Sunday, 30 December 2012

After The Storm

A friend told me this story shortly after my son died. I don't know who wrote it but it has provided some comfort and perspective. I read it as a message of hope...


When a devastating storm comes, an area is often completely laid waste. There may be a warning, but even then, the intensity of the storm often takes everyone by surprise. Nothing can stand in the pathway of the storm, and everything that was held sacred or precious may be lost or ruined. Trees are uprooted, buildings are wrecked, possessions can be swept away; the landscape looks completely unrecognisable. Those who live there can choose to stay, to try and protect what they hold dear from the storm, or can go whilst the storm is at its fiercest and return afterwards to assess what happened. Whatever they do, they cannot prevent damage.

But given time, the devastation seems to settle. Where the ground was ravaged and empty, new plants start to grow. Often these are plants which would never have been able to grow before the devastation of the storm because the older plants were too well established. Some of the wrecks and ruins are removed, others may be left as a reminder or memorial to what happened. Parts of the wreckage may be used to build new and different buildings, possessions are repaired or replaced.

And some time down the line, though a stranger may look at an area and not realise the utter devastation that occurred there previously, those who live there, and lived through the storm will know that the area has been shaped to be what it is because of what happened during and After the Storm.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas: past, present and future

Nine years ago, in memory of our grandma, my sister and I started a Christmas tradition: the exchange of baubles. Grandma had a small, artificial Christmas tree, which she decorated with coloured fairy lights and tinsel. She also had a collection of mis-matched ornaments that she had accumulated over the years. I have some of them on my tree now. There were always two pots of sweets under the tree - one for me and one for my sister. Grandma would buy us a present each to open on Christmas Day and a dozen or so small presents (crayons, hair clips, puzzle books etc), which she would hide around her house for us to find on a Boxing Day treasure hunt. After she died, my sister and I wanted to continue the childhood magic of grandma's Christmas, so we decided that each year we would buy each other a Christmas decoration.

We have now extended the tradition to our children. I buy a bauble for each of my nephews and my daughter receives a bauble from each of her aunties. The idea is that each child will have a unique set of Christmas decorations to take with them when they have grown up and leave home. This year, my daughter received a fuzzy seal pup, a rag-doll angel and a wooden Santa.

I also buy a bauble each year for my daughter. The year she was born, I ordered a glass bauble with a Christmas tree inside, personalised with her name and birth year. It's too precious to put on the tree at the moment, in case it gets knocked off and broken. When she's older, I will give it to her. I'm hoping she'll take good care of it and put it on her own tree. This Christmas, I gave her a little snow globe.

This year, I ordered another personalised bauble, in memory of my son. I thought about buying a glass one but I decided against that because I wanted to put it on the tree and not worry about it breaking. So, I bought a silver one, with his name and birth year engraved onto it. It has taken pride of place, high up on my tree, alongside a similar ornament, engraved with his sister's name and birth year. I like being able to see my children's baubles together on the tree.

Christmas is normally one of my favourite seasons but this year I haven't felt like celebrating. We have had a nice time with family but it was not the Christmas I had planned. However, continuing the bauble exchange has reminded me how lucky I am to have close family and to be able to pass new traditions on in memory of those who cannot be with us.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Physical recovery

Today, I had a follow-up appointment with the physiotherapist. My divarication is improving - there is now only a 2-3cm gap across my abdomen, so the exercises are working! I have to keep up the regime, include two new exercises twice a day and go back for another assessment in January. Further good news is that I don't have to wear the tubi-grip support as often - only on days when I'm particularly active. I'm also allowed to do some very gentle swimming (breast-stroke only) and some symmetrical yoga poses or breathing exercises. So, our Sunday morning family trip to the leisure centre can include all three of us getting into the pool, rather than mummy watching from the viewing gallery.

Yesterday, I went to see my GP. I thought it would be a good idea to talk to her, as I hadn't met her before and I'm going to need her help over the coming weeks and months. She was very supportive and understanding. She advised me to get in touch with the local SANDS support group and to make sure that I get out of the house to see people every day. We agreed that I should concentrate on my physical recovery and I'm going back to see her again in a month's time. My emotional recovery will take much longer but we're working on that...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mum's the word

I am so grateful to our family and friends who have donated funds to the Mum's the Word appeal in memory of Monty. Together, we have raised over £700 (not including the gift aid!) and there's more to come as we have a promise of sponsorship from someone who is running the London Marathon in 2013. I am proud that we will have a hot air balloon dedicated to Monty's memory on the hospital's fundraising wall.

We feel so grateful for the kind and tender care we received when we found out that our baby had died and would be stillborn. All the midwives, doctors, and hospital staff made us as comfortable as they could and were sensitive to our feelings, needs and wishes. I can look back and remember the very special (albeit heart-breaking) experience of giving birth to my precious son and am glad to have received such excellent care.

I hope that our contribution will go some way to helping ensure that high-quality care will continue to be provided to other mothers, babies and families at Southmead Hospital...

...and, perhaps, one day, we will be lucky enough to receive their care again?

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Dancing Star

A friend shared her story with me and gave me a book that had provided her with comfort and strength. The book is called "A Dancing Star". It is an anthology of quotations: 'inspirations to guide and heal'. It is a welcome gift.

Having looked through it only once, so far, I have already found words that help to assign context and meaning to my grief. I am not the first person to have loved and lost. I will not be the last.

These two thoughts have helped me today:

"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."
Virginia Slater

"Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us."
Meister Eckhart

This book will be my handbag companion for some time to come...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Festival of light

We have invited family and friends to join us today in remembering our baby boy. Since they are geographically dispersed and the weather is not great at this time of year, we have decided not to ask people to travel to Bristol for a remembrance event. However, we want to mark the date on which we were hoping to welcome Monty to the world and give those who care about us and have been affected by his loss an opportunity to say their own goodbye or prayer for him.

So, we're holding a Festival of Light this evening. We will be lighting candles and, if the weather permits, we will send up a few Chinese lanterns. Our friends and family will join us, from wherever they are across the UK and overseas, in lighting candles and spending a few minutes thinking of baby Monty.


I'll be thinking of my delight at discovering I was pregnant again, the plans I had made for another year on maternity leave, how my daughter practised at being a big sister, and how I was looking forward to being a mum of two. Although we never had the chance to develop a postnatal mother-son bond, Monty and I did a lot together in the 34 weeks that we co-existed. We climbed Skiddaw, rode on a Ferris Wheel, visited Weston-super-Mare, performed at Proms in the Meadow, competed at LABBS Convention, applied for several jobs (and got one!), and enjoyed a lot of cake! Monty would have recognised our voices and felt us stroke him through my bump. We have special memories of those 34 weeks that we can share as a family.

I will treasure the keepsakes in Monty's memory box and look at his photo on the windowsill. I will be reminded of him each time I look in the mirror and see my heart pendant. I physically carried him with me for nearly eight months and will carry his memory with me forever...

Monday, 10 December 2012

I'll get by with a little help from my friends

Since Monty died, I've been given information about SANDS and the contact number for the local support group. I've received lots of cards, letters, emails and texts from friends. I have also been approached by people I don't know very well (such as, mums from toddler groups we attend) who know that I have lost my baby and who want to help in some way, even if just by going for a coffee.

I am lucky to have so many people who care about me and such a big support network and have decided that I need to start taking up some of these offers of help.

It can be hard to ask people to listen, when what I need to talk about is so sad, but I'm finding it very helpful to talk to friends (in particular, other mums) on a one-to-one basis. Some people have a similar experience to share, others have a different experience of loss and can empathise. In almost every case, I have found that it makes it easier to understand that my experience of grief is not unique and that I will, in time, start to feel better.

I'm on maternity leave from work at the moment and my daughter goes to nursery on three days of the week. I've got too much time to myself, which just gives me room to think too much, and I need to make sure that I spend some time every day in the company of others. Grown-up conversation is welcome and, on the days that I do have my daughter at home with me, it's good to meet up with other people who have toddlers for a play date.

I am determined to get back to my singing but I've been so tired in the evenings that I only made it to one half of a rehearsal in the past month (and I realised, when I got there, that I couldn't remember how any of the songs go!). It's the Christmas party on Thursday and I'm going to make a special effort to be there so that I can spend time with my friends before we break for the Christmas/New Year holiday.

I know that I'll never get over the loss of my baby (and why would I want to?) but I also know that, with a little help from my friends, I can regain some happiness, grow stronger and enjoy my "new normal" in a positive way.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Silent baby


I cannot begin to describe the loss
Of a baby born asleep.
I cannot begin to describe the pain;
All I can do is weep.
The silence of a delivery room that
Should have been filled with joy,
The silence of a mother who has
Delivered a silent boy.

A dim-lit room, an empty womb,
The quiet tears that flow.
A baby, washed and dressed, whom
The world will never know.

When I wake up in the morning and
Then begin to cry
It's with sadness at remembering that
You are not nearby.
I sleep beside your memory box with
Precious items few:
Mementoes of the too-short time
I got to spend with you.

You died inside so quietly,
My body let you go,
But my heart will always love you,
Dear child I'll never know.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Proud mummy!

