The Baby Adjustment Bureau

Im going to start this blog with a video which if you don’t find heart warming well do you even have a heart? I took a video of Rex coming home from staying with my sister and brother-in-law and his cousin Ivo (who he ADORES) to meet baby Stella – I have just re-watched it and it is beyond lovely, the sheer look of wonder in his eyes as he see’s her for the first time is magical. Also it really makes me laugh that he storms in and cruises down the slide on the way over. Now its no feature film and I really must work on my directing skills, but still, what a memory to have on tape.

On a side note please excuse the war zone that is our house – if you read my last post you’ll know we were packing the place up ready for gutting.

If i thought we had a lot going on, I can only imagine how much that all is to a two year old. I think Rex’s initial thoughts on Stella coming home were ‘cool, sweet little baby, she seems great and can definitely stay a day or two’ then a few days later ‘ok, hold up why is this baby still here and why on earth is she taking away the attention from me and why is she constantly attached to my mother like some kind of limpet’? Cue attention seeking tantrums from hell and heavy handed ‘hugs’ for Stella – that child will be made of tough stuff when she’s older.

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it’s important to note, that he adores his sister, he just doesn’t know his own strength yet.

If that wasn’t hard enough to see, the 5 day post natal blues then come a-calling – I remember after I had Rex I would just sit in the bath and cry, I couldn’t understand quite why I was so tearful, I was missing my momma more than ever at that time for obvious reasons, I had no idea what I was doing (who does) and needed that support, that big hug when exhaustion had taken over. So I knew what to expect the second time round, but it hit me in a different way. This time my emotions were entirely directed to Rex, he was acting up in quite a big way and most of his anger seemed to be directed at me, me and the limpet seemingly taking up permanent residence on my breast. I was no longer able to give all my attention to him and that was more upsetting than I had thought. It’s amazing how you don’t realise the bond you have with a child until things change and you can’t give him your undivided attention. He started waking up in the night (this is a child that was sleeping through the night from about 8 weeks old), he was throwing tantrums on an insane scale, I mean throw yourself to the floor in a fit of rage insane, screaming till he lost his voice, hitting me and only wanting ‘daddy’ and it was breaking my heart. I was finding myself losing my temper constantly. On top trying to look after Stella, field Rex’s mood swings (and my own) we were packing up our house and living in general hell so when we actually did get to our rental house I felt a huge sense of calm.

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Nailed the serious look of defiance – on a side note I can’t even with those perfect pouty lips and big blue eyes

Next step was settling Rex into a new nursery and that first settling in day was just the worst…the teachers took him off outside to the playground and I could see him from inside, he was there with no-one around him not wailing but with tears rolling down his cheek, looking frightened and unsure of what to do, totally vulnerable. In that moment as I stood watching him with tears filling my eyes as one of the teachers tried to get me to fill in endless forms I realised that I was in fact part of the problem (I know, unimaginable). My dearest friend charlotte who I have leaned on in an immeasurable  way through both my pregnancies had mentioned to me, when I was regaling her with my latest issue, that it’s easy to forget just how young the elder child is when you have a second baby and here I was doing exactly that. Tired and getting frustrated and talking to him as a child MUCH older than his years, expecting him to understand and forgetting that he is a baby himself, only just two and with all the changes that come with turning two he was having to deal with an enormous amount of extra emotional baggage.

