Baby purchases so far…and recycled essentials.

As this is our second baby, we have already ‘tried and tested’ several essentials the first time round. Some were life savers, others we hardly used. I will write a separate blog post about the top three most useful and useless baby bits later.

We didn’t find out the sex with George, so most of our newborn and 0-3 clothes/vests/blankets etc. are all neutral colours. This has meant that we have only had to buy a few little outfits and splashes of pink (even though I was determined not to have a pink baby) here and there.

It has been a much nicer process this time round, as I was so anxious right until the end with George – something fertility struggles will do to you – and I didn’t want to buy any clothes myself, for fear of jinxing things.

So, here are my favourite bits from last time and newer pieces that we have bought:

    The Snuzpod (John Lewis) – I loved having George so close to me when he was sleeping. It didn’t make getting out of bed very easy straight after my emergency c-section, but was definitely worth it in the long term. He did outgrow it a lot quicker than I had anticipated (my next door neighbour said she had woken one morning to find her little one stood up in his!) The other point I would add, is that combined with the Angel Care monitor and motion detector, having the snuzpod so close to my bed meant that the motion detector picked up my breathing as well as the baby’s. On discovery, I made sure I pushed the snuzpod further away from the bed, leaving enough of a gap so that it only detected George’s movements.
  • Sleepyhead of Sweden (John Lewis) – I was in two minds over whether to fork out for this or not. It seemed an extortionate price to pay for what was essentially, a pillow! George spent the first week of his life in the neonatal ward and his incubator was padded, imitating the shape of the sleepyhead. Naturally, when we returned home, he loved nothing more than cuddling up in his sleepyhead at night. Worth every penny! He continued using it as he transitioned into his cot and then I weened him off at about 6-8 months (as I was definitely not forking out for the bigger size!) I will say though, I have been looking at replacement covers for the sleepyhead as there are one or two calpol stains on the original – however I think they are extortionately overpriced and I’d rather save my money!
  • Ewan the dream sheep – George still relies on his every night and I have repurchased for the new baby. Each leg plays a different white noise or lullaby and there is an option for a light – although I found this annoying when he slept in our room. They have released a new washable version, but I have never felt the need to wash George’s so far.
  • Braun Thermoscan 7 Thermometer (Amazon) – I bought a tens machine and then ended up being induced before it arrived. I replaced it with the thermometer and it has been a staple in our family ever since. Quick, accurate and reliable.
  • Cheeky Wipes reusable cloth baby wipes (cheekywipes.com) – I was (still am) very cautious over the products I use on George. I knew that I didn’t want to use any wet wipes on him, other than Water Wipes or similar. I was introduced to Cheeky Wipes through our NCT anti-natal group and I have since purchased the weening wipes. Both the baby wipes and weening wipes are easy to use, clean, dry and reuse. I will definitely be using them again!
  • Mama Designs Muslin Swaddle 2 pack (mamadesigns.co.uk) – You can never have too many muslins and I’ve lost count on how many I have bought George over the last two years. I have bought these as they are much larger than any others I have and can be used to swaddle, cover a mattress or pram mattress or anything else really!
  • Bugaboo buggyboard – Obviously something I didn’t need to buy last time round, but an essential now! George isn’t particularly old enough to be without a buggy all the time and I am concerned how to juggle two under 3s with one buggy. We bought the Bugaboo Buffalo last time, so there is not option to convert to a double. The first option was to sell it and buy the donkey, however I don’t believe George will physically fit in the smaller chassis for much longer (if at all). I’ve decided to convert the buggy back into the pram with the buggyboard and borrow my mum’s Silvercross buggy, alongside the BabyBjörn carrier. We’ll see how it goes!
  • Sound Sleeper baby app (iTunes AppStore) – I discovered accidentally, that George was comforted by the sound of the hairdryer. He was such a crier when he was newborn and it really got me down. One day, I simply lay him on my bed screaming and dried my hair – he fell asleep! My friend told me about the app, which features several white noise sounds, including a hairdryer!! It worked MIRACLES. We downloaded it onto every device we could lay our hands on and it never failed to comfort him. Another aspect we had to ween him off of, but worth.every.penny.
  • Angelcare Soft Touch Bath Bath Support (Amazon) – We bought two of these, one for home and one for my mother-in-laws house. George loved baths from the day we could bathe him and this was a definite essential. Easy to clean and was great for laying him in in the mornings too, to wash the coconut oil out of his scalp.

