Job Search Hell

That’s where I’m at right now.  One of Dante’s lesser-known circles.

Possibly the worst bit is that I actually already have a job- one that I love and don’t want to leave.  So why am I looking for something else, you ask?  Good question.  The answer of course, is money.

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Turns out that working seven hours a week as a library assistant, and about fifty hours a week as a ‘writer’ pays…well…pretty close to nothing actually.

I’m aware we’re not supposed to talk about money- that in doing so I’m breaking some weird universal taboo, but honestly- who is this secrecy helping?  We all need to eat and somewhere to live, and I’ve yet to find a landlord or supermarket that accepts poems in lieu of payment, (not that I’d do much better even if I did, since I can’t write poetry for shit).

So, with a heavy heart I find myself looking for other options.  I spend about half of my time feeling really MAD about the unfairness of the situation, and the other half telling myself to STFU and stop thinking I’m some special snowflake who isn’t subject to the same economic strain as almost every other working class person on earth right now.

In more dramatic moments I hear Jim Broadbent, as Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge:

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(just change love to live)

In less dramatic moments, I tell myself that I’m no different to anyone else and that I’m lucky to at least be (vaguely) employable.

One thing that is really pissing me off as I trawl through job search results, is the demand on applicants to not just be willing to do the job for the pay, but the requirement to declare it your life’s ambition.

Seriously, if you’re looking to employ someone as a neurosurgeon, or helicopter pilot perhaps, I can understand you wanting the role to be one of that individual’s defining characteristics, and for them to display a real passion and significant dedication to the field.  But when you’re looking for a cleaner?  Isn’t it enough that they’re capable of doing the work, and that they’ll show up and give a shit, at least within proscribed working hours?  If you want someone to display AMBITION, ENTHUSIASM, FLEXIBILITY AND PASSION about cleaning a toilet, you’re possibly going to need to offer more than £7 an hour, and appreciate that you’re appealing to a very niche audience.

Ehhh…I don’t know, this could just be me having a surly attitude and poor work ethic, but when I stumble across yet another minimum-wage job that not only wants me to spend forty hours a week away from my children, my partner, my home, and my writing but also wants me to demonstrate that I will treat it as my #1 priority and life’s work, I find myself getting a bit ‘Braveheart’, yelling at the screen.

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It’s times like this I wonder if leaving nursing was a terrible terrible mistake.  But, when I (briefly) went back to it last year THAT felt like a terrible mistake, so how can that be true?

Gah.

Regardless, I should probably get back to it.  Incidentally if anyone knows of any kick-ass jobs that would allow me to keep my Saturdays at the library, and pay me enough to feed my children who basically never stop eating, then HIT ME UP.  As you can see, I am totally AMBITIOUS, ENTHUSIASTIC, FLEXIBLE AND PASSIONATE etc etc etc 😉

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45 minutes

That’s how long my return to nursing lasted.  I stood on a ward for 45 minutes and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that I was making a terrible terrible mistake.

Actually, there were seven days previous to those 45 minutes where I sat in lectures and workshops and wondered if I was making a terrible mistake, but it was really the 45 minutes on the ward that did it.

Sometimes you really really want something to be right, and to be true…but it just ISN’T.

It would have been so impeccably timed, just weeks after our foster baby moves on, for me to throw myself headfirst into an intense and demanding program of study along with a 30 hour a week job.  Financially, it would have been a welcome relief, after so long on one income, to finally be able to pay down some debts and relax a little.  Practically, it seemed that the boys both being in school now would make everything that had previously been so difficult when the two of us were working, suddenly so much simpler.

But it just doesn’t, wasn’t and isn’t and I just can’t.  There were a few days there when I kidded myself that I could, but reality and my heart tell me otherwise.

I won’t lie- I feel like I have failed, like I am disappointing people, like I am letting my family down, and making a big mess of things.  It’s all well and good being able to identify when something isn’t right, but dealing with the ramifications of that decision are invariably much harder.

On the other hand though, I am feeling strangely positive.  I say strangely because positivity is not really something I am known for, and on the face of it right now things seem kind of bleak- in the sense that everything I had been throwing my energy into for this year is now in pieces.  Although I believe that according to physics at least, that means the energy now has to go somewhere else, and maybe that’s where my weird buoyancy is coming from.  I have been trying to give this return to nursing my all, and now it’s clear that isn’t what my future holds I’m left with all this drive and determination to wield in another direction.

