Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A big change - for the better.

Parenting. The single most challenging, heartbreaking and rewarding career going. Tragically underpaid and under-appreciated but the bonuses are immeasurable. 

Id like to think that the parents who care, who truly put their children first and parent those kids with all their time, patience, energy and soul, are in the majority. Ive certainly found more and more of them recently - even on Facebook! Groups of parents who really throw themselves into being the very best they can be, and not only that but they help others too. Two groups i feel i have to mention are 'The Leaky b@@b', incredible warmth, support and wisdom - mostly about breastfeeding but really a wealth of knowledge in there, and 'Peaceful Parenting' on every aspect of raising your child as gently and peacefully and supportively as possible.( Also, from a Fathers perspective, i recommend every parent read Single Dad Laughing's blog post here ).

I must admit i dont contribute to these groups very often, but i read them daily, as well as all the links to information and blog posts they put up. And ive noticed a change in myself, i think partly from the experiences ive had, having to miss out on much of the day to day things most parents take for granted, but also from having become something of a spectator. 

I have always thought i was a fairly good parent. Maybe not the best, but i believed i was doing my best. Firm boundaries, strict routine, loving but authoritative parents, thats what children need so thats what i was. And to most people i think, it seemed to work. My children are (for the most part - they are still kids!) polite, respectful and well behaved. Not a bad job done, id have said.

And yet, i was always stressed. Always shouting and exhausted. I certainly didn't feel as close to my children as i wanted to be - my vision of long cuddles, building tents from the furniture and nurturing strong, independent thinking people wasn't happening. I couldnt see it but i was stuck in a rut - so determined to stay in charge i was saying no for the sake of it without even realising. 

Husband, late to the game (I already had Dreamer and Manic before we met) followed my lead. Louder and perhaps a little aggressive, he adopted my parenting style. All seemed well, until i was taken out of the game. 

Sitting up here, being outside listening in i started to hear myself, and Husband from the children's perspective. It made me cringe. Was that really how i spoke to them? Was it really necessary to give that child a consequence (our version of discipline) for that? How is shouting actually helping to get that point across? Oh my Lord, are our children.... afraid of us?

If you listen really carefully - that is the sound of my heart breaking as my world falls down around me. We are breaking our children. 

So. Something has to change and it has to come from us. After reading and seeing so much love and such a gentler way to do things, i can see what we have to do. No more shouting. No more sarcastic comments. We need to really think about whether its worth letting them try something before cutting them off with a 'No'. We dont have to give up our routine or our boundaries, but we do need to listen, to engage with them and talk about things instead of always expecting them to blindly follow - after all, they do have brains, we want them to learn to use them and make good decisions in their lives.

Husband and i have talked. Every second we could snatch together has been spent discussing the way we parent our herd. I have researched and researched, read until i was quite sure information was falling out my ears, and ive condensed it and fed it on to Husband for him to digest.
 We dont want to hurt or break our children, we thought we were doing our best and we simply didn't know any better. We honestly thought that our day filled with battles was a normal part of raising our family, and maybe there lies the problem - for most families it is normal. 
 We have both realised that we were damaging our family, and made the choice to change. So last Friday we sat everybody down in my room and explained as much as we thought they could take in. A fresh start, a new way of handling things, most importantly no more shouting or aggression.

We have been trying this new approach for a only a week so far, so we are still new to it. But oh, the difference we have seen in our house has astounded us, even in such a short time. The herd, as a whole seem so much calmer. Dreamers' confidence, something he always struggled with, has improved greatly, Manic is still manic - thats just how he is but he is a calmer, much less aggressive Manic. Princess has not had a tantrum once, because she has not felt hard done by once - every situation we have encountered with her we have talked her through it and she can now see why she cannot say, or do, or have what she wanted. 

But the greatest change has been in Chickin. She might be only 2 but she is very clever (i mean the level of a three and a half to four year old) and understands a lot more than you might give her credit for. She has really opened up. She has stopped being quite such a Husband-limpet and has started to trust me again.

