Pregnant and Perfect

In America maternity shoots, kind of like baby showers, are a big deal. It seems to be the norm to have one rather than not. I spend a lot of time on online pregnancy support groups filled with Americans so recently my news feed has been flooded with the most beautiful pictures. With hair and makeup styled perfectly and gorgeous flowing dresses these pictures are what every woman dreams of looking like when pregnant. Ordinary day to day pictures just do not live up!

Getting professional pictures taken is an expense that few of us can afford or justify during pregnancy. Any money I have right now is for baby and things that she needs. Hell we probably can’t even afford a new born photo shoot and if we had to pick one to spend our hard earned cash on newborn would win over maternity every time!

Every girl wants to feel like a princess every now and then though and I was getting very jealous of all the amazing pictures while I felt like a troll! So I decided to take matters into my own hands and hold my own personal maternity shoot.

Now I love Jack very much. He’s a wonderful man and he has many strengths. Taking pictures of me is not one of them. If I ask him to take a picture he expects to take one picture and no more. He can never understand why you would want more. When we went on holiday to Norfolk I was desperate to utilise the woods for some pregnancy pictures and ended up with one very average photograph!

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There’s only so far that mirror selfies can go towards getting the perfect pic!

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So I purchased a tripod for my phone. It comes with a bluetooth remote that links up with your phone or camera so that you can easily take pictures. This is the one i bought: https://www.amazon.co.uk/PEMOTech-Lightweight-Smartphone-Compatible-Stabilizer/dp/B014ZYH6J4?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_4

Armed with my tripod and a couple of dresses from boohoo I headed out into the garden to try my luck. I was so glad I did! Looking at the end results I felt confident and beautiful- feelings which are becoming rarer as I become bigger!

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Fancy professional photos are all well and good but for those of you on a budget don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands! Everyone deserves to have beautiful pictures especially at such a unique and magical time of life! And if your partner is as useless as mine when it comes to taking pictures I seriously recommend a smart phone tripod to ending the choice between grumbling partners and mirror selfies for good!

 

Window to the Womb

We’ve just got back from seeing baby girl! We were torn about paying for a private scan because it is quite expensive. Jack in particular thought it was going to be a waste of money and we should just wait until the baby arrives to see her again now. But as our last NHS scan was at 20 weeks (apart from the surprise growth scan we had yesterday due to my “small” bump) I felt 20 weeks was a long time to wait without seeing my baby!

The huge benefit of a private scan as well was that the kids could come (they’re not allowed at the NHS ones). We felt it would be good bonding for them to see their baby sister in my tummy. I’m not sure they were as excited as I had hoped they would have been but still it was nice for them to be involved!

I have an anterior placenta and yesterday at the growth scan we were told her head is very low already so I wasn’t optimistic that we would get good pictures. But the sonographer was patient (and got me to cough and move about) and we got some decent ones! These are all at 28 +6 weeks.

Her face was all smushed against my tummy where she was pressed up close and she kept covering her face with her hand. She has super chubby cheeks and she’s just perfect. And she’s all girl which is a relief because those pink clothes won’t go to waste!

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Chubby Cheeks!

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Chewing her hand (she wouldn’t put that hand down! She’s going to be a thumb sucker!)

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Hand on head- drama queen! Look at that smushed nose as well.

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I think the poor darling is going to have my nose!

We also got this adorable heartbeat teddy which has a recording of her heartbeat in. There were loads to choose from and we got the kids to help pick- luckily we all easily agreed the husky was best!

The scan cost us £69 plus £20 for the teddy (there were bigger ones for £30). Whilst I don’t think we would have got medical peace of mind from them (there really wasn’t much focus on baby’s well being despite it being a well being scan), for bonding and pictures it was worth every penny. I actually wish we had upgraded to HD but I was convinced we wouldn’t get a good face shot!

Have you had a 4d scan? Let’s see those images!

Code Breaker

I haven’t written on here in so long. What with Christmas and general family life it has been a constant whirlwind of activity and I haven’t had a minute to sit and think.

Today I am 28 weeks which means, whether you believe the third trimester starts at 27 or 28 weeks, I am in it! I can’t believe the 2nd trimester is already over. There are 84 days before the due date and excited as I am to meet baby, I am happy for those to go slowly!

