The Trick to Looking Like An Actual Human Being: My Make Up Mum-ssentials.

I remember the days, pre-Alice, where I could leisurely spend 20-30 minutes doing my make up in the mornings, experimenting with different styles and trying new looks for date night. Now, unless the husband is looking after her and she has been recently fed, those times have essentially evaporated. The new routine is how-quickly-can-I-throw-this-on-my-face-before-I-need-to-feed or applying liquid eyeliner with one hand whilst balancing my daughter on my lap, slouched over her so she can keep feeding whilst trying to still get a glimpse of the mirror in the hope I won’t end up looking like Alice Cooper as we run late for Baby Sensory. What once had a 30 minute time slot, now has a 10 minute space before all hell breaks loose, with the new fun addition that I look as if I have become a White Walker during the night.

To combat my general panda-like demeanour caused by night feeds and perpetual early starts, the above products have worked quite well to creating a quick every day look that means when my daughter grants me day leave from the house, I don’t frighten all living things away from me:

  1. Bobbi Brown Instant Full Cover Concealer: The miracle product that within seconds can make me look as if I have actually managed to have a full night’s sleep even on the four hours my daughter’s sleep regression allows me. Initially dubious that nothing apart from three different types of concealer would be able to even attempt to conceal the bags under my eyes that would be stamped ‘heavy load’ at an airport check in, this product really does what it says. Two swooshes with the wand, and I am immediately on my way to looking more human again.
  2. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base:It just smells so good. There’s nothing that combats the smell of sour breast-milk in the morning better than this Bobbi Brown moisturiser. It has this lovely fresh lemon scent and glides on to the skin, giving my tired mummy skin a nice boost whilst working as a primer for the pile-up of make up to come.
  3. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Even Finish Foundation: Again, won over by the smell which seems to be a mix of eucalyptus and lavender – it offers a moment of spa-like zen before I realise that any moments spent relaxing are moments wasted before Alice is awake again. Quick to apply for a mummy in a rush and good coverage all day, no matter how many times my daughter decides my face is her own personal pull and stretch toy.
  4. Bobbi Brown Blush in Rose: Such a nice colour, the lovely lady at John Lewis matched it to my lip colour and two quick sweeps of this and my pale ‘I’ve-not-slept-in-three-months’ skin turns into rosy-cheeks as if I have been running around in the wheat fields all day.
  5. Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray: A quick spritz before foundation and a second spritz once all the make up is on (not including mascara, too many times I have made that mistake and ended up with panda eyes, followed by crying when I realise I have to start over again, ending in ‘it’s just no good I’m set to remain a beast forever’ tantrum) and my make up will not budge no matter how sweaty I get from all the emergency poonados I have to deal with or how much spit up I need to wipe from my face.
  6. Urban Decay Naked Palette: For a quick colour shaping of eyebrows and eyeshadow. I’m still using this even though I bought it back whilst I was completing my undergrad degree – the age is shown on the battered cover, but like Beast, there is beauty within.
  7. Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Virgin: A nice neutral colour that can be quickly applied with fingertips when the bub is screaming to be picked up and you’re trying to get out the door in 5 minutes. It’s a light, golden colour that tends to quickly brighten up my eyes to assist in making out that I am actually awake and functioning.
  8. Urban Decay Perversion Mascara: A nice, solid mascara – I actually prefer it more now it’s dried out a bit. Lengthens the lashes, gives a nice curl (no I do not want to risk using eyelash curlers during my daughter’s ‘let’s grab everything and pull hard’ phase), and thickens.
  9. Rimmel Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner: For every day, I’ll either use this in Forest Brown or Black to quickly line my lash-line as the pigmentation is good for a quick use. If we are seriously running late to Baby Classes, I’ll use a Nyx kohl pencil that can be used in moving vehicles or whilst trying to pack a changing back and has a slightly smaller chance of going all over my face in the process. Just depends how dangerous I am feeling like living that morning, guys.
  10. The Balm Mary Lou Manizer Highlighter: As I rarely see sunlight, due to my fear of my vampire child being exposed to it or because we live in England, getting a natural glow is close to it being sunny on a bank holiday – a rare event that when happens, is met with suspicion. This highlighter isn’t glittery but offers a gorgeous sheen that gives me the brightening pick-me-up I need to just make me have a healthy glow. Currently I go between this one, which is in pieces from where I dropped it running around the house like a headless chicken, and the new Bobbi Brown ‘Pink Glow’ highlighter. What I have now realised is that no highlighter is no longer an option if I want to look healthy.
  11. No 7 Loose Powder in Translucent: I have been using this powder for years – it sets my make up beautifully and gives me a matte base to work from.

So there it is, my eleven key pieces of cheat kit to go from a life source that has had the energy sucked from it to fuel another being to a slightly less frazzled new mummy. Even though I could spend this time either cleaning or eating something that may have actually taken a couple of steps to make, I find doing my make up a nice piece of normality from my pre-mummy days and something just for me.

S.

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Working on my Blue Peter Badge: DIY Baby Sensory #1

I don’t know what it is about motherhood but since I have had my daughter, I have channeled the spirit of Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events into me in regards to inventing bits and pieces to keep Alice entertained without always resorting to Amazon prime. In times of desperation, when the British weather has attempted to foil my walks with Alice with too much sun or sudden downpours, the protection for her I can fashion just using a hairband and whatever is in the bottom of her pram  has proven that necessity really is the mother of invention. And what is more necessary than doing anything you can think of to keep your beautiful little bub from shrieking the house down or using your hair as their own personal bungee rope.

This brings me onto the purpose of this first post, in a series, that look at how I have created my own easy, low-budget baby sensory experience that is ideal for the anti-social, not-really-an-all-singing-all-dancing mother. I do currently attend baby sensory classes, as any new mother-to-be, when I was pregnant I looked up all of the classes my baby could do or should be doing to develop their mind and booked onto to them asap. There are many positives to these classes – quality time with my mummy friends who are just as awkward as me during the song and dance numbers, and Alice gets to see her besties, as well as a chance for me to see if anything capture’s my daughters interest. On the flip side, I have never been one for trying to copy song actions in public with a lack of co-ordination that has an embarrassment level rivalling dad-dancing and the class generally coincides with when Alice decides she wants to sleep for the first time that morning. As a result, all hell breaks loose when I have to wake her up to get her into the car, again when we get to sensory, by which point she is crying hysterical and my sanity is in shreds. We will arrive, late, sweaty and having to do the mummy walk of shame as I try and bundle her into a room full of perfectly fresh-faced mummies and their non-screaming children who are singing and dancing in sync, as Alice howls from within her fluffy blanket cocoon and I look like the Wicked Witch of the West post-meltdown. For a Monday morning, it’s just a tad too stressful. This is where the seed of creating my own baby sensory began to grow in my mind, where I could control the songs (Disney all the way, obviously) and we wouldn’t need to take a ten minute playbreak in a 45 minute class (yeah, I’m not convinced by it either…), and more importantly, I could remain in my pyjamas with an Alice who is well-rested and not a screaming she-demon.

So one night, in desperation to distract Alice out of her hissy fit because I didn’t whip the boob out fast enough for her, I rattled some rice at her and the sound instantly distracted her enough to stop crying. Boom. My first baby sensory idea was set in motion – brightly coloured rice in a bottle!

Rice in a Bottle

You’re right – it doesn’t sound much, and  even better it took little to no effort to create, but my god is it effective. All I did was separate dry long grain rice into three bowls (as this was the three colours of food dye I had to hand), put a little food dye in each, mix it up so it was all covered, emptied onto kitchen roll and left to dry over night. By the next morning, I popped all the different coloured rice into an empty and dried out water bottle – voila! I had made Alice something that made the same sounds as a rainstick for a fraction of the cost, and the bright colours kept her attention as she enjoys watching the motion of the rice in the bottle. Hours of entertainment for the bub that cost me nothing as I had it all in the house, and means that there is one less bit of brightly coloured and noisy plastic in my house. Wins all round.

