I was recently invited to attend a flower arranging workshop by the lovely folk at Bloomon where I had the chance to learn how to arrange the perfect bouquet as well as get some inside floral secrets’ everything from how to help your blooms stay fresh for longer to adding dill in your flower arrangements. Oh, and we learnt that flowers have emotions. (they do, apparently!). Read on to find out what else we learnt. View Post

Sonny’s Birth Story

I’m not much of a thinker – especially when it comes to the ‘big’ things in life. I decided on my A-levels as I was filling out my UCAS form, I didn’t try my wedding shoes on until the night before and we live in a house in a totally unplanned location.

And so the fact that I put so much thought into my second birth was a bit of a surprise. Jack’s birth had been O-K. There were thankfully and most importantly, no major dramas, but there were all sorts of small mishaps along the way from being mis-measured by a student midwife who told me I was 4cm more dilated than I actually was to my epidural falling out at the heights of labour, a back to back baby, two doses of pethidine, an episiotomy and stitches; all of which meant a three and a half day labour in hospital and being left feeling fragile and totally exhausted before even contemplating looking after a newborn. My body felt like a wreck, and I think if I’m honest, I had underestimated birth and what a huge undertaking it can be emotionally and physically (especially when you are 5 foot tall and deliver a 7 lbs 9 baby) I had obviously heard that it was tough but being a determined person, and knowing that my mum had given birth four times entirely naturally, and because we are so similar, I had (naively) thought that I would follow suit.

I knew that second time round I wanted a different, and more natural birthing experience. Giving birth is arguably the most important and the most difficult (not to mention, potentially dangerous) day of your life; but I believe it can also be the best, the most natural and the most beautiful day of your life, that if goes smoothly, can set you and your baby up for an amazing start in life together.

So I set about doing everything in my power to be ready and feel strong to aim for the best birth experience possible. We decided a homebirth would be the first step, I then took early maternity leave from work, Sam and I did a hypnobirthing course with the amazing Positive Birth Company, I spent time with Jack, painted positive affirmations and babygrows (see my post about my “Non baby baby shower”), bounced on my ball, had physio, took afternoon naps, swam, did some perineal massage and generally got to know my pregnant body and my “labour space.” There’s a fair amount to organise for a homebirth so I really focused on that – not least sorting and blowing up a birthing pool. On the Sunday, I passed my 40 week “due date” happily. That week I’d been having some little “niggles” but had been breathing through them calmly. The Thursday after I felt unusually energetic and set about doing some gardening and cooking and even left the house to go food shopping. That evening, Sam had to go out so I went to bed alone putting on my hypnobirthing music as I had been doing almost religiously for the last few weeks. I was aware of Sam creeping into the bed a few hours later, and not long after that, whilst floating in a really lovely dream, I suddenly awoke to what felt like a little pop and some warm water trickling down my thigh. Sam was still awake watching the ipad as I popped my eyes open. “Hi babe”, he whispered, expecting me to just lull myself back to sleep. “I think my waters have just broken!” I stammered, smiling broadly, eyes wide. “OK,” he gulped. And so, the moment had arrived; the journey to meeting our new baby had began …

The first thing I did was to call triage who asked me to come into hospital to be checked that my waters had actually broken. To have to go into hospital at this early stage wasn’t exactly ideal not least because it was midnight by now and I wanted to sleep. Anyway, despite knowing I *could* have opted to remain at home, and not be checked, we decided to go in. I showered, phoned my mum to come and sit in with Jack, and at around midnight we headed out into the night to drive to hospital, bleary-eyed and nervously excited. Once in the waiting room, I plugged straight into my music so as to avoid hearing other women labour. The midwife did a speculum examination and confirmed that my waters had indeed broken – which was good news as it meant my labour had started – and I was then hooked up to a machine to have baby monitored. All was fine. *****Wow! The less good, slightly stress-inducing news was that hospital protocol meant that I would be given18 hours to go into active labour (4cm or more dilated) or to give birth or they would consider the baby at risk of infection and I would need to be admitted to hospital, given antibiotics, and I’d have to stay there (insert emoji with tears pouring from eyes). I had 18 hours. I immediately didn’t like the time constraint – especially knowing how slowly my labour with Jack had progressed – but still, my baby was on its way and that was pretty awesome.

