Where to Take Your Baby in Worcestershire 

Weekends are an absolute bug bear of mine at the moment. So often Jim and I decide, ‘we’re going out for the day!’ And repeatedly, 2 hours later, we’re still in the lounge utterly stumped about where to go! It just doesn’t feel like there is much out there to do with babies! Especially now Noah is at the stage where he’s not going to be content for hours on end in a carrier or pram.

But there are some places we’ve found that we absolutely love – and most importantly, so does Noah!

Studley Garden Centre – The Soft Play Barn. 

Just a few months ago, Studley Garden Centre made the really smart move of opening up a Soft Play Barn for little ones. And we love it! It has soft play over two levels for older children, and a ‘crawler’ area for babies and toddlers. I took Noah here for his first ever soft play experience at about 5 months old, and he’s always had a fab time. It’s nice and clean, with lots of bright colours and very safe. There’s a Pizza Cafe (what’s not to love?!) and best of all, under 1s go free. 

The Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove 

An arts centre, really? YES! The Artrix has a lovely little cafe open daily (except Sundays!), and they have a small soft play area for babies and young toddlers. I would never have thought to investigate somewhere like this, but the cafe serves lovely fresh food, and the soft play area is perfect for our needs. It’s only small, but free, and it’s kept in immaculate condition. It’s been a favourite spot of ours to head after baby group for lunch and a play – I love how open it is, and how there’s no danger of older children accidentally knocking the little ones. It seems to be a bit of a hidden gem so I’m almost reluctant to even mention it here but I adore it, and they offer lots of events and shows for families too.

Sanders Park, Bromsgrove

Obviously, parks are a good option if the weather is nice – however when you have a young baby, there is often very little for them to do! Sanders Park is fab though. They have a lovely big playground with loads of equipment, and best of all for babies there are lots of different types of swing, so it offers more than the bog standard infant swing. There’s so much to do, that even on a busy day you aren’t stood coveting a piece of equipment never able to actually use it! There is also a cafe that serves hot and cold food, and TOILETS! So many parks don’t have facilities like this and it’s invaluable with a baby that might need a change or feed. The park itself is beautiful to walk round as well. Bonus! 

Umberslade Farm, Tanworth-in-Arden 

We first took Noah here when he was about 3 months old, then again a few weeks ago at 9 months. It is a gorgeous farm, with loads to see, and they do all sorts of things for older children to get involved with like bottle feeding lambs and calves, and horse rides. They also have a small animal area where you can hold and pet chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs etc. Even at 3 months old, Noah was looking at the different animals, and last time we went he was even more engaged. There’s also a play barn with soft play and egg splat canons! And some lovely sensory bits and pieces. In case that isn’t enough, there’s two outdoor play areas too. We loved our last day out so much that I ended up buying myself an annual pass for less than £30 which means I can take Noah and bump (when he gets here) as much as I like this year! Absolute bargain.

The National Sealife Centre, Birmingham 

Ok, so not for ‘every day’ as it’s obviously a lot more expensive than my previous options, but we LOVE the Sealife Centre. We first took Noah at 5 months old because I was convinced he’d love the colours and lighting and I was right. He was mesmerised and so calm throughout, it’s an ideal atmosphere for babies. We’re planning on taking him again (and the new baby..!) on his first birthday in April – I can’t wait to see his face! 

National Trust Properties 

As a family, we love National Trust Properties, and we’re lucky to have quite a lot around where we live! We’ve had membership for years, which is really good value, and under 5s are free. The grounds are beautiful to explore, and they nearly always have a cafe with lovely fresh food to sit with little ones. The houses are wonderfully interesting too, but we don’t always go round when we have the pram etc or if Noah isn’t in the best mood. I can’t wait for the weather to pick up this year and take the boys for picnics! And once Noah’s on his feet, there’s usually play areas for the kids too. My favourite ones near us are Coughton Court, Charlecote Park, Hanbury Hall, Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House.

There really are some beautiful spots round here, we are very lucky!

If anyone reading this has any other suggestions for days out with babies, please PLEASE let me know! You can never have too many options, and I’d love to try out some more! 

The Dreaded Mum Guilt

Today was Noah’s last baby group session for the foreseeable future. He has been going to Tots Play Bromsgrove sessions since he was 11 weeks old! When he started, to be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare. The classes were great, but Noah was high maintenance back then. He hated being laid on his back and massaged. He hated baby yoga. He hated baby sign. He hated tummy time. All he really wanted to do was ‘stand’ upright on my lap or be carried around the room. I’d longingly gaze at the other mums with their laid back babies, and wonder what I was doing wrong.

