Separation anxiety?

I see a lot of talk about ‘mum guilt’ for working mums and as the ‘other’ mum I don’t think that feels the same for me. I can rationalise the need for Ottilie to go to nursery, the childminder or nanny’s with an attitude of we do what we do to ‘get by’. We both work because we want to be able to take Ottilie on holiday, days out and for all those other luxuries I wasn’t afforded growing up. And I know many aren’t afforded now.

But last night I felt that guilt a little bit – O spent a full week with both mummy and mama whilst she has having her operation and a further two weeks with just mummy. Like the olden days of maternity leave. Then when we were both back at work – ‘needs must’ meant we carted O off to nursery, childminder and nanny’s for six of the seven days. It was necessary, unavoidable and not something we had done before. I didn’t give this a second thought until last night.

Nursery drop off this week have been tough, Ottilie hasn’t wanted to go in. Hasn’t wanted to let go of Amy, has asked for ‘boobie two’ as a stalling technique.

She’s carried her family book (photo book of family) round, showed the nursery girls the photos all day, pulled it away from the other kids and sometimes held it close to her chest and welled up. 

Last night she woke a couple of hours after bedtime and was inconsolable. Amy went in, rocked her and after a while I went in to see if they needed anyone to mop a brow or pretend to do a poo as a distraction. But they were just sitting, so we all sat together. 

Amy offered up ‘boobie two’ so we settled onto O’s floor bed. With O the filling in the two Mum sandwich. She fed and I stroked her back. I tried to make my escape but she would periodically pull off and ask for ‘mama’. So we all just laid together, with Ottilie rolling to me just to have her hair stroked occasionally before snuffling back into ‘boobie two’. 

After a bit, we asked if mama could go back to bed and Ottilie said ‘nun night’ so I crept back to our room. And Ottilie slept with Amy, reaching out throughout the night just to make sure she was still there.

I know we are fortunate that Amy has flexible working, and for some parents six days a week or long hours in childcare is their everyday, it isn’t ours and we are going to do our best to avoid doing it again. If that means more night or overnight shifts, or split days off then that is what we will do.

Being two is tough and sometimes I think a family cuddle is just what you need.

It’s benign…

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Just a quick update on Ottilie’s recent surgery, as promised. The tumour has been confirmed as benign (dancing lady emoji).

We had been told almost all along that it was likely to be a teratoma, the oncologist said he was 95% certain it was.  We got the call from Big G on Thursday 21st with the initial results of the histology.  During the call he explained that the didn’t have the full results and the mass needed to go to a gynaecological specialist for further investigation as the initial histology brought up the possibility that it may not be a teratoma but actually something called a fibroma.

We then began another week long wait for the next set of results.

We got the second call on Friday (29th) and Big G confirmed that the tumour was a fibroma.  These are extremely rare in children and toddlers, in fact they most likely occur in women over 50.  And this is why it wasn’t really a consideration in the initial appointments.

This brings up the need for some further tests for Ottilie to determine why she may have developed the tumour.  We are currently waiting for a follow up appointment with the oncologist, who will then need to refer us to a geneticist because there is a rare genetic disorder that can cause fibromas in babies/toddlers. So there will likely be a few more appointments before we get some real clarity on the situation.

But we won’t get into that, because for now we just want to enjoy the relief that comes with knowing the tumour was benign (fist bump emoji).

And as for O – she bounced straight back.  We took it easy for a couple of weeks, just some trips out for spring walks, time spent tending to her beloved ‘babal’ plant (which you can see she takes very seriously) and she is now back at nursery too – being treated like a little celebrity, we are being told, as everyone there missed her.

She seems to be so much quicker and more mobile now, like a weight has quite literally been lifted.

What an absolute champ she is (hearts for eyes emoji).

 

Resilient: able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions; Ottilie.

This week Ottilie had fairly major surgery. The poor little mite only went and had a bloody great tumour removed. Her surgery was on Wednesday this week, it is currently Saturday, and she is already snoozing soundly in her own bed after ‘boobie two’. She is recovering so well she was discharged three days earlier than planned. What a champ.

