21.10

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It feels as though this post has been a long time coming…mainly because my little boy himself took his sweet time to arrive! And it’s a long post in itself, too, since this labour was another long one just like my first! Ready? Time to settle in…

Like every woman who has ever been pregnant, I felt I was on tenterhooks during the final few weeks of those long 9 months. The pregnancy had felt so different to Ottilie’s- instead of getting 38 weeks and finding out that I had a baby who was breech, as I did with her, Arlo (or as I feel I should refer to him, ‘the baby’, given we didn’t then know his sex!) had been engaged since week 35. The Braxton Hicks were strong and constant, and since I’d gone into labour on my due date with Ottilie, I hoped and expected that perhaps this baby would follow suit with a timely, or even early, arrival.

But my due date came and my due date went, sadly unmarked by the arrival of our baby. I’d had a sweep from my midwife that morning which set off a day of regular tightenings, but they frustratingly tailed off to nothing at bedtime. You can imagine what mood that left this grumpy pregnant lady in!

~ ~

Wednesday 10th October, 40+5.

The day I went into labour was such a lovely one. It was bright, crisp, and sunny, and at Ottilie’s request we spent the morning in town together, drinking juice and eating pasta in the cafe and watching buses driving up and down the high street. I was looking forward to seeing our lovely midwife later that day, not least because being with the home birth team meant all my antenatal appointments were at home and accompanied by plenty of tea and biscuits!

I had another sweep done at the appointment, and then spent the afternoon stomping round the fields with the dogs and bouncing endlessly on my birth ball. Surges had begun almost immediately following the sweep, and by the time I’d put Ottilie to bed, eaten dinner (Pasta! I carbed up!!), and then bounced on my birth ball for a couple of hours, they were coming every 5-10 minutes and I knew they were the real deal. We set up the room with tea lights, lavender oil misting from my diffuser, dim lighting and gentle music, and at 10pm Jason began to inflate the birth pool and called my Mum to come round so that someone was here for Ottie if things ramped up fast. I felt like Christmas morning had arrived, knowing that our little baby was finally on its way!

As the evening wore on and I got tired, we decided to go to bed to try and get some rest. I learnt during my first labour how exhausting it is to contract for days on end, and having a feeling that I was in for another lengthy one, we decided to strategise! I’ll admit though that I did have a wobble here, convinced that if I were to lay down and rest the surges would die off all together and I’d have wasted everyone’s time. But though that night whilst I slept the surges slowed to every half hour or so, they were still enough to wake me up and required a little breathing and concentration to get through…

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Thursday 11th October.

We woke the following morning and while I had breakfast with Ottie and my Mum, Jason got the final few bits ready for Ottilie’s sleepover at Grandma’s house. I paced round the kitchen as the surges began to ramp up again in frequency and intensity, and around mid-morning, once we’d waved goodbye to Ottilie knowing she’d be a sister the next time we saw her, they’d kicked up another notch and I was making full use of the ‘up breathing’ technique and visualisations I learnt on my hypnobirth course.

That day we walked, and walked, and walked! I wanted to try and stay active to bring the baby down, and as we walked through the fields that I’d paced so many times trying to bring the labour on, I reminded myself over and over to welcome each surge with open arms. The mantra ‘Every surge brings me closer to meeting my baby’ went over and over in my head, and I truly was glad each time I could feel one approaching! Which was a positive, as at times whilst we walked they were coming every two minutes and lasting a minute each time! I held tight onto Jason whilst breathing strongly through each surge, rocking my hips back and forth to release the tightness and pressure in my lower belly.

But over the course of the day the surges would increase and decrease in intensity and frequency, even easing off to every 10-15 minutes at times which was so incredibly frustrating! I text my midwife, Heather, asking what to do, and her advice was to rest, not think too much about it, and to call her when things had increased to a level where I knew I needed her there. I wasn’t sure I’d know when that moment was…but she was right!

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Friday 12th October.

At around 1am, I knew. I’d been laying on the bed on my side trying to sleep, and the surges had become so strong I was pulling down hard on the bed frame as each one came on. I’d begun to sink into that ‘labour zone’, where time slips past in flashes and you start to retreat inside yourself. Jason phoned Heather, and she was with us just a few surges later.

