The Frank Diaries: Surviving the Newborn Stage

Hello you ruddy marvellous lot. Happy 2016 and and all that. We had the most un-celebratory New Years Eve on record I think. Homemade pizzas (one of which we forgot about and completely decimated), the last episode of the Agatha Christie that was on over Christmas, and the London fireworks on our phones whilst in bed. Watching the clock on Big Ben count down from 60, whilst simultaneously hearing the fireworks from 11 miles away due to the time delay, was a slight anti-climax though. I won’t lie.

Christmas was equally as low key but very pleasant indeed as we travelled round various parts of London and Kent visiting our four families. Other than dressing him in the obligatory Santa outfit, we didn’t make a huge fuss about it being Frank’s First Christmas™. Paul and I didn’t even bother getting him a present (shock horror!), although he did get some lovely bits from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles. And I enjoyed copious amounts of cheese, chocolate and alcohol. As I said, low-key but satisfyingly pleasant.

To accompany this blog post I thought I’d share some pictures that were taken at my Mum’s house over Christmas by my brother in law. He is by no means a professional photographer, but likes to sit and quietly click away on his fancy Dan camera. I love seeing the day from a reportage point of view, and as most of my photos of Frank are iPhone selfies enhanced by a clever Instagram filter, it’s truly lovely to now have some more natural images of him (and my gorgeous nephew, Eithan) that capture the ‘every day’. So thank you very much, Colin 🙂

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But anyway, this post isn’t about Christmas or the New Year. It’s about survival. Frank turned three months last week, which means as we enter 2016 I no longer have a newborn baby. My mind is boggled. In many, many ways it is a huge relief to be in the ‘infant’ stage. He’s still very young and vulnerable, but now that he sees so much more and his synapses have gone in to overdrive, his personality is really starting to emerge and he’s just so much more enjoyable. He’s also chubbed out big and is cultivating quite the double chin, which is super cute.

Frank was not an easy newborn. I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations, but he did (and still does, to be honest) cry an awful lot. See, there are babies who whinge when they want something and whimper when they’re unhappy, but are generally happy to gurgle and look around in blissful unawareness. But then there are babies who fly in to inconsolable rage at any given moment, turning purple in the process, causing the cat to fly out the cat flap in fear of his life, and stopping only to eat, sleep or poo. Frank was most definitely the latter.

In the depths of the night feeding sessions I would more often than not find myself asking the internet a desperate question. Why does my baby cry so much? How do I get my 4 week old to sleep for longer? Does my baby have reflux? What is colic? Baby forums became my sanctuary, and I’d scour the posts looking for other new mums who had asked the same questions, eagerly reading the answers and words of advice from those who had been there, done that.

But the problem with babies is that they are extremely changeable and totally unreliable. What seems to work one day might not work the next, and what might work for one baby may have the complete opposite effect on another. So it’s all trial and error, this baby rearing lark. However, three months in I’m pretty sure I know what my baby likes and doesn’t like now. We have a bit of a routine going. I’m down with the kid.

Here’s what works for us:

Baby wearing

Whilst pregnant I knew that I wanted some sort of sling. The hippy in me wanted a wrap as opposed to a structured carrier so I bid for an Ergobaby Wrap on eBay and had fun practising the basic wrap for newborns before he arrived. At three days old and with Paul instructing me via a YouTube tutorial, we somehow managed to get Frank in snugly and I felt like some sort of Earth Mother Goddess. It soon became clear, however, that when I most needed the sling (i.e. when Frank was massively overtired and screaming inconsolably), the Ergobaby just wasn’t going to cut it. Too time-consuming and complicated to get on. Some quick research and a call-out on a baby forum later and I had a NCT Close Caboo winging its way to me which is SO much better. In the early weeks Frank would usually nap in this once a day when I would potter around making lunch, tidying up etc. I wouldn’t say he particularly loved or loves the sling. He nearly always protests as I put him in and will generally take 5-10 minutes of frantic jiggling and shushing to settle him, but there’s no denying the sling is a great tool in the early weeks for a baby who just wants to be close to you.

Swaddling

In the first month I put out a couple of desperate, baby-related pleas on Facebook and got a multitude of helpful messages from my mummy friends. SEVERAL people suggested swaddling but I have to admit I was really reluctant in the early weeks, and I’m not too sure why. I think I thought he wouldn’t like it. Eventually I gave in and it changed everything regarding Frank’s sleep. He had a pretty severe startle reflex and having his arms bound to his sides improved his sleep enormously. I started with a Gro-Snug which worked well initially but kept riding up around his face in the middle of the night, and am now on Swaddle Me blankets. I use them for every sleep, day and night. In fact, I rely on swaddling so much now that I am quite scared he won’t settle properly once he starts to roll over and we can no longer swaddle! But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

Dummies

Ok, hands up who said whilst pregnant that they wouldn’t be giving their babies a dummy? I know I did. I’m not even sure why these little plastic wonders are frowned upon by many, but what I do know is that I’d bought a pack of two ‘just in case’ prior to Frank being born, and had effectively shoved one in his mouth within the first few days.

