Breastfeeding: the sequel

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Love this by Amen Photography

I have blogged before about the mad journey that is breastfeeding and the wondrousness of boobies (here is the first instalment). Since then I have enjoyed the consequences of breastfeeding (read: saggymcsaggerson babylons) and I have produced a second Bebe, that I have also been feeding with my boobs. Even writing it like that reminds me how mind-boggling it is to nourish a human bean with something produced by my very own breasts. Crazy. (Obviously growing the bean in the first place is pretty stupenduous, but this part you can actually see with your own eyes!)

As I alluded to in the first post written last year, I am entirely mindful that this is a very sensitive subject. Plenty of new mamas don’t breastfeed, either out of choice or because it’s not physically possible, or for many reasons they start and then have to stop, or have to modify what they are doing to suit their babe. No one journey is the same and whatever happens, having a happy, fed bebe is all that matters.  

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Pure happiness right there

As I said last time, this is just me talking about my journey.  I’m lucky / unlucky / weird / blessed / happy to have the chance to breastfeed again. However, I must say that living this a second time, it has been decidedly harder than the first time. Strange, as you would think boobs get used to it (they certainly look like they do) and as a second time mum, most likely I am already equipped, mentally and wardrobiley, for the job. Turns out not really.  Well, for me at least, the difference I think is down to (i) the bebe and (ii) the circumstances.  I consider these differences a bit below and then I will introduce you to my favourite breastfeeding clothing, in particular The B Shirt.

The Bebette journey is not the same

The bebe part: No pregnancy is the same, “they” say (the older wiser types) and the same goes for all that follows. This Bebette that we have, this little ray of light, is a petite lady who doesn’t gobble like her big brother. She is delicate. It’s more like she’s taking afternoon tea, or a small glass of champagne, than glugging a gallon of milk; I can almost see her little finger up in the air. Bebette can’t easily cope with the fast flow of milk that I have. She wants a skinny pizza with a side of dust, not the Super Mega menu with XL stuffed crust and extra deep-fried cake, and a beer or 10….

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The problem is that boobie milk systems need some sort of regulation – if Bebe is fussy, you end up with your boobs getting very confused about all this nibbling and they lose track of how much milk to actually make.  This, in my case, led to a bout of (very painful) mastitis (more on this below).  It has also resulted in the washing machine going into overdrive with milk-sodden clothing.  Poor Boddler has had the shock of his life a couple of times when he has come to inspect “Sista mulk” and been sprayed in the face himself. Luckily he has goggles.

After the double whammy hospital adventure we enjoyed last month, I’ve also spent a lot of time pumping this time round. Jeez, the hospital pump is hard.  Massive shout out to all the mamas out there that have had to pump, whether to encourage their milk production, or because their babe is hospitalised at birth or afterwards, or because their babe simply won’t latch. It is harrowing.  But massive cheers to the NHS for providing nourishment for hospital mamas, this really makes a huge difference.  Also, whilst pumping is hard, it is a little intriguing to see how much milk you are making – as a mildly competitive person, I kept challenging myself in hospital to make more and more, gallons of milk, feed my Bebette until she rolls out of hospital…. FYI I lost, but it was a good challenge.

As a side note, any newish breast feeders reading should be aware of the symptoms of mastitis (NHS link here).  When it happened to me, it escalated quickly, my boob felt bruised and sore in the morning, it was a bit red, then more disconcerting was the crazy headache and flu-like symptoms I developed that afternoon: I got fever and the shivers and ended up calling 111 the next morning, a Sunday (again!) and was able to get a prescription for antibiotics very rapidly for later that day. Hot showers, continuous feeding if you can, and massaging helps, but as soon as you feel fluey or sick, you need to get medical help asap, as it can be very painful.  *Shout out to my GP mama friends that helped me (and continue to help) with sound advice through these struggles.  Legends.*

The ease with which you can breastfeed may also be influenced by the circumstances, like whether you already have a child running around, and the time of year: last time I was breastfeeding it was spring – summer; I had little vests I could pull down, and limited additional clothing required in the warm weather (yes, yes, U.K. warm so you still needed a second layer…). I also had the time to sit down and wasn’t likely to get a ball lobbed at my head whilst I was feeding.  Shocker! Back then, Boddler was so greedy I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in pulling my top down to get to the food himself. There was almost no spillage or regurgitation. The whole feeding process was quite straight-forward and manageable, except for the odd leak and the teeth *panic face*.

Bebette is quite a different kettle of fish. She likes the warmth and comfort of my boobie area but is less bothered about the actual milk. She also feels more delicate, has a sensitive stomach and needs to be carefully positioned for her feeds.  This is in contrast to Boddler who was like a magnet to the nipple. Bebette needs a compass and guide dog and tends to fall asleep whilst feeding.

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Like my maternity wear this time round, I was armed with a bit more knowledge of what was required for nursing a babe. However when I went through my box of neatly organised maternity clothes (read: pile of clothes shoved in a corner that I wasn’t expecting to see for a loooong time) I couldn’t really find any good feeding tops in there. Just a lot of vests and the odd mamalicious or seraphine number. I had a couple of big shirts but, I confess, I hate ironing. So I am not wearing those.

the B shirt

A good feeding top requires stretchiness and also must be a material that can be scrunched up (or down) without being too thick, and without preventing bebe from breathing or making her get too hot. This time round I also have a decidedly more flabby tummy, and it certainly looks more traumatised with my new tiger stripes second time round. I am acutely aware when I try to cobble together my own feeding clothes (ie two tops on top of each other, one pulled down and one pulled up) there is a very high chance of embarrassing flab-flashing.  I am already getting my boob out, I don’t particularly want to extend the nudiness any further.

So, there’s a legit need for something new – where can I find a good breastfeeding top? After lots of googling in the middle of the night I found my answer.  Say bonjour to The B Shirt. The B Shirt is a breastfeeding dream – it keeps your tummy covered whilst you discretely locate your milkers and latch your bebe on. The B Shirt is stretchy and warm, long enough to cover you and your bottom, and it washes well. And it can deal with frequent washing too. But best of all, the B Shirt does good things.  It supports women that are struggling – more on this below.

The top comes in three basic colours; white, grey and black. No garish flower patterns or bold horizontal stripes that make you feel even more ginormous over here.  The boobie “flap” opens upwards discretely, without a full-on untangling or déshabille exercise, revealing two neat little boobie holes, so you won’t be flashing side boob either. It’s not rocket science and yet it is genuinely so hard to find anything even close to suitable for the job. This has been my saviour.

I particularly like the B Shirt because: (a) a couple of real mamas, who themselves have breast fed and supported numerous other mamas with breastfeeding, set up the business not only to help nursing mamas generally;  but also to raise awareness, funds and provide tops and support to breastfeeding mamas out there who are statistically less likely to continue to breastfeed. According to their research, a major reason women stop breastfeeding is embarrassment. Isn’t that sad?

81% of new mothers start off breastfeeding when their babies are born, however when their babies are just 6 weeks old only 36% are still breastfeeding. This means that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breast milk with all its magic properties is sitting in boobies, ready to go, like a cup of fresh water in the desert, or (more relatable) a delicious steaming pot of coffee on a grey Monday morning, and yet it’s not being served because the barista is embarrassed about the cups he is serving it in. Meanwhile there’s a ginormous advert for Starbucks, with a cup that runneth over, right outside. You get the point.

Money from the sales of the B Shirt and donations will go towards getting those mamas in need the right clothing to do this important job, without feeling embarrassed.  I concur that this top has reduced my embarrassment levels, which are all the higher when there’s also a toddler running around and therefore the possibility of large scale accidental flashing, and much more rushed boob-accessing. A comfortable, affordable top that does good beyond helping you on your breastfeeding journey – pretty epic. (b) it’s called the “B” Shirt – the logo is boobs – it’s like we were destined to be together! And (c) the ladies that came up with this beauty are located in Totnes, which is a magical place in Devon I happen to know thanks to my musical sister and her man who are very happily located there. Side note: it is glorious and definitely worth a visit. (d) they also sell reusable bamboo breast pads which are great.  Another winner, comfortable and environmentally friendly.  Boom.

The one thing missing at the moment with the B Shirt is sleeves, although I expect sleeves are in the pipeline along with more colours.  I also don’t think the lace trim is particularly necessary, but equally it adds something to remind you where the flap is – tired mamas need all the help we can get!  The only good feeding top I’ve found with sleeves is a Seraphine bamboo top, which is super soft, but I can’t find the link to that now, and as far as I’m aware Seraphine doesn’t boast the same mission and aims as the B Shirt so I would rather spend my money with the Totnes ladies.

I’m teaming my B shirt with the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra, available from John Lewis.  It’s a bestseller and I can see why – super comfy, supportive, and easy to get up and down. Also very easy to wash.  Feeding bras have caused me as much angst as the tops, but this bra has done the job and even comes with conversion kit so when you are done feeding you can continue to wear this.  Unlikely, for my fried eggs, but I appreciate the opportunity.

So, that’s me done on breastfeeding take 2 (so far) and what I’m wearing.  I hope this is helpful and good luck you wonder mamas!

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I leave you with this thought of the day.  Really orange carrots.

 

Bronchi Bébés and the bladdy amazing NHS

The last few weeks have been a far cry from our usual pre-Christmas shenanigans. Both Boddler and Bebette were taken ill, and not just poorly with a Christmas cold, they both had collapsed lungs, also known as chest infections, also knows as pneumonia, bronchitis, also known as hospitalisation and – in Bebette’s case – intensive care. It was horrific.

This post is about that experience and – given the nature of the events – probably won’t be as light-hearted as usual. It wasn’t really a funny situation. Actually it was certainement the most terrible thing I have ever experienced. As I write this I will cry as I try to process what happened, which I’ve been politely blocking.

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Northwards we go

The story begins when we optimistically / naively thought we could take our babes on a “quick trip” up North to visit family and friends and do a bit of Yuletide celebrating. I had been fretting about the long car journey (usually 4-5 hours) with Bebette who, up until then, in all her 7 weeks had not managed a car journey *ever* without screaming her head off. I mean the simple sight of the car seat sent her into meltdown. I spent the day packing and prepping a routine to attempt to get her to the North, without our ear drums giving up their day jobs.  Btw the key element of the plan is a bath, which she hates, but exhausts her sufficiently to fall into a deep sleep.

By some miracle my travel baby plan went… to plan, and Bebette slept the whole journey. As did Boddler. Peace. For 3.5 hours (quickest drive ever – thanks Papa FF). We could not believe it. Little did we know that karma was waiting just round the corner. The next days we had some joyous celebrations and visits, until Boddler went to bed and developed a mad temperature. Actual temperature unknown due to my inability to pack a thermometer. We got ourselves so worried, Papa FF went off to borrow Auntie Em’s thermometer at 3am, which obviously confirmed what our hands were telling us – he had a raging temperature and was looking sick as a dog. We cuddled everyone together until daylight and then the next day – a Sunday – we dashed to purchase another thermometer (there were no Braun in the ear ones left, so we got a head scanner – we do not recommend the scanners – Braun in the ear is the way forward). Of course it was Sunday so the doctors was shut, meaning I spent the day frantically scanning Boddler’s head, assessing his behaviour, and consulting friends and family to try to determine what level of panic I should be reaching.  Boddler was coughing a bit, seemed to be wheezy, and breathing quite rapidly, had a gunky eye, was teary and clingy.  And hot. The best advice I got was to “look at the child not the number” i.e. stop freaking out about the temperature and look at how your child is coping with the illness. There wasn’t much I could do about the situation other than wait to see if anything got markedly worse – however every dose of calpol seemed to have a magic effect and Boddler went from lethargic to pelting around the house.  Just to add to the stress, Papa FF had to voyage over to France to say goodbye to his Bonne-Maman.  We had agreed to stay behind in the interests of a peaceful sendoff, but that meant I was left with the two babes and a worried Papa trying to assist from afar.

