This is the holiday

This is the holiday where I spoke my mind. I requested that we invited people who were able to stay for all the week instead of just part of the week. The latter makes me feel like everything’s a bit up in the air with new arrivals, new energy and new dynamics that make me feel jittery and unable to fully relax.

This is the holiday where I did what I needed and wanted. From a day of solitude to going to bed at 8:30pm to time swimming in the sea while Gregg looked after Jenson. I left the holiday knowing that I wouldn’t change a thing.

This is the holiday where I didn’t strain myself to make small talk, where I didn’t take on the responsibility for other people’s happiness or enjoyment. I relaxed with others, had some beautiful deep conversations and just enjoyed the silence. The few times I filled in the gaps didn’t feel good and reminded me that my responsibility is for my own happiness just as others are responsible for their own.

This is the holiday where I ate ice cream for breakfast on the final day without any guilt, where cakes stayed in the kitchen and were almost forgotten, where I enjoyed a variety of food and didn’t comfort eat, because I was comforted enough in being my own best friend, voicing my needs and not doing anything that wasn’t right for me.

This is the holiday where I appreciated my body. I dressed in a bikini and, instead of internally criticising all my bits that aren’t firm and toned, I felt good.

This is the holiday where I fully enjoyed my son. His inquisitive nature, his humour, his sweetness, his burgeoning love of art and his never ending cuddles.

This is the holiday where I appreciated those around me. Their help with Jenson, the kindness of other children playing with and looking after him, shared drinks and meals and laughter.

For the first time in a long time I feel like I could have continued this holiday. It’s a lovely feeling to have ❤️


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Raising my voice

I’ve been lone parenting this weekend as Gregg is at a stag party. I took Jenson to an animal rights protest in London yesterday, partly out of desire to be an active citizen and partly to have some plans to fill up my three days alone with him.

I’m so glad I went.

I loved hearing from animal activists who had so much information to share.

I loved the atmosphere as we marched through the streets of London, handing out flyers to the public.

I loved being part of something bigger than myself as we showed images of how animals are killed for our pleasure, kept in tiny cages so businesses can make as much profit as possible, viewed more as a commodity than a being who feels, fears and loves just like we do.

But that wasn’t my feeling right at the start of the march.

I felt uncomfortable, out of sorts, anxious as I made my presence known on the streets of London.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to be there.

It felt wrong to be speaking out – and speaking loud – instead of being in my safe little zone where I am vegan and will gently say why I am if people ask why (the reason, if you’re interested in for the planet – we can’t survive whilst still consuming such high levels of meat and dairy – and because of how animals are kept, treated and killed).

But I keep myself to myself.

I don’t push limits.

I keep my vegan views, my ‘controversial’ views of parenthood, family, love out of this blog for fear of offending you, dear friend.

And in that moment, something clicked for me. I realised that I don’t allow myself to be fully seen.

I don’t allow myself to share my views unless I’m given express permission to do it by someone.

And there are so many reasons I can think why.

Girls aren’t brought up to be forceful and I feel like I’m ‘too much’ when I think about my opinions and views on a range of topics.

I’m fearful of speaking out as that reminds me of my Christian experience growing up where we’d be encouraged to try to ‘convert’ people to our way of thinking.

I don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and, in putting my opinions ‘out there’, there will be many people who will disagree with me.

But that’s ok to live with these reasons – I can grapple with them as I work through giving myself permission to be seen and my voice heard.

And by that I mean all that I am, not just the bits of me that are mainstream and not controversial.

It feel scary and new and different to do this, but living this way feels aligned to the name of my blog – courage, truth and love – and so I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

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I was wrong

I’ve had the best day by myself. I was cocooned in my introverted bliss for most of the morning and most of the afternoon.

I did what I set out to do… had a haircut, blogged, went to the cinema, did some exercise, read, ate, treated myself to some new mascara – my old one getting the boot because of wearing it when I came down with conjunctivitis and sinusitis earlier this week.

And during the day I had plenty of time to think…and my pondering led to me a few things I’ve been thinking about for a while and to the realisation about an area where I’ve been getting it wrong in life.

What is it, you ask?

Money.

Some of you may remember that I’ve vowed to not buy anything unneeded for twelve months (a vow I have broken twice and regretted twice – perhaps a blog on that later).

Although I said I could spend money on experiences, this didn’t stretch in my mind to spending money on my own wellbeing.

