Top 10 tips to make breastfeeding easier

Top 10 tips to make breastfeeding easier

BREAST

Ah breastfeeding, one of nature’s greatest miracles. Yet for many of us breastfeeding can be difficult at first. Naively before giving birth, I thought that breastfeeding would be as simple as popping the baby on my boob and viola. *Insert hollow laughter here*

Due to a combination of a very sleepy jaundiced baby, latch issues and low milk supply (thanks PCOS!) I found breastfeeding tremendously tough. Nibs, my baby, dropped 13% of his body weight so we were advised to supplement with expressed breast milk and formula as I desperately fed and pumped every couple of hours to up my supply. Thankfully it all paid off and he began to put on weight. But during the first couple of months he still struggled to latch if he was tired or frustrated. To calm him down we had to give him a small amount of milk from a bottle enough to ease his frustration so he would latch but not too much or he would too satiated to breastfeed. In the first month I had cracked and bleeding nipples, milk blisters twice and, just when things were started to improve, thrush.

Breastfeeding was anything but easy at first.

I’ve been breastfeeding for six months now and I love it. I love that I can feed on the go. I love that there is no preparation and sterilising bottles involved. I love that it’s free. I love that my boobs work to provide food, to pacify and to aid sleep. I love that it is something only I can do for my baby (except maybe at 3am).

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I constantly marvel that my milk supply is responsive to growth spurts, hot days, and illness. I can never get over how magical it is that every day my body produces enough milk to sustain my baby.

As a pregnant woman, you are repeatedly told, rightly, that breast is best for mother and baby. Yet the UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe. Recently Jamie Oliver announced that his next campaign was going to be breastfeeding because ‘[breastfeeding is] easy, it’s more convenient, it’s more nutritious, it’s better, it’s free.’ Although Oliver is right that breastfeeding is more convenient, offers massive nutritional and health benefits and is free – for a huge percentage of woman it isn’t always easy at first.

I am really hesitant to publish this post as I don’t want it to seem like I am judging anybody for their choices. I am immeasurably glad that we live in a world where formula exists as without it my baby may have been very sick indeed. If your baby is fed and looked after you are doing an amazing job mama – whether it’s from a boob or a bottle or a combination of the two.

I also don’t want to put off any prospective mothers from breastfeeding by talking about the challenges. Many, many mum’s find that they and their baby take to breastfeeding very easily. Yet the more I talk to fellow mothers the more I realise that although we are often told about the benefits of breastfeeding, information about how to breastfeed is more scarce. This post is aimed at pregnant women who’d like to breastfeed and new mum’s who are trying to breastfeed and finding it difficult. Here’s what I wish I’d know about breastfeeding before I started.

1.Get prepared

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Your breastfeeding journey starts before giving birth. If we lived in a different culture, we would have see other women breastfeeding their babies every day. We would have witnessed their struggles in those first days, seen how they latched their babies, and over time we would have seen how breastfeeding became second nature. Prior to giving birth I’d only really seen a few people breastfeed when their babies were older. So I had the mistaken assumption that breastfeeding was simple as popping a nipple in your babies mouth. Don’t get me wrong for many women it is that simple. But for many of us at the beginning – breastfeeding is a skill and skills need to be learnt.

I read a gazillion books on birth. It was only a couple of days before the birth that I realised I should maybe read about breastfeeding. In my NCT class we spent four sessions on birth, and one on breastfeeding. Considering I spent 22 hours giving birth and (to date) I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours breastfeeding – this seems a bit of a misallocation of time!

In those sleep deprived newborn days as I struggled to get Nibs to latch I realised I knew almost nothing about breastfeeding. I found myself panickedly reading every book, articles and watching every video about breastfeeding I could find. 

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding’ answered almost every question about breastfeeding I had. Ignore most of the popular parenting books as they often contain inaccurate and misleading information about breastfeeding like feeding to a schedule instead of on demand. Instead websites like Kelly Mom and Bellybelly are full of really useful articles and tips about breastfeeding. I would also recommend going to a breastfeeding drop in group prior to giving birth. Nothing beats seeing how other women feed their babies. 

Try expressing colostrum whilst pregnant but after 38 weeks as nipple stimulation can induce labour. Colostrum is like liquid gold, packed full of amazing nutrients to support your baby during those vital first couple of days. Your midwife can show you how to pre-express colostrum into syringes that can then be frozen. It’s really important to have some colostrum on hand if you or your baby end up needing some extra care after the birth.

2. Get comfortable

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Before starting a feed you want to make sure you are comfortable as it’s hard to know whether your baby will want a snack or a four course meal. 

Make sure your back is supported, elevate your feet if possible and use a breastfeeding cushion to help take the pressure off your shoulders. If your large breasted, like I am, you may want to have a muslin or hand towel which you can roll up and place under your breast to support its weight. 

When you are trying to establish breastfeeding, having skin to skin contact with your baby will help the release of oxycotin and your milk production. Initially and during growth spurts your baby will often cluster feed, which is like placing an advanced order for more milk, so you may find yourself sofa bound for a while. So get comfy mama.

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I often think breastfeeding is like preparing for a loooooong car journey. Pee before you start and make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and entertainment handy.  I have a breastfeeding station by my bed and by the chair in the living room where I feed. This includes:

Nipple cream – apply generously after each feed and leave your nipples exposed. Hey postie! Do make sure your baby has actually finished feeding before applying, otherwise they’ll slide off if you have to relatch.

Muslins – for burping after feeds. It is a rule of motherhood that however muslins you think you’ll need add five more.

A large bottle of water – a breastfeeding woman could drain the great lakes in a second.

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Lip balm – yes you may not have showered for a week and have luggage sized bags under your eyes but your lips will look fabulous.

Something to eat – this is point where I should tell you to eat nuts and dried fruit. And yes if you scroll down to point 5 there is a whole section on feeding your supply. But if it’s an entire red velvet cake I won’t judge.

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Some entertainment- aka phone/book/remote. There’s nothing worse than just getting your baby latched and realising Jeremy Kyle is on the TV and the remote is juust out of reach.

3.Position, position, position

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Finding a breastfeeding position that works is essential in the early days. Now I can feed sitting up, lying down and even walking around (with the aid of a sling). But in the beginning as I have huge boobs the rugby hold was best. It is worth experimenting with different positions because if your nipples get bruised changing position can ease the pressure.  Whatever position you prefer remember to make sure you are comfortable and bring the baby to the breast. In the early days latching was such a mission that I would end up contorted in the most ridiculous positions because I did not want to break the latch.

A lot of breastfeeding gurus recommend laid back breastfeeding. But as I always had to support my breasts it only became effective as my baby got older. If you can, try and master breastfeeding lying down as soon as you’re able. It revolutionised night feeds when I realised I didn’t have to sit up to feed. As you get more experienced experiment with feeding in a sling. Mama just got mobile.

4. Master the perfect latch

Ah the latch. Figuring out how to painlessly latch your baby can make or break your breastfeeding journey. A bad latch affects your milk supply but even worse also massacres your nipples.

Due to having a very sleepy newborn and huge boobs it could often take my husband and me half an hour to get the baby latched on. Nibs, our baby, would then feed for five minutes even with breast compressions, fall asleep and the process would start all over again. Fun times especially at 3am! On the plus side I quickly got very practised at latching and now I can practically do it in my sleep and often do.

How to latch your baby.

The C hold

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 20.58.57.pngThe C hold helps support the weight of your breast and position the breast enabling your baby to latch. Using your thumb and finger make a C-shape on the breast tissue around the nipple with your thumb positioned just above the nipple. You want to gently compress the tissue around the nipple so it flattens into a letterbox or sandwich shape matching the orientation of your babies mouth. Imagine your boob is a large sandwich you are feeding to your baby. You wouldn’t just shove it in their mouth, you’d compress it first.

Finally, using your thumb exert pressure at the top of the breast so the nipple pulls upward.

Tummy to mummy

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Via Netmums

Using your other arm, you want to position your baby for breastfeeding so they feel secure and supported. Lay the baby along your forearm with your hand supporting their neck, shoulders and back. Avoid exerting pressure on the back of the head as all babies have an inbuilt gag reflex. Your hold should be firm enough that you can manoeuvre your baby using just your forearm. Bring the baby towards the breast making sure that you are still in a comfortable position. You want your babies body to be facing you completely from their neck to their toes. Think tummy to mummy…

Nose to nipple and flipple

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Aim your nipple at the babies nose, brushing it gently. This should trigger the latch response and your babies mouth should open wide. When their mouth is open wide, use your thumb to flip the top of the nipple aiming towards the top of your babies palate. This triggers the latch response and the baby should begin to suck. Here are a couple of videos on the flipple or deep latch technique. It can take a couple of goes to get this right especially if your baby is a premature latcher like ours was (hur hur hur).

Your babies head should be tilted back, with their mouth open in a K shape with more of the nipple visible at the top of the breast than underneath.

Good latch vs a bad latch

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Midwives and lactation consultants love looking at your boobs and pronouncing whether it is a good or bad latch. But it doesn’t matter what they think – the most important method for distinguishing a good latch from a bad latch is how it feels to you. In the early weeks, latching can be intense, even painful as the baby starts to suckle but it shouldn’t continue to hurt after that. When your baby first latches, count to ten and if it hurts after that unlatch and start again.

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To unlatch put your little finger between the nipple and into your babies mouth to break the suction. Do not ever, ever, ever just pull your baby off your nipple. Learn from my mistakes people. Don’t give yourself niplash!

For more tips, watch these videos on latching a baby

5. Feed your supply

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If you want to establish your milk supply you need to eat well and drink water frequently. Frankly your body may not give you a choice as I found I was hobbit levels of hungry in the days after giving birth. Breastfeeding burns between 300-500 calories a day. So now is not the time to go on a diet but the cake only food plan can be fun but isn’t exactly nutritious. Moderation is key. You want to eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein, fats, fruit and vegetables and some carbs. As I was breastfeeding, my partner HWSNBN would do the bulk of the cooking or provide frequent snacks or refills of my bottle of water throughout the night. If you are struggling with your milk supply some foods or supplements can help increase your supply. Try:

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You could also try foods like:

  • Oats
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • And supplements like fenugreek
  • Brewers yeast, or
  • Blessed Thistle

Although not all at once (bleurgh). Out of all the recipes I tried these lactation cookies were actually a) yummy and b) increased my milk production, result.