For the purpose of this all making sense, I am going to put it into a diary type format (like blogs were originally written if you will). That way when I waffle on for too long you can take a break and slide straight in where you left off. I have also split it into two posts as it is quite a lengthily story to tell…

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25th January

We took O to the GP to discuss her ongoing issues with constipation. For some background, Ottilie has had issues with constipation since she was about 16 months old and we regularly give her Movicol as prescribed. Amy also spoke to GP because she had been able to feel a lump on the lower right side of Ottilie’s stomach, one of Ottilie’s keyworkers had also said to me that she could feel something whilst she was trying to massage her tummy to help her poo. The GP attempted to examine O but she wasn’t keen aka having a meltdown. He said that her stomach felt fine and to come back if we had any other concerns.

8th February

We went back and saw the same GP – had the same conversations around the constipation and the lump only this time Ottilie’s belly button had gone from the perfect ‘innie’ to the top popping out and folding over the bottom half. He began by saying ‘oh she’s growing, they change all the time etc etc’ and only when I asked if there was a possibility of an umbilical hernia did he examine her again. He agreed her belly button didn’t look quite right and agreed to refer us. To be honest we only went there for the referral.

16th February

We were referred to the same paediatrician that had treated O for silent reflux previously as he specialises in digestive health in babies and children. We had really good conversation around bowel health and diet as he believed we could do more to help relieve O’s constipation (he wasn’t being shitty (pun intended) about it but he was quite frank about how as a society we don’t look at our diets enough when we have issues). He examined O and was quite happy that she was fit and healthy. He also couldn’t feel the lump but offered us an ultrasound for peace of mind.

18th February

So as previously alluded to – Ottilie is not keen on being handled/restrained. Sometimes changing her nappy is like trying to put socks on an octopus and I am her mama. Getting O to lie down on a hospital bed whilst a stranger has a little prod around her stomach with a wand seemed like an impossible task. Amy laid down first and laid O on top of her – then Amy basically restrained her with her arms and legs. The sonographer did a brilliant job given the hostile circumstances – myself and the nurse failing miserably trying to distract O, Amy singing the first line of EVERY nursery rhyme before Ottilie would shout no and continue writhing around like that octopus I mentioned earlier. When we left that room, we knew that O had a mass, the sonographer was the first person who had confirmed that we had been able to feel something and we weren’t imagining it. Through the ultrasound we knew it was approximately 9cm x 6cm x 8cm. So not small. I went to work straight after and had an ugly cry to one of my mates.

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After this appointment Amy made/received a lot of phone calls to hospitals/from the paediatrician. He ascertained that the mass was not from any of her digestive system but was potentially ovarian. Because of this, he now wasn’t the right man for the job but he went above and beyond to find someone who was. He answered emails out of his normal working hours and called us from home to expedite the process. Amy always has a lot of questions and he answered them with patience and kindness – he did a brilliant job of stripping out the emotion and encouraging us to take a logical thought process. Fast forward through all of that ‘admin’ and we were booked in for an MRI at The Portland in London. Cue lots of trains.

22nd February

The MRI was booked for 12:30, so O was nil by mouth from 08:30 due to the general anaesthetic required. We hopped on the train and met our friend in the park nearby to the hospital for the ultimate distraction. By the time we got to our appointment Ottilie was ravenous and could not understand why she was being denied ‘boobie two’, which has always been on demand. O went down for the scan… We were expecting to wait an hour for the MRI to be completed but it was 2.5 hours later when the anaesthetist came and got us – I had long since abandoned my book and Amy was no longer distracted by Bob Ross and his joy of painting. The team had already told us we wouldn’t be given any results on the day but when we left there at 6pm the images were handed to us on a disc. We chose not to look.

28th February

We met a specialist paediatric surgeon at our local hospital, who had read through the report submitted from the MRI and he had an idea of a diagnosis. He attempted to examine Ottilie, but she wasn’t feeling it (meltdown anyone?) and just wanted to finish colouring her Troll picture. He felt enough to say that it was big, and it needed to come out. We gave him the disc so he could view the images as at this point, he had not seen them – cue him running around the hospital trying to find a compatible computer because the two he had wouldn’t read the disc. He made a couple of phone calls trying to get them sent over but with no success. He spoke candidly, and although unlikely, there was a potential that the mass was malignant, he was the first person who had really eluded to that being a possibility and was thorough in his explanation of how either a benign or malignant mass would be treated.