I’ve had no problem stocking myself up with goodies to eat, trips to cafes, yummy additions to my lunch at work.

And I’ve done things that were essential to me functioning – a massage when my shoulders and neck were locked up from sling wearing a hefty 13 month old, for example.

But I have almost felt a lack of self-permission to spend money on things that weren’t essential but would support my wellbeing.

It could be anything – paying for a ukulele class, a trip to the theatre, but most specifically for me at the moment, paying for a regular exercise class.

It seemed frivolous to spend £20 a month on a gym membership or £8 for an exercise class, but that would have been so good over these past months – having a class to allow myself to let off some steam and exert myself physically.

This thought has been brewing for a while, I just wasn’t aware of it until now. It started forming when I was laid in bed sick earlier this week.

My mind drifted to how much pressure I put on myself at work, compressing almost a full working week into 4 days in order to save – for the future, for Jenson, to pay off our mortgage early and then this thought hit me –

What’s the point of working so damn hard, packing so much work into my week so that we’re not financially strapped for cash, if I don’t live life?

Sure, it’s so that we can have holidays. It’s so we can save for the future. It’s so we can afford to run a car if we need one for our jobs.

But I know there’s an imbalance with how I currently use my spending money and I want that to stop.

I want greater wellbeing.

I want to feel like I’m living, not just functioning.

I want more fun.

So by writing this post, I publicly give myself permission to invest in my own wellbeing.

I’m stating that investing in activities to make me glow (ok, more like sweat like a pig!) is important.

And to kick this off, I’ve subscribed to MoveGB, an app which allows me to go to a class a week in a variety of locations for £28/month (there’s a free 10 day trial you can do and a £1/week membership if you’re interested, don’t mind going to a lot of different classes but are on a budget).

And since I’m paying for this app, I know I’ll hold myself accountable to get out there and attend a class (or more!) each week.

It feels right, good, bloody brilliant to give myself permission to invest in my own wellbeing.

And so my parting question for you is this: what do you need to give yourself permission to do, dear friend?

Slowing down

Yesterday afternoon the generous support of my husband enabled me to have three hours to myself.

I caught up on my favourite tv programmes, wrote a blog post, read a bit and painted my nails.

It felt so good to just slow down and ‘be’ alone by myself and made me realise just how much slowing down is vital for my mental health.

It also made me realise that my life has been very full recently.

I wrote in my last blog post about how my life is so heavily structured. I know where I’m going to be most of the time and a lot of my ‘down time’ of late has been filled with weekends away and time away visiting family for Christmas.

I’m not complaining about these weekends away and Christmas plans – they’ve been lovely, fun and precious time with family – but with work being busy and outside work being full, I’ve not had much time where I can just be, by myself.

But I’m realising how much I need this time by myself. I’ve felt myself edge closer and closer towards mental breaking point and I need to stop before I make myself unwell.

But what does this time alone need to look like to improve my wellbeing?

I was reading an article about self-care that my close friend, Christina, sent to me.

It talked about self-care as the things we do that nourish and replenish our mind, bodies and souls.

And the first thing on the list of self-care examples they gave was slowing down, making space for solitude and reflection.

These are things I have little time for at the moment, but I’m beginning to realise that they are things that are so vital for my wellbeing.

Well, I think I have little time for them, but I could flex my life to have a bit more time alone.

  • I could take one evening a week when Jenson is in bed to do things by myself.
  • I could use my lunch breaks to do things that feed my soul, like meditating or writing.
  • Gregg and I could take it in turns to have mini-solitary sessions in the evening when we’re looking after Jenson.
  • I could be less focused on preparing for the week – making lunches and dinners in advance – to make more space for time alone.
  • When I’m away, visiting family or friends, I could take little pockets of time for myself
  • I could ask my parents to plan some weekends to Brighton over the next year to allow life to slow down.
  • I could stop filling every moment of downtime with activity – reading work books on the train, recording voice messages when I’m on my way somewhere, looking at my phone when I’m waiting for someone

I know that not all these ideas are practical, but something needs to change.

I desperately need time alone for my wellbeing and in order to stay in tip-top shape for the marathon that is parenthood and the journey that is life.

