What does Red Tent mean to me?

I’ve been attending Red Tent for a little over a year now so it feels like the right time to reflect on what is “Red Tent”.  

This time last year I was struggling with the thought of returning to work after a year on maternity leave. I’d left my job full of excitement about my impending arrival and full of ideas about what I thought motherhood would be like. I was putting on hold that career driven, hardworking, fiercely ambitious side of me that had risen up and up in her job, through nothing but my own dedication. I was ruthless in achieving my goals and was absolutely determined to prove that I, a young woman, could rise high in any career I set my mind to. 

Anyway, a few weeks after packing away my desk, my daughter arrived! But so did a completely new version of me, the mother. That determination that had been previously thrust into my career was immediately directed at ensuring that this wonderful, yet tiny, human being had the very best I could possibly give her. My views and opinions changed about so many things. Sleep, previously a favourite pastime, was now a willing sacrifice to provide my daughter with food and comfort through the night. My independence was no longer necessary in a world where I needed to fight for hers. I felt empathy with every parent in the world and cried for every baby who I felt was suffering. 

This new person no longer cared one bit about whether a masters degree would be good enough to get to where she wanted to go. Or whether that high up person felt she was performing to her best. All of that could fuck off as far I was now concerned. But this left me stuck. In a kind of limbo as I was leading up to my return to work. How was this new me going to fit into this life that old me had created? How was I going to fit this softer, calmer and gentler version of me into a fast paced life? 

In the midst of this mental turmoil, I read an article about how women were gathering across the world in “Red Tents”. It explained that the idea had sprung from Anita Diamant’s book “The Red Tent” and women were coming together to support each other and embrace their femininity. Anyway a quick Facebook search later and I have joined the Red Tent Norfolk group and had the date of the next gathering in my calendar.

I was nervous on the night of my first Red Tent. With no idea what to expect, I had asked on a Facebook group if other people had been and what it was like. I got thirty plus different answers. Not particularly helpful in calming my nerves. Anyway I showed up with a packet of chocolate biscuits and my favourite socks and was welcomed like a friend into a room full of strangers. 

That evening we sang, played instruments, listened to storytelling, drank tea and feasted. However the most memorable part for me was during counsel sharing. We were asked as a collective to say what we needed from the space. I knew exactly what I needed. “I need a space to be me. To sit without guilt or pressure. I need to not be needed. And I need to cry.” And I did. No one asked me to be anyone. No one stopped me crying. No asked me to make dinner or put the kettle on. No one hugged me. But I was thanked. I was thanked for sharing with the group and for being honest with myself. 

I was buzzing as I drove home that night. I vowed to go back the next month and I did. I cried again that time too, and the time after that. But as I did I felt that I was being truer to myself. I wasn’t trying to be the career-driven woman nor was I trying to be the perfect mother. I didn’t have to be a good wife, a good friend or anything at all. I just showed up, did what I wanted, took what I needed, offered what I was able and left.

As the year has gone on I have attended as many Red Tent evenings as possible. Each evening I have met new people, watched the seasons change, celebrated, reflected and been heard, but my experience is just that, it is mine! What I take from each session is personal and unique therefore describing it to someone would not do it justice. It needs to be experienced to be understood. However I can say with absolute certainty that my Red Tent is a space for me to acknowledge a whole me, where I lay myself bare and vulnerable, and in return feel empowered. 

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The life of a full time working mum!

I’ll be honest this isn’t exactly my dream scenario. I’d love to be a stay-at-home mummy, playing with Emily, helping her to explore the world and comforting her when she’s sad. I’m jealous of all stay-at-home parents. 

Dan is a stay-at-home dad, well ish. This was a tough decision. I really didn’t want to go back to work but everything said it was the best thing for our family. Me going back to work full time meant that financially Dan didn’t have to work at all, Emily would be at home with one or both of us at all times and best of all we would get weekends and 13 weeks holiday a year together as family. Plus I get to use my qualifications and keep my career going.  Good, right?

