Let me tell you about Mica

Mica is a silicate mineral, and it is made up of many (peelable) sheets. It is actually a group of minerals, but they all display similar properties. It is heat resistant, but does not conduct electricity. When you handle it you come away with sparkles on your hands. It is used in pigments, in beauty products – check the ingredients of your make up and it’ll be there – and also, in plasterboard, used in construction.

I like working with industrial minerals because the end uses they represent are so distinct. I like going to the mines and speaking to the people developing new projects, or expanding existing ones. I like learning about new end markets.

So shiny: A Mica mine in the US. Source: Jimmy Thomas, via Flickr

So shiny: A Mica mine in the US. Source: Jimmy Thomas, via Flickr

I don’t like it when producers or end users disrespect human rights in order to turn a profit.

A report released this week by CORE found that cosmetics companies L’Oréal, Revlon, Boots and Estée Lauder “make no mention in their statements of child labour in mica supply chains.”

“A quarter of the world’s mica comes from Northeast India where around 20,000 children are estimated to work in hundreds of mica mines”, the report says.

L’Oreal has responded and said that it is “well aware” of the slavery issue and claims that it sources its mica from the US and Canada.

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to buy products from companies that do things we don’t like. And companies do not have to buy from places which abuse human rights or who use child labour.

Here is a list of other countries which produce mica. More mica than India in fact: Canada, the US, China, Finland, France, S. Korea, Madagascar, Turkey, Russia. These countries all produce scrap and flake mica, which is used in beauty products. It’s just Russia and India which produce sheet mica (used in the electrical industry as an insulator).

Okay, so not all of the above countries have an amazing human rights record. But there is a choice. There is a choice companies can make and the more we know about it, the more power we as consumers have.

We can start to demand to know where companies are sourcing their materials from – there are no shortage of suppliers who will source conflict and slavery-free minerals for end users. I have linked to a trader I know here, but there are many others.

You don’t need to be a rock geek or a good person, you can be both. I am proud to say that I have worked with many producers who take real pride in their human resources. It is galling that in this day and age there are still many who believe they don’t need to do this.

Keeping it real

Can we just take a moment to recognise that sometimes we all get it a bit wrong when it comes to parenting? Nobody is a perfect parent, no matter what they may put out there or what you may think after scrolling through social media. And it’s not because we are terrible people, it is because we are human. And just as we sometimes lose our shit in Aldi or soft play, (or any bloody where that we bring our children to) and then feel awful, there’s a recognition that we also spend quite a lot of time not losing our shit and being generally patient, saintly human beings.

I feel quite strongly that sometimes we see just one side of parenting. On the one hand you get the Pinterest moms (American moniker intended) who post about the different arts and crafts projects they not only attempted, but excelled at. You get the ones who use the #blessed hashtag and spend an inordinate amount of time posting images of themselves looking perfect (not a flabby roll in sight) gazing lovingly at their clean, well-behaved children, who are off crafting something somewhere.

I can relate to *some* of this. Sometimes I look at Nives and she’s playing in the sand or off in her little imaginative world and i just feel so proud of my strong, capable brilliant girl.

Then you have the other side of things, the side of parenting which is a bit like laughing at the kids for being irrational, stroppy and … relentless. A bit like the posts which has a crying kid holding up a sign saying ‘I’m crying because the sky is blue’ or something.

That’s fine, again, I can relate. Two nights ago Nives was crying because first she didn’t like her blanket and then she did.

The issue is that sometimes, you only ever get presented one side of this. When actually, that’s not what it is to parent, or try and do anything with kids. Any activity I do is great, because it’s fun and she is learning: face paints, bread making, planting. And I could just snap her when she’s deep in concentration (for at least five whole minutes!) and be like ‘look, I rock at this!’

But the reality is this: After the face paints novelty wears off, my sofa is covered in marks, Nives is chasing the cat, I am scrubbing the rug. With the baking: she’ll probably start throwing flour at some point, or refuse to hand over the dough to put in the oven – she’ll get angry when I try to explain that it has to go in there… it ends in tears. Planting: she finds a cat poo somewhere, or tips the whole pot out after we’ve planted the seeds and throws it around the garden.

So what side to show? (Why even bother showing any is another argument for another day, but for the record, I like sharing, it makes me feel connected to other parents around the world and it offers me support. I’m careful with what I share and I think it’s up to the individual to decide whether they want to or not.)

I think show both. Just as I was taught when training to be a newspaper reporter to always give both sides of the story and seek a right to reply, show the whole thing. Show that being parents can be amazing, exciting and fulfilling and wonderful and fill you with so much love. But also show that it can also be mundane and frustrating and leave you so so so tired. Don’t be afraid to show either side. Sure, it’s funny to see that someone is struggling with the same things as you are. But it’s also nice to see the positives of it as well.

And you know, if you do manage to make fake snow without your child spraying your home with shaving foam and slipping on the water and knocking themselves out, record that shit. Because I need to know that the stuff you see on Pinterest isn’t just put there to taunt me.

Cat sick

This morning, while we were doing the mad dash to get out the door, I ran in cat sick. It was one of those final-straw type moments. I'd brushed teeth, showered myself and my toddler - because who wants to take a shower alone anyway?-  dressed her, realised the time (and freaked out) and it was at this moment, when I was throwing nappies and wipes into bags with jeans and bra on but no top and socks, that it happened. 

I screamed.

Danny appears. He's washed and changed and it looks like he has even used moisturiser. This angers me.

"Why, why why is there cat sick on the floor?" I yell.

I know that this is a stupid question. The reason there is cat sick on the floor is because the cat was sick on the floor.

"Haha" he says. And then, to Nives: "mummy is cross".

What. Of course I'm cross. There's cat sick on my foot.

"Deal with it" I yell, as I hop to the bathroom to wash my foot, noticing that Nives is taking her socks off and heading straight for the ..... noooooooo

I wash my foot, smirking as I hear the yells of dismay from Danny and the squeals of delight from Nives as she dances in the sick.

