World Prematurity Day

Our super baby

I debated whether to write this blog as Max was only a little bit premature and it feels a bit like telling people you’re a trained mathematician just because you passed your maths GCSE. But the fact is he was born before ‘term’ and we did see inside the walls of an NICU unit, thankfully only for a short time. So it’s World Prematurity Day and I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing our journey – although I have talked about it in various different blog posts since Max was born this March.

When I was pregnant, we were warned repeatedly about the potential need to deliver baby well before he was ready to arrive. The goal was always 37 weeks which is classed as term, and we had an induction date set months before (April 8 was the date we were aiming for). At times during the pregnancy, reaching viability at 24 weeks seemed like an impossible task – but as it was we reached 32 before there was any sign of trouble. I was admitted for ten days and prepped for a potential induction with two steroid injections to help strength baby’s lungs.

At 34 weeks, we went for yet another growth scan which revealed baby had stopped growing and there were concerns over the blood flow from the placenta. I knew as soon as the sonographer said she needed to talk to the consultant that there was a problem and I’d probably be induced that night.

Two days later on March 26, I held my baby in my arms for the first time. We’d had no idea before birth whether he would be poorly, require oxygen or be absolutely fine. He came out breathing on his own and spent a happy 15 minutes lay on my chest before being taken up to transitional care by the team as I needed to spend six hours on the labour ward being monitored before they were happy to move me. By the time those hours were over, he had been transferred to the NICU with breathing difficulties.

The next few days were a whirlwind of antibiotics, different theories on what was actually wrong with him, tubes, wires, jaundice masks, doctors, nurses. Weirdly, given I’d just given birth and my baby was poorly, I don’t think I crumbled. Except when they told me Max needed to go on a ventilator as he was struggling. That was like someone had punched me square in the stomach. We went back up to my room on postnatal and listened to the healthy cries of healthy babies while mine was having a tube inserted down his windpipe. That got to me.

A whirlwind of emotions. Every day we just prayed for a stable day – not for anything good to happen, that was too hopeful, just a stable day. I expressed every three hours because it was something useful to do, even though he wasn’t drinking yet. I only went back to my ward to eat occasionally, express and take tablets. Then after a few days they let me transfer to the parent accommodation which was bliss as I had a bit of peace and quiet and most of all, I couldn’t hear other babies crying.

At 4lb 13, he was the biggest baby on the NICU but he still looked tiny to us! He showed us his character, tugging at his tubes whenever his breathing got stronger as if he was telling us he didn’t need them anymore, and no matter how often the nurses tucked him in, he insisted on having one foot resting on the little cosy rolls of sheets wrapped around him to make him feel safe in his roomy incubator.

By the time we got him home (one hospital transfer, one operation, one feeding routine established, one hell of a ride later), he just looked like Max to us. Yet when I look back at photos, he’s incredibly thin and still quite ill looking. Now, you’d never know. We chose not to share pictures of him on the ventilator, so any pictures on social media or here are either when he just has his feeding tube in or when he’s completely tube free. I don’t know whether we will in the future, but for now they’re just for us to look at and marvel how far he came in such a short period of time.

Before we had Max, I’d never really thought that much about premature babies although I’ve known a few people who’ve had them. But now I know, they are among the strongest beings out there. In the morning, things can be touch and go and by the afternoon they can be fighting again. They are so tiny but so fierce, and they are looked after by some amazing people who go above and beyond to keep them safe but also to look after you too.

Watching my prem baby go through everything he’s faced so far has truly humbled me. I will never stop telling him how proud I am that he has smashed every obstacle in his way to become a baby who no one would ever guess has had such a hard ride. I take my hat off to all prem babies fighting their incredible fight, but I especially take my hat off to my Maxi.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Weaning – A Low Risk Diet

Yeah, it’s another weaning post. I know they’re becoming very regular but I’m hoping as Max is having such a different weaning journey to non-allergy kids that they serve a purpose, either to those who have offspring with allergies or just to interested people too I guess.

