Bouncing and other funny stories

Ahhhh bouncing. How I miss you. How I loved a good bounce around back in the day. A bit of trampolining was my favourite. I mean I *really* loved it. Like going to my friend’s house and having a go on her trampoline and thinking she was the luckiest girl alive. Like the moment years of pestering finally paid off and I “persuaded” my parents (I now know this means whined them into submission) to get a trampoline for the garden. The pinacle of joy.  I joined every after school club possible and even made the trampolining team (that was for enthusiasm over skills, obvs). The fear and excitement and joy of getting a leotard on, and hair slicked back, ready to bounce in front of the judges. All eyes on you, your pointy toes and your major wedgie situation…

7145DB4E-C9E9-4C48-8836-9F58810044EF

Pretty much me

Remember:

Must point toes.

Must get arms up by ears and realllllly straight.

Must smile.

Try not to shake or you bounce off in a random direction.

You know what I never once thought about? Peeing myself. That’s right kids, I had complete and utter bladder control. I took it for granted. Today I don’t think I would make the team. I think the team would be mortified and the wedgie would be the least of my worries (although not insignificant :D).

Pelvic. Floor. There are few words in this world that trigger an immediate reaction in adult women, but I’m fairly sure those have to be number 1. You’re squeezing right now, aren’t you?

019292E4-EAA0-4222-9D39-E792F46B8CC4

Me explaining pelvic floor to Boddler using weird hotel art – he’s choosing to ignore me and singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

Pelvic floor muscles. The muscles that support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowels and uterus) and cover the bottom area of your pelvis. We all have them, we are warned about exercising them, during pregnancy we are reminded of the importance of the pelvic floor muscles on a regular basis by knowing midwives, but the truth is we rarely exercise them. Before motherhood you probably don’t have much need to. But, once you eject a bebe, whichever way that bebe comes out, your pelvic floor will take a hit and you need to work hard to restore it.

The wonderful NHS website states: “strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help stop incontinence, treat prolapse, and make sex better, too.”

So, it’s really quite important.  What I find really astonishing is the lack of support and follow up that comes as standard here in Britain for this critical post partum area. Over the channel, in my second motherland, la Belle France, the attention to rehabilitation of the pelvic floor is second to none. Every single French mother gets 10 physio classes offert to assist them in getting their muscles back to full function. As I understand it they even get a magical wand which is used to expedite the process. How can our neighbours so clearly recognise the importance of this therapy and over here you are laughed out of the GP for time wasting, or told by your midwife they will refer you, eventually, if it’s “really bad”? It’s like you just need to deal with it. Now you’ve given birth, well, you’re a bit broken and you’ll just have to get on with it. Sorry. There’s almost a stigma attached to it. Why do you need your pelvic floor anyway? You don’t want to be the next face of Tena lady?!

It doesn’t really sit with my image of superwomen who have grown and ejected a bebe whilst doing their day jobs. If anything, women deserve a double dose of support having done all of that and still operating alongside our male counterparts. We still run around after the kids, we still lift and push and do all manner of strenuous things despite having put our pelvis through hell. And if you do have some struggles, some discomfort, or leaking, what does “really bad” look like compared to “normal”?

 

 

When I gave birth the first time with the epidural, I had no sensation when I was pushing and I pushed seriously hard. Maybe too hard, if that’s possible. I almost exploded my eyeballs, and I ejected my catheter twice. Once the little guy was safely in my arms, and sensations restored, I had approximately zero bladder control for the first few days. Loss of continence, or incontinence, went on for a week or so and then gradually, and thankfully, started to strengthen. During those initial days I really thought I was broken. I panicked. How would I carry on with my life if I needed nappies for the rest of my days? I tend to cough and laugh quite a lot. Do I need to stop those things?! I asked the midwife if I would ever be the same. “Give it time. We will refer you to a physio if it’s necessary.” Well on the first count, she was right. Time is a great healer and it is true that these wondrous bodies of ours will rapidly rehabilitate themselves. Remarkably in a few short weeks (although it feels long in the moment) your bodily functions start to restore. However, it’s hard to ascertain if you’re completely restored, or as restored as you are going to get.  How do you know? I practised regular squeezing along with post natal yoga when I was ready, and there was a lot of focus on exercising the pelvic floor. I was also told squeezing whilst breastfeeding expedites the strengthening process, but it may also be because you’re doing  it so often it’s a good distraction from the nibbling and dribbling going on elsewhere.  In any case, the pelvic floor exercises are critical.

