This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?
Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.
A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?
I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.
As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.
Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.
Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.
Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.
Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.
So, as all of you who follow me over on Instagram will know, we made the decision to switch to reusable nappies! This is one thing on a long list of changes we have started to make in our family towards zero waste living.
Me and Kieran have been conscious of our environmental impact for a while now, and as we have welcomed a new addition to our family we have been even more aware of it – babies *can* produce a lot of waste!
Before I get to talking about reusable nappies, I’ll walk you through a few of the other changes we have made over the last 2 years.
Reusable water bottles.
I honestly can not remember the last time I bought a plastic water bottle. Me and Kieran both have Chilly’s bottles – which keep liquids either hot or cold. I always carry this on me – so not only am I helping the planet, I’m drinking more water too! (I also have a Doppler bottle which I bought in Amsterdam – it’s super lightweight which can be handy!)
Reusable coffee cups
For my 18th birthday, Kieran bought me a Keep cup (with yellow on it of course!). I use this if I want to take a coffee from home out with me or if I know I’ll be grabbing one on the go – I love that its glass too, makes the coffee taste better!
90% of the time, me and Kieran take lunch from home when we’re going out. Kieran uses glass tupplewear to take his lunches to uni – BPA free, better for the environment and you can pop them straight in the microwave! We also have some stainless steal pots for snacks.
Klean Canteen sippy cup
Now this is slightly ahead of the game, given that Arlo can’t hold his own bottle yet. But we couldn’t resist when we saw it! It’s a beautiful stainless steal sippy cup, which also turns into a little water bottle for when he’s older – simply switch the cap!
I’m sure most people are doing this now – but we have loads of reusable bags, I pretty much have them coming out my ears. Stuffed in the pram, in almost every rucksack we own – they’re everywhere!
Me and Kieran both use wooden toothbrushes, they’re really cheap and feel much nicer to use! I can’t wait to buy Arlo his first little wooden toothbrush.
No more plastic bottles! We both use unpackaged bars of soap, Kieran loves a company called Wideye which we discovered on a day trip to Rye a few months ago. They may look more pricey but they last so much longer! And they smell AMAZING.
Kieran shaves using a reusable metal razor – he just replaces the blades every few shaves. I’m looking into buying one of these myself – so if anyone has any suggestions of brands let me know!
Now that my period has returned after having Arlo, I decided to return to using a mooncup. I used one for a while a few years ago, but for some reason stopped, but I bought another one and I am so excited to get back to using it! No waste and a hell of a lot cheaper – they cost around £20, but once you’ve bought it it’ll last years!
Me and Kieran decided before Arlo was born that we wanted to have a majority of wooden toys. I think they’re beautiful, will most likely last longer and better for the environment than plastic. Lots of wooden toys like blocks also encourage open ended play to build the imagination.
So this is a new one that we have been working on recently – and as we don’t have our own home we haven’t invested in it as much as we are planning to just yet. But we have made a start with reusable washing up ‘sponges’ and brushes. We also discovered a brand called OceanPods, so we’re hopping to invest in some stainless steal spray bottles and give them a go instead of buying lots of chemicals in plastic bottles.
NAPPIES + WIPES!
So, before Arlo was born we looked into reusable nappies a lot and we almost bought them…but as we don’t have our own home and they were a very big investment we decided against it. But 3 months into being parents, now that we have a pretty good hang of this whole ‘keeping a small human alive’ gig, we started looking into it again. After some discussions with some other mammas that use cloth, we took the plunge.
Anyone who knows me will know I’m often an ‘all or nothing’ type of person. Which is sometimes a positive and sometimes a negative. So I told Kieran that if we were doing cloth…we were doing it all the way. Nappies, wipes, fleece liners – the lot!
So, lets start with wipes. I will say that even if you don’t want to use reusable nappies, you should 100% buy reusable wipes. They’re cheaper, far superior at cleaning up poop and better for the environment. Oh and so easy to wash its almost silly!