6. Get support

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Timely support and small adjustments to your breastfeeding technique can make a big difference in the beginning. Ask for help early and often. As somebody whose relatively modest at first I felt slightly apprehensive about complete strangers manhandling my boobs in the hopes on improving my babies latch. By week 2 I didn’t care.

If you are really experiencing difficulties you need to talk to breastfeeding experts like a lactation consultant. My health visitor suggested I attend the trouble-shooting breastfeeding group at the Hove Polyclinic. They were amazing they took time to listen to me, watched me feed and offered loads of practical suggestions. But most importantly they boosted my confidence and encouraged me to persevere when I was finding things difficult.

Speaking to fellow mums who are struggling can be so helpful – but pick your tribe wisely. My NCT group and mum friends have been so helpful. I also am a member of a number of online breastfeeding support groups and love the Can I Breastfeed in it? Off Topic Discussion group.

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As well as professional support, make sure you have a good network of supportive family and friends around you. He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN) did most of the early nappy changes, cooking and rocking the baby to sleep because I was feeding. He’d watch as they made adjustments to my latch and then remind me later when I was too sleep deprived to remember what to do. And when the 4pm daily dread of the evenings set in he’d remind me why we were doing this. 

7. Troubleshoot any problems

There is support and information out there to help you with any problems whether it’s: cracked and sore nipples or latch issues. Or over supply or under supply of milk.

The only one I can personally speak about at length is increasing a low supply. Many women think they aren’t producing enough milk because their baby cluster feeds or they can only pump a very small amount. But cluster feeding is normal and how much you pump is no indication of how much your baby is getting. Breastfeeding means you have to take a lot on faith. If your baby is gaining weight  and producing enough wet and dry nappies its unlikely you have a low supply.

But I did. I have PCOS which meant that my milk took a long time to come in and my supply was very low. I had to very quickly learn how to encourage my body to produce more milk. Here are my top tips for increasing a low milk supply.

If you want to increase your milk supply, forgot schedules and feed on demand. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, so the more milk that is removed = the more milk that is produced. Ignore the parenting books that recommend feeding every couple of hours and feed your baby as frequently as they want and regularly offer them the breast.

Before feeding or pumping encourage letdown by massaging the breasts or putting a warm cloth on them.

Ideally strip you and your baby down to increase the release of oxycotin.

If you have a very sleepy baby tactics like stripping them, tickling them and nappy or burp breaks can help encourage your baby to take longer feeds.

Breast compressions by gently squeezing the breast can encourage a baby to take more milk towards the end of a feed. You should notice your baby beginning to suck again as the milk pools in their mouth.

If you notice your supply dipping try a breastfeeding holiday (despite the name there are lot less all inclusive cocktails than on a normal holiday sadly). Retreat to bed with your baby and plenty of food and water and just feed and nap, feed and nap.

If you need to pump remember that although breastpumps are amazing inventions, no pump is as efficient at extracting milk as a baby. Don’t get worried if you don’t get much milk at first it takes time. Remember when your baby is feeding on one side, the other breast will also be letting down. I found I expressed more milk when I fed on one side while pumping on the other using a hands free bra.

If you have to pump when you’re away from your baby, looking at photos and videos can help the milk flow more freely.

Prioritise pumping in the morning when you are well rested and milk supplies are at their highest.

Try a powerpump where you pump for ten minutes, rest for ten, pump for ten and then rest for ten. This mimics cluster feeding and causes an increase in milk in a day or two. For other pumping tips check out Kelly Mom

8.Master feeding on the go

I still clearly remember the first time I breastfed in public. I was so nervous as I tentatively took my boob out under my breastfeeding cover and gingerly positioned my baby. At the time Nibs would often refuse to latch so I worried I’d be sat there trying to force a nipple into my screaming babies mouth as his flailing limbs whipped away the cover exposing me to the world.

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Thankfully things have got a lot simpler since then. Now breastfeeding when I’m out and about is so ridiculously easy I barely think about it. I have never got any comments or looks although this may be because I live in ridiculously tolerant Brighton. As you’d expect I have views about feeding in public, namely my babies need to eat surpasses a strangers discomfort about seeing a nipple. But I get that some women aren’t so gung ho. 

If you are worried about exposing yourself, try feeding in front of a mirror at home. If you have smaller boobs, you may be surprised how much your babies head covers.

The first time you feed in public try taking a friend or partner along for moral support. I found it so much easier at first when HWSNBN was there to provide moral support.

If you feel self conscious you can use a breastfeeding cover, a scarf or a muslin tucked into your top or lain over your exposed boob.

I put my brake on my buggy and rest my feet on the wheels and use my nappy bag laid over my lap to support Nib’s body while I feed. This breastfeeding cushion/bag looks amazing.

Replacing your wardrobe with breastfeeding friendly clothes is a) expensive and b) a faff as there aren’t that many good options out there. There is another way. Join Can I breastfeed in it? which is full of women posting pictures of breastfeeding friendly clothes they’ve found on the high street.  Top tips include dresses in stretchy fabric or with wrap necklines. When wearing seperates I wear a loose top over a nursing vest so when feeding I pull the top up and the vest down, allowing both my boobs and stomach to stay covered.

9. Get equipped.

Breastfeeding is the lazy girl’s friend – all you really need is boobs. But at the start these products can help support you as you get breastfeeding established. 

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  • Breast pumpExpressing milk can help you catch up on your sleep and give Daddy/Grandma a turn preferably at 3am. I used to go the bed early and HWSNBN would give the 12am feed which would give me a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep. Bliss! Buy the best pump you can afford and ideally get a double pump. I have this Medela Freestyle Double Electric Breastpump with Calma and it’s brilliant. The pump mimics the letdown response and you can increase or decrease the intensity. It also has a battery and is ridiculously light-weight so you can pump while on the move.
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  • Hands free pumping bra. If you’re going to pump more than a couple of times a week, get a hands free pumping bra. This bra means I can pump when making dinner and even pumped while on the M25 (not driving I hasten to add). But it also means you can pump when feeding your baby on the other side which increases the amount of milk you express and by multitasking cuts your feeding and pumping time in half. Winning!
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  • Breastfeeding cushionAfter back labour my back was ridiculously sore. The My Brestfriend feeding cushion saved me. Unlike some breastfeeding cushions it’s firm keeping the baby in place and straps around the waist meaning it doesn’t need repositioning throughout the feed. It even has a handy pocket for water, snacks or a phone.
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  • Lanisoh HPA Lanolin creamDon’t go for the imitators buy this, use it religiously and your nipples will thank you. Yes it’s expensive but it’s worth every penny. And it even works on cradle cap.

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  • Sleep bras. I lived in sleep bras to stop the girls from aching early on in pregnancy. These help keep breast pads in place, protect sore nipples from rubbing and allowed me to feed using the clip down straps.

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  • Reusable breast pads. Initially I was using Lanisoh disposable pads. But I found that the pads would get crumpled throughout the day and sometimes stick to my boobs. So I bought these reusable breast pads. They’re ridiculously soft, absorbent and you can wash and reuse them.

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  • Lip balm. When breastfeeding your lips will get Sahara level dry.  My lovely friend Sarah sent me this lip balm which I used religiously.

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  • Water bottleI was drinking so much water at first I just kept refilling a 2 litre bottle of Evian water. When my thirst calmed I bought a couple of Eddy bottles and keep one by my bed, one by my feeding chair and one for when I’m out and about.db0e4ba4a49ffba21f4257a8cb27b700
  • Food you can eat one handed. But crucially food that you can safely drop on your babies head. See point 5 above, feed your supply people.

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  • Feeding app. As a breastfeeding mother you have to take on the faith that your baby is getting enough milk. After having a baby that had lost a lot of weight initially, I found the Feed baby app which allows you to record how long your baby feeds really useful. Yes, it was a tad disheartening to realise I’d been feeding for 8 plus hours in week 3 (aka the week my baby discovered the boob). But it was also mega reassuring to see how long he was feeding for and how over time he became more efficient. This app is brilliant as you record which boob you last fed from, as well as wet and dry nappies, medicine, growth and many other things. Plus my geeky husband loved that you could export all the data as a CSV file.

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  • EntertainmentWhether it’s your phone for those middle of the night questions to Dr google, or your kindle to catch up on your trash fiction, you need some entertainment. For two weeks following the birth my brain for the first time in my life was too fried to read so instead I reverted to TV. My boxset of choice was Absolutely Fabulous because it was a) hilarious, and b) I’d seen it a bazillion times before so it didn’t matter that my sleep deprived brain could barely follow the back of a shampoo packet.

10.Be kind and give it time

The single most important information about breastfeeding I received was this:

It can take up to six weeks for you and your baby to establish breastfeeding.

In those early days when I was finding breastfeeding very hard, the thought of those six weeks kept me going. As each week passed, I promised myself I’d breastfeed another week. And I did. Through sheer bloody mindedness I pressed on until almost without noticing over time breastfeeding became easier. By six weeks I was thrilled that breastfeeding had become almost second nature.

At time those early weeks seemed endless. But looking back I realise that even though it was hard it was such a short proportion of my and his life.

I have now been breastfeeding for six months and intend to continue for as long as my baby wants to. Considering I used to cry to my husband every evening during those first couple of weeks about how hard breastfeeding was – it’s been quite a journey.

At the beginning lost in a miasma of hormones I was really tough on myself. Breastfeeding seemed like a skill everybody else had mastered so easily. What was wrong with me that I found it so hard? It wasn’t until I sought out support that I realised that lots of other women found it difficult initially. I just needed to be kinder and give me and my baby time to master breastfeeding.

 

If you are reading this and struggling, please ask for support. Be very kind to yourself and remember you are doing an amazing job. You got this mama

I hope you’ve found these 10 tips helpful. Now I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments what advice you’d give to breastfeeding mamas.

