If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while and are familiar with photos of my home, or if you know me in real life, you will know I am positively anal about mess. I would actually go so far as to say the idea of mess makes me anxious and I am somewhat of a Monica around our house. So when an Insta friend (who is now a real life friend, Hey Poppy if you’re reading) invited me to a play date at a messy play session, you can only imagine my anxiety. I was convinced that I’d find it stressful, that I’d struggle to relax into it; but I really didn’t want my own issues to restrict Maxon’s development, and after all, babies and kids are inevitably messy, so maybe it was best to just throw myself in at the deep end? Right?
So off we went to The Baltic (which Messy Play aside, is a fab visit, kids or not). Booking in advance for the bi weekly sessions is essential, and we booked online through the Baltic website, nice and straightforward. I’d been advised to take spare clothes for myself and Maxon and plenty of wipes for clean up afterwards; I armed myself with Johnson’s wash cloth wipes (which FYI I swear by for poo explosions). I wore old clothes that I wasn’t bothered about and dressed Maxon in an already stained body suit (carrot stains on white…hit me up if you have the answer). We were prepped!
What was apparent from the off and what I loved first and foremost about the session was how relaxed everything was; all the stations of trays/activity spots are dotted around the room and you can move between it all freely; there is no structure and it’s a really warm, easy going atmosphere. After I’d gotten over the initial 5 minutes of being grossed out by the mess, I started to appreciate how much Maxon was enjoying himself. One of my favourite parts of being a mum is watching Maxon discover the world around him and experience new things; it didn’t matter that I was getting covered in food and paint, because he was loving his life!
So we booked up again, and again. Each session brings new experiences and activities; I love the concept of learning through play and I think varied sensory play is really important in developing motor skills. Sometimes the sessions are themed (Easter was hot cross bun in the food trays, obvs), sometimes they are messier than others; but what is consistent is the fun that Maxon (and me!) have. So much effort goes in to the presentation of the trays and my inner OCD thinks ‘oh what a shame to spoil this pretty display’ but before I’ve even finished the thought I’ve dunked Maxon bum first into them…
If you’d told me a year ago that this would be my idea of fun I’d have laughed in your face yet here I am, looking forward to the next session and what new things we will encounter. Each week we (I say ‘we’ loosely, Maxon isn’t much of an artiste yet) try and make something from one of the craft stations and I’m starting to build a little collection of our ‘creations’ (full disclaimer, my chick didn’t survive/wasn’t as good so this is Poppy’s…).
All in all, I couldn’t recommend these sessions enough, we’ve had a blast at every one, and as the weeks have gone on, I’m caring less and less about the mess (last time I even went so far as to let Maxon roll around in the paint section (literally, in the paint trays)). Not only have I relaxed, but Maxon’s getting braver, getting more and more stuck in and showing less apprehension about new textures, smells and surroundings. Maybe there’s hope that he won’t inherit my irrational fear of mess after all?
(THIS PRODUCT WAS KINDLY GIFTED TO US BUT THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW AND ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN!)
Even though I was pretty organised when I was pregnant and keen on buying things in advance, a baby camera felt premature since Maxon was going to be in our room (and, as it turned out, pretty much glued to me) for the first 6 months anyway. When I did look at monitors online, it all felt very technical and dull; and trawling through customer reviews on the likes of Amazon just isn’t my bag.
So when the time came to invest, what grabbed me instantly with Lollipop was the visual. The design is fun while being understated; and since I had put in a lot of effort into designing Maxon’s room, aesthetics, although perhaps not ‘critical’ for a baby monitor, were definitely a big factor for me. Once I’d been drawn in, I read through the spec on the Lollipop website and was confident that this monitor matched our requirements. We were kindly gifted the camera by the Lollipop team and allowed a colour choice. I opted for the blue, which I though would tie nicely into some of the accent colours in the space.
Unboxing was brill as everything was so sleek, perfectly compartmentalized and labelled; which for a neat freak like me was a dream! I loved how minimal everything was and that there wasn’t tons of bit and pieces to sift through. I’m not a fan of an ‘instruction manual’ (does anyone have the time to read through a whole booklet?) so I loved that the installation steps were all laid out on one card. This also set the tone for how easy the installation was going to be!
Setting the camera up was indeed a breeze; I’m not the best at anything technical but once I’d downloaded the app, it really was as simple as attaching the camera to the cot using the flexible loop (there is also a very unique ‘branch like’ attachment should you need to mount the camera to a wall) and I loved that it came with cable covers so that you were able to secure the cables safely away. All in all it took me about 10 minutes to set up and we were ready to go!
The app itself is so straight forward and the functionality is great. Highlights for me personally are the two way audio function (helpful for trying to soothe Maxon without having to rush into the room), and I also love the music and sound list; white noise is a must for us and Maxon also likes the vacuum option.
I also find the ‘Event Video’ function really helpful in trying to understand Maxon’s sleep. As you may know through following my Instagram, Maxon is very unsettled through the night and at 8 months old, is regularly still waking 5 plus times. The event video is a good way for me to look back and track patterns of waking (and it helps me keep track of how many times I’m getting up, which doesn’t always make for a pleasant read, but is extremely informative!).