By the time we got home (filling up the car with more petrol “just in case”), it was 3am. I tried to sleep for a few hours as I knew that conserving energy would be key at this stage, but I was getting minor contractions and feeling pretty pumped. On the Friday morning, I ate some chia porridge whilst bouncing on my ball and relaxing in silence. Sam and Jack soon woke and I pottered downstairs for a bit with Jack, playing with him and giving him his breakfast. It wasn’t that comfortable though and soon my mother in law came to collect him. By now I was feeling quite emotional; I gave him a big kiss, knowing that the next time I’d see him he would have a new little brother or sister.

With some more space and quiet in the house, I had some tea, showered and dressed calmly and slowly, listening to my birthing playlists and resting when I needed to breathe through any minor contractions. I decided it might be a good idea to go for a walk in the fields near us, so we packed some provisions, including my clary sage and headed out. I knew that walking was a good way to get things going – and it was lovely to have some fresh air and be in nature. We walked and talked and held hands – it felt good. Too good. And in the back of my mind I was worried as I knew time was ticking by. I had until 5.45pm until I would need to return to hospital to be induced. They had written that in big black letters on a form given to us the night before at hospital. Whilst Sam chilled on a bench, I started walking round and round a huge cricket pitch, sniffing occasionally on my clary sage and listening to my music. Every now and then I would have a minor contraction but I knew it was nothing much.

We decided to return home, by now feeling a little bit frustrated, and we started watching Bad Neighbours (WATCH THIS FILM if you are a new parent – it is hilarious) I wasn’t comfortable though and was getting anxious and now quite tired from all the walking I’d done. I was still not feeling much and lay down for a little bit – there was still “time.” The nap made me feel better but when I woke, nothing had changed and after a conversation with my home midwife who confirmed I would need to go back to hospital as I didn’t seem to be in labour, we grabbed my half-packed hospital bag and reluctantly returned to hospital where we made our way to the labour ward. By now I was starting to feel a little low, as I felt my plans for a home birth slip away from my grasp.

Sam was trying to help me stay positive but I couldn’t help it – I felt gutted, and I felt scared. I knew that once in hospital, they’d want to give me antibiotics, keep me there, and induce me by administering syntocin – which I knew to be very strong, and which often goes hand in hand with an epidural, which can then lead to an episiotomy (due to the lying down position in which you are giving birth) This all happened to me last time and from my hypnobirthing training, I knew that intervention can often lead to more intervention. For me, the more medicalised a birth, the more out of control it feels. I called my mum who rightly reminded me that this was about a baby, not about a birth – and if there was any potential risk to him or her, we needed to act. We got taken to a tiny room in the labour ward and left. One of the reasons I dislike hospital so much is the idea that you are at the mercy of other people – told one thing, told something else, stuck in a room, left waiting, midwives and doctors flitting in and out without really telling you anything. All things that can make you feel really anxious. I lay on the bed, and could just hear Sam on the phone asking my mum to bring in extra supplies. I was in my own little world though, all the while not contracting, and getting increasingly frustrated and despondent. I went out to the front desk to ask how long we would be waiting to see a doctor. A sharp and nonchalant reply came, “around 3 hours.”

With that, I decided to get up and off the bed, I don’t know what happened to me but it was as if my mind and body became one right there and then and started up. And in a bizarre twist of fate, in what was easily the most stressful moment of my labour, my body started contracting. These contractions felt different; I couldn’t talk during them or between them and they were coming closer together. I started throwing up. I read my positive affirmations which Sam had stuck up on the wall. I stopped thinking. But subconsciously, I knew something was happening. Sam knew too. After some time contracting, a lovely midwife came into the room to measure me. That familiar feeling; lying back, staring up, having someone stick their fingers up you. “Well, you’re certainly on your way,” she said, “You’re 4cm.” The relief on hearing those words was immense. It meant that things were moving, it meant that I was in established labour and crucially, it meant that I had options now as I wouldn’t need to be induced. We phoned our home midwife who confirmed that we could return home, I could continue labouring there and we could forget waiting 3 hours for the doctors .

