Monday, 30 May 2016

Life Update

I cannot quite believe that I have been a Mother for over one month now, where has that time gone and how do I slow it all down?! I wanted to write a bit of a rambly post, kind of to get things off of my chest and kind of to update you all on where I'm at and how I'm feeling. It may go some way to explain why my blog posts and videos are so sporadic or it may just become a waffling mess that I'll delete before I hit publish. 
Being a Mother is infinitely hard in an infinite number of ways. The pressures of social media only add to wanting to create that "perfect lifestyle" for both my Baby and my Man, all whilst still finding time to show the Dog that he's loved and not neglect the rest of my family and friends. It's almost as if overnight every part of selfishness within me evaporated and I'm now in a spiral of comparing myself to everyone else and trying to make sure that every Tom, Dick and Harry is happy before me. That even includes you, yes you, reading this at home, I feel an immense pressure to keep up this blog after three long years and make it the best documentation of my life and loves for you to read and for Sophie to perhaps one day look back on. 
When I first found out that I was pregnant, alongside the worries of the pregnancy being viable and the baby being healthy, my biggest fear was that I would suffer from post natal depression. I'll lay my cards on the table here and say that my mental health has never been great. I'm what's known as a reactive depressant which essentially means that I cannot cope with things in the way that most people do, small things that most would brush off can pull me under for days and traumatic events haunt me for years. It's nothing that I can control and there's nothing that can really be done about it other than the correct therapy as and when something substantial does happen and I really begin to struggle with everyday life. It doesn't mean that I'm depressed constantly or even consistently and I know that James had his own battle with getting his head around my mental state and struggles to this day to rationalise it in his head. Him changing our plans last minute can ruin my entire day and will often feel like the end of the world at the time, liken me to our child, the smallest thing can have the biggest impact and I can literally feel helpless purely because we didn't set off for a shopping trip early enough. What's possibly worse for James is that when it's happening, I can be fine, but once we get out on the road and I've had time to whirl around my head the repercussions of us being an hour behind schedule I can easily slip into a foul mood and feel as though my entire day or week is a complete disaster. I don't wear my mental health like a badge of honour and I keep quiet during the many twitter debates about varying mental health issues because that's just not my style personally, I can be a fairly private person and to be it's not a label, it's something I've genuinely had since the age of 8 and will probably have all of my life, but it does not define me. 
I never told anyone this and I'm not certain that I even told James but my Midwife said that I experienced pre-natal depression. Much like it's post-natal sister but quite obviously it happens before the baby is born. It's hard to distinguish between raging hormones and deeper routed demons but I suppose the crux of it came to the fact that simple niggles lead me to genuinely believe that Sophie and James would be better off without me and that once she was born I should leave him with her and disappear. A feeling that I still get now she's here although I couldn't bear to be parted with her. If she ever does read this know that I have always loved you more than anything but I genuinely had times during my pregnancy of feeling like I'd make the worst decision of my life and that I should never have been allowed to conceive a baby, that I wasn't mentally mature enough to deal with all that came with being pregnant and a Mother. That I wasn't ready to give everything up, that I should have got married first as now it meant I couldn't have the wedding I wanted, that we should have bought our first home beforehand so that we didn't have to worry about saving for a deposit and paying for a baby. The list of "should haves' were endless and I often felt like I was drowning in a whirlpool of things I should have done before conceiving a child. It was never that I wanted rid of Sophie, I just sometimes wished I could pause my pregnancy and have her, exactly her, a little bit later. 
This all obviously made me even more convinced that she'd be born and I'd struggle to bond with her and suffer from post-natal depression. The first time I saw her I felt absolute love but also worried in the back of my mind "Am I sure I really love her?", "Is this love that I'm feeling?" "Do I love her enough to not have PND?". Luckily I managed to brush those queries aside and trusted myself that yes I did love her, really, truly and unconditionally and from that moment on I've never questioned my absolute adoration for my baby daughter. Without a shadow of a doubt she has completed me and enriched my life in a way I never thought possible. Even now as I'm writing this she's gazing up at me with her Daddy's eyes (whilst pooping) and my gosh, she's perfection personified. She is love. Because of my feelings towards her I felt as though I'd "escaped" PND, my daughter is my world therefore I'm safe of Post-Natal Depression, right? Wrong. 
