Thursday, 31 December 2009

High points

I have been tagged and, for once, I am going to respond to the tag almost immediately (the next morning, at least), because it’s a New Year meme and therefore both relevant and time-sensitive.

The rules are to thank the person who tagged you (thank you Kelly), list your 5 high points for 2009 and tag 5 other people to do the same. Simple, really.

1 Starting this blog

I’d been blogging over at Mummy and Daddy Clark since shortly after Rosemary was born, but decided I wanted something more about me as a parent, than about Rosemary – that blog was (and will be again, now I’ve decided to revive it) aimed at far-away relatives, so they could read about Rosemary and her progress, and see photos and videos of her. I’d started reading some parenting blogs and read a few articles about them and thought I’d like to try my hand. There was a little part of me that thought it could be the way to fame and fortune, but just in the way that you dream about winning the lottery (I’m surely not the only one who does that?), but instead it brought me an amazing circle of friends, some fantastic reading material, and a very enjoyable pass-time. It also somehow put me in the radar of the PR companies, which was very flattering and gave me the opportunity to meet some really lovely people.

2 Rosemary starting playgroup

Rosemary started nursery school last November, but she didn’t start playgroup until May, as she had to wait until she was 2 years 9 months. She loves going to both and gets so much out of it. Playgroup seems to be the one she enjoys the most, though (maybe that’s ‘play’ versus ‘school’?), and that’s where her closes friends (for the moment) are. It also provided me with the opportunity to actually talk to some other parents (well, one in particular – ‘Hi, K!’), which is a relief, as I thought I might never manage that. And it also meant that I was able to work something vaguely resembling normal office hours, with a few extra evening or weekend shifts required now and then. (Of course, all that went to pot in October – see High No. 4 – but never mind, I fit the work in somehow!)

3 Our holiday in France

This was a real biggie. We hadn’t been on a proper holiday since our honeymoon in 2004. We were meant to go on an all-inclusive 2-week holiday to Kenya in January 2006, but found out I was pregnant. Having had an ectopic pregnancy in 2004, the doctor advised us not to go, as we would be there at the point that would be the highest risk of ectopic pregnancy. And I came pretty darned close to dying last time – didn’t want to be away from ambulances and operating theatres, just in case. (Fortunately, it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy, as you probably worked out!) And, in true, sod’s law fashion, we were supposed to be going on a big all-inclusive holiday in Mexico in November this year, but couldn’t do that because we got pregnant again (see High Point No. 4).

Instead, Chris’ parents took us to Normandy for a week. Which, I have to say, was a much more appropriate holiday for Rosemary. We all had a wonderful time and hope to be able to repeat it in the future. Rosemary talks about pretty much every day and asks about when we can go to France again. It was a really wonderful and relaxing week. The only down point was not being able to drink copious (or even teeny tiny) amounts of red wine and eat bucket-loads of smelly cheese. We definitely need to go back, soon.

4 Giving birth to Eleanor

Well, this had to come into it somewhere, didn’t it? It was a long wait, though funnily enough she was actually a few days early. I’d been expecting her to arrive since August, but she held out for a very nice birth date (11.10.09) instead. And she gave me the birth I wanted – in the fantastic midwife-led unit, in the birth pool, with nothing but gas and air and Chris’ hand as pain-killers. It was a truly magical experience, albeit still extremely painful! And, whatsmore, we got us a beautiful little baby girl as a result of it. Eleanor is now almost 3 months old and is truly a little charmer, babbling away and smiling and giggling at us. Though it would be nice if she would go to bed on time a bit more often!

5 Overcoming early breast-feeding problems

Now that we’re at almost 3 months, I wonder how breast-feeding could ever have been difficult. It was the same with Rosemary – early struggles led to a 2-year breast-feeding journey – but the struggles this time were a lot worse and I came extremely close to giving up. I am so glad I didn’t. We’re now exclusively breast-feeding, though there are a few cartons of formula and some bottles still sat somewhere, just in case.

Eleanor feeds with pretty much no trouble at all, even when she had a really bad cough. Most feeds are around 20 minutes long and she goes back to sleep straight away after her middle-of-the-night feeds (though I wouldn’t mind if she would sleep through instead – her sister didn’t for a helluva long time, so I won’t hold out too much hope for that). She’s getting big – haven’t had her weighed, but according to my approximations based on me standing on the scales without her and then with her, she seems to already weigh about a stone. Pretty sure Rosemary didn’t weigh a stone until she was 4 or 5 months, though may be remembering wrong!

She’s now feeding in an easier cradle-hold, which means I can feed when out and about without waving my boobs around (not that I have a problem with anyone doing that, I just prefer to cover up if I can) and without needing a cushion to rest on.

I’m considering buying a hand-pump so that she can breast-milk when out and about with my mum (who will be looking after her a couple of times a week fairly soon), so we can throw out the formula completely.

So, getting through those first few weeks was really a major accomplishment that is reaping rewards for everyone now.

 

Now I have to tag five other people to do this…

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year, New WAHM-BAM!

If I had the time, I’d do a redesign to go with the rethink, but…

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, 2010 is going to be a very busy year for work. As you may also have noticed, I had a baby a few months ago, which oddly (who’d a thunk it, heh?) also decreases my free time. And I have a 3-going-on-13-year-old who needs lots of my attention, not to mention a husband and dog, who would probably both appreciate the occasional rub down.

So… I have decided that I will not be doing any more reviews. I’ll keep doing them for The Great Toy Guide, because they have a pattern and don’t require me to try to cleverly incorporate a product into an interesting and informative or funny post. But I’ll not be doing any here. I have a couple left that I still haven’t written up, which I will do, but after that, no more. (Unless someone wants to send me to the Caribbean for a fortnight; I might relax the rules for that!)

This is in no way down to feeling that doing reviews is wrong. I loved doing reviews, and not just because it meant I got a few freebies. I enjoyed the feeling of importance being courted by PR bods gave me. I enjoyed the different style of writing required. I enjoyed the challenge of trying (often unsuccessfully, let’s admit it) to make a sponsored post seem readable and commentable on. And I have absolutely no problem with other people writing reviews or not writing reviews as they see fit.

But since a couple months before Eleanor was born I’ve been feeling review guilt. I’ve felt guilty about writing an ‘ordinary’ post, when I’ve had a backlog of reviews to write. And I don’t want to feel like that. I want to return to just writing posts as they come to me. Writing about whatever strikes me as strange, funny, interesting, odd, or just plain writable on any given day. Not writing out of obligation to PR people or companies.

I’m also going to start writing on Mummy and Daddy Clark again, too. That will be the place for putting photos and videos of the girls and for the weekly or monthly updates that say fascinating (cough) things about pooping and sleeping habits and first words and the like. It will probably also be the place for reporting cute things the girls do or say, though I can’t promise to leave that off here entirely! Feel free to follow it too, but bear in mind that it’s target audience is doting grandparents – and not just any doting grandparents, either, but two particular ones who don’t get to see their granddaughters as much as they’d like.

WAHM-BAM! will go back to being mostly about general parenting issues, thoughts and stories, with occasional moans or celebrations about the challenges and rewards of working from home. That’s not to say I won’t mention the girls or use their pictures to illustrate posts. It would probably be very difficult not to, really.

We also have plans for the ‘corporate blog’, too, which I may or may not link to when it’s ready. But, as you can see, there’s going to be enough writing to be done without including reviews, too.

So, on the penultimate day of the first decade of the 21st century (I think – or is next year the last year of the decade?), I wish you all a happy and fulfilled New Decade and hope you will keep reading the rather back to basics new WAHM-BAM!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season’s Greetings

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas (or belated Happy Chanukah or Divali, or a Festive Yuletide, or just Happy Holidays) and a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2010 brings you everything you could ask of it, whether that be a new baby, a new job, a new home, a parent blogging conference, a respite from poo, more time and energy, the trials of dealing with the terrible twos, some sleep, an extra 5 hours in the day, an incredibly long walk, the ability to continue with new ventures, a respite from chemotherapy, a huge reduction in household waste or un petit peu plus de temps. (Much of the above would apply to many of you! Sorry not to have managed to link to every which one of you, but Eleanor will probably wake up soon, and Rosemary might get bored with Disney videos. Maybe.)

2009 has been quite an eventful year for me. I started this blog, which brought me many new friends, an outlet for my writing that was a bit easier to keep up with than any of the many novels rattling around in my head, the opportunity to review toys and books other things, and some kind of small amount of fame – well, I’m in the Tots 100, at least – and a wealth of interesting and funny and heart-warming blogs to read (so many that I can’t keep up anymore). I spent much of the year pregnant, had our first holiday in a long time, gave birth and battled with breastfeeding. The business has continued well, despite the difficulties of fitting in work around a baby and a pre-schooler.

