When three became four: an almost drama free birth

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29 August. That’s the date I was told we should expect baby girl to arrive into this world. And because Ralphie was a week late, I was fairly sure we’d be having another September baby.

So when I sat at work feeling a bit funny just under two weeks before, it didn’t cross my mind that I could be going into labour imminently. Thankfully my gut instinct kicked in as I did have a quick rush around Boots at lunchtime to grab some bits for the as yet unpacked hospital bag. And I handed over a couple of tasks at work that had been playing on my mind.

A two mile walk home, play with Ralphie and dinner, and I was feeling progressively more uncomfortable. I asked Ryan if he thought it could be something…”You probably just need a big poo!” he said.

By 9pm I was fairly certain it was happening and I started hurriedly packing my hospital bag. In I went under the stairs to dig out the newborn clothes, the carry cot, the Snuzpod mattress. Ryan thought I was mental. But by 11.30pm the feeling was unmistakeable. Bugger!

As I lay in bed to ride out the early pain, Ralphie woke up, crying out. I went in to check on him and he was visibly distressed and wanted a cuddle. We sat together in the dark and I found myself crying as I realised this was our last little moment together before baby arrived. I hope he didn’t see, but it was like he knew, because he gripped extra hard, and two minutes after putting him back in bed, he was crying out again.

When mum and dad arrived in the early hours after I put in the nervous call to wake them up (imagine if I wasn’t actually in labour!), Ralphie was wide awake and raring to go. This never happens.

As I gritted my teeth and clung onto a bit of living room door frame through those early contractions, Ralphie performed while mum, dad and Ryan sat drinking tea. It was such a weird occasion!

Eventually we got the boy back into bed and called the hospital. We were off.

Already, only a week on since I began labour and I’m struggling to describe the feeling of those contractions, other than that they were totally unbearable! Deep breathing helped, but they were long and I had little respite between each one…about a minute or so.  Other times they blended together completely.

When they first examined me and told me I was only 3cm, I was so disappointed. I didn’t know how long I would be able to cope physically while saving enough strength at the end for what I hoped would be the big push.

At 9.30am on Thursday after I got past 4cm they said I could have an epidural. Heaven to my ears! Never has so much willpower enabled me to stay so damn still through those contractions so they could fit the tube. And then…relief!

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It was a long old wait, spiced up a little by the fact the epidural pump stopped working around lunchtime, bringing back that horrendous wave of pain.

Mum and Ryan kept me well hydrated and in high spirits. At times I felt more sorry for them as their chairs looked so uncomfortable. At least I was in bed!

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Finally, at around 6.30pm I was ready to push. I was nervous, excited…I didn’t know what to expect.

At first when I was pushing I couldn’t feel what I was meant to be doing. I was cross with myself as although I’d been reducing my intake of local anaesthetic, I still couldn’t feel much. And then there it was…that sensation of having to push out a massive football!

Mum, Ryan and the midwife could see baby’s head and were willing me on. Everything clicked into place and I knew what I needed to do. It was the most overwhelming, incredible experience. One minute I could feel the hardest ball of pressure and then…whoosh…she was here!

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And that should really be the end of it. But it seems that I am quite incapable of giving birth without some element of drama.

This time, I proceeded to suddenly lose almost three litres of blood (over half of my body’s blood volume; almost two large bottles’ worth of Coca-Cola) – gushing all over the floor.

Needless to say I don’t remember much. The room was flooded with people. I vomited and Ryan said I went totally delirious, talking about watering the plant pots. In that foggy haze of panic (and not just for my unwatered plants!), what I do remember thinking was that I going to lose my uterus or not be able to see my beautiful babies grow up.

After what seemed like an age, and probably even more so for mum and Ryan, I was stitched back up (by a lady called Maureen who had the most impeccably styled hair and a fabulous no-nonsense attitude. She proceeded to look after me all night). It’d been over an hour since I’d held my baby and I was worried she hadn’t had a feed.

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But feed she did. And slowly the colour came back into everyone’s faces as we calmed down and processed the ordeal. Well…apart from me. I remained looking ghost like for a good few days after. I still think I could benefit from a little extra blusher now!

Did I genuinely think I was going to lose my life? No. It wasn’t my time. But 17 August 2017 will forever remain one of the most glorious and terrifying days of my life.

Most importantly, she’s here. My August baby…Lily Rose. And my, what a beauty she is!

Welcome to the world, little one.

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Keeping (not so) mum

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Nearly seven months into motherhood and I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I have picked up some tricks of the trade along the way. Would I have done anything differently so far if I could do it all again? In the most part, probably not. But, upon reflection, there are some things I wish I had known already before my bun exited the oven.

It got me talking to other mums about their journey so far. If they could go back to the beginning, what pearls of wisdom do they wish they had been privy to? Their insights were brilliant –  so much so that I felt compelled to compile their answers and share them with the world.

So here it is: my ‘motherhood 101’ to help get you through those crazy, early weeks. Thanks for the help if you contributed!