The problem is that going work breaks my heart everyday. Each morning I get out of bed and have to leave the rest of my family behind for 9-10 hours or more. One morning Emily said “Mummy” just as I climbed out of bed and I was on the verge of tears all day. Every night when I put her to bed I know that will be another 21 hours before I get a proper cuddle and to play with her again. It’s making me cry just thinking about it!

I trust Dan completely with looking after Emily and she adores him. But the emotional and physical impact that being away from her has on me is huge and goes almost unacknowledged by my place of work. But I think the same is true of most work places. Women who return to work are expected to carry on as they left off. They are expected to commit fully, do overtime, hang around for late meetings and not think about that tiny human that they are leaving behind. I’ve had several parents evenings and what not recently and I just cannot bring myself to stay at work and not see Emily that day. It’s an awful thought and I don’t know why anyone should expect me to do it either. 

When I first went back to work I was expressing 2-3 times a day. In my own time. I’d have a pump in one hand and a sandwich in the other then chuck the milk in fridge and head straight back off to teach or whatever I was doing. After my first full week back at work I remember driving home on the Friday evening and literally cheering because I could “just breastfeed” over the weekend, rather than all the other paraphernalia.  It is so draining. 

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike my job, before I became a parent I loved teaching. I’d regularly do 12 hour days, offer to work weekends and take work home in the evenings too. But now any part of my job that keeps me away from Emily and Dan any longer than I have to just makes me hate it more and more and I don’t want to feel like that. 

The work of mothers is completely overlooked by our patriarchal society. Yes, feminists fought for my right to a career and respect whilst I’m at it, but now we need feminism to fight for motherhood.  There are many mothers out there who have chosen to stay at home with their children and they too face emotional challenges coming to terms with things such as dependence on their partners for income and falling behind in their careers. It seems unfair that our choices do not receive the respect they deserve from society. 

All I really ask from anyone is not to assume that I’m glad for a chance to sit down and a cuppa tea or that I’m happy that I’m able maintain my career or that I’m lucky my husband let me come back to work, because I want nothing more than to be at home with my husband and daughter. These comments could not be further from the truth. (Don’t misinterpret this as me wanting to steal my husband’s time with my daughter. I appreciate his right to be with her too.) 

When I was younger, my parents said that if I worked hard enough I could be anything I want to be. Well now I want to be a stay-at-home mother, how hard do I have to work for that?

Zero Waste Week 2016

This week is Zero Waste Week. What do they mean by zero waste? I hear you say. Well it is as simple as it sounds. The aim is to reduce or completely eliminate the amount you throw away. If you spend next to no time actually thinking about how much stuff you do chuck out, when someone tells you it is zero waste week you might be quite disgusted to think about what you do sling in the bin. 

The Jessop household has been on the case of this for a while. Emily has reusable nappies and we don’t use wet wipes at all. I’ve made the switch to cloth sanitary pads and have been really happy using them since my monthlies returned. We don’t use kitchen roll much any more and we even have reusable toilet roll (although this hasn’t been particular popular). So what can we pledge to reduce this week?

It turns out that the theme this year is food waste. This is perfect for us! We waste a ridiculous amount of food. Some of it is wasted at Emily’s hand when dinner turns into messy play. But most of it comes from us buying too much and then leaving it in the fridge or cupboard until it goes out of date. It’s quite pathetic really. Therefore this week I’m determined not to throw food away.

To do this we will be ensuring that we only cook the right amount of food, use up anything that is going out of date and rot as much onto the vegetable patch that we can. This requires a bit of creativity. Cooking the right amount of food is easy and if we make too much we can have it for lunch the next day.  Soups and smoothies are great for using up less than best fruits and veggies. Meal planning can help with this too as it stops you from buying too much food.  As for the vegetable patch that getting the benefit of all our used tea leaves and coffee grounds. 

I am open to more ideas and love new initiatives. So let me know what you are doing for Zero Waste Week. 😊

Why hello Aunt Flo!

After a two year long absence, Mother Nature decided to pay me a visit last week and I was really happy to see her. 