We still have tears and screaming at bed time but instead of letting us all go into meltdown I try and take a deep breath (a glug of something alcoholic) and remember that patience is key and that all he needs is to know we’re there and he’s safe and listened to. Boy has my new zen parenting style paid off as two nights ago a rather genius thought came to me. I was home alone and Rex had started his screaming as soon as I said goodnight, I sat there thinking, how am I going to keep doing this on the nights I’m home alone? Particularly while Stella is so reliant on me, I can’t lay with him for 20 minutes like I can when Brute is home and able to hold the baby (a screaming baby is hardly the best lullaby). So I went in to see him and he was saying he was scared (another emotion that can flood a two year old) at that moment Tony appeared at the door keen to see what the fuss was about and wondering when he would get some peace and quiet to carry on his own napping…cue lightbulb…I gently said to Rex ‘Would you like Tony to sleep in here with you?’ ‘YES’ he said eyes wide like saucers so I popped Tony on the bed, told him Tony would love to sleep in with him and keep him company (I imagine an internal eye roll from Tony at this moment) and said goodnight to them both and that was that, no noise just straight to sleep and last night Tony just wandered straight in and hopped onto Rex’s bed and off they went to sleep. I suppose if you think about it, it’s like being told you can have a sleep over with your best friend every night so no wonder he is feeling more settled. I realise this may not be the long term solution, but while it works and he is happy then we’re all happy.

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The answer to all our prayers, the long standing hero of our household and the best of friends to Rex

 

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Never far from each others sides

Alongside that I’m trying to have special ‘us time’ going out for tea and cake or going for a walk and having lunch – anything so he knows that he is still very much at the forefront of my mind and my heart.

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looking on proud as punch as my son devours handfuls of marshmallows and chocolate cake

All I know is it’s a minefield and I have no clue as to what I’m doing but just try each day to do the best I can. It makes me realise how amazing all my friends are too, I can’t tell you the amount of time I have sent needy messages desperate for answers on what to do next and they never fail to come through for me. From all this chaos has come so much learning so whilst parts of it have been painful, I’ll take that pain for immeasurable happiness.

Right I realise my last couple of blogs have been rather serious and possibly also a bit ‘woe is me’ (who’s the attention seeker now) so next blog I promise to bring back the laughter of blogs gone by.

A change is gonna come…

Chapter One

The first two weeks of this year were mental to say the least – we have started the first part of a huge building project on our house in London, packed up our house and moved out of London to a new house. We have started Rex at a new nursery for the next three months too…oh and we had a baby!

I have no idea why we did this all at the same time – perhaps we were both having a psychotic episode? Or is it just part of the human condition to decide to take on so many major life moments in one go? Either way although it has been somewhat testing shall we say, the outcomes will be and have been wonderful.

The most wonderful part of all of this was of course the birth of our little girl, Stella. This time round we decided not to find out the sex but myself and Brute were absolutely convinced we were going to be having another boy, it’s a weird feeling I just couldn’t imagine myself having a girl – I definitely thought my lot in life was to be surrounded by boys (something as a hormonal teenager I would have given 2 thumbs up to).

I hadn’t given much thought to the birth itself, to be honest that was on purpose as I was more nervous about it all this time round, knowing what to expect, I’m definitely one of those people that likes to maintain a ‘it’ll be fine’ facade because to be honest you have to get through it one way or another, but on the inside the stomach was slightly knotted. When I was pregnant with Rex I had envisaged a water birth, no drugs and all very serene , the baby would pop out and i would look flushed but calm with a beautiful glow about me, a bit like the episode of Friends when Rachel has her baby and looks at the end how I hope to look on a normal day (I am biased as I have a major love for Jen Aniston, so her in any state including post giving birth is a look I’m down with) annoyingly that is quite (incredibly) far from what happened and how I looked at the end of it.

Instead, 9 days after Rex was due,  I went into labour, had to have my waters broken manually which is a pretty undignified feeling and though I started in the serenity of the water bath I was soon dragged upstairs literally kicking and screaming in pain to be induced as I wasn’t dilating. If I was going to be induced then I was going to take every pain killing drug they could find for me along with it. Another 12 hours later Rex arrived.   Brutal, yet ultimately the most incredible thing in the world is delivered.

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With my little hunk in the hospital the day he was born – so alert!

