Enjoying my ‘year off’

My year off has been great so far, I’ve got to travel most of Europe, finished editing my novel and approached some publishers. I’ve read lots of amazing books and made sure I take lots of ‘me time’ to, you know, meditate, have baths, just generally pamper myself really.

That is of course is untrue, despite my naivety thinking I may be able to achieve some of the things on the list. I write this blog at 2.37am walking around holding my 5 month old as she pulls my lips, scratches my face and desperately tries to pulls my glasses off my face, whilst she gazing at me in wonderment with a big smile on her face.

I can’t help but feel furious when people utter the words ‘year off’. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, there’s no break time, hell, there’s not even really any toilet breaks, my back is in agony from carrying A 14lb baby around all day…..and night. Here’s an average day.

5.30am get up for the day. Jasmine comes in to my bed for a cuddle, she’s pretty cute but then demands we get up for the day. Go and change her nappy and carry her downstairs.

I need a pair of hands to feed the dogs, stroke the dogs and let them outside. Pop Jasmine in to her pushchair and put the kettle on. She doesn’t mind being in there but if I go over my allocated 6 minutes of her being in her non moving pushchair – it kicks off.

Dogs done, a cup of tea made. Winning at life.

I then put her in her jumperoo, she finds this hilarious but only for three minutes, not even enough time for my tea to cool down. She’s still tired and starting to get crabby! I put her on the play mat and start to play and she likes this, laughs until she decides it’s enough and wants to be in my arms. So off we go walking around, she starts getting upset now (obviously tiredness) so I go upstairs and she goes back to sleep. With white noise and feeding. She naps in her crib and I jump in the shower for a speed shower, panicking that I heard her cry. I never did.)-

I then speed to get ready, tidy, put a wash on, make the bed, get her clothes ready, tidy and clean in the 30 minutes she’s asleep.

She wakes up pretty chirpy. So I change her nappy and get her in to her clothes for the day, back downstairs and she has a poop explosion, fondly known as a poonami. We play some more I try to tidy the lounge some days she lets me some days she just wants cuddles. Which sound relaxing but she kicks off if I sit down, she wants me standing rocking her for these cuddles, which I do. There’s various feeds and nappy changes on demand throughout the day and night.

I also believe in attachment parenting. I don’t want Jasmine to cry so much that she runs out of voice so I ‘win’ for my own convenience. She’s a baby and if she wants her mummy I’ll be there for her, through her whole life. When she’s old enough to really understand right and wrong I have no qualms about being strict if I need to be. But now she just needs us.

After some play I know she’s ready for another sleep so will walk around carrying her playing white noise. Eventually She falls asleep in my arms, only to be woken by one of three dogs barking at a leaf outside or an unsuspecting passer by. I give the said dog the death stare – I can’t shout as Jasmine is already stirring, and they continue the bark and now she’s awake and seriously crabby, now too fed up for her toys I carry her around to sooth her. Yes she loves being carried around – No, she hates her sling! In short she gets very bored easily and needs constant attention. Not sure if she takes after her mummy or daddy?!

It’s 9am by this point.

Still walking around with Jasmine, I know she’s tired now as she’s getting so grizzly. Sometimes I’ll take her out in the pram to give my arms a rest.

I’m very lucky that Dave gets home around midday. I hold her out to him declaring ‘tag! You’re it!’ Her grizzling stops when she sees her Daddy, she beams as if the funniest person in the world has just walked in. Ironically the funniest person the world has been there all morning!

I cease this opportunity to have a wee. I then take her back while Dave has a sleep…. trying to keep her entertained and quiet at the same time is tough.

Dave then takes her out for an hour or two, so I can sleep or do one of the million things on my to do list. When the baby comes back I have missed her so instantly feed her! She’s slept now in the car or pram so is feeling fresh. We then do some sensory play. This can last 20 minutes on good days and 20 seconds on bad! I’m willing 5.30pm to come so I can put her in the bath and give my back a rest. about 4.30pm I give her a massage and play music, sing to her, read a story until bath time. After this bathtime, dress her, feed her, hold her and put her in bed at 7-7.30pm. I go to bed then too as 30 minutes later she’s awake. I feed her again and put her back again now 9pm I put her back in her pod, shut my eyes, exhausted I start to drift off and she’s awake. It’s a form of torture I can’t quite explain. After feeding her and putting her back down it’s now 10pm and once again I shut my eyes start to drift off and she’s awake. This goes on until around 5-5.30am when she’s wide awake and our day begins. Although last night she didn’t go back to sleep at all between 1.30 – 4am. I’m not complaining, I just want to give people a true understanding of my ‘year off’.

