Hiccups!

Oh my goodness! Emily is having a hiccupy day. I hate these days as it makes for one grumpy baby and one irritated mummy. 

Dan is a hiccupy sort of person too, but mostly when he is drunk. I don’t know how many times we’d be walking back from a night out with a pizza or a Chinese and he’d be hiccuping so loudly that I was genuinely concerned he’d get an ASBO for disturbing the peace. They aren’t just subtle ones either, they engage his whole body. This was particularly annoying once we were home and I was trying to get to sleep and I’ve got that going on next to me. That’s how I knew I should marry him. If we were still together after a hiccup bout then it was definitely love. 

  
(Not the sort of hiccup I was talking about. Thanks Google image search.)

I knew Emily had inherited this ‘genetic weakness’ before she was born. Every night from about six months pregnant she would get the hiccups just as I was going to bed. This ain’t great when her head is already pushing against your bladder. Cue getting up for a wee repeatedly. 

She had hiccups in the very early days too. I remember writing in the log book that we kept of all her feeds, wees and poos that she had had hiccups and that’s why she had been fed again. Back then it was cute though. Seeing a two day old baby doing the tiniest of hiccups was so sweet. I felt sorry for her, because hiccups aren’t fun. 

One of the most annoying places Emily has had hiccups has been during her swimming lessons. If they’ve got hiccups they’re not allowed to do any underwater stuff and that’s the good bit! She had them for the whole lesson one time and I sulked for the rest of the day. Those swimming lessons don’t come cheap. I could have sworn she was putting them on too, because just as I said “Ooh Emily, it’s time to do some underwater swimming” she hiccuped. 

Anyway today has been a hiccupy day. She has had at least half hour of hiccups between each feed. She seems indifferent to them at first but after a while she gets in a right old strop. That’s when I have to work my socks off to distract from them. Hiccups are bloody knackering!

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A side room with a view?

  
This is the first picture I ever took of Emily and I love it! It’s my little family all in one chair for the very first time. It makes me melt. The only things that I don’t like about this picture are those curtains in the background. 

I believe those curtains will forever haunt my nightmares. The weird leafy bits and the multicoloured squiggles; I mean they are not nice curtains but this isn’t why I don’t like them. I don’t like them because I spent five days looking at them from a hospital bed with my baby in a Perspex cot next to me. Those five days were the most emotionally challenging days I have ever experienced. 

After Emily was born we were allowed to spend some time in delivery suite. I think that the reason for this was because we both needed medication. Emily had to be taken across to NICU to have a cannula put in, receive her first dose of antibiotics and to have her blood sugar levels checked. That happened at about 5pm the day she was born. I was under observation owing to the fact that I’d just had a caesarean, needed pain relief for the surgery and antibiotics for my infection. It was all a bit crazy. At about 9:30/10:00pm we were taken over to the maternity ward.

Visitors aren’t allowed to stay on the maternity ward after 9:00pm. This included my husband who, promptly after taking us over to the ward, had to leave. I found this upsetting, because this was not how I expected our family life to start out. Emily and I stuck in hospital whilst Dan goes home to an empty house. I don’t know who I feel more sorry for now. Anyway this left me in a busy ward, in a 6 bed bay with 12 people in it. I had a catheter and a drain in, plus I was still plumbed into some drugs too. Emily had her hand strapped up so her cannula wouldn’t dig in and was in a plastic box beside me. With the bed raised I could just about reach over to pick Emily up for a feed but it was difficult. 

That first night was a bit of a blur. I still had a fair amount of drugs in me and they were giving me liquid morphine for the pain. I slept very little as I spent much of the night being woken up. This is a list of the things I was woken up for: to check if I’d eaten, to check I was drinking, to give me liquid morphine, to give me other oral drugs, to give me IV antibiotics, to check my blood pressure, to check my temperature, to check Emily’s heart rate, to check Emily’s breathing rate, to feed Emily (which was her waking me up not a midwife for a change), to change Emily’s nappy (again she woke me up but I had to call a midwife over to do that), to check when Emily last fed and to take Emily to NICU for her antibiotics. Some of these happened several times during the night and I’m certain none of them happened at the same time. Now here’s a list of other stuff I woke up for but didn’t have to: every time someone in my bay turned their light on, every time someone pressed their buzzer, every time someone else’s baby was hungry or needed a nappy change, and trapped wind. Now if I told you that I went to sleep at about 11pm and woke up at about 6am, and then you try to fit all those things in in varying quantities in between there’s actually not a lot of time left for sleep. However I barely felt tired the next day. I think I running on adrenaline (and drugs). 

That first full day in hospital was very weird when I look back at it. We had visits from our parents and Dan’s sister, which was lovely. But I also had to deal with having my catheter and drain taken out. Neither of these were particularly pleasant experiences. The removal of the drain still makes me shudder now. It wasn’t painful; it was odd. There were visits from doctors, midwives, MCAs, physiotherapists, paediatricians and audiologists. All had various bits of information to tell me. Some wanted me, others Emily. We had most of the same things going on in the day as we had had all night. Many people checked that feeding was going well and asked about my nipples. Answer: sore!

It was on that first day that we were told that if all went well we’d be home in three days. They said they had a couple of tests to do on Emily and if they came back good then we’d be out soon enough. One of the tests was for meningitis or something similar and the other was to check that the antibiotics were working. We would have to wait 24 hours for the results but I could handle that at the time. 

