You may have seen the latest awareness campaign sweeping social media – a wave of women posting “Me too”.
First of all, I want to be clear that I believe anyone who wants to post should post – and I can see that it is raising awareness, and I think everyone is entitled to their own story. So this is not to denigrate anyone who has posted – and there are a lot of them.
I won’t be posting, however, and here’s why:
- I believe it puts the onus back on the victims to own distressing experiences, and I don’t think that everyone who has experienced this is in a place where they want to revisit those experiences.
- I think social media badging and clicktivism on the whole can dissuade people from doing Actual Stuff, cf the safety pin movement. I haven’t seen a tonne of productive conversations or actions come out of this, but maybe that’s just my friends. It feels a bit like Post Your Bra Colour for Breast Cancer where nobody knew what it was for. That doesn’t really help raise awareness unless you also share your story, and that goes to my first point.
- Women already know that they are open to sexual harassment and attacks. I don’t think they need to be reminded and it kind of makes me angry that anyone thinks otherwise. Maybe it’s just too triggering for me but when I see my entire news feed filled with “Me too”, it doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t know and it just makes me angry and upset. I don’t feel solidarity – I just feel helpless. (I stress this is my reaction and I’m sure there are others who gain some sort of comfort out of knowing they’re not alone… but honestly it doesn’t make me feel better that most women have been sexually harassed and assaulted.)
- I’m just angry people didn’t know this already; that they won’t believe it until every woman has stood up and told her story, and even then they might not be believed because history tells us that there are always people who think the woman was to blame.
- The ridiculously low level of rape convictions.
- The ridiculously endemic sexual harassment culture in most jobs I’ve ever worked in, most jobs of friends I know, and just the world generally… The idea that the casting couch is actually a thing and that people think women benefit from “sleeping their way to the top”.
- When I started thinking of my stories, it brought up memories I didn’t particularly want to revisit. They went as far back as childhood. I have done pretty well and am a happy adult mainly because I’ve successfully compartmentalised things and moved on. I don’t want to sit and do a list of the times I was sexually interfered with, because that list goes way back and I don’t want to think about it. I’d rather think about how strong and happy I am today.
- This kind of swept Facebook during Baby Loss Awareness week and I just don’t like the juxtaposition. I can’t even bring to post about baby loss other than on other people’s statuses and oblique references to rainbows so I don’t think I’m going to go to the depths of my darkest history either.
I guess the whole thing just makes me angry, and sad, and generally feel negative. And I don’t want to feel that way.
The onus shouldn’t be on the victims to further victimise themselves. How about a campaign for men where they say “Me too” to mean, “I pledge to support and empower women and I commit to not sexually harassing or assaulting them and I am happy to be called out if I do.”
(Aka: Mamma Mia is still a load of rubbish.)
A few years ago, my friends from university decided to come to London for a girls’ weekend. There were four of us who used to share a flat. Of four, one had recently had their second baby and one was heavily pregnant with their second. And then when they all arrived, it turned out that the third one was also pregnant with her first. Yay! (Sarcasm font.)
And then there was me.
Infertile. (Except I didn’t exactly have a name for it, apart from I knew I had issues.)
They wanted to see a show. I’d said I’ll watch anything apart from Mamma Mia. I hate Mamma Mia.
We were booked to go and see Mamma Mia. Of course.
(For adoptees and infertiles this is the ideal show to watch! Not really!)
During that evening whilst I sat through a load of dreadful renditions of ABBA songs (I like ABBA – I just don’t like Mamma Mia), I necked a bottle of wine whilst my pregnant and nursing friends, well… didn’t. And then another one for good measure. By the end of it I was dancing to the ABBA medley finale like the rest of them.
Back in our rented apartment, after my nursing friend had pumped, we sat around in the kitchen talking and of course they all talked about their kids and I feigned interest on the basis I’d drunk two bottles of wine and I figured the best thing to do when faced with tedious situations like watching an awful show with your teetotal friends was get sh*tfaced.
