Labels

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The questions you ask yourself when you lose a referendum

Could I have done more?

I researched and read endlessly. Propaganda from both sides, and neutral stuff. I wrote a blog or two. I shared and commented on Facebook and Twitter. I talked to friends, most of whom were already Remainers, a few who weren't. But I could have formally joined the campaign. I could have done and said more. I didn't because I naively assumed we wouldn't actually leave.  That we couldn't possibly actually leave, because that would be an utterly insane thing to do.  Apparently half the nation didn't get that memo, and I wish now I had shouted it repeatedly from the social media rooftops.  I would have bored the pants of everyone, but I would feel better now that I did all I could.

Does this make me wrong?

I am in the minority. I always am with the way I vote, but this felt different. Binary. Personal. More people than me felt Brexit was a good way to go and were convinced of the arguments. I felt they were being duped, but perhaps I was the blind one. The Leave campaign's facts were certainly demonstrably wrong, but maybe their hope was not...? Alas, I still don't think so. I want to believe our country will be better off going it alone, I really do.  I want to believe the Gove and Johnson promises. But the first few days post-referendum have not exactly filled me with confidence. I remain quite certain that for all its faults, the ethos of the EU, what it represented, and the stability and benefits it brought was too important to cast aside. Brexit is going to be horrifically detrimental to the UK, as countless very well informed people have said loudly and repeatedly (see here and here and here and here - I could go on... ) not to mention the damage it may do to the EU and the rest of Europe.


Why oh why did I imply Brexiters were idiots?


A friend called me out on a Facebook post that suggested people who paid no attention to expertise, history, evidence, reality and fact in any other context would be branded idiots. It was a 2am post borne of anger (not just because Duckling wouldn't sleep). I felt uneasy posting it, though I stupidly did not remove it. Fatal social media mistake. She said arrogance like that would not persuade the undecided to vote my way. She was no doubt right (though annoyingly criticism of other's reactions was her only contribution to the debate) and I wish now I had not said it, as it invalidated the more considered arguments I had made before. I guess when you think half your country is about to do something idiotic though, you open yourself up to doing idiotic things yourself.

Am I just angry at people who voted leave because I'm a member of the white, middle class, privileged elite and I don't understand them?

Oh the handwringing... I am undoubtedly white, privileged and middle class. Not a lot I can do about that. I earn well and am married to a man who earns well too. Does that mean that I cannot understand why Leavers - mostly working class - voted as they did? No, I don't think so. For a start, not all Leavers were working class. My 'idiot' posts were directed squarely at various fellow comfortable, educated, middle class friends (mostly of my parents) who voted 'out' based on a massively rose tinted view of the past, and information that a two second search could show to be false. BUT I can see why they - and everyone else - were swayed by the message of "taking back control" delivered by the Leave campaign. They presented some very convincing, solid-sounding arguments and made appealing promises that people thought would change their lives for the better. They evoked feelings of hope, nostalgia and national pride. They also played beautifully to those most affected by the very real social and economic inequalities in this country, who rarely get such a direct say in how our politics are shaped. I don't for a moment assume that Leavers didn't do any research or were all raving racists.

Nonetheless, smouldering beneath it all, fanned by the tabloids, was the immigration issue. It is not wrong to talk about immigration, to look at the positives and negatives and debate how it might best be managed (because it does need to be). It is not wrong to question how those arriving affect those already resident.  It is wrong to distort the facts about migration to make it look 'bad', simply to play to the fears of those with most to lose. I do not know what it is like to live on the breadline, and feel like outsiders are taking away what should be rightfully mine. I would probably get a bit pissed off too. This is why fear of foreigners is always the first thing to rear its ugly head when times are tough - it's an evolutionary instinct that has driven the rise and fall of civilisations over millennia. Understanding where xenophobia comes from does not mean condoning it though. So if I am angry at some sectors of the Leave camp, it's not because I'm a white middle class snob who doesn't understand them, but because racism - unacknowledged, subtle or overt - is never, ever, a good reason to make a decision on anything. If it is privileged and elitist of me to say that, then please call me the queen of snobbery. 

Oh, and the fact people adulate Boris when he's a tricksy bald faced liar makes me a teensy bit cross too.

Can I still be friends with people who voted out?

Yes. It's probably a good thing I'm currently on holiday though. It could take me a while to calm down enough to speak to them through ungritted teeth.