And suddenly, even though we are now later than we already were, and even though I just washed a regurgitated cat biscuit off my foot, I'm not angry anymore. Because it's funny now. 

I mean, it would have been funnier still if Danny had fallen in the sick,  but you can't have everything.

 

Miscarriage January 17, 2017

So that’s it. Gone. Just like that. Nine weeks, I thought. You didn’t make it past five. My gestational sac is still growing; every week it will grow more. Soon it will be broken down and then it will pass. And I won’t even be a bit pregnant any more. I’ll be post-pregnant but I shan’t have a baby.

This isn’t my first time. This is my second, possibly my third. Each one has been different.

It just seems such a waste. All that happiness, that love, the planning.

And for those people who say that “you shouldn’t plan until you get to 12 weeks”, I say fuck you. Fuck you, because I am a human being with love and hope and happiness and you just can’t hep it. You’re in love with this cluster of cells, you’re in love with what they will become. Love.

Ok, so this week has been really fucking hard. But actually it would have been a lot fucking harder if I didn’t have the support of my friends. And you know who those friends were? They weren’t even necessarily the select few people I used to just tell everything to. This time I didn’t just stick my head up my arse and pretend it was all going to be ok. I didn’t try and shoulder it alone. I told people. And every time I told someone I felt lighter, I knew that that person was thinking of me and sending me positive energy and that made me feel stronger.

No, I haven’t spoken to anyone, not really. I’m not good on the phone. My mum tried to FaceTime about it and I was like, what the fuck mum. I don’t want to be talking about this while you’re watching my face and ew. I just. Facetime? No.

But I have had some serious text conversations with people who have really opened up to me and been supportive and for that, thank you. 

Everyone says “what can I do to help?” Just fucking be there. Let me know you are thinking of me. 

I can’t sit and wallow in this because I am a mum and I am self employed so I have to crack that smile on and continue to play house and painting and watching We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and making dinners… and, you know. But it helps.

I tell myself, keep buggering on. One step at a time. One day at a time. You’ve got a magazine to get out you know. Keep going. Keep eating, keep walking, keep emptying the sodding dishwasher. Keep moving. Keep reading. Keep sending emails. Ignore that ache. It’s not time, not now. You’re a Mum you know. 

I say: There will be a time - and it will be soon -when you can deal with this. You can lock yourself in the bathroom, lay on the floor and weep. But now is not that time. 

Let people know. Thank them for their concern. But just keep buggering on. Watch CBeebies. Make beans on toast. Play with dinosaur and Oo-oo the monkey. Tell stories. Comb hair. Wrestle toothbrushes into mouths. Don’t break. You can’t.

So my baby didn’t even, it wasn’t even there. And soon I won’t even be pregnant. Someone is going to either make me not-pregnant or I will let it pass naturally.

Let it pass naturally. It makes it sound like I am going to sit in a fucking field until fairies come and take the gestational sac and yolk bag, or whatever it is, out of my womb and then I can float down with daisies in my hair and be all with nature and go and do some yoga or something.

Well, it’s not like that. I’ve had a miscarriage before and it hurt and it hurts and it hurts. And it’s messy and you bleed a lot for a really long time and all the stuff comes out and it’s sad and awful because that’s stuff that you were in love with. That was your baby. But now it’s just matter and in the loo and in your pants. And oh God, I can’t.

So I’ll keep on. Keep buggering on.

Sometimes this shit is hard work

I’m so tired and sore and frustrated and alone and I just want to run away and hide somewhere and just.. Just be.
Has anyone ever get like that?
I have. I felt like that recently when I was on holiday and Nives wasn’t sleeping and she was constantly feeding or grabbing me and I just thought: enough.
I was tired and alone and I reached out to people to ask for help, tentatively created conversations in my mind whereby I admit to wanting to stop feeding her, needed my sleep, needed a barrier.
No one came.
I gave up breastfeeding shortly after. What I know now is that the crying and the even less sleep and the constant feeding were just a phase, she’s out of it now. And meanwhile I have lumpy sore boobs and I could have just carried on.
What I also know is that there’s literally no advice for stopping breastfeeding and what to expect out there and there’s not much support AT ALL.
Kind of like being a new mum and when they don’t tell you about any of the actual useful stuff at NCT like: how to survive on ten minutes sleep, how it will hurt to go to the loo for like, a loooong time, how your boobs will just become, like, your enemy. How you will feel so overwhelmed.
Oh and the sex thing. I knew - I think everyone knows - that after six weeks you are apparently ok to have sex. This is weird to me because firstly, everyone’s birth is different. And if your baby isn’t sleeping and you are only just getting your boobs to sort of do what you want and your stomach is like a big flappy doughnut… I just think that sex is like, kind of low down on the list of priorities.
But people without babies are like, obsessed with when you are going to have sex. A friend of mine even asked if I had a “vanity stitch” put in! Actually asked that. She said that her brother’s doctor had winked at him after his wife had gone through labour and said “I’ve sorted her out for you” or some shit. I don’t believe this is true in the slightest and I’m really fucking angry that this guy is walking around telling people this story about his wife. But, I digress.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is that sometimes there are just times like that. Where parenting and mothering and actually wife-ing (this is now a verb, just accept it, don’t argue with The Tired One) can just wear you down and you want to read a book, have a cup of tea, without someone asking if the rubbish has been taken out; if you’ve spoken to the plasterer; if you know where this thing is, or that thing. Or have someone on your lap tugging at your top, wailing in your ear; mammmmmmy mammmmmy.
It’s the lack of sleep I think. It’s the early starts that wear you down, I remember nights where I would be constantly traipsing between my bed and her nursery, tipping myself into her cot, stretching out on the floor, singing twinkle twinkle little fucking star until I was hoarse.
Not that she sleeps *that* well now, mind you.
I’m writing this because I want to get it out. I want to say: I’ve been there, I know. I want to say it to the new mums who are just like OH MY DEAR GOD WHY WON’T YOU SLEEP and then they don’t and they don’t and they don’t. Nives is 18 months old. It’s 9.20, she’s gone down for a nap after getting up for the day at 4. I should be sleeping with her. I’m writing this because I’m carrying it in me and I want to say, I get it.
And sometimes it is ok to just want to run out the door and not look back.