After blogging recently about my sadness, it's nice to have something lovely to write about. Two things happened this week that made me smile :-)

Firstly, my daughter had her first 'school photos' taken. I've never had professional photos taken of her but nursery arranged for a photographer to come and take pictures of all the children. We don't have much success in keeping our daughter still enough to take the best shots, so I was interested to see how well these would come out. They are beautiful!

My daughter can be quite shy with other people, even those she knows reasonably well, and you can tell from a couple of the proof images that she wasn't entirely certain what was going on. She did tell us that "the dog sniffed my toes!" - I think the photographer had some toys and props to keep the children interested in having their photos taken.

So, now the tough choice is: of the eight photos on the proof sheet (four different images, each in colour and black and white), which do we buy? We have chosen one that we think best captures her smile (although none of them properly portray her cheeky nature) and will order enough copies to give to her grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as keeping one for ourselves. I did consider buying the CD of digital images but my husband wasn't keen on that idea.

Secondly, I spoke to my daugher's Key Worker at nursery about her development and learning. We were supposed to have attended parents' evening at the beginning of November but it was too soon after Monty was born, so we postponed. The good news is that she is happy and settled! She is bright and polite; she joins in with all the activities they offer and plays nicely with the other children.

I brought home her learning journal to show my husband. It has some lovely photos and observations of things she's involved with at nursery and I like having this glimpse into her independent life. It's strange to get a fly-on-the-wall perspective of your own child and what they are like in your absence!

All in all, I'm a very proud mummy. She is doing well at nursery and seems to cope well with new experiences even in our absence. I am pleased that she is turning out to be bright and confident and look forward to seeing how much further she has grown and developed by the time she has her next school photos taken and the next parents' evening comes around!

Monday, 3 December 2012

One month on

This seems to have been the longest month of my life. Hours and days have elongated yet the weeks have passed quickly. How can one whole month have passed already since Monty was born?

It's hard to describe how I feel. I mourn the intimacy of maternal love for the baby growing inside and the lost potential of a life that never came to be. I am exhausted from lack of sleep and the effort required to get through each day. I feel incredibly sad and burdened by the thought that I have let everybody down.

The chaplain told me that it is perfectly normal for mothers to feel it is their fault when a baby dies. I have replayed over and over in my head the hours between my last midwife appointment and the scan at the hospital, looking for a missed signal that would have told me something was so terribly wrong. I feel I have failed as a mother in not being able to save my son, although medical advisors have said that, in all likelihood, no action on my part would or could have changed the outcome.

We are waiting for the results of the tests carried out postnatally on me and Monty and the results of the post mortem. We will be called back to the hospital to meet one of the consultants to go through all the results but have been told that, in the majority of cases, they are unable to determine the cause of death. It is important for us to understand if there was an identifiable reason for the loss of our baby and to consider the possibility of maybe trying for another child at some point in the future.

The world continues about its business but my life has been turned inside out. Plans, hopes and dreams have been shattered - the rug has been pulled from under my feet. I have never before felt so uncertain about my future. In a practical sense, we can continue where we left off but I know there will always be something missing and the unspoken, unanswered question - what if? When people ask me how I'm doing, my first answer is usually "OK" but friends who probe deeper and ask the right questions soon find out that I'm bewildered, confused, cast adrift, tearful...

Someone said to me "It's as if your life is a beautiful glass vase on a windowsill. One day, when the window is open, a breeze blows your vase onto the floor and it smashes into pieces. You collect up as many pieces as you can find but even if you try to glue them back together, there will be some pieces missing and it will never look the same again. So, melt the glass and make a new vase which, although different to the first one, can be equally beautiful."

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The circle of life

I spent quite a lot of time during my second trimester preparing my daughter for the arrival of a baby brother or sister. I wanted to give her a sense of excitement for the forthcoming new addition to our family whilst teaching her the importance of caring for others. So, we read books about being a big sister and practised lots of role play with her toys (mainly with 'baby dolly') - snuggling them up cosy and warm under a blanket and pretending to give them milk to drink. We took an interest in other people's babies and talked about what activities we would do with our baby after he/she was born.

My daughter wanted to be like mummy and imagined that she too had a baby in her tummy. She would talk about how the baby would eat her dinner after she'd eaten it (I think my husband had tried to explain how babies are nourished through the umbilical cord). She took an interest in the movements in my bump and would kiss and stroke the baby through my tummy button.

I never imagined that I would end up having to try to explain why her brother isn't like other babies and that he is never coming home...


Tonight in the bath she said "When our baby comes back into your tummy..."

"No, sweetheart," I said "our baby isn't coming back into my tummy." I reminded her that he had been born but that he had died and that he isn't coming home.

"He's just in the picture" she said, sadly.


Yes, he's just in the picture. We have a photo of Monty on the windowsill. In the picture with him is his little soft bear rattle - a toy that we have given to our daughter as a gift from her brother and which she associates with the concept of 'our baby'.

We have been given lots of professional advice on how to explain death to children but it is hard to deal with the naivety and direct nature of some of my daughter's questions and statements. I can hardly understand what has happened myself, so how do I begin to make sense of it in a way that my daughter can comprehend? She is only two-and-a-half years old but she is confused by the sudden change - where is the baby we were preparing for? One thing is clear, she is grieving just as much as the rest of us for his loss.

I am sure that, as time goes on, I will be able to answer her questions a little better and without crying. I want her to know about Monty, to remember his name and to recognise his photo. He is my second child and her younger brother. He will always be 'our baby' but just in the picture, in our memories and in our hearts.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

No more bikini...

I have divarication of my abdominal muscles. The muscles separated during my first pregnancy (and I'm not sure if they ever returned to their original formation), then separated further during my second. The community midwife referred me to a physiotherapist as part of my postnatal recovery.

Three weeks after delivering my second baby, there is still a 5-6cm gap across my tummy button. I've been doing the prescribed exercises two or three times a day since I came home from hospital and they have started to have an effect but there is more work to be done.

The physiotherapist assessed my injury and advised how to improve my exercise technique. Basically, lying on my side (or standing up), I pull in my tummy muscles as I exhale and hold for a slow count to 5 or 6 whilst breathing normally. I repeat this about 5 times. Easy (or so I thought)! Apparently, I shouldn't pull so hard with my upper abdominal muscles but concentrate on the lower down ones. I'm also putting too much effort into the exercises - about 50% is enough! My work to date has led to some improvement above my tummy button but I still have a tear-drop shaped divarication.

I must also keep doing pelvic floor exercises (like everyone else!) and these will engage and build up my tummy muscles too. Long holds and quick squeezes - 5 reps of each two or three times a day.

In addition, I've been wearing some of the sturdiest and most formidable Bridget Jones pants ever made (on the advice of the midwife and endorsed by the physio) and have now been given a huge length of tubigrip to wear from boobs to bottom on days when I don't want to wear the support knickers - sexy!

Hopefully, the exercise regime will bring the muscles closer together. A second assessment in four week's time will determine my progress and possibly lead to a revised exercise plan.

I accept that I'll never wear a bikini (truth be told, I never wore one anyway!) but I'm hoping that one day I will be able to get out of bed without using the rolling-onto-side-and-pushing-up-with-one-hand technique and that I might even be able to get back to the gym or a yoga class in a few months' time.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

One step forward, two steps back...

Potty training. *sigh*

After a promising start, with my daughter getting the hang of sitting nicely on the potty to do a wee ("There's something in my fanny!") and being rewarded with a sticker, she seems to have lost interest.

The first signs of disinterest emerged when I went away for a weekend with my singing group at the end of October. One set of grandparents came to visit and my daughter refused to try any nappy-free time whilst they were staying and my husband was in charge! (I'm told that she only wanted to wear big girl pants for mummy.)

Then, the upheaval of the last couple of weeks (in which we have all been trying to deal with the loss of Monty) has put potty training more firmly on the back-burner. To be honest, none of us has had the energy to think about it properly. My daughter has volunteered to wear knickers on a couple of occasions but has had quite a few accidents, so we've switched back to nappies.

I know that no-one expects potty training to be successful in times of stress but it seems a shame, given the effort, enthusiasm and promise of the first couple of weeks, to have to put this on hold.

Perhaps, when we're all feeling a bit stronger in the New Year, we'll have another go?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hospital bag: debrief

I promised to make a note of which items packed in my overnight bag were useful and which were a waste of space. So, before I forget, here's the lowdown:

(Note: I re-packed before going to hospital for my induction and removed most of the baby items, knowing that I wouldn't need them.)

These are the items that we used:

Items for me:

  • hairbrush. comb and hair bobbles
  • lip balm - I got very thirsty and my lips dried out
  • toothbrush and toothpaste - we stayed overnight
  • maternity pads - one packet was plenty
  • breast pads - I used one pair
  • shampoo and shower gel - I had a bath after labour and a shower the next morning
  • deodorant
  • slippers (although I didn't wear them as much as I thought I would)
  • fluffy socks - I wore one pair in labour and the other pair afterwards
  • cotton pants - I used a couple of pairs
  • two nighties - one to labour in, the other for after the birth
  • pyjama bottoms - worn underneath my nightie after the birth
  • wrap cardigan - I kept getting cold and shivery after the birth (probably due to shock from a quick labour)
  • going home outfit - maternity jeans, long-sleeved top and cardigan

(I asked the midwives to dispose of the nightie, socks and knickers I'd worn during labour - I didn't want  to keep them, so they were sent for incineration.)