Don’t fret – that baby will come when it’s ready!

Try the old wives’ tales if you must, but your baby will arrive when he or she is good and ready. Ralphie was a week late and in between deep cleaning the house, I tried it all – I even ate a whole pineapple in one sitting. But in the end, he came on his terms, regardless of how many curries or pineapples I consumed, or long walks I went on. You’re allowed to feel fed up and impatient – we all do – but try and relax. Put those feet up for the last time!

The pain of giving birth endures

Ok, ok – you’re rolling you’re eyes and saying “no shit Shirlock – of course giving birth is painful!” But no matter who I spoke to who’d already been through it and no matter how many episodes of One Born Every Minute I watched, nothing could prepare me for the pain. And if you’re yet to experience it, I’m sorry, I don’t even know how to describe it. All I will say is “wow” – it takes your breath away!

But us mums also wish that we’d been better prepared for the fact that things would be pretty painful for quite a while afterwards. I ended up having a c-section, so the pain endured for quite a long time in the end. Give your body as much of a break as you can – tricky when you’re not getting much sleep, I know – and allow it to recover.

Buy maternity pads – and thick ones. You will need them

While you’re at it, you may as well also buy a pack of big pants should the dreaded c-section happen. A friend gave me such advice and I ignored her. More fool me! It’s not fair to send your man out to shop for these things. It’s a minefield for them out there. One mum admitted that her fella came back with breast pads!

You can say no to guests

This one sounds a bit scroogey, but a lot of mums mentioned this and I agree – the initial influx of guests is totally overwhelming. We didn’t say no, and at times it did get a bit much. In hindsight, I think we would have spread the visits out a little more. One mum suggested the total opposite: have a big welcome to the world party and get everyone out of the way in one go! I like your thinking.

You will cry – a lot

I checked – this isn’t just me. I’m a crier – I cry watching films; I cry when I’m happy; gosh, I even cry saying bye to my mum sometimes! Add a few post-pregnancy hormones into the mix and blimey – that’s quite a lethal concoction! Cry away ladies; you’re allowed to. But if it’s all getting too much, please do say so.

Breastfeeding isn’t that easy to begin with

For some mums it’s a bloomin’ nightmare. I was one of the lucky ones, but even I will admit that it wasn’t exactly easy to start off with. Until my milk came in, Ralphie was feeding almost hourly, and it hurt! Pass me the Lansinoh, again.

And if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. Formula fed babies are happy too! You’ve got enough on your plate to deal with than to be stressing about how you’re feeding your little one. Just get them fed!

Development milestones are a rough approximation

During my pregnancy, I regularly checked an app that told me what was going on inside that bump of mine, and I was totally fascinated. One week my baby was the size of a pea, the next an apple. The app continued after birth and within a week or so I had stopped looking at it altogether. Why? Because I’ve got my baby in my arms now. I can see exactly what he’s doing! And so what if he hasn’t rolled over by the time the app thinks he should have done. As all mums can testify, every child is different.

Sleep is overrated

Just kidding! Sleep is great! I’m just a bit bitter that I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over six months. Does it bother me? Sometimes it does, and other times I’m happy to just go with the flow. I know a lot of mums whose babies slept through from a few weeks old – you lucky things. And I also know many more whose babies haven’t and still don’t. What are we doing differently? Probably not a lot. Again, refer to the last point: every child is different. They will all figure it out eventually, I hope.

Some days, getting dressed is an achievement

I have a whole new level of appreciation for mothers. When I turn up to our mum and baby groups, I look around the room and think, well done guys – we’ve all made it out the house and we’re dressed! Maternity leave is not the time for taking up a new hobby. If you get a chance then great. But being a mum really is a 24/7 job – no coffee breaks, no lunch breaks and no toilet breaks.

It’s absolutely fine to ring 111

Before my pregnancy, going to the doctors was a very rare occurrence. And then I was hit with regular midwife appointments, trips to the hospital for scans, and so on. It was all a bit of a shock to the system. I have really got my money’s worth out of the NHS this past year!

Since I’ve had Ralphie, I’ve needed the NHS just as much, and a lot of mums have done too. Being solely responsible for a tiny human is scary. If he develops a rash, or spots, or vomits throughout the night, or has a wheeze when he coughs, I want to know that he’s going to be ok. I called 111 for the first time ever the other week when Ralphie kept projectile vomiting. They booked us into an out of hours GP who checked him over and, thankfully, said he was fine. It really helped to set my mind at ease.

You will get through this

I wish I had the confidence I do now, back then. But the only reason I am more confident is because I’ve learned so much already. As mums go, I think I’m pretty chilled, but I’ve still worried, panicked and doubted myself along the way. Many of us have admitted to frequently checking our babies are breathing when they’re asleep (the irregular breathing noises they make don’t help!) and I think I will continue to do that for years to come.

