We have spent the past FOUR weeks absoluately floored with seemingly never ending sickness in our house.

Four sick babies

Four sick babies

Four weeks, three antibiotics, one hospital appointment, a few days off school and crèche, a few bottles of calpol, two billion used hankies later – I’ve  never had a busier November/December in my life!

Bugs

It all started off with the most awful vomiting and diahorrea bug I have witnessed. Entire bed sets including sheets, pillows and duvets were bunged into a bin liner and chucked out the bedroom window straight into the wheelie bin to avoid having to bring them through the house for fear of spreading the gruesome germs further.

Only two of us managed to miss out on succumbing to the bug – luckily I was one (having hyperemesis with two children in the past I think was more than enough sickness for a lifetime for me!)

Infection

When that had run its course the weather decided to take a turn for the worst, leaving my two baby boys quite literally breathless. They both got chest infections and I have been at the doctors once a week with one of them at least. Both of them were prescribed antibiotics to tackle their infections.

Little Luca had to get a stronger dose of medicine to try to get rid of it as he got much worse. Then baby Max had to get an inhaler and spacer to help his breathing.

Max's medicine

Max’s medicine

Cabin Fever

I can safely say I’ve never felt cabin fever mixed with exhaustion quite like it! There were days when I walked around the backyard just to get a bit of fresh air into my lungs, and to avoid the babies just for a few minutes. I’ve never felt closer to being a hermit in my life, only communicating with the outside world via an open car window, through social media or the telephone. Thank goodness for the geniuses who invented them. The poor boys have really felt it too, especially Luca who had to miss a few days off crèche, which had him in floods of tears!

Sick of sickness

Lots of mopping, wiping, washing, cleaning and cuddles later, it has made me realise that nursing is definitely a vocation, one that I have not been called to! It breaks my heart to see my kids sick or in pain, but there is only so much moaning I can take!  Sorry if that sounds mean, but constantly being around my little sick people made me feel a bit, erm, sick!

Night Out

Just when it seemed safe to go on a very long overdue night out (I got a bit greedy and went for two in a row, practically unheard of since my twenties!)

Ready to rock

Ready to rock

I ended up getting sick too. At first I thought it was a really long hangover and then it dawned on me that you don’t get barking coughs and a streaming nose from a hangover! Doh!

At least the boys are in much better form and even managed to visit Santa. The girls are hanging in there too.

My boys visit Santa

My boys visit Santa

Eve is Christmas ready

Eve is Christmas ready

Decorating and Work

The house has taken a big hit though, with the Christmas decorations going up in slow, long drawn out stages. Usually I spend hours getting the house ready for Christmas even adding in a few new decorations, but this year we have only managed to get to the shops for one big a Christmas present shop so far! My Christmas mojo is non existent at the minute, so much so that I didn’t even decorate the tree this year for the first time ever. The kids got free reign…

Our Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree

The housework has had to take priority over decorating. It’s been a challenge to catch up with the mountains of laundry – although you would never believe I’ve actually done anything to it at all as each area I clean or clear is just as bad as it was before within five minutes!

All other forms of work has had to go on the back burner too as I just  haven’t had a spare minute to myself lately. Even getting washed or going to the toilet has been a miracle in itself. My laptop helpfully decided to break as well just to add to the fun!

Holiday Time

School is breaking up today until January so I cant wait to get snuggling in and getting cosy with the kids for long, lazy days watching tv in our pjs and eating a shameful amount of sweets. Visiting family and friends is a-must, as is cinema trips, walks, going to the park and everything fun we can think of.

It’s one thing having to sit in the house because of sicknesses, but there is a certain luxury in choosing to do it too!

Roll on little Max’s first Christmas filled with lots of excitement and fun!

Yesterday for a little Monday treat I took the kids on a walk to see the sunset as it looked absolutely stunning.

View from Culmore Point

View from Culmore Point

Luca loves looking at the water and every morning on our school run I put down the car windows as we drive past it, watching out for boats, birds, seagulls and to see how much water and wildlife we can spot. I think he might be a future David Attenborough!

We got a really lovely surprise when as we were looking over the old dry stone wall,  one swan popped it’s long, graceful neck over to have a look at us!

