The calm after the storm

It’s a me and Ralphie day today and we’re having a slow, lazy one. The little man is napping, and I’ve got my feet up. It’s very, very quiet.

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Following a fabulous Easter weekend at my mum and dad’s – a place where Ralphie is never short of attention – I think both of us found it a bit of a shock to the system when we woke up and it was just the two of us again.

Ryan headed off to work at the crack of dawn, and after a little bit of coaxing, Ralphie slept in a couple more hours snuggled up to me. It was needed. The night before he’d decided to can his usual, just about bearable routine of waking every 4-5 hours for a feed. And he full on rejected his dummy when I attempted to settle him. There’s nothing like that shrill, ear-piercing cry in the early hours to set you up for the day ahead. It wasn’t like him at all. Maybe it was his teeth, maybe he’d been dreaming about our trip to the farm, maybe he had wind…who knows.

I do like our quiet days, but I can see why mums feel lonely sometimes. Our time in the week together is quite different from our weekends. Yes, we go to baby groups and meet up with other mums, but not every day. And while I try to make things fun for Ralphie, sometimes I do need to eat, go to the loo, and shower. Unless he’s asleep, I have to do all of these things pretty speedily, because his patience wears thin waiting for me.

Now the clocks have gone forward, I’m looking forward to those long, warm summery days (one can dream!), when we can go out for picnics, play in the park, and walk and walk and walk. Lazy days are great, but we can’t have too many. I don’t want to look back on my maternity leave and have any regrets.

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What did cavemen do?

Five days into weaning and it’s not half as exciting a process as I’d hoped.

Carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, banana, pear…all mushed up and messily spooned into Ralphie’s half open mouth. Apart from the carrot – I don’t think I liquidised it enough – he’s been fairly accepting of this new stuff. But, at the moment, he loves his milk so much more. And I do too.

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Now, I’ve read the reactions to trusty Jamie Oliver putting his foot in it on the old breastfeeding debate, so I’m not going to tell you how easy it is. All I will say is that I’ve been incredibly lucky, and I’ve found breastfeeding so far to be a wholly positive experience. I stubbornly persevered through the first few days of latching on pain, engorgement, hourly feeds, and got through more than my fair share of Lansinoh (it doubles up as quite a handy lip salve too, in case you have any surplus). I never bothered with pumping (I haven’t had the need), and although this means I haven’t spent more than four hours away from my son (poor boy!) or had a full night’s sleep for the past six months, we’ve made it work.

I don’t know how long we will continue. There’s no rush from either of us to stop any time soon. At the moment, we can go out and about as we please, and if he’s hungry (or unsettled) then I just stick him on. And that’s why I’ve not been desperate to start weaning.

But start I must. Ralphie turned six months on Friday and I know he can’t live on milk forever. Armed with my free ‘5 Step Weaning Plan’ courtesy of Cow & Gate – thanks guys – I eagerly began puréeing veg and spooning it into little pots for the freezer. I’ve begun by introducing solids at lunchtime. Once we’ve got that established, I’ll introduce breakfast and, eventually, dinner.

If you’d asked me a few weeks back if I was going to try the whole baby-led weaning approach, I’d have probably said yes. But the other weekend I scared myself, and my family, by choking on my sandwich. I got a whole chunk of steak lodged in my throat and my dad had to give me some fairly forceful back slaps to help me get it out. It was all over in a matter of seconds, but I can’t shake the fear. Needless to say we’ll be sticking to purées for a little while.

It’s a funny old thing this child raising business. It’s full of challenges and questions, and every time I encounter one, I think, how on earth did cavemen cope? The poor buggers. No modern medicine, emergency caesareans, formula milk, hand blenders, sterilising equipment or central heating for them. What did they give their babies to eat? Did they just give them a leg of meat to chew on and be done with it?

I’m sure we’ll get into the full swing of weaning soon. And when we do I’ll be the first to write about it. I love food and I can’t wait for my boy to try all my favourites. As with everything so far, I know this stage won’t last long, and before I know it he’ll be tucking into his Sunday roast with the rest of us. For now though, I’ll be proceeding with caution. Thank goodness for food blenders.

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Silicon beads are a mum’s best friend

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Forget gold, pearls and diamonds – thanks to a tiny pair of busy hands, not much is safe around my neck these days. So when I discovered teething necklaces, I was intrigued.

I’ve never really been one for wearing costume jewellery. Call me a snob but I have a few favourite pieces of jewellery and they’ve been my go-to staple for years – a pair of pearl stud earrings (a gift from mum and dad); a gold chain with pearl beads (one of my most treasured items as I inherited it from my very dear Grandma); and a gold charm bracelet (one of my favourite presents from Ryan).

