How to keep it together when your baby is sick (and you are too)

It’s so easy to fall apart when you have a little one who depends so entirely on you. You might be hanging by a thread but how you feel is secondary. Sonny has been poorly for the past two weeks. It started of with innocent enough sniffles that developed into a full blown hacking cough and cold. It’s so, so hard to see your beautiful baby suffer. I know it’s ‘just’ a cold and it will pass and I know I need to (wo)man up but it’s really, really tough. I’m drained because adrenaline is constantly pumping through my veins, keeping me on red alert. Should I call the doctor (again)? Should I call the health visitor (again)? It’s hard enough looking after a baby, but when they are sick, you’ve a strict regimen of eye drops, nose spray, vapour rub, Calpol and antibiotics on top of bottles, mealtimes and nappies. The understanding pharmacist at my local Boots said babies get up to 15 colds in their first year and they’re actually “good” for their immune system. It bloody doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the eye of the storm of sneezes.

My living room is a petri dish and my life consists of chasing after a snotty, crying, coughing, crawling baby as he leaves a snail trail of bodily fluids and a tsunami of tissues in his wake. I’m cuddling him as much as possible and he takes full advantage by rubbing his streaming nose on my sleeve (or wherever his nose goes). The other night, as I slowly climbed the stairs to put him to bed, he heaved and heaved and splattered me in vomit. Spag bol flavour. I yelled for Andrew who came dashing up the stairs with wet wipes. That wasn’t going to cut it… bless him. I catch my reflection on the mirrored slidesrobes in the nursery. I’m covered in orange vomit, I’ve dark eye bags and my hair needs washed. I look like hell but I don’t care. Most days I look like a slob anyway. It’s amazing how little you care about how you look when you’re a new mum. Wearing make-up is a luxury. But, even if it’s a crappy day where all you’ve been doing is chasing your tail, you’re still doing an incredible job – raising a human.

Snots, sneezes and snuggles.

I can’t tell if I’m being a crazy mama when I list Sonny’s symptoms to our lovely, patient GP. She’s sympathetic even if she thinks I’m being over the top. You can’t help it though. You just want your little one to stop suffering. I mean it, if I could take on his suffering I would and I’m far from being a soldier – I hate being in any kind of discomfort. But when you’re being used as a human handkerchief it’s just a matter of time before the germs set up shop in you too. My throat and chest bore the brunt of the invasion.

Still, it’s a comfort to know that everything has but a time. A lovely elderly lady I got chatting to in a coffee shop recently said the best thing for a cold is a four letter word. Love. Sadly, colds will take their course, but an abundance of love and patience will also go a long way to making you feel better. So, while I shower him with kisses and smother him in cuddles, I know I need those just as much as him.

So, if you and your little one are under the weather, know that it will pass and you are doing everything in your power to make their life more comfortable. Don’t forget to look after yourself too. You are important. When you get better, you’ll never take feeling well for granted again. While the cold is a hateful thing, take full advantage of all the cuddles because, as I’m told again and again – they grow up fast and you’ll cherish the times you squeezed them so tight you can feel their heart beat. Oh, he’s getting better…

My little lion has got his roar back…

Turning curve balls into beach balls…

There will be many periods in your life where everything is going to plan, things don’t deviate too much from the programme and things keep ticking over. Depending on what stage of life you are at, this can be welcome or frustrating. As for me, I’m content with having some routine in my life. I also crave fresh sea air, woodland walks, dining out and drinks in the sun. Routine is fine, as long as you always have things to look forward to, be that a holiday, city break, or just a Sunday drive and pub lunch.

Every day is a road trip.

There will also be times when you’re thrown curveballs, I’ve already had one this year, and now another one has been thrown my way. My dad once said, “if you can’t change something, change how you feel about it”. That is so true, a positive attitude is very effective body armour. I’m much more inclined to believe that everything is happening for a reason now, than say, when I got messed around by yet another rubbish guy in my twenties.

