Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ten things I would like my daughter to know...

There's a lot of lists being passed about on Facebook at the moment; 30 things to never do, 30 things to tell your daughter etc. Some I whole heartedly agreed with and some I was less sure, which lead me to think if I could give little b ten things to live by, what would they be? So after much thought here they are; if you like them feel free to share and feel free to add your own.

1. Don't be afraid to be different. Don't be afraid to be the same. 
Don't be afraid to be you. You are wonderful, unique, beautiful, special and you. Be whoever you want to be and celebrate it.

2. Look after your body; you only have one. Feed it foods that nourish it, move to keep it strong. Sleep to allow time to repair.  Love it, cherish it and be kind to it. Eat well for health, move for health. Look after your body and it will look after you. 

3. Take pleasure in simple things. There's beauty in small moments. Yes, sometimes life can be messy, hard and trying but there's always a reason to smile; mine is you! Happiness is in simplicity, the less you need to be happy the happier you are.  Take time to find those small moments of happiness each day; it might be in your morning cup of tea, the kindness of a stranger, your daughter's smile. Those moments are there you just have to look for them.

4. Be kind to yourself. It's okay to mess up, it's okay to cry. It's okay to feel angry, it's okay to make mistakes. No one is perfect but to me you always will be. Likewise be kind to others; no one is perfect so don't expect them to be.

5. You will always be perfect to me. No matter what.

6. Learn to let things go. Holding onto resentment, anger or guilt is exhausting and debilitating. Live in the now. Likewise let other's faults go too; you will only hold relationships back. Don't waste time on negativity, there's too many wonderful things to focus on instead.

7. Take risks. Life is too precious, too short and too beautiful to squander.  You want to be a writer? Then write! A singer; then sing!  Maybe you'll make it, maybe you won't but at least you tried. You may just have to find creative ways to pay the rent... But don't let that hold you back.

8. Don't waste time on fear and self doubt. You might not be great at something but at least having a go means your doing it. Time and practise will always lead to improvements. You can be anything you want to be, you just have to try. Always try your best then you will never let yourself down.

9. This too shall pass. Sometimes life is hard, sometimes life is very hard. But in a few years you will look back on struggles and see that you survived, you moved on and you are stronger; "life is not about waiting for storms to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain." (Vivian Greene.)

10. Love. Love yourself, love others, love your dog, your cat, your friends. Love brings great joy, great happiness and makes life worth living. Don't be afraid to love with your whole heart; just like I love you!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hello Boobs! ;)

Before little B was born I could count on one hand the number of people who'd seen my boobs; I wasn't someone who sunbathed topless and certainly not someone who'd parade around a changing room boobs out.  But then little B was born and that all changed; first the delivery room, then the midwives, then the wonderful lactation consultants, my NCT friends, parents, grandparents (why do relatives always watch?!), you catch my drift. Now it's a general day to day occurrence; the packed tube carriage the other day, the bus last week and yes the entire doctor's surgery yesterday.  But this is not because I have decided I don't care who sees, or am making a pro-breastfeeding statement.  Yes, I am pro-breastfeeding and proud to still be breastfeeding at nine, nearly ten months. Yes, I do love being able to nourish and sustain my daughter and believe that as a mother I have a right to feed my daughter as and when she needs it. And no, I don't want to give her a meal in the bathroom, Why should I? Or really, why should she?! Who wants to eat in a loo?!
BUT I am not deliberately choosing to show this much boob. Believe it or not, I am actually still a little shy about getting my boobs out to feed. But try telling that to little B. Little B is at the stage- I'm sure many of you know well- where she will pull out a boob when she wants it (she knows how to release them now!) have a bit of milk. Stop. Look around. Make a loud noise drawing all eyes our way... Go back on. stop, back on and repeat... So what am I to do? Pop the boob away every few seconds? Fairly pointless, it'll be back out in a minute and she finds it upsetting to have her favourite toy taken away mid-play! Use a shawl? Well let me tell you that gets thrown off!  Plus I can't see my daughter feed, can't make vital eye contact to bond with her and it's hot and stuffy in there for little B eating with her head fully covered. Also why should she do her eating hidden away like that?  Likewise layered clothing and scarves are shoved aside, or get in the way.  So where does this leave me? As I am; boob out, little B hanging off whilst I grin and bare it (excuse the pun!) and you know what? I'm learning to be ok with that, yes it's a little embarrassing at times but I'm happy little B is enjoying her food :) and proud that I am lucky enough to be able to feed her. Proud that my boobs can do such a wonderful job.

