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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

He's here! Elias' Birth Story

Last Wednesday afternoon at 40wks+4days I felt rather low about the baby not coming on time. I felt tired, heavy and worried it was putting on lots of weight (last baby was 9lbs 9oz!) plus everyone was asking hubby if he'd come yet: his colleagues, his family- all french babies come on time apparently so didn't understand why ours was late! Also, it seems silly, but the later the baby came, the later my OH could go to Madrid and choose our flat  and then it would all be a rush to be there at the beggining on March... Oh silly. I would have been happy to wait had it not been for others annoying me but it was getting loooong. I didn't want a membrance sweep or to be induced so tried many things but in the end it was the membrane sweep that afternoon that got things going ;)

Wednesday evening we were flicking between 3 football matches and I was actually enjoying watching all of them - resting my chin on my folded arms on the footstall with my knees on the floor swinging my (imaginary) tail side to side to take off the heaviness. I started feeling a few contractions and cooly decided I was in labour - they were regular, lasting a minute and were getting stronger! We had a moment and got snuggly. Hubby prepped himself for back massage duty like last time - but there was no need, I had no back pain whatsoever! The baby must have been differently placed and not touching my back as much. I didn't touch the Tens machine my friend had leant me. First stage was eeeeeasy ;) At midnight we called the hospital  to let them know we'd be heading in soon - (or politely explained timings and wait for them to invite us in) and called my mum to give us a lift. Leon had woken up with me stuffing things into my hospital bag (it was ready! Just lacked some socks, clothes, cereal bars and dried apricots, toiletries and makeup - don't forget your toothbrush...). He was a bit bemused and we plonked him on the sofa while we put our shoes on and managed to finish watching Run Fat Boy Run! to the end.

The 15 minute car ride was OK (no swearing and screaming like last time...) but I suddendly felt sick and asked to stop as I didn't want to be sick in my mum's hat (the only thing to hand) but nothing came up. In the examination room I managed to chuck up 2 bowls full and felt much better for it - I was also 6cm dilated so knew there wasn't too long to go. The pain was getting stronger with each contraction too. While waiting to know what room I was going to be in I perched on a big birthing ball and that helped chill me out a bit and was extremely comfortable. I was in the midwifery led Malden Suite at Kingston Hospital which encourages an active birth and use of natural coping mechanisms during labour. The light was dim, the midwife was young but I recognised her from Leon's birth which was comforting, and I was immediately drawn to the birthing ball - the midwife brought over a big cushioned mat which she covered with sheets to go under the ball- and I got down, like at home, on my knees with my arms and head supported on the ball with hubby behind it. I grabbed the gas and air immediately, and got comfortable.

The pain was already really strong and through each contraction I found myself yelling and forcing hubby to yell louder than me, it felt really primal - very different to last time. Although I felt slightly more in control, I needed to hear the midwife reassure me with what was going to happen next, and I remember I kept asking her lots of questions - especially towards the end and "are you going to cut me?!" (luckily she didn't need to yay!) but I felt rather lame with the pushing. The waters had broken at 1.50am with a pop and a woosh of water which was quite cool and the midwife said I could get the baby out by 2am! This wasn't the case and I had a lot of pushing to do. I think I was scared to push which is silly, and towards the end I had to give myself a mini pep talk as I wasn't pushing hard enough and the other two weren't shouting at me to push harder (they were too lovely!) and I totally needed that kick. Though it hurt A LOT and I felt sleepy and each contraction I shouted at Jason to yell (like a roaring caveman) "LOUDER!!!" but at the height of the contraction I'd get him to stop as I wanted silence to push. I could feel the baby come down but then go back up again as I wasn't pushing hard enough. It was an amazing feeling and I don't think I noticed it as much last time. I think my positioning helped as I could feel the baby passing down through me.

The final couple of pushes I just demanded silence and didn't even breathe in the etinox - I was just connecting with the baby and thinking of my muscles and the breathing pushing the baby out alone - and then pushed freaking hard and felt him pass right down and out and OHMYGOD!!! What an incredible sensation. I looked down and saw my beautiful new creature covered in slime and blood, a sign of our toils, and just massaged his little body. My man counted his digits and pronounced him perfect, snipped the cord and I asked him to carry him as I just wanted the placenta to be outta there!

I couldn't stop thinking how amazing it all was and felt like I was on another level, in another zone- like something took over my body at the end and allowed me to just experience what was happening without having to do anything as my baby found his way out to enter the real world.

