The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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Pregnancy after Recurrent Miscarriage

Yes, the clue is in the title. The Happy Baby Project is 26 weeks pregnant!

So are the (sparkling elderflower) corks popping and the trumpets blowing? Well, no, sadly. And that is what I wanted to write about today, for all those women pregnant after suffering from recurrent miscarriage, and their friends and family who may not understand.

Pregnancy after recurrent miscarriage is a very different kettle of fish to my first pregnancy with my son, before any of this miscarriage journey had begun.

Then I was full of joy and confidence. We announced early, we posted our scan photo on Facebook with cheeky comment, we marched into scan rooms smiling and shouting “don’t tell us the sex!” as if that was the only worry we could possibly have. I bought baby stuff early, talked about it incessantly. In short, the world revolved around me and my growing baby. I was in a bubble of joy and happiness.

How innocent this now seems. How foreign.

But also, how annoying must I have been to my friends who were struggling with IVF or miscarriages or not having found the right person to have kids with, at the time? They didn’t say anything to me (what lovely friends I have) but it is only now with hindsight I see how hideously smug and self-possessed I was then, how a lot of pregnant women can unknowingly be, and how upsetting that can be for other women. Especially with the current fetishisation of pregnancy and motherhood, all baby on board badges and tight lycra maternity clothes and twee social media posts, I know well what pressure and pain this sort of thing exerts on women who are unable to have children – for whatever reason.

Because one of the greatest things that recurrent miscarriage has taught me is empathy for other women going through hardship, and what a dire slog making a baby can be for some of us, in fact – at my age – I’d say most of us.

I’d never post a scan photo again, never consider a brash pregnancy announcement, I creep into scan rooms rather than striding, and I have had my ostrich neck in the sand about this pregnancy the entire time.

The fact is, the first 12 weeks were just hideous. We thought we’d lost the baby several times, and the rest of the time we didn’t acknowledge it, so much was the pain from our 4 previous miscarriages. All I could do was try to go to bed every night and wake up every morning, head down, another day that the baby could hang on in there, until my 12 week scan.

When we heard the heartbeat, a moment’s joy was replaced by thoughts of how much harder it would be to lose the baby now we had a glimmer of hope.

Even at 12 weeks and a successful scan, I worried about later losses, and genetic abnormalities.

We told friends then (I was fed up of nursing a warm glass of wine at Christmas parties) but I didn’t want to talk about it, and peppered any responses to questions with “if this baby makes it” and “touch wood”. I didn’t feel engaged with other pregnant women who wanted to chat about maternity leave and age gaps and double buggies, I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening, it felt easier that way. I felt – still feel – more aligned with women who struggle with infertility and miscarriage, as I feel I am forever one of them now.

At 16 weeks I bought a Doppler and checked the heartbeat several times a day.

It was around this time my husband politely requested I stop using the word “if” when talking about the baby’s arrival and instead say “when”.

At 20 weeks, we had a great scan, and she (for I am having a little girl!) is completely perfect in every way.

And it’s STILL hard. Because I love her more than I can possibly imagine. My heart breaks for her already, I ache to feel her in my arms and play with her hair and her podgy thighs and to tell my son – finally – that his little sister is here.

And that plus my lack of confidence in my body and its ability to make babies, makes me worry still about late losses, and still births, and I still google “chance of success for pre-term birth at X weeks” every week in case I go into labour early. I count the kicks every night. I found myself at the weekend saying “if I go on maternity leave” rather than “when”. I still struggle to answer questions about birth plans or childcare options just in case it all goes wrong.

We announced then on Facebook to let wider family and friends know, but a fairly somber announcement, and I wanted to add that I’d had a tough time getting there. I wanted other women to know things hadn’t been easy because if they didn’t know about our miscarriages, brand Facebook would have made it look like we’d been living on a bed of roses for the last couple of years.

Around 24 weeks, I bought some pretty pink baby clothes in a sale. My husband was unable to look at them. I put them in the drawer unopened.

At almost 27 weeks, I still, still now, don’t entirely feel that it’s real. I still feel anxious and think I always will until she is in my arms. There is a dark cloud of self-doubt and anxiety that creeps over my head every so often, blacking out the positivity and joy I’d been feeling, making me angry and scared.

I see that even if I felt a tenth of the love I feel for this baby now, even a hundredth or a thousandth, which I would have had at 5 or 6 weeks gestation (when I lost 3 of my 4 other babies), my heart would still have broken into a thousand pieces, which makes me realise anew how hard it is to lose a baby at whatever stage of your pregnancy.

But here I am, we’ve made it so far, me and my little girl, as we go into the third trimester. I now need to believe this beaten up body of mine can give birth again, can feed her; that I can find some confidence and self-esteem that was knocked out of me by this miscarriage journey to believe I can be a mother again.

