Passing our probation…

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Two minutes max, that’s usually how long it would take to pack up the car and go for a break away…two minutes.

Yesterday, it took us near on twenty to put the stuff in the car, ‘with the pram in the boot, is there space for the Moses basket?’ , ‘will we need the rain cover or shall we not bother?’ , ‘no no, that needs to be put down by my feet, it’s got changing and feeding stuff in there in case she wakes up.’ I think there’s probably military operations that have gone quicker! In our defence, in what is our first trip away since having the baby, we are needing to pack for two weeks, with a family wedding weekend in the middle of it, not to mention two bouts of work (plus stage combat equipment for said work) that my husband is doing within those two weeks. And having been relatively house bound for the last month, our ‘leaving the house,’ practise has been slim to none.

But this week marks both the end to both sets of antibiotics and a slight cooling of the intense weather, two things that have kept us more confined (Read – hiding!). So we are re-emerging into the world with a rather steep re-entry experience! The packing part wasn’t quite as complicated,

‘what do we need?’

‘All of it!’

After stumbling through the packing and car loading process (which was more like a game of Tetris really), we headed off for the three hour journey. Well, at least, it’s normally a three hour journey; this of course is the first time we’ve taken our new life manager; baby Scarlett slept like a dream for the whole motorway process and we smugly thought we might just get the whole journey done without incident. Her screams three quarters of the way gave us our answer to that particular question. We’d passed all the services so for the last bit of the journey, we stopped twice for roadside feeds, one of which included a rather cramped ‘roadside nappy change waltz,’ where I tried to ensure the contents of the nappy stayed nappy based, whilst also trying to keep the sun out of our little girls eyes; I can’t really count it as a win per se, but we got through it relatively unscathed! We then also had ten minutes of solid screaming just towards the end but I was able to calm her in time to avoid another lay by stop. A three hour journey became a four and a half hour journey. But we made it. And we’re officially on holiday with family on the coast.

But as a new parent, it feels distinctly different to holidays of the past! Scarlett is still very much in charge of the schedule, and lie ins are not something we’re anticipating being able to make use of!

It does however mark the end of that first crazy ‘four week hibernation from regular life,’ stage of proceedings. Now a new learning process commences, being parents in the real world! Starting to do more than just responding to cries, trying to fit in some regular activities round those cries. At one point today when I was frantically trying to put a breast away without anyone seeing with one hand, and holding her as she was crying in the other in a beach side cafe, I wondered why we’d left the cocoon – we’d barely got used to doing it all at home, what the hell were we playing at going to the outside?!

But then we also left the beach with a video of her first little dip in the sea (and by dip I mean the merest of touches of water to her feet!) and we managed to have a drink with my Dad, Aunt and Uncle. We felt tired when we got back in but also refreshed. We’d done it, we’d started parenting in real life and everyone had survived! Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be the least relaxing holiday I’ve ever been on but it’s going to be a lot of fun!

I do feel a little bit like we’ve passed our initial probationary period, the child is developing as she should, we’re both in one piece, all is going well! Its yet to be seen how well the next couple of weeks go, especially the second week of the holiday when my husband goes away with work and we may retreat back to stage one – house arrest(!) at the end of it! But for now we’re moving on forward and on Friday she turns one month old. Sadly I don’t think we receive any kind of achievement badge or certificate; as a keen gamer, I feel like we should pick up some experience points or unlock a new bonus (an extra hours sleep potion maybe?!) but we do at least get rewarded with watching our baby grow and now we start having real experiences together as a family. And it’s not as bad as I make out really, in fact as I type, she’s fast asleep and I’m even managing twenty glorious minutes in the bath! I truly am on holiday!

