I couldn’t have done it without………..

Now that my youngest is approaching the 2 year mark (where the hell did that go?) I feel slightly smug that I can say that the baby days are over in the house. That is unless we try for a boy *husband looks sadly at his beloved rugby ball*.

But there are some things that I really could not have done without during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Most things were too good not to share so I spread the word amongst my nearest and dearest. But now it’s time to share it with you. And if you have anything to add please pop it in the comments box below, let’s face it anything that makes life easier is worth sharing.

  1. Spatone for energy levels, pregnant and breastfeeding this literally got me out of bed to do the nursery drop off each day (1 sachet in a glass of orange juice just helps take away the bitter taste)
  2. HUGE muslins for swaddling, mopping, blocking out sunlight when in buggy etc. (I’ve raved about these before here)
  3. Lansinoh cracked nipple cream (brilliant for heels and lips too) you’ll never need the whole tube so pass it onto your friends
  4. Wine by the crate (adult Calpol)
  5. Tiny baby bath seat that goes inside normal bath, this one worked brilliantly until my daughters could sit unaided
  6. Lavender oil for bath, couple of drops on pads in your knickers after birth, on your pillow at night for a restful night’s sleep
  7. Bio oil (great for dehydrated skin, stretch mark prevention, in bath, on ragged cuticles)
  8. Instagram (makes even the tiredest old hag look hot)
  9. Touché éclat (the best bag banisher out there)
  10. The love of a good man/my friends/my mum

I saw this photo in a shop window recently, apparently I say amazing too much but really sometimes there is no other word to describe one’s new Mulberry Alexa handbag bought by one’s husband (before you all roll your eyes and groan at my brag, he was away for 10 DAYS on a business trip to the Philippines whilst I was left solo with 2 small children).  Anyway I wish I had it blown up on the fridge door as I reached for the white wine in those early days of exhaustion…………. the gift of hindsight.

 

Mum’s the word

Me with my lovely Mum, for whom I am thankful for *not* telling me that my feet will get a whole shoe size bigger and other weird pregnancy related disorders.

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition in this family that Mother’s Day is always ruined one way or another. Last year my husband went out the night before and got so drunk he vomited all over the bathroom floor waking me up in the process. My one request of a lie in was obviously not met and to add insult to injury he took me to Nandos for lunch. I have never felt more humiliated in my entire life. Yesterday my 4 and 3 quarter year old (she’s so pleased she can now say that) came out from school with a bunch of daffs and a home-made card. ‘Open it Mummy read it NOW’ she protested, so I did the obligatory ‘Wow yes its beautiful darling thank you so much’ then I read the inside.

It’s not exactly ‘Thank you for being the best Mummy in the world’ but at least she is aware that the laundry fairy doesn’t do all the washing and ironing, unlike her father.

This year he is in the Philippines on a 9 day business trip, so I’m invading my poor Mother who lives by the sea, for some home comforts and the small chance of a lie-in. There are so many things that she has taught me, especially about being a mother, which I am thankful for. But there are certain things that just aren’t spoken about, because if they were, no one would give birth and the human race would die out, probably.

As a midwife when I was looking after women in labour, I would nod sympathetically as their contractions took hold of them, reassuring them of the pain they were experiencing ‘you can do this, this is normal labour’. But really I had no idea what that pain felt like, I hadn’t had babies then, in fact I had never experienced pain like it. But once the little two lines appeared on the stick and confirmed my first pregnancy, all these weird and wonderful things started happening to me both mentally and physically; which I really didn’t remember learning about during my midwifery lectures. To be honest if I knew half of these things were going to happen to me I probably wouldn’t have ever become a mother. (Sorry to those who haven’t given birth yet, it’s not that bad really). *pours another glass of wine*