The Purple Concoction

Drunk on the success of my first homemade baby sensory prop, and my lack of a social life, I decided to keep making baby sensory props to amuse Alice. Next up was the purple bottle. It looks like something that George and his quest to create a Marvellous Medicine, would have whipped up. This bottle is simply: water, glitter, a dash of washing up liquid, and some buttons.

The key thing for Alice, who is much more driven by sound than anything else, was that the water bottle had ridges. This means when I am tipping it back and forth in front of her mesmerised eyes, she can hear the buttons running up and down against them. So all I did was mix a tiny splash of fairy liquid with water to make it a bit frothy and the water a bit thicker, then I threw in some purple, blue and silver glitter, and tossed in some buttons that I either found around the house or bought for £1 at The Works. Mixed all together, Alice loves to watch the glittery water but loves the sound of the buttons sloshing about. Easy to carry about and develops her sight/sound senses, boom. That’s two points to baby sensory at home.

The ‘Something Shiny’ Bottle

The final bottle I have is literally just to appeal to the inner magpie in my daughter – like her mother, obviously. It’s a mix of sunflower oil and baby oil to create a really thick liquid base (the sunflower gives it a bit of a golden sheen), gold and silver glitter and some buttons again. This is a great bottle to have to hand when Alice is in her general, happy awake stage and wants something to entertain her. As the liquid is thicker, it moves slower and the buttons float more in it and she just has a lot to look at. It’s particularly great if you shine a light on it and all the glitter sparkles and reflects – Alice honestly looks like she is staring at something from out of this world. And she never seems to get bored of it. The key thing – just make sure the bottle is clear (so preferably one without ridges or glue from the bottle label) and that the bottle isn’t completely full so it can sloshed around more easily.

Other Bits and Pieces

Alice has a deep love of bubbles, alas, I cannot make this from random bits in my house (apart from refills of bubble mixture using fairy liquid and bubble wands that I kept from my best friend and brother’s wedding… Hoarding mementos definitely paying off there!). So I caved and went to the Early Learning Centre – what will be my future place of residence I’m sure – and bought a wind up Bubble Fish in the sale for £6. Quite the bargain actually. I just wind this bad boy up and soon the entire room looks like something out of The Little Mermaid. Alice is in bubble heaven, I’m getting to re-live my dream of being a mermaid, everybody wins.

Other than that, I am currently in the process of making Alice a sensory tree (as she has a love for trees… She gets it from her father) using fleece blankets, towels, and crisp packets. It’s an unusual mix but here’s hoping it works out and won’t be something she just tries at, especially after all the sewing injuries I have encountered from it!

Watch this space for more budget, introvert baby sensory ideas!

S.

What is this Mum Guilt and How Can I Make It Go Away?

FullSizeRender-1When I went onto maternity leave, still with bubs nested inside me, I suddenly had this innate need to ensure that the house was clean, well-organised with dinner ready for when my husband got home from work. In one coffee meet up with my, then, mummy-to-be friends, I discovered that they similarly looked at the clock an hour or so before their husbands were due back from the office, and would rush about tidying and preparing food to prove that we had achieved something during the day. We joked about it, but it was true – in some way, we all felt that as we were no longer at work, we had to still prove we were being productive rather than just napping and binge-watching Netflix. Even though by this point most of us were the size of a small European country, with countless aches and pains from the weight of carrying another human being and all of their luggage inside us, and faced with the endless struggle that was any sort of movement needing at least ten minutes of serious preparation, warm up, and real conviction before you could get up from any seat. All credit to my husband, he never expected this of me or asked for it, but I still felt this all-consuming guilt that if he had to come home after a day at work to then tidy/make dinner as well, it just wasn’t fair. I would see myself as being lazy and not contributing, as I just swanned about (as much as one can swan about whilst being nine months pregnant) the house as he got on with the chores. Like some sort of Roman emperor. Even though being a human incubator is really bloody hard work, it did not require commuting and I did get to have naps, so in my mind I was having an easier time of it. Here the early seeds of ‘mum guilt’ had been sowed, and it was only going to intensify once madam arrived.

For me, and other mummies I have talked to including my best friend whose little cherub is six weeks younger than my own, mum guilt seems to be broken down into two main categories: mum guilt towards your child and mum guilt towards your husband.

The Guilt of Trying to be The Perfect Mummy

I have lost count how many times I have Whatsapped either my best friend or our shared mummy group about the concerns that I am not doing enough for my three month old daughter. Am I engaging with her enough? Are the activities we are doing developing her brain and co-ordination enough? Will she be emotionally scarred because for a split second I muttered under my breath ‘shut up Alice’ after she had been screaming in my ear for the past twenty minutes because I dared to try and put her in her car seat? Since the moment she was both inside me and then out, I have felt an insatiable pressure that I am never quite doing enough for my little girl and I could always be doing more to be the best mother that I could be.

On one occasion I became panicked after reading a BBC article about the harmfulness of letting your baby watch television. Before this, Alice had only recently discovered the television, and it was nice for both of us to sit there together and watch Moana (the charm began to wear off when I was watching it multiple times day, every day, for a good week or so) or when she giggled for the first time during Gaston’s song in Beauty and the Beast (thanks Josh Gad for that adorable moment!). I liked that we were bonding over Disney movies so early on, and it gave me a little bit of respite from constantly bouncing about the room that was further damaging my already pretty crucified back. But once I read this article, my Mum Guilt went into overdrive. I immediately began googling everywhere to see if there were any positives to your baby watching a bit of TV, to be met with pages and pages of judgmental advice that was basically one step away from saying ‘shame on you for not being able to entertain your child every minute of the day, bad mother, bad.’ I turned to my mummy friends for validation – was I a bad mother for introducing my child to the devil that seemed to be television? Should I solely just be reading to her and playing with the bouncy chair that only has two nursery rhyme tunes to it and has now been permanently etched into my brain so that I can hear those two, damn tunes on repeat in my dreams? In response, my friends all agreed that we can let them watch television and that it has to be good for them on some level of development as they engage with the colours, sounds and images that they watch.

But still the Mum Guilt didn’t go away, gnawing away at me like a mouse with a piece of cheese. I kept questioning how long we should watch a movie for before I needed to turn it off and move onto reading a book or playing with her sensory bottles (something we do throughout the day anyway). I felt as if I was being lazy and looking for an easy way out of looking after my daughter – as if I needed to give her every part of me to be a successful mother. This is just one example of that feeling – I cannot name a day that has gone by in the past 14 weeks that I have not felt some level of guilt that I am not doing enough for her. I was even like this when she was in the womb – was I singing to her enough, giving her enough rubs, playing her music, taking my vitamins. It is exhausting but I cannot seem to switch it off. With the damage to my back, it seems to have worsened. There have been so many times where I have burst out in tears or struggled with this feeling of self-loathing from the idea that I am letting Alice down. In the moments when I have to hand her over to her nana because I am in too much pain to be able to do the squat-bounces she loves so much, or when she has to endure the bottle of expressed milk because the contractions were so severe during breastfeeding I physically could not do it. I find myself apologising to her for the tiniest things because I am not living up to the all-singing, all-dancing mother that I feel I am expected to be.

But where does this image come from? Certainly not my mummy friends, we are all extremely honest with each other and I feel no need to pretend I live the perfect mummy life as my baby screams in the middle of M&S with no intention of stopping until I pick her up and carry her about on my shoulder, like a parrot. It isn’t from the people around me either, who tell me that I am doing well for a new mother, especially with some of the obstacles we have faced. But the reassurance makes no difference to me, there is this innate feeling inside of me, a voice well rooted in my self-conscious reminding me that I could always be doing more. I need to be better and that being injured is not an excuse to not be completely bending over backwards to give my entire self to my child.

