Category Archives: Lists

The arrival and the aftermath

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So it’s taken a while to share this here, but our little bundle finally made an appearance!

Only 3 days late, little miss R arrived on 8 July after something of a tricky labour, by emergency C-section. She’s happy and healthy and we’ve spent the last 5 weeks adjusting to life as a family of three.

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She’s absolutely beautiful, and as anyone who has read my blog previously will know, very much wanted; but life as new parents is tough and I wanted to share a few of our lessons.

Before I do, I also wanted to say a very specific thank you. We attended NCT classes prior to having our daughter and it was the best thing we ever did. Not only for the information and guidance, but for the new parent network we’ve since developed. My husband has a group of new dads to talk dad-stuff with, and for me, I’ve got a group of newbie mums muddling along the same way I am.

To those girls – thank you. For the 3am Whatsapp company, the reassurance that my boobs, tears, baby (insert other paranoid concern here) are in fact, normal and nothing to worry about. For the banter, the memes, the TMI, the giggles and the compassion.

I’ve included your pearls of wisdom below. They’ve got me through the last few weeks and I have no doubt you’ll continue to be awesome in the months and years to come.

It’s OK if it’s crap sometimes

I know. I’m a terrible mother. I should be beatifically smiling and glowing because I have a gorgeous little bundle of joy. Only she isn’t always joyous, and I’m not always smiling. Between hormones and sleep deprivation and that piercing newborn cry, it can be bloody hard work. You’ll cry, you’ll get fed up, you’ll yearn for your pre-baby life sometimes. I categorically ADORE my little girl. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find motherhood a challenge.

NCT advice: It’s all a phase. Babies go through growth spurts and developmental leaps and changes all the time. Breathe, and remember things will get better soon – this bad day is not forever.

Don’t hate the mirror, hate the game

I hate how I look right now. After a C-section I have what I’m affectionately calling ‘the overhang’. I have stretch marks. I have a permanent scar. I have weird boobs that don’t feel like my own. I rarely have time for make-up. My hair is super-fluffy and uncontrollable. My clothes all make me look like a sausage that’s about to burst out of its skin. The numbers on the scales are far too high for my liking. On top of the sleep deprivation and hormones (see point 1) it makes me want to cry daily.

NCT advice: It took 9 months for your body to grow that baby, give yourself a break and a chance to find your new shape. You won’t look the same anymore – you grew a small human. Be proud of that, and let yourself take time to recover and renew. Happy and healthy is the important thing.

Fed is best

There is so much wonderful advice and support out there for breastfeeding mothers. And on the whole, it’s really well-intentioned and really helpful. However, in some cases there is a fine line between support and pressure. My daughter took her sweet time to regain her birth weight. Cue worried noises from the health visitor, despite her behaviour, nappies etc all pointing towards a very healthy little lady. I therefore trundled off to a number of breastfeeding support groups and followed advice about latching (which she was fine at), positioning (no, I do not want to try to hold my daughter like a rugby ball in the middle of the night), and lactation aids (imagine McDonalds straws taped to your boobs, next to your nipples while you wear a bottle of formula/expressed milk around your neck like a cowbell). She still didn’t gain weight, so I continued to breastfeed (no cowbell contraption – I drew the line) and topped up with  a small bottle of formula after each feed. She put on 10.5oz in a week.

NCT advice: Breast is great, and if it works for you to exclusively breastfeed, seriously well done because it’s not easy and it’s a brilliant thing to do. But honestly? Fed is best. Our NCT group feed a variety of formula, combination and breastfeeding and all of our babies are thriving.

Trust your gut

Nope, not another reference to my post-baby body but a seriously important point. You will receive soooooo much advice from people – family, friends, professionals. And unfortunately, it won’t all tally up. You’ll feel lost in a sea of feeding on demand, co-sleeping, poo-splosions, bottles, colic, wind, soothing, dummies and more. Everyone knows what’s best for your baby…except they don’t.

NCT advice: In the immortal words of one of the NCT girls, Mammy and Daddy know best.  Do what feels right – pick and choose the advice that feels like the best thing for your child and your family. As long as your child is fed, rested, safe and healthy – you’re doing it right.

 

So to any sleep deprived, tearful, bemused new parents reading this, you’re doing an ace job. Stop beating yourself up – look at your little one and remember why you did this. Think about all the ‘firsts’ you have to look forward to – the first smile, the first laugh, the first steps, the first birthday and Christmas, starting school. You have a million happy moments ahead of you and you will get through this period like a champ – you have an army of parents behind you, cheering you on and holding you up.

