To some people, it may seem bizarre that we spent a weekend in New York and didn’t step foot into Manhattan. But to me and my brood (husband, three month old and two year old), it was the perfect way to enjoy the vibrancy and excitement of New York without getting caught up in the fast paced, relentlessness of a city. Instead, we opted to spend our time solely in Brooklyn which for those that don’t know the area, is one of New York’s five boroughs and is a melting pot of different communities and cultures with a healthy dose of hipster thrown in. In the last years it has undergone rapid gentrification and now the streets, particularly in Williamsburg, are lined with quirky cafes, clothes, interior shops and more.
We only had three nights there before heading Upstate so we crammed a lot in. Here’s my top picks which are a combination of things we did and things we-would-have-done-had-we-had-more-money-more time-and-less-kids (Thanks also to some further inspiration from my friend, Sophie – @sophiesoso) :
Brooklyn is renowned for extortionately high rental prices (average rent prices are $3000 per month) which the hotel rates reflect. People rave about the Wythe hotel (as well as the cocktails you can get at the rooftop Ides bar there) and I’ve also heard good things about Box House Hotel in Greenpoint which offers apartment style accommodation with a small kitchen and living room. Box House also have a shuttle service to take guests anywhere within a mile of the hotel – ie. they’ll drop you anywhere in Williamsburg or Greenpoint – which is great for transporting little ones / huge amounts of shopping / getting yourself back to your bed after one too many. We opted for an air b n b apartment in Williamsburg close to Bedford Avenue – a mile long stretch of road between McCarren Park and the Williamsburg bridge which is “where it’s at” (interestingly, there is huge controversy at the recent arrival of an Apple store…). This had the huge advantage that we could walk everywhere which meant we didn’t have to waste money on cabs or the subway, and we got to know the area pretty well by the end of our stay.
Wow, where do I begin? The restaurant scene in Brooklyn, particularly in Williamsburg, is electric and the ingredients are amazing. Brunch is the big thing in New York – though only on weekends – but that’s not to say that you can’t get wonderful breakfast or lunch every other day of the week. Go to Egg for simple fare in a minimalist vibe, the ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter at Five Leaves are ridiculous (I literally could hardly speak as I was eating them out of pure wonder that something could taste that good) – not to mention the Moroccan Scramble with merguez sausage and chickpeas. Dinner one evening was a Moroccan affair with friends at Mogador and whilst the kids slept beside us in the buggy / car seat, we enjoyed a wonderful glass of wine and delicious plates of salmon and cous cous. The restaurant was buzzing though apparently brunch there is something special. Another evening we enjoyed some sneaky cocktails at Diviera whilst they whisked up a meat pasta for Jack and Sam eyed up the table tennis table. The crowds at all of these places were ridiculously trendy – safe to say, we decidedly brought the vibe down a notch on the cool stakes with two kids hanging off us (sorry guys). Also don’t forget to check our Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea Food market on Saturday and Sundays (all day) on the Williamsburg waterfront which, with over 100 food stalls, is an absolute foodies heaven where you can find anything from churros to chicken wings – it’s totally buzzing (though maybe not ideal with two starving kids – queues can be quite long) Finally, don’t underestimate how good fast food is over there; we had an epic burger and chips at Shake Shack (now in the UK too!) and a plethora of amazing take away pizza places; one of these bad boys saved our jet lagged bellies circa 1am on our first night. We got ours from Best Pizza – it was epic – but I’ve heard good things about Antonio’s too.
No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to the waterfront to see the beautiful skyline. Dumbo, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is an excellent place to while away a day, especially with kids. Not only does it have a plethora of cool outdoor spaces overlooking the water, it also has a carousel for the little ones to ride on and you can catch the ferry back which is always a bit of an adventure for kids and adults alike. Also this Dumbo guide seems excellent to me. Sam is a big tennis fan so one of our days was also spent at the US Open which I have to say was awesome – if you can get to a sports match or manage to see a show whilst you are in New York, I’d massively recommend it. That place does live events so well.
Yes, I love travelling with my husband and kids but unfortunately the one front they massively disappoint on is shopping. We spent an afternoon wandering around the streets of Williamsburg with me darting in and out of as many shops as I could – here’s what I gleaned: Go to Catbird for everything from candles to jewellery (their tagline is “the Brooklyn mecca for all things sparkly and exciting” – need I say more?), Avigail Adams for gorgeous greek goddess headbands and bracelets, Soap Cherie for every natural bath product imaginable, Sprout Home for succulents, terrariums and macrame galore and Mociun for bright gemstones, ceramics and many more beautiful boho goods. I managed to sneak in a wander around Artists and Fleas, the designer and vintage market (open all day Saturday and Sunday – combine with a visit to Smorgasburg as they are opposite each other ) in a huge warehouse and a must for any trend-spotters, artists or designers. Or if you just like beautiful things at affordable prices; I came out with a gorgeous vegan lip gloss which I was pretty happy with.