So, weighing in at 8lbs11oz, born at 2.57am on Thursday 26th January 2012 I present you: Elias Stanley, my new bundle of joy :)

Elias Stanley

Isn't he gorgeous?

Bump 40 weeks pregnant

40 weeks pregnant

Due date's been and gone and I've done many things to encourage the onset of this baby's birth:

Pineapple and curries - though abandoned when I realised it would take at least 7 pineapples to make the slightest difference and my stomach wouldn't appreciate too many curries. Several tweeps also advised against the idea and suggested acupuncture instead. I pressed my thumbs for 3 minutes in hope of a twinge and then got bored. Will look up a local acupuncturist or ask my reflexology friend for mates rates. She has a 50% success rate for birth induction through reflexology but costs £45 a sesh... I've cleaned the flat again, and again and been keeping active mainly running after Leon and jumping around with him to the tune of Hop Little Bunny. My man's been doing his bit too by giving me a fair amount of prostaglandins..

Now baby. Where are you?!

*er... this was meant to be posted on Sat 21st Jan ;)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

I have a two year old

Since the 5th of January I've been getting to grips with living with my two year old.

Two years old

The past year has been a complete metamorphosis of my little lad growing from a commando crawling not yet one year old, to a running, football-playing, talking, funny, clever little boy. It's amazing to think that the transformation has only happened over one year, from all-fours crawling on his 1st birthday, finally walking at 14 months, then the words started happening. He's really coming on with his talking- so much that he's developed his own language- a mixed up version of English, French and Spanish which is quite cute. He continues to surprise me and can even count to 10. I am amazed at his intelligence! He's at ease on an aeroplane and was lucky to have several holidays this year. He's usually a fab eater, loves playing with his cars, trains, buses and has discovered the telly and the iPad... He also underwent his first hospital operation- ridding him of his Tongue tie, and most importantly- is soon to be a big brother. (Little bro is due TODAY.)

However, his increased communication has empowered him tremendously and he expects to be right, to be answered to, to be heard in his own way- on his terms. It's tiring to hear his whining or see his throwing things and although I feel as though I'm firm, but fair - it's tough and I often give in to his demands. Or conversely, get angry, shout and distance myself from him! I think we need to get out earlier in the morning when all is still peachy and get him to run off that energy before it turns...

When at home he often plays nicely by himself, but it isn't always the case. I enjoy getting down to play with him of course, but I can't the whole time. I'm tired, don't have as much energy as usual and feel he should be able to play on his own and be independent. If I leave him mini challenges, be it a puzzle, his blocks, or tidying away- he can get on with it very well. I think I need to find more ideas for games and tasks to really fulfill him as he just seems, well bored. I love the Montessori ideology of independent learning to help him help himself but I'm not putting enough effort into it.

If he complains, I try to distract him with a game, or offer to read a book... Shamefully, the main bribery that works recently, are the magic words "Shall we watch Fireman Sam?". I know. But I don't do it often. Usually it's him that asks me - and he's so sweet when he does I can hardly say no... Yesterday we had a telly free day and it was brilliant. I feel we're turning over a new leaf and he accepts when I say no, or switch off the telly after one episode. I feel I'm back in charge once again. Slowly.

He's going to the childminder's once a week again (treat from OH) and loves it. I do too and can get on with stuff without interruptions -as bad as it sounds- but it's beneficial for us both. He plays all day and hangs out with different people. When I pick him up again we're both so happy and play together nicely.

At night, he's recently had trouble sleeping on his own, insisting we "sit down!" while he drops off. If he wakes at night he calls out to us and won't cry himself to sleep as he used to. He's stronger, more resilient and doesn't really cry, more yell "MamiTAAAAA!!". We get up and sit by him and sneak off when he's nodded off again. Then if it's past 6, we just bring him into bed with us.

Oh, I don't mean to ramble and reading back it sounds like he's tough but it's just the hard parts that stick in my mind! He's a great kid, and we have lots of fun. It's lovely to see him playing with his little friends and follow how their relationships grow (while I can kick back with the other mummies) and I love how we can have conversations with him, figure out what he's trying to communicate, yet we still underestimate him. He's very sensitive and I'm eager to see how he'll react to the new arrival.

