Category Archives: parenting

We did it!

I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling quite emotional. My hips were aching, I’d been contracting on and off and I felt thoroughly fed up. I decided to ring the midwives and ask if they would consider doing a stretch and sweep, only to be told they wouldn’t consider it before 40 weeks (I’d been told 39 the week before). I hung up the phone and burst into tears before finally pulling myself together and deciding that I needed to get out of the house for a while. I rang my friend’s hair salon and made an appointment to go in and get a long over-due chop and to get my crazy eyebrows tamed at the first time. Good timing too because when I got home I started to have contractions again. I kept an eye on them for a few hours, but they were still fairly irregular. When I had an hour of them coming five minutes apart I decided to ring Fetal Assessment to get checked out. The husband and I headed up and the minute I set foot inside the place everything stopped, the midwife examined me and the conclusion was I had a UTI so all I could do was go home.

On Wednesday, the husband and I went for dinner as I was figuring it could be our last chance to do something before we became a family of six.

I felt very niggly that evening and certain that something was going to happen. I woke up several times in the night convinced my water had broken was about to break just to discover that, no, of course it hadn’t.

On Thursday morning I looked around my bare kitchen (I hadn’t managed to go grocery shopping the previous weekend so we were running on the dregs). I decided what I needed to do was a big shop and lots of batch cooking so the family would be well taken care of when I did eventually go into labour. I text my brother at about 2.30 to ask him if he could watch the little ones while I went to Tesco and I was sitting on the sofa waiting for his reply when I felt an almighty pop and a gush.

I’d been told to go to hospital straight away if my waters broke because of the GBS so I rang the husband to tell him he needed to come home from work. I started to panic a bit because I’d gotten behind on the laundry and the only trousers I had that were dry were the ones I was wearing when my waters went! The Squishy one was following me around while I was making phone calls and heard me telling the husband that my waters had broke and I was going to phone my mum, she looked at me all earnestly and asked “are you going to phone Granny so she can fix your waters?”

My waters have always gone in labour before so I couldn’t believe how much there was! I left a trail from the kitchen, all down the hall and a huge puddle in the bathroom (Squishy at this point was following me with a mop!)

Once the husband and my mum got home, I managed to find a dry pair of leggings. I put on three pads to try and contain the never-ending fluid, and we headed up to fetal assessment. They examined me and said I was about 4cm. Contractions hadn’t started yet so they wanted to take me to the labour ward and start me on the drip. I was just gobsmacked, everything I had read had led me to believe I could have a totally normal labour with the gbs, the only difference was I would need the antibiotics but now they wanted to stick me on the ctg for constant monitoring and were pushing for me to take syntocinon. I started to panic a bit, I had such a bad experience getting induced with my first, that drip is a hateful invention and I could just see the situation spiralling out of control. I said to them I wanted the chance for contractions to start on their own, and for the next two hours I had a parade of doctors and midwives coming in telling me how I was putting the baby at risk and it would probably turn transverse if I didn’t start the drip and I needed to make a decision right now. They also left a student midwife in the room constantly so I could get bugger all privacy to discuss the options with the husband or my mum. I finally started to have contractions on my own but the machine wasn’t really picking them up so the midwife was very dismissive that anything was happening at all, it probably took her an hour to believe me.  They moved me to a different room and at that point they started to accept that I had gone into labour on my own and stopped hassling me about the drip. Being on the ctg was a total pain in the arse though, my movement was restricted and they kept shifting me around to pick up the heartbeat, in the end the put a clip on the baby’s scalp. When the contractions did start they came thick and fast and I was holding on to the gas and air for dear life. I was sitting on the ball, holding the tubing and I found it really helpful at the height of a contraction to lift my head up. The entonox made me a little giggly, I got this image in my head that I must have looked and sounded like a trumpeting elephant every time I lifted my head up into the air.

