Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Opportunity of Necessity - The Benefits of Raising Nine Children

'For every profession in life there are procedures to follow.'

So begins mother of nine Jocelyn Owens' advice to young mothers today. When I contacted her asking for her to share a few thoughts regarding rasing such a big family, I expected a tale of woe but with a happy ending. I wanted a story about the immense struggles she overcame and how gratifying it has all been. Instead I am faced with something completely different. Jocelyn is clearly an immensely practical woman - she mostly shares useful procedures, hoping they will help new mothers learning the job of parenting: how to be calm, how to communicate effectively, with step-by-step instructions rather than vague undefined notions. Having nine children clearly limits the time you have for wishy-washy parenting advice.

But what really comes across, beyond Jocelyn's pragmatic manner, is her selflessness. She doesn't spend a second talking about the hardships she's undergone raising her family. I figure perhaps it was always her dream to have a big family, maybe it was such a joy for her ambition to be realised that she didn't mind the difficult parts. But when I ask her, she says 'I didn't ever desire a big family as I was growing up but I had always thought that if I had one I may as well have many.' As simple as that, 'I thought I may as well.'

She talks about the 'opportunity of necessity,' saying her children have all been able to develop selfless personalities in one way or another, because they had to. At breakfast, she explains, dad puts out all the cereals, and mum's job is to clear them away - while  'each person is responsible for placing their own dishes in the dishwasher.' I think of her daughter, the eldest of nine, who volunteers regularly and is always the first, not just to offer help but to see what task need doing, quietly getting on with it without being asked. Then I think of myself, wanting a round of applause if I go a whole week without falling behind on laundry.

These days many of us think of having a family of nine as an impossible feat. The few times I've encountered mothers expecting a fourth child, people's reaction tends to be 'you're brave!' and I've yet to meet someone expecting a fifth. But talking to Jocelyn got me thinking - do we have a skewed vision of what parenting ought to entail? How many families with two children can say their children are always responsible for putting their dishes away? How often do they help mum and dad or brother or sister out with day-to-day tasks? And how much more difficult is it to cultivate these healthy habits, these 'selfless personalities' without the opportunity of necessity? Does it become harder to answer the question 'why should I' when there's no real urgency to help one another, when there's no great shortage of time or resources in our home?

When I ask Jocelyn what eventually brought her to raise such a numerous family, she tells me, 'I thought that I would like to be someone who accepted life in a more radical way, in contrast to the world around me, that prized self-comfort rather than self-giving.' Her words stay with me for days and weeks.

Friday, 5 May 2017

The First Six Weeks Of Being A Mum Are Absolute Hell

One of my favourite things to do in life is offer unsolicited advice. I have a few friends expecting their first baby this spring/summer, and I am forever sharing my pearls of wisdom with them, so I thought I'd summarise it all in one place for easy access. That way, I will be able to simply link them to an article I've written outlining precisely how to do things my way and why any deviation from that would be most misguided.

I will caveat this by saying that obviously I am completely unqualified in any shape or form to tell anyone how to raise their children and all I am doing is sharing my own thoughts and feelings regarding my own specific experiences in the hope that they might help someone else in their hour of need.That being said, here goes the Holy Grail to all parenting needs:

1. Be Fearless
This one is mainly for mothers. Mostly because I don't personally think it's possible for fathers to be fearless without bordering on wreckless. Whereas I do think mothers have a strong, reliable instinct regarding what's right is for their child, and that any self-doubt they feel is best not given too much attention.

The vast majority of mothers I've spoken to ignored guidelines regarding parenting in some shape or form. I know mums who co-slept from the beginning, mums who bottle fed when told to persevere with breatsfeeding, mums who didn't bottle feed when told they had to or their baby would lose weight, mums who didn't weigh their kids every month, mums who didn't start weaning with home-made vegetables, the list goes on.

