Slummy Mummy? Fine with me.

Motherhood albeit hard beyond belief at times is also something that I whole heartily enjoy. The first 6 weeks I remember happily sitting hour after hour breast feeding. I guess it helps being quite relaxed about letting things pile up around you. Yes I sometimes got frustrated at the mounting washing pile or loaded dishwasher that needed to be emptied but I aways favoured catching up with sleep or just time with Austin (I can be quite lazy). It got me thinking about why I enjoyed those first few weeks/months so much especially when they are also the hardest as a first time parent.

In some cultures women move back home with their parents after they give birth and are looked after just as much as the baby. I have always thought how wonderful that sounded although I’m sure the reality could be slightly different! Generally, the focus most of the time is always on the baby? Are they feeding ok? Are they gaining weight? how much do they poo etc. The majority of visitors from family and health care professionals ask questions that revolve around your baby and then you after. Nothing wrong with that I guess, I just know the importance of feeling some love your way too.

If you are lucky there will be someone “team mum” whether it be your partner, parent, sibling or friend. My husband was entitled to two weeks paternity leave and although it went super quick it was so lovely to have him help and bond with Austin. Even though I was exclusively breastfeeding he helped me in the night with nappy changes and settling Austin when I couldn’t. He very much became the house husband which was extremely helpful. Looking back quite a few people advised me that Phil shouldn’t take the time off in the beginning and that I would appreciate the help later on. But those first two weeks were when I needed him most. Kudos to all the amazing mama’s out there solo parenting because those early weeks are nothing more than a haze fuelled by sleep deprivation, forgetting to eat thus depleting energy levels. Night time feeding can also be VERY lonely. Picture below was our first night at home together as family.

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That’s not to say you can’t enjoy motherhood without that support and for many they soldier on as they have no choice. For me it was so nice to have some care in my direction. The reality is after giving birth you can be just a tad uncomfortable, you know like someone has cut your fanny sideways kid of uncomfortable. I personally couldn’t sit down straight for 2 weeks and a doughnut cushion was the only thing stopping me from feeding and sleeping stood up. My mum had batch cooked about 12 meals that were stashed in our freezer so all Phil had to do was defrost them and then literally feed me when Austin was attached to my boob.

I really believe in the fourth trimester, the idea that the first three months of your baby’s life is very much an extension of life in the womb for the baby.  But also for yourself trying to rest and recoup the limited energy you have and the opportunity to bond with your baby. Breastfeeding is bloody hard but one thing it does do is force you to sit down, sometimes for hours and hours of a day, especially when cluster feeding. Very clever from Mother Nature and something I look back on as one of my favourite times of motherhood so far. Not for everyone and for some the tedious, repetitiveness of feeding (both bottle and breast) is isolating and exhausting. This is where the support I think saves the day. My mum lives 5 minutes away so when Phil went back to work she was on speed dial. Looking back my enjoyment came from having the same care and attention focused on me just as much as Austin. When my nipples were bleeding and cracked and I could easily have given up feeding, my mum helped me express so I could give my udders a break. If you don’t have that help, that support what do you do? Carry on in misery and everything then becomes overwhelming and lonely.

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Yes there are baby cafes and lots of support groups but they actually require getting dressed and leaving the house. Not something you always want to do in those early weeks. Postpartum bleeding and recovering from an episiotomy all hindered my chances of leaving the house and I don’t actually think I took Austin for a walk outside until he was maybe 9 or 10 days old. Even then I think we only got the end of the road before I announced to Phil I felt like my fanny was going to drop out (I don’t think thats possible). I happily turned down play dates and meet ups even a few months along in favour of sitting on my arse watching re runs of the Kardashians whilst Austin fed and I ate my own body weight in skips. When Austin was 4 months old I sat and watched 8 episodes of Love Island in one go. Happy Days. I guess that’s a personality thing too as for some mama’s they need to get dressed, get out and enjoy some normality and company. I just think its ok to admit you don’t always want to do that and it doesn’t mean you are a reclusive mother bordering on PND. I LOVED shutting the door on the world.

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Being able to just focus on your baby can be a wonderful experience and mothers should feel no judgement either way. So if you aren’t getting out and about or you don’t know the lyrics to wind the bobbin up (I still don’t) you are by no means failing as a new mum. That’s not to say I didn’t have my struggles and it was all smooth sailing. Austin seemed to feed every 2-3 hours for the majority of the 10 months I breast fed him and the sleep deprivation caught up with me eventually. It was a relief to be able to share the responsibility of feeding once I moved him on to formula.

