Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Decision-making 101

My husband will mock me for this title indefinitely.  Mainly because I am the last person on the face of the earth who should be giving advice on decision-making.  In fact, he knows well by now that in my side of the family we are all significantly affected by "Decidophobia." Well, maybe not to the extent of actually attaching that valid title... however, we none of us are good at decisions....

That being said, I thought I'd share a moment from yesterday which beautifully sums up the new and wonderful world of decision-making as a mother.  Note: learn from my mistake.  It's nothing major but little things make a difference...

So I got little E beautifully timed with her feed and nap schedule to go and meet my coworkers for lunch in Dublin city centre.  Needless to say that made for quite the morning and getting into the city, parked and walked to the restaurant was quite enough activity for one day.   Anyways, we were meeting at one of our favourite spots as a staff: KOH.  It's a Thai place that is simply good food made with fresh ingredients (lots of lovely market fresh veg) and their menu is a very reasonably priced for lunch.  Love.

Little E and I arrived early so I could get situated at the table with our stroller/pram, and feed before the others arrived... mainly because Eleanora is so dis tractable now and my game plan was to be able to eat  lunch without having to hold a baby.... but wait you say, did you inform little E of the plan? Apparently not.  She took a little feed, obviously smarter than I give her credit for as it was 30 mins before she was really due one... and then got into her Stokke Xplory to entertain herself.  Enter all my coworkers and boom: fussy fit.  I noticed E's cheeks had gone bright red and there you have it folks, a teething attack... and what didn't I have in my bag?  Anything... ANYTHING to help her.  Sure she had toys to teeth on but this was one of those that-will-make-it-worse-mummy moments.  Great.  That was it then.  I had to be baby entertainer extraordinaire for the duration of lunch.... so here entered my decision-making moment....

With the menu in front of me, a screaming child in my lap - the ONLY child, never mind infant in the place, amongst several business lunch meetings... and I panicked.  Make a quick choice, give the menu back to the waitress and have two hand to entertain and hold little E.  My thought process then went as follows:

Little E is not going to stop crying....
There's no way I can put her back in her stroller, that'll make it worse...
Noone else can take her...
Find something you can eat one-handed....
Thai Green Curry with Chicken.... that comes with sticky rice...
The sticky rice can pick up the rest of it and yes.... win... I should be able to eat that with just a fork!

And yeah - remarkably it worked... but BOY oh boy did I pay for it last night... I remembered having a conversation with a Dutch couple recently who had 6 children, as they remarked over lunch one day that if you like spicy food it's sad when you are breastfeeding because that's tough for the babies.  Now, if you know me well enough, I tend to not get too paranoid about all the research, do's and don'ts etc and during my pregnancy and now breastfeeding have avoided most of the biggies but don't maintain a list in my head of all things that could have a significant knock-on effect.  Oops.  Apparently spicy food is just waaay too far across the line for little E. 

She had such bad wind and obviousely her tummy was upset and did we get much sleep last night? nope.

Potntial bonus factor?  She may indeed be exhausted enough on Friday to deal with our international flight to the US.... that or we are in line for some pretty tough days.

Mummy lessons come in all shapes and sizes.  I will not be ordering the Green Curry again for some time.  In fact, I myself was a little shocked at how spicy it was yesterday so bless, little E musn't have been happy at all.

Decision-making in a split second.  You think your logical skills are superb and then you realise that a salad with a simply lime dressing would have done the trick.  Oh well.  Today is a new day.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gut is a piece of truth you need to listen to....

"Fiona, Gut is a piece of Truth you need to listen to"
 - Vivienne MM, a counsellor, wise woman, and dear friend.

I want to write this post for several reasons. 

Firstly, I think reflective practice is both enlightening and refreshing.  I want to encourage myself through looking back on the journey I have made thus far and I want to spur myself on in full awareness of both reality and emotion, thought, research and... plain and simple gut

Secondly, I have been encouraged by many wonderful cheerleaders along the way who have in times of joy and in times of need shared enough of themselves to aid me in understanding the beautifully challenging, wonderful, bizarre and brilliant experience of breastfeeding.  Therefore, to friends about to embark on this journey, I gather my thoughts together here also for you... because ultimately I can say this: I'll willingly be your cheerleader if you need one. 


