About Me

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I live in Kent with my husband, toddler Tilly (henceforth known as Monkey) and another baby due in November. We have two cats, Duncan and Lady Macbeth, and four chickens who kindly lay us eggs daily. We live in the picturesque seaside town of Broadstairs. I enjoy reading, knitting and cooking. I'm trying to be a bit 'greener' (not sure how successfully), and to be a gentle parent. Extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping don't freak me out, we use cloth nappies and try to follow some of the ideals of Attachment Parenting. If that sounds as if I know what I'm doing, I don't! I am also a psychotherapist with an interest in Focusing-oriented therapy, and I have a small private practice in the area.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Weighty matters

I feel really fat today, and as often happens when I'm feeling low about the way I look, I over-eat. Which makes me feel worse, of course. I just seem to swing between feeling reasonably okay with myself, and really wanting to lose weight. I can think of lots of reasons to lose the weight:
  • I want to be healthier in general but also with a view to making another baby in 12 months or so;
  • I want to feel more at home in my body, and therefore more attractive. I find it hard to feel sexy when I look like this.
  • I want to dress more creatively and my weight prevents me from doing that because so much doesn't suit me now I'm a size 16/18.
  • We're moving to the seaside and I don't want to be sitting on the beach in my maternity swimsuit.
I could probably go on but I won't. Yesterday I visited a good friend who has just lost around 3 stone on the Slimming World plan. I am so pleased for her and she looks fantastic, but goodness I was so envious of her. I fantasize endlessly about what it would feel like to shed that much weight, how good it would feel to be able to shop wherever I liked, not to be hiding under cardigans and jeans. But I just can't seem to give up this obsession with food. And I don't use that word lightly, I really do feel obsessed with food. I become terribly anxious if I don't know when and what I am next eating. I always need to feel full, and my choices from a menu are often based upon how large I estimate the portion to be, rather than what tempts my tastebuds. I actually feel quite embarrassed writing that. 
I would like to be able to just cut down on the amount I eat and to slowly readjust to a healthier weight, but that doesn't seem possible. I think the only way I can tackle this is to follow a slimming plan, probably Slimming World as this is the one I've got along with best (and I also think it's the healthiest as there is no calorie restriction). I have two issues with this though. First is simply my lack of willpower and the difficulty in avoiding 'bad' foods, particularly as my husband and I are fortunate enough to eat out often. I don't have a very sweet tooth but I do crave Indian food and other savoury takeaway food. I can cook a great curry myself but it just doesn't hit the spot. The dieter's feeling of being deprived builds up insidiously until the Wanted Thing becomes the only thing thought about. My second 'problem' with following a conventional diet plan is that in order for it to succeed I have to be as obsessed with food as I am when I am not dieting. It's just swapping out-of-control for total control, but what I really want is to be somewhere in the middle. I just don't know how to get there. I've been seeing a homeopathic practitioner about this issue, which has been fascinating but hasn't cracked it yet. She has approached it from a more holistic angle and her consultations have delved into the root of the problem, my lack of confidence. That perhaps what is stopping me from losing weight is the fear of truly showing or revealing myself. This, I guess, is similar to Susie Orbach's thesis in Fat Is A Feminist Issue, that the weight is a cushion or shield from the world. 
Is analysis any use though? I've had five years of therapy and I haven't changed (with regard to this particular issue). I wrote my MA thesis about women and body image as part of working-through: nothing changed. Do I just need a kick up the backside, an injection of self-discipline and motivation? That's how it appears to me now, that I need to go back to the slimming group, avoid eating out, plan my menu well in advance and just bloody well stick to it. 
Answers on a postcard please (or alternatively just post a comment!)

Friday, 29 May 2009

Monkey's Tea Party

The Duck Cake, courtesy of Nanna

It went down very well!

