Monday, 14 April 2014

Sorry I haven't been blogging.. (Or 'the trials of teaching')

I have been a bit absent from this blog lately.  I have been working on some exciting writing projects and of course enjoying time with my kids, but mostly I have just been snowed at work. You see, I'm a teacher. Yeah I know 'that's great, you get to spend the holidays with your kids' and 'so you finish at 3.20, that's so lucky.'  Well, that is true, but it's not quite so simple.

Yes I finish at 3.20. I jump straight in the car and drive home so I can maximise my time with my kids.  This is something that I feel fortunate about. But I don't drive alone. I am accompanied by books or paperwork.  In fact I spend around 1.5 hours working on 4 nights a week.  I'm not full time, I only work two and a half days a week.  If I didn't have the kids I would stay at work till 5 or 6 to get the job done, but I would rather see the kids.  I know that's my choice, but it means that when the kids are bathed and storied up, and I have gone snoozy from breastfeeding, I descend the stairs and get the books out. Not exactly first on my list of things I would like to do in the evening.  When you consider that I arrive at work at 8, I have already worked a 7.5 hour day, so add it all up and it starts to make me feel even more worn out. 

And the holidays?  Well, yes they are great. But teachers work in the holidays. Sure we also relax, but you know what, I am burnt out by then and I need the break. But the joy I used to get from a bit of a rest in the holidays along with a few days of hard graft to get myself caught up is tempered somewhat.  I have to look after the kids, so there again I have to work in the evenings, or when I can get somebody to watch the kids.  And resting? Well any parent knows that is rare. 

I don't mean to complain.  I consider myself lucky. I have a great job. I am lucky that i have more flexibility in my work than most working mums. I am passionate about teaching and really happy in what I do. It's fun, creative, rewarding, busy and the students are just great....But teaching is a real slog. I don't take breaks now that I don't express at work. I work any chance I get at home so that I can keep on top of things. So while I have the benefits of choosing when I work a little bit, I suffer from an industry where a great deal of 'overtime' is necessary. 

What is my point....I'm not entirely sure. If you are a parent and thinking of being a teacher, it's not all rosy. If you know a teacher, be nice to them. Being a working mum of any profession isn't easy, and being a teacher is certainly not as easy as public perception would make you believe. Also, I promise I will blog more now that the heavy marking season is over xxx

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Breastfeeding, allaitement, nursing.....

Recently I travelled to France with one of my best friends, the husband and the kids.  A lovely wintery day trip was had.  At lunch time baby girl started to get whingey.  She was tired and hungry.  I knew that I had an easy way to stop her complaining and using her food as projectiles.... but I got cold feet.  I was under the impression that the French are not so 'boob friendly'  I was too afraid and held off feeding until I could secretly do so in my baby carrier as we strolled back towards the car. However, breastfeeding in public is essentially legal in FranceAlthough it is not generally as supported as in the UK so one could be subject to some prejudice.

Our little family has recently returned from California.  We had such a wonderful time.  On perhaps the second day we found ourselves outside.  Boy was playing in the park with daddy.  I was lounging with a fretful baby girl.  I wanted to feed her.  I was aware that by law I was OK, but I wasn't sure what the culture here was.  I faltered. 

There were two ladies and their kids sat near to me.  One of them started calling over her toddler (I would guess about 18 months). 
'Baby, you want Doh-Dots?'
(Toddler ignores her)
"Doh-Dots?  Come here baby, Doh-Dots"
I think to myself, 'she's got to mean breastfeeding'.  I couldn't think of anything else.  I start spying secretly.  Eventually toddler loses interest in whatever it was she was playing with and wanders over to mummy.  She promptly lifts her shirt snuggles up with toddler and they start nursing.  Mummy continues directing her other children and holding a conversation with a friend.

I smiled secretly.  At that exact moment where I felt unsure the solidarity of another mum had given me the confidence I needed to feed my baby - which I promptly did.  That just goes to show how important it can be!  On walking over to husband to tell him about my experience I spotted another woman nursing by the park, this time under a nursing cover.  I couldn't believe it.  2 in one park?  Plus me makes 3, that must be some new record!! (Having taken part in the Big Latch On I know that's not true).

Seriously, though, I have never seen so much open breastfeeding as I did in California.  It was awesome (said in an American accent, in case you are unsure).  Breastfeeding is protected by the Civil Code § 43-53 in California.  In fact in America breastfeeding in public is protected by law in most states in some form.

