Be Brave, Be Bold

This year is full of unknowns for me. Rather than starting the year (as usual) with a regular job, no babies to depend on me and my ass in size ten skinny jeans, I’m kicking it off unemployed, decidedly fatter than usual and with a nine month old baby boy who cries if I leave the room and sleeps with his hands on my face so he knows where I am.

Because of this, I have decided that my mantra for life is this:

BE BRAVE, BE BOLD

I keep repeating this to myself when I think about all the things I’m going to do that may be challenging. The main things are…

Little J going to nursery
From April, when I officially finish my planned maternity leave, I’m aiming to put Little J in daycare for two or three days a week. I’ve found a nursery that allows complete flexibility in terms of days and hours, which is perfect as my husband works different shift patterns every week.

If I’m honest. I’m completely bricking it about J going to nursery! Mainly because I’ve never actually been apart from him for longer than a couple of hours, and I’ll more than likely miss his little face so much that it hurts to even think about it. Also, there are a few things I need to sort out before he goes – notably his sleep patterns and his co-sleeping with me, and his ongoing bottle and cup refusal. Most mummies tell me that these things seem to iron themselves out when they start daycare, especially the cup feeding. Regardless though, I’m terrified – especially seeing as Little J has become very clingy of late and sometimes cries if I go into the kitchen! Words of wisdom and comfort definitely welcome… 🙂

Going it alone in business…
Next, after a decade working for the same company, I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and I’m going it alone as a freelance PR lady and copy writer. l’ll be honest, I sway from being massively excited and giddy as a kipper about this, to being gripped with fear about my lack of pension/holiday pay/regular money etc – especially with a young baby to look after (and more to come hopefully!). When the negative thoughts creep in, I’ve taken to repeating my new positive mantra over and over again in my head and re-reading Louise L Hay’s teachings about attracting good things to you (check out You Can Heal Your Life – spectacular read). I’ve got a few ideas though and some potential irons in the fire, I’m just praying that this time next year I’ll be doing well and be amazingly glad and grateful that I finally took the leap.

Getting back in shape…
After almost 18 months of being a porker, I’ve decided that enough is enough, and rather than just staring at my lovely teeny dresses and drainpipe Levi’s, I’m going to be bloody well sporting them upon my person by April. It’s my own fault. I was the one that decided that a positive pregnancy test was also a licence to eat for England (baby wanted pizza, and Thai green curry, and Greggs cheese pasties) and I am also responsible for eating most of the cakes in the world since starting mat leave. I now need to undo this gluttony and get my ass in gear. And my mummy tummy. And my…entire body.

I went to Pizza Express today and had a superfood salad with chicken and no dressing. Have you any idea how hard it was not to order a Fiorentina with a dippy egg and extra Parma ham? Hmmm?! I want to cry just thinking about this travesty.

But hey! I’m doing it. I’m in gear. I aim to shrink. Watch this space.

So there we go. What’s your mantra for 2015?

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Reflecting and reconnecting

Whenever I look back at my life, I consider myself a very lucky girl indeed. I’ve had a ball really, and have been fortunate enough to spend
my time with some amazing people, enjoy an interesting, fun PR career
and do a bit of world travelling to boot.

Usually, when I reflect over the past year at Christmas, I think about
far flung places I’ve been to, parties and social functions I’ve attended, glam trips to London with colleagues…but then there was this year. In 2014, I haven’t been on holiday abroad, I’ve only been on two nights out, I haven’t been to any wine tasting events or posh award ceremonies, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep and my back is shot to buggery – but it’s been my absolute favourite year. Bar none.

Ah, pre-baby me (on the right). Out on the town, as always!
Ah, pre-baby me (on the right). Out on the town, as always!

Of course, the reason for that is currently snoozing on my knee. My Little J came bouncing into being in March, and from that moment on, my world began to spin on a different axis.

I didn’t know what I’d think of maternity leave really. I had an inkling that I’d probably enjoy it at first, but miss the hustle and bustle of working in the city soon enough. In reality, I’ve loved, LOVED, every single second. I’ve just loved it.

I live in a lovely little market town in the Peak District (about 12 miles from Manchester). It’s surrounded by green hills and rolling purple moors, and over the past few years, the town centre has really started to flourish. Beautiful delis, independent coffee shops, vintage tea rooms and wine tasters have opened up in some of the old, shut-down shops and it’s a very fabulous place to be a new mummy. I didn’t used to love it here, as a teenager I ached to get away to live somewhere where I could be anonymous, and for several years after university, I lived with my girlfriends in various locations around Manchester. But it lured me back eventually and I feel very fortunate to be able to bring J up in such a fabulous place.

