birth mother to keep me; I wasn't enough for my ex to love me how I needed to be loved; I wasn't thin enough or attractive enough or whatever.
But having B was like all vanity went out of the window. I love myself now, because I know I'm just the same as anyone else – I'm fallible and imperfect, but my messed up body gave me B and I love myself for that.
I love my ridiculous humungaboobs that feed B like a dream… when his dad "flies" him over to me for a feed, he giggles and opens his mouth to latch on. They may be saggy and baggy but they do exactly what they need to do to feed my baby, and I'm proud I've been able to do that and even to pump for him so he's been exclusively breastfed for his entire life, for half a year.
I love my saggy stomach. (This one requires a bit more imagination!) I love that it carried B safely (even though he needed cutting out at the last minute!). I love that I got to experience being gloriously, amazingly pregnant. I once had a big bump that I never thought I'd get to have, and I grew a human in there, and if it looks like a fleshy deflated balloon well – so be it. My bikini days are over anyway and I have an awesome very flattering swimsuit with tummy panels!
I love my fuller face. (Again this is a hard one!) I love that it's the face that my son loves. His eyes light up when he sees me. He giggles and reaches his arms out. We even had to hide the cushion with my face on because he kept staring at it! Yes, I don't have the cheekbones I used to have but they'll come back one day. Or maybe they won't. But I refuse to hate my face because it looks a little bit like my boy's and I love his.
Anyone who sees me now probably thinks I've "let myself go". And I really have.
I've given myself permission to breathe out. (You kind of have to if you had a caesarean, just saying.)
I've given myself permission to not care. I don't have to listen to the whispering voices of bullies from the past, who said I was fat and ugly. I'm not fat and ugly. I am the size I needed to be to carry my baby into existence. I'm the face of my ancestors, who I'm finally beginning to connect with through adoption forums and same race groups, and I refuse to be ashamed of my non-whiteness because I don't ever want to see that shame in my son's face.
Of course I don't advocate being unhealthy. (Well, chocolate notwithstanding.) The thing is, I'm a size bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. But there's a freedom in letting myself have this. I have told myself I won't diet until I finish breastfeeding. Right now, I don't know when that will be. I want to do at least a year. In fact I'm enjoying it so much (never thought I'd say that!) that I joke I'll do it till he's 15… although I think he might decide to wean himself before then! (We have started baby led weaning but B is not interested in the least… It's a messy business!)
I will start exercising again when I have the time, for sure. But it will be just for myself. I miss the enjoyment I used to get from exercise, a bit, but then we are pretty active as we walk almost everywhere and we have Dog, and he gets us out and about. Plus I do swimming with B once a week, if bobbing around in the shallow end counts. (Yes it does!)
The important thing is that I want B to have a healthy self esteem and be happy. And a huge part of that is having happy healthy parents. I don't want him to see his mother dieting or hating the body that he changed by coming into existence. I don't want him to hate half of his race that came from me. We've taken steps… He's in a diverse nursery in the diverse area we live in. So he will never have the experience of feeling the odd one out, like I did.
And his parents are currently happy together and don't argue that much! (And when they do, it's his mama's fault… Hopefully the hormones will have died down a bit by the time he's more aware!) We are hopefully moving to our new place soon, so he'll even have a bit of outside space. And he has an awesome Dog for a buddy, and a load of new buddies at nursery… Life is good… and we are going to focus on the good things we are grateful for, rather than the bad things we wish we didn't have.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know we are massive Disney fans. We have booked to bring B to Disneyland Paris this year, because even though he won't remember it, it's our happy place (and we will save Orlando and the transatlantic flight for when he's older!). We have been every year apart from last year (heavily pregnant) as a couple and now we're going back as a family.
And of course, one of the best Disney songs ever is from Frozen: Let it Go. I don't tell that many people this, but I can barely ever listen to that song without wanting to cry. It's the perfect song that sums up so much of how I feel. (Which is strangely embarrassing given I'm an almost-40 year old definitely not Scandinavian most likely not a princess archetypally buttoned up British-by-adoption person.)
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
So here's the thing… I never was perfect. But I was trying to be, and it was exhausting.
And I never realised that all this time I needed to find acceptance. Not from other people, but from myself.
There are good and bad things about Timehop. I always find it interesting to see what I did on this day a year ago, and the years before that. Although there are always things we'd rather forget and it doesn't seem to filter those out.
This morning's Timehop showed me this scan picture. So strange to think of what time was like a year ago, when little B was in existence but we had no concept of who he was, and now he's here, bright and alive and spreading butternut squash all over his tray table. (I actually hate butternut squash and it turns out he isn't too keen either.)