James and I had quite a frank few days recently, he basically gets three days off in a row and they started with me admitting to him that I felt as though we were on the verge of splitting up because I just didn't feel as though I was making him happy any more. He did the obvious of telling me I was being silly, that he loved me more than anything and that he'd never leave me but come the end of the three days we were sat on the sofa and I admitted that my feelings hadn't changed. That isn't to say I wanted us to split up, I don't, I love him so much. I struggled to comprehend how I would love anyone more than I love him once Sophie was born because my heart felt so full already, and it still does. It baffles me that I have room for the both of them as I love them both so much individually. But I just feel so, different. I feel quashed and somehow like less of myself. I feel like a mother, a milk-pumping, bum-wiping, baby-cuddling Mother. I used to earn my own money and spend my own money, I used to put my foot down and demand I got my own way on big decisions. I was assertive, bordering on spoilt and made sure that my opinion was always listened to and considered. Despite my demons inside, I've always been my own person however now it's like I'm an extension of my daughter and nothing else. I feel as though James see's me at the Mother of his child, not his Fiancee, that everyone see's me as Sophie's Mum, not their friend, daughter, sister or colleague. In some ways that's also how I now see myself. 
Obviously we are yet to get married, the other day I was sat in the car thinking how I'd really like us to set a date over this summer and get at least the venue and church confirmed. But I didn't feel confident enough to say that to James because I knew he'd be adverse to do so and wants to completely put the wedding planning off until next year at the earliest. Before Sophie was born I was dragging him around Open Days and Wedding Fairs, now I daren't even buy a Bridal magazine in case he thinks I'm pressuring him. I find being selfish impossible now, I can't justify paying to get my hair cut even though it desperately needs a trim, and I have the money spare. My Grandma's given me a few pennies here and there to spend on myself but I've put it straight into Sophie's bank account without giving it a second thought. I will kit Sophie out head-to-toe in Next and John Lewis but begrudge buying myself new clothes from Primark or eBay even though my existing wardrobe is no longer fit for purpose. I don't feel as though I deserve anything anymore. I don't deserve to say I really don't like the house James wants us to buy, I don't have a right to spend money on treating myself and getting my hair done. 
Take today as an example (I'm writing this in advance FYI). The house is clean and tidy, a load of washing has been done, Sophie has been fed, winded and changed all day and is perfectly happy, the dog has been entertained and I've sorted out my blogging game. I've even managed to freeze some surplus breast milk. I really want to go to the gym once James gets home, but for all that I have achieved today, I haven't sorted anything for dinner and so in my mind right now, how dare I ask him to solely take care of Sophie whilst I swan off to the gym for two hours when I haven't even sorted him dinner? I won't ask him if I can go, I've got my outfit ready on the bed but unless he questions why I won't even bring it up. It may sound like I'm making him out to be an unapproachable monster but he really isn't, he would probably let me go without batting an eyelid and have a yummy dinner prepared for the both of us upon my return and be happy to do so. But I don't feel as though I have any right to ask that of him when he's been at work all day and I've not even produced a decent tea for him. 
My Mum wanted to come over today, and it took everything in me to say no. It's the first time I've said no to anyone since Sophie was born over 5 weeks ago. I think she's probably furious with me and I feel awful, especially as I'm going to see my Grandma tomorrow. But I don't want company today and I desperately needed a day to get sh*t done so I plucked up the courage to say No, she couldn't come over. If I'm being truthful I didn't even say no, I said I wasn't sure and I'd text her to let her know today but have just failed to grow a pair and say it wouldn't be happening. 
I've made no secret of the fact that I don't want to go back to work part-time, but historically my work don't let you go back on anything less than the full time hours I was employed on and working from home isn't an option either. They haven't actually said this to me, it's just what I've been told and I daren't query it myself for fear of being told no and p*ssing them off for even asking in the first place.  I desperately don't want to leave Sophie five full days a week, it genuinely breaks my heart thinking that I know I'll have to come next March, I've had actual panic attacks when forced to admit it to myself because I so badly want to be her primary carer whilst she's so small and achieving so many milestones. But will I have the guts to actually put my foot down with either work or James and demand that I only work a few days a week? You and I both know the answer to that without me having to type it. 
The crux of this post is to kind of highlight that no matter how much you adore your new baby, you can still be suffering from post-natal depression. It doesn't have to be angled towards your newborn, in this instance it's far more internal and if aimed at anyone, it's poor James. I simply feel as though I am just a Mum now, one with no grounds to want/wish/demand anything and not even a very good one at that...

