Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: the new Peenut (cloth nappy system)

The TotsBots Peenut baby - so cute!

On 7th September to coincide with the start of Zero Waste Week, Tots Bots released a new cloth nappy system. The Peenut.

Designed to be their most cost-effective way of doing cloth bums yet, the simple, no frills nappies are birth to potty, day to night, and with a while clean outer to reduce the number of nappies you need.
Being the nappy geek I am, I immediately ordered 2 wraps and inners to test out how they work on both my newborn (small stationary bot) and my 18month old (heavier soiling, crazy-active bum).

Why is it new and exciting?
My munchkin inspects the merchandise
  • Often the initial outlay cost of cloth nappies is off-putting for those who'd otherwise try it, even though cloth is massively cheaper than disposables in the long term with an average cost saving of £1200 for one child - and economies of scale thereafter (see the pdf available here for some cost breakdowns, assumptions and graphs, if that's your thing). These nappies will set you back less than £200 for an entire starter kit , so all the nappies you need for one baby, from birth through to potty. Not too shabby.
  • No muss, no fuss. In theory, these are the simplest and easiest cloth nappies to use yet. They have a wipe-clean outer and pop-in inserts of varying absorbency so that less components are needed.  All you have to do is choose which pads you want to pop in (depending on the age, wee-capacity, and day/night situation of your little one) and wipe clean the outer wrap before popping them in and onto your baby's bum.

The best bits
  • Pop pop pop. Need I say more? So simple, so quick, so easy to use. I'm a bit in love with the popper insert system, and I defy you to find me anyone who can't change a cloth nappy with one of these systems.  If you've never used cloth before, or have a cloth-phobic relative or carer taking your usually cloth-bummed little one on a regular basis, these nappies should allay any panic. Pop them to size, pop in the inner and velcro shut. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

  • The versatility. With 2 children with different needs, both of them are able to wear these by adapting the size and absorbency as needed each change. Also being adaptable to other cloth elements like additional boosters is a big win. 
  • Slimline shape. If you're put off cloth because of the chunky bum look and the need to put your baby in bigger sized bottom halves, this will sort that problem. In a Peenut, you can't tell that it's cloth. It's that streamlined. 
  • They're a good size unlike other TotsBots which can be a bit on the small side. The size 2, which is meant for 9-35lbs, would happily fit even the chunkiest of toddling bums, so you're sure to get your use out of them.
  • The PUL outer is a lot more leakproof than I have found TotsBots fabric outers to be in the past,  and whilst there's only one leg elastic on each side (no double-protective elastic like a Blueberry wrap has) the inner is absorbant enough that it seems pretty leakproof to me. I'm a regular changer though and practice a bit of Elimination Communication so if you prefer your cloth nappies to rival a disposable's containment, this might not be so leakproof for you...
  • They're very pretty. The Elements patterns of white with rainbows or birds on is very cute; or any of the existing nursery rhymes and stories prints are lovely. Or you can go for plain white. 