Today’s post is a little different because it’s not going to be pregnancy related. Whilst i’m a first time biological mama, and babies are a whole new ball game for me, I am already a step-mum to three children. On Sundays, Jack takes Joe (7) to play rugby and I stay at home (in the warm and dry) with Jess (8) and Josh (11). I like to make the most of this bonding time so we always make sure to play a game or do some form of activity (preferably not involving a screen!).

Today I created a game for them which you may like to try with your own children! It was called code breaker and they both loved it. They worked well as a team and the best bit was it was super educational and they barely even realised! You would need to adapt the clues and the code depending on the age of your children but the base format would work for anyone!

The object of the game was to crack the code to open the box. Inside the box was a small selection of sweets so that their effort would be worth it! In order to crack the code they had to find and solve 8 clues, and then follow the code breaking instructions.

They were given the instructions of what they needed to crack the code which would involve using the answer to clues to do some maths!

First, I enlisted Jess’ help to draw a map of our house. I got her to think about where the big furniture was in each room and where the doors were so the map would be an accurate representation. When she had finished I marked the location of all the clues on the map with red crosses.

The clues were all things they would either have learnt in school, or would be able to find by looking up in books. No internet allowed! I wanted them to use the index and to think about what book might have the information they needed.

They worked together to hunt out the answers:

and then to do the maths!

All in all, the game occupied them for a good 45 minutes. 45 minutes in which they looked at books and completed maths problems- enjoying themselves the whole time! They were very proud of themselves when they entered the code onto the box and were able to open it to reveal the sweets inside! The game took me 15 minutes to set up and cost nothing (the sweets were already in the cupboard) so it was a real winner!

Definitely something to try on a rainy day with your own little ones!

Have you come up with any great games to entertain the kids on a rainy day inside?

 

Cats and babies

Since I found out I was pregnant one of my biggest concerns has been how my first baby will cope. Charlie. I have had her since she was 9 weeks old and she is very much a Mummy’s girl!

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It was a really big adjustment for her when we moved in with Jack and the kids. She still hides every time the kids are here because she just can’t handle the noise! She follows me around everywhere like my own personal daemon. She also sleeps in our bed with us every night (usually being spooned!).

I worry about how to keep the baby safe around her when it arrives. You hear horror stories of cats scratching babies or worse, suffocating them. I also worry about how to make sure she still feels loved and part of the family. I don’t want her to spend her whole life shut in one room or to feel neglected.

So what can be done? How much risk is there with a cat and a baby? How can we reach a happy compromise?

Getting the Cat Ready for Baby’s Arrival

Cats are creatures of habit and get easily stressed when there is change. This can lead to the cat acting out when there is a new baby, scratching, peeing outside of their litter tray etc. So how can we minimise the stress?

My two big concerns are sleeping arrangements and affection so I’ve covered them separately below. However, I’ve found lots of tips online for helping your cat adjust to a new baby. Here are the best 10:

  1. Introduce the cat to baby sounds before it arrives. Apparently you can get CDs of babies crying to prepare the cat (although this doesn’t sound like much fun for anyone!)
  2. Start wearing baby powder and lotion to get it used to baby smells.
  3. Establish a routine and stick to it. This means feeding your cat at the same time, emptying it’s litter tray and all those things. Essentially making sure your cat experiences as little change as possible.
  4. Make sure to stay on top of fleeing and worming treatment to avoid the spread of infection or diseases to baby before it’s born or after.
  5. Consider using calming sprays like feliway around the house to help the cat feel settled and relaxed.
  6. Prepare cat safe spaces that are out of reach of babies and where it can escape to. Currently Charlie escapes to our bedroom to get away from the kids but this won’t be possible when baby is here and sleeping in there! She does have a lovely big cat tree in the dining room though where she can perch up high.
  7. If mummy and baby stay in hospital for a bit bring home baby blankets or clothes that have been near baby for the cat to smell.
  8. If you have friends with babies invite them over so your cat can get used to the strange little creatures being in the house.
  9. Change your cats environment slowly. Bring in baby furniture in stages not all at once so the cat can get used to it. Let it smell it and get used to it!
  10. When the baby does arrive stay calm when cat and baby meet. Don’t panic and stress your cat out but equally never leave them unsupervised.