A family afternoon

Opening presents

Thank you all for your good wishes, both to the Monkey and to me. We had a lovely day yesterday, and it really did feel like a celebration. I had a last-minute dash to Sainsbury's for party snacks (not a single home-made thing, I was being easy on myself!), bought a couple of helium balloons, spread some blankets and toys out in the garden and hey-presto, we had ourselves a tea party. Both sets of grandparents were there, plus one Great-Nanna, five Mummy and Daddy friends with their babies. Best of all, Daddy was able to be there. Nanna's duck cake looked perfect and tasted delicious. Monkey had lots of cards and some beautiful presents including a wooden shape sorter and some Osteheimer animals (the African animals). I was pleased that she wasn't snowed under with gifts, and that she received lots of lovely books. 
Now we move onto the next year, and I've a feeling that this will contain some significant challenges in terms of coping with strong feelings and a determined, willful little girl! It's something I'm not at all confident about managing well, but I'm sure we'll do our best for her. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

365 Days

One day turns into the next. My baby girl is one year old today. I am completely taken aback by how emotional I feel right now. I hadn't thought that this would be a Big Deal but oh my, it is. I'd been wondering, perhaps because she is too young to know what a birthday was, how to 'do' this day? I have only just realised that actually there is so very much to celebrate. We have been a family for one year, we have survived the sleepless nights, the anxiety and the worry. A year of breastfeeding. A year of loving and laughing. Of being Good Enough. And so I celebrate my first year of mothering. The champagne is in the fridge chilling and in the morning I go to buy balloons.

This time last year I was in labour. The midwives had been at the house for a couple of hours and I was probably about to get into the pool. I've just looked on my Mum's Club forum and found the birth story that  I posted, I'll copy it at the end of this post. It all seems so long ago, the memories so unclear and hazy. I wish I could replay it all back and remember it well, there are so many gaps and inconsistencies. I want to know when Dave called my parents and what he said, I want to remember what my body was feeling, whether I felt an urge to push and whether I felt my baby turning and moving her way down. Next time, I want to be present and remember. 

I gave birth to Matilda Beatrice on Wednesday 28th May at 11.33am (40+4). She weighed 7lbs 15oz and has a mass of beautiful dark hair. Matilda was posterior throughout most of pregnancy, so I was quite surprised to go into labour spontaneously on the Tuesday afternoon. My Braxton Hicks had become a little painful and were very regular, lasting 45 seconds and at 5 minute intervals. I didn't believe I was *really* in labour, but I put the Tens machine on and bounced on my ball. At 9pm we called the midwife out (she greeted us with the slightly unnerving announcement that she'd never done a waterbirth before) and I was expecting her to tell me to just try and get some sleep, but when she examined me I was 4 cms dilated. I don't know if she was rougher than she should be, but that first internal was absolutely excruciating.

DH inflated the pool, and I lit candles and burned some oils... I tried to eat something but all I could manage was a few spoons of ice cream with sugar sprinkles! The midwife asked me to delay getting into the pool because my temperature was rising and she was concerned that I might have an infection, but we cooled the house down a little and it stopped increasing. I spent a couple of hours labouring in the pool as the contractions became more painful. The midwives had managed to bring two almost-empty cannisters of entenox, which was frustrating.

As things progressed I became quite disheartened and negative... for some reason I just didn't believe that the baby was going to be born, or that I could 'do it', and I started asking to go to hospital for an epidural! DH and the midwives were great, giving me a good talking to, telling me I could do it. I got out of the pool for an examination and didn't get back in because I was finding it a bit warm and claustrophobic. I had a lot of pain in my bottom during contractions, and sort of 'hung' with the midwife supporting me. (I had two midwives present throughout my labour).

At 6am my membranes were ruptured by the midwife, with what felt like a very blunt hook... it was unbelievably painful and quite distressing, but the relief was immense when they went. Soon after, there was a change of shift and the midwife who had taken care of me during the pregnancy arrived, bringing with her a much needed gentle, calm yet confident demeanour. I had to wait to dilate a little more because I had a cervical lip, but by about 7.30am I was ready to push, and did so, unexpectedly, in our spare room.

