I have four children. They are without doubt, the best thing about my life. Without doubt. Would die for all of them. Any time, any day. I went to see a play last week which included the line 'Having a child is like a piece of your heart leaving your body - it's just out there - walking around.' I couldn't have put it better. I love my kids. A lot.
Just to get that out in case it appears otherwise once you start reading.
The parenting 'Guidelines' given out by the government were different with each and every child. After the second I stopped listening to official 'guidelines' and went solely on my instinct. Best thing I ever did. A few of my friends have given birth recently and listening to their stories over recent weeks has literally filled me with rage. Some people have the lovely birth, no complications and are literally the walking embodiment of 'earth mother' - whatever the hell that means. Yay for them. The rest of us may have had a slightly harder time. This is for you Ladies.
Let's have a baby!
If you want a boy: eat red meat, salt and potassium (bananas), absolutely no dairy.
If you want a girl: no red meat, no/low salt, no bananas/potassium and tons of dairy, TONS.
Boy sex: Sporadically when you are ovulating, none during the time immediately after your period.
Girl sex: Basically a lot, from the minute your period finishes. A lot. You'll find men give little resistance to this guideline.
Fair to say this is not based on scientific testing - more on old wives tales that have worked for myself and friends. I traditionally eat a very 'boy' diet. I'm a salt addict. I'm not big on dairy. 3 sons.
When I was trying to have a girl, I changed my diet completely, stayed away from salty food and basically ate my weight in yoghurt. I also had Mr Hirons on a schedule. The poor man was exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.
Lo and behold we go for the scan and: NO PENIS. Ava.
Coincidence? Maybe. I think not.
When we went for number four, I didn't change a thing about my diet. I even said to the family 'I'm going to get pregnant, have a baby boy in the Summer and his name is Max.'
To be fair, I've always taken planning to the extreme.
If you're tired, sleep. There's a special kind of tiredness that comes with pregnancy. I like to call it 'sudden coma'. Even if it means leaving visitors to go to bed. Do it. Sleep. The people that mind don’t matter and the people that matter don’t mind.
If you're hungry, eat. You're not eating for two though, you're eating for a hungry pregnant woman. There's a difference. One is sensible, one is the little enabling devil in your head that says 'eat ALL of the ice cream'.
If you are in pain, have the drugs. It's painful. There is no getting around it. A large obnoxious watermelon is literally trying to tear you in half. There is nothing to be gained from 'going through the pain'. It's a powerful experience with or without the drugs. Trust me. I've done both. Mind-blowing experience either way. I personally have no time for 'breath through it!' and people shouting 'You can do it! COME ON!'. I'm not a racehorse at the Grand National thank you very much. Stop putting unnecessary pressure on women to have no drugs. If you're in pain, unbearable 'kill me now' pain, have the drugs. My preferred drug was a mobile epidural. I had 4 extremely large babies. I felt no need to 'breath through' anything. I AM breathing. You however, won't be, if you keep yelling at me to 'BREATHE!'
I did, however, threaten to punch the midwife who told me the anaesthetist was on his break. 'He can have 'A BREAK' when I am not IN PAIN.'.
Equally, if you gave birth at home, in a birthing pool with candles and a doula, very happy for you. I really, genuinely, am.
I hate you a little bit. That's not
Breastfeeding. We all KNOW that breast is best for babies, we're not MORONS. That's what they're FOR.
Breast, however, is not always best for Mum. And I'm sorry (not sorry), Mum comes first, not the baby. Mum, not baby.
Yes, disagree all you want, but a new Mum that is in bits because she cannot feed/doesn't have enough milk/simply doesn't want to breastfeed should not have the breastfeeding mafioso giving her a hard time and trying to make her feel like a failure. We do that to ourselves constantly when we have children, we don't need your help thank you very much.