After I was discharged from hospital from my re-admission due to the herniated disc, over-sensitised nerves and all the various other muscle ailments that came from giving birth to my daughter, I had no choice but to accept that I needed more help looking after Alice than I would have liked. I did so grudgingly, and have continued to push myself much, much more than I should be in regards to improving my pain levels. In my head, I was failing as a mother because I was not doing everything myself, I wasn’t being self-sufficient in looking after this child, and it only got worse each time I needed to call someone to help me. I remained plagued with the feeling that my body had failed me, that it is just not up to scratch and cannot live up to the tasks that it needs to as a mother. Again, there was a feeling that I was being lazy and I just wasn’t trying hard enough, that I was passing off my responsibilities of being a mother to others. That nothing was ever enough, even if I was giving everything I had.

2. The Guilt of Trying to Be The Perfect Mummy and Wife

On the other side of Mum Guilt, is that towards our partners. The other parent. The parent who works. Just like on maternity leave, I have continued to feel that I need to ensure my husband gets a break when he comes home from work because he has been at work all day and I have been at home. This includes the weekend – I want to ensure that one day of the weekend he gets a lie in, because he is up early for work during the week, as well as getting some time for him to do what he wants. As if, in my warped thinking, I am on some sort of holiday all during the week, and not looking after a newborn. The mentality that he needs to get a lie in because he doesn’t get it during the week is a ridiculous one. Where is my lie in?! I’m normally up at 2am feeding whilst he rolls over and sleeps through it, then I am up all subsequent times following that, and then starting the day fully when he leaves for work. Again, it isn’t something my husband has explicitly asked for and he is always helping with our daughter, but that’s the thing – helping with our daughter. In my mind, as I am on maternity leave, looking after our daughter is my sole responsibility – that is why I am on maternity leave, that’s my job so when he pitches in, it is helping me out.

But why is him looking after his own daughter seen as helping me? Playing his part as a parent is doing a favour to me, but not something that I should just expect, as it is expected from me. This shouldn’t even be a thought that crosses my mind, it should just be natural that she was a joint decision and therefore he’s just doing his part, to raise our daughter together. But Mum Guilt doesn’t work that way, I am on maternity leave and I am the mother, so I need to pull my weight which is taking responsibility for our child 99.9% of the time. My husband has a full-time job, he shouldn’t have to look after our daughter as well in his free time, he needs a break. Looking on the outside, what kind of messed up rationale is this?! When my husband is at work, he can have lunch whenever he wants, he can go to the bathroom whenever he wants, he gets to listen to music on his headphones and he interacts with other human beings that isn’t generally a one-sided conversation or being covered in milk. In my day, I am lucky if I can go to the bathroom more than twice a day by myself before my husband gets home and eating has become an art of how quickly can I assemble something in the kitchen and throw it in the general direction of my face before she wakes up from her five minute nap, fully refreshed and ready to play for another two – three hours. Yet when he comes home, and I hand Alice over and sit on instagram for ten minutes, I feel this immense guilt that he has been busy at work all day and look at me, I’m just lounging on the sofa flicking through instagram whilst he deals with a crying baby. I feel disgusted with myself that I am taking a break and I’m making him do extra work when he’s exhausted and that’s where he has been all day.

Is it the thought that because he actually leaves the house to go to an office to then return, that I put so much extra emphasis on this being work and because I don’t go to a specified work environment but rather have ones that are in the forms of homely environments, that my role is not really work at all. In one text to my best friend, I used the analogy that it was if I had bought a dog without telling him and therefore it was completely my responsibility to take care of this dog all the time and not him, because I had bought the dog and as I was at home I should ensure that it created minimal interference in my husband’s home life. But here’s the thing: our daughter was a joint decision – we both wanted to have her, and we both love having her in our lives. So why does it feel, for me, that it is solely my responsibility to look after her, and he should only really get her when she’s happy and playful? I honestly can’t answer that question – and I know it is one that seems to be a feeling so many other mummies have – that as the mother on mat leave it is our job to make sure our husbands have some relaxation and downtime, even though our job is 24/7, being both physically as well as emotionally taxing. It’s not enough that we grew this child in us for 9-9.5 months, with our bodies dramatically changed in the process, and then went through the joyous experience which is labour, but now we have to take the lion share of responsibility for raising that child because we are at home.

There have been so many occasions where I have been falling over myself with gratitude towards my husband because he once got up in the night to look after Alice. In those moments, when I had become so tired or in pain, that I had no recollection of her even crying in the night, I would wake up panicked in the morning wondering how she managed without me for 6 hours. My husband has never once had one of these moments of fear from not waking up when she stirs in the night. It’s just a built-in mum function – well done, Mother Nature. Now the guilt was two-fold: how could I be an even somewhat decent mother if I slept through my daughter crying, and on top of that my husband now has to go do a full day’s work on a disturbed night of sleep. Like I do everyday. But it’s ok, because I don’t have to commute so I really don’t need more than 3-4 hours sleep. Or the occasions where I came home from my parents house and he had tidied the house and got dinner ready, then took Alice off my hands. I would say thank you over and over again, spilling over with appreciation for how lucky I was to have a husband so understanding as this. But thinking back, this is what I do every day. My husband is just doing his equal share of being a parent. Why does that deserve such praise and admiration? It’s because of the Mum Guilt. The guilt that on top of working to pay our mortgage and bills, he is having to take on some of my job too. Why should his life change because we have this small person in it? There’s this need to try and keep it as normalised as I could, he needs that time out. And there it is again – this idea that the past life when we weren’t parents is what is normal, and that’s what needs to be maintained for him. Even though my life as it was has been completely and utterly replaced with this new life as a mother.

Again, all credit to my husband, he doesn’t put this pressure on me and he is always more than willingly to take our daughter and entertain her, change her, etc. But then is it credit? Surely he is just sharing the responsibility of looking after our incredible daughter rather than doing me a favour in giving me some much needed moments to myself. We both chose to become parents and therefore we should both shoulder the highs and lows that comes with it, without one of us feeling that the other is a martyr.

So what do we need to do to change this mentality?

In a way, I think there really needs to be more openness with not trying to be the perfect mothers all the time. And it’s happening with blogs such as The Unmumsy Mum and Peter and Jane, women who I look to and can see myself in – knowing that they are brilliant mothers who aren’t something that have just stepped out of Stepford. It’s ok that we wait by the front door at home time, with a screaming baby in our arms, literally counting down the seconds for our partners’ key to turn in the lock so you can thrust the baby into their arms and run away to the bathroom to enjoy five minutes of peace all to yourself. To accept that this child is a shared responsibility and that being on maternity leave is not a holiday just because you are at home but that it is a bloody difficult job and you deserve just as much as a break as your partner does, if not more, because they don’t have to deal with trying to feed a baby, multiple poo explosions, singing, baby classes and whatever else we try to squeeze into our already time-stretched days. Our maternal instincts need to accept that it isn’t the 1950s anymore, and we do not need to feel that because we have decided to adjust how we live our lives and remain in the home, that means we become sole child-rearers and housekeepers. But most importantly of all, we need to fully accept and embrace that we are a band of incredibly loving, strong, resilient, resourceful women who are winning at a the hardest job there is, with no training and no guidebook, and we’ve got the baby scratch marks across our faces to prove it.

Hating The Sound of a Hoover: The Lengths You’ll Go To Get Your Baby to Nap.


