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October 2007
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December 2007

Happy Childhood Days!

Don't you just love to escape to the great outdoors?

We took the children to a local forest park a few weeks ago and looking at these photos makes me want to go again! They had such great fun running around in the crunchy leaves, examining acorns, jumping out from behind trees, and just generally having a whale of a time... So did I!

What do you call yours?

Over here in the UK (including Northern Ireland, where I am) we call our mothers "Mummy" or "Mum". In the Republic of Ireland, just a few kilometers up the road from me, mothers are often called "Mammy" or "Mam".

In the USA it appears to be the case that your mothers are "Mommy" or "Mom".

And then there's "Ma" and MaMa of course LOL!

I've always found language fascinating - perhaps that's why I read English at Uni a few years back! However, I'm intrigued now about what other names there are out in the big wide world for "Mother".

So... what do you call yours?

November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Book and Video Reviews

Welcome to the November Carnival of Breastfeeding, the theme of which is Book and Video Reviews.

As is always the case, we have some great posts from our regular Carnival participants as well as our guest bloggers. These are listed below and will be updated as they become available.

I've had real difficulties with this particular Carnival simply because I've read so many wonderful pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby books since embarking on the journey that is parenthood.

Since I strongly believe that it is not just breastfeeding but the whole package that is important, I've chosen to list just a few of my favourite books from each catagory that I have really enjoyed over the past eight years.

From Pregnancy to Breastfeeding to Parenting

If I was in the early stages of pregnancy and heading off on the trip of a lifetime to a desert island where I would be stranded for at least a couple of years, there are a few must-haves that would make essential reading for me!

A_child_is_born One of these is Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger's A Child is Born. The images in this book are absolutely stunning and really helped me bond with my own babies during each of my three pregnancies.

I kept this book right by my bedside and followed it avidly all the way through from conception to birth marvelling at the miracle happening right inside my own body.

The amazing images of sperm meeting egg, the little prawn curled up in a ball, the tiny fisted fingers, the little skinny legs and arms, the plumped out baby almost ready for birth... these images all helped me peep into the world of my own unborn babies. I embraced their every development and thrilled at the day by day, week by week changes that were happening within me.

The_fat_ladies_club The Fat Ladies' Club by Hilary Gardener et al would be an absolute necessity to read alongside A Child is Born.

Written by a group of women who first met up in antenatal classes, this book willl almost drive you to distraction! I laughed so much reading it first time around that I worried I would go into an early labour.

The relationships these mothers share with one another and the support and reassurrace they provide illustrates how motherhood often brings women closer together. Have you ever found youself having almost intimate conversations in the shopping aisle of Sainsburys with a complete stranger - just because she's a fellow mother?

The sequel, Facing the First Five Years, is just as good a read as the first although tinged with sadness as one of the mothers who contributed to The Fat Ladies' Club died after suffering bowel cancer. However, the interest her friends take in the children left behind is heartwarming and makes you realise that the relationship the Fat Ladies have is truly special and lasts well beyond pregnancy and the early days of parenting.

Ncts_breastfeeding_for_beginners Once my desert island baby was born I would reach straight for the tiny little breastfeeding mothers' bible that is the NCT's Breastfeeding for Beginners.

Although small in size, this book more than makes up for it with its concise and well researched breastfeeding advice. Covering everything from preparing for breastfeeding to positioning, how often to feed to biting babies, returning to work to stopping breastfeeding, it doesn't go into very great detail but is, as you would Mama_knows_breastexpect from its title, perfect for beginners!

Another breastfeeding book I would keep by my side and which would guarantee a bit of humour during the darker days would be one which I reviewed a few weeks back, Andi Silverman's Mama Knows Breast. You can read that review here.

I've always enjoyed personal accounts of pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting and for that reason a breastfeeding book I would insist on packing would be The Breastfeeding Cafe by Barbara L. Behrmann.