Connectivity

When I was 20 I went to live in Peru as part of my undergraduate degree. I chose to do this; my friends on my course - few as they were at that point - mainly opted to visit Spain in groups through the Erasmus programme. Sometimes I think that my life would have been a lot easier if I had done the same.

I wanted to revisit Peru. I had lived in Lima until I was four years old and my mother had been raised there, having emigrated there when she was one. She lived there until she was 19. I thought living in Peru would be fun. I thought I would get the chance to travel as well as work and envisioned myself living in a beach side apartment, learning to surf and losing all the weight I had put on at uni. I thought that it might help me to understand my mother more.
Parts were fun. But parts were also really, really hard. I learned things about myself, about other people, that weren’t very nice at all. Initially, I felt alone and depressed a lot of the time.

I was in a great place before I went. My second year of university had been incredible. I lived with or around the corner from my closest friends, I was in love with a sweet boy who loved me back, I had become really interested in my course and started to actually study and so was averaging a First in a lot of my classes (not, crucially, in Spanish however!)
In Peru however I was working as a receptionist in a travel agency. I had got the job because the alcoholic decrepit old man that ran the place used to work with my aunt when she was in her twenties and I’m pretty sure he had had a massive crush on her then. He used to call me into his office, which stank of sweat and whiskey, heave his enormous frame into his chair and ask me questions about her. I never knew what he was talking about and used to just make up the answers.
I spent my days writing a book on my laptop about a group of friends at university which so closely resembled my own it made me ache with homesickness.

A few things happened to help ease this ache however.

I made friends with this incredible, funny, spirited and beautiful girl Mily, who worked at the travel agency. She lived in this beautiful apartment with her mother, Carmen. It was set in rooms around a courtyard and we would sit in the sun and gossip and smoke cigarettes. I’ll never forget the kindness that Carmen showed me and the bond that grew between Mily and I. We became a team of two, occasionally joined by her hip and hilarious neighbour Gonzalo. This friendship saved me in so many ways.

A lot happened to me that year.

I think about my time in Peru often and I wonder how it actually shaped me and whether I would have made the choices I have since if I hadn’t gone. I think about how I would explain this time, one of my darkest times, to my daughter.
I don’t want to hide who I am. I certainly don’t want to hide this from her as I’ve nothing to be ashamed of. I am strong now because I’ve known what it is to be weak and I am kind now because I know what it is to receive kindness. And I think that by acknowledging weakness as being part of normal life she would be more likely to ask for help- something I still struggle with.

So why bring all this up now? Well, I’ve  been thinking a lot about connectivity recently. About how you can connect with somebody for a short space of time and they can leave an imprint on your life, one that maybe you’re not even aware of but that is there all the same. But these encounters can shape and maybe change decisions you make thereon in.  The kindness shown to me by Mily and her mother - may she rest in peace - by my aunt’s friend Ingrid, by my aunt Isa and my cousins in Canada, by countless others during what was a difficult time has not ever left me and I think has affected how I treat people who may look a little lost.

I’ve been thinking about these connections because I spent some time with my brother and his wife and my husband and we all got to talking about how each respective couple met and it was all chance encounters. And now our lives are irrevocably changed. My brother lives in America now and fixes drones! And I, I found myself crying at the rugby. Of course these are not swift fleeting encounters but instead are people living a shared life and growing together.
So it’s not quite the butterfly effect, but more a musing on how I will work to be open and honest and ready with Nives and accepting that she will have hard times and I will (try to) focus on how these experiences  will shape her for the better instead of trying to control them, I suppose.

At the end of the day we are all evolving, all learning, all working together to try and be better for our kin. This sounds SO cheesy but I’m only really realising now that life is a journey and that each little bit of it is as important as the big stuff.

So I quit my job.

Sometimes when you stand still you take a moment to recognise the beauty in the every day. You notice the sound of birds tweeting, the colours in the sky and the smell of the day ahead of you. Sometimes though, when you stand still, you notice other things. You notice that you’re standing still, for one, and that you’re not moving forward. You notice that actually, you’d quite like to be standing over there, there in the sun and not on a crowded train. You realise you’ve just paid £4 for a coffee that tastes like warmed milk. You realise that you haven’t let go of your phone in over an hour and you’ve been so busy standing still and looking into it you forgot to see the world outside it.
So this week is my last week of work full time. Of being on a pay roll. Of paid holidays, sick pay, pension plan, private healthcare, HR, lawyers. Of having a lunch break, an IT department. Of having a team behind me. From now on its just little old me and my laptop. Except it’s not, not really. My current company has said they want me to continue to work for them, which means I’ll still be essentially doing *some* of the same thing. And people have generally been really supportive and I’ve had offers of work and been plugged into an amazing support network of other working mums in and around Brighton. What could have been a really scary and potentially debilitating move feels more like a giant step forward for me. And I’m excited, I’m ready. I’m ready.
Once I had found a space in my head to accept that I wasn’t going to be the same person as I was before Nives then the decision pretty much made itself. Other things, other people, helped me along - even if they didn’t know they were doing it. My wonderful mother who gave three months of her time to help with Nives and support our little family. My lovely friend Jane who so quietly said to me that she could see how troubled I was becoming just when I spoke about returning to paid work. Sarah, who so inspiringly just said “nope” when her own kid was struggling at her childminders. My wonderful ex colleague and friend Laura who was so brutally honest about what the working day in my role was doing to her. Mostly though, my husband who left me to make the decision myself.
And just to know that there will once again be days when all that stretches ahead is laughing at my crazy girl discovering her belly button and squealing with delight at dogs in the park is just the most incredible thing.

