10 Signs You Love Parenting 

Disclaimer: please read 10 things you can’t stand about parenting’ if you’re not in a positive parenting place right now, like me most mornings. That fluffy focus-on-the-good parenting stuff needs balancing out a bit.

 

1. Spending ridiculous amounts of time just looking at your baby/child. You know their every detail to the extreme, and of course they are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You often feel smug when you look at people who aren’t your child’s parent (so pretty much everyone else except your partner) and gloat inwardly that they don’t get to look at your child every day. You regularly feel the urge to ferociously approach strangers crying “look at her face, she is beautiful!” because, they didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

2. Feeling that aching proud feeling in your chest when they’re so scared to swim in the swimming gala but they do it eventually. Even though they came last, they did it. All the other kids were probably doping anyway.

3. Watching your kids hug each other. It’s quite a skill to have made a little pack of humans whom you hope will confide in each other when they’re bigger and always have a friend who knows them so well. This morning I overheard my two eldest discussing how they liked ‘their baby [brother]’.

4. Wanting to bottle the smell of your baby’s head. I know it’s a cliché but if one of my kids is sat on my lap it’s quite likely that I’ll have my nose in their head (that sounds normal), which is fine until they notice and tell you to stop sniffing them.

5. Loving the power that the iPad or sweet foods has over other humans. I am God. You can make them tidy anything with the promise of an ice lolly.

6. When their favourite song goes from ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to something over 20 seconds long and becomes ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead, like my 6 year old daughter (which Daddy is very proud of).

7. Watching them learn to read, or write their own name. The months of choosing their name suddenly becomes a lot more serious. (May have set the bar quite high for our daughter Geneviève, poor kid.)

8. Sitting on the floor and having your baby crawl over to you and rest their head on your thigh. Loving that you’re what they want right now, not a brightly coloured, obnoxiously noisy toy in the corner.

9. Spending weekends watching them run around in the sun and play in trees, or even just giggle at cartoons. This is their childhood. Remembering what you remember from your childhood and realising that this is that, for them, right now. Wanting to make it brilliant.

10. Having made some freshly squeezed brand new people that are largely part of you, but are also separate beings and wanting them to be a bit like you, but also have a better life than you. You know they will probably make the world a tiny bit better.

 @shopgirlygm

Disabled and Pregnant 

At 25 weeks pregnant, it’s getting slightly uncomfortable now, and there’s still quite a way to go until pushing day. As I’ve mentioned before, this is my third baby, but no two pregnancies are the same and it’s amazing which bits I tend to forget about each time. Other things are very familiar. 

Being this pregnant and being a wheelchair user full-time comes with its own issues, however, and I thought someone might like to hear what it’s like from a different, slightly lower down perspective. 

1. Do I even look pregnant? I currently just look like I’ve been to a large family BBQ and eaten everyone else’s food. For those who know me and know I am pregnant, they are not surprised by my growing belly. And even for people I know that didn’t know I was pregnant, I think they’d guess and hopefully not just guess that I’ve eaten all the fruit pies. But for those whom don’t know me, and might just walk past me outside or in a shop, I’m really struggling to believe that they see me as being a pregnant woman. I don’t know why it bothers me, but, there it is. Like it’s not real if people don’t recognise it. I feel like because I’m not stood up and have an obvious spherical swelling on my abdomen, wearing a tshirt that says “Hands off the bump, punk”, or whatever, and am instead sat down with what looks like your dad’s beer belly just resting precociously on my lap, it doesn’t necessarily identify me as an expectant mother. 

2. My lap is rapidly decreasing in square footage. Everything falls off my lap where before it would just sit there conveniently. As I write this, a cushion is teetering on the edge of my knees because it can’t quite get enough purchase to stay on me. It’s quite unfortunate really as even my children are feeling the wrath of being kicked out of the way by their soon-to-be baby brother. My 2.5 year old regularly asks for cuddles sat sideways on my lap but within a few moments one leg slides off, and then the other and then off she toddles, making it apparent that lap-based cuddling is just too much work right now. She’ll be back in a few months, I hope. 