So I've decided that next time my boob is out, for all too see, I'm going to take a deep breath and be proud of myself and the breasts that are feeding my beautiful little girl. And you know what mamas? You should feel proud too! You made and are now sustaining life. You rock: your boobs rock! So bare them with pride ;)

Happy feeding all,
Love Mama Amore Xxx

Friday, 21 February 2014

It's about time!

So I've just realised it's been two, no nearly three weeks since my last blog.  It's honestly felt like two minutes.  I cannot believe how fast it's flown... Just like the months of little b's life so far: 9 months now, all flown by far far too quickly.

My phone is full of half written blogs, started during nap times and forgotten as soon a little b wakes up.  Or more often then not forgotten as I gaze on her beautiful little sleeping face. Forgotten, like most things these days...  In part due to baby brain; does anyone else have this? I just don't seem to remember anything anymore. Maybe it's unconsciously selective; dull (but unfortunately sometimes important) memories being pushed aside for those wonderful golden memories of little b as she grows.

The concept of time for me is something that changed once little B was born, it went from me really, now I realise, doing what I liked when I liked to me giving my time almost exclusively to her.  Yes, now my time exists for little b.  This was something I found took my a while to adjust to; 6 weeks of maternity leave and 28 years of doing what I pleased made it tricky for me to suddenly devote myself entirely to another little being.  Suddenly my waking (and sleeping!!) hours belonged  to another.  But I very quickly realised how lucky and blessed I am that they do, how lucky I am to be able to give my time to her... I know Papa b would jump at the chance.

Some might say but what about me time?! For me it's simple, I chose to bring her into the world. I chose to be a mama and now I chose to give my time to her.  But more than that, for me, this time is me time, little b is my me time.  What can be more wonderful than playing with my little girl; ok the odd lie in might be nice but looking at her little face as she offers me a toy, hearing her giggle as she plays, cuddling her to me as she sits on my lap for her favourite story, for me that trumps any and every lie in!

And what of the housework? The chores? In the early days I ran myself ragged trying to do as many as I could, popping little b in her chair to clean until I realised something... time flies, time is precious and this time with little b is too precious to miss! Every day she grows up a little more and every day needs me a little less.  So now I clean when I can, enough to be safe for her but not obsessively. Cobwebs will always be there, little b needing me will not. Until then my time is for little b, cobwebs be damned...

So for me, I chose quick showers, less makeup (if any!), less sleep, less tv, less chores because I chose to give my time to little b; time that is precious and wonderful.  So, sorry but blog time is over - little b and I need to play! ;)

Love Mama Amore Xxx

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A mama's love

When little b was born I was hit by a wave of emotions. Probably in all honesty the biggest being that of shock. It was a very quick and dramatic birth with a very fast and tense and heightened pushing stage. I was given 5 pushes or forceps and then she was here! Once she was in my arms I waited for that elusive feeling of instant and all consuming love and connection that I had heard so much about. But I'm afraid to say it didn't happen like that for me; something that I now realise to be quite common. It's beginnings were there; a fleeting feeling as I gazed at her sleeping in my arms but not yet fully realised in all it's Hollywood glory... My body and brain too tired, too overwrought by all that had occurred for that instant feeling of overwhelming love to be made.

Don't get me wrong, I thought she was wonderful, beautiful, an amazing little thing. I was proud, happy, excited but a little nervous, why didn't I feel it? It just hadn't hit me. Yet....

Then when we took her home my overwhelming feeling was that of fear. Mixed with wonder and amazement that we had created this perfect little person! Heightened by the babies blues I lived in a state of almost perpetual anxiety. Scared that would hurt or break this precious little being. Fear she might get too cold, too hot. Hours spent watching her sleep, checking she was still breathing.... The fear surrounding my awareness that I was fully responsible for this little being; her health, happiness and wellbeing all ours. Quite a daunting task. And there it was hidden in the fear. Buried in the anxiety but growing steadily.... Bringing with it tears of joy when it surfaced...