Matters turned to my childlessness. Of course. That’s what people do… Try to persuade you that you really must have something wrong with you if you don’t have kids. I mean, it’s not like you are woefully aware of your shortcomings if you are A Woman Of A Certain Age Who Is Not A Mother.
Anyway, I can’t really remember what I said but I think in the end, buoyed by two bottles of wine and a truckload of Mamma Mia inspired bitterness, I told them to stop going on about me not having kids, and had it ever occurred to them I didn’t have kids because I couldn’t have kids, and not because I didn’t want them?
I kinda remember they were a little shocked.
And then we probably had an early night because they were all unused to staying up late.
* * *
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I was talking with a mutual friend about childlessness and infertility. Since having B, I’ve always been at pains to stress it wasn’t easy and that I don’t take it for granted. I don’t want people struggling to think that I’m one of those people who just got pregnant without any hassle.
I mentioned in passing that people always assumed that I didn’t want kids and it was super hurtful. And I said, I remember kind of having a go at E (our mutual friend) because they’d assumed it of me and I was really upset at having to explain myself on what was meant to be a relaxing weekend.
Anyway, she said, “I may be breaking a confidence here but E told me about it after it happened, and she said she felt really bad.”
This was years ago and we’d never spoken of it again.
So perhaps the message does get through sometimes… even if it takes years to find out it did.
- The welcoming of a child is a momentous and wonderful occasion, regardless of whether it’s religious or not. We had a wonderful personal humanist ceremony in our new home and it was just perfect. Humanists believe that this is all there is and we need to try and do the most amount of good. They believe in the power of storytelling. Our celebrant wrote the most lovely service and there were tears all round! Even the religious people enjoyed it.
- Making afternoon tea is possible! I even managed to make scones and they’re much easier than I thought! We had loads of food and it was great fun. Four types of sandwiches, a whole heap of scones, jam and clotted cream, lemon cupcakes, vanilla buttercream cake, chocolate truffle ganache cake, brownies, chocolate pistachio fudge. All home made. It was a bit crazy!
- We bought vintage china on eBay. The guy just sent it in a cardboard box wrapped in newspaper. Half of it was broken! He sent replacements just in time. We really should open our own vintage afternoon tea café…!
- Last minute bubbles (the blowing sort) were great entertainment for the kids.
- Actual bubbles (the drinking sort) were great entertainment for the adults!
- My siblings who couldn’t attend dialled in via FaceTime. My other brother did turn up after all with my nephew which was really nice of him. I still felt hurt that my sister didn’t attend but in the end I didn’t want that feeling to take over so I dialled her in. We are going to visit in a week and I think my bad feeling will have died down by then! I’m not good at holding a grudge!
- My mum did a lovely reading that she personalised for B and it meant a lot. It was lovely to have personal aspects and our closest friends there. Everyone was so thoughtful. B received some lovely gifts! And more importantly it was so nice for our family and friends to share the day. My aunt and uncle came all the way from the north of England to be there for the day. It meant a lot.
Ultimately I guess it is a very personal occasion and probably not of interest to many people outside of immediate family and friends. But for us it seemed really significant. Because we had a humanist celebrant he told the whole story of us, because that’s how they do it.
It was amazingly personal and maybe the first time we had fully acknowledged how far we had come to be here with B. And also to celebrate how fortunate we are to have found happiness. It really seeemed so significant to me. I suppose some people just expect those things to happen, but after everything we’ve been through it seemed like the celebration of a very long journey to build our family.
Another milestone: Yesterday B crawled properly! He’s been a bit slow to move but he finally figured out he’s supposed to alternate arms to move forward. (He has managed the backwards crawl for weeks and weeks which results in ending up under the sofa!) Poor Dog is now having to up his evasive moves as B loves to chase him! Fortunately for Dog, B’s still fairly unsteady so he can easily escape. Although he is definitely B’s best friend at dinner time!
I can’t believe B is 8 months old already. We are so lucky. It sort of feels like all the suffering and pain beforehand was worth it, that I get to be the mama of this little guy. Sometimes I can’t believe he’s real and it really happened.