 

 

IMG_6800

Fast forward to my second birth and I did a bit of research before the madness set in. I want a functioning pelvic floor (and abdominals) now and, importantly, as I get older and my muscles naturally start to weaken. I don’t want to wait until I’m so broken that I can’t function.  I want the French treatment. I found a physio team that offer post partum therapy and the therapists are familiar with, if not trained in, the French techniques. The London-based physiotherapists I’ve found are called Mummy’s Physio. My experience with them so far has been very positive. Ok, pelvic floor physio is about as glamorous as it sounds. For us prudish Brits, and I’m really up there on the red face scale (I don’t even like wearing swimwear in “public”, perhaps this stems back to the leotard wedgie horrors… anyway I digress) it’s hard. No one particularly wants to be prodded and probed, it’s an uncomfortable conversation to discuss your pelvic function and honestly it’s hard to remember and to make time to do the exercises, BUT I know it’s so important.  And certainly the team at Mummy’s Physio (and I’m sure many others) will make you as comfortable as possible.

I urge you to do your exercises, wherever you are in the parenting game. Download the NHS app, Squeezy, to remind yourself to do them. And don’t be afraid to explore rehabilitation options with your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed. If you have private healthcare you may well be covered.

We are powerful women.  Let’s keep our bodies strong. 

Precious pelvic floor power to you all x

0BD391B8-66C1-4911-AB5F-B9E990C19C4D

You are worth it!

PS. In case you aren’t familiar with them, this is how to do pelvic floor exercises from the NHS website:

How to do pelvic floor exercises:

  • close up your anus as if you’re trying to prevent a bowel movement
  • at the same time, draw in your vagina as if you’re gripping a tampon, and your urethra as if to stop the flow of urine
  • at first, do this exercise quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately
  • then do it slowly, holding the contractions for as long as you can before you relax: try to count to 10
  • try to do three sets of eight squeezes every day: to help you remember, you could do a set at each meal

As well as these exercises, practise tightening up the pelvic floor muscles before and during coughing and sneezing.

Bittersweet bifurcating

I was flicking through some trashy magazines at the hairdressers last week (first time I’ve been solo since pre Bebette days – the hot tea and trash was amazing) and I couldn’t help but notice the number of distressing stories about couples with new babies whose partnership is “on the rocks”.  The story goes like this: they had a baby, they thought it would be fun; they got a cool LV-monogrammed buggy, Dior booties, and a Chanel high chair for consuming petits fours, then the baby arrived and they rapidly realised it was pretty hard work – no – actually bloody exhausting, the baby wrecked the booties and pooped in the chair, so one half of the couple decided they needed a break, a night out, and to let loose. Sadly for that half they went a tad overboard, momentarily forgetting about their other half and bundle of Dior-enrobed joie at home, paps got a pic, and *shock horror* the other half wasn’t too happy (and then rapidly sold story to aforementioned trashy mags). You can probably guess which half was maman and which was papa.

49678D9B-6946-4D01-8645-D6D5C856D98F

We are all familiar with the story.  What I didn’t really appreciate until recently is quite the extent to which we women-mother-folk are in a bit of a no win no win situation here.  Aside from the bebes themselves, which is obviously the most gigantic win of our lives, when you are a mother, particularly a new mother, you quickly realise that juggling motherhood and your previous life as wifey / partner / daughter/ sister and friend is, well, slightly impossible.  Most often not only is it not physically possible to do everything you want to be doing, it is also an emotional minefield…exhaustipating is a word I use frequently.

Emotions emotions, so many of them flying around when you are avec bebes.  I’ve been thinking about all the things that swirl around in my hormone-filled head recently and have distilled into two key mots:

First, bittersweet.  

Bittersweet is a word that resonates with me in my current situation. Bittersweet because whatever I do now when I’m not with les petits, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, there’s a part of me that feels sad, bad, even, that I’m not with them.  I am missing them.  I am missing them achieving a milestone, or needing support, or some comfort or perhaps just pure selfishly missing them. If I am not with both of my bebes at the same time, I feel guilty, worried, sometimes nervous; I miss one, feel bad for wasting time missing one when I’m with the other, and then I’m just anxious to have them both in my sight and my arms again. If I’m not with Monsieur FF, I feel guilty, especially if he’s looking after the bebes and I’m out; I worry – does he have everything he needs, can he find the nappies, will he know how to distinguish a vest for Bebette and one that’s for Boddler? (*not always, it turns out, luckily Boddler survived being squished into 3-6 months, except his VP(N)L was pretty epic )…

I’m often counting down until we can all be reunited, trying to check everything is ok, trying to be present from afar, but failing.  Even when I’m with my family, we are safe and happy, I think of the people I haven’t seen, our families and parents and siblings and their own little bundles, the people I’ve not spoken to, the birthdays I’ve missed and the time that is flying by….and, you guessed it, I feel guilty.  I’m usually grumpy, and tired, because despite my best efforts, everything is tainted by a feeling deep down that I’m going to miss a moment, even as I’m living it.  Basically, I want it all, all the time.

