A No Bullshit Guide To Buying a Pushchair: The Graco Evo Xt (Review)

Graco Evo XT review

If there was one big decision that gave me a lot of stress before little man arrived, it was this one – choosing the right pram/pushchair. And I know it’s something loads of parents-to-be go through because ITS A BIG DEAL RIGHT. You want to push your offspring around in the best, comfiest, most-gorgeous pram around…. but wait a second…. why are they SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE?

D made the very perceptive comment that for some of the models of prams/pushchairs on the market it would actually be cheaper to buy your newborn a second hand car and wheel them around in that. Not very practical though.

So after many many trips to test out prams and many many hours online, reading reviews and comparing prices, we decided to buy the Graco Evo XT. And after just over a year of usage I think I’m well set to write up a review, and also hand out a few pointers for those of you facing the ordeal that is pramshopping for the first time.

So what did we buy?

The Graco Evo Xt  – £500ish (I can’t remember!)

We bought the Graco Evo XT, in a bundle from Mothercare that included the carry cot, the pushchair, a car seat and an adaptor so that the car seat could clip directly onto the base.

And how did we choose it? Well these were the key things I looked for…

Manoeuvrability: Wheel that bastard about.

This is my first tip for pushchair shopping. Lug those wheels off the displays and push them around the shop. Try adjusting the handles. Are they clunky? Do they feel sturdy? Can you turn them around easily?

The Graco Evo XT scores extremely highly on all these points. D is very tall at 6 ft 4″ therefore a key point for us was that we needed a pram with an adjustable handle so we were both comfortable pushing it. The handle on the Graco clicks smoothly into three different positions, perfect for us. It also has massive rubber wheels, suspension, a nice wide handle and handles all types of terrain with ease.

Whilst we live in the suburbs, regularly going into the city centre, my parents live in Yorkshire and we spend a lot of time out walking so I knew I wanted something that would handle mud and grass. Well the Graco is bloody amazing, we’ve taken it over some places that I didn’t think a pram would go and it’s handled them with ease.

Comfort: Will baby snooze away?

Another massively important point, you want your bundle of joy to be so supremely comfy that they fall asleep so you can wheel them into the hallway and enjoy a well earned brew.

My mistake on this point was focusing almost entirely on the carry cot which came with a removable mattress, a lovely snuggly lining, and a  beautiful cover to protect baby from the elements. And it was awesome… until R grew out of it in less than twelve weeks!

The seat attachment I was initially less impressed with. It does have three positions, from sat straight up to fully reclined but at first the whole seat looked a little too big for him. He was crammed into the carry cot but he didn’t look particularly comfortable when sat in the seat and the foot-muff that came with it…. well it came up over his head! I had to buy another foot-muff in order to use the seat.

However, he soon grew into it, and now its absolutely perfect for our needs. We sit the seat  straight up so he can look out, but if he does fall asleep the deep recline and large hood mean he is very protected and can snooze away undisturbed. WIN.

Size: Will it fit in the boot?

Whilst we don’t have a car, we knew that grandparents would want to take Rufus out and about, and also we didn’t want something that was going to take up the whole of the carriage on public transport.

Well somehow we failed on this one guys because the Graco Evo XT is HUGE. One of my friends described it as ‘industrial’, and between me and D we nickname it the ‘war rig’.

It does fold up with a super nifty click of the handle. And the chassis does actually fold up really small for its size. However the seat and bassinet have to be taken off, and they are not small guys. The chassis is also wider than the average pushchair – and yes, I do get stuck in coffee shop doors.

However, this is part of the reason why it is great, because of its size and its massive wheels it does create a supremely smooth ride for its passenger.

It’s also proved a sneaky bonus, as me and R travel to stay with my parents quite often ,we discovered that we can fit A LOT of shit in the basket. I’m talking a full holdall, and assorted other crapola you drag round when you have a baby. It’s awesome.

Gizmo’s and Gadgets: Spoiler alert, YOU NEED A CUP HOLDER.

Honestly. I don’t know why all prams don’t have one built in. The Graco doesn’t have one, and that fact nearly made me weep the first time I ventured out with R in tow for a seasonal latte and oh holy fuck I’m stuck in the coffee shop door and how do I move this with one hand without covering my baby in boiling milk HELP.

Thank god for friendly Costa staff (seriously, I love you guys).

Apart from this I will say the Graco came with everything you need. There was a soft fleecy liner for the carry cot, a footmuff that swamped R last year but that I think will be perfect for him this winter, a raincover, and a mosquito/fly net for the summer months.

Although, confession time – I have no fucking idea how to fit the raincover. It’s definitely just me, I always end up getting it the wrong way round – but its big and spacious enough that R is always securely tucked away safe and dry!

Value for Money

Overall the Graco Evo XT offers great value for money. Sure I have a couple of little niggles, but the whole set has felt reassuringly sturdy, its easy to handle, and moves smoothly.

When looking at different prams, a lot of those on the cheaper end of the scale felt just that… cheap. The handles were stiff to adjust, they felt flimsy and rattle-y and just not pleasant to move around. The Graco is a mid-range price point, but handles like a much more expensive model.

Which is a big deal, because if you are anything like me you will be out and about all the time with your pram. It will be up and down, out in all kinds of weather, loaded up with everything but the kitchen sink, so you need something that will stand the test of time.

It gets my vote, and R’s too!

B xo

* before you all go thinking I’m some kind of hotshot – obviously, I was not gifted, sponsered or in any way encouraged to write about this product. However, it was very kindly paid for by my lovely parents. Thanks guys #giftedbycolandchris

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Sex As Parents

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This is a more accurate depiction of our bedtime antics nowadays.

Oh hi you nosey parkers. I know some of you only read the sex ones, that’s OK – I guess not all of us are as invested in my caffeine addiction. Plus sex is interesting right? I love a good old convo with my friends about whose doing it and whose not, what sex toys we have bought lately (soz LoveHoney but my money is currently going on babywipes and coffee. I’ll be back soon I promise.), and relating salacious sex antics that our younger selves got up to.

Because lets face it folks, as parents the windows for crazy sexy times are few and far between.

When you first get into a relationship, half of it is spent in bed. I don’t think I need to write about how blooming exciting it is when you meet someone who makes your fanny flutter.

In my eyes, it’s key to a long term successful relationship. If you get into bed with someone and well, it’s not earth shattering then it ain’t going to go the distance.

Obviously things calm down. We can’t all be banging 24/7 otherwise nothing would get done. But that’s part of the fun of it. The longer you are in a relationship with someone, the better you know them, and the better you get to know them in bed. You both know what the other one likes, learn to read their moods, learn to read their body language, which means that the sex changes. It’s no longer an Olympic sport, with positions and orgasms galore. It might just be a Sunday morning hungover lazy smooch. Or a quickie on a morning before work, hoping your glowing face translates to the morning commute as ‘new blusher’ rather than ‘just banged’.

Sure, after a few years together I know there’s a danger of things getting stale, getting boring, getting a bit of the same old same old, but believe me guys. If it’s just the two of you at the moment then fit in some good sex now.

