Third baby and I thought I was pretty knowledgable about parenting. But 10 days in to Greta and I’m learning stuff everyday day. Motherhood is a constant learning curve. And if there’s one thing I know for sure: the moment that you think to yourself ‘I’ve nailed this parenting malarky’ is the moment your kids morph into different beings and prove that, in fact, we are all winging it all the time!
Anyway, lovely Shelley and Siobhan from @hi_mama_letters have copiled a list of everything they wish they could tell their ‘former mama selves’l:
We are secondary school friends. Our births and early years of being mothers couldn’t have been more different; yet we both felt pressure, we both felt guilt, we both felt lost at times.
Motherhood can be (insert choice of expletive) hard at times. As a mum, you hardly ever get time to reflect on how far you’ve come and sometimes it isn’t until you’ve got through the hard times that you look back and realise how kick-ass amazing you really were. In our list, we reflect on our different experiences, talking to our past mama-selves…
Sophie – An unplanned home birth. You still can’t believe it happened how it did – that within a couple of hours you went from being sent home at 2-3cm dilated to having a baby in our bedroom. Now you know how lucky it was that your amazing midwife Jane arrived at just the right time to stop the paramedics whisking you off to hospital (and the possibility of a roadside birth) and taking complete control of the situation. She shut all the windows to keep it warm, set up a recovery area in the bathroom without you noticing and instructed Stu to bring in all of the towels we owned – even the good ones. Fifty three minutes later, she caught Felix as he made his headfirst, super-fast entrance. It feels surreal now; Mum was there making tea for the paramedics, siblings arrived with balloons and a tray of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and my husband’s 93-year-old grandmother held Felix when he was hours old. It was pretty much the best I could ever have hoped for; I know how fortunate it was.
Shelley – Wipe those tears, hold those newborn babies close. As you sit there in shock staring into their eyes for the first time, the anaesthesia still leaving your body, you can’t process it. You won’t for a while, both times – a long while. But know this mama, you have not failed! Having them by emergency c-section does not make you a failure. You were strong, you were brave, you were committed. You wanted those perfect births so desperately, but believe me, in years to come, you’ll just be so grateful for those perfect babies.
Shelley – You did breastfeed your girls, it may not have been for as long as you wanted to, but you did. You won’t say that for years. If anyone asks you, you never give a straight ‘yes’. It’s an answer wrapped in self-deprecation, apology and guilt. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You did the best for you and your babies and I am very proud of you!
Sophie – You were bamboozled by the NCT session on breastfeeding. You and a friend always shuddered at the idea of breastfeeding and the NCT session did nothing to dispel that worry. You stood in the hallway and cried when we got home, wondering how you could even be a mother if you found the idea of breastfeeding so overwhelming. But you did it, and breastfed beyond a year. Weaning was where it all started to become challenging. Felix was slow to take to solids and dropped down the centiles. It led to hospital referrals and the label of ‘failure to thrive’. You didn’t know what to do. Now he eats; it’s a very limited diet of oven food, but every waffle, every pizza, every fish finger feels like a victory.
Shelley – Once these first few months of hazy sleep deprivation are over you both find your rhythm. Routine works for you. The structured naps may tether you to the house at certain times of the day, but don’t let anyone make you feel silly about this – ignore the eye-rolls you can feel through the phone as you schedule plans around her naps – it’s not them who’ll have to get up with her in the night. Continue to do what works for you with confidence, she’s sleeping, no one should judge you for that.
Sophie – The four-month sleep regression changes your life. Felix woke up every hour of every night for five weeks. You have lows that you have never experienced before and had thoughts that you would never believed you were capable of. The first year was one long sleep regression. It was brutal. You weren’t expecting motherhood to challenge you in such a dark, numbing way. Now he sleeps in between you and Stu every night and I think that’s all he wanted. It was such a game changer to realise it, and to just accept it.
Shelley – You’re the first of your friends to have a baby, you’ve just hit 25. Life up until this point has been about pushing your boobs up in whatever outfit you’d chosen to dance the night away in with your friends, not getting them out in front of them to silence the piercing cries of a newborn baby. Life has changed. You feel lonely at the moment, somewhat removed from the conversation. But new friends will come into your life, ones with babies who you relate to more right now. Your older friendships will remain, they’ll always be there, you’re just dancing in different clubs right now – they’re in Pacha; you’re in the bump and babes club in the local children’s centre. At least the sick on your shoe is from your baby!
Sophie – You end up being one of the last in the friendship group to have a baby, which was a huge benefit. Asking a million questions about everything made your pregnancy so much more reassuring and your friends’ wisdom and guidance was such a source of strength. The old adage about it taking a village to raise a baby is so true; it extends beyond a village now, it’s the other side of the country or the world via social media, it’s the blogger behind a computer sharing her thoughts, it’s the brilliant midwife publishing a book. You took on advice like water, and still do.
Sophie – You loved your job and worked with an amazing team who gave you incredible support throughout your pregnancy. But the day you were supposed to go back to work, you didn’t go, as you literally couldn’t bring yourself to do it. You lied and said Felix was ill. You weren’t ready mentally and it was no surprise that you left after the obligatory post-maternity-leave three months. With hindsight now I regret that decision. Having the understanding of long-established colleagues when you’re a parent of a young child is a really privileged position and I gave that up all too easily.
Shelley – Your firstborn is ten weeks old and you are sitting on your laptop putting the finishing touches to your freelance marketing services website. Seriously women, I want to high-five you and shake you in equal measures. You fell pregnant whilst you were both living and working in Australia and returned to no statutory maternity pay due to Australia not being a ‘reciprocal agreement’ country – who knew that? Not you! Your work out there did not count. There is no maternity leave. Oh, and that strong desire to be equal is driving you (insane) too, to contribute, to be a strong women who can do it all. Half of me wants to tell you to slow down, there is time for a career – enjoy your newborn, worry about what episode of The Hills to binge watch during nap time instead of trying to seek out projects. But, on the other hand, well done you! It’s over 7 years later and you are still successfully freelancing – that drive and initiative has allowed you to work around your children all this time – you did that!
Throughout these challenges we searched and searched for answers online. The snippets we read in forums weren’t enough. We shared our struggles with each other, but had completely different experiences.
** Sophie and Shelley wanted to create a space that had as many voices of motherhood as possible; to give the writer time to reflect, honestly and openly with no judgement and to create a resource for other mamas going through the same challenges now. hi mama is a digital library of letters from mamas to themselves, was the result. More than 50 mamas have written a letter to themselves since we launched in September, and tens of thousands of women have read those letters, telling us how they have brought them comfort and reassurance. If you’d like to write your letter, follow us on Insta or visit our website () for everything you need to know. **
Back in October Hollie De Cruz shared her reflections on splitting from her husband. It was was one of the most read lists from 2017.