Items for husband and mum:

  • toothbrushes
  • snacks 
  • crossword book and pen 
  • newspaper

Items for baby:

  • A vest and a blanket for Monty to be dressed and wrapped in after he was born
  • A soft bear rattle (we took a photograph of Monty with his rattle and then brought the toy home as a gift from him to his big sister)

Other:

  • maternity notes
  • digital camera
  • mobile phones

These are the items that we didn't use:
  • nail file
  • alcohol hand rub
  • bio-oil
  • earplugs
  • plastic jug (the hospital provided one!)

We were given a parking permit for the car park, so I didn't need all the coins I'd saved up for parking charges, and the hospital provided a TENS machine for me to use.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Creating memories

This week, I would have been 37 weeks pregnant - officially full-term and anticipating the arrival of my baby. Instead, we held a small, private funeral to say goodbye to our little boy.

We have created a memory box to hold the few keepsakes we have of Monty:
  • scan photos
  • hand and foot prints
  • a few locks of hair
  • the yellow baby-gro I bought for him
  • ankle and wrist bands from the hospital
  • cot card
  • certificate of stillbirth
  • photos we took after he was born
  • a beautiful felt heart, embroidered with his name and birth date, made by a friend
  • order of service from the funeral
  • a copy of Monty's entry in the babies' book of remembrance at the hospital

We have bought two matching frames to keep a photo of each of our children on the windowsill, next to our wedding photo. I also bought a necklace with a heart pendant to wear every day in memory of my precious baby boy.

With Monty's due date in mid-December, I've had a silver Christmas bauble engraved with his name and the year. It will be hung on our tree so that we can think of him during the season of family togetherness.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

And time goes by so slowly...

It seems as though time has slowed to a crawl this past fortnight. I hardly know what day it is, let alone the date or time. Two weeks ago, I waited for a call to attend a scan at the hospital and then my life was turned upside down.

There has been so much to do, think about and agree to. The only way I've been able to 'cope' is to break it down into chunks: deliver my baby; meet him and say goodbye; give consent for tests and a post mortem; register his birth; speak to the chaplain about funeral arrangements; and so it goes on...

I have never cried so much or so hard or drunk so many cups of tea.

I feel so desperately sad that I don't have my baby to hold, that my husband doesn't have his son, that my daughter is a big sister with no sibling. Our baby felt my love and care for 34 weeks but never got to enjoy the love of his extended family. If only I could have known that something was wrong - perhaps I could have saved him?

I have bad days and better days. One thing is certain, I couldn't have got through these last two weeks without the excellent and tender care received from the hospital and community midwives, love from my family, and support from our friends. We have received so many cards, texts, emails, letters and flowers - I am touched and comforted to know that people are sending us their thoughts and prayers as we try to understand what has happened.

The strength of love I feel for my husband and daughter is amplified; they keep me going.

The community midwife is coming to visit me today. I was supposed to be going to the clinic for my routine 36-week appointment but, instead, she is coming to see how I'm doing at home. I'm expecting to be discharged from midwife care and handed over to my GP and health visitor until my 6-week postnatal check. Somehow, over the coming weeks and months, I will have to find my "new normal" and learn to live in a different future to the one I had planned.

My husband said "The past is ours to remember, the future is ours to create..."

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Goodbye before hello

I went for my routine 34-week midwife appointment not suspecting that there could be anything amiss with my pregnancy. I have been relatively fit and well (bar the bronchitis and sinusitis about a month ago) but had been quite busy on appointment day, so hadn't noticed much foetal movement. The midwife was concerned that I was measuring small for my dates and had difficulty finding the baby's heartbeat, although she did eventually get a strong signal on the doppler monitor. She referred me to the day assessment centre at the hospital for another scan and said I would be seen within 24 hours. I went home to have cold drinks, something to eat and take note of baby's movements. I did feel some movements during the evening and, although I was feeling a little anxious, I went to bed as normal.

The hospital phoned the next morning and I went in for the scan. Unfortunately, the ultrasound could not detect a heartbeat. My baby had died.

The sonographer and doctor were very kind and phoned my husband who came to the hospital straight away. I told him what had happened and they made us some tea. We were moved to a more comfortable room and several people came to see us and explain what would happen next. I don't remember everything that happened that afternoon but we decided to go home for the night, collecting our daughter from nursery on the way, to have as normal a family evening together as possible and try to process the news that we were losing our baby.

We told our parents and they told our sisters the sad news. We invited a midwife friend to come and sit with us for an hour in the evening and it really helped to have it all explained to us again by a friend. We arranged for my mother-in-law to come the next day and stay for a few days to look after our daughter whilst we prepared ourselves for more hospital appointments and the loss of our baby.

I didn't sleep very well that night. Butterflies swarmed around my stomach and I felt incredibly thirsty. I was up every hour and eventually got up at 5.30am to try to eat some breakfast. It's hard to eat when you have no appetite and feel queasy but an empty stomach somehow feels worse. Plain food, eaten cold, little and often helped to keep the edge off my hunger.

We had been told to return to the hospital once we had childcare sorted for our daughter. After my in-laws had arrived and been settled in at our house, we took my overnight bag, toiletries and a few extras to make us feel more comfortable to the hospital to speak to more doctors and midwives and start the process of delivering our baby. I hadn't realised there would be so many decisions to make and so much  time to wait between different stages of the process.

We spent a couple of hours in the hospital. I took the first set of medication and managed to get some sleep. The hospital made two rooms available to us - one was like a hotel room (double bed, comfy chairs, tea/coffee making facilities, fridge, tv); the other like a hospital room (with hospital bed, medical equipment and en suite bathroom). We were told that these rooms would be available to us all weekend and that we could stay as long as we liked. We stayed in the comfortable room and then, when I woke up, decided to go home again because the second set of medication could not be administered until at least 24 hours had passed.

My mother arrived that evening. She wanted to help with the delivery and see the baby born. I went to bed early and despite my churning stomach, I managed to get some sleep (more likely through exhaustion than anything else).

The next morning, after a small breakfast, my husband and I went for a short walk to get some fresh air. Having spent so much time indoors, sitting or lying on beds and chairs, it was good to stretch our legs and feel some sunshine. After lunch (not that I could eat anything), my mum, husband and I went to the hospital for the induction.

Our baby boy was stillborn that evening, six weeks ahead of his due date. Mum helped the midwife to wash and dress him for us. They took hand and footprints as a keepsake. We named him and were given some quiet time alone with him to take photos before he went to the chapel of rest.

I am the mother of two beautiful children but my baby son is never coming home.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Where there's a will, there's a wee...

I haven't felt very confident about starting potty training. (Mind you, I didn't feel very confident about weaning but that turned out OK!) However, it recently became apparent that it might be time to have a go.

I've never really bowed to peer pressure but half of the mums from my antenatal group are well underway with potty training and, having read "Potty Training Girls the Easy Way", I realised that my daughter has been exhibiting signs of readiness for a few weeks now. She is steady on her feet, has good language skills, and can concentrate for quite a long time on complicated tasks, such as jigsaw puzzles. She also understands the toilet routine (having observed me and my husband over the past year or so) and will happily play with and sit on her potty fully clothed.

So, I bit the bullet about a week ago and decided to have a crack.

We'd had a couple of discussions about big girl pants and bought some pretty ones (different colours, with stars and kittens on them), so I put them in a basket in easy reach and plain sight in my daughter's bedroom. I said that we could have a go at wearing them and trying to wee on the potty if she wanted to. A few days later, I suggested that we might have a go after nursery (we have about an hour between getting home and going upstairs for the bath/bed routine) and she said yes.

So, we took off her nappy and put pants on (no trousers). I laid out a play mat, in case of accidents, and put the potty in plain sight. We got a jigsaw puzzle and enjoyed some quiet 1:1 play time. I gave her a drink and a snack. Although she did sit on the potty a couple of times, we had two accidents (one on the play mat, one on the carpet). She got a sticker for sitting on the potty and we talked about what it feels like just before you need to wee. (We'd already established that doing a wee feels hot!)

The next few days, she wasn't in the mood to have another go, so I didn't push it.

Last night, she took me by surprise and, as soon as we got home from nursery, asked if she could wear her big girl pants. "Of course!" I said and set everything up as we had before. This time, there were no accidents and three (count 'em - three!) successful wees in the potty! Lots of stickers were awarded and my daughter telephoned her Auntie H to share the exciting news and receive some praise. Daddy was duly impressed when he got home from work.

We had another go at nappy-free time this morning and she did another wee in the potty. The phrase "There's something in my fanny!" seems to indicate that she has a wee coming!