Anything else I have missed? I will add my favourite decorative accessories in another post, but for now, that is my newborn survival kit!

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How travelling brought me back to where I first started

So this is a slightly reflectional piece. I need to up my blog game and I’m thinking that 3am night feeds might inspire some ‘interesting’ musings in the up and coming months. They might be complete jargon and full of emotional outbursts, but could be entertaining to read nevertheless.

So, 10-years-ago this week, I embarked on a 4 month trip with my best friend. We both took sabbaticals from our jobs, packed our suitcases and boarded a flight from Heathrow to Bangkok. Neither of us knew what to expect, we had never done anything like this before. However, many of our friends had (and for longer periods of time) so we were excited albeit apprehensive for the adventures that awaited us.

We tore our way through Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and a brief stop off at LAX airport 😂. To say it changed my life forever is a slight understatement. This was pre-free-and-available-WiFi days and we didn’t have any devices with us that could connect to the internet (including phones). So we relied on topup cards in hostels or Internet cafes, to upload our photos and communicate with our families. My sister went a mere 5 years later and was able to FaceTime from shacks in Laos on her iPod touch!

In New Zealand, we bought passes for the Kiwi Experience (which ironically has a completely different nick-name). On our first trip, we met three blokes – two on a gap-year and one post-uni, who had made friends. We joined their group and embarked on 10 days of the most fun we had had on our trip. To say that New Zealand is a magical country, is an understatement and an insult to the beauty and pure magnificence of the natural world. I’ll never forget sitting on a jetty, absolutely freezing, in the middle of nowhere, watching the sun set behind snow-topped mountains, turning them pink. I remember thinking I was in some kind of dream world and nothing would ever top this.

Those 10 days changed my life forever, as I fell in love with the post-uni backpacker. When we got back to England, we stayed in contact and he took a place on a PGCE course in London. We moved in together and 9 years, 1 rented flat, 2 house moves, 5 years of marriage and 1.5 babies later, here we are!

Together, we have been so lucky to travel some more. Both being teachers has blessed us with the school holidays (or time in lieu 😏) and we’ve used that to explore many European cities, as well as safari in Kenya, hiking (Andy, not me – I was preggers) in Scotland, 3 week road trip down the West Coast of Cali and chasing the northern lights in Iceland, to name but a few of our adventures. This prompted me to start this blog, as well as self-preservation and therapy from the strains and heartbreak of recurrent miscarriage and fertility treatments.

We’ve since moved back to the town where I grew up and have taken on the challenge of renovating a Victorian 3-bedroom terraced house. The travel will return, it’s cemented firmly in our blood and history now. It’s also something we want George and impending arrival to experience and fall in love with.

So yes, travel does broaden the mind. It allows you to become more understanding, tolerant and accepting – something this country could desperately do with right now. Who knows what post-Brexit Britain will look like and whether it will encourage or discourage the desire of people to expand their horizons and be part of the bigger picture. All I know is that it changed the course of my life forever and even though I’ve ended up exactly where I started, I’ve learnt to live and love…

“So, you’ve had IVF?”

This is the question I am constantly asked after trying to explain our fertility journey. The answer is no but I find myself just agreeing, especially when met with the baffled expressions of numerous midwives and consultants.

I have read so many inspiring blog posts and stories written by strong couples, who have experienced a multitude of different journeys. I decided to write my own experiences as a sort of outpouring but also in the hope that even one person reads and takes something from this, I will have repaid the favour.

I first found out I was pregnant in February 2015 after 6 months of trying. Obviously, we were overjoyed, blissfully happy and painfully unaware of what was to come. It’s a feeling that I envy, even now, when I see glowing happiness from couples on Instagram – those that have never experienced difficulties. I felt robbed of that.

I miscarried a week later.

