After Theodore’s birth, a wave of emotion would keep washing over me whenever I thought about all the amazing midwives, doctors and support staff who were there for me throughout the pregnancy and birth. And even after I left hospital I would keep going to this little place in my head and heart where everything was warm and fuzzy and wonderful.
I was worried I would lose or forget these emotions, and was keen to write something down to mark the occasion, but as you can tell by the date of this blog, it took me a while to write anything down…
But in typing these words, I’m immediately drawn back into the moments and emotions surrounding his birth, and I can quite easily bring on the tears if I allow myself to wallow too much! And exactly the same thing happens if I think about my Dad’s death too deeply, tears galore.
I didn’t feel quite this way with Rafe’s birth, I think I was too knackered and in worse shape, and as I knew we wanted to try for a second child, I didn’t have the additional sense of something ending – the end of me being part of this world and this experience.
I’m nearly 37, I’m 99% sure we aren’t going to try for another child for a multitude of sensible reasons, and as much as I had a lot of dreams about raising a girl, I’m very very very happy to have my second little flump with a willy, and it will be amazing to see how Rafe and Theodore grow up, and hopefully be the best of friends.
So, I know something is over for me. The part of my life that will grow another human is done, and the part of my life that will labour and birth another human is done too. And that’s okay, and I can deal with it, but I don’t ever want to completely let go of these emotions, and this giant sense of love for a tremendous and amazing group of people who safely brought both my children into the world, and who looked after me so well.
And while I breastfeed and continue to be the only person that Theodore actually needs right now, the Lara who grew two humans isn’t too far away.
Just over a week ago I left hospital (for the second time in a month), after being admitted for mastitis, woop de doo…
I think it all started on the 3rd or 4th of February with a cold that morphed into a horrible headache, a high temperature, and a really sore, red, and hard right boob by Saturday the 6th. I even had a lovely sunny trip to Oxleas Woods with my aunt and both children on the 5th, but by the evening I was downing paracetamol.
On Saturday, we had planned to meet my uncle at my great aunt’s in Essex ahead of my aunt’s return to Suffolk, but for the whole of that morning I felt like death and wasn’t sure about going. Stubborn mule that I am, I went anyway, and if I didn’t go then Theodore couldn’t go, and she’s 97 – how many more times will we have together as a family anyway. So, the journey there was okay, my uncle and great aunt got to meet the baby at a distance, and I managed to sleep on the way back, hurrah etc…
Come Sunday morning, the husband had an eye test booked: cue the shittest two hours I’ve had since all 3 of us caught a 24 hour tummy bug a couple of years ago (thankfully one after the other). I was feeding the whole time, felt bloody awful and could not move without my head spinning. Making Rafe’s lunch was a horrible experience, and then I went and burst into tears in front of him which made me feel like a terrible person. Longest eye appointment ever…
That morning we had agreed I would ring 111 for advice as we weren’t sure if my boob was simply engorged or had progressed to mastitis, and because the NHS page tells you to ring your GP if things don’t improve after a day. I’d also been massaging and pumping since Saturday after ringing the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birth Centre for advice, but neither of those things seemed to help. ?
After a chat with an advanced paramedic called Philip, I was told to go to A&E to get checked out. So as soon as Sam got back from Woolwich, we all went to the hospital! Upon arrival the A&E nurse seemed a bit alarmed about my temperature, and as I was with Theodore, I ended up in maternity services where I had left only 17 days before.
After a bit of a wait in a calm and quiet delivery room with a baby that was finally napping after the freezing cold of outside – pure heaven after my morning, my observations were taken and I was assessed (upstairs and downstairs). I was then told I would be admitted! I honestly thought I would be given antibiotics and sent home, but no, my temperature was too much of a worry.
My remedies were paracetamol for my fever, antibiotics for the mastitis, ibuprofen to help reduce my boob pain, and fluids to keep me hydrated. But the midwives’ first priority was getting my temperature down as it kept spiking after even paracetamol, with a high of 39.3°C during Sunday night.
To be considered for discharge I had to have no spikes for 24 hours, and my first normal temperature without a resulting spike wasn’t recorded until 5am on Monday – so definitely no discharge til Tuesday morning. This 5am improvement also coincided with the most disgusting morning wake-up I’ve ever had, I was literally soaking in sweat all over and it was super super vile. But, it meant my fever had broken, yay!
And once I had recovered from being disgusted by myself, I felt SO MUCH better, I was walking around the room feeling like a new woman, it was amazing. My boob was more or less the same, but as the antibiotics worked their magic throughout Monday, the pain started to decrease and my colouring improved.
I was able to start binge watching TV (This Way Up is amazing), enjoy the hospital food (it’s not that bad at all), and look forward to a brief but welcome post-work-pre-end-of-visiting-hours visit from Sam where he got to cup feed Theodore with my expressed milk – and bring me snacks from the hospital shop.
So Monday was pretty great! I had my little mastitis buddy to look after and love, was cheekily able to put off solo parenting with two children for one more day, and I got to have more drugs – woo hoo! I totally missed out on the snow, but I was sent pictures of my mother-in-law playing in the snow with Rafe so at least he didn’t miss out. ?
Monday night also went well and come Tuesday morning’s rounds – x2 midwives and x4 doctor’s all at once LOL, I was told I could be discharged, woo hoo again! And once the paperwork and my antibiotics prescription was ready, Sam came and met me for the premiere of Lara and Theodore Leave The Hospital Take 2.
As always, I’m 100% in awe of all the supremely busy staff I’ve met throughout both my pregnancies, everyone has been brilliant, and even during a pandemic, their care has been just as fabulous and kind and wonderful. And it’s been lovely to see some of the same names and faces over both periods as well.