Being on maternity leave has allowed me reconnect with my hometown and has given me a sense of community previously unimagined. Rather than rushing from place to place in my car, having a baby has slowed down my pace of life to such an extent that I’ve been able to really look around me once again, and take stock of my life. Trying to get back in shape (and trying to get J to sleep) has meant hours of walking up and down streets and lanes that I’ve not walked on with my actual feet since I was a kid. I’ve actually become quite emotional on occasion as walking down certain streets has awoken forgotten childhood memories; walking in the rain with my grandma, laughing and chatting with school friends. It’s been almost magical really. I’ve even been to the library hall that once hosted my 9th birthday party (for a baby group), but I refrained from reliving the occasion by dancing to Jason Donovan and eating cheesy pineapple on sticks. Much as I wanted to.

As well as slowing down the pace, I really think maternity leave has given me a sense of ownership of my town. I feel part of something, a member of the community and, for the first time, I’ve been joining in with things that I would have usually shunned in favour of going to the pub or a city centre bar. This Christmas, Little J and I been to watch carol singers in the town centre, attended a lantern parade and been to a children’s Christmas music party at my local church. We’ve been to craft fairs and cupcake decorating sessions. Who even knew this kind of thing existed!?

Coupled with that, it’s Christmas Eve and rather than working and trying to frantically tie up all the loose ends for the year before darting out for copious amounts of alcohol, I’m in my pyjamas with a hot chocolate, curled up on the sofa watching Elf. Maternity leave does indeed ROCK.

Additionally, I’ve decided to go freelance after my leave ends, which will hopefully allow me a greater work-life balance in the future. I’m genuinely excited to see what happens, and I feel truly blessed for the opportunity.

So here’s to you, 2014. Thanks for being massively awesome. And a big MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy new year to all – and I hope your 2015 is brilliant xxxx

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When birth plans go askew – My birth story

As a new mummy of 35 years young, I’ve heard many a birth tale over the years. I used to love listening to my stepmum tell her three birth stories, hooting with laughter at her memories of 25 students taking it in turns to peer up her cervix, and of grabbing her first husband round the throat when he dared to suggest (mid-contraction) that she might not want any pethodene. I was gripped from an early age.

When it was my turn and I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to experience labour and childbirth. I felt it almost my birthright to go through this important step of womanhood and I honestly felt no fear at all. I wanted my birth story.

Weeks into my pregnancy, I met up with my lovely friend, Mama Mim, who was visiting from sunny Sydney. Mim mentioned that she’d used hypnobirthing techniques with her recent labour, and after reading up on the concepts behind it, I was absolutely convinced that it was the best way forward for me and my baby. I thoroughly bought into the whole shebang – after all, women in remote parts of Africa have been birthing babies for centuries without epidurals and using the F word – and after they’ve had their babies, they just get on with their day!

I couldn’t find a hypnobirthing practitioner in my area, so I bought the CDs and books that teach you how to self-hypnotise as you go into labour. I lapped them up, and would happily sit on the train to work every day, mentally going through my affirmations and teaching myself how to relax. I was genuinely excited and looking forward to birthing my bab (they say birthing in hypnobirthing, they also say surge rather than contraction – an effort to make the language more positive and natural).

Anyway, despite my almost evangelical preaching about the merits of hypnobirthing to anyone with ears, and my constant daydreams of me, gently breathing my baby out whilst listening to whale music, pink and glowing in the water, smiling serenely, my Little J had slightly different plans…

At 34 weeks, I had a scheduled midwife appointment. Now, in the run-up to this date, I was quite convinced that my baby was breech. I could feel his head shoved up high under the left side of my rib cage, and even though friends told me that heads and bums feel similar in utero, I just…knew. This was confirmed at my appointment and I was sent for a scan.

At hospital, I was told that I had several options.
1. To have the baby naturally in this breech position.
2. To have an ECV to turn the baby and see if it worked.
3. To opt for an elective Caesarian.

I decided to try the ECV, and after having done some research, I decided there and then that I’d have a section if it didn’t work. Although the consultant left the decision entirely down to me, she did tell me afterwards that she felt that my choice was the absolute best and safest option for both of us.

In the weeks leading up the the section, I tried all the bum-in-the-air rocking, tipping myself upside down on the sofa – you name it. The ECV didn’t work either. The baby was NOT for turning.