I am so grateful to medical science that we have this chance to be his parents, that I have a chance I never thought I'd have, to be a mother. As an adoptee, to know someone biologically related to me. To see someone who looks a bit the same. To know I'll be able to offer that comfort of looking a bit like him and he'll never have to wonder where he came from.
And I think back to this time last year and it seems almost inconceivable(!) how much my life has changed. I'm still the same person and yet I'm not.
I may be out of the trenches of infertility but I can remember what it was like. And the fear that haunted me throughout my pregnancy with B. Right now I'm looking at that scan picture and remembering how I felt relief and I cried that there was a baby there. But I also didn't feel happy that I was pregnant because I was so scared that we would lose this one as well.
And a rainbow baby, as B is, is a special sort of baby. All babies are special of course. But a rainbow baby has parents who know the fear of loss and who went through the special kind of hell before their baby was born. Maybe a rainbow baby has parents who don't take parenthood for granted. I know we don't. I feel a ridiculous sense of gratefulness every single day when I look at his chubby little face.
I don't know what I can say to my friends who are still in the trenches apart from, I feel for you and I want you to know you are not alone. I know that I'm just one more of those annoying people who now have a baby. I know what it's like to feel infertility anger and I bear you no malice if you wish to unfollow. But you must know, you are not alone.
When I joined WordPress three or so years back, I felt like I was talking into a void. I needed somewhere to shout and rage about my infertility and to try and make sense of what we were going through. And then I realised it brought up some feelings about adoption I had buried. And I quickly realised that I wasn't alone at all.
I had such support throughout my whole journey of making sense of all of this. Infertility but also adoption, and feelings about all sorts of things from work to friendships.
And I made real life friends. Some I've never even met in real life but whom I consider actual real life friends!
So although this path is hard, and paved with the small angry pebbles of anger and loss (and running with the tears we have shed! Let's make that metaphor work for us!), know that you are not alone. I promise you. There are good people out there! And the great thing is, your blog is for you and it attracts the people who are interested in what you have to say! Who knew?! There are some pretty awesome folk out there and I hope one day to convert some of my real life not-yet-met friends into actual "I know what your voice sounds like" friends!
So, that's all for today really. Looking back is bittersweet. I know we had a long bloody wait to meet our miracle. And I'd be lying if I said I was happy to go through that. But the outcome was bloody spectacular. I'm biased of course, but B is such a happy baby it's hard to complain about the slightly truncated sleep cycles (co sleeping helps) and the over familiarity with poo (how does it get everywhere?!). When my baby chucks back his head and giggles I think there is not a sight nor sound in human history that will ever top it.
This year is a bumper year. We are planning our "big" birthdays and we are going to take B on his first trip to Disney (Paris – not going to brave a transatlantic flight with a baby!). We decided we are going all out and staying in the Disneyland Hotel. OMG Disney fans! Too exciting. Of course B won't really notice it but we will enjoy it! Hopefully our new flat will settle soon (ah the vagaries of the UK housebuying process!) so B will get his forever home and Dog hopefully will too. (I am still hoping I am right in thinking he is a special species of immortal dog who's going to live forever.) A bit of outside space (it has a terrace) is super exciting for us Londoners. I see my friends overseas and their gigantic yards and I think you'd have to laugh at our modest delusions of grandeur!
So yeah, life is pretty good right now. So much has changed in a year. I am so grateful to my lucky stars and whoever else may have had a hand in it. (Doctors and IVF technicians mainly I guess.) I keep telling myself not to worry about something going wrong. It seems hard to imagine because 2015 was such a bad year, but maybe these things all even out in the end.
And you… I've not had as much time as I expected to catch up on people's blogs. My day seems to lend itself more to the intermittency of Facebook. But I do care about what's going on in your lives! Tell me your news!
I don’t know how this happened but life is just whizzing by lately. I’m not even sure what I do with my days!
Since I last wrote, the following has happened:
- B started nursery and T went back to work
- I organised a stonking hen do (whoop whoop!)
- I saw my BFF who lives overseas
- I’ve been “working from home” for a few weeks
What has not happened:
- I haven’t had a shower every day. I just don’t seem to get round to it and I don’t have to when I’m working from home!
- I don’t seem to have done that much actual work.
- Our flat STILL hasn’t gone through. House buying is a marathon here! I’m hoping we are in the end stages.