No seriously. Go do it now.

NOW.

Because once you become parents, and there’s a mini you running around, sex becomes a whole new ball game.

I’ve written about the post-partum phase, about getting back on that particular horse after giving birth. It’s a massive change, having pushed something out of your vagina (or having the major surgery that is a C-section) and recovering from that is really important and definitely impacts upon your sex life for a long time.

Despite a gnarly tear, I’ve recovered really well down there. Top notch work perineum, nice to know you are good for something. This isn’t the case for everyone, pregnancy and birth takes its toll on your body, so if you are reading this and thinking NO WAY am I up for sexual shenanigans, then that’s ok. Take as long as you need to, take it slow, and partners – be supportive.

Anyway. Lets get down to it.

We’re blessed with a child who at almost 13 months is yet to sleep through the night. Not gonna lie, it’s taking its toll. Not just on us being in a permanent state of caffeine fuelled one step up from zombie state, but also on our sex life.

A spontaneous during the day bang is pretty much out of the question. And in the evenings, we are both bloody knackered.

Add a live-in mother in law and well, you get the picture.

Sex is currently off the table until the rest of the household is in bed, and we are tucked up ourselves. Even then, odds are that R will choose then to wake up, lose his dummy, and need one of us to settle him. The other one will (even if the pants are off and we are raring to go) inevitably drift off.

And then the nights where we both get into bed at the same time, R is fast asleep and the household is all peaceful and quiet. Well then the real question is what do we want more, sex or an extra half hours sleep.

Spoiler alert: sleep wins a good portion of the time.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, thinking bloody hell what a pair of wet lettuces. Oh boohoo you, too tired to have sex, boohoohoo. Well knob off if that’s your thoughts because I was up eight times last night with R. Add on a working day, a shitstorm of a commute thanks to Northern Rail, and sleep is boosted right up my priority list.

BUT…

The other night, well you guys (yeah you perk your ears up, it’s about to get interesting), in bed, pants-less me and D had one of those saucy conversations normally had with your friends after three bottles of wine.

You know, what’s your ultimate fantasy, what really turns you on, what would you like to try that you’ve never tried before. Now we’ve been together almost six years, so I’m not going to act like what D was telling me was brand spanking new information, but it made me realise we hadn’t talked like that in a long long time.

And of course, it did the trick.

Not to give away too much, but we had a bloody good night. And then at work the next day my thoughts about D weren’t the usual, ‘hope he’s put the washing on / has he remembered to message the childminder / who used up all the shower gel? BASTARD.’

It made me realise how important it is to stay connected to your partner as a parent. Just one little act of spontaneous naughtiness brought us closer together, made us flirt in the kitchen, and watch our Whatsapps waiting for the other to message back.

So we are planning a little getaway in a few weeks time, nothing exciting, just a little trip away to shop, sleep, and well… shag like rabbits like pretty exhausted parents.

With love,

B xo

There’s No Place Like Home

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Home is snow, a hand knitted jumper, and a hand to hold.

Home to me is a feeling, not a place. It’s the calm in a cluttered world. It’s when you are out on a long walk, when the wind is wild and your face is frozen – then you take a rest behind a dry-stone wall. You’re sheltered, there’s a dry spot to sit on and eating cheese sandwiches, hot coffee and a Kit Kat whilst looking out over the moors is everything you need. That’s home.

Home is paths you have trodden so many times that you don’t need to think about them. Your brain switches off and the rhythm of walking soothes you.

Home is sitting on your sofa with your partner, and being completely happy doing absolutely nothing – except occasionally bicker over whose turn it is to get up and get more snacks.

Home is when your child turns their face into your chest, closing their eyes and falling softly to sleep. You stare at their fine golden eyelashes as they quiver with each breath, hear them snuffle deep breaths, feel their whole body relax and melt into yours. That’s home.

I say its a feeling, not a place. But in turn there are two places that I’ve called home, and they are pretty bloody different. One is a small Yorkshire town, and the other is Manchester.

Growing up in Yorkshire, we tumbled out wild into the streets, playing, fighting, building dens and poaching fruit from neighbours gardens. Outdoors, always outdoors. Walking, always walking. Walking as a family on the moors, being taught the name of birds, plants, obscure castles, sheep. Walking through rain, snow, wind, fog.

Walking as a teenager, weaving down the middle of the road. Over fields for fun with friends, talking over everything, pacing out the words. Long walks when times were tough, not talking now but walking side by side, and then home for a brew.

Our home was small, but warm, dry, the kettle was always on and there was always someone round the kitchen table to talk to.

Then moving to Manchester as a student.  My bedrooms were always small but the world, well the world was bloody massive.

I was outdoors again, all the time – running, exploring, dancing, talking. Meeting new people, doing new things, and beginning to know the city.

In my first year, skint and lonely in the summer when everyone else had left halls I took to wandering round the city centre. I might have had no money but I could try on hat after hat in department stores, look at the different buildings, walk up and down side streets. Making a coffee last two hours and watching the world go by.

Eight years on I work down the road from where I studied, and despite living in many a different house Manchester city centre now feels like home. There’s always something new happening, the sky filled with cranes, people constantly ebbing and flowing, the city is always changing.

And yet I find the peace of Yorkshire in the city centre. I think it’s because I can get lost in it all. I can get a coffee, and sit in a cafe window and watch the world go by. You are involved in everything, but not involved at all.

The city is an organism in itself, and the change keeps it interesting. We lived in the city centre for nearly three years, right next to Canal Street, above a pub and across the street from a massive busy nightclub. Hell for a country girl you might think.

But I loved it. I loved exploring, finding new pathways, new pockets of nature in the city sprawl. You never knew what you might find, tiny beautiful parks, old buildings, layers upon layers of posters and graffiti creating a beautiful grimy backdrop to it all.

I loved the city.

But its hella expensive, and as a couple we began to want things like A GARDEN and a GARAGE to store all of the crap you accumulate as you spend more years together.

So we moved back into the countryside. Up south of Manchester, almost on the Yorkshire boundary we rented a little house with a garage, a garden, friendly neighbours, the works. Yes it was the back end of nowhere, and the commute was hellish – but stepping off the train on an evening and walking through the village to our house was idyllic.

Just looking at the hills surrounding us, feeling the peaceful blanket of silence surrounding our snug little house – it felt like home.

What’s the point of his chat hey Becks, I hear you asking. Yada yada yada, we get it you like Yorkshire and you like Manchester.

Well the thing is, I’m struggling with finding my home at the moment.

We moved from the house in the hills when I was pregnant, moved into the suburbs. Better for commuting, family on hand for baby support , and y’know a big supermarket and a John Lewis on the doorstep. What more could a young family want?

Well despite having lived here for over a year now, I’ve struggled to find a routine, to become settled. I guess I was becoming more settled whilst I was on maternity leave, I grew to know the parks, the paths, the coffee shops around me – but it was never home.