Today a friend of mine posted an ultrasound picture on Facebook and gaily announced to the world that their baby would be born next February.
I already knew she was pregnant because I was one of the first people she told. We’d discussed pregnancy and whether she should start trying, and how she was going to persuade her boyfriend to try, and figuring out ovulation and so on. I told her about our experience and encouraged her to come off the pill and try sooner rather than later, if she could get her boyfriend to agree.
I guess he agreed because a few short months later, they’re pregnant. I was kind of surprised by how little time it took, because in infertility-land you get used to talking in years rather than months. She told me how many months it took: three.
Three months! Straight off the pill and up the duff!
Now, I am okay, but a couple of years ago this would have floored me. Why is it always someone else who just has to come off the pill a couple of months and get pregnant?!
I really do feel happy and thankful for my life now. I feel (secularly!) blessed. But I have to confess I had a slight twinge of… something… when she told me she was pregnant. I don’t know what it is… It’s a sort of wistful, “Oh, to be that innocent!” The way they posted it all over Facebook without any worries they might lose the baby. The way they got pregnant so easily having barely tried. I guess I just feel wistful that I never got to have that innocence and that straightforward expectation that nothing would go wrong, that we’d just try and it would happen.
My infertility was measured more in decades. One and a half, more or less.
What do you call yourself when you were previously infertile but by some (secular) miracles and scientific interventions you managed to have a baby?
I’m a mother. But I’m not a normal mother. I’m a pinch-myself-daily-because-I-can’t-believe-I-actually-had-a-baby mother. I’m a Thank You Science mother. I’m a “If you think you might have issues getting pregnant you really should try straight away and let me know if you want to know anything about endometriosis, IVF or immune therapy” mother.
I’ll never have that whole will we, won’t we have another one dilemma. We are over the moon with our lovely One and Only.
I’ll never innocently post early scans on Facebook for people to guess whether it’s a boy or a girl or who the baby looks like. Nobody knew about our pregnancy who didn’t see me in real life. There are still people who don’t know!
I had a twinge of something, a remembrance of loss of innocence, and I’m happy for my friends and I’m happy for us because we are so lucky to have B, but I had a twinge because I remember what it was like to be there, and I’m thinking of all of the people still in the trenches, or those who have had to walk away from the dream of being parents… and I’m sad for them.
So – mothers after infertility. Mothers after loss. I don’t think infertility ever leaves you. I don’t think loss ever leaves you. But we know desperately how lucky we are.
We finally completed on our new home and got the keys a few days ago. I still get the happy shivers when I walk in! It’s our almost-forever home (before we retire to Florida to live out our days at Disney World!). It’s the home B will grow up remembering. I still love our other little flat and we are hopefully going to keep it and rent it out (B’s pension!). But this one is bigger, and has outside space – a terrace for Dog and B to play on, and for us to lounge on, and it’s pretty much perfect. Our dream home!
I still can’t believe I got everything I ever dreamed of. A great guy after a sad end to a previous relationship. The best dog you could ever ask for. A rainbow baby after years of trying and loss. A blood relative after almost 40 years of being a genetic island. A job I’m actually enjoying rather than enduring. When I look back to when I started this blog, and where we were at a couple of years ago, I feel very lucky.
I don’t take it for granted. I thank my lucky stars every day. I still have fleeting moments of anxiety where I’m scared I will lose it all, and especially B. (Not to the point of unmanageable anxiety or post natal depression, but I see danger everywhere now I have something so precious I couldn’t bear to lose.)
But the overwhelming joy and love I feel for finally getting to be a mother, and for the ease at which I’ve become B’s mama (he is the most easy going baby ever born, and the cutest, though I may be biased…) is something that cheers me every day and makes the memories of the hard times fade a little. I know I was lucky already, with T and Dog, so it feels like too much to have wished for this, but somehow it happened. I just feel so thankful for everything and especially my boys.
…sometimes I can’t find the words. And Facebook is such an instant kind of interaction whereas blogging has some sort of responsibility associated with it, to have a subject or theme rather than just stream of consciousness rambling… (although anyone who’s followed my blog for a while will be used to that!).
