Happy Memories of Electric Whisks

I was 23 and pregnant with my eldest daughter, now almost fourteen, when my grandma died. She had lived with us since I was nine years old, with my grandpa (prior to his death, when I was sixteen years old), parents and older sister. Even before my grandparents moved over to join us in Sheffield from their Lincolnshire bungalow, we were very close. My sister and I were thrilled when they, along with our parents, made the decision to buy a house in Sheffield and for us all to live together.

Me, aged about six, with my lovely grandparents

My grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in her last years, and when she finally passed away, she no longer knew who I was. I visited her in the nursing home where she saw out her final months when I was several months pregnant, and although she demonstrated happiness at the news of the impending baby, she had no idea that my soon-to-be-born daughter was her great grandchild. She died soon after that visit.

Life moves on; my baby was born and I married my (now ex) husband a few months later. Although I was extremely sad that I had lost my beloved grandma, I was so caught up with the hectic schedule that accompanies being a new mum and wife that I buried my grief to a degree in order to concentrate on the here and now.

As the years went by, the memories became increasingly distant, pushed to the back of my mind. I began to drink heavily in my late twenties, attempting to anaesthetise myself against the pain of my divorce and the sadness I felt at being left to raise my daughter without her dad around. All the negative events that I had experienced during my life prior to then, including the death of my grandma, gradually whittled away to minor grievances, diluted by wine, numbed by my drunkenness. Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling.

When I gave up drinking alcohol, and the weeks of sobriety turned in to months, I began to think a lot about stuff that I had interred, long ago, in the depths of my consciousness. I became aware that most of the sad or painful life experiences which had occurred earlier on in my life, had never been ‘dealt with’ – instead of feeling emotional pain, living it, working through it and then moving forward, I had just drunk those emotions away, blotting them out like an eclipsed sun. I had, effectively, never known true pain.

I had lived through things as though I were an automaton, forbidding myself to feel emotions like a human being should, boxing painful memories away like disused ornaments in a dusty attic. Drinking took away my ability to hurt.

But slowly, emotions have returned. Over the last few months, particularly after the birth of my second daughter, I have thought of my grandma frequently (our baby is the namesake of my grandma and of my partner’s mother). Silly things remind me of her; an M&S nighty hanging on an old lady’s washing line; re-reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’; whipping cream to peaks with an electric whisk, mine being a modern version of the 1970’s one I used to borrow from her as a child who was a keen baker; the new series of Dallas; attempting to sew my other half’s trouser hems, minus the wonderfully equipped sewing box she kept so well stocked; Pond’s face cream, the reason behind her lovely pink complexion; my baby’s little chin, round like a button, and which so reminds me of her great-grandma’s.

Although it has been fourteen years since her death, I still miss my grandma. I wish she could have known my two lovely girls, and seen my sister and me as mothers, with our own families to look after. She gave us such constant and unconditional love, and I wish that I had been given the chance to visit her and look after her at an older age than that at which she passed away.

Although I still cry sometimes when I see the seemingly inane things that remind me of her, I am so glad that I feel those emotions and think of her, so fondly, as often as I do. I wouldn’t have ever grieved properly for her had I still been drinking wine every night, and even though it  hurts, I am happy to finally be dealing with my feelings, good and bad, like a fully functioning human being.

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Fright Night

I woke up this morning with a pounding headache. The baby cried in her cot for twenty minutes or so, a low-level grumble that gradually grew to a full throttle scream, forcing me to drag myself out of bed and bring her downstairs for her milk.

Last night, I and the other half went out in town for Halloween. It was rammed, the bars full to bursting with revellers in fancy dress costumes, a malevolent exhibition of devils, witches and ghosts, incongruously sipping pints of lager and smoking cigarettes in clusters in doorways and on pavements. After giving up the breastfeeding, I decided that a little glass of white wine would do no harm – after all, if I have managed to maintain my sobriety for almost two years, then surely I can’t have had that much of a problem. I threw caution to the wind and got a large glass down my neck; I joined the masses, discarding my odd status as teetotaller.

