Isn’t an invitation wonderful? Come with me. Let’s spend time together. Let’s eat. Dance. Drink. Celebrate. Mourn. Play. Or party.

Whatever the invitation, we can be sure that receiving it is a fabulous thing. It means we have been thought of; that someone wants to spend time with us. Isn’t that wondrous in a world where, despite apparent connectedness through social networking sites, 1 in 10 of us feels lonely often? In fact, Britain was voted the loneliness capital of Europe, by the Office of National Statistics. 

The last 12 months have been lonely for me. I’ve become a mum and, whilst much of it has been wonderful, I have struggled with the lack of business and noise around me, as I had when teaching full-time. Not only that, but we (my husband and I) have had to turn down many invitations either as a couple or as an individual. Many of the things we are invited to are in the evening, so one or both of us has to stay home and look after our little girl. We’ve been so blessed to have had a couple of nights out together, courtesy of good friends babysitting.

That being said, I’ve met lots of wonderful women, their babies and their partners in the past 12 months. I’ve been to birthdays, baptisms, and even have a wedding in the diary. We’ve been for tea and cake at people’s houses, caught up in coffee shops and taken up invitations for bumbling round town.

Invitations may have to be declined, or plans altered to fit in with this new life, but it is good for the soul to think of someone else first. But it doesn’t really matter whether I get to go out or not, because that isn’t necessarily what helps us to feel connected.

It is the imple invitation – knowing you were thought of and wanted, knowing you were included – that has a transformative power. The power to overcome even the most loneliest of feelings.

To feel connected.

To feel loved.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

After seeing the advert for this back in November sometime, I was excited when it finally arrived. We missed it live, but taped it for later.

And so it was, yesterday afternoon, my husband and I settled down to watch one of my favourite tales of all time. I cannot understate my love for this story / non-rhyming nursery rhyme. The sounds of the words are brilliant for small children, their language still developing. The rhythm of the tale is excellent for children, gaining an ear for poetry, rhyme and stories alike. Nothing needs adding to this story, nothing needs taking away.

It is safe to say, then, that I was more than disappointed with the television adaptation. This beautiful story loses its rhythm, and the onomatopoeic words lose their brilliance in the midst of further details. When The Gruffalo was adapted for TV, it remained intact and perfect. So why change what is wonderful the way it is?

I can only think that an adult somewhere, without much of an imagination themselves, decided that the story lacked detail and depth, and that it needed changing. But in its simplicity, this story is detailed. And by making it detailed, it loses its wonder and depth.

If you and your child want to go on a bear hunt, I suggest you put your wellies on, head outside and recall the original tale. The television is no substitute.

A Very Merry 1st Christmas

“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… not even a mouse…”

And so the famous poem starts. Last Christmas I was very pregnant and, when I left work for the final time, my ex-colleagues put together a bumper baby box for me. In this box was this Christmas book, and so it has sat on my bookshelf for a year… waiting for our baby’s first Christmas.

So the story has been read, and our little girl is tucked up in her bed, ready for her first Christmas Day. Each year at this time we enjoy baked Camembert, good red wine, chocolate and a Christmas film. This year is no different, but with our beautiful addition’s arrival, I thought I’d start a new tradition.

The Christmas Eve Hamper

I am sure that, as our little one gets older, the tradition will evolve to include different items. This year, however, it was more a surprise for my husband. I included: new matching(ish) pyjamas; Santa slippers; Christmas Eve book; white Lindor (hubby’s favourites), and normal Lindor; and a bottle of Merlot.

We enjoyed getting some shots of us in our matching pjs before story and bed time. 

It has been a wonderful year filled with firsts, and new traditions: first smile, first tooth, first holiday and first Christmas. Soon it will be her first birthday and, in time, we will see more firsts and more traditions. For now though, I’m not looking at the future. I’m just going to enjoy the here and now. Because here and now is pretty wonderful!

Merry Christmas!

Moments to Melt the Heart

This evening, after my husband had bathed our daughter and put her sleepsuit on, he was playing with her in our living room. It’s wonderful to watch them together, such mischief in both their eyes. Something happened, though, that has never happened before.

My gorgeous girl turned to look at me, practised her newest skill (sticking her tongue out), before reaching her arm out and waving at me. She kept doing it, and making little cooing sounds.

My heart melted, and I cried.

In that moment, every wakeful night, every stressful worry, every tearful doubt was worth it.

Breastfeeding Exhaustion

When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s a God send if you can get them to take a bottle. Not necessarily with formula inside (if you don’t want to, but if you do that’s also fine), just expressed milk. It means you can have a few hours ‘off’, where your baby is not wholly reliant on you. That’s a God send for 2 reasons: responsibility and exhaustion.