I have a close friend who has always been very spiritual and she’s a firm believer in the law of attraction. It may sound like bunkum to some of you, but only allowing yourself positive thoughts can have a profound impact on your day. Have you ever got up in the morning, stubbed your toe on the shower door, dropped your last contact lens on the floor, burnt your toast and missed your bus? Okay, maybe not exactly, but you’re having “one of those days”. One bad thing happening can set off a destructive domino effect but if you put a positive spin on things, it can totally change your day.

Becoming a mum has opened up a new world to me. You’ve heard it said that “children keep you young”. Yes, they also age you, but take a leaf out of their book when it comes to your life. They see the world through rose-tinted glasses, everything holds interest and intrigue, each day holds so much wonder. It’s pure joy to see my son first thing in the morning. I walk softly into his room and pull back the curtains, letting the sunlight stream in. His big eyes sparkle and he emits an excited squeal. It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited to wake up in the morning. Sonny has certainly changed that. It’s so amazing to watch him grow. He’s crawling now, and quite literally snapping at my heels as he moves seamlessly from rug, to wood floor to tiles. He’ll be on his feet soon, and he certainly is keeping me on mine.

Every day is an adventure.

Stop seeing curve balls as obstacles, but rather see them as a big, beautiful, colourful objects nudging you into the direction you’re supposed to take in life. Despite everything, I’m really excited for the future.

Why we should be making every second count

Time passes quickly, and more so as you grow older. When I was a teenager, with my life stretched out before me, someone told me that each decade passes much more quickly than the one that preceded it. As the popular, acerbic, adage goes… “Youth is wasted on the young”. “I can’t wait,” you think, for a night out, a holiday, going to university, getting your driving licence. You even have the luxury, and believe me it is one, to be bored.

As a person who could now be considered middle-aged (the horror), I look back on my life to date and I’ve made many good and bad choices. I’m glad and grateful to have a very close family and loyal and supportive friends. My life is better than it’s ever been and I’m very much looking forward to what the future holds. I’m also aware that our mortality makes us very fragile indeed.

This week, life dealt a very sobering curve ball that could have changed the lives of a great many in our circle. When something bad happens, life seems to grind to a halt. You enter a zone where the day to day worries dissipate and you focus all your energy on the situation, whatever role you play. All you want is for the situation to get better, so that normal service can resume. Thankfully, it has. But things could have been very much different.

You spend your youth making memories, and as you get older, you spend your time thinking back to precious moments in your life, falling in love, landing the dream job, getting married, giving birth, becoming a parent. It’s so important to live in the present too. Smartphones have made it so easy to capture life as it happens. We film life rather than live it. Life can change in an instant so be sure to make every moment count. Hug your children a little tighter, tell your husband or wife you love them, call the friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, bury the hatchet, just because life is too short. At the end of our lives, all that matters are memories. Make them good ones.

It’s a thumb’s up from Sonny…

Tonight, I’ll spend a few seconds longer looking at my perfect son, as he sleepily gazes up at me from his cot, cuddling his beloved bunny. I’ll kiss his little forehead and squeeze his tiny hand a little tighter. I’m so incredibly lucky for my life and for Sonny. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

Image credits:

Photography: Trazanne Norwood https://www.instagram.com/trazanne/

Hair & Makeup: Melissa and Sophie @ Paul Meekin https://www.partnersbelfast.co.uk/

Little cub, big cot – my mixed emotions as Sonny moves into his own room…

When your baby is a bawling newborn, you long for the day when your blessed bundle will go into his or her own room. There are many schools of thought as to the ‘right time’ for this, if there is such a thing. As a new mum, I made the decision to stick to the recommended six months. But, inevitably, you’ll just do what works for you and your family. Your instinct will never lead you far wrong, I’ve found. But, as the time came for him to go into his room (which has been ready since before he was born), I came up a myriad of reasons to delay it. I’d gotten used to his soft, even breathing being the last thing I heard before drifting off. Seven months in and my husband said, “it’s time”. Of course, he was right – I don’t (never) usually admit to this.