Baby moon

I wrote about my breastfeeding issues a few days ago and, while I’ve stopped being angry at myself for having trouble producing enough milk for Jenson, I’m still frustrated that things haven’t improved. If anything they’ve got a bit worse as Jenson needs to have all the extra milk I’m expressing in order for him to fill up. I’ve started to worry that his demand will outstrip my supply and that my milk will start to dry up…

My good friend Charlie recommended that I call the La Leche League breastfeeding support line to get some advice and I’m so glad I did this afternoon when I was having a wobbly moment. The woman at the end of the phone was really kind and supportive, telling me that I’m trying my best (it’s always nice to hear that!) and gave me some great advice that I’m putting into practice right now.

To have a baby moon.

Not a trip away to a tropical destination – although we’re planning to go away as a family to Vietnam in June (more on that in future posts, I’m sure!) – but a time to get snuggled up warm with my bubba doing lots of skin-to-skin contact*.

Apparently this can increase milk supply more than any food supplement, stout, breast pumping or concoction can.

I’ve written previously about how hard I’ve found the change of pace in my life. Slowing down has been tricky, let alone grinding to a halt to have my baby on me as I rest for as many hours a day as possible.

But this feels different.

Like in doing nothing, I’m doing everything that I need to as a Mum. There’s a point to this stillness.

And could it be that I’m comfortable with the notion of stopping because I’ve been given permission to do nothing? Instead of thinking that I should go out, be active, stimulate Jenson, I’m looking at this time as a chance to pamper myself (reading a book, eating chocolates, watching my favourite tv shows and writing to you) while getting endless cuddles with my son.

Suddenly the pace doesn’t bother me at all. It feels like I’ve entered the start of a very enjoyable baby moon where I relax, sit back, take things slow and look after both myself and my son.

*skin-to-skin is where you get naked on top and have the baby rest on you. It apparently gets the mother’s hormones working, encouraging the body to produce more milk and gets the babies hormones working, encouraging him to breastfeed more.

Double standards

I’ve been having a bit of an issue with breastfeeding. Sorry if this is TMI but it’s true.

I’ve loved the experience of providing sustenance for Jenson and have no problem whipping my breasts out in public to do so. That’s not the issue. It’s that I’m not producing quite enough milk for him and so he’s been slow to put on weight.

I don’t know where the issue stems from, although there are a number of potential reasons why my supply isn’t quite enough for him. The blood loss I experienced just after giving birth that left me anaemic, that Jenson was tongue-tied for the first 3 weeks and perhaps didn’t feed strongly enough to bring my milk in fully, my genetics, my diet (although I don’t think that being vegan has any impact on milk production)…

Regardless of where the issue stems from, I’m potentially not providing enough milk or Jenson isn’t getting quite enough and, although my health visitor isn’t overly worried, there’s a chance that we may need to top him up with formula.

I’m not the only person I know who has been having feeding issues. A few people in my anti-natal class have had to move fully onto formula and others are doing a mix of bottle and breastfeeding. And when they shared their sadness at not being able to fully breastfeed their baby, I was understanding about how they were feeling, but also had a real conviction that as long as the baby was getting sustenance (through formula or breastmilk) and was loved, there was no shame in switching to formula.

That is, I felt this strong conviction until I was faced with potentially having to use some formula myself.

What double standards!

That other people can be human but I need to be perfect, that good enough is enough for others on this journey of motherhood but that I need to get everything ‘right’.

I started writing this post feeling sad and a bit ashamed but now I just feel pissed off at the bar of perfection I find myself yet again trying to vault over – a bar that is never achievable because it’s too high.

Because if I was perfect with my ability to produce milk, I would fall short in how I’m playing with him. Or if I did both those things perfectly, I’d worry about how he’s sleeping compared to others. Or how he’s developing or interacting or what clothes I’m dressing him in…and the list of self-judgement could go on and on.

I’m so glad I started to write this post because I see how far I’ve progressed. Yes, that bar of perfection may still be in my life and I may still start to measure myself against it, but I’m able to step back and see it for the unrealistic, cold, unhelpful measure it is.

It doesn’t take into account how I rock my son when he is crying for the 100th time in the day, or how my days are planned around what will bring him peace, or how I cradle myself around him at night so he can sleep soundly. It doesn’t measure the depth of my love for him or the effort I put in to be the best Mum I can be. Not a perfect Mum, but as good a Mum as I can be.

So what if I can’t produce exactly the right amount of milk. I’m doing my best – my body is doing its best – and that is good enough.