Surviving the Christmas Shopping Rush with a Baby

There are no tips here, because to put it quite simply, you just have to wing it. No matter how organised I thought I was, back in October, I have failed miserably at retrieving organised mum status. Possibly because I have never managed to be organised before in my life, so with our little wild child thrown into the mix I didn’t have much hope. I admit this and can picture my mum sniggering quietly to herself because she’s known all of my life that I really would forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on. That old chestnut!

I decided to start my Christmas shopping in October, with a very excitable husband when he spotted a Hamley’s store in a busy shopping centre. His day was obviously a bit grey, the day before a half marathon, me dragging him in and out of shops, trying to find something to fit my new mum body shape – obviously moaning and stressing out when I wasn’t getting my way with the fresh threads that were tempting me. Then, in the distance, Hamley’s must have shone down like an angel sent from heaven and off he went. Now, my husband has similar personality traits to a Jack Russell Terrier and is still an 8 year old boy at heart. This is no exaggeration, when we have visitors, he marches the little ones into the garden for ball games, loses balls over fences in every direction and eventually comes back inside – ‘tail’ between his legs – sweat dripping from his head, 10 minutes later than the children he was originally entertaining because they have exhausted every game imaginable and asks ‘what shall we do now?’ That paints a pretty good picture of my dearest!

So yes, my husband ran to the greatest toy shop he’d ever seen in his life (his words) and I lost him for a good half an hour. I was slowly walking around, showing Milo the toys with flashing lights and getting excited at his reactions. I eventually decided to attempt to make my exit and round up my troops. I was faced with a pile of toys with legs. A voice between the boxes said ‘I’ve picked up a few bits for Milo and I think I’ve sorted all the kids Christmas presents’. Yes, he had! After checking over the goods, we proceed to the checkout and I feel accomplished and I had done nothing at all. What a great feeling.

My husband came to the rescue on two more occasions too. One was a phone call, he was in Sainsbury’s and they had an offer on toys, so we had now doubled up on the kids Christmas presents and it was only November! The next occasion was yet another trip to Hamley’s, and you’ve probably guessed, over spent on the little ones AGAIN. So we are now super organised for birthdays next year too!

If I’ve learnt anything from these experiences, it has been to find an adult who loves Christmas and fun and games and let them choose the presents!

Now, the little people of the family have more than been sorted and it has been time for me to sort my life out and shop for everyone else. Milo is not a fan of department stores, going from a cold high street to an over heated, busy building is just not fun for him – and quite rightly so. However, this is where I enjoy my Christmas shopping days, so I had to find an alternative. I did a shop sweep. One shop, every gift! Next was perfect for this. Fantastic Christmas goodies for all of the family and also personal to my favourite people. Winner!

My shopping habits have definitely changed over the past few months and I only have a few helpful hints to survive the Christmas shopping madness. Unfortunately, they involve my husband, or another fully energised, Duracell bunny that has the love for Christmas and kids toys. Oh and, internet shopping – preferably not accompanied by a bottle of red wine after a crazy day playing Mum/Auntie/GymGoer/Cleaner/Chef because who knows what you might end up with!

Five Times I Wish I Listened To Advice From Others…

And times I wish I didn’t!

Pregnancy makes you a magnet for curious children, other mums and the older generation, with the latter trying to offer you ‘helpful’ hints and tips whether you want to hear it or not. I’ve thought back to those little snippets of advice, some I dismissed and should have actually listened and then the really unhelpful ‘wise words’.

Five pieces of advice I wish I had listened to.

Never wake a sleeping baby.

The go to baby tip that I thought people told me when they didn’t know what else to say. Or so I thought.

As it turns out, babies really DO NOT like to be woken up. Not even for feeding. So all of those times I was watching the clock and worrying that our little tike hadn’t been fed for two whole hours and considered waking him up, I should have just let him sleep. Looking back on the first few weeks, Milo never lasted more than three hours before needing to be nursed again and this time reduced to hourly feeds in the day and two hourly feeds at night as he got older. I’m not saying this is because I would disturb his sleep to feed him but I do wonder whether this was a contributing factor to the numerous wake up calls at night. (I am aware babies are meant to wake up through the night, but sore nipples that are attacked hourly are not welcomed with open arms.)

