Week 1 Baby Update

Throughout my pregnancy I posted a weekly pregnancy update on a Monday, so now that pregnancy is over for me (sob, sob) it seems only natural that I introduce a regular baby update feature. I've decided to publish these on a Thursday, as Quinn was born on a Thursday, to correspond with each week of her development - so Monday's will just go back to being a normal blogging day with varied content.
If you follow me on Twitter you're probably fed up already with Quinn updates! But first things first I want to talk about Seb. At 5 and a half, I always worried how Seb would handle being present at his sister's birth - if things panned out that way. If you read my (rather lengthy) birth story, you'll know that things did pan out that way - with Quinn arriving at 7:27am before any childcare arrangements were necessarily available (or, in fact, needed).
After Seb handled Quinn's birth like an absolute pro, the next worry was whether it had left any lingering trauma, and of course, how he'd adjust to life with a baby sister. My heart explodes all over the place with pride to say that he has completely taken it in his stride - in true laid-back Seb style. He is so adorably loving towards his sister that other than a short spell of declaring that Quinn was a boy's name, he has been overcome with affection towards her. Quinn is especially soothed by Seb's voice, and will happily listen to him jabbering on to her without an utterance of complaint (very few people can manage this!) - and I suspect it's because his would be one of the most familiar voices to her from her time spent listening to the world outside from in the womb. I have no doubt, watching them together now, that they'll have a beautiful bond growing up, which I couldn't be happier about. Seb is a very loving, affectionate, tactile child anyway, he likes to hug and kiss and be held - so a baby makes for a pretty good companion as far as he is concerned - it's going to be fascinating to watch their relationship develop as Quinn grows.
Today Seb received an Octonauts play set from Quinn and I to say thank you for a week of brilliant brother-ing - which seems to have gone down very well indeed!

Fresh baby with a salad on the side; M&S lunch with 1 day old Quinn (who had no name at the time!)
So back to Quinn, if you haven't already read her birth story then check it out as she made quite an interesting entrance in to the world, and as I finished that post I explained that I felt so healthy and energetic after delivering her, that we headed to a new local restaurant that night with her in her Papoozle sling. I'd love to say that we took the rest of the week a little slower but unfortunately that would be utter nonsense, we did no such thing. 
Friday morning, 24 hours after Quinn's arrival, we had to take Seb to school for his last day of his reception year (more about that in another post) - so of course I took Quinn on to the playground to (show her off) introduce her to my school-gate friends. So many of the Mum's at the school had jokingly asked me to try to give birth before the last day of term so that they could see the baby before the beginning of the Summer holidays - so it was fun to be able to honour their request in the nick of time!
Boyfriend and I had agreed that he would return to work on the Friday just for one day to tie up a few loose ends before taking this week off to spend with Quinn, Seb and me. So after the school run I had a few hours with Quinn all to myself to just bask in her loveliness - it was heaven! But then in the afternoon we had to be up at the hospital for her paediatric check up.
It's a quirk of homebirth that once you've successfully given birth in your home environment - you then need to make your way to a hospital; but the paediatric tests are key to diagnosing (or not) a range of potential problems. Thankfully, Quinn was given the all clear after a thorough examination, and I once again raised my suspicion that she had been born with a tongue-tie  - which the paediatrician confirmed straight away.
Whilst at the hospital I was also checked over by a midwife, who was as impressed as I am with the rate of my recovery. The fact that I had no discomfort what so ever "down below", even when peeing, was experiencing minimal blood loss, and felt active, energetic and pretty bouncy, all got a massive thumbs up.
On Saturday (Day 2) Quinn made her soft play centre debut - poor thing. We'd already been invited to a friend's little boy's fourth birthday party at a local children's play centre and I'd really wanted to go along - as I'm breastfeeding I need to keep Quinn with me at the moment as she is fed on demand; so along she came. Seb was happy to go off independently and enjoy himself and Quinn slept through the entire thing - I even managed to drink a  hot cup of tea and order myself (and eat) a bacon and brie panini.
I also finally got to see my best friend Sushi on Saturday afternoon as we took both children over to her house for an hour and a cup of tea. Sush has been one of the most supportive people around me throughout my pregnancy and has been instrumental in helping out - even buying me the full range of natal hypnotherapy CD's as a pregnancy gift - which means she pretty much bought me my incredible birth.

Hanging with two of her three older brothers in Pizza Express, 1 day old
Quinn and I finally got a rest day on Sunday, when neither she, I, nor Seb changed out of our pyjamas all day. Boyfriend took his older two children surfing in the morning whilst Seb binge watched back-to-back Star Wars movies - it was just the lazy day that we all needed. 
We also finally decided on Quinn's name on Sunday - after almost four days of deliberating between various options. We'd almost entirely decided on Mabel - and she was a final agreement away from being named Mabel Rain Luther - before I stumbled across the name Quinn, and we simply knew that it was perfect. I'll be writing a post about naming our baby in the coming week.

Day 4 - Quinn's first supermarket visit - those cradle seats really aren't that comfy feelin'!
Quinn's Day 5 visit from the midwife resulted in us instantly being booked in for a discharge appointment as there are absolutely no concerns for either of us, and as such, no reason for us to remain under midwife lead care. Quinn had lost a little weight, dropping from her birth weight of 7lbs 15ozs, to 7lbs 9ozs - which is well within the "normal" range that raises no alarm what so ever. She also had her heel-prick test, a blood test to check for cystic fibrosis and allergies, from which we should soon get the results. The midwife was especially pleased with my recovery and Quinn's progress though, so, yay!
On Tuesday evening we had the pleasure of returning to our homebirth support group in Ramsgate, where we'd initially gone to meet like minded expectant parents, and to gather tips and advice on preparing for our own homebirth experience. To go back with a tiny baby, born at home just five days earlier, left me full of pride. Quinn was one of four homebirthed babies at the meeting, with the Mummy of a fifth baby Skyping in to the meeting to share her own birth story too. It was interesting, and reassuring to hear other homebirth stories that were wildly different from mine, but equally as positive in their outcome - hearing women sound so empowered by their birth experience was wonderful.
The rest of the week has been full of maximising our time together as a family to ensure that we're entirely "set up" for life with a baby once Boyfriend returns to work next week. We've done a fair bit of boring stuff - like buying an additional clothes airer - now that we have more clothes in my flat, and invested in a laundry bin (gone are the days of using the washing machine as the laundry bin and just turning it on when full!)
As baby life goes, things are going well. Reusable nappies are working really well for us, though we're still getting to find our groove with a good system, and I think it's simply a case that at the moment we don't have enough nappies, so we're having to put a wash on more regularly to make sure that we always have clean nappies available. I need to arrange to meet up with my friend Charlie - who's selling us her entire stash of cloth nappies now that her two boys are potty trained, at which point we will have more nappies than we'll know what to do with!
The lovely people at TotsBots, one of my absolute favourite baby brands (also responsible for our fabulous Papoozle baby carrier) sent Quinn two of their adorable TeenyFit nappies, in really fun, colourful prints, which are by far some of my favourite nappies to put on her little bottom. Again there's another post to come on these, but they're my go-to's at the moment along with Little Lamb bamboo nappies with a stretchy wrap.

Showing off one of her TotsBots TeenyFit nappies
Quinn's sleeping so far has been pretty awesome to be honest, she can quite easily go 5-6 hours between feeds which, whilst not recommended by many - is working for us. Any longer than this I gently wake her for a feed, but even after a 5.5 hour sleep, she wakes alert, content and ready to feed -  so I've got no concerns. The other night she went down at 10pm, woke for a feed at 3.30am, and then I found myself waking her at 8am after I'd had breakfast - I don't expect every night to be like it - but it's certainly keeping any sign of sleep deprivation at bay. Most people's response to seeing you with a small baby is "oh, I bet you're tired." - but for the most part - I'm not. Last night was probably the first night that she's had any serious trouble settling and I co-slept with her for most of the night to give her the comfort she was after, but ordinarily she sleeps in her Amby hammock beside my bed and loves it so on the sleeping front - I'm impressed so far!
We've not taken our pram from the corner of the lounge at all, whilst Quinn has been out every day apart from Sunday, we've found babywearing a much more agreeable mode of baby transportation. I feel better holding her close, knowing that she has the comfort of either me or her Daddy close by, rather than being laid in a trolley and pushed about like a weekly shop. I expect the pushchair might come in to play next week when we get out and about on our own but I've loved experimenting with our Papoozle carrier - and Quinn simply loves being carried in it. One of the ladies at our homebirth group has donated me her no-longer-required stretchy Kari-Me wrap sling too which I'm looking forward to trying out.

