A year of motherhood

Photo by Summer George Photography
Photo by Summer George Photography

Somehow I have made it through an entire year of being a mother. This is nearly as shocking as the fact that the baby I gave roast chicken to tonight has been alive for a whole year.

And what a year it’s been. I would love to wax lyrical, but I am too tired and don’t think I can share anything original. Motherhood has been surprisingly full of cliches: nights of sobbing, the joy of baby snuggles, the indecision of feeding choices, the excitement of watching her explore. But there have been so many little moments and little rituals that we’ve been fortunate to share as mother and daughter, or as a little family. I thought I would record a few here:

  • Watching Mabel see snow for the first time
  • Hobbling down to the dining room in the maternity ward, pushing Mabel in her little bed
  • Lying on the bed, Mabel on my chest, Pippa on my legs, trying to stay awake (and eventually deciding that wasn’t worth it)
  • 11 p.m. family walks to McDonald’s to get her to sleep
  • The words of encouragement from other mums when I fed Mabel in a cafe/public the first few times
  • Reading Little Bee at bedtime, until Mabel decided she’d had enough & started crying every time it came out. Oops.
  • The delight on her face when she squished a strawberry for the first time
  • The overwhelming sense of responsibility and terror when I registered her at the GP
  • Her first wave, at a near stranger in a cafe!
  • Endless night feeding sessions
  • The sobs, clenched teeth, and occasional scream or walk out the door when I couldn’t get her to sleep
  • The agony of her screams with reflux. God, just haunting.
  • Finding my “these are people I would still want to hang out with if I wasn’t a mum” mum group through our local breastfeeding support group

It’s such a cliche, but I do feel so blessed to have Mabel. She’s an excitable, engaged, curious girl full of enthusiasm for the world around her. She may be little, but she is not shy or restrained. I can’t wait to see what will change next year.

Motherhood itself, though, is a whole different thing from Mabel herself. I guess maternal instinct is a real thing, as the urge to spend time with and protect Mabel is pretty overwhelming sometimes. Getting the balance between our needs right and trusting that other people can also meet her needs will take a long time. I still feel like a terrible mum several days a week! Unsurprisingly these feelings still usually revolve around her sleep. She’s always been a rubbish napper but done better at night. But the nights that I can’t get her to fall asleep (Yes, we are naughty and still put her to bed asleep instead of letting her go to sleep on her own. You can’t judge me for this any more than I do. :() are just the worst. In fact tonight I passed her over to her dad crying after trying for 40 minutes. I mean I was crying! She was screaming because something unidentifiable was clearly hurting.
Another surprising thing is the way I still think about the miscarriage. One of Mabel’s middle names is the one we planned to use; it’s the main reason she has 2, as I worried it’d make me think about the baby too much, but R wanted to keep it. It is a lovely name, though, and someone we know (who doesn’t know about the miscarriage or name history) prefers to call her that. I really struggle with it as it feels like a litte pinprick to the heart every time, but equally I don’t feel comfortable sharing the reason behind this with this particular person. How do I find the balance of remembering and moving on? I really didn’t expect I’d still think about it most days and can’t help wondering if it’s normal.

But there are positives, too, like those memories above. I love seeing her face when I come home, and especially love watching her when both her dad & me are around as she is clearly just so happy. I wouldn’t exactly say that cliche of “the smiles make it worth it” (*vomit*) is true, but I have been surprised by just how much fun I have found being a mum. Long may it continue (but let the nighttime sobbing stop now, please).

Random Friday thoughts

  • Why has Mabel suddenly decided only to nap while being held again? Or to nap so much better for her dad than me?
  • 3 weeks til I’m back at work, eek!
  • I have a job interview next Friday. This is mostly good, but how am I supposed to come up with answers or examples when I haven’t been at work for almost a year?
  • Is it actually possible to save the environment in a society that uses (needs?) mass production and large scale farming? If local production came back in a bigger way, would we lose some benefits of modern society? Feeling pretty pessimistic about everything these days.
  • Will I ever get to knit again?
  • Why are all my dream jobs incompatible with where I want to live? Someone please drop Kew Gardens into the Cotswolds, please and thank you.
  • Will I ever get to write a real blog post again?
  • I don’t like myself very much sometimes, but I think that is linked with a low level feeling that I am a bit lazy and not fulfilling my potential.
  • Will Mabel learn to walk before she gets her first tooth?

Making a garden

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much Mabel seems to dislike the allotment. We finally had one day a few weeks ago when she played happily while I weeded, but alas, it’s really too late to do anything there this year. Given that I never spent lots of time at the allotment, I am surprised by how much I miss it!