I often wonder if all our troubles conceiving and the days where I thought being a mum was just a dream gave me a very grateful view on motherhood? I didn’t want to miss any part of it so cherished those early days when quite frankly we did nothing. Ultimately all the support we had made it easy in most ways. I think there is quite a bit of pressure to be out with the baby looking refreshed and happy as you stroll down the high street with your pristine bugaboo pram. The reality can be very different and that’s OK. Not getting dressed, showering or not getting out is absolutely fine if you can’t/don’t want to. For me, it was one of my favourite memories of early motherhood. Quite frankly, without that support in those early weeks/months telling me it was ok, I would probably still be on the sofa sat on my doughnut cushion 17 months later. Maybe not that extreme, but I certainly won’t feel bad enjoying that time again one day if we are lucky to have another baby.

Kate xxxx

 

 

 

Are we trying to have it all?

Most of us women spend the majority of our adult lives trying not to get pregnant and oh the irony when you finally try to and can’t. Some of us always fear there may be a problem whilst others fall pregnant just looking at their partner.

I think I always had an inkling there may be an issue. I had been with my husband 10 years before we got married and if I am honest we hadn’t always been careful (sorry mum). In my head I had either been extremely lucky (or unlucky depending how you view it) or maybe it wasn’t going to be that easy for us to start a family. I’ve shared my PCOS story on the blog and in some ways I am pleased I didn’t get my diagnosis until we were trying so that the fear wasn’t in my head. But on the other hand if I had known there may have been issues would I have left it so late to try for a baby? That’s not to say PCOS (or any other gynecological issue) guarantees trouble conceiving. My mum has PCOS but fell pregnant both times within 3 months of trying. The difference? My mum was 10 years younger than me when she started a family.

I was 32 when we started trying for a baby, to many that is not too late but the stats do show quite a substantial decline in fertility after turning 30. Throw in the mix, my lack of ovulation and undeniably there was always going to an issue. My husband and I have spoken very honestly about this topic but we both didn’t feel ready until after we were married, sold our flat and purchased a house. I think as people we both felt we wanted all our ducks in a row before we embarked on parenthood and I still feel the same now, well kind of. We both went to university, started careers and ultimately enjoyed a care free life in our 20’s for which I am grateful for. BUT and its a big but, had I known all the heartache, pain, tears and devastation we encountered on our journey to be parents 100% I would have tried to have a baby earlier. I would have sacrificed the carefree 20’s and endless holidays quite happily but what would have become of our relationship? Would we still be together?

Again Phil and I have also been very honest about the first year of parenting. There have been times we have argued, not spoken, not had sex and ultimately not been very nice to each other. Sleep deprivation, hormones (mine, not Phil’s) all collate to make it very hard as new parents. Especially when we also had what I would view a very secure life? A lovely house, both had jobs, money in the bank, no added pressures there? Yet it was still bloody hard. That’s when I do appreciate the age we started a family, a level of maturity to understand a marriage and what it entails and a realistic expectation of parenthood.

I was 35 when I had Austin. I was 36 when I had a miscarriage and at the earliest I will be 37 if we are lucky to conceive again. I also think about how many children would I like? 2, maybe 3 if I was being honest. I’ve LOVED motherhood, its hard beyond belief at times but its my greatest achievement in life and what I was always meant to do. If I stay at home forever with my babies I will be happy.  Again, not for everyone and as mothers we all should support our life choices whatever they may be (some women don’t have a choice). Working mamas (like my own mother) are amazing but for me I relish staying at home. Maybe one day it will feel right to return to the workforce but right now I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay home. Again is that only possible now because of our age?

This is by no means meant as a scare mongering post and that no matter what your life situation you should drop everything and procreate, I am just being honest about my experience and how for me personally maybe we left it too late. This also isnt a dig at women that choose to delay having children in favour of career or travel? Some women even in their 20’s struggle with infertility and for some, life doesn’t present the opportunity to have a baby when they would like to? Relationships, money, family etc. the list is endless so for some its just not an option? But frustratingly for me I was in a committed relationship from the age of 21, but it was a joint decision to wait until we were married and settled.

It has worked out for us in that we have Austin and everyday I am grateful for that but I do wonder could we have saved ourselves all the heart ache? Had we not been luckily with IVF would I have then looked back and regretted my life choices? Of course I would do all the treatment again (we still are) if that was the only way for us to have a baby and I know it’s not healthy to focus on the past. Maybe all we can do is  trust the timing of our lives and know that things happen for a reason? It’s just sometimes I think we tried to create the perfect life and in doing that we nearly sacrified the more important things, like having family?

