The other side

I’ve had a difficult time over the past three months. It’s been the most challenging time that I’ve experienced in motherhood and I’ve felt my sanity balance on a knife edge at times.

But it’s also been a time of immense growth and I’m appreciative of what it has taught me.

How my struggles have stretched and shaped me.

And as I’m coming out the other side, I’d like to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and am still learning.

I must come first

I always thought the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on before putting anyone else’s on was trite. But I’ve realised that I’m good for no one when I’m on my knees with exhaustion.

So I’ve started to prioritise my needs.

I’ve made plans to get away to have some time of solitude every month and Thursday evenings are for me to have time alone. I’ve so far tried an African drumming circle, gone for drinks with friends, had dinner with my parents, spent the evening working late to do some things that I don’t usually get the chance to do in my working day.

Being free to do things as an adult, not a mum or carer, has been life changing. It’s brought me so much joy and has refreshed me for the week ahead. I don’t know how I coped without this time before.

Now that I’m over the worst, it’s hard to keep finding the discipline of time alone.

Since I’m not at crisis point, time to myself can seem less important than getting on with life. Making sure I’m pulling my weight at home. Being there for Jenson.

But then I remember that for 18 months, I gave more than my fair share to this family.

So it’s not about an even 50:50 split, but about communication and asking for what I need so that I can thrive as a mother, wife and woman.

Asking for help

I’ve asked my husband over the past months to step up with the caring of our son – we now share the bedtime routine and co-sleeping so the other can enjoy a night of disruption-free sleep.

And with me no longer taking the caring role with everything, I’ve let my husband care for me more and I’ve felt closer to him than I have in a long time.

I was so busy caring and coping before that I’d lost what it was to be a wife.

What it was to be vulnerable and gentle and soft. Cared for, desired and with desire

It’s not been easy.

We’ve had more disagreements than we have had in a long time.

I’ve pushed him and pulled him into me.

I’ve been more vocal about my needs and have confronted him when I’ve felt hurt or ignored or misunderstood.

Instead of burying my feelings deep inside me, I’ve spoken up.

But it’s been good.

Because instead of feeling complacency – a foreboding of the death of a relationship – I’ve felt fire.

And that has kindled us in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I’m not an island

I’ve also asked other people to step up and help in our lives.

Friends have rallied around to babysit Jenson and give us some precious time alone.

When Gregg’s parents or my own parents have come to visit or had us to stay, I’ve asked them to look after Jenson so I could rest and find moments of solitude. I’ve taken time for myself without worrying that I was being ‘rude’ or ‘inhospitable’.

Because I recognise that this time alone is what I need and their love for Jenson means that time with him isn’t a chore.

I remember writing on this blog, at the start of Jenson’s life, how important it would be for me to ask for help. How I longed for Jenson to know that he doesn’t need to be strong, independent, self-contained. 

And I find myself reflecting back now and seeing that my desire has come true – I’m living how I want him to.

In community.

Asking for help.

Accepting the support of other people even though I can’t always give back in turn.

New season

I’m finding myself in a new season in life.

Connecting with the beauty of nature and the spirituality of the world.

Not through any religious beliefs, but through an awakening to the ancient wisdom of the planet and the inherent spirituality I feel as a human being.

I know that what I’m saying is quite vague, and that’s because I can’t quite articulate it myself.

All I know is that I feel connected to something bigger than myself.

And with that, I’ve felt a love for myself and a self-compassion that I’ve never felt before.

I’m finding myself able to say ‘no’ to invitations that aren’t right for me.

I’m looking at my body in a way that I’ve rarely been able to in the past – with true love and acceptance for all that I am, complete with stomach rolls, a slight double chin, my wrinkles and grey hairs.

It’s all me and all worthy of love.

Over the past month, I’ve danced with joy.

I’ve cried with sorrow.

I’ve started to reconnect to the wild Amy who has been tamed by society but is bursting to break out.

And this feels like just the beginning.

