Third trimester –preparing for baby number 2!

I can’t believe how quickly this pregnancy is going and now I’m well into the third trimester I thought I’d share some preparations we’ve been doing for baby number 2 – both practical and emotional 🙂

preparing for baby number 2

Preparing Archie for his new sister

Given his age (currently 20 months), we haven’t really explained to Arch that he’s going to have a baby sister because we feel he’s too young to understand and any mention of it seems to go ignored at the moment! But he has started going to nursery for 2 mornings a week to get him well settled in before she arrives. This is the first time me and him have really spent apart and selfishly it wasn’t something I was too keen on but I think it’s definitely best for the long-term. My attention will obviously be split when the new baby arrives and I want to make sure he gets enough stimulation and social interaction. Plus I’m already finding that I can be more focussed during the time we do spend together so hopefully it will benefit him in both ways.

Practical preparations

The new baby’s nursery is coming together well and although it’s not necessary for it to be fully ready as soon as baby is born (because she will sleep with us for the first few months) it’s something that I want to do so I can feel fully organised. All the furniture is in and it just needs a bit of organising and a few pictures up for it to feel finalised. I’ve also been sorting through all of Archie’s old clothes and seeing what we can reuse or anything new we might need. I’m yet to start the mammoth task that is washing it all though – eek!

Although I plan to try and breastfeed, I’m also getting everything sorted for bottle feeding (new teats and bottles, setting up the Perfect Prep machine and sterilisers) so that we have a Plan B should we need it.

We’ve now bought the adapters for our pram (iCandy Orange) so we just need to work out what combination will work best for it to be converted into a double.

I’ve also read that it’s a good idea to get all toys/ equipment out for the baby 2-3 weeks before our due date so Archie has a chance to familiarise and will no doubt lose interest in them by the time baby arrives.

Childcare during labour

Although we don’t have family who live near us, my parents are about an hour and a half drive away and have kindly offered to stay at ours and look after Archie when the new baby arrives. This is a huge weight off my mind because it’s a potentially unsettling time for Arch but I know with my mum and dad around he will be spoilt with attention and probably won’t even notice we’re gone. My husband commutes daily into London which is about an hour and a half away too so I’m just hoping if I go into labour, I will spot the signs early enough for everyone to get to me in time! Having been induced last time, and because I laboured quickly, this is something that’s playing on my mind a little but I do have some lovely mummy friends locally who could hopefully hold down the fort in the meantime, if it really came to it!

Introducing the siblings

I’ve been giving this quite a lot of thought and although in my head I always pictured a sweet moment of Archie meeting his little sister in hospital, I’m now thinking it’s probably best for Arch not to come into hospital at all. I think it would be really unsettling for him, especially if we have to then say goodbye and I can’t leave with him. So hopefully I won’t have a long stay in hospital and we can bring his sister home to meet him instead. I’ve read up some tips on how best to introduce your second born to your first so I thought I’d share these in case they’re useful:

  • Don’t hold your baby when first introducing– make sure your arms are free to give your first born as many cuddles as they need for reassurance
  • Introduce baby as “your baby sister”
  • Try to make the environment as non-medical as possible so it’s not frightening
  • Ask firstborn if he’d like to stroke or cuddle his new sister but don’t force it
  • Allow and accept any reaction – it’s a big confusing moment for them
  • If you want to document the moment then get someone else to take photos/ videos – you want to be there to support your firstborn as much as possible

Preparing to feel all the mum guilt

Ah this is one which I’m already feeling to be honest with you but I know that it’s just the beginning! I think it’s important to know it’s totally normal to feel like this though and that it just reflects how much you care and love your children. The below are a few areas of guilt that I’m expecting to feel but no doubt the reality will be slightly different:

  • Turning Archie’s world upside down and any negative reaction from him
  • Not being able to devote as much time to the new baby as I did the first time with Archie
  • Breastfeeding guilt – something I experienced quite badly first time round so I’m hoping to be much kinder to myself this time if breastfeeding doesn’t work out
  • Feeling like I’m not doing anything well and we’re just about surviving!