As always happens when I and alcohol come together, one glass did nothing to satiate my thirst for that crisp, cold wine with the slight acidic tang, and so I bought another, and a third. I don’t remember getting home, my memory blurs after an argument I had with the other half; he made the mistake of attempting to curtail my alcohol intake, and I let him know in no uncertain terms that this was something I should and would allow myself to do after all the sacrifices of having a baby and breastfeeding for months on end.

I was still dressed when I awoke at six this morning, which then became five owing to the autumnal hour reversing. My tongue felt as though it had doubled in size, furry and dry against the roof of my mouth. When I looked in the mirror my mascara had streaked across my cheeks, my over-sprayed hair was stuck up at all angles like a scarecrow’s. I could smell alcohol on my own breath. The baby was an inconvenience, waking up so early and forcing me to cope with my debilitated physical state in such a hurried fashion. I wanted to sleep it off until noon. I crept out of bed not wanting to wake her Dad – I couldn’t face the recriminations and tongue-lashing that I knew would be coming my way as a result of my behaviour last night.

I hated myself as I took each step carefully, ensuring I didn’t trip in the darkness. I tried to smile and comfort the baby but she knew I was not myself and recoiled slightly when I lifted her from her bed.

My eyes stung, my head thumped and my skin was slightly moist with the glistening sheen of clamminess. The extra strong coffee made my heart beat too fast and I had to fight hard to regulate my breathing. Serious dehydration is no laughing matter. After drinking the coffee too quickly, I felt a surge of bile rising in to my throat and threw up suddenly in to the kitchen sink, whilst the baby looked on, questioningly. I hated myself again. I started to cry, and she stared blankly as my tears rolled off my cheeks and on to the wooden floor.

You know this is fiction, I hope. My other half did go down town last night with his mates, and I stayed at home with his visiting sister, and both my lovely daughters. We watched X Factor and chatted. The baby woke up at 11 pm, distressed, and we calmed her right down straightaway, coaxing her tears in to a smile within minutes. The dog became terrified and anxiety-stricken after a few fireworks exploded nearby; we settled and comforted her. We were all asleep by midnight, drifting away in to drug-free slumbers, recouping and recharging ready for another day.

I woke up at five am, opening my eyes and settling my gaze on the beautiful cherubic baby in the travel cot beside our bed (a bedroom reshuffle took place as the other half’s sister is here for the weekend), watching her smile and stretch out her fat little hands to demonstrate her desire to be cuddled. I was instantly awake, feeling full of energy and happiness, ready to look after my family and to enjoy whatever the day may bring. Later, when my other half described what the city centre was like last night, full of Halloween-inspired ghouls getting plastered, I remembered how I used to be all those months ago; that waking up and feeling as though I had some terrible illness each weekend was utterly normal, a sacrifice that I was willing to make in order to drink alcohol. I would waste entire days, unable to achieve anything other than muddling through, coping, waiting for enough time to pass for the hangover to subside. I would snap at my eldest daughter, unwilling to spend time enjoying stuff together, unable to find the motivation to think of anything interesting to do.

I would worry about how much money I had spent the previous night, who I had offended by saying something stupid, who I had flirted with and made a fool out of myself in front of. I would fret about my health, worry that everyone would think I was an alcoholic and stupid, that I couldn’t hold my booze like they could, that I was a lesser human being. And then I would go and buy a couple of bottles of wine and drink those to numb the misery. Words cannot describe how happy I am that the first part of this blog post is fanciful imaginings, how grateful I am that I finally saw the light, and how wonderful it feels to know that I will never, ever spend another morning like the one described above.

David Cameron Misses the Point

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about David Cameron’s ‘Alcohol Strategy’ and sent it to Alastair Campbell to see if he would be kind enough to post it on his website. Alastair very kindly published it this afternoon, and you can read it by following the link below.