Nowadays his dummy is used as a sleep aid and I intend for it to stay that way. When he’s swaddled and on my shoulder, he’ll often start sucking on my jumper. In goes a dummy and he falls asleep fairly quickly, spitting it out just as he starts to fall in to a deep sleep.

White noise

Apparently it’s bloody noisy in the womb, so many babies are calmed by white noise. I use an app on my phone called Sleepy Sounds and Frank LOVES it. There are lots of different sounds on there but it’s the hairdryer he really responds to, calming in an instant if he’s hysterical, and sending him to sleep when it’s bedtime. I do have my concerns as it needs to be pretty loud to have any effect, and as it’s on my phone I don’t like having it too close to his head. But again, this is a big part of our sleep routine and something Frank struggles to settle without.

Rocking

Paul takes the mick out of me for calling Frank a ‘motion baby’ but he really is. Whether he’s rocked, bobbed, swayed or swung, Frank likes to move. However, I can already feel this constant motion already taking effect on my back and knees, and it’s only going to get worse as he gets bigger, which leads me to…

…The Swing Chair

A few weeks ago his napping was driving me absolutely mad, as he would wake- without fail- 30 minutes after going down. Every time. I’ve read a lot about it and realise now that it happens as he is coming out of his light REM sleep cycle. Whereas he should slip in to a deeper sleep at this point, the transition wakes him up and he can’t re-settle. You can’t get anything done in 30 minutes, and with me needing to get back in to Utterly Wow mode this month, I desperately needed a solution. The internet told me a swing chair would be my saviour, so we asked for one as an early Christmas present from his Nanny and Grandad, and I think I actually wept tears of joy the first time he napped in it and I had to wake him 2.5 hours later.

A few weeks in and it doesn’t work every time, but as I type he’s upstairs gently swinging away, having been down for 1 hour 4o and counting. The swing chair may be huge, cumbersome and ghastly to look at, but boy it delivers.

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So there we go. These are the tools that settle my demanding diva and have got me through the newborn stage. The ‘routine’ is quite extensive, and many a time I lament the fact that I have to do all these things to get Frank to sleep when other people seem to simply lie their angels down and walk away, but needs must. Some might say I’m ‘making a rod for my own back’ (possibly the most over-used sentence on baby forums), but I’m confident these are all just temporary solutions. As it happens, I’m pretty much following the method of American paediatrician, Harvey Karp who wrote The Happiest Baby On The BlockHis method is all about the 5 S’s: Swaddling (yep), Side or Stomach position (Frank goes to sleep on my shoulder or in my arms on his side), Shush (white noise), Swing (hell yes), and Suck (pass me that pacifier). And he’s a Doctor, so he must be right.

Right?

Sama xx

The Frank Diaries: Out of The Fog

I have logged on to finish this blog post so many times now, I’ve been that close to scrapping it altogether and writing about something totally different. I wasn’t exactly a regular blogger to begin with, but now I have a young baby who fights sleep all day long unless it’s on me, it’s become even more difficult to find the time to get online. Ok, let me rephrase that. I spend all day online. On my phone. One handed whilst breastfeeding/cuddling/housing a sleeping baby. But it’s become even more difficult to sit at a laptop and type. Is there a machine that will allow me to dictate future blog posts, I wonder? There should be.

What I originally set out to write about was the torrid time I had in those first few weeks. Reading this post back to myself, it now seems incredibly bleak, and, I’m pleased to say, out of date. Nearly 10 weeks in, we’re well out of the fog and I’m very much enjoying my beautiful, stubborn, funny baby and starting to enjoy the monotonous repetitive simple existence that is maternity leave postpartum. But I’m going to share it anyway. As is the way with this blog, my witterings serve not only as a permanent reminder for myself (and a good form of contraception when I start to think I could handle a second child), but hopefully as something for other shell-shocked, grieving, exhausted new mums to relate to.

So anyway. Here it is.

The First Two Weeks

I vividly remember what a close friend (and now mum to two beautiful babies) once told me when I asked how it was going after her first child was born. She said: “The only way I can describe it is devastating. Our life has been devastated.” I think there may even have been tears in her eyes as she said it. (Or I could hear it in her voice- I can’t actually remember if this was by phone call or face to face.)

Either way, the emotion behind and the conviction with which she said this simple statement really did take me by surprise. At this point I didn’t have many friends with babies, so my contact with new mums had gone little beyond a congratulatory card in the post, followed perhaps by a “Hey! Sprog is gorgeous. How’s it all going?” text several weeks later.