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Mother swan having a cheeky peep

Followed by two more equally stunning swans.

Luca, Eve and I have been following the lives and progress of the swans ever since they were little baby cygnets. There used to be four but yesterday we only saw three. Wow they have grown a huge amount since the last time we saw them up close, which must have been last January/February.

Back then they were very small, following their mother closely, now they are big, magestic, magnificent birds resplendent in their beauty and oh so confident!

Three beautiful swans

Three beautiful swans

They weren’t very impressed that we hadn’t got any food to give them, judging by the sheer size of them and the fact they were not one bit afraid of us – in fact there were slightly intimidating in how overly friendly they were- they are obviously quite spoilt. How could they  not be, they are so beautiful.

Swans always remind me of the old Celtic legend of The Children of Lir, not least because the only daughter was called Fionnuala.

The whole setting yesterday would have been ideal as a film set!

On the rest of our walk back to the car we were joined by two very friendly cats, purring around our ankles and trying to make a break for the backseat of the car.

Looking at the view across Lough Foyle to the Lisahally docks is really nice – even the smoke coming out of the factory funnel adds to the ambience.

Lisahally Docks

Lisahally Docks

The view of the Foyle Bridge in the distance is beautiful against the stillness of the water, the clouds and the glorious array of colours coming from the setting sun in the sky.

Foyle bridge in the distance

Foyle bridge in the distance

I’m so grateful that we live in such an outstandingly beautiful area of natural beauty. I really don’t appreciate it enough.

 

 


To Cora,

Cora

Cora

Cora I can’t believe you turn 15 years old today,

You have grown to be truly beautiful more than words can convey.

I remember so clearly the day you were born, being totally amazed by how perfect you were,

From the tip of your toes, your perfect lips,to your fine blonde hair.

Cora 7 hours old

Cora 7 hours old

You were very loved right from the start, wherever you went you touched people’s hearts.

Old people, young people it didn’t matter, you would talk to anyone with your constant chatter.

Cora and her granny

Cora and her granny

Singing songs and performing ballet shows you were never shy,

Cora black swan

Cora black swan

Core en pointe

Core en pointe

Cora in Les Miserables

Cora in Les Miserables

Writing poems, stories and letters brought a tear to our eyes.

A real little bookworm you always loved school,

Cora at Primary school

Cora at Primary school

Wearing glasses you make them look cool!

Cora's new glasses

Cora’s new glasses

With lots of sympathy, big hugs and kind loving words,

You have the ability to cheer everyone up by  being funny and absurd.

Quietly confident you try to do what is right,

You rarely ever argue with your family or fight.

 

You’re really talented more than you know,

Your creativity shines out when you get into the flow.

You’ve always had your own unique sense of fashion,

Denim dubgarees

Denim dubgarees

Vintage dress

Vintage dress

More recently music and beauty have become your new passions.

Transforming us all with your makeup skills,

Face mask night

Face mask night

Cora's makeup

Cora’s makeup

Cora's makeup skills

Cora’s makeup skills

You help make others look stunning, even  when they feel ill.

Your beautiful long hair is your pride and joy,

Cora's hair

Cora’s hair

You love going into town to talk to your bffs and boys!

With the largest group of friends I’ve seen,

They’re all a really lovable bunch of teens.

Teen's trainers

Teen’s trainers

You’re wiser than your years which at times can be funny,

You’re really very good when it comes to money.

Your sister and brothers totally idolise you,

They copy and say the things that you do.

Cora, Eve and Max

Cora, Eve and Max

Cora and Eve

Cora and Eve

We love you very much, you’ve made us very proud,

I’d like to freeze you at this age – if only it was allowed.

Thank you Cora for being you,

Cora and I

Cora and I

img_6227

Cora

Cora

We all love you so much, we really do.

Family

Family

Us all except Max won't fit in

Us all except Max won’t fit in

Love from your family xoxo

 

 

 

 

The very word breastfeeding stirs up a wide range of emotions in women from; frustration, contentment,  pain, joy, disappointment, a sense of achievement, guilt,pride anger, peacefulness. Some are passionate advocates while others feel that it is just not for them.