To be honest, I always wanted to Breastfeed and was fairly sure I was going to be able to.  That was my first gut feeling in the process.  I'll even admittedly say this: I had a bias.  'Breast was best' in my mind and though my reasoned brain was careful in preparing me for any eventuality, I was pretty determined that I was going to make it work whatever the odds. 

I did have hesitations though.  At one of our Ante-Natal classes, the midwives had us in groups list the pros and cons of breast Vs. bottle.  I was off to a flying start, probably too eagerly assisting the group in writing all the wonderful 'pros' of breastfeeding.  However, my bubble started not bursting but deflating a little, if you will, as others were similarly eager to write all the 'cons.'  Sure I had thought about the fact that breastfeeding could be difficult or even embarrassing in public, that it could hurt, that you could have all sorts of issues like blocked ducts, over or under supply..even end up with mastitis.  But suddenly, in the midst of a room of heavily pregnant women, I had one of those, "oh yeah but this is happening to you," moments and then the 'cons' felt a little heavier to carry. 
       ...In fact, I may have even swayed towards the 'bottle' side of the debate for a minute as I also remembered comments from friends who used bottles, saying things like, "but won't you be sad when we're all hanging out and you have to leave the room to feed, because I know you are reserved and are uncomfortable with the idea of feeding in front of anyone."...

In truth, I simply had no idea what to think.  I had a gut - Breast is best!... though new thoughts were niggling into my mind... still, I found I was continuing to be pretty set on giving it as good a go as any....

The first few moments:

One of the things I vividly remember out of Eleanora's whole birth story is this: the moment I first fed her.  I'm even quite teary thinking about it now.  It was only a short while after she had been born that the midwife gently said to me, "are you ready to try a feed?"   I looked up and simply said 'yes,' filled with a mixture of excitement and nerves, doubt, determination, and gut....and it just. happened.  For a split second I had a sort of out-of-body glance at the situation and yeah, I though - 'this is a bit bizarre'... but my gut? My gut was crying out 'this is good'.. and it was one of the sweetest moments of my life.

Week One
( don't worry, I am NOT going to give a play by play of every week.. I've even stopped counting where we are in weeks!!)

The first three days were a bit blurry and to be honest, so much was going on emotionally, physically and in my mind with new thought processes forming that it would take pages of reflective writing to get it all out. However, a few things stand out:

- I was in a hospital ward of 6 and only 2 of us were breastfeeding.  By day 2, I was the only one. As a result I got a little encouragement from the midwives on the first night, but then there was no-one else really to talk to. Hospital visiting was only open to your spouse or partner because of the winter Norovirus epidemic, so neither my mother, mother-in-law nor any close friends who were breast-feeders could visit for encouragement... as far as I knew it was going well but I was dying to just keep 'checking in' with someone to know... I mean, how could I know if I was doing it right?  All I had was my gut... and terribly emotional thoughts!
- Eleanora was checked for jaundice levels twice and the second time they were pretty high and she had to have a blood test and that was my first 'sinking stomach' mother moment.  Breastfed babies are pretty prone to being jaundice but in my competely emotional state, here entered the first negative thought as a breastfeeding mum - "she's not 100% and it's my fault."

As the week progressed, I got home, took my time firstly just enjoying  Eleanora and then studying her... and studying me! I experimented with feeding positions and holds, timing it and not, and balancing thoughts of joy and concern.  Joy because Eleanora seemed to take to it like a duck to water.  Concern because though it seemed as if everything was going well, I was sore and for the life of me I just didn't know... was I still simply recovering from labour? was I exhausted from being awake so frequently? was I emotionally wiped and having a physical reaction because of that? was it just my milk coming in? or was breastfeeding actually hurting me?
  I had a gut that something wasn't right but I didn't follow it until it was a little too late.  Two days later Eleanora and I were readmitted to hospital because I had a severe case of mastitis.  Yep - one of those 'cons' on the list?.. I had checked it already.  I was so disappointed and all I could think of was, "I mustn't have been 'doing it right' to get mastitis and end up in hospital with it."  And yes... it hurt and it was soul-destroying to end up back in hospital after being home as a new family for only a few days, and yes, I was on a drip which was my worst nightmare revisited....