Boyfriend modelling our Papoozle carrier (and baby)
All in all, a busy, but straight forward first week with baby. I couldn't be happier with the way that she's just slotted in to our lives. It seems crazy that we can be a week in to our daughter's life already; on the one hand it feels as though she's always been here, on the other - I feel as though it were only this morning that I was scooping her brand new body up off of my bedroom floor!
I'm sure we have many challenges ahead, but for the time being, life here is harmonious, everyone is content and I am loving life with my daughter.

Quinn's Birth Story

Well! I began writing this post on Monday 27th July, my "estimated due date", and I'll admit, I expected to be heavily pregnant on this date and ready to give birth at any moment. As it is, I sat with my laptop, in bed, with a cup of tea and my four day old daughter, Quinn, who'd been snoozing all morning. Her Daddy has the week off of work and had just made me an awesome plate of scrambled eggs with fried cherry tomatoes, parsley and chorizo (it was lush) - and here we are; I'm ready to share Quinn's incredible birth story.
Existing readers will know that I'd been planning a homebirth since learning that I was pregnant - I'd hired a pool after deciding that I wanted to try to avoid the use of painkilling drugs, and so opted for a water birth, and I'd also been preparing myself for her arrival with natal hypnotherapy, and by working with a doula. But how did it actually pan out? Pull up a chair!
I'd gone to bed Wednesday night feeling great, it had been the first day of my self-imposed "maternity leave" so I hadn't done anything work related all day and had actually climbed back in to bed after dropping Seb off at school, and napped for most of the day. My swollen ankles had reached epic proportions and I was suffering from agonising cramping pains in my lower legs whenever I walked more than 10 paces, so I'd decided to allow myself a rest. By the evening though, I felt good - the pregnancy overall had been really healthy and Boyfriend and I had been lounging on the sofa, enjoying watching our baby moving around in my belly.
At 5am on Thursday morning, however, I was woken by uncomfortable stomach cramps, and no matter how I tried to arrange myself and bump, I couldn't get comfortable. In the end, I decided not to disrupt Boyfriend's last hour of sleep with my tossing and turning, and got up. I paced about the flat, making myself a drink, laying on the sofa to browse Twitter, bouncing on my birthing ball, and making frequent trips to the toilet; wondering, as the stomach cramps continued to visit me in waves, whether this could be the beginning of labour.
I'd gone in to labour five years previously, with Seb, after my waters had ruptured spontaneously and with no warning what so ever - there'd never been any doubt that he was on his way, and my contractions had started immediately. This time though, I felt as though I were suffering typical menstrual type cramps, except they'd go away completely for a while before returning. I didn't bother timing these tightenings and cramps though as they were all over the place, sometimes I'd have ten minutes of relief, then I'd experience three of four episodes in the space of five minutes. If anything, they seemed to me to be too close together to be labour contractions - unless of course, they were final labour contractions, but I wasn't in anywhere near enough discomfort for that to be the case... or so I thought.
I went quietly in to my bedroom to retrieve something (I now forget what) and inadvertently woke Boyfriend in the process, telling him about my discomfort. We had a nice snuggle in the bed as I rode out one of these cramping sessions with some careful breathing, before Seb woke up, a little earlier than usual but probably having heard our voices.
I was upstairs with Seb when I decided that I might run myself a bath, to see if that would help to get me comfy, and in the meantime I'd sent a text to Marika, my doula, as she'd told me to text her and keep her updated "even if I didn't think it was important". I still have the text on my phone and it reads:
"Morning. Could be nothing but got up at 5 with regular on/off pains in lower bump and pelvis. Have laid on the sofa and had another three in 30 mins. They seem to be easier if I'm standing so just going with it at the mo to see what comes of it, if anything. Had a bit of upset stomach yesterday and this morning and have been losing a very small amount of mucus this morning - will keep you updated. xxx"
That was sent at 5:37am, before I woke Boyfriend.
Before I'd had a chance to turn on my bath however, I had an overwhelming urge to sit on the loo, and as I went to do so, felt a sudden, yet familiar, gush of water. Once again, my waters had ruptured on their own, and this time I knew that this must actually be the real deal. I asked Seb to call Boyfriend for me, who came upstairs for an update and we had a really lovely, happy, excited cuddle and kiss in the bathroom and got the bath running. I was genuinely just pretty pleased to have got 99% of the fluid loss in the toilet bowl - it was an improvement on the carpark, and car interior, which I splattered last time around!
I called Marika at 6:23am to let her know that we had some progress, and suggested that she might want to make her way over.
Once in the bath, my contractions upped their game somewhat, I used the Labour Bath Ease by Natalia Vital Touch and it smelled divine, I like to think that along with the warm water, it helped me to relax. Seb bought me three rubber ducks and a plastic rowing boat to ease my discomfort, I'm not entirely sure that it worked but once Boyfriend had offered him a jug, and suggested that he gently pour warm water over me, we had a slightly better Mother/Son labour arrangement going on.
I'd always wanted Seb to feel a comfortable part of his brother or sister's birth, even if just for a little while before he went elsewhere. I called my best friend Sushi from the bathtub to ask if she would be able to collect Seb at 8:00am. He was so lovely though, declaring himself entirely responsible for looking after me.
After about half an hour in the bath I decided to get out again, the contractions were starting to become intense enough that I was unable to speak whilst contracting, and when Boyfriend came back to the bathroom he found that he needed to remind me of my breathing, but I still felt that I was in the early stages of labour, and gained a lot of comfort from standing with my arms wrapped around his neck until a sudden declaration that I wanted to be on my own in the bathroom (no idea why!)
Boyfriend got Seb sorted downstairs with some breakfast and an audio book, whilst I made several attempts to go to the toilet before deciding that I wanted to be in my bed. At no point during my birth planning had I thought about utilising the bed - the bedroom in my flat is the smallest room, and was still being used to store various "stuff" that I intended to get rid of, I hadn't really transformed it into a safe haven of relaxation - but I had bought six jasmine scented candles, an oil burner, and a birthing pool for the lounge!
I climbed on to the bed and remained on all fours so that I could move my hips about comfortably, and when Boyfriend came to check on me (first going to the bathroom and finding it empty, following my stealthy exit!) I was starting to grow concerned about the strength and regularity of my contractions. I didn't seem to be getting any relief in between them, as quickly as one subsided, it was building again, but I managed to feel completely removed from the experience, as though I was watching myself experience each one, aware of the pain, but not entirely sure what it meant. I said to Boyfriend on several occasions that I doubted my ability to carry on - but he was incredibly reassuring, referring me back to the natal hypnotherapy preparation that I'd been doing (which at the time I became adamant I couldn't remember - but retrospectively I did really well to put in to place.)

For around the next 15 minutes or so the intense contractions continued, I know on one occasion I did bite Boyfriend on the arm... I'm nice like that - out of the sheer force of the contractions, or, what I thought were contractions, retrospectively, possibly not.

I was aware of no transitional stage in my labour, the contractions continued, in their weird, out of body experience kind of way. Each one completely took over my body but thanks to the preparation that I'd done with natal hypnotherapy, I didn't struggle to allow each one to work it's magic.

Things did, however, suddenly get very interesting at about 7:15am. Seb was still eating breakfast and listening to Dirty Bertie in the living room, when all of a sudden, I felt my baby's head, you know, there. I looked at Boyfriend in surprise and told him that Baby was coming, at which point he reassured and comforted me but didn't seem to realise that I meant actually coming, like, out of me. After my absolute assurance, he decided to have a quick look, we hadn't, at this point, even inflated, let alone started filling, our hired birthing pool, and I hadn't gone near my birth relaxation music or labour companion CD. We'd assumed that I was still in the initial stages of labour, and Boyfriend had concentrated on helping me to get "in my zone", before he could leave me to start preparing my desired birthing room (the lounge).

