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Oh Me, Oh Mãe

First Family Portrait Session (28th June 2020)

This is a short post with a couple of photos from our first family portrait session. I feel a bit bad that it took us 2 weeks after she was born to do it, but I’ve been meaning to do another one since and it’s already been 6 weeks.

First Family Portrait Session (28th June 2020)
 
#OurFirstFamilyPortraitSession
#IHaveWantedToDoItForAFewDaysButYesterdayWeWereFinallyReady
#AndTiagoWantedHisHairCutSoIWantedAPictureOfHimWithHairAndHisBeard
#WritingThisADayLaterAsIDidNotHaveTimeYesterdayOrRatherIWasBusyWithOtherThings
#IDidNotUseFlashAsIDidNotWantToScareOrHurtBThoughSheSleptThroughTheWholeThing
#IPutMeAndTiagoInOurMatchingTopsToReferencePicturesFromMyPregnancyProject
#ThoughLaterOnInTheDayWePutBInAStripeyOnesieAndIHadAStripeyDressOn
#SoWeNeedToDoAStripeyPictureAtSomePoint
#IBreastFedMoreYesterday
#IFeltMoreRelaxed
#HerLatchSeemedBetterThoughInTheNightItWasNotAndNowMyNipplesAreSoSore
#AllSheDoesIsEatSleepAndGoToTheToiletWithPlaytimeIfAndWhenSheIsAlert
#TheDaysSeemSoLongInAGoodWay
#ThoughTheLastTwoNightsWeHaveGoneToBedTooLate
#LastNightSheHadBadWindAndWasAwakeMostOfTheNight
#WeNeedToStartHavingANapAt8PMAgain
#WeHaveSomehowManagedToMisplaceOneOfOurFabricWrapsForCarryingHerIn
#ItHasToBeInTheFlatButWhoKnowsWhereItIs
#IKeepLosingMyPhoneToo
#IDoNotWantToSayItIsBabyBrainAsIFindThatTermSoRude
#IThinkItIsJustACaseOfConstantlyMovingAboutAndHavingToGoFetchThings
#IStillUseMyPhoneButIFaffOnItALotLess
#IReadTheNewsForAbout10MinutesYesterdayWhichIsMoreThanIHaveInAWhile
#IDoNotWantToJustBeInABabyBubbleButItIsKindOfNice
#IAmDefinitelyFeelingALotBetterAboutParentingNowThatIAmHavingNaps
#NotSleepingForTwoWeeksReallyMessedMeUp
#IWouldJustGetSoTiredAndThenHaveAMeltdown
#ItIsGoodIHaveThisProjectNowAsICanNotBeBotheredToWriteInMyNormalDiaryInAsMuchDetailAboutLifeAnymore
#IOrderedOneOfThose5YearDiariesWhereYouWriteAFewLinesEachDayThisMorning
#ThatSeemsMoreManageable
 
First Family Portrait Session (28th June 2020) II

I tried putting different things over B’s face. A blue box seemed a bit too boring, so I tried drawing on them. Originally I drew a lot of flowers, but it looked a bit too much. I still want to keep experimenting with what to put over her face though, so these might not be the final photos.

But here is the first photo of us as a family – not long after she was born – with a boring white box over her face:

First Picture Of All Of Us

Some comments relating to the hashtags:

#ThoughTheLastTwoNightsWeHaveGoneToBedTooLate
#LastNightSheHadBadWindAndWasAwakeMostOfTheNight
#WeNeedToStartHavingANapAt8PMAgain

We are still going to bed too late… Tiago will often say ‘okay let’s go to bed soon’. I’ll try to settle B, T will fall asleep waiting and I’m up until 1. Last night I think we managed to go to bed at 11pm though. We need to work on making the room a lot darker a lot earlier as think this might help. Sometimes if we’re not ready to sleep we don’t push things though. I’d rather feed her a little more in hope that she’ll then let me sleep longer.

#WeHaveSomehowManagedToMisplaceOneOfOurFabricWrapsForCarryingHerIn
#ItHasToBeInTheFlatButWhoKnowsWhereItIs

I know you’re desperate to know if we found it. Yes we did. It was behind the pillows on the bed…

#IKeepLosingMyPhoneToo
#IDoNotWantToSayItIsBabyBrainAsIFindThatTermSoRude
#IThinkItIsJustACaseOfConstantlyMovingAboutAndHavingToGoFetchThings

I’m losing my phone a lot less now (or maybe I like to think that). I still don’t like the term ‘baby brain’. I think ‘tired brain’ is more accurate.

#IStillUseMyPhoneButIFaffOnItALotLess
#IReadTheNewsForAbout10MinutesYesterdayWhichIsMoreThanIHaveInAWhile
#IDoNotWantToJustBeInABabyBubbleButItIsKindOfNice

Now I’m back to trying to use it less and read more instead of faffing.

I finished reading a book yesterday, which I started after she was born – The Son and Heir: A Memoir by Alexander Münninghoff.

#IAmDefinitelyFeelingALotBetterAboutParentingNowThatIAmHavingNaps
#NotSleepingForTwoWeeksReallyMessedMeUp
#IWouldJustGetSoTiredAndThenHaveAMeltdown

I still need to learn to rest more. With the blog I need to learn to be more efficient, especially if I want to catch up and post my project in real-ish time. Sometimes I feel like I need to explain/share a lot though – like with yesterday’s post about feeding.

Some days I plan to do a lot of work, but I end up faffing and I don’t completely relax either. So, I’m trying to get better with planning my time – working well when B is asleep or T is looking after her, and then having better quality time with B when she’s awake. I’ve already failed with the planning as I haven’t allocated time for relaxing/resting when B is asleep too.

