Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hello, little baby!

After months of taking the Pill, when I yearned desperately for the baby I had lost;

after months of trying to conceive again;

after 38 weeks of an emotionally and physically demanding third pregnancy...

...we finally welcomed our second daughter to the world!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Read it yourself

My daughter has thrown down a gauntlet and I have nervously picked it up.

After settling her down to sleep in bed the other night, I heard her prowling about in her room and then she emerged onto the landing and started to creep down the stairs. When I asked her why she was out of bed, she said she wanted to read another book but she didn't know how to make the words work. She wanted to learn to read.

This is great news! We have been learning and playing games with numbers, letters and words for some time now and we read lots of stories and books. Until now, though my daughter has shown little interest in actually reading for herself, preferring to listen to us read and memorising her favourite stories.

The reason I feel daunted is because I am not a teacher and I don't know how to teach someone to read. I don't remember how I learnt to read but it must have been by sight and rote, since phonics hadn't been invented back then and I was a confident reader by the time I started school.

My daughter will start school in a couple of weeks' time and I know that the school uses phonics in the reception class. We have a CD of phonics songs that we listen to in the car but, I'll be honest, it doesn't make much sense to me. It seems that English is not a phonic language and there are so many exceptions to remember or explain, even in the simplest of story books.

I bought an exercise book which attempts to introduce pre-schoolers to phonics. The first set of problems involve matching up pictures with the letter sounds they begin with. My daughter completed this challenge without any difficulty.

Next, I made some flashcards. Based on the assumption that the phonics programme will start with the letters S, A, T, I, N and P, I wrote down (on separate cards) all the real three-letter words that end with combinations of these letters. For example: bat, cat, fat, hat, etc. We now have six sets of cards with three-letter words that end -AP, -AT, -IP, -IT, -AN and -IN. The 'game' is to sound the letters and then blend them together to find the word. If we focus on one set at a time, then the sound of the word stays the same and just the initial letter changes.

The first time we played with the flashcards, my daughter did a lot of shrugging and guessing at words. We praised her every time she got one right. (Note: she has no trouble sounding out the letters, it was the blending that seemed to be confusing her.) Tonight, she was much better at it and actually read several words for herself. I know that she was reading them because they were words she didn't know (such as vat and yap).

"Mummy, I read it!" she exclaimed at one point and I have never felt more proud.

Hopefully, our game will encourage her to try some more reading over the next couple of weeks and give her the confidence to give it her all when she starts school in September. I have high hopes that she'll be reading by Christmas.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hospital bag: third time round

I have left the packing of an overnight bag to take to the hospital until much later than in my two previous pregnancies. I'm packing light, assuming I'll spend one night in hospital after the baby is born. So, here's the list of what I'll be taking:

For me:
Toiletries: hairbrush, comb, hair bobbles, lip balm, toothbrush and paste, few pairs of breast pads, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, flannel, maternity pads and a tube of lanolin.

Clothes: slippers, few pairs large cotton pants (comfier than disposables), pyjama bottoms, two nursing vests (to wear as pyjama tops), old nightie to labour in, cardigan, nursing bra and going home outfit (jogging bottoms and vest top).

TENS machine

For baby:
Two vests, two babygros, cardigan, hat, socks, two muslin cloths, nappies and cotton wool.

Car seat and blanket (to be left in the car until we are discharged to go home)

For husband:
Toothbrush, deodorant, spare socks and spare pants.

Camelbak water dispenser plus hydration tablets
Maternity notes
Plastic jug
Notebook and pen
Purse with coins (for car parking and vending machines)
Mobile phone
Knitting, crossword book, other entertainment (I'm being induced, so it might take a while...)
'Big sister' present for the baby to give to my daughter

Friday, 8 August 2014


After my daughter was born, I kept all (well, nearly all) of her baby items. I planned to use them again one day and, since we hadn't known we were expecting a girl, most of the newborn items were neutral coloured. (Although, swiftly, everything became 'pinkified' despite my best attempts at keeping pink to a minimum.) We converted the airing cupboard in the spare bedroom into a large storage cupboard and I carefully packed all the baby vests, baby-gros and toys into plastic crates as my daughter outgrew them.