Why am I so angry / sad / scared?


So many reasons. My anger is explained above.  Mostly though, I think I am grieving. Grieving for the loss of a country I felt I knew. Grieving for the bonds we just severed. Grieving for my belief in the majority of people being rational, open minded and pragmatic. Grieving for the lost opportunities for my son. Also, I know that most people will have voted based on heart foremost, and used their head to back that decision up. I did. So that means a majority of people don't feel and think like me, and that's hard to accept, however open minded you might consider yourself to be. 

As predicted, I am ashamed of my country's choice, and what the decision says to the world at large.  As the Brexiters so often accused, I am scared of change too, but who wouldn't be when you fear that change could be catastrophic and will cost an insane amount in administration and legal fees to boot?

Finally, I feel just a little worried for my family. My father is Dutch and does not have a UK passport. He's never needed one (a shame really, as he didn't get to vote). I don't know what will be decided about his right to remain and I'm sure it won't be impossible to sort whatever happens but with stories such as these emerging, he feels distinctly uneasy right now. Quite frankly, so do I.

What is going to happen now?

Who the fuck knows. At one end of the scale, you have a massive recession, endless political in-fighting, race wars, general chaos and the break up of the UK. At the other you have a reasonably orderly exit, minimal disruption and a series of trade deals that mirror what we had before. Most likely we'll end up with something in the middle - or no exit at all because nobody has a plan and nobody can agree on anything. We will get through it. But it isn't going to be quick and it isn't going to be pretty. The key is not to give up.  The liberal minded may have lost this one, but this should be all the more reason to fight for the best possible outcome as the fall out begins.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Holy crap. Are we actually about to leave the EU?

So much has been written by so many about the EU referendum that I'm honestly not sure I can find anything novel to say. That's why I attempted to keep things light with my last post on the subject. But with less than 24 hours to go and the latest polls suggesting the UK may actually be about to leave the European Union, I am seriously worried that my country is about to do something monumentally stupid.

I honestly don't know what will happen if we leave the EU. I am quite sure that nobody truly does, but I can categorically state that Britain will not become the halcyon green and pleasant land of white-faced English speakers, plentiful well paid jobs and affordable rose adorned cottages so many Brexiters seem to think it will. 

I wouldn't mind if the arguments for leaving focused on the flaws of the EU itself.  It is far from a perfect institution, and there are plenty of things that need addressing.  I have waded through the impenetrable bureaucracy of the EC's myriad grants and funding schemes enough times to know that the left hand often does not know what the right is doing, and indeed may not even be attached to the same body.  It's too far in the pocket of corporations (the planned 'TTIP' free trade talks are very worrying) and few have any real idea what MEPs actually do (or even who they are), so transparency (though NOT democracy) is something of a problem.  I can understand why many die hard socialists want to leave. But the at the heart of the Brexit campaign is not reasoned critical analysis of a flawed institution, but pompous rhetoric, prejudice and more than a little wild speculation.  This is why I am dismayed that at least half our country agrees with what the Brexiters have to say.

At one end of the campaign's class spectrum you have the likes of Boris Johnson.  Right wing posh boy, brought up revering a bygone era of British colonial wiff waff greatness.  A time when we ruled large swathes of the world through blinkered bombast and the simple conviction that we were superior to everyone else.  The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world he likes to tell us, we should be able stand on our own, make our own decisions.  Yes, we are pretty wealthy all things considered, but our wealth has been gained as a member of the EU.  To leave would be an act of quite unparalleled complacency and arrogance.  Two words that sum up Mr Johnson quite nicely IMHO.

At the other end are those who actively fear what they think the EU represents. The people who want out because of the belief that European migrants are taking away what is rightfully 'theirs', whether this be jobs, benefits, school places, housing, GP appointments...  It's an understandable concern when you don't have much to start with, and in areas with recent influxes of migrants, there is undoubtedly more strain on local services. Post financial crisis austerity, inflicted by a government we elected, has more than a little to do with this however, and nationally, migration has an unarguably positive impact - as others have explained far more eloquently and thoroughly than I ever could. Furthermore, migration is not even a financial 'problem' that Brexit would solve, as any deal we do after leaving is almost certainly going to involve comparatively open borders if we want to continue to benefit from free trade with the rest of the EU. Migration is going to continue to be vital and only partially controllable whether we are in or out.  People just need to get over it.

