A New Chapter

Hello September! The start of a brand new month. Only this time, it marks my last month of maternity leave, and the start of a new chapter.

In a few weeks, Alice will be starting nursery. While i’m excited for her, it’s a bittersweet time for me. I know she will love nursery. She really enjoys being around other children, and she is such a confident, happy little girl so she will thrive. I’ll miss her so much though. For the past nine months, it’s been me and her all day everyday. And i’ve loved every minute of it!

It’s not just Alice starting somewhere new. I made the decision to hand in my notice at work so i’d have more time to spend with Alice. In my new role, i’ll be working Mondays to Wednesdays while she’s in nursery, then we’ll have four whole days together again.

I know i’m lucky. I never wanted to put her in nursery full time. We didn’t struggle for all that time to conceive, just so we’d only see her properly at weekends. Nursery is costly but that works in our favour. It means that working part time will leave us in the same financial position, with the added bonus that I get to still spend quality time with Alice.

I’ve had a brilliant time on maternity leave. It’s been such a special, amazing, life-changing experience. So much so, it’s incredibly difficult to sum it up in just a few words.

So as my maternity leave comes to an end, i’m doing my best to make the most of these last few weeks just me and her. 

I’m excited to see what the future holds but i’d like to end this post looking back on some of my favourite memories of maternity leave.

  • Alice’s birth

    • Playdates with Izzie and Theo

      • Alice’s first Christmas

        • Baby Yoga
        • Swimming

            • Meet-ups with the Early Days crowd
            • Alice’s Christening

              • Baby Sensory

                • Alice’s first holiday

                  • Alice’s first trip to the seaside

                    • Chester Zoo

                      • Mondays with Nanny

                        • Watching Alice conquer her developmental milestones

                          Here’s to many more with my favourite little person! 

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                          Is Breast Always Best?

                          When it comes to feeding your baby, they say breast is best. It definitely has its merits: greater immunity for you and your baby, helps you shed a few extra pounds, and reduces (supposedly) childhood obesity.

                          Greg and I sat through a whole two hours about why breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. 

                          I decided I wanted to do that for Alice. I also wanted Greg to be able to enjoy feeding her, giving him some of that precious bonding time. 

                          So I bought a breastpump and the plan was to combination feed. I’d breastfeed in the day and pump a few bottles off for the evening and weekends.

                          Of course, it’s easier said than done.

                          After such a long labour and over 40 hours awake, the last thing on my mind was breastfeeding. 

                          Little did I know how difficult it would be.

                          It’s supposed to come naturally, I thought. So why was I struggling so much? 

                          The Midwife helped me with that first feed. The all-important colostrum. Liquid gold. So I was happy knowing Alice had enjoyed some of the good stuff.

                          The next morning I struggled again. She fought and screamed when I tried to latch her on. My boobs were barely producing anything so the Midwife brought 40ml of formula and a bottle.

                          It didn’t get any better once I was on the ward. Despite asking for help, they were all too keen that I fed her with a bottle.

                          I’d try again at home, I resolved. Only once we were home, I had the same issues. 

                          By day three (when your milk is supposed to come in), my boobs neither looked nor felt any different.

                          Day five came and I still had barely any milk. By then I’d given up on the idea of breastfeeding. I’d tried nipple shields and they made no difference. I’d tried expressing by hand but only a few drops came out.

                          I fed Alice on a mixture of formula and pumped breastmilk until Christmas when I switched exclusively to formula.

                          I so wanted to breastfeed. I’d been made to feel useless for being unable to do so. 

                          But it’s not until you go through difficulties yourself that you realise something. Fed is best.

                          Alice was and still is a perfectly healthy little girl. She’s always gained weight consistently, and had minimal illness.

                          That special bond you get from breastfeeding? You enjoy the same closeness when you bottlefeed. 

                          So while I salute all of the breastfeeding Mamas out there, I’d like to give a hand to those who bottlefeed too. 

                          Because after all, breast is not always best. Fed is best.

                          Day One And On The Ward

                          Once Alice was born, the first few hours of her life passed by in a blur.

                          Born at almost 11pm and after more than 33 hours of labour, I was shattered. I could barely keep my eyes open.

                          So once she had been cleaned, weighed, dressed and fed, we had a quick cuddle and all too soon it was time for Greg to head home for a few hours’ rest.

                          Alice slept like a dream, waking only a couple of times for a feed and nappy change.

                          Greg returned around 9am the following day. After a few more tests, I was allowed to go and shower while Greg looked after Alice.

                          At 2pm it was time for our first visitors! Nanny, Granny, Great Grandma and Great Grandad came to see us.