Picture quality is probably what I am most impressed with, day and night. We have black out blinds in Maxon’s room and it is quite literally pitch black, but the camera picture quality is super clear and picks up everything! The clarity is far better than I’d anticipated from a monitor.
As I mentioned at the start, the aesthetics of the camera really appeal to me, and I love how it looks in the room Overall, its a big thumbs up all round and I’d highly recommend it to parents looking for a unique design combined with superb functionality and quality.
I’ve been chatting to a few expectant mamas lately; some of my friends are due to have their first baby this year and I often get questions on my Instagram on what key things to buy. I remember feeling very overwhelmed in those final expectant months over ‘stuff’ and getting it right, so here are my top 5 buys that for me, were worth investing in! This is an honest review and I have not been paid nor gifted any of these products.
I did buy some things second hand on Facebook marketplace and Gum tree and would definitely do the same again and advocate doing so; particularly for items that can be cleaned easily (thinking plastic rather than fabric).
The Shnuggle Baby Bath £19.99
I remember feeling so nervous about Maxon’s first bath; he seemed so tiny and fragile so I liked the idea of having a separate container rather than an aid in our big bath. The back rest keeps baby upright so they are comfortable and can see what’s going on, while the bum bump and anti slip surface keeps them securely in place. We used ours both in our own bath (it has grippy feet to keep it in place) and on carpet/flooring. Maxon only really outgrew this at 5ish months and we bathed him pretty much daily as part of his evening routine so we definitely got our use out of it. I’ve actually since sold it on for the exact price I paid for it (I bought it for £10 on Facebook market place!).
2. The Chicco Next To Me Crib (£149-£179 – watch out for offers in Argos and Mothercare!)
I did a lot of reading into moses baskets/babies first sleeping destination and loved the idea of safe co sleeping. This crib offers this with the fold down partition meaning it could be attached to our bed and I could see and access Maxon easily. The fact that it can be angled as well was a life saver when we suspected Maxon was suffering from silent reflux (he hated being flat and has never been comfortable sleeping on his back). Even when we transitioned Maxon to his big cot in his own room (which we did at 5 months old) we have continued to use this as a travel cot when visiting family and friends. This was definitely worth investing in.
3. The Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft £99-£129
It took a lot of convincing my husband that this was worth the money; when you visit places like Mothercare there are so many different jazzy looking bouncers that this just seemed so plain by comparison. Reading the reviews however, I loved the ergonomic concept and the idea that baby would learn to bounce themselves, and sure enough, at around 11 weeks old, Maxon worked out that if he kicked his legs, he bounced. The material is so soft and he always seems so comfortable in it; it was absolutely ideal (particularly in those early days when he couldn’t sit unaided) to place him in whilst I got on with things and because it folds up really simply, I would transport it from room to room. I did purchase the additional wooden toy bar (I managed to get one second hand on Ebay for £15 nearly new; it retails full price around £30) and was also really impressed with the quality. Maxon loved the colours and shapes on the bar and I definitely think it helped develop his motor skills. At almost 8 months old he is still using this bouncer (although less and less as he wants to be able to move around now) and it does convert to a seat so we will continue to use this for at least another 6-12 months.
4. Mussi Cuski Comforter £15-£20
I bought this on recommendation from a friend as I wanted a comforter for Maxon that I could trust was safe to leave in his cot in those early days. They are extremely soft and made from bamboo which is ultra absorbent and helps pick up your scent. I’d wear it down my top for an hour or two every few days (whilst sat in the house, might have looked a little odd while out and about) then gave it to him on a night. He often sleeps holding it and I’ve also used it to soothe him by brushing the material on his forehead. I’m actually about to buy a second one as the first one has been so well loved that I need a back up!
5. Fabric baby slings – I liked both the Joe and Joy Baby Sling (£20), and the Yoga Bellies Wrap (£30)
In the first few months, Maxon was generally quite unsettled and struggled to sleep, day or night, without a combination of being held/movement. I 100% would not have gotten through those months without baby wearing, it saved my sanity on many a day. When Maxon was small, I didn’t find a carrier that felt comfortable for us both other than sling wraps, and after watching a few Youtube videos, found them super easy to tie and I always found Maxon to be secure and snug. Up until he was around 4 months old, I used them daily both in the house to have my hands free and get small tasks done, and when out walking with the dog. I bought several brands and really liked the fabric of this one (plus they had a plain black option, those who know me will know I’m not a fan of colour or jazzy prints). I still occasionally wear him now but I do struggle with the weight of him to do so for very long!)
So there you have it, a little round up of my favourite newborn purchases. These are all things that I couldn’t have done without and items that I would 100% use again if there was ever to be a second time around! If anyone has any questions please, as always feel free to comment or DM me via instagram @the_geordie_mum
I’d like to firstly start by saying that I have no problem with how anyone chooses to feed their baby; at the end of the day, I believe that women should be entitled to make choices that are right for both them and their family. I have friends who didn’t want to breastfeed, that’s ok. I’ve met mum’s who couldn’t breastfeed for medical reasons, and I’ve got friends who are huge advocates and feel very passionately about breastfeeding. I truly believe in the phrase each to their own.
