You can't have a rainbow without going through a little rain

It's a bit of a cringe saying, but in this instance it's very true...

You can't have a rainbow without going through a little rain
When I last blogged about my motherhood journey, poor Peyton was not at her best. It was a complete downpour for us. She was so unsettled, full of cold and, I'm pretty sure, she was going through her third developmental 'leap'.

Anyone who has a baby and doesn't have the Wonder Weeks app, I would totally recommend it. It explains your baby's moods week-by-week, gives you signs to look out for when a leap is approaching, and forewarns you of any 'stormy' periods.

The app says that last week was P's third leap, and that she has entered into a sunny period now. However, I am convinced it was the week before. Last week was a super sunny period, she was the happiest and smiliest she has ever, ever been. We even got her first laugh.

I feel like my posts have been quite negative about motherhood and parenting recently. If I've not been moaning about the things nobody tells you about breastfeeding, it's been feeling lonely while Peyton has been having her meltdowns and I was stuck at home all day with an over tired, poorly and fussy baby. Literally the worst combination!

After my last post I got so many lovely messages from so many other mums who had all felt the same as me. It was comforting to know the feelings I was experiencing were completely normal and there wasn't anything wrong with me.

Isn't it crazy how motherhood makes you so critical of yourself?!

I was also recommended some groups locally to try with Peyton. I'd mentioned about going to a couple before and stumbling across the competitive, 'perfect' mum brigade - who I am not down for joining. These encounters had put me off taking her to any other groups.

However, I went to three groups last week, all of which were recommended by friends. I know, look at me go!

We started off going to one called Music, Movement and More at our local children's centre. It was £1.50 and was basically an hour of nursery rhymes, songs, musical instruments and movements to the songs. Peyton say wide-eyed and in complete awe of everything going on around her for the full hour. She stared at other babies, loved the sound of the instruments and didn't whine, cry or fuss once. She also had a 90 minute nap when we got home - the first time she'd had a proper sleep in the day weeks!

The mums I spoke to there were so, so lovely as well. Nobody was judge-y, everyone was so welcoming and friendly and very much my kind of people. It was such a supportive atmosphere, rather than competitive.

We went again and it was another hit! Peyton enjoyed it so much and was fast asleep before we were even out of the gate and onto the path outside!

Wednesday morning we went back to the children's centre for a stay and play session. This one cost us a whole £1 (bank breaking, I know!) and was basically a free for all. It's themed differently each week, so has a different focus and toys etc. each time.

Last week's theme was sensory, so there was lots to touch, smell and taste. Obviously Peyton couldn't take part in some of the more hands-on experiences, like the big tray of jelly, but she did have a great time with anything that jingled, jangled and reflected. We only stayed for an hour because she was exhausted. We'd not even got across the road on our way home and she was fast asleep!

Finally, on Friday morning, we went to a baby and toddler group in a village hall about 10 minutes away from where we live. I'd heard lots of good things about this group so thought I'd go along and, oh my, it's one of the best baby groups I've seen. Especially for one run by volunteers! The hall was full of toys for all ages. The baby area had three giant plastic boxes filled with toys, as well as mats, rockers, chairs, walkers and jumperoos. There was also Play Doh, painting, musical instruments, ride-on toys, tunnels, dolls and prams, train sets... It was like Toys R Us and Smyths had pro-created and made this ultimate toy heaven. Again, Peyton was shattered. She fell asleep after 45 minutes, so we headed home.

I'll say one thing for all last week's activities, it's definitely helped her sleep better. Especially during the day when she's been fighting sleep a lot recently.

I've booked for Peyton to start swimming lessons from this weekend. We are going to the pool at the gym near us where a company called Puddle Ducks run sessions. She absolutely loves being in the water, and has loved it when we've taken her swimming before, so I can't wait to start going to proper lessons with her. It'll be so good for us to get the confidence of what to do with her in the pool, and learn how to make her a confident, competent swimmer.

We are going on holiday next week (wahooo!) to Center Parcs so I can't wait to take her swimming everyday! However, the long list on my phone of stuff we need to take with us is giving me a bit of anxiety. I have never been one to travel light anyway but, holy hell, there's no way of that with a baby in tow! She literally requires so much stuff!

It'll all be worth it, though. I'm so excited!