I remember laying on the bed whilst she monitored a few of my surges, and then said the magic words ‘Do you want to get in the pool?’

The relief from the water was complete and utter bliss. I didn’t realise how heavy my belly felt until the water took the weight of it, and though the surges were getting stronger and stronger at an overwhelming pace by now, it was such a peaceful time during the labour. We had candles burning and classical music playing, I was overjoyed that things were going ‘right’, and between surges we were chatting with Heather and the lovely second midwife about how Jason and I had met and how it was my Grandma who gave us the nudge to be together! It was honestly an wonderful experience, and I was so so happy!

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After a couple of hours the surges began to change and I had started to get a strong downwards pressure, and so Heather suggested checking how dilated I was as my body had started to bear down with each surge already. It came as a shock (and slightly devastating for me at that point!!) then to find out I was only 3cm! It was the first sign that things weren’t going exactly to plan.

In order to get some rest and help my body relax and dilate, I had an injection of Meptid (a home birth-friendly version of Pethedine), which strangely didn’t do anything other than intensify my surges massively! As I was laying down in bed they became relentless, every two minutes apart and each one lasting seemingly forever. The pressure in my pelvis was becoming so strong I found it hard to focus on my breathing, and though I didn’t feel like I could push intentionally yet it felt as though the baby was trying to force its way out already! Jason and Heather sat with me on our bedroom floor, and I tried to keep control of my breathing and focus as each surge came and went.

I remember getting up to use the loo, and as I left the bathroom the biggest surge yet hit and I couldn’t stay standing through it. My whole body was bearing down, and Heather told me my baby was on its way! We went back downstairs and I returned to the pool, and I couldn’t help but make loud mooing sounds with the intensity of each surge.

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I’m not quite sure how long passed, but it felt as though something changed. Up until this point I’d been welcoming each surge, despite how intense they were, but they suddenly became unbearable. In my mind’s eye they went from intensity to pain, from surge to contraction- I felt as though I could barely think straight with how quickly they’d changed. It was as though my body was simultaneously trying both to push and not push at the same time, and an examination showed I was still only 5cm which didn’t match with what my body was doing.

I think in that moment we all knew that something wasn’t right, and so an ambulance was called. Enduring that bumpy journey with contractions coming every two minutes and no pain relief (gas didn’t work for me at all!) was probably the worst part of my entire labour! I was desperate to keep my hips raised in the air to try and take the pressure of the baby’s head out of my pelvis, but was stuck laid down on my side on the stretcher. I had to just close my eyes tight and get through each contraction one at a time.

~ ~ ~

 

When we arrived in hospital, I had an epidural to try and encourage my body to relax. It was only a small dose so I could still feel all the contractions and never lost any control of my legs, but it was enough to knock the edge off the surges and the most blessed relief of my life!!

Not long after, our midwife started trying to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. As she passed the wand low over my pelvis where I knew it’d been picked up through all of the intermittent monitoring we’d had at home, I remember thinking to myself how faint and slow it sounded.

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An emergency buzzer was pressed, and in an instant the room filled with people. The baby’s heart rate had dipped to around 50bpm and wasn’t picking back up, and all of a sudden, less than an hour after I’d been labouring in the comfort and quiet of my home, I was being prepped for a crash Caesarian section under general anaesthetic and Jason was told he wouldn’t be able to be in the room whilst his baby was delivered. I felt totally numb and in shock in that moment, and just had my eyes fixed to the monitor showing the baby’s heartrate praying that it would come back up again.

I’ve never been so relieved in my life as I was when that number started to rise, when I was laying in theatre on the bed. After conducting some tests and an examination that somehow showed, despite all the stress we’d been under I was now fully dilated, the consultant decided that so long as the baby’s heartrate continued to be stable I should try and deliver naturally.

So with no time at all to breathe, I was back in a delivery room and told I was going to be laid flat, would have forceps used to deliver my baby, and since the small initial epidural I’d had had worn off, a big top up was suggested too! In that moment, I felt I took back some control over my birth experience. I politely declined all three of those things, and asked to be given chance to deliver my baby myself. The consultant agreed I could have 10 minutes to push unassisted, but that after that point an instrumental delivery would be needed to get baby out quickly.

