The End

This blog is now closed. The story continues over on Flip Flops and Flying Carpets.

Thank you for reading.

Quest for Comfort

For the past six or seven weeks (actually, probably even more), I've been trying to get Adam to take a dummy. I am very aware that he needs the comfort and know that it would help him settle. I remember Emily refusing her dummy to start with, we tried Tommee Tippee and then realised Avent was the teat she preferred and she has used them ever since. For the past year and a half she has only used a dummy to sleep. I am keen for her to stop using one now but considering it's only used at night, am not currently too fussed.

So when Adam didn't take to a dummy right away, I thought it was a similar story. I bought both Tommee Tippee and Avent dummies from the get go this time, I thought I was prepared. Both make him gag and retch. I kept trying and eventually stopped, thinking that maybe he's just a baby who doesn't need a dummy.

Then last week, things suddenly changed. He began desperately sucking on his wrist in order to settle and get to sleep. He thrashes about looking for a teat, but rejects milk. It got to a point where he took an empty bottle and sucked on that for dear life. Not ideal considering all the air he was swallowing, so I didn't do it again - but it told me one thing: he does want a dummy, and he wants one that has a teat that is similar to his bottle teats.

Simple, right?

It would be if only such dummies were easy to find! A shout out on Facebook and a bit more research got me some info. What I'd need are Avent Soothies (which are typically an American dummy), Gumdrops, or a dummy with a plush toy attached called a WubbaNub. I've ordered the last two but Soothies (which are the main ones I want) remain out of reach, with a number of friends now trying to source them in the UK. It seems that they just don't exist in Malta.

So as I wait, the situation is rapidly getting worse. Adam won't sleep unless we hold him, and even then he is often screaming and thrashing about wanting to suck on something. I actually offered him a breast yesterday, I was desperate, but that obviously didn't work either (I guess he has no clue what to do with that anymore).

He is developing a very bad habit of taking a bit more milk to get him off to sleep - the only thing that works now that he's realised it's the only way he'll get something so suck on. But of course that starts a vicious cycle of milk, wind, wake up, need more comfort (read: milk), wind, wake up, etc. I am so frustrated to not be able to offer him the comfort he needs. And so angry at Malta for its limited stock availability.

I am pinning all my hopes on a few dummies that are slowly making their way to me in the post. If these don't work, I don't know what else I can do.

My Daily Obstacle Course (or The One About Maltese Pavements)

People are constantly asking me how I'm settling back in to life in Malta. And the truth is I'm doing very well, all things considered. I'm even adjusting to the ridiculous price tags on things I'm used to paying peanuts for (well, realistically, I just buy everything online now). But there's one thing that is proving far more difficult to adjust to than anything else. Something that affects my every day, every errand I need to run, every outing I treat the kids to... every. little. bloody. thing.

The pavements.

And you'll recall that I've already mentioned these wretched pavements ("I miss pavements that don't have telephone poles and trees growing out of the middle of them. I miss ramps. I miss a society that acknowledges children and buggies. I miss not having to get into the car to go just about anywhere.")

But just in case anyone doesn't believe me, and to demonstrate exactly how bad they are, I was the weirdo walking around the streets of Attard* taking random street pictures the other day. Most of these pictures were taken in ONE street, Triq Sant' Anton.






Needless to say, a situation that is bad is further aggravated by stupid people...



(The truck and car are parked right over the two ramps I can use to get the buggy into the supermarket. )

Now look at these and imagine attempting to push a buggy along a pavement. What a joke. Then imagine being a person confined to a wheelchair. Because I know that in a few years time, a buggy won't be an issue for me any longer. But if there were something wrong with my legs, it wouldn't be that simple at all.

These pictures are quite simply evidence of a society that disregards anyone who chooses not to use a car to get further than 3 metres away from their home. And it's absolutely disgusting.

* These pavements are in no way limited to Attard. It just happened to be the place I took the pictures that day. Some places are (a little bit) better, most are similar or sadly, even worse.

Sigh.

One Cognitive Hypnotherapy Session Later

Way back when my gynae was trying to convince me I needed a c-section, and before I realised that it was all a big joke, I set about trying to get past my phobia of needles. It seemed like the wise thing to do considering that there was surgery on the horizon.