Sleeping Arrangements

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According to Cats Protection the risk of a cat suffocating a baby is very low. I had heard that cats were attracted to the smell of milk on baby’s breath but Cats Protection says cats dislike the smell of human breath altogether! The majority of websites say that the risk of a cat suffocating a baby is very low but do recommend using a net over the cot in case the cat is attracted to baby’s warmth.

I have even read sites where people say they continued to let their cat sleep on their bed with the cot in the same room! They also recommend introducing the cat to the baby products (e.g. cot) early on and training it to learn it’s not allowed in it. I’m not sure how well this would work with Charlie, she still jumps on the kitchen sides when our backs are turned and she knows she’s not allowed up there!

Whilst it is reassuring to know the risk of suffocation is low I am not convinced I would take the risk and let Charlie stay sleeping on our bed. So this leaves us two choices

a) get Charlie gradually used to not sleeping in our bed before baby arrives
– this would be very difficult! Whenever Charlie is shut out of the room she scratches up the carpet keeping us all awake (not to mention the damage to the carpet!)

b) make Charlie an outside cat at nighttime when baby arrives
– this worries us because cats are more at risk of injury or death outside at night. She’s also such a friendly beautiful cat we worry she will get stolen (or poisoned, we’ve all ready the stories!)

I’m leaning towards option b because shutting her in a room at night seems cruel. Jack is definitely leaning towards option a if we can find away to make it workable.

Affection

Charlie is used to getting lots of attention and affection. However, she has got to used to having less when the kids are here which took some time! At first when the kids would sit on my lap she would try to scratch or bite them to warn them off her space. Now she just hides in our bedroom (Currently a kid free zone) and waits for me to come and find her.

The rest of the time she is never more than a few feet away from me (even when i’m in the bath!)

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Some sites recommend giving the cat lots of extra attention in the run up to baby coming. Some recommend withdrawing affection so they get used to you being less available before baby is here.

Neither seems a perfect solution to me. Personally I think we’re going to keep giving her lots of love and affection but maybe reduce it a bit. I’m also going to try and get Jack and the kids more involved in cuddle time (when she’ll let them).

Current mums what did you do to help your cat adjust and to protect baby? And expectant mothers, what are your plans?

Sources

https://www.cats.org.uk/caterham/learn/cats-and-babies

https://www.livescience.com/22449-do-cats-really-kill-babies-by-sucking-away-their-breath.html

https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cats-babies-debunk-myths-cat-health-parenting

https://community.babycentre.co.uk/post/a26192623/cat_sleeping_in_the_same_room_as_baby

Anxiety in pregnancy (or parenting in general)

Since the day I found out I was pregnant I feel like I’ve constantly felt anxious. Is baby ok? Am I doing everything right? What if this happens? As much as i’m excited before scans and midwives appointments i’m equally terrified until the minute we see or hear a heartbeat. It’s horrible. I wish I could just relax and enjoy it.

Part of me thinks that it will be much better when I can feel baby moving, but after speaking to other Mum’s i’m starting to realise that will just open up a whole new load of anxiety! Was baby moving more yesterday? Is that pain baby kicking or something sinister? One of my friends said that when she was pregnant she couldn’t stop eating because she could always feel baby move after!

I spoke to my mum about the anxiety and she said “welcome to the Mummy club, you’ll have this anxiety for the rest of your life”. Great!

But it feels like everything and everyone is constantly trying to make Mums (and Dads when baby has arrived) feel guilty. There’s always blame to be apportioned. When you’re pregnant everything you do can affect baby including the air you breathe. What are you supposed to do- seal yourself up in an air tight bubble for 10 months to protect baby from chemicals?

If something goes wrong there are so many reasons to blame yourself. You stood next to that guy smoking at the bus stop that one time a few months back. You rolled onto your right side (or God forbid your back) in the night. You had brandy sauce on your Christmas pudding. You used this shampoo or that toothpaste. Your bath was too warm (Seriously how warm is too warm? I’m basically having cold baths now!). You ate too much fish, sugar, caffeine etc the list goes on. Remember in most miscarriages or still births there is absolutely nothing Mum could have done differently to prevent it. It’s not your fault.