During pregnancy, I decided I’d like to try and breastfeed.
I’d looked into the health benefits for both myself and baby (those that stood
out to me particularly were reduced risk for baby of asthma and allergies,
reduced risk of respiratory illness and, with a history of cancer in our
family, reduced risk of childhood leukaemia). And for me personally, with a
grandmother who has suffered from osteoporosis, knowing that breastfeeding
could lessen my risk in the future just made it all seem like an obvious choice.
One thing I did promise myself though, was that whilst I was keen for breastfeeding
to work out, that I wouldn’t punish myself over it; if it wasn’t going to work
for us, then that was ok. I told myself I’d go with the flow.
In the immediate hours after my c-section, we thought Maxon was latching well. I didn’t actually feel anywhere near the pain I’d anticipated (possibly still a little numb from the spinal) and I remember getting back to the ward, doing skin to skin and thinking brill, we’re on the way to getting this locked down. How naïve I was. By midnight it was becoming more and more apparent that Maxon was struggling to latch; he was agitated and hungry. By 3am I was a weeping mess as a midwife helped me hand express some colostrum into a syringe so we could make sure he was getting something (a stranger pawing at my boobs whilst I sobbed over her probably wasn’t even my least dignified moment in those first few days). I was told by midwife after midwife that ‘he’d get it eventually’ and while they were extremely supportive, (I even stayed an extra night to get help with latching), it’s frustrating to me looking back that no one noticed his very obvious tongue tie.
My husband noticed the tongue tie the day we came home from hospital and sure enough, the midwife confirmed it when she came out to take a look. We waited 3 weeks for an appointment for it to be snipped. I was very lucky in the sense that I wasn’t in any pain from the poor latching; I didn’t once get cracked nipples and I barely used the pre bought Lansinoh cream that I’d been told I’d need. Maxon however was massively affected by the poor latch and dropped a staggering 9% of his birth weight in 5 days. I cried hysterically when he was weighed and saw the look on the midwife’s face. Because he was having to work harder owing to limited tongue movement, he wasn’t able to feed for as long as he needed to; and therefore wasn’t taking in enough. From here on in I began to time the feeds to every 2 hours (even setting alarms through the night) in a desperate quest to get his weight back up. The thought of trying to give him formula and bottles didn’t even enter my mind (in spite of my previous plan to ‘go with the flow’), I was on this path now and I felt very determined to make it work.
By day 7, Maxon’s weight was heading in the right direction and he’d regained so that he was now only -4% birth weight. The midwives couldn’t believe how much I’d managed to get him back up in just a few days and I felt proud at being so headstrong. What I perhaps failed to acknowledge was how incredibly physically and mentally drained I was owing to this 2 hourly schedule. I was like a woman possessed and felt very defensive when people questioned me as to why I was so bothered to continue breastfeeding. I couldn’t articulate my feelings then and I feel that I’m still unable to now. The only thing I can now perhaps see is that I felt like my ‘birth’ wasn’t a ‘natural birth’ in my head owing to having a caesarian, so breastfeeding (in my head) was my way of restoring the balance of being ‘natural’. Again, not necessarily logical thinking but I don’t think anyone is thinking logically in the rollercoaster of those first postpartum weeks.
Maxon’s tongue tie was snipped in a clinic at 3 weeks old and aside from an initial cry, he was totally fine. I instantly noticed an improvement in how long he was able to feed for. He still fed very regularly but I stopped timing the feeds and relaxed a little, confident in the knowledge that he was now able to latch correctly and could feed efficiently.
Shortly after this I started to express with an electric Medela Pump. Initially I was terrified of feeding in public (whereas now I’ll feed wherever and whenever), so when we did go out and about, I made sure we had expressed milk and bottles should he need feeding. He took bottles fine from me, my husband and other family members. And I enjoyed the short breaks while he was fed by others.
The ad hoc bottles stopped at around 6 weeks old, when Maxon had an operation to correct an Inguinal Hernia. Looking back, I can now see how incredibly clingy I was with him in the weeks after his operation. Although a fairly routine procedure, I was terrified at him having a general anesthetic at such a young age, and handing him over to the surgical team that day was awful. Afterwards, I wanted him close to me, and feeding gave us that closeness. I saw expressing as a waste of time and was intent on living in the present. I think this lack of consistency with bottles from this point is perhaps the root cause of the bottle refusal issue that we are still facing today.
At 10 weeks old, I eventually left him with my husband while I went for a lash appointment and when I got back to a screaming baby, found out he’d refused the bottle I’d left. We passed it off as a one off; he was generally an unsettled baby prone to bouts of screaming so I didn’t initially read too much into it, but once we’d gotten a month further down the line and he still wouldn’t take a bottle, I began to feel anxious about leaving him in case he needed feeding. I was his only food source and this made me feel both incredibly proud, but also trapped and limited. Our breastfeeding experience, was (and to a degree) still is, largely conflicting for me due to this.
