Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mummy Time: Jody Ewen

Jody is one of the founders of CraftedSisterhood.com, a collective which I'm often banging on about as they're doing some great things, and share my desire to help other mums through the sharing of experiences and stories... Which is how Mummy Time began in the first place (find out more about the whys and whos here). Anyway. Jody is one cool cucumber and shares how being mindful helps her now she's a mother... Something I'm currently a bit obsessed with. Also, yeah, I said 'cool cucumber'. I'm a loser, I know.
Enjoy....
Mummy:

Who are you?
Hello! I’m Jody, 23 year old mama to two month old Casper, who made his dramatic entrance via emergency c-section on 19/02/15. We live in Rochester, Kent with his Dad, my fiancĂ© Tom.

What do you do for a living?
I am a Buyers Assistant at John Lewis. Before my maternity leave started I worked in the Bathshop department, and before that the Nursery department (I knew aaallll about breast pumps long before Casper!)

How long are you planning to take for maternity leave?
I’m taking just under a year. I always wanted to take as long as possible and after a conversation with my (then) Head of Buying, she said ‘I don’t know anyone who wishes they’d gone back to work earlier after having a baby.’ which really stuck. My career is something which was always so important to me, but I admit it seems less so now. I’m pretty nervous about doing the commute into London again as it means I’m out of the house for such long days. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job and I do miss it, but the thought of leaving Casper with someone else makes me very unhappy.

How do you get things done?
Not my strong point! I rush around like a crazy person whenever Casper decides to nap (very rare!) I’ve tried him in the sling, which is great but only if he’s asleep. These days he’s pretty happy playing under his gym for a while so I pop him in that if I need to do anything two handed. I also sing at the top of my lungs while I’m doing stuff which keeps him happy. Of course there are still days in which absolutely nothing gets done and I feel pretty exhausted by the time Tom gets home!


How are you?
I am mostly really happy. Watching Casper change and grow everyday is so exciting, but I do struggle with the lack of control that comes hand-in-hand with having a little one. I’ll admit to the fact that I am probably too highly strung and so not being able to leave the house as and when I like, or not being able to get things done when I want to, is a huge challenge. All in all though, I feel thankful for our little guy. He’s pretty amazing and makes me laugh out loud just when I think I’m at breaking point.  I love being a mama and I wouldn’t change my life now for the world.

How do you relax?
When I start to feel as though everything is getting on top of me, particularly if Casper is fussing in the evenings and its been a long day, I will quite often take him upstairs and feed him lying down in bed. I’ll read or just lie quietly while he feeds and get my head together. I concentrate on my breathing and focus on being there in that moment. Baths were my trick when I was pregnant as I have always found them so therapeutic, but sadly I haven’t managed a real long soak since Casper was born! I hoping one day soon it will happen!

What do you do when you have time to yourself?
At the moment ‘time to myself’ is the rare occasion Casper naps or is playing with his pops in the evening. If I have a moments respite I am usually rushing around to tidy, do dishes or stick a wash on. Working on the blog – Crafted Sisterhood, which I co-founded with fellow IG mama and Mummy Time contributor Carrie Anne (@fantasy_dragon) also keeps me busy and keeps my mind active. I love it - we started it just a few weeks ago and already it’s got so many supportive mamas behind it! We try to post daily, with contributions from other mamas including inspirational birth stories, postpartum advice and essentially anything relating to motherhood. It has been amazing to watch it grow and I love speaking to the various mamas I wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for IG! We also organise mama meet ups across the country, the first of which is this was a few weeks ago in London and it went so well! Carrie and I both bonded over the fact that we felt there was a real need for a mama-meet with no fee, where mums can come together with their babies and relax, laugh, eat cake, generally be happy in a relaxed environment with no judgement. I was so incredibly excited to meet all the mamas I have been speaking to for what seems like forever – we know so much about each other! Crafted Sisterhood is on instagram as @craftedsisterhood and you can read our musings over at www.craftedsisterhood.com. If any mamas want to contribute or get involved, they can also email us at craftedsisterhood@gmail.com.