Kate xx

 

Italy Road Trip

Italy is such a beautiful country and I’ve never been disappointed after a visit. We travelled to Milan a few weeks ago to start our Italian adventure as a family. We flew with BA and I was really impressed with the Kids Zone in their Heathrow lounge. We didn’t have long until our flight but for an hour Austin was happily entertained. Computers, games, and a big soft play sofa made for an enjoyable start to the holiday for us all!

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It’s a really short flight to Milan, just under 1hr 30 so thankfully I didn’t have to spend too much time walking down the aisle of the plane with Austin. Much harder now as he is running around so plenty of snacks helped to keep him seated.

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First stop on our trip was a place called Sossano in the Campania region of south-western Italy and about 3 hours drive from Milan (Linate) airport. Verona is much closer to fly into but we wanted to use our BA air miles so wasn’t an option for us. We hired a car from enterprise and actually the Golf we booked was quite small for all our luggage! Austin had to share the back seat with some of the suitcases! We brought our own sat nav which was amazing as it was quite a drive to the villa. The toll roads are great, just make sure you get a ticket when you enter them, an expensive lesson we learnt on out first day! We also booked a car seat and thanks to an early start Austin slept most of the way to the villa.

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We arrived at our villa around 8pm after a quick stop at the local supermarket for supplies and some pizzas for dinner. We we thankful to find a shop open as it really is a sleepy town and even the neighbouring villages really don’t offer much. Our friends Tim and Katie and their little girl Lucy who is 2.5 years old were also joining us for our stay in the villa.

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The villa was stunning, four bedrooms and 3 bathrooms so plenty of rooms for 2 families. We had a great terrace too, and the outside space complete with pool and hammock set the scene for a great week. We were renting from a contact through Tim although I do believe they are listed through a holiday rental site too.

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Most days were spent chilling by the pool and watching the kids run around playfully. The weather was very hot, over 30 degrees most days. There were SO many crickets in the grass outside and the chorus of them all was so loud. Unfortunately mosquitos were also present and we all got our fair share of bites. I didn’t even think to bring repellant as I’ve never really been bitten by them before. One night Austin woke with about 7 bites on his head! Luckily he didn’t seem bothered by them at all. A quick trip to the pharmacy to purchase some repellant for us all!

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One of the reasons we picked the location of the villa was so we could enjoy a day visiting Lake Garda and it really didn’t disappoint. Again we drove, it was about an hours drive so not far and plenty of car parks providing a short walk to the Lake.

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There is very little shade on the beaches so we couldn’t really stay out for too long as it was around 34 degrees that day! We enjoyed a pizza lunch with some incredible views to keep us in the shade. After our lunch we enjoyed a stroll though the cobbled streets and beautiful picturesque squares.

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Austin didn’t sleep well at all for the week in the villa, some nights he wouldn’t go down until 9/10pm and I had to stay in the bedroom with him whilst other nights he went down ok but woke loads in the night. A couple of days after our return Austin came out in chicken pox so were weren’t sure if that was the reason for the fussiness!

It definitely helped being in a villa as we had so much space even when Austin wouldn’t sleep he could stay up with us at dinner and play outside. It was hard though we both felt shattered during the day……thankfully sunbathing was the only thing on the agenda. It was lovely to spend time with our friends and Katie and I enjoyed some girly chat whilst the babies slept or were with daddy day care.

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We enjoyed BBQ’s in the villa most nights which was great and lovely to not have to go out especially with both the kids. We did venture out on our last night for some pizza and Italian food which was fab. Lucy and Austin were super cute together and it was lovely to watch them play, the whole week was fascinating for Phil and I to see how Austin interacts with another little one on a daily basis.

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Tim and Katie left with Lucy after a week so we checked out of the villa and packed up the car ready for the 1 hour drive to Lake Como. We were very excited to arrive at our hotel which was recommended by a friend who has worked in Como. A new hotel that opened earlier in the year a former shipyard and just a few steps from the lake right in the heart of Laglio. La Locanda del Cantiere is a small hotel with just 6 rooms, we were in the family room with great views of the lake from our Juliet balcony.

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We were only staying in Como for 3 nights and I would love to have stayed longer, the Lake is so beautiful and the scenery just doesn’t get boring. There was no pool at the hotel but a really small beach about 200 yards away. The weather was much cooler but still hot and perfect temperature for Austin around 28/29 degrees.

