Self-Love – the art of loving oneself. By Claire Blank

Self-Love – the art of loving oneself. A simple enough concept, but one often overlooked by many women, I suspect. Psychologist & social philosopher, Erich Fromm defined self-love as caring for oneself, respecting oneself, taking responsibility for oneself and knowing oneself. In his 1956 book, “The Art of Loving”, he proposed that in order to truly love another person, one must first love oneself in this way.

I consider myself to be a reasonably well-rounded, intelligent, articulate woman, yet as I approach my forty-first birthday I am only just beginning to grasp the importance of the concept of self-love. Prioritising our mental and emotional well-being is something which I, and I suspect many women my age, simply do not do. We may go to work, care for our families and if time permits, squeeze a quick hour in down at the gym, but we don’t necessarily make our emotional and spiritual well-being a priority. And if we are not firing on all cylinders, then how can we properly care for and invest quality time in those around us? Well I have resolved to make 2014 the year that I make changes in the self-love department. Here’s why…

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The birth of my son four and a half years ago was pretty traumatic. At forty-two weeks pregnant and two weeks past my due date, I reluctantly decided to take the advice of my midwife and be induced. It was a far cry from the natural birth I had hoped for, but having weighed up the risks, I decided to go ahead. Things did not go well.

Several hours into my labour, my son suffered a shoulder dystocia – his head had delivered, but his body had become wedged tight behind my pelvis – a medical emergency. Forceps, ventouse, episiotomy, the ‘McRoberts manoeuvre’ (not pleasant) and finally a grey limp baby. Not moving, not screaming, just floppy and apparently lifeless. I watched as he was flung onto a table where two paediatricians administered oxygen. ‘He’s pinking-up’ someone shouted and the young student midwife who was there to observe, saw my desperation and gave me a nervous thumbs up. And then I heard my baby cry. A collective sigh of relief in the delivery room. Time started again.

But my baby was not out of the woods. He had suffered Erb’s palsy (paralysis down one side resulting from birth trauma), torticollis (muscular spasm of the neck muscles which manifested in his head being severely twisted to the side), plagiocephaly (a flattened skull) and two broken ribs. My husband and I were devastated. We left hospital and the months of physiotherapy began.

While my friends pushed their new-borns though the park and met for coffee, my husband and I spent that Summer in hospital waiting rooms or at home, where several times each day we would administer the most brutal physiotherapy exercises on our screaming son. As the months passed, my baby’s condition improved and my mental health worsened. I was prescribed anti-depressants. Eventually we tried to have another child but instead we had miscarriages – three, one after another. Oh the unfairness of it all.

Gradually my depression lifted, my son recovered and life moved on. But the trauma and sadness of his birth remain, just bubbling away below the surface, always ready to catch me unawares; a news story about a lost child, an advert for nappies on the television, a friend falling pregnant – it doesn’t take much and the tears begin to flow. It’s not over – not by a long chalk.

I suspect that many of us have similar stories – miscarriage, a painful divorce, fertility problems, illness. We tell ourselves to ‘chin-up’, ‘toughen-up’. We distract ourselves with work or the gym. We tell ourselves there are others with bigger problems. We hit the wine to take the edge off it all. But it doesn’t go away, it’s bigger than that.

Well we deserve more. We’re worth it, as they say! And that’s why 2014 is going to be the year that I hold my hands up and say ‘enough!’ This week I have made an appointment to see a counsellor. I’m going to dredge up all the sadness and heartache, rake it over and put it to bed once and for all. I’m going to grant myself the luxury of taking care of my emotional well-being. I’m going to spend my money, not on booze to numb it all, but on me and my head!

It’s a start, and it feels good.

Back in Character

Getting smashed on at least three or four nights a week meant that many of the circumstances I found myself in during my drinking days arose out of actions which may as well have been carried out by a completely different person. Looking back on it all, it seems as though I was possessed by someone hell bent on wrecking all chances of my future happiness.happiness

Certain relationships are top of this list of stupid situations that I fell into which would never have come about had I been sober. Meeting someone whilst under the influence, when your senses and intuition have been obliterated by alcohol, is never likely to mark the sparkling birth of a beautiful romance. Far more likely that the two of you are wholly unsuited to each other, but when morning comes around the process of extrapolating oneself from such a union is either too embarrassing or shameful to admit to, and so with steely grit you choose to plough onwards and upwards utilising yet more booze, of course, as a way of coping with being involved with the wrong person.

Considering the chaotic life I led as a heavy drinker I can hardly believe that I was the same person as the one I am today. I simply could not see life as it really was, my vision of everything being skewed by a fog of booze and the associated hangovers. The stupid things I said, the arguments I initiated, the embarrassing shenanigans in which I was involved in some effort to play the group clown – absolutely none of them would have occurred today when I am me, in full control of the way I act.