Soon enough, you realise that for every guideline there's someone else contesting the validity of it. I had different NHS workers telling me to give my baby Vitamin D or not to give him Vitamin D. You will, for the most part, have to independently research and make up your own mind on stuff, because with something as delicate as children you just can't have a one-size-fits-all approach.

It is really hard to be fearless when you are responsible for your baby's wellbeing, and it is not something that you can just achieve once and for all. It's a constant challenge to recognise your anxiety and not let it diminish your trust in your maternal voice. Especially if you're struggling to find someone who supports your decision, or if it's a spur of the moment decision you haven't got time to research and meditate. 

Sometimes even the dad will question you, and that can be really tough, but just remember he hasn't grown the baby and gone through labour - in the early days, he really doesn't have any idea (sorry, dads). And you don't either, but you have an advantage over absolutely everyone else by being that baby's mother.

The more fearless I became, the more everything fell 'magically' into place. The more content my son was, the more we rested, the less we struggled. Perhaps I was lucky, and it was all a big coincidence - but that's not how I experienced it. So when you feel a panic, remember, be fearless.

2. The First Six Weeks Are Absolute Hell And Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Is Lying
This is controversial. Most people don't like to say this to expectant parents. But, unlike labour horror stories which, I agree, are an irresponsible thing to share with pregnant women, I actually wished I had been told the facts regarding the First Six Weeks.

This is what I imagined having a new born would be like:

Sleeping maybe four hours at night, waking up with a crying baby that needs feeding, feeding them for about ten minutes, cuddling them, changing their nappy, and then just resting with the baby until the next feed in maybe another four hours, watching tv and cooing at the baby and napping with him.

This is what having a new born was like:

Fucking mental. Basically they have no idea what to do, they can barely breathe - I mean they are breathing and it's all fine, but the first few days of Francis being born I kept asking midwives why his breathing was so muffled and loud and they always looked at me like I was an idiot, before patiently explaining that a baby needs time to get used to life outside the womb.

This 'getting used to' takes, I would say, about six weeks, minimum. For the first six weeks the baby is like a thing that accidentally fell out of the womb when it really wasn't meant to, so you just have to deal with this organism that is fundamentally in an incorrect habitat and won't shut up about it.

To be concrete, this is why the six weeks are hell: they feed every two to three hours. And they can take up to one hour to feed.

Let me do the maths for your: if your baby feeds every two hours and takes an hour to feed, you have to feed for one hour, then burp him (this can take twenty to thirty minutes), then change him (they wee or poo at every feed) and then you put them to sleep. By this point maybe 90 minutes have passed since the beginning of the feed. That means that in 30 to 60 minutes' time you have to start feeding them again, just when you're entering the sweet deep sleep of exhaustion.

It isn't every two-three hours during the day and then every four-to-five hours during the night.- that's a rhythm you have to train your baby to learn. In the beginning, they feed every two-three hours during the entire 24 hour period, and at the end of that 24 hour period you don't get a break - another cycle of 24 hours has already begun. The word relentless has never felt more appropriate than in those first days of motherhood.

This means that for six weeks you are sleeping in 20-40 minute chunks every 1-2 hours, and waking up to do the most horrendously stressful and tedious thing you can imagine, on loop. What's more, you don't really know how to feed your baby, nor whether your baby is feeding even if it kind of looks like they might be but you're not sure what it looks like or how it would feel. So you're not really sure whether you're giving your baby the one thing it needs, and you have to deal with this while being completely sleep deprived. So it is hell.

I think the reason nobody talks about this is because six weeks, in the grand scheme of things, is really not long, so why focus on the difficult few first weeks where you're trying to establish milk supply/demand and regularity/keeping your baby alive, when it does all eventually work itself out?

But six weeks is a long time not to get any sleep in and it will drive you crazy, especially since you are recovering from pushing a human out of your body and your hormones are rebalancing etc. So we should talk about it, because while six weeks is a short time in a person's life, it's a long time when you're living it, and no one should feel abandoned for six weeks just because 'it will all sort itself out'.