So do they do what they say?
Size 2 on its smallest setting...
  • I initially ordered two wraps, a size 1 for my newborn, and a size 2 for my toddler, then changed my mind when I realised that my tiny one isn't very tiny...  So right there, it's not quite birth to potty - even my little man who was 9lb 3.5 at birth (within the weight limit for the size 2 wrap) and who at 5 weeks old is in 3-6 month clothes, has only just started comfortably fitting the smallest setting on the size 2 in the past few days. Whilst he's long rather than chunky, I'd suggest that most babies would need at least 6-8 weeks of life before the Peenut would work unless the size 1 wraps were used. To go truely from birth to potty with this system would require both size wraps, meaning the size 1's, which take you to 18lbs, would be obsolete once your little one was a few months old.
  • The wipe clean outer... I have to say, when my order came I was surprised. I expected to see something revolutionary. Instead, I saw a hybrid of a TotsBots nappy and a Blueberry diaper wrap. Really, it's just a PUL wrap. And whilst a wee could be wiped clean, if the nappy is very wet, the legs of the wrap do seem to get a bit damp. I reused one on my newborn for an overnight change (pop-pop - so quick!) but in the morning the wrap felt damp as did his babygro although there was no evidence of leaking. 
  • And poo is definitely out. I wouldn't fancy the faff of trying to stretch out the leg elastic to 'wipe clean' poo from the creases. Or from around the poppers. Or any of the seams. To be honest, unless you caught your wee or a solid (once your child was older) poo the moment it happened, I'm not convinced that wiping it clean would be a viable option all that often - and I'm a frequent changer. I'm still willing to give it a go here and there but if I can feel any dampness at all on the wrap, I'll be swapping it out for a new one. On this element, I'm not sold...
  • The pop-in inners? They're good. Really good - nice and wide so they fill the nappy outer, they're lovely and absorbent and the poppers inside really help keep your nappy shape, so no bunched up inserts after a wee. That said, I used the 'night' system of both inners popped together for the daytime as my girl's a pretty heavy wetter at 18 months, and I wouldn't want to test it overnight on her. She can leak overnight even with a Blueberry wrap, bamboo inner and booster, and this didn't feel quite as robust. 
  • One inner is fine for my newborn during the day and two, with the second folded in half for absorbency where it's needed will work well when he's a little bigger - but it's too chunky between his legs to do that right now. I added a mini booster between the inner and the wrap instead and the popped in inner helped hold the booster in place,  so it seems a compatible system with existing nappy supplies if you already have them. 

The downsides
  • For me, the biggest downside is the flip side to the good absorbency - drying time. Even a full day on the washing line, now that the sun's not as hot, doesn't get these completely dry, and when forced to dry indoors, it can be a few days until the inner is ready for use again. For me to use these full time, I'd need a fair few inners which goes against the minimalist ethos behind the Peenut. To segway into cost briefly though, they're a lot cheaper than many other systems so you can afford to stock up on a few more inners than you might otherwise, and with the inserts being able to be used singly for lighter wetters, each set (2 inners costing c£8 if bought as a,single set) can effectively be 2 nappies. Looked at that way, the absorbency pros outweigh the cons.
  • Again on absorbency, though: it's not quite as pro as it's cracked up to be. My munchkin, at 18 months and a reasonable wetter, uses the 'night' setting with both inserts for a normal daytime nappy, and this morning after 2 hours of wear, we already had a leak. Because of that, I wouldn't try the 'night' version at night. Not until she's almost managing dry nights, I don't think. 
  • That said, the oh-so-slim inners mean there's plenty of space in the wrap to add a booster and it might be that a slimline but extra absorbent booster like a hemp one, or another bamboo layer, might get you through the night with a heavier wetter. I'll comment later if I get brave enough to risk a broken night with my girl! 
  • Wipe-clean? I don't personally think this works brilliantly as already outlined - have a read above if you're skipping about a bit! 
  • Velcro fastening. For many this will be a plus,  but on personal preference, I'm a popper-up gal and I wish these had a popper close.
  • Single gusset. Accustomed to the Blueberry's failsafe double gusset (2 elastic sections around the legs for leakproof bums), I wish all nappies had them. That's all. 

In conclusion 

They're not going to rival my Blueberry wraps for super-awesomeness any time soon, but the speed of changing, the ability to take less nappy elements out and about, and the versatility of use, as well as the very palatable price tag means that these get a good 'wrap' from me! In fact, I needed to up my stash to counteract the rain (slower drying) and additional baby and what did I order? The Peenut.

A quick note :
These don't come with liners as part of the pack as some do. - I'd recommend fleece liners for wicking away the moisture from your little one's bum, and minimising leaks.

If you're interested in this nappy system but want more information, or want to chat about cloth nappies more generally, please get in touch. My details are all here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A spot of EC...

Recently, with my munchkin now 17 months old, I came across elimination communication, or EC, as all the cool cats call it.

I can't help but read up on anything parenting/child-rearing related, especially if it sounds a little 'against the flow' - because chances are it's more interesting and gives more food for thought. With a little girl who already tells me when she's going to the toilet and a newborn bun in its final stage of baking, cue me buying 'Diaper Free Baby' for my Kindle and Googling EC for toddlers...

