04 December 2011

The way to be a good Mum

I've always known Mums. My Mum, her Mum, my Dad's Mum, friends' Mums and Grandmothers. Every Mum I know is different. They look different, act different and work differently. Despite these obvious differences, there seems to be one accepted way of doing things when it comes to raising children. Why is it that we can all be different as people yet it is expected to conform as Mothers?

Whether you breastfeed for 2 minutes, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years or never,
you are still a good Mum.
Whether you choose to follow a routine or let your child decide how their day runs,
you are still a good Mum.
Whether you decide to give your child a bedtime or wait until they fall asleep,
you are still a good Mum.
Whether you feed your child organic vegetarian meals or junk food,
you are still a good Mum.
Whether you have a natural birth or a Cesarean,
you are still a good Mum.

No matter the choices you make, you're a good Mum if you love your child and provide a loving home for them.

To expectant Mums who may be nervous about their imminent arrival, know that as long as you love your child and act in their best interest, you will be the best Mum they will ever have. We are all different, our children are all different and there is no one way of being a Mum. Good luck and take it one day at a time.

29 November 2011

Ever wondered what is going on in there?

Yesterday Layla turned 19 months. We have entered the next phase in the lead up to her second birthday, that heralds so many changes as she transitions from a baby to a child.

The other night, Layla and I spent many hours awake for no particular reason. While these waking periods have now become somewhat infrequent, I often find myself thinking, as I sit in the dark, about how many nights and hours I have spent holding Layla at night since she was born. So much has changed during that time. In someways it feels like we brought her home form hospital yesterday and at other times it feels like a lifetime ago.

Over the past months Layla's self designed signing skills have developed exponentially. She has managed to develop her own way of letting Daniel and I know what she wants without transitioning to fully developed speech. While she is talking more and more each day, she relies heavily on her sign language to get her message across. Last night her performance would have impressed even Marcel Marceau. She told me, through her signing, that she required me to pat her in order for her to to go back to sleep. This was after she signalled the need for a drink on several occasions.

It is amazing to watch how her skills and ability develop as the days and weeks fly by. I found this amazing website that focuses on baby/toddler/child brain development. Select the age bracket and the interactive website shows you the parts of the brain associated with certain skills and their development. I was entranced for hours the other night as I learnt and contemplated all that is going on inside of Layla's cute little head.

20 November 2011

The fascination of one's self

My sister always says that there is nothing more fascinating than one's self. Ever noticed that people (me included) cannot help but check themselves out when passing a shop window, standing in a lift with a mirror or in the rear vision mirror of their cars? There is something strange, disturbing yet comforting in seeing your own image. It is amazing to see how Layla reacts to herself in the mirror. She is and has always been fascinated with pictures of herself. I'm still not sure she realises that the little person staring back at her is herself. Beyond the fascination of the mirror, Layla is mesmerised and obsessed with photos and videos of herself taken on my phone. She asks to watch them everyday without fail and generally has a melt down when I bore of the activity and pack the phone away.

No matter if you love or hate having photos taken of yourself, when the expiry of your drivers licence or passport rolls around, most of us cringe at having to have our photo taken. Just recently I was faced with this dilemma. I pulled out my expiring licence and closely examined the picture. There I was, in my licence photo, wearing a suit, posing for the image that would grace my ID for the next five years. Who was the girl in the photo taken five years ago? She was a single career woman who was living with her boyfriend in Randwick. She worked very long hours and was dedicated to her career. She went to the gym 4-5 times a week and spent her weekends socialising with friends and family. She travelled extensively and had no idea what the next five years would hold. As I held my licence, I began to wonder where I would be in another five years time when I once again would be faced with a licence renewal. Did I want to look back at my photo and think "Wow....look how tired and dishevelled I looked! Being a new Mum really took it out of me"? I certainly did not. So, as a result, I did something very vain and contrived. I got dressed up, put on make up and jewellery and took myself off to the hairdressers for my normal cut/colour visit. After a number of hours in the salon chair and feeling a million bucks, I went to have my licence renewed. The photos was taken and my image captured for the next five years. I never thought I would ever say this about my licence, but I LOVE the photo. On days when I feel tired, worn out, filthy and exhausted, I look at the photo and smile. Under the caked on food, the old jeans and runners as well as the tightly tied back hair lies woman who is momentarily hiding. I'm sure she'll be back for good when the next photo is taken!

So enough about me! My stories were not the reason I started writing this blog. The reason was to share ideas and insights as well as lessons learnt about being a parent. I recently followed the idea of Layla's fascination with photos of herself by making her a book about herself. I was inspired by a cousin of mine in Melbourne who put together a photo book of her son for her husband on Fathers Day. I decided to create a book for Layla called "Mamma, Dadda and Me". The book tells the story of Layla - from my pregnancy, through to her birth and onto all the things we love to do together. I had it made in a small soft cover size that Layla can read herself. Needless to say that the book has become a bedtime favourite (actually any time of the day!). The project cost me under $10 delivered and is not only a fascination to Layla but a beautiful keep sake.

"I love my Dadda, I really really do. I love my Mamma, yes it's true.
I love the places we go and the things we see.
I love all the things we do together.
I love my Mamma and my Dadda and they love me!"
I took up a recent deal on one of the multitude of daily deal sites and made another book for Layla. This book is called "My Family" and features pictures of Layla, Daniel and I as well as Layla's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I can't wait for it to arrive in order to show Layla. She is going to be thrilled!

17 November 2011

Joining the club

Before I had a baby, I felt that a number of friends with new family additions had forgotten me. It seemed that when their small person arrived, their friends got let behind. I was angry, miffed, concerned and generally lost as to the reason. When I had a baby, it wasn't long before I understood the reason for the disappearance of my once friends. It seemed that this tiny person occupied so much time, that there was little, if any time left for the previous social activities that had dominated my life. It wasn't a reflection on my friends but rather a sign of the times. I had joined a club where free time is measured in minutes rather than hours, indulgences are limited to things I once deemed to be necessities and topics of discussion shift to baby development, feeding and sleeping.