 

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Newborn baby essentials for first time parents

 

NewbornSo you’re having a baby. You’ve read all the books, your due date is looming and you’ve bought everything you’ll need for yourself postpartum but what does your newborn baby need? Before you give into that excited urge to buy all the things (yes, those baby shoes are gorgeous, and no they aren’t really necessary) remember newborn babies don’t really need much beyond a boob or bottle, something to wear and most importantly a pair of arms to hold them. However, there are some essential products out there that can make your life as a new parent a thousand times easier. As an *ahem* experienced parent of a four-month old, here are the newborn baby essentials I could not do without during those early days.

Water wipes

Have you tried to wipe meconium aka tar off a baby’s bottom using nothing but a bit of cotton wool and water, after 48 hours of no sleep while your baby screams like you’re cutting off an appendage? Learn from my mistake – get water wipes. A mix of water and fruit extracts they are safe to be used on newborn bottoms and they won’t leave you picking off bits of cotton wool off a tiny behind. Pro-tip: liberal applications of coconut oil after every nappy change makes meconium wipeable.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

I read so many pregnancy and baby books covering theories from as attachment parenting to sleep training. The one book I want to buy and give to all my pregnant friends is The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp. If you have a baby that is colicky, cries uncontrollably or turns from an angel into screaming bat-baby come 5pm (raises hand sheepishly), this book is for you. You can read more about the theory in this blog post but to summarise here. Pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp argues that unlike other animals babies are born before they are developmentally ready because of the size of their heads in relation to the pelvis. This means that the first three months are a fourth trimester outside of the womb as babies need to rapidly develop to function in the outside world. All babies had an evolved calming reflex to keep them from damaging themselves or mum in the womb, and if we can recreate these outside of the womb we can calm babies in minutes. These are called the five s’s: swaddle, side or stomach, shush, swing, suck. I was sceptical at first but the five s’s helped calm our fractious newborn in minutes. You can watch Karp in action here. The next five essentials are all ones that use the five s’s.

Co sleeper

My lovely friend Claudia lent me her co-sleeper which is a crib that attaches to the side of the bed. It was godsend for three very important reasons:

  1. Newborns have really odd breathing patterns and frequently take very looooong pauses in between breaths. A co sleeper allows you to check on your baby without leaving your bed. This saves you from diving across the room twenty times in one night in a move I like to call the ‘Why isn’t my baby breathing dive? Oh no, he’s fine.’
  2. Breastfeeding is made so much easier once you can do it lying down. No more getting out of your warm bed, arranging pillows behind you or even sitting up to grab your baby. Instead release boob, roll baby onto boob, doze while baby sucks then roll baby back into the co-sleeper. Or yaknow…
  3. Don’t. My sure fire way of waking Nibs up whether I wanted to or not was to put him down after breastfeeding. The way he reacted was as if I had lowered him into the pits of hell not an expensive, lovingly crafted crib. I had a choice hold him for twenty minutes until he’d fell into a deeper sleep or lie him next then very gradually inch him back into his crib. Having the crib as his back meant I didn’t have to worry that he would roll out of bed when feeding and he felt close to me. Which brings us nicely onto the…

Sling

I bought a Moby fabric sling initially. It may have been the sleep deprivation or the fact that I have worse block designs skills than my son. Who is four months old. But I could not put it together without putting my baby down, which defeated the point, as he’d then wake up. I needed a sling that I could strap my sleeping baby into using only one hand.

Enter the Beco Gemini which even this mama could put together in her sleep. What I should have done before buying this was: go to a sling library and try on a couple before buying. What I did: ask my friend Jo sling obsessive which one she recommended for a novice like me. Both He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN) and I love it because the crossing straps distribute the babies weight and Nibs can be worn in a number of different positions as he gets older. The sling is brilliant for getting housework done while his Nibs naps. It allows me to get out and about without worrying if the buggy will fit through doors or on buses. And at grizzle o’clock it calms him down and will, if the stars are aligned, even send him to sleep if we walk around swiftly with him in the sling.

Ewan the dream sheep

White noise is a parent’s best friend. Whether it’s the dishwasher, car or even the sea, white noise mimics the sound of the wound and sends our baby Nibs into a deeper sleep. My little sister bought us Ewan the Dream Sheep which emits a soothing red pulse and has a number of different white noise tracks to choose from. Our favourite is a track we’ve nicknamed the haunted womb.

Gro swaddle

I was decidedly anti swaddle before having a baby. They seemed so restrictive and Victorian. Until I witnessed how my sons flailing limbs would wake him up multiple times a night and read about the Moro instinct. As soon as he was swaddled, he calmed down his little face relaxing and the swaddle seemed less like a medieval torture device and more like a full body hug. I credit the swaddle with helping our son sleep like less like an actual baby and more like a metaphorical baby from early on. We loved the Gro Ladybird Spot Swaddle for being so simple even this mama could use.

Love to Dream Swaddle

Now Nibs is a little bigger we’ve graduated to this Love to Dream Swaddle which is like a swaddle just for his arms. This helps restrain his natural impulse to violently batter himself in the face with his arms as sleeps. Plus when he’s wearing it he looks like he has wings providing many a hilarious photo opportunity.

Swing

Here’s the thing. As a new parent you get many a piece of useless advice of which the mos useless is sleep when your baby sleeps. The problem was like many newborns Nibs would only sleep when in motion as he was used to being lulled to sleep by the constant motion in the womb. In utero his most active time was 2am when all was still and I was trying to sleep and he commenced his kick mummy in the ribs done. So unless I mastered sleepwalking/sleep driving that advice was pretty useless. Until we bought the Joie Serina 2 in 1 Baby Swing second hand on ebay, aka the best money I ever spent. Save the money you could spend on a bouncer and get this electric swing. Like magic the swing on its most vigorous setting would send him to sleep in minutes allowing me to nap too. It also comes with white noise, vibrates, the swing works in two directions, and the seat can be taken off and used as a bouncer too. Seriously buy this, you won’t regret it.

Products for your first aid cabinet like:

A thermometer – ideally the no touch scan thermometer so you don’t have to keep your wriggling baby still while you check for a fever.

Nosefrida – this ridiculously gross invention the Nosefrida Nasal Aspirator allows you to alleviate a congested nose in seconds with the aid of saline drops and a suction tube. Its disgusting but essential especially if you have a baby in the season of the snot aka winter like we did.

Metanium – the yellow Metanium is like kryptonite for nappy rash. Most of the time we use a thin layer of sudocreme on our babies bum. But when he had a nasty nappy rash due to thrush a thin layer of this cream cleared up the rash in days.

Isofix base

Three door car + sleep deprivation= going anywhere is a hurry is a hassle. When you add in a screaming baby its amazing how a simple procedure of threading a car belt through a car seat becomes mensa level difficult. Get a Isofix Base for your car seat and you simply clip and unclip the car seat from your car. I held off buying one for three months until I finally gave in on the advice of my very wise friend Katy and I wish I’d done it a lot sooner. 

1,000 muslins

Nibs is a silent posseter. You’ll be holding him and suddenly your lap will be suspiciously warm. Before giving birth, my mother in law asked me how many muslins we had and I naively replied ten and she gave me the look. The look that meant haha, you’ll learn.

Within days of the birth we were on ebay ordering more and now I think we have close to 50 at least. Muslins are great as well as clearing up posset and protecting your shoulder when burping, they can be used to swaddle your baby, to tuck under your boob for hands free feeding and as nursing cover. Ours where just cheapo ones but if I had the money I’d get these gorgeous Faye and Lou Rainbow Muslins. 

Trial amazon family membership  

No matter how well you prepare by reading helpful new parent lists like this and faithfully buying everything on them (right? Right.), once the baby arrives you’ll realise, always at 3am, that you’ve missed some essential item. Amazon family have a free month trial with next day delivery, £20 off when you spend over £60 and deals on nappies and other products. It was ideal for those middle of the night ‘I need new bits for my breastpump’ purchases.

A village  

*Mounts soap box* Postnatal depression is at a record high in this country. And I strongly believe its because we aren’t meant to raise babies alone. It takes a village. At first I tried so hard to show that I could do it all. Hadn’t I longed for this? Then why was I finding it so hard. Things became easier when I started asking for help from my loving partner and co-parent HWSNBN, from my parents and his, from my sister and new mum friends. Workout what you need whether it’s food or a spare pair of arms so you can shower – and ask for help prior to giving birth.

Fellow survivors of the newborn stage, what would you add to the list? Mummas and dad’s to be, you got this!

Postpartum essentials: a survival kit for new mum’s

Postpartum essentials

Before giving birth, my baby had everything he could need and then some. But as I was so focused on the baby and the birth I didn’t really think about what I would need post-birth. Which I realised when I was sore, bleeding and attached at the boob to my baby was a very stupid idea. Putting on pants let alone going to the pharmacy seemed a Herculean struggle. Luckily my bestie was on the case and come day 5 (aka the hormone come down from hell) a postpartum survival package arrived. Unlike all the supplies I gathered for the birth, everything in the postpartum kit was used to death. In this post, I’m going to run through the postpartum essentials I wished I had known about prior to giving birth.

*Warning it’s about to get TMI in this joint.*

1.Nightwear

As you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your jammies, you want them to be as lovely possible. My bestie Debs bought me these gorgeous elephant pyjamas which I am currently living in. Look for something lightweight and made of natural fibres (to help with night sweats), loose (if you have a c-section, tight waistbands are not your friend) and breastfeeding friendly.

Also invest in a dressing gown. Not only do they make you feel like you’re starring in Game of Thrones, they are keep you warm when feeding or rocking your baby in the middle of the night. As I gave birth in January I ended up rotating a series of cardigans to save my exposed shoulders from seizing up. I finally gave in and bought a robe on ebay. In those early weeks you will have endless visits from midwives and health visitors. A robe helped me feel less undressed and retain a teeny bit more dignity.

2. Savoy cabbage  

When your milk comes in around day 3, your boobs will get huger and harder than you ever believed possible. Hello metal tits! To alleviate the pain and the pressure send somebody out for a savoy cabbage and put it in the fridge. Whenever it hurts pull off a pair of leaves, crush them slightly and pop them in your nursing bra. Voila, instant relief. NB, if you are breastfeeding only use couple of times a day as it can encourage your milk to dry up.