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And so with forceps threatened, I’ve never worked so hard in my LIFE!

It took every scrap of strength I had, but within ten minutes of starting to push, my baby was out! And a quick peep showed Jason and I that we had a baby boy! He’d been born with the cord around his neck, and so after being put on my chest very briefly was taken outside to be given a puff of oxygen and a check over by a paediatrician, but almost immediately after being taken from the room we heard his wonderfully loud, strong cry, and my baby boy was back in my arms within just a minute of his arrival.

It was heaven, feeling the warmth of his soft pink skin on mine and seeing his little dark eyes blinking away. He looked so much like his sister, and the relief of having him safe in our arms was overwhelming.

Arlo Louis, 9.9lbs, born at 12.27pm on Friday 12th October <3

~ ~ ~

And so, despite all the challenges we faced, I’m so proud of what I accomplished with the arrival of our beautiful baby boy. I’ll admit though that I’ve shed a fair few tears over how far from a gentle, intimate home birth it turned out to be, over how scary it was seeing things go wrong so quickly, and over what my body went through in having to deliver such a surprisingly big baby in such a pressured environment. But all in all, I came away from the experience feeling empowered by the strength it took to deliver him, and by the knowledge and ability hypnobirthing gave Jason and I to speak up for ourselves and our choices even in a high-stress environment. And spending the vast majority of the labour at home was absolutely amazing, and an experience I would recommend in a heartbeat.

This last week has been complete heaven- falling in love with our baby boy, seeing Ottilie cuddle her baby brother and watching how he turns his head to the sound of her voice, breastfeeding, evenings spent with a warm little bundle snoozing on my chest, and finding our feet as a family of four.

~ ~ ~

Welcome to the world, baby Arlo! We’re so glad you’re here <3

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21.09

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Ahh, the infamous hospital bag. Subject of approximately seven thousand threads on Mumsnet, countless Youtube videos, and a source of (totally unnecessary, but very much real) anxiety for Mums-to-be from the third trimester onwards!

I actually loved packing my hospital bag ready for having Ottilie, and found it appealed just nicely to the side of me that’s super organised and totally into neat folding and careful planning and buying cute miniature beauty products, thank you very much. And I was so happy to find that when I’d had my baby girl, literally every single item in my bag was used and not a single thing was unnecessary or missing!

This time round I’ve worked from basically the same packing list as last time, but with a few tweaks…based mainly around the fact that I’m hoping not to have to go into hospital at all! I’m planning, preparing for, and hoping to have a calm, tranquil home birth with this baby, and have also been using hypnobirthing as a way of preparing for baby’s arrival.

The principles of hypnobirthing, and of home birthing too, encourage creating a safe, familiar, comfortable space in which to give birth as opposed to the traditional brightly lit, impersonal, medicalised environment of a hospital. Of course, there are countless different reasons why giving birth in hospital is brilliant and I wouldn’t change the experience I had with Ottilie, but am hoping that staying at home and nestling down in the comfort of my living room this time around will make the experience of birth all that much gentler for both me and baby.

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THE ‘DURING BIRTH’ KIT

This selection of bits is packed up into a small cosmetics bag, and is what I plan on using whilst I’m in labour to create a comfortable, cosy environment. The string lights were a Tiger find and look so pretty when lit up, I’ve got a couple of packs of electric tea lights for dotting around the room, and some essential oils (lavender and bergamot for relaxation, and clary sage to encourage or strengthen contractions if needed) to use in my diffuser. Crucially, all these items can be taken with us to use in hospital if needed too!

On the more practical end of the scale, I’ve got packed some earphones (I’m planning on listening to the positive pregnancy affirmations from my hypnobirth course, because I find them so relaxing), Magicool spray (a GODSEND when you’re burning hot in labour!), hair bands (for the obligatory top knot), and lip balm because gas and air makes your lips so dry!

The other things I’m packing for use during labour are:
Hospital notes
A bikini and old sports bra (dependent on what I fancy wearing, and where I deliver)
A water bottle and straw
Lucozade sports drinks
Snacks (Nakd bars, some sweets, and grapes…if we ever manage to make a punnet last longer than a day in this house, that is!)
A TENS machine (I didn’t use one first time round but have heard great things about them!)