But what does life after divorce look like a further down the line? Here, brilliant Kiera from Mama Designs shares her experience 3 years later:
I have been a single parent of two for 4 years now and divorced for 3. This is some of what I experienced and some of the stuff I wish someone had told me.
My marriage ending after 13 years together is the hardest thing I have ever been through and the deepest, darkest time of my life.
It is like suffering a loss and you go through the stages of bereavement, especially if it comes as a shock, which mine did.
It took me about 2 years to feel properly normal again. I remember speaking to a friend of a friend, not long after it happened who told me this and I couldn’t quite believe it. It is true though. It doesn’t mean to say you won’t be happy within that time but to feel properly normal it was about 2 years.
Take time out for yourself, self care is so important. I ran, every day. It gave me my headspace. It also got me slim, which is an added bonus! Meditate, exercise, whatever works for you. Even if it was not something you did before, try it, you might surprise yourself!!
Make sure you eat properly, even though it will be the last thing on your mind.
Your children will be reason enough to plaster a smile on your face and carry on, even on the darkest days. Hug them lots. This will be confusing for them too. Make sure they know that you both love them.
Telling the children was the hardest thing. I carefully planned the day out with all four of us after we explained and we went to the Julia Donaldson exhibition and then went to town and got a teddy bear made for each of them and we put the heart in to show them that we both loved them and whenever either one of us wasn’t there, if they felt sad, they could hug their bear. Then we went out to eat and let them choose the location (hello Burger King!?) surrounded by teenagers in town while such a big thing was happening was weird.
I always tried to be the better person. Having an amicable divorce/ break up was so important, even though I didn’t feel like it at times. I understand that this is not always possible but if it is possible, it is such a good thing, for everyone involved .
However bad what has happened to you is, your kids do not need to know that, they can be spared the details. They have two parents and assuming both love them, then they don’t need to be in the middle of an argument or used against one another. It is the children who will suffer.
Becoming a single mum is a huge adjustment and it takes time. I remember in the early days wondering how I would do things on my own with them and then doing it and feeling stronger. The first time the three of us ate out in a restaurant, my new slightly smaller family unit. How empowering taking my children on holiday felt.
Someone recommended a book called “Excuse me your life is waiting” I read that, and “The Secret” and they really hit a chord with me and I discovered the Law of Attraction, something that I would have previously thought of as a bit woo woo.
Get in control of your finances. Especially if this wasn’t something you did in married life. Get a spreadsheet and keep a track of all your outgoings and income. You might be surprised to find you are eligible for working tax credits too.
It is ok to keep your married name. I wanted to have the same name as my kids, I had had my married name for 8 years, I did not want to change it. Do what feels right for you.
If you can make arrangements for child care and financial matters yourself and amicably it is a much nicer way to do it but you might want to seek legal advice.
You might not always agree on things with your ex. You might have to make compromises. You do this for the sake of your children and for a happy life. It is not good to have stress and upset in your life. I have always tried to limit this.
Some people have different attitudes towards single mums. The airport customs guard who asked “where is there dad?” to which I shrugged my reply. He said “you are taking them on holiday on your own lady?” Hell yes!!! I would sometimes get looks from mums on holiday who might think I wanted to pinch their husbands! I am definitely still aware of this when I take the kids away but mostly people are friendly and supportive.
Don’t air your dirty washing in public ie post negative stuff on social media, pick up the phone instead and cry on someone’s shoulder/rant, moan, whatever but nothing will be gained from airing your dirty laundry in public. I never did and it is something I am hugely grateful for. I really cringe when I see other people doing that. I think that they will regret it!
You are stronger than you think! I kept telling myself this!
Use your friends and family, let them look after you. My family, especially my mum and my close friends were my absolute rocks. I will never forget their unwavering support.
Your house will feel empty without your children. You might not want to see friends with children when you don’t have yours. Keep yourself busy at first, you will learn to enjoy the time.
You might go online dating. It will be horrendous, hilarious and your friends will be constantly on the phone wanting the latest in your dating saga. I was contacted by everyone from age 21 to 76 I think and some of them were horrendous (Bob Vodka the aging goth, the lollipop man, couples! I remember laughing till we cried with my friends reading the messages! My tip for online dating is coffee not wine! Ever heard of coffee goggles? No? I rest my case!!
I have heard of some people becoming consumed by unhappiness and have it define them as a person, people saying “she never got over him/it”. I was determined not to let this happen. Count your blessings. There are still lots of good things in your life and you need to remember this.
Put some happy music on and dance around the kitchen to lift your mood. You may feel silly at first, but it will lift your mood and make you smile!
Firsts are hard, birthdays, milestones, even parents evenings etc but each time it gets easier and you keep a brave face on for the sake of your children until it becomes normal.
Finding out my children were having a new sibling was hard, really hard but after hearing two friends different stories of how a new sibling was handled I was determined to be like the positive story. My children love their baby brother so I have embraced that and they see me making a fuss over him every time I see him. They would not understand if I didn’t so why wouldn’t I? How it made me feel was irrelevant, my children were and are the most important thing.
I miss my in laws, the whole family. We stayed in touch but it was never the same. My parents were sad. Break ups are sad for everyone as it affects so many people in different ways.
You will be happy again, truly happy, but it does take time. It is a journey.
I am a much calmer, happier chilled out person (and more self aware) than I ever used to be and I think that this is due to what I went through.
As I reach the very end of this pregnancy (due date been and gone) my body and brain have cleverly erased all memories of what early pregnancy was like. The truth is the first 15 or so weeks of this pregnancy were far worse than with my previous two. Perhaps because I was carrying a girl this time?
One thing that kept me sane during those months was reading and rereading Susie Verrills brilliant blog post on Hyperemesis Gravidarum. By far the most honest and revealing account of what its like to suffer with something WAY beyond morning sickness. I used Susie’s words as a stark reminder that although I felt shit, their were many people out there in a far far worse place. Struggling on in the face of real adversity.
Since then I have been meaning to help raise more awareness of HG and am really grateful to Gemma for sharing her story:
On 19 January 2015 I was beyond ecstatic to learn that I was pregnant. We had been married for 4 months and couldn’t wait to have little mini versions of ourselves running around, so we were completely struck with joy and excitement when we realized we were really doing just that.