Make freezer meals for when your little bundle arrives

I was (un)lucky enough to have about 8 weeks off work before Milo arrived so I did manage to make a few freezer meals in between my daily walks to get ice cream and creme eggs – crazy pregnant lady life. However, we ate them all by the time Milo was 4 days old and I spent a lot of time telling people that we didn’t need to use them because we had plenty of time to sort our dinner out. Then came Daddy’s return to work and the realisation that those freezer meals really would have been handy! So next time, I will have meals in the freezer that have been stashed in secret so that when Daddy comes home from work, he really will think I’m super mum and I get shit done.

Express your milk at any opportunity

I didn’t do this and it is my biggest regret. Milo struggled to latch on to my left side whilst feeding in the first few weeks and I struggled to get milk when I first started expressing from it too. If I had started expressing from day one, I know I would’ve had more milk for Milo to feed. If I could go back and start the breastfeeding process again, I would have expressed as much as I could to increase my supply and become a milk machine for my very hungry baby!

Make the most of having your other half at home, by resting

Of course you want to rest after having a baby, you deserve it. But, Daddy’s home! Two whole weeks as a little family and you expect me to stay inside and sleep? I wanted to get out and about and show Milo off to the world. We did a lot of that. I remember packing our bag and leaving the house at midday and returning at 10pm when Milo was 3 weeks old after visiting a castle and spending the evening out with family. It was one of my favourite days but I was definitely exhausted. Three weeks post cesarean section and a long day of walking and socialising really took it out of me but at the time I didn’t know why I was thought of as crazy. I do now. I’ll definitely use Dad’s paternity leave as my nap time when we do it again!

Spend time at home in the first few weeks

Again, we did not do that. We didn’t find our feet as parents at home and my recovery was probably longer than it needed to be because I wanted to walk everywhere. Of course I did, it was summer and Milo was born at the hottest time of the year (the hottest and driest Glastonbury Festival in years too). But yes, we should have just enjoyed they summer from our back garden.

And the pieces of advice I wish I hadn’t listened to…

Feed your child every three hours, even if they are sleeping

This may or may not have been the reason Milo was always awake for the first 12 weeks of his life. Next time, as long as our baby is putting on weight from being fed, I am happily going to let them sleep for longer periods of time if that’s what they want to do. (I will forever be grateful for the baby safety feature that makes them wake up during the night, but at least two hours of sleep at a time will always be welcomed!)

Get your baby in a routine from day one

No. Not happening. Don’t feel the pressure to have a perfect clockwork baby. Especially if you are breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are fed on demand. You might see a pattern after a few weeks where they are going for longer periods of time between feeds and then a growth spurt happens and everything goes out of the window. Just expect to feed your baby when they are hungry and you won’t feel like you are failing at finding a routine. It will happen. Just not as a newborn, no matter how good your best friends mums cousins baby is at this routine crap. Lucky them. If your baby is happy, healthy and responsive then you are the best at your job.

Switch to formula to help your baby sleep through the night

It did work. But within a month, Milo rejected breastfeeding and I wasn’t ready. My milk disappeared without any feeling as Milo gradually refused his feeds but guzzled a bottle of formula milk.

Dream feed

For us, the dream feed didn’t work. It just meant that Milo had an extra feed at 10pm before waking up again at midnight. The dream feed could be a god send for some but Milo obviously thought it was an opportunity to get an extra feed. In some ways, I’m glad I listened to this piece of advice because I found out that it didn’t work for us but it could have worked and I would then be promoting this method.

I guess advice comes from generations of mothers who found that these little things all worked for them in different ways.

Unfortunately, parents do have to find things out for themselves and for us, as Milo’s parents, we are grateful for any piece of advice that has been shared and feel honoured to share what we find helpful when we have been asked. So thank you for the advice, it has all been used – if not in everyday life, then most certainly for blogging material! Carry on supporting each other as parents, and we will all have days when we feel we have smashed it!