As I’m sure many of you can relate tomy Facebook feed these days is full of baby-related status’ (amongst the Buzzfeed articles and cat compilation videos). Proud arrival announcements, babies dressed as pumpkins/Christmas puddings/Easter bunnies depending on the time of year, selfies of mum and baby in bed together, all traces of exhaustion masked by a carefully selected Instagram filter (ahem, guilty). Prior to having my own baby I was led to believe that giving birth was horrendous and that sleep deprivation would be a killer, but that it would all be worth it because once he was here I would realise what true love really felt like, unicorns would sing, and life as I knew it would be complete.

I’ll be honest, the first two weeks with Frank were horrible. HORRIBLE. Whilst there were moments when I’d stare in wonder and bewilderment at this tiny person I’d created (usually when he was asleep), and tentatively whisper “I love you, Frank”, hoping that I meant it, the vast majority of the time I was experiencing one or several of the following emotions:

fear

Arriving home from the hospital I just remember feeling scared. Scared of the night ahead without professional support, scared of Frank, scared of the next time he’d want to feed (breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful before I discovered nipple shields, but that’s a whole other story), even scared of my much-loved home that now felt totally alien due to this strange creature we’d just brought in to it.

grief

Paul and I were shell-shocked. We were exhausted. Nothing was the same and everything was different. The life that we had spent ten years building together, the daily routines we’d established, the evenings we’d under-appreciated and the simple things that made us happy… gone. Those first few days were largely spent mourning our freedom and old life. And this made us both immensely sad. One evening I vividly remember gripping his hand tightly and whispering “I want to go back”. And meaning it. Which of course leads to…

guilt

How could I be mourning our old life? How could I even be contemplating a desire to go back and not get pregnant? It’s what I had so desperately wanted and struggled to get. It’s what thousands of women across the globe desperately want and struggle to have. Paul and I had created a life, a little miracle, yet in those early days I genuinely believed we’d made a ginormous mistake. And don’t even get me started on Lenny. Our ginger fur ball, our ‘first-borne son’ as Paul affectionately calls him, who was completely freaked out and all but disappeared in those first few days. Several times I would seek him out in a lonely corner of our house, bury my wet, snotty face in his fur and whisper “I’m sorry, Lenny, we still love you, don’t hate us”.

exhaustion

You don’t know what true exhaustion is unless you’ve made it to the final interrogation stages of SAS: Who Dares Wins, or you’ve just had a baby. In the 62 hours between going in to early labour and leaving hospital I think I got about 3 hours sleep. Once home, I was lucky to get 2-3 hours of broken Z’s a night for the first week. Physically, you can deal with it; the adrenaline somehow keeps you going. But it’s the mental exhaustion that’s the killer. That’s what had me in tears multiple times a day for a reason I couldn’t even begin to understand or articulate.

lonliness

Due to Paul’s job, he was only able to take a week off work, and before I knew it he was kissing me goodbye at 8am on a Monday morning and shutting the front door behind him, leaving me…and Frank. After the initial what the hell do I do now panic, we’d somehow make our way downstairs and set up camp on the sofa. And there we would remain for the majority of the day.

My favourite time of day, a moment of calm and respite, was late morning. Frank would either be feeding or asleep on me, tea and biscuits would have been consumed, Facebook/Instagram/Bloglovin’ scoured, Holly and Phil’s friendly, familiar faces on the tellybox. Despite the severe lack of sleep, this was cosy and comforting and quite nice.

I was also lucky enough to have someone pop in nearly every day- whether it was my Mum, Paul’s mum, a close friend or even the midwife. I wasn’t good company of course- more often than not I would just cry and talk about how bleak life had become and how much I wasn’t enjoying it- but the support was there, and for that I will always be so, so grateful.

But, by heck, those first couple of weeks were lonely.

misery

What you get when you combine all the above. The ‘Baby Blues’ as they like to call it. There’s no doubt about it, for the first two weeks I was seriously glum.

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Glum. (But definitely enjoying sofa snuggles.)

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8 days old and doing his best Mr Burns from The Simpsons impression.

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The calm after the ‘hysterics at 3am’ storm.

Things didn’t suddenly get better once we entered week three, but it was at this point that I realised I had to snap out of my misery and self pity, and began to see the woods for the trees. (I have no idea what that phrase means, but I think it’s contextually accurate.) Feeding had become infinitely better, I was getting more like 4 hours of broken sleep a night which was meagre but manageable, Frank and I had established some sort of daytime routine, and- wait for it- I was getting out and about, even if it was just to walk down to the corner shop to buy yet another pack of bourbon biscuits.

Much has happened between now and then. We’ve had the dreaded ‘colic’, on-going jaundice, dabbles with cranial osteopathy, a bout of mastitis, and a tongue tie division (and subsequent regrowth). I may well go back and expand on some of these events at some point, but given the time it’s taken me to share this particular passage of time, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, I want to say to any new mums what I was told again and again in those early weeks.

It does get better.

Infinitely better, in fact. He will still frequently and inexplicably scream the house down, his sleep is seriously questionable and I worry every day that I’m not doing this parenting lark very well. My breasts are unrecognisable, Paul and I get infuriated with each other far more often than we used to, and I still miss my independence immensely.

