Sebastian's Birth Story

Today started off pretty sad, my son turned five, which is awesome; but he spent last night at his Dad's house, which meant for the first time, I didn't get to wake up with him on his birthday, and as each year he becomes more excited about the prospect of birthdays in general - I do feel as though I massively missed out.
It's the product of being one of a pair of separated parents though, and next year his birthday will be flipped on it's head so that I get the excitement of the morning, and he goes to his Dad's house after school. Not all bad.
My sofa is humbly decorated with presents (I picked out what I thought was particularly nice paper), I've got 50 balloons to inflate before he finishes school, and this evening I'll be serving hot dogs, fries and cake to a small collection  of his closest friends; as goes the 5th Birthday on a Budget. It'll be lovely though, I've no doubt.

Today I thought I'd celebrate Seb's birthday here by sharing his birth story, which is something I've never talked an awful lot about on any of the blogs I've written over the years. With a new baby due in just a matter of months, I want Seb's own entrance in to the world to have a place on this site before the next one!
N.B to any pregnant readers: before you read on, Seb's birth was generally a very positive experience, there were things that I think could have been improved, which I'm working on this time around, but there is no horror story here. To any non-pregnant readers: I am very much of the mind that pregnant women should not hear/read/see birth horrors, it's hugely counter-productive to a successful labour and birth. The following account is accurate to memory, but I'm not going to talk in depth about pain, because I don't want pregnant ladies (or ladies who may one day fall pregnant) reading about that.
Seb was "due" to be born on the 27th April 2010, a day which passed with no more event than me having a particularly good pedicure. I never really experienced the "fed up, I want this baby out" feelings that many women recount, having gone "overdue". I was understandably uncomfortable, but healthy, happy, and ready - just not desperate. A couple of days passed. On the 30th April, the day that would eventually mark Seb's birthday, I went shopping. All day. I had a mozzarella, tomato and basil panini from Costa Coffee, and I bumped in to an ex-boyfriend from school. It was, for the most part, just another day. In the evening, my parents popped over with a few last minute baby bits, and to take me over to Homebase to buy a curtain pole for the baby's nursery (ever a tad last minute). I felt pregnant, but at no point did I feel remotely close to giving birth.
As I swung my leg in to the back of my step-Dad's car I felt a sudden pouring sensation - not the pop, or gush that some women experience when their "waters break", but as though someone were slowly pouring a small bucket of water down the inside of my legs, except, there was loads of it, and it kept coming. In shock, I spent what felt like five minutes, but was probably around five seconds, poised, half in, half out, of the car, with sopping wet leggings, before saying "erm, I think my waters have broken". I never went to Homebase.
Instead I waddled back indoors, and peeled my saturated clothes off on to the bathroom floor whilst a bath ran. Who knows what happened to those clothes... someone must have picked them up eventually! Wrapped in my dressing gown, I made two phone calls, the first was to the maternity ward at my local hospital, the second was to Jade, my best friend and intended birth partner, who promised to make her way over, and whilst I stood with the phone pressed to my ear, I felt the first of my "contractions", a low, dull, achey tightening.
My time spent at home was short lived. My parents had carried on to Homebase without me, planning to meet me back at home with the curtain pole, and I washed the amniotic fluid from my legs in the bath and promptly got back out again in order to be able to answer the door. It's a funny thing, being single and giving birth, you have a sense that someone or something is missing - that this isn't supposed to be a One Woman Job, and at the same time, and empowering ability to make it just that. When Jade arrived, I sat on the sofa, she put the kettle on, and before it had boiled, before my parents had returned, we decided to make our exit for the hospital (on my instruction). I remember nothing of the journey, but it was only five minutes at the most.
We must have been at the hospital before 7:30pm, I was initially assessed by a student midwife, who I begged to allow me some pain relief, but who was unfortunately unable to do so without being overseen by a qualified midwife - all of whom, were otherwise occupied. Jade did her very best, along with the student midwife, to be comforting and encouraging and at some point, someone came in, OK'd gas and air, and things progressed as they do.
