These made me cry

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Just had to do a quick blog post about the wonderful Anna Lewis and her artwork – I stumbled across her on Instagram and every single one of her beautiful drawings resonated with me. Most of them had me sniffing in tears. They absolutely sum up what motherhood is like, and I feel like buying and framing them all (except that would be quite weird and I’d probably cry everytime I looked at them, which might make getting things done around the house difficult).

 

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My absolute favourite is this one below and I’ll be ordering it for sure – it’s so simple, so poignant, so damn TRUE and I just love it. Check her out on Etsy, Facebook and Twitter. And grab some tissues first. Sniff.il_570xN.899008951_qwkb

 

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Midweek Musings: the house hunt is on!

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This photo is proof that styling is not my forte. But still, Moet! Cheers!

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this but, after being on the market on and off for nearly two whole years, Oli has finally sold his house. It’s a long story but it was a lovely house in need of renovation and we ummed and ahhed about whether or not to move there (for about a year, no joke), but it was in NW London which was always going to be a bit too far from my family. Anyway it went into auction yesterday and about an hour before it was due to be auctioned, Oli accepted an offer from a buyer and the contracts were exchanged!

This finally means we are free to try to find a family home. The only problem is that neither of us is quite sure exactly where we want to live (well, Wimbledon Village would be nice but is sadly out of our price range). We both like being in London for the convenience and the fact it’s near to our friends/work, but we also both hate London as a place to bring up Chip – too many people and too much pollution. I’m kind of exhausted just thinking about trying to make a decision to be honest. But still, it’s so exciting because we can finally actually start looking at houses in earnest, and in a ‘good’ position which is so critical when the market is so competitive!

eMoov, London Underground Property Map

Click to enlarge!

I was actually sent a press release yesterday with this nifty map attached showing the average house prices per tube stop – it’s crazy how just moving one stop away from your preferred location can save you up to half a million pounds in some cases. Unsurprisingly Colliers Wood (where we live – I call it Wimbledon cos it’s the same postcode and no one has heard of CW, and everyone in the entire world has heard of Wimbledon) is one of the cheapest areas on the Northern line. I actually think it represents really good value for money and would consider staying here if it wasn’t quite so traffic-choked.

On another note, because there’s always got to be some ying with the yang, this weekend my car started playing up. It’s eleven years old now and possibly ‘had it’ – the last service was more than a grand and given that it’s only worth £1500 I’m not entirely sure whether I want to sink even more money into fixing it. But at the same time, the idea of buying another car fills me with dread. Not only are most of them ugly these days (is it just me?!), they are ruddy expensive. I was a bit shocked when I started looking into over the weekend. I know a car is a luxury, especially in London, but I’ve always had one – ever since I passed my test – and there’s something about the sense of freedom it gives that really matters to me. A couple of times over the past ten years I’ve been technically ‘homeless’ and my car was the one thing I owned and although it sounds silly that was really important to me. Because of this I’m reluctant to go car-less at the grand old age of 35. I guess I’m set in my ways, and I can’t think of a nice way of getting the cat to the vet’s without it. So… winning the lottery is required at some point in the not-too-distant future, please and thank you.

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The truth about parenting sleep deprivation

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‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’? I HAVE SHIT TO DO!

You will start writing this post eighteen times before finishing it.

A ‘good’ night will be one when you sleep for more than three hours in a row. You will feel like superwoman after this night. Ideas will flow, ambitions will be unsurpassed. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING THAT DAY.

If your baby does decide to sleep for more than three hours in a row, you’ll be terrified they’ve died. So you won’t be able to sleep anyway because you’ll keep leaning over their cot to hear them breathe, and probably waking them up in the process.

People will ask you how your weekend was, and you will have absolutely no idea. Even though it’s only Monday.

Mothers whose babies sleep through the night will offer you unsolicited pearls of wisdom and you will understand what it is like to feel murderous rage. Topped off with a side of shame and failure.

‘Have you tried a bedtime routine?’ *headdesk*

It will become a twisted badge of honour to proclaim to anyone who will listen: ‘Well, I didn’t even sleep well when I was pregnant. So technically I haven’t slept through the night since LAST JULY! Ha ha ha!’

Your dreams, when you have them and actually remember them, will have you considering a course of therapy… ‘I did what with WHO?’

If you succumb to co-sleeping in desperation, you may wake your partner one night in a panic and scream ‘where’s the baby? WHERE’S THE BABY?’ while pawing at the bed in the dark, not realising that she’s actually – shock horror – happily asleep in her OWN COT.