I have had both positive and negatives experiences of breastfeeding and have went through every possible spectrum of emotions regarding it…

Breastfeeding My First Baby

Baby Cora and I

Baby Cora and I

For me breastfeeding was the norm, as my own mum breastfed all nine of us children and we all saw her feeding. I genuinely just took for granted that all mothers fed their newborns this way. It was only after the birth of my eldest child Cora that I realised that here in Northern Ireland bottle feeding is the more popular choice.

I was surprised as the midwife smiled in surprise yet encouragingly at me when I said I wanted to breastfeed (especially as my new baby had just pooed all over her nice clean uniform!)

With Cora I managed to breastfeed for the first three weeks of her life. I remember it was my solace during a very tough period in my life – I would take my precious baby off to the calm of my bedroom and sit gazing at her as she fed (a mixture of shock, being in a love bubble with pain killers taking the edge off it all.)

My daddy bottle feeding Cora

My daddy bottle feeding Cora

I was proud that I did it and was a bit sad when I had to give her the first few bottles of formula, but I had the last few months of my A-level exams to complete and that meant going back to school full time, so I didn’t dwell on it too much. I was happy with what I had achieved and I was dying for a night out too! My lovely patient inspirational mum was always on hand to give me advice and support (and still is!)

My Second Attempt

Seven years later when my next baby came along I was adamant that I would breastfeed her for longer this time, as I had completed university and was not working, so I had more time to devote to her.

Eve one day old with a super strong suck

Eve one day old with a super strong suck

But after giving birth this baby proved to be a super sucker, latching onto anything she could get her lips around and sucking for dear life. A well meaning midwife suggested I give her a dummy to ‘stop her using me as a dummy’, which I did, not realising that this was the wrong advice when trying to establish breastfeeding as it causes nipple confusion and can lead to the baby missing out on a feed as they suck the dummy instead.

By the time I was discharged from hospital my nipples were in an awful state – I really didn’t have a clue how to help my baby latch properly, she seemed to be ravenously hungry so when she latched I didn’t correct her positioning no matter how much it hurt – it was hard enough to get her on in the first place and I was afraid if I took her off she would suck my nipple twice as hard.

Eve with a dummy

Eve with a dummy

I knew that breastfeeding would be painful for the first few days so I stuck it out for twelve of the longest most gruellingly painful days of my life. Due to the many bad latches my nipple suffered quite a bit of trauma, my breast was not getting emptied of the milk properly,  and my baby wasn’t getting enough food, which made us both very upset. I also had an over supply of milk which only added to an already bad situation.

On my final day breastfeeding little Eve I was in a lot of pain  and I had got to the point that I absolutely dreaded every feed. The slightest sound from little Eve and I was hiding in the bathroom from her, fearful of the dreaded call to feed her.

It was the first time I was properly alone in the house with Eve.  When she began to whimper  I busied myself getting ‘organised’ (stalling for time)  to feed her. I was in agony, my breasts were engorged with milk and my nipples were bruised and cracked – I didn’t want anyone to touch me and I couldn’t bear for anyone to watch. I had to work myself into the ‘right’ frame of mind to get her latched on as quickly as possible.

My Godmother came to visit and tried to help me but Eve and I were so worked up that I just couldn’t do it!

I was so angry with myself, feeling like a failure. Two and a half hours later I finally managed to get baby Eve latched on and fed.

Out of sheer desperation my partner phoned the midwives asking for an urgent appointment as the situation just couldn’t go on.

MASTITIS! 

Two midwives came and examined my breasts and delivered the devastating news I had a severe case of infected mastitis and advised that I stop breastfeeding as it was clearly causing everyone so much distress. They sent for strong antibiotics and gave my partner instructions on how to help me and how to make up the formula and bottles.

I was heartbroken that I hadn’t succeeded for as long as I wished and the first few bottle feeds were very emotional for me, lots of tears were shed.

However  the sense of relief that I felt knowing that I no longer had to endure the pain  is indescribable. I had put so much pressure on myself but I just wasn’t enjoying the experience like I longed to and everyone was suffering as a result.