All comments warmly received – let’s get a debate going!

http://www.alastaircampbell.org/blog/2012/10/26/camerons-alcohol-strategy-is-missing-the-point-a-guest-blog-from-a-recovering-middle-class-alcoholic/

Cinderella in a Restaurant

Should children be tolerated, welcomed or banned from public places? So asks the Daily Post’s ‘Weekly Writing Challenge.’ Read on for my thoughts on the matter…

There is a little plaza in the village of Fornalutx, Mallorca, where an ancient fountain bubbles away, a backdrop to the sound of the local children’s high Spanish voices squealing and laughing as they play around the old tree in the centre of the square. Their parents sit outside the tapas bars, sipping a beer or café con leche in the shadows cast by the dipping sun, talking about grown up stuff and occasionally looking over to ensure everyone is safe and behaving themselves. The atmosphere is convivial and full of humanity, a hub of community life ticking along as it has done for centuries.

On holiday in Mallorca earlier this year

In Sheffield where I live, things are a little different. For the entirety of my eldest daughter’s life, I have eaten in restaurants with her on a frequent basis. Sharing a meal out is a great opportunity for families to spend quality time talking to each other and to escape the ubiquitous mobile phones, TV’s and laptops that encroach on almost every other aspect of our lives. Because I have taken her out to dinner from just a few months old, she has always displayed good table manners and knows exactly how to behave amongst adults in a busy restaurant. When she was smaller, she would dress up in a Cinderella or Snow White costume when I took her out; now she puts make up on, wears a dress and high heels (mine, usually) and looks stunning. I am always extremely proud to walk in to any restaurant with her, knowing that her behaviour will be nothing less than perfect.

Now that I have a six-month old baby, she joins us when we eat out at restaurants. Down the road from where we live, there are a few places to eat of Mediterranean origin, and we usually choose those over more English, traditional venues, owing to the fact that we are a family with a baby. Mediterranean cultures celebrate children, and include youngsters in the conversations and social interactions that take place in restaurants and other public places. One particular aspect that I love about those cultures and the way they embrace little ones, is how the men fuss over babies and young children in such a relaxed and comfortable way – a social norm that is rarely seen in English culture. Mediterranean men seem so at ease with their masculinity and place in society, that they have no qualms about cuddling babies in public, kissing their children openly and generally demonstrating their paternal love for their families whenever they see fit. I love that!

I have never witnessed a badly behaved, bored child who is desperately trying to seek their parents’ attention, when on holiday in Mallorca, Spain or Italy. The children there are a part of whatever is going on; they are valued participants in  social gatherings of any kind, and join in the conversations with adults as equals. Or they are just allowed to let off steam, chasing each other round a big tree in a plaza, or splashing water scooped up from a fountain, until they are tired and happy to join the grown ups and their more sedate chatter. Children who feel wanted and loved do not (generally) behave badly, and children who know that they are accepted and welcomed by society as a whole when they visit public places, usually meet the expectations they understand have been placed on them, and act accordingly.

Eating out should always be about friends and family coming together to share conversation and laughter, and to cement relationships. Children are as much a part of the social equation as adults and should be treated as such by everybody. When children are listened to and respected as human beings, they are a source of endless fun and interesting banter, often more so than many of the adults to be found in restaurants!

Goodbye huge pants

Last week I wrote about switching the baby on to bottles, which she is now taking happily. This is a quick update for you. 

I found some nice organic, extra-satisfying stuff for her bedtime feed, which comes in a cute blue tin with pictures of the moon and stars on it; this (ridiculously) makes me feel happier about giving her formula instead of breast milk, because it’s organic. I know, I know, I’ve done six months (almost) but such is the strength of the government’s message about the superiority of breastfeeding that I still feel a bit guilty to be giving her the powdered variety, even this many months down the line. Anyway, it’s done and she seems happy and well, so that’s that.

As a result of finally reclaiming my body after almost a year and a half of baby making and building, I had a rather lovely moment today – I chucked my massive, fat-strapped, thoroughly unsexy, non-underwired maternity bras in the bin; hurray!! Did anyone ever invent a viler undergarment than the maternity bra? I think not.