*                 *                 *

Prep for train cake
For his birthday, we enjoyed two mini celebrations: one at playgroup and one at the pub! Check out how easy it is to make a fun train cake:

I followed Stork margarine's Victoria sponge recipe they had at the back of the tub (8oz sugar, 8oz margarine, 8oz flour, 1tsp baking powder, 3eggs, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 180C for 25mins), let the cake cool slightly, cut into four and added jam in the middle. I arranged the carriages on a board and cut bits off to form the 'engine'.

Once it looked kind of train-like I covered it with icing, sweets, animals and painted tracks. Et voila a crazy train cake!

Crazy train cake

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bump 38 weeks pregnant! Fears, names and belly cast

38 weeks! I'm almost at the end of my second pregnancy and have slowed down a lot. I feel heavy, tired and a responsibility to Leon to avoid labouring too early: I'm due on the 21st Jan and Leon's birthday was 5th Jan so it wouldn't be fair to him to have his little brother's birthday in the same week, right? I've been staying local, not doing as much housework, not walking as far, being strict with foods and avoiding sex :S

I felt the baby drop around Christmas time and yesterday at my check up the GP couldn't feel the head so sent me for a positioning scan- thankfully the baby does have a head and it's pointing south and ready to go! I'm very excited and nervous at the same time. He's still moving a lot and I feel a lot of pressure low down- I feel he could come at any moment! 

We're still stuck for baby names, though I think it's mainly me vetoing all suggestions crossing them off as too boring, too girly, don't sound right in English, not strong enough... We have a few OK names on the list, but I'd like something brilliant! I love Zorro, Zoltan and Danté, but Diego and Joseph are pushing past as they're 'safer'. I'm waiting for the inspiration but may have to settle on a nice name soon... Or a least a feasible short list and pick one when we see him. Eek I can't believe he'll be coming so soon!

38 weeks pregnant Jan 2012

We cast my bump last night- very fun! I bought a 15cmx14m roll of Mod Roc £7.99 from a local art shop (as opposed to £25 'bump cast' kits) and it was very easy! I cut the roll into shorter strips (approx 30cm), gave husband a large bowl of warm water, lay down a load of newspaper on the living room floor, donned some old knickers then slathered on some stretch mark oil I had a lot of (you can use Vaseline, baby oil etc) and knelt on the floor with my arms above my head (to appear perky!).

There were no instructions but I figured it was basically soaking the bandages in water. A quick look on the Modroc website explained nicely that the warmer the water, the quicker the setting time - it should take 2-4 minutes to dry- super quick! It took hubby 20 minutes roughly to complete the job (start up high then work your way down) and I could feel it drying and pulling away from my body.

**NB. Make sure your plasterer squeezes out the excess water or you'll find it takes too long to dry AND mix a smaller bowl of PVA glue and water 50/50 mix and paint on a final coat inside and out to avoid a crumbly effect**

Et voila! I was happy with the result and pleased to have a memento of what could be my last pregnancy. Though- according to other half- it won't be as we'll have eight kids... Errr yeah right!

38 weeks pregnant bump cast

Now, I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to paint it, or where it'll go- but it was lots of fun and I can always whip it out to remember the pregnant feeling...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Smartipants Birth to Potty Reusable Nappy Review

I was a wuss and didn't use washable nappies with Leon, but I'd like to use reusable nappies for my next baby that will last the whole nappy-wearing period to save money and reduce landfill waste. The average baby uses 7,000 disposable nappies plus the nappy sacks - and think of the production, and transportation costs to the environment (yes it costs suppliers too, but they make a helluva lot back ;). An alternative to this horror is to use 24 one size reusable nappies costing over £200 initially but overall it will save you £1,300 per child. Not bad.

My mission is two-fold as I'm still on the hunt for the perfect nappy for Leon (almost 2 years old but slowly starting potty training), and I wish to use reusables from day one for baby #2 when he arrives this month. The one size fits all concept fits in nicely as I can use them for both babies and don't have to change to a bigger size as he grows.

We tried Smartipants "The World's Smartest one size fits all reusable diaper" (was a given a sample at the Baby Trade show) which is a pocket nappy, and have used it successfully several times during the day while at home- avoiding carrying a wet/soiled nappy when out and about (wet bags are the solution!).

How to use it
You place the soft insert into the opening and then snap the nappy using the adjustable poppers. It's easy to adjust and snap the poppers. With Leon, who's just turned 2 and is rather tall, I used the last two poppers. It's easy to determine the correct fit by checking it's snug but not too tight around the thighs. The nappy fits him really well and are like big comfortable pants rather than papery/plastic disposables.