The vomiting started on 2nd of February. The last time I was sick was on the 23rd of September, and little Florence was born on the 24th, a whole day early.
I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) – extreme sickness in pregnancy that Google tells me can result in nausea, weight loss and dehydration. That really isn’t the half of it. In writing this list I’ve done my best to explain what it is to live with HG, and offer some strategies that may help anyone struggling to live with it.
Educate. If you have ever suffered from HG you will already be overfamiliar with how it ravages your body, corrodes your spirit and robs you of the joy of being pregnant.
Of course, and I’d hope that it would be assumed, I was beyond happy to have conceived and reminded myself daily how lucky I was to have done so. But, and for those who have never witnessed HG with their own eyes, allow me a moment to have a really good moan (I really earned it) – it was really bloody awful. REALLY BLOODY AWFUL.
Imagine the first few hours of the worst hangover you have ever had. But worse.
Smells made me ill, sometimes smells that weren’t even there.
I had burnt the back of my throat with stomach acid. I
had friction burns on my elbows from propping myself up 20+ times a day just enough to be sick in a basin.
I couldn’t keep down even the tiniest sips of water.
I lost a stone and a half.
Walking to the bathroom felt like I’d completed a 20-mile run.
And I was trying to smile through it all- I was expected to smile through it all.
And I couldn’t leave my bed- do not underestimate how isolating this can be.
This, and so much more I’ve blocked from my memory, is what HG is. For me, it lasted 9 full months.
As awful as it was, I know of others who have had it much worse. For me, it did become more manageable with medication, and subsided briefly around 25 weeks, but returned 4 weeks later.
HG is not morning sickness, and without wanting to undermine anyone’s experience with morning sickness, the difference between the two must be better understood.
If you know, you know. Yes, it is more than morning sickness. It’s more than that “all day sickness” women report to be suffering from. Because this was my first pregnancy, I had no benchmark for “normality”- like how do you know when it is beyond what is expected during pregnancy? Well, after two weeks of constant vomiting and realising my wedding ring kept slipping off my finger I knew something was really not right.
But after seeing a doctor I was sent on my way with a two-week sickline and a look of vague sympathy that felt more like a prescription to “suck it up and get on with it”. But with Google as my only medical qualification I meekly headed back to my sick bed.
It was only after my sister, the less dramatic of my siblings, told me I looked like I was dying that I knew something had to change. I was admitted to hospital within a few hours and where I remained for 3 days. After a super-strength IV concoction of vitamins and 6 litres of fluids I felt like a new woman. Briefly.
Fight for medication if you need to. When I got home from hospital I felt amazing. I could finally focus on getting excited about being pregnant. For 8 hours.
Then I threw up my antiemetic (anti-sickness drug) and it spiralled very quickly. 24 hours later I was back in hospital with my soon to be BFF the saline drip hooked up to my arm. It’s amazing the difference hydration and a few (medically administered) jabs in the butt can make. But I had been lured into this false sense of wellbeing before and knew without additional medication it wouldn’t be too long until I was back. I cried when the midwife was discharging me, and begged her to give me something else to help me stay on top of the sickness, and eventually she got the Doc to give me a second antiemetic (which at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe totally saved my life).
Battle One was mine.
Battle Two was a little more difficult. Convincing my GP to continue to prescribe this miracle drug on the outside. BUT despite having never given this drug to a pregnant woman before (reserved only for chemo patients apparently), I persuaded him that my life and my sanity depended on it and left with the script desperately tucked into my bag.
I collected that prescription every 10 days until I gave birth, and soon learnt that even a day without it would end with a sleepover in the antenatal ward.
So, you know you. You know how bad things will get without intervention – don’t be afraid to fight for it.
Stay on top of staying on top. At the time, I refused to take ownership of the thoughts that ran through my mind and suffocated my happiness and my hope at my lowest point.
I have never been so conflicted in my life.
This was a planned and already very loved baby, but in the darkness of those first few weeks I have to admit that if I had been offered an “out” I might have taken it.
The guilt that comes with even a flicker of acknowledgement to these thoughts is crippling.
How dare I even think such an awful thing when I was so lucky to be living out my dream. Given, not in the way I’d always imagined (which, for the record, was looking like Blake Lively when she was pregnant- Dream Big, my friends) but I know the heartbreak of those who aren’t so lucky, and I could never look them in the eye and confess to these selfish thoughts. But I was so weak and so beyond exhausted, and the sickness had entirely consumed me.
I honestly couldn’t see how I was going to make it out the other side of this darkness and I was so deeply ashamed. I felt so alone. I felt like a total failure- how can you even be bad at being pregnant? It’s biologically what we were made for, and there I was, barely making it through the days.
I was so angry. Why me? I couldn’t understand why coping with being pregnant was so beyond my capabilities, I’d always imagined popping out lots of babies and now I wasn’t sure I could even pop out the one. I was resentful of anyone else who was pregnant who seemed to be breezing through, and Lord save anyone who dared to complain to me that they too “suffered with morning sickness in the beginning”, before blossoming into this gorgeous glowing pregnant Goddess I could see in front of me. I was 16 weeks in, I was not glowing. I was not radiant. I was not excited. I was not happy. But I had to be everytime anyone asked how I was feeling.
I felt like I’d become such a burden on my wonderfully supportive and understanding family and even I was sick of hearing myself say “I feel sick”.
Looking back, I think this was because I didn’t have a space where I could have my thoughts and feelings understood. More than understood- validated. Taken seriously. Not that my family didn’t do these things – they did, and they did them with compassion and such love and support, but I still felt frustrated, alone and misunderstood.
Find someone who really Gets It. Talk about it. After I had Florence, I found friends who had been suffering too, but who also got caught up in the ideals of what’s expected of you when you’re expecting.
Do not be ashamed. You are doing well if you even make it out of bed in the morning. Allow yourself to feel like crap, but commit to getting back on the saddle after a little wallow.
Even in the wake of giving birth my experience still haunted me. I was certainly traumatised by it. I thought about how selfish it would be of me not to give her a sibling based on the possibility of having to go through that again. Yes- she was worth every single ounce of vomit and every needle in the bum, but how could I ever risk feeling like that again – with a toddler in tow?! I couldn’t look after myself for months, never mind parent.
Around 1000 women a year chose to terminate their pregnancies due to the extreme effects of HG, so this really needs to be taken very seriously and treatments standardized and effected without struggle.
Take your recovery seriously. Three weeks off work and I was feeling The Guilt. After being completely devoid of the ability to function beyond vomiting into a bowl, I returned to work.
