Archie’s 1st birthday party

Ah I still can’t believe my baby is officially 1! I’ve been an emotional wreck all week but we started the celebrations off with a small family party at home which was just lovely. I thought I’d share a few details on here in case anyone needed some inspiration.

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In terms of the guest list we invited our closest family and a few of my mummy friends with their children. We kept it small because we hosted it at home and it worked out really well. We told everyone to drop in anytime between 11am and 3pm so that the parents could work it around their bubba’s schedules!

For food, we loaded up from M&S the day before! We had pizzas, sausage rolls, crisps, sweets, crudités and we made sandwiches in the morning.

We also pre-ordered the cake from M&S – it was a rainbow cake and tasted delicious – much lighter than I was expecting. Arch was a huge fan too as you can probably tell! He also really enjoyed being sung Happy Birthday to – helped by my mum doing a very ‘original’ dance which was making him laugh! Sadly I didn’t capture the dance on camera but I did get some of his reaction on video – it’s on my Facebook page for anyone interested.

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In terms of decorations most of them were from Asda but the star of the show was a Chalkboard which I had made in a “Sing” theme because Archie is obsessed with this film! I thought it would make a nice keepsake for when he’s older too. His birthday balloon was also a major hit  – in fact it’s his favourite present to date – thank you very much to my Auntie. Oh and one final detail was his top which I absolutely love – again from Etsy – which had a 1 and his name on it.

And that was it really – the kids played with all of Archie’s many toys and the adults just chatted and let the children do the entertaining! It was the perfect way to mark the occasion and I’m so glad we kept it low key – we can save all the expensive parties for when he might actually remember them…!

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A letter to Archie: 1st birthday

Dear Archie,

Wow a whole year old! Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.

first birthday

This year has gone surprisingly quickly and yet it’s hard remember a time without you. Thank you for giving me the best job in the world and for making me your mummy.

You are growing into the loveliest little boy. A little boy who is officially a toddler. You took your first steps just before Christmas and now there is nothing stopping you. In fact you run more than you walk most of the time!

Although you’ll always be daddy’s little mini-me you’re starting to look more like me now which I love. You have the most gorgeous blue eyes and cute little kiss curls at the back of your hair which is getting fairer by the day. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be a blondie like daddy.

Your love for food is also something that daddy and I share with you although unfortunately for you, I think you might have inherited our sweet tooth too! Your favourites are yoghurts, chocolate brioche, Philadelphia and any kind of fruit!

You love to be independent but also adore spending time with your family. In fact you save most of your smiles/ giggles for the ones you love which makes them all the more special for us.

You’re definitely not one for cuddles but you’re becoming more affectionate and the attachment you have for your little cuddly toy Doggie is very clear to see.

Your favourite toy is definitely a ball – you could spend all day chasing one round and you’ve even started to kick them – which has got daddy and grandad very excited that you might be a footballer when you’re older!

Your love for music just gets stronger by the day and you love to clap, sing and dance along! We’ve recently started to watch the film Sing together (on repeat) and it is by far the easiest way to get your face to light up (that and In the Night Garden but mummy doesn’t share your love of this!).

You’ve also just discovered how to play chase and the little look you give me before you turn around and run off is just the cutest.

You’re definitely a little boy who knows what he wants which I’m hoping will be advantageous as you grow up. You also have the most tenacious nature of any child I know – you’re always desperate to explore and are so determined – you will practice, practice and practice until you’ve achieved what you were trying to do.  This means you’ve already achieved a huge amount in your first year and we could not be prouder.

I cannot wait to see what life holds for you. You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to us and we will do everything we can to give you the happiest life you deserve.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy xxx

 

2018: A year of firsts

Unsurprisingly 2018 has been a year of firsts for our family – particularly for Archie. As the year draws to a close I thought it would be a good time to reflect and summarise all our little monkey has achieved.

firsts

From top left to bottom right:

January – First time being late! Let’s hope it’s not in his nature.

February – First breath and the day I became a mummy.