Below are a few snaps from our time in Brooklyn – what an awesome corner of New York and the perfect way to start our America adventures…
Thanks for reading and as ever, please do leave me a comment with any tips you’ve got for Brooklyn or for the rest of New York. Or just to say hello – I love hearing from yas.
Check out this short video I made from our time in Brooklyn and here is what we got up to in Upstate New York.
I’ve made a discovery, and I need to tell everyone about it. It’s a simple, solid, reasonably priced piece of female KIT and it actually works wonders.
It’s a hairbrush. A boar bristle hairbrush.
A what? Read on…
So what is this?
It’s just a hairbrush – but the bristles, instead of being synthetic, are made from boar’s hair and the handle is made from wood. There are many different kinds; from the Mason Pearson being the best quality (the price says it all) to the humble Spornette which is the one I have. Boar bristle hairbrushes used to be very common in Victorian times (you’ve probably seen those pictures of the upper class women sitting at their dressing tables brushing their hair for hours…they’d have been using a boar bristle brush) but their usage died out in more recent times with the advent of so many hair products.
How does it work?
The brush works by redistributing the natural oils that your hair produces moving them from the roots to the tips of the hair. In other words, instead of keeping all the oils at the top (hence why hair often gets greasy at the crown of your head) it gets that grease to a good home.
What are the benefits?
For me there are two main benefits: firstly, using this brush has made my hair so much shinier and silkier thanks to all the natural oils running through my locks. It has seriously improved the condition of my hair so much so that people comment on how glossy my hair is now (I NEVER used to get that…’greasy’ not ‘glossy’ was the most commonly used adjective to describe my hair amongst my friends!) Secondly, and as a result of the first point, it means I have to wash my hair so much less (I used to wash my hair 2/3 times a week; I am now down to once a week) which for me is a winner not only because it saves mama over here time but also because it means I can avoid putting any nasties on my hair that shampoos inevitably contains (I haven’t mustered up the energy to make my own hair products yet).
There are several other advantages of getting hold of a boar bristle brush for yourself:
* I find that my hair definitely grows faster with it – when you brush, you are stimulating (gently) the roots on your scalp helping make more blood to flow to your hair follicles!
* Brushing is actually a really relaxing ritual (see below for how).
* If you are prone to dry hair or dry ends then again, the oil distribution is awesome at enhancing your hair’s moisture.
* Forget using hair straighteners, brushing with the boar bristle brush genuinely makes my hair much straighter. (I’m not sure how well the brush would work on curly hair – I have read that it is better for use on straight or wavy hair).
* If you are after extra volume, then the backcombing part of the brushing will give you tonnes of this.
But HOW does it work?
There is a “method”? (sounds cryptic) but it really is super simple. Every evening I brush my hair through with my normal hairbrush to get the tangles out. Then with my spornette I slowly brush from roots to tips around the crown of my head. Then I tip my head upside and do the same to the underside of my hair. I do this all slowly and quite methodically to catch every part of my hair but it literally takes 2 minutes and is really therapeutic.
And that’s it! I’m all about boar bristle brushes making a come back given all the benefits… Seriously, with one of these babies, you might as well ditch half your hair products…
I hope you found this post useful and might be persuaded to bag yourself a brush.*
P.s To clean your brush simply pull out any hair stuck in it using the end of a comb then mix bicarbonate of soda and water together and dip the bristles into the mixture. Be careful to keep the wood out of the water and swill around a bit and then rinse under lukewarm water.
P.p.s I promise this is not an ad – I’m just a big advocate of BBB!
We’ve just returned from a wonderful family camping trip with some other ‘instamums’ (yes I did just use that word) and their families. From the gorgeous sunny weather to the banana and nutella crepes with a lot of happy, grubby toddlers, content babies and smiling parents in between (with some whisky thrown in), it really was a little slice of messy perfection and we are already discussing a repeat trip next year. However, we’d planned to go well before Sonny came along and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little anxious as to how it would go camping with a 10 week old, and that something inside of me wasn’t a little tempted to pull out on the grounds that “it was just too much”. But we did it, and it worked out really well so I thought I would share a few tips as a few of you have been asking / wondering about doing a similar trip. Do it – is my main message here – I promise it’s not as hard as you think. Here’s 10 pointers that we learnt along the way that I hope might help if you do give it a go:
1. The weather If there’s one determining factor which will make or break a camping trip with a newborn, it’s the weather. We were extremely lucky in that it was gloriously sunny with clear blue skies most of the time. You don’t even need sun; you just need it to not rain because damp clothes and a wet tent do not combine well with a newborn. We experienced this last year at Womad festival with Jack, who was 15 months old at the time, and well let’s just say we didn’t last much longer than 24 hours on site before we decided to pack up (with him confused as anything stuck under the buggy rain cover sucking on a plum) and drag our sodden kid home.