If you’ve been following me from the start, you’ll know I started writing in order to find the ‘me’ again, and I think part of the reason I’m struggling is because I don’t feel like I am home.

There’s nothing raw and undiscovered about the suburbs. The most exciting thing to spring up on the streets is the bin-day obstacle course.

There’s a park next to us which has been my lifeline, and on maternity leave I paced it’s tight confines almost every day.But whereas in Yorkshire, and in the city you could head out in different directions and find multitudes of different things. Here it’s exactly the same – streets and streets of houses. Oh, and the motor way.

Turning my focus inwards to the house hasn’t helped that much either. We are working our way through a list of DIY’s to make our boxy rental more palatable, but for various reasons the house ain’t that hospitable at the moment either.

So I’m not really sure where to go from here. I’m struggling. I’m feeling homesick, feeling down and it impacts upon bloody everything. I hate that.

One thing I’m doing every day is to think of three things that day that I’ll sit down and take the time to really enjoy. That might be breakfast with my boys, setting up a play activity for R, coffee when I get into work – anything. I’ll carve out those little moments of peace for myself, and know that I’ve always got a snuggle with my boy at the end of the day. Now that’s home.

B xo

Life With a One Year Old

Well technically, one year and two weeks now! If you follow me over on Instagram you’ll know I have been absent on the blog and social media because well…. life happens!

So apologies little R, if you ever read this back and think ‘The cheek of mum! Couldn’t even write it on my birthday’. Number one, stop reading because well, there’s a lot of discussion about mummy and daddy’s sex life on here. And number two, mummy and daddy were busy farting around getting engaged and putting together a million pompom decorations for your first birthday party.

Anyway, I love reading these updates from other people because I have absolutely no bloody idea what children do when. And I know every child does things at their own pace, but it’s nice to have a vague idea… and also to read updates of older children and think holy mother of god there is so much to look forward to.

Without further ado, here is R at one year old…

F O O D:

Lets start with a good ‘un. We’ve been doing baby led weaning since R was a shade under six months old and it has been fantastic. At one year old he eats pretty much anything and everything that you put in front of him. Whilst he is in no way fussy, I do find it funny how he gets a taste for things, and will prefer that thing above all else, until the next thing takes his fancy. For example we had stew last week and he picked every last bit of beef and mushroom out of it before tackling the carrots and potatoes. Whereas this week he doesn’t seem so fond of meat and instead is relishing all things carby. When all else fails a bowl of yogurt and fresh berries is always a (very messy!) treat.

We swapped over to cows milk when he turned one, he had tried it on the odd occasion previously but as he is doing so well with his eating we decided just to ditch the formula altogether. At the same time we cut out his night time feed, just offering water if we think he wants it.

Whilst we do still use bottles for his milk he drinks well from a sippy cup, water bottle, and we do use his doidy cup with meals also. The next thing is to get rid of the bottles, but he loves his night night milk so much, I can see this being a battle.

S L E E P:

I’m going to write a full post up on this pretty soon, as we’ve been going through a rough patch, however *touch wood* there have been some significant improvements recently… long may this continue!

R still has two naps a day, which lets be honest, I don’t want to change because goddamn I need a cup of tea and time to de-stress and put on the washing and clean the dishes and water the poor neglected houseplants and maybe even pluck my eyebrows.

He naps for 1-2 hours in the morning, and another 40 minutes to an hour in the afternoon. Again, I have no idea when this will drop to one nap, but I am not looking forward to it!

Bedtime is between 7-7.30pm, and for us morning starts around 5-6am. We are currently down to one night time wake up, which means that for the first time in a year I am getting decent stretches of sleep. I am feeling SO SO SO much better for it, and it couldn’t have come at a better time as life is getting ever more hectic. Which brings us nicely on to…

R O U T I N E:

Lol, whut? No seriously guys R’s routine is more complicated than an Strictly rumba. (nice pop culture reference Becks, hitting your target audience HARD there). He is with granny one and a half days a week, the childminder one and a half days a week, grandad one day a week, then me on a Friday and bang bang boom its the weekend. Add that to a flurry of lunch dates, parties and kid-friendly outings and the poor child has no idea where he is or what he is up to.

He’s super happy though, he loves being out and about with different people and seeing different things. However it’s admittedly not something I had thought much about before I went back to work, I had just focused on getting the childcare for those days covered and not thought too much about him going from pillar to post. Ideally he would be in one place for those four days, but damnnnnn childcare is expensive and we are lucky to have family to help out. We also have an amazing super-supportive childminder, who has really helped him settle in, and is fantastic at keeping us up to date with what he’s up to.

We also nail the bedtime routine every night, dinner at six, then kisses goodnight, bath time, a little bit of playtime, then milk, snuggles, and bed. I’ve been trying to stick to this precisely as its a clear signal for bedtime, and also means we get some one on one time with R each day.

R A T E S:

Food / taking off his shoes and socks / climbing; he can climb onto his rocking chair, the sofa, and up the stairs / playing with a really fucking annoying duck / more food / investigating my nostrils / trying to pull out my eyelashes / even more food / birthday cake / turning the pages of books and magazines / music / dancing to music / baby shark do, do, do, do, doo-dooo / waving at strangers / being outside.

H A T E S:

Having his nappy changed / getting dressed / when you have different food on your plate to him / the baby gates / having his face wiped / the hoover.

N E W  T R I C K S:

This week sees the arrival of another new tooth, taking the total to nine! Although I am absolutely convinced that more will be through soon, his gums are red and swollen and we have had some very gross nappies – always a sign of new gnashers ahead.

Since he has turned one, certainly over the past few weeks, he has grown better and better at walking. R can go from all fours to standing unaided, and then he sets off tottering along by himself – preferring it to crawling now. This has also kicked off CLIMBING. Which he loves. He can get onto the sofa, his rocking chair, and was given a cute little stool for his birthday which he promptly flipped himself over.

He never stops moving, honestly, the older he gets the wilder he grows. Complete with growling. Yes my child is feral.

M U M M Y  N E E D S:

A coffee. Always a coffee.

Ciao.

B xo

A Year of Motherhood

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OH EMM GEE. I don’ even know where to begin with this one. I have been a Mum for almost a year now and I still cannot believe that I have an actual baby – can I still call him a baby? He’s walking more and more each day now so I guess he is a toddler. That feels a little too grown up though, WHERE HAS THE YEAR GONE?

If you’ve been following me you will know that it’s not been the easiest of years, even though it has easily been one of the best of my life.

There’s been highs, there’s been lows – there’s been a hell of a lot of poop, puke and porridge mush all over our carpets, walls, sofa, us.

The first few months passed in a blur. Looking back it is if I was moving through a fog. A blurry with sleep deprivation, hazy with love over his scrunched up little features, fog.

But we got through it. We did it! It was hard, mine and D’s relationship wasn’t the greatest, but we turned a corner.

I stopped breastfeeding, which was emotional, so hard that I still feel sad four months on when I look back at why we stopped.