Taboo

I feel like I’ve broken one of the biggest taboos in the world – speaking about how motherhood isn’t always pretty.

How I have regrets for the child-free life I left behind.

How I know that I could have been happy without a child, even though I love Jenson with all my heart.

We do women a massive disservice in silencing the truth about the brutalities of motherhood.

It’s exhausting.

It’s relentless.

It’s the best and the worst experience.

And yet we only speak about the beauty, and at most, laugh about the witching hour before bed or whisper to our friends in secret ‘I’m not happy’. 

And I’m so proud of myself for having spoken up and started to challenge the taboo.

I’m so proud that I’ve been loud in saying how hard it is.

And I hope that others have felt permission to be truthful and honest, even if only to themselves or to me.


And so while this time has been one of the trickiest in my life, it has brought more growth than I could ever have imagined.

And I’m looking forward to seeing where this next season in life will take me.

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The realities of motherhood

Things have been really hard over the past few months.

And I’ve shared it with you in bits, ranting about how hard things are right now, how I’m lowering my standards to cope and accepting that things are hard.

I’ve been a bit worried (and so have people around me) that I was going to crack and I asked myself whether I was going through a delayed post-natal depression.

Things were unbelievably hard.

So hard that I’ve found myself wishing that I wasn’t a mum.

And if I’m honest, going a bit further, wishing that I didn’t have Jenson.

This latter point feels a lot more worrying to me because it wasn’t just a wishing for times gone by, but wishing that the son I adore wasn’t in existence.

This wasn’t how I knew I felt when I thought about it logically.

I love him.

I’d give my life for him.

I truly believe he’s here to teach me as much as I’m here to guide and support him as he develops.

But I felt so depleted, with nothing to give, and I noticed how he had started to bring less of a smile to my face. A smile that had always come regardless of the hour he awoke or the naughtiness of his actions.

Why am I telling you this?

Because it’s a narrative which is not spoken about much in the world.

Parenting is talked about honestly among good friends, but there’s not a dialogue in society about how hard it is to be a parent.

There’s the truth-based comedy about parenthood found in ‘hurrah for gin‘ or the ‘unmumsy mum‘. It allows us to laugh about waiting for 5pm to reach for a glass of wine to take the blunt edges off motherhood. We smile at the raggedy mother with her little despots who refuse to eat anything other than beige processed food.

But it doesn’t go as far to say ‘seriously, being a mother can push people over the brink’. (Or at least, this is not what I’ve seen in the parts of it I’ve read).

We remain mostly silent as a society about the realities of motherhood:

How far it pushes you.

How serious an endeavour it is.

How challenging it can be.

And in this silence comes a lack of understanding, a lack of support, a lack of honesty.

There are the reassuring looks of other mums when they see other children in meltdown and the ‘how’s it going?’ that we give out to new mums. But there is the sense (at least from the experience I’ve had) that once the newborn stage is over – with the lack of sleep, poonami explosions and trials of breastfeeding – that you should just be able to get on with it.

And in my experience, this is a relatively easy stage compared with what comes after.

Don’t get me wrong, I found the newborn stages hard, but not nearly as hard as the shuffling around of my life to make space for the desires and wishes of my son as he starts to know what he wants.

Now life is dictated by his desires, his wishes, his needs.

And mine have to come second for the most-part, which is so hard if you’re like me and need space and time alone to stay sane. If you’re opinionated and have wishes of your own.

At the early baby stages, Jenson was my shadow and I was allowed to pretty much do as I wanted.

But now, even when I get to meet up with other mums and friends, I’m only able to be half-present as my mind is scanning for hazards to Jenson – where he is, what he might do to himself, how he is interacting with other children.

And yet I’m left to get on with it.

There’s no support apart from the support I cultivate around me, risking other people’s judgement as I dare to say how I sometimes wish I wasn’t a mum.

How I sometimes wish that I didn’t have Jenson.


I thought long and hard about sharing these thoughts with you, dear friend, because they seem like a slap in the face to all those I know who wish beyond measure to have a child and are struggling to do so.

