Five things I’ve learnt from maternity leave

With exactly a week to go before I return to the daily grind, the Final Countdown is on. Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from my year off…

1. There’s no such thing as boredom.

I asked DH before my maternity leave was due to start, “shall I do a Master’s degree? To pass the time?” After having DS1 during my undergraduate degree, I thought it would be perfect timing to have a year off work, look after a baby and gain another qualification. Young fresh-faced me may have stood up to that challenge – the slight older more worn me eventually decided I probably could do with a break. And you know, spend more time with the baby.

2. I’m not as introverted as I thought.

I felt enlightened after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution and watching her TED Talk. She and Myers & Briggs had me down to a T. But I found myself signing up to all sorts; baby yoga, Baby Sensory, Peas’n’Pods, the PTA for the older one at school. What’s more, I found I thrived around people and actually enjoyed small talk – yeah I know, right?

3. Yes, I can do it all over again.

A year ago I was gearing up to send my eldest off to school at the same time as welcoming a new baby to our family. I was past night feeds, controlled crying and potty training, not to mention shunting trucks and hauling freight. I was ready for homework, show and tell, and tales of who pushed who in the playground. What if I forgot how to do something vital? I found myself plunged in a world of nappies and clock watching for the next feed, Googling the odd bit to fill in the gaps. Within a few weeks, I was in the full swing of being mummy to a little once again and it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after a routine was in place.

4. Change is scary.

There’s a real sense of panic when I think too much about going back to work. It’s not that I don’t want to work; if DH ever suggested I could be a SAHM, I think I’d be quite sad at that prospect. I felt a similar fear a few weeks leading up to maternity leave. It’s the new era, change, how our routine will be turned upside down. The lack of control I have over the situation is probably more overwhelming than the change itself. I absolutely love how interesting my job is and if I think about the job in itself without all the baggage, I’m actually quite excited.

5. I bloody hate cleaning.

Gone are the days of SAHMs scrubbing the floors and wiping down the windows. DH finds it hilarious when I say my week has been so busy, I haven’t found the time to pick up the Hoover. I can’t wait until I can legitimately ask DH to do his fair share.

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Swimming with an eczema baby

DS2 is such a water baby, I’ve been desperate to get him into the pool. The only thing that’s been holding me back is his eczema, which coats the whole of his body.

Okay, it’s not the only thing holding me back… getting into the pool myself for such a brief time, just to faff about in the changing rooms after with a shivering cold baby, as well as the horrible smell of chlorine, has put me off.

Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit

Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit

As you can tell, I don’t share the same enthusiasm for the water as DS2. But, I was willing to put all my doubts aside when Splash About sent me their Warm-In-One wetsuit to review.

Moisturised head to toe with his eczema cream, we set off to the local pool with DS2 already wearing the wetsuit for ease. At 8.5 months, the wetsuit fits comfortably with his swimming nappy on and there’s still lots of growing room. The website says it’s made from a specialist fabric and fleece lined – perfect for keeping him warm and protecting his skin.

The pool itself was quite warm, but the wetsuit meant we could stay in just that bit longer. The real test was when we got out of the pool (where I was shivering, as anticipated), but amazingly DS2 remained warm in his wetsuit. He didn’t give any indication of being cold (however, he was clearly shattered from all that splashing about).

Luckily the velcro strip gives it a wide opening back. It was a bit of a struggle to get his arms and legs out, but that’s to be expected with a wetsuit. We showered and headed home, with DS2 having a lovely nap as soon as he got hold of his special blanket. All in all, a very successful trip to the swimming pool!

I should mention that the wetsuit also has UPF 50+ sun protection. It came in handy at the seaside in Cornwall, when it was (shockingly) rather hot.

Although it’s a bit pricey (currently at £22.99), the age brackets for 6-12 months and 12-24 months means it’ll last for longer (they also have it in 3-6 months if you’re super keen to get into the pool).

You can purchase a Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit from their website.