Gender boxing

So yesterday I had the start of an argument with someone that I backed away from because, frankly, it wasn’t going to solve anything and my energy is best spent being distributed positively.
What happened was this: there was a news report about the fact that schools in Brighton and Hove were including a gender neutral box on their school applications. So, when parents come to select their child’s school choice they can select whether their child is male or female or, tick a box which enables them to discuss their child’s gender with the school. That’s it. It’s a gentle, mindful, way of discussing at an early age that a child may need extra support with regards to their identity.
I think it’s great, personally.
Critics argue that it’s “pigeonholing” children too early, that it’s putting them in a category before they are aware of who they are. But is it? I would argue that it’s simply a box on a form that they are never going to see and it just means teachers and staff at the school are aware that the child may be identifying themselves as a different gender to their physical one and so have the tools to hand to support that child. Yes, four is young. But it isn’t a “label” or a “box” - can we actually not put labels on people and not put them in boxes and just accept them for who they are anyway?- it’s just a way of recognising that down the line this child may need support and the school is on hand to give it. It isn’t like they are tattooing the box on the child’s head, or even that the child’s classmates, or even the child has to be aware of it -although there’s nothing to be ashamed of!
If Nives decides at any point that she wants to identify herself in such a way I am just glad that she lives in a place that supports her. I am raising my daughter to be kind, above all else, and accepting people for who they are and not labelling them goes a long way in achieving this.

Sleep sleep sleep sleep

Who sleeps and who doesn’t, and crucially, how you got to a state of sleep is one of those conversations that should carry a bit of a red alert around it. Everyone, everyone, has an opinion about you and your baby’s sleep. And actually, the only person that should have an opinion is you and your baby. And, on occasion, your other half. We are now sleeping more than we ever have. It’s been a year, but the wake ups are fewer (apart from last night when I think it was every hour and a half…) and she’s settling pretty quickly.

I’ve had all sorts of advice to get me to this stage. Sleep training, passing the egg, heavier milk, water in bottles, my husband doing all the night feeds (good luck with that, you’ll have to wake him first- not easy). I’ve heard it all. You know what works for us, what has always worked for us? Cosleeping. And comfort feeding. Every family, every baby, has something that works for them and this works for us. We’ve moved house and when it came to assembling our bed, I just said “don’t”. The three of us sleep on our lovely King mattress on the floor, we put her to bed in our room and join her later on and … It works. It more than works, it’s lovely.

And the thing is, I tell people and I add “but when I finish work I’ll make an effort to get her back into her cot”, and I don’t know why I say this. I say it because part of me knows that some people think it’s a bit weird. Some people think we’re making a rod for our own back, or whatever. Some people (who haven’t had kids- no one with kids asks this) will ask how this affects my relationship with my husband. I know what they’re getting at, and I ignore *that*. I tell them it makes it better because I have more than two hours sleep a night and so don’t have to think up ways of ways of killing him in his sleep for not waking up and dealing with a baby who suddenly wants to play with her puppets at 3am.

Anyway, two things on this. The first is that I was having an email conversation with someone at work, a guy, who had a little boy at the same time as I had Nives, and I asked how he was sleeping. And while I divulged that we were still co-sleeping and wouldn’t be forever blah blah, he just said “yeah, he’s still in with us too,” and then moved on. No apology or explanation or anything. And I know that I shouldn’t feel like I have to give the explanation, but I do. But he didn’t. And I don’t know if that is a male/female thing - do we put ourselves under more pressure as women? Or a me thing- is this another example of my guilt issues? But I found it great and I thought actually, I could probably learn something there.

The second thing is that I found this thing I wrote about napping with Nives back in December. And it was so lovely to reread it that I wanted to flag up that Cosleeping harnesses real moments of beauty and also that I should have cut out all that bullshit with trying to get her in her cot back then (she was nine months old when I wrote this) and just embraced what clearly worked for us. Here is what I wrote:

“15 December 2015 15:12

I’ve taken to having long naps with my girl. To not changing her out of her pyjamas immediately and snuffling her into bed with me. We lie side by side and sleep with our faces inches apart. Her hand sometimes reaches for mine and I wake with a little sweaty palm in mine. Her breath smells like sweet milk, mine. Her eyes flicker as she dreams and her jaw works up and down as if she’s suckling. Sometimes she’ll let out a cry - something has bothered her sleep. I soothe her by stroking her hair and she falls into a contented slumber. I wonder what bothers her?”

I know I say it a lot, but what I’m advocating here isn’t Cosleeping. What it is is listening to your gut and doing what works for you as a parent and just owning that decision and not feeling like you need to explain it. For me it’s this, for you it might be giving up breastfeeding, using CIO, reigns, routine, babyled weaning, purées. All of these things that we do. Own it and be proud of it. Because all the books in the world can’t really tell you how to read your own kid, only the kid can tell you that and I think it’s up to us to listen.

You're one

Oh god, oh god, you’re one. You’re one. A year ago I held you in what was frankly the most beautiful and baffling moment of my life and now, now, you’re one. You’re one.

This has been the best year of my life. You have been the best year of my life. I have never loved anyone or anything as fiercely as I love you and if I don’t say it enough anymore, if you’re reading this and you’re older and we’ve fought or you’re cross, or even if not: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. I love your twisty hand dancing, the way you bob up and down when you hear a beat. Your smile, your tears, your irrepressible temper! I love you, I love you, I love you.
You love cats, rice cakes, peas and dancing. You love books, singing, ball pits and water. I rescue you from the top of bookshelves at the library, from halfway up the stairs at home, from the bathtub and your high chair when you decide to stand. You’re so loved, you were and always will be so loved. One day I will tell you all about how much we wanted you. I’ll tell you about the days I had to go away and work and how hard that was for me. Oh, my darling, happy birthday. Mummy loves you.

Today, I hate breastfeeding

There are times I hate the fact I’m breastfeeding. Times like just now, when I’ve just stuck my hand into my handbag and found that my stored, expressed, precious, breastmilk has leaked all over my make up bag. Times like earlier, when I was in a meeting and had forgotten my cardigan and so was convinced that I was leaking through my dress but couldn’t check (I wasn’t). Times like ten minutes after that meeting, when I finally got a chance to express and hung my dress on the door so it wouldn’t get milk on it and then it fell in some sort of toilet-floor puddle. Times like last night, when I was once again tasked with dealing with a can’t-sleep-won’t-sleep baby because “she only wants milk”. Times like last night when baby didn’t in fact want milk, but instead wanted to bite things. Hard.

