Monday, February 27, 2012



Thank you so much everyone who commented on the breastfeeding post. I've written a lot of emotional shit over the years but no comments have made me as weepy as the ones on that post did. From the support for our breastfeeding situation to the tales of other people's struggles to hearing about times where it has been a joyous experience for mama and baby, nearly every one made my heart ache a little bit and love for you grow. Oh, not to mention those of you who haven't had babies or aren't interested in having babies but were really super kind about me writing about babies. You're all awesome. 
(I responded to as many as I could, before my heart burst and I needed a small nap.) 

* image by Carolyn Sewell. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the breastfeeding post

Back to the baby shiz. So there are some Big baby ishoos that people have asked me about, that I've been reluctant to talk about because they seem like the kind of things that Mummy Bloggers write about and I'm not one of those and if I write about those things then people I love will stop reading my blog and I'll be a Mummy Blogger and it will be terrible. But also because I didn't know how to write about them, things like sleep and weaning and (dear god above) breastfeeding. Those things that make parents want to die. And then someone I know whose wife has just had twins wrote to me to ask about breastfeeding and before I knew it I'd written back an epic and it turned out that maybe I had some things I needed to get off my chest and maybe some of those things might be helpful to other people struggling through the same stuff. (Or maybe not, I haven't heard back from Dan, I may have just pushed him and Clo over the edge.)
But just in case, here is a short tale of our adventures in breastfeeding.... 
Breastfeeding is a bitch, let's just get that out there straight away. Before the girls were born I knew I was going to breastfeed (well duh) and the only response I ever got to that from the many, many midwives I saw was a brief 'good' while they looked down and ticked the box on my notes labelled 'mother intends to breastfeed'. It was only after the girls were born and I'd been taking it for granted for NINE MONTHS that I would breastfeed them that anyone thought to tell me it might be hard or that the majority of twin mothers don't breastfeed exclusively or that the whole thing might make me sob uncontrollably
Amelia was taken away to NICU straight away after she was born as she was blue and wasn't breathing well. Normally when a single baby is taken to NICU their mother expresses milk and sends it up to the baba but that was never even suggested to me, probably because there was the small matter of another baby to feed and I'd lost a lot of blood and wasn't in the best shape. So my little Ammie was put straight on formula from her very first feed, initially through a feeding tube and then by bottle when she was ready.
Ella was still with me and was feeding fine. There's a picture of me that Nye took on his mobile phone a few hours after the girls were born. I'm topless and tiny little Ella is in one arm, feeding away on my gigantic boob and in the other hand I have a sandwich which I'm about to chomp into. Never has a sandwich tasted so good and never have I been happier than I was at that moment, feeding my baby. I didn't know it was about to go to hell. They did a blood test on Ella, to check her blood sugar levels which were promptly declared to be too low. Orders were given by the paediatrician that after her breastfeeds she be 'topped up' with formula until she was breastfeeding enough not to need it and that she must have a blood test every three hours to check her levels. There is nothing sadder than a baby, asleep and warm, being taken from your arms, having her pyjamas removed from around her skinny little bird legs and a nurse jabbing a pin into her foot. Every. Three. Hours. For five days.  The memory of the bruises on the soles of her heels makes me want to punch people.
I struggled on with trying to breastfeed her but it was hard work. I was alone for most of the feeds, in a ward with five other women and five other babies and less than one midwife between us. I had lost somewhere between three and five pints of blood and it was three days before anyone thought to give me a transfusion. Every hour or so a midwife would appear to give me advise, the midwife would change twice a day as day shift melded into evening shift and with the change in midwife would unfailingly come a change in advice.
'no twin mothers breastfeed exclusively' 
'it will be easy enough to wean them off formula and breastfeed them both exclusively' 
'you need to feed them on demand'  
'you need to feed them on a three hourly schedule'  
'some mothers just can't manage to breastfeed' 
'all mothers can breastfeed, it just takes time.'    
Each piece of advice followed with a breezy 'okay?' that was unmistakably a statement, not a question, before the curtain around my bed swished behind them as they left. In hindsight it's no wonder that from the moment of that first blood test those were the most difficult five days of my life and I felt perpetually on the edge of a complete breakdown.
Eventually Ammie was returned to me and we were sent home. Suddenly the babies that had been inarguably the property of the hospital were ours and we were allowed to take them away. We got home and I was on a strict three hourly feeding schedule, starting each feed with breastmilk before handing the baby over to Nye to 'top up' with a bottle. I dreaded every feed, not knowing if it would go well or if the baby would utterly refuse to feed from my breast, having become used to milk flowing faster and easier from a rubber teat. When it went well breastfeeding was a high that is incomparable, when it (more often) went badly it was an exercise in disappointment, failure, inadequacy and frustration that ended with heaving sobs and self-hatred.
Despite the signs that this was Not Going Well, I was adamant that just like the midwives promised, as the babies got bigger and hungrier I would simply feed them more breastmilk while keeping the quantities of formula that they were 'topped up' with the same, but it didn't quite work like that. The girls got hungrier and I didn't produce any more milk. I continued to give them as much time as they would take at the breast, I continued to express milk between feeds and in the evenings and during meals but my efforts would result in a paltry amount of milk. And exhaustion. Finally a nurse told me that women who lose a lot of blood* during childbirth often struggle to breastfeed. That in those crucial first few days after birth their bodies are trying so hard to regenerate and replenish that their milk supply never really gets going. It only helped marginally to assuage my sense of inadequacy.