I don't remember much of the 2nd stage, but I know I was again quite despondent and didn't believe I could get the baby out. There was a ray of light when I was told that the baby's head was visible, and that she had lots of hair... DH and I had a little cry :-) I pushed at home for a good hour and a half, but by this point was exhausted and begging to go to hospital (even though the midwife kept reminding me that I couldn't have an epidural now!). We agreed to try for two more contractions, and then we made the call for an ambulance. At this point my contractions were also weakening, so it seemed the safest thing to do. You might remember that I posted about my fear of going to hospital in an ambulance... well, it was absolutely fine and as requested we had no lights or sirens.

My midwife Karen transferred with me, and although we thought I might need a ventouse or forceps, by the time I got to the delivery suite we were told it was unnecessary and baby was nearly here. I was given an episiotomy but I think I was quite out of my body as I was struggling to listen to the midwife's instructions about when to push and when not to. Crowning was of course excruciating, but we got the head out and then Matilda was born with the next contraction. I only used gas & air throughout, and I do feel very proud of myself!

I had a physiological third stage, and delivered the placenta in about 15 mins. Matilda was put straight on to my chest and DH cut her cord after it had finished pulsating. In that respect my birth plan was honoured and I feel very happy about that.

Things went a little pear-shaped after delivery, in that I bled into where I'd been sutured, resulting in a haematoma. The 4 hours after delivery are a haze, DH reports that I had 5 midwives around the bed trying to hold me down, I was in so much pain. They manually evacuated it twice, but at 4pm I was taken into theatre and (ironically, after no pain relief during the labour) was operated on under epidural. I lost a lot of blood and was given a transfusion later that evening; Matilda stayed with me except when I was in theatre obviously.

Unfortunately that night Matilda's breathing was a little laboured, and she was taken for a chest x-ray and a lumbar puncture, which showed signs of infection. She was immediately started on iv antibiotics, and we had to stay in hospital for 7 days whilst she completed the course. We were together on the post-natal ward throughout, and she showed no ill-effects of the infection or treatment.

Our transfer to hospital was fortuitous given Matilda's infection and my bleed. I don't regret going in, and I'm glad we spent the majority of our time at home. I found the labour scarier and more painful than I ever allowed myself to think during the pregnancy, and I think that the overwhelming pain and fear made it quite hard to do a lot of what I had imagined I would do in labour- the pain just overtook everything else. My positive experience of hospital treatment and the AMAZING staff in the delivery suite and on the ward has been an unexpected positive outcome and challenged my negative beliefs.

Phew, that was long!

Sam & Matilda Beatrice
1 week & 1 day

8 Things...

I've been tagged by Rach at Three Little Monkeys... rather than tagging anyone please just join in if you like and add a comment so I can find yours!

8 Things I Am Looking Forward To
  1. My Monkey's first birthday tomorrow!
  2. If it ever happens, moving into our new home by the seaside. And decorating it. And living there happily ever after with my lovely hubby.
  3. Getting some chickens.
  4. Family birthday lunch on Saturday.
  5. My next lie-in, whenever that might be!
  6. Scampi, chips and peas for supper tonight.
  7. Some sunny weather (purrrlease!).
  8. Spending time with my bestest girlfriend this weekend.

8 Things I Did Yesterday
  1. Saw 4 clients.
  2. Made a lovely supper of roasted veg with harissa, houmous, falafel and couscous.
  3. Manically spent 90 mins tidying the house for a viewing that lasted about 3 minutes.
  4. Showered.
  5. Enjoyed watching the Monkey's new 'trick' of babbling into a pretend phone.
  6. Saw DH sneak home with birthday pressies (no, I haven't looked!).
  7. Stroked the cats and chased away the neighbourhood Evil Ginger Bully.
  8. Tried, and failed, to learn blanket stitch.

8 Things I Wish I Could Do
  1. Blanket stitch, lol!
  2. Play the piano.
  3. Speak another language fluently.
  4. Lose weight. Sorry, that has to be the dullest and most predictable answer ever.
  5. Remember to do my pelvic floor exercises (oops TMI!)
  6. Be better at having arguments, i.e. deal with anger more effectively.
  7. Add an extra 2 hours on to each day specifically for reading.
  8. Write a novel, or poetry, or a children's book.