The_breastfeeding_cafeThis book looks at breastfeeding from the point of view of women who have breastfed. With this beautifully written book we are taken back several generations and allowed to see what breastfeeding was like for our grandmothers and mothers. We get a real opportunity to see how much things have changed sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

It's a great read and as with many books of this genre makes you feel you've got someone by your side guiding you along the way!

The_ultimate_breastfeeding_book_of_For the days when I needed something a bit more technical then I would have to have Dr Jack Newman's The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book Of Answers, a fascinating read and one which comprehensively covers everything a breastfeeding mum could possibly want or need to know about breastfeeding. 

Mums_the_wordFinally, as my new baby began to grow and as I looked towards the future I would reach for Mum's The Word, a collection of true life stories about motherhood written by some of Ireland's top women writers.

Compiled and edited by Sarah Webb, Mum's The Word is one book that I've just recently added to my collection. Already it's one of my firm favourites as it allows you to see motherhood in so many different ways and through the eyes of so many different mothers.

Ever wondered what it feels like to be told your precious newborn has Down Syndrome?

Katie McGuinness knows and ever so eloquently brings the joy of a child with Downs right before our eyes in her story Ellie. Written about her youngest child, Katie takes us on a trip describing the shock of learning about her baby's condition, her darkest moments in the early days of Ellie's arrival and her fears and anguish for the future.

Ultimately however, she accepts that Ellie will always be a little bit different from her other children and the absolute love she feels for her replaces the angst and pain.

Ever considered the pain of losing a baby?

For sale: Baby Shoes. Never Used. by Anne Marie Forrest will certainly bring you understanding. What really brought the reality of this story to me is the fact that my own parents unexpectedly lost their first baby at 13 weeks of age during a heart operation.

My mother's memory of returning from the hospital to an empty house, devoid of baby clothes, toys, and all the other signs of a baby having lived there, is as fresh today as it was when it happened 36 years ago. The smell of talcum powder as she opened the front door still haunts her memory.

Reading this story made me understand just how dark a time my own parents endured and brought me to a closer understanding of their lives and the terrible pain they suffered after losing their first-born.

Ever felt overwhelmed with the responsibility that is motherhood? Ever suddenly realised what a wonderful job your own mother did and felt an alarming and sudden bond with her? Ever wondered if your next pregnancy will be the same as your last?

This book covers all these areas and more from mothers who've experienced it all.

The most wonderful thing about Mum's The Word is the fact that it is written by such fabulous writers. They are able to do real justice to the path that most of us embark upon at some point in our lives. They know the words to use and the feelings to convey. At moments this book had me smiling in understanding, crying in sympathy and chuckling quietly in recognition.

So, that's my list. What are your favourites?

Find out what the other contributors to this month's Carnival have chosen:

Brain, Child - The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

Brain_childWhen I received this message, from Ruth Cleaveland Candler, the Marketing Director of Brain, Child - The Magazine for Thinking Mothers in my inbox I couldn't help but be inquisitive:

"Have you read Brain, Child?  Brain, Child isn’t your typical parenting magazine. We couldn’t cupcake-decorate our way out of a paper bag! 

We leave the tips and professional experts to the traditional publications. What Brain, Child does offer, are words from women in the field:  mothers (who also happen to be great writers) like Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, Alice Hoffman, and Susan Cheever.  Each issue is full of essays, features, humor, reviews, fiction, art, cartoons, and our readers’ own stories."

Since the distribution of Brain Child is pretty global, I was surprised I hadn't yet come across the magazine and was delighted when Ruth offered to send me a couple of copies.

I must say, I was very impressed. The quality of writing is incredible with some amazing women sharing their real life stories, thoughts and beliefs.

One essay in particular really moved me. Entitled, Private Ceremonies, by Patricia O'Conner, it tells what it's like to work in an abortion clinic. As one who is fervently pro-life, I've often wondered how people who work in such places cope with what they hear and see all day; this story really opened my eyes and left me feeling both shocked and tearful for a number of reasons.

Another section called Motherswit varies with each issue. Made up of short witty stories, one which was entitled A Mother's Prayers by Tracey Mayor suggested humorous prayers for parents - such as asking God to please not let the children disturb mom and dad when they're doing you-know-what and another seeking help to recall what to buy on a weekly shopping trip without a list!