Out of hours 

Boddler was gradually getting worse and was clearly pretty poorly. A call to 111 confirmed he was indeed unwell, based on all their questions, and ideally should be checked out in person by a medical professional, asap. However I also had 7 week old Bebette, who was very fussy and frankly couldn’t really be left on her own for more than 5 minutes without having a meltdown. I was with my parents, one of whom needed to be in work the next day and the other who has recently had a double knee replacement.  Quandary –  Do I (a) go to the hospital in the middle of the night on a rainy Sunday, with a sick and tired Boddler, tiny un-immunised Bebette, and a tired Grandad, or (b) not sleep a wink, worry all night, fear for the worst until the morning and hope to visit a local doctor asap? Just as I thought I had made my decision, Boddler started to vomit immediately after being given a dose of calpol, and I could not for the life of me understand from the instructions whether I could safely give him another dose or not. I knew then that we had to make the middle of the night doctor trip, even though an appointment at 11pm on the other side of Sheffield was far from ideal. Off we journeyed with Grandad F as my man of the hour, and Boddler did another big vomit upon exiting the car, just to confirm we were doing the right thing.

The initial diagnosis at 11pm was a chest infection, high temperature and some difficulty breathing aka a trip to the Children’s hospital for at least a few days oxygen and antibiotic support. Urgh. Poor Boddler. And poor us as we were not prepared for this. Despite walking around like a bag woman I had not actually packed any useful survival items, particularly not for myself. If you need a glossy scented lip balm or foot massage oil,  I have 5, but clean undies, deodorant and water, negative. By now it was 1am and we were waiting at the Children’s hospital to be seen again. In amongst the drunk teenagers, and sick little people, the triage nurse kindly asked if I had realised that Boddler had a “very high” temperature (oh really? we were actually just passing and thought we would nip in for shits and giggles!) – after a little bit of drama during which Boddler decided calpol was poison, he eventually took it and kept it down, and so perked up no end.  He discovered a whole host of joyous toys to play with (*hospital toys are possibly not the most prudent option if you want to avoid more germs*) – and by the time he was seen by the young doctor on duty, around 2.30am, he was almost back to his normal self. Diagnosis now amended to viral infection with calpolic treatment and basically go home.  I have to say at that point Grandad (who had rocked Bebette into a peaceful sleep on repeat for the past 3 hours with his guns of steel) and I sighed with relief and headed back to the car and home.

Btw – side note – exiting an empty car park at 3am on a Monday morning, with a screaming Bebette and whimpering Boddler was bizarrely one of the most excruciating experiences I have had of late. I didn’t know what was still to come, but at that moment, both me and Grandad, who wouldn’t say boo to a ghost, were using expletives I wouldn’t begin to repeat here, in our attempts to try to find the exit, which seemingly was somewhere in the sky and at an angle that no one could reasonably be expected to manoeuvre into unless they were driving one of those tiny smart cars for ants.  RIDIKCULOUS. Then the car park ticket didn’t want to go in the machine, nor be read, having been rained on and squished beyond recognition by my derriere, and I genuinely contemplated glugging the bottle of calpol and throwing myself under the stationary car wheels.

Home, Boddler breathing and Duchess

Anyway, *trying to hide rage problems* we then spent all day Monday taking it easy and waiting for Papa’s return. Calpol continued to work / mask the extent of Boddler’s sickness.  A bit of a fresh air the next day and we were off back down South to the quiet safety of our own home. Alas, as we arrived at home, at 11pm, Boddler suddenly started to gasp for breath and vomited again. This time he was really struggling for breath, and we knew we needed urgent help. We calmed him down, helping him to breathe and cleaned him up, whilst we called 111 and they sent an ambulance.  After a slightly fraught discussion about who should do what, and Boddler intervening with cries of “MUMMY” in a full yorkshire accent, I was loaded into the ambulance with a weepy hot Boddler, my purse and phone and not a lot else. We arrived at our local A&E with a terrified little Boddler who had decided that every piece of equipment posed a threat to his life and even the oxygen finger reader was number 1 worst enemy.  He was just in his nappy (massive error on my part, why I thought a blanket was sufficient is beyond me), and we were sitting in the waiting area trying to catch a urine sample (too bizarre for words).  After another dose of calpol, Boddler was back in action at the hospital toy station, and at around 4am had made a new friend called Duchess, who politely informed him that he shouldn’t throw anything inside (“my mum says throwing is for outside only” – so true Duchess, I entirely agree) and was mildly shocked when Boddler started chasing her around the hospital and his nappy fell down. Ploof. It was the highlight of my night.  The doctor was again erring towards sending us home with a virus assessment, but I insisted they wait to review Boddler once the calpol had worn off.  Papa FF arrived with Bebette who needed milk urgently, and we all watched as Boddler deteriorated and suddenly was in the emergency room requiring oxygen and nebulisers. Giving small children nebulisers is like a form of extreme torture and anyone that has had the horror of being present during the process will confirm it is sickening to witness. Of course there is good reason for administering such things but it is deeply unpleasant holding a mask over your child’s face.

Fast forward to us being admitted to a ward and Boddler getting a hearty dose of antibiotics, more oxygen reading and beeping, and dodging his oxygen mask at any opportunity.  Time for another quandary: Boddler was not well and had defaulted to screams of “MUMMY” for all communication needs. There was no way I could leave him.  Papa did his best but Boddler was having none of it, it was Mummy or meltdown.  Bebette, who by this time was doing little barking coughs of her own, really did not need to be in the hospital full of germs for extended periods of time.  And our fellow ward friends did not need to have a new baby screaming in the middle of the night. Very reluctantly I sent off my tiny 7 week old baby with Papa, with instructions on locating the frozen milk stocks.  I pulled up my bed next to Boddler, along with a mega breast pump, a hearty supply of snacks and water and tears running down my cheeks.  You cannot be in two places at once.

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Activity walls of joy in the hospital

The next morning, Boddler was absolutely on the mend, playing and exploring, but my Bebette was looking decidedly worse for wear.  Papa had brought her in against our original plan, knowing she wasn’t quite right, but not wanting to alarm me before he got to us.  After I took her in my arms and noticed how quiet she was, and one of the nurses confirmed “that bebe doesn’t look well” I panicked and rushed her downstairs to A&E, where we spent the day being observed. Another long day in bright white lights, listening to the hustle and bustle and drama of a busy A&E.  Ultimately the conclusion was yes, she is poorly too, yes she has bronchiolitis, yes she has a temperature, but there’s not a lot that can be done so go home and rest. Boddler was simultaneously released, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed home, to shower and bed.  We are done! What a nightmare.

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Bebette ups the ante

Alas, the relief was short-lived. After a trip to the GP with Bebette the day after A&E, and confirmation that her oxygen levels were fine, Bebette and I had a troubled night, with her feeding very little, doing little barky/ choking type coughs, and seeming again out of sorts, spiking temperatures. By Saturday morning she was visibly working hard for her breath and couldn’t feed comfortably.  (I made a video so if anyone is concerned and wants to see what a baby working for breath looks like, especially around the lungs and chest area, just get in touch and I can share it – it was useful to film to compare with the previous day to see that it was getting worse).

We packed our bags (being a bit more organised after the night with Boddler and nappy-gate) and dashed to A&E where Bebette was promptly put on oxygen and then opti-flow oxygen.  She hadn’t had any food for a good 16 hours.  Papa took Boddler back home for nap time and food, thinking all was under control.  Then the seriousness of Bebette’s situation really hit me. In my arms, she got very worked up with someone fiddling with her mask and then, suddenly, the colour drained from her face, she closed her eyes and passed out.  My heart fell through my stomach – I mustered a scream sufficient to get most of the emergency team into the room rapidly. Bebette’s forehead flashed spots of angry red and I looked around to see if anyone could explain what was happening, and to gauge if this was somehow normal… all I saw were terrified faces and at that moment I lost a piece of myself. Someone grabbed Bebette from my arms and started to rub her and pat her back, until her colour started to come back and she opened her eyes. There was a huge, collective sigh of relief and most people disappeared from the room as quickly as they had appeared, except the core team who continued to fuss around her and confirmed she needed to be admitted to the ward asap (we had been waiting for a bed for a long time).

I didn’t know what to do other than texting Papa to tell him to get in the car straight away.  I didn’t write much more because I couldn’t compute what was happening to our little lady or what we could do.

PICU

Fast forward a few hours, and a botched transfer up to the ward (it would have been perfect comical material if it wasn’t my beautiful daughter being jostled around) and Bebette is not improving. There’s a lot of talk about the “worst” part of bronchiolitis being days 3 – 5 of the illness. But of course it’s hard to determine when the illness officially begun.

Bebette is getting more and more frustrated by the masks and wires, she’s hungry, she’s absolutely knackered and almost certainly feeling like absolute rubbish as well. The lights are bright, the noise is loud and disturbing, she’s telling us she has almost had enough, and we are starting to really panic.  We start mobilising friends and relatives to look after Boddler because we need to be with Bebette.  Together, Because it is really serious.

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The paedeatric consultant, the same woman that discharged Alex two days prior, was brilliant and explained to us that there were two potential routes forward; one presupposing this is the worst day of illness, and that Bebette starts to improve, then more oxygen, more monitoring, antibiotics, lumbar punctures to check for bacteria in the brain (she did explain this in more detail to allay the immediate heart attack reaction – but as I’m clearly not a qualified medical professional I am just giving you the layman’s highlights) and hopefully home soon… the other was more terrifying yet, sedation, intubating, travelling to another hospital where they had paedeatric intensive care, … The consultant clarified that by intubating Bebette and allowing her body to rest, and a machine to breathe for her, we were giving her more chance to fight the virus, whatever it was that was causing her lungs to be infected and one of them partially collapsed.

As the time went by, the doctors multiplied, they came and observed the little lady, frowned, muttered, and eventually decided on the second option. Cue more sobbing from this mama, as I saw my tiny baby girl being wheeled up to theatre to be knocked out and intubated. Then the anaesthetist team pitched up and this is where the experience got even more crazy: we were made to feel very safe, very comfortable, to the point that Papa and the team were cracking jokes.  Terrible jokes, but jokes nonetheless. Everything that was happening was clearly explained to us, we were offered a hot drink whilst they were doing their work, we reviewed the X-rays with the consultant, and the next thing we knew we were in an ambulance, it was 2am, Bebette was safely tucked into a little space rocket, and again we were being offered a biscuit and a drink for the journey.  As a tired and hungry breastfeeding mama, I actually needed that biscuit.  It was just so thoughtful.  The chap leading the team and driving made everything seem normal and explained we were going to have the blue lights and sirens on just because “we will just get there a bit faster – don’t worry about it”.  The South Thames Retrieval Service even gave Bebette a little teddy, which she had with her all through the journey and which is now in her bed.  The service and the team were just fantastic.

