I'm sitting here with my eyelids stapled open and pins under my nails in a vain attempt to stay awake thanks to a certain little baby. I've been up since 3am which is a clear 2 hours off my usual streamlined sleeping schedule and in truth, there isn't a cup of coffee strong enough to make that puppy fly.
The irony of the situation isn't lost on me, in that I have spent the last week discovering another common mothering fear – cot death, or SIDS I suppose I should say these days.
I'm sure by the second or third child, you experienced mothers are letting your little bundles fall asleep face down on a shag pile rug, but as a first time mum, I must admit that sleeping still provokes an irrational fear in me.
Every evening when I take him upstairs, kiss him ever so gently on the head and whisper “I love you” in a voice I hope won’t make those little blue peepers spring open, I get a horrible knot in my stomach and a little voice says “what if something happens to him? You’re leaving your precious little baby alone in a big cot all by himself and anything could happen.”
It is the most ridiculous thing in the world, this paranoia, and every time I have mentioned it to other mums I am greeted with a roll of the eyes and a hearty “oh that’s normal”.
Really?!? It is?!
Correct me if I'm wrong but surely this falls firmly under the category of INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL BEFORE NOW, because frankly, nobody ever mentioned it, and it would have saved me a lot of stressing had I known that this was just a normal part of becoming a mum!
Anyway no fear of Alfie being too quiet for comfort last night and the source of that little SNAFU was his latest growth spurt. Having devoured two 8oz bottles of hungry baby milk (which usually sees him through the night just fine) he decided that no, a third was in fact required and should be delivered forthwith to his quarters by Minion Number 1 (that’s Keith by the way).
Man alive, we weren't either of in a good mood by the time he’d finished that bottle, especially when his little feast didn't solve the primary problem (as we saw it) of Alfie being wide awake and alternately chattering away to himself and shouting at us to come and get him. Turns out, after we caved in and brought him to bed with us, the problem was that he needed two of the biggest burps you've ever heard. When I've finished typing this I actually need to call a glazer to get a quote for the windows he blew out.
For some reason a chronic lack of sleep has made me feel quite reflective today, and I was thinking back to what I wanted from these early days of motherhood and comparing them to how things turned out.
First up was the home birth – hmmm, less said, soonest mended there. I haven’t actually spent a lot of time thinking about it yet, but I know that when I do, I'm going to have a lot of issues that I'm going to need to talk through. I remember especially thinking recently about the phrase I took from Ina May Gaskin’s writing - “your body is not a lemon” - and wondering whether in fact mine does have a certain citrusy odour about it. I'm not sure, and it is something I hope I will write about a lot more in the future because I know there are a lot of other women out there who struggle to feel positive about their birth experiences and it always helps to know that you’re not alone.
Hopping neatly onto my second soapbox we have breastfeeding which once again I regard with a whiff of citrusy undertones. I don’t feel like I can take full responsibility for this one though, Alfie made his feelings very clear from the moment we were wheeled out of theatre and he point blank refused to go near anything even vaguely boob shaped. We tried rebirthing, which just resulted in Alfie getting super relaxed and pooing everywhere. We tried different positions, which did lead to a degree of success in that he at least attempted to nuzzle, if not latch. We finally settled on the compromise of his getting his own way and drinking from the bottle while I got my own way in that I filled it with my breast milk. We combination fed for 6 weeks until I finally caved under the pressure of time and he is now bottle fed. I don’t apologise for it, nor do I feel guilty, but I do feel an intense sense of disappointed that we couldn't make it work, that we never really stood a chance of making it work even.
I suppose I should mention my third and final soapbox at this point – Jabs - and on this subject at least, we have remained uncompromising. Alfie is now 12 weeks old and has not yet received a single jab. I was actually very pleasantly surprised at the reaction from our GP who was happy to respect my decision and offered to give me his own views (rather than those he was paid to have) should I ever want to have a discussion about them. I feel really good about decision not to have Alfie jabbed, and even better that for the first time, we found a healthcare professional that was able to support us totally in our decision.
For now my eyes are fixed firmly on the future, because I am determined to make our experiences count for something positive. I have recently started taking the first tentative steps towards getting more involved with the NCT locally because I would love to use my time and energy to help other women get the births they deserve, rather than them be added to the ever growing list of people who are left feeling broken by our maternity services.
Amazingly, it seems Karma has decided I could do with a little helping hand to get started and I have actually been given a “golden ticket” to the NCT’s upcoming Big Weekend. What this means is that Keith, Alfie and I have an all expenses paid trip to sunny Telford to hear some of the great and the good of the baby world share their wisdom. In all honesty, I don’t think I am overstating my current emotional state when I say I am BUZZING.
Keith is less enthused about the conference although the pill has been sweetened somewhat by the knowledge that there is an RAF museum nearby for him to play fighter pilots in with Alfie. While they are running around making “NEEEEEOOOOOOOOW, hudddddudddudddduddd, dive, dive, dive” noises I will be staring wide eyed at Gill Rapley (author of Baby Led Weaning), Davina McCall and most importantly – seriously, I'm doing a JIG about this – Ina May Gaskin herself.
Oh yes, you heard me right, she’s coming from the States to be the keynote speaker at the conference and I am going to be camped out on the front row, possibly even with a hand painted sign. To have the chance to hear all these women speak just feels like such a blessing. There are also workshops about different roles within the NCT as well as green parenting issues, and a baby fair and I just get this feeling that I’m going to come back from there with a real sense of what I can do to make something positive out of the emotional baggage of Alfie’s birth.