More than anything this total lack of control, which defined my existence during the twenty odd years in which I drank excessively, surprises me. I am by nature a fairly orderly person; I love my house to be clean and tidy, I’m obsessive about work and set myself high standards in almost everything I do, I can be pretty regimented when it comes to exercise – whether these characteristics unwittingly led me to drinking heavily in the first place in an effort to free myself from the inherent rigidity of my character is something which has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

Whatever the connection, I do know that as a non-drinker I feel happy and contented being in control of my world, insofar as anyone can be. The fact that I constantly used to put myself through the personal trauma of waking up with that awful sinking feeling, as the recollection of the previous night’s events came back to haunt me and did so repeatedly thereafter during the following days, weeks and even months, is enough on its own to account for the serious anxiety and depression I suffered back then. I basically woke up a completely different person to the one I had been the night before – almost every day. That’s enough to tip anyone over the edge.

Last night we took the baby to hospital because of a sudden rise in her temperature and ended up staying overnight, me and her snuggled up on a camp bed in a ward filled with crying children and sleepless parents. The fact that I was able to drive her to hospital, comfort her and protect her in such a strange environment and all the while with the full knowledge that I couldn’t have done any more for her, leaves me feeling ok tonight – we are all a bit tired and frazzled but she has fully recovered and is catching up on her sleep in her own bed, and there is no fallout to deal with. It happened, we sorted it, everything is back to normal.

I dread to think how that situation may have panned out in the old days.

A Day Not To Forget

I had a brilliant day today. Nothing out of the ordinary was planned which may have marked it out as stand-alone from any other Tuesday, although I did wake up feeling full of energy and desperate to go running, and that usually results in a positive start to the day ahead. The sun was beaming and even at 7 am the promise of the glorious day to come was obvious as I jogged around the park dragging the dog along behind me (she is 7 this year and not quite as fit as she once was).

After lunch, baby rejuvenated from her morning sleep of 3 hours, we did a few jobs around the house before settling into the lounge to play. At 14 months, Lily has just discovered the incredible concept of putting something inside a container before removing it again, a look of total concentration on her angelic face as if she has happened upon a remarkable piece of magic.

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For an hour I lay on the rug next to her as she placed her items into the pots I had lined up. I couldn’t take my eyes off her; for sixty minutes we were there, Lily and her very serious face as she put something in, took something out, and me, gazing at her in awe as though she was the first baby on the planet to engage in this activity.

I thought afterwards how grateful I am to the world at large for propelling me along the many different paths in my life which eventually got me to that rug this afternoon with Lily and her selection of pink pots filled with small wooden blocks. Rarely do I manage to fully live in the present and banish all worrisome or niggling thoughts from my mind in order to wholly soak up the here and now, but this afternoon that is precisely what I did and it was magical – I’ll remember that passing of time forever, I just know I will.

Holiday Diary

May 28 2013

We’ve been on holiday for three days making home out of a static caravan nestled in the low lying hills of Holywell Bay near Newquay, Cornwall. We are positioned in a spot which is devoid of any possibility to communicate with the outside world, our mobiles displaying absolutely no telephone reception or 3G connection signs. That’s ok – I’m taking it as a good thing, an opportunity to lessen my dependence on incoming and outgoing digital messaging of all kinds and to concentrate on real life for a few days.

Strangely enough I haven’t missed Twitter or Facebook or even text messaging in any way. The absolute removal of its availability has resulted in my resignation of living how we did last time I came to this caravan park eleven years ago when mobiles hadn’t yet taken over our lives, my eldest daughter was just three, I was married to her Dad, I was a heavy drinker and life was, in almost every way, completely different.

The caravan park is set at the foot of a long winding road away from passing traffic. Holywell Bay itself is a short walk across sand dunes and is a calm haven of old-fashioned seaside postcard imagery;  boogie boarders and surfers, toddlers and windshields, coffee and ice cream huts, Atlantic rollers and small pools, enormous hulks of rock jutting from the waves and miles and miles of deep blue-green ocean stretching back to the sky.

On our first day at the beach the sun is out and the wind cuts a fresh breeze casting a healthy-looking tan on our faces. The baby is in her element, on hands and knees and overwhelmed with the vast expanse of trillions of ‘bits’ as far as her eyes can see. She grabs handfuls of sand and small shrapnel of seashells and attempts to wolf them down, only to be intercepted by our hands pulling her fist away from her open mouth over and over again. We sit and watch the world go by and take photographs of the baby in her sunhat and flowery playsuit.