3. Dad won't be enough
You will rely a lot on your partner. But in my experience even though men are primarily not feeding the baby (even if you're bottle feeding chances are you'll be wanting to take the majority of feeds yourself/the baby will settle quicker around your smell/temperature etc than with the dad), the guys are exhausted too. Not just physically, because they're still not sleeping properly etc even if maybe they are getting 3/4 hours stretches whereas you simply are not. Mentally, it can be ovewhelming too.

My advice is get your mum/aunt/dad/sisters/brothers whoever to come. Ask them to stay the night if necessary. Hire someone if you have the money and can't get help from family. Do whatever it takes to relieve the pressure from both yourself and your partner. And ask for help early and assertively if you feel yourself losing your sanity. I asked for help way later than I should have and suffered the consequences - don't be afraid to be demanding, and don't pay attention to anyone who doesn't make you feel entitled to more support.

4. Some practical stuff that they should summarise quickly instead of expecting people to read entire books (wtf)
  • Burping is a learned skill which is quite hard. You have to be quite firm with a newborn baby which is hard because they're all soft and fragile and their neck needs supporting so you will (probably) feel quite scared to be firm and the midwives and nurses will look like they're being too rough. Make sure someone teaches you how to burp your baby before you're left to go home alone with them. 
  • Burping/gas is often what's making them cry. If they haven't burped enough they may cry for hours. And often it will take thirty minutes for the burp to come and you are exhausted so you may well give up after ten minutes and then go to sleep only to wake up seven minutes later by a crying baby who isn't hungry but sounds very cross. 
  • Sometimes they don't burp and they are fine. Enjoy that lottery! Mostly, they do need to burp though.
  • If your baby is crying your baby is either hungry or needs to burp. In the first six weeks THEY DO NOT GET OVERTIRED BECAUSE THEY FALL ASLEEP INSTANTLY and in the first six weeks THEY DO NOT GET BORED BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT SOCIALLY DEVELOPED BEINGS. If they're crying 99% of the time they are either hungry, or need to burp. They also 'comfort suck', which means they want to be at the breast but not necessarily feeding - but either way you should just try putting them at the breast or burping them - it's one of those two if they're not calm/asleep.
  • If they cry loads and loads and loads they're not ill, they're just a newborn. I called the midwife loads asking what was wrong and she always said if he's not unresponsive (quiet or floppy) then it's all good. I advise you to still always call the midwife/doctor/rush to a&e if you're worried, but just something I learnt which made me feel better was that for the most part a crying baby is a healthy baby.
  • Witching Hour: this happens in the evenings - they want to feed little and often, and they are generally fussy. For ages I wondered what I was doing wrong, then I read 'Witching Hour' and Googled it and found out it's just another fun part of the first few weeks of parenting.
5. One for the dads
Make sure she eats first. She can't eat if she's holding the baby. Mostly, unless the baby is asleep, she's holding the baby. Don't serve food and then eat it while she tries to settle the baby. Make sure she always eats first, before you do, before the baby is seen to. Make sure she always has water next to her. Make sure you bring her whatever she needs. Know that you're doing everything you need and can do by being there, every day and every hour, even if you don't feel like you're doing anything helpful. Soon you'll be able to take the baby out and play with them and make meals for them and dress them and joke with them. But now is not the time yet, and that doesn't make you any less important. Your task for the first six weeks is simply to make sure she always eats first. Don't mess it up.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

What It's Really Like to Be Catholic and Pro-Life In 2017

Dread. This is what I felt when I realised I was expecting a second baby. The test was very faint, even fainter than it had been with my son, about a year and a half before. But just like with the first pregnancy, I knew. You hear stories of symptomless pregnancies where the mother discovers it at five months, or even women who go into labour without having had a clue until their contractions begin. Not me. Even before the nausea, before the exhaustion, before the overwhelmingly keen sense of smell, I know.