I was guilty of not having a good life balance before having a baby, so now it is more important than ever. She has already grown so much and time is flying by…


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Motherhood Oh Me, Oh Mãe

Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding, Whatever Feeding (26th June 2020)

Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding, Whatever Feeding (26th June 2020)
 
#ItHasBeenOver2WeeksSinceIGaveBirthToBAt37WeeksAnd5Days
#ILearnedHowToExpressAndBottleFeedInTheHospital
#ThoughInHospitalIUsedAMachineThatINicknamedTheBeast
#ItWasMassiveAndYouCouldExpressColostrumWithIt
#AnywaysILikeExpressingAsItMakesMeFeelLessStressed
#WithBreastfeedingSometimesItJustGoesOnAndOnAndMyNipplesGetSuperSore
#ThoughIAmTryingToBreastfeedHerABitMoreAsSometimesIForgetThatIDoNotHaveToRunToTheFridge
#OrWeCanStartThatWayWhilstTiagoRunsToTheFridge
#OrICanBreastfeedUntilIGetFedUpOrWantToSleepThenTiagoCanContinueWithTheBottle
#ThisMorningSheWokeUpAt6SoIDecidedToBreastfeedHerInTheOtherRoomToLetTiagoSleep
#WeAlsoHaveAChangingStationSetUpInTheBedroomAndOneInTheLivingRoomToSaveHassle
#AnywaysIHaveABreastPumpThatAFriendGaveMe
#IWasNotSureIfIWouldExpressButAfterUsingOneInHospitalIWasGladToComeHomeToIt
#IfIHadNotBeenInHospitalForSoLongThenIWouldNotHaveBeenConfidentWithBottlefeeding
#WeHaveTeatsThatAreForBreastfeedingBabies
#SoInsteadOfTheMilkJustGushingFromTheBottleTheyHaveToWorkForItLikeTheyDoFromTheBoob
#IAmNotSureWhetherToSayBoobOrBreastButBoobSoundsMoreCasualAndILikeCasual
#ThenOnTheOtherBoobIHaveASiliconeManualBreastPump
#ItSuctionsOnAndOnceMilkStartsFlowingFromTheOneBoobItWillAlsoStartFromTheOther
#IAlsoUseItWhenBreastfeedingAsItDoesTheSameJob
#ItIsJustABitDifficultToPutItOnIfSheIsLyingAcrossMeSoIUsuallyRugbyBallHoldHer
#BreastfeedingCanBeALotMessierIfIDoNotUseItAsOftenSheWillBeSoakedFromALeakyBoobEvenIfIHavePadsIn
#ThePumpAttachesToClothesSoItIsGreatForAttachingToMyPantsAsItIsSoHotAtTheMoment
#OfCourseTheBatteryRanOutForTheFirstTimeInTheMiddleOfTheShootSoIHadToPlugItIn
#PeopleCallingToCheckOnUsAreALittleJudgementalAboutHowIWantToFeedHer
#AfterMyHospitalExperienceICanSeeWhyPeopleGiveUpWithBreastfeedingOrNeverStart
#IAmLuckyAsICameHomeConfidentWithBreastfeedingExpressingAndBottleFeedingButSomePeopleDoNotGetAllThatHelp
#AndWithThePandemicThereIsLessFaceToFaceHelp
#AlsoWhenYourMilkIsFlowingYouCanBleedSoIBoughtSomeReusablePadsWhichWillComeInHandyWhenIHaveToFaceMyPeriodAgain
#AWeirdSideEffectOfBreastfeedingAndHavingABabyIsThatIAmMoreAmbidextrousNowAsMyLeftHandAndArmAreGettingStronger

In my previous post there is a photo of my crying whilst pumping/expressing. I think I already had this post’s picture in mind before taking that one, but they are quite different looking pictures so I don’t think it matters that they are next to each other chronologically. This one is almost like a mugshot and has little emotion, though I feel more exposed in it.

Well I guess I am showing more of my body so it makes sense. I’ve just seen an Instagram message from a guy asking if he can send me a picture of his semen, so posting pictures like this does worry me. Yes, I’m showing parts of my boobs and talking about them a lot, but it’s not in a sexual way. I know that people don’t need an excuse to send gross messages, but seriously the most recent posts in my feed are me crying, me feeling shit, me singing to my baby, my husband with my baby, me dancing with my baby and my post-partum belly. Which part of that screams ‘please ask me if I want to see photos of your semen’?

(He’s since deleted the messages, but I screenshotted them. For anyone who might be unsure – before you press send, would you send it to your Grandma? If not then don’t send it to me. Thanks.)

Anyways, everyday we seem to have a different feeding journey. At the time of this photo B was 2 weeks old, and now writing this she is 8 weeks. I really need to write shorter posts so I can catch up and actually post things in real time…

This is a post about our feeding journey so far – starting with the hospital and then how it’s been at home. I hope that it will be helpful for someone who plans to breastfeed or is interested in comparing experiences. I’m sure I’ve missed out loads of things too, but feel free to get in touch with me about anything.

Also feel like I should state that I’m not an expert and I just wanted to share my/our feeding story. A list of helplines and websites for breastfeeding support is available on the NHS website.

This post unintentionally coincided with National Breastfeeding Week – Happy NBW!

(It feels weird saying Happy NBW as you’ll soon see that my journey hasn’t been happy at times…)


Hospital/Early Days

I was only planning on breastfeeding, but B had problems latching after she was born and we were originally kept in the hospital longer because of that. Due to Covid apparently they are slower to discharge people who are having problems breastfeeding as there is less face to face support available. This makes sense as I had so many different women touching my boobs (one at a time, don’t get too excited). A video call isn’t the same as someone physically trying to help.

I was in hospital for four nights and after my milk came in on day three I started to express using the hospital pump. No one told me you could pump colostrum (first milk) with them, which I later flagged up as that could have saved me some stress. I didn’t think you could as I’d read that as you produce so little colostrum, a lot of it just gets stuck in the parts rather than making it into the bottle. I guess this is only with certain pumps and now I know that this isn’t the case with hospital grade pumps (or so I believe).

With colostrum you can get syringes (I think I called the hospital or Liverpool BAMBIS – babies and mums breastfeeding information and support – for them) to start trying to collect it from 37 weeks. Some people have more success than others. I tried, but didn’t feel very confident, and then I ended up having a baby when I was 37 weeks and 5 days… I did try again to collect some when I was sat in the first maternity ward waiting for my surges to get stronger as a friend said she did that, but my mind was elsewhere.

