The reluctant housewife

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I guess before I start, I need to set something straight. I’m not technically a housewife, because Ryan hasn’t yet made me his wife. He assures me he will one day, but until then, housegirlfriend or housepartner doesn’t really have the same ring to it, does it?

Funnily enough, since having Ralphie, Ryan and I have both been in a bit of a quandary about what to refer to each other as. Girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t seem quite grown up enough, considering we’ve been together nearly seven years and now have a child together. On many occasions, people have assumed we’re married, and neither of us have set them straight. Let’s face it, Ralphie is quite some commitment.

Anyway, back to being a housewife. I’m a bit of a reluctant one, if I’m honest. While I am absolutely loving being a mum, the downside to me being at home full time is that it falls down to me to keep on top of the dusting, ironing, hoovering, cleaning,etc, etc. And so it should. Ryan gets up at the crack of dawn to go to work and isn’t usually home until late. It would be a bit mean of me to then ask him to run the hoover around.

Of course, while I was recovering from my c-section he did. But cleaning wasn’t exactly a top priority during those newborn days. Looking back, they’re a bit of a blur. Now, though, I don’t have quite the same excuse.

But just because the task falls to me, doesn’t mean I enjoy it. Ralphie’s naps are short and sweet, and I’ve found it quite tricky getting everything done. The ironing pile has been known to reach monstrous heights. Who knew that two adults and a baby could create so much washing?

Back in the day I used to be quite a keen ironer. Here’s a fresh-faced me, five years ago, smiling away with that iron in my hand. It’s just not the same any more.

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And the trouble is, because I’m not currently working, I find myself getting stressed about the smallest of things. It’s usually related to keeping the house clean. Yesterday morning I had a go at Ryan for walking around the house with his shoes on. I mean, really…what was I thinking?

So all I want to say is that if you’re a housework hater too, I hear ya. Just because I am now a mum doesn’t automatically make me a domestic goddess. If anything, it has had the opposite effect. Goodness knows what we’ll do when I go back to work.

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Glass half full

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If there’s one glass I don’t want to be half full in my house these days it’s Ralphie’s water cup! Who knew getting a baby to drink water could be so tricky?

So far I’ve bought three little cups to get him to try. One – the Nuby Grip N Sip – has a valve, which I thought he would like to suck on. He loves to chew on it instead! So while it’s great because it doesn’t spill, it’s also not getting any water into that boy’s mouth.

Another, the Vital Baby freeflow sippy cup, has been slightly better received. If I hold him and tip his head back, he does take a little in. I need to tuck a muslin cloth under his chin though, because he ends up a bit soggy otherwise. We started off well, but he’s lost interest and only seems to take in a very small drop at a time.

After he kept grabbing my own glass of water and sipping from it, I went out and got him the Bickiepegs Doidy cup – an open beaker with a slanted rim so he doesn’t have to tip his head right back. So far so good. Although those two handles on the side have a lot to answer for when he’s enthusiastically grabbing the cup and tipping it all over the place. We both got covered yesterday!

The Boots aisle is quite a minefield for an indecisive mama like me – so many beakers to choose from! No doubt I’ll be heading back at some point for another. I do hope he takes to a beaker with a valve when’s he’s bigger, because I really want this one. Think of the photos!

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I don’t know how much water these babies of ours are meant to drink. All I know is that Ralphie’s not been getting all that much since we’ve started weaning. I’ve been sneaking it into him through his purees, and snacks like watermelon and pears have helped. But try as I may, he’s not that bothered about drinking it.

We’ll get there, I’m sure. Maybe he’s more like me than I think. I don’t know why but eight glasses of water a day always ends up being a struggle. No wonder I’ve got wrinkles on my face.

From babies to business: meet the creators

I never fail to be amazed by how many creative, enterprising mothers there are out there, and I feel very lucky to have met, bought from and worked with some of the best over the last few months since my son was born.

As I lie awake at night figuring out what’s next for me and my little family, I’ve been very tempted at times to start my own baby business venture. But then I had another idea. I’ll stick to doing what I do best – writing –  and I’ll use my platform to highlight the fantastic mum-run businesses out there already.

And so is born ‘Meet the creators.’ At least once a month, I will be putting the spotlight on an amazing mama and her business, giving you the opportunity to get to know a bit more about her and learn about what she has to offer. A few you may have heard of and bought from already, others I hope to introduce you to.

The series will launch at the end of this month, profiling a very talented lady who is unveiling her own range of baby sleepsuits very soon. Believe me, they are gorgeous!