However, I can truly say this now.... it was absolutely a blessing in disguise.  I had wonderfully helpful and encouraging midwives who were very pro-breastfeeding looking after me.  I had the lactation consultant visit and give me specific pointers, unique to my body... and I got rest... mandatory, do-nothing-but-breastfeed-rest.  Something that left to my own devices I would not have adhered to very well. On top of all of that? Eleanora and I were in tandem.  Feed, Eat (me), Sleep (both of us.)  It was great.... and finally I got it....That's what breastfeeding really had to be about.... being in tandem.  You and your baby.  Connecting and experiencing together...

The Journey continued...

After the first few weeks, we got into a good rhythm.  Eleanora was on a pretty good schedule for feeds, she fed well and we were both pretty happy.  I had oversupply issues but with cheerleaders and information from brilliant resources (see below) at the tips of my iphone fingers during nighttime feeds ... I was able to work through any issues that arose and things evened out and turned around in due course...   

I invested in a breastfeeding cover because though I admire the mothers who can feed any time any where around anyone, being discrete was always and will always be a part of me. However,  I was hesitant because I also didn't really want to be a 'statement' breastfeeder.  Again, I admire the women fighting the cause for all of us who need and want to feed in public without judging eyes... but my inner goody-two-shoes and etiquette-shaped mind knew being a 'bold' breastfeeder with an all-singing-all-dancing cape on that covered most of my body like an apron just wasn't me either.  So, I found a few options and purchased a cover from an Irish company "BubĂ­ Bainne"  (trying to support local business) and a well-known brand "Bebe Au Lait."  Both I have found excellent and BOTH come in discrete colours.... in fact, I will say that wearing a black nursing cover and a black top, I have had a few funny moments where someone didn't know I was feeding until I noted it in conversation... at which point followed a few particularly awkward moments... 
Both covers have a ridge at the top which sits out from your collar bone and you can see down to baby and baby can make eye contact with you during a feed, without others being able to see anything. ( I will say at 4 months, this is becoming more of a game for Eleanora and chances are I may be writing a post soon about the perils of feeding in public, given my own battle with being discrete and having a baby who can fling a cover off with one excited swoop of an arm!!)

Resources that have helped me:

  • First and foremost FAMILY and FRIENDS..particularly my Mum, mother-in-law, good friend Susan and... my loving husband. Get your cheerleaders out and if you need one, I'm here.  You will have down days.  you will have times when it is both physically and emotionally overwhelming.. you will potentially face issues of over and under supply, blocked ducts or mastitis and you will need encouragement. Your baby may also have issues like reflux or colic and that too will take its toll on your motivation to carry on... so find the folks you can talk to and let yourself talk.  
  • A great website for everything from basics to specifics on different issues you may face and with a wealth of articles and research for further reading.  A favourite of mine during nighttime feeds in the first few weeks!
  • This lady is pretty funny.... certainly colourful in her writing... but funny.  So if you need information delivered in a light-hearted way... click this link and enjoy.  Particularly notes on postpartum days...not so much breastfeeding specifically but the whole rounded experience...
  • Midwives, public health nurses and lactation consultants etc.  Basically, the professionals exist to be experts and can help... get to know yours and how you can be in conversation with them.
And finally? My gut...

 Probably the biggest most surprising resource? Me... and that means for you, I hope, you find that it's you. Amazingly our bodies, minds and hearts simply just know sometimes and I've found that when I listen to that truth things tend to fall together pretty amazingly.  You can do it because within you, you know.

What's next?

Well, I'm thinking breastfeeding is pretty much all that's on the agenda for now. 

Last week I thought Eleanora was ready to move on in her experiences and start some solids despite having studied the research about waiting for 6 months, but after a few awful days where she and I were very out of sorts, I listened to my gut and knew I was wrong.  The truth was, at the moment, breast is still best for both of us... again pointing me to this:  "Gut is a piece of truth you need to listen to."  My gut.  (I've written gut a LOT now and it's tarting to sound funny or just vulgar... apologies...)  My gut was the truth I needed to always listen to.  Breastfeeding was in me to do and yes, it has been a journey and yes it has been confusing and hard and it hurt... but above all it has been wonderful.. and I hope to continue and then eventually (steady on) doing it again!