I guess it’s a bit hard to think of pithy subjects for blog posts when there’s such a lot going on in the world. And I have a lot of other outlets for discussing that, and others have done it far more justice than I ever could, so I’ll just say I’m saddened and kind of scared with what’s going on right now. It makes me wonder if one day in future we will look back on these days and think they were peace time. I hope that isn’t the case.
We all have a responsibility to speak out. As a transracial adoptee I feel my “foreignness” more than most people, and I’m astounded and saddened by what is happening in America now.
B turned seven months old! I can’t believe my baby is over half a year old. It’s gone by so quickly. I’m sure this happens to every parent but I feel like this time I’m sort of at peak love with him. Although probably next month I’ll think I love him even more. He’s at a great age now where he gives a fair amount of feedback, smiling and giggling, and he’s almost confident at sitting up (only falling over occasionally and slowly) and trying to crawl (but only succeeding in moving backwards, generally under the sofa). He’s tried food but doesn’t like it much. Which means: We’ve now reached seven months of breastfeeding!
One of my biggest surprises about this entire journey is how much I’ve enjoyed breastfeeding. I started out thinking I’d probably end up doing formula, because my body manages to cock up everything else, but for some reason I seem to be made to nurse my baby.
It’s an amazing feeling to think that my milk has nourished him to seven months. And he’s really pretty healthy. He’s quite big for his age – we know other babies who are a few months older and he doesn’t look significantly smaller. And aside from the occasional snotty nose and nursery bug, he’s been really well.
Also as an adoptee who wasn’t breastfed, I feel that it’s a very healing thing to be able to nurse my own biological baby. That’s not to say I wish I’d been breastfed. I really find that difficult as a concept from an adoption standpoint. We have had many discussions about it in adoption groups – suffice to say that pretty much all the adoptees were against it and all the people supporting it were adoptive parents. It’s a very emotive subject for adoptees and led to me deciding to leave my local LLL group. (I really support breastfeeding but adoptive breastfeeding is something else. I understand different people have different views and I can only speak for mine as an adult transracial adoptee, that it is deeply taboo in our community.) It’s a shame as we have had such a good breastfeeding experience and I was thinking of becoming a peer supporter. But still – we are still enjoying it and will probably end up doing the extended breastfeeding unless he decides to wean himself earlier! I’m not particularly worried as I guess most 15 year olds aren’t into it!
We are starting to wean B, but we are a bit lacksadaisical about it. We wanted to do baby led weaning, but he really isn’t very interested in food, so we’ve ended up doing some mush as well. I have to say I’m grossed out by mush. Especially banana. I hate bananas but it turns out babies love them. B doesn’t seem averse although he never voluntarily goes for food. He’ll eat mush offered to him on a spoon but stuff in his hand he just waves around. Apart from the baby chocolate biscuit. He’s clearly a man after my own heart.
We decided to hold a naming ceremony. I guess really we would have had a christening but neither of us is religious and so it felt like it would be a bit hypocritical. We wanted to mark B’s entrance to the world somehow… I guess it’s a natural inclination to want some sort of significance to it. Anyway I was going to do it myself and then thought about it and how I’d probably turn to mush and start crying, so I found a humanist celebrant who’s going to do it. Quite excited as we’ve been to humanist weddings in the past and they are really nice and personal. Anyway will have to write more about that on another post!
We are finally completing on our new house! Wow, it’s been an insanely long wait. We first made an offer that was accepted back in April. It’s been a bit frustrating – like what are they actually doing? – but feels amazing to think we will get our dream home this week! I actually feel a little sad for our lovely tiny current flat, but we are keeping it and hope to rent it out. I would love for us to keep it for B so he has some security for when he’s older, but we shall see. The new place isn’t actually a house but another flat very nearby – it’s just that it has a terrace so we will have some outside space, and it has two bedrooms so B can have one of his own! And a slightly bigger living room so he can actually learn to crawl! So exciting. It’s funny when I see people’s homes outside London and they are massive! We have low expectations for space here! I absolutely love London though and can’t really see us moving until much much later. Maybe when we retire to Disney World!