It didn’t seem like long before I started to shake and I said to the husband “I think I’m in transition”, then I totally lost it. I had been kneeling over the back of the bed but suddenly I flipped myself over (apparently I almost fell out of the bed, it was just the judicious pressing of the husband’s knee into the small of my back that stopped me hitting the floor). It took about two pushes that I had no control over and she was born with me letting out an almighty roar. I was just shaking repeating thank god that’s over thank god that’s over. I got the major shakes again and it took me about 20 minutes to calm down and stop shaking and gibbering.

Arya Beibhinn made her debut appearance at 9.20 pm on the 28th of June, weighing 7lbs exactly, after a recorded labour of 1hr 45 mins. She started feeding straight away and it seemed like not long passed before they moved me to the postnatal ward and chucked the husband out. I didn’t sleep a wink on Thursday night even though Arya slept well, but I was just too wired and it was too noisy.

We are home now and settling in nicely. She’s a little bit jaundiced so we are having some issues with her being quite sleepy and difficult to feed, but I feel so blessed to have her here.

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How We Converted A Cot Into a Co-Sleeper

First off, I have to give a massive shout and thank you to the lovely lady behind this blog, for pretty much giving me step by step instructions on how to do this.

When we had the Squishy one, we had a crib set up in our living room and we had a big cot in our bedroom (on hubby’s side of the bed). You see, I learnt when I had the boy that the best way of reducing sleep-related resentment while night-feeding, was to nudge the husband violently and pass him the baby to put back to bed. This meant he shared a degree of the broken nights with me and our relationship didn’t fall apart over a game of I’m-more-tired-than-you. I hoped to repeat this pattern with Squish, but she had other ideas. I’d nurse her and manage to instantly fall asleep despite my best efforts to stay awake. I’d jump awake half an hour later and panic about the baby that was in the bed with me, I’d nudge the husband, pass her to him and guaranteed somewhere en-route from my arms to her mattress she would wake up, start crying and we’d have to repeat the whole process. Eventually I gave up, she stayed in the bed and her cot slowly filled up with laundry before I finally got around to donating it to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We used a toddler rail to stop her from falling out and things stayed that way for the next 18 months.

But I’m nervous about out and out bed sharing from day zero (yes I KNOW it can be done safely, the point here is I am nervous about it). From the start of this pregnancy I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how our sleeping arrangements are going to work. What I really wanted was one of those fancy dan co-sleeping cots, so I started to research them. Then I saw the price.

After I’ve come around again after fainting I thought there must be a cheaper way to do this! I refused to spend £250 on something that the baby might only be in for six months, especially as my co-sleeping concerns centred around sharing the bed with a neonate, once they are a bit bigger I have no qualms about it at all. So I started googling and lurking in co-sleeping and family bed forums. I started asking questions and trying to work out what other people were doing.

I can’t remember where I came across this, but at some point I hit on a site that recommended buying an Ikea Gulliver cot for around £60 and jigging that so it could work as a co-sleeper.

GULLIVER Cot IKEA The bed base can be placed at two different heights.

GULLIVER Cot IKEA The bed base can be placed at two different heights.

The beauty of the Gulliver, of course, is that it can happily exist as a 3 sided cot. You just have to ignore the big warning on the instructions that tells you not to have it three-sided with the base at the higher level. It must be said that £59.99 seemed like a vast improvement on the “proper” co-sleeper prices I was seeing elsewhere so we decided to give it a whirl.

So here’s the cot put together, sitting beside our bed. We now had to start the fun task of side-carring it.