8 Shows I Watch (or listen to, for I am including the radio here!)
  1. The Great British Menu
  2. The Today Programme, R4
  3. Woman's Hour, R4
  4. The Apprentice (if you also enjoy The Apprentice, watch this, but be warned, tis a little rude in parts)
  5. Battlestar Galactica
  6. The West Wing
  7. Secret Millionaire
  8. E.R. (for which I am currently in mourning and have saved the last 2, unwatched, episodes on SkyPlus for when I am strong enough to cope with the loss)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A few holiday photos

The seafront at San Sebastian... and a blob has appeared on my camera lens, boo-hoo!

Me and my hubby, in Biarritz

Monkey and I outside our bed & breakfast in Jurancon, nr Pau.

This B&B was a real find, on the edge of the Pyrenees and with its own vineyard (and wine!)

Monkey and her friend Mylo looking snug in their mei tais

Intermission Over!

I'm back, and blogging again. It's been absolutely ages, sorry for disappearing. We've been back from holiday since Friday but I just haven't felt inclined to post. Sometimes I find myself in a phase of just reading other people's blogs (and immensely enjoying them) but not really feeling like I've got much to say myself. And then of course there is the perennial battle: do I read a book (fiction? non-fiction? something work-related?), do I craft, do I bake... or do I aimlessly surf the internet and get lost jumping stepping-stones from blog to blog (via Amazon, Myriad etc)?
There's not a lot of news chez nous. It is the Monkey's first birthday on Thursday and at the last minute I've decided to throw a little tea party for her, just Grandparents and a couple of her baby friends. I can't believe she is going to be one. I'm sure a lot of you know how that feels! Today she has started putting wooden blocks or a glasses case to her ear and babbling into it as if she is on a phone. Part of me is so thrilled because it is deliciously cute and adorable, the other part of me is slightly concerned that the first little 'trick' she has learned involved miming her parents being on a mobile phone. Oh the times they are a changing.. and all that. 
House news, well, there isn't much. It's all still going ahead, but at a snail's pace.
I'm reading a really interesting biography by Allegra Huston (John Huston's daughter and Anjelica Huston's sister). It's called Love Child, it's not the sort of thing I usually read but I heard her on Radio 4 and I liked what I heard and so bought the book. It's a Hollywood memoir but from the perspective of a girl who didn't really belong in that environment. She's clearly very intelligent and the book is more about her sense of not belonging and her unconventional family than a 'dish-the-dirt' type memoir.
Not much crafting going on... I'm attempting to make a birthday crown for Monkey from The Creative Family but it's very slow progress; I've cut out the felt but I need to teach myself blanket stitch before I can continue. I foresee a few late nights ahead....

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Quick Friday Five...

...Things I'm Loving

  1. Green & Black's organic chocolate hazelnut spread. Surely this can't have been created by mortal hands? 
  2. Kirstie's Handmade Home on Channel 4. Patchwork quilting, spinning, knitting, on prime time television, yay!
  3. Monkey's first shoes. Even though they only had pink ones in her size.
  4. Mummy's new shoes (oops)
  5. My new chicken book.

