me and orla uk lifestyle

She is two; fiesty, messy haired, hilarious. She is a changling and a hurricane, a swirl of snot and sugar and soft, sticky kisses. She hears owls in almost everything – a squeaking tap, a squeal of breaks, a pigeon on the roof. “Wowl singing, mummy!”, & I never have the heart to set her straight.

Below is a list of what I unlearned in the last 24 months. I could have listed what I learned instead, but somehow I find that untangling the lies of a lifetime is the bigger challenge for me.
& so, ten things I unlearned in the first two years:

  1. A new baby is a blank canvas. Orla came out strong, determined, desperate to be independent, & obsessed with my breasts. Not much has changed! Which leads me to…
  2. Mothers who breastfeed toddlers are ‘doing it for themselves’. Hah! Believe me, if I was doing what I wanted, I’d have stopped a looonng time ago now. She’s rough. She’s bossy. It’s entirely about what Orla wants and needs, and often demands!
  3. All of the obvious baby things – cots, moses baskets, dummies, endless crying, sleepless nights, spoon-feeding, rocking, mobiles, bottles, playpens, talc, baby toys… None of these things turned out to be a significant part of our journey! I’m blaming a childhood of dolls and their assorted pink plastic paraphernalia for having me totally convinced that this is what parenting a baby would look like. Orla taught me otherwise!
  4. Toddler groups are a great way to meet other parents. This is probably true if you’re outgoing and sunny, but I am socially awkward & was pretty depressed for the first year or so. I’d drag myself along to groups and hate every awkward second, saying stupid, distracted things. I wanted to go out & be around people, but only to have a cup of tea in a quiet corner while Orla was mildly distracted. Later I would discover that this is called a cafe, & everything improved after that.
  5. Having a baby means you will always be sleep deprived. Now let me preface this by saying, I know this is a reality for a LOT of new parents, & I in no way mean to dismiss their experiences. Early on in my pregnancy I was advised by my perinatal psych that sleep was incredibly important for my mental health, & to do whatever I could to ensure I got enough once Baby arrived. So, we co-slept from day one, fought hard to establish breastfeeding, & I took additional daytime snoozes whenever I got chance (& still do! 😉 ). Not having to get out of bed in the night was a godsend, & being able to settle Orla before she fully awoke meant we both got back to sleep again a lot quicker. While I understand that combo isn’t for everyone, it does work – or, at least it did for us. Your baby might need something different entirely, & I might just have been stupidly lucky, but I like to think that sleep deprivation does not have to be an inevitability.
  6. Snot, poop & vomit make me retch. Nope! By some magical maternal power, my own child’s bodily fluids are entirely neutral to me. I actually quite enjoyed picking the green gloop out of her poorly eye, today. Bananas!
  7. Babies like to be put down. I don’t actually remember ever thinking this, but assume I must have done, based on the amount of things I bought to put my baby down in: bath supports, bouncy chairs, swings, bouncers, walkers, bumbos… Turns out, babies have a natural mammalian instinct to want to be held, & most are fairly unhappy when you plonk them in some, admittedly adorable, contraption.
  8. Playing is fun! Rory suggested I include this, & it’s a really good point; I would despair sometimes of parents I met through work who never played with their children – how hard is it to have fun? Turns out, when you’re tired, overworked, sick, distracted or just plain bored, playing can be the hardest thing in the world. I hereby apologise to all those parents I secretly snarked at.
  9. My child won’t watch (much) TV. Ho ho ho! Guess what she’s doing RIGHT NOW? Yeah.
  10. Two years is a long time. Two years is a heartbeat, a flash, the lifetime of a butterfly. I’ve had packets of biscuits that lasted longer than these last two years seem to have done, & that’s really saying something.

So that’s it for now – feel free to tell me what I’ve missed out or messed up in the comments. No doubt someday I’ll have a second & come and laugh at all of these afresh, me & my single-child-naivete, but it feels true enough for now.

me and orla uk lifestyle-4
me and orla uk lifestyle-3

& to Orla, my teacher of all the above and so much more – happy happy birthday. Here’s to the next two, and the two million years after that – because we’re going to live forever on a robot-super-planet. Obvs.