Well to begin with we were going to attach it on hubby’s side of the bed (but this time we were going to swap sides). We need to raise the height of the bed to make it level with the cot mattress so after a bit of scouring the internet for something that wasn’t going to cost us £80, we found “Raise Its”  at amazon.co.uk. They were an infinitely more reasonable £16.99 and would take the bed up by the inch we needed it. The problem was, once the raise its were in place the cot would no longer fit into the alcove alongside the head of the bed. We needed to re-think this. We decided to shunt the bed over and put the cot on my side instead (I had initially been concerned about the cot’s proximity to the power sockets on the wall next to my side of the bed, but luckily there was a big enough gap when we moved it for it not to be a problem. So…. we shifted the bed over and moved the cot around and then discovered that for some bizarre and unknown reason, with the cot on my side of the bed we didn’t need the Raise Its after all. Perhaps we have a wonky floor or a wonky mattress. So that was a giant waste of money for us, however if YOU need something to raise the furniture, I do recommend them.

So with the furniture moved and the cot on the other side of the bed (and height issues addressed) we looked at securely attaching the cot frame to our bed. As per the suggestion from the blog linked at the top of this post, we used bungee cords. I picked up a pack of 100cm bungee cords for £8.99 from Halfords.

Two were sufficient to stretch across the width of our kingsize mattress and the width of the cot. We attached them to the bars of the cot and then slipped them under the mattress and secured them to the handles of the mattress on the far side of the bed.

The cot mattress could now be pushed up flush against our mattress. The problem now being that there was a 5cm gap between the cot mattress and the cot bars.

Once again google was my friend. I had a look around to find somewhere that sold custom cut foam. I found this company http://www.thefoamshop.co.uk and it was all looking very positive. They sold nursery grade foam and could cut it to size no problem, AND it would only cost around £4. Great! No not great. They then tried to charge a ridiculous shipping cost of £18 to send it to N. Ireland. This is a pet hate of mine, UK based companies that charge stupid amounts of postage to N. Ireland. We are part of the UK people! Without us it wouldn’t even be the UK, it would just be Great Britain. I ranted about it on facebook “Right that’s it. I’m finally going to become political. Let’s leave the union and become a united Ireland because maybe then I won’t feel so screwed by the ridiculous postage costs that UK companies try to charge to Northern Ireland!”. My dear friend Adrian then put it all in perspective with the reply “Violent oppression caused a fair bit of nationalist sentiment, but postage and packaging costs may be what lights the touchpaper.” I love him.

Luckily I managed to find another company TW Foam. They charged £8 for the requisite piece of foam, but had free P&P and despatched the item very quickly, so all in all I was very, very pleased with them.

Perfect! Now the only issue was the fact that our mattress has a memory foam layer on the top of it. This means it’s thinner at the edges than it is in the middle and dips down, rather an unpleasant and dangerous little curve where the two mattresses meet. I came across someone suggesting the use of a bed bridge to sort this out. Basically it’s a sort of T shaped piece of foam that you can use to convert two single beds into a double. It’s stocked by Bed, Bath and Beyond for around $14, but the only place I could find retailing it here in the UK was looking to charge £35 (around $58 dollars), and that was before postage costs were added. So I ordered it from Amazon.com and even with postage it only came to £15. Bargain. Of course as the Bed Bridge is supposed to fit an ordinary single bed we had to cut it to size.

but that was the work of moments with a ruler and a pair of dress-making scissors.

Okay I’ll be honest, the bed bridge is about 1-2cm thick, so the join with the mattresses aren’t flat. I’m not sure how we get around this. I also need to work out the logistics of covering the bed bridge and the foam block. Hopefully I have a few weeks to work this one out.

Still I prefer that to the rather large dip that was there before. I think this is a safer alternative.

So that’s it folks, our new co-sleeper. I hope the baby likes it. Squishy certainly does.

I used to play so nice.

I never did the birth board thing when I was pregnant with my eldest. I’m not sure why, maybe because it was the days before broadband and you could never get online for more than half an hour before someone shouted that they needed to make a phone call. I embraced the birth board thing when pregnant with the boy. I fumbled my way around it for four years. I’ve probably been overly fluffy (I signed off a lot of messages with a couple of “x”‘s), I dumbed down my opinions for fear of offending people and I endlessly bit my cyber tongue.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or I’m just more savvy, or this pregnancy really has made me waaaaaaaaay more confrontational than I’ve ever been before, but I really can’t do it any more. I can’t be fluffy. I can’t sit on my hands quite so easily when I spot people giving out advice that’s wrong or just plain dangerous. I can’t be blindly supportive of random people’s choices any more.