It was the best decision for the family at the time. After a few weeks of grieving I realised I had to stop beating myself up about it and start enjoying my baby.

Success At Last, But It Wasn’t Smooth Sailing.

Five years later and little Luca came along in 2014. Undeterred by my previous traumatic experience I was more determined than ever to make breastfeeding work. Surrounded by strong female role models such as my mother, my big sister, my sister in laws  and a number of friends I was reassured and very willing to give it a real go.

This time I researched it as much as possible talking to other mums about their experiences.

Baby bLuca's first breastfeed

Baby Luca’s first breastfeed

I asked if I could stay on longer in hospital for a few days after I gave birth so I could get all the support I needed. I found this help invaluable. The midwives were more than willing to help with positioning and latching, helping until I was comfortable doing it myself. I was so nervous of developing mastitis that I wasn’t taking any chances!

The policy and education around breastfeeding had changed dramatically since my first experience with Cora and even Eve. Before being discharged I was given a leaflet with phone numbers of peer supporters who could give me phone support if I needed it or come to my home if I had difficulties. There was also lots of information on local breastfeeding support groups – which I attended and found very helpful, making some really nice friendships along the way.

There seemed to be so much more knowledge and awareness around breastfeeding and it seemed to have become increasingly more normalised.

I also joined a local Facebook breastfeeding support group (Breastfeeding in Northern Ireland), which is a priceless tool in helping with all manner of feeding problems and solutions 24/7. The shared knowledge and support is amazing, women encouraging, supporting and championing one another. The sense of community and sisterhood is very inspiring.

Engorgement & Over Supply Issues 

Although the support was much better I still did have sore and cracked nipples when I left hospital, but I felt like I was in a much better position to deal with it all.

After the first ten days when I was settled back at home my breasts were still rock hard, painful and engorged with milk.  I felt very low at this point as I was still in such discomfort and my partner’s paternity leave was up so he wouldn’t be around to help me.  I knew I had to do something as I was on the verge of giving up, yet I longed to continue.

I got in touch with a school friend and now mum of four, who was a real breastfeeding advocate having breastfed  all four of her children(and is still feeding two of them), overcoming her own struggles, beating all odds even breastfeeding her daughter born without a nose!  She went above and beyond to help me sort it all out. She urged me not be afraid of my breasts and tips on how to spot the early warning signs of mastitis with simple, easy steps on how to avoid it . She gave me the breastfeeding Bible, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and a sling which was brilliant. Most of all she instilled a confidence and sense of calm within me that I didn’t have before. (Read her story here  https://bornextraordinary.wordpress.com/)

One of my lovely sisters came to my house and stayed with me for that first week without my partner. Even sleeping beside me she was by my side each time I fed Luca, gently encouraging me.

My lovely sister Medbh and Luca

My lovely sister Medbh and Luca

The engorgement wasn’t easing so I made an appointment to see a Lactation Consultant at the hospital. She finally came up with a solution,  nipple shields, block feeding and introducing the dummy.  I had over supply issues which meant that I was producing much more milk than the baby needed, so my breasts were not getting the chance to drain properly and the baby was getting too much milk, which was making him unsettled too.

medela nipple shield

medela nipple shield

The nipple shield slowed the flow of milk, which meant my breasts were no longer being over stimulated to make more. Nearly immediately all the pain I had been feeling stopped, the nipple shields were a saviour to our breastfeeding journey. My milk began to regulate too and soon my breasts got the message, only producing enough milk for my baby as opposed to a set of triplets!

Love Bubble

FINALLY  I was able to have the beautiful breastfeeding experience that I had for so longed for. Each feed was magic and little Luca was a real boob monster! He loved his milk and I was addicted to having him so close to me,  I loved the feeling of having him so close and he was so content. I finally felt like I was getting it right and I was proud that I had kept it up after all the pain and the disappointment (in myself) at not being able to enjoy feeding Eve.

Ditching The Nipple Shields

After using the shields for four months I was able to wean Luca – and myself off them – I was terrified that I would be in lots of pain again, but after two weeks I was able to go it alone, which I was really proud of. Making it to my six month goal, which at times had seemed so far off. Neither of us were ready to stop anytime soon, we were in our stride, feeling confident I wasn’t afraid to nurse him in public if he needed fed.