And there’s the rest of it. The humility of having your baby slap you in the chest when you’re trying to talk to someone or pointing at your nipple and saying “that” over and over. Being drawn into discussions on how long I intend to breastfeed for (no idea, probably not much longer if today is anything to go by); also see discussions on why “breast is best” (yes I’m breastfeeding but that doesn’t mean I necessarily hold an opinion on what other mothers do or don’t do! Live and let live, people!!)

And, also, if we are on the subject of breastfeeding. I also really hate all those ‘normalise breastfeeding’ posts. I love what they stand for - I mean essentially if you need to feed your baby, you should feed your baby, that’s basically where that dialogue should begin and end - but I hate the fact they are all of women breastfeeding beautifully and successfully and not of the 'real’ side of it. Of a bleary faced new mum trying unsuccessfully to get her baby to latch, or of a close up of a chaffed, bleeding sore nipple. Of a mum wincing as the newborn latches and goes for its life, of a breast pad hanging out of a sick-milk stained (repulsive, by the way) bra and t shirt. Of mastitis. Of that purple tube of balm that you rub on yourself about seventeen thousand times a day. Of a chair with no arms and the despair that entails. Of all the hunched and sore backs and dead arms and of all the failed “rugby ball” positions. Of sitting in a restaurant, stripped to the waist and feeding. These images would normalise breastfeeding, seeing Giselle feeding in a ball gown with her lovely flat stomach and placid, non-flailing, baby does not.

I do think that along with all these positive affirmations of breastfeeding people should be more honest about the fact that sometimes it’s a bit shit.
For me, expressing is hands down a really shit experience. I hate it. I hate how it makes me feel, I hate how little I produce, I hate all the bloody sterilising and storing and labelling and hiding and the boredom. I wish I didn’t have to do it.

And the thing is, I know there are women who wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t and I know there are women who could and decided not to and I know, or at least think I know, that these women could interpret this moan as ungrateful/silly old cow syndrome. And I’m sorry, but sometimes I just hate breastfeeding and today is one of those days. I’m not even going to write something like “oh but it’s so good for my baby” blah blah blah, because frankly we’ve been hit over the head with that message time and again and this is exactly why women put themselves through the mill trying to do something even if their body is screaming “NO! I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS”. Anyway, I’m off to clean my make up brushes for the first time in ever.

#mumboss?

When I was pregnant (how many of my sentences start this way…?) I found out that I could do up to ten days work as part of my maternity leave and couldn’t stop telling everyone that I would do every single one of those days in order to get some cash.
“I’ll just do one day a month,” I trilled. “I can come up to London, get my hair done and make some money and still be involved with my team”.
Ah, hindsight.
Even though people told me I would feel different after Nives was born, I don’t think I really believed them. I think that I really thought I would be bored with the house, with the monotony of motherhood, with not having anyone to gossip with. And while I waited for five weeks for Nives to appear, finally evicting her two weeks after her due date, I was a bit bored. Now, sometimes, I think I would give anything to have a day like that again. A day of waking up at 10, ambling (ok, thundering) down the stairs and into a bath for an hour while listening to Woman’s Hour. Then, box sets and a bit of faffing around in the nursery before napping with the cats.
My days are now full. Full of washing and wiping and changing and phrases like “be gentle” “carefully” “is it hot?” “Don’t touch her [the cat’s] bottom”. But also full of laughter and of love. Sometimes I watch Nives playing on her own, invariably with something that isn’t a toy, and my breath just catches in my throat. She’s so beautiful and sparky and I just feel so proud and overwhelmed when I think that we created this amazing little being. Other times, when she is smacking her yoghurt into her head for example, I can believe it.
So, work. I’m feeling it and I’m not. On one hand I want to be this role model for her and show her that women can have careers and babies and travel and do all these things.
On the other, I want to sit in a room and watch her play some more. Take her to the park. Show her that being strong doesn’t have to mean being away from her working for The Man, but it can mean being there for her and taking the plunge and maybe carving something small out for myself. Maybe.
I do have to say that I have been into work a few times and met with my team and had lovely drinks, caught up with the gossip and got to wear shift dresses with no thought to how I would breastfeed in them. And it has been nice, but it’s also felt a little like I’m playing a part in a play entitled “Siobhan Lismore-Scott The Editor In A Very Short Dress Who Likes Prosecco And Swearing”. As much as I am not sure anyone would go to see this particular play, the point is that I feel like I have changed since having Nives and at this particular point in time I don’t know what that means for my career.

Chill. Just breathe.

Has anyone else noticed that there are certain topics amongst mothers that are like conversation dynamite? Conversations that illicit high emotions, opinions and heart rate?!
If, for example, you’d told me ten months ago that I’d get my knickers in a twist over someone telling me how I should be (or, more to the point, should not be) sleeping with my baby, I’d think you were mad. That’s more because I thought the baby would just sleep in its cot and eventually move to a bed and in between there might be a bit of crying and rocking and lullabying, but it’s not like it would be a thing or anything. It’s not like it would be me rocking and crying and the teddy lullabying and nobody would ever sleep, ever. It’s not like that at all.

Anyway, I digress. Turns out baby sleeps amazing (more than three hours) when she’s in bed with me. Sometimes. Sometimes she just wants her own bed and sleeps amazing there that’s happened about three times.) And it turns out that co-sleeping is not that unusual and weird and actually loads of people do it and babies hardly ever get squashed. You see, that’s what I was worried about: squashing the baby. I wasn’t worried about making a rod for my own back, setting unclear boundaries (seriously, what the fuck), being manipulated by my baby, or any of the other things, which is just as well as it turns out there are lots of people around who are worried enough about this to tell me I’m wrong. Or worse, tell my husband who then tells me and I tell him to fuck off and then it’s a thing and I have to tell myself off in my head because I am trying to be GENTLE and telling my husband to fuck off is probably a bit not-gentle.

