Badass

This is how you feel when you take a 7 month old on a 10 hour flight (x 2, plus delays) and come out (a) alive (b) not covered in sick (c) with the same number of grey hairs (d)  still married and (e) with other passengers smiling and commenting on how great your bebe is.

We did it.  We went long haul and we had an epic time.  Yes, it was a massive headache preparing and packing; yes, it was weird being somewhere super hot and not sunbathing, and yes, it was strange not going out late in the evenings, drinking and raving.  Because Monsieur FF and I used to rave all.the.time.  But sacré bleu it was joyous.

Bébé FF swam through magical cold water cenotes, saw Miss America Latina, talked to parrots, patted iguanas, visited the Mayan ruins in Tulum and Xcaret, rode facing forward in a cab, and even sans seat (eek), slept in a swanky steak restaurant, ate fresh avocado, cucumber and melon (or at least touched and licked convincingly), swam with fish in the sea, tried a coconut, acquired a significant number of Mexican girlfriends and by all accounts had a pretty fantastical time.  Gracias!

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Senorita Mamacita

As you know, we enjoy travelling. Most people gawped at us when we said we were going to  Mexico, like “do you remember that time you gave birth to a BABY? IS HE STAYING BEHIND?!”  Er nope. He is coming. It’s called an adventure and we love them. However, “we” (mostly me) also recognise there is a lot of work and forethought involved in long haul travel, so you have to put the time in. Some people (*some people*) think you can wing it. Maybe a mix of both approaches is best. The type of  things that I don’t worry about day to day in my house in the UK that suddenly become concerning in a hotel resort in Mexico: water, milk source, baby friendly food, washing, sterilising, sleeping, swimming, bugs and mosquitos, safe travelling, general safety! Etc. So pretty much everything. Long haul avec bébé requires a lot of packing and unless you’re very brave with food and milk, careful planning and rationing. Listen to me! I can’t even plan my own dinner! 10 days worth of weaning friendly food and milk, milk receptacles and hot weather clothing was slightly mind-boggling. But we managed, and even had stuff spare! (In our three large luggage cases … ahem).

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During the planning and run up to the trip I was listening out for useful tips and learning as much as possible from other seasoned bebe travellers.One major tip I was given was to travel with bebe before he is crawling.  That was a good tip.  He was quite content to sit in the chair, on my lap or lie in the little cot bed on the plane without wriggling around too much.  He was content playing on his playmat in our hotel room whilst we got bits ready.  He’s trying to crawl but we are absolutely not encouraging it!

Another helpful tip I’ve mentioned before was to buy liquid milk supplies after security at the airport – you can preorder milk from Boots. We did this and had a good supply for each flight.

For those wanting to brave the wild wild wilderness of the world outside your country, here are a few tips, first on the actual travel part:

  1. get to the airport early and ensure they know you are travelling avec infant. It sounds obvious to us, as our little bundles rule our worlds, but the planes only have a set number of infant friendly seats and even fewer at the front with space for the portable bed/chair.  The person checking you in doesn’t care if you face many, many hours on a plane with a grizzly tired baby on your lap.  Be polite and firm and ensure you get a suitable space.  On our initial flight there were both chairs and cotbeds available, on the way back only a chair (looks like a bouncer) – we tested both and both were good. The chair was secured, safe, helpful sleeping material and the cotbed provided a little space Bébé FF could have his toys and play quietly.
  2. Take quiet, non violent toys and snacks that aren’t too messy – we love the Kiddylicious rice crackers as they are totally mess and stick free and very easy to bite and swallow. The mini rice cakes are also pretty good and were happily tossed on the floor when gummed enough. Slightly awks when you see it stuck to the air hostesses skirt, but if you will lean in a coo then you have to deal with the consequences 🙂 I say “non violent” because when a passenger realises he’s sitting in close proximity to a baby for 10 hours, he’s likely to be slightly aggrieved. When he is smacked around the head with a plastic rattle, has to clamber around a dumper truck to go to the loo and finds a teething ring in his dinner he’s going to go apesh1t. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Cuddly toys, small simple chew toys and things that can be safely affixed to something (with dummy ties) work well.
  3. Make sure Bebe is in comfy but sufficiently warm clothes, onesies / PJs are easy and help Bebe ease into sleep mode – the plane temperatures fluctuate but tend to be chilly I find. My legendary big and thin wool scarf/blanket was great for keeping me and Bebe FF at a snuggly temperature.
  4. Try not to stress. Ha! Pot, kettle. I know.  But if you stress, Bebe stresses and then all hell breaks loose. We had a few slightly fraught moments where we had trays of food and drinks and turbulence meaning Bebe FF had to come out of the carrycot and onto a lap – luckily Monsieur FF took the hit and managed to pile everything up around himself so that I was mobile to get the little man. Unfortunately our BA flight was very slow on the service and Monsieur FF was actually contemplating whether he could squeeze into a nappy when he was finally freed from his castle of carton and crusty stale bread to excuse himself to le toilette.  Anyway, keep your sh1t together. Literally.

