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.

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.