When your pregnant and you turn to women who are mothers – whether that be to a brand new baby or to an eighteen year old – for advice, the most common piece given is to rest as much as you can before bubs arrives. Now, if you were a pregnant woman like me who had horrific pelvic pains and couldn’t get in a comfortable position laying on either side due to the humongous weight attached to your stomach who used your nerves as their own personal harp, you’ll want to laugh at these mothers and say ‘no I asked for useful advice, not making a wish to a magic genie.’ By the end of my third trimester, it was the one thing I dreaded hearing from any mother because as much as I wanted to just sleep, it was not possible. Thanks to a small person who decided to consistently starfish into my bladder, I was waddling my way to the bathroom multiple times an hour and in between those trips I was trying to find any position that wasn’t uncomfortable. In this time, where I caught up on my Netflix, I thought about the silver lining of pregnancy insomnia in that it would help me to prepare for the sleepless nights to come and that actually, being up in the night wasn’t all that bad. Oh how naive and stupid I was. Pregnancy insomnia was a 5* holiday retreat in comparison to new mother sleep deprivation.

It all started when we first brought Miss Alice home for the first night. In the hospital she had lulled us into a false sense of security – she had an adorable little cry that made your heart melt and happily snoozed away in her portable glass crib. My husband and I looked at each other dopily, drunk on the love of meeting our baby girl, and thinking that this parenting lark wasn’t as terrifying as we had been led to believe, that really, it seemed quite easy as our daughter slept peacefully. In hindsight, I think this was actually a ploy of hers so that we didn’t leave her at the hospital. From the moment we left those doors and headed for home, the screaming began. It hasn’t stopped and that’s over three months on – it’s just got louder and at a higher pitch.

What kind of design flaw is it in human babies that once they become tired, rather than go to sleep like a rational being would, they just scream more and continually force themselves to stay awake. Why?! Every time with Alice it becomes a battle of willpower between herself and me, usually resulting in her clawing at my face as I try rocking and shushing her to sleep as she fights back with every fibre of her being. I find myself ranting about how I would love to have her life when I could just nap whenever I wanted, and she’ll regret this when she’s older and can’t nap anymore. And as her eyes, filled with furious tears, glower back at me, I can see her thinking ‘Good for you – I don’t want to sleep, and here you are trying to force it on me, you vile woman, as I wish to sit up and stare at the bookcase!’ The worst part is once I eventually have convinced her to give in and have a nap, which can sometimes take up to an hour, she can be wide awake  and fully refreshed within ten minutes. I can’t even fall asleep in ten minutes, how can she reboot herself so quickly?! I haven’t even had time to make it to the bathroom and back by then. At those moments, with my spirit completely crushed after  having the opportunity to actually eat lunch snatched from my grasp or to go to the bathroom without screams filling the air, I can’t help but admire my daughter’s ability to use sleep deprivation as a tactic of breaking me down and rebuilding me in the image she wants.

So, after three months of trying various techniques or pleading to get Alice to cave and realise that staying up for six hours straight results in her being foul-tempered, pulling out my hair that she impressively wraps around her fist so I can’t easily get it back and achieving a skill to cry consistently for hours without dehydrating; we have finally nailed down the sleep techniques that usually gets her to enter into some form of slumber, in an elaborate process that I did not think babies were capable of concocting:

  1. Harry’s Wondrous World – Neither my husband or I have any idea why this piece of music from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has become an auditory sedative to our daughter, but we thank the heavens above that it has. Granted, I have had to play it so much that there are times that I don’t know whether it is actually being played or if it’s just in my head, hearing it constantly on a loop all day, but if it allows for me to have a happy Alice than a she-demon as a child, I’ll take it.
  2. A fluffy, fleece blanket – We now have three of these in rotation, stashed in several places around the house prepared for any outbursts from our daughter who has a set of lungs on her that can be heard from halfway down the street. Like Harry’s Wondrous World, this is a sure way of getting our daughter to calm down when she is in the throws of a full-on lets-scream-the-entire-house-down-and-ruin-my-mothers-eardrums tantrum and is a staple for getting her to have a nap. It does not matter that we are in the midst of summer (ha – just kidding, it’s Britain), when it comes to nap time, Alice is wrapped up looking like a Jedi in her blanket and stays that way until she wakes up. Previously the most precious belongings in my home could have included our large Hogwarts crest or our wedding albums, but now if it came to it, I’d save the fluffy blankets over everything else (possibly even the husband, sorry pal). I’m almost certain Alice loves them more than she loves me, and it would not do well to dwell on what the consequences would be if they were not available to her at her whim.
  3. The John Lewis Nursing Pillow – Ironically, bought for me when I was pregnant to help with sleeping, this has now been commandeered by Alice. Our usual nap routine will be: nursing pillow on my lap, my knees propped up at a slanted angle (lying flat will not work), with Alice cuddled up in the middle, wrapped up in the fluffy blanket, being gently bounced up and down with Harry’s Wondrous World playing in the background. In all fairness, this cushion does feel like you are resting your head on a cloud so I can understand her attachment, but still, is the fluffy blanket not enough?!
  4. The 8hr Youtube Video Loop of Henry the Hoover – When all else fails, and the screaming has reached a pitch that has the dogs of the neighbourhood howling whilst Alice’s face has become so twisted that she looks as if she is being dragged into the underworld, we turn to Henry the Hoover. God bless you, Henry the Hoover and whoever decided to record an 8hr loop of him happily hoovering away. This will make Alice stop crying in seconds, and it was discovered by accident one day when my husband was hoovering the living room, we noticed that Alice just seemed to go into some sort of zen-like trance at the sound of it. Since then, my most watched YouTube video is that 8hr loop, played at full volume. As much as I appreciate how hard he is working to calm Alice down so she’s not sobbing hysterically at the prospect of sleep, I have truly become to despised this sound and it remains ringing in my ears for a good hour or so after it has been finished. But I’ll never stop playing it. Even if I do hear it in my dreams.
  5. For Bedtime Only: Ewan the Sheep and the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions – When we can eventually convince Alice it’s time for her to not use one of us as her own personal bouncing chair, we’ll bring out Ewan the Sheep and Harry Potter to get her set for bed. To be honest, I think the husband and I just prefer reading Harry Potter for ourselves and wanted an excuse to get the illustrated copies to add to our ever growing collection, but it does slot in nicely into our early indoctrination plans for Alice to develop a deep love of HP (which she already instinctually seems to have – win!). Once we have managed to slip her into her Sleepyhead, done our silent victory dance of getting her in there without stirring too much, and taken a well-deserved sigh of relief, we’ll turn on Ewan’s womb noises to quash any remaining fight Alice has left in her. Now Ewan is great and all, but he’s no match for Henry the Hoover in lasting power and effectiveness. In the early days, before Henry came to save my sanity, I remember cursing Ewan as he switched off after 20 minutes and Alice’s eyes immediately popped wide open. I’m sorry Mr Sheep, but you do not need a break every 20 minutes, just keep playing the womb noises until your batteries run out.

As I finish typing this, I look over to my daughter, currently engulfed in her favourite pink fluffy blanket, one arm sticking out but her face almost entirely hidden under the hood she has fashioned for herself, the Harry Potter soundtrack playing for the umpteenth time this hour, and I think how much I’d like to give her a cuddle. Then I remember what the consequences will be. I’ll just stay at my laptop admiring from a distance, I think.

S.

Miss Alice’s Nursery Tour: The Result of the Nesting Phase

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In pregnancy there are so many phases that you go through as the trimesters tick on – the sickness phase, the uncontrollable-rage-followed-by-uncontrollable-sobbing phase, the please-don't-leave-me-I-just-want-to-be-cuddled clingy phase to name a few fun memories. These are all amplified further by the constant surge of hormones and lack of sleep that comes from being the size and density of an Orca whale with a small human being bouncing about on your insides as if they were their own personal trampolines. Yet one of the more enjoyable phases is the Nesting Phase. The phase that have all the partners try to run away from, as their weekends get absorbed into an endless list of DIY demands from their future child's incubator. My nesting phase seemed to kick in from the moment we moved into our new house when I was two months pregnant and I wanted the entire house to be re-designed in preparation for Alice's arrival. Granted, at that point it was more directed at re-modelling the kitchen and bathroom, where I would climb onto the kitchen sides, precariously balanced to paint cupboards as my husband looked on in horror. By the time we had reached the end of my second trimester, all I could think about was getting the nursery sorted, and my Pinterest board began to get more and more filled with ideas, with the months remaining until bub came out spent bringing these ideas to life. With the nursery, we chose a soft grey so that the room was quite neutral for when we planned to move house in future and also allowing me to create whatever colour scheme I would like for the room without it clashing against the walls.

