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Stolen time

January 7, 2015

I don’t know what’s happened recently, someone has stolen my time … days have vanished, literally, and not just any old days, but Christmas, New Year, small person’s birthday … sunshine, showers, fog, cold, friends, family, book, work, health, ill health, oodles of toddlers, one incredible toddler, mountains of washing, mountains of washing up … it’s all been there, only someone has stolen my time … I don’t think I’ve had the chance to sit down with my feet up, or even tucked neatly under my desk, for longer than 3 minutes since mid December… and now it’s 2015 …

Dear oh Dear.

I’m a believer in mindfulness, but of late I’ve been suffering from a severe case of mind-full-ness, make that mind-too-full-ness.

So many magical moments have been swamped … so important to sift them out before they get washed away in the tsunami of the last few weeks.

Father Christmas came to playgroup and gave her a lovely hardboard book about the nativity, and she got to sing sleeping bunnies with all her friends. She was slightly suspicious of him and made me collect her present, but only because she was one of the first called out, once a few more had been up, she was off encouraging the more cautious …

We went to the pantomime, Aladdin, her cousins were staying, all boys, all older, she’d been playing in the garden all afternoon with them, she was tired and she was overwhelmed to start with, “TAKE me home”, but we went out and had some water at the bar, she chomped crossly on an ice cube and did some twirls in the corridor, then she heard laughter, “people laughing Mummy”, then music, “go see music Mummy”, and we went in and from that moment on she sat bolt upright in my lap, she beamed, she watched, she cheered, clapped and in the end got down and danced, perfectly reflecting what was going on stage. Her youngest cousin was invited on the stage, she was put out when she wasn’t allowed to go up with him. In the end I think she enjoyed it more than her Uncle, cousins, grandmother (well maybe not her grandmother), and I did … and remembered character names, the songs and detail of specific scenes.

We went and stayed with her Auntie and her other grandmother … she fed ducks, she fed fish, she played, she watched Peppa Pig (they’re more generous in their TV watching than I am which she exploits to the full), she made cups of tea, she curled up with the dog on her grandmother’s bed and she went bowling, and scored a strike with the very first ball that she pushed down the small metal hill they provide for small people to use. From there we rushed back and she enjoyed (eventually having been woken from a deep sleep) a candle lit carol service which culminated in all the children (in their nativity costumes – her angel wings shone in the candlelight), rushing forward to be given golden heart shaped helium balloons … it was beautiful.

We went with her best friend to see Father Christmas on a miniature railway … there was a very chilly looking dancing penguin, and a wonderful reindeer, and in a clearing in the wood, there was Father Christmas … he gave her a present, a wolf, and her friend a mouse … they were thrilled .. their tired mothers smiled and enjoyed the moment of togetherness. A time to put painful situations aside and revel in the joy of simplicity, and the wonder that Christmas can bring to a child.

On Christmas Eve she developed a temperature of 100 and picked up my vile cough, the GP observed her temperature was the record for the day, and put her on antibiotics … when she was tiny she refused point blank to take medicine. Something has changed and now she reaches out, pushes the syringe herself and asks for more … even with the vile yellow antibiotic … she did well with constant medicine over the next few days, but really wasn’t herself.

She was delighted on Christmas morning to find that Father Christmas and Rudolph had eaten the carrots and her home made mince pies “they have one each”. This really was the high point of the day, and she kept going out to the hall to look at the crumbs left on the plate, and the bits of carrot Rudolph (it was he for sure) had left on the floor “naughty Rudolph”. She sang carols in church, we visited my father in his leafy graveyard and left him a wreath, we opened one or two presents, shared lunch with an elderly friend, opened a few more presents and watched Miranda “this my favourite”, and Call the Midwife … very quiet, but special … Hope and Granby so enjoy each others company … so often I’m irrelevant, and just fade into the background of their play together … I love sitting watching.

We visited a friend from overseas with a little girl, we had walks in the cold sunshine and the dank rain; she and a chum enjoyed pretending to be cows on Grantchester Meadows and walking over the cattle grids on their hands and knees or hands and feet shouting moo at passers by. We drank hot chocolate, she enjoyed the odd babyccino (her staple favourite especially with marsh mallows). We recovered from our horrible bugs, she played with her cousins, they taught her tricks with a football and new jumps on her little jumpoline, she learned their songs and their games. We looked after Granby, getting stronger but still less mobile, and we enjoyed looking at the Christmas tree and her clump of blue baubles (all in one area “mine decorations mine”). We got muddy, we sang, we played, she scooted, we had picnics by the river, we got chased by geese, and we pulled the house back together having had a new downstairs shower fitted for Granby. She seems more up for breastfeeding than ever, and we’ve had some peaceful moments together, and some rather funny ones where she’s just suddenly decided she was hungry and randomly lifted up my shirt and tucked in!