The positive side to this is that it has meant I’ve shifted my interest in plants to making our yard look a bit better. Well, at least one corner of our front yard. A bit at a time is a good gardening strategy, right? Only one part of our front garden (and back, for that matter) has any soil rather than grass or rocks, so I decided to start there. When we moved in, there was an ugly and diseased shrub there. I have let this little corner get overgrown with weeds every summer. I haven’t even given much thought to what I wanted to replace it with.

I started last summer, when I bought meadow rue at Kiftsgate Garden. Then this year I was in Homebase and saw a bleeding heart for £1 and couldn’t resist. And that in turn got me to thinking about what would look nice with a bleeding heart…so it all developed organically. I persuaded a friend to take me to a local nursery, where I bought a white rue and two peonies (one white, one dark red). I guess now I’m committed to a garden with perennials and anything that self-seeds. So far I’ve planted:

Rue – two kinds

Foxglove

Japanese anemone

Bleeding heart

Astrantia

Salvia

Columbine (aquilegia)

Euphorbia (technically I didn’t plant this)

It is so nice to see flowers when I step outside! It makes me really happy. I also have plans to treat myself to a fancy Miss Saori hydrangea; I walked past one this summer and fell a little in love. Some Japanese irises might look nice, too, and I may just chuck some wildflower seeds in. I have also bought a dahlia and a white butterfly bush which will stay in pots until I’ve decided where I want them (definitely somewhere in the back).

I’d love to make the whole garden a little more bee friendly, too. Lavender is the obvious choice, and I will probably put some in, but to be honest I am not really a fan of the smell. Does anyone have any suggestions?

FO: Toy tidy

A member of my NCT group recently christened her baby, and although I was unable to attend, I still wanted to make something special. I decided on a toy tidy after looking through a book of sewing projects for nurseries. The ideal gift is always something useful, I think, and because this was just squares I had hopes that it might be easy and quick. And thankfully it was, enough so that I’ve also managed to write a blog post about it! Hooray!

The idea of a toy tidy is that it can be hung over a door; it has pockets little stuffed animals or toys can be tucked into. I had the idea to use adjustable ties in the hope that it could be used more flexibly, perhaps tied on the end of a bed or on a wardrobe dowel. My only concern is that the pockets may be too small to be useful. However, the family I’ve given it have a dog and often go for walks in the country, so I’ve no doubt the little girl will be picking up bits and pieces in a couple of years — this is the main reason I wanted to embroider “Felicity’s treasures” on it. I hope she will think it’s special.

The background fabric is some vintage (ish) yellow and blue striped fabric I bought a few years ago. I don’t know nursery colors for this family, but I think yellow will suit them. I wanted to use contrasting fabric to make the whole thing a little more fun, and this blue floral fabric is from a skirt I found in a charity shop and picked apart for the fabric. A reliable source tells me it’s Liberty! It looks lovely against the soft yellow. The pockets are double sided for extra sturdiness and then simply attached with zigzag stitch. I also added a layer of thin batting in the middle for a little more body. Hopefully it will be able to support any toys that end up in it.

I can’t remember the name for the style of ribbon I used as ties, though I want to say cotton twill of some kind. It is also from my stash, and the blue thread used to attach the pockets is vintage. I’m quite proud that I managed to make a present using only stash materials! Some people might not see that as a virtue, but I’m pretty sure this family would.

This was an excellent choice for a first post-baby sewing project – bright, straightforward, and quick. It probably took me about 3 weeks to actually finish, but probably only about 4 hours (babies, huh?). It’s also made me look forward to more sewing again; there are a few more christenings coming up, so plenty of opportunities.

A life update

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Life has continued apace here, and as Mabel is still not sleeping through the night (please tell me that’s normal?!) spare time is very scarce and usually spent cleaning or knitting. *sigh* But I did want to check in here; maybe once a month is a reasonable target? I don’t know how mum bloggers find the energy – I admire them so much! I am really missing writing here, and indeed doing stuff that is worth writing about. Also, with Mabel around I am often reduced to one hand, which means using my phone rather than my laptop. Writing is much more comfortable on my laptop, though, as is commenting. I am feeling very sad that recently I’ve not been commenting on many blog posts as it seems to keep failing on my iPhone. So I’m sorry if I used to comment and seem to have stopped – there’s a good chance I’ve tried and it didn’t work. 😦

In general things have been pretty mundane (in a good way), but here’s a recap:

A trip to the U.S.IMG_2280

We had been going back and forth about when to visit my family so they could meet Mabel since she was born. I was keen to go as soon as possible, while R wanted to wait. In the end, my grandmother’s death was the push we needed to get us to go sooner rather than later. Sadly we couldn’t organize the trip quickly enough to attend the funeral, but nonetheless we thought a visit would cheer up my dad (who also lost his partner of over 20 years earlier this year). It certainly did the trick! He was thrilled to meet Mabel. So were my sister, nieces, and mom. Mabel was on her best behavior and impressed everyone, hooray! She even did really well on the flight, which involved 2 layovers, and on a nearly 6 hour train trip between St. Louis and Chicago. Hopefully this means she’ll grow up to be a traveller. 🙂 It was also nice to be home and see my mom’s garden.

