When Congratulations aren’t in order…

Oatcake Adventures

When congratulations aren’t in order…

The news is out! The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her third child, (though I had my suspicions when she was admitted to hospital last week).. another royal baby? On the face of it, this is wonderful news.. so how come the most used reaction when I saw the news on Facebook was the ‘😢’ sad face?

Having connected this year with many other HG survivors, it’s clear that ‘congratulations’ isn’t the first word that springs to mind when a fellow sufferer announces their pregnancy. Choosing to face HG for a second time is a big decision, facing it for a third time is something so many women can never bring themselves to do. Facing the worst few months of your life, whilst having two little lives to nurture is an achievement to say the least! HG is going to hit the media big time…

View original post 72 more words

Advertisements

Breastfeeding

(Before you read this, please be aware that this is based on my own experience only. I am not a trained expert, and provide useful links at the end of the piece directing you to people who are. I also think that however you feed your baby is great, whether you’re doing breast or bottle; I’m of the opinion that fed is best. Keep on keeping on, and if this isn’t useful to you I hope I’ll write something else that will be).

It’s a thorny issue, how we choose (or are forced by circumstance) to feed our babies. I was very clear during my pregnancy that I wasn’t going to put myself through the wringer if breastfeeding was too hard. I’d had the most dreadful pregnancy I could have imagined that still had a healthy outcome, and I wanted to let myself off the hook. I felt roughly the same about it as I did about labour vs c-section; however it happens is how it happens. However, nobody beats themselves up quite like a mother.

It was a bit of a surprise to me that Arthur really took to breastfeeding. It was really interesting that he didn’t seem too bothered about what the kind, NHS midwives and breastfeeding experts had told us about how it was supposed to work. We got into the recovery room, lovely Mary the Midwife put the baby onto my chest and helped him to my nipple; and that was that. He was on. He didn’t ‘scoop a big mouthful of breast’ as we were told. He just opened his mouth and sucked. Of course, there was a little more to it later. That would be when I’d start second-guessing myself and wondering if I was doing it ‘right’. I suspect literally every mother with access to Dr. Google goes through that stage, however hard or easy they find it. And make no mistake, some people DO find it hard, but there is a lot of excellent help available.

“If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong”

This is one of the things spouted when I was pregnant that makes me a bit cross in retrospect. My friend summed it up best when she said “Some babies find it easy, some find it hard, but the reality is your nipples have gone from having nothing sucking on them for 24 hours a day to having something sucking on them for 24 hours a day, They’re going to be a bit sore.” This was absolutely the best advice I received. Yes, it can REALLY hurt if your baby is struggling to latch, and if that’s the case you need help, but to suggest you’ll just blithely experience absolutely no discomfort if you’re “doing it right” is rubbish. If your baby is producing wet nappies (and the occasional dirty one) you’re grand. Just keep trowelling on the Lanolin cream until this phase passes, which it will.

“If they can’t do it straight away you need to move on to formula”

Not unless they’re not producing nappies and they’re losing weight. Babies need to learn everything. They even need to learn this. Yes, it is instinct, but they’ve never done it before. If you’re committed to the idea of breastfeeding, keep going and keep feeding on demand.

“It’s called breastfeeding, not nipple feeding”

Right, so if I try to latch him onto the side of my breast, that’ll work, will it? I was so confused by this one. My husband and I spent that first day convinced Arthur was doing it wrong because he didn’t have a “big mouthful of breast”. Everyone who stopped by took one look at him, nodded and told us he had the measure of it. We couldn’t understand it. What had they all been going on about then?

It was only recently (7 months into breastfeeding) that I realised if I was away for a while and needed to relieve a bit of pressure that it was my nipple I should squeeze to get milk out. Literally, this happened last week. Up until then I’d been kneading the whole thing like I was making bread or something. I’m pretty ashamed of how long it took me to get this. I used to be quite bright.

“ You’re feeding him too much”

No, you’re not. You can’t. If he wants to feed, let him feed. It doesn’t matter if it’s because he’s hungry, or tired, or because he just wants comfort; WHO advice is to offer the breast if your baby cries. If they don’t take it, they’re not hungry. Just smile, nod, and tell the kind advice-offerer you’re following current guidelines (rather than those of 40 years ago, add that if you’re really fed up). It’s really important to understand that at the beginning, as one wise midwife put it, your baby is “putting his order in”. At the beginning there’s no proper milk, only colostrum, and so baby needs to spend ages at the breast. When your milk comes in (and my, isn’t that unpleasant, sorry ladies) it’s supposed to calm down a bit. In my experience, that meant Arthur went from feeding all through the night to maybe 70 per cent of it. It was fine. It was normal. I was just terrified that it wasn’t.

