With a baby due soon, I’ve got to transition from one type of life to another for a second time. This is fine, I’m okay with it, but it’s another jump for the brain and the body.
I’ve been working part time for a year and a bit and I’ve really loved it. The company is great, and even as a remote worker I’ve still really enjoyed the role and those I work with. I’ve also had the opportunity to work full time occasionally and apart from the additional income, it has enabled me to really sink my teeth into a number of projects, and to fully contribute to the development of the project in question.
And I know all that sounds a bit wanky, but after a year and a half of breastfeeding, pooey nappies and ‘just being a mum’, solely being judged on my ability to test the shit out of a website or app is really satisfying. My sense of self-esteem has been boosted as well, and as my husband also works in IT, we get to have all the loser conversations we always had before Rafe came along. It does make a difference!
I’ve also got to transition to two children, and not feel guilty about not giving my son as much attention. I’m trying not to focus on this too much as it is pointless, negative and unrealistic.
And I need to not compare how I raise them: I want to breastfeed like I did with my son but it might not be practical for as long, and my milk might not come in the same way as last time either!
Apart from the two examples above, there are a huge number of things that might be different from Rafe, and making a big fat mental list of how I might ‘fail’ as a parent with two children deserves a big smack over the head.
Things I am excited about are:
My son now goes to nursery 3 days a week and I know he gets so much out of it, and I really want him to have that time away from me and baby, and having to make him the second priority
My children becoming friends and everything that brings – good and bad! I am sometimes a little jealous of the friends and family who had that experience growing up, and I am so excited for them to experience that relationship
The opportunity to watch TV and do nothing for a little while, especially on nursery days, and before my husband goes back to work
Becoming a family of 4!
And when COVID is over, cinema, cafe and pub outings with the baby! And maybe with both when I’m strong enough for that! 🤭
With Lockdown 3 upon us and the last minute U-turn on school closures, it has been a bit of a mentally challenging week. “OMG what is going to happen to nurseries” was my mantra last Sunday and Monday, and luckily the husband hasn’t hit me over the head with an axe for being so stressy about it all.
Whether or not you agree with nurseries and schools being open or closed, it doesn’t change the realities of life for those with children, for those without children who work in education, nor for those who work in education and have children.
I’ve been tentatively making friends with the mum of my son’s best friend at nursery, and as a teacher in one school, with an older child in another school, and the best friend at nursery, talking to her makes me incredibly sympathetic to the constant mental strain our educators are under.
And whilst it is just one area of strain in our society, and perhaps not as critical as our healthcare sector, I’d be loathe to minimise or criticise anyone for speaking out about their professional and personal concerns – even if I really want them to say it is all sunshine and daisies and buttercups.
As for me, well, we got through the first week of nursery after Christmas, and we have one more week to go before the husband’s current contract ends. Worst case scenario right now? Nurseries are shut (bar key workers) Monday and I have to try and juggle work and Rafe for two days. That’s fairly tame.
And why does any of this matter or stress me so? Well, I’m pregnant and ready to pop come the 27th of January, so the idea of managing a newborn and a 2 year and 9 month old child with no nursery fills me with a bit of terror and dread!
Then my wonderful and adorable husband Sam tries to reassure me with the fact he has no work after next week, so can look after Rafe while I work for a few more weeks, and then will definitely be around to hit the ground running with Rafe for whenever I pop! And we get to have a support bubble for when he does get a new contract!
Lovely! Let’s just ignore the fact that we are going from a 1.5 income household to a no income household! Woop de do!
BUT. We have savings because we are boring and responsible, and because that’s what you should do when you have a mortgage and two children (nearly). So it is all FINE. IT’S FINE. FINE. FINE. FINE. Blah blah blah.
Oh that feels better.
I think there is a definite correlation between why I’ve not blogged since the end of Lockdown 1 and the start of Lockdown 3… LOLz.
Anyway, on a less whiny note, let’s share a few photos of the fun things we did do in 2020, and let’s repeat a better mantra ad infinitum:
Self education is key, and I found the process of writing about historical conflicts and events a useful way to process the somewhat overwhelming sense of uselessness I initially felt. Which is obviously a very lucky position to be. I get to feel, others just die.
But, to keep my brain more uplifted, I’ve also spent time getting excited about Rafe Going Back to Nursery. And this is something to rejoice in. And rejoice I have.
Today was his third week back, and he’s just having a ball. He’s getting covered in paint every day, spending time with other children, and picking up a ton of new phrases every week. It is amazing.
I’m so grateful that his nursery have opened their doors to the children of non-key workers, and I’m so happy that they seem to be doing okay after having to furlough a number of their staff.