Operation: Straight Feet for Milo

How prepared can you be for your baby’s first ever operation? Whether your baby is 16 years old, 16 months or 16 hours, as parents you will have the same anxieties, worries and emotions no matter what age it may happen. No matter how big or small the operation, watching your child go under general anaesthetic isn’t pleasant. 

We always knew operation day would happen and we knew that Milo would still be very little and this was a lot to deal with, emotionally. For the first two weeks of Milo’s life, we felt like we were left in the dark and given very basic information about his condition. However, looking back, we were clearly just being concerned parents and the professionals were doing their jobs and following procedures. 

We were first told about the operation, in detail, at our first appointment with physiotherapy. It seemed straightforward and small. Milo would be put under general anaesthetic, he would have a small incision at the back of each ankle to snip the Achilles’ tendon and then he would get stitched up and plaster casted for recovery. Simple. The procedure is very simple and low risk, but Milo’s still our baby. 

When we had confirmation of the day of the operation, we felt relief and anxiety all in one. It was exciting to know that we were moving onto the next phase and Milo was making good progress. The next phase just meant, operation. 

The date was hanging over our heads, but it didn’t feel like a gloomy black cloud. It was more like the bright and positive sun, with a black cloud passing by occasionally. We are a positive family, so we were looking forward to the big day more than we were worrying about it but talking to others about what was going to happen to Milo was introducing a little bit of fear every time we spoke about it. This was partly down to how our family and friends would react to what we were telling them and partly because we had repeated the procedure so many times, we had started to think in more detail, what could go wrong?

Our trip to the hospital seemed to be the longest one to date, when in reality, it was probably one of the more straight forward journeys we had taken. We were very organised on the day and reserved a parking space in the car park where we had become members, to get discounted rates every time we had to go to hospital. We even turned up to our appointment early, which we probably couldn’t do if we were bribed with free food! 

Once we were set up to take Milo into the hospital, it all seemed very real and the sicky, worrying feeling was well and truly present. The hospital corridors were long and I started noticing worried looking parents walking by, when before I only noticed happy, smiley children. 

Once we were on the ward, I could only see positives, which was a relief. The staff were all very friendly and parents in the waiting room were all dealing with children getting hungry due to being nil by mouth so I knew I wasn’t alone. For that reason, and that we had support from Milo’s Nan too! 

The wait to be called into theatre was long, poor Milo hadn’t been fed milk in five hours, the pain I was feeling from my chest was almost as unbearable as the wait itself. As a family, we were all getting impatient, there were quite a few huffs and puffs and groans. Then out of nowhere, we were called through. There was a tiny hospital gown waiting for Milo and we had him swaddled in a blanket, relaxed and content, just how I wanted to keep him. We were talked through what was going to happen as we were holding our little baby tightly in our arms and in no time at all, they were holding a mask out, ready to put him under the general anaesthetic. Milo was held by dad, sat on a stool, with me stood closely behind. The mask was put over Milo’s nose and mouth and after taking a few breaths his eyes started to close and he started to fidget a little bit, which is expected. He was then put into the operating table and had a kiss from mummy and daddy. Then came the tears, the ones that all theatre staff expect but you still feel like you’re the only parent to cry and you don’t have your shit together. The reassurance I got was from another mum on the ward tell me that the first time is always the hardest. This made me realise that parents go through this regularly and there are so many brave mums, dads, siblings and grandparents and this is something to admire. We were lucky to be in a hospital which spread so much positivity in their community. 

The 45 minute wait for Milo to come out of theatre was long and boring. I sat holding his Muslim cloth for the duration, wiping away tears whenever I thought about what was happening to our little boy but I also took the opportunity to enjoy a hot cup of tea! 

After 45 minutes of pacing the waiting room wondering what to do with myself, the nurse called us into recovery. The room was empty, just Milo being cuddle by a nurse and a few others stood around. He was handed back to us straight away and the knots in my stomach released immediately and I felt like everything was better again. We had about an hour and a half to cuddle our little boy before heading home and getting back to reality. It was definitely a time to cherish after such a long and tiring day. 

We were told that the operation went well and Milo’s feet were in the position that they should be in so you can imagine how excited we were to take the final plaster casts off and see the result! It has all been worth it so far and now Milo looks like a super cool snowboard kid in his boots and bar! 