“You need to start her on solids”

There’s a lot of guff about this. I decided to start giving Arthur some solid food at 5 months, and almost immediately wished I hadn’t. He wasn’t ready. He had IGE Mediated Allergic reactions (red rash on his face) to pretty much everything at first, and I have been kicking myself for doing it ever since, because now I have something else to worry about. Now I’m worried that I’ve caused the intolerance by starting him on food early. Pretty much impossible, but hey, Mum Guilt. NHS advice now is that milk feeds are the most important way a baby gets nutrition until they’re 1 year old. If only I had trusted the good old NHS and really waited until I was sure. The bottom line here is you know your baby. Trust yourself, because you are the best expert here, even as a first-time mum. Nobody else has raised your baby, after all. There are babies that sleep round the clock, there are babies that barely nap. There are babies who walk at nine months, and there are babies who refuse to lift a hoof until 18 months. They are all different. Trust yourself, and if you need to, seek expert medical advice.

“You need to move on”

This is really a judgement call. I thought that once you hit six months and the baby miraculously took to eating like a pro, drinking out of a sippy cup as if swigging a pint of best bitter, you could just, you know, stop. Boy, was I naive.

Babies have to learn to do everything.

Arthur doesn’t really understand what the sippy cup is for. He likes the bright colours and enjoys putting it in his mouth the right way, but when the water comes out he jumps, amazed. What’s this stuff? Weird, wet stuff I have a bath in. What’s it doing in my mouth, then? Curious. Maybe I’ll just bash it against my high chair instead. Ooh, nice noise. Do you like, Mum?

Even just today, I got it in my head we needed to start giving him a bottle of formula to give me a bit of a break every now and then. Wouldn’t that be nice, I thought. Well, for starters he’s forgotten how to take a bottle so just chews the teat and squeezes it, and cries for boob. He also appears to have had The Reaction around his mouth, meaning I can add ‘dairy’ to the list of things to give a wide berth for a while. I called my Mum, expecting her to tell me to keep trying and it would be fine, but as ever, I was surprised.
“He’s a breastfed baby” she told me. “If it’s working, why would you change it?”

Why, indeed. Good luck with it everyone, and remember, there are a ton of really excellent places to go to for advice. Here are the best I’ve found.

http://kellymom.com/

https://abm.me.uk/ (Association of Breastfeeding Mothers)

https://www.laleche.org.uk/ (La Leche League UK)

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-first-days.aspx

http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/ (World Health Organisation)

 

 

 

 

 

Babies and Holidays

We’ve just done a two-part holiday in Cornwall and Devon with the Little Droid, and it was fun (and exhausting). For context, our first place was a Yurt on a family campsite, the second an Air BnB flat. For our first go we decided to take it easy (ish) and stick with the UK, heading to sunny Devon and Cornwall in the family chariot  Here are my top tips. Some are specific to the type of holiday, but point one is a must wherever you go!

Washing Machine And Drier

Staying​ anywhere longer than four days? You really, really need this. You know how much washing you get through now? That doesn’t holiday when you do, sadly. If you can’t manage this, a launderette nearby is a must. In fact, that’s even more use than a place with a washer and no drier; as we had in our second place with no outside space to dry stuff. Then you just have a load of damp washing hanging around in a poorly ventilated flat.

Buggy Access

We really didn’t think about this. Not even one bit. We stayed in a place with steep steps up to the front door, which was doable but very annoying and turned popping out for some milk into a major performance. I think someone should have filmed us huffing and puffing our way up those steps with a 20lb kid and a load of shopping. All part of the fun!

Proximity To Shops

This was where our second place bested the first. We were minutes from everywhere, including the all-important launderette.

Highchair And Cot

Sounds obvious, but you’re going to need these unless your baby isn’t weaning yet and you’re seasoned co-sleepers who can fit in a normal-sized double bed. You may be able to hire either or both, but if you’re hiring then do remember a comfy mattress for the travel cot. They generally come with ones that are OK for one or two nights but not brilliant for longer. See also;

Space For The Cot

In the massive yurt this was no issue. In the flat we had to double up the living room as the baby’s room as both of the bedrooms were too small for the cot. This wasn’t ideal as it meant we had to leave baby sleeping on the bed in our room if we wanted to watch a bit of telly or, you know, talk.

Parking Nearby

If you’re driving, this is an absolute solid gold must. We spent every day at our second location playing free car park hopscotch. It was a massive bore.

Don’t Over Pack

No matter how much I try, I always pack too much. This time we had loads of unworn clothes between me and Husband. Mainly because we were washing as we went!

You can’t really over pack for a baby though. Unless you take a snowsuit in June. We had about a million bibs and still ran out. I was attaching flannels and towels to the poor child in the end. 

Long Car Journeys

Our boy is a remarkably good car traveller. He very rarely gets cross at being stuffed in his car seat. So it came as quite a shock when, on the journey home, he set up a grim, teeth-rattling wail that would have woken the dead. We ended up stopping at three consecutive service stations, skipped the next then stopped at another. Two hours were added to the journey. We hadn’t been faced with fed-up-of-the-car Arthur before; but then we realised.

