Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Letter to my daughter on her first birthday

I tried to talk to you today, but you were more interested in crawling after the cats, and pulling things off shelves, in doing anything that didn't involve staying still and listening to your soppy mummy. I'm not surprised though, after all you are a baby. And an amazing one at that. Yes all babies are amazing, but you are mine and I regularly stare at you in wonder.

A year ago today I held a tiny, wrinkly baby in my arms. You made tiny cries, curled up on my chest with your eyes screwed shut. I struggled to believe that you were finally here, but I knew my life would never be the same again.

Over the past year you and I have spent most of our time together. You have made me cry, and made me angry, but I haven't once stopped loving you. Not even in my most sleep deprived moments when I have wanted to run away. I couldn't though because you and I are still one. You came from me and I continue to provide your nourishment and comfort. One day soon you will need me less, but I hope that I am always there when you want me.

We have had an amazing year full of smiles and laughter, even though you spent months unable to do either. I have watched you grow from a barely moving, quiet ball to my 
Iittle girl who is learning to stand, walk & talk. You have a strong personality with humour, love and stubbornness. I can see myself in you and it makes me proud.

Many people don't understand how I feel. They only hear my frustrations about tiredness and that my life is no longer my own. I am less quick to share the huge amount of joy and happiness you bring to everyday because it's not so easy to share. People think they understand the tiredness, but few can appreciate what the highs are like and just how much I love you. My world revolves around you and I wouldn't wish it any other way.

Today you turn one.

Tomorrow I hand over part of your care to nursery. You will spend more of your waking hours there than with me. I wish I could continue to care for you full time, but even if we could afford it I don't think I'm strong enough. You need different experiences and new opportunities and I don't have the energy to give you what you need. So I know I am doing the best for you, and the best for me, but I will continue to feel guilt and tears when I think about all the magical moments I will miss.

Thank you for the last year, it has been amazing. 

And Happy Birthday.

The beautiful faces of my daughter over the last year

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cats and babies: do they mix?

When I was pregnant I was worried about how my 2 cats would cope with having a baby around the house. After nearly a year this is a summary of how the cats coped with: less attention, a newborn, lots of crying, hair pulling and crawling and how we have coped with cat litter, cat food, stressed cats and treating fleas.

Hello to my cats

We got our cats as kittens a few years ago from Celia Hammond Animal Trust. After a few months of hiding under the sofa they have gradually become more sociable and now they will jump on most people's laps whether they want it or not. One of them has a tendency to stress and has been in hospital a few times with a blocked bladder so we were worried about how they would cope with the new addition.

Bringing home baby

Advice on the internet says to bring home a blanket smelling of your baby to get cats used to their smell.  This might work if mum and baby are in hospital for a while, but for the majority of births this isn't practical. We used Feliway for a few weeks before my due date and put a cats herbal chill out liquid in their water before we brought Baby M home.

While curious about the new arrival they never came close enough to her that we had to move them away.  When she cried they either stayed away or stood by protectively.  It was like they instinctively knew she was small and defenseless.

You can buy nets to protect cots, moses baskets etc, but we never brought any. I think they were designed by people who don't have cats because I suspect they would get shredded quickly and provide no protection to a cat that wanted to cuddle up to a baby. My cats never tried to jump in the moses basket with Baby M, when it was empty on the other hand it was hard work keeping them out.

Getting used to baby

Nothing changed for a few months. The cats stayed away from baby and she stayed away from them. My husband gave the cats more attention and I gave them far less.  They cohabited happily. Only once did one of the cats try and sit on Baby M and that was when she was on the sofa mostly covered by a blanket so they didn't realise she was there.

On the move

When Baby M started to gain control over her movements she wanted to "stroke" the cats.  This normally consisted of yanking their fur. If anyone else tried this they would have got a scratch. Occasionally one of the cats would raise their paw, but they thought better of it. This didn't change when Baby M started crawling, although the cats spent more time outside escaping.

Crawling brought new problems: trying to eat cat food, playing in the water bowl and worrying about cat litter. I quickly found the only solution to this was keeping Baby M physically away (she has never responded as desired to being told "no"). This proved hardest with the water bowl which Baby M seemed magnetically drawn to (and still does). I make sure the bowl always has clean water and encourage water play in her own water container. This hasn't stopped Baby M playing with water, but at least when she does I don't need to worry as much.