Peyton is 12 weeks old today and I honestly cannot believe how quick the time has gone. It feels like only yesterday that the tiny little 7lb 12oz ball of newborn was slapped onto my chest after so many hours in labour.

She now weighs a whole 12lb 4oz and is such a joy. She smiles all the time now (when she's not having a meltdown because she's over-tired/hungry/generally cranky) and has even started properly laughing. It's honestly the best sound in the world.

Don't get me wrong, motherhood has been bloody hard work. Some days have been dreadful and I've cried just as much, if not more, than Peyton. It's so hard when they're so upset and distressed and just can't tell you why. But, for every difficult day, we've had dozens of happy, smiley, joyful days full of love, laughter and so many memories.

I can't remember my life before her, now. She is everything I ever dreamed of and so much more.

And, finally, people are starting to say she looks like me now! After almost three months of "isn't she the spitting image of her daddy!" comments, it's now all "oh, Nat, she looks just like you!"  Hurrah!


I've lost ten and a half pounds in four weeks

And, yes, I am feeling pretty smug about it. If not a bit shocked/undeserving.

I really didn't expect a loss this week, so I was a bit taken aback when I stood on the scales and discovered I had lost 2.5lbs. You see, I have hardly been following Slimming World this week and, instead, fell off the wagon face first into a huge chocolate cake.

Here's the cake, let's just take a moment to appreciate this...

It was as good as it looks. In fact, it was better than it looks. I had more slices (chunks, if I'm being honest) than I care to admit. I also had some Betty's cakes, a very large glass of red wine and an Italian meal out (our first date night since Peyton was born!) I expected a 2.5lbs gain - not a loss of any type!

So I definitely cheated the scales this week. I was that woman who arrives and has a loss after having three Chinese takeaways, a pizza, a family share size bar of Galaxy and three bottles of wine.

God, I wish I'd eaten all that. I definitely wouldn't have lost 2.5lbs then!

Anyway, back to it. I did manage to consume some Slimming World food in between all the bad stuff.

When we went out for our meal just the two of us I had an antipasto board to start (I was tempted by a big garlic pizza bread, but resisted!) and then had a chicken dish in a tomato, pepper and onion sauce with roasted veg and 'crushed potatoes' (like mash, just not buttery/creamy).

It was so nice to go out just the two of us. My mum and dad basically told us they were babysitting and sent us out, it was lovely. And Peyton was a dream for them, too, so that made the night a complete success.

I managed to fit into some pre-pregnancy skinny jeans that I squeezed into the other week, this time with a little bit more room. They're still much more snug than they used to be, but I felt fabulous.

I was smiling inside, honest!

Most of the bank holiday weekend was spent at other people's houses, which meant I avoided cooking from Thursday right up until Tuesday - the absolute dream. Friday night my mum had made a chilli for us. I was working Friday (she looked after Peyton again, she's an actual godsend!) and she didn't think I'd be up for cooking when I got home so she made us a huge bowl of Slimming World friendly chilli which we had with rice (and spinach for me!)

Sunday night we went to mum and dad's house for tea and she made the chicken kebabs and syn free Nando's spicy rice which was beaut!

Tuesday night I finally reclaimed my spot in the kitchen and made us a firm favourite in our house - pizza topped chicken. Mine was topped with tomato puree, bacon, cheese, peppers and red onion. I did Tom's with tomato puree, bacon, mushrooms, peppers and cheese. I served it with homemade chips and salad.

It's so, so tasty and tastes very naughty.

Now I've written down the meals I've eaten this week, it was a bloody miracle that I got a loss. But I'll take it and run.

I'm not going to try and cheat the scales again this week and get complacent. I'm back on it 110%.

Today for lunch I made tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, spinach, red onion and garlic and a tablespoon of red pesto for two syns.

So easy, so tasty and so filling. Everything you want from a lunch!

I also have got the new Take 5 recipe book from Slimming World, where all the recipes have just five ingredients. There are some absolutely beaut sounding recipes in there so I have ordered all the ingredients needed on my shopping, which is being delivered in the morning, and will make them this weekend.

Just using five ingredients is great as it makes everything so much easier - and cheaper!

Some of the meals I'll be trying this weekend include a turkey jalfrezi (hopefully not too spicy given I'm still breastfeeding...!), a king prawn jambalaya, a chicken in creamy leek sauce, and a Mexican chicken stew.

I'll report back next week on what they're all like!