Based on the information he had, and obviously his experience he loosely diagnosed the lump as a teratoma. Feel free to have a Google – I feel like all paths lead to cancer when you Google medical issues, so I won’t include a link. In short a teratoma is a tumour made up of varying types of tissue: muscle, skin and bone. They have been known to also have teeth and as such are sometimes referred to as ‘monster tumours’.

The surgeon was due to leave the country in 7 days so he decided he needed to pass us on to someone who would be able to do the operation ASAP and be available for the post op follow up. Ottilie had bloods taken to check for any markers that would indicate malignancy. We were told it was a five day wait on bloods. And five days is a long time to wait.

As promised, this a long one and part two is just the same. To be continued…

 

 

Resilient: Part Two

This is another long one but I wanted to include all the details for our friends and family. We have had an incredible amount of support but it has been difficult keeping everyone in the loop when things are emotionally challenging.

4th March

We went back to the Portland to meet with the new surgeon, I haven’t named anyone else for privacy etc. but this surgeon is now affectionately referred to as the Big G in our household. With the emphasis on the GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. Big G was the first person who had been able to examine Ottilie with her remaining calm and was even able to manipulate the lump from the outside, enough to know that it was now much bigger than the ultrasound indicated. He estimated it to be around 15cm in length. He was able to access the images from the MRI, and whilst you know that 15cm is the length of a small ruler, we were not prepared for seeing something of that size inside our Babe. He was also fairly certain it was on an ovary. As the bloods had not yet come back, we couldn’t be scheduled for surgery during this week. Again, we had decent conversations around a diagnosis and treatment and we left that appointment feeling much better about the whole thing.

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6th March

Ottilie’s bloods came back with no markers for malignancy, however this couldn’t and still hasn’t been ruled out until the histology (slicing/dicing/testing of the tumour once its removed) comes back. The surgery had now been scheduled for the 13th.

8th March

We had to meet an oncologist to discuss the surgery further and the prospect that Ottilie could go into surgery and come out not having had the tumour removed. The conversation was around the potential that the tumour could be involved with another part of her body, not just her ovary. And if this was the case they would biopsy it, stitch her back up and think about Plan B. We were also told that along with the possibility that they couldn’t remove it all, they may also need to make an incision upwards (like an upside-down T) if during surgery they couldn’t remove the tumour through a caesarean type incision.

11th March

We went to Great Ormond Street for another ultrasound and a set of bloods. Thanks to boob and the iPad these went without incident.

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12th March

We moved into GOSH in preparation for surgery on the 13th. We met the team of people who would be taking care of O, nurses, anaesthetist and the ward doctor. Amy set up in her little cabin bed behind a curtain and we asked if we could swap Ottilie’s cot for a bed because this kid normally sleeps on a floor bed and the cot was far too small especially when Amy needed to feed at night.

13th and 14th March

I came back from my hotel for 7am, and the nurses told us we would be going down to surgery at 08:30. So we just had 90 minutes to kill whilst O tried to scoop out Amy’s boobs and/or chewed on her t-shirt. Nil by mouth with a boob obsessed toddler is a challenge let me tell you. We were able to distract O with a super long shower and a splash about.

The anaesthetist came and had a chat about how he would use a ‘caudal’ which is much like an epidural but it goes into the back of the pelvis and would mean that they wouldn’t need O to be anaesthetised so deeply.

Ottilie was then given a pre-med that was described as like having a couple of gins, it would make her make much more chilled for the actual anaesthetic. She was honestly like a happy, incoherent little drunk in Amy’s arms, she shouted out ‘bubbles’ and ‘lady and cheetah’ (her fave toy figures) randomly before going into the theatre.  Amy held O as she held her own mask over her face, and was placed down on the bed, Amy found this much tougher than I did. My logical brain told me that these people were experts and she was in the best possible place for this surgery.

We had a few hours to kill and had intended on sitting in the room with Netflix, one eye on the film and the other on the clock but on the way back the porter advised that we get out for a bit of fresh air and a wander, so the time goes more quickly. We set out to a parade of local shops and stocked up on all of O’s favourite fruit and veggies, which included her fave ‘babal’ which is basil to you and I.