I grabbed a pillow from the bed and put it beneath me as Boyfriend hung over the edge of the bed to check what I was going on about. At that point, he said, "Oh. Shit." and ran from the room, only to return seconds later with the shower curtain and black sheet, still in their packaging, that we'd bought to cover the sofa, on the off chance that I wanted to use it during labour, or at least for post birth examinations. He ripped off the plastic and managed to coax me off of the floor (where I was kneeling with my elbows on the bed) enough to slide both underneath me.

At this point, Seb appeared at the bedroom door, only because he'd wanted to know why Brad had run in to the lounge, disturbing him whilst he was listening to his story, to then run back out again.

I should say that this part of the labour, from the moment I felt Baby's head shift in to the birthing canal, was completely painless. I was able to smile and talk to Seb, reassure him that Baby was on his/her way, and he seemed quite satisfied, uninterested even, and went back to the lounge. I suddenly felt completely and entirely at ease with everything, those crazy, body rocking contractions had disappeared, and everything seemed to slow down. If anything, I felt very comfortable, apart from the human head wedged in my vagina.

What was confusing me, more than anything, was that I had no urge to push what so ever. I'd read in several books that it's quite common for everything to stop completely once the cervix is fully dilated, to allow the body to rest before it goes in for the final leg, so I guessed this was what was happening, and chilled out for a moment.

At this point, the doorbell rang. Boyfriend went to answer it and as he left the room I felt a strong wave pass through me, no pain, no discomfort, just like every fibre in my body doing a strange, coordinated rolling movement from top to bottom, and I felt Baby's head emerge... so I just knelt there, wondering what to do, and hoping someone would be back in a moment. Whilst I knelt, pondering the situation, I felt Baby slowly rotate inside me (weirdest feeling) but still no urge to push. Then, there was another of those rolling waves, starting in my shoulders and going all the way down to my pelvis, and a sudden gushing sensation... I rocked back, looked at the floor, and there, on the pillow that I'd positioned beneath me, was a pile of baby and umbilical cord!

Time seemed to slow down but I'm certain I acted in the blink of an eye, scooping up this tiny baby and holding me against her chest. She didn't make a sound and laid against me, as I rubbed her and spoke to her, telling her it was OK. At no point was I at all scared but it dawned on me that if there was anything wrong (shouldn't she have cried by now? was she supposed to be this purple?) that we hadn't even called a midwife yet. At that point, the door opened and Boyfriend walked in with Marika, our doula, who both, in a split second after locking eyes with me, realised that I was, in fact, holding a baby.

I loved the moment that followed. Boyfriend obviously burst in to tears (this was always going to happen), and fell on to the bed infront of me and the two of us cuddled our baby between us, just as she let out a series of loud, gurgley cries - much to my relief. As we both soothed the baby, the cries were very short lived, and I suggested we have a look to find out whether we had a little boy or girl, I rolled her gently away from my body and then there was much kissing and cuddling as we learned that we had a brand new daughter, a first for both of us - Boyfriend already has two boys from a previous relationship, where I have Seb.

Thank goodness we had Marika, who, whilst she hadn't been able to attend my labour, or, technically, my birth - did at least think to call a midwife. Unfortunately, because of the potential risks of free birth (unintentional or otherwise), they wanted to send an ambulance - but Marika did at least come and speak to me to see how I felt about this, knowing that medical intervention isn't really my thing. I agreed to have a paramedic attend to check us over, as long as I wasn't unnecessarily expected to attend hospital. I swear the ambulance must have arrived in seconds. Boyfriend and I were sat on the bed, with Quinn snuggled between us, when we heard the sirens approaching. Bizarrely, we were attended by a first response paramedic and a full ambulance crew - which in my tiny bedroom, felt rather too much! After initial checks though, it was apparent that we were both in great shape physically. Blood loss was absolutely minimal, baby was happy, and I was in no pain. They gave us a towel to wipe away some of the gunk that poor Quinn was covered in - which we've kept (the towel I mean) and it's now laundered and fresh!

Quinn had an apgar score of 10 at birth - this determines a new-born's immediate health at birth, based on Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration - 10 is the highest possible score, but not too commonly obtained.

It wasn't long before a midwife arrived. Poor Nicola was just coming off of her shift when Quinn was born, but she was ever so good about getting me checked over. I'd requested a natural third stage of labour, i.e to deliver the placenta and afterbirth without intervention, and to leave Quinn attached by her umbilical cord until the placenta arrived. Unfortunately, however, it showed no immediate signs of putting in an appearance. It can take some time for the placenta to be delivered naturally, but very rarely more than 60 minutes, and midwives don't like to leave it any longer than this. We got to 50 minutes and I was having some cramping, but very little else. The cramps turned to contractions - genuinely much more painful than labour contractions, but there was no movement, I was told to expect to feel the placenta coming away or moving in to the birth canal, but I could feel no such thing, and the pain was pretty horrendous. In the end I agreed to cut Quinn's umbilical cord, which was now withered and white as it had stopped pulsing entirely, and to have the hormone injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta, it has been too long, which can be dangerous, and I was thoroughly fed up.

Boyfriend cut Quinn's cord, and thanks to the fact that I was standing up at the time, I was able to watch which was grossly intrigueing. Once clamped and cut, Quinn went to her Daddy for some cuddles whilst I manoevered myself on to the bed, with the cord hanging out of me and one end in a small bowl, to receive the injection in my thigh. Still nothing. The contractions continued but everyone was getting slightly concerned that my placenta was showing no signs of giving up. I tried "coughing it out" (this did nothing), pushing (this did nothing), and crying because I was frustrated (also did nothing). But eventually, we got some gas and air on the go (my only dalliance with drugs throughout the birth) and gave some almighty pushes to try to shift the thing and at last, it arrived on it's own - absolutely enormous. I've not seen anyone elses placenta in person, but I've seen plenty of pictures and this thing was a monster. Which is a good thing - it obviously served Quinn very well.

During the whole placenta delivery debarcle (which was by far the only horrendous and unenjoyable part of Quinn's birth) Seb had been happily playing with Marika in the living room, making me a Hungry Caterpillar themed card.

The second midwife also arrived before the placenta, and I was so so happy that it turned out to be Kelly, my community midwife, who'd just come on shift. I'd seen Kelly for every one of my antenatal appointments and we have a brilliant relationship, it was genuinely the cherry on the top of my perfect cake that she was able to play a role in Quinn's birth - what's more - Quinn was born on her wedding anniversary, and under somewhat unusual circumstances - so Kelly's said her's is one birth she won't forget in a hurry!

Once the placenta was delivered and inspected, the paramedics were free to go, Nicola did the usual inspections and I'm relieved to say that I suffered no perineal tears what so ever (thank you natal hypnotherapy and perineal massage).

Because blood loss had been totally minimal and I was in such good health, Nicola packed up and went home at the end of a 12 hour night shift (what a nice way to end it though, right?) and Kelly carried out the usual checks and observations on Quinn. Given Quinn's pevious apgar score of 10 this was pretty straightforward, but meant that around 75 minutes after birth, we finally got around to weighing her! She weighed 7lbs 15ozs - 3ozs less than her brother - and certainly well under the 10lbs we'd been "warned" to expect from additional growth scans!

We popped Quinn in to her first nappy - we're using cloth nappies, and she first wore a Mothercare Smart Nappy (we've seen pretty much ditched these entirely for other brands now).

I was sick another couple of times which was a real shame as it rather put a downer on the last little bit before Kelly left, but I got on with it and the sick bowls were taken away and luckily it passed once the syntometrine, the drug used to deliver the placenta, had worn off.

Quinn had Vitamin K administered by oral drops, as we'd opted out of having her injected. I'm confident that the risks associated with injecting Vitamin K at birth are non-existent, our decision not to inject her was simply to make her birth experience as gentle as possible, and not because of a previously suggested link between the vitamin injection and childhood cancers (which has since been largely disproven by credible research).

The midwife refuses to leave until you've been for a wee in these homebirth scenarios, presumably to ensure that you can go for a wee. I was totally prepped with the jug of warm water to take the edge off of the burn but... nope... nothing, no discomfort. I honestly couldn't believe how comfortable I was "down below" after Quinn's birth - and can only put it down to the fact that there was no active pushing involved in the final stage of my labour.

We snuggled up in the lounge once Kelly had gone, and Quinn finally showed an interest in breastfeeding - it's likely that her initial reluctance was just down to the shock of her rather speedy birth, because once she'd got going she fed well. I hadn't breastfed Seb at all, so this was, and continues to be, a new experience that both Quinn and I make up as we go along!