Interestingly that last point is something I felt constantly during Archie’s first year and I found striving purely for survival quite a depressing prospect to be honest. But having lived through it, I know that things do get easier, the good days do get more frequent and parts of your old life (before children) do come back again so I’m hoping that I don’t forget this easily and it can help get me through when everything feels a bit overwhelming.

Expecting chaos!

It’s strange looking back to the first few months of having Archie because I remember feeling like things were chaotic then and a bit all over the place (I’m a typical Virgo in that I love routine so this was tough!).

But this time round, I know there will be plenty more chaos in the house! And I’ll probably rarely feel on top of everything which is a bit daunting but I’m hoping that maintaining Archie’s structure (of sleeping, eating, nursery, classes) will help to give me a bit more of the routine I craved last time.

One thing I’ve heard from speaking to other mums is that it’s easy, particularly in the early days, to let someone else look after your firstborn whilst you get to grips with the new baby. But that actually this can be unsettling for your firstborn so it’s important to give them as much love and attention as you can as a way of reassurance.

I’m also aware that the firstborn can display a few behaviour changes as they deal with the emotions that can come from having a new baby in the house. This could be being more clingy than normal, not wanting affection from their parents, eating regressions, problems sleeping, increased tantrums etc. So I’m preparing myself for this and will try to be as understanding and as empathetic as I can, knowing it’s not personal, but just a time of adjustment for us all.

Self-care

It sounds a bit cliché and self-care seems to be the new buzzword, but one of the main things I’ve learnt since becoming a parent is that to be the best mum I can be, I need to take care of myself and ensure that I’m not always bottom of the priority list! For me, doing some form of physical exercise has always helped with my mental health so I’m hoping I can get back to doing maybe just one quick HIIT workout a week or a short run every now and again. But more importantly just finding a little “me time”, even if it’s just 5 mins of time to myself to clear my head and gain a little perspective – it’s very easy to get caught up in the bubble and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Are there any second-time parents out there who can offer more advice/ reassurance? I would love to hear it 🙂

Bonding with your baby

When I gave birth to Archie, I was lucky enough to feel an instant bond with him. When I first held him, it was like I’d known him for ages and I just felt an overwhelming sense of love and protectiveness towards him. Unfortunately, a few weeks later and (I’m ashamed to say) that I no longer felt like his mummy and the initial bond we had seemed to be fading. 

bonding with your baby

I know I’m one of the lucky ones for feeling an immediate bond with my baby because not everyone does. I think partly it was down to the fact that he was 2 weeks overdue and there were honestly times when I thought I would never even meet him! So I just fell immediately in love with him and I know it sounds strange but I felt like we instantly knew each other and were just meant to be mummy and son.

I’m sad (and embarrassed) to say that over the next few weeks, I really struggled to connect with him and we grew further and further apart. It stemmed mostly from my inability to satisfy his hunger with my own milk (read more about our feeding journey here). He was constantly angry about this (understandably!) and would scream for hours on end unless attached to me. I felt like a complete failure and dreaded every moment I had to be alone with him.

It definitely wasn’t the way I’d read about it in the books or heard about it from other breastfeeding mums. They spoke of the amazing bond they felt with their baby when feeding. For me,  I just never felt this way.

Breastfeeding seemed to just tear us apart. I felt so disconnected from him. It was like I’d been handed someone else’s baby and I just didn’t feel like his mummy anymore.

I looked forward to the times when other people were around and could hold him for me. To give us some physical distance. And he seemed so much happier in other people’s arms which made me feel like such a failure (in hindsight it’s probably because they didn’t smell of milk like I did).

Luckily, introducing formula and (ultimately) bottle feeding helped to bring us closer together. I realised I could do so much more for my baby beyond feeding him. I became better at comforting him and knowing what he wanted. Simply making him smile/ giggle was (and still is) one of my favourite things to do!