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Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

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Weirdly and wonderfully ‘with child’

Pregnancy is such a odd time. Millions of women have written or spoken about ‘the things no-one tells you’, so this is just general rambling about some of the very weird (and often wonderful) things I’ve experienced since being pregnant.

1 Random touching

This one’s well documented, but I have had the most bizarre selection of people just stroke my stomach without so much as a ‘how are you?’.

If I encountered someone who told me their eye surgery had gone well, I wouldn’t stroke my hand over their eyes in a ‘go to sleep’ style movement; nor would any other sane person. And yet, apparently, baby bumps are exempt from this general rule of touching etiquette.

I’m certain all mums feel the same, but I’m incredibly protective of the bump. It’s precious, and ours, and (and this is, you’d imagine, the most obvious point) part of my body. Please ask before you reach out to touch it (particularly if I barely know you in the first place). And if I say no, regardless of how well you know me, please accept that it’s based on how I’m feeling, not you.

2 Friendly faces

Since being noticeably pregnant, people have been so kind. I dropped my parking ticket the other day, but before I could begin the slow descent (and inevitably difficult ascension back to full height), a random stranger had picked it up for me with an understanding smile.

Various retail staff have asked when the baby’s due and finished our transaction with a ‘congratulations’ or ‘good luck’.

People smile at me more – pregnant women in particular have been very un-British and actually made eye contact and started conversations in waiting rooms. It was a little disconcerting at first, if I’m honest.

3 Everyone knows better

As first time parents, we’re under no illusions – we have lots to learn, and no matter how organised, we’ll never be ready for the huge change that’s coming. Nonetheless, we didn’t emerge from an alien pod only days ago with no knowledge of the human family.

We’re certainly not too proud to ask for help or advice, but when we describe the midwife’s most recent observations/guidance, we don’t expect a random relative or friend to launch into an unasked-for and opinionated diatribe about how the midwife is wrong. They are, of course, human and susceptible to mistakes, but they’re also the experts.

Every pregnancy is different, everyone’s medical history is different, and guidance and advice changes annually – my midwife knows both me, our baby, and the up to date clinical guidance best.

4 Sticks and stones

Your throwaway observation that ‘Ooooh I was much bigger than you by this point, haven’t you got a small bump?’ brought me to tears later that day. It weighed on my mind, had me googling like a good’un, and worrying that my much-wanted baby wasn’t growing right. All this, despite knowing from regular midwife appointments that things are right on track.

I know that nothing is meant maliciously, but just think about the impact on an anxious, tired, hormone-ridden first time mum before casually declaring that their pregnancy is noticeably abnormal (in your humble opinion). Instead, tell them they’re looking good, ask how long they’ve got left, share your funny pregnancy stories.

5 Love and understanding

I recently went on a hen weekend in Liverpool. When we originally booked the weekend, I wasn’t yet pregnant. So despite loving the bride and wanting to be involved, a part of me was dreading being away from my husband for the weekend, and worrying about being boring and sober and tired, and a big fat burden on the other girls.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Women I’m close to but also women I’d never met before picked my suitcase up to carry it upstairs, gave up their seats, and checked on me. One of my fellow bridesmaids made sure soft drinks and mocktails were part of the activities she’d planned so I wasn’t left out, and I laughed and chatted and thoroughly enjoyed myself all weekend.

My point is, my worrying was unfounded. Throughout my pregnancy people have understood that I’m tired, not judged when we leave a meal/gathering/party earlier than we would have done a few months ago, but also continued to treat me like me.

So I guess, in summary:

  • Don’t touch me without asking (this is, you’d think, an obvious request)
  • The world is kinder than you think
  • Trust your instincts (and your midwife)
  • Be sensitive in your observations (and pregnant superheroes, try not to get too upset about clumsy comments)
  • Your people/tribe will always understand

 

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Dear baby…

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Dear baby…

Dear baby,

We’ve been so scared, your Mummy and Daddy. Last year was sad for us and you have been so very precious from the moment we found out about you.

Every milestone has felt like a huge achievement – you’re already the thing we’re most proud of and the most valuable thing in our lives. Mummy is a big worrier anyway, and she’s lost sleep, cried, refused to get excited (don’t be offended please, Mummy was just trying to be brave). She’s been the opposite of her normal self – so pessimistic and cautious. But now, halfway through your stay in Mummy’s tummy, we’re slowly letting ourselves smile and mean it. We’re talking about names, thinking about what we need to buy for you, how to decorate your room. You’ve become a part of us – you’ll make our family of two (plus Archer, your fur sibling), a family of three.