For the next three hours or so, I laboured on my back, and upped the gas and air to a pethedine (diamorphine) injection - the one thing I'd expressly said I wouldn't entertain. In my NCT antenatal classes we'd been given the opportunity to discuss, in depth, the range of pain relief on offer at an NHS hospital. Pethedine, I was told, not only crosses the placenta and effectively "drugs" your baby, but can also slow labour down and in some cases, cause it to stop altogether. Didn't sound cool. No thanks.
In the hospital environment however, in the unfamiliar throws of childbirth, I at some point asked to have the injection, and thus it was administered. I of course have no idea whether Seb would have been born sooner were I to have avoided pethedine, but it certainly didn't retard my contractions in any way, and my labour continued to progress as it had been, despite my bursting in to fits of hysterical laughter at the end of each contraction and then promptly falling asleep until the next one began.
My labour included internal examinations, where a midwife pops her fingers inside to see how dilated your cervix is (you don't care much at the time), heart monitoring, and not a lot else.
When labour transitioned in to what is often referred to as "Second Stage Labour" (the bit others refer to as the pushing) I had a catheter fitted - bizarrely, this was the only thing that I objected strongly to, I couldn't tell you why. On hearing the midwife inform me that they would need to do this to empty my bladder, I became insistent that this was not an option. Obviously I gave in eventually (given everything else that had occurred up until now I didn't even feel this happen).
I had, up until this point, laboured on my back - and I urge everyone and anyone to avoid doing so unless it is the position they feel most comfortable and relaxed in. As the night drew on, I became overwhelmed by the need to get on to my hands and knees, some sort of primal instinct took over and told me that this is what I needed to do, and so that is what I asked of the midwife, who obliged and helped me on to my knees, raising the back rest of the bed so that I had something to lean on.
In just a few desperate pushes, during which I can't describe any pain what so ever, but the most almighty sense of pressure and weight that you can imagine, the intensity of which is very hard to explain (my bum felt like a bowling ball), Seb made his entrance in to the world, slightly bewildered, and off his face on drugs, but healthy at 8lbs 2ozs, and absolutely beautiful, of course.
Yes "The Ring of Fire" happens (the burning sensation as baby's head emerges and you are stretched to maximum stretchiness.) It's over in seconds.
I maintained my rather undignified pose, bent over the back of the bed, whilst his umbilical cord was clamped and cut, and then a midwife helped me back down to lay on the bed, and placed this tiny person in my arms.
It's probable that I felt some wave of love and maternal instinct and what have you - I couldn't say, and it's probably that which might put me off recommending or using pethedine in future births. It worked a treat as a method of pain relief, but perhaps I wasn't as alert and in the moment as I might have liked to have been, or perhaps I was simply overwhelmed. I had never held a tiny baby in my life, not that I remembered anyway. I'd never even held a particularly large baby in my life. When the first baby you've ever held is the one that you've just given birth to, I think some shock is allowed!
From the moment my "waters broke" at around 6:30, to Seb's birth being recorded at 11:45, it had taken me a total of 5 hours and 15 minutes to have my first child, which was remarkably "good going".
I had the injection to allow for a managed delivery of the placenta. This encourages strong uterine contractions which expel the placenta, rather than waiting for it to peel away, and then having to push it out. I threw up at some point.
Once baby was out, placenta was out, and I felt ready, I walked myself to the toilet, had a wee, threw up again, and then drank a cup of tea in the bath, with Seb laying in a plastic crib beside the tub. He slept, solidly, thanks to the morphine in his system and as things began to sink in and settle, I finally recognised that gush of maternal love towards this tiny person - he didn't care, he was asleep.
I wouldn't describe Seb's birth as magical, spiritual, or even the best day of my life - it was straight forward for the most part, medically managed, and went "to plan". I didn't come away from the experience traumatised or in any way unhappy about what had just happened, and both I and Seb were healthy, content people. It was, generally speaking, a textbook hospital birth, one which people have cooed over since as being the representation of childbirth going "perfectly", because nothing at all went wrong.
For me, it reaped the greatest reward, I had no concept, before Seb's birth, of how much his arrival would change my world. I would do it a thousand and one times over again to keep this thriving, funny, adorable character in my life. I was incredibly satisfied with my birth experience, but more so, overwhelmed by my own desire to be the best Mother I could be to Seb - which is arguably the point in all of this. I'm lucky, not because I had an uncomplicated birth, but because I get to be Seb's Mum.



