Sunday, 15 November 2009

Mixed feelings

This post marks a number of things for me - the end of my maternity leave, the start of a new job, Gemma starting nursery, and another rather emotional watershed which I'll come onto later. It's a bit cheeky of me to hardly post at all this year and now offer up a huge rambling discourse but bear with me..

At the beginning of November, I started a new job at Oxfam. Earlier this summer I got a call from a recruiter, and as I was always planning to go back to my previous role full time in January after my maternity leave, I initially said I wasn't interested in the job they were describing to me. Then the magic words 'based in Oxford' were uttered as well as the organisation involved, and - well, I quickly became quite a little more than interested. There followed a couple of late nights frantically getting my CV in order and an interview where 'winging it' would be a generous description of my approach, and I was offered the job as Head of E-Commerce. Brilliant!

One of the really nice things about it all was the fact that Oxfam have a workplace nursery on site, and luckily there was a place for Gemma in the under-two's room. Towards the end of October we started settling in sessions, starting with an hour of me and her meeting everyone and playing together, through me leaving her for longer and longer periods, until a couple of weeks ago she had her first full day there. She goes two days a week while I am at work part time, then from January we are both five days a week. She absolutely LOVES it. I almost feel guilty picking her up at the end of the day as she is clearly having a ball, and all the staff comment about how she's always happy and smiling and laughing. It's made it so much easier for me to end my maternity leave and go back to work, even with starting a new job, knowing that she's happy and cared for during the day. And having debated the pros and cons of going back to work in one of my previous (all too rare, this year anyway) posts it has cemented in my mind that it is utterly the best thing for us both. Hooray all round.

So why the mixed feelings? Part of it is that while I am really enjoying my new job, and finding it a fascinating organisation to work for, it is quite hard to get into it on two days a week. I know come January I will be desperate to get back to the two days on, five days off routine (sounds bliss, doesn't it?) but I've never in my career had to get my head around things on such a part-time basis. Luckily I have a great new team, new boss and new colleagues who are fantastically understanding and accommodating and insistent that I take these first few months as pure induction time and don't do any actual work. This is just a time thing - I'll get used to it very soon and before I know it, it'll be January anyway..

The main reason for my wibbliness at the moment is more personal though still baby-related. For those who aren't parents and probably also those who haven't breastfed, the following ramble probably isn't going to be of massive interest, so feel free to skip. Normal service to be resumed shortly. I wanted to get my thoughts and feelings on the subject down though, before time blunted them a bit.

So, it's come to the time when I have made the decision to stop breastfeeding Gemma. I always knew I would breastfeed my child from birth, unless there were any physical reasons why I couldn't, and thankfully both of us got the hang of it relatively quickly. My initial plan was to breastfeed until she went onto solids at 6 months old, and then see what happened then. What happened was, we found out she had a cow's milk intolerance, and couldn't take dairy without coming out in hives. As most standard formulas are based on cow's milk, this made it an easy decision to carry on BF for her milk feeds, as I didn't want her to have too many soy products in her diet. We went through a dodgy period at around 7-8 months when she was biting me a lot while feeding - YOUCH! - and I nearly gave up then, but persevered and she got over it. I had a vague idea in my mind that I would wean her either at 12 months, or when she started to walk, whichever came first (at current progress the birthday will definitely arrive first...!).

But now, at ten and half months old, I can tell my supply is diminishing, and quite quickly too. I was BF for her early morning and bedtime feeds, with her having a cup of soy formula in the afternoon, and especially at bedtime, she still seems to enjoy the comfort and close contact. However I can tell it's taking longer and longer for the milk to come through; and there isn't anywhere near as much as there used to be. Occasionally she gets frustrated at both of these things and that's not great for either of us, and of course I need to make sure she's getting enough milk on a daily basis anyway.

This morning then, I gave her a cup of formula when she woke up. After a few confused grabbings she realised what was going on and absolutely wolfed it down, confirming in my mind that I'd made the right decision. But at the same time I was a bit downhearted. Surely she should have been more upset about the lack of boob? Tonight I breastfed her bedtime feed. It was fine. I think it was for the last time though - I'll give her a cup tomorrow night. I want her to become able to be physically independent from me and I want other people (Ali, grandparents) to be able to put her to bed at night. I know this is the right step forward. But it feels so strange and sad - only for me obviously (apart from the slight change in bedtime routine I don't think Gemma will take long to get over it) - and emotional. I have completely loved being able to feed my child and knowing I have given her a great start in life. I've felt so close to her as a result and I am sure it helped us to bond. It's been a lot cheaper too ;o) And this is a step forward for us, not a bad thing at all. So forgive the self-indulgence of this post, but I'm glad I got it out of my system, as a marker for lots of things that are ending but more importantly a whole new chapter that is beginning - for both of us.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Best band in the world. EVER.

