The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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To Parents Of Even Smaller Children

So, I’ve had a couple of miserable days recently. And then it all gets better again and I forget how bad it was. Only I write a blog so I wanted to write about the miserable stuff too, before I forget. To share, you see. To make you feel better perhaps. Hell, to make me feel better.

First, there was the day I was cooking a fish pie, with my son bouncing in his jumperoo, nursery rhymes playing; feeling warm and cosy and thinking what domestic bliss! I am a domestic goddess earth mother type person! My baby boy had even fallen asleep on the jumperoo he was so relaxed and I popped him easily in his cot for a snooze.

Only, an hour later, I woke him up by mistake trying to get some of his dirty laundry to wash, and he screamed the house down. Nothing I could do could get him back to sleep so by the time I’d bundled him into the pram, the fish pie was burnt, the Le Creuset pie dish was smashed in my rush to tidy the kitchen, and I had to leave my cosy warm house to walk out into the rain to calm a sleeping baby back to sleep before I even had the chance to grab any lunch. Suddenly I was tired, and hungry, and cold, pounding the streets endlessly until he fell asleep. And of course then the chaos had a knock-on effect on the rest of the day, making us miss a baby class and cancel a coffee with a friend.

A few days later and unplanned Armageddon hit again. Having had an amazing week with Mr Schmoo (for that is what he is now called), where he was happy and sweet and fell asleep easily for long naps, suddenly my baby boy was changed. He was whingy and whining and kicking and arching his back, and refusing to go down for naps even though I could tell he was exhausted. But why, I cried to the heavens?! It could have been many things – teething, constipation from eating solid food, a “Wonder Week” leap of development that had sent him bananas.

All I knew was my perfect routine was now shattered. But on this morning, I also woke up shattered. I had a cold, a sniffy, achey, knackered cold which meant all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa, put the fire on, and watch Ray Donovan on repeat. Add to this it was cold and pouring outside and I envisaged a lazy day of playing and snoozing.

Sadly Schmoo had other ideas. He was up at 5am and didn’t fancy going back to sleep again. Then he ate a bit too much acidic fruit for breakfast and spent the entire day straining in a constipated fug that might almost have been funny if it hadn’t looked so painful. Add to this crazy teething that made him bite anything in sight (including my face). Any attempts to make him nap when he looked exhausted ended up with him SCREAMING blue bloody murder, arching his back and kicking around, so all I could do was rock him and walk and eventually reach for the Calpol. He didn’t nap AT ALL. And so, I ended up, of course, pounding the streets again with the wee man in the pram. With pouring rain soaking me, a passing car chucking a puddle onto me for good measure. Not one walk but THREE walks. All lasting exactly the length of time that he slept, round in circles sometimes, perhaps stopping for a coffee and maybe a sit down…..NO he’s woken up, up you get and keep walking…

Hungry, cold, tired, ill. But luckily The Chef did bedtime and got him to bed, only the wee man was so tired he didn’t drink enough milk, so we was up at 3am, and again at 4am….

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Several of my mummy friends on Facebook posted this article by Steve Wiens in the Huffington PostTo Parents Of Small Children – which talks about how exhausting and relentless caring for little ones can be, and how, although wonderful at times, kids can make you frustrated and so bone-tired, you almost can’t imagine making it til bedtime.

When I first read it, I’d had a lovely day with Schmoo and couldn’t really empathise. But now I think about it all the time.

When I’m walking in the rain pushing a crying baby I also think – how on earth will I make it to bedtime?

I think of the relentlessness of it all, the fact that I never really stop being responsible, never really get more than a few snatched hours as a break.

And that even if I could have longer I don’t actually want to or feel I should, and I need to go through the arduous process of finding a good childminder and then paying them money I should be saving.

I think of the “breaks” that I do have that are filled with pureeing, and sterilizing, and washing, and cleaning, and doing admin, and replying to emails. And never seem to be filled with nice things like doing my nails or having a bath or reading a book.

I think of my friend who didn’t even have time to change her Tampax when her baby was screaming, until she finally ended up screaming herself.

I think of my friend who is now up every two hours at night, after months of sleeping through.

I think of my friend who’s son pulls out great tufts of her hair every day.