We did the outward journey at night.

It was great. A sleeping baby and a very quick run. No problems at all. In future we’ll be doing it this way on the way back, too! At least until he learns how to say “Are we nearly there yet?”

Camping Vs Holiday Flat

Let’s be clear, now. It wasn’t really camping. If you’ve electricity, a heater, fridge, microwave and a proper bed, it just isn’t really. It was lovely though, a great big room, loads of space for Arthur to roll around in and the outside basically inside. The massive, massive downside is that with only one room (we had been mistakenly led to believe there were two on the website), bedtime was a challenge. But then, for us, bedtime is always a challenge. Arthur doesn’t​ do bedtime anyway, being a party baby, so really it was business as usual. With a couple of extra tantrums (from me). The other downside was the night it blew a gale. But we’ll gloss over that.

The flat wasn’t ideal for our purposes, I won’t lie. If we could have added a tumble drier, garden, assigned parking and a second bedroom with room for a cot (this time Arthur was in the living room as the second room was entirely bed so again, not ideal), it would have been great. What was irritating is that the cot space situation wasn’t clear from the flat blurb, and we didn’t know to ask. 

However, it did have a proper bath and en suite shower, always a bonus, and it meant we could give Arthur a proper bath. We were also moments from everywhere which was fantastic. No need to drive to the shops, and we had a lovely time pushing Arthur along the Quayside with lots of people commenting on his angelic demeanour. He gets his acting skills from me.

Whatever you’re doing for your holidays; UK trip, abroad, or just a nice week at home, have a great time. And take lots more pictures. As if you needed telling!

Manchester

This morning I wanted to get my thoughts down about what happened in Manchester. Writing has always been the best mode of communication for me, and helps me make sense of things. It’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun sharing it with others. I know that the only people who will read this are my friends, and will forgive any half-formed thoughts.

Having Arthur sometimes feels as though I’ve been given the keys to the great, vast secrets of the universe. After four years of the toothache of infertility, this little boy’s smile cracks me open with the force of a hundred suns. It is mind blowing. You know those moments when you feel at peace with everything, at one, you don’t know what with and you can’t explain it? Those moments when you feel that maybe God really does exist? I have those daily now. It is overwhelming. And along with the love and peace and wonder comes something different, and darker.

Fear.

I know now what it must feel like to have a child caught up in something like that. The heart-stopping, gut-wrenching horror of it. To not know they are safe. I have always loved the children I teach, and I have always been able to imagine it. Now I know. There is nothing I can do, or say to make things better, but I grieve with those parents and all I can do is try not to feel it too much, because it is not helpful, it solves and changes nothing. I also know that the bomber was a boy once. A baby who giggled and rolled and cried and needed his parents, just like mine. And that’s perhaps the worst thing of all. That I feel for him too, and for his family, even though I will never understand his actions.

But after all that, under all that, is compassion. The beauty of humanity, the very best of us is always seen just after these all-too frequent events. The vigil in Manchester, Tony Walsh’s beautiful poem, the cab drivers who ferried people from the venue for free and helped distraught parents find their kids. The outpouring of love on social media.

So, today, I’m going to try a few things that might help me with finding my own compassion.

If I see something on social media that makes me angry, I am not going to reply. Hate breeds hate, and if I comment on it my friends and family will see it. I will put down the phone, close the laptop. I will choose to see only the wonderful things the internet brings us. I will go for a walk and look at the summer leaves. I will tickle my son and revel in his laugh. In this way, I will be kind.

If I find myself getting too sad about the news, I’ll turn it off. I’ll call my husband, or Mum, or a friend. I’ll take my son to a cafe and mingle with other people, the good ones. I’ll listen to good music and read meaningful poetry. In this way, I will be wise.

I love Manchester. I have so many happy memories of that metropolis. Choosing my piano and flute from Forsyth’s. Affleck Palace. The fountain near Victoria Station students used to fill with bubble bath. That bar where they serve cocktails in goldfish bowls. Long boozy lunches and Christmas shopping with my friend Ben. Those things are all still there, and always will be.

Today, I will head out into my own beloved city with my lipstick on, my head held high and my little son in his sling. Because that’s all any of us can really do. Humanity is terrible, but also beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Stretch Marks and Scars

I was 35 when Arthur was born which had never been my intention. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of those people with a “plan” to have two kids by 30 or anything, but I sort of thought it would be earlier (and easier) than this.

Having said that, being an older prima gravida does have some advantages. A lot of friends and family had their babies quite a while ago, so I’d already changed my fair share of nappies. I’d also heard a lot of truthful birthing stories, so my Birth Plan was basically “Get the baby out without killing either of us and we’re cool”. No home water births for us. I read the hypnobirthing book with a healthy dose of scepticism. (Read: I giggled like a loon at the idea of my atheist joker of a husband reading aloud the visualisations during birth. I thought it might give us a laugh though).

