The week of wee

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I thought I was pretty clued up about the symptoms of pregnancy and what to expect in the latter stages. How wrong I was. I felt quite lucky to have a fairly neat bump and so the uncomfortable stage happened quite late for me. I was still doing my 30-minute walk to the train station (albeit more slowly than usual), I had no stretch marks (sorry, don’t hate me) and I felt like I was being rewarded for suffering through all the nausea at the beginning of the pregnancy.

In the final two weeks before I gave birth, I was feeling tired and fat, but generally OK. Then it happened. I sneezed and something wet came out of my foof. We had been told by the midwife and in NCT classes that the smell of your waters breaking is very different from urine and smells more like hay (really?!?). Whatever came out of me smelt weird, but then what did my normal wee smell like? I couldn’t remember. When have I ever smelt my own wee? Grump and I spent an inordinate amount of time smelling my pants (sorry to my Mum and Mother-in-law who are probably going to read this).

As it wasn’t a huge amount of liquid, I thought I’d wait and see if any more came out. Peanut’s head (I’m going to refer to the J as Peanut for this post, as that was her first nickname) was very low at this point and I thought she may have been putting pressure on my bladder, so it made sense that a bit of wee might come out. Plus, I was going to the toilet a lot.

As the days went on the liquid increased in volume and I spent even more time smelling my sanitary pads, which went from normal to heavy to night-time and finally to Tena Lady throw-away pants. It was time to call the midwife. After being examined (you really want as few of these as you can possibly have ever in your life) it was deduced that my waters were intact and I must be wetting myself.

For the next week, I peed myself when I laughed, when I sneezed, when I rolled over, when I stood up; pretty much all the time and with no control. It’s funny to look back at it now, but at the time I was miserable as hell. A week of wee-induced stress later and lots of mickey-taking/sympathy in equal measures from Grump (mostly mickey-taking and then sympathy when I cried), I had a scheduled appointment with my usual midwife Dawn. When I told her my tale of woe she was concerned. She checked my notes from the hospital, which said that it was unclear whether or not my waters had broken. Er, they didn’t tell me this. What the fuck! For those of you not in the know, once your waters have broken you have 24 hours for your contractions to start otherwise you are induced, as there is a risk of infection (up there…). If my waters had gone, I’d been walking around for over a week. It turns out the midwife at the hospital wasn’t 100% sure whether or not my waters had broken, so had sent me home anyway. Thanks love!

Cue another trip to the hospital and more examinations (seriously, why anyone would want to be fisted during sex I will never know). No, she said, my waters were definitely still intact. I was relieved and confused; no infections for me, but had I really gone from full bladder control to incontinence in such a short time? Well, whatever that midwife did when she put her hand up my parts she broke something because two minutes later my waters did go. All over the hospital bed. Thank god I hadn’t put my knickers back on yet.

Great you might be thinking. I’m going into labour, five days early. No getting fed up and being overdue for me. But no, there was a trace of blood in my waters and no contractions, so they wouldn’t let me go home and I had to stay in hospital overnight before my contractions even began. I had a terrible night’s sleep to prepare me for labour. What a rubbish beginning. I was hoping my waters would break in M&S, because I’d heard you get a £50 voucher if it happens in store. Or I’d have some cool story to tell about how they broke in Sainsbury’s and I had to be wheeled out in a shopping trolley.

Oh well, at least I’d stopped weeing myself and I have a new-found respect for anyone who is incontinent. It’s pants – literally.

10 things you should probably pack in your hospital bag

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I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law, whose baby is due in November, about what to pack in her hospital bag. It got me thinking about what I packed and wish I had packed. It’s really hard to know exactly how many baby grows to include when you could be in hospital for one night or ten. In my case, I think I packed enough outfits for the baby to be in hospital for a month!

There are loads of lists online that will tell you the essentials you need for yourself and baby, but I’ve come up with a few things that I found useful and a few I hadn’t thought of at the time but would definitely recommend.

Obviously each person’s needs differ and perhaps a Cadbury’s cream egg won’t be top of your list, but I really enjoyed eating one after childbirth once the shock had worn off and hunger kicked in (I’m always hungry).

1. Maternity pads

People told me I needed loads of these and I thought they were exaggerating – they were not! You need the really thick ones and lots of them. Those purple packs of Always night-time pads just aren’t going to cut it. Add to this some old pants that you don’t mind throwing away. As I was virtually incontinent for the last week of my pregnancy, I had bought loads of Tena lady throw-away pants (they are a bit like pull-up nappies but for adults). These were actually an amazing find, because I wasn’t worried about leakages and then you could rip them off at the sides and chuck the whole thing away.