This got me thinking about the concept of joining a club. I bought a new wallet a few months back. It's a lovely colour and style but somewhat insufficient. I have so many club cards that I can hardly close the wallet. There are cards for clothing stores, coffee shops, sellers of kids stuff and fitness groups. Despite a recent cull, the number of cards are out of control. The cards tell a story of the things I like, the places I go, the things I do and places I belong. I feel a degree of commitment to these providers as evidenced by my need to carry their cards around everywhere I go. I believe that these providers peddle goods and services I want, need and believe to be the best for me. When I had a baby and joined the parental club, there were a lot of invisible club cards I started carrying without even knowing it. These cards were for certain brands, practices, beliefs and alliances that I believed to be the best and right for me and my child. In taking this stand on my club membership alliances, I joined the debate as to what is best and right.

I recently read this article that struck a chord for me.....

As women we forget that everyone has a right to make choices as to the clubs they join, based on what is right for them and their families. There are no right and wrong answers but rather the best choice for individuals. We need to stop pressuring other women to join one club over the other or comment that the choice a woman has made was wrong. Whether it is the brand of pram, breastfeeding over bottles, whether to offer a dummy or not, co sleeping or baby sleeping in their own beds, baths over showers or when to start solids, every mother has a reason for the choices she makes. Normally this is based on what is right for her child, her family, her relationship, their homes, her activities and so many other factors. So let's stop bagging each other for the clubs we belong to and realise we are all a part of the same club - Parenthood!

02 November 2011

A picture tells a thousand words

Layla is now 18 months old. Our days are busy with playing, learning, tantrums and exploring. Layla talks constantly. Her vocabulary is developing all the time. She understands everything and complements her jabbering with signing and hilarious facial expressions. You quickly realise with a baby and toddler, that everyday is about learning new things. Layla mimics our actions and behaviours as she learns how to exist as a little person.

I try to turn most of our activities into a learning experience. Bath time is no exception. Right from when Layla was only a few months old, we have always had books in the bath. Each night we read these stories and sing songs to match the pictures. I wanted to add a new dimension to bath time that matched her current stage of development. I recently purchased a cheap laminator from Office Works. I was surprised that I was able to get the machine and sleeves for under $30! I went through all of my old magazines and cut out a range of pictures of relevance to Layla - food, animals, clothes and plants. I then laminated each picture and cut them out. Now we use the pictures as story and talking points in the bath.

As time goes on I plan on introducing letters, words and more pictures to our bath time. The laminator has also come in handy for laminating photos of family and friends to use in games and everyday learning.

13 October 2011

Let them eat cake!

I am fairly strict when it comes to Layla's diet. With a family history of diabetes and my sweet tooth, I try everything I can to avoid giving Layla sugar. Over the past four months, we have had serious night waking problems. Upon a change in her diet (exclusion of cows milk at night and no fresh fruit after lunch), we now have a toddler who is sleeping through the night. I am always looking for new and exciting snack ideas to keep Layla happy as the afternoons draw on. We have a steady stack of savory muffins in the freezer that most days are either loved or hated by Layla depending in the direction of the wind . I came across a recipe the other day that looks like becoming a new favourite.

Thanks to some well meaning family members, Layla has developed a taste for honey cake. She calls it Goo-Goo and walks around the house in the afternoons asking for it. Tonight my husband asked me how I knew it was cake that she was asking for considering she had only tasted it a few times in recent weeks. I explained that when I ask her whether she wants a sandwich, she says Goo-Goo. When I ask if she wants some fruit, she says Goo-Goo. When I ask if she wants cake, she displays a massive long lasting smile as a clear direction as to her desires.

So here is a new recipe that should satisfy Layla's desires for Goo-Goo and my plans to maintain a healthy toddler diet.

This recipe is adapted from Citrus and Candy

Apple and Zucchini Bread
195g plain flour, sifted (I used half plain and half wholemeal flour)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
120ml canola or vegetable oil
190g light brown sugar (I used 150g of Xylitol)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large (or 2 small) zucchini, grated (to make about 1 to 1.5 cups)
1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated (to make about 1/2 cup)
50g chopped roasted walnuts (optional)(I excluded the nuts)


Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a large loaf tin (about 22 x 13 x 8cm).
Sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl and set aside.
With an electric mixer, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract for a couple of minutes until well blended.
With a wooden spoon, stir through the grated zucchini and apple then add the sifted flour mixture and nuts and gently stir until just combined (do not over mix).
Scrape into the loaf tin and bake for 55-60 minutes or until the bread has risen and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack then remove bread from tin. Can be served plain at room temperature.
Bread can be frozen or kept for a few days if well-wrapped or in an airtight container.

So the Goo-Goo is sliced and frozen for the next afternoon snack. It tastes like a combination of carrot cake and banana bread and I am sure will become a family favourite.

31 August 2011

I admit it.......I'm a liar!

The other day a friend posted on FaceBook that her darling baby boy had decided that 5am was an appropriate time to start the day. Given she is a friend and her son is young than Layla, I thought it was appropriate for me to comment on her status. I noted that we never stared our day at 5am and perhaps some controlled crying was in order. Shortly after I relied to her post, I realised what I had done.

I had turned into one of 'those' Mummies who either:
    a. has an unusual baby who sleeps well and has always been a dream sleeper and thus has no clue what Mummies with non-sleeping babies actually go through;
    b. a Mummy who, thanks to sleep deprivation or the need to save face, paints an unrealistic picture of her baby's sleep habits; or
    c. a Mummy who has simply forgotten just how hard the first year really is.

I think I fall in category C.....either that or I'm just a big fat liar!