One of the most interesting personal developments to come out of all of this though is a genuine respect for my own body. The media likes to bang on about getting one’s “figure back” or being your “pre-birth weight”. Honestly I’ve realised that in the heat of parenting, when you got up more times in the night than an elderly incontinent, a bit of sugar is the least you deserve. I was back to my “pre-birth weight” pretty quickly, but that’s mainly because of HG and the fact I wasn’t skinny to begin with thanks to four years of comfort eating. My post-natal body is quite something.

My breasts are hilarious. Huge, saggy, stretch-marked and one is at least two cup sizes bigger than the other. My husband regularly sings “Hooray, up she rises/She’s got breasts of different sizes” when I wander round nude. Which I do all the time now, because I just Do Not Care. So liberating.

My belly has a lot going on, too. I remember thinking I’d got away without stretch marks until after the birth when I finally dared to look in the mirror. Ah. There they are then. I don’t really mind them at all now, despite my obsessive use of products to keep them at bay while pregnant (newsflash: these work about as well as wrinkle or cellulite creams).

I love my c-section scar. I think it’s cool, like a tattoo or piercing. Sadly it’s not visible thanks to the overhanging spongy flesh. I won’t be wearing bikinis any time soon, but honestly I didn’t wear them before anyway.

I’ve called a truce with my body. We’re OK now. I’m unlikely to ever be a size 10 ever again and that’s fine. I recently watched an old family home movie on which 13-year old me was chasing around after my little brothers and cousins. I already had a big bottom. It was a revelation, frankly.

The really important thing to me now is health. After 9 months of throwing up every day, you stop taking that for granted. My body managed to grow a baby despite the fact I was barely feeding it. It has, in turn, fed that baby for six whole months. It can already walk long distances again, as well as perform complicated yoga routines. My body has healed itself admirably. Food is wonderful now; rather than restricting what I eat because I want to be smaller, I’m eating what I want because I can. I’m still enjoying food far too much to stop eating chips just yet. HG is great for perspective on dieting.

My body and I have always been wary allies. I’ve never loved it. But now? Now I think it’s amazing. 

6 Months

Yesterday marked half a year since Arthur was born. 

We’re past those newborn days. They were amazing and impossible and hilarious. We’ve had to learn how to be parents and get to know our boy. I thought I’d mark the occasion by writing him a letter. 

Dear Artoo (I call you this because R2-D2 has always been my favourite Star Wars character. Like him you’re brave, clever, and indispensable to the adventure)

You’re getting big. So big, in fact, that I’m starting to have to strain the 6-9 month vests and sleepsuits over your bottom. You have a sharp little tooth sticking out of your lower gum, only just through but it’s there. You’ve got a new cry that I think means “I’m bored, change it up” but I can’t quite be sure yet. Your hungry cry and tired cry are VERY clear now. You can sit without me holding you (although you still pitch to one side like a drunken sailor on deck, and once threw yourself backwards and gave your Dad a real fright), and you can roll. A lot. You’re working on the crawling which is more like a face slide with your bum in the air, but it’s coming along, and you chat to us all the time. These are all the obvious things that everyone does; you’ve also got some of your own going on too. 

1. In the bath you reject all toys except the little purple cup I use to rinse your hair. I have no idea why, but it’s your beloved. 

2. Cuddly toys aren’t really what you want when you go to sleep. You like to rub a muslin all over your face and clutch it with your chubby little hands instead. 

3. You always start laughing with what I call your “Roland Rat” laugh (look him up, he was 80s awesome) before the belly laughing. It’s the only way I can describe it. 

4. You adore your Daddy, and spend ages every morning gazing at him, chatting and grabbing his nose and beard.

5. You love books.  LOVE them. You’ve been turning the pages by yourself since you were four months, but now you’re finding it easier to do that without shouting at the book at the same time.

Over the next six months we’ve got some exciting things going on. Your first holiday with me and Daddy, our party with the other November Babies and another little cousin coming your way too. Tomorrow is your very first Eurovision Song Contest! I’m very much hoping you’ll be asleep for it, but still. 

In the future there’ll be babysitters, nursery, family, friends. Right now it’s all about the three of us. Because I can feed you with my boobs I get to keep you to myself, and if I’m honest that’s pretty fantastic. I’m not ready for anyone except Daddy to have you yet. We’re a team, the three of us. I’m clearly Han and Dad is Chewbacca.

I often ponder just how unlikely you are, my brave little droid. When me and your Dad went to the clinic I got the date wrong. I was so upset, thinking I’d blown it by taking my last injection at the wrong time, but they ended up managing to collect 13 eggs the next day. I’ll always wonder if you were the 13th egg, the one that might never have been if I hadn’t got the day wrong. Did you hear me when I told you to grab on? Of course not… but you did anyway. You wanted to be born, or at least that’s how I’ve always seen it. If your Dad and I had gone for IVF sooner, if we’d had kids without help, if scientists hadn’t invented IVF in the first place, if your grandparents had never met, if me and Daddy never met; it’s just the most unlikely cosmic chain of events really. 

