My new arrival 💙

Sunday the 26th March 2017 was a very special day for me; my first ever Mother’s day. Waking up and looking at my gorgeous Noah I felt blessed – but it was also my induction day. Would I be a mother of two by midnight?

I headed into the hospital at 10am, and it was simply a waiting game for a spot on the delivery suite because I’d had a Bishops Score of 9 since the previous Monday! By 3pm I was in my room, and at 3.30 they broke my waters. I felt much more in control during this labour than with Noah, I was pretty calm for the majority of it, and coping well on gas and air as a result. Things progressed quickly, but it wasn’t until the final hour and a half that things started to get a bit much and I was begging for my epidural!! As it was, the epidural didn’t even have a chance to work before I was pushing and George Luke came into our world at 23.46, weighing 7lb 14oz 💙

All seemed fine for a few minutes, but he was found to be struggling to breathe, and he was rushed to NICU (the neonatal intensive care unit). He stayed there for 2 hours whilst I was being patched up, so I couldn’t be with him, but his Daddy wouldn’t leave his side. They couldn’t find anything really ‘wrong’ other than his breathing being laboured, so after a couple of hours he was brought back to me, much to my relief.

However, once we were transferred to postnatal, his breathing continued to be a concern, and a few hours later they decided he needed to go back to NICU for further investigation. I was so scared. We weren’t anticipating this. I know you never do, but we hadn’t even considered an issue, it was terrifying. A chest x-ray revealed a pneumothorax – a leaking of air from one of his lungs into his chest cavity. It was small though, and they were confident with oxygen input in an incubator that it would heal itself. Not having your baby with you after giving birth…it’s indescribable. It’s like a part of you is missing. That combined with the worry, it’s a really horrible experience.

He began the next day on 48% oxygen, and didn’t seem to be improving as quickly as they’d have liked. His pneumothorax on the other hand had decreased, it was just the general immaturity of his lungs that was still causing problems. Throughout the day though, he came on leaps and bounds, and by evening he was on 22% (normal oxygen input is 21%) and his sats were stable. I even managed to have a few precious skin to skin cuddles!

In some ways, by the end of the day the thing was was reducing me to tears the most was being apart from Noah. I knew George was in the best place, and doing well, but I have never been away from Noah for more than a couple of hours, and at only 11 months old I couldn’t explain to him what was going on. Thinking about him at all left me a blubbering mess! I felt like a mum of two who had neither boy with me, and completely torn.

Over the next two days, George was coping well on 22% oxygen. So painstakingly close to the 21% of natural air that would mean he was ok to leave the incubator, but not quite there. He was having repeated tests on his jaundice levels, and had to be switched to tube feeding overnight to give his little body a rest, but in general was doing really well. His third chest x ray revealed his pneumothorax had completely healed. But time was ticking..the hospital have a policy that mum can stay on the postnatal ward until day 5 (they counted day 1 as Sunday even though he was only born 14 minutes before midnight) so I knew if George wasn’t ready to join me by later on the next day, that I would most likely be discharged and need to go home without him – which has always been my worst nightmare. That night was an uneasy one.

The next morning I rushed down to NICU the second I woke up, to find that George had coped all night on normal oxygen input! All his test results were coming back fine, and he’d been feeding nicely. The next few hours were a whirlwind, but by lunchtime we had been released to a normal ward on postnatal..together! It also meant that Noah and George could finally meet.

That right there? The best moment of my life. Both boys, together, happy and HEALTHY. I’ll treasure those photos forever.

We needed to stay on postnatal overnight to be sure that there were no setbacks, but at lunchtime on day 6, we were finally allowed to go home, to begin life as a family of four. What a crazy, stressful, overwhelming few days…but now I’m home, I’ve never been happier. Welcome to our world George, you are the PERFECT addition to our family.

The Importance of Mum Chums

Becoming a mum for the first time is probably the most life changing and overwhelming thing that will ever happen to you. The second you hold your baby in your arms, you are different. Some of these changes are obvious (‘I have stretch marks WHERE?’) but some are so small you can hardly put your finger on them to start with. If you are lucky, you will have friends at a similar stage in life and you will navigate that change together. But it can be extremely isolating if you aren’t. 

I’m not saying you can’t maintain your old friendships; of course you can. Just because you are at different stages, with a bit of effort and a lot of love your relationships can evolve into something new. But I truly believe now that in order to really embrace your new life and be completely content you need to find a great group of mum chums. 

This isn’t always easy though. Baby groups can be daunting, especially if you’re shy, or your baby isn’t the placid, sleepy, laid back type and you spend the entirety of each session jiggling them round the room in a sweat whilst watching all the other mums coo and massage and generally manage to participate. Apps for mums can be like dating apps – slightly embarrassing and with a high risk of rejection. There was a time I never thought I’d find my support network. But I have, and they are WONDERFUL. 

It’s slightly unconventional. We started as a group of strangers on a popular online baby forum, brought together only by the header ‘April 2016,’ our expected birth month. Through tragedy, we moved over to Facebook and those anonymous strangers became women. Mums. Lovely, kind, empathetic ladies with families, and little profile pictures, and amazing senses of humour. Day and night, there is always someone present to give advice, to sympathise, to reassure. These ladies have become a lifeline. 

They were the first people I told when I got my positive pregnancy test with this baby. We have been through so much together over the last 10/11 months. It is thanks to them I started this blog. Thanks to them I am contemplating starting my own business once life as a mum of two settles down into some normality. Really, I cannot thank them enough for their constant support. Somehow, I have been lucky enough to gain 260 mum chums, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! So this one’s for them. 

