Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mummy Time #24: Siobhan Rennie

I'm so glad that Australian blogger, Siobhan, agreed to take part in Mummy Time as, amongst a number of things, I admire her uncensored honesty in her writing (and Instagram captions) as well as her motivation to exercise in the mornings! I think Siobhan's post touches on issues that some of you may be able to relate to - if so I'd love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy reading!


Mummy:

Who are you?

Hi I’m Siobhan (most people call me Shiv), mum to baby Harry (DOB 11.5.14, currently 8 months old) and wife to Davy. I’m 34 and live in Brisbane QLD. But, I’m not ‘from’ here – indeed, I hate it when people ask me that question as I’ve lived in a lot of different places. My husband is Scottish but was in Sydney for 8 years before we moved to Brisbane, while I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK (my parents are British) and also down south in Sydney and Canberra.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a stay at home mum who has recently gotten back into some freelance writing, blogging and running a very small and very new wall art/prints business (which my husband designs for).

How long did you take for maternity leave & how did you decide how long you'd take?

This was a tough one for me and the impetus behind the focus of my blog, which is all about going from ‘Manager to Mummy’. I was working on the G20 Taskforce for G20 Australia, so planned to go back to work when Harry was just four months old so that I could help deliver the event that I’d worked so hard on or more than a year. I’d always been so career-focussed and never really thought I wouldn’t go back to work. Oh, how wrong I was. Pre-baby, you just don’t realise the impact that having a baby can have on your life. I couldn’t bring myself to go back, particularly to such a high pressure job involving long hours, and when Harry was still so little. It was a hard decision, but the best decision I’ve ever made.

This week I’m starting Harry in daycare just one day a week so that I can focus on my writing. It’s nerve-wrecking and I’m sure I’ll be a mess when I drop him off for the first time! But I know he’ll love it, and he needs the socialisation. I’m really looking forward to having a whole day to write as I please, without being interrupted by a baby who has taken off into the kitchen and needs rescuing!

How do you manage the work/life balance?

Now that Harry is crawling I spend all of my time during the day running around after him and taking him on outings. He’s no longer happy to just play in the one spot (oh, how I miss those days!). It’s great fun hanging out, and I love it, but I get next to nothing done work-wise during the day. So, I have to write at night or during lunchtime when Harry has a longer nap. It’s not always conducive to being very creative.

How do you get things done?

It’s difficult! He’s really good at the good old commando crawl, and, despite having loads of toys around, much prefers eating my shoes or trying to get into the kitchen to get the bin (weird!). When he’s up, I can do some tidying but just for a minute or two before I sit down to play with him or before he needs rescuing from somewhere. We just bought a ball pit/paddle pool (which we don’t fill with water) and that takes him a little longer to crawl out of – it buys me some time! Sometimes I’ll pop him in his highchair with some snacks or toys and let him bang and throw them to his heart’s content, so I can get some jobs done. But usually nap time is when I get most of the stuff around the house done, and emails etc answered.

How are you?

It varies depending on the day! Harry sleeps through the night, until around 5.30am anyway, so we do get around 7 hours sleep at night depending on how early we go to bed. But I’ve always needed 8-10 hours to function properly so the early starts are taking their toll a bit. However, it’s all relative! I think back to the newborn days when we only got 2-3 hours sleep at a time, and these days are pure bliss compared with then!

I’ve struggled a bit with feeling like I’ve lost my identity. I was very career-focussed before having Harry, so deciding to be a stay at home mum has been a shock. It was the best decision I ever made, because I love being with him and being here for him, but it’s a huge culture shock. Motherhood can be quite isolating, and it’s doubly hard for me because we don’t know that many people where we live so don’t have anyone to call on or socialise with. But, I’ve started making a few mummy friends and I’ve started freelance writing again which, while it adds some stress to each day, does stimulate my brain and make me feel productive again.

How do you relax?

Um, what’s relaxing? Just kidding ;) I love a glass of red wine at night when Harry is in bed, and exercise most mornings makes me feel good and start the day right. I do struggle to relax though as I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I always find myself writing, cleaning or tidying when Harry is asleep (when I probably should be relaxing and recharging!).

How does a typical day go?

Harry wakes up around 5.30am. We try to resettle him to sleep until closer to 7am, but 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t work. So, he has his milk around 6.30am, either my husband or I go to do a workout while the other is on ‘Harry duty’ and gives him his breakfast around 7.30/8am. Most days Harry and I go out for the morning for a walk, to run errands, to swimming or to meet other mums and babies. Because we’re following a routine, and I like Harry to get his lunchtime longer nap in his cot, we have to be home before midday for lunch then sleep for him. I then generally tidy, clean, do the washing, do some writing and grab lunch myself, then he’s up for the afternoon. In the afternoons we have a swim, go to the park or stay in and play with toys and read books. He loves to be active so crawling time is really important for him. I can’t keep him in the pram for long! He has his dinner around 5.30pm, a bath and then bed by 7pm. Then it’s an hour or two of mummy and daddy time before we crash into bed!