Ive come to realise, Love isnt yelling. Love is patience and warmth and always being available. Not making them fit you, but you learning with them and bending yourself to allow them to grow. Maybe easier to say in the very beginning when we've not yet hit any hurdles. But it feels so much more natural, so much more what i had always dreamed my family would be. I looked, the night before last, at my bed - filled with sleeping children (Husband was in Chickens bed to make room for them all!) and i felt at home.

Most of all this gentler way of parenting, it just feels right.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

I feel strongly, oh so strongly....

Its not often i get het up about something. Especially when it comes to parenting - unless someone is doing something terrible, my view is 'their kids, their decision'. 

How you feed your baby is a pretty hot topic, and people can have surprisingly strong opinions. Me, i mostly stick with my normal view, trusting that my lovely friends (and they are lovely) have considered the options and chosen what is best for them. I respect their choices and aim to help any way i can, as a good friend should, and in return they support me too.

Personally, i choose to breastfeed over using bottles. That isnt to say i have never given any of my children a bottle, but just that i gave breastfeeding a damn good try before i did.
I think, in an ideal world that would be the norm. Breast would be seen as the normal, natural way to feed a baby and bottles would be seen as a backup plan.

'But wait!' I hear you say, 'Isnt breast seen as the normal, natural way then?'

Sadly, it often isnt. By 6 months only 1 in five babies are still breastfed. There are, of course, many reasons for this statistic, but today im going to focus on one - pressure.

One of my proudest achievements as a Mum was feeding Princess for a year. I loved that year, the closeness, the bond. We had a tricky start but by about 6 weeks we were well on our way and we never looked back. I still miss that closeness - nothing is ever quite the same as that.

You may well wonder why i stopped then. The answer is simple - gradual withdrawal of support which was then replaced by pressure to give up. I think it started around ten months. Little questions, making me feel it had gone on too long - 'how much longer', 'you wont still be feeding her when she can walk will you?', 'doesnt it feel weird that she can speak now' and so on.  
 Back then, i was far more reliant on the validation of others than i am now and was considerably less well informed. I didn't know of anybody who had fed for as long as i had, and only vaguely knew that some 'hippy types' fed their children til school age and older, and to be honest at the time i thought that was a little bit weird. Like i said, considerably less well informed.

I sobbed, i really sobbed the night before Princess' first birthday, after giving her her last booby. In fact i welled up every time i felt my milk let down over the next few days. I dearly wanted to grab her up and put her to my chest and have that wonderful loving feeling one more time. Sadly, she never provided me with an excuse, finding her new sippy cup and bottle of cows milk far more entertaining. And i was too scared of being labelled a weirdo to follow what my heart knew was the very best thing.

Now, stronger willed (stubborn) and far better informed and connected and supported, i fully intend to feed Astroboy until he decides its time to stop. I wont be pressured, i wont be bullied and i wont stop til the time is right for him.

I wish every breastfeeding Mum could have the strength and conviction, and support i have now. Sadly we are surrounded and outnumbered by misinformed, perverse or even nasty people who decide our feeding is their business. Ive heard breastfeeding called 'dirty', ive even seen it branded 'sexual and therefore a form of child abuse'! These ignorant rantings only serve to make women who are doing the very best for their children feel alienated.

The mis-informed can be politely re-educated. A sweet smile and a quick feeding fact (such as   The world Health Organisation states that  'A lack of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life contributes to over a million avoidable child deaths each year'.) will usually silence the well meaning commenter, though of course there will always be one who needs more than that. 

There will always be some people who see breasts as purely sexual objects, and i feel sorry for these people, as they will never know the closeness you achieve knowing that not only have you grown this baby from a seed and brought it into this world yourself, but that your body is also capable of sustaining this life for 6, 12, 18 months and longer!
 Luckily for us, in this country our right to breastfeed, and to do it where ever we need to is protected. Being asked to leave a public place to feed elsewhere is now an illegal act. So then, we can nourish our children whenever they need it, in any public domain.