Yeah I know periods can be a lot of faff! And yeah I can remember the cramping (God, do I remembering the cramping) and the mood swings and the greasy, spotty face and massive implications for eating one slightly unhealthy thing and yeah I remember all the sodding about with pads and tampons and choosing the right knickers etc. But over the last two years I’ve come to view my period differently.

 I overheard two of my year 11 students talking the other day. These two girls were saying that being a woman is awful because of boobs and periods. It made me quite sad! Boobs and periods are what allowed me to make and grow my daughter. They are two hugely symbolic parts of womanhood and we, as women, are almost encouraged to hate them. Now I could talk all day about boobs and breastfeeding and how I am going to get my goddam nipple out whenever I please, but this is about periods not boobs. 

From My Moontime App

Periods actually get far worse treatment than boobs. Unless among close friends, periods should only be referred to either in jest or as “womanly problems” to explain foul mood, why you had a day off or why you don’t want to go out that night. Periods should never be discussed in front of men. (Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of men out there who don’t mind, but I’m generalising for dramatic effect!) With close friends you can let your hair down a bit. They’ll lone you a tampon or sort you out with some paracetamol and a cuppa. But it’s tough!

Recently I saw an article about a company that is introducing a menstrual policy, which allows women to have a couple of days off a year for period related problems. Well that’s a step in the right direction.  In an ideal world women would be allowed to work around their individual cycles and if you let us I fully suspect that we’d be much happier. Let’s say we could have a day or two off around the time of our period. We could relax, take a long bath, read a book, get a massage, properly honour our flow. In return, we would then feel renewed and our energy and enthusiasm would blossom around the middle of our cycles. Maybe we would be willing to make up the hours that we lost at the start of our cycle. Who knows! It’d be nice to find out though, right?  I’ve met a woman who is self employed and she schedules her work around her cycle. She knows when in her cycle it is a good time to have meetings and when it is right to clear her diary. I’m jealous! Truly jealous!

For me, the return of my period comes with a deeper respect of my cycle. I’ve made a little promise to myself to listen to my body and go with it. I’m not going to hide away if there’s something going on when my period shows up but I am going to try and give myself time for a bath and a hot drink. On the flip side, if I am buzzing with creativity and energy I’m going to try and put it to some use. Make something for Emily or decorate the house. 

Furthermore I hope that I can help my fellow females embrace their period, even if it’s just a small change such as just acknowledging that the arrival of your period means that your body is still doing its thing or creating half hour at the start of your period for some “you” time. Then perhaps one day, I will look at changing society but right now it’s bedtime. Night night!

Why hello Aunt Flo!

After a two year long absence, Mother Nature decided to pay me a visit last week and I was really happy to see her. 

Yeah I know periods can be a lot of faff! And yeah I can remember the cramping (God, do I remembering the cramping) and the mood swings and the greasy, spotty face and massive implications for eating one slightly unhealthy thing and yeah I remember all the sodding about with pads and tampons and choosing the right knickers etc. But over the last two years I’ve come to view my period differently.

 I overheard two of my year 11 students talking the other day. These two girls were saying that being a woman is awful because of boobs and periods. It made me quite sad! Boobs and periods are what allowed me to make and grow my daughter. They are two hugely symbolic parts of womanhood and we, as women, are almost encouraged to hate them. Now I could talk all day about boobs and breastfeeding and how I am going to get my goddam nipple out whenever I please, but this is about periods not boobs. 

From My Moontime App

Periods actually get far worse treatment than boobs. Unless among close friends, periods should only be referred to either in jest or as “womanly problems” to explain foul mood, why you had a day off or why you don’t want to go out that night. Periods should never be discussed in front of men. (Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of men out there who don’t mind, but I’m generalising for dramatic effect!) With close friends you can let your hair down a bit. They’ll lone you a tampon or sort you out with some paracetamol and a cuppa. But it’s tough!