I think I'm going to stick to offering an hour a day for potty practise for the next few weeks and see how we get on before extending the length of the sessions. It may be some time before we venture out without a nappy on but I'm pleased with her progress so far.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Gender stereotyping

Well, I learned a thing or two about gender stereotypes today. We were having a discussion about 'our baby' and I asked my 2-year-old daughter whether she thought the baby will be a boy or a girl. She wasn't sure but demonstrated for us the differences between boys and girls:

"Boys do running around, like this..." [cue: mad dashing about the lounge] "and kicking a football."
"What do girls like to do?" I asked
"Staying at home."

My husband and I were amused but perplexed by her answer because we have tried not to promote gender stereotyping.

We don't dress her exclusively in pink, for example, but have a rainbow of clothes for her to wear. The toys she has range from a train set and cars, through jigsaws and farm animals, to dolls and a kitchen. The books we read cover a variety of topics and include heroes and heroines in equal measure. Mummy and daddy both work and share the household chores and cooking. Daddy even took her to Music With Mummy classes when he was working part-time.

So, it's interesting to ponder how she came to this conclusion - boys like running around and girls like staying at home.

Perhaps she has observed a difference in behaviour in the children at her nursery? I don't doubt that there are quiet and boisterous children of both sexes there but maybe the boys tend to be more energetic and noisy than the girls? Certainly within our antenatal circle it would be hard to stereotype the children in this way. Or perhaps she has picked up subtle differences or messages from the programmes she watches on TV or from some of the books that she reads?

I don't think we'll ever work it out but it's interesting that she should form her opinion so young.

We responded by finding her (pink, Hello Kitty) football and encouraging her to score goals against the hearth for 5 minutes. She certainly out-played us both and was rewarded with a sticker for her sporting efforts! Then we went for a walk to feed the ducks and buy the ingredients to make rice-crispie cakes.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ready or not, here I come...?

With less than two months to go until my EDD and this being my second time around, I would have expected to feel more prepared than I do for my new arrival. Instead of feeling generally relaxed and confident in my mothering abilities, I am actually starting to get a bit anxious about how I'll cope with a new baby and a toddler - both of whom will be very needy but in different ways.

I should say that my daughter is extremely excited about the prospect of becoming a big sister. She talks about 'our baby' quite often and practises with her doll, giving it milk and wrapping it up cosy and warm in a blanket. She takes it for walks around the house in its pushchair and sits it up in the bouncer chair that I got down from the loft to air off before the baby is born. She likes to 'tickle' our baby through my bump and says sorry if she forgets to be gentle! She can't decide if she'd prefer a brother or sister and likes to talk about what a big girl she is now. Although she never used one, she has a fascination with dummies and points out other babies that are sucking them. I have explained that she has always sucked her thumb instead (and still does!) but for some reason dummies are objects of interest. We haven't started potty training yet but she is showing signs of readiness so I think we might have to have a go.

I have started to put the nursery together. It has a chest of drawers and a rocking chair (the one I nursed my daughter in) and a basket of my daughter's first toys. I got all the baby clothes and cot bedding down from the loft, washed them and folded them neatly in the drawers ready for use. We have a moses basket, borrowed from my sister, but no mattress. After some deliberation (and two fruitless trips to mothercare to buy a moses basket mattress), we have decided not to bother with it but just to use the cot from day one. So we have bought a new cot mattress (current advice is not to pass mattresses from one sibling to another) and will have to erect the cot in our bedroom once the baby is born.

My overnight bag is packed (subject to a few last-minute additions, such as snacks), ready and waiting for the big day.

So, in practical terms, I guess I am ready but it struck me the other day just how much hard work it was when my daughter was born, how tired I felt and how long it took me to get back on my feet - how am I going to manage with a toddler as well?!

I suppose the answer is that I just will. I'll have to get on with it, try to keep my daughter's routine as normal as possible, juggle the competing demands of two children, ask for help from family and friends and muddle through as best I can!

I'm re-reading "The Second Baby Survival Guide" and I'm going to flick through the first chapter or two of "Your Baby Week By Week" (which I found extremely helpful last time) just to remind myself about newborns but then I guess it's just a case of waiting to see...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Autumn stroll

We have had a lot of rainy weather recently but, although the ground was wet, this morning was lovely and sunny and warm. Over our eggs and bacon breakfast, my daughter said she wanted to put on her sunglasses and a hat and walk "all the way over there!" (pointing out of the conservatory window and over the fields).

So, all three of us put our wellies on and went on a family walk. We took a plastic bag to collect autumn treasures that we could make a collage with later on. 

We jumped in loads of muddy puddles (so much so, that two of us had to get completely re-dressed after we returned home!) and found conkers, feathers and leaves of various shapes, sizes and colours. We played pooh sticks when we got to the river and saw some horses and cows. What an adventure!

My husband and I were amazed and very pleased with how far our 2-year old managed to walk before she asked for a shoulder ride. The whole route was probably about a mile and a half and we were more than halfway round before she started to flag.

When we got home, we had warm drinks and biscuits and then started making our collage. Here is the result - a sparkly, autumn treasure picture!


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Packing my bags!

With only ten weeks until my EDD, I have decided it's time to get my hospital bags packed. Like last time, I'm packing on the assumption of spending one night in hospital. I really wish I'd taken the time to make a note last time of what I used and what was a waste of space in my overnight bag, but I didn't. So I'm trying to do it from memory and with pointers from the NetMums list.


Toiletries:

  • breast pads (5 pairs) 
  • maternity pads (one pack)
  • hairbrush, comb and two hair bobbles
  • disposable nail file
  • lip balm
  • toothbrush
  • travel-sized alcohol hand rub
  • Bio oil
  • deodorant
  • hand cream
  • lanolin 
  • travel-sized shampoo and shower gel
  • earplugs (I didn't use any last time I was in hospital but they don't take up much space in the bag!)


Things for me:

  • slippers
  • fluffy socks (2 pairs)
  • large cotton pants (much more comfortable than disposable knickers!)
  • nursing bra (a crop-top style one because I'll get properly fitted a week or so after the birth)
  • cheap, old nightie to labour/birth in
  • nice, new nightie for after the birth
  • soft, jersey jogging bottoms (in a size larger than I would normally wear)
  • wrap cardigan to wear over nightie
  • going home outfit (long-sleeved nursing top, maternity jeans [not pictured] and socks)

Things for baby:
  • vests x3
  • baby-gros x2
  • cardigan
  • cotton hat
  • socks (1 pair)
  • scratch mitts (1 pair)
  • muslins x2
  • nappies
  • cotton wool
  • blanket, woolly hat and snowsuit (for going home in)

There are a few extra items that I need to buy before my packing is complete: extra pairs of pants; travel-sized toothpaste; notebook and pen (to record baby's feeds and nappy changes); bendy straws; a packet of hob-nobs (I got really hungry doing night-feeds last time!) and some other snacks. I'm also going to buy a present for my daughter from the new baby.

I need to remember to pack my maternity jeans (but I'm wearing them at the moment!), a plastic jug, my maternity notes, camera, mobile phone and some cash to cover car-parking charges at the hospital.

I'm planning to borrow a TENS machine from the local midwifery unit, as I did last time, but I won't be able to collect this until a fortnight before my due date. Finally, we will have to get the baby car seat down from the loft and fit it in the car a few weeks before I'm due.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

30th week blues

I've been struggling this week because what I thought was just another cold has turned out to be acute sinusitis and bronchitis! After two days of cold symptoms and extreme tiredness, I developed a wheeze and chesty cough, which made it hard to breathe. The weekend was horrible, with me feeling poorly, my husband tired from a week at work and my daughter clingy and whiny because mummy wouldn't play properly.

It all came to a head overnight on Saturday/Sunday. I had just two hours sleep! Every time I lay down, my nose blocked and the wheezing worsened. I tried to sleep sitting up but couldn't. At 7am, I got up and phoned the out of hours doctor. Thankfully, they gave me an appointment at 9.30am.

We all went to the out of hours clinic. My daughter said "Doctor will make mummy happy." She was right. The doctor diagnosed the two problems and prescribed some drugs, which have made a huge difference. I'm signed off work so that I can rest and recover properly and I'm gradually getting back on my feet.

Obviously, the past week hasn't been particularly enjoyable but it has made me think about a few things. Firstly, I'm glad that I'll be taking 5 weeks off work before my due date. I'm getting heavier and finding it harder to move around so I'm going to need that time to gather my strength for labour. Secondly, I realised just how much my family relies on me to be 'normal'. They don't like it when I'm running on half-speed or disorganised! Thirdly, I realised just how much I do each day and that I probably ought to work out ways of making some things easier - the cooking, for example. Although I'm hoping not to be unwell after giving birth, I remember how long it took me to recover last time and how much help I needed from family to keep the house running and food on the table. It's going to be very important to maintain as much normality a possible for my daughter when her new sibling arrives.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Reflections on the second trimester

By the end of this week, I'll be in the third trimester of this pregnancy. It seems as if the second trimester has been very long - perhaps because it's been 13 weeks since I last saw a midwife? So, how have things progressed over the past three months?