And I’m half-worried that, in a Handmaid’s Tale-like twist, these words will be used against me in the future. Judging me unfit to be a mother in the same way that June and Luke’s relationship was invalidated because of their past.

But I want to change the narrative that we hold as a culture.

I want to see more honest, open conversations about the challenges of parenthood at all stages.

I want us to be honest as a society about how hard parenthood is – it’s the most difficult job I’ve ever had.

And I believe that starts with people speaking out about their truth.

Thankfully I’m starting to feel more like my own self, due in part to the support of my family and close friends and in part due to speaking up more and saying what I need from my husband.

Thankfully I’m wishing less that I wasn’t a mum and am grateful for having my son.

Thankfully I’m able to smile more.

But it doesn’t take away from the truths I’ve shared with you in this post. Motherhood is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to go through.

And I know it will continue to be challenging along the way.

I know I’ll continue to need the support of family and friends to get me through it.

I hope if you’re also struggling, you’re able to share how you’re feeling with those close to you.

Or I hope that, at least, my words help you to feel less alone.

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Where I’m meant to be

I’ve had this morning to myself and am feeling so much better for the long sleep and time to be in stillness and inaction with myself.

Life has felt so difficult recently. I’ve been at the bottom of my reserves and have felt myself coiled like a spring, about to snap (or whatever it is a spring does when it’s pushed beyond its limits!).

But this time has been different from all the other times I’ve felt like this.

Instead of pushing through until I snap, I’ve been able to recognise where I am and have done things differently.

I’ve shared how much I’m struggling (to differing degrees) with friends (you included in that category, my friend), family and work colleagues.

I’ve asked Gregg to step up to allow myself to not ‘have to be’ strong, self-contained, coping when life with a baby, full-time work and no time for myself is too much.

I’ve taken the decision to slowly stop breastfeeding so I can have some more freedom and space outside of the role of ‘mum’ in my life – something that will benefit Jenson far more than the nutrients he gets from me. A mum that is less frazzled, not resentful for the role she feel obliged to take, role modelling what is means to have healthy boundaries and prioritising her needs.

I’ve taken Thursday evenings for myself to meet up with friends, take classes, go out and be me.

I’ve booked a weekend away by myself at the end of June on a self-development course of sorts to get some space in such a packed period of time.

And as I reflect on all that I’ve done, I’m more grateful than ever for what Jenson, my son, has brought to me.

You see, before I would have kept on struggling.

Due to not having the responsibility of parenthood, I would have coped with the expectations of other people that I put on myself without challenging them.

I wouldn’t have had such an urge that I have now to break down the roles I take which are ones I don’t want to hold.

Strong

Selfless

Self-contained

I don’t disagree with being all these things. But I found myself being unable to be anything other than that.

I couldn’t be weak, apart from too my closest friends and family.

I struggled with being ‘selfish’ and prioritising myself.

I had made strides to share more of myself, through this blog, but it didn’t go further than that because it didn’t need to.

But with my son here, I want him to know more than anything that he doesn’t have to be ‘strong’ all the time. I want him to see me reach out for help and, in doing so, know that it’s ok for him to do the same thing.

I want him to self-prioritise. Not to the detriment of other people – sending a big ‘F you’ to others – but so that he has enough resources to live out of abundance.

I want him to have the freedom to share what’s going on for him. And if he takes after his father – a wonderful ‘steady Eddie’ of a man – he won’t need to much. But if he has my sensibility and a gentleness (that which I see in many men around me, including my brother), I want him to be able to share what’s going on for him, because he’s seen me do that and he knows it’s ok. He doesn’t have to be an island.

And so while it’s pushed me to my very limits, his arrival on this planet, I can’t help but feel that he has been sent to me to teach me these things.

And so while it’s hard to be in this place, I know that I’m where I’m meant to be.

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A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Love myself

    I used to put on the song ‘Love Myself’ by Hailee Steinfeld and dance around my house. Buoyed by its energy and the seemingly radical sentiment of loving myself, I couldn’t get enough of it.