More dangerous and disturbing is the dark, undeniably racist underbelly of the campaign. I don't think all Brexiters are racist, but I do think most probably read newspapers that basically are. It shouldn't need saying that migrants - European or otherwise - are just people. Some are 'bad', some are 'good', just like human beings anywhere. As the late Jo Cox so eloquently put it "we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us". You wouldn't know that from the vitriolic tabloid press though.  The 'othering' is everywhere in this referendum.  "Turkish invasion on the cards if we don't get out now!" Um, really not likely any time soon. "Brussels tells us what to do!"  No - 'Brussels' DOES NOT tell us what to do.  The European Parliament (based in Strasbourg, incidentally) passes the laws, OF WHICH BRITAIN IS A PART.  "Europe has too much control!" Again, last time I checked, we were part of Europe. "Fat German bureaucrats are the wurst!" OK, I made this one up, but you get the idea...

What angers me most about this whole campaign is not that people are arrogantly nationalistic or unjustifiably prejudiced - you find this wherever you go in the world sadly.  It's that the Remain campaign - headed up by our Prime Minister, let's not forget - have not done more to fight the underlying xenophobia that is utterly tainting this referendum (and indirectly inspired it in the first place).  It is, I'm sure, in part because our PM and the party to which he belongs are not exactly immigrant huggers either (think his 'swarms of migrants' speech).  But still, to win their case, why are the Remainers not doing more to push back against those who have so little evidence on their side and win the hearts of the undecided? Apart from Ruth Davidson, who was outstanding in tonight's TV debate, there has been a frustrating lack of conviction  from the Remain side. Where are the TV ads and literature, breaking down the myths, explaining what the EU actually is and what it does, how it benefits everyone's lives and denouncing the hate-mongering stories you read in The Daily Mail and the like?  The leaflet that came round from the Remain campaign was frankly insipid, and the TV ads I've seen have been mostly fluff and nonsense.

As I say, I do not know what will happen if the UK leaves the EU.  But it almost doesn't matter.  It is the symbolism that I care about.  I want people to think my country is one with its head screwed on, that works, pragmatically, in collaboration with its neighbours to create a more prosperous, peaceful and fairer society for all. This may sound trite and idealistic, but these are the values that make our country worth living in.   I don't want to live in a parochial, insular, prejudiced nation, and I don't want my son to grow up in one either.  One only has to look at the terrible fate of Jo Cox to understand what can happen where putting "Britain First" becomes your sole obsession. I want to be proud of my country.  If we leave I will feel nothing but shame.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dieting a la Duck

I am for the most part happy with my body. After many years of being a bit overweight, these days I have a just-about healthy BMI and I can run and climb stairs without killing myself. From time to time I do regain a few pounds though (*cough* three stone during pregnancy *cough*), which makes me wince a bit when I look in the mirror, "shrinks" my clothes ("Did you put these trousers in the tumble dryer Drake? Seriously, did you?!"), makes running harder, messes up my cycle (stupid PCOS) and gives me inexplicable backache. I just don't feel good, so despite my feminist pretentions, I feel compelled to diet.

I like food. A lot. I do not like dieting. At all. My diets therefore go like this:

Thursday: RIGHT! Let's do this! One slice of toast for breakfast! Salad for lunch. Some seeds to keep my blood sugar balanced. Ooh, Sarah brought cakes in! It would be rude not to... Just one then. Oh. I've had three. How did that happen? Dinner can be something light. Except we only have a four cheese pizza... OK, I'll start again tomorrow.

Friday (7pm): Oh crap, I was supposed to be on a diet wasn't I? Tomorrow!

Saturday: We have people over. Diets don't work when you're cooking for others. Tomorrow.

Sunday: Why am I worrying? I'm not that overweight. I'm letting womankind down by even thinking about it. I should just make peace with my curves and get on with life.

Monday (7.30am): Argh! Can't get my work skirt on! How is this the only thing that's clean??? DEFINITELY dieting tomorrow!

Tuesday (11pm): Jesus, what a day. Hey, I didn't get time to eat much though!

Wednesday (11pm): Jesus, what a day. Surely that makes that entire packet of custard creams justified? Seriously, tomorrow is the day!

Thursday: RIGHT! Let's do this! Etc. Etc.

