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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25.05

Cider-with-Rosie-favourite-childrens-books

I thought today we’d talk about one of my all-out favourite things to buy…children’s books! Ottilie has adored books ever since she was teeny tiny, and reading together is one of our favourite activities. I’ve recently discovered the lovely independent bookshop in our local town of Haslemere, which has a beautiful selection of children’s books to choose from and such an inviting atmosphere. She’ll happily mill around in there for ages, picking out books to read there and then and a couple to buy and take home for our growing collection. It gives me so much joy.

So today, I’m sharing a few of our favourites! We tend to keep paperback story books for reading at bedtime or during Ottie’s meals, and lift-the-flap board books to read whilst we play in the living room. That way we don’t end up with many torn page-casualties…though a couple of Ottilie’s most-loved books for reading during dinnertime are in a pretty bad way, covered with sticky marks and the odd smudge of pasta sauce I can’t get rid of!

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‘The Koala Who Could’, + ‘The Lion Inside’  by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

These story books are two of our most-read, largely I think due to the outstanding Australian accent I deliver during readings of The Koala Who Could ;) Ottie seems to be so engaged by these sweet stories about courage and self-discovery, and the illustrations are brilliant too.

She also now thinks that all koalas are called ‘Kevin’ as per the book, which is just adorable and not something I’m in a rush to correct her on!

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‘Lost and Found’, Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers’ books are just beautiful, with stylish, inky illustrations and simple storylines about friendship and overcoming challenges. Lost and Found tells the story of a boy who discovers a penguin on his doorstep, and in trying to help the penguin find his way home, realises that all he actually wants is to be the boy’s friend.

Ottilie always seems so taken in by the stories of friendship in Oliver Jeffers’ books, and in ‘How to Catch a Star’ (another of our favourites), she always takes my hand and asks me to help the little boy reach the star in the sky he wants to make friends with. And yep, it makes me want to cry every time!

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‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, by Judith Kerr

I think we’ve read this book every single night before bed for two months on the trot now, but it’s such a classic I still completely love it! The story tells of a ‘cheeky tiger’ (as Ottie has dubbed him!) who visits Sophie’s house, and eats his way through all the cakes and sandwiches, the packets and tins in the cupboard, all Daddy’s beer, and all the water in the tap! The story’s so quaint and old fashioned, and we love the illustrations too. A classic!

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‘Busy Baking’

This book’s one that we keep downstairs for playtime, as it’s so sturdy and a quick read. It’s got tabs to open and pull and twist that perform different actions within the book, and Ottie especially likes to ‘mix’ the cake batter in the bowl just as much as she does when we bake together in the kitchen! It’s such a simple one but a great toddler book, and any from the series would make a lovely first birthday gift.

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‘Peep Inside’ series by Usborne

I LOVE this series of books- it’s definitely my favourite series of baby/toddler board out there…MUCH better than ‘That’s Not My [insert literally anything here!!]‘! These books were the first that Ottie really fell in love with, with the ‘Peep Inside the Farm’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ being our firm favourites. She does sound effects for all the dinosaurs in the book now which makes me laugh every time, and the books have really expanded her vocabulary too. I recommend these to anyone looking to start up a book collection for their little one!

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‘All In One Piece’ by Jill Murphy

Or as it’s known in our house, ‘the paint one’! Along with ‘the tiger one’, this is another that’s been part of our bedtime story line up for a good couple of months straight now. Ottie’s obsessed, and always asks me to wipe the paint from Mrs Large’s dress at the end! I just love Jill Murphy’s writing, and remember so vividly finding the Large Family series absolutely hilarious as a child. Isn’t it the best seeing your children love the things you loved when you were little?

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What books do your little ones love? :)

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18.05

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You’ll have to forgive me the moment of indulgence in posting so many photos of my little girl with no real purpose, but I just love this photo set so very much!

She was playing ‘where’s the yoghurt raisin’ with my Mum the other day, and Grandma was asking Ottie to blow on her hand to make the magic work and the raisin appear. I just can’t get enough of her sweet face in these photos, looking so amazed by the trick she was making happen.

It really is so true, you get to experience the magic of childhood all over again though your own babies <3 Oh, and don’t mind Ottie’s crazy bedhead. She’d just woken from a nap, and point blank refuses to wear clips or bands in her hair!

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Also, it’s Friday! Where on earth did this week disappear to?! I’m planning a toddler-free shopping trip this Sunday with my Mum which (no offence Ottie…) I couldn’t be more excited for! Finding bump-friendly but non-maternity dresses is my quest- I honestly can’t find a single maternity dress I like the look of right now, so am planning on heading to H&M + Zara to see what I can find there. And given I’ll be leaving Ottie at home with Jason, I’ll be able to have a leisurely try-on session in the fitting rooms without rushing or singing Wind the Bobbin Up. Bliss!

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

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02.05

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This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. I like to think I’ve been open in my sharing of my motherhood experiences, baring my soul at times about the joyful highs and tearful lows I’ve experienced over the past couple of years. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than talking about our experiences as parents- connecting with other mothers who are able to celebrate and console, relate and advise, all in equal measure.

We can’t help but feel pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve as women- aceing not only this motherhood gig but also simultaneously keeping up with work, ‘bossing it’ and ‘hustling’ and launching sideline start-ups, and staying fit and trim and looking like we never were even pregnant in the first place.

What I’ve learnt more than anything since becoming a mother is this:

It’s not possible to succeed at everything all the time.