A note to second-time parents

Remember that cot mobile you bought, with the fancy toys suspended on organic Free Trade cotton and the sweetest lullaby you’ve ever heard? The one you just couldn’t resist despite the expensive price tag? I’m sorry to say, but it’s time to ditch it.

I’ll tell you why. When you come to play that cutesy tune in the early hours for your second child, you’ll remember that it’s not actually cute, it’s creepy. You’ll get flashbacks of attempting to lull your firstborn to sleep at 3AM, lying in bed half asleep, desperately trying to catch a few minutes before he wakes for another feed. Eerie fairground music on repeat as you fade in and out of consciousness.

“My firstborn was a perfect little sleeper. We didn’t have any bad nights”, I hear you say. DS slept through most nights from very early on, but like all babies, he definitely had his moments. Teething, growth spurts, illness… all those nights you sat at the end of the bed clutching the Calpol will come flooding back.

So make sure you add ‘cot mobile’ to your shopping list, if not for your sanity, at least so your second child has something that’s theirs (because let’s face it, the second child always gets the raw deal).

Mr. Bump.

It is not unusual for DS to fall over and display some sort of mark from an accident, however Sunday was different. There was actual blood dripping from his face. Perhaps I am being overdramatic and a bit precious over my baby, but it was pretty shocking from where I was standing.

So the story goes, Daddy and DS were setting off to Tescos for some cream cheese to accompany our smoked salmon lunch, which I was very much looking forward to. But within a minute of closing the door behind them, there was a loud frantic knock on the door followed by the sound of DS’ cry. Upon opening the door and seeing DS’ face, I froze and became motionless. I am not sure Daddy knew exactly what to do either, as this had never really happened before.

We decided to clean up the cut with a wet towel, much to DS’ dismay. We dabbed some Savlon on his lip and proceeded to cure him with love and kisses. He most probably ate the Savlon, as he was very keen to prod his lip and investigate after he was over the initial shock.

He seems absolutely fine now, a few days on, though I am still getting over it. It is awful watching your child bleed and feeling helpless, but knowing full well what happens next is up to you. I guess it was one of those milestone moments that follows all the childbirth/nappy changing/weening ones, when it suddenly hits that you are Mummy (or Daddy) and in charge now. No one else can fix that boy.

Please, Sir, I STILL Want Some More.

Since my last nursery post on the 9th September, I am saddened to say nothing much has changed. DS is still coming home hungry despite my incessant complaints to the nursery. Wednesday 21st September sets a fine example of how his nursery fails to address DS’ needs.

Needless to say, my boy came home starving that day. DS has been eating two full Weetabixs since forever, yet somehow, he had only managed half of one on Wednesday. Following breakfast, he had a pathetic minimal snack which he obviously ate all of. He most probably did not reject lunch, but was neglected and left to fend for himself. I can only imagine the worst because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. DS has always been a hungry boy, to the point that he tries to lick the bowl clean, failing that, he puts his face in the bowl instead.

This incident does not stand alone, as illustrated in my previous post, this is a regular occurrence. The food DS eats with me is not a one-off, I place him before myself and always ensure he has the best meals filled with nutritious goodness. Today he ate a whole bowl of porridge for breakfast, followed by three quarters of an apple and a cracker for his snack. For lunch he devoured a bowl of smoked haddock, spring greens, spinach, carrots and leek with cous cous. He is currently eating half a banana after he gobbled up whole croissant for a snack. For dinner he will share our roast beef with potatoes, carrots and whatever else I throw in the mix. It is incredible how little he eats at nursery in comparison to at home.

After much upset, DH wrote a response:

This is not new information to them; when he started nursery we made them very aware of our angst. DS started at twenty months old in an aged two to three room, with children who were capable of feeding themselves without aid, spoke clearly and were able to communicate their needs. DS can string a few words together and can demand things like a car and a ball. He would not demand food, water or a nappy change though – those things are not fun. He needs to be sat down and fed, given water accordingly and changed regularly without being asked. Adults often speak to children as though they should control themselves and have their own answers, however I believe children of all ages should be told, not asked; especially not rhetorically. I have witnessed one or two nursery workers who ask the children if they would like food and the conversation always goes along the lines of, “are you going to eat that?” .. “no” .. “fine I will take it away”. What kind of ‘looking after’ is that?

