Friday, 30 August 2013

wondering what could have been...again

This is from the Illuminated
Chronicle of Matthew Paris,
held in the British Library
You may recall, a while ago I was wondering what our royalty might have looked like if the rules of succession had been changed earlier.  If the throne had passed down Queen Victoria's daughter's line (not a good plan), or to George II's granddaughter, Augusta, which would have been very colourful, but had a bit of an unfortunate Nazi patch along the way.  It all made me kind of glad that we didn't.  However, a friend suggested I look back in time further, to King Henry I, and his daughter, Matilda.

Here's Henry, with his model castle and secret diary.

Back in Henry's day there wasn't actually any set of rules as to who should inherit the throne, although there was a presumption of male primogeniture, Kings generally outlined who they wanted to rule after them, and hoped that that would happen.  Sometimes it did.  Sometimes it didn't.  When it didn't things got messy.

Henry I was the fourth son of William I - the first of England's Norman monarchs.  William ruled England and Normandy, and willed that when he died his eldest son, Robert, would rule Normandy, and his second son, William would rule England.  This went ahead, and the brothers agreed that should one of them die, the other would take over ruling the other Kingdom.  Unfortunately, when William II died (a hunting accident - quite the in thing with Kings), Robert was away on crusade, and Henry took the throne, becoming Henry I.  Not surprisingly Robert was not best pleased, and invaded in 1101, but the brothers were able to sort it out in a treaty, declaring Henry I King.  Just to be on the safe side, Henry kept Robert locked up for the rest of his life.

Matilda of Scotland, Henry'swife (pic from here)
Henry married Matilda of Scotland, and had a son, William, and a daughter, Matilda (ah these royal families and their original names).  Unfortunately William died at sea, and so Henry named his daughter, Matilda as heir.  

Women were not accepted as monarchs at the time, and considering Henry's dubious claim to the throne, it would have been truly amazing if she had managed to claim it succesfully.  As it was, Stephen, her cousin, stepped in to claim it.

Stephen was the son of the third son of William I, but his father had died young.  Stephen had done very well for himself in the court of King Henry I, and was in a good position to take the throne, but still had to contend with constant battles from Empress Matilda (of Anjou and, later, Normandy), and later, her son, Henry FitzEmpress (which is a rather marvellous matrilineal name for a boy - see my post on naming names for more on that topic).  This period of civil war in Normandy and England (1135-1153) is known as The Anarchy, as both sides were too busy bugging each other to bother with ruling.
Henry II - Matilda's son, and the
first of the Plantagenets

With the death of his own son, Eustace, who was said to have been struck down by the wrath of god while plundering church lands, Steven lost his will to fight, and came to an agreement that rather than the throne passing to his second son, it would pass to Henry FitzEmpress.  This ended The Anarchy, but Stephen would die the next year too, with the throne passing, as promised, to Henry II.

This was Henry Plantagenet, who married Eleanor of Aquitane, and I'm ever so glad he did, because I love the film The Lion in Winter.

Thinking of The Lion in Winter, I do love a historical drama, especially with Kings and Queens and intrigue in it... I loved The White Queen (especially Richard III, ahem), I'm kind of enjoying The Borgias, and Game of Thrones takes all the good bits from history and mashes them up into perfection (for a story - wouldn't want to live in Kings Landing ta).  What's your favourite Historical Drama?  Films, TV series, and pseudo historical dramas are all welcome.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

opening drawers

If you've been following my posts you'll probably know that I'm a big fan of Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim. She recently published a post on 50 things to blog about, which I found totally inspiring. The first thing on the list was 'That thing that happened in high school that pretty much changed your life forever', so I had a think about it, and decided that there was actually a thing that happened while I was in my secondary school building which had a massive impact on my life.  What was it?

I opened a drawer.

At the time I was a fairly standard dork. Straggly blondish hair, nasty school uniform, a 'librarian' enamel badge pinned to my cardi.  I didn't want to be in
If you want to channel your inner
dork, this badge is
 for sale onebay for a mere £3!
I'm tempted.  Are you?
the 'in crowd', but I wasn't sure I wanted to be so far out of it either. I had a fair whack of self-loathing going on.  I had a crush on a boy who brought a briefcase to school (there was only one, so I hope no-one I went to school with will read this and uncover my shameful secret), and I would never have had the courage to do anything about it. I was bullied, so I would hide away. I didn't like to go out in the playground, so I stayed in the library, watching the 6th formers, sorting cards (no bar codes back then), and trying to find books that predated girls' entry to our grammar school.

One day, while 'innocently'/nosily tidying up I opened a drawer in the librarian's desk and found a confiscated stash of magazines.

Not that kind of magazines!

They were Raw magazines. I mean the rock music magazines, packed with pictures of long haired young men dripping sweat and talking about blow jobs, beer and heroin.  Hmm.  Maybe they were that kind of magazine after all.

I kept sneaking them out of the drawer and looking through them surreptitiously, until one day I got caught, by the owner. He was in the upper sixth, He was huge, and he was spotty. He was not the lanky long-haired dreamboat I'd been hoping for.  However, I wondered if he might have well hidden depths.  

It was a while before I'd have enough courage to find out, but that's when I started.  I kept up the self-loathing, but looked into new ways to hide. I found that dyeing your hair, wearing makeup and black, and hanging out with boys with long hair and tight trousers is a really good way to get a bad reputation fast, without any pesky facts getting in the way. I found that that reputation would save you from bullying, and help you make friends and meet people.  Maybe not people you'd want to introduce to your Granny (there was an unfortunate incident with Alice Fudge, High Priest of Satan and aforementioned Granny, but that belongs elsewhere).

Me - see, it wasn't all black!
I discovered that I could talk to people when I wore my new disguise. I also discovered the wonderfully horribly sexist and sexy world of rock. Marvellously funny (and often slightly dim) glammies, and sad, pretentious dark-eyed goths, who will always feel like family.