Just the other day while discussing Layla's sleep habits a member of my extended family said that he did not remember his kids ever going through a stage of unexplained night waking. I must admit that I felt truly crushed when he said it. Over the past three months, Layla has been waking in tears for 2-3 hours EVERY night. I have no idea why - perhaps it is separation anxiety or teething. What I do know is that I have had heaps of advice, read plenty of books and done a fair bit of soul searching. So far I have no answer. I've tried all the techniques. Even holding and rocking doesn't seem to work. Each night I hope tonight will be different, but generally it isn't. I'm fumbling through each day feeling like a zombie with little if any light at the end of the tunnel. Layla sleeps well during the day and goes to bed easily and quietly. It's the night crying that I am at a loss to understand. I know that this can't last forever but three months on I've accepted it to be the norm (for now at least).

As Mums (and Dads) we try so hard to help our children reach their milestones. Sleeping is just one of them that seems to preoccupy our consciousness so much of the time. All we want is for a sense of normality to return our lives and for your children to progress. Despite these humble aims, there is a real sense of competition in needing to prove to each other that our child is progressing faster than another.

So in short, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I have had to start my day on a few occasions at 5am (despite not liking it one bit). I have also had 16 months of night waking that I am fed up with and hugely embarrassed about. Sleeping at our house is a long way from being normal or perfect.

As a result of this blimp, I promise to be more aware that every parent goes through their moments of unexplained behaviour that we'd rather not admit to. All you can do is hope that tomorrow things get better!

21 August 2011

Looking in the mirror

Needless to say, I don't remember what I looked like as a small child. There are some days that I hardly remember what I looked like yesterday or last year. Photos and video provides us with an experience in time travel that lets us go back to the way life used to be. I've often looked back at photos of the hideous fashion faux pas of my teenage years, the time I spent travelling when I finished school, even my early school years that seemed like a lifetime ago. However, it has been my recent reflections on my toddler years that are absolutely fascinating to me right now.

I've looked at these photos over the years with fondness of times gone by but now that Layla is at a similar age, I am mesmerised. I look at these photos and I used to see the innocence, my childhood, the happiness. Now all I can see is Layla!
As a grandparent, my Mum often tells me of the delight she feels in being able to spend so much time with Layla as it lets her experience my childhood all over again.

These photos have made me think about the journey of life I have taken and all that lies ahead of Layla. I wonder whether our paths will be the same or different.

When your child is born, the moment is so emotional and awesome that the enormity of the reality of life can be lost. As newborns, their personalities are barely present. As toddlers, who they really are starts to shine through. There is something so special about having a child who looks like you. It is quietly satisfying but mostly scary. Everyday I look at her and see myself and wonder what the future will bring.

So my favourite thing right now is anything to do with photography. I'm loving my iPhone and it's ability to capture photos and video where ever we are. I'm also loving my investment in a digital SLR camera. I realised a little while back that I was missing so many beautiful times with Layla and that my compact camera was letting me down. So I took a deep breath and jumped in  with both feet. All I can say is that the shots are amazing, I'm obsessed with learning more and buying new lenses and now kick myself for not doing it earlier.
My Nanna owned one of the first portable (ha!) video cameras. The contraption had a camera and a bag that housed the recording equipment. She lugged that thing around on holidays and always had it set up for family special occasions. Ironically, my Nanna has been gone for over twenty years now yet the memories of our childhoods live on. Being able to watch myself at Layla's age brings a whole new perspective for me to her childhood, the amazing job my Mum did in raising us and how much life has changed. I hope to be able to pass on the memories my Nanna captured along with my snaps to Layla so that the memories continue with the generations.

20 August 2011

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

The milestones of a child's development are amazing, painful, wonderful, scary and extremely tiring. Having survived the first year, Layla and my journey continues. I've spoken about the fantastic book 'The Wonder Weeks' before. The guidance on riding the waves of developmental leaps has been like having a special voice of comfort in times of worry and change. However, the latest leap has been more than trying. Over the past almost three months Layla has been going through some major changes. Her mind has been working overdrive. We've had serious separation anxiety resulting in hours of crying and night waking. There has been gastro and a cold to top things off. I've been a walking zombie going to work on two hours sleep and my marriage has been tested as the effects of sleep deprivation take it's toll.

The journey Layla has been preparing for came to fruition over the past two weeks. Her journey of a thousand miles has started with a single step. The first steps came a couple of weeks back while I was at work. She took a few unaided steps while with my Mum. I was both pleased and proud as well as devastated to have missed this milestone. The weeks that followed have been filled with attempts and falls, frustration and joys. The single steps has rapidly evolved into confident walking. We've graduated from soft leather slippers into big girl walking shoes. It is delightful to see her face fill with confidence and achievement as she conquers each days next walking challenge. The steps are becoming strides. Soon walking will become running. The complacent baby in her pram has become a boisterous toddler determined to walk everywhere despite the risks and dangers.

I'd like to say that the past fifteen months has flown by. In many ways they have but in other ways, the journey has been made up of many hard, challenging, sad, happy, tiring, exciting and slow steps. Each developmental leap has posed a new dilemma for me as a Mum and for Layla as a growing child. This last leap has been the hardest so far. I thought that as each step was achieved, things would get easier. In actual fact, each step build on the one before. Each step is steeper and higher and further away from the one before it. I look at back at newborn babies and pregnant women in the street and can hardly believe that I too was here not that long ago.

In order to mark each step, I have decided to commence a new project. I've decided to photograph each of Layla's shoes and build the pictures into a montage paying tribute to the huge steps we have taken together. I want to capture the new shoes as a symbol of anticipation and excitement that the future holds as well as the tired, worn and experienced shoes that show where we have been and how we survived. At times I feel like I have lost my opportunity to be creative now that my time has dwindled. This project will let me build a living tribute to the journey Layla and I are on. I look forward to being able to share the end result with you.

25 July 2011

Hello........is it me you're looking for?

Before I had Layla, a number of my friends had already had babies. Our relationship changed once their babies came along. I used to think that this change was because I didn't have a baby and these friends had joined a new friendship group - parents with kids. What I now realise is that our friendship changed because their lives changed. The clear delineation between week and weekend, the concept of having nothing to do and the luxury of being able to spend hours just relaxing with friends are things that disappear when little people arrive. When I joined the club, I finally realised why our friendships had changed. It was not because the love was lost or the friendship was not valued, but rather time is so limited and getting through the everyday demands often leaves little if anything left. I never imagined it would be like this.