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One of the highlights of the trip for us was renting a speedboat from the neighbouring town of Argegno.

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We rented a small speedboat from Rent a boat Turati and they could not have been more helpful and welcoming. After a quick lesson on the boat we set off for an hour (€60) out onto the lake and it was such fun. We weren’t sure how Austin was going to be but due to a missed nap he fell asleep within 5 minutes of setting off! First stop on the boat was to George Clooney’s house and it wasn’t far at all! It looked amazing and I was gutted to learn when we got back he was out there with his family the same time as us! Not that we were ever going to see them but it was funny to think about bumping into George Clooney!

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Villa Oleandra is beautiful and amazing to see it from the boat.

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We ate in the hotel restaurant most nights as not only was the food fabulous but very convenient for us as there wasn’t much choice within walking distance from the hotel. Usually thanks to Austin’s early bedtime we had the restaurant to ourselves and it was such a beautiful building.

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Italy certainly didn’t disappoint again, in fact I think Lake Como is my favourite part I’ve visited so far. Not necessarily an obvious place to take a toddler but for us it worked and Austin (despite the lack of sleep) really loved exploring and eating lots of gelato!! The week in the villa with our friends and a few days exploring Como as a family was a perfect mix for the holiday and I really can’t wait to plan a return trip one day soon!

A few lessons learnt:

Worth paying for a lounge at the airport if not included with your ticket especially if they have a kids zone. They provided fresh milk for Austin and heated it up too.

We also paid for the valet parking at Heathrow (we usually do the park and ride) so just a two-minute walk to departures and with a toddler and lots of luggage this was so convenient.

Luggage needs to be considered when hiring a car. Thanks to BA club traveller allowance we checked in 4 suitcases and a pushchair so struggled to fit them in a medium size car with a car seat in the back.

Plan the toll roads so you don’t get charged a daily rate of €80 for just a few miles driving.

If you can’t take a sat nav then hire one, we would have been horrendously lost without ours.

If you are staying near the Lakes make sure you take insect repellant! I have never been so badly bitten in all my life!

Staying in a villa is great for convenience but nice to have the option to go out for dinner  and shops within walking distance.

At this age (15 months) Austin isn’t overly fussed by Children’s entertainment so you can still enjoy holidays outside of a family resort.

Don’t be afraid to road trip with a baby/toddler, its great fun and if you time it right (Naps & Snacks) the car journeys are actually quite enjoyable!

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Ciao, Kate xxx

Adventures in babysitting.

Phil and I have always loved a holiday. Before Austin arrived we would go away 3-4 times a year enjoying city breaks and winter sun, we loved them all. Road trips were our favourite, Australia for 3 weeks covering 3 states, we also enjoyed a California road trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas. When we were planning our honeymoon destination we knew we wanted an adventure so another road trip beckoned, this time from Vancouver to Calgary with an amazing stop in Tofino too. Our family trips have been less adventurous so far but it’s quite nerve-wracking taking a baby away so we’ve enjoyed a few pool/beach breaks away to warm us up!!!

Jersey

Since having Austin we have been lucky to have some great holidays as a family, our first to Jersey in July 2016 when Austin was around 16 weeks. He was great on the flight (a short 40 mins) and we found it a very nice experience especially as my parents came so we had an extra set of hands.  We stayed at the Atlantic Hotel in St Brelade just 10 minutes from the airport which was fabulous and the hotel staff were really accommodating. Even though it’s a high end hotel with a Michelin star restaurant inside we always felt welcome with Austin and even enjoyed our first date night at The Ocean Restaurant whilst mum and dad looked after Austin in their room. It was great as I was able to go up and breast feed Austin in between courses!

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Jersey is such a great Island to explore, my husband has been visiting for 18 years. We hopped on buses and although we didn’t visit the Zoo this time we have before and its well worth a visit. St Aubin bay is lovely and we also enjoyed some shopping in St. Helier during our visit. A short flight and such an accessible island so great for kids and I hope we return many more times with Austin! I will always remember our first holiday as a family and can’t think of a more perfect place.

Isle of Wight 

We then went for a weekend to The Isle of Wight in August 2016 with Phil’s family which wasn’t as successful due to the start of teething. We had very little sleep and couldn’t understand why Austin was so upset. A few days after we returned his first tooth appeared and suddenly it all made sense. Travelling in the car via the Ferry from Portsmouth was great though and for ease with a baby I would highly recommend. We literally took the kitchen sink which was great! We stayed at The Royal Hotel in Ventnor which again was great with children and had a lovely pool area for us to spend our sleep deprived days. We were so lucky with the weather too, beautiful sunshine the whole time we were there.