Recently I saw an article about a company that is introducing a menstrual policy, which allows women to have a couple of days off a year for period related problems. Well that’s a step in the right direction.  In an ideal world women would be allowed to work around their individual cycles and if you let us I fully suspect that we’d be much happier. Let’s say we could have a day or two off around the time of our period. We could relax, take a long bath, read a book, get a massage, properly honour our flow. In return, we would then feel renewed and our energy and enthusiasm would blossom around the middle of our cycles. Maybe we would be willing to make up the hours that we lost at the start of our cycle. Who knows! It’d be nice to find out though, right?  I’ve met a woman who is self employed and she schedules her work around her cycle. She knows when in her cycle it is a good time to have meetings and when it is right to clear her diary. I’m jealous! Truly jealous!

For me, the return of my period comes with a deeper respect of my cycle. I’ve made a little promise to myself to listen to my body and go with it. I’m not going to hide away if there’s something going on when my period shows up but I am going to try and give myself time for a bath and a hot drink. On the flip side, if I am buzzing with creativity and energy I’m going to try and put it to some use. Make something for Emily or decorate the house. 

Furthermore I hope that I can help my fellow females embrace their period, even if it’s just a small change such as just acknowledging that the arrival of your period means that your body is still doing its thing or creating half hour at the start of your period for some “you” time. Then perhaps one day, I will look at changing society but right now it’s bedtime. Night night!

Den Day 2016

I’m quite keen that Emily knows that she is priveledged. That she has things that other people don’t have and that she shows gratitude for them but also works to help other people get them too.  Naturally I’d like for her to grow up and win the Nobel Peace prize or something but baby steps eh?

Last year we did the Splashathon and Emily raised money for Tommy’s by doing an underwater swim. This year we took part in Save the Children’s Den Day. It was awesome!

I want charitable activities for Emily to be enjoyable and memorable with the hope that she will want to do more of them. Den Day was definitely that. I had loads of fun making different dens out of various bits and pieces. I had asked Dan to bring some boxes home from work too. In the end we made four dens. 


Top left we have our permanent den: House Den. Top right was Ball Pool Den. Bottom left: Book Den and bottom right is Music Den. 

I liked the idea of themed dens for the kids to play in so that there was something new to attract them to each one.  Dan and I made sure that adults could fit in them too because, you know, we wanted to. 

We invited a few friends of ours with kids and set them loose to play. It was great to see the children explore each den one at a time and appreciate the different things in each. Ball Pool Den was the most popular but it took a lot of bloody work to ensure that the balls stayed in it and not all over the downstairs of our house.  I loved seeing the mums and dads play with their kids in the dens too and of course enjoyed joining Emily in her playing too. 

When it was all over the house was a state! But the dens were largely still standing. More importantly Emily and her friends managed to raise over £100 for Save the Children and we had good fun too. Thank you to everyone who donated! 

A different form of creativity!

I would not describe myself as a creative person. I can’t sing, paint, draw, dance, write poetry or stories or even choose an outfit than comes in anything other than monochrome. But I am quite good putting together sensory or messy play activities for Emily. 

Small world tuff trays

I have done quite a few of these. The tuff tray is an amazing piece of equipment and we use it for all sorts.  I love using them to create “small worlds” and with these come all sorts of other experiences. 


What the Ladybird heard/ Farmyard theme


Edible dinosaur island

Artic

Noah’s ark

Rock pool

Zoo


Village

These are really satisfying to make. I used to try and make them as sensory as possible by including things that made noises, or fresh herbs to give smell and taste sensations. Plus they are visually pleasing and give you a real opportunity to use some topical language. I sometimes make these to coincide with an activity we have done. For example I did the rockpool one a couple of days after we had visited the beach and the Sealife Centre. I did the zoo one after a visit and tried as best I could to replicate the animals and the layout of the zoo. This helps to consolidate experiences and form connections between the real and the imaginary. 

Other tuff trays

Tuff trays are great for all sorts of other stuff too. They provide a great surface for messy play or for water or sand play. Here’s a few things I’ve used it for. 