Around 11am when we were just unpacking all our goods, the nurse popped her head in and said O was waiting for us in recovery. We did a power walk down to recovery at the speed of two parents whose toddler had just had major surgery. As soon as Ottilie was awake she was straight on the boob, where would we be without those ay.

Everyone popped back in at intervals over the next 24 hours to check up on us, including the surgeon who described the tumour as big, hard and ugly, and definitely ovarian. Big G did an amazing job and thankfully Ottilie only has the one, 10cm, incision across her tummy with literally no bruising.

Ottilie was keen to get out of bed so we let her, she’d had one dose of morphine when she first came round. But her pain was being managed through oral ibuprofen and paracetamol, with the paracetamol going through the cannula in her foot a couple of times at night so she wasn’t woken.

We all laughed about how if it was an adult laying in that bed, they would have been laid up for two weeks but here was Ottilie sitting in the chair next to her bed like a visitor less than 24 hours later.

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We did actually have a visitor, and once O had woken from her nap she was straight down on the floor playing with her little pal, watching Duggee and munching on some crisps. What a total babe.

The surgeon came back late into the day and said he was happy for us to go home, either that evening or in the morning. Quite remarkable as we were told it was a minimum of six nights in hospital including the night before, and here we were able to go home after only two nights. Big G had said all along how quickly kids bounce back…

15th March

We were home by 3pm and Ottilie was straight back at her kitchen making tea for us all.

I guess to tidy up some of the detail I may have missed, we are incredibly fortunate that our employers provide private healthcare, and this includes Ottilie. We don’t know how long we would have waited on the NHS, but things moved incredibly quickly for us and we are so grateful for that.

We couldn’t have asked for better people looking after us all throughout the whole process, from the anaesthetist popping his head in our room to Big G’s secretary texting Amy on the morning of the surgery to wish us well and to tell us how she is in the best hands with Big G. Every person we encountered was so patient, kind and gentle with Ottilie, everything you need when your tiniest girl gang member is unwell.

The ward we were on was more like a hotel than a hospital, so it was super comfortable throughout. It meant Amy had a bed and a shower in the same room, so she never needed to be away from O. I stayed in a hotel a few minutes away, I left the hospital late and came back early after a pitstop for coffee for Amy. With that being said – all the people we encountered also work for the NHS, and GOSH is one of the best hospitals in the world so private or not I am sure everyone leaves there feeling they’ve been well looked after.

We are back tomorrow for a follow up with Big G and will get the results of the histology next week. We will keep you posted…

 

 

 

Overpacking overthinker – Holidaying with a toddler…

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We did it. Our first family holiday abroad. Ottilie’s first time on a plane. And we chose to go to Mexico where the flight is a mere 10 hours +. Cue all of the horror stories from others! Anyways we booked it for two weeks and packed as though we were moving forever. Me that is, I did the packing! And although I tried really hard, I am an chronic overpacker, as well as an overthinker, and these two things resulted in every ‘what if’ you could think of, 3 big cases, a cabin case and a rucksack coming with us, oh and let’s not forget the trusty bumbag!

We’ve been to this resort before which is the main reason we chose to go back there. And my thinking behind going long haul is that in a few years when O is at school and we can only go away in half terms etc. We will be paying the same amount to go to just across the water to Spain, so I plan to get my monies worth now.

It was a big deal going on our first holiday abroad with Ottilie and I took a lot of ‘just-in-case’ items.  So I thought I would do a bit of a roundup of the things that really did earn their case space and a couple of bits (and it was only a couple) we could have left behind.

So drum roll please, my top 3 were….

Hippychick hip seat – we have had this for a while, a lovely friend got it for us. I think it’s kind of a love or hate item, but I seriously love it. It’s a structured seat which sits on your hip to give you a bit more freedom with your arms and less stress on your hip and back. It fastens with a large Velcro waist band and a large strap and clip. It is fully adjustable for the adult and the seat is a decent size for a baby or child between 6 and 36 months.

I used this multiple times a day. It takes seconds to put on and take off and you don’t need to fasten your babe in like you do with a carrier. In fact on that note, I only used our Tula at the airports not on the holiday at all. When they ask for ‘up’ you simply just pick them up and plonk them on. You have to hold them but with far more freedom and less strain.