18EC10C6-6EB6-474F-82F0-EDD67251C1EF

Try to make it a positive said the man

Bifurcate is the second mot du jour.

Bifurcate means split into two branches.  When I became a mother, my self, the person that I was, split.  There is the mother part, and then the rest. The split was uneven.  The mother branch is mammoth. It’s the main road, the M1 of my life right now.  There are “service stations” for nappies and washing and food preparation. The Rebecca that used to exist before mamahood is a little tiny, windy country road with trash-filled hairdressers, frivolous frolicking, wine bars with half drunk wine glasses, casual cafes and rainbow clubs with glittering disco balls littered along it.

A61F7EA2-C509-441E-8A4B-76AFF0128121

Bebette remembering the good old days for us, before everything was covered in a layer of slime.

I like to think of myself as an independent woman, I don’t need anyone or anything, although I’m very lucky to have plenty of both. I was incredibly fortunate to have an amazing, happy, relatively relaxed parenting duo who gave myself and my sisters everything we needed growing up. They taught me the value of love and education and money. I worked hard to get a job and before long I was able to support myself. I liked knowing I could fend for myself.  Then I met Monsieur FF, my partner in crime, and we decided to embark on marriage and a family.  That was back when we both had the ability to speak to each other reasonably, and rationally, without screams of “DAAAADDDDEEEEEE AI DONE A POO” and lentils flying around in the background.

Becoming a parent and a mother is something that transforms you overnight. Physically, one night you’re going to bed, a normal, slightly bulbous human being, with an almost equal share of a bed, and the next day (ish) you have somewhat reduced in size and in your shaking arms you hold a little mewing ball of bebe. Once you get over the shock (if ever), and the realisation that this is the new you, that there’s a little person who is entirely dependent on you (and no you can’t “give it back”), that’s it. There goes your independence (and your half of the bed). Because now you’re reliant on people and you can’t entirely rely on yourself. Your partner, your parents, your siblings, your friends… you need them all, more than ever. You need help, you need support, and you need a boost.

You also don’t feel particularly fierce when you’ve just given birth.  Of course, you’ve delivered a child, fricking amazeboobs, you deserve a medal, but for some reason, the saggy, wobbly vehicle that did all that hard work suddenly seems very ugly. Even when it produced something so beautiful.  It is not fair. But that is the way our minds work. I would speculate there are few women who truly feel they can strut around in the giant pads and with mammoth leaking breasts in those first weeks post-partum and feel like they are owning whatever it is they want to own.  Your self-confidence takes a massive hit. And let’s be realistic, if you don’t feel great about yourself, it’s hard to imagine someone else is feeling great about you.  

Herein lies the problem: it’s a bit of a vicious circle.  We don’t need to be told we are loved 24/7, but it certainly feels nice. We don’t need to be told we are beautiful and we are nailing it in order to do our mothering jobs, but it sure does give you a bit of a boost when you are covered in someone else’s snot and poo, and you feel a tiny bit broken.  The times we have low confidence are the toughest times on our relationships because we need so much and we can give only a little.  Our partners need more, because someone else is in the picture now – where before it was one on one, now it is one on four and attention and energy levels are at an all time low – your partner in crime is suddenly way down the list of VIPs, in fact they are waiting over on the lay-by on your little B road, whilst you hurtle along the Motherhood M1.  The lower they go, the further down the B road, the more likely they are going to get, well, fed up.  And then they are off and next time you see them is in the hairdressers on the front cover of your trashy mag.  Doom.

60FE2AB7-2175-48FA-B8F0-878A1C6A46D4

So what do we do? What about trying to find that little piece of ourselves that is not mumming, from time to time.  Is that the solution?  Is that even possible?  What about the little, winding B road?  Can you switch off from mothering mayhem and turn back into that vivacious lady that used to totter around in mad heels and go dranking? (sidenote: if this is me then “totter” should really read “violently clomp”.) Can you be a mother AND a woman, a wife, a nice partner?  Can we be mothers and still be FUN??

