Beautiful water birth…

My first experience of going through labour was probably what you’d imagine if you ever watched “One Born Every Minute” – I went into hospital after about nine of hours of (what seemed like) close contractions. And they didn’t send me away which seemed to confirm that I was in established labour. However it then took another 19 hours of pacing up and down in this little, clinical, 8 foot space, trying to get comfortable between contractions and becoming more and more exhausted. I think I actually wrote a birth plan the first time around and it said something along the lines of “no drugs if possible”. Well that all went straight out of the window – I was given pethadine first, in an attempt to stall things for long enough for me to get some sleep. That made me puke within about two seconds of the injection! Then I got stuck at 4cm dilated for hours on end so I was told my best option was the syntocin drip and along with that I was offered an epidural for the massive speeding up of painful contractions and I took it. (All this was after about 17 hours of non-stop TENS mild electric shocking).

The end of all this drugging resulted in a labour flat on my back on a hospital bed being told when to push based on flickering digital images of contractions on a screen rather than feeling anything in particular bodily. Despite that it only took 30 minutes of pushing with a bit of help from my gorgeous Spanish midwife Marina, to get JJ out. I then had the injection to speed up the placenta delivery (which, by the way, was MASSIVE! – like a huge liver or something!).

I certainly don’t look back on that experience with any kind of fondness despite the lovely outcome. I also had a horrible time in the post-natal ward afterwards feeling completely out of my depth and not feeling like there was any real support other than the almost militant push to “successfully establish breastfeeding” before being allowed to go home (which involved having my nipples squeezed between fingernails amongst other things).

When I found out I was pregnant with EJ I began to have vague ideas about how I wanted to improve on my labour experience. I knew I didn’t want to have a home birth – despite this being a popular option with many second-timers, it wasn’t for me. However a water birth sounded quite appealing and booked myself in for an NCT waterbirth session, took a tour of the labour suites at hospital (something I didn’t do first time round) and discovered that the room with the birth pool at Royal Surrey in Guildford is by far the biggest, nicest room available.

Unfortunately I then found out that, as I qualified as a geriatric expectant mother, the hospital would be very keen to induce me if I was to slip over my due date. The implication was that, once on a drip, I would be unable to enter the birth pool.

On the due date, about 7 in the evening, my contractions began and I thought that was it. They were a long way apart though, unlike the beginning of labour with JJ and they rolled into day two, ramping up to the point where I went into hospital to be monitored and felt like begging to be induced at that point (although all that actually happened was I was forced to lie on my back in agony for five hours until they could confirm that EJ’s heartbeat was considered ‘normal’ and then sent home). The following 24 hours were hell – I couldn’t even lie down without having to run to the bathroom to vomit and I was absolutely exhausted and trying to sleep sitting up with my chin resting on a pile of about 7 cushions & pillows.

By about 6pm my Mum pointed out that this was insane and I phoned the hospital to say that, despite what seemed to be completely irregular contractions, I was in constant agony and they confirmed that that was not normal and told me to come in to the ante-natal suite to be assessed. By the time we reached the hospital my contractions seemed to be five minutes apart and I couldn’t really walk so my mum pushed me up to the maternity department in a wheelchair. I was seen quite quickly fortunately and then the real fun began as, much to me huge relief, I was informed that I was nine cm dilated and promptly given the royal treatment (it was about 7pm on a Tuesday evening in July and the ward was relatively quiet). The birth pool was free! I grabbed my tankini and dived in! The room was amazing – the pool was like a big, warm hot tub with underwater lighting. My Seal Soul CD was playing in the background adding a delicious, relaxing, calming atmosphere. I was feeling every contraction – no drugs this time round.

After only about two hours I felt the urge to push and, despite having been told that I was very stoical the first time round, and not being the kind of person to make a fuss, I was almost shocked to hear myself screaming like a banshee as EJ’s head crowned. Almost an out of body experience! The next thing that happened was that the midwives called my mum and the hubster over to look down at the baby’s face and pointed out that he was still asleep – babies who are born in water don’t know they are being born! This was the icing on the cake – to realise that this way of giving birth is so beautifully absent of trauma for the baby.

In the months after giving birth the hubster and I became convinced that the waterbirth accounted, at least in part, for EJ being such a chilled out baby. Unlike JJ he didn’t suffer from colic and was just a dream in comparison.

(I also had a natural third stage of labour and let the placenta come in its own time which allowed the baby to carry on receiving nutrition and iron right up to the last minute and that’s another thing I feel really positive about).