But I can now say that I am well and truly, head over heels in love with my little boy. I mean… look at him!

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Til next time…

Sama xx

The Frank Diaries: His Arrival

I have given birth.

The majority of you will know this already due to my social media updates, but if you’re an occasional blog reader, you may have been wondering why it’s all gone a bit quiet about these parts of late.

Life has changed.

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Meet Frank.

Four weeks old today, Master Frank William Hemsley is entirely responsible for my radio silence. I’ve been attempting to write this blog post since the week after his arrival but have just managed a paragraph here and there before he’s required my attention again, or I’ve chosen sleep instead, or more visitors have arrived, or I’ve just decided to stare at his face in total and utter shell shock.

I want to talk and talk. I want to go in to vivid detail about the first few days, about our feeding dramas, the baby blues, the devastation that is severe sleep deprivation, the endless googling, and, of course, the moments of stupendous awe and wonder that wash over me when he’s asleep on my chest, or clasping my finger, or gurgling away happily in his daddy’s arms. And I will… in time. Hence why I’ve started The Frank Diaries. Entries might be super short- just a little snippet of life with Frank I feel compelled to share in a spare moment. Or they might be a little longer, written over a few days or weeks as this post has.

Many of you may not be interested in baby stuff, but life with a newborn is all-consuming so I’m afraid I’m finding it rather hard to focus on anything else at the moment! I have wedding updates from Jennie and Paris to share, as well as Part 2 of my Utterly Wow 2015 Season post… but I’m hoping for now you will indulge me and my need to talk baby.

But first… his birth story.

A couple of days before...

A couple of days before…

At my 39 week midwife appointment I asked for a membrane sweep. I wasn’t desperate to have him then and there but I really didn’t want to be two weeks late and hoped the sweep would just move things along a little bit. After 2 minutes of painful prodding and poking up there, my nice midwife peeled off her gloves with a shake of her head. My cervix was high and to the side- which meant it didn’t look like labour was imminent. I thanked her anyway for inflicting such pain upon me unnecessarily (although I had noone to blame but myself), and gingerly went about my day.

At 1.30am that night I woke up in some discomfort. After going for a wee, I got back in to bed and the back ache began. Two hours of ouch ouch OUCH surges that felt almost on top of each other and had me lying awake wondering if this was the start of something. At 3.30am I downloaded a contractions app, crept downstairs to a dark living room and began timing. They were roughly every 8 or 9 minutes lasting about 40 seconds each. Painful, but bearable. At around 6.45am I took my oblivious husband a coffee and informed him that I believed I was in early labour. Ever the gallant knight, he leapt out of bed to get me some paracetamol, propped me up in bed with supportive pillows, and finished packing the hospital bag in preparation for our imminent departure.

Ah, who am I kidding? Bleary-eyed and just a little bit dubious, he questioned my claims, thanked me sarcastically for having an early sweep when he’d wanted me to wait it out, and asked if he could go in to work still as he had an important meeting. Of course, I knew from friends’ experiences and reading too many online birth stories that early labour can take hours and even days, so I allowed him to leave me on the condition that he’d come home immediately if things ramped up. As such he didn’t need to. The contractions continued steadily all day and he arrived home at 5pm to find me bent over the birthing ball with a TENS machine attached to my back like a total cliché. By this point the contractions were every 2-4 minutes lasting a minute each, so on my third pleading phone call to the hospital, they allowed us to make our way in to be assessed.

After a lengthy wait in triage due to a lady giving birth in the corridor toilet outside our room (!), a nice but somewhat distracted midwife told me I was 2-3cm dilated- not enough to stay at the hospital, much to my despair. Back home we went in a car journey from hell, with the instruction to have some dinner and a bath and they would see me back at the hospital later on that night, they were sure. Contractions had really ramped up by this point, and after managing a couple of mouthfuls of rice whilst bent over the birthing ball (I avoided the chilli as really didn’t want to see it make an unwelcome reappearance later on), I waddled to the loo only to discover I had begun bleeding quite heavily. We were back at the hospital within an hour and a half.

The bleeding was a concern so at 3-4cm dilated they allowed me to stay, this time hooked up to a machine so they could monitor baby’s heart rate and the contractions which, by now, were excruciating. It’s worth pointing out that Paul had truly stepped into his gallant knight shoes by this point and upon my very un lady-like commands was leaping up to furiously knead my lower back as each surge swept in. Birth partner brownie points to him.

About 9.30pm we were told a room was ready for me in Delivery Suite and I waddled round, clinging on to Paul for dear life. “And this is the room you’ll be having your baby”, declared a young, smiley midwife, as she showed us in to a vast, clinical and totally unremarkable hospital room. I thanked her anyway (I was half expecting her to reveal the ‘room rate’ next, Four In A Bed stylee), and veered straight for the nearest piece of furniture I could bend over.