These babies of ours are so precious, but they’re also pretty durable. Trust your gut instinct and you won’t go far wrong. And most of all, enjoy it. I already can’t believe where the last few months have gone. It won’t be long before Ralphie’s looking after me!

The best year yet

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As years go, 2015 has to be my favourite so far. What a year it has been!

We’re having a baby!

I told Ryan that all I wanted for Christmas was a baby and blimey he delivered! I was convinced it wouldn’t happen for us that month, but when I started feeling strange (I can’t put my finger on it, but something was different), I decided to take a test. It was 5am in the morning and I couldn’t believe it when I saw those two pink lines.

It took me a little while to pluck up the courage to tell my mum and dad. I knew they would be so excited, but when it came to actually saying the words out loud, I chickened out on a number of occasions. Mum finally got it out of me when she was booking a skiing holiday. She was trying to get Ryan and I to commit to some dates we could take off work, and I had to let her know that I couldn’t go skiing as I was carrying her grandchild. Her reaction was brilliant; it still makes me smile. My dad on the other hand…I don’t know if he’s over the shock yet!

Moving house

Despite loving living in our city centre flat, it was always our plan to move into a little house away from the hustle and bustle. At the beginning of May, we packed up everything we owned and carted it a couple of miles up the road into our new home. Ryan, my parents and my brother painted the entire house in a single weekend, while I stayed away from the paint fumes and cleaned the bathrooms!

Having some outside space also made a massive difference as we entered the warm summer months. Ryan and his dad built a little decking space for some seating, and it proved an ideal place for hosting the first of two baby shower parties put on by my lovely friends.

My growing bump

As bumps go, mine was pretty huge. It also had all the characteristics of a beach ball! Wherever I went, it got some lovely reactions. In fact, being pregnant made me realise how lovely people are. I got well wishes from strangers I passed in the street, the people who served me at the checkout, the postman… I miss being pregnant because now I’m back to being a regular person and you don’t get half as much attention!

I was 34 weeks pregnant when I was bridesmaid for my cousin’s wedding in the Lake District and everybody thought I would pop that weekend. I didn’t, but I was absolutely huge by this point. Little did I know I would have to wait another 7 weeks before I would finally meet my baby boy.

As the summer went on, my bump got bigger and bigger, and so did my swollen feet. Regardless, I carried on walking the three mile roundtrip to work until I finally gave up one day past my due date. I know everyone in my office thought I was mental as I tipped up to work that day. It all added to the drama though, didn’t it. I’m still disappointed I didn’t go into labour at work.

18 September

A day I will never forget! I went into labour on the evening of the 17th – a full week past my due date. Ryan didn’t believe me at first. As each day past my due date went by, I started reading into every little ache and niggle in the hope that something was happening. So when something finally did start happening, it seemed almost too good to be true. The contractions kicked in properly at about 7pm and from the onset were only about 5 minutes apart. That was fun!

I didn’t write a birth plan as my only plan all along was to get my baby out safely. It’s probably just as well really because I ended up having an emergency c-section. Hearing Ralphie’s cries as he entered the world at 2.28am was the biggest relief. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the next few days.

Getting to know Ralphie

Our baby boy is just over three months old and I already can’t believe how much he has changed. My not so little chunk is getting chunkier by the day and that glint he has in his eye tells me I’ve got one cheeky boy on my hands.

Ralphie’s energy is boundless; no wonder he needs so much milk. He insists on standing rather than sitting. He thrashes his legs when I change his nappy and get him dressed. And although he’s not able to move himself around yet, I don’t think it’ll be long before he figures it out.

Just this Christmas I can already see the change in him. He looks older and he’s really learning how to use that voice of his.

I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us, but 2015 is going to take some beating. 2016 here we come!

My tiger tummy

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As pregnancies go, mine was pretty much as straightforward as they come. I also didn’t develop a single stretch mark as my tummy ballooned, until the last week that is.

Ralph was due on 10 September, but he showed no signs of making an appearance – so much so that I walked into the office and did a full day’s work. That evening I noticed a vivid red mark on my tummy that I remember gleefully showing Ryan as it looked a bit like a lightning bolt (yes, Harry Potter was referenced!). The next day he also didn’t arrive (so I went into work again) nor did he make an appearance the day after that, and so on.

As I impatiently waited, my tummy developed stretch mark after stretch mark – I was literally bursting at the seams! My baby boy weighed 8lbs 3 when he was finally born by emergency caesarian section in the early hours of 18 September. I’m 5ft 2 at best and I really don’t think my body was set up to carry such a heavy baby! And that’s why I now have what I like to call a tiger tummy – literally stripe upon stripe criss crossing across my stomach, not to mention the rather impressive scar too.

I don’t really mind. I was more relieved that the swelling in my legs and feet went down so I could wear something more substantial than a pair of flip flops! Bio-Oil is helping and I’m sure, with time, the marks will become less vivid. Whether I’ll feel comfortable wearing a bikini next summer is anybody’s guess – although this isn’t something I tend to do even on the hottest of days here in England!