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But there are a couple of things you need to remember to help Mummy and Daddy be brave:

  1. Keep growing – get big and strong and ready for this big bad world you’re joining. Stay healthy and safe in there.
  2. Take care of Mummy – your kicks and roly-polys are already starting to provide reassurance to Mummy. It’s your way of saying ‘Hi there guys!’ and it’s  brilliant.
  3. You are not a rainbow baby – some people might talk about you as if you are. You are not. We will always be a little bit sad about what happened before you took root and decided to make Mummy your home. But it has nothing to do with you. From the moment we first saw that little nugget on the screen all those months ago, you started a whole new chapter for Mummy and Daddy, and we love you for it. Your job is not to fix us, your job is to simply be wonderful, beautiful you.

We can’t wait to meet you, to get to know you. We know we’ll be tired and grumpy and that it’s going to be hard work getting used to you, but you’re going to be worth every second.

All our love, already and always,

Mummy and Daddy xxx

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Things my dad has taught me

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Things my dad has taught me

So I’ve talked in the past about what we’ve learned along the way since my dad’s accident. But recently I’ve realised how much my dad himself has taught (and continues to teach) me. I thought I’d share a few of them, because after a bad meeting, or a traffic jam, or a family argument; it can feel like the end of the world but my dad has changed the way I look at life.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

The amount of times I’ve visited my dad after a busy and stressful day, only to walk out an hour later calm and smiling and wondering what my problem was. The things that were driving me to distraction suddenly didn’t seem important when faced with his daily struggles to even remember when to eat, or to turn the lights on when it gets dark.

  1. Keep laughing

From the moment he got his speech back, my dad has continued to be silly. I’ve said before that he’s always been silly – and one of my biggest fears was that he’d lose this sense of fun. Thankfully it’s remained, and has been the source of a series of Facebook posts like the following:

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  1. Be compassionate

My dad has every reason to be a grumpy, selfish, inconsiderate old bugger. But he’s the opposite. He notices when I’m tired. Asks what’s up if I’m quiet. Tells me to send love/congratulations/best wishes (insert greeting here) to various family members when I tell him their news. He asks how my mum is, my sister, my brother, his friends and listens when I give him updates about them. He reminds me to look outside my bubble. No matter how hard things are, it’s not OK to forget about other people.

  1. Be honest

Due to his condition, my dad doesn’t have as many inhibitions anymore. That means that sometimes, what’s in his head comes out of his mouth. Often, he realises as soon as it’s been vocalised that it was inappropriate or rude, but not before. Now, I know that it’s socially polite to frame your criticism constructively, to smile and hold the door for someone even if they do shove past you without a backwards glance; or to sit out a boring conversation in order to avoid offence. I’m not suggesting we all start spewing out exactly what’s on our minds all the time – it would be chaos and we’d cause hurt.

However, wouldn’t it be great if we could just take a leaf out of my dad’s book – just to now and then stand up when someone is only talking about themselves and walk off without a word?! To tell someone they’re being loud and it’s bothering you.

  1. Forgive

OK, so maybe in his case it’s more often than not that he doesn’t remember, rather than that he forgives. But my dad doesn’t hold grudges. And when I do have to tell him off, or I snap because frankly, I’m human and sometimes my patience wears thin; he forgives me instantly. He’s the one who apologises – he gives me a hug – reaches over to touch my arm to get my attention and says he loves me. Nothing matters enough to overshadow our precious time together. I wish I could be more like him and remember what really matters in our brief time on this planet with the people we love.

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The things we have learned…

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The things we have learned…

 

I don’t want this blog to become solely about our miscarriages and subsequent journey to parenthood (fingers crossed, touch wood, wish on a star, do some kind of baby version of a rain dance). But for now, that’s kind of our life.

So in a slightly more philosophical (and hopefully less sad vein) here are a few things I’ve learned from our journey so far

You’re not alone

The pain and the sadness and the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s your body in pain and your mouth they’re putting tablets in, and your veins they’re sticking needles in; can mean you feel incredibly lonely. Even the best partners in the world (and mine is awesome) can’t take that Eeyore style black cloud of isolation from you completely. I just want to tell you that you’re not on your own.

I was overwhelmed by the messages I received after we published our first heartbreaking post. Women I haven’t spoken to in up to 13 years were messaging me to let me know they’d been through it. It was like a post-battle debrief where we shared our war stories, talked about our wounds and scars, and gave each other hope to get back out there and keep fighting. These women are warriors, and my new heroes. A great blog to read is Charlie O’Brien’s, who is now a parent but had her own challenges getting there.