Easter egg hunt

Painting with yoghurt

Playing with foods (rice, pasta and potatoes)

We have also used it for gardening by planting seeds in milk cartons, as a car wash for cleaning the Cozy Coupe, as a paddling pool and all sorts. We love our tuff tray! It contains the mess and is easy to clean.  The options for what you can use a tuff tray for are endless.  It is great for exploring physics, such as textures, materials, capacity, gravity etc and developing skills. If there is something I want Emily to learn I just have a look around the house and see what I can chuck in it. 

Themed “holes”

Setting up a themed tuff tray can take a lot of effort so I decided to do a mini version. We’ve got an IKEA Kallax shelving unit and I’ve decided to keep one or two of the sections free. I then set up different toys in this space with a different theme. Sometimes it is a small world idea, like a farm or creepy crawlies. Other days it might be something like weather or making a noise or getting dressed.  This is also a great way to circulate toys and make sure that all toys get played with. 

Dinosaur hole


Noah’s ark and Weather holes

Sensory baths

These are great! I love jazzing up a bath time by chucking in a few bits and pieces. Our favourite things have been when we have had a bath in the dark and used light up toys. We’ve played with flashing ice cubes and glow sticks. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to share as the ones I do have all contain a super smiley naked Emily. But sensory baths are a good way to encourage water play and water confidence. It helps children learn about why things float, how water moves and they can manipulate it. Plus you can distract them with a glow stick whilst you wash their hair!

Light boxes

Really easy to make and fun to play with.  Basically just a clear plastic box with some fairy lights in it. 


Sensory blocks to explore colours

We have use a light box to explore colours, shapes and shadows. We’ve painted on them and seen how the thickness of the paint affects the amount of light that comes through. We’ve changed the colour of the lights inside to see how that affects the colours of other objects. There’s so much explorative learning that can be done and the whole thing costs about a fiver to make. Although you’ll get through batteries pretty quick. 

Other sensory toys

I’ve made several other sensory toys too. When Emily was little I made sensory pouches. 

These allowed Emily to explore playing with small objects without me worrying that she was going to eat them and choke. As an added bonus they were squidgy and felt sort of cold. 

I’ve made various sensory and calm down jars too. These are my weather sensory jars:


We try and match them up to the weather outside. Emily also likes shaking them and watching the things move around inside and seeing if they make a noise, because they are round they are good to roll too. 


These are my rainbow calm down jars. Each jar has something different in it. Each thing looks different, moves differently and can be used to represent different emotions or temperatures or seasons. Again simple to make but if I was making them again I’d have used better bottles. These are a bit flimsy. 
Well that is that! That’s how I channel my creativity that I never thought I had. I make random stuff for Emily to play with. Feel free to steal any of my ideas, I probably stole them from someone else anyway. Also if you need inspiration on a theme, feel free to ask. Chances are I’ve got an idea that you might like. 😊

“You’re pushing your luck now!”

This post is all about breastfeeding an infant after their first birthday. Yes, we *still* breastfeed. No it’s not weird! Also it’s not really anyone else’s business.

I knew as Emily’s first birthday loomed that people’s attitudes towards me breastfeeding would change. Suddenly it would no longer be perceived as essential or even desirable but people would start to think of it as “not normal.” No one has yet confronted me about this but I have noticed the odd comment or strange look. “Bitty!” is one! Grr! “You’re getting a bit big for that now!” or “She’ll have to learn to cope without it.” Then there’s the change in body language. When I whip out a tit now, people no longer look at us as a cosy little unit but divert their eyes and look uneasy. Pfft!

So this post is my attempt to normalise breastfeeding older babies, to educate and inspire. I’m actually really fortunate as many of my mummy friends are also breastfeeding one year olds and all of their babies are older than mine. For some women they can feel isolated and alienated so I’m standing up for them. 

Why should you breastfeed beyond 12 months then?

1. The World Health Organisation recommends it. Actually they say that ALL infants should ideally be breastfed to two years and beyond. These people are scientists, they done research, they’ve looked at the alternatives and they decided that a minimum of two years is needed. Why would I argue with this? Surely they know more than me! 