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Socks were also critical to keep tiny tootsies warm – we were lucky enough to have a newly knitted selection.

So we arrive with our entourage at Denmark Hill PICU and are greeted by another team of legends who tell us to go and sit in the parents room whilst they get Bebette comfortable. Thirty minutes later we are allowed to see her and she is all wrapped up, with her little teddy, and her special fox blanket from Grandma that I managed to grab on the way out of our house, what felt like days ago.  She has wires and tubes and tape all over and I find that I’m sobbing again, feeling crap and useless, my poor tiny little scraggle and I can do nothing to help her. I’m a waste of space. I’ve had a daughter for a grand total of 8 weeks and I haven’t looked after her well enough.  I haven’t told her how much I love her and how much I want to love her.  I don’t know her yet.  Not being able to take my baby in my arms was heartbreaking.  Seeing her tiny body frozen, rhythmically breathing but, to the uninitiated eye, lifeless, …. I can’t even find the words.  We have not had enough time.  My body aches to hold her and feed her and to comfort her.  I can’t look at Papa FF.  I feel broken.

I knew she was as safe as she could be, but she wasn’t with me, and it felt all wrong.  I was simply not prepared for anything like this to happen.

For what was left of that night, Papa and I curled up on tiny sofa chairs and tried to sleep, between tears.  By this time we had mobilised family support and had anxious relatives waiting to hear what was going on, but we couldn’t really provide much by way of update. Those days were the scariest days of my life so far. I just did not know what could happen.  The team in the PICU were unbelievably fantastic, supportive, reassuring, took the time to talk to us and answer Papa’s 4,590 questions (one of them who was partially deaf had a lucky escape and missed half of the French inquisition) and were generally mesmerising to watch in action. There was beeping coming from all angles, tubes everywhere, and a cleanliness regime so strict that I found myself day dreaming about antibacterial soap and wearing a giant glove.  During this time, I desperately wanted Bebette to keep getting my milk and so was frantically pumping at regular intervals. If you’re breastfeeding and in hospital you get meals to keep you going. At first I was non-plussed by this, but by the end of my stay I was positively salivating at the thought of my steamed fish and chips and chocolate custard pudding.  Any stress-related weight loss that occurred in the early phases of the drama were rapidly recovered thanks to the NHS food supplies, and Costa christmas coffees.

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We were sent home to get a proper nights’ sleep, and whilst we attempted some sleep, Bebette took matters into her own hands and extubated herself. What that means is she ejected her breathing tube, without asking the doctors to help her out. Forgive the lack of technical lingo. This would have been extremely stressful for the poor nurse caring for her that night, who had insisted we go home to rest, and who herself was 36 weeks pregnant, but she so kindly waited until morning to give us a courtesy call just to let us know what had happened and to tell us not to worry.  As Bebette was managing fine without the breathing tube, she didn’t need to have it reinserted (good news) but she had skipped the drug weaning process which required her to have small doses of various drugs until she was ok without them, rather than going from a high dose to nada cold turkey (not so good).  She spent a day or so frantically and silently crying (very bizarre, poor lamb had no voice), wide awake, which in hindsight was her withdrawing from the drugs.  I had convinced myself she was just very grumpy after so much drama and so many nappy changes, which btw she continues to absolutely hate. Her poor bottom was red raw from the antibiotics and she was just fed the fred up.

Anyway, the story is nearing its close now with a joyous happy ending, as the strong little fighter massively improved in the following days. Blood tests confirmed she had RSV virus, strains A AND B.  This had developed into a lung infection aka bronchiolitis. She did not have a bacterial infection and therefore no lumbar puncture required.  She was very much on the mend and fighting fit after her 2 days in ICU and night in high dependency.  We were in hospital for a total of 7 days from the second A&E visit, and I barely left her side or the hospital room for that time. I couldn’t do anything except stare into space, chat to the nurses in awe of their life-saving skills, mutter as I hooked myself up to the milking machine, question my value to society, and eventually get excited for the steamy, starchy, soggy surprise that was coming my way at 8am, 12pm and 5pm every day.  I can still hear the beeping machines.

Taking Bebette home and cuddling up with Boddler last Saturday was the most glorious thing that has happened to us.  These last weeks have been about realising how lucky we are to have our children and each other, how brave and strong those children are, how fantastic our health service is in emergency circumstances, how much support we are lucky to have from people around us, and how much we should REALLY appreciate every day we get, as parents, partners, members of a family and members of society.

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Please always be grateful for your little ones, please keep a close eye on them during the bronchi season (details and symptoms can be found here) and please don’t hesitate to seek help and get advice from the experts if you are in any doubt about the health of your bebe.

For anyone reading this that works for the NHS, thank you. There aren’t words that can really do this justice, but you are all amazing and we are so grateful.

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An extra special family snap (photo credit: the awesome Russ Jackson Photography)

Babies – how to handle two under twos…?

This post title is potentially slightly misleading: I have no freaking clue how to handle two under twos. Please note the question mark. If you do know any two under two magical tricks or spells – please feel free to share! The title of the this post should really read “how to attempt to survive two under twos” by someone a mere month in.

I remember skim reading a post on the same topic when I was in the mid-stage of pregnancy; i.e. I knew I may be getting into some hot water with two little people to look after, and I wanted to understand more specifically if it was tepid hot, hot hot or freaking boilymcboilerson.  The post was written from both the perspective of the new mother of two, and the new father of two, and to say it was slightly terrifying is an understatement. I have clearly blocked it from my memory now as I can’t recall the specific details, but they were both “au fond du seau” as they say in France – literally at the bottom of the bucket, or more accurately in a pit of despair. They each resented the other. Suffice it to say the boily hot water option was portrayed as being most accurate.

Determined not to let that shocking read get me down, I approached this new phase of life mindful of that old adage “this too shall pass“.  Yes it will be hard, intense, taxing… but it will last such a short period of time, it will be over before we know it. We will be looking back at it and (hopefully) laughing, crying at how quickly les petites change, and generally being delighted that we got to where we are today.  Considering we truly believed we would not have our own children (we even went to an initial adoption meeting) how magical and insane that we are here now with two little people we can call our own.

Two babies is hard. We knew this would be the case. We knew there would be adaptation period and we are very much still in that period. So how are we coping so far?  Here’s the truth, and the reasons why:

Number 1 : Monsieur FF. We literally could not function without him right now. Everyone needs a partner just like him (for the avoidance of doubt he’s not up for grabs, sossles, but he could happily offer up some tips to fellow malians over a beer).  The man has just survived 9++ months with a grumpy, super-sized wifeball of hormones; he is then accosted with the broken version of that wife ball, still with a John Wayne waddle, plus an additional, smaller wailing ball of hormones. This is to accompany the existing Boddler who incidentally is rapidly approaching terrible twos with a vengeance. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him: let’s be honest he brought this on himself, and he also got off pretty lightly in the grand scheme of things (quick reminder that it was the wifeball that carried and birthed the bebette). However, credit where credit is due, Monsieur FF is going above and beyond on father and hubber duties right now. Cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the Boddler in a happy place whilst maman is losing her sh*t silently in the room next door.  You are a legend Monsieur FF.  As I keep saying to him, this time will pass and we will look back and laugh. Meanwhile, just enjoy the craziness that is our life right now. And try to shower. In that five second window you have to yourself.  That is more important than researching holidays…. (Anyone that knows him will appreciate this man does. not. stop).

Also just a quick sidenote that I can’t put into words how much I take my hat off to those single parents out there that are parenting solo: epic levels of kudos to you.

Number 2: Boddler is in nursery. That’s right, I’m basically cheating. I am not really caring for two under twos at all. I’m caring for just one most of the day.  That said, the hours where we are doubling up are intense.  I’m still only a month in so things will change in the next weeks, but so far Boddler has continued in his usual routine at nursery with some surprise visits and treat days out interspersed.  This is working really well for everyone as it means he continues in his routine and isn’t too discombobulated by all the changes going on at home. It means we know he is properly watered and fed so that if we end up having a crazy soiree of screaming madness (there have been a couple) and I can only prepare cereal and cheese for dinner, he’s not going to starve.  If I’m beyond tired and have Bebette attached to my boob, it’s ok that we just read some stories with raisins, because I know he’s had a good day of energy releasing at nursery.  And when Papa gets home, we do our best to both have some time where we are completely focused on the Boddler. Nowadays bath time and story time are particularly raucous.

Number 3: Books are your friend.  Luckily the arrival of Bebette has coincided with a deep and intense love of reading for Boddler. By that I mean when he goes to bed, he needs at least three books in his bed with him.  And he needs the light on so he can work through each of the books, silently studying the images (I assume he’s not studying the words but wouldn’t be surprised obvs #childgenius).  That is after we have read the stories to him.  Whenever he gets a bit distressed, because Bebette is getting in the way of him having a cuddle with mummy, or he starts to throw things in my direction with a menacing look in his eye, I simply offer up a story and off he poddles to fetch the relevant story and plops himself down so we can get on with reading.

Number 4: Building bricks are your friend. Ok, I work at LEGO so I’m slightly biased towards DUPLO bricks. Seriously though one box of the fantastic plastic is good for a LOT of play.  Boddler FF can happily sit for tens of minutes building towers, trains, farms, “colicoptas”, and generally having fun creating and ensuring the bricks are in some sort of colour order.  It’s quite mesmerising to watch.  The only negative (aside from the damage to feet when you inadvertently stand on the stuff) is the noise – if I’ve managed to get Bebette to nap somewhere that’s not on me (hard, but not impossible), then you can rest assured that the sound of Boddler tipping his bricks all over the floor and then throwing himself into them will wake her up.  I recommend parental assistance in preparing the bricks for play and tidying up afterwards.

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Concentration levels: HIGH.

Number 5: Snacks are your BEST friend.  The first night I went to pick up Boddler on my own with the Bebette in tow (in the soft sling which was an error; not robust enough for Boddler-catching movements – recommend the BabyBjorn) I was reminded of the critical importance of having a snack handy at all times for bribing. Bribery goes against everything that I am, except in these circumstances.  I needed to get Boddler into the buggy and I needed not to tip Bebbette onto the floor, or give either of them concussion with a head clashing incident. The way to do this? Offer up a snack. Boddler leaps into the buggy and practically straps himself in, panting for his carrot crisp or handful of raisins.  Not entirely strapped in of course, and again, being completely honest I cheated in this specific case  because a fellow kind mama saw me flapping with Bebette dangling out of my coat, and rescued me, ensuring Boddler was properly and safely strapped in.  But I’ve since mastered the art and can also casually push the buggy with one hand whilst ensuring Bebette is fine with the other #winning.  I confess that there are certain things which were not available in abundance before, which now may be more frequently consumed due to arm’s length availability. For example, chocolate or “lolott” as some people call it. For some reason* there is usually some chocolate or cake or a biscuit near me at the moment (in the voice of Ali G it wasn’t me)

Number 6: Slings. Baby carriers. Pouches. Anything to facilitate baby carrying.  One thing you need more than anything with 2+ children is your hands free. There is no time for being trapped on the sofa with a babe in your arms.  I mean it does still happen, and is indeed necessary sometimes (have.a.rest), but if you have to do something with the older one at any point, like prepare food or get them dressed, which is required most day, and your new baby is still fussy and doesn’t like to be put down much (or at all… not mentioning any names…) then you really need to carry the baby in order to function. It means you can do things like get the big one into the buggy.  It also means, at least for the time being, you don’t need to have a double buggy.  Baby carrying is proven to have all sorts of positive effects for you and your babe.