Co-sleeping will turn you into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. So long as the baby’s comfy right?

One night in the depth of the antisocial hours, you will pick up your partner’s arm, instead of the baby, and try to put it back in its cot*. You will yank it and yank it and wonder why it isn’t moving. Your partner will be so tired he will barely notice.

Many an evening will come when, while trying to get the baby to sleep using tried-and-failed methods such as shushing and stroking, you will fall asleep yourself.

You will shush until you faint.

No sheep will ever let you down like Ewan the Dream Sheep. Promised so much, delivered so little.

You will look back on the nights pre-baby when you had a mild bout of insomnia, or a bit of jet lag, and remember how you felt you WERE SO TIRED YOU COULDN’T FUNCTION. And you will laugh hollow laughter as you inject coffee into your eyeballs and try to do life admin while looking after a screaming baby, having slept for about thirty five minutes the previous night.

There will come at time when, at 4am and when your infant is singing away to herself with no intention of sleeping, you will burst into tears. And you’ll just go for it. Really let loose – proper sobs. Accompanied by cries of: ‘It’s not fair! IT’S NOT FAIR! WHY DOESN’T SHE WANT TO SLEEP!!’. And your baby will be so shocked at the noise, she’ll shut up and fall asleep.

Hunt-the-dummy in the pitch dark will become your newest and most hated game.

There will be approximately sixteen dummies in your bedroom – in the cot, in your bed, under your bed, in your hair… yet you will never be able to find one before the crying escalates to screaming.

You will consider using earplugs to drown out your baby’s night-time singsongs but then be terrified of accidentally dropping one in their cot and having them swallow it. You will ball your fists as you realise even these small solutions are denied to you.

Your baby will often decide that the day should start at 5.30am. Nothing you do will persuade her to go back to sleep. So you will begrudgingly get up, pour yourself an enormous mug of tea, rub your eyes and entertain her, only to have her YAWN at you. For real.

Every now and then your baby will shock you by not waking up at her usual time in the middle of the night. But of course you still will. Ha ha.

*I actually did this. Sorry Oli.

Find out the truth about life with a newborn >

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Midweek Musings: Baby Bottles and Nursery Progress

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Hello there! I don’t often do reviews on here (mostly because the things I am offered aren’t usually relevant) but when Scandi brand Twistshake got in touch with me and offered me one of their new baby bottles to review, I couldn’t say no. (That sounds so cheesy and hackneyed but it’s true).

As Daphne has always been bottle fed, we’ve been through our fair share of different bottles – we started out with the ones that came with my breast pump, then we moved onto Dr Brown’s Anti-Colic, which I think were good but were a right palaver and a half to wash up, and then we moved onto Mam’s Self-sterilising Anti-Colic bottles which we currently use. They’ve been pretty good and I don’t have much to complain about with them (although Daph hated their fancy teat and so we still use Dr Brown teats with them), but the Twistshake is quite frankly genius thanks to one thing – the little powder box it comes with.

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When we moved onto powdered milk, this really worried me – how would we store the powder when we went out? I know you can get little plastic boxes but they looked fiddly and lots of people said how much they leaked. To avoid the issue completely, we usually make up a bottle then flash-cool it and take it with us, keeping it in a cool bag (or fridge if we’re at a friend’s) until Daph needs it. I’m pretty sure the NHS would string me up for this, but touch wood it’s been OK so far. But today I went to my mum’s and I roadtested the Twistshake and it was just brill – I simply scooped out the powder required into the little powder box then tucked that neatly back into the bottle. Then topped it up with slightly cooled boiled water when I needed to make up Daph’s feed.

I’ve seen that you can also use this powder box to store snacks for older kids (like cucumber sticks etc) which is another brilliant idea. I do like a multi-functional invention!

The bottles are bright and colourful (I hated the look of the Dr Brown ones) and very easy to use, with a special powder filter that stops any lumps from clogging up the teat. They’re Anti Colic too, although Daph no longer has colic so I can’t comment on that. They kind of look like grown-up drinks bottles I think! I love the fact that the colours are bold and not insipid or very clearly gender-specific. We use blue Mam bottles (as well as pink ones) and it annoys me that the pictures on them are clearly designed for boys.