We got ours from cheeky wipes. We have a clean wipes box and a mucky wipes box. The mucky box has a mesh bag insert so you don’t have to touch the mucky wipes when you chuck them in the washing machine. You simply put a little water in both boxes, put a few clean wipes in the clean box (blue) and away you go! We also have a little wet bag from Babaandboo for taking pre soaked wipes out and about with us.
We have a total of 20 nappies, from a variety of brands, they are all whats called ‘birth to potty’ all in one nappies. They all have lots of poppers on the front which means you can adjust them to the size of your baby and make them bigger as they grow. Each nappy comes with an insert or two, which absorbs the wee. And then we bought a pack of 20 fleece liners that you place on top to catch the poop.
What do you do with the dirty nappies? I hear you say…
At home we have a big bucket with a mesh bag inside. When we change a nappy we simply chuck it in the bucket until you put a wash on. If it’s a poo, we rinse the worst of it off the liner (in the toilet) and then we store those separately until we put a wash on. If we’re out and about, we put the dirty nappy in a wet bag (that is specifically for dirty nappies) and then deal with it when we get home.
How do you wash the nappies?
We put the fleece liners and the wipes on a rinse cycle. Then we put the nappies in and do a second rinse before putting them on a long wash with a little bit of washing powder. (some people wash at 40 degrees and some at 60 degrees, different nappy brands recommend different things so you have to decide yourself on that one)
How do you dry the nappies?
If it’s a good day we hang them on the line and they all dry in around 6-8 hours. The sun is also a natural bleach and so it helps to remove any stains. If it’s not good weather then we hang them on the airing rack with the window slightly open and they dry in about 24 hours.
Which brands do you use?
We have bought nappies from Babaandboo, Totsbots, Tickletots,
LittleLamb and Wonderoo. Our favourites have been the Babaandboo or the Tickletots.
But if your on a tight budget the Little Lambs are amazing for the price!
So there you have it, our little journey towards zero waste living. All these things are definitely an investment and may seem far more expensive than the throw away alternatives. But they last much longer and so are actually far cheaper in the long run! But it’s a process to make all the changes and can be quite a culture shock at first as we live in such a throw away world.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! Or simply pop over to my Instagram for a chat,
Becoming a mother at the age of 18 was not something I ever envisaged happening. I guess I had always thought I would do my degree, climb the ladder in my job, buy my own house and then think about children at about 30. That’s the way society tells us we should do it right? That’s the ‘right’ way if you like.
When we began to announce our pregnancy we received mixed responses. A lot of people had the view that we were setting ourselves up for a life of hardship.
Each time someone gave us a negative response, I felt more and more as though I wasn’t entitled to be pregnant because I was so young.
Some people wanted to take control, to give us copious amounts of pushy advice while outlining all the negatives to having a baby. As a result, I didn’t fully appreciate the whole experience at the time – I didn’t take pictures or really ‘connect’ with my baby. Mostly because I felt it was something that ‘shouldn’t’ be happening and so I subconsciously ignored it.
I regret this wholeheartedly – and only now can I see that that is how I felt.
Alongside this, me and Kieran were not able to live in our own house during my pregnancy. As a result I was constantly made to feel I owed more than I could ever give back and that my security could disappear at any moment – because I ‘shouldn’t’ be pregnant.
Young women who find themselves pregnant, by choice or not, experience this kind of negativity from all angles. From the disapproving looks from strangers in the street, to a feeling of not “belonging” when they’re shopping for baby things.
This sort of response contributes far more to a negative outcome than the pregnancy itself. If young women are supported, given options and told that they can still achieve whatever they want (all be it in a different way, that may take a bit more hard work) then don’t you think a positive outcome for mother and baby is far more likely?
Experiencing pregnancy as a young woman and becoming a young mother has many challenges, but they’re just different challenges to those that may be faced by an older woman. There is no right or wrong time for any stage of life.
So as I sit here, happier than I have ever been, I’m still having to spend the time to emotionally take back ownership of my pregnancy, birth and experience of motherhood. Something I shouldn’t have to do, but is an unfortunate reality of the stigma society puts on young parents.