(It’s not the same friend, by the way, that would be really shit).

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But then the next day, today, Schmoo is back on great form. And one big, gummy smile, and I’m delirious again. And I’m tickling his tummy listening to him laugh, and in awe of him rolling not once but twice. I’m bouncing him on my knee singing Grand Old Duke Of York, and giving him huge cuddles and kisses. I’m pushing him in his pram, this time singing, and I’m laughing and smiling at him, thinking how wonderful and amazing he is and how much I love him.

And it’s OK now, it’s really OK.

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So what have I learned from the shit days?

  • The Wonder Weeks app is a fairly good indicator of whether you will be living with a saint or a monster
  • A night out with friends can restore your sanity – and all it costs is the price of a bottle or wine, and a hangover
  • A few hours’ break courtesy of a partner or friend can make a huge difference. Go shopping! Have a bath! Sit in your pants and look at Facebook!
  • Babies have rubbish memories so they won’t remember the crying and the screaming, once they feel better they won’t recall any of the bad stuff
  • But WE do remember and it does affect us – it’s OK to walk away sometimes and let someone else take over
  • They only last a few days, weeks at most…

….Everyone goes through it and it will pass.

It does pass, really.

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On Happiness & Motherhood

Note from Sasha: I wrote about happiness and being a mum on my other blog, The Happiness Project London, and I thought I’d share it here….

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And then there were three….

You will have to excuse my lack of blogging of late. But on 27 March 2013, I gave birth to my son and my life changed out of all recognition. And recently, 7 weeks on, I’ve realised some things about happiness that make the HPL rules more important than ever to stick to and I wanted to share them here.

It is only now, as my body releases the hormones I’ve had circulating in my system over the last 10 or so months, which kept my baby inside me and allowed him to grow, that I am able to reflect on how I’ve changed.

Firstly, I realise I had a tough pregnancy. I have a new-found affinity for Kim Kardashian in that I too grew to the size of a small bus while carrying my baby boy, to the extent that many people (including medical practitioners) told me I must be having a huge baby. I feel for her because while you can put vanity on the back burner as much as you can, hating photos of yourself, catching yourself sideways in a mirror and gasping at your sheer bulk, isn’t the best thing for your self-confidence or esteem.

And then there’s how the hormones affect you. For me, my body was allergic to the hormones, and while my body gave everything it could to make my son the beautiful and chilled out boy he is, it took something from me – my skin became red and sore and swollen and itchy, I didn’t look like me, I would look in the mirror and cry in pain and in sadness at the loss of something. Only now, when he is 7 weeks, and my skin has begun to look normal again (thanks, in part, to Waitrose Baby Bottom Cream, who knew?), I feel that I have regained “me” again, only a fatter me with droopier boobs.

Then there’s the moods, the loss of confidence at work because of baby brain and guilt about maternity leave and your career path, the overwhelming love and fear for your baby and your family, and the separation from old friends whose lives are now on a different track.

Then there’s the birth. Well mine was pretty bloody awful. It was brutal and traumatic and you can read about it on my baby blog here if you want to. It gave something to me, of course – it gave me a power and a confidence, especially as I did it without an epidural and mostly on gallons of gas and air, but it also made me cynical and angry at mother nature and at life, and its something I realise I need to recover from mentally and emotionally, as does The Chef who saw things I can’t even imagine.

And finally motherhood. The highs, those incredible highs – of picking up a sleepy warm baby in the morning, of the first smile, the picking his clothes and laughing when he does something funny, the watching him asleep, the cuddles and the love – that overwhelming love again – and the worry about anything that might happen to him. I feel such pride in my family, in him, this chilled out wee fella that The Chef and I made, who seems better than us, who seems so perfect, who I can’t wait to watch grow, who develops every single day.

But, at 7 weeks, as the hormones that made him slip away, I feel something new. A sense of change, of wondering who I am now, what I do from here.

I’m not working, my life is my baby and cups of coffee, endless coffees, with other mums. We talk about our babies and about our boobs and our stitches. I am fascinated with recording every feed, every poo, every minute of sleep.