Then it was time for New Year … we had a repeat of last year, we watched Mama Mia, the fireworks and Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, only this year we were both exhausted, and having woken up at 9 following a 3 hour sleep, she had curry for supper and then fell asleep breastfeeding ontop of me about 20 minutes before midnight. We stayed like that for a while, and then I carried her up to bed. Her bed was full of her furry friends and several books, so I put her in mine, she generally ends up there anyway in search of milk. She starfished immediately and I curled up on the edge of the precipice and lay there listening to her regular peaceful breathing. She then followed me around in her sleep and we both ended up asleep sideways on at the bottom of the bed. She woke up on New Year’s Day and smiled at me and demanded “milky Mummy”, then sat back, patted my chest and told me “you have beautiful milkies Mummy” and carried on slurping.

She can recognise, recite and assign words to all the letters of the alphabet, she has an ever expanding song repertoire, and she dances now, constantly … and was absolutely delighted to have a tutu for Christmas which went to dance class and took over from the Father Christmas dress as her dance outfit of choice. She’s developed a fascination with body parts and bodily functions and regularly commentates on not just her own but everyone else’s toilet habits, “Granby doing a poo”, “lady gone in toilet to do a wee”, and notably to my brother over the kitchen table during a quiet supper one night, “you got willy?”. She is kind (generally) to her friends, she is keen to make people feel included, “you want tea? / wine / juice”, “you ok?”, and has tremendous empathy when anyone else has something wrong, “oh that’s terrible, poor you, make knee better fast … need go hospital?”

We then went to a third birthday party … which led to another and then to hers … but the parties are a post in themselves! So let’s stop at New Year’s Day …

So much else happened and I so wish the time thief would restore unto me the many magical moments that now and probably for ever more will elude me. Taking this brief time to reflect makes me realise more and more quite how much we lose, and how important it is to cherish and celebrate every magical moment.

It’s been a tough month in many ways, but the golden joyful thread of Hope that has held it all together shines just as magically and strong as ever and she has enjoyed so much.

Now then, time thief, I resolve to catch you and to stop you from doing this to me again!

oh and Happy Christmas … and Happy New Year!!

Father Christmas and Rudolph

Father Christmas and Rudolph on the railway

2014-12-28 15.38.42

scooting in style

two small cows delightedly conquering the cattle grid

two small cows delightedly conquering the cattle grid

marching through the mud

marching through the mud

 

looking ahead to the new year

looking ahead to 2015

 

 

 

Happy New Year from both of us

Happy New Year from both of us

 

 

Calling Time on Breastfeeding …

January 7, 2015

With all the uproar in the mainstream media around breastfeeding older children, I’ve been asked my opinion by several people … I gave it almost a year ago in my first piece at Huffington Post.

Here is that piece … and I haven’t changed my opinion since … if Denise Sumpter and her daughter are happy breastfeeding at 6 years of age then that’s a good thing, it’s their right and I applaud them both … breastfed children are brighter, more confident and less frequently unwell, and the longer they are breastfed the more true this is – this link has an interesting overview on all of that http://www.kathydettwyler.org/commentaries/weaning.html. Far more knowledgeable and experienced midwives, lactation consultants and paediatricians (and indeed WHO and UNICEFF) give directly the opposite advice to that given by Clare Byam-Cook (the ‘expert’ former midwife wheeled out by ITV for the interview with Denise Sumpter as to the nutritional value of breastmilk after 6 months. She may have some sensible things to say around early stage breastfeeding but as regards her opinion on breastfeeding older children there is a wealth of knowledge that says she’s wrong.

So, where was I? Ahh yes, here is my piece from Huff Post back in March 2014.

Calling Time on Breastfeeding

Other than wondering what it felt like, and why you want to have your nipples gnawed by a toothy toddler I’d never thought much about breastfeeding, let alone how long women carried on for?

Then I had a baby.

Older than most first time mothers, and with my daughter delivered prematurely by caesarean section, I found breastfeeding difficult. We couldn’t get the knack, I held her all wrong, her mouth seemed too tiny, it was so much harder than I’d expected.

I didn’t feel the sense of judgement many women seem to, but nursing was something I wanted to do if at all possible, for her health, for mine, for our bond, and because it seemed that it should be (and of course is) the most natural thing in the world. But it was hard. I shed tears of frustration as I lay there, pressing the buzzer to ask for advice on re-latching my unhappy baby.

Photo supplied by and (c) Ellie Stoneley 2015 all rights reserved
With help from one of the volunteer lactation consultants who walked unobtrusively around the maternity ward, we got through the first few days. My daughter was born a month early, with complications, and also fed via a nasal tube, I struggled to express and never got along with the peacefully sighing milking machine, we carried on with our unsatisfactory attempts at nursing topped up with little bottles of formula.

Then one of the midwives spotted a tongue tie. Our hospital didn’t offer the required division procedure, so we had to wait until we were discharged before taking our 10-day-old daughter an hour away to a consultant in Bedford. Her tongue tie was snipped, and when she came back to me everything was different, within seconds she got her mouth around my nipple and started to feed successfully. Many hospitals in the UK don’t seem to recognise the issues that tongue ties can cause, 3% of babies are born with them.