The following link shows the difference in perceptions of breastfeeding between the UK, the USA and France.

 I find these cutural differences fascinating.  I wander where it comes from, rates? Law? Health systems? Overriding political or religious sentiments?  But when travelling abroad a breastfeeding mother may feel unsure, even if she is aware of her legal status - yet another reason to breastfeed openly whenever possible, just in case a foreigner is feeling unsure :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

My how they've grown..

I recently went to a christening.  A friend of mine has a little two and a half year old boy.  He was bimbling around, content playing with the baby toys.  He was talking in stilted disjointed sentances.  He was popping out of the fire engine toy's roof and shouting 'DADDY, DADDY' until he was acknowledged.  I looked down on my lap where my three and a half year old sat.  He was grumpy because the toys were for babies (or so he claimed).  He chatters on all the time.  He has friends that he made himself.  He was disappointed that it's the school holidays because he wants to go to nursery and play all day with his new friends.  He is too big to go to toddler groups and has to be enticed with 'you can show your sister what to do'.  Yet when his sister was born he was like this other little boy.  Still in nappies, still not talking properly and happy spending all day playing with the same toys over and over. 

That same day my daughter took 4 steps.  4 steps!!  She can say mama.  She knows what she wants and asks for it.  Last night she went into her big girl bed.  We have been having issues at night as she wants to feed continually and my tolerance only goes so far.  However we have foud that if she isn't hungry she is just as content to have a big daddy cuddle. So, in her big girl bed, either I can cuddle her and feed her until I sneak away while she snores.  Or daddy can sneak in for a cuddle to soothe her tears.  She looks so tiny in her big bed.

It is so bittersweet.  Much as I love tiny babies they are just such heart rending hard work.  I am more comfortable with chatty playful toddlers.  Or even older (I teach at a secondary school -  a class full of teenagers doesn't bother me).  But I feel nostalgic for the old times.

  I am going to give away my rocking chair.  The place where I have spent countless hours nursing my babies.  Sleepy and dreamy and snuggly.  That feels like a big milestone, me saying that I don't need a place to feed my babies.  But I still have a place to feed my littlest toddler.  In her big girl bed (she is far too busy and grown up to feed in the day).

I know my breastfeeding days are numbered now. I know I am unlikely to ever hold my very own little newborn again. But I will have first steps, first words, first days at school, first friends and so on to make up for my unending sadness for the babies who are growing up. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

'Boobles bazaar'

This afternoon I popped by 'Boobles bazaar'.  As I mentioned in my last post, Deal Breastfeeding Support Group were using this event to raise ever needed funds, raise awareness and to launch their 'Breastfeeding Welcome' scheme.  I delivered my homemade cakes (gotta love food that looks like boobs :) ) to add to the appealing array already there.  I did sample some of the chocolate cake, as did baby girl until husband told me not to give her anymore chocolate :P

My boy made another glittery monstrosity to add to our tree..... He loves a bit of crafting and this was particularly good as it involved smothering his hands with paint.  He has hung his creation on the tree just near his armchair so he can admire it...most definitely a happy camper.

After winning 2 items on the tombola we had a little meander around the stalls.  There were a few craft stalls with some gorgeous items, including booby beanies.  Elite Beauty and Spa were making people's hands look pretty.  Babybeads UK  had a stall- I would have bought an amber bracelet from them if I hadn't decided that I couldn't wait and bought it a fortnight ago.  Weirdly I did buy some honey from them, much to the boy's delight that they had 'pet bees'.  I admired the wares from Breastmilk Keepsakes... such a lovely idea (and they do 'first curls' charms too now). 'Audrey her cards and art' was selling Phoenix cards ready for Christmas.  Creative Minds Nursery were raising awareness of their services in the area.  There was certainly plenty to see!

A great outing was had.  DBSG Main organiser Candice Roberts tells me they made £240, which will certainly make a big difference.  Not only that but people visiting the event could rub shoulders with Deal town mayor Cllr Marlene Burnham, local MP Charlie Elphicke and Cllr Mike Eddy.  A success in anyone's book :).

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Local ladies doing lovely things

BBC Radio Kent ran a great programme yesterday at 10am.  Three local mums and their babies from Gravesham Breast Buddies were interviewed concerning breastfeeding in public.  These mummys have produced a breastfeeding calendar to help fly the flag for public breastfeeding.  Kudos to them for going very public indeed!  This is (in my humble opinion) a great way of showing the many ways that breastfeeding in public takes place (I particularly like the picture of the nursing bride).  The discussion was well handled by Radio Kent and didn't resort to the usual antagonising slanging match of breast vs formula.  They stuck to the point and I felt all parties handled the issue gracefully and intelligently.  The particular highlight was the heavy breathing of the babies into the microphones though :D.