I found myself telling a (male) friend of mine, in great detail, about how my son hadn’t pooed for 2 days and how it was great that he had finally done a poo that morning, explaining in detail how he went red and I felt bad for him but was also happy as he’d been constipated… and halfway through I thought – what on EARTH am I doing! I’m talking about my son’s shits in great detail! To a bloke! I’ve become one of those mothers….And I post photos of him on Facebook all the time. And when The Chef brings up something in the news I feel ashamed – I didn’t watch the news today, in fact my world is here, so small now, between the bedroom and the nursery and the kitchen. And between the coffees, I am here – in the nursery mostly – with him, loving him and cuddling him, but alone, lonely at times. Working us both up to the next coffee, the next GP visit, the walk to the park, that is the day’s activity.

My god I’m not complaining. I love being a mum – I’m good at it I think. I love him and I love our life together and I love my family. But I realise my identity, my happiness, my confidence, has taken a knock with all this, left me moody and on the verge of rage or tears fairly easily, left me not quite knowing who I am now, how I’ve changed, whether I will ever be the old “me” again. And so now, I realise how important it is that I work on my happiness, and in doing so, work out where I go from here.

And so to the rules again:

1. Be Active – important given I can only live in elasticated waistbands for so long. I’m doing a mother & baby yoga class to ease my creaky bones, and I’ve dug out my gym kit with thoughts of swimming and running.

2. Connect – vitally important for me right now. I miss my friends after 7 weeks of wanting to be holed up with my baby boy. I want to organise a girls’ night out and drink wine – wine! – and a night eating good food with The Chef. I want to drink a martini. I want to go to the cinema. I want to see old friends, and friends without kids, and phone people when I feel isolated with a baby stuck to my breast.

3. Give – my current bugbear, after awe-inspiring treatment by NHS midwives at Kingston hospital, is the proposed plans for the NHS – the fact that it is effectively being privatised from under our noses to an American-style insurance-based system with healthcare for the richest, from private companies, while the poorest will suffer. I need to see what I can do to get involved. As a mum I’m also filled with an empathy I don’t think I had before – so I want to make sure I give clothes and toiletries to charities that help women and children.

4. Nurture – easy. I do it every day until around 7pm when I put him down to sleep. But there are other projects too to get excited about – transforming my garden, planting new colourful flowers, transforming the house in which I spend so much time in nowadays. Projects, and economical maternity-leave budgeting ones at that, will keep me busy over the next few months.

5. Learn – I’m going to learn to cook. As The Chef knows, I can barely boil an egg, but I’d love to get better of it, to become a bit more domesticated, to feed my lovely family. I’m starting this week with doing a few simple meals. God help us all.

6. Be Curious – Since the hormonal fug of pregnancy has started to lift, the baby is able to sleep in his pram, and I’m mastering public transport, I want to go exploring London again. So many places I want to go – Eel Pie island (open house 22/23 June), the Polka Theatre, the Electric Cinema, some of the new restaurants whose openings I’ve totally missed.

Happiness, like confidence, is a transient thing, and one you need to keep working at. Getting married, having a baby, can be the happiest time of your life, but the changes they bring and emotions they evoke can be overwhelming at times. I’m glad I have the HPL rules to ground me, and I love a project to work on. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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Remedies for a Bad Back

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I’m 32 weeks with a huge bumperoo, and had some good news lately. After lots of R&R and a lovely relaxing babymoon in Kent (thanks to The Chef!), I’m feeling healthy, happy and rested. And a 32 week scan revealed an incredibly fat baby (top 97 percentile tummy size!), and no longer a vertically-challenged placenta, but one that has moved up and beyond my cervix. Hurrah.

But the latest problem I’ve had to deal with – which seems fairly common for this stage of pregnancy – is a bad back. I’ve had lower back and pelvic girdle pain, shooting pains in my pelvis from my sacroiliac joint popping out, and incredibly tight, stiff, tense back muscles from carrying the weight of El Bumpo.