Growing Up

At a year old I have to admit my baby is pretty much a little girl now. And I think the cats know it. Now when the Baby M gets the cats in a headlock (I think she is trying to give them a hug) they are less tolerant and for the first time they have scratched her. It was only a small scratch on her hand, but I don't want to risk anything worse. The cats stupidly wont keep away from Baby M, and she loves them. I'm not entirely sure what to do about it, but for now I keep moving Baby M away and hope she gets the message.

The Downside to Cats

While generally the cats have been great it hasn't all been perfect. The cats have shown some signs of stress by occasionally going to the toilet on the sofa, Baby M's playmat or piles of clothes.  I think this is their passive aggressive way of saying they aren't happy. Fortunately everything has been washable and they haven't done it for a few months.

The harder thing to deal with has been keeping on top of fleas. I have had the occasional flea bite in the past and they are incredibly itchy. The last thing I want is Baby M to have anything that causes her discomfort. Somehow our cats keep on picking up fleas, which we keep having to treat. This is an extra expense we don't really need, but can't be avoided.

For the past few years we have been using Frontline Flea Treatment which has proven effective, but expensive. I was recently given the opportunity to try Bob Martin FleaClear which uses the same active ingredient as Frontline but is cheaper. FlearClear is a spot on treatment that is easy to apply: you just open the pipette and apply to the back of the animals neck. 4 weeks later the cats are still flea free and I'm impressed. There is not a lot more I can say about the treatment. We applied it easily after Baby M had gone to bed so it would have a chance to be absorbed by the time she tried to rugby tackle them.

The Small Print

I was sent Bob Martin FleaClear to try for free. At £10.50 rrp for a pack of 3 treatments it is an effective treatment that I will buy in the future. You can find more about it on www.bobmartin.co.uk All words and thoughts above are my own.

These are their words:

Surprising facts about FleaClear:
·         You don’t need to go to a vets or pharmacy to buy FleaClear
·         It is available at all major supermarkets and pet retailers
·         A single treatment costs as little as £4.50
·         Fleas will stay away for up to 5 weeks for cats and 8 weeks for dogs
·         If used regularly pets can remain FleaClear all year

All cats are different and this post is not recommending cats are left unaccompanied with babies, but i was surprised with how well my cats and baby got along, at least when she was newborn.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bluewater Baby and Toddler Show Ticket Giveaway

As I've said before I love to shop especially if I can get a bargain. I also love to find the latest gadgets or mummy must have. So I'm very excited that next month see's 2 baby shows for those in the London area.

The first is the Baby & Toddler show on 5th to 7th October at Glow Bluewater (in Kent). This show is new and supported by Emma's Diary. With exhibitors I know and love including John lewis, Cheeky Rascals and Cuddledry I'm looking forward to seeing what the show can deliver.

Parking is free, but you can travel by train if you prefer and once you are done with the show you can enjoy a meal with special offers in several restaurants. The show is on 10 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday, but if you fancy some late night shopping you can go on Friday when it is open 1 til 8pm.

Interested? You can get 2 tickets for £10 using the code BT35 and a free goodie bag. Buy your tickets here. Even better I have 3 pairs of tickets to giveaway, enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

Small Print
I have been given the 3 pairs of tickets for the giveaway as well as a ticket for myself. This is what Mercury Events (the organisers) have to say:

Visitors will experience all these amazing features:
• Save money with huge deals on top brands and baby essentials, plus find unique and useful products 
All the big names are there including Bugaboo, iCandy, Britax, Mamas & Papas, Maxi-Cosi, Quinny, BabyStyle, Bloom and many more…
• Guaranteed best prices on car seats, buggies and furniture 
• 200+ top brands and products to test, try, compare and buy 
Meet knowledgeable experts and have hands-on demos 
• Free expert advice on feeding, sleeping, nutrition, finance and more

You can get more information at www.babyandtoddlershow.co.uk

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Just a moment

When Baby M started crawling I knew I had to "baby proof" the house. I removed all small items from low shelves, put a baby gate on the kitchen door and at the top of the stairs (we have a door at the bottom) and put in socket protectors.