The second night was worse. New people had arrived in the ward that day. All of them had their own set of circumstances. There was a lady next to me who had learning difficulties and her baby was in NICU. Whenever I walked passed her bed to go to the sink she would just stare at me. It was a bit intimidating. On the other side was a woman who was struggling to breastfeed but determined to carry on. Every time it was feed time her tiny cubicle would fill up with midwives or breastfeeding friends all of whom would make different recommendations. There would be tears and tantrums. In the far corner was a lady who was clearly in some sort of pain. Her baby also had a terrible cough. (She disappeared during that night and didn’t come back until much later in the week.) In the other corner was a rather large lady who was permanently accompanied by her partner. They watched Storage Hunters continually. 

So that second night started with the larger lady kicking off because she wanted her partner to stay with her overnight. This was against the rules and they told her so. He left. To replace him she had the TV on loud all night. No one questioned this. Breastfeeding-struggles lady would have all lights on and talk loudly at every feed. This happened every couple of hours. This was on top of nearly all the stuff that had happened the previous night. Oh and I had to get up if I needed the toilet that night too. No catheter to save me the trouble. 

Morning comes and I am now three nights in with no sleep. I spent much of the day whining to Dan and various visitors about how awful the night time was. I was told that I could switch to oral antibiotics but needed to take iron tablets because I was a bit anaemic. I just added this to the list of drugs. We got the news that Emily’s culture count had increased so they wanted her to stay in full five days. This was disappointing but I knew it was right for Emily. 

Once Dan left that night, I set myself into a little routine of sorting myself out, sorting out Emily, preparing for things I might need in the night, reading a magazine and eating a little bedtime snack. It was really chilled out. As I was sat minding my own business, Storage Hunters No. 1 fan comes over to talk to me. She moaned about her partner not being allowed to stay and I tried to make the point that it was in everyone’s best interests. Blah blah! Then I asked her when she thought she would be going home. Her response “when social services let me take her home.” My eyes widened and I held Emily closer as she told me that she had six other kids and they’d all been taken away from her, but she was hoping that she’d be permitted to keep this one. This was the child who had spent the last two days ignored by both parents as they had chosen to watch hospital TV all day instead. This was also the child whose mother earlier on that night had almost discharged herself because her partner had to leave even at the expensive of having her child taken away there and then. This was the child who was also called Emily. I couldn’t help but wonder what this child’s life might be like. I hope so much that her parents do things differently this time round and she lives a happy and healthy life. The situation, at the time, made me quite sad, but also feel quite vulnerable. Anyway I went off to sleep and had a much better night. 

Day three was the worst. It started off well enough. We had a lunch time visit from some good friends who brought gifts and chocolate. It sort of deteriorated after that though. Emily was now three days old so had to be weighed. When they weighed her it turned out she had lost too much. I think about 9% which was above the 8% that is considered normal. Personally this didn’t worry me too much. She was feeding, weeing and pooing well. It caused a bit of a flap though. It was suggested that maybe Emily was tongue-tied or that breastfeeding wasn’t going as well as perceived or maybe the infection was having other issues. All sorts. 

That evening I decided to go with Dan to take Emily down to NICU for her antibiotics. I’d been before and she had made very little fuss. I liked to stay near her. This time I went and they asked about her weight. We told them and mentioned that she might be tongue tied and they said they’d put in a referral for us. They then gave Emily her antibiotics and she screamed and cried. It was terribly distressing and I couldn’t watch. I had to go stand outside. (What was wonderfully heartwarming, in the midst of my distress, was that as I stood outside NICU in floods of tears everybody who walked by stopped and asked me if I was OK. Aren’t people nice?) When I went back in the nurse said that she was trained to assess for tongue tie and could check if we wanted. We agreed and she did her stuff. She concluded that Emily had a restriction in all three areas. 

We went back to my bed and I cried a lot. I felt like an absolute failure. Emily had to have IV antibiotics because of me and now she was tongue tied too. She had lost too much weight so I wasn’t feeding her right. It didn’t seem fair that someone so small should suffer. Not my baby. She was perfect and innocent. I wanted to protect her but I couldn’t. 

After Dan left I figured I would go about following the same routine as the day before. Just as I started though, the night time midwife came to discuss the action plan due to Emily’s weight loss. She talked me through how to express milk using the pump and that I should use this milk to top up Emily’s feeds. I was to feed Emily, feed her expressed milk then pump again ready for next time. I took on board all the information about how to sterilise the equipment, how to use the pump, how long the milk lasts out of the fridge, in the fridge and in the freezer, where the cleaning stuff was and how to feed Emily from a cup. They eventually left and I carried on with my little routine. Half way through taking my tights off, Emily started crying and I started crying. I just sat on the end of my bed, half undressed and held her close. The midwife came to see if I was alright and found me in this state. 

On reflection this little moment was what was needed to get me some space and restore my sanity. The midwife had offered to look after Emily for a while so I could sort myself out. I told her that that was the last thing I wanted and actually I wanted everyone else on the ward to go away instead. Emily, on her own, was easy but the noise of ten other people in my bay, the constant check ups, the expressing etc were what was too much. She disappeared for a while then returned to say that there was a side room available, where I’d get my own space. A bit of peace and quiet. Just me and Emily. I accepted but felt like I’d failed because I couldn’t cope. 

