The magic of a smile

“Oh when you’re smilin’ keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you”
Louis Armstrong (Lyrics from ‘when you’re smiling’)

It’s fair to say that since Finn’s arrival into our family in January I have been constantly reminded of the magic and power of a smile.

When I’m out walking with Finn (aka trying to get him to nap!) I find myself smiling and saying morning to a multitude of people who I quite frankly don’t know and have never seen before. What’s inevitable though is that the more I smile and get smiles back, the happier I feel and the more energy I have. I also then of course smile at even more people! On those days where I’ve felt tired it has been like a magic tonic.

What is more, when any of our children smile at me I find myself literally instantly smiling back – even when I really should be telling them to stop doing something (i.e. being silly at the dinner table, cartwheeling in the house and so on), or if appropriate to start doing something (i.e. cleaning teeth, washing hands, tidying up)!

What’s really interesting though is that at 4 months old Finn also gets the magic of a smile – even if he doesn’t exactly understand it! Obviously when he smiles at me my heart melts and I instantly forget the 5am start, or the poo on my leg, but it also works the other way too. When Finn is a bit unsettled or fed up I often find myself simply looking directly into his eyes and smiling….and it works – he more often than not smiles straight back!

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A bit ‘mental’

About 2 years ago one of my closest friends came to visit and as we walked around a lovely National Trust House my now husband told her that he wanted to have a child with me, but that I didn’t seem to want to. My friends reaction was to turn to him and exclaim ‘really, she’s goes mental when she has a baby you know’.

Although there was a little tongue in cheek to it when it was said, it is true that when I had my daughter I did somewhat struggle. For me, the baby stage of having a child is quite frankly the hardest. It’s particularly intense and in my experience my hormones go nuts. It’s also fair to say that having a baby is somewhat at odds with the fact that I like predictability and order to my life. Finally, there is the simple fact that I need my sleep.

So, as Finn moves past the three month mark I find myself inevitably reflecting on how it’s been this time around…

1. I definitely do not do well without sleep. I get emotional, snappy and generally a bit miserable. In short if I don’t get enough sleep I do indeed go a little … er … mental. This has not changed from when I had my daughter but this time I’ve been more aware of it and much more open about it.

2. I’m a sharer – probably a bit too much. I’m really not one for pretending and so when asked how things are I really do struggle to do the ‘yeah fine’ line and instead tend to dive headlong into how knackered I am, how hard work it is and whilst Finn is just amazing – I really can’t wait for him to be a little older. Sometimes I really do fear that people are getting a lot more than they bargained for or wanted.

3. I’m a wimp. I truly thought I was from the school of tough parenting but alas it turns out that I am a total wimp. Listening to Finley cry makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

4. I’m a joiner! I have started going to a couple of regular baby groups and already started booking things like music groups for when Finn is older. I simply love the contact with other parents, the easy entertainment for Finn and the cup of tea that’s offered!

5. I cannot understate the joy I am getting out of being Finn’s Mum. Chatting to him, seeing his smiles, watching him roll over and play, listening to his coo’s – literally every single moment like this makes me incredibly happy. Sadly Ellie had colic when she was first born and that definitely impacted on my ability to enjoy our first few months – this time around I feel lucky that Finn is generally a happy little baby. I’m less keen on the fighting to get him to nap and night time waking for comfort but hey – you can’t have everything and we’re working on it.

6. I’m really conscious of the milestones that come and pass as time passes – and I’m determined not to miss any of them. For Finn it’s the obvious things like – the first time he smiled at me, the first time he rolled over and as I look ahead – when he starts solids, when he starts to crawl and so on. For me it’s been things like – when I could drive and stop the medication after the emergency c-section, when I could fit into some of my old clothes, when I finally felt comfortable enough to bin my post c-section big pants! All little steps but all important milestones for us both – for me because I feel like I’m getting back to my normal and for Finn because since we aren’t having more children these are things we will never get to see and experience again.

So there you have it – my friend wasn’t wrong about how tough i find the baby stage, but I have to say that even she has since commented how different I seem this time around. There’s simply no doubt that whilst I’ve definitely had melancholy moments they have been very much in the minority across our first 3 months.