At this point the midwife in the labour ward returned and told us that she had managed to speak to the doctors for us. Knowing how much I wanted a natural birth, they had said that as an exception that they would administer the antibiotics and let me move to the birth centre. At this point, things became a little stressful in terms of deciding what the next best course of action was. On one hand, the thought of going home seemed comforting and it was after all, the “plan”, but on the other hand, it was by now around 10pm, dark, we’d have to go in a car whilst I was contracting, Sam would have to fill the pool up, we’d need to wait for the midwife to arrive…cthat seemed unappealing and a little scary. It was when the hospital midwife told us that a lovely, huge room was ready for me in the birthing centre, and that the pool was being filled, that both Sam and I realised that having been given what felt like a “get out of jail” card (being able to leave the labour ward), the birth centre seemed like a great option. We agreed, and the midwife inserted the cannula with the antiobiotics into my wrist and we left the room. “Do you want to walk up there or go in the wheelchair?”, asked the midwife, “Walk!” I replied. I had a bounce in my step, I knew this baby was on its way, and I was back on track with the labour I had so hoped for.

I power walked up the stairs to the birth centre. On entering, I immediately felt calmer. It was quiet. There were no white coats or long corridors. We were shown our room which, as promised, was lush. With a double bed, and a large pool, private bathroom and various other apparatus, I felt at home there. We met our midwife, Angelina, and the student midwife, and straight away we asked them to dim the lights. Sam started setting up my positive affirmations on the walls, electric tealights and playlists whilst I stripped down and got in the pool, all the while having to balance on one hand only as the cannula couldn’t go in the water. The midwives were with me constantly from the moment I entered the room, checking baby’s heartrate and my temperature every 15 minutes, and there when I needed them, but otherwise remaining quietly in the corner. The pool was really warm and felt pretty good. Again, too good, because after a few hours in there, I had only dilated 1cm more.

At this point I could see Sam go over to have a word with the head midwife, after which they both suggested that I get out the pool as it seemed to be slowing my progress. I knew they were right. That’s the thing about labour; it’s hard work, and unless it really feels like bloody, bloody hard work (at least in my case), it’s not really happening. During this time, I also had to have a catheter inserted into me (bloody painful) as I wasn’t drinking or urinating enough. When she measured me, the midwife had also seen that my waters hadn’t fully broken (given there had only been a trickle the night before, and nothing since, this seemed to make sense), only my back waters had, so she pierced them. There was a gush of water. I stood up and headed to a set of bars on the wall that I had been swinging on but not before I was hit with the most enormous contraction. This was something else. The piercing of the waters had obviously brought a new intensity on as the head must have dropped and put extra pressure on the cervix. After a few more similar contractions, I had to get back in the water for some relief. I didn’t know it at the time, but with each contraction, I was dilating quickly towards 10cm and experiencing pain (not a hypnobirthing word but oh boy!) like I’ve never known. I was also entering what is known as the transition phase of labour – my focus was faltering, and I started to doubt that I could do it.  It was at this point that I called out to Sam that I couldn’t take it any longer and that I needed an epidural. By now it was about 4am. At this stage, the midwife suggested gas and air which I took, if not just to distract myself, but I didn’t like it and it didn’t help. I ended up having a few puffs and discarded it. Sam and the midwives knew that I was getting closer to meeting our baby, meanwhile I was definitely floating in a different world at this point and whollly consumed with labouring this baby. Thankfully, I soon found myself calling out that I needed to push. Funnily enough, I didn’t really believe it myself as I said it as I had just been told that I was only 5cm and it felt more like a cry for help. But looking back, I think at this stage you have little control over what you say – you are pure animal at this point.

Anyway, I was right! The midwives came over to the pool holding some things. The senior midwife started talking to me and telling me to stay calm and to listen to her. Sam was by my side, encouraging me to keep breathing but once I realised I was in the final, pushing stage I could no longer keep my shit together. I abandoned all my hypnobirthing practice and breathing and just needed to yell this baby out (I think I may have even done some moo-ing!) With each contraction, I pushed as hard as I could, whilst the midwife coached me through it. I kept asking if she could see the head, I was desperate to know that I was making progress and that this baby was actually being born. I was checking with Sam, who was by now down at the business end. I desperately wanted to feel the head myself and was trying to come up out of the water but the midwife insisted I stay down in the water (babies need to be born in the water, and then come to the surface, not be born in the air, take their first breath, and then plunge into the water) She was encouraging me to really make the most out of each contraction, and to push as much as the baby out as possible with each surge. I must have pushed about three or four times when I felt extreme expansion down there and the baby’s head come out followed by a slippery, squirming sensation as I birthed his body. And then the most incredible feeling – sudden relief. That split second realisation before I met our baby that the pain had ceased, that our baby was in this world, and that I’d done it! A totally unforgettable, most intense and amazing feeling. The midwife caught the baby in the water, and asked me to hold my leg up so she could pass him through to me. I thought to myself, hang on, I can’t do that. But I could. My baby was out. She passed him through and up to me, I took him and she helped me place him on my chest. I collapsed back onto the side of the pool holding my new baby. A miracle. I saw his little penis, and asked Sam if he knew the gender because I did! The midwife cut the cord as it was a bit fiddly and were getting a little concerned that I was losing quite a lot of blood so helped me out the pool, whilst Sam held the baby. I was led to the bed where I lay down and started shaking uncontrollably – I think from the adrenaline. They wanted to get the placenta out as quickly as possible to prevent any more blood loss so whilst I’d wanted to birth it naturally, by this point all that mattered was that my baby had been born, and I wanted to be healthy, and to hold him! So I agreed. (It was amazing to see the placenta though – it’s awesome, and much larger than I’d ever imagined)