If it was a matter of survival then yes, I will hand it to them, they are doing a brilliant job. However, I am paying extortionate fees for my boy to be well looked after and I expect a certain level of standard. I do not scrimp and save, work my arse off all week, just to come home to an unhappy boy who has been neglected by people who are meant to be his carers. The staff are meant to bond with the children, engage them in learning activities, encourage them to read, and above all, energise them with nutritious foods. I do not see this happening, or at least, I am not hearing about it. Their 2010 Ofsted report states they should improve to ‘further develop the regular, two way flow of information with parents to maintain and support communication with parents and users of the service‘; a year on, a shabby school book they ordered especially for us because other parents receive feedback verbally does not constitute as a ‘regular, two way flow of information‘ I’m afraid.

Where’s Dee-Da Gone?

*I am not sure if I have mentioned in previous posts, but DS’ name for Daddy is Dee Da (obviously Daddy reversed!).

I am swarmed with mixed feelings when DS asks where either of us are – His cuteness makes me smile; I become very proud of my little boy and his ability to string three words together at 21 months, but then I become overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow. When I call my mother from work and DS speaks on the phone, he repeatedly says ‘Mummy gone, Dee Da* gone‘ and it is incredibly heartbreaking. I wish he could understand, see the bigger picture, imagine how much better off we will be in a few years. But I know he only lives in the present and when something sad happens it is the end of the world for him.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More.

Over the past couple of weeks, DS has been settling into his new nursery. There have been a few hiccups to say the least, but that is to be expected in a new setting. Sometimes though, I feel such errors could be avoided if they had thought about their actions or used their common sense.

'wet and creamed' refers to DS' wet nappy and the moisturiser they applied to his eczema.

Take his meals for the day as an example (please refer to DS’ notes pictured on the right, click to enlarge). Daddy dropped him off at 9AM after DS had breakfast at home, yet they still gave him rice crispies; breakfast is usually scheduled for 8AM at nursery, do they think we starved our child from the time he woke (5AM)? Regardless of this, rice crispies is hardly a filling breakfast to set you up for the day.

We had asked for bread to be given when DS fails to eat at least 3/4 of his lunch; DS loves bread and it is a good solid substitute for any missed meals. From the information provided, Common Sense would tell you not to use a substitute as part of the main meal, as inevitably the other part would not be eaten. Another thing Common Sense would certainly point out is if you are stupidly going to give him bread as part of the main meal, change the substitute.

‘Snack’ and ‘Tea’ has been left empty as DS was promptly rescued by Daddy after his dentist appointment. For the rest of the day, he had a pear, a hot cross bun and homemade lasagne for dinner.

Now for comparison, let me enlighten you on DS’ meals for today (Friday 9th September).

Breakfast – porridge (all)

Snack – A whole pear and two buttered crackers (all)

Lunch – Mince, sweetcorn, marrow, broccoli in a tomato sauce with rice (I made too much, he ate his usual portion and a little bit more. I stopped him before he burst)

Snack – A whole apple (all)

Snack 2 – Crumpet and a plum (all)

Dinner – Roast consisting of chicken, potatoes, carrots, an onion and cauliflower and cheese (all)

He also had four poos today and only one yesterday at home, which only parents would really understand the significance of that.

I have a hungry boy on my hands and clearly the nursery is not delivering. I worry for my boy, whether he tells them he is hungry, whether he is ignored or whether he just does not have the appetite for the revolting food they supply. It is not the nursery workers’ fault in entirety; I understand they are young, childless and are unable to fully empathise with us mothers. But it is management who oversee these workers and should enforce better customer service, more attention given to each child’s individual needs and encourage initiative. He had the same difficulties at the start of his previous nursery, which means things can only get better..