Furniture: The main pieces of furniture in the nursery are actually antiques from my grandmother's house that I upcycled once on maternity leave. The chest of drawers and the miniature wardrobe were originally a dark oak, but as I decided the colour scheme for the nursery to be grey, pink, white and gold, that wouldn't really fit with it. Instead, I painted the main frames of the furniture white with the doors and drawers then painted in Champagne Pink for a pop of colour (with some much needed assistance from my parents). I also added some cute white button handles from Amazon to tie it all together. What I loved about upcycling these pieces of furniture (although I cursed them constantly whilst doing it with a large beach ball attached to the front of me, covered in paint and sweating from the manual labour my body is clearly not designed for), was that it means my grandmother, who passed away, has been incorporated into Alice's living space. Similarly, the rocking Ikea chair was my grandmother's as well (though I'm in the process of convincing the husband to upgrade it to a wingback armchair… You know, to help support my back with feeding and such, not at all because it's pretty and I want it).

Cotbed: I really loved the Sleigh style of cotbeds that seemed to be about when we were nursery shopping, and I wanted a cotbed rather than just a cot so that it would last longer (especially as she's sleeping in our room in her Next To Me until she either A) cannot fit in it anymore or B) when I can actually stand being separated from her). We found this one in John Lewis and it ticked all our criteria of having storage underneath, different heights for the mattress, and protected slotted sides that Alice couldn't gnaw her way through during teething. The rabbit bedsheets and blanket are also from John Lewis (Who could not want rabbit prints?!). The pillows are one of the many ways that I am subliminally indoctrinating Alice into the world of Disney and Harry Potter.

Changing Area/Bookcases: Both my husband and I grew up loving to read, and this was something that we both really wanted to do with Alice, so it was a no-brainer to have a corner of her room dedicated to housing all the books we loved as children and a few more bought just for her. The shelves are actually photo ledges from Ikea that meant I could stock more books on them than with regular bookshelves. We also had it put near the changing area so that we can easily reach up and grab one quickly to distract her when she begins to get grumpy with having her nappy changed. One of her favourites at the moment is just looking at her black and white animal book, particularly the elephant who always seems to make her smile. I also have two crinkly toys from the Sleepyhead Arch that I hang off the shelves for her to look at as she loves the sound they make when squeezed and can normally trick her out of a full blown temper tantrum. The changing mat itself is a 101 Dalmatian design with an Aden + Anais Winnie The Pooh Swaddle over the top so when she has her usual poonados or stress peeing, I can quickly change the muslin without having to wash the entire thing down.

Clothing Rail: Thanks to Pinterest tips, the rails where I hang up most of Alice's dresses for her age range are actually made from Ikea spice racks turned upside down. They did come in pine, but I painted the shelves white with the rails in the same champagne pink that the chest of drawers and wardrobe are. These are one of my favourite parts of her nursery as it has two uses: 1) to make it easy to grab her dresses, t-shirts or cardigans for the day without having to fight through the wardrobe and all the different sizes in there (it's like the wardrobe to Narnia with the sheer amount of clothing in there), and 2) to display all of her soft toys above it.

Window Sill: I spent hours trawling the web trying to find curtains that would match the colour scheme of her room whilst having a black out lining and not costing the earth. Finally I found these beauties at Dunelm and loved the floral ditsy pattern that it used in a patchwork design. On the windowsill itself, I have Alice's memory boxes that are filled with keepsakes from our baby shower where we had our friends write letters to her and mementos from Alice's first few months such as her newborn going home outfit and newspapers from the day she was born. There's also some Disney artwork in frames, including the movie poster of Alice in Wonderland, and a large fluffy dog that looks like my parents' Golden Retriever who Alice adores followed by a cuddly Nemo (Yep, we are still regularly watching Finding Dory, not getting sick of it at all…). The newest addition to the window sill is Alice's own copy of the 20th Anniversary re-print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that was bought for her by one of her godmothers in celebration of the year she was born. It is the Gryffindor design, but we are going to wait until she is older and can be sorted by the Hat before fully deciding what House she belongs to.

Artwork & Decor: I always knew I wanted to fill her room with prints and artwork that would surround her with positive messages. The four prints above her cotbed I designed & printed myself with quotes from Disney and Harry Potter that had a significance to us (such as the quote from the song Baby Mine as I used to sing this to her when she was in utero). I also created the pink and gold dot garland that hangs above it, to add a bit more colour to the wall. The Alice in Wonderland canvas is a Thomas Kinkade painting that my parents bought Alice as a welcome home present, and it's one of my favourite pieces in the room. There are two pieces from Letterbox Lane bought by one of my best friends, one to inspire Alice to 'Dream Big' and the other being my favourite Roald Dahl quote from The Twits. There is also a large canvas of the original Cinderella movie poster and a 'Happily Ever After' sign that we used at our wedding. In terms of toys, we have some owls and a Pygmy Puff from Harry Potter watching over her, Paddington Bear, some well-loved Disney figures (including a figurine of Marie bought by my best friend/her Auntie and uncle) and some more rabbits. There are also a couple of penguins (not including the lifesize emperor penguin that we have in our room) as my husband loves penguins and Alice seems to have inherited this fascination with them as well.

S.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just projectile poop and vomit.

So this little cutie has turned three months. In all honesty, I do not know where the time has gone. It feels like just yesterday, we had brought her home and were completely perplexed by how to look after this tiny bundle that had a serious pair of lungs on her from birth. One of the biggest adjustments that you seem to get the quickest at dealing with from the get-go is the poonados and endless amount of spit-up that seems to come out these tiny beings with a force that I did not even realise was possible.

Prior to Alice's birth, I would change my outfit if I dropped some make up on it or spilt some food or drink onto it. If I got toothpaste in my hair (something that happened much more frequently than you would think), I would wash it out in the sink then re-dry it. Oh how those days have passed. Within the first month I had lost count the amount of time that I had been peed on, thrown up on, and laughed as my husband got poonado-ed on as retribution for my daily struggle with Alice's bodily functions that could easily have been confused with bio-warfare. In one instance, she had managed to transform herself into something that resembled the Bellagio fountains as a stream of pee shot over the changing table (that we have on top of a dresser), covering me and the floor but miraculously missing her entirely. I'm not going to lie, part of me seriously considers that she knew what she was doing as revenge for attempting to change her nappy. How did I deal with this afterwards? I remained in those baby urine soaked clothes for two hours. Why – you non-newborn parents ask in horror – I'll tell you why, because my SuperSoaker of a daughter then needed to be calmed down from the trauma that was having herself cleaned and dressed (I know, I'm a cruel mother by ensuring she doesn't just sit in her own filth) by being bribed with breastmilk before the usual fight to try and get her to nap set in. The best part of it all, when the attack happened, I just sort of stood there and shrugged as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

That's the thing, as a parent of a bubba, this is the new norm. Long gone are the days of changing outfits that may have had a slight mark that really only you noticed. Now if I change my outfit it's because she has completely drenched it in all the breastmilk she decided she wanted to try and match her own body weight with, and I can't really move with it at that density. Other than that, I look at it and think 'Well there's only going to be more of that at some point.'

