18 week pregnancy update

I can’t believe that in a couple of weeks’ time I will be officially half way through my pregnancy! Where does the time go? I thought I’d do a quick update to share with you; my bump progress, baby movements, whether we’re finding out the gender, my low PAPP-A level and what it means, and any pre-baby preparations so far.

First signs of a bump

As mentioned in last week’s maternity style post, I am definitely still more on the tubby side of things and it’s not obvious that I’m pregnant yet. But at the right angles there is the first sign of a bump so I’m just holding on to that and hoping that soon I will properly pop!

18 week pregnant

Baby movements

With Archie it took until about 24 weeks for me to feel him moving around but I’ve definitely started to feel some very faint movements already this time, which I think is more common in second pregnancies. At my recent midwife appointment they struggled to get a heartbeat reading because he/ she was such a wriggler which is exactly how Arch was (and has been ever since he was born!!).

20 week scan

We will soon have our 20 week scan and the option to find out whether Archie’s having a brother or sister. We will most definitely be finding out if we can because we’re so impatient! And, for me personally, I found it really helped me to bond with Archie during pregnancy last time and I think practically it will be very useful this time. I’ve kept all of Archie’s old clothes so if we’re having a girl there will be a lot of sorting and passing on to friends/ charity!

I’m really undecided as to what I think I’m having. Last time I was convinced I was having a girl but I have no idea this time and as I’ve mentioned before, I really have no preference. I’m just wishing and hoping for another healthy baby.

Low PAPP-A level

This is a little bit niche but I thought I’d mention because when I was pregnant with Archie I received a letter which said I had a low PAPP-A level and I would need extra monitoring but very little other information, which to be honest just terrified me. I have a low PAPP-A level again with this pregnancy and having been through it before, I feel much calmer and understand more about the implications.

Essentially, pregnancy associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) is a hormone that is made by the placenta during pregnancy. And if you have a low level you’re at a higher risk of:

  • A lower birth weight baby as your placenta may not work as well
  • An increased chance of having an early birth
  • Miscarriage in the second half of pregnancy
  • An increased chance of developing pre-eclampsia

However, having said that, for most women they go on to have a normal pregnancy so it really is just a case of extra monitoring (additional growth scans between 28 and 40 weeks and being under consultant care) and taking extra pre-cautions. I’ve also been prescribed a low dose of aspirin which I need to take daily until the baby arrives.

With Archie, I was lucky enough that it didn’t really affect my pregnancy/ birth/ after-birth so I’m hoping that it will be the same this time. Arch was technically a small baby according to the weight percentiles but at 7 pounds 3 he was very healthy and after 24 hours of monitoring in hospital we were allowed to go home as normal.

Baby number 2 preparations

From a practical perspective, we haven’t done too many preparations but we still have plenty of time and it will just be a case of re-setting up the nursery and going through Archie’s old things. But I have been doing some reading up about how to prepare yourself and your firstborn for the new arrival.  “The Second Baby Book” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith has been particularly useful – it talks you through practical preparations, how to tell your firstborn, childcare during labour, the various feelings of maternal guilt and dealing with difficult behaviour once baby is here. As mentioned, I have so much anxiety about the negative impact on Archie and so I will be trying everything I can to reduce that where I can. If anyone has any other recommendations, I am all ears 🙂

 

Maternity style

Although I’m still in the ‘tubby’ phase of pregnancy (if you know, you know!) I am slowly starting to see the first signs of a bump. So at the weekend, I dug out my maternity clothes from last time and it reminded me of how frustrating maternity shopping can be. There are very limited options in-store so you have to order mostly online and often your style changes quite a bit to accommodate for your change in shape so it can become a bit of a minefield!  I thought I’d share my favourite maternity finds for anyone who may be having a similar struggle 🙂

I’ve grouped by my 4 favourite maternity retailers (UK) and listed the clothing types I’ve found to be the best from each one, with a few specific examples linked. Please note all views are my own and none of the links are affiliated.