On the last day of work before my maternity leave, I was full of promises and others to me. I’m lucky that I work in a team where I like everyone. When Jasmine came along I couldn’t keep my promises of going to every social event and as part of a ‘what’s app’ group with my team from work, the updates made me feel more isolated than ever. I no longer understood the ‘banter’, I didn’t even recognise a lot of the names being added to the group, new people joining the team, new people who had never heard of me or even cared. Too exhausted to make it to most social events. In a world of social media I can see images of people out socialising looking amazing….some days I dare not look at my own reflection as I make zero effort. I have friends at work who have been amazing and always in touch despite my flakiness. But there are other friendships in my life which I felt like I was always the one trying hard to keep in touch. When the brutal truth is maybe they are just not that in to me now I have a baby. I can’t just stay out all night drinking, my baby needs to be fed – maybe they see that as boring. Hurtful though it is, it’s something that happens.

It’s all about finding a balance I guess, which I’m not sure I’ve found. Feeling isolated but also declining invitations because I’m just too tired.

The people who have messaged me, who have gone out of their way to keep that contact. They will mean so much to me going forward. Who want to socialise with the girl who hasn’t brushed her hair in weeks and is best friends with a 5 month old.

This ‘year off’ isn’t just about raising Jasmine, it’s also about me finding my way as a parent, making sacrifices I thought I never would and being the best I can be….even if I do literally stink a bit! It’s the hardest year of my life, heaven knows how people make it look so easy…but it’s also the best year of my life as I get to spend every day with Jasmine and really, she’s pretty cool.

‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ – William Shakespeare- Act 1, Scene 1 – A midsummer nights dream.

Oh hello summer….! Dressing your baby for the right temperature.

‘I’m going to be such a chilled out mum, I’m not going to get over protective and stupid over every tiny little thing when the baby comes’ these were the words I actually uttered five short months ago….flash forward to present day….May 8th – hottest day of the year, like ever….. ‘That’s it!!! We’re all sleeping outside!!!’ I announce in a dramatic panic as my Gro egg (bedroom thermometer) reads 30c with a very sad face next to it! Optimum temperature for a baby’s room is 18c and I was way over!! I contemplated putting ice packs in the bedroom to make a cooler environment/igloo but my other half calmly turned the oscillating fan on instead.

After a few minutes the temperature was 26c….. so I reverted to my old friend google and put her in a little vest to bed. It was still hot, she felt hot, was she getting the fan? As I felt her, she was, a I then began to panic that she would get too cold with the fan and freeze…. (there’s no real rational here!)

As I watched the egg go down in temperature through the night I consulted google and decided she was now too cold in just a vest so put her 1 tog Gro bag on! I continued to watched the egg in the night as it went down in temperature, getting happier and also, after yet more googling, I put a little summer romper over her vest and under her sleeping bag…..and ordered a new 0.5 tog Gro bag at 3am! Will this anxiety ever leave me?! I’ve attached the link from the Gro company of the guidance of what to dress baby in at bedtime if anyone is a anxious (nuts) as me! They are recommended by the lullaby trust, a charity which aids the prevention of Sudden Infant death syndrome (SIDS) please check it out, especially mums to be! http://gro.co.uk/what-to-wear/

The one where it took three hours to leave the house….

I remember the days when leaving the house would consist of these thoughts – my outfit, do I look good? Are my eyebrows on fleek? Will I have a glass of wine with lunch? Post Jasmine my thought process is along the lines of Do I have Sophie the giraffe? Do I have Peppa pig? Who knew such a tiny person needed a giant bag of crap like she was going for a week in Tenerife….? Nappies, muslin cloths, wipes, Calpol in case she gets sick in the next few hours, a thermometer just in case…. headshots and a resume in case she gets scouted by a top modelling agent (still waiting for that day!)

My outfit is anything I can feed in, if Jasmine has a hungry meltdown because she hasn’t eaten for 45 minutes, I need to know I can feed her without stripping in the middle of a shopping centre! My make up is as far as I get applying it in the morning without having to pick Jasmine up off the bed. Sometimes we get to mascara sometimes we don’t get past moisturiser- I apologies for those days! Plus I also have to put together an outfit for her, where as my own choice of clothes makes me look like I ran through a jumble sale covered in superglue, hers on the other hand must be just perfect, colour coordinated and accessories to match.