We finally settled into a routine. And I’m not going to lie, I think transitioning to bottles along with introducing solids helped with this. I knew when to expect naps and with these lasting from an hour to two hours I had a little slice each day that I knew was baby free.

Although this quickly filled up with cleaning bottles, prepping meals, putting in load after load of washing and all the other associated extra household baggage that comes with popping out a tiny human.

I felt like I had more time to myself, but similarly felt like I had lost myself a bit during the whirlwind months that preceded. That’s why I started writing this blog;  I’ve always been a writer, carefully scribing my stories onto lined paper and annotating the edges with pictures from a very young age. Now the illustrations are photos of me in my pants, but the enjoyment is still there.

As for D and I we’ve gone from barely spending any time together and saying nasty things to one another when tired and grumpy to pulling together and becoming more organised which makes everything easier. Most importantly, we plan in family time, we plan in time for each of us to spend alone, and we plan in nights where the two of us sit on the couch and eat pizza together. We even snuck in a holiday together. 

Watching R grow over the past few months, as he begins to understand more of the world and begin to explore it has been the highlight of the year. (Except for maybe the moment when he was placed on my chest for the first time). Watching him figure things out is incredible, when you see a child comprehend how to sort shapes, or match colours, or that to turn the tv on you point the remote at it is fascinating. Someone you created is learning because you are showing them the world. MIND BLOWING.

And scary because he knows (well almost) how to work the TV.

Seeing him take his first steps, wobbling like me after a few too many gins, filled me with pride. And the grin on his face as he stumbled towards me with arms outstretched was truly beautiful.

These tiny moments, these snapshots of a pure happiness, they make all the shitty nappies, the sleepless nights, the feeling of being overwhelmed, worth it.

Those last few months of maternity leave were the sweetest. We went for long walks, played in the park, built sandcastles, met friends for coffee and lunch dates, and were busy but happy.

Was I nailing this motherhood thing?

LOL, nope.

Because in the spirit of honesty it’s back to being hard again. I thought I was so organised and ready to go to work. Then the last few weeks of maternity leave flew by, and it was back to work with a bang.

I’m only doing four days a week though so I thought it’s not going to be THAT hectic. I’d done my KIT days so I had the desktop all set up, I’d refreshed my mind of all the systems and settings, met all the new faces, and organised childcare and travelling.

As always, the reality of motherhood is that you can’t prepare for SHIT.

I’m ok leaving him, I’m a practical person and know that I have to go to work. There’s bills to be paid, money to save, and most of all I love being at work.

But when I get back, see his little face for all of six minutes before he’s in his highchair, dinner is on the table, then its bath bottle and bed. Ouch. That hurts.

When we are up during the night, and its a bad night. I might relish the snuggles, and his sleepy little body melting into mine for a little while. But when it’s been three hours of waking during the night, when he shrieks every time you lower him into the cot, and you know there’s not chance of a sneaky nap the next day. Ouch. That hurts.

When he’s not settling at the childminders, and your plans of putting him in one day a week are scuppered. So he’s in for a few hours throughout the week now as well as his full day. Ouch that hurts the old wallet and my heart because I DIDN’T THINK OF THIS.

When you have to take a day off work for emergency childcare, and feel like you are dropping the ball all over the place. Yep that’s another big dollop of hurt.

It’s hard.

Motherhood is really fucking hard.

But now I know, I know every day won’t be a shit storm. (Thanks spell checker for suggesting ‘hailstorm’, will bear that one in mind) And even when I haven’t seen him all day, watching him snuggle peacefully down to sleep, his chubby cheeks pillowed on his hand, dodies scattered around his head for when he inevitably loses the one hes sucking. That moment is worth everything.

Or when it’s 5am, and his tousled little bed head peeps over the cot then beams with a big goofy grin when he sees you. That’s worth the sleepless night.

We’ll get there. We’ll get into another routine, albeit one that involves me running out of the door checking my suit is free of yoghurty fingerprints.

It’s all worth it, every single day. Being a mum is THE BEST.

B xo

My Birth Story

My Birth Story - A back to back labour

Next week is the best week of the year. We have D’s birthday to celebrate, my birthday to celebrate and now- R’s first birthday. It has always been a special time of year for me, and now even more so. I really wish I had written my birth story a year ago, I think it would have been an incredible thing to do but there you go! So here it is, a year on – the story of R’s birth.

R was due on the 7th of October, and I was bloody humongous at this point. Excited I dragged D out for a long walk  hoping to get things started.

Nothing happened.

The 8th and 9th of October (D’s birthday) passed without incident. On the morning of the 10th, my birthday, I was booked in for a stretch and sweep. When the midwife realised it was my birthday she apologised, but we both agreed it would be a great birthday present if it got things moving! I have to say I found the stretch and sweep remarkably inoffensive, however my midwife did remark that I was being extremely calm. In her own words the ‘rummage around’ she did would have unsettled most people, but I am a stubborn little thing so I laid back and thought happy thoughts.

She said that I was already 2cm dilated (WHAT THE FREAKING WHAT?!) and that she was touching babies head. YES it is very weird to have someones hand up your vagina and to hear them say that. Even though you know there is a baby coming out of there, it is a most peculiar thing to hear.

As she removed her fingers (gross), she showed me there was blood on the glove (double gross) and gave me a pad to wear to walk home. This she explained was very favourable, and she said she thought I would be meeting baby very soon. She then checked his positioning again, and actually felt my uterus tightening – which was why I was already dilated. I couldn’t feel a bloody thing, and she was amazed that I was so calm and fine.

I was made up after the stretch and sweep, convinced that R was on his way!

I went home, and that evening part of mucous plug began to come away. Yes it’s as gross as it sounds, it’s like your vagina has blown its nose in your pants. I thought YES this is it I am certainly going to be in labour any minute now.

NOPE.

The next day, I was so weary, so tired, and felt really really down. Nothing was happening. I felt no different. No more snot was in my pants. I was so mopey that D’s boss kindly sent him home from work to look after me. So we ate pasta, snuggled on the sofa and binge watched Freaks and Geeks.

That evening more of my mucous plug went, and if I thought the vagina blowing its nose was gross well this was a whole other level. It was horrific, like the biggest bogey in the world had crawled into the toilet like a slug.

I was so excited I saved it on a bit of toilet paper to show D. That’s weird right? But I didn’t believe anything was really going to happen so we went to bed.

At about 3.40am, I heard my phone PING. It woke me up so I reached over to get it…and felt a big gush of wetness. I stood up and awkwardly waddled to the bathroom where I did a massive wee. Oh god… had I just wet myself? Or was it my waters? Cue sitting on the toilet googling how to tell if it was pee or amniotic fluid.

I didn’t  know what to do so with fresh knickers and pjs on I went back to bed. Half an hour later I was up again and as I sat up whoooooshhhhhh, that was definitely my waters!