Even with all my medication, I was still unable to leave the house without my trusty Golden Cow butter tub which my dad, in a moment of true Ferguson genius, supplied as a sick catcher. It was perfect – big enough to hold even the biggest of vomiting episodes, and it had a lid. If you’ve ever had to throw up in a car, you will appreciate how important this was. I drove about for months, working with my new fav accessory never far from reach. WHY. WHY DID I FEEL I NEEDED TO GO TO WORK? I was very ill. If you’re vomiting so often that you can’t be without a portable sick bowl, you’re probably too sick to be at work. But I felt I had to be. I wasn’t sick-sick, I was just pregnant-sick. And I made myself worse by insisting I had to be there.
Slow down- you are not an emergency service. People will cope without you, if ever there was a time you needed to rest, it is now. Work can wait. Don’t be motivated by guilt.
Live the cliché. Round up the troops. It takes a village. Call for back up. You won’t get through HG without an entire team of supporters behind you. Use them and let them in. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, babysitting- delegate. Allow yourself the time and space to rest and recover, or at least to get on top of the symptoms.
Have a Gingernut. LOLZ. Seriously – I didn’t realise the world was full of so many gingernut enthusiasts until I was pregnant. I’ve just thrown up an ice cube that took me 15 minutes to eat- but please- pass me the gingernuts! With all the best intentions in the world, people are genuinely shocked that you haven’t been eating one every few minutes if you’ve been feeling sick. It’s such an obvious choice of treatment!
WELL. I’ll tell you now. I forced myself to eat ginger biscuits, ginger sweets and drank ginger ale, ginger beer and ginger tea, and I promise you that all it achieved was what I can only assume to be a lifelong aversion to ginger and a tenfold increase in already raging heartburn. If you have any friends who ever have the misfortune of suffering through HG, if you don’t want to lose them forever, do not mention the G word. Ever.
But seriously, eat what you can, when you can (which I guarantee will be the second most popular recommendation- “little and often”). You probably won’t fancy a kale smoothie, and be ok with that for a while. Eating two cheeseburgers in a row is better than eating a salad and puking it up. It’s not a permanent diet choice and you really don’t need the guilt of your food choices to add to your long list of things to worry about. Take a good pregnancy supplement if you can stomach it and eat what you can while the waves of non-nausea strike.
Reach out. Unfortunately for me, I discovered the readymade network of support that is the “Insta-mum” community after I had Florence. Since surrounding myself virtually with all these amazing women, I have heard so many re-assuring voices of HG survivors (Susie V, I’m looking at you!).
There’s something to be said for hearing someone else talk about the horrors of matted hair, overactive saliva glands and phantom smells that follow you everywhere and make you gag. It made me feel a million times better about what I had been through- I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a total drama queen. In fact, I did a damn good job of getting through it.
Look for support locally, I’ve since discovered Pregnancy Sickness Support, a charity who strive to support and empower women going through or who have been through HG or severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Being heard and being validated will make such a difference, and might just pull you through your darkest days.
Plan a second pregnancy. But plan a second HG pregnancy- just in case. It’s not a case of falling into the trap of thinking negatively, it’s a case of being prepared.
With Florence, I was totally ignorant of what was in store for me. I’d do anything to be ignorant again. The chances of HG reoccurring in subsequent pregnancies are very high (70-80%), but planning and getting your health professionals on board will really help. Look into pre-emptive care and medication, studies have shown these to be successful in reducing severity and duration if HG does happen again.
I know fine well what I could be getting myself into if I was lucky enough to have another, and that is something I just cannot get too excited about. I have already said – she is absolutely worth every second, and for me, I think that will be my secret weapon.
I knew she would be worth it when I was pregnant- but now I know just HOW worth it it all was, I feel it will be less of a mental struggle the next time.
I also have the experience of what worked for me last time, and that will cut out a lot of vital ‘Trial and Error’ time, and I know where the line between ‘sick’ and needing medical attention lies, and will seek help as soon as that line is crossed.
I know that it will end. And I know I would do it a million times over to have another baby.
Waiting won’t reduce the chances of it happening, for me, it’s just about getting to the stage where I am ready to cope with that again.
Plan for sickness friendly activities for other children, and accept all forms of help- human or tech-based entertainment will be welcomed warmly in my house.
And I hate to be that person, but you really might not get it again. I mean- you absolutely might- but isn’t the thought that you might not a really wonderful one? It’s almost enough to make me take the leap. If I am sick, I know I will get through it, because isn’t that what mums do? And if Kate Middleton can do it in her L.K Bennett heels, I sure as hell can do it in my trusty Air Max 90’s.
I had Bertie at 30, which I think is pretty average. But I often wonder how things might have been different if Ben and I had started earlier or significantly later. There are pluses and minus’ to every age and how that shapes your experience of Motherhood.
Here Anniki Editor of Selfish Mother and Co-founder of Hot Bed Collective, tells all about being an older Mother:
I was 40 when I had my daughter after struggling to conceive for two years. I think older Mums have a different experience than younger women. So, here’s a few of the positives and negatives (worth saying that I didn’t CHOOSE to be an older Mum- it just happened that way and I feel thankful that it happened at all).
Some people say that you get more rigid as you grow older, and that was certainly the case for me – I felt like the first year of parenting was a crash course where my personality was broken down to the point where I started to hallucinate about Oprah Winfrey being my Fairy Godmother (and visualising her face was the only thing that gave me comfort on those long, sleepless nights).
I was like a wild horse getting broken in. By the end of it I was ready for the glue factory.
The fact I was rigid meant that I lost my temper a lot.
I know this is universal for parents everywhere, but when I say lose my temper I MEAN smashing stuff, throwing stuff out of windows, breaking plates…I’d never done any of these things before and I wonder whether being older made my anger worse? Our house was like an episode of ‘Eastenders’ for a while, and I think my partner often feared for his life.
You have less physical resource. You are frazzled and wonder if you can go on.
Also, your knees make funny noises when you walk because your ageing body hasn’t been designed to carry a nine pound, six-ounce baby. When you walk downstairs, your daughter mimics the sound of these knees and says – ‘It sounds like slime Mummy.’
Each time you meet another Mum, children’s entertainer, friend of a friend- anyone…you try and find out their age.
Once you find out their age, you then calculate how much older you are than them, and whether you could be their Mum.
You can’t read any instructions on packaging, and it’s a struggle to read the writing on story books at bedtime (especially if the font is dark on a dark background- can someone do something about this please and take into account that many of us are geriatric parents?)