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In front of our family tree, which Mom planted as a wedding gift.

A slow return to hobbies

Mabel is now sleeping well enough that I can stay up for an hour or two after she’s in bed, which means I’ve been able to think about other things. I’ve done a tiny bit of reading and a tiny bit of knitting (more on that soon, hopefully) and thought about projects. The tricky part will be deciding which projects to pursue – which ones are actually manageable.

Spring & the allotment

Isn’t life so much better when it’s warm outside? I am so glad I don’t have to wear a jacket every day now. The sunshine makes me so happy, too. And the flowers, and the blue skies…I know it will rain a lot and be quite grey over the next few months, because England is even in the summer, so I am doing my best to revel in it while I can. News about the allotment is unfortunately less positive. I have not managed to keep up since having Mabel and it is now a properly overgrown wilderness. I have only managed to plant two rows of potatoes all year! This is mainly because Mabel hates the allotment. Really hates it! She screams every time we go, so I can’t leave her to play and do digging like I planned. It’s such a shame, but I think that might mean it’s time for me to give it up. We shall see.

Hitting 6 months as a momDSC03670-1

Mabel turned 6 months old today! I can’t believe it. There have been concerns about her weight since she was only a couple of months old, and unfortunately those are continuing as she is still dropping percentiles. She is still exclusively breastfeeding, so of course about 90% of the time I am convinced it is my fault. We’ll see what the pediatrician says when we see him in a couple of weeks. We’ll have introduced solids by then so fingers crossed that helps. In spite of this, though, Mabel is the most active of all the babies I know. She wriggles and rolls and tries to stand, though she is rubbish at sitting. She is also super curious and reaches out for anything within range. She seems particularly fond of paper, and keeping her from eating it is already a challenge as it tears if I try to take it out of her hands. She also finally enjoys playing with other babies, which is super cute.

BPSW8957On a personal level, I am now actively enjoying being a mom. I finished my CBT a couple of weeks ago and something has definitely clicked. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I am starting to feel more confident. This is probably in part because Mabel is generally a content baby now. Not working feels much more normal than I anticipated, too. I have also finally started to make real new friends; luckily I met a group of people who I have more in common with than being a mom. In particular, we’re all fond of charity shopping, hooray! I think this has made everything feel a lot more manageable. At least socially…not going to lie, I have definitely still not gotten the hang of doing housework while looking after her. The next hurdle is starting to think about going back to work. The plan is that I will go back to one of my jobs earlier than the other. But the truth is that I think I may struggle with going back to work 4 days a week as I initially thought; I am going to miss her so much. She is also already showing signs of separation anxiety and often cries if I leave the room or if anyone, occasionally even her dad, holds her. It’s exhausting, but at least it means I know she loves me; I have to cling on to that because most days I still feel like a failure at least once.

So that’s my life in a nutshell. What have you been up to?

 

5 happy things – early spring edition

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Hooray, it’s finally spring! There may have been snow a few weeks ago, but flowers are blooming, BST has started, and I haven’t had to wear a hat every day, so in my book winter has now passed. Thank goodness for that. I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my mood recently, so I thought I’d share a few of the things that are standing out, just to help me get back into the swing of blogging (if Mabel allows me to carry on!).

CBT

When discussing my PPD with doctors/health visitors, I decided to opt for CBT rather than medication. Medication can be really helpful, but for me it was always going to be a last resort rather than first. I had a feeling it wouldn’t take too long to get myself sorted out, and I think I’ve been fortunate enough to be right. While I still struggle with nights sometimes, overall I think the CBT is helping me cope better. I’m finding the counselor’s recommendation of analyzing the emotions that accompany or trigger particular thoughts particularly helpful, and I think it is helping me pause/reflect more during my bad moments.

Sling

I am still not especially confident with using Mabel’s sling, but I have to say having the option of using it is amazing. A few hours out without a pram is a real treat. Before I had her, I remember that I couldn’t imagine myself pushing a pram, and one of my few regrets is that I didn’t learn more about babywearing before having her or sooner after she was born. My pram is bright and fun and really convenient, but I have to say I hate feeling like I’m in everyone’s way. Also, do you know how many charity shops you can get into with a pram? Not many! Good for my wallet, yes, but it makes me a little sad to be missing out on potential treasures.

