8 things I won’t be doing if I have a second baby (and won’t be feeling guilty about)

As with everything first-time around, being a first-time mum is a little daunting – you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing and you have a lot to learn. You can ask for all the advice in the world (and will no doubt be given it even if you don’t ask), but the only way you’re really going to learn is once you’re actually ‘on the job’.

8 things I won't be doing with a second baby

Yet once on the job parenthood tests us – we suddenly have a real human being who we are completely responsible for, and the pressure (along with hormonal urges) to be the perfect parent can sometimes get the better of us. We’ve hung on to every word in the antenatal classes, we’ve read up and watched videos about everything we’re going to need – and we’re ready to put it all into action. But after a couple of months of finding your feet, you soon realise that what works for you and your baby isn’t necessarily what you’ve been advised ‘is best’ – and it’s your right to throw the rule book out of the window.

I feel that I’ve already learnt such a lot on this crazy journey of parenthood and here are some of the things I won’t be doing if I have a second baby.

1. Stress out about breastfeeding

Throughout pregnancy I felt I was constantly educated about how breastfeeding will give my baby ‘the best start in life’ – with every leaflet, antenatal class and visit from my midwife there was another reminder that ‘breast is best’. And I really did want to make it work.

Yet when Taylor first latched on I couldn’t quite believe how painful it was – and with every feed I got more sore and the pain became more and more unbearable. In the end we introduced a couple of bottles as I was so sore I couldn’t bear the thought of Taylor latching on again, but then my milk production slowed right down and I ended up expressing alongside feeding to try and increase it again – meaning that I hardly got a minute to myself (day or night).

Not being able to breastfeed made me feel like a failure and like I’d let my daughter down. I kept thinking (and was advised) that if I kept at it, the pain would get less, and the production would come back. But neither happened and one day I just decided to stop. Once I made that decision it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve never looked back since. I like to think that I might try it again, but I certainly won’t beat myself up if I can’t.

2. Try to maintain a tidy house

When you’re the one at home all day whilst your husband is out earning the dollar, it’s difficult not to feel a little judged when he walks through the door at 7pm to a bomb hole. In those early months I couldn’t grasp the fact that I had absolutely no time to ‘get things done’ – pretty much every minute was spent holding, feeding, or rocking to sleep a screaming baby and any time I did have was spent madly dashing around the house trying to clear away the carnage we were leaving in our tracks. At the time you can’t imagine this is ever going to end, but it does – a few months in and you’ll have a much more content baby who is happy to be put down and take a nap. Housework can wait until then – embrace the moment, cuddle up and realise that your life isn’t yours for the time being.

3. Worry about establishing a routine early on

At some point during the first couple of months I started to try and get Taylor into some sort of routine with her feeding a sleeping. Endless times did I try and rock her to sleep in her crib, only to give up 45 minutes later, put her in her bouncer and watch her fall asleep straight away.  We made up endless bottles of milk that went to waste, convinced that she must be either hungry or tired, ‘why won’t she stop crying??’ Around three-four months something just clicked. Perhaps Taylor finally got used to being on a 24 hour clock, or I just got to know her better and read her signals, either way I hope I’ll be less frantic if there’s a next time – babies will find their own routine eventually, and it’s very little to do with you.

4. Care what people will think when she’s making a scene

As a new mum I often felt as though I was surrounded by ‘perfect parents’ with ‘perfect children’ and when Taylor would have one of her hissy fits I did feel as though I was being judged by those around me for not being able to comfort my baby. I’m sure this was entirely nothing to do with other people, and everything to do with my own lack of confidence in what the hell I was doing.

At every postnatal class I attended with her, it seemed as though she was the only baby ‘acting up’ and would scream the place down until I finally had to leave. I did feel as though other mums were probably thinking ‘she’s obviously tired, hungry, wants a cuddle’ etc, but I soon came to realise that when Taylor was like that, nothing at all would calm her down. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection at 11 weeks and had to stay in hospital for three nights for intravenous antibiotics. After she came out she was so much happier. She still of course has the odd meltdown but I’ve learnt to deal with the fact that babies often disturb the peace – and other people will have to deal with that too.