Topshop

topshop jeansSkinny black jeans

I always shop in Topshop for my jeans because I personally prefer a skinny fit and I like the fact that they offer different leg lengths. Usually I wear the Jamie Jeans but in maternity these seem to constantly fall down and lose their shape very easily. So I much prefer the maternity Joni Jeans – both under the bump style (for early pregnancy) and over the bump (for later in pregnancy).

H&M

h&m skinny jeans


Super skinny blue jeans

I usually prefer black jeans to blue but when I found these maternity ones I literally lived in them because they are so incredibly flattering – I could not recommend them highly enough.

 

h&m vests


Vests

I’m not sure you can go too wrong with a vest but I liked the length of these and the fact that they are nursing appropriate for post-birth.

 

 

h&m jersey dress 2

h&m jersey dress 3


Jersey dresses

Pregnancy for me is all about comfy jersey dresses – especially the bigger the bump! Last time I found some lovely long sleeved ones from H&M but their Summery ones are just as nice – number 1 and number 2.

 

Tights

Clearly very seasonal but I was pretty shocked to find that my trusty ‘tights source’ M&S don’t stock maternity tights. Luckily the H&M ones are fab and fit really well – I tried quite a few other brands which constantly fell down and it drove me mad!

ASOS

asos topasos top 2
Tops

I always like ASOS for tops because they tend to be really affordable and a nice twist on a basic – number 1 and number 2.

 

asos top 1asos jumper
Sweaters

Who doesn’t love a comfy sweater and in the UK they’re needed in pretty much all seasons. I personally prefer these ASOS ones to many I’ve tried – number 1 and number 2.

 

maternity bra


Bras

Underwired bras were really uncomfortable for me from around 20 weeks so I found these Emma Jane non-wired ones which also double up as nursing bras for post-birth. They are so comfortable and are seam free so work well under any top – I could not recommend them highly enough.

Seraphine

seraphine
Formal dresses

Seraphine is definitely more high-end but they have great sales so it’s worth keeping an eye out because the quality of their dresses is so lovely and flattering. I picked up this dress on one of their offers, specifically because I had quite a few Xmas parties, and I had so many compliments – most were disappointed it was maternity only!

leggings
Leggings

I didn’t wear leggings as much as I thought I would but these were very flattering and comfortable so I would definitely recommend.

 

 

 

 

My fussy eater: 1 year old

Since the start of the year Archie has gone from eating large portions and pretty much anything to being ridiculously picky and changing his tastes on an almost daily basis! I’ve read up a lot about it and it’s very common for toddlers to go through a fussy stage at some point and although mostly it happens nearer the age of 2, it can happen before this. We’re 6 months in and Arch is still a fussy little monkey but I’ve found a few things which have helped so I thought I’d share. If you have any other words of wisdom, I’d love to hear them in the comments 🙂

fussy eater

At 11 months old, coinciding with him walking, Archie became really fussy with his food. The biggest change was him refusing anything off a spoon from us and because he hadn’t quite mastered feeding himself with a spoon we went down a new route of serving only finger foods (aside from yoghurt/ custard which he could feed himself). Before this I was making batches of pureed/ mashed foods as his main meal and serving it alongside a few finger foods.

I found the transition pretty stressful if I’m honest because unhelpfully his tastes seemed to change all the time so I never knew whether he would eat what was put in front of him. The few things he would always eat were fruit (most types) and yoghurt/ custard so it’s quite clear he has quite a sweet tooth like his mummy! It was the ‘main course’ which always seemed to be hit and miss.

I soon realised that he prefers it when food is not mixed in together but each element is served separately. For example, when giving him beans on toast I always separate the beans and the toast fingers. It makes serving normal table foods a bit tricky (e.g. lasagne, chilli, Bolognese etc.) but I do try them deconstructed….with varying results! His go-to favourite dinners are: fish fingers, homemade chips and peas/ beans; sweet potato fingers with falafel/ chicken; pesto pasta. Everything else seems to be dependent on his mood that day!