The first time I was pregnant, I really wanted to be. We hadn't been 'trying', per se - it was a honeymoon baby, but I had always dreamed of having a family, and after a wonderful wedding and having found a lovely flat for us to move into, I was overjoyed to know soon we'd have a little person completing everything.

The second time, I had a six-month-old in tow. I was exhausted, never sleeping beyond six am (a 'good' night's sleep nowadays), having to have someone else to hand if I wanted to finish a cup of tea or spend longer than seven minutes getting ready in the morning.

I was the same weight as before I'd had the baby, but my body didn't look the same. My stomach looked like I was really overweight. It didn't make sense to me. Did I have thinner arms and legs now? I wanted to do whatever it would take to get back in shape - I knew I would never look the same as before but I didn't want to go back, I wanted to go forward to a healthier, stronger me. I knew it would take time but I was determined. I also knew that pregnancy meant an abrupt end to these plans.

The first time I was pregnant I thought having a baby would be easy. I didn't believe the rumours. I thought birth wouldn't be painful and I thought my baby would sleep loads. I thought breastfeeding would come naturally.

The second time I had flashbacks of the first six weeks after my first child was born. Never sleeping longer than two hours at a time. Never doing anything while you're awake other than feeding, burping and changing your baby. And this time I'd have another tiny person, just a bigger baby really, to look after too. Maybe I would just get two hours of sleep per twentyfour hours. Six weeks is a long time to survive on two hours' sleep a day.

Dread turned to fear and fear turned to an overwhelming lack of self-confidence. I sincerely believed I could not do it. I would be unable to cope. I didn't know what this meant exactly, would I have post-natal depression? Would I neglect my eldest and cause him irreversible psychological harm? Or perhaps he'd injure himself and become disabled for life because I didn't have the energy to watch him and the smaller baby at the same time. Perhaps my marriage would fall apart, I'd blame everything on my husband, I'd become ugly inside and outside and we'd grow increasingly distanced. I didn't know exactly what 'incapable' would look like but I knew that's what I was.

If I could have snapped my fingers and not have been pregnant, I would have snapped away. I wanted another child, but I needed six more months first. Six more months of wearing my normal clothes. Six more months of eating whatever I want. Six more months of being able to pick up my baby. Six more months of wine every now and then. Six more months of just the three of us, now we'd got into the swing of it, now it didn't feel so impossible.

Being Catholic means being 'pro-life', and this is often reduced to just believing abortion is wrong. This is part of what being 'pro-life' means, but it's really just the tip of the iceberg. I put the term in quotation marks, because I know that pro-choice people have a problem with it, it kind of implies they're 'anti-life', when in fact the starting point for many people's pro-choice position is the protection of the woman's life.

I prefer the term 'anti-choice', because I believe it encompasses the fundamental Catholic position. I can't speak for all pro-life people, many of whom are atheists or of other religious persuasions, but as I understand it, the Catholic stance on pro-creation is that we have no right to choose. People talk about abstinence as the thing Catholics can choose or not choose - in the sense that if you don't want to have children you can choose to abstain, but in fact this is not exactly true for married Catholics. Married Catholics can undergo periods of abstinence by mutual agreement, but it's in fact a sin to continuously deny sex to your spouse or not to ever be open to the possibility of children. In marriage we vow to be open to children and to be giving spouses, this means giving of ourselves sexually, too. We do choose to get married - a coerced marriage, or even a marriage undergone due to external pressures, is not deemed a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church. For you to count as actually married you don't just sign the dotted line or say the right words in front of witnesses, you have to have wanted to get married, fully, profoundly, from the heart of your soul. But this is really as far as our 'choice' goes. And even then, I'd argue we don't really choose to want to marry someone. We don't choose to meet the right person. Falling in love and being called to marital life isn't always convenient, it doesn't always happen when we want it to, it isn't always something we can be 'sure' of by way of rational thinking. The certainty we might feel is only really reached in that silent, intuitive way where we can hear God's voice.