2010 is going to be a very busy year work-wise, which will provide us with even more challenge in terms of juggling children and work, but should help to put even more of a dent in the mountains (or molehills, depending on your point of view) of debt. It will see Rosemary starting school – either Uplands or Stroud Valleys, both of which are lovely, thankfully. It will see Chris turning 35 and me turning 37 – closer and closer to the big four oh. It will see Rosemary turning 4 and Eleanor reaching her first birthday. And it will be full of other firsts for Eleanor, of course – sitting up, crawling, maybe walking, maybe talking… that first year can be such fun, though so can the second, third, fourth… Hopefully, it will see me finding a bit more time to blog – the last couple of months have been a tad chaotic. And I’m thinking planning anything more than that would be silly. If we can keep on top of work, children, housework and fit a little bit of fun in there occasionally, then that will do me for 2010.

I hope you and your families have a wonderful happy time over the next couple of weeks. Oh, and if you’re wondering what to do in between Christmas and New Year, you should take a look into Twixtmas, which encourages you to make the most of that in-between time.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Hours of fun without the TV

As a little bit of a change from seasonal discussions of what toys to buy, I thought I would provide you with a cheap and cheerful activity that has the potential to keep your pre-schoolers amused for hours. Yes, actually hours. Without the help of the TV. Shocking, I know.

This morning, Rosemary has spent almost the whole time between 6am and 9am, playing with some oats. She was baking cakes with them, making soup with them, giving her Snow White doll drinks with them, mashing potatoes with them, cutting them, stirring them, and occasionally even eating them.

And, as an added benefit, you can stick the baby in her chair and have her watch her big sister playing with oats. (Though you might want to point her more directly at her sister, so she doesn’t slump to the side in the chair.)

And then… you can sit back, relax and drink copious amounts of tea (or coffee, if you prefer) to wake up, without having to resort to Handy Manny or Dora the Explorer.

Sadly, I cannot claim to have invented this activity. It was all Rosemary’s idea.

So, do you have any activities like this that will amuse your children for hours on end without TV or spending a fortune?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Emotional baggage

I read Rosemary a bedtime story tonight. It was a library book that she’d picked out herself. She tends to choose a bunch of books from the readers section – so aimed at slightly older children to read themselves. I hadn’t read it before and nor had Chris – or Rosemary.

I was reading through it fine. It seemed like a fairly ordinary story, about a school and one boy in particular. But suddenly, I got to a part of the story and burst into tears. I had to keep reading, but my voice was all wobbly and waving my hands to try to wave away the tears. No-one died. There were no starving children. There was just a little boy bringing his great-grandmother in to school as part of a project – to bring something old and precious in.

I cry uncontrollably at weird things. Applause is one of the worst. I was always crying when watching The West Wing, because, well, people frequently applaud the President – especially when he’s as charismatic and eloquent as Jed Bartlett. People doing something good or nice en masse is another one that gets me. I was in almost constant tears when I went on the march to save Stroud Maternity (though I was pregnant at the time, so had an excuse for excessive lacrimosity). And anything to do with matriarchs, especially when people show love and respect for grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers (my Gran is one of those, amazingly).

Rosemary was pretty much unfazed by this. She glanced at me a couple of times, but was really engrossed by the story, so was happy as long as I kept reading. She could obviously tell that I wasn’t really upset as, the few times I have been with her, she’s immediately given me a big cuddle and kiss.

So, have you ever been overcome by tears when reading a bedtime story? Is there anything that particularly makes you cry? Do you mind crying in front of your children?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Climb on board the imagination train

I’ve been marvelling, of late, at Rosemary’s burgeoning imagination. She’s been playing imaginary games for quite a while now – doctor’s, vets, babies and so on – but over the last few weeks it really seems to be blossoming and I can sit here on the sofa of a morning and witness intricate stories of family life, jungle adventure and magical lands.

I did a couple of playgroup duties, recently, which gave me the opportunity to watch (and join in with) some home corner play. There is a plethora of resources there and it’s fascinating watching them play out scenarios they’ve seen at home – putting babies to bed and in high chairs, shopping with the tills and money, doing the ironing (Rosemary doesn’t really do this one – I wonder why?). But what I really love is seeing her (and her friends) using their imagination to create something. For example, during one duty, the doormat at the entrance to playgroup was a doctor’s surgery and a swimming pool at different times. There was a brief conflict when Rosemary wanted it to be a pool and her friend wanted it to be the doctor’s surgery, but they resolved this by having the doctor do his consultations in the pool!

I especially enjoy, though, watching Rosemary create intricate imaginary scenarios with her toys and imaginary friends, on her own. Because that’s something I used to do. I had a protector called Dreaming Dragon. He protected me from the witch who would come out when you flushed the chain at night. In order to avoid the witch, it was necessary to run back to bed shouting ‘Dreaming Dragon! Dreaming Dragon!’ all the way. I let my friends join in sometimes, of course, especially Sadie. Sadie and I made regular trips to fairyland, via her mum’s old Singer sewing machine. We were, of course, fairy princesses there – Victoria and Elizabeth – but had to live in the human world for most of the time (for some reason that I cannot remember).

Rosemary hasn’t yet got quite as adventurous as my childhood fairy tales, but she’s on the way. She likes to go to the jungle quite often, and up mountains and into space. She loves magic. (Doesn’t every child? In fact, I still do.)

And she comes up with imaginative reasoning and ideas, which are often hilarious or sometime disturbing. On one walk to school, we were talking about burglars (I don’t remember why) and she said ‘Burglars are dead, aren’t they?’ ‘Why do you think they’re dead?’ ‘Well, they have skeletons and skeletons are dead, so burglars must be dead.’ Ah logic. Of a kind. The logic did fall apart when I pointed out that we also had skeletons and weren’t dead. But then she saw a pretty red leaf on the floor so we stopped worrying about skeletons and burglars.

When walking home recently, we heard a train horn and started talking about trains (we had been on a couple of train journeys recently). Rosemary was wondering what colour the train was. ‘It might be red.’ ‘Yes, maybe.’ ‘Or perhaps it’s blue.’ ‘Or green?’ ‘I know! I think it’s silver.’ ‘Ooh, silver. That sounds nice.’ ‘Yes. And do you know? Silver trains are magic.’ ‘Are they? Why are they magic?’ ‘Well. You see. They turn you into wizards.’ ‘Wizards? That sounds fun.’ ‘Yes. And, actually. They turn you into giants, too.’ ‘Giants? Goodness! I’d like to go on a silver train.’ ‘Yes. Me too. Actually, mum. You don’t need to be a giant, because you’re big already. But I can be a giant. And you can still be a wizard.’

Have your children started exploring their imagination yet? Or have they stopped now they’re older? Can you remember your own imaginary worlds and stories from when you were a child? Do you still love magic or has life got in the way?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Visiting potential schools – questions to ask

Chris and I will be going to visit one of the schools where Rosemary may go tomorrow. And the other one two weeks later. There are only two within walking distance, one very small (16 intake) and the other pretty big (37). Actually, there is a third, but that’s a Catholic school and we wouldn’t really consider it, being very unreligious. There’s also a school in a nearby village that has a bus that stops close by, which we might consider, but probably not. There are other schools around, but they would all involve about an hour’s walk, or driving. Most of them aren’t accessible by public transport at the right time, though some are.

So… what questions do we need to ask? Here are some that I’ve come up with off the top of my head:

  • What technology is used in teaching?
  • How are pupils’ individual needs assessed and catered to (e.g. special interests, extra help, extra challenges)?
  • What is the level and type of religious education? Can pupils be excused from religious assemblies and, if so, what would they do instead?
  • When are languages started and which one/s?
  • What are the meals like (e.g. healthy, veggie option, packed lunch option)?
  • How do teachers and parents communicate?
  • What is the policy on time off (e.g. OK to take a day off to visit an aquarium or museum, OK to go on holiday in term time, or neither)?
  • Is there much bullying and how is this addressed?
  • Does the school have an overall ethos?
  • How are different cultures explored?
  • How are stereotypes avoided?
  • What outdoor play facilities are there?
  • How many classroom assistants are there in each class?
  • What sort of teaching methods are used?

What would (or did) you ask? Is there anything you especially like about your children’s school? Is there anything you really hate about your children’s school and would advise avoiding? Do you think a smaller school is better than a bigger one, in general? Any other tips for the whole school choice palaver?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Helping the people of Cumbria

We are putting together an Auction to raise funds for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund.

The Auction will be hosted by Bambino Goodies and is being coordinated by Kat Molesworth, Bambino Goodies
Features Editor.

We have set up a specific email account for this auction: cumbriafloodauction@googlemail.com


The Plan: to gather a series of auction lots covering a range of values to be auctioned off fromMonday 30th November – Sunday 6th December the proceeds of which will be donated in full to the recovery fund.

The mechanics of the auction are being decided in the next couple of days we are looking into options including in house hosting and eBay charity auctions – we will keep you posted.