So here are some top poonado and other bodily function joys I have experienced in my three months of being a parent so far:

1) The ultimate poonados: These are the ones that are so epic they escape the prison of their nappies and shoot up your baby's back, legs, feet and any other crook and cranny they can fit into. For me, these experiences mainly seem to happen when we are out. Of course. There is a new level of challenge when there has been a full poo explosion and you are desperately trying to clean your entire child in a tiny M&S bathroom as she screams as if the world is crumbling around her. It is only made better when she rolls off the dirty nappy, covers the changing mat, then rolls around in it like a dog, all whilst she screams at the top of her lungs. How did I manage to rectify this situation? Firstly, by sticking one hand in the automatic hand dryer the sound stopped her crying, whilst using the other to reach any part of her with the wet wipe I can. Realising that the wet wipes are not doing the job, I then decide it'll just be quicker to clean her poo covered body by washing her in the sink with hand soap. Brilliant – one clean baby, but she's begun screaming again as she thought she was getting a bath and then was cruelly snatched from the water and dried by toilet paper rather than her soft towels. This results in her stress peeing, covering the one tiny area of the changing mat that remained clean from the poonado, and means that she's back in the sink again. After this, with no changing mat, the large muslin you forgot you had comes out to dry her and finally battle her into her third outfit change of the day. What you thought would be a 10min nappy changed into a 45min battle with your traumatised baby, where you re-emerge from the bathroom with a wild look in your eye, sweating, and scratch marks your face caused by a displeased bub. To top it all off, I had yellow nails for about a week afterwards no matter what I used or how hard I scrubbed to get rid of it. Who knew that baby poo had such a powerful dye ability?

2) Projectile vomit that makes you realise The Exorcist was not over-exaggerating: So this story is actually where the name of my blog originates from. Wow. I did not realise just how much milk could come back up from such a small being and that it could reach the distances that it could. Thank God, for me this was just something that seemed to happen mainly in the first month but it has left me with some memories that I don't think will ever leave me. The most memorable one was one evening when Alice kept wanting to feed, when really it was probably she just wanted the comfort but didn't need the milk. At the time, I thought she was going through a growth spurt, what I did not realise was she was saving it up to create an impressive display of milk spewage. So half an hour after her feed, we are in her bouncy chair and she is playing with her toys. It was lovely. As I picked her up, she let it all go. My mistake – I had not done up my top from the last feed. Yep, she filled my bra with her milk vomit. The entire bra. It was soaked through and marginally filled up. She also managed to cover herself in it as well. I was a little shell-shocked after it happened, I've never seen such a fountain come out and aimed at me, but instead of dealing with myself, the husband and I got her into the bath, changed into her bed clothes at which point I had partially forgotten that my bra was dripping cold milk vom onto my stomach. Lovely.

3) The crunch that comes from baby-pee dry hair: Yep, that's a familiar sound to me now. When I found out my best friend was having a baby boy, six weeks after me, I laughed that she'll have to deal with fountains of pee shooting towards her. I remained smug in my naivety that with a girl, I would not have such situations. Oh how very wrong I was. There has been many a time now that Alice has surprised me with the sheer force she can shoot pee out at and how it generally seems to reach my hair. Even if it's tied up. Oh how I laugh at my past self as I do my nightly brush of my hair to hear the crunch of dried pee in it. Now I'm beginning to wonder if there is a way I can use it to style my hair?

What stories do you have of dealing with emergency poonados, going out covered in spit-up that you didn't realise was there, or any other amusing moments with your bub that you did not expect prior to their arrival? Here's hoping it's not just me!

S.

Oh, I Do Believe I Shot Milk Into Your Face: The Achievements and Mishaps of Breastfeeding

 

With a difficult birth, one of the things I am most grateful for post-birth is having a relatively positive experience with breastfeeding. During pregnancy, I was open to the idea of doing any method of feeding that worked for my baby once she was born. I had read many stories of women who struggled with breastfeeding and therefore I never took for granted that this was a guarantee for me, focusing more on the fact that just feeding my baby was the crucial part, however that was. Luckily, Alice has always been a pretty decent feeder – I credit that to her thinking with her stomach first and has the nose of a bloodhound for sniffing milk out; saying that it does not mean it has been smooth sailing the entire time.

In the first couple of weeks, we both struggled with latching on and getting the right position that resulted in some serious sob sessions for us both. After having some brilliant first feeds post-delivery, I may have been a little presumptuous thinking we had cracked it already. Ha. By the time we made it home, and having no midwives to guide her, we were struggling to get a good position where she could latch without me suffocating her with the rest of my boob or without her falling off. Then the pain kicked in. You think that after everything Mother Nature had subjected us mothers to with the pregnancy and the actual process of pushing a baby out of a space that was clearly not well thought out in terms of proportion, breastfeeding would be a walk in the park. Clearly not. Alice would thrash her head about as if she was at a Metallica concert, screaming, and trying to rip my nipple off with her gums in an attempt to latch on. Once she eventually did manage to find her way back using mummy GPS and rhythmic shushing, she had the suction power of an industrial hoover that subjected my poor nip-nips to a level of pain they had not experienced before followed by chewing on them as if they were some sort of toffee. Combined with the joy of newborn cluster feeding and uterus contractions I was a sobbing mess for those first two weeks, slathered in Lanolin cream and bleeding from severely cracked nipples. I felt as if I was failing my daughter because she would become so frustrated at feeding time when it would take us ages to get in the right position and she would become hysterical, acting as if I was tormenting her by having her food source in sight but not giving it to her. Even though our mummy friends were saying that they had endured the exact same thing with their bubs, it still felt as if I was just unable to get anything right – thanks sleep-deprivation for making everything hundred times more dramatic!

Finally, as everyone had said, by week three it had suddenly become natural. I could basically throw Alice to the near vicinity of my chest and she'd be able to find her way and be merrily sucking the life force from me to fuel herself. I credit my nipples suddenly growing some extra tough layer of breast-feeding like armour for this – I'm pretty sure that Alice has broken them spiritually, and they are just numb to the world now. Yet the mishaps have not ended there, yes we have the feeding aspect down but now my breasts seem to have taken on a life of their own where they are completely out of my control. Here are some of the top breast mishaps we have experienced so far:

1) The milk coming in: I have been blessed that when I gave birth I became, as a midwife called it, Daisy the Cow. I am not complaining that I have been gifted with a solid milk supply, it makes expressing and freezing for when I have physio; spinal injections; emergency admittance to hospital or any other unforeseen circumstances, that Alice has always got milk ready for her. On the flip side, it has meant multiple occasions of waking up in the night, my pyjamas soaked in my own milk or with breasts that would put the Amy Poehler's mum from Mean Girls boob's to shame in terms of being like rocks. Not even rocks. More like huge, solid boulders that, when you're not prepared for it, result in you overbalancing from the weight. Where was that warning in any of the parenting books?!

2) The sheer force that milk can shoot of them: It is a whole new experience when you are sitting in the John Lewis breastfeeding corner, happily minding your own business checking Instagram as your bub feeds, when she comes off and milk shoots out of your breast and hits her square in the face. It was as if I had attached a SuperSoaker to the front of my chest. So now I had a crying baby who looked as if she had just been assaulted by her most trusted companion, and a boob that was pouring milk over my top and leggings. The result? I smelt like sour milk for the rest of the day and a traumatised child who cried any time I tried to put her back on that side. Winning at mum life.

3) Talking of leakages… Why was it not included in any of the leaflets given to us as we left hospital that your breasts would turn into a continually broken tap?! I was led to believe that these would be minimal leaks, controlled by nursing pads, not the opening of floodgates in the middle of Baby Sensory. That's right ladies and gentleman, in the middle of Baby Sensory, the little cherub came off too early and I was catching a spew of milk into my palm as I frantically tried to find a muslin to stem the flow. Seriously, boobs, can we not try and humiliate me every time we are in public?!