3. If anything does fall off my lap onto the floor and no one is immediately at my side like a loyal puppy to retrieve said item, then I’m at a loss for ways forward as I can no longer lean to the floor for longer than a couple of seconds, and picking up pretty much any object takes an average of 1 hour 3 minutes while my hands fumble around aimlessly poking the object on the floor, until I give up, sit up and sigh. 

4. Oh yes, sighing. Or even just breathing. Having a baby growing in your belly, pushing upwards in your abdomen, and being sat down all day makes breathing such a chore at times. I mean really, surely breathing is one thing that I should be able to do by myself with no assistance! But several times a day I find myself breathless despite breathing what I thought was normally. It feels like I’m hyperventilating and it’s very annoying at 2am when turning over in bed to get comfortable has just ruined my whole night’s sleep, and now I’m irritatingly aware of every single breath, in and out. 

5. The unquenchable thirst, and the argument I have with myself over wanting to drink more and wondering if I want the drink more than I want to have to go to the toilet. Yet again. This is something any pregnant woman faces, but for me having to pop to the toilet (I cannot ‘pop’ anywhere), especially in the dark hours, is more effort than I’m willing to put in for the sake of extra hydration, at a ten minute round-trip. Sorry thirst, you lose. 

6. My partner told me, whilst getting into bed the other night that he thought David Attenborough could narrate a documentary about me. “Well that’s rude”, I hear you mutter. But really, he’s just quite  observant. Crawling from the bathroom into bed, groaning in pelvic discomfort and with a belly getting nearer to the floor each week, is somewhat akin to watching a pregnant water buffalo lay down for the night, close to birthing her next young and desperately trying to get comfortable in her bed. I think it’s quite a compliment really. I mean Sir David only narrates the best documentaries, right?

I think those are the highlights so far. Still around 15 weeks to go. Or slightly less as legend has it. 

If you have anything similar to add, disabled parenting or plain old able-bodied, please do let me know. 

Until the next installment…

@shopgirlygm 

Open letter to Action For Children.

Open letter to Action For Children.
I take my job very seriously. I care about the people I work with and the parents and children I see every day. I see children as newborns and get to see them grow up into awesome little people, I get to see parents be brilliant and make friends with others in similar situations. I see that the work Action For Children does is invaluable, to all families including those in crisis and those who are not. 

I work because I care about children but like most people, I also work because I have to earn money to put a roof over my own children’s heads, and put food in their tummies. My own children will always come first if they need me in an emergency or if they are not well enough to go to school or nursery, and Action For Children as an employer have been providing a cushion of 5 individuals days of Dependants’ Leave per year. It doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when you can only take one of these individual days at a time, and this makes things very complicated when your two kids get chicken pox one after the other, but I’d just use up annual leave and think myself lucky that I could just use annual leave and my babies would recover relatively unscathed after the spotty fortnight. 

However, today I read on an email that you are taking away our right to 5 paid Dependants’ Leave days a year, all of them. Instead we have to pay back the time we take out to care for our unwell children, or take it as unpaid leave, neither of which are practical or feasible – especially as childcare rates are increasing and tax credits are being sliced left, right and centre. 

I am well aware that there other, much more serious matters going on in this country right now for me to be moaning about losing some paid Dependants’ Leave, and I should be lucky I even have a (relatively) secure job. But I do find it extremely frustrating and It really doesn’t fill me with hope that my employer cares about me being a parent myself, or what effect this will have on our own families. I hope in the near future you might reconsider this change in policy to reflect the needs of working parents and their own children. 
Sincerely, 

Lizzy, 

Children’s Centre Assistant. 

Only a bit useful

My partner has been away abroad with his dad (man holiday) for the last 10 or so days and during this time I’ve had an assortment of family (2 whole different people) coming to stay to help me. It always seems to involve a lot of preparation and planning when this happens, although aside from Tom’s occasional work trips, his father-son trip away is only alternate-yearly, so in reality it’s not a big thing.