I feel truly honoured to be working with her to help launch her business, and I cannot wait for you to see her début collection. I will be sharing more details on my Instagram account over the next few weeks.

If you would like to be featured in my ‘Meet the creators’ series, please do get in touch. You can e-mail me, or send me a direct message via Instagram or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Fighting sleep

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Let’s make this quite clear. The one person  in my household who is not fighting sleep is me! My son, on the other hand…

What I don’t get about it is the inconsistency of it. One night he’s pretty good. The next he decides that it is socially acceptable to wake every couple of hours. It’s not, and I’m trying to get him to understand this.

We’ve come a long way since the newborn days. Ralphie certainly understands the difference between day and night, and getting him to go to bed isn’t usually too much trouble. But it’s when he’s in night mode that it gets tricky. With his eyes half closed – sleep stupor in full swing – he’s quite a difficult beast to reason with. Sometimes you can stick the dummy back in to stem those cries. Other times it’s a gentle rock. But more often than not, he wants a sneaky feed. And when you’re getting up and down so many times in the night, you begin to wonder if he would, in fact, be better off sleeping in the garden.

I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking we really haven’t got it that bad. In the grand scheme of things, we haven’t. But it’s still frustrating. Oh sleeping baby, why do you wake from your peaceful slumber?

The thing is, I know that sleeping isn’t hard, especially when you haven’t got anything to stress about. It’s ironic when you think about it. When I was working, I used to lie awake worrying about deadlines, editorial summaries, staff, you name it. Now, there isn’t a huge amount to keep me up at night. Apart from one thing.

Is there a solution? Of course. With time, he will learn to sleep through. I can’t think of many teenagers who have problems in that department.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait that long. Weaning is now fully underway, and the more I can fill him up, the less reason he will have to wake in the night. Surely.

Keeping (not so) mum

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Nearly seven months into motherhood and I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I have picked up some tricks of the trade along the way. Would I have done anything differently so far if I could do it all again? In the most part, probably not. But, upon reflection, there are some things I wish I had known already before my bun exited the oven.

It got me talking to other mums about their journey so far. If they could go back to the beginning, what pearls of wisdom do they wish they had been privy to? Their insights were brilliant –  so much so that I felt compelled to compile their answers and share them with the world.

So here it is: my ‘motherhood 101’ to help get you through those crazy, early weeks. Thanks for the help if you contributed!

Don’t fret – that baby will come when it’s ready!

Try the old wives’ tales if you must, but your baby will arrive when he or she is good and ready. Ralphie was a week late and in between deep cleaning the house, I tried it all – I even ate a whole pineapple in one sitting. But in the end, he came on his terms, regardless of how many curries or pineapples I consumed, or long walks I went on. You’re allowed to feel fed up and impatient – we all do – but try and relax. Put those feet up for the last time!

The pain of giving birth endures

Ok, ok – you’re rolling you’re eyes and saying “no shit Shirlock – of course giving birth is painful!” But no matter who I spoke to who’d already been through it and no matter how many episodes of One Born Every Minute I watched, nothing could prepare me for the pain. And if you’re yet to experience it, I’m sorry, I don’t even know how to describe it. All I will say is “wow” – it takes your breath away!

But us mums also wish that we’d been better prepared for the fact that things would be pretty painful for quite a while afterwards. I ended up having a c-section, so the pain endured for quite a long time in the end. Give your body as much of a break as you can – tricky when you’re not getting much sleep, I know – and allow it to recover.

Buy maternity pads – and thick ones. You will need them

While you’re at it, you may as well also buy a pack of big pants should the dreaded c-section happen. A friend gave me such advice and I ignored her. More fool me! It’s not fair to send your man out to shop for these things. It’s a minefield for them out there. One mum admitted that her fella came back with breast pads!

You can say no to guests

This one sounds a bit scroogey, but a lot of mums mentioned this and I agree – the initial influx of guests is totally overwhelming. We didn’t say no, and at times it did get a bit much. In hindsight, I think we would have spread the visits out a little more. One mum suggested the total opposite: have a big welcome to the world party and get everyone out of the way in one go! I like your thinking.

You will cry – a lot

I checked – this isn’t just me. I’m a crier – I cry watching films; I cry when I’m happy; gosh, I even cry saying bye to my mum sometimes! Add a few post-pregnancy hormones into the mix and blimey – that’s quite a lethal concoction! Cry away ladies; you’re allowed to. But if it’s all getting too much, please do say so.