Last week, we went to see the paediatric dietician for the first time since Max’s diagnosis. I so wish we’d been able to see her before we started weaning but they’re fully booked months in advance apparently. Essentially, she said we needed to start Max on a diet consisting only of what were considered ‘low risk’ foods for his condition (FPIES). Once we’ve got to the point where we are happy he isn’t reacting to any of those, we’ll then begin introducing ‘medium risk’ foods one by one, with each one trialled daily for a week to see if there’s a reaction. It’s positive in one way because hopefully it’ll enable us to narrow down exactly what he is allergic to and what he’s fine with, and there’s a method rather than just madness.

But in another way it feels like a bit of a step back. The foods he’s allowed are pretty random too – it’s like that bit at the end of Can’t Cook Won’t Cook where they used to produce a carrier bag with some random ingredients grabbed off the shelf of the nearest supermarket and they’d have to put together a tasty meal. What can you make with a lightbulb, some lettuce, a Dan Brown novel and pasta?

For us, it’s a case of what can you make with the rubbish vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, turnip and pumpkin), fruits that don’t puree very well (strawberry, blueberry, watermelon, peach, plum), avocado, millet ie bird seed and lamb.

I’m just hoping he takes to the low risk foods really well and then we can start on medium, which includes apple, pear, white potato, squash and beef. It’ll probably be a while before we move on to the really risky stuff like chicken, egg, soya, banana.

The dietician has also asked his GP to prescribe something called Neocate Spoon which is essentially a supplement you add to their purees which is high-energy and adds some calories into what they’re eating. I’m really pleased about that because he’s done so well with his weight that it’d be a shame to see that reversing as we move off milk on to solids.

We talked a little about expressing and she was really keen that I continued to feed him, with a specific mention of calcium and that she thought it’d be better for him to have my milk. So I feel like the decision’s been made for me really that I’ll continue expressing til March if possible – although on the bottom of the sheet where it details the risky foods, it talks about breastfeeding past the first year. I’d always said no matter how long I expressed for, I wouldn’t go past a year. Alexandra had her last bottle a couple of days before her first birthday and I just imagined my second child would do the same. I guess if he hasn’t got enough foods by then to provide a well rounded diet then we’ll have to have that discussion – I really hope not though!

Nothing is ever straightforward is it! I thought second time round, weaning would be a lot easier because we’d done it once and managed to get one kid eating well. But, at least we have a structure now and hopefully we don’t have too many bad trials and lots of positive ones that provide us with some more inspiring foods for Max to eat.

An update two days in:

We were given his new dietary rules on Wednesday morning and I’m writing this on Friday morning. So far it’s going okay: there were a lot of dirty nappies yesterday and he also has the sniffles which can be another symptom so it’s possible he’s had a reaction to something before we cut down to the low risk foods. The big news is we’ve had hardly any sick yesterday and today – he wasn’t vomiting a huge amount other than when he had what we thought were reactions to soya and wheat, but there’s definitely been a reduction. It could just be coincidence but fingers crossed not.

The diet seems so utterly basic and having tasted the millet before I gave it him, I did feel slightly like handing him the Childline number and telling him to feel free to report me for trying to feed it to him. I think what we’ll do with that is mix it in with other, slightly less tasteless, foods just to bulk everything up. Last night I managed to find a stock which doesn’t contain milk, soya or wheat (which is basically akin to finding a specific grain of sand in the Sahara desert) so I can cook some lamb up for him.

An update five days in:

All going well so far. I’ve noticed a huge reduction in how much he vomits. He’s never been ridiculously sicky unless he’s reacting to a food, and having had the Queen or Sick for my first child nothing surprises me. I had assumed his sick was caused by his reflux but there has been a reduction in the last week so that’s fantastic. We’re getting more dirty nappies than usual but they’re not a worrying consistency.

