30 June 2018

From three to four! How our family is growing...

For the past year or so I have done a monthly family portrait and a post about our lives here on the blog. I've been sharing what we have been doing and what we have been enjoying, and of course posting a picture of us all. The last time I did this was in April. I was meant to update again in May but as you may know, something else happened... 

pregnancy family portrait in park

pregnancy family portrait in park

pregnancy family portrait in park kid kissing the bump

We started May as usual. I was enjoying my maternity leave, me and my husband were busying ourselves prepping for the soon-to-be-here baby, and Aili was in school, not really enjoying that so much. Her favourite catch phrase nowadays seems to be "School - it's sooooo booooring". By the end of May I was heavily overdue. On Friday, the 25th May we went to the park to have our last night as a family of three. We grabbed fish and chips, our picnic blanket and of course a camera and a tripod and faffed in front of it. And here are the results. Aili is not much for posing nicely in front of the camera anymore - nowadays she asks us "to have attitude" for the pictures. So we comply the best we can! 

Saturday 26th May we deposited the older child to her Nanny's, and off we went, to the hospital for the induction. I was 40+12 weeks pregnant and actually feeling pretty fine, and definitely feeling like the baby was not about to arrive on their own at all. Oh no, she was happily nestled in there. That Saturday evening we went to the hospital, I got induced, we went back home to wait for the effects, and then returned back to the hospital after a kebab and a film... 

Sunday 27th May was a busy one. 

And then Monday 28th May we had a visit from our big one to see the little one in the hospital! 

family portrait with a newborn

family of four with a newborn

I had to stay in the hospital for another five days for post-checks on our little one. There were a couple of things that needed to be monitored, although it was all mostly precautionary at that stage. Thankfully, nothing started developing so we were finally released and could go back home on Friday, 1st June! Hence, no chance of updating my May pictures on the blog, as was too busy at the hospital and then of course with a newborn back home. 

In June, I am not even sure what we have done. It has gone past in a sort of a milky haze. We've had a couple of visitors home, Aili has been going to school as always, and mostly we have stayed around home and our town. Aili had her fifth birthday, so we collected her from school bearing huge balloons and invited a couple of her friends for a playdate on the day. Having a rather grumpy newborn in the house we couldn't organise a proper birthday bash for Aili, so tried to make it special in another way, and have delayed her proper big party to July. 

Other than that we have done the normal newborn things - named her finally after much deliberation (Aija - pronounced Eye-ya!), registered her, bought more baby kit, took crazy amount of photographs, slept far too little, and lived in a rather chaotic messy house. It is all, little by little starting to normalise now, and things are starting to become more of a routine. I am loving seeing that interaction between the girls and how their relationship is developing. In the last pictures our new little one is nearly one month old, we took it after enjoying a summer bbq at her Nanny's!

family portrait with a one month old

family of four smiling

family portrait in the garden

So that was our May and June this year. Our growing family. It's been a wild ride but an enjoyable one!

You might also like: Our baby is here! and Our lives in April 2018

27 June 2018

My second-born at one month old

I can not believe that our newborn is now one month old. Time really does go fast.

baby with number one made from flowers

Aija has already earned an nickname - Little Miss Fussy Pants. And it's for a good reason. She. Has. A. Temper. Ever since the hospital she has been a bit of a drama queen. 

Quick to shout as soon as she gets annoyed about anything, she goes from zero to hundred in a millisecond. She doesn't give much in terms of warnings. It is happy go lucky baby one second, hangry little monster screaming the house down the next. It's not the cutesy newborn cry either that sounds a bit like a little kitty. No. It is proper tonsil-shaking scream. Our walls are made of paper really, so it wasn't a wonder when one of the neighbour's kids confessed to me that they had been woken up by our Little Miss Fussy Pants.

The sudden crying comes a lot when she is hungry. It doesn't seem she gives much of the newborn cues for hunger - she just sleeps soundly, until she wakes up angry-screaming. And once she wolfs down her milk, she falls asleep again. She was sleeping a lot in the first month, surprisingly so. It sometimes even felt like we didn't have a baby, bar the three-hourly screaming fits.

baby in a flower circle

I've been wondering what she will recognise as her name... It has been a struggle to NOT call her by her sister's name. So many times I've started to say Aili, and then had to correct myself to say Aija. Jokingly we've been saying she might start thinking her name is Ailiaija! Also, I've started wondering if she might start to recognise Aijabequiet as her name, as that seems to be what I keep telling her several times, everyday...