27 Week Update

Sheesh I feel pregnant now! This week has passed largely without incident though for the first time someone offered me their seat on the packed school run bus that I catch every morning! Another lady who I see every morning at the bus stop finally plucked up the courage to ask if I'm expecting, and a school-gate friend was relieved to find out that I was having another baby as she's suspected this to be the case but hadn't wanted to put her foot in it if I was just fat! I think these anecdotes all suggest that I'm starting to look a lot more pregnant now!
Bump will soon be measured by my midwife but I think I'm probably about where I should be for 27 weeks (ideally I should measure 27cm from pubic bone to the top of my uterus).
I've also started experiencing really strong episodes of Braxton Hicks contractions, which haven't been in the least bit enjoyable. These are uterine contractions which work, in some way, as a "practice run" for labour, and basically demonstrate that your body is preparing to give birth. The fact that I've noticed these going on means nothing though, every pregnant lady begins to get Braxton Hicks contractions from around the sixth week of pregnancy - they just don't notice them that early on, and some never do. The fact that I'm noticing how strong and uncomfortable my contractions are is probably testament to the fact that I've been here and done this before.
Boyfriend and I have decided to sell on the two pushchairs that we've already bought. We both previously spotted a pushchair each on Ebay, both great deals, but we couldn't agree on which to go for, so decided to each buy our respective favourite, and try them out when they arrived. The plan was then to decide on which of the two to keep, and to sell on the loser. However - Boyfriend's "Landrover of the pushchair world", the Teutonia Fun System, arrived a little tattier than we'd been lead to believe it would be, and it wasn't love, for either of us - though the pushchair itself, with it's monster wheels and solid German design - is great. I'd managed to find a traditional looking Graco pram, complete with carrycot and car seat, in immaculate condition, for only £25. However, nice as it is (and I do really like it) it weighs an absolute TONNE. As I live in a second floor flat, this is an obvious downer. I can barely lift it off of the ground when it's folded up, let alone up several flights of stairs, and whilst I don't have a car to fit it into, it's just too big to be practical. So it's back to the drawing board, with both pushchairs to be photographed and returned to Ebay and other local selling pages.
We've decided now to look for a modular travel system, with a small lightweight base that I can carry up and down stairs, and a seat unit that clips to that, preferably that can lay flat and be used from birth. Some of my favourites are the Mamas and Papas Sola system and Mothercare's Orb (or the earlier Spin) design - so this is what I'm looking out for online.
In good news though, a friend on Facebook offered us a free highchair! A highchair wasn't even on my new baby shopping list, as it's not needed for a newborn, but of course I'm not going to pass up on a freebie. The free highchair is now in situ in Boyfriend's dining room and is perfect - the seat cover and straps have been through the washing machine, and the base itself has had a thorough wipe down. It's by Ladybird from Littlewoods and has several nifty features, including many height settings, meaning you can collapse it down really low and sit on the sofa or even the floor to feed baby, and equally it extends super high, so that you could use it at a breakfast bar.
As I write this my 27 week baby is kicking away quite merrily, so here's to another week passing by on what continues to be a predominantly happy and healthy pregnancy. The week ahead contains scans and urine samples so... look forward to that!

Parenting Hack: Tidy Flat Treasure Hunt

This is one of those guilty parenting secret kind of things, but we all have them right? Besides, this has proved, over the past few weeks, to give me a guaranteed opportunity to tidy the flat and play with Seb (now nearly five).

I hate having to say that I can't play because I'm behind on washing/dishes or I need to run the hoover round. Yes, there's a lot to be said for involving children in housework, and often this is how things work around here - but then - it takes twice as long! Letting Seb have a go with the vacuum cleaner doesn't mean I then don't have to vacuum, in fact, it leaves me with the far more tedious task of going round to get the bits he missed!
I also find that if I go with my "ahh, sod the housework" urge and play games with Seb - I end up not enjoying the time I spend with him because it's constantly niggling me that there are Hama beads everywhere and the entire upstairs smells faintly of the cat's litter tray.
Easter however, provided me with a solution, at least to picking stuff up, if not the mopping and the dishes. Because this year we have no outside space having moved in to a second floor flat, the Easter Bunny had no choice but to hide his chocolate bounty indoors. Turns out, Seb loved this. Only problem is, we've had to recreate the Easter egg hunt countless times ever since! We've still got tonnes of Easter eggs left over (yes yes, slightly spoiled child) so most days, we take it in turns to pretend to sleep on the sofa whilst the other runs around, playing the part of the Easter bunny, and hides the eggs to be found all over again.
As grown up, this gives me the perfect opportunity to convince Seb that I'm being "Fun Mum", whilst I'm actually expertly multitasking, hiding eggs as I plump cushions, straighten blankets, smooth out the rug, even water the houseplants, then I shout "Wake UP!" - the room is perfectly tidy, and Seb's none the wiser with regards his neglect. He then hides all of the eggs in a different room, and whilst I'm looking for them, I'm discreetly tidying and returning things to order.
You're welcome!