    I’ve just read the lyrics and the song is a little strange (about physically loving yourself) but I stand by my love of it. My attraction to the radical notion of self-love in a society which seems to push how we aren’t good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, youthful enough.

    And on reflecting on where I am in life, I feel so happy that I can say more than ever before that I like and love myself.

    Before, it felt like this was an egotistical thing to feel – loving myself.

    I felt it meant being too big for your boots or big-headed.

    But I now see that it’s the foundation for so much in life.

    Liking yourself and knowing your self-worth is a fundamental necessity for being able to function as a well-adjusted adult.

    Sure, I still have times where I don’t talk to myself with kindness. Where I exasperate myself and I doubt what I have to offer.

    But more and more, my stance is one of positive self-regard.

    Of sureness of what I have to offer to the world and to myself.

    And here’s what I think when I appraise who I am:

    I’m an intelligent, strong, driven, caring woman.

    I’m someone who thrives off of learning new things – my capacity to develop and grow is one of my biggest strengths and something I’m proud of.

    I’ve also got a large capacity to learn – I’m bright.

    I’m driven and want to be the best I can be – a good mother, good friend – to myself and others, good daughter, good sister, good worker.

    I’m creative, I’ve got a talent for writing.

    I’m also warm and am good at including others and making people feel they matter.

    I’m also funny in my own way.

    A year ago, I’d have had a massive lump in my throat from the anxiety of thinking about sharing this with you – what would you think of me? how egotistical will you judge me to be?! – but now it feels like a fact.

    This is who I am.

    Not all that I am, mind you.

    There’s also my shadow side.

    The side of me that is stubborn and selfish and greedy and insecure. Not willing to see other perspectives and so busy that I don’t take time to just be.

    But my shadow doesn’t define me anymore like it used to. And I love myself with my shadows.

    I feel more balanced and at peace, more comfortable in my own skin than not.

    And it’s a beautiful place to be.

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    Just a year

    I’m at my parent’s house now for the second part of our Christmas travels and, lying in the bath tub this morning, I thought about where I was this time last year. 

    I was celebrating my sister’s birthday while having the start of my contractions. Thinking about all that was to come ahead, relieved that the wait was finally over. 

    I’m so glad that this time last year I had enjoyed my final non-mothering days – planned trips to the cinema, laid in as long as I wanted, gone out for meals with my husband, wrote, read, met up with friends, spent time with my family.

    Time I cherished instead of constantly willing Jenson to make his arrival.

    But now a year has passed and I’m a few hours away from my son becoming one.

    What a huge milestone, the marking of a year with him.

    I don’t think I could have ever imagined what was in store for me this time last year. 

    I didn’t know what was awaiting me as I went into the 15 hour labour and birth of my son. The NCT classes didn’t come close to describing the experience.

    The pain, the effort, the fear, the gritting of my teeth to push through it, the vulnerability, the need I felt for my husband, the strength I felt in being capable of birthing my son, the crowning(!) – that pain has not receded into the faint echoes of my memory!!!

    And nothing could have prepared me for what the next year would look like. 

    A year of protecting and nurturing my son.

    A year where I’ve put everything aside to look after him.

    A year for me of growing and learning, crying and laughing, making friends and letting some fade, travelling and staying put, becoming more myself and putting myself on the back burner to care for Jenson.

    A year of extremes and paradoxes.

    Experiencing depths of love I never thought imaginable and being stretched so thin I thought at points that I would break.

    It’s indescribable, this first year of motherhood. 

    One thing is clear, it feels like so much longer than just one year and yet it has passed in a blink of an eye.

    Magazines

    My relationship with magazines was one of love when I was younger. I subscribed to ‘Bunty’ magazine and how I loved all the stories and imagination inside. One of my strongest memories from being a child was going on holiday with my family for two weeks (three weekends) and the delight of coming home to discover that I had three (yes, three!) Bunty magazines to read. To pour over, cover to cover and feast upon. I loved it so dearly and I look back on this period of innocence with such fondness.