Milo post operation. 

And Milo’s straight little feet! 

The Mummy Worries

Mums worry. I know that. My mum used to worry about me pulling out of the junction by our family home in my car, at age 25! I get it now though… Nothing can prepare you for that feeling of worry when YOU are the mum. I’ve been thinking about these little wobbles I have, daily, I may add. Most of the time I can laugh at myself and I know I’m being silly, I look back at how I used to react when my own mum had similar wobbles. I had perfected the full body eye roll by age 4. 

So, I decided to make a list of things that mums are bound to worry about, and because lists are productive, I’ve tried to show how these worries do seem like a big deal. Because at one point, they were a big deal to you. 

Am I feeding my baby enough/is he sleeping enough/ is he getting enough interaction?

The main newborn worries, all rolled in to one. This is relative to me right now; when the only food my baby had access to was coming from my boob, I had no idea how much he was getting from me. All I knew was that he was growing. What I didn’t know though – if he’s putting on weight, he’s getting enough milk. If I would have known this, my first few weeks of breastfeeding would have been easier and I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to feed constantly. It wasn’t until I started combination feeding after 12 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding that I really started to relax. Milo was napping better in the day and would sleep for longer than an hour and a half at a time during the nighttime. 12 weeks of worrying about feeding your perfectly happy and healthy baby is so unnecessary, but I’m glad I did worry and eventually see sense because everything is a learning curve! 

As for sleeping… Milo didn’t do this much. I spent weeks and weeks searching for baby sleep routines and recommended daily sleep for newborns. The more I found, the more I worried. Take the expected hours of sleep in a 24 hour period for a newborn – 16 to 20 hours a day, I believe – now halve it and that is vaguely what Milo was getting. One day, I had calculated his sleep at 12 hours in a 24 hour period and 10 of those hours were throughout the night. I had it all written down and I thought there was something wrong with our son. What you don’t get from a piece of paper or a baby routine app, is how your baby is actually coping with such little sleep. Milo liked to cat nap and was perfectly happy to have 15 minute naps all through the day. As soon as I dismissed the routine app from my phone, I relaxed. Milo also started sleeping longer and I guess it’s because I spared him of my negative energy and he was able to relax more! 

And now, interaction. As long as we see eye contact, cooing, copying facial expressions and shifting attention, there tends to be nothing to worry about. So carry on giving a running commentary on getting yourself dressed in the morning and singing to your number one fan about how annoyed you are that the house doesn’t tidy itself, because you are doing enough. You are doing a great job! 

What if I have nobody to talk to at the baby and toddler group?

Ahh, it’s like high school again. You’ve thrown yourself into the deep end and booked a space at the new parent and toddler group. On your own! Why?!? Why did you do it? No baby buddies, no supportive husband and no ballsy 6 year old to ambush all of the other parents, making them feel obliged to compliment you on raising such a confident little thing! Never mind, you’ve done it now. Time to take action. You get to the group super early and pick a spot that isn’t completely on the outside so you get cut out by the uncomfortable looking regulars but also isn’t directly in the middle where you tend to get the ‘toppers’, those parents that claim their child has had/done everything your child has, and more! No, you want a neutral spot. Near the door, so you can assess the groups coming in. Slightly off centre so you can engage in conversation with a select few friendly faces. And finally, fairly close to the hot drinks table. Close enough to suss out the teabag/stirring spoon/sugar scooping etiquette but far away enough to not panic yourself over hot drink spillages near the baby – that is if your local group still allows hot drinks around the little ones. 

Why are we worrying about this? We should bite the bullet and turn up when we are ready, sit where we want – let’s face it, we don’t want to sit by a breezy door in winter – and who cares if no parent talks to us on our first trip to the group? We’ve got our little dude to talk to (not the conversation we were hoping for, but he never lets you down). 

I’ve booked and paid for these swimming lessons. What will I do if he doesn’t like water?