Two and a half years later, I unpacked the crates and laundered the baby items. I wondered, as I went along, how my daughter had ever been small enough to fit them and how tiny my new baby would seem compared to my toddler girl! We moved her old cot into the box room and bought a small chest of drawers. I carefully folded all the vests, baby-gros and bedding and put them away neatly, ready for my second baby.

He never used them.

I took the smallest vest to the hospital to dress him in and a fleecy blanket to wrap him up.

A few weeks after he was born, after the funeral, I returned all the items to their plastic crates. This time, we put them up in the loft. I couldn't bear to have them 'staring' at me from the spare bedroom cupboard, reminding me of my loss and making we wonder if we would ever use them again.

Almost two years later again, I am 35 weeks pregnant with my third baby. The crates have been brought down from the loft. I have begun to sort through them and get things ready for our next new arrival. My daughter is helping. She doesn't remember using the toys herself. She doesn't recognise the vests and baby-gros. She likes to put her doll inside the sleeping bags. She considers each item and decides whether or not the baby will like it.

Looking through the baby paraphernalia reminds me of when my daughter was born, four years ago. This is all her stuff. Some of the things were made for her. I am looking forward to using them for our next child.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Step change

I have set myself a challenge: for the duration of my maternity leave (13 months): I will use the car less and walk more.

As a family, we are not heavy car users. Over the past few years, our annual mileage has been less than 10,000 miles. My plan is to reduce this to less than 8,000 miles whilst I'm at home. As a first step, I have adjusted the mileage allowance on our car insurance policy to 8,999 as an incentive. (This has also saved us a few pounds so I feel like I'm winning already!)

I noted the mileage on 1 August (78,400 miles) and hope to keep to fewer than 600 miles per month, which sounds easy enough but I've done 100 miles this week already.

If I do really well at this challenge, perhaps we'll only just nudge 85,000 miles this time next year?!

Best foot forward...

Monday, 4 August 2014

Daddy cool

A friend of my husband's is a first-time expectant father, asking for advice on how to prepare for becoming a parent. It has made me think about the things that my husband does and how even the 'little' things can make you a good parent/partner.

Communicate: Before our daughter was born, we talked about what kind of parents we wanted to be and how we wanted to share responsibilities. Our aim was for both of us to be equally competent at looking after our daughter and for her to see us as equal. There is no way we can achieve this without communicating with each other and adapting to new situations and our daughter's development.

Cook: One of the most helpful things my husband can do is cook. If you're not a great chef, you can still get breakfast ready and make a spare packed lunch for your partner (even if s/he's staying at home for the day)! Whenever my husband is home in time to cook the evening meal, he does. When our daughter was newborn, this was brilliant - he would cook whilst I did the evening feed.

Support baby's feeding: Whatever type of feeding you choose, there are things you can do to help. Whether its measuring out formula, sterilising equipment or helping your partner to get comfortable and bringing a drink/snack. I breastfed our daughter for 13 months. At the night feed, my husband would get up, bring our daughter to me, doze until the feed was over, get up again and do the post-feed nappy change, then settle her back to sleep. Whilst he couldn't actually feed her himself, this support was immensely helpful and much appreciated.

Tag-team: It can be very helpful to take things in turns, especially at the weekends. You both deserve 'down time'. One of us would have the Saturday lie-in, the other would have Sunday. We allocate each other some 'personal time' during the week, so that we can each get some jobs done or spend time on our hobbies/interests. This gives us a good balance so we can retain our own identities and made time for family stuff.

Be hands-on: Find ways to help look after your baby: change some nappies; put the baby down for naps/bed; do the bath time routine; help with a feed/mealtime. First-time round, no parent 'knows' what they are doing, so roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. The more you practise, the better you'll get!

Home help: Share domestic responsibilities. We have always shared household chores and, when I went on maternity leave the first time, we agreed a new division of labour. I was not going to do all the housework as well as look after the baby, even though my husband was working full time. I took on the lion's share but he kept some jobs to help me out. When I returned to work, we re-jigged it.

Flexible working: My husband altered his work pattern to spend more time at home. When our daughter was newborn, he worked 8am until 4.30pm so that he could be back at home in time to cook dinner and help with the bath-and-bed routine.

Ultimately, if you care about your partner and your baby, you'll probably think of some ways in which you can help out and provide a loving and secure environment for your family. Worrying about how good a job you'll do is probably a good start!