I’d agonised over which baby monitor to get, one with video or just audio. Eventually, after looking at the options, I went with audio and I’m surprised by how incredibly sensitive it is. I can hear when he is rustling about in his sleep and I love that. Sonny going into his own room has totally changed our evenings. Before, we placed him in a Moses basket in our living room, bringing him up to our room when we retired, usually around 11pm. Now, I can eat dinner and watch TV with my hubby. I’m still thinking of our little one, but it feels right to have a little time to myself. Now, he’s in his bed for 7pm. I’m not quite sure how the heck I have managed this but he’s sleeping until 7am.

The first night, I put him in his snug sleeping bag and gently placed him in his adorable cot bed. He looked so small. Sonny however, seemed to like being able to starfish, (who doesn’t?!). He pulled his grey fluffy bunny to his face and sucked on his soother. I pressed the leg of Ewan the dream sheep, something I’ve done since we brought him home, and tip toed out of his room, leaving the door ajar. My mind raced, I couldn’t go to sleep, thinking of him, so tiny in his big bed. He couldn’t have cared less and actually slept like a baby (or my husband, to be precise). I did manage to sleep that night in short blocks as I got up to check in on him throughout the night. I’ve self-diagnosed myself with Nocturia, something which has me up at least three times in the night. Ironically, it’s something I’m grateful for now, as I’d be nervous of sleeping so deeply that I didn’t wake up at all. This way, I know my bladder will keep me alert.

I woke up the next morning, the baby monitor crackling with Sonny’s movements as he roused, unfurling slowly. Then comes the soft, sweet babbling, “da da da, ba ba ba”. I’ve noticed he only enunciates “ma ma ma” when he’s hungry, needs his nappy changed or is generally annoyed. Another joy of motherhood. I peel myself out of bed and pad softly into the nursery. He beams at me from a lying position in his cot, not able to pull himself up into the sitting position just yet. His plump skin is pink, his beautiful big eyes wide and bright, he grins at me with chubby arms stretched for me to lift him. I gently pull him out of his sleeping bag and scoop him up in my arms. I pull him close and he buries his gorgeous little head in my neck. I missed him. How can that even be possible? He’s still only a few feet from our bed.

I don’t know how I’ll cope when I return to work and he goes to nursery. The bond with your child is so incredibly strong. Still, motherhood is really hard, there’s no sugar coating it. In my late thirties, I don’t have the energy I once had. There are days that I feel pushed to my limits, frazzled, depleted, exhausted. But, I wouldn’t change a thing. Becoming a mum has been the making of me.

I know there will be many more milestones to come, and each will present their own difficulties. This week has been quite hard. He’s going through another developmental leap and he’s teething. He just wants to be held, which of course, I’m more than happy to do. This week has brought me back to when he was a newborn, depending on me so absolutely. Although I sleepwalked through those first few months, I adored holding him, skin to skin, on my chest. He’s a bit too big for that now, but as I’m climbing the stairs to put him down in his own room and he snuggles into me, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Why you should buy every new mum a facial

Perhaps it shouldn’t be the case, but how you look matters. I think as a woman, your self-esteem is so wrapped up in how you look. I love make-up and I love how it makes me feel… confident and attractive, maybe even sexy if I have my red carpet lippy on. Without it, I want to melt into the background, be invisible. I know that’s quite sad. I’ve worn make-up since I was I my early teens, despite protestations from my mother, who lamented at all the different products I used on my acne-prone skin. She has incredible skin and she puts it down to the fact that she never wore make-up. I’m approaching 40. When I look at my naked face, all I can see are the crows feet, the dark circles under my eyes, the fine lines around my mouth. However, with make-up, I feel different, like I can take on anything. But, what if you could feel so confident in your skin that you could forsake your beloved make-up?