3.Hot and cold packs

Hot and cold packs are so versatile. I used these cool to help calm swelling on my boobs, to relieve my aching head and swollen nether regions. Or hot on my sore back and to help with milk let down.

4.Doughnut cushion

If you’re breastfeeding you are going to spent an inordinate amount of time sitting down feeding your baby. After the birth my tailbone felt like it had snapped in two, (thanks back labour) and everything down there was pretty swollen. A doughnut cushion to distribute and cushion the pressure is essential.

5.Painkillers

I was expecting to feel sore and achy nobody told me about the headaches. Some women have horrendous headaches as a side effect of the hormones driving milk production. I took painkillers every couple of hours until the headaches dissipated in the second week. Take my advice get somebody who isn’t sleep deprived to monitor the dose. Otherwise you may accidentally take too many doses of paracetamol and lie there googling liver damage when you should be trying to catch up on your sleep.

6.Piri bottle

If you have stitches peeing will sting like the worst case of cystitis you have ever had. Use a piri bottle to pour water over the whole area while you pee and it will alleviate the stinging.

7.Witch Hazel

I love witch hazel and have been using it for years as an all purpose cure all. You can add it to your piri bottle to prevent infection. Or pour some on a maxi pad, pop it in the freezer and they can be used an instant relief on your stitches. You’re welcome!

8.Tena lady pants and Always maxi pads

Heads up pregnant me, after birth you are going to bleed a lot. For weeks. In preparation I’d bought the disposable maternity pants, which were crap and maternity pads were useless and constantly peeling off. Next time I’m buying incontinence pads for the birth to avoid waddling around with a towel in between my legs. And post birth I’m going to use Always maxi pads because they are soft and the wings help them stay in place.

9.Bath tincture

My bestie Ros sent over a bottle of this bath tincture which was godsend. The daily soaks helped the whole area heal and provided a tiny oasis of me time in the middle of a baby soaked day and night. Welcome to motherhood, where baths are a luxury item.

10.Iron

I’m a vegetarian and I knew I had to keep an eye on my iron levels post birth. I started taking Spatone iron sachets just prior to giving birth and I’m sure they helped with exhaustion and with all the postpartum blood loss. However, they can cause constipation, and as many women get bunged up post birth make sure you take them with…

11.Dulcolax

When it comes to the post-labour poo, preparation is key my darling. Eat lots of fibre, take a stool softener and apply counter pressure.

12.Snacks

Sleep deprivation has a way of making anybody turn into the ravaging cookie monster from hell. Especially if you are breastfeeding. Luckily my mother-in-law bought ready meals every time she visited and snacks to devour one handed. These Graze boxes would be brilliant for those middle of the night snack fests.

13.A doorman

Sometimes people forget that behind every new baby is a mother recovering from the birth. I get it. Babies change so rapidly that even a day’s delay meeting them can feel huge. Looking back I wished I’d just lain naked in bed napping, feeding and staring at my new arrival. This would have definitely helped get breastfeeding established and cushioned the massive hormone crash I experienced. Instead I bustled around manically eager to show everybody I was OK – like an idiot. If I ever have another baby I am going to sleep and nest. Sleep and nest.

 

New mum’s anything I’ve missed that you’d include in your postpartum survival kit? Let me know in the comments.
Coming soon: the essential newborb and breastfeeding survival kits.

Birth, motherhood and me

So I had a baby! And as expected I have many thoughts about birth, motherhood, and babies.

On birth

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Birth is like an event horizon. When you’re pregnant for the first time, it is almost impossible to visualise what lies beyond it. But one of the things I forgot is even if I was exceptionally unlucky, at most it would be 72 hours out of my life. I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the birth. I wish I had thought more about what would happen afterwards.

As a mum-to-be you hear a LOT of labour horror stories. Looking back now, it’s amazing how much of my memory of the labour has faded replaced by what came afterwards. Yes, it was painful but I had a baby at the end of it.

I find it interesting how much of being ready to give birth is about physical readiness versus psychological readiness. I spent the day before I went into labour sewing Nib’s mobile. ‘It’s the last thing on my maternity leave to do list.’ I announced brightly to HWSNBN. Somewhere in my head a tick had been placed on the list and there was just one last item:
Have a baby.

I woke up at 1am contracting three minutes apart. But I’d had Braxton Hicks for days so I wasn’t sure this was it. Then half an hour later I turned over in bed and my waters broke with a sudden pop and I knew it was time.

Our NCT teacher told us your waters breaking wasn’t like in the movies – it just a trickle. DUDE, it was exactly like in the movies. It felt like I had Niagara falls in my knickers and out of the biological indignities that were to come it was almost the grossest.

The grossest was the vomiting. Imagine having a contraction, perhaps the worse pain you have ever experienced and as you are trying to breathe your way through it you projectile vomit. Again. The midwives were thrilled ‘open mouth, open cervix’. I was less than happy. I’d never imagined I’d met my child covered in green bile. But nobody ever said labour was glamourous.

As somebody whose always been self conscious about her body I worried beforehand about how I would feel lots of strangers seeing it. I can’t count how many people saw my poonani, nor did I care.

I had gathered together so many supplies for my birth – aromatherapy oils, playlists and birth balls. What I actually wanted was a dark room, a bucket to throw up in, to be on all fours, and for HWSNBN to push on my spine so hard it gave him bruises.

Which brings us to… back labour. From the moment I woke up contracting and felt that Nibs, after being in the optimal position since week 20, had turned so his back was grinding up against mine, I knew I was in for a rocky ride. Back labour feels like the baby is trying to exit via your spine. It isn’t only extraordinarily painful but the pressure is almost unbearable and it turns out is visible from the outside. HWSNBN described afterwards as like a scene from alien as my coccyx pulsated and bulged outwards.

There are lots of things you can do to try and turn a back to back baby. I tried them all (not knowing that he had the cord tangled around him and he was stuck). Being in the birth pool helped for a bit. Being in on all fours helped for a while. But as he descended I began having back to back contractions. I would breathe my way over the hill of a contraction and just as the pain began to fade the intensity would slam back up to the peak again. I was getting tired and we had a choice. Stay at home for another hour and try and turn him or transfer to hospital. I asked to be examined. If I was in transition I’d stay at home and bear it out. But I was only six centimetres. I cried, despite the midwives comforting me. Six centimetres at home in this time was amazing, they said. But I was done – we made the decision to transfer.

Before labour in our long discussions I’d asked HWSNBN to be my advocate as I have been known to be less than assertive. But apparently (I have no memory of this) when everybody was milling around the ambulance, they kept offering me pillows and water for the journey, I snapped ‘JUST DRIVE.’ They did.

Putting my clothes on and leaving the house was hell. I had to stop for each contraction. I kept my eyes closed in the ambulance. And I didn’t even care as people stared at me as I waddled through A + E or in the lift up to the labour ward as I panted sucking on the gas and air.

In hospital I had an epidural which alleviated some of the pain but none of the pressure – thanks back labour! However, the contractions began to space out so I could breathe in between them.

It became clear that the baby wasn’t coping very well as his heartbeat was dipping during contractions. I could tell that the doctors and midwives were worried. All I could do was lie there helpless and ask over and over again ‘Is my baby OK?’ 

A lot of the things I worried would happen did. I got transferred to hospital, the pain was, at times, so unbearable I lost control during contractions, I tore. But in the end only one thing mattered that my baby was safe and well. When his heartbeat kept dipping, if a scalpel had been in reach I would have cut him out myself.

My labour was short by first labour standards at around 20 hours. But it felt like no time at all – the day a brief window of light before the darkness fell again. Midwives kept changing shifts and I’d look at the clock and see that hours had passed.

In labour the world retreats. The room had one of the best views over Brighton but I barely saw it. There was nothing but this small room, this breath in between contractions, this baby and me working together so he could be born.

You never forget the midwives who delivered your child. During the long night and day and night I was in labour we had lots of different midwives. I was so glad that it was the last two who delivered my baby. They were brilliant, compassionate, open about what was going on, and so encouraging as I pushed the baby out.

As the baby was getting so tired and his heart wasn’t returning to normal in between contractions, they gave me half an hour to push him out. I put my chin down and focused. Although I knew that after an epidural it can be harder to push – there was no doubt in my mind that I could do this. One advantage of having back labour was I always felt the pressure of baby. And as I began pushing I could feel the baby moving down with each push and even when he finally flipped round the right way in my pelvis. As he was crowning and I was panting through the stinging, doctors barrelled into the room with a gurney. They took one look in between my legs, told me to ‘Good job, carry on!’ And left again.  

As soon as I saw him I knew it would be OK. He was silent, a colour not found in nature and a midwife was furiously palpitating his back as the other worked the cord free as it tangled around his neck. I cried and I think they thought it was because I was worried. I wasn’t. I knew he was OK, in a weird way deep down in my bones. I cried because he was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

They put him in my arms and we just stared at each other and I thought ‘Oh, there you are.’ There was an immediate feeling of recognition, like running into somebody beloved I had not seen for centuries. He was tiny, blanched white and smelt of clementines. His eyes were universe dark and he had an expression like he’d been here before. We stared at each other for hours and he didn’t make a sound.

I pushed out the placenta, they sewed me up, people came and went but HWSNBN and I just stared at this perfect being we’d made and he stared back in a trifecta of love.

On postpartum

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Apres the birth was the biggest high, followed by the deepest come down of my life. There were moments of being caught up in the most blissful love bubble ‘Look what we made. I love him so much my body can barely contain it.’ and moments of being snagged on the rocks of despair ‘This is so hard. I can’t do this. I’m a shit mum.’

I didn’t think motherhood would be easy. But when I imagined it I saw it through the filter of  pre-baby me. Well rested, non bruised and not on a hormone crash from hell me.

A friend described it best when she said postpartum is like being in a car crash and then being handed the most precious and fragile being you ever saw and told not to drop him. How can you look after somebody else when you need looking after yourself?

As we walked up to the postnatal ward, I heard another mum being bought in howling. Just the sound of another woman in labour made me feel like I was going to throw up again.

