Friday, August 10, 2018

Six Months

Sometimes, I lift you onto my lap to nurse at night - just 20 minutes after I put you down to bed. In the crook of my arm, I feel that damp patch of sweat at the nape of your neck and your hot little head as it nudges forward and back.

I stare at your crazy long lashes still wet with tears, sticking together to form a neat little scalloped pattern.

With my other hand, I read texts on my phone from the other NCT moms - messages exchanged at a furious pace as we all work (seemingly!) in unison to get "you" - that's you, babies - to bed.

Distracted, I don't realize that you've finished feeding, and are now just using me as a human pacifier. I pull you off and gently put you back down in your cot, but you want to hold my hand. I slowly pull it away and replace it with the knotted ends of a soft fleece comforter in the shape of an elephant.

A finger replaced by a trunk.

Downstairs, your father not-so-gently reminds me that my maternity leave is halfway through and I "still" haven't obtained my UK driving licence. I roll my eyes and walk to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water.

But something begins to knot in my chest and it has nothing to do with driving; it's the realization that six months have passed and I can't remember a time when you didn't look like you do now and I want to hold your hand forever and I can't and I want to co-sleep with you always but you'll be in your own room soon.

It's that I still remember the midwives shouting at me to push and the consultant obstetrician shaking her head and me signing a piece of paper in the operating room and whispering that I was allergic to Cyclizine to the anesthesiologist because I was too tired to raise my head and then the pulling and pushing and you weren't breathing.

So, I watch you breathe. Every single night.





I watch the little fleece elephant on your tummy go up and down.


Then, down.

You grab my fingers on one hand and pull them towards your chest.





Like you're rowing a boat to Sleepy Town.

And just like that, six months fly by and I've flown by the seat of my pants and every time I look into your laughing eyes, it's like they're telling me to keep up.

I'm trying. (But sometimes, I don't want to. I just want to love you.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Interior Inspiration: Nursery Decor

I haven't put much thought into decorating or furnishing the "nursery" (I use " " because our baby is still sleeping in our room, as per NHS guidelines). While other parents were busy painting their nurseries in Farrow & Ball's "Borrowed Light" and hammering floating shelves into the walls to display copies of "Where the Wild Things Are", I was too busy fretting about whether my baby would make it to term or not ... so, the nursery remained very much our "laundry" room where we hung clothes to dry (and still do) until a few weeks - and even months - after our baby was born.

Then, we accommodated a chest of drawers that doubled up as a changing table ... and that was it. But slowly, over the past few months, we've added a few things to make it a little more nursery-like, in preparation for the day he finally moves into the room.

Night feed after night feed, I found myself going down the rabbit hole of Instagram accounts - bookmarking Scandi-inspired nursery decor and pastel-coloured cushions sold at eye-watering prices. On one of my early morning scroll-pasts, I stumbled on the beautiful prints from Munks + Me. The whimsical and imaginative (but not too "cutesy") prints caught my eye, and owner Kris kindly sent me three prints to add to our nursery wall (I especially love the rainbow and the lion!).

Another welcome addition to the nursery was this gorgeous "Keur" changing basket from La Basketry, which is available in turquoise and yellow. Handwoven in Senegal by a group of female artisans, the beautiful basket comes with a comfy mattress (which my little boy helpfully had an accident on not too long ago ...!) and is made of two local materials: a local Senegalese grass and recycled plastic strips. It adds real warmth to our nursery and my little one loves wriggling in it while staring at the antique map we bought at a flea market in Bordeaux whenever I change him.

Nookoo is a local business that sells homeware and children's clothes and accessories - I love their products. The mini cloud light sits on our changing table/chest of drawers and is helpful for evening changes, but we'll also use it as a nightlight when the baby moves into his own room.

We also have this Flensted mobile from Nookoo - have you seen these beautiful paper mobiles? We bought one for my niece when she was born. The giraffes are a nod to John's trip to Kenya last year - a place we hope to visit with our baby one day (maybe when he's a bit older!).

And finally, I'm wild about this Great Little Trading Company toy box I bought in their sale a few months ago. I use it to tidy his toys away at the end of the day, but it's so well-made and sturdy - it also looks great.

Although I can't imagine our little one moving into his own room right now, I know the day will come very soon ... the saying, "They grow up so fast!" is cliched, but oh-so-true. Sigh.

Do you have any favorite destinations for nursery decor? Let me know!

Posters courtesy of Munks + Me. Changing basket courtesy of La Basketry. Light and mobile courtesy of Nookoo. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

6 Things You Can Do For a Nursing Mama

I have been nursing for 5 months now and it's damn hard.

There's a scene in the aptly named "The Letdown" (available on Netflix) that made me laugh/cry: Audrey, a new mom, joins a new-parent-support group and struggles to get her baby to latch on at the first meeting ... various people, including the group leader, chime in with (read: yell)  their unsolicited advice until she explodes, packs up her bag, and walks out of the meeting (while accidentally leaving her baby behind - classic).