IKEA "Spoka"; child's rechargeable night light - Review

When Seb was a baby I was adamant that I would not be investing in black out blinds for his nursery because I "wanted a baby who would sleep anywhere, not just in pitch darkness". I did get my wish, whether by design or not, but what I've also been left with is an almost five year old who claims to be scared of the dark. Seb would sooner fall asleep under the glare of an overhead light, if there is no lamp available, than sleep in the dark, and I have to admit, it's frustrating.
For a little while I'd been looking at different nightlight options for Seb, so that I could cut down our energy usage a little and gradually introduce him to a little less light at bedtime - I know he's perfectly capable, he's slept over at friend's houses and has gone to sleep in the dark when sharing the room with other children, but there is such a fuss if we attempt the same at home and he's on his own.
There are tonnes of nightlights around, but for whatever reason, something or other put me off of each of the options, until we discovered SPOKA on a recent trip to IKEA.
SPOKA's charging cable pulls out of the back of his body and he's then set to glow for hours - the point at which the plug enters SPOKA is hidden behind a rubber valve when not in use.
From the very first night that Seb was introduced to SPOKA, he's had no need at all for any additional lighting in his bedroom, and because SPOKA is tactile and can be carried around, Seb is able to take SPOKA with him if he needs the toilet in the night - treating him much like he would a torch, so no fumbling for the bathroom light switch either!
  • SPOKA is rechargeable - so no need to worry about buying batteries or locating a convenient plug socket.
  • We get brilliant battery life from SPOKA, IKEA suggest that after charging he'll stay alight for 4-5 hours, but we can get 24 hours + solid light on one charge.
  • You can choose to have either one solid colour, or to have SPOKA gently change between five different colours. Seb prefers the colour change option.
  • SPOKA comes in two different colour change combinations. The shorter, fatter SPOKA runs through a range of warm colours (reds, pinks and oranges) whilst the tall, thin SPOKA (which we have) runs through a range of cool colours (blues, greens and purples.)
  • SPOKA uses LED lights, which can last for up to 25,000 hours.
  • He's affordable at only £13.00
  • SPOKA's outer layer is made from heat resistant silicone rubber, which means he's safe for the child to actually take in to bed. Seb can cuddle and talk to SPOKA before he falls asleep, rather than the nightlight being static on a table or against a wall.
  • Because SPOKA is completely mobile, he can be carried around, to the toilet or downstairs to see me, meaning you only need the one SPOKA.
  • SPOKA doesn't break if he's dropped.
  • SPOKA is cute!
  • None that I've found yet!
We would absolutely recommend SPOKA to anyone with a child who struggles with a fear of the dark, or who could even use a little help getting to the bathroom in the night. I'm so glad we bought him and it's totally changed bedtime for the better! When Seb wakes up in the morning, he now simply pops SPOKA back on charge for the day, without being asked.

26 Week Update

I wasn't going to do these "X Number of Weeks Update" posts, despite the fact that I really enjoy reading other people's; just because I don't want this space to turn in to a pregnancy blog. However - you know what, it's my blog, and I'll only be pregnant for the next three months, so what the hell.
I decided to take stock of everything at this point in my pregnancy in particular, because to me, it feels like a significant milestone, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I can now say that I am 6 months pregnant. Secondly however, 26 weeks holds a particularly special, albeit odd, place in my heart, because it was at this stage in my pregnancy with my son Sebastian, that I discovered I was pregnant - and considering my current state of being, that seems absurd.
Before I go on to update readers on what's happening now, it's fascinating to consider what 26 weeks pregnant was like last time around. When I was at this stage in my pregnancy with Seb I had a relatively flat stomach, with what I thought was a tyre of podge forming over the waistband of my trousers (it was early January, I expected to have gained weight). I was well and healthy, albeit smoking about twenty cigarettes a day and drinking to the point where I was drunk once a week (I was 22, single and dating, and generally enjoying myself after coming out of a three year relationship). What I didn't feel, at all, was pregnant. I had monthly periods, and took a contraceptive pill in between, and my pregnancy symptoms seemed limited to regular bouts of painful trapped wind and heartburn, which at the time, I attributed to my particularly poor lifestyle, which included an undisclosed number of doner kebabs.
Now, five years later, I'm just a fortnight away from my son's fifth birthday. It's been over five years since I stood with my forehead pressed against the cold shower screen, staring blankly at a positive pregnancy test, whilst a man I'd known for a month made coffee in my kitchen. A whole different world.
Now, here I am, typing this in the sunshine at the same point in pregnancy, but this time with a huge swollen belly. I say huge, but actually, whilst I feel as though someone's jovially pushed a netball under my T-Shirt, I'm about as round as I should be. Of course there are a number of absent factors this time around; no contraceptives, no cigarettes, and the man making the coffee is, at the very least, the father of my child. I'd call this an improvement!
So that aside, here it is - the six month mark, and according to every source I have, it's now all about fat, fat, fat (Baby's fat that is, not mine!) Baby should be a perfectly formed little human now, just in need of a little "bulking out". After our previous trip to the hospital with reduced movements (which you can read about here) Baby has been very active, but where before I was sleeping through most of his/her busy episodes in the night, they're now strong and violent enough to wake me up, and visible too. I have to admit that this time around, as I'm more relaxed and content in my pregnancy, it's lovely to watch my tummy rolling and twitching with Baby's kicks and wiggles. I'm pretty sure that Baby is beginning to practice adopting a "head down" position, although he/she soon gets bored and wiggles back around (and makes me feel somewhat nauseous in the process!) We still have a couple of months to go, in theory, before Baby adopts a permanently "birth ready" pose.
The tiredness is back mind you, though I'm hoping that this isn't the end of any energy resources that I had to run on in previous weeks! At the weekend I fell asleep on the sofa before 7pm and despite Boyfriend disturbing me at 10pm to usher me upstairs to bed, that was me done until 8am the next morning! Seb has been spending weekends with his Dad over the past couple of weeks and I've been using these few days to catch up on rest, despite missing him enormously.
Now that baby is focussing on weight gain, it's the only point in pregnancy at which I am supposed to begin increasing my food intake, but only by about 200 calories a day according to most guidelines. This shouldn't be a problem though, as I want to eat everything, all of the time. I already feel I'm over-eating but thankfully I'm not gaining any unexpected weight, only what I should be expecting to gain, and as such I'm not panicking too much. 
Last week I took Seb to Canterbury for the day, we met up with friends in the park, took a river boat ride out in to the countryside, shopped at Lush (his favourite), ate at a new Italian place for lunch, climbed a high hill, and finally, went a bit crazy in Build-A-Bear to finish the day. Seb was adamant that if he was getting a new teddy (or Labrador puppy as it turned out to be), then Baby had to have a new teddy too, which has solved the "buying Baby a gift from Seb" issue. I didn't really want to spank the extra funds, but his insistence was so heart-warming, that I couldn't refuse. He chose his, as yet unborn, sibling, a baby Toothless dragon (from the movie franchise How To Train Your Dragon), natch. I just hope Baby likes dragons! What's more, he also recorded a message for Baby (which is limited to "I love you Baby" but it gets to the point at least) - which now plays whenever you squeeze the baby dragon's bum cheek - perfect!