Word up to all the expectant mothers, even if you don’t tear you’re going to feel bruised and tender for at least ten days post birth. Good thing you’re not going to be spending a huge amount of time sitting on your behind breastfeeding a newborn. Oh… wait. To add to the mix I had a huge purple bruise from where Nib’s head had engaged in a prolonged battle with my spine, that meant putting any pressure on my back was toe-curlingly painful. Breastfeeding involved arranging an elaborate system of pillows and a piles cushions around and under me while the baby howled for his dinner.

Ah, the post labour poo. Read this mamas-to-be and god be with you.

Good friends bring pressies for the baby. Amazing friends send pressies for the baby and for you. My lovely fairy godmother Ros sent me a postpartum package including tinctures and arnica, cool packs and a savoy cabbage. Yes, really. It was hands down the best present I received.

Night sweats – because what every woman wants to do with less than ideal pelvic floor control post birth is ask herself the question in the middle of the night ‘Is that puddle I’m lying in pee or sweat?’

I expected to get postpartum depression (ever the optimist). I didn’t. What I did experience was postpartum anxiety. It did not last long but it felt endless at the time. A lifelong sleepaholic I suddenly had horrific insomnia my thoughts racing so fast I could not follow them. I jumped at every sound convinced that there was something wrong with my baby. After a couple of days of me not sleeping more than an hour at a time, HWSNBN took Nibs in the other room promising to bring him in for feeds. But every time I closed my eyes I heard the baby crying. Yet whenever I went to check, he was fast asleep. ‘He’s OK.’ HWSNBN would tell me. But I could not shake the conviction that he wasn’t and that I had to be hypervigilant to prevent anything from happening to him.

The insomnia did not help. My baby was sleeping, my husband was sleeping but I could not sleep except when the exhaustion grabbed and I fell into darkness for a hour or so. I haunted the flat like a little ghost. During one conversation in the middle of the night I realised I was so sleep deprived it felt like I was having a stroke. I could tell I wasn’t making sense but I couldn’t articulate that thought. I could not articulate anything.

Day fucking five really sucked. Mention into the other mums and you get the shudder of been there, endured the hormone crash. In perfect storm of shittiness events conspired to make mine pretty awful.

Picture the scene me manic from not sleeping more than a hour at a time when the midwife comes to weigh the baby. I’d expected that he would have lost some weight. He was still quite jaundiced, sleepy and had to be woken to feed and throughout the feed. But the night before he’d fed almost constantly – surely he was starting to put weight back on? I knew as soon as she placed him on the scales that something was wrong. ‘He’s lost too much weight.’ But he was feeding constantly the night before, I said. ‘Yes, he was feeding constantly because there wasn’t enough milk. We need to see how much milk you’re creating and make a plan to get his weight back up and if that doesn’t work we’ll admit him into hospital.’ I pumped and we stared at the measly amount of milk that dribbled out and then she wrote out a plan: breastfeeding every three hours, expressing breast milk and then supplementing with formula. I could barely hear her at this point over the siren blare of my baby is starving and it’s all my fault.

After she left, HWSNBN was sent out to get formula and pumping equipment. ‘You’ll be OK?’ He asked as I stood in the doorway, rocking the baby and weeping. There was nobody I could call to come sit with me. My family were over the other side of the world. His were an hour and a half away. And as I tried to feed Nibs it became clear that the milk wasn’t coming. I felt like the shittest mum ever. How could I have missed that he was starving? He cried frantically until his little body was exhausted and he fell asleep in my arms. This was the nadir.

HWSNBN and I embarked on the fatten the baby up plan. I’d breastfeed on one side and express on the other while HWSNBN fed me sips of water and food. After the baby had finished we’d offer him the milk I’d expressed earlier and then formula if he was still hungry. Before setting an alarm to wake up in an hour and half and do it again. I remember it being hard but I also remember the love and that feeling of being on the same team.

I’ve always been notoriously talented at hiding when things are wrong. My leg could be hanging off and I would still insist that I was ‘Fine. Oh that? It’s nothing. Tell me about you?’ Birth robbed me of that skill – I lost my filter entirely. I sent out messages into the ether to my friends spilling my emotional guts. The responses, ah me, they make me want to cry even now. They were so lovely. In my vulnerability came honesty and connection. Sadly the filter is firmly back in place now. This is one thing I miss from the postpartum period.

Weigh in day arrived. The midwives wanted to see a weight gain of 60 otherwise we’d be admitted to hospital. Luckily the January genes for putting on a shit-ton of weight are strong and he had gained 300. I tried and failed to not cry on the midwife.

Like it had never been the anxiety began to fade and I slept for three blessed hours in a row and it was wonderful. I’m not sure why it went. Was it simply hormonal and the hormones had began to fade? Or was it emotional? It wasn’t until the midwives told me that my baby wasn’t putting on weight that I realised I had been carrying the fear from the birth that my baby was not OK. Plan fatten baby up gave me somewhere to challenge my anxiety and like that it dissipated. Looking back I realise how lucky I was in comparison to other women whose babies were seriously unwell. But at the time my anxiety seemed so real, so valid.

On breastfeeding

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I thought breastfeeding would be as simple as take boob, pop boob in babies mouth, baby feeds – done. Insert hollow laughter here.

Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I have ever done. None of it was easy. In the first three weeks I cried almost daily about how hard it was. The temptation to say fuck it and only give him formula was almost overwhelming. But a small voice inside me said just try another day and I did.

If I wasn’t supported in the people around me I would not have persisted. From the kind midwife who suggested giving him a tiny bit of expressed milk to satiate his hunger, then breastfeeding him when he was so hangry he refused to latch. To all the other women my friends and at the breastfeeding clinics who said yes breastfeeding is really, really hard but it gets better. To HWSNBN who did everything so I could feed our baby. From bringing me endless glasses of water and food, to changing nappies and taking him around the park so I could give my sore boobs a rest. And for encouraging me to keep going when things were tough.

The first challenge I faced when it came breastfeeding was physics. Nibs was born on the small side and my boobs are anything but small. He’s seven weeks old now and much to my little sister’s amusement my boobs still dwarf his head.

The second challenge was genetics, I was the most uncoordinated person I know until I met… my son. Latching was like trying to touch opposing magnets. In the early weeks it would take up to half an hour and HWSNBN’s help to get him to latch. Where he would feed for a couple of minutes and fall asleep, and then the whole process started again.

The third challenge was medical. I have PCOS which means that my breastmilk supply is lower than average . Nibs like many babies had jaundice which equates to one sleepy baby who doesn’t really want to feed. As breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, having a sleepy baby who didn’t really want to feed meant my already low supply dwindled further.

My boobs the day milk came in two words: rock tits.

They say breastfeeding isn’t meant to be painful. Seriously? Tell that to my fucking nipples. It gets less painful as your nipples get more desentised but still sometimes when he latched I have to count to ten.

Getting newborn to latch is like trying to put a sock on a snake.
‘Hey baby, here’s the nipple.’
Baby turns head in the opposite direction.
‘Baby the nipple, it’s here.’
Baby bobs frantically headbutting nipple.
Baby manages to get nipple in his mouth (yay), and his hand too (no).
Baby latches on and while latched whips his head back and forth still searching for the nipple. Yep Nipple whiplash, it’s a thing.

Years ago I read about Melanie Klein’s theory of the good/bad breast and the concept of splitting. I thought it was bullshit. But Klein was right on. Sometimes Nibs loves the boob and sometimes he hates it. Being a mother is about being able to withstand both.

The breastfeeding books speak about being in a comfortable position. But I’d stay contorted in the most awkward positions because I had finally got him to latch and who cared that I was bent double over my baby. And if the remote control was out of reach well, love meant enduring Jeremy Kyle.

I’ve breastfeed through thrush, engorgement, blocked milk ducts (twice), cracked nipples… I’m just waiting for mastisis and then I’ll have the full set.

In some ways, having to introduce a bottle so early was a blessing in disguise. It has meant that HWSNBN can feed the baby and have that bonding time together. Even better it means I get a blessed hour off. Bliss

The best thing about my breastfeeding app. It tells me how long I’ve been feeding for and which breast I last fed from. The worst thing about my breastfeeding app it tells me how long I’ve been feeding for. 8 and a half hours! No wonder my arse is numb.

Cluster feeding was demoralising as hell and it hit in week three just as HWSNBN headed back to work. Unless HWSNBN or his mother were there, I couldn’t eat, or wee or even take a sip of water. I didn’t leave the house for days because he would not stop feeding and as he was finally putting on weight I did not want to interrupt him. He still cluster feeds at night but it isn’t all day so I am so thankful for it.

I quickly learnt to prioritise in those brief moments when I wasn’t physically attached to Nibs. Have a wee, drink water, eat something and perhaps if you’re really lucky nap. Fuck housework.

Some babies are into fast food. Feeding my baby is like trying to feed a narcoleptic drunk gourmand who ordered the fucking tasting menu goddamn it and he will finish it. Even if it takes him three hours actual time (thirty minutes effective feeding time) A sample feed looks like this.
Feed frantically for four minutes.
Fall asleep.
Get put down.
Howls indignantly.
Come back for a two minute soupcon.
Fall asleep while possetting on self. Handed to daddy.
Howls while rooting on daddy’s nose.
Repeat until mummy declares the boob restaurant is closed. Baby does not understand language yet so ignores this.

Stuff Nibs hates:
Being put down
Having his nappy changed
People touching his feet
Having his cheesy armpits cleaned
Being stripped naked
Falling asleep on the boob and waking up to discover the boob is no longer there.

Stuff I will do to get him to feed (because I am eviiiiiiiil):
See all of the above

They said it takes six weeks to get breastfeeding established. By week four it was noticably easier (barring the really painful thrush episode). It’s the end of week six now and I finally feel like we are in a rhythm. What I would say is you need to what is best for your baby AND you! Whether that’s breastfeeding, combi-feeding or giving formula your emotional and physical wellbeing matters too.

On motherhood

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Pre motherhood me would judge the fuck out of some of the choices I’m making. Mother-me would pour me a gin, give me a hug and tell me I’m doing my best.

Having a child unearths a lot of shit from your psyche. I am not somebody who likes being dependent and I hate asking for help. Having a sister who needs extra help, I think I made me grow up fast and decide that I didn’t want to burden people by being too needy. Since having a baby I am physically, financially and emotionally dependent on the people around me and I hate it. I feel incredibly uncomfortable which I think indicates growth.