(After birth) In hospital I found the syringes fiddly, but someone would help me collect the colostrum. I say someone as I’m not sure what people’s job titles were, though I guess most were midwives and there were a lot of student midwives. I was also visited by women who work/volunteer for BAMBIS. Everyone was so helpful that I thought about training as a breastfeeding specialist to help other women.

I found that one boob was more productive than the other, though she favoured the one that was less so. The productive one would collect a syringe full (1ml) in no time at all, whereas the other one would get 0.3ml with some struggle. You then empty the syringe close to the inside (obviously) of the cheek if I remember correctly.

After a day (at least) I remembered that a friend mentioned expressing into cups (special cups, not kitchen cups) so I asked for one of those. This was so much easier and again I flagged this up, and they said it should have been mentioned at the first check-in. Only the midwife was allowed to give B the colostrum with the cup (I would have been too scared to do it anyways). At first I didn’t realise that she could be fed with the cup, so I was sucking up the colostrum with the syringes.

Then once my milk came in I used ‘The Beast’.

The Beast
(I gave it this nickname, so expect blank looks if you ask for one)

I was still trying to breastfeed, but it was difficult as B’s latch wasn’t great, so I found it easier just to express and bottle feed her. I think by this point my confidence had also gone, but I knew other new mums had been having issues with breast feeding and it wasn’t just me.

Photo evidence that I was trying to breastfeed in hospital.
I couldn’t remember but it makes sense as I posted a picture of that dress with all its milk and colostrum stains…
I also knew the benefits of skin to skin contact with her, so I did try this with breastfeeding but also while just relaxing with her in general on the bed.

I guess I just expected for it to be easy as it’s such a natural thing.

I was a bit scared to bottle feed and wind her in the beginning, so I made them show me a few times before I did. They seemed so rough with the bottle teat as I thought it was solid, but actually it was quite soft and flexible. Soon I got confident though and I had a good routine going on.

I was told to feed her every 3 hours, so I’d get a bottle of my milk out of the fridge half an hour-ish before to let it warm up to room temperature, wake her up (if she hadn’t woke up by herself), feed her and then pump and put the new milk in the fridge. At first I thought I wasn’t allowed in the room with the fridge, but once I knew I was then it was nice that my world was extended beyond the ward I was in. I took great delight (loser) in going there to get all my supplies – new bottles, teats – and to wash the pump parts, and to fill up my water bottle.

(I wasn’t allowed visitors due to Covid restrictions so being able to walk into a room opposite the one I was in seemed quite exciting. Later on I learned I was allowed to go outside to see people, but I wouldn’t have been able to take B so it would have been stressful. Ward visitors would have been useful for holding B and letting me sleep a little…)


Home

Like I said earlier I had only planned to breastfeed. A friend had given us an electric pump (thanks Rebecca) and we’d bought some bottles and a teat just in case, but I didn’t think I would use it all anytime soon. However as I’d pumped and bottle fed in the hospital I felt confident doing that (and the pump was super easy to figure out).

I did keep trying to breastfeed (and now I’m not trying, I’m succeeding), but I’d lost my confidence and when I did try I got sore nipples quickly because of her latch, so I was mainly expressing and we were bottle feeding.

The teats at the hospital were just ‘normal’, but the one we bought (and similar ones by other brands) is meant for babies that are being breastfed too.

Milk will easily come out of the ‘normal one’ milk, but with the breastfeeding mimicking ones the baby has to make a vacuum with their mouth in order to get some.

It took us a couple of days to get confident with the new teat, but once we figured it out we were fine.

In the hospital they’d mentioned the ‘paced feeding’ approach with the regular teats to mimic breast-feeding. I’m not an expert on all of this, but to me the paced feeding way can be likened to eating with chopsticks – eating slower so you give your stomach time to realise that you’re getting full. You’re basically letting them drink for a bit (with the bottle held flat rather than tilted up), then stopping the flow of milk by taking the bottle away completely or tilting the bottle down to with the teat still in their mouth.

(B hadn’t really been sick from feeding until one day last week, when I had been breastfeeding her a lot as I was a bit anxious about going out and her maybe getting hungry.)

Anyways, like in the picture I usually express by pumping on one side then using a manual suction pump on the other side. I read a breastfeeding support group comment the other day that said you shouldn’t use the suction element of the manual pump until 6 weeks, but I’ve been doing it from the beginning? And then I swap and pump on the other side. A double pump is probably easier/quicker (and I read that it can produce more milk), but the way I do it also works.

When you pump or feed with one boob the other one will leak (like in the picture below), so the manual suction pump will collect the excess. It’s also a good way to transition from breastfeeding on one feed to bottle feeding with the next, or a future feed if you don’t collect enough from one feed and collect some from multiple feeds.

I have quite a few pix of B breastfeeding with her hand under her chin. Excuse the leaky nipple, not sure why I wasn’t wearing breast pads (I have some bamboo reusable ones).
Love how I was always wearing an eye mask, but hardly slept in those early weeks as I felt unable to.
In hospital they’d tell me to get as comfortable as possible with pillows, but I always found myself unable to get it right. Once I got home I quickly gave up with that and just used my arm to support her and would feed her standing up sometimes. This is probably a big reason why I’ve become more ambidextrous, but I think texting/typing with my non-dominant hand also has a big part to play in it too.

I would say that I got kind of stuck with expressing rather than breastfeeding. Since she doesn’t do much at this age, feeding her is a good way to spend time with her and bond. Tiago’s been very supportive and I think perhaps his keenness to feed her also made me want to pump more (I’m not blaming him). When he feeds her it means I know I have a little time to do something, like on the 5th when we got home from dinner, and she needed feeding so T fed her whilst I did a photo shoot and then pumped after.

I was giving myself so much extra work by having to sterilise everything each time though, and in the night Tiago would be feeding her while I was pumping. In hindsight all being awake at 3am isn’t great, especially when Tiago has work in the morning. I’d also then have to sterilise stuff and often I’d wait for the machine to be done. I’d take the lid off, then wait until it had cooled down enough for me to take things out (I burn myself easily), so I wouldn’t get back to sleep for a long time.