Bedtime Tears

The tears in question are the Monkey's and Mummy's. Bedtime is something that has been hovering in my mind for a while now. I've always breastfed Monkey to sleep and then once she's asleep, transferred her to her cot. It's the easiest and most reliable way to get her to bed, and of course it's also lovely for her. There are a couple of issues with this, the first being that she is dependent on me to get her to sleep. Daddy just won't do, which is hard for him because I know he'd love to be able to settle her. It is also hard on me at times, because although I enjoy our evening snuggles I also find myself getting impatient if she doesn't fall asleep quickly enough. The other difficulty with this bedtime routine is that she has become rather cot-phobic. She has to be FAST asleep when I put her in, otherwise she wakes immediately and cries. In the mornings when she wakes she now cries immediately to come out, whereas previously she might play with her toys a little or talk to herself. During the day I can't sit her down in her cot while I run a bath or shower, it causes instant and vocal disapproval. So, for a while now I've wanted to change things. I don't want to do controlled crying, I don't expect her to get herself to sleep entirely by herself, but I do feel that it would be beneficial for her to develop a more positive relationship with her sleeping space and for us to accustom her to being there whilst awake. I feel that by putting her in the cot when she is asleep and taking her out as soon as she wakes we are almost reinforcing to her that the cot is a Bad Place.
What has stopped me making a change before now is that our little girl gets very upset when my nipple is taken from her mouth, and even more upset the moment her body touches the cot mattress. We have on a couple of occasions left her to cry a short while to see if she would drop off but she has got distressed and so have we, we've abandoned trying to do things differently because we've questioned whether the change is worth the upset. But whose upset? I think this is a crucial question for me. I've rationalised leaving things as they are by referring to AP principles and telling myself that I am meeting her needs by nursing her to sleep, being a Good Mother. That may well be true, but I now believe that the real reason is that I am meeting my own need, in particular my need not to feel bad or to have to deal with my daughter's anger or upset. This is why I haven't persisted with a gentle and kind change to Monkey's routine. Doing this gently and kindly means (to me) staying with her if she cries and until she falls asleep, and doing whatever I can to soothe her whilst she remains in her cot.
Now the mistake I made is not thinking this through in advance, and deciding on the spur of the moment that perhaps tonight was the night that she should go to sleep in her cot. Not one of my better ideas considering that I was going out for my massage at 8pm and MIL was coming round to babysit. After almost an hour or stroking and singing, Monkey was in her cot, sans nipple, but defiantly not asleep and crying hard whenever I moved away. I decided, rightly or wrongly, to leave anyway and MIL came upstairs to sit with her. I asked her to try to soothe her for another ten minutes or so, and then to get her out of the cot if she was still upset.
I felt awful leaving. I felt terrible that my actions were the cause of her distress. But the massage was a gift, not because of the healing touch (my muscles were tensing up again as fast as my massage therapist could release them) but because it gave me the time to process what was happening for me. I realised that this was not so much about choosing a particular style of parenting, and for the first time I felt quite certain about the course of action I had chosen. No, the core of this issue was my fear of disapproval. I can't bear ruptured relationships, I go out of my way to avoid conflict, I avoid anger and I submerge my own needs in the face of another's. Lying on the massage couch I found my mind concocting terrible scenarios of the baby falling ill, being rushed to hospital and me not being there. My punishment for making her do something she didn't want to do. I found myself desperate for the massage to end, to be able to go home and make it all better. And it all began to become clearer, that this is a familiar pattern for me, this is something that is hard for me. It might not be absolutely necessary for Monkey to be able to settle in her cot, but it is something I want for her. This is the first of many battles of will, and I need to get my head around that, I need to get comfortable with providing boundaries, saying no, being the parent. Hopefully in a gentle, collaborative way, but it is unrealistic to hope that it will always be like that. Monkey is a cherished, adored, calm and peaceful baby, our bond is strong enough to withstand her temporary anger and frustration.
All was well with the Monkey when we woke (late) this morning, we've had a lovely day meeting with two friends and their May babies. This evening I felt a lot better giving the new 'routine' another try. When she first started showing signs of tiredness we snuggled up on the sofa for booby and cuddles. When she seemed ready for bed I took her upstairs and lay her in the cot, and she started to cry. I hummed a tune and rubbed her back, and she nuzzled into her quilt and soft rabbit, the crying almost immediately changed to a sing-song moan, and over the next five minutes she gradually drifted off to sleep. I couldn't believe it! I'm not going to jinx myself by claiming this as a remarkable success, I think it's more likely that she was exhausted from the day's exploits. But a nice, stress-free bedtime, and now Mummy and Daddy are going to snuggle up themselves!