But these past six months (yes, Ralphie is now six months old – I can’t believe it!), I haven’t dared to wear any of them, other than the earrings. My boy has very prying – not to mention strong – fingers, and most things he grabs these days tend to end up in his mouth. A teething necklace, then, was just what I needed.

I now own three, plus a teething bracelet. They’re all from cute little shops I found on Instagram – two from Indigo and Wren, and a gorgeous nude necklace and matching bracelet from Organic Mama. I love them! They look good, add a welcome splash of colour to my outfit, and Ralphie can chomp away on them to his heart’s content.

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And chomp away he does! From what I’ve heard, the teething process is a long and arduous one. I think it’s a bit like childbirth – nobody bloomin’ talks about it! But, from what little I have heard, it sounds like we have a fair few sleepless nights to look forward to, not to mention a grizzly baby. Can’t wait.

I’ve actually got a confession to make. I wrote a while back about how I thought Ralphie was getting his first tooth. Well…it hasn’t actually appeared yet. False alarm! Sorry. So yeah, we’ve got the whole teething business to come. I think it’s happening now, but I’m not so sure anymore.

All I do know is that I’m pleased I’ve got my handy teething jewellery. I wear it pretty much every day – even when I’m not with Ralphie, although this is rare! I get plenty of compliments, and most people don’t even know it’s practical too – cue a few perplexed faces when I let Ralphie ram it in his mouth!

The colours are lovely. Grey, black and a pop of mustard to match my rather extensive grey wardrobe. And peach, white and oatmeal, because you just can’t go wrong with a nude palette – my other staple wardrobe colour.

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One of the handiest things about this jewellery is because I’m wearing it, I don’t have to worry about Ralphie dropping it on the floor or throwing it out of his pram. He’s just started doing this thing where he madly flails his arms around; it’s hilarious but risky for the toys in his hands! The only slight flaw is that if I don’t have a muslin cloth handy (although I usually do), you can end up with a bit of dribble on your top. But it dries. And really, I have bigger issues to worry about. The other day, I got sweet potato smeared all over my white t-shirt – that was painful.

Will I ever wear my gold chain again? Of course I will. But for now, I’m happy to have a trusty bit of colourful silicon around my neck. Pretty and practical – I sound like such a mum these days!

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The great hair loss

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I keep finding strands of my hair EVERYWHERE at the moment. A large collection seems to have gathered on my bathroom floor, it’s near my hairdryer, on my pillow, in the shower; I even found a strand in Ralphie’s nappy the other day. The hoovering is relentless.

I wouldn’t say I exactly glowed during my pregnancy, but I pulled the look off as well as I could. I remember my hairdresser asking me if I thought my hair had got thicker; we both agreed it hadn’t. But looking back on it, maybe it had. It must have! Because it sure isn’t thick now.

Ralphie pulling it doesn’t exactly help. I’m very tempted to get it all cut off again, and today I’m having one of those days where I really miss my short hair. Perhaps I will treat myself to a radical new do soon.

I thought I’d avoided this post-pregnancy phenomenon. But five months in, and the hair loss got me. And I’m still shedding plenty. I’m losing enough to create a wig – albeit a scraggy one!

But I tell you what, other than the daily clear up which is bugging me a lot, I don’t really mind. And here’s why. I don’t have a single spot on my face. If you saw me this time last year, you wouldn’t have said I had the best of complexions. But those hormones surging through my body have really sorted this face of mine out. It’s a bloomin’ miracle.

Rubbish hair, alright face; swings and roundabouts!

Why mums shouldn’t get ill

These past few months, I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for my own mum. I have always known that she is amazing, but now I’m a mum myself, I’m forever grateful and in awe of all that she has done for me, my brother and sister as we’ve grown up. For example, it never occurred to me at the time, but when we were poorly and she was looking after us, chances are that she was poorly too. But I never remember her being ill.

This time yesterday, Ralphie and I were battling a horrendous sickness bug, which has thankfully left us as quickly as it came. It made its appearance at 3.30am on Saturday when I shot out of bed and grabbed Ralphie as he projectile vomited everywhere. A particular low point was Ryan mopping my sick covered feet as I cradled Ralphie on the end of our bed (don’t worry – I didn’t get round to photographing this!). We survived the rest of the night and by morning we’d changed the sheets for both Ralphie’s bed and ours, and we were all a bit knackered.