It took a good few months to feel like we’d bonded again and it breaks my heart to even admit that we were so disconnected for that long. But I wanted to be honest and share my experience in the hope that it’s of comfort for anyone experiencing similar. And to know that there is hope – it really does get better and I can honestly say it hasn’t affected us in the long term.

Gifts for new parents/ new baby

When we had Archie I was blown away at how incredibly generous our friends and family were with gifts. So many people asked us if there was anything we wanted and we’d bought so many practical things for the baby that we couldn’t really think of anything at the time. So, with hindsight in our favour, I thought I’d put together a little list of ideas for anyone who needs some inspiration. 

new baby-parent gifts

Keepsake gifts

Newspaper of the day baby was born – I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t ask someone to buy this for us because I’m seriously sentimental and I think it would be a lovely keepsake to show Archie when he’s older. You can buy back copies but they’re not cheap so it’s worth asking someone to do this for you if you’re the one expecting!

Photo frame – I know this is a little old school but I love having photos printed and put up around the house so a photo frame is right up my street.

Baby record book – Some organised mums-to-be might have bought one already so it’s worth checking first but it makes such a lovely sentimental gift and a year later I still love filling Archie’s in and looking back at the entries so far.

Imprint kit – I’m sad that we never got round to doing one of these and the off-the-shelf ones are inexpensive so it definitely makes a lovely present for anyone wishing to cherish those tiny fingers and toes!

Teddy bear – We received quite a few of these which is lucky because Arch is a big fan! But it might be worth checking with who you’re buying for so they don’t have too many. The personalised My 1st Years ones make a lovely keepsake.

Gifts for the whole family

Homemade meal – when you’re a new parent the likelihood is you’ll be grabbing more convenience food than you’re used to so some homemade food – whether that’s a whole meal or just some snacks – will be seriously appreciated!

Food box subscription – when Archie was small we invested in a weekly Hellofresh box for a few months and it was brilliant at getting us back to cooking at home. The recipes were very simple to follow with the ingredients pre-measured (very important for sleep-deprived parents!) and we were surprised just how healthy and tasty they were. I think it would make a great gift for any new parent – whether they’re competent at cooking or not.

Newborn photo shoot – this will not be high on a new parent’s priority list but it makes for some lovely memories that you can cherish forever so again I think this would make a lovely sentimental gift.

Gifts for mum

Pamper kit – you can buy ready-made ones specifically for new mums – the Elemis gift sets are great – but they tend to be pretty pricey. It’s very easy to compile your own – personally I’d include a face mask, lip balm, hand cream, body oil – anything that feels a little luxurious and is really moisturising.

Loungewear – new mums will likely spend a lot of time in clothes that resemble PJs but are slightly more appropriate for leaving the house in! Next do some lovely ones as do ASOS.

Something with Mum/ Mummy on it – whether it’s a mug (the Emma Bridgewater ones are my personal favourite), a piece of jewellery (this Next necklace is lovely) or a slogan top (I love the Selfish Mother ones) most new mums will be so proud to flaunt their new role!

Gifts for baby

Outfit/ Babygro’s – It’s worth bearing in mind that for the first few months a baby will mostly live in Babygro’s so if you’re choosing a cute outfit then you might want to size up for when they’re a bit older. Remember to consider what season it will be when the baby’s at the age too so you don’t buy something impractical for the weather.

Muslin cloths/ bibs – From someone with a sicky baby, there were never enough muslin cloths or bibs clean in the house despite owning enough to put a normal retailer to shame! For bibs, any soft round bibs with a popper fastening are great for the newborn days (save the more stylish dribble bibs for when they’re older). And for muslin cloths TK Maxx do some great ones and I really don’t think you can beat the Aden & Anais ones for quality.

Blanket – Particularly for a winter baby, a blanket makes a lovely gift. My most used one was this Chenille one from Asda as it was super soft and washes well. But for something a bit more special I love this personalised My 1st Years blanket.

NCT Antenatal course – Is it worth it?

A couple of weeks ago one of my pregnant friends asked me about my experience of my NCT antenatal course and whether it was worth the time/ money. So I thought I’d share my experience on here too for anyone thinking about signing up.

pregnant antenatal

Please note all views are my own and are not endorsed by NCT or anyone else. 