While I’ve accepted that this is likely to happen on and off until baby arrives, I thank my lucky stars I’ve avoided SPD, and I’ve found several things that have helped me that I wanted to share:

  • I’ve found reflexology absolutely amazing. It gives a holistic solution to problems, dealing with both emotional and physical issues. For example, my wonderful reflexologist suggested some of my back problems stemmed from weeks of stress over Christmas, and worries about money and nesting, which caused my upper and lower back to tense up. That something which at its most basic was a very relaxing “foot rub” also diagnosed anxiety and digestion issues, shows what a powerful thing it is. I have no idea how it works, but for me it really has. I see Shirley-Ann Foster in Kingston.
  • I also do a monthly preggie massage with Shirley-Ann which relaxes me and allows me to get a good night’s sleep.
  • I’ve seen an osteopath for my back which was good, but I’ve found preggie physio really beneficial as all our body’s muscles are linked and a problem in one place often stems from issues in another. I had lower back and pelvis pain which turned out to be due to tight thigh muscles which needed to be stretched out. Agonising shooting pains in my pelvis were due to my sacroiliac joint popping out which needed to be slotted back in place. And now my lower back and pelvis pain is caused by several things, including the baby putting pressure on my thorax capacity and upper back (which has also made my breathing similar to Darth Vader), and the bump pulling my weight forwards, making my back strain to keep me upright. Physio massages are painful but brilliant for loosening up and getting a comfortable night’s sleep. I see Helen Keeble at the White Hart Lane Clinic, Barnes.
  • My physio also tried some acupuncture on me which was amazing. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, but adapted for the Western world, it works by pushing a needle into your muscle, causing the muscle to contract around it and then to relax. It also causes a small wound which sends healing waves to the area. Finally, the points can respond to different body issues – the points in my back where I was most tight responded to my bladder median. Surely not surprising that having to wee 100 times a day might have caused problems….
  • Stretching exercises have been amazing in trying to keep flexible. Try a few of these at the bus stop / train platform / at your desk:
    • Pelvic tilts
    • Cat stretches
    • Front thigh and calf stretches
    • Bum squeezes
    • Upper body and shoulder twists
    • Pelvic floor squeezes
  • Preggie yoga (and pilates I’d imagine, although I found it too difficult to do with a big bump) has really helped in stretching me out and limbering me up, the breathing and repetition making me more flexible. I see Natalie Meddings at the Garage Studio, Barnes.
  • Really practical comforts are:
    • Hot-water battles
    • Ice packs
    • Dream Genii pillow to sleep with
    • Deep heat creams (I also used Marmot Fat cream  – apparently an Austrian muscle and joint healer!)
    • I’d imagine any chemist-bought muscle relaxing creams and heated pads would help massively both for bad backs and for labour
    • Hypno-birthing relaxing CDs to breathe the pain away.

Finally, and I’m having to remind myself this all the time – TAKE IT EASY. After frantic nesting for weeks, I spent pretty much the whole of last weekend in bed, watching Modern Family on the iPad, and it did me the world of good. As a couple of lovely blog comments have already taught me, this really is the only time I can ever put my feet up, treat myself and relax, as the next time I go through this, I’ll have a mental toddler with a giant belly running round. I’m trying not to feel guilty about cancelling social arrangements, delegating housework, or asking friends to give me a pillow to sit on.


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Baby on board – royal babies and a royal pain in the arse

So Kate Middleton is pregnant and we seem to consider ourselves collectively entitled to speculate on everything from baby names to colour of hair; while commenting on her medical condition and whether or not she’s just being a wuss.

As someone who has suffered quite a bit myself from being up the duff, I felt a huge amount of sympathy for her. Not only have I read how debilitating hyperemesis gravidarum can be, she is having to suffer the indignity of her private and medical life being dissected and discussed by all and sundry, at a time when she probably just wants to snuggle on the sofa with a hot water bottle and a box set, without having to see or speak to anyone. While we had to hide the indignity of constipation, hives, excema and acne from work colleagues and acquaintances, she had the extra pressure of trying to keep smiling to an ensemble of school children whilst wanting to vomit discretely behind the hockey goal.

But whilst my sympathy as a fellow pregnant lady is understandable, I’ve been amazed at the vitriol spouting on my Facebook about the whole thing. Yes, you might be bored with the speculation, yes she obviously has a fairly extreme case of morning sickness, but I’ve seen comments – often from other women – questioning whether “normal people” would need to go to hospital with a “bit of vomiting” or even that she should “harden the f**k up“.

Lovely.