And with that, lying back in the bed, I was handed back my baby. I placed him back on my chest and fed him a little, not taking my eyes off him. He had so much hair, just like Jack! We decided on Sonny as a name there and then, for our second son, and on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. Once all the formalities of the various checks had been carried out (he weighed a healthy – for me – 7lbs 14!), we were left alone in total peace. And with that, the three of us lay on the bed together floating and cuddling before drifting off into the most beautiful, hazey sleep, all totally exhausted and entirely in love.

I justfeel beyond grateful and happy to have experienced childbirth naturally – though it’s not for everyone, for me it was a true privilege and dream of mine. Yes, the home birth didn’t go to plan (when do births ever fully go to plan?) but what he had instead lived up to everything I’d hoped for (and more – we had the most amazing postnatal care and room with a double bed and tea and hot meals bought to our bedside!).

I’ve added some more photos below, and a short vlog I made of the experience 🙂

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and thank you for all your support and advice along the way – such an amazing group of mamas out there in t’internet world 🙂

Emma x

Emma.xxx

ELLA GRACE DENTON

Ella is, quite simply, an awesome chick. I came across her Instagram and immediately felt a really strong connection to her so popped her an email. She soon replied, and next thing I knew, we were hanging out in my living room with my toddler Jack, and pottering in the garden centre down my road all the while sharing our life philosophies. Ella is passionate about veganism, sustainable fashion, conscious living, travel and much more. She is one of a kind – watch this space, world! To read more from Ella, head to her blog (http://www.wntlm.com)

1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The idea of a huge, cold, banana smoothie

2. whats the first thing you do once you are up?

Drink a big glass of water with squeezed lemon in it, put on some music and then get smoothie making!

3. Tea or coffee or ‘erb?

‘Errbbbbbb all the way. Forever a herbal tea girl. Loving Pukka teas at the moment!

4. Fry up or healthy?

A vegan fry up consists of beans, spinach, mushrooms, rye bread and avocado so is pretty healthy! But I’m a big one for starting the day raw!

5. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

I recently found vegan pain o chocolate! (Spellings?!) and let’s just say a few rounds of those have been in and out of my oven recently.

6. When are you happiest?

When I’m in nature. Being outside, swimming in the water, bathing in the sun, lying on warm sand, eating fruit and talking about “bigger things” with friends would be an Ideal day for me.

7. What makes you angry?

I’m a pretty mellow person in terms of anger… My anger comes out as sadness.. But I suppose I’d say, thoughtlessness, betrayal and any kind of bullying or making someone feel lesser.

8. In the last year you have become…

More confident in who I am!

9. If you can pass one piece of advice on to your former self, what would it be?

Just to trust that everything that I dream about is already happening and in motion. If I could tell myself where I am in life now and what’s happening I wouldn’t believe it.. And that happens every year! Just trust! And be free! And keep being ballsy.

10. And finally, crunchy or smooth? (peanut butter)

Crunchy.

Overdue – And So Happy

So, I’ve hit the big 4 0. As I write, I am 40 + 4 – 6hrs. Sound a bit ridiculous and silly? That’s because it is. Your 40 week due date is a date prescribed to you by doctors based on the first day of your last period: it doesn’t take into account how long your menstrual cycle is (mine is crazily irregular…it can be anything from 28-38 days) and nor does it consider when you actually conceived. So although some women have a body that behaves like clockwork, and they may know the date you conceived, the vast majority of us are not so ‘normal’ or regimented. For this reason, only 1 in 20 women actually delivers her baby on her due date – you’re just as likely to go into labour any day during the two weeks before or after. As Hollie from the yesmummum puts it, “your due date means nothing….You are not a robot and neither is your baby.”