I thought I should try to breastfeed everyday at least once, though sometimes it just didn’t happen and I would go 2 days without trying. It has gotten easier now that she is older and her mouth is a bit bigger. I don’t always have to guide her to the nipple and help her get a good latch; she can do it herself now.

So eventually I started to breastfeed during the night. Sometimes my nipples would be sore, especially as I wasn’t use to breastfeeding so much so I’ve started to use my nipple shields lately when it feels necessary.

I’ve now moved to mainly breastfeeding during the day/early night as well, but T will often offer to feed her after work/in the early evenings, especially if he feels like he hasn’t seen her much.

A friend also told us (and the NHS backs it up) that breast milk fed babies need to take a vitamin D supplement. There are many different brands out there and we have one that seems easier to put in a bottle of milk, though you can put it on your nipple. So this is another reason why we usually give her at least one bottle of expressed milk a day. Maybe when it runs out I’ll try a different one…

Everyday is a different feeding day though. Today (7th) it’s so hot that we’ve just bottle fed her. I breastfed her at midnight and 4am, then she woke up at 7 and since Tiago was awake I asked him to feed her with milk that was in the fridge. I didn’t sleep much as I was aware that I needed to pump, which I eventually did at 9am. Then because it was such a hot day it seemed better to just keep bottle feeding her. I stop and start so much with these posts that now it’s 9pm and I’m pumping and I feel really sweaty.

It’s now 10pm and it’s super hot, but I think I’ll try to breastfeed her in the night just to make my life easier by not having to sterilise a lot. She also hasn’t slept much today, so I’m hoping she’ll sleep for a long time tonight but we’ll see. (8am update- She went to sleep after midnight in the end, but slept until 6am when I breastfed her. I changed her nappy, fed her a little more and she’s asleep again.)

I used to pump every 3 hours during the day, but now I know that my milk production is good and there is quite a bit in the fridge I have been doing it every 4. After she slept for 7 hours in a row last week I also know that I can not pump or feed for that long and it’s also fine. Around 3 hours though I will start to feel a little pain for about 30 seconds if I’m awake which is quite odd.

After coming home from hospital I’d get calls from the breastfeeding support service and they told me that I should try to breastfeed first before expressing. I know on the calls that they were trying to help, but I felt like I had to justify myself to them a lot. Generally the advice you get can be quite different depending on who you talk to, and sometimes you learn things after you’ve already done them – someone said that babies shouldn’t have dummies before 6 weeks until breastfeeding is established but a midwife gave B a dummy in the hospital (with my permission) when she was having photo therapy as she just wouldn’t settle in the machine. By the time I heard about the 6 week thing I’d already been giving her a dummy for at least 2 weeks I think.

In the early days I was warned a lot about over producing – pumping can make this happen apparently. My boobs would get quite engorged and I’d feel lumps, but massaging them in the shower would really help. Just be careful when you get out as you might find that you’re leaking… (If you can’t shower then dunking them in water is meant to be good.)

I’ve said before that if we feel guilty about things (that are legal and reasonable), it’s only because people are judgemental about something that has nothing to do with them. Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, formula feed, breast milk feed or a mix of feed, people will have things to say about it. As long as your baby is getting fed in some form and is putting on weight then that’s great.

You just do what’s best for you and your family.


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Oh Me, Oh Mãe

Tired And Weepy In The Evenings & Not Sleeping Makes Me Emotional

This post is about two images as I took them a day apart and they are about the same thing.

Note: I am not looking for sympathy or comments being like ‘you’re not a shit mother’. These are from over a month ago, and though I’ve made a similar image/text in the last week I know I only feel that way when I’m tired.

(Knowing you’re tired is one thing, being able to sleep is another.)

Why share though? I want to be as honest as possible with my mothering experiences, even if it is embarrassing/awkward at times in hope that it helps at least one person.

I feel like it’s a little late to be explaining this now after so many personal posts, but this feels like a different level of personal.

Tired And Weepy In The Evenings (24th June 2020)

 
Feeling like a bad mother
 
Just never stopping 
 
Knowing that I feel worse with no sleep 
 
No sleep is my own fault
 
Now I have a headache 
 
And the picture does no justice to how shitty and tired I feel
 
I don’t even know where the time has gone or what I’ve been doing 
 
I just feel bad 
 
I hope sleep comes quick 
 
I feel like she deserves better 
 
I feel like a shit mother 
 
I need a hug from my husband 
 
But I’m in the bathroom writing this as I sweat, and I need a shower 
 
Tomorrow it’ll be better 
 
Tomorrow I’ll be better 
 
This afternoon I had her in a sling and I felt greater 
 
I breastfed her and my nipples didn’t hurt 
 
And I felt like a good mother 
 
So, I can and will be that good mother again tomorrow 
 
I need to be as Tiago’s paternity is over
 
But at least he will be in the other room 
 
I think I would be scared to be home alone 
 
Though that’s silly as I was earlier 
 
Everything will be okay 
 
Though what mother stands in the bathroom typing this instead of hurrying to spend time with her kid
 
I need to fix my priorities 
 
Not Sleeping Makes Me Emotional (25th June 2020)

 
I really don’t know how long I slept last night
 
But I didn’t rest much
 
Tiago went ‘back to work’ today
 
Paternity in this country is so bad
 
So bad that he took 1 week of it and 1 week of annual leave
 
He was only in the other room but I felt alone
 
Feeding seemed never ending this morning
 
Then she settled in a wrap
 
When we took her out Tiago commented on how red her legs were
 
I didn’t want to look
 
I was getting hungry and I just got upset
 
I should be lying down more
 
Now I am getting tired
 
When I took this picture I was worried that I was not producing enough milk
 
I hadn’t eaten and I had barely drank
 
It’s a big responsibility making sure she gets enough to eat/drink.
 
I can see why people give up or just bottle feed
 
I guess I do forget that I can just breastfeed rather than express
 
Though I have started to do a bit of both
 
Maybe I should just try breastfeeding her and see how that goes
 
Less stressful than running round trying to pump
 
Lockdown just makes it all so weird
 
She is 2 weeks old and I am yet to go for a walk
 
Hopefully we will tonight but I say that every night
 
I guess usually we’d get more support
 
I just feel like I have 1000 things to do
 
But I need to focus on my family.