The trash magazines would suggest we had better bloody try! However much our partners and husbands might be nodding politely, the reality is this, mumming is a 24/7 job.  In the early days it’s more like 25/8.  It sucks you dry, literally and metaphorically.  There isn’t much of you left to spare.  If you are lucky, like me, your partner understands that you are giving your all to the little ‘uns and accepts that, for a while, “fun” has to be redefined as a glass of wine on the sofa whilst falling asleep to Netflix.  “Talking” means a couple of text messages during the course of the day.  And when the kids go to bed, you are likely to follow closely behind.  Our better halves may well need to go out and blow off steam.  This is certainly a change of pace.  They don’t need to recover from childbirth or adapt to their new bodies. They usually have a better chance of a complete night’s sleep.  Their bodies don’t start leaking when they hear a baby cry.  Their days may be structured differently and they also have plenty on their plate.  Lucky for them they even have a plate…. and it probably doesn’t have congealed egg on it.

Sometimes it would be nice to blow off steam and unwind too, although the logistics usually render the whole process of “unwinding” redundant.  The truth is, you can’t really “unwind” from mumming.  And honestly we probably don’t really want to.  By the time you’ve organised the kids and the various complexities of the milk/food/bedtime routine, you barely have time to get your own trousers on.  It’s just a lot of hassle and then, refer back to bittersweet section above.  However difficult it may be, you actually wouldn’t change it for the world. So, for a little while, we want different things.  And we just have to find a happy middle ground.  And also try to ensure we get a bit of time to veer off the M1 ourselves, and remember that little B road that was everything before everything changed.

 

 

Boys who (dress) like girls who (dress) like boys who (dress) like boys…

Gender neutrality. The hot topic of the moment. The words that scream equality and seek to avoid discrimination. In the world of bebes, this “movement” (for want of a better word) is increasingly reflected in the way we choose to dress our children, the books we read, the toys we give them, the way we speak to them and the activities we undertake together.  The aim: to encourage our children to think for themselves.  We want to avoid imposing limitations on our little people before they have had a chance to develop their own identity and to decide certain things for themselves.  Like who they are.

The considerations seem, simplistically, to start around colours and their association with sex: blue for boys and pink for girls.  Yellow, it seems, is the safest of neutral colours, excluding ‘non colour’ white, and its close friends grey and cream (and black, but that seems slightly sombre for a little ray of light).  Now where did those colour associations come from?  All those years ago, did someone from up high declare that “those colours deriving from and the same or similar to PINK  shall strictly be reserved to those of female disposition, and those colours deriving from and the same or similar to BLUE shall be strictly reserved to those of the male disposition.  Thou can use YELLOW if thou art not sure.” Hmmm doesn’t seem quite plausible does it.  This got me thinking, and by thinking I obviously mean googling because, let me be honest, I rarely actually think much anymore, I just ponder how best to get an answer quickly.  SO.  Google and my dear friend Wikipedia tell me that:

“Since the 19th century, the colors pink and blue have been used as gender signifiers, particularly for infants and young children. The current tradition in the United States (and an unknown number of other countries) is “pink for girls, blue for boys”

The leading expert on the topic seems to be a Ms Jo Paoletti, a (now retired) lecturer at the University of Maryland. She said, when interviewed on the topic for Smithsonian:

“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted” Paoletti says.

Nicely put in the usual direct, and brilliant, American way.  As I read on I’m told that, as well as world wars and women’s liberation movements, another major factor was the advent of prenatal testing, meaning people would find out what bebe they were having before it arrived.  This presented an enormous opportunity for businesses to sell their gender-specific wares, and – true fact, per Paoletti – the more individualised the clothing became, the more was sold. This quickly extended beyond clothes to all the bebe paraphernalia required (which itself continued to develop to take us into the realms of new car purchases when it comes to transportation devices) and – low and behold – those fortunate enough to be able to equip themselves with all the “must haves” bebe items, AND to have bebes of different sexes could then buy everything, twice.  Extreme consumerism. That does not sound familiar to me at all…not in the slightest. AHEM.

5E19BBB2-21EC-4AD4-9306-BBDA2E9A3044

NOT GUILTY.  I don’t even dress my children in clothes, let alone gender specific clothes.  Right, Bebette?

Right, ok so we’ve determined there is nothing set in stone, well not literally, on the colour gender signifier.  So we don’t have to get our knickers in a twist about girls wearing blue.  But the simple issue of colour/gender association has today, in a world of consumerism, intense advertising and new waves of gender expression, extended to all that we do with our children, like how we talk to them and what they play with: should a toddler girl drive a tractor or pretend to be a plumber? Can a boy wear nail varnish and play at being a midwife or a ballet dancer? Then the considerations spiral into personality and even sexuality: are all little girls “bossy”? If a girl wants to behave like a boy is that a bad thing? Are little boys that like dolls and dresses and pink going to be *whispers* gay?  Mon dieu.  Suddenly this topic seems a bit overwhelming.