 

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keep it in here

Tips whilst you are away:

  • you might not have a kettle (i know – who doesn’t drink tea seriously?!) or microwave and water may not be suitable for drinking so think about how you are going to clean/sterilise. We used bottled water which we heated through the cafetière. We used the cold water sterilising bags and Milton sterilising tablets. Check out my Instagram for more details:@be_my_bebe

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  • the milk powder might get sticky if you’re somewhere humid. Ours did and we ended up keeping it in the fridge. It was fine and Bebe FF guzzled it down but be careful as it can go off. Also watch out for little ants and creepy crawlies trying to make the container their new home. Yuk.
  • with fruit and food generally think about where you are and whether the not-so-clean tap water could have been used to rinse. The resort that we were in was fine but I wouldn’t have given him anything “freshly washed” outside.
  • bugs and mosquitos in particular are a pain in the arse. Literally. If like me you are insanely tasty and irrisistible to the blood guzzlers you need to lather yourself in sprays. We used some supposedly natural oil based bracelet things which were relatively effective on the limb they were closest to. After having my left leg mauled by 50 mozzies I started sporting an attractive anklet look. Fluorescent green (my desire to coordinate was quickly thwarted by the yellow blue green choices). FYI the bracelets can also double up as hair bands. I attached some of these to the pram and babybjorn. Babies and deet don’t mix well so we avoided spraying Bebe FF directly with our boots repellent product and instead tried to keep him under the mosquito net when out and about in the pram. When he was with me, I was prime target so he was safe. Motherly self-sacrifice. He didn’t seem to get bitten so it worked.
  • take some napisan and/or washing products with you in a mini container or take samples. Stains stick, and smelly milky stuff smells decidedly worse 10 days later. We managed a couple of washes of bits and luckily had no major poo dramas so felt pretty pleased with myself.

All in all we had a brilliant trip, we achieved so much and Bebe FF seemed très content for the whole duration.

We chanced things a few times and were glad we did. If you go in with low expectations and an open mind you will probably be pleasantly surprised. We went to a show about the history of Mexico one evening, with a dinner service, and expected to leave after the first few minutes.You should have seen our delighted and slightly smug faces when bebe FF decided to nod off at the start of the two hour performance and we were able to enjoy a multi-course dinner whilst watching the spectacle; he napped on the seat next to me oblivious. The ear defenders or “snugs” worked a treat.

It’s not worth thinking about what you’re “missing” when on holiday with a bebe. You’re not missing going out and drinking or burning yourself in the sun, you’re experiencing the trials and tribulations of a new place with your new person, where everything is new for them. And you’re bloody lucky too! We managed to enjoy many a margarita and cerveza – just mostly during the day and early evening 😁

So we’re there any downsides? Yes. Jet lag.

West to East is hard. Since we’ve been home we have had some jet lag issues, I’m not going to lie. The first couple of nights we had a very active and awake little trooper from 8pm-1 am, the very time we wanted to be asleep. Usually he’s down at 7.30pm. We had a very sleepy little guy at 9am that had to be woken up and really wanted to nap until 1pm.  He’s been teary and confused.  It’s been hard and he’s out of sorts.  We are too.  It’s called post-holiday blues. But we are coming out the other side. Ish. We’ve also started the initiation to nursery and working life (URGH), and transitioned to formula full time so it’s been a very challenging week. But more of that next time… Besos X

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Babywheels – the Venicci 3-in-1 travel system

I have been asked to do a review of the Venicci baby-mobile.  This was the “travel system” we chose to transport Bebe FF in his first months on the outside.  When we were looking, as I mentioned, we found all the information out there to be a bit confusing and unnecessarily complex; the car seat and adapter situation in particular.  There weren’t many helpful reviews and by their nature the reviews were super subjective (or sponsored) so it was hard to take much from them.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  So, to add to the confusion, here’s my subjective review of the Venicci 3-in-1 system.  Hopefully it will at least answer some questions – and if not feel free to ask.