The SCBU community midwife suggested we go to a breastfeeding ‘lesson’. It was daunting, walking into a room of women nursing babies (with a few harassed looking fathers who weren’t sure where to look), but any anxiety I felt melted away as it became evident that we were all in the same situation. The techniques I was shown worked wonders, from then on my voracious little girl has sought out my breasts, “mine milky” as she now calls them.

She continued to have formula from time to time; as back up to my limited pumping skills, to allow other people to feed her and give me a break. Then at five months, she started refusing bottles and cups. Then it was down to me to sustain her, that scared me initially, but she thrived on breastmilk alone until she was 10 months old and starting solids.

I have spoken to women who wanted to nurse their babies but couldn’t, or decided enough was enough after a few weeks. Many women have perfectly healthy infants and decided right at the start that breastfeeding just wasn’t for them, and others are still feeding five-year-olds. I was lucky in that I decided to nurse and, with help, was able to. Everyone’s situation is different. Ultimately it’s important that women respect and recognise each others’ choices, there is too much polarisation in the breastfeeding debate which isn’t helpful. If you need to mix and match, like we did, to get started, then that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to breastmilk and after hearing from many women it seems that this is where the pressure comes and they give up.

I thought we’d carry on until her first tooth appeared, or she was able to ask for it. In reality I scarcely noticed the arrival of teeth. As for asking for it, that happened long before she could speak, nuzzling at my breast, then lifting up my top or prodding my chest with her finger, then one day she reached up and said, “Milky”. It was a tremendously life affirming moment, far from making me want to stop, it made me want to carry on as long as it works for us both.

2014-03-09-DSCF4943.JPG

Photo supplied by and (c) Ellie Stoneley 2015, all rights reserved.

The Time magazine cover fuelled the debate; the picture of a young mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son. He was standing on a stool beside her. “Are you Mom enough?” taunted the headline? My daughter was five months old at the time and exclusively breastfed, I didn’t think then I’d still be nursing when she was two, but I am. I’ve not been made to feel uncomfortable, and there have been no negative comments, quite the opposite, “I wish I’d been able to”, “Best thing for her”, “good on you for carrying on”, “my wife’s still nursing our four-year-old”. The response has been supportive, if there’s been a response at all. In public, we’re discreet and generally seem to go unnoticed.

As an aside, I do wonder how much more fiercely the discussion would have raged had the cover been of a 48-year-old mother nursing her toddler? An older woman breastfeeding? Surely not!

Breastfeeding is about far more than nourishment, it is about intimacy, about building the bond between mother and baby, it’s (I’ve found) much easier than the faff of bottles or getting up in the night to fetch a cup of warm milk, and offers (once you’ve got the hang of it) some of the most peaceful personal times a mother can have with her child. My favourite start to the day is when she wakes up and smiles, then rubs her eyes and shouts “Yay milky” before diving across the bed for her early morning feed. Co-dependent? Hell yeah.

A friend asked how long we were going to carry on. I joked, “oh until she’s 18”. He looked horrified! Of course I was kidding, but for now, we have no plans to stop. Why would we when we’re so fortunate that it works well for us. The decision as to when to call time on breastfeeding is hers … next week, next month, next year? We’ll just wait and see.


Having trouble breastfeeding? Get your midwife or health care professional to check for a tongue tie, and check out local nursing support groups. The La Leche League weren’t the breastapo they’re made out to be, and they offer a wealth of calm and non judgemental experience in supporting new mothers. http://www.laleche.org.uk/content/tongue-tie-and-breastfeeding-la-leche-league-gb-19-february-2014

The piece was originally published at Huffington Post in March 2014

Mary’s boy child …

December 17, 2014

They were born a few months apart … they’ve grown up together, it was his mum that introduced us to the wonderful playgroup we go to, the one that organised the Nativity play … he’s long since been the person H refers to as “my boyfriend”, and it was he who was Joseph to her Mary.

Proud mothers arrived early for once, and small folk were encouraged into costumes … excitement and tantrums, swaggers and refusals… thankfully Hope and her Joseph were happy to get dressed and stand holding hands, and then sit, very upright, watching the beginning of the service.

Brass band music, jolly carols, and then, Marilyn got up … “Welcome to our Mums and Tots group”, we all beamed and blushed, then she went on to explain that it was very much a toddler interpretation of the nativity story, even down to the fact that Mary had decided her baby Jesus was to be a rabbit, her own slightly bedraggled toy rabbit.

Then she started, “Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem”, and that was our cue to nudge the small folk forwards … holding hands, that didn’t last long and they jumped up the stairs and headed for the manger. She got there first and nabbed the chair, Joseph stood solemnly by, wearing his sister’s furry gilet and holding his hobby horse like a weapon, he looked like a warrior king.