Tomorrow I shall be baking cupcakes to take to 'Boobles Bazaar' in Deal on Saturday (one of the places where the calendars are being sold).  I am strongly considering making them look like mini boobs.  The event is going to be amazing as can be seen below (although my cupcakes are not listed despite their promise of awesomeness....)
Oh and get this, the Deal Mayor and local MP Charlie Elphicke will be there....that's how cool it is.  Aside from being a fundraiser, and a generally festive fiesta, Boobles Bazaar is also going to be the forum to launch Deal Breastfeeding Support Groups 'Breastfeeding Welcome' scheme.  Local businesses can sign up to this scheme and they then display a 'Breastfeeding Welcome' sticker to show their support.  Of course they don't get away that easily...their staff need to be made aware of the law (as found in the Equality Act 2010) and they adopt a breastfeeding policy to ensure that breastfeeding mothers are treated appropriately and in line with the law of the land.

Candice Roberts, main organiser of DBSG has recently signed up the first few premises, "I felt physically sick", she told me at the group recently, "I didn't know what to expect from the meeting.  But it was so positive!".  Grinning ear to ear she told me about the questions she had been asked and the dialogue that was being started by this initiative.  As usual, Candice is overflowing with enthusiasm about the groups ventures and I doubt not that the number of premises signed up will multiply post-launch.

I hope that when I walk down Deal High Street in a year's time I see a sea of purple stickers.  They will be unobtrusive but if you know what to look for, or if you have a hungry baby, you will see the sticker and know that as a breastfeeding mother you will be welcome.

Friday, 29 November 2013

O Christmas tree.....

So when I was asked recently to make 7 miniature boobs out of old tights I have to say I was a little perplexed.  When I was told they were to decorate a Christmas tree I was further surprised.  You see, Deal Breastfeeding Support Group were taking part in Trinity Church's Festival of Christmas trees.  The thought did cross my mind that not everybody is as 'boob desensitised' as me.  You only need to read the comments section in any news story about breastfeeding to see that certain individuals are fairly prudish when it comes to the exposed female breast (well at least when linked to breastfeeding anyway).  Still I did as I was told and I shouldn't have doubted the group for a second.

I went to see the festival today.  The trees were awesome.  Particular highlights were the 'gravitree'.....

and the 'infinitree' (a tree between 2 mirrors, producing a very cool effect that captured the boy for a good long while).  It was also nice to write a little note on the 'memory tree'. 

The boy kept calling me to see this or that and proclaimed that it had 'made him feel christmasy'.  It's certainly well worth a visit, for just £2 entry per adult.  It's running till Sunday 1st December (10am till 5pm).

I lingered over the tree by DBSG, the 'Breastfeeding fact-tree'.  Partially because I was earwigging  to see what people were saying about it, but I didn't hear anything interesting enough to write about.

The most wonderful thing about their tree was that it was totally age appropriate.  Skirting the bottom there were pictures of mammals feeding their young and baubles containing pictures of babies from the group (with a certain little madam I recognise only too well... :) ). 


As you moved further up the tree you found the facts and bits of information about the group.  At the very top, to help with a little bit of normalisation, were my creations (which I had ended up having to sew onto Christmas ribbon, much to hubby's amusement) and some slightly more risqué photographs of nursing and images from paintings. 

As usual, DBSG have seized an opportunity and produced something wonderful and, I feel, classy.  People can learn a few interesting facts, pique their interest, and become that little bit more comfortable with breastfeeding.

This normalisation in the community is just so important.  Deal is a pretty safe place to breastfeed in public, DBSG has a high profile and a good reputation which helps.  But as ever, there is a long way to go.  Mum's need to get good support from all parties, good advice from well informed medical professionals and feel comfortable within their own communities.  Watch this space......

