Friday, 17 August 2018

What to do with a two month old?




What do you do with a two month old? Out of curiosity I typed the question in online and a search led me to a day-in-the-life type blog post by a mother with a two month old. Great! I thought.

The blogger's day starts with a crack of dawn feed. So far, so similar. Sol wakes up at 4am, feeds for about fifteen minutes then falls asleep until 7 or 8am. It's pretty relaxed and there's a lot of snoozing by both of us.

At 6.30am the blogger is inexplicably trying to have a shower.

What's the rush? I wonder. I aim to have a shower at some point during the day and so far have a 100% success rate. Set your goals low and you shall achieve them!

7am and the mother appears to be getting ready to go somewhere. Bit eager, I think. If she's going for an early morning walk then she must be a masochist. I don't know what it's like in her neck of the woods, but in mine, it's so hot the earliest I leave the house with the baby is 7pm.  

Now she appears to be leaving the baby with a relative... wait, she's going to work? Oh! From 8am to 6pm!   

In that moment, I realise two things. One, that this post is a fat lot of good if you want to observe a FULL day with a two month old. Two, that the blogger has to be American. Their maternity leave is famously rubbish.  A poxy 12 weeks, I believe, compared to UK's 26 basic leave. And if you think included in that 12 weeks is the time you take off before birth, then of course by two months your time's up.

You know that whole "Make America Great Again" slogan - did they have decent maternity leave before? If not, then it can't have been that great. I think a humane maternity leave is so important. It's about reducing stress for the people bringing up the next generation. And the way things are in the world, we really need the next generations to be alright. 

I delve into the blog and stumble on information about how hard it was for this woman to have the baby in the first place. She mentions countless rounds of fertility treatment. And I can't help it. For a moment I think, all that and she's back to work after less than two months? What's the point of it all?

But then I also think, ah, it's in America, so she's probably steeped in debt after all that treatment and now has to work at a meth lab all day to pay it back. I often think how many TV plots wouldn't be possible if America had a free national healthcare service. Okay, so in the UK it's not free either, but you do get one free chance and after that, it's only a fraction of what it costs in the States. 

I finish reading the blog post. It ends pretty much the same as my day ends, with a little baby tanking up on milk for a couple of hours before collapsing at the breast, then carefully being carried, her arms and legs heavy with sleep, to her cot beside our bed.

I'm not sure whether to feel admiration for the woman, or sad that her daily life has to be such a struggle. If only there was more flexibility in all societies to accommodate the realities of bringing up children. Trying to fit babies into a tidy military schedule is unnatural and stresses everyone out.   

Meanwhile I've been making notes of my own first week home alone with Sol... eat, sing, sleep, eat, POO... you'll be on the edge of your seat when you read it.






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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

New baby, new life: Two months of sunshine



It's been two months since my daughter, Sol, was born. At 3.890g (8.5lb), she was a large bundle of joy. I felt every gram when the obstetrician passed her to me and I was worried I might drop her. But I'm happy to say I did not, and she is currently very much intact. She is a robust baby and also a very calm one. To celebrate her two month anniversary, she slept all through the night, from 23.00 to 06.00, waking up briefly to feed for 15 minutes before dozing off for another two hours.

As a result of her reasonable sleeping patterns, I'm not a zombie parent with bags under my eyes. In fact I'm feeling a lot perkier than I anticipated and very grateful for such a tranquil baby. Could yoga and meditation throughout my pregnancy have influenced this outcome? Or is the reason she's so relaxed because we're so relaxed around her

"Chicken and egg," my auntie said, because likewise we might be relaxed because she is. Maybe it really is just the luck of the draw! Either way, she is a wonder, accomplishing all baby functions with aplomb - taking great satisfaction in stretching for long periods of time, and giving us great pleasure each time she poos, burps, yawns, and best of all, smiles. It really is the little things.


After racing to the finish line of my novel, I've since read it through and think it's 50% terrible. I've reread other variations of it and I'm not quite sinking into despair, but certainly questioning my lengthy process of writing books, which involves writing the word count equivalent of five novels and then wondering what the story is about... 'What the heck am I trying to write' will be the focus of my thoughts as I breastfeed during these sticky heatwave days.

Luckily, my Pregnancy Diaries is more coherent! I've a complete draft to edit, and I'm inviting contributions and would love to hear your stories.

For those who would like to share aspects of their pregnancy, here's a questionnaire you can downloadYou can answer just one question if you like! Alternatively I can send you a word document or copy it into an email if that's easier for you to answer. Just email me or send your answers this August 2018 to emily@emilybenet.com 

If I use your comments, I'll send you a free ebook of the finished version. 

As Sol gets more active, I anticipate it will be harder to snatch writing time. My intention is to release the Pregnancy Diaries this year. My novel will take longer because I don't want to write a novel that you'd only read if you were stuck on a train with no battery on your phone - but a book which would make you miss your stop!

The little one has awoken so it's over and out from me. Thanks for coming back here after this very long blog hiatus...

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Monday, 21 May 2018

Warning: Life Change Due Any Day!