My birthing midwife arrived and introduced herself at this point, and I found myself begging for pain relief, to which she completely flummoxed me by saying “Sure, what would you like? Epidural? Pethadine? Gas and air?”. For some reason I thought an epidural would only be offered when I was in the throes of active labour or when I’d exhausted every other possibility, but my ability to think rationally or decisively had, by this point, completely vanished. I looked bewilderedly at Paul who suggested I start with gas and air which the midwife proceeded to get ready for me.

Still standing (I think- it all becomes a bit of a blur at this point), with the next contraction came an extreme pressure down below. Having watched way too many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I knew this was something I should make the midwife aware of, who seemed intrigued by this announcement and told me to get on the bed so she could assess me. “Do you want the good news?” she asked, after a few seconds of poking and stretching, “you’re 10cm dilated.”

I genuinely don’t think I have ever been as shocked in my entire life, and my response (something along the lines of: “SHUT THE F**K UP”) I suspect conveyed this. To have gone from 4cm to 10cm in around 40 minutes went some way to explaining why I’d been bleeding so heavily, but having glanced at the clock when we came in the room and thinking I would most likely be labouring all night, I couldn’t believe that it was time to push and that it was very possible I’d be giving birth THAT DAY.

The next and final half an hour is a little more difficult to recollect, as by now I was sucking furiously on the gas and air and speaking mainly gobbledygook. What I do know is as follows:

  • The midwife briefly disappeared (presumably to get ready for the pushing stage) and whilst Paul tried to understand my attempts at gas and air fuelled communication, we became aware of an alarm sound that was coming from the heart rate machine and steadily getting louder.
  • Paul popped his head out in to the corridor to alert someone, and within minutes a swarm of doctors, nurses and whoever else was passing by (or so it felt like) were in the room, wheeling in various bits of machinery and talking at me urgently.
  • I heard “baby’s heart rate” and “forceps delivery”. I also heard my name lots. One woman raised the stirrups next to the bed and put my legs in them; another callously ripped the tube from my mouth that was feeding me the blissful high and told me to hold on to the bed handles instead.
  • I briefly caught glimpse of the ginormous forceps and instantly wished I hadn’t.
  • When it was time to push- “In to your bottom, Sama, like you’re doing a big poo“- I got way too het up about the technicalities. “Like I’m actually trying to push out a poo? What if I do poo? I don’t want to poo!”
  • My fear of unwittingly releasing my bowels in front of an entire medical team meant the first three pushes I did were pathetic. I knew they were pathetic at the time, and yet I did them anyway. I effectively just tensed my stomach and groaned for effect. The doctors weren’t impressed and at this point starting shouting at me.
  • Realising it was actually quite urgent, and with the numbing effects of the gas and air fading away, I pushed properly and I pushed long and hard. With shouts of encouragement from everyone around me, and a doctor pulling on the forceps as hard as she could (I swear she was pushing against the bed with her foot), his head crowned and a baby’s cry filled the air which was simultaneously surreal, terrifying and wonderful.
  • Cue a very surreal minute as we waited for the next and final contraction: me, so grateful and relieved the hard part was over, Paul, glancing down to look at his first borne’s head and seeing a view of his wife he would never be able to unsee.

And with a final push this little purple alien was pulled out of me and plonked on my chest, crying as loud and as hard as he possibly could. Due to the forceps and the speed in which he must have been forced down my birth canal, he looked completely bashed up. I’d like to say I felt instant love but it wasn’t like that. I felt a connection, no doubt about that, but the main feeling I had was that of shock and bewilderment. He was here. This was my son. This was Frank.

Holy shitballs.

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Minutes old.


16 hours old and fresh out of the boxing ring.

16 hours old and fresh out of the boxing ring.

LOVE

‘Til the next time I make it to the laptop…

Sama xxx

Maternity Leave: The First 2 Weeks

With nearly two weeks of maternity leave under my belt, I feel compelled to share a little bit about how I’m feeling with the whole ‘not going to work’ thing. Work, of course, being my full time job managing the bridal boutique. I’m only on semi maternity leave from Utterly Wow as you can never fully switch off when you’re self-employed. My 2015 season may be done but of course I am securing next year’s clients, catching up on admin etc etc. I’m virtually work free for the next couple of months though- yippee!

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve been looking forward to this period ever since I even started thinking about babies. Not because I don’t like my job at the boutique- I really love working at Blackburn Bridal and have been checking in regularly to see how they’re doing without me. (Absolutely fine, incidentally. And there was me thinking they’d fall apart without my insane management skillz. I’m not going to lie, I am disappointed.) No, I’d simply been looking forward to some ‘me’ time. I’ve worked hard for the last few years. Building a business around a full time job takes serious time and effort, and with a busy summer of weddings combined with making sure the running of the boutique was ‘handover-ready’, I was positively chomping at the bit to put my feet up and chill the hell out come the end of August.

Or at least I thought I was. Two weeks in and evidently I seem to be struggling with the whole ‘putting my feet up and chilling the hell out’ concept.