I woke up D, told him what was happening, stuffed a sanitary pad in yet another pair of fresh knickers and went to call the hospital as I had been instructed. Hmmmm, this was a bit worrying. No one answered the first time I rang, or the second, or the third. I tried another number. Nope, nada. Back to the first…. and try the second again for good luck. Back to the first, and after fifteen minutes I got through to someone. Who told me I had the wrong number, gave me another one to call then hung up. Awesome. When I finally did get through to the right place I was asked if I was having any contractions. I had felt nothing at all so was told it was likely nothing would come of it, they booked me in for an induction the following day and advised me to get plenty of sleep and rest over the next 24 hours.

I hung up as D thundered down the stairs with the hospital bags. He was dressed, and had hurriedly brushed his freshly washed  hair – fully prepared to go to the hospital. LOL LOL LOL. Calm down oh keen one, we aren’t going anywhere yet.

Too excited to sleep, I made myself a raspberry tea and bounced around on the birthing ball. It was as I was doing this that D noticed something. I had been given a helium balloon by my colleagues on my last day of work four weeks ago. It had been slowly drooping over the past few days, hovering just above the floor. D had nicknamed it the ‘prophecy balloon’ saying  when it hit the floor I would go into labour. We both stared at it as it lay flat on the floor…. this was it… the baby was coming!

… except nothing was happening. I bounced on my ball, we watched Netflix and then ohmyholyfuckwhatwasthat. This was not the ‘mild period pains’ I had been told I would start off with. This was someone grasping me around my middle and pinching towards my spine HARD. Oh and then it went. That my dears, was a contraction.

My contractions started coming every three-five minutes, quite fiercely and quite regularly. I spent a lot of time walking around, and heading upstairs to the toilet because the squeezing sensation and pressure made me feel like I needed the loo.

Plus, with my waters already breaking (and no one tells you this) there was just constant  goop coming out of me. The waters, more of the mucous plug, god knows….it was gross. I couldn’t sit with a wet pad against me, so I kept paddling off to the loo for a little clean and a refresh.

As the contractions were coming fairly regularly we called the hospital again. They told us not to come in, and that there was a midwife doing the rounds so she would pop in to see us, assess me and advise us further. Ok great. In the meantime, they said to have some paracetamol and maybe take a bath.

Paracetamol, Para-fucking-cetamol.

WE HAD NONE

Cue call to D’s dad to  bring some round. Chauffeur driven paracetamol, how fancy.

In the bath things didn’t seem so bad, Danny poured water over my lower back, rested hot flannels on me, and on all fours with the water soothing me I dd feel better. But before long I felt quite cramped and uncomfy.

Back out, and oh my god these are strong and fast now. I can’t remember this phase so much, I know I went into the bedroom and knelt with my face and arms on the bed. D wanted to go to hospital. But stubborn old me insisted on waiting for the midwife. I just remember thinking that I didn’t want to go to hospital and be told to go home, I was sure the midwife would tell me what was going on and help.

By now the pain was a constant pressure in the base of my back, and the contractions were dragging from my back down into my bum. The midwife arrived, and came to sit on our bed. I have a really vivid memory of her as I was so happy someone was there to help. She talked to me and asked me how I was feeling, noted how long the contractions were apart and how long they were lasting. I wasn’t much use as I couldn’t talk  through the contractions at this point and was in constant pain. I remember I was gritting my teeth and breathing in and out in a funny way just to get through them to try to talk to her.  She then sat back and said she couldn’t examine me at home, that I could go in to hospital if I wanted but that I would probably be sat there for another eight hours or so before things got moving.

I wanted to cry.  I felt like I was quite far on and without even examining me she could tell I wasn’t. I trusted her, after all she’s the midwife, she knows her shit right?

Fast forward half an hour and I was on the toilet as it was the comfiest place. The pains weren’t letting up. Fuck the midwife, we are calling the hospital and going in.

So we called the hospital, I was gasping out how I felt in between the pain, and the person on the other end said to pass the phone to my partner. ‘WHAT?’ D says.  The next thing I know he’s calling an ambulance.

Pain and pressure in your bum guys apparently means you are having a baby NOW.  And at that point I panicked. The pain levels went through the roof.

An ambulance and a rapid response car turned up so before I knew it I was on all fours, given some gas and air, and four men are staring at my vagina.

After a few more contractions, it was decided that baby wasn’t imminent. So they helped me down the stairs, popped me on a stretcher and we were away with blue-lights flashing to the hospital.

On arrival I was eight cm dilated, and asked if I wanted to get into the birthing pool. HELL YEAH, this is the bath I’ve been dreaming of. Butt naked, with some Lush spray spritzed around, Enya playing, and all the gas and air I could get my mitts on, I was ok again. I lay in the pool, feeling the contractions roll through my back, but they were bearable and I could feel my body beginning to push down with each one.

After three hours they wanted me to go for a wee. So I lumbered out like an actual beached whale… but I couldn’t pee. A catheter was popped in and they examined me. Ten cm dilated, YES!

It was time to push. I cannot remember what position I started in, but I was told to push down into my bottom like I was doing a poo. So I did. GOOD JOB! and again… AMAZING, the head is right here! And again. And again. And again. And again….

My urine had come back with ketones in it, I was running on empty, so in between pushes I was having orange juice tipped by the litre down my throat.

I was sweating like the most extreme workout you can imagine. It was running down my face, between my boobs. Everywhere.

Push again! Keep going! Push!

We changed position. Changed position again.

I went on the birthing stool, almost like a little low down toilet with handles and no bowl. The midwife brought a mirror so I could see his head. Now seeing your vagina cracked open with what looks like a bloody melon peering out, and your bumhole doing its best to turn inside out is a) awful and b) amazing because that’s your baby and you are so nearly there!

Except I wasn’t.

Every time I pushed no more of that little head was appearing. It had been over an hour, I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore and honestly, I was done in.

To spice things up a bit, we were told the hospital was on security lockdown. There was a patient with a weapon on the floor below. I don’t remember being told this, I just remember knowing it and being like whatever, ok, lets just get this baby out.

But it was starting to become a problem. I was getting really tired, had been pushing for a long time, and it was beginning to look like I needed help.

They got me up on to the bed, on my back, in the one position I really really didn’t want to be giving birth in. I didn’t care. My legs were put up in stirrups, one stirrup was broken so D had the task of physically holding my leg  up, whilst also trying to comfort me.

I was told that we would push ’til ten to five (which would make it two full hours of pushing), and if by then I was no further on we would  move to  an assisted delivery.

Well believe you me, I tried, I pushed like my life depended on it. I had no contractions, nothing to guide me except pain, and the thought of getting my baby out.

Nothing.

Nada.

The midwife decided to perform an episiotomy, and me and D differ on this point. He thinks they were going to move me onto a ward, but I remember being told they were going to have to do it there and then as baby needed to come out now. They numbed me with some local anaesthetic, and were waiting for it to take hold when I thought. FUCK THIS SHIT. And I pushed.

I was so pissed off at the whole stupid situation, at the baby who wouldn’t move and the stupid shitty artwork on the walls with ‘breathe’ and ‘serenity’ stencilled over them.  BREATHE AND SERENITY? I’M ABOUT TO BE SLICED OPEN FROM HOLE TO HOLE.