Which is why I don’t understand the whole obsession over due dates in the first place. If we know them to be scientifically dodgy, why do we place so much emphasis on them? It is single handedly the most-asked question as soon as people find out you’re pregnant, and indeed throughout pregnancy. People want to know the exact date you’re going to produce a baby, as if they want to schedule it in their diary (let alone yours!) I always went out of my way to just say “the end of May” when people asked, but now that I am clearly reaching the end of my pregnancy, people want exacts.

So when they find out I’m “overdue”, they (friends, dear friends!) react by sending text messages asking boring questions such as “Are you in labour yet”. Even if I were in labour, do they really think I would be texting them telling them? The other thing people do is immediately jump to suggest I take castor oil, consume copious amounts of chilli or have “hard (yes, really!) sex.” Can you tell this is niggling me? Anyway, here’s 5 reasons why I find this attitude slightly irksome and why I’m taking none of their advice – and simply, calmly, just waiting.

1. Without sounding like a whack, I trust my baby. My husband and I have been practicing hypnobirthing through this pregnancy which, even if it all goes to pot in the actual labour and I can’t muster up a single positive thought (please no!), it has certainly helped reinforce the idea that I already knew anyway. It can be summed up in what has come to be one of our favourite phrases we now pass to each other smiling, which is “baby knows best”. I love the fact that my baby is just “chilling” (the word I like to use most frequently), floating about in my tummy, happy as larry (according to the midwife). I’m not worried as I know he or she will certainly let me know once they are ready to make their way into the world.

2. Being “late” has allowed me to really, really prepare for this baby. We are aiming for a home birth, and there is actually a surprising amount to do ahead of one (and I’m still sure that in the moment there will be things that I’ve not thought of) I’m not quite sure what I would have done had I been “early”. It’s also allowed me to do some more things often considered luxuries, such as go swimming, dig out old heirloom cribs and arrange photos into an album. All things that, let’s face it, you just don’t get to do half as easily once a baby comes along. I wrote a blog post here about everything I was planning to do on maternity leave – which coincidentally, I started early in case I wouldn’t have all this time!

3. And most luxurious of all? Being able to spend some amazing quality time with my toddler with him as my only little one. We’ve had some gorgeous slow days together in the garden and pottering in the kitchen – and yes whilst now admittedly I find taking care of him really arduous and am so fortunate to have help from parents and in laws, I love soaking up these times with him. I’ve also been able to introduce the idea of a ‘baby’ and every night we put a baby doll to sleep and in the morning we go and wake her up together which has been really special (and cute!)

4. It is simply amazing being blissfully lazy! By that, I mean having free license to order take aways – and eat them in bed, go to sleep at 9.30pm guilt- free, watch films in duvets, take day time naps. At what point in your life, other than when you are heavily pregnant are you able to really call the shots and decide what you do of a Saturday night? Don’t fancy getting out of your PJs all day? Not a problem. It’s been amazing; it feels so good for the soul and has been so lovely for not just me, but for mine and Sam’s relationship.

5. A bump is for 9 months, not for life. I want to cherish this time being pregnant – I know it is a real honour and not something everyone can go through so why would I wish any of it away? (Fortunately, I’ve felt well throughout and only had minor aches and pains – I do appreciate that suffering from chronic pelvic girdle pain would make this another story.) It is such a special time, that I am patiently riding out and soaking up. Surely pregnancy – however long it turns out to be-  is really the first lesson in learning to practice patience as a parent?

So those are my reasons I want to tell “enquiring” people to politely sod off when they press me to get an induction, or keep asking if I’ve progressed. Of course if the baby is in distress, or I am not feeling movement, or if I go over 2 weeks, I will act and consider my options. But til then, I’m very happy snoozing, opting for pizza over curry and not having someone stick their hand up me if they don’t have to, thank you very much. This is the best waiting game in the world people! Anyway, besides all of that, I’m sure the minute that I press ‘publish’ on this post, something will happen…

An Alternative Baby Shower

Whilst the idea of a baby shower with games, presents and balloons fills me with dread, I think the essence of one – celebrating a mama to be and dedicating a space and time to her and her impending journey – is really special. I love the idea of ‘creating’ something ahead of the birth that may help in labour, being a little arty and actually producing something lasting from it. So one afternoon this week, I grabbed a few friends, brewed some tea and laid down some newspaper so we could all get a little creative. We got most of the materials from Tiger stores as this seemed most economical but you can also find lots online at Amazon too or of course just in your local art shops. The below are all super simple ideas that we brought to life because trust me, we are not artists!