40 Comments

  • Amanda

  • November 07, 2015

“Mothers who breastfeed toddlers are โ€˜doing it for themselvesโ€™. ”
Thank you, thank you, thank you… (please excuse random comments all over your blog). My 2.25 year old son would very much agree with Orla. *Everyone* wants me to stop, but he’s having none of it, therefore, neither am I!

  • Jo Navin

  • June 08, 2015

I just found your blog through instagram and felt compelled to say how your words resonated with me regarding the way I feel about my darling girls. Especially the co sleeping. They’re grown now so I’m making a note in my journal for the day when, maybe they have children of their own…

  • Ally Mahoney

  • April 11, 2015

Love this too. I read every book. EVERY book. So prepared. Except not at all. Didn’t read a single book for no.2 and have learnt to ignore everyone’s advice too (unless asked for!)

  • Ally Mahoney

  • April 11, 2015

Such a lovely post. I hear you re mothers groups. I felt like a bit of a failure for skipping out on mine after the first couple (because, you know, it’s so great to meet mums on the same journey blah blah blah) so I’m glad not everyone enjoys them. And tv, yeah.

  • Amanda Kenney

  • February 23, 2015

I’m loving these posts and your sweet, sweet words!

  • Elizabeth Rebecca

  • February 14, 2015

Completely agree with all of these – especially the TV.

Lizzie Dripping

  • Charlotte @ Books and Baby etc.

  • February 13, 2015

I agree with a lot of these. Today Elsa has been full of beans and wanting to play all day but she kept me up all night so I was exhausted and just not in the mood so I’ve let her play ABC games on my iPhone. I never thought I’d let an 18 month old have my phone or watch TV so much but there you go!

  • Muddling Along

  • February 13, 2015

Lovely post

  • Sara

  • February 12, 2015

Oh yes, how could I forget the fear of passing on my terrible social skills? haha! You’re so right about baby books. I’m such a sucker for a book that tells me it knows all the answers… always such a disappointment! x

  • Sara

  • February 12, 2015

Thanks Laura! x

  • Sara

  • February 12, 2015

I would LOVE that, Rosie! Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • Rosie

  • February 10, 2015

Such a gorgeous post lovely lady! <3 Will include a link in this Friday's 10 things round up, if that's okay? ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • Francine

  • February 10, 2015

Happy Belated Birthday Orla! What a Great post. I especially identify with point 4 and the toddler groups, and feeling so awkward and then feeling bad that I was so awkward and worrying my behaviour would rub off on my daughter! Gosh, we can beat ourselves up sometimes! Also, for me I learnt how important it was to ignore those baby books that tell you what to do, and when to do it!! Love your instagram, from a fellow instagrammer @hellofrancinesmith xx

  • Nicole

  • February 09, 2015

Hi Emma, as someone who also struggled massively with the breast feeding thing I wanted to reach out and say please don’t feel guilty. Look at your children and see everything else that you’ve given them that is amazing and good and eff the officials and the advertising that try to make you believe you’ve failed if you couldn’t feed from your own body. There are many ways to nourish a child, breast feeding is only one. xx

  • Laura

  • February 09, 2015

adore the first few lines of this post, such beautiful words!

  • Nicki - ON THE CHANGING MAT

  • February 09, 2015

Sorry I missed your reply – thank you for taking the time to do so. I’m sorry to hear you had a crappy time prior to returning to work but sounds like you’re balancing it pretty well now. I guess I was kind of afraid of my job changing if I returned 3 days a week, but perhaps it wouldn’t have been a bad thing. I think I will apply to reduce my days again if 4 days doesn’t work out – but I know I have to stick it out ’til January before I can put in a request. Hopefully it’ll all be ok and I hope you get to live the dream soon! xxx

  • Stephanie

  • February 08, 2015

I really enjoyed this! My son is 3 at the end of April and I have boy no 2 joining us in about 6 weeks but I still connected with the things you ‘un-learned’. I can totally relate to the ‘playing being fun’ one. 8 months pregnant, exhausted and very slow to my feet means hide and seek, chase and endless role play dictated (he’s very prescriptive about how we play) by a 2-year-old is, to be honest, sometimes totally tedious.