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I was still breast-feeding Austin which was great as no need to take bottles or sterilise. So convenient when on holiday! Lots to explore again on the Island but for us was a lazy pool/beach break. We did however venture to Monkey Haven which was fun and lots for kids to see and play. It was £10 per adult and under 3’s are free. There is a free 7-day return with all tickets so great if you are staying for a week or so.

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Portugal

In September 2016 we continued our summer holidays and took Austin to Portugal (another short flight of 2hrs) when he was around 5.5 months. That coincided with him trying to crawl and although we had more sleep that holiday he was much more frustrated as he was trying to move. Temperature wise the heat was ok, even with the weather hitting around 30/31 degrees Austin coped well. We stayed in a great resort on the Algarve in an apartment. We had a separate lounge/kitchen area so when Austin went to bed Phil and I didn’t have to tip toe around and could enjoy the evening without sitting in silence! Monte Da Quinta  is a very family friendly golf resort with a kids club (over the age of 2) and a great pool area. The restaurant on site is amazing but there isn’t really much kids entertainment in the evenings which was fine for us with Austin but if you had slightly older kids you may need more for them to do.

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The Shack is such a great spot for lunch or dinner, right on the lake with fab views overlooking the nature reserve and serving delicious sliders and cocktails.

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There are also private villas on the resort to rent which we did a few years ago before we had Austin and you can still use all the resort facilities too. We’ve visited a few times now and always such a great holiday and hopefully we will head back there later this year.

Dubai

The easiest holiday by far was our trip to Dubai earlier this year (January 2017) when Austin was around 10 months. This was the first trip after I had stopped breast-feeding and Austin was weaned so I had to be more organised with formula and food. For ease I bought the pre prepared bottles and lots of pouches of food in case Austin was fussy. We took a night flight and he slept for most of it. This was our first long haul with Austin and I can highly recommend this. He slept in a seat (like a bouncer) that was strapped in and this was better than the bassinet (BA give you the option for both) there are age restrictions for the bassinet and having the bulk seats was great. Any turbulence though and you have to take the out, so after one time when the seat belt sign came on I just kept Austin asleep on my lap strapped in.

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Austin was at this point taking steps but not full on walking so he was very manageable (we were able to keep him contained) but he enjoyed standing up by the pool and playing by our sun beds in the shade. Unfortunately I caught a stomach virus on the last night and had to fly home the next day very poorly. NOT FUN when you have to amuse a baby on a 7 hour day flight!

We stayed at The Adresss hotel in the Dubai Marina which was recommended by our friends who travel there a lot with their son. The hotel is linked to a Mall with everything you could need for you and your baby shopping wise from Waitrose to Boots. The Marina is a great place to stay as lots of great child friendly places to eat out. One of our favourites was The Scene Restaurant which has great views overlooking the Marina. Pier 7 is definitely worth a visit, lots of great restaurants to choose from. We only stayed for 4 nights but even with a longer flight it was nice break.

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There was quite a few covered play areas along the Marina too, we would often enjoy walks along there when Austin was napping. Jumeirah beach is great for lots of restaurants and evening activities but again with Austin’s bed time we always ate local and returned to the hotel. Great holiday for some winter sun and temperatures in the late 20’s which was perfect for Austin. This was our second time to Dubai, the time before we stayed at The Atlantis (before having Austin) and I can’t wait to take him there. So many restaurants and the Water Park on site, its great for families. We just felt like staying somewhere different this time but The Palm is a great location.

So that brings us to our recent adventure to Italy. I will write a separate post for this trip shortly as we covered quite a bit and stayed in a couple of different places. I thought I should cover our other trips first!

So my tips when travelling:

You can order food/formula at the airport so you can pick up once you are through security and not waste your luggage allowance/space. I just ordered from Boots online.

The steriliser bags I took to Dubai were great, a bit of a faff though, it is much quicker using a microwave if you have access to one. They last 24 hours but require a good rinsing after and when in a hotel room its hard to find the space. I hung the bag in the shower!

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I packed and planned so many cute outfits for Austin and he pretty much worn none of them! Just a nappy by the pool if hot and then straight into a sleep suit when we went out so we could transfer him to bed. As Austin has got older he wears more outfits but I still pack too much for him every time!

For protective swim wear I found the rash vests were best for Austin as the all in one suits were harder to change him! We also wasted money on an inflatable ring that he would not sit in! Austin preferred splashing around in our arms. Keeping a hat on a baby is hard but we found if it was wet he kept it on for longer.