We had to sing, Away in A Manger … Hope has been practising for weeks, over and over again, in her sleep the other night, she’s word perfect, she even planned to bow at the end, but faced with a hall full of people, she froze, she managed the first bit and the last bit but otherwise stood and stared, and also looked after Rabbit, or should I say, Baby Jesus. She lifted him at the right time, cuddled him all wrapped in his blanket (with his ears tucked neatly in to keep them warm), and then plonked him gently(ish) into the manager when we sang, “Asleep on the hay”.

It was lovely.

Then the angels came, a ramshackle crew, and the shepherds and kings led by a 4 month old star who was a little bemused by his costume.

We all rang bells, banged drums, sang loud and then shouted Happy Christmas, and before we knew it, it was over.

Mary stood and looked at the crowd, then jumped down the stairs and scampered back to Granby who was watching, and to two dear friends who had come to watch her big moment.

She was very pleased with herself, until she bumped her head on the back of the chair infront, but a large cake with green icing cheered her up afterwards.

Funny, I guess it’s one of those ‘milestones’, I was thrilled to bits she was an angel the first year, then last year, her and her friend were taller angels but had a bit of a squabble and the angel wars erupted over a pack of raisins … and when I was asked if she’d like to be Mary I was very emotional, even more so when Alfie go the part of Joseph.

She had put stickers all over the front of her costume, stickers of snowmen, “make it look pretty”, and her headdress kept sliding down. The blue robe was far too big for her and her shoulder poked out at one point, but she stood tall and was the prefect Mummy, protecting and soothing her small charge as she jiggled from foot to foot.

We had a minor moment in the car on the way home, “Jesus, I’ve lost Jesus … “. I stopped the car. “Where’s my rabbit mummy????”, luckily he was on the floor and soon restored to her loving arms. “Rabbit want some milky Mummy, baby Jesus love milky, come on Jesus”, she lifted up her top and pretended to breastfeed him as we drove home.

An all too fleeting, but incredibly special morning, and Mary’s boy child spent the afternoon flopped on the sofa recovering! Mary herself went to her dance class Christmas party, but that’s a whole other story.

Mary and Joseph warming up

Mary and Joseph practising holding hands and walking in character

 

 

 

the night before the Nativty

December 13, 2014

T’was the night before the Nativity

and Mary had a cough.

Let’s hope a dollop of medicine and a good night’s sleep do the trick … she’s SO excited, and so pleased to be able to have the opportunity to present her rabbit to the world as Baby Jesus.

I know I’m over sentimental at the best of times, but I really DON’T get why some people are so cynical about children’s nativity plays … the love, the fun and the glorious cliche of small folk in ill fitting outfits singing Away in A Manger and acting out the most important story of all time is something that has always made me either beam or wipe the odd tear away …

and

tomorrow, she’s Mary … and even more perfect, her long term boyfriend is Joseph.

Right, angel wings to find for another of her friends who has taken her ranks in the heavenly chorus, small shoes to polish and a camera to charge.

T’was the night before the Nativity

And all through the house

Every creature was stirring

… because we’re all so excited.

Poor little soul, I so so hope her cough has eased by the morning, she’s been snoring like a fly half after a night on the tiles for the last few days … it seems to be on its way out, lets hope so … am sure she wouldn’t be the first Mary to wipe her nose on her sleeve, but it’s not the look we’re going for!

the tale of a tail

December 5, 2014

Recently she’s become very attached to one cuddly toy, not even one she was given, but one her Granby bought for Easter last year and never gave her because she was lucky enough to receive so many toys … it was under Granby’s bed, in a box … she went under the bed to hunt for a lost jigsaw piece and emerged triumphant with a small fluffy stuffed bunny, with a blue bow … and ever since, they’re rarely parted.

She took bunny (known as baby bunny or baby rabbit) in the car the other day, we got out and she was cuddling it and jiggling, “shhhh Mummy, my baby sleeping”, and then a few minutes later she stuffed her ‘baby’ up the front of her her top and walked along cuddling her tummy, “like Melly Mel” (a dear friend of ours is pregnant). We went to the chemist, and the butcher and walked along getting some very odd looks while she held my hand and clutched her tummy protectively. Anybody that stopped and looked was treated to the announcement, “my baby in my tummy”, and then a lengthy explanation as to how her friend Melly Mel has got a baby in her tummy too.

We had a bit of an issue back in the car seat as the straps wouldn’t do up around her furry baby. Eventually she took it out, cuddled it and said, “shhh Mummy, baby rabbit having milky” and nursed it all the way home.

She’s not been a one toy kind of girl really, there’s Eric who goes to music class with us (and who also appears on every page of my book) but that’s been more my doing than hers, and has become a bit of a tradition and recently even he’s been usurped by the lop eared interloper.

Baby rabbit went to the childminder with her the other day, I did suggest leaving it in the car to have a snooze while she played with her chums, but she wasn’t having any of it and off they both went. I picked her up later and was told that hop a long had gone everywhere they’d gone all day, and all the way to pick some other children up from school.

The next week, off they went again … only when I went to pick her up there was a problem, she was tear stained, and baby bunny was without a tail.