Marika took Seb to the park and around the local shops for an hour whilst Boyfriend had newborn snuggles and I had the best shower of my life, and after that, we enjoyed an afternoon together as a merged, brand new family.

I honestly couldn't rave about my homebirth experience any more than I do - it was incredible, to experience birth in such an uninterrupted, raw way, without intervention from anyone but my baby's father and brother, no drugs, no bleeping machines, no paperwork - just the real, authentic act of childbirth which I consider myself incredibly lucky to have experienced as I know it isn't an option for so many women.

The way in which the final stage of my labour progressed, wasn't something I'd prepared for, but is an element of my experience that I can probably entirely thank my preparation with natal hypnotherapy for. I'd been vaguely aware of the fetal ejection reflex (it is a thing) but hadn't done any research in to it - it just seemed like an interesting phenomena but not something I'd really thought about exploring - so it wasn't on purpose. FER is very rarely witnessed by midwives and doctors, and almost never at all in a hospital environment, because any interruption to the birthing Mother stops it in it's tracks - the fact that I was in a room entirely on my own allowed for possibly the most incredible bodily function known, and I'm pretty chuffed that I was able to experience it - though, as I say, it wasn't actually something I was aiming for or knew anything about. There's a good article on Fetus Ejection Reflex here, for those who are interested.

At 6:45pm on the evening of the 23rd July, less than 12 hours after Quinn was born, I strapped her in to her Papoozle sling and headed out for a walk along the seafront to a brand new restaurant, where I'd previously booked a table for their opening night - I don't think that would have happened, had I had a hospital delivery! My recovery has been largely non-existant because I had no symptoms as such to recover from!

I want to take this opportunity very very quickly to thank Boyfriend endlessly (as I probably will, always) for supporting me like a trooper in the absence of anyone else during our daughter's birth. Also Seb, for making me prouder than I could possibly be for his involvement and the way in which he handled the entire experience - made all the more enjoyable and straightforward thanks to Marika - who not only talked him through what was happening, but played an inordinate amount of Lego Marvel on the Xbox, kept everyone topped up with tea, and was the first non-family member to have those lovely newborn cuddles - my entire birth experience would have been poorer without her. Nicola and Kelly were wonderful midwives, and whilst I'm genuinely glad that I ended up having a completely unassisted delivery - their care afterwards was second to none - to Kelly I'm especially grateful for always championing my decision to have Quinn at home, and for standing by me when the hospital wanted to make things more complicated than they needed to be. Thanks also to the paramedics, who were fabulous fun, very sensitive to the whole situation and generally awesome (thanks also to them for the towel). Last, but not least, thanks to everyone who interacted via the blog throughout my pregnancy, commenting on previous posts, chatting babies on Twitter, or offering their advice when it was needed - onwards to the next chapter I guess!


A Birth Announcement!

As some may have guessed due to the lack of activity over the past few days - she's here!
After the most wonderful pregnancy, Boyfriend and I met our brand new little person, and learned that we had a daughter - a first for both of us as between us we already have three boys.
I'm going to write my birth story in more detail - it was so exciting and incredible and unlike anything I've experienced before - including Seb's birth. I'm maybe somewhat biased but I think it's a cracking birth story!
Thank you so much to everyone who offered their support and advice throughout my pregnancy, it was the most magical time in my life to date and so many people contributed in lovely ways.
In the meantime though, I'm very very proud (like, so proud that it's mega annoying) to introduce my little girl, Quinn, born on Thursday 23rd July at 7:27pm, weighing a perfect 7lbs 15ozs.

A Letter to Seb

Dear Seb,
I thought I'd write something that maybe you'll be able to read when you... can read, but also when you're old enough to understand the depth of our relationship beyond the fact that you're largely reliant on me for everything and therefore if I leave it's a bad bad thing!
We're probably in the midst of our last week together as a two-some, we may be lucky enough to get next week too - but either way, our time is running out. I don't know how much you'll remember of life before your little brother or sister (we still don't know what "it" is yet) was born. I'm sure you'll have some fleeting memories, you're five now and already this past year has been such a significant one for you, full of change, that I can't see you forgetting this time altogether!
We're all excited for your baby brother or sister's arrival, but I'm going to miss being Mummy only to you - we've had a pretty crazy five years together already and thanks to you arriving in the world, my life has changed several times over!
I hope you and your brother or sister will be close, I certainly know they're lucky to have you. You're such a sensitive, loving, gentle boy - so funny and cheerful, cheeky and mischievous - I couldn't imagine a more fun older sibling! You've already admitted that you're planning to teach the baby "silly things"... Everyone needs more silly in their life and all of us that are lucky enough to call ourselves your family are blessed to have your silly influence every day (even if it leaves me pulling my hair out sometimes!)
Your brother or sister's arrival won't change the unending, bottomless love that I have for you - if anything, it'll grow as a result of their birth - you'll always be the first one, the boy who taught me how to be a Mum in the first place, the original if you like! I'm going to be so proud of you, I know it, it already fills me with excitement just thinking about watching you develop as a big brother.
Thinking back over the last year, I'm in awe of your resilience, and your positivity, for someone so small you're such a ray of sunshine. I wish I hadn't had to pull your world apart last year, I'm so deeply sorry that your Dad and I couldn't be together and that you couldn't continue life in the bubble that we'd so carefully created for you. Things are harder now, in terms of money and the things that we have -  up until last year we pootled around everywhere in a nice car, we could afford to go on all sorts of day trips and I don't believe you wanted for anything. These days, whilst I feel you and I are wealthy beyond our wildest dreams in love, I know that I can't give you all of the material things that you want, although I do work hard to make sure that you are happy. We don't have the car anymore - but I love our adventures on the bus, I love picking flowers with you on our walks, or spotting wildlife, or diggers, or weird shaped clouds. Our daytrips these days tend to be to the local beach rather than an expensive theme park - but I love seeing you covered in sand - charging around with a spade, and I like to think you're just as happy throwing yourself around on a bouncy castle as you are staying in hotels.
I've tried, over the past year, to build a new life for us, and I like to think I've done Ok. I'm so glad you love your Dad so very much and the two of you are as close as ever, your relationship is so important and completely irrelevant to my relationship with him - I hope you'll always love one another as dearly as you do now - I'm just sorry that you can't see him every day. You will always have me though - again, not in person every day, but I'm here always. When your brother or sister arrives, you'll have an extra person to love, and an extra person to love you - the love that surrounds you will only grow, and none shall be lost.
The fact that you have different Fathers doesn't make you any less, as siblings go, a brother, or a sister, is a lot more than the number of genes you share - and you share a Mama anyway, which is everything. I hope that when you're old enough, you realise that whilst it was sad, your Mum and Dad going their separate ways, and you growing up split between two homes (both loving, happy homes I should add) that had I not decided to take that path, you may never have known what it was to be a brother - and that in itself is a gift I'm proud to be able to give you.
Love and adult relationships can be confusing and complex and difficult, even for those within them, to understand. It will be a long time before you're able to understand why I left your Dad and split your family in two, why I bought a new family in to your life, and put us both on a different, seemingly more difficult course. One day I think you will understand though, one day, I've no doubt, you'll discover what it is to realise that you were wrong, and I hope you'll inherit my desire to chase love down difficult paths.
Never be afraid to do stupid, foolish things for love, to give up things like money, or a job, or a home, or even me, if you find genuine knock-your-socks-off love. I have, and it's made my heart happy - I want you to be happy forever, so if love comes your way, please don't worry about what you have to give up to take it - it is better than every job, every bank note, every big house. I want you to grow up chasing love (whatever that means for you) over other forms of "success". I'll always champion you in that pursuit, and I'll always be the home you can come back to if it doesn't go to plan - there is no plan, after all.
The love I have for you is the greatest of all, it is greater than the love I've had for any human being before you, and any other that I know now. Nothing will change that.
In our final week(s) as just us two, before we face our next challenge together, I just want to squeeze you more than ever, cover you in kisses, eat ice cream and watch cartoons - I'll still want to squeeze you, cover you in kisses, eat ice cream and watch cartoons in twenty years time though, so don't ever think you're losing me.
Love you always, always, always,
Mum xxx