March – First smile. 5 weeks in and finally some positive feedback!

April – First night away from home – a weekend with our friends in Center Parcs.

May – First swimming lesson – Daddy particularly enjoyed the “dunking”!

June – First giggles – still my favourite ever sound. This month also included his first day away from mummy, his first night in his big cot and the first time he rolled over.

July – First night without his sleepyhead – when we realised he actually prefers sleeping on his tummy.

August – First time sitting up unaided. He also clapped for the first time this month which is his favourite party trick to date!

September – First time he stood up in his cot – I noticed it on the monitor when he was meant to be asleep! This month he also properly crawled for the first time.

October – First time abroad – we ventured to Tenerife on a 4.5 hour flight (it was interesting….!).

November – First time on the swings – and they were a definite hit.

December – First steps – also his first Christmas and the month he said his first words (dada, mumma and nana (banana)).

Wow what a year. I can’t believe he’s so close to being a toddler (where did my baby go!). It’s been the most life-changing year of my life to date and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for us. Wishing you all a healthy and happy one.

A letter to Archie: 6 months old

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Dear Archie,

Wow what a journey we’ve had so far. In some ways I can’t believe you’ve only been in my life for just 6 months and yet I can remember those first few weeks like they were yesterday.

Mummy had a really tough time in those early days but please know that it is not a reflection on how much I loved and adored you (and still do, of course). The moment I saw you my heart was bursting with love and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have everything I’d ever wanted. Long before you were born I’d dreamed of becoming a mummy. And although I was career driven and wanted to be successful in my job, I knew my life would never be fulfilled without having a child.

I am so incredibly proud to be your mummy and there are so many things I love about you but I will try to name a few…

Although you make us work hard for them, your smiles and giggles are just the best. I love finding new ways of getting them to happen – currently blowing raspberries and bouncing on the bed are winners! You have the most determined nature of any child I’ve ever known and your curious mind means you’re always looking for the next thing to explore/destroy. You absolutely love being sung to and clapped at. And despite your angry grunts and boisterous tendencies I wouldn’t change you for the world.

You are quite honestly the best thing that’s ever happened to me and although I’ll never feel good enough to be your mummy, I promise to do my absolute best to give you the life you deserve.

Love you to the moon and stars,

Mummy xx

Why “breast is best” didn’t work for us

Whilst pregnant with Archie I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I was quite adamant that I wouldn’t put pressure on myself in case it didn’t work out. Fast forward to 2 weeks after his birth and I felt like I had no other choice.

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Breastfeeding a very hungry baby

Following Archie’s birth we stayed in the hospital for 24 hours and during that time I was given an amazing amount of breastfeeding support. I left feeling fairly confident that we had the latch right and that breastfeeding would actually work out for us. I remember feeling relieved as I know there is a lot of research to say that “breast is best” and, like every mum, I wanted the best for my baby.

Unfortunately I was completely naive to the fact that it’s not just about getting the latch right.

A few weeks into exclusively breastfeeding, “cluster feeding” was becoming a daily occurrence. Every night Archie would feed continuously from around 2pm to around 1-2am. In fact my hungry little monkey would scream the house down unless he was attached to my boob or asleep! This was “fine” (I use the word loosely!) until my husband went back to work and did his usual 14 hours a day, meaning he got home and I’d barely had a drink or anything to eat, having been “chained” to the sofa all day.

I found the crying extremely hard to deal with.  I felt like it was a reflection on me. Like he was constantly angry at me because I couldn’t satisfy him. Like I just wasn’t good enough.

Although it was only a few weeks, it felt like a lifetime and I feared this was my new life now. Add in (what felt like) a million hormones and a body which was recovering from an intensive labour and I’ve never been more of an anxious wreck.

But despite all of this, I was convinced I didn’t have a choice. Scared I would be a failure. Not as good as the other breastfeeding mums.

This blurred vision wasn’t helped by several health professionals who urged me to keep going, using phrases like “if you formula feed your baby it’s like giving them McDonalds”, “give your baby a roast dinner, not a Big Mac” (yes this was said by different people not just one).