2. Sports drinks

If you end up using gas-and-air during labour your mouth gets really dry. I bought a couple of bottles of still Lucozade in fruity flavours (I can’t remember the exact ones but they tasted nice. Oh and don’t get fizzy ones!). The style of drinks bottle was really easy to sip from, as you didn’t have to keep unscrewing the top and the fruity flavour was refreshing, plus it gave me a sugar boost when I needed it.

3. Post-birth snacks

I’ve never been happier than when Grump came back from the hospital café with a Cadbury’s crème egg. You might not think you will fancy anything like that, but pack a couple of treats for after the birth – you’ll need all the little perk-me-ups you can get. I also managed to get in a KitKat Chunky while floating in the birthing pool (that was probably the best part of my labour).

4. Eye mask

I found sleeping in hospital really difficult and wearing an eye mask made it that bit easier. I would also recommend ear plugs, but you probably need to be able to hear your baby crying when he/she is hungry! I spent my first night in hospital in triage waiting for my contractions to start and my second night in the delivery suite as there were no rooms in post-natal. In the room next to me was a screamer. I heard her entire labour in crystal-clear surround sound. Enough said.

5. F is for Formula

Even though I intended to breastfeed, I took in a pack of little bottles of made-up formula. They came in a sterilised bottle with a separate sterilised teat, so all you had to do was put the teat on the bottle and it was ready to go. I think the hospital will give you one if you ask, but I didn’t want to be judged for offering formula instead of breast. I gave the J a bottle on the first night of her life, as she was struggling to latch on and was crying for milk. I then went on to successfully breastfeed her for the next 4 months. Using a little bit of formula is not a crime. Why do health professionals make us feel like it is??? (That’s a whole other discussion/blog post).

6. Nipple shields

If you are struggling to get your baby to latch on, these are a god send. They are also great if, like me, your nipple splits open (yes it was gross) and is so sore that you wince and cry during every feed. I didn’t pack these in my hospital bag, as I had never heard of them until a month or so into breastfeeding when one of my NCT friends was using them. I don’t know why they aren’t recommended by professionals, but I can only assume that the best practice is to be able to feed without any help. It is a mild inconvenience to make sure they are sterile and to keep sticking them on before a feed (this sometimes leads to flashing family members, friends and strangers in coffee shops), but I take the view that if they are making your life easier and your baby is feeding happily then what’s the harm.

7. Home comforts

Slightly obvious, but pack your favourite toiletries; face wipes, hand cream and lip balm were lifesavers for me. Basically take anything that will make you feel a bit more human. Also, hospital pillows are not the best and you want to be comfortable and to get the best quality sleep you can. Having your own pillow makes life that little bit better. Oh and make sure you put it in a brightly coloured pillow case so that it doesn’t get mixed up with the other white hospital pillows.

8. Slippers and a dressing gown

You’ll definitely need something for walking around the hospital in. Just think of all the germs! I packed a pair of those white slippers that you get free in hotels. Don’t go for anything too hot, as hospitals are really warm, so leave your UGG booties at home. You might want a light robe (I just took a cardigan), but don’t bother with a big fluffy dressing gown or you’ll be sweating one out in no time.

9. Stuff for your birthing partner

Whether it’s your husband, boyfriend, friend or mother, make sure they have either packed their own bag or you include things for them to do and eat (obviously I had to pack a bag for Grump). He had lots of snacks, magazines, a Dad-to-be parenting book (he only read the first two chapters) and a phone charger. Don’t forget a change of clothes and toiletries if they are planning on staying the night. We also took a fold-up camp bed and sleeping bag for Grump and he slept on that the first night I was in hospital. His other option would’ve been an uncomfortable-looking chair, so it was worth lugging it along with us.

10. A little plastic jug

Sounds odd, but you will need this little friend after the birth. No one warns you that the first time you do a wee after giving birth, it stings like hell. The only way to make it more bearable is to pour water over your bits while you are peeing. I did not have a jug and tried this with a plastic cup and a water bottle – neither were very effective. You have been warned! (Obviously don’t bring a massive gravy jug or the midwife might think you want to take the placenta home or something).

Pregnancy – the highs and lows

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I thought I’d enjoy being pregnant a lot more than I actually did. Not to say it didn’t have its highs (guilt-free eating, special treatment from friends and family, and that inexpiable glow), but the lows were pretty tough, especially towards the end (insomnia, incontinence, other things that being with in).