Responsibility is great. We work towards gaining it in careers, and as we go from children to teenagers to adults. We learn that it is a good thing to be responsible and to have responsibilities. But when you are solely responsible for feeding your child, because they flat out refuse a bottle, that responsibility can be quite heavy. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding. Really love it. I’m thinking about training to be a breastfeeding support worker, so I can help other women to feel empowered about feeding their own child with what nature has blessed us with. But there are 2 sides to every story, as they say, and the down side of breastfeeding, when your child won’t take a bottle, is that all of that responsibility is on you.

Rather like in Mad Max: Fury Road, where the ‘mothers’ are constantly having babies so their milk production will continue. Their milk is then pumped all day and night, to ensure that the King and his cronies are nourished and hydrated in their droughted land. Those mothers are entirely responsible for the feeding of their King, where they are physically enslaved.

Now, it’s not to say I feel enslaved. Just that it would be nice if she might take a bottle every now and again.

But the bigger, seemingly unspoken / not understood thing about breastfeeding is the exhaustion. Now, this isn’t because my little girl is awake all night. That’s just normal parenting tiredness and, actually, she only tends to wake once in the night now which I can just about manage. This is about the physical exhaustion that happens because your body is burning an extra 600 calories a day. 

That’s right, 600 calories! I thought the best way to give you an idea of what that means would be to list some of the things you’d have to do to burn 600 calories.

1. Swim for 3 hours continuously.

2. Run at a pace of 10mph for around 3 hours.

3. Cycle for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

4. Do an hour of sit ups.

5. Walk for 3 hours.

Choose one of those activities, and imagine how hungry you might be afterwards. Imagine the physical toll it would take on your body if you did it every day. 

Breastfeeding is wonderful. Breastfeeding (now we have latch sorted and supply established) is simple, clean and easy. Breastfeeding is free. Breastfeeding is empowering. Breastfeeding is remarkable – I’m in awe of my body. Breastfeeding is the best thing I’ve ever done; the thing that’s made me proudest in my life. 

Breastfeeding is exhausting too, especially if your baby won’t take a bottle. It’s worth it though. It really is. It is such a short time in her life, in the grand scheme of things. And it is such a small sacrifice in what will be a life filled with sacrifices.

Next time you see a lady breastfeeding, perhaps tell her she’s doing a great job (if you feel brave enough) – you should probably tell any parent this anyway, because words of affirmation are amazing when you’re tired and making it up as you go along. If you’re sat in a cafe, and feeling kind, maybe tell a waitress to send over a glass of water and a slice of cake. Cake is good because it feels like a guilty pleasure, but we literally need the calories. 

Remember, breastfeeding is great. I’d recommend it to anyone. But make sure you’ve got a supply of cake and or biscuits to hand. You’ll need them!

Also, post-feed sleepy cuddles are amazing!

The Imperfect Mum

Sometimes, I wish I could wear a badge saying, “Hello! Lovely to meet you. My name is Olivia and I am an imperfect mum.” I would wear this badge to all places where I might meet other imperfect mums: baby groups, sensory play, cafés, church, soft play etc. The list is probably quite endless.

As I wear this badge, I would find the conversations around me different. Perhaps instead of ever so slightly competitive chatter about where our children are on the development milestone scale, I would start to hear more honest conversations. The kind of conversations that deep, lasting friendships are built on. Conversations that are honest and don’t sell an image of motherhood as unachievable as unicorns and rainbows.

Perhaps I would sit with a group of mums I’ve never met before, and one might speak openly and daringly about how they are struggling with their thoughts and emotions. They might say, “Oh I’m so glad that you feel the same way as I do. I LOVE my child, but I am so tired. I feel broken. I wonder if I’m good enough.”

Or they might comment, “I feel confused. Yes, I love my child, but am I being selfish if I want to go out on my own every now and again? Does that make me a bad mum?”

They may even say, “I hate being a mum right now. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I wonder if I’ll ever feel ‘good’ again.”

These are hard things to talk about, especially if we consider that: 

  1. Most of us mums have only known each other as long as our child’s life span… we can feel like relative strangers;
  2. We are British, and have stiffer up lips that don’t talk about feelings and emotions.

But with these honest conversations, the façade of perfection can be wiped away, much like makeup the morning after the night before. It may have to be scrubbed off, depending on how much of an image we have put on, but it will come off if we wipe hard enough.

Motherhood is hard, and tiring. Sure, there is great joy in having a child, but that doesn’t mean you have to love being a mum all of the time. Yes, you can love your child, and yet struggle with the lack of independence suddenly thrust upon you. You can even wonder if you made a mistake having a baby… that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum. It means you’re a normal human being, struggling with a complex mix of emotions, hormones, sleep deprivation and an enormous life altering shift of lifestyle that no one and nothing can ever prepare you for.

None of us are perfect. We all have failings and feelings; we all struggle with things from time to time, so why are we putting up a front? Let’s embrace our imperfections, our vulnerabilities; they can make us strong. We can be strong together.

Stronger friendships we can rely on.