Again, minor worry here! Babies might cry when they first enter a swimming pool because it’s cooler than what they are used to; and that loud echo of others talking, shouting and laughing is pretty daunting too. However, like most humans, babies quickly get used to this environment and they might not be keen on staying at first but you need to remember that yes, you did book your space and pay for those baby swimming lessons so you can get as much attention and support from your instructor as possible, that is why they are there. They want to support you so you feel the session is successful, and then comes positive feedback and word of mouth recommendations which are golden for small business owners. So, we are winning all round!

What if I don’t hear my baby wake in the night?

Well, this worry came from pregnant me. Life before Milo. I soon realised that it was going to be impossible to miss those noises through the night and I was relieved. Although, I didn’t realise that I’d get so confused during those early morning wake up calls. It’s not just me though, luckily this confusion is common and I’ve loved laughing at stories from friends about their confused episodes. Putting things away in strange places, thinking the baby is still in the bed with you but has somehow got lost in the covers (when really he’s sound asleep in his cot) and thinking somebody is ringing the doorbell at 4am. These are a few of my favourite stories to giggle about!

I suppose the real worry for me now though, what if I don’t hear my baby waking when he’s in his own bedroom?! I’m sure I will hear him, just the same as I do now, but we just need to wait until we cross that hurdle!

What is this rash?!

For the first few weeks of life, babies skin is always changing. Dry skin is common, as are blemishes here and there. You still don’t believe that though. Milo was admitted to hospital at 6 days old because his skin looked as though it had a slightly blue tinge to it, combined with a struggle latching on to my boob and very irregular feeding times – not wanting to feed for 7 hours through the night and then feeding every half an hour the next night – we were glad he was being monitored and I got that extra feeding support. Nothing was wrong with him of course. It was just changeable newborn skin. Another thing that nobody tells you about. 

Little ones are forever going to the doctors surgery with rashes too. Viral rashes. It seems as though it’s the go to answer but just be relieved when you are told that is all it is. And never feel silly for taking your child to the doctor. They are always happy to check over your little ones and catching early symptoms leads to better treatment and recovery if ever there was something abnormal. 

I suppose my biggest worry recently was going through milo’s operation and mostly going under anaesthetic. Looking at what we worry about as mothers definitely helped me through the situation. It’s normal to express concern when it comes to your child, no matter how big or small it may be. If anyone can help you overcome your fears and worries by talking about their own experiences or stating facts. We should really be listening, and taking deep breaths whilst telling yourself that everything will be okay! 

Please remember to talk to someone regarding any concerns you have that may be niggling away at your thoughts, our babies need us to be positive and full of confidence. You’re stronger than you will ever know! 

Life After Birth… The Newborn Blur

This. This is all I really remember in those first few weeks. Trying to play with my baby and both of us lasting a maximum of three minutes. Time well spent? I’d say so! Let’s look at real life here and stop feeling bad about not following new mum rules, because let’s face it, sleeping when baby sleeps? Doesn’t happen with visitors around!

I got told I should limit my visitors. This is something you desperately try to do, but you don’t realise how many people you actually know until you have a baby. Texts and calls quadruple, random knocks at the door and neighbours hovering on their driveways a little longer to catch a glimpse of the new arrival. You feel obliged to invite everyone in for a ‘quick cuppa’ because you know, you are British! You are also excited to show off your little bundle because he is the cutest baby to ever be born. We had every intention to spread our visitors out but when you have friends at work, 6 – 7pm is prime time to ‘pop in after work’ and there’s a two week window before your baby isn’t brand new, so you just brave it, invite everybody round, and you actually feel fine. And baby? Sleeping soundly, ignoring all of the fuss!

 This is the time I should have taken to nap whilst daddy was around to help in the day. But this is exactly the reason I didn’t want to nap, because daddy was home for two whole weeks and we were excited to spend time together, awake time! 

We would take trips out into town or go for coffee, because maternity wage hadn’t quite kicked in and if my money wasn’t being spent on baby goodies or prosecco, it was going towards coffee dates! This is where we would get bombarded with members of the public because babies are stranger magnets! We would get asked those annoying questions, deemed acceptable questions to ask new, emotional and sleep deprived parents… ‘Is he good?’ Well actually, he’s a baby. He sleeps, eats and poops. He cries if I’m needed, even if it is just for a cuddle, that’s fine though because newborns smell and feel so good! It makes you feel good to cuddle that little dot and know that you are all he needs right in that moment. So is my baby good? Well, yes, he’s doing what he should be doing after all. 