If someone complains that the pregnancy police are giving them a hard time for ordering their burger cooked rare I feel compelled to point out the difference between a rare steak (bacteria all sit on the surface and are killed by the high heat of the pain) with minced beef  where bacteria is spread throughout the patty thus requiring thorough cooking.

When did I get so bolshy? I spent a large portion of yesterday arguing about the merits of breastfeeding over formula feeding.

(I’ll preface this with saying a lady posted a thread asking if people thought she was selfish for choosing not to breastfeed for no medical reason, just that she didn’t like the idea).

The thing is I have tried to breastfeed each of my children. I had a terrible time with my eldest, she was very dopey for days because of the pethidine I’d had when in labour. I couldn’t get her to latch probably and I suffered pretty horrendous nipple injuries as a result, but I would have persevered. I did persevere, but I was undermined on day 3 by a midwife who insisted I had to give her formula right now or she’d need to be hospitalised (turns out her scales were broken so the apparent extreme weight loss my daughter had suffered was just one big mechanical error). I limped along for the next three months on a mixture of breastfeeding and formula but once you’re on the formula it’s a slippery slope, eventually my milk dried up and she was on bottles full time. With the boy, he got to around 3 months old and then he got sick. He lost a lot of weight and dropped from the 50th centile of the growth chart to the 0.02nd. I know my milk wasn’t the best. I had a terrible diet at the time, I’d survive the day on biscuits or grabbing the odd packet of crisps, often I wouldn’t eat at all until the husband got in from work. I wish someone had sat me down then and addressed how I could improve my milk quality and supply instead of once again ordering me onto the formula. I guess the reason it worked so well with the Squishy one is that firstly I surrendered myself entirely to the process. I don’t faff about with dummies or expressing or wishing for someone else to come in and feed her. I let her nurse whenever she wanted for as long as she wanted and ignored any comment about “is she nursing again????” I ignored my sister-in-law when she said if I fed the baby for too long she’d turn into a lesbian. I also looked after myself. I made sure that I ate three nutritious meals a day.

Was breastfeeding restrictive? Well at times it was, but then having a baby is restrictive. I’m not going to advocate being a slave and a martyr to your child’s every need but I think a lot of people would be far happier if they just accepted that the first year at least of your child’s life is NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s a time when you need to take your wants and needs and shove them right to the bottom of the priority list, then you suck it up and you get on with it because you’re raising another human being, not managing an inconvenience. A year might sound like a lot of time but it goes by in the blink of an eye. And to be honest, it’s not THAT bad, it really isn’t. It’s 20% frustration and 80% joy. A big part of why breastfeeding worked so well for me is that in many ways it catered to my extreme laziness. It was great to never have to wash or sterilise a single piece of equipment, and even better to do almost every single night feed while snoring my head off.

Do I judge anyone who chooses to formula feed? Well to an extent I do. I don’t judge anyone who for medical/psychological reasons can’t do it. I don’t judge the women who give it a try but don’t succeed. But I do judge the people who just don’t like the idea of it/couldn’t be bothered and so never try at all. When the benefits of breastfeeding are so well known I don’t understand how anyone could not want their child to have that. Not that I’d ever say to that someone, it’s not my place to rock up to someone with my judgey pants all hitched and give them my tuppence worth, but privately that’s the opinion I’ll hold, and if someone asks for my opinion? Well then I’m afraid I will voice it.

So I’m sorry if you happen to run into me on a forum and I question your decision to formula feed or to put your newborn into a separate room of their own from day 1 or to use a baby walker or to wean at 14 weeks. Please accept that I will never take happy mum = happy baby as a get-out-0f-jail-free card, or that I will challenge assumptions based on nothing more than personal ancedata.