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Our first 8 weeks

As Finley hits the 2 month mark the newborn haze has finally lifted, my hormones have settled and I have found a few minutes to actually reflect on how it’s been. Plus I’ve managed to write this post! *Pats myself on the back*

The first thing I have to say is that despite having done this before I have been on a crash course in newborns yet again. Clearly I’ve forgotten everything from last time (well it was 8 years ago!!) but also, and I’m sure you’ll be as shocked about this as me, it turns out that all babies aren’t the same. Who knew! Seriously – Finley couldn’t be any more different to my daughter so even when I thought I remembered things it hasn’t helped.

So, what has my crash course taught me?

I can ‘go with the flow’
Despite my being a self confessed control freak I have actually managed (with some struggle I admit) to go with the flow. I am amazed at myself. I haven’t tried to get a routine and I haven’t given myself the opportunity to worry about what problems I’m storing up for the future (It’s the ‘best not to think about it too much’ approach). In fact, I’ve done all sorts of things I never thought I would! For starters I have enjoyed rocking, feeding and cuddling Finn to sleep. A lot. I have breastfed him for comfort and shocked myself by being ok with it. I have also driven out in the car for no reason other than to get him asleep and I don’t care because he slept!

Crucially though, we have survived the first few weeks, Finn is doing well and even finding his own flow to the days and nights.

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It’s the hormones!
In the first 5 ish weeks I was incredibly emotional – crying a lot and feeling very much like I was mad to do this again. I had totally forgotten what I’m like when I’m hormonal and sleep deprived.

With the passing of time, support from some amazing friends and family, the settling of my hormones and a little more sleep, I am now on the other side of those mad few weeks.

I have also stopped feeling guilty about the fact that when people tell me ‘time flies’ I’m actually ok with that! Having a newborn is bloody hard work so as far as I’m concerned it’s ok that the first few weeks fly by – it really is possible to enjoy them at the speed they are without feeling the need to slow it down. I for one have enjoyed watching Finn learn to control his limbs, learn to smile, learn to coo and ‘chat’ and learn to to bat things … see I didn’t miss anything.

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Cluster what?!
Whilst I had never heard of, or experienced, cluster feeding before, Finn was apparently born familiar with it and every evening all he really wanted was to be latched on for a good couple of hours. Is this about hunger and him getting lots of food? Well maybe a bit, but I’m pretty sure that it is mostly about comfort when he’s tired at the end of the day and the fact that he just likes it. My initial instinct was that there was no way I was sitting with him chomping on me for hours in the evening but there is no denying that when I went with it, I had a happy, sleep boy who goes to bed really well and when I didn’t – well it was a more stressful, screamy type of evening. I can now say that as he turns 9 weeks old this has started to slow down a lot.

So there you have it – my reflections on our first 2 months. I wonder what the next two will bring!

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A photo shoot from heaven

This is Finley – just short of 4 weeks old – taken by the fabulous photography by Sinem.

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I hadn’t planned on writing a post about this at all – I mean, thousands of parents take their new baby to have special photos taken. It’s nothing unusual and certainly nothing new – I took my daughter when she was little and lots of my friends have done the same.

This photo shoot however, was different. I was really fortunate to be able to take Finn for a newborn photo shoot with an independent photographer based near us (Birmingham) and the whole experience was quite frankly a little slice of heaven.

This was one of our first trips out after Finley’s arrival. I have to be honest and say that I very nearly rang to cancel that morning because I was tired, Finn was needing a sleep but (as always) fighting it and I felt totally stressed about how awful it was going to be. I’m so glad I didn’t.

On arrival, Sinem (the photographer) gave me a huge smile and took Finn in his car seat through to the room where we would be. It was warm, relaxing and inviting. Five minutes later I was sat with a cup of tea, some biscuits and empty arms! Finn was being soothed and snuggled by Sinem who, with the patience of a saint, proceeded to carefully and gently sort Finn into the outfits and positions she wanted for the pictures.

For over 3 hours I sat back and relaxed – really relaxed. This was not just about the photos but about the whole experience and the calm I felt for the first time since Finn was born. The fantastic pictures produced were the icing on the cake! Of course the other aspect was the fact that I watched a total stranger soothe and comfort my little boy with amazing expertise and most crucially relaxed patience. I truly believe the latter are the two key words and remembering this in some of the tough moments since has really helped.

So when I look at these beautiful pictures of Finley I not only think about how gorgeous my little boy is (yes I’m biased!) but I also remember how wonderful those 3 hours were.

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