All summer I struggled with what to wear. Ok, I live in England and the weather is notoriously awful, but there were the odd few days here and there when I wanted to dress in something strappy and floaty (despite the fact that floaty isn’t necessarily a good look when you are carrying that extra baby weight around your middle). Ignoring my bulging muffin top, I bought a couple of vest tops and one or two chiffon numbers, only to have any chance of them looking pretty ruined by the extraordinarily unfeminine, ultra wide bra straps. Ultra wide and a bit grey owing to being put through the wash too many times as a result of milk spillages and baby sick.

And, thinking about it, someone did actually invent a viler undergarment than the maternity bra, because I threw a few of these away today too; the super sized knicker. A few weeks after my caesarean, my new, wonky scar became slightly infected. ‘No,’ the doctor informed me gently, ‘it is not supposed to be that colour. Buy some massive pants, and make them really big – so that the elastic reaches your boobs.’

Off went the other half to Tesco and dutifully returned an hour later with a multipack of briefs (and I use that word in the loosest sense) that should never be worn by anyone under the age of 85. I have never felt less attractive in my entire life than when I put those things on (a generous 3 sizes bigger than my usual, but still a tad on the snug side) and teamed them with a grey, fat-strapped maternity bra, the enormous cup sizes almost matched by the bags under my poor, sleep-deprived eyes.

Today, all bras and massive pants took a flying nosedive in to the wheelie bin, and good riddance to the lot of them.

At the weekend I am going to purchase a sackful of nice, brand new, delicate-strapped lingerie. Hallelujah.

Rolling the Dice and Landing in New York City

When I was 28 I flew to New York City with my daughter, then 4 years old, for a short break. I was newly divorced, had just finished my first degree in American History and had absolutely no idea who I was or where my life was going. As the cab approached Manhattan from JFK Airport and I saw the skyline for the first time, grey and imposing against the freezing January sun, I cried. No place on earth has ever affected me in the way that New York did during those four days that I spent trudging around in sub-zero temperatures with my little girl on my shoulders, bundled up in a pink coat and white furry Russian hat.

We did the usual tourist stuff; Statue of Liberty, Empire State, Chrysler Building and Greenwich Village, and we also visited the Bronx Zoo (I think we were the only ones silly enough to brave the cold that day, and virtually had the whole place to ourselves), after which we missed the bus back to Manhattan and had to sit for an hour by the roadside on the edge of the Bronx, feeling more than a little apprehensive about our surroundings, if I’m brutally honest.

The Bronx Zoo – a wonderful sanctuary of nature, in the middle of an urban jungle

New York City felt like home to me, as soon as I arrived. I had no qualms about getting up and out of the hotel on 5th Avenue as soon as the sun came up (major jetlag), bundled up in hats and big coats to ward off the cold, mingling amongst rushing commuters as they made their way to the office and we made ours to a cosy diner we discovered that served great coffee and mammoth croissants. (I gave up asking for a four-year-old-girl-sized portion of anything after the first day – such a thing didn’t exist and so we bought one of everything and shared).

The New Yorkers we met loved my little girl and fussed her no end. We visited a shoe shop close by the Empire State and bought her some Timberland boots and thick socks in order to fight the winter cold a little more zealously than we had originally managed with a pair of totally inadequate wellington boots. The three men who staffed the shop were, upon first impressions, a bunch of rude boys, collectively weighing in at around 1400 lbs and dressed in football shirts and massive, baggy jeans. They thought my daughter was the cutest thing they had ever seen, however, and tended to her every need with all the care and attention of her own grandma. The friendliness they displayed was reflected all over the city, in every shop and restaurant and public space we went. It was a magical few days, and just as I had cried when I arrived, I shed a few tears on the plane home as well, high above the Atlantic Ocean whilst my little girl slept peacefully next to me.