My problem is I like to be busy. I like to be active. I like structure and I like to be productive. A day off for me is seen as precious time to get things done, and is rarely spent lying around the house or taking a spontaneous jaunt to the seaside. I will often have some sort of ‘plan’ for the day (even on the most precious of days off, a Sunday) and come the evening I will sub-consciously look back and mentally tick off all the things I’ve done to make sure I’ve achieved enough to warrant not feeling like a bad person. It’s the same with activity. (Note I use the word ‘activity’ and not ‘exercise’.) I haven’t exercised regularly for a loooong time, but I do like to spend a large portion of my day on my feet and moving around. If I don’t I get restless legs and struggle to sleep, so spending a day on the sofa watching crappy films just isn’t going to cut it for me. I know, I’M WEIRD.

The first thing I did on Day 1 of ‘The Leave’ was write an epically long Shit I Want To Do Whilst On Maternity Leave list which is currently washi-taped to my office wall. I’d been compiling a list on my phone for the last couple of months and so transferring this list to an official colour-coded, category-divided spreadsheet seemed a great way to spend an hour. I know you want me to talk you through said list so here we go…

There are three main categories: Home Improvements, Work Life and For Fun.

Home Improvements consists of little jobs around the house that I’ve wanted to do for ages and just not had the time nor inclination for. There are the more appealing jobs such as putting together a gallery wall of family photos in my hallway, organising storage and finally making the wedding/honeymoon photo albums. And then there are the not-so appealing jobs like painting the bathroom ceiling, weeding the garden and cleaning the kitchen cupboards inside and out. (The latter gallantly bestowed upon me by my adoring husband.)

In my Work Life there is so much I want to do, from re-doing/updating my website and writing a book proposal, to the dreaded tax return, getting back to regular blogging, and research/prep for a new Utterly Wow endeavour (ooh, cryptic).

Finally there’s the For Fun category (are you still with me?). This comprises the more typical maternity leave activities such as packing my hospital bag, washing baby clothes, preparing freezer meals, baking, day time cinema trips etc. All the things that I should want to do but I know will inevitably make me feel like a lazy shitehawk.

As my Mum said bemusedly when she popped over earlier in the week and I showed her my list: “You’re not planning on doing this all now, are you?”

And here we come to the crux of the maternity leave quandary I find myself in, two weeks in. I want to get things done, now, before baby comes and reduces me to a sleep-deprived, sofa-dwelling crying mess with a boob permanently out. But equally I know I should take the time to relax, to nest, to read my hypno-birthing book and to spend a day baking a cake and then eating it all because… well, because I am 37 weeks pregnant and soon I’m going to be responsible for a tiny person, and these are the last few weeks of ‘just me’ time I’m ever going to have. Ever.

And I’ve literally only just realised the enormity of that sentence as I typed it. Wow.

So what have I been doing for the last fortnight other than procrastinating? Well, you can dress it up as ‘nesting’, I guess, but the real answer is shopping. Yes, I have spent the last two weeks BUYING THINGS. Not clothes shopping- although I did impulsively treat myself to a necklace and new autumn cardigan on a quick dash to Bluewater the other day. No, I’ve been thing shopping; things for my hospital bag, things for the baby’s room, things for the house, things that will actually enable me to tick certain jobs off my To Do list such as storage boxes, picture frames and weed killer. I can’t seem to let a day go by without spending money… and yet I also don’t seem to be getting a huge amount done. PROCRASTINATION OVERLOAD.

On the plus side, shopping of any description does make me insanely happy so I am having a rather pleasant time whilst I spend all my money and try to adjust to life on The Leave. And phase 1 of The Nursery Reveal is nearly ready to share, once a couple of rugs arrive next week. For now though, here’s a sneaky peek of a corner…

nursey

So talk to me, those of you who have babies. Did it take you a while to adjust to maternity leave or are you a natural at maxing and relaxing? How did you spend your time waiting for your tiny person to arrive, and if you could impart to me a word or two of wisdom, what would it be?

Sama xx

His Room: The Inspiration

It’s been a little while since you had a post from me, and I imagine there are one or two of you who are wondering if we did ever find out the gender of The Bump…

Well the clue is in the title, folks- we did and we’re having a boy. Yee-ha! Ker-splat! Boom! Poohead! (Just practicing the boy lingo. Have I got it down??)

Even on the way to our scan we were undecided, Paul very much voting against finding out but saying it was my choice. A little more digging and he revealed he wanted a boy so much he was just a bit nervous he may feel some disappointment or even resentment if we found out it was a girl at this stage. I decided that if the sonographer had a clear view and was 100% sure we would ask the big question, but if the little tinker was playing up or crossing it’s legs we’d put it down to fate and wait til the big day.