It feels so clichéd to admit I diet, and even more clichéd to admit I'm completely crap at it, but losing weight IS difficult. For the past three years I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding so I have been able to get away with eating a good few hundred calories more every day than I can now I've stopped being "milked". My appetite has definitely reduced, but eating is as much about habit as hunger and habits are hard to kick. I have to remember not to buy popcorn or nuts with my lunch (or eat Duckling's leftovers) and stop myself from having a slice of toast before bed. That's enough to keep my weight stable, but more has to go to actively lose it, and that's a considerable shock to the system. My brain seems to bypass the knowledge that I'm on a diet every time I'm faced with food. The "not necessary!" voice is replaced with one that says, "go ahead! It'll be fine. You can go for a run later!". Which of course I never do. All the while the narratives of "You need to be thin to be accepted" and "You need to be thin to be healthy and avoid burdening the NHS" and "You shouldn't need to be thin to be anything. Just be you." are circulating my head. They all have their truths, but also their dark sides, particularly when taken to extremes.

So I munch on, gaining a pound, losing a pound, and being generally irritated that society, body and ethos have me so conflicted. This is probably why I only ever actually lose weight when ill or stressed. Flu is definitely not the best way to get thin but at least it takes the decision to diet out of my hands. Just not a week before our holiday please - I'll take snot-free over "beach-ready body" any day.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Referendum fun for everyone: what else should the UK hold a vote on?

In just over a week, the UK is either going to make the monumental decision to leave the European Union, or the rather less dramatic choice to stay. The long term implications of leaving are, to be honest, largely unknown and I don't personally believe anyone who makes any grand predictions about what might happen either way - the variables and unforseen 'black swans' are simply too complex to calculate with any certainty. But, on balance, as much as I hate the prospect of TTIP,  I think we have to stay for economic (in the short term we will probably be worse off if we don't), ideological (I am not inherently suspicious of foreigners) and personal (my Dad is a Dutch passport holder) reasons. However it's dressed up, the campaign for leaving is fundamentally grounded in prejudice and insularity, and no good can come from that.

But this is not what this post is about. This post is about all the other things you wish the government would hold a referendum on. All the things of critical national significance that say "Britain!", about which we don't really get any choice. Here are mine, in reverse order of frivolity:

Age of starting school. This is a personal bugbear of mine having a nursery-nurse mother who worked in a reception class and observed the behaviour of her charges for many, many years. Please could we stop pushing our children into formal literacy and numeracy education at 4 years old?  Some kids thrive, but many, particularly boys, and summer-born kids, really don't.  Britain has one of the youngest formal school starting ages in the world, despite overwhelming evidence that at best, it confers no advantages, and at worst, it's actively damaging.  We are doing our kids no favours whatsoever by trying to get them to sit still and learn their ABCs when they should be running about and digging holes and making mud pies.  Let's vote to raise the age to six - or even better, seven.

The voting system.  Oh wait, we already had a referendum on that, it didn't actually give a viable alternative and nothing changed.  Is it naïve to hope that we might get to move to proportional representation in my lifetime?

The Monarchy. Should we keep our lovely old queen and her faux pas prone hubby, or should we pack them off to a nice retirement village somewhere in Buckinghamshire and elect a shiny new President instead? Prince Charles and his meddling homeopathy-promoting ways aside, I personally have no real issue with the monarchy and I'm oddly fond of Her Maj because she looks a bit like my dear departed Nanna. They do cost a bit though (between £40m and £334m according to this article) so I would be intrigued to hear their "remain" campaign.  "One offers excellent value for money by single handedly sustaining the luminescent British hat and handbag industry.  Also, someone has to wear all the crowns around here." 

The Name.  I live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the 'United Kingdom' or 'the UK').  However, it is also known as Great Britain, Britain or 'GB' for short, even though these terms technically exclude Northern Ireland.  Furthermore, I live in the British Isles, which includes Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  And in England, which doesn't include any country except, well, England.  So I am British.  But also English. But not a UKer. Or British Isleian.  Oh no no.  Our official name is cumbersome, the abbreviations are nondescript and the way we describe our countr(ies) is deeply confusing for UK nationals and foreigners alike.  I say we should hold a referendum on whether to simplify things.   Yes = Keep all of the above.  No = change our name to the Queensdom of Britain, or QB for short.  Snappy, feminist, and patriotic.  Though it might be rather short lived if the referendum above votes to kick out the royals.  Republic of Britain (ROB) anyone?