Stronger minds that know imperfection isn’t just normal, it’s expected, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Stronger mums who live honestly with the people around them.

Let’s start a new conversation…
“Hello! Lovely to meet you. My name’s Olivia, and I’m an imperfect mum.”

Love One Another

A great man once said, “Love one another…”. What does that look like, as a mum?

For me, it means building each other up with our words and our actions; it means looking out for one another on this new and bewildering path we find ourselves on. It means offering support, and meaning it… even if you disagree with that particular parenting method / choice.

On Thursday evening I had the absolute joy and pleasure of meeting the newest member of our gang of babies, only 4 days old. Why was it such a joy? Well, not only because it’s a blessing to sit with new parents so soon after they’ve received their bundle, but also because I was able to offer support with breastfeeding.

When I was in the early days, I received so much support from fellow mums who were ahead of me on the journey. I’m not sure I’d have managed to keep going without it. Yet so often on the internet I see mums tearing each other and their decisions down. For what purpose?

Let’s support each other, stand together, and love one another.

I Am Mummy

Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s off to work I go.

Yes, that’s right. The time has come for me to leave this delightful creature as I re-enter the world of work.

I am nervous and anxious, but also excited and happy. It’s actually almost 3 weeks yet, but I’m off on holiday soon and I start as soon as I’m back from France. So it feels as though it is right there in front of me: the day I leave my gorgeous girl.

Ok. Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic. For starters, it’s only 1 day a week. Secondly, it isn’t like she’s being taken by wolves into the woods to be raised away from me. It is literally 9 hours apart, perhaps 10 at a push. 

Except… even writing that makes me want to cry. Because, in a way, just as she is dependent on me, I have become dependent on her.

I live to see her smiles; to hear her giggles; to watch her trying to crawl; to hold her close and inhale her scent. I live to provide comfort, to play peek-a-boo, to sing Wind the Bobbin Up 100 times a day. I live to love her.

Of course, I am more than ‘mummy’. I know that. I am a wife, a daughter, sister, friend. I am Mrs Haines, and I am a writer. A teacher. A singer. But above all these things…

I am mummy.

It’s been a while…

Well, hello there! It’s been a while since my last post. Mainly, I just needed a break and a rest, but also I’ve been busy with my daughter and family this month. This summer is filled with birthdays, leaving dos, weddings and family get-togethers, so I’m feeling tired, my brain is fried and we are only half way through. I described it to my husband as feeling foggy. It’s not that I’m more tired than before, just that I can’t quite seem to get my head in gear.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a little update.

Weaning is a bit hit and miss. Some days she likes broccoli, others she hates it. Sometimes she likes having some mashed banana, other days she prefers strawberries. Anyway, she’s being offered a variety of fruit and veg and we shall just see what happens over the coming weeks and months. She loves bread though: she sucks on it until it is mush, and then either swallows it or smears it over her high chair tray. One thing is sure: she loves to make a mess!

We recently took her swimming for the first time, which she loved! At first she was her usual nosy self, looking all over the place and taking everything (and everyone) in. But after about 10 minutes she started to stare more into our faces, interacting with us and splashing a little. I’m really excited to start taking her to a local weekly group which incorporates the water and singing / nursery rhymes!

Faith-wise things have been strange really. Because I’ve been feeling foggy, I’ve found it nigh on impossible to do any reading / writing / Bible study, and have had to rely on reading a verse of the day and shooting small arrow prayers out. I still find my best praying is done during Isobel’s night feed, at around 2am and 5am.  It’s quiet, there’s no distraction and I can just focus. Amazing, given the time of day.

However, I’ve recently been mega-blessed by a job offer. My contract ended at Christmas, leaving me unemployed as I became a new mother. Everything that I knew was stripped away, leaving me rather vulnerable. I’ve really had to learn to trust God and his provision over these last 6 months or so. It has been hard at times, but also an adventure, and a lesson in relinquishing control. 

I interviewed for a teaching job in May 2015, but was unsuccessful. I asked the headteacher to keep me in mind for the future… and he did! I’m now going to be starting back at work in September (after our holiday) just one day a week. It’s the Goldilocks of jobs: just right! Not only is it in a great school, but it’s close by to my home and it is the perfect number of teaching hours. Any less and there’d be no point, any more and there’d be too much work to take home. I didn’t have to apply for this job, but it is perfect in every way. My job prospects and future was something I recently laid at the foot of the cross once more in a prayer activity. It felt like quite an impossible prayer, as all the jobs for September were gone and nothing that was quite right was appearing, but I let go. I gave over control, and it’s all worked out perfectly.

Honestly, I’m still in shock! In less than 2 months I’ll be back at work, which is something I never expected. But then, that’s God. He’s full of surprises, and he loves to bless us! I think that’s all for now. I’m probably going to take a bit more of a break before September, let my head get refreshed, and then I’ll be back.

Stay tuned for my first big adventure into mummy mission: sensory church!