International Women’s Day 2018

international women's day

Happy international women’s day!

international women's day

Before the baby was born, I told everyone I didn’t mind whether we had a boy or a girl.

I lied.

I wanted a girl desperately.

Throughout the tough pregnancy, I thought to myself that if we had a girl, I could be happy being done. If we had a boy, I might have tried to put myself through it again to get a daughter.

The need to have a daughter was strange. I know I would have loved a son. We had a boy’s name chosen from really early in pregnancy, and I could almost picture my little Toby. He would have been wonderful, and I’d have loved him just as fiercely as I love my baby Yaya.

I have lots of male friends, I like lots of men (my husband and dad are two of my favourite people!), I’m closest to my little boy bunny… But I am so glad she is a girl.

I feel sort of uncomfortable admitting it. (I promise, it’s not to do with the clothes!)

Part of it is that I know girls. I went to a girls’ school. From the ages of 11-18, I didn’t interact with boys. They’re almost like an alien species to me. Meeting boys when I went to university was weird. I feel like I know a huge range of different women, with different interests and personalities, whereas I don’t have that range with men.

My daughter might want to take ballet classes or beg for a pony. She might join the army and wear exclusively male clothes. I know women who do all of those things.

Life is a bit easier for a masculine woman than a feminine man. If she wants to be a racing driver or a doctor or a linguist or a nursery school teacher, people won’t judge her. If she wants to wear skirts or Doc Martens, she can.

I’m not ultra feminine. Most days I don’t wear makeup. I have some kind of genetic inability to do anything good with my hair. I love Formula 1. My housekeeping skills are not great. But I also love ballet and nail polish and films with Sandra Bullock. I have close female friendships. I’m a nurturer.

At my school, we were taught that we could do anything. (We were also taught that we should do everything, which is a bit more problematic. That’s a thought for another day.) I am excited to pass this lesson on to my daughter.

There are so many options open to her.

Women are strong. I grew her inside me – how amazing is that? Being pregnant made me appreciate my lineage as a woman. I felt connected to all of the women that had gone before me. Whether or not she chooses to have children herself, that potential is there for her.

I’m looking forward to sharing stories of other strong women with her. Her name has been shared by empresses and saints. I hope she knows that I think she has a great future ahead of her.

Right now, at four months old, she has such a strong personality. I know she’s so young, but she’s so vocal and determined. While I’ve been writing this post, she’s used her head to rotate herself 180 degrees in her play gym!

I’m really excited to raise this little woman.

Looking back at the newborn days

newborn days

I can’t quite believe that my baby is no longer a newborn! She’s ten weeks old now, and although I’m not quite sure exactly when “newborn” ends, I think we’re probably just into “baby” territory now.

I have absolutely loved the newborn stage. I really didn’t expect to, but she’s just been so much fun. It probably helps that she’s generally a good sleeper, and that I have a lot of support from my husband and my parents.

Of course we have had some difficult times. But we’ve had far more lovely ones! I know I could never list all of my memories of these early days, but I’d like to get some down in writing. The time is going far too quickly, and I don’t want to forget everything!

Some of my favourite newborn memories

Newborn baby

Staring at her for the first time as she was lying in her hospital cot and I was still being worked on in the delivery room. I was too shaky to hold her, but just staring at her was rather lovely.

How she cried that whole first night in the hospital, until we swaddled her.

Her checks the next morning, where she cried so loudly that my mum, three rooms away, could hear her! I had to put her to the breast to calm her down.

Being left alone with her and having to put her jacket on in the hospital. I had no idea what to do.

Introducing her to the rabbits when we got home. They weren’t remotely interested at first, and we had to pick them up and wave them at her to get them to even look at her!

Ned the rabbit with the new baby

Those first nights home from the hospital. We took it in turns to take care of her, so that we could each get some sleep. I was terrified of being alone with her. The nights felt very long.

That very painful day when my milk first came in but she couldn’t latch yet.

How she howled when we had our final appointment with the midwife, at ten days old. And then silence the moment we put her back in the car!

We got cards and post for her every day for about a month.

 

How she used to “turtle” her limbs up in her sleepsuits, so that you’d go to touch the sleeve and find that both her arms were actually cuddled in against her chest.

Visits to the children’s centre to get her weighed.

How she didn’t even cry at her heel prick test. I don’t even think she woke up!

The time we went to register her at the doctors, and the receptionists insisted on cuddling her the whole time I filled in the forms.

Newborn in the snow

The first time she saw snow.

How her face was all funny and blotchy for a couple of weeks.

My husband’s paternity leave, which she largely slept through! We spent a lot of time holed up in the living room, baby in the carrycot or our arms, me reading and him playing Fallout.

Taking her into work at 13 days old. She slept through most of that too!

Having her hold a little sign asking a friend to be her godmother.

How she screamed through every bath and nappy change. Anything where we undressed her!