I’ve learnt to try and say as relaxed as I can about it and there are days when he surprises us completely out of the blue and tries something he hasn’t for months! Here are a few things I’ve found useful when reading up about fussy eating:

  • It’s normal for toddlers to eat less – As a baby Archie always had a huge appetite so when he first started being fussy I was really stressed about whether he was eating enough and probably overcompensated with fruit and yoghurt! But I’ve since learnt that it’s quite normal for their appetites to decrease as toddlers because their growth rate declines and they simply don’t need as much food. And particularly as they start walking, they become too interested in exploring the world around them that sometimes food can become a bit of a chore!
  • Appetites will be affected by illnesses/ teething – Archie’s fussy spell has definitely coincided with an almost constant cycle of being poorly/ teething. And again it’s very normal that once they hit a year old, they contend with one cold/ illness after another as their immune system builds. So naturally their appetites are affected by this, as we know only too well ourselves when we’re ill or have toothache.
  • Serving smaller portions can help – I used to pretty much fill Archie’s plate with food but now I just offer a small portion of each ‘element’ and then he can have second/ third helpings as and when he finishes them – that way he’s not too overwhelmed, particularly if it’s not one of his favourites!
  • It’s best to offer their favourite foods alongside new/ unpopular foods – I find this one a bit challenging when I’m offering a whole meal he’s not keen on but I do find if I put it with his favourite vegetables or some homemade chips then it helps avoid a straight refusal!
  • Follow their lead – At first I really tried to encourage him to eat the foods he would ignore on his plate but the more I made a fuss, the more he seemed to refuse! So now, I don’t make a big thing of it and just clear his plate away once he’s finished, ignoring the fact he might have touched very little! I’d also say it’s best not to try too much at once – perhaps add in just one new/ unfamiliar food each day so it’s not too overwhelming.
  • Eat with them as often as you can – When we’re eating in a group with family/ friends I definitely notice a difference here in terms of Archie being more interested in eating what everyone else is. Frustratingly it doesn’t seem to work when it’s just the 2 of us – which it is most of the time – but if I sing songs or distract him in some other way than just focussing on the fact he’s eating that does seem to help so I’d definitely say engaging with them and making it more of a social activity makes a difference.
  • Create a relaxed environment – This is similar to the above but essentially anything you can do to make them as relaxed as possible will help them to be a bit more open-minded. As soon as they feel pressured to eat, in my experience, it seems to have the opposite effect! Sometimes, we have a little picnic on the play mat on the floor and I find Arch eats so much more than when he’s in his highchair where the focus is solely on eating.
  • Try not to stress – Ah sorry I left it until last because I know it is by far the hardest one to put into practice but I’ve genuinely noticed the difference with Arch when I’m relaxed and don’t let it bother me versus the days where I feel I’m tearing my hair out and throwing anything at him just to try and make him eat! Just acknowledge it’s a phase, consider giving them some multivitamins and try a mixture of new/ unpopular foods alongside their favourites (accounting for the fact these might change on a daily basis!!).

I’d love to know about your experience of fussy eating – was it just a quick phase or has it gone on for what feels like forever? Have you changed up what you’re giving to them or just persevered with one approach? I think, like with most things, there’s not a magic fix and each child is different so I’d love to know what you’ve found has worked for you.

I’m pregnant!