I took these photos on my phone. Perhaps I should be more bothered about the colour balance, but one is in the bathroom with no natural light and the other has all the natural light but film we put on the windows a few months ago makes pictures blue. I like presenting them as my phone took them (well with a little brightness/contrast editing).

This project is supposed to be just quick and easy at times with honest portrayals and whatever camera suits. When you’re crying/upset and need sleep you don’t want to set up your ‘studio’, but I guess most people wouldn’t photograph themselves either… It’s just so easy to take a couple of snaps with your phone.

Why do I photograph myself like this? Good question. My work is very therapeutic for me and in both cases I just thought ‘I should photograph myself’ as I’ve been photographing myself for years. My photos generally come with text now so I’m aware I have to write something – (well I don’t have to but I choose to).

The text that accompany the photos are freewritten – just like my hashtags usually are. I wrote them in emails addressed to myself on my phone and I quickly gave them subjects, which I then decided to use as titles for the photos. Writing the text was more therapeutic than taking the images as it allowed me to vent.

I was writing quite long diary entries in my phone during my pregnancy, but stopped not long after giving birth as it was too much work. I now have a line a day diary (more like 5 lines), where I write more about motherhood than I did about being pregnant in my diary before (I mainly wrote about it in my pregnancy project). It’s a 5 year diary, so it will be interesting comparing the years as there are 5 years to a page.

With these pictures though I wanted to keep the text as I wrote it which is why it is ‘normal text’ instead of hashtags. I could have easily changed it into hashtags, but I’m keen to try different writing styles with this project too (though I think so far these two texts are the odd ones out).

Moving on to other things.

Paternity leave is mentioned in both texts. It’s true that paternity in the UK is rubbish, though I guess some companies might be more generous (and whether or not they take it all is another thing – Why Dads Don’t Take Paternity Leave from the New York Times which is a follow-up to a 2019 article. Yes it’s about the US, but I think the situation is similar to the UK).

Tiago got one week of full pay and then he would have got one week of statutory, so he used a week of annual leave instead since we hadn’t been anywhere due to the pandemic (and so he wouldn’t lose money). His leave started whilst I was in hospital so he spent a few days of it alone, which was a shame as he missed out on a few days with B. (It was nice to come home to a clean flat with plenty of food in the fridge though.)

Birth is so unpredictable and it’s good that we weren’t in for longer. I know people who spent most of their paternity alone as they weren’t allowed to go back to work once they knew their partner and baby would be staying in hospital…

(I just did a search for paternity petitions on the UK Government and Parliament website. There is one called ‘Extend the Statutory Paternity Leave to minimum 4 weeks‘ which was opened last week and currently has 100+ signatures.)

Luckily Tiago was still working from home once his leave was over as I don’t think I would have been confident enough to be home alone with B. (Massive respect to those raising a child by themselves.) It was reassuring knowing he was in the flat – though in another room. He only left home to go somewhere for work for the first time since before lockdown a couple of weeks ago, but still works from home a lot like he did before everyone’s world get turned upside down.

I now try to make sure I’m going for a walk everyday. It makes such a difference getting out, though it can sometimes be a faff as I like for B to have just been fed and changed. Lately she stays awake for the whole of the walks, but is quite happy just daydreaming. She barely slept yesterday during the day, and typically fell asleep at the end of the walk but woke up after a minute of being back in the flat.

I mention feeding a lot in the text, but it is something I’ll be talking about a lot in my next post.

Though what mother stands in the bathroom typing this instead of hurrying to spend time with her kid / I need to fix my priorities

This is something I have talked about in a more recent teary picture/hashtag set, as well as finding it difficult when she hadn’t started to smile on purpose yet. Now that she smiles it feels a little more rewarding as before she only showed emotion when she was upset. I guess they smile on accident with wind and pooping early on as otherwise it would make things a lot harder. I love making people laugh and I think babies laughing is one of the best sounds in the world, so I can’t wait to hear her giggle for the first time.

So after reviewing these pictures and text, and thinking about similar examples from recently – and even how I felt in the evening yesterday – I need to look after myself better.

Only 2 days ago I read a BBC article by Mark Savage about Melanie C (yes, from the Spice Girls) that had a great quote about her and motherhood:

‘”Being a mum was so liberating because for the first time in my adult life, it wasn’t all about me,” she says. “It made me not only realise I had a huge responsibility to her but I have a huge responsibility to myself. In being her teacher, I had to treat myself better.”‘

I’m working on my life balance, but it’s still early days. I guess step one is being aware of the need for change, but now I just need to get on with it.

This week I’m trying to do a 7 day yoga challenge. Last week I did 3 short yoga videos and then none for a few days, so I just need to give myself at least 10 minutes a day to stretch and look after my body. The videos are only 15 minutes so its a good way to get back into it, and I like the idea of challenges as it helps motivate me.

(We all slept for 6+ hours straight last night, so we fed B, then I did the day two video at 6am whilst I knew I had the chance as she slept on Tiago.)

If I look after myself better, then I can look after B better and then I’m sure we’ll all feel better.

What do you do to look after yourself?


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Oh Me, Oh Mãe

I Have A Lot Of Respect For My Body And What It Did

There are two images for this post, but I decided to not put them side by side, so scroll down to see the second, as well as an outtake and comments.