All the same, I love having people come to visit. I just never feel totally comfortable having to rely on other people to come and stay with me just because I can’t look after myself so to speak, even if they have previously fulfilled that role in years gone by, such as my mum. Mum has known me for…erm, *most* of my life I believe, and so is pretty comfortable with knowing what kind of things I need assistance with. Only it’s not the same as it used to be.

I am majorly less independent than when I lived at home pre-uni, I can’t do many of the things I used to be able to do and nothing makes that more of a reality than being in these couple of weeks where I become the daughter of the household once again, being looked after by my mum. I start to question and analyse my every move, wondering whether I’ve always crawled from the bedroom to the bathroom on my hands and knees, and then remembering -no, this is new in the last few years. Before that I could walk upright on my knees holding on to available furniture and walls, and before that I could still walk in bare feet, carefully. Just picturing the backwards transition of my movement-abilities in my head… Oh god, am I reversing evolution? Am I going to turn into an ape and start carrying my babies on my back?

I then start to wonder if I’d tried harder, could I have held on to some of my old abilities? I hope not, is the answer. As my muscle wastage has progressed since childhood, things have got a lot more difficult and/or dangerous and so quickly learning new techniques is the only practical way of getting on with things without just laying on the floor like an upturned turtle yelling ‘hellllp, I can’t hold A hair brush the same way I used to!’ I used to be right-handed for writing and using cutlery, that got too difficult so now I use both hands at the same time. I’m not ambidextrous as such, multidextrous maybe? I quite like that, a little more comic-book heroin. Bidextrous? Hmm. I’m not sure.

There was a time where getting in and out of the bath was nothing too taxing. Now it has become something else. I don’t possess a new-age sci-fi hoist type contraption (we are intending to move house sooner rather than later) so first time I showered after Tom went away last week was when my mum and our family friend were here to stay. Getting me out of the bath was quite the spectacle. It wasn’t exactly far removed from a Search and Rescue winching operation and I was half expecting to see a helicopter hovering above the house full of confused looking air-medic type folk. The operation was carried out in stages, successfully, each one with me being the only naked person amongst 3 grown women hanging out in my bathroom. I have come to the conclusion that being dressed doesn’t make it any easier being the person in need, so I think I might move to a commune and chill with some other wobbly naked people.

I’m 27 now and I still consider myself a novice to the whole ‘wheelchair-user’ thing. I’ve only really used a wheelchair most of the time since aged about 17, which is maybe why I’m still so acutely aware of people’s reactions to seeing someone in a wheelchair when I’m out in public. I’d like to think most of my family still see me as just ‘Lizzy’, not ‘Lizzy, the one in a wheelchair’. Unfortunately, and I suppose I am probably just as guilty of this presumption at times, I can immediately see that people see me as a wheelchair before my actual person. Amongst our family and close friends, we are allowed to make jokes about my bind to the chair on wheels and what purpose it serves in my life. I think making jokes makes it more acceptable that this is what my life is now, and when people know me I am also happy for them to take a stab at risky disability satire. What I find a bit unnerving and a little surprising is moments when strangers attempt this, not knowing at all how it might be received by said person-on-wheels. Luckily for the gentleman at the beach at the weekend, he came out unscathed. Mostly. When my stepdad was loading bags of towels and picnic food onto the back of my electric wheelchair he made a joke about finding a place to stow his other shoes and some beer. The man, who’d been sat there for all of three minutes with his dog, said “good idea, what else would she be useful for otherwise?” 

My mental jaw dropped a little. I quickly retorted with “and providing grandchildren”, in a distinctly defensive tone with the agreement of my Mum and stepdad, but I don’t think he even heard anyway. Bugger. Oh well, stereotypes aren’t that bad, are they? 

  

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On the beach, not being very useful.

The thought-process of Breastfeeding.

So I’m pregnant. I’m excited, nervous and pretty overwhelmed. I think I’d quite like to breast feed, that’s what I will hopefully do but if not I’ll have bottles bought on standby, you know, just in case.

Meanwhile, a simple, quick and painless act called childbirth happens (in no universe EVER).