That's basically what it's like. It is not like those Botticelli-esque paintings where a cherubic child (or actual cherub, even) gazes adoringly into his mother's eyes while suckling at her breast (I can't believe I just wrote the words "suckling" and "breast" on here - now twice - has this really become that kind of blog?) or even like the mom you see in a coffee shop wearing a linen ring sling who just easily hefts her baby to her boob discreetly and the baby, satisfied, pops right off and gurgles lovely cooing noises.


It's tongue tie and "how's the latch?" and hiccups (I'm talking literal and figurative here) and milk stains and vomit and more. So much more.

Anyway, my friend and I were talking about how frustrating it is to feed a newborn and, more specifically, how frustrating it is when our partners casually walk into the room and go, "Oh, you're feeding. I'll go watch TV" or "Is he feeding? Okay, cool. Bye."

Nah. Not "Cool, bye." More like, "Oh, you're feeding? What can I get you? Water? Cake? A muslin?"

Here are 6 things you can do for a nursing mama - especially in those early days of nursing (cluster feeding, anyone?):

Make her some damn food. She's hungry. I promise you - she's freaking ravenous. A bagel, a slice of pizza (or a whole pizza) - whatever. Just make her some damn food.

Make sure there's some cold and delicious water within easy reach. Hand it to her every time you see her about to feed.

Do the laundry! Yes! Wash the mom's and baby's clothes! Because feeding is exhausting and those are chores that definitely need to be done!

Hand her a muslin. Because burps = puke. Or better yet ...

Offer to take the baby away to be burped once he's fed. My mom did this for me and it was ah-mazing. I melted into a puddle on the sofa or else ate the cold bagel I unsuccessfully tried to eat over the baby's head while I was feeding him.

If the mom is expressing, wash and sterilize any bottles, pump attachments, pacifiers, etc. Self-explanatory, really.

Okay. Rant over. I just had to get that off my chest! (Pun intended.)

(Also: I put that Organic Zoo sweatshirt pictured above on my baby for the first time a few weeks ago and he immediately puked on it.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Ode to French Butter (And Other Consumable Souvenirs)

We recently returned from a trip to France and as soon as we got home, I eagerly unzipped our suitcase and unwrapped my most valuable souvenir: a bar of Le Beurre Normand butter, still solid and intact despite not making it into my baby bottle cool bag (I realized it probably wouldn't have passed the liquid restriction, and I needed to bring the cool bag with me on the plane). Nothing fancy - I'd only bought it at Casino (the French supermarket, not to be confused with gambling on the French Riveria) - but still, so, so good.

Butter in France tastes different: creamier, richer, and all that more ... milky. I love it. I ate it every day while I was there, generously slathering it on pieces of crusty baguette we'd bought from the local boulangerie (John's eyes widened at every dollop I pasted on there, but I took no notice). I'm pretty sure I polished off a 250 gram bar in about 3 days, which can't be healthy, but, when in France ... *shrugs* I mean, don't get me started on the fresh vegetables ... I'd bring back a suitcase full of the produce aisle, if I could. Those tomatoes! Le sigh.

This morning, I crept downstairs while the baby was still sleeping and toasted two slices of brioche, before scraping a sliver of my precious beurre Normand onto each, and watching with quiet delight as they melted.

I've been really into buying consumables as souvenirs lately - they taste great, and don't take up any room once, well, consumed (which must be a relief to John, as I am constantly nagged about my "clutter" in the house - but that's for another blog post). Olive oil pressed on site at the beautiful masseria we stayed at a few years ago in Sicily is a standout favorite, as is the orange blossom honey John's dad brought back from Spain, which is nearly finished (I love spreading a thin layer on hot buttered toast).

What are some consumable souvenirs you've brought back from your travels? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Full Circle

I waved off my parents this morning after a two-week visit and my heart is torn.

It was one of the most surreal moments of my life so far: introducing my son to his grandparents; hearing myself refer to them as "Por Por" and "Gung Gung", having only ever associated those names with my mother's parents.

And as I handed him over to be held, he fixed them with a look so certain that it shook me: pure recognition. As if to say, "What took you so long?"

How did he know?

Over the next two weeks, I watched as they doted on him: my dad humming the University of Oregon fight song ("Go Ducks, go!") as he marched him to sleep, my mom coaxing him to smile and gurgle (which he did, and seemingly only at her encouragement - no one else's) - and I felt sad that we would have to say goodbye so soon.

They babysat while I sneaked off for an hour's blissful postnatal massage; watched him as I attended a hospital appointment in Surrey, my mom texting me to say, "He's fine! Take your time! Window shop if you want, get some retail therapy." I bought a soy hot chocolate at Costa in Waterloo station, watching dizzily as commuters rushed past me - remembering that part of my life that's still in there, somewhere.

I took the tube home and asked my dad - an architect - to sketch our house, as a keepsake.

Our first home.

I passed him on the landing in the mornings as I carried the baby down the stairs and glimpsed him working, intently, in his sketchbook.

After he left, I stared at the drawings and took in the pencil strokes until tears threatened to dampen the pages: each blade of grass in the garden, and a faithful rendering of our Audi A3 parked in front.