I Have A Lot Of Respect For My Body And What It Did

#IDidThisShoot11DaysAfterGivingBirth #ThereIsALotOfPressureForWomenToHaveTheirBodiesReturnToTheirPrePregnancySizeAfterBirth #TheUterusDoesReduceInSizeButItIsNotLikeTheBabyWillBeBornAndYourPingsBack #ItIsWeirdNotHavingAFullOnBump
#ICanSeeMyPubesAgainWhichIsFunny #AfterBirthTheUterusWasShrinkingAndTheMovementOfItMadeMeInstinctivelyAffectionatelyRubWhatUsedToBeMyBump
#IHaveALotOfRespectForMyBodyAndWhatItDid #IAmStillBleedingAndApparentlyICouldBeUntilBIs6WeeksOldIfNotOlder #ThoughIWasWorriedItWouldBeLikePeriodPainButItisNot #AGoodPerkOfPregnancyAmongstOtherThingsWasNotHavingPeriodPain #IHaveToBeCarefulWithMyStitchesButTheySeemToBeHealingWell #MyBiggestRegretIsNotBuyingAPortableBidetSoonerAsItLetsMeCleanTheStitchesWithoutNeedingToHaveAShower #IBoughtSomeReusableBambooPadsSoIAlsoCleanOffTheBloodBeforePuttingOnANewOne #IWasGoingToSayItIsNiceToNotWakeUpInTheMiddleOfTheNightToBeAbleToTurnOverAndToGoToTheLoo #ButIHaveNotBeenSleepingMuchWhichAccordingToMumFriendsIsNotUncommon #IAmWritingThisAtNearly2AMAfterBabyWokeUsUpAndIDecidedToPump #IAmExpressingAndFeedingWithBottlesMoreThanIAmBreastfeeding #HopefullyThisWillChangeAtSomePointWhenHerMouthGetsBigger #IDoTryToBreastfeedHerALittleAtLeastOnceADayButYesterdayIFailed #IKeepFeelingReallyThirstySoIBoughtSomeRehydrationTablets #ItIsProbablyDueToBreastfeeding
#TheyToldMeToDo10SetsOf10KegelsADay
#DoingSomeNowWhilstIThinkAboutIt #IHaveASoreFingerFromWhereIBurnedItOnSteamFromTheSteriliser #AndThenIGotAPaperCutOnTheSameSpot #IHaveChangedSoMuchSinceGivingBirthThough #IDoFeelMoreConfidentButIThinkItIsCausedByNumerousFactors #IThinkHavingAChildChangesYourPriorities #FeelingDownAndRubbishAboutMyselfSeemsPointless #IThinkThisIsTheHappiestIHaveEverFeltInMyLife
I Have A Lot Of Respect For My Body And What It Did II

Outtake

That’s my bamboo pad poking out of my underwear in case you really wanted to know…

Comments

I realise that my hashtags don’t talk about my linea nigra (the dark line running down my abdomen), which was one of the main reasons I took the close up photo. The pictures don’t really show how dark it is around my belly button. I quite like the line though (apparently it’s always there, but darkens with pregnancy) and how the two parts don’t line up.

The second image also references a couple of photos from my Waiting For Things In A Time When You Rarely Wait For Things project.

The linea nigra is definitely darker in the ‘I Have A Lot Of Respect…’ image.

This week I posted a couple of diptychs to Instagram, which represent my blog posts about B’s birth, and our hospital stay.:

5 Hours Before Giving Birth
24 Hours After Giving Birth

In hospital I took quite a lot of these bathroom mirror selfies. I was interested in how my bump would look after giving birth as I think about articles I’ve seen over the years shaming or praising women after they give birth. Kate Middleton comes to mind with her standing outside that hospital letting the world see her new baby for the first time whilst her post-natal body is reviewed, three times. I’m not about to turn this blog into a commentary on the royal family, but I can see why Meghan skipped the immediate photo call.

Like I said in the hashtags your body doesn’t ping back to how it looked pre-pregnancy, but from what I read years ago you’d have thought that it did based on the comments that are said about post-partum bodies. I think people are a lot more honest about these things now (or I’ve just been more aware of these talks over the last few years), and I hope my ’24 Hours After Giving Birth’ picture helps add positively to the conversation.

With the ‘I Have A Lot Of Respect….’ photos, they move away from the hospital pictures a bit as these are taken from the front rather than the side. I guess seeing my ‘bump’ from the front it doesn’t look like much, and actually by the time I took the pictures it had gone down a lot.

Reading the hashtags 5 weeks on it feels like so long ago.

I stopped bleeding a couple of weeks ago (I think) but I still have some aspects of lochia, which I learned about for a recent photo/set of hashtags.

‘#ApparentlyTheBleedingIsCalledLochiaIndItIsAMixOfBloodMucusAndTissueFromTheLiningOfTheUterus’

I feel awkward that I wrote about seeing my pubes again, but I was feeling very open after not long having 6 people staring at a baby coming out of me and numerous women touching my boobs to help me breastfeed. It is strange not being able to see your whole body though. In my birth story I talked about having to give a urine sample, but you just put the cup ‘down there’ and move it about hoping to get some in there. Whenever a midwife came to visit I had to pee on a stick so they could check for protein and maybe something else? This was also an exercise in peeing, moving the stick and hoping.

Some pubes are present in these photos and again I felt awkward, but then Pretty Gardens by Róisín Murphy came on. I’d never heard it before. I really like her music, but decided to explore more of her discography and it felt reassuring that it’s okay to talk (or sing) about these things, if that’s what her song is about anyways. ‘Look at me all naked, I let my pretty garden grow wild’.

‘#MyBiggestRegretIsNotBuyingAPortableBidetSoonerAsItLetsMeCleanTheStitchesWithoutNeedingToHaveAShower’ – A portable bidet was definitely something I should have bought sooner – it’s basically a fancier version of a squirty plastic bottle.

‘#IBoughtSomeReusableBambooPadsSoIAlsoCleanOffTheBloodBeforePuttingOnANewOne’ – The reusable bamboo pads seemed like a good investment (I also have reusable bamboo breast pads), as I was getting through a lot of maternity pads and I thought if I could be bleeding for 6 weeks then it was worth trying them. Plus I can use them when my period comes back, which I hope isn’t for a while but knowing my luck it could be imminent.

‘#IWasGoingToSayItIsNiceToNotWakeUpInTheMiddleOfTheNightToBeAbleToTurnOverAndToGoToTheLoo’ – I thought I was going to say well I have to wake up to look after B, but I said ‘#ButIHaveNotBeenSleepingMuchWhichAccordingToMumFriendsIsNotUncommon’. That does kind of sound like it’s because I need to look after B, but the not sleeping was due to just feeling high on life I think.