So, in a nutshell, that was the end of the hypnobirthing! Ha ha! So my hippy-dippy beautiful hypno-water birth with soft music and candle lighting turned into an elective c-section. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum…

Now, I know some people may be surprised to hear me say this, but even despite the lack of panpipes and candles, my birth-day itself was the most magical experience of my life. I can imagine that an emergency section is VERY different, but a planned one is really rather nice. I didn’t even feel the epidural needle, and after 45 minutes of tugging and pulling, my baby was placed on my chest by a burly, tattooed, Mancunian surgeon. I have never experienced a more powerful rush in my life and I fell in love instantly with my beautiful little boy. My husband and I still talk about it in detail eight months on. It was just fabulous.

And, it turns out that I made the right decision regarding the section as Little J’s head was stuck fast! He’s done his own thing to this day 🙂

For my next baby, I’d be more then happy to have another Caesarian if needs be.

How about you mummies? Did your birth plans work out? Or did your baby have other ideas?

Check out my lovely friend Mama Mim’s birth blog, who – as per my story – used hypnobirthing for her first baby and it worked! http://bit.ly/1qFoDT6

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Gorgeous gifts for new mummies

Hey mommas.

If you have a friend who’s just had a baby, or is about to pop any day, I’ve put together this handy list of five unusual/useful Christmas gifts. They also double up as general new baby gifts, or even Christening presents.

I’m always wracking my brains to think of slightly different or interesting gifts, so if you’re of the same mind-set, have a look at the below suggestions for inspiration:

1. Baby imprint kits
I received one of these from my sister-in-law when Little J was born. It was a footprint imprint kit, and it made a lovely change from all the baby clothes! For Christmas, you can also get handprint kits that make Christmas decorations. Lovely keepsakes to treasure.

And if you’re feeling more adventurous and have babs or toddlers yourself, get happy with the salt-dough and make your own handprint decs for relatives!

Welcome to the World Imprint Kit
http://www.mamasandpapas.com
£10.95

2. Baby aid baskets
Now this is something absolutely wish that I’d be presented with as a new mummy! It would have saved me (my husband) countless trips to the pharmacy as we tackled all the previously unimagined baby ailments. Not cheap to put together, but why not make your new mummy friend a home-made baby aid basket? Buy a small basket or box, and fill it to the brim with Calpol, baby Nurofen, Colief, Infacol, teething powders, Bonjela, gripe water, Metanium, Sudocrem, baby nail clippers, massage oil, a snot-picker (nice!), Snufflebabe and a thermometer.

Before becoming a mum, I had vague imaginings that babies occasionally got some mystical condition called Colic and that they were born without teeth. That was about it. At least a box like this would slightly soften the “finding out the hard way” journey 🙂

3. Personalised room signs
I’ve bought several of these now from the same eBay shop, Pretty Unique Plaques. I was so impressed with the first one for the price that I’ve had them made for every friend who’s had a baby since! Handmade to your specifications, these little wooden, hand-drawn signs with raffia string are the picture of cuteness, and definitely add a personal touch. Check out the Facebook page for Pretty Unique Plaques:

http://www.facebook.com/prettyuniqueplaques

4. Sophie la Giraffe
Now, most mummies worth their salt will be able to spot a Sophie at 10 paces. But it’s worth remembering that new mummies are not “born” (pardon the pun) with the God-given knowledge of such items. So I think a Sophie makes a lovely pressie.

The natural rubber teethers have been around for 50 years (!) according to their website – but I had never heard of them before my boy was born. Nevertheless, he does enjoy chomping on French Sophie’s legs! Ooh la lah.

http://www.sophielagirafe.co.uk

5. Pampering vouchers
One of the absolute best presents I received when I had my Little J was a voucher for my local beautician (thanks sis!). I didn’t use if for a long time, but it had no end date, so when I was ready I booked in for the works! Amidst piles of beautiful baby clothes, toys and keepsakes, it’s gorgeous to receive a little present just for you. So treat your new mum friend to a pampering session – massages, facials, manicures and even waxes go down very well with tired mummies who don’t have much time for themselves. Chuck in a bottle of Champagne or Prosecco too if you’re feeling flush. Best buddy brownie points for life 🙂

If you have any ideas for useful, different or interesting presents for new mummies, share them! xxx

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Looking back to ME BC

Hey mummies.

The topic for this blog post is Things I Miss About My Life “BC”. Or Before Child, as it were.

Now, before I go any further, I’d like to clarify that OF COURSE I think my baby is the best-est thing to happen to my life ever, and I love him more than life itself, but every now and again, just for a second, I do miss a few little things about my life as a footloose and fancy free lady about town, who could skip merrily down the street, with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of Topshop bags in the other.

And from that sentence, you may deduct, a’la Sherlock, that several of the things I miss are alcohol and fashion related. And you’d be right.