39 Week Update

Argh! This is the first time I've ever failed to publish a pregnancy update on a Monday! I'd like to think I can be forgiven though, with a mixture of feeling very pregnant, needing an extra rest here and there, and having loads to do before Baby arrives, my blog schedule has gone a little to pot!
The great news though is that going in to what may well be my last week of pregnancy, I am still feeling fabulous. I actually have a reasonable amount of energy; all things considered; and am trying to spend time with friends, and with Seb, before we're consumed temporarily by all things baby. I'm looking forward to a couple of family meals this coming week, some last minute shopping, healthy, quick and simple home cooking, and plenty of tea and sunshine with girlfriends!
For the first time in ages I've got really stuck in to reading a novel. I've been reading a lot to prepare me for birth over the last few months, tending to read lots of non-fiction focusing on natural birthing approaches from around the world, and less for leisure. I've borrowed The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson from the library, and am really enjoying reading for pleasure. I'm hoping to do more of this once baby arrives and I find myself breastfeeding a lot of the time!
So; this week. My swollen feet have got about a million times worse, and there have been days when I've been physically unable to walk. I can't begin to explain how enormous and puffy they are (though if you follow me on Instagram you'll have an idea!) and painful too. What's worse is the frustration at not being able to be as active as I'd really like to be. As I said earlier, I still have bags of energy, and my nesting instinct has really kicked in, so I just want to be doing stuff - but on a daily basis now, by the afternoon, I'm unable to do very much at all due to my feet and ankles. Thankfully, Boyfriend doesn't have exceptionally large feet for a man, he wears size 8 shoes, and as I'm usually a size 6, a pair of his flip flops are seeing me through at the moment - although even they are tight!
My Braxton Hicks contractions are also growing in intensity. I've had these regularly for months now, but these days they're incredibly powerful, though not at all painful - at times they can certainly take my breath away though! I'm just hoping that all of this practice stands me in good stead for an efficient labour - I ought to have a womb of iron by now!
We finally ordered our pushchair and car seat this weekend. Talk about last minute, but as I said before, I wasn't particularly fussed if Baby had arrived before either piece of kit, as we have no intention of using either from Day 1. As planned, we opted for the O'Baby Zezu Pramette in purple quilt as our pushchair, and the Pampero Cherub in black as a baby seat for the van.
We also gave the birthing pool a practice inflation - which may well have been my pregnancy highlight of the week! Turns out, our Eco Regular Pool from Birth Pool in a Box (which we rented from Water Baby Birth Pool Hire)  is fully inflated in less than five minutes! The pump is pretty noisy (unimpressed cats) but it's great to know that we won't be waiting around for long before we can start filling the pool, and this means we can leave it in it's box until the time comes, rather than feeling the need to inflate it ahead of time. Both Boyfriend and I got in and lounged around for a while (without any water) and I can confirm that there is plenty of space in there for two (even when one of the two is slightly whale shaped!)
On a medical (ish) note, I went along to the hospital on Friday for my final growth scan at 38 weeks. I'd agreed to the scan as a final check on Baby's progress - for my own peace of mind, I wanted to know that my placenta was still performing well and that Baby was in the ideal position for birth - both get a big tick. From the hospital's point of view though, this appointment was to satisfy their ongoing concern about the size of Baby - we'd been told since 20 weeks that Baby was measuring "too big". Well - I'm so glad I stuck to my guns and insisted that I was certain baby was absolutely fine, because at this final scan, the sonographer revealed that baby is in fact a very typical, average size. In fact, compared to his/her brother, Seb, he/she is looking quite small! It seems we must have caught Baby at the height of a growth spurt in the past, but his/her growth has now settled right down and from the ultrasound alone they're estimating his/her weight at 7lbs3ozs (which I think of as a little baby!)
I also saw my midwife, Kelly, at the hospital on Sunday. This gave us an opportunity to look at the rooms on the midwife lead unit, where I may give birth if for any reason I need to transfer from home to hospital. The meeting has only made me hope all the more that I'm able to birth at home! I don't suffer from a hospital fear at all, I just find them depressing, clinical, and... uninspiring. Not words that I want to attribute to my birthing environment! Even on the midwife lead unit, which is an improvement on the labour ward next door, the hospital bed is, well, a hospital bed, the sofa is made of wipe-clean plastic, and the d├ęcor is typically impersonal. Don't get me started on the decidedly non-relaxing bathroom! I'd certainly rather bring my baby in to the world surrounded by photographs of his/her family, plants that I've nurtured myself, cushions that I chose, and my own candles. Sorry hospital!
The appointment itself went well though. Kelly confirmed that Baby's head is down, and just resting at the brim of my pelvis. It's unusual for second and subsequent babies to engage before labour, as they have a lot more room to move in and out of the pelvis, so tend to bounce up and down in and out of engagement rather than getting themselves settled. This accounts for the ouchie sensations I've been experiencing - Baby's head banging against my cervix as he/she moves in and out of my pelvis - no fun!
My blood pressure, which has been low throughout pregnancy, sometimes dangerously so, has now crept up in to the perfectly normal range, which is probably why I feel so good in myself and able to take on the world!
The only thing left to do now though, is wait. I have another appointment booked in on my due date next week. I've been offered a membrane sweep at this appointment, which I've already declined, so it'll just end up being a routine antenatal check if I make it to the other side of this weekend without giving birth. Baby could come any day though - how exciting!

My Favourite Traditional Baby Names

Last week I published a post discussing the suggestion that certain popular American baby names were going to "make it big" here in the UK, and it attracted lots and lots of you lovely reader types (seems you're just as in to discussing what other people name their offspring as I am). Because I took the list from elsewhere (thanks Netmums) there were some in there that weren't to my liking, so I thought I'd write another Baby Name post, this time with some of my favourite names.
Today I've decided to concentrate on traditional, classic names. Some of these might feature on the shortlist for Baby, who should be with us in the next week or so - but I'm not going to tell you which, if any, as we're keeping shtum about our naming intentions for now.
Let me know what you love, and don't love from this list, and feel free to share your own traditional favourites.
My Favourite Classic Girl's Names
My Favourite Classic Boy's Names

What I've Learned In Pregnancy

Any pregnancy is a steep learning curve, whether it's your first or your fifth; each experience is different, and you approach each pregnancy as a different person, with a different set of circumstances, different past experiences, and different ideas about how you expect or want things to go.
In my last pregnancy I did a fantastic job of denying that I was pregnant entirely, I carried on exactly as normal right up until the end and didn't really engage in a lot of pregnancy related stuff. This time, my situation is different, I am different, and I've thrown myself head first in to my pregnancy, and have adored every minute. I learned a lot last time that was relevant to me, then, and my pregnancy at that time, but I've learned a number of very different lessons this time. As I near 39 weeks, I thought now was a good time to share just a few of these.
Everyone needs a chiropractor - I went in to this pregnancy with really bad (undiagnosed) pelvis alignment issues. Basically, I had an unbelievably wonky pelvis, although I was largely unaware and had been for an estimated five years. Left to my own devices, I would have developed horrific pelvic pain in this pregnancy, and I began to suffer from horrible sciatica symptoms early on. After a few sessions with a recommended family chiropractor, I've been able to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy without any pelvic discomfort - and what's more, this will help me to birth my baby, as my pelvis will no long be a complete obstacle course! Chiropractic treatment in pregnancy isn't only a great solution for sciatica and pelvic girdle pain, but can also help with back ache, sore ribs caused by high positioned babies, fatigue, recurring headaches, nausea, and is one of the most effective and safest methods of turning a breech or transverse baby. I've also learned a lot about the benefits of chiropractic treatment for newborn babies, and Baby will be visiting my chiropractor within a few days of birth.