When we arrived at the room and the midwives had left me alone, Emily started crying again. At this point I lost it. I couldn’t cope. I called the midwives and ask if they could look after her for a while. I hated myself as soon as they took her. I still do. I sat in my bathroom and cried and cried. I messaged Dan and told him that they had taken her because I couldn’t do it. It was the lowest point of my life. What was weird was that all I wanted was Emily back but I didn’t go and get her straight away. I think I knew that I needed time to sort myself out. And I did. After a big cry I felt better. And with Emily back in my arms I was more confident. I think I had seen my raw emotions. It had tested extent of my love for her and I now knew that she needed me completely. But also that I needed her. 

We had a great night. We had good sized clumps of sleep. I woke when she pooed, I changed her, fed her, topped her up, expressed and went back to bed. When Dan arrived the next day he took over the topping up feeds so I could express at the same time. It was nice to have our own space, where we could talk freely and be a family on our own. My milk was in and Emily was gulping it down. She had put on a bit of weight so we kept monitoring it but things were good. 

The fifth night I was allowed to stay in the side room. I was much calmer. The wonderful midwife who had helped me out in my worse moment the night before was on duty again and had asked to look after me. She left me alone as much as she could. She knew we were keeping records of wees, poos and feeds and that she could write it all down in the morning. She did the checks before I went to bed and the left it as long as possible before she came back. She was a credit to her profession and exactly what I needed. 

Day five came and I was itching to get out. I was told that my discharge papers were all ready to go but they needed the all clear on Emily and her discharge from NICU before we could leave. We waited all day. Everybody that came in we told that we wanted to leave in case they forgot. My parents and sister came to visit that afternoon and while they were there we finally got the news that we could go home. I don’t think I could have been more excited. We packed everything up. I got given lots of drugs and told how to take them. We got lots of paperwork and told who to give it to. We got told that Emily was piling on weight. Good news!

Leaving the hospital after that amount of time was strange. I had been desperate to get out and it felt good. I felt free! But this was mixed with feelings of vulnerability. It was up to Dan and I entirely to keep Emily safe and healthy. What I felt strongest though was an awareness of my own health. Out in the cold March sunshine, I realised that I had had a major operation. I hadn’t given it any thought before because I knew I was in safe hands. Outside of the ward however I felt weak and aware of my limitations. At home I didn’t have a bed that would sit me up the press of a button. At home I had to climb a flight of stairs for a wee. At home there wasn’t someone to give breastfeeding advice whenever I needed it. It was scary. But this was nothing compared to how it felt to be going home. 

Those five days were emotionally and physically challenging. Some of the lowest times of my life happened then but also they were filled with so much happiness. I was surrounded by truly fantastic medical staff who kept Emily and I safe throughout. I was given the best start possible to my breastfeeding journey and left feeling confident. I discovered that my husband was even more amazing and capable than I’d imagined. He was the perfect father, so caring yet so proactive. He was also the perfect husband. Every night after he left me he would go to the shops and buy me food, which he then cooked so that I would have fantastic gluten free food to eat the next day. He would clean the house in case I came home the next day. He would message me so that I never felt alone. What a star! I learnt too that I am capable of coping with more than I imagined and walked out more content with myself than I’d been in years. Most of all though, I became a mother. A mother to a little girl that changed my world in ways I couldnt have imagined. Those first five precious days will be remembered for all the cuddles and the kisses. The quiet breastfeeding in the middle of the night. The love I felt watching Dan and Emily together. The first time my parents met their granddaughter. The horrible bits will be forgotten. Some of it already is forgotten. The bits that matter will last forever. 

Passion without judgement

A close friend told me she’d been reading my blog. This made me happy because I didn’t think anyone would read this drivel. I know that plenty of you are though so thanks. 

Anyway this friend said that it seemed “a bit judgemental” and that was certainly not how I wanted it to come across. Therefore I felt it necessary to clarify my stance. 

Obviously Dan and I have chosen to parent a certain way, everybody does, whether it is a consciencious or unconsciencious decision and sometimes it is not even a choice, events make you follow a particular path. For the most part we have been lucky in that circumstances have allowed us to parent the way we want. We had enough money to buy reusable nappies and wipes. We found breastfeeding fairly straight forward. We have room in our bedroom for Emily to sleep in with us. But there are other paths that were taken for us. We had a caesarean. We had to spend time apart as a family when we were in hospital for the first few days. We didn’t get skin to skin straight away. 

I am proud of the way we have chosen to parent; I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I am proud of it because it is right for us and takes hard work and effort. Plus if we ain’t proud of ourselves no one else is going to do it for us.

 I am passionate about it too and for this reason it may seem like I am banging on about it. Yes I believe that everyone should use cloth nappies and breastfeed and baby wear and cosleep etc etc, but that is because I think it’s bloody wonderful. That doesn’t mean to say I will judge you if you don’t. You might look at me and think ‘poor cow has to wash all those nappies and is stuck at home with a baby on her boob and she must be knackered carrying that baby all the time and her bedroom must be cluttered with the extra crib in there.’ And that’s fine! You might be right. Judge away. My own husband thinks I’m a “bloody hippy” and that’s OK by me. 