5. Have baby sleep in our room until six months

nursery baby's own room

I know that the guidelines tell us six months, and I would’ve stuck to this had Taylor not been such a restless sleeper. It was either us waking her up, or her waking us up – either way, none of us seemed to be getting any sleep. Taylor would thrash around in her crib bouncing her arms and legs off the bars like a caged animal.

I started to put her into her cot in her own room for her daytime naps (as she refused to go down in her crib) and she seemed to instantly prefer it. She then went through a phase at night of constantly spitting out her dummy and crying for it back – I would be up all night putting in back in to try and prevent an all-out melt down. We endured this for a couple more weeks until our health visitor suggested we try her in her own room at four months. She seemed so much more content from day one. And I am a much nicer person now that I get to sleep.

6. Buy a separate changing bag

Don’t get me wrong, I love our changing bag and I do use it all the time, but I love my leather handbags more. I now realise that my changing bag is just a big bag with lots of pockets – of which I already own plenty. I don’t even use the bottle warmer/cooler compartment which came with it as it’s pretty rubbish compared to my separate AVENT one which was bought for us as a present. I could be £70 better off.

7. Buy lots of newborn clothes

There’s nothing quite so tempting as browsing cute newborn clothes when you’re nine months pregnant and super excited about the imminent arrival of your little one (apart from perhaps a box of Krispy Kremes). But trust me, you really don’t need much.

Aside from the fact that your newborn will live in nothing other than babygrows and vests for the firsts few months of his/her life, your family and friends will have it covered. Yes, everybody else loves cute newborn clothes just as much as you do and you’ll be amazed at the amount of gifts you’ll receive.

8. Sterilise bottles after six monthsavent bottle steriliser

Okay, so I’d be fibbing if I was to say that I don’t do this anymore – at seven months I still do. But this is really because I find the steriliser a good place to keep all of those ugly bottle parts which would otherwise be making a mess of my cupboards.

I do however struggle to see the logic in sterilising the feeding bottles of a baby who is now deemed okay to drink tap water from an unsterilised beaker – and I won’t be judging anyone who has done away with the steriliser altogether. I’m sure I’ll be doing just that next time.

Super Busy Mum
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10 newborn essentials that will make your life easier

I’m not going to lie, the first few months after having a baby are hard work. Alongside the utter joy and unconditional love that you experience when you return from the hospital with your newborn, is the daunting realisation that your baby needs you around the clock and you can say goodbye to life as you knew it before – at least for the time being.

10 newborn products to make your life easier

Being a person who likes routine and structure in my life, I found it quite difficult at first to accept that on some days the breakfast dishes would go unwashed, or I would go for days without cooking a decent meal.  I am also a person who likes my sleep, so when sleep suddenly turned from a necessity into a privilege, I did find it hard to adjust. Obviously Mr M was a huge help, but on his return to work I did feel rather overwhelmed at times.

Rest assured though that this period doesn’t last forever. I now have a happy, contented six month-old who will happily sit and inspect her finger food (whilst I wash the dishes) or play with her toys whilst I prepare a (decent) dinner. I even get to sleep through the night most of the time! I now look back on those frenzied few months with a smile and think about what a would do differently if there was to be a second baby.

The baby market is so saturated with gadgets and gizmos that it’s really difficult for a first-time mum to know where to start. Which products do you really need and which do you just think you need? I had some brilliant advice from family and friends and really came to appreciate some of the products we invested in. Other products I decided to go without and regretted, or I’ve discovered them since and wish I’d known about them before. Continue reading

Becoming mum: The part they don’t tell you about

becoming new mum

If I’m honest, I thought I would adapt to motherhood fairly easily. In comparison to working full-time and being out of the house for 12 hours a day Monday-Friday, I was actually looking forward to having a bit more free time. I had visions of finally doing all of those things that I never had time for – clearing out the cupboards, starting an exercise regime and trying out that recipe I pulled out of BBC Good Food over three years ago. After all, babies sleep a lot of the time, right?

WRONG! Parenting is hard work. Not only is it a ‘full-time job’, but it’s the type of full-time job that would have you running to the HR department if there was one – expected to work 20 hour shifts on under four hours of sleep, getting screamed at if you don’t stand to attention quick enough, and absolutely no prior training provided to ensure that you’re fit for the job.

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a mum is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but why the hell didn’t anyone think to warn me about the first few weeks??