Over the past four months, my life has undergone yet another monumental change. I went from wife and mother to working mum. Life has never been busier. To complicate matters, Layla has been struggling with teething pain and separation anxiety issues (I could (and may write) a whole post on this). Despite all of this, I am constantly amazed by what is possible. I used to whinge about going to work on less than 8 hours sleep or feeling overwhelmed by the demands of running a home. Nowadays I've found myself at work 'functioning' on 2 hours sleep and continuing to juggle shopping, washing, meals, cleaning and entertaining all with a smile (most of the time).

Layla with pink teething cheeks - 14 months
One of the things that seems to have fallen by the wayside in my haze of exhaustion and hectic goings on has been my blog. Many of you have noted how much you miss it and wondered if I was still going to write. Many a topic and headline has circulated through my head over the past few months teasing my back to my blog. It has not been desire that has kept me away but rather a sheer lack of time. So here is my first post since my break. I hope to follow it up shortly with more insights, feedback and generally baby/toddler chatter. See you soon!

08 May 2011

Through the Looking Glass

As a child, my father read to us of far away places, different cultures and beliefs as well as fantastic worlds of mystery and intrigue. I recall him reading us the works of Lewis Carroll, particularly that of his 1871 work Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Far removed from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland I was familiar with, Through the Looking Glass was a book that I found interesting but scary. The world on the other side of the looking glass was backwards, things looked the same but were opposite and so many things Alice thought she knew were turned upside down.


I've been doing a bit of reflecting on the year that was. Now that Layla has commenced her second year, things are so different to the challenges of year one. Don't get me wrong - there are still plenty of challenges, but things are very different. We know each other and despite her changing every day, I feel like I've got this Mummy business somewhat under control.

A number of my friends have recently had babies and watching them as well as Layla reaching one has made me revisit my experience. In my professional life, I am an organised, logical and determined woman. I take on challenges with excitement while seeing hurdles as a development opportunity. Before I had Layla, I was a person who got things done, always presented well, knew what was happening and always managed to squeeze the most out of every day. I always knew I wanted to have a child. My maternal instinct was strong and as the years ticked by, I continued to yearn for a child of my own. Having seen my friends have their babies and having spent plenty of time babysitting and nannying in my university days, I felt I knew what to expect and how I would cope. If that was the case, then why when I had a child did I feel like Alice going through the mirror into an upside down, back to front, parallel universe? I was no longer the organised, confident, professional, presentable woman. Instead I was the teary, messing, tired, confused Mum who stumbled from one day to the next unsure as to what was happening on the other side of the mirror. I really shocked myself as to how I fared and how I felt.

I wonder how people saw me during this phase? Did they see me the same way as I saw myself? Did every new Mum feel this way? A few months ago, I was standing in the lift at Westfield. Layla was in the pram, covered in food, her face was filthy and her running nose was reeking havoc on her delicate skin. I was in a tracksuit with remnants of breakfast caked in my leg, my hair tied back to conceal the need to wash it, no make up on, just the bags under my eyes that told a tale of yet another sleepless night. I looked across the lift to see a woman with a young baby, immaculately dress, hair and make up done to perfection. I felt like I was looking through Alice's looking glass yet again. It made me wonder whether the experiences of new motherhood are always what they seem to those on the outside. I wondered whether her baby was a good sleeper, did she have help at home, did she forgo that extra hour of sleep in order to prepare herself? I wondered what she was thinking as she looked at me.

When people would ask me how I was going during that first year, did I tell the truth or did I smile and put up a story of perfection? When I ask my friends do they tell the truth? Does everyone struggle like I did to come to terms with the change or do some people just take it in their stride? Looking back, I feel embarrassed about how desperate I felt at that time. The sleep deprivation sent me crazy. I was no longer that confident professional woman but rather a crazed, tired Mum wanting to stop the ride and get off, if only for a short while. Did I whinge too much about the problems I was having or did I put on a fake happy face and pretend that this was everything I had wished for? I think I did a bit of both. Looking back, I'm a bit shocked that I didn't sail through the early months. There is no doubt that I put in the effort. The problem was that I expected perfection instead of reality.

The first year is the hardest. I never really knew that before I began this journey despite all my reading and preparation. Overall, I survived and so did Layla. We made it past the milestone and are now continuing our journey, this time on the right side of the mirror.

Wishing all the Mummies - tracksuit wearing to perfectly coiffed a wonderful and happy Mothers Day. The ride of motherhood takes you to places you never expected, you never want to go to again and can't wait to revist, all at the same time. Quite a ride!!

04 May 2011

You must be kidding!

The phenomonon of group buying has taken the world by storm. Whether it is Spreets, Cudo, Deals of the Day or Scoopons, there are countless providers offering discount products and services at amazing rates. Despite the countless companies and offers, what seems to be missing is a provider that specialises in offers for kids and families.
This is where KidUNot comes into its own.
 kid u not

KidUNot is a new business that not only offers amazing daily deals on all things kids but it will donate $1 to a children's charity for every person who signs up!

Why not sign up now and you will go in the draw to win 1 in 10 vouchers worth $300. 

Looking forward to seeing and buying amazing deals for bubs!!

03 May 2011

Reaching the 1st year milestone....do I really remember what has passed?

As my due date approached, I would wake each morning and wonder whether today would be the day - the day I would become a Mum. The anticipation, nerves and excitement almost drove me crazy. I wondered what labour would be like, whether I was going to have a boy or a girl, what this little person inside me looked like and what would it's personality be. All the waiting and wondering came to an end on 28th April 2010 when my Layla Jade was born happy and healthy.

Now a year has passed. My worrying and waiting really only started on that day rather than coming to an end. Our first year together has been the hardest, happiest, most testing and challenging, emotional and satisfying year of my life. The little bundle who starred into my eyes, with such a constant gaze, has turned into a confident, beautiful, happy and clever child.