Breastfeeding, while undoubtedly being a beautiful thing, is also the most exhausting thing you can do while still 'technically' being awake. Your boobs feel like they are going to explode, your nipples look and feel as if they are going to fall off and frankly, sometimes you're in so much discomfort you wish they would. And guess what!? When you have subsequent children and breastfeed them - the uterus knows what to do as soon as that baby latches on - these are called 'after pains' - and no-one - NO-ONE tells you about them. By the time you get to child 3 and God Help Us - 4 - you are literally begging for pain relief to knock you out. And you know what's coming. You can't have any. Worse than labour. No really.
I have even more disdain for formula companies encouraging African women to buy formula instead of feeding their babies themselves. I know what Nestle are up to. This is not what I am talking about.
I'm talking specifically about the Western World and making women feel bad. It's not cool. That is all.
For the record, I breastfed all of my children, for varying degrees of time. When it was too much for me (depending on how many other children I had, let's be honest), I switched to formula. No guilt here.
I love my breasts. They did a wonderful job.
I love formula. It helped me out when I was at my wit's end.
My offspring are intelligent, strapping men and children. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, unique thing that we girls can do - but not breastfeeding is absolutely not the end of the world. Please don’t give yourself a hard time. Your baby will be fine.
Can we take a minute to talk about Health Visitors? Let me start by saying I've had 4 children and numerous health visitors. The first one was lovely, I was lucky.
The next three, I told them not to come back, I knew what I was doing and I was fine thank you.
Remember this is your house, your baby, your body, your family. If you are not happy, tell them to leave. Don't ask them, tell them.
If you are a health visitor and you know that you do a good, supportive job, we thank you, really.
I have too many friends though, that had bad experiences - mostly linked to breastfeeding if I'm honest (see previous) and the worst kind, the kind that turns up and hasn't read your file, doesn't know that you had the labour from hell and ended up in ICU (Max) and is wondering 'why Mum is in bed - she should get up and move around! *insert smiley face* Get out of my house.
Their job is to help you and offer advice, if you aren't getting that, they can leave.
In fact, anyone around you that is being anything other than supportive - can leave. Buh BYE.
The Pyjama and Shower Rule.
People are strange creatures. A pregnant woman is the centre of attention for 9 months. As soon as you birth the Baby Jesus from your loins, he/she gets ALL the attention. Rude.
To remind people that YOU went through an 'experience/ordeal' (delete where appropriate) stay in your pyjamas for about 6 weeks afterwards. Especially if you had a c-section or are breastfeeding.
I'm not advocating becoming a sloth.
Get up, shower. I cannot stress how important it is to shower every day unless you are completely bedridden. One day rolls into the other if you don't. You need that two minutes to yourself to stand in the shower and think/cry if necessary – and it is so easy to put yourself last when you should put yourself first. Trust me on this. The sooner a new mother puts herself first everything else falls into place. Why? Because she can cope.
Shower, then change into fresh pyjamas for as long as you need to until you feel 100%.
If that takes months, it takes months.
BUT: even the most ignorant visitor has to be completely insane to ask a woman holding a newborn baby wearing her pyjamas to make the tea.
If you're in jeans and a t-shirt, I promise you - you are the one in the kitchen making the tea while the Baby Jesus is passed around the family. Stay in your pyjamas.
If you have no-one to hold the baby while you shower/bath, stick them in their chair. They may fuss, it won't kill them.
If you have a fussy baby, get a dummy. Yes, I know, even more divisive than breastfeeding, the dummy.
Used appropriately, the dummy will soothe the baby for FIVEGODDAMNMINUTES while you dry off and get dressed.
The problems only happen when it is used as a crutch for you to shut the baby up every five seconds. No. That's not what I'm talking about. Five minutes while you shower, make food, take care of your other children? Yes.
When it doesn't work out the way you planned.
I have four children. I've had more than four pregnancies. If you have also suffered numerous miscarriages, please don't give up. There is hope. And help available. And I send you all my love. And virtual hugs.
You don't have to listen to me.
I've only done it four times over a 23 year period. What the hell do I know?
N.B. Gina Ford and The Supernanny - whilst undoubtedly having moments of genius between them, also have zero children between them. Zero.
Sorry, that's like taking advice for your car from a bike manufacturer. They share similar componetry but don't really understand the mechanics.