Thursday, August 23, 2012

Still Going...

Hi there. I'm still alive. I haven't blogged for a looong time. Other things have taken up time in my life, and I didn't like how I was feeling like blogging was a chore. But here I am, with an almost nine month old baby girl (shall I call her Cave Baby II?) and my eldest about to start school!

Since I last blogged we've moved house and I've reached the latter stages of NCT breastfeeding counselling training. With any luck, I'll get the last few assignments done before Christmas and I'll be officially up and running by early next year. Maybe I'll write more about that some time... it might be useful for anyone considering NCT training. I thought I was already quite a complete, self-aware person, but the reflection and counselling skills training has taken me even deeper. I can step out of situations more now, and analyse more objectively why I react to things in the way I do.

So, another baby! I wrote a lot on this blog about my journey back to fertility. My periods restarted when Cave Baby I (now Cave Girl?) turned two. I had made no obvious change to our nursing habits. We immediately started trying to conceive, but after a couple of months I became frustrated at our lack of success. I seemed to have a short luteal phase and I took vitamin b6 and agnus castus (vitex) to improve it. There was no appreciable effect and I felt that my only option was to cut down on our still-frequent nursing sessions. I began by spacing sessions out to no more than four hourly. After another couple of months, I took what I considered to be the drastic step of cutting out all sessions other than morning and nap time and reducing sessions to 15 minutes. This might still sound like a lot of nursing to other people, but my daughter was a super keen breastfeeder! Even at two years old she would happily suck away for an hour in the morning. I am happy to say that the sudden drop in breast stimulation worked, and that very month I fell pregnant. I continued to breastfeed my eldest throughout the pregnancy despite my milk drying up by nine weeks (That was how keen Girl I was on feeding!). Nursing was annoying and a bit sore, but hey. I could take a bit of pain if it meant a quiet nap with my daughter in the afternoon :)

So fast forward nine months and my beautiful baby girl was born at home in a birthing pool with no complications. I tandem fed for three months but, by this time, I honestly felt that my eldest would be fine without it. Sleeping separately (me with newborn, Cave Father with eldest) had broken Girl I's association between feeding and sleep, and she had spontaneously dropped her naps when she had turned three. I felt like my breasts were becoming something of a battle ground, as a way for Girl I to assert her ownership over me. I was starting to resent her feeding and as a result I was finding the sensation of her suckling intolerable. There comes a time when it is in the interests of the family to draw breastfeeding to a close. Our time had come. She asked for the breast occasionally over the few days after I decided to wean, but was always satisfied with an explanation that it was time to stop. There were no tears - she truly had moved on emotionally from breastfeeding. At this time she needed my attention and love, and whilst feeding had been one way to meet these needs, other ways had become easier and more fulfilling for us both.

So here I am now, with an independently minded, highly spirited and still highly demanding almost-four year old and a sweet, smiley, relaxed baby. Who would have thought that the genomes that brought us Miss High Needs could have produced such a contrastingly pleasant second child?

One final thing - Cave Girl sleeps through the night. In her own bed. Yes, I know, it surprised me as well. Only after experiencing the joy of sleeping for most of the night with a "normal" baby can I appreciate how extraordinarily sleep deprived I was for my first 18 months of parenthood. I guess there's hope for us all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Return of Menses

Several people have emailed me to chat about their own concerns regarding the return of postpartum menses, so I know it's something that lots of people are interested in. I'm pleased to report that my cycles have finally returned! My period started 2 years and 25 days after giving birth, and in future I shall treasure this time in amenorrhoea instead of worrying about it.

Did I ovulate? I don't take my temperatures, so I don't know for sure. But I know I had several days of fertile mucous and some serious mittelschmerz - the latter is something I had never experienced before. Thirteen days after the ovulation cramps subsided, I began to bleed, so I can only guess that I did ovulate.

Was my period any heavier/lighter/more painful than usual? I was expecting the worst but actually it has been very normal and perhaps slightly less painful than it used to be. I hope this is a taster for things to come!