We have a boy and a girl. The boy, Babbler, wears every colour under the sun, and up until recently his favourite toy was a microwave.  Now it’s a pink hoover. He has long “girly” hair and when we were on holiday, in his green and orange t-shirt and shorts, he was frequently mistaken for a girl. When he’s wrapped up warm and people can only see hair and big eyes poking out from under his hat, they ask if he’s a girl. Not literally, obvs, they say, with that wonderful hesitation “what a lovely… little person… is… sh-he cold??”  I have no issue with it. It doesn’t offend me, why should it. He bombards around “exploring” and discovering, smashing and crashing and hitting as he goes. He likes splashing, and throwing and kicking and shouting. He is loud and shy and cuddly and boisterous all at the same time. He seems, for now, to be quite the little lad. But what do I know.

We also have a baby girl, Bebette, and she’s displaying, one might say, classic characteristics associated with, dare I assume, being a baby girl (highly opinionated, slightly sensitive and lover of soft, snuggly things). Although perhaps those are just characteristics of being a bebe… again, what do I know.  She has already been subjected to tutus and hair bands. She has flowery dresses and pink tights. There are not so many questions about what colour baby she is when she had a big pink bow on top of her wild fluffy, lopsided hair tufts.

I’m a feminist.  By that I mean I recognise that men and women are different, and equally fantastic in their own, special ways.  I believe men and women deserve equal levels of respect and, in some circumstances, should be treated equally.  Not always, that is a very simplistic way to view the world.  But they should be treated fairly.  Women are not secondary to men.  Men do not bring more to a party.  Women can do things men can’t, and vice versa.  I also believe that men and women bring very different things to the table and those differences should be embraced.  Finally, I truly believe that women, in today’s society, are not always recognised for the incredible jobs they do, not least in circumstances where they are juggling careers and families.  It’s not always the case that it is women that deserve to be recognised, but I just highlight that as an example. Anyway, why am I harping on about this? I want my daughter and my son to grow up respecting each other, and believing they can both do whatever they want to do in life.  Whatever they have under their clothes should not hinder that.  Just because one of them, potentially, has a momentous task of building, ejecting and nourishing another human being should not render that one incapable of fulfilling other career goals, or achieving the same as male counterparts. Subject to a few caveats (not really keen on either of them being lion-tamers), and any obvious physical limitations, the world is their oyster.  I don’t want Bebette to feel that, because she’s a woman, a delicate little flower, she can only do some jobs, whereas Babbler who is big and strong and macho can do anything and everything he pleases.  And vice versa for Boddler.

So with that in mind, is there anything I should or should not be doing right now, as they are in the early stages of development? It seems hard to imagine, but is the way I am behaving with them now going to affect that mentality?  Is the way I speak to them affecting their perceptions of themselves and others?  Am I inadvertently rendering them weak and subordinate by dressing them one way or another?  Is Bebette a little fluffy, cuddly doll?  Do I need to get her into bebe power suits???  Why am I worrying?

Jo is already on it:

Some young mothers who grew up in the 1980s deprived of pinks, lace, long hair and Barbies, Paoletti suggests, rejected the unisex look for their own daughters. “Even if they are still feminists, they are perceiving those things in a different light than the baby boomer feminists did,” she says. “They think even if they want their girl to be a surgeon, there’s nothing wrong if she is a very feminine surgeon.”

Exactly. Good.  I’ll put a placeholder here to consider further…

But finally, just a note: as Bebette and I break back into the under 1 social sphere and start an array of jazzy baby classes, I realise that more and more people are dressing their babies “unisex”, or more often, dressing their girls with “traditionally” boyish clothing. This creates a world of worry for me as I strike up conversation. Now I’m the one with the awkward hesitation in my voice, the slightly panicked glance at the child searching for any clue about it’s gender. Dummy chord. Green. Shit. Toy attached to pram; fluorescent yellow. Crap. Can I make an assumption or should I just go with strategic, noncomital conversation starters: “gosh what beautiful eyes!” “That’s such a cute onesie” “how old is your little …. one?….”  Silly.  It doesn’t matter does it.

So, I’ve dabbled in this topic but there’s a lot more to read and to say.  For now, here’s my closing gripe: baby girls are dressed in traditional boy clothing. Where are the baby boys dressed as girls?

Baby-making

This post has been difficult to write. It is about baby-making. Hold that thought: I’m not going to tell you about the birds and the bees. I’m confident you probably have a rough idea of the physical actions required to get all the ingredients in the right place. What you possibly don’t appreciate is what an absolutely miraculous process it is, to go from having the ingredients to actually creating a little human bean.

We have some experience on the subject. Babbler took quite some time and magic to make.  Before he appeared in the world, we had lots of waiting, prodding and probing, questions, tears, not a single positive pregnancy test, multiple rounds of IVF and we suffered a miscarriage of what might have been twins.