People will disappoint you…

Sadly, some people in your life will disappoint you. They’ll ask tactless and painful questions, throw clichés at you, ignore that anything has happened or (worst of all) try to be part of your pain, never understanding that you’re not suffering it willingly and it’s not theirs to ‘own’. It’s easy to lose your rag but remember that however it comes out, very few (if any) of these people intend to hurt you. Their words are well intended and come from kind places. Nonetheless, if they get too much, take a break and a deep breath and do what’s right for you and your partner.

…But they’ll surprise you too

The smallest and silliest things will pick you up on your worst days. My aunt, uncle and cousins sent a giant bag of M&S chocolate which arrived a day or so after getting back from holiday (and crashing even further back down to earth). The chocolate itself (while yummy) wasn’t a magic cure, but the reminder that so many friends and family were thinking of us and doing what they could to care for us made a whole world of difference.

Give yourself a break

You’ll have a string of good days and then, out of nowhere, you’ll have a day when the tears/anger return with a vengeance. From what I gather, this is normal. Your brain will take time to process the loss you’ve suffered and while healing does begin relatively quickly, it’s not an immediate outcome. In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself. If, like me, you’re used to giving 110% in everything you do, drop down to 80% instead. Everyone else will still think you’re doing a great job, and you’ll give yourself a bit more energy and thinking space.

You can still be you

Guilt is a terrible thing. It eats away at us at the worst times. My inner monologue over the last couple of months is not a show I’d buy tickets to – it goes along the lines of “It’s my fault”, “I’m broken”, “He should leave me”, “I just laughed – what must people think?”, “I got drunk last night. I don’t deserve to be a parent anyway”.

Unfortunately there isn’t an off switch for this guilt, but you can try to counter it with more positive thoughts and behaviours. Getting back to ‘normal’ life is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Go out with your friends, laugh with your partner, smile when your pet does something weird and funny. And Stop. Feeling. Guilty. Like so many things, your loss was out of your control. You won’t forget it but you can move on – worrying about the whys and wherefores won’t do anything except cause more hurt and distress at this point.

Don’t put life on hold

My biggest challenge as we move into what I’ve affectionately named ‘phase two’ of our recovery, is living our life without planning around a hypothetical pregnancy. The thing is, whether this month, next month, in a year or in two; the world knows we’re ‘trying’ now (urrrgh, hate that phrase). That means that every night out when I don’t drink, every event we leave early because I’m tired, every baggy top I wear (!) starts the rumour mill. And it reflects on your own feelings too – “What to do for that birthday/Christmas/catch up with friends?” “Maybe we shouldn’t plan the all day drinks – what if we’re pregnant?” “Let’s not book that holiday, I might be pregnant”.

You know what? That’s an impossible way to live. Do what you and your partner want to do. Book your holidays (that’s what insurance is for), plan your nights out (you can always change / move plans) and live for the now. Who knows what’s happening tomorrow.

Fight the good fight

And finally, fight the right fight for you. For us, after ‘only’ two losses, that’s meant giving up battling healthcare professionals, and instead using our energy to take care of ourselves. For others, regardless of their experience, fighting is what helps them survive it all. You have to do what you both feel is right. Don’t be led by doctors who tell you no, or by family who push you to keep battling on. Fall back on your experience, your feelings as a couple, and do what you need to heal and find your smiles again.

In the meantime, here’s a song that’s struck a chord with me in the last couple of months (click on the pic below).

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A year in review

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A year in review

Last year’s post at this time wasn’t particularly positive – and with good reason. So instead, this year, in no particular order, I’m sharing my favourite moments:

The birth of the babies

It’s been a year of arrivals for people I love dearly. So here’s to Riley, Sofia, Joshua, Elizabeth and Beatrix (and a special shout out to Chipette, who’s on her way and due to meet us all in February).

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My very own (four legged) arrival

For my birthday in October, my lovely hubby surprised me with a house rabbit. Aside from my engagement ring for Christmas a few years ago, Archer is my favourite present ever. The little furball has become a fixture in our household, even featuring in some selfies.

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An American adventure

In November/December we travelled across the pond to spend some quality time with our lovely, lovely American friends. Cue an epic road trip, in-truck munchies, numerous photos, lots of laughs and a sad parting at Baltimore airport when we said goodbye. Followed shortly by incredible memory-making and sightseeing with my lovely husband.

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If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere!

