Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do this?
Four days later I was released and we headed home to the boat where we settled into a nice routine of feeds, nappy changes and sleeping. Everyone advises you to sleep when your baby sleeps and sometimes I did. At other times though I would stay awake just holding my baby. I loved him sleeping in my arms. This ‘sleep anytime, anywhere’ stage doesn’t last long and I want to relish every possible minute. Throughout my pregnancy I had everyone and their uncle giving me baby advice and this only seemed to increase now I had William home. To be fair, some of it was useful; tips on getting that illusive burp up and how to hold a newborn in the bath were fantastic. But most of it, without meaning to sound ungrateful, was unasked for and unnecessary. I had more than one person tell me, while I was pregnant, that I shouldn’t change a cat litter tray. I can understand if the person giving this invaluable advice didn’t know me; therefore not knowing that neither me nor any of my friends have cats, but the people telling me were my friends – they knew this already! A strange anomaly I noticed as well was the amount of people who would regale a horrific birthing story when they found out I was pregnant. When I pointed this out to my dad he opened with ‘that reminds me – did I tell you about when one of you, I can’t remember which one (I’m one of four), was born’. I stopped him at this point, he just over-rid me with ‘you were born with teeth and bit your mum on the leg on the way out!!!’ Trust dad to make me smile when I’m feeling stressed. Folk also seemed to find it funny to tell me how fat I looked. Most of the time I would laugh this off and make some comment back about how I’m growing a baby – what’s their excuse? But every now and then, when exhausted from creating ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes, I wouldn’t be able to smile at them. Here’s my (unasked for) advice to all tellers of that ‘joke’: Look at the pregnant lady first – if she looks completely knackered, out of breath and dying for the loo, don’t take that opportunity to tell her she looks fat too. She won’t take it as the joke you intended it to be and there’s a good chance you will end up with a crying pregnant lady on your hands. And no one wants that.
Family will give advice whether you want it or not and you just have to put up with that. You learn to nod in the right places, take the advice that’s good and ignore that which is bad; with only the occasional huff of exasperation when feeling particularly run down. Strangers giving advice, however, continues to baffle me. I mean, family have heard the back story and, ultimately, are just trying to help you in any way they can. Strangers know nothing of you or your baby. I had a man at the library ask if my 3 month old baby was sleeping through the night yet. When I replied ‘No, he still wakes for his feeds a few times a night’, the man started giving me a lecture about how I need to get his sleep sorted immediately or I’ll be making trouble for myself in the long run. I cut him off with a ‘Thank you for your advice’ and turned my back. It’s amazing how many people will start telling you stories of spoilt children they know and how to avoid your child turning out that way. And if I hear the phrase ‘making a rod for your own back’ one more time I swear I’ll scream! I felt like everyone was pointing out a better way of doing things for EVERYTHING I did and therefore, pointing out what a bad mother I was – like they were asking why on earth would I do it that way when this way is SO much better. Such as the correct way to put my finger in Williams mouth to sooth him. Or the best way to change his nappy (it’s not like I haven’t done it 8+ times a day for the past 3 months…)
Wow. That was quite the rant. Sometimes you need a good rant to get it out and get over it. I just hope that in the future when William brings his girl home with the news that they are having a baby, I don’t immediately break into stories of how I did things and the best way to do this or that. Fingers crossed I’ll wait for them to ask for my advice before I give it. I’ve no doubt, however, the occasional word of ‘wisdom’ will slip out and that’s why I try to bite my tongue when I’m on the receiving end.
It only seemed like yesterday we were bringing William home from the hospital and now, all of a sudden, he’s 15 months old. Where did the time go?