I feel that the black was always there for me, waiting for me to take it, and that if it hadn't been this way, it would have been another, but it was opening that drawer that led to my shedding my dork skin and become the girl in black, smoking behind the bike sheds with the long haired boy (by the way kids, smoking is a really bad idea, and you can't even buy Sobranies now). It might not have been the best plan, but I had a lot of fun.

Did you have a high-school/secondary school moment that changed your life?

This was the first post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

watching utter rubbish

You may recall that Chantelle, my blogging hero, from Fat Mum Slim, has recently written a post suggesting 50 topics to blog about.  I've already done topic one -  a moment at high school that changed your life, so today I'm going to go for topic two:

The worst movie I ever did see

The worst film I ever saw was endured at my brother's house with my brother, his wife, my husband, and my very lovely sister.

We all watched, dumbfounded, as it just kept going, but we watched it to the end, sure that the film couldn't really be so incredibly tedious as it was.  Sure that at any moment, there was going to be a twist that was actually interesting.  Sure that at any moment, something might actually happen.  It didn't.  Even the suggestion that it might was not interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst movie I ever did see was Buried.  For all of us that were there, in Manchester, on that evening, that is 95 minutes that we are never going to get back.  For all those of you who haven't seen it I'll give you the trailer below.  Once you've watched that you have seen all the exciting bits in the film, and you don't have to waste those 95 minutes.  See, I'm always happy to help.

What was the worst film you've ever seen?  And why?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

breastfeeding! 8 things I know now

OK, before I get into it, let me start off by saying that bottle feeding your baby is an OK thing to do.  Formula milk is pretty good.  So long as you follow the instructions your baby is likely to be healthy and grow up fine.  That said I'm afraid it just isn't as good as breastfeeding, either for you, or for your baby.  I don't mean to criticise anyone in saying that.  Sometimes doing the second best thing is the best thing to do for your family.  Ask any Mum and they'll agree that you can't be perfect, sometimes you can't even be good.  You just have to be good enough.  We can manage that, right?

Picture from a fab blog post on the topic by Attachment Mummy

The truth is that before I was a Mum I was lucky enough to work in the Mother and Infant Research Unit at Leeds University (it's in York now, I think).  I worked on a project about infant feeding, and what I found out about breastfeeding just blew my mind.  It's not good.  It's great.  Now I've done it myself.  I've breastfed three children until they were around two-ish, and I haven't given a single bottle, so I'd best talk about what I know, so here goes:

8 things I now know about breastfeeding

1 Breastfeeding is incredibly good for your baby

In the first few days you make colostrum - there isn't much of it, but it's amazing stuff, and then after that you make baby milk.  But don't think it stays the same... Your milk changes according to what the baby needs.  It's full of bacteria that help baby get a healthy gut (so helps baby avoid allergies), and help give them a strong immune system without baby actually having to be ill!  On top of that, nursing helps baby's mouth develop, which will help with eating (on which more in a future post), and talking, and helps strengthen the bond between you.  The oxytocin helps baby get to sleep, and helps them feel happy.  Breastmilk is fantastic for at least a million other reasons, and there are lots of places to find out more.  I would recommend La Leche League, the Breastfeeding Network, and the NCT, if you want to find out more.

2 Breastfeeding is incredibly good for you

Did you know that your breasts are not fully formed until you lactate?  They are like trees inside, with springtime leaves curled up in bud, waiting to unfurl (and become more like Dolly Parton, as mentioned previously).  Breastfeeding will help your womb go back down to fist-size more quickly, it will help you sleep better, because of that wonderful hormone oxytocin, which is released when you breastfeed, causing contentment all 'round, and helping you bond with baby.  Breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancers - the breast bit is probably because breastfeeding allows your breasts to fully develop, and the ovarian bit is probably because breastfeeding tends to stop you ovulating, and getting many periods.  You might not want to rely on it, but if you're breastfeeding at least once every four hours, it's very unlikely you'll get pregnant.

3. To breastfeed, you need boobs, and that's pretty much it.

The gorgeous Lorelei
dress from
Available in any
colour you want and
great for
OK, so nursing bras are really useful, and I'm a big fan of nursing vests too, but you don't need a steriliser (I know people say you should get one in case you need one, but you don't.  If it is completely essential that your baby is given a bottle and you are not there, you can get ready-made milk at the supermarket).  You also don't need a breastpump, because expressing by hand is fine for the small amount of expressing you're likely to be doing.  It is very unlikely that you will need nipple shields, and you might not even need pads, although you might to start off with - they're better than leaking.  You will need a cushion/pillow to lie baby on, to ensure they're at the right height for your back, but this does not have to be a fancy breastfeeding cushion.  You will probably need lansinoh cream for sore nipples while you're getting the hang of it, but don't use any creams that you need to faff about washing off.  You do not need one of these weird apron/horse bag efforts that I keep seeing Mum's sporting.  Would you like to eat in one of these?  The best thing to wear is a vest you can pull down (unless you're happy to get your tummy out, which I'm not), and a T-shirt you can pull up (unless you're happy to get your baps out, which I'm not).  Job done.  If you want to wear something different I would recommend a voluminous scarf, so you can hide things if you want to, without then having to cart around a weird apron.  Dresses are a bit of a disaster when it comes to breastfeeding, although I did like going for an elasticated top maxi dress, with a top over the top.  Like the one on the right.