Lost.

“Don’t worry, she can look for it and if it’s not found after tomorrow, we’ll go to the new tail shop and buy some material and make a new one” … placated her for the journey home. She then ran in and up the all and in to see Granby. “Rabbit’s got no tail” … Granby responded, kindly, “oh dear, did he lose it?” which was enough to push her over the edge.

She lay in the middle of the floor and screamed, “I want my bunny tail”, and then wept in a heartbroken manner for the lost tail. Nothing would calm her.

Eventually having carried her and bunny no tail upstairs I managed to calm her. She had a bath, laced with lavender oil to soothe her, and then about 3 gallons of milky all cuddled up on my bed. Then the tears fell, just sad, quiet sorrowful tears, worried that baby rabbit would be in pain with no tail.

She slept fitfully and cried several times in the night for the demise of cotton tail … the next morning we packed up baby rabbit and Hope’s lunch box and headed round to her childminder. The first thing that happened is that I was handed the lost tail … found under the sofa.

I pocketed it and left, overhearing her explaining to her small friend that “my bunny tail back, we take baby rabbit to doctor, he have medicine and tail all better and stay on”.

I put the small round fluffy tail in a cup in the middle of the kitchen table. When I went to pick her up she talked about nothing other than bunny’s tail. I said we’d sew it on together … we went into the house .. she refused to say good evening to her grandmother, she ran straight into “the room” (Hope-ish for sitting room) and pointed at my sewing box (only used once in the last year). “Mend it Mummy”, and plonked baby rabbit onto the sofa.

We sat together, she chose the cotton, she helped pull then needle through, and together we mended baby bunny’s tail. Stitched it back on. She was ecstatic, thrilled and utterly over the moon.

She gulped down her breastmilk with a great intensity, and then looked up and beamed, and I swear I’ll never be looked at with such love ever again. “Mummy I love you, you mended baby rabbit tail. He’s happy now, I give him milky too”, and there we were, me feeding her, she feeding baby bunny, and his tail being stroked and held by a very small hand. That truly was a milky moment, and a moment of unadulterated joy.

… and all down to the tail of the rabbit, and the importance of mending things together.

A book … my book

November 21, 2014

I’ve not mentioned it here before, I didn’t want to jinx anything … I didn’t want to give the game away …

but

I’ve written a book.

Well, what I mean is, I have imagined, slaved over, researched, written, designed a book … I’ve created it.

That’s why I’ve been quieter than usual here … my late nights haven’t been mine any more, they’ve belonged to a book named after some of my favourite times with my girl, our ‘milky moments’.

When she was born it drove me potty that almost every children’s book that featured a mealtime, a snack, or children eating, showed a bottle, a jar of mush or a cup. I had to hunt high and low for one that actually depicted a woman breastfeeding her child … a enjoying their mother’s milk. Even then, the only one I found in a shop locally was called  Tucking In and showed lots of different animals eating, and when you lift the flap it shows a baby eating the same thing … there is a lamb nursing… flap lifted and there is a lovely fat chubby baby nursing. Hope loved that book, it was her first choice from very early on, and when we were later given the very lovely Mama’s Milk with all its images of animals, and babies nursing, there was nothing else asked for at bed time (aside from Jack and the Flumflum tree).

I did a little research, and I decided that it was all very well being grumpy about not finding a book full of breastfeeding imagery, but what I really needed to do was write one.

I had the book in my mind; strong images, beautiful colours and day to day settings. Women who look like normal women, happy children and different times of the day. Several people told me it couldn’t be done and if it was then nobody would buy it, but something drove me on, it became quite an obsession. I visualised scenes, imagined families and wove words, rhyming words around the images in my mind.

Of course I couldn’t find an artist, my book was never going to happen. I had no, absolutely no money to pay anyone, so it had to be someone who would believe in the project, and someone who, like me, was willing to invest time and effort for the potential of no reward. The few artists I knew were out of my price league or were unsure as to the subject matter. I asked around, I teetered on giving up, or using photography instead … and then,

then I found her, Jess, she was selling cards with paintings of chickens on them in the local farm shop. There was something very elemental about her, and we just got on … I’m almost exactly twice her age … she’s quite amazing … and she was willing to take a chance on me (ha, that’ll have you humming the song for the next hour). She and her partner turned up on a motorbike on a wet December evening, he played with Hope, she sat with me and chatted. Hope wanted feeding, Jess sketched. A few days later she popped round with some paintings… they were lovely but left me cold somehow, I worried about how to back out of what we’d discussed. We spoke again, she sat and sketched, she went to life drawing classes and then, just after Christmas she bought round another couple of pictures. They were beautiful.

We discussed stories, scenes and colours … she painted what I described. I tweaked, she repainted. The characters started to take on a life of their own and the book started to come to life.