How you can help:

Donate:
  • Our idea is that each lot will have several items of low to medium value or one or two high value items. You are welcome to create more than one lot.
  • What kind of items? That’s entirely up to you; we are willing to consider all ideas! The moredesirable the better. Whether it is products, shopping sprees, mystery extras or experiences; all offers are welcome.
  • Postage: you will need to include postage to the winner in your offer, please let us know if this is UK only or available to International bidders as well.
  • Please email your offers to: cumbriafloodauction@googlemail.com
  • Once you have offered an auction lot we will send you a confirmation form where you can list all the details – this will be the official confirmation of your offer.
  • All donations are to be confirmed by Thursday 26th November to allow us to set the auction up.
  • We will confirm the details of the winning bidders following successful payment so you can post their lot to them
Promote:
  • Can you help us promote the auction to other potential donors?
  • Are you able to spread the word through social media? We have large support from parent bloggers and would really appreciate every extra voice.
Buy:
  • Once the auction is live please stop by and bid!
All offers of support are gratefully accepted.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Christmas Rules

This is a sponsored post.

John Lewis are offering another £25 voucher, and I'm besotted by all their lovely clothes, so I am going to let them jump the sponsored post queue (there's a deadline, sorry). Also, I love Christmas, so a chance to blather on about for a bit, even though it's not yet November, is not to passed up.

So, what they want to know is our Rules for the Perfect Family Christmas:

Children
  • Children are an essential ingredient to a perfect Christmas!
  • Only children get stockings. When you stop being a child is up for debate, though. Rosemary may get to be one a bit longer, until Eleanor stops...
  • The youngest child hands out the presents. If the youngest child can't read, she (or he) hands them to the second youngest child to read and then pass out. Or to a grown-up, if none of the children can read.
  • Stockings, and the one big present that Santa has left under the tree are the only ones to be opened on awakening, and can be opened without grown-ups (but we'd like to see, if you don't mind). Then you have to keep yourself amused with these gifts until lunch is cooking, when the rest of the presents can be opened (or started on - if there are too many, we have to do it in two batches, one before lunch and one after).
The Christmas meal
  • There absolutely and without question must be roast potatoes. And they cannot be cooked in with any meat or cooked in goose fat, so Mummy can eat them. (Fortunately, Grandma and Grandpa got a double-oven, so Mummy gets this every year.)
  • There must be brussel sprouts, even if no-one touches them.
  • If we're here, we get one of Mummy's vegetarian centre-pieces; if we're at Grandma and Grandpa's, we get some kind of roasted meat or poultry, and Mummy gets to make herself a mini centre-piece.
  • There must be a desert that isn't Christmas pudding - even if there has to be Christmas pudding, too.
  • Everyone will eat at the dining table (even if it's a ridiculous squeeze), including children. There will be no children's table.
  • There will be crackers.
The in-laws
  • Will come to us for a Christmas once they've retired, which Daddy will enjoy, as it will give him an excuse to cook a pig, or some kind of bird, or whatever. In the meantime, we will go there every other year.
  • And Daddy will have the house invaded by his mother-in-law and sister-in-law every other year.
Entertainment
  • There will be family games (of the board game variety). No-one will be allowed to get out of them, unless there's a limit on how many people can play, or possibly if it's gone their bedtime, or they can't sit up unaided.
  • There will be a film and everyone will fall asleep.
  • Christmas music will be played and sung all through December.
Decorations
  • Decorations will go up some time in December and come down before 6 January. Usually.
  • Mummy and Daddy will disagree about how much decoration there will be.
  • The tree will be the fold-away one in the basement, because pine needles are a bugger to get rid of, and we don't want to chop down a whole tree just for a few week's prettiness.
  • Cards will be hung on string from the ceiling or along the walls, not balanced precariously on mantelpieces and TVs.
Now... I think Chris may want to rewrite some of these when he reads them.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A morning off

This morning I went to Oxford to meet up with a prospective client. He had emailed last week, after being given our details by someone I used to work with (as in so many areas, while you do need to know things, it’s also incredibly useful to know someone, as well), to see if I could come and have a chat.

I wasn’t about to say no to the possibility of lots (or even some) work, but my first instinct was to take Eleanor with me, and bring Chris or my mum to push her round/sit in a cafe with her while I was in the actual meeting. That’s what I would have done three years ago. There is no way that I would have considered going as far as Oxford, or even Cheltenham, without Rosemary when she was 5 weeks old. Because I was a new mum and panicked about everything. I didn’t let anyone else take Rosemary out in her buggy without me until she was six months, so I would hardly have gone off gallivantingworking for half a day.

But… I realised, last week, that I didn’t technically need to bring Eleanor along. She takes a bottle with no problem and tends to have some formula every day. I’d be able to feed her in the morning, then again when I got back. It’s even possible she wouldn’t need any more in between. And then I realised that I was a lot more laid back this time round – we often leave Eleanor alone when she’s sleeping (with the baby monitor on), we will let her cry for a bit (while getting the warm water for a nappy change, in her buggy while putting Rosemary’s coat on, etc.) rather than picking her up the very second she opens her mouth – and that I’d probably be OK to leave her for the 6.5 hours that I would be gone from the house.

And I was OK. In fact, I really enjoyed it. It was a beautiful day, which probably helped. I played my new DS game on the way there and read my book on the way back. I had a latte and pain au chocolate in the morning and a brie, tomato and basil baguette and bottle of coke on the way back. I eavesdropped on conversations on the train – such fun. I walked through an area of Oxford I love, where I used to live and where I would love to live again some day. I wore make-up and smart clothes – well, actually, I wore the same clothes I wear all the time, because they’re comfortable and, well, they fit. Oh yes, and the meeting went very well and looks like it should lead to a fair bit of work in the coming months.

On the way back, I had a bit of a revelation. It struck me that I could actually cope with going out to work. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, of course, and working from home works really well for us. But occasionally I’ll leaf through the Guardian or Bookseller job pages and might light on a job that would actually be perfect for me. And then I think there’s no point in even considering it, because I couldn’t possibly work away from home. That’s not who I am. But, you know, maybe that could be me. If the right job came up.

Of course, the right job would need to pay something in the region of £100,000, so that Chris could be a stay-at-home dad and a really nice house, allow me to work flexitime, so I wouldn’t miss breakfast and dinner with my girls, allow me time off in the school holidays, so I could spend lots of time with my girls, be located within a 45-minute public transport commute (or somewhere we would happily move to), and be something that would engage and challenge me and allow me to use my creativity and not make me to take orders from too many people…

But the important thing is that I know I could do it. Even more important (and fortunate) is that I don’t have to.

What about you? Could you do it? Do you already? Have you become more laid back with your second child? Would you like to go out to work and have your partner stay at home?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Big sister

Rosemary has been rather neglected over here at Wahm-bam towers, what with pregnancy, birth and teeny tiny baby. Not to mention the backlog of reviews gradually appearing. Of course, she’s not being neglected at home. Though, mostly that’s thanks to the fact that she is at nursery school or playgroup for much of the time – three mornings and two full days.

So, I wanted to sing her praises for a bit, as a big sister to Eleanor, but also as a three-year-old girl, who is growing up and finding her space in the world.

The first few days of being a big sister were a little difficult for everyone. Rosemary was ill with a stomach bug. She didn’t really feel ill and had her usual boundless energy, but was stuck at home until she could manage 48 hours diarrhoea-free. And there was a new tiny person invading her space. One that she had  been looking forward to for so long and whose arrival she greeted with ‘Oh, isn’t she cute. I love you Eleanor.’

The problems were much less to do with Rosemary and more to do with our being all panicked and paranoid. Rosemary was being bombarded by shouts of ‘Don’t touch her head!’ ‘Be gentle!’ ‘That’s Eleanor’s changing mat. Leave it alone!’ ‘Get out of her crib!’ ‘Be careful!’ and, understandably, she found this a little difficult and was tending towards doing the things she was shouted at about more, rather than less. Hmm. Why would that be? A quick peek at my Babyworld ante-natal club, showed that everyone else with elder siblings was having the same problem, and also told us what to do, thanks to a few people who were on baby number three or four.

Once we started doing a few things differently, Rosemary became the adoring big sister she was naturally inclined to be. We made sure she got special one-on-one attention whenever possible. We got her helping with things like nappy changing. We allowed her to use Eleanor’s changing mat for her ‘exercises’ as long as she put it back when she finished with it (and she independently took on the job of putting it away if we ever left it out). We allowed her to sometimes have a bit of cotton wool for herself, as long as she asked first. For a while, she had the responsibility of sitting in the crib (when it was on the floor, of course), to warm it up before Eleanor was put in. These few little things made all the difference. Well, and our calming down a bit and not worrying that Eleanor was going to explode whenever Rosemary touched her!

Rosemary is now very good with Eleanor. She is always asking ‘Can I see her?’ which translates as ‘Can I see her eyes?’ Eleanor adores her and probably gives her more grins than anyone else. If we’re changing her nappy, Rosemary will frequently come and help or watch and she’ll lie next to her and sing or chat to her to keep her happy. When she goes to the RSPCA shop to get a treat on the way home sometimes, she almost always finds something for Eleanor, as well, or even instead of for herself. When she sees the adverts on TV, she points out all the toys that Eleanor might like. And when out and about she asks everyone (including random strangers) if they want to see ‘her baby’, who is ‘very cute’, or ‘really lovely’.