  • My bump has got A LOT bigger! It protrudes a long way (it's all up front and low) and I keep snagging my sticky-out tummy button on things! I also sometimes park the car and forget to leave enough room to ensure I can get out...
  • I have regained my thirst for tea (phew), gone off marmite (disaster!) and then regained my taste for it (hooray!).
  • Realised that this baby is playing havoc with my dietary functions - without giving away TMI, let's just say that I no longer have a daily routine and no amount of cereal or fruit seems to make a difference!
  • Sleeping is slightly easier because there's enough weight in the bump to prevent me rolling onto my back but my rhinitis hasn't improved, so I still snore like a pig and wake up with a very dry throat!
  • Baby's movements have become much more forceful and noticeable and have kind of developed a pattern. I get lots of movement in the evenings and in bed (when I'm still) but also after I drink tea or eat something! If I'm late getting a meal, the baby reminds me that it's time to send some food in!
  • I have become incredibly clumsy (butter fingers!) and drop almost everything I touch!
I really enjoyed my 20-week scan. It was lovely to see my wriggly baby again but we decided not to ask about the sex. (I didn't find out first time and I don't mind if it's a boy or a girl.)

I have started to get the nursery sorted out. There isn't much that I need to buy because I saved most of the things I used first time around. I do need to recover some items loaned to family members and buy a new mattress for the moses basket and cot but all the newborn clothes are in good condition and gender neutral.

The next task will be to make a list of things for my overnight bag (I'm packing on the assumption of spending one night in hospital and wishing I'd noted what was useful last time!) and figuring out arrangements for who will babysit my toddler whilst I'm in labour, with my husband as birth partner, and look after her until we can return home.

My due date is mid-December, which means he's not going to be able to go on his work Christmas do (a 2-day overseas jolly) and I'm just hoping that we won't get an early snowfall!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Fun-packed Wednesday!

We had a very busy day last Wednesday - we crammed so much in and had such fun!

The day started with breakfast and then a quick trip to the supermarket for the weekly shop. (I'm trying to get into a new routine, in preparation for the new baby's arrival, whereby I do more shopping online but I'm struggling to plan the fresh items into two shops per month.)

Then, we went to Jym Tots at the Fromeside Gym Club. We had previously been attending the Jelly Tots sessions for very young toddlers but have now moved up to the 2-3 year olds' class. This involves listening to the instructors and taking turns, so my daughter found it a bit different to normal. However, she quickly got the hang of it and had lots of fun. We did circuits involving balancing, bunny hopping and going through tunnels and did some trampolining too!

After Jym Tots, we went home for a chocolate biscuit and a sit down! Then, we had some lunch.

In the afternoon, we started a new activity - Hungry Elves cookery classes. The concept is similar to "I Can Cook" on cbeebies but specifically aimed at pre-schoolers. Again, we had to listen carefully and follow instructions but a lot of fun was had - we made a mess, got sticky and make lovely banana and raisin flapjacks and a glitter picture to bring home for daddy!

To celebrate our achievements in the kitchen, we popped into Yate for an ice cream before coming back home to cook dinner and have a bath.

All in all, we had a great day and were happily exhausted by bedtime!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Lesson learnt

I've had a horrible day today. This morning, I interrupted a programme my daughter was watching on the iPad (through the iPlayer app) to take her to nursery so I could get to work on time. She didn't want to go - she wanted to finish the programme. Despite promising we'd watch the ending together tonight, she got upset. Full tantrum ensued culminating in a hysterical departure from the house, a struggle to get in the car and tears for the first half of the journey.

Although she recovered by the time we got to nursery (and was happy to see Daddy on his bike as we drove past him on our way!), I felt completely rotten for having had such a big fall-out first-thing in the morning. I could have been more understanding of her view (and in the time we wasted dealing with the tantrum, we could have watched the end of the programme!) but I wasn't; the tantrum was entirely my fault.

I like the morning routine to go smoothly. I have a vested interest in us all getting out of the house together and on time. An early arrival at nursery means my daughter has a relaxed second-breakfast and  a slow introduction to friends and staff. My husband gets to work on time and, more importantly, gets to leave on time in the evening so there's no disruption to our evening routine. I get to work in a positive frame of mind, with the nursery drop-off having gone well and ready to start my day.

Not so this morning. I ordered my husband to leave us to it so that he wouldn't be late home tonight. He reluctantly obeyed. I had to spend 5 minutes in the car trying to apologise to my very upset daughter, who ordered me into the front seat and told me to drive! We made friends at the nursery gate but she was very subdued and red-eyed when I left her sitting next to a friend with a bowl of rice crispies. I had a rotten day at work, thinking about how I could have handled the tantrum better and wishing that we hadn't fallen out.

My emotional response was probably compounded by pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep (the effects of my rhinitis are really starting to grate now!) and by the fact that I'm dealing with huge organisational change at work.

At least all is forgotten (at least from my daughter's perspective) this evening. She celebrated my arrival at nursery to pick her up and told me everything she'd done in the day. She chatted in the car on the way home and gave me a hug, saying "This is my mummy!". I feel a bit better but I'm going to try much harder to keep the morning routine running smoothly from now on (and I might hide the iPad...)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

All change

We are making a significant change to our routine. It will take a while to bed-in but I'm confident that things will work out just fine.

After my maternity leave, I returned to work 4 days per week and my husband dropped his hours to work 3 long days per week. So, our daughter has been at nursery two days a week and at home with us the rest of the time for the past 18 months. It has worked really well and my husband and I have enjoyed the 1:1 time with our little girl.

However, my husband started a new job this week - full time. Our daughter will have to go to nursery on four days a week (i.e. every day that I'm at work) until I go on leave to have number two. This will be a big change for all of us. He will have to get used to working 37.5 hours over five days a week and fitting in his daddy time at evenings/weekends. I'll have to get to a new cooking and cleaning routine (my helper is now otherwise employed!) and to taking sole responsibility for all nursery pick-ups and drop-offs. Our daughter will have to get used to doubling her nursery time (I'm sure she'll find it tiring) and possibly making new friends on her new nursery days.

The new arrangement is only for 3 months but it seems like a long prospect. Let's hope we don't find it too hard...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Dear daughter,

You fell asleep on me this afternoon. We had fallen out (because I said 'No') and you threw a tantrum but during our make-up cuddle, as tears subsided, your eyelids began to droop and, with a little gentle shushing and rocking, you nodded off. I was immobilised but, after a few moments thinking about all the chores I had wanted to get done this afternoon, I realised that I couldn't remember the last time I held you whilst you slept. It was at least several months ago. So, I settled back into the sofa to enjoy the moment.

When you were a tiny baby, you would nestle your head in the dip beneath my collar bone and snooze quietly on my chest. I could support you with one hand, read a book, sniff your hair and revel in my new-mother bliss. Now you are two-and-a-quarter years old, I have to use both arms to hold you spreadeagled across my body - your head is in the same place but your feet are dangling off the sofa by my knees!

I could feel your baby brother/sister moving underneath you. Perhaps it was the weight of your body on my bump or maybe he/she was just taking advantage of my unexpected daytime stillness to participate in some aquarobics? Either way, it was nice to spend some time thinking about the relationship you two will build and to wonder what you will make of each other when you meet for the first time later this year.

Two hours passed before you woke up. Who knows when we will next enjoy a sleepy afternoon snuggle or if that was the last one? I know there will come a day when you are too big to (want to) sleep on me but I can't imagine you being all grown up - you are still my baby girl!

My back will ache all evening from sitting in one position for too long but it will be worth it, as these special moments are few and far between.

Love,
Mummy xxx

Saturday, 11 August 2012

A day at the seaside

Today we took a trip down the M5 to Weston-super-mare. My daughter has been asking to go to the seaside for weeks now, so we arranged to meet some friends and their little girl at the beach. We packed a picnic and took our bucket and spade, a change of clothes and some pocket money!

The motorway was very busy (stop-start from J16 all the way down to J20) but then it is a Saturday in the middle of the summer holidays and the Bristol balloon fiesta is in full swing. So, it took us about an hour to get there and my daughter took the opportunity for a nap in the car. (I should have followed her example!)

We started our seaside adventure by building some sandcastles. The sand was quite dense and moist - perfect for building with and the girls were soon engrossed in this activity. I'm not sure whether it's more fun to build sandcastles or to knock them down! Then they found a hole that someone else had dug in the sand and sat in that!

Before long, the children were hungry, so we started our picnic at midday. Sandwiches, salads, crisps, drinks, homemade gingerbread and lashings of sand! Then the girls wanted to paddle, so they headed off down to the sea with their dads in tow to dip their feet in the water. Apparently, it was cold and there were squiggly worms in the sand by the waterline!

They had a go on the huge bouncy castle - I've never seen one so big! The girls had it to themselves (I guess everyone else was having their picnics) and spent five minutes throwing themselves from one side to the other. Then we saw the donkeys. My daughter stroked one of the donkey's ears ("it feels fluffy!") but our friend's little girl was brave enough to go for a ride.