As I live in Brighton I am lucky that most mums I meet are pretty like-minded and accepting and so I haven’t had too many ‘dynamite’ conversations but sometimes I’ll come across someone who doesn’t think it’s ok to just sort of make it up as you go along and then it’s just a bit… Awkward. Where do you go after someone essentially says you’re doing it all wrong?

Feeding is another one. I literally have no opinions when it comes to how you feed your baby. As long as you’re feeding him or her, that is. Bottle or boob I will support you because you have your reasons for doing what you’re doing and your kid looks great and oh my god is anyone else’s baby doing that weird tongue lolling thing? Seriously, it’s nobody’s business how I am feeding my baby, it’s nobody’s business how long I will continue to feed my baby in this way and frankly, why do you even care? I don’t ask you what you ate for every meal and where you sat when you did it so leave me the fuck alone. Also, I’m breastfeeding and my baby likes to yank whatever cover I try to wear right up, so I don’t use one of those either. I expect you’ll want to know more about *that* too.

What else? Routines. No, my baby is not in a routine. I have a vague idea how the day goes and she goes to bed at the same time each night, but she pretty much does what she likes. I feed her when she is hungry and she naps when she is tired. That’s it. That’s not to say being in a routine is wrong, or worse or better or good. It’s just… This is what we do and our child hasn’t burst into flames or started doing coke along with her milk at lunchtime.

There’s so many of these minefields: paid work vs SAHM; immunisations; TV/screen time; whether I use my phone while feeding (?!); baptisms; whether you put your child in pink/blue (seriously. This is a thing too); naughty step. I can’t, I just can’t. Live and let live, yeah?

Thing is, parenting is hard. I mean, it’s massively rewarding and fulfilling and lovely too, of course. It’s amazing and wonderful and funny and mad. But it’s tough to know if you’re doing the right thing sometimes. And if you can’t sound out close friends and relatives without being judged and branded as a TERRIBLE parent, then it sort of adds to it, doesn’t it? So let’s all chill the fuck out and try to make 2016 the year we just support each other and judge less, ok? Good.

2015: one year on

People told me that I would forget my life before I had children. They said that I would believe my life had been this way forever. And earlier, as I was breastfeeding Nives while on the loo, I remembered this and thought “those people are fucking idiots”. Because I remember intricately how my life was pre-baby. I remember, for example, being able to go to the loo alone. Eat a meal with two hands and both sets of cutlery and it not be a special occasion. Carry a handbag EVERY DAY not filled with wipes, miniature clothes and garish plastic musical objects (has anyone else ever winced when they pick up their bag in public and a small tinny voice inside exclaims: “puppy!” or similar). After work drinks. Long Sunday lunches. Clothes shopping where you try on the clothes. Weekend trips without (what feels like) four carloads of paraphernalia. I remember it. I remember all of it. Here’s the thing though. Despite the onslaught of bloody puppy in my bloody handbag, I love my life now. I’ve never been happier, I’ve never been more chilled in all my life. 2015 has been the best year of my whole life. And I’ve had some really great years, so that’s saying something. It hasn’t been easy - at times it’s actually been really fucking hard!- but it’s like this awesome little human has sprinkled fairy dust on all the things that used to really piss me off and shown me that it doesn’t really matter. So that person is walking slowly down the escalator, it’s OK. But jesus, snub my daughter and I will hunt you down. And oh my God, the empathy. I can’t watch anything on TV without somehow comparing it to my relationship with Nives and balling. Nature programmes are out, as are sentimental adverts about orphan boys eating fried chicken. 2015 has also been the year for our marriage. This is the stuff that marriages are made of: of looking across at your husband while strapped to a hospital bed and seeing concern eking out of every pore. Of intense dislike after zero hours sleep, of blame and whispered furious arguments and martyrdom and then, finally, of calm and love and peace and acceptance and laughter. Pre baby our marriage was cocktails and travel and plans written on a cloud and love, but this is a deeper love. Nothing will make you love someone more than seeing them love the thing you love as fiercely as you do. 2015 will be remembered as the best year ever, as year dot, as the start of my incredible journey with my girl. But I feel like 2016 and every year after this one will just get better and better.

Loss

This week’s been difficult. I say that because a lot has happened and it’s also been quite stressful. But emotionally, I think it’s been difficult for me because I’ve had to face things that I had shut off. I mean things I had shut myself off from. I’m taking about my miscarriage. I’m talking about the loss of my baby.

If it’s not easy to read that, trust me, it’s been harder to write it.

I’ve had this post in me for a long time. I’ve thought about moving on and not talking about this and not making it public for two reasons. Firstly, my experience of loss compared to others seemed inadequate. I suffered a miscarriage, or what the doctors called a ‘natural abortion’ when by my count I was ten weeks pregnant. But my baby didn’t grow from five weeks. I didn’t need an operation, I didn’t have to give birth to a baby. I know people who have gone through this and next to that experience what I went through feels minimal. Inadequate. Silly.

Secondly, I write about love on this blog, I do. I write about my love for my husband, for my friends, my family. Sometimes I am accused of over-sharing, of writing 'drivel’ even. I don’t care, I write because I always have. You just need to look under my bed at the stacks and stacks of old diaries to see that. But when it’s something this close to my heart, I almost don’t want to share it. It’s part stiff upperlip-ness, part fear. It’s hard to let people see the real you.

And that is what I wanted to address today I suppose. I wanted to say that yes, I had a miscarriage. And no, I haven’t grieved for that baby.

I love my baby, my Nives, more than I can ever come close to expressing with mere words, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about my other baby.

My loss came up this week during a massage, of all places, and it stopped me in my tracks. My masseuse, a talented, amazing, woman asked me if I had suffered a loss. And once I started to tell her, I felt I couldn’t stop. I saw her a few days later and she told me: your face has changed. And she said: you never showed anything before. And she’s right.