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There is simplicity in living in a caravan with no internet connection. I find myself contemplating situations and mulling over the factors of my life back home – my relationships and friendships, my weaknesses and strengths. I am spending hours doing nothing in particular; a drive to Fistral Beach, sitting next to the baby in her pram, watching as she gazes curiously at the seagulls whirling in the sky above us, flicking through magazines, perusing the bikinis and hairstyles worn by models and film stars with my teenage daughter, assessing the selection of leaflets left out on the coffee table in order to plan our activities for the next few days, nipping out for an ice cream, taking the baby for a play on the swings and slides in the caravan park.

It reminds me of being young – you fill your time with pleasant pastimes and in between the trips out there is a sense of relaxation, contentment and none of the hectic pin-balling from chore to chore, appointment to appointment, work piling up around your ears and demands placed on you relentlessly, all of which define your existence at home.

It is as though the channels that deliver all the busyness into my life have been barricaded, preventing any of the usual grating stress factors from reaching me and creating a quiet blue space of calm. And I’m just floating here in a different existence where all that matters is the present. Days have become long once again; time has stopped pouring so rapidly through the egg timer, falling through the slim glass neck with increasing speed, slipping out of my grasp.

This afternoon we are visiting the Eden Project. Last time I was there it was newly opened, full to bursting with hoards of interested visitors and I had the hangover from hell which ruined the experience completely. Today’s visit to the alien white biomes at St. Austell will, I hope, be somewhat more enjoyable.

Working 9 to 5

Today I wanted to share with you a great example of how the mind works better without the fog of alcohol sullying its functionality. Tomorrow I return to work after 12 months maternity leave has allowed me to enjoy every waking moment with my gorgeous baby girl, watching her grow and develop into a little personality from those early days of her being a tiny, red-faced, milk-guzzling machine.

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My thoughts on returning to work have not all been positive if I’m honest. For many months, the notion of having a paid job simply disappeared off my radar, and my daily routine gradually evolved into a series of walks in the park, household chores, meeting friends for coffee, playing with the baby, oh yes, and setting up Soberistas! A couple of months ago, I experienced the vaguest of recollections of what it is to actually go into an office, carry out a job, interact with colleagues and attend meetings, but swiftly pushed it to the back of my mind, telling myself that it was still a long way off in the future.

This week, the startling reality of having to say goodbye to my little baby at 8 am and to not see her little cherubic face until 5 pm, hit me in the face like a large sack of bricks. I spent a day in tears. The childlike element of my persona which lay behind the manipulative behaviour and occasional tantrum of years gone by, often brought to the fore when I drank heavily and was faced with a difficult situation, returned for a brief period. I wanted someone to resolve this issue, to somehow enable me to stay at home with my baby and never have to leave her in someone else’s care.

Here is the difference between the mind of someone who drinks regularly, and that of a sober person; I worked through the feelings; I rationed it out in my head; I had a conversation with myself and with those closest to me and I weighed up the pros and cons. After a couple of days of that, I came to the following conclusions – most people have to work in order to cover their overheads – why should I be exempt?; the money will pay for extras like holidays and horse riding lessons for my eldest daughter; my baby will learn to interact with other people than her immediate family, thus allowing her to develop her social skills; I will interact with people outside of my current existence which mainly comprises of other mums and their babies; I will value the time even more that I spend with my family when I get home from work; and finally, on the days that I work, the dog will be getting an hour long walk with a pack of dogs and her new dog walker, which will add excitement and pleasure to her little life.

So, a couple of days to mull things over and I have come up with a myriad of reasons why my return to work is a GOOD THING (and it warranted some new clothes, which is an extra bonus!). Compare that with the old me, who would have dealt with the same situation by necking a few bottles of wine, fuelling my burgeoning depression and preventing me from thinking clearly, and ultimately causing me to perceive my return to work as nothing but a big bunch of awfulness – which it would have then become, in a self-fulfilling prophecy type manifestation.

Positivity is most definitely the easiest and best path to choose in life.

House of the Flying Nappies

Do you ever wonder what your neighbours think about you? How they pigeon-hole you into a particular category or type? The thought crossed my mind a couple of hours ago when I opened the baby’s window and flung a filled nappy sack out of the window to the ground below, a time-saving, odour-reducing technique that means the unwanted bag lands right next to the wheelie bin by the back door, and simultaneously ensures that it doesn’t sit in the kitchen awaiting expulsion for several hours until somebody remembers it is there and does the necessary.

Anyway, as I closed the window, I noticed that the next-door neighbour was in her kitchen making a drink. She was standing by her window and must have seen the flying nappy sack as it zoomed past on its way to the bin. Then, a random thought popped into my head; are we known as ‘House of the Flying Nappies?’

Do they think we are slightly nuts for hurling little plastic bags out of the bedroom window several times a day?

What else do they think of us?