2.  Breastmilk continues to offer your child so much. Aside from it being a warm, milky drink, it provides nutritional, immunological and psychological benefits that are designed for your child. I can tell you now that you can’t buy that in two pint bottles in Tesco and if I could I’d be too tight to pay for it. 

3. It’s quite a different experience. Feeding a newborn has its challenges.  You worry about the latch, weight gain, tongue tie, nipples, thrush, mastitis, leaky boobs. At this age your problems are practically comical. You are managing casual nipple twiddling, bum in your face, reading books at the same time, tandem feeding toys and having your boob used as a shelf for a tea cup. It’s completely hilarious. Honest!

4. Overtiredness, tears and tantrums are all just a quick boob away. I honestly don’t know how Dan manages looking after Emily without lactating breasts. He says he uses an intricate system of distraction, cuddles and food. Personally a sit down and unleashing a nipple is a lot more my style. I’ve heard that many people have avoided the “terrible twos” with the power of the breast. I doubt I’ll be so lucky but I’ll keep it in my tool kit, thanks!

5. We’re happy! Emily loves boob. She loves it so much she wants it all night. I love letting her have it. Why then would I let other people’s opinions stop a good thing? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! That goes for feeding babies too. 

There you have it! It’s a sensible and normal thing to do, so please save any negativity you may have for a more worthy cause and offer all breastfeeding mothers your support.

Well that went quickly!

Today is the last day of my maternity leave before I return to work full time. It’s a strange moment. I’m not worried about work. Nor am I worried about Emily as she will be with her daddy. I guess I’m just sad that we have to move on. 

I love being a mum! It’s changed me so much. I’ve become passionate and nerdy about things I never cared about before. I’ve made new friends that have become so important to me. I’ve seen my husband grow into the new role of father and I love him even more because of it. I’ve seen my parents and parents-in-law embrace the role of grandparents and it melts my heart. Our home has moved from a being a quiet sanctuary to a buzz of life. It’s all wonderful!

When I look back over the last year I really couldn’t tell you about any of the negative bits. Even the giving birth bit has just disappeared into a haze of memory. But, I could tell you in detail about the all the bits I’ve loved. Here’s some highlights:

Breastfeeding

This is my new favourite thing ever! The closeness to Emily, the fact that my milk was all she had for the first six months, the snugly, never ending feeds in the first handful of weeks, the kicking me in the face now, the night time booby cuddles, the boobing sessions in restaurants, zoos, parks, shopping centres and the Houses of Parliament. It’s fantastic! And it’s something I always do with my favourite little person gazing up at me. I’ll miss the quick boobing sessions throughout the day but I know we will make up for it overnight. I want to breastfeed forever!  

 
Babywearing

Again I bloody love it! I grab my favourite carrier, chuck Emily in it and we go off and conquer the world. I’ve carried Emily for most of my maternity leave. We’ve been on walks along the beach, in the woods, around the sea life centre. She’s slept, chatted, pointed, stroked my face, breastfed and shoved fingers up my nose whilst in one. She’s seen me cook dinner, have eye-level conversations with people, do the housework, everything. Plus there’s a whole load of carriers to choose from in different designs and patterns, so it’s something else for me to Google and buy!  

 

Family time

There are so many more interesting things to do with our time now we’ve got Emily. Before there was a lot of going to the pub or the cinema, which was fine, but now we can do all sorts. We spend a lot of our time thinking about activities that Emily will enjoy. Some of these are indoors, at home events like sensory things or play time activities.  

 
Others are outdoors! Exploring the world! We try and take Emily outdoors as much as we can so we’ve been to parks, woods, the seaside, fed the ducks, been to zoos, aquariums, country parks, libraries, museums. Emily loves it! She loves seeing new things and meeting new people. She’s so nosey! But watching her face, taking all these experiences in, is just a delight. 