Another change has been how happy he is in the afternoons. We’d had a trying couple of weeks where he’d been howling during the late afternoon and early evening. Having assumed it was tiredness or being hungry, we’ve shifted his lunch and afternoon bottle back a bit (lunch at approx 1 and bottle at 3) then pulled his dinner earlier to 5. So this could be the reason he’s happier or it could be the new foods aren’t irritating his tummy. Who knows? Wouldn’t it be lovely if they learned to talk before we had to wean them so they could tell us!

He’s got the sniffles at the moment which can be a symptom so we’re going to wait until they’re fully gone before even thinking about medium risk foods.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

What I’d Tell My Pre-Baby Self

Isn’t it crazy how things change from year to year? Three years ago on this date, myself and Dylan had just booked our wedding and had also decided to start trying for a baby. Two years ago, I’d been home three days from hospital and our lovely Alexandra was a couple of months old. This time last year, I was three months pregnant with Max and we were immersed in the world of scans, appointments and telling our family about our shock second baby.

It’s something I think about fairly regularly, what I’d tell my pre-baby self. Bearing in mind I have a history of mental health issues and had been hospitalised not long before embarking on a relationship with the man who I now call my husband and share two babies with, so I think reflection and progress updates are especially important for me.

Before I had children, I had no idea how tough it would be. I don’t think anybody truly does – nothing can prepare you for the whirlwind of emotions which comes with having a tiny being dependent on you for everything. Nothing can prepare you for the hormones, the tiredness, the physical exhaustion, the tears, the fear (constant, constant fear that your kid will stop breathing or fall down a manhole or you’ll somehow completely eff them up and they’ll become totally dysfunctional adults). But equally nothing can prepare you for how hilarious the journey will be, how joyful, how exciting and how varied.

I worried constantly about whether I was up to the job when I was pregnant with Alexandra, but I probably worried about all the wrong things because I had no idea of all of the ways being a mother would test me. Of the times I’d want to smother Dylan even though I absolutely adore him and think he’s wonderful. Of the times I’d want to close the front door behind me and just walk away and not have to think about nappies, wipes, raisins and whether the amount of baby sick I’ve got on my clothes has tipped over the acceptable level.

I’d definitely tell my pre-baby self to relax. There is utterly no way to predict how each day will go with kids and you may feel euphoric at 10.05am and devastated at 10.10am. Just go with the flow. I don’t think I had any idea of what I could withstand before I had the children. I’d somehow muddled through a pretty traumatic mental health episode and got my shit together a little bit, but I never felt like a strong person until I had children. Until I grew two babies inside my own body (I still find the process of pregnancy crazy and I don’t understand how it’s even possible?!). Until I looked at a crying baby who I had no idea how to fix, looked round and realised it was just me, they were all I had and I had to stick with it until I fixed them. Until I collapsed into bed at night and thought ‘this day has broken me’ but then still got up the next morning to do it all again. Until I looked at my second born with so much personality that he was trying to pull his breathing tubes out at three days old while my first born just got on with her whole life being turned upside down because she’s THAT resilient and realised that I would always be strong for them.

I’d tell my pre-baby self that you will completely and utterly change. You will lose yourself, because it’s hard to maintain an identity when you are ‘mom’. You will look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the person you were before. You’ll look more awful than you ever dared imagine. At times you’ll feel more awful than you ever dared imagine. But you’ll never want to go back and eventually you’ll find the new you. Because you’ll watch your children lying on the floor, heads close together, giggling their heads off at each other even though there’s utterly nothing funny happening. Because you’ll see the way your baby’s eyes light up every time you speak. Because your toddler will make you roar with laughter by calling her daddy ‘mate’ or telling you she made sandcastles on the ‘bitch’. Because you’ll watch them when they sleep with their perfect eyelashes and squishy cheeks and you’ll want to stand there forever. Because you’ll feel like something’s missing when you don’t have both of them with you. Because you and your husband will regularly look at them and say ‘we created them. Aren’t they hella cute?’