I talk about breastfeeding and bottle feeding in the hashtags, but I won’t say much on it as I have an image of me expressing so I will write about it more then. I’ve breastfed a lot the last couple of days, but I’ve mainly been expressing and bottle feeding. Her latch is definitely better now though, which I think is due to her mouth being bigger. Sometimes I don’t guide the boob to her and just let her latch on by herself now.

‘#TheyToldMeToDo10SetsOf10KegelsADay’ – I have an app now to remind me to do them. It’s just called Kegel Exercises. Everyday it builds up the amount you do. It’s great! (Again, I’m doing some extra ones whilst I think about them.)

‘#IHaveChangedSoMuchSinceGivingBirthThough’ – I have definitely changed a lot.

‘#IDoFeelMoreConfidentButIThinkItIsCausedByNumerousFactors’ – The confidence comes and goes though, just like before. A few days ago we took B out in her pushchair for the first time. As I’d done it once I’ve now done it everyday since and yesterday I took her out in it by myself. I also managed to do the lying down breastfeeding position last week for the first time. I’d only tried it once before and hadn’t attempted it for a few weeks. If I’d done it in the hospital I probably would have done it loads since. I’m also still not confident about sharing these posts on social media beyond Instagram.

I think hormones have a massive impact on confidence. I used to do improv comedy when I lived in London and some weeks I’d feel super confident and other weeks I’d be a nervous wreck. This week I’ve felt pretty confident with looking after B. Tiago left the house for work a couple of times last week, which he hadn’t done since before lockdown. Yesterday I was alone with her for the longest time so far (about 7 hours) and it was fine. It would have been a lot sooner if it wasn’t for the pandemic, so though I wish there wasn’t one, having T around more has been positive.

Still can’t believe I became a mother during a pandemic, but I don’t know any different and my past life seems like decades ago now.

I do love the word awkward I know, but that is how I feel about sharing the underwear pictures. I like the chosen one, but I initially went for the outtake as though the outtake is a bit too zoomed in for my liking I felt like the chosen one is a bit more ‘showoffy’. It’s more confident with the placing of my hands, though I like the oddness of them, whereas the outtake is a bit more shy.

I asked Tiago which one he preferred though as I was doubting my decision and he said the more confident one, so it confirmed which one I preferred. He said he liked it more though as it is more symmetrical. The top is more wonky in the outtake…

I am proud of my body. Our inbuilt knowledge and instincts are pretty incredible – with giving birth and I think this when I see B’s mouth doing its different ‘breastfeeding techniques’.

I still want to exercise more than I am though, as I did more when I was 37 weeks pregnant. A daily walk is great for my mental health and my confidence, but I also need to make more time for stretching. I try to do a bit whilst waiting for things – like the sterilising machine. Yesterday we did a baby yoga class and got all the way through, so that was great. Normally B starts to get upset around the bit that is more for the parents, but we do get recordings since they are online. I doubt that we would have ‘been to’ a baby class yet if they weren’t online, and I don’t think there were many online classes pre-Covid, but I could be wrong.

I still haven’t breastfeed in public, so that’s the next thing for my post-natal body and confidence checklist but I think it might happen fairly soon… Watch this space.


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Oh Me, Oh Mãe

What I Wore For My Four Night Hospital Stay After Giving Birth

So when I was in hospital I basically wore the same dress the whole time. After getting home I washed everything apart from it as I knew I wanted to photograph myself in it, though now I have decided to keep it as part of my ‘archive’ (I feel funny saying that even though I have so much work).

Anyways, it seems weird to continue my pregnancy project now I’m no longer pregnant, so with motherhood I have started a new project called Oh Me, Oh Mãe. I came up with the title whilst I was still pregnant as a play on the phrase oh me oh my. I tried with and without a comma and I seem to prefer it with one.

Mãe is mother in Portuguese (my husband is Portuguese and our baby is British-Portuguese, or Portuguese-British depending on who you ask). You pronounce mãe similarly to my, though you can listen to the pronunciation here and tell me I’m wrong. Maybe it’s more like myy.

A funny coincidence was that I listened to Devendra Banhart a lot in hospital and it wasn’t until getting home that I realised he has an album called Oh Me Oh My… It seems meant to be, though I was a bit discouraged as Tiago (my husband) had never heard the phrase oh me oh my before and didn’t like it for ages. Now he gets it and I think it is here to stay. If you ever need an honest non-artists opinion on something he is your guy!

So… the photo and hashtags (yes I think I am still doing the hashtags for some stuff, but I seem to be experimenting with other writing styles on different pictures).

What I Wore For My Four Night Hospital Stay After Giving Birth #WeHadPackedTheBagJustInCaseACoupleOfWeeksPreviouslyEvenThoughWeWerePlanningForAHomeBirth #IThoughtAtLeastEverythingIMightNeedEvenForHomeWouldBeInTheSamePlace #IKeptSayingWeShouldRevisitThemButWeNeverGotRoundToItEspeciallyAsSomeThingsWeNeededForEverydayUse #SoWhenICalledTheHospitalToSayMyWatersHadBrokeTheySaidToBringBagsInJustInCase #WeSpentHalfAnHourRushingRoundButIDidNotTakeItTooSeriously #INearlyDidNotPackThisDressAsItWasWhatIWasWearingInBedWhenMyWatersBroke #ItWasALittleWetAndItDidNotSmellSoIPutItInMyBagThinkingIWouldBeComingHomeSoonForMyHomeBirth #WellObviouslyIDidNotComeHomeAndWasInHospitalFor4Nights #AndILivedInThisDress #ICouldHaveAskedTiagoToBringMoreThingsButByTheTimeIThoughtAboutItIKnewMyStayWasComingToAnEnd #OriginallyIWasInHospitalDueToProblemsWithBreastfeedingAndThenBabyBGotJaundice #TheDressShowsColostrumStainsAndThenMilkStainsAfterMyMilkCameInOnDay3 #ItWouldHaveBeenEvenMessierThanThisButOftenISatWithMyDressOffToDoSkinToSkin #SoManyWomenTouchedMyBoobsDuringMyStayToHelpMeTryToFeedSoIDidNotCareAnymore #PlusAround6PeopleWereAtTheBirthPlusTiago #ItWasWeirdToSuddenlyBeAroundSoManyPeopleAfterHavingNotSeenMyFamilyFor3MonthsDueToCovid #MyCurtainWasNeverFullyClosedAsThereWasALightSwitchJustBehindItThatTheHospitalStaffUsed #SoPotentiallyPeopleCouldSeeInButIReallyDidNotCare #AfterAFewDaysIThoughtIBetterWearSomethingElseButItWasTooHot #TheOtherWomenOnTheWardProbablyJudgedMeForWearingAStainCoveredDress #ButSoManyCameAndWentBeforeMe #IDidNotWearMyWatchBecauseOfBreastfeeding #ISometimesWoreANursingBraButInTheBeginningIDidNotAndThenIUsedBreastPadsOnceMyMilkCameIn #IHadMyEyeMaskOnMyHeadAllTheTimeAndEvenAfterIGotHome #TheJokeWasIWasNotSleepingThoughAndIStillAmNotReally #IBoughtItAsItWasOnARecommendedHospitalListButIAlsoThoughtItWouldBeGoodForHomeAsIFindItHardToSleep #ItWasProbablyTheMostUsefulThingInMyHospitalBagInTheEndAndIAmUsingItAtHome #AndThenIWasGladThatIWoreMySandalsAndNotTrainers #SoEasyToJustSlipO