I’m not an insufferable know it all, and it’s not my mission to “correct” others. The vast majority (if not all) parenting decisions made by other people are really none of my business and I don’t hunt people out to comment on the way they do things, but if someone asks for my opinion I’ve finally grown the cyber-balls to give it. Or maybe it’s just that now on baby 4 I finally feel a real parent, I’m realising that though I may be young I have a combined 15 years of parenting experience behind me (that’s adding all my kids’ ages together! I didn’t start having kids at 16!) and I’m entitled to my hard won opinions.

I really think I’m going to end this pregnancy a different person to the one that started it. Gosh, it has been EMPOWERING.

19 Weeks Today

Apologies for the bit of the gap there in posting. I meant to sit down and write a post at least half a dozen times but for whatever reason it just hasn’t happened.

19 weeks today (according to my dates and not wacky scan date). How are things going?

Well I’m feeling a lot more movement, still all low down and no one else has managed to catch it yet but I can feel the baby kicking away. My bump has rapidly expanded to the point where it’s quite noticeable when I am looking down at it. I’m not quite at the point of balancing cereal bowls on it but I don’t think that’s actually too far away. I’m starting to find it uncomfortable to sleep on my stomach but can usually manage a sort of sideways compromise with the aid of some pillow between my knees. I’m still plagued with indigestion. I don’t think I’ve had a single day’s respite from it so I’m very grateful to whoever invented ranitidine. Still two weeks until my anomaly scan.

And my milk has officially dried up. I’ve tried expressing a few times and got absolutely zilch. Squishy is still asking to nurse from time to time and she’ll spend maybe a minute on before scampering off. I don’t think she’s getting any milk at all so it must be a comfort thing, which I would feel better about if it wasn’t so darn painful. It never occurred to me that my milk would dry up, it seems like everything I read pre-pregnancy about nursing and breastfeeding just talked about the taste of the milk changing or the switch to colostrum, now it seems like everything I read is about milk drying up come the 19-20 week mark. How did I miss that???

So that’s it for now. I’ll add a bump picture later once the battery on my phone is charged. The boy is running it down constantly with games of “Hangry Birds” as he likes it call it.

Last Night

I’ve made a lot of guesses over the years when filling out my children’s baby books. I was a bit superstitious and never wrote anything in them while actually pregnant so when it came to their birth and me actually filling them in, I couldn’t actually remember things like when did I first hear their heartbeat? (generally it was sometime after I first saw it) when did I first feel them kick? It’s terrible to admit. You think when it’s happening “this is so special!” it’ll immediately be laser etched onto your brain for posterity. That SO doesn’t happen. My advice is write everything down as it happens, literally while it’s happening if possible because two hours later (never mind six months) you’ll never remember.

That’s another little reason why I started this blog. I wanted a proper record of, not just how I was feeling, but when I was feeling it, when certain things happened. I think it’ll be nice to look back over this in years from now and have a full journal of my thoughts, and to have a load of baby bump pictures.

Two things happened last night.

1. I saw the Northern Lights. Okay it wasn’t quite the multicoloured light show that you see on TV, I’m too far south and in the middle of a city for that, but none the less they were up there and it was amazing, and just confirmed my desire to see them properly at some stage.

2. After all my worrying about a lack of movement I felt a kick! Like a proper actual kick! from the outside! It was extremely low down, like bikini line low, but none the less it was there, a little flick that I felt against my finger tips. The husband then spent twenty minutes with his hand pressed there hoping for a repeat but nothing happened, and as The Boy was lying asleep between the two of us, the poor husband just ended up with a dead arm.

Pretty spectacular evening I’d say.

How To Be A Good Mother

For those of us in the UK this was the name of a documentary that aired on Channel 4 on Wednesday night (right after One Born Every Minute). Well I say documentary, it was more of an amusing look at 6 diverse families by actress/writer/comedian Sharon Horgan, and of course the were people with pretty extreme views or ways of doing thing, because if they’d been anything like approaching the middle ground it just wouldn’t have been that interesting.