And she’s coming on in leaps and bounds in other ways, too. At the start of last week, she had had three dry nappies in a row and so was given the choice to try sleeping without a nappy. She chose to, though was a little concerned about it. And she’s been dry at night ever since.

She’s recently started drawing faces. When we travelled down to Wales on the train last weekend, she was drawing them in the condensation on the window. She’s even turning sad faces into happy faces by adding up lines. She’s also getting better at colouring inside the lines.

She’s recognising loads of letters and knows lots of words that those letters start with. She’s recognising more and more words and generally showing a good interest in reading.

She’s counting really well and has mostly got out of the weird habit of missing out number 13. She’s even managing some simple addition and subtraction.

So, here’s to my big girl, who I love to bits, even more so than before I had another little girl. Rosemary, you are wonderful and I love you very much.

 

So… Do you want to tell about your children’s recent milestones? Or how they are with their siblings, if they have any?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Looking for an advent calendar?

Are you looking for an advent calendar? No, I don’t mean a branded cardboard thing, full of teeth-rotting chocolate (mmm, chocoloate), but a nice reusable one that can form the basis of a family Christmas tradition. Well, go check out the advent calendar reviews at the Great Toy Guide.

John Lewis fashion

This is a sponsored post.

John Lewis recently (well in September – I’m a bit late) re-launched their fashion website and Anna Loftin from Cohn & Wolfe sent me a £25 voucher for the store.

Being a mum who enjoys buying clothes for her children more than for herself, I immediately went to the site and ordered a dress and some tights for Rosemary. Gorgeous, gorgeous clothes! There are some outrageously expensive clothes on there – baby girls’ dresses for £50 and more – but most of the John Lewis clothes themselves are very reasonably priced and comparable to Next, where I get a lot of Rosemary’s clothes. And, if I wasn’t having to watch our outgoings, I would love to be let loose on the women’s clothing with a credit card. Oh, so very much. There is some truly beautiful stuff on there. If I win the lottery this weekend, I will most certainly splash out!

Where do you buy your children’s clothes? Are your children generally more stylishly dressed than you, like mine are?

Do you back up your files?

This is a sponsored post.

How often, if ever do you back up your files? Do you have hundreds of photos and videos of your children stored in only one place? What would you do if you lost them? My gran lost a whole biscuit-tin-full of photos when she moved house. All her wedding photos and lots of photos of my dad and his brother and sister when they were children. She is still very upset about losing these, especially since my grandad and my father are both no longer with us. But, in this day and age, we really have no excuse for losing photos. Because they’re all digital. Yet, I never really thought about backing ours up. A bunch of them are uploaded to Flickr as well. Some of them are on Facebook. And a fair few of the videos are on You-Tube. But there are others that are only on one of the computers, some on two of the computers and some on all three. Gah!

This is where something like Norton Online Backup can be really useful. It allows up to five household computers to be automatically backed up. So, you can set it up to back up the photos folder on all your computers, for example. And all your photos will be accessible in the same place. Or, if you work from home, you could use it to back up current work projects and ensure you have an off-site backup, in case of fire or flood or the like. It’s fairly easy to use and works in the background, so you can pretty much forget about it once it’s set up. You should make sure you check which folders it’s going to back up, though, as the defaults could put you over the 25 gb limit.

I haven’t tried out any other online backup services, so can’t compare. If you’re looking for an online backup service, you will probably be able to find a number of them for different prices and offering different levels of service. Norton’s costs £49.99 a year for 25 gb of storage and you can add more gb if you need them. Norton is one of the big anti-virus companies, so a brand you can trust. I think £49.99 sounds like a bit much, but I haven’t compared it to others, so it might be the going rate or a good deal. I would definitely make sure you look around at the different options available but, if you do choose Norton’s, it works well and is relatively hassle-free to set up and certainly to maintain.

Thanks to Matt Churchill from Edelman for letting me try this out and also to Lucy Davies from Edelman, too.

What would you back up? Would it be your children’s pictures, your half-written novels, or your accounts? Have you ever lost data for good?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Thank you Stroud Maternity

Tomorrow Eleanor will be one month old. I will be taking the breast pump back to Stroud Maternity, along with some Thank You cards. For those of you who do not know, Stroud Maternity is the fabulous midwife-led unit where Eleanor was born. If you live locally and are low-risk, then I would highly recommend Stroud Maternity as your birth choice. And if you’re high-risk and have to deliver in Gloucester or Cheltenham, or even Bristol, do consider going to Stroud Maternity for your after-care.

Anyway, I wanted to show my gratitude, in addition to the cards, in the only way a parent blogger can – by writing a blog post about how fantastic the midwives at Stroud Maternity are, especially Sarah Hunt. Sarah was my midwife throughout my pregnancy, seeing me at home, at the GP surgery and at Stroud Maternity. And, if there’s someone who hands out awards for midwifery, she deserves one. It feels to me as though she went above and beyond the call of duty in her care for me – for us – though it may well be that she provides this level of care for everyone. Other mums who have had her as their midwife have all said how good she is, so perhaps that’s the case. If so, she most definitely should get an award!

Sarah took the time to get to know me and what I wanted from my birth. She talked through my previous, not so perfect, birth experience, reassuring me that I was very likely to have a better experience second time round. She bore with me through all my scares and false alarms and talked me through my fears. As the time grew closer, she went over Rosemary’s birth again and talked about what we could do to improve the experience second time round. And she assured me that she would be there for the birth, if at all possible.

Despite all my convictions that I would be early again, we managed to get past the 37 weeks mark and eventually, we got to the actual birth. She was there when I called in with my erratic contractions. She was there when we arrived at Stroud Maternity. She knew what I wanted and what I wanted to avoid and she helped me to have the birth experience I had imagined. She delivered Eleanor and sewed me up afterwards. And then she was back the next day, to do Eleanor’s 0-day check and to tell me I could go home.

And then she was there to help me through the trauma of not being able to breastfeed properly, despite doing so for over two years with Rosemary. She was there to help stop me from giving up, to help me through mastitis, Eleanor’s weight-loss, bleeding nipples, and uterine infections. And it’s thanks to her that Eleanor’s arrival in this world was so much pleasanter and less traumatic than Rosemary’s and it’s thanks in no small part to her that Eleanor is still being breastfed (and hopefully will be for a long while yet – though maybe not two years this time!).

Thank you, Sarah.

But it’s not just Sarah. All the midwives we came across a Stroud Maternity were lovely and helpful – Sandy, Zoe, Mandy, and a few whose names and faces are just a blur, as I met them after very little sleep; and all those at the end of the phone during my many scares and false alarms and panics over breastfeeding and infections and so on.

I went home in the afternoon of Eleanor’s birth, after a pretty good night’s sleep (she was born at 01.01). I wanted to be at home with Rosemary and Chris. I wanted to watch my own TV and lie in my own bed. I thought I knew what to do, as I’d done it all before. I probably should have stayed for a few days. The atmosphere in Stroud Maternity is more one of a school dorm than a hospital ward. The food is better than most hospital food. There is a small ward and then a number of private rooms. For the night I spent there with Rosemary, I had a private room; with Eleanor I was on the ward. They are both pleasant places to be.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at a big table on the ward. You can chat to the other mums there and start practising the old eating one-handed. Or you can have your meal in your room/at your bed, if you prefer. There are tea- and coffee-making facilities available, as well as bread and a toaster, so you can get something to eat in the middle of the night when you need a booster before the next feed.

But, what makes Stroud Maternity such a wonderful place is the staff. The midwives in particular, but all the other staff, too. They will help you with breast-feeding, with changing nappies, with giving baths, with swaddling. They will provide you with a clip-on bedside crib, as well as the normal ones on wheels, and will even talk you through the safest way to co-sleep. They’ll hold your baby for a bit, while you go to the loo, or just so you can get a bit of sleep after that incredibly long night. They’ll talk you through exercises to get your stomach muscles and pelvic floor back to normal (ish) working order.

It’s possible that, if I had stayed for a few days, we wouldn’t have had the breastfeeding issues we did have. We’ll never know. Of course, because Rosemary was ill, there’s probably no way I would have decided to stay in, rather than go home to cuddle my big girl. But, even though I was only there a little more than half a day both times, I am incredibly glad to have been able to stay there and especially glad that Stroud Maternity was saved from the axe to give me that opportunity.

Thank you Stroud Maternity.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Split in two

I remember one of my concerns about having a second child was how I would be able to share my love out. The all-consuming nature of the love you feel for your child seems, when you only have one, as though it would be impossible to spread it out at all. Yet friends and acquaintances with two or more children assured me that, actually, you just kind of grow more love and manage to find the same all-consuming love for the second child – and for subsequent ones (though I wonder if it can continue indefinitely?). And, yes, that does seem to be true. Thank goodness for that.