What prompted my menses to resume? There doesn't seem to have been any change in Cave Baby's suckling habits. If anything, I would say she has been suckling more (particularly at night) in the last couple of months. Maybe her sessions are a bit shorter. I have been taking the herb agnus castus (usually called vitex in the US) for two months now. It is meant to stimulate hormone production and is generally purported to be a fertility wonder drug, so perhaps that has made the difference.

So when am I going to start trying to conceive another child? Cave Father and I need to have "the conversation". But I would like a 3 year age gap, so I think we'll start soon. Having said that, I really want to have a winter baby this time so it will not be the youngest in its school year like Cave Baby. Maybe I'll have to wait a bit longer. If I can. Aaah, baby lust.

Oh, and another thing. Cave Baby, the incredibly attached, booby-loving, tantrum-having sweetheart, went to sleep for her daddy when I went out for my first ever postpartum evening out! I wouldn't have predicted it. She's a clever little thing. It seems that when I'm around, boobie is all that will do, but she can actually get herself to sleep quite happily when boobie is unavailable. They know a thing or two, these babies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Clearing My Throat.. Ahem.. It's Been a While

It's been a while. So what's going on? Well, I've been:
  • Going on holiday

  • Starting breastfeeding counselling training

  • Reading tons of books on breastfeeding

Cave Baby is now two and she's starting to go to sleep without boobie! I thought it would never happen but suddenly, out of the blue, she sometimes prefers to unlatch, turn over and be shushed to sleep. Unbelievable, I know. It even makes me believe that one day she will self-wean. And that is hard to comprehend. She has even been sleeping through the night occasionally, though that hasn't happened for a few weeks since the latest molars started to make themselves known.

So what else? I've starting taking vitex agnus castus to stimulate my body to ovulate. I'm six weeks in and I finally have egg-white cervical mucous, so it might be working. It's time to admit now that I would really like to have another baby.

Oh, and I'm still sworn off shampoo. A bicarb wash every four days is quite sufficient at the moment. It makes me woder why I spent all that money on shampoo in the past.

So another summer has gone and the wheel of the year turns again. I'll try to catch up with some of the blogs I used to frequent, though breastfeeding counselling training comes first.

Happy autumn.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bicarb Quickie

This is a quick No Poo update. It is almost three weeks since I last washed my hair with shampoo and, contrary to my expectations, it feels soft, clean and not at all greasy. I want to make it clear that I would not be saying this if it was not true; I did not go into this expecting bicarbonate of soda to work.

My hair does feel a little different to how it used to. It is slightly heavier and fuller than it was after a normal shampoo. After two days without a wash it feels even heavier and thicker, but not as greasy as it would have done two days after a shampoo wash. The appearance of my hair is much the same as it always was, only now I don't have to use serum or blow dry it to get it to look smooth and nice. The biggest change is to my scalp. Previously it was dry, flaky and itchy. All of that has stopped now that I am not using harsh detergents on it.

My routine is currently: put bicarb mix on scalp (about 1/2 tsp bicarb to 1/2 cup water); massage and leave 2 mins; rinse well; squirt on some dilute cider vinegar (about 1 tsp to 100ml water); rinse. I am still doing this every two days. I have tried going longer but I don't like the heavy feeling of my hair; maybe I will be able to leave longer between washes as time goes on.

I am curious to see how things develop and if my hair changes further. The transition period is meant to last anywhere from two weeks to two months, so I might still be in it. I would urge anyone who has a passing interest in No Poo to give it a go because it really is so much less scary than I imagined, and if you have a sensitive scalp then it might be the solution you have always been looking for.

PS I'm going on holiday now so please don't think I'm rude if I don't respond to any comments for a while.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Different Strokes (Or Why I Hate Crying It Out)

When you're encased in your happy little attachment parenting bubble, it's easy to forget how differently some other babies experience their first few years. So I have to admit that I was shocked when I spent the weekend with a family who err on the stricter side of things. My thoughts on this are all in a bit of a jumble, but I wanted to get my reactions down while they're raw. These are my opinions - they may be right or wrong, but they are mine.

First of all there is the discipline issue. This other family seemed to be overwhelmingly negative in their approach to discipline. If their baby girl (just over 1 year old) did something unwanted, like put something in her mouth, their first strategy was to say "No". If that didn't work (and of course it didn't because she was only just 1) then they punished her by removing her from the place of interest or picked her up so she couldn't do anything. There was no attempt to interest her in a safer or more desirable activity - it was just "No, that's it, no more fun". To me it just seemed so joyless.