Recently, I had a Guinot Age Summum facial at Beauty Culture, a multi-award-winning salon in east Belfast and it’s a stone’s throw where I live, which is a bonus. It’s the ultimate skincare treatment for women 35 and over that erases signs of ageing, lack of firmness, dull complexion and fine lines. It felt so good to lie back under towels and blankets and to let someone else be in charge of your well-being. Okay, Sonny was amusing himself on the floor with latex gloves. It’s not always possible to get babysitters, but, I hoped for the best as I laid back, listening to deliciously, chilled out vibes. If it wasn’t for Sonny, I’d definitely have drifted off to that sweet land of nod.

Sonny tasting out the products

I asked my fresh-faced, extremely clued-in therapist to be brutally honest about my skin. I don’t know if it’s an age thing or a new mum thing, but I’m much less inclined to be offended by things now, maybe a little when it comes to my appearance, but hey, I’m a woman, and I like being told I look good as much as the next. Luckily, it wasn’t all bad. She said I had soft skin that was ageing gracefully (result) but and I wasn’t suffering premature ageing. Well, I’m kicking the ass of 40 so fine lines are to be expected. She didn’t even mention my crow’s feet, an area I’m most paranoid about. But, they’re a road map of my life to date, and I’ve been blessed to laugh a lot. She did say I had fine lines on my forehead, open pores on my nose and cheeks, which I’m aware off and I was a bit dark around the eyes. As a new mum, that definitely something you have to live with – but drinking two litres of water a day will certainly help. (Groan).

You can tell I’m a low-maintenance gal as I was given what I thought was a cape to wear. No, it was a boob tube. How embarrassing. I make a joke and the treatment begins. To start, a Dermabrasion Exfoliating Cream is applied to prep my skin for serum, it also rejuvenates the skin’s appearance. Next, a Regenerating Anti-Ageing Serum is applied that uses Vitamin C, which encourages cell regeneration and radiance. The next step is an Age Summum Facial Massage. This anti-ageing massage technique helps penetrate hyaluronic acid and makes the skin appear firmer and facial features rejuvenated.  The final step is an Age Summum Face Mask. This specific anti-ageing tissue mask is enriched in pro-collagen serum that adds youthful radiance to the skin. So, the mask is not exactly flattering and I thought it would scare Sonny, but it takes a lot to phase him it seems, he just smiled and waved at me. The cuteness!

Super Sonny

Before my facial, my skin was definitely lacking radiance and I had serious eye-bags. I look at my naked face post-treatment, and it’s pink, dewy and glowing. I’m impressed. Almost as good as Sonny’s… well almost. So much so, I get a picture taken, scroll down to see the results. This anti-ageing facial is so popular as it’s non-invasive, deeply relaxing and the results last up to four weeks. It the perfect alternative to Botox and other expensive treatments. Looking good (at least for me) puts a spring in your step. Being able to face the world without make-up is really empowering. But I do love make-up, and you should continue doing whatever makes you feel good too.

Ta-dah!

I showed my dear husband a picture of me post facial, sans make-up. He says, in all honesty, “Is that the before shot?”. I shout expletives. Men. Speaking of though, if you happen to be reading this and wondering what to get your better half for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or maybe she’s about to become a mum, this really is the perfect gift. It would also make a great Baby Shower gift, or new mum gift. While I know you can’t resist buying snuggly pram suits for the new arrival, mums need looking after too. Especially after giving birth. Even if you are under 35, Beauty Culture will have a treatment that’s perfect for you.

It costs Β£78 for a one-hour treatment. For the best results, it’s recommended that you have one treatment a week for four weeks and then one a month as maintenance. 

And ladies, keep your skin gorgeous by investing in a good serum. It absorbs into the skin much quicker than a thick cream – which you can buy from Beauty Culture of course.