The House of Commons debating style.  Simple question: should MPs continue to debate like puerile public schoolboys?  Yes / No?

National Dress.  As many people like to point out, the UK does not really have a national costume.  Sorry, let me revise that: England does not have a national costume (the Scots having kilts, the Northern Irish twiddly Celtic attire and the Welsh those odd black hats).  My former (English) boss used to get a lot of invites to foreign embassy receptions instructing her to wear "Formal Wear or National Dress".  We always puzzled over this.  Would she go Beefeater or Grenadier Guard?  Morris Dancer or Inebriated "Slapper" Inappropriately Attired for January?  She was in her 50s, so we sadly always played it safe and went for formal evening wear.  A small part of me is very sad I never got to see her in a bearskin hat or jingly bell-bedecked pantaloons, though I am very glad we avoided any form of boob tube.  In the wryly observed "International Day" episode of Peppa Pig ("America, Russia, Spain and Greece won't share the sandpit!"), Freddy Fox dresses as a blue helmeted policeman to represent Great Britain (the UK, England etc, etc.).  Which is fine, but like Beefeater and Grenadier Guard, that's a uniform, not national dress.  SO, I think a bunch of British designers should be set the challenge of designing England a national costume (unisex for true comedy value equality), and then we hold a referendum to vote for the best one.  I'd be campaigning for Vivian Westwood.

The winner of the Great British Bake Off final.  OK, I think I have almost certainly strayed from my "issues of critical national significance" remit.  Or maybe this is actually the most important one on the list?  Either way, let's stop. 

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Breastfeeding: how to stop (badly)

Duckling is now 27 months old (2 years and 3 months in less confusing terms). When he was seventeen months, I wrote a big long spiel about my trepidation towards stopping breastfeeding. Ten months on, we have finally given up. Or at least I have. Duckling hasn't quite grasped the "no more boobie" concept, and remains frustratingly keen on poinging one out and snaffling a slurp when I'm distracted or asleep.  He's remarkably sneaky and impressively dexterous, so essentially, he's still managing to get in 3-4 micro feeds every day, however much I tell him NO.

Anyway, it struck me that all the guides and fold out leaflets I've read from the NHS, NCT and the like, tell you how to start breastfeeding (nose to nipple ladies!), but NONE tell you how the hell to stop.  Which is probably why I've been so rubbish at it.  It's as though they don't wish to even mention stopping as a possibility, in case you decide to quit before that hallowed six-month mark (shock horror).  So, here is a not-very-scientific (due to the sample size of 'me') guide to withdrawing your melons from a reluctant toddler:

Go slow, don't set deadlines and don't force it unless you have no choice.  Some people have to give up suddenly for medical (or similar) reasons.  If that happens, it's crap but it is what it is and you do what you have to.  Where you have a choice though, it's always better to go slow, if just to avoid hideous mastitis.  Every child is different, and will have a different style of feeding and a different level of attachment to the breast. Some may drop it fairly quickly.  I know plenty of people who say "one day (s)he just wasn't interested any more". If that happens to you, then SUPER (unless of course you're not ready yourself).  We did not fall into this category.  At all.  As noted above, even though we have "officially" given up, Duckling's interest has not gone away. While I was cutting down (which has taken months), every feed dropped was bitterly contested and the slightest hint of giving up entirely was met with a total melt down.  So I've had to be patient.  Very, very patient.  Not just because I didn't want to put Duckling through unnecessary trauma (boobie was his world), but also because I knew I didn't have the resilience to cope with all the tears and tantrums and added sleep deprivation that would go with stopping cold turkey.  Breastfeeding was only really mildly irritating me, rather than all out ruining my life, and it also came with upsides (like five minutes peace, extra calorie burn and a happy toddler) so I eventually stopped making grand sweeping statements about "giving up by the time we went on holiday" etc. and just accepted it would take as long as it would take.

Be prepared to work at it.  Giving up when you have a boob monster will not just happen overnight.  You have to work at it and be braced to take two steps forward and one step back.  A lot. You also have to have considerable will power, which I am NOT blessed with.  I'm just too lazy I think.  In all honesty, if I hadn't given myself a good talking to and started saying 'no' (even when he was ill - which he is constantly), Duckling would still be feeding 10 times a day and most of the night, because it was almost always easier to just let him get on with it.  Easy in the short term does not equate to easy in the long term though, so as much as I say 'don't force it', you can't expect the "one day, I just knew (s)he was ready" moment to happen if you haven't put some groundwork in first.  It probably won't until they're at school (or then again it might - but there are no guarantees).