I would definitely recommend a water birth to anyone. Even though labour and childbirth are not exactly anyone’s idea of fun, I can only look back on the experience with EJ with lovely happy tears in my eyes – such a good memory that I never want to forget.

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Losing the muse…On writing

When I was a young teenager I used to love writing so much. I wrote everything from diary entries, to a romance novel, to poetry to a sit-com! My mum was a journalist of sorts and both my mum and dad went to, what was, The London School of Printing (my dad was a graphic artist) so when it came time to decide what to do after school ended I was thoroughly encouraged to apply for a course in journalism at (then) The London College of Printing (now The London College of Communication). I duly applied, was accepted for the interview/testing day and was put through a series of gruelling challenges and an interview which weeded out the less able and was (thrillingly!) accepted onto a two-year Btec HND in periodic journalism.

I enjoyed my time on the course although a lot of what we learned became very quickly obsolete (measuring up a page layout by hand!) just pre-dating the technological revolution (this is back in the early 90s). However out in the real world I found it frustrating and impossible to get the kind of job which I had dreamed of. Technical periodicals were too boring; women’s magazines drove me mad with their recycled material and patronising tone; and I just didn’t consider myself political or intelligent enough for hard news.

In the end I threw in the towel and headed back to full time education, opting for a four year BA in American Literature at Sussex University (American? I hear you ask… well it did include a year Stateside so why not??!). Writing took a distinctly academic turn for me at this point (obviously) and there is a huge gulf between writing off the cuff in a journalistic style and writing planned and cerebral arguments on facets of literature.

I got a little taster of being back in the journalistic saddle round about the turn of the millennium when I got a fabulous opportunity to write and edit the children’s commercial book website The Book Monster which was affiliated to The BookPlace – a site competing with Amazon (on the book front) in the UK. This was a fun and fulfilling highlight of my working life as it also gave me the opportunity to learn some HTML and get an understanding of web structure.

Since that time I have really lost my writing muse as there has been no real outlet until now. With this blog I have begun to enjoy the fact that I can write what I want in any way I choose. I’d like to think that what I have to say is of interest to someone out there but it is quite difficult to gauge in anyway when you get so few comments! I realise that the downside of blogging within any given niche is that your potential audience has literally thousands of other blogs and posts to choose from and this whole social networking is bloody hard work trying to make the magic happen!

Coming back from holiday I have really let it slide for the last week or so as I haven’t been able to find the time or motivation to string a thought together – let alone a thought interesting enough to share with others in an entertaining way!

I’ve just looked through some of my old poetry and wanted to share a bit to find out if I ever really did have a talent for this…To be honest the only one I’m happy to share is this:

Birds of Prey

We drop from the sky and we come in for the kill
we never lose that feeling
the adrenaline, the thrill
the sound of the echoing death cry,
the mixture of the mortal
and immortal so appealing

Our meaning in life,  our purpose, our love,

is not for one another but for our prey
we have the power
and we never need suffer

we haunt by night and we shimmer by day

There isn’t a moment
we don’t feel the wind,
the rain and the moon,
rarely seen through the clouds,
is our brother, unearthly, immortal kin
shining through at last
like a final shroud.

Perhaps this is how it feels to be falling, slowly, deliciously, towards the rocks,
chilling, the speed at which everything changes,
a feeling closer to madness than shock,
omitting the thought that this should be appalling,
like a book omitting its final pages.

Yet we have the power of self preservation, gliding and stalling in frantic turns,
swooping and spiralling with such grace

and we have so little left to learn that our movements will seem like a practiced formation

our fatal blow, a majestic embrace.

Seems I definitely had the muse once…

 

Things *will* get easier…

Well, we’ve just returned from our family summer holiday with the boys, my parents, husband & step daughter and its been a lovely week in the Isle of Wight. The experience of being away all together has got me thinking about all the phases of parenthood and children’s ages. EJ is one, JJ is on the cusp of four and their elder sister is nine. Whilst we were away there were two occasions when we were able to leave EJ with my mum and dad and go out with the other two for fun days out. It was a bit of a revelation because, of course, as soon as EJ was born JJ’s destiny was altered just as he was starting to get to an age where we would have been able to begin enjoying him and taking him to do more interesting things (for all of us!).