It hasn’t always been easy though when she was very tiny I used to panic so much when she was in her pram, I was so scared she would fall out or a giant eagle would swoop down and peck her! It was tough but I powered through and have less fear now!

When she’s asleep I keep rocking the pram, even though I’m at a standstill. During lunch I do the same, make her feel like she’s still moving….keep her asleep – avoid meltdown in pram. I look across the restaurant and there’s another mum doing exactly the same, but there’s also smug super mum in the corner with her twins, feeding them and herself, throwing together some arts and crafts as they squeal with delight, looking across at me with a judgey stare, like I should also be acting like a cross between Mary Poppins and Neil Buchanan instead of keeping her asleep. Once I no longer need two hands to eat (I’ve been rocking her with my foot) I stop rocking her so she can wake up and I can hold her. She’s happy enough until I drop Sophie the giraffe on the blinking floor! Does the three second rule apply to babies toys? Will judgey mum in the corner call social services if I give her the toy and she puts it in her mouth? Do I risk her getting upset because she wants the toy? So many dilemmas I need to answer in the space of 30 seconds. I managed the distract her with Peppa pig, phew!

Also things to prepare for is where to feed her….luckily the shopping centre in the city has a designated feeding room so I use that to feed and change her. But then I had a dilemma of the fact I now needed to pee….I have Jasmine, a buggy, a changing bag and a tiny bladder! What does one do in these situations? Obviously babies can’t be left…I know this. Do I try and get in to the ‘mother and child room’ I weighed up the options and decided I needed the get the buggy in with us, I had a hot flush worrying that judgey mummy would come storming through the doors and call me a ridiculous mother whilst speed dialling social services again….if only there were coat hooks to pop babies on while you went to the toilet! Ok so I’ve decided I’m going in this cubical as it’s extra spacious….manoeuvre the buggy and realise it’s not extra spacious at all! There’s a bloody tiny child size toilet seat next to the adult one?! How annoying! I had committed to going in there though and wasn’t backing down… so I rammed the pram in and sitting sideways on the loo seat – Which is weird in itself!

Jasmine just stared at me and became judgey baby…..and then I had to wedge it out, the whole time trying to style it out like I meant to do this and it was really effortless.

Luckily she then fell asleep on the way home so we didn’t have cry-magedon, that’s always a laugh. When the baby is crying so much people glare at you half in pity and the other half in judgement. I’m sorry for ruining your trip to Sainsbury’s but if you want to hold her, be my guest! On days I’m really tired (most days) I’m willing someone to make a comment to me, I’m actually desperate for someone to say something…. Hell hath no fury like a tired mother scorned!!

‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ – William Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 1 – A Midsummer Nights Dream

So is Disney really the happiest place on earth?

Yes. End of article.

Ok, ok I’ll elaborate. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to three of the six Disney parks in the world. I just need to tick off Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo – then I’ll have completed them all! (I could also visit the resort in Hawaii to make sure I really have completed all angles!)

My name is Marie and I’m a Disney-holic. If it’s wrong for a 31 year old to cry when they see the castle, then I don’t wanna be right! Often, Disney is a once in a lifetime holiday so it’s important to get it right and save as much money as possible. Also the correct name of the park is important. In California and Paris its Disneyland and is Florida its Disney world!

Let’s start with Disneyland in California. I went here in 2016 and only had one day to spend here. It has a charm about is as the only park which Walt himself walked around, his apartment was and still is, above the fire station on Main Street. There is a lamp in the window which used to be on when Walt was staying there. After his death it remained off unless one of his daughters were in the park, then it would be lit as a mark of respect. All these small touches are lovely. There are two parks in California – The Magic Kingdom and California Adventure Park. There’s some great rides including all the classics (it’s a small world, peter pans flight, space mountain) but also some different ones. However, it was rammed, it was not school holidays or public holidays, just could barely move and queues were two hours minimum. I’m assuming as it’s smaller than Florida it seems so busy. I liked it but wouldn’t rush back.

Disneyland Paris – I love the fact I can get on a train to Disney. Ok, so it has to go under the sea but still such an easy journey and the Eurostar drops you IN the Disney bubble. So for convenience it’s amazing. Although you can drive through the channel tunnel, fly or get a boat. It’s pretty easy! Plus you can just go for a couple of nights. I think it’s s great place to get some Disney magic.