B is fantastic. I still thank my lucky stars every single day for him. I am utterly in love. I know every mother thinks their child is the best child but I know mine is. 😉 He’s just so chillaxed all the time. People always comment on it. (Of course, in my paranoid states I sometimes think maybe he has some sort of developmental problem but he’s very happy interacting with people so hopefully he’s okay.)
Nursery start went better than I really thought it could do. I think the anticipation of it was worse than the actuality. The nursery is good and bad. I mean, obviously it’s not as good as being a SAHM (the dream – who’da thunk it that I would actually want to do this?) but it’s pretty good in that they do a lot of activities with them and they genuinely seem to love the babies. I know they could be acting but there are always loads of them around (they have certain ratios they have to stick to) so I think it would have to be a mass conspiracy if they were secretly beating them or something.
Given B is averse to taking a bottle – he’s taken to it like a duck to water. Maybe it helps that neither of his parents are there. He now seems to be on about 8oz a day which seems good. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It has been super hot here so maybe he’s having more. He is more of an evening drinker. (Aren’t we all?!)
Pumping… Well, contrary to my previous excited post re pumping, I seem to be having more trouble getting as much lately. I can still get a decent amount overall but it’s not all in one go any more. So I maybe get 8-10oz but sometimes it takes a few goes to get it. I think what has happened is that my boobs have decided they don’t need to feed B when he’s not there! It’s really frustrating as I don’t want to spend time pumping when he is there. I am trying to do maybe 8ish oz per day to cover nursery so I have been trying to pump to a more regular schedule. Anyway, it’s a massive PITA and I’m not happy about it.
Work is weird. I’m back but I’m not back, so I have hardly any work to do. Which is kind of nice in a way but it’s not like I can just go on holiday or something and it’s really weird when B is in nursery a few minutes away. I suppose I could take him out of nursery but then I wouldn’t be able to get anything done, when I can now get a small amount done. But really my boss just seems to be waiting for a new piece of work to come in and then presumably I’ll be busy with that.
Overall the return to work has been a bit odd like that and I don’t think I can really say I’ve had a positive experience with continuing to breastfeed. It’s the whole reason I’m not back full time in the office, because they can’t accommodate it. It seems crazy in this day and age that they can’t provide one private room to pump in. In one office it means I have to travel over an hour each way and I have to book the videoconference room at least 24 hrs in advance, and then when I get there and each time I want to pump have to go and get the room ready, which involves sticking paper over windows and putting a sign on the door saying don’t come in, because they don’t have any rooms that lock.
In the other office they don’t even have a bookable meeting room so I have to do it in the disabled loo! Which I’ve been banned from doing in the other office. It’s ridiculous. Luckily I have my pumping bag which has a built in cool bag and so on, but really I’d be up the creek otherwise. (Slight review update on the Sarah Wells pump bag: The size is good. The coolbag is good. The straps to use it as a rucksack are terrible.)
Bear in mind that the legislation about not discriminating against breastfeeding mothers came in 2010 and it’s now seven years later. It seems ludicrous to me that they can’t accommodate it. But even more disappointing has been some of the attitudes. (I posted some of these in my previous blog post, How Not To Pump At Work.)
Oh and to add insult to injury, the older lady who just joined is probably going to replace my boss (who I love) as he wants to decrease his direct reports. You know when you just meet a woman and you realise she’s one of those kind of Passive Aggressive Against Other Women women? Yeah, she’s one of those. It’s weird because I love my new company and all the women I’ve met so far have been kind of *solidarity* so she’s the first outlier. I’m trying not to let it bother me but I don’t feel that pleased about it. So far she has:
- Told my boss that she didn’t need to pump when she went back to work after having her kids. (So now he thinks I’m being precious trying to pump at work… Never mind that it’s protected by law!)
- Told me that she’s worked in [my industry] for years and that I couldn’t wear what I was wearing that day around her clients. (How condescending… This woman is over a decade older than me and I’m 1-2 grades more junior than her… I’ve done okay. And I’m old enough to judge what to wear to meet clients, and never had any complaints. For the record I was wearing an on trend floral jacket and she was wearing a scratty cardigan!)
- Told me a story about how she went back to work after having a kid and continued to breastfeed (yeah, like I’m trying to do) but got sent overseas so her husband quit his job and brought the baby and traveled with her so she could continue to feed and work… “But of course, I was at that point in my career.” (Implying I’m not.)
- When she found out I liked Disney decided to tell me how they were going to Orlando for their holiday and how they always travel First Class and the holiday cost THIRTY THOUSAND POUNDS. £30k!!! Who does that?! (I did think she probably didn’t get a good deal!)