The only downside of the Twistshake is that (as far as I can tell) they are not self-sterilising like the Mam ones – this is a real plus for me as we don’t have space for a separate steriliser in our stuffed-to-the-brim kitchen. Otherwise though, I’m impressed, and very happy to recommend them. They’re available on Amazon

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Daph ‘helping’ with the cot build

In other news, this week we’ve been getting Daphne’s nursery ready for her to move into when she’s six months old (in just over two weeks). Sniff! Part of me can’t wait to move her into her own room because quite frankly, she’s a noisy little bugger and between around 2am and 5am just basically makes noise non-stop – singing, gurgling, shouting, crying, you name it. But then part of me is really soppy and can’t bear the idea of her not being next to me anymore, all soft and snuffly and smelling of babies. I will miss her!

As we’re hoping to move house at some point this year we didn’t want to spend too much money on the nursery, so we’ve really just made do with what we’ve already got, and bought a few new touches like a rug (not the horrible old one in the picture!), some artwork and a cot mobile, to try to make it nice for her. I’ll do a proper nursery ‘tour’ post when it’s all finished but the cot is in and looks fab, and my mum is busy adjusting the existing cheap Ikea curtains (finally cutting them to the right size for the window and lining them with blackout lining). She’s also making a cot bumper for me. My mum is a superstar! I really need to learn how to do this kind of stuff – seriously considering a sewing course at some point…

The one thing that I have yet to manage to source is a nice lampshade for the boring pendant light fitting. We have a bright pink one (also Ikea) up now that I bought when I first moved in and it’s just dull dull dullsville. I’d love something quirky but not too expensive. Or cheesy. If anyone has any bright ideas, I’d love to hear them!

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My breastfeeding story – part three

This week, my mum read my five-month baby update post, and told me it was ‘much better than the one with all those pictures of breast pumps’. So sorry, to anyone who feels similarly – I know the last two posts on my experiences with breastfeeding have been heavy on the TMI factor, feel free to skip if detail of this kind of thing is not for you!

I had quite a lot of responses from my last post, but mostly on Facebook (if you’re on Facebook and fancy giving me a like, you can do so here!). Some of them made me feel defensive again, and then I had to take some deep breaths and remember that it’s me who’s being oversensitive and that people (on the whole) mean well. On a similar note, when Daphne was first born and I was still trying my best to breastfeed with little luck, I changed my Facebook profile picture to one of me, Daph and Oli, and in the picture Oli was feeding Daph from a bottle. I got lots of likes (as you do when you put up pictures of your newborn baby, I’ve been happy to discover!) and comments, but then some random Facebook acquaintance wrote ‘Bless. Is that formula she’s drinking?’ and I burst into ridiculous tears.

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The photo that sent me over the edge

I also felt furious with her for thinking she had any right to comment or ask, and considered writing back that it was none of her bloody business, but instead, I did the rather more kneejerk thing and deleted the comment and removed her as a friend. Such were my levels of sensitivity. The irony was that Daphne was actually drinking expressed milk. Ha.

On a similar note, I remember an innocuous comment on the Whatsapp thread of my NCT group – it seemed my group had universally got the hang of breastfeeding, and there was just one other lady who had had issues with it at the start – it was such a relief not to be the only black sheep. But then she managed to get the hang of it after a week or so, and said something like ‘So glad I’ve managed it, it’s SO worth it’. Again, not intended as a dig (it’s not all about you Charlotte!) but I couldn’t help but take it as yet more criticism and evidence of my failure.

I started to seek out friends who’d had similar issues, and I can’t tell you how comforting it was to hear of mates who’d stopped after a month with mastitis, or those who’d hated the whole thing – not that I was pleased that other people were going through what I was going through, but it really stopped me feeling like the Only Person In the World Who Couldn’t Breastfeed.

Anyway, I continued to try. I continued to pump as much as humanly possible, but as Daphne got bigger she inevitably got hungrier, and the amount of milk I could express began to fall behind what she needed more and more, meaning she had to have more formula to make up the shortfall. Every day I would pump some milk then sit with Daph and try to get her to latch on with the nipple shield, and I would say only one day in ten did she manage it – most of the time she just screamed and hit me and went purple with rage. I’d try until I felt like my head would explode, before inevitably collapsing into sobs too. It was horrible and worst of all – ruining those precious early days with my baby.

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Sorry mum, it’s another breast pump

I decided I needed to up my milk supply, and so I started taking Fenugreek. It’s a galactagogue?! For those not in the know – a weird herb that smells of curry and makes you smell of maple syrup (it really does!) but somehow increases the amount of milk you produce. I was taking huge amounts of the stuff in the hope that it would boost my supply, and it did, but only for a day or two. I ate ridiculously expensive ‘breastfeeding bars’ (which tasted nice but not sure had much impact). I also hired an industrial breast pump – the Medela Symphony – which was a beast of a machine, and bought a hands-free breast pump bra so that I could work both boobs at the same time.