What I hadn’t really thought about and I don’t recall being warned about (though it’s possible I was, of course), is the feeling of being split in two, when both your children need you and you have to choose one over the other. Oh. My. God. It physically hurts. Twice now, since Eleanor was born, I have had to put her down in her crib, because Rosemary was calling out. The first time, she was coughing so badly she was retching and I had to try to persuade her to drink something. The second time, last night, she was in agony with hurting legs (which we think might have been growing pains) and I had to comfort her and persuade her to take paracetemol and ibuprofen and stay with her until she fell asleep again.

Both times, Eleanor was actually asleep when Rosemary called out, though not in her crib. Both times, it was a clear choice to put her down and go to Rosemary. Both times, she woke soon after being put down (as she frequently does) and started crying. Both times, I was sat trying to comfort one screaming child, while hearing the piercing sound of the other child’s screams from the next room. Both times, Chris came and picked Eleanor up pretty quickly. It really was probably only a couple of minutes of her crying and my not being able to do anything about it, if that.

But it still hurt. Really hurt. Even when I could hear Eleanor had calmed down and was absolutely fine with Chris. It still hurt that it wasn’t me soothing her and stopping her tears. It gave me a glimpse of the future. There are going to be so many times over the years to come when I’ll have to choose between comforting Rosemary over Eleanor, or Eleanor over Rosemary. Will it become easier as Rosemary gets older, or will it always hurt as much, even when they’re both in the twenties and one needs comforting over a failed relationship, while the other needs comforting over a work crisis? And will I ever be able to accept that it’s really not just me who can provide the comfort? I just have to call out and there’s another parent there to offer solace and to wipe away tears and to give cuddles. In fact, most of the time, I don’t even have to call out. He’s there, ready and waiting and happy, of course, to do whatever’s needed. But will I still feel like it’s my job, and mine alone, to magic away those tears?

Do you have the same feeling of being split in two (or four or five)? If you only have one child, so far, do you worry about not loving another child as much as the first? Does it get better, as they get older, or is it all part of the ‘mother’s guilt’ syndrome? Do you find it difficult to accept that others can be just as capable of giving comfort?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

How I almost gave up breast-feeding

Most of you will know that I am rather pro-breast-feeding. While I won’t criticise you for deciding to formula feed, I will offer lots and lots of advice and tips if you’re undecided or having problems (which, let’s be honest, probably comes across like sanctimonious criticism). Most of you will know that I breast-fed Rosemary for over two years. Most of you will know that I felt myself to be a bit of an expert at the old breast-feeding lark, though not a trained breast-feeding counsellor.

So, when embarking on being a mum to a small baby for the second time in my life, I felt pretty darned confident that breast-feeding would come easily. She would latch on the second she was put on my chest after birth and there would be no positioning problems, no need for Lansinoh, no cracked or bleeding nipples, no mastitis, no topping up with formula. None of the problems we had last time. Because I was breast-feeding mum extraordinaire, who lived through many a tooth and gave her eldest daughter absolutely the best and healthiest start any child could possibly have.

You see where we’re going with this story, of course?

She didn’t latch on immediately. She did feed briefly after the birth and again in the morning. She continued feeding when we went home, but her positioning was really pretty awful.

I had completely forgotten about my oddly shaped nipples, which cause problems at the start – or I’d assumed they’d still be ‘fixed’ from Rosemary’s two years of administrations. The left one has a kink and tends to bleed, crack, warp in various ways at the bend. The right one is somewhat inverted and gets all horrid in the inverted bit, to the point where it looks like bits of the nipple are actually going to fall off. The left one is bearable and the baby learns quickest with that one. The right one is the most problematic. That’s where I got mastitis with Rosemary. That’s where I got mastitis with Eleanor.

The mastitis with Eleanor came at the same time as the inverted bit was so infected that Eleanor would not touch it. She actually sniffed it and turned away – sniffed the other one and latched on (with a bad latch, but latched on nevertheless). Many of you will know that what you need to do to get rid of mastitis is to feed, feed, feed on that side. But that was not happening. So I was hand expressing – just onto a muslin, didn’t occur to me to try to catch it and give it to Eleanor somehow – to try to get rid of the mastitis.

Then Eleanor was weighed. She had lost a pound. She was below 10% under her birth weight. The midwife (not my usual one) just told me to ‘Feed, feed, feed. Feed yourself, then feed, feed, feed.’ Uh-huh. Difficult when your baby won’t feed from one side. My midwife phoned the next day to talk it through with me and explained that between 10-15% under birth weight they have to put together a weight-gain plan and that if it goes below 15% they are obliged to refer it to the paediatricians.

I said I wanted to try pumping from the right side to try to get the mastitis out of the way, and Chris and his dad went up to the maternity hospital that evening to pick up the pump and a feeding cup, to try giving Eleanor the expressed milk. We tried the feeding cup, but it was no go, and I recalled that Rosemary never managed to take anything from one either. The pumping was fine and it got rid of the mastitis, but the nipple was still very infected and Eleanor was still not interested in it. In fact, by that point I was reluctant to offer it to her as I didn’t see how it would ever heal if I did.

In the meantime was starting to fret a lot on the left breast, taking 15 minutes to latch on and screaming the whole time. She wasn’t even managing to feed a normal amount of time, let alone extra in order to stop losing weight. When she did finally latch on, she’d only stay on for a few minutes and then come off and scream and scream again.

The midwife came on Sunday to weigh her. She had lost an ounce and was now 13% under her birth weight, which was scarily close to the referral percentage. Somewhere I really didn’t want to go. We’d avoided SCBU this time, I really didn’t want to end up in hospital anyway, with Eleanor being tube-fed. I told the midwife that I wanted to try offering the breast-milk from a bottle. Rosemary had had a bottle (formula top-ups, rather than expressed breastmilk) and had managed to combine it fine with breast-feeding – giving it up voluntarily after a couple of weeks and never touching it again. I knew the risks, of course, but felt it was probably the only way we had a chance of her not losing more weight, with the current state of my right nipple and her latching-on issues. The midwife agreed.

Chris gave her some breastmilk in a bottle. She loved it. Drunk it all up and I had to pump to keep up until she’d had enough. The trouble was, the next time I put her to the breast, she had forgotten what to do. She latched on and then either fell asleep, if she was tired, or came straight off again and screamed… and screamed… and screamed. I tried and tried and tried and tried and she could not do it.

I cried and cried and cried. My daughter was losing weight and she wouldn’t take my milk. I couldn’t feed my daughter. I felt useless. I felt like my whole raison-d’ĂȘtre had been taken away from me. I felt like I was dying inside. In fact, I even wondered, at a particularly low point, whether there was any point in my continued existence. Fortunately, a picture of Rosemary came into my head and got rid of those darkest thoughts.

By Monday morning, I was in a terrible state and didn’t really know what to do. I was expressing as much as possible, but it really wasn’t enough to satisfy her. I was reaching the point where the only thing I could really consider was formula. But I wasn’t considering it so much as a top up, but more as a complete alternative. I phoned the maternity hospital to speak to my midwife, but she wasn’t in that morning. She was due in in the afternoon. I spoke to her counterpart, who told me to keep doing what I was doing – expressing from both breasts (now that she wasn’t taking from the breast at all) at least every three hours and feeding it to Eleanor. Keep offering the breast before the bottle, but don’t leave it too long if she still refused, otherwise she wouldn’t get enough. And she scheduled my midwife to come and see me in the afternoon.

I broke down when my midwife came. Told her I thought I would probably change to formula as I just couldn’t cope any more. I wasn’t getting any sleep or any time for anything other than trying to force my baby to take milk from my breasts, express milk, and feed her the expressed milk (though other people could and were doing this sometimes, of course). I was hardly seeing Rosemary at all and just wanted to spend an hour reading with her or baking or doing something normal together, or even just having a good cuddle. I couldn’t see how it would ever be possible for me to leave the house, do any work, or basically do anything other than attempt to feed, pump and bottle-feed. Oh and cry. I couldn’t stop crying.

My midwife understood. I think she may have been the only person who really did. And she knew me well enough to talk me out of making a snap decision when I was at such an incredibly low point. She pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to stop cold turkey anyway, at that point. I’d need to keep expressing for a few days, otherwise I’d be in real trouble with my breasts. And she asked me whether I didn’t think it was a decision that I might very well regret deeply in the future, given my history. So, between us, we came up with a way to take a bit of the pressure off for a few days, so that I would be in a better position to make the decision later on.

Stop offering the breast completely. Keep pumping. Give her all the expressed milk and top up with formula (I would like to stress that, at no point did my midwife bring formula up or try to pressure me into using it; it was my idea and she agreed that it was probably the best way in these very difficult circumstances) until she’s satisfied. She said that, if it weren’t for the weight loss, she would suggest stopping offering the breast for 24 hours, anyway, maybe trying a feeding cup. Because sometimes babies and mums just need to stop and try again fresh. She also agreed to look for no loss when she came to weigh Eleanor on Tuesday afternoon, rather than looking for a gain. Which took a bit more pressure off.