Think I need to carve out more time for my mental health and find some sleep from somewhere. Definitely co-sleeping this time too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Emma

  • February 08, 2015

Your posts always make me smile. I can relate to most of these, except the breast feeding thing, but that’s because I fail epically at this (insert huge amounts of guilt here). And the co-sleeping, I so wish I’d done this, as I now have two children who think of our bed as a soft play area due to the novelty, so even when are really unwell won’t sleep in it, which means an exhausting night of getting up and down during illness. And yes, I actually quite like picking crusty boogies from eyes and even noses! Only on my own children though, other peoples would induce vomit I’m sure! As for the TV, child one, no exposure until about age 3, and then on a very sparse basis, child two, is sponsored by Disney (and she’s just two), I blame child one of course, I can’t ban her from tv at age 8 after all, well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Happy Birthday Orla, here’s to the next two million birthdays xx

  • Faye

  • February 08, 2015

Oh Sara this post is wonderful in so many ways. I can relate to many of your points. I’m sure it was a bit nerve wracking to publish, as laying yourself bare so to speak is always scary but things written from the heart and with real honesty always mean so much more and resonate with all the rest of us who were wondering if it was just us doing or feeling things a little differently than everyone else seems to.

I also fully relate to the horror of some playgroups as when Lila was born and we were living in London I went along to a couple with high hopes of meeting a kindred spirit but all the other women were at least about ten years older than me and probably earning about ten times as much as I was and I felt so judged and out of place. And when I found a great childminder and went back to work for two days a week when she was eight months old, it was a huge relief to me to actually get to be me again and not just a Mum.

The playing thing too; while I love doing art and crafty things and reading with my girls, I can’t abide playing ‘families’ or other made up games and do all I can to avoid it. Nowadays the tv isn’t on much at all but I think that’s because Lila and Rose have each other to play with. When it was just Lila there was a lot more tv involved for sure.

Rose would never take a bottle and I thought I would still be breast feeding her when she was five or something but at 13 months she conceeded she would have cows milk in a sippy cup. Pearl seems to be similarly inclined so we’ll have to see how that pans out. While she starts the night in her own cot she makes an appearance in bed most nights!

Above all, know that you are doing a really, really great job. Hope Orla enjoyed her big day xxx

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Hahaha! Yup, Orla goes for the equally subtle ‘Mummy boobies OUT!’. Why didn’t I teach her they were called ‘crayons’ or something equally ignorable? Thank you so much lovely Philippa – looking forward to proper chats with you later this year ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Ahh thanks Philippa! I’d write like that all the time, if only I had something to say!

I relate sosososo much to the co-sleeping TOUCHED OUT hell. Sometimes a cuddle is lovely and sometimes I wish I could just sleep on the floor so I could be left alone! It’s a downside nobody talks about – I think I thought it was just me!!

The hospital breathing scare sounds utterly terrifying, and my heart breaks for you just reading that! I’m glad you’ve found a way to sleep at night and feel like everyone is safe – number one most important thing!! xxx

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Ah, I don’t think I’ve ever written about it but I’ll happily tell you how it was for me. I wasn’t ready and ended up being off a few months longer due to the anxiety.
I’m very lucky to have brilliant childcare with a childminder, and was able to settle Orla in slowly over that time.

When I eventually went back… I loved it! Hot cups of tea at my desk! Adult conversations about adult things! Even the dull parts of my job were suddenly blissful. Nearly a year on that’s worn off, of course, but it’s still fine. I work three days; by the end of my working block I’m excited to see Orla, & by the end of my Orla days I’m excited to have some adult time away again!

Before Orla I lived for my job, but my priorities (& my role) have changed.
I don’t know WHY I have to work and cannot just be paid to be me! I wholeheartedly agree it really ought to be that way! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m working on it, though… gotta have a dream! x

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Yes, WHY would anyone want to spend all day doing baby stuff and then spend their only social time with other mothers, talking about baby stuff?? It probably didn’t help that I felt like I was the only one in the world doing things differently, at the time. I stopped mentioning the co-sleeping for fear they might burn me at the stake.