NCT Antenatal courses

For anyone not familiar, NCT stands for National Childbirth Trust and they are a UK charity set up to support parents in their first 1000 days through a number of resources – one of which are their antenatal courses. NHS antenatal courses vary considerably by region so lots of parents-to-be choose a private course like the NCT ones.

There are a number of different courses to pick from but we opted for the NCT Signature course consisting of 2.5 workshop days over 2 weekends. The cost will vary depending on where you are but for us it cost £200 which is quite expensive so I did debate whether it would be worth it. However, I didn’t know anyone locally in our area and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet 7 other mums with babies due at a similar time. We attended the course about 2 months before my due date and partners were encouraged to join.

The 2 full days focussed on labour/ the first few weeks of parenthood and the 0.5 day focussed on breastfeeding. Following the course, the instructor helped facilitate a reunion at which we all met up at a future date post our babies being born.

So, would I recommend it?

In terms of the content, I’d say it was too focussed on labour/ birth. It covered a lot of detail about the various scenarios you may be faced with which was useful for background but I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed and scared afterwards! And when the time came the reality was very different to the ‘textbook’. Plus there wasn’t really enough information about what to do after you brought your baby home – I definitely could have done with a few more pointers!!

The fact that they can only cover breastfeeding (and not bottle feeding) was something I didn’t even question at the time but is now something I find really disappointing. A bit of background on how to sterilise, the different bottles/ teats, how much to feed, how often etc. would have been really useful.

However, in terms of meeting my initial goal, of meeting other mums locally with similarly aged babies, it really was a godsend for me in those early days. For the first couple of months we regularly messaged on our WhatsApp group and it was so reassuring to hear others asking the same questions/ sharing the same struggles. Even during the night feeds there was usually someone there at the end of the phone which was such a comfort.

The reunion was a really nice touch and it was so lovely to get together as a group again. Sadly we haven’t all met again since and there are only a couple of mummies who I regularly see/ keep in touch with but they have become really good friends so I don’t think that’s bad going to be honest. So all in all I am so glad I did it and I would recommend it if you’re looking to meet other mummies in your area.

If it’s too late for you to join an antenatal course and you’re looking for ways to find new mummy friends then please don’t panic! I’ve made some of my closest friends outside NCT through various different baby classes. I’ll cover off baby classes in a separate post for anyone interested but in the very early days (first 8 weeks) you’re unlikely to feel up to committing to a class. So here are a few ideas for meeting new mums in your area:

  • Health centres – your local health centre will run coffee mornings/ weigh-in sessions so ask your health visitor for more details
  • NCT Bumps and Babies (check your region) – weekly informal get-togethers for new mummies
  • Local village halls/ churches – often there is a weekly coffee morning held in these so if you have one near you it might be worth a look
  • Garden centres – there are lots of baby/ child friendly activities held at garden centres such as story/ music sessions so worth checking out your local one
  • Library – similar to the garden centre, usually there is a weekly story/ music time so worth checking out on your local council website

I really hope this is useful for anyone considering an NCT antenatal course and I’d love to know how you get on.

 

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

 

10 things I would tell my pregnant self

With pregnancy comes a whole host of emotions. As much as it’s one of the most exciting times of your life, it’s easy to spend a lot of time worrying about things that are largely out of your control. Here are 10 things I would tell my pregnant self….