Making a baby can be quite a difficult «thing to do». And like all good things in this world, the more you want one, the tougher the wait, and the harder you fall when you don’t get one.  You can’t just have a baby.

Starting a family

Starting a family is one of those things that seems completely alien when you contemplate it for the first time, a far off pipe dream, something you do when you’re “older” and “ready”… One day, quite suddenly, the people around you start to get married and couple up, everywhere you look you see bumps, and buggies and babies, you eat your body weight in pink and blue cupcakes, you start to enjoy perusing the baby clothes in your favourite stores, you start waking up early and you realise that you would rather be snuggled up at home than out somewhere loud and sticky-of-the-floor.  You have a job, you have some semblance of a home and potentially even a car. BOOM, just like that you realise that the time has come.  You are “ready”. Exciting! Scary. Let’s go! What do you do?! Having paid close attention in sex education you know that anything more than touching fingernails with your partner in crime could result in a bebe, so grappling with that possibility, you throw caution to the wind *in a completely controlled way* dive in and commence le proces.

E9B5D9A7-AA9E-43CB-AF63-DDD4D5AC5AE2

Let’s make a bebe! One day goes past.  Of course you buy a pregnancy test and immediately start to feel nauseous, and you are frantically prodding your boobs, because you are fully expecting to fall pregnant on the first go. Except that it is rarely that straightforward. Sorry.  No, your cheap pregnancy test isn’t faulty. No, your expensive one that tells you in actual words, not lines, that you’re not pregnant isn’t somehow confused about the bit of urine it sampled. You’re just not pregnant. Not this month.  You feel a bit silly, perhaps a bit sad, but you pull your big girl pants up and crack on to the next month. After all, it’ll probably happen next month. And that fits in better because, well, you have got that party this weekend you really want to go to, and then there’s that wedding next month that you just couldn’t be pregnant for, so it’s all fine.  Good.

0E9DF6A2-B915-44BB-9A12-C934FC5D5B3C

true dat

In fact, if you check the NHS website, it tells you that 80-90 out of every 100 couples trying to get pregnant will fall pregnant within one year. One whole year. First, that is potentially up to 12 long and disappointing months of “trying”.  Each month is made up of a familiar cycle: it begins with the period (doom), then waiting for ovulation, the ovulating days, and then the phantom pregnancy times, also known as the “two week wait” – the days you spend waiting for your period. The days you wonder if you might, possibly, be making a baby.  Just FYI that’s about 168 days of the year that you’re waiting. That’s a lot of waiting for those with a propensity towards impatience…. Second, that means that 10-20% of couples will take more than a year to conceive. They may need help. They may never conceive.

They may never conceive. Have you ever thought you might not actually get to have children? It’s quite a dramatic leap to go from trying not to “accidentally” get pregnant by fingernail contact, to contemplating that you may actually never have a child.  I don’t remember that coming up in sex ed.

For some people, that’s perfectly fine. Ideal actually. But for others, that wasn’t in the life plan.  You assumed you could have children. Whenever you felt like it. As you start to look around you, you realise there are indeed many couples that don’t have children. You had perhaps assumed it was their choice, that they didn’t want to have any kids, but now this new knowledge makes you think twice.  You cannot assume anything.  If there’s one major lesson I’ve learnt through all of this it is never assume. Don’t assume that everyone can just have a baby.  Don’t assume that people have chosen their current situation.  It may look like they just don’t have kids, or haven’t got any yet, but there is almost certainly a story there, a journey. Also try to avoid asking. I used to think it was perfectly normal to ask newlyweds when they would be trying for a babe. It’s the logical next step.  Is it?  If they want to talk about it, they will do so in their own time and in their own way. It is not an easy one to talk about, it is personal, it is often complicated, and if there’s one major benefit of all that we have been through, it is the awareness of the struggle. The struggle is really real. We now have enough experience to put ourselves out there, if you need to talk.  We can, I hope, relate to, and offer support to prospective parents in all their shapes and sizes.  And I hope this post will help a little.

Unexplained infertility

According to the same NHS page, one in seven couples in the UK will suffer “fertility issues”.  Those may be complications, difficulties, bits and pieces that are missing or not working, or blocked, but perhaps could work, they just need some help. Then, of those one in seven, 25% will have what is known as “unexplained infertility”, i.e. the common causes of infertility are not applicable, but there is no other medical explanation available. So there’s something wrong, you don’t seem to be making the babies, but there isn’t actually a medical reason pourquoi.  i.e. there isn’t much that the doctors can do to help you. Technically, we fell into this category.  Years of “trying”, plenty of questioning, eating well, bouts of not drinking (alcohol may affect fertility) trying to be calm (stress may affect fertility) and keeping track of what was happening when (knowing when your ovulating can help to ensure you are targeting the right days), but all to no avail, meant we were inexplicably infertile.