Number 7: Sleep and Eat.  Just whenever you can.  Ok, none of this “sleep when they sleep” anymore – that simply doesn’t work when you’ve got two under twos. Boddler is going to wake up at 7am, or before, whether you like it or not. Bebette is going to need feeding at random intervals throughout the day and night, and will get colicky in the evening.  You need fresh air, coffee and food in your cupboards so – frankly – there isn’t really much opportunity for napping. You have just got to power through and go to bed when the little one lets you.  Ensure you eat because aint nobody got time for a hangry mama.

Number 8: Support network.  Second time round you won’t have you NCT group or equivalent.  I mean you hopefully still have your crew, I certainly do (check out my post on their awesomeness here), but we are first to ’embark’ on the second pregnancy in our group, and so it’s a bit different to the first time when we were all popping at the same time. Most of my crew are happily sleeping through the night and are well beyond worrying about breastfeeding and colic.  However, they are still as supportive as ever.  I’m also lucky enough to have a group of friends who have recently had number twos (lols – I mean babies).  Late night whatsapping, in-between crazed amazon priming, helps to maintain my sanity.  All you ladies rock.

Number 9: Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t forget these babes won’t remember any of this madness. You and your partner will, but even those memories will quickly fade.  Enjoy each day, and be grateful.  If you feel really, really stressed, watch an episode of one of the shows where someone is managing multiples e.g. these quintuplets.  That will quickly remind you that you can totes manage this.

Big love and lots of luck to you x x

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Bebette: Things I had forgotten about having a newborn

Despite the fact we were first time parents only last year (!) it is amazing how quickly you forget the highs and lows of newborn life. Here are a few of the things that I had entirely forgotten

New bébés are light as a feather. Literally a tiny baby pillow feather. Be warned: if you have a Boddler and you’re picking them up interchangeably, be sure to adjust to appropriate power levels. A few times Bebette has nearly hit the ceiling, and Boddler has been subject to some enormous groans as I collapse under his comparatively ginormous poids.

New bébés sleep a lot. Like a real lot. Except maybe not so much at night, and generally not so well if not on a warm humanoid. The combo of the first and second points above (light and sleepy) means you can cart or push them around to your heart’s content without worrying about very much at all. They don’t roll and they don’t need a high chair.  They won’t demand snacks and start crying uncontrollably when you try to get them in and out of the buggy. You can pretty much just plop them down somewhere cosy and safe and they are good. You can even keep them attached to you for hours and they are perfectly and deliciously happy. Hello walk! Hello restaurant! Hello hot coffee! (Although NB if eating and drinking with a Bebe attached be extra careful – best to drink tepid tea rather than risk an accident).

Bebe nappies are tiny. And they don’t like not having their nappy or clothes on. They don’t like it one bit. I recall this with Boddler and now with Bebette – there is nothing more sinister to be subjected to than a nappy change AND subsequent change of vest/ attire. Full and highest pitched screaming is required from the point at which they are laid down to the moment they are back at chest (read: boob/milk) level. The nappies are rather spectacular and somehow contain the most challenging of liquid ejections. I don’t know if Bebette is just more ladylike than Boddler FF but we seem to have had less poonamies so far (*touch wood). However I do get a sinking feeling each time I hear a squidgy spurty fart noise. Nappy change, potential full outfit change,… I need a moment to prepare and ideally some earplugs.

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Such a tiny nappy and yet it looks so massive! Bundler in action – no need to undo poppers. Boom.

Breatsfeeding is a challenge. It does hurt at the beginning. Just because you’ve done it once already doesn’t necessarily make it painless the second time round. Days 3-5ish are intense, sore and generally a bit uncomfortable. You need to feed all the time (at this point you don’t really have many other options if they are crying; stories, bribe snacks and Peppa Pig are not yet functional. You’re trying to understand this new baby and you only really have a couple of tools to work with – food and warmth/nappies). You do find yourself wincing with each latch. Then it is suddenly fine. Everything feels comfortable again. And it’s so worth it. If you are able and willing, it’s joyous.

Side note: last year I did a post on breasts and breastfeeding, check it out here.

I have the opposite problem to most people when feeding, which is trying to control the rapid flow of milk I have to Bebette and not all over the sofa / neighbour / carefully prepared meal. I have a rapid or heavy letdown (whatever it’s called – reminds me of Mean Girls and the lady with the heavy flow and wide-set VG) and a delicate little lady – basically I’m asking her to do a “down in one” for every meal and that’s a tough ask. She can’t handle my milk at the speed it comes out. So we have painful gas, a little bit of reflux and a lot of leaked on, milky clothes and bras, a high turnover of nursing pads and a residual atmosphere of damp cheese factory. Mmmmm.

New babies can sense when you’re about to eat and will do everything in their power to ensure you know they also need to eat. I find this truly amazing but as it only seems to affect me and my dinner directly, few others in the house see the remarkable coincidence. No matter what time, and seemingly in no way linked to Bebette’s normal feeding routine, whenever I’m about to be presented with hot food, it’s like my saliva sets off an alarm in her and she starts screaming. It is simply inconceivable that I should put Bebette down somewhere to eat prior to feeding her. And that is the case even when I “strategically” feed her right before. “Strategically” in quotes because I’m not sure my brain is up to anything purporting to be strategic or logical or planned…. but you know what I mean.

Then after urgent feed, she’ll likely poop. Bon appétit! Who needs to eat anyway?

The newbie poos are insanely colourful. Bright yellow bright green with little bits in… joy. On the plus side they really don’t smell. Lucky then I’m permanently attached to Bebette so know when they have arrived thanks to the machine gun farts. Otherwise I’d have no clue. Unlike with Boddler where you need to exit the room to breathe before going back in to remedy the situation.

How quickly they grow out of clothes in the early days. Newborn, 0-1 month, the tiny little items you either have in abundance or perhaps you don’t have enough of. Either way before you know it, literally two weeks in, they are starting to fill out. 3 weeks in and the big giveaway that she’s growing: Bebette’s toes are at the end of the little footsies and the legs look like they are starting to pull. THREE WEEKS! That’s not fair! Why do they grow so quickly? Or is it just me and my sugar milk that is made up of 70% cake and chocolate?!

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One hand you say?

You have to function with one hand. I’m writing this with one hand on my phone. You have to get on with life with a little milky hot water bottle attached to you either at the boob or in a sling. Eating in treacherous (as mentioned above), hot drinks must not be hot, you mostly only ever have one hand available for Boddler patting or trying to clean, and any time you do have your body back to yourself, there’s a 70% chance that there is someone crying somewhere in close proximity to you. I had forgotten that you literally can’t go to the loo or for a shower without a screaming serenade or taking the little one in with you. Given that Bebette isn’t a massive fan of any of her sleep receptacles yet, I have to rely on Papa to take over the snuggles and “release me” to the bathroom. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t have this problem second time round but it seems not…maybe I’m the cuddle monster…

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Off we go into week 4 – wish us luck!  Next post will be on the initial learnings with two under twos 💓💓

 

 

 

 

Bebe Bag – hospital essentials

Packing my hospital bag first time round was like a magical, mystical birth preparation ritual. The bag itself, the precise contents, the order in which they were packed… Pretty sure I did it at around 30 weeks pregnant, and it required extensive research and numerous *special* shopping trips, with a fellow preggo, to ensure all the essentials (and the rest) were covered. The bag was by the front door months before Bebe FF arrived – in fact I think it actually gathered some dust.

The second time round and I only got to thinking about the bag around 36 weeks; it was all a bit of a shambles. Like many things in my life at the moment, I started doing “the bag” and before I knew it I was lost in the dark depths of a wardrobe, knee-deep in Bebe FF’s old baby stuff, looking for an old nursing bra I didn’t even like, and listening to Hokey Cokey on repeat. Even locating a suitable bag was a challenge and I almost ended up going to hospital with a Trunki. When I got back to focusing the bag a week or so later, I actually genuinely couldn’t think what to put in it except pants. And PJs. And a snack  – obvs. I quickly realised why: to plan what went in the bag I would actually need to get to grips with what was about to happen. I would be giving birth and no matter how joyous that is, it’s also a little bit scary.  And the “planning process” also reminded me that I had no real clue what would happen on the day we would eventually go to the hospital, no matter how much I wanted to be in control.  I knew that from first time around. You have a theoretical birth “plan” but really what you’re going in to do is have a baby and there isn’t much more of it that you can actually plan….

When I was going stir crazy at 40 weeks I salvaged the bag packing situation and properly packed a bag for me and one for bebette.  Tip: You’re probably best having two bags. Especially as you will be instructing  your other half to do some of the critical bag-searching when you can’t move / are otherwise occupied pushing a baby out, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to locate things. If your partner is anything like mine, when asked to locate a particular item in a receptacle containing a number of items, the receptacle suddenly becomes a Mary Poppins style bag and the item requested is some sort of other worldly object the partner has never heard of. “Can I have my lip balm please?” Silence. Blank look. “Leep bolm?” *Monsieur FF plunges into the baby bag, pulls out a tiny nappy, is redirected to the mama bag (should have clearly labelled them…) and rifles around for about 15 minutes, spilling items all around the floor and eventually pulls out giant pants*: “Zis?”

I thought it would be worth a quick blog just to note what I took and used, whether it can help to prepare you or remind you, or make you laugh at the ridiculousness depending on which journey you’re on.  If I were a man looking at this I would probably be guffawing by now: “It is so typical of women to need a special detailed shopping list, and dedicated blog, just for the things they need to go to the bloody hospital! Pants and keys! That’s all tha needs! What a kerfuffle!” (*Yorkshire man, possibly my dad*) Well, men, when you’ve grown a human for nearly 10 months and then eject it from your body in a foreign place with foreign people all around you, and with those people playing with your bits and your bits being totes out of control, THEN you can come back and give us your fantastic opinion. Plus FYI menfolk, you would probably forget your pants and / or keys anyway. The hospital bag is not only essential (no one needs to be unnecessarily nude in the hospital) but may bring you a little bit of relief, even joy, at a very emotional time.

First and foremost: the pantaloons. You need giant comfy pants. Accompanying these are your maternity pads. However your bebe comes into the world you will spend the next 6 weeks or so leaking. The hospital will provide you with some pads whilst you are there but they don’t have any sticky. You need stick. You can get the giant maternity pads from chemists, most supermarkets and you can also try the organic variety available on Amazon.

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Actual size of maternity pad

Second: milk / feeding essentials. If you’re breastfeeding I strongly recommend some sort of nipple cream. You can also apply your own milk to your nipples (I.e. Rub it around your nipple to reduce soreness – this does work) but in the early days you don’t have milk as such, it’s colostrum and not so easy to get out. I used Lansinoh Lanolin religiously both times and have had no issues. You should pack a couple of nursing bras, in case you’re in for a few days, and some nursing pads, although again the leaky boobs don’t really set in until 3-4 days post partum. If you’re bottle feeding the formula producers have some handy mini bottles ready to go. I have taken one of these packs both times to the hospital just in case anything isn’t working with the boobs. They are also handy for short spates of freedom later.