I've also started doing a lot more exercise. The last five days I've walked at least 10k a day and smashed my 10,000 steps goal. My Fitbit has never seen such productivity levels! I think that probably played a part in my unexpected loss - I'm clutching at straws really.

Either that, or Charis is going to make an absolute fortune by selling her amazing chocolate cakes which make you lose weight!

I'm hoping to have another good two weeks. I'm setting myself the target of losing half a stone before we go to Center Parcs in three weeks - so fingers crossed! I'm just over a stone away from the weight I was when I found out I was pregnant, and just over two stone away from my original target weight. I'm not sure how close I'll get to that while still breastfeeding and carrying around my massive milk jugs, but we shall see! They must weigh half a stone alone!

I'm feeling very positive and confident about how my body is adapting to the post-baby life and I can't wait to carry on shedding the pounds in the week to come. My initial target of being back into my size 10 skinny jeans by Christmas could still be achievable! 


The One Where Nothing Works

Despite never having Peyton away from my side during the day, and rarely having any time actually on my own, some days do feel very lonely, isolating and completely and utterly exhausting. I wasn't prepared for that aspect of motherhood.

Sure, we kitted ourselves out with half of Mamas and Papas, we got our Snuz Pod and Sleepyhead set up by the bed, and we had enough nappies to sink a cruise ship. The practical side? We had it covered.

It's hard to explain. Unless you've been there yourself, you'd struggle to understand. (Either that, or am I just losing the plot entirely - please tell me I'm not alone here?!)

Before I had Peyton I'd hear mums say they felt lonely and I always wondered "how?" when they had a constant sidekick, a shadow, a friend. But you do.

I absolutely hate spending the day at home all day; especially when Tom is at work and it's just me and Peyton. I'm not saying I don't like spending the day with her, I love our mummy and daughter time. The day just feels so long. I end up feeling mentally drained and totally exhausted at the end of the day from trying to keep her entertained/just settle her in general. Talking to her, playing with her, singing to her, walking around with her on my shoulder, constantly offering her the boob, changing her, winding her... I start to feel like I'm going insane. And what will work with her one day, won't the next. Some days I feel like my life is like that episode of Friends - The One Where Emma Cries. NOTHING WORKS WITH THIS CHILD. 

When we stay home all day she fights sleep like a trooper, and getting her to nap for more than 15 minutes at a time is a real task. I'm always so pleased to see Tom as he pulls up on the drive - "finally, someone to have a conversation with!"

Don't get me wrong, the days when she isn't cranky and grouchy, and is super playful and smiley, are an absolute dream. If I could bottle the feelings I have at the end of those days and sell it, I'd make a fortune. Thankfully, those days are the ones we have the most of. But when we've had days like today, they feel like a distant memory.

It gets lonely just you and a two-month-old baby, though. The visitors soon stop once the novelty of a newborn wears off. You go from having three or four different sets of a visitors a day to nothing - it's one extreme to the other!

The loneliest, most difficult days, are when she is poorly or particularly unsettled. Last week she'd been unwell in the night and was awake a lot in the night - requiring clean bedding, pyjamas etc. - which meant I was exhausted the following day. She was still unwell, still unsettled, and still struggling to sleep properly. We'd both gone through two changes of clothes within an hour of getting up and I knew it was going to be a long, difficult day. There was no reprieve. No chance for me to rest or catch up on the missed sleep because she constantly needing soothing, settling, feeding or cleaning up. I was on the same cycle with her all day and I was so drained.

Today has been another unsettled day. I'm not sure if there's been a particular reason or if she is just 'that way out'. During the brief times she isn't crying, whining, squealing, or screaming she's been her usual cheeky, smiley self. But, my God, the rest of the time has been hard work. I spent almost an hour earlier just aimlessly walking the streets around where we live just so she would nap.

I seriously take my hat off to single parents. I honestly do not know how they manage all day and all night, every single day. I don't think I'd be able to cope.

The worst thing about those poorly days is that you don't dare leave the house incase she has a poo explosion in the car seat or the pram, or projectile vomits all down herself, and you don't take enough spare changes of clothes. And you don't want to socialise with any of your friends and their babies at the risk of passing on whatever it is that has upset her that particular day. So staying housebound it is.

I absolutely love being a mum. It's the most rewarding job I've ever had. I've experienced love I never thought was possible in the last ten weeks and have such a strong feeling of protection over Peyton.