It's the end of an era. Fernando Torres aka 'El Niño' has retired from Spanish football.  If it hadn't been for his goal in the 2008 Eurocup Final, my husband and I might never have met. (You can read Shop Girl Diaries for the full story!) That was a decade ago and Torres is 34, and so am I, and a lot is about to change for me too.


I'm nine days away from my due date, which is the 30th May. A family poll has bets ranging from the 26th May to the 7th June. The doctor says the baby is big, and big babies sometimes arrive early. He also says first babies often come late... so it's anyone's guess! I'm still writing my Pregnancy Diaries and imagine frantically dictating the end while I'm having contractions. Unrealistic?  

I'm not nervous about the birth. I've been physically and mentally preparing for months. I'm grateful to my cousin's wife, Georgie, for introducing me to Marie Mongan's Hypnobirthing book early on; the birthing affirmations really have done wonders for my confidence. I've also, better late than never, started reading another great book on Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch. I hope more and more women get to discover these books and their empowering attitudes, and we can start removing all the fear associated with birth. But I'll keep all these thoughts for my pregnancy diaries.  

Nothing like a baby on the way to speed up the writing. I completed a full-length first draft of my fifth novel a couple of weeks ago. As much as I want to start editing it, I need to let it rest so I can see clearly what needs to be done. I suppose leaving it rest won't be hard with a newborn baby. Still, I'd like to get it done by the end of the year. The same goes for the pregnancy diaries.  

We moved home a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully just to another flat in the same block, so it wasn't too bad. Surprisingly, at eight months pregnant, I found I had enough energy to wheel a suitcase back and forward up and down a corridor all day for a week.  I also had a great workout cleaning the flat we left behind. It did wonders for my sleeping.

The new flat has a little room for baby and an office for me. It's the best office I've ever had. It's full of light and leads onto a terrace. I've turned it to face the window since taking this picture on Instagram! I foresee a lot of happy writing being done here, perhaps with a sleeping baby at my side... Am I being completely unrealistic? Ha, we'll see.

My husband gifted me a beautiful wooden board with all my book covers printed on it to decorate the office. You might not recognise the new covers. 


That's the other news of the month. I finally got my publishing rights back and am free to relaunch #PleaseRetweet and The Temp.  I've given The Temp its original quirky Wattpad name of SprayPainted Bananas. I hope, by taking back control, I'll be able to give my books a fresh chance of success. After all, The Hen Party seems to be selling well, so a huge thank you to everyone who has bought it!

New baby, new office, new books, new home - but mostly new baby. I still don't know how dramatically my life will change, but I think...  finally... after 38 weeks and five days, I'm beginning to feel ready.







Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Tourism in Mallorca - Visitors vs Spoilt Brats



The sun has come out and the tourist season is set to begin in Mallorca; if indeed, there ever was a break. Palma has been deseasonalised. During winter, you still can't find free parking easily... although as a learner driver, by easy parking I mean two large empty spaces nicely lined up!

Tourism-focused articles from local newspapers have been cropping up in my Facebook feed lately, eliciting comments which have sent little currents of fury shooting through me.

A planned protest against 'massification' has got readers huffing and puffing. The article refers to the colossal 6,000+ passenger cruise ships, which includes the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. 

What a joke of a name. Symphony sounds so melodious, so harmonious...

According to Andy Rawson, author and founder of Mallorca Days Out:

"During a one week cruise this monster can produce half a million gallons of sewage, 2 million gallons of dirty water, 250 gallons of hazardous waste and 50,000 gallons of oily bilge water," and he adds, "multiply all that by about 350 ships which come to Palma every year."

They should rename the cruise: The Curse of the Seas. It would be far more apt.

With every news piece related to new regulations, with every attempt to defend the environment, there's always an accompanying indignant outcry:

"Yeah but no tourists, no money!"
"What are you going to do without us, Mallorca?"
"If you piss us off, we'll just sod off to... to Malta! See how you like that!"
"Don't you realise you'll all be out of job if you stop us doing exactly what we want!"

It's like hundreds of sulky kids stomping their feet because they can't eat a fifth serving of cake.  

When did tourists go from being visitors to spoilt brats? Why should they be appeased at all costs to the detriment of the island and the locals?

Yes, the island needs  a thriving tourism industry, but I'd argue that it doesn't need to debase itself and risk being ruined for future generations. It's a relationship - is an abusive relationship better than none at all?

Fortunately, I don't think 'none at all' is very likely. It certainly doesn't feel like Mallorca has to worry about a shortage of visitors just yet. As its friend, I would tell it not to give in to those who want to take advantage and leave it worse off. If Mallorca were a person, I'd tell it to choose a relationship where the respect is equal and the benefits are mutual. I'd say, Mallorca babe, you deserve better.  


***


Now here's a fun holiday read for all the lovely tourists visiting Mallorca and beyond! 



Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Two Books and a Baby



27th October 2017

Dear Daughter-in-law and baby,
I hope you are enjoying your pregnancy - it's one of the most beautiful stages in your life...

At which point I have to stop reading the email to run to the toilet to throw up.