For any mothers similarly starting to emerge from the other end of the newborn tunnel, congratulations! We made the first four weeks!! We did it together, but no time for celebrating, it’s onto stage two…parenting in the outside world…

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Baby Bucket List Bliss…

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Today you’ll have to excuse the slightly dizzy tone, I am somewhat floating on air for the first time in many weeks! I’ve spoken before about a list of things that my husband and I have wanted to do before the baby arrives. We’ve been quite successfully making our way through the ‘baby bucket list,’ and now we have been given the news that a c-section will be safer in our situation, we know that we now only have a few weeks left to finish it! Today was an extremely well received item! We went swimming. After ‘uhmming and ahhhing’ for the last month or so, I recently headed to Primark and bought a larger bikini for maternity use. I know it seems a rather banal thing to have spent a month deciding on but maternity costumes are really expensive and as swimming isn’t the cheapest of activities I wondered how many times I would realistically go. However as the strain on my hips and joints increased and the number of people recommending swimming in the latter stages of pregnancy also increased, I headed to Primark, picked up a size 16 bikini instead of my normal size 14 to accommodate my growing parts; and we headed to Cascades in Tewkesbury.

When I emerged from the changing rooms, I was suddenly hugely aware of my naked protruding stomach; not since being just moderately pregnant had I been to the pool and at that point, my swimming costume had had enough stretch to go over my belly. I retreated back into the changing room wondering what the hell I was doing exposing my huge body to the public. And then I realised that I was being a moron. I was a heavily pregnant woman and swimming could ease my joints and therefore relax me and therefore could only be good for baby. For all my babbling on about self belief and teaching my baby about confidence and her Mother was hiding in a changing room!! No no, this was not to be, I walked back out, head up high and smiled at everyone I walked past – which as I was still a bit nervous and people in the UK don’t generally just go round smiling at everyone probably came across more creepy than confident but sod it I was going for it!

My 'get a grip of yourself' selfie!

My ‘get a grip of yourself’ selfie!

After checking it was ok with the lifeguard, we headed to the learner pool so I didn’t get in the way of the actual swimmers in the main pool lanes. After all I was only there to bob about and do a few exercises that had long been impossible out of water. As I stepped into the water…OH…MY…GOD! I went from feeling 100 stone to 1 stone in an instant. The water enveloped me and bump and I lay back with glorious relief. I could feel every part of me relax and as my husband quite happily just pulled me about the place seemingly quite entertained by the image, we both enjoyed the following 20 minutes.

After that, it got even better…an announcement that was extremely exciting aged 9 (probably the last time either myself or my husband had been there) proved equally exciting aged 29, “the fun sections are now activated…” this meant the water slide was open, the water fountain was on, the bubbles were on and the waterfall started! Fun times were definitely activated! Admittedly, being 8 months pregnant meant that the majority of them were out of bounds for me but the gentle bubbles in the learner pool were even nicer on the muscles and careful placement underneath the waterfall was amazing on my shoulders. We stayed long enough that we suddenly realised that we had to get out as we’d only paid for two hours in the car park!

It was sad times to get out of that pool, the pressure of the weight came hurtling straight back to my muscles and my mind, it had been a lovely reprieve but inevitably had had to end! It had however, done me the world of good. And whilst there, we had the chance to just chat and talk about the impending few weeks without being forced to think about work emails or invoices or writing deadlines, the benefit of taking ourselves out somewhere took away that normal pressures of freelance working so it was a relaxing adventure for both of us!

I stood under the warm shower for quite some time and whilst there, a little boy of about 3 or 4 came in with his Mother and I triggered a conversation that had obviously not been wanted quite yet. It did, however make me smile so I thought I’d share it;

Little Boy, “Mummy, what’s wrong with that lady’s tummy?”

Mum, “don’t be rude Flynn, you don’t say that about people do you.”

(At this point I gave her the understanding nod and smile that said ‘I’m not offended by your child’s interpretation of my ‘deformed’ body!’)

LB, “but why does it look like that?”

M, “she has a baby in there.”

LB, “(a look of abject horror mixed with fear crossed his face) WHY?!”