So I pushed.

And then his head popped out, looking up at the world.*

My vagina round his neck like the worst fur coat ever. And then I pushed again and felt his whole body slide out of me, and in a rush of warmth and wetness he was placed on my chest. He was filthy, his head was shaped like a traffic cone and his ears were squashed like a miniature lightweight boxers, but he was perfect. Totally perfect.

I cannot describe the feeling that instantly lit up my world, but I  knew that everything was worth it. Everything I had faced, the long and painful labour, and everything we would face as a family was worth it. This was love. This was pure pure love.

I turned to D and said ‘I could do that again’.

D nearly fainted.

Welcome to the world little R.

B xo

*Despite little man’s position being textbook perfect up until two days before being born, he turned and came out facing upwards which apparently only 5% of births do. The midwife thinks he turned in labour which prolonged it, and also meant he got stuck in the birth canal. This is what caused the pain in my back and bum and explains why I never felt contractions across the front of my bump.

An Ode to Autumn, My Favourite Season

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Autumn. I bang on about it from mid-August to anyone who will listen, as it really is my favourite season. Oh check me, the most basic of bitches. I love a good seasonal hot beverage (yes PSL, I am talking about you again), will unashamedly kick my way through piles of crunchy leaves, and much prefer a good hat, scarf and glove set to a summer dress and sandals. But there’s more to it then this. I’ve always felt like autumn is a season of new beginnings, as opposed to spring, and the bite of frost in the air on a morning makes me feel excited and happy.

I think it all stems from the evocative nature of a new school year. I can still vividly recall the smell of new school cardigans, crisply embroidered with a bright badge. Your skirt’s pleats were perfect, your shirts starched white, and you had braved the mayhem of Clarks with your mum to come out with new school shoes. Did anyone else get wildly excited when in Year Six they were finally allowed the ‘trendy’ ones with a chunky sole and heel? And then there is the excitement of getting your new schoolbooks, and the pressure of writing your name on the front – wanting it to look perfectly neat. I love the feel of writing on a new notebook, the crisp white pages, the clean cover. By the end of the year my books would be doodled on front and back, and I would have inevitably got bored of regulation black or blue ink so started writing in green or purple. The shoes would be scuffed, the cardigan would have been chewed round the cuffs, and the long summer days of rounders were the wind down to the year.

Then you go to high school, and that is a whole new beginning. From a class of ten to a hundred students in your year. Each September that unfolds is another chance anew. The smell of freshly waxed corridors, a new locker, a new timetable to get used to, and hell yeahhhhhh new boys in class to sit next to.

I carried on studying, so another September brought with it sixth form and a whole other newness. And then in turn, college – to do my Art Foundation year, before going on to uni. I can still remember the first days of all of these, the smells, the people I met, and the overwhelming sense of something changing with the season.

Traditionally its spring that is seen as the season of renewal and rebirth, with the buds bursting out after the dead of winter. Lambs and chicks frolicking in the fields are symbols of new life. Lots of people herald this as the renewing of the year, and welcome the sight of greenery creeping across the landscape. I love spring, love the smell of new rain, love the unfurling of fresh green buds, but for me Autumn is the hurrah of the year. The explosion of colours, the leaves flaming up in one last beautiful salute before they fall to the floor. The Harvest Festival, boughs heavy with fruit, rosehips glaring red, conkers and acorns gleaming promises of new life in the following year.

Summer nights out are undoubtedly the best. When you are too young to drink in the local pubs, the fields around them become your playground. The smell of spilt cider, straw and cigarettes becoming the background to your nights. The longer days mean crazier nights, and its far too tempting to skinny dip when your dress is clinging to your back with sweat. After work drinks in a sunny beer garden turn into late night revelry, everyone tempted outdoors by the sun. However as autumn creeps in there’s a whiff of something a little more wild in the air. The crisp tang of frost, the smoky smell of bonfires which seems to linger from the first of October onwards, and the allure of something forbidden (or just raunchy fancy dress) at  Halloween.

Its also my birthday at the start of October, so for me quite literally it is the start of a new year. I love having an autumn birthday, new coats, hats, gloves, and boots for stomping in. My favourite hymn at school (Autumn Days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell…. absolute banger). Chocolate cake, too much wine, and donuts for days to celebrate turning another year older. My parents bought me a CD one birthday with old punk songs that became the backdrop to my teen years, hell the soundtrack to my whole life is old punk music.

And then I met D, whose birthday is the day before mine. We’ve celebrated the season with fancy dress, with whisky in bed, with wrapping up warm and heading out for long walks together. Wildness doubled, our collection of scarves taking up too much space in the cupboard, and an IKEA Kallax turned bar groaning with bourbon dominated the living room.

Then last year. I was as round and fat and stretched as a conker, feeling enthralled by the new life twisting and wiggling inside me.  Subconsciously echoing the season, I wore rust brown, orange red. I went out with my sister for pumpkin spiced lattes, feeling loved and warm. Then, in a rush, in a day like no other R was born – and new life came screaming into this world on a beautiful October afternoon two days after my own birthday.

We took him out in his pram, his first sights of the world were of a world dressed in autumnal joy. We posed for pictures in front of flaming leaves, protected his downy head with woollen knits, and snuggled on an evening in a nest of blankets, resting whilst the frost crept up outside.

Almost twelve months has spun past, and we find ourselves in autumn again – the past year has been a dizzying blur. Despite the difficult days and the never ending nights its gone fast, too fast. And now I find myself looking back at this time last year, the last autumn days before our life changed forever, and I know that the leaves changing colour will now mean more to me than ever before.

B xo

My Post-Baby Body

I kind of really hate that phrase ‘post-baby body’, because it’s just my body y’know. A body that’s done some crazy things, some strong things, some really totally bad-ass things and some totally stupid things (tattoos on my big toes, I’m looking at you). Having a baby is just one of those things, and I don’t want that to be my body’s defining aspect. But then again having a baby wreaks fucking havoc on your body, totally changes it, and has made me become more aware of and think about my body more than ever before.

When I was pregnant I grew this blooming massive bump. It was ginormous, starting right underneath my boobs and curving outwards before heading sharply in just above my pubis. And the rest of me stayed pretty much the same. The boobs got a little bigger, but the rest of me was same old, same old business as usual.

I loved it. I loved my bump. It was bloody massive. Massive and difficult to dress. I hated almost every piece of maternity wear that I tried on. I don’t know what designers think happens to pregnant women but the clothes I tried on were designed bigger ALL OVER. The arms were wider, there was more material at the top and I simply felt like me and the Russian Circus could have set up camp in them. However with a wardrobe full of high-waisted denim and cropped tops I struggled to make my usual garms last longer. Despite all this I loved my bump. I enjoyed being pregnant to be honest. My skin was brilliant, my hair was thick and I felt full of happiness and life. Despite putting on three stone, I didn’t even gain any stretchmarks, and smugly anointed my bump with lotion every morning and night.