At almost 8 months
old, I can count on my fingers the amount of bottles Maxon has taken in his
life. I’ve tried different bottle brands; Mam, Nuk, Tomme Tippee, Dr Brown,
Medela and Minbie (I’ve spent around £200 trying to ‘fix’ this ‘problem)’. I’ve
tried latex, silicone, cheap, expensive, long, short teats…it makes no
difference. On one occasion, exhausted and feeling completely overwhelmed, my poor
Mother in law drove 3 hours up the country to try and crack him; me and the
boobs left and she still couldn’t get him to take even a few ounces after 8
If you’d told me pre baby that a mini human could dictate to you how they were to be fed I would have laughed at you, but here I am! On the one hand I feel extremely privileged that I’ve been able to breastfeed. I’ve never had any pain, any supply issues, any bouts of mastitis. On the other hand however, Maxon’s insistence on breastfeeding exclusively has meant that I’ve never left him for more than 3 hours in his life (he still feeds extremely regularly) and don’t get me wrong, I love my son, but I’d love a night where I get to sleep. The bottle refusal has meant every single feed is on me, 24/7. And I’d be lying to you if I said that hasn’t been incredibly exhausting and draining, both mentally and physically.
Breastfeeding for me has been one of my biggest accomplishments; I’m incredibly proud of my body for nourishing my son, and I love the bond that it has given us, but it’s also been one of the hardest and most frustrating tasks in my life to date. If we are talking about it as a journey, we are still very much on the road with no clear destination in sight. So as it stands, I’m trying to remember the words of my pre pregnancy self and just go with the flow, and that flow is currently dictated by Maxon’s love for boobs (flattering really, no ones ever been so enthused by them!). Instead of feeling anxious about the bottle refusal, I’m learning to be appreciative of our feeding time; yes, it’s all on me, but those moments of closeness really are priceless and I know the future me will look back and miss the days of being needed so completely.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that our now 7 month old boy
Maxon is the product of years of IVF treatment. In fact, my way of dealing with
the entire process was to share, with anyone interested or willing to
listen. To me, talking about it all made
it feel less of a big deal, less ‘taboo’ perhaps. I found over time that when I
opened up to people, I’d feel less alone; particularly as most people know of ‘someone
else’ going through an infertility journey. Not surprising really when in fact
around 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving…this is currently approximately
3.5 million people in the UK.
With that in mind, I feel a duty to share our story, with
the view that it may give others hope. I spent a great deal of time when I was
trying to draw up the strength to continue with treatment googling ‘IVF success
after multiple failed attempts’, ‘Success on 3rd cycle’….then ‘4th
Cycle’. As time went on, our odds were dwindling, we were starting to run out
of options and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. But finally, after 3
years of injecting, bloating, mood swings and pain, on our 4th and
final cycle, we got our boy.
To give a brief overview; we started our first cycle in December 2015. I was extremely optimistic going into the process; we were assured that our odds were good, I was young (27 at the time) with no known issues. I remember so vividly the Xmas of that year being confident that the cycle would work. We’d just gotten married, moved into our first home, and I was going to have a baby the following summer. My head had it ALL planned out. The ‘plan’ came crashing down rather spectacularly in the New Year when we were faced with not just a failed cycle, but initially, a poor egg yield (on our 1st attempt only 3 eggs were collected).
But I picked myself up, told myself it was a one off, and moved on, again, and again. For 3 years. Cycles 2 and 3 were more positive in that we did get pregnant, but I had very early miscarriages (classed as chemical pregnancies; where my HCG levels didn’t rise as they should, suggesting the embryos started to implant but then failed). These years were just a blur of appointments and obsessive testing in the dreaded 2 week wait.
By the point of our 3rd cycle, the process was consuming me, I was racked with anxiety and tired of living in a strange limbo where I had to act like I was pregnant, yet was faced with the very strong possibility that I’d never have a baby. Our 4th cycle was private (we are lucky to live in the NE of England where the NHS funds 3 full cycles) and the added pressure of the cost (around £7k including drugs) was a lot to deal with. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and being honest, had we not gotten pregnant when we did, I’m not sure what our next step would have been. I wonder if I could have kept going?
IVF has forever changed me, for both bad and good. It gave me anxiety that I still struggle with, but it also taught me how strong and determined I am. The science side of it, initially overwhelming to me with all the confusing terminology, became fascinating and I learned so much and educated myself. The process made me incredibly unwell (I was hospitalised with OHSS, a side effect of over stimulation from the drugs I had to inject), but it also gave me a healthy, perfect baby boy. It was a bundle of contradictions and an incredibly stressful period of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because ultimately it gave me the most incredible gift, who feels all the more precious for all it took to get him here.
Maxon’s nursery is by far my favourite room in our house. I remember when we first bought our home in 2015; standing in that little empty room and imagining holding my baby, little did I know then how long and tough a road it would be to get a baby to actually put in there! I think this longing and anticipation was a big factor for me in pouring a lot of energy into the room; in spite of the fact that this isn’t our forever home and we will need to move to something bigger within the next few years.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had a very strong feeling from day 1 that I was having a boy, and to be honest, I think I would have gone for this theme regardless of gender (obvs girls love space too!). My interior style isn’t very ‘girly’ and a pink space would have looked out of place (as would a baby blue!).