2. Staying warm It gets cold people! Colder than you think…especially in the middle of the night. Whilst for adults and toddlers it’s all about layers, with Sonny being so little I was worried about him over-heating if I layered him up too much (I put him in two vests and a babygrow). I’d brought along a furry sleep suit that would keep him cosy whilst we were out and about (something like this one) but in the end I found that this was far too bulky for me to wear him in the carrier with, which felt the natural and best thing to do to keep him nice and snug using my body warmth. I’d say though that a cosy bear one piece would be perfect if you are planning to use a buggy to transport them around in at night. For during the night I layered mainly just using blankets so that I could easily remove if need be. I kept placing my hand on his forehead to check his temperature (do not feel the hands or the feet as these can feel cold at all times because a baby’s circulatory system is still developing and so hands and feet are the last body parts to get a good supply of blood. It’s common for tiny fingers and toes to feel chilly!) The other essentials are mittens and a hat for outside (Thanks Jess, if you’re reading this!) as this really stops the heat escaping their little bodies – but don’t use these inside the tent to avoid them getting too night.
3. Sleeping At home, I co-sleep with Sonny (Sam sleeps on the sofa bed for now!) but I knew that this wouldn’t work whilst camping because the inflatable mattress is not a good surface for a baby as it is too saggy. Instead we used our Sleepyhead which was perfect and also kept him really snug. I simply placed it on the floor besides us, with a sheepskin throw underneath to prevent further cold rising from the ground, and just leant over when he needed feeding. It was actually easier than at home as he wasn’t raised above me but rather we were at the same level, on our own mattresses.
4. Daytime chilling Without carpeted floors and clean sofas, you need to think where you will be able to *put* your baby down. My clever friend Shivvy brought along a bumbo seat (her baby is a few months older) and a baby bouncer which was so useful and kept the babies sitting happily for at least enough time for the mamas to enjoy some sips of tea / run after the toddler. She has the Baby Bjorn bouncer which is foldable and in my opinion, perfect for traveling with. NB – you can also use a carseat for this purpose!
5. Evening time Come the evenings as soon as it got dark and a little chillier, I instinctively wanted Sonny close to me. I would put him in the carrier – I use a Close caboo which I love – and that way I was totally hands-free to watch Jack and enjoy the evening. I can also breastfeed him in that carrier which came in handy too and avoided having to get him out in the cold for feeding.
6. Creature comforts The tough thing about camping of course is that you are without your home comforts but for Sonny I felt it was important we brought along some creature comforts. He always goes to sleep with Ewan the sheep so we brought him along too – which was also doubly helpful in drowning out any other over zealous campfire chats going on outside the tent.
7. Nightfeeds One of my concerns about camping with a newborn was that Sonny would wake to feed in the middle of the night which would wake not just my toddler but the others on the campsite too. In fact, Sonny is generally quite quiet when he wakes and no one seemed to hear a peep from the little bit of crying he did do, and Jack slept through it too. I would say however, that if your baby does take a while to settle then this could make things a little tricky. The first night Sonny was a bit difficult to settle and cried a bit which was a little stressful but I actually found that both nights he slept just as well, if not better than he does at home – result!
8. Choose your campsite carefully As much as I love the idea of being somewhere far away and remote, I was also conscious that should anything at all go wrong we’d need to be fairly close to ‘civilization.’ The campsite, which I would hugely recommend, is under two hours from London The other major advantage of the campsite, WOWO in East Sussex, is that you can park up right next to your camping pitch which is super helpful for everything from charging phones to dumping stuff you don’t need in the tent. There was also a shop on site (great for stocking up on staples such as milk and cider), a barn with a big TV and games, food trucks and fire pits outside every pitch.
9. Everyone loves a newborn…and their mama I think this is an important if not easily forgotten one – people genuinely LOVE small babies. I found everyone was so lovely to us around the campsite, going out of their way to be friendly be it passing us wet wipes to mop up a bit of baby sick or just throw us a big smile. As an aside, given how much mama is ‘on duty’ even on holidays, I try to bring a couple of little luxuries for me. These include a lovely woollen blanket to go on the air bed, coconut oil (acts as moisturiser, perfume and make up remover in one) and a small bag of make up (ok, one eyeliner and a lipgloss) and accessories (a small necklace can make all the difference). I’ve been on holidays before where I’ve barely put on a bra and I’ve realised that this doesn’t actually make me feel good, so I try to prioritise making mama feel a little bit well, OK.