Use a reward approach, but don't expect it to be a magic solution.  I only finally achieved the current cessation(ish) after my first night away from Duckling.  I just instinctively felt he was going to be fine, and indeed, he was more than happy staying with Drake, and saw it as a bit of an adventure.  I realised it was now or never, so I told Duckling because he'd managed so well without boobie for his night with Daddy, I was confident he was old enough to stop altogether.  If he went whole week without it, he could have a little present.  This has led to a daily conversation at 5am (the last feed we dropped - when he comes into bed with us) that goes like this:

Duckling: I eat boobie now Mummy?*
Me: No.
Duckling; Oh. I love boobie
Me: I know darling, but you're a big boy now and you don't have boobie any more do you?
Duckling: I a big boy!  I have present now Mummy?
Me: Not yet Duckling. On Friday, when you've done a whole week of no boobie.
Duckling: Oh. Hmm. Excuse me Mummy, I eat boobie now actually please?
Me: NO Duckling! Go to back to sleep!
Duckling: Waaaaahhhhh!" (cue tears and vigorous - thwarted - breast extraction attempts.)

This conversation (or just the wailing) is repeated ad nauseum until around 6.30 am when I get fed up and go and make us toast.  I am a bit sleep deprived.  But I've not given in yet!

*Yes, I know this sounds a bit wrong, but no amount of "Actually, we say "Could I have some milk please Mummy?"" training seems to have had any impact.

Use humour.  Making the 'no boobie' thing a bit of a game seemed to work quite well with Duckling.  We played "hide the nipple" when he got grabby, and I distracted him with tickles endlessly.  It wasn't always successful - especially when I was not in a humorous mood - but it kept me from shouting at him all the time.

Try to ignore the "give up now" gang.  Also known as the "put yourself first for a change" or "He'll be fine!" crowd (or the more close-minded "Eww, breastfeeding a toddler is WEIRD! Bitty!  Bitty!" camp).  The WHO recommends breastfeeding until two or older (yay!  I've got my WHO breastfeeder's badge!) and the global average for giving up is about three, so worldwide norms are on your side, even if the post-six months breastfeeding rate in the UK is ridiculously low - probably because of all the pressure from the give up gang.  Only you will know when the time is right, so don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise, even if you know they have your best interests at heart (*ahem* mum and *ahem* husband).  You will just end up regretful and resentful, and it will make stopping infinitely harder too.

On the flipside, ignore the ardent "keep going" advocates.   If you have a good, healthy breastfeeding relationship with your child that isn't negatively affecting you, then it's all fine and lovely to keep going into your baby's second/third/forth year, or even beyond.  Lots of Mums do - hippy shakers and 9-5 money earners alike.   If the relationship has become about toddler power struggles, you're suffering indecent exposure in public places, or it's affecting your fertility or your mental / physical health  (I ticked all these boxes), then it's completely acceptable to stop however.  You may consider yourself a progressive, evidence based, 'keep it natural' Mum who puts her child's welfare first, but that doesn't mean you are obliged to go to breastfeeding extremes just to prove it.  Be pragmatic, not idealistic.

Be prepared for withdrawal to mess with your hormones, particularly if you stop suddenly. For me, dropping night feeds (the most significant ones to go) was enough to trigger a wide and colourful variety of "hormonal" symptoms including:
  • Some manner of irritable bowel syndrome / lactose intolerance
  • Nausea
  • Exhaustion
  • Random bouts of anxiety / depression / irritability
  • An odd bitter taste in my mouth
  • Itchy stretch marks
  • Small red itchy lumps on my hands (precursors to chilblains according to my chilblain-prone sister)
  • Hot flashes and low grade fevers.
I am still suffering now, though thankfully far less than I was.  This could of course all be entirely coincidental, but given that the symptoms began a few days after Duckling started consistently sleeping through until 4am and a couple of weeks before my first period in nearly three years (if that's not a sign of hormonal shift, I don't know what is), I suspect it's not.

_______

So that's it.  In summary, go slow, keep at it, ignore everyone else and DON'T STRESS ABOUT IT.  You will stop when you stop, and before you know it, breastfeeding will be a distant - and hopefully happy - memory.  I just wish I'd had this guide back in August...