And quite frankly I owe it to my little girl, to feel some joy now. To relax and bond and daydream and just allow myself to show her how much she is loved.

Because that’s the final thing about pregnancy after recurrent miscarriage, and it’s a good thing. The grief we’ve been through makes us appreciate what we have so much more and the happiness we feel is more than we can ever imagine feeling. I feel so lucky and so blessed, even after all. I feel she is the baby I was meant to have, the perfect age gap for my family, our destiny.

So now I must just countdown until she arrives this Summer. We’ve been waiting long enough!

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My Hospital Bag

35 weeks on Saturday, all baby stuff bought or borrowed, and I’m now planning what to take to the hospital with me (while simultaneously harshing The Chef’s mellow with random home improvement requests).

I’ve seen hospital bag lists on numerous brilliant blogs (see Mums Make Lists or The Mummy Adventure) and also on various preggie Apps and retail sites (see Mothercare’s) but I have to say…

….I find the whole thing slightly ludicrous.

It feels half way between packing for a romantic minibreak – do you think the blue or the grey nightie would suit me best while I’m on all fours mooing like a cow? –  and packing for Armageddon; as if we will be stranded in a crevice a la 127 Days, having to rely on lavender oil and arnica to get us out alive.

Only women could come up with pre-labour grooming routines and hospital outfit ideas, as if our babies push happily through our opening cervix only to cry in disgust at an un-waxed bush.  However, I too have booked in for a pre-labour haircut, manicure and eyelash tint. Mock me all you like ladies, but I’m not the only one.

Friends of mine have got pre-labour spray tans, eyelash extensions, and bikini waxes (ouch). They’ve planned their labouring and day-after outfits to the last detail. Mummy forums* and blogs discuss the perfect baby going-home outfits and the most glamorous nursing tops.

Why on earth do we put pressure on ourselves like this? I guess it’s all part of this perfect family fantasy which we bought into as little girls. You know – the photo of you propped up in bed holding cute baby in novelty hat, husband’s proud and loving arm around you while you look, all glowing and wise, to the camera? Or the photo of you holding baby for his first trip home, him in perfect cutesy matching outfit, you both looking on in awe?

My own mother wasn’t impervious to this pressure either. She bought some fancy lace babygrow thing from Paris to clothe my 1 day-old self on the way home from hospital. This is captured in a gorgeous photo – me, angelic in said white lace gorgeousness, held by my proud father.

Oh, apart from the giant poo stain that soaks through the lace, covering the entirety of my lower region.

Let’s face it ladies. We will just have pushed a baby out of our bodies with great pain and effort. We will be pale, with bloodshot eyes, greasy hair, floppy boobs and bellies. We may not have had time to get our immaculately-packed hospital bags out of the car in the first place. We will be so excited about our new babies that we are unlikely to give a toss whether our toenails are painted or our outfit matches.

So, with this in mind, and with the emphasis on comfort and familiarity, here is what I’m planning to take with me:

Mummy bag:

  • Medical notes
  • Stuff to get to hospital & labour in: nightie from Primark (£3.50), Uggs, dressing gown – if I’m in the birth pool I guess I’d want to be naked
  • Stuff to make me comfy during labour: Cushions from home (I bought 2 for £7 from Primark),  Pillow from home, Throw (£7 from Primark)
  • Stuff to make the room nice (wishful thinking): Iphone and mini speakers, iphone charger, LED candles
  • Snacks for labour: fruit juice cartons, bottle water, healthy snacks, bag of Starburst, chocolate
  • Pain relief and comfort stuff: Tens machine (borrowed), Avene water spray, lip balm, flannel, handkerchief and Lavender oil, frankincense (yes, yes I know, but it works honestly), ear plugs, eye mask
  • Stuff to wear afterwards and the next day: cheap black knickers, comfy socks, nursing bras, nightie, slippers, cardigan, leggings, loose dark vests & shirts from Primark –  all very cheap
  • Post-birth  essentials: Arnica for bruising, nipple cream and pads, maternity pads
  • Flip Flops for shower
  • Dark towel
  • Magazines for hanging around
  • Hair bands & toiletries
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Plastic bags for laundry
  • Camera and charger
  • Boxers, toothbrush, socks & contact lenses for The Chef

Baby bag:

  • 4 x sleepsuits
  • Going-home outfit – yes I know but still succumbed as they can be so cute. Bought this one:

Product Image

  • 4x muslins
  • Hat
  • Cardigan
  • Blanket
  • Coat
  • Nappies (at least 24), H20 extra sensitive water wipes (thanks for the tip Look Mummy No Hands), cotton wool, nappy cream
  • Car seat

*baby forums should be avoided if at all possible. I’ve found them to be full of slightly hysterical women of the type who buy nappies in bulk at 10 weeks pregnant, or who moan about gaining 2 pounds in the first trimester


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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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A preggie girl’s guide to being “a bit hormonal”

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As I approach 27 weeks and the third trimester with a certain joy at knowing me and my baby will meet each other before I know it, a raft of new symptoms appear.