I can honestly say that I'm quite enjoying pregnancy, mainly because there's nothing in particular to dislike. Sure I have trouble finding a comfy position to sleep in at night, and with my body temperature now several degrees above normal, my nights are already disrupted. Then there's the crampy, ouchy discomfort as Baby wiggles around to find his/her own comfy position, not to mention those sharp stabbing kicks to the lady-area that have become a daily inconvenience (or fannydaggers as someone reliably informed me they're called!) But there's the good stuff, like sharing each development with a man I love to the ends of the Earth and a touchingly excited and supportive best friend, not to mention an army of pregnant buddies (is everyone pregnant at the moment?). There's the fact that I don't feel as guilty about eating pie. There's the fact that my nails are growing at a phenomenal rate, along with my hair, and that my skin has all but cleared up entirely (we won't mention the enormous one-off Zit King that appeared in the corner of my nose the other day.). For the most part, because I've found it so easy and natural to bond with Baby in this pregnancy, I've loved feeling each movement, and the sense of becoming increasingly aware of this tiny person inside of me.
There is still, however, a distinct problem with name choosing. I have no intention of naming Baby before birth, which is easier, I guess, because we've decided not to find out his/her gender before he/she arrives. However, I would quite like to have a fair sized list of possibilities before I give birth. Finding names that Boyfriend and I can agree on though is proving challenging (though we do have a few), and what's more, our attitudes towards baby naming appear to differ; I'm very much in the "sit down and research potential names" camp, Boyfriend has utter trust that a name will come, magically, from nowhere, and we'll both just know that it's The One. I have my doubts.

The Reality of Owning a Cat

Cats are great, right? I mean, they're so much more independent than dogs huh? And they'll pose adorably for Instagram snaps But the reality of cat ownership can sometimes fail to live up to the friendly, fluffy dream; not that we'd have it any other way!
10 truths of cat ownership that all cat owners will identify with:
  1. Whilst you may not understand everything that your cat is trying to tell you, there's a recognisable difference between a) your cat's meow and b) your cat's meow when they've brought you a dead thing.
  2. A cat on the stairs is infinitely more dangerous than a roller skate on the stairs.
  3. Your laptop is a warm place. In front of your TV is a warm place. Your face in the middle of the night is a warm place. Anything designed specifically for cats to sleep in, is not a warm place.
  4. You will eventually stop bothering to apologise to visitors for the cat hair on their clothes and in their tea.
  5. Your phone memory contains more photographs of your cat than of your children/partner/the outdoors.
  6. Whilst on the subject of phones, the corner of your phone doubles up as the perfect cat-face-massager, generally only when in use under any of it's other functions (sending text messages, browsing Twitter, trying to take a photograph of something that isn't your cat).
  7. You didn't like having fresh cut flowers in the house anyway.
  8. Potential love matches become considerably more attractive as soon as they mention their cat.
  9. Your clean washing will never be safe. Anywhere.
  10. Nobody will be as pleased to hear that you're unwell, taking the day off of work, and staying in bed, as your cat.

What's On My New Baby Shopping List?