And that was fine. It was still hard work, expressing eight times a day. It took 40 minutes each time and did hurt – not as much as the bad latch at hurt, but still painful. Working out the timings of expressing and feeding was a bit of a logic problem, but it worked out that I expressed immediately after a feed during the night and about an hour after in the day. That maximised the chunks of sleep I could get at night and the time to do things like eat breakfast, have baths or spend time with Rosemary, during the day. Not having to deal with the screaming and flailing of arms and the incredibly depressing feeling that your baby does not want to take nourishment from you, made me a thousand times calmer. Which was good for everyone.

The next day, I got a fever. There were no red patches on my breasts, though the left one felt very engorged. I was very shivery and dizzy and just wanted to sleep lots, just like I had on the first day of the mastitis the week before. Despite this, I still managed to keep up with the expressing, though I handed over most of the actual feeding to others. In the afternoon, my midwife came. She agreed that it didn’t look like mastitis, so the next obvious culprit is the uterus. Looks like there was an infection there, which had quite possibly been there since the birth, if the lochia odour was anything to go by (stupidly, I had no idea it wasn’t supposed to smell like that). She was onto my doctor immediately to get some antibiotics and took a swab to send off for testing (results tomorrow, though I have improved enough to know that the antibiotics are working).

Then it was time to weigh Eleanor. She had gained – just under two ounces. What a relief. And she doesn’t have to be weighed until Saturday now, then not until next Wednesday, which will be the last midwife visit and the health visitor will take over from then on (all being well, of course, but there should be no reason why it wouldn’t).

My midwife came back yesterday morning to check how I was – not to look at Eleanor at all, as she was no completely happy with her (and assured me she would poo). And then she told me I could try putting Eleanor to the breast any time, if I wanted to. She said that Eleanor was getting enough food into her and had gained weight, so there was no pressure. I didn’t have to try, but if I wanted to, I could just put her there, and she might have a bit of a comfort suck. Or she might not. But it would not be a worry, because we knew we could get the food into her. I nodded and smiled, but didn’t really feel like trying anytime soon.

Last night, Eleanor did her first proper, non-meconium poo. This was cause for much celebration, as I have already mentioned. This morning, at around 10.30am, after giving Eleanor 30ml of expressed milk, I unclipped my nursing bra and held her to my left breast. She latched on immediately and sat there and fed for over 10 minutes, then swapped to the right breast and fed for another 10 minutes. I sat there for a few moments, silent tears of joy trickling down my face. Then I called upstairs ‘Guess what Eleanor’s doing?’ ‘Breastfeeding?’ came the reply and Chris came downstairs to witness me bawling my eyes out yet again – but this time in absolute happiness, rather than despair.

She has since breast-fed a few times and is currently sleeping peacefully in her crib having fallen asleep on the breast (oops – not supposed to be doing that, but I am so not going to worry about bad-sleep-forming issues at this point!). We will continue with the formula top-ups, at least until next Wednesday, so as not to risk her losing weight again. I was only managing to express 30ml at a time, so it’s possible that I’m not yet overly productive in the milk department. I know it will come, but I’m not going to risk her losing weight again just yet, especially as she seems to now be quite happy to mixed feed. (And, frankly, it’s nice to have a break sometimes – and Chris enjoys it, too, so maybe we’ll keep one or two formula feeds in there for good, or buy our own pump.)

Hopefully you can imagine how happy I feel at the moment, because I really am not able to put it into words.

Did you have feeding ups and downs, or were you one of the lucky ones? Now I’ve come out the other end, I’m happy to hear all your stories – even if they make me a little jealous!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The poo has landed

One of those big changes in life that come with parenthood is the ease with which you talk about and deal with poo. It’s not unusual to get covered in the stuff, you discuss its consistency, clean up the product of a caught-short potty trainer with whatever is it hand, be it leaves, post-its or Co-op receipts and, of course, blog about it.

For the past week, we have been waiting for Eleanor to poo. She did her meconium poos fine, so we knew that she had the mechanism to do one. But she had not done a proper poo yet. Combined with her having lost over 13% of her birth weight within the first week (over 15% and they have to refer to the paediatricians), this was rather worrying, though she was producing plenty of wet nappies and was very well in herself. She has now put on some weight, after changing her feeds to a combination of expressed breast milk (as much as I can produce) topped up with formula (a whole other, very emotional story, which I will go into soon), and the midwife assured us that she would poo. Once she was getting enough milk into her, it would just be a matter of time.

And lo and behold, she just did poo. Lots and lots. Not quite an explosive, leak-everywhere poo, but pretty impressive nonetheless. I have never been so happy to mop up runny brown goop with cotton wool and warm water.

So, has a poo ever made you incredibly happy?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The birth story, or Finally, not a false alarm

Saturday 10 October, Rosemary woke up at 6.30am and I went into her room, where I had to kneel on the floor and lean on her bed, because I was in a lot of pain. It was similar to the pains I’d been getting from the downward pressure on my pelvis for ages, but not quite the same. After a few moments, the pain passed and we headed downstairs where, as usual, we let the dog out the back. While outside, I had another wave of pain and had to lean on the wall, trying to talk to Rosemary about the moon and stars that were exciting me. When we went back inside, I had to immediately go and sit down, rather than making tea and getting Rosemary a cup of milk. After a while, I had another, and realised that these were definitely different to the pain I’d been having before, so I asked Rosemary to go and ‘Tell Daddy to get up now, because Mummy’s having different pains.’

There then followed another day of timing and waiting. These were definitely contractions, and strong ones, though they were all concentrated at the bottom of the bump, just above the pelvis, rather than being waves of pain travelling down the whole bump. But, the problem was that they weren’t regular. They varied from about 6 minutes to over 20 minutes in frequency, and from just under a minute to 2.5 minutes in length. They weren’t getting closer together, though did seem to be getting stronger.

The majority of the day I spent sat on my gym ball, timing the contractions. I put off phoning the maternity unit, because I was sure they’d just say ‘Wait until you get three in ten minutes’, but in the end Chris persuaded me to phone anyway, just for reassurance. I was pleased I did, because it was my midwife who answered the phone. She reassured me that it sounded like the real thing and that it was just a case of how long it would take. She also said we were welcome to come in whenever we wanted. I wanted to stay at home as long as possible, but it was wonderful to know that she would be there, because I trust her a lot.

My mum had come and taken Rosemary out for the day and offered to have her overnight, which Rosemary was keen on, so we were free to prepare without worrying about her. Chris made dinner and we ate at five. And I decided, after dinner, that it was time to get active and try to move the contractions on. I had known that that would help, but I had been avoiding it all day, because they hurt too much and I was suddenly rather keen to avoid the whole pain thing. But by 5.30, I felt it was time, so I started walking round and round the dining room table. Within minutes, the contractions had moved closer together, and it was hardly any time before I was getting them three minutes apart.

We called Eva, to get her round to dogsit, called my midwife to let her know it was time, and called Emma to come and get us. And off we went, with the ridiculous amount of stuff – labour bag, Eleanor bag, my bag, and an extra bag with food in it.

We got to Stroud Maternity at about 6.30pm, where we were welcomed by Sarah, who had got our room ready – darkened, calm music on, ball and mat on the floor. She settled us in and took my vitals and then left us to to it for a bit. I soon found that sitting down, whether on the ball or on a chair, caused the contractions to slow down again, so I was pacing up and down the room a lot, to keep them going forward.

At about 7.30, Sarah examined me and I was 3cm dilated. I was disappointed that it wasn’t further ahead, but also relieved because a little part of me still had the possibility of its being yet another false alarm in my head. At 9pm, Sarah popped home to have some food and we were being looked after by Sandy, the midwife who had been there during last week’s false alarm. She suggested I try a hip swinging, almost stationery motion instead of pacing, as it uses less energy and, at the same time, helps baby’s head to get even further down. It definitely seemed to work as, when I tried to sit down on the gym ball for a minute, it was too uncomfortable as I could feel the head. Sandy also got the bath filled up, as she thought it shouldn’t be too long.

At that point I moved to kneeling on the mat on the floor with my arms resting on a beanbag. I was also swivelling my hips between contractions, though by this point they weren’t really slowing down. I had started on the gas and air a fair while earlier, and was definitely needing it. At 11.30, Sarah (who was back again), examined me and I was 7cm dilated. So it was time to go through to the pool.

When I got in the pool I was very impressed – it felt wonderful. I (thought I) had two contractions and didn’t even need to use the gas and air. But then I had another one and, oh boy, did it hurt! The next contraction was very weird. I honestly thought the baby was coming, even hearing Sarah and Chris saying ‘There’s the head. Just keep pushing and you’ll have a baby.’ I kept pushing (seemingly) and screaming and really thought I’d pushed her out, only to ‘come to’ and hear Sarah saying ‘Wow, that was a really big contraction.’ Huh? But where’s the baby?