I realised that we’d need support to make our book special, it needed to be perfect, and importantly the breastfeeding scenes (particularly with newborns) needed to ensure correct feeding positioning and holding. I was so inspired by the guiding principles of the La Leche League, that I chatted to a local advisor and she said I could pop round … I did and she from then on vetted each one, along with one of her colleagues, who coincidentally was the wonderful lady who first showed me where we were going wrong with breastfeeding just after Hope was born, and spotted her tongue tie. They made suggestions, I filtered them, Jess bought then into focus on paper. I also spoke to an incredible woman, someone I met last year when I did a TV programme on a Sunday morning,  someone who just happened to be high up at the Royal College of Midwives … she also kindly looked at the pictures and very generously wrote an endorsement and has been so encouraging. I spoke via my LLL friends, to head office at LLL GB, and a few days later received a beautifully worded note celebrating the normalizing of breastfeeding, particularly throughout childhood, and ‘welcoming’ my book. I worked, late at night, for hours. Hours every night; researching, joining groups online, looking at images of breastfeeding women, pondering scenarios and how to visualise them in a way children would enjoy, I looked at breastfeeding books, at children’s books, read articles on breastfeeding and spoke to children about how they perceive nursing, what they love (the toddlers that could speak about it), how it makes them feel. I spoke to many many breastfeeding mothers in the UK, in the US, in Africa, in France, all over the place, about how it makes them feel, high points, low points, favourite ‘milky moments’. I also recited every rhyme and showed every picture to my ultimate critics, my mother and my daughter. Hope adores the book, and I love that.

I wrote a business case, a marketing plan, a background document, I did everything I could think of to ensure that the book is valid, is relevant and is accurate in a way that it isn’t just a beautiful book which lots of lovely entertaining elements for children, but also something that women can learn from, or can use to refer to for positioning holds, or to reflect on the joy and the intimacy of breastfeeding, and maybe encourage women struggling with it to continue.

I made a page on Facebook for the book, I didn’t announce it loudly, just told friends, it grew quietly and I was able to test ideas there and look for inspiration. It now has some 350 or so ‘fans’ …

I then approached a publisher, and miracle of miracles, the first and only publisher I had chosen, said yes. People said I should look elsewhere but I didn’t want to, Pinter and Martin publish The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League, and some other very influential books on motherhood and nursing, and several rather lovely children’s books … they were the right publisher for Milky Moments. Contracts were exchanged (thanks to so many people for help and advice on that, and I can’t recommend the Society of Authors highly enough, their contract reading service was worth more than the membership fee alone)

I came home, we worked and worked, getting every picture right … Jess’s patience was stretched to previously unknown levels and my obsession about detail grew and grew … the women featured in the book became real, we added in new pictures to make the book flow better, and I have been writing and rewriting the rhyming words that sit alongside every glorious illustration.

Working on a book for nothing for so long has been a challenge, alongside looking after a feisty remarkable toddler and a feisty but increasingly frail mother as well as working, looking for work, cooking, cleaning (sometimes), doing laundry, sorting out paperwork (rarely), maintaining my other writing and everything else that life throws at us on a daily basis. Times have been trying, but the strong women around me kept me going, and their strength has crept into the book and is reflected in the love that is so clearly present between every mother and child and amongst all the different friendships. I have been very blessed indeed.

I’m sure I’ve driven my publisher crazy with my constant questions, I’m not good at protocol at the best of times, and with this, I have, I’m sure, broken every rule in the Writers and Artists Year Book … but their patience and support has been marvellous, and further reinforced that I made the utterly right decision, and how very lucky I was that they wanted my book. Now they even have a page about me on their website, and one about Jess! All so hard to comprehend!!

I have so much to learn about the process, the journey and the detail of what is happening, the publishing date is currently 6 months away which feels so far but will I’m sure pass in a relative flash … it really is all a big adventure.

My book, Our book, This book … Milky Moments

Yesterday they announced it on their website, ‘Coming in 2015’ says the sticker icon on the side of the cover, on social media they describe the book as “simply gorgeous”, look at this Facebook Post by Pinter & Martin Publishers … and it is, it really truly is gorgeous, thanks of course to my wonderful friend and illustrator Jessica who has been so marvellous in responding to my every request and every critique … together we really have built something to be proud of and that will, I hope really help in some small way to start to change perspectives of breastfeeding (from something that ‘should’ be covered up or hidden in a restaurant or work toilet, to something totally normal), from childhood onwards.

Now I need to finalise every last detail and ensure that everything is ready for delivery to the publisher at the end of the month ready to be sent off to be printed!!

You can, please do, register your interest in pre-ordering a copy, when the book is available for pre-order, just click the link on the page (or go directly to this registration page) and give your email address and name, that’s all … in due course they’ll email you to say it’s ready for ordering … you get a discount for registering … and I guess, the more people who do, the more of our lovely book they will order from the printers and the more I will help them to sell . The book is due to be published on the cinco de mayo (5th May 2015), which is apt as I’m partial to margaritas, although I’m not sure tequila is quite what should be served at the launch of a breastfeeding book for children!

Right, words to write, plans to make, and the biggest pile of laundry in the universe to tame, oh and a very smelly nappy bucket to empty … the glamorous life of an author!!

