Life at home

When you have a baby and begin your new life at home (whether long or short term), life changes in more ways than you can possibly imagine. However, what I personally hadn’t anticipated were how my friendships would change. I thought I would regularly see those friends who are around during the day, and hopefully catch up with others in the evenings or weekends. Sam’s lack of evening sleep has scuppered most evening plans, but we are nearly always around at weekends. I may partly be at fault for not contacting more people and inviting them round, but I haven’t really spoken to a large chunk of my friends since Sam’s birth. 

Maybe Facebook and the ability to ‘like’ or or leave one-liner comments on statuses or photos gives us all the false illusion that we’re having a conversation and keeping in touch. It’s far too easy to do! What has surprised me is how little I’ve seen of the friends who are also around during the day either with children or different working hours. The people I see more than anyone are the girls from my NCT group. We still meet weekly and a couple of weeks ago I also ended up seeing two of them on other days during the week. It helps that the weather has been glorious and we’re all keen to get out and have a walk in the sunshine! Maybe it’s because you form a different bond when you’ve all sat round in a village hall practicing birth positions and have discussed births, nappies and all of the other grim subjects that accompany parenthood…

What has been really nice (and was unexpected) is how much I’ve ended up talking to old school friends who have young children. We may not be close any more, but I’ve seen and been chatting to one of my best friends from school for the first time in years. Her little boy is just adorable and I hope he and Sam end up being friends (when the year+ age gap doesn’t matter any more). I’ve spoken to other girls from my school days and we share the 3am chats with our ups and downs, with me often asking for advice, or sometimes validation, since their children are all older than Sam and they’ve been through this stage!

I’m not saying that my friends and I have parted ways, but my priorities have changed so much and – for the moment – I’m unable to pursue my main hobby, Am Dram, which is where most of us met. They’re all busy and I understand that. To be fair, I keep myself and Sam pretty occupied at times! I just hadn’t really taken in that there would be a new distance there when I’m more concerned with watching Sam waiting for any new steps he takes than with heading out.

Also…being awake after 9pm? Overrated!

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Sam’s first holiday

We have survived Sam’s first trip away. Our week in Center Parcs was brilliant! Thoroughly recommend it to anyone as either a family or group holiday (or both). We stayed in a villa with sauna, games room, open plan kitchen-diner and 4 bedrooms, all with en suites. We were extremely close to the Plaza which holds the swimming pool and restaurants, and only a few minutes away from the village square with pottery painting centre (where we had Sam’s hand and footprints moulded) and pancake house. The Spa ‘Aqua Sana’ was slightly further, but could still be walked to in 15 minutes.

Longleat Center Parcs is hilly. One day I think we clocked up about 8 miles worth of walking, but that doesn’t take into account all of the hills! I definitely did a lot of exercise last week…and a good thing too since we also ate a LOT! Carl and Jon are big fans of cooking excellent cuisine, so a large food shop was done on the first day and we had homecooked dinners every night. Lamb, a BBQ, fish stew, pulled pork…we were spoiled! I can’t remember the last time I ate so much food.

While we all had separate activities booked during the week, we went to the pool as a big group on both Wednesday and Thursday. Sam loved the water by the end and laughed his head off. We all enjoyed the slides and rapids (I obviously didn’t take Sam on them!), although I did think the boys might be thrown out after their antics on both! Ignoring the light system on the slides and going down in quick succession…throwing themselves down the rapids and taking out other people… So much fun being a big kid! I think we all came away with RRI: ‘random rapids injuries’ – I still have a huge bruise on my knee from last Tuesday!

When we arrived home, Sam was all out of sorts. I think he missed the constant excitement of being with his uncles and aunt. Poor bub, the post holiday blues…

All in all, it was an excellent holiday and so good having a few days away. We’re already planning next year’s trip. Can’t wait!

On-going support

imageOne of the most important things you can have during pregnancy is a support network; from your partner, friends, family, or whoever you would turn to… On the hard days they will be the people who pick you up again. On the good days, they’ll be the ones you want to tell.

A major positive we gained from our NCT classes was that additional support group. We all knew what the others were going through and had the same questions. Now that a few of the group have had their babies, we all get together weekly for lunch to have baby cuddles and spend hours chatting about any and everything.

Jude, as our teacher, was (and is) a great resource of information and encouragement. We bumped into her today and her continuing positivity, advice and upbeat personality was – as ever – incredibly helpful. She is always happy for us to call or email with concerns or for advice; she has gone above and beyond what I expected to gain from an NCT teacher.