The other thing I love is that it is so handy for breastfeeding when walking about or standing up. Our Babe is heavy I used it to place her bum and hips on. Again it takes the strain and gives you back an arm.

Next the Silvercross POP stroller – this stroller is pretty good. We took it to the gate on both flights and used a storage bag for the journey. The best parts about this stroller was the lay flat capability and the extended hood which had great coverage to keep our Babe out of the sun. To be honest we saw so many of these in the resort so a lot of people must think the same. We mainly used it to donkey all of our stuff to the pool and Ottilie was happy to sleep in it on the way back to our room and evenings – Bonus! It has since been on another two flights and is still fine. It is bigger than the little cabin ones but it is far more robust and Ottilie is already too heavy for some of those smaller ones anyway – not to mention they are so much more expensive. We got it from a website called Pramworld for £125 (this was on offer and was originally £175) and it was well worth the money.

iPad and Netflix – I know that is technically two things but that is all we used the iPad for so you’ll let me have them right? We loaded it up before we left and this definitely helped us through the flights. We used it whilst out there but it was more of a distraction for O when we were needing to get ready in the evenings. We also had a bit of rain so a few films were watched. And actually it was the first time O sat through a whole film from start to finish – Inside Out and The Secret Life of Pets if anyone is interested and yes we both loved them too! I also downloaded the app on my phone and had some bits downloaded on there too so we could use it in the airport, transfers if needed. We had Wi-Fi in our room and resort. But if you don’t, the download functionality with Netflix is great.

A few other bits which would definitely be on the list for next time too.

Clothing for me – The best item I had was a cropped tee for the plane. With a teething Babe and a 10 hour flight, being able to get to my milk-makers super easily was essential. I had my MilkMakingMama one which was just right. With a vest tucked in underneath. It was so easy to whip them out and also, when O had finished and fallen asleep, I just pulled it down over my boob (without the need to immediately clip my bra/pull vest up). Meaning I was fully covered until O woke up, and probably immediately wanted some more boub-boub anyway.

All the swimming costumes I had were regular swimming costumes, no zips or special breastfeeding friendly ones. Obviously it was a huge consideration when buying but I managed to get decent ones from Debenhams, and Primark and they all did the job just fine. On top of that, not one person really batted an eyelid when I was feeding and the locals in Mexico were not in the slightest bit bothered – but their breastfeeding rates far exceed ours in the UK so I am not surprised!

Night shirt – but not to sleep in. I just couldn’t find the pool cover up I was after, that needed to be functional and look alright around the pool. Ordinarily I would usually just wear a long t-shirt, but for feeding I needed something I didn’t have to pull all the way up. I just couldn’t find what I wanted in any ‘swimwear’ sections. So I bought a night shirt from Primark. Just like a long button up shirt. It was exactly what I needed so maybe take a look there if you cannot find what you want.  And even if I wasn’t feeding, it would be an option for me in the future. £8 from Primark.

Clothing for O – Swim vest, this was worn every time in the pool and although it may be an obvious one, it just gave O so much confidence which grew as the holiday went on. Admittedly pink is not our colour but it is from Speedo and was £6 from T K Maxx so couldn’t pass up that bargain!

Aqua shoes – these were a must for us. We had soft ones which we borrowed from a friend for the pool and then ones with a rubber sole for the beach and sea. Next time I would just opt for the rubber soled ones and they were safer with wet feet running around the outside of the pool – why do kids want to run with wet feet?!? These were £6 new from EBay.

Reusable swim nappies – we used Bambino Mio same as our cloth nappies. We took 6 nappies and these have all been bought in the sales in supermarkets. They are easy to get on and off, have super cute designs and above all else they are much better for the planet and our Babes skin. £4-£6 in various supermarkets. Also available from Bambino Mio directly of course.

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Over the head towels with hood – which to be honest Ottilie didn’t wear as towels but they were great for laying in the stroller on the way back to the room. The in between leg clasp went through the head hole meaning the stroller kept mostly dry with no need to dry and dress O, just undress again to bath her when we got back to the room.