Turns out the little tinker was playing up which meant a walk/dance around the hospital corridors for 20 minutes so that the sonographer could check and measure all the bits she needed to. But then curiosity got the better of me anyway (it was inevitable really), and I asked if she knew what it was, and she said she did, and we held our breath, and she revealed it was a boy, and Paul “Yessss-ed” like a small child who had just been told he could have McDonalds for tea.

In the immediate 24 hours that followed I was unsure whether I’d made the right call to find out. It felt surreal and amazing and I was very pleased with the outcome, but I also felt a bit like I’d let myself down somehow, like it was a diet I’d given up on after 2 days, or a secret I’d blabbed to someone when I really shouldn’t have. But now, with only three months to go and shopping underway I’m very, very pleased we know. And totally, utterly thrilled that we’re having a small male person.

So now thoughts turn to his room! I’ve been looking forward to this part massively, I have to say. Any excuse to partake in two of my favourite hobbies- interiors and shopping.

So here’s the room in its current dumping ground/empty space state.

IMG_1228 IMG_1229 IMG_1232 IMG_1233 You’ll see I’ve made some pretty important/random purchases so far… Paul was completely freaked out when I came home with the pack of nappies this weekend, but I’ve heard good things about Asda’s own brand and as I happened to be in one and we don’t usually shop there, I thought I may as well. (And at £4.50 for a pack of 70, why wouldn’t I?!) I would also like to point out that the huge piles/bags of clothes are a hand-me-down from a friend. I’m in the  process of going through what I want to keep as there’s enough newborn stuff for twenty babies there, let alone one, but it’s lovely to have that first month of clothes ticked off the list.

Anyway, enough justifying of the contents of the room and let’s look at the space instead. It’s a great sized room right next to ours, with magnolia walls and an oak laminate floor, as per the whole house when we bought it last year. I don’t really need to do anything to it… but then that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?

When I found out I was pregnant I started dreaming of a colourful, stylish, eclectic and ever-so-slightly boho nursery that would somehow work for either sex. A bland white/grey/beige unisex room featuring bunnies and/or Winnie the Pooh was never going to float my boat and I was keen to stay as far away from the typical ‘baby’ look as much as I could. I kept coming back to these two images from Pinterest, both featuring a darker, more masculine feature wall and then lots of softer accents.

Pinterest sources here and here

Pinterest sources here and here

Whilst I still absolutely adore both rooms, it’s only now with a tiny penis growing inside me that I realise they are probably more female-orientated, so I’ve taken myself back to the drawing board. For our boy I still want something colourful, stylish and eclectic, but I’m thinking I need to swap the ever-so-slightly boho feel for something with a more robust edge. The words strong, bold, happy, fun, modern keep popping up, and it’s probably also worth pointing out that I’m thinking more ‘little boy’s room’ than ‘baby boy’s room’. He’ll only be a baby for a short while after all… Here’s a little of what I’m thinking:

Collage2 nursery4Collage1Collage3 Collage4

Whilst on the surface they all appear to be pretty different, there is a definite coherency running through all of these awesome rooms; namely white or light walls, lots of quirky, typographic artwork, garlands and/or spots, and a kaleidoscope of pattern and bold colour. I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of getting started and utterly bamboozled with where to begin (painting the walls is probably the first step), but looking forward to sharing the progress with you.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing sneak peeks of purchases and progress via my Instagram, so make sure you’re following me there if you don’t already. Otherwise, look out for a first reveal in approximately three months time when Stage One will be complete in readiness for a certain little dude’s arrival. I’m thinking there will almost certainly have to be a Stage Two and even Stage Three reveal once the room is in use and starts naturally evolving, but let’s get it baby ready at least.

To be continued… as they say.

Sama xx

The Gender Scan- Do I Find Out?

So I have my halfway scan tomorrow. Technically this is the anomaly scan; an incredibly important point of the pregnancy journey when they have a thorough explore and make sure the babe has all the right organs in the right place, the correct number of fingers and toes, or any other signs of anything out of the ordinary. But, of course, for many parents-to-be, the more exciting element of this scan (the last one most people have before they actually meet baby) is the chance to find out the gender.

boy-or-girl1

We weren’t going to but I’m wavering.

Reasons for NOT finding out:

  • Because it’s traditional not to
  • Because it’s fun to speculate and guess
  • Because I like the challenge of creating a fun, colourful baby’s room that could suit either sex
  • Because it may help me push harder come labour…? (Tenuous, much?)
  • Because I may not get as attached should something horrible happened…. (I used to think this before I was pregnant but now I’m here I’m not so sure).

Reasons FOR finding out:

  • Because tomorrow is my last opportunity
  • Because actually, I’ve had the briefest of looks at the baby section of TK Maxx, and unisex clothes (and other baby items) are boring and few and far between
  • Because I can be more specific with pre-baby shopping. Not that I’m going to be ‘pink’ or ‘blue’ but there is SO much more choice once you know
  • Because we can choose a name- or at least focus our energies on one gender
  • Because it would be nice to refer to the baby as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘it’
  • Because… I just kinda want to.