Visit https://beautyculture.co.uk/

Sing and Sign teaches you the magic of communicating with your baby before speech

Having a baby opens up a whole new world of learning for both you and your pint-sized human. As a new mum, I’ve loved trying out lots of different classes, which have been both entertaining and educational for us both. The most recent class we’ve gone to is Sing and Sign Belfast. Sasha Felix started the classes 18 years ago with the help of Speech and Language experts for her daughter Francesca (now a successful singer). Little Francesca’s adorable childhood cuddly toy Jessie is now the mascot for the multi-award winning programme. Katherine, who teaches Sing and Sign, is a devoted mum-of-three and has been running classes herself for two years. Incredibly patient and gentle, she brought her son Oliver to classes when he was just eight months old and she jumped at the opportunity to become a Sing and Sign teacher. She told me that it was so exciting when little Oliver used his first sign – an aeroplane. “I saw the magic of him being able to communicate with me by spontaneously telling me what he could see and wanted me to know.” Babies use all kinds of signs and gestures as a natural way of learning to talk. Encouraging your baby with extra signs like ‘milk’, ‘more’, ‘change nappy’ or ‘tired’ will help your baby communicate – and hopefully save you both some tears! The benefits of signing are many – from helping to understand your baby’s needs, building confidence and self esteem and encouraging the development of speech. Sing and Sign teaches keyword signing (alwaysΒ with the spoken word)Β at the one-word level, which is appropriate to the age group. The signs are used widely by nurseries and schools across the UK.

Fluffy duck…

It was a freezing morning we set off to Cooke Hall on the Ormeau road it but so worth it. There were lots of mums with their adorable tots and it was great to see them interact with their babies using sign. Let’s face it, life would be so much easier if babies could tell you what they wanted. They cry a lot. It must be incredibly frustrating for tiny humans (and mums) for them only to be able to express themselves through crying and screaming. However, using very simple signs when speaking to your baby can help them let you know when they want more food, they’ve had enough, although the latter will probably never happen!

Katherine said that sounds like ‘vroom’, ‘choo-choo’ and ‘ding ding’ are especially beneficial, enabling your little one make associations between sounds and things, in this case, a motorbike, train and bike. It’s also important to teach baby to point and wave ‘bye-bye’. The sign for the week was ‘peek-a-boo’, which Sonny loves! There were lots of sing-along songs too, of course, and playing with instruments (Sonny commandeered a maraca) and cute soft toys. There was even a song with the lyric ‘don’t wipe your nose on the sofa’, which made me grin. Katherine says, “It’s not about being negative, it’s about learning the concept of no and “you have to stop”. She recommends using just one sign for a sentence. There are lots of other songs too like ‘Change Your Nappy’, ‘More to Drink, More to Eat’, and ‘Three Little Monkeys’. Don’t worry if you can’t sing, it’s all about taking part and it’s a great mood booster.

Sonny is almost eight months, becoming more animated by the day, he’s sitting upright without any help, bum shuffling, even attempting to crawl. His main form of communication is by screeching at the top of his lungs. He looked like he enjoyed interacting with the other babies, (lots of cute gummy grins) and hopefully not a sign of what’s to come – had his tiny chubby hand nonchalantly on the the leg of the lovely mummy beside me! Well, he certainly seems to enjoy female company.

Making full use of the toys at before the start of the class!

The feedback for the classes is really positive. On the Sing and Sign Facebook page, mums are full of praise and describe the classes as “wonderful”, “enjoyable” and “so rewarding”. I concur with all of these glowing adjectives. I’m already using signs for ‘milk’ and ‘tired’ for Sonny. He is a bit bemused by my hand signals at the moment but I’m going to keep it up and hopefully soon he’ll be able to communicate with me that way other rather than by opening his mouth as wide as it goes and screaming, while big droplets roll down his cheeks. It hurts my heart even writing that. I love that the sign for his name is the sun. I could also use the sign for ‘s’ but the sign for the sun is so much cuter. He really is a sunny boy.

There are sing and sign classes for babies six months and under which involve lots of eye contact and nursery rhymes. The classes are also suitable for babies and children with hearing difficulties. I couldn’t recommend them enough.