I love the concept and, as far as the communication bit goes, we've always done a version of it, but my experience introducing it a little more formally to the munchkin has been - interesting.
So EC, for those of you who are new to the idea (like me, several weeks ago) is essentially the practice of communicating with your child about their weeing and pooing, and consistently although not necessarily continuously, offering them the opportunity to do their thing in a loo, or loo-type receptacle, rather then in their nappy. From newborn onwards this might mean watching your baby/child avidly and learning their cues for toileting much as we do for hunger, tiredness, tummy-ache etc, trying to catch as many wees and poos as possible and keeping nappy-wearing to a minimum. Or it might mean offering them the potty during nappy free time, or at nappy changes, or for half an hour a couple of times a week. It could mean anything in between.

This is based on the premise that babies naturally do not want to soil themselves. Like other animals, toileting near themselves or their den isn't a happy option, and we essentially train our children to use a nappy, before, a couple of years later, training then not to again. EC cuts the nappy training and allows a gentle option to toilet away from them whenever possible.

I really like the idea of learning and understanding my child's toileting patterns, of demystifying the toilet, and of avoiding leaving my little'uns in dirty nappies - and to a far lesser extent than most practicing EC, we've done this with our munchkin. Mostly because, with cloth nappies, she's always been aware of when she's wet or dirty and we've always changed her the moment we are too. Who wants to sit or play in wee-wee soaked cloth?! Also, with another mini-Peeling imminent, I wanted to look into what this EC malarky might look like for baby number 2 from birth.

The short, summary thought, is that whilst it's a brilliant premise, beyond the communication bit it's all rather hectic and full on if you try to go the whole hog with a toddler - and with a newborn, it's probably a lot easier to do full-time if you don't have the aforementioned toddler distracting you with their untimely weeing... Because, let's be honest, it's hard enough to give as much attention as you want to both a toddler and a newborn simultaneously without throwing constant wee-and-poo alert into the mix. 

Bright Bots training pants... Munchkin's favourite are 'Geeeen'.
Our weeks of increased EC enthusiasm...

I bought a few reusable training pants from Bright Bots which munchkin proudly wears around the house instead of going bare-bummed at nappy-free time, which she loves. This has upped our nappy-free time hours considerably because they hold just enough wee for her to give me a heads' up and grab the potty without puddles all over the floor, thus taking some of the stress out of nappy-free on those days where anything might push you over the edge...

I also offer her the option of the potty or the toilet far more often that before, and when she tells me she needs to go, I ask if she wants to go in a loo or in her nappy. This was all very civilised and resulted in a good many deposits in the potty, until her answer started to be 'neither' and it all got a bit more tricky. 

After the first couple of weeks, we reached a bit of an impasse, you see. During any time without a nappy on, I would be told that she needed a wee. Then she would refuse to go to the potty. Or the toilet. But, when a nappy was offered instead, a full meltdown would ensue. We tried different potties, offering the sink (I know, but it's recommended as an option by some and I was willing to give it a go...), and none were acceptable. So we entered the faze, which still comes and goes, of me watching her wee on the floor, or my lap, or her bed, having been told that she needs to go and being able to do very little except watch it happen. (The option of forcing her into either loo or nappy seems pretty counter intuitive to me when she's in a 'free-to-be' zone as i don't really want either to become something she hates). However, this is not conducive to the  'relaxed and laid back attitude' which EC advocates. Not in the least.

The other challenge we have is timing. Many EC-ers suggest, once you spot a cue or are told by your little'un that they need to 'go', popping them on their chosen receptacle and entertaining them until they do their thing. I have managed to keep munchkin entertained for perhaps up to 10 minutes with stories, songs and games, with regular announcements of 'Done!' triumphantly given as she peers into a bone-dry potty. We eventually give up as she is, essentially, no longer willing to sit anywhere, let alone on her toilet. Seconds later usually sees a puddle growing by her feet as she announces 'wee wee!' and worriedly shakes her soggy feet.

Those first few weeks were fun, and enjoyable and silly as we did a lot more staying at home and being nappy free. But they also felt stressful at times, and there were a number of days when, feeling increasingly irksome, I'd abandon nappy-free and just pop a nappy back on before I lost the plot. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to give her enough time and options to do her thing on a potty or toilet - when at times she clearly just wanted to be left alone to play and would have been glad of a nappy to catch the wee so she didn't have to worry about it. 