My starting point, as with pretty much anything I do interiors wise, was Pinterest, searching key phrases like ‘Space nursery’/’Kids rooms’ etc. I saw a post with constellation wallpaper and fell in love, and my search for the perfect wallpaper began. I found several brands that had similar (including one from B&Q); but when I looked at them up close I wasn’t keen on the shades of the blue and how ‘plastic’ they looked. Which gave me the idea to paint it on myself; I mean, how hard could it be? (I should add, I do like an arty challenge!)
I’d decided on this theme at around 20 weeks pregnant. But in my absolute paranoia about jinxing the pregnancy, I waited until 30 weeks to start decorating. So on the 2nd June, in the height of our hottest summer on record, resembling a mini whale, I began decorating (and when I say ‘I’, I really do mean just me, as my husband, as skilled as he is at many other things, did not set foot in here at my own wish)…
The background colour of the feature wall was an easy choice; I’m obsessed with Valspar’s Naval Brigade (I have this in my living room too). So two coats were applied in a mid sheen finish. I find dark colours work better in a mid sheen as it gives them some depth, whereas a matt can look flat and dense.
Searching’ DIY constellation walls’, I found several families online who had done similar projects, ranging massively in terms of scale, precision, time invested and methods used. After lots of reading and thought, I decided I would try and borrow a projector from a Teacher friend in order to draw on the constellations accurately. When this plan fell through, I remember feeling quite overwhelmed. How was I going to get the effect I wanted, the accuracy etc without a projector? I kept staring at the blank navy wall thinking where do I begin!
Talking it through with my husband one night, he suggested getting a plan of the stars and then working out the measurements to accurately scale it to our wall (my maths skills are atrocious so he really came in handy here). It was a little awkward to do owing to the wall having an annex ceiling, but within a few hours I had grid measurements that I could start plotting.
So plot I did, it took around 45 minutes to measure out all the grids I needed, and I marked my points with white blue tack…
So now I had a framework and measurements, it was time to start drawing. I bought several brands of paint pen in different nib widths and played around a little before committing. 0.5mm in silver (I also tried white) gave the effect I wanted, and I used a ruler and protractor to try and keep things as neat and accurate as possible.
This part took me around 4 hours. I then needed to add the points for the stars and of course, all the tiny dotted stars (which are completely random BTW). All in, the wall took me from start to finish about 7-8 hours. Which doesn’t sound a lot now looking back but seemed such a huge task so heavily pregnant!
The rest of the walls were left white in order to provide a contrast. Furniture wise, I tried to keep costs to a minimum and found pretty much everything I needed in Ikea; the drawers are Hemnes, the storage unit to the right side of the room are the Kallax and the Crib is the Sundvik model. The clothes rail is Jojo Maman Bebe (no space for a wardrobe!).
The light fitting is also Ikea (PS 2014)…and as amazing as it looks, was a NIGHTMARE to fit. We could not get the ceiling rose to sit flush (something I later discovered, after hours of Youtube videos, was a common problem amongst Ikea lights). I nearly threw the whole thing down the stairs several times…
I ordered our new fitted black out blind (we previously had cheap, paper thin verticals which you can see in the above) from Blinds2go and fitted it myself (I’d done a few others round the house prior so was a dab hand by this point, even as a huge lump). All in, including accessories like the Neon M Sign (Next), the custom space Mobile (ebay), all furniture, blinds, paint, materials etc came in at £850…which I was pretty bloody chuffed with!
I’ve continued to add little accessories to the room as and when I’ve seen them. It’s a small room so can’t take a lot but little touches like the handmade ‘La Luna’ sign and the amazing Moon print from Green Lili Art (an amazing gift from by bestie) have really helped pull together the theme…
And there we have it. I absolutely loved creating this room (as frustrated as it had me at times) and I love nothing more than putting my little guy to bed in here, remembering how much love (and literal sweat) that I poured into it!
DISCLAIMER – In no way am I advocating that there should be any pressure to lose baby weight and return to your ‘before’. This is simply an honest account of my journey and feelings. I really wanted to share my story in an attempt to show that all is not always as it seems, and while someone might look ok in clothes or appear to be back to how they were, they are still potentially dealing with body confidence issues. I am also very aware that a lot of people have it much worse than myself!
My postpartum body is kind of a tale of two halves. Weight wise, I was lucky. I gained just over 2 stone during my 39 weeks of pregnancy; a combination of being naturally slight and perhaps, more key, being heavily diet restricted due to having Gestational Diabetes. I am fully aware that on the weight side of things, I was in a very good position to be able to return to my pre pregnancy weight. When I spoke to other mums towards the end of pregnancy, I realised that my weight gain was overall on the lower side. But what wasn’t on the lower side was the size of my bump in relation to my frame; I was ‘all bump’ but the consequences of carrying so low and frontal have left me with damage to my stomach that I have struggled to accept.
I knew that I was likely to get stretch marks as all the women in my family, although slim, struggled with them too. But at 28 weeks, with no sign of them and with rigorous bio oil application (sometimes 3 times a day) I was lulled into a false sense of security. From here on in, they exploded out, covering my stomach up past my belly button. I pushed it to the back of my mind; it was a small price to pay to finally have our longed for baby. That being said, my 30 year old self now eye rolled my 20 year old self for getting a giant stomach tattoo that I knew was stretching out and going to look less than desirable in a few months time.