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ALL THINGS POST-NATAL…

So, this is where stuff gets SERIOUS. Basically, the main things you’ll need post-natally are all absorbent (and super sexy…). Breast pads (I’ve bought some lovely washable Little Lambs ones this time round, but have a couple of disposable Lansinoh ones in my bag just in case I need them), maternity pads (last time I loved the Boots ones but am trying a brand called Naturacare this time- I’m sceptical of how thick and chunky they are BUT they are biodegradable!), and on the advice of my midwife for wearing immediately after giving birth, Tena pants! See, I told you, all about the sexiness right now.

Cosmetics-wise, I didn’t expect to care about how I looked after having Ottilie but was surprised to find I did! Well, it was more how I * felt * that mattered, and so I’ve packed a small cosmetics bag for this birth just like I did for last time. Some cotton pads and cleansing water (I remember it feeling so good to wash my face last time after having been hot and clammy for about 48 hours solid beforehand!!), moisturiser, some light foundation and mascara, and a bottle of the Roget + Gallet Rose shower gel that my lovely aunt bought me after having Ottilie that made those first few post-natal showers feel extra relaxing and luxurious!

On top of the above, I’ve also got packed:
Two sets of pyjamas, one short and vest top set and one heavier-weight set.
Nursing bra and vest top
Comfy joggers for wearing after giving birth/going home, if we happen to transfer in
A new cosy but lightweight dressing gown
Dark towels…dark for obvious reasons!!
Big pants
Lansinoh nipple cream (the BEST for dealing with any early days feeding soreness!)

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FOR THE NEW ARRIVAL!

And this is the best part! Baby things! I’m keeping my packing fairly minimal, just like last time- just a few basic bits to have on hand for when baby makes his or her arrival! Of course, if all goes well and we do birth at home most of it will just be unpacked straight away and won’t be needed immediately, but it’s good to have it all together and organised just in case we do end up in hospital for whatever reason.

So, in the bag for little one is…

A pack of size 1 Kit + Kin nappies (my favourite biodegradable nappy brand!)
1x pack of Water Wipes
A cellular blanket and large swaddling blanket
2 muslins
1 hat for right after birth
3 sleepsuits and 3 vests (rolled up into little outfit bundles, because they’re much easier to find and grab when needed that way!)
A knitted cardigan and hat.

~ ~ ~

And last but not least, let’s briefly chat about home birth specific stuff! I’m borrowing a birth pool, pump, and tap connectors via a home birth community group that runs in my area, and then have bought a liner and hose via Birth Pool in a Box.

I’ve also got put aside, on advice from my midwife…
-  Plenty of dark towels in varying sizes, for both me and baby after I’ve delivered
- Absorbent bed pads, for protecting soft furnishings from any blood or amniotic fluid (what an image!)
- Large plastic ground sheeting to cover and protect the (CREAM!!) carpet in our living room, where I hope to give birth

I’ve also stocked our freezer full of homemade cake and cookie dough balls, so that we’ve got plenty of sweet treats to enjoy during and afterwards AND to share with our wonderful midwives too!

~ ~ ~

And that, as they say, is that! I’ve had so many questions about home birth via my Instagram already, and though I of course can’t vouch for the experience itself yet, I hope that this post helps anyone trying to pack and prepare for one! And, bar the last few items, it’s exactly the same as I had packed for my planned hospital birth with Ottie too. I’d love to know if it helps you if you’re planning or packing your birth bag right now… or if I’ve forgotten anything vital!

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11.05

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So in case you didn’t happen to catch my little Instannouncement (is that a word? It is now.) last weekend, then yep! I’m expecting baby number two!

I’m exactly 19 weeks at the time of typing this post up, with a mini bump that’s growing away nicely and a baby roughly the size of a courgette, according to my pregnancy app. It’s been so magic to do this all over again, and the joy of feeling a real little baby wriggling around inside you just doesn’t get old! In a moment of postpartum hormonal madness after Ottie was born I cried to Jason that if we had another baby it wouldn’t be as magical and exciting as it did first time, but I can confirm that’s truly not the case!