Anyway. Here’s my top five:

1. Being able to leave the house.
If you’re a new mummy or a mum-to-be and you’re reading this, you may thing I’ve left off some words at the end of that title, such as “in a hurry” or “without a million and one things” but no. I haven’t. Sometimes, ladies, you will FAIL TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. At all.

Several times in those first few hazy months, I just gave up trying to get out of the house, admitted defeat, put the baby down, took my coat off, sat on the sofa and cried. It was just too hard. Trying to get both of us ready, ensure I’d remembered everything and walk out of the front door looking half decent was just too much. Little J would have a meltdown, or throw up everywhere, or do the world’s biggest poo just as we were heading out, or I’d get half way up the road and realise I still had my slippers on.

I miss those days when someone would phone or text me and ask if I’d like to pop out somewhere for a bit, and I just got my coat on, grabbed my small handbag and WALKED OUT. Now, every trip out of the door is a perfectly-timed military operation, and my baby bag doubles as my handbag. So as well as my purse, lippy and keys, I’ve also got nappies, wipes, cream, three spare vests, baby suncream, teething powders, muslins, anbesol, a sun hat, a wooly hat, an extra baby jumper, bibs, a bowl, a banana, several rattles and a Nuby teether. Phew.

2. Wearing nice clothes. Smaller ones.
I’ll be honest ladies, since having Little J, the weight has not magically melted off as I thought it would do. If anything, breastfeeding has hindered rather than helped any weight loss, as BC, I’d have been doing some kind of crazy diet by now to get rid of the extra weight. I know that may not be the healthiest option, but it’s the truth. I’m still a stone and a half heavier than I was pre-pregnancy and two stone more than my ideal weight. And I hate it, every single day.

Additionally, my baby is not the best sleeper (ahem) which results in me craving sugar and carbs to get me through to the evening without falling asleep on the pavement.

As a result, I regularly open my wardrobe to stare longingly at my size 10 Topshop skinnies and plethora of beautiful dresses. And cry. A bit.

I’d like to be able to wear my normal clothes. And I’d also like to select tops for prettiness, not for ease of access to my bangers. Amen.

3. Drinking a hot brew
I think one of the main reasons that new mummies go out for coffee so much is being able to enjoy a hot latte or cappuccino, and actually finish it. If you try to make a coffee at home, chances are it will go stone cold before you can guzzle it all.

In the early days, I’d just flop down with a well deserved, piping hot Nescafé and Little J would start crying/need feeding for four hours/want a snuggle. Nowadays, he’s a crawling, standing-up eight month old and I’m quite frankly running out of places to put a brew down that can’t be knocked over by an over-active monkey.

It would be lovely to just sit still for ten minutes a day, and just stare into space while enjoying a lovely steaming cup of Joe. Ahhhh!

Although let’s face it, we all know that coffee is just the substance that gets us through the day until it’s acceptable to drink wine. And I miss that too (well, drinking more than the occasional dinky glass). Boo.

4. Reading a book
In my life BC, I was quite an avid reader. I was lucky enough to have a reasonably relaxing 30 minute commute to work every day which provided excellent reading time, and I regularly thundered through chick-lit, thrillers, classics…you name it.

Nowadays, my concentration levels seem to run to pamphlets thanks to my sleep deprivation and my eyes feel so knackered I find it hard to see the words on my mark-one Kindle.

You know where I mentioned that I’d like to stare into space and drink a hot brew? Scrap that, I’d like to curl up on the sofa with a coffee and read. Without distraction.

5. Walking around without dribble/sick/poo on me.
Recently, I looked down at my leggings and spotted a fresh wet spot, rubbed it with a muslin and had a sniff (sorry), and realised that it was just a bit of milky sick.

“Ah” I thought to myself.

“It’s just sick, it’s not poo, or wee.”

And with that, I carried on with my day.

Casting my mind back to my old BC self, I don’t think that, in any realm of reality, I’d think that having a bit of VOM on my clothes was in any way A-OK. Imagine.

What do you miss about your life BC?

xxx

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U, me and the kids

These are a few of my favourite things – Part 1

Hi mamas.

Here’s a potentially useful post if you’re expecting a baby. I’ve decided to draw up a super-smashing-great top ten list of baby items I’ve found genuinely useful and/or fabulous in this crazy eight months of motherdom.

When I was pregnant with Little J, I emailed my best girlfriends
(who both have two children) and asked them, frankly, what the essential items were that I needed to buy for my baby. I live in a bijoux (!) terraced cottage, so I didn’t want to go out and buy loads of crap that I didn’t need. They emailed me very useful and interesting lists of life-altering fantastic products, as well as flagging up a few must-avoid items that nobody really needs or uses.