How does a typical day go?  
I am only just getting used to the fact that every day is pretty different with Casper, especially when you’re exclusively breastfeeding! We have started to see a slight pattern appear in the last few days though. Casper wakes around 5-6am depending on when he woke in the night for a feed, and I tend to make the most of Tom being there before he heads of to work by dashing to make the coffees or getting in the shower. There are some days though where Casper will sleep later which means we only wake as Tom is leaving. The battle to get coffee with a babe in tow then commences. I’m pretty lucky in the fact that Casper tends to be in a good mood in the mornings, so after some play time I pop him under his play gym in the bathroom and he’s quite happy for a little while I shower and quickly get ready.

What we actually do in the day varies, I see a lot of my mum who has a day off on Thursdays and a lot of Tom’s mum who has a day on Monday. They both have car seats so its pretty useful if we want to pop out and Tom has the car at work. I see friends who work locally or my cousin who has a little one just 6 weeks older than Casper. Whatever we do, I try to make sure there is loads going on for Casper to soak in, lots of different sights to see and different things for me to make up silly songs about.

Pregnancy:

How was your pregnancy?
I had no real complications but I found pregnancy in general pretty tough. I had a long commute to work and suffered with low blood pressure which meant I collapsed on the train a couple of times and in a handful of meetings. I suffered emotionally too, with bouts of anxiety which I had never experienced before. Pregnancy really changed me, and I am sad to say, I don’t think for the better. We had so much to organise and I remember just thinking we would never get there. Despite all of that, the magical feeling of the first time I felt Casper wriggle inside me during a yoga class was the most special, wonderful thing in the world.

Did you have any cravings?
I only really craved milkshakes – I put that down to intense heart burn everyday, also my justification for the amount of Yazoo I consumed. Pate is also the key to my heart so I really, really missed that!

Did you find out what you were having?
Yes we couldn’t wait to find out! I cried so much at the scan that the sonographer had to tell Tom to calm me down. I always liked the idea of having a boy first, although in truth I would have been just as thrilled with a little girl.

How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
Tom suggested the name Casper, and straight away I loved it. We had a back up boy name but pretty early on we were calling my bump Casper. We kept it a secret much to the frustration of absolutely everyone in our lives.

How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?
I read the standard pregnancy guide books and devoured all the statistics and facts involved with what was happening. I think reading everything about my changing body helped me come to terms with impending motherhood when I felt so uneasy in the first trimester. I did a lot of mental preparation in the form of meditation and mindfulness practice and Tom and I attended a Hypnobirthing course which was great but unfortunately didn’t get put to use! Carrie mentions giving me her Mindful Birthing book in her Mummy Time interview (read it here) – she is the kindest soul and sent it to me once she had finished with it. I read it cover to cover and did use techniques from the book to deal with the early stages of labour. As I got closer I did the generic ante-natal classes but just found they didn’t teach anything I didn’t already know. I was confident in my abilities so it was more just going through the motions.

How was your labour?
My labour sadly went horribly wrong very quickly. I dreamed of a drug-free water birth and practiced mindfulness and meditation techniques everyday throughout my pregnancy. When I arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night it quickly became apparent that Casper was in distress. He had foetal bradychardia, which essentially means that when the heart rate naturally drops during a contraction (normal) it doesn’t recover again (not normal). After breaking my waters and attaching a monitor to his head they quickly decided he was not a happy little guy and my only option was a caesarean. There was no time for an epidural to kick in so Tom was kicked out of the room and 45 minutes later I woke up, still very hazy from anaesthetic, only to look over and see my son wrapped up in a bundle in Toms arms.
It was easily the most traumatic experience of my life and I was heartbroken that everything I wanted to happen, didn’t happen. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with how he arrived, but I have a healthy baby who without intervention may not have made it. That’s all that matters to me now.   