1. Positive birth affirmations

As I am planning a home birth, I want to create as calm but also as inspiring an environment as possible to give me any tools that might help get me through labour. With this in mind, I thought it would be nice to put up a few small signs around my home just reminding me of some simple techniques and sayings that might provide me with a small boost right when needed.

What you will need:

– Set of paints
– Watercolour paper
– Birthing books with quotes / phrases / sayings you already know and like. I have been practicing Hypnobirthing, and am aspiring for a natural birth as much as possible so books I have been reading and really loving which I used for this activity are  Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to ChildbirthBirthing from Within and the Katharine Graves’ Hypnobirthing Book
– Brushes – ideally, with small tips so you can write words clearly
– Wax crayons – optional – use wax crayons to write your words and then use the paints to lightly wash over the wax leaving a beautiful colourful swirly background behind your words

2. Customized baby vests

Yes, we have a tonne of Jack’s old baby vests that I have dug out from the shed, and yes, we might be fortunate enough to get a few new bits and pieces for him / her, but nothing beats something home made and fully customized does it?! These vests are so easy to make, and I think will look super cute on our new arrival.

What you will need:

– Pack of baby vests (long or short sleeved – depending on the season you willl give birth) We used this pack from M&S which seemed good value at £9 for 7.
– Acrylic paints
– Paintbrushes
– Piece of cardboard / bundle of newspapers

How to do it:

Lay out your vest and before getting started, pop your piece of cardboard between the front and back of the vest (this is to prevent any leaks when painting on the front through to the back) Then just get designing! It was awesome to get Jack got involved in this activity too which he absolutely loved – his little handprint features on the front of one of the vests (my favourite one!) Once done, leave the vests to hang to dry for a long time…. smudges are  not a good look. P.S After some research we went for Acrylic paints as these seem the most likely to stay put through washing – when first washing though, I do advise to do on a cold wash.

4. Word cloud

This is a cool one – and so simple. We used this word cloud programme where you simply enter a bunch of phrases in and it spits out the below word cloud. This is a lovely sign full of positive, beautiful words that I’ll put up in one of our rooms to glance at during labour.

5. Belly painting

I bought these paints from Amazon which seemed pretty reasonable though in the end we didn’t get round to doing this activity. However, I did it last time round when pregnant with Jack and created the animation below and can highly recommend belly painting as one of the most fun a pregnant lady (and her friends) can have ! Just make sure you have baby wipes and a friend that can semi paint on hand…

If you’ve got any more ideas for a baby shower that’s perhaps a little bit different then please do drop them in the comment section below – I’d love to hear them and may well just have time to put some of them in action 🙂

A Super Easy Kids Party

For Jack’s first birthday, I went all out (predictable, huh? Over-excited first time parent over here…). I made everything from scratch including a if-I-do-say-so-myself fairly mega monkey cake. It was awesome, and I so enjoyed preparing everything for him but this year round for his second birthday, I find myself 36 weeks pregnant and well, just feeling a little, ummm, how do I put it… L A Z Y. View Post

Why You Need To Get Outdoors Today

My love for the outdoors is all-consuming and ever-growing. Being outside in nature, ideally in a spot where cars and people cannot be heard, is what makes me happiest. Nothing else compares to that feeling of *freedom* that simply cannot be replicated when indoors (especially if you, like me, live in London or another city). This is why being outdoors makes me feel good: there are less boundaries and the opportunities seem endless. As long as you respect the Nature around you, and the strength she possesses, spontaneity and instinct take up the driving seat. You never quite know what you will find when you’re in Nature – and therein lies the magic…

Since becoming a parent (our little boy Jack is approaching two and we have another one on the way, due at the end of May), spending time outdoors has become even more precious to me. On a personal level, there is nothing I love more than watching Jack play in nature, and see him amuse himself with sticks, stones and mud, exploring all the elements before being plonked in a bubble bath at the end of the day. He hasn’t yet fully experienced snow and I am so excited to see his reaction, and watch him grimace at the cold of it (or more likely, cackle with glee). I can’t wait to watch him build his first fire, swim in the sea (so far he loves nothing more than running into the waves) or pick his first wild flower.  Outdoors is such a natural environment for children which is why I hope to send him to Forest pre-school when he is old enough where the curriculum centres around outdoor play and learning through hands on experience with the natural world. Mathematics skills taught through counting stones? Yes please!

