When does the “mum” thing kick in? I was reflecting today that we are just about 6 weeks in, and I am still not sure I feel like a proper mum – I still feel a bit like I’m pretending or playing at it. I  guess it hasn’t really sunk in properly yet. I’ve had plenty of mum moments, such as:

  • accidentally giggling while trying to tell her off sternly (because she made such a funny face while doing something naughty),
  • poo explosions and wet sheets,
  • plenty of cuddles and snuggles and giggles,
  • pins and needles where she is sleeping on my arm and I can’t move or I’ll wake her up,

but I’m still not sure I really feel like a proper mum yet. I have no idea when your fundamental sense of self and identity shifts from “ordinary person” to “mother”, but I guess it takes time for that. Presumably it’s the same for birth mums (quite a few friends commented to me that they couldn’t believe the hospital just let them go home after the birth and suddenly be totally responsible for another human – most said it was terrifying!).

They say that with adoption, it can take time to love your child, and you shouldn’t expect it to happen overnight. I can’t say exactly when the love part seeped in, but I know that I have adored her from the first magical day that she put her tiny hand in mine, and every day I feel more and more strongly about her. Love and adoration that seems to get stronger and stronger each day. Every smile and giggle and funny face makes me just melt, each time I realise I am learning what her facial expressions and noises mean, when I suddenly realised I can interpret her body language to know how she is feeling, those feelings get a little stronger. I guess that’s what bonding is in a nutshell. Learning all about one another, feeling each other out, getting used to one another’s rhythms and patterns and love growing stronger and stronger each day.

It occurs to me that actually, I’ve had a lot of flatmates over the years, and around 6 weeks in is usually when you know if it’s going to work out or not. This is around the point where you start to notice the annoying little quirks or find out you both have a secret stash of jelly babies that you binge eat when you think no-one is watching, or that you both adore the same trashy TV show, or you find out that he doesn’t believe that you really own your house “because you’re a woman” (Yes, these examples are from actual flatmates I have lived with!).

Anyhow, 6 weeks into our relationship and it’s going so well I can’t quite believe it. I suspect we are still in the honeymoon phase and have plenty more ups and downs to go (not to mention the usual ups and downs of having a toddler!).

As she is currently ending up in my bed at some point in the night, I love waking up next to her gorgeous little face, and her big brown eyes. She often stares at me intently while she is waking up, her face incredibly close to mine, and then bursts into a big smile or a giggle. Our morning cuddles in my big bed are one of my favourite and most precious things.

We are starting to settle into our routines and ever since seeing the foster carer she has been so much more happy and settled and is sleeping much better too. I no longer need to nap when she naps and can actually get stuff done during nap time instead! As we’ve moved past the initial exhausting phase I’ve got more energy and am less shattered all the time, so feeling up to doing a bit more together out and about!

We are really starting to enjoy each other’s company, although I am also starting to feel the boredom and monotony of spending all my time with a toddler. The toddler groups are increasingly appealing for the distraction and company of other adults, and seeing and talking to my friends has become even more comforting – actual chicken soup for the soul spending an hour or two nattering and gossiping with an old friend or two!

I am trying my best to stick to my carbon goals and with that in mind have been delving into the world of cloth nappies and suchlike. On a recommendation from a friend, I had already bought a set of cheeky wipes which are FAB – they are a washable reusable wipe, much like small flannels or facecloths, which are far more effective than disposable wipes at cleaning poo and involve zero landfill and waste, so I am very happy. Highly recommend them to anyone wanting to improve their carbon footprint! Easy to use and wash and I love them!

So we’ve been using those since the beginning and loving them – not a single disposable wipe used so far in 6 weeks! However I am also aware that in 6 short weeks we have probably gone through around 100 nappies or more, which is a LOT going into landfill and makes me uncomfortable.

Spoiler alert – some parts of this post might be a little gross for those of you with delicate stomachs, as it largely deals with nappies and their contents…

A friend recommended trying out cloth nappies, and Aldi had a special on so I bought 3 to try out (Bambino MioSolos in case you are wondering what kind), and I was then directed to a facebook group called Cloth Bum Mums where lots of people were selling second hand ones, and could offer advice on things, so I was able to get a bundle of 6 or 7 very cheap. To go cloth full-time you’d probably need about 15-20 or more, as you have to factor in that you need different nappies at night time, and you may not do laundry every day and they may take more than a day to dry if you don’t have a tumble drier (which I don’t). Presumably this gets harder in winter when you can’t dry things outside!

