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.

#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.

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.