I began writing this blog out of frustration. If so many women had had babies, why were so many things about having a newborn such a mystery? Why did everyday bring a new challenge that was emotionally, physically and mentally so taxing? Why didn't women talk about and educate expectant mothers about what to expect? This week I figured out why......because we forget!

Last week, Layla turned one. Planning and preparing for a birthday brought back so many childhood memories of cakes, candles, decorations and fun. As expected, Layla was spoilt with gifts and love.
Preparing for Layla's birthday was exciting, stressful, fun and exhausting......a reflection of the first year really! Everyday brings a new challenge and new experience that is all encompassing. The journey to get to this point has been amazing but distracting too. At each point along the way, I have been focused on the here and now. The challenges of last week seem like a lifetime ago. I think the reason why along the way I felt so surprised that no one had prepared or warned me was because my Mummy friends were dealing with their own Mummy challenges for their kids at their particular stage. Every stage from birth onwards brings it's own challenges, worries, stress and joy. We don't go out of our way to hide or gloss over the hard stuff, it's just that we are preoccupied with the here and now. We forget how hard it really is. Our memory gets clouded.  So forgive us if we don't call enough, offer to help enough, are not compassionate enough. Just know that we have all been there and survived. Tomorrow is another day that will mean one step further from yesterday's worries and one step closer to the next.

23 April 2011

Oh Baby It's Cold Outside

With the end of daylight savings, the days are getting cooler and there is a definite chill during the evenings. Layla was born at the end of April and while technically she was an autumn baby, I considered her a winter baby due to the cold winter we had in Sydney last year. Having a winter baby means working out how to keep your new precious bundle warm and protected from the elements without overheating. Here are a few tips:

  • Room thermometer - keeping an eye on the room temperature is important to ensure your bub is not waking due to being too cold. I used the thermometer on my baby monitor as well as my bath thermometer. When Layla was very small, I used an oil column heater to maintain a constant temperature in her room.While it was very effective, the result on our electricity bill was a bit of a shock;

  • Vapouriser - with winter comes colds. Seeing a little baby with a cold is a heartbreaking sight for any parent. Without the ability to blow their noses, the constent sniffles and congestion is very upsetting. In order to help sick babies sleep, a vapouriser is a worthwhile investment. The warm humid air filled with eucalyptus and menthol makes a big difference to any sniffle. Vapourisers can be purchased from most chemists for as little as $30-$40;
  • Sleeping bags - once babies start moving around their cot and no longer need to be swaddled, a sleeping bag is a great way to ensure they stay warm at night. There are many brands on the market with a range of warmth ratings to suit each child and home. Layla has a range of grobags and bubbaroo bags for summer and winter which have proved to be invaluable;
  • Polar fleece blankets - this amazing fabric is warm, light and easily washed. When Layla was newborn, I would wrap her in these great blankets to ensure she was warm even on the coldest day;
  • Woolen beanies and jackets - Layla is very spoilt by her Nanny when it comes to winter woolies. From when she was born, she has had amazing woolen clothing to keep her toasty and warm. With Winter just around the corner, her winter woolies wardrobe is bursting with stunning creations. The ability to find modern woollen clothing for babies is a difficult task. Whether it is cost or practicality, such handmade beauties are very hard to find. My Mum makes and sells her amazing creations (http://www.babyshnookies.blogspot.com/) that are not only modern designs but can be machine washed. Their quality ensures that they can be handed down to subsequent children in years to come. Come and check them out to find something to keep your bubba nice and warm this winter;
  • Pram foot muff - any parent who has tried to keep a blanket on a baby in a pram knows what an impossible task it is. We bought a great pram liner and foot muff made from polar fleece that has kept Layla warm on many a winter walk. It was not only warm but could be easily washed and dried. Some pram brands make their own muffs but there are also generic versions available.

  • Mummies get cold too during winter. Night time feeding often means that Mummies need to get out of a warm bed to tend to a crying baby. Investing in a couple of sets of flannel pyjamas is a must. The button through tops allow for easy breastfeeding without having to strip off. The other worthwhile investment is a polarfleece dressing gown. They are warm, light as well as washing and drying quickly. Big pockets allow for you to carry all the necessary essential items with you while keeping you warm day and night. I was never a fan of the dressing gown until I had Layla. Now I realise that it is an essential Mummy item!

16 April 2011

Entering the unknown - blissful ignorance or fearful panic?

As time flies and we rapidly approach Layla's first birthday, I have started to think back to what I was doing this time last year. I was in serious nesting mode in anticipation for the arrival of our new baby. I spent my days shopping, cleaning, organising, thinking, waiting and waiting some more. People used to say to me "you'll never have a time like this again". I would smile at their statement and let the words wash over me. In hindsight, they were oh so true. The weeks before Layla was born were all mine. My needs and wants were priority. I did things when and how I wanted without giving it another thought. While I have been able to have some 'me' time this year thanks to the generosity of husband and family, I now see that those weeks were so unique and special.

One of the reasons I have been doing so much reflecting and thinking is because of all the lovely ladies in my life who have either recently given birth or are waiting for their arrival any day. Every time I see them or think of them my mind starts to race. Now that I am no longer sleep deprived, it is amazing how powerful the maternal instinct is. I see heavily pregnant women and feel jealous as well as nervous and excited. They are about to go through such a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Just like any roller coaster, there are moments when you think you may die and others when you have such a rush that you feel more than alive. In many ways I just want to shake them and say "you have no idea what you are about to experience. Be ready, be prepared, know it will be ok, hang in there, it's ok to cry, it does get better....." and so so much more.

Layla @ 11months - cheeky as always
 I started writing this blog almost 6 months ago because I felt that having a baby was such secret women's business. As women, we don't adequately prepare each other for the experience of motherhood. Some women scare expectant mums, others paint an overly rosie picture. I hope there is something in between. I hope that women share with expectant Mums. Share the joys and the heartache, the tips and advice as well as the realities of what I know realise is the hardest job in the world. Nothing I have or will ever do is as hard and rewarding as being a Mum. It has truly changed me. People said it would but I didn't believe them. How wrong I was.