Yet here you are. 

Thanks for picking us. 

Love Mum xxx

Rocking Motherhood?

About three weeks ago I was tagged by the lovely Ellie of @howtogrowaperson (find her lovely blog here). The idea was for mum bloggers to write about ten things they’re doing to rock motherhood.

I must confess, I’m a little stumped. Most days I’m 100% faking it.  However, over on our amazing Facebook group we have a lovely tradition we call WWRT? (What Went Right Today?) so I’ve decided to take that as my inspiration.

  1. Arthur seems to be thriving. He’s getting bigger, smiling, giggling and interacting all the time. What could be better than that?
  2. I’m still managing to get up, showered and dressed every day, and put on my all-important make-up. There are a lot of things I’ m not doing, including working on my idea for a novel or on this blog, but let’s gloss over that. I’m looking after a baby, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. I’m using my bullet journal again, which is making me feel way more organised.
  4. I’m participating in WWRT every single day and saving my posts to a google doc with a picture for every day. I realised it was ridiculous that I was worrying that I wasn’t keeping a record of Arthur’s first year, because I was already doing it and I could easily save it and look back over it using the magic of google docs. Now we can both look back over it in years to come. Google ain’t going anywhere.
  5. I’m finally managing to use the sling for proper trips rather than just round the house. That’s a massive step forward for me as it’s taken me a really long time to feel even slightly like my old self after pregnancy and my c-section.
  6. On a similar note, I’m now doing yoga every day. It’s making a huge difference to my physical and mental health.
  7. After a brief (one night) flirtation with the idea of combi-feeding (because I thought formula was the magic ticket for an unbroken night’s sleep), I’ve accepted that Artoo just wakes up in the night. He’s back to boob only. This too shall pass.
  8. We’re reading more books together. Arthur loves to hold his board books, turn the pages and gnaw on them. We don’t always finish a story, but that’s not the point at the moment!
  9. I’m taking loads of photos of Artoo and his Dad napping together. They do it a lot in the early mornings when I’m yoga-ing or showering, and it’s gorgeous. I have pictures of them sleeping together from our first day home from hospital, and it’s my little tradition now. I’m looking forward to making a collage for the wall or a picture book.
  10. Most days we make it out of the house. Winning.

Wonderprods For New Parents

I’ve been promising a pregnant friend of mine I would write this post for quite some time now! There is so much baby stuff out there now. Some of it’s good, some bad, and a lot is overpriced. I’ll happily share what’s worked for us in the first (nearly) five months, but it’s worth bearing in mind that babies are all different! Little so-and-sos. Some of these products are cheap and some expensive, but I’ll tell you if I think you could save your money and not bother. I’m not sponsored by any of these people. Chance would be a fine thing.

Before I start, the best thing you can possibly do as a new mum is to get on Mumsnet and find the baby group for your month. More often than not someone sets up a Facebook group. Mine is my lifeline. These women are my friends, confidantes and more than made up for not being able to do NCT as we meet up monthly, sometimes more. There are women on there from all over the world and it is BRILLIANT. I’m sure there’s something similar for Dads, but I haven’t investigated.

These are in no particular order!

  1. Sleepyhead https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleepyhead-Deluxe-Months-Pristine-White/dp/B00ACK676E/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469023&sr=1-1&keywords=sleepyhead

This was a Godsend in the first three months. It’s pretty spendy for what it is, and I think there are cheaper things out there that do the same job, but just so you know about it. Arthur, like all babies, was teeny tiny when he was born. Even the small side sleeper cot we had at the time seemed huge to him. He didn’t really take to swaddling as he’s always loved being able to wave his arms around, so this was the expensive solution to the problem. It made him feel nice and cosy and cocooned, and improved his sleep almost immediately.

2. Ewan https://www.amazon.co.uk/ewan-the-dream-sheep%C2%AE-grey/dp/B011CCMOTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469196&sr=1-1&keywords=ewan

If anyone asks you what you’d like as a present, say this. In the first few weeks of a baby’s life they are pretty confused about where they are and what the hell is going on. This little sheep is a bit of a hero as he emits a glow similar to that baby would have seen in the womb, and he makes comforting noises. However…

3. FREE THING ALERT: White noise app

We have the app ‘Baby Sleep Sounds’ on our phones, and an old phone for when we need ours. Basically white noise works way better than lullabies and helps baby stay sound asleep when you’re still crashing around. Use liberally for naps and bedtime. The great thing about this is it’s completely free as long as you have a smart phone, and when Ewan no longer works (around month 3 for us) you can use this to great effect as you can get it much LOUDER, which is what baby needs at this point. Don’t ask me why, it just seems to work.