Because you’ll be a mother, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

The Ten Stages Of A Toddler Tantrum

Moments before a mega tantrum.

If you’ve never experienced a toddler tantrum, then either you don’t own a toddler or you’re lying. Even the most angelic of small people can turn into the biggest wailing, flailing mess on earth occasionally. It’s just one of those parenting hurdles we all face. However, despite it being a complete losing battle to try and reason with a tantrumming toddler (side note: why is tantrumming not a word? And should it have one M or two?), I hereby share what I consider the ten stages of dealing with a toddler tantrum. A bit like the five stages of grief except no one judges you when you’re grieving.

  1. Prepare: It’s like being trapped in a zoo enclosure with a hungry lion. You can see exactly what’s going to happen. You can’t run (apparently leaving your child at the park and making off as fast as you can in the opposite direction isn’t acceptable). So you have to make something else seem like a tastier treat than you, whether that’s an actual tasty treat (‘here, have some sweets, chocolate, crisps, ten Fruit Shoots, ANYTHING that will stop you crying’) or the lure of something fun like shouting at ducks or shouting at mommy to push you higher on the swing.
  2. Accept your fate and start silently apologising to other people at the park using only your eyes. Try to convey a deep sense of sorrow while also reassuring that you usually don’t stand for this kind of thing.
  3. Bargain: hissing ‘please don’t start making a scene, I’ll let you skip your nap and then stay up til 10pm if you just stop crying’ has been proven to work on a toddler beginning a tantrum approximately zero times ever, but it’s still worth a try right?
  4. Ignore: it’s fine, I’m just strolling through the park with a howling toddler and it’s all completely dandy, I’m not about to cry myself and then spend the rest of the day wondering what I did to deserve such a devil child. In fact, they’re shouting so quietly I can barely hear them.
  5. Plead: ‘whyyyyyy are you doing this? Please just stop. Please.’ This would have a better success rate if they could actually hear you over the sound of their intense wailing.
  6. Lose your shit: luckily, they’re crying so hard by this point they have no idea what you’ve just hissed under your breath. Extra points if you threaten to leave them on the steps of a nearby church. Unfortunately, no extra points if you actually go through with that threat.
  7. Ignore: this might seem like the same as stage four but it’s not. By now you’re so fuming that you’ve given up pretending you’re enjoying a lovely walk and admiring the trees, instead you walk at a pace akin to Mo Farah in the last stretch of the Olympics and silently fume about how awful toddlers are.
  8.  Praise other child: ‘Aren’t you such a good boy? You can come to the park EVERY DAY because you don’t cry!’ This step is partly to see if toddler will realise what they’re potentially missing out on by trying to ruin your life every time you step outside your front door, and partly to point out to passing strangers that you’re in partial control and one of your children isn’t acting like it’s the end of the world.
  9. Offer snacks: you may have done this earlier in the process, but now you’ve got their attention by essentially telling their sibling how amazing they are, a snack might just be the tipping point back to normality.
  10. Peppa: when you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to fall back on the person who taught them how to be a brat in the first place. Switch on an episode, hand them the phone and watch the tears dry quicker than you can say ‘muddy puddles’.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Weaning – A Wheat Allergy Too?

Last week, I posted about the early days of weaning Max and promised an update so voila! To go back and provide a quick summary from the start: at five weeks old, Max was readmitted to hospital as he was pale and lethargic. When we got to the children’s ward, his temperature was low and he’d lost around 11oz I think it was in three days, during the evening his poos were getting paler and paler until they were completely white. They tested his blood which was too acidic and started giving him medication to reverse that. Initially they thought he may have sepsis, or have an underlying liver or kidney condition as the tests they’d done had also shown up problems with both of these. Eventually they decided he had FPIES, a type of allergic reaction which is internal and can’t be tested for. It takes a couple of days for an FPIES reaction to show up and it can mimic the symptoms of sepsis; there are four reactions ranging from mild to moderate to severe to life-threatening and his was deemed as the high end of severe.