4) The judgment and anger that it will create in your bub: I have many a photo of my darling little sweetheart, who normally looks like a sixteenth century cherub, looking furious, milk dribbling from the corner of her mouth, as she stares at me with a level of resentment in her eyes that I did not even know babies were capable of because I put the boob away too quickly. Yes she had stopped feeding ten minutes ago and it had just been sitting there getting cold, but having the option to go back to it at any moment snatched from her was a level of cruelty she could not forgive her mother of. Well, not until I took it back out again. Then there's the disgust when I have not been able to get it out and to her as fast as she would like. Once I have, she'll suck on it ferociously, glaring up at me and growling as she does so.

I'm sure as time goes on, we will have more bonding moments during feeding but at the moment I'm too busy laughing at her general sass when I'm not getting it perfectly right for her every time. What are your experiences of breastfeeding or feeding your bub in general? What has been your best mishap so far?

S.

Your Nine and a Half Month Lease Is Up, Get Out: Surviving 46 Hours of Labour

 

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After 41 long weeks of pregnancy, where the memory of not walking like an obese penguin had long been forgotten and I had lived anywhere but in the bathroom, the moment had finally arrived. Labour. After months of nesting, vigilant avoidance of One Born Every Minute, practising relaxation techniques, and false alarms thanks to the Braxton Hicks; I was en route to meeting the bub who I had been painstakingly growing inside me for nine and a half months. The bub who I had spent nights flipping from side to side in bed as she kicked me repeatedly if I dared to encroach on her personal space; who I played Disney music to on repeat as she bopped along to it; and who I sang to each night.

To give some context, I am an obsessive planner. I like planning, for things to be organised, and to have a clear idea of what is going to be happening in my head. I wasn’t foolish, I knew that I couldn’t make labour follow my plan to the letter (though I gave it a good go and had strong words with Fate to just this once, follow the plan) but I did have several contingency plans to try and cover all circumstances. Following the advice of the hypnobirthing course that my husband and I attended in the second trimester, I spent the last few months of my pregnancy writing and re-writing my birth plan ensuring it was colour co-ordinated with my birthing colour.  I specified how I wanted a water birth with minimal, if no, intervention using only gas and air as a method of pain relief if I really needed it. After reading nothing but positive hypnobirthing stories of a calm, natural birth where mothers-to-be just breathed their baby out, I was convinced this would be the birth I would have. I practised my breathing and affirmations daily (well, when I remembered…), feeling confident that although labour would be intense, my body was designed to do it and with that understanding the fear element was removed ergo removing the pain with it. With most things, Fate decided it had a completely different birth plan in mind, and how we look back and laugh at that plan I had.

 

For me, labour started with intense tightening sensations in my back and hips at 6am on Wednesday 10th May. How odd, I thought to myself, but as they kept disappearing and as I had been fooled by Mr Braxton Hicks in the past, I just ignored it. Keeping myself busy, and my mind off the fact I was a week overdue, I popped to Next with my mum. In the middle of the children’s clothes section I stopped in my tracks as it felt as if a bowling ball had just attached itself to my stomach and I struggled to waddle due to the pressure. Again, it passed, and I went on my merry way but gave the husband a call to let him know that something was happening but nothing too dramatic. By 6pm, and one McDonalds later (obviously), the sensations had gone from on and off into full blown contractions remaining in my hips and back,  but nothing like the period pains I had been warned of. Instead, it felt as if I was being punched repeatedly whilst having an elastic band squeezed over my stomach. As the night went on, they grew more and more intense with barely any time apart and after trying to distract myself with bouncing all over the house on my birthing ball, watching The West Wing, having a bath and staring resentfully at my husband as he slept next to me, I decided at 3am we were going into hospital where they had gas and air, mother in tow. I have to give all credit to hypnobirthing here – it was those breathing techniques combined with a TENS machine, a Disney playlist and flannels infused with lavender and peppermint oil that helped me manage contractions until 12pm on Thursday when I finally relented to having an internal examination (the first element of my birthing plan thrown out of the window) with the compromise that I did it was gas and air.

My lovely midwife Sarah quickly carried out the examination, and told me that I was in ‘Active Labour’ (the stage where the contractions are at their most intense, lasting longer and with little space in between each one as you dilate more rapidly). I would have taken that more onboard, if I hadn’t been completely intoxicated from the gas and air I had been inhaling as if there was no tomorrow. Instead, I was laughing hysterically at everything being said to me whilst gently swaying from side to side, the mouthpiece dangling from the side of my mouth. The moment Sarah told me that the gas and air was mine to keep, I won’t lie, equalled the moment I married my husband in terms of joy. Now, there isn’t a lot I enjoyed about labour, in fact the only thing I enjoyed about labour apart from getting my daughter at the end of it, was the free-flowing supply of gas and air. If I could, I would marry gas and air. No it didn’t take the pain away, but I was too busy laughing my face off to care that the contractions were making me feel as if my entire torso was in an ever-increasing vice. I’m pretty sure the midwives thought I had mistaken the gas and air for my husband, as I  never allowed it to leave my side. When not sucking out the endless supply from the wall, I wheeled a portable canister with me  a long to the bathroom, into the shower; grinning and giggling as if we shared a secret just between the two of us.

Alas, our relationship began to falter as my active labour dragged on. On average, active labour generally lasts about eight hours for a first baby. Mine lasted sixteen hours. Sixteen. You see, it turned out that my little darling bub had decided she enjoyed the womb so much that she wasn’t at all ready to come out. In protest, she turned herself round and wedged her head at the bottom of my spine to keep herself in there for as long as possible. Grand for her, horrific for me.

After I had endured eight hours of active labour, with excruciating contractions because of her head pressing on my spine, all plans of a calm water birth went out of the window. I had been awake and contracting for 38 hours – my entire body was exhausted from the pain and effort of it, and I was demoralised as I had barely progressed in terms of dilation. The gas and air had begun to lose its previous comedic effect and the midwives  had moved on to diamorphine to try and provide more relief. It failed. Next, my waters were broken in attempt to encourage my daughter out, but nothing came of it. She was not budging and I was becoming more and more distressed. Eventually, it was decided that I be moved from the midwife-led ward to the high-risk unit for an epidural, it was our last hope at trying to ease what had become a difficult labour. Everything I had specified on my original birthing plan was gone – I was desperate to have some relief from the contractions which seemed to be endless with no respite between each huge wave.

After the move to the delivery suite, my memories of the remaining six hours of my labour are a vague haze of midwives, doctors, failed pain relief and panic. I don’t remember much, but have had my mum and husband fill me on the blank spaces in my memory. Thinking back to the parts I can remember, my stomach goes into knots and tears prick in my eyes remembering how it felt to feel my body begin to be unable to cope with each wave of contractions, the crushing disappointment when my last chance of relief in an epidural failed, and moments where I wanted it all to be over because I physically couldn’t stand it any longer. I pride myself on having a high pain threshold, but by the end of labour I felt completely and utterly broken – both emotionally and physically. Arguments were had about me having a c-section, as the midwives and my birthing partners fought with the doctors that although the baby was not in distress, I, as the mother, clearly was, and that it was not fair that I continued to struggle with such little progression. My husband told me of his sheer panic and the harrowing experience as he watched my eyes roll back into my head, my body writhing on the bed as I began to hallucinate, mumbling incoherently about not wanting to go to the cinema.

Finally, as the agreement was made to take me to theatre, I had one final examination to see if I had dilated any further. Luckily, our little girl had made a final turn and I was fully dilated. I had the immense need to push, it was if that was all my body could do and I had no control over it. It just kept pushing by itself. Within 12 minutes and four pushes later, she was out and handed to me. Apparently, she came out waving, obviously making a grand, pageant-like entrance to support her belated arrival. It was so unexpected that my main midwife, Sally, had not even made it back from the bathroom to deliver her, and something she continued to mention she felt robbed of. None of the midwives could believe that she was out in four pushes and my mother heard them gasping about it in the hallway. For me, once I felt ready to push, I was not going to stop until she was out.