But what about online domains? The legality of us feeding our children is well established - it is not a sexual act - there is (usually, especially in public) no nudity involved. In fact, a lot of people would walk passed a feeding Mother without even realising they were doing so!

So, what if a public website was systematically targeting breastfeeding Mums. Actively pursuing and discriminating against those women with perfectly legal pictures of their feeding infants or children and actually deleting, not just the pictures but groups and user accounts as well? What if this website ignored barely dressed teens and topless men, in some cases completely naked people whose genitals were only covered by strategically placed objects? Quite the double standard, im sure you will agree!

Well, it isnt a hypothetical situation. This is happening every day on Facebook!
Members are having their groups, personal photos and accounts removed for what the Facebook administrators have decided is 'obscene'.

Well yes, because we all know how dangerous lactating breasts are! 

There is nothing obscene about nourishing a child! When a feed is taking place very little of the breast can actually be seen, a lot less than is visible through a white t-shirt or in a bikini! Is facebook dashing forth and removing all photos of bikini clad females? Are they heck, because that kind of image, one that actually is sexualised (and of no use to anyone other than advertisers and teen-aged boys) is perfectly acceptable in this poorly prioritised, intensively commercial society we live in.

As far as i know, Facebook has declined to comment or to justify their actions. Why the National Press hasn't picked this up i have no idea, but i am trying to find out. 

One thing which springs to mind is those annoying little ads which appear down the side of every page on Facebook. Those advertisers pay for the privilege of being deleted from your feed. Arent an awful lot of them for formula, or formula related products or groups? Ever noticed that? I have. Got to wonder just how much of the Facebook Income is covered by those ads. 

Im encouraging any and every person i know to join the protest feed-ins being held on Facebook, whether they are still feeding or not, have children or not, just to show through sheer numbers that we wont be pressured. And anyone who feels strongly enough about the victimisation of breastfeeding parents i urge you to follow this link and bring this outrage to the attention of the media. 

Your, breastfeeder and proud, P,I xxx 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Post the damn post, woman!

Nope, its just not happening. Trying to write what i want to get down... its not coming out right.

I shall continue beating myself over the head til it either makes sense, or i stop caring and just post it anyway! ;)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Been a while...

Helloo! Sorry ive not been here much, im finding it a bit tricky to find much to say that could be interesting enough for you to read! 

''Hello, today i woke up, sat in bed all day, fed the baby nine million and twelve times, got sicked on eight million and five times, napped twice for about ten minutes, wasted about two hours (all together) on random websites, had a salad for lunch and am now waiting for my tea''

Not the height of excitement, is it?

Still, i feel i ought to write something. But what? Not a lot is happening treatment-wise for me at the moment, we are waiting on some appointments. It is Husbands birthday today, but for obvious reasons we've not been able to arrange to do anything, i cant even make the poor guy a cake. The herd are all fine, getting on with life, growing and changing unfairly fast. Its all just a bit normal really (at least, what passes for it in this house!).

Well, i guess there is one spark of excitement for me - ive started to find my passion for creating poking its head out of the mental sand again. It started when i was looking for some Christmas stockings for the herdlings, ive avoided getting any really nice last-forever ones before now, not knowing if we had finished adding to the family. I do like things to match, or at least co-ordinate, so getting a stocking here and there is out of the question!

So, long story long, ive been perusing the handmade item type websites and ive not really found anything that has particularly caught me, or left me happy to pay for (i have my budget and im tight with it). But it slowly occurred to me, i have a fully functioning sewing machine downstairs, one i cried with delight after being given, and its gathering dust! Why am i not filling a bit of my lengthy time by drawing up and making the herdlings' stockings myself? Im perfectly capable - in fact i can do more than that, i can get a head start on the Christmas Decorations! Bit 'o bunting, a few ornaments for the tree (i have a whole crapload of wadding)....

Now, where's my sketchpad.....

Monday, 1 November 2010

Every cloud....