(Extract from The Pregnancy Diaries)

***

Nine years after the publication of Shop Girl Diaries, I've been writing a very different kind of diary! The Pregnancy Diaries. It's an experience I couldn't resist writing about, but which I didn't want to make public until I'd reached the third trimester.

I'm being very old-fashioned about it, writing only in pen and paper. Typing it up will be quite a job as I've used the inkiest of biros and it's all very messy!

At the moment though, the typing up of my diary is not my top priority; finishing my next novel is! I've got a bump-shaped deadline reminding that I haven't got long. I always thought 9 months sounded quite a lot, but time is flying! Baby is due on the 30th May - although only 5% of babies arrive on their due date - so let's see what happens.

I'm hoping to finish my 5th novel by then. Two books and a baby. Sounds good to me. As you can imagine, the DH (dear husband) and I are very excited. 


***

If you haven't read Shop Girl Diaries, it's available in ebook format from Amazon for just 99p!





Monday, 12 February 2018

The Writing Life: Progress report!


I'm about to break a personal record: longest time without blogging!

On the other hand, I've never written so much in my life. I've got a steady stream of work from AbcMallorca magazine, which challenges me on a daily basis to write on a variety of subjects.



Last week I wrote about construction companies, architects, yoga retreats, restaurants and everything in between. Although fiction remains my primary passion, I definitely get a lot of satisfaction from writing articles. I feel I'm getting better at it too. When I think of my early travel articles, I used to take so painfully long over them. It wasn't very lucrative. Nowadays, my words flow much more quickly and coherently. It just shows that it's all about practice. If you put the hours in, you'll get better, whatever the discipline.

I think most people will agree that crossing things off their To Do list gives them a little rush of pleasure. It does for me. With my journalism work, I'm completing tasks every day. Writing a novel is different. It's definitely a marathon, and rather than hoping to cross the whole thing off soon, you've got to appreciate the effort of completing each kilometre, each chapter written. As planned, I did finish a draft of my new novel by Christmas.The trouble is, after writing it, I had to read it. 

I went through the whole draft on the plane over to the States. It had some good bits, but on the whole I wasn't convinced it was a good enough story. I've since killed off a couple of character, given one a new name and identity, and another a new job. 

Although I'm calling it Draft 2, it's closer to a new draft altogether. My new deadline is mid May. I'd like to say I'm leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn each day to get it done, but that would be a lie. I'm just scheduling the fiction in around the journalism during normal working hours. I'm not speeding ahead, but I think I'll get it done if I write a bit each day.

I'm really enjoying using Google calendar.  I find it really useful to organise and balance my time. Balance, that's the key. There's two big chunks in my week blocked out for yoga now. If it's in my calendar then I've just got to do it. Perhaps that's the only reason I haven't been blogging; because I haven't blocked out the time for it. We'll see, Google calendar is great, but it's not magic... or is it?







Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Happy New Year: Bomb Cyclones and Latin Families


I'm back from the States where I spent New Year with 17 assorted family members on my husband's side from Colombia and Ecuador, and one Italian. Funny how much you suddenly have in common with a fellow European when you find yourself in a different continent surrounded by a majority from another continent. The Italian and I, both partnered with Latin Americans, shared our observations on the cultural differences and nature of Latin families.

On this particular trip, what I noticed most acutely is that my Latin American family don't appear to eat any vegetables. Making a salad felt like a rebellious act. At one point, half a pepper was served between eight of us. Luckily six weren't interested, leaving me a decent taste. Half a life-time of living abroad has changed my own Latin husband's eating habits, and fortunately he doesn't see eating vegetables as a penance.

As for New Year traditions, the jolly Colombians and Ecuadorians, have a lot in common with my Spanish compatriots. They all eat 12 grapes at midnight and wear specific coloured pants. In Spain, fire is a common ingredient in festivities, and so too is it in Ecuador. Just after midnight, the family set alight an effigy of the 'año viejo'  (the old year) dressed in pyjamas. Not in the living room as photo might suggest, but in a fire pit outside the house we were renting.  




At this point I should mention our trip coincided with the bomb cyclone on the east coast, which has nothing to do with a bomb, and everything to do with freezing cold temperatures. We huddled around the burning 'old year' in -6 degrees.

Next step: Jump over fire! (By this point, we had, of course, already run around the house with our suitcases to ensure we would travel in 2018!)

Far too high, I thought about the loaded fire pit, plus my dress is synthetic and probably highly flammable. My doubts were forced aside as I was swept up by my husband and his cousin and carried over the fire, flames licking at my derriere. Mad! You're all mad! I cried, while congratulating myself on marrying into a family with spark.

I'm back home now and after two disturbed nights due to jet lag, I finally managed to get up at a decent hour this morning. I'm back in my office, back to normal temperatures. Yesterday, I overheard a builder saying: It's so cold! I almost laughed in his face. Cold he might have been, but not cold enough to put him off drinking his coffee outside on the cafe's terrace.

Cold is -6 degrees, and -10, and everything after that. The icy air felt like daggers in the US - but thankfully our stay was made significantly warmer thanks to the big jovial Latin family reunion! 



Check out Emily's latest book The Hen Party