What's normal to us now?
So now, we do, essentially, a bit more EC than we did before I discovered it had a name, and a lot less than during those first excitable weeks. I offer the potty whenever I change her, after a nap or on waking, and whenever she tells me she's 'going' - but more often than not she doesn't want to and that's just fine too. If she asks to use the loo. I always let her, but if she announces she's done and she's clearly not, we just pop a nappy back on anyway. And she wears pants quite a lot, but mostly because she's discovered that a uniform of t-shirt, pants and Huggalugs (basically bumless, footless leggings) is brilliant attire for gymnastics, rolling around and general mischief when at home.

Munchkin in her 'downward dog' and EC get-up
And with our new baby? Arrival is imminent, and I think I'll more consciously watch for toilet cues, and maybe try to pop it's cute little bum over the potty if I catch a cue at a handy moment to do that (e.g. whilst munchkin is doing some pottyplay) - but it'll be the communication bit that I follow most, just as with our girl. 

The parts of EC that work for me are the ones that help bring me closer to my kidlets - the talking about and playing around toileting. The stress of trying to fulfill a change in lifestyle threatened that benefit, for us. 

So we'll still be talking avidly, and happily (in public and private), about the wee wee  and poo poo habits of everyone from me to the dog, as our munchkin is so keen to do. We'll still encourage her as she 'helps' her favourite cuddly toys to use the potty and makes her 'psssst' noise to them
as she holds them up. And we'll still have puddles on our floor from her misses. But beyond that, we're going to remain as we were - lackadaisical EC-ers at best, and probably non-EC-ers to anyone hardcore enough to do it properly!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A life without sticky stars - what a learning curve

I didn't realise that I was a kind of girl who needed validation until the validation stopped.

In life, there is a clear grading system available, if you're the kind of person who likes a grade. Or maybe needs one. At primary school I worked hard to get my body weight in sticky stars, which progressed to the rows of neat ticks, the certificates, the A's, a First... Work was no better - there was the standard ladder, plus publications, presentations, little ego boosts and rough proof that 'the girl done good'. But always, always, the validation. The thing to aim for, and then the knowledge that achieving it meant I'd done well. Was on track.

At the time - as in, for the majority of my life - I didn't realise that my aim to do my best was so strongly linked with the need for someone else to notice my best and acknowledge it. I'm not enjoying admitting this, but it would seem, on closer inspection, that my pushing to always be better at what I do, or who I am, isn't just about self-improvement. 

I like the sticky stars.

Now, I'm a wife and a mum. There's no grading system. There are no sticky stars. And I'm completely thrown.

When I think back to how ingrained this sticky star quest has gone, I zip to aged three or four where my mum used to make me maths sheets, and give me lists of words to turn into stories - at my request. I'd complete them instantly and hand them back to be graded. I loved doing them, but I loved being told how well I'd done too. I can't really remember a time when there wasn't a marker to aim for, and someone telling me 'well done' once I got to it.

It was last night, after pregnancy hormones and tiredness turned a routine scrap with my husband into a full on mental breakdown, that I took a moment to try and talk myself down and I realised why the breakdown had happened.

An innocuous comment, thrown in a lighthearted way, had been tossed into the breech by my husband and I hadn't seen the funny side. The reason? I heard the comment and immediately felt like I was being given - not a sticky star - a black mark. Not something I have been accustomed to all that often. Don't get me wrong, 3 years of creative writing workshops culminating in the immortal words 'never has anyone written so eloquently for so long about nothing at all' will enable you to take criticism with the best of them.