With Stella is was totally different, I had assumed I was going to be in for another late baby until the week before my due date and Brute said we should place bets on when she was going to arrive, I suddenly had this feeling that she was going to be on time, Brute went with 5 days late (they do say your second is usually earlier & a quicker birth in general) Sure enough at 01.30am on the morning of Saturday the 20th January 2018 I got up thinking I needed my usual middle of the night pregnant woman pee, only this time i didn’t quite make it to the loo and instead found myself stood in a pool of water, I woke Brute up and said ‘I think my waters are breaking’ to which he said ‘well don’t just stand there, get to the toilet’ (he’s lucky i’m so understanding) half an hour later my contractions started and they came on strong very quickly, Brute was set up with his contraction app which within in minutes was flashing red and telling us to get our asses to the hospital as otherwise this baby was going to pop out on our pre renovation laminate bedroom floor, not a first glance at the world anyone should have to deal with. So after at least 5 stops for contractions we made it to the car and zoomed to Queen Charlottes and Chelsea hospital where they took one look at me and said ‘it won’t be long now’ cue internal freak out – I’m not ready, I can’t do this, help!!!! I was whizzed into the birth centre and hopped into the bath and by then It was full on, I knew I couldn’t have any pain relief if I was going to  have a water birth, but it’s what I had wanted the first time so I was going to give it my best shot. It was quite a blur, I just remember asking how long left till the baby arrived (the sounds awfully polite, in actual fact I think I scream when the F*%k is this baby coming, get it out of me) to which the midwife calmly said 40 minutes  – how on earth they can tell that is beyond me but she was spot on – sure enough, 40 minutes later through a haze of swearing, punching Chris in the arm and almost breaking his hand this little angel arrived into the water as calm as day, it took a minute before Brute said ‘is it a girl or a boy?’ I had totally forgotten that we didn’t know and when we realised we had a little girl every other feeling vanished, and pure love took over. That is of course why people have more than one child, you forget the pain of labour so quickly…damn them and the pure joy they bring.

So that was it, 3.5 hours from my waters breaking to Stella arriving, and yet still I didn’t look anywhere near Rachel in Friends…hmmm I’m starting to think she wasn’t really giving birth after all.

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My little dream team on the day each of them was born. Rex on the left and Stella on the right – I know new borns all look similar but they could ONLY be siblings!

Now, Before I go any further, I need to just shout about how amazing the midwives and staff were at Queen Charlottes and Chelsea, this is my second birth there and both times they made me feel as at ease as is possible. The calm, caring, positive, encouraging attitude and incredible knowledge they have, well they are just all round bloody wonderful people. It’s a serious testament to their love of and commitment to their jobs. I was in such safe hands from beginning to end and though I thanked everyone profusely when we left the hospital I feel like they do the most incredible job bringing new life into the world countless times a day and they deserve more praise than is possible to impart. Once Stella had made her grand appearance into the world my midwife made sure I was comfortable on the bed with Stella, whilst another came in with toast and tea for both brute and I. We were then (once we were up to it) moved next door to a fresh room with a double bed and offered breakfast (both of us).

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Super important that Brute was comfortable in bed as soon as possible after the birth…he’d been through a lot.

We were told in no uncertain terms to take our time, have a sleep there was no rush to leave the room – we were so touched by how comfortable they made us and ultimately indebted to them for helping to bring our two children into the world safely.

I’m going to leave it there until next time as I wanted to write a separate piece about what comes next, the huge highs the very real lows, what it all meant for Rex and where we are now (plus an adorable video of the moment they met, be still my beating heart etcetc). Also my little limpet needs to feed for the 100000000000000th time today so I’m going to settle into some serious Winter Olympics action – who knew curling could be this gripping.

Marching out of the hospital that lunchtime with my little babe, Stella

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There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.

This morning as my husband got up at the crack of dawn to go and play golf and I was once again left with the slightly daunting prospect of another day trying to creatively entertain a toddler I thought of something I read recently in the Huffington Post  – A truly brilliant article by Dr Vanessa Lapointe which I urge all parents living in this fast paced screen filled world we live in to read .