4  Breastfeeding in hospital is really hard

In the first couple of days you've really not got a lot of milk for the baby.  The baby themself has a tiny tummy, and will want to breastfeed all the time, to keep replenishing supplies, to help build up your supply (the more you feed the more milk you make!), and just to be close to you.  If you're in hospital you have probably had a birth with some sort of intervention, like forceps or a caesarian.  This can make your milk come in later (especially caesarians).  However, it will come.  In hospital you are also surrounded by people whose job is dealing with problems, so they go around looking for problems.  If baby is wanting to feed all the time they will think baby isn't getting enough milk, and you're just making colostrum, so they might suggest you top up with bottle milk.  Sometimes you do need to do this, but I never have.  Find a breastfeeding expert and get them on side to help you stick to your guns.  I had my first child in hospital and was supposed to write down every time I fed him.  If it was more than every four hours they said I was feeding him too much and mustn't have enough milk.  If it was less than every four hours they said he'd need a top up.  It was nonsense.  He was OK.  My third child was born by caesarian, and it did take a while for the milk to come in, but I nursed her all the time, and made sure she was doing fine, and the milk did come in.  I had my second child at home, and fed her when she wanted fed, which worked really well.  She didn't lose any of her birth weight.  At all.

5 Breastfeeding can be tricky at first

To start off with, breastfeeding is toe-curlingly uncomfortable.  Your nipple will be reshaped to go right to the back of baby's palate, and that is not a very pleasant sensation.  Take a deep breath and count to 10 and it will be done.  

When baby's are born their mouths are very little, and your boobs are very big.  It's important to get the whole nipple into baby's mouth, but difficult to do.  It is very likely you'll get sore, cracked nipples while you're both learning.  That hurts a lot, especially for feeding, but try to relax, because that will help the milk to flow.  A bit of practice of teasing your baby with the nipple to get them to open the mouth nice and wide and you'll be a dab hand in no time.  
Meanwhile, lansinoh is a fantastic cream which you don't have to wash off.  Think of it as grouting for cracked nipples.  Also, you're going to have a new fashion accesory - a savoy cabbage leaf stuffed into your bra.  I know!  Stylish huh?  The cabbage leaf does genuinely work (I know, I worked in the same office as the lass who did the Cochrane Review), but I recommend you keep the cabbage in the cupboard, and try to find one that's about your cup size.  I always felt silly with cabbage leaves in my bra, but not as silly as if I only had one - you need to be matching, right!  Cabbage leaves are perfectly accesorised with some sick down your cardi, which baby should take care of in no time.  Result!

6 Breastfeeding can be a messy business

Well, let's be fair, any way of feeding a baby can be a messy business, you've always got dribbling, puking babies to contend with, but breastfeeding also brings the special joys of leaking.  This doesn't happen much for a lot of people.  Maybe just the odd jet of milk when baby bobs off the breast for some reason, or when you get out of the shower, but it can mean a flow of milk when you hear a baby cry in the supermarket - whether it's your baby or not.  Or that both breasts flow when baby is feeding.  I must admit, I've not had this problem, but I've been advised that the disposable paper pads are better for soaking up spilled milk than the cotton ones.  As for flowing on both sides, I recall a friend who had this problem.  She got little plastic cup things, like these Milkies (you can get various different milk catchers).  If you want to use the milk you catch for baby, you'll need to sterilise the equipment.  My friend didn't bother.  She just tipped the milk into her coffee - and no need for added sugar.  

7 You might sometimes get a blocked duct

A blocked duct feels a bit like a pea.  It happens usually because the area has been compressed and the milk hasn't been able to flow through it (from wearing an ill fitting bra, or sleeping in a funny position etc) , but sometimes it seems to just happen.  You need to clear it, and the easiest way to do this is to rope baby in.  Breastfeed in a position so baby's chin is nearest to the blockage (this has meant previously that I breastfed my baby while I was lying down, with his feet pointing up like my head).  If this doesn't work then take a bath and express milk, focusing on that area of the breast.

If you don't notice a blocked duct, or don't manage to clear it, you might get an infection in that area.  This is called mastitis.  You might spot it as a sort of red lightning streak on the breast.  It makes you feel fluey and yuck and is best avoided.  To avoid it don't drop more than one feed at a time and try not to get blocked ducts.  I've had mastitis twice - both while camping.  It sucks.  Baby can still drink your milk, and you are best off feeding as much as you can and expressing too, to try to get the infection out.  Do go to see your doctor.  You might need antibiotics (although they'll probably avoid that if possible).  I have known a few women were were diagnosed with mastitis when the actual problem was thrush, but they hadn't been examined properly.  Do make sure you are examined, and take your baby too.  If you've got thrush in your nipples, your baby probably has it in their mouth too, and that will be sore for them too.

8 You should breastfeed for as long as you and baby want to

Breastfeeding is beneficial to both mother and baby, and it is always beneficial.  To start off with it gives a brilliant boost to baby's gut and immune system, and helps mum get her womb back down to size, but after that, breastmilk is the absolute best food for your baby for the first six months.  At around six months, it's good to introduce baby to some food, but breastfeeding is still beneficial.  You don't need to worry about baby's teeth; they breastfeed with their lips and tongue, not their teeth.  

After baby is one they are probably eating and drinking with the rest of the family, but breastfeeding is still beneficial, both to their immune system, and to their happiness, and feelings of security.  I breastfed all three of my children to sleep until they were about two.  It worked really well for us.

I stopped feeding because, for my first, I was pregnant with my second, and my milk turned into colostrom for her, which he didn't like the taste of.  My second kept breastfeeding until she was over two, until one day she just forgot how to do it, which was really funny.  The third I stopped feeding when I had had enough.  I always read a book while feeding and she didn't like me to do that, so would knock it out of my hands.  When she was two I was happy to stop.

There's so much I haven't said, and so much that's likely to upset someone.  Breastfeeding is a really important topic to a lot of people.  It's hard to get the knack, it's really rewarding, and it's a brilliant thing to do for your children.  Breastfeeding was an important part of my life for a long time, and I don't want to do it a disservice.  

How did you get on with breastfeeding?  What have I neglected to mention?

This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about:

Monday, 26 August 2013

Recovering from birth: 6 things I know now.

So you've made it through pregnancy, all the way through (early labour and) labour, and look at that! You've won a baby!