On the 12th of May my son’s nursery emailed to say we could request a place for our son to go back to nursery (if we wished). Neither of us are key workers, and my freelance job ended in March, so we don’t need the two days per se, but I decided to request a space while making it clear that we don’t expect Rafe to be prioritised over a child with working parents/carers.
A few days later I was really excited to have his usual days confirmed, and we have started talking to him about going back. We will be crossing our fingers and toes, and hoping that all goes well, as he’s effectively starting again. 😬
Not all parents will be comfortable sending their children to school or nursery, but given the data on Coronavirus deaths in the young, and school reports from other EU countries like Denmark, the husband and I don’t feel worried about sending him back. And to be honest, at this point, I’m thinking more about his social interaction with children of his own age – or the lack of.
I’ve been trying to find clear government guidance (hahaha), or a scholarly article on the importance of social interaction for children, and frustratingly I’ve got a bit stuck. However, the Mental Health Foundation states the following:
As children grow up, their ability to form and sustain relationships – be that with peers, parents, teachers etc. is crucial.
… If we can make sure that babies, children and young people are able to form and maintain positive relationships in ways that make sense to them, then this will help get them off to a good start in life and support their mental development.
Paula Lavis, Co-ordinator of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition
And that is pretty much how I feel – the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
I’ve also been inspired by Professor Karol Sikora‘s calm demeanor and positive attitude regarding the pandemic, and more recently the debate about schools reopening.
I started following him on Twitter a month or so ago and he’s been a real breath of fresh air on my timeline – and I know that my mental health needs a good dose of positivity to counteract the whirling negativity I’ve be prone recently. There is always a fine balance between reading the news and drowning in the news…
From a selfish point of view, I’m also really looking forward to some me time. Not couple time or family time, or ‘steal an hour here or there on the weekend’ time, actual ME time. Doing the washing up while the husband plays with the child is not me time. Driving down to the post office and standing in a queue is not really me time. Even the excitement of fortnightly trip to the supermarket is wearing off a little…
But what do I do with the time? I must make plans! And I must leave the house! Watch this space… 😊
Towards the end of April we moved Rafe into his ‘big boy bed’, and it has been a great success! 🥳
My main worry about moving him was that he would climb out of bed and start banging on his door… and this does happen, but thankfully not until “the sun comes up” – and I think we have the Groclock to thank!
Launched by The Gro Company in 2009, the Groclock allows you to set a wake up time so a child knows when they are allowed to get up. Obviously children have to be of a certain age to understand time, so the Groclock uses images of the sun and stars to delineate the passing of time.
The clock also comes with a book called Sleepy Farm, it tells the story of Percy Pig and his grumpiness because he’s not getting enough sleep – and guess what, he gets a Groclock to help! 😀
We’ve set ours for 7am, and every evening at 8pm we activate the clock and say “night night sun, hi stars”, and “remember not to get up before the sun comes up”, and we think it more or less works as our sleep has been pretty decent this past month.
Yesterday morning he woke at 6am, made more noise at 6.30am, but given we fell asleep again both times, he was obviously just chilling in bed or playing. Come 6.55am he started whining and calling “cuddle Daddy” which is pretty standard, and 5 minutes later Sam went in to get him.
If every morning continues like this, I would say it is a successful clock!
But I reserve the right to bin the thing if Rafe ignores it once we start potty training and have to leave his door open…
My first scan was on the 26th of September 2017 and it was a complete palaver.
The appointment at QEH is at 14.20 and we get there early as you do. We inform the receptionist that we have an appointment, she makes a note and tells us to sit down, and so we nervously wait.
14.20 comes and goes. We keep waiting because this is the NHS and you always expect the free service to be running behind schedule. We don’t actually ask what is going on for a good 20-30 minutes.
We ask when we will be going in: “Oh, I forgot to tell the sonographer you were here.” Oh.
We’ve missed our slot. Oh.
Apparently the sonographer was ready and waiting. Oh.
We now have to wait for a gap, and for the sonographer to answer the phone because you can’t go in and interrupt another scan (which is fair obviously).
There is a gap about an hour after our appointment. We go in. Yay.
“Your baby isn’t moving enough to do the scan properly, you need to go and eat some sugar and walk around and then I’ll try again.” Oh.
We leave and go down to the crappy WHSmith at QEH. I buy Fanta and chocolate. I drink the Fanta and eat the chocolate. We walk about. We go back into the scanning department and wait for another gap.
It’s about two hours after the original appointment when we go back in. We do the scan in full. Hurrah. I spend half the scan trying not to snap/cry at the sonographer because she’s grumpy because of the original admin error combined with the stupid baby not moving enough. LOLs all round. Not the dream first scan.
Then we realise that we forgot to ask for photos because everything became too stressful and the sonographer’s schedule had been completely buggered. We faff about for a while deciding whether to wait again, or whether to get the hospital to post us the photos. We decide to wait again.