But it extends beyond just my fondness for seeing Jack play in the mud and capture cute photos for Instagram. In the wider UK population, there is a real breakdown of connection between children and the outdoors, which is having serious implications. Just last month, the Guardian newspaper revealed a survey showing that three -quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Another government report earlier in the year found that one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. This shows the extent to which time spent playing outdoors has shrunk and is actually quite shocking especially when you consider that increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children is being linked to lack of physical activity (Source: Mark Sears, The Wild Network).

We know that the pervasiveness of technology in our lives has caused much of this, which leads me on to another reason why the outdoors is so crucial. Another poll, led by Persil, as part of their amazing #dirtisgood campaign, found that children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. We cannot stop technology playing such a major role in our lives, and of course it has many advantages but the need to counteract screen time with being outdoors is even more pressing. We need to ensure that we spend time away from screens and get some fresh air into our minds and bodies. With so much digital technology at our fingertips, we NEED the outdoors more than ever.

Finally, Nature affords not just parents – although it has become a huge crutch for me – but any person who might be feeling a little fragile a means to breathe new life into a situation and potentially improve their mental and emotional health. So many days I have woken feeling low and exhausted after a poor night’s sleep and sought solace outdoors in the woods by our house. Things tend to fall into perspective when you realize how small we – and our problems – really are, and Nature can shake us back to this reality in the kindest, most beautiful way. We travel as a family extensively and one day I’d love to visit the redwoods in California, the tallest trees in the world at around 300 feet tall, and just stand beside one. I cannot imagine how intense and calming that must feel.

There is a growing gap between us all and nature as our lives become increasingly enclosed. And yet we know the importance and beauty of the outdoors. To quote the MP Liz Truss, let’s get back to “climbing trees, not walls.” Emma xx

P.S Conversations with a Forest School Leader

On Taking Early Maternity Leave

The day I became a working mum was the day my head space reduced down to the size of a pea. If they talk about ‘baby brain’, I think ironically mine only kicked in once I returned to work and left my mummy life as suddenly I had a gazillion things running through my head, and very little time to compute anything. Hence why one morning I turned up to a very important work meeting with my eye mask still dangling around my neck and a milk-stained top. Let’s just say thank gosh for bladders (obviously I had not had time to use the bathroom that morning so was desperate to go on arrival to work. Well, you can imagine my face when I saw myself in the mirror. It wasn’t pretty)

Working motherhood means being the best juggler in town. The presentation you need to deliver tomorrow morning in front of the entire Sales floor….the milk you need to stock up on for your toddler’s bedtime….the Whooping cough vaccination you need to arrange being pregnant second time round…the gift you need to get for your colleague’s leaving do. It’s a constant battleground of semi-important thoughts and action points fighting to win a place at the top of your head resulting in, for me, frequent feelings of stress.

So when I sat down a month or so ago and computed the fact that we are due to have baba number two at the end of May, not only was I stung by the pelvic girdle pain that had crept over me (but I’d ignored), I was also overcome with strong waves of anxiety. Bringing another human into the world is a BIG deal and not something to be taken lightly. It is bound to have huge changes on our family life and the environment and habits we currently exist in (namely, no bedroom fit for a new baby and being able to generally get a full nights sleep – EEEEEKS! ) and I realised that I really craved time to properly prepare for the next chapter of our lives, and the first chapter of the life of a very important person we were even yet to meet. And so I decided to take early maternity leave at 33 weeks, and writing this on day one of that, I can safely say I think it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. Today I was able to already start clearing the room, listening to BBC radio 2, drink multiple cups of herbal tea and attend a physio’s appointment – all such simple and yet soul-lifting activities.

I’m determined to make the most of this period of time as I’m aware it’s an extremely precious and privileged time so I’ve listed below some of my aspirations for the next six weeks. A public to do list, if you will, which I will keep checking in on over the next five or so weeks.