And then of course everyone knows stress isn’t good for baby. So if you’re stressing about all of the above (and the many other things that can go wrong) then that could cause a problem in itself. Another reason to blame yourself.

This doesn’t stop when baby is here. Everyone knows that if you have a problematic child it’s the parents fault. This child is a seriously fussy eater- blame the parents. This child cries all the time- blame the parents. This child is scared of everything- blame the parents. This child is constantly misbehaving- blame the parents. Yes sometimes bad parenting leads to undesirable qualities in a child. But you frequently see parents doing everything right and still at their wits end as to why their child won’t stop throwing tantrums, eat their vegetables, sleep through the night…

So how can we move past it and have some semblance of calm again?

1. Have a good support network

Support is so important at all stages of life but especially now. Surround yourself with people that care about you and baby, give you good advice and (most importantly) don’t contribute to the stress and anxiety! You don’t need negativity in your life right now, there’s enough of that coming at you from all angles already. I have a great circle of friends and a supportive family to get me through. I’m also part of a Facebook group for other Mums due in May 2019 which is such an important resource, it helps you realise that no matter what your feeling (or thinking) you’re not alone.

2. Beware the internet

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The internet can be a wonderful place but it can also be a terrifying one. Everyone on the internet knows everything (or at least they claim to). Everyone is a perfect Mum (or Dad). You need to do exactly what they did in pregnancy or your baby will be born with 6 arms, 2 heads and crocodile skin. If you don’t raise your baby the same way as them it will be an out of control demon. Just like Instagram, people share an idealistic view of their lives on Mumsnet and every other parenting site. Who knows what’s really going on behind closed doors? Stay away from all the fear mongering sites as well. Listen to your medical professional, that’s the only advice you need!

3. Yoga (or any other exercise)

I joined a pregnancy yoga class and it seriously makes a difference. During every session I feel the stress slipping away and i’m starting to practise it at home when the anxiety gets too much. But any exercise is helpful to reduce stress and produce endorphins, whatever suits you. Just make sure that if you are pregnant you consult your medical professional before beginning any new fitness regime.

4. Educate yourself (in the right way)

Remember point 2, beware the internet. But educating yourself on what to expect and how to deal with it from reliable, trustworthy sources will really help. The unknown is always the scariest. Read pregnancy books, read parenting books. Attend classes. Both pregnancy and parenting are incredibly scary and hard and we get no training or qualifications before embarking on that journey. Anyone can become a parent (God isn’t that a scary thought). So everything you can do to empower yourself and fill yourself with confidence now will pay off big time in the long run. I like What to Expect When You’re Expecting but there are thousands of good books out there, pick the one that works for you.

5. Enjoy it

Don’t let yourself get so caught up in worry that you fail to enjoy the little things. Seeing baby on a scan, hearing it’s little heart beat for the first time, feeling it move inside you, holding it for the first time in your arms. Anything can go wrong at any time whether your 8 weeks pregnant or have an 8 year old child. We never know what is round the corner and if we worried about every possible scenario would we ever leave the house? All you can do is focus on doing the best job you can possibly do and enjoying the journey along the way. You are the best, and only, person for this job and you can do it.

To finish I found this really nice quote online:

“You are pregnant and you are powerful. You are bold and you are beautiful. Go forward in your boldness, in your beauty and in your connectedness. Trust your body to birth and know that the collective power of women worldwide will be with you.” ~Author Unknown (http://www.quotegarden.com/pregnancy.html)

So what about you? How do you deal with the anxiety and worry that comes with being pregnant or being a parent? What’s the best bit of advice you can give?

Pregnancy Books (With a Twist)

There are so many pregnancy books out there it’s hard to know what to read! Personally my gospel has been What to Expect When You’re Expecting. However, my own Mama sent me a pregnancy book with a bit of a difference in the post and it’s truly brilliant.