Once the sonographer can answer the phone (again), she prints off the photos, brings them out to us, and then and no-one charges for them. Hurrah!
It’s now about three hours after the original appointment and we are finally done.
Slightly later we drive down to Croydon(-ish) to see my brother and sister-in-law. I’m on my phone too much so I puke up all the Fanta and chocolate onto a verge at the side of the road. 👍
My one and only vomiting experience in the entire pregnancy. I know, I’m insufferable.
However, the scan was fine (!), the baby was fine (!), the sonographer was really efficient and capable (yay!), and we managed to have a laugh about it all by the end.
I always wanted children and we discussed it within a year of being together. He wanted children as well, but as it all seemed very far away and very grown up – it wasn’t a big dramatic OH MY GOD discussion topic. It was more of an eventuality, but also my decision: my body, my choice etc.
I knew I wanted to travel, work and get settled in a home before coming off the pill, and I hoped to not get accidentally pregnant in my 20s – it was my only real fear when I was younger and with Sam. I wanted to be selfish, do what I wanted, and I wanted to be in control.
We successfully went eight years with no dramas or panics, and once our trip to Japan was booked for March 2017, the time to try was approaching – our final big travel goals were trips to America and Japan, and we had already done five weeks in the US in 2015.
I was also approaching my 33rd birthday and I hoped to have a baby at 33 as that was the age my mum had me. Silly, but if able, I wanted to forge that additional connection to her.
So my pill supply ran out in February and I started tracking my crimson wave with Clue. Once we got back from Japan in early April we irregularly tried for a couple of months – we didn’t get too scientific about it at first as we had barely any cycle data to use, but by June/July we were using the ovulation schedule suggested by the app.
Side note: Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that trying for a baby is anything but an additional task for your daily routine. Who does romantic and/or sexy when you both work, have evening activities, and need to cook, clean and sleep. You have to keep on top of it (haha) every day for about 10 days to maximise your chances during your fertile window. Where is the romance in that.
July arrives and my period doesn’t come on the Sunday/Monday as usual. We get excited but nervous and decide to give it a whole week before taking a test.
That weekend we were away for a friend’s birthday at Eweleaze Farm near Weymouth. We decided to take the test in a super large solar shower on the Saturday morning, and after doing the pee pee deed we waited nervously.
The test said I was 2-3 weeks pregnant. Yay!
Contemporary advice says to keep quiet for the first trimester, so we did exactly that. It was our special little secret and we didn’t have to share it. Nor did we want the risk of something going wrong and then having to update people with shitty, awkward and sad news. 1 in 8 women go through a miscarriage, and many more miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Armed with our scan photos we surprised my brother and sister-in-law that night with our news. It was wonderful to share our joy with them and my belle-sœur was just as excited and bubbly as I had hoped her to be (as was my brother). It was a lovely evening.
It was another week or so until we told my in-laws and they seems quite confused at first. We had told them we were going to try for one, but they hadn’t asked for regular updates (!) as you just don’t do that. But once the news had sunk in they were full of questions and excitement. It was another lovely evening.
We told more people over the coming weeks, mainly family and close friends, and let ourselves get a bit more excited. In general, I refused to buy anything for the baby as I didn’t want to jinx anything (how scientific of me), but I caved in at four months and bought four letters spelling out ‘BABY’ from a cutesy boutique shop when we were in Battle one weekend. I added ‘RAFE’ to these once he was born. 😍
We ‘publicly’ announced the pregnancy at the beginning of December in front of the Christmas tree at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
We did our best to not over prepare while I was pregnant, and given that we were trying to move from a flat to a house at the same time, minimal preparation seemed sensible.
However, I did do a lot of research, I love researching, it is pure joy to me. But we did have rules: I was only allowed to look up pregnancy and birth on the NHS website, and random Googling was reserved for the husband alone. The research mainly consisted of “what shit shall we buy for a baby”, but I did a bit of reading along the way as well. So here below is a list of things we bought, and things I read.
Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna (Gi) Fletcher is a lovely first person account of how Gi is raising her children (two out of three at publication). I discovered her via McBusted in 2014 and gradually got hooked on McBusted and McFly and then the YouTube channels of the Fletchers (Gi, Tom and Carrie Hope). She’s a very unfussy straightforward kind of person, and does not claim to know anything more than her own mind – and she will freely admit she does not always know that either. Bravo.
Entering the world of motherhood was something I could not discuss with my own mother, and whilst I am close with my mother-in-law, her book was a lovely introduction into a world I didn’t know and made me feel comfortable and excited about trying for a baby in 2017.
Her book led to a podcast titled Happy Mum, Happy Baby (well duh), and it is now into its fourth series. I love listening to it, you feel part of a community without having to go anywhere or arrange anything, and I love that men are on the podcast as well – it’s great to hear their opinions!