Natal hypnotherapy could help everyone - I'm planning to use natal hypnotherapy (or "hypnobirthing") as a means of pain management in labour, but it isn't for everyone. However, getting the mind itself under control, addressing any fears and anxiety which might lead to a difficult labour or birth, and effectively re-programming the brain for pregnancy and childbirth, could make a huge difference to the experience of almost every single pregnant couple, and I'm gutted I didn't know more about it last time. Whether you're interested in actually using hypnobirthing during labour or not, Natal Hypnotherapy offer a range of pregnancy relaxation CD's and birth preparation CD's (also available as downloads) which can help to prepare any Mother mentally for giving birth to her baby. They also provide dedicated CDs and downloads for those having more than one baby, those having a planned C-Section, those giving birth in a hospital, those planning a homebirth, and those preparing for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I'm so bored of listening to myself recommend these CD's and downloads to everyone that I had to include it here. Being calm and relaxed and feeling in control when you go in to labour will significantly reduce your likelihood of having an assisted delivery, will limit the amount of pain relief you're likely to use, will reduce your likelihood of perineal tearing or needing an episiotomy which will lead to stitching, and will also make it easier to bond with your newborn - who wouldn't want that? Find out more here.
The physical symptoms of each pregnancy really are different - In my first pregnancy I had a relatively straight forward time, apart from crippling heartburn, and was later diagnosed with Obstetric Cholestasis, a serious complication which can lead to stillbirth, so was immediately hurled up the ladder into the high risk bracket. This time around, I've still been lucky to enjoy a straightforward pregnancy, but the greatest news is that despite being at increased risk of contracting Obstetric Cholestasis as a previous sufferer - I don't have the illness this time around. I've also not experienced the heartburn in this pregnancy, though had some mild acid reflux, predominantly in the second trimester. This time however, my feet and ankles have swollen to unrecognizable proportions - something I didn't experience at all when I carried Seb, and I've also suffered throughout with low blood pressure, which has given rise to the occasional bout of dizziness and light headedness. When people ask, I tend to say that both pregnancies have been similar, but actually, there have been very different physical symptoms. Now in my last two weeks I'm finding myself in regular discomfort as Baby is well and truly lodged against my cervix - banging away against the door from the inside (ouch!) - where Seb refused to engage at all until labour! It will be interesting to see how similarly my birth progresses this time.
Being pregnant and in love is pretty amazing - My last pregnancy was a mess, relationship wise. I spent a majority of my pregnancy single, as in, very single, and was still dating (kind of unintentionally) at seven months. This time around, I've been lucky enough to experience pregnancy within an incredibly loving, secure and happy relationship. I didn't realise that I could actually be this loved up and close to someone.
The NHS aren't necessarily right - I love the NHS, I'm so so thankful to be here in the UK where my family and I have access to free, quality medical care. However, my experiences of this pregnancy have made me realise how vital it is to question NHS advice where pregnancy and childbirth are concerned, for a single reason, and that's that a majority of pregnancies should not be treated as medical events. It's a shame that pregnancy and childbirth have suddenly (I say suddenly in regards the grand scheme of history) become the interest of doctors and hospitals, when in theory, there is no reason for most pregnant women to go near either. It's a difficult one because I don't want the NHS to step out of antenatal and postnatal care entirely - without their involvement, families wouldn't have access to the sort of routine tests and observations which are able to identify, and prescribe care for, those minority of pregnancies that need medical supervision. This saves many lives. As a low-risk pregnancy though, I've found some elements of NHS involvement to be invasive and unnecessarily distressing. I'm glad that I was informed enough, and interested enough, in my options and alternatives to say no to protocol, ask why certain "routine treatment" was being suggested, and arm myself with evidence, asking myself "how much of this is about risk to me and my baby, and how much is about hospital routine?"
Childbirth can be enjoyable - Even though, despite my Obstetric Cholestasis, my birth experience with Seb was very straight forward, I dreaded, rather than looked forward to it, and saw it as the unavoidable means by which I would eventually be rewarded with a baby. In this pregnancy I've been able to learn more about how I can actually enjoy giving birth, and how I can make it a pleasant experience. I'd recommend reading some Sheila Kitzinger for similar messages.
Doulas! If I was aware of doulas in my last pregnancy, I probably dismissed them as a hippy thing. I became keen to hire a doula in this pregnancy, just because it made sense alongside my homebirth plans, but they're incredibly useful in a hospital setting too. Basically, we didn't have enough people to cover all necessary bases for my homebirth. Thank goodness for my friend Flo, who is a doula, for pointing me in the direction of Doula UK, who can help put a family in touch with a doula. I also learned about the Doula UK Access Fund which, whilst not something I'm using, allows low income families to get free access to vital doula services. I've learned so much about the benefits of hiring a doula, and can't stress enough what a difference my doula, Marika, has made to my pregnancy experience, I'm genuinely delighted that she'll (hopefully) be at Baby's birth.
Reusable (cloth) nappies are a thing - Seb only ever wore disposable nappies, thankfully my Mum was kind enough to kit us out with so many newborn nappies that he'd actually moved in to a larger size before I was able to use them all! I assumed that the use of cloth nappies had disappeared with the arrival of the disposable, and that Pampers and co had largely replaced the practice of terry toweling. How wrong I was! The cloth nappy movement is still going strong, there are some amazing brands out there, and Boyfriend and I have been totally won over to using reusable nappies from Day 1. Who'd have thunk it?

One of my favourite nappies, the ducks collab between Scottish nappy manufacturers TotsBots and Cornish organic children's wear designers, Frugi.

Having a great pregnancy doesn't mean you're insensitive to those who don't - As I hinted, my previous pregnancy ended up being less than perfect when I contracted Obstetric Cholestasis, which presented a high risk of death or permanent damage to my baby. I gave birth in a consultant lead ward, where I was treated as a very high risk patient, and I relied on a cocktail of drugs to get me through labour, including pethedine, one of the only labour pain relief options which crosses over the placenta and effectively "drugs" your newborn baby. The fact that I'm interested in "natural childbirth" this time around is born from a place of previous experience of quite the opposite. What I've discovered though, through my experiences of others both online and in person, is that people can take your experience or preferences, and find them upsetting in comparison to their own. I didn't know any other pregnant people when I was carrying Seb, so I don't know how I'd have felt if I were around someone planning a home/hypno/water birth and really thriving off of their own pregnancy, when I was preparing for the possibility that my baby may not survive birth. However, I have learned now, at least, as someone with an overwhelmingly positive outlook towards pregnancy and childbirth, that had I found myself in such a situation, the other person wouldn't have necessarily been dismissing my experience in favour of their own. I've been told by someone experiencing a difficult pregnancy that my attitudes towards positive birth act as a trigger for their prenatal anxiety, which is a real shame, but I've been able to remind myself that that isn't my fault. That just by believing that pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful, I'm not being unkind, insensitive, or dismissive of those whose reality is different.
I've touched on a few of my previous posts here, which may be of interest so I'll pop some links below:
Sharing Pregnancy (comparing my experiences of being single and pregnant and pregnant in a relationship) can be found here.
How Pregnancy Changed My Relationship (which looked closer at how my relationship has changed over the last 9 months) can be found here.
Why a Doula? (explains why I chose to hire a doula, with more info about Doula UK and the Doula UK access fund) can be found here.
Is a Great Pregnancy Becoming a Social Taboo? (in which I discuss feeling uncomfortable about sharing my positivity about pregnancy for fear of being isolated by those with negative experiences) can be found here.