Because of her drama queen status we haven't ventured much out out. Not that I mind - it is actually nice to just relax back home, instead of what we did with the older one, where we were on the go constantly from the beginning. Our older one even appeared on TV as a newborn! We have been on the school run, to town a couple of times, a breastfeeding "class" and that's about it.

baby portrait amongst flowers

She has been growing well. I can't say she was a big baby when she was born, she really was just average sized. In the Red Book, she has been plotted on somewhere between the 75th and 91st percentiles, although for my personal growth chart (based on my height and weight) she measured in the 21st percentile when she was born. In comparison to her bigger sister, she was more substantial when she was born and feels much more robust. They were both very overdue, so neither of them were that fragile as babies born earlier can feel like.

Because Aija was a overdue baby she has been quite strong. Surprisingly strong at kicking you, just like she was when in my tummy. Man, that was painful. Also surprisingly, she started holding her head up all by herself already at the hospital. She even managed to turn from her back to her tummy just a couple of days old. She hasn't repeated that since, but she still holds her head up well, pushes off your chest and mostly enjoys tummy time.

baby with number one made from flowers

Now her hair started to thin out! She is also getting a bit of milk spots, and baby acne. She is of course still cute in our eyes (most of the time, when she is not incessantly crying) but I am looking for that baby hair to grow back and make her look like less of Friar Tuck!

That's about it really. She is a loud little drama queen who looks more or less like a monk ha ha. We do love her, really... even if she is a bit of a pain sometimes!

24 June 2018

Why I think the language around breastfeeding needs to change

So. Breastfeeding. With a new baby it has been on my mind a lot recently. It was also on the news a lot last week after the Royal College of Midwives released a statement that women's informed choice to breastfeed, bottle-feed, or a combination of both "must be respected".

I do hope the new statement brings on a change. The language employed in the promotion of breastfeeding is incredibly guilt-tripping and quite frankly, damaging. Damaging to mothers, damaging to babies and damaging to the whole aim of promoting breastfeeding.

I haven't talked about it here before but I have found breastfeeding a huge challenge. It was difficult and nigh impossible the first time. I wished and hoped that it would have been different with my second-born, but alas, it was even worse this time. 

mother breastfeeding in a hospital

The message you get given through all antenatal information makes it seem like it shouldn't be a challenge. All leaflets and information given is all about how breast is best, all mothers can and should breastfeed, it is difficult, but you just have to persevere and try and breastfeed you shall. That just about covers the NHS-issued angle to breastfeeding promotion.

When you venture on internet forums, you start to hear all sorts of extreme opinions. Breastfeeding gets equated to good parenting, that you are choosing to give the best to your baby, and that formula is evil and if you don't breastfeed you have chosen the easy route. Breastfeeding is apparently the natural thing to do and women have been doing it since the beginning of time. It is just because "modern women" have options to use formula and are lazy about it, that breastfeeding rates are low.

Well, that is just blatantly untrue. Women have always struggled to breastfeed for various reasons. Always. That's why lactation failures have been described in medical literature already in 1550BC, and archaeologists have found baby bottles dating over 4,000 years. Or hey, we've all heard about wet nurses too haven't we? That used to be a regulated and well-thought of profession back in the day.

So what if you can't breastfeed? Or what if you just simply do not want to? You are still going to hear all about how you should and definitely can breastfeed, if you just try hard enough. And try you must if you are to be a good mother.

First time around, I remember walking down the hospital corridors to the refrigerator to get my formula milk and having to walk past posters with smiling mummies, their suckling babies, with affirming statements such as "I'm happy. She's happy. Breastfeeding is the best decision I ever made" and "I'm not saying it's always easy. I'm saying it's worth it" and "Breastfeeding - What could be more natural?".

It wasn't just upsetting. It also made me incredibly angry. Why does this need to be stuffed down your throat when you are at your most vulnerable? How dare they start guilt-tripping women when they need support the most, whatever way they are feeding their babies, whatever the reason?

Second time around I spotted a poster in the delivery room (out of all places), saying the hospital was "baby-friendly" so they would not provide any formula milk or feeding equipment and you should prepare to bring it from home if you want to use any. It annoyed and angered me at the same time. What's so baby-friendly about starving babies if they need to be fed? And how about mother-friendly? Off you trot to local shops in your sleep-deprived state if you are finding it difficult, too bad, we are baby-friendly here! Thanks for slamming that in the delivery room where you are already tired, sleep-deprived and highly emotional.