Our “travel system” criteria were:

  • sturdy – i’m not being OTT here but I just grew a whole baby in my tummy, it took 9+ months (and the rest) and sh!tload of energy – he was safe and protected in there – if I have to put him in a box on wheels, and push him around the bumpy, dangerous and broken pavements of Britain, I want sturdy!
  • suspension – ref the aforementioned pavements
  • tall – we are not giants by any stretch (even stretching wouldn’t help) but being hunched over and lifting bebe from a low starting point didn’t appeal
  • portable for weedy, tiny weeny arm muscles
  • easy to assemble – for tired, delirious parents
  • weatherproof – Britain
  • not insanely expensive – it’s not an actual car
  • a bit different

I believe it was my sister Em who first sent me a link to the Venicci promo clip. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a joke.  A lady with high heels that Christian Louboutin would be proud of, painted nails and a mini skirt demonstrates how to assemble the different parts of the pram. I hadn’t heard of Venicci, and I can’t say the video massively swayed me to purchase, but it did give me new hope about the world of motherhood and, ok, it did look like it could potentially do the job.  I put the dramatic filmography down to “being Italian” and carried on with the endless research.

Anyway, long story short we had the romantic trips to test lots of the obvious models in M&P’s, Mothercare and, of course, John Lewis.  But we couldn’t decide, and always found more negatives than positives for each one.   So in the end (i.e. 3 months before bebe FF was due to arrive) we just went for it and ordered the Venicci online, without physically seeing one or testing it (we’re crazy like that).

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Venicci

So what did we think? I’ll break it down into pros and cons.

PROS

  • the flatbed/bassinet/carrycot thingy (what are they actually called?!) was great.  Strong, warm, snuggly if you add a lambskin in there, big enough for bebe FF to sleep in until 5-6 months old, which is pretty good going (some babies grow out of them around 3 months).  It has an adjustable base so if bebe has a cough or as they start to want to see more, you can elevate the head area.  It also can be folded down flatfish for storage, and to squish in the boot. Bebe FF liked being in there so much that in the early days he would sleep in there downstairs, or even upstairs when he decided he didn’t like the moses basket.  Or his crib.  Coquin.
  • the frame is super sturdy.  There are no issues weighing it down with many mummy clips and your changing bag along with hundreds of bags of shopping (would I?!).
  • the suspension is excellent. Bebe FF is comfy riding his venicci and not being projected out into the road or having his two teef clattering against … his gums.
  • the handle bar is adjustable so catering to our giant needs.  It is easy to get it to a comfortable height.
  • the various pieces clip onto the frame easily – clips are in red, and you can clip and unclip one side at a time which is significantly easier than having to do the double whammy, especially when you’re balancing bebe on your hip!
  • The brake is very simple to use, a pedal on the chassis which is easily accessible.
  • The wheels come with covers (we immediately lost them), and there is also a rain cover (very handy) and a mosquito net (also MIA within minutes of being unpacked – Boots do a good back-up).
  • The basket size is fair, it’s not enormous but it seems to be as big if not slightly bigger than the competition. It is quite deep so things stay in.  I can fit my change bag in there, plus back up blanket and rain cover.  Occasionally a pizza comes sipping out but that’s my fault for overloading 🙂
  • We went for the white frame as it was a bit different and I’m glad we did. Purely aesthetically it is joyous.  Plus my mum always told me to try to “stand out in the dark” which explains a luminous white michelin puffa jacket I wore for most of my teens.
  • It has a cup holder, or “roadie” holder, which we dedicate to our Texas friends – handy for the endless water drinking required for feeding.
  • the price – the Venicci when we got it was just over £500 including the travel seat adapters.  That seemed like a reasonable middle of the road price, compared to say the “egg” which looked fabulous but was over £1,000 before you even added on the cotbed. As it turns out, I’m glad we didn’t spend more, as it won’t be in significant use for much longer.  As soon as you can use a stroller, you will!
  • Colour combos – quite simple but good, strong quality materials. Being semi-Parisienne we went for black with white chassis. I sometimes regret the choice of black as it is a bit morose in the sunlight, but I don’t think there were many other options when we bought it – it seems there are a few more now, and also a silver chassis.  I was nervous about getting a light colour, but I think the material would wear pretty well and stay clean.