And it made me question how sympathetic we are as a society to pregnant women in general. I’ve had medical professionals act like I was a right royal pain in the arse simply for trying to get help for pretty severe skin problems, being told that pregnancy was a bit shit and that I should just deal with it. It was as if pain and suffering was a woman’s lot and a burden to be carried around stoically without so much as a whimper. It took a male GP and a male osteopath to point out that in fact I didn’t have to put up with unnecessary pain and hardship, that I was right to complain, and that something could be done about it.

This same lack of sympathy can be seen on London’s public transport. I must admit I’ve always hated the “Baby on Board” badges, assuming pre-pregnancy (totally unfairly) a slight smugness, an unwarranted self of entitlement, on behalf of the wearer. I have finally got hold of one (here) but still haven’t got round to wearing it yet as I still feel self-conscious and uncomfortable doing so. In real life I don’t like talking about myself or my pregnancy much (yes, I am aware of the irony of blogging about it all instead) and prefer to carry on life as normal – albeit a lot spottier – so screaming out that I’m with child to complete strangers on my morning commute doesn’t really appeal.

But as I’m week 25 and the bump and me are about the size of a small van, I’m finding I really do need to sit down, not because I feel that as I’m pregnant I am somehow entitled to a better commute than everyone else, but because my legs and hips and pelvis and back hurt, because I’m so out of breath I’m claustrophobic when crammed into small spaces, and standing in a crowded train means getting pushed and jostled and bumped in the bump. A nasty prang with a fold-up bike smacked against my belly was enough to make me now try actively to get a seat, and for me that means doing the least I can do to draw attention to myself, while giving me the best chance of getting a seat. My trick is to undo my coat buttons and stand duck-like with bump protruding until someone notices. To be fair, they nearly always do.

I find it embarrassing and I hate the charade of pretending not to catch people’s eyes while hoping desperately that you – YOU – will notice and stand up for me. I do find it is mostly men who stand up, while women often look away, and I don’t know if this is because women feel like men should be the ones to offer their seats, or whether they were like me with the Baby on Board badgers, begrudging another woman her imagined smugness, her sense of entitlement; or thinking that she should just suffer in silence as women have done before her, as women should.

Who knows. All I know is that since all this happened, I’ve felt a bond with my fellow women, have felt more feminist, more feminine. So I feel a new warmth and empathy towards Kate, towards my mother, all mothers, all daughters. Maggie Howell in her wonderful birth book quotes a Tanzanian saying:

“Pay attention to the pregnant woman – there is no one more important than she”

And it is this that TFL should print on those badges; this that I hope my fellow passengers on the 08:49 to Waterloo consider before they unceremoniously boot me out the way.


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My first NCT nearly new sale

So, my mummy friend invited me to my first NCT nearly new sale last Sunday. Yes, its mega early (I’m only 18 weeks this Saturday) but I thought as I didn’t have to buy anything it might be a good way to leisurely sniff out some bargains.

Well, leisurely it was not. We got there 20 minutes before it opened (NCT members get in 15 minutes before everyone else) and there was already a queue. There then proceeded to be a lot of pushing and shoving and annoyance and general angst before we all flooded in. And from then on it really was handbags (and prams, and bumps) at dawn. My friend was brilliant, shouting “there’s a baby bjorn in the corner – grab it!” and “get that bumbo under the desk!” while I stumbled round confused, wondering what on earth is a bumbo?! When I found said bumbo, another be-bumped lady told me she’d got it first and I was unceremoniously pushed to another stand.

Anyway, thanks to my friend who I shouted to across the stands “what should I buy next?!” every 2 minutes, I managed to buy some very cute stuff at bargain prices so I’d definitely recommend you check out your local sale if you want to pick up some bargains. My tips for surviving another one (and it really is survival of the fittest) is:

  • get there early
  • ditch the jacket / pram as its boiling and rammed
  • carry a large bag for your purchases (I had to make two trips to the car)
  • bring a friend / partner to recce the whole place and tell you what is good and what to go for
  • look under the tables and in baskets to find hidden treasures
  • don’t buy the first thing you see – there might be more of the same brand in better condition in other stalls
  • work out what you really need / want in advance otherwise it’s overwhelming
  • make sure you take a break after about 15 minutes of manic haggling – you’ll need it