Isle of Wight Steam Railway

It reminded me of the early days with JJ when he was colicky and I was depressed and I desperately wanted someone to tell me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that things would get easier. Some people did say that but I was never sure quite how that would work or how I would ever be able to enjoy my life again or find peace and normality and routine that I would feel in control of. At the same time other people with older children were very quick to play the whole “it never gets easier, it just changes” card which just seems like such a miserable thing to tell someone in that situation. Because the truth is it does get easier, and I can see that now, firstly because I remember thinking I was so much happier when JJ was about two – despite the tantrums and all the little fussiness of a child that age, it was just tribulations – I was back in control. Secondly because this week we were able to enjoy JJ at aged four and take him on steam trains, fairground rides, beaches and theme parks without everything being dragged backwards by the presence of a frustrated one year old, restrained all day in a buggy and unable to express his wishes and needs clearly.

With a baby at age one you are still very much in a phase of life which involves thorough planning of every day – meals, when the cooking and cleaning can be fitted in (if at all!), what you will do to entertain them, when they will take their nap, etc, etc. As time goes by I think that obsessive planning is a bit less important as your child develops and needs less constant input from you.

Obviously I have yet to experience the teenage years and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would jump to tell me that everything will go to hell in a handcart at that point but I’m of the opinion that, by that stage, other than the obvious similarities (they will all have the pressures of schoolwork and finding their place in the world) things are going to vary from one family to another depending on circumstances: perhaps your child is bullied, or perhaps your child is a bully?; perhaps you have a very sociable child or a child on the autistic spectrum?; perhaps your child has been affected by the breakup of their parents?; perhaps you have a particularly intelligent child or a child who struggles with dyslexia? Any number of external pressures or influences could affect your lives together during those years. But to say that things haven’t got easier to the parent of a baby or toddler is unfair. So many possiblities open up with older children and I can only be optimistic about the future when I have a glimpse of the good times and at the same time a very real reminder of the realities of all the restrictions you must face with a baby over the course of at least the first 18 months.

Do you agree or have you had a different experience and think I’m over-simplifying?

Down the rabbit hole (and other adventures)…

When I was 7 we took our first family holiday abroad. My mum & dad, sister and I travelled to Corfu with another family of friends.

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I have several ‘snapshot’ memories of this holiday including riding pillion on the back of a hired moped behind my dad with my legs dangling and his hat shooting off over my head; fireflies filling the lush garden of the villa we were staying in at night; and walking down a long, empty road one evening to a taverna during an electric storm – with no rain.

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The one thing that went down in family history though was the day my sister, our friend Iwan and I took a walk along a dusty road and all I can remember is that one minute I was on that road and the next I was at the bottom of a deep hole. I heard my sister and Iwan suddenly notice my unaccountable absence and begin calling out my name. Eventually they discovered me but, at 8 and 9 years old, were unable to pull me out and had to flag down two burly Greek farmers who hauled me up. Its a good job I was only 7 or it could have been quite embarassing! Mainly it just indicated the beginning of a lifetime of daydreaming and lack of observance of my immediate surroundings!

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The other thing our family will never forget from this holiday was the journey home. Everything started well – we checked in at the airport and duly filed through to Departures. However, at some point my mum began frantically searching her bag for our boarding passes, only to discover that they were well and truly lost. It was the kind of day on which a searing heat haze hovered over the trundling aircraft taxiing across the bleached concourse and the stress of the situation, combined with the heat, took my poor mum to the edge of consciousness. I remember her being instructed to sit down with her head between her knees until the moment passed.

Eventually the airline agreed that our story was probably true and that, in fact, we were the least likely illegal immigrants ever and we were ushered straight out onto the concourse in a one-family panic flight to the, barely there, rolling staircase of the awaiting plane. More was the shock when we stepped through the doors only to be greeted by a ghostly absence of fellow passengers. It was the wrong plane!

wrong plane!

In hindsight the following scene plays out as if I were one of the many people sitting on the right plane, watching out of the window as this stressed little family unit wheeled from one plane to the next.

When we finally set foot on our home flight there was a resounding round of applause! (Although our friends later admitted to denying all knowledge of who we were or what on Earth we were playing at!!).

Ah fun times.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Good things come to those who wait…

I’ve been reading a lot of comments lately by friends on Facebook who have been, are on, or are going on amazing holidays this year and its got me thinking about both the things I am looking forward to about the future with older children and also nostalgia for some of the amazing holidays of my own childhood.

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We went to Iceland (to visit Icelandic friends who owned a chocolate factory!), Corfu, Portugal, Spain (to visit my paternal grandparents who lived out there), as well as a couple of staycations to Cornwall (where my dad drew an enormous naked lady in the sand [we looked down on it from the cliffs above]) and Pembrokeshire in Wales. However one of the most memorable and evocative holidays of my childhood was a trip to the South of France when I was 11 for a canal boat meander down the Canal du Midi from Narbonne to Carcassone.