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CONS

  • It is pretty heavy.  If you want strong and sturdy, you have to accept some weight.  I managed fine, but now I have the choice between the Venicci and the ultra-light Babyzen yoyo stroller, I know which my arms prefer.  The Venicci is still the vehicle of choice for local strolls and park trips, but it is a pain hauling it in and out of the boot.
  • The chair part is messy.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it, it just doesn’t look very comfy or slick.  Bebe FF is happy enough in there, and it can go forwards facing or facing mummy, although he seems to slump over a bit.  He likes putting his feet on the bar. But the hood and straps in particular look a bit cheap, for want of a better word.  The seat does recline and goes fairly upright.  It has a foot / body muff but it’s not very thick or lined, so unlike some of the competition would definitely require an additional blanket.
  • I don’t like the fastener on the chair – it is the type that catches your skin and gives you blood blisters. I’ve shouted merde! a few times…
  • The car seat is a bit of a waste of space as it’s very basic. There is limited padding in there and the material is the same as the rest of the set, i.e. sturdy and rough and not necessarily what you want rubbing up against your newborn’s delicate skin.  Most people I’ve spoken to opted for the MaxiCosi as their carseat, as others don’t really compare to the safety standards.  In any case you need to get the isofix base.  I think you can buy the set without the car seat, which would obviously save a bit of money – we didn’t know we could do that so didn’t explore that option.

So, from a quick squiz of the number of respective pros and cons, it is apparent that the Venicci, in my very humble opinion, was a good choice.

Any more specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Bisous

 

Body Combat

People say your body will change when you have a baby. Those people are right. (Again, dammit). Even when your belly has eventually deflated, and your boobies too, you seem to be just a bit bigger, saggier and wider everywhere.  The unofficial rule “9 months on, 9 months off” seems fair when you’re not actually in the 9 months.  The 9 month “target” is looming close for me now. Why do I even have a target? Can’t we just appreciate what an immense job our bodies have done and be proud of the wobble? Sadly not.

When you think about having a baby you imagine being pregnant, the bump of joy, and then having this little bundle in your arms, but at no point do you visualise the person holding the bébé is not “you”. Not you as you know “you”. You know what I mean?!

Stay with me here.  Let’s recap.

Being pregnant is amazing: you’re glowing, your hair is thick and wondrous and you’ve got a little person wiggling around inside you that needs you to eat, sleep and generally be zen.  Heaven.

<ok the maternity clothes are horrific, as is the nausea and the burping is not very ladylike but let’s pretend we forgot about that already>

Being a new mum is kind of the opposite: you’re tired and pale, your hair has all fallen out and hasn’t been washed for a while <ahem>, and the little wriggly person is now dribbling milk down you whilst you try to sleep (but fail), try to eat (but fail – except for cake and chocolate) and generally are capable of being just absolutely frazzled. This is all normale. But it’s hard. It’s hard realising that (a) your body is pretty messed up right now and (b) you really don’t have the time to sort it out.  Bébé is your one and only priority.

I hope you don’t think I’m terribly vain. I’m not obsessed with how I look. But I tend to prefer to look like I’ve actually got dressed, as opposed to walking the streets in my PJs, and to make myself look vaguely presentable. I just want to feel normal.

New mommas and mommas2be, here is a quick reminder:

  •  Did you previously brush your hair? Yeah, you’re probably not gonna have time for that.
  •  Did you wash it? Yeah, sorry, unlikely to manage that unless you schedule your shower and have someone covering your back. I’m being serious. See post on Baby Steps to re-live my showering traumas.
  • Did you enjoy hot drinks? You do know tea tastes better cold? ….OK no, it doesn’t, I’m sorry.
  • Did you used to “pop” to the shops, or the gym or on a run? The only thing you will be “popping” for a while is your trouser bottoms and popcorn. If you do get out to exercise you’ve probably planned three milk feeds, left enough clothes out for a family of 6 and anticipated the possible protections required for bébé in the event of WW3. When you actually get out there you will wonder why on earth you’ve gone to so much effort in order to get outside and do something you used to find torturous. That’s right ladies, exercising is now a treat!!
  • Did you iron your clothes? Bahahahaha!! The only thing you will be ironing is …nothing. Maybe baby clothes. If you iron muslins you have too much time on your hands.
  • Speaking of hands, did you like having two of them?! Did you, once upon a time, enjoy having painted nails?  You probably won’t get round to locating your nail varnish, let alone applying it to your nails. And IF you do (well done) bébé will immediately start wailing, leaving you no option but to smear it all over their new outfit and your bed/sofa and leave a permanent reminder that you tried, but failed, to be glam. And also you’re a terrible mother. And when you finally get round to removing your manky, cracked and smeared nail varnish  and you cannot fathom why it’s taking so long to come off, you realise after seemingly endless rubbing that you are actually rubbing your nails with a wet wipe and Sudocrem. Aggggh.
  • Conclusion: first world problems. I know. But just get your other half to take bébé on a walk and get a shower, go for a swim, or to the whatever salon. Get some head space. Try to have some “you” time. Enjoy it.