Pregnancy:

How was your pregnancy?

In one word – rubbish! I was sick pretty much the whole pregnancy. I had an anterior placenta, which means it was hard for me to feel Harry’s kicks and we had many emergency trips to the hospital due to reduced foetal movement. The whole nine months was very worrying and hard, but more than worth it :)

Did you find out what you were having?

Yes! I’m a little OCD about organising and wanted to be able to decorate in certain colours. My husband and I are also terrible at waiting for things, so wanted to know asap.

How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?

We did the classes, and I read lots of books, but I really think nothing can prepare you for the birth of your baby. Sorry, but it’s true! You just have to learn on the job when they arrive, consulting books if needed and asking friends and professionals. Once he arrived, I really loved the Contented Little Baby routine book. It meant that Harry was sleeping through (or up just once a night) by 8 weeks of age. Yes, we’ve had some ups and downs with his sleep, but nothing compared to some babies that I hear about. It could just be the luck of the draw, but I do think the book had something to do with it.

How was your labour?

I was induced on Harry’s due date as he was measuring quite large. Being induced hurt a lot, and because his back was on my spine that also hurt. I tried using the gas but would vomit after each go on it. I was so sick and it was taking a long time. I thought I would have been nearly 10cm dialated, but when I found out I was just 3cm I asked for that epidural stat! That was always the plan, should I need it, and when I asked for it I was in as much pain as I could handle. It took the doctors a while to actually get it in and by the time I was ready to push they had to top it up (which meant I’d had a bit too much and everything went a bit fuzzy). I regret this because it means I don’t remember giving birth. But my husband fills me in lots, and I do remember holding Harry for the first time and telling him he was coming into a world filled with love. There was meconium in his waters, so he was having trouble breathing on the way out which was really stressful (more so for my husband, who was sans-drugs!). When Harry came out I couldn’t hold him straight away, and then when I did he was whisked away quickly to special care. I had to wait 5 hours to see him again, while they stitched me up and made sure he was breathing ok. It was the longest wait of my life! But he was fine within hours, and I’ll always remember when we went to get him from special care, me in the wheelchair and him in his little beanie staring up at us and cooing (clearly the largest baby in there, by at least a few kilos!).

How did you get on with breastfeeding?

Harry was breastfed from birth to nearly six months old. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were pretty rocky. He had latching problems so I was in a fair bit of pain for a while. There were times when I thought I couldn’t continue breastfeeding. But we sought help, I pushed through and we went happily along breastfeeding all the way…until nearly six months when he got a bad cold and started rejecting the boob. He took a bottle fine. I guess he preferred the bottle to the boob because he could breathe easier. So, I was giving him a few minutes on the boob, him fighting me all the way, until he screamed and outright refused. Then I’d resort to the bottle. With breastmilk in it if I’d had time to pump, formula if not. It was quite stressful for both of us.

On the odd day that he would breastfeed, it had to be in a quiet dark room and he outright refused to feed in public, instead getting distracted by everything around him. And he continued to fight me all the way.

I’m a believer in the nutritious value of breast milk and always said that if I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed then why not make the most of it, for his benefit. I go by the theory that I try to ensure my husband and I are eating good clean nutritious food in its natural state (well, as much as possible, we’re not saints) so why not put the best into our baby too, what nature intended.

But he had decided that, if it’s from the boob, he JUST. WOULDN’T. FEED. And let’s face it, feeding from a bottle is better than nothing! So I guess the logical question is why didn’t I jpump and give him breastmilk in a bottle? Well, for some reason I just couldn’t keep up with demand. Our hungry monster takes a LOT of milk. He was happily getting enough from breastfeeding alone for nearly 6 months however, for me, the pump worked very slowly. It took me an hour or more to produce enough milk for one feed. Times that by four or five for his full daily milk quota and I just didn’t have that sort of spare time.

Anyway, so I decided to give up. It took a while though and I was mentally beating myself up about the decision for weeks. I’d decide against stopping, try feeding him again, it would end in tears (for both him and I), I decided to stop again, I changed my mind and kept trying, we would fail again…it was endless. He’s now happily on four bottles of formula and three full solid meals a day. He’s thriving, so that’s all I can ask for. And the guilt has subsided, slowly.


Does Harry have a feeding routine?