But over the last few months, he has completely changed. As soon as he learned to roll, sit, crawl and cruise he became a different baby. He’s a dream to look after these days! And boy, his confidence around other babies has flourished. He used to be so unsure, but today watching him in the centre of the circle, commanding the whole groups attention…well, I couldn’t have been prouder. And then it hit me like a punch to the gut…the Mum Guilt.

Oh God, the guilt. This will be our last session because the new baby will be with us by the end of next month. I was already struggling with it, but have persisted because of how much Noah gets out of it. But the half term is over now. I feel so guilty that I’m having to stop something that Noah enjoys so much and gets so much out of, but I’m going to have way too much on my plate to take him to groups over the next few months. Will he miss out on his social development? Will he get bored spending more time at home? His needs will no longer be my 100% priority, and I feel terrible.
I feel guilty that he is going to have to share me. I feel guilty that his whole life is going to be turned upside down. I feel guilty that I won’t be able to give him all of my attention. I feel guilty that the new baby isn’t going to be able to be held and cuddled all day every day like his big brother was. I feel guilty that I won’t be able to take HIM to baby group, or baby swimming, because I’ll have Noah too. I just feel guilty.

Logically, I know that my boys will want for nothing. They will continue to be SO loved, and always know it. I will break my back to make sure they have everything they need, and are happy and healthy. They will hopefully adore each other, and love each others’ company. But it doesn’t stop the guilt from creeping in. It never does.

Multi Coloured Spaghetti Play

Right now, Noah is teething. And he’s teething badly. My usually happy little chap is irritable, tired and just not himself at all, making him extremely difficult to please. So I pulled out the big guns – spaghetti play.

It’s well known that babies and toddlers love spaghetti play. When cooked and cooled it has a lovely texture, slimy and sticky, which really stimulates their senses. I decided to go the extra mile and dye it as well, giving it some additional visual stimulation.

Firstly, I cooked some spaghetti, then drained and let it cool a little. Then I added enough vegetable oil to coat it, and split it into 5 bowls. Now, once I began the next step I did panic a little wondering if I was going to stain my lovely bowls – but they were absolutely fine after a quick rinse. However it may just be less stress-inducing all round if you just use plastic containers! To each bowl I added a few drops of food colouring and gave the pasta a good stir.

I then left the spaghetti to dry out a little, and to really soak up those colours. After about 2 hours I realised there was still loads of excess food colouring on the strands, so I gave each colour (one at a time, to prevent colour bleeding!) a rinse with cold water through a colander. 

In the interest of honesty, when I rinsed off the orange pasta…pretty much all of the colour rinsed off with it and I was left with basically it’s original state. I have no idea why this happened, but I decided just not to use it. Luckily, the others remained bright (I had horrible visions for a moment of creating some sort of cold, rainbow coloured pasta salad just to avoid wastage and imagining what Jim would say when I presented it to him for dinner brought me out in a cold sweat!).

I combined all of the successful spaghetti in a tupperware tub and was ready to go.

For this activity, I decided whilst it may not be mess free, I could at least CONTAIN the mess, so I stripped Noah off and plonked him in the bath. In went the multi coloured spaghetti and his bath stacking and pouring cups, and I let him begin exploring!

He had a blast! He looked at me like I was crazy for a few seconds there at the beginning, but in no time at all he was grabbing, sifting and flinging it behind him, putting bits into the cups and pulling them back out again. 

This was by far the most successful activity I have done with Noah so far. At 9 months old, attention span can be fleeting, but he was happy in here for nearly an hour! And once he’d begun to tire of it, he realised it was edible too.

As you can see, the dog had already sussed this part out – he spent the entire duration sat next to the bath in hope that he’d get a turn! 

Once we were finished, it was as simple as hosing him down with the shower head and scooping the left over spaghetti back into the tub. I imagine you could use it again another day if you wanted- but I wouldn’t leave it too long as it is food, and Noah had been in there so long with it that it was mostly broken up, trodden down and a bit mushy. 

I’m definitely counting this one as a success – my poor grumpy boy didn’t grumble once the whole time! A perfect distraction. 

32 Weeks Pregnant

So I am officially 32 weeks pregnant, and to ‘celebrate’ I had a growth scan! This pregnancy, I am suffering from Gestational Diabetes, which means weekly checks at the diabetic clinic and growth scans every 4 weeks. 

Diabetic clinic was about as successful as it usually is. My blood sugars are still all over the place, and utterly unpredictable, so I wasn’t at all surprised to be prescribed insulin. To be honest, I’m not fazed though – I’ve injected myself enough times in the past for fertility reasons! 
It was lovely to see little one on the big screen again – I find scans so exciting! Everything looks completely healthy, but his measurements are all above the 90th percentile still. They gave me an estimated current weight of 5lb 11oz! Gulp. I am obviously very aware of the fact that my bump is huge for 32wks, but I wasn’t expecting QUITE such a hefty prediction! What a chunk.