So, to my surprise as a complete novice at these sorts of things, and parenting generally, I reckon I got some good stuff. Here’s what I bought:

A bumbo for £15 (RRP approx £40) – without tray which needs to be bought separately. Wish I’d shopped around as there were actually loads for around £13, many with trays

A travel cot for £20 (RRP approx £60-80)

Baby bath seat £1

A very cute rocking horse, (looooove!), £12

Baby bjorn (a little dirty) £5 (RRP approx £70)

Cute play matt thing £10

Tommee Tippee baby monitor (£8 – new) (RRP approx £35)

Assorted toys & books, £1 and £2 each


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My Maternity Wardrobe

Without going nuts on maternity clothes, I’ve managed to pick up some really nice things that I’m hoping will keep me going for the next 6 months. Where possible, I’m buying things that will look great after the baby is born as otherwise it seems really wasteful, and I’ve been borrowing what I can from mummy friends. Here’s what I like:

Maternity jeans 

Tops

  • I’ve found GAP does some great non-maternity V-neck baggy Ts that will go well with or without bump – a nice low V to show off new ginormous cleavage with plenty of room for growing bump and nice and long.
  • Topshop has some nice maternity T-shirts but they are 90% polyester so not great if you want skin to breathe.
  • Although a bit more expensive, and as they are tight they look better if your bump is a bit bigger, the Seraphine nursing tops are very glamorous
  • Thanks to the comments below, I’ve also recently bought the Isabella Oliver ruched tank, striped top and scoop neck top all which are gorgeous and show off my bump. Great catalogue to flick through too and they are currently doing 20% off.

The Scoop Top | Top | Isabella Oliver

Isabella Oliver Scoop top

Knitwear

Dresses

  • I’ve picked up some lovely maternity dresses from Mamas & Papas on ebay (£3 each – bargain!) – love the shape as they show off your cleavage and are loose over the bump (tight doesn’t work for me).
  • The Vila and Poem collections at Oliver Bonas also include some lovely non-maternity dresses that work well with a bump.
  • I bought the gorgeous Emily dress from Isabella Oliver in wine which is really flattering and shows off my bump – now 30% off with the flash sale.
  • I love the gorgeous Asos breton stripe dress (as seen in Pregnancy & Baby magazine, my new guilty pleasure) 
  • My favourite purchases however are from JoJo Maman Bebe which seems to suit me the best – I really love my JoJo Maman Bebe essential maternity dress which I have in 2 colours (LOTS of compliments – first time ever for maternity clothes), although like lots of JoJo Maman Bebe stuff the arms are ridiculously long
  • I also love their black shift dresses, now sold out though

Essential Maternity Dresses

JoJo Maman Bebe Essential Maternity dress – ridiculously comfy & flattering

Accessories

Coats 

  • It seems lots of women just wear their normal coats “open” with a scarf covering bump, but I’m spending Christmas in Scotland so I’d like to get a swing coat that will cover bump and be good for normal too. JoJo Manan Bebe has some nice ones and H&M has some really nice coats at a decent price (under £40). Asos is a place to try too.

Maternity bras 

  • I’ve got the super comfy Bravado maternity and nursing bras from JoJo Maman Bebe in black and white (£25)
  • Just to keep some semblance of glamour, I got the Elle Macpherson La Mere black lace maternity bra £35 – actually lovely and comfy and doesn’t look too bad either.

Cotton Flannel Kimono Robe

Charlotte & Co dressing gowns

Nursing stuff, lazing clothes and nighties

  • I’m heading to Primark for their button down dark nighties, pants, trackie bums and vest tops.
  • I also bought this lovely nightie from Mamas & Papas
  •  And this gorgeous wrap around dressing gown from Charlotte & Co
  • Rather than nursing tops which I’ve heard mixed messages about, I’m planning just to wear shirts and vests and to perhaps pick up a mamascarf.

….BUT MY FAVOURITE PURCHASE OF THE LOT has to be, rather embarrassingly, my Just Sheepskin slippers which, I think it is not an exaggeration to say, have increased my day-to-day happiness tenfold. Oh the glamour!