This holiday began at Teddington station in South West London – my hometown. We went on holiday by train! This in and of itself was pretty blooming exciting, particularly because the second leg of the journey involved taking the overnight sleeper train from Calais down to Narbonne. Kudos to my parents (and their friends – another family we holidayed with) for even dreaming up such an awesome adventure for their children!

Memorable parts of this holiday included watching my mum operating the lock gates – particularly the Fonseranne Staircase Lock near Beziers -; falling into the fonserannes staircase lockwater and nearly getting crushed by the boat (whilst wearing my sister’s tracksuit – much to her consternation!); waking up moored up in a beautiful bucolic setting near a small village and going off with the other kids to the nearest boulangerie to order fresh baguettes and pain chocolat (unheard of in England in the early 80s!); and walking the old city walls of magical Carcassonne.

It is my dearest desire to be able to relive this holiday one day with my own children. I’d also like to take them skiing. And to Disneyland. Hmmm… better start saving up now eh?!

Holidaying with a five week old!

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Sharing this one with What’s The Story? Linky at Podcast Dove and newly discovered Magic Moments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

I love this picture because it is probably the first picture of me with both my boys together in a little (minus daddy) family portrait. It was taken near the beach at Salcombe in Devon where we went on holiday for a week at the end of August 2012 when EJ was just five weeks old. We went with my mum and dad, sister and brother-in-law and 12- and 13-year old nieces and it was so lovely to be surrounded by family who were all happy to entertain JJ and muck in with the baby. It was also nice just to be out and about after five weeks of watching everyone else abuzz with Olympics fever – I never even managed to watch one of Mo Farrah’s races but EJ will always be remembered as being an “Olympics Baby”.

In a week’s time we will be going away again, minus my sister’s family as, sadly for us (but great for them!), they are off on the other side of the world in Australia visiting their antipodean relatives. This year we’re off to Ventnor in the Isle of Wight with Mum & Dad and looking forward to some fun days with the boys.

Bad attitude

Yesterday my Mum told me about a child catchernews story she’d read this week on her tablet. Its neither a big story nor a local story – it happened in Canada – but it made me feel a little bit outraged. A cafe owner ‘shamed’ a mother of a one-year-old and a three-year-old by posting a picture on Facebook of a few crumbs they had left under their table after visiting her establishment. Here is a link to the story. Personally I think its really mean to take this kind of attitude considering the very small amount of mess and the fact that the children were not criticised for being unruly or badly behaved, just making crumbs on the cafe’s carpetted floor after eating a scone.

I have read through lots of the comments and it reminded me of the dreadful misopedia that seems to abound in numerous commentary threads I have read recently on parenting websites and blogs (those aimed specifically at parents) with articles, for all intents and purposes, musing on what gives childless people the right to demand childfree flights on aeroplanes, or at the very least asking for a little compassion and tolerance for those of us who have to struggle through such an experience fraught with angst and embarassment. There is generally quite a widespread intolerance by (seemingly) a lot of childless people (although this comes through reading things written in cyberspace – I haven’t really had to experience anything like this attitude in real life), not just about airplane flights, but experiences in restaurants, cafes, shops, basically anywhere with a social hub that isn’t specifically designed for parents and children (the parental ghetto).

Comments like “I made a decision not to have kids and I shouldn’t have to raise YOURS!” and “I hate the way society kowtows to breeders and their screaming hoards of brats!” seem to abound which frustrates me because it seems to imply that these people are just mean, and intolerant and bitter about the fact that mother nature seems to have played this heinous trick on them by giving (other) people a biological urge to perpetuate the human race.

Of course I understand the argument that not all parents are great role models and let their children run riot and behave badly in public. Unfortunately a lot of people have children and there is no way to stop those who obviously aren’t ready for it, don’t really want it, or were never cut out for it, joining the party.

Its also very true that these very children who are the target of so much hatred will grow up to be the tax-payers and care-givers for all those ageing childless commentators who seem to think the world would have been a better place if their generation had been the last.

What really confuses me is why these people are sitting around in their spare time reading other people’s parenting blogs and getting themselves all gnarled up about the very thought of a little fluffy head appearing in the departure lounge. Get a life!