All being well, I have now been told induction will be at 38 weeks…which means I will have my baby boy with me next month! Fingers crossed for a drama free last few weeks of pregnancy, we can’t wait to meet you little one! 💙

Centre Parcs Jan 2017

As our new arrival creeps closer, one thing we really wanted to do was to have a little trip away as a family of three. Jim and I have a little bit of a love affair with Centre Parcs Sherwood Forest – we must have been upwards of 5 times in the last 3 or so years! So it was a no brainer – it was high time for Noah’s first visit.

We booked a two bedroom villa, and I managed to convince Jim to pay a little extra to ensure we were right on the outskirts of The Village. My hips have been so painful this pregnancy, I didn’t want to risk not being able to hobble back and forth for multiple trips back to base for Noah’s naps! As it happens, I needn’t have worried, since Noah decided he had serious FOMO (fear of missing out!) all week so barely napped anyway.

It was a very different trip for us this time, as you might expect. Usually we partake in lots of badminton, crazy golf and drinking with friends! But this time our days centred around the pool, soft play areas and lots and lots of food! Noah is a complete water baby, he adored the pool. He never fails to attract attention from the older generation with his squeals and splashes, he is such a charmer. To be honest, we didn’t really utilise the children’s areas in there, he was happy enough in the main pool areas – the wave machine had him giggling, and heading to the outside area took his breath away (and fogged up Daddy’s glasses!!).

We explored a few of the soft play areas, but quickly found the one in the bowling alley to be the best suited for our needs. It was large, open and seemed to attract a much younger clientele. Noah’s confidence has really grown the last few weeks and he spent hours crawling around, climbing apparatus and even trying to interact with other children. 

We also enjoyed taking him to our favourite food spots – boy, that child can put food away when he wants to!! His favourite by far was The Pancake House. I’m sure he’d have quite happily polished off a large dessert pancake single handedly if we’d have let him! 

Despite refusing most naps whilst there (for a boy used to a solid 3 a day, this was impressive!) he was a total joy to be around, he adores time with his Daddy and it melts me to watch them together. He was also kind to us, and continued to sleep through the night, despite the unfamiliar surroundings! It was a fantastic weekend of quality family time, and we can safely say his first Centre Parcs visit was a roaring success. I can’t wait to do it again…as a family of four!

Quick and easy Sensory Bottles

This afternoon my Amazon delivery of plastic bottles arrived, so I decided to knock Noah up some sensory bottles there and then! I haven’t yet met a baby that doesn’t love to explore these, and the process took just 5 minutes with items from my craft bench.

These are just 100ml plastic bottles – the perfect size for small hands, however I have in the past used empty water bottles – so just use whatever you have to hand. I half filled them with water, then poured in a selection of crafty items I thought might look mesmerising in the end product.

As you can see, I chose fluffy pom poms, sequins, googly eyes and two different GLITTERS! All of these items were purchased from Hobbycraft, they have endless choice and packs like these are often just £1 each!

Then, I filled to the top with baby oil (you can also use glycerin if you’re more likely to have that floating around your kitchen going spare!). On go the lids, nice and tight – if you’re worried about spillage though a little squirt of superglue on the lid works a treat, and that’s it! So quick, so easy, so fun.

Noah took a special liking to the gold glitter and the sequins – little magpie. He loves a sensory bottle!

It occurred to me whilst he was exploring that these might actually be a nice addition to the light box – so I scooped him (and them!) up and we went upstairs to try it out.

Look at his little face!! In awe, bless him.

If you missed my previous light box post, you can find it here.

Infertility, IVF and Improbable Odds

Sitting here writing this today, 31 weeks pregnant, with my 9 month old mini monkey Noah upstairs napping in his cot, feels surreal. Because it was only just over 18 months ago that I genuinely thought I may never become a mum at all.

A bit of background: I married my husband, Jim, in the summer of 2013. Aged just 24, we were young, madly in love, and blissfully unaware of the struggles to come. The month before, we had decided that I would stop taking the Pill. We were ready! ‘Let’s have a baby!’ we said, truly thinking it would be that easy. I even secretly wondered that day if I might be carrying our first baby as we exchanged our vows.

But it was not to be. Months passed, dozens of negative pregnancy tests were discarded, and suddenly even my periods stopped. Repeatedly we visited the doctors, to be told over and over again that we were young, it took time, not to worry. Deep down, I knew there was something else going on.