  • In the first 3 months of pregnancy you are so constipated, that small bump is mainly full of poo. And no amount of prunes, apricots and Bran flakes will shift it. Things normally start ‘moving’ on by week 14.
  • Don’t attempt to look at your nether regions as your due date lingers. In fact best to lock the bathroom door when you shower, your partner has enough shocks to cope with in the weeks to come. Let’s just say your labia swells to something unrecognizable but don’t worry it does return to its normal state post birth.
  • You think when you’re pregnant and writing your birth plan that your dignity matters. It really doesn’t and to be honest you really don’t care who sees you starkers with your bum in the air mooing like a cow. I had both my babies in the hospital where I work, and I can still look the Consultant in the eye who broke my waters.
  • Night sweats, not just any sort of sweat. I’m talking about needing to sleep on a towel, changing your pyjamas, using a rag to mop and dry yourself during those first few weeks after your baby is born. It’s unbelievable how hormones can be responsible for pretty much everything.
  • Nappy brain actually exists. I once introduced my daughter as my little boy to the Health Visitor at the baby clinic – the baby was naked on the weighing scales at the time.
  • Hair loss. Oh my God this was so annoying (which resulted in me having a fringe). I felt smug with my thick luscious hair which grew during pregnancy but by the time my baby was 10 weeks old it all started to fall out. Mainly around the front of my hair-line but there was hair everywhere, even in my daughter’s nappy.
  • Nothing fills you with more joy then putting on your trackie bums, tucking into a box of chocolates and feeling sorry for anyone having to go out on a Friday night. That is unless, it’s your husband’s first night out since the baby was born and he stumbles in at 2 am and vomits all over the bathroom floor.

Contented and happy

The definition of contented is;

  1. Happy and at ease
  2. Expressing happiness and satisfaction

This is a photo of me feeling all of the above; it was July last year on a Greek Island. It’s hard not to see why I didn’t feel contented it was so beautiful my children were playing happily in the shore, we had just eaten fresh squid and to be honest everything felt pretty much perfect. Ok hate me for all this self-proclaimed happiness on a grey Friday afternoon but I think anything that makes you feel contented is surely a good thing right? Maybe not.

This week controversial parenting guru Gina Ford released her newest book The Contented Mother’s Guide; online forums went crazy with the opportunity to slate any advice this childless expert had to say. When I had my first baby, I had already been warned of her first book The Contented Little Baby so carried on with my new born by listening to my instincts, friends and mother’s advice. By 8 months she still didn’t sleep for more than 2 hour periods, my partner and I had pretty much given up on any happiness there was to be had with a baby, I was completely and utterly exhausted. I remember meeting a new Mum friend in the park one morning (at a very specific time of 09:40) to see her lovely little baby smiling happily in her buggy having slept the entire night. She told me she was following Gina Ford’s 8 month old routine and had been for several months, and their lives were transformed. I borrowed a copy of the book and read it like crazy for the next few days; I couldn’t believe how wrong I had got it. Not that my initial mothering instincts had failed me but I could now see why nothing we had been doing was working. Now don’t get me wrong, there were parts in her book which quite frankly I could not master or be arsed with (‘Now drink your orange juice at 07:50 to ensure excellent Vitamin C intake’) um I think I’ll drink my orange juice when I want thanks. But I think really we should cut this woman some slack, she has looked after over 300 babies and found a method that worked, so what’s to criticise?

We all need routine in our lives, humans are creatures of habit and so are babies. When you become a mother for the first time you have no idea what to expect even if you’ve read all the books and done every course available to you, it is still a BIG shock. By the time you have your second baby you feel a little more confident that the baby’s head won’t fall off if you don’t hold its neck properly and giving it a chocolate biscuit isn’t going to turn it into a junk food addict.

But it’s her advice on sexual intimacy in her new book that really caught my attention (ha!) and she’s got a good point. ‘Arm yourself with post-birth essentials such as lubricant and massage oil and take things slowly,’ Ford counsels. No one tells you how dry you will feel down there especially if you’re breastfeeding and actually having sex for the first time after having a baby really isn’t that bad. Ok the thought of taking your clothes off to expose your new post baby body sounds horrific but low lighting, flickering candles and a few glasses of wine can help. Put the Moses basket as far away from the bedroom as possible (in our case it was the bathroom) and remember to remove your breast pads beforehand, not such a turn on. Just try not to ask too many times during the moment ‘does it feel the same as before?’ your partner may find it a little off-putting. He loves you no matter what and once you get going you may actually enjoy it, after all it’s how we all got here in the first place.