I’m so pleased to find other mamas like you Nicole! It’s very reassuring & calms the fear I had about publishing this post! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Thank you Cara. Breast or bottle, feeding is still a burden & a joy & most definitely a journey. Thank you so much for coming by x

  • Nicki - ON THE CHANGING MAT

  • February 07, 2015

Really enjoyed this post and can relate to a lot of what you unlearned. I think I need to try cafes instead of baby groups! I am going to search your past posts for anything you’ve written about going back to work, by the way. I still have a couple of months off and I am going back 4 days a week, but I’m really antsy about it and wish I’d requested less days. Also, perhaps naively, I kind of assumed that once you got to the level of followers you had on IG that you’d somehow not need to work a day job and you could survive on just being, well, yourself. x

  • Nicole

  • February 07, 2015

Oh my goodness. You have hit the nail on the head so perfectly with this post. Also, thanks for joining my club of not loving the baby groups, until now I assumed it was a party of one and I must be the single person on the planet that wasn’t overjoyed by the happy-clappyness of singing in groups and making conversation about baby stuff and all that (also not really outwardly a people “in person” person, I take a while to come out of my shell). The playing thing too… Sara, for your honesty you are my hero. Thank you. x

  • Phillipa

  • February 07, 2015

(And oh god some of the mum and baby groups!! Cafe love forever!)

  • Phillipa

  • February 07, 2015

Whoops it just posted! And I’m writing an essay! Was saying on the boobies, lex actually went through a phase of shouting TITTY like a bad Harry Enfield or David Walliams sketch! I remember really despairing and was even worried about how she’d feel now I’m b feeding her brother, but it’s fine, it was a phase and it passed – so funny! Love your last point and hope you and your girl have had a lovely birthday (their birthday means more than my own now!) – gorgeous pics xx

  • Phillipa

  • February 07, 2015

I love your writing, the start of this post is so beautiful (the rest is too but I adore your description of your girl). Love the unlearning concept, very funny and relate to a lot. Yes the how exhausting ‘playing’ is i find upsetting because I’ve always been ‘good’ with kids – it’s def tiredness and overexposure! I’m actually dreaming of a weekend away on my own with only books, coffee, baths, long walks and probably some lovely knitwear! We also co-slept with my daughter and its a bit love hate for me – love the cuddles (especially when she was tricky in the day), the sleep was good at times, but equally see above with the needing more of a physical break from her, being kicked a lot was/is annoying, her dad sleeping on sofa (still often) is rubbish and mainly the fact she’s 3 and still comes to our bed about twice a night zzzz. Im not co-sleeping with our son but that’s because we had a scare at the hospital and he had to be resucitated and its terrified me for life. Plus I’m so much more tired this time and definitely less responsive. Aah the obsession with boobies phase – it does pass!! Lex had to hold mine for comfort months after I stopped feeding her (14 months i think, actually not that hard to stop, but emotional with hormone shift, I was c ready!!ยฃ

  • Cara

  • February 07, 2015

This made me laugh a lot so many things I can relate to sadly not the breastfeeding but that was my own journey. Loving the blog x

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

Thanks Tiffany! I know that feeling. As long as there’s toast & tea, what’s the point in the outside world anyway?? ๐Ÿ˜‰ xx

  • Sara

  • February 07, 2015

hahaha YES! Orla’s a twiddler too. I’m amazed she hasn’t worked something loose by now! Thanks lovely Kristen. Have a brilliant weekend! xx

  • Sara

  • February 06, 2015

Oh thank you so much, lovely Chloe! How long now til Flo’s big day?
You said it all perfectly. Can’t wait until my day of bf-freedom! Here’s hoping baby sloths grow into toddler sloths for the long haul! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • Sara

  • February 06, 2015

Yes, perhaps I have missed off number 11 which really should say, ‘all babies are the same’ – because what works for one doesn’t seem to carry across to the next!