Spend time with my kiddo  – There’s no doubt about it, however much mine and Sam’s lives will change, someone else’s life is about to change a whole lot mroe. Jack, our two year old, is soon to become a big brother, which means a huge amount of adapting on his part and also inevitably less time  spent just the two of us. I really want to spend the next few weeks soaking him up (sounds strange, but you know what I mean) and enjoying our time together and seriously bonding before a certain new someone makes an appearance.

Start cooking again – Since returning to work, I’ve massively neglected cooking, which is genuinely a passion of mine. Dinner has tended to be at best spaghetti bolognese if I’m feeling energetic or at worst, frozen pizza or a takeaway. Cooking has just slipped through the net and I want to reclaim it! I got the beautiful Hemsley and Hemsley cookery book as a leaving gift so the plan is to dive into that and get experimenting.

Practice hypnobirthing – having been taught by the wonderful Siobhan at the Positive Birth Company, I now need to practice practice practice; this is key to hypnobirthing having an effect as you need to get your body used to relaxing, and get to know the different triggers that get you best into this state. I also need to make a birth plan and be clear on the ‘conditions’ I am hoping for..On that note…

Do a dry run – we are aiming for a homebirth, complete with a birthing pool. I’ve been advised to blow it up and fill it with water to practice before the actual day to iron out any potential problems assembling it! We also need to get some cheap shower curtain sheets to lay down everywhere….

Gardening – I love pottering in the garden, especially with Jack, and marvelling at what is sprouting. We even started growing some vegetables. But it’s another one of my passions that fell by the wayside once I went back to work and our little garden has become totally neglected and overgrown with weeds. So when I say gardening, I actually mean weeding 😉

Work on this blog and my YouTube channel – Again, since returning to work it’s been really tricky to create content. I’ve had to fit it in around working and mummying, resulting in very little time. I have so many ideas for new posts and cannot wait to get going on it all.

Baby shower and belly painting – whilst I am not keen on too much fuss and fanfare, I’d love a small sort of ceremony with some positive affirmations and perhaps a touch of belly painting with some of my closest girl friends. Now’s the time to be surrounded by good female energy and get creative, right? This is what a friend and I created last time round…

Go swimming – swimming is said to be one of the best activities for pregnant women and I’ve heard that it helps the baby get in a good position and given this baby is back to back at present, I need all the help I can get… Just got to find me a cossy (Argh!)

Pack my birthing basket or bag – I have a few goodies I plan to keep hidden away until I go into labour, such as this Neals Yard massage oil which smells divine and which could be a really useful tool for the early stages of labour to help my husband help me relax. I would also like to get some clary sage and lavender to sniff at during labour. Any other herbs/tinctures I should be getting? I need to of course prepare the clothes, nappies and blankets for our new arrival – and clothes for me should I need to transfer to hospital. We also need to get some old shower curtains for laying the birth pool down on!

Bounce on my ball – let’s get this baby moving! Now that getting ready in the mornings isn’t a race against the clock, I can actually enjoy bouncing on the ball…and it makes a great addition to the teeth-brushing experience may I say.

Listen to the radio – This is a real hobby of mine, which being at work running in and out of meetings doesn’t allow for. I have recently discovered BBC radio 2 thanks to my instagram followers so have been really enjoying that – it’s a perfect mixture of music, news and discussion.

Sort out the bedroom – as I alluded to above, we do have a room for the new baby but it is currently, let’s say, under construction, and has become somewhat of a junk room. And though I know the baby will be with us for the first six months or so (Jack moved out at 4 months), I’m trying to be organised and get this sorted now as I know further down the line spare time will be a real premium.

Print off and arrange photos – this is a biggy ! Since having Jack I have of course taken many, many photos – most of which remain on my phone, on Instagram and nowhere really to be seen other than on the Internet. I want to change this and get them printed out and arranged in albums to be able to look back on properly, and not just have them live on a mobile phone.

Take baths – one of the most beautiful things in life (even when surrounded by a tonne of plastic toys) and definitely something I plan on doing more of. Just so relaxing, which is exactly what I need right now…

Arrange Jack’s second birthday – Jack is turning two at the end of the month and I need to do some planning! So far, we have entertainment in the form of my husband playing some nursery rhymes on the guitar and a few paper cups…Hmm.

So these are my plans for the next 4-6 weeks… I’m just so grateful to have this time and want to make the most of it. Please drop me a line with any ideas of other things I should be doing pre number two coming along… I know there won’t be too much time for much once he / she does. And anyway, I think this is what they call “nesting” which you’re supposed to do right? 😉