And so, I've come full circle: mirroring my parents' trajectory of living abroad, starting a family abroad, and waving goodbye - back and forth, back and forth. A 9 or 10-hour journey (depending on the tail wind) back and forth, across the ocean and another country, transversing time, memories, love, continents. Little toes that seem to grow by the day. Smiles that become increasingly forthcoming. Chubby fists that extend overhead; arms outstretched and wanting.


If I thought that being an expat was hard, being an expat with a kid is much, much harder.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Travel Link-Up: How The &*%$ Do I Travel With A Baby?

This month's travel link-up topic is "Travel Challenges" - and it couldn't be more timely. We're heading to a friend's wedding in Antibes later this month and I just ... I mean ... how the &*%$ do I travel with a baby?

"It's the best time to travel!" they say. "All they [babies] do is sleep!" they say. (Mine doesn't - at least, not during the day, which is better than not sleeping at night, I suppose!)

I thought I had enough worries travelling on my own, but now I have things to think about like diapers, bottles, strollers, pacifiers and ... how do I get him to the airport in a cab (answer: we'll book a cab with a car seat). Through security (dreading this in particular)? On the plane (answer: probably in a wearable carrier)? I've been told to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help his little ears adjust to cabin pressure, but I can totally picture myself fumbling and him crying and both of us being a mess together on the plane!

In short ... HELP!

But on a lighter note, I'm looking forward to staying in the very Instagrammable Airbnb John found in Cannes (a pool! Pretty tiles!) and seeing my friend get married in the beautiful French countryside.

And I'm glad the flight to Nice will be short as it'll be "practice" for our longer flights to the US and Hong Kong later this year to see relatives, but I'm having serious anxiety - not to mention the fact that he'll have had his second round of vaccinations a few days before, so will probably be a little ratty on the plane.

If you have kids, or have travelled with kids or small babies before, do you have any tips? As I said before, HELP!

This month's Travel Link-Up is hosted by Emma, Angie, Polly and Binny. Head over to their blogs to read more about their travel challenges!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Ultimate Gift Guide For New Parents

(... or for yourself, if you're expecting!)

Figuring out what to buy for new (or expecting) parents can be a challenge: what would be practical and useful, but stylish and fun at the same time? Here are a few of the favorite items for our newborn that I've bought or that we've been given by friends. Each one has been indispensable (or, in many cases, just darn cute) in its own way, and I guarantee it'll be a hit for your new parent friend (or you!).

These XXL muslin cloths can be used for everything - and I mean, everything. I use it to: wipe spit-ups, tuck under our baby's head when he's feeding, provide a bit of coverage when I'm feeding in front of other people, and generally placing it under his head wherever he's lying/sitting to avoid any messy post-feed vomits.

A friend from Australia recommended this and I'm so glad we bought it (in fact, we have two!). Our baby loves it and it allows his hands to be up by his face, rather than down by his side like traditional swaddles. He's happiest and most settled when he's in his Swaddle Up.

This has been a surprisingly useful purchase for us. So much so, that I bought two sets: one for upstairs and another for downstairs. The shark hamper is perfect for tossing dirty muslins and clothes into (which quickly collects!) and we use the storage box for diapers and other changing accessories. 

I really wanted to buy the Sollybaby wrap, but decided to forgo the expensive customs duties and taxes we'd incur if I ordered it from the US. Luckily, Ergo just released its new Aura wrap and our baby settles fantastically well in this. It's comfortable, easy to use, and comes in a variety of stylish colors.

Because who wants to be fussing with snap buttons at 3 a.m. when the baby's just vomited for the second time and needs to be changed? These are pricey, but they have zippers on both ends and - trust me - are like gold for sleep-deprived parents.

I shunned all breastfeeding products but decided to try this (and managed to buy it second-hand) after my little one became too heavy for me to prop up and kept rolling off the pillows I placed under him. This pillow is fantastic for helping the baby latch correctly and gives mom excellent support too.

Our newborn (usually) loves baths and, since he's a little more awake during the day now, I try to give him a little leg and tummy massage using the fragrance-free baby oil and baby balm in this set, which friends sent to us shortly after he was born. 

My manager at work bought this for our baby and it is incredibly soft and cuddly! I adore the shape of this unique teddy.

I use this in the changing bag for diapers, wipes, and extra outfits. It's super affordable and is very useful, especially as the "wet" part is perfect for storing soiled clothing when you're out and about.

 I never thought I'd be into personalised clothes for our baby, but our neighbor gave us this onesie and it is so adorable. It's excellent quality and makes for a very thoughtful gift.

I searched high and low for a baby record book that wasn't too corny or too formal ... and ended up buying one from Mamas and Papas. Their record books have spaces for a family tree, scan photos, and family photos, along with plenty of space to record "firsts" and "favorites". So sweet.

Forget the cute outfits - bibs will outlast the growth spurts babies go through and are very handy for catching spit-ups, drool, and later, food! The White Company makes them in chic patterns and generous sizes. I bought two.

*Products marked with asterisks contain affiliate links - this means I receive a percentage of each sale of the product. So far, I've made a whopping £0.71 from affiliate links, so, you know, it's going really well - I'm thinking of quitting my day job. All joking aside, the products I've mentioned above have either been purchased by me or for me - and they're truly my favorites! xo

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