Review: Pampero Whipper Snapper Group 2-3 car seat

After some discussions during this pregnancy, Boyfriend decided to have his work van converted in to a six-seater (whilst still maintaining it as his work van). I don't own a car, nor do I plan on buying a car any time soon (read: ever), and Boyfriend's only vehicle has been his VW Transporter, an ex AA van, with a seat for the driver, and a bench for two passengers. We've always got by, but we're about to become a family with four children, and sometimes, we're going to want to go somewhere, together, without using public transport (camping holidays for example).
Once the work was done on the van, which meant Boyfriend losing some of the space in the back for tools, but gaining enough seats to move our entire family around when we need to, we decided that it would be a good opportunity to treat Seb to a new car seat.
At five, Seb is required to use a Group 2 car seat, which is basically a booster with a high back. I'd been using an old one that I'd had for a long time (a Group 1-2) and we wanted to find something a bit more pleasant for Seb to ride in. What we didn't have, however, was a huge budget with which to spoil him.
It goes without saying that a parent's priority should always be their child's safety, and having heard some awful stories of children's cheaper car seats letting them down in accidents, I was slightly anxious about opting for a cheaper model, but at the same time, we simply didn't have £100+ to spend on something swanky. Whilst browsing online, Boyfriend came across the Pampero range of car seats, with a Group 2-3 seat (which will accommodate children aged 4-12), the Whipper Snapper, for only £29.99. I must admit it seemed a little too good to be true and I was certain that comfort and/or safety would be compromised, but we decided to pop along to our local Halfords store to see one for ourselves.
Long story short, we ended up purchasing a Whipper Snapper there and then. I couldn't believe how robust the seat was, how secure all of the fixtures, and being able to compare it in store to the likes of Britax seats which were more than four times the price, I couldn't work out why the Pampero model was so cheap. I've come across some flimsy, unconvincing car seats in my time, but the Pampero Whipper Snapper feels safe, it's super sturdy, and features deep side impact protection technology, and naturally complies with all British safety regulations. We tried it in the van, and realised how secure it was once the seatbelt was in place, and we asked Seb to test it out to see how it fitted around his frame - perfect. The back is height adjustable so we could move the head support up and down until it sat perfectly above his shoulders, and held the seatbelt in the ideal position to keep him safe, but also perfectly comfortable, as it can't cut in across his neck at all, and lays nice and flat against his chest. I was also really impressed with the amount of padding in the seat unit, there is plenty of foam cushioning which gives the seat a nice spring, and is significantly comfier than Seb's previous seat by Graco. I even squidged some of the more expensive models in Halfords and was confident that the Pampero would probably be the cosiest on long journeys, despite the smaller price tag.
We've been using the Pampero Whipper Snapper in the van for several weeks now, and Seb still comments on how much he likes it. It's the perfect height for him to be able to see out of the van windows too, and features cup/snack holders on each side which is a nice little feature for a cheaper seat.
We've been so impressed by the value for money that you get when you buy a Pampero Whipper Snapper, that we've decided on the Pampero Cherub for the new baby. Not only will it mean that the back of the van will look nice and "matchy matchy", but because I don't want to use an infant carrier style seat for baby (no need to use one on the pram, so why squash them in to something that uncomfortable for nine+ months?) it makes more sense to buy something that will offer us brilliant value for money (the cherub is £49.99 and suitable from birth until a child reaches seven-ish years). We figure that once Baby is finished with the Cherub - Seb will be ready to pass on the Whipper Snapper!

What I'll Do Differently: Preparing for a Newborn

Having a baby is an incredibly steep learning curve. When Seb was born five years ago he was the first small baby that I had ever held. I had never changed a nappy, never dressed or fed or bathed a baby, I was well and truly thrown in at the deep end, what's more - I was single, and approaching these daunting tasks alone, bar the valuable help of family and friends.
Aside from the physical side of caring for a newborn, there's a huge emotional shift to be undertaken in becoming a parent; priorities, attitudes, everything changes in a single instant, and continues to evolve and change as that child grows.
What's interesting, for me, is how much that experience is either replicated, or altered, in the arrival of second and subsequent children. Do parents do the same again out of familiarity, or change everything up and approach the newborn days from an entirely different angle thanks to experience, knowledge, and personal growth?
For me, well, my outlook, towards life in general, has changed beyond recognition. My attitudes towards money and spending, sustainable living and the environment, consumer habits, diet and health, childbirth, parenting, relationships, and politics have all completely 180'd in five years.
The truth is that I was very close minded previously. and spent a lot of time around equally close minded people, and my reluctance to explore ideas was probably confounded by not wanting to embarrass myself.
My newborn experience is set to be entirely different this time, which fills me with excitement. I was perfectly happy after Seb was born, with almost every decision that I made regarding his care. There was nothing that I regretted monumentally, just small things that I fixed along the way, like a change in formula brand.
It's only now, as my relationship with the world is completely different, that the decisions that I made for Seb no longer fit with my values. I was 22 when Seb was born, I'm now 27; of all of the five year leaps in a person's life, early to later twenties is a time of enormous change for many, me included. I'm in an unbelievably solid and loving relationship now. I give a bit more of a shit about my impact on the environment, and I believe, very much, in myself - I'm empowered as a Mother, where previously I was somewhat terrified.
So here is a list of what I'll be doing differently, this time around.
Holding my baby more - I was entirely unaware of the concept of the "Fourth Trimester" when Seb was born, the idea that a baby, fresh from it's Mother's body, is largely ill-equipped to deal with the world, in terms of it's sensory experience, and that it (and it's Mother) benefit from a period of transition between being one, and being separate. I tended to only pick Seb up when he needed something as a baby, not because I was detached or unloving, but because that just seemed appropriate. My aim was to get him to sleep so that I could put him down. When we left home, he was in a pushchair, and he stayed in the pushchair unless he woke. I remember the reluctance I felt at finally purchasing a baby carrier just so that I could make a cup of tea when I perceived Seb as being "clingy" - and I refused to wear it outdoors at first, only get household chores done without him crying. The photos of Seb, taken and shared proudly ("here's my baby" "here's what my baby is wearing today" "I really love this baby" etc.) are all of Seb on something or in something, but I rarely feature in the photo - why wasn't I cuddling him? Why wasn't he allowed to be soothed by the familiar sound of my heartbeat? Why weren't we touching? I find it odd now. Why every time he wanted to feel me close to him did I feel restrained by him? It's really sad.
Ditching the pushchair - So we still haven't bought the pushchair. I couldn't be less bothered to be honest. We do know what pushchair we're buying, and we know where from, and we know how much it costs - so that all helps to alleviate any stress I might otherwise have about being unorganised, but I don't really want to put my baby in a pushchair in the first, earliest days, if I can help it. We might leave the flat, that would be nice (essential, actually as if we succeed in birthing at home we'll need to go to the hospital to see a paediatrician within 72 hours), but as we're talking about a baby of less than 10lbs, I'd like to think between Boyfriend and I, we'll be quite capable of carrying him/her - rather than laying them ceremoniously in a carry cot and pushing them around like a bag of rice in a Tesco trolley.
The sling thing - As I said, I was appalled by the idea of a baby carrier last time, it felt totally Earth Mother, and primitive, and I disliked it immensely - although when Seb got bigger it did come in handy for dog walking and I started to wear it out of the house! This time around, a soft, sling style carrier was one of the first things Boyfriend and I purchased, with much excitement, and we put way more consideration in to this than we did a pushchair. The plan is for the sling to be the every day mode of transport, and the pushchair to be there in special circumstances. This isn't just because I want Baby close, it's also significantly more practical on busy Summer public transport, baring in mind that I don't own a car.
Reusable nappies - When I was pregnant with Seb my Mum super generously bought me enough Pampers nappies to run an orphanage. This suited me down to the ground. I honestly, 100%, didn't realise that people still used cloth nappies. I assumed them entirely replaced by the dawn of the disposable. It wasn't until Seb was perhaps almost a year old, and I met my friend Charlie, who's had two boys in cloth nappies - that I even realised that it was a thing. This time, for the money saving factor alone boyfriend and I were keen to use reusable nappies, and that's before we'd considered the environmental factors... and the fact that they look nicer.
Gentle products - One of my most recounted anecdotes, concerning wet wipes, occurred a couple of years ago. I was putting on makeup in my bathroom when I spilt some of the contents of a pot of Barry M Dazzle Dust on the closed toilet lid. Anyone who uses that stuff will understand my plight. I used a Johnson's Baby Wipe, which at the time I found to be one of the more effective treatments for my adult acne, but which I'd also used on Seb since he was tiny, to clean the varnished wooden toilet lid and seat. What's alarming, is that the wipe removed the varnish from the wood, stripped it, back to the bare wood. Even then, before the chemical content of baby products was of that much interest to me, I wondered what on Earth it did to skin if that's what it did to varnished wood. Seb and I had never had a reaction to the wipes, but it was still a wake up call. Seb's baby bath products were exclusively Johnson's. Johnson's Baby Bath, Baby Shampoo, Talc, Baby Lotion etc. They're still the most used and widely recommended baby bath products, globally - and almost always feature in freebie packs like the ones you get from Bounty and Emma's Diary. I won't be using Johnson's products at all this time, not just because of the toilet incident, but because they contain all sorts of unfamiliar ingredients, and are tested on animals. I no longer use products that are tested on critters, be it makeup or washing up liquid, and where possible I buy vegan (not always) so that I can be sure products are truly cruelty free. I'll only be using natural, organic, vegan baby products on new Baby, not because I'm some sort of Waitrose Wanker but because I want to do what's best, not just for Baby, but for the planet too.
Breastfeeding - I've no idea why I didn't breastfeed Seb. I just didn't want to. That's it. From the minute I found out that I was pregnant I never once questioned how I would feed my baby when he/she was born, it would be formula from Day 1 and there was no way that baby was coming near my boobs, and that was that. Deep in my bones I was entirely against the idea. I suspect it was conditioning more than anything. My Mum didn't breastfeed me, and is very open about how distasteful she finds breastfeeding in general. There were (are) no babies in my family, and none of my friends had had children when I was pregnant. I'd simply grown up around people who found breastfeeding disgusting and so, as far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was disgusting. Thankfully, having Seb meant that I met a lot of other Mothers with babies. Many of them breastfed, and whilst I was still vaguely distanced from the idea, when I fell pregnant this time, I suddenly swung in the opposite direction. I don't feel comfortable giving my baby formula, I want to nurse them, I'm even looking forward to it. Funny how things change.   
I think those are the most significant differences in my ideas, values and desires this time around. I'd love to hear from people who've had similar switch ups in their approach to baby raising, maybe there's someone out there who swung in the opposite direction?
It's vital to say that I believe very strongly in parents supporting one another regardless of their decisions. Pushchairs, disposable nappies, Johnson's baby products, and formula feeding were all right for the Mother I was five years ago. I don't believe I'm a better Mother now on account of these changes, just a different Mother. If formula feeding, or Pamper's nappies, or an ICandy pram are your choices, then own them, I'm not suggesting that they're the wrong choices for you - they're just no longer the right choices for me.