This is me with the little girl, moments after she
was born.  I was still being stitched up, hence
the awkward feeding position.  I did wonder about
sharing this pic, as it gives a little more
information than I'd normally want to share, but
hey!  We're not being delicate here are we?
We'll talk about the baby later. For now, let's talk about you. Whether you've pushed a baby out, or had major abdominal surgery, your body has had quite a bumpy ride, and now you've got the joys of lactation, sleep deprivation, more hormones than you could shake a stick at, and massive responsibility to cope with. Add to that that most women will have some sort of wound to deal with, and we can see it's definitely worth talking about you for a minute, right? So here goes.

6 things I know now about recovering from birth

1 - stock up on towels, you're about to have the mother of all periods

You can't use tampons - it's just not safe right now, so for a little while you're going to have to use brick-like pads akin to those you may have come across as a teenager.  The bad news is they won't be sufficient.  The good news is, things will settle down.  Do make sure you don't need to change pads when you're about to breastfeed, as breastfeeding causes your womb to contract (it's brilliant at getting it back down to fist size), and that will help keep the blood flowing.  After a few days you can switch to an ultra pad - I'd go for the night time one.  The good news is that if you keep breastfeeding you'll be able to avoid having another period for a while.  Result.

2 - a caesarian is major abdominal surgery

If you've had a section you've got a big wound, probably on your bikini line (which is a nightmare place to have it, but better than the alternative).  That wound is going to take time to recover, and there's no point in pretending it won't. Hoovering, driving, and carrying too much is a really bad idea. It's six weeks, it's boring, and you feel you ought to be doing more, but giving yourself time to recover is not just good sense, it'll also give you a chance to build a bondwith your baby. Rest when you need to. If you get so you're feeling heavy, rest. Ask for help.  I do know people who've had to go back in to hospital to get sewn up again, and that my friends is just bobbins.

3 - episiotomies and tears can be a real pain in the nethers

Some tears are tiny, and don't cause much of a problem. Others, and certainly episiotomies, can be very sore. Back when you were born nearly everyone had an episiotomy, and they were much more clued up on looking after them.  Your Mum (or her Mum if you're young) is a good person to ask.  But here's what my Mum (and also one of my midwifes) told me.  It's a good idea to take a shallow lukewarm bath a couple of times a day for the first couple of weeks or so. Dissolve some salt in it, and some people like to crush up some garlic in there too. I don't know if the garlic does anything, but the salt helps keep the wound clean to give it a better chance of recovery. If your baby doesn't like you to let go of them, either find someone else who can take them for a walk, or you can fold a towel beside the bath, lie baby on it (with another towel on top to keep warm), and then pick baby up to feed while you're in the bath. You might need more water to keep baby warm.

My episiotomy took ages to get better. As with a section, if you feel heavy, rest. The NCT do great cushions to help you sit. It will get better, but do keep your midwife/health visitor/doctor informed if it's taking a long time. My scar hurt when I had sex for two years after (until I had another baby). I should have gone to the doctor about that!

Talking of nethers, a word about your bum.  Some people get piles, either from pregnancy, or from the birth.  Get a special cushion if you need one, and use Preparation H or similar to get better.  It will get better.  Also, if you're anaemic, you might be on iron tablets.  Some iron tablets are better than others, but they'll all cause some degree of constipation, talk to your doctor about it, and try to eat well so you don't get an anal tear.  Bleurgh.  Always take iron tablets with orange juice - the Vitamin C helps get them into your system, and the juice helps keep things moving.

4 - around day three, you're going to turn into Dolly Parton

You probably know that your milk comes in around day three.  Try to avoid getting engorged by feeding your baby as often as you can.  But I'm not just talking boobs here.  It is around this time that a massive shift in hormone levels, a lack of sleep, and the humongous responsibility of parenthood will all come crashing down upon your shoulders and render you both Country and Western.  Ladies, sometimes it's hard to be a woman.  For some people the 'baby blues' is just a little wobble.  Other people have to be talked out of the toilet by a nurse called Senga (thanks Senga). 

5 - sleep is for the weak

When you were pregnant and couldn't sleep people told you you were in training for when you had the baby, but nothing prepared you for the incredible exhaustion that is life with a small baby.  You will get more sleep if you bottle feed, but it is way better for you and the baby (and for the baby when they are grown up) to breastfeed on demand.  For me, I found that the only way to do that and sleep was to co-sleep.  It is OK to co-sleep if you don't smoke, or drink, or take any drugs (and check with your doctor if you're prescribed something), and if you make sure your baby won't go under a cover they could suffocate under.  It is better to decide to co-sleep, and get your bed set up (I found a muslin under me and the baby, in case of milk dribbles really useful) with suitable blankets for baby, than to try to feed the baby on a chair in the night when you're dog tired, and end up falling asleep on the chair.  Whatever you do, you'll get woken up a lot, and might feel a bit of a zombie.  You might be able to get your baby to lie down without you in a moses basket or something, in which case WELL DONE!  However, your baby will then proceed to pretend to stop breathing every so often to ensure you are paying attention.  It's terrifying!  Babies also make some very weird noises when they're asleep.  Of course, if they ever do sleep peacefully, you'll have to watch them, just to marvel at the wonder of a tiny little person.  Here's a song about it, just to make you cry.

6 - you will find a way

Before I had a baby I didn't think my life was going to change all that huge amount.  I've met plenty of other women who felt the same.  Then they had a baby, and their life changed completely.  They stopped mapping their town in terms of pubs and cafe's, and started mapping in terms of parks and nappy changing facilities.  In the early days it is a real accomplishment to get dressed (and then get dressed again because you're covered in sick).  Baby might not want to be put down ever, and this is understandable, because they've been cuddled for nine months and would you want to stop?  That's OK.  Baby can go in a sling, so you can do other things.  You will also learn how to eat while breastfeeding (handy hint - put a muslin over baby, so they don't get covered in pasta), and some people even manage to go shopping while breastfeeding.  Baby is likely to be especially grumpy in the evenings, but it's OK to go with the flow and just let the baby snack.  It won't last forever.  