We have booked B’s first Disney trip! Before I was pregnant we went to Disneyland Paris each year during the Christmas season, and last year was the first time we missed it as I was heavily pregnant at Christmas. We decided because we both have our “big” birthdays this year (don’t mention it!) and it’ll be B’s first Christmas that we would go all out. We always go past the Disneyland hotel and sometimes even pop in for a drink or dinner. Well we have booked a posh room there with a park view! So excited. Now to find some good outfits for B…!
Stuff is actually going okay at work. The funny thing is, I made a decision to try and get on with The Woman (my new manager) and actually we’ve been getting on really well. She went on holiday and left me in charge of a piece of work and I caned it (up till 3am one night finishing it!) so I think she appreciated that I was pretty good even though I’m working from home most of the time. So although it’s hard work, I do tend to enjoy working hard periodically. I like that I have other days when I have hardly anything! Anyway it’s sort of nice to be able to take pride in my work!
My sister had her baby! I now have another niece. She was absolutely tiny weeny (a bit over 6lbs) and she’s super skinny… I don’t think B was ever that tiny! She ended up having a really similar experience to mine – ending in an unplanned caesarean. On the flip side she doesn’t really seem super happy about it – I think it has all gotten on top of her. I may have mentioned before she is quite highly strung… So I think the whole thing has traumatised her. I’m hoping that it’s going to pass and she won’t end up having postnatal depression – although I can see it happening. Luckily baby is fine and hopefully with a period of adjustment my sister will get into the swing of things.
I was finally a bridesmaid! They do say, “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride!” So I kind of thought seeing as I’ve been a bride, maybe never a bridesmaid. Anyway it was such a fun day. Our bridesmaid crew was just the three of us and it was a great experience. I mean really all you have to do is turn up and have your hair and makeup done and wear a dress. It was kind of great. I even managed to nurse in the bridesmaid dress although it was a bit of a “wap ’em out” situation. Also I almost gave people an eyeful during the ceilidh dancing when the boob tube part of the dress came fully down! Fortunately I had some fabric over my boobs but there is no time during Strip the Willow (energetic Scottish country dancing, lots of spinning) to correct it. Ha! It was wonderful to see my friend so happy and to get married to the perfect guy for her. (I take full credit for persuading her to do internet dating!)
I think that’s about up to date with the news. Oh aside from the fact that I woke up today with what feels like horrendous whiplash. How did that happen?! Who knows. I’ve barely been able to move my head all day. I’m in agony. I’ve been taking painkillers in between pumping and feeding (as B is at nursery I have a safe-ish gap) but I am in massive pain. I don’t know how to do make it go away. I have a feeling it’s from side sleeping (co sleeping and feeding during the night) as I tend to get a sore back, but usually that’s manageable lower back pain rather than crippling under neck pain. I had a sports massage which helped a bit but ow!
I guess there was too much good news so I had to have a bit of pain mixed in!
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.
Back at work and working on a bid response from the local coffee shop. You’d think this was a good thing as I like bids, but not when you have to collate submissions from about 15 different teams, and the total submission is limited to 20 pages and they send you about 15-20 pages each! Ahh!
I love work most of the time but last night I worked until around 02:30 and then was up again at 06:30 to get B ready for nursery and to start everything again!
I’m one of those people who does like pressure but it’s a lot different now I have a baby… With T and Dog it wasn’t an issue to work late, whereas B demands my attention and isn’t happy when I’m tapping away at the laptop! And of course I’d rather be snuggling and feeding him than cutting through swathes of technical jargon.
Anyway! Here’s my coffee shop view! As you can see – summer doesn’t dampen my urge for hot chicolate!
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…
My friend C and I are as thick as thieves. So much so that she invited me to be her bridesmaid! (So exciting… I’m ancient and I’ve never been a bridesmaid – only a groomsmaid!)
Being one of her bridesmaids means that I am organising the hen do. Such responsibility! (Aka Bachelorette, bridal shower etc – it’s what we call it here in the UK.)