No matter what sort of pregnancy you have, make sure you surround yourself with people you can talk to. I mentioned making pregnant friends where possible in an earlier blog post, which is also worth reading: ‘Make pregnant friends…who are due both before and after you‘.

For more information on NCT classes, see my earlier blog post ‘To NCT or not to NCT…that is the question‘ and the official NCT website, along with Jude’s page.

A good night’s sleep….all but a distant memory

No one tells you that when you get to the final weeks, you will physically feel that baby has no room. At times, my belly feels so tight that I can’t believe there are still a couple of weeks (or so) to go. I’ve had multiple dreams about hands and feet bursting out of my bump, or a particularly stressful one where I could hear Bud crying because there was no space but I couldn’t do anything to help. That dream was the most traumatising I’ve had.

Bud has a habit of stretching his/her long legs out – they are generally crossed over – which means the feet stick out of my side. Believe me, this really hurts, especially if they get caught under your rib cage! Fortunately, I can usually give the feet a little tickle and they’ll move back in quickly enough.

At night however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a comfortable way to sleep. I don’t know what was going on last night, but Bud seemed to be simultaneously stretching legs and feet one way, bottom pushing back the other way and head pushed down…with a furious bout of hiccups. A particularly uncomfortable moment!

After hours of lying awake, I gave up and retired downstairs to the sofa so my continual tossing and turning wouldn’t wake Carl up. Realising I didn’t know where our blanket is (I keep one downstairs for chilly winter nights), I huddled in my massive dressing gown and kept Percy company; he was more than happy with the unexpected hugs! Not the best night I’ve had. Fortunately, once Carl got up for work, I was able to return, rearrange my stack of pillows to be semi-comfortable and get snuggled in.

I am so lucky to have such a supportive husband; his offer of breakfast (after telling me off for not sending him downstairs) was amazing, so I had some toast with a hot Manuka honey drink, before all but passing out until 11.

For those bad nights, a supportive partner or friend is vital. Make sure you talk to someone rather than getting frustrated or angry. My advice is that if you can’t sleep, get up or move somewhere else. Lying in bed awake all night will just drive you insane.

The importance of women

For the last couple of days I have been surrounded by my girls. Aside from those hours being full of tea and giggles, this female time is crucial.

Yesterday, a friend popped round for a cuppa and, amazingly, brought lemon drizzle cake with her!! In the evening, I saw another friend for dinner with her and her daughters. Today, I set off to London for lunch with a school friend and her adorable 1 year old son. Tomorrow morning one of my besties is coming round.

Light reading at lunch - I read a whole book today!

Light reading at lunch – I read a whole book today!

Aside from simply enjoying female company (makes a change from talking to our – male – cats all day), a change of scenery is good for the soul. However, when that scenery is also filled with laughter, a healthy dose of catch up ‘gossip’ and women who all have children so are full of knowledge yet refrain from giving advice, I forget how tired I am and feel like I’m more than a nearly 37-weeks pregnant woman who bears a passing resemblance to a whale! At lunch today I genuinely forgot I was pregnant and tired for a while, wholly enjoying watching my friend’s 1 year old entertain both himself and us throughout the meal.

Once habits are set, the control freak in me will continue with them. Routine is my friend! So I am making time for my friends and making the effort to visit them where possible, in the hope that after Bud is born I will remember how wonderful getting out of the house is and how friends make me laugh and will be happy to help me out!

Plus, they bring or make cake!

Afternoon tea with the girls

Tea and cake

Tea and cake

Even if you’ve finished work, if you’re friends with your colleagues then make sure you keep in touch. Today, 5 of us set off to Gorgeous Gerties in Dorking for a spot of afternoon tea – the perfect way to spend a Friday lunch. Some tea, sandwiches, scones and amazing cakes were definitely a great way to end week 2 of maternity leave, especially when coupled with a girly catch up! Unfortunately, they had to go back to work….but I followed them back to the office to continue chatting for a little while!

Before the baby comes, make sure you get out of the house and socialise, just keep plans flexible and local in case you’re exhausted on the day.

Of course, I only went out for 2 hours and returned to find a stack of a parcels waiting! Baby bath, cot bed mattress (since it had £40 off in the Mothercare sale we ordered it well in advance!) and a load of other boxes. Once the nursery is decorated we will be pretty much ready for Bud to arrive…goodness me.

Have a good weekend all, enjoy tea and cakes; that’s an order! x

“To NCT or not to NCT…that is the question”

Ok, so I might have slightly misquoted Shakespeare there but I’m sure he would have no objection to me borrowing the phrase.

Hospitals offer free ante-natal classes, so we initially wondered what we would gain from a paid class.