However, neither wifing or parenting have right or wrongs. As far as I can see, it's just a big old blur of possible options which may or may not turn out to be positive in the eyes of your family and the unique characters therein. There are no manuals (that should be really taken as such anyway), no tried and testeds and no sticky stars. This, I could probably cope with if there was some clear black-and-white-here-is-the-answer or with-the-right-research-it's-likely-this-could-be-correct stuff elsewhere in my life, but right now, there isn't. I research and research to try and get the right fit for us, and am managing to largely stumble onto stuff that seems to sit right, but it's pretty nebulas. If the plan goes to plan, this is it for a while. I am me, wife, mother and owner of a spaniel with anxiety issues. In no part of life is anything a clear cut 'do this to achieve X'. That means anything that goes well is a good day, anything that goes wrong is my fault. (Ok, in a healthy mind, maybe that's not the case, but in mine it is.) And it wasn't until last night that I realised this. And it's a bit of a problem.

So firstly, I admitted all this to my long-suffering man, who needed no confirmation that his wife has a few issues. He pulled his usual 'oh dear, love', sighed, gave me a hug and told me I was a Nellie. As is to be expected. So that's good, because now he can tell me when I'm being silly before I go supernova on him over nothing. (And sometimes telling me might make things better, not worse. Sometimes.)

It's mostly me that needs to try to reprogramme, and that's going up take time. Interestingly, this has all coincided with me looking into non-rewards-based parenting. I'm far from done with my reading and thinking phase of it, but I think the self awareness moment I've just had helps to add another dimension to it. It's not just parenting, all these decisions we make about how to raise our children. It's a potential programming of how they're going to think and define themselves in the future. I'm not for one moment suggesting my parents did it wrong. Not all children turn into odd driven beings with self-esteem issues. My munchkin is, so far, quite similar in attitude and temperament to me, though, which could indicate a following of similar patterns of behaviour if given the same parameters.

The biggest challenge for me with non-rewards-based parenting is that it's just so alien to me. My immediate response to anything the munchkin does is 'well done!' My encouragement of a well-inserted jigsaw piece falls into 'brilliant, now do it again with another piece!' This is not ideal verbal interaction, if the writers on this area to be believed.

What a beautiful thing...
More research needed, I can feel myself erring towards this form of parenting, which can only mean one thing. A big dose of relearning for me, and a life void of sticky stars in the future. Apart from on art projects, obviously. Maybe that's where I'll learn to get my hit.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The girl with the curl

My mum used to recite that all the time when I was little. Or, that's how I remember it now. I couldn't tell you if she ever said it directly to me but it still feels like a defining poem.

My little girl, at the age of one, is a definite Girl with a Curl. She's an absolute delight to be around, except on the rare occasion when she's hideous. She is fiercely determined to get her own way, especially when it isn't my way, and her independence knows no bounds. There are times I want to scream at her mood swings - and then realise the reason for my irritability at her sudden change in temper is my own challenging and interchangeable mood.

Faced with a fall resulting from too many steps too quickly, or a bang on the head from a chair that appeared from nowhere, she won't cry, or need a cuddle. She'll get angry, and try again. Thwarted by a pesky piece of pear slipping around on the plate, she'll sooner go without it then accept me picking it up and offering it to her. And woe betide me or anyone else coming between her and her own way, whatever that looks like. That girl has an incredible set of lungs on her and she's not afraid to use them. I spend a lot of time trying not to shout back. Because that will teach her that answering shouting with shouting is right and I don't want that. It doesn't mean that isn't my natural inclination though...

It's incredible how much of my curly personality this little girl has inherited. Meanwhile, I'm trying to straighten my curls like crazy so she learns from a decent role model, rather than the equally hotheaded mother she has.

There's a flip side to being a curly girly though. To have a curly side requires feist. It needs a streak of defiance which can mean tenacity, determination and a will to achieve what we set out to achieve. It means we have passion - and that whilst we have an opinion on everything, it's because we care enough to have researched and then formed one.

I try to remember this when we're at loggerheads, like this morning when we were getting dressed happily until she decided she wanted to put her top on (she can't yet), I insisted on helping, so she slapped me and threw the top on the floor. 'We don't hit people. It doesn't show love and it makes me feel so sad when you do that' is what comes out of my mouth in a calm tone - but really I can completely sympathise. I once threw my hairbrush across my bedroom so vehemently that it snapped in two - because my hair wouldn't 'go right'. And I was 16. She's only 1.
A very curly girly... Love this film!