I wasn't always needle phobic. I believe it began when I was about ten years old. I was quite ill and needed tests. Lots of tests because the doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. They never quite worked it out either but that's neither here nor there. So there were tests. And I was young and I was scared. And there were some nurses who didn't stop to think that maybe, just maybe, a scared ten year old might need a bit more patience. Instead, I was told to stop acting like a baby and that if I didn't cooperate they'd call in many big men to hold me down while they took my blood.

I can almost see the look on your face as you read that. I've seen it often enough. Who tells a ten year old that? Well, a couple nurses did and over the years the memory has grown and grown in my mind until it got to a point where I couldn't even think of a needle without having a panic attack, and where I was physically unable to outstretch my arms completely because the crook of my elbow would be open and that area of my arm freaks me out. I was unable to touch it at all, let alone allow anyone else to. That is the extent to which it affected me over the years.

Needless to say, pregnancy with a phobia of needles isn't easy either. I somehow dealt with the anxiety to have my first set of bloods done each time but I was never able to have my 20-week tests done in either pregnancy.

But then there was the probability of a c-section and a great big epidural needle. Not to mention pre-op bloods etc etc. Holy cow. I panicked for weeks. I had no idea how I was going to get myself out of this one.

Then, a pregnant friend on twitter mentioned that Dawn had helped her deal with labour pain and other issues through Hypnotherapy. I had never tweeted Dawn before but I did that day and we got chatting. Then we scheduled a Skype appointment to try and help me deal with my needle phobia. Dawn was sure she could help me.

Now I'm a huge believer in the power of the mind. I wasn't going into this a cynic. But my needle phobia was a huge thing, and a part of me wasn't sure I'd get very far. But I figured that if it made even a slight dent in the phobia, it would be worth it.

So we got chatting. Dawn is very easy to talk to, she's friendly and helpful and I'd say it's impossible not to relax in her presence (even if virtual). She ran me through a few mental exercises and explained the power of my sub-conscious and the way it was causing and controlling the phobia, and half an hour later we said our goodbyes and we ended the call.

I wondered whether it had made any difference and I also wondered how and whether I'd have an opportunity to test it out before the c-section.

A few days later, I was watching One Born Every Minute and being the birthing show it is, someone was being given an epidural. As per usual, my hand flew up to cover my eyes - I can never normally watch anything like that. But I was distracted and too slow to react, and I realised (with my eyes covered) that I'd actually seen the needle that time. And yet I was fine.

What?!

I realised that I could outstretch my arms.
And I could talk about the issue with friends and not have to calm a racing heart afterwards.
Or be flushed as I spoke.
Friends couldn't help but notice the difference too.

The change was big.

Now we know of course that I didn't actually need the c-section in the end, but I did need two injections during Adam's birth. Both were optional, and yet I had no issue with them. I even watched them give me the shots. I watched that needle go into my thigh both times. I accompanied Adam for his jabs with no nerves whatsoever. And I plan to have the flu jab next winter.

Even David is slightly dumbfounded at the change in me.

I'm not about to go running to get pricked to test it out, and I suspect that if I knew I needed any bloods taken, I might ask Dawn for a refresher session - but my point is, it made a difference. To whatever extent, it worked. A simple half hour of mental exercises helped shift a huge obstacle for me. There's no reason it couldn't work for other things too.

Dawn's website is Think It Change It

Little People Chores

Emily loves helping. She's at that age where I can ask her to do something I hate doing and she will be thrilled to do it because it means she's helping out. She "helps" with Adam's nappy changes - it is her job to hand me a nappy. And the more clothes he's soiled the better - it means she has more to pop into the laundry basket. She has a broom and a vacuum cleaner ("just like you's Mummy!"), and if I give her a cloth and ask her to dust, it's as if I've just handed her the world.

Her latest task is matching up pairs of socks. I pass her a messy pile of freshly laundered socks and ask her to organise them. She loves it because she's helping, plus it's a game, plus she gets told she's clever. Win-win!


I'll be reminding her of all this when she's a grumpy teenager who refuses to do anything...

Dear Adam


My dearest Smiling Boy

Two months old already. I have no idea how we got here so fast, it seems like yesterday I held you in my arms for the first time and fell in love all over again. Since then, we've been through a lot together, it's not always been the smoothest ride but we've pulled through, you and me, and we're good buddies now.

You are so easygoing and happy, so ready to smile - even when you're crying. I can see you being one of those people to always try and see the good in everything, the peacemaker, that person everyone loves to have around. You already have the ability to make anyone smile. One look into your big, big eyes that are so desperately trying to talk to us - it's hard to look away.