Eventually, at 11 weeks, I stopped trying. The relief was immense, and the grief not nearly as bad as I expected. I had been grieving being unable to breastfeed them almost continuously since they were a couple of weeks old, since the first time I had to increase the amount of formula we gave them to compensate for their increasing appetites and my static milk supply. My grief had been overwhelming, I was dreading every feed (and two babies multiplied by 6 feeds a day is a lot of dread) and I was achingly, overwhelmingly sad, all the time. Not being that mother to my girls was more important to me than continuing to breastfeed them. Stopping trying was allowing myself to let go of the expectations I'd had and the sense of failure that I felt.
I prickle as I write this. My hackles rise and I prepare myself for criticism. Since I left the hospital when the girls were five days old I have not once felt criticised over my inability to breastfeed my babies exclusively, not by anyone but myself. I was prepared for it, always waiting for it, but it never happened. And I'm still waiting, still expecting someone to leave me a comment saying 'well if you'd just tried harder...'. I know that someone is me, is the part of my heart that hasn't forgiven myself, that thinks if I had just tried harder it would have been possible. That thinks other people manage. To that part of myself I would like to say a hearty fuck off. It's time to let go.

*I know the phrase 'huge blood loss' might imply otherwise but I found giving birth an utterly incredible, joyous experience. It was amazing and empowering and when it was over I leaned into Nye and whispered 'let's have more.' Yes, I had the drugs, all the drugs (that's another story in institutionalised birth and a sense of failure) and when people hear that they say 'oh well, that's different'. Whatever. I gave birth twice in one day and it was fucking amazing. Then it went to hell. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


You know when you're walking down a street by yourself (always by yourself) and the sun is shining and your hair looks good and you don't have any vomit on your trousers, what song do you hear? What song would be the soundtrack to that bit in the film of your life where everything is going right, just briefly? Mine is Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. It's impossible not to hear that song in your head and not feel like you're the coolest cat in the whole damn world. 

*inspired by this post by Miss Pickering, who I believe might be one of the coolest cats in the whole damn world.  

Friday, February 17, 2012


for want of anything proper to say that isn't about babies (sometimes I think the blog needs a break from babies, lest it become a 'baby blog' and people who don't like baby blogs stop reading. If it already is a baby blog let's just let me live in blissful ignorance, okay? Thnx) here are some things that I have been pinning lately. I still love pinterest, going back and looking at what I have saved recently is like visiting some place where I dumped all of my fleeting thoughts to come back to later. I think we used to call those 'diaries', back when our thoughts were prompted by the real world and not the internet.)

If you follow me on twitter you will already know that I got a bicycle for my birthday (if you follow me on twitter you'll already know most of this, twitter is my other, less visual dumping ground for fleeting, inconsequential thoughts). It actually looks a lot like this bicycle but its basket is wicker. I fell in love with it instantly (I actually refer to it as 'her', but that's embarrassing) but I promised myself and Nye and you, that I wouldn't become a bicycle blogging bore. You know the ones I'm talking about. But just so you know, I'm saving my pennies for a pretty helmet and a shiny seat and probably a satchel thing and one day a fancy paint job. Okay, done. 
You will also know that I cut my hair. It was supposed to be like Debbie's but it's not. My hair won't do that messy thing. Also my hairdresser wouldn't let me have a fringe yet. I have all this weird, fluffy hair stuff ('hair', I believe it's called) growing out of my temples, apparently it's post-baby regrowth and isn't thick enough to make a fringe. He told me to come back in 6 months. The chances of me going back before a year is out are slim.  

