Monday, 15 April 2013

Can I have a wonderful birth too?

A few months ago I was at a party and one of the other mums there was telling me how wonderful the birth of her baby daughter had been. Yeah right, I had thought. Thinking back to my experience, I found it hard to imagine how anyone could find giving birth wonderful. Life changing yes. Momentous. Totally worth it. But wonderful?
Another mum there had also had a similarly positive time with her children and I found myself returning home that evening with a copy of Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan.
The cynic in me sighed wearily at the thought of ploughing through the book but pretty soon I was hooked and with each page turn, I began to feel that maybe, just maybe, I could have a wonderful birth too.
The idea behind hypnobirthing, if you haven't come across it before, is not, as you might imagine, to hypnotise yourself or be hypnotised so you are in a trance-like state during labour. Rather, it is about learning breathing and imagery techniques to keep calm and relaxed. The theory goes, you only feel the pain when you are scared of feeling the pain. While the muscles in the uterus do their work shuffling the baby down and out into the world, any additional tension caused by fear makes all the muscles spasm against each other and this is the pain we feel. I have watched YouTube clips of women giving birth quietly and calmly. Sometimes these mothers are so horizontal in their approach, their midwives are convinced they cannot be in full labour until suddenly a baby appears.
So I have enrolled in a four week course, starting tomorrow with a lovely woman called Rose. I don't know whether it will work or not but it seems to me certainly worth giving a go. What's more I have a commission from an editor to write about my experiences which feels such a positive thing to do because, if it does work, I will be wanting to shout about it from the rooftops. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

My pre-baby to-do list

As my due date looms in the middle distance, approaching at an alarming rate it feels to me, I am conscious there is a list of things I want to tick off before our family expands from three to four.
To start with, I must, must sort our photos. After much prevaricating, I have managed to mount the little man's first year in an album and was rather chuffed with the end result - so much better than flicking through images on a screen. But what about the next year and a half that follows? I must get this beautifully categorised and presented before I become absorbed in night-time feeds, endless winding and all the 24/7 caring that comes with a newborn. Reading back, this makes me sound as if I am dreading the prospect which I am not. Quite the reverse. We have longed for a second child and know how lucky we are to be having one - it's just this bloomin' list that is causing the trouble.
Next - I must hunt down all the teeny tiny baby things we have put away in storage, then work out how they can share space with a toddler's bits and pieces. Which reminds me, number 27 on the list - find a beautiful, groaningly big family home (with huge garden, next to a park ideally but still in the catchment for our local excellent schools) as we will find our current domestic arrangement somewhat squashed, as much as we love it. Practically speaking, this won't be until next year and that's fine so I'II put that to one side for the minute (although that won't stop daily scouring of Rightmove).
The biggest 'to-do' on my list is deciding on suitable transportation for the children. I still use a buggy for the little man when we walk into town as he doesn't like to walk or hold hands, but prefers to run full pelt. I can't imagine being able to keep proper, safe control of him while at the same time pushing a pram with a newborn in, so does this mean investing in a tandem buggy? Or perhaps a buggy board might work out (I am borrowing one from a friend to try out next week)? Or can I pop him in the stroller as usual and carry baby in a sling? All possible options which I am investigating by visiting shops, trawling websites and talking to fellow mums.
Thankfully, I have managed to tick off the big one - booking a family holiday. After asking your advice a few posts ago, for which many thanks, we have found a great little cottage on a farm in Cornwall that is run by parents Melanie and Mike and is specifically designed to entertain kiddies, with an indoor pool, play equipment, stairgates, baby monitors etc. They even ask how old your children are and promise to fill the cottage with age-appropriate toys. We will be going in just over a month and cannot wait. It will be our last break away the three of us. Now, number 56 on the to-do list - holiday shopping...

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Thank you grandma and grandpa

Grandparents - what would we do without them? I thought this as the little man's daddy and I took a wonderful early morning walk through a park just the two of us. We held hands, chatted about this and that, pointed out houses we liked the look of. We gazed at the snow covered fields glistening in the sunshine. Everything, in short, we wouldn't be doing had we had a toddler in tow. 
While I did glance sadly at the play park we passed by, feeling the aching pull of my maternal heartstrings, it was so nice to have some time out as a couple again. And this was all thanks to my parents, who had kindly agreed to babysit for us while we went to a friend's wedding in Birmingham over Easter.
The support I get from having family close by is so important. I am able to work, go away for weekends occasionally or visit the shops solo if I need to. We can pop round for a quick coffee or all head out for the day together. It just makes life so much easier and I know how lucky I am to have that near. Which is why I decided to write a feature on grandparents and the extraordinary help they are giving the young mums of my generation, featured *shameless plug* in this month's The Green Parent magazine.
Around 50 per cent of working mums rely on their parents when they go back to work after maternity leave. Almost one in five British grandmothers provide at least ten hours of care a week, according to an ongoing study being carried out across Europe by researchers at King’s College London. That's a good chunk of their retirement being taken up with nappy changing and spoon feeding, and I did begin the piece wondering if I would be confronted with unlying bitterness or resentment at the time being given up by these women who more than likely had been stay-at-homes mums all those years ago. In the end, I found no such negativity, in fact the complete opposite, and ended up writing an uplifting and hugely warming insight into the close ties that come when grandparents look after children, with one granddad admitting this time was the best in his life. 
I know my parents love being with their grandson and I love the relationship that has flourished from this one-to-one interaction they have each week. I can only hope their enthusiasm continues when baby number two arrives on the scene!