So beyond the stance on abortion, being pro-life means being anti-choice in a more general sense, it means relinquishing control, it means allowing life wherever it arises - not just human life, but all forms of life, being open to opportunity and vitality and change wherever and whenever it comes. And if I'm honest, it's bloody horrible.

It sounds nice to talk about being 'open' and 'receptive' and 'to learn to give up control' but to be honest, being able to plan a bit and know what's happening in the near-future is much nicer. It feels much nicer. It feels safe. It feels warm and cosy. It feels normal. It feels familiar, and everything familiar feels lovely. I'm not talking about being stuck in a rut, doing a relentless routine. I'm talking about seeing the friends you love, wearing the outfits that make you feel best, eating your favourite foods and knowing how much money you have to spend on little pleasures, knowing your house is big enough, knowing you are loved, that you are doing a good job, and that you'll be okay.

Being open to life doesn't feel like that at all. It doesn't feel like knowing you're loved, it doesn't feel like knowing everything's alright, like you can manage tomorrow and the day after. It feels like disarray. It feels like God is sending you to battle. I always think of Christ in these moments - God sent his own son to be crucified, how can I trust him?! I don't want to be crucified! I'm not immortal like Christ, I won't survive it. I don't want to bear any cross, unless it's a reasonable one like giving money to homeless people or being the bigger person in an argument and just generally trying to be kind in my day-to-day. That's where my ambition to be good ends. I have no interest in becoming a saint. I don't want to be a martyr, it's not for me.

Being open to life doesn't feel nice, at first. It's like childbirth. It's unbearably painful. You want it to stop. You want to undo it, rewind, to flea. But childbirth is maybe the one time where your fight or flight instinct can't end in flight. The baby is coming. So even if your initial instinct is flight, you can't run away from the baby, your 'enemy' causing you pain isn't external, he's going to follow you wherever you go, and the only way to win is to fight. Eventually you reach transition, and the urge to push is overwhelming, and you transform. Once the baby is born, with each little battle that comes, the sleep deprivation, the unknowns, the worries, you don't run away, you fight. And each time you fight instead of running away you become stronger.

Being open to life is the same. If you stop trying to choose what you want your life to look like, you become more tired, you lose energy, you look worse, you feel worse. But your strength is greater than all the negatives combined. And from strength comes power, and when you learn your own power, no matter how scared you are, no matter how sad, how tired, how bored, how lonely, how ugly or fed up you feel in the moment, something bigger happens overall. Some part of you dies and is resurrected. Some part of you becomes eternal. I'm talking about whenever you bear any cross, not just when you have children. When you live through a big unprecedented change that you weren't ready for, sometimes a joyous one like a birth, sometimes a dreadful one like a death, but always one that you didn't choose. When you don't choose what your life looks like, no matter how bad the moment feels, the moment is just the moment. It will pass, and through it passing you will come to know what doesn't pass, what always remains. What remains is bigger and better than anything you were holding onto, bigger and better than anything that can be held onto, because it's untouchable, you can't lose it, it's eternal and unspeakable and conveyed using words that become ultimately meaningless like 'love' and 'God' but in spite of all that it's the most real thing that you'll ever come to know.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Family & Loneliness

This month saw the unvelining of a new study investigating triggers for loneliness in the UK. Motherhood was identified among the top causes of loneliness.

It's something I've been thinking about a lot these past few months, and 7 months into my 12 months of maternity leave/isolation unit, I feel like I've figured something out about myself, motherhood, and loneliness.