Firstly, I am aware that this post is a little late….given that Arlo is now approaching 14 weeks. But hey ho…better late than never? And boy has a lot happened between 8 and 12 weeks.
Kieran has been on his Easter holidays for the majority of this time (although he has gone back to uni now) so we’ve managed to squeeze quite a lot into these 4 weeks! And given the extra pair of hands, I have lots of photos too!
Arlo had his vaccinations at 8 weeks…he was not at all phased at the time. However it did have some after affects for the week following…which Kieran was not best pleased about. I got a good laugh out of it non the less.
When Arlo was tiny, he really hated tummy time…I’m talking screams within 5 seconds of being on his tummy kind of hate. But as he has got older, with the help of our trusty belly roller from Aldi (thank you Kirstie!), he has started to enjoy it more. The coordination between his limbs is so much better and he can now hold his (rather heavy) head up for much longer.
Now that Arlo is a lot more alert, he always wants to be facing the world. Any opportunity to sit propped up or sit in someones lap facing outwards, he’ll take it. Along with that…if I’m sitting in a place particularly interesting and I try to cuddle him facing me…he tells me off. I suppose I’m just not as interesting as the man in the coffee shop steaming milk and pouring latte art?
This does however, have it’s up sides…at least when he’s sick it goes on his clothes instead of mine.
We took Arlo to Brighton for a few days to stay with my Dad. Tried him out in his new travel cot…which he did look rather small for, but he didn’t seem to mind one bit! In Brighton we also discovered his newfound fascination with patterns. In particular geometric bears…which makes a change from plain walls and ceilings.
As it’s been getting warmer, we’ve been taking Arlo outside a lot more – for walks in the baby carrier or to have a look at the sea. And I can most certainly tell you that Arlo dislikes wind with a passion. He pulls the funniest faces whenever the wind is blowing in his direction.
Along with the arrival of some slightly warmer and sunnier weather…we had to go and buy Arlo a sun hat. Which I have to say has a slight primary school nativity feel about it. You know…tea towels on the head? We’ve also been spending a lot more time in the garden with Arlo in his bouncer which, providing it’s not windy, he seems to like. (Especially if he has his favourite Auntie with him)
Arlo is growing so quickly, and becoming more of a little character by the day. But even though he is more interested in looking at whats going on and is beginning to have a lot to say for himself…he will always be my little boy who falls asleep on me and wants cuddles.
Before becoming pregnant, I’d never seen birth. In actual fact I’d never ever talked about birth, I suppose it has been a bit of a ‘Taboo’ topic. Images of birth are often censored, many parents don’t discuss birth with their children and the representation of it in the media is awful.
I knew I had to do something about this…I was about to experience one of life’s most intense moments and yet I had never been exposed to it in any capacity.
I took to Instagram and searched “labour” in the hashtag section. All of a sudden millions of images of women in labour, all around the globe, appeared. I was amazed at the rawness and emotion filled images I was seeing, thousands of women in the throws of such a powerful experience. But not only that, I was amazed at the amount of different births I was seeing. Water births, home births, c-section births…the list could go on.
From here I began to uncover the pages of lots of astounding Birth Photographers. I filled my feed with all these images. I was exposing myself to the raw realities of a diversity of births every single day. It was this gradual but consistent exposure to birth that I believe helped me exponentially during labour and postpartum.
I was able to have trust in my body, to know that all births are wildly different but equally beautiful. In addition, I was able to process my birth with much more clarity afterwards.
We need to work towards a society where these images are not censored, and are more widely seen. Where birth is an open discussion. Not only for women to feel more power in their experience and confidence in their bodies, but for the rest of society to be able to support women.
I know that birth will be an open and encouraged discussion within my family, and if I go on to have another child I would want Arlo to be included in the experience of birth. Exposure is key to understanding.