Homemade insect repellent for Ottilie – we needed a repellent which was effective and could be used on an under two which we couldn’t find. So we made one with a base of witch hazel, some water and 70 drops essential oils. The combination of oils we used were lemon eucalyptus, lavender, citronella, basil, thyme, and a few others, we just searched on the internet to find a recipe. And we had most of the oils anyway as we use them in our diffuser. I must admit the smell wasn’t some delightful spa type experience but it also wasn’t awful and no worse than one you would buy. And more importantly than that, it worked!  Ottilie only got two bites (both at the same time) for the whole holiday (I got eaten alive however) so go us and our homemade selves!

The last couple of bits were the activities for O. I made a plane pack which consisted of all new bits with the exception of the colouring book and crayons. We use the Crayola twistable crayons which are amazing. They can’t be snapped, can be twisted away and are easy to hold for O. We got them in the sale in Tesco and took about 10 with us. We then had a couple of sticker books, some water colouring books – which we enjoyed more than O – and a miniature colouring book and scratch book. All barring the water book and crayons were from Tiger (or flying tiger as its now known) and cost between £1 – £3. I took it all in an expandable file with handles, also from Tiger, which was just the right size to slide into the rucksack and pull out on the plane.

I also took a small drawstring bag which I filled with a few of her favourite bits from home. Some Duplo, a couple of Schleich animals, and a couple of little wooden bits. Again this was easy to get out and hang on the seat in front of us on the plan just to delve into.   We took a couple of her favourite books – ideal for the room, around the pool and the evenings as well as the plane.

Lastly her fave stacking toy which proved to be so multifunctional. A set of 5 square pots which all fit inside one another so don’t take up much space at all in the case. They were a stacking toy in the room. We took them to the pool for water play. Used them for sandcastles at the beach. Collected things in them and used them as bath toys. They had so much use and I didn’t even realise their true potential until we got there. Brand Kid O and bought from TK Maxx £5.

A couple of things we could have left behind was the UV beach tent. It folded down (eventually after watching a YouTube video) so didn’t take up a huge amount of space but we just didn’t use it. We had canopied beds and only really went to the beach last thing in the day as I can’t cope with the sand being everywhere from the second you set foot on it!

An inflatable pool seat thing for O. She just wasn’t interested. In fact she was totally against going in it at all. She had been in one at a local pool here, but this was before she was walking about. This was a waste of money to even buy and took up quite a bit of case space and weight. I don’t even have a picture of it!

So that’s my little roundup done.

Just on the note of holidaying with a baby or toddler, I firmly believe you should do what you feel comfortable with.  If we had sought advice before booking, the horror stories of the flights and people’s opinion of Mexico would probably put us off of going long haul to that country.  But we did what we felt comfortable doing and the holiday was amazing. I find with all things ‘parenting’ you will get advice and opinions from every direction which contradict and conflict all over the place, so disregard them completely and do what you and your family want to do.

Happy travelling everyone.

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The struggle with the juggle

I went back to work in May after 14 months off of work. I was lucky enough to have 12 months maternity leave, six weeks annual leave and then an overdue eight week sabbatical which I added on the end. A huge amount of time off.

Yet it wasn’t enough.

I have gone back to the same job I left. Working with most of the same people I worked with before. And I know what I am doing.

Yet it feels so different.

I knew it would be a massive change for our family. So why wasn’t I prepared.

I think the answer is that you don’t know what you don’t know and even though you can maybe envisage or consider how different your life will be with baby, you can never fully prepare yourself for the feelings that come flooding along with it.

I posted way back in February (I know, I know, it’s been too long) about O turning one and some of the worries I had about going back. At that point it was all about Ottilie. How she was going to settle in to nursery, and how she was going to cope not having my boobs on tap throughout the day.  It turns out both of these things are fine. Ottilie still breastfeeds like a pro and she has settled in at nursery so well. In fact she has moved up to the second room already. So it seems the things that were actually going to weigh my mind down with worry when I went back to work, I hadn’t even considered back in February.

The real issue here, is and always was, that I would rather be at home with my babe than going to work and it is as simple as that. But I am not sure I am alone in feeling this way.

But let’s be realistic. I am definitely not the first and won’t be the last to go through this. And even though I did consider our work options here, we wouldn’t be able to experience what we want to in life – holidays, maybe another baby, moving house – had I not gone back to work.  As much as I do want to spend all of my time with our tiny human, in order for us to go on all the adventures and make all of the memories, we need a good income, and I needed to submerge myself back into the working world again.