Also, I discovered the whole point of cloth nappies is that they are designed specifically to retain and absorb fluid, in order to be effective as nappies, but it means they take forever to dry as they absorb all the water from the washing! In fact the recommendation is to run a separate rinse cycle before the wash, partly to wash away any urine or poo before the main wash (pre-washes on newer machines often recycle the water so you need to do a separate rinse first!), but also partly because they are so absorbent, and new machines are very eco-friendly and use less water so you need to make sure there is enough water to rinse them thoroughly.

They are super-cute though…

Another fascinating thing has been diving into the world of cloth nappies, which is quite cultish in nature. Like vegetarians/vegans or other such groups, converts can be highly evangelical and keen to spread the word far and wide. Currently, as a novice, I have some paper liners which are biodegradable and disposable/flushable, so it goes on top of the nappy, and catches (hopefully) all if not most of the poop, which you can then just flush, leaving minimal mess on the cloth nappy to wash.

However I was swiftly informed by the Cloth Bum Mums that these are not really flushable (even though they seem to flush just fine) – apparently they take forever to biodegrade and are not good for drains, causing clogs etc. A flurry of women started advocating for using fleece liners instead, which are washable, but which require you to scrape the actual poo off before washing.

Ewwww, I said, that seems like a lot of work, and also really grim, followed by “How do you even do that in a sanitary way?”

You’re going to wish I had never asked…

The replies from the women came thick and fast:

“I use a poo spoon” said one.

(A poo spoon. Those are words that should never be put together in a sentence.)

“I keep a special spatula in the loo to scrape it off” announced another.

“I hold it under the water jet in the loo and flush” said a third

“I use a rubber glove and dunk it in the toilet bowl and swish it about.”

The world of the Cloth Bum Mums is not for the faint-hearted.

After all the women telling me I should not be flushing my flushable liners, and realising that I am not yet brave enough or converted enough to get my own poo spoon, I felt a bit deflated – the only other option is to bin the liners and poo, but it would need to go into a plastic nappy bag before it goes in the bin, and that’s just more plastic into landfill which seems to defeat the whole object. However one helpful lady suggested getting some compostable bags which seems like a reasonable compromise for now, so I shall try that.

In general it’s been a bit trial and error. We’ve had a few leaks and haven’t quite worked out how often we need booster pads and how often to change the nappies (obviously you don’t want to change them too often or you’ll be doing laundry 5 times a day, but wait too long and it leaks…). I bought a special nighttime bamboo nappy as I was told that bamboo and hemp are the most absorbent and best to get through for 12 hours. This one has a bamboo nappy and pad that goes inside the pocket and then a waterproof cover (like giant pants) that go over the top and hold it all in and keep it waterproof.

We tried it and it was a disaster – wet pyjamas, wet sheets, wet everything at 1am, and I was pretty disappointed, however I reached out to the Cloth Bum Mums to ask why such a supposedly foolproof method had failed so epically and they responded instantly and en masse. It turns out that bamboo cotton needs to be washed 5-10 times to get up to full absorbency – something about stripping the manufacturing oils off the fibres and heating and cooling the fibres to rough them up and make them more absorbent. I have no idea if there is any real science attached to this, but I have dutifully washed and washed and washed them and I am happy to report it worked just fine the second time around!

There is also a lot of chat about how UV light is a natural disinfectant/bleach that can remove stains and smells, and that hanging the nappies outside, even on a cloudy day, or in winter or in the rain can all help “disinfect” them. I feel VERY confident that this is not going to reduce the risk of cholera or anything. If sunlight had magical disinfecting properties there would have been a lot less plague in the middle ages. However the Cloth Bum Mums all swear blind that rain or shine, nappies should be put outside for a bit to help reduce smells/kill bacteria/remove stains….

So, anyhow, I am dutifully following the advice, trying things out to see what works, and even if we only use them once or twice a day, it’s still a few less nappies going into landfill which must be better than nothing.

Plus they are really pretty to look at, and it’s opened up a whole new world of online shopping for me! My bank balance is not enjoying my latest hobby….

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