I am a different person now to the risk-taker I was back then. I wonder if, in some way, how I used to be was connected to my heavy drinking; the characteristics displayed by a person who is willing to risk their health and the security of their world by constantly getting drunk and exposing themselves to dangerous situations, are perhaps the same characteristics that led me to flying to NYC on a whim with my little daughter, or to doing a skydive a couple of years later. During those years, I also packed in a secure job in order to start a business (thankfully it didn’t flop), and then later sold that business to go back to university to do a law degree (again, the risk paid off and I got a 2:1 – thank god). Prior to my daughter being born, I decided, again whimsically, to switch my university degree course (the first one) from Sheffield Hallam to East London University, to enable me to move in with my boyfriend of the time and his mates in Archway, North London. Then I fell in love, in much of a hurry, with my eldest daughter’s father and moved back up to Sheffield to be with him, had a baby and got married.

Perhaps I didn’t take the time to know myself sufficiently to find out what it was that would have made me happy in life. Pouring alcohol down my neck each time I was happy, or sad, or stressed, or celebrating – I never got in touch with the real me, and consequently every life decision I made was based on something of a guess, like rolling a dice and just going with an arbitrary outcome, trusting my life to some passing fancy. In many ways, I am grateful for the way that I was (not the boozy bit, but the associated decisions that I made in my life). For every negative I encountered as a result of drinking too much, I am lucky enough to have found myself in numerous situations that were amazing, fantastic life experiences; experiences that I would not have encountered if it weren’t for the fact that I was a bit of a risk-taker. And, of course, being the way I was resulted in my wonderful first daughter being born.

Having said that, I wouldn’t go back there today – I was lucky that the chances I took didn’t backfire and bite me on the arse, and ultimately, they were about short term gratification and not ensuring a secure future for me or my daughter. I am a very different kettle of fish today; the way that I act and the decisions I take are based upon the consideration of what is best for all of us, me and my family (now doubled in size), and the implications – financial, emotional and personal – are debated before committing to anything of any importance. In order to ensure any longevity of happiness, I believe that is the only way to live.

Of all the crazy stuff I got up to in my wayward, drink-fuelled days, however, visiting New York City remains one of my most treasured memories.

You only get one go at this life

I love mornings!

It’s still dark outside. I have been up for nearly two hours, stirring to the sounds of the baby kicking against the wooden slats of her bed and gurgling to herself. I love lifting her out of her cot first thing in the morning, seeing the flicker of recognition on her little pink face as she makes out my features in the green, half-light of her bedroom, gently illuminated by the coloured nightlight on the set of drawers in the corner.

She sat in her bouncy chair in the kitchen whilst I made her milk, smiling at me every time I looked her way and wriggling her tiny feet excitedly at the prospect of receiving her warmed bottle. Now she is back in her cot asleep, whilst Betty the dog is lying on her beanbag snuggled up close to the radiator, content because she has some company once again. I feel fully awake, the clock showing half past seven, the curtains still shut against the pitch black of outside. And I don’t feel tired at all.

Since I gave up drinking, I never struggle to wake up in a morning (a good job as 6 am is now considered a lie in for the baby!). In the last two years, I have been ill once with a bad cold but generally I feel fitter than I have ever felt in my life, with more energy than I know what to do with. I never crave a huge portion of carbs for breakfast either, which I regularly did when I drank alcohol; I remember quite frequently cooking up a greasy fry-up before work in order to soak up the hangover that I was pretending I didn’t have. That in itself is bizarre now, when a bowl of cereal, some juice and maybe a banana form the basis of my morning meal each day. The idea of gorging on a plate of greasy food laden with saturated fat turns my stomach! At work I would down endless cups of coffee, cans of Red Bull or Coke, just to try and stay alert, never considering that all those artificial means to prop myself awake would be totally unnecessary if only I stopped poisoning my body with alcohol each night.

I fell in to such a blatant trap in my younger years, but could never recognise it until I became teetotal; drinking to feel more confident, to have fun, to ward off the loneliness, to cope with stress, only to suffer the associated anxieties, depression, tiredness, mood swings, lack of confidence and depleted energy levels. And then to rejuvenate my weary body and mind, what did I do? Pour more of the poison down my neck, feeling better for it initially (but only initially) because I was satisfying my cravings for a drug that I was addicted to.