Aww look! My beautiful baby! (Tears, emotion, blood, tears, etc) I really hope I can get this feeding malarkey off to a good start. 

Okay, latching on. I’ve learnt a lot about this in antenatal classes. Nipple-to-nose, baby opens mouth wide, insert boob. How hard can it be? 

EXTREMELY BLOODY HARD. This baby is absolutely minute, she weighs 5lb 10oz and I think my nostril is bigger than her mouth. How the hell do I make this happen. Millions of women worldwide do this every single day, maybe it just takes a few attempts to get her to see just how irresistible my nipples are. Then it’ll be easy. “Strip her off down to her nappy”, they said on the postnatal ward, “she’ll wake up and be more alert and want to feed”.

She latched on! She stayed on for 76 seconds, I counted! It was amazing, I did it finally. We’ve cracked it. 

Okay it’s been 4 hours since she tried to fool us into thinking she’d feed. Nope, nothing since. I’m going to have to express by hand. How hard can that be? 

MY NIPPLES… I WANT THEM BACK!!! Where the hell have they gone! Oh no, wait, there they are, hanging out down there with my belly button since being stretched like a balloon being tied in a knot. But at least we have milk, all 1ml of it. Don’t drink it all at once now Amélie. 

Okay, you drank it all. I have nothing left to give now except my actual nipples, but you have no teeth so good luck with that.

Formula it is then. This feels so weird, I really thought I’d be able to breastfeed.

I’ve been home for 10 hours now and OH MY GOD MY BOOBS ARE GOING TO EXPLOAD. GET ME TO SAINSBURYS, THEY HAVE BREASTPUMPS…STAT. (Didn’t actually say STAT).

I am a cow. An actual real-life human dairy cow woman. I feel SO attractive right now. She has latched on a total of 5 times in three days, that is kind of progress. Right? 

I don’t want to give up on the actual feeding, what is wrong with me? My mum did this without problems, for a whole year. I can’t physically hold a bottle and a baby at the same time with my useless hands. This is going to be so difficult. I could keep on expressing but that’s a very tedious job where I don’t get much milk out and there’s so much else involved, sterilising, measuring, heating, none of which I can do myself either. The milk has come in properly now though, maybe it’ll get easier?

DONT TOUCH ME. I am fully aware that I have a sudden case of breast-Tourette’s but, bejesus this bloody hurts. I might instead saw off my breast with the blunt side of a bread knife and extract the milk that way, I think it would hurt less. Whose idea was breastfeeding anyway? Do not touch me either mini-child, your mouth is my nemesis! 

Okay yes, you need a feed again, I get that. Make yourself at home, left or right for you madam? I’d recommend the house breast. Would you like a taster before going for the whole thing?

She’s doing it! That’s the majority of the day now where she’s actually entertained the idea for a substantial amount of time and fed from me properly. Does this mean she’s exclusively breasted? I think it does. Man I feel smug right now.  I love this.

I hate this. It is 4.02am, we last met at 1.32am, that is not good behaviour. You CANNOT be hungry right now. Short sleep cycles you say? Stomach the size of a marble you say? Remind me why I signed up for this again. Oh yes, she’s right there in front of me staring at me with massive blue eyes. Then I remember all over again, why I chose to do this. Breast is most definitely best all round but this, is the one thing that ONLY I can do for her. I can’t change a dirty nappy, I can’t get her dressed and get kicked in the face in a miniature sock-battle or lollop around the room trying to soothe a grumpy baby. THIS is my job.

I have boobs and, well, what else are they for?

Okay tiny girl, you’re 15.5 months old now. It has become as much a part of our bedtime routine as brushing teeth and reading What The Ladybird Heard, but you are growing so fast and taking my nipples with you every time you turn to look at the TV whilst feeding. I love you very much, but I think we’ve done it now. Save some for your baby sister, who will be born when you are 2 years and 8 months old and I can start this all over again and teach you all about how brilliant boobs are. Months go by very quickly.

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@shopgirlygm
Photo copyright @tombunton