I keep thinking about another baby. As if it's even possible. 

We have imparted a pocket money system in our house. Eyes widen when I tell people that Nye and I have £20 a month each to spend on things we want which we don't need. These shoes would be considered something I want that I don't need. If I don't buy anything else I will have enough for them by July. 

I miss my bunny. He lives far away with my mum now, because he's old now and she doesn't pull his ears, poke him in the eyes and eat his shit (that I know of.) I really miss him but I don't miss prying small poops out of Ella's hands. Anyway, I'm pretty sure he prefers her to us, she's a pretty excellent rabbit keeper. 

This picture is exactly what motherhood feels like to me. Except there's another small person clinging to my leg under the table in my motherhood. 

We have been shopping for rugs for our flat. Do you know how incredibly expensive rugs are? This one is so expensive they won't even tell you the price. From what I can gauge it's many many thousands of pounds. Who spends many many thousands of pounds on a rug that is both black and made from cashmere and silk? (remembering that rugs go on the floor and GET WALKED ON). Probably the same person who spends 95 quid on a shower curtain that can handle neither soap nor water. 

1. from Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler's bicycle portraits. 
2. Debbie Harry, 1976 by Bob Gruen
3. photograph of a Medical illustration book, by Strictly Vintage on etsy. 
4. Adventurous Bunny, by 'Amy', via Daily Bunny. 
6. Alexander McQueen rug ,The Rug Company. 

Monday, February 13, 2012


We've had a kind of wonderful beginning of the year just all hanging out together. We've only had one (amazeballs) wedding so far this year and we've spent the rest of the time, well, unbelievably busy actually. But we've been unbelievably busy all together which has been so cool. 

photo 2: ding dong Poang is dead! I finally got N to throw out that damn chair.  Life is immeasurably better now. 
photo 6: that's not my baby.  Kinda looks like her though, right? 
photo 7: the hat was a birthday present for the girls from N's cousin, it was made by Tiny Owl Knits and it is the sweetest, softest hat ever. There are also hoof mittens to match. My bear is a deer. 
 photo 8: she put herself in there. Man was she pissed off when she realised. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012



A friend of my Mum's on being a solicitor in a small town and being recognised by the opposition out of court: 
"I only got threatening looks once in a bar and I'm still not sure if he recognised me or he just thought I was an ugly wee shite." 
This has started happening to me. Occasionally I notice people staring and I always just gave them a dirty look and muttered 'so what if I have a cheerio stuck to my shoulder, fuck off' under my breath. And then someone pointed out that I have a blog and people read it and there are pictures of me all over it and maybe they recognize me. Well holy crap if that didn't just freak me the hell RIGHT out. (Thanks Lauren)

Sorry if I've ever given you the Look. I'm pretty certain that most if not all of those people were thinking 'girlfriend needs to wash her hair', but just in case.

* owl drawing By Mark.Weaver 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

life in brief.

There aren't really words for how much I love 17 Beats. Not words that don't look really stupid and clumsy and ugly next to hers. These are some of my favourites bits. 

infant milestones 
much to celebrate :
baby girl has grown skillful
at flipping the bird. 

it's that moment when your gums stop quivering at my breast, and you thrust 
yourself into a perfect back bend, while kneading my thigh with your toes. 

when a banana asks you on a date 
"i'm saying 'yes' to
fruit these days." why i find this
funny, i don't know. 

catholic tricks 
crumpling three candy
wrappers into one ball helps
you feel less guilty.

this is what happens when you try too hard 
put glasses over
glasses this morning and saw
that i could not see.

Monday, February 06, 2012


"Welcome to Sesame Street Nostalgia. I am Bob, your host, and I want you to know that these early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups and may not meet the needs of today's pre-school child." 
Excuse me what now? We bought Widdle and Puke Sesame Street Old School for Christmas. Little did we know that it wasn't suitable for children. It seems obvious now, I mean, Sesame Street is all about the alphabet and the numbers and they've clearly changed beyond all recognition since 1969. 
Or maybe it's the fact that Oscar the Grouch STARTS OUT ORANGE. That freaked me the hell out so god only knows what it would do to today's pre-school child.