We are quiet neighbours I think – except for the baby’s crying and that’s excused as far as I’m concerned in the realm of neighbourly noise pollution because there is sod all that can be done about it. Our plastics bin is always overloaded, spewing empty milk bottles and yoghurt pots on to the ground around where it sits in the final days before the bin men dispose of its contents. The dog barks occasionally, but not to the point of distraction. We generally do not let her do a number two on the garden, so there are no unsightly dollops for our neighbours to see when they open their curtains. We don’t have wild parties, tinker with old cars or motorbikes, play loud music or have loud domestic arguments for all and sundry to hear. We are polite and friendly and exchange brief hellos if and when we bump into any of those who live in our immediate proximity.

Before I moved in here, I lived in an apartment with just my eldest daughter. My neighbours there most likely had a very different impression of me then. I quite often had people around, and we would stay up until two or three am drinking, which subsequently meant periodically tottering outside to smoke fags, standing on the doorstep of the apartment block with wine glass in one hand and cigarette in the other (I should point out that these events generally happened when my daughter was at her Dad’s). I would frequently return home from a night out, utterly smashed, and stagger down the long, steep drive in high heels, and on more than the odd occasion I fell to the ground with a resounding smack, instigating the onset of some severe bruising.

One night in the winter, I took a particularly nasty tumble on some ice and proceeded to roll, commando-style, down a steep grass bank that was a slippery mix of slush, ice and mud, landing embarrassed and covered in dirt in a heap at the bottom.

This drunken behaviour had the effect of turning me into an insecure, paranoid person with a nervous disposition. I would scuttle off, head down, if I spotted a neighbour approaching me in the car park, terrified that they might have witnessed me inebriated and acting badly the previous night. Living on my own with a daughter, a woman in her mid-thirties, and clearly someone who enjoyed knocking back the vino on a regular basis, I am sure that my neighbours’ opinions of me were less than sparkling. I probably didn’t help myself much when I routinely carried huge amounts of clanking empties across the car park to the communal bins, or if I was ever spotted walking home from the nearby supermarket, carrier bags full of wine bottles.

Considering the two categories, pissed-up old lush who smokes like a chimney and cannot converse with people in a normal, functioning way, or mum of two, resident of House of the Flying Nappies, who, in between looking after her kids, bloke and dog goes jogging quite a lot and is often seen sitting at her laptop through the kitchen window, and whose blue bin gets a bit full from time to time, I definitely prefer the latter.

Seeing is Believing

This morning I was on my way down to the park in the drizzly gloom, pram in front of me and dog at my side. I was dressed in a beige puffer jacket, jeans and Uggs (I know, Uggs and rain is not a good mix but they are so warm I can’t get them off my feet). The clothing is important – you’ll see why in a sec. I stopped at the zebra crossing – large, brightly painted white and black stripes complete with two flashing yellow lights, one at either side, and was about to step on to the road when a car zoomed past, completely ignoring the pedestrian-friendly crossing.

I gesticulated, as you do, although mildly as I had the baby with me and I don’t want to influence her gentle manner with my intolerance of bad driving, and then continued on my way across the road and on to the park. As I walked, I became aware of the sound of a car’s engine to my left and looking across I saw the angry red face of the man who had just almost run me over. Winding down his window, he began to shout at me for not wearing brighter clothes (should I be equipped with a high-viz jacket in order to safely negotiate a zebra crossing?). I was rather restrained in my response, although I did tell him off for being so aggressive.

He drove off and I embarked on an internal muttering for the duration of the fifteen minute walk to my destination. Should I be wearing bright clothes? Should I have smiled at him as he almost took me, my baby and the dog out in one foul swoop, hurtling along in his clapped-out Golf at 45 miles per hour in a built up area? Should I have given him more of a ticking off when he drew up alongside me and berated me for my beige clobber?

Half an hour later and I was just leaving the park when I looked up and saw two gentlemen in their 70’s jogging along the pavement close to the park’s entrance. ‘How lovely,’ thought I, ‘that two men in their twilight years go jogging together. Not often you see that.’  And then, as they neared me and I caught a closer look, I saw that one of the men had no vision whatsoever and his friend was linking his arm through his blind companion’s and steering him along a safe route. This was a kind and wonderful thing for the friend to do, but I couldn’t get over the massive amount of determination and fearlessness in the face of adversity demonstrated by the blind man. I was so impressed. If they had both had their sight I would have been impressed; given that one of them was putting all his trust and faith in his friend, and that they were both tackling disability and their mature years with such optimistic gusto, and doing it in the cold and the driving rain, I was nothing less than blown away.

I didn’t give another thought to the arse with the bright red face, and was filled with a sense of all humanity being utterly fantastic all the way home.

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.

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.