It takes a village to raise a child. We aren’t meant to do this alone.

You will welcome the people who come over and want to hold your baby. You will want to worship the people who come over with food, pop a load of laundry on, and make you a drink while you hold your baby.

There are a lot of nasty jokes made about mother-in-laws but mine has been amazing. In those early days when I was a walking zombie and later when HWSNBN went back to work she would come over every couple of days and help out.

Being a mum eclipses everything else. I lose hours staring into his eyes. There isn’t a to do list anymore.

Being perpertually late person naturally is exacerbated by having a baby. Leaving this house is like martialling an army. An army that waits until you are just picking up your car keys before pooing up it’s back.

Saying it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t also wonderful. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

One day he may be 33 too and taller than I will ever be, but he will always, always, always be my baby.

During the birth, he was born but a new me also emerged. I am not sure what mother Rowan looks like. But I can’t wait to find out.

Sometimes you have no choice but to put your screaming child down and have a wee. It doesn’t make you a bad mum – it makes you somebody who values continence.

On marriage

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When I met HWSNBN I was 21. I wasn’t sure I wanted to even get married, let alone have children. I never chose him thinking about what kind of father he’d make. Luckily those qualities I fell in love with as a partner map perfectly onto being a dad.

My bestie asked me what I was doing for Valentine’s day and I replied sarcastically that HWSNBN and I were playing the ultra romantic game of pass the screaming baby. But it’s true I have never loved HWSNBN more than when he sees me pacing with a screaming Nibs and says ‘Let me take over for a bit’ and I go cry-sob in the shower. It isn’t roses and chocolates but it is love.

On the dark side, I have never hated him more when he complained in all seriousness ‘I never got out anymore.’ The baby was four weeks old. Complaining to a new mother about never going out, is like bitching to people in a famine regime that the size of Quality Street tins are a bit skimped. Know your audience!

I don’t mind admitting that HWSNBN is better at settling him that I am. He seems less affected by Nibs’ crying whereas to me it’s like an alarm saying do something! One of the downsides of having boobs is that I use them as a pacifier. Whereas HWSNBN has a whole host of tricks at his disposal.

It’s ridiculous that dad’s only get two weeks of paid paternity leave. I was lucky because HWSNBN works for himself he could work from home most days or ask his mum to come down when he wasn’t able. I don’t know how other women do it. 5.30pm has become my favourite time of day.

I am a better parent with him around.

On babies

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I never knew much about babies and to me they all seemed alike. Tiny, sleepy bundles that looked and acted like drunk old men. Now I have one I see the differences.

The first night Nibs threw up every half an hour gobs of yellow mucus. I sat and watched over him terrified he would choke and drown. It was first experience of motherhood that sometimes there is nothing you can do but bear witness and be there for your baby.

If you have a baby that screams uncontrollably for hours, it can almost unbearable. The one that helped was imagining the screams were him talking. Very loudly. For hours.

It’s OK to think your child looks a bit weird sometimes. Sometimes I think he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Other times I think he looks like a cross between Pob and a monkey.

The principle of the fourth trimester governs many of my early parenting decisions. Nibs has gone to never being cold, or hungry, or not held to experiencing all of those things. No wonder it is overwhelming.

He loves staring at me the most. Followed shortly by the curtains.

Nibs hates to be put down. If he could he would cling to me (preferably) or Johnny at all times. At 7pm when I’ve been feeding for hours and he’s howling, I would do anything to be alone. I miss having my body to myself. But sometimes in the dead of night when I feel his warmth on me I think nobody will ever love and need me like you do and it makes me want to cry with the tenderness of it all.

You can’t spoil a baby. A child yes, but not a baby.

Babies noises are deceiving. Throughout the night he will frequently sound as if he is choking on his own vomit only when you turn on the light – there is no posset to be seen. Paradoxically when he does posset it dribbles from his mouth silently like Bishop at the end of the Aliens movie. Frequently while fast asleep he will emit a sleep screech that is so terrifying it alone makes me glad I religiously did my pelvic floor exercises. We’ll just settle him for the night when he will start hiccuping in his sleep. Loudly. His favourite thing to do is lie there asleep making snuffling, snorting and burbling noises. HWSNBN calls this his ‘look mummy I am sleeping. Look at me sleep. I iz very good at the sleeping’ noise. I call this fucking irritating. Other times I will wake in the night and he will be lying silently in the dark staring at me. #mybabyiscreepierthanyourbaby

Babies are gross and because you love them you become gross too. He has possetted on my hair, stomach and nipple. Once he threw up on his fist then sucked it like it was a lollipop. I took a photo. Sometimes I don’t even know myself anymore.

When pregnant I read in the newborn book that babies feed on average every two hours. That’s not too bad, thought me. At least your getting around two stretches of sleep. What I didn’t realise is that’s two hours from the start of the feed and by the time you put them down you have forty-five minutes before the whole cycle starts again.

You win some, you lose some. I hesitate to write this because I am so tempting the baby gods to curse me for my hubris. But Nibs sleeps absurdly well for a newborn. WINNING

I expected the nights to be bad – but the first fortnight aside they have been bearable. The evenings on the other hand… ah dios madre. When the clock turns 5pm my angel child turns into the bat baby from hell. He has a full agenda of screaming and feeding or screamfeeding and he isn’t going to stop until he’s done. This is coincidentally the time when my reserves and patience are at their lowest. Luckily it is also the time when HWSNBN comes home. 

The days are long but the years are short. As I write this Nibs is six weeks old. He is smiling and burbling. He loves to be held upright so he admire the curtains. He’s grown almost 30 centimeters. I can’t wait to witness the little person he grows into.

I thought I would have this strong feeling of ‘mine’ when I saw him. But he doesn’t feel like he came from me. He feels like a gift from the stars and the sky and I am just looking after him for as long as he will have me.

They didn’t say it would be easy, they said it would be worth it. And it is so worth it.

The third trimester of pregnancy – the waddling diaries

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I think this answers everything you need to know. But if I have one motto it’s why use ten words when you can use a gazillion?

If the first trimester was all about the FEELS, and the second trimester was all about the glow, the third trimester has been all about the waddle.

It happened so incrementally it took me a while to notice. But then I could no longer ignore the facts – I was waddling and it felt sooooo good. Once Nib’s head engaged into my pelvis it was like having a cannonball between my legs. The only solution to gradually widen my gait until I was rocking from side to side like a penguin. I am never* closing my legs again. (If *never= until this baby makes an appearance)

The questions

How do you think I feel?
How do you think I feel?

Before I got pregnant, I asked pregnant women the same questions. Questions I didn’t realise that were either a bit silly or they were probably getting asked ten million times a day. Now that I have been pregnant I have new questions. Questions which are definitely silly but they definitely won’t have been asked before. Winning!

The new questions:

I know being pregnant is a miracle but do you also feel at times like Kane out of Aliens?

How weird out of scale of 1 to 10 are your boobs?

Drinking your own breastmilk/eating your own placenta? Interesting experiment or cannibalism – discuss?

Is being pregnant how you expected it would be?

Tell me your craziest pregnant dream?

The old questions:

How are you feeling (with accompanying concerned face and side tilt)?

This always confuses me because *guilty mother face* a) sometimes I forget I am pregnant until I look down b) I am pregnant not ill so it takes a while to realise that’s what people are really asking about and not my general health so normally I answer ‘fine?’ creating a confused and awkward silence.

Are you excited or scared?

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Can’t I be both. Scated/excitred? We need new words. Also this feels like a trap for you to tell me about the horrendous experience your aunt/first cousin/ you had giving birth. Earlier in pregnancy I was tempted to lie down on the floor with a pillow over my head to avoid having to hear the stories. Now they don’t phase me at all. Frankly at this stage I’d be happy to push this baby out through my nostril.

When’s your due date?/what are you having/is it your first?

All great and relevant questions. Please ask me about my baby and I will bore on for Britain. But… my memory went the way of waist around three months ago and doesn’t seem like it will be making a reappearance anytime soon. I need to start wearing a sign around my neck saying ‘My due date is 13 January, I am having a boy and it’s my first baby.’ to make way for more exciting questions like who would win in a fight to the death, your baby or godzilla. Come on, he is the dark lord.

Have you had the baby yet?

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I’ve just started sending over this link to people. It doesn’t help that I have never been the most reliable correspondent so when I take my customary sweet time responding to text messages I get a follow-up message ‘Are you in labour?’

Trust me the first thing I will do after pushing this baby out, feeding him, cleaning him and having a well deserved lie down it update facebook to let everyone know he’s arrived. Yes, that was sarcastic.

I’ve noticed a recent change in how people relate to me. At around this stage you stop being worshipped as a glorious pregnancy goddess and instead become a chubby woman hoarding all the baby goodness for yourself. I feel as if I am one day away from my sister getting creative with a scalpel so for my sake Nibs you’d better make an appearance soon.

Making a baby bucket list

There comes a time in every pregnancy when you feel like you’ve been pregnant forever. You forget a time when you weren’t pregnant and you can’t imagine ever having this baby just getting bigger and more immobile, until you stop.

But at the back of your mind you know one way or another this baby is coming out. And you have a brief gap in your maternity leave before the babies to make the most of your last days fancy free.

Maternity leave may just be one of the most epically wonderful things I have ever experienced. Finally I have time to do all the pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, that I should have been doing all along. I am slightly worried that actually having a baby might eat into the blissful idyll of reading and napping. But how hard can having a baby be? (Lie to me parent-friends, I beg you.)

When I say make a baby bucket list I am not comparing having a baby to dying But in my limited experience becoming a mother involves one of biggest and sudden role transitions most of us will ever experience. And there are no take-backs.

For example, when I left the job I’d been in for seven years, I knew it was the right time. I was so ready to move onto pastures new. But at the same time, it had been my life for better or worse for seven years. So instead of rushing through that last month of notice, I slowed myself down. I went for lunch, I walked the boundaries of the campus, even during endless meetings with stroppy academics I was filled with such glorious nostalgia – that this was it.