Ten random things I have discovered in the past week:

  1. It is possible to climb in through a (first floor) kitchen window, over a kitchen sink, in a white skirt and let yourself back in the house relatively unscathed if your front door blows shut locking you and the children out in the street.
  2. A marshmallow, some silly dancing and lots of inane chattering should suffice to entertain a one-year-old for long enough to cook an omelette.
  3. Taking two three-year-olds and two one-year-olds to softplay on a rainy afternoon in the summer holidays is NOT the answer.
  4. Middlesex is not a country (I misread the passport form). I’m not sure its even a county come to that…
  5. Driving in cork wedges could* be considered unsafe.
  6. By-pass the formalities, give your one-year-old’s birthday presents straight to your three-year-old – he’ll be the one playing with them.
  7. When you have four clocks all telling you different times, plus two small children, always assume you are running late.
  8. When delivering a Jumperoo to a police headquarters always make sure the recipient remembers you are coming. Getting picked up on CCTV outside an automatic barrier fiddling with a ‘device’ (aka mobile phone) could leave you with some explaining to do.
  9. Feeling a bit miffed about someone else’s gloating Facebook post on their amazing holiday? Logging into Trip Advisor and sourcing only average to poor comments on their resort will make you feel 100 times better! 🙂
  10. For all those in the late stages of pregnancy – a placenta smoothie comes highly recommended!
  11. Bonus discovery! –  if you write up a post on ‘random’ stuff you generate the most bizarre list of ‘related content’ – everything from ‘New Jersey Drug Addiction’ (sorry I’m completely lost now) to ’62 year old Boston priest caught with prostitute behind cemetary’ – awesome!!

* Not in my case of course – I’m an excellent driver 😉

Bee happy!

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I recently came home from work to discover the above sight on a prominent branch of a tree in my back garden. It was the hubster’s day off so he had already contacted the local council who told him there was nothing they could do as bees are a protected species. He then called the British Beekeeping Association who put him in touch with a couple of local members who were happy to come round and attempt to move the swarm on for us.

Two lovely ladies shortly appeared fully kitted out in protective gear and wielding what appeared to be a wicker basket and a cooler box. JJ (who is in the middle of the “why?” phase as it is) was extremely curious about the whole thing and we set up camp at the kitchen window to observe the goings on from a safe spot.

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The beekeepers attempted to push the swarm down into a suitably appealing box and for a while it seemed to be working. They later told me that the bees (of which there were approximately 60,000!!) would do whatever the queen did and it became apparent that she wasn’t hanging around when the bees all began swarming out of the box and the garden began to resemble a black hail storm. Not for long though, soon we discovered that they had made a new home two gardens down!

In all the excitement I used the experience to talk to JJ a little bit about bees and the fact that they make honey. I let him taste a little bit of the Romanian Lime Blossom Honey we had in the cupboard – delish! He has asked for honey on toast for breakfast ever since.

Last time I was shopping I had a long look at the honeys available in the local Sainsburys and take note of the fact that honey is almost akin to wine with everything from bog standard Gales squeezy to New Zealand Manuka honey ’15+’ with proven antibacerial properties for £21.95!

I also caught a bit of the Horizon special on bees last week with famous beekeeper (and Breakfast presenter) Bill Turnbull bringing the plight of bees, which are still seriously in decline, to the attention of the nation. Did you know that bees pollinate a third of everything we eat? Without them our diets would be a lot less varied.

As an epilogue to the story, one of the Bee ladies turned out to be quite talented in the art of crochet and, taken with my gorgeous boys, returned two days later with the two little offerings below.

crochet bees

This post is linked to Charly at Podcast’s What’s the Story??

Cafe musing…

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Mum, JJ, EJ and I have just returned from the local swing park at King’s Field near Kingston upon Thames. It’s Sunday morning and while we were there we thought we’d pop into the cafe there (pictured behind EJ in the photo above). It is one of the Pistachios in the Park franchises which also sell a range of wooden toys.

While we were buying our drinks we noticed there was a new section in there aimed at parents with small children containing a paddling pool filled with balls, some story books, stickers and colouring books with crayons, children’s chairs and a freestanding bead table.  This is a lovely idea and JJ immediately wanted us to decamp into this area with our refreshments.

After we finished our drinks I started to put JJ’s sandals back on and noticed that the bottoms of his feet were black with dirt. Considering the fact that EJ had been putting balls and other bits and bobs in his mouth this worried me a little. It also gave me cause for concern regarding the hygiene and cleanliness in general in the food & drink prep area as much as anywhere else.

The people who work in there are very young and seem very concerned with their image and hanging out with the local youths who go down there for the skate park. In my experience they do not offer a friendly or welcoming service which is such a shame as I love cafes in parks and this one has so much potential.

I have now written a letter of concern to Pistachios through their website contact form so I’ll keep you posted on any feedback!