Yet, despite living in this bubble of love, happiness, excitement and adoration, it has suddenly got a bit lonely. We try to get out everyday; even if it's just for a walk into town or to the supermarket, or a drive to somewhere new for a walk around a park. I love the fresh air, it sends her to sleep and it's a bit of exercise for me too (which is deffo needed!)

Many people will probably say to me the answer is going to some mum and baby groups, but they fill me with so much anxiety. I went to a playgroup last week with her and, while it was nice to get out for an hour, I felt it was such a competitive environment. People constantly commenting on everything you say your baby is doing at that age: "what do you mean they did xx at 9 weeks?" or "Oh well my xx was doing that by 8 weeks." It was also completely pointless because Peyton didn't want to play with any of the new toys there. She just sat on my knee for the full hour staring at everyone and everything going on around her. She's genuinely so nosey!

I find some of these groups are breeding grounds for mums to brag about what their little darling is doing and compare them to every other baby. I don't really care if Peyton isn't doing things that another kid was doing at her age. Likewise, I don't care if she's doing stuff other kids haven't been. She's fine, she's happy - I'm happy - and that's all that matters. Why is it a constant competition between mums? It's so unhealthy and I really don't like it.

I've found Instagram, of all things, to be a huge help. There's a whole mum community out there that isn't judge-y, isn't perfect, and isn't competitive. And sometimes it's easier to talk to people you don't know about things that are troubling you than it is people you do. As much as I want to take Peyton to some baby groups for her own development, and for us to have some fun with some new toys and play things, I really can't deal with the competitive, judgemental mums that that they so often attract. Because, even though you can be surrounded by a dozen other mums and their babies, if you feel under scrutiny for your parenting, or your child's development, it can be the loneliest place in the world.

I think Tom is worried when he comes in and she's screaming and I'm just stood there rocking back and forth with her on my shoulder crying as well. He keeps telling me to "talk to someone if needed". In his words, he doesn't want me "to be deppy". I'm definitely not. I'm just exhausted some days. I hope I'm making sense and don't sound like I've lost the plot completely. Honestly, I am fine apart from feeling mentally exhausted some days (today being one of them!)

She can spend a whole morning not settling, not wanting to play with anything, not being soothed, just not playing ball. Yet, as soon as she stops crying and flashes me that gorgeous smile, it's all forgotten.

Tom always does bedtime. It's something we've done since she was born as a time for him and her to bond. I really wanted to make sure they had that special time together, especially with me breastfeeding her. I am always jealous, though, of that time they have together. Bath time is the only time of day where she is totally happy, without fail. She absolutely loves a bath and kicks, splashes and smiles for the entire time.

I love that her and Tom get that special time, but I'm also jealous that the time he spends with her is always when she's happy. He tells me "it's ok, it's normal for babies to cry", but it's all well and good him telling me that when he predominantly gets the happy, smiley, joy-to-be-around baby. When I've had eight hours of screaming, crying and whining to contend with, it's not much consolation to know that "it's normal for babies to cry".

Every night when she's gone to sleep I watch her on the monitor sleeping so soundly. When I go up to bed I just stare at her for ages. I want to kiss and cuddle her while she's all peaceful and settled, and I relish when she wakes up for her feed in the night because she's so snuggly and cuddly. I suddenly feel so bad for not enjoying her so much during the day. There'll come a day where she doesn't want me to cuddle her when she cries, and doesn't want to be near me or on me all the time; so I know I should make the most of it all now (as hard as it can be some days!)

I feel guilty for feeling so exasperated and impatient during the day. I feel guilty for crying when she cries. I feel guilty for wishing, sometimes, I had someone to just come and give me a break for an hour. Not even so that I could go sleep in a quiet room on my own, but just so that I didn't feel like I was going insane on my own. Am I a terrible mum because some days I just want a break from it being all on me for just half an hour? I know for a fact, though, that when I do get that "break" all I will want to do is be back with her because, Sod's law, it'll be the quietest, most settled, she'll be all day! I just can't win!

I absolutely adore being a mum (honestly, I do!) It's a role I've always dreamed of having. It's everything I ever imagined it to be and so much more. It's hard work, of course, but, despite my moaning, it's worth every single second. She's changing so much everyday, learning new things everyday and developing such a cheeky, funny, happy (on the whole) personality. I wouldn't change her for the world and I'd be so lost without her by my side everyday.

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