Third: outfits for the Bebe. Your baby needs to be wrapped up warm. They’ve been in a spa for the past nearly 10 months and funnily enough don’t particularly enjoy being cold and naked. You need blankets, muslins and snuggly clothes. The softer and easier to put on the clothes the better. Despite appearances, the little nippers are hard to get into clothes and don’t always love it. They are also often very curled up and in our case, both times it was Papa’s job to get bebe dressed for the first time.  Zip onesies, soft vests (recommend M+S and Next) and a snuggly hat and cardi were winners for us. Also these awesome little “bundlers” – like a tiny baby nightie, they are open at the bottom for easy nappy change, no poppers, and long enough to keep bebe’s legs warm.

Fourth: nappies for the Bebe. And wipes. Or cotton wool. I’m sure the hospital could help you out with nappies, but newborns can go through them relatively rapidly, and the méconium poos are quite something. So come prepared! Enjoy the little tiny bum size as they grow so quickly!

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Such a tiny nappy and yet it looks so massive! Bundler in action – no need to undo poppers. Boom.

Fifth: car seat for the Bebe. You can’t take your baby home without one so it’s kinda critical. We have the Maxi Cosi Pebble+ leftover from last time and bebette rode home just fine in it. Obviously she looks like a tadpole in there, but she was safe and cosy. We are also reusing our fabulous Morrck blanket which keeps her warm but can be opened up to let the air in once she’s in the warm car.

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A very happy Monsieur FF complete with bebette, headphones to block noise and awesome hand sewn bebe bag from a special auntie!

Sixth: PJs for mama. Take two pairs, even three. I had a couple of nighties with a dressing gown, plus some PJ trousers and top. You never know when your waters are going to break or you may be vomited on so have spares. You go from being very naked to being in a room full of new parents so I would recommend sensible PJs and sensible colours. A satin négligée prolly won’t be ideal (although very comfy I’m sure). If your breastfeeding think about accessibility to the boobs.  If you’re organised and thoughtful, at this point pack a Tshirt/pants for your other half.

Seventh: shower essentials. Your first shower after giving birth is quite an experience. You will be shaky and smelly and gross. When you have the shower you will feel human again. Your body feels lighter and thanks to the painkillers you mostly can’t feel anything. Take your favourite shower magic to make the experience even more pleasant. You will probably be showering with a midwife or someone else in tow though, so I don’t recommend bringing your full puff ball and exfoliation equipment.

Eight: snacks.  Now it depends how long you’re in hospital and what stage you’re at but these are critical for both your and your partner’s survival. Hospital shops, despite having a captive market (or perhaps because of that??) have a fairly grim and limited selection of goodies. Think easy to eat, energy boosters that won’t irritate your stomach, like M+M peanuts, cereal bars, haribos, candy kittens (yum!) Pom bear crisps, nuts, fruit, lots of water and energy drinks if you can handle them.

Nine: music, films and reading materials – if you’re in for induction you’re likely going to be there a while, especially if it’s your first, so pop your kindle or some trashy mags in for light relief as you start to experience your contractions. If you’re organised, you should download some series / films onto your portable devices and sit back and relax. You won’t have the same level of calm for a little while after all this…

Ten: pillow – both times I’ve taken my own pillow, just because there aren’t hundreds available in the hospital and it feels safe and smells of my bed.

Eleven: cooling off equipment and lip balm – water spray and flannels, lip balms galore (take a BIG one so your partner can find it in the bag…).  I personally didn’t get round to using these much as things went too rapidly but I often see OBEM ladies enjoying a nice cool flannel and your lips will get dry, especially if your sucking on that gas and air.  Also the maternity ward can get very snuggly, so if you’re in there any period of time, the cool spray will likely come in handy.  I also packed a Spacemask but that was a little optimistic. I could have used it during the induction, but I enjoyed it more in a short nap I was permitted in the first days post arrival of Bebette – interstellar relaxation indeed!

Twelve: change for the car park. Hopefully your partner will be on top of this but again, best to be prepared. You don’t know how long you will be there for and the last thing you want is a congratulations fine from the car park warden (btw I think it’s outrageous that the wardens even do the rounds but that’s a separate battle to be had another time).

Last but not least: your hospital notes!

So there we have the essentials in my humble opinion. Good luck with your packing and the journey that lies ahead – wishing you a beautiful squidge of a bebe!

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Bises from us 4 x x

 

Birthing: the real deal (I’ve done it twice)

Warning: graphic content!

Last week, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Bebette FF came flying out of me and into the world. Our second baby in as many years. It was an experience I won’t forget (unsurprisingly) but what was surprising was that a mere few hours after the birth, I found myself describing it in a way I never imagined I would: it was empowering. Exhilarating. Bordering on joyous. I can’t quite go so far as to say pure joy as it was bloody painful but it was dangerously close.

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I want to document the birth, and compare with my first. I want to be terribly honest. I hope for anyone preparing for birth this won’t scare you, but it should prepare you for a couple of scenarios out of the many, many permutations that labour can present. Like an episode of OBEM. You can stop reading at any time. If you’re not yet having a baby but contemplating it, I hope this gives you something to look forward to, as it truly is an unbelievable adventure. And if you will not give birth or have a penis and so avoid the whole birthing process then I hope it makes interesting reading nonetheless.

Giving birth is scary. It is gory. It is risky. There is no guarantee you will come out with what you went in with. That’s the terrible truth. Even more scary when you’ve done it once and you know what’s coming.  I remember my sister telling me her second birth experience was “amazing” – I couldn’t understand how she could possibly say that – the result is amazing, sure, but actually going through a labour I couldn’t quite fathom how the intense pain and effect on your body could be described as ‘amazing’  … but now I understand; she was right.

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In summary, I had Bebe FF (#1) at 39+5 after labouring for 2 days. That sounds like a long time but it really wasn’t. The first 24-36h was perfectly manageable, but towards the end quite uncomfortable and there was *some* moaning.  As many people will confess, we went to the hospital too early the first time. It’s all new and a bit daunting and you genuinely can’t tell if you’re barely started or (you hope) if you’re in full blown labour and are just really hardcore. I was the former: I was 2cm dilated, and encouraged to go home to labour some more in peace – this was not welcomed at the time, especially with a 30 minute drive each way, but in hindsight very much appreciated. I had my bouncy ball, my Tens machine, my mum, and The Devil Wears Prada at home and in the end the day went quickly. I even had a bacon sarnie before we headed off for the second entry attempt. By that time I was uncomfortable and the drive was painful. Once I got to the hospital the second time they admitted me (I was 4-5 cm and my waters went when they were checking me so I was safe! This is established labour.) I immediately asked for the epidural. You should know I have no qualms about taking the drugs. All the drugs. Except pethidine. I don’t like the sound of it and I’ve heard stories of floppy babies, so I simply said no to that. I don’t feel the need to prove my tenacity in these circumstances: I’ve made a baby, I’ve carried it around for months, now let’s get it out as quickly and safely as possible. The epidural seemed to be a good call and as I went into active labour and started moooing I felt very self-conscious and needed to be muted. The epidural came relatively soon thereafter, mildly daunting having it put in between contractions but the medical staff obviously know what they are doing – and then followed a strange period of calm. Hours of calm. Just lying back and waiting for someone to tell me I was fully dilated. The epidural didn’t work entirely and one area of my body was less numb, but it was still doing the job. Once you have it you can’t move around so I was literally a beached whale. Or fluffball fat cat.

Waiting for the epidural like

I couldn’t sleep so I just sat and waited whilst various midwives came in and out, writing notes and checking we were ok. Monsieur FF took the opportunity to snooze and was happily snoring away in the chair next to me, along with the Mothership, who came along for the ride and was dutifully working her way through the snack supplies because the waiting was long (compared to when she was the one in action (X4) I can quite imagine!). Finally after what felt like many hours someone confirmed I was fully dilated, but that we had to wait another hour or so for the epidural to wear off. I should note that whilst all this was happening my good friend was over in another nearby hospital in the process of giving birth to her first daughter. Not that we were racing or anything…  but this delay was not ideal. In fact during the wait and push phase she pipped us to the post. Anyway we waited and waited some more and eventually I was told it was time to push. HURRAH! I started to compute I was about to have a baby. Alas, I hadn’t envisaged what the “push phase” would be like and 1hr of hard pushing later things were getting frustrating. I couldn’t feel a thing, despite waiting the extra time for the epidural to wear off. As such I was being told when my contractions were (on the screen) but could not work with them as I had no clue when they were actually coming. Also I genuinely didn’t understand how to push. Sounds stupid, but the more the midwives talked me through, considering I had no sensation (and seemingly no brain), the more confused I became: so am I doing a poo here or is it something else? Why am I pushing my (triple) chin to my neck? What does “push” actually mean? Where am I?! They told me to breathe down and then in and then take a quick breath out and do some other funky thing, and you know when you actually think about breathing it suddenly seems very complicated? well I pretty much started hyperventilating…

More medical staff were coming into the room and, thankfully, Bebe FF was remaining remarkably calm considering where he was trapped. They started talking about other options (scary) as I ramped up the pushing efforts. Everyone was observing me and kindly commenting: “she really is pushing hard look at her face” … but seemingly to no avail. Eventually I got the “push” right and then the midwife uttered the words you never want to hear … but equally do… “the baby is not going to come out, it’s too tight“. Cheers! But wait…. that’s when the knife comes out and the midwife asks me “are you happy for me to cut you?”. Erm no not really. Strangely I would rather you didn’t cut my vagina. Do I have any other options? The truth is as that point you don’t really, you are going to get sliced somewhere or other. With the medical staff staring at me I say “Ok”. Close eyes, push for my life, Bebe FF emerges, slightly shocked and with a major cone head. Try to open eyes, I have pushed so hard my eyes feel like they’ve popped out of the sockets. “I can’t see!” I squeal and then see a blurry, bloody little human with a curl of blonde hair being handed up to me. Unbelievable emotion. Shock. Legs akimbo, everyone sighing with relief, little yelps from the new Bebe. A wave of relief washes over me. Monsieur FF and the Mothership are taking pictures, preparing nappies and clothes and we are all cooing over the little miracle that just made it out of my belly.