After that, we had ice creams. Having said she wanted a 'brown one', after half a dozen licks, my daughter swapped her ice cream for mine (raspberry ripple), so I got a half-sucked chocolate chip one to enjoy!

Our friends had other plans for the afternoon, so we said our goodbyes, and had a last five-minute go on the beach before getting changed out of our sandy, ice-creamy clothes and coming home for a rest!

All in all, it was a great day out. My daughter can't wait to do it again! "More seaside, mummy!"

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Swimming

I'm not one of life's natural swimmers. I don't feel comfortable in the water and I hate getting water up my nose or in my eyes. My husband says I pull a special 'swimming face' and it's not pretty!

I don't think my dislike of the water stems from an event in my childhood - I certainly don't remember one - but there are lots of things about growing up in Cornwall that might have put me off. You'd think that living near the sea would turn you into a water baby but the sea is cold and rather uninviting for most of the year. The foghorn and lighthouse remind you that the sea can be a really dangerous place and it's full of seaweed and strange creatures. Not only that but, when I was a child, the beaches weren't as clean as they are now and consequently were not always nice places to swim.

I'm told that I could swim quite confidently before I started school but then lost all my ability and relied heavily on arm bands. As I got older and arm bands became inappropriate and embarrassing, I would just avoid swimming. Our primary school had an outdoor pool, so we rarely used it and at swimming parties, I tended to stay in the shallow end where I could keep my feet firmly on the bottom.

Something just clicked when I was about 11 years old and I took the plunge and decided that I would swim. So I did. I think my dad helped - he said he didn't care about style just as long as I could float, tread water and head towards shore! To this day, I'm not a strong swimmer but I can do all three. I NEVER participated in the high school swimming gala, except to use a stopwatch to time the races!

As you can imagine, I worry that my issues with water will rub off on my children and I do not want this to happen. I want them to be confident in the water and to be able to swim. Like my dad, I think it's important that they learn how to stay afloat and make some progress through the water but I don't have aspirations for them to become the next Rebecca Adlington or Michael Phelps!

The other mummies from my antenatal group started swimming lessons with their babies before I did. I just wasn't ready to take my daughter when she was so small. So, I waited until she was 8 months old and then signed her and my husband up for a course of 10 lessons. It was far better for daddy to take her because he loves being in the water and I could cheer and encourage them both from the poolside. They still go swimming together every week. They have a routine for getting changed, playing games in the water, practising jumping in and swimming (arms and legs!) and, when she's had enough, they get out and dried and have bananas and flapjacks in the leisure centre canteen.

I have recently started to join them on a secondary swimming trip each week because swimming is pretty much the only exercise I can do at the moment. I'm trying to keep my fitness up for the LABBS Convention in October, as I will be singing with my chorus (Fascinating Rhythm) at 33 weeks pregnant! My midwife recommended swimming and so I'm going once a week. I don't enjoy it but it is tiring and I can definitely feel the benefits. I go in the 'big' pool and do 12-16 lengths (pulling my swimming face well away from my daughter's gaze) and then join them for 10 minutes of fun in the learner pool.

When I got to the little pool today, I saw my daughter doing her own version of backstroke, egged on by my husband. It was awesome - legs kicking hard, tummy towards the ceiling and arm bands helping to keep her afloat - and she was loving it. I'm so proud!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Date night!

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary (11 years - how time flies!) and we were lucky to secure some free babysitting and escape on a grown-up date! Grandparents came to visit and stay with us overnight, so we were able to go into Bristol for a night out. 

We helped with the bath and bedtime routine, got glammed up (shirt and trousers for him; leggings and smart-ish maternity dress for me) and headed off down to the harbourside. We had booked a restaurant - Jack's Bar and Brasserie - using a DealCloud voucher but we had some time to kill before our table reservation at 8pm, so we went for a drink at The Living Room.

I requested something soft and interesting (i.e. not lemonade) and was presented with a wonderfully flavourful fruity and juicy mocktail. I don't know what it was called but I think it contained cranberry juice and lime along with some kind of fizzy mixer. Delicious - I could have drunk two or three but we ran out of time. My husband went for a dirty martini, confirming his sophisticated tastes and reminding me of his encyclopaedic knowledge of all James Bond films!

The restaurant was quiet when we arrived (well, it was a Wednesday night), we were seated at a cosy table for two with waterside view and quickly served with drinks (sparkling water for me; shiraz for him). The deal gave us a fixed price three-course meal from a set menu, followed by coffee and petits fours. I chose a mackerel starter, then chicken breast with pancetta salad and potatoes, followed by Bakewell tart with Chantilly cream. My husband opted for a ham and lentil terrine, steak and chips (£3 supplement) and sticky toffee pudding. I was impressed by the quality of the food and the presentation. It was delicious but I had to ask for some help to finish my dessert (too full)!

The coffee was a nice finish to the meal and we shared the petits fours - I got the Turkish Delight and he got the mini strawberry tarts.

The main focus of conversation was our daughter and anticipation of our new baby (of course!) but the evening passed slowly and pleasurably. We were very surprised to find ourselves rolling in through the front door at 11pm! Way past our normal bedtime! Whilst I think it may be a while until we get another chance for a date night, we had a wonderful time.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Forward planning: overnight bag

As a second-time expectant mum, I have far fewer antenatal appointments to attend than I did first time around. I last saw a midwife at 15 weeks (to get blood test results) and I will next see one at 28 weeks.

So, I've been thinking about what questions I'll need to ask and what level of preparedness for my new arrival I'll need to be in by my next appointment (mid-September). I've started to think in very general terms about a birth plan - something of an oxymoron, perhaps?! - and how long I might spend in the birth centre after my baby is born.

Last time, I expected to spend one night in hospital and I packed my overnight bag accordingly. I ended up spending three nights there - one in labour and then two more after my daughter was born. Some of the things in my bag were untouched (my labour snacks/drinks were forgotten in the car until after the birth!) and others had to be replaced (my daughter puked into my bra and down my nightie and pooed through two vests and babygros in the first day!) - it was a good job my husband didn't mind shuttling between the hospital, Tesco and our house to get stuff that I'd forgotten or hadn't bought or just needed washing!

I think I'm going to pack along the same principles this time, as I've heard that if things go smoothly you can be discharged as little as 6 hours after delivery, but it's more likely that I'll have to stay a bit longer. I just wish I'd made a note of the items that I used last time because now I'm struggling to remember.

I've looked at a couple of websites to get a feel for the 'essential items' but the list seems really long - I'm sure I can whittle it down.

  • Things for me during labour - a very important set of things, including TENS, socks and an old nightie but I'll make sure the clothing can be disposed of almost immediately (I won't want to see or wear it again!)
  • Things for me after the birth - I'll try to pack light, for example, I won't need an eye mask or ear plugs because I either won't sleep or I'll sleep like a log and I didn't read any of the magazines or books I packed last time! 
  • Things for my birth partner - well, he can sort himself out, quite frankly! I'll be busy! 
  • Things for baby - another very important set of items but I'll leave the going home bits in the car in the car seat until we are being discharged, to save room in the bag.
  • Medical notes - vital!
One thing I remember that was very useful last time was a plastic jug. On advice from a friend, I thought I would use it to pour water over my stitches when I went to the loo but I actually used it to measure my wee volume to prove I was passing enough fluid before I could be discharged!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Day out review: Old Down Country Park

Yesterday, I took my mother and daughter to Old Down Country Park

The park is easy to find, although there is a distinct lack of brown signage to help you get there, and there is plenty of car parking space. We opted for a shady spot because it was shaping up to be another hot day.

We arrived at 10am just as the park was opening and were the first in. Admission prices are not too steep (compared with other local attractions) but you do have to go through the gift shop to enter the main part of the park, which meant that my daughter was distracted by lots of toys and wanted me to buy them for her! I promised that we'd come back to the shop later.

The first play zone had a bouncy castle, sand pit, half a dozen little tikes push-along cars and some plastic rocking horses in a large, grassy area with deck chairs for the grown-ups to sit on and supervise the children. If we had done nothing more than play here, my daughter would have had an amazing time! She started on the bouncy castle (no extra charge) and then rode a car. The plastic horse was a bit hot (it had been in the sunshine) so she went in the sand pit instead. After about 20 minutes, we decided to move on and see some more of the park.

The next section had two large trampolines, a climbing frame with slide and more deck chairs. Trampolining is one of my daughter's favourite things, so she couldn't wait to have a go. She had to share the trampoline with another child and they managed very well at not bouncing each other over! She then had a go on the climbing frame while we sat on the deck chairs.

Next, we went to 'animal encounters' to see the goats, chickens, llamas, alpacas, pigs, horses, guinea pigs and rabbits. You can buy animal feed at the entry hut but we hadn't bothered and I was glad about that because my daughter didn't want to get too close to the larger animals! She was much more interested in the yellow double-decker bus filled with 'educational' activities. In reality, there were lots of toys on board and some toddler-sized tables and chairs for colouring-in and craft purposes. She enjoyed the bus, especially climbing up to the top deck!