Taking her out on my own for the first time. I couldn’t get the pram to work, so I had to carry her nearly a mile through town. I was terrified the whole time!

Taking her round the garden centre with my mum. She slept the entire time, including through our meal and a nappy change!

The three of us sitting together in the living room during the day with the curtains closed, my husband and I passing her between us, and watching all four series of Line of Duty.

How she looked as a funny little hungry caterpillar in her swaddle.

Baby lulls us into a false sense of security before sleep deprivation!

There are a million more, I’m sure of it. I’ve only known her for ten weeks but we’ve had thousands of beautiful moments together already.

And there’s so, so much more to come! I’m so excited. I’m so grateful that I get to be her mum and raise her.

Getting baby’s first vaccinations

baby's first vaccinations

Baby is eight weeks old this week. She had her first vaccinations this morning.

I know that vaccinations are a really hot button issue. However, to me, it’s an absolute no-brainer. She will absolutely have every vaccination that we can get her, unless we are advised otherwise by qualified doctors with an extensive knowledge of her medical history.

Why we believe in vaccinations

Put bluntly, I want my daughter to have the best chance at living a long and healthy life. Vaccinating her against life-threatening illnesses is an excellent way to do that.

I struggle enough seeing her strain with hiccups. I can’t imagine 100 days of whooping cough. Have you ever seen or heard a baby suffering with it? I want to limit the suffering she goes through in her life.

The meningitis vaccine wasn’t available when I was a child. A girl I knew at school nearly died from meningitis. She was off school for almost a year. Working with older people, I’ve seen the effects of polio, for example, on people who caught it before the vaccine was available. I don’t want that for my daughter.

I work with and know some people who are immuno-compromised. They cannot have vaccinations. I don’t want to be responsible for my daughter passing a deadly illness onto them.

Our herd immunity is dropping. More and more people opt out of vaccinations nowadays. Maybe it’s because of the falsified MMR study, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s just because they’re worried about the potential side effects of vaccines, but whatever the reason, we’re getting to a point where society is risking an epidemic of these illnesses again.

I’d far rather a day or two of fever and grouchiness than meningitis, diphtheria or measles.

All of that to say, we intend to follow the NHS vaccination schedule unless told that there’s a reason we shouldn’t.

Our experience

We had a letter a couple of weeks ago, once baby was registered at the doctors. It invited her to come along for vaccinations against:

  • meningitis B
  • rotavirus
  • pneumococcal infections
  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • whooping cough (pertussis)
  • polio
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children
  • hepatitis B

Phew, that is a lot!

Fortunately, the last six are a combined jab, and rotavirus is oral. So three jabs and one oral syringe. Not too bad!

We turned up there this morning, Calpol in my bag ready to give her afterwards (the MenB jab can cause a fever). The nurse gave her the oral rotavirus one first, which she loved. Then two jabs in one leg and one in the other.

Baby screamed like she was being tortured. Partly because she was hungry, partly because she was cold and had had her legs exposed, and partly because of the injections.

The nurse took me through to the feeding room at the surgery. I fed baby for nearly 45 minutes before we headed home. I gave her Calpol about five minutes after the injections, and it seemed to help. It was her first time trying it and she did love the sweet taste! She can have it every four hours. The nurse said to keep on dosing her throughout the day.

We got home and she slept for a bit, woke up and was giggly (is there such a thing as a Calpol high?) and then suddenly switched to crying and feeling miserable. I think her legs probably ache and feel a bit heavy. So we danced and sang around the living room for a couple of hours. Then I put her in the car seat and we went for a drive to help her sleep.

We’re home now, and she’s lying in her cot, sleeping but whimpering occasionally. Poor baby, I think it’s the first time she’s known discomfort.

But I’d far rather she feel a bit miserable today than that she catch any of the illnesses she’s been vaccinated against. I’m so grateful we live in an era of vaccinations. I’m so grateful to the NHS for providing them to us free at the point of delivery.

Baby sleeps off the discomfort of her first vaccinations

Introducing rabbits to a baby

introducing rabbits to a baby

When I was pregnant, I was really worried about introducing rabbits and baby to each other. I needn’t have been, because it’s gone really well. They love each other!

The three rabbits absolutely adore the baby, and we’ve not had any trouble yet. She really enjoys them too and squeals happily when she sees them. She’s learning to stroke them and loves how soft their fur is.

They knew that I was pregnant. Barbara fussed around me a lot. Gingee used to enjoy putting his ear to my stomach. Ned just wanted extra cuddles!

Preparing during pregnancy

Before we even started to think about preparing them to meet the baby, we wanted to give them the chance to have a support network. They used to all live in separate rooms, but over the spring (baby was due in November), we worked hard at bonding them and getting them to share one bedroom. We knew this was going to be important both while I was in hospital, so they weren’t alone for too long, and when baby arrived and we had a bit less time.