The lack of “you” time is quite a shock to the system. In a way it makes me feel terribly selfish that I should want a bit of time to exercise, have a girly drink or “beautify”; that I have to ask Mr FF if I can possibly be allowed to go out for an hour to the nail place to do something he never even knew I did before. “Mais why do you need to Shelllack (sic) ze toes, doesn’t eet ‘urt? what does eet do?” Having to explain beauty treatments to your other half is quite depressing. Having to justify the need for these ‘treats’ is very depressing. But, heavens, if you get to escape for that pedicure, the time in the plastic chairs with the flip flops can be likened to a week in the Indian Ocean. Ok… maybe more like a weekend in France. Restorative. You will be skipping to the park later.

Ladies, “you” time is important. Getting out of the house is important.  Tu es important. Learning to love your new body is important.  Leaving le bébé is important. They do actually manage to survive just fine without us. (The other halves may struggle un petit peu…) But it’s important that we are surviving for them. Happy mummy means happy baby. And daddy.

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This horribly slim baby momma is winning at exercising and being happy. Also note she’s clearly had her nails done.

It’s hard not to feel a slight pang of longing or something, at the overwhelmingly different life you lead as a babymomma. And I don’t want to be ashamed of saying that or make you feel bad or apprehensive. It is different. Of course it is. But it’s also bloody amazing. You would never want it any other way. I can’t imagine not having bébéFF. He’s my everything. When Mr FF is making him giggle there’s nothing else in the world that matters. Not my waist or my wobbly bum (had that before anyway :-)), thin hair or manky nails. In fact all of those things remind me what a journey we have been on and how miraculous our bodies are. I MADE that little garçon. I made him, in my tummy. And I got him out! No need to go into the details on that part. And now I’m helping him grow and nurturing him. AMAZEBOOBS! The rest doesn’t matter. I’ve got plenty of time to worry about the physical repercussions of all this later.

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How I feel every single day!

BFFs

One of the best things about having a baby is making new friends, solidifying existing friendships and generally realising how extraordinary mothers really are.

The BFFs (baby fast friends)

These are your new baby momma friends. They are all in the same boat as you: pregnant, and scared. You have been thrown together, in the same fast moving car, on the epic rollercoaster ride that is impending parenthood. You don’t know each other well, you haven’t checked if anyone is actually licensed to drive, you probably don’t know very much about them at all, but you are about to go on the most remarkable journey together.

These new friends are your saviours.  You’ve barely had time to learn each other’s surnames before you’re sharing intimate birthing stories and cake recipes (not on my side, obvs. I am excellent at eating cake, but leave the baking to those more qualified).

The friendships are established so quickly that, when a few months go past, you might not actually recognise your BFFs out of context.  That can’t be her, where’s the bump?! Why is she talking about work?  Does she have a job?!

It is around the 3 months post-partum stage, when you emerge from the bubble of new motherhood, briefly, because bébé kind of sleeps and eats regularly enough for you to leave the house without having a nervous breakdown, and you suddenly realise you need to actually get to know these ladies. Properly.  Absent some seriously bad behaviour, I can’t imagine when you could get so personal so quickly with people without actually knowing what they do, where they live, or how they came to be in the present, slightly compromising situation.

These ladies help you get up and out of the house when you feel like you are on a mission impossible (urgent feed, followed by poo, followed by realisation you are still in PJs with a boob out), comfort you during the painful and delicate post-partum recovery phase (don’t ask) and they are there for you, with bells on, in the middle of the night when hubby is snoring away next to you (anything to distract you from Amazon, ASOS *maternity and feeding*, John Lewis, Mothercare…. ).

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So how do you get these BFFs?

As well as random stalkering, you can pay to do NCT, hypnobirthing or other classes. You can also find local new parent groups through your GPs and community centres, libraries, leisure centres etc.

We did NCT, despite being told we were just “buying friends”. Well, buy friends we did, and frankly we got the Joey, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Phoebs we could only dream about. Warner Bros would be proud. I told you I’m good at shopping.  (OKKKAY, it was pure luck). Our NCT group is amazing. Genuinely, we couldn’t have wished for a more lovely group of thoughtful, kind and caring individuals. And beautiful babies.  These women and men (and their babes) will be our friends for life, not least because they shared the most precious, exhilarating and terrifying life experience we have ever had.  But they are also just bloody lovely people.  And they live around the corner. Parfait.

