Tag Archives: Pregnancy Crib-notes

Pregnancy crib-notes: some things I wish I’d known about two

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‘How are you doing with those two boys?’ people ask.

The answer is: ‘Today I am awake. So today is good’.

Do you remember those guest posts I published back at the beginning of July, with people giving advice about moving from one to two children? I loved them. I still read them now, since seven months and 1278 dirty nappies isn’t nearly long enough to feel like you know what you’re doing. But I have discovered some things, and not all of them are chocolate button-related. If I could do some sort of spiffy time machine action and land right in the middle of 30th June, 2013, I’d…tell myself to give birth on the BATHROOM FLOOR, NOT THE CARPET, IDIOT. And I’d also say this.

(I know I’ve been going a bit Buzzfeed, lately, with all these lists. That’s 11pm talking. I’ll write something with paragraphs this week, I promise.)

you can love them both…

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I worried about this the way everyone worries about this, even while knowing that it was silly. This boy I’d poured heart and soul into for almost two years – how could I love someone else in exactly the same way, without taking away from what I had with my first, or feeling like I was somehow cheating on him? Well, it just happens: gradually and subconsciously at first, then on it comes, like a tidal wave – implacable, deep-seated love. Oh, my little Teddy. He exists in a whole different chamber of my heart, and I love them both for themselves, and together. It just happens, honest.

…but choosing between them still hurts.

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Perhaps this gets easier. I never seem to have enough time to do all of the things I want with them both. I know that making them share and take turns with my attention is extremely good for them, but I always feel a twinge of guilt for the boy I’ve put to one side. You can’t help comparing them, either, and that’s a guilt-maker too. It helps to remind myself that Henry was at this stage once, and Edward will be at this stage soon, and neither of them can help being where they are at the moment. Which is true of everyone, anyway.

you’ve done this once already. You can do what you want now.

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The biggest surprise for me was how much more confidence I had to follow my instincts. The first time I handed Teddy over to Tim for a bottle, after four long weeks of feeding him every two hours, I screwed myself up in bed and cried. Then I stopped, because I’ve done this before. And it was unquestionably the right thing to do with Henry, and it happened to be the right thing here, too. It’s not that you can repeat the experience with your first child exactly, because they’re both very different. But I have a better idea now of when to follow the book, and when to trust my gut. Most of the time I still feel like I’m winging it. But this time I know that one day, I’ll wake up and realise that this thing I’ve been agonising over for months and months has just gone away, without me noticing.

for three months, embrace the chaos

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Those early days of newborn-and-two-year-old. Oh, my giddy aunt. When the boiling needs of your children consume every waking minute, and your waking minutes are nearly all the minutes there are. A good friend told me just afterwards that it took her three months to start climbing out of the chaos, and I clung onto that like a life raft. It was true for me, too – and I would add that it then took six months to get them both to a stage where proper routine is possible. So I tried very hard not to feel guilty about anything in the early months. Getting to the end of the day with us all alive, fed, clean(ish) and happy was more than enough. I slept whenever they both slept, whatever else I could have been doing. What I’m basically saying is that I spent three months with crazy hair and ignoring the vacuuming. And it was fine, and it got better.

the baby phases are even better than you remember

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I’d forgotten about that furious look of concentration when they spy something they want to pick up. Or the way they tell you how nice you are by grabbing your face. Or the way their whole body tenses with excitement when you come into the room. Or that phase where all they want to do is ride around on your hip, because the view is so much better from up here. We’ve been delighted all over again – and watching Henry be delighted by them too is wonderful.

there has never in this universe been so much poo

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You know how when women live together, their cycles start to coincide? Small children have the same thing, only with bowel movements. My text messages to Tim these days are all in capitals, with fractured sentences like ‘BETWEEN THE TOES THIS TIME’, and ‘SEVENTEEN WIPES REQUIRED’ and ‘HAVE STRIPPED THEM BOTH NAKED AGAIN’. I have discovered, too late, that you cannot have too many wipes, or nappies, or disinfectant, or protective head-gear. I have become a form and texture expert. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME.

Even on the less good days, there’s this. Two really is better than one.

Hey, are you incubating a foetus right now? There are more pregnancy crib-notes here: 

What you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

Things to do at thirty weeks: an alternative list for the anti-nester

Five maternity styles I’ve learned to love…and five I love to hate

Pregnancy crib-notes: what you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

ATTENTION: this post is pregnancy-specific. In the sort of way that you probably won’t want to read it if you’ve never thought much about the details of getting a baby out (let’s face it: who would want to if they didn’t have to?). Shall we talk about Beckett tomorrow? Ok, promise. 