A message to Mummies out there - share your mummy skills and knowledge with new and expectant Mums. Don't scare them but don't gloss over things. Give them tips, share your books, listen to them, send them messages of support, make them dinner. Demystify the world of motherhood and help expectant Mums grow into their new role.

10 April 2011

When you really know you're a parent

This week I had a moment when I really knew I was a parent. There are many things in my life that have changed over the past year. Most of them revolve around my needs no longer being central to existence. However, this week I had a sick little girl and it brought to mind just how much changes when your children are sick and how much they need their Mum. My once vibrant, energetic, independent and happy little girl was turned into a sad, teary, clingy, sleepy and dependant baby who needed her Mummy so much more than normal. It seems that my 'food poisoning ' from dodgy take away was actually gastro. I hear from friends that it is making its way around and so far my Mum, sister, Layla and I have all fallen victim. Now that both Layla and I are over the worst, it got me thinking about dealing with a sick baby and what I had learnt this year. I'm very lucky that Layla has not been very sick in her first year however there have been a few illnesses that have thrown us both.

Here are some tips that I thought I'd share with you:
  • Changing bed linen in the middle of the night due to a sick child is not an enjoyable experience. Having a spare mattress protector, sleeping bag, sheets and comforter are all a must. In order to reduce the amount of washing (and purchases), placing a Huggies disposable change mat between the cot sheet and mattress protector ensures if the sheets need to be changed, the whole bed does not need to be remade and washed. The change mats are cheap, large and super handy;
  • Giving panadol to a sick baby is not one of my favourite tasks. Layla often vomits or becomes very distressed when the panadol comes out. We have been able to avoid this drama by using Panadol Baby Suppositories. They are easily and quickly inserted, are more easily absorbed and provide fever relief quickly. The suppositories can be purchased from your local chemist;
  • Keep a baby medical kit in your baby's room for easy, middle of the night access. I've used a large plastic container with lockable sides that contains medicines, thermometer and measuring cups. Having everything in Layla's room means that medication can be administered quickly when needed. Very helpful when I am tired and called into action in the middle of the night;
  • There are a number of brands on the market but I have found having an infrared thermometer really helpful. These gadgets read temperatures in a few seconds by being pointed/held against the baby's head. Great when you need to know if your baby has a fever;
  • I make all of Layla's food and generally don't buy foods. However when she is sick I often give her Heinz Fruit Gels. They are made with fruit juice and vegetable gums and are a fun way to get fluids and sugars (natural no added sugar) into a little one who is off their food. Keep a few spares in the cupboard as an emergency;
  • Keep them close, give plenty of hugs and know that tomorrow is another day!
Sorry folks.....no photos of sick babies for this post.

05 April 2011

Reflections on Maternity Leave

I've been contemplating writing this post for weeks now. As the days of my maternity leave drew to a close, I started reviewing the time that was. This is the second time I have taken a year out of my normal study/work life to do something different. The first time was when I took a year off after my HSC before starting university. On both occasions, the time has yielded a significant change in me - mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

For many years in my professional life, I have advised employers on issues associated with maternity leave management. On reflection, this now seems weird considering that previously my advice was based purely on the legalities of the leave without having personally taken such leave. In hindsight, my leave has been nothing like what I expected.

As the final days of my pregnancy came to an end, I could not wait for a break from work and to commence my maternity leave. I was unsure what my leave would entail but I must be honest and say that I didn't expect that it would be as hard as it was. If I was to summarise my maternity leave it would look something like this:
  • Spent the first month running around getting organised and didn't rest nearly enough;
  • Labour started in my due date (so organised!) and 36 hours later my gorgeous Layla was born;
  • Endured a horrendous introduction to breastfeeding that resulted in three bouts of mastitis. Eleven months on and we're still breastfeeding;
  • I'm yet to sleep a whole night and get close to the amount of sleep per night I used to (have given up for now);
  • Feel like I have done the same thing every day for eleven months. Groundhog day big time;
  • Had no idea that a dressing gown would be so useful and comforting;
  • Have a whole new appreciation for women with twins (and other multiple births);
  • Think my Mum is the most amazing woman in the world;
  • Have learnt to do most tasks with one hand;
  • Have seen more shades and smells of poo than I thought possible;
  • Think I have overdeveloped arm and hand muscles from rocking and patting;
  • Have developed a love/hate relationship with parenting books;
  • Have no idea where the days, weeks and months have gone;
  • Never knew that just managing to get dinner cooked could take all day and be an achievement;
  • That it is ok for my day to start at 2pm;
  • I never realised that sleep deprivation could be so intense, last so long and change me as a person;
  • I've never felt so alone and so loved as I have this year;
  • The whole concept of self has changed. I seem to be no nearly as important as I used to be. Whether I am sick or tired, the show must go on;
  • I understand why some women choose not to have children and why others choose to have just one child. This game ain't for the fainthearted;
Layla (11 months) and I reunited after my first day back at work - happy faces all round!

If I had my time over again (and hope I will) I'd recommend:
  • When people offer to help, don't be proud and say no. Say YES PLEASE!;
  • It's ok to spend days on end sleeping;
  • Don't expect life to ever be the same;
  • Know that no matter how bad things get, it will end and things will get better. Nothing lasts forever;
  • If you believe in doing things a certain way, stick with it even if others think you are nuts;
  • Know that EVERY new mum goes through the shock that is a newborn. Most newborns don't sleep. It's all normal;
  • Most women struggle with breastfeeding;
  • If a professional gives you an opinion that doesn't sit well with you, find another professional;
  • Do whatever you need to do to get through the day/week/month;
  • There is no one right way of doing things. No matter what people say or you used to think, the way YOU chose to do things with YOUR child is the right way;
  • Take lots of photos, write things down and capture the moment. It'll all be over in a blink and in a strange kind of way, you'll miss the crazy emotional state of having a newborn.
For those of you who have asked, I plan on continuing my blog now that I'm back at work. I'm not sure how much time I'll get to write but I'm sure I'll find time. As we race towards the end of Layla's first year, I have learnt more than I ever imagined. I've learnt about me, my child, my husband, my family, my friends as well as gaining a new perspective in life. I think I could manage a whole post on this topic! Stay tuned ;) 

24 March 2011

If it is so natural, why can't I do this?