                          We were transferred to the ward which was a whole lot noisier than the room Alice and I had slept in the previous night.

                          That evening, we had more visitors. Grandad, Auntie Heather, Uncle Paul, Amber and Adiana all came to the hospital.

                          All too soon it was time for Greg to leave again, and Alice and I settled down for the night.
                          In contrast to the night before, we barely slept. Our ward was quiet but there were some very noisy babies in the ward next to us.

                          I think we got about 30 minutes of sleep in total.

                          It didn’t matter though. Yes I was exhausted, but I also cherished the alone time with my baby girl. I couldn’t stop looking at her, cuddling her, kissing her forehead and tiny button nose.

                          She was perfect. And she was mine. And she was here.

                          Greg returned early the next day, and after a few more tests, we were told we could go home!
                          The Bounty lady came round the ward to take Alice’s first professional photos, then we gathered our things and placed Alice in her car seat for the very first time.

                          We were going home as a family of three and we couldn’t be happier!

                          Last Few Weeks Of Being Pregnant…

                          Plenty happened in those final few weeks before Alice was born.

                          Greg and I attended Parentcraft classes, giving us the chance to meet other expectant parents in our area.

                          There were four sessions overall, covering everything from what to expect during labour, what might go wrong, pain relief options, and baby feeding.

                          Some sessions were helpful and others less so. It was at these sessions we met Izzie and Sean, who were expecting little Theo just two days after Alice’s due date.

                          Once we began our maternity leave, Izzie and I met up a few times. We tried an Aquanatal class but found it a bit odd. So we stuck to cake instead, sharing our fears and excitement about our impending labours. And we’re still meeting up to this day, only this time with both babes too!

                          I still had a few antenatal appointments with my midwife, Annie. I wrote my birth plan with her help. I knew that every labour was different and that it was all too common for your birth plan to go out of the window.

                          Despite this, I planned to have a water birth in Stepping Hill’s Birth Centre.

                          Having completed a tour of the hospital a few weeks earlier, there was no way I wanted to give birth in a delivery room. They seemed sterile and cold in contrast to the spa-like calmness of the rooms in the Birth Centre.

                          As for pain relief, I was open to options but prepared to go as far as I could on gas and air. I’d read up about epidurals and one of them was the last thing I wanted.

                          Given the choice, I wanted to have a natural birth, with as little medical intervention as possible.

                          Yes it would be painful, but I wanted to see what my body was capable of.

                          My birth plan was signed off. I was healthy, baby was healthy, and as long as nothing major happened in the meantime, it looked probable that my labour would take place in the Birth Centre.

                          Then I hit the 36 week mark and things changed slightly.

                          I went to my antenatal appointment as usual, handing over my urine sample for testing. This time though, there were traces of protein which can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

                          What’s more, when Annie felt my stomach, she told me she thought Alice had gone breech. After weeks of being head down, this was the last thing I needed to hear.

                          She made me an appointment for an ultrasound scan the next day at the hospital and told me if her fears were confirmed, I’d be booked in for a caesarean section.

                          I knew it wasn’t the end of the world if I did have pre-eclampsia or if Alice was breech, but at the time it felt like everything was going wrong.

                          However, the scan confirmed Alice was still head down and healthy. A second urine sample showed no signs of protein and all was well again.

                          I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to enjoying my pregnancy.

                          Over the next few weeks I had several signs that labour was close, feeling powerful contractions over and over again.

                          They were all false starts though and before I knew it, my due date came and went and Alice still hadn’t made an appearance.

                          It wasn’t until my 39th week that I started to get impatient. Where was she? I’d gone all through pregnancy convinced she was going to arrive early.

                          I’d had our hospital bags packed and ready by week 32, I’d finished work, I’d cleaned the house from top to bottom everyday for the past few weeks.

                          I’d had a membrane sweep on my due date and gone home with a little spring in my step, certain that I’d go into labour that night.

                          Nothing happened. I tried eating curry, several times, to kick-start labour. Nothing apart from some painful Braxton Hicks. Pineapple? Still nothing. There’s a whole list of things to try which are supposed to speed labour along, and we tried them all.

                          My bump was getting bigger by the day, I was barely sleeping, getting up to go to the toilet every 15 minutes, and just generally feeling uncomfortable.

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                          I was getting texts and phone calls daily asking if I’d given birth yet. Every time I ventured out of the house, strangers would ask how long I had left, then look at me in panic when I told them I was already overdue.

                          Eventually we realised we were just going to have to wait. Alice would come in her own time, when she was ready.

                          And eight days later, at 41 weeks and one day, she was born.