What do you think? We were hoping to have a family together. Should we be together? I started to wonder if it meant we weren’t well matched as couple. Perhaps the French and Yorkshire genes just don’t work. C’est trop.  Rational thinking fell to the wayside as I watched bumps growing and buggy’s crashing into things around me. More scan pictures, more happy announcements, more people telling me they were winning on the fertility ferris wheel. Thankfully, we were very happily married, and everything was still quite new and joyous.  The monthly let down was really just a few hours of sadness followed by a rapid assessment that it was probably for the best, copious amounts of chocolate and realisation that I had lots more important things to do than having a baby that month.  Any misery I felt I managed to keep to myself, any misery Monsieur FF felt he also bottled, and we thoroughly enjoyed and relished spending time with our family and friends and their growing families.  We didn’t really talk too much about it.  Then time went on, our efforts became more concerted, our abstention from the vices of life more marked, and our patience for bebe FF increasingly failing.

CD4F747D-C206-41FD-BB87-CFEBADCE158F

One of the hardest things about infertility struggles is knowing that people are rooting for you but that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to help.  Can you give me a baby? Nope. Our parents waited patiently for our grandchild offering, and waited some more, and then they quietly started to worry and then, once they knew that there was potentially some cause for concern, that we were trying, and were not getting, they offered their support and their love, but it couldn’t take away the angst we were experiencing.  It is so personal, so intimate, and yet once it is out there, it is so exposed.

Those that you share with know that you are trying, and that it is not working. It’s not funny. You don’t need to “try harder”. That doesn’t feel good.  It is impossible not to feel like a failure.  I was, at times, embarrassed. People would ask, casually, or directly, if we were planning to have children, and we would respond that we weren’t ready, or we weren’t really trying, or that we had a plan, something, anything, other than saying that we don’t seem to be able to have a baby.

329370A4-C22D-4660-94C7-97A3A556BACB

Would we ever have a family? Our respective families are sizeable, and for all accounts conception came without any issues for our parents.  There was no waiting, no struggles.  If you haven’t struggled to conceive, you simply do not know how it feels. I’m sorry.  You are lucky.  It’s not a case of “doing it more often” or “trying to be less stressed” or indeed “eating more salt”…

Just as another factoid, even if you hit the exact right times with the exact right mixture, and you’re under 35 (age is another major factor in the fertility Ferris wheel) then you still only have around 25% chance of conceiving. And let’s not forget, conception doesn’t necessarily equal a bebe.

376A5B88-484F-4EFE-A089-A3389EE3B1FF

IVF

So where do you go from inexplicably infertile? In our case, we were advised to “try” IVF, in vitro fertilisation, as a means of identifying where things were working and where things might be going wrong.  What is IVF?  Technically:

During IVF, an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

Actually: you have a controlled menopause, loads of injections, you are stimulated to produce as many eggs as your ovaries can muster, more injections, then the eggs are vacuumed out of you whilst you are sedated, they are mixed with the contribution from your other half or a sperm donor.  A few days later, if all is well, the mixture is then returned to your womb, in the hope it will get comfortable and decide to stick around.  Your mixture might be 3 days or 5 days old, and could be fresh, or frozen.  You are instructed to take a pregnancy test around 14 days later, and not a day before.  This is the “two week wait” or “2ww“.  Websites are dedicated to it. Chatrooms go into overdrive on the topic. Sensible, rational, intelligent women have been known to lose their actual minds during this period.  It is ROUGH.

But, at the end of the day, or a long IVF cycle, you may end up with a stock of fertilised blastocysts, or even better a BFP – big fat positive pregnancy test – or, even better than that, an actual bebe.  In equal measure, in fact, a slightly higher probability, is a BFN or indeed a pregnancy ending in miscarriage.

88EC079B-6E5D-492F-8258-86BCBD0C7ED7

I don’t recommend taking IVF lightly. As something we “tried” it wasn’t like taking a car for a test drive.  It is by far the most invasive, uncomfortable and emotional experience I have voluntarily walked into. However, I am so grateful that (a) I got the opportunity to experience it, to pursue our dream of starting a family and (b) I am now able to better understand the difficulties and challenges many people face on their own journeys.

Miscarriage

The word fills me with sadness. I am just one of literally billions of women that have suffered a miscarriage.  One in every four women suffer a miscarriage. Miscarriages come in all shapes and sizes, none any more manageable than the others.  There is not a scale of horribleness for a miscarriage, depending on when it was or how it happened, the reality is that – in every single case – you had hope and you lost it. It slipped away. And it was out of your control.  Losing something you really want is never easy.  It is utterly devastating. Before 20 weeks it is known as miscarriage, and after 20 weeks gestation, still birth.