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Yesterday Sarah and I ventured into the attic. By which I mean, Sarah went up into the attic, I yelled instructions from below, and Henry climbed up the wrong side of the ladder shouting ‘LATTER! LATTER!’ like some kind of demented miniature chimpanzee. Up went the suitcases and down came the newborn-sized clothing bundle, and I could wash all the tiny, tiny things and finish my hospital bag at last.

The hospital is the great unknown in pregnancy: the flashing neon light at the end of the long, baby-growing tunnel. You have a number to call when your waters break, but no idea what you’ll find, what they’ll tell you when you arrive, or how long you’ll spend there before you come home as two people instead of one. The labour might well be the part you’re most afraid of, but by the time you get to 40+ weeks, you’re so desperate to get a baby instead of a belly that you’ll do practically anything to get the job done.

I love the idea of home births, by the way, and completely champion the rights of women to have them if it’s a situation that will make them feel more comfortable. For me, they’ve never quite worked: I like the idea of going away to have my labour in an environment with medical assistance in the next room, then bringing the baby home to my clean, safe place. Also I’ve never wanted to clear up the mess, afterwards (lazy but entirely characteristic, I’m afraid). It’s one of those things where you just have to listen to yourself.

Anyway, I feel a huge amount better about the prospect of my second labour, because I can visualise where I’ll be and what might happen. If you’re a first-time mother-to-be, anxiously scanning hospital bag lists online and wondering how much of it you’ll actually need, I thought a handy guide might be helpful.

Have a gander at this, then, lovely huge person:

what you might actually need to birth a baby, and why 

First, find a bag of reasonable size that can be moved easily. A little wheeled suitcase is ideal. Write your list on a large piece of paper, and tape the paper to the front of the bag, crossing off as you put things inside. There will be things that can’t go in until the day of (your pregnancy notes, your make up bag, etc), so once you’ve finished everything else, write these in VERY LARGE FONT and put a box around them. Then draw this to the attention of whomever will be taking you to the hospital. Honestly, you won’t want to be thinking about it yourself.

Here’s what might go on your list –

1. Pregnancy notes

2. Things for your new baby.

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I didn’t get, at all, that we might well be in hospital for a few days and that a new baby can go through LOTS OF STUFF in that time. Your family can run back and forth with anything you’ve forgotten, but I’d plan for about three days as a good medium. Which means–

– Three baby gros.

– Pack of vests
Mine’s a five-pack.

– Baby hat
You’ll need to dress your new baby in a vest, baby gro and hat to keep them warm after the birth. We had to tape Henry’s hat on his head, he was so small, but whatever works. Air feels exceedingly unfriendly after months of amniotic fluid.

– Pair of scratch mitts.

– A couple of pairs of baby socks

– Two newborn blankets
You and a brand-new baby who just got expelled into the world and doesn’t like it much? No one’s getting much sleep in that scenario. But the warmer and cosier you can make them, the better your chances. 

– Newborn nappies
You would not BELIEVE the enthusiasm with which a newborn can fill a nappy. What is going on down there?! Last time I brought three nappies, ho ho. Don’t bring three. Bring a whole pack, and expect to need more.

– Cotton wool pads, and small plastic container
You’re not supposed to use baby wipes on a properly new bottom. All that crumply soft skin. But fiddling with cotton wool balls and water is the worst thing ever when the meconium makes its first appearance at 3am, and then its second and third and fourth. Make things easier on yourself by getting the wide cotton wool pads, and bringing your own little container for warm water.

3. Things for your labour.

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The key here is to remember that you might be there a while, and you need to be comfortable.

– Labour clothes
You’ll need something a) loose, b) long enough for you to wear without bottoms in that bit at the beginning where you still have personal shame, and c) something you don’t mind never seeing again, because you won’t want to. Go and buy the cheapest nightie you can find, or appropriate a large button-up shirt that doesn’t get worn.

– Socks
They’ll probably want you to wear those attractive green compression stockings, but your feet might still get cold.

– Lip balm
Delivery rooms are dry, and you’re breathing a lot.

– Camera
Even if you only want photos when the birthing’s safely done (yes please), and even if those brand-new half-naked photos are for family eyes only (YES PLEASE), this is still a moment you’ll want to remember forever. And also one that you’ll have difficulty remembering as soon as it’s over. Take the photos so you won’t forget.

– Snacks for your partner
You probably won’t want or won’t be allowed to eat, but I didn’t feel that Tim should be allowed out of my sight while everything hurt so much. Not fair to starve him, though, especially if you’re there some hours. I haven’t put these in my bag, but they’re on my list so that we can have something in the house when we need it. 