The answer is so easy; remove the drug, remove the need for the drug. Just as in quitting smoking, where the desire for a disgusting, smelly, toxic cigarette dissipates once the habit has been kicked, the cravings for alcohol just vanish as soon as you shift your perception about drinking it. I remember saying to someone years ago that I never wanted to become an alcoholic because then I would have to stop drinking forever, which would be the most awful thing. Clearly I was already addicted to the stuff otherwise the notion of living without it wouldn’t have worried me in the slightest. Time just cemented my addiction until I reached a point where alcohol would have killed me, one way or another, if I had continued to drink as I was doing in the last couple of years prior to quitting.

I wrote a lot when I first stopped drinking, just to help me organise my thoughts regarding alcohol and how I had reached such a low point in my life. I felt very sad to begin with at the thought that I was giving up my beloved wine. I remember writing one thing though, that still sticks in my mind; that to die prematurely through drinking would, as well as being tragic to those left behind, be such a monumentally stupid reason to die. That seems even clearer to me now with almost two years of sobriety behind me; to live life in a permanent stupor, hungover or drunk, depressed, anxious and grumpy, only to die before time because alcohol has poisoned the body, is just the biggest waste of a life. I wish that everyone who is living their life through the tainted lens of binge drinking could recognise what I, and others who have managed to give up drinking, can see so clearly; life is so precious and so short, that we should be able to remember and appreciate every day of it. To lose even one day through being bedridden due to a hangover, or to lose an evening because of loss of memory, is just such a waste.

I know that if I had been drinking last night, I would have resented every minute that I spent with the baby so early this morning, cursing the fact that I had not been able to sleep the morning away. Instead, I cherished every second.

MindBodyGreen

Please take a minute to look at MindBodyGreen, a fantastic website full of healthy lifestyle articles – one of which is written by me! I’m really chuffed to have a piece of writing featured on MindBodyGreen – please take a look by following the link below. I hope you like it!

Lucy x

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6500/How-to-Be-Sober-and-Happy.html

 

Go Ape!

I can count the times in my life when I have been truly terrified on one hand. There were the births of both my daughters; I hold my hand up and admit that, despite voraciously soaking up as much knowledge about hypnobirthing, water births and earth mothers chilling with a brew minutes after popping their little one out, I was utterly terrified about the whole experience from about six months pregnant onwards. The actual events did nothing to put my fears in to perspective, I may add.

There was the time when I found myself in a tricky situation with a violent ex boyfriend, who decided that he wasn’t too chuffed about me dumping him and took it upon himself to break in to the house I was staying in and telling me, with the aid of a hammer, what he thought of me.

Then there was the skydive that I did a few years ago when, despite me fooling myself and anyone who would listen that I was a crazy, extreme sports fanatic who just couldn’t get enough adrenaline into her bloodstream, I was actually convinced that I was going to die when I jumped out of that miniscule bi-plane, and spent the few weeks leading up to the big day utterly terrified and unable to sleep.

Don’t be fooled by the smile – I thought I was living my final moments.

And the last time was Sunday, my birthday, which I spent with my bloke and my eldest daughter, both of whom are (I have come to realise) much braver than me. We went to Go Ape! which is a circuit high in some treetops in Buxton, Derbyshire, made up of rope ladders, cargo nets, bungee jumps and zip wires, for visitors to make their way around whilst testing their strength of mind and character. I booked it because I wanted to have an exciting experience for my 37th birthday which didn’t revolve around sitting in a pub with a load of people getting drunk, and I’m so glad that I did. Although when I booked, I had forgotten the fact that I suffer a little from vertigo.

An hour in, we reached a bridge of rope swings, hung between two trees about eighty feet in the air. My other half stepped across first, swinging wildly but pulling himself valiantly from one swing to the next until he reached the safety of the facing platform. My daughter went next, froze on the first plank of wood that wobbled violently in front of her, before harnessing her courage and managing to cross in just a few minutes. Then it was my turn – extreme sports extraordinaire…As I put my foot on to the first swinging log and grabbed on to the adjoining ropes that held it to the cable above, I made the mistake of looking beyond my feet and to the ground, way below me. My stomach went in to my mouth, my legs turned to jelly and I froze. Completely. Then I began to make strange wailing sounds that have never been emitted from my mouth prior to that point. It took me twenty minutes to cross just six feet of rope bridge, with the aid of my very supportive and lovely family, who did not burst out laughing, but encouraged me every step of the way whilst I cried like a baby and tried not to throw up my breakfast.