Eventually, frustrated with the lack of action, we paid for some private testing and I was diagnosed with severe Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I found out later a note was put on my file that it was one of the most severe cases they’d seen. To be honest, I felt relief at this point. A problem had been found, it could be dealt with. We could move forward.

Since the private clinic had been so good to us, we decided to stick with them. The NHS in our area were stubbornly sticking with the ‘you’re so young’ argument as to why they wouldn’t help us, but we weren’t willing to wait. Treatment began in the form of Clomid. But just one cycle on, it was decided that my body was resistant to the drug and it was having no effect. We moved on to Gonal-F injection treatment. Day after day, I would inject myself with carefully calculated doses of the drugs, only to find at the end of each cycle that it had not worked. We were Not Pregnant. I was a tricky case – too little of the drugs, and nothing would happen. Too much, and I was at high risk of over stimulation – producing multiple follicles risking illness and other complications. For five cycles we persisted, but each failed. 

At this point, we had been trying various treatments for 6 months. In the scheme of things, not that long, but for us it was devastating. Infertility changes you – something you previously took for granted might never happen for you. Your body is failing you. All I had ever wanted was to be a mum. I spent my early twenties doing everything ‘right’ – I found the love of my life, we bought a house, we got married. We had good jobs, careers, even dogs. It seemed so unfair. Family occasions, previously so enjoyable, became laced with sadness. Not because we resented other people’s happiness, but because we longed for the same with every part of us. And infertility is so, SO lonely. It’s just not talked about. It took us a very long time to even tell our parents, luckily we had each other. It made us stronger, tighter, we were a team. Even on days where I shouldered all of the ‘blame’ on myself and my traitorous body, Jim never made me feel alone for a second.

The next step for us was IVF. The odds were fairly positive. I was about to turn 26, our clinic reported very good results overall. Even then there were setbacks – after my egg retrieval we were informed due to high risks of Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) I would have to have any embryos frozen, and wait before they were ‘put back.’ Every new wait was agonising. But there was good news too, they had managed to produce 4 high quality embryos for us to store.

A month later, in July 2015, we returned for the transfer procedure. They would only put one back, due to our age, the quality and the risks of multiple pregnancy, and I found the procedure extremely traumatic. There was nothing left to do but wait.  It was out of our hands. 

That two week wait was probably the hardest two weeks of the whole journey for me. I was always very careful to avoid too much ‘hope.’ Hope was dangerous. If I convinced myself the next test was negative, the next cycle had failed, it wasn’t to be, then maybe I could deaden the sense of loss when it was confirmed. This two week wait was the best chance we had ever had…and it was excruciating. At 5am on testing day, I tiptoed into the bathroom unable to wait any longer. I needed it over with, so we could cry, then bolster ourselves and ask ‘what’s next?’ But miraculously, both tests slowly but surely came up positive. I was shaking uncontrollably when I crawled back onto the bed, tears pouring down my face as I shook Jim awake. He instantly hugged me tight, and said ‘it’s OK, we’ll try again’ assuming we’d failed. ‘You’re going to be a dad,’ I whispered…

We were beside ourselves. It didn’t seem possible that we were this lucky. We have several early scans to convince ourselves that there was really, truly, a little person growing in there. Eventually we relaxed a little as my belly grew and we felt kicks and punches. We found out it was a boy! Despite the trouble we’d gone through to get to that point, the pregnancy was actually a breeze. 

At my 38 week check, I was displaying symptoms of pre-eclampsia however, so I was admitted to hospital and induced (I will discuss his birth story in another blog!). Noah James was born weighing 8lb 3.5oz on the 18th April 2016. Our very own little miracle.

Our new lives as parents had begun. And I can honestly say, we really did love every minute. I had finally found peace. Prior to giving birth, we had discussed the future. We had always imagined 2, even 3 children, but knew to even have this one, perfect baby was huge. So we decided to just not bother with contraception, and see what happens. We would start to think about more IVF in a few months time, given we had 3 more embryos in frozen storage. No pressure.

I can’t even begin to describe to you my shock, disbelief, utter AMAZEMENT when in July 2016 I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive. Noah was only 3 months old. How was this even possible? Scans and tests confirmed that he had actually been just 11 weeks old when we conceived! I am currently 31 weeks pregnant with another miracle baby boy, due a few weeks before Noah’s first birthday. We still pinch ourselves, I can’t explain ‘how’ or what changed, but here we are. And we couldn’t be happier. Pregnancy with such a young baby is hard work, I won’t lie (I’ll discuss this further in other blog posts!) but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because this is everything I ever wanted. There is hope, and this baby is a completely different kind of miracle. And I can’t wait to meet him.

*We will be forever grateful to CARE Fertility in Nottingham for our fantastic treatments – thank you.