I'm dreading the phases when we'll undoubtedly clash - and the areas we'll likely clash on, if she's as precocious and full of 'right' opinions like I was for so many years. I think I've mellowed and become more open minded and reasonable as I've gotten older - but that might just be compared to how I used to be; you could meet me and still think I'm self-righteous and supercilious. (I hope not, but it's definitely possible.)

Teen years aside (which I'm already bracing myself for), I think the positives of this family trait outweigh the negatives. I'm looking forward to helping my little munchkin look up information on the latest thing she has to know all about, to debating opposite views and learning tolerance for other opinions. I can't wait to see her stick to her guns and hold tight to her beliefs, whatever they are. To seeing her strength of self and her sense of justice blossom and encouraging her to use these things do do something tangible or proactive. Because if there's something that a Curly Girly isn't, it's apathetic or unmotivated.

Maybe, thinking about it, I shouldn't be trying to straighten my curls - because then she won't have the kind of role model that I want her to have. I don't want to be flat. Maybe I just need a good dose of personality Frizzease to help tame those curls and keep them beautiful and shiny rather then wild and ugly. Because as Girls with a Curl, we can choose to embrace the parts of this character that are valuable and with so many great parts, I'm proud that my girl has a distinctive curl of her own.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A generous Lent

For Lent, I used to give up something that would eventually make me feel better about me - maybe chocolate, or drinking, or something else with health-and-thin-inducing benefits.

Then Tearfund started 'the carbon fast' and I began giving up something a bit more worthwhile, something that might benefit others or the environment - my car for a week to save the fuel and pollution, perhaps, or my favourite fruit that was so far out of season that it took several aeroplanes to bring it to my local supermarket. (The carbon fast is brilliant, and whilst it's not their current Lent-push, the Tearfund resources are still available if you fancied an eco-flavoured Lent this or next year - you can find them here.)

This year, I'm not giving up anything though. I'm taking up something: a generous spirit. I came across the 40 Acts challenge via an old uni friend's Facebook page - and I'm so glad she posted about it. Every day, an email with a short thought and a challenge comes my way. Whether it's to be more generous with my time for others, to the environment, with my material possessions, or my thoughts and cares that day, it's really helping me to think about being a more generous person in every way.

Yesterday, I was challenged to be more generous with my thanks, and I realised how a simple thank you can be a huge encouragement when you feel overlooked or ground down. Today, I'm being encouraged to hold onto my things more lightly, perhaps to strip away belongings that I just don't need and give them to others, or to give away something I really love to someone who will value it as much or more.

I wonder what it would be like in my local area if all of us were trying to be actively generous to each other? The recycling box that has blown down the street might find it's way home, the park might be litter-free, there might be relationships growing in more places down the street, less dog mess around, more meals or flowers dropped off at doors with a smile. The local tip would have less sofas chucked in it, and the housing estate across the way would look as homely inside as our road does.

If I was more generous with my time and my care for those around me, I might have known that my neighbour had been in hospital for two weeks and made an effort when she got home to offer to help with cleaning, shopping, or just some company.

I'm not an ungenerous person. But I have realised that I am generous to the people I love. I give my time to the causes I care about most, or offer help where I want to give it. I am generous where being generous is easy. And this challenge, for me, is about changing my mindset around generosity - we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves, and that everyone is our neighbour. That means it's time for me to be generous where it's inconvenient, or to give my time to someone that I'd perhaps rather avoid.

So this Lent, I'm asking God to prompt me each day to be generous in the way that He is, to give my time, efforts, love and kindness to the people, things and situations that are on His heart, regardless of whether I like them or not. And it's really hard.

It's so much harder than giving up chocolate that I can't help but think that this is the way that God has always wanted me to observe Lent.

If you're interested, it's not too late to sign up to 40 acts - go to :)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The land they claim

There is something that the elusive 'They' didn't tell me about motherhood. That, from the moment your child comes along, they take a flag with their name on, carve a rough boundary line around a chunk of your heart, and a corresponding chunk of your brain, and stake their claim.