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Friday, 27 May 2016

toTs by smarTrike Muslin Squares

 I remember sending a tweet out a few weeks before I was due saying that I had around 4 Muslin Squares, was that going to be enough? Needless to I was very nearly laughed out of Twitter-town and told to get my bum down to ASDA to stock on up! Now Sophie is here I've realised that I could have a thousand Muslin Squares and it would still never be enough (they're a bit like socks, you buy loads but only ever seem to have the same two to hand) and when it comes to Muslin Cloths, bigger is most definitely better.
The uses for muslin squares really does know no bounds, from cleaning up sick and protecting her and myself during burping sessions, to laying over the top of her changing mat to stop her from the shock of the cold plastic and even to wrap her up in quickly if she wants to be snuggled up but it's too warm for a blanket. I even keep one on hand when I'm expressing in case for some reason there's a spillage (that darned dog barking at the postman makes me jump out of my skin and can leave me with a rather soggy lap!). The recent summery(ish) weather took us by surprise and made us realise that we weren't quite prepared for the sunshine in terms of how to protect Sophie from it. It hadn't occurred to me that she couldn't just sit out in it like I can (I'm one of those people who takes a lot to burn and only has to look at the sun to get a bit of a glow) but, of course she can't be exposed to too much direct sunlight so we were struck with a bit of a problem when it came beaming into her pram. In came these handing muslin squares which were more than large enough to drop over the gap in her pram to give her some much needed shade and keep her cooler. Yet another victory for the handy muslin square!
These ones from smarTrike are bigger than the average muslin square at a metre square each meaning that you can either get more than one use of them (if you remember which corner you used last!) or can use them more easily for things such as a sunshade or to swaddle your baby up in. They're also softer than your run-of-the-mill supermarket muslin cloth and most importantly, they wash really well too! The little bird design makes them a bit more special than a plain white muslin square and I love to use the striped one to cover her pram mattress (after someone mistook her for a boy, it has to have a pink cover at all times now) so that I can easily replace it should she spit up on it.
The uses for these really are endless thanks to their generous size and fantastic quality. As I'm writing this post I'm constantly remembering other things that we've used them for such as play mats, a make-shift towel and even a blanket for my legs at one point! Sophie is a "proper little girl" in the sense that she likes to be clean and cleared up as soon as she's sick and she cannot stand being left with a wet collar. She also loves a good snuggle and to be tucked up in something so these are perfect for maintaining her high standards! Even in the hot weather she was able to be swaddled up in one of these and I always have one on hand for any emergencies. I'd hate her highness to have a bit of spit up on her chin for longer than absolutely necessary!

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Little Butterfly London Bath Time