I guess it seems a bit cheeky to break a long blogging silence by just posting a video and eulogising about how amazing Radiohead are. I sooooo wish we had managed to get day tickets to the Reading Festival on Sunday so we could have witnessed what by all accounts was a phenomenal set. Sadly the BBC only showed about a third of the tracks but what you can see on iPlayer is fantastic. Gemma especially seems to like it when the camera lingers on Jonny Greenwood. Perhaps it's the hair.

(update on 16th Sept - the video isn't available any more :o( but believe me it was awesome!)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Life is good

So it's been a while. It's not that I haven't had the time to post anything, although it's obviously been very limited to brief moments in between baby demands. It's just I haven't had a lot to actually blog about. Every time I think of a suitably pithy topic, and make a mental note to remember to write about it, Gemma will roll over, or start gurgling, or require a nappy change and the thought goes out of my head never to return. Occasionally I have moments of slight guilt that I ought to be updating this blog at least as regularly as I do my baby's. But having said that, life is really too short to be worrying about stuff like that. And now she's 6 months old I am reminded every day how fast the days, weeks, months go by and to make the most of them at the time.

And oh we do! So life is good, really good. I have a beautiful, happy daughter who seems to love nothing more than making an unholy mess with any vegetable or fruit purees we put near her mouth, and who as I type is laughing and jigging up and down in a wonderfully contented sounding way in her door bouncer; we've just been on a fantastic family holiday - our first as a family - to Canada, where we were so lucky to have great friends who put us up and put up with us and made everything so easy and comfortable for us. We have our health, we have enough money (just...) to enjoy our lives and we have lovely families and friends to support us and laugh with us. I'm sure if I were back at work I wouldn't be quite so ready to blog about how great things are, but shhhh no talk about work until January and we still have the rest of the summer, autumn and winter to get through before then!

In other news, the garden is not too bad this year despite virtually no attention beyond an occasional mow of the lawn, and courtesy of the Childrens' Food Festival held near us a few weeks ago, we have a variety of veg on the go - chillies, tomatoes, dwarf french beans, aubergine and courgette. Caterpillars have had one of the bean plants already but the others seem to have escaped and I am especially interested to see if we can manage to get an aubergine from the plant we have. Almost all the hollyhocks flopped and broke after some hefty winds and rain recently but everything else is looking good and it will just teach me to stake them properly next year. In the house, we're getting our sash windows renovated next week and then the top room re-plastered the week after, which will bring us just about to the end of the refurbishments we've been doing since we moved in 5 years ago. We're spending the next few weekends catching up with old friends, grandparents are visiting next week and early August and Gemma gets underwater photos taken at swimming tomorrow. All in all, not a bad lot of things on the go!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Decisions, decisions...

There's been a bit of a hot discussion happening on the message boards at Babycentre that I've been following with interest. I joined BC while pregnant and it's been invaluable to me as a first time mum, from weekly updates on my pregnancy and now weekly updates on baby milestones and developments as Gemma gets older. I don't look at that many message boards - as I subscribe to so many blogs through Bloglines this is pretty much all I can keep up with, reading-wise at the moment. In fact, the last boards I read on a regular basis were the Channel 4 '4Homes' boards when we were planning our extension in 2006 - for tips on where to buy the cheapest kitchen, etc. But the Babycentre ones are brilliant at reassuring me when I have a question it's not worth bothering the health visitor for, or just to see how other babies are doing at sleeping through the night (or not...), or what brand of cloth nappies is the best.

The discussion I refer to is one of returning to work after maternity leave, and it has engendered some very polarised and heated posts. There seem to be 3 positions:
  • How can I even think of working and leaving my baby to be cared for by someone else (i.e. not returning to work until the little one is of school age).
  • I would LOVE to stay at home with my baby but unfortunately finances don't permit it (i.e. returning to work either full or part time because I need to).
  • As a woman I value the independence and fulfilment a job/career gives me; I think my child will benefit more from having a happy and fulfilled mother; and will also benefit from the interaction with other children and adults at a nursery/childminder (i.e. I will be going back to work because I want to and as a plus I think it's better for the child as well as myself).
My own thoughts are a bit of a combination of the latter two. I am secretly and rather pointlessly hoping for some kind of fantastic luck (mainly involving a large cash injection from somewhere, which, as we don't play the lottery or otherwise gamble, is a bit of a non-starter) which will mean I don't need to go back to work in January, but instead can carry on looking after Gemma full time and be with her all the time in her early years. I am loving being on maternity leave and as I haven't spent more than a couple of hours at a time away from her since her birth, I can't currently contemplate what it's going to be like to leave her ALL DAY (gasp) with someone else.

But on the flip side, I do want her to mix as much as possible with other kids as she gets older, as well as get used to being a bit more independent from me. I also think that by the time it gets to January I will be more than ready to get back into the swing of things work-wise, have discussions with adults that don't revolve around baby stuff, and challenge my brain again (daily Sudoku is probably not enough...). Whether that means re-entering the world of digital marketing I don't yet know for sure, though I strongly expect it will. However, I do know that my perspective on work and life has gone through a significant shift since becoming a mother. Part of me is glad I have built a good career and wants to maximise the opportunities that's given me, and continue to build on it for my own personal development. And another, very large part of me, is convinced that having a child is the greatest personal achievement I have ever made, and am ever likely to; and therefore 'career' belongs to my life BG (Before Gemma, obviously).