At first, we thought that perhaps we had a challenging baby. Taylor takes at least an hour and a half to settle to sleep after a feed and quite often doesn’t go to sleep between them, so waking up at 3am for a feed can mean that we’re still awake by the time the 6am feed comes around and then it’s hello to another day. Surely this isn’t normal? SOMEONE WOULD’VE WARNED US…

We attributed her restlessness to reflux (she screams after feeds), colic (she cries a lot), constipation (she poos very little), too much sleep in the day (yes she does sleep in the day), spoiling her (she just wants to be held all the time)…until finally accepting that she is just a NORMAL baby.

So here is my warning to you, since other parents may not be completely honest. Following the first couple of days out of hospital thinking that you have a little angel, things get pretty tough. Forget that you just went though the pain and exhaustion of labour and just want a good night’s sleep – your baby does not care.

In addition to the lack of sleep, the part I found particularly difficult to accept was the passing of days and not getting a single ‘productive’ task complete. Again, I caveat this by saying that I love spending my days with Taylor – feeding her, changing her, cleaning her, bathing her, playing with her. But I was kind of hoping (fully expecting) to be able to fit Taylor Time in between my other tasks (maintaining a spotless house, visiting friends, walking Max, cooking wholesome meals…)

The old me wrote To Do lists for fun, so realising that these are now redundant in my new life was difficult for me to come to terms with – getting to 5pm and realising that the house was still a mess and I hadn’t even bothered to put a bra on that day made me feel like a bit of a failure. Mr M would return from work and I was certain I’d see a glimmer of disappointment on his face as he critically assessed ‘what I had done all day’ (he assures me this was not the case). I even ignored the midwife’s advice to ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ and instead adopted the ‘do as much as possible when baby sleeps’ approach, but still couldn’t get 10 minutes to myself.

However, the very fact that I’m writing this post, is evidence that it DOES GET BETTER. Taylor is five weeks old tomorrow, and I do feel that we are starting to turn a bit of a corner. We’ve got more accustomed to her wants and needs and understand her better. Her night-time demands for feeding are gradually stretching past the three-hour mark, and we ourselves have accepted that we do actually need to be in bed for 9pm if we’re to get anything near a functional amount of sleep.

I’m sure I will look back fondly on these days in months to come and wish for my little oh-so-cute-when-not-crying newborn again. But for now, roll on week six.

“So, how was the labour?”

labour experience

The notion that women release a hormone post-birth that helps them to forget about the pain of labour must be a real one; my first thought after labour (obviously following the joy of meeting Taylor for the first time) was ‘I am NEVER doing that again!’ Yet now, I look back and think it wasn’t so bad at all…

In the grand scheme of things though, I think I was one of the lucky ones. My labour was considered ‘low risk’ from the off – baby had been engaged for weeks and she was in the right position for a natural, uncomplicated birth.

I requested a sweep at my 40+1 morning appointment with the midwife which she told me was apparently a ‘good sweep’ – my cervix was thin and baby was at the marks ready to get set. She told me that I might experience slight cramping so when I woke in the middle of the night with exactly that I didn’t panic too much. The cramps were a little too painful to sleep, but nothing too unfamilar, so after consulting Google about ‘how to tell when you’re in labour’ I decided that I wasn’t. I did feel though that labour was imminent – a feeling that was further confirmed when I had a show the next morning.

Throughout that day, the cramps had pretty much disappeared until 5.30pm when they started up again. I’d planned to cook tacos that night – as the pains increased it changed to Mr M cooking tacos, and then tacos being replaced with filled pasta which takes 4 minutes. I had visions of taking a long relaxing bath at this stage and maybe watching a film to sit it out until the contractions became more intense. The reality was quite different – I had a quick dip in the bath, wolfed down as much of the pasta as I could (my appetite was non-existent) and then frantically ran around the house throwing my tolietries, nightie, spare pair of clothes etc into a bag since although I’d packed for baby’s needs, I’d left my own packing thinking that I’d have more than enough warning to get sorted.

The cramps (I refused to fully believe they were contractions at this stage) were increasing in intensity, but they were all over the place in terms of timing. My midwife had advised me not to call the hospital until they were 4-5 minutes apart. They were varying from 7 minutes to 4 minutes, back up to 10 minutes, and then down to 5 minutes again. By around 8.30pm they were pretty intense (too intense to talk) and after having a handful at 3-4 minutes apart we called the delivery suite to tell them we would be coming in. They told us that we shouldn’t really go in until they were 2-3 minutes apart or ‘until I needed something more than paracetamol for the pain’. I sat it out for another half an hour before deciding that I was definitely in labour and I was going in.