I think ive said before, somewhere, that i believe in the Silver Lining. No matter how thin, or hard to see, that lining is there in that big dark cloud and that is what you must try to focus on. It is what will get you through to the next day, it will stop you from becoming a bitter, angry, resentful person. It will save you.
 People have asked me 'How do you cope?' 'How do you manage to stay cheerful?'. The answer is simple. Its that little sparkle of silver, that tiny piece of reflected light. You keep looking til you find it and you grab it, hard, with both hands and you dont let that sucker go until the cloud has passed.

Since 'getting' SPD, being stuck here on bedrest, and being in varying degrees of constant pain, ive learned a lot. About myself, my priorities, my family and my friends. About how i see the world and who i am as a person and a parent. Thats some deep shit. But its true. 
Ive made a sort of list, (i like lists - they help make some sense of the tangle of threads that passes for my brain) and I'll go with the cloud first, just to depress you, then i'll show you my silver - all the positives that have, so far, come from this experience. It doesnt matter to me which list is longer, because its the second list that counts, thats the one i will carry forward with me as i recover from this, and on as life becomes a new kind of normal.

  • Isolation.
Bed rest is lonely. Your bedroom is the inner sanctum of your home and not a place your guests usually see. Up here i feel almost forgotten during the day - three of the children are at school, Husband is downstairs seeing to the house and trying to keep Chickin entertained, its really just me and Astroboy. I have a tv, and the computer and even my phone but its startling how alone i can feel. I'll be lucky if Husband can manage to grab 15 minutes with me from the time we all get up to when the children go to bed.

  • Hygiene
Oh yes, this is delightful, really. Since the first time my pelvis went i have had two baths and two showers, that is in about 8 weeks. Of course, i wash, but i dont feel clean. A flannel and soapy water hasn't a patch on a nice long soak with bubbles, and the ipod and maybe even a candle. Ive always been paranoid of having body odour, just ask Husband how much anti-perspirant i use! But you would be amazed at how sweaty you can get sat here doing nothing. At this rate i'll need a tub to stand in and a pressure washer to hose me off in order to feel clean!

  • Boredom
Without much human interaction to keep my brain ticking im finding myself increasingly bored. I can visit forums and text people but it isnt the same. The monotony of caring for, and feeding a 7 week old baby becomes a weight, without distraction or interruption. There isnt enough time to start reading a book (and i find breast feeding to be two handed job most of the time anyway) or to take up a hobby (Astroboy is a 'little and often' feeder). Napping can pass a little time but it isnt very productive.

  • Pain
Besides the pain i already feel (over what relief the pain killers bring) it is now added to by new aches and ouches caused by staying in more or less the same position for a long time. My back, ribs and neck are sore from sleeping semi-upright and from not being able to move about and get a proper good stretch. Not to mention my coccyx, where my pelvis has opened so much i am now sat squarely on this poor little bone and boy is my backside sore.

  • Relationship
 Wow, I never would have thought something so (relatively) simple as a pregnancy could affect relationships so deeply. Husband now has to help me dress (when i do), bring me food and drink - i am basically dependant on him - something that is incredibly hard for me, given that i would describe myself as 'fiercely independent'. And, on a more personal note, this has had a devastating effect on our intimacy.

Imagine the weight of being everything to four children. Not only that but having a quite suddenly disabled wife to care for. Then all the responsibility for the house falls to you too. Its a pretty hard wake up call, and a lot for one person to take on. Husband has had to do a lot of growing up in a very short space of time, and he is all worn out, the poor bloke.

 Not only has the relationship with Husband been affected. My children have suffered too, all of them in different ways have had to give up, go without and make do because i just cant do those Mummy things any more. I think though, that this has been hardest on Chickin. She was only 18 months old when the SPD started affecting me, i was her whole world then. She followed me everywhere and we were together every waking moment. I was the only person she would settle for at bedtime and i loved how close we were. Then, out of nowhere, Mummy couldnt pick her up. Not long after that Mummy's tummy got big and she couldnt snuggle on my lap any more. Soon it was too painful to have her on me at all. To her it must have felt like rejection, and so cruel. It matters not how much you try to explain, to a child that young, all she knows is what she can see.