Anyway, here are the first five from my list. I hope you find it useful and share your favourites too, so that all the new mommas out there might get a few ideas…

I’m also going to suggest if I think you should buy new, borrow or beg (i.e. get one of your friend’s baby’s hand-me-downs, or get cracking on eBay!)

1. Baby Jogger City Mini GT
Aaaargh I freaking LOVE this buggy. I drew up a list of everything I wanted in a buggy/travel system when i was pregnant, which stated that I required a buggy that was very lightweight, would fit in the boot of my Golf, was a three-wheeler capable of going off-road and dealing with the hills where I live, have proper tyres and would last for years. The Baby Jogger City MinI GT does all of the above and more. It’s wonderful.

It doesn’t come with a bassinet, but I didn’t really want one anyway as I live on a very steep hill! It lies flat for newborns which was perfect. My only slight niggle is that it doesn’t parent-face, but if you use a Maxi Cosi car seat, you can use baby-jogger adaptors to clip it onto the GT, and the baby faces you.

Additionally, the tyres are solid so they can’t pop or get punctures, and it has a fabulous sun canopy that pulls right down over the baby. I’m also pretty sure it’s the fastest folding buggy in the world ever! It’s just ace all round. And it’s not massively expensive either.

Buy, borrow or beg? My advice is to buy new – it’s money well spent on a sturdy piece of kit which will last you until your little one is a fully-fledged older toddler/small child. When it comes to add-ons such as the car seat adaptors, keep an eye out on eBay and save yourself some moolah.

Baby Jogger City Mini GT, £329.99, http://www.amazon.co.uk

2. A vibrating bouncer
My friend actually gave me a Mamas and Papas bouncer and it was fabulous in those hazy early days. They are super comfy for babies and allow them to see what’s going on around them – but make sure you get one with a vibrate mode. Younger babies (from newborn to four/five months) will be happily lulled to sleep or pacified with some lovely vibes!

My bouncer had white noise/music too which also seemed to captivate Little J. He had many a snooze in his bouncer, and it was a must-have item in those early months.

Buy, borrow or beg? I’d get one second hand or borrow from a friend, but if you do buy new, don’t worry too much about spending lots on a super pricy one with hydraulics or a drinks fridge for your G&T (that bit is a joke OBVS!), as long as it’s nice and snuggly and has a vibrate mode, your baby will love it.

Mamas & Papas Capella Bouncer – Stars £39.95 http://www.mamasandpapas.com

3. Lamaze pram toys
My Little J adores his collection of Lamaze toys even now, and we take one with us wherever we go. They are bright, colourful, sensory and super cute, and they keep young babies happy for hours with crinkles, colours, textures, mirrors and dangly bits! Our favourite is probably Freddie the Firefly.

Buy, borrow or beg? Buy new – for around a tenner your baby will get endless hours of fun and entertainment.

Lamaze Play & Grow Freddie the Firefly, £10.99 http://www.lamazetoys.co.uk

4. Baby sleeping bag
Sleeping bags are an absolute revelation and make your life much easier. The baby sleeping bag trend was started by the Grobag company back in 2000, and according to their website, 95% of parents in the UK use one nowadays instead of blankets or covers.

They are designed to keep your baby at a nice temperature and can’t be kicked off. They also stop older babs getting their little leggies stuck in the bars of their cots.

I bought a M&S one from a friend and it was lovely – super soft and snuggly and just right for J. Just make sure you get the right size and tog for the season, and you’re winning.

Buy, borrow or beg? Beg – get one from a friend (they wash at high temperatures so why not?)

Mothercare Elephant Snoozie Sleeping Bag 2.5tog £14.99 http://www.mothercare.com

5. Fisher Price Rainforest Playmat
This has got to be one of the most popular play mats or baby gyms on the market. It’s extremely cute and ultra captivating for smaller babies.

Designed to encapsulate the sights and sounds of the jungle, the bright and colourful, sensory baby gym has so many lovely features. My Little J was quite taken with his from around four weeks – four months old, and I even had a go one day, lying on my back watching the gentle lights, listening to the charming sounds of the rainforest…

When J could roll over he got a bit bored with it, but it’s a nice thing to have in the earlier days to stimulate the senses of your baby.

Buy, borrow or beg? Borrow from a friend if they have one they’re keeping for the next baby. The mat part is machine washable, and your baby will only use it for a few months until they get more mobile. Alternatively, buy new, look after it and eBay it afterwards!

Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Baby Gym £49.99 http://www.argos.co.uk

There you go! The next five will follow…

How about you? What are your must-have baby items?

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