The NCT classes themselves are a blast, the highlight is the cup of tea and biscuit, and they are particularly pertinent for the papas, who up until circa 37 weeks into your pregnancy genuinely believe babies come out (from where?!) walking, and talking, and eating fish’n’chips like the rest of us. They think contractions are a type of mathematical operation and meconium is a precious metal. Through the classes they find out that “afterbirth” isn’t a general reference to after the birth but is far more gory, and that the birth itself will be days and days and not 15 mins as seen on TV.

These BFFs are there for you through thick and thin in the last months of preparation through pregnancy, and the first hazy and delirious months of parenthood. From frantic freezer filling to 3am Amazon Prime shopping, you are in this together.

You will also likely have an obligatory WhatsApp group.  On the mum side, we have daily Q&As like:

“What colour are bébé’s poos today?”

“How many feeds are you doing through the night?”

“How can I get Bebe to stop itching?”

“Have you got your period back?”

“When can we go for more cake?” – btw the answer to this is always EVERYDAY.

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Just in case you had forgotten what cake looks like.                         get. in. my. belly.

 

On the dad side it’s more:

“Are we still going for a beer on thursday?”

“How about that new curry house up the high street?”

“Is your wifey super grumps??”

“So France lost against Portugal, eh Frenchie?!”

“Has Bèbé started rolling yet, I understand it should be happening around now?”

No, just checking you are reading thoroughly. I made that last one up. Aside from a  few comical exchanges during respective labours, alluding to various horror films, I’m pretty sure 90% of the content of the daddy2daddy chats is sport, food and beer. Correct me if I’m wrong lads.

Generally speaking new mommas are up for a chat. Any time. There are so many places and ways to make even more new baby momma friends, including going to baby classes (more on this later), chatting up other young mummies in the baby aisle at the supermarket, and conversing remotely on mumsnet chat rooms.

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My NCT crew 💞

The EFNMs (Existing friends, new mommas) and M2Bs

If you’re lucky, as I was, there are people in your existing circles who are also growing a bébé.  You’ve probably known these people a while and are close enough to ask the critical yet embarrassing questions in the run up, and immediately post partum. “Are these tiny baby mattresses or sanitary pads as they claim to be?” “Do I look like a fat Pamela Anderson right now?” You can also share tips and impart knowledge as you go.  Some of my friends are doctors and medical professionals and thankfully they put my mind at ease many a time. Thank you guys.

There are also those friends that are just embarking on the journey. The Mums-To-Be. They are getting or have recently got married, or are starting to take more notice of baby-related chat and generally getting a bit broody.  It may even include the mamas that already have babies and are going for number 2, 3,…

It is tres tres hard to resist the temptation to grab at these people and ask them on every meeting if there is a baby coming. That extends to Facebook stalking and zooming in on pictures trying to determine if there is a bump a-growing. Yes, you all do it, stop pretending. The actual sheer joy when it happens is the best. It’s a combo of excitement, love and a tiny pinch of “just you wait!!! Oh you have a major treat in store.” For a long time we were waiting for bébéFF and I can genuinely say, even through the waiting, hearing someone was pregnant was just the pinnacle of joy. I am always going to believe this is the biggest miracle in life. Can you even believe how monumentally complex it is, biologically speaking, to make a human being? I can’t. But we seem to be able to do it. (And I just want to note here that I am fully aware it isn’t possible or easy for everyone. I will blog about the struggles soon).

There is little more heart-warming than the excitement you feel when your friend is having a baby. Honestly. It’s just the most pure love. It’s also so special when you are on the receiving end of that love from a fellow friend. It certainly makes friendship bonds stronger.

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You mean “ca roule ma poule?”

The Mommas

These are the ladies in your life that have already *done* their babies. They have had kids and are still alive.  Legendaire.

After giving birth, you will look at these ladies with a new-found awe and appreciation. You will call on their profound knowledge and expertise, having got their bundles of joy to taille grande. Questions to these ladies include “how does the baby ACTUALLY come out?”  “Does this get any easier?” And “will I ever contemplate having another baby ever again? And if so, how might one go about that…?” Etc.

I’ve always found mums to be some of the most inspiring people in my life, even before I was lucky enough to have the chance to become one myself. I had a vague sense of the magnitude of the job they do, without ever fully comprehending. Mums have to balance themselves and the needs of someone else, commit to them and care for them. Unquestioning love and commitment. My own mother has shown us F-sistas how to love, care for and encourage children above all else. My own mother wasn’t satisfied with having 4 under 5s of her own so decided she would challenge herself with child-minding other kiddies too. Seriously. What on earth was she thinking??!