Breastfeeding isn’t that easy to begin with

For some mums it’s a bloomin’ nightmare. I was one of the lucky ones, but even I will admit that it wasn’t exactly easy to start off with. Until my milk came in, Ralphie was feeding almost hourly, and it hurt! Pass me the Lansinoh, again.

And if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. Formula fed babies are happy too! You’ve got enough on your plate to deal with than to be stressing about how you’re feeding your little one. Just get them fed!

Development milestones are a rough approximation

During my pregnancy, I regularly checked an app that told me what was going on inside that bump of mine, and I was totally fascinated. One week my baby was the size of a pea, the next an apple. The app continued after birth and within a week or so I had stopped looking at it altogether. Why? Because I’ve got my baby in my arms now. I can see exactly what he’s doing! And so what if he hasn’t rolled over by the time the app thinks he should have done. As all mums can testify, every child is different.

Sleep is overrated

Just kidding! Sleep is great! I’m just a bit bitter that I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over six months. Does it bother me? Sometimes it does, and other times I’m happy to just go with the flow. I know a lot of mums whose babies slept through from a few weeks old – you lucky things. And I also know many more whose babies haven’t and still don’t. What are we doing differently? Probably not a lot. Again, refer to the last point: every child is different. They will all figure it out eventually, I hope.

Some days, getting dressed is an achievement

I have a whole new level of appreciation for mothers. When I turn up to our mum and baby groups, I look around the room and think, well done guys – we’ve all made it out the house and we’re dressed! Maternity leave is not the time for taking up a new hobby. If you get a chance then great. But being a mum really is a 24/7 job – no coffee breaks, no lunch breaks and no toilet breaks.

It’s absolutely fine to ring 111

Before my pregnancy, going to the doctors was a very rare occurrence. And then I was hit with regular midwife appointments, trips to the hospital for scans, and so on. It was all a bit of a shock to the system. I have really got my money’s worth out of the NHS this past year!

Since I’ve had Ralphie, I’ve needed the NHS just as much, and a lot of mums have done too. Being solely responsible for a tiny human is scary. If he develops a rash, or spots, or vomits throughout the night, or has a wheeze when he coughs, I want to know that he’s going to be ok. I called 111 for the first time ever the other week when Ralphie kept projectile vomiting. They booked us into an out of hours GP who checked him over and, thankfully, said he was fine. It really helped to set my mind at ease.

You will get through this

I wish I had the confidence I do now, back then. But the only reason I am more confident is because I’ve learned so much already. As mums go, I think I’m pretty chilled, but I’ve still worried, panicked and doubted myself along the way. Many of us have admitted to frequently checking our babies are breathing when they’re asleep (the irregular breathing noises they make don’t help!) and I think I will continue to do that for years to come.

These babies of ours are so precious, but they’re also pretty durable. Trust your gut instinct and you won’t go far wrong. And most of all, enjoy it. I already can’t believe where the last few months have gone. It won’t be long before Ralphie’s looking after me!

Seven months of snoozing

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I had hoped I would start this post by proudly announcing that Ryan and I have finally assembled Ralphie’s cot. But it hasn’t happened yet. The weekend got quite away from us. The sun was shining and Harry Potter was on the tele – a dangerous combination for avoiding chores.

So it’s at least a few more days in the Snuzpod for Ralphie. I’m sure he doesn’t mind; he’s quite cosy in there. And it means he still gets to sleep next to me!

Now six and a half months old, our boy is getting maximum use out of his little bed. The good folks at The Little Green Sheep recommend you use it until your baby reaches the six month mark, when they can roll over, sit, or pull themselves up. Ralphie can do the first two, but we’ll definitely have him in his cot before he shows any signs of being able to escape. We hope!

It’s quite an investment. Including the mattress, the Snuzpod will set you back about £200. And then you have the mattress protector and sheets on top of that – pretty hefty compared to most moses baskets.

Luckily for us, ours was a generous gift. And it has been by far our most useful, particularly considering that I ended up having an emergency Caesarean section.

For the first few nights, Ralphie slept on his dad’s side of the bed, because I couldn’t twist to pick him up, but after that it was ideal for me. When he woke up for a feed, I could easily whip him out, latch him on and then, when he was done, put him back. Even if I was half asleep – and I usually was – it didn’t take much effort to return him to his own safe sleeping place. I don’t know why, but I was absolutely paranoid about falling asleep with him in the bed with us. I used to wake regularly with a start and frantically ask Ryan where the baby was. Of course, he was in his crib. Crazy lady!