Our family's approach to discipline is to first consider whether the activity really is undesirable. For example, should I really tell my daughter off for digging in the flowerbeds? Should I accept that she's copying me and learning? Should I direct her to a bit of the garden where I don't mind her digging? If something is unsafe or I really don't want her doing it then I say "No" and direct her to an alternative activity. I am not one of these parents who refuses to tell their children off, but I just think we need to give them a bit of space to explore and learn in their own way. That's just my opinion and it fits with my personality and upbringing. Different people do things different ways.

The thing that really shocked me was the crying it out. There I was, trying to nurse Cave Baby to sleep, while across the hall this other child was screaming her lungs out trying to get her mum to come and comfort her. I fucking hate crying it out. What's so bad about giving the baby a quick cuddle and sitting with it while it dozes off? The particular parents in question are not totally insensitive bastards and they did eventually relent, at which point the baby went to sleep quietly, easily and calmly. But I could not understand why they were so reluctant to sit with it in the first place. How have several generations of parents been persuaded that they should forget all their instincts and ignore their quite plainly desperate babies?

Don't get into the whole "I was at my wits end and I was about to break down and so I left him to cry" business. I understand that, and I understand that sometimes you just have to shut the door and take a deep breath. What I despise is systematic, repeated crying it out. It's not necessary. It stresses babies. Done frequently, it could harm their mental health as children and adults. Why are we, as a society, so afraid of admitting this? We are afraid to say out loud that formula feeding kills babies and we are similarly petrified of saying that crying it out harms babies' brains.

There, I said it. I put my cards on the table. I fucking despise crying it out. It troubles me more than any other parenting issue. I was almost crying myself when I had to listen to that baby's pleas. As my lovely partner himself said, "That baby is such a free spirit, I hope they don't damage her".

I know there are many people out there who are going to disagree with me. But this is what I think. If you are interested in this issue, I would suggest reading "Why Love Matters" by Sue Gerhardt. In the meantime, do tell me what you think about discipline and sleep training.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Reality of Child Mortality

Have you noticed any of the recent articles on child mortality across the world? Here in the UK the headlines have told us that we have the highest death rate of under-5s in the whole of Western Europe, with 5.3 deaths per 1000 live births. That compares with Sweden's 2.7.

But the figures from other Americanised cultures are equally as bad: Australia had 4.7 deaths per 1000, Canada had 4.9 and the US had a shocking 6.7.

Child deaths are falling across the world, in developing as well as developed nations. But I still have to wonder why they are higher in American-type cultures than European countries. The reasons are obviously very complex but increases in obesity, fertility treatment and average maternal age are surely important factors.

Could the private American health system also be to blame for it's terrible child mortality? The UK's National Health Service is far from brilliant, but at least every mother has easy access to quality obstetric and paediatric care if it is needed.

Years ago, before the NHS was established, my great great aunt lost her two year old son to diptheria because she could not afford to take him to hospital. She never had another child and for the rest of her life she cursed herself for failing to save him. This is the reality behind child mortality.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bicarbonate of Soda Actually Works

I was expecting to come out of the shower with hair as greasy as when I went in. But this week's revelation is: bicarbonate of soda does actually clean my hair.

I've used it twice so far and my hair feels pretty much normal. However I have two things going in my favour:

a) I only washed my hair every two days anyway, and I didn't use much shampoo; and
b) We have really soft water.

For anyone interested, I read around a few websites and decided to use a softly-softly approach to begin with. So I am only using one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda mixed with a cupful of water (200ml to be precise). I pour about half of that on my head, massage it into the scalp for a couple of minutes then rinse. I thought I would gradually increase the dosage if it wasn't working, but so far it seems to be cleaning my hair well enough.

I still have a bit of conditioner left in a bottle so I've been using that after the wash. When it has run out I'll start experimenting with cider vinegar.

I keep wondering why I've been using shampoo for thirty years when that bicarbonate of soda sitting in the kitchen cupboard would do the job just as well. It's quite amazing.