4. Things for after.

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– Pair of loose pyjamas

– Flip-flops
For the shower. Just trust me on this. Buy a cheap foam pair you can throw away afterwards. 

– Underwear
Bring in bulk, in a larger size than you normally wear.

– Maternity sanitary towels
We will say no more about this, except to repeat: BRING IN BULK.

– Nursing bra and breast pads
They’ll want you to breastfeed at least once before you’re allowed to leave the hospital. Don’t worry too much about this, as there’s lots of help. But having something that will easily unclip will save you a bit of middle-of-the-night fumbling.

– Toiletries
Things to shower with, hairbrush, make up, dry shampoo. Having a shower and putting a tiny bit of make up on really does make you feel ten thousand times better afterwards. To save time and space, I bought travel sizes of everything and put them all in one ziplock bag.

– Going-home clothes
Sad to say, I looked about five months pregnant for a good couple of weeks after Henry was born (and didn’t fit my old clothes for many months after that). I know you don’t want to see your maternity clothes ever again, but still: bring clothes that are loose and comfortable. Otherwise that victory lap around the hospital corridors, while you try and remember where you parked the car, might be more revealing than you’d planned. 

I’ve made this list look ridiculously long. It isn’t, honest. I got it all into a miniature wheeled suitcase, and even included an extra water-friendly top in case I get to try a water birth this time. A warm bath without Henry using my bump as a bongo drum would be a refreshing change, labour or no labour.

Happy packing!

Things to do at thirty weeks: an alternative list for the anti-nester

I’ve been a bit list-tastic lately, no? Forgive me: I’m tired enough that long sentences hurt my frontal lobe.

This morning I got my Congratulations, Thirty-Weeker email from Babycentre.co.uk. It included a list of feel-good things to do in the last sprint towards Labour Day. Very nice, I thought. But it was all a bit too much about nesting, and – I know this will come as a shock – I’m not really the nesting type. So I wrote my own, and will be taking this advice extremely seriously.

Congratulations, Thirty-Weeker! Why not try some of the following?

1. Realise you have only ten weeks of food excuses left. Retrieve the Ben & Jerry’s from the freezer, and finish it.

2. Spend twenty minutes trying to paint your toenails. It’s difficult, and may require some greasing, but it’s probably your last chance. In the same spirit, book a haircut and buy some heavy-duty concealer and waterproof mascara.

3. Take innumerable self-portraits in the mirror. Soon you won’t fit in the frame. Remember to edit out the chocolate around your mouth (done).

4. Think of the next two months as the final marathon slog for your skin. Take baths. Exfoliate. Use much, much cream. Wangle as many massages as you can.

5. Take some time to remember what life was like with a newborn. Reread old blog posts if you have them. Resolve to schedule two naps a day from now on. Start stockpiling chocolate gateau.

6. Tell everyone who asks (PLEASE STOP ASKING) that actually, they’re right: you are having twins after all. Thought you’d make it a surprise.

7. Abandon heels, finally. The elephankles are coming. Treat ’em right.

8. Organise some sort of pulley system for lifting and carrying your toddler. I have this sort of thing in mind (I’m the elephant, Hen the war-painted arrow-shooter).

9. Revisit the baby name shortlist. Tell Daddy, again, that you’re not naming the baby after him. Reluctantly strike off Sweyn Forkbeard. Don’t talk about specific names with anyone but the two of you: at this stage, people aren’t shy about telling you they hate it.

10. Sort baby supplies list into Must Have Now, Can Probably Buy Later and I’ll Never Use That Anyway. Buy, at the very least, a ten-pack of tiny vests. Keep them where you can see them. They’ll remind you why you’re doing this, and that it’s all going to be fine.

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No, it really is.

Five maternity styles I’ve learned to love…and five I love to hate

A confession for you, dear reader: I hate dressing when pregnant. I wish I were one of those wonderful ’embrace the bump’ women, who style themselves well and look fabulous all the way through. You know. The women who glow, with the hair and the heels. When I’m pregnant, I’m hot and chafey and keep banging into stuff with the goldfish bowl I’ve got smuggled under my shirt. What I want to wear is pyjamas. Yes, the ones with the little dogs on. Only those, please.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s precisely because I find it difficult to style myself when pregnant that I absolutely have to. When I make the effort, I feel better. And so I present five maternity style truths I have (reluctantly) recognised as gospel this time around…and five I wish I’d never tried.

the loves

1. maxi skirts

Maxi skirts
Unpregnant, the skirt I like best is a swishy A-line. It makes me feel a bit spesh. But A-lines work when you have a waist: without one, a tall column silhouette is more flattering. Enter the maxi skirt. The bonus is that you don’t have to make the effort to shave your legs (THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE WAY). This one from Dorothy Perkins is my new best friend.