I was fairly out of it on the gas and air, as you will have seen from the after pictures, so most of it is blurry. I know I kept getting cramp. I know that I was shouting and swearing lots and not doing very well at breathing through the pain. I remember Sarah telling me at one point that some of my waters had gone and then a bit later saying ‘That’s the rest of your waters’. I remember getting to a point where I couldn’t carry on any longer and saying so, then shortly after that I heard someone say the head was out (and it was this time), then not long after that, she just sort of slipped out – or so it seemed – and then I was having to step over the cord, so she could be put on my chest.

Fairly quickly, I was rushed back to the delivery room, as I was losing too much blood to stay in the water (thought lost 200ml less than last time). Chris carried Eleanor through and she got put on my chest again. Tried offering the breast, but nothing doing. Placenta came out at some point and apparently the umbilical cord was huge. Then Sarah stitched me up – had a small tear, because she came out so quickly. I think I managed one sip of tea and didn’t eat any of the toast.

Then we got wheeled down to the ward and settled in there. Eleanor had a quick feed and then went to sleep in the attached cot, next to me. Chris went home to rest. I went to sleep. Eleanor stirred a few times during the night, but settled very quickly.

And we were home by about 4pm the same day.

[At some point I will write the epic tale of weight loss, feeding, expressing and so on that we were negotiating our way through at the moment. But probably not until it’s resolved.]

Sunday, 11 October 2009

4,000 words, idiomatically speaking





She was in labour, she's not in labour any more...

For those of you sans Twitter, Eleanor Brianna born 01.01 11.10.09, 7lb 14 1/2 oz. Mother and baby fine. Baby feeding, mother dreaming, father spacing out.

Chris

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Name Game

OMG Pregnant has passed this meme to me and, in light of my current situation, it is jumping to the head of the queue, before all the other memes and awards that I have building up. Because, look, it’s all about naming babies!

Here’s the deal, from Mommy Words: Names are important. Your kids’ names were chosen for a particular reason and they mean a lot to you so this would be a great story to share! If you don’t share your kids’ names on your blog you can just tell us where you got the catchy nickname for your little ones or just go through 1-10 and amuse us with your naming antics! No problemo! Copy the image above to use on your blog. Go ahead and answer the questions and then pass this Name Game and the simple instructions on to 5 other bloggy moms or dads who you think might want to share their story! Make sure to let Mommy Words know so she can follow the Name Game!

  1. Do you have any cultural or religious naming traditions?
    Not to my knowledge, though we did know there would be two middle names, as my surname needed to be in there as a middle name. (We are married, but I kept my name – there’s a post all about it, somewhere.)
  2. Did you or your partner come to the marriage with pre-selected names?
    I didn’t and don’t think Chris did.
  3. Did you consider the sound of the first and middle and last names together? Did this make any sad eliminations?
    Yes we did consider these things, and for Eleanor, we also considered how it would sound with her big sister’s name. Don’t remember whether it caused eliminations!
  4. Do you have veto powers?
    We wouldn’t have anything that we didn’t both like, I believe. So, I suppose we both had veto powers.
  5. Did the baby naming cause arguments?
    Not really. First time round there were some names I was disappointed to have to let go of, but I don’t think there were actual arguments about them.
  6. Do you think it is easier to name boys or girls?
    Well, this time round a boy’s name was easy to come up with, as we’d already chosen one last time round and kept it! But apart from that, I don’t think one’s easier than the other.
  7. Did you eliminate names because of people from your past or present who you don’t like or because a certain image comes to mind.
    Not really. We probably eliminated some for being a bit too popular at the moment, though, which was a factor.
  8. Did you / would you survey your children to get their thoughts on the name?
    We asked Rosemary for some ideas when we trying to come up with girls’ names, but she wasn’t hugely interested. As soon as we had chosen, though, she started coming up with alternatives. For a fair while, she went around saying the baby in my tummy was called Holli (a choice we wouldn’t have made, as I have a cousin called Holli). These days, apparently ‘Eleanor has four names – Eleanuh, Eleanor, Chicken-Beef and Poppy’
  9. Did you tell people the name or possible names before the baby was born or were they “in the vault”?
    We shared the names, as soon as we had come up with them. It’s really important to us (or possibly to me and Chris has kindly gone along with it?) to be able to bond with the baby while she’s inside and knowing the gender and being able to talk about Rosemary or Eleanor, rather than ‘it’ or ‘the baby’ makes this much easier. It’s doubly useful this time, because it has allowed Rosemary to more easily appreciate that there is a baby inside my tummy and she talks to her and sings to her.
  10. Did you use baby name books?
    I don’t think so, but think we may have looked at some naming websites.

Drumroll Please… What did you name your kid(s) and why?

Rosemary Alice Goddard Clark

Rosemary is a combination of two of our grandmothers’ names. Rose was Chris’ Nanny and Mary was my Granny Mary. Chris’ Nanny was still alive when Rosemary came into the world and so she knew that Rosemary was partly named after her, which is nice. It was also very important for us to have a long name that the child could choose to shorten in various ways as and when (and if) they wanted to, because not everyone is always happy with their given name. I had been quite keen on Maria, after my Granny Mary, but Chris had some issues with names ending in the letter A, so that was eliminated. I honestly can’t remember who came up with the combination, but we both really liked it – the name and also the fact that it had meaning within both families, we also liked that it was an older name that isn’t especially common at the moment.

Alice we came up with in hospital, after my waters broke and waiting for contractions to start. ‘Oh no. We don’t have a middle name!’ We just went through a few, taking turns suggesting them and saying ‘Hmm, maybe’ or ‘No!’, or ‘Yes’ and we both liked Alice and sounded good with Rosemary! I do have a second cousin called Alice and had a childhood friend called Alice, but they’re both really nice.

Eleanor Brianna Goddard Clark

With Eleanor, we were again aiming for a name that could be shortened in various ways and also wanted something that would be sound good when said with Rosemary. We considered a combination of the other two grandmothers, but that didn’t really work (Treena and Lena), so it was just a case of coming up with ideas and finding one we both liked. I’m fairly certain that Eleanor was Chris’ idea, initially, and I really liked it, too. We discussed it a bit and looked up things about it – it’s what Sam Gamgee called one of his daughters, though with a different spelling, for example; there’s an Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility, again with a different spelling. As with Rosemary, it’s not hugely common in this day and age, which we like. And we like it. We do both pronounce it differently, which is amusing – one of us will probably end up using the other’s pronunciation in the end!

Brianna is a female version of Brian. If Eleanor had been a boy, then her middle name would have been Brian – at my request. My father (Brian John Goddard) passed away in 2007 and I wanted his name in there if it was a boy. Chris was quite happy with that, and then came up with the suggestion that we might be able to find a nice female version of Brian for a girl. We were neither of us too keen on Bryony, but liked Brianna, which sounds (and possibly is, I don’t recall) more Celtic (my dad was Welsh) and again, is a little unusual. It is a little too unusual for some people, and we do often have to spell it out and people hear ‘Rhiannon’ instead of Brianna when we say it sometimes.

They both have the surname Clark, but have Goddard as a second middle name. We didn’t want to go with the whole double-barrelled surname, because it’s a bit too much to lumber a child with. For the most part, Rosemary is Rosemary Clark, just officially, Rosemary Alice Goddard Clark. Sometimes people stick the Goddard onto the Clark to double-barrel it and they are corrected. It was important for me to have the Goddard there, so people wouldn’t question my parenthood, but I could remain Tasha Goddard and not have to change my name. Though I have found, since becoming a mum, that I am far more often called ‘Mrs Clark’ and Chris is far less often called ‘Mr Goddard’. I let it go a fair bit, these days, especially if it’s someone I’m going to see once (e.g. British Gas engineer), but will correct pre-school staff and doctors’ receptionists and so on. If I phone up nursery school or playgroup, I tend to say ‘This is Tasha, Rosemary’s mum.’ and just leave the whole surname out of it.

Well, that was fun. Took my mind off Eleanor still not being here (no more contractions since they were gone on waking Sunday morning, by the way).

I need to pass this on. Am trying to think of anyone else who uses their children’s actual names, and OMG Pregnant has already passed on to two I would have chosen (Emily at Maternal Tales and Amy at And 1 More Means Four, who is currently suffering through first-trimester tiredness with her fifth, yes fifth, baby):

That’s everyone I can think of who uses their children’s actual names on their blogs – and I might actually be wrong about them! I shall also throw it open to anyone else who wants to do it, because I find names fascinating.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

She’s in labour, she’s not in labour, she’s in…

So, those of you following Twitter, Facebook or Babyworld updates may have been under the impression that Eleanor would be here by now. And you wouldn’t be the only one.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. The contractions that started on Thursday afternoon and got closer together and stronger until, yesterday lunchtime, they felt strong enough and close enough to go the maternity unit, have now completely and utterly disappeared.