Top Tips for Dads-to-be

*Warning this post contains an image of a half-naked man*

Now that that’s got your attention…………

We arrived in hell, somewhere just South of Forest Hill. The satnav directed us here bright lights, roaring music and a LOT of sugar intoxicated screaming children. I’m terrified. We’ve brought our children to Gambados. Actually without sounding like a total snob it’s fine for a grey wet Sunday, the 4 year old is lost in the giant soft play and the toddler is throwing herself off soft building blocks. Perfect opportunity to be creative and attempt to think up my next blog post whilst closely making sure the toddler isn’t licking every ball in the ball pool (which to be honest if it wasn’t for her already nursery acquired every 3 weeks snotty nose I would care a bit more, maybe).

I watched One Born Every Minute the other night, something I’ve sort of stopped doing as I usually work on a Wednesday and the thought of switching that on having just done a 12 hour shift is not exactly ‘unwinding’, but for some reason I found myself catching the last 10 minutes. Next thing I know tears are streaming down my face. Ok not that unusual for a midwife but having spent quite a full on day with an amazing woman and her husband getting them through a very long and difficult, labour I thought most of my tears had already been wept. In fact it was this burly tattooed Northern guys reaction to seeing his little baby being delivered which set me off, a reaction not that uncommon for me. Seeing men cry at the birth of their baby is so emotional I find it hard to even say the words ‘congratulations’ as I blubber away searching for a tissue whilst trying to pull myself back together into midwife mode.

My husband is very emotional, I remember once, him coming in half way through Marley and Me to me tutting and muttering ‘God I just loathe Jennifer Aniston and this bloody dog, this film is crap’. Next thing I know he’s curled up in the fetal position on the sofa sobbing ‘I need to be held and loved this is too much for me to cope with’, I didn’t quite know what to do or say…………..

Anyway, it didn’t quite feel right for me to write this next part of this post as he has been there for both our daughter’s birth making him pretty much an expert. He really was amazing and I couldn’t of got through those contractions without him, here he is doing skin to skin with our first daughter minutes after she was born, all together now ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’

So with a certain amount of apprehension (similar to when I leave him in charge of cleaning the house and looking after the kids whilst I have a mani / pedi and come back to find the kids drawing on the carpet, wet washing still in the machine, his tools out on the kitchen table, grease on the new tea towels and him watching the rugby) I hand over to my husband to share his wisdom.

Hello all, I’ve been roped in share my insights into what Dads should be doing/ thinking about/ not doing etc in the run up, during and after your lovely partner has done all the hard work and brought your newest mini me into the world.

First things, first – I’m going to be breaking this down into 3 stages: before, during and after. There are a million things I could write but I’m going to limit to a choice few so as not to scare / bore you.

Before the birth – The woman you’re with is growing a baby for you inside of her – that’s pretty bloody amazing. Just take a second to think about that. She’s the one that carrying the extra weight, suffering from mood swings (although you’ll see the blunt end of those), feeling dreadful and generally having a bit of rough time so just make life a bit easier for her. She’ll moan at you and nothing you’ll do will be to the standard she wants (as if it ever is) but just make that bit more effort than you normally would around the house and maybe rein in those drinks on Saturday nights with the boys – she’s not going to be out on the smash is she, so be sympathetic.

Be interested in what she’s been reading about – invariably your other half will have been looking up stuff on the internet (hopefully from this blog) and want to share it with you. Don’t just pay this lip service as this is obviously important to her / scaring her stiff. The more you understand at this point the less likely to are to get completely freaked when all the blood and guts stuff starts happening. Things to learn include all the birth options, the birth plan if you have one and which drugs do what – (get a go on the gas and air if you can – awesome fun!)

During the birth – Realise from the outset that you’re probably going to be in the way and whatever you do will probably irritate her. I remember pouring warm water over my wife’s back while she was in the pool, I then cracked a joke about it being like pouring gravy over a big fat turkey -the phrase ‘like a lead balloon’ doesn’t do it justice.

Be brave – if your partner wants you to get involved and have a look at what’s going on, then grow a pair and have a gander – that’s your child coming into the world. At least you’ll be able to then look at your child when you’re older and say “I was involved and encouraged your mother to be active in birth” rather than “I got a cup of tea and a floppy cheese sandwich and when I came back you were there!”

After the birth – not that you wouldn’t anyway, but kiss your partner and thank them for what they’ve just done for you. You will probably never do anything on the same scale for them so make them feel like a million dollars.