You feel sad that a second baby is unlikely. This isn’t an issue to start with (because you’re too busy throwing plates out the window, and hallucinating about Oprah) but when all your friends start dropping number two, it makes you depressed (though you know you’re lucky to have one child- yeah you know that because everyone reminds you ALL THE TIME).
You calculate how old you’ll be when your child leaves primary school/secondary school/university/gets married/starts their first job/has a child and then tell yourself it’s stupid as there’s nothing you can do about ageing, and you’re just going to have to roll with it.
Besides what about all those old fashionistas on Instagram? Age is irrelevant now right?
On the positive side, you can’t be arsed with getting involved with petty feuds; you know yourself well, and don’t waste time maintaining friendships which aren’t working out.
This is a major benefit of having spent more time on the planet and being able to spot wankers a mile off.
Also, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on ‘having it large’ or big nights out because you’ve got all that shizzle out of your system.
YOU WERE ONCE A SINGER IN A DANCE BAND AND HAD A TOP 20 HIT IN EUROPE. YOU DANCED ON STAGE WITH UNDERWORLD. SUCK THAT YOUNG PEOPLE!
Though you do feel sad when nobody knows anything about your pop culture references and you worry that you need to do a crash course on millennial culture so you can keep up with your daughter.
But you do give really good advice because again you’ve had more experience.
So, overall being an older Mum is up and down. You roll with the punches. Okay your hair is going grey, you’re angry, and you may be approaching the menopause but it happens to us all. We all age and it’s a choice how you do it.
And age is just a number these days, right? (no, it’s not but let’s pretend it is and move on).
I came across Lorna AKA @mummyloveessie‘s Instagram account, one Friday night when I was supposed to concentrating on a film. Instantly I lost an hour, such was the joy in this family and the love they felt for their 3 children. Then I realised that their was something more, that they had unique story to tell, albeit a heartbreaking one about growing triplets and sadly losing one.
**This is a trigger warning: the content is upsetting but beautiful. **
Essie is my daughter. She is a triplet born prematurely on 1 February 2016 at 32 weeks old, along with her brother (Roman) and sister (Eva).
Essie is known as Essie Pops, or Pops for short, as Mummy always called her Poppet which got shortened to Pops. The nickname suits her and became a part of her; like her precious curls.
Essie is an identical twin with Eva. We were told about Twin to Twin Transfusion (TTTS) being a risk until 28 weeks as the girls were in the same sac and had the same placenta. At our 14-week appointment with our consultant he asked: “how many of these babies do you want to carry”, he was very blunt! Our answer was: “we want to keep all of them”.
And we did. All three of them, who were instantly loved, and all very much wanted – especially after a load of fertility struggles due to my severe PCOS.
The day they were born was amazing and horrific. The reality of having three premature babies going straight to NICU (neonatal intensive care) after a c-section delivery with a million people in the room never quite dawned on me. The babies all came out crying and I remember doing the same as each one was briefly shown to me before being whisked away to be taken care of by doctors and nurses. I lost a lot of blood and spent the day in a room waiting to be moved to the ward. No cuddles, no skin to skin and I saw my babies on photos only.
Then a doctor came and sat with me about an hour after my husband had left late that evening and said, “your daughter Essie is very poorly”. She’d suffered a significant lung haemorrhage (grade IV, the worst, as we later learnt) and needed to be urgently transferred to St George’s Hospital in Central London. I felt sick, tears wouldn’t stop flowing and an amazing midwife put me in a wheelchair (not as easy as it sounded) and took me to see Essie so I could say “hello” and “goodbye”.
Essie fought through her very difficult first 48 hours of life. When everyone expected her not to survive, and nurses returning for their shift the next day assumed the worst when she wasn’t there with Roman and Eva, but she did survive. That’s my daughter. She only knows how to fight.
Then everything changed when Essie was 11 days old. In a room full of consultants, doctors and nurses (good news is never given when there so many people are in a room) we got told that a cranial ultrasound showed that Essie had suffered a “catastrophic brain injury” from TTTS at birth (which is very rare) and she would be life limited. Essie was not expected to last beyond childhood and she would probably have no sight, no hearing, no mobility, no communication. No expectations.
I remember crying and holding my husband and saying, “I don’t want to take home a vegetable”. I hate myself for saying those words now, but I was terrified. I had no idea how to cope with a severely disabled baby, let alone one who is a triplet and her brother and sister needed to be looked after too.
I cried a lot. I grieved for the child I wouldn’t have. I became scared of my daughter and didn’t want her to come home. I asked if we could get her fostered. I was in a very dark place. My husband and I cried so much; gut-wrenching sobs that shake your whole body.
Roman and Eva came home from hospital at four weeks old and Essie got transferred to a local hospital, where she stabilised and then they started talking about her coming home.
But coming home meant having absolutely no support for our beautiful daughter with very complex health needs as we had been “ineligible” for help based on some stupid questionnaire the NHS does for continuing care.
I wasn’t having that, so decided to do my own “Mummy loves Essie” campaign and told my story to the Daily Mail, BBC News and ITV News. The NHS changed their mind and gave us limited help, and that was it – Essie’s story was out there now and there was no hiding from the fact that we were parents to a severely disabled life limited child.
Essie spent 11 weeks in hospital before she came home on 19 April 2016. She came home with a long list of people visiting her: a community children’s nurse, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech & language therapist, a dietician, a children’s disability social worker, and the amazing Chestnut Tree House, the children’s hospice that Essie went to from 13 weeks old.
Looking back, I have no idea how we coped. In many ways, we didn’t. We were first time parents to triplets and one of them was a ticking timebomb due to her life limited condition, plus on top of this we had to become medical experts. Essie was so unique that a lot of how she presented herself absolutely dumbfounded experienced medical professionals.
My first ambulance journey with Essie was when she was diagnosed with severe epilepsy at 14 weeks old. You know that gut you have as a Mummy? Listen to it. Don’t ignore it. Take videos to prove you’re not imagining things. Essie had a very bad epileptic seizure and couldn’t come out of it. I dialled 999 started talking and then burst into tears. I cuddled Pops the whole journey to hospital, desperately trying to ignore the sirens, and whispered to her to keep fighting. The paediatric doctor was able to diagnose epilepsy from the videos I had on my phone, so Essie started her medication immediately and my Mummy’s gut was right.
My second ambulance journey with Essie was after her 16-week immunisations, as no one thought to mention that whopping cough was a ‘live’ vaccination and would most likely cause a bad seizure, so should be given in hospital. Essie and I had another ambulance journey and yet again I was the medial expert when we arrived in paediatric A&E. There were many more ambulance journeys and calls to 999, where I wouldn’t cry, and I would use medical jargon like the expert I had become.