As parents we have a hard enough job, so try not to take any ill feeling from this blog. Be proud of yourself and the choices you’ve made. If you think something we do looks good, feel free to ask me more about it. If you think you do something that would benefit me, then tell me. Christ, let’s help each other out where we can! It’s exhausting!

  
(I hate these effing things but it seemed appropriate.)

Baby Slings: Which one?

Right I’ve tried three different types of these now so thought I would write about my experiences with each. I’m not going to talk about brands, just types. Of course I understand that different manufacturers will provide better or worse experiences than others. If you want to know about a particular one then look elsewhere. 

Soft structured carrier

  
I bought this one before Emily was born, half as a joke because I thought Dan would look funny using it. About two days after we came out of hospital I realised that Emily liked to be held. This was fine but I got nothing done. Dan would get in from work to find me starving, thirsty and bursting for a wee with Emily curled up in my arms. After a week or so of this I realised I needed to do stuff so I got out the baby carrier. Now the one we’ve got was only a cheap thing that I’d got off Amazon I think, but it did the job. I was able to make a sandwich or unload the dishwasher. A big improvement. 

However I am a lady with contours, particularly post pregnancy and I found that this carrier wasn’t really that comfortable or secure. I couldn’t ever seem to get it tight enough or get Emily in a position where her legs, head or back were in the ideal baby wearing positions. This meant that I had to do lots of readjusting. Also I felt like I needed an extra pair of hands to put it on and there always seemed to be a spare strap or clip that left me worried that I’d ballsed the whole thing up. 

Dan, on the other hand, got on quite well with this. Firstly it looks quite manly. The straps and clips made it feel like it was more industrial and that suited him. Secondly Dan is flat chested and broad shouldered as a lot of men are and he seemed much more capable of tightening it up and getting Emily in place. His long arms were suited to reaching around and doing up the straps and clips. 

I think that this sort of carrier might be more suited to an older baby. We only ever used it when Emily was newborn and it just didn’t seem right then but may even be better now. 

Baby wrap

  

 
Ok, so this isn’t a picture of me or the wrap I have. (I wouldn’t dream of putting something that hideous on my daughter’s head.) It is the way I usually tie my wrap though so I thought that was important. 

The baby wrap is just a long piece of fabric. Mine is a stretchy cotton and 5 metres long. This is the sling I went for when I decided I couldn’t persevere with the carrier. I looked at a few and told Dan how much they cost, within minutes he had found one that was £17 so we ordered it. Point? They don’t have to be super expensive. 

Anyway the baby wrap is the sling that I have had most experience with and I think it is wonderful. It is so diverse that I am sure that everyone could find a way to tie it so that it suits them. You can also modify it as your baby gets bigger, say have them facing outwards or carry them on your hip or back. There are endless YouTube videos of people showing you different ways to use it. And that is exactly how I learnt to tie it. People watch me in awe now as I tie it up. I am a pro!

The thing I love most about this style is you can make it as secure as you want. There have been many occasions where I have walked around with a smug look on my face because I have tied a snug wrap, and it genuinely feels great. You get lots of back and shoulder support and can have both hands free. When I start using this with Emily, she would fall asleep in it almost immediately and even three months on it is still a sure fire way to get her to nod off. 

The downsides are that it can leave you with your fat bits poking out even more prominently than before and it takes a while to set up. Even with my pro wrap tying status it still takes me a little while to set it all up before I can put Emily in. This can be a pain in Tesco car park or if you have a screaming child. 

Dan likes this wrap too, as it can be tied to suit any shape or size. Plus I think it makes him feel like Super Dad. 

I would say this style of baby wrap is the best choice if you are looking for versatility and comfort. 

Ring sling

  

So the ring sling is the newest addition to my sling collection. And it’s the prettiest. I decided to buy a ring sling because I heard a lot of people rave about them, particularly Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler from Big Bang Theory) in her book, Beyond the Sling. 

It is by far the easiest to use. Once setup you basically chuck baby in and tighten it up. Setting it up was a bit fiddly, but I think it is made worse by having a confused looking baby staring at you. However I didn’t watch any YouTube videos for this one and still figured it out. Again there are a variety of different ways you can use it and you find the one that suits you and your baby best. At the moment I am swaying towards the hip carry but I haven’t had a lot of chance to try out many others. 

The quick setup for this is what attracted me to it. I wanted a sling that I could use if I needed to pop into the shops or for carrying Emily and something else from the car. She feels really safe in this and I have both hands free. That said however you do have limited use of one arm because the sling goes over that shoulder. This is a pain at times. 

The drawback to this style is that the weight isn’t as evenly distributed and this creates pressure on back and shoulders. This may be something that eases with use but at the moment I would be reluctant to use the ring sling for long periods of time. 

Dan hasn’t, and probably won’t, use the ring sling but that’s because of the girly pattern on it. Also for some reason this type of carrier does seem a little more feminine to me, but that’s my opinion alone. 

Conclusion

Buy them all! Well, if you can. If you can’t I’d say a wrap is your best bet if you are prepared to spend some time learning how to do it but if you are lazy go for the ring sling. What is most important is that your baby is safe so make sure you follow TICKS guidelines. There really is so much advise, variety and support out there that you’d be stupid not to baby wear. 