After the birth of my beautiful boy, I was in the hospital for four days. The stay was fine, as hospital stays go. I had a private room because I have a latex allergy. The nurses said it was easier to have a ‘no-latex’ sign on the door than try and keep latex products away from a bed on a ward. I was happy for the privacy and not lonely as Adam stayed with me from 10am til 8pm every day. William had been born on New Year’s Eve and for that first night the staff were good enough to let Adam stay for the whole night. New Year has always been a very special time for me – a time to reflect on the past year, take stock of what I have achieved and set myself a few goals for the coming year. This New Year hands down beat any and all previous New Years. On our way into the hospital the morning of the birth we’d been travelling in at some awful time in the morning. I was a bundle of nerves and starving hungry! I wasn’t allowed to eat anything due to the planned surgery. In the car, we were listening to our usual local radio station. The topic for the phone-in was ‘what are your plans for New Year’s Eve?’, unbeknown to me, Adam had messaged in to say we would be celebrating with our first child, due to be born by caesarean section that morning. He knew it would take my mind off the nerves even if only for a few minutes when they read his message out. Well, as you can imagine, his message caused quite the stir at the radio station and, instead of just reading the message out, they rang us. Adam was driving so I had a quick chat with them explaining we were just getting to the hospital and we were both nervous about the operation but, overriding this, excited to be meeting our child. The radio asked if they could keep in touch through the day and broadcast the story as it happened. Little did we know the story would be followed by so many people. The station had folk ringing in asking if William had been born yet as they didn’t want to go out shopping until they’d heard all was well and if we’d had a boy or a girl. After William was born, Adam rang our parents first to give them the news and then he rang the radio to share our happy news with them too. They kept in touch with us over the next few days and we took William in to meet them a week or so later. Already William had his fan club growing by the day..
When we found out I was pregnant things didn’t change straight away. We had the happy job of telling our parents we were expecting – all of them were over the moon. For my folks William is their 4th grandchild but for Adams mum and husband he was their first. My folks tell me every grandchild is special regardless of how many have come before.
I carried on my evening classes but had to stop salsa quite early as I was getting too dizzy with the spinning. Tai Ji, however, I continued right up until the last week of my pregnancy. I’ve been doing Tai Ji for over ten years now and believe it was this that kept my blood pressure low for the whole pregnancy – lower than a healthy non-pregnant adult. The midwife said it’s no problem, just be careful for falling over; the fall is fine, she said, it’s the landing that’s the problem!!
Towards the end of my pregnancy it became apparent that my baby was a stubborn one (can’t imagine where he gets that from…) He was feet down and not for budging. We tried having him turned at the hospital and even tried acupuncture and moxibustion (a traditional Chinese herbal medicine). All to no avail though – this child was happy standing and that was that. I say ‘child’ because at that point we didn’t know if we were having a boy of a girl. After trying everything we could to turn baby we were told I would have to have a Cesarean section. I was devastated. I’d imagined a water birth with Adam and my mum present. I’d not ruled out pain relief and was just going to go with the flow. I was looking forward to giving birth and having my new baby put straight onto my chest so we could start our magical journey of breastfeeding. All this was shattered when the hospital told me it was too dangerous to try for a natural birth – a bum-down baby (breech) and it would have been my choice but a feet-down baby (footling breech) means baby would probably stick a foot out before I was fully dilated resulting in all manner of problems. Because I’d be in a cold theatre, it also meant I couldn’t have skin-to-skin straight away as I’d be too cold and would actually cool my baby down rather than help warm him up. Instead, Adam would have skin-to-skin and they would sit in the recovery room waiting for me to be stitched up. Now, call me selfish if you like but, I wanted first cuddle – I grew our baby in my body and I wanted to be the first to touch him, kiss him, hold him. I felt like I’d failed as a mother before I’d even begun. All this was by-the-by really. I knew the most important thing was to give our child the best start and if that meant Adam having skin-to-skin while I was finishing in theatre then so be it. The c-section went fine. We told the doctors we didn’t know the sex so please could they hold baby up to show us rather than telling us. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I imagined them holding our child up like the monkey does with Simba in ‘The Lion King’; I imagined back-lighting and a fan softly blowing the hair of the doctor (baby’s would be too wet and gooey to be blown around); I imagined a gospel choir singing in the back-ground… What I got was a strange pulling feeling in my stomach; I said to Adam I thought baby was coming, and the next thing I saw was a giant pair of testicles where the head should be!! My boy (I have a boy!!!) was being held upside down from the ankle by the doctor. They really should warn you the baby will be upside down. It makes sense to a rational thinking brain; let the fluid drain out of the lungs and all that, but to a nervous first-time mum about to meet her child for the first time it was a little bit of a shock. All that aside, he took my breath away. ‘We’ve got a boy’ I gasped. He cried and we cried. The nurse gently wrapped him up and held him next to my head so I could give him a kiss hello and take a long look. Adam held him next to me for 10 minutes or so then they had to go into the recovery room to warm up. I have no idea how long it took them to stitch me back together but it was too long – a few minutes would have been too long. One last disappointment awaited me – when I was wheeled through to recovery my body went into shock and I started shaking like a leaf. The nurses piled extra blankets on me but I couldn’t warm up for about one and a half hours. Meaning I couldn’t hold my baby until then. I eventually warmed up enough and they handed me my child (at last!) He went straight to the boob and fed for the next 2 hours! So began our life together.
The story of how I came to be in the position I am in now is a long and winding one. I’ll keep it short and just give you the highlights.
I am born (to quote Charles Dickens, David Copperfield). My family and I moved around a fair bit when I was growing up and I ended up leaving my parents at the ripe age of 18 to head to university in the small city of Worcester.
Worcester is a beautiful city and, after graduating, I stuck around for a few years. Fast forward five years or so and I find myself in a job in which I’m not completely happy (sound familiar?). At the time I was planning a holiday to China – a country I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, probably inspired by Bruce Lee movies and the Chinese writing on the paper the local chip shop wrapped the chips in when I was younger… In preparation for this holiday, I was taking Chinese lessons so I could at least ask directions and where the toilet is – you know, the essentials when travelling alone. Well, one day, I arrived at my lesson after a particularly bad day at work and was having a bit of a moan before the lesson got underway. My teacher (a Chinese student studying here) said she could get me a job teaching English in a Chinese school back in her home town of Qingdao. To cut a long story short, 3 months later I found myself living in China!
After an amazing and eye opening year in China I returned to the UK and moved to Hereford to do a two year course in fine furniture making. Upon graduating from this course I secured myself a job as a carpenter at a yacht building company. After three short months redundancies were announced and, as last in I stood to be first out. As luck would have it I managed to stay with the company as a sewing machinist and there I stayed for the next few years. Finally, a job came up in the design department. I know the product inside out and had proven myself well. After taking an evening course in Solidworks to get the basics I was given the job. A year or so later and redundancies reared their ugly head again. Unfortunately this time the whole design department was going so out the door I went.
It was all for the best really. I founded my own company called ‘Simply Upholstery’. Using my design and sewing skills I started designing and making upholstery for narrow boats, caravans and campervans. Business was okay but not quite enough to cover all the bills. Needs must and I got myself a job as a design draftsman working on helicopter training systems. This was an interesting job working with a fantastic bunch of people. Once more I was silently thankful I had taken that evening course in Solidworks.
I continued to run Simply Upholstery while working for the man, slowly building the business up. While working on the helicopters I became happily pregnant. I’ll return to the story of my boy’s birth in a later blog but needless to say things changed once he was born. I wanted to stay at home and raise him rather than employ a child minder but Simply Upholstery required me to visit customers’ houses and the work could be quite large. Therefore, I started another company, ‘Flutterby Memories Limited’, in which I could use all of my skills and do the work around William’s naps. This company makes patchwork keepsakes, such as quilted blankets, out of your baby’s clothes. It also, supplies embroidered baby clothes with either a fun slogan such as ‘I’m going round the Mulberry bush, Mummy’s going round the bend’, or a personalised message.
I’m going to sign off for now but I’ll hope to chat with you all again soon.