4. Side Sleeper Cot

My son is enormous and grew out of his by the start of his fourth month, but this was amazing in the beginning. There are a few versions out there, but it means baby feels the security of being next to you, and you’ll feel good about not having to get out of bed eleventy million times in the night. Be careful of your back when twisting and lifting though.

5. Red Kite Travel Cot

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Kite-Sleeptight-Travel-Black/dp/B001CMB2KC/ref=sr_1_3?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469564&sr=1-3&keywords=travel+cot

So this is what we’re using now so that Arthur can stay in our room until six months. This is brilliant, lightweight and approved by Mumsnet Grandmas. I first used one when staying at my parents and realised how much Arthur loved it, preferred it, in fact, to the side sleeper by this time. I figured for £35 plus a decent mattress it was worth it since we’d use it for travel all the time. Arthur LOVES it and starfishes out like a good’un. He also loves lying in it to play as it doubles as a play pen, and he rolls around cooing and playing with his feet. Also good for putting him in for nudey time before his bath. Babies LOVE being naked when they get a bit bigger.

6. The Haakaa (for breastfeeders)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Haakaa-Silicon-Breast-Pump/dp/B01KMSQC8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469806&sr=1-1&keywords=haakaa

WARNING: Do NOT waste your money on bottles and breast pumps before baby arrives if you’re planning to breastfeed. If you’re feeling anxious, get a self-sterilising MAM bottle (only one please, you won’t need any more at first). Take it from me; if you manage to successfully breastfeed it’ll be a massive waste of money, and if you don’t you can always get stuff when baby arrives. Important to know that NOT ALL BABIES WILL TAKE ALL TEATS. Seriously. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I’d know this. And if anyone wants some unused Tommee Tippees, give me a shout.

The Haakaa is pure witchcraft. As a breastfeeder, I wanted Arthur to be able to take a bottle if I needed to, you know, leave the house without him. We had an electric pump and a manual, but neither of them yielded much. The Haakaa is so easy. You just pop it on to one breast whilst you feed on the other and you get LOADS. And it’s really cheap. I love it and the £50 pump languishes in a drawer.

7. Massive Muslins

There are a few companies that make good ones, but my Mum picked mine up from TK Maxx. They’re made by an Australian company called Little Green. You can, however, find them on Amazon if you look for ‘mega’ or ‘giant’ muslins. Honestly, I hate using smaller ones. These double up as a bib and a nursing cover at the same time, and as a blanket in the summer. Arthur also loves to play with them and use them as a teething toy or snuggle blanket. In terms of feeding, I’m no longer bothered about getting a boob out in public, but I have a tendency to spray (ahem) if a distracted baby lets go. This stops my milk from hitting my dining companion in the eye. Top tip: Never get muslins that are completely white in colour. Trust me. They have a shelf life of five minutes.

8. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuddles-Collection-Twinkle-Nursing-Pillow/dp/B0173WU0PM/ref=sr_1_4?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491470600&sr=1-4&keywords=nursing+pillow

These are just great, and so cheap. They’re fab for something to prop everyone up when feeding, and great for sticking the baby on to keep them safe for a minute or two whilst you leave the room (you will be able to eventually, I promise). When baby is first starting to sit up these are great for support too. Arthur’s in his next to me on the sofa right now, kicking me in the ribs.

9. EXPENSIVE THING ALERT

http://www.pramworld.co.uk/brand/uppababy/uppababy-baby-prams-from-birth

Prams/buggies/travel solutions are very personal, and you really must go to a retailer and try them all out. Promise me you will. We had a very good piece of advice and went to Winstanley’s Pramworld in Orrell, Lancs and we landed on this one. The Cruz is light enough for city living, more manoeuvrable than any of the others we tried, and works for me (5’2) and husband (6’4). It’s amazing, and I can even get it up the ridiculous steps at the front of our house with no issues. The basket at the bottom is massive, too. Whatever you go for, I completely recommend Pramworld as they deliver nationwide and have a great website, and do bulk deals including car seats and carry cots. Be careful with second hand prams, and all advice is not to get a second hand car seat.

10. GAME CHANGER

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Baby-Products/Ergobaby-baby-carrier-collection-bundle/B01JG0FF18/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1491471170&sr=8-2&keywords=ergo+360

I had very few expectations of birth and motherhood. I’m an older mum (36) and have watched friends and relatives go through the stress of making a ‘birth plan’ and wanting to breastfeed and ending up with emergency c-sections and formula feeding. Babies do not work to your plan. Ever. YOU have to be flexible, and be prepared that all of your dearest hopes might come crashing down around your ears.

Although my birth plan was ‘get the kid out’ and thus my EMCS didn’t really bother me the way I know it does some people, I was really committed to the idea of baby wearing. I wanted to be the mum who could throw her baby effortlessly into a sling, grab a light backpack and off we’d go to explore the city.