There were many fun elements too, I must add, mainly the zip wires and ‘Tarzan jumps’ – all in all it was a brilliant day out. Facing the fear when you are terrified is a fantastic way to feel alive, and to remind yourself that pretty much anything is possible if you are prepared to meet that terror head on and take it by the horns. There is nothing as satisfying as proving to yourself that whatever life throws at you, you can tackle it by just putting your mind in to ‘brave mode’.

Hitting the Bottle

As my baby is almost six months old, I have made the decision to stop breastfeeding. Yesterday I reduced the breast feeds down to just one at bed time and plan to gradually decrease these over the coming week. A catalyst for this is because tomorrow, I turn 37, and my other half, my eldest daughter and me are off to ‘Go Ape,’ where we will spend a few hours swinging around tree tops and whizzing down zip wires; my alternative plan to the usual ‘let’s get plastered in a pub somewhere’ notion of how to have fun on your birthday (zip wiring was suggested by Sue on WordPress – thank you Sue). Mum and Dad are babysitting, hence it seems as good a time as any to begin the switch to bottle-feeding.

Giving up breastfeeding is an emotional rollercoaster, for me at least. I will most likely not have another baby, and so it follows that I will never breastfeed again, once I finish for good in a few days. There is something so uniquely wonderful about nursing your child, having the knowledge that you are providing their only sustenance and sharing a bond that no other person on the planet could have with your baby. Those middle-of-the-night rendezvous, the two of you cuddled together in private harmony, innately understanding just what it is you are meant to be doing to keep the other happy, the gulf of age bridged by the simple act of supplying food – there is nothing like it in the world. And I know that I will miss it.

I am happy that I chose to feed my baby in this way for the first half-year of her life, and I am even happier that the reason I am now switching to bottles is not because I want to drink alcohol again. I breastfed my eldest child for 16 weeks, and at the age of 23 that felt like an eternity. Keen to get out socialising again (for socialising, read ‘boozing’) I knocked the nursing on the head in favour of being able to get drunk with my friends again. I realise that age brings wisdom, but it still fills me with sadness that I could not recognise what a wonderful privilege breastfeeding is, and how making the ‘sacrifice’ of being teetotal for a further six months post-pregnancy is no sacrifice at all when you are providing your baby with such a good start in life. (I know that some mothers are unable to breastfeed, and their children are perfectly healthy – I don’t mean to point the finger here. It worked for me, and so I am naturally in its favour).

My life is becoming busier, I am working a lot on our upcoming website, Soberistas.com and am therefore becoming more reliant on other people babysitting, and I have fulfilled what I set out to do – exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months (just shy by a week or two). And yet deciding to switch to bottles marks a new chapter for my baby; that magical, primal connection that the two of us have enjoyed since the day I discovered I was pregnant, is reaching its conclusion. It feels like she is embarking upon the first tiny step she will take towards independence.

When I finished breastfeeding my eldest daughter, I remember being overwhelmed with guilt and confusion, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I knew that the real reason behind me switching her to bottles was because I hankered after getting some of my old life back, I felt as though I had done ‘my bit’ to a degree and I just wanted to get on with living. There are none of those feelings this time around, just an acceptance that now seems like the right time, for me and the baby, and the knowledge that I will miss it (although the thought of getting a proper night’s sleep is wonderful!) once it has gone.

When I feed her for the last time, it will be an emotional experience. But again I am reminded of how much I have grown up and become less selfish as a result of giving up drinking – I have made a measured decision, weighing up the pros and cons for both of us (mainly the baby) and doing what is right for her, primarily. I will continue to be teetotal, to eat nutritious food (and now to begin cooking/pureeing it for the baby too) and to treat my body with respect, just as I had to do during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I will do it as I finally have some self-respect, it makes me happy and because I am setting an example to my two girls.