It's worth knowing that :  'Babies change shape frequently as they grow up. You may have times when your relatively young baby is using their one-size diapers on the largest setting. The same child may be on the medium setting several months later due to increased mobility.'

A tip for overnight use is to stuff the nappy with two inserts and set the nappy to be one size larger than for daytime use (the equivalent of adding a booster sanitary pad style layer to nappies). I'd need to do this as Leon is out-weeing a variety of nappies, but I can't set it any bigger so am unable to :(

When it needs changing, just take it off and whip it in the laundry basket! Or a wet bag until you have enough to wash. (I discovered I already had a couple of wet bags from a Bounty pack last time- so they do come in useful ;) I washed at 30 with non-bio liquitabs and they came out well and hung them out to dry. They were done within a few hours. Though now it's colder I've sped up the last bit of drying on the radiators. It's very easy and are still soft after a few washes. NB. There was a slight wee smell when sniffing the clean nappy insert, so I think they should be washed at 40 but it doesn't bother me too much so I just carry on at 30- hope thats not disgusting.

I've only tried the one nappy in between disposables at home, and it doesn't come up often as I don't do laundry every day so I'd be happy to purchase more or put on wish list for baby or even Leon (he's over 15kg and they still fit him).

Cool Factor?
It's a nappy - but we know how these have been jazzed up by many brands. The Smartipants range is very basic but they have a large choice of bright colours. You can see that they aren't as high-end as some of the other brands. Aesthetically, the one size fits all nappy means you see all the poppers when your baby gets older, but its not ugly and the colours are cool.

In a nutshell, they are practical, fast-drying, comfortable, easy to use and durable and I'll definitely be putting these on my baby #2 wishlist. They cost £13.50 each (less than other similar nappies) and are cheaper if you buy in bulk.

And those 2 extra laundry loads per week uses about the same amount of water as a few daily flushes. So try not to flush as often (if it's yellow let it mellow and all...) be careful with other water usage and over all it's better for the environment!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Books for Big brother to be!

My sister works in an independent childrens bookshop and is a literatury genius in my eyes. She recommended the first of these three books for explaining a new baby in family and I'm on a hunt for some more!

There's a House inside my Mummy did not strike me as a good title at first, but I'm pleased I took it out of the library as it's so beautifully written and illustrated with a gentle feel that encapsulates how a toddler feels on understanding how there is a baby in his mummy's tummy. I like how it was written by a dad, Giles Andreae, when imagining how his 2 year old son was thinking. TBH I'm a bit bored of it now as Leon insisted on reading it so often, but I love that he loved it and could relate to the little boy in the book.

We also borrowed There's going to be a baby (John Burningham & Helen Oxenbury) with fabulous illustrations of daily life of a pregnant mother and her son through the seasons. This one goes a bit further with the child imagining how the new baby will be in the future and all the questions he asks his mother. It's a bit longer and I edit the text when reading it aloud to Leon, but think it's beautifully illustrated and interesting to understand an older toddler's point of view.

Although there's no older sibling in The Story of the Nativity this beautiful book (Anna Milbourne & Alessandra Roberti), a gift from my mother, was read a lot in the run up to Christmas and shows a pregnant Mary and then sweet baby Jesus spelling it all nicely out for my toddler. He always points out 'daddy' as the Joseph illustration does resemble my man quite a bit!

Baby in her tummy
Baby out of tummy

So, with those books, seeing other real young babies, and listening to my explanations, I think he now understands what will be coming next. I hope he accepts his little brother when he comes, and understands that he's here to stay and that I love him just as much.

I find I'm making the most of our last few weeks/days together before we're joined by the new baby and cherishing our 2 years we've had already. It will be a lot to grasp- someone mentioned an awful analogy: it's as if your husband brings home another woman and everyone says how beautiful and lovely she is and you're expected to live with it. I hope that Leon doesn't feel sidelined but that he learns to share our time and love his new sibling.

If you have any tips to share for introducing a newborn to a just turned 2 year old please let me know!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

2012? Bring it on

Happy New Year everyone- 2012? Bring it right on. My baby is turning 2 tomorrow, then I'm due another one on the 21st... Errr help! I've also started with vacuum packing bags and boxing up books to prepare for our imminent move to Madrid going ahead at the beginning of March... But let me reflect on the year that was 2011.