The plate-spinning is relentless, and I feel I’m forever losing control of one thing or another at any one time. Either my work gets sidelined and Ottilie happily has my undivided attention all day long, or CBeebies goes on and suddenly I’ve got time to tick off my to-do list. In a week where I’ve managed to get the house cleaned and tidy and the laundry baskets emptied and the kitchen cupboards are full with ingredients for home cooked meals, you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be making it out to any Pilates or yoga classes in the evenings because I’m just too shattered!

I’m learning that as mothers, we have to take care of ourselves as carefully as we do our precious children. Here’s to us <3

~ ~ ~

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1. Everyone’s experience is valid, but not all advice is appropriate.

By this I mean that whilst as a Mum you’ll undoubtedly be given an avalanche of tips and helpful anecdotal advice from other parents, but whilst the experiences of those giving the advice are always valuable in their own right, you yourself have every right to take it with a pinch of salt. ESPECIALLY in the early days, when the advice often is aimed at helping you get your nocturnal bundle of joy to appreciate the value of sleep, and the ‘breastmilk doesn’t fill them up enough so give a bottle of formula at bedtime/cosleeping is a rod for your own back’ type comments come in thick and fast!

2. Every baby and child really is unique.

And that uniqueness is apparent from before they’re even born! When I was pregnant with Ottilie, she would kick up a storm each night between about half 9 and half 11 in the evening. And then she was born, she used to be wide awake and ready to party at that exact time of the evening every single day!

In my opinion, the personality and will of a child is unique and individual and it’s all we can do as parents to nurture it. They all develop at their own predetermined rates- for example, at 19 months Ottie is stringing words together into little three or four word sentences, can count from 1-10 (though often forgets six and starts at 3!!), and blows my mind with her vocabulary. But she didn’t walk until 14 months, still trips over constantly and asks for help with going up and down the stairs even though she’s fully capable of doing it herself, and isn’t especially physically confident. I used to worry about her being slow to master physical skills, but now I’ve learnt to relax!

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3. The management of parental life admin can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I have these moments sometimes that make me feel really and truly like a Mum, and they’re always the silly, insignificant things. Cutting Ottilie’s nails so they aren’t too long and end up scratching her. Buying her new shoes when she’s grown out of the old ones (though probably noticing about two weeks late that she’s grown out of the old ones…). Keeping the house fully stocked with Calpol, nappies, and baby shampoo. Negotiating a sunhat and suntan lotion onto a reluctant toddler. Keeping an eye on her day’s intake of food- has she eaten a balanced diet, or subsisted on toast all day long?

These are the moments of parenting, the minutiae of making sure Ottilie is cared for and provided for in every single way, that make me feel most like a Mum and also sometimes overwhelm me with the responsibility of the job. It feels like my brain might burst sometimes, and I wonder if all parents feel like that or if I’m just still adjusting to my role as a parent?

4.You’re never. ever. alone.

You know you’re a parent when you utter the words ‘No Mummy doesn’t need help wiping, thank you’ whilst on the toilet…

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5. No food you ever serve your child will be as appetising as what’s on your plate.

We taught Ottie the word ‘share’, and now she uses back at us to request whatever we’re eating!

6. Bugs and colds and bouts of illness are just the worst…

Both for baby and you! There’s nothing quite like having to entertain an energetic toddler for 12 hours when you’ve got a raging migraine, and seeing your baby in pain is truly the worst thing in the world. Thank God for Calpol, is all I can say!

7. Having babies really does take it’s toll on your body!

During pregnancy I was super lucky and had allllll the good symptoms. Shiny, bouncy hair, strong nails, glowing skin, tons of energy. But afterwards I felt like a shell of a woman for months! Growing a baby for nine months, delivering them, and then supporting their growth through breastfeeding takes such a lot from your body, and it’s normal to feel depleted. Next time around I’m going to keep taking my vitamins, not give them up the second I give birth like a stupidly did after having Ottie!!

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8. Their joy is your joy!

It’s true what parents always say, that seeing your child happy is the best thing in the world. Treating Ottilie to a new book at the bookshop or a toy bake set for her pretend kitchen feels like a gift to myself! I even bought Ottie a pair of Peppa Pig slippers a couple of months ago despite my own pathological hatred of branded character clothing, because I knew she’d love them! That really is true love.

9. Other Mums are a lifeline.

There’s a generosity of spirit and sense of community amongst mothers that I think is truly unique. Our shared experiences make it so easy to connect and open conversation, and whether those conversations happen between you and your lifelong best friend, on your NCT group’s WhatsApp thread, or via Instagram DMs, it’s a special thing.

10. That rush of love at birth might take a while to come.

I did experience that initial rush of love for Ottilie, but then my overwhelming feeling in the hours that followed was just…of being overwhelmed!

It wasn’t until the following day, when I’d been taken down for an MRI scan on my spine to assess whether the epidural I’d had during labour had caused me permanent spinal damage (a real treat for a new mother, let me tell you!) that I suddenly was floored by a rush of love for Ottie and a desperate urge to be back with my baby so strong that I genuinely wondered whether I could crawl all the way back to the maternity unit rather than wait for a porter to come and push me back in the wheelchair. It’s to this day the most powerful feeling I’ve ever experienced.

11. You develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of nursery rhymes .

Though the fact that every rhyme time and playgroup I go to seems to sing a slightly different version of ‘Hop Little Bunnies’ does throw me for a loop.

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12. You might surprise yourself, as a parent.

I’ve always been an incredibly impatient person. If I can’t get something right straight away or achieve it immediately I’m just not interested, and I’ve got a fairly short temper too. But with Ottie, I’d say one of my strongest traits as a mother is how patient I am! Of course we have hard days and moments where I lose my cool after a week of constant tantrums, bribery and negotiations, but I never expected to learn to be this patient and calm as a mother. Now if only I could channel it into the rest of my life…

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