My appreciation of mums is infinite. I am inspired, on a daily basis, by the ladies out there that get on with their own lives, their marriages, their careers, their passions, whilst ensuring that their mini-me(s) have everything they could possibly need to grow and eventually build their own lives. This goes beyond just getting them out of nappies.  This includes getting them to school, to uni, supporting them in their relationships and generally being at the end of the phone when life gets a bit rough.

That’s not to say the dads don’t play an absolutely critical role. But I think we can agree that the roles are different. Growing a person inside you, expelling them somehow, and then nurturing them to adulthood…and beyond. It boggles my mind. Oooo there’s another good “b” word.

One of the reasons I had Momma F in the delivery room with me was a slightly gory and obscure way of recognising and thanking her for getting me to adulthood, and to a place where I was able to give birth, myself. Ultimately it is thanks to her (and Daggghhd, obvs). I also wanted her there to hold my hand (which she mostly squeezed rather than vice versa) and to help her to realise the freaking madness that is giving birth – four times. Holy moly. Her face was a picture. What a woman.

Baby Stuff #2 – Travel Systems

The big one often reserved to daddy is the pram, buggy or more accurately, the “travel system”. These are devices on wheels used to transport your precious bundle from A to B when it can’t be achieved using your arms. The hot wheels.  Typically made up of a chassis, a bassinet / flat bed (babe lies flat from birth to approx. 6 months), chair (approx. 6 months+) and a car seat.  This purchase will likely be subject to more debate than Brexit at Westminster.

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Travel system purchasing is definitely one of the more exciting parts of baby shopping and can be done as couple, with many a romantic moment smiling at each other between the aisles of pushchairs in John Lewis.

 

You will also spend a lot of time furtively glancing at the other similarly-pregnated new couples, trying to decipher their potential choices and underlying rationale.  You may see someone already with a bébé in a pram, looking at other prams.  Take note: that doesn’t bode well for the existing pram.

You may spend a bit of time pushing the empty buggy around the shop and when you get entangled in the chassis, pretending you are trying to put the break on and collapse the contraption.  You blame the bump – silly bump, getting in the way – obviously when the bébé arrives you won’t have any problems! What’s more you will suddenly have become superwoman, turkey wings transformed into solid guns and you will be able to lift the pram and car seat with just one hand, whilst delicately balancing le petit in the other.  Perhaps feeding simultaneously.

Good luck with that.

When your time comes, you will probably look at and test 10, maybe 20 travel systems and in so doing travel half way around the country for the pleasure.  Remember you are pregnant and tired and a little groggy. Whichever one you buy, when you actually start to use it, tired and sore and sleep deprived, you will immediately realise your criteria were ridiculous. e.g. nice colour, shiny frame, matches my changing bag and nail colour, has a big basket for shopping, and – oh look – a cup holder! Brilliant! I will need that.

Question: Does the cup holder help you getting the damn thing into the car??? Can you even lift it?! Does it fit in your boot? Can you fold it or unfold it with one arm? Is there any suspension or does your baby practically fly out when you go over a bump? How quickly can you get your foot, or hand, on the break?  How easily can you detach the bed?  How low do you need to bend to put bébé in?  How wide is the contraption? Will it fit in shop doors?  Or coffee shop doors?  Because if it won’t, you are going to struggle getting that coffee my dear.  And don’t forget the adapters – have you got the correct adapters to fix the car seat to the chassis, because if you haven’t, you’ve got a problem my friend. By the way they are extra $$$.  You get the gist.

BTW travel systems are the price of a small car. Ok, slight exaggeration but you get the point. Guess what, most of them last for about 6 months.  Maybe a year. Tops.  More likely than not you will end up buying a buggy as soon as you possibly can, when bébé can hold their heads better, which is light, small and costs a fraction of your travel system.

NB: Unless you get a complete MaxiCosi system, their car seat is the industry best so you might end up getting their car seat (pebble/ pebble plus) – if your “system” includes a car seat, one third of it is immediately redundant. On this point it is worth finding out if you can get the package without the car seat, hopefully for slightly less $$$.

Oh and guess what, just to finish on the babe, after all, this is for monsieur Jnr – he won’t necessarily love the pram.  Why would he?  He wants to be snuggled close to mummy or daddy, not bouncing around in a little cold box! So I strongly recommend a Babybjorn or similar carrier or sling (something like the NCT caboo carrier for indoors), to get through those moments when your babe refuses to go back in the pram.  It can be very awkward when you’re trying to get home and bébé has decided he has had enough of the wheeled box. Bye bye more money, hello peaceful journeys!