Staking their claim in the brilliant / guilty pleasure
which is 'Far and Away'.
Having spoken to other mums, they have felt this too, some to the extent that they can't find space for themselves in their heads anymore, some quietly panicking that they'll never 'switch off' again. Someone said to me the other day that this claim staking is making them wonder whether there's literally enough space in their heads for the three children originally planned. I can see that. Whilst the heart space is a slight concern, it's the head space that really concerns me.

I think I used to be a vaguely intelligent person. I have a first degree and a small handful of good jobs well done to confirm it. And please don't get me wrong, I am not saying for one moment that having a child has turned me into a stupid, unambitious zombie (a description of mothers that a 'Stylist' magazine poll on motherhood aired to the masses a few weeks ago - as just one viewpoint, I should quickly explain before I unwittingly begin a war on Stylist by mums everywhere). But I do doubt how well I would do back in my old working world again, and I'm not entirely sure that it's all about 'baby brain'.

Initially, in pregnancy, I hated the baby brain and did truely feel like I was losing myself. My good memory, recall, vocabulary, all gone in a flutter of little fingers and toes. I still forget stuff now, 11 months into motherhood, but I don't think it's baby brain in the sense that it was. I just think my brain can't run at full capacity anymore on the things it used to. It has to run an additional programme all the time, sometimes as the main piece of software, but always in the background, and it uses memory. It's taking up space. My additional programme? Mini-Peel 1.0.
This could well be an  accurate picture of Mini-Peel 1.0. Really.

Whether it's running calculations on the time until another nappy change or how much calcium has been had today, or more sophisticated algorithms like what kind of schooling we want her to have or how to make sure she understand her emotions as she develops... It's always on. Always. And it makes all other brain activities - not harder... Just less important. It makes my other brain activities lack the conviction,  the ballsey 110%-or-nothing attitude that meant they got accomplished really well. Because there's just not 110% there to give them now.

I said at the start that it's something that's shocked me about motherhood. There may be daddies out there who have had their chunks of brain staked too, but I don't think it's as widespread. My husband is the most supportive partner and the best dad I could ever have imagined. His heart is firmly in the sticky grip of our little'un and he dotes on her. He also is happy to admit that when he shuts the door to the house and leaves for work, that's it until he's home. He is daddy no longer unless his phone rings and it's me on the line. He is himself, doing a good job at work, with clients, in meetings, with his team, wherever he is. His heart may have been staked at the moment she was born, but his head is firmly his own when he chooses it to be.

And thank goodness! One of us has to earn the pennies and I'm not convinced he'd do as well at work if he was worrying about what to do the first time our one-day teenage daughter brings a pimpley youth home and announces she's in love. Or how we'll manage things if she ever gets bullied. Or hooked on drugs. Or retreats into herself and shuts us out. These are all things that Mini-Peel 1.0 is running at this moment in my head and I am hugely thankful that my husband can get through his day without its myriad distractions.

I'm shocked by it, this incessant whirring of my mind around my little girl, but I'm not resentful of it. I've chosen to make this my full time job for now, and in my last full time job, I would start early, stay late, check emails at all hours, and often dream about work. In some ways, it was always whirring away in the background, so it makes sense that my new job has me doing the same - plus a bit extra, given it involves the life of a real little person.

In some ways I'm grateful for it, Mini-Peel 1.0, because it keeps me from succumbing to the selfish urges I get - to just ignore her whinging for a moment so I can have a few more moments in the shower, to roll over and go back to sleep when she wakes at night. If you're a parent, you'll know these. Either that or I'm a really bad person. The background programme kicks me into remembering how important it is not to do what I want in these scenarios - and then sometimes terrifies me by reeling off a stat or psychological finding of the potential impact of me doing that selfish thing, because I read too much, retain odd things, and chances are there's a reason not to do pretty much everything in the parenting spectrum backed up by someone or other at some point along the line.

So, I'm glad that my little'un has staked her claim in my heart, and in my head, for now. It's a good thing. Until I start to wonder if that claim will one day be the reason she complains that she has an overprotective mother and it's damaging her ability to be truely independent. Or tells her flatmates that I have empty nest syndrome and am driving her away with my constant calling... But there goes Mini-Peel 1.0 again, and quite frankly, those are concerns for Future Me to deal with.