Baby:

How did you get on with breastfeeding?
I found breastfeeding so, so difficult. My initial problem was that as Casper was a c-section baby, I found getting him into a position that wasn’t painful for me really challenging. I also had a cannula in my left arm, so I felt so clumsy trying to prop his head up. Next issue was latching – no one explains this to you before your baby comes and I spent every feed crying and trying to be calm and failing miserably. I will never forget the feeling of panic and dread each time Casper cried for a feed. I was also pretty surprised how many people are pro giving up, just because it’s hard. Luckily I also had a lot of people around me egging me on. No matter how hard I cried I persevered and it’s the best thing I have done. One night mid-break down I just had enough. I thought to myself ‘Right. This is it. You’re going to master this because your baby needs to eat. Man up you can do this.’ And he latched perfectly. It was as if he knew I suddenly had faith in us. I am also very lucky in that I have an unbelievable supply so I plan to donate now that Casper is old enough! (Milk banks ask that you wait six weeks to ensure that your supply is enough for your baby first.) I think it took about three/four weeks of pain before it eventually started easing off. I used Lansinoh like it was going out of  fashion and tried to be bra-free as much as is possible when you have a constant stream of visitors and perpetually leaking boobs! I think in that time we were getting the hang of the latch, so once they started to heal, one day of lousy latch would just put us back to square one. It was incredibly frustrating but I am stubborn as hell and wouldn't let the pain deter me. I sent out a plea post to IG mamas and as per usual got a stream of supportive comments and general good vibes from them all. When you have twenty mamas telling you how worth it it’s going to be, you just can't give up. An old school friend saw my plea and got in touch - her own mama is a health visitor (one of the great ones) and we had a good 30 minute phone conversation. She didn’t necessarily tell me anything I didn’t already now but was positive, encouraging, and I hung up the phone feeling like I was actually doing it right for once! It was a great feeling and we didn’t look back. I don’t have any thoughts on when I will stop feeding Casper, whenever feels right I guess.

Does Casper have a feeding routine?
Does all the time particularly when it’s inconvenient count as a routine?!

Does Casper have a sleep routine?
He doesn’t have a sleep routine as such but I did a few things to encourage his understanding of night and day. In the daytime, the house is kept light with plenty of noise and fun and activity. He gets dressed at roughly the same time in the morning, which I think helps him to understand that a new day is beginning. In the evenings around six he has a lavender bath, a massage and then I put him in ‘pyjamas’. After that, everything is peaceful and I try to keep the lights dim. The time when he actually drops of varies but I am fortunate in that after his night feeds he falls straight back to sleep.

How do you keep Casper entertained?
His favourite things include dancing round the living room with me to Chicago house, or listening to his pops play guitar. I think I listened to so much music when I was pregnant that it really seems to settle him. A lot of smiling and high pitched voices get the gurgles going, and he gets a lot of impromptu songs out of us. These tend to be lyrics about nappy changes dubbed over well-known pop songs, but it makes him smile! Worryingly, he also likes to stare at himself in the mirror for extended periods of time.


What helps to calm Casper down during a freak out?
We’ve only ever experienced this a couple of times, luckily, as Casper’s a pretty happy baby. I just persevered, held him close with lots of gentle shushing and if all else fails, the boob. Skin to skin helps him settle if I expect he’s just overtired too.

Does Casper seem to suffer with anything and what do you do to help it?
He is rather windy (breastfed babies not being windy is total balls!) so sometimes that makes him a little grizzly but as he’s getting older he seems to cope with it better himself. If not his dad is a pro-winder. Strangely, I also can’t eat tomatoes because they give him a sore bum!

What are your go-to resources for information when you're worried?
I have googled everything from nappy contents to hiccups in the early hours. I am also very fortunate to have a nurse as a mother in law so she is Whatsapped all sorts of pictures and questions, from the time I suspected I had mastitis due to an unfortunate infected toenail incident (Casper, not me). I ask my mum everything too as she is completely non-judgemental and works in early years childcare herself. She understands that things are different to when she raised me and embraces everything that I am doing. She is really encouraging which is lovely.

Paraphernalia:

Does Casper have a favourite toy?
At the moment he’s a huge fan of a navy and white striped zebra from Jellycat, so that comes everywhere with us. Anything with a smiley face or contrasting light and dark patterns and he’s sold.

What was your most recent baby-related purchase?
A set of dangly things (technical term) that attach to the pram, gym or carseat. They squeak and vibrate and rattle and in his favourite black and white, Casper is transfixed by them. We also got him a stripy triceratops but I think that was more for his dad than him.