So we cut out all dairy and soya. Last week I talked about introducing soya (we’re not trying dairy until he turns one) and how we think he’d reacted to that. Two days later, he started being sick a lot. He’s got reflux so we’re used to him being sick a little (and Alexandra was the Vomit Kid despite having nothing medically wrong with her), so we’re well used to a little spew. But this was severe. It seemed like every half an hour he was being sick. Otherwise he was completely well, so there was no cause for alarm. But on the second day we started scratching our heads trying to work out why, our initial thought was soya, but the sequence of events didn’t make sense. We also considered whether having his flu jab had caused it, but again it didn’t really make that much sense. I scrolled through the food diary I’ve been keeping for him and realised the only thing we’d introduced in the previous couple of days had been wheat in the form of cereal in the morning.

We didn’t give him any wheat starting from the Monday (after a weekend of vomiting) and he’s stopped being sick as much. We still get the odd tiny bit but nothing like those two days. I spoke to his paediatrician later in the week who confirmed that was the right course of action and we should leave it a couple of weeks then try soya first, wait for a reaction or not, and then try wheat once we’ve established the soya situation.

It’s a bit of a bugger really. We’ve gone from knowing it’s unlikely he’ll ever tolerate dairy and being hopeful that he’d be able to have soya (we were told a third of babies who are FPIES to dairy also react to soya) to now thinking dairy, soya AND wheat could be totally off the menu. For a couple of days he ended up basically back on fruit and vegetables and then I spent ages searching the shelves of Asda for some different options for him. There are choices out there which is great, but I find many of the dairy-free alternatives contain soya and now wheat is an added complication! We’re going to look into the possibility of getting a bread maker as free from bread is so expensive! And I’m sure there are other ways we can give him a varied diet without breaking the bank – we’re meeting with the paediatric dietician next week also so they’ll be able to help further.

But for now, it’s the daily task of trying to get some tasty food into him and wondering whether every bit of sick, irritable behaviour or dodgy poo is a reaction or just part of normal baby life. Plenty of people have said ‘oh maybe he’ll grow out of it’ (probably going by their experience that a lot of babies who have other conditions do) but the doctor has firmly told us he doesn’t think Max will ever tolerate dairy judging by how small he was when he reacted and how bad the reaction was. Either way, I’d prefer to prepare myself for the worst possible scenario of life-long allergies and then we can be pleasantly surprised if one day it turns out he’s grown out of it!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Seven Months Old

Such a happy chappy!

Max turns seven months old today and I think there’s been a real difference in him during the last month. Looking at his six month update, he was only really starting to get to grips with rolling – whereas now he flips from back to front and vice versa all the time. He’s also able to commando crawl along the floor so he’s easily moving around the room. Gone are the times where you’d put him down and he’d stay in one place!

He doesn’t seem to have as much interest in sitting up, he’ll do it supported but he’s not really trying hard to do it unaided. I remember with Alexandra, she’d constantly be trying to pull herself up into a sitting position if we lay her down, but it doesn’t really seem to bother Max. At this rate, I think he’ll be crawling before he sits!

He was weighed a few weeks ago and was 14lb 1, so he’s probably still 14 something. Clothes wise, we’ve just moved up to his 6-9m stuff as everything else was getting too short. He’s a long baby but still very skinny so everything looks a bit baggy. He’s still in some of his smaller t-shirts and his 0-3m coat still just about fits him! But he’s definitely making progress and going the right way with everything.

No teeth yet, but I’m fully expecting a late teether if he’s anything like his sister. His hair is growing back beautifully and he’s still very blond, although I’m sure it’ll go darker over time as no one else in the family is blond.