By this time, we needed some refreshment, so we went to the cafe for a snack. Snack prices weren't too high and the lunch menu looked good. We opted for tea and cake (grown-ups) and water and kit-kat (toddler). We also did some colouring in.

After our snack, we went on the nature trail walk to see some cows and more horses. There were lovely views out over the Severn and, because it was a clear day, we could see both bridges. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the wallabies but by the time we completed the trail, we were ready to head home for lunch.

As promised, we went back to the shop and bought a fridge magnet to add to our collection and I also allowed my daughter to choose a toy. She opted for a yellow VW camper van, which she thought was the big yellow bus!

We had a fantastic day out and my daughter certainly enjoyed it because she fell asleep in the car on the way home and stayed asleep for nearly 3 hours!

If there is a down-side to Old Down Country Park as a destination it's that it's definitely a good-weahter attraction - there's not much to do inside if it's raining. Having said that, I'm considering buying annual membership for next year whilst I'm on maternity leave because I think it will be a great place to entertain a toddler and there's plenty of space for pushing a pram.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Whooah, we're halfway there...

20 weeks - an exciting milestone!

The time seems to have passed quickly since I announced this pregnancy - I guess this is because I didn't tell anyone until about 14 weeks - but all of a sudden my EDD (December) doesn't seem that far away! I'm planning to take my full 52 weeks' maternity leave entitlement and plus some accrued annual leave, which will give me 13 months at home. I'll be taking 5 weeks before the birth and I think I'm going to need it because I'm finding it harder to rest and restore my energy with a toddler running around! I've been saving up since my last pregnancy so that we won't struggle financially for the unpaid and SMP-only parts of my leave.

My second scan is only a few days away and I'm looking forward to getting another glimpse of the little person growing inside! "What's Inside Your Tummy, Mummy?" has become one of my daughter's favourite books and she has started to show interest in my growing bump - she was trying to feed pizza to the baby through my tummy button the other evening! Although she won't be able to come with us to the scan, I'll show her the photo and talk about how the baby is developing. I've decided not to ask about the sex of the baby, so we won't find out if it's boy or girl until he/she is born, but my daughter has said she would like a brother!

I've been feeling small, flutterings for a couple of weeks now and am starting to notice a pattern. Most of the movements are shortly after I've eaten a meal or when I go to bed. All of my nausea has gone and I'm feeling much more like my old self but with a bump on the front. The bump has 'shaped up' and is quite round and 'out front' instead of being wobbly and flabby (like it was a few weeks ago). I've started swimming once a week but can only manage 15 lengths of the 20m pool before I (a) get bored and (b) feel hungry.

With only 15 weeks to go until I finish work, I think the second half of my pregnancy may seem to pass just as quickly as the first. I'm starting to think about some practicalities, such as who will look after my daughter when I go to hospital to have the baby, what I should pack in my overnight bag (I should have made a note last time of what was useful!) and what I might write on my birth plan. But then, I still have plenty of time before that all needs to be sorted out!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Shopping trip

I have quite a lot of maternity clothes that are still in good condition from my first pregnancy, so I haven't needed to buy many items this time around. The one or two things I have bought are season-specific because I had a summer baby first time and my second is due just before Christmas. I got a fab winter coat in the online sale from JoJoMamanBebe - less than half price!

I live near Bristol and visited The Mall at Cribbs Causeway today to buy a pair of casual maternity trousers. I had two pairs of jeans last time but the zip broke on one pair, so I've been looking for a replacement. Having tried a small local town with no luck, I expected to have lots of choice at The Mall but to my surprise, two of the largest retailers have removed maternity lines from their stores and are referring customers to their catalogue or website instead. Now, I don't mind shopping online but there are some items that I'd really like to try before I buy. I don't want to order things, try them on at home and then have to return them if they're not right. Especially, as many retailers charge P&P.

So, how did I get on this morning? Well, I wanted a little 'me time' for my shopping trip because I don't often have the chance for a leisurely trawl of the shops. I sent my husband and daughter to the outside play area and they had a fab time for half an hour on the slides and climbing frames before they got hungry for snacks. I got to look round the shops in my own time and on my own terms.

Next had a huge sale on but no maternity clothes. "We don't stock any maternity clothes - they're in the  Directory." Well, that's no good to me because I don't buy the Directory and if you buy from Next online, you are obliged to sign up for the catalogue.

H&M had a good selection and quite a lot of maternity clothes in the sale but they were all far too fashionable (if only I were 10 years younger...)!

TopShop had a small range and nothing that suited my tastes (again, too fashionable...)

M&S is one of the flagship stores at the Mall. It covers two floors and has enormous floor space. However, when I asked to be pointed in the direction of the maternity section, I was told that it's all online now. I have ordered from M&S online but I really want to try trousers before I buy.

Finally, I went into Dorothy Perkins. They had a good range of maternity clothes and quite a lot in the sale too. Most of the jeans were skinny fit (and I'm completely the wrong shape for that, even without the bump!) but they had two styles that were boot cut - my favourite! So, I tried both on and chose the darker pair because they fitted better. On my way out of the changing room, there was a sale rail of flat summer shoes and I managed to find a bargain.

I found my hungry family and we had lunch next to the indoor fountain. So, all in all it was a successful trip!

Friday, 6 July 2012

School dinners

I discovered the Neverseconds blog a few weeks ago and now look forward to reading it each evening. Every day, the author photographs her school lunch and writes about what she had to eat. In addition to diarising contemporary school dinners, she is raising awareness of the charity Mary's Meals and has raised a huge amount of money to provide kitchen facilities for children at school in Malawi.

As well as giving me an insight into the quality and diversity of meals available to children in education across the world (because followers send in photos of their own lunches!), it has evoked some nostalgia for my own childhood. I ate school dinners for 14 years - how different they are now!

At primary school, you could have a cooked school dinner or bring a packed lunch. My mother paid for me to have school dinners. There was no choice of what to eat (not even a vegetarian option) and it was always main course and pudding. I particularly enjoyed the pasty pie but hated luncheon meat. I liked the rice pudding or sponge with custard but sometimes the custard would be coloured or flavoured (was the green, mint custard actually nice to eat?)! The dinner ladies made sure you ate everything on your tray before allowing you outside to play.

At high school, school dinners were compulsory - even the teachers ate them! The cost was included in the termly school fees but there was greater choice and the quality was high. Each day, there were two hot meat options, one hot vegetarian option and a range of salads. There was a good selection of hot and cold desserts. Every Tuesday, there was a roast dinner and it was always fish on a Friday. Occasionally, they ran theme days (eg. Hallowe'en and French Day) and at the end of Winter term, they would do a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. There were no dinner ladies to monitor your consumption but you were supposed to tell a teacher if you knew someone had skipped lunch.

So, having eaten school dinners for most of my childhood and reading about them now, how do I feel about the prospect of signing my daughter up to eat them when she starts school in two years' time? Well, there has been a lot of interest and thought around diet and health for children in recent years, including the healthy eating campaign. So, I've started her off by choosing a nursery with a kitchen on-site.

My daughter goes to nursery two days a week and has all her meals provided by the nursery kitchen. The 4-week menu is changed every six months and has been devised with the input of a celebrity chef (but I'm not sure which one). She gets cereal and toast for breakfast, a mid-morning snack (usually fruit and/or crackers), hot lunch with pudding, afternoon tea (often a sandwich or crudités) with dessert. She has milk, water or fruit juice to drink. When I collect her in the evening, I'm given a rundown of what she ate during the day and, usually, she has eaten everything on her plate. All the children sit together and I'm sure this social side of nursery lunches helps them all to eat better and try new things.

Long may school dinners continue! Let's hope that continued blogging, celebrity endorsement and awareness raising ensures that children across the world get a good meal to help them grow, learn and develop.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Aches and pains

I went to an antenatal physio seminar yesterday, organised by the community midwives. It was aimed at women between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant, although there were some ladies there who were further along because the last session had been cancelled.

I didn't go to this session when I was pregnant with my daughter but I decided to go this time because I've been experiencing quite a lot of shoulder and back pain (probably because I have a toddler to lug around!).

I wasn't really sure what to expect but it was brilliant! The nurse talked for about an hour and we had the chance to ask lots of questions. She explained the cause of aches and pains (weight gain and hormonal changes) and that we could only improve it by altering our behaviour. She then went on to show us how to sit, stand and sleep properly. Two key words: support and symmetry!

Well, I tried it and it seems to have had almost immediate effects!

It's hard to get proper support on my sofa - the seat is too long (so I can't get my feet on the ground and lean onto the back support at the same time) - so I tried sitting in a more upright chair with a bolster cushion in the arch of my back. Although it didn't feel great at the time, my back definitely hurts less today. I also asked for an ergonomic assessment of my office chair at work, as I'm sure that it's not set up properly for me.

When I went to bed, I padded up with lots of pillows. I forgot to put a rolled up towel under my bump but I did put a thick pillow between my knees and ankles in order to relieve strain on my hips. I also put something behind my back to help keep me on my side. Although I did wake up four or five times (for a wee, a drink, because I was too hot/cold) I did feel less tension when I got up this morning.