How to raise a little girl

  

The picture above is of me when I was a bridesmaid aged nearly three years old. Also in this picture are my mum and my nan. Both of them raised little girls and did a pretty good job of it. My mum is a loving, warm and nurturing character who has dedicated her life to raising children, not just my sister and I but others through childminding, nurseries, schools, hospitals and more. She is a credit to my grandparents who share all of these qualities with her. 

Obviously I am the product of my parents, so it would be conceited of me to list all the things that are great about me and congratulate them on their efforts. However I am going to do it anyway because actually to be able to do it is the greatest gift they gave me. I am strong-willed, opinionated, assertative, smart, a natural leader, loving, kind and gracious. You may disagree but I’ve been told I am these things before and believe them to be true, at least to an extent. Of course, like all people, I have some negative character traits but I have chosen to ignore those for the purpose of this post. 

What both my grandparents did for my mum and my parents did for me though was teach me self-respect and to love who I am. My parents nurtured my natural talents and interests. They taught me that people might be smarter than me, prettier than me, richer than me but there’s no one better than me. They taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I tried hard enough. They taught me not to be defined by how others perceived me. They taught me that regardless of my choices they would love me unconditionally. And that’s a wonderful environment to grow up in. My parents made me feel perfect but gave me the room to prove it to myself. 

Now I’m not saying anything is different for raising boys but I have no experience of that. What I do know is that being a girl has a unique set of challenges that some people struggle to embrace. 

I feel fortunate to have attended the secondary school I did. I went to an all-girls grammar school. With all honesty, it was probably not the easiest place to face puberty at times. The bitchiness could reach extreme levels, where no one was safe not even your best friends. You lived in fear of non-uniform days because then you would have to pick an outfit sufficiently bland enough to go unnoticed. This was not a time to exercise your creativity. However I did come out of it with some very strong opinions about what it meant to be a woman in today’s society. For example, I have the right to vote and if I don’t like the way things are then voting is now I make myself heard. And that I can do any job a man can do and probably better if I wanted to. Ultimately I learnt that the fact that I was a girl meant nothing. I am a person with hopes, dreams and ambitions; gender is irrelevant. 

Now that the ‘mother of a daughter’ baton has been passed on to me, it seems like quite a task. How do I nurture Emily’s natural interests? How do I teach Emily that she is the perfect version of herself? How do I help her to have a healthy body image? How can I foster her self esteem? And how will I balance this against showing how to be kind and considerate to others and the environment? It seems like an impossible task. 

Dan and I made a bit of a pact before we knew Emily was a she. We agreed that if the baby was a girl I’d do ‘the talk’, and if it was a boy Dan would step up. I’m fine with this. I am more than comfortable to talk about my own body and what it is capable of, but I’m realising that maybe I shouldn’t have let Dan off so lightly. He has a role in this too. It is up to him to show Emily how men should behave towards women and their bodies. I’d like to think that when the day comes that Emily would be comfortable to ask her dad to buy her some sanitary towels from the supermarket or not feel embarrassed by him sorting out her underwear. It is Dan’s responsibility to show her that it is normal and that’s how men should behave. 

Body image is a big one too. I don’t think that there is a woman on the planet that doesn’t feel under pressure in some way to change the way they look. Everyday I look in the mirror and fret about some part of me that I’d like to change. It’s sad really, but I’m not alone. Much of the blame for this is directed at the media but personally I think it begins at home. How many young girls watch their mums put make up on or hear them talk about going on a diet or worse, are encouraged to do these things by their parents? I, half-jokingly, said to Dan not long after Emily was born that I was never going on a diet again because I didn’t want Emily to have a negative body image. Chances are I will diet but I am certain now that I will not use that word to describe it. Nor will I say that it is due to my own insecurities about how I look. It will be ‘an opportunity to try new foods’ or a ‘cooking project.’

You are probably thinking “when you say it like that, it is an impossible task!” I know that I’m not perfect and I may mess up on some of these things but I’d like to give Emily the chance to grow up in a world where she can just be herself and we, as her parents, encourage that entirely. 

That’s entertainment, baby!

I am a person of minimal entertainment needs. Whole weekends and holidays have been quite happily wasted sitting on my sofa with a cuppa tea, a packet of triple choc chip gluten free cookies and some TV series on Netflix. I am the person who watched all, yes ALL, 121 episodes of Lost in an October half term. I have seen the ‘Are you still watching?’ message so many times that I know when it’s coming and have my hand poised at the ready to make it go away. This makes me sound so lazy. This is not something that I do all the time, but teaching is a stressful job and sometimes I just need a sofa-cuppa-Netflix kinda day. 

I haven’t had one of these sorts of days in nearly four months now mind you, and there are no prizes for guessing the reason why. (Actually when Emily was very little and would nap all day in my arms I managed to watch Peaky Blinders and Daredevil. But that was only two days worth of entertainment.) I now find that my days are spent stimulating, educating, cuddling, kissing and conversing with a cheeky little lady. Emily is at an age where everything needs thorough observation. Her hands regularly get a good look over just in case they’ve changed, as do mine and Dan’s. All toys get a quick once over before getting covered in dribble and blankets, cushions, carpets, rugs, pillows, clothes and anything else that comes within reach goes the same way. She does however seem to get bored of things quite quickly. 