The road to combination feeding

Luckily for me, I had a family who could see the impact this was having on me. The shell of my former self I had become. And not only that, but the unhappy baby I was trying (unsuccessfully) to satisfy. About 4 weeks in, my husband couldn’t take it anymore – he went into the kitchen, made up a bottle of formula – and ultimately made the decision that I couldn’t bring myself to make.

The transition to combination feeding wasn’t a smooth one. Archie’s tummy struggled with the different consistency of formula and experienced horrific wind and reflux. It was excruciating watching my baby in pain and the guilt I felt “because it was my fault” was unbearable.

A couple of weeks in though and we finally got into the swing of things. That’s when I realised the impact the experience had on my bond with Archie. I was finally starting to “like” my baby which I know sounds so awful but it was hard to like someone who just screamed at you for the majority of the day.  And the change in him was profound – he was so much more content and didn’t spend every minute of his day feeding or screaming for food. Don’t get me wrong he still fed a lot and I spent most of my time breastfeeding or preparing bottles but he was definitely happier and it felt more manageable.

The end of breastfeeding

About 10 weeks in I still had a very hungry baby and I was quickly losing faith in my milk so I was topping up more and more with formula. Shortly after, Archie refused to breastfeed and it was a difficult pill to swallow but it was clear what he was telling me. Initially I felt some resentment. Why didn’t my baby want my milk anymore? Why did he not want that comfort from me at least?

But ironically as we moved to formula feeding I felt the bond between us grow and grow. It no longer felt like a battle – him telling me he was hungry and me not being able to satisfy. I could see his personality developing and it was then I realised that there are so many more ways in which I can provide for and comfort him beyond that of feeding.

The right to choose

I’d be lying if I told you it was a perfectly happy ending and I was at peace with our feeding journey. I look back and I’m disappointed that I wasn’t further supported by the health professionals. I was told that if I moved to formula then my baby might prefer it and refuse my milk which horrified me at the time. But as my mum rightly highlighted, so what if he does, doesn’t that just mean you’ve made the right choice?

And that’s just it isn’t it? We live in a day and age where we’re lucky enough to have a choice. Why isn’t it acceptable for you to choose what’s right for you and your baby? Instead I experienced so much guilt and felt like a failure. Something which, even with the perspective I have now, I still find lingers. Because ultimately does it matter how you fed your baby as long as they’re happy and thriving? And as long as you’re happy and coping?

Personally I think not. As mums we’re the ones that know what’s best for ourselves and our babies. Sometimes we just need some encouragement to embrace that during a time when everything else feels out of our control.

My birth story: Induction

Following weeks of hoping my baby would come on his own accord, it was clear my labour needed a bit of a kick-start. I was booked in for the ‘dreaded’ induction and had to accept, like many, it wasn’t going to be the birth I’d originally hoped for.

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Forget the ‘due date’

As I headed off on maternity leave, I remember lots of people telling me not to focus too much on my due date and to just accept my baby might come at any point. And yes as great as that is in theory they might as well have told me to never eat Dairy Milk again because I wasn’t going to listen!

I remember being fixated on the fact that I was going to go into labour early. I have no idea why although it was probably an attempt to prepare myself in case it did. So when my due date came and went I felt disappointed but also a bit relieved because it delayed the prospect of labour (like most women I was terrified!).

As the days continued to tick by I remember the midwives booking me in for an induction and reassuring me that it was just a back-up plan and probably wouldn’t be necessary. The mere fact that they assured me of this made me think that induction was probably not a good thing and when I read some of the horror stories online this just confirmed it. It became my main aim to go into labour naturally and to do anything to avoid being induced.

So I did all the usual things – rubbed copious amounts of clary sage onto my tummy, drank litres of raspberry leaf tea, endured 2 sweeps, bounced up and down on my exercise ball until I felt dizzy and went for a casual 3 mile walk at least once or twice a day.