You especially love it when anyone wriggles their eyebrows at you. You've found this hilarious for weeks. And recently you've begun rewarding us with babbles and chuckles. Nappy changes are some of your most sociable times. You watch me intently as I clean you up, trying to hold your chubby legs in one place (unsuccessfully... I knew the strength of your arms and legs even before you were born), and then you treat me to a huge gummy smile. It makes my day every time.

Watching you and Emily together fills my heart with joy. Your eyes take in everything, you track her across a room as she sings to you and tries to entertain you. Then she wanders over to kiss and hug you - often clumsily - and yet you smile patiently. "It's Emily, it's alright," your eyes seem to be saying. I am so excited to know a time will come where you will actively be able to play together. I hope you'll be the best of friends.

Keep smiling, my beautiful boy. And don't grow too fast. Give me chance to savour every little moment of you.

With love always,
Mummy x


Familiar

David is in London for work this week. It hasn't been easy for many reasons. I have had help over bedtime every day which I cannot begin to express gratitude for, but I am alone at night. And typically, Adam seems to have caught some sort of cold - he's even lost his voice - so there was one night in particular that was even harder than I could have imagined.

But there's another thing I'm struggling with. It's made me think of England again. He's in a place that still feels like home. It's gotten better, time has made it easier, I don't actively miss it every day any longer. But when I stop and think about it, it does actually... hurt. Maybe I sound crazy but sometimes leaving England feels a little bit like a break up. I'm left with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach and a slightly broken heart.

I look at pictures, and things and places are so familiar, and on some level I cannot comprehend that they are not part of my immediate world any longer. I cannot comprehend why I no longer have easy access to things that were part of the landscape, things I took for granted for so long. Even things I didn't particularly like - they're just missing. Part of my brain just doesn't get the fact that I don't live there anymore and in a way, it makes it even harder.

Gah. Will it ever end?

[image]

Growing Up: The Teddy Bear Diaries

Thanks to Timehop, I came across this post yesterday, and couldn't resist adding to it. The difference in Emily in a year is flabbergasting to say the least. If I thought she looked grown up last year...!



So then I decided to make this a yearly thing and I started Adam's too. He wasn't entirely impressed with me at first but we got there in the end!


You may notice that Emily and Adam are more or less the same size in their first pictures, despite Emily being two months older than Adam currently is at the time I took her picture. This is not surprising. I weighed Adam this week - he weighs a whopping 6.3kg (13lb14oz) at not yet 8 weeks of age. I've looked it up in her red book... Emily weighed similar at 15 weeks!!! So yeah. Big.

Of Choices and Happy Babies

I know people wonder. Or perhaps they don't - I haven't hidden it. There are very blatant pictures on here of me bottle feeding Adam. And if you have been an accidentallykle reader long enough, you may remember the breastfeeding issues I had with Emily, and you might wonder, again, whether I tried again this time? Whether I bothered. Well, here is what happened.

While I was pregnant with Adam, I was determined not to breastfeed. I know now that the reason was that I was so upset at not being able to breastfeed Emily, a part of me didn't want to feel that failure again. Another part of me was very (very!!) angry at the "breastapo" members I encountered in real life, on twitter, everywhere who tried to make me feel like less of a mother because I formula fed Emily. I guess I felt that I would be making a statement by outright choosing not to breastfeed this time.

Then during the last month of the pregnancy, things began to change. I'm not quite sure why though I suspect it has to do with the "natural birth" drive I was on. I thought it may have been that I expected it of myself because it would be strange to want a natural birth so much but then not want to breastfeed. But it wasn't that. I genuinely did want to breastfeed Adam.

But I prepared backup just in case, this time. I took a Cow & Gate starter pack with me to the hospital (brought down from the UK, they don't exist in Malta) - I wasn't going to be caught out like I was with Emily when she refused to feed.

But Adam didn't refuse to feed. Oh he fed, and he fed well. He loved it. He had all the patience that Emily never had. He was confirmation that even when I thought Emily was feeding well, she hadn't been. Adam fed and fed and fed. He latched on well, impressed all the midwives who came by to check on me. And I loved it.

Then came the cracked nipples and I was in tears through every feed. Toe-curling pain. David begged me to stop and put myself out of my misery. I wouldn't for a while but eventually the pain became too much to handle and knowing there was an alternative at hand, I gave in.