I shared "The List" with some pregnant friends recently. Many will know that I can not, physically, survive from one day to the next without writing lists; so it's unsurprising that one of the first things I did, after getting my head around this whole Baby thing, was to write a list of everything I wanted to buy to provide for said baby.
I'm lucky, I guess, that I've done this before, and learned from a few mistakes, as well as found some key discoveries along the way. My list is made up of items that I am so glad I had for Seb, and items that I realised at some point I'd been a fool not to get hold of. It may, or may not, prove helpful for other expectant Mums but I thought I'd share anyway!
It's probably worth mentioning that I'm 100% committed to making "a baby on a budget", and most of the things on this list have been, or will be, sourced second hand. We've also been lucky enough to have some bits gifted to us from friends and so haven't had to spend a penny on them. If anything here looks a bit indulgent, you can probably bet that I didn't pay anywhere near full price for it!
I've left baby clothing items off of this list as I did a separate list of these which I might share in another post.
Amby Nature's Nest Hammock - I don't like the idea of laying a newborn baby flat on their back in a crib or cot, or a moses basket (though in my experience those things last all of two weeks anyway!) - it seems a pretty unnatural environment, and sleeping position, for a little person who's been womb-bound for 9 months, which is why I've always loved baby hammocks - and hell, they've been the baby sleeping arrangement of choice for centuries in most cultures. What's more, because the hammock is suspended by a spring, when baby wakes up, their slightest movement will create a soothing, bouncing motion, which will quite often send them back to sleep without you having to get out of bed - bonus! The Amby nest is one of the most efficient on space, and is ever so well made. We picked ours up second hand on Ebay with an unused mattress. Find out more here.
Gro Bags - These are something Boyfriend swore by for his two sons, and that I had limited success with when Seb was born (he hated being covered up by anything, and grobag/sleeping bags frustrated him) - but it just goes to show that every baby is different, and as Boyfriend has had positive experiences - we'll give them a go, they're certainly much safer than blankets!
Bouncy Chair/Rocker/Swing - There are various options when it comes to buying something chair shaped that you can put your baby down in. Seb spent a fair bit of time in his Mamas and Papas bouncer, which someone donated to me when I was pregnant, but alas I didn't keep it. This time around I bought a brand new Cosatto Pip rocker (RRP £130 ish) for £15 on a Facebook selling page, from a lady who'd bought it, and then forgotten she'd bought it, until her baby was too big to use it (yes, really.) It's still in it's original packaging!
Papoozle Sling - I wish I'd put more time and conscious effort in to baby wearing when Seb was born. I had a Baby Bjorn infant carrier for carting him off on dog walks, but found the whole sling thing far too Earth Mother for my previously rather "hands off" approach to babies. This time around we picked up a Papoozle sling at a bargain price at The Baby Show. It's a sort of baby carrier/sling hybrid with a number of nifty features that we fell in love with. Find out more here.
Pushchair Suitable from birth until it's no longer needed, with as few different "attachments" as possible.
Car Seat One thing I won't buy second hand but that needs to be compatible with our pushchair.
Mothercare Smart Nappies (newborn) - Great reusable/cloth nappy solution for newborn babies, fitting little ones as tiny as 4lbs, with a cut away section to allow for their umbilical cord before it's lost. We got an unused set on Ebay for a great price, but even new they're significantly cheaper than many newborn reusables.
MAM self-sterilising bottles - A contentious subject, especially as I'm planning to breastfeed, but I've bought a full set of these MAM bottles in the sale at our local Mamas and Papas store. They were the best bottles that I used for Seb, and the self-sterilising feature is a real godsend, especially if you don't have much room in the kitchen for a bulky sterilising unit.
Breast Pump - The two words that I never wanted to hear in the same sentence, but if we have success with breastfeeding then I'd like to be able to express as soon as possible so that feeding duties can be shared out. For the time being I've opted for a manual pump rather than an expensive electronic version, and am sticking with MAM to keep everything compatible. The MAM breastfeeding "kit" is on offer at Babies'R'Us, and includes nipple shields, storage containers, reusable breast pads, and a few extra MAM bottles. Awesome value at less than £20 (and available here: the RRP is about £75)
Nipple Shields - See above
Breast Pads - See above
Lansinoh Nipple Cream - pretty self explanatory!
Love To Dream Swaddle - These zip-up swaddle blankets allow babies to enjoy that lovely, cosy, womb-like environment that makes swaddling such a success, in a more natural position (with special space for their arms). You also don't need to worry about technique, as you just pop baby in and zip them up! Ebay seems to be the cheapest place to pick them up, used or new.
Soft Blankets - Boyfriend's Mum bought us a gorgeous fleece blanket in the Laura Ashley sale, and I've picked up a couple of lighter pram blankets, second hand and in sales.