    After Bunty came Mizz. I can still remember stories from its ‘cringe’ section – most prominently a girl who went swimming in a river with a boy she fancied and had a 💩 float into her mouth. It wasn’t the most enlightening read, mostly fashion, gossip and a whole host of quizzes you could do with your friends. On consideration, Mizz was not that bad! A bit like eating a chocolate bar – it had limited nutritional value for the soul – but was nice to consume.

    There have been several other magazines that have my love and a fond place in my heart – vegan life which I get monthly and inspires/challenges/provides me with inspiration as I aim to live a life of greater love for the planet and less cruelty towards animals. It’s not a ranty vegan publication but has articles about art, interesting recipes (I recently learnt you can use chickpea flour to create a vegan omelette from its pages and Jenson loves it!) and interesting articles about social affairs.

    Positive news is another magazine I’ve recently found. It shares the positive stories that so often get overlooked with the mass media of doom and gloom. Desert wasteland that is becoming green, zero waste pioneers, how the majority of UK voters want to see politicians of different parties collaborating more to solve the issues the UK faces instead of seeing division and fighting between different parties. I don’t subscribe myself to the magazine because of my shopping ban but the few I’ve bought for myself over the years have brought sunshine to my soul.

    And then there’s the French magazines I bought in my university years to improve my linguistic skills. Femme Actuelle was the cheapest (and aimed at a very different market of middle-aged housewives!) and so it was the one I bought weekly as a student. It had recipes, articles about cleaning and fashion that I’d never want to wear, but it was harmless and a nice way to learn French.

    I started this blog post off wanting to rant at the body-shaming, product-pushing, patriarchy-promoting sham that is female magazines…but I’ve enjoyed remembering that there is some good in the media I’ve consumed.

    It just needs to be chosen carefully.

    You see, I feel myself have a visceral reaction when I see the magazines left in my work lunchroom. I hate them so much for so many reasons. The gossip they hold about who has gained shocking weight, whose husband is leaving whom, which celebrity looked the best on the red carpet. A different scandal each week.

    It makes me so sad that we women are consuming something which breeds hatred to women. That we are judging others with the same judgements that will then boomerang back onto us. How we aren’t thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough at sex, not young enough.

    When the truth is that we are all enough. Full stop. We just are.

    I’m not writing this to judge anyone who reads these magazines (although it might sound like it!). I understand wanting to get away from the world for a few moments, loving the fashion, enjoying a bit of schadenfreude, pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.

    I feel angry at their very existence.

    So there you are, my thoughts about magazines. They can be good, they can be bad, a lot of them are ugly to the core. I wish we would collectively stop buying the mean, women-hating, product-pushing ones so they would cease to exist. But all I can do is my part…not buying them, ignoring them and instead send out love into the world.

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    Speciesism

    The first time I heard the word ‘speciesism’ I was a few years into being vegan (albeit a very ‘off-and-on-the-wagon’ kind of vegan). I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

    Speciesism: the practice of treating members of different species as morally more important than other species; and the belief that this practice is justified.

    I believed that animals were in a different category to humans. Less developed, less intelligent, less important. I was vegan because of the environmental impact of meat/dairy production and also because it was a diet that suited me well. Veganism had moved my relationship with food from an up-and-down rollercoaster to one of nourishing myself with lots of whole foods. It suited me and I finally came to a place where I was no longer yo-yo-ing between 4 different clothing sizes and body shapes over the course of a year. Veganism had helped me to find a kinder way to eat for myself.

    But this belief, that animals are in a different category to humans, has changed for me.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a bananas animal lover. I think puppies are cute and Planet Earth was an amazing view into nature which filled me with awe. But I couldn’t think of anything worse than having a house full of hairy, smelly, loud animal creatures (I have my own already with Gregg and Jenson 😜).

    However, I can see speciesism in action more and more…and I think it’s destroying our planet and causing such pain and suffering.