Yes, we loosely follow the Contented Little Baby routine. I like to know, and I’m pretty sure Harry likes to know, what is coming and when. He’s happy with his routine and has never had it any other way. Because we’ve been doing it since he was six weeks old, it’s almost down to the minute (I can predict he’s about to start whinging if we’re even ten minutes late on his feed!). But, at the same time we do vary it if he needs us to, and we adapt to what we have going on if necessary.

What does Harry eat?

I make all of his food, and he’s huge on vegetables and beef. I hope that never changes, but I’m sure it will at some point! He hates avocado though, which is such a shame as it’s so good for you!

What was your approach to weaning Harry onto solids and what was their first food?

I started just after four months of age with pureed sweet potato, pumpkin, banana, organic baby rice, apple and pear. I tried just one food at a time, for five days (as I’d read about), to test out whether he was allergic or not. Once I had about 10 foods that I knew he liked and wasn’t allergic to, I started to mix them. I haven’t ventured too far with recipes as I want to keep them fairly simple and mostly vegetable based (I don’t want him developing a sweet tooth).

When Harry's freaking out and you've eliminated food, nappy and wind... what do you find helps them to calm down? 

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been in this situation! I’m lucky to have an amazingly happy baby. The only times he cries is when one of the above is wrong (except for teething, in which case the only thing that helps is his dummy and mummy cuddles in our bed!).

What are your go-to resources for information when you're worried?

I love BabyCenter, still refer to the Contented Little Baby book from time to time, and have also found ‘What to Expect the First Year’ quite useful.


Have you taken Harry on any holidays or away from home?

Harry went on his first proper trip just after Christmas, just down to Sydney (from Brisbane) and loved the plane! He slept most of the ride, both trips. We had to hire a car when we arrived at our destination, which was an ordeal as none of the car seats they had would secure in very tightly (and I was NOT going anywhere with a loose-ish car seat!). But we got there in the end. We were going to a wedding, sans-baby (oh, the luxury!) so got a nanny for the night – a complete stranger, which I was very nervous about, but she turned out to be a sweet old lady who was fantastic with him.

What were your baby holiday essentials?

Toys, toys and more toys! Our boy likes to be busy and crawl lots, so the portacot had to do as a play pen which wasn’t ideal but did the job.

Was Harry's routine affected by being on holiday?

The time difference was just one hour, so it wasn’t too hard to manage. I found Harry slipped perfectly into his usual routine in the new time zone, and then back quite quicky when we returned. It still astounds me though how much stuff you have to take with you when you travel with a baby. We’ve done a few road trips and this one plane trip, all for just two or three days, and no matter where we go we’re loaded up with stuff that you’d think would last a month or more!

What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?

We bought Harry a tepee for his room, for Christmas, and he loves playing in it. I think he knows it’s his special place, and we can literally spend hours in his room in it. He particularly loves playing peekaboo in it, and chasing his toys underneath the sides. However, he’s just discovered how to topple it over by pushing on the poles with his feet, which is not ideal for any unsupervised play! I thought I could put him in there while I was in the next room (my office) working, but no deal :)

What has been the most useful thing you've bought, been given or discovered?

The best thing I ever used in the early days was the Sprout baby app. I kept a track of all his sleep, feeds (I even timed them) and nappies. I was probably a little OCD about it, but it really helped me pinpoint where his routine might have been out of whack and what he needed when. It was also great in the early days when I’d go to the doctor or nurse to get him a check up and, on no sleep, had no idea what he’d done when they’d ask. I just had to look at the app to remember.

Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?

I not a huge fan of most of the mainstream stores as they all seem to have the same brightly coloured boys’ clothes covered in cars, whales, dogs, bad slogans etc. I prefer to shop online at brands like Huxbaby, Milk and Masuki, Fromzion, Project T Bear and other local small businesses to get some original and quality items. However, I do love Target and Cotton On for cheap baby basics, we can’t have the more expensive stuff all the time!

Advice:

If you could give your pregnant self a heads up, what would it be?

Sleep while you can! I was always trying to do too much (which hasn’t really changed actually!) and I wish I’d known to just chill a bit more while I had the chance. I also spent a lot of time worrying about how I would cope with the newborn days. In reality, you just have to roll with whatever happens and do the best you can. I wish I hadn’t been such a stress head – actually, I’m probably still a bit like this, but hope that these days I’m a bit more relaxed and have settled into my new role as a mum.

What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?

Don’t sweat the small stuff! I don’t really implement that as much as I should!

Thank you for sharing, Siobhan!
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2 comments

  1. Fab interview, Harry is gorgeous! Too true no matter what books U read we all learn on the job and every baby is so different! x

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading Grainne! Nothing quite prepares you does it and every baby is so different! Looking forward to getting a chance to read your blog xx

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Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It really means a lot! Nicki x

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