Things won't go back to how they were, but you will find a way to do what's important to you.  It might not happen immediately.  But it will happen.  Parenthood is a massive learning curve, but wow, look at this tiny person you made.  Keep at it.

What have I forgotten?  How did you get on after birth?  I'm planning on doing more on breastfeeding next time.  What else do you think I should cover?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

loving the tunes

I'm blatantly stealing an idea off of a friend today.  Steve did a blog post on his Shores of Night blog about some of the music he writes to, and it made me think about the music I live my life too.  

Music is like smells to me.  Hearing The The is just as capable as a waft of Spiritual Sky patchouli of whisking me back to my bedroom in 1990.  Before I had children I listened to music constantly, but then the boy came along, and I needed to be able to hear, and I learnt to value silence.

Music is still very important, but what I've listened to has changed massively. Now I avoid swearing, and blatantly sexist nonsense.  This has meant no more Darkness (most of the time), and no more Zodiac Mindwarp (after being asked what 'lipstick flickers 'round my lightning rod' meant - oops).  Other stuff has gone too, but these are the two I miss the most.

So what are we listening to?  Well, first up is my favourite cleaning song:

Jesus Built My Hotrod by Ministry

This song, and the others that are underlined, have links to the videos on YouTube for your listening/watching pleasure.

I'm not sure this song would be allowed if I could tell what they were saying, but I can't so it's in!  It's fabulous for throwing blocks into a box, scrubbing glass doors, etc.  Ministry generally are good for this, as is White Zombie/Rob Zombie (the kids especially like Dragula).

Next up it's the first 'specially for kids' song we found that we actually liked:

Go go Ninja Dinosaur by Four Tet

This is from the fabulous 'Colours Are Brighter' CD, which I recommend you buy because it's for charity and that.  There are lots of good songs on it, including a particularly smashing pie eating song from Franz Ferdinand... although looking at the price of it on Amazon, you might want to try another way!  We also like nearly all of the Moshi Rox! CD (my favourite is Sweet Tooth Stomp), and, of course, Gangnam Style, by Psy.  Sigh.

Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis

This is my ring tone (for most people).  It's also our go-to CD for car journeys on sunny days.  Probably because I got the CD just before we went on holiday in Essex (fabulous hotel, shame it was in Essex).  I love this, it's so joyous and sexy and fun.  The rest of the album is great too, and I love the fact that whenever my 'phone rings the kids all start singing 'well you must be a girl...'

Paranoid by Black Sabbath

This is the CD in the boy's CD player (the big girl's got The White Stripes at the moment, and the little girl doesn't have a CD player yet).  Paranoid is full of songs which Kenny plays for the kids while they're having a moment of madness before getting ready for bed.  It's also remarkably polite.  Why?  Did rock get ruder after this album?  This was released in 1970, and thank goodness for that.

There are lots of songs I could put on this list, but I feel I should finish up with a goodnight song.  Every night, after getting washed and into PJs, the children have a story each, and then, when they're snuggled up in their beds, they get a song.  Kenny tends to make up songs, but I prefer to sing songs I know.

Little Green by Joni Mitchell

I know, this bit is mainly about Joni Mitchell, but I'd rather
look at Steve Tyler... sorry.
The album Blue was released in 1971, and is one of my Mum's favourites.  When I was away from home for the first time, and feeling stupid and alone, I drank a lot of cheap wine and listened to it (on vinyl) again and again, until I had memorised the whole album.  This isn't my favourite song on the album.  That would go to A Case of You ('constant in the darkness, where's that at?'), but Little Green makes me feel grateful for being able to be a mother to my children, and I generally do feel grateful when they're going to sleep.  It's also a lovely song to sing.  I haven't sung them Aerosmith's I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing, it's a bit too creepy... but I do think it.

So that's it.  It's not very Goth is it?  There is plenty of Goth, believe me, it's just not made it in!  What songs are important to you?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

going to nursery

The time has come for my littlest one to start out her schooling career by going to nursery.

In Scotland, from the age of three, children can attend nursery every week day for 2.5 hours.  In England I think it's 3 hours, and from age 2.5.  So that's not confusing at all.

Of course, the little girl is my baby, and I have noticed that I do do more for her, and let her get away with more than I did for her older brother and sister.  She'd also told me that she wasn't going to go to nursery.  

But I didn't believe her.

When this little guy started nursery at 2 1/2 he had a little cry, but it was just a Mummy show - he'd cry while I was there, but after I'd gone he'd get on with having a good time (mainly with dinosaurs).  All good.  He had a voracious appetite for learning, so we moved him to a more academically focused nursery at 3 1/2.  Again, he did a little Mummy show, but he settled in well, and we started to 'enjoy' the wonders of Biff, Chip, and Kipper (anyone else hate Biff, Chip, and Kipper?).

The big girl also started nursery at 2 1/2, because we were in England.  Unfortunately the local nursery (which we'd put her on the list for when she was a few days old) didn't have a place for her, and neglected to tell me that until two weeks before she was due to start!  To be honest, the only member of staff I'd thought much of (and she was fantastic) had left when the boy left, and I didn't think much of how it was run, so rather than wait, I looked around.  Most places with that much notice were full, but there was one, twenty minutes away in the car, which was lovely, and which had a place, for two mornings a week.  I took it, and she started there.  It was hard for her.  She
didn't know any of the children there, but it was a fantastic place, with great staff.  They took her blackberrying, they did woodwork, they went to a bacon shop to see how they prepared the bacon.  She helped make lunch, and she sat down with the other children, and ate it.  But she didn't leave the side of the woman who ran the place.  We came to the conclusion she wasn't really ready, so when we moved to Scotland, we were happy that she was too young to start all over again.  It was good to go back to toddler groups and get to know some people before she started.  When she started at the new nursery she was happy and confident and wanting to go from day one.  She did great.