    We’re destroying our forests – home to countless animals, birds and insects – so that we can have more stuff. More of the food we want, more stuff, more land. It’s rarely considered that this isn’t just our land – it’s the land of these animals too (cue me feeling like Pocahontas!).

    We use animals for the testing of cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals because their pain and deaths are not important. We could use more human cells or cell lines for testing – which would ultimately be more effective, but this would take investment and currently animals are the easier, default choice for many. A choice that brings suffering to around 115 million animals per year.

    We have practices for getting milk which are, to me, inhumane. Repeatedly impregnating cows and separating them from their calves often less than 24 hours after the birth to get as much milk for ourselves as possible. A practice that leads to obvious distress from both mother and baby. Hearing the cries in a recent film I watched (called land of hope and glory) was truly disturbing to me when I considered the pain I’d have gone through if Jenson had been taken from me on day one and only brought back once a day to be fed.

    But it’s a cow, not a human, so it’s ok?

    Being driven by the ‘need’ for affordable meat, eggs and dairy to the point where our farming practices often cause animals to suffer during their lives. The boy baby chicks who are ground up alive in their first moments in this world because they have no worth to us – they can’t lay eggs and don’t plump up nicely to be eaten.

    They have no value?

    And the slaughterhouse practices where the turn around and churn of animals is so quick that often animals aren’t stunned properly and so are conscious when their throats are cut and as they bleed out.

    Our desire for meat is more important than their death?

    I suppose that ultimately I don’t want another creature to die in order for me to have something enjoyable to eat. The mistreatment of baby cows so I can have milk in my coffee. The painful testing of animals so I can enjoy a better mascara. The death of baby chicks so I can have cheap eggs.

    And as I write this, I can hear others speak about the medicines that are only available because of the animals that have been tested upon. And not all animals are treated as described above. Some farmers treat their animals with love and respect before sending them to be killed. Some calves have more time with their mothers.

    And what’s the other option? Cows, chicks and other animals not being born because we no longer need them? Yes. That would be preferable to animals experiencing pain and suffering during their short lives on earth.

    We use animals as a commodity, when I believe we are morally no more important than they are. Just as I believe that men are no more important than women. Just as I believe that caucasians are no more important than people of black or ethnic minorities.

    And since I’ve found my eyes open to this truth – that we are equal – I understand vegans who can’t stand to sit around a table laden with meat and dairy products. Not because of being righteous and self-satisfied smug buggers who want their way or the highway. Because when I look at meat sizzling on a barbecue, or when I see cheese, milk, cream, I see the suffering that these products have come from. I can avert my mind from it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so.

    And so I’m sharing my thoughts with you, dear friend, even though I might lose some of you as readers if you disagree and are affronted by my opinions. Because it’s too important for me to ignore. Not to divide me from you, but to start a conversation. To hear from you. To ponder on what I’m seeing and explore what this might mean for my life.

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    Six months

    I’ve been a parent for six months…bloody hell! How did that happen and how did this time pass both at a snails pace and in the blink of an eye?!

    From a sleeping, crying, mewling little baby to a little being looking more and more like a toddler with each passing day. It’s incredible to see how much he has changed and how much I’ve changed during this time.

    He now stands (sometimes unaided when he’s holding onto something), sits with such core strength, grabs anything in his reach, beams for us, strangers and for the camera…and yet some things don’t change. He’s still as determined as ever to sleep curled next to me, to feed or be rocked to sleep.

    And he’s still as spirited as the very first day when he screamed the hospital down. The loudest, most determined baby on the block.

    What about me? My changes are less perceptible, more internal but life changing nevertheless. My ability to be patient has increased, I now know I am stronger than I could have ever believed (from pushing his 4 kilo heft out of me to surviving on little sleep and getting twice done what I would have before), I have less tolerance for bullshit and for getting involved in those silly games that people play in life (psychological ones, not things like buckaroo or uno 😜).