 

Front cover of Milky Moments

 

Do follow the book developments on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and if you’re really feeling supportive or just pleased for us, then consider registering your interest in a pre-order! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Say a little prayer

November 19, 2014

Night time prayers …

Me: “what shall we say thankyou for tonight?”

Her: “thankyou for my Granby, thankyou for my trousers, thankyou for my duck and thankyou for that I can put my finger in my nose, thankyou God”

Me: “ahhhhh ok … Amen … sweet dreams”

Pin ups and calendar girls

November 14, 2014

They transformed not just our early days, but her following weeks and months … and now because of them, we’re still going strong, Hope still loves her milky and her ‘feeding times’ relax and calm both of us, quite aside from all the other positive health giving reasons to nurse beyond babyhood.

When I was tiny my mother was a member of the local La Leche League where she lived at the time in California … so it’s been an organisation I’ve been aware of for years. When I got pregnant and finally delivered a healthy little girl after the longest pregnancy ever, I knew that I’d be able to find support from LLL … I don’t think however that I ever imagined I’d need it.

We did.

She had a tongue tie, spotted by a LLL volunteer at the hospital, it was snipped, we went to a local breastfeeding group and were given the confidence to continue … over the following months I went to a couple of drop in sessions, each time given more kindly advice and each time leaving more confident.

When we flew to stay with friends in the States the first thing I did was to look up the local La Leche League groups … the women I met there or as a result of going became friends

I still pop into the monthly meetings when I get the chance, there is something inspiring in sitting in a room of other breastfeeding women, listening to problems, solutions, stories and laughter … tiny babies and toddlers, older children too, feasting, playing, watching what is going on … and all with the sage and wise LLL advisors, supporters, consultants – whatever they are called; wonderful women, calmly, amusingly, solemnly helping or listening … or just joining in the chatter. What’s not to enjoy, appreciate and admire?

For this reason, I’ve given a picture of small person and I to LLL, a lovely picture by Paul Clarke, of us nursing when she was two and a quarter. They’ve used it for their 2015 fundraising calendar and I’m humbled to profess that we’re now Miss May (and side kick) … I’m also working on a project called Milky Moments (alot more about that soon), and my illustrator Jessica D’Alton Goode and I have been working on images of breastfeeding since January. We submitted one, an early draft, and it was also selected (from the Mindful Mothering website) … our peacefully nursing lady is Miss June.Milky Moments draft

So … rush at once and buy the calendar … the LLL need support and funding and you don’t know if it will be you, your friend, your daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, auntie or colleague that might need help from them … so buy a calendar £9 (and you MUST order by 30th November 2014), or buy several and give them to friends … your support will help make a huge difference to so many people’s lives … and you’ll have us as your May pin up!!

http://www.lllgbbooks.co.uk/product/569/LLLGB-Calendar-2015/default.aspx

Just only one

October 30, 2014

well, one or two …

there is so much she says and does that makes me brim over with happiness … of course there is the odd, very odd, time that a stroppy paddy or extreme dawdling has caused me to sigh but, 99.99999% of the time she makes me content, happy, joyful and overwhelmed with love … yup, I know I’ve become a sentimental fool, but I make no bones about it; I am and I constantly feel so very blessed.

Where was I? Ahh yes, things she says and does … generally reflective of her increased self awareness and exuberant confidence, and now, so so often I hear thing she says and flinch or smile thinking, “whoops she sounds like me” or just hearing myself or my words coming back from her.

Sometimes funny, other times very assertive and frequently reflective and showing great empathy here are a few of the Hopeisms that have touched me over recent weeks;

“wait, Mummy, wait second, don’t move there, back in some second”

“still Mummy, don’t move a croissant” when she wanted me to stand still so she could sneak up and hug me and meant “don’t move a muscle”

When I offer her a raspberry / prawn / piece of cheese / slice of ham / yoghurt, carrot etc “Just only one Mummy, just only one”

When I asked her who she played with that afternoon, “Just only me and Bella, Mummy just only us three, Hope and Bella”

When I tell her we have to go out or it’s time for lunch, “no, you stay there, I’m busy”, “Wait a second dhaaling” (I blame her Godmother for the latter)

She calls my iPad her “HaPaaah” and knows how to do things on it that baffle me (and she only plays with it once every few weeks)

She calls her elbow her “hobo”

When we had some Indian food the other night she announced she wanted more “crocadile” and pointed at the tarka dal

On the climbing frame in the park after she climbed the wobbily ladder she went to walk across the steel and wood bridge structure, she jumped up and down, there was no ‘bounce’, she looked perplexed and explained to her Daddy that the bridge was “Not wobbily, batteries ran out”

She goes to little dance classes and loves them. She practises little routines to “Wind the Bobbin Up” infront of her music DVD, and rehearses her dance class skip with her head up and her hands on her hips just like her teacher.

She is determined to hop on one foot and holds onto legs, tables, chairs and tries and tries … just yesterday she managed 4 hops unaided and you should have seen the glee.