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It’s basically a colouring book for adults although there are other activities too: mazes, word searches, quizzes etc. It’s funny, clever and perfect for those moments when you just need to relax or can’t sleep. It’s divided into trimesters and a section for after the baby arrives.

Some of my highlights include

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The idea of pushing a watermelon out of your private parts is certainly a terrifying prospect and makes the fruit comparisons not so much fun anymore! My baby is currently the size of a lemon and even that’s pretty scary! Let’s stop talking about fruit…

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Now this one is all wrong for me (apart from the burger bleugh). Chicken is one of the few things that I can eat (especially KFC chicken!). The smells that most make me want to puke are beef, mince meat, lamb, milk, chocolate (sucks to be me right?!) and Dentyl Refreshing Clove mouthwash (hence the poorly drawn picture of Jack who uses it twice a day)! I can’t wait for the nausea stage to pass! What smells make you want to vomit?

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Now this page is completely right! My top 5 things to wear are definitely pyjamas, leggings, baggy jumpers, grandma pants and definitely no bra! Sexy clothes are out of the window at the moment (sorry Jack!) I just want to be comfy!

I’m not going to post anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for you but some other highlights include:

  • A maze where the goal is to make it from your desk to the bathroom without throwing up
  • Unconventional Mobile ideas- “let’s get one thing straight right of the bat: your newborn does not care about his mobile because he cannot see more than six inches in front of his face. Even when he does start seeing, he still doesn’t care about the Mozart-playing baby elephants that you so lovingly hung in his direct line of sight; the speck on the wall over there is just as interesting.” (page 57)
  • A word search of bad baby names- Vespa anyone?
  • How many strangers have caressed you today?
  • Unscramble the things that will never be the same once you have this baby.

Basically the book is great when you’re simultaneously dealing with how wonderful pregnancy is (because there’s a magical life growing inside of you that you love so much already) and how horrifying (because you feel and look like crap and want to spend all day eating and crying). It will cheer you up, take your mind of the bloat and make you feel better about yourself and how you’re doing. It’s a really unique pregnancy book and I won’t be putting it down much during this journey!

If you want a copy for yourself or pregnant friend, colleague, loved one you can find it here:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Big-Activity-Book-Pregnant-People/dp/1409173895/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541512740&sr=8-1&keywords=big+fat+activity+book

What pregnancy books are keeping you going right now (or kept you going when you were pregnant)?

Announcing Baby

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It’s hard to know when is the right time to make this announcement. On the one hand, the minute you see those two blue lines on the test your heart wants to shout it from the rooftops (and you feel like it’s written all over your face anyway). Indeed some of my friends found out very early purely from the smile on my face and my inability to hide it when confronted. On the other hand, when 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage (the majority in the first trimester) your brain tells you to wait. Wait till it’s safe. Wait till you’re passed the danger stage.

I am now exactly 14 weeks pregnant and reasonably out of the danger zone. It’s also getting increasingly difficult to hide, my stomach is growing, my nausea is ever present and it was getting hard to keep finding excuses to turn down alcohol! All our close family and friends have been told and now we can finally begin to shout it from the roof tops.

Seeing that positive result was the happiest moment of my life. My partner has three beautiful kids already and whilst I love them dearly, I always felt a pang of sadness. He has a relationship with them, as their Dad, that I will never have as their Step-Mum. We are very close but they already have a Mum and I would always just be Carrie to them. I wasn’t particularly broody until Jack and I moved in together, but seeing that love and bond the four of them hold made me realise how desperately I wanted it.

We’d been trying for a few months and my period had been late once before so I waited an extra long time before taking the test. My boobs hurt, I was tired, nauseous and a week late but I didn’t want the disappointment of another negative result. When I finally built up the courage to take the test I snuck out of the bedroom first thing on a Saturday morning while Jack was still asleep; I wanted to process the result, positive or negative, myself first. Those 2 minutes were the longest wait of my life. When the result changed i sat and stared in disbelief. Then I sat and cried.

Even now it is hard to believe that this is really happening. That right now there is a baby, the size of a lime, inside my tummy. My beautiful perfect baby. I can’t wait for the first time I feel it move inside of me so I can really start to believe it is real!

So how about you mums? How long did you wait to tell people you were pregnant? How did you do it?