The guilt-tripping language makes mothers feel like failures. It is damaging and should stop.

mother bottlefeeding in a hospital

It's also damaging to babies. If you are told breastfeeding is natural and you just have to make an effort, how long will you try? Anecdotally, I've heard of so many babies being readmitted for jaundice, dehydration or low weight gain, and it just doesn't make sense to me. Why not just educate women on how to feed their babies safely, whatever the means? I know it would have been a lot more useful for me to have someone talk to me about sterilising and baby-led feeding while in hospital, than having a couple of leaflets handed to me when leaving and Googling this information home.

There is a lot of promotion of breastfeeding, but the actual support when women face problems with it just is not there. Midwifes, bless their hurried hearts, I am sure try very hard to help at busy post-natal wards but there is only so much help you can give when your training tells you how to latch babies on and that everyone can and should do it. I found much of the help was almost like blind leading the blind, young midwifes repeating the lines about a good latch and to just keep trying, without any relevant personal or practical experience below their belts. Adequately trained breastfeeding counsellors or lactation consultants are rare to find, there might be one available once a week a couple of hours at a local breastfeeding clinic. Local doesn't really mean local by the way - it could be anywhere miles away from where you live. And when there are issues that could be corrected (like tongue ties, or prescriptions for drugs that help with milk coming in) you can be sure there are long waiting lists for treatment unless you can afford to go private.

It's just bizarre - the language employed and the contrasting lack of support. It is not right and it is not realistic. 

There are a huge variety of reasons why some women can't or choose not to breastfeed. We've all got our own priorities, our own motivations, and our own physical and mental abilities to work with. Women are perfectly able to understand information given to them about infant feeding, and make the best possible choice for their babies and for their families. Be that breast or bottle. So just give us the information and respect our choices. Without the guilt-trip.

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

8 June 2018

Our baby is here!

This is just a quick post to announce the birth of our second-born - our darling little daughter number two! She was born on 27th May, 8.29PM, weighing 3695 grams (that's 8'1 lbs for those of you not used to the metric system). 

newborn baby

As usual, I was supposed to update here a lot sooner and a lot more in detail, but time has just slipped away. As it does with newborns... Not to mention long hospital stays! 

On Saturday the 26th May I was off for an induction. I wasn't really looking forward to it, considering the train wreck my first labour was. More on that later, perhaps. 

This time the birthing went really well though. I do want to write a proper birth story at some point (and I did a vlog too!), so definitely more on this experience later. It did go really well, all things considering, and my pain was managed really well and the birth went excellently. It was all mostly calm and afterwards I walked to the shower on my own and I felt perfectly fine. Yes, I was tired, a bit sore, but all in all, it was a walk in the park compared to my first labour. 

newborn feet

As everything went so well I had been expecting to leave the following day. Our expected 12 hour observations turned into five days in the end though... 

Once we got out from the labour ward, paediatricians took a cautious approach and wanted us to remain in hospital for added monitoring. In this pregnancy I had these blood antibodies - essentially meaning that during pregnancy my blood could have attacked the baby's blood, causing her to become anaemic and jaundiced. To monitor this condition we had to stay in for a few days ensuring that her blood works were staying in the normal ranges before being discharged. Thankfully, all stayed normal and we only have to go back to check them again in a couple of weeks and that should hopefully be that. 

Separately, I also had GBS infection. Because of (as paediatricians put it) a combination of minor "markers", they felt precautionary IV antibiotics should be given while waiting for blood results on whether or not our baby had an infection. Thankfully, she didn't.

So, five days we were there... The time both flew by and passed painfully slow. There were so many appointments and tests, and then of course breastfeeding tribulations, and I was really missing my home comforts and my big baby, the new big sister waiting to spend time with her baby sister. 

As far as a hospital stays went, it was probably the best of a bad bunch as we had our own, rather big room, at the birth centre and could have privacy and rest, much more so than at a busy postnatal ward. I spent my down time mostly eating, sleeping and taking photos. I didn't really venture out much, other than to the SBCU, and I have to say that those cultures that still practice lying-in are probably taking the right approach to maternal recovery!

So, that was that. After five days at the hospital we finally got to go back home. And here we are. Enjoying life as a family of four. And it is wonderful. 

mum, dad and sister looking at a newborn

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