LOVE Ally’s lack of self consciousness, and long may it continue! Can he give us lessons please?

I can understand the need for routine and cannot even imagine being stuck in the house with a screamy baby and no money. I can totally see why groups are a lifesaver for lots of mums, & in fairness if there had been mums like you there then I’d probably have gone to every single one ๐Ÿ˜‰

As far as sleep, alas, yes, we were most likely just very very lucky. But, admitting that is to relinquish the idea that we could reproduce this good fortune with a second child, & I’m not ready to let go of that dream yet!

Yes to all about the play – plus added guilt for me, because I spend my work days happily playing with other people’s children! Argh! I’m relieved it’s not just me, anyway.

& as for number 9, & the ark, & little charley bear (I appreciate that you still know how to spell it! :D)… well. You & Ally are totally invited to the robot planet with us, for evs x

  • Sara

  • February 06, 2015

Thanks lovely Jo! & thank you for the beautiful card too. I don’t know how you always manage to be so so thoughtful x

  • Tiffany

  • February 06, 2015

Happy birthday Orla!

I’ve never understood baby classes – I barely open the drapes some days let alone the door!

  • Kristen

  • February 06, 2015

love it all … especially the tv bit. so, so true. and the breastfeeding … oh, man. especially when they reach a little over a year old and the acrobatics begin. the whole time you are just praying they don’t take your nipple off! ha. happy birthday, to you and your sweet babe. you are truly the most darling pair.

  • C h l o e

  • February 06, 2015

Sara this is wonderful. It’s brought a small tear to my eye! As I prepare for Flo’s 2nd birthday this is reflective, honest and sooooo true. Playing is hard work, that last beautiful breastfeed never happened (for me anyway it was more like a big sigh of “ah freedom” after 14 months) baby sloths DO exist and cafes saved my life. And what is it about owls?! Happiest of birthdays Orla

  • Sheona

  • February 06, 2015

I love this post. It is just so true and full of things that you just don’t understand until you’re a mother. You can be told stuff and think you understand but you just don’t! Similarly with the breastfeeding stuff, I probably don’t fully understand because I didn’t do it for that long (6 months was grand for us – he was obsessed with food as soon as he discovered it).

Like with no.1 – he’s always been himself. I was always so conscious of others as a child and I absolutely expected him to be too. I almost wanted him to be aware of others more than himself. In reality, he doesn’t give a fuck. If he wants to do something he doesn’t care what others think. I am Ally, hear me roar. He chose mismatched outfits like purple striped tops and tiger print shorts. I told him people mind find it ‘unusual’. Did he care? No! He wanted to stand out!

No. 4 I think is where we differed. I needed that massive routine. Ally would cry constantly and I think the heuristic play baby group was the only place we could go and he’d actually stop crying…. Also, I used to worry about things like ‘where to put the buggy’ and ‘what if I cry’. I was ridiculously poor when Ally was little too… cafes were unexplored territory regretfully. I make up for it now!

No. 5 too… you lucky thing. Cosleeping certainly made it easier for Ally and I to get through those first few (*ahem*) years but until about 18 months he was up every bloody hour crying. I did love cosleeping. There is absolutely nothing like waking up to see your child’s face and proper sleepy cuddles.

No. 8… I remember feeling like there was something wrong with me because I found playing boring. I was extremely depressed and I do think it makes it harder. There are things that I enjoy and I’m sure you do too – baking, painting, small amounts of imaginative play… but in reality I’m just quite pleased that he likes to play by himself!

No. 9… TV and DVDs are the best. In fact, looking back they stand out as parts of his development. In years to come you’ll think of Bing and think of her being around 2. Me? I think of Little Charley Bear and think of being at yours. When everything was shit and you gave us shelter in a storm. A proper atheist style Noah’s ark <3

Happy 2nd Birthday Baby O. Stay independent and hilarious. Stay you xxx

  • Jo

  • February 06, 2015

Yes, yes and double, triple yes. Absolutely all of this!

Sending lots of love and birthday wishes <3

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