It has all the classic rides and some great places to eat! I’ve stayed off site and on site and would definitely recommend a Disney hotel on site as it’s really lovely to be able to walk everywhere especially after getting off the Eurostar inside Disney. I’m looking forward to staying at the ‘Disney Hotel’ when we take Jasmine for her first trip in November.

Disney World in Florida is huge! I read somewhere that the car park alone is bigger than Alton Towers. The four main parks are Magic Kingdom – all the classic Disney charm. Animal kingdom- home to ‘Pandora’ based on Avatar and where you can go on a safari and see the animals over the vast land.

Epcot – There is the ‘world showcase’ here are replicas of different countries around the world, great to try different snacks and drinks from each country! Hollywood Studios – home to the tower of terror and old style Hollywood theme, this will, next year be the home of Star Wars land and VERY busy! When Pandora opened last year there was a 7 hour wait to simply get in to the park, plus another five hours to get on a ride there!

It really is a holiday of a lifetime and the bonuses of staying on Disney property is receiving three fast passes a day, extra magic hours, magic bands and if you book for next year at the moment you will receive free dining for your stay!

I have already planned two of the three Disney parks for this year and next as Jasmine will be under two and her travel, stay and tickets are free! Need to make the most of that! She is even named after two Disney Characters. I can’t wait to make some great memories with her. I plan to blog about my new Disney experiences with a child in tow.

Have you ever been to the Disney parks? I’d love to hear any stories !

Tips for William and Kate…… (and you!)for their impending trips to Mothercare!

Ok, so I’m pretty sure William and Kate haven’t been counting down the days until the Mothercare sale or hanging on until Tesco announce their latest ‘baby event’. In truth I doubt they have shopped at all for the new prince as everything is sent to them! For those of us who do have to slum it and go baby shopping amongst the…public….it’s overwhelming, the first time we went looking for prams it was such a minefield I went home and cried. I have brought into almost every fad so if I haven’t mentioned something chances are I own it so feel free to ask! So here’s some of my must have items and some items which have ended up in the garage, on the way to the garage or thrown against the wall in a 2am rage!

Ewan the bloody dream sheep.

Really cute and hear it works wonders on some babies, attached to the crib playing womb noises and heartbeats to comfort the baby in to a deep sleep. Jasmine looks at me like ‘I had to stay in there for 9 months don’t remind me.’ It also turns off after 20 minutes so if baby is a light sleeper it’s not ideal.

My Hummy

The item thrown at the wall in a 2am rage. Costing £50, it and attached to the crib, like Ewan playing white noise and works with a sensor if your baby makes a noise it kicks in again. I play it each night but like Ewan it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. White noise it amazing, I use it every day. It soothes baby and I have an excellent app on my phone. I put a tablet in the crib and play white noise off YouTube through the night, much cheaper and much more effective – which is good as throwing the tablet would probably dent the wall!

Play mat

Great. Sometimes our arms need a rest to its good for us and good for baby to have a stretch around. I have a couple now, one for the garden and one for the lounge.

Sophie the giraffe

Technically a glorified dog toy, but it works! Jasmine loves holding a chewing Sophie when her teeth are causing her pain! Brilliant.

Amber teething bracelet

I opted for the anklet so it couldn’t end up in her mouth, was a bit sceptical but she’s dribbling and chewing without being in too much pain!

Sleepyhead

I’m sure that the sleepyhead police will jump on me telling me I’m a bad mum for putting Jasmine in a sleepyhead in her snuz pod. My midwife recommended it to me when I was exhausted as Jasmine would not sleep on her back, only in my arms. I was awake 24/7, the sleepyhead is a breathable material hence the £120 price tag but it’s the only way she will go in her crib. She went from sleeping 2 minutes in there to two hours.

Steriliser

As I’m breastfeeding I only use bottles when I express and am finding it’s easier to sterilise them in the microwave. Same as the fancy bottle heater, much easier to pop boiling water in a bowl or jug as popping them in there!

Nappy Disposal system

Really love this item saves going to the bin 10 times a day and doesn’t smell at all!

Bumbo

Baby looks cute in it but not sure she’s impressed wedged in to a plastic chair. Instead get a washing basket full of sensory toys, scarves, flashing lights and a cushion to prop her up, costs a fraction of the price and she has more fun!

Snuggle bath

A bath she can sit up in and the foam grips her back to stop her slipping, she loves it!

I could go on as I’ve got it all! My pram is an oyster 2 and ace, my car seat a maxi cosy and although it’s a little heavy in hindsight it’s a good make. I was adamant I wouldn’t buy/use anything second hand but now I’d recommend it* especially as some items are trial and error! *apart from a car seat, that needs to be new as it’s important to know it’s not been in a crash as it may not be fit for purpose.