Then the horrible part. The stitches. Actually my experience of this was truly horrible so much so I can barely bring myself to write about it. Suffice it to say the slice wasn’t the only injury suffered and the woman that was given the delightful task of repairing me was not in a great mood, and was not being particularly gentle. You’re probably clenching your teeth right now – rightly so. The epidural, which up until now had proved overly-powerful, suddenly wore off and I was acutely aware of what was happening to my nether region. Even the local anastethic jab was not pleasant. In the following weeks recovering from those stitches was the hardest part of my post partum recovery / new motherhood experience by far. I found the instruction to keep them dry just ridiculous. How can you possibly do that? I was not sufficiently gentle with myself and didn’t take it easy enough, and I absolutely should have. Your body goes through so much, you need to force yourself to take it easy those first days (ideally 10-15 days). Do not throw yourself down into chairs with stitches. Do not run up and down the stairs. Do not march around with tight trousers. Try not to cough. Be gentle. They need time to heal. Take comfort that the fact it does heal. But go easy…

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Numéro 2

So that was #1. Longer than I thought but might as well get into the details. #2 was remarkably different. First, she was overdue. Having spent all of week 39 waiting for any sign, teeing up support in case of emergency, largely led by the mothership, and preparing to hospital dash at any moment, no signs came. Having being told repeatedly second babies come sooner and quicker, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Bump was feeling bigger and bigger and my fear of The Stitches Part 2 was getting greater with every growing day in my belly. As you may have noticed I got a bit restless. But I tried to remind myself to enjoy the calm, enjoy my bebe #1 and enjoy sleep. And that was sensible. I was worried about leaving Bebe FF and when the mothership had to go home for a short period between week 39 and 40 I was slightly on edge. Unnecessarily it turned out as the little bebette had not made an appearance.

Finally, at 40+5 I went in to the hospital hoping to be induced (which was possible because of my blood condition (can’t remember if I mentioned already but I have a blood issue that makes me high risk and requires me to jab myself every day during pregnancy and for weeks after)). Our midwife was lovely and she explained the process – you start with a pessary, if it’s not working you have another after 24 hours and then if necessary you move on to the drip. If you’re already dilated they can break your waters. I was having mild contractions but wasn’t sufficiently dilated for a water break start, so I started with the pessary, sincerely hoping that was all the help I would need. We were told the next check would be 24 hours later, cue our jaws dropping, – We do not have enough food supplies!! –  and Monsieur FF checking his watch as this was not part of the plan. I suspect he thought we could turnaround in an hour and save on car parking … luckily after about 3 hours of patient waiting, eating and wandering the hospital halls, including some crab walking action on the stairs (think it works!) the real contractions began. We were in a rather grim labour ward, complete with a couple that considered it acceptable to fart and burp ad infinitum and make comments such as “if a baby is born with teeth will they be removed?” And “you should get them to break your waters as that lubricates the way for the baby”… Headphones on I started to have regular contractions quickly and thanks to the Tens machine, candy kittens and some awesome Spotify work, powered through happily until late evening. By that time all our roommates had gone and we had a very peaceful space to hang out. It was actually quite pleasant. We knew Bebe FF was safe and tucked up with the Mothership. Monsieur FF even took a little snooze (common theme) and this time we both enjoyed all the snacks. Eventually I called the midwife and asked to find out where I was, as I was starting to get uncomfortable. When she checked she said I was 2-4 cm dilated which was rather confusing. One much closer to the epidural than the other. Ok, I’ll keep going but I need some paracetamol. And the epidural soon please. Paracetamol arrived and took the edge off.

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Fast forward 2 hours later, more music, reading and a lot of leaning against the wall and rotating hips on the birthing ball and it’s really starting to hurt. I’m moaning a bit and starting to feel grumpy and nervous, as I still don’t have any real  pain relief. The midwife then appears to monitor the bebette and whilst the monitor is on my waters break. Monsieur FF and I both heard a loud “pop” and then I felt a little stream of warmth. The midwife came back and we both exclaimed my waters had gone. Hurrah! Labour ward here we come! She looked at me like she didn’t believe me and asked me to show her. Maybe it was because she was covering her colleague who was on a break, and wanted some peace, but she was not amused. I was trying to prove that water had just leaked out of my body… Suddenly I feel more leaking and the pressure in my pelvis ramps up. Bebettes head is now pushing on my cervix and everything is going very quickly. “I want the epidural please” I remind the midwife, in between whimpers. “You just need to get to the labour ward first”. A small journey down a corridor but in practice it felt like a marathon distance. I had to stop twice to moan against a wall and when I eventually climbed onto the bed in my new room, back to my more friendly and believing midwife, I almost cried. “IT HURTS!” “Please can I have the EPIDURAL!!”. My midwife starts to prepare the various bits for the epidural and then, hearing my yelps, decides to check my status just in case… “Ok, I’m really sorry Rebecca, but you can’t have the epidural”. “WHAT THA F….” I start to scream and then the brain kicks in (rare at this time) and I realise that means I must be nearly there. “You’re 10 cm and ready to push. Try this gas and air” she says, grinning. Somehow I KNEW I wouldn’t get the epidural despite asking a zillion times. I’m glad I didnt. As I started to reply that the gas and air made me feel sick last time, a massive wave crashed over me and I snatched the mouthpiece and took the deepest breath ever in the history of life. I felt drunk. “Oh M G this is actually amazing! Everyone was right!” Turns out I probably didn’t breathe it right last time. Another brain fail. You have to go whole heartedly into that gas and air.

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Then followed an almost out of body experience; around 8 contractions, each with about four waves of energy. I could feel bebette moving down the birth canal and with each contraction I could help her get further. By this time I wasn’t moaning I was absolutely Pavarotti- style bringing the house down. When she got to the exit, I screamed the loudest I will likely scream in my life. “I’m so sorry!” I whimpered as the contraction passed. It’s embarrassing to think about how much noise I was making but I needed to do it, animal instincts were taking over. “Don’t worry, her head is out!”. For Monsieur FF this was the most captivating part; our daughter had her head outside of me, but was just patiently waiting for the rest to be ejected. The image has stuck with him and each time I wear the bebette in the sling, with just her head showing he tells me it reminds him of the birth. Poor guy. Anyway the next contraction the little crevette was born and the pain immediately subsided. She was passed up to me, this little pink thing with a dark mop of hair and Monsieur FF and I looked at her, and each other and smiled. And then started searching for the source of the dark hair. He checked his watch again – it seems we didn’t keep him waiting too long in the end. You can see from our faces we were equally shocked and delighted.

So for the final hurdle, What’s the damage? I had to have stitches, but this time the midwife was very gentle and the damage was minimal. A mere 3 hours later I was showered and on the maternity ward and Monsieur FF was again checking the time – how long until we can go home? We wanted to get home and relieve the Mothership, share these momentous moments, and congratulate Bebe FF on becoming a big brother.

So. There we go. The full monty. (Great Sheffield film btw.) good luck on your journeys 💓

 

Bumpologie: the magic of pregnancy

 

As I reflect, in the last days of my second pregnancy, on the experience of being pregnant and growing a couple of people in my abdomen, honestly I am still baffled by what has just happened. Je suis complètement bafflé (nb: not a real word – the French would never confess to such a state of mind). You would think after 9+ months of cooking time most people have got their head around what is happening inside them. But I continue to be floored by the whole process; the exact timing and precise, regular changes that happen along the way, the way your body just reorganises to accommodate a watermelon, and the fact that you can readily grow a penis and a brain whilst still retaining at least 56% of your own cognitive function and doing your job/ feeding your family/ getting around/ generally surviving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: how could women possibly be the weaker sex?!

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Like anyone going through the pregnancy journey, I have been excited but also slightly perturbed by the changes that occur in my body. I have tried to embrace the changes and I am always mindful of the privilege that is being pregnant.  However, the second time around it has been quite a different experience to the bubble-wrapped first pregnancy; more nausea, more stretching, more tiring, less bubble-wrapping, less pre-natal yoga, less cake and treats, less time to relax (see below) and to reflect on the milestones and changes (albeit seemingly more time at the very end this time round!!).  Whilst it’s utterly astounding to think that there’s a human inside me, the magical unknown of the exit process is now somewhat ruined.  As such “due date” carries both a sense of excitement and utter fear.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to think up an alternative exit route for this bebe, but there.just.isn’t.one.  YIKES.

Having the privilege of doing this whole thing twice, what did I do differently with the second pregnancy? The main things I’ve learnt this time around:

  • invest in good clothes (Isabella Oliver and Mamalicious remain top faves, larger sizes from Next and Séraphine also tend to wear well).  Towards the end you will wear the same clothes repeatedly. With a toddler, they will be covered in snot and food, so they really need to be durable.  I anticipate I will be wearing some of the trousers for the next few months.  Who wants to give up an elastic waistband anyway?
  • keep up with the belly oils and moisturisers – everyone has different skin and every pregnancy does different things to your body. Nonetheless, the moisturising of bump routine I nailed first time round was not strictly adhered to this time, until the final trimester when I spotted some suspicious looking marks.  Do not risk it and do keep those magic potions going.  My personal preference is the MamaMio range because it just smells so good.
  • don’t push yourself – when you’ve got a toddler in tow there is only so much you can do, and that’s no bad thing. Early to bed is not a crime, plenty of time for midnight parties up ahead.
  • there is no such thing as too many pillows – literally all the pillows are residing on my bed right now. I still can’t get comfy and roll around hurumphing all night, but at least it muffles my whining for Monsieur FF.
  • you can still benefit from a bit of reading. This time I was recommended Bumpology and thoroughly enjoyed it (until I lost my kindle) as a well-informed read by a science journalist au fait with actual scientific facts. There is a lot of speculation about pregnancy and labour and new babies, (and there will always be because unsurprisingly no-one wants to be a guinea pig at these times) but I found the book to be written frankly and some factual basis.  Lawyers love a few facts.
  • you don’t have to eat for two – saddest revelation from the Mothership when she pointed out, mid-way through my pregnancy that “you know you only actually need 200 extra calories per day”.  Not that I care about weight gain during pregnancy (I mean – I obviously moan about it but make no effort to stop eating whatever I need to eat), but when it comes from the Mothership you have to at least take note.  Boo.

I am also taking a moment to highlight some significant lifestyle differences between this pregnancy experience and le premier, i.e. being pregnant with a toddler in tow.

First obvious example: the prescribed “relaxing” before giving birth.

First time round we were all NCT classes, dinner dates, massages, “lots of sleep” (FYI not a real thing when heavily pregnant) and luxury bathing with lotions and potions and tranquil candle vibes in the house. Second time and IF I get a moment (and have the energy) for a bath, I have to, first, locate my bath products behind 15 different eczema potions and baby bath products. Then I have to manoeuvre into the bath around the obstacle course that is various musical fish, mats and safety devices. Once I’m in the tub (“wedged in” is probably a more accurate description), rather than resting my head on the soft bath pillow (which has been relegated to some sort of safety role), I get a sharp prod in the ear from the Nuby Octopus, before having the full foam alphabet assortment raining down on my oversized body. The baby belly that I’ve set out to have some quiet time with is now littered with brightly coloured letters reminding me I’m “OK” (ish) “OH” (so big) “FLABP” (flabby?! Or start flapping because you will shortly be in labour?!).  The letters move around as the bebe on the inside reminds me that my bladder is just one small kick away.  I have some old bath salts wedged in my toes and all around me are luminous receptacles for water, not candles. Cue gentle wails from my nearby Boddler, who, in his sleep, has sensed I may be having a quiet moment and is not at all in agreement. Immense waves of guilt wash over me (the only washing that’s occurring) as I tell myself “this could be the last night it’s just you and me buddy“… so I decide to exit the bath and provide urgent cuddles. As I haul myself out of the bath, and haul is no exaggeration, I make it to standing and notice that I’ve conveniently got an “X” and “L” wedged in my derrière.  Hearing various load grunts and groans, both from me and the bath tub, Monsieur FF calls out “t’es ok?!” (or has our bath just collapsed through the ceiling…???) “I’m FINE.”  Boddler wailing has naturally subsided by now, Boddler is quiet, but energy to re-enter the alpha-bath has depleted, so I give up. Now to find a towel that is bigger than half of my leg.