One thing I have always wanted for Sophie is to enjoy bath time, I'm not sure why but from the day I found out I was pregnant I started to look forward to splashing around in the bath with Sophie and giving her funny bubble hair-dos. I have great memories of bath times with my Sister at my Grandma's house washing the manes of My Little Pony's and the Trolls and I can't wait until Sophie is old enough to appreciate the toys that I've prematurely bought her for bath time. That being said, she isn't even two months old now and apparently doesn't need to be bathed more often than once a week, as it's something that I enjoy doing with her we tend to try and bath her every other night and wash her hair once a week so that she gets used to it and eventually has fun. For now the bath is more for Mummy than Sophie and so I love using luxury products for bath time. Not only do these two from Little Butterfly London look beautiful in Sophie Bath Time Basket (where we keep all of her bath things), but they feel so lovely too. 
Sophie has had quite dry skin from the day after she was born and so the Bedtime Bath Milk is perfect, we'd read that bathing her could make her skin even more dry so it's been lovely to use this in her bath and know that she's getting squeaky clean and her skin is staying moisturised too. The Mother & Baby massage oil is a wonderful luxury for after bath time that replaces her usual baby lotion. I love after bath cuddles with my little bundle all wrapped up in her towel and finishing off with this oil really makes the experience all the better. Not only is it super nourishing for little Sophie's skin, leaving her super soft (well, softer than she is already) and smelling delicious, it's great for my hands too. I could use this on myself too but I try my hardest to reserve it for my baby girl. 
I've found since having Sophie my hands are really feeling the brunt of all of the washing up, sterilising and general cleaning that comes with having a newborn so I love massaging the oil into Sophie and then sneakily adding a little extra just to nourish my hands once I've finished. The brand itself is made for Mums, by a Mum, meaning that you can trust that only the best ingredients have gone into everything to get the most gentle results. It's also made exclusively in the UK so that's another big tick if you're into home grown brands. The list of ingredients that they purposely don't put into their products is almost as long as those that they do, meaning that it's full of natural goodness rather than nasty chemicals, perfect for that sensitive baby soft skin. 
They also have Body Lotion, Top to Toe Wash and a Nappy Change Cream that I cannot wait to get my hands on, I'm aways nervous to use big brands with even bigger lists of ingredients on everything I put on Sophie's skin so to find a brand that I trust is really important to me. Their entire bath range is geared up towards being relaxing and calming, not quite the mini hairdressers that I have memories of but that's for when she's older, for now we relish the time with her in the bath and the sleep snuggles afterwards whilst we (occasionally) manage to feed ourselves and maybe cuddle on the sofa just the two of us!

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Monday, 23 May 2016

Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips

One thing that I need at the moment is low maintenance beauty treatments, something that I can prepare in an instant and that will leave me hands free whilst it works it's magic. I first tried these Biore strips a few years ago after picking them up whilst in London, you can see my first impressions of them here if you like. Admittedly a pack of these lasts me for ages as I'm really lucky to live in the middle of Lincolnshire and regularly enjoy the fresh countryside air and so my skin doesn't suffer too much with toxins. That being said I must hold my hands up to my skincare regime slipping massively at night since having a newborn, gone are the days of meticulously removing my makeup and having a luxurious cleanse, tone and moisturise before slipping into bed. Now I'm lucky to find two whole minutes to clean my teeth in between preparing her dream feed, keeping her dummy in and trying to get set up for the night ahead of me that no longer involves any beauty sleep.
One area of my face that has always slightly baffled me is my nose, I know that probably sounds strange but I get bumps on it that I can't really explain. Nothing seems to improve or get rid of them, they're flesh coloured and as such not blackheads or spots but exfoliating doesn't shift them and no matter how strict I am with my skincare routine they seem to reappear with no rhyme or reason. One thing that I've found that will keep them at bay is using these Biore Pore Strips, it must be a kind of clogged pore as the area where they are always leaves the most residue on the strip once I've taken it off. I use these around once a month (but I think you're meant to use them much more regularly, I unfortunately just don't have the time) and usually before an event where I want my skin to look as perfect as possible.
Honestly, my favourite thing about the Biore Pore Strips is a bit gross... I love seeing the results! Nothing gets me more excited that seeing a used strip with oodles of yuck that it must have pulled from my face (I think that's why I do them so infrequently, so that I get to see more gunk on the strips!). The other great thing is that it fits the criteria I explained earlier, I can simply wet these, put them over my nose and almost forget about them completely and get on with something else. Admittedly Sophie gives me a few strange looks to begin with as if she's unsure why Mummy is wearing some sort of mask over her nose (I've not yet presented her with my face covered in a proper face mask, don't want to traumatise the poor child!) but other than that it doesn't restrict me from doing any of my everyday mum chores whilst I'm giving my skin a good old clear out. No making sure my hair doesn't stick to anything or that some form of cream doesn't rub off onto Sophie. Simply wet, place and pull off to reveal some gross but fascinating results!