Fast forward to Post birth, I vividly remember looking at myself fully naked in the mirror for the first time and feeling disappointed at how pregnant I still looked. By no means had I expected it to all go, but I didn’t expect to stay looking so pregnant for quite so long. The scales were saying all the right things; I’d lost just over a stone within the first week of giving birth, but even up to 8 weeks postpartum, I still had a very visible bump. I bought lots of baggy shirts, thick leggings (forget about jeans, I couldn’t bare the sensation of tough fabric against my section scar) and control underwear. To the outside world I probably looked ok, but inside I felt like a wobbly, scarred mess.
At 5 weeks, I started trying to wear a control belt around the house. It felt good to feel ‘held in’ but I found it bulky and awkward to sit in; so would try and wear it whilst doing jobs and pottering around. I’m not convinced that it actually made any difference to me physically, but mentally I suppose it made me feel proactive that I was doing ‘something’ towards rectifying my new perceived ‘problem’.
By 3 months postpartum, I ironically looked like my 3 month pregnant self. And it was from here that I realised how damaged the skin was on my stomach. As the bump shrank, the skin loosened and I became more and more aware of the crumpled folds that had appeared (particularly from profile), and how distorted my tattoo was from the stretching. I tried to do gentle ab workouts (recommended for post section) and couldn’t, my core was too weak and my incision site, although healed to look at, still felt tender.
In lieu of targeted ab exercise, I made a conscious effort to walk more, and to try and hold my stomach in and keep my shoulders back to improve my posture. I started to be able to breathe in and hold the stomach muscles (not for very long) by around 4 months post birth. I started wearing jeans again (and just tucked my new ‘mum tum’ into high waisted underwear). It felt liberating even being able to wear jeans again after living in leggings and yoga pants for so long.
I’m now 6 months post birth, and to be honest, not convinced that the appearance of my stomach is going to get significantly better from here on in; certainly not ‘better enough’ in my own eyes to wear a bikini confidently (although I hope in time I will). The skin is damaged and scarred, paper thin and loose, and no amount of miracle lotions or exercise are going to eradicate that
So right now I’m working on trying to learn to love my new body, saggy, scarred stomach and all. A body that gave me my beautiful son, a body that endured years of gruelling fertility treatments. I’m learning to focus on the positive parts of myself, to be kinder. I’m trying to look in the mirror naked more, apply my moisturiser without wincing and remember that this is a new version of myself; a better version in many ways, whose body now tells a story of what I have been through. I want Maxon to grow up hearing me speak positively about myself, I want him to know that it’s ok to not be perfect and that’s only going to happen if I set the right tone by being nicer to myself and embracing this new, postpartum body.
The truths no one told me about that first month. If you are an expectant mama; here is the honest truth. Not sure whether to say ‘sorry’ or ‘you’re welcome’. If you are already a Mama , you will identify with most of the below…
1. You will still look pretty pregnant for a while yet. I looked 6 months pregnant from the day Maxon was born until he was 6 weeks old (When I then only looked 3 months pregnant, sigh). I promise it will get better. Your uterus will eventually gets it’s act together and shrink back to its original home.
2. You will cry. At anything and everything. For at least a month. Staring at your baby, cry, drop your biscuit on the floor, cry. My biggest advice here? Look away from the TV at any hint of an animal charity advert.
3. C-Section mamas – you won’t be able to stand up straight for a good few weeks. Your posture will temporarily resemble that of the old witch from Snow White. I promise that one day in the not too distant future, you will be able to pull your shoulders back.
4. Wind. Don’t really need to say much more here. Everyone gets it postpartum but from what I’ve read, it’s most common post section. Try and time it with your movement/tired groans if you want to hide it; but let’s be honest most of your dignity left you a few days back and it’s the least of your current concerns.
5. Your boobs will engorge very suddenly. The phrase ‘your milk comes in’ is literal. Definitely take a picture of them, it’s probably the best they will look from here on in.
6. You will lose all concept of time in those first few weeks. Paradoxically the days are long but go extremely fast.
7. Those Bridget Jones knickers you bought for the first few days post birth? The ones that you scoffed at? You will come to love them. They hold everything in. I didn’t give mine up until 2 months pp.
8. Having a shower and washing your hair in the first month of your baby arriving will feel like an amazing accomplishment. Because IT IS.
9. Leaving the house for the first few times with the baby will feel terrifying. And more often than not, you will get out (after hours or equipment prep, it’s like getting ready for a flight but never going anywhere), and want to go straight back home.
10. You will both want a break, but also wince at the thought, of being parted from your baby. You dream of an hour off, but if you take one, will spend the whole time missing them and feeling like you’ve lost a limb. And this fact alone sums up motherhood from here on in.
Disclaimer – if you are squeamish, you have been warned!
It’s strange writing ‘Birth’. At times, I’ve wrongly felt that I didn’t give ‘birth’ owing to having had a planned c section. But, when I really think it through, I’m just as much of a badass mother for having been cut open as I would have been had I had a natural birth. And most importantly, our son arrived safe and sound.