**A talented writer and friend recently wrote all about Baby Led Weaning on her blog, somewhat I think in response to my dilemma about putting little E on solids. She shares her experience of this next step here:  also including a lot of great information on the 'pros' of breastfeeding! Check it out!!**

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tripp Trapp Newborn Set

A special thanks to Eleanora's great Aunts and Uncles and Chris' cousins who gifted us many things, including our Stokke Tripp Trapp. We have adored it from the moment we read about its concept.  In fact, we first discovered Stokke as a brand when looking for a travel system and then, well, kind of lost the ability to buy products from any other brand.  This, however, is no negative thing, except that it will appear as if we put no thought into our purchases and simply looked for a label.  Au contraire... We just love Stokke.  In fact, I could be a Stokke saleswoman by now because we are so bought into their vision and calculated engineering. For me, I love their ability to make practical objects emotionally capturing.  Chris? Well, at 6ft 5, he is simply won over by the fact that their products are made with average to taller people in mind, having baby at your height for greater communication with them and to save you from bending over so much during the day!

Stokke is a Norwegian company who now specialise in baby products from strollers to nursery furniture and home textiles.  Their basic concept is to enhance the bond between baby and parent, child and caregiver.  I hesitate to write too much on this at the risk of sounding cheesy and ruining their beautiful thoughts so please refer to and read or watch their videos to learn more.

For now, I wanted to share a few snaps of little E enjoying and discovering safely seated in her Tripp Trapp Newborn Set.  The great thing about this for us is that she is waist level with me and can watch everything going on whilst I cook dinner, wash dishes and potter about the kitchen, rather than being near the floor in some seat or bouncer where no only would she be much further from eye contact, she'd be right in our dog Jozy's loveable licking zone. 

(We are excited to change in the next month or so to the full Tripp Trapp high chair and remove the Newborn Set. )

Dribble Days

...Entitled so as we seem to be in the thick of never-ending dribble days.  Eleanora is now 3 and 3/4 months old and flying for her age, for which we are truly thankful, if not a little taken aback and desiring time to freeze.  As our nurse said recently, she is so incredibly "sturdy" and loves nothing more than to stand, walk and bounce in the doorways of our home all day long, using every muscle she can.  

One product we have simply adored from the second little E could hold her head up was the doorway bouncer.  Uncle Stephen gifted us the Tippitoes Doorway Bouncer and I have to say I think it's one of the better ones out there.  With a super strong metal clasp to put over any door frame it looks like it would take an Olympic Trampoline style workout without a flinch... but then there's something about metal Vs plastic that that has my inner voice turn snobbish and state as fact, "much more reliable."  It also seems to have a longer drop than others we have road-tested at friends' homes, meaning we really could put little E in it as soon as she could hold her head up, and not as soon as she could touch the ground with her feet. 

Regardless of brand or type, I say a special thanks to the inventor of the doorway-bouncer-contraption as he or she obviously took great joy in watching their babies discovering their feet whilst simultaneously understanding the simple pleasure of having moments of hands-free-baby-watch in the day. 

Bringing you snapshots of one happy lady in her ("Tippitoes") doorway bouncer at home.. and that lovely dribble..

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Here comes a very well intentioned, long overdue return.  We'll see how this goes....

My first nap time blog update.  Nap time because since last writing we are now not two and a dog, but three and a dog.  Eleanora ('little E' as she is becoming affectionately known as via quick text) arrived safe and well at Christmas time.  Rewind 3 months and I was going through the following transformation:

 Fast forward 3 months and we are here:

Having recently started spending a lot more time looking at blogs and reading inspirational musings on anything and everything from spirituality to baby products, cooking to cleaning and how to 'fly' with a baby (topical for an upcoming adventure), I find myself re-inspired to share my own musings.  It is very possible this will last a week.

I hope to start with a reflection on the first few weeks of life with little E and then who knows where we'll go.  At the very least, you will see photos... and photos, and a picture is worth a thousand words right?