I was telling someone else about her and I said it was like I didn’t meet a woman – it was like meeting a man. I have this saying – w*lly waving – which is what I think men do when they get into a situation where they want to demonstrate their superiority. It’s like showing off. Peacocking. She was spreading her tail feathers and showing off how superior she was… and I wasn’t even interested in playing. (The cruder terminology is that she “flopped it out on the table”…) Anyway we shall see what happens because it doesn’t really bode well… I’m hoping that she softens up before becoming my boss. 😦
On the baby front, it’s weird being back at work when the others are all off work. I decided to put a bit of distance between me and them (the other mums in the area I know, mainly through NCT). I guess our experiences have diverged quite a bit. Last week I ended up going for lunch with them twice (because I was working from home) and it just brought it home to me that it’s not that pleasant being around other people with babies when I can’t be with my baby. Of course I could have gone and got him from nursery but it would be very disruptive for him. He seems to have settled in really well and my next door neighbour who’s an ex nursery employee said not to disrupt him in his first few weeks.
Anyway throughout lunch, their babies screamed and cried and I just found it all a bit gross. Maybe being around B means I make more oxytocin and therefore find babies more tolerable?! I felt like I had felt in my pre baby days – that babies are a bit distasteful. Haha. Also I found we have diverged in parenting techniques quite a bit so perhaps it’s that. The others I usually hang out with are kind of up tight about stuff and want everything very regimented. Their babies don’t sleep very well and they cry a lot.
We are more laissez faire parents, and just sort do it through intuition. We don’t have B in any sort of regimented routine (though obviously he has a vague routine as he has to get up to go to nursery, or swimming at the weekend, etc). We never put him down on his own to sleep – though he’s miraculously developed the technique of tolerating this at nursery – so he just goes to bed when we do, although he tends to fall asleep in my arms before then. I breastfeed him on demand including at night when we co-sleep so he settles back within a couple of minutes. I babywear him pretty much all the time and he rarely goes in the buggy. And I haven’t tried to wean him at all, at almost six months.
The others are always desperate for time off from the babies. I guess this is where infertile people and fertile people diverge. I spend so much time being super happy that B exists, that I really couldn’t give a flying sh*t if he wakes me up at night and I’m not trying to escape him in any way. I mean, I asked for it! And really he doesn’t wake me up much. He kind of stirs, I roll over, feed him and we both go back to sleep (sometimes mid feed). I figure it is such a short time before we can go back to “non baby” life that it doesn’t bother me not to be out on the town all the time or anything like that. For sure I’d like to have a shower a bit more often, but B loves to have a bath with me so it’s not all bad.
They’re also super competitive about trying to get them to do things like sit up, roll over (like dogs?!) and eat stuff, so the ones who are still breastfeeding can stop breastfeeding. It just seems like they always seem to be in mild competition, but maybe I’m misreading it. I mean I got asked the other day why I hadn’t bought B Sophie la giraffe and I was like, I don’t like giraffes! But you must get it! It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought for her! Err no, I really don’t think one teething toy is going to be a game changer… I still have all my teeth and I never had Sophie! And I always get these comments about B being “so chilled” and “always asleep” (because I carry him in a sling all the time so he just sleeps instead of screaming in the buggy).
I guess the thing is, against my predictions I’ve turned into something of an earth mother / crunchy mom (UK/US). I am not really either of those things because I’m not white (which the vast majority of EM/CMs are) and also I don’t really go in for the organic, no plastic, cloth nappy thing. (I think scraping poo off a nappy is a step too far.) But I’m not into the whole trying to get them weaned / onto formula etc. As long as I can nurse him, I’m going to do it if he still wants it, because it’s so much easier! And he seems to settle easier too. I do privately think it’s sort of funny that I’m the least bothered about doing all this training them stuff and my baby seems the most chillaxed. I just hope that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him!
So yesterday I finally muted our whatsapp because they all decided to buy a sleep training course and so I received about 250 messages about a regimented nap routine. I guess there’s a difference between sleep training and CIA (Cry It Out – controlled crying) which is something that massively divides parents. And it probably makes me sound mega judgy but I don’t feel like I’m super judgy… I just am not that interested in their style of parenting, which mainly seems to be about being upset when the babies don’t do exactly what they want them to do. I don’t know what will happen going forward as they are my main mum friends. Thing is, maybe I’ll just go back to hanging out with my pre-baby friends!
Other than that, the hen do went amazingly! I was so happy because my friend seemed to love it. She even sent me some dog shaped biscuits from Biscuiteers as a thank you! I was so relieved that it all went according to plan and we had a great time. It was a fun group of people, and probably the right amount of activity. The important thing was my friend had an amazing day being the centre of attention!