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Friday, 20 May 2016

The Breastfeeding Diaries Pt 2 | Going Handheld

 One thing I feel as though I am constantly repeating both to myself and on this blog is the need to be adaptable when dealing with both your newborn and your new life. Ask me a month ago what my essentials were for expressing successfully and I'd have admitted to you that the Medela Harmony Handheld Pump had only made it's way out of the box for photos and was yet to even be used. Now one month on this is constantly either in use or in the steriliser to be prepared for next time. Don't get me wrong, the Swing Maxi still gets it's fair share of use on a daily basis but the Harmony seems to have overtaken it in the favourites stakes for the moment.
If you don't already know from following this blog or my YouTube channel, we are almost excluding expressing for Sophie for a number of reasons that you can read more about in my post "The Great Express Debate" here. The key to being successful for us is twofold, finding a routine that works but is flexible enough to adapt to James' ever changing shifts (so that I can make the most of him coming home in the middle of the night, of course) and also having failsafe equipment to make the task of expressing as quick and painless as possible, quite literally.
The Swing is brilliant if I'm trying to do something else at the same time such as blogging or endlessly scrolling through the ASOS app as you only really need one hand (and there is a bustier available if you want to go completely hands free!) which is possibly it's main upside over the Harmony however here's why the manual version actually trumps the electric version on this occasion...

1. Noise complaints - James made a rookie mistake of complaining about the noise that the Swing makes right when we first started expressing and it's stayed with me ever since. Although I don't personally mind the sound that it makes and can easily switch off from it once I'm concentrated on other things, it's nothing short of a godsend for my confidence that the Harmony is pretty much silent. There's a tiny sound of the air moving around the pump to create the suction but that's essentially it meaning that if we're just sat watching TV or I even want to express in bed before he's really woken up, I can do so without worrying about disturbing his Lordship. (N.B he has since retracted his statement as it adamant that the Swing is not noisy and he doesn't mind at all but, hormones and all that means that I'm still conscious of what he's said)

2. Trip hazard - I hope you realise by now that the titles of these bullet points are dramatisations, obviously the Swing is not actually a trip hazard but if you were to know the layout of our lounge in terms of where our sofa is in relation to the nearest plug point, it does mean that James has to step over the lead when I'm expressing, luckily the dog is small enough to duck underneath too so it's not actually an issue but it's nice that the Harmony is just the pump itself and is easily portable to wherever I may wish to be sat and doesn't turn out living room into an obstacle course for the men in my life!

3. MpH - No, not miles per hour but in fact Mls per hour. I was convinced that I'd get the most effective results from the electric version in terms of how fast I could get a full feed for Sophie (she has 4oz per feed and either 2 or 3 feeds a day of expressed milk) but when I chanced using the Harmony one morning because I basically couldn't be bothered to set up the Swing upstairs, I was shocked. Not "pleasantly surprised", shocked. I can get around 8oz in just half an hour with the harmony when that amount would probably take me twice the time using the electric version. I was more than happy with the time it took me to express using the Swing and continue to use it every day for reasons I'll share in a moment but if I need to quickly produce a feed for Sophie then the Harmony is absolutely fantastic for getting results fast.

4. A Gentle Touch - The final thing that has the Harmony winning over the Swing for me is that I don't feel as sore after using it. It's not so much that it hurts after using the Swing, it more itches for around 10 minutes or so afterwards and my nipples feel tender for a while longer whereas with the Harmony there is no pain, itching or soreness whatsoever meaning I can get dressed and on with my day ever so slightly quicker.

Obviously none of the things above are absolute deal breakers and to be honest with you I was perfectly in love with the Swing Maxi until I used the Harmony for a few times. To me, having both is literally have the best of both worlds. The Harmony is hard to do anything else with as I find that I need both hands, one to pump and one to hold it in place. It's rather difficult to express one handed (which is surprisingly important when you're doing it at least 3 times a day and twitter is like another limb to you). It's also remarkably easy to slip and detach yourself from the pump itself meaning that you lose any milk that's in the funnel at the time (which can leave my lap surprisingly damp when I'm holed up in bed at 7am, not nice). As I've said a few times, I still use both as and when it suits me, the Swing is all set up downstairs and is great if I want to keep one hand free to cuddle Soph or do some writing (or change the TV channel, eat a biscuit etc...) and the Harmony is fantastic for when I need a quick, quiet fix to restock the fridge.