Cue Mummy. It is my official full time job to provide Emily with constant entertainment. Some days we go out to Waterbabies, Tiny Talk, Baby Sensory, Mucky Monkeys, music group, the park, the library, the woods, the beach or the city. Other days we have an in-day where I am left to my own devices. These days we read books, we fly around like a rocket, we play peekaboo, we have a massage, I make silly noises, I sing silly songs, we walk around the garden looking at the plants, we pull faces in mirror, we smell all the herbs and spices and sometimes I just lay next to Emily so she can stroke my face. It’s adorable! (This is not a complete list!) It’s good fun but it’s exhausting, and this is all on top of the normal baby things like feeding and changing etc. 

There are times in the day when I am genuinely so tired that I have to dig deep to find the energy to do another round of dinosaur impressions or to finish off a complete rendition of ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes.’ More often than not now I find myself napping when Emily naps just to make it through. Also my imagination, I have discovered, is finite. Normally around 3 ‘o’ clock it runs out and I’m left repeating the same songs or revisiting an earlier game of ‘What can you hear/see/smell?’ Then I feel that Emily is judging my poor parenting skills. Ugh!

   
 This however is my latest creation. I stole it off Pinterest so I can’t claim it as my own. It’s a sensory fort and it is currently incomplete. Thus far it has colour changing LED lights, a ribbon chandelier and some blankets made from different materials. In the future I am planning of putting in it some cushions that I am making with different ribbons, buttons and fabrics sown on, Emily’s noisy toys so rattles, bells, maracas and squeaky ball, her flashing sensory balls and some sensory pouches. I am hoping though that it will be a multipurpose den. For now it can be used for sensory, a sun tent for the garden (and it’s big enough to fit the paddling pool in) and as a reading den. As she gets older I hope that Emily will find further uses for it, but she can continue to read in it or could use it as her own private escape from the world. It will be a place for her to learn and discover her own creativity, where she can be safe and uninterrupted. 

Like most things at the moment though, this will probably provide Emily with approximately 10 minutes of enjoyment. But hey, it is another string in my bow when it comes to keeping her happy. Plus it’s a good place for a nap! 

A sign of my gluten free times

  I have been gluten free for over a year and a half now. As soon as I got my coeliac disease diagnosis I made the change and have not even been tempted to have a sneaky bit of gluten. 

Everything at home changed first. I made Dan eat up all the foods that were contaminated with gluten. He didn’t object to this much (until I was asking him to eat things like garlic granules). We doubled toastered for a while but soon realised that it was just easier for us both to eat gluten free bread. All cuttlery, crockery, utensils, bakeware and cooking equipment were scrubbed down and denominated. Our house became a gluten free zone. 

Shopping was the next challenge. The first few shopping trips after my diagnosis were a tragic affair. I spent hours picking up foods that I liked reading the ingredients and then silently sobbing because it had malt extract or some other obscure ingredient. Occasionally I’d find something I could have and a sarcastic voice would pop into my head and say, “Oooh yay, you can have Dolmio bolognese sauce, so it’s not all bad then!” (Yes the voice in my head is a different person to me and yes it is sarcastic 90% of the time. ) Over time these shopping trips became quicker and now I know exactly what I can and can’t have and my diet is back to what it was before.

Dan embraces it too. At home he eats gluten free with me, although he does whine about the gloopy pasta and shit bread. When we are out he is even better at it than me. If he thinks there has been a cross contamination issue he will raise it with the staff and amongst friends he is happy to tell them how it all works. It makes it super easy for me. 

However, because it is now all so easy for me, I have forgotten that I’m almost impossible to cater for. This week I’ve been invited for lunch at a new mummy friend’s house and to a BBQ with some people we have known a while but who have never cooked for us before. I accepted both invitations without hesitations. What can I say I’m a sucker for good company and good food. It wasn’t until later that I remembered that I am a dietary pain in the arse. 

Thankfully both these sets of friends are wonderfully accommodating and have agreed to try and cater for me anyway. I never expected this of anyone so I’m very grateful when people offer to try. I’m lucky to know such nice people! In future, I might start wearing a badge that warns people in advance but then I’d probably never get invited anywhere. Damn my stupid digestive system!

Sleep!

  It turns out that there is a reason that babies are so cute (and this is now scientifically proven) – it’s to stop you from killing them. This is also probably the reason that they learn to smile and laugh before they hit the 4 month sleep regression. These are working wonders for Emily right now. 

Dan and I honestly thought we pretty much had the sleep thing nailed. She’d go down at 8, wake up for food at about 2-3 ish, 10 minutes later we are all back in bed, and she’d wake up at 6 ish. By this time I’m feeling well rested so I’d get up and be the perfect mother. Sing songs, read books, sort out the nappies, get us both dressed, express some milk, prepare food for dinner. Wonderful! We still felt jealous of our friends whose baby slept all the way through the night already and we talked about how we’d like it if Emily did the same. I take that all back now. I was so short-sighted. 

The last few nights Emily has woken up every hour. Yes, you read correctly. She’s not always hungry but sometimes I feed her anyway. Most of the time she just wants a cuddle.  Sometimes she never wants the cuddle to end. Nearly always her eyes stay closed throughout. There have been times when she has fallen asleep in my arms and I go to put her in crib and it’s like I’ve laid her on a bed of nails. Bloody cries something rotten!