Flash forward to about a week after giving birth and all smugness promptly dissolved. I hadn’t looked in the mirror, not out of any sense of horror but because I simply didn’t feel like I had a spare second to spend in the bathroom. Add that to the fact that I was wearing a nursing bra constantly due to the two fountains of Vesuvius strapped to my chest and well, I just hadn’t seen much of myself. I was shocked at what I saw. It wasn’t the deflated football of a stomach. Or the widening ass from sitting on the sofa breastfeeding. But it was the boobs. They looked like two purple suns. Stretch marks radiated out from nipples as big as door knobs. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.

Seems that when the midwife told me I was producing ‘Jersey Cream’ she neglected to tell me I now had udders. Stretched with milk the skin had split and I had some bloody gnarly stretchmarks. I started up my moisturising routine again but with the most organic, paraben free, SLS free, unscented products I could find, worried about covering R’s sweet little face in anything that wasn’t dripped like nectar from angels.

And that was about as much care as I took for myself for a good seven months. I lost some of the weight, but breastfeeding isn’t the ticket to skinny heaven that its touted to be. Sure the hormones released do help your uterus to shrink back down, which I guess might speed up the initial deflation of your stomach? However the breastfeeding munchies were real, I mentioned it when talking about sleep deprivation, but basically I couldn’t get through the night without a substantial snack and a brew. A combination of the lack of sleep, and a clingy newborn meant that I just shovelled whatever was easy to eat one handed into my mouth and relied on sugary bursts of energy to get through. I’m not saying this is a bad thing by the way, for the first few months you do what you gotta do to get through – and brownies make that a little bit easier.

Pampering went out of the window. My showers for the first six months were mostly taken with R in a baby bouncer in the bathroom, whilst I frantically sung and played peekaboo with him whilst speed showering. My eyebrows and leg hair went untamed, and as for my bush… Well it wasn’t a bush it was the Brazilian rain-forest.

Everyone kept insisting how good I looked though, which – well to me it was just vaguely irritating. I know you were all well meaning, and if you had told me I looked like shit I probably would have cried, but I just didn’t feel like me. My leaky boobs didn’t fit in anything I had owned pre-pregnancy so I lived in the same couple of oversized button up shirts. I didn’t feel as though I could leave R to book in a haircut, and then my hair started falling out and I just felt awful. I was moulting like a dog, needing breastpads every day, and even my ‘baggy’ clothes were straining at the boobs and thighs.

Slowly, as R has got older things are shifting back to how I would like them to be. I haven’t undertaken any extreme diet or lifestyle change, however I do keep active – walking lots with the pram – and since Rufus has been weaning for almost six months now we have started eating better as a family. When I stopped breastfeeding the boobs shrunk down as well (I swear that was a good five pounds I dropped from those girls) and the purple stretchmarks are no longer as livid.

I’m still about 7lb over my pre-pregnancy weight. Not a great amount, and I know if I worked a little harder, ate a little healthier and cut out my ungodly addiction to lattes I would reach my pre-pregnancy weight. But this doesn’t change the fact that my body is different. No matter if I eat the same, exercised the same, my body has been through something incredible and I shouldn’t expect it to look the same. I keep telling myself this, as I look  in the mirror and see the sagging of my skin and the widening of my hips. I’m a slightly different shape now and I will admit I am struggling with my own style, I don’t know what suits me and I rely far too often on comfort and oversized clothes.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom – and I realised whilst on holiday that having a baby has actually made me fee a lot better about my body. Because quite simply, I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks any more. I have more important things to do than worry about whether people are noticing the annoying acne spot that popped up right in the middle of my back just before I went on holiday. Or the extremely bruised right knee from walking into the bed frame after a 4am feed. Or the fact that I missed a whole swath of hair down the back of one leg because I’m just a bit crap at epilating.

I still do pamper and take care of myself, I’m not about to become some Miss Havisham figure don’t worry. But rather than beating myself up over my wild post-partum hair, I’ll slap a hairmask on in the evening and get it cut regularly because it makes me feel good. Same with my skin, I’ve always had problematic skin – despite me taking good care of it. But now, rather than feeling awkward when I have a breakout (I’ve been known to miss social occasions before due to feeling so embarrassed about my skin) even if it’s the siz of a small planet I will get up, go out and enjoy myself. Maybe slap some bright lipstick on, cos that shit makes you look like you have your shit together.

I’m proud of my body, and I will say yeah, I am happy with how it looks. I’m no Instagram-model in my high waisted bikini and some odd underboob showing crop top that needs duct tape to hold your tits in. But what I am is a person who thinks she is hot as hell; I love my dodgy tattooed toes because they are part of me and make me laugh, I love my stretch-marked butt, I love my boobs, I love all of me up to my blonde straighter-than-straight hair which currently sticks out like a lions mane with all the postpartum regrowth. I love me.

B, xo

Surviving Your First Holiday Without Baby

Surviving Your First Holiday Without Baby

 

Get drunk. Get naked. Sleep.

That’s my top three tips for your first holiday without your baby. I joke, I joke… well kind of. There was a lot of all three on our first holiday away without R. D and I went to Nerja for five nights recently. We were invited to a friends wedding (which incidentally was bloody incredible) but also wanted to make the effort to spend some much-needed time together after almost a whole year of parenthood.

In the run up to the holiday I was a bit of a mess. Even though it was a holiday that we had known about since before R was born, so you would have thought I would have had plenty of time to get my head around it. We made the decision to go without him very early on, and both sets of grandparents had offered to take care of him. D’s mum came to stay in our house and look after R, so there was no stress there. However leaving your baby for the first time is always going to be nerve-wracking, and there were a couple of nights that I spent in tears. I worried about if he would be ok, if he would be scared or miss us, and how I would feel leaving him. I was incredibly excited for the holiday but also concerned that I would be a weepy mess, and would ruin it for myself. The feeling is hard to describe. Realistically I knew that he was going to be fine, he has spent a lot of time with D’s mum, he’s a happy little chap, and nothing was going to go wrong. But when I started thinking about leaving him I would feel sick to my stomach, and totally empty apart from a sadness at what I was doing.

I also had a couple of really horrid anxious moments, where I would start thinking about what could go wrong, about bad situations that could happen and immediately my thoughts would spiral out of control.

And the guilt. Oh holy hell the guilt is real. I felt like a totally crap parent for even wanting to leave him. Whilst I knew that I wanted to go on this holiday and go without him, I felt like I was failing for saying that. That I should put him first and that means being with him always.

Except it doesn’t.

Because holy bloody hell we needed that holiday. We held hands, drank cocktails, skinny dipped, and most of all caught up with all of our wonderful friends that were gathered  there for the wedding. We wandered around, explored, and chilled out for hours on the beach. It was brilliant. Even the flight was fantastic, I read for the whole way there – uninterrupted by thoughts of nappy changes, lunches to be made, washing to be done, and tiny hands pulling at me to play.