Weaning has been, and continues to be, a challenge! Poor Max is very into his fruit and veg and is always keen to try new things – but as much as he likes food, food doesn’t seem to like him! I’ll update more soon but wanted to share his rough daytime routine: wake up any time between 7 and 8, breakfast and bottle at 8/8.30am, nap around 9.30/10am, bottle some time late morning, lunch around 1 but can be any time between 12 and 2 depending what we’re doing, longer nap in the afternoon, bottle some time in the afternoon, dinner around 5.30/6, then a bath every other night, bedtime routine, bottle around 7.30pm.

Max is incredibly vocal, he ‘chats’ away constantly and sometimes likes to talk to himself early morning in the Moses basket which is incredibly cute. He’s discovered he can do a weird clearing his throat/cough thing and also that he can scream very loudly. It’ll be interesting to see whether his speech develops well or if it’s just these early noises that he’ll be so competent with.

He’s got an MRI next week which should (fingers and toes crossed) be the last time they need to scan his brain. I can’t remember how much I’ve updated about that on here, but essentially post surgery they detected an area they thought may be a bleed on a cranial ultrasound. He then had an MRI when he was a couple of months old at our local hospital where they (and the radiographers at the more specialist hospital they checked with) concluded it was probably just an anomaly in a blood vessel, which wouldn’t affect his development. They suggested a follow-up MRI done under sedation so they could just confirm – if they think again that it’s this vessel anomaly then there’ll be no need for further tests. Max then goes to see the dietician the week after where they’ll be able to give us some advice about his allergies. Then we’ll await an appointment at the hospital where he had his surgery for them to do another chest X-ray and see what his diaphragm is up to these days.

For a baby who’s had quite a lot thrown at him in his seven short months here, he’s absolutely lovely and he charms everyone he meets! He’s a wiggler, a giggler, a smiler and a joy to be around. Yes he has his moments! But on the whole we are super proud of our little boy and how well he’s withstood all of the challenges which have come his way. Hopefully next month we will have some positive news regarding his brain and then we don’t need to worry about that!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Weaning – Dairy And Soya Free Baby

We like ironic outfits.

Well hello there. Things have been, shall we say, patchy when it comes to blog posts lately. In the past, I probably would have apologised but I’ve been thinking about it recently and actually I create content here for myself and for my children to look at when they’re older, so if I miss a few Tuesdays or Thursday here and there, it really isn’t a big deal! There are a million ways I could be kinder to myself, and not beating myself up about doing something entirely optional is one of them.

Anyway…on to the actual post.

Weaning. 

We are now a few weeks into the weaning process, which began the day Max turned six months. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure he was ready as he’s still not sitting up independently and he hasn’t yet got the pincer grip necessary to pick up smaller items, but he’s actually taken to eating very well. We decided to give purees rather than go down the baby led weaning route, mostly because that’s what we did with Alexandra so we stuck to what we knew, but also partially because I wanted to know he was having a consistent amount of food when we started trialling soya.

For the first two weeks, Max just had pureed vegetables twice a day at lunch and dinner. He got on great with those, and there was only really parsnip which he didn’t seem to enjoy. Then we introduced fruit which he absolutely loves. As soon as you give him fruit he’s wolfing it at great speed. He’s now having three meals a day – a couple of times he’s tried pureed versions of what we’re eating but mostly he’s having separate meals, although eventually all his dinners will be the same as ours (blended less over time until he’s eating it in the form we do).

We then started to introduce soya, which is what had been advised by the paediatrician. The aim was to give soya every day for a month, at which point we could say with certainty that Max wasn’t allergic to it (when he was diagnosed with his dairy allergy, we were told there was a one in three chance soya would also affect him. At that point, we were advised to cut out soya as well as dairy to allow him to get well again). The first three days were fine and then on the third day, he started being sick a little more than usual. It wasn’t a horrific amount, but then on the fourth day he seemed a bit lethargic and his poo also started changing (sorry for TMI). This continued on the fifth day so we stopped soya altogether. The plan in that scenario was for Max to be soya-free for four weeks and then we can try again, just in case the initial reaction was actually down to something else.