A few outtakes

(Though I’m thinking maybe it could be a set of images, I don’t know?)

I’m calling this one ‘zombie mum’ – can you tell I hadn’t slept much in the week+ since she was born? I don’t think I really slept for another week.
A classic head to waist-ish shot.
Mmm armpits… though I like the closeup as it kind of looks like a face – two eyes on my boobs and a bit of roundness around my belly as a mouth.

Comments

The whole picture has a similar vibe to my 21st April 2017 (Today’s Look) picture, which I did think about when I was doing the shoot. Different flat and a post-birth belly instead of a hot water bottle, toothpaste stains on one and colostrum/milk stains on the other. With 21st April 2017… it was the first time that I’d wrote a long piece of text to go with a photo, which definitely started to help me feel more confident with my own words.

21st April 2017 (Today’s Look) from Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons (2017-18).

Old top that I don’t like wearing in public anymore as it took me too long to realise that if I lean over I flash my bra/boobs, trousers that I wore out once in public but felt self-conscious wearing so they are now in the homewear only pile (with toothpaste stains as I can’t seem to brush my teeth without making a mess anymore), 2 pairs of slippers (one – my pair – not really visible, boyfriend’s pair visible), no makeup (haven’t worn any makeup since July, wore makeup twice last year – once for a costume party and once for 1 wedding out of 3 that I attended), brushed hair that I washed yesterday (it’s usually every 4ish days), hairy legs as I haven’t ‘dealt’ with them since February (I went on holiday to warmer climates) and a hot water bottle for period pain as I try to avoid painkillers as much as possible (except when it comes to tooth pain – wisdom tooth removal is not pleasant). 

Also hidden: Bracelet that I made when I was a teenager, a watch (boyfriend’s one that he gave to me after my similar one broke – which was identical to one I bought in 2009, my parents also wear similar watches), a bra (fairly old, I hate bra shopping so I usually just wear the ones that my mum gets me for Christmas), armpit hair (my skin is sensitive, shaving is too much work and epilating hurts so I’m going to try to embrace the neatly trimmed armpit hair look this summer whilst being self-conscious about it), 2 x temporary medicated fillings (I’ve never been to the dentist as many times as I have this year), permanent fillings (wish I had looked after my teeth better – can’t be bothered to go and count them in the mirror), pants (I’ve never been into small underwear, these ones I don’t wear very often but I need to wash my clothes – they are meant to be not be visible through clothes but I still see them under the new trousers I bought so I’m too self-conscious to wear those too), pubic hair (I’ve never understood the prepubescent look/can’t be bothered with more pain), menstrual cup (wish I had bought one years before I did) and a liner (because the cup still isn’t perfect).

I guess walking around loads in front of people in a massively stain covered dress is something I wouldn’t have done pre-baby, but since having B I have changed so much already. I plan to do a photo and text about that soon.

Well you probably won’t catch me walking around Liverpool in it either, but my clothes definitely have more stains on them and I care less. With this project I don’t want to change how I look before doing a shoot if I’m suddenly in the mood. So far that has meant mainly just not retying my hair/brushing it, and my hair misbehaving has ruined a lot of shoots in the past so I guess they’re going to be slightly irritating pictures (I call myself a lazy perfectionist – love perfection, but get annoyed trying to achieve it).

I love it when everything is in ‘the right place’ in a photo and you’ve just got a bit of hair that is doing its own thing, and continues to do its own thing no matter how many times you brush it, restyle it (I don’t style my hair – but I guess more retying it and trying a lower ponytail or something) or try to tuck it away (that is a common approach of mine).

It seems weird posting pictures where there is a big focus on my boobs and all the stains on and around them. I was feeling really awkward about the nudity in my pregnancy project, but since giving birth I also care less. My work is not sexual and my boobs are finally being used for the purpose that I have them for. I remember in high school being mocked for having no boobs (two paracetamols on an ironing board, haha) and me saying ‘well they’re only made for babies anyways’ whilst crying on the inside.

(I feel the need to say I can totally understand why people choose not to breastfeed/use their breastmilk – it is definitely a journey, and if you don’t have kids or don’t want them then enjoy not being covered in stains and having sore nipples).

Rewritten 2003 diary entry for my 2013 project Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got II.

I feel like this sums up my feelings about my misbehaving hair and having no boobs – I was happy having none though (if people had left me alone about it) and I still don’t think having boobs suits me. Time was a club that I don’t think I ever went to.

(I just thought about that calculator thing where the answer upside down is boobless).

I was not sure whether or not to start posting this new project whilst I’m still trying to finish posting my pregnancy project on Instagram, but I think I need to get on with it otherwise I’m going to be months behind with posting it – and B is already growing so fast!

I think that’s it for now… Thanks for reading 🙂


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