    And I feel a new steeliness inside me. If I’m going to leave my little person in someone else’s care, it better be for a job I am passionate about – something that lights me up. Otherwise why would I leave my little one?

    And my decisions have more weight than before. Staying binge free and dealing with what’s going on underneath the surface is not just for my own good but for him too. So he doesn’t take on the practices that have been so harmful to me in the past. Sure, he’ll have his own struggles, but as much as I’m able to, they won’t be passed on from me.

    And I’ve found joy in the small things. Seeing him smile, making him laugh by singing silly songs, watching Gregg being a better father than I could have ever dreamt him becoming, seeing the love of our families for Jenson.

    I’ve also learnt to reach out and ask for help, to maintain boundaries and say no. To ask for what I really want instead of just wishing people could read my mind.

    All in six short months.

    And I find myself asking what the next six months will bring for both myself and my little half-Birthday boy. Adding in work to the mix for me, him spending most of the time with his father who will be on shared parental leave…

    What I do know is that it will go by in the blink of an eye and that I will share what is happening with you, dear friend.

    Only a few days left

    Just shy of a month ago I started an adventure of my dreams – a trip around Asia with my husband and five – now soon to be six – month old baby boy. I’m now sat in the north of Vietnam, surrounded by beautiful rice fields and mountains with only a few days left of this trip and am reflecting on what this time has given me and my family.

    I think that I’ve mostly enjoyed the space that these travels have given me. Time away from the normal humdrum rhythm of life where there is washing to do, cleaning to avoid and constantly things to do or fix around the house. With Gregg by my side, it has been lovely to co-parent our son instead of being chief in charge of his care, snatching minutes to do little things for me or my coaching business here and there when Gregg gets back from work.

    It’s also given me a glimpse of the reality of going back to work as, even with his daddy showering him with love, Jenson constantly reaches towards me for comfort when he’s tired, restless, upset or feeling any difficult emotion. And it makes sense because I have solely fed him, spent 90% of his life with him, slept curled around him. So I’m aware that, as much as it’s right for me to go back to work in just over a week, it’s going to be brutally hard at times. For Jenson, for Gregg and for me.

    The new reality of parenthood has firmly sunk in (even more than it had before – if that’s possible!). Our trip away has been wonderful, but it has been at Jenson’s pace. We’ve been tucked up in bed by 10:30 at the latest, I’ve only had a few sips of the delicious alcohol over here and there has been less time for personal reflection as I would have done before, no hours spent journaling in beautiful cafes or reading for hours on beautiful beaches. It’s not bad or lesser or not preferable. It’s just not the same. And even though life will go back to a more similar version of what was before as Jenson finds his independence and grows up, I firmly know that my life has been changed forever as a mum.

    And the life change has been wonderful in ways as we have been welcomed by the Cambodians and Vietnamese people we have met so warmly all because of Jenson. We’ve been engaged with so much more, had Jenson spirited away into a person’s arms so we could eat a meal as a couple and at times couldn’t walk 10 meters without someone coming up to talk to us about Jenson. He’s been cherished, loved and has enthralled the people we’ve met and has opened peoples hearts to show us more of these countries than I could have ever hoped.

    This time has also shown me all that is possible with a baby. How it is possible to travel with children. How it is possible to live life as a parent without being in constant state of fear about what might happen. How parenting is about trusting my instincts instead of some ‘how-to’ book. How I can write my own rules as a mum. And that has been refreshing and eye-opening.

    Finally, this trip has shown me that I’m not finished adventuring. As I said when I left Cambodia, I’ve loved exploring this part of the world, seeing new things and learning about other people and myself. While Gregg has shared with me that he is ready to come home, I’ve got a few more countries in me still. I feel that I could continue onto Laos or spend another month going to China to explore different cultures and places. There is so much of this world to explore and I am keen to see more of it!

    Oh how I could go on – there is so much more I could reflect on as this trip as brought so much richness into my life but for now, this is enough. I’m off for a final walk of the day around this beautiful area of the world.