That’s right ladies and gents, I’ve been greedy on the holiday front this year. Back in May we went for an extra long weekend to the Big Apple with my best friend (and sister in law) and her hubby. We walked and shopped til we dropped (literally in Gemma’s case), we saw, we drank, we ate and we celebrated. It was awesome.

New York

Another Castle

In August my brother married his gorgeously stylish girlfriend Jenny. The event itself was fabulously swanky; and the hen, stag and bridal shower that surrounded it, oodles of fun! Congrats guys!

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An epic year

And the Robinsons celebrated a whole 365 days since our very own beautiful day in 2014. Despite family drama, a house move and new jobs, we survived! We celebrated by eating and drinking our way around Jersey (and seeing even more fab friends!)

A new job

After some very happy years in my previous role, it was time for me to move on. I secured a new job, in a new sector, and I was terrified! But seven months in I feel happy, settled and excited about what my team will achieve this year. Go us!

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Etc etc

It’s been a year of making memories for us. We were determined to have fun and to celebrate being young newlyweds with a wide circle of beautiful, caring, fun and hilarious friends and family. And we’ve fulfilled our promise to ourselves. From drunken selfies with Naomi, to rugby watching with Angelo. From submitting Disney-themed piano bar requests with Cat and Clare, to celebrating both my sister’s and my brother’s 18th birthdays. And from finding my dad a permanent and appropriate  place to live, to celebrating Christmas with him eating and joining in at my table. It’s been a year of highs – they may not write a book about me, but this chapter will always make me smile.

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Tis the season for self-care

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Tis the season for self-care

All too soon we’re here again. Three days until Christmas and life is festively frantic. The social butterfly side of me is giddy with sparkly, happy vibes (I love Christmas – this week I bought a Father Christmas toilet seat cover, to the horror of my husband). However, the introvert side of me is cowering in a corner somewhere, packing away pork pies and cheeselets.

And so, while these dual personalities do battle; every single year without fail, I overdo it. We book in everyone we’ve ever known in the course of a few short weeks and by about the millionth evening of socialising, Prosecco, fatty food and chocolate, we’re both feeling under the weather.

This year we went away for the first two weeks of December so had a valid excuse to avoid some of the festivities. And when we returned, I was hopeful that our (at the time) clear diary would remain so. How naïve…

We’ve been home 9 days and (apart from sleeping) we’ve spent approximately 6-8 hours at home relaxing. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I thought I’d share my tips for taking good care of yourself at this genuinely lovely time of year, without ending up under a duvet in your pyjamas with the phone off the hook.

  • It’s OK to say no

There’s a lot of pressure – from retailers, advertising, family and friends – to celebrate with absolutely every single one of your loved ones. This isn’t the case. As long as everyone who genuinely matters (and think this through carefully too. Do you really want to see your second cousin twice removed’s girlfriend for a drink?) receives some acknowledgement that you care – a card, a phone call, a text message or a face-to-face; you’ve done your bit. Learn to prioritise the invitations and don’t feel you simply must go to everything to save face.

  • It’s OK if you’re less party animal, more dormouse

When your colleagues regale you with tales of their messy drunken activities and you feel a bit bashful about watching Love Actually with a hot chocolate in your pyjamas and heading to the land of nod at 9.30pm…don’t. It’s alright that you took just one night out of 30 to look after yourself.

  • It’s OK to be festively plump

Everyone overeats and overdrinks at this time of year. I’m not condoning the seriously crazy excess that some people get into, but I’m also not going to start guilt-bashing you for eating that extra mince pie and having one too many glasses of mulled wine. Accept that you are going to over indulge and that will probably mean an extra couple of pounds. And make yourself a deal to address it after new year’s day. You’ll be craving a salad or three by then anyway.

  • It’s OK to take a break

I know that taking leave at this time of year isn’t always easy, depending on your profession. But if you have the chance for just one additional day off; take it and use it for you. Even if you can’t avoid braving the crowds and shopping, make sure you come home and take half an hour to read your book, have a warm bath or watch your favourite programme. Christmas is indeed the season of giving, make sure you don’t forget yourself.

  • It’s OK to have fun!

Make sure you celebrate the way you want to. A little bit of family-pleasing is a given, but when it comes to new year’s eve, those weird Twixmas days between the 26 and 31 December, and any other time you have spare; do what you want. If you’d prefer to celebrate at home, with Prosecco, beer and a Spotify Christmas playlist with friends, do it. Equally, if you want to go out and party the night away in a swanky club, have fun! Don’t get dragged into other people’s plans because you feel you should – do things your way.

Merry Christmas to all – may your lights be twinkly, your turkey tasty and your naps plentiful!