We have never taken a car seat with us, always hired one with the car or asked for one in the taxi and this has always worked well for us! The standard of car seats has always been great but you can ask for their make/model before you arrive to check you are happy.

We have never taken a travel cot either but as sometimes the mattress they provide isn’t that thick. I did also worry when he was very young about sleep safety and cleanliness of  a mattress so I always took a travel one. Very light and easy to fold up in suitcase and gave me peace of mind what Austin was sleeping on. I bought this airflow travel mattress from Mothercare which is fab.

Our usual Icandy pram is quite heavy and in two parts so we bought a buggy for use on holidays and I chose the Amildillo City from Mamas and Papas. A great choice for us as Austin loves to be reclined back and naps well whenever we travel. It doesn’t fold up like an umbrella though so a bit more bulky but still in one piece which is great and we have never needed to have it in a protective bag. It’s very sturdy and has lasted well over 8 flights.

For day time naps by the Pool and walks The Snooze Shade was great! We’ve used this on all our holidays and really blocks out the light but protects them from the sun too.

Austin isn’t at the age where an iPad or electronic devices can keep him amused on the plane so I found plenty of snacks or saving his milk for take off and landing really helped. When I was breastfeeding I fed during those time which helped his ears and I also took a small selection of books and toys but ultimately walking him around was the best amusement for him! Keep Em Quiet packs look great and I will definitely use them in the future now Austin is older.

There is no doubt holiday’s with kids are a completely different ball game and you rarely feel rested upon your return but with every holiday we get more confident and I can’t wait for next year when my brother gets married in Vermont so we are planning a road trip from Boston to New York!

Kate xxxx

Two is company, three’s a crowd?

Not in the case of my birthing partners, I was very happy to have both my husband and my mum in the delivery room when I had Austin. It felt very natural to have mum there and Phil was happy with the support too! I asked mum to give her account of watching her first grandchild being born.

It was an honour to be asked to be a birthing partner for my daughter and her husband’s first baby. I did have some reservations, I didn’t want to usurp Phil’s position in any way and I did wonder how it would feel to watch your daughter go through the pain, especially knowing what it could be like. The thought of seeing your grandchild come in to the world however won. I had watched the eggs being harvested, so I already felt an attachment!

Having been at many births over the course of my career I was also keen to be there from a professional stance too, to make sure there were no problems and interfere if needed! Thankfully all went incredibly well and Kate received magnificent care from the doctors and midwives at East Surrey Hospital. So when Kate called me on the morning of her due date to say she had a show, I felt it was my motherly duty to calm her down a bit and say I am sure it will be a while yet! So after warning the hospital that things were moving the big wait began. I felt on tenterhooks all day and it brought back all my birth memories, some good, some not so good. We were constantly in touch by phone and text as Kate and Phil laboured at home.

That night I dozed fully dressed on the sofa ready to go. After a couple false visits to the hospital to be told, sorry not there yet, the call eventually came that we were all systems go, as Kate had suddenly shot to 9 cms and ready to push. It wasn’t meant to be like that, I was going to amble up there when Kate was in established labour. I doubted she would actually give birth that quickly but I still drove to the hospital in record time, through the back streets route to avoid the rush hour traffic, I didn’t want to miss it! It was a sunny March morning and I remember thinking what a nice day to be born.

I joined them in the birthing suite, Kate looked calm and in control and was just starting to push. Fast forward a couple of hours of pushing, energy drinks and position changes amid a fairly jovial, optimistic atmosphere, suddenly it all changed. Kate needed assistance to get him out as both were tiring. I did then think of my son’s birth and started a little internal angst but the staff were so wonderful that there was no panic and we were all calmly moved to another room for a ventouse delivery by the medical team.

I felt every pain, knowing exactly what she was enduring but it was my job to be calm and reassuring and to step in when they both needed it.

I could see by Phil’s face that I was needed at the business end for the last few tugs of the ventouse, trying to encourage and reassure, whilst he held her hand. I knew it was imminent and suddenly there he was. A little battered, with a ventouse cap swelling and bruise, but perfect in every way. The love was immediate and overwhelming, even for an old, hardened nurse like me and I wiped away some tears.

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I felt I knew him already, almost like one of your own being born. I felt so proud of how well Kate coped with labour and delivery, better than me I think, I swore at lot. She did however leave me with 2 bruised arms from her fierce grip at the end! I would do it again in a heartbeat and am so pleased to have been at his birth and would recommend it but only if it feels right for you and the parents. I would not have missed it for the world, I felt instantly bonded with my first grandchild and couldn’t wait to start” Whatsapping” his first photos.