I mentioned last week that moving house was one of the reasons I’ve been a little quiet on here but the other (rather big) reason is because we’re having another baby! We’re so thrilled and can’t wait to meet Archie’s brother/ sister later this year. As is common with most pregnancies I’ve been dealing with a whole host of different emotions so I thought I’d share on here. I’d love to hear from any fellow mummies who have experienced similar – please do let me know in the comments 🙂

pregnancy

First trimester

So far my pregnancy has been very similar to last time. I felt very nauseous during the first trimester and although I was never sick I found it very difficult to prepare and be around certain foods – these unhelpfully seemed to change on a daily basis. I’d also forgotten how tired the first trimester makes you and it felt so much harder this time – probably because I was running around after a toddler! Both of these things made me feel quite down overall and I just didn’t really feel like myself. I think the fact I felt like I couldn’t be honest with people (because we didn’t share our news until our scan) was also a contributing factor. I find it very hard to hide my feelings and I think it was obvious to my nearest and dearest that something was bothering me.

Sharing the news

We waited until our 12 week scan to tell our family and friends, mostly because it didn’t feel real until that point and I was convinced that something was going to go wrong (for no specific reason – I think it’s quite common to feel like this). When we did tell our family we had quite a few shocked reactions, almost implying it was too small an age gap.

It’s something we had thought about for a long time and I truly don’t believe there is the perfect gap. But for us, we decided we wanted to have them fairly close together (it will be about 22 months). And if I’m really honest one of the reasons is because I found the first 6 months really hard last time and I’m fully anticipating it could be the same again so I just want to get that period out of the way. Plus I’ve been so concerned about the impact a new baby with have on Archie and I’ve read the younger your first is when you have the second the easier the transition will be for them. I have no idea if this is the case but I’m happy to keep you posted!

Archie – the big brother!

I’m so excited for Archie to have a brother/ sister and I know that in the long term it will be so beneficial for him. My husband and I both grew up with siblings and I honestly can’t imagine a childhood without having someone to share it with. However, since having Archie I can completely understand why some people choose to have just one. I know it sounds cheesy but he is everything I ever hoped for in a child and so much more. My heart is so full.

I do worry about the short-term effect on him in terms of having to share the limelight and not having our full attention. I know that the impact is often hardest on the relationship with their mummies and I’m so worried that we won’t be as close as we are now. If you read my previous post about our bond (see here if not) you will know that it took a while for us to get to this point and so I’m really hoping there’s no long-term impact on it. But he’s such a sociable little boy that hopefully he’ll soon see the positives of having a permanent playmate around!

Baby number 2

So many people have asked me if I’d like a girl this time round and I honestly do not have a preference. It’s funny how we always assume women want girls but I can fully envisage myself as a mum of 2 boys and being the only Princess in the house….and I’m totally fine with that! Equally, if we did have a girl I’d be just as delighted because I have such a close relationship with my own mum and I’d hope to have the same with my daughter.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how I’m going to cope with 2 children, particularly with my husband working long hours and my family being far away. When Archie is giving me a particularly challenging day, I do wonder how an earth I’ll cope with a baby to take care of too. But I’m really trying to not let the anxiety take over like it did last time. I’ll find ways of managing and I know that in the end things do get easier so it’s just about riding the storm. I’m hoping that I’ll feel a tad more confident with some experience under my belt but I’m also aware that all babies are so different and we may face completely different challenges this time! All in all though, I’m just so excited and feel privileged to be able to expand our family.

I’ll keep you posted as to how the rest of the pregnancy continues and if you do have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments!

Moving house with a toddler

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog recently for a few reasons – but one of those is because last Monday we moved house! Everyone always says that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do but moving with a toddler in tow brought that to a whole new level! Luckily, we received some great advice from others who’d done it before which definitely made it easier so I thought I’d share on here. And although it was stressful, we love our new home so I have to say it was all worthwhile (in the end!).