In an effort to prevent her from waking I find myself lying in bed perfectly still, barely daring to breathe. If she moves, sniffs or whimpers I think I actually stop breathing. It amplifies every noise in the house though. Our creaky bed, the washing machine downstairs, the boiler coming on. Each of these things have been subject to mental cursing. Dan has not escaped this imaginary beating. He snores, sniffs or even moves and the temptation wring his neck is overwhelming. But the poor fella can’t win. When he is perfectly asleep, making no noise it seems like he is just rubbing it in my over-tired face.

When day time comes I realise that it is no ones fault. Dan can’t help sleeping like a normal person. I’m sure I’d make noise too if I ever got a chance. Emily is instantly forgiven when she wakes up because she does a massive, squidgy smile and all the exhaustion melts away. 

Everything I’ve read tells me this is a normally phase. My Wonder Weeks app says this is her storm cloud week. NHS website says that they go through a growth spurt about now. And the sleep regression is well documented. Emily is making such leaps and bounds during her waking hours that something had to give and that was sleep. I know this now, at 9:00pm in the evening whilst sitting on my sofa eating ice cream. However 3am Me is much less rational. 

Fingers crossed tonight is better. Otherwise I predict another middle of the night breastfeeding/crying/Googling for a quick fix session. It’s not a pretty sight!

Define “giving birth”.

 This is actually going to end up being quite a serious post I think. I have never really discussed my experience of birth with anyone. After a rough patch in the first couple of weeks after we came out of hospital, Dan and I reflected on parts of it together but I’ve never reviewed it in detail. (Don’t worry, it’s not a gory story.) Also I should put a disclaimer on this and say that this will be accurate according to my memory of it only, and I had quite a lot drugs in the end. So let’s face it, this could be a complete fabrication. 

I had a wonderfully easy pregnancy. In the early days, up to about 17 weeks, I suffered with morning sickness. This led to me throwing up in some quite funny places, such as Tesco car park and my own front garden. Grim! Whilst in Stanstead airport waiting to fly to Majorca, we discovered that the sickness could be negated by scotch pancakes and orange juice. I spent the next few months with a stash of these in my handbag. It turns out that permanent snacking is a real skill of mine, so even this phase passed with relative ease. 

The next four to five months basically consisted of me going about my normal life but just being a lot fatter and heavier. Public toilets seemed to shrink and places seemed to get further away. It was wonderful to start feeling movements and to share these with Dan, but aside from that I was genuinely indifferent to being pregnant. Midwife appointments came and went with also no event. It was plain sailing really. 

At 40 weeks I was offered a membrane sweep and because that did nothing, literally nothing, I had another at 41 weeks. Nearly two days after this, my waters broke. Not like movie style gushing, but just a trickle. I wasn’t in labour though so I called the hospital to let them know. They said if it hadn’t started in 12 hours to go in for assessment. Well, again, nothing happened so we trundled up the hospital at about 8 in the evening. 

Three hours later we were heading home. They had confirmed my waters had gone but also that labour wasn’t happening either. Due to the risk of infection I was booked in for an induction at noon the next day. We didn’t make it that long. 

After an hour in bed I woke up at 1 in the morning, having some fairly serious contractions that were approximately four minutes apart and getting closer. I had a bath and a paracetamol (waste of bleeding time) and vaguely remember eating some Mini Eggs. (As an aside, Emily might be approximately 90% made of Mini Eggs. That’s what happens when you have a baby around Easter time.) We called the hospital and then told us to wait as long as possible, so I waited an hour or two and called back. In the time between the two phone calls the midwife led unit had filled up and gone were my chances of using a birthing pool. We went to delivery suite. 

The delivery suite was perfectly fine. The staff were wonderful and highly professional but it certainly looks like a hospital. There is nothing to make you feel relaxed or at ease. Oh sorry I forgot there was a jug of water and two cups. I knew that having access to a deep warm bath would be my ultimate weapon in the war against the pain but all I had was a tepid shallow tub that wouldn’t even cover all of me. I spent a couple of hours in the bath and it did help a bit, but I constantly had to turn over and Dan used one of the cups to pour water on me. 

Come normal morning time I was having contractions a couple of minutes apart, all hopes of a birthing pool were gone and I was a fantastic one centimetre dilated. I had a bit of a meltdown at this point, which meant that they offered me gas and air. I accepted. I quite liked gas and air. It was rhythmic and gave me something to focus on. Plus I realised that you got the true effect if you took a cheeky extra breath once the contraction was over. I pay my taxes, I’ll get my money’s worth!

The rest of the drugs seemed to come thick and fast after that. Gas and air wasn’t really doing much. If I moved at all, I would almost scream in pain. They offered me pethidine which a begrudgingly accepted. I really hadn’t wanted this one because I knew it could have implications on the baby but I didn’t really have a choice. Dan and I had agreed before we went in that we would follow the advice of the professionals and this was what they were advising. I don’t think I had the pethidine long before an epidural was thrown into the mix. 