This was to be the beginning of 3 miscarriages that year, all very different but equally as devastating. My third resulted in an ERPC. I remember sitting in Lewisham Early Pregnancy, my regular haunt, reading the definition ‘Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception’ and feeling like such a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this? Everybody else could (it seemed). The staff at Lewisham were so kind, but the process was brutal. We had become slightly hardened, but the pain of lining up next to those swollen, lucky ladies, waiting for their 12/20 week scans was soul destroying. Sitting in the waiting room, listening to the looped video of how to put your baby’s car seat in safely. And the final straw, being given a pen to complete a survey, with the words ‘pregnant? Now call the midwife’ on it. Now I was being tortured for being a failure. My husband threatened to rip the TV off the wall – it’s no longer there – I wonder if someone did it in the end…

Anyway, fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2015. I had a consultants appointment to discuss the results of my ERPC and to begin investigations into my recurrent miscarriages. I was told that the results of tests on the ‘retained products’ hadn’t been carried out. I walked out sobbing, probably our lowest point.

After a quick google on recurrent miscarriage, I came across the Zita West clinic. They pioneer a holistic approach to fertility and for the first time, I felt as though I was taking my health into my own hands. My head was a mess and I needed something to focus on. I was become angry, bitter and twisted. We were deleting friends from social media platforms if they announced pregnancies and refused invitations to gatherings if we knew children were going. A slightly difficult approach when you’re both teachers. I had to do something.

We initially met with specialist fertility nurse and midwife, Jane Knight. After some initial blood tests, we had an appointment with the wonderful Dr Simone Rofena, who simply explained that three miscarriages was not normal. Something was wrong and we needed to fix it. I could have jumped up and hugged him right there and then. Yes. Finally. Someone was backing me. I wasn’t a failure, I just needed some help.

I was sent for level 1 and 2 testing, which I still find difficult to explain (because I was never very good at Science). This included:

Natural Killer (NK) assay and TH1/TH2 Intracellular Cytokine ratios. NK cells are one of several types of white blood cells in the immune system. They play a useful physiological role in the body but some research has suggested that raised NK levels or cytotoxicity (“killing capacity”) in the peripheral blood and raised NK infiltration in the endometrium (womb lining) may be associated with recurrent IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage. Cytokines are chemical messengers secreted by immune cells. Cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH2 are thought to be “baby-friendly” and support pregnancy whereas the cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH1 may inhibit pregnancy. For successful pregnancy it has been suggested that the TH2 (“baby-friendly”) cytokines should be dominant. If the TH1 cytokines are dominant this may impact adversely on pregnancy outcomes.

My NK cells were unusually high, so I began immunomodulation treatment, which began with an intralipid of a sterile emulsion of egg proteins, soy oil, glycerine and water. My boss nicknamed this my ‘pancake batter’ treatment. Two rounds of this, then three cycles to fall pregnant naturally.

I fell pregnant on my third circle.

I phoned the clinic and by that afternoon, I was on a cocktail of Prednisolone (steroids), Clexane and progesterone pessaries. This was combined with further Intralipid infusions at appropriate stages during early pregnancy. Injecting was particularly unpleasant, my belly was black and blue. But at 7 weeks in, it all became worth it…

There was my little flickering mushroom. An actual heartbeat. Not an empty sack or a, ‘when did you get a positive pregnancy test?’ I knew the statistics. A good start.

By nine weeks, the mushroom resembled more of a jumping kidney bean.

And at 12 weeks I was in possession of a scan photo that I had only ever dreamed of sharing with my friends and family.

….

My pregnancy wasn’t without difficulty. I bled, I had suspected DVT, I suffered from preeclampsia and ended up having an emergency c-section and a baby spending its first week of life in the neonatal ward. But the fact that I had this incredible bundle of life changing beauty, was all down to Zita West. This is not an NHS bashing – I love the NHS. I love Lewisham hospital and all the staff. But I needed to take my health and my fertility into my own hands.

I have since suffered another miscarriage but with the help and support from ZW, I’m 21 weeks pregnant with a little girl. I still get very twitchy when explaining my treatment to my dr. I don’t want to be judged or it assumed that I’m an inpatient rich girl. We begged, borrowed, stole and (most importantly) worked very hard to pay for our treatment. We received extremely kind gifts from our family to help pay for drugs, test and appointments. My current consultant at Lewisham and heard all about the clinic and simply said to me, ‘something worked – that’s all that matters’.