M, “that’s where babies grow before they are born Flynn, all babies start in their Mummy’s tummy.”

(Now to perhaps my favourite bit of this exchange) LB, “but how do they get there?”

(a pause which told everyone in the communal shower room that this was not a moment she really fancied addressing in public made worse by the added attention we all had, ‘yes mummy,’ we were all thinking, ‘how are you going to answer this one?!’) M, “I’ll let your Daddy explain it to you in the car sweetheart.”

Part of me expected applause from the other Mums present in the changing rooms, I half expected to find a crowd by their car to watch the unsuspecting Dad get the question followed by the knowledge that Mummy had informed him that a Daddy would fill him in. Glorious moments of childhood innocence that, as parents, we can all expect to come across and deal with in our own awkward way!

The rest of my changing room experience went by uneventfully and apart from not buying a nice lolly on the way out, it was a perfect afternoon trip. My only regret (apart from not picking up one of those really refreshing lemonade lollies) was that I’d dithered for so long about whether to get a suitable swimming outfit. It was in hindsight one of the best £6 I’d ever spent and if the weather stays as nice as it has been, tomorrow afternoon we’re hoping to treat ourselves to a trip to the Lido (where they also sell ice lollies…!)

The end of the pregnancy is near and we’re thrilled and excited to meet our new arrival but these last few weeks have been so much fun; if you discount the uncomfortable nights of sleep, sporadic nausea, ligament, joint and general pain as well as a host of other third trimester delights…! It’s time I’ll cherish in my memory and will most likely be the moments we look back on when we decide to ride this ridiculous roller coaster again. The bucket list is nearly complete, as is the pregnancy and then the fun will really start to begin; and the sleepless nights…and the screaming baby…and the inability to make any plans…

…and the tenseness returns…back to the pool of tranquility!!

Pathway to Parenting…

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It’s a completely new type of tired isn’t it? Some days are better than others, some days I feel positively sprightly. And then some days…oh boy. Some days you feel a fatigue that completely encompasses you; your arms and legs feel like they’ve had all the energy and any vitality drained from them. You can almost feel your entire body sending every nutrient and bit of energy you have straight to baby.

And who would want anything else for the good of their baby at this, the fastest growing stage.

But my God does it take it out of you! As I type, my bundle of joy clearly has the hiccups, and even each little jump inside my tummy feels like an exertion!

In other news, the pre baby bucket list is going well. The weather has given a helping hand of course, we had a lovely day out in Oxford walking round, re-visiting a few places that hold particular romantic significance. There’s been afternoon teas out and lunches at new found places. We’ve gone out for a lovely dinner date, enjoyed a sunny afternoon in Cirencester, visiting our favourite frozen yoghurt cafe (up there in my top two of foods that really hit the spot! The other top spot…? Pickled onions, don’t ask!) we’ve also enjoyed many evenings eating dinners in the garden – and really made the most of being able to take more time cooking and baking and enjoying board games afterwards. I know what you’re thinking… woah, slow down with your crazy lifestyle..! But if friends tips and internet tips are anything to go by, it’s the small things you’ll no longer have time for.

At a recent visit to a friends house; Mum was eating half bites in between feeding baby and trying to clear up toys before Dad got home and heated up leftovers for his dinner after doing baby’s bath and bed time whilst Mum had headed out for work. With child care being so expensive, they’d found that part time evening work was the only way of keeping afloat but this obviously has had an effect on time they shared as a couple.

And over a cup of tea (of which hers went cold whilst she tried to eat and feed baby and then was put into the microwave to hand over to Dad when he got in as he wouldn’t have time to put the kettle on..!) she explained that when they did have time together, it was as a family, not a couple and they didn’t begrudge their kids taking centre stage but had noticed that connecting with each other had become harder to do. I’ll point out at this stage that they also have a toddler who I was helping to keep occupied whilst everything else was going on, I didn’t just go round and smugly watch the chaos!