Ten minutes in and I was already feeling like a terrible parent watching the ridiculously slim and flat stomached woman who had home birthed six kids, extended breast-fed them all, pregnant with her seventh and was now home schooling (and was younger than me). I looked at the tv with a growing sense of guilt as frequently IT entertains the children while I’m doing dishes or cooking dinner or *ahem* writing this blog. I then thought about what a bad tempered oul witch I’ve been for the last few months and how the little uns I’m afraid to say have a borne a certain amount of that, especially yesterday when the Squishy one was stuck on a two minute temper tantrum cycle and by 3 o’clock I had lost not only all my patience but the will to live too. I get scared sometimes, really scared, at the thought of throwing another baby into this mix. How on earth will I cope with it all? Will activities with the toddlers suffer even more because I’ll be occupied with the little one?

There is something I have noticed though, my kids’ behaviour is directly proportional to the amount of attention I am paying to them. If they have my focus they are (mostly) a dream, if I am distracted or trying to get something else done they are (mostly) a nightmare. I am far from having worked out what it takes to be a good mother but I know a big chunk of that is keeping your sanity intact and here’s a few lessons I have learned that help you to do just that –

1. Accept that the minute you hand children play-doh, plasticine, moon sand, paint etc they will immediately smush all the colours into one revolting shade of brown. I spent so much time with my eldest stressing about how she wasn’t “doing it right” or “ruining” the play-doh. I have given up on such ridiculous adult notions, the kids don’t care how it looks, if you just let them get on with it you may get up to 45 MINUTES of unbridled peace as they have an important learning experience AND lots of fun.

2. Equally don’t be a control freak in the kitchen (within reason, obviously don’t let them play with the oven). When it comes to baking don’t sweat them making a mess, sticking their hands in the dough etc. I wouldn’t advocate letting them make the chocolate souffle for your fancy dinner party, but as much as possible let them be hands on with the baking. One tip I did get from that How To Be A Good Mother show is sticking a craft mat on the floor and letting them do all the mixing and measuring there, so simple but so genius. I made cranberry and white chocolate cookies with the kids on Thursday and I was 90% less of a control freak than usual, okay I still measured out the ingredients but I let them tip everything into the bowls, they held the electrical mixer and then the wooden spoons etc. I only took over at the end to give everything a proper good mix. Another lesson is don’t be offended if other people do not want to eat your children’s creations. I wash my son’s hands frequently but in between times he usually has one finger up his nose and the other hand in his butt crack (come back nappies, all is forgiven), so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone looked at them, then at the cookies and said “errr, no thanks.”

3. They will value the activities that you value. When the kids are painting, or drawing or colouring, it helps to sit down beside them and doodle a bit yourself. It’s a fabulous stress reliever and it helps them to see that it’s an important activity, it must be because mammy is doing it too. Also never try to direct your children into drawing particular objects or people, free drawing is just as important as impressing your friends with their portrait of “Daddy”. They have years of schooling ahead of them where teachers are going to try and shape their art, just let them explore.

4. Make tidying up a game. There is actually a very limited window where children WANT to help you around the house, when it has a big novelty factor for them and makes them seem oh so grown up. EXPLOIT THIS. No they are not always going to be cooperative but it’s worth a try, start as you mean to go and all that. It’s far better to get them used to putting their stuff away at the end of the day than you collapsing on the sofa after finally getting them to bed and then dissolving into tears at the unholy state of your living room.

5. Remember to enjoy them. The time when they are small is so fleeting. Even the newborn, sleep deprived, give me coffee or kill me stage is over all too fast. There is such a limited amount of time when they will lie curled up on your shoulder, there is such a limited time when you are their world and all they want is to be close to you. The stage of their life where they are pushing for independence or being independent is many, many times longer. Keeping your sense of humour is vital too.

6. Love them and show it.