New mums: my advice to you is this. Put yourselves out there. Be it physically, or via the Internet, whatever you feel comfortable with. But I promise you, with a group of similarly minded mum chums, you will be able to tackle anything motherhood throws at you, and have a good old giggle along the way.

No Mess Shake-It-Up Mother’s Day Art

I must admit, now I’m at the tail end of this pregnancy (35 weeks!) I’m finding it harder and harder to motivate myself to find fun new things to do with the Monkey. However, it’s Mother’s Day coming up at the end of this month (of which I am painfully aware, since it will be my first!) so I really should do something crafty for the Nanny’s. 

After racking my brain for a new technique we could try, I decided to stay simple and mess free. Noah LOVES shaking things at the moment; musical instruments, blocks, boxes – anything at all that he thinks may make a noise is getting vigorously shaken back and forth whilst he wears the cutest little grin. So let’s use what he’s good at!

In my teaching days, I’ve done many a jigsaw piece craft, and I love them paired with the line ‘I love you to pieces.’ So during a nap, I quickly sketched out two puzzle pieces (one for each of his Nannys!) onto card and cut them out.

Then, I gathered my materials. A selection of paint (I just used my normal bog-standard acrylics), some baking beans and a tupperware tub with a lid that clips on nice and firmly! 

Next, I blu-tacked the puzzle pieces to the inside of the tub. I squeezed a drop of each colour into the bottom, and then dropped in a layer of baking beans, enough to cover the paint. I secured on the lid, and we were ready to go!

Once he’d woken up and had a bottle, I handed the tub to Noah, and let him do his thing. With Bunny and Fox helping (of course!) he shook, rolled, and banged the tub across the floor. He loved the sound of the beans clattering around! I did wonder if an extension to this activity may be to add some cheap jingle bells (I have some loitering around) but actually on this occasion he was having enough fun with just the noise from the beans.

Look how happy he is! And note; no paint on my lovely carpet haha. I could see at this point that the colours were mixing to create a bit of a murky brown in parts, however he was having so much fun and this is process art, so I let him carry on until he was bored.

The only clear-up required was to gently pull out the card and set it aside to dry, whilst filling the tub with warm, soapy water to soak.

Once the paint had dried on the puzzle pieces, I simply stuck them onto the front of some more white card, folded and wrote my (I mean, Noah’s!) message. For extra involvement and future nostalgia, I may get him to pop a squidgy handprint on the inside before sending. Happy crafting!

TOP TIPS: Make sure the tub you use for this activity can be easily picked up with little hands! Or else you might find they get frustrated quickly 😊

Pregnancy Paranoia: Highs and Lows of Week 34

So this week I turned 34 weeks pregnant. I started by feeling pretty positive! It’s March now, so that means with my induction, I’ll definitely be having my baby this month!! The end is in sight. As lovely as it is to grow a little human, I am not good at pregnancy, and I’ve been pregnant for pretty much 18 months solid now with such a tiny age gap. Physically, and mentally, I’m ready for a break!

But by Monday evening it all started to go downhill. I am sure some women are wonderfully calm during their pregnancies, and float along in a happy, glowy daze of excitement. Ladies: I am so jealous of you! Me? I flit between all laid back and positive…and oh my God, what was that, it’s all going wrong isn’t it, we can’t possibly be this lucky! Pregnancy paranoia: it’s a bugger.

I don’t think it’s helped by midwives and the like telling you to listen to your body, trust your instincts, etc – I get the sentiment, totally, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t the foggiest what I’m listening for half the time! Me and my pregnant body are misunderstanding each other somewhere along the line. I can only describe it initially as starting to feel ‘weird.’ My digestive system was in bits (we won’t go into too much detail there…no glamour!) and I felt weirdly unsettled. 

On Tuesday, I was continuing this weird, on the edge feeling, and toilet hopping. I told Jim to keep his phone on him, though I wasn’t sure why. My appetite left me completely. My nighttime sleep was worse than ever, waking up suddenly as though I had somewhere urgent to be. By Wednesday night, I was getting bad lower back pain and pain in my bump. ‘This is it,’ I’m thinking, ‘this must be how natural labour starts!’ The only thing that eased it was a lovely, warm bath.

Thursday morning I was an emotional mess. The week had took its toll. Nothing had ‘progressed,’ pains had eased, my stomach was still rejecting all food (which makes diabetes control great fun!) so now I’m into full panic mode. What is going on with my baby?! I’m ashamed to say I started blubbing to Jim and for the first time ever, really needed him to stay off work. I needed help with Noah so that I could focus fully on figuring out what was happening with bump. With Noah’s pregnancy, I was much worse in terms of panic- it still felt like we were too lucky, things could go wrong at any moment, right up until the end. I think I’ve been loads better this time because I’m just too distracted and busy. But yesterday? I was in a tizz. 

The hospital didn’t want me in. They decided over the phone I must have some horrid bug that they wanted to keep well away from the wards, thank you very much. I get that completely, I do, but I needed some reassurance. So I saw my community midwife. And thank goodness, she let me listen to baby’s heartbeat. She also informed me baby is well and truly engaged now, so my pains the previous night could well have been him literally ‘burrowing’ into my pelvis. Cheers bubs! All my other tests came up the same as usual, and so I have been slightly mollified. For now.

Honestly, being pregnant is stressful. I don’t know what’s going on in there! I am emotionally exhausted after this week, and wishing away the next three so that I can hold him safely in my arms and keep the little monkey where I can see him. Because that’s where the worry ends, right? Ha ha ha…

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.