Get the house ready – clean it, and that means actually get out those cleaning products (even though the likelihood is you don’t know which one is for which job) and make that house sparkle – all helps with the nesting process and making you partner and new addition feel at ease. (My wife has just told me to include flowers on here so do it)

Push present – Now this one is an area of debate for me. The debate isn’t on whether you should get your partner a present or not – you really should. The debate on how much to spend. I know some dads that have spent a grand on a new handbag and some that have just got a pair of cashmere socks. Whatever it is, put some thought into. Flowers from the garage just won’t cut it.

Get ready for the shock – your life is going to change irreversibly so don’t fight it. Nights out with the boys on Brick Lane will become limited and you’ll be tired all the time. But the upsides massively outweigh the downs – of course, I won’t bore you by going through those. I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself – that’s what being a Dad is all about.

Aromatherapy (not an “adult massage”)

Yesterday I gave my beautiful friend Lucy who is 36 weeks pregnant (and carries it so well) a back massage and all for free – well she did give me an old fingered copy of Hello a fair swap if you ask me.  You see, I’ve just done an aromatherapy study day and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a blooming bump to get practising on! The hospital at which I work is offering all low risk women the use of aromatherapy oils to use in labour and there are now around 12 midwives who can now provide this lovely complimentary therapy (excellent bedside manner and a massage – what more could a lady ask for?!).  I bought a few oils and a base oil (Grape Seed) in my local pharmacy and gave my husband and 4 year old a lavender massage before bed (I did attempt to massage the 17 month old but she wouldn’t lie still and ran away laughing).  My husband who generally wakes up in the morning making sounds like a grizzly bear moaning, stumbling from the bedroom to the kitchen to make tea, kids breakfasts and complaining that he hasn’t slept properly for 4 years, said he slept the best he has in ages following his massage (he wanted to turn it into one of those ‘adult massages’ but I quickly put a stop to that sort of nonsense much to his annoyance!) The 4 year old however still woke at 6 but I partly blame the mornings getting lighter, that and the draw of early morning Milkshake on Channel 5 – I mean really, if they didn’t start the programs so early then maybe, just maybe she wouldn’t want to get up in time to see the first run through of pepper pig. Rant over think I better smell some lavender to calm myself down.

The following are some oils that you may find useful:

  • Lavender – You may already be familiar with lavender as a means of promoting a good night’s sleep. The scent is well-known to aid relaxation and promote calm. The oil is also a painkiller that stimulates circulation and healing and may strengthen contractions
  • Clary sage – One of the oils that you should avoid during pregnancy itself, clary sage can strengthen contractions during labour. It’s also a great oil for lifting your spirits and reducing anxiety, but it’s not recommended for use if you are using gas and air (not this blog obviously – you can use that as often as needed)
  • Neroli – Calms and reassures as well as helping relax. Is also a powerful anti-depressant
  • Peppermint – A generally uplifting and refreshing oil
  • Chamomile – Soothing and calming, helps to reduce tensions and anxiety
  • Jasmine – Acts as a uterine tonic, painkiller and anti-spasmodic. Also known to strengthen contractions and can be used in a compress to aid delivery of the placenta
  • Rose – Is a uterine tonic and anti-depressant
  • Geranium – Helps breathing and boost the circulation
  • Majoram – A uterine tonic that also aids breathing and can help to lower blood pressure. It is also an effective pain reliever and antispasmodic

Massage

1 drop of essential oil to 5ml grape seed carrier oil. A maximum of three oils may be used in a blend in labour (e.g. 3 drops essential oil to 15 ml grape seed)

Bath (NOT for use in birthing pool)

4 – 6 drops of essential oil added to carrier oil or teaspoon of full fat milk, add to bath after the bath is filled. Once only in labour. Re-run bath/pool but do not top up with water/oils.

Compress

4 drops of essential oil in hot or cold water

[Hot for pain / cold for swelling]

Soak flannel, wring out and apply to skin.

When flannel is the same temperature as the skin re-soak and reapply to the skin.

Do this as often as required BUT do not add more essential oil if water is topped up.

Tissue

1 – 2 drops of undiluted essential oil onto a tissue/taper. May be repeated 2 hourly.

Inhalation 2 – 4 drops of essential oil in a bowl of hot water. Inhale.