Now, I love organising things. I even organised my work summer party and Christmas parties last year. I really should have been an events planner or something. I love it when a plan comes together! There’s something very satisfying about it.
But then I got to thinking… C and I have been on quite a few hen dos over the years. And what can I say? We like to have a little b*tch about them when the plans aren’t planned with the military precision we like to say we personally would have used…
So now C’s hen party will be the test! Ha!
Now I know she will be happy whatever happens. She’s a very unassuming person really and we only ever b*tch in private. (And we do enjoy the parties! We just like to say what we would have done differently!) In fact it’s probably putting it a bit strongly to say we b*tch… Maybe you could say we provide constructive criticism! I mean, you need to have a few things to make a good hen party.
Off the top of my head, these are:
- Something the bride-to-be likes to do / that summarises her.
- Opportunities for everyone to get to know each other.
- Drinking. (We are British. It’s the law.)
- Some kind of activity.
- An opportunity to dress up.
- Something where you talk about the groom-to-be and their relationship.
- NO strippers!
I then had a bunch of requirements from the hens. In particular her sister-in-law (brother’s wife) who had a very restricted budget. The reason being that she’s been on maternity leave for months. (Her baby is a few months older than B.) Now I know statutory maternity pay is terrible. But these people are renovating a house… and it strikes me as a bit mean that the bride’s own brother won’t give her some money to go to his sister’s only hen do!
As a comparison, a lot of stag dos (the male equivalent) start at around £300 and end up even more. Stag parties seem to go overseas a lot. C was keen that we do something that was in everyone’s budget and something in London to keep costs down (because we all either live in London or nearby and transport in and out of London is good). So I asked everyone what their budget was and it turns out that her SIL wanted something for around £150 including accommodation!
As a guideline, most London hotels don’t come in under £100 a night. And even a budget hotel won’t give you much change from £100! So that wasn’t happening. We agreed I would do something that came in within budget but not including a hotel…
Let me tell you about C. She’s one of my best friends. When we first met, I thought she was kind of snooty because I was a brand new grad at work and she’d been there a few years. She used to sit right near us and not talk to all the young ones! I thought it was because she was snooty but really I just think she was shy.
She’s one of the most quick witted people I know. She looks the picture of innocence but then she will come out with some comment and have you in stitches even before you realised she was even listening. She is so sharp I don’t think that you even realise she’s doing it. She’s really a born comedian but in the vein of someone like Jack Dee or Stewart Lee, very deadpan rather than slapstick.
A few years ago she took a year off work and went to cookery school. Like the actual catering college you do if you want to do it for a job. And then she went right back to the office job. I mean, other people on her course went for apprenticeships in big kitchens and one even opened his own restaurant (that we went to, to show solidarity). But C was just doing it for her own satisfaction and nobody else’s. (This does mean we have catered between the two of us for another hen party we went to.)
She’s generous to a fault. I’ve had some excellent (mainly food related) presents from C. Like personalised champagne and cheese hampers. Or home made chocolate truffles. She isn’t selfish at all. She even offered to sub her SIL on the hen do but that is not the tradition! The hen isn’t meant to pay for anything!
Most of the time I’ve known C, she hasn’t had any boyfriends. She’s had the odd person on the go but she was busy climbing the greasy pole that we all do in the city. I mean she was the archetypal career woman. More so than me. I mean I defined myself by my job – but my job always involved drinking and socialising with men whereas hers involved working long hours with no time to go out.
Plus she’s a slightly intimidating prospect to men. She’s not a girly girl, and yet she is in a way. She is pretty but she’s also smart. She doesn’t flirt in the typical way (a way I honed over the years of working in a male dominated industry). Some men just wouldn’t get her. Especially the wry jokes.
So for years I was on at her to find a guy (I mean because she said she wanted one! Not because I thought she needed one!) and she never did anything about it. For someone working 12-14 hours a day on average just isn’t going to meet the love of her life unless he happens to work in her office (plus many workplaces frown on that sort of thing).