In respect of my daughter, I have to try to get her to do more for herself and I definitely shouldn't carry her on one hip (my current favoured position). She's not enjoying the change but I'm certainly noticing a difference!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Body image: 16 weeks

I don't remember when I started to 'show' with my first pregnancy. Although I moved into my maternity jeans at about 3-4 months pregnant, most people didn't notice my bump for another month or so. I felt immensely proud of my bump and enjoyed its growth but I didn't take many photos. It was all up-front and, by the time my daughter was due, I was enormous!

This time, I have felt more self-conscious about my changing shape. I wanted to wait until after the dating scan before telling people but I was bloated and started to outgrow my normal clothes quite early. From about 10 weeks, I stopped wearing clothes with a normal waistband and moved into elasticated items. I've been in my maternity work trousers since 12 weeks and change into my maternity jeans or leggings when I get home. I found myself trying to hide my bump (especially from colleagues) but by the time I was ready to share my news, most people had guessed.

I have felt queasy and bloated, particularly in the evenings, which has made me feel bigger from much earlier on. My midwife kindly said that many second-time mums notice their bump 'popping out' earlier and this is certainly true in my case. My belly button (over-stretched the first time) has already turned inside out!

So, at 16 weeks and having told most of the people I know that I'm expecting, I've decided it's time to celebrate my increasing girth and stop hiding my bump under baggy shirts and oversized cardigans. This week, I've chosen more figure-hugging jersey tops and I'm feeling less frumpy.

I got my husband to take a bump shot. I don't know what I thought it would look like but it's bigger than I expected! (I suppose I get a very different view from above!) No wonder people have guessed!


Friday, 22 June 2012

Book reviews: "I'm A Big Sister" and "What's Inside Your Tummy, Mummy?"

One of the things that I've been thinking about quite a lot recently is how to prepare my daughter for the arrival of a baby brother or sister. The transition from only child to older sibling will be a huge change for her and I'm going to have to employ all my managerial and parenting skills to help her through it.

My first step has been to do a little research. In particular, what books can help me explain pregnancy, birth and babies to a 2-year old?

We often visit the local library and I've sampled some children's books about siblings and babies. There are some really good ones out there and I wanted to get a couple for home. So, I bought "I'm a Big Sister" by Joanna Cole and "What's Inside Your Tummy, Mummy?" by Abby Cocovini.

My daughter is particularly taken with "I'm a Big Sister". She likes the pictures and likes to point out the people in the pictures (mummy, daddy, me, baby) and to fill in the words 'big sister' at the relevant points. The book explains what babies can and can't do (they can't walk or talk; they drink milk and they sometimes cry) and she will happily read it four or fives times in a row. I don't think it is helping her to prepare for being a big sister because I don't think she yet comprehends that this is an imminent change in her life. However, I'm hoping that closer to my EDD, we can start to work on that concept.

I really like "What's Inside Your Tummy, Mummy?", although my daughter hasn't shown the slightest interest (probably because she's so absorbed by the other book!). It has a double-page for each month of pregnancy. The left hand page lists a few facts and figures about the growing embryo/foetus and the right hand page has an outline picture of a mummy's waist and hips with a life-sized drawing of the embryo/foetus. The idea is that you can hold it up in front of your bump and show your child how big the baby is inside you!

The really nice thing about both books is that they have great pictures and not too many words. I would recommend both and am sure they will both be well-thumbed by the time our new baby arrives!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Let's talk about sex...

...why does everyone seem so interested in the potential gender of my unborn baby?!

Now, I know there are a couple of standard questions that you're bound to be asked over and over again when you are pregnant, such as "When are you due?" and "Do you know what you're having?" They are 'filler' questions that people ask because they want to appear interested in your bump but can't think of anything else to say.

First time round, I didn't mind too much although it seemed that everyone (from oldest and closest friends to strangers on the bus) had a view on whether or not I should find out if I was expecting a boy or a girl and they were only too glad to share their opinion, whether I asked for it or not! As it turned out, my daughter was facing the wrong way at 20 weeks, so even the most talented sonographer would have been unable to determine her gender!

However, this time, people's interest is slightly different and some of the questions have thrown me off-guard! There's a perception that I ought to have a preference for the sex of my baby because it's number two...

"Are you going to find out the sex at the scan, this time?" "Do you want a boy this time?" "If you have another girl, will you have a third baby so you can try for a boy?"

It intrigues me to think that I should have given this much thought because I haven't. I'm just excited to be expecting again and really dont have a preference for a boy or a girl. Besides, it's not as if I could influence my baby's sex either way!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Gramping: my style

"Gramping" is a recently highlighted trend whereby families take their parents on holiday with them (i.e. three generations go on holiday together).

My husband and I met at university and settled close to where we studied. Consequently, we live 200 miles from our parents (mine are in Cornwall, his in Nottinghamshire). The birth of our daughter led us to re-evaluate how we spend our leisure time and think about how we could provide opportunities for her to build good relationships with her three sets of grandparents. The answer is gramping!

Whilst we do visit our parents in their homes several times a year, there are advantages to taking them on holiday with us (or going on holiday with them).

  • Firstly, everyone needs a change of scene and it's nice to take our daughter to new places. We have started collecting fridge magnets as mementos of our travels. 
  • Secondly, you can book holiday homes that have plenty of bedrooms, extra bathrooms and lots of living space for everyone - much more than you have at home. This can help relieve any tension that may build from having everyone in one place for a whole week! 
  • Thirdly, you can share the chores so that everyone gets a night off and the costs so that everyone gets a cheap(er) holiday. 
  • Finally, we are usually offered some free babysitting and a 'date night' - luxuries that we rarely get at home. This is also gives grandparents and granddaughter the opportunity for some 1:1 time.

In April this year, we had a wonderful week in the Lake District. It was the biggest gramping holiday we've attempted to date - the three of us, one set of grandparents, my sister-in-law and nephew, and my husband's step-brother and step-sister. We stayed in Keswick for a week and everyone had a chance to do some walking - even the children made it to the top of Latrigg! It was so enjoyable, we all agreed that it would be good to do it again next year.

We're now planning a holiday with my sister and her family. We're looking for a 3-bed holiday home in Devon and will try the two eldest cousins sharing a room together (will they get to sleep?)! It will be a great opportunity for the children to play together and for us to share the costs of a family vacation.

I love gramping - long may the trend continue!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Reflections on the first trimester

I'm officially in the second trimester of this pregnancy - the middle section, when I'm supposed to have boundless energy and radiate health and vitality. (So how come I still feel slightly nauseated, bloated and tired...?) Whilst looking forward to the next stage in my pregnancy, it's worth reflecting on how the first three months have gone and drawing comparison with last time.


Like last time, I am delighted to be pregnant. First time round, I signed up for lots of email alerts, borrowed pregnancy books from the library and read all the literature that my midwife gave me. This time, I feel more relaxed and, whilst I enjoy the weekly email updates from Baby Centre (and love their iPhone app, which I've downloaded onto my iPad), I'm not doing as much research as last time - just the odd bit, here and there, to refresh my memory.

Last time, I had a continuous run of cold and flu viruses for the first 12-13 weeks and was exhausted from the combination of viral challenge and early pregnancy symptoms. I also had a nasty 24-hour sickness bug at 10 weeks (through which I lost 6lbs in weight!) although I was lucky not to suffer with morning sickness. This time, I feel much better but have had a sensation of slight car-sickness, which lasts all day long, since about week 6 and I've gone off the taste of tea (a disaster, as I would normally drink 3-4 mugs every day!). I'm not sleeping very well because I can't get comfortable and I wake up every night at about 1am, needing to go to the loo.

I didn't show very much for the first 4 months of my first pregnancy but have had a definite bulge for about a month now, so before I've been ready to tell people, most have guessed that I have news to share!

The other big difference is that last time I only had to prepare myself (and my husband) for the new arrival but, this time, I also have to prepare our 2-year old daughter. I've ordered a couple of books that I hope will help me to explain what is happening and prepare her for becoming a big sister. She came to the first scan with us and was very well behaved whilst the sonographer was working. She was interested in seeing the baby on the monitor but can't work out how it got behind mummy's tummy button!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Why start now?

I'm a working mum of one, my daughter has just turned 2, and I'm 14 weeks pregnant with number two. I didn't blog about my first pregnancy, my year as a stay at home mummy, or our journey through weaning. I dont have any expert knowledge to offer about child bearing or child rearing, just my limited personal experience gained over the past 2-3 years. So why have I decided to start a mummy blog now?

Well, I don't really know but I have enjoyed reading about other people's experiences. It can be comforting when you're up in the middle of the night to know that you're probably not the only person doing a feed, changing a nappy, mopping a brow or changing soiled bed linen. When looking for inspiration for entertaining a toddler on a rainy day or trying to find a way to make peas more palatable, other parenting blogs contain great ideas. Perhaps sharing some of my experiences can help someone else? (or at least make them smile or laugh!)

Oh, and, why the title? Well, "Mummy play buttons" is what my daughter says whenever I approach the laptop - it's her charming way of giving me permission to check my emails!