                          My Pregnancy Story

                          My pregnancy, on the whole, was pretty standard. Once I found out I was expecting, I downloaded a pregnancy app that gave me daily advice on what I might be experiencing or feeling. It also had weekly updates on the size and development of my little munchkin.
                          To this day, I still remember excitedly looking to find out the next fruit my baby was equal to in size.

                          We’d been trying to conceive for a long time, and after many failed attempts, we could hardly believe it was true. We were finally going to have a baby!

                          I found out I was expecting a little later than some. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to see yet another ‘not pregnant’ message appear. Perhaps my hormones didn’t come rushing in until a bit later than some. Whatever the reason, I was almost six weeks into my pregnancy when I took that final test and our lives changed forever (in the best possible way).

                          I’d had many months of experiencing pregnancy symptoms but for some reason this month was different. My sense of smell was beyond heightened, my boobs were hurting, I no longer enjoyed my favourite foods. As for alcohol, it sent me running to the bathroom to throw up.

                          So I took the test and there it was. Confirmation that our dreams had finally come true.

                          What followed in the next few days and weeks was not so fun.

                          I was expecting to have some morning sickness. What they don’t tell you is that it can appear at any time of the day or night, and that it comes on so suddenly, making it to the bathroom in time is a mission.

                          But I wasn’t prepared to have such excessive morning sickness. It was so bad, I couldn’t eat or drink. Even water came straight back up.

                          The doctor advised eating ginger biscuits to settle my stomach. They only made it worse.

                          After a couple of trips to the doctor, I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. I was prescribed two types of tablets and sent on my way

                          During the course of the next four months, I endured two trips to the hospital with dehydration, as well as week after week of simply lying on the sofa, unable to move, eat or drink without vomiting.

                          I have to say, those first few months were not fun at all. Yes I was excited about being pregnant, but I was also terrified that everything was going to go wrong. That something bad would happen to our unborn baby, or worse, that I’d end up miscarrying.

                          Now I know that many women have it far worse but these were genuine fears.

                          Eventually though, around the 22 week mark, something changed. I was able to eat small amounts of food.

                          I remained on the tablets until my 39th week of pregnancy, gradually weaning myself off them.

                          My diet became vegetarian which was no bad thing as I really needed as many vitamins as I could get. I tried meat and fish on a few occasions but even the thought of eating either made me run to the nearest toilet.

                          It wasn’t all bad though. With every passing week my belly was growing and I wore my gorgeous baby bump with pride.

                          We found out we were expecting a baby girl and we couldn’t be happier. Finally we could start buying clothes and decorating the nursery!
                          I stocked up on the essentials like vests and sleepsuits and then came the fun part… shopping for bows, headbands, shoes and tutus!

                          When it came to choosing a name, we hit a bit of a stumbling block. I would shout out all of the names I could think of but Greg didn’t like any of them.

                          So we decided to each come up with a list of names, first and middle, then swap. We both ended up with very similar lists and eventually narrowed it down to Alice and Chloe.

                          Over the next few weeks we tried out the names, mentioning them to our families too. It was decided. Our baby would be named Alice Charlotte Yates.

                          But something wasn’t right. I couldn’t imagine an Alice Charlotte. Which sounds silly right? You never use your middle name anyway.

                          I had a niggling feeling though that the perfect middle name was at the back of my mind. Then one day it came to me. Mae. It sounded classy, traditional, and really pretty. After suggesting it to Greg, it was final. Our princess would be Alice Mae.

                          Now all we had to do was wait for our beautiful baby to make an appearance.

                          Let’s Start At The Very Beginning

                          Hi, I’m Abi and this is my daughter, Alice.

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                          I’m currently on maternity leave after giving birth in November 2016.

                          I’ve met some lovely fellow Mummies along the way. Some are first-timers like me, and others are already a dab hand.

                          I’ve always loved babies and children, and I knew I definitely wanted to be a Mum.

                          Despite already knowing my fair share about babies, nothing really prepares you for that day your baby arrives.

                          Alice has completely changed my life, and my husband Greg’s life for the better. We can’t even remember what we used to do before she came along.

                          Everyone says that time flies. They’re right! I’m now halfway through my maternity leave which seems insane. It was only a few months ago I was entering my last few weeks of pregnancy.

                          Babies change everyday and they are constantly learning and developing. That’s why I’ve decided to blog about Alice.

                          I don’t want to forget a single moment, and when she changes so quickly and so often, that can be difficult.

                          So while this blog is primarily a record for me, I’m also hoping other Mummies will relate to it.

                          Here goes nothing!