So this last week saw the first day of nursery for the little girl.  She said she didn't want to go, so I steeled myself for the Mummy show.  I would stay bright and breezy, she would have a lovely time, and all would be well.  She got dressed without a problem, and went to school OK, but after we'd dropped the big kids off she got very clingy.  Along with the other parents of newbies, I came into nursery with her, to get her settled.  Other children had a wee cry, and then got busy, and their parents departed.  I was the last Mum standing.

She got more and more distressed, and I couldn't get her to get involved in anything.  Thinking that I was the problem I hatched a plan with the teacher.  I would pass her over and wait in the cloakroom.  We did that.  I sat and listened to her screaming, sobbing, gasping for breath.  Saying over and over I - want - to - go - home.  I tried hard not to cry.  I failed.  But I wiped the tears away, I didn't know when I'd be needed.  After about ten minutes, the teacher brought the little girl to the door.  She didn't want her to get more upset, and she was starting to upset the other children, so it was time for her to go home for today, but she'd see us tomorrow.  

Kenny thought he could get her settled more easily than me, so he took her the next day, but the same thing happened, and we took her home.  The teacher asked her to bring her favourite toy to show her the following day.

So with a heavy heart I took her again the following morning.  This time she'd refused to wear the school clothes, but she was happy to be taking her favourite horse to show the teacher.  I went in with her, and we talked with the teacher about horses.  She didn't want to get involved again, but the teacher found some other horses, and gradually got the little girl involved with setting up a field, a stable, a farm.  Another girl came to play, and then some boys.  The little girl let other children play with her horse.  Then she wondered if the teacher would get the castle out to play with.  She did.  With the little girl's help.  I stayed, but I was on the other side of the room by now.  She had a few wobbles, but the teacher was very kind, relaxed, and flexible, and the little girl managed to stay for the whole of the session.  Result.

It's going to be harder than I'm used to, and I'm going to worry more than I thought, but we'll get there.

How well did your kids settle at nursery?  Do you have any tips for helping to make the transition easier?


It took almost three weeks of my staying at nursery initially, and then spending longer and longer each day in the parents room, while the little girl built up her relationships in nursery before she was ready, but one morning she told me to just go, and pick her up at the end. She's doing great, I'm really proud of her. As for me, I have not at any point wondered what to do with myself!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

In labour - seven things I know now.

One of my favourite bloggers - Chantelle at fatmumslim is going to be having a baby soon, and she is not looking forward to the labour. Reading her post reminded me that I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry. Summer holidays, family stuff, and a touch of the blues have got in the way, but I'm in the middle of a series, so I'll be needing to continue.

As you'll recall, I've had three children, and survived the baby and toddler years. Add to that a background in maternal stuff, and I don't just have my stories to draw on... And I promise I'll not regale you with stories. No. I've already told you things I know now about pregnancy, and going into labour. Now here are some things I know now about labour itself.

Seven Things I Know Now About Labour

1 Keep calm and carry on snoozing.

All animals have their babies when they feel as calm as possible. A cat might hide out in an airing cupboard (do people still have those?), but for humans we generally find it's at night when things kick off. This can mean that labour proper will see you up in the wee small hours, so get all the sleep and general rest you can, to make sure you've got plenty of reserves. Personally, I find hospitals stressful places, so try to avoid them, which worked great for me. On the one time I did go into hospital before everything was really kicking off, getting there made everything stop. That happens a lot. It's tempting to stay put, but doing so will just make it more likely you'll end up with some sort of intervention. Your best bet is to have a chat with a friendly midwife and head home to get some rest. You'll be up again soon.

2. Make sure you've got a good team

There has been a whole lot of research done into what helps women get birth experiences they feel content about, and do you know what comes out top? It's trusting the people you're with. A woman in labour has got to feel safe, so being with people you trust is really important.

Part of that is your birthing partner. Choose the person who will be best for you. It might be your partner, your mum, or a trusted friend. You might want to look into getting a doula. You know who you want. More people can be around, but if you're going to hospital check their policy - you might need to work something out. If you do need to go into theatre you'll only be allowed one person - it's busy in there!

The other part of having a good team is trusting your midwife (please note, this is UK based, but wherever you are, you need to trust your medical personnel). It is difficult to do this if you don't know her, and if she doesn't have time to build rapport with you. Ask your antenatal midwife who'll be looking after you for the birth. Some areas are better at continuity of care than others.

Lots of women worry about something going wrong, and ending up with a caesarian. Trusting your midwife will help avoid interventions, but it will also help you feel better about interventions you do have.

Personally I am a massive fan of home births. I went for home births for two of my births. Not only was I somewhere I felt safe, but I had my own midwife for the whole shebang. The baby got her own midwife too (as midwives consume a lot of tea and toast, you need to stock up on these for a home birth). Midwives are amazingly good at keeping your carpets clean, and they come with inco sheets.

If you are having a home birth, but you decide you want to go to hospital after all, your midwife comes too, so you get to keep your own midwife, which is great.

When I had my last baby, I had to emergency transfer into hospital for a caesarian. This is not my happiest memory, but I had two incredible midwives with me. We all talked through the situation, and I knew the transfer was the right thing to do. They came with me, and looked after me in the ambulance (with my fantastic, and only slightly terrified husband), and came into the hospital with me. They helped me remove my nail varnish, and got me into a gown. They couldn't come into theatre, so they introduced me to my surgeon. Told me she was good. They introduced me to the theatre nurses, and I felt like a really good team were helping me.

You need a good relationship with the midwife. Give her chocolate and just keep talking with her. It takes a really special kind of person to become a midwife.