  

Feeling empowered 

Ok so this is a bit of a selfish one to end with but I couldn’t exclude it. Becoming a mother has shown me that I can do anything. Never in my life have I felt more vulnerable than when I’m watching the most precious person in the world wandering around next to me, but, because of this, I know I must be strong. I have sustained another human with my body. I have coped emotionally with things that have pushed me to the edge. God, I haven’t had more than three hours sleep in 11 months now, and shockingly I don’t mind. If anything I’m happy about this! I know that my body is capable of so much more than I ever gave it credit for. I’m bloody pleased to be a woman! I’m awesome!
Anyway I’ve rambled again but I could’ve gone on. I know that going back to work doesn’t put an end to any of this, but I know things will be different. I’ll have to find a new routine. A way to balance my family and my work. Or I could just have another baby!! That sounds like a plan!

Adventures in Baby-led Weaning World

Emily’s first encounter with food came when she was 26 weeks old, just two days short of turning six months. This is the recommended age to start solid food and Dan and I have always been keen to listen to the advice offered by people who know their stuff. 

Dan booked the week off work and I prepared all the “accessories” that I thought we need for weaning. I bought high chairs, Doidy cups, plastic plates and bowls, bibs and a selection of Tupperware. It was wonderful, guilt-free shopping! Every time the postman would knock on the door to deliver another parcel, I just look at Dan, shrug my shoulders and say “What?! It’s for weaning!” Dan didn’t seem to mind then. 

The big day finally came and it was stupidly hectic, but we managed to fit in a spot of lunch. This was our first opportunity to see how Emily would respond to food. We strapped her into her high chair, put her bib on, filled up her Doidy with water and then placed two sticks of cucumber in front her. We both did our best to let her get on with and not stare too much. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long for something to happen. The cucumber sticks had barely landed in front of her when out comes a chubby little hand to redirect it into her mouth. And that was it. Emily’s first food! Granted she quickly pulled it back out again, looked it and then us with pure confusion, but it was back in the mouth in no time. 

For us there has been no looking back since. Emily has had a huge variety of food. For vegetables she has had potato, carrot, brown onion, red onion, a rainbow selection of peppers, parsnips, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes in all shapes and sizes, courgette, aubergine, runner beans, peas, mange tout. Fruit she has had apples, pears, strawberries, orange, satsumas, raspberries, melon, mango, plums, avocado, pineapple, banana. Meat she has had chicken, pork, beef, lamb, turkey. She’s even had more than one type of fish too, tuna and cod, which is shocking for me.

Dan and I have done our best to be as creative as we can when it comes to meals and aim to make things as exciting as possibly for everyone.  However, two months down the line and your culinary flare begins to falter. It’s not that I can’t think of good ideas, nor is it that I don’t have the time or even that I’m lazy. It’s just that after two hours of simmering a paella made from scratch with freshly bought, chopped, washed and fried ingredients to see it used both as a fingering painting set and to redecorate your kitchen breaks your heart a little bit.  

 Currently my day goes like so: boob, play, prepare breakfast, “eat” breakfast, clean up after breakfast, boob, nap, play, boob, prepare lunch, “eat” lunch, clean up after lunch, nap, boob, play, boob, prepare dinner, “eat” dinner, bath time, PJs, boob, bedtime, clean up after dinner, boob, sit down, boob, go to bed! And apparently I’m meant to fit some effing snacks in there somewhere too. Not mention meeting some developmental milestones and changing a few nappies. Weaning rapidly turns into a void in which you shovel all free time. 

That said I love baby led weaning! I love that we can eat out as a family and Emily enjoys the same food that Dan and I do. Plus the food provides a good source of entertainment. Smearing avocado over a table at Nandos will occupy an 8 month old for a good few minutes, leaving me free to eat chicken and hold a conversation. A hefty supply of said avocado can mean you finish your meal with happy faces all round. 

Yes there are days when Emily has carrot sticks because they make no mess. Yes there is food stuck to the underside of the kitchen table that I can’t remember having. And yes meals have been consumed with the entire family sat in the underwear to avoid doing the washing. But Emily loves foods and we love watching her enjoy it. Particularly when you see her swallow and that giant sized bit of broccoli disappears forever. Well not quite forever…