2. tailored jackets

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For me, until the last few weeks my pregnancy weight sinks like lumpy custard to my bottom half. But regardless of how your body changes, looking as streamlined as possible improves any outfit. The tailored jacket is a recent discovery: you can’t button it (obviously) but it does wonders for your arms and skims nicely down your back. If it’s too hot for jackets, a fitted cardigan will do the same job. I have an old corduroy jacket in teal I’ve been wearing the heck out of, and have been ogling lovelies like this from ASOS.

3. belts and ties, ties and belts

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For my first pregnancy I wore a lot of t-shirt tops in larger sizes. It was summer, and flowing styles were in. That’s all very well at the beginning, but once you’ve got a proper bump you end up looking like a capital D, side-on. I have embraced the empire line with fervour this time (the one that nips in under the bust). If a top or dress doesn’t have one, I make one with a little belt or ribbon tie. It just gives a bit of definition where you need some. The elasticated bodice on this tunic top from H&M is making me happy. And I’ve worn this dress from Next to death.

4. belly bands

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More on why you need these in the fiery-burning-hatred section. Belly bands are elasticated tubes you wear over the top of your waistband, to bridge the gap between top and trousers. I’ve never found one that was tight enough to keep the trousers up on their own, but ah, the security of knowing you can wear a pre-pregnancy top without flashing an outie at a startled bus driver. Worth its weight in gold. You can get them at any maternity shop, or very easily online.

5. leggings

leggings
I’ve been putting this one off. I HATE leggings. Hate it when people wear them with short tops and they’re sheer enough to see underwear. Hate how I feel like I’ve forgotten to put on trousers. I finally made the leap this weekend, on two conditions: they had to be thicker than winter stockings, otherwise you might’s well just wear stockings; and the top had to reach at least halfway down my leg. Oh, my dears, I’m afraid I will never go back. I’m so carried away with all the ease of movement that I keep executing lunges in inappropriate places (ahem, doctor’s office). I’m wearing these, but you know leggings. They’re everywhere.

the hates

1. ‘maternity trousers are much more comfortable’.
You know what? They’re not. I would happily consign maternity trousers to the inner circle of hell where they belong. Here’s the thing: trousers fall down, when you’re pregnant. It’s inevitable. Replacing the waistband with a scary-looking giant elastic gusset that stretches over your bump means that your only option for keeping them up is a pair of suspenders (I have seriously considered this). When I wear maternity trousers I spend every second minute clawing up the crotch from around my knees. This is especially undignified in the supermarket. BURN THEM.

I much prefer wearing my old jeans for as long as humanly possible (unbuttoned and covered with a belly band), and then looking for slim-legged trousers in the next size up (which may also need to be worn unbuttoned). Anything to escape the gusset. Anything.

2. ‘everyone needs a crisp white button-up’.
I believed this so wholeheartedly, I bought one. But shirts don’t usually cling, and they aren’t soft. They don’t fall naturally around any of your new curves. So you end up looking like a box-shaped waiter with straining buttons. Lots of websites also recommend just wearing one of your husband’s, but see the Capital D problem, above.

3. ‘show off the bits that are still skinny! Mini skirt/sleeveless dress/short shorts, anyone?’
Ladies in the Next catalogue: I am SO pleased that your pregnancy involved growing a bump and nothing else. Myself, well, we’ve covered the lumpy custard thing. I also have dimply elbows making an earlier-than-scheduled appearance. Can we just stick to knee-length stuff, for now? And maybe ditch the cap sleeves?

4. ‘cottons and linens: so cool in the summer!’
No. Anything that requires steam-ironing in the morning will look like a crinkled bin bag five minutes later. You spend a lot of time readjusting clothes, when pregnant. Stiff cotton or linen clothes (whether shirts, trousers or dresses; I’ve tried them all) will make your bump look like a canvas for interesting creases.

5. ‘you can wear your old tops the whole way through, if you layer a camisole underneath’.
Be careful. I’m not a huge fan of the skintight t-shirt look, especially when it starts riding up over the bump (with or without a camisole underneath). And I ruined a lot of my favourite clothes the last time, because I wore them longer than they could take. Bursting out of my favourite grey silk skirt was a really special way to celebrate Timothy’s graduation.

Do you hate any of my loves or love any of my hates? Found a style you can’t live without? Most importantly, do you own any maternity trousers that don’t make you want to tear off your legs and get around on a skateboard instead? Tell me! And go forth and conquer, baby-carriers. Me and my goldfish bowl are going for lunch.

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