  • Friendships 
Ive always been a 'quality over quantity' person when it comes to friends. Still though, i would have counted maybe ten people as close friends before this all happened. Of those ten, there are maybe three i would still be able to look in the eye and call friend. The others have vanished. In the eight months since i stopped being able to leave the house under my own steam, only those three have kept/returned contact. 

  • Feelings 
This is where i close up. I hate moaning, feeling sorry for myself and drawing attention to myself. When asked 'How are you' my answer will almost always be 'Fine'. I dont do myself any favours by being this way though - make out you are ok for long enough and people will forget that you aren't. 
 Being a mother and watching yourself become redundant is awful. From being the go-to person to really not much more than a burden, a lump in the corner, is pretty hard. Ive felt useless as ive been able to do less and less. Powerless and vulnerable at times too. Now, being dependant and incapable its hard to get through the day without becoming frustrated and angry.
 You can almost get used to a base level of constant pain, its a hum that never goes away and it becomes part of the soundtrack of your day. This is dangerous because you almost forget how much has changed, ive done it - woken up and forgotten im like this - and tried to turn over or sit up, causing myself more pain or embarrassment. I guess somewhere in my head im still the normal, capable me. Actually, i think thats a good thing.

  • Guilt
Ive often joked that being a parent comes with more guilt than being a catholic. The weight of guilt can be hard to bear. Friends tell me i shouldn't blame myself, i had no way of knowing the SPD would be like this, and it isnt my fault that it happened. I guess they are right, to an extent - but i think as a Mum, you take a piece of your family's pain and wear it yourself anyway. It becomes part of you after a while and it builds your sense of protectiveness - you want to prevent that pain from ever hurting them again.
 I feel plenty of guilt. My family have suffered because of me. I was the selfish one who had to have another child, to fill some perceived hole, satisfy some need. I wasn't grateful enough for the four amazing, wonderful children i had been blessed with. I needed more. 
 At times ive felt i deserved the physical pain, payment for my greed, for changing everything, for being selfish. Astroboys pregnancy was the only one i didn't enjoy, and i thought i deserved that loss as well. Adamant that he wouldn't suffer too, i refused pain relief throughout the whole pregnancy, right up until that first crack. A 'small' risk of him coming to harm just wasn't good enough, i wanted him and i should protect him, even if i had already failed everyone else.

Depressing, huh? That folks is my cloud. Or, as much of it as i can bear to show here. Now to the good bit,  the bit we hold on to....

Ive learned that Husband loves me, beyond all doubt, really loves me and that my family are far and away the most important thing in my life - Ive known those things all along of course, but to have them reinforced so strongly and deeply has been an education. 

Being away from the busy part of the house has afforded me a kind of retreat status. One of the children will come up to see me and we will have some really good quality, one-on-one time together. 

Without the concerns of housework and day to day running of the house i can afford the children my total concentration and because of it they are becoming more relaxed and more confident.

I wont to make sure i never treat my children as burdens (something i think we all accidentally do from time to time when we are stressed), - i want them to know, always, that they are loved and valued.

Ive found a depth of patience i never knew i had. 

I am able to concentrate on my breastfeeding relationship with Astroboy, and together we have mastered the tricky boob!

Being on a crapload of painkillers has had the side effect of drastically reducing my appetite. Im no longer constantly hungry and have gotten used to smaller portion sizes. Im also making healthier choices in what i eat. 

As a family, i feel we are closer now. Not just those inside our house but extended family too. Everyone has pitched in and helped where they can and its made Husband and me feel so loved.

I have a new appreciation of Husband. I no longer panic that should the worst happen they will all perish under the washing pile/look like street urchins/die of scurvy. He has grown up a lot and, though still evil for the first half hour after waking, he has shown what an amazing husband and father he can be.

We have a new life among us, new love in our home, a fresh new person to mould and cherish. Amazingly, there has been no jealousy or resentment toward Astroboy, and i am so proud of my children for that. They all simply love him.

This, is my piece of silver x

Please feel free to comment, ask any questions or even suggest topics for future posts.