What has been the most useful thing you've bought?
Probably the countless supply of muslins we have as we go through an unbelievable amount! The sling is great if Casper is happy to nap but only on me and I need to get things done. I was given a manual breast pump but got myself an electric one which is so much easier so that has been a godsend for when I need to express. Lavender oil is my go to oil for getting Casper in a calm mood in the evenings and is an absolute essential.

What is Casper’s mode of transport?
We have a Bugaboo Cameleon 3 which was a gift from my parents and is khaki and bloody awesome, but sometimes I feel ridiculous pushing it round because it’s massive and worth practically double the amount our banged-up 1998 Fiesta is. I have a Boba wrap which is useful sometimes but Casper is a wriggler and will not be in it awake. It’s great for if I know he’s close to napping as he nearly always drifts off in it if he’s tired. If I’m heading out alone I tend to take both so I can have him snoozing in the Boba and transfer him to the buggy for a wriggle when he wakes up!

What are your absolute essentials when you go out?
Spare baby clothes (learnt the hard way from a lot of jet-pee incidents), chewing gum, the usual nappy supplies, MUSLINS. I wash about 30 muslins a week. Also spare breast pads, because I’ve leaked through my top more times than I care to remember.


Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?
We were bought so many clothes for Casper so I actually haven’t got to do that much shopping for him. (I say that with regret because I bloody love shopping) I’ve found some lovely bits in Baby Gap when I have had the chance to go shopping and I have to say I am loyal to John Lewis Childrenswear. There are loads of amazing brands out there that I’d love to dress Casper up in, but at the moment he has enough to be going with!

Body & Mind:

Has your view on your body changed since you've become a mother? 
I won't lie and say I'm totally in love with my body now, but you do feel differently about it once you've housed and nourished a life all by yourself. It’s pretty special what the female body is capable of and I am still so in awe that my boobies keep Casper alive and gaining weight. I'm not going to look like I used to on the beach this summer, I have a little baby pouch and boobs covered in stretch-marks but in all honesty I'm not as phased by how flat my stomach is anymore. I've started back at Yoga and try to eat a good, balanced diet, but I'm too busy blowing raspberries on Casper’s tummy for a fad diet or gruelling work out plan! 

How do you practice being mindful in respect to being a mother?
Being mindful in everyday life now I have Casper is so valuable, even more so than before I would say. There are times when his cry is piercing and he's been going at it for hours or he's so overtired he won't nap despite how exhausted he is. It's times like that when, understandably, some mamas really struggle with their emotions. There have been so many occasions especially in the early days when I would sit and cry each time Casper did. That frantic feeling when you feel as though you have tried everything and you just need a time out. Now we are more into the swing of family life, I find it easier to stop, take a few deep breaths, relax my shoulders and so on. It keeps me calm when Casper isn't which helps, as getting frustrated only ever escalates the problem! I do a quick body scan every day in the shower which helps to just re-balance and get me in a positive head space for the day. For mamas who have never done any sort of meditative practice before, but want to give it a try, I really recommend the 'Headspace' app. It's fantastic to get you started if you want to be able to get into a 'zone' but need some guidance. I started off using Headspace everyday but now find I don't need it.

Advice:

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Your life is going to change in the most unimaginable way. Being a mother is the most intensely wonderful thing you will ever do, but also easily the most challenging. Stick to what you believe is right for you and your baby. Advice will fly from every direction, but if you’re confident in what you’re doing then carry on. Breastfeeding is bloody hard, but dig deep and keep going and it will be the most easy, convenient thing ever. It’s also pretty special to get your baby weighed and realise it was all you, and you alone that is responsible for those delicious rolls. Be open and honest and don’t feel guilty for asking for help if you need it.

Thank you for sharing, Jody!

Find Jody on IG:
@jodyewen
@craftedsisterhood 

P.S. Jess from last week's Mummy Time post (along with her BFF) is hosting the second Crafted Sisterhood meet up in Bristol on Saturday 23rd May at The Green Bank at 12pm. You can find Jess and her BFF, Emma (who I want to feature on here soon) at mamafolk.co.uk.

Thank you for reading! x
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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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