If you have a baby or child that is sick, learn the medical terminology. It will mean you can get everything explained more clearly. There are so many acronyms and medical terms to get your head around, especially when dealing with the list of things that made Essie so special.
Here comes another list within this list, the many things that made Essie so special included:
Chronic lung disease, which meant she permanently needed oxygen via her nose
Severe epilepsy, which we never fully got under control despite Essie taking about five different medications. Her seizures could be as subtle as a twist of the head or clicking of the tongue, other times her whole body went stiff or she batted her arm furiously like the golden cat you get in Chinese restaurants
An extremely unsafe swallow and Essie was only fed milk via a tube into her tummy through her nose
Sensory deprivation, which meant Essie hated being naked, so bath time and nappy change was an absolute drama and she would scream the house down
No movement in her limbs and was often as floppy as a ragdoll, but we managed to get her to have limited head control (yippee!)
No body temperature control and was prone to hypothermia – the coldest Essie got once was 33 degrees – and she was pretty much always in her signature white woolly hat
A very low metabolism and she was fed less than a half of what a child her age should have and was still putting on weight
No communication, but she would sometimes smirk smile and when she was happy and pain free she would do a ‘coo’ noise that melted my heart
No teeth, I never really understood this one
Oh, and she was nocturnal, so never slept at night
All Essie wanted at night time was cuddles and to be sung to (or have a book read to her). For someone who had no communication, she sure knew how to get what she wanted. Every night when my husband and I tried to sleep (as she had to be in our room ‘just in case’), we couldn’t. She would cry when not being held. She would cry when having seizures that just needed a cuddle to break them. She would cry when it was quiet. Two hours sleep a night nearly broke us
When you are a parent to a disabled child you learn that those ‘developmental milestones’ (first smile, sitting up, first word, first steps) are your tormentor. Essie was never going to be able to do those firsts. We celebrated the little things that were such a huge success: when she did her first smirk (it was Essie’s version of a smile), when she made a noise with her favourite bell toy that was placed into her hand and her fingers curled around it, when Essie licked your cheeks, when she held her head up for a moment to show off her head control before it came bashing down on your shoulder. In many ways I can remember all of Essie’s successes more than I can Roman and Eva’s. Hers were special and unique, just like Essie
Then our world changed in August 2016. Essie suffered a bad case of pneumonia and went into respiratory arrest in front of me while in hospital (after another ambulance journey). I didn’t know what to do or think, but had to watch the doctors press that emergency red button and get to work bagging Essie to bring her back. It took 20 minutes and that night my husband and I had beds pulled into her room as they didn’t think Essie would make the night. But she did. Of course, she did, she was Essie the tortoise with magical superpowers.
Essie was a fighter. She’d been fighting since the day she was born. She didn’t know how to do anything other than fight. Just as well as when Essie finally came home in September 2016, she had to endure another 13 bouts of pneumonia before the one that ultimately saw her enter her end of life phase on 25 March 2017
My husband and I had an agreement. Only phone each other’s work mobiles if Essie was bad and needed to go to hospital. It meant that I was permanently on edge every day at work and at the end of March I had to phone my husband to say that I’d called the ambulance as Pops wasn’t well and could he come home. It was a routine that we’d become far to accustomed too. But this time she was weak. This time felt different
When the hospital lawyers came into Essie’s room and told us that we could take her to Chestnut Tree House as there was nothing they could do to help her it felt surreal. It felt that ‘this was it’, Essie had chosen now as her time and wanted to have her end of life at the children’s hospice that was our second home
Being wheeled out of hospital to an ambulance waiting to transfer us to the children’s hospice was gut wrenching. I couldn’t look the nurses in the eye who had seen Essie so much over the past year that we were now on first name terms. I remember whispering to Essie to “wait for Daddy darling, don’t fly away yet”. Arriving at Chestnut Tree House, I broke down and sobbed. We’d arrived, and Essie was still with us. Off we went to a bedroom with Essie and held her, and through tears read her ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ and waited for her to take her last breath.
But Essie wasn’t Essie for nothing. End of life only means end of life if the person decides it is. Essie didn’t want to go yet. She was so weak and so vulnerable, but she fought and after three weeks she came home with a support package in place that meant we finally had a night nurse every night and we had some help during the day at weekends.
Memories are precious and priceless. I know this. Celebrate the normality of your day to day existence as for the four and a half months that we went through Essie’s end of life phase either myself or my husband were under house arrest. We were ultimately responsible for her care, even if Essie had a nurse with her.
She got weaker and more vulnerable, which meant Essie became even more complex with new medical quirks. The medication we had to give her kept increasing and I had to write a table out which showed what to give and when (often it was something every two hours)
Essie went back to Chestnut Tree House another two times for end of life episodes, but each time she was not ready to leave – so home she came. I was exhausted, I was emotionally broken and then we realised what she wanted. Essie wanted to stay at home. She wanted to be around her triplet brother and sister as loved hearing them play and scream and treat her just like any other sibling
The summer of 2017 will be a blur in many ways. I spent so much time in Essie’s bedroom as moving her around the house would be too much stimulation for her and she was now on so much oxygen that she needed a concentrator as the portable oxygen cylinders weren’t lasting more than an hour
The memories I have will stay with me forever, putting Essie in the swing in the garden one morning and propping her up with blankets so she didn’t flop over and making sure her curls were shining in the sunshine. I have a video of this moment, which makes me cry thinking about it. Never ever take anything for granted, your normal and mundane is something that Essie could only ever dream of.
And then she was gone. Essie flew away to be a shooting star on Sunday 13 August 2017 at 2:12am. From Friday at 5am when her night nurse banged on our door and handed us Essie blue and not breathing, we knew she was in a bad way. A very bad way. But part of me always believed she would pull through. After all, this was Essie. Who else could cope with everything she’s ever faced…?
We had about 12 episodes from that Friday morning where Essie would stop breathing turn blue and my husband and I would hold her and will her to breathe. Her nurses had never seen a child come back from an episode like that without having CPR. But we didn’t question how she was able to do it. This was Essie, the rulebook doesn’t apply.
Essie didn’t look like Essie when she was a blueberry. I didn’t want her to die looking like that. And she didn’t. She took her last breath on this earth looking serene and then flew away to a world that was pain free. Essie was 18 months old, forever
When you know you are going to ultimately lose a child and not have a happy ending, you think about things that you shouldn’t have to think about. How you will get Essie’s brother and sister to say goodbye. How the funeral should be. And then our thoughts and thinking had to be put into practice.