10. Do it! I knew that really all Sonny needs is to be kept warm and fed – in fact, his requirements are a lot less than his two-year old brother! Also given that babies at this young age have basically no routine, I really found he did just go with the flow – and when he didn’t, there was always an adult around happy to give him cuddles. I was also totally prepared to give camping a go, and for it to be a failure – but I’m so glad it wasn’t. So my advice is prepare, pack and…GO FOR IT.
As ever, please comment below if you found this helpful and pass along any tips you might have! Thanks so much for reading…
Giving birth naturally has always been top of my bucket list so I felt super blessed when I was able to do just that with my second son, Sonny, a few weeks back. It’s definitely not something every woman looks to go through – birth is SUCH a personal and unique event and every woman has entirely different needs and wants plus there is just no way you can ever fully know or control what will happen during birth (we had planned a home birth, which we couldn’t do in the end) but I know for me, giving birth drug -free was something I deeply wanted to do my best to experience.
Unlike however those stories you hear of women having a baby from start to finish in 35 minutes, or in the taxi on the way to hospital (I always think those kind of births are the easiest kind in many ways), my natural birth did not just ‘happen’ to me. I really prepared for it during my pregnancy and become quite intensely focused on it in the final weeks. By the end, I almost felt like I was revising for an exam and the only thing left for me to do was to take it and leave the rest up to destiny.
So following some lovely comments on some Instagram posts mentioning some of this preparation, I thought I’d do a little blog post outlining exactly what I did in the hope that some of it may help other pregnant women also looking to have a natural birth. I am absolutely no expert but sometimes it just takes a bit of inspiration from another mother to make a difference – I know a lot of what I did was from other womens’ advice. I’ve divided my tips into what I did pre labour, and what I did once I was in the early stages of labour.
PRE LABOUR – Active *Relaxation* and *Environment*
-Almost as soon as I fell pregnant, I started reading natural birthing books to start filling my head with positive and natural birth stories. The ones I recommend are Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Birthing from Within.
-I took a Hypnobirthing course with the Positive Birth Company and practiced most evenings in the weeks leading up to my birth either listening to relaxation scripts on my headphones or having Sam read one out loud. I truly believe that this helped train my body and mind into a trusting, relaxing mode which would facilitate a natural birth.
-I took some pregnancy yoga classes with Jill Miller from the Active Birth Centre. They were just drop in, so I could go as and when I wanted to but again this was another way I would relax, be able practice my breathing and learn about natural birthing positions and mantras.
-In the final weeks of pregnancy I also went swimming as this is said to get the baby into an optimal position for giving birth, and is another way for mama to relax.
-I wrote quite a detailed birth plan – this was less for other people and just another way for me to concretise my wishes. By writing them down, they become even more real.
-I took time to think about my birthing space. By this I mean the environment I would be in once I went into labour. I am someone that is very affected by atmosphere so whether at hospital or at home, I knew that my surroundings would be very important to me so I painted positive affirmations in bright paint on small pieces of card to put up around me. I also had friends and family paint some too as a way to channel some of their energy too. I found this SO helpful during labour – particularly when I was lagging and needed a boost and would look up and see some optimistic words staring back at me without having to ask anyone.
-I created two Spotify playlists as again I knew that music would be a powerful force for me. One playlist was energetic and upbeat, and the other quieter, more chilled out music. Both served their purpose both before and during labour to at times energize me and at other times calm me down.
-I set up an incense burner which I lit once I went into labour to give off a soothing and relaxing smell.
-Soft lighting was paramount for me so I had candles and fairy lights ready if I would give birth at home and electric tea lights for hospital which I ended up using and which truly helped create the calm environment I knew that I needed. In fact, the first thing I did when we got into the room at the hospital was ask for the lights to be switched down low.
DURING LABOUR – *Distraction* and *Action*
-Got other kids? I hung out with my toddler Jack for as long as I could in the early stages of labour. I gave him breakfast and sat and played with him which helped distract me and pass some time.
-I started honing into my environment; so I switched my music on and lit my incense.
-I watched (part of) a funny film – another way to distract myself.
-I stayed active by going for a long walk and bouncing on my ball.
-I started sniffing clary sage gently to bring on contractions.
-I also (although this sounds contradictory) rested to preserve energy for later so took myself to bed to nap for 45 minutes.
Other things you could do: ask your partner to give you a light massage, use a tens machine, bake a cake, paint. Go with your instinct…anything to keep you calm!
I hope you find a few of these tips helpful; for me, I know that preparation was key to bringing about my natural birth and it was something that I had to really channel in to. Got any other tips you can share? I’d love to hear them….
Best of luck and most importantly, try to stay calm xxx
P.S Here’s my birth story and below is a short video from my labour experience if you fancy a peek.
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
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 🙂
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…