And this is a familiar story for a lot of families. Unlike my Grandparents time, it’s not common to have your whole family on the same street anymore, and although these days you’re more likely to have friends nearby, as my friend pointed out, you can’t ask your friends for the same support as family can provide. And with more and more people living further away from close family members, it’s hard to juggle family life in such a fast paced modern world.

We’re very lucky and have quite a lot of family locally and with both of our jobs, we’ll have quite a bit of time to parent together but it’s undeniable that moments like we’ve treasured in the past and especially recently will be fewer and further between.

So for our last few weeks as a couple, we are going to soak up as much time together as we can, before we get permanently cast in the roles of ‘Mum & Dad!’ Roles that we happily signed up for but roles we are undoubtedly unqualified for, that’s surely half the fun..!

Today however, I am absolutely wiped. So today, no big trips out or long walks or energetic activities. Today we tick off from the list a ‘duvet day’ (although with the weather still being so warm, it’s actually more of a loose sheet day…!) a marathon viewing session of the series New Girl, a favourite of ours, pyjamas as official day wear, followed by some more board games in the garden and a lazy, easy to do dinner. I may even throw in a nap, it’s the spontaneous spirit that keeps life so exciting after all. We will probably venture out at some point, we’ve heard the local Tesco has a Ben and Jerrys ice-cream offer on at the moment and that seems to line up quite nicely with our plans!

It’s a quiet life at the moment, it won’t stay quiet for long, it’s a tiring stage of pregnancy, a fatigue that certainly won’t get better in the months that follow. But there’s also a real feeling of content.

Don’t get me wrong, I see us all taking on the Great Wall of China as a family in the future, adventuring across the globe and getting up to all kinds of mischief!

But right now, we’re concentrating on enjoying being two people in love, on the cusp of becoming a family, preparing for what’s to follow, which although it may seem boring from the outside, feels on the inside, a lot like an awfully big adventure…

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The Calm Before the Storm…

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After a VERY busy show week during my third trimester, the start of maternity leave was a very welcome change of pace. For a good three days, the traditional post show come down ensured that days at home with a quick trip out into the sunshine was as hectic as the schedule became. Now on day four, I’ve realised that a longer post show recovery time is needed when nearly eight months pregnant, however my thoughts have started to turn to the next few weeks before baby arrives.

So many people have told me that as it’s our first child, I’m in a rather magical position where I can really enjoy a few weeks. With any future children, I will have our first to look after so relaxing days at the spa will no longer be an option! Therefore, I feel like I need to be prepared; you can feel there’s a list coming up can’t you…? Well before the obvious pre baby maternity list of dreams, first I’ll list the most popular tips I’ve been given from friends, family and various forum members.

– Sleep, get as much sleep as possible, if there’s time for a nap, TAKE THE NAP! (I cannot emphasise enough how many people gave me this tip..! If only getting a good nights sleep wasn’t so tricky with a ridiculously active baby bump!)

– Spa days, spa lunches, trip to the spa, manicure, pedicure, get thee to a pampery! (Financial constraints allowing of course!)

– Bake, sew, knit, decorate, any creative pursuit, whilst the time is here, DO, MAKE, CREATE!

– Get away for even just a couple of days with your partner on what is now fashionably known as a ‘babymoon,’ before you both get knocked sideways by the early days of parenthood, book in a few days to relish some quality time together.

There were many more weird and wonderful suggestions, including a link sent to me for a half day out of falconry…as someone who is terrified of birds, a fear that’s only been more severe during pregnancy, even the accompanying picture on the link made me need to put the kettle on and have a sit down..! However the above four were the definite favourites and mentioned almost with every recommendation. The main restriction for most families is of course financial constraints, as much as I’d love to temporarily move into a spa, the treatments don’t come free.