Overall the expressing scenario is going well, we're in a good little routine and Sophie tends to sleep well through the night now. Our routine has changed slightly since my last post, I feed Sophie using the shield at 6am, the express straight after and get enough for her 10am and 2pm feeds. I'll express again at some point throughout the day but tend to use a shield again at 6pm, I love the closeness that it brings and it takes the pressure off of me no end. At 10pm she now has a formula feed of around 5oz and that usually sees her through under 5am the next morning when she's easily soothed by a cuddle until it's time for breakfast and to start all over again. It wasn't an easy decision to give her a formula feed but if I'm honest the pressure of expressing enough for all of her feeds was getting too much. I was managing but just skimming the surface and no longer enjoying any part of the feeding process. The way in which we operate now means that I can relax and even miss an "expressing session" if I really need to. It also enables me to freeze one feed whenever I'm able to use the shield at 6pm so we're getting quite a supply!

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Neal & Wolf Haircare Regime

I have always loved Neal & Wolf from pretty much the beginning of my blogging career, I was introduced to the brand via the blogging world a few years ago now and have honestly loved it ever since. I do savour the products that I have from them for special occasions (as I'm stingy with my haircare!) and whenever I bring them out I feel as though my hair thanks me for doing so. Their Super Shine Spray is still one of my firm favourites for giving my hair that extra something after I've styled it but recently I've tried some of their more "everyday" products. 
First up is of course their Daily Cleansing Shampoo & Conditioner* which is great for me to actually use once a month on my hair, completely the opposite of their purpose but as I only wash my hair once a week then nothing gets "daily" use from me and this cleanses my hair so well that I like to use it once a month to really get rid of any product build up and almost start a fresh for my hair ready for the next month. I don't use too many products in my hair as I like to limit my use of dry shampoos and hairsprays but I can definitely tell when it's time to get these out and really refresh my hair. It's always left feeling light and weightless which for someone with thick, long locks is nothing short of a miracle. If you were to wash your hair more regularly than I do (ya know, like 99% of the population) then I'd recommend this to be used once a week as I find some shampoos and conditioners can clog my hair up over time. If you regularly use things such as dry shampoo, hairsprays and mousses then definitely do as it says on the tin (bottle) and use this every time you wash your hair to keep it squeaky clean!
I've started to use blow dry sprays almost every time I dry my hair now and I can definitely tell the difference, I actually was under the impression that they were meant to dry my hair really quickly and that's it but now I realise that there are so many different benefits to using blow dry sprays. The first one is that I find that my hair dries in a much more manageable way, usually it goes frizzy and wavy underneath no matter how much I try to dry it straight but when using this blow dry spray it will dry much straighter and sleeker. It does speed up the process of me blow drying my hair but if I'm 100% honest I think that's due to the fact that I don't have to faff around straightening it so much afterwards.  I also find that if I do want to style my hair after (especially curling) then it holds far, far better. Usually I have to wait until the day after washing my hair to style it in any way other than straight as it just will not hold and slips out straight away whereas now it seems to have more grip and I can curl it or put it up right away should I so wish. 
Over the years I've obviously used numerous hair sprays and hands down this is one of my favourites. Being someone who only washes her hair once a week, I seem to get a little obsessive over preserving it as best as possible so if I use products that will make me need to wash my hair sooner I can get a bit grumpy! This hairspray however brushes right out so easily and doesn't feel as though it's left any residue behind either. It holds my hair really nicely in either a ponytail (I have awful baby hairs that usually fly around all over the place!) and it elongates the time that my curls stay tight too, all without making my hair feel sticky or stiff. 
Neal & Wolf have actually set me a challenge to revamp my hairstyle (as I always wear my hair one of three ways, up/straight/curly) but I'll admit since Sophie arrived I just have not had time to sit down and really focus on my hair to recreate something different. We have just booked her christening however and the style that they've challenged me today will be perfect for a day such as that so watch this space for a YouTube video on me trying it out soon! 

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