So once I had come to terms with that fact (or at least got closer to it – still not sure I’ve fully come to terms with it even now!) it’s the juggle that knocks you off of your feet on the daily.

I hear and see a lot about mum-guilt. And yes it’s there. I definitely feel it. But for me, I feel it more when I don’t feel in control of all of the aspects of my life, not just in relation to Ottilie and being a mum, but everything. If I feel like the house is a mess. I haven’t read enough books with O. And don’t feel like there is enough food in the house (even with a full freezer), to name but a few. I begin to feel out of control, anxious, emotional and sad about all situations. I am a sensitive soul and stuff bothers me, more than it should at times, but that’s just me.

But when I get five minutes and I sit with my rational brain, I also come to the conclusion that Ottilie is having a great time at nursery, playing with other kids and reading books on the days she’s there and I am at work. That we are lucky enough to have more than enough food in the house – it just might not be what I want to eat that day. And the mess, well I think once you have kids, it’s here to stay, it is just keeping it to a manageable level, tidying up once the babes are asleep, and then preparing yourself to do it all again tomorrow – right?

I have also realised that I have to allow myself to feel those things, to have a cry and to get a bit frustrated, even angry at times. I have to own those feelings and then move on. Alongside that, identifying what makes me feel more in control and managing that too.  If I have clean cloth nappies that haven’t been put together, I can’t go to bed until they are done, I have to do them first. On nursery days I have to have Ottilie’s bag packed and her clothes, nappy and shoes all ready to go on the changing mat as well as my clothes at least planned before I go to bed. And I can’t really sit down at night and ‘relax’ until the kitchen is sorted.   I know that some of those things may seem small and Zoe sometimes says, it’s fine I’ll do it in the morning or it can wait. But it is just how I balance my overactive mind to allow me to not tip the balance in the wrong direction.

Taking time to appreciate the little things in life like Ottilie learning something new, getting into a bed with fresh sheets or going to the cupboard and finding that chocolate brioche tear and share you’d forgotten about is there for the taking, can be the change you need that day to get you through. Having plans also makes me feel more at ease. Knowing we’ve synced our schedules, nursery days are confirmed and that we have days together.  All of these things as well as making the most of our family time and planning what we are doing on our days off gives me something to look forward to. I can draw on this if I feel a bit low or when it feels like the balance is tipped a little too far towards ‘work’ in that elusive work/life balance we all aspire too.

I would like to be a cool, calm and collected individual, never flustered and never panicked. But it’s just not me, never has been and never will be. I have coping mechanisms and I have found talking helps, whether to have a whinge, ask for help or just to educate someone about how my brain works. Zoe will tell you I think out loud, and I do. I have to in order to deal with the day to day juggling of this thing they call parenthood. Anyone else relate?

Here’s to strong women…

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As we celebrated International Women’s Day this week, it got me thinking about the journey we went on to finally welcome O into the world, as well as my first year of motherhood. We have been so fortunate to have had an abundance of amazing women who were involved in this journey and this post is just a little thank you to them.

Amanda – our acupuncturist.  You listened to my worries.   You allowed me to nap on your table whilst sticking pins in me.  Introduced me to some herbal remedies.  And basically just chilled me right out.  Not only did you prepare my body for carrying our baby but always offered balanced advice.

Doctor Gill – our consultant at the clinic. You filled us with confidence.  You listened to our worries and you answered all of our questions.  You never brushed off our concerns and you were open to all discussions.  We are forever grateful for your positive outlook and knowing that we would get there in the end.

Becky – our sonographer.  You scanned us when we were going through the many appointments to get us ready for IVF treatment.  We then decided to have all our private pregnancy scans with you.  Since having our babe you supported us with the early and hard-going, days of silent reflux (Becky is also a Midwife and has a great blog https://midwifenextdoor.wordpress.com/) and we are regular commenters on the ol’ Insta.  Becky you might not realise how much you helped us on our journey.  Talking to us like we weren’t just ‘another patient’ and telling us your dating stories (good and bad) really put us at ease.  You are really good at what you do and there is no one else I would have rather have had my internal vaginal examinations with.