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Standard morning of me trying to get stuff done, whilst being ordered to ‘cuddle baby’

Dr Lapointe talks about the need for children to be bored, for their minds to ‘awaken’  and for them to make their own magic and their own fun, for them to get creative. She talks of the fast paced world we live in now and how parents often feel like they need to respond to their children’s supposed boredom with outings a plenty, activities and as a last resort (or sometimes first resort) – screen time. She also mentions her husbands life as a child growing up the countryside,  this resonated with me as my sister and I grew up in the countryside, nothing but land and adventures to be made, we would take ourselves off on long walks, make up games, pretend we were different characters and immerse ourselves in ourselves in our own imaginations – yes I know it all sounds a bit famous five but my father was brought up in the African Bush and his adventure stories were magical to us – we imagined the Jungle book in real life. My mother though brought up in London was Irish and loved all things creative, she also instilled in us an ‘everyone should chip-in’ work ethic – my sister and I helped with house work and learnt from a young age to respect the things we were given and to help out where we could. These are all things that have stayed with me throughout my life and are things I want my own children to learn.

However, when I was reading this and thinking, yes, yes, yes I totally agree with all of it, It also made my stress levels go up a little. My son is still only a toddler so not quite at the age that I think Lapointe is referring to, but also I feel that living in London, or any city makes it all harder. Space is limited, particularly outside space so though I try to encourage Rex on some days to make his own fun, to enjoy the toys he has and to go out in the garden on those sunny days.

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Loves nothing more than throwing his Duplo everywhere and then settling down to read.

I don’t think more than one or two days of this is really feasible without both of us going stir crazy. We are lucky to have a house and garden but in any city a huge proportion of people are in flats. So on those days when you can’t do another day inside London certainly offers up a lot of options. There are dozens of amazing parks, city farms, soft play spots, sports clubs, childrens members clubs,  in fact there is pretty much everything you could possibly think of to entertain your child on a daily basis. Though a lot of things are not cheap, once every so often is fun and also opens childrens eyes to all sorts of fun new experiences. There are also plenty of free options –  get some friends together and hit up one of the parks or grab a bottle (milk or wine!) and head to one of your houses  – a problem shared is a problem halved as they say.

There is also the app Hoop which you can download and find a million things to do in your area too.

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No gender stereotyping in this house – Rex on the way to a playdate with his beloved baby, named ‘Baby’

 

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Tea for 4 while the mummy’s catch up 

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Hampstead Heath homies

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Couple of hunks hanging out in Battersea park

As for screen time – it seems to be a much debated issue amongst parents, journalists, bloggers, behavioural experts… everyone really. But honestly it’s really no-ones business but you’re own, you do what you can do and to be honest sometimes everyone needs 10 minutes of peace and quiet and if an episode of ‘Hey Duggee’ is what gives you that, then hell, put it on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that’s really all it is, an opinion. Myself, I try to say no to iPads and iPhones, though some emergencies require them (ie. on a delayed 40 hour flight to Australia!), and I say at 5pm while I make supper ‘yes’ to sticking on some wild cartoon which can only have been created by an LSD induced mind for half an hour. We all make decisions on how to raise our children, how to entertain them, how to ensure they grow into kind, interesting, rounded adults – no single person’s way is right and no single person’s way is wrong – we should all remember that before we judge others.

I have put a few options below for those West and South West London Mums looking for options to keep them and their little people sane.

Flip Out – Fab trampolining centre in wandworth

 

Battersea Park Zoo

 

The Corner House Cafe

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Corner House cruising

 

 

Bertie and Boo

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Bertie and Boo do the perfect date food

 

The Army Museum

 


The V&A
– mainly in the summer for the outdoor splash pool that children can play in

 

Gambado

Sky Lark Cafe

Kew Gardens

The London Wetland Centre

 

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Watching the Otters being fed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciao Italia!

There is nothing quite like the feeling of booking a holiday, all the promise it holds, the rest and relaxation, good food, hopefully even a bit of sun. So when our friends told us they were off to Italy for a week and asked us to join, it took approximately 0.1 seconds to think it through and click ‘buy’ on our tickets.

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