We arrived at the hospital at 9.30pm when they put us in a delivery room and told us that a midwife would be with us soon to examine me and see if I needed to stay in. I made quick work of changing into my nightie and slippers much to Mr Ms amusement. Admittedly, the contractions has slowed down since leaving home (apparently this always happens) but I definitely was not going home. I was examined at 9.50 and told I was 4cm dilated but would not be sent home as my cervix had thinned out which meant that everything could happen quite quickly. We were told to take a walk around the hospital to try and increase the frequency of the contractions.

In the run up to labour I often wondered what contractions felt like. I definitely would compare them to an intense period cramp that lasts over a minute and is combined with the feeling you get in your lower back and pelvis when you have a real urge to go to the loo (I’m not talking about for a wee). They come in waves and the more intense they get the quicker the peak of the pain comes on (within seconds) and the longer it lasts (well over a minute). I sat on a birthing ball and took long deep breaths throughout mine which I found really helped. So, although they definitely are painful, I would describe the pain as manageable – because a) it’s not totally unfamiliar and b) it’s not continuous.childbirthbig

When the contractions increased to between 1-2minutes the midwife asked if I’d like to try gas and air which I readily accepted. I’ve never had it before and after my first breath I felt as though I’d stood up too fast after 10 tequilas. I couldn’t figure out if I liked it or not since it seemed to space me out but never quite kicked in in time for the peak of the contraction pain. It did provide me with some sense of control though and a bit of a distraction so I kept going with it. By this point I was also scared of how bad the pain might be if it stopped but I do wonder in hindsight if I could’ve done without it. It did make me quite sick and a little paranoid at times because I couldn’t make sense of what was really going on around me. Mr M however told me that I was super loving on it so he was all for it!

At midnight the midwife informed me that they examine every four hours, so the next time would be at 1.50am. I said that was fine. At 12.30am I was demanding that Mr M get her back in the room “I want an epidural!” As soon as the midwife came back in the room my waters broke. She examined me soon after and said ‘”you’re going to have your baby very soon”. I was 10cm dilated and an epidural was out of the question.

From that point on it was all a bit of a blur and everything happened quite quickly. I remember thinking that I needed to go for it and pushing as hard as I could to try and get baby out as quickly as possible. This was met by a stern word from the midwife telling me to slow down otherwise I would tear. I know at one stage after a particularly energetic and excruciating push, Mr M said to me encouragingly, “you can see baby’s head!” To which I replied, “I thought the head was out already!?” And then all of a sudden the most perfect little baby was placed on top of me and nothing else mattered in the world.

I think I’d previously thought that once baby was born that would be the end to labour in the true sense of the word, but I remember thinking at the time that I was most definitely still in labour up until the placenta was delivered – however, I was so overwhelmed by those first moments of looking at our beautiful baby girl that the pain no longer mattered. She was born at 2am on the dot, weighing 7lb 9 and is perfect in every single way.

So, labour in my experience was definitely painful, tiring, completely undignified (bare in mind that you will likely poo yourself, be sick and need stitches amongst other things) and at times very scary, but I would go through it all again 100 times over for the little miracle that awaits at the end.

My advice to any Mum to be:

  • Try and sit out early labour for as long you can at home – I found a good indication was to wait until the contractions are too painful to talk. You will know in yourself when the time is right.
  • Don’t get too hung up on creating the perfect birth plan – in the end your body will decide how the baby gets delivered
  • Take a dark coloured dressing gown and change of clothes for yourself and be prepared for them to get messy
  • Prepare meals for your freezer in advance for after the birth – I didn’t do this which was a huge faux pas. You will definitely not want to be cooking in the days after you get home from hospital.
  • I took raspberry leaf tea from week 36 which is supposed to help speed up the second (most painful) stage of labour. I obviously don’t know for sure if that’s what made mine so speedy, but I will definitely be taking it again if there’s a second time.
  • Take some of your favourite snacks and drinks along to the hospital. I took some Irn Bru which helped with the sickness