The epidural was great. It made me relax and I could completely refocus. It also made me starving hungry but you’re not allowed to eat. With the epidural in, I then spent several hours turning from side to side to try to move things along. Nothing happened. Well not nothing, I got an infection. I suddenly became very thirsty and very shivery but I could feel the sweat on my head. They decide to put me on fluids and antibiotics to treat this. By this point I already had a double cannula in one had for pitocin and something epidural related and now I needed another. I wouldn’t have minded but it seemed that everyone was crap at putting these things in. When I finally left hospital I had bruises on both hands and inside both elbows. Big purple ones too. 

Not long after all this, the room was filled with people and they raised the idea of a caesarean. They said unless I was miraculously fully dilated (obviously I wasn’t-3cm!) that this was the best route to take for the baby. I read the paperwork and signed. 

Quite shockingly, Dan and I had remained fairly calm and level headed throughout. With the epidural working its magic I actually felt like I’d made an rational decision. The procedure went really well and the atmosphere in theatre was calm and light hearted. The surgeons were cracking jokes and I certainly felt at ease. Having had the epidural it meant that I was conscious throughout and could have Dan by my side. He held my hand and looked me in the eyes the whole time. Not even for a second did he look nervous or scared. He was exactly what I needed. At 14:28 Emily entered the World; it was magical! I didn’t get skin-to-skin in theatre but I was able to watch Dan cuddle her. It’s a memory I’ll never forget. 

We spent quite a long time in hospital after that but it’s a story for another day. I have mixed feelings about my birthing experience. I’m not sure I can use the phrase “I gave birth” as it required an entire team. Perhaps I’d be more comfortable using “we” instead. I wish, for Emily’s sake, that it had been the perfect natural experience I’d secretly hoped for and I’ll never quite forgive myself for her having to spend the first days of her life on antibiotics and being born full of drugs. All I can be is grateful though.  Grateful that Dan was the ideal birthing partner. Grateful that I live in a time when medical advances made it all possible. Grateful that the surgeon had a steady hand. Grateful that regardless of how it happened, she is here. And I’d say she is pretty bloody perfect!

Saving the planet, one stitch at a time

Once you are on the reusable scene suddenly your eyes opened to reusable alternatives to practically everything you previously discarded. My reusable journey started with nappies, which I think I found out about because I had seen a friends baby a few years ago with a pretty nappy on. When we found I was pregnant I quickly did my research and discovered a world of choice. My next step was then to reusable wipes. These really are a non-optional accessory if you are using real nappies but I’ve already written about that in another post, so I won’t bore you tears with that one again. 

After that I started to look at the other baby related consumables I was using, as all of these things are overpriced. It’s like when you are planning a wedding, if you just call it a party it would cost a quarter of the price. Baby stuff is the same and I didn’t want to pay it. That’s when I found reusable breast pads. I use Little Lamb ones which are made from bamboo and wow! they are soft. Even once breastfeeding and leaky boob days are over I might just carry on wearing those things anyway. They should make bras out of that stuff. Plus it is super absorbent. I have had absolutely no leaks with these which is in stark contrast to the disposable versions. 

The breast pads subtly led me into a world of reusable products for women. And when you start to think about it we really do use a lot of disposable products. Cleansing pads, cotton wool and then the obvious sanitary towels, tampons and panty liners. Cleansing pads and cotton wool were easy to replace. I just bought (actually I got them free with an order of something else) some more Cheeky Wipes and now just use these for removing make-up etc. With a little bit of coconut oil they will remove even the most stubborn waterproof mascara. However menstrual products would require some specialist equipment. 

Before I committed to RUMPs (reusable menstrual products) I had to decide how I felt about them. Was I happy to handle this sort of bodily fluid? If I was, how would I go about cleaning them? How do you store them? Do they smell? To answer these questions I did what every normal person does and Googled it. During my research something weird happened. It was not my attitude to RUMPs that changed but my attitude towards my body, specifically my period. 

Like many women, when that time of the month rapidly comes round I drag out the sanitary towels and the baggy knickers and reside to the fact that this is way of things for the next seven days. Six on a particularly lucky month. I then shove handfuls of towels into the little zippy pocket at the back of all my bags and just look forward to it being over. At some point, usually around day five or six I find that the pads start to irritate a bit but there is not a lot I can do. Normally I use this as a sign that it’s nearly all done with. What my research told me was that I don’t and shouldn’t have to feel like this. My period is what makes me a woman. It’s the little sign every month that everything is ticking over nicely. It is just an alternate ending to the complicated process that gave me Emily. I should really be quite proud of it. 

Now I’m not sitting here saying that I always want to be on my period and that is the best time of my life. It’s not and it is unlikely ever to be. However I could make it enjoyable and comfortable. I could allow it to be a form of self expression even in a very private way. I could embrace it and save both myself some money and the planet at the same time.

Consequently I ordered myself a basic looking set of pads. I mean they look soft and comfy but they’re not pretty or anything. When you look on Etsy you find that there are a whole host of work from home mothers making these things in such amazing prints and styles, but they are all largely in the States. That annoyed me. Therefore I did the obvious thing and bought a sewing machine and decided to make my own. 

 

These are what I have made so far. Now you have to keep in mind that I haven’t used a sewing machine since year 9, so about thirteen years ago. Hence I’m pretty bloody pleased with myself. I fully intend to keep going until I have a good sized set and I will keep my eyes open for pretty prints that I like. 

It has been fun to start on a journey to save money and the environment, and found a new hobby along the way. Not bad, I’d say.