moving house

  • Hire a removals firm and get them to pack for you – It might be expensive but this is the one bit of advice I could not have been more thankful for. We always knew we wouldn’t hire a van and move ourselves (it would probably end in divorce!) but I always assumed we would pack ourselves until a few people told us to look into the option of having the removals company do it for us. And luckily, it worked out very reasonable cost-wise and meant we didn’t have to plan so much in advance in terms of making sure we didn’t pack the things we needed a few days before. Plus, I realised packing with Archie around would have been impossible – he’s like a moth to a flame as soon as anything new appears in a room and makes it his mission to investigate so having lots of boxes around would have caused mayhem!
  • Pack an overnight bag for your first night – Part of me thought I was being a bit overcautious when I packed a bag of literally everything Archie would need on his first night and day in the new home. But when we finally arrived in the new house with all our boxes at 5pm I was seriously appreciative of having everything we needed to hand – especially because despite labelling the boxes most of them inevitably ended up in the wrong rooms!
  • Ask someone to help look after your toddler – My mum and dad very kindly offered to help us on the day of the move and having another pair of hands to help with Archie was a godsend. Naturally with all the activity going on, Archie was highly intrigued and kept trying to get in on the action with the removals team! So having someone else there to distract and entertain him was a must in hindsight.
  • Pack a bag of food for the day – For the adults, we ate on the go and grabbed what we could but for Archie I packed him quite the bag of supplies for the day so he had enough food to keep him going.
  • Accept your toddler’s normal routine might go out the window – Archie’s nap was never going to happen on moving day despite my best efforts to get him to drop off in the car. Clearly the intrigue and excitement was too much for him so we went with the flow and just tried to make sure bedtime went as smoothly as it could.
  • Set up their new room as close to the old one as possible – I know this sounds obvious but if you make sure the major elements of the old room are the same as in the new one then the environment will be more familiar to them and it should help them to settle. I’ve been amazed at how easily Archie found the transition to be honest and I’m sure this is a big reason why.
  • Once the removals firm have left, focus on making a couple of areas of the house safe and toddler friendly – Clearly you will want your whole home to be safe for them eventually but it’s likely to be a good few days before you’ve got through enough boxes for this to be the case. For us, aside from his room, we prioritised the kitchen so that as soon as he was up in the morning, we knew he had somewhere safe to eat breakfast, chill and play.

20 facts about me

I was recently tagged in a “20 facts about me” on Instagram and my goodness was it tough to think of that many things that might be of interest to other people! But here it is for anyone who wants to know a bit more about me.

cropped-mbw_3256

  1. My name is Jo and when I married I became Mrs J Lowe (which I still cringe about!)
  2. Before High school I was always known as Joanna (my full name) but on my first day someone introduced me to the class as Jo and it’s stuck ever since!
  3. I live in Milton Keynes but grew up in Nottingham
  4. Scarborough feels like another home to me because my grandparents lived there and we visited a lot when I was younger
  5. I’m a typical Virgo – I like routine & order, I’m not great with spontaneity and I’m a natural worrier!
  6. I’m a big fan of musicals – my fave is Wicked which I’ve seen 5 times!
  7. I changed Universities after not settling at my first. I felt like such a failure at the time and debated for a long time about whether I was cut out for Uni
  8. I met my husband at Uni in a lecture. It wasn’t quite love at first sight – I had a boyfriend at the time 😬- but we had such a spark and were best of friends instantly
  9. When I was 9 I got really into the Euros football tournament and very shortly afterwards my dad bought us season tickets for our local team (Derby County) – and we’ve been regularly ever since!
  10. I’m a big chocoholic and eat (at least) a little bit pretty much every day
  11. I’m incredibly soppy and cry at pretty much everything!
  12. New York is my favourite city and is where I got engaged
  13. I hate having my picture taken but I love having photos to look back on so I’m trying to get better!
  14. I lived in London for 5 years and surprised myself by loving the city life but knew I didn’t want to settle there forever
  15. I’m scared of most animals (even though I think they’re so cute to look at)
  16. I love playing netball – I gave it up when I was pregnant but would love to take it up again at some point in the future
  17. My dream car growing up was a Mini Cooper and I was over the moon to own one before having Archie
  18. My favourite meal is a Sunday roast and I’m lucky to have a mum who is the Queen of them!
  19. I’m a complete lightweight – so much so that it puts me off drinking 😉
  20. I’ve always wanted to be a mummy and knew my life wouldn’t be complete otherwise ❤