<Tips on buggy shopping to be found at the end of Baby Stuff #3>

 

Baby Stuff #1

Babies are expensive. Everyone starts to tell you this about a minute after you announce your happy news. You nod politely but secretly imagine yourself laden with baby joys in one hand and a full purse in the other. After all, you are a master shopper.  Bargains fall into your hands.  Shopping is easy.

When your bump is sufficiently secure and protruding, you will start the exciting task of equipping yourself for ze bebe.  This involves reading endless blogs, signing up for every advisory webpage under the sun and, primarily, mothercare and mamas and papas, reviewing endless “must have” lists and seeking individual and personal recommendations from anyone who has ever been in close proximity to a child.

It is at this point you start to realise that, yes, everyone was quite right: if you survive the birth, you may be bankrupt.  How can such a small thing require so much stuff??

This is the first of a series of blogs on baby stuff.

#1 Sleeping

Let’s start with the simple stuff. When you think of a baby, how do you imagine them?  Peaceful, angelic….snoozing.  You usually imagine them asleep, right? So it probably doesn’t cross your mind that your baby might not actually sleep. Of course he will sleep! I’ve seen lots of them, it’s all they do!

How wrong you are.

You get all the basic sleep devices for a tiny human being; a moses basket, maybe a crib or a cot attached to your bed, or separate, ready for the big move after 6 months (!!).  You get the special mini sheets and blankets and cushions-for-ants. Maybe even a dangly musical mobile, and the special sheep – you know, Ewan the Sheep, the fluffy white, glowing noise machine that pretty much everyone and their uncle recommends… (see pic!)  But that’s just the start, my friends.  You see, the baby won’t actually want to sleep in the basket when it is bed time. Or in the crib.  Ewan the blessed Sheep won’t help. In fact, there is only one sleep thing baby requires and that is to sleep on mummy.  He doesn’t care about white noise, soft sheets or mobiles. He wants warm, milky, sweaty, tired mummy.

By the way, it is strongly recommended by the NHS, the midwife, the health visitor, your mum etc. that baby does not sleep with or on you.  PANIC FACE. What do you do?  You’re extremely sleep deprived and insanely protective of this little thing.  Ok, it makes sense that they should not sleep on you or in your bed – what if you fall asleep or roll over? It’s logical and safe advice not to do it. Except logic isn’t necessarily prevalent right now.  Your baby literally won’t sleep anywhere that’s not you. And just as a reminder, you haven’t slept yourself in what feels like a decade.  You are literally delirious from sleep deprivation.  Every time you feed the little babe they fall asleep on you.  So what the heck do you do?  This was the situation we found ourselves in. To make matters worse Bébe FF wouldn’t sleep on his back at any time, so even when we managed to get him to sleep somewhere that wasn’t on mummy (or daddy, or grandma) then we had to wedge him onto his side.  Not as bad as him sleeping on his front, but still not ideal.

If sleeping problems happen to you, you may need the next level of sleeping device.  And you guessed it, there are loads to choose from, they all claim to work miracles and they come with a hefty price tag.  There’s the baby swaddles that claim to work miracles (we found certain “normal” blankets worked well and secured Bébé FF nicely), baby sounds and smells (lavender and camomile) and then there’s the memory-foam-based-item-that-feels-safe-and-snuggly to essentially wedge your baby into a position that they feel safe enough to sleep in like a womb (like the cocoonababy, the sleepyhead, etc, although sometimes towels will do).  Why someone hasn’t invented one in the shape of boobs I do not know.

In our house, le must ‘ave for sleeping baby is the “Lambie” – a lambskin that bébé can snuggle into, that keeps him warm or cool, and travels around in all sleeping devices as a constant.  He loves it.

Oh and one last thing – when they are asleep safe and sound in their cribs or cots or baskets, with their sleepyheads, sleeping music and sleeping suits, you will then need a baby monitor to check – roughy every 2 seconds – that your bundle is, in fact, asleep.

A baby monitor is essentially a walkie talkie.  Except baby monitors do so much more.  They are literally all singing all dancing… you can get ones with a camera and screen and a light show and musical accompaniment, including white noise, classical music, ones with a safety mat alarm thingamy (I’ve heard these are more hassle than they are worth) – the choices are endless.  Naturally, the level of technical wizardry is proportionate to the level of $$$ you will be handing over.  This may be one that Daddy decides is his domaine.  Mr FF made the executive decision on ours (BT) because, you know, even though it is a baby monitor there are technical things like batteries involved so best to leave it to the experts…

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Unknown baby winning at sleep.  FYI probably not a safe sleeping device.