Muslins - I'd recommend getting about 50 muslins. OK, that's an exaggeration, but you can never, ever have too many. You'll use them for everything from wiping tiny chins, to clearing up vomit, laying baby down when surfaces are a little suspect, padding out nappies if you're out for any amount of time, getting gunk out of eyes and noses, using as a sun shield over your pram hood, as an extra layer if the wind picks up... the list is endless. Sainsbury's oddly, are quite cheap for packs of plain white muslin squares. I also grabbed a couple of extra large ones for swaddling etc. by Yoga Baby in TK Maxx. They were one of the first baby purchases I made as they were only £4 for a pack of two, in lovely colours.
Baby Monitor - A friend has given us her no-longer-needed monitor, so that's a result!
Ewan The Sheep - Ewan The Sheep is my go-to New Baby gift for friends. He's basically a nightlight, a soft toy, and a mobile in one; with a soft, womb-like pink glow, and a number of sounds that babies associate with being in their Mum's tum, including a heartbeat sound, and white noise options. Every single baby that I've bought him for has become almost obsessively attached to him, and their parents have sworn by Ewan to get them a good night's sleep. Ewan is available from most outlets that sell baby gear, including Mamas and Papas, Mothercare, Boots, Tesco, Ocado, Argos etc. 
This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray - This gentle lavender spray is approved for use with children and babies, and creates a soothing fragrance almost guaranteed to help little people nod off. What's more, for every bottle purchased, This Works donate £1 to Kids Company, supporting vulnerable children. I love the adult version too.
Coconut Oil - I generally have plenty of this stuff floating around anyway, but coconut oil makes the perfect natural alternative to nappy creams, offering all of the benefits without any of the risk of reactions. It's also good for any of Mum's ouchy-bits post birth. Also useful for treating cradle cap, which Seb suffered with pretty badly - and much nicer than those horrible medicated shampoos.
Superdrug Talc - Some people prefer not to use talc, and that's cool. When Seb was a baby he was extremely chunky, and this meant lots and lots of adorable rolls and baby-boobs - getting all of those crevices and creases dry after bath time was a right faff, and I preferred to puff him with some talcum powder than let the skin get sore. Superdrug's own talcum powder is cruelty free and vegan (and cheaper than Johnsons).
Natalia Baby Massage Oil - The benefits of baby massage are overly well documented. There are lots of lovely baby massage oils on the market, though I was only very recently introduced to Natalia by Vital Touch, who produce a line of gorgeous looking natural products that I'll be stocking up on. Find out more here.  
Water Wipes - I'm as yet undecided between using disposable and reusable wipes, and in all honesty, it'll probably end up being a mixture of the two. I like the idea of using reusable wipes at home, but can't see us going without a pack of disposable wipes in the change bag. Thankfully, we discovered Water Wipes at The Baby Show, which contain only water and natural ingredients, are super soft like cotton AND are biodegradable. Unfortunately not flushable, but as far as I am aware there are no baby wipes that are - when we questioned this it turned out that the only way to make a Water Wipe flush-friendly would be to add non-natural chemicals that would go against the company's ethos, so that's perfectly OK by me. The cheapest way to buy Water Wipes, which aren't available with many retailers, is to buy in bulk on Amazon.
Comfy Knickers - Post-birth you need comfy knickers by the lorry load, for a start, maternity pads are not discreet, it's like having a folded copy of the Sunday Times in your pants, and what's more, you're going to be all about the comfy for quite some time! Primark are probably the most obvious place with a pair of pants for about £1, but Supermarket multipacks are handy too. Don't buy high waisted designs though in case you end up needing a caesarean section.
Maternity Pads - Because you need them.
Lavender Oil - This stuff is a godsend post-birth, a few drops in the bath not only helps to relax and restore tired and anxious Mamas, but it really helps to sooth ouches and stings too.
Natalia Stretch Mark Oil - Useful during pregnancy, but you need to support your skins elasticity after birth too as there's still a lot of stretching going on.
Suitable Tops for Breastfeeding - Because I am planning to breastfeed I'm already stocking up on vest tops that I can wear underneath a T-shirt or similar, and pull down easily. I have no intention of buying specific breastfeeding tops, but it's just something to bear in mind when clothes shopping post-baby.
Nursing bras - So that you can whack them out easy enough.  
Button-opening pyjamas - As I heard Caroline Hirons recently advise Ruth Crilley from A Model Recommends and now her new pregnancy blog, The Uphill, you should stay in pyjamas for as long as possible after the birth of your baby. I totally agree, and the YouTube video I reference (Pregnancy and Birthing Chat with Caroline) is lovely by the way if you haven't seen it (here). For breastfeeding I'll be stocking up on plenty of breastfeeding-friendly PJs.
I'm sure there are tonnes of others bits I could add to the list, and so I'd love to hear your recommendations, whether you're expecting at the moment, or looking back on the things you couldn't have done without when you had a baby, or the things you wish you'd invested in. Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This post was published in collaboration with the Mummy Monday link initiative from Mummy Bloggers.