Another good one is the preparation of le stuff that you need for new Bebe. This preparation process was like a ritual with number 1; neatly washed, folded, laid out or hanging, delicately positioned in certain areas of the house which were previously bare, and well in advance of the little bonhomme arriving… this time, it’s about not mixing the tiny baby vests with the seemingly giant man vests worn by big brother, and using any “relaxing” time to half-heartedly fold neatly in the knowledge that, in a mere few days, the items will be piled in a basket covered in poop and baby milk. Anything strategically placed around the house (anywhere that isn’t already occupied by more brightly coloured FP necessities), like a Moses basket or crib, is promptly given the Boddler FF treatment, namely climbing in or on it, and leaving a trail of snot and dribble, not dissimilar to the star of the Snail and the Whale… except the message he leaves is not “save the whale” but “MINE“. Marking his territory. And technically correct because much of the equipment we are able to recycle given it’s all still fairly new. When it comes to jumperoo time I anticipate some fierce battles…

One rather dramatic change for the positive in the FF house is that we do now actually cook meals at home.  Partially due to the fact it’s pretty hard to go out for dinner when your toddler needs his bed at 7.30pm.  Any of my uni crew reading this are no doubt grimacing at the thought of the ultimate garlic flatbed, carrottes rapées followed by yoghurt surprise. Gousto is a game changer. (If you want to get 50% off your first two boxes try code REBEC269169.) So, now I’m pretty much a master chefette, I’ve obviously prepared weeks of frozen food, all ready to go when we have no time for cooking…. just kidding, we still have a ridiculous freezer which can only accommodate 3 tubs of Ben and jerrys and some frozen peas so I ain’t got time (space) for that. But I have got some delicious protein balls ready to go, if Monsieur FF doesn’t scoff them all before this Bebe#2 arrives.

So what now, what should I be doing in the last few days of freedom? I’m not used to waiting (patience levels: 0) but as I’ve alluded to recently in a few Insta posts, I’m very conscious that this time is really precious – soon we will be in the mad fog of newborn business and our Boddler has to adapt to the fact he can’t have our attention 100% of the time. More importantly for me to compute, I can’t give him all my energy because the newbie will have a number of demands that must be met. So rather than wishing this one would hurry out, I am trying to embrace the calm, the family of three vibes, and enjoy the excitement of not knowing when our lives are completely shifting again… except it had bloody better be within the next 5 days!!! As you can see I’m nailing the embracing.

Just to make life that tiny bit more interesting, in a deftly and ingenious move, Boddler FF has decided that the last days should go his way, and in a way that is bafflé-ing to all around him, including various health professionals, has managed some hybrid mix of chicken pox, foot and mouth, eczema flare up and standard nursery cold/snot-fest meaning he can’t go to nursery (the “normal” I wanted him to retain whilst home life catapults into chaos). Instead of putting my feet up with my super trooper Mothership, (who btw has just had a double knee replacement, but notwithstanding has still come “up” to me from the Great Yorkshire to give me strength and generally do the magic that mothers do at this time) I’m chasing around after the little spotty monkey. Despite the numerous ailments he seems to have energy in abundance. Du coup I’m not sure if his sibling is hiding on the inside to avoid the lurgy, aware of the chaos just outside and staying sensibly put, or – as I suspect may be the case – is brewing an exit performance so momentous that Boddler FF will have to sit on the sidelines for a little while. Let’s wait and see….

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Bebe to Big Bro

As this shock 2nd pregnancy rapidly races towards the inevitable finish line (panic face) I want to take stock of my beautiful Bebe FF and get lost in his joyousness for one last blog. Ok I know *technically* this whole blog is thus far dedicated to him, but so much has happened since he was a little crumpled ball of milky goodness – now he’s a proper little human bean. He can talk and throw tantrums and eat grown-up food.

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I need to document one more time the utter joy that he single-handedly brings to our lives, before Bebe #2 comes on the scene and things forever change again.* Call me hormonal (fair) but considering I’m about to eject a second Bebe I am feeling emotional about the changes that are ahead and leaving him, even for the ejection period …

*just a little side note for anyone reading that’s on the mad journey, dreaming of becoming a parent but not there yet ~ big love and courage to you. We have been there and it’s difficult. It makes you strong. Don’t give up. Miracles happen. 

Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, he will get used to it, he will survive not being the only child etc etc which of course is true – but – it is still a big shift from the status quo. Our status quo. However, my only experience in this area is when my own little sister (the first of three) came into the world around a similar age to the age Bebe FF is now. And yes, to be fair, in actual fact, I can’t remember a single thing about it other than I am delighted to have the three best sisters a girl could wish for. And we are super close. So probably true that it didn’t cause me (or her) any harm and for the long term, I’m confident this will be a very good thing for all concerned. However, short term, Bebe FF is at a stage where he requires approximately 130% of our attention. And we also like (/need) to give him ( – for risk of all manner of accidents occurring) exactly that amount of attention. So how the heckers do we manage to maintain that AND introduce into the mix the all-encompassing experience that is having a newborn? Oh la la la la la. I suppose that may well be my next blog… for now, let me focus on the centre of the universe for the last few weeks whilst he retains that title alone.

If you are lucky enough to have a toddler, I’m sure you can relate to these amazing things about having a mini person:

  • your heart feels like it might explode every time they laugh or cry or sneeze or attempt to say a word or run or basically breathe… basically you’re on the cusp of a heartattack 24/7.
  • listening to them learning to speak is just fantastic. Even if my name is “daddy” I couldn’t be more delighted every time he utters a noise which sounds like a real word. “Poo” made me disproportionately smug; doubly so when he indicated there was a smelly nappy present to accompany the word, so he wasn’t just saying it for shits and giggles. Genius. “EnCCore” confirms to me his bilingual abilities, even if it is often followed by a cheeky grin and a spluttering “peeeeez” <“please”>. Less happy about the declarative “mine!” but in the specific context it was actually his, so….”NON” is another naughty one but somehow in French it sounds … not as bad. So impressed.
  •  The nappy bum makes the running and tumbling all the more amusing. To be fair, I can hardly criticise when I’m adopting a similar waddle, however rather than a comfy large nappy, I have a head down there compromising my usual ability to strut. Ahem.
  • The extreme moods; epic thirst levels upon waking which require visual confirmation that milk is actually about to enter his mouth, otherwise the world could possibly end. Hyper energy when it is time to urgently run in and out of the playhouse 3,568 times just to confirm the doors are all properly affixed. The post-nursery, pre-bedtime hanger and tiredness than usually requires a fromage frais and a good cuddle and story, before the rapid revival effected thanks to a playful bath time.
  • Mealtimes: there is nothing quite like being sprayed with beans and watching a compote being sloshed all over your babes face and the surrounding walls. Once I got over the frustration of food rejection I started to enjoy the challenge of finding something that would make Bebe cheer when presented with his plate. Cheese is a guaranteed winner in our house – so français.
  • The sheer delight in his eyes as he turns the pages of the Gruffalo and Tabby McTat, examining every image and pointy-fingering endlessly. Now he actually likes to be left alone with the books, once we’ve read them 4 times, so that he can double-check we are actually telling the correct story. Takes after his mama.
  • The utter magic that is bubbles. Whether it’s actual floaty bubbles, bubbles in Peppa Pig or bubbles in the bath, “BUBbbbles” bring serious levels of happiness and should probably never end. Like so many “unique” things that Bebe FF does, I privately spent a few moments congratulating myself on my child genius and wondering if it’s Papa or me that gave him the extremely advanced linguistic skills… Then we saw a bubble-maker in the park and the chorus of “BUBELLLLS” from all the little human beans within a 20m radius made me realise we are not alone. Kids are just amazing.

So Bebe FF, as mummy frantically points to her giant belly and repeats 67 times “where is the Bebe??” And you grin and deliberately point to your own little belly, I’m curious to know how you will react to having such a noisy, tiny little distraction in the house. I’m nervous about the short amount of recovery time I’m going to get before you expect mama to be back in working, bending, cuddling order (I anticipate about 5 mins). I’m intrigued to see how Papa takes on this additional challenge and how you will bond and build new memories together as we expand into a family of 4. In short I want to pause time and enjoy you just a little longer – right now I’m watching your little naked bottom squeal with delight as Papa sprays you with water and it’s just the best… , but I also want to jump in to the next level of this adventure. I confess I also – selfishly – just want to not be a beached whale anymore. Pregnancy in quick succession is quite the challenge. But I still remember thinking I would never get to experience this feeling, so I do take a moment to remind myself of that fact when I’m silently muttering expletives. We can do this!

Bebe FF you made all my dreams come true. You make every day magic. I don’t have words for how you have changed our lives and our perspective on what lies ahead. Thank you for being such a delight.

Bumping and Groaning

OOF. I want to start by noting that time is absolutely flying, so much so I will have to interrupt my third instalment on Texas travels to blogulate about being preggo. Sorry about that. Mais why? Because I’m seven months in to this surprise pregnancy already. SEVEN MONTHS. Once Bebe FF2 arrives I suspect, for a short while at least, I will struggle to find the brain power required to even find my blog, let alone write it. So I need to get a pregnancy blog in pronto. Especially since this blog didn’t exist last time I was up the duff, so there’s a fairly important part of the mamahood journey missing from our story. HOWEVER – important note – seven months in I may be, but as you probably well know, that means I’ve got a good 2-3 months to go. Even writing it makes me want to cry a little bit. That’s right people, pregnancy isn’t just 9 months! It’s more like Harry Potter style 9 3/4. And what’s the big deal with those last months? Well it’s hot. We live in a country that is not accustomed to very much heat and that’s problematic when you’re lugging around a hot water bottle in your belly. I’m melting and sweaty and bloated *already* and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t remember it being this crazy last time – but that’s probably because Bebe FF was born at the end of winter, and the only complicated thing about that was finding a jacket and warm shoes that could circumnavigate the belleh and cankles. I could hide under layers and enjoy hot chocolates and mince pies galore. This time I need to find things that are floaty and light, but keep me decent and cover up the numerous areas of my body that are trying to compete with our forever friend Free Willy.  That essentially means the clothes can double up as a (king) bed sheet or a mammouth tent for Bebe FF to play with. (Side note: I should start calling him Boddler FF now.)

Trying to explain to Boddler FF that there’s another Bebe coming to join him is quite a challenge at 17 months. When I ask “where’s the Bebe?” he gleefully points to himself. Specifically his belly (I guess it does sound like “Bebe”) which btw isn’t totally disproportionate to mine considering his tiny stature. Eek. Non little guy – you’re going to be a BIG BROTHER! He grins again. Super. Don’t know what that is but it sounds like it will be delicious.