As I mentioned in my pregnancy post, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes at 26 weeks. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the implications, GD usually means that your baby is bigger than they should be. Hormones from your placenta interfere with your bodies ability to regulate insulin levels, your blood sugar levels rise, and this results in your baby taking in elevated levels of glucose.
Maxon was measuring ahead even as early as 20 weeks. We laughed it off, ‘oh hes going to be chunky’, but when I got the GD diagnosis, we realised that his size was the result of my condition. After reading up on birth complications that were more common in babies of GD mothers such as shoulder dytocia, (where the head is born but the babies shoulder becomes stuck behind the pubic bone), and discussing it with our consultant, we agreed that it was sensible to have a planned caesarian to avoid any such risks.
We were given the date of my section at our 36 week appointment and it felt surreal being told the exact day we’d meet our boy. As I neared the date, I became panicky that I would go into labour and lose control, but apart from the odd Braxton hicks, we made it to 39 weeks.
The night before the section I’d envisaged having some sort of last supper where we’d relax and enjoy our last night as a twosome, but my anxiety was through the roof and I was awful to be around. I spent a good few hours screaming and ranting at my husband and totally lost my shit. I barely slept and woke up at 5 and started rechecking all the bags for the millionth time.
We arrived at the hospital just before 7 and were told that there was myself and one other lady in for a planned section, and we’d be told who was going first after the team held their morning brief. Luckily, we went first and our consultant (who we really liked) would be doing the op.
Walking into theatre I started to feel a little panicked. The surgical team however, were fantastic; they chatted to me none stop and made every effort to keep me calm. Their positivity and excitement started to rub off a little and I began to feel excited more than fearful. It felt bizarre knowing in as little as an hour I’d be holding our son.
The spinal was administered and nowhere near as painful as I’d imagined, the hardest part was leaning forward over my giant bump to get into the right position for them to do it! Once I was laid down, they started testing my levels of sensation with ice cubes. 10 minutes had passed and I still had sensation in my left side…so the bed was tilted down to the left to try and even me out. another 15 minutes passed and I still had some sensation. The Anaesthatist started to discuss ‘options’ and the potential of a general if they could not get me numb, but luckily after another 5 minutes, I’d lost enough sensation for them to go ahead.
Once they’d started cutting (again, don’t read on if you have a sensitive disposition), I could feel lots of pressure. If I had to describe what it felt like, I’d say almost like that strange twisting sensation that you get in your stomach when you go upside down on a rollercoaster. I alternated between staring at the ceiling and looking nervously at my husband (Who, for the record, was insanely calm and watched behind the screen…but he is a surgeon himself so I guess peoples insides are much of a muchness!). Our consultant talked me through each step and the Anaesthetic team at my head repeatedly asked me how I was feeling.
At 10:43AM, I heard the words, ‘Oh he’s a big boy and he’s got a lot of hair’ as Maxon was lifted up and briefly shown to me before being whisked to a table nearby for checks. I burst into tears and felt relief like no other when I heard him cry out. All I could say was ‘Is he ok, is he ok’ over and over. Tracey Chapman’s ‘Baby can I hold you tonight’ was coincidentally playing on the radio in the background. My husband cut the cord and held him close to my head while they started the process of closing me up.
The next part was where things started to go slightly wrong. I started to feel more than just pressure and felt an overwhelming wave of nausea from the pain. Apparently I cried out but I don’t really remember this, and was given anti-sickness meds to help. They suspect that my spinal had started to wear off owing to the delayed start. I asked for my husband to hold Maxon away from me as I was terrified I was going to be sick on him! I have very little recollection of the final 20 minutes in theatre, and I suspect that’s my heads way of protecting me from an unpleasant memory.
Once back in recovery, Maxon was weighed and given a second set of checks. At 8lb 2oz he was nowhere near the forecasted 9lb+ that had been estimated on the growth scans. I still wonder to this day if I’d have managed to deliver him safely naturally. Within an hour, I’d regained full sensation in my legs (further confirming that the spinal hadn’t been as effective as it should have been). I’ll be doing a separate post on recovery from a section, as it’s something I get asked about a lot.
All in all, I would say my birth experience was positive for the most part. The environment was calm, I had confidence in everyone around me, and the regaining of some sensation was an unfortunate end to things. Do I feel like I missed out on a traditional ‘birth’ experience? In some ways I think I do. I wonder how I would have coped; would I have managed it on gas and air? Would I have begged for an epidural? Most probably the latter. But what I do know, is that post op, laid with Maxon in my arms, that it all kind of melted away and reinforced to me that the feeling of missing out ‘on an experience’ was nowhere near as monumental to me as the feeling of having him safe and well.
So I always assumed that once we actually got pregnant (after 3 years and 4 cycles of IVF), that I’d be able to relax, but the start of my pregnancy was terrifying and miserable. The week before Christmas 2017, I was hospitalised after developing OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, a reaction to the IVF medication, which I’ll go through in more detail in a separate IVF Post). I was given an early scan at just over 6 weeks pregnant on Christmas eve whilst in hospital to confirm viability, only to be told that the pregnancy sac was empty, it looked to be a ‘blighted ovum’ and I would likely have an early miscarriage. We were heartbroken and spent all of Christmas and New Year holed away on our own, grieving and wondering when and if we’d be able to face another cycle.