Off to a bad start

Unfortunately despite my best efforts, it was clear this little monkey wasn’t going to come out on his own accord and on the Saturday I headed to the hospital to start the induction process.

When we first arrived the midwife told me that they wouldn’t be starting anything until about 7 hours later because the ward was completely overrun and we needed to sit and wait. She showed us to my bed (which hadn’t even been made yet) and I could just feel myself welling up. The 5 other women in the room (in various different stages of labour) must have thought I was a complete wuss. I have such a fear of hospitals and when telling the midwife this she just said I should get used to it because I would probably be here for at least a few nights. Her whole attitude basically said ‘given the number of people, you’re lucky to be here in the first place, stop being ungrateful’. And so naturally I burst into tears and acted like a complete baby! I really wasn’t sure whether I could go through with it and the midwife reminded me it was my choice and I could just go home and  wait for things to progress naturally if I’d wanted. But this went against any professional advice I’d received and I didn’t want to put my baby in any danger.

Luckily for me, my husband intervened (if you’ve read my breastfeeding story you’ll see he’s very good at this). He took her to the side and persuaded her to let us check in but that I could then go home for a few hours and come back when they were ready to start the induction process. So we went home, my husband ran me a bath, I ate a big bar of chocolate and we had a big heart-to-heart about how exciting it was going to be to meet our baby and how a few short days in hospital would feel like nothing in the future.

Being induced

At about 5pm we re-entered the hospital and the midwife stuck to her word by sticking me straight on the monitor and talking us through the procedure. After being monitored for a while she was happy that baby was doing ok and we could get started. In went the pessary and then we just had to wait for something to happen. She told me that if the pessary was working (often it doesn’t work first time) then I should feel period pains which would then move to my tummy (aka contractions).

Now the timings here are a little blurred so bear with me but a short while after the pessary was inserted the period pains were getting seriously strong and I had a constant urge to use the toilet. I requested for the pessary to be removed and at that point I was 2cm dilated so the midwife said I was in the early stages of labour.

The pain was getting incredibly intense and the time between the period pains was getting shorter and shorter (they hadn’t moved to my tummy so I was convinced they weren’t contractions at this point but looking back I now know they were!). I started demanding an epidural (to anyone who would listen!!). I remember thinking if I can’t cope at this early stage, then how will I be able to cope when I’m in the thick of it (so to speak).

The midwife said I couldn’t have an epidural until I was 4cm dilated and given she’d only just examined me (40 mins ago) she advised me against another examination and told me to have a bath.

But something just didn’t feel right so I was adamant she did. About 5 mins later, she looked completely shocked, declared I was 9cm dilated and said that I needed to get to the labour ward as soon as possible. She rushed out to get a wheelchair and my poor husband ran around trying to get our belongings together whilst computing what she’d just said.

When I got to the labour ward, I was 10cm dilated (the pushing stage), and I felt much calmer. In fact I didn’t want the epidural after all which was lucky because it was too late for me to have it anyway. I just kept thinking I’m about to meet my baby and I won’t have to stay in this hospital for much longer (win win!). It took about 2 hours of pushing but when Archie was finally placed into my arms, I felt this overwhelming feeling of relief and happiness. He was everything I’d been hoping for – a beautiful healthy baby. And although it sounds ridiculously soppy every ounce of pain and anxiety was worth it.

The ‘ideal’ labour

Since meeting other mums I’ve realised that I’m not in the minority – many women don’t have the labour they envisage. I think part of this is because there’s this ideology that a good labour needs to be completely natural and in your control, which isn’t always possible (or desirable).

If you’re pregnant and reading this I’m assuming this is quite a scary prospect – it’s the fear of the unknown which is often the most challenging part. But know that even if it doesn’t turn out how you planned it, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a ‘bad’ labour. I’m not sure what defines a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labour anyway to be honest (I’ve never heard anyone refer to the former). It’s a process you have to go through to have a baby which let’s face it is never going to be the most enjoyable experience. But if you can, try to focus on the fact you’re about to meet your baby and at some point you will look back and think it was all completely worth it.