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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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!

“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!

Night-time cuddles!

In the last couple of weeks I’ve become increasingly aware of how much I love my late night Emily snuggles. In a few days time my little baby girl will be six months old, and she has grown so much. 

Six months is a big milestone. Lots of things seem to happen around the six month mark or you are told that they should and every single one of them makes me feel like I’m losing my baby bit by bit. 

1. Most babies are regularly sleeping through the night by six months. 

I’m not sure where I heard this one but I’m sure it’s in some leaflet that the health visitor handed to me. Fortunately this one doesn’t automatically happen at six months, and it certainly still feels a long way off for us. There are many nights when I’ve just wanted a decent nights sleep and for Emily to sleep through the night would make this a lot easier. It would also make my answer to the question: “is she a good sleeper?” much simpler too. At the moment I’m going with a “it’s what is to be expected from a baby” and people take from that what they will. 

However Emily sleeping through the night would end our night time cuddles and kisses. It would end her little hands roaming idly over my face in the dark. It would end the sleepy long feeds where I know she’s getting the good stuff. These moments really are quite special when I reflect. They are memories that only I will have. Emily won’t remember and Dan is usually asleep. They are perfect moments and I never want them to end. 

2. Co sleeping

As I’ve said before, we are not bedsharers. I’d love to be but its just too risky. We are roomsharers though. Emily has slept by my side since day one. In the middle of the night I can look over and see her breathing, or hear her do her little sleep-giggles, or reach out and feel the warmth of her tiny body or smell her sweet milky breath. It’s adorable!

Guidelines state that to prevent cot death your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months. This was how it started for us, but it is what comes naturally. I wanted Emily by my side day and night, and I still do. 

Once that six month mark comes round though I know that I will be under pressure to move her into her own room. The most vulnerable and precious member of my family will be the only one forced to sleep alone.  Of course I am going to fight to have her in our room as long as possible but I can hear people saying that it’s time for her to be in her own room and she will sleep better once she is etc. I can envisage a time when lure of better sleep will be hard to ignore. 

3. Weaning

Yet another thing that’s meant to happen at six months. We will be doing baby-led weaning so I’m not expecting much to change in the way of milk feeds for a while. However it is the start of a journey that ultimately ends in Emily not needing me for food any more. Granted she might turn to me for comfort and therefore we could be breastfeeding for a while yet. At some point though I’m going to offer her milk and she’s not going to be hungry. Or one day I’ll go to nurse her to sleep and she will already have nodded off. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about that. 

I am however quite proud of the fact that we have exclusively breastfed until six months. Not a drop of formula or a mouthful of food has passed her lips. This, like cosleeping, has been hard to defend against external pressures. Many people have suggest offering some food to help her sleep at night and most have used the “it won’t hurt” or the “I did it with my kids and they turned out alright” statements. But Dan and I said we would follow medical advice and we’ve stuck by that. 
It’s been a quick six months and although things are going to change, there are plenty of things that will stay the same. But also there are lots of exciting things coming up. Food, crawling, talking and walking. I can’t wait. But I will always hold the memories of the first six months close to my heart. It’s been truly delightful!

What is gluten?

I saw this question appear on an advert for Google (why do Google need to advertise?!) the other day and apparently it is one of the most searched questions. I know the answer only too well. 
I have been a coeliac since 1st November 2013. This day was the day after I had returned from an all inclusive holiday in Tenerife (see the picture above) with my mum, dad and sister, Rachel. Upon landing, we had a KFC. That was my last ever KFC, and despite not being able to recall what I had, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I did not have enough! 
There are plenty of other foods that I will never have again too, such as Mr Kipling’s mini battenburgs or Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts. And I am also sure that there will be new foods created in the future that will have me dribbling in the supermarket or staring longingly at an advert on TV , whilst knowing that that is as close as I will get. Although I do sometimes go a step further and sniff foods; I like to live dangerously!
Despite all this whinging, I am fine with it. It turns out that us Coeliacs are not only a resourceful and creative bunch, but many have a delightfully entrepreneurial spirit. The variety and quality of the foods that are gluten free is impressive. I still eat cake, doughnuts, pizza, and pasta. I have pancakes and bacon sandwiches at the weekends. I eat out in local pubs, Nandos, Pizza Hut and the nearby Indian. It ain’t too shabby for Charlotte! Plus I certainly don’t look like I’m starving, unfortunately.
Anyway, the answer to the title question is…it is one of the many vital ingredients in KFC. The only food that I miss! Damn you, Colonel!

An introduction.

Two and bit months ago I became a mummy. I have a wonderful daughter called Emily, who regularly embarrasses me in front of my friends. She is so well behaved that I actually cringe at how delightfully charming she is being when someone else is battling to calm their child. I really cannot complain at all!
Now I decided to write this as I had two spare minutes whilst my husband, Dan, cradles Emily to sleep whilst watching GTAV videos on his phone. (Who says men can’t multitask, eh?) And bloody WordPress throws up its first challenge within seconds…what to call my site?! I am shockingly dull! I pride myself on being average. I have normal job, a typical family, a three-bedroomed semi detached house in suburban Norwich and everything is pretty easy for me.  The only thing even mildly unusual about me is that I am a coeliac, hence I live a life without gluten. I am a ‘free-from’ mummy!
Anyway, prior to this lifestyle change, I lived life like most people do. I went out, I ate, I drank and I consumed things like they were going out of fashion, with little or no consideration to my body, money or the environment.  Then I had a baby…