Plans for making

Does spring make anyone else feel more creative? Almost as soon as the days started getting longer, ideas finally started pouring back into my head. Obviously I am aware it’s not realistic for me to assume I’ll actually find the time and/or hands to do everything, but some are probably achievable. Plus, it’s so nice to think about something related to my pre-Mabel identity. So far potential plans include a wrap nursing dress, the embroidery sampler for my friends (a belated wedding present), and a baby cardigan for my jobshare partner who is due to have her baby any day now!

Cooking

Busyness is now the new normal, and I think I’m finally starting to (slowly) adjust. In the past couple of weeks I’ve actually been able to cook proper meals again. Today, for example, I made scones. Bliss! I love being in the kitchen again.

Flowers

Nothing says spring like flowers. 🙂 It is so nice to see a friendly bloom when walking down the street, whether that be in a garden or at the local flower stand.

I know this is brief, but I would love to hear what’s made you happy recently, too.

Something different: a silver jewellery workshop with Helen London

img_0260img_0254Way back in my days of maternity leave, I decided that I wanted to do at least one craft workshop. I have a major guilt complex and feel terrible anytime I spend money on myself. But at the same time, I recognized that being able to a) spend money on myself and b) spend an entire day without a baby would be even more difficult once the baby arrived. So that was my decision made, and I spent a few weeks trawling the internet, looking for workshops and events within a reasonable distance and that I could afford. I’d hoped to do a silver enamelling workshop, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one. I did, however, come across (I can’t remember where) a silver workshop just down the road from my in-laws, run by Helen London. I signed up for it because it was so easy to get to, reasonably priced, and, as a bonus, I loved the examples of Helen’s work that she shared on her website.  I felt like she would understand my interest in small details. Plus, her website said this was her first class after maternity leave, so I knew she’d be aware of any potential health & safety risks, and was likely to not resent having a heavily pregnant woman there!

I arrived with no real expectations, but was greeted in a room outside the workshop by two other students, plus Helen’s mum, son, and 2 dogs! No doubt the latter aren’t at every class, but I thought it was wonderful that they’d come along to support her for her first post-maternity leave class. It also gave a sense of Helen’s friendly & supportive personality, which carried through into her teaching.

img_0257We started the day by learning basic techniques – piercing (cutting the silver), soldering, different ways of applying textures, etc. – and learning how to tell when the silver was at the right temperature to be worked with. Helen demonstrated the techniques before letting us have a go and helping us at our stations when needed. This was the most frustrating part of the day for me. While it was supposed to be done slowly and patiently, the other students were faster learners than me, so I got a little frustrated, especially when piercing in this case. Getting a tiny, tiny saw to do what you want is hard! There may or may not have been tears…don’t judge me, I was hormonal! But my frustration wasn’t a reflection of Helen’s teaching; she was patient and encouraging throughout. Getting to use the equipment was quite fun; there was a steel roller for patterning, a block set up to pull and shape silver wire, and of course mini blow torches for melting the silver and making it malleable. One of the coolest things was making silver balls – watching a tiny piece of metal melt and pop into a perfect sphere is magic! You can see why they ended up in my final piece of jewelry.

img_0253We had a lunch break (we brought our own), then spent the afternoon working on our own projects. I would suggest planning ahead a little more than I did, and having a rough idea of what you might like to make if you do a similar workshop. I’d brought some inspiration in the form of my favorite jewelry, and Helen had several magazines and examples of other students’ work on hand as well, but choosing what to make and refining the design took quite a while. In the end I made a bracelet inspired by my wedding earrings; I wanted something swirly, fluid, and detailed. And there was my downfall! I was a little overambitious for the time we had. I used several of the techniques I learned in the morning to create individual bracelet links by bending sterling silver wire with pliers, making silver pearls, and soldering them into the curves of the links. We had about 4 hours in the afternoon to work on our own projects, and all my work took…probably about 6! Oops. In the end, I made the individual links and Helen soldered the jump rings on and helped me attach the links to each other, as it would just have taken far too long for me to do it on my own.

The most magical part of the day was seeing everything after it had been tumbled (I’m sure that’s not the technical term, but that’s what it seemed like!) Before that, the silver looks quite tarnished from solder, changes in temperature, etc. All the polishing came from this final tumble, and you can see what a huge difference it makes!

P1090797P1090791If I could go back, the only thing I’d change would be choosing a simpler design. That said, I do absolutely love my bracelet and have already shown it off several times!

Have you taken any similar workshops? How were they?

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