Among some of the photographers I found was Lacey. Lacey Barratt is a pioneer in the birth industry, paving the way for a more inclusive, dynamic, and unapologetically raw content through visual arts. As a doula, she pushes the boundaries of what women think they are capable of; helping them to break free of any societal norms or standards by understanding they are their own individual with individual needs. Lacey makes sure that her imagery is nothing less than artful and educational, striving to help women gain knowledge through her images.
Here are Lacey’s thoughts on why birth photography is important.
When I had my first baby seven years ago my mum asked if my husband was going to take any pictures. Actually, I was mortified by the thought of looking back at them. I also thought she was being selfish because she was in the states and that was her way of being invasive without being *invasive*. Man, the regret I felt 12 months later….We all know good ole Facebook. Reminding you of the things you did on this day twelve months ago. Timehop. Yep….facebook’s Timehop had me crippled on his one-year-old birthday. I was already emotional and then add on top of it that I had three photos from the day of his birth and I was devastated. It shook me to my core so much so that I started offering birth photography as a service to my clients.
I never wanted anyone else to feel the regret that I felt that day. Or any family to experience that type of void. I now see all the ways that birth photography benefits families. I see that my mum was not actually being selfish. Or invasive. Or passive aggressive. It was for both of us.
I wondered if I had that birth face that you see in all these stunning birth images. I wondered what my husband looked like when he had skin to skin. I wondered if he touched me during labour more than I remembered. All of these questions will be there forever. I’ll never actually know the answer to any of them.
I can say that my subsequent babies had birth photographers.
I have this theory that documenting your birth extends the high of a good birth and helps heal a bad birth
No, my images won’t magically take away the pain of a traumatic birth. But with 100 time-stamped images it can help you process what happened in a chronological order better than your memories can.
When you are in labour we naturally (if left unhindered) go into what is called labour land. This is a place where all of your hormones are making a concoction potion, so to speak. Oxytocin, testosterone, adrenaline, progesterone….and heaps more to get you out of your logical brain. So you don’t have to think…you just do what feels good in that moment. This enables you to go deep inside of yourself and focus on your body and your baby. Making you less aware of the things that are going on around you. This is why we forget. We are biologically programmed to not remember. Not to protect us from the physical pain as mainstream society would say. But to help you birth your baby. This is the fight side of the fight or flight phenomenon.
After our baby is born, if things don’t go exactly to plan we have the ability to process exactly what has happened to us. Births, where we felt empowered, enables us to relive that feeling of being empowered. Hormonally, we are getting boosts of oxytocin over and over and over every time we look at our images….meaning our high lasts longer.
Why do you want to relive this experience ESPECIALLY if it was traumatic? This seems like it would be a trick question. But it isn’t. It is because after we experience our power being taken away, the only power that we have left is the power over our emotions. When our bodily autonomy isn’t respected our emotional autonomy is OURS. Forever and ever amen. Once you have your images, with the time they were taken and an unbiased documentation of your birth story, it is then that you are able to look at them and decide how you want to feel and own that in whatever capacity you want to. It’s a way to take your power back, if not with your body, with your emotions. That in itself is incredibly empowering.
Without realising it, our birth experiences shape us. Scientifically, with the bonding of our babies, how we respond to touch, how we process feelings and it spills into our everyday lives…even if we don’t realise it.
This is why I regret not documenting my first birth. I’ll never have that physical evidence of my power, of my vulnerabilities or my trauma to process.
Now I will start this one with a bit of a disclaimer; I very strongly dislike clothes shopping and so am most definitely not about to give you tips on fashion. Partly because I know nothing about it… and secondly because I don’t like the idea of things being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion. I will wear what I want when I want thank you very much.
So you have this new body. It has bumps, marks and everything else all in places they weren’t before. Nothing you used to wear fits or looks right… and the idea of going shopping to find new clothes is not something that sounds fun. Sound familiar?
don’t attempt to try on old clothes/buy new ones the second that baby pops out.
Your body changes most rapidly in the few weeks after birth, so spend as much
time as you can in those comfy maternity leggings and oversized t shirts. Enjoy
not giving a shit about what you put on in the morning for a while.