Yeah. When someone has cut open your core muscles with a scalpel, and you weren’t able to do any exercise for nine months because of HG, lugging a baby around in a sling is almost impossible. But oh, how I tried! I have been given no less than three different slings as well as being bought one, but nothing has actually worked until I stumbled upon a bag of jumble outside someone’s house with the Ergobaby 360 sitting on top. I know, right?

It’s BRILLIANT. The Ergo style carrier is best for babies as it supports their hips properly rather than leaving them to dangle, and it supports you properly too. I have an ergo original with a newborn insert which my best friend gave me and I loved this too, but the great thing about the 360 is that you can turn baby around to face outwards which they LOVE when they’re old enough. I carry Arthur happily now, making sure I take rest days when I need to. He’s a heavy lump.

 

Whew. That is one LONG post. Sorry everyone. Hope it was useful! Next time; gifts for new babies and their parents.

 

 

 

 

Have you tried ginger?

After four years of trying and a tough round of IVF I was finally pregnant. It was one of the best moments of my entire life, but I already knew I was thanks to the dreams I’d had all night long. Positive after positive. My body was trying to tell my mind. To finally get that result on the stick, to be able to rush into the bedroom and tell my husband “You’re going to be a daddy!” was just wild. I’ve never been so happy. We had a week of celebrating, opting to tell people rather than do the cautious wait as most of the family knew we were having IVF treatment. I think it’s something that should be discussed, not hidden away.

But that’s a story for another time.

Today I want to talk about what happened after the pregnancy test. After the euphoria. Today I want to talk about Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

We had a week of joy. Endlessly talking about the baby, what we’d do, where we’d live. Our best man came to stay for the night and shared the news that his wife, too, was expecting. We celebrated with pizza and toasted each other’s good fortune.

And then I got sick.

This wasn’t just morning sickness. This couldn’t be cured with ginger biscuits and eating little and often. This was absolutely off-the-charts vomiting. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, could barely move. All I could think about was the little life inside me, trying to survive whilst I puked and puked. At the end of my sixth week of pregnancy I ended up in A&E with severe dehydration. The hospital gave me a couple of bags of fluid and sent me home. By now I was on the entry-level drug for HG, cyclizine. It didn’t even touch it. Thankfully, an emergency scan showed the little heartbeat that was already going like the clappers, so we knew things were OK with the baby. But while he was cooking away, I couldn’t share a bed with my husband any more because his smell (I couldn’t believe how strongly he smelled all of a sudden) made me sick. We couldn’t even hug each other for comfort during those frightening days.

It was when I started vomiting blood that we got really scared. I remember a real low point. I was still trying desperately to struggle into work. I’d vomited on the train into a bag, then continued to vomit on the 20 minute walk from the station to the school where I worked. I just didn’t know how I could carry on. In the end I went on long-term sick leave, something I had never even considered I would need to do just for being pregnant. Over the course of six admissions to hospital, drips, overnight stays, chemo-strength anti-emetics and eventually steroids, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was a serious illness. On one overnight stay my mum lost count of how many bags of fluid they’d given me at 12.

By the 16th week of my pregnancy I had lost ten pounds in weight. I know that that was partially down to the vomiting, but also loss of muscle tone. I wasn’t able to move, so I was literally wasting away. On a visit to my parents’ in Lancashire, I was hospitalised again and found out for the first time what proper care looked like instead of being patted on the head and sent on my way.

By August I’d had a few ‘good’ days. My childhood friend (also my husband’s cousin) was getting married. He means the world to me, and I was determined to go. It turned out to be the final straw. I woke in the night shivering uncontrollably, and the vomiting started again. The next day, my husband drove me back to Lancashire and I transferred all of my care there. Away from the stews and smells of boiling hot London, cared for as an invalid by my parents, I made as much progress as I was ever going to. Thanks to my parents and the staff of Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, who finally prescribed the steroids I should have been given weeks earlier, I started to have a few vomit free days. I was still weak and terribly nauseous, but the worst had finally passed. By this time I was seven months pregnant. Without the drugs I was taking, managed carefully by my GP, there was no way I would have got to this point.I can’t imagine how I would have coped without the incredible support I received from my family; my brother even gave up a week of his holiday to care for me while my parents were away.

I’m really, really glad that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is in the news at present. People need to know about it, especially employers, and to understand that it is a real and debilitating condition. It makes me, and the other women I know who suffered, incredibly sad and angry that the BBC still saw fit to refer to it over and over again as ‘severe morning sickness’. That condition is bad enough, but HG is something else entirely.

 

I look at my beautiful, amazing 3 month old son and I’m so grateful that our fertility treatment worked, and we were able to bring him into the world with the help of the NHS, my parents and parents-in-law. But as to ever trying for another, I simply cannot imagine putting myself, my husband, and most importantly my son through it. We’d need more fertility treatment too, so it’s pretty much a non-starter. I know I’m not on my own in feeling this way. 