A granny at last.

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Jan xxx

2 Lines.

July 6th 2015. The day we had our embryo transfer or as I always say “put home”.

After confirmation from the Embryologist we were told we would have a day 5 transfer (blastocyst) and we were thrilled to have got to this stage. The transfer was scheduled for 1pm in Harley Street at The London Women’s Clinic so we booked a hotel room the night before so we didn’t have to worry about any potential travel problems in the morning.

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We went out for dinner but I remember not wanting to eat that much, too nervous. We got back to the hotel and I wished I was back in my own bed. Suddenly I craved some familiarity but knew that it was the right decision to stay in London that night. I tossed and turned all night, and I was still a little sore from the egg collection. Phil had to go into work that morning so and was going to meet me at the clinic later on.

The morning was all a bit of blur I didn’t really do much just sat about watching tv in the hotel room. I remember having a shower and just thinking how in a couple of weeks our lives could change forever. I was also dreading the two-week wait and wondered how I would keep myself occupied. Thankfully my work were happy for me to stay at home and work so had no pressure there.

I met Phil at the clinic and we were taken to a ward with cubicles all separated by curtains. Once the embryologist was ready for us we were taken to a private room and very similar to having a smear the embryo was transferred quite quick. we watched on the screen as a catheter was inserted into my uterus and we watched in amazement.

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You can’t really see the embryo from the scan pic as it is so small but the embryologist showed us where and I can still see exactly where she pointed to. You can also still see some empty follicles (round dark masses) from my egg collection.

So we were officially PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise)

I was amazed at how quickly it was all done and I remember wanting to lie down for ages to make sure the embryo didn’t fall out (it can’t). Phil went back to work and I got a uber home, clutching my tummy the whole time.

I stayed on bed rest for 48 hours and just enjoyed chilling out at home surfing between the bed and the sofa! On day 3 I began to feel some heaviness really low down in my pelvis, I can’t really explain it. That night when I went to bed I told Phil I felt different and really believed it had worked. We had so many failed cycles of treatments and this time it just felt different? The next few days were a mixture of taking it easy and just popping out to the shops to get out and not drive myself mad staying at home. The clinic had told me to carry on life as normal, nothing too extreme but just to go about my days as I would.

Nine days after the transfer I got up and out of bed and felt very nauseous. It was at that point I knew I was pregnant. I just couldn’t wait and headed straight to the bathroom to test. The hospital had asked we not test until 12 days after. So I guess I was prepared that the test could be negative. It was a stupid thing to do really as the disappointment could have been devastating.

But there it was. 2 lines that flew up so quickly I couldn’t quite believe it. I did another one straight away and it was exactly the same.

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I was not prepared at all as I thought it was too early to show positive. I literally sobbed on the bathroom floor. I text Phil and asked him to call me asap. Naturally he thought something was wrong and when I explained on the phone I had done a test and it came back positive he couldn’t quite believe it. I also phoned the hospital but they asked me to wait until day 12 and then if still positive they would book a scan for 2 weeks time.

Our family and friends were incredible happy for us when we shared the news. Although we knew we had a long road ahead we felt that it was right to share the news with those that knew we were having treatment. These were the people who had supported us, been through the whole process with us.

We had a scan with our consultant 2 weeks later and I have never been so nervous. I was approx 6 weeks pregnant and straight away seeing the little heartbeat flickering away it began to feel so real. All looked great and we were told to come back in another 2 weeks to check all was progressing as it should.

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Again we were thrilled to be told all was well, and everything looked healthy. It was then our due date was confirmed as 23rd March 2016. My husbands birthday. If ever there was a sign this was meant to be, this was it. All the pain, all the heartache, all vanished in a split second. Worth every injection, every procedure, every tear we shed.

Below are scan pics from the transfer, 6, 8 and 12 weeks.

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I still remember transfer day so vividly. So desperate for us to be pregnant and so anxious for the two-week wait. IVF is such a gruelling process physically and emotionally   and you never quite believe that everything will be ok. Well I didn’t. After all the failed cycles of treatment it was finally our time. Our time to have our baby.

Austin James Meakin was born on the 24th March 2016 at 11.01am. Instant love from both Phil and I. Our little boy.

Kate xxxx

Perms, Shoulder Pads and Pethidine.

My mum shares my birth story from 1981.

Birth and babies remain the same no matter what generation we are from, but how we cope and deal with it changes with knowledge and trends and even maybe our expectations. There is no right or wrong way, just your way.