3 You've got to dilate 10 centimetres!

You might get told in your ante-natal class that dilation of the cervix takes about one hour per centimetre. This is what they told me, anyway, and I suppose it may be broadly  true that it takes about 10 hours to get to the magic 10 centimetres (in case you are wondering, this is measured by midwives digits - one finger equals one centimetre... It's just a little bit All Creatures Great and Small), but I have never met anyone who progressed like that. A lot of people discover they're a centimetre or two dilated without realising it, and then it takes ages to get up to 5. Between 5 and 10 centimetres, most people seem to get stuck somewhere for a while, and then suddenly they're nearly at 10, and they have the joy of transition.

You thought those were contractions? The Weirdness of Transition

You're beginning to think you're getting the hang of this baby-birthing thing. You've got your breathing down. You've deemed your tens machine useless and your husband is happily electrocuting himself with it. And then... You get cold. You get shaky. Your contractions change from being like really bad period pains to being like your body is changing into an alien who is a totally different shape pains. You know, like a werewolf changing? You have a moment of clarity in which you think that actually, this is a really bad idea, maybe you should just go to the pub instead... Or climb in a wardrobe (I did this), or hide in the toilet (a friend did this). You are in transition. The midwives are wise to you, and they can cope with it. They are rather fabulous aren't they? The good news is that whatever your opinion at this time, you are about to have a baby!

5 Most births are 'normal' births

I'm not quite sure what is normal about it, but most births involve a woman getting a baby out of her vagina without surgical help.  You're more likely to need some help for your first birth, maybe because your body hasn't done it before, but also because you haven't done it before, and it's really weird - your birth will go best if you're relaxed and it's hard to relax when you're turning into a werewolf.  However, there is no-one dishing out brownie points for birthing.  It is perfectly OK to have the birth you and your baby need to have.  The prize at the end is the same for nearly everybody.  A healthy mother and baby.

6 There's a lot more caesareans these days

Partly this is because medical staff are less used to delivering more complicated vaginal births, so they will advise a caesarian more readily.  The good news is that because the doctors have had more practice, caesareans are much better than they used to be. 

Planned caesareans tend to have better recovery time than emergency sections, so it might be the thing to go for if it looks like you'll need one. That said, a caesarian is major abdominal surgery, and you will need time you're unlikely to have to recover. 

I never wanted to have a section, until I knew I needed one. Follow your heart, talk to your midwife, and make sure you've got the best birthing partner for you. Honest, dad won't mind, so long as you feel safe.

Having a caesarian is no less authentic a birth experience than a vaginal birth.  However, the shock on your body may cause your milk to be delayed a bit, so you'll need extra support for breastfeeding. 

7 Caesareans are not the only thing they can do.

You've been pushing and pushing and your midwife is worried that you're exhausted, and that the baby's distressed. They're thinking about writing 'failure to progress' on your notes (which is a horrible thing to call it, but it's not a judgement on your maternal character). You are tired, hormonal, and feeling rubbish. At this point, they may suggest a ventouse - this is like a plunger they suck onto the baby's head, then they pull while you push. This is good as it does work sometimes, but baby's aren't very keen, so if it fails you'll probably need a section. Alternatively you could go for forceps, which is a similar idea, but like salad servers they fix round baby's head after 'widening' the vaginal  opening with an episiotomy. I've had both. I had a horrible experience of the forceps, mainly because of the episiotomy. However, lots of people have them. If you do have one, contact the NCT about special cushions to sit on after.

Recovering from caesarians gets a lot of attention, but an episiotomy, or a tear, can be really debilitating too.  I couldn't sit down properly for months.  Talk to your midwife and health visitor about your recovery - don't be brave, get the help you need.  You need to be on top form to deal with motherhood.  On which, more next time.  Your baby's birth will not last forever.

So go on, women of the world... what was your labour like?  What was funny?  What was scary?  What was crazy?  What would you tell your sister if she was about to do it?

This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about:

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Blurring gender lines

I really disliked the Robin Thicke video. I felt it was misogynistic. It was a real problem to me that so many people seemed to think it was fine.

What didn't I like?

Firstly, the massive power differential in the video. The fully dressed men, with the women, skimpily dressed or near naked, parading around, having their bodies played with. It didn't seem sexy - the women don't look interested in the men, but it didn't seem fun either.

Secondly, I didn't like the lyrics, especially 'I know you want it', with all the implications therein for women's sexual agency. It is deeply unpleasant to see a man in a powerful position claim to know better about whether a woman wants sex than she does. To me it suggests rape.

However, I wasn't sure if I was overreacting, so I wondered if anyone had done a role reversal cover. They have :-D  it's a slightly odd watch, and a lot of the comments on it question the sexuality of the men, which I don't think has happened about the women in the original, so that's interesting.

The power differential is still at play. The comments about the men's sexuality are no doubt inspired by their makeup and heels (both of which are generally female signifiers in our society at the moment, but don't have to be), but maybe also by how uncomfortable they look at times. They don't look like they want it. However, neither do the women in Thicke's video.

In this version, I didn't find the lyric 'I know you want it' half as disturbing as in the original. Rather it seemed playful, and a bit sexy. But that might be a power differential, and of course, it is damaging to presume consent whatever the gender of the person.

I guess if we get to live in a society wherein abused girls aren't described as 'predatory' by judges, and women aren't advised on how to modify their behaviour to avoid being raped, then the Thicke video might be playful too.

We don't live there yet.

Have you seen the videos? What do you think of them?


There's a new video out there - a feminist parody (so they've changed the words as well as the video).  I think it's rather marvellous, and I'm not feeling grossed out or uncomfortable about anything.  What do you reckon?

Actually, to be honest, there's a lot of new video's out there.  The debate has really opened up, despite lots of people trying to close it down by saying that women who voice concerns are being 'over-sensitive'.  The Mod Carousel video (that's the role reversal one) has been criticised for simply switching places, and feminising the men, but surely to be feminine doesn't necessarily mean subservient?  Personally I found the Mod Carousel video a really good way of thinking about the problems in the Thicke video.  However Nico Lang is not enamoured with it, and she's got a different feminist version in her article, which is definitely worth checking out.