Sonny meets Jessie.

For more information and to book visit:

https://www.singandsign.co.uk/

The day I went back to school…

There is nothing more terrifying than a classroom full of bright-eyed, inquisitive kids. It’s amazing how life goes. I was asked be a speaker at St Patrick’s Primary & Nursery School, Mayobridge, as part of Safer Internet Day. As I’ve quite recently adopted the rather foolhardy approach of, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, I accepted with a “what the heck” attitude and then thought, “holy shit”. I’d interviewed the lovely teacher Mary,  who’d asked me to take part, a while back for Family Life, a supplement I work on. However, I didn’t recognise her until I met her at school. We were actually classmates at grammar school together. It’s crazy how small the world is. I took the train to Newry, my homestead, with Sonny. I read over my notes, distracted by a sweet young girl who kept asking her parents if cats, dogs and sheep liked water. “I want to be a sheep!” she cried. Even in my petrified state, I stifled a giggle. As a journalist by profession, I covered my bases, doing as much research as I could, but I wasn’t prepared for actually delivering a 45-minute talk. I freaked myself out about the class being bored, or them throwing paper planes at me – or worse. (I wouldn’t have blamed them). As I nervously approached the school, doing my best to at least look the part in my new check trousers and (thank you ASOS) and trusty white blouse with black bow, I actually felt weak at the knees. I don’t even think I was as nervous on my wedding day. I plastered on a smile and had a quick chat with Mary, while Sonny settled in in the staff room with mum and dad. I was led to the classroom and suddenly, I had 34 pairs of eyes on me, boys and girls all curious about how I was going to entertain them before they could make their escape. It was now or never. I spoke in as loud and as confident a voice as I could muster and started talking about the internet, social media, blogging and how you can have a positive impact online, sticking as close to my carefully worded script as I could.

First day at school… for Sonny

After a few minutes, I felt a bit more at ease. Luckily, the table closest to me was full of bright, interested faces, asking lots of questions. I had organised plenty of activities so I wouldn’t be talking at them and putting them to sleep (and it was the last talk before home-time). As with every classroom I expect, there were some bright sparks and cheeky monkeys. My task, ‘draw the internet’ got a few pretty amusing responses. The funniest was when I asked the different groups to compose a tweet. One, I can’t repeat, but I think I went scarlet. Another was, “My cat is as old as Donald Trump.” The classroom assistant did a brilliant job keeping the classroom under control (things were getting a bit rowdy at times), probably down to the fact that I’m too nice (or so I was told), they even got a stern talking to, but overall, I was glad that they were so full of questions. The 45 minutes flew by. In fact, I didn’t even cover everything I wanted to say. But, you could say I was saved by the bell at 3pm. I don’t know who was more relieved, them or me, but I was really proud of myself for throwing myself in the deep end. I wasn’t completely unequipped for such an event though, at school I did public speaking and did verse speaking at the feis. But, I’m definitely a bit rusty as I approach my 40th year. Still, I was delighted to be invited back for teaching practice! If I had to do things over, I think training to become a teaching would be an awesome job. I love the idea of moulding young minds.

Selfie! obvs…

I really glad I pushed myself to do the talk. I believe every situation opens doors, and if I can survive a classroom of children, I can survive just about any situation, right? Unless that situation is meeting Ryan Gosling or Henry Cavill and then I’m just going to melt into a huge puddle. But enough about fantasies, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if you take a leap, you’ll always feel better. Even if you land on your face.

You Got This…

As for Sonny, his favourite pastime is screeching at the top of his lungs, splattering food all over himself and the floor with his spoon and getting incredibly frustrated when he’s on his belly, flailing his arms and legs expecting to move. It’s pretty hilarious though. I can’t believe that one day, my little man will trotting off to school with his bag on his back. I know that will be incredibly hard for me as a mum, to see him begin his journey in this thing we call life. You can learn much from children though, and we should all take a more child-like approach to life… and never stop learning.