However these days, websites such as groupon, wowcher and living social can be a new Mums best friend! As well as offering up some great local ideas including UK breaks, they are all advertised as cheaper than normal. Another benefit is that these discounts are sometimes only open for people who can go in off peak times for the various companies which of course, on maternity leave we can do! If you don’t mind hunting around yourself, you can often get discount prices for spas, restaurants and hotels if you’re able to go mid week or outside their popular times. Not quite as easy if you’re maternity leave starts during school holidays but luckily for me, my more restful weeks fall just outside of those!

So without further ado, I made a list of the things I plan to do before baby arrives, my ‘pre baby bucket list’ if you will! I’m sure there’ll be some things I don’t manage to get round to and depending on when baby decides she’s ready to make an appearance, I may end up with slightly less or more time than anticipated!

1) My husband and I are currently scouring the websites for potential babymoon options as a couple of relaxing days away sounds very appealing!

2) A spa day, whether it just be hanging out by a pool or having a specific treatment, either sounds like a treat to me!

3) A trip to the theatre, where I only have to be there just before showtime and can leave when the curtain comes down. I adore working in theatre but being heavily pregnant, being an audience member would be a real treat!

4) I have very nearly finished collating a collection of poetry I’ve been writing over the past couple of years and I feel now is the time to finish it, I can’t see it staying a priority once the little one arrives!

5) Do two dinner date nights. We watched a horrendous reality programme the other day where a single looking for love goes round to three peoples houses, has dinner and then rejects two of them by sending a microwave meal for one, when they are all ready for a date out for two! Although that might not seem to be a particularly good precursor to romance…we plan to go to the supermarket, separately get ingredients for a three course meal. And then for one night each, cook a three course meal for the other, set the table, get ready (nothing fancy but not in pyjamas!) and ban all talk that normally interrupts a night in; ‘did you reply to the estate agents about the bath sealant/should we sort out the shed/what date does the internet bill come out again?’ A proper romantic night in, times two!

6) Finish our pregnancy journey scrapbook, it’s a present to our baby, one she probably won’t even be interested in but with little anecdotes from the pregnancy, how we both feel, events in the news, what music, films etc are popular right now. A keepsake from the year she was born. The idea is to include the first few months of her life as well but who knows how thoroughly I’ll do it once I’ve got baby sick in my hair roughly two hours sleep a night and all the rest..!

7) Get our baby’s bedroom decorated, rather more practical than the rest and we’re not even doing anything particularly dramatic but we do want to put a few little things up so that when baby arrives, the room is ready!

8) Have the girls over for a night in! There’s no better therapy than a night of giggling with the girls, Sainsburys do a fab non alcoholic wine so I can even really feel like I’m treating myself!

9) Plan and have a baby shower – yes yes it’s an an American thing really but a chance to get excited about the upcoming arrival, play those daft games you play at baby showers and get together with friends? Sounds like a great use of an afternoon to me!

10) Compile a list of films and books I always mean to watch and read but never normally find the time to do so. Baby brain makes remembering them at the time I think about sitting down and doing so near impossible so at least with a handy list available, it could at least shortcut the three hour debate that usually happens before films are selected!

11) Keep up with the articles, I’m currently being paid for one or two articles a month for a magazine publication group and only started doing it in a professional capacity earlier on this year. I am determined to make sure I am able to keep it up throughout, as it has always been a dream of mine to be a paid writer and although monthly articles do not make me Enid Blyton, I owe it to myself AND my daughter to carry on with it.

Eleven isn’t the most satisfying number to have on a list but there it is! I am so excited to welcome our baby into the world, and I cannot wait for the inevitable carnage that follows, my husband and I are only prepared for the fact that we won’t be prepared. And therefore, in the calm before the storm, we are going to make the most of the maternity leave.

Us first time Mothers have no idea what is to come, which makes this time terrifying as well as exciting; it will never be as much of a mystery again, so whether you’re at the same stage, or a seasoned pro, please do share your knowledge or experience, I don’t know about my other comrades but this Mum-to-be would be very grateful indeed!