She also has a YouTube series called Mumdays, and whilst it hasn’t been updated since August (how dare she!), I also looked forward to these videos for a window into another mum’s world.
The husband and I also attended two courses: Red Cross First Aid for Baby and Child, and the NCT Essentials Antenatal course. Both were good, useful – and at the time seemed really important, but once you have the baby you kinda just get on with it – whether that is running round like a headless chicken or taking everything in your stride.
And as I was told by the friends who recommended NCT, the most important part of it is the parents you meet on the course. And I’m proud to say that I’ve made two really good friends out of the seven couples we met – that’s not bad going! And over a year later, seven out of the eight mums still message each other, and we have arranged giant pub meet ups for Christmas and for a first birthday play date. And as soon as we move (ha!), I’m intending to host a BBQ. Just got to get that Doodle poll going…
Now onto the purchases, there are definitely things we don’t use as much as we expected: BabyBjorn Carrier one – but we’ve used it enough, and things that were completely pointless: Ewan the Dream Sheep – not loud enough, just use YouTube for white noise, but because we spent a lot of time researching, we are still pretty happy with our purchasing a year later. Oooh, look at us. Superior or what! But of course we still bought him too many clothes, and were given too many clothes. Meh.
I learnt about the Finnish Baby Box after reading this BBC News story and I was in love. I’ve never been to Scandinavia but they all seem to know what they are doing so I was definitely getting one. The idea is a magical box with all the things you might need for your baby’s first year, and I wanted to not have to figure everything out in advance, and to then panic that our baby didn’t have a thing that they NEEDED RIGHT NOW.
The Finnish government gives a box to new parents and some canny Finnish Dads decided to set up the company for those in less enlightened climes. Obviously there is a cost and it isn’t particularly cheap at 399€ (thanks Auntie Jeanette and Uncle Ben), but if you live in Scotland you can get your own baby box for free.
We used the actual box for four and a half months before he got too long and we loved it. It now sits in the wardrobe full of clothes, but we hope to use it again. :-).
On the cheaper end of the spectrum at £10.99, thanks to a recommendation from my cousin-in-law Lorna, we bought a Milton Steriliser Unit for our bottles, breast pump parts and syringes. It is literally a fancy 5 litre bucket that you throw a 24 hour tablet into. It was a fantastic purchase and really appealed to the part of my brain that hates buying overly complex expensive gadgets – paying £100 for a breast pump that broke in under three months was annoying enough (replaced for free thank goodness).
And once we got into the ‘travelling with a baby’ groove, we stopped taking the bucket with us and just threw the sterilising tablets (currently £1.53 for 28 on Ocado) into a bowl wherever we were. The things you learn…
Talking of travel, I love our BabyBjorn travel cot. You could definitely spend less, many many cheaper travel cots are available, but, it is amazing and so easy to put up, take down and carry about. We also don’t have a room for our special creature, a combination of not giving up the office, and hoping to move to a house where we can go mad and make the third bedroom his.
So, the travel cot replaced my desk but not the husband’s, and it is the only bed he has. It goes anywhere we go with the car, and it is great when we go to the in-laws as they don’t have to sort a bed for him (for a few years at least). Highly recommended.
My final recommendation is our buggy, we have a BabyZen YoYo+ and I don’t just love it, I love love love it. We didn’t have any preferred brands in mind prior to pregnancy but I wanted something for buses, trains and planes, and a buggy that would be easy to carry about in central London.
Our friends Eleanor and Matthew had already purchased a YoYo+ so we got to have a good look at it, and then try it out with their little Sam a few months later. We were given the buggy itself (£369 – thanks Mummy and Daddy Coles) as well as buying the newborn pack (£175) with the aim of only ever buying one buggy for him. So far so good…
It is very light to use, fits through tiny gaps, can be folded down very quickly, and popping it back up is even simpler. We’ve taken it on planes as hand luggage and wheeled it over all sorts of surfaces, and I still carry it on my own at 14 months – but I do ask for help more these days, he’s a heavy lump!
For the future, I plan to get the little seat accessory and will be trying that with the newborn pack. Out and about with two children sounds terrifying but I chatted to a mum who does the above with her YoYo+ so if she can do it, I can too.
Ooh look, its a blog about a baby, quelle surprise!
Anyway… I had a baby and he’s great. He’s lovely, squishy, cuddly, and he smells of beauty – apart from when he does a stinky poo.
Rafe is currently feeling a bit sorry for himself because of yesterday’s first year injections, but in general he’s a happy chappy and is 98% perfect.
I wanted to buy baby month cards to help document his first year, and so we could compare and contrast tiny Rafe to slightly less tiny Rafe. Below is the sequence of photos, we only missed the three week card so we did pretty well – enjoy!