Reduced Fetal Movements: 23 Weeks in to pregnancy

For the most part, this pregnancy, my second, has been relatively non-eventful in terms of worries and scares. We suffered some very early alarm bells, but these turned out to be no big deal, and since then I've sailed through pregnancy without so much as a bout of morning sickness.
I did however end up at my local hospital last week, and whilst the visit itself doesn't necessarily warrant a whole blog post, I felt the topic ought to get a mention.
Baby has been incredibly active since I hit the 15 week mark, which is relatively early to be feeling fetal movement, but not unheard of in second and subsequent pregnancies. It's possible that we just have an abnormally strong child, as Boyfriend has been able to feel baby move from pretty much the same time I have; whilst ordinarily, a pregnant Mama can feel her baby moving inside her some time before these movements can be felt from outside her body. Several months on and we're now relatively familiar with Baby's movements, and whilst there isn't a strict pattern, I can always expect to feel Baby move at certain times of day or when I'm doing something in particular (such as taking a warm bath).
Last week however, everything went quiet. Very, very quiet. Sitting down on Thursday afternoon it suddenly occurred to be that I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt Baby move that day, I laid down on the sofa, but couldn't feel a single movement, so I ran a bath, but still only the faintest possibility of a nudge from my tummy. When I lay down in bed that night and still wasn't greeted by the usual rhythmic kicking that I fall asleep to, I began to worry, and even more so when there was no "good morning" from Baby the next day. So, I called the hospital who asked me to go in to the maternity daycare unit as soon as I could, boyfriend came over to pick us up, and off we trundled.
I'm lucky that my maternity services are provided locally by the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital at Margate who, touch wood, have so far been absolutely wonderful. It didn't take long for a midwife to feel around in my tummy, and use a sonic tracer to listen in on Baby's (super healthy and strong) heartbeat. We could even hear Baby moving about quite happily and so the whole rather scary experience was put down to a "lazy day" on Baby's part. Of course, within an hour Baby was kicking and wiggling away with such ferocity that I immediately felt foolish.
But there's the thing, reduced fetal movements are getting more and more recognition as a matter to be taken very seriously at any point in pregnancy (once regular movement is established) and that's why I wanted to post today, not just about my experience, which turned out to be a false alarm with a happy ending, but to urge anyone who's noticed a change in their baby's movements to get checked over, to put their own mind at ease more than anything.
A baby's movements provide one of the most tactile opportunities for expectant parents to bond with their unborn child, and when these movements, which are your only mode of communication with your baby, drop off, it is really scary. No midwife or doctor should dismiss you as being neurotic or worrying over nothing if you have a really bad feeling about your baby's sudden quiet spell. On this occasion we were certainly listened to with concern and reassurance, and the midwife was only too happy to do what she could to check that Baby wasn't in any trouble. She also stressed that if Baby's movements didn't pick up, or he/she did this again, we were to go straight back, despite the fact that on this occasion there'd been no cause for concern. 
UK charity Count The Kicks have a fab website if you want information about how to use your baby's movements to monitor their wellbeing, and what to do if you notice a change. Some of the advice below comes from their site, and some directly from the NHS, and I hope it proves useful to anyone reading who is concerned about reduced fetal movement, at any point in their pregnancy.
  • Always report a change in your baby's movements to your midwife or local maternity ward.
  • There is no set recommended number of movements that you should experience. The previous advice that you should be counting ten movements each day is now recognised as useless and outdated and no longer advised by the NHS. Every baby is different, and it's important to get to know what's normal for your baby, that might be eight movements a day, it might be sixty. If your baby isn't moving with a regularity that's normal for them, seek help.
  • Babies do not slow down, or reduce their number of movements in later pregnancy. Again this is utter tosh. You should feel your baby move with the same regularity and strength up to and during labour.
  • Do not count hiccups as baby's movements.
  • Most expectant Mums feel their baby move for the first time between 18 and 20 weeks. For some (like me) this happens earlier, and for others, a bit later. If you've felt no movement at all by week 24, speak to your midwife.
  • Recognise things that you can use to prompt your baby to move. For me, these include laying flat on my back, having a warm bath and, somewhat reliably, the sound of Boyfriend's voice. If you notice a reduction in movements you then have a few tricks up your sleeve to try to get baby moving and put your mind at ease.
  • About 15% of pregnant ladies seek medical attention for reduced fetal movement, so you are not alone, and the midwives won't be surprised to have you in. Any midwife will tell you that they'd rather see a lady 50 times and reassure her on every occasion that she and her baby are fine, than only see her once and have to give her terrible news.
  • Do not use a home Doppler to check on your baby if you notice reduced movements. You may be reassured to hear their heartbeat, but only a trained midwife or doctor can "read" that heartbeat and determine whether or not your baby is distressed. A home Doppler can also pick up a Mother's heartbeat, or a beating placenta. It is vital that medical assistance is sought whilst a baby still has a heartbeat - so don't rely on this as a method of self-diagnosis.
I'm just glad that on this occasion, we had no reason to be worried, but I'm still glad that we went and got checked out. Big thanks as always to the midwives at the QEQM for being so helpful and understanding.