How can we prepare for a new Bebe with a Boddler requiring all our attention and full time jobs “in-between”?! I think it’s fair to say you can never prepare for a bebe. First or fourth it’s going to be a shock to the system and a momentous life changer. We are trying not to get too lost in the specifics and just take one step at a time. At least we have a vague idea of what lies ahead…

One advantage of the timing here is we have a lot of  the critical equipment  required that’s still in good working order and has not accumulated too much dust. Bottle sterilisers, baby sleep devices, slings… I almost have no excuse to shop… *almost, Monsieur FF, but not quite*.  There is the rather mad question of double buggys. Those things do not fill me with joy. The idea of lugging one around and trying to get in a shop door and not quite being able to make it through is quite traumatic. Imagine if it was a cake shop??! That would be like a form of torture. Sorry no cake for you lady, if you can’t get in you can’t get served. Panic face. So no, I have not got a double buggy and I intend to try and avoid having one at all cost. If I did get one it would be the baby jogger city stroller. But what I’m going to try to do is wear the new Bebe and push the Boddler. And the Boddler will have a little buggy board so in alternative circumstances Bebe will be in the Babyzen Yoyo+ 0+ (can’t wait to test it with a new Bebe) and Boddler will be boarding along. Obviously I will update on how that works out.

As to the pregnancy, for someone that loved every moment first time round, this pregnancy has certainly been a different adventure so far. It’s an absolute miracle, but it’s strange when you have someone you want to devote all your energy to, and yet you are being zapped from the inside in order to build another human being. It’s bloody brilliant that I can do this. I still feel rather superhuman.  But I was not prepared for this on any level. So despite being 7 months in I confess I’m still in shock. I also didn’t have time to kiss goodbye to wine, carpaccio and goat’s cheese so that’s been a bit harder this time round. Right now Bebe is growing into the rather alarming winter squash size, and is almost at the point where a good jab in the ribs and bladder are possible simultaneously. My actual size is probably at least a month bigger than I was with Boddler FF. I am generally more swollen and don’t know if that’s the summer, the type of Bebe or the fact it’s number 2. In all cases I’m not at my most beauteous… The nausea has been more constant and the cravings less severe which is actually a bit less fun – who doesn’t want to do a KFC dash for chicken and gravy on a Sunday afternoon?! This new Bebe apparently.  But I tell you what’s really annoying and got me last time as well: maternity clothes. That’s right, the tents with the tapered side to “flatter your bump”.  Just to be clear, ‘bump flattering’ clothing doesn’t magically transform you into Kristen Cavallari. It makes you look a tiny bit more like a half human half whale than just going for two dress sizes bigger and looking potentially pure whale.

There are some people in this world that are pregnancy unicorns. I’m talking in particular about the media savvy, possibly photoshopped beauties that grace the pages of women’s mags, that women with high hormonal levels naturally turn to for comfort “reading” (why do we torture ourselves?!). True unicorns. They don’t swell or bloat or get extra cellulite. In fact, because they are pregnant they are even more radiant than ever and no doubt have a special healthcare regime, including having a minion work moisturising bear cub milk into their eyelashes, slowly massage placenta-boosting, ultra nourishing essential oil-infused baby dinosaur sponges around their lower backs whilst they are fed omega 3 rich nutrition cookies. These are the ladies that work out happily throughout their pregnancy, and naturally have the full extra-stretchy new gym kit to accommodate their tiny, neat baby bumps, as well as the requisite energy levels. These ladies lose weight and gain muscle during pregnancy. At least that’s what we are led to believe. Not to mention they spend their spare, non-workout time walking around the luxury babe shops in vertiginous heels which for most people on a good, non-pregnant day would require at least serious blister protection. But not for these ladies – they are practically dancing whilst toting the latest must-have bag no doubt filled with healthy almond-based energy balls.  Here are a few examples:

Urgh. Beautiful. Now let’s talk about reality.  At least the experience for most of the normal human population, myself included. My thighs don’t normally rub … well, they didn’t. Pregnancy gives me a special extra layer of thickness all around my thighs. “Pregnancy” or perhaps the food I’m eating or exercise I’m not doing…. it’s all same same. Why? Does the baby swim down there occasionally for a change of scenery? Er NO. Is it providing extra warmth? Yes. In summer. Just what I need. And what about my arms? Previously manageable bingo wings are now like giant eagle wings, they could knock a person out if they get too close. Am I storing milk in them? Not that I’m aware of. And a new one for me for the summer: double cankles. That’s right. I can’t blame pregnancy for my cankles which I proudly inherit from a line of strong (therefore thick-ankled ladies), but I had not appreciated they could expand further and start to engulf my feet. Heat plus pregnancy = canklesquared. So those shoes that the ladies above are trotting around in would literally not go over one of my toes right now. Not to mention the fact the heel would immediately splinter into a thousand pieces. Boom.

Maternity clothes for the normal pregnant lady that are big, floaty, eagle-wing, cankle-covering…. where does one find these delights? Can someone please tell me why maternity clothes are not available to  try in stores? Is it because they take up too much space in the store? Is it because they are so horrific and eye-offending that it’s best to make them available only online? Is it because stores are embarrassed about the lack of effort they’ve put into their maternity range? Or perhaps it’s because it’s not the most lucrative product in store – after all it requires double the amount of material and triple stitching to prevent popping. Perhaps that’s why they use the worst, most garish fabrics in the history of the world? I did a brief stint as a fashion lawyer but surprisingly I don’t recall particular legal battles around this highly important issue. That said it was for one of the few stores that actually bothers to stock clothes in store so big kudos to Topshop.

The one time I really need to try stuff on because I have no clue what maternity size I am, I can’t. Maternity size may mean the same size as pre-pregnancy but just with the elastic magic, ot you could suddenly find yourself going up 1-3 dress sizes. Luckily I’ve never had an issue with the number inside my clothes, provided it fits right and is comfortable I don’t care if it says 8 or 18. However in pregnancy attire, at a time of particular self-consciousness, going for maternity XL does make me rather nervous… have I really gone too far this time with the peanut butter on butter on toast? Am I growing a giant… logical next thought is how the heck do I get it out?!

This time round I’ve learnt to spend a bit more on a few nice pieces and accept the fact I will wear them repeatedly. Last time I made some bad choices late into my pregnancy, panic buying items that were nasty material, colours (poo brown anyone?) or that bobbled straight away. Last time I lived in H+M jeans, another store that, at least in London, bothers to stock in store. Thank you H+M. I also had a lot of GAP shirts and tees and Seraphine work items. The GAP stuff in particular was very comfortable and durable. Useful as this is the most effort I’ve ever put my clothes through!  This time I’ve tried out the pricey but high quality Isabella Oliver and got some more Seraphine dresses, as well as one of my favourites Mamalicious available on Asos. I have to say I don’t really recommend the Asos branded stuff itself as it seems pretty low quality, not up to the job, although I don’t love Asos generally so that could just be me. Asos is however very easy and it does provide helpful essentials like bump bands, tights and tees. It’s also the one stop shop for plenty of other brands e.g. New Look which also has some good basics – I’ve often been recommended their jeans.

If anyone is reading this in the fashion biz, please take note. We may only be pregnant for a short period of time in the grand scheme of life, but anything you can do to make this crazy time more comfortable and less eye-offending would be amazing. Merci!

Ps Happy Bastille x

BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas Baby! (Part 2)

Ok, now for the part that’s actually about Texas. Not the most obvious holiday destination, I accept. Beaches are few and far between, the only sand we played with was in a pit in the middle of the city, and I didn’t see one single coconut. However if you like to adventure and experience different cultures, and you have a fidgety boddler AND husband, it’s a fairly superb option. Pourquoi pas?

When you think about Texas what do you imagine? (If you’re from Texas obviously skip ahead!…) Cowboys? Guns? Wild West style desert lands? Horses? G W Bush and his predecessors? Atronauts? Did you think of Beyoncé? That fierce woman that has taken over the world? Texas is full of surprises. One thing that is definitely confirmed from our trip is that “everything is bigger in Texas”. Cars, the road, the food portions, even the human beings… and by that I mean taller, stronger, and generally appearing to be extremely healthy. I guess that’s partly thanks to the glorious Texas sun (which apparently transitions to hellish over the peak summer months but for our purposes was more than enough). There’s also the awesome food that keeps them functioning. We learnt the hard way that the trick in Texas is not to actually eat ALL the food. In fact, you take half away at the end in a “doggy bag” for you meal the next day or whatever. As diligent eaters brought up to finish our plates (otherwise no pudding – PANIC FACE), we had to reassess our manners and eating skills. Luckily Bebe FF is upping his eating game and was able to provide some limited assistance: even if he didn’t actually eat the food, he played with it and tossed it on the floor such that it felt like it had had a worthwhile journey to our table.

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So where did we go with our bundle of energy and bunnette in the oven? First stop was a flying visit to Houston, and a baseball game thanks to our legendary GOMO. Full on Texas experience within 24 hours of arriving; we came away kitted out with ball caps, sticky Blue Bell ice cream hands and a win for the Houston Astros. BOOM. I already mentioned Papasitos too – epic TexMex. We started and ended with it and it was ultra-delicious. Dammit every time I write the name I dribble a lottle.

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Then onwards to Austin, a couple of hours in the mega- mobile and a hotel right next to the Texas university campus.  In Austin we were lucky enough to have a hit list of restaus and things to see. We sampled the Texas staples that are “biscuits” (scones to you and me), traditional TexMex breakfasts of Huevos Rancheros, the famous Franklins BBQ (2 hour wait with a boddler was a challenge but we powered through with snacks and games) – when we made it to our steaming heap of meat, Bebe FF pounced on… the white bread?! (used to mop up the BBQ deliciousness). We had two super brunches at Snooze, and their OMG french toast came out as a top fave. We were impressed with the welcome reception we got almost everywhere we went with Bebe FF – restaurants went out of their way to accommodate him with crayons and colouring and special Bebe-friendly drinks. Often the former ended up in the latter but no one seemed to care too much. Everyone had baby seats and they were happy to use them. TexMex was a staple for him too, the rice and beans in particular warranted a hearty eyes-closed “MmmMMM”.

We visited the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which was my first experience of really trying to concentrate and Bebe FF doing everything in his power to prevent me from succeeding (along with the 500 school children that were also touring the museum). Bebe FF obviously decided that he would rather be hanging out with them, especially the girls, and delighted in stumbling after them, peering into their faces (or more accurately necks) and offering them his slobbery dummy. At least he’s learning how to share! He also realised he can actually make quite a lot of noise, and if he does he gets even more attention: cue large amounts of shouting “PAPPPAAAA” “DACKKKKKYYY” (any animal, mostly shouted at model horses in the museum) and “OOoOoOoo” (at girls and boys). I didn’t realise until that specific trip quite how noisy he can be. Luckily I’ve got a particularly loud “Shhhhh” response, so together we were by far the most annoying in museum. Btw during this time Papa FF was happily, and peacefully, watching the history of Texas in some quiet corner of the museum. When he emerged he seemed surprised to be faced with a frazzled wife and exhaspersted boddler. Bizarrely I was somewhat unamused by him recounting all he had learnt, because by this time I was seriously hangry. Mais quoi? Classic.

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We also visited the Thinkery which is as awesome as it sounds. A haven for little ones, but equally as mesmerising for the elders, this place was a hotbed of stimulants and safe playing opportunities. Suffice it to say the key sign of success was Bebe FF clambering into his own pushchair as we headed to the exit and immediately nodding off. THAT is what I’m talking about.

Next instalment we hit San Antonio and Dallas…

besos x X