Of course, Mr Thicke is not the only sexist pig around at the moment, there's plenty of nonsense helping make the world a nasty place for all of us.  Anyone else you'd like to name and shame?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

going back in time - what happened next?

Where were we?  
'Queen' Augusta, Ruling Britannia
Augusta by Angelika Kauffmann,
Royal Collection, London
(the baby is probably her eldest son, Karl)

We were imagining what the royal family in Britain might have looked like if George II had changed the rules of succession to stop them being sexist.  Queen Augusta was ruling Britannia, while the next Augusta in line was meeting a sticky end.

Queen Augusta would have ruled from 1760 - 1813 (only seven years short of the real reign of her brother, George III), and on her death, would have been succeeded by her grandson, William.  He would have been William IV, and would be been 31 when he became King.  In real life, William did become a King - King William I of Württemberg (in Germany) in 1816.

When he became our imaginary British King in 1813, William was on his first marriage, to Princess Charlotte of Bavaria.  But they would divorce in 1814, because William had fallen in love with his cousin, Catherine, who was the daughter of Emperor Paul I of Russia.  The two would marry in 1816 and have two daughters: Princess Marie, and Princess Sophie, before Catherine died in 1819, from an infection.

William I of Württemberg.
Our 'King William IV'.
Don't know who did this drawing,
but I got it from Wikipedia
William didn't waste any time in getting remarried.  He married another cousin, Pauline of Württemberg in 1820.  However, by this time, he had taken up an affair with an actress, and he and Pauline's marriage was unhappy.  The extent of their estrangement was revealed when William died in 1864 (age 82), and Pauline was excluded from inheritance.  However, the couple did manage to have three children, the eldest of whom was Princess Catherine, of whom more later.

William would have reigned 1813-1864.  To put this into context, in the real world this covered the reigns of George IV, the real William IV, and part of the reign of Queen Victoria.

When William died, his daughter, Marie, then 48, married to Count Alfred von Neipperg (although surely if she'd been next in line to the throne she'd have had a better class of spouse), and childless, would have succeeded to the throne.  She would remain Queen Marie until 1887, when she died (aged 71).  At this point, as she was childless the next in line would have been her younger sister Sophie.  But sadly Sophie had died in 1877.  Sophie had married very well, becoming the Queen of the Netherlands, however, she didn't think a lot of her husband, and when she died she chose to be buried in her wedding dress, as she felt that was the day her life had ended!  That said, she had of course done her duty, and had three children.  Sadly, only two survived to adulthood, neither had children, and they both died before Queen Marie.

The throne then would pass to the next sister - Catherine, who would become Queen Catherine I (there have been lots of Queen Catherines, but none of them regents).  Catherine would have been 66 at the time, married to her cousin (it was the in thing), Prince Frederick of Württemberg, and mother to just one son.  It was this son, William, who would have succeeded her when she died in 1898.  At that time he would have been 50.  Although I wonder if she might not have abdicated and passed the throne onto him earlier.  What do you think?  William would have been King William V if all this had happened.  As it was, he was King William II of Württemberg (until the monarchy was abolished in 1918).  William was very keen on yachting so would no doubt have enjoyed being King of Britain more than of landlocked Württemberg (although he did form a yacht club there anyway).  William had faced a series of tragedies in his family life.  His first wife, Marie, had died giving birth to their stillborn third child, less than 18 months after the death of their second child, who was their only son.  Although his eldest daughter, Pauline, survived, and he remarried, he never recovered, and had no more children.  William died in 1921, at which point he would have been succeeded by his daughter, Princess Pauline, who was 44.

Pauline - our Queen Pauline
Don't know the photographer,
but what a dress!
Aren't you hoping that Queen Pauline can cheer things up a bit?  Maybe have a happy marriage?  Be a good person?  At least have a good outfit?  Well the good news is that Pauline was a great supported of the Red Cross.  The bad news is that Pauline would have reigned from 1921-1965, and considering that she was a German Princess at the time in real life, it's not going to look good for her is it?

At the time of her ascension to the throne Pauline was married to William Frederick, Prince of Wied.  They had two sons, however their older son died during the Second World War, and in 1948 Pauline herself was indicted by the US for concealing senior Nazis.  She admitted she had, and one was her husband, who had been an SS General.  She is reported to have said to authorities that she didn't know if Hitler was still alive, but "as long as he lives in the hearts of his followers, he cannot die."

Of course, if she'd been the British Queen, Pauline would not have been in Germany, and if she did agree with Hitler, she'd have no doubt had the good sense to keep it to herself, so it's unlikely she'd have been indicted, and very unlikely she'd have been married to an SS General.  What do you think?  Would Pauline have been pro-Hitler if she'd been Queen Pauline?  Would she have kept her mouth shut about it?  Would the US have indicted her if she was Queen?

It was really hard to find a picture of
our 'King Carl' but here he is at the
Rhenish Shooting Federation
Pauline died in 1965, outliving her eldest son.  The throne would therefore pass to his eldest son, Friedrich Wilheim.  He would have been 34 when he became King Frederick (I think it would be King Frederick I - is that right?), at which point he was divorced, and the father of two sons.  He did marry again in 1967.  He and Princess Sophie of Stolberg-Stolberg had two children together.  Frederick himself died in 2000, passing his titles on to his eldest son, Prince Alexander.  However, Alexander renounced the title, so the second son, Carl, would have become King Carl I.  Carl would still be on the throne now.  In 1998 Carl married Princess Isabelle of Isenburg, and the two have four children.  FYI the next in line to the throne would be young Maximilian of Wied (born in 1999).

Have you noticed a German theme in these alternative routes for the monarchy?

My friend, Lucy, has suggested that one of the Henry's wanted his daughter to succeed him.  I'm going to look into that, and see what I come up with.  See you soon.