I was speaking with a friend today who has just had a baby. I asked her whether she was breastfeeding him. She replied with a tone of guilt that even though she had tried really hard, she was unable to breastfeed and had switched to forumla. She noted that there was so much pressure to breastfeed yet not enough support for new mums and was already feeling regretful.

It got me thinking about my breastfeeding journey. With Layla turning 11 months next week and now down to three feeds a day, breastfeeding is easy and simple. It was not always this way. My journey has included several bouts of mastitis, pain issues and a baby with poor attachment. I have written previously about the battle to breastfeed and thought I would include here a few points:
  • Do not underestimate how difficult breastfeeding can be. While not all women have problems feeding, a fair few do. While I am now a long term breastfeeder, I must admit that feeding added to my struggle, exhaustion and depression in the early days;
  • Try to prepare for breastfeeding by attending a breastfeeding class at your hospital or through the Australian Breastfeeding Association;
  • Find a local private lactation consultant before you have your baby. If you are having problems, contact the consultant and arrange a visit as soon as possible. When I was a child, women spent 7-10 days in hospital with nurses on hand to help with breastfeeding at any time during the day or night. Nowadays, women leave hospital shortly after their milk comes in (if they are lucky!) and are faced with many of the challenges when they get home;
  • Call the Australian Breastfeeding Associations help line (1800 MUM 2 MUM - 1800 686 2 686 (drop final 6 from Voip phones)) at any time of the day or night for help and support with feeding. The counsellors are real mums who have been through the same ups and downs as you;
  • No matter how long you last, whether it is a week, a month or a year, you should be commended for the effort it takes to feed your child. No matter the decision you make, you have a beautiful child who will and does love you to bits. Breastfeeding is but once element of having a child. There are and will be plenty of other challenges and joys along the way. In the scheme of things, the time spent breastfeeding is but a moment in a childs life.
Good luck and happy feeding!

21 March 2011

The bewitching hour

Most Mums will tell you that something strange happens as the day draws to a close. Their babies and children start to go a bit feral. There is more than the normal crying, fussing and difficulties at this time. I had heard this over and over again from parents before having Layla and was well aware of the time that is often referred to as the bewitching or arsnic hour. In actually fact, while many parents could deal with an hour of difficult behaviour, this fussy period is more like several hours from 4pm onwards until bed time (which could be anytime until late!). I must admit that such an hour rarely is seen in our house. I hear your gasps.......why not, you may say. Let me start by saying that I only have one child at the moment. I know that in homes with multiple children the stress at the end of the day is significantly hightened. From the start I have employed the following tactics to deal with this difficult time of day:
  • By 4pm, everyone in the house is tired and had enough of the day. This includes not just your baby but also you! As such, I try to remove the stress from this time by not having any pressing chores, dinners to prepare or things to do. At this time of day, I am only focused on Layla;
  • It is never too early to start preparing dinner. In order to remove the stress at the end of the day, either start preparing dinner in stages first thing in the morning, try and cook larger meals so that the left overs provide another meal, use a slow cooker so meals cook during the day or ask a friend/family member to cook you dinner;
  • I try not to be home between 4 and 5pm. I find that if we are home, things get stressful. Even from the early days, this was always a good time to go for a walk, go to the park or see friends. With a newborn, this is a good time for you to get out of the house and get some air. The exercise is also good for you before you prepare to go to bed. Often I would be so tired from sleep deprivation but my body was not tired. A brisk walk helped to burn any remaining energy so that when I got into bed, I fell asleep quickly;
  • If the weather makes it difficult to walk with a newborn, I used to cluster feed Layla and carry her in the sling close to me. Sometimes she would sleep and othertimes just chill being held nice and close. The idea of cluster feeding can be intense if your baby normally takes a long time to feed, you find yourself sitting around forever and your boobs are sore from feeding. At the end of the day your milk supply is at its lowest. By feeding your baby and letting him/her sleep at the breast at this time, it is a great bonding time, fills their tummies and relaxes them. Don't worry, babies don't cluster feed for very long in the scheme of things. Just turn on the TV and resign yourself to the fact that nothing is getting done this afternoon. If you have older children, this is a good time to feed your newborn while watching them play at home or in the park;
  • As adults, we all have a bedtime routine. It normally consists of something like dinner, relaxation, shower, teeth brushing, reading and then sleep. While things may differ from day to day, for the most part, we follow this routine as a way of getting ready for sleep. In teaching your baby the difference between day and night, installing the idea of a bedtime routine can never start too early. This routine will be one that your baby will follow for the rest of their lives and is important to instigate early. It is a way of teaching them that each day comes to an end and that this is the time for sleep;
  • The preparation for bed starts early in our house. From newborn it consisted of feed, bath, feed, bed and has now graduated to dinner, breastfeed, bath, bottle, story, bed. I've written on bedtime routine in a previous post;
  • Some people have been surprised at the length of time I dedicate to bedtime but in doing so, I have generally avoided the frustrations and stress associated with bewitching hour/s. The afternoons belong to Layla as we prepare for bed. Considering how much stress is placed on parents when an overtired baby won't settle to sleep at the end of the day, any steps to avoid such stress seemed to me to be worth it.
Right from her first bath, Layla has always loved a warm bath as a precusor to bed
.........soooo relaxing!
 There will always be times when nothing seems to work. You follow the bedtime routine but there are still tears at bedtime. All you can do is to keep going, follow the steps and work towards sleep. You need to be consistent, strong, brave and committed. You know that this baby is overtired and needs to sleep, so you need to just keep going until it happens even if it takes a long time.