I'm sure my thoughts on this will shift as the year progresses. In the meantime, I'm just massively thankful that we're able to afford for me to take 12 months out to look after our baby girl, and that I work for a company that makes this possible. I'm also pretty chuffed that I managed to sneak in this post before the end of the month and get at least one done in April...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Is this really me?

Just read a couple of blog posts from mums relating to Mother's Day and how odd it feels to describe themselves as mothers, especially if they are experiencing the day with this status for the first time. I have to say I totally agree. Sometimes it seems as if Gemma is too beautiful and amazing to have been produced by such juveniles as Ali and myself - and yes though I am (hem) 35 I do still feel like a child sometimes. I certainly don't feel a huge amount older than I did at, say, 20, just with more experiences under my belt and a few lines round the eyes (but not a single grey hair yet, astoundingly enough).

It feels like we're settling into some sort of a routine at least, even though I still wake up most days with a mild tinge of panic around me of the 'what are we going to do today' variety. As someone who previously lived her life in a very orderly, structured way, even in so far as getting on the same train seat every day, it is often a very weird feeling to have nothing really planned. And so those lunches with friends, even if invariably eaten cold and one-handed; or the spontaneous walk by the river; or even the postnatal fitness class we're going to today, are all welcome distractions from the slightly fraudulent thoughts running through my head on a daily basis.

Mother's Day was quite nice though. A stunning bouquet of flowers and a very sweet card from Gemma (with a little help from Daddy, though charmingly with the threat of taking the money from her child trust fund account to pay for them. I assume this was a joke) and a day to potter in the garden and sort out all Gemma's clothes, while Ali babysat in between feeds. Not the most self-indulgent or pampering day perhaps, but it'll certainly do for now.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Of sorts, anyway. It looks like I did no posts at all in February - first time ever I've skipped a month. However in my defence I have been posting here on a reasonably regular basis, and as my life is pretty much all about Gemma at the moment I didn't want to duplicate on this blog as well.

Today I managed to clean the living room though, without even having to stop once and rock, sway, feed, change, or otherwise entertain my daughter. I took her out in the Baby Bjorn this morning and when we got home she was so spark out I used the opportunity to get some stuff done. Feeling slightly more on top of things now she is 10 weeks (today!).

The other things that have made me feel a little more back to 'normal' (whatever normal is now) are: joining Twitter, which may or may not be a ridiculous thing to attempt, but at least tweeting or twittering or whatever makes a change from a) posting long entries here and b) updating my Facebook status on a regular basis with wholly baby-related posts. I elected to follow Stephen Fry, Phil Jupitus and Chris Moyles, as the celebrity Twitterers who I know about, but drew the line at Phillip Schofield. How do these celebs have time to post so much? Stephen Fry especially, while I do revere him utterly, must be a smidge annoying to be around, given that he must be surgically attached to his iPhone to be tweeting so much.

Some other normal things - am getting back into bookgroup mode with two books on the go, though whether I will have time to read them is another matter. The Mother and Baby group is reading the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, and the Wednesday evening group is on John Banville's The Untouchable. Neither of which I've started yet, ho hum. My knitting has picked up - am halfway through a little beanie hat for Gemma. And this week or next I want to get out and give the garden a good seeing to now that spring appears to have sprung in this part of the world.

Will try and post at least once a month from now on. In the meantime here's a gratuitous photo of our gorgeous and totally wonderful daughter living it up in the baby gym.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Not quite business as usual

Gemma is 4 weeks old today and it's amazing to think that this time 4 weeks ago I was in the recovery room at the Spires, new babe in arms, gingerly resting on the bed and on the most wonderful, joyful high I've ever experienced. That high hasn't gone away though - it's been tempered somewhat by the broken sleep - and we can't believe she has been with us for a month already.

As promised in the previous post, she now has her own little website set up (all the household jobs Ali listed to be done with such diligence when he started his paternity leave are still uncrossed off, but personally I think chronicling Gemma's progress and creating a place for photos which our family and friends can access is much more important than a bit of painting and plastering) and I have managed a whole 2 posts already onto her blog (so more regular than I've been updating my own blog in the past...). It's linked to from, a site which we've had for years but not done much with. It is also work in progress, as it's created on a Mac which is not my machine/software of choice (yes I know, this is heresy in some quarters) and I need to go on and fiddle with the font sizes etc, plus we need to sort out the frame at the top (i.e. pay them loads of money every year to allow us to remove it).

I'll continue to blog her progress there, and am hoping to continue my own ramblings on here as well. Obviously there will be some baby topics cropping up here, given that I am on maternity leave until next year after all and thus there won't be a lot happening other than baby related stuff. And it goes without saying that my intentions for our daughter are nothing but good, in fact they are the best possible, so my blog name has never been more appropriate.