One night as I was feeding her, I looked down at her little face. The little hands curled and twitching and that's when it hit me! BAM! Love. That fierce, overwhelming, kill for you love that I'd been expecting at the birth. It didn't take long and when it hit me... Wow! Words cannot describe it. It was there that night as I cradled her, sleepy and milk drunk, as I gazed on her beautiful sleeping face, held her little hands, kissed her little feet. Suddenly there so strongly, so overwhelmingly it often moved me to tears. A love so strong, so precious and so wonderful...

Now it's deepened and strengthened. A more mellow version of that early love but still as fierce, a mama lion's love for her little cub. If anything stronger and deeper but less hormonal! A love that thinks that clearly her's is the most wonderful, intelligent, beautiful child in the world. But a more calm love, a certain, steady love; not quite so many tears- although sometimes still present as I gaze on her beautiful sleeping face... A love that is now harder to put into words, try as I might in hope that one day she reads this and knows with every fibre and part of her being that she was and IS loved. So very very loved.

What's amazing is this is a love that she is now reflecting back to us; it's there in her cheeky little grin, the toy she offers me to play with, the cuddles that she's just learnt to give. As she climbs into my lap for a cuddle. It's wonderful, moving, life affirming, all consuming and ours. This beautiful love for our little girl, our gorgeous little bean. We love you! <3

Monday, 27 January 2014

All you need is love...

When I became a mama I never for a moment imagined that one of my major battles would be that of love. The battle that I face daily to give my daughter the unconditional love, support and nurturing that she so deserves, the unconditional love that every child deserves and that I, as her mother, long and crave to give in the face of society's disapproval and scorn. I know that might sound a little strong worded or dramatic but I'll try to explain... I'm not just talking about the judgmental looks should I chose to feed my child in a public place, should I chose to feed her at my breast as nature intended. I'm not talking about friends and family's dismissive comments about "plugging her on" the breast or questions about why, at eight months, we are "still" breastfeeding. Just a note; I do understand breastfeeding is hard and for some practically impossible, especially when people are often not given the best help or advice when they have difficulties: I myself had issues which I will blog about later with ideas for help and support that worked for me. I also do not judge the choice to use formula either, I just wish to be given the freedom to feed as I choose also!

Sadly it seems that in modern society there is an unconscious disapproval of the little day to day acts of love and kindness mothers want to give their babies, echoed in that most insidious of phrases: "you don't want to let them get too used to it." Heard that one? I'm sure as a new mother you did. And how sad it makes me to hear those words. How cold and limiting and unloving those little utterances become, a barrier between parent and child if you let them be....

...Don't let them in your bed, they might "get used to it". Heaven forbid they get used to the feeling of utter safety and security snuggled with mama and papa. Don't pick them up and carry them too much, they might "get used" to being cherished and close. Don't play with them too much, they might "get used" to you freely giving love and time. Don't breastfeed past six months, don't babywear instead of pushchair, don't soothe and comfort those tears: they need to learn to 'cry it out!' (I'll also write about why I chose not to leave my daughter to cry in a later article.) The fact is that at this point in life a baby's brain is too primitive and unformed to make these connections and that is why they need to rely so heavily on their parents.

These are just a few of the don'ts that I've had parroted at me over the past eight months; the suggestion being that if I give too freely of my love my little bean will depend on it. Or worse... Expect it! Heaven forbid! Perhaps I better buy her her own place now and be done with it?! ;) 

Mama Amore xxx

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Belly beautiful!

Dear Mamas,

I want you to know that your body is beautiful and here's why...

As we all know pregnancy massively changes your body. We gain a good few wonderful kgs of precious baby and baby supporting weight; as we should! From swollen ankles, bigger bottoms, puffy jaws to blown up feet: thank goodness it was summer so I could happily wear flip flops for the last two months! For most of us it's a time of enormous body change and not just the big and beautiful bump we all carry so proudly. 