Since having Nives I’ve been like those bloody ducks: still on the surface, paddling madly below. I think it’s common to give an air of coping to the world but inside be screaming. I know that’s what I have done.

The day I started to lose my baby I went to hospital on my lunch break, waited to be scanned to see what was wrong and then, when they couldn’t fit me in, I walked back to work and went into a meeting with HR and sacked someone.

I knew I had that meeting and I put that above my own experience. The next day, when I was cramping and bleeding, I welcomed a friend who came to visit and went to a BBQ. I didn’t stay long because I was in so much pain. But I insisted Danny stay and I walked home. Then I got home, went to the bathroom and lay on the floor sobbing.

Why did I go to the BBQ? Why did I go back to work? Why did I walk home? Why didn’t I just shut myself and Danny in my house and go through the miscarriage in a human way? I don’t know, but I think it’s the duck theory. I feel like maybe it was more important to be coping than to be grieving.

My baby wasn’t a baby yet, not really. But in my mind I had held him, I had pictured us together, I had our future as a trio mapped out. So when I lost him, although the physical side was brutal, the emotional side was a million times worse.

And again, of course I am grateful and in love with my beautiful, clever and charming baby girl. My grief for my lost baby doesn’t change that at all. But I am allowed it.

And I suppose this week has taught me that I don’t need to look like I’m coping all the time. That it’s ok to let your guard down and it makes you softer and more likeable even. Maybe.

Flights bullshit

One thing about being a mother is that now my bullshit indicator is permanently set to high. I just don’t have time to listen to it and I’m not scared to walk away from the perpetrators.
It’s honed well. If I pick up the phone and hear a call centre in the background; I hang up. I don’t need PPI, accident claims, life insurance, or any new products American Express happen to be offering.
If I see someone waving a clipboard with an earnest smile while I’m pushing my buggy; I cross the road. I give money to charity and commend you for your passion, but I just don’t have the time mate.
And, finally, (and the inspiration for this post) if I’m getting on a plane with my baby I can weed out exactly who I don’t want to be anywhere near. This will come as a shock to those without babies, I can imagine the shock: “what, you mean YOU don’t want to sit with us?! But we don’t want to sit with YOU!” Yup, turns out we mums (and dads) also have several people we REALLY don’t want near our baby during a flight.

1: The disgruntled businessman. This guy ignores us as soon as we approach and makes no effort to help with bags. Baby is smiling and waving and clapping and still this shithead refuses to even raise a fucking smile. He motions to the air hostess that he would like to move AWAY FROM THE BABY and is forever pissed off that he hasn’t been accommodated in first class. This guy will ignore you to the point of awkwardness, but will finally look over when the baby decides to pull off your breast and look around.

2. The snarky middle England, middle aged couple.
She’s decked out in M&S’s finest and he’s wearing those trousers that turn into shorts. This pair, like the businessman, will ignore you but will talk among themselves about you and your baby. You won’t hear all of it but you catch the disapproving glances when she throws her rattle on the floor for the twentieth time and when you feed without covering. As soon as your baby makes any noise whatsoever you’ll be treated to more eye rolls and grumbles. They’ll also be arseholes to the cabin crew.

3.The backpacker.
The inspiration for this post and a bit unfair to include as generally these are friendly people who are completely unaware of the bullshit they are spouting. Worse of it is, we’ve all been this person, maybe.
But, still. Nothing will sink my heart harder than this over-friendly, annoying lot. They have anecdotes about everything and anything. They say things like “I’ve been awake for ten hours!!” And they are saying it because they think it’s a lot. They will tell you story after boring story about the last three festivals they’ve been to and will even continue once you’ve shut your eyes. They say things like “the coach back to mine is £5, but I’m going to hitchhike for the experience”. Fuck off. They will, just as your baby is trying to sleep, launch into an anecdote about how babies go to sleep in Nepal. But mostly, this person will remind you how old you are, and how different you are now. And that is too much for any flight.

4.The “expert”.
Normally an old woman. In fact, always a woman. I’ve had seventeen babies and I can tell you: You’re settling the baby wrong, she isn’t hungry, she’s definitely hungry, aww is mummy starving you? She’s teething, oh what a horrible cough! She wants to sit up, she wants to lie down, she needs a brush through that hair, you need to cut her nails, you need to bite her nails, you should give her tea, ooh some cooled boiled water for that eye!
FUCK OFF. JUST FUCK OFF.

6. The lads.
The drinking, the swearing, the loudness. No, just no. But then one of them will spot you and be super polite and helpful and you’ll feel bad for inwardly complaining.

7. The hungover teens.
You hear it as you come up the aisle. “Oh GOD a BABY”. For the whole flight they ignore you, much like the businessman, only they pepper their obvious disproval with loud “URGHs” and you can see them posting about you on Facebook and sending snapchats of their sad face with you in the background before the plane takes off.

That’s my list, although it’s not exhaustive… Who are your worst nightmares when travelling?

Grown up brother

There’s a funny thing about watching someone you love grow up without you. It’s perfect and wonderful - especially if the growing up is going well and the person is happy - but it’s also lonely and sad at times. Lonely because of course it would be ridiculous to admit that you miss certain things, so you keep it bottled up. Sad, because of the missing.
My brother and I grew up sharing a room. Even when we didn’t, we did. Our parents built a divide but it was gappy and thin so I could tell when he put his light on and he could hear me coming in teenage-drunk from the pub.
When I went to university I got the thing I wanted most of all in all the world: my own room. I put my feet up on my desk, smoked a cigarette and thought: this is living. But that night I couldn’t sleep. I missed the sound of my brother yelling and laughing in his sleep. Crazy.
Anyway, who would I admit that to? What sort of weirdo is homesick for her sleep-talking 14 year old brother?
Fast forward 17 years (OH MY GOD I AM SO OLD) and I’m lying here in bed thinking about the fact my brother is having his first birthday in the US this year, with his lovely wife Maddie. I’m thinking how I’m going to miss him, I’m thinking about all the birthdays we spent together, bursting into his teeny room with presents first thing in the morning, mum making the cake the night before. And then I sort of realise that he did a lot of growing up between the day I moved out (and he took my bedroom…) and today. And I’m so proud and so happy that every decision he made somehow led him to Maddie and their life together now. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was also a bit sad.