I was one of those late bloomers in terms of bump size, so I pretty much looked like a bit of a fatty for at least the first six months of pregnancy. Here’s a list of my highs and lows:

Highs

  • Hot chocolate addiction with no guilt. I was never that bothered about it before pregnancy, as I’ve always been a committed tea drinker, but I went off tea in the second trimester and hot chocolate replaced a tea-shaped hole in my life – and got me through the last five months.
  • Guilt-free eating. Following on from the above, yes I was one of those people who threw caution to the wind and ate a ridiculous amount of food. I gave eating for two a run for its money. More like eating for a family of four!
  • Thicker, shinier hair and that magical glow that makes you about 20% better-looking but you can’t pinpoint exactly how.
  • Being ‘special’. People ask you questions, offer you a seat. Plus you can say things like, “I don’t feel up to cooking tonight dear, please can we get takeaway?” or “I’m feeling a little faint, I think I need to sit down and eat some chocolate.”
  • Your boobs look amazing. Mine were a fair size to begin, so they did get a bit out of control during pregnancy, but still amazing.
  • You can basically do whatever the hell you want because you are growing a small person inside you and people respect that.
  • The awe at what your body is capable of. I grew a baby from a few cells to a living, breathing being. That is truly a miracle. My baby is alive because of me and my body and that is pretty awesome. (A bit of credit to my husband, without whom it wouldn’t be possible).

Lows

  • The dreaded morning sickness: mine was four months long, severe nausea but no actual puking. I feel for those of you who were sick every day, because that really is awful. However, for me feeling sick and like you are hungover every day and never getting that post-puking sense of release was hard work. Big up to all my girls (hmm did I really just say this? I’m not a gangster) who have gone through this – it’s soul destroying. Oh and when your pregnant friend says she hasn’t had any sickness at all and you want to punch her in her smug little face, but instead smile and say “Lucky you”. (Added bonus: I did lose a bit of weight during those four miserable months, which was a good start for the later hot-chocolate obsession). I also survived on Haribo Tangfastics for most of months two and three.
  • Sleep (or lack of it). “It’s preparing you for when the baby comes” they say. Sod off. I need as much sleep as I can get before the baby comes and spoils my 10-hour stints and Sunday lay-ins. Getting up to wee in the night (at some point I will do a post about the week of wee); trying to get comfortable and never being able to; wishing your partner was not in the bed with you, but also missing them when they leave; when rolling over becomes a military operation; snoring (this didn’t really affect me as I was the one snoring, but the other half wasn’t impressed).
  • Funny feelings down there. My baby’s head was very low quite early on and I used to get all sorts of funny aches and pains in my foof. Sometimes it felt like she was going to fall out. I’d be scared to do a big poo, just incase. Ha ha, if only I knew what was to come when she did come out!

General pregnancy observations

  • Why do people think it’s OK to touch your tummy without asking first? “Oh hi, do you want to squeeze my boob while you are at it?” The worst thing is, I now do it to my friends who are preggers. It’s a strange compulsion, the belly rub. And then talking to their tummy in a funny baby voice, “Hello little one, you’re coming out soon. Ha ha!” Then I feel smug, as I’ve already been through labour and they have no idea about the hell that awaits them.
  • I didn’t find out the sex of our baby before she was born and so we called it Peanut. Now that my daughter has come out, it feels like Peanut is a whole different person to her. In my head Peanut was male and I mostly referred to it as a he. It’s weird to think that it was actually a her inside me all that time.
  • Even though I was so uncomfortable in those final weeks of pregnancy, it was so strange after the birth to look down and see the bump had gone and my little friend was no longer in there keeping me company. I missed my bump for a while. I also miss my maternity jeans (over the bump ones). They were amazingly comfy and supportive. Wearing normal jeans and having a podgy tummy/muffin top is rubbish.
  • On the plus side, I don’t miss the maternity bras. They were comfortable but so unattractive. Ditto with nursing bras. Yuk. Thank god I’m back in underwire. When breasts are large they need that extra support or you end up looking like a saggy beast. Apologies to all you amazing mummies who are still breastfeeding and underwire is a pipe dream. One day it will be yours again.

To conclude, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed my pregnancy, but it is a means to an end and it so worth it when you are holding that little person in your arms. Respect to the women who had it 10 times worse than me and count yourself lucky if you had it 10 times easier. We should be proud of what we endure to create life and give ourselves a pat on the back for enduring it uncomplainingly. (Hmm actually I think I did quite a lot of complaining… but you get my point). Go us! I bet if men were the ones going through pregnancy and childbirth there’d be a lot fewer people in the world. #justsaying

That time I was pregnant and cried in John Lewis

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When you are pregnant your hormones make you crazy. I’ve never been a big crier, unless its coming up to that time of the month – such a cliché, I know. I have also been known to bring out the tears when I want Grump to be nice to me or for him to feel bad for being mean (I am aware I sound very manipulative!).