I am aware that I am currently following a similar trajectory to a pinball at this point, just flying wildly from one thing to another and I don’t want to ping, or pong back in any direction from which I’ve already come, because as nursing has clearly demonstrated, if it didn’t work out then, there may be good reasons why that is, that are still relevant now.

So although I loved being a nurse at times, and still am a doula technically, and loved fostering Squishlet, all for very different reasons, when people ask me if I’m going to revisit any of those my answer for now at least, will be a resounding no.

I do need to find a way to contribute financially, and I am not someone who revels in the idea of being stationary for too long.  But for now I am trying (really trying, very hard) to embrace the fact that I basically have no idea what the hell I am doing with my life, and resist the urge to formulate a plan (any kind of plan) just to resolve that.  I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I’m going to do, and yes it’s terrifying, but it’s also fine for now, and more honest at least than pretending I have a clear strategy or ‘faking it until I make it’ which I have attempted in the past, and only ever makes me feel rubbish about myself.

And as always, I’ll be writing throughout, since it’s the only thing I seem to be able to do consistently and never quit, so you can look forward to more ramblings in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

When is a revolutionary new approach to nurse training NOT a revolutionary new approach to nurse training?

I read this article this morning and was instantly filled with the kind of rage usually reserved for other road users, or narrow-minded snobs.
As a nurse, who was a student nurse for 3 years, and since my boyfriend is currently a student nurse, I’d say it’s a topic fairly close to my heart and one in which I am pretty well qualified to speak about.
That said, I allowed myself a teeny tiny rant on twitter, and a mutual rant with Chris and then I got on with my day which mostly involved a playdate with some friends at a soft play area.
I promised myself I’d come back to the issue though (and I promised the people of twitter too, but I’m never sure if they’re actually paying attention, that place moves at warp-speed so I imagine it attracts a lot of people with ADHD type tendencies…Oooh shiny thing…oooh another shiny thing…oooh…sorry, what were you saying?!)
Anyway, after all the primary colours and children’s laughter and gossip, I was feeling decidedly less cross by the time I sat down this evening to write the Epic Rant I’d had in mind.
Then I read the article again:  Irked.  Then my 17 month old woke up for no apparent reason and started screaming like his cot was infested with sharks: ok, slightly pissed off.  And then I made the mistake of scrolling down too far and reading a handful of comments…aaaand that’s me enraged, I’m good to go…
Pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be a midwife.  Despite the fact there is a widely recognised shortage of midwives here in the UK the course itself is ridiculously competitive to secure a place on.  Hundreds of applicants are turned down each intake and in 2004, I was one of them.
Dissatisfied with the idea of remaining on my psychology degree one minute longer, certain I was wasting not only my own time, but everyone else’s and not to mention tax-payers and my own money, I considered my options.  The idea of effectively hanging around for a year until the time came to submit another midwifery application and potentially be knocked-back again did not appeal (how strange) and I discovered there was another way I could realise my ambition, and therefore I didn’t waste a minute putting in an application to undertake my nurse training instead, with the sole aim of completing the three year course and then immediately doing an 18 month conversion course to midwifery (Incidentally, I’ve been qualified for 5 years and I’m yet to get round to that)
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of nursing well enough, and I certainly didn’t go into it with a “grit my teeth for 3 years” attitude, but truth be told, at that point I had no interest in actually becoming a nurse per se, but was happy to do so in order to achieve my more long term goal.
Then I became a student nurse, and I found out that a. I loved it and b. You can’t fake it.  Some people may go into nursing  because of the paid tuition fees, or because they want to marry a doctor, or because they don’t know what else to do and it’s better than nothing, but these people will not survive the three years.  I know because I saw them, I met them, I worked alongside them, and as soon as they too realised that you can’t fake it, they either dropped out or were found out, i.e. failed assignments, failed placements, failed the course.
The day I walked on to a ward for the first time as a student nurse I could have cheerfully vomited all over my beautiful new crisp white tunic, I was that nervous.  I can vividly remember my very first task being to help an elderly gentleman wash and get dressed ready for breakfast and me saying to the support worker who’d given me said task “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how”.  So she showed me.
Later, I was waiting outside a side room for my mentor (a qualified nurse) to come out so I could ask her a question and I heard the support worker, who was also in the room, say to my mentor “They shouldn’t send them with no experience, what use are they when they don’t even know how to wash a patient?”
Guess how good that made me feel.  I realised I had a choice, I could call her on it (are you KIDDING?!) I could walk off the ward and never come back (so so so so appealing at that point) or I could suck it up.
I chose to suck it up and for the next 3 years I sucked it up.  I made a point of saying to anyone who asked me to do anything “I’m happy to do it but I’ll need you to show me how first” so they’d know I wasn’t saying “I can’t” as a way to say “I don’t want to”
I washed patients, I showered patients, I bathed patients, I brushed patients teeth, real or otherwise. Another elderly gentleman on the same ward once called me over “Sister” he shouted (They would always call me “sister” no matter how much I insisted I wasn’t even a real nurse “nonsense” they’d say “anyway, about my bowels”) but in this case he waited for me to get close “Sister” and, swallowing his final mouthful of all-bran he popped out his false teeth, covered in just-chewed-branny-goodness and deposited them into my (ungloved) hand “Can you clean my teeth for me?”
Those who know me well don’t need me to explain but those who don’t: I am not squeamish about anything. You can fling blood, plasma, poop, pee, puke, eyeballs, whatever at me (but I’d prefer it if you didn’t) but mouths? Mouths? With their teeth and saliva, oh my god, just stay the hell away.  Most people dislike going to the dentist, my idea of hell on this very earth is being a dentist.
Anyway, I digress.  I mean what’s a girl to do?  I was a student nurse now.  I could hardly fling the bloody teeth right back at him could I? Do you know how much false teeth cost? Do you?! I took them over to the sink and gave them a bloody good clean and I took them right back over with a smile- both his and my own.
I’m not telling you this because I want props by the way, I’m not expecting a medal (although it might be nice, especially if I could trade it in for cold hard cash, nursing doesn’t pay well, in case you were wondering)
I’m telling you this because I am trying to point out that this revolutionary “THIS WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH THE NHS AND STOP BAD THINGS HAPPENING EVER AGAIN” plan,  is not in fact any such fucking thing.
Student nurses already spend at least their first placement and usually their first year and sometimes the entire of the clinical element of their training doing hands-on nursing care.  I’m talking toileting, dressing, feeding, the basics.
Some don’t like it, and a few of those will vocalise their distaste.  Truth be told, I myself had plenty of moments, usually involving other people’s waste products where I thought “No really, what am I DOING?!” but then I’d remember: what I’m doing is providing care and dignity to someone, in the hope that it will make a difference to them, in the hope that one day, if I ever need it, someone will do the same for me.
For every student nurse who is “too posh to wash”, or every qualified nurse who busies him or herself with paperwork over answering a call-bell, there’ll be ten more who would just love to be more hands-on with their patients, but can’t, because they have other shit to do that they CAN’T delegate, things they would be held accountable for if it wasn’t done, or wasn’t done right and by the right person, like administering medications, setting up IV’s, updating documentation, charting observations, making referrals.  If wards were staffed adequately then it would be possible to do these things and perform direct patient care, but a lot of the time, they aren’t.
On my final placement as a student nurse I worked 14 weeks on an elderly care ward, with 28 beds, all of which were full the entire time I was there, rarely did the mattress go cold in that place before another person was on it. Most of the patients were dependent in most areas of their ADL’s (activities of daily living) so would need assistance with eating, drinking, washing, dressing, toileting, mobilising.  There should have been 3 qualified nurses and 3 support workers on each shift and of course any student nurses currently on placement, but then they’re supernumerary (Ha! Hahahahahahahahaha! Oh I do amuse myself sometimes)
In fact I worked many many (oh so fucking many) shifts where there would be one qualified nurse, one  or two support workers, and little me. For 28 highly dependent patients that is a hell of a lot of work, and I mean, just to get the neccessary things done, just to give everyone their medication, and meals and help them to the bathroom and settle them in bed for the night.  Anything above that was out of the question.
There will always be nurses who are in the job for the wrong reasons, or who started out wanting to make a difference and quickly realised how hard that was going to be, got institutionalised and burnt out, the same goes for support workers too.  Most I worked with were fan-fucking-tastic, and truly wonderful at their jobs.  A few were not.  There are shitty people in every profession, in every job, in every part of life. But if you ask most nurses and most student nurses, they would say they want to perform direct nursing care, and talk to their patients and get to know them better and take the time to make them more comfortable, but they can’t, because they’re responsible for 28 human lives and if they don’t delegate the basics to someone else then who the hell is going to do the drug’s round?!
If Jeremy Hunt wants nurses to wash patients then he needs to staff wards adequately to allow that to happen. In reality who is going to pay a qualified nurse to do bed-baths when they could pay a health care assistant half as much to do the same, or better still, get a student nurse to do it for free?
No really, who?
£ THE END £
Giant Disclaimer for this Giant Rant
First up, the views above are entirely my own, as you can probably tell from the liberal use of foul language.  I don’t generally blog about nursing-related stuff because that wasn’t why I started this thing and also I really need to keep my job.
Additionally, much of this piece rant refers to nursing in the way that the general public sees nursing, that is to say “general nursing” or to give it’s ‘proper’ name, adult nursing.  No, not that meaning of the word “adult”, god, you people disgust me.

Allow me to explain- there are four branches of nursing in the UK- Adult health, Child health, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities nursing.  Clearly what constitutes “basic nursing care” in each of these areas can sometimes mean the same thing, but often does not, as each client group tends to have health issues in areas other than that field, i.e. people with mental health issues will also have physical health issues, but what they require from the nurses caring for them is likely to be vastly different.In this piece, I have talked about nursing in a way that relates mostly to adult nursing, and that is simply because the article I read appears to also be talking about nurses on adult wards.  It’s not because I think adult nursing is in any way superior to the other branches of nursing, or because I think it is ‘proper’ nursing and the other branches are not. It was mainly for ease, although now this is turning into the longest disclaimer I ever wrote in my entire life so I guess that’s that out the window. Ok, look my boyfriend is a mental health student nurse and although I’m trained in adult nursing, the day I qualified I started working in neonates and haven’t nursed a big person since, so please don’t be thinking I’m hating on you other branches or excluding you in some way because I’m not, or at least, not on purpose, ohmygod shutting up now…

The End of Breastfeeding

I stopped breastfeeding recently.  No, wait…don’t leave! I promise there’s more to this post than that!
It was four weeks ago today actually that he had his last feed.  I didn’t make a fuss of it at the time, because I wasn’t sure it would be his last, and anyway I didn’t want to make myself all emotional when in fact I was feeling pretty ok with it all, and seemingly so was he.
I breastfed him for just over 15 months, that’s two months longer than I fed his big brother for.  It was my choice both times, on when to stop feeding, neither boy self-weaned, and truly, if I’m honest with myself and anyone reading this, I am not sure they ever would have.  Well, of course they would, eventually, but what I mean is, given the choice they’d certainly have kept feeding for quite some time.  I know this because despite not being breastfed anymore, Toby continued to have a bottle before his nap and one before bed right up until he was about 22 months old, when he stopped napping.  But  the bedtime bottle continued until he was 2.5  years old,  when he gave it up without issue after we suggested he have a cup of milk downstairs before bed in his new Disney Cars cup instead.
That doesn’t mean either of them were distressed at being weaned off the boob though.  One morning about a week after I stopped feeding Rudy he seemed to have a realisation that he’d not had any for aaaages and tried to get at them but I felt committed at that point so refused (gently).  He settled for a cuddle instead.
It hasn’t been hard on either of us either time.
And yet.  I’d probably have kept going a teensy bit longer with each if it hadn’t been for external factors.  When I stopped feeding Toby it was because I was pregnant, although I ended up miscarrying anyway I felt it was the right thing to do, and I stand by that decision.  This time, although I was ready to stop anyway, I was also acutely aware that I’m going away next month for a weekend and that he needed to be weaned by then in order to be fair to both him, and to his Dad looking after him, and to me too, as I don’t fancy another bout of mastitis.
So I might have made it a couple more months each time, but I didn’t and I’m ok with that.
The trouble is, I’m caught in the middle.  There are people who don’t breastfeed at all, or do for a very short time, or who hope to breastfeed for several months but run into difficulties and so stop.  To those people, I am waaaaaay out of their sphere of understanding, far over in “Hippy Land” they’d consider my 13/15 month efforts as extended breastfeeding, if they’d even heard of the term.  If they’re feeling charitable they might tell me i’ve done really well to do it for so long, but if not they might tell me about their struggles, suggest I’m crazy, and start asking me questions about teeth and biting. The word “bitty” might even be mentioned.  But I don’t watch TV, or indeed participate in mainstream society at all much so I only have a vague awareness of what the hell they’re talking about.
Then there are people who breastfeed for a long time, whose children have never had formula or cow’s milk, or even bottles of breastmilk in some cases and who plan to keep breastfeeding until their children self-wean.  And I fall outside of their sphere too, because my children did have other milk variations out of other drinks receptacles, and I actively weaned both of them.  To those people I definitely don’t qualify as extended anything.
So feeding for 15 months puts me somewhere in-between those camps.  In breastfeeding no-man’s land.
I wasn’t going to do a “I stopped breastfeeding” post because there didn’t seem to be much to say other than exactly that.  I do get a wistful feeling when I think that Rudy is probably our last child, and so those are probably my breastfeeding days done with but I get that feeling about lots of other stuff too.  If indeed he is our last child that is also my pregnancy and birthing days over with, so there’ll be plenty of wistfulness to go around when I get to the point in time in which our number of children becomes Final and Definite.
But on Thursday night I read this New Statesman article by Glosswitch: Our regressive, insensitive and cultish attitude to breastfeeding
I found it so refreshing and honest, I decided I should share my “End of Breastfeeding” journey on here, because even if no one reads this blog, maybe someone will stumble across it sometime and maybe it will be just what they were looking for.
I have been breastfeeding for 28 months out of the last 40 (i was pregnant and/or miscarrying for the other 12)
So how was it for me?
Well let’s not forget I had some pre-conceived notions about breastfeeding before I even started, as a result of my line of work.  Which basically meant I had lots of technical information but very little idea how to implement it into practice, and I had gained a lot of exposure to breastfeeding not working out, as is so often the case on the neonatal unit, because lets face it, everything is harder and more complicated when you have a sick and/or premature baby.
So I said I would “Give breastfeeding a go” but not beat myself up if it didn’t work out (Ha!) and in fact the closer I got to my due date the more sure I was that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding for long.  Then he was born.  And he knew just what to do.  And so did I.  And it was easy as pie.
Oh no wait, sorry I fell asleep there for a minute and was writing that from Dream Land.
I never had any major issues with breastfeeding.  And there can be major issues with breastfeeding, but I avoided them.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t find it toe-curling at first.  I’d liken the experience to having a mini Dyson attached to your nipples, which unless you’re into some kinky shit, you’re probably not used to, and neither are your nipples.  I got a blister on one of mine from where Toby would jerk his head backwards whilst not breaking suction, in a gesture that it turned out meant “I’m full now!” I later learnt to break the suction pronto using my little finger in his cheek and so the nipple trauma was a short-term issue for me but some people have cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, infected nipples.  It can get bad.  I didn’t have any of that.
No one told me about growth-spurts.  For the un-initiated this is when a normal healthy newborn baby suddenly acts starved, feeds constantly, and the mother eventually assumes she isn’t producing enough milk, feels shit about herself, breaks down and gives the baby a bottle of formula milk.  Except although I’m a sucker for feeling shit about myself i’m not very good at admitting defeat, so I did break down but did not give him formula.  I fantasised about it.  We had “emergency formula” in the kitchen cupboard that I’d sensibly bought in, along with the bottles, “just in case” so I sat on the bed, feeding my apparently starving baby and conjured up the image of said formula carton in my head and daydreamed about pouring it into a bottle and feeding it to my little squish, and then daydreamed about how gutted I’d feel that I hadn’t persevered, sighed and told myself “just one more hour“.
Fourteen hours later Chris returned from work to find me rocking on the bed.  Literally.  I’d lost all feeling in my butt cheeks. Still feeding the baby.  Posting one-handed on an online parenting forum “OMFG is this NORMAL?!” and crying.  A lot.  He’d been due home about two hours earlier, in which time i had thought up a whole heap of shit to yell at him including “YOU DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ME OR THIS BABY” “YOUR LIFE HASN’T EVEN CHANGED AT ALL” and perhaps more pertinently “WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEEN ANYWAY?!” Poor guy.  In all the years we’ve been together he chose that night, of all the nights to have a couple of impromptu beers after work to celebrate becoming a Dad, blissfully unaware that back home both his baby and girlfriend have succumbed to demonic possession courtesy of breastfeeding.  He was suitably sorry and on discovering that i had not in fact eaten all day, having not left the bed for fourteen hours due to having a baby attached to either one of my breasts at all times,  he ordered pizza.
Toby also had reflux.  In a practical sense this meant lots of bibs, and lots of washing.  On a psychological level it meant I could sit and feed him for literally hours only to move slightly and have everything he’d just drunk regurgitated all down himself and me, and he’d be starving again almost right away.  It also meant he liked to suck for comfort to ease the griping and acid pains the reflux gave him.  So he was on the boob constantly.  And he was sick a lot.  And people liked to say “Maybe the problem is that you feed him too much?!” and I liked to fantasise about punching their faces.
He took a bottle without problem at the age of 4 weeks so we congratulated ourselves on having such a smart kid and sensible approach to feeding and didn’t bother trying again until he was about 3 months of age, when he screamed like he was being torn limb from limb and refused point blank to even have the teat in his mouth.  He did, eventually, after much stress, and worry and money spent on various types of bottles and teats start taking a bottle just in time for me to go back to work when he was 9 months old.
I had to express at work to keep up my supply, prevent myself getting mastitis and provide milk to leave for him to have the next time I was in work.  Working on a neonatal unit this should have been simple, and in some ways it was.  But I was told that I had to express in my own time, aka my lunch break, and although I now know that not to be true, I didn’t at the time so I had to choose between food or expressing, often attempting both (eat toast with one hand, express with the other) and not doing particularly well at either.
He didn’t get teeth until the week before his 1st birthday after which I only fed him for a few more weeks anyway, so biting wasn’t an issue, except of course that teeth don’t come from nowhere so he was perfectly capable of biting me without teeth, aka “gumming” down on my poor unsuspecting boobs and triggering a reflex in me that was so violent I was only just able to stop myself from flinging him across the room.
Breastfeeding was much easier second time,because I knew exactly what to expect.  But Rudy was new to it.  Oh don’t get me wrong, he could latch and feed, but he had colic instead of reflux, which was a refreshing change, except in the way that it wasn’t at all, because reflux we were prepared for, colic, not so much.  Also there was the challenge of breastfeeding a newborn on demand whilst entertaining and caring for a toddler.
I got my first ever bout of mastitis when Rudy was 9 weeks old,  just in time for my 27th birthday, i didn’t know what it was at first, never having had it before but it soon became clear.  I thought i might die, but I didn’t.  And when I got it for a second time, almost a year later I again thought I might die, but again I didn’t.
I also decided, for some altruistic reasons that aren’t clear to me now, that life wasn’t quite challenging enough for me so I started expressing for my local human milk bank and donated two litres of my milk to them before I gave up so that I could start harvesting a stash of milk in the freezer for when I went back to work.
Rudy got teeth much earlier than his brother (a whole half a year earlier) and quickly discovered the joys of boobs as teething aids. I flirted with the idea of giving up almost daily, particularly as I approached going back to work, as the idea of expressing in the resource room again didn’t appeal for some strange reason.  But I had this notion that I should feed him for as long as I fed his brother for.  In the interests of sibling equality or something.  Just in case I was ever audited on such a thing.  So I did go back to work expressing, and in fact I provided something for Rudy I never managed with Toby- a full year of exclusive breastfeeding.  Way to go me.  All my colleagues thought think I was am nuts.  But that’s ok. And i do feel proud of myself, even though I’m not allowed to celebrate the fact EVER in case I upset someone who didn’t manage it.
Which is a bit like A-level results day, when, not to blow my own trumpet or anything, I achieved two A’s and two B’s and got the university place I wanted, but my (ex) boyfriend and one of our friends didn’t.  So instead of celebrating I had to commiserate with them instead.  But don’t feel too sorry for me (hard not to, I know) because it turns out that celebrating and commiserating when you’re 18 are basically the same thing as both involve drinking alcohol until losing consciousness.
I digress.
My point (I think) is that even though I found breastfeeding straightforward, and never had any major difficulties, and even thought when people ask I tell them it was fine, really, when I think about it, it was a labour of love.  Literally.  It wasn’t easy, not really.  But I loved it.  I loved all of it. Even all that shit I just bitched about up there.  Well, ok, maybe not all of it.  But it’s still part of our journey. And there was plenty about it that I did love…
I loved the feeling of closeness, physically and emotionally.  The milky smell.  The giant boobs.  The excuse not to wear underwire for months at a time.  The excuse to eat more, even after your pregnancy has ended.  Co-sleeping and drifting off together, courtesy of those lovely hormones.  The cuddles.  The excuse to not let anyone else hold or feed your baby if you don’t want them to.  I loved getting both boys weighed at the clinic and knowing that whatever they’d gained was because of me.  Squeezing their chubby thighs and blowing raspberries on their fat tums and thinking how fucking amazing the human body is that i could grow an egg and a sperm into a human baby, push it out and feed it milk from the very same body to nourish said baby and make it grow into this heap of deliciousness.
I breastfed because I wanted my boys to be healthy.  They still got sick.  I breastfed because there’s evidence to suggest it reduces the risk of eczema, asthma and allergies.  They still both ended up with eczema, but it’s only mild, and while I hate that they have it at all, I like knowing I reduced the risk, and in the process may have decreased the severity of the condition.  I breastfed because I wanted to decrease my own risk of cancer.  I breastfed because I am lazy, and the idea of actually leaving the bed in the middle of the night, multiple times, in order to make up bottles to feed a hungry baby horrified me.  I breastfed because i know myself well, and I would have found it hard to make up bottles and then remember take them out and about with me.  Boobs are handily attached, you can’t forget them.  And they don’t require pre-warming or mixing, which I personally found super convenient.
Some people breastfeed because of all the above, or some of the above, or for another reason entirely.  Some people don’t breastfeed because of any of the crappy things i mentioned earlier in my post, or all of them, or some other reason entirely.
Some people want to breastfeed but can’t.  Some try but it doesn’t work out.  Some don’t want to but do anyway.  Some don’t want to so don’t.  Some people feel good about their choices and some people feel bad.  Some people feel good about other people’s choices, some people feel bad about them.  Some people don’t care either way.
I support mums breastfeeding at work.  I’ve supported mums who never intended to breastfeed but are expressing milk because they feel it’s the right thing to do given their baby’s condition.  I support mums who have never considered anything else other than breastfeeding but are having a really hard time with it.  I can support anybody with anything, so long as they’re honest with me.  And sometimes they’re not, and it’s frustrating to have put so much effort into helping someone establish breastfeeding only for them to stop because they never wanted to in the first place.  I’d rather be told the truth.  I’m a big girl, I can handle it.  But it seems not all health care professionals can and there are definitely a lot of mums I meet who really never wanted to breastfeed but because someone told them “breast is best” they feel they’ll be vilified if they don’t at least be seen to try.
One of those A-Levels that I got a B in was Philosophy of Religion and Ethics.  It was like Religious Studies but we yelled at each other a lot and my friend and I doodled pictures of Kant saying funny stuff in speech bubbles like “I think therefore I am…(a) Kunt” Ho ho.  Aside from all that we did a module on Deontology and Teleology.  Which, as an A-level module is quite complex but for blog purposes boils down to Motives vs Consequences.
Applied to breastfeeding this is like saying, “Does it really matter why someone breastfeeds, as long as they do it?!” Well you could argue no, because the effect for the baby will be the same no matter what their reasons and/or feelings on the matter – same nourishment, same antibodies, same weight gain, same health benefits for mother and baby.
Except it sort of does matter if the Mum is unhappy.  If breastfeeding is sucking the very life from her, if she had to come off medication in order to do it safely and now really needs to be back on that medication, if she was a victim of abuse in the past and breastfeeding is causing her to have flashbacks, if she’s got other children she’s struggling to care for because so much of her time and energy is being absorbed by breastfeeding.  If she is starting to hate herself, hate her body, hate her baby, dreading every feed.  If she just doesn’t want to do it.  Then of course it matters.
Yes we can and should be doing things as a society to make breastfeeding the easy choice for everyone, to improve the health of infants and new Mums.  But we’re supposed to be supporting mothers to make choices for themselves and their children, not bullying or coercing them into making choices that will then leave them feeling guilty hours/days/weeks/months later when it turns out that wasn’t the right choice for them.
So breastfeeding: it wasn’t always easy.  I really loved it. I truly believe it’s awesome.  But not everyone feels that way and that’s ok.
Our breastfeeding journey is over but it will always stay with me, and I hope I can use what I’ve learned from it (good and bad) to better support other mums, whether that be at work, online, at friend’s houses’, at playgroup, wherever.
(Feeding Toby, December 2010)

(Feeding Rudy December 2011)
 

A faecal matter

Anyone contemplating motherhood should consider how much they enjoy dealing with other people’s faeces. And to what extent they would like elimination to play a part in their lives.

This is particularly true if there any *other* areas of their life in which crap may feature. Such as, for example, those of us who choose to share our homes with so called ‘domesticated’ animals. Or, as in my case, where their line of work involves a considerable amount of poop. Because it all adds up. And before you know it, your life is full of shit. Literally.

There are times when i feel that almost my entire existance revolves around other people’s faecal matter. Today is one of those times. Both boys have diarrhea, or, as Toby put it- “My poo is just like jelly!”

What a delightful sentence to hear coming from your 3 year old as he stands up from the potty.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not in the slightest bit squeamish. I wouldn’t have got far as Nurse or a Mother if i was. But really. There are only so many times in one day that you can get someone/something else’s poop on your hands and not feel like “What has my life come to?!”

So when i say today has been shitty. It’s not a metaphor.

The Ghost of Sick Days Past

We’ve all been ill.  Apart from Toby who must have some kind of superhuman immune system to have avoided all the germs flying his way.

It started with Chris who had a dodgy ear, then he had a cold, then i thought i had a cold but it turned out to be the flu.  Around the same time Rudy started with horrendous explosive diarrhea.  Three days later i felt that maybe, just maybe i had got through the worst of the flu when Chris and i both came down with Rudy’s tummy bug.

I have to say that i have been feeling a tad sorry for myself.  It is my annual leave week after all, and i’ve spent three days in a row stuck at home in my pjs.  It’s Rudy i feel most sorry for though, four days of toxic biohazard poop have left their mark (literally) on his behind.  He now has what may be possibly one of the worst cases of nappy rash i have seen. We’re talking blisters.  What he really needs is some lengthly nappy-free time. But what with a. the diarrhea, and b. It being November, it just isn’t happening right now.

I will say one thing.  Sick days are not what they used to be.  I remember sick days.  They used to involve nothing more strenuous than a telephone call into work (if required) and a decision on what box set to watch whilst lying in bed/on the sofa.  Possibly some sourcing of liquid refreshment/nutritional sustenance might be required.  And toileting.  But pretty much everything else used to fall by the wayside.

They certainly never used to involve laundry, housework, preparing meals for other people, getting up multiple times in the night to attend to the needs of others, or trips to Ikea (Don’t ask! It’s best not to ask!)

No, sick days are not what they used to be.

I have said before, and will say again, that the single hardest part of being a parent (practically, rather than emotionally speaking) is when they, or you, or both are ill.  You’re already so stretched.  And then the vomit/poop/fever hits.  And initially you cope, because you’re in crisis mode.  But then 2, 3 days in, it’s not a crisis anymore and that’s when you really feel it.

I am trying (so hard!) to be a glass-half-full mama though, rather than all doom and gloom.  And i’m half aware that all kinds of shit has hit the global fan recently so want it known that i do, really and truly appreciate what i have.

In that vein, i will say that i am so very very grateful that so far we have only experienced D rather than the full D&V.  I cannot begin to describe how pissed off i will be if i start vomiting.

Additionally, although sick days are not what they were in years gone by, they also never used to include this handsome bunch either…

So it’s a fair trade i suppose 😉

 

Under Pressure

Na na na na-na-na-na.

Well i did it! I can now officially successfully resuscitate plastic mannequins.  Which apparently i should spell “Mannikin” as they’re medical but i just can’t bring myself to do it…it just looks wrong.

As did the dolls in question, one had a peel-back face which was perturbing, and another one’s arm fell off during a particularly vigorous resuscitation demo by one of the consultants.

Anyway, i had prepared myself for the worst after everyone telling me how horrendous it would be, so it actually wasn’t as bad as i had expected and I PASSED! Wahoo! I got 94% on the mutiple choice (true/false) questions and i passed the practical assessment first time.  I did forget a couple of minor things but remembered them as soon as i left the room, and thankfully they weren’t automatic fail points, a bit like getting a couple of “minors” on your driving test.

It was a loooong day (8am to 6pm) but i made it home *just* in time to put both boys to bed, so i was exhausted but happy and had a chinese takeaway and a beer to celebrate.

Chris’s sister Emma was staying with us most of last week (Tuesday to Saturday) which was brilliant as the boys both love her and she kindly volunteered to sleep in Rudy’s room so Chris and i probably got more sleep in those few nights than we’d get in a fortnight! She also washed up every evening while we bathed the boys and put them to bed so for the first time in recent history the kitchen didn’t look like the cupboards had exploded their contents everywhere!

Since she left normal service has resumed and once again the kitchen counters are buried under dirty plates and half empty mugs of tea/coffee.  I attempted to tackle the situation this morning but had to break off due to Rudy getting his leg wedged between two of the bars on the safety gate in his attempt to join me in the kitchen, and then Toby declared an urgent need to use the potty and an inability to pull his pyjama bottoms down so i gave up…

We are now having some “quiet” time watching a dvd together and i’m typing this in fits and starts, breaking off every few minutes to explain things to Toby or prevent Rudy from pulling books off the shelves/licking the TV stand/hitting the dog on the head with a plastic spanner…

I had my introductory session for my mentorship on Friday and came away feeling that i have definitely bitten off more than i can chew.  The amount of reading they expect you to do, and time you need to put in is much more than i’d anticipated, and i can’t help but think that if i can’t even keep on top of my own washing up then how on earth am i supposed to find the time to do anything extra?

Just a couple of random photos from this past week as i haven’t really been taking many recently (bad Mummy)