Soon after learning to crawl came "pulling up" on the furniture so I moved all small items up a few more shelves. About the same time Baby M perfected her pincer grip meaning she could pick up any tiny item on the floor. This means hoovering the lounge at least once a day or every speck off fluff, small stone or unidentifiable crumb disappears into her mouth (and once, very nearly, a ladybird).

A couple of months later we discovered Baby M is a climber. If you want the tv remote in our house you can usually find it safely hidden behind a cushion. We are watching closely to see if we need to attach furniture to the walls.

The latest challenge is Baby M's ability to reach items placed too close to the edge of the dining room table. She might not be able to see what is there, but that doesn't prevent her pulling things off. Her attempts at walking also mean I need to ensure no paper or clothing is left on our laminate flooring to prevent her slipping.
As babies get more mobile, but lack the understanding to know what is dangerous it is the responsibility of parents and carers to make sure children stay safe. Just looking away for a split second can result in a horrible accident if not careful. Recently I have been reminded to be careful about carrier bags (obvious suffocation risk), cotton bags (strangulation risk) and the cat water bowl (risk of drowning). In the kitchen I have to remember to check saucepan handles aren't reachable, I make sure knives are well back from the edge of surfaces and that the child proof latch is on the under sink cupboard (the one with all the cleaning products in).

I don't think you can watch your children constantly and I would rather teach my daughter what is and isn't safe than bubble wrap her entire world, but I've carried out a mental risk assessment on our house. She has a 'safe' cupboard she can play with while i'm cooking full of plastic, metal and wooden cooking items. I will also admit she has eaten more cat biscuits and paper than is recommended, but anything that could instantly harm her has been removed or secured.

We've had a few "near misses" and I keep thinking of what could have happened. I've been lucky and I've learnt my lesson, but not everyone has had a second chance. A huge number of accidents happen in the home and every year thousands of children are rushed to hospital. More accidents happen in the home than anywhere else (reference) so we must be able to reduce the number of children harmed or even killed.

Tomorrow (6th September) is the first national Safety Day launched by Lindam. I think it's a great reminder to us all to think again about how safe our homes really are. A little bit of time and a little bit more care and we can reduce the number of accidents that happen.

For more information visit www.lindam.com or go to Lindam UK's facebook page where they will be sharing stories and tips to help reduce childhood accidents in the home.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Missing Out

As my return to work looms ever closer I continue to have mixed feelings about it. I am glad that I wont have to think of 3 interesting and balanced meals a day for Baby M (weekdays she'll eat at Nursery), I'm also looking forward to having some time to myself. I'm not looking forward to pumping at work, never having naps and boring work politics. Above all I am worried about how much I will miss out on as my daughter grows up as well as just missing her generally. 

When I go back to work Baby M will have just turned one. Around this age babies (or I guess toddlers!) often say their first words (other than mama and dada) and start to walk unaided.

First words are complicated. It's not so much a case that the word needs to recognisably sound like the word used in the native language, but they need to use the word consistently for the same thing. Baby M has said 'mum' type noises for several months, but it's still not clear if it's just a sound she likes to make, if she is using it interchangeably for me and her Dad, or if she is using it specifically for me. Sometimes I suspect it might even be her word for milk (as if I didn't feel like a cow at times already). So when she says another word I wonder how long it will take us to realise?

Walking is easier to recognise. Again it happens in stages often starting with cruising around furniture and progressing to walking with both of their arms held, then one. They usually have the ability to walk unaided before they do: holding on for emotional support rather than physical. Of the 2 milestones I feel that the first unaided steps are more special.

Being independent and stubborn (like her mother), Baby M hasn't shown any interest in walking with my support. If I hold her hands she just buckles her knees, but using her pushchair, high chair (or any other moving object) as a walker she would happily move around.

Suddenly, in the last 2 weeks, 11 month old Baby M is showing an interest in walking. Sometimes she will hold onto both of my hands and walk around, other times she seems really steady and holds one of my hands and walks around ten steps.

On Friday I looked up and saw Baby M let go of the sofa and walk 3 or 4 steps completely unaided across the room! I was so excited. I know it is going to be a while before I can say she can walk: she still can't stand unaided for more than a few seconds and she can't get herself from sitting to standing without help.

I am so happy, even if she doesn't do it again for months, I saw my baby girl's first steps and that can never be taken away from me.
"look at me, I can stand (briefly)"