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Pregnancy yoga, active birthing & hypno-birthing

I’m 16 weeks and 6 days. And I’m trying something called Active Birth Yoga. Well in fact I tried it. Once. And I was a little bit small so I felt a little bit ridiculous as all the other women were so much bigger (one was 41 weeks) especially as the exercises could have been done by an arthritic 90 year old, while I can still touch my toes.

But I’m planning on giving this active birth thing a shot.

Ina May Gaskin appears to be the poster girl for the movement and the premise is pretty understandable. It says us women were born to give birth – its simple. Our bodies were meant to do it, they know what to do, we just need to chill out and get on with it. The modern era of medicine is of course welcome in what it can do in high risk cases, but in fact it has complicated matters. It makes us lie down when actually gravity tells us the best way to give birth is sitting, squatting or on all fours. Its what primitive woman used to do – there’s cave paintings and everything.

But with modern medicine and our risk-averse society, they say, we give up our natural maternal instinct to have birth imposed upon us. It’s all tubes and examinations and drugs and pushing and pulling and lying down and not really feeling anything.  Its One Born Every Minute. It’s tearing and groggy babies, they say, and the fear instilled in us by this myth that it’s really bloody hard just makes us tense and with this tension comes pain. Its a midwife-led birth not a mum-led birth. But birth, done naturally, can actually be pain free.

Pain free?

Yes please. But how realistic is this really? And will aiming for a pain free birth simply cause more panic and guilt later on when the contractions kick in and you’re screaming for the morphine? Most of my friends gave birth on epidurals, all blissfully unaware of any pains down below, and all seemed very happy about it too, with lovely happy babies to show for it. As one friend said, she just didn’t handle pain very well and she ended up having a lovely time on a walking epidural. Is it necessarily better to vow not to touch an epidural while risking an onslaught of unimaginable pain?

Well I’ve decided, against my more cynical judgment, to give it a go. I went the Active Birth Yoga class run by Natalie Meddings who is also a doula, and although I spent much of the hour and a half trying to kick my cycnical side into submission, I found the whole thing pretty interesting.

We started with tea and biscuits, so far so nice, and a new mum came in to share her “birth story”. Now you can imagine anyone willing to discuss their birth story in public is unlikely to go through the list of painful and embarrassing ailments, but this was a birth that I’d never heard the like of before. She stayed at home until the last possible minute and then had contractions for a couple of hours (which were apparently not painful) until a blissful waterbirth. She remembered her hypno-birthing technique of imagining blowing a balloon away and listening to her partner repeating the mantra that every surge (for a “surge” is what hypno birthers cleverly call a “contraction”) would bring her closer to her baby. It sounded like a beautiful and peaceful birth, and she certainly looked amazing for a mum of a 4 week old baby.

Yet this didn’t really coincide with the stories I’d heard about birth. The hours and hours of waiting and howling, the vomiting and shitting, the excruciating pain and blood and complications and “I can’t do it!”.

While I tried, and failed, to catch someone’s eye in order to roll mine cynically, I realised that actually if I found the confidence to try, then this was the birth I’d always imagined having. Of finding myself as an animal, instinctive, moaning in a new animal moan that echoed down the ages to women centuries old who had been through the same thing.

And I really like the idea of the privacy you get from staying at home as long as you can and only going to hospital when things get back. As Natalie says, you can’t really do much more of a private thing than giving birth – its about a million times more private than having sex or having a poo and those you don’t do with a roomful of interveners! – so I want to try to do most of it myself, at home, relaxing with The Chef, and then being in hospital at the last minute with a midwife who lets us do it in our own time and in our own way. But of course if I need them I’ll be so glad they’re there.

I have a lot of work to do then. As its my first I especially need the fact that this is natural, that it could be easy, and even dare I say it a wonderful experience, seep into me. Here’s what I’m planning to do:

  1. I’m going to continue the Active Birth Yoga course but only from when I’m about 5 months and have a bit more of a bump
  2. I’ve bought a hypno birthing CDEffective Birth Preparation by Maggie Howell and also her relaxing music CD for the birth
  3. I’m going to practice relaxed breathing, pelvic floor exercises, and relaxation using floral oils like lavender
  4. I have until December to try to persuade The Chef to join me in a hypno-birthing day long group class. Oh my. At £165 for a one day group session its not cheap though!

I’ll let you know how it goes.