Two days later I started breastfeeding again. My nipples had healed, all was well, and I began to get a glimpse of that dreamy oxytocin breastfeeding feeling that everyone talks about. I bought a breastfeeding scarf, I began looking at clothes that I could feed easily with, I was going to do this. There was no reason not to. He loved it, I loved it.

But Emily still didn't. She needed me. She needed dinner. She needed bathing. And Adam chose her bathtime and bedtime to need whopping two hour feeds. Everyone said it would get better. But I couldn't watch Emily be more and more pushed aside "just" because Adam needed feeding, not knowing how long it would last. And those old, familiar feelings resurfaced. Anxiety, stress, dreading feeds. I felt pressured and I hated every bit of it all.

I spoke to the midwife about possibly combination feeding. She said I shouldn't do it, as it would affect my milk supply. This is my one regret: I wish I didn't listen. I wish I had known more, I wish I asked more (and I asked plenty, but unfortunately not about combination feeding). I carried on exclusively breastfeeding for another day and then gave up completely, feeling like I had no choice but to go entirely one way or entirely the other. There was, supposedly, no middle ground. Again, I wish now that I didn't listen. I know that people successfully combination feed for months - I didn't stop to ask why that couldn't be the case with me.

But things did get easier with bottle feeding. Adam still has seemingly neverending feeds over Emily's bedtime (sometimes up to 11oz/325ml), but it's easier to deal with when it involves a bottle. David deals with one feed a night, meaning I can get some more sleep. And bonding - I still feel I am able to bond with my children more over a bottle than a breast. Maybe I'm strange, or maybe I was just never quite cut out to breastfeed.

Either way, Adam is well fed and just as happy as Emily was and is. Whether he will be as healthy as she is will be seen, but I am quite certain - judging by Emily's good health - that it has nothing to do with whether he was breastfed or not.

They are happy, they are loved, they are my everything. What milk they are fed is completely irrelevant.

Related: Encouragement for Formula Feeding Moms (recommended reading)

Splashing

If there's one thing we miss about our house in Rochester, it's the large back garden. Currently living in a flat, with just a small balcony as outdoor space, messy play is somewhat limited. Emily loves splashing around in water, so last week I decided to put aside my worries about her pouring water down on unsuspecting passers-by and let her play in the balcony with water.

She was thrilled.




"Mummy, come! I need to wet your toe-toes!"

Oops.


She then spent ages transferring water from basin to bucket with a cup.

And later, it was very important that the seahorse had a drink.

She spent an hour and a half out there. Proof that the simplest of games are sometimes the very best.

And after her nap, we did it all over again!


"Well then, let's go to Popeye Village!"

Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, is a group of rustic and ramshackle wooden buildings located at Anchor Bay in the north-west corner of the Mediterranean island of Malta, two miles from the village of Mellie─ža.
It was built as a film set for the production of the 1980 live-action musical feature film Popeye, produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions and starring Robin Williams. Today it is open to the public as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex.

Last week, on the public holiday, we decided to visit Gozo for the day. We are dying to visit Maureen and meet her beautiful daughters. This Malta-style road trip has been attempted several times but has not yet been successful. Most times it's because we wake up too late. But this time was different. We still woke up late, but decided to go anyway. We were all set, I even had enough bottles and formula for a whole day out ready and packed. We got everyone and everything into the car and set off to Cirkewwa to catch the ferry. But once again it wasn't meant to be - there was a queue of over two hours for the ferry. We turned back.

But instead of going home, we decided to make a day of it anyway and headed towards Popeye Village. David had been before (a long time ago) but I had never been and nor had Emily (or Adam for that matter). I've always wanted to visit. So finally, here we were. 



Granted, he wasn't awake to see much most of the time...


The music was far too loud and she hated it, but she still couldn't resist joining in the dance!

It was quite difficult to not just jump in.






We had no idea there was also a waterpark, albeit a very small one. It wasn't quite ready for the hot weather - or so I concluded considering there wasn't actually any water in it. But there will be soon enough and we plan to return and let Emily go wild. And maybe join in too. 

The short list of fun things to do in Malta for kids is slowly (very slowly) growing!



Information
Popeye Village, Anchor Bay, Triq il-Prajjiet, Mellieha, MLH 4808 Malta
Tel: +356 21524782/3/4
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun09:30 - 17:30