I thought I’d write up a little Friday pregnancy update in place of my usual ’10 things that’ve made made me happy this week’ round up, to catch you up on my pregnancy experience so far. So here we go!

~ ~ ~

1. I’m totally convinced this baby’s a boy! Apropos of absolutely nothing other than instinct, especially considering my pregnancy’s been exactly the same as with Ottilie down to the very last symptom, but I always ‘knew’ she was a girl so maybe I’ll be right this time too!

2. We won’t be finding out this time either, just like with our first pregnancy. I’m not tempted at all in the sense that I’ll just be absolutely delighted either way, but am ever so slightly tempted just for practicality’s sake so I can get Ottie’s old clothes organised and washed ready for this baby, or packed away in the loft!

3. I’ve had another (luckily!!) very easy pregnancy so far! I was sick just once and had about four weeks of nausea, food aversions and major fatigue, but since about week 11 have been heaps better and almost back to normal. Last time though I had a very difficult and painful final month with sciatica and a breech baby who had to be turned manually back to head-down, so am fully preparing myself for what could be to come in the final few weeks!

4. And it’s true what they say about second bumps popping faster- I’ve been in maternity jeans since about week 8 this time! Though at first it was just major bloating, the bump is well and truly here now! I don’t think it’s massively bigger than I was with Ottie, though I’m definitely not as toned all over as last time. Probably due to the fact that when she goes down to bed at night I’m really struggling with the energy to head out to a workout class!

5. It’s definitely a whole new ballgame being pregnant with a toddler to look after too! I’ve been having to give in and nap when Ottie naps which isn’t something I’ve done since she was a tiny baby, and finding time to keep up with work, the garden, and all the household upkeep is a challenge! Also, Ottilie’s only sleeping for an hour a day now vs the two and a half hours she used to have until just lately, which makes me want to weep a little bit…

6. But speaking of Ottilie, oh my goodness this little girl of ours is obsessed with her sister or brother already! She loves all babies, and so knowing there’s one in Mama’s tummy is the best thing ever as far as she’d concerned. She talks about it all day long, and wants to kiss and cuddle my belly non stop. I’m not concerned at all about any jealousy on her part when the new baby is here, more how to manage her over-enthusiastic sister love!!

7. I’ll be doing hypnobirthing this time round, and also am signed off with my local home birth team! My experiences in labour and delivery with Ottie taught me that nothing is a dead cert when it comes to having babies, and so until I’m at the very end of my pregnancy and know this baby is head down, engaged, and behaving themselves I don’t think I’ll truly believe that I’ll really get the home birth I want so much, but so far so good! It’s so lovely having dedicated midwives and all my antenatal appointments at home too!

8. Two words: Maternity. Leggings. Why on earth didn’t I invest in a pair of these first time around?!

9. We were bad at keeping the secret this time around! With my pregnancy with Ottilie only my cousin knew for the first few weeks, we told our Mums after our 8 week scan, and then the rest of our friends and family after the 12 week scan. This time? I was on FaceTime to my Mum within about 10 minutes of taking the test, and my mother in law found out when I thrust Ottilie upon her so I could run off and be sick days before a test even came up positive!

10. I’m enjoying this pregnancy even more than last time, I think because this time I’m so aware that there’s really and truly a little person growing inside me. First time round that just felt like a concept, and pregnancy felt all about me and what I was experiencing and how my body was changing. This time round, I’m just counting down the days until we get to welcome this new unique, amazing little person into our family!

I’d love to know if you’d be interested in pregnancy blog content this time around- I’m thinking hospital bag packing tips, pregnancy style inspiration (not that I’m an expert, I forgot how crazy hard it is to dress a bump!!), that kind of thing? Let me know! :)

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09.04

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There’s something so special about the bedtime routine. Whether you’ve been out at work all day and the half hour before bed is chance to reconnect with your little one, or whether you’ve been side by side all day and the bedtime routine serves as chance to wind down together, it’s such a lovely part of the day.