So I started a campaign. I started telling her all of the stories about friends who had met their partners online. Also I sent her a Marie Claire article I found where it rated all of the dating sites. We decided Lovestruck had the most city types on (people who work in the city) so would be a good place to start. (I couldn’t find the article online but I found the one I scanned so will post below!)
Anyway she wrote her profile after me hassling her for like a year, and long story short she met the love of her life and they got engaged! Hurray! I mean why not listen to Dr Nara in the first place?! 😂
The funny thing is, C is like the opposite of a bridezilla. She’s like a can’t be bothered to make too much fuss bride. It’s like she really doesn’t want to make a fuss so she doesn’t act bridezilla ish at all! So I wanted to make her a lovely hen do because I knew she wouldn’t try very hard to be the centre of attention or anything (like I would! Ha).
On the very limited budget I managed to plan out the day…
Brunch – We kick off the day with brunch at a cool east end cafe. We can even add on bottomless bubbly and bloody Marys for a mere £15! (A drink in London usually costs £8 so it’s not bad.)
Activity – We are going to do a candy making masterclass! I figured she would have done most cooking before but probably not candy making. We can make lollies and sweets and take them away with us. Plus we each get a little bottle of bubbly to get us in the mood!
Afternoon tea – We are going for a girly afternoon tea where we all get to dress up and pretend to be real ladies! (Well getting nicely dressed is optional but the opportunity is there.) We will chat, give C some gifts, I have a Polaroid camera and we will make her a photo book, plus we will play a game of Mr and Mrs which I prepared with answers from her Groom.
Show – We are going to one of C’s great loves, a comedy show. I got her a t shirt from the club which I’m going to decorate if I get the time… We have VIP seating so we definitely get seats and we will also get there in time for happy hour!
Bar – We have space booked in a bar after the comedy. You’d be amazed how difficult it is to get a space in a bar in central London without paying an extortionate fee!
I think we covered all the bases? I steered clear of anything too tacky and hopefully it will be nicely personal. There are only ten of us so it won’t be like a massive gang of shrieking women and anyway we are all on the “mature” side (like closer to 40). I know most people so it should be a good group of nice people. I didn’t go with t shirts but I got some floral headbands for us all to wear (possibly just for the first two activities!) to tie it all together…
It will be a long day apart from B! I will have to pump in advance. I guess like when he’s at nursery although I’ll be back later than usual and at least he will be with T. T has just gone back to work so it will be a bit of a shock to the system for him too!
I sent the invitation to C via a tiny message in a bottle, which got anonymously delivered to her. She was very excited!
Now all I have to do before the big (but not biggest!) day is:
- Fabric paint C’s t shirt. I bought stamp and paint and brushes and I can totally see myself not bothering because I’m too lazy. Bad me!
- Pack up her presents. I bought her a Liberty of London coin (it’s really nice to give as most women I know love Liberty and it’s the nicest gift voucher I’ve seen – a real metal coin in a pouch and box wrapped up with a ribbon and then a bag! Also a scarf with dachshunds on as she loves them. Maybe some chocolate too.
- Decorate her guest book and prep the camera. I got a Polaroid camera and we will take pictures on the day and everyone can sign and decorate the pages with stickers and photos etc. I was going to make a photo book but nobody got their act together and sent me photos so I thought I would take the easy way out!
- Decide what to wear. I’m probably going to wear a dress for the daytime and maybe take some jeans / sparkly top for the evening. Just because! And it’s London so flats for walking around in, and heels for standing! Depends on the weather though.
- Pump! And pump! Now that B is at nursery I’ve gotten into a routine of pumping during the day for the next day, more or less. But he doesn’t have so much as I’ve pumped so I should easily have enough for the day away from him. Plus I have a massive freezer stash that hasn’t even been touched.
I’m not really sure when I’m going to get the time to prep… It would be nice to get some sleep! Ever since B started nursery my routine suddenly involves a lot less sleep. (We would always sleep in otherwise.) I guess we will get used to it after a few weeks!
So – a toast to true love. And the power of internet dating!
Article from Marie Claire: