Category Archives: Ms Conception

I’m Not Fat, I’m a New Mum

I have had two babies in the last two years, so excuse me for being a tad jiggly around the mid-section.  Why is there so much pressure nowadays to get back your pre-pregnancy body within a few months after giving birth?  And no, the growing list of Victoria’s Secret models who’ve returned to the catwalk within 3 to 6 months after having their babies have not given the rest of us new mums out there something to aspire to.

First of all, when your entire career is based upon having an awesome body as it is for Miranda, Heidi and Gisele, training 3 to 4 hours a day to get back in shape makes sense.  Secondly, how can the rest of us mere mortals expect to look like these goddesses after having a baby when so few of us bore any similarities to them to begin with.  Only 1-2% of the population are blessed with the height and slender build to become a successful model so why are they the yardstick for all women, especially those of us that have had kids? Furthermore, while most of us are sisters doin’ it for themselves, these women have an entourage to help them regain their pre-baby shape including personal trainers, dieticians, chefs and most importantly nannies and housekeepers.

I have always tried to stay fit and strong, and during pregnancy was no exception.  I exercised three to four times a week throughout my pregnancies but still gained 20kg on both occasions.  Following my 6-week postnatal check-ups, I got back into exercising.  Our new baby Sara is now 4 and a-half months old and I’m slowly starting to look like the old me again.

I’ve accepted that the skin on my tummy will remain stretched for quite some time and that after taking months for my hips to spread to accommodate a small, growing human being (twice!), I can’t really expect everything to just pop back into it’s original shape overnight.  On the plus side, my boobs look fantastic and I’ve now got curves where I’ve never had them before: you’ve always gotta try and find a positive.

It definitely has been difficult to find the time to get to the gym with two kids, but the 3 or 4 hours I get all to myself every week not only helps me to stay healthy and lose my pregnancy weight, it also gives me the opportunity to recharge my batteries mentally and spiritually.   This time gives me the chance to do something that is all about me for a change.

I know there are countless numbers of new mums out there who feel that they are lacking the time and motivation to get themselves back into shape but, I guarantee you that if you do, you will be a much healthier and happier as a woman and as a mother.  Set yourself realistic goals and accept that losing the weight will take time. Victoria’s Secret can wait because without a nanny, chef and personal trainer of your own, you’ll be too busy looking after your bub to walk down a catwalk anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Working Mamma

I’ve always found it strange how the media applauds women like actress Angelina Jolie and supermodel Miranda Kerr for returning to work within a few months of giving birth.  Yet, us mere mortals – the unsung heros of motherhood – are resigned to endure criticism, judgment and self-inflicted guilt regardless of our choices about when we return to work.

Stay home for “too long” and we’re labeled lazy, return to work “to soon” and we’re poo-pooed for being too career-focused.  If only I’d married Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom and chosen a career in the entertainment industry and I could have avoided all the negativity about my choices!

Making the decision about when it’s time to go back to work is a personal issue.  For some it is simply a matter of finances while others are luckier to be able to base their choices solely on emotional considerations. I was lucky enough to receive employer-provided maternity leave equivalent to 14 weeks full pay as well as financial support through Australia’s excellent social security system.  Together, this enabled me to be financially no worse off for staying home until my first born child Alisha was 8 months old.  By that time, I was well and truly ready to go back to work – I neede something else in my life that I was achieving for myself as a woman, completely separate to my role as a mother and wife.

The three days part time I worked each week actually made me cherish being a mum and the time I got to spend with Alisha on my days off.  Although, that may have had something to do with the fact that on the day I returned to work I had to tell my boss that I’d be going on maternity leave again in six months time so I was lapping-up any together time I could get with Alisha before the new bub arrived.

Baby number two Sara is now four and a half months old and I’ll be back to work in two weeks time.  This time around, my decision to go back to work so soon was mainly influenced by two factors, the obvious one being financial – after all, two kids ain’t cheap.  The second factor is the availability of childcare.  New child care places become available at the beginning of the school year and with vacancies in high demand if I didn’t get Sara in while I had the chance, I probably never would.

So, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks introducing Sara to solid foods and teaching her to drink from a bottle.  I don’t only feel terrible that I got to spend more time at home with Alisha than I did with Sara, I’m also racked with guilt that Alisha got to spend longer breastfeeding. I’ve decided to mix feed Sara – formula feeding during the day then breastfeeding morning and evenings when she’s at home. Mix feeding is the only thing I can do to allay my feelings of guilt… and reassure myself that at least breastfeeding twice a day will keep me in contention for the mother of the year award alongside Angelina and Miranda.

Joining a Mothers Group – it’s all about you

Joining a mums group is not about baby. No way. It is all about you: getting you out of the house, interacting with other adults and giving you an opportunity to vent with a bunch sisters in arms that are fighting the same battle you are. A sense of normality and sanity is what joining a mothers group can give you.

Being the first of my friends to have a baby and having moved to the other side of the country only a year before becoming a mum, I felt pretty isolated.  My community health nurse told me about a group starting up for new mums in my area so I decided to go along and see what it was all about.  I have never regretted it.

Despite the range of ages, ethnicities, professions, beliefs and life experiences of the 12 women in my new mums group, we all had a lot in common thanks to our bubs, who were born within 8 weeks of one another.  We found that we would be experiencing many of the same issues at the same time and could share tips and advice with one another on how we were dealing with our problems.

Being part of one of these groups is a great way to develop friendships with other new mums and gives you an avenue for gaining some reassurance. By sharing experiences with other new mums, you will find that your are not only dealing with a lot of the same baby issues but similar emotional, physical, social and financial issues as well.

If you wondering whether your baby is developing normally for their age, seeing how other babies of a similar age are coming along definitely gives you some piece of mind: another great reason to join a mothers group.  Having a bunch of bubs in one place also gives your baby an opportunity to socialise, which benefits their development.

It’s not all serious stuff though.  In fact, our group was quite informal, usually meeting in the park, café or someone’s home. We’d chat about everything from sleep deprivation, sore nipples and sex (or the lack of it) to how our husbands were getting on our nerves.  And, or course, no girly chat can ever exclude the subject of shopping.  Mums group was a great way to find out exactly what certain products were like from people who had tried them out for themselves such as modern cloth nappies, toys, books, teething rings, breast pumps, bottles, teats, lotions, sleeping bags, medications and more.

Mothers groups, parenting groups, baby playgroups – whatever you want to call them, if you are not part of one, you are truly missing out.

Parenting By The Clock

If you can cope with being a parent without having a set daily routine for your children, well you are a better woman than I.  As a mother of two, I couldn’t live without routines.  I think they the cornerstone to parenting and a vital part of life for parents and children alike.

Kids are chaotic and unpredictable, but having a routine can give bring some semblance of order to your world.  Parenting by the clock may sound like a silly, unrealistic or even cruel to some – especially grown-ups who have never lived by much of a routine themselves – but in fact, children thrive on routines.  Routines provide kids with the predictability of knowing what is coming next and since they know what is happening they also know what is expected of them and therfore (usually!) behave accordingly.

So for example, by following a feed-play-sleep routine with your baby, your baby will be less resistant to sleeping when you put him down.  In fact, having routines help to program baby’s circadian rhythms – by feeding and putting them to sleep at the same times everyday, they will become hungry or sleepy at these times each day.

With my first child Alisha, I breast-fed on demand and let her establish her own sleep routines – you know, the usually rookie mistakes inspired by the whole politically-correct child-centred parenting school of thought.  I was able to keep this up for around 3 months before – in exhaustion – I said enough is enough.  We moved onto routine feeding and sleeping times and life became a lot more orderly and happier for all of us.  Not to mention that Alisha became a much more settled child since.

Learning from this experience, I started my second born, Sara, on routine feeds and sleep times from the time she was one week old.  I have never had a problem with her being overtired or unsettled.  She is a really happy and content baby which I believe is largely to do with my strict adherence to routines. In fact, by being a by-the-clock parent, I haven’t found looking after two little ones, working part time, keeping fit and maintaining a household as difficult as I thought it would be!

In contrast, I have family and friends that have never set routines for their kids and they are constantly on the back foot.  Every meal, bed time every night – EVERYTHING – is a battle between them and their kids.  Yet they wonder why their children are always so well behaved we they are at daycare, kindy, school or my house where everything has a time and a place?

 

 

 

 

Baby Bookworm: why reading to your baby is important

Reading to your baby is one of the best things you can ever do for your child.  Although you may feel silly doing it because you don’t think they’re paying attention or understanding exactly what you are saying, you are in fact encouraging early brain development and helping to develop language and pre-literacy skills. With around three quarters of human brain development occurring before three years of age, being read to from as early possible helps to lay the foundations children need to learn how to read, write and perform well in the classroom.

I started reading to my eldest child Alisha daily from around the time she was three months old.  As time went on, we both came to love snuggling up and having that one-on-one time with together each day.  I maintained reading as part of our routine because of this bonding element, not because of some underlying ambition I could nurture a baby genius. At best I was hoping Alisha would develop a love of learning.

To my astonishment, Alisha starting talking at 10 months of age.  By 15 months of age, Alisha had a vocabulary of around 50 words and could easily follow two-step instructions.  At 18 months of age, she now has a vocabulary of well over 100 words and is joining words together to make short phrases of 2 to 4 words – all skills which are not generally expected until age two and beyond. Nowadays, after we’ve tucked her in, every night she sneaks out of bed to pull a bunch of books off her shelf and we can hear her flicking through them and babbling to herself.

Four-month-old baby Sara also now joins in with daily story time.  Sara loves listening to my voice and watching my face as I read aloud as well as looking at the pictures.  Alisha even stops me during the story to point things out in the pictures to Sara, which is really sweet to see.

If you want to start sharing books with your little one, I suggest you start with board books because they are more durable and it’s easier for little fingers to turn the pages. Babies also love books that are interactive such as those with touch and feel elements or flip-flaps.

I don’t think children can ever have too many books.  As a mum of two, here are my top five baby book selections:

  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  • Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
  • Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Itsy Bitsy Babies by Margaret Wild and Jan Ornerod

Nurturing your parent-child bond, encouraging speech development and giving your child a head start in their education: who would’ve thought books were so powerful?