My body is swelling all over. The bump feels enormous, and with its new curves and weight comes surprising, uncontrollable physical symptoms. The sore back, the swollen ankles that threaten to make knee high boots a thing of the past, the new-found clumsiness, bringing an impromptu “oof” when doing up shoes or having to pick something up off the carpet. The heat and hot flushes that make me thank my lucky stars this isn’t the height of summer. There’s bleeding gums and spots, hiccups and heartburn and constipation. There’s the fact that, like many of the women in my pregnancy yoga class, I have been known to let out an unexpected burp after eating. I don’t feel beautiful or voluptuous now, I feel creaky and ancient, like an old dusty bookcase.

And then there’s the emotional stuff. I’ve been told – oh don’t worry, you’re probably “a bit hormonal” – which suggests a bad case of PMT or teenage heartbreak. But I’ve been reading up on what these hormones are doing, what they will do in future, and am frankly amazed we pregnant ladies manage to get our shoes on the right feet in the morning, let alone do a full day’s work*:

  • There’s progesterone that basically stops the baby falling out. And if you imagine it sending waves of stupor to do so, you can also envisage it being responsible for that sluggish feeling, that slow heaviness, and with it constipation, heartburn (and also spots, aching bones and bleeding gums).
  • And we have oestrogen which stimulates blood flow, giant boobs, and is responsible for that attractive “glow” (bright red sweaty puffy look).
  • There’s relaxin that makes your hips expand, your pelvis grow, and I am personally blaming for my giant bottom.
  • As well as oxytocin to trigger contractions and prolactin to make milk and unwanted hair, and which is also bizarrely linked to sexual satisfaction – seriously, look it up.
  • And finally there’s adrenalin to help you push and endorphins that will be secreted during labour – your own natural pain-relieving happy pills – that some say, perhaps optimistically, can make the process enjoyable…

So, hang on a second.

If I’ve got this right then, left to go about its work unhindered, and without help from man or science, my body can hold in a baby for 9 months then push it out by summoning up super-human strength, while pumping me full of pain-relieving chemicals, and others which put me in such an animal-like trance that I will barely know my own name, and might even make the whole thing pleasurable?

A little idealistic perhaps. But while I still don’t understand why I find myself flying uncontrollably from clingy affection, to red-mist rage, to pathetic sobs, and back to boundless joy within a manner of minutes, I expect its something to do with these powerful chemicals inside me. And though I can’t use them as an excuse for bad behaviour generally, it does allow me to give myself a bit of a break, to respect what my body is doing and allow myself a bit of rest and relaxation.

For me right now, this involves massages, chocolate, sofa time, comfy PJs, cuddles, yoga and reflexology. And a very understanding Chef.

* please note this is based on no medical or scientific knowledge whatsoever


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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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21 weeks and the truth about that “glow”

21 weeks and I’m beginning to walk with that arched back – hand on lower back – sideways waddle. Sitting can be uncomfortable depending on the chair (Skyfall was a lesson in comfort and patience). Lower back issues remain, brought on by the simple fact that while my core used to be equally pulled between back and belly, the belly is now winning hands down. A bit of physio is sorting that out and I’m planning to start preggie yoga again next week which will help massively.

Theoretically speaking, I have the famous “glow” what preggie people are supposed to have. But in actual fact it could be, in practical terms, described as “over production of grease from your sebaceous glands” and has resulted in a lovely double whammy of greasy hair and spotty chin, the like I haven’t seen since the age of 16 when I was in Doc Martens and lumberjack shirts.

Good news is maternity wardobe has improved immeasurably thanks to 2 boxes of Seraphine clothes donated to me by a fabulously stylish friend. Add to this my new Asos breton stripe dress (as seen in Pregnancy & Baby magazine, my new guilty pleasure), Isabella Oliver ruched tops and JoJo Maman Bebe essential maternity dress (LOTS of compliments – first time ever for maternity clothes), I’m beginning to feel a lot better in my skin.

However, following the surprise post by The Chef, I’ve realised I have some work to do in the romance department. So I’m trying to be less critical, not let my hormones rule our relationship, share thoughts and worries, and I even cooked last night. Yes, me. More than that, is the realisation that this actually could be a lot of fun. It’s our greatest thing in common, and there’s lots to talk and laugh about (names, nurseries, how we’ll bring baby up, ideas about travels and adventures). For now, its all about getting in that positive mindset, thinking like a team, realising how lucky we are and getting excited about a happy baby-filled future…


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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