I remember when Ottilie was really tiny, going through her bedtime routine with Gina Ford’s book open on the bed trying to stick exactly to the timings that were laid out on the ‘two month old baby routine’ page! I think it was shortly after these moments of new Mama madness that I lobbed Gina Ford to the back of the cupboard, realising that doing Ottie’s bath at 6.30pm instead of 6.15pm precisely was probably not the cause of her waking every two hours all night long ;)

I’m always intrigued to know how other Mums and Dads work their evening routine now- whether it’s a calm, quiet affair with dim lighting and relaxing music, or a half hour romp before everyone crashes out in bed!

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Bedtime essentials : An ultra-soft sleeping bag, cosy PJs, Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment, and Jeffie the giraffe who’s as much part of the family as Teddy and Elsie are!!

I’d say we’re somewhere in the middle of the two. Ottilie is generally one of those ‘run and run and run and then crash’ kind of toddlers, with hardly any wind-down needed before she’ll fall fast asleep in her bed. But I do love the cosy moments that precede bottle-and-bed, and treasure those cuddles even more now that Ottie’s on the go all day long!

Our bedtime begins each night with a bath, partly to wash the baked bean sauce-smudges from Ottilie’s cheeks but also because this little girl of mine is a mermaid and just adores the water!

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I love watching Ottilie learn as she plays in the bath, whether it’s by asking for ‘pop pop bubbles!’ or naming the colours of her stacking cups. She’ll often play in the bath for a good half hour, and loves taking the bath plug out and feeling the water swirl away down the plughole. Simple joys!

One of our favourite games to play in the bath is to match coloured balls with her stacking cups, and she also loves a little penguin toy that was Jason’s when he was Ottilie’s age!

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With bath time (and a couple of times a week, the ordeal that is washing a toddler’s hair…) over and done with, Ottilie hops out and is ready for some skincare! I always like to take time to moisturise and protect her skin, especially during the winter months when she seems prone to dryness just like her Mama.

For preventing and treating any rashes, my go to cream of choice is always Bepanthen. For the first few months of Ottilie’s life she was lucky and never had even the tiniest amount of nappy rash, but ever since she started teething properly at around 11 months she gets such angry skin in her nappy area whenever she’s cutting new teeth.

A light coating of Bepanthen at bedtime always soothes her skin right away, and leaves it clear and calm again by the time morning comes. It’s fantastic too for preventing any rashes caused by new and unfamiliar foods, especially during the early days of weaning! We’ve never had any rashes really take hold which I give Bepanthen full credit for, especially since using it in combination with cloth nappies which seem so much gentler on Ottilie’s skin.

I also love the fact that it comes in a tube rather than pot, that I always find to be messy and potentially unhygienic during nappy changes.

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With skin cared for and a fresh nappy and PJs on, it’s time for Ottilie to romp around the upstairs of our house to her heart’s content!

Ottie generally likes to burn off a last burst of energy for the day with a game of chase and hide and seek, and it’s the best thing ever hearing her roar with laughter as I chase her up and down the landing between our bedrooms.

But in the photos above, she’s doing a bit of nature study! Ottie’s bedroom seems so be a breeding ground for ladybirds, and she was very taken with the little one making it’s way across her bedroom carpet!

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Time for a few rounds of ‘One Little Monkey Jumping on the Bed’, before bed!

It’s Ottilie’s favourite thing ever, second only to being thrown up in the air and rough and tumbled by Jason who, as with all Dads, is 100x more fearless with her than I ever am and which Ottilie adores!

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Lastly it’s time for my favourite, favourite thing ever- story time <3 The way Ottilie adores books gives me the greatest joy, not least because some of my most vivid and happy childhood memories are of reading bedtime stories with my own Mum!

She’s really got into storybooks lately over more simple ‘lift the flap’ board books, which are so much more fun to read! I might share a few of our favourites in a post soon, if anyone would like to know which books we love the most?

This particular night was the turn of The Gruffalo! Ottilie’s a big fan of any books with lions or dinosaurs or creatures that she can ‘roaaaarrr’ at, and the Gruffalo fits the bill!! 

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And with stories read, teeth brushed, milk drunk, and little rosy cheeks kissed, so to bed.

What does your bedtime routine look like? <3

~ This post was sponsored by Bepanthen, a brand I’ve used and loved for as long as I’ve been a Mama! Thank you for supporting the sponsored content that makes Cider with Rosie possible. ~

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