Our house quickly became full of people at 3am. Nothing new in many ways as we were used to having strangers (that then became friends) in our house. Help comes in many ways and you accept all offers of help when dealing with a severely disabled life limited baby.
Roman and Eva got to say goodbye to Essie without realising it, as we waited to wake them up at ‘normal’ time of 6:30am, changed their nappies and took them into Essie’s room where she was peacefully laying on her special hospital cot and had a tube-free face (at last). Roman and Eva flung themselves on Essie and gave her cuddles and kisses; and then Eva took a soft sheep rattle from the top of Essie’s bed and gently bashed her on the head with it. Goodbye Essie, triplet style.
We said goodbye to Essie when we finally put her in her casket after spending a week at Chestnut Tree House in Stars (a bedroom for children that have passed away with a cold mirrored bed). We read her stories, held her hand, kissed her curls and made handprints and footprints to treasure. When the casket was brought into the room people were surprised we wanted to do it on our own, but having someone else do it wouldn’t be right. We cried, held each other and then wiped away our tears only for more to fall as we went into the cold room where Essie was and held her for the last time. She went into the casket with her favourite mermaid blanket that kept her warm, her special love heart pillow, Mr Tortoise (her favourite cuddly toy) and photos of Roman and Eva
A funeral for a child is a horrid day. The injustice of everything is magnified when the hearse arrives at your house and the casket inside looks tiny. We didn’t want any flowers, so filled the hearse with green and red helium balloons (which were Essie’s favourite colours) and these were released after the ceremony. Do whatever feels right for a funeral. No pressure or judgement should ever be applied. We had Disney songs playing on loop (as didn’t want to have one song take on added symbolism) and my husband read some of ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ and I read a poem someone had sent me about Essie being a shooting star and a tortoise
Life goes on. It might be a cliché, but it does. Every day you wake up without Essie and keep going. We are trying to find our new normal, we continue to be parents to two toddlers who need Essie to keep being a part of their lives, and we are grieving. The sadness you constantly carry after losing a child can knock you sideways in a flash, the nightmares haunt your sleep and you know that feeling of loss in the pit of your stomach (and the back of your throat) will never go away
You lose friends and you gain friends. There is a stigma around child disability and the stares we got when out and about with Essie were so intrusive. The only people that ask questions are children and society doesn’t fully seem able to grasp the concept of disability in someone under the age of 3. Maybe it’s time to do something about this and maybe that will also be part of Essie’s legacy
Fundamentally Essie is a fighter and will forever be my motivation and inspiration as what that little girl had to endure during her life is more than anyone should ever go through
Her main legacy will always be her brother and sister.
I see Essie in Eva, in the way her face is changing and the curls that have recently appeared in her hair. I miss being able to bury my head in Essie’s curls and to inhale her scent. When Eva nuzzles into the nook of my head when looking for comfort, it’s like I’m holding Essie as that’s exactly what she used to do. Through Roman and Eva, Essie will never be far away
Love is an often-used word, but I cannot explain how much I love Essie. She taught me everything about being a Mummy, that it’s truly the little things that matter, that smiling through tears is possible and above all else you keep fighting. You fight so hard every day because life is precious, and it is for living. And you never know when a memory will be your last, rather than your first
Essie was a tortoise. She took things slowly and steadily and always did them in her own way. Forward is forward
It’s a funny old thing; one day you are busy having the fun – living for the weekend, hanging with your mates. And then without you even realise it you become a Fully Fledged Adult: marriage, house, kids.
Don’t know about you but I always imagined that by the time all that happened I’d a properly understand grown-up stuff like ‘how to fix the boiler’, ‘the ins and outs of world politics’ and money. Of course I get the basic level bits. But when Rachel AKA @parentmoney offered to share her expert knowledge I jumped at the chance.
She’s has had a 16 year career in Finance, and also three young boys. “She set up Parent money early last year to help parents – save money, plan for their family’s future and have some money left over for the fun stuff!”
Money makes the world go round. We need it to survive.
Not having any money usually makes you feel miserable, anxious, worried and seriously pissed off. Once you become a parent, not having any money is even worse as you can add guilt to the above list.
Some interesting (but scary) financial facts…
Research shows that money is the biggest cause of stress and anxiety in the UK, followed by relationship and family issues.
The cost of raising a child from birth to graduation in the UK is over £230,000.
7 in 10 families in the UK are struggling to make ends meet.
The average cost for a child in the first year alone is £7-9k (not including childcare).
According to research this year, London, Birmingham, Ipswich and Dundee are the worst places to live if you want to be free from money worries
But it’s not all doom and gloom. By spending a bit of time making a few tweaks to your spending and budgeting and looking at ways to save for your family’s future, you could be much better off and hopefully less stressed.
Start by sitting down with your partner when the kids are in bed, and taking stock of your money situation. Look at your incomings and outgoings and set a realistic budget. Plan to sit down and do this every couple of weeks to keep on track.
It’s really important to be open with each other about money, and to share any worries you have.
Use online tools – The Money advice service has some good calculators, as do many of the high street bank websites. There are also lots of free apps which can help you with budgeting. Some of my favourites are: You need a budget (YNAB), On trees and Wally.
Cut back on expenses. And yes this means being ruthless with a printed bank statement and a highlighter pen – can you ditch the magazine subscriptions? Gym membership? Wine club? Weekly manicures?
How much are you spending on debts per month? Can any of them be moved to better deals such as 0% interest credit cards? There are always better deals and savings to be made if you shop around.
Make calls to every single provider you have, whether it’s your gas and electricity or your mobile phone provider. This will be a couple of hours well spent, as not only can it save you hundreds of pounds, you will feel like you’re seriously winning, as Doris in the retention team agrees to knock money off your monthly bill for the rest of the year.
Thinking about your family’s future, and planning for the good and the bad, is something every parent should prioritise.
Take out insurance policies which will keep you out of financial difficulty should a serious illness or death occur. These should include: life insurance, income protection insurance and critical illness. If you can afford to (or your company provide it) you could also look at a healthcare policy.
Make a will. Not something any parent wants to think about, but a must once you have kids. A will can be drawn up by a solicitor for £100-200. Not having a will could mean your children being taken into care if something happened to both parents.
Having savings is super important!
Everyone should have two savings goals – a rainy day fund of around £500 for those last minute emergencies. And a longer term, larger pot of around three months of income.
Think about what you want to achieve or buy and when, and set a savings plan. From paying off your mortgage to planning that family trip to Bali, it is key to write down your money goals. Without goals, how do you know when you have got there?