As traumatic as I found my labour experience, it was nothing compared to the sheer, inexplicable joy I felt when holding my daughter in my arms for the first time. Due to my exhaustion, the midwife had to place her on me to feed but the little darling knew exactly what to do, and got straight down to it. My husband says that I immediately began shushing her as she cried, cradling her close to my skin. She was mine, and I had never seen anything as perfect as her little face looking up at mine. Sadly, there were complications with the placenta not coming out naturally, and it was beginning to look like I would need to be taken to theatre in the end anyway, much to everyone’s frustration. In a good twist of fate, the doctor managed to manually remove it (a wholly unpleasant experience to end it all) and I was left alone to just enjoy my brand new, beautiful baby girl with no more interference.

12 weeks on, I am still suffering from the intense labour I underwent. I have herniated a disc from where her head pressed against my spine and remaining in the same position on my back for 8 hours; my stomach muscles are non-existent from going through contractions with little to no pain relief for over two days; and my nerves have remained over-sensitised resulting in my body thinking it is still in labour and randomly going into active labour contractions even three months on. It’s been incredibly difficult, and to an extent, I do feel as if my body has failed me in some ways. Since labour, I have been re-admitted to hospital via ambulance due to the pain, undergone steroid injections in my back, been on a cocktail of painkillers that I would either not take or meant I had to regulate how I breastfed/expressed milk, and have weekly physiotherapy to try and repair the damage. I have had to have help in the form of my mother and husband every day to help look after my daughter as I am only allowed to have limited time lifting, bouncing, dancing and playing with her without making the contraction spasms worse. I haven’t felt as if I have been able to be the best mother that I can be to my daughter and have hated relying so heavily on other people to help me care for her. I have sobbed more times than I can count as I have breastfed my daughter through contractions or had to hand her over to someone else to soothe as she cries because I physically can’t hold her any longer. I become angry that the hospital did not do more at the time to intervene – why could I not have had an epidural earlier once they realised it was a back-to-back labour and it was clear I was not progressing? Why did they not just give me a c-section earlier but instead continue the ordeal in the pursuit for a ‘natural’ birth? The midwives were fantastic, but I do feel that the doctors cared only for my child and not as me as the mother. Seeing me as nothing more than the vessel rather than the person who after the labour needed to be fit and well to actually care for the baby that they were delivering.

There are so many questions I have and so many emotions surrounding my daughter’s birth – initially, it made me not to want another child. I never wanted to experience that again. Three months on, and falling more and more in love with my daughter as each day passes, I’ve begun to reconsider this stance, but I remain strong in my wish to never undergo a ‘natural vaginal delivery’ again. For me, this makes me strongly question hospitals attitude that only the baby matters in regards to childbirth – the mother and her wellbeing should be just as important, otherwise it can result in long-lasting damage, both emotionally and physically, that could easily be avoided. I love my daughter, more than anything in the world, and even knowing everything I do now, I would do it all over again to get her. But how I wished the doctors/consultants had cared just as much about me as they had about their desperate desire for a vaginal birth.

 

 

Let’s Get Incubating – The 9.5 month slog to expand our family from two people to three.

For me, the idea of having children was rather an abstract one. I knew at some point I would probably like to have a child of my own, someone to pass the Disney and Harry Potter obsession onto or to take care of my husband, D, and in our old age, but I was in no rush to get there. I was the person who, if a baby looked at me as we waited next to each other in the doctor’s surgery, would stare back awkwardly for a moment, before quickly looking anywhere else until I was called in, hoping eventually someone else would catch its interest. Prior to Alice, I had no experience with babies and no interest in gaining any. Then, in June 2016, after being married for three months, the biological clock seemed to go into overdrive and all I could think about was getting pregnant – as my mind screamed ‘but we don’t like children!’, my heart and body seemed to have zeroed in on anyone in the near vicinity who was pregnant or with a baby and force it to the forefront of my brain.

By August, it had happened. I was with child and I took about five or six tests to confirm it (looking back, I should have taken shares out in Boots pregnancy tests/Clearblue) because, y’know, one is just never enough. The morning sickness hit hard, although I managed to escape it without actually being sick, I was nauseous constantly and only managed to function by rubbing mint lip balm under my nose and eating packets of polos by the day. Rather than enjoy bizarre cravings (unless you can count McDonalds and junk food, which I could have happily eaten for every meal of the day), I had a mass of food aversions. Out when my beloved southern fried chicken tenders from M&S and my turkey sausages; stir fry was banished from the house and I could no longer stand the sight or smell of raw chicken or mince being cooked. My heart cracked as I began to dislike cheese, but thankfully my love for it was reignited in the third trimester, and I longed for cured meats and brie.

Mood swings, hip and pelvic pain, exhaustion, general uncomfortable-ness and a constant of frustration of not being able to fit into clothes, made me joyous company for those 9.5 months. The old faithful husband bore the brunt of it – I would be sobbing one moment over an Andrex advert, telling him how much I loved him and biting his head off in the next, for coughing too loudly in my general vicinity. I imagine it was like living with an overgrown toddler, who would refuse to eat any kind of vegetable and threw temper tantrums at the drop of a hat, whilst becoming incredibly clingy. My entire body had been taken over by hormones, and at times it felt like an out of body experience as I went from pure joy to pure rage in a matter of seconds.

Yet he wasn’t the only one that Hurricane Stephie swept up on its hormonal path, there were multiple occasions at work where I broke down sobbing in front of my manager (oh the shame of it all!) and when asked what was wrong, I simply couldn’t pinpoint it – I just felt awful and needed to sob. There is nothing quite as awkward as having your male manager try and soothe you as you babble incoherently about back pain and how much you hate hormones or the fact you can’t remember what you did yesterday because of baby brain. My family and best friends as well often had phone calls at all hours of the day where I would be crying or ranting after being tipped over the edge by listening to an emotional song on Spotify or when I felt the husband had crossed me. Overall, the hormones sucked. For the best part of a year, I was an emotional wreck.

Then the third trimester hit – like a train. Unluckily, I became ill and had to spend a month of it on bedrest to try and build myself up ready for labour. Bed rest would be great (think of all the Netflix boxsets you could get through!) if it wasn’t for not being able to lie on your back, or comfortably on either of your sides due to your baby lying on a nerve that caused constant hip pain and needing the bathroom every 5 minutes as my bladder had decided it had the capacity of a pea. I was huge, developed a waddle, gained swollen ankles and feet, and often needed help getting out of a chair or being rolled onto my side, like a beached whale, to get out of bed. The moment it hit my due date I was bouncing up and down on my exercise ball, eating a carton of pineapple whilst practising my hypnobirthing breathing in a desperate attempt to shift this baby out. I credit my baby’s love of bouncing now to the fact that I bounced around my living room as if I were training for the olympics in ball bouncing during the last month or so of pregnancy.

At 41 weeks, I went into labour and I was not sad to say goodbye to pregnancy. Yes, there were plenty of magical moments – feeling my little girl move about inside me, kicking to certain Disney songs, or kicking when she was read a story by her daddy each night were  just some. I loved having a Baby on Board badge that meant, for the most part, I got a seat on my commute or at least allowed me to throw judgmental looks at those who didn’t offer me one. There was a lot of excitement and nesting that went on in preparation for her arrival, and in hindsight, the stomach nicely contained her ability to scream at the top of her lungs for an impressive length of time. But my god, was I pleased when I got my body back at the end of it and didn’t need to go to the bathroom 50,000 times a night or could go back to sleeping on my back or front. Alas, pregnancy brain has remained and I still can’t remember what I have done with half the things I tidied away during my nesting phase, but actually being able to walk at a pace quicker than that of a rather large snail whilst eating pate by the bucket load, is heavenly.

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