So I wanted to do something similar to mark the transition from pregnant lady to mother. In typical Row fashion I made a list (in addition to my more practical pack your birth bag tasks) and over the last month or so I’ve been:

Making freezer meals

Week 33 – starting to pop

In a fruitless attempt to not spend the early months of motherhood living on chocolate and popcorn.

Read/watch brain taxing stuff…

I’ve been diligently working my way through books off the best off lists and watching documentaries like Making a Murderer while developing a serious crush on justice warrior Dean Strang.

But I’ve also been cueing up the Geordie Shore for when the baby is born.

Obsessively tidying and organising the nursery aka our spare room aka formerly HWSNBN’s office.

Tiny baby clothes you make my ovaries ache.

Go to the cinema

We saw the Hunger Games (which was fine) and Spectre – during which Nibs moving around so much I thought I had a bucking bronco in there. I had to get and go to toilet four times. (Note to self: never sit between a pregnant lady and the toilet in a cinema). Not because I needed to but because he.would.not.stop.moving Conclusion: he really really hates loud noises and/or Bond.

Eat somewhere very unbaby friendly

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Think white tablecloths, amuse bouches and marble surfaces. We went to 1847 a new vegetarian restaurant in Brighton and it was delicious

Visit friends without children and have conversations about anything not related to babies.

I have nothing against friends with children, it’s just that I had limited time and I knew that my friends with babies would understand post-baby distractable me. Whereas my friends without children might aspire to higher conversational standards than ‘look what I made.’

Not talking about babies is hard because, as evidenced by this blog, I can talk about babies for hours. HWSNBN and I can be having a perfectly innocuous conversation about dinner and within one sentence I can related it back to Nibs. It’s a talent. A very annoying talent, but he married me and knocked me up so he can’t back it out. It is also hard because well meaning friends can’t really ignore the elephant in the room aka me. But so far I’ve been out for dinner, brunch and walks by the sea.

Go out the house with just my purse and keys (thanks Sarah for this one)

Let’s face it babies and travelling light don’t really go together. So far I have managed to leave the house with just my keys forgetting my wallet. It was briefly liberating and then terrifying.

Spend time by yourself/with your other half

Truly recommend, this has been lovely.


Is there anything else I should add to the list bearing in mind I have the mobility of a small country and the energy of a sloth?

The waiting game

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How I thought I’d feel at this point

At the time of writing this, I’m a day over my due date. As friends and family will tell you I am one of the most impatient people they have ever met. At the beginning of this pregnancy I would have expected to be to swilling raspberry leaf tea and castor oil like it’s going out of fashion. But to my own surprise, I’m content to wait.

Don’t get me wrong. After all these months, I can’t wait to meet him, to hold him in my arms and to memorise the contours of his face. But I believe that babies have their own timescale and he is after all HWSNBN’s child

Partly I think I’m content to wait because unlike so many of my friends physically, at least, I’ve had such a relatively easy journey. OK, yes I bid goodbye to comfort at the end of the second trimester. My back feels like it will never be normal again, I need to pee every five minutes, turning over in bed is a Herculean struggle. But since I stopped working (after a brief scare with some of early symptoms of preeclampsia) things are a lot easier.

Pregnancy seems to have switched off the part of my brain that needs to fill every moment of each day. Instead my busy schedule consists of all the naps, worthy novels, and a very slow waddle round the block.

I also feel a bit melancholy that I am the end of this pregnancy. I began to believe that pregnancy might not happen for me and I remain so grateful for every moment – headbutts to the cervix and all. Nibs and I have never been apart and soon that will be coming to an end. Although I hope that I will have other babies, I know there are no guarantees and besides, it will be different then. And I worry, neurotically, because how could I ever love another being as much as I love him?

I feel as if I am braced at the top of precipice. Behind me is my old life, where I was responsible only for myself. Over the edge, shrouded in mist, is motherhood waiting for me. I’ve grown him and kept him safe this last year, but it’s time for him to emerge into this wide, wonderful and terrible world. I know once I dive, there will be no going back. So for now I am enjoying the hesitation before the fall – content to read, to nap, to cradle my ever-expanding belly and wait for the next chapter to begin.

The third trimester – the statistics

Week 30 - mini bump
Week 30 – mini bump
Week 33 – starting to pop
Week 36, the enbiggening
Week 36, the enbiggening
Week 40 - full term
Week 40 – full term

How far along: 40 weeks and one day. *Insert Rocky music here*

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Baby is the size of: A durian, actually. Feels like, a baby elephant dancing the macarena.

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Names: We have decided on a name. Which I am not telling, because it’s a lot harder to say I hate it to a little baby face than to mine.  

Bump: HUGE. So much so that I have caught my bump in a car door, the fridge, a small child, and taken out of a shelf in holland and barrett.

Symptoms: Boob sweat. Yeah, I said it.

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Peeing all the time with no warning.

Lack of sleep. I love that most people’s advice is sleep now. *Side eyes* With the peeing and having to rearrange the great wall of pillows around me every time I shift getting a restful night’s sleep is a distant memory. It’s Ok though. I can catch up on sleep when the baby arrives.

Being really, really ridiculously emotional. Which was especially hard as my job involves immersing myself in human misery and towards the end I just could not absorb any more bad things

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Things I Can’t Handle On Any Emotional Level (a short and not exhaustive list): the news, Making a Murderer, orphaned animals, orphans, injustice in any form, Adele songs, and Pixar movies. Just thinking about the ending to Toy Story 3 is too much to bear.

Boy or girl: A boy.

Cravings:  Nothing except for one brief night where I needed liquorice immediately and made HWSNBN drive me to the shops where I ate a massive pack of the Allsorts spitting out the coloured bits. Classy.

Anything making you feel queasy: Just when memories of first trimester ickiness are fading heartburn arrives to spoil the party.

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Maternity clothes: I am so bored of wearing the same three things that vaguely fit and don’t make me look like a house. I am living in trakkie bottoms

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Don’t get me started on why so many maternity clothes involve stripes because that’s what every pregnant women wants to look wider around her bump. Just don’t.

Miss anything: Seeing my feet.

Sleep, oh blessed sleep.

Being able to pick things up. Pregnancy klutziness and the inability to bend means I am constantly leaving a trail of discarded items in my wake. Or if HWSNBN is there making a distressed sound like bird cheeping until he comes to pick it up for me.

Next stop, motherhood. Eeek!

2015: dreams don’t work unless you do

2015: dreams don’t work unless you do

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So the door closes on another year, and wow 2015 has been pretty splendid to me. Here’s hoping 2016 is similarly generous. Here’s my year in review (and you can find previous years 20142013, 2012, 2011 here.)

If 2015 has been proof of nothing else it’s how your life can change on a sixpence. I started the year desperately sad, crushed by trying and failing to get pregnant. All I wanted was to crawl into my Row-cave and lick my wounds.

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But after spending a Christmas and New Year with my lovely family and friends, and a judicious helping of ice cream (bear wafers 4TW) I strapped on my big girl knickers and got back to working out like a mofo.

Continuing the theme of latter days of 2014, the early part of 2015 was all about working out and eating clean as I completely overhauled my lifestyle in order to be eligible for IVF.

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I lost over three stone in total and have never felt healthier.

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The rest of January was a write-off as I contracted tonsillitis followed by pneumonia. Thanks body!  I looked and sounded like a troll. Although it took a couple of months for me to get the message, getting that sick turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

In March HWSNBN and I celebrated our 11 (I feel so old) year anniversary. He’s still the first person I want to speak to every morning and the last person I want to speak to at night.

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At the end of March I made the decision to quit gainful employment and go freelance. Between working 50 hour weeks, working out and trying to get pregnant – something had to give and unless I was careful that would be me. I needed to stop pushing the river and start taking care of myself. The plan was to moonlight for a month or two and then apply for jobs over the summer. But you know what they say about plans…

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In April my best friend took me away for a friend-moon to Glastonbury and it was exactly the tonic I needed.

 

Because in May I found out I was pregnant! Even though as I write this I sit cradling my huge 9-month bump – I still can’t believe after the years of trying this has happened for us. We are so lucky.

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Summer came and with it BBQs, pool days and counting down the days until I neared the end of the first trimester.

I also thought a lot about friendship and how bad I am at making friends.

In July, I went away to France with the family and HWSNBN.

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In August (and July, and June…) I missed my best friend more than words can say.

And I turned 33, eek!

I also went away for the Bank Holiday with the curry night crew and it was pretty fabulous.

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In September, I truly begin to appreciate how lovely working for myself really is. Especially when it means I can decide to go for a walk by the sea just because 1)it’s Thursday, b)it’s sunny and c) I want to.

We also found out we weren’t expecting a unicorn, boo but a baby boy as I finished my second trimester.

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In October I celebrated Halloween by dressing myself and Mr Nibs up.

In November I fell back in love with autumn and her sublime skies.

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And December was all about finally finishing working and taking a well deserved break to put my feet up. I’ve had some of the early symptoms on pre-eclampsia so have mainly been napping and reading and it has been so utterly blissful.

I ended the year as I began… waiting. Except it feels completely different. I am very different to how I was a year ago. One of the hardest things I found about infertility was living in the space between hope and despair. ‘If only I knew the end of the story.’ I’d say endlessly to HWSNBN. Knowing the ending would mean I could mourn or celebrate. It would mean I could move out of limbo. It would mean I regretted nothing knowing that in the end it would lead me here, to him.

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This isn’t the end of my story. There will be twists and turns along the way. I fully expect that this one of my biggest highs will be followed by some (many?) lows. But that’s OK. If 2015 has taught me nothing more, than how important it is to celebrate where you are in this moment. And this moment is waiting for my unborn baby to be born. Is waiting to become a mother. Is waiting for life to change firmly and irrevocably. And well, it’s pretty magical indeed.

And for you dearest reader, this is what I hope for you.

The second trimester of pregnancy – bring on the rainbows and unicorns!

The second trimester of pregnancy – bring on the rainbows and unicorns!

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Is the second trimester, the best trimester?