Some photos. We started off with brunch, followed by a candy making class, afternoon tea, comedy and a bar!
The other cool thing that happened was that one of the adoptees I “know” online came to London on holiday, so we met up! It was so great to meet someone I kind of know! There are lots of blog friends I’d love to meet too! (Hit me up if you’re ever in London!)
I have been meaning to do a post about adoption and having a baby, but there really are a lot of feels and I don’t really have the words yet. And also I probably should do an update on how I’m feeling about adoption and social justice. I don’t really feel the same as I used to when I first started blogging, but that’s for another post too.
Anyway, we went for afternoon tea, which was hilarious as she thought we were going for a cup of tea, rather than a meal! I’d told her about the cost beforehand to check if it was okay, so I said to her she must have thought that was the most expensive cup of tea ever!
We had an amazing time because we had so much in common when it comes to being adopted transracially. It is a bit like when I met T that we understood about adoption – he is also adopted. So this was even more similar because we were both POC (people of colour) adopted by white families. We just talked nonstop and I really think we could have gone on for hours! Her husband kindly left us to natter whilst he took their child for a walk around somewhere else, so we had to stop in the end! It was so cool to meet her though.
Finally, we are still waiting on details of our house move! I’m hoping it won’t fall through as it really is the dream flat, but you never know. The whole house buying process here is soooo sloooow. You never know what is happening. We are hoping we will manage to move by August – we were originally planning on July but it hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully we will exchange in the next week or two and complete by August, in time for B’s naming ceremony in September! We are hoping to have a little do on the terrace if/when we have moved in. T has put me on a strict budget so it will be home made afternoon tea and BYOB! More on that later…
So since I’ve been “back at work” (in inverted commas because I’ve been told I should work from home when I don’t have meetings, because they can’t accommodate pumping as required by law) I have been pumping regularly so that B can have expressed breast milk when I’m not there.
This week he started at nursery so he’s starting to get into a routine. (Aside: I’m so amazed that a child who has never been put down to sleep away from me has somehow managed to get used to napping by himself in a cot during the day.) He does vary in how much milk he drinks, but still seems to be doing fine on expressed milk and doesn’t show any interest in weaning yet.
I provide them with milk I have pumped the day before. Or the day before that. Breast milk will last around five days in the fridge. (The rule of thumb is 5 hours room temp, 5 days fridge, 5 months freezer – or six of each, depending on what you believe.) I don’t really have an issue with supply but it is a massive faff pumping in the office, even with my state of the art pumping equipment!
See previous post: How not to pump at work
So because I have a hen do to attend, I realised I’d be out all day and I’d have to pump some even to relieve some engorgement. I’m not so bothered about keeping the milk as I have a decent supply but I don’t really want to be wasting it either by hand pumping it into the loo…
I also didn’t want to cart my entire pump bag around with me as we will be going to loads of different places and I have hen stuff to carry as well. I have a haakaa type hand pump but that isn’t practical either… It’s more for catching letdown rather than actually pumping, and it doesn’t store it either, not in a portable way.
So I decided I might as well buy a hand pump to see if that would work. They are fairly inexpensive. Looking at reviews, the Medela Harmony seemed to do pretty well and I figured it would also work with the stuff I already have for my Medela Swing Maxi (double electric pump). I ordered it on Amazon Prime for just under 20 quid.
It arrived today and I thought I would give it a go…
At work with my electric pump I could sometimes get a lot but I generally found it would take a while and sometimes up to half an hour. Even at home it might be 15-20 minutes.
Today I pumped each side for around 5 minutes and I got this…
Pros: Easy to use. Painless. You can control the speed and strength of pumping yourself. Fits all the storage bottles I already had. No need for batteries, and no cables. Doesn’t take long. Fewer parts to sterilise. Not a lot of kit to carry about – very light. Way less setting up time which is ideal if you’re in a bathroom.
Cons: Not handsfree. (But it took less time today anyway.) You have to do one side at a time rather than both at once.
It was amazing! Maybe I should have tried it before spending £200 on electrics?!
There’s a lot to be said for electric pumps. They’re efficient and you can do something else whilst you pump. (I read the news.)
But a hand pump is bloody amazing for a fraction of the price, if today is anything to go by! I’m going to try it next time I’m in the office. If it works – I’m a convert.
Sitting here listening to music on Alexa (“Alexa – play songs by Ed Sheeran”) and this came on and now I’m in floods of tears. And feeling very thankful.
Trigger warning: some serious emotion relating to pregnancy.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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!
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…