I feel like it’s pretty inevitable that he’s going to start showing symptoms when we re-introduce, which is a shame as I was really hoping he could have soya. There are so, so many dairy-free alternatives out there but a vast proportion of them contain soya. So if he reacts again and doesn’t grow out of the allergy (which his doctor doesn’t think is likely), then it’s really going to narrow down his options when it comes to food – and to eating out especially. It’s a real shame for him. Food is so integral in our society: birthday parties, Christmas, family meals, sleepovers at friends’ houses. Having never had allergies myself, it wasn’t until I had to go dairy and soya free to continue expressing for Max that I realised how lovely it is to be able to go to a supermarket and have your pick of anything on the shelves, rather than scouring through the ingredients of everything, double checking just in case, and then basically eating whatever you can rather than what you want.

I’m going to update on his weaning journey next week probably, as we have had more ups and downs this week already and I think there will be more to report by then!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Being In Charge

When Dylan told me last year he was going to go to the Dive Show for the day, I waved him off to get his train and didn’t really think anything more of it. My best friend Amanda was coming over for the day and I was looking forward to that. At some point during the afternoon, he called me. I thought it was to tell me he’d found a wetsuit but no – he’d found a holiday he wanted to go on. We had a brief chat about it and he booked it that day.

At this point we knew we were expecting Max so I knew I’d be at home with a 2 year old and a baby of roughly six months. Dylan’s been diving for a long, long time and in fact when we went abroad last year spent a couple of days under water so it wasn’t really a surprise that he was heading out by himself for just over a week.

I had a lot of negative reactions to him going with many saying they wouldn’t ‘let’ their husband go and leave them alone for 8 days. My response to that is well he’s an adult, I can’t really stop him doing anything and if I have a strop about it then he’s only going to resent me trying to stop him enjoying his hobby. Plus 51 weeks this year he’s been a hands-on dad and a great supportive husband so who am I to deny him one week where it’s just about him?!

So roll on September and I was bidding him goodbye on an early Friday morning as he headed to the airport. I of course was shitting myself. Clearly I can keep two children alive and fed for a day but the thought of also being in sole charge every night too was something else. I had an irrational fear that Max would suddenly reherniate and we’d end up in hospital again and I’d have to try and juggle caring for Alex around that (To explain that one, I am a life-long sufferer of anxiety and I am absolutely excellent at imagining the worst possible disaster scenarios all the time. I’m also a mother and that comes with a constant worry that your child may get sick, injured or blind your other child with a crayon, right?).

I think the biggest issue was the fact I knew he’d basically be out of contact for most of the week. He was on a liveboard in the middle of the Red Sea and apparently they’re not well known for the excellent wifi out there. I did manage to speak to him briefly twice I think while he was out there (once when he was about to come home), but for the rest of the week there were no phone calls to say ‘what do you fancy for dinner?’ or ‘guess what your child’s done now?’ Despite the fact we’ve spoken the majority of days since we met in September 2009, I didn’t realise how much I relied on him until that week.

Max came down with a cold which was the major complication of the week really. I had envisaged a week of dealing with toddler tantrums but in reality our oldest was excellent (she obviously had a couple of moments where she was less than golden but on the whole I can’t complain at all). However the night before Dylan went, Max transformed himself from a baby sleeping for 11 hours at night to one waking up at the slightest sound and needing patting/dummy/comfort about 50 times before the morning.

I’d get up to express, get downstairs and have to go back up to settle him down. Repeat this process about five or six times every time I went down! At first I thought it was just his cold but as that cleared I became convinced his reflux medication wasn’t working as effectively as it’s weight based and he’d put on a few pounds since it had been increased last (once it was increased he started sleeping again so I was right).

I had some help in the week – firstly staying overnight at my parents’ house which was lovely and then Amanda stopped over one of the nights.

I cried twice. And I missed Dylan A LOT. In fact I think absence made the