Sleep training

Before I had Archie, I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d get him to go to sleep and I’d certainly never heard of sleep training before. About 4.5 months in and having endured 5 consecutive weeks of literally no sleep, the 3 of us were all completely miserable and my friend said I should consider sleep training. I’m so glad she did because it was a huge turning point and we’ve never looked back since.

sleep training

4 month sleep cycles

At around 4 months all babies go through a development change whereby their sleep cycles change and become more like that of an adult’s. It won’t always be hugely noticeable as some babies cope better with the change than others. For us, when Archie was just over 3 months old he started waking every 45 mins-1 hour in the night and was pretty much refusing to nap in the day.

I’ll admit that we made a few mistakes which didn’t help. Firstly, we never put Archie down to sleep when he was awake. Mostly we would feed him to sleep and in the daytime would hold him during naps or at bedtime we would have the fun battle of trying to put him down without him noticing! But after a while, babies will refuse to feed to sleep and so we began singing and rocking him instead but this quickly became exhausting when it took around 45 mins for him to actually fall to sleep.

He slept OK in the car but rarely slept in his pram. So after 5 weeks of literally no sleep, I was completely desperate and was lucky enough to speak to a friend who talked me through sleep training and ultimately gave me the push I needed to try it.

Sleep training in action

Sleep training is essentially just a way of teaching your baby to self-soothe so that when they wake up in the night they can soothe themselves back to sleep. It’s an important milestone for your baby to learn and some won’t need much encouragement whereas some will need your help to learn.

The very next day after speaking to my friend, we decided to put Archie in his own room and start sleep training. I appreciate not everyone would be happy to put their baby in his/her own room at this age (4.5 months) but we realised that we were all waking each other up in the same room and given we had a movement sensor/ monitor we were happy that he would be safe.

In terms of the sleep training method we used, essentially it goes like this:

  1. Put baby down awake (make sure they are well fed and dry first)
  2. Give them a kiss on the head and say “It’s night-time/ nap-time now” and walk out of the room
  3. If baby is crying after 2 mins, then go back in and repeat step 2
  4. Double the time you go back in each time, so after you went in at 2 mins, if they are still crying after 4 mins (6 mins in total since step 1) then repeat step 2
  5. And so on….

Essentially you can do any routine you want in step 2 but the key is to repeat it every time you go into the room and do not pick them up. That way, eventually they will understand that there’s no benefit in crying and they will fall to sleep more easily.

Of course, the above all sounds so simple in theory but in practice it can be very emotional and it will be very difficult for you to hear your baby crying and to not pick them up. The first few days were really tough but I made sure my husband was around for morale support and that made the world of difference. I also made sure I kept busy and away from his room (with the monitor) during the times when he was crying so I didn’t solely focus on it.

But to be honest, I was amazed at how quickly Archie took to it. Within a few weeks, he was mostly going down without crying at all (or very little) which I would never have believed previously. And even at the worst times, Arch would usually give in just before the 16 mins milestone (so 30 mins in total).

Nap times were probably the hardest because I would always doubt whether I called it wrong and maybe he wasn’t tired enough but it soon became a lot easier to know when he needed his sleep and his cues became more and more obvious (for him it was usually when he was becoming agitated for no apparent reason and when he rubbed his ears).

Sleep training on reflection

I completely appreciate that the above is not for everyone and if you’re not completely desperate and can find another way then that’s great. But for us, it was literally a life-saver. Sleep had always felt like such a battle and it was so draining that I never really felt like I was coping before. The change in Archie was also huge – his development came on massively as soon as he was getting the sleep he needed and he was generally just so much happier. We’re lucky that he’s been a pretty good sleeper ever since and the only downside is that he rarely sleeps anywhere but his cot which can be a bit inflexible but for us, we’d rather just work our days round his routine for a happier life.