20 March 2011

But it just won't work!

In my mind, most problems have a solution. Few things cannot be fixed if you put your mind to it. Diagnose the problem, consider the options, implement the solution. Problem fixed.

'What is going on?'
All of these theories were perfectly logically and accurate until I had a baby. Once I had a baby, I had problems that I could not understand, solutions that did not seem to work, symptoms that did not match problems and most of all, sleep deprivation and a huge headache. Now that Layla is rapidly approaching her first birthday, I have figured out the following:
  • Nothing works the first time;
  • There are no quick fix solutions;
  • Babies crave routine and consistency. You are the one to give them this even if it seems to not be working or really really hard;
  • If you fail, try, try again;
  • Any habit can be changed with consistent behaviour from the parents;
  • It is never too early or late to try something new. Even newborns will learn that things happen in a certain order if you consistently behave in the same way;
  • Routine is not about having a baby that sleeps and wakes on cue. Routine is about establishing that things happen in a certain order and are predictable for little people who are constantly being challenged by the world.
Even Pavlov's dogs didn't salivate the first time the bell was rung. Everything takes time. As a parent, the failure to see instant (or even quick) results can be difficult, annoying and soul destroying. What you need to remember is that you are having an impact (even if it is really small). Overtime, all the work you have done is establishing ways and methods that will pay off......it just takes time. Keep going......it really does get easier.

09 March 2011

Review - the ones you loved the most!

Well it's been almost 5 months since I started blogging and I can hardly believe the response. I've managed to write 64 posts with many more in draft stage just waiting to be be finished. It has been amazing to see how many people read my blog and the diverse places that they come from. I'm also intrigued by which posts have interested you the most and how many people go back to old posts for a read, review, a giggle or support. I've decided today to share with you the most popular posts so far.

1. Picking the perfect baby gift
2. What really makes an expert
3. Things to do just before baby comes
4. How to photograph your baby with brilliant results

I could never have dreamt of starting a blog without my daughter Layla.....

Then - 4 days old....

& Now - 10 months!
 She has been my inspiration, my motivation and my obsession over the past ten and a half months (not to mention the nine months in utero). As Layla grows and develops, I hope that she will continue to inspire me to keep writing and posting ideas, tips, suggestions and supports for new and expectant parents. We all know how much we need each other to survive the challenges of being a parent.

06 March 2011

Reflections on Motherhood

A friend sent me a link to this You Tube video today. We both became mothers only a few weeks apart and now have the joy of watching our kids grow up together. Over the past two weeks, three of my friends have given birth to their first children. As to be expected, the early days have brought waves of joy and frustration, exhaustion and exhilaration. When I watched this video, it brought a tear to my eye. It is so try, so touching and so important. If you are a parent, make sure you support your friends and family with new babies. Call them, SMS them, drop in a meal. Let them know that we have all been through the difficulties of becoming a parent and that the difficulties do pass. Watch the video and enjoy.

03 March 2011

My Baby Made Me Fat!

I once had a woman (in her 60's and morbidly obese) tell me that the reason for her weight problems, were her children. She said with a laugh "my children made me fat. It's all their fault". It was said to me when I was pregnant and the comment has been swimming around my head ever since.

During my pregnancy I trained with a personal trainer every week and made sure I was either in the gym of doing some other kind of structured exercise until I was 36 weeks. In fact, I was walking from our house to the local shopping district (15 minute steady paced walk) and back almost every day in the last month of my pregnancy. I was extremely fearful of gestational diabetes and for this reason (along with many others) I ate well and exercised religiously. As a result, I put on very little weight when I was pregnant. I felt great and I was happy with my pregnant shape.

Given my almost addiction to exercise while pregnant, I was sure that I would pick up where I left off once Layla was born. Oh, how wrong I was. Sleep deprivation changes everything. There were some days when I could hardly walk up and down our stairs let alone contemplate exercise. I continued to walk with Layla to our local shopping district after the initial few weeks. This resulted in Layla's dislike of car travel mainly because we walked to so many places instead of driving. However, beyond walking, exercise disappeared from my life. Being home and tired, I turned to food to make me feel better. I ate when I was hungry, cold, hot, tired, bored, happy and sad. My energy levels hit rock bottom and my bottom started to look like a rock (actually make that a boulder!). I knew I had to do something. All of my efforts in keeping the weight off while pregnant had been destroyed by my lack of activity and eating habits on maternity leave. Being at home and tired presented so many reasons to eat and not move.

I looked at the calendar and realised I was going back to work in less than two months. I looked in my wardrobe and realised that none of my work clothes fit. I looked at my body and realised it was time to get moving and shift the weight.

My wonderful Mothers Group hosted a fitness talk by Jenny Dugard  at about the same time as I was contemplating my situation. It gave me the motivation to address my fitness issues and make a change. I realised that as a role model for Layla and to be the best mother and wife I could be, I needed to like myself and be fit enough to juggle the demands of motherhood. As a result, I've gone back to seeing my trainer once a week and also signed up for a Mummies fitness group that meets in the evenings for group training once the babies have gone to sleep. While I still have a way to go, I've made a change and I feel better for it.

In researching what was around, I was surprised by the number of mums and bubs fitness groups that provide group training with a professional trainer while also providing child minding services. Most classes are only $20-$25 for an hour session. Classes take place in local parks and allow you to get out, exercise with your baby and not worry about watching them while you do your thing. I only wish that I had been less sleep deprived and more motivated to join once of these groups earlier.

As a mum, too often your needs come last after your children and partner. Often at that point, you have nothing left to give to yourself. My Dad has always said that the health of the family depends on the health of the mother - emotional, physical, mental health. By taking the time to get back on track, I'm giving back to myself and my family. Once the sleep deprivation clouds start to lift, why not try doing something like this for you?

Blaming your children for making you fat is that lamest excuse I have ever heard. Each one of us is in control of our own destinies. It is our own decisions that make us who we are and influence our children, not the other way around.

Links - Yummy Mummys Fitness
        - Body Beyond Baby