Then we give birth and for a few days/weeks have that lovely, sweet, little tummy pouch; the skin slightly looser and a little more rubbery. Then maybe just maybe things go back to normal. Some of us might be considered the "lucky" ones and are just a few months later back to our pre pregnancy weight or lower. Some  might be up and down or some, like me, might not know or care.  

Really I don't care. And I'm not just saying that, I actually don't care and I will explain why you shouldn't either! You see I see my body differently now; how could I not? Like many of us I'm sure my once fairly flat stomach now is a little less flat, the skin not quite so taught, a little soft, the muscles not quite so strong.  BUT that's the beauty of it; I look at that little tum and I see my baby's home. I see the space that created, supported, nurtured and kept her alive. The linea nigra, the dark line across it, my "little b stripe" as I call it. I love that stripe, the reminder of my beautiful bump and little girl; Papa B loves that stripe. How could we not?! It's the story of our little b. Just like any stretch marks are part of your buba's story too or as I've heard described before a mama tiger's stripes!

Looking at my beautiful baby girl how could I do anything but be in awe and wonder of my body?! It made her! It made (with important help from Papa b!) and grew my little bean. And for that I thank it! For that I think it's wonderful, incredible and something to value, love, cherish and adore. As should all of you!

So now I love that little tum. I nourish and support the body that gave my beautiful baby girl life and even now sustains her on the breast. I don't see it as a weight but the wonderful creation that it is, the incredible power that is has to sustain and give life. A mama's body really is truly incredible no matter what shape or size it now is.  So I'm here to tell you to embrace your body, love your body and love that little tum for after all it made your little one! You made and gave life with that body, for that you and it are amazing. Love that body and be proud of it, it's done you proud! ;)

Love Mama Amore xxx

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Why I love babywearing

I’m a committed babywearer through and through. To the point that my pushchair is gathering dust in my car boot and hasn’t been used since October. Honestly not once.

Why? Well for many reasons; the first, but of least importance to me, being the convenience. I live in London, have a dog and live in a flat. Shops are usually too cramped for a pushchair, I like having my hands free to carry shopping, text, play with little bean etc.  Supermarket shops are in all honesty a nightmare with a pushchair, I'm sure most mamas will agree with this. (Really though use Ocado, they have an App, come at times to suit you and bring your shopping up the stairs; if only I'd known sooner!)

Then there was walking the dog.  Being the daft dog he is, he was constantly getting caught in the wheels, he nearly strangled himself the first time we went out. Eek! So that’s when the rise of the baby carrier was born. I wanted freedom to be out and about but didn’t like/want to use a pushchair. My babywearing journey has since evolved and I am now a committed wrapper; really it’s easy once you know how. It just takes a bit of practise but give it a few days and you'll be wrapping like a pro.  See Youtube for step by step guidea, Boba provide a number of videos. My wrap is in fact a Boba and I love it! I really could not recommend it enough, and no I'm not being sponsored to say this! ;)

Then there’s the stairs, little bean often falls asleep out and about, carrying her up the stairs to our flat in a pushchair was onerous to say the least and ALWAYS woke her up, the sling does not, a bonus for sure. In fact it’s actually how I usually get her to sleep, something I wish I’d known as I paced the flat for hours rocking a howling baby back in the early days of parenthood. And that my friends is the beauty of the wrap/sling; babies fall asleep, quickly, peacefully and easily and the more you use it the easier it becomes. Little b is in fact falling asleep in the wrap, on the boob, as I type! Multitasking made easy :) I also pop her in the wrap just before a nap and whilst she's winding down use the time to do a few quick jobs, a blessing now that she is so mobile.

But convenience aside, I actually babywear for the benefits that it provides and this I am passionate about. Babywearing is, by expert opinion, good for both mama and baby. In the early days it can help to prevent postnatal depression, promotes bonding (especially if you can manage skin to skin) and breastfeeding (indeed I tend to feed Little B in the sling- something I learnt to do when she suddenly refused to eat in any position other than sidelying. I will write more on this later) and allows baby to feel safe and secure in a new and alien world. By being close to mama a baby is able to regulate their irregular systems; especially important in the first few months in what is known as the ‘fourth trimester'. (Papa B studied genetics and so fills me in on the science parts). The theory of the fourth trimester is based on the idea that the human baby is born roughly three to four months too early. In short, the female pelvis became narrower when we evolved to stand on 2 legs while at the same time the brain became larger to cater to our more complex thought processes. In this new design a full term baby's head would be too big to pass through the birth canal; just imagine giving birth to your four month old's noggin! Ouch! ;) If you're interested in this you can read more in this article at .This means that a baby is not really ready for the world; their little systems being too underdeveloped. Being out of the womb is therefore a big shock to a tiny, helpless baby and that's where babywearing helps!