45CFCC48-DA2A-4524-9627-E28CE4DB9EEE

According to the NHS:

For most women, a miscarriage is a one-off event and they go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.

But, sadly, it is not as simple as just brushing it away and starting again.  This isn’t just a medical process that had a bit of an unfortunate ending. You have to wait until you are emotionally fit.  You have to wait until you are physically strong enough and your body is prepared to try again.  For the women that aren’t “most women”, they may suffer multiple miscarriages.  Every pregnancy after a loss is wrought with anxiety and fear, every trip to the toilet could spell the end. Pregnancy is much less joyous when it’s filled with fear and questioning. You dare not get excited, you don’t know what to think, even though every cell in your body is screaming at you that it’s working on something miraculous. There aren’t really any words for the feeling of losing that miracle.

I’m mindful here that I can’t speak to how it must feel for a man to lose a baby, for a partner to lose a baby they weren’t carrying.  As the carrier, your body is reminding you every moment that passes that it couldn’t do its job, for whatever reason.  It takes a long time for that feeling to subside. A part of you is lost forever, in the same way that a part of you is exposed as it wanders around in front of your eyes.

9224F931-1BB4-42E6-A004-67AEAE5F1C8E

For anyone out there going through a loss, sending strength, and hope.  There is no plaster that patches up the pain, or drug that can block the dull ache you are feeling, but there is always looking forward, and upwards.

Through the difficult times we experienced, the things I valued most were the family and friends that took the time to sit with me, to listen, or to let me be silent. The friends that brought us some food when we didn’t feel like cooking, that invited us for drinks when we had not had a drink for a while, that showed up on the doorstep when we didn’t feel like getting dressed. The comments and support from the heart, allowing us to grieve and recover rather than jumping forward to what happens next. *Thank you to our friends and family that stood by us, shared their positive energy and hope and enabled us to move forwards.*

When you miscarry, you lose a piece of your heart and you make a dent in your relationship. What we also experienced, however, was a feeling of solidarity and a new level of caring we hadn’t felt before. Monsieur FF was so closely by my side through the horror show that was our drawn-out miscarriage, I could literally lean on him at any moment. His strength lifted me, as I was close to falling. We took some time out, some special memories away from our daily routine to realign and refocus. It seems like a lifetime ago back then, but we truly didn’t know if we would have a family. We agreed to start an adoption process. We agreed to go on a mad holiday. And we agreed we would not give up hope or each other. Our miscarriage made us stronger. We don’t mark any dates or talk about what happened now, for better or for worse, we move forward and, as it happens, we are in the incredibly fortunate position to now have had multiple babes.  It seems that we struck the jackpot, not once but twice.

Good luck and we are here if you need us.

Breastfeeding: the sequel

12E7C8E6-E0D1-4D89-B51D-7A381853928B

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.  

AC60F1EE-1F9C-4A0A-AC5F-44279660CD8E

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….

AE78EDB2-1FEE-40F9-BCDC-DE1FCB6B0CB9

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.

70E0F0CD-C673-42B5-9537-480B4D76EDAE

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!

5482FF79-AA65-4670-8325-0CC354D6043C

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.

1BD2FA8D-FCE9-4996-9653-5BBF6B0B43C7

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.

C176B6AB-6CA4-4A4E-AB02-CF25E277557B

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.

376A5B88-484F-4EFE-A089-A3389EE3B1FF

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.

8FB62DAE-F997-4330-BC9A-17610C793AAE

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.

E5371A35-8DD5-47C8-9DCF-7E1FF42F77A9

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.

2F98C3E1-1EDB-4329-9211-F91BD39EB5AE

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.

329370A4-C22D-4660-94C7-97A3A556BACB

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.

070A3B48-35EE-4A2C-801A-6C9782415240

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.

0BAFC616-508F-4ECE-B7EF-CF5894507182

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

79276F5A-A4DD-4EB1-9A64-C98A2FBE4766

 

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.

6AB7E49B-7AB1-4CD8-BD96-5C7F7F450A36

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?!

7A3152ED-011C-4E52-8981-1173B9A0325E

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…

405DF799-1E3C-4E4B-9FF1-429CC7713973

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.

img_7311.jpg

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!

6AB7E49B-7AB1-4CD8-BD96-5C7F7F450A36

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.

IMG_6437

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!

img_6364.jpg

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.

IMG_6817

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.

Number un

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…

IMG_6800

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.

IMG_7031

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.

IMG_7033

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 💓