My first time breastfeeding Luca in public

My first time breastfeeding Luca in public

Cows Milk Protein Allergy and Going Dairy Free

 Luca was diagnosed with a cows milk protein allergy CMPA at nine months of age. He was still breastfeeding so I had to cut all dairy out of my diet as well, which was very tough at the beginning, but worth it when I saw the vast improvement that it made to Luca’s skin and breathing. Breastfeeding was his big comfort and I couldn’t get him to drink from a bottle anyway, so we stuck it out. I will write more about this in another post.

One Journey Ends And Another Begins

Shortly after Luca turned one I discovered I was pregnant again! I was happy to keep nursing him – I decided I would follow his lead – preparing myself for tandem feeding as he was a relentless feeder.

That was until one day when I was six months pregnant, Luca told me my milk was ‘yuck’ and refused to take any more milk, never feeding again. I spent the next few days trying to make sure it was what he wanted – following him around wagging my boob at him – but he was adamant. I was sad, but again relieved as it was his choice and by that stage I was getting nursing aversion – so we were both ready for our journey to end.

Starting All Over Again

When I had Max just three months after breastfeeding Luca I thought I would be a pro – having fed Luca for 16 months. But it turned out that I again felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I felt like I was back to square one.  I had the same sensitive nipples, cracked and bruised for the first two weeks as all the other times. I had to relearn how to position Max, as each new baby is different.

Baby Max's first breastfeed

Baby Max’s first breastfeed

This time I called on the help of a breastfeeding counsellor when I was discharged from hospital. She was brilliant and spotted where I was going wrong immediately and helped with better positioning. I had to end up using nipple shields again for the first sixteen weeks to ease the over supply issues I had before.

Seven months on and Max and I are still breastfeeding strong. At the six month mark we had issues with fussiness and my supply took a big dip, coupled with beginning to wean on to solids and the return of my period,  it was a very scary time for me.   Thankfully we have sorted it out now and our journey still continues.

I plan on following his lead and keep going for as long as it suits us both. With Max I feel much more relaxed about it all and I think this has shown with how much more smoothly it has went for us this time.

If only I had had access to the information and support back with Eve as I do now I feel that we could have succeeded, but it was that ‘failure’ that made me so determined to stick it out with my boys.

To All New Mums…

For all the new mums out there starting out on their own breastfeeding journey or considering it, know that the first few weeks can be very difficult – for some lucky mamas its easy – but those are few and far between. For most new mums it is hard at the start, but with the right support and educating yourself, those early day niggles are long forgotten (just like the pain of childbirth) and when it works it is the most lovely feeling.

For those that it doesn’t work out for, for whatever reasons, please don’t beat yourselves up over it. You tried, you did you best for your baby by giving it a go, be happy that you tried. It can work another time. Educating yourself and finding good support is key. Be kind to yourself and hold your baby close.

Fionnuala xx

 

Travelling to festival family shot

Travelling to festival car selfie

We camped out at a local festival, The Stendhal Festival of Art, for the second year in a row, something which has  became a firm favourite new family tradition. This time with five month old Max in tow.

When I say camping it wasn’t strictly camping, we were lucky enough to borrow my dad’s campervan which he cleverly converted from a community Ambulance- complete with everything you could possibly need, including space for us all to sleep, a cooker and a much coveted toilet!

After a morning of intense excitement in our house, we all ate a hearty brunch,  packed the car up to the roof  (we really did have so much stuff) and headed off. But not before getting our festival glam on complete with plaits and hair flowers.

besutiful Cora

Eve hair

After we set up camp  we grabbed a quick snack before queuing up to get our weekend family wrist passes. Along the way we watched in admiration at the groups of families around us working together putting up their tents.

setting up camp

I must admit I felt a pang of nostalgia, remembering the days my own family fought helped eachother pitch up the tents at our caravan and felt that I had missed out abit in not going for the fully fledged tent experience. But the luxury of having our own toilet and cooking facilities was beyond comparison, especially with a five month old baby.