Did we miss him when we were out there? That’s the question that we were asked over and over again. And the answer is, well of course we did – but it wasn’t as difficult as I had built it up to be in my head. I think I pestered poor Granny with texts a little too often, but with video calls and Whatsapp we could keep in touch and reassure me that everything was going ok. I was also enjoying myself so much, and it was brilliant just to turn my brain off.

Despite copious amounts of cocktails and not as much sleep as I had planned, I have returned from holiday feeling completely refreshed. I am excited to start back at work tomorrow ,a few days off writing feels like a week long holiday, and I can feel that I have more patience to sit and play with R, to try making new meals for him, to get up during the night. I just feel like a whole new person. Totally cliched I know, but I do.

I’m of the opinion that in being a parent it is important to look after yourself, and your relationship with your partner. Part of that for me is getting away and spending time together. I also need time alone to recharge, to think about things, to relax. D and I could go out and be a bit badly behaved without having to think about getting up early and parenting on a hangover. Which is, for those of you wondering – the absolute worst. Noisy toys, stinky bums to wipe, and little fingers trying to pick your eyelashes off is not something you want to face when your burps taste of last nights tequila.

I know some of you will read this and think oh my god, how the hell are they leaving their baby, I can’t ever leave mine even for a night. And that’s ok. You need to do what you feel happiest doing.

For me, the time away was amazing. The memories will last forever. However coming back home and picking up my  baby who seems to have turned into a little boy in the five days we were apart saddened me. He has a new little giggle, that I didn’t hear for the first time. He is so much more confident in standing up, and I haven’t seen that happen either. I’ll hold him a little longer tonight, kiss his forehead as he falls asleep, and make plans for a family holiday together soon.

And then plan another getaway with D, because man that was goooooooood.

B xo

Surviving Your First Holiday Without Baby

Why Maternity Leave is Like Being a Student Again

Messy bun, plaid and lots of books. A staple look that’s seen me through college, uni and becoming a mum!

 

It’s Freshers Week (or Welcome Week as it’s now known) which means that in university’s across the country spring chickens of eighteen-year-olds are rolling up at halls, ready to tackle 9am lectures and crippling debt with nothing more than quad-vods and Dominos free pizzas. Whilst my own student days feel like eons ago, it struck me that actually being on maternity leave isn’t that different to university life…

1.Mums and students alike are still up at 3am. And there’s a fair chance that both nights have involved a lot of shrieking and vomit.

2.No one knows what’s going on. Ok, so when I went to University tutor lists were pinned up on a scrap of paper, now I am sure that they are emailed out right to your smart phone. But I’m sure, due to the vagaries of university admin the same things still happen. As a fresher you are totally bemused by the different buildings, rooms, times. Add that to the confusion of losing all your mates, in a completely new city whilst you are off your face on whatever you can buy the most of cheaply – you don’t have a clue what is happening. A bit like becoming a parent really. You are totally bemused by the intricacies of baby clothes (so many poppers), breastfeeding, changing, sleeping and the fuzzy head from lack of sleep doesn’t help one bit.

3.Coffee is high on our priority lists. Student-me and Mum-me (who am I kidding, every version of me) needs a high caffeine kick to start the day.

4.No money, no worries. Whilst luckily I’ve had a better mat pay package then most, I did still have a period of unpaid leave which means that once again the bank of Mum and Dad pay for me and R to go visit… and there’s usually a little care parcel of goodies to bring back as well. Sounds very similar to my student days doesn’t it? Thanks Mum and Dad!

5.More of the general public then necessary have seen my nipples. Feels an odd thing to say right after thanking my parents but if you have been on a good old-fashioned night out with me chances are there’s been more of me on show then intended at some point. Equally breastfeeding a wiggly baby means the girls have been front and centre on more occasion than one. R’s latest trick, now we are no longer breastfeeding is to yank my top down (and my midi skirt), so the flashing saga continues.

6. Pizza is a food group. If you have been a student of a UK university then you will probably know that during Freshers Week Dominos offer free mini pizzas to students. Unsurprisingly this means the queues outside Dominos rival those of the Apple store when a new iPhone hits the shelves. During my first week of uni one of the girls had an enterprising scheme where she visited different Dominos several times over, amassing a stash of mini pizzas which she froze and then lived off for most of the first term. Whilst I’m not braving Dominos with a pram for free pizza, there’s been a lot of pizza consumed. Often at around 10pm when we have given up any semblance of routine.

7. Mum and baby groups are totally like seminars. There’s always some irritating twat who has read allllllll of the books ever and loves the sound of their own voice. There’s always a question that totally nonplusses you whilst everyone else nods along. There’s always some totally trendy girl with all the latest fashion. There’s always someone discreetly picking sick out of there hair (me, always me. Mum me and student me).

8. The internet is, like, a lifesaver. Definitely not just mums and students who rely on this one hey. Equally as good for googling ‘What the hell does neoliberalism mean’ as it is for ‘can you get stretch marks after giving birth?’. I’m not sure when my search history was weirder, as a student or as a mum (don’t google what baby poo should look like, EVER).

9. Freshers fifteen or a mum tum – who knows? Ugh, I hate both those terms – especially MUM TUM, but you get what I mean. The last time I weighed this much was during my second year of uni when I was drinking way way way too much wine and eating way way way too many carbs. I then lost all the weight by becoming too skint to buy food, or bus tickets and by moving into a house that didn’t have the internet. So I ran a lot and wanked a lot because there wasn’t much else to do. Et voila, back into my size eights.

This time around the weight is settling into a lovely little tyre around my mid-section. Time for running (or anything else) is pretty damn limited, and whilst I know I could eat better and drink a lot less caffeine… well I’ll get round to that at some point.

10.I am learning so so much, and really bloody enjoying it. If there were any two points in my life where I felt totally overwhelmed and like my mind was getting blown on a regular basis it was this; doing an MA whilst working full time, and being on maternity leave. These two times in my life have been totally exhausting, you are mentally ‘on’ ALL THE TIME. Either thinking of dissertation work on the commute home, or not being able to sleep because the baby is snuffly and you are worried. Maybe my MA experience wasn’t a typical student experience, but the pressure of writing a dissertation  on top of working a demanding job… I was overwrought and emotional. I was so drained I cried really easily and felt incredibly stressed out. Prior to having a baby it was the most mentally draining period of my life. All I could do was just keep on going. And then once I handed my dissertation in I ignored all emails and communication from my university. I didn’t know my marks for six whole weeks after I got them and racked up a £120 library fine. Really good going there Becks. However having a baby isn’t like that. You can’t just pop the bugger out and then ignore them until you feel up to dealing with it. You have to keep on going. And going. And going.

But you do. So regardless of if you are a first year student or a first time mum, you find the stamina and the courage to get through it. Both might require some liberal applications of caffeine and gin, and I’m not sure which is more expensive – tuition fees or a baby! Both are incredible though, you will learn so much and have insane amounts of fun.

 

Sponsored by one baby, two degrees and enough coffee to fill an Olympic swimming pool.

B xo