 I’d like to thank my parents, husband, in-laws, staff of the Albert Edward Infirmary for their amazing care of me and my baby Arthur. I’d also like to thank my head of department and headteacher, who were unfailingly supportive and understanding. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please encourage them to seek help from the wonderful women at www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk, where I found out what my care should be and found the strength to demand it.

The Scent of Nostalgia

Smell is our most powerful sense, linked completely with memory. Nothing can transport me back to a time and place like a particular aroma. It just does. Here are a few of my favourites, guaranteed to bring me comfort. I’d love to hear about yours, too. 

Channel No. 5

I’m starting with a big one. I grew up in the 80’s, and back then we weren’t the disposable nation we are now. Things were treasured, used and mended because we had a lot less stuff, and posh scents were a serious luxury. My uncle was a commander in the Royal Navy at the time, and he would always bring my Mum a gift when he came to stay. Sometimes a string of shells as a necklace, or a sarong, or a little bottle of Chanel. Mum only wore it on very special occasions, like Christmas or anniversaries. I would sneak into my parents’ bedroom, find the bottle on her dressing table, open the velvety cardboard box, stick my little nose in and inhale. I never dared spray myself with it; even back then I knew that this was a very precious scent for grown-up ladies. I was transported back to that time last week when I stayed with my parents-in-law. In the guest bedroom where we were sleeping, my mother-in-law had laid out some nice toiletries, including an atomiser of Chanel No. 5. I realised as I took that delicious forbidden sniff that I had never actually dared to wear it, and that aged 36 and with a three-month old son I might just qualify now. Reader, I wore it. It was delicious. 

McDonald’s and stale beer

Yeah, I know. I know! But hear me out. I have had all the jobs. All of them. I’ve worked since I was fifteen years old, and I tried my hand at a lot of things. One of my favourite jobs was when I was at sixth form college and a bunch of us got jobs at the local Maccy Ds. We had such a good laugh, made some drinking money and mostly spent it having nights out with each other. Every time I pass behind a McDonald’s I can smell that sweet, slightly rancid smell of discarded fat, and it takes me right back. 

The beer thing is similar. Once at university in London, I got a job waitressing at The Anchor Bankside, a lovely old pub that prides itself on being the ‘Second Oldest Pub in London’. Couldn’t tell you which is the actual oldest. When we’d finished a shift (around 11.30pm, no late opening in those days), we’d all meet downstairs in the bar and drink as many pints as we wanted. The scent of old beer, centuries of the stuff sunk into the floorboards, always seemed to me a heady scent of adulthood, nights out and fun.

Oil of Olay (Ulay) Original Beauty Fluid

I still use this stuff. I adore it. It sinks into thirsty skin so well, works on my fairy reactive face and smells absolutely divine. It smells of Mum, and the 80s again. There are plenty of more advanced formulas to be had; there even were back then, but nothing quite touches it for that gorgeous, warm, feminine, pink smell. I slather it all over my hands and arms every night and go to sleep with it in my nostrils. 

The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

Ah, The Body Shop. A teenage girl’s dream shop. Lovely, well-mannered products aimed directly at me, with ethically sourced ingredients and nothing tested on animals. It was a wonderful place, and I would always stop in when I went on the bus to Preston with my friends. There were a lot of classic smells there. The lunatic perfumes spring to mind; Dewberry was my favourite, and White Musk will forever remind me of my piano teacher who spritzed it liberally. However, nothing can transport me back to that time like Satsuma Shower Gel. I love that they still make it. It was the one thing from that wonderful shop that Mum and I agreed on, and I bought some the other day just to see if it was still as good. I used it as a bath foam and oh my goodness, it was just as delicious as ever. 

Oven Pizza and Chips

Friday night. A new episode of Friends, pizza and chips in the oven. Pure 90s. 

Imperial Leather

The only soap in our house at one time. See also; Coal Tar. 

Yves Saint Laurent “In Love Again”

In 1998 I went on the French exchange from my Sixth Form College. It was utterly fantastic for a number of reasons, not least of which was that a snagged a gorgeous French boyfriend who looked like David Beckham, complete with blonde curtains. I also remember it as the holiday when I bought my first bottle of foundation (Bourjois, if you’re interested. That smelled amazing too). On one of the days we did a day trip to Paris. It was the day I began my lifelong love affair with the city that continues to this day. In one of the many, many shops we went into I was given a free sample of this wonderful perfume and always associate it with youth, love and PARIS. 

A few years later, well into my twenties and long after my bottle of ILA had run out and the perfume had been discontinued, I was shopping with my Mum on one of London’s department stores. We were just approaching the perfume department when I caught an unmistakable whiff. “Mum!!!” I yelled. “I’m sure that’s ‘In Love Again’!” Mum had always understood my love of this perfume and, I believe, was the person who bought my first bottle of it. That day I bought two, and still have a little bit left. 

It’s available again from the ‘Heritage’ collection at YSL for the princely sum of £77. It was always about £30 in my day!

What are the scents that send you hurtling back to a time and place? Tell me, you might remind me of one!