Then, when the speed at which everything is changing slows down (that will be a different time for everyone I might add) start thinking about updating your wardrobe. After all, you’ve most likely just spend 9 months in boring maternity clothes so you deserve it.
I treated myself to some new sports clothes at first… they’re comfy and will still fit me if I change size. Reebok is one of my favourite brands. I waited until about 11 weeks postpartum to go ‘normal’ clothes shopping.
The first mistake I made was shopping for my so called ‘old body’. I picked out a load of clothes that I would have worn a year ago… only one size above my old size and went to try them on. I probably don’t need to say it, but nothing fitted and anything that did fit was the complete wrong shape/style. Not my most ‘body confident’ moment to say the least (and to add to it… changing room lighting is often awful)
I put everything back, left the shop and we went for a coffee. I definitely needed a breather after that experience. A bit of a pep talk from Kieran in the coffee shop (which I might add he is particularly good at, that man can read my mind without a word coming out my mouth) and we went to try shop number two… with a much better mindset.
Zara is a shop I have always loved, especially during summer, so we went there. I picked up lots of different style clothes (some I would have never worn a year ago) in LOTS of different sizes and went to try them on. I’m not too bothered about the number on the hanger… I know full well that clothes look better and make me feel better when they fit. Small, large or otherwise. Low and behold… I LOVED some of the things I tried on. And I really mean loved. I think I even stood in the changing room grinning like a Cheshire cat at a couple of the items – things I would have never liked the look of on me before, suddenly looked great. Shop the jumpsuit here, and the shirt here.
Que the love and respect I have for my body shooting through the roof in this moment. Success.
After this we went to a few other shops and picked up some more bits;
So in summary, pick things up you would never have worn before and in LOTS of different sizes. You’re new shape/size body is just as amazing as the ‘old’ one… but most likely suits different clothes. And most definitely don’t give shit about the number on the hanger… I can wear an 8 in one shop and a 16 in the next, so it’s all bollocks anyway.
Before I fell pregnant I was, I would say, a fairly average teenage girl. I was unsure in myself and in what I wanted to do with my life, I struggled with my body image and confidence and was just starting the path to really learning about myself.
I had a place at University to study Medical Biochemistry. A subject I had chosen (after lots of discussions with different people) due to being convinced that it would be a waste of my intelligence to study anything that wasn’t highly academic with professional, well paid job prospects.
I placed a lot of emphasis on valuing myself based on other peoples standards, I would put what other people thought of me above what I thought of myself.
I was allowing difficult relationships to take up space in my life, which consequently were affecting my mental health. This was also something that heavily affected me during pregnancy.
And then I gave birth to my son.
I’ve heard the phrase ‘with Birth, the woman is born too’ a few times, and I very much believe that holds a lot of truth. Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways.
I have completely disregarded anyone else’s opinion on what route I should take my life down and as a result am now holding a place to study Sport and Exercise Science. My true passion. Becoming a mother has given me unrecognisable confidence in myself to do what I want to do, this is my life and my life only.
I now only place value in my own opinion of myself. Being a young mother you have to face a lot of negativity; people thinking you are less capable than someone older or people thinking you’ve somehow messed up your life. I am incredibly proud of myself, of what I have done and what I am doing. Me, and my family, have an amazing life ahead of us.
Becoming a mother has given me clarity in what I want to do and who I want to be. It has given me the space to flourish as a woman and grow confidence I never thought I could have. I have gained unconditional love and respect for my body, something I had been working very hard on for the last few years.
A lot of people want to tell you all the negative sides to becoming a parent, about how you’ll loose your own identity and it will test your relationship. Something that is emphasised when you’re younger, as you can add ruining your career prospects etc into the mix. But personally, I have found non of those things to be true. Mindset makes a lot of difference to your experiences in my opinion.
Arlo has taught me so much, bringing so much love and happiness with him. He has brought me and Kieran so much closer and not only helped us grow in ourselves but as a couple. Seeing Kieran be a better Dad than I could ever have asked for will always make me happy.