We spent a couple of hours at the maternity unit, but the contractions got weaker and they needed to witness three strong (“toe-curling”) contractions in ten minutes before they would examine me to see how dilated I was (or if I was).

They’re all fairly convinced it won’t be long, considering how far down the head is, but we still need those strong contractions. Waters are still intact. I have a feeling I won’t get the really strong contractions until the waters have gone, though I know plenty of people’s waters don’t go until they’re well into labour, so may be wrong there.

Anyway, they said we could wait there, or go home where it’s more comfortable and the TV works. What do you think we chose? Yes, of course, we came home. And Chris went out to get a curry – an extra spicy one for me. Seems to have had the opposite effect to the desired one, though! And I really, really don’t like hot curries – ow, ow, ow.

I think (barring an actual birth, of course, which would have been the best outcome), I prefer that the contractions have stopped completely for the moment. Because everything was very much on hold, waiting for them to get stronger and for something to happen. Obviously, we’re still waiting for something to happen, but we’re back to the possibility that it could still take another three weeks, or happen any minute. So, Chris will take Rosemary swimming as normal, this morning and I’ll do a bit of work while they’re out and send some invoices, so that when Eleanor does finally arrive we can afford to buy nappies. And, while various relatives will be keeping their mobiles charged and glued to them ready to come look after Rosemary and Wesley, give us lifts to hospitals, or jump in a car and drive all the way from Scotland (somehow, how I think that won’t happen until they have pictorial evidence that she’s been born!), we will be carrying on much as normal and will deal with labour as and when it actually occurs. Properly.

I’m wondering whether I should keep completely quiet (at least about Eleanor) now until I have an actual birth to announce. I’m aware that I am getting everyone’s (not least my own) hopes up every time I tweet about all these false starts. Would you prefer silence until I can say ‘Eleanor Brianna Goddard Clark was born at XXX on XXX and weighed XXX’? Or are you happy to (unintentionally) teased by false start after false start after false start? Of course, I get so excited when I’m convinced it is happening, that I might well ignore your wishes and tweet, etc. anyway.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Quick update

Not in my usual style, I'm going to do a quick update to keep all the inquisitive people out there satisfied...

Eleanor is still tucked up inside me. But she is now fully engaged - in the words of the midwife yesterday 'Really, really, right down there,' and will be coming very very soon - again, according to the midwife. She has booked me in for my 39-week appointment next Thursday, but says she'll be extremely surprised if I need to go and that it's more likely to be within the next couple of days. She said there's no way I will go late, let alone make my due date and this baby is very much ready to come out and meet us.

I am now more pregnant than I have ever been before, which is kind of odd. We actually got to talk about methods for active labour and positions for birth and so on, which I never got round to last time - and had pretty much no choice over. She has given me her 'other mobile number'. The one which you call if you're in labour. And she will be there to help out if at all possible (she is off over the weekend, though), which is really nice. All the midwives I've met up at Stroud Maternity have been lovely, but the possibility of getting such continuity of care and being able to have the same midwife present at the birth who has seen me throughout the pregnancy is just perfect - even if she can't make it, knowing that she would like to makes a big difference.

Anyway, after all that, last night was the first night in ages when I didn't have any contractions. Perhaps because I was feeling happier and more relaxed?

So, hopefully the next post will be a birth announcement.

For more up-to-date information, check out the Twitter feed to the right (or follow me on Twitter), or add me on Facebook (link on the right, again), as these are both easier to update from a mobile phone than the blog, so will probably see the news there first.

Friday, 25 September 2009

In which our heroine’s waters did not break

Chris suggested that I should probably write a post about my waters not breaking for those of you who do not follow me on Twitter or Facebook and saw MTJAM’s comment on the previous post. So, here goes (but, be warned; as with so much pregnancy talk, there may be too much information)…

As you may have gathered, from The Mercedes Benz Pelvic Floor post, I have been having some pelvic floor issues during this pregnancy. So much so, that I am now obliged to wear panty liners constantly. Bear with me, this is important information.

On Tuesday, Chris had gone to collect Rosemary from nursery school and take her shopping for a dressing gown to keep her cosy on these cold autumn mornings (don’t you just love autumn, by the way?). I was putting the finishing touches to a set of 2nd proofs, sitting on my wonderful gym ball, which I wish I’d bought months ago. It doesn’t allow me to be completely pain free all of the time, but can allow me up to 3 hours sitting at my desk or in the living room. After packaging up the proofs, I was planning to crawl round to the post office to send them out – the post office is about as far as I can go without excruciating pain, and it’s nice to get out of the house for even a little bit.

When I stood up, I realised that I was much, much, much damper than usual. Could it be my waters? Surely not. I didn’t feel a gush like I did with Rosemary. But… with Rosemary I wasn’t wearing panty liners and already used to frequent dampness. I went to the loo to change the liner and realised I would have to check. Sniff, sniff. (Yes, I told you there would be too much information – but most of you have been pregnant yourselves, so know what it’s like. You do what you gotta do.) No ammonia whatsoever. Kind of sweet, almost perfumey smell. Ah! They must be perfumed liners! Sniff, sniff. Don’t seem to be. Read the box. Nope. Unperfumed.

“Shit! Shit! Shit! One more day! All I needed was one more day!”

So, I called Chris. Told him not to hurry back, as there were no contractions yet, and last time it had taken 7 hours between waters breaking and contractions starting. I then phoned the midwife-led unit and described everything. The midwife I spoke to agreed that it sounded like the waters. I told her I was one day off 37 weeks. And she made my day by telling me that, as it was only a few hours away and it was quite likely that nothing would happen until close to or after midnight anyway, we could go there. Yes!

This meant we could stay at home and wait until the contractions started, instead of rushing off to the big hospital and being strapped to monitors and then stuck in the maternity ward on my own waiting. Chris and Rosemary came back and Chris took the package to the post office. While he was gone, the DidiCar was delivered (our review of which you can find at The Great Toy Guide). I called my sister and she came round. Called my mum, so she could come and stay the night and take Rosemary to playgroup in the morning. Called my aunt to ask if she’d be OK to drive us to the midwife-led unit in the middle of the night, if necessary.

Rosemary was very excited about the DidiCar, so I decided that this was the best time to put it together, while Chris cleaned up the kitchen and got dinner ready (I had put the potatoes in the oven before phoning the midwife-led unit, as you do). While attempting to read (really quite clear) instructions, I had to contend with Rosemary trying to eat the parts, put it together herself, use it before it was put together, and Chris and my sister asking questions about hospital bags and the like. The DidiCar was assembled (what would probably take less than 15 minutes, took almost an hour with everything else going on) and Rosemary had a chance to play on it briefly before dinner.

At some point, Rosemary got put to bed. A little late, but not too much. We told her that we thought Eleanor was coming and that she might come in the middle of the night, so we’d have to go to hospital and so Granny would be here to look after her. She was more excited about the DidiCar, but said she understood.

Much rushing around on the part of Chris and Eva, and my mum when she turned up, ensued. Eventually, the hospital bags were fully ready, the house was in a pretty decently clean and tidy state and it was time for me to try to get some rest. I got into bed with my pint of ice and read a few chapters of Pride and Prejudice, then turned the lights out and tried to get to sleep. It wasn’t easy. I dozed on and off, but woke at every slight twinge. I was awake at midnight and Chris and I were both very happy that we had made it to 37 weeks. And then we did manage to sleep. Fitfully. Until morning, when Rosemary woke up and I got up, mostly like normal.

I seemed to be completely dry (in itself, a bit weird, considering the pelvic floor issues) and I had not had any contractions – certainly none that woke me, anyway. My mum woke up and helped out a bit – she gave Rosemary her bath, at least; I still made breakfast and tea and so on. But I felt pretty fine, so it didn’t matter.

When they were in the bath, I called the midwife-led unit (they’d asked for an update in the morning if nothing had happened) and they said we should probably come in for a check. They mentioned the possibility of a hind water leak, that could seal itself back up. So my mum took Rosemary to playgroup, came home and was handed Rupert to look after, while Emma (my aunt) drove us up to the unit. We had to wait a while, because I had misheard the time they wanted to see us (I heard ‘between 9 and 10’, whereas she had actually said ‘9.10’), but eventually got in and was strapped up to monitors for 20 minutes (all ‘textbook perfect’ readings, no contractions) and then had a speculum examination to check for waters.

Of which there were none. No sign of any amniotic fluid, either from forewaters or hindwaters. What there was was increased discharge. Which you can apparently get from hormonal releases in pregnancy. Often you get a lot shortly before labour, but you can also get a lot at other times, too, so it’s not necessarily indicative of things kicking off.

Huh.

Back to square one. The waiting game.

But at least now we have passed the 37 weeks mark (37+2 today), which means we get to go to the wonderful Stroud Maternity Hospital and have a pleasant active birth with birth pool and birthing stools and minimal monitoring, instead of the not so pleasant experience we had last time.

Of course, after all my expectations of an early birth, now she’s probably going to hang in there and be really late.