Anyway, since being pregnant, I found I was crying at everything, from those adverts on the TV about mistreated donkeys to the bloody John Lewis Christmas one about the sad old man who lived on the moon. That was a particular low as I first watched the advert on YouTube in the office and cried at my desk in front of my work colleagues. It just wasn’t the sort of place you cry in public and I was really sobbing and they all thought I was emotionally unstable.

Apologies, I’m digressing. The point is I cried a lot in the second and third trimesters of my pregnancy. The worst incident was when we went shopping for baby bits in John Lewis. Grump was very superstitious about buying anything baby-related too early, so we left it quite late to get even the essentials. I had a list of things to buy on the day (changing mat, muslins, cot bedding etc) and then a list of things to look at for ideas. Oh and I’d seen a buggy I liked and it was on offer online, but I wanted to check it out in real life first.

Grump HATES shopping with a passion and he doesn’t understand the concept of browsing. He wants to go to one shop, get the item and go home. I like to browse in a number of shops, stop for coffee, do some more browsing and then buy the thing I wanted from the first shop we visited (its always the way). Oh and if you do buy said item in the first shop you visit, you will always find it cheaper or something better elsewhere – sod’s law.

So Grump and I NEVER go shopping together. However, in my hormonal state I wanted him to be involved with the pregnancy and the baby, so forced him to come with me. As you can imagine, it did not go well. In fact, it ended in me having a proper sobbing fit in the middle of John Lewis, with mascara and snot running down my face.

After looking at and testing out the buggy for 30 minutes, Grump couldn’t understand why we had spent so long looking at something we weren’t going to buy. Cue five-minute argument.

When we finally got around to ‘looking for ideas’ I got really overwhelmed by the sheer volume of baby products for sale. Never go baby shopping without a clear list of things to buy! And then saw the smug couple who had booked a baby appointment and were being guided around by a shop assistant with a handy checklist. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Why was I stuck with a stroppy man child who doesn’t care which pattern we get on the changing mat? What pushed me over the edge was when I asked him if he liked stars or polka dots for the changing mat and he told me he didn’t give a shit and could I just pick one. I had what I can only describe as a pregnancy tantrum.

Needless to say, I took my mum shopping with me next time. Bloody John Lewis with their sad adverts and multitude of baby products. At least they have a coffee shop, so I could sit with a hot chocolate and calm down.

Note to self for next baby: no, you do not need six swaddles, she only liked them for about a week and then wanted to get her arms out. Yes, muslin cloths are expensive, but they are essential and you need lots and lots and lots. And lastly, it doesn’t really matter what pattern is on the changing mat as it gets covered with wee and poo (we went for stars in the end).

P.S. The above photo is a small selection of some of the baby stuff we bought (not from John Lewis in the end).

My first blog post… ever

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I’ve never really followed blogs before, but since becoming a Mum I’ve started to read a few on a regular basis – mostly through Facebook. Perhaps I am searching for advice, perhaps I want some acceptance that what I’m doing isn’t that bad, or perhaps I just spend more time on my phone/iPad desperately trying to connect with normality. (Seeing my friends on holiday, out at bars drinking and generally having a fun child-free time is a love/hate obsession for me at the moment).

Whatever my motivation, I’ve noticed that parenting blogs seem to fall into two camps: happy camper ‘My life is fabulous’ style blogs and sarcastic ‘Give me some wine, I’m a terrible Mum’ moany blogs. While I find the latter refreshing, there seems to be a trend for a whole load of self-deprecation when it comes to being a Mother (or Father). Kind of laughing at ourselves for being so crap, but its OK because we love our kids. I think this appeals to lots of parents, as let’s face it, it’s bloody hard work and sometimes we need a bit of reassurance that there are other people out there who don’t have a clue what they are doing, but are doing their best. However, I do find post after post of slightly moany blogs a bit banal and maybe offensive to those people who have wanted a baby/child for so long and cherish every ‘crappy’ moment.

Rather than becoming one of those moany people myself, I thought why not write a blog that delivers the perfect dose of self-deprecating humour but with a positive spin. Not ‘I’m the perfect parent’ and not ‘I’m so shit at parenting’ but ‘Hey, it’s hard and I’m muddling through, but it’s also amazing and life changing’.

All this will probably come back to bite me in the behind, but this blog is a way for me to make sense of the crazy journey that is motherhood and, hopefully, to help others along the way. Enjoy!

P.S. The above photograph is our pregnancy announcement pic (on Facebook with some jokey comment about a bun in the oven). Slightly cheesy, but I embraced the cheese on this occasion. What’s slightly embarrassing is that I am wearing black pants. No they are not bikini bottoms, they are massive black granny pants. We were in Holland for the weekend and there was an unexpected heatwave and I only packed black skinny jeans. Sometimes it’s just too hot and you have to go in the sea in your pants. Why we decided this was the moment to capture our pregnancy photograph I have no idea!