First, the major advantage was that the other couples attending would be more local – our hospital is Epsom, so it was unlikely we would meet local couples (Capel is a good 35 minutes away). Second, the classes are smaller. Third, and the real sell for us…they were so highly recommended by everyone we knew who had attended them.

I have heard a mixture of opinions on NCT classes and all I can say is that it must depend on your teacher and group. Our class was lovely and we all seemed to be around the same age, lived in local villages and we immediately clicked. Jude Palmer, our teacher, was/is brilliant (and is an amazing baker!!). I can’t really praise her highly enough; knowledgable, easy to talk to, never pushed opinions on us as she took us through our labour options, enthusiastic and comfortable talking about anything. Also a doula and mother of three, Jude has a tonne of experience around pregnancy and birth, which is very comforting when you have any questions!

Your enjoyment probably depends on your reasons for being there. I’ve always been keen to enter the hospital with no real clue and learn about labour on the day. After one NCT class I suddenly found that a) there were more options than I’d heard of (TENS machines, pethidine and water birth being 3 new ones to me) and b) knowledge is power. If you have an idea of what you want, but also about the alternatives, then labour is likely to be a lot less stressful if you have to deviate from your plan.

What I also liked was that it gave the dads a chance to talk together and bond. Women are more naturally chatty and will share their feelings (a general life rule!) but it gave the men the opportunity to talk openly with others in the same position. One of our early exercises involved the women writing down how they hoped labour would be, and the men writing what they hoped to do. It was incredibly touching to see answers like ‘support her’, ‘keep her safe’, ‘understand what’s going on’…and so on. In this environment, the men felt comfortable to come clean with their feelings, discuss their anxieties and what they would like to learn. Turns out that men think about it all just as much as we do and like to know what’s going on so they can help, rather than watching and feeling helpless.

Jude took us all through relaxation exercises – doing a variety so we could all find out what works best for us – massages the men could give and different ways they could help alleviate any pain, physically hold our bumps to lighten the load, and morally support us.

We covered more in those sessions than I can begin to go through here but the best compliment I can pay Jude is probably my previous post ‘Choices’. It is based on what I learned and the information we were given – I would never have felt so confident or sure of what I would like prior to the course.

So, look into the options and ask people local to you about their classes, or even get specific teacher recommendations. Or make use of the free hospital ante-natal classes. Whatever you decide, I would advise going to some form of class to meet other parents to be and to learn as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did!

Coming soon…I’ve been off work for a week and a half now and I miss my outlook calendar and trusty spreadsheet. How am I coping!? x

Make pregnant friends…who due both before and after you

Rather than writing a ‘day by day’ blog, I am simply going to pick up whatever is on my mind that day, interspersed with updates of how we’re getting on.

So, why are pregnant friends important? Firstly, they UNDERSTAND. Others will try and will offer tips/advice (unwanted from those without experience) or empathy (always welcome if you’re feeling rough), but they won’t really understand what you’re going through.

However, when you find out you’re pregnant, you will no doubt start spotting other pregnant women wherever you look; in the street or on facebook, be they strangers, friends or acquaintances. In the early days, knowing people who are further along than you can be a real lifeline. When I suffered with morning sickness until 23 or so weeks, knowing someone who was the same kept me sane in a world where all I could see were women who glowed and danced their way through pregnancy. Other women are wonderful sources of comfort and tips…You can find out when other peoples’ belly buttons popped out and watch yours obsessively…or is that just me??

But then what happens? They have their babies and you’re still pregnant.

I speak from experience when I say that you will be over the moon for them, adore looking through all the newborn photos and love hearing about how naturally they’ve taken to parenthood.

But what you also feel is a form of envy. Firstly, they have met their baby! What greater moment, it’s what we’re all waiting for. Secondly, and let’s be honest here, whether you are scared of labour or – like me – accept it as an inevitability, you will be envious that they have it over and done with!!

If you have friends due after you then you can continue talking pregnancy to them and hopefully pass along tips and advice from your experience. You won’t feel alone and like everyone else is settling into the life you’re unable to prepare yourself fully for, while waddling around getting bored of the wearing the same 3 outfits in rotation because you’ve tried to buy as little as possible in a bid to be frugal…and swearing that if there’s a next time, you will own more than 2 pairs of maternity jeans.

I would recommend ante-natal or NCT classes for this reason alone, if you don’t have any friends due around the same time as you. They will make you feel normal and it is so refreshing talking to others in the exact same position as you. I will go into NCT classes and why we’ve loved them in greater depth another time.

That’s all for today, I’ll be back with something lighter soon! x