Five Things – July Wish List

So, I am absolutely skint at the moment. However, that doesn’t stop me from window shopping and writing a monthly wish list. Should anyone want to treat me, please feel free…

1. La Redoute ‘Afaw Berber Style Rug’.

The instagram rug of dreams. Look at any Nordic styled home on insta and you’ll find this gorgeous piece of carpet heaven.

£99-£269 (currently with £35 off £100 spend | £60 off £150 | £100 off £250 with code SAVE).

2. Rocket St George ‘Antique brown mirror with shallow shelf – portrait’

I have been looking for the perfect bathroom mirror since our remodel. I am blaming the fact that I need my first ever filling on the current lack of bathroom mirror! Get on my wall.

£120

3. Jupiduu slide – white (The Modern Nursery)

Okay, massive extravagant purchase – but this is just a wish list, right? George is obsessed with slides at the moment, so this would cement my position as favourite parent (jokes).

£215.

4. Pretty Little Knots Co – Macrame wall hangingI love macrame (much to my husbands distain) and I particularly love this hanging, made by the fabulous Samantha at Manchester based Pretty Little Knots. She takes custom orders and runs classes too!

From £15.

5. Cox & Cox ‘Raw Steel Firepit’To be honest, I don’t have the best track record with firepits. When we first moved into our house, we bought one from Homebase and didn’t shut our back door. Our house stunk of smoke for weeks after that. This is aesthetically incredible and I would happily smoke out our neighbours with this beauty!

£375 (Cox & Cox are currently offering 20% off – use MOBJUNB at checkout).

So that concludes this month’s five things. August is my birthday, so you never know… *must buy lottery ticket this weekend*.

Nursery Styling

Planning and styling our nursery was/is definitely an ongoing process. We didn’t find out the sex beforehand but knew we wanted something neutral anyway.

The obvious place to start was Pinterest but searches of ‘white and grey nurseries’ only brought up images of huge American bedrooms, something which our tiny little box room would never replicate.

We knew that we only had room for two pieces of furniture, so opted for the Silver Cross Nostalgia cot-bed and wardrobe – £1050 as we could buy a Cot Top changer from John Lewis – £49 and save space.

We knew this would be a perfect set up as the baby would be sleeping in our room for the first six months potentially, so changing over the cot was fine. I purchased changing organisers from Ikea – £7.50 and they clipped onto the changer perfectly.

As for decoration, we purchased a picture shelf from Ikea and two prints from the amazing Manchester Based Rory and the Bean. We wanted a scandi feel to the nursery, to compliment the rest of our house. Then we waited until baby arrived before adding anything else…

So at 11.14pm on February 18th, after a vile induction, painful labour, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and emergency Caesarian, our beautiful son George Roy entered the world and landed straight into the NICU. A week later he was home with us and the adventure could begin.

The first thing I wanted to buy now he was here, was something personalised. Through the magic of Instagram, I found This Paper Book and their beautiful personalised pennant flags – starting from £14.

That, paired with some of the most beautiful wooden treats from the magical Styled by Naomi really started the ball rolling. It was no longer just ‘the nursery’, but it was becoming ‘George’s Room’ and I hadn’t ever imagined how important a process that would be for me. If you don’t already follow Naomi on Instagram, you definitely should. She’s hilarious and her fertility journey is inspiring and courageous.

Scandiborn and The Modern Nursery became the two major go-tos as far as furniture and large accessories over the year but Instagram introduced be to a whole world of small, independent makers (and a maxed-out credit card). Prints from Lovely Ink (as well as her beautiful Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections) and Little M Paper Goods. Wooden toys from Sarah & Bendrix Kids will be great for George when he’s a little older, but until then, they look fab on display. Also Scottish based Ciao Bambino and The Milk Collective have a great selection on modern and stylish toys, to compliment any nursery.

I know that accessories will change and adapt as George grows and he personality and interests develop. But up until now, this has been an opportunity to flex our interior muscles in the first real purposeful room in our house. It’s a work in progress but one I can finally get some joy out of. A little sanctuary and safe haven for our baby and a celebration of the tiny human that we have managed to keep alive for the last 13 Months.

What are the favourite parts of your baby’s nursery?