I try to note names where I can, so for this visit I want to acknowledge midwives Selena, Priscilla, Chloe, Sophia, Natalie, Juliana and Mavis, plus another lovely but unfortunately nameless midwife who looked after me on Sunday afternoon. There was also a kind and friendly Healthcare Assistant who told me she is starting midwifery training soon. And thanks of course to the doctors I saw, y’know, the clinicians who NEVER wear those brilliant yellow name badges!
Particular thanks and love go to Sophia for checking up on me throughout Sunday night, and to Natalie for getting me discharged while also dealing with 3 urgent patients.
I finished my prescription this Tuesday and all has been well over the past week. And I’ve now had 2 solo days with Rafe and Theodore and things haven’t been too stressful! Also feeling very grateful that as Sam isn’t commuting (thanks Covid?), his job is not adding 3 hours to my solo days. ?
And life can’t be that terrible when you have these kinds of people looking out for you:
Following on from baby #1 in April 2018, baby #2 was birthed safely on Tuesday the 19th of January at 13.19.
Weighing 7lb 8oz, Theodore was lighter than predicted, but still bore a big bruise on one of his upper arms (the left I think), possibly due to shoulder dystocia and the subsequent use of the McRoberts manoeuvre, which is like the coolest manoeuvre ever.
After a relatively long, low on energy, forceps delivery with Rafe, I am super happy to have birthed Theodore more or less by myself. I still had a lot of help from the brilliant team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, but I did push him out and I am very proud of that.
And not only did he get to go straight from vagina to chest for vernix covered snuggles, Sam also got to cut the cord this time. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
I’m planning to do a longer post on the birth in due course, but for now, here are a few more pictures:
Now we are in the ninth week of lockdown, and a lot of us are fairly used to our new lives, it’s possible that we might gloss over the early days of lockdown, and think it wasn’t actually that stressful, and that things aren’t so dramatically different from ‘LIFE BEFORE THE COVID’.
That assessment is probably incorrect… it is significantly different, and it will be a long time before things are back to how they were… presuming that day WILL come. ?
So, to things that have made my life and other people’s lives better… the local food heroes in my area.
The VeryGreen Grocer
Based in Shooters Hill, The VeryGreen Grocer has been delivering to homes in South East London since 2010. Run by Mike, Mike, Barbara and Simone, their vans deliver groceries, dairy and bread every week, Monday to Friday.
Luckily for us, the husband had registered as a new customer 3 weeks before lockdown, and we started getting a weekly delivery at the end of March. The company stopped accepting new customers for a while due to demand from far and wide, but we were very reassured by their tweets explaining their new ordering process.
Things seem to have settled down since March and customers can now order through their site as usual. And they are now accepting new customers, so do email them your address and postcode if you would like an account, and the team will respond.
Below is the box we had delivered at beginning of April – full of lovely tasty good things, and we’ve been reminding ourselves how to eat in order of freshness. I’ve also had a lot of fun looking up BBC Good Food recipes to work out what to cook with what we have, and I’ve become a big fan of cabbage – which I never expected! Blame Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
We are still doing a big shop at Sainsbury’s every fortnight, but we are keeping up a weekly fruit and veg order, and are very happy to continue to support the VeryGreen family.
The Plumstead Pantry
Usually a cafe on Plumstead Common, The Plumstead Pantry has converted itself into a bakery cum grocer cum delivery service over the past two months. The owners Ash and Julia also used crowdfunding to help with the conversion, and were able to raise over £5,000 in just 14 days.
I wasn’t really aware of the business until April as I’ve only driven through Plumstead Common a few times, but I saw a tweet from a local friend about the cafe, and after a good nosey at their Twitter and Facebook, it turned out they were having regular deliveries of plain flour. At the time we had nearly run out, and as the flour shelves were/are usually empty at Sainsburys, the husband was very keen to get some!
After buying 2kg of plain flour, plus 1kg for our friends, we have since branched out into tin loaves and their very scrumptious cinnamon buns – they drip with sweetness and are just heavenly.
As well as their 1 in, 1 out policy at the cafe (with beautiful views across the Common), you can also pre-order goods for collection or delivery. Delivery is free within SE18 and surrounding areas, and there is a handy WhatsApp button on their Facebook page if you want to place an order (DMs on Twitter are also used).
And many thanks to Julia for not ringing the doorbell when delivering, Rafe nap time is sacred! ?
Old Cottage Coffee Shop Cafe
We used to live in Charlton and one of my favourite haunts was the Old Cottage Coffee Shop Cafe in Charlton Park. I still visit before Monday music at Charlton House, and do I love having a jacket potato with bacon and cheese while Rafe wriggles about with his own lunch.
Every Christmas the cafe organises a Christmas Day lunch for the elderly, and since Coronavirus closed their doors, Michael and Mimi have been cooking and delivering food to those unable to leave their homes. Based on their tweets, they are delivering lunches to at least 20 people 3 times a week. Amazing! If you can help with the lunch deliveries, please contact Michael.
Hopefully we will all be back there soon!
The Red Lion
Since a new management team took over in 2019, The Red Lion has been aiming for a more family friendly vibe. A few months ago I went with my husband, son and in-laws for an early evening meal, we had a great time, and we all really enjoyed the food.
While the pub is closed, Danny Brooker and his team have been supporting a number of individuals, NHS hospitals, care homes and hospices in the local area.
Funds are being raised through crowdfunding, and hundreds of meals are being prepared at each cooking session. A separate team are then organising and delivering the food. Super super impressive, and a wonderful thing to read about.
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.