Savings rates are at historic lows, but look for the best rates you can from reputable providers. Always make sure the provider is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which protects your money if the company goes under.
Savings or investments? Savings are usually lower risk/lower return. Investments such as stocks and shares are more risky but usually offer higher returns.
A good compromise could be investment bonds – a better return than savings accounts but still low risk.
Make sure you are using your ISA allowance, as this gives tax relief for the first £20,000. For those aged 18-39 the ‘lifetime ISA’ (LISA) is a no-brainer. It’s designed to help save for a deposit on a property, as well as helping you save for retirement. You can save up to £4000 a year tax free and the government will add a 25% bonus to this!
Open a Children’s savings account for your kids. They usually offer better interest rates than adult savings accounts. Add cash your child receives for birthday and Christmas presents and top it up with a bit every month. Over the years, even the small amounts will really add up!
There are lots of other ways to boost your cash flow, just by investing a bit of time and effort.
Check what benefits you are entitled to: childcare vouchers, child benefit and universal credit (the new tax credit) are just some you may be eligible for. Gov.uk will give you all the information you need.
Clear out your unwanted stuff and sell it on local forums, in Mum’s social media groups and at table-top sales. This is a double win as will make you some extra cash, as well as freeing up space in the house.
Don’t be tempted to spend money you haven’t got on the “must have” items. We all want to look and feel good in the latest fashions, and have interiors straight from the pages of Elle Decoration – but if you can’t afford it – don’t buy it!
Mortgages are usually the biggest monthly outgoing for families. Alongside childcare of course.
Overpay on your mortgage when you can afford to, as even making the smallest overpayments can save thousands in interest over the long term. The more you pay off, the smaller the mortgage, and the lower your future repayments. Great for times when you are living on a reduced income. Check that your mortgage provider allows this.
Pensions – Opt in or lose out. If you’re employed make sure you take advantage of employer contributions, you won’t pay tax on this. If you’re self-employed or not employed, speak to a financial adviser about the best personal pension for you.
At the end of the day, life is just easier and more fun when you’re not skint and worrying about money. Having money left over at the end of the month for the fun stuff is truly important, especially when you’re a parent!
You can find more information on everything above on Parentmoney.com, and the latest market leading deals on the main comparison sites. Good luck!
If you are struggling with debt, or mental health issues due to money, here are some useful contacts…
Hello it’s me, writing a list for the first time in a long while!
Why the pause? The truth is it all got a bit much. Attempting to juggle working full time, 2 kids, being pregnant and writing for the blog was leaving me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. So I decided to take the pressure off and concentrate on the Guest Lists for a while.
Anyway here I am, back for what might be a brief interlude. Baby 3 is due in a matter of days, my hormones are sky high and I am currently riding out a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m apprehensive. Impatient. Nervous and Excited.
Recently, a friend messaged saying she was worried about birth and I sent her a list (obvs) of thoughts or statements that I find reassuring. This post is an extended version of that.
Third time around I’m all too aware that you can’t control labour, but you can put in some ground work that help will make it into a good experience, perhaps even a great one.
First things first, by ‘good birth’ I don’t mean a particular type of birth. Could be a home-birth, a c-section. One with an epidural or just breathing technics. Or something else entirely. I ain’t judging.
Getting a human out into the world is a big deal, whether it’s via the sunroof or your fanny.
My definition of a good birth is one in which YOU feel empowered and in and party to any decisions made.
Talk through your fears. What are the things that are worrying you? Childcare for the other kids? Questions about pain relief? A niggle shared is a niggle halved. Talk to your partner. Talk to your midwife. Take away all the blockers that could get in the way.
Remind yourself that you WANT THIS.
I wanted this pregnancy. I wanted this baby.
I REALLY want to meet my daughter.
Everytime I have a pang of nerves about labour I tell myself it’s a pang of excitement.
If you have a particularly wobbly day, go and have a look at one of the baby outfits you’ve bought. Or even those tiny weeny nappies. That pang in your heart and ovaries? Embrace it.
Picture the end result. Whether it’s imagining a text to mates with a pic of your bubba. Introducing your new edition to its family. The thought of Bertie and Woody meeting their sister for the first time is enough to reduce me to tears in a instant.
Basically KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE.
And here’s the thing, if you grew that baby you can get it out of you.
Yes it is hard. But you are capable of hard things.
Picture the wimpiest Mum you know. If she can get a baby out of her, so can you.
Trust your body. Let it do what it’s made to do.
My tactic is to try and ignore labour for as long as possible. I’ve got a whole load of distractions lined-up: hanging with my boys, going for a walk, having a bath, putting a load of washing on, washing your hair, watching something funny on Netflix (Modern Family, Master of None, Park and Recreation all faves).
Go for a nice lunch. Really. As soon as contractions begin: eat. Something simple and carby. Pasta. Pizza. Then you have fuel in your tank.
When you are in established labour it’s difficult to eat. So get stuff you like. Dark chocolate and Jaffa cakes are my ‘go to’.
Have a solid play-list (and headphones). I’ll be listening to a combination of Hollie’s affirmations and my annoyingly talented brother Charlie Cunningham – he always makes me feel calm.
Nice smells help too: Lavender. Clary Sage. Neals Yard ‘Womans Balance‘ aromatherapy blend is a goodie.
I’m hoping to be at home, so I’ve used it as a perfect excuse to get a new Diptyque candle and call it a birth ‘necessity’.
Line-up some treats for the other-side too.
A nice hoodie or PJ’s for chilling in afterwards.
A bottle of bubbly. Or stuff you’ve been avoiding in pregnancy – blue cheese, parma ham. Or a realllly rare steak (great for postpartum iron levels).
All of the above points help me. But there are 3 very crucial things that are the crux of it all:
Remember, once you’ve been through labour, YOU WON’T BE PREGNANT ANYMORE. If you are reading this at the end of pregnancy you’ll know how appealing that is. Being able to put your own shoes on. Being able to sleep on your front. Being able to go for a wee that lasts longer than 2 seconds. Being able to have a gin & tonic on a Friday night (particularly desirable if you already have kids).
Secondly, you can get on with the next chapter of your life, rather than just talk about it. I HATE the ‘in limbo’ bit at the end of pregnancy. When you don’t have your pre-baby life, but you don’t have the bubba in your arms yet either.
And this is the big one. Giving birth means YOU ARE ABOUT TO MEET A HUMAN WHO YOU WILL LOVE MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD. That’s not to something to be dreaded. It’s the best thing ever.
Better still birth really can be the most empowering experience imaginable. After all its blooming miracle and proof how incredible us women are!