Waiting in the queue we got a real sense of the different mix of people that attend festivals, from the young loved up couples, the groups of fun loving friends, the hip crew, the first timers, to all the different types and sizes of families. I was impressed to discover this festival includes the option of a family ticket for single parents and their kids too.

Putting on the wrist bands really got us excited and we went straight off to explore the festival site, getting bogged down in heaps of mud on the way much to the kids’ delight!

Eve jumping in muddy puddles

There is nothing quite like getting out into the fresh country air and this is a fab excuse like no other to do just that. Eve and Luca were in their element, jumping and literally rolling about in the mud! They had the time of their lives relishing in their new found freedom.

Festival Must Haves 

We learnt from being at Stendhal festival last year that wellies are an absolute must when roaming around the fields, listening to the many live music acts.

camp boots

This time we took a three wheeler double all terrain pram, which inevitably got completely covered in mud too. By the end of the weekend it even had clumps of hay clinging off it too!

Max and Luca in pram

I brought along my beloved Lillebaby buckle  carrier too as I knew little Max would want to get out and have a look around him, it enabled him to enjoy the festival experience much more too.

I was so glad I’d invested in a waterproof rainsuit for the kids as this was an absolute saviour for us. It meant Eve and Luca could splash and squelch about in the muddy puddles all they liked without us adults getting cross and without fear of ruining their clothes! I got Max one too so that when he was in the sling he wouldn’t get wet if it rained, he should still fit into it next year as I got it in a bigger size, so double bonus!

Eve and Luca in waterproof suits

We all had such fun from beginning to end! Meeting up with friends we enjoyed watching the kids play together. There was so much for of them to see and do, especially at the free arts and crafts events, catering for all ages of kids. From designing and making boats out of corks, making Pokemon bouncy balls using clay, to playing in a sensory centre using lots of different materials, playing with sand, climbing trees and most of all using their imaginations.

Luca doing arts and crafts

Max 1 playing

Luca playing sensory tent

Eve's boat

Eve’s boat

There were plenty of takeaway food vans on site to suit everyone’s tastes and we were never hungry with a wide choice of food from burgers, chips, pizzas crepes and ice cream plus soft and alcoholic drinks.

The breastfeeding caravan and sensory tent came in very handy for us as Max is at the stage where he gets too easily distracted and it was nice to sit down and chill for a while away from all the noise. The ladies were very welcoming, even giving me a cool drink and strawberries while I fed Max.

In the afternoons we let the kids have some downtime at the campervan, as we cooked some food and ate al fresco.

Eve eating outside campervan

Then we wrapped them up in caps, cosy blankets and ear defenders, before setting out to listen to the live bands. We brought glow sticks along and put them all over the pram and on the kids so they would be easily identifiable when darkness descended. I also bought mini torches so we could see our way back to the camper easily at nightime.

Max ear defenders

PORTS playing the main stage

PORTS playing the main stage

Eve and Wee Cora

Cabin Fever

However it wasn’t always plain sailing  – there were times when the camping situation was a bit difficult, like when Max woke up at 4am crying inconsolably and for five whole minutes I couldn’t get him to stop! The stress! Nobody complained about the noise, but I felt guilty and lots of pressure to try to get him to stop as soon as possible.

Keeping six people entertained while in a small confined space in general wasn’t always easy, but luckily the weather held up great so there weren’t many times that we all had to be inside the van together. Next time I will definitely buy a tent for beside the campervan so the kids can go into it to let off a bit of steam while I cook. It will give us some extra space to store essentials too.

We were plagued by wasps the first day of the festival. Wasps are my biggest nightmare as I am allergic to their sting and even the faintest hint of a buzz has me screaming and heading for cover. The lovely ladies from the free kids crafts tent gave me some very helpful hints on how to keep them at bay – vicks vaper rub being one – who knew? Needless to say I’ve now stocked up!

Happy Campers

There is no other experience quite like getting outdoors together as a family and making memories.

Sharing food and drinks together, listening to music, we made new friends too, talking to people we would never have met otherwise.  There was lots of laughter throughout the weekend and just the experience of getting away from home and spending quality time together is like no other.

first night

We can’t wait to do it all again next year!

 

Fionnuala xo