pregnant self

  1. Forget about your due date – this is so much easier said than done but if you can find a way to relieve the pressure of your due date then your last few weeks of being pregnant will be a much more enjoyable experience (Read my earlier post – The Waiting Game – to learn from my mistake on this!).
  2. Set up all “baby” equipment and practice, practice, practice– trust me, there is nothing worse than venturing out for the first time with your baby and realising that you can’t put the pram up/ down. Or needing to sterilise bottles/ breast pump and getting into a state because your sleep-deprived mind can’t read the instructions. You might feel silly doing it without a baby in tow but it will be a lot easier than trying to work it when said baby is there with you, and mostly crying at you in frustration (babies are not overly patient in my experience!).
  3. Try not to stress too much about labour – whatever happens you will find a way of getting through labour – whether that’s with pain relief or without, vaginal or C-section, home or hospital birth and so on. None of it really matters in the end as long as you and your baby are OK. And as much as having a rough plan of how you’d like it to go is useful, it’s most likely going to deviate away from that at some point so try to just go with what happens in the moment and be confident in your own ability.
  4. Enjoy the time before your baby gets here – sometimes it’s easy to think solely about the future when you’re expecting but it’s also important to live in the here and now. Your world is about to be turned upside and there are a huge amount of positives that go along with that. But there’s likely to be a few parts of your “old” life that you’ll miss – time to yourself, date nights with your partner, lie-ins etc. – so try to just enjoy those last few moments as much as you can.
  5. Don’t underestimate your instincts – this goes for both during labour and when your baby is here. You know your body and your baby better than anyone so trust your gut no matter what anyone tells you.
  6. There’s no need to over-plan – I remember visiting a number of nurseries when I was heavily pregnant and spending so much time worrying about how I’d cope when I went back to work. And I hadn’t even met my baby yet! Just take each stage as it comes because you may feel differently when it actually happens and no one can predict the future.
  7. The hardest trimester is yet to come – this isn’t meant to scare you but just a reminder that you’ll go through a lot in the fourth trimester – your body will still be recovering, you will deal with a ridiculous number of hormones and you will be trying to work out how to keep your baby happy (/alive). Be kind to yourself. Accept it’s not going to be an easy road but that it’s just a phase and it will get easier.
  8. Remember you’re not alone – sometimes it feels like you need to do everything yourself to be a good mum but it’s just not true. You will need the support of your family and friends. Whether that’s physical support through helping with day-to-day tasks or mental support by being someone you can talk to. Finding mummy friends with similar aged babies is also really helpful. I’ve made a couple of life-long friends in my NCT group who have saved my sanity on many an occasion and just having that reassurance that you’re not alone in your thoughts/ feelings will be such a godsend.
  9. Have a breastfeeding back-up plan – health professionals (and probably many others) will tell you that if you really want to breastfeed you can. But what they often forget is that there are 2 parties to satisfy here and you can’t always predict what your baby is going to do or how you’re going to feel when the time comes. Have a back-up supply of things you will need to bottle feed (bottles, steriliser, and formula) just in case.
  10. Believe in yourself – go into motherhood with confidence, knowing that you can do this. Yes you’ll get things wrong along the way but so does everyone. There will be plenty of differing advice/ opinions from those around you but have the confidence to do what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to go against the crowd.

Hospital bag checklist

A year ago today I was neurotically packing my hospital bag in fear of going into labour early. Karma would have it that Archie was 2 weeks late and I needed to be induced but hey hindsight is a wonderful thing! So I thought I’d share my list in the hope that it’s useful for anyone who’s expecting.

hospital bag

Mummy’s bag:

  • Hospital notes – essential that you don’t forget these, so put them on the top of your bag
  • Birth plan – in reality you probably won’t refer to this in labour but it made me feel better to have something written down
  • Pyjamas – loose, dark and ideally with an open neck for skin-skin / nursing
  • Night-shirt – to potentially wear during labour
  • Maternity pads – my advice here is to get Tena Nights – not the most glamorous purchase but way better than the standard maternity pads which are too thin
  • Big black knickers – don’t be embarrassed, the more Bridget Jones style the better! These are useful for a couple of weeks post labour too so it’s worth buying a couple of packs – the ones from Primark or a supermarket work fine
  • Nursing bra – if planning on breastfeeding
  • Breast pads – you probably won’t use these until your milk supply kicks in (around 2-3 days after birth) but pack a couple just in case
  • Slippers – for walking around the ward
  • Flip flops (optional) – for using the shower
  • 1 change of clothes – for travelling home in so make sure they’re loose, dark, comfortable and warm
  • Pillow (optional)– not essential but it reminded me of home and was way more comfortable than the hospital ones
  • Tens machine (optional) – I hired one for £5 from Boots but didn’t use– apparently useful for the early stages of labour though
  • Phone, charger and earphones – in case you want to listen to music and/ or update family/ friends
  • Warm slipper socks (optional) – this is a personal one because I hate having cold feet (and despite not wanting to wear any clothes during labour I refused to take these off!!)
  • Ear plugs and eye mask – useful for when you’re in the ward
  • Food/ snacks – don’t go overboard as there’s likely to be a café nearby but your favourite biscuits/ crisps/ chocolates will keep you in good spirits. I did find though that having a box of chocolates by my bed and offered to staff went down well and ensured we didn’t get forgotten about!
  • Toiletries
    • Hair brush
    • Hair ties
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Lip balm
    • Face wash/ wipes
    • Body wash
    • Shampoo/ conditioner
    • Hand sanitiser
    • Tissues
    • Deodorant
    • Nipple cream (if breastfeeding) – Lansinoh is great
    • Dry shampoo
    • Relaxation oil (e.g. lavender)

Baby’s bag:

  • Nappies (pack of size 1 should be fine)
  • Wipes (don’t bother with cotton wool)
  • A few nappy sacks
  • 3 vests (long or short sleeve)
  • 3 sleepsuits (with mitts in-built)
  • 2 muslin cloths
  • Blanket

Going home:

  • Car seat
  • Hat
  • 1 cardigan
  • Warm blanket

If your partner needs to stay overnight with you then he/ she might need a few essentials too. If there’s anything you think I’ve missed then please do let me know!

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.

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.

induction

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.

The waiting game (2 weeks overdue)

A fortnight. 2 weeks. 14 days. 336 hours. It may not seem like a long amount of time in the grand scheme of things but if anyone’s been overdue then you’ll know that it feels like a lifetime.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Planning the ‘ideal’ waiting time

Before I had Archie I commuted daily from London which resulted in about 3 hours of travelling every day. This quickly took its toll when I was heavily pregnant so I decided to give myself a few weeks off before baby arrived to enjoy ‘nesting’ and to put my feet up. Unfortunately what I hadn’t anticipated was Archie being super comfy and deciding he didn’t want to come out on his own accord (read my induction story here).

What was supposed to be a few blissful weeks turned into me at first suddenly panicking that baby might come early (I know the irony – for some reason my head couldn’t contemplate it in the opposite scenario!!). So week 1 consisted of me buying a few final bits I needed, putting some finishing touches to the nursery, doing a deep clean of the kitchen and doing all the crazy things someone does when in ‘nesting’ mode.

After that I had 4 weeks. Of just waiting. And willing something to happen. Whilst at the same time becoming more and more terrified at the prospect of labour.

The concerned friends and family

As my due date came and went, I started to receive daily messages from my friends and family asking me if I’d had the baby yet, had any twinges, any inkling as to when it might happen? I mean I’d never known anyone be so interested in my life – the pure definition of peer pressure!

To highlight the issue further, I was part of an NCT whatsapp group with 7 other women who had all given birth to their babies 9 days before Archie decided to make his appearance! I read detailed comparisons of how their baby was sleeping, feeding, pooing and everything else in between. All I wanted to do was actually meet mine!

As the time passed I began to have some irrational thoughts.  Maybe I would never meet my baby? Maybe I wasn’t even pregnant to begin with? I mean that sounds ridiculous now but at the time I honestly thought I would have a permanent bump and would be rocking maternity clothes forever (with those wonderful elasticated waist bands maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing!).

I spent so much time worrying that I forgot to just enjoy it. To embrace the quiet and alone time. The excitement of meeting my baby.

I don’t want to sugar coat it too much because the reality is it can be very uncomfortable at the end of pregnancy. But I’d like to think if I ever got the chance to re-live it I’d eat my weight in Cadbury’s chocolate – when you’re pregnant there’s no such thing as overeating – and watch all my favourite Xmas films – because how can anyone be stressed watching Elf?!