Looking back at my 2011 diary it was chocablock full of playdates, meetups, blog events, Buggyfit and a sprinkling of work, reflecting my life as a mostly full time mum to a 1 year old. Leon turned 1 at the beginning of 2011 and has developed from commando crawling to all fours speedy tortuga, walking, talking, imaginative playing, handsome little boy. He's started to throw the odd tantrum, but well- I was expecting it and understand that it's part of showing his frustrations and communication and a rite of passage.

I've enjoyed this whole journey, but have found the days to merge into one, my life seemingly mundane, hardly going out in the evenings, and getting dissillusioned at not carrying out my plans such as using the empty shops in Twickenham's high streets (decent pop up shops, galleries, spaces to benefit local mums to get together and make stuff), when a few emails and forming a team of some sort would have propelled it along to something useful and fun. I kept making excuses- similar to my papier mâché creations where I made over a dozen deer heads at the end of the year but wasn't proud of them so didn't want to promote them and many are just sitting on top of my fridge or hung up in the living room staring back at me saying "What are you going to do with us? Surely you won't keep us all?!"

In spring we planned a new addition to the family which materialised quickly and I spent a lot of time thinking about my future - missing work and everything that comes with it- office life, financial independence, responsibility for an end-product, just stepping out on my own, dressing up... And I think I'm experiencing an overload of female companionship. I'm all for sisterhood but I miss the frankness and hilarity of male work colleagues- I've definitely become more shy around men too - a vulnerable feeling since becoming a mama which is weird!

Mid-summer one night, my sister woke me with a call: my dad had suffered a stroke and had been taken to hospital- I saw him the next day, comatose and helpless- it was critical and all I could do was speak to him- not knowing if he could hear me. I spent one night in hospital with my mum sitting by his bed, sleeping with my head by his legs, holding his hand waking every so often when he moved or changed breathing, hoping he'd 'snapped out of it' or worried that this was it- his moment of departure. It took longer than a couple of days, but he left, peacefully, without pain, with my mum by his side. And that was it- I'd lost my father at a time I felt I needed him most. Mid-twenties, lost and uncertain. He'd always pull me into thought-provoking conversation that I felt I've lacked since motherhood. Although he wasn't well (Parkinsonian motor symptoms), was slow and tired and I often lost patience with listening to his economic theories and solutions to business problems I'd moan about from work- he was there and was my father. Losing him scared me thinking my son wouldn't remember his Grumpa and that my unborn baby wouldn't ever get to meet him. It's a horrible feeling when showing Leon a family photo and he could name everyone but my dad- I think it came back to him but he calls him Pokpa.

Soon after, hubby revealed we had the possibility of moving to Madrid for a couple of years to open an office for his work- what...?! Great for him, but wouldn't I be abandoning my mum and sisters? We were planning on moving anyway- to Paris- but Madrid made sense. I was sold on the sun, large, cheap flat, family friendly culture and a change I'd been craving. And it wasn't that far to London... So we went for it.

We saw the year out fabulously with a Noche Buena botana/posada on the 24th with a Mary & Joseph vs innkeepers sing-off accompanied by my mum on guitar, followed by banging the hell out of a piñata and then dining oysters French style to mix it up. Christmas day was all traditional and lovely but strange without dad. We lit a fire in his honour as he loved them so much. Leon made Christmas magical again. We didn't venture far for NYE and hubby and I continued our 2 year tradition of staying in, in style: dressing up and cooking a seafood feast with bubbles. I definitely don't feel I'm missing out on the NYE fun when wearing my gold glitter dress and massive earrings - even with a mahoosive bump and bare feet- and hubby donned a 3-piece suit and slicked back hair (very rare) Boardwalk Empire style. I admit I got a bit emotional when we toasted to 2012 and I realised I'd permanently lost my dad in 2011, but by the end of the spectacular BBC fireworks display I was in a festive mood once more. We even got to wish Leon a Happy New Year when thumping beats from the neighbours woke him up.

2011 was meant to be my year of decision-making as I'm usually so indecisive and I think it was, but I wish 2012 to be a year of productivity and get moving with my life - which in my view will be easier that we're starting anew in a foreign country... But I'd also like to keep in mind the following:
- simplify my life and organise my spaces, finish projects
- not get stressed out at the tiniest things
- not sit on ideas- have the courage to put them into action
- find like-minded people in Madrid to collaborate with
- hold more dinner parties
- blog more often

I wish you all an excellent, happy and healthy 2012 x