When I hadn’t naturally passed the pregnancy by the 8th January, we were given a repeat scan before any medical intervention and lo and behold, to everyone’s amazement, there was a very definite baby and heartbeat. We were astounded, the consultants were amazed. It took us days to get our heads around it. I suppose this start to everything was a huge factor in the anxiety I felt so strongly in the first and second trimesters.
My pregnancy was classed as high risk and very closely monitored from the onset. I had additional scans prior to the typical 12 week scan. And my life at that point was simply a case of getting through the day and counting the time down to when I could next see a heartbeat and be reassured. I regularly went to bed at 8pm, not through exhaustion, but so I could get the day over with and move on to the next.
I thought getting to 12 weeks would make me relax but no, it was all just a countdown exercise of getting to the next ‘stage’ and assuming it would get less stressful. It didn’t. I had a very small amount of spotting 3 days before our 12 week scan during a weekend when my husband was working. I was wracked with anxiety. I barely moved from the settee, the fear of going to the toilet and seeing blood was crippling. But sure enough, it passed and we were relieved to see a healthy baby at the scan.
We found out that I had low Papp-A levels off the back of the 12 week blood tests. I was told that this may be associated with several issues; such as having a low birth weight baby due to placenta problems, an increased chance of an early birth and an increased risk of pre-eclampsia. I was devastated. I was told that I’d be given extra scans (which I would have had any way with it being an IVF pregnancy). So now in my head, I was doubly high risk and utterly convinced that something would go wrong.
I felt Maxon move from 17 weeks, which I thought might reassure me, but nope, I then just stressed that he wasn’t moving enough. Looking back, I struggled massively with the fact that I was pregnant after so long. It all seemed very surreal, like it was happening to someone else; and I was waiting for it to come crashing down around me.
Finding out the gender at 17 weeks was a huge step for us in the pregnancy feeling real. We needed to have some control after having had none for so many years and knowing more about this baby seemed to help that. I’d felt very strongly from day 1 that we would have a boy so was not at all surprised when the sonographer announced it. To be honest, we would have been happy with a baby goat by this point but I’ll never forget the look on my husbands face being told he was going to have a son.
I ticked along for the next month and started to relax a little. At 26 weeks, I was tested for Gestational Diabetes after some sugar in my urine sample. By this point I’d gained only a stone in weight, and having started out with a BMI of 20 and in good health, did not think for a second that I’d have it. I have no family history of diabetes, have never been overweight…I just didn’t fit the profile. So when my fasting test showed elevated blood sugar levels I thought it was maybe just a one off, so had the test repeated a week later only to be told that I did in fact have GD and I needed to start finger prick testing and controlling my diet.
Telling a pregnant woman she can’t have sugar is CRUEL. I was definitely angry when I turned up to my diet review appointment (poor nurse!). Over the next few weeks I learned that pretty much any interesting carbs would cause my levels to spike. So for 14 weeks, I lived on porridge for breakfast (no honey or anything exciting to jazz it up), a ham pitta for lunch (forget about sauces) and protein and veg on an evening. The highlight of my day was being able to have 3 apple slices with a spoon of peanut butter. It was bloody miserable but I knew I had to be careful; my babies health could be compromised if I wasn’t.
Diet restrictions aside, once I was finally able to accept that this was happening to me (from around 28 weeks); I started to enjoy my pregnancy. I loved feeling Maxon wriggle and I began to feel a pride in my body that I hadn’t known possible. The bigger my bump got, the more real it felt so with that in mind, I really didn’t mind my body changing (even when the dreaded stretch marks made their appearance!).
The 3rd trimester was a real turning point for me. I felt great. Yes, I was starting to struggle to sleep and my lower back ached but I was lucky to feel pretty much myself otherwise. The final month was tough going in the heat but I managed to make it through to 39 weeks still feeling pretty good. I had scans every 2 weeks, all was looking well and I began to look forward to, rather than fear, the scans.
My bump was ENORMOUS at the end and, looking back, I don’t know how I managed to do anything. But there I was, in my final weeks, bleaching skirting boards and repainting rooms; I became completely obsessive about cleanliness in the house and my poor husband was barely allowed to breathe. I nested BIG TIME.
There are times now when I actually miss being pregnant (needless to say, those times are not when I’ve got a glass of wine in my hand). I miss stroking my bump and feeling the little jabs trying to discern which body part it was. I miss staring down trying to imagine what it was going to feel like to hold him; it felt equal amounts scary and exciting. I’m so pleased I took thousands of photos and videos and spent so much time appreciating the feeling, as it really is incredible to look back on.
Writing this all out really does highlight to me that I probably should have reached out for help, and if anyone out there is reading this and struggling with pregnancy anxiety, please know that you are not alone, and there is help available through your GP. I’d like to say that if we were lucky enough to have another child in the future that I wouldn’t struggle in the same way, but there really are no guarantees and in some ways, I think our IVF journey has changed me in a way that can’t be reversed. But anxiety aside, I will always look back on my pregnancy as one of the most incredible years of my life, and I still feel, to this day, incredibly lucky to have had the experience.