The American Influence - Baby Names

One of the first baby name books that I picked up came from a local charity shop, and looked promising, apparently with over 100,000 suggestions (that's a large pool to fish from right?). What I didn't realise at the time was that the book was an American publication, which shouldn't have made a huge difference to it's user-friendliness, except, I suddenly realised, that naming a baby in America is a crazy business.
The name "Daniel" isn't on my shortlist, but I looked it up anyway upon realising how odd this book's contents were, and considering Daniel a particularly "normal" name, and was it listed? No. 100,000 potential baby names and "Daniel" was not a suggestion. There was, however, an entire page dedicated to possibilities for those who particularly wanted to name their child after well known bull fighters. My friend has a similar book, also American, which even lists names that would be suitable for those parents inspired by notorious serial killers. Both of us were given suggestions in our books if we foresaw our children growing up to be checkout operatives (because certain names are apparently better suited to working a till.)
Based on my (short lived) experience with this book, I was delighted to receive an email this morning from the lovely people at Netmums, who were particularly excited by the latest baby name trends in America, which are "yet to hit the UK". These are some of the most popular American baby names at the moment, which do not feature in the UK Top 100. The emphasis being on the fact that they probably will feature eventually, so you should bag them now if you're expecting.
Let's have a look shall we? These are my personal responses by the way, and are entirely subjective! I'm sure we'll all disagree.
Riley - Boyfriend's eldest son's name - bloody trend setter!
Kennedy - very American thanks to the presidential link, but I like it for a girl. A bit.
Aaliyah - not for me, it may not be in our Top 100 but there seem to be hundreds of variations of this traditionally Arabic name about (I know several Aliyas).
Brandon - Bit of a sore point, I really fancied a Brandon in school (never got anywhere) but I really like the name, just couldn't use it because, you know, unrequited love and all that.
Autumn - Yes! I'm loving nature inspired (arguably slightly hippie) names at the moment. Annoyingly, I'm having a Summer baby and don't like the name Summer.
Brooklyn - As in Beckham. No.
Angel - Love Angel for a boys name (on the basis that angels are male celestial beings, Gabriel probably being the most well known outside of the religious community) I don't really understand it as a female name, like I never understand why only girls are cast as angels in school nativity plays, it is as sensible to me as a girls name as calling your daughter "Boy". I'm also a huge fan of Angel in Tess of the D'urbevilles as a male literary character so it gets points there from me. Oddly though, because angels are seen as girlie for no apparent reason outside of church, I suspect a male child called Angel would actually get picked on loads.
Gianna - This is a new one for me. I don't love it, and I don't hate it.
Jace - There is a small boy I often see with his Mum, called Jace. For reasons I won't go in to here, this has put me off. I imagine everyone would assume it was short for Jason too.
Hadley - Hadley has been one of my favourite girl's names for a little while, but it was also the name of one of my favourite soft toys (a large apron wearing dog) when I was little which is why I can't really feel entirely comfortable using it for my baby (same goes for Harriet - a pink hippo).
Bentley - As in the car?
London - Oh America. Isn't this one of Britney Spears children's names? It's actually not horrible but I do worry about the link between place names for babies and the hint at where they were conceived, which is just awkward.
Nolan - As in, Sisters?
Savannah - dry, inhospitable, barren, probably kill you if you stay there too long. Giraffes.
Chase - One of the only female friends that Seb will admit to having at school is Chase. It's not really my style but as it's not a girlie name I've always quite appreciated it amongst the sea of Evies and Lacies and Darcies and Graces.
Mila - Kunis. Boyfriend definitely would. No.
Easton - To me, this is just the word Eastern spelled wrong? Just me?
Piper - love it. Grew up watching Charmed, so...
Avery - Like it, does make me think of budgies, but it's not offensive.
Addison - not for me, mainly because it just sounds like someone left the M off of the more popular Madison.
Ryder - Not my style, at all. Plus if you practice shouting it across the park, you sound a bit unapproachable...
Hunter - thumbs up, and I'm not just saying that because one of my pregnant friends has already called her son Hunter. I wouldn't go for it, because it's a tad too "cool" for me, and there's a blatant Gladiator reference, but I do accept that it's cool and that Hunter from Gladiators is rather obsolete these days!
Grayson - Since when was this an American name?
Brianna - So not "me", it's a little bit too smiley smiley American for me! Makes me think of cheerleaders.
Asher - I'm biased but I'll never put down another "Ash" name!
Genesis - Wow. This is an almighty Bible meets the 70's name. I'm not sure whether people would assume you were deeply religious or a Phil Collins fan, not that you can't be both. If you are both, then this is a winner surely? I'd still probably rather go for Phil though... or even Colin...
Stella - Again, not convinced that this is very American. I like Stella but I said that once and apparently it's very "common" - I liked the star reference, but whatever.
Aubree - Love Aubrey, love Audrey even more. Dislike this immensely.
Zoey - Love Zoe. See above.
Serenity - Nope.
Peyton - I always thought is was Peighton? Is this an alternative or an original spelling? I'm not even sure!
Camden - Market.
Kaylee - Oh stop it, it's Kayleigh. Which is totes 90s.
Penelope - Now we're talking. I've always loved Penelope, she's one of my favourite characters from classical literature (I studied Homer to death for A Levels) and Penny is cute. I have a weird suspicion that Boyfriend would never allow this on to a shortlist but I am for it. Plus those who didn't study Homer to death for A Levels, would probably think Pitstop (who I'm also a fan of).
Brody - Too close to Boyfriend's name.
Wyatt - Closely linked to one of Boyfriend and my favourite restaurants, so bit odd.
Jackson - I know a really nice dog called Jackson. Which isn't reason enough to discount it. The Michael reference is though.
Levi - Went to school with a Levi. He was an unpleasant child. He grew up to be an even more unpleasant adult and is now in prison.
Jordan - One of my middle names.
Xavier - Correct me if I'm wrong but I've always assumed that people only call their child Xavier because it begins with X, and therefore the child gets kind of cool initials. Apart from our child, whose initials would be XL.
There are lots of other American names gaining popularity already here in the UK. I think the Americans got excited about using surnames as first names before we did (hey to the Parkers and the Coopers and the Baxters and the Andersons.) They're also more up for giving masculine names to their daughters than we are (a "trend" that I personally quite like - Hi again to the Parkers, along with the Elliots, the Drews, the James' and the Reece's) They quite like a place name baby too, as the list above hints with Brooklyn and London (last pregnancy I vaguely wanted a daughter called New York, I've never even been there, I just liked the Paloma Faith song).
Do you find yourself drawn to typically American names? It's funny because in my experience, a lot of Americans love an old school English name, especially thanks to their appreciation for our Royal Family (shout out to all of the American Georges and Charlottes, Catherines and Williams, Harrys and of course, the Elizabeths). My American friend has a four year old Charlotte though... ahead of the game there!