She has superb hand eye co-ordination, and can aim and throw a ball well, from time to time catches if a ball is bounced or thrown to her and loves acting like a small Harlem Globetrotter and dribbling her Micky Mouse ball up and down the corridor.

We’re not really potty training, just seeing how we go:

Me: “have you done a poo?”,
Her: “yes Mummy”
Me: “ok shall we go and change your nappy?”
Her: “no Mummy, don’t worry Mummy, it’s just only a poo, only just one small poo”

and in early September we had the first poo in a potty which had to be examined minutely and proudly shown to Granby … there have been a few since but as I say, having seen children on timers being swept away from playgroup to rush and poo or wee every 15 minutes and seen the upset and consternation they felt, I don’t want that for Hope … maybe in time if our more toddler-led approach fails but for now some days it works and other days she just isn’t in the mood and happily insists on wearing a nappy.

She’s shown tremendous empathy of late, taking care of her Granby when she’s been under the weather and since she saw me having an injection in hospital the other week she’s been using the syringe the Consultant gave to her (minus needle clearly) on me if I ever say my knee hurts or I am tired, “to make it all better Mummy”

We’re still breastfeeding, lots in the morning and lots at bed time and on and off at night and from time to time during the day, especially if she hurts herself or is upset, she finds such comfort and delight in her “milky moments”.

We saw a dead pigeon the other day, under the hedge on a walk, she looked at it and wondered what was wrong:

Her: “Pigeon sick Mummy?”
Me: “no bunny, it’s very sad, the pigeon is dead”
Her: “oh”
Her: “poor pigeon. Give it milky Mummy, milky make it all better”, lifting my top, “Mummy quick give it milky”
Me: “Oh dear Bunny …” followed by explanation about nature of death and the general inability of a pigeon to breastfeed …

I love how highly she holds the healing powers of breast milk!

and finally … on the subject of breast milk, we were having a lazy loll the other week and she was playing with her favourite toys and blowing raspberries on my tummy and then pretending they were blowing raspberries on my tummy too, then she dived on me and had a huge great slurp of milky, she gave her toys a turn at having some milky and then looked at me, “have some milky Mummy? You want some?”, before I could answer she said, “open wide”, took another great slurp and before I knew what was happening I had a whole mouth full of my finest breast milk and a fair old bit of drool, “there you go Mummy, milky for you, yummy, and she carried on her game.

So … there you have it, no just one, not even, as she would say, “only just one” story but lots … things have been busy of late and I haven’t had time to write much, but I’ve been storing them all up, and the joy it gives me just looking back at some of this now when it’s still fresh in my mind is great, so many things I’d already forgotten, it’ll be wonderful to share it all with her when she’s older, and for me to look back on.

 

… and the .000001% of the time when she didn’t make me smile, she reminds me of the little girl, with the little curl, right in the middle of her forehead … apparently I was like that too … when I was bad I was horrid … not that I really think a child of 2 3/4 really can be bad, but she’s had a few episodes of pushing friends or hitting me … which she always reflects on, tells somebody about, and then comes to discuss with me. So even then, she still makes my heart sing, and the urge to calm her and ease her angst is all the greater.

Right then, a mountain of washing to be done, a dishwasher to load and unload, a burnt pan to scrub and a paperwork mountain to get through before I can creep in to bed.

The most precious moments

October 23, 2014

I was invited to be involved in a fundraising project for La Leche League GB, organised by a lovely photographer (herself a busy mother) from the south coast who started thinking about making a calendar as a fundraiser … this has now evolved into a website with the most wonderful and diverse images all celebrating the theme of ‘Mindful Mothering’. I’m very proud to be a part of the project and look forward to the calendar coming out in due course … all in a great cause.

La Leche League volunteers supported me at the start of our nursing journey and without them the last two and three quarter years would have been very different, I seriously can’t imagine how it would have been without the absolute joy of breastfeeding and all the associated stories and incidents … I think now she loves it even more than me … this morning wanting me to breastfeed a dead pigeon to bring it back to life because “milky makes it better” … she leaps upon me every time we’ve been apart, and after the happy shout of “Yay Mummy” always comes the inevitable, “milky Mummy”.

E&H 43 editedBack to the Mindful Mothering Project, I submitted some words about my experience of being a mother and breastfeeding, alongside a picture taken by our friend the very insightful photographer Paul Clarke. He came to visit back in the Spring and took some wonderful photos of Hope and I breastfeeding.

http://mindfulmotheringproject.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/these-milky-moments-have-proved-the-most-precious-of-her-mothering-journey-so-far/ is our ‘entry’.

I’m also working with another friend, the incredible artist and illustrator Jessica D’Alton Goode on a very exciting project, and together we submitted one of the images that she created very early on our journey. http://mindfulmotheringproject.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/the-piece-was-created-around-the-belief-that-mindful-mothering-has-its-foundations-in-the-intimate-connection-between-mother-and-child/