Don't pity me

Writing this note makes me sad. It makes me sad because there’s no reason why I should feel like I need to write this. This, what I am about to write, should be implicitly understood and respected. But it is not. And so here I write - here I scream from the bloody rafters, if you will: being a mother is the best bloody thing I have ever done.
Do not pity me, do not think your life is better than mine because you can still fit into your size ten jeans and you go to sleep each night without mashed banana in your hair. It is not.
Do not assume I want to go on girlie holidays and now am sad I cannot. I can, by the way, but I do not want to. I want to go on holidays with my girl. I want to hold her hands while she feels the sea run over her chubby feet. I want to blow soft raspberries on her pudgy belly under a sun umbrella, hold her close to me in a swimming pool as she flaps with delight. I want to fall asleep in the middle of the day next to her and wake to her beautiful face next to mine, babbling. I’ll take the nappies, the shrieks, the lack of sleep. I’ll take it all fifty times over to have these moments with my girl.
I do not want to go to clubbing. I am 35 and clubbing makes me feel old. Although it’s not an age thing. I haven’t wanted to go clubbing for years. I want to lie in the still night and listen to my girl breathe and snort. I want to feed her in the half light of the moon. You like clubbing, I do not. But it is not as a consequence of being a mother.
Do not assume that my life is easy, do not assume it is hard. It is both. Loving her is easy and, luckily for me, natural. Parenting is hard, harder than anything I have ever done and infinitely more rewarding.
Do ask after her. She exists. Do ask how she is, what is she doing. You’ll see a light come on behind my eyes as I tell you. If you love me, you must love her.
Do continue to ask me out for drinks, meals, plays. Our friendship has not altered and I want to know what is going on in your life. I love you, but don’t pity me.

Aylan Kurdi

Over a week ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw an image which stopped me in my tracks. I know now that thousands, maybe even millions, of people had the same reaction. There he was, a little boy face down in the sand, waves lapping around his lifeless body. Aylan Kurdi drowned alongside his brother Galip and their mother while attempting to cross perilous waters to safety.
I can’t shut my eyes at night without seeing his little body. I can’t hold my daughter without feeling absolute relief that for the grace of God we were born in a country where an illegal and dangerous passage in a boat is not likely to feature in our lifetime.
I don’t know if it’s being a mother that has burned the image into my closed eyelids so prominently. I believe that I would have been as strongly affected by poor Aylan’s death and the image of his still body before I had Nives, but I wouldn’t have seen her sleeping face in his. I wouldn’t have ached in the same way. I wouldn’t have felt the absolute need to say; my darling girl you are my world.
I have been in a country when bombs have fallen. I have escaped an air attack in a car and a boat, driven to an island not ten miles from our home - not even open sea - and I remember, at the age of 14, how terrifying that was. I see the children, I see them as they are forced to kneel in the mud, terrified at the Macedonian border, as they beg for bread at the Hungarian border. I see them on my television and I feel so sad. And I feel so angry. I’m burning with anger. Anger that in this day and age humans are treated like cattle, that countries are closing their borders, that toddlers are drowning because families have no other choice but to risk their lives in perilous seas. I’m so fucking sad and so fucking angry and so fucking ashamed of this government that I can’t even speak about it.

Read: http://ind.pn/1K36mFF
Sign: http://bit.ly/1ET7qNv

#catlove 😻

Last night was the first time in six years that we spent time in our home without our cats. They’ve been taken to stay with a friend, ahead of work beginning on our floors.
I can only try to describe how odd and still the house felt without them. I was able to sit in the yellow chair without being miaowed at to move. Able to put fresh laundry down and know that no animal would use the piles as a new bed or plaything. We could have slept with the bedroom door open even, but we didn’t out of habit.
I woke up at about five to feed Nives and listened for the scratching at the door. One of my cats, Jango, always seems to sense when we wake and starts scratching to be let in at that time. I listened, but nothing came. It was at this moment that I realised how much these two animals contribute to our family. Everything just felt different without them.
I got Jango six years ago from a friend from work. I initially wanted a tom, which is why she has a boy’s name. I met her when she was only a few weeks old. She climbed onto my lap, along with her other brothers and sisters, but didn’t stick around. She climbed down and made a sort of shuffle for the open door. An adventurer, I thought.
How wrong I was. Yes, she is brave - she’s chased a fox through the park when she was only six months old - but she is more likely to be found napping than adventuring these days. We’ve had to force her out of the house at times, in the hope she will regain her love for leaping around and lose some weight, but she just sits on the windowsill staring accusingly at us until we let her back in.
Knolly came a year after Jango. I was worried about her weight gain and foolishly put it down to loneliness. We got him from a mad old French woman who lived in Streatham. She already had seven cats and one had unexpectedly had a litter. She greeted me wearing a kaftan and showed me her cats and their little purpose-built shed cat houses in her garden. I bought Danny with me a second time. I said “it’s just to look”, as he was not keen on a second cat.
But then Knolly played with his shoelace and he fell in love. At eight weeks old we took this lovable kitten to our home and subjected him to a lifetime of bullying from Jango. He seems oblivious to it, only wanting to play and cuddle constantly. Five years on and we still think of him as a kitten.
Our relationship with our pets is a funny one isn’t it? They give us so much love, their whole lifetime of love, and often it is only when they are gone that we realise how much richer our lives were because of them.
They can also show you sides of people that you were previously unaware of. My nono loved his ginger cat so much that they became a gang of two. When he died, the cat looked for him everywhere, breaking our hearts all over again. When Jutko, the ginger cat, died we felt the loss of my nono as well as of our wonderful feline friend.
Our relationship with our cats has changed as we incorporated Nives into our unit. She has practised stroking them and Jango will come and nap beside her (supervised). Knolly is still keeping his distance, but I know that as she grows older these three will be the closest of friends.