With my first baby I had been sick, morning, noon and night. It was a traumatic birth ending in forceps and his admission to what was then called the Special Care Baby Unit. So I had to pluck up courage to go for it again, especially with a toddler in tow.

Thankfully my pregnancy with Kate was so different. Only morning sickness until around 4-5 months when it tailed off. I was working 2 nights a week on the Haemodialysis Unit at my local hospital. My job was to put patients on and take them off their kidney machines. It sometimes entailed removing blood clots from the lines in their arms, that connected them to the machines. Until I was pregnant this had never bothered me, but it did now and I was often queasy. I was tired, more from lack of sleep than anything else, a lively toddler doesn’t want to sleep much, so I only ever got an hour or so catch up during the day, if I could entice him for a nap.

As usual practice then in nursing I gave up work around 29 – 30 weeks (none of this working ‘til you drop in those days) and I caught up with my sleep. As before, 42 weeks came and went, so I was booked for induction. I was optimistic, that as with most 2nd babies, it might be quicker and easier and I was not disappointed. Birth in the seventies and early eighties was a more prescriptive affair with not much choice, no birth plans or grand ideas for water births or candles. You really just did what you were told!

I was admitted the night before, normal practice then, the usual examinations preceded the Brazilian shave and enema. Even as a nurse I am not entirely sure what the rationale was for shaving, I presume infection control, it’s not as though they couldn’t find their way out! The enema I could understand a little more, it did prevent accidents when pushing but nowadays it’s not thought necessary and people are admitted later in labour so isn’t time relevant really. There were 4 of us for induction next morning and 3 toilets in a block. We were all given enemas at the same time, poor planning there, so someone was going to be caught short! I made sure it wasn’t me by sitting outside the loos and grabbing a cubicle before needed.

I was given a pessary the night before, which was repeated the next morning, to soften the cervix. After a fretful night with period type pains I was taken up to delivery ward about 9 am. Dave had been told to meet me there around 10 am. This would be after the breaking of waters with an instrument resembling a crochet hook and insertion of a drip with drugs to stimulate contractions. Husbands were not allowed to witness such things! As induced births then could sometimes start off quite rapidly and painfully, epidurals were commonly offered. I wasn’t sure I wanted another epidural, I had one with my son, as it had been a long, painful labour and forceps delivery. I decided to go with some pethidine this time. It took a while to get going, but eventually regular contractions started.

Labour those days was spent immobile on a hospital bed and food/ snacks not given in case a section under general was needed. With just water to drink you soon got tired, just at the time you needed a lot of energy to push them out. However as with all labours this was different, much quicker and by 7pm Kate was ready to emerge. The pethidine had long worn off and it was too late for another, so au natural this time. I hadn’t felt the pushing stage last time so it was a bit of a shock and I felt the worst part. It was like a melon stretching your perineum, the wait until the next push seemed interminable with this baby half in half out! This was the only time I lost it a bit and swore at everyone, husband included. I think I said “I’d had enough, wasn’t having this baby now and was going home” or more colourful words to that effect.

I will never forget as the midwife shouted “It’s a girl”. I had never dared hope for a girl, one of each! Dave later said he was worried as Kate’s head emerged as a cylindrical, cone shape and he thought something seriously wrong with her. I hadn’t thought to warn him how normal moulding was in the birth process. My son had been whipped out with forceps and although battered and bruised was a perfect round shape. As she was handed to me I was amazed how much like she looked like her brother as a new-born and I kept remarking on it.

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Kate fed immediately on the breast (my children certainly liked their food!) whilst I was stitched up. Episiotomies very much the norm in those days as it was felt a clean-cut healed better than a jagged tear. Back to the ward for the 5 days’ recovery! Pros and cons to that, a rest maybe, but after the first day gazing adoringly at my baby I just wanted to go home, especially with a toddler staying at grandparents. My father was quite a strict man and I am not sure my son enjoyed it. I was later told he kept telling grandad to go to work.

The babies still remained in the nursery for the majority of the time and brought out for visiting and feeding. I never had the blues with my first but this time I had a tearful day wanting to be home, imagining how my son must feel without me and no reassuring would calm me. They let me out a day early.

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Reflecting on my birth story I realise now just how medicalised births were then, procedures and protocols followed with little discussion or choice for the parents. We were expected to be stoical and not make a fuss. At the time we knew no different so it was still a joyous occasion but I cannot help but think I would like to try it a different way!

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Jan xxxx