It's a cliche that all expectant first-time mothers envision motherhood in a manner that significantly deviates from the reality. On my part, I imagined maternity leave would allow me pockets of free time during the day to pursue my own projects. This didn't happen, because babies nap sporadically here and there, sometimes for just twenty minutes, or sometimes after crying for ages and leaving you completely exhausted. Maternity 'leave' is just another full-time job, in no way more flexible nor less demanding than your previous full-time job - in fact you constantly have to work night shifts and double shifts, skip lunch, come in hungover, sneak out for a quick personal phonecall while the boss is distracted, etc.

As well as underestimating how demanding of my time maternity leave would be (not motherhood, I knew motherhood would be hard, I just thought you got more breaks than you do), I was determined to make 'mum-friends' and get involved in local activities so as to avoid cabin fever and loneliness.

I did do this to an extent and it has been great, but there were also some issues:

  1. I'm an introvert by nature, so I found it quite exhausting to constantly expose myself to new people and to have to do 'an activity' each day if I didn't want to spend it in my livingroom talking to a human that has zero interest in anything I have to say. Sometimes all I wanted was to chill with an old friend I could make little to no effort with, confident in the knowledge they shared my sense of humour and could tell me about their life without giving me a compressed back story.
  2. You end up talking about the babies constantly, which at first was, in fairness, all I wanted to talk about. But now I find it really boring. Sorry, Francis - I love you but if I have to talk about whether or not you enjoy broccoli with one more person I might lose it.
  3. You still get no time off. You get to be with other sleep-deprived mums with tiny humans to look after, you can have solidarity and share advice and be supportive to one another, but you both have at least one baby to look after each so you won't be able to get a break from motherhood in these contexts. As the study reveals, rest is a key way to fight loneliness since low energy and stress are conducive to it.
I've been very lucky in that my father lives in London and is retired and very happy to be hands-on with the baby, so I've been able to get a lot of help from him, as well as my in-laws who are also local and very forthcoming with the babysitting. This has made a huge difference, and it has made me realise that a huge cause of loneliness in new mothers must arise from the fact that we no longer live in small, mutually-supportive communities centred around the family units that make them up. Most of us, especially in big cities like London, moved far away from our families for work reasons, and when we start our own family we find ourselves miles away from the very people that can help us with all things family-related, around whom we can be most relaxed and demanding.

When I became a mother I didn't suddenly become a self-sufficient parent, I didn't become a different person, I didn't stop being a daughter or a sister. There's a reason transition periods can so often lead to loneliness - transitions are gradual adjustments, and individuals require a lot of support to undergo them, as well as a rock solid foundation in order to still know the things about them that haven't changed. Nothing provides us with this base more than family. Being around family as a mother means I can also be looked after, I can learn new things from those I trust the most, I can make mistakes without feeling judged or embarrassed, I can do things slowly and gradually and with plenty of breaks. This is what made all the difference for me. Going to baby group or downloading the Mush app were an amazing source of friendship and support, but they weren't critical in the way my dad was when I needed someone to do bedtime so I could nap for two hours because I was falling asleep while holding the baby.

For us, it's really made us reassess everything - do we want to live in London where everything is a long train ride away, where there's endless variety and choice but no single community and social connections are often fragile and temporary? What kind of network do we want around us as our family grows and expands, and what kind of context do we want for our children to grow up with? It's a conundrum that faces parents across the country - rural vs urban, near folks vs near work, exposure to a wider variety of experiences vs a more close-knit but less varied community. There's no right answer, but for me one thing is clear: family is more important to me than ever.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mother of all Lists - Mothering without my own

I guest featured on Clemmie Telford AKA peckham_mamma's brilliant blog Mother of all Lists.

You can read it here

The mother I want to be

I suddenly feel myself again. I can walk down the street on my own and not feel like I should be with the baby. I can go a whole minute not thinking about the baby. My clothes are mine again. I don't just mean I fit into non-maternity clothes again - I found that when I'd just had the baby I dressed slightly different, a bit more 'grown up'. It felt somehow wrong to wear Dr Martens and have weird coloured nails now that I was a mum.