Brain, Child is a great read and is unlike any magazine I've come across before (not half as much advertising for one thing!)

I recommend it highly and it's available on subscription too...

To test Brain, Child out for yourself some of the content can be read online here:

Ban on Formula Advertising Pleases Breastfeeding Community

It's about time! Finally it's been announced that formula makers in the UK are to be banned from advertising powdered milk to parents of babies under six months. Soon they'll only be allowed to promote it in trade magazines and journals.

Sadly they'll still be allowed to promote follow-on milk, although there will be tighter controls in this area.

It's such a pity though, that in this day and age formula is still being actively promoted through advertising. Whilst I understand that in some instances mothers are unable to breastfeed or simply can't for various reasons, it seems to me shameful that at the present time formula manufacturers are able to make claims likening their product to breastmilk.

The sooner it is banned altogether, the better for all concerned...

What makes a Lactivist?

Are you a lactivist? What does it mean to be a lactivist? Do you have to breastfeed to be a lactivist? Can a man call himself a lactivist?

I ask because there seems to be a bit of a furore going on in the web world at the moment over Jennifer's (The Lactivist) decision to wean her son.

Apparently it isn't acceptable for her to wean because her son is younger than 2 and because she is initiating it!


In my opinion it's time to stop breastfeeding when either mom or baby are ready to quit!

Yes it would be wonderful if everyone could keep going for two years or more - but it isn't always possible for one reason or another. I for one found it exhausting when my son was still waking me up three times a night at age 2. And so I stopped when he was 25 months; with my daughters I stopped at 18 months. I simply couldn't do it anymore. I was worn out and cranky all the time.

Surely it's not good for children having a mother who's too tired to take them anywhere and snapping at them out of sheer frustration at never getting any sleep?

Jennifer is an ardent breastfeeding activist (Lactivist) who has done a fabulous job educating women and men all over the world about breastfeeding. She has helped raise funds for her local milk bank, brought breastfeeding policies to our attention, organised and participated in sit-ins and fought for the right for breastfeeding mothers to breastfeed in public. All that whilst looking after two small children and working full time at her real job as well as pretty much full time on her hobby blog, The Lactivist.

So what if she's ready to stop now? It doesn't make her any less of a Lactivist...

Oh yeah, as if Jennifer's decision to wean isn't enough to be having a go at her for, apparently she's not entitled to take an extended break from her children either. She has a conference to attend in Europe and has decided to stay on a few extra days to see a bit of the world... what's wrong with that?

Well apparently some mothers don't approve of her decision to leave her children for so long. Although I have never left my children for more than one night I don't think it's anyone's place to be judging another mother on whether or not she should have a holiday without her kids. She's leaving them with their grandmother for goodness sake and she has to go to Europe anyway... it's not like she does it regularly!

I say, go and have a wonderful time Jennifer. You of all people have well and truly earned this holiday... I only wish I was going too ;)

Weekend Plans Aborted

Thank goodness it's the weekend. My life these days seems to be one huge round of school runs. No sooner have I left the girls to school in the morning than it seems it's time to collect them again... and then there's the homework.

The homework.

The bane of my life and that's coming from someone who used to stand on the other side of the school gates dishing it out - I guess it's payback time!

Actually it's quite funny listening to all the mums at the school gates praising the fact that there's no homework on Fridays! I never realised until I became a parent just how frustrating it is trying to get a tired child motivated to do their homework.

Tonight the girls are going on a sleepover to their grandparents. Bliss :)

So I am going to enjoy a quiet evening, maybe have a nice meal and a couple of glasses of red.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to have a well-deserved lie in and enjoy some peace and quiet before they return to the fold...

Oh, maybe not... it's only the girls who are away this evening. I'll still have Jack, the hungry boy, clambering all over me and wanting me to draw Thomas pictures and sing made up Thomas songs.

Bang go my plans for a carefree evening.