So readers, a brief poll. Should I? Would you? Did you find out and then wish you hadn’t? Or did you stay strong and then spend the remaining 20 weeks wishing you had? What are the pros and cons?

I’ve got 24 hours. Talk to me…

Sama xx

Life Lately

Here’s a little of what’s going on in my head at the moment…

PREGNANCY

Naturally this aspect of my life is pretty consuming. I think about it approximately 524,000 times a day, which is quite a lot considering as I’m not showing yet and have virtually no symptoms. Ponderings include but are in no way limited to:

I think I may have just felt some movement- oh wait, that was just wind. 

Why am I getting period-style cramps and twinges? These better be growing pains and not something more sinister…

Speaking of growing pains, when am I going to grow?! Putting on half a stone in the last three months is encouraging but I’m ready for a bump now, as opposed to looking like I’ve just let myself go.

Is my next scan date letter here yet? Is my next scan date letter here yet?  WHY IS MY NEXT SCAN DATE LETTER NOT HERE YET?! 

Our child is going to be nameless because I DON’T LIKE NAMES.

I haven’t bought anything yet as it still feels too soon, but first thing on my list will be the buggy/pram/travel system (travel system?!) as it appears to be the largest expense. This is where I’m hoping you lovely lot will be able to help, actually. I am all ears as I haven’t done much research at all other than a wander round John Lewis once where all I could see was pound signs followed by a lot of numbers. I did quite like the look of the Baby Jogger City Mini GT, but that may have been because the shop sample was sporting a rather fetching sheepskin blanket in the seat.

Ideally I’d like something that I don’t have to buy 67 accessories or parts for (other than a sheepskin blanket), that is nice and neat and compact (I HATE large prams that take up half a pavement and have to have double doors opened for them), and that folds down really easily as I live out in a little village and have to drive everywhere. Any suggestions?

IMPENDING WEDDINGS

With two weeks until my first wedding of the season I’m really looking forward to getting started. Although preparations have been underway for months now it’s always exciting around this time- when my dining room becomes a crafting zone and my laptop threatens to self-combust from overuse. I’m working with some awesome suppliers and venues this summer; old favourites who I’ve worked with (or hired!) before such as Bloomin’gayles and Floor The Floor, and suppliers I’ve wanted to work with for a long time such as McKinley Rodgers, M&J Photography, Joanne Truby, Gilded Linens, Doris Loves, and the fabulous Asylum venue… to name but a few!

I don’t how we did it but the timing really couldn’t be more perfect. Once wedding #1 is done it’s literally all go until the end of August when I plan to go on maternity leave and watch This Morning on repeat until the baby comes. (That actually couldn’t be further from the truth- I have so much I want to do in that last month such as paint the baby’s room, paint furniture, paint parts of the house we just don’t have time to paint at the moment, refresh my website, sort out Utterly Wow HQ etc etc. How are we back on babies?! I tell you- all-consuming…)

CORNWALL TRIP

Thank you to those who chipped in and gave recommendations for our upcoming Cornwall trip. I think I’ve taken heed of everyone’s advice in some way, booking two nights at a pub/hotel in Padstow, and one night at The Scarlet, so we’re staying North. Paul keeps protesting at the latter and having to sit down when I tell him how much it costs for one night, but thankfully I’m doing what I usually do when it comes to spending money and ignoring him. I’m also very much hoping to go or dinner at Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6 in Padstow, but we won’t mention to Paul how much that costs yet…

TELLY

Paul and I are at our happiest when we have a good series to watch, so it’s a joy to a) have Game of Thrones back (not that I could tell you what the hell is going on) and b) to have discovered Peaky Blinders on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it, it’s really rather good… if you can get over the utterly abysmal Birmingham accents from nearly everyone in the cast apart from Cillian Murphy. I can’t help but shout at the telly every time Helen McRory opens her mouth. Seriously, it makes me grateful to have left the profession when someone gets a job because of who they are as opposed to their ability to do a regional accent that is essential to the plot. Rant over.

THE VOTE

Oh yes, it’s voting day. I can’t even begin to speak eloquently or indeed with much real knowledge or wisdom when it comes to politics. I’ve done the quizzes that try to deduce who you should vote for and have received a mixed bag of results that have taught me nothing new about myself; namely that I agree with different parties on different policies. But I am going to vote Labour when I get home from work this evening and this is for three reasons:

1. Ed’s grown on me throughout the campaigning process even though he feels the need to start every sentence with ‘Let me explain…’.

2. I’ve read countless intelligent, informed, engaging and often witty arguments as to why I should vote Labour (such as this one by Robert Webb) and nothing even remotely similar from the Conservative side.

3. I’m one of those ‘hippy, liberal types’, as my husband likes to call me.

And despite the fact that I’ve recently discovered my vote is pointless due to residing in one of the safest Conservative seats in the country (Sevenoaks), I shall vote none the less, as you should too 🙂

That is all, on with your day.

Sama xxx