I felt I should look like a mum in order to be a mum. I guess when I had a baby I felt pressure to prove to myself I was a mum. It wasn't enough to grow, deliver and raise the baby. It's not a question of being a 'good mum', but just being a mother seems to consist of more than the insane physical demands it makes of us. I felt as though my identity as an individual has to shift to make room for this new role, because you are a mother first and foremost.

Unlike being a wife or a daughter or sister or friend, 'mother' seemed to be a role that came at the expense of my selfhood. At the risk of sounding overly philosophical (read: pretentious), I guess part of me believed that being a mother is less about who you are to you and more about who you are to your child. I don't know why, because I don't define myself as daughter, sister, wife or friend in terms of how my parents, brothers, husband or friends perceive me. It's always been a question of what kind of person I want to be in those roles. But with motherhood it wasn't about what kind of mother I wanted to be. Come to realise it, it wasn't even about what kind of mother my son might want me to be that much. It's scary to admit it but it was about what society thinks a mother is. What other mothers think a mother is. I wanted so much to assimilate because I was scared of not looking or acting in a way that most people would recognise as maternal.

Then my baby turned six months and I started to feel myself again. In fact I felt an urge to be myself again.

Four mornings a week my dad watches the baby and I go to get a coffee by myself. It's not about easing my return to work, I've always found day jobs very disorientating and have never identified to them. But I do want to retain a space where I can discover and be myself.

And it's not because I want to be 'my own person', to recuperate the absolute independence I had before I had the baby - I know that's gone forever and I'm glad for it. Independence isn't what I want and never has been.

The reason I have these mornings is so I can be the mother I want to be. The mother I've always wanted to be. The mother my mother was in the moments where I didn't feel anything but love towards her. The mother who wears clothes that reflect her own tastes, who has her own definition of nurturing that doesn't look like a stock photo with only white people, who eats the food that makes her feel most alive, who reads and watches things that inspire her, who knows how and when to relax and how and when to work hard. Most importantly I want to be the kind of mother who inspires her children to be authentic in everything they do.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Six Changes Post Childbirth

My aunt told me it would take 18 months for my body to heal back to its usual state. At six weeks post partum I thought, 'nah, mine's already healed.' My stitches had dissolved and I'd gone for my first jog. Four months further down the line, I know I was nowhere near done healing - physically nor emotionally - and still got a long way to go. Here's how childbirth has changed me:

- I'm lighter than I was when pregnant but I feel fatter. Whereas before I could just cut out snacking and jog every evening to shed a few pounds, now it takes a lot of scheduling to go just 3 times a week and except my dinner after the baby falls asleep, ALL my meals are snacks.
- I'm more disciplined. If I don't do something when I have the chance, I won't get another opportunity for days. As a result, I've become way more efficient - this is the first time I've written more than 2 blog posts on a blog I've started!
- I'm more selfish. It may be surprising but before I had to care for another human 24/7 I felt quite guilty about spending a little too much on shoes or getting a haircut more than once every five years. Now I know that 'you can't pour from an empty cup' isn't just a new age mantra to sell yoga retreats, it's true.
- I'm more patient. I'm sure my husband will disagree but these days before nagging him about something I ask myself 'is this really non negotiable', and 90% of the time I keep quiet. (That's right Nick, you're only getting 10% of actual complaints!) If we do start arguing, I say I don't want to argue and we move on. This literally never happened before, but now I really do think 'life's too short' - kudos to those of you who didn't need to be responsible for another human to figure that one out!
- I have more energy. Yes - I'm way more exhausted, but I'm also doing 500% more. I never ever feel sluggish now, only happy or exhausted. This might be my favourite change.
- I'm happier. This is what I wanted, it's my vocation fulfilled, and there's no better feeling than doing what you know you want in spite of all your fears and doubts and hesitations. If I can successfully teach Francis one thing in this lifetime I hope it's to have the kind of faith that leads you to do what you know you are meant to do.