In the sling the womb environment is simulated, the rocking and heartbeat reminiscent of being close to the mother, whilst the mother’s breathing and heart rate help to regulate the baby’s own. This sense of security as well as the mother's own systems at work can also help the baby regulate cortisol levels (the hormone released as part of the bodies stress reactions) and thus leads to a calmer, more contented little one - no Gina Ford required! ;) As an individual's cortisol levels are set within the early months of life, by keeping them low at this time you are also helping your baby to grow into less stress prone adult where they will hopefully not be predisposed to many of the common mental ailments of modern society, such as depression and anxiety disorders.  (As a side note "Crying it out" may actually do the opposite - making the body unresposive to anything but high levels of cortosol, which is why it could actually be damaging).  By calming them in this way you also help to teach them how to self regulate; an important skill for life (you can read Sue Gerhadt's 'Why Love Matters' if you want to find out more.) 
A mother’s body will also cool or heat up according to the baby’s needs; indeed in summer I actually found little b cooler in the wrap than in her pushchair.  Also with the wonderful selection of wraps/slings and carriers around today you can find something for every type of weather. A woven wrap is great for summer, whilst a knitted wrap more cosy for colder months.  I also find layering little b and myself works well so if we are going in and out of shops I can add/remove layers to keep us at the right temperature without having to disturb little b's slumber. 

According to Dr Sears (an invaluable source of knowledge in the early days) sling babies cry less and learn more. Always a plus and definitely something I’ve found. Babywearing also helps reduce wind; I really found this helped in the first few windy months. Days where we went out and about in the carrier definitely were less windy with a lot less bedtime tears (note infacol didn't work for little bean - while I've heard it works for some mothers it can apparently also disrupt buba’s intestinal flora which could make them more prone to gas and digestive disorders in the future; try babywear instead and see if it works for you!). It is also soothing - many baby wearers have found that if you take a crying baby, pop them in the sling on mama and your heartbeat, smell and warmth will quickly soothe in a way that is more powerful than simple rocking. This is why I moved onto the wrap. I tried a Baby Bjorn first as they simpler to get one - I know many mums swear by these but this actually just didn't work for us - little b howled for an hour straight - then I tried my lovely Boba, within minutes she was calm and falling asleep. Once I got used to tieing the boba I actually found it easier than the Baby Bjorn too. Apparently wrapping is also better for babies hip joints than the Baby Bjorns too.  Talking of crying and colic; Dr Harvey Knap (a baby soothing expert who wrote a book called 'The Happiest baby on the block' and formulated the 5s for overcoming colic) has found in other countries where baby wearing is common that colic does not exist! Indeed I found the intense crying periods stopped quickly once our babywearing ramped up a notch. AGAIN, I wish I'd known sooner!
Dr Sears also advocates babywearing as a good way of socialising your baby; in the sling/wrap they are experiencing life with the parent (rather than being removed from it in a cot or separated in a pushchair) are able to watch their facial expressions, experience their parent's emotions and actions and thus learn to be a part of their world. My baba said her first word at 5 months, which I'm sure she learnt from looking at my face while I talkted to her and other people as she was strapped in the sling. Even when you’re washing your dishes, if your little one is strapped to your chest, you’re still actually contributing to their overall development! :) I know when I’m walking about I often glance down to see little b gazing up at me and there’s the clincher; I can look down, chat to her, kiss her little face and still show her the world. And yes, I can also vacuum, clean, run errands and know she’s content, cozy and safe! 

So, why not go ahead and give it a try - what do you have to lose?! Wrap them up close, snuggle them tight and reap the benefits! :) 

Happy babywearing all!

Mama Amore xxx