Friday, 1 November 2013

LIARS!! (or 'sleep-boasters')

When my son was a baby I used to attend a Friday group for babies under 9months.  I liked it there.  There were no crazy toddlers running around.  It was intimate and quiet.  We used to sit in one big gossipy circle.  There were few of us who breastfed.  I used to feel slightly uncomfortable when my son's cries intimated that I needed to start to strip.  I used to use a cover - something I wouldn't now do in a baby group.  There were many conversations that baffled me.  Many about how many ounces or how many feeds....and I must admit that I occasionally felt uncomfortable when I though about how often I would feed and the fact that I hadn't the foggiest idea how much my skinny little fella actually consumed.  But, y'know, we had made different choices and that was cool.  I kind of wished there were some others like me, but I could live with it.  However a favourite topic was sleep.  I listened as one by one all of my friends declared their babies had started to sleep through.  It ended up being a joke.  I had the baby that didn't sleep.  The last time I went to that group the organiser gave me a leaflet on controlled crying.  I knew it was time to go.

I was so anxious about sleep!  I thought that babies were supposed to sleep through by two or three months.  It was certainly a figure that was bandied about.  My health visitor would ask how he was sleeping and I would meekly tell her that he 'sometimes woke up once or twice' and 'slept in his cot'.  The truth was he woke at least 4 times and spent most of the night in our bed.  I felt like an alien.  Was I doing all this wrong?  On a good day I felt like I was the only one who had it right.  Most days were not good days. 

I beat myself up endlessly.  It didn't help that every visitor's first question was 'how is he sleeping?'.  I was shattered.  I was sick of getting up. My eyes stung and I felt about a zillion years old  But there was not way on God's Earth that I was going to let my baby cry his-self to sleep.  Even if he never slept through.  Even if he slept in my bed for the rest of his life.  It felt like this may be a real possibility too. 

But how the hell was everyone else doing it?  Many were 'self soothing'. I am not going to discuss self soothing.  'If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all'.  Each to their own.   Many were using dummies, white noise, swaddles, sleeping bags, special toys.....endless props.  Well I had bought every damn thing that I thought might work and it never did.  I filled him with painkillers when he was teething.  He was dry, warm, fed......why couldn't I do it?  It left one conclusion.  I was a rubbish mum.  Maybe I was weak, I should have had the balls to let him cry.  Maybe I wasn't very good at being quiet and soothing.  Maybe I wasn't feeding him enough.... AHA.  There's that breastfeeder's self-doubt lingering away there.

He slept through at 10 months by the way.  Which seemed awfully late.

Baby number two has always been a bit of a better sleeper.  Also I have always been a bit more confident about what I am doing which helps.  However something seemed to have happened.  Maybe I started to hang out with different women (and I must say I hang out with a lot of boobie mamas these days), or maybe there's been a sea change.  However suddenly other mums have admitted that they bedshare.  Most of my friends babies don't sleep.  In fact mine is one of the better sleepers.  In fact when I recently got all panicky because she (at 10 months) had started sleeping worse, it was basically laughed off as normal and I was told that I'd had it good up till now.

This time around I know she gets enough milk.  I know she has every damn thing she needs.  I know that the white noise thing isn't going to cut it.  I know that soothing music, pretty lights, a favourite toy will not settle her back to sleep.  And I know something else.  Other women lie.  Not all of them - some have these magic sleeping babies.  But most don't.  And here's how I know it.  A friend recently told me her 10 week old was sleeping through the night.  I expressed surprise (holdiong in the compulsion to shout LIAR!!!!!!!!).  She then said 'well yeah, because technically sleeping for five hour stretches is sleeping through the night.'  Um..... OK, sure she has me there, as I have recently discovered, technically speaking that is considered true. medically anyway. But to me it is a load of ol' cobblers.  Sleeping through means that I don't have to wake up and deal with it.  It means I get to be woken up by something other than a baby.  It means that I don't have dark circles and I can get through a day without caffeine.  Five hour stretches indeed. 

So...those women sat in that circle when I was a naïve new mum.  Claiming that they had special sleeping children...... I don't buy it.  And yet, they made me feed anxious.  They made me doubt my personal brand of milk.  Worst of all, they made me doubt my mothering skills.  I still doubt myself but I am picked up by honest friends who tell me that their dark eye circles are as bad as mine.  I can cope with the hardship when I am part of a club, not when I am the only mum still soldiering on months down the line.

I did read that controlled crying leaflet the lady gave me.  Then I threw it away.  My lack of sleep didn't need solving.  It was a phase.  Same as many of those other women had they chosen to admit it.  So, be wary of the 'sleep-boasters'. 

Oh and for the record, my 10 month old wakes at least twice in the night.  Yes it annoys me.  No I'm not going to do anything about it, other than feed her back to sleep like I've done since the day she was born.

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”   Dr Seuss