After months of tireless research – I can conclude categorically that yes, yes it is. Or it was at least for me. The first trimester was characterised by exhaustion, secrecy and fear/excitement. The third trimester has so far been filled with miscellaneous aches and pains, gradually getting more cumbersome and with shit getting real. But I had high hopes for the second trimester. Other pregnant women talked about it so reverently as if rainbows beam out of your ears and you spend it riding a giant unicorn. The second trimester is when you felt your baby move, finally stopped vomming and falling asleep or vomming while falling asleep (FUN!) and you might even… glow!

How I expected pregnancy to make me look. How pregnancy actually makes me look.
How I expected pregnancy to make me look.  How pregnancy actually makes me look.

 

I was slightly disappointed when at midnight on week 14 I didn’t magically start feeling as if I was starring in a tampon commercial. But sometime through week 16, I went to bed at 10.30pm. Considering that previously I had been struggling to keep my eyes open past 8.30pm and this was akin to going out to an all night rave. Gradually, I began to feel more like a human being. And then even better energised. I was suddenly filled with a manic urge to clean all the things. In a period HWSNBN characterised as the week of hell as he woke up to find his pregnant wife obsessively wiping down skirting boards and culling all possessions.

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It helped that the second trimester fell over the summer holidays when for the first time in three years I was only working one job. It meant that I had time. Time to go swimming, to read and just stare at my expanding belly and to day dream about meeting Nibs.

During the second trimester I felt amazing – energised, potent and powerful. I wish that I could have bottled that feeling like liquid energy was coursing through my veins. Everything was easy and nothing hurt. At times I’d even forget I was pregnant as I whizzed around ticking tasks off my to do list.

Emotionally, although I still had days when I felt anxious, I finally allowed myself to get excited about being pregnant and even bought a couple of small things for Nibs. Earlier this year I had been working on accepting that although I was determined to become a mother I may not be able to biologically carry a child. Mourning the dream of growing this little being inside me was the only way I felt I could start to move forward and step off the roller coaster of hope and despair. But just when I had given up hope – it happened.

It took a while to recover from the emotional whiplash of ‘this dream might never happen’ vs ‘this is happening. NOW.’ As I said in my last post about pregnancy a big part of me will never feel completely comfortable and safe until I hold my baby in my arms. But as each week passed and each milestone with it, I began to relax more and more. 

At 17 weeks, I finally gathered up my courage and came out of the pregnancy closet. The outpouring of love and well wishes from friends who knew how we had been struggling made me cry – but in a good way. I’d say this was unusual but due to pregnancy hormones that week I also cried about swans, an advert for chocolate, and after stubbing my toe. Note to self, buy shares in Kleenex, preggo.

The kraken wakes

The latest scan photos of our baby
The latest scan photos of our baby

One of the most reassuring things was starting to feel Nibs move at around 18 weeks. I’d been feeling flutterings for a couple of weeks but convinced myself I was imagining it. But then HWSNBN felt it too. ‘It’s like fish in a balloon’ he said. And it was at first so light and airy like a swarm of teeny minnows inside me. At night I’d lie flat in bed, hands pressed to my tummy feeling the teeny shifts of movements. The midwife was incredibly surprised I could feel him so early as my placenta was anterior, acting like a massive cushion. As he grew the movements felt more distinctive. I could feel him rolling from side to side like a kraken emerging from the depths. He’d turn over suddenly and I’d feel that sensation like I was poised at the top of a rollercoaster waiting for it to drop. Feelings Nibs move was like having the best secret in the world especially as I still didn’t look visibly pregnant. To everybody else I looked normal but it felt like a miracle was happening within me that my baby and I were communicating in a language only we knew. 

Scans will never not be terrifying. Fact

When I feel scared I take selfies, fact
When I feel scared I take selfies, fact

After the relief of our 12 week scan, I was expecting to feel less nervous ahead of our 20 week anomaly scan. But as we drove there I wanted to throw up. I already knew that if our baby had a disability I would continue with the pregnancy. I remain firmly pro-choice but having a sister that was disabled and the light of my life meant it just didn’t seem an option for me. But what if our baby had a condition that was incompatible with life? How could I choose to keep going with the pregnancy knowing my child might live briefly and die in pain? All I could do was hope that this agonising choice was not one I would have to make.

As I lay down on bed and saw the first images of our baby on the screen I could tell the sonographer was tense. Unlike before the view was murky like seeing everything through a veil. And as she barked out measurements to her colleague I clutched HWSNBN’s hand tighter and tighter. Even he, the eternal optimist, was looking nervous. The numbers might as well have been in latin for all the sense they made to me. OK so he had kidneys but the fact they were measuring X. Was that good or bad?

I lay there feeling sicker and sicker as she frowned at the screen. Finally, she finished her measurements and I couldn’t keep silent any longer – ‘Is it all looking OK?’

A big pause.

‘Yeees, from everything I can see it looks normal. But…’

But?!

‘Because of your placenta’ (aka the massive cushion) ‘and the babies positioning’ (lying with arms crossed over their chest like Dracula) ‘I can’t get as good a view of the heart as I would like. From what I can see it looks fine but I need a better view and I don’t want to take any chances. Let’s get you in three weeks time when he’s a bit bigger and we’ll look again.’

As we left the room I made a conscious decision that I was not going to worry about it more than I could help. To my surprise I managed to do just that.

Three weeks later we returned and despite our little bat baby lying arms firmly crossed over their chest, after a bit of judicious hip sambaing and one very indignant baby later we could see that they DID have a heart after all.

Insider revelations on being the mother to the dark lord

Nib's new home

‘You know, Dana, there are many perks to being the mother of a living god.’

During the scan the sonographer zoomed in on Nib’s face to check for a cleft palate.

‘There is your babies face.’ She said obviously expecting cooing. But out of the gloaming, gulping amniotic fluid appeared a face. It was the kind of face only a mother can love. It was the kind of face that suggested a career with a cape and an amulet of fire. It was the kind of skeletal face, noseless, empty staring eye sockets that suggested that maybe I was carrying the dark lord.

Evidence for that I am the mother to the dark lord

  • Nibs likes to hang upside down like a bat
  • Nibs sleeps with their arms crossed over their chest. Like Dracula
  • Nib’s favourite activity is to kick mummy in the ribs, or head-butt her in the bladder – especially when she needs a wee.
  • As soon as I became pregnant a tower started being built on Brighton sea front. Every evil overlord needs a palace of doom afterall.

Evidence against that I am the mother to the dark lord

  • No familiar or evil sidekick has appeared. Yet.

Some might expect me to be disconcerted at that fact that I am carrying the dark incarnation of evil in my womb. Frankly I am rather excited as the dark lord position comes with a good pension and built in social life, if you like orcs. Let’s face it no matter what happens Nibs will always be mummy’s little precious and only allowed to take over the world after they’ve had tea and is wearing a vest.

Boy/Girl/Unicorn

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I always knew from early on in this pregnancy I wanted to find out whether I was having a boy or girl. I completely understand why people might want to keep it a surprise. But after all the uncertainty of trying to conceive, I knew that I needed every bit of information I could get about this baby. The more I knew about our baby the more this pregnancy began to feel real to me.

After the scan we decided to throw a small celebratory party for friends and family who had been so supportive throughout the whole journey to conceive. To add to excitement we decided to make it a gender reveal party. The name bothered me because although we knew Nib’s biological sex his or her gender wasn’t something we could prescribe. But holding a sex reveal party for friends and family sounded SO WRONG so gender reveal party it was.

Before the scan I tried pout a number of old wives tales. The ‘evidence’ was conclusive, we were having a boy. Except both HWSNBN and I were convinced we were having a girl. Except for that one dream I had pesky about rocking my baby boy in my arms while he gurgled up at me. We even had a girl’s name we had tentatively agreed on. Before we went into the scan, I said semi jokingly let’s hope it’s a girl so the great name war of 2015 remains concluded.

Anybody who has ever met me knows that my skill for guessing the sex of unborn babies is uncanny. As in uncannily I have 100 per cent record of getting it completely wrong – a record that remains intact. Because, yep we are having a little boy.

Is there anything more unappetising than blue food?
Is there anything more unappetising than blue food?

The second trimester – the statistics

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How far along: 27 weeks

Baby is the size of: Cauliflower. Comparing the baby to the size of fruit short-circuits HWSNBN’s scientific brain.

Week 19 and starting to pop
Week 19 and starting to pop
Week 27, see ya later feet
Week 27, see ya later feet

Names: Nibs, Nibbisicle, His Nibs, the dark lord, the long awaited one. We are completely stuffed for boys names and at this point there is a strong possibility our baby might remain ‘It’ for eternity. Then again Voldemort Sauron Vigo has a nice ring to it, no?

Bump: Growing. I still feel like I fit firmly into the baby or cake camp. Depending on what clothes I wear I can go from looking very pregnant to like I enjoy a bourbon biscuit or 60. I still forget I am pregnant and when I catch myself out of the corner of my eye have a seriously Row put down the cake moment and then remember doh you’re pregnant

Symptoms: Slight back ache as my bump grows bigger.

Amazing and uncanny sense of smell. Combined with a constantly blocked nose, thanks pregnancy sinitusis. This has had one unexpected benefit – for the first year in a long time I’ve skipped all those seasonal colds.

Ability to burn in the moonlight. Thanks lack of melanin that has suddenly made me feel a lot of sympathy for pale people.

Insomnia. Just when I had regained my energy I started waking at 5am each morning filled with thoughts like ‘how can I fix the world in three months?’ ‘Should I cut my hair?’ ‘What is the difference between walnut and pecans anyway?’ You know important shit like that. HWSNBN thinks this is nature’s way of preparing me from the sleepless nights post birth. I think this proves that nature is a bitch.

Boy or girl: A boy. 

Cravings: Cauliflower cheese.

Milk

All the carbs.

Anything making you feel queasy: Luckily what queasiness I had seems to have abated. But eating too much can make me feel overfull and sick so I have to eat little and often like a small woodland creature. Dessert is no longer an option. This is dark times indeed my friends.

Maternity clothes: Thanks to eBay I now have some maternity clothes which I am mixing with my more floating normal dresses. So far I’ve been unimpressed with maternity fashion which remains both expensive and unfashionable.

Sleep: Less than before especially at 5am…

Miss anything: Crack.

I jest. Nope, so far I am loving being pregnant.

Next stop, the third trimester…