Rose – a nurse at the clinic. We were going to the clinic for a good while and she was one of the few who made us feel relaxed, had a chat and would say hello when you saw us at the clinic even if you were just passing by.  You were always friendly and comforting and answered all of my questions.

Zoe – our community midwife.   Being our first baby and me being me, I had all of the questions, all of the time.  You made us feel at ease and nothing was ever too much trouble.

Team Aurora – the hospital team. Midwife Nikki who looked after us for our C-section.  You allowed us to use our own cord tie and boxed up our placenta with no questions asked and didn’t bat an eyelid at our ‘two Mums’ status.  Midwife Shelley you let me squeeze the life out of your hand during my epidural and held up our baby girl with the biggest smile on your face as she came out of the sunroof.  The consultant (whose name we sadly don’t have) who was the only person who did not try to talk us out of a C-section and by a stroke of luck also performed the operation – you have no idea how much your support with our decision put our minds at rest.

Emma, Sammie and Sophia – local boob group. You girls saved my nipples and were integral in the amazing and fulfilling journey of breastfeeding that we have been able to go on.  We have now reached one year ‘Golden Boobie’ status and we are still going strong.  Without your help and support in the early stages, my nipples would have been in shreds for much longer.  We are forever grateful for your help and advice during what was one of the toughest parts for me postpartum.

Insta Mums, Mamas and Mommies – I know everyone says it but the sense of community and support that I have found on Instagram is amazing. We started damseldamseldaughter to document O’s first year and beyond but it has meant so much more than that.  Whether it’s a comment, convo or understanding and seeing others in the same place as you, it really has helped.  I hope that I have been able to lift others up sometimes too.

Vicci B – our friend.  You were there from the start. You knew the journey we were going on and how long it took us to get where we wanted to be.  Your positive outlook always helped to pull us through and we got there in the end.  You were the first person, other than us to touch our Babe’s skin and hold her little body in your arms.  I will never forget when you dropped my pasta in a sink of dirty washing up water though, during my heavily pregnant ravenous stage. Never.

Katie – Hypnobirthing buddy and now friend. We bonded over our dislike of being stroked whilst listening to stories about butterflies during the classes.  I am so grateful that our local class was full and we needed to go further to attend classes or else we wouldn’t have crossed paths.  Our Babes are besties and I class you as one of mine.  You are eternally positive, you listen to me whine and we both always have biscuits, cakes or chocolates (maybe all three) in.  You are an amazing Mama and I hope we have countless adventures to come in the future.

Mum – I knew that it would be different when our Babe came along. But I didn’t envisage our relationship being completely turned on its head.  You have been a massive support to Zoe, O and I.  Whether coming with us to London to look after O so we could go out on our first night baby-free to see Emeli Sande. Babysitting whilst I do some housework.  Going out with me so I could get out of the house in the early days or just tell me I’m being ridiculous at times (I know, hard to believe).  I have a newfound respect for you not only as my mum, but as a mother and a woman.  I am so glad I get to share this journey with you and O has you as her Nanny.  I love you.

Zoe – Mama. You are water in my coffee (I have it black decaf, no sugar, for those wondering), the butter on my crumpets and the nuts in my Cadbury’s Whole Nut.  This is the hardest thing we have ever done.  And in the midst of sleep deprivation, falling off nipples and learning how to wing it like a pro, there is no one else I would rather be doing this with.  We have been tested, as I think every couple are and we have not been our best selves at times, but we are doing our best.  You are and will be an amazing Mama to O and I know I will be naggy Mum and you will be fun Mum, and do you know what I’m ok with that.  Thank you for all you do for us.  We love you, you have our hearts always.

So that’s it for our little round up. We have been so lucky to have such strong women in our lives and specifically on our journey to becoming mothers.  I am so happy that O will have such strong women in hers.

This day will continue to be a very important day to us.  But it more than just celebrating on the 8th March each year.  It’s raising our daughter to be kind, caring, inclusive, intelligent, resilient, nurturing, fearless, determined, strong and brave, every day.  It’s  challenging the systems, stereotypes, perceptions and people for them to understand, to think differently to practice equality in every single aspect of life.  It’s celebrating the strength of all women, whatever that looks like.  Always.

Here’s to strong women

May we know them

May we be them

May we raise them

Happy International Women’s Day