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Yes, you can actually buy food that helps you breastfeed

One day, I went to my parents’ for Sunday lunch, and left the funnel part of my portable pump at home. This was probably my lowest point – I  was beside myself with anxiety knowing that I wouldn’t be able to pump for at least four hours, which meant a) my boobs would be in agony and b) it would reduce my supply the next day. But a teeny tiny part of me was relieved. It meant, for the first time since Chip was born, I could have a nice Sunday lunch with my whole family, and not have to scuttle off and shut myself in a room alone (and away from my lovely baby) for half an hour to pump.

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I actually think this damaged my boobs!

I continued though, using the monster machine. One day, I noticed that my nipples had started to go white. My boobs also ached unbearably as if they were bruised. I wondered if I was doing them some damage with all this pumping and suction. I googled the white nipple thing and found hundreds of other posts from other pumping mums complaining of the same thing. Apparently it’s when the blood supply to your nipple begins to be cut off. It’s called NIPPLE BLANCHING. Doesn’t sound good does it?

About a week after this, I realised that I was pumping less milk each day, despite pumping just as often. My boobs were giving up on me. It was almost like they were giving me permission to stop – all the advice said ‘pump more to increase your supply’ but nothing I did made any difference. It started to hurt so much I couldn’t bear it. I’d never been more miserable while never being more in love. Just short of six weeks after Daphne was born, I pumped my last bottle of milk – a measly 25ml. I left it on the side in the kitchen and never even bothered to feed it to her. It seemed such a derisory amount now that she was so much bigger and hungrier. In tears, I asked Oli to tip it down the sink.

In a way, my body dictated when I stopped. But my mind started catching up, and the feeling of relief when I finally said to myself ‘right, I’m not going to do this anymore’ was overwhelming. Now I could sit and cuddle my baby without trying to force her to do something she didn’t want to do! Now I no longer had to sit there for hours on end with a machine vibrating away and sucking at my nipples! Now I could wear NORMAL BRAS and normal clothes – daft things that started to help me rebuild my self-esteem.

I couldn’t wait to get rid of the huge, ugly industrial pump. I packed away all the things related to breastfeeding – my poor worn out Medela Swing, the bottles, my nipple shields, nipple cups (used to catch leaks – EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS), breast pads, nipple creams, horrible breastfeeding bras. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sob as I did this, but I’d look over at my lovely, happy, healthy baby and keep reminding myself that that was all that mattered. I put the whole experience into a mental box and stuck it in my mental cupboard under the stairs. Something to deal with another day. Now I was going to get on with being a mum.

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My tiny, happy formula-fed baby

And every day, it’s been a bit easier. Every day, I’ve felt a bit happier about it. I spent hours doing research into the benefits of breastfeeding and it’s all very inconclusive. There’s slight evidence that it stops your baby getting tummy bugs in the first year (most likely because there’s more risk of contamination with bottle-fed babies) but all the stuff about them not getting obese, or diabetes or having higher IQs is totally unproven.

Now that Daph is five months old and happy and we’re totally into the swing of things with formula – I do wonder if I had another baby whether I would put myself through all the heartache again. I almost feel I’d be afraid to try – for me, breastfeeding = insanity. And now, I have a different perspective on it when I talk to my friends who are breastfeeding and are stuck to their babies 24/7, unable to go out for more than an hour or two without pumping. I feel almost smug and liberated. I love that Oli can feed Daph just as easily as me too.

I read a lot about breastfeeding during my six-week struggle, and there were a few articles that really really helped me. I’ve linked to them below in case they help you too. I’d also advise you to stay away from bloody KellyMom – for me, it feels like every article is written as if to say there’s no other way than the breast. And for anyone who’s dealing with a similar situation, there’s one piece of advice that I’d like to pass on. I can’t remember where I read it now, and it sounds a bit wanky, but it was basically about letting your child choose their own path, and respecting their decisions. In my case, Daphne very definitely ‘chose’ to be bottle-fed – probably because of her early experiences but still. I had to take myself in hand and ask why exactly I was persisting in trying to force her to do something she didn’t want to do – was it mostly for my own self-esteem? In which case, I was failing as a parent anyway.

It was this little kernel of thought that really allowed me to give up. And it’s something I’m going to bear in mind as general parenting advice in future too.

The Case Against BreastfeedingThe Atlantic

The Backlash Against BreastfeedingThe Guardian

Fearless Formula Feeder

Why Formula Feeding Was Right for Me – Parenting.com

Read part one of my breastfeeding story >

Read part two of my breastfeeding story >

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