But let me start at the beginning. How did we fair building it? Not too bad, which is pretty good for us! We’ve been known to have raging arguments when assembling furniture together. A rocking chair once nearly ended us.

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I was heavily pregnant at the time, so relegated to the role of assistant – passing Ryan the parts and reading the instructions. It was our most successful team build yet. A few minor mistakes and a couple of hours later and we were done – and we were still talking to each other.

The quality of the crib is second to none. You could tell that before we’d even unpacked it; the box was so heavy. Solid beach wood, thick cotton sides – it’s a robust bit of kit.

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It looks great too. I didn’t know it at the time, but you can buy it in different colours. We have the classic beechwood, but it also comes in grey, white and black – very cool for you monochrome lovers out there.

For the first three months, we had the Snuzpod attached to our bed with the included straps. I had the side down and it was lovely being able to lie next to Ralphie and hold his hand or stroke his head if he was a bit unsettled.

Since then, we’ve used it as a standalone bed. It’s still right next to me, but after sleeping better in his very cosy carrycot when we were away, I thought I’d see if he slept more soundly being a little more enclosed. I think it was the right move.

Although Ralphie has now exceeded the recommended age for the Snuzpod, I’m in no rush to turf him out. There’s something very reassuring about having your sleeping baby next to you. Plus, he does still wake in the night for a feed – or two – so it’s easier for me. Of course, we could have his cot in the room with us instead, but it’s big and I’m not quite sure where it would comfortably fit.

It’ll be a sad day when we pack the Snuzpod away and move Ralphie into his nursery, but the time is coming. And this, I would say, is its biggest flaw. You mean we have to unbuild it in order to store it? We’re not exactly blessed with much storage in our house, so putting it away whole is not an option. Actually, I don’t even know where we’re going to put it once it has been unassembled!

So would I recommend the Snuzpod. In short, yes. But if money is a bit tight then I wouldn’t say it’s an essential. When we go to my mum and dad’s, Ralphie sleeps perfectly well in his carry cot, which we prop up on a stool. At home, we would have to lug this up and downstairs, which admittedly would be a pain, but not the end of the world.

What I will say is that I feel very glad to own one, and we will be keeping hold of it for Ralphie’s future siblings (I hope!). In the meantime, if anyone has somewhere we can store it, feel free to get in touch!

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Eating real food: an update

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We’re just over two weeks into weaning, and I must say that life has suddenly become far less about the poo explosions. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

I think all this puréed veg is bunging my son up. Sorry if this is too much information (and sorry to the future teenage Ralphie that I’m talking so publicly about your bowel movements), but it’s a pretty big deal at the minute! I can’t not discuss it.

Before weaning, Ralphie was very regular – I’m talking twice a day, and plenty of it. Then, suddenly, nothing…for days. I feel like I’m now minding some sort of ticking time bomb. Heaven forbid he goes off when we’re out. Judging by the last two clean-up operations, I would be in serious trouble, as would his clothes!

Is this normal? Well, I’m not sure. It isn’t for Ralphie, but then again, he’s only been eating solid foods for a short while. It’s bound to take some getting used to. I just hope he’s not uncomfortable. He doesn’t seem to be, but then again, we’ve had some rubbish nights recently.

So what’s the answer? More water, I think. But this boy has been so used to getting his supplies from me, he hasn’t worked out how to use his sippy cup yet. At the moment he thinks it’s a great teether – albeit one that squirts a bit of water into his mouth, which invariably dribbles down his chin. We’ll get there!

Alongside the new grub, Ralphie is still breastfeeding. Heavens, despite the extra food I’m giving him in the day, he’s showing no signs of wanting to drop a feed. If anything, he’s having more than usual. I’ve gone from two night wakings, to three or four. Convinced he doesn’t need milk, I’ve been trying other ways to settle him first. But he’s completely inconsolable until I finally relent. I’m puzzled.

On a positive note, Ralphie is eating his food with gusto. Savoury flavours like avocado, parsnip and butternut squash seem to be going down particularly well – he slurps them straight off the spoon. He also seems to quite appreciate it when I mix in a bit of banana or apple too. And yesterday I introduced my childhood favourite – Petit Filous.

As we’re both gaining in confidence, I’m going to start giving him the odd chunk of food to hold and eat himself. I did trial a rusk the other day, but he wasn’t that bothered. Maybe he’ll prefer a banana or slice of avocado – my avocado baby. How middle class!