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And then I was sick too. I’d been trying to ignore the feeling for a good while, but it was inevitable. The nausea hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I’d decided to call 111 – so shocked was I at the impressive amounts of vomit shooting out of Ralphie’s mouth. They’d recommended we visit a GP and booked us in at a nearby practice operating on a Saturday. I must say, their service was excellent. But as I lay feeling sorry for myself in bed, I realised that it was going to be too much of a struggle for me to leave the house and make Ralphie’s appointment. So I sent the boys on their way and used the quiet half an hour to put on another washload, clean the floor, get changed, and curl up back in bed.

Thankfully it was a Saturday, so Ryan was off work. And even more thankfully, he somehow missed the bug. While I was still on feeding duty – not that my milk could have been much good – I was extremely grateful for the respite Ryan was able to give me as I tried to sleep off my woes.

I must say that Ralphie was an absolute trooper. I think the on-call GP wondered what on earth was wrong with him. Apparently Ralphie took particular pleasure in trying to eat his stethoscope! During the day, I limited how much milk he had to make sure he was getting enough fluids but not enough to make him throw up again, and by mid afternoon he was pretty much back to his usual self.

If only I had the ability to recover as quickly as him. I shuffled downstairs in time for Saturday Night Takeaway, and to top up on orange juice. By 8.30pm, we were all back in bed.

All we needed was a good night’s sleep. However, Ralphie had other ideas. For the first time ever, he woke hourly, until we all nearly lost the plot at 1am. By this point, Ryan and I were seriously contemplating leaving him out in the garden and putting him up for adoption in the morning. After another bout of crying, I swiftly scooped the boy up and took him downstairs for a bit of a time out. Seeing as I’d not eaten anything but a dry breakfast muffin and a pack of salt and vinegar crisps for the last 24 hours, chances are my milk was duff and wasn’t exactly satisfying Ralphie, so I also topped up with a glass of milk and an orange.

I don’t know whether it was my stern words, or the sneaky cuddle we had, but Ralphie finally relented and slept through until 6am. And I’ll admit it, I then let him get in bed with us (slippery slope I know!). Out he stretched like a starfish, and we bought ourselves an extra couple hours of sleep.

Ah, the relief to feel normal again! It’s not the most obvious, but I had a serious craving for avocado, scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, and it tasted so good. Refreshed and full of energy, I was even able to tackle what can only be described as a ‘poonami’ that leaked out of Ralphie’s nappy. That’s what no poos for two days does, I suppose. I shudder just thinking about it!

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And here we are, it’s Sunday evening. Other than wishing for an extra day of weekend to enjoy with Ryan (let’s face it, it wasn’t exactly his ideal break after starting his new job last week), we’re all feeling relatively rested and very much relieved.

I hope for all our sakes that this is the last bug we’ll have to deal with for a while. Poor Ralphie has already had his fair share. As for me, well I’ve realised that mums can’t afford to be ill. And if we are, then we have no choice but to make a swift recovery.

Over the moon, under the sea

Jellyfish – I think they may be Ralphie’s new favourite thing.

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We ventured out to the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham yesterday. Ryan and I had a feeling that Ralphie would love it, but we didn’t expect him to love it as much as he did. What a sensory overload. The poor boy could barely contain himself! Well actually, if we’re being honest, he didn’t. He pooed within five minutes of us arriving, which resulted in a prompt visit to the baby changing facilities next to the penguins, of course!

We nearly didn’t go. I felt rotten, it was tipping it down and Ralphie looked like he was in for a long lie in ( he only tends to do this when we need to be up and out the house; I don’t know how he knows!). We missed the train we were intending to get (blame the slow lady in Subway), but we made it. And it was obviously meant to be, because as we arrived all the school groups were leaving – something to bear in mind if you’re planning a mid-week trip yourselves.

Admittedly it’s not the biggest aquarium in the world. The sharks could have been bigger too. And there is limited seating, which isn’t ideal when you need to feed a hungry baby. But it was well worth the journey.

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Ralphie was enraptured the entire time; he didn’t stop smiling. He squealed with delight in the glowing jellyfish area, tried to eat most of the fish through the glass (sorry about all the dribble we left behind), and stared in wonder at the octopus and giant turtle in the underwater tunnel. Ryan and I rather enjoyed ourselves too!

And to top it off, Ralphie fell asleep as we left, so we could have a sneaky wander around Selfridges and buy some Krispy Kremes. The new Grand Central station looks amazing by the way.

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Our only fail of the day was travelling back during rush hour. Oops! Breastfeeding on a busy train with all the commuters isn’t something I’d recommend.

If Ryan has his own way, we’ll have a floor-to-ceiling fish tank in our house one day (I’m not so sure; just think of the cleaning!). For now, I think we’ll settle with some trips to local garden centres, and we’ll definitely be going back to Birmingham. £40 well spent.