The most important item to have is a camera!! Take lots of pictures as you’ll only have one chance to catch them so small, each day they’ll be the little bit older.

Seriously, I love trying new items and feel like I have so much now I could have a degree in baby products! Let me know any other items I need to have in my life…..

Dear Jasmine……. all the things I want to tell you as I watch you grow.

Whilst I was pregnant, my partner and I decided to create an email account for our baby girl. We individually send her letters, photos and videos. When she is 18 or around that age, and is having a down day where she may doubt herself and lack in confidence or if she has had her heart broken for the first time (shortly after her Dad has been round to ‘have a word’ with him) I will give her the password to her email account and then she can read 18 years worth of love letters to her from her Daddy and me.

Here’s my most recent email.

Dear Jasmine,

Today you turned four month old, Daddy and I are convinced you are going to be a genius, you’re so clever and bright. So clever you now know you are in your car seat and instead of being the contented little baby you once were in the car you now hate it!! And from being the most sociable little girl you have turned in to a Velcro baby who can only be passed to me or your daddy without tears.

I’ve researched this and it’s known as the 4th leap, which is part of your development. So the tougher it is for me the brighter you will be right?! Today you went swimming for the first time, you kicked your legs so hard and concentrated so much it’s amazing how determined you are.

Today you not only swam for the first time you also did a poop and it went all over my brand new white Egyptian cotton bedsheets…. so this is not a love letter…. this is an invoice! I joke. I have never known anxiety like I have now, I worry about you so much. I’m not sure that will ever get easier. This age is such a beautiful age to watch you grow. But it’s so hard too, my back hurts from all the cuddles you need and I want to give you, I’m no longer allowed to eat dairy as you may have an intolerance, your cry shatters my heart a million times every time I hear it. But I wouldn’t change anything because I love you so much and I’m so grateful.

Your cry means your alive and expressing your emotions, I’m grateful.

Your cuddles mean you love me and I love you so much, I’m grateful we have that bond.

Your waking up through the night means we can spend those precious moments together, the nights may be long but the years are short. I’m grateful.

I’m so grateful for you, I know the difficulty others may go through to have children, I know there are those who have lost children and how lucky I am despite the challenges I face every day.

And now you’re all grown up sweetheart, so please, go to the fridge and pour mummy a glass of wine…..

love you always darling

Mummy xx

The Incredible Facemask….

I heard a rumour that summer was just around the corner so I thought it was time to start prepping my skin to get it looking effortlessly good, not easy when I spend most of my time carrying a four month old! I look for four things when buying skin care products

1. Has to leave my skin feeling soft and great

2. Has to be easy to apply and maintain

3. Has to be cruelty free – really important!

4. Has to make me look 19 again.

Ok, so number 4 is a little tough by anyone’s standards but when I heard about ‘the incredible face mask’ from ‘May Beauty’ I knew I had to give it a go.

They bags under my eyes have been less than forgiving and we’re not talking Prada or Gucci bags, no, we are talking 5p carriers that you panic buy every time your at the checkout….in short – I look pretty damn tired.

The mask itself is black in colour and promises to remove back heads, prevent acne, remove excessive oils and dead skin cells. It extracts blackheads and pollution from your pores. All May Beauty products are cruelty free – which is great!

I was worried my white bathroom may get covered in black mask but the consistency is really thick, it’s easy to apply and it comes with a really cute brush to apply it with which I really like.

Then is the waiting game, I’m quite impatient so kept looking to see if it was ready to peel. As a child I would cover my hands in PVA glue to get the enjoyment of peeling it off again, I was excited to peel off the mask. After about 30 minutes It was ready, the peel-ability (if that’s a word) was as satisfying as I hoped. And did it make a difference to my skin? Yes. It felt incredibly clean, like when I’ve had facials in the past, a really nice new feeling!

I put a little moisturiser on my skin and it felt really nice, I in fact went make up free for the day which is unlike me! I then continued this routine for another couple of nights in the week and I could definitely notice a difference in how my skin felt. Although I probably didn’t look 19 again, it really did give my skin a youthful feel – I couldn’t stop touching it. The other half even said my skin looked good which must mean it’s good!

I can definitely recommend this product! If you fancy a try I’d love to know your results – even better you can get 30% off using coupon blakemask30 at the checkout!

https://maybeauty.co.uk/blakemask30