One of the other things I remember in the newborn phase is going out for a walk in public – 6 days after having a ceserean, not recommended! I would constantly be asked the age of my baby and then be greeted with shock if I answered anything less than two weeks old. I got a lot of ‘oh wow, you’re out already? But he’s so young’ or ‘well done you, it must be hard coming out with him so tiny’. You can’t respond how you’d like to – yes it is hard, my nipples feel like they are bleeding every time I move my arms, I feel like I’m being cut in half again and I just want to cry – whether you’re being nice or not. 

Let’s face it, it’s 6 weeks of feeling like your life is complete and a complete mess all at the same time. Listening to strangers telling you that they grow up too fast, you don’t believe it and think you have all the time in the world, but it’s not long until you realise they are right. 

Milo’s newborn phase seemed to only last two weeks, because this is when he started treatment for his talipes and his legs were in full casts. 

We totally enjoyed his ‘baby looking like a prawn’ phase! 

Pregnant with a clubfoot baby

Pregnancy should be a breeze, it’s the most natural thing that a woman can do. Right? Really?! Then, help! 

This was my view, pre-pregnant Liss, pushing my body on the regular at gym sessions and running or on the flip side, drinking lots of beer and gin! But that’s nothing in comparison to the miracle growth inside you, and everything else that comes and surprises you before that little baby makes their appearance. 

First trimester – sent to test you physically, mentally and emotionally. The morning sickness, extra toilet stops, broodiness, mood swings and that lovely shade of grey in your skin that only disappears when you look slightly flushed from throwing your guts up in the morning! A real morning work out! It’s a mixture of emotions in these 14 weeks or so, right up until that first dating scan when you realise your baby is doing okay and you get your ‘D-Day’ confirmed. For us, it was June 12th. And waiting for this date was like we were 5 and a half and waiting until our 6th birthday party because jumping on a bouncy castle after jelly and ice cream is the best day of your life! What a great few weeks to look back on. 

Onto the second trimester – when we found out our little baby boy would be born with talipes (clubfoot). Mentally and emotionally, the second trimester was the toughest. I spent hours a day on google trying to find as much information on clubfoot as possible but no matter how much I searched, I was getting told what I needed to hear. I spent some days so far into a google search that I would wake up in the night after nightmares about my parenting skills. What I really needed to be told was that everything was going to be fine and my baby boy would be beautiful! Now for my physical changes, where luckily, I felt fabulous! My once small boobs were finally growing whilst my stomach was still relatively flat and I was still frequently visiting the gym without rushing to the toilet to throw up. I felt on top of the world when I completed a spin class and stood up to reveal my baby bump and when asked how long I had left I would happily reply ‘only 10 weeks to go’ and that feeling lasted for a whole 3 days. When you feel as though you’ve only got 10 weeks to go for about 12 weeks, you definitely start feeling a bit deflated and that’s when the third trimester feels kick in!

Oh, third trimester, how I was glad to say goodbye to you and really miss you all at the same time! Having a lovely round baby bump gives you the confidence you never had to wear those tight dresses and plunging necklines because you look great! Personally, I love to see beautiful mummas to be embracing their fantastic ever changing bodies and showing off their lovely lumps and bumps. It really is something to be proud of, your body goes through so much and you have the opportunity to talk to strangers in public about your excitement towards your upcoming family life. I loved the excitement people felt for you because you felt it too and it’s refreshing to have the positivity surrounding you. It was a breath of fresh air for us especially, because although we were over the moon that we were bringing a life into the world, we also worried about the care and treatment surrounding us and as new parents you want to be as prepared as possible but when even professionals can’t give you a timeline of events, you are left in the dark.

I spent months looking for ‘clubfoot essentials’ and methods that the doctors may use to correct his feet but now it’s here, I don’t think it was much help. In future posts I will truthfully talk about what has helped and what has been a time waster or money waster! 
Please also remember, I am from the UK so Milo’s treatment will be slightly different to other countries – or counties even!