Before the baby was born, we got them each a little plastic baby doll. It gave them a chance to sniff at something new, nuzzle it and chin it, and for us to remind them to be gentle.

I spent time with them in early labour, before I went to the hospital. I was on all fours on the floor, and Gingee kept stretching up to nuzzle the bump. They knew something momentous was happening, I think.

I had a long labour (38 hours!), so my husband and I were in hospital for a while. Fortunately, our hospital is walking distance from our house, so he was able to pop home a couple of times to check on them. We left them with lots of extra water and hay.

Actually introducing rabbits to the baby

We introduced them on the day she came home from the hospital.

She was in her bouncer and the rabbits got extra fuss and food. They ignored her for the most part. We had to pick them up to even get them to look at her!

She was so new but wanted to stare at them.

Introducing rabbits to the baby

(She was so tiny! She’s grown a lot even in six weeks!)

But, if you know about bonding rabbits, you’ll know that it’s a good sign when they ignore someone.

Their growing relationship

Since then, we’ve just brought her into our routine.

Three times a day, we say to the baby, “Shall we go and play with our friends the rabbits?” She responds happily to that now!

We bring her with us whenever we feed them so they associate her with good things. She usually gets to lie on the floor with them while they eat and they’ve started leaving pieces of food for her, which is adorable.

Gingee has put his head down to ask for grooming from her a couple of times. She’s not quite got the hang of how to do it, but I’m sure she will!

When she cries, our leader bunny, Gingee, goes to patrol the area while Barbara comes to nuzzle and check she’s okay. (Ned is deaf, so doesn’t really respond to crying!) 

We worried a bit about Gingee at first. He is so attached to my husband, and has been known to be jealous. We’ve been careful to make sure that my husband treats Gingee like the special bunny he is, and I often get to hold the baby a bit more while Gingee gets extra fuss. If anything, he seems happier than before!

They all like to get attention from each other. Baby loves it when they come up and nuzzle at her, and sometimes she cries when they move away. They like it when she touches them – Ned in particular. He’ll sit and look really proud, as if he’s saying, “Look, the baby is playing with me! Me! I’m the chosen one right now!”

The rabbits have their own bedroom, so they have somewhere to escape to where baby doesn’t go. They have their door shut most of the day, but we have three long sessions of food and playtime each day, so they don’t feel neglected.

I was really worried about how it would work out, but while they were a bit wary at first, I’ve never seen them binky as much as they have in the past few weeks!

She’s only seven weeks old and they’re already all so close. I’m so excited to see how their relationship develops as she gets older.

I miss my friends

I miss my friends

What a melodramatic title, right? I have friends, still, so it’s not entirely accurate.

It’s just that I miss some specific friends.

(Just as a note, this post has been a bit tricky to write. I’ve been trying to keep it vague so that I don’t actually identify anyone, but obviously that means I can’t go into as much detail.)

Going back a few years, say to 2012 or so, I was so incredibly lucky. I had so many friends. I’d lost touch with some of my uni friends a bit, but I saw girls from school, whom I’d known since the eighties or nineties, all the time. We were totally going to be friends forever, right? (What a weirdly naive view to have as an adult!)

And then I got engaged.

I was the first one of that group to get engaged/get married/have a baby. And from the reactions I got from some people, you’d have thought I’d personally betrayed them.

It wasn’t a surprise when I got married. My now-husband and I had been together for six years. He moved to a different city to be close to me. We were clearly on the marriage track.

The friends who reacted particularly badly were not in relationships at the time. I don’t know if that’s a factor.

One of them made it very clear to me that she did not want to talk about the wedding. She did not want to think about it. It upset her. In the end, she refused to attend. I tried to be understanding but that hurt. We haven’t seen each other since then. She doesn’t even know about the baby, because we’re not in touch. Over 25 years of friendship, gone just like that.

Another came to the wedding but has made excuses about spending time together since. She knows about the baby, but I can’t imagine she’ll want to meet her.

I was excited and supportive for phases they reached in their lives before me: buying a property, getting a job, first boyfriend, doing postgraduate study, etc. I’ve been the shoulder to cry on, driving to different cities after work to listen when they needed to talk, spending hours doing hospital visiting, etc.

But it seems there’s something about marriage and babies.

And it makes me so sad, because I wish I could share this exciting new stage of my life with these ladies who’ve been there for so long.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately. I think I’m thinking more about this as we’re nearing Christmas. We had traditions – it hurts not to have those any more. I want to send a text and ask how they’re doing, but I know the inevitable rejection would hurt more. When the health visitor asked how my mental health was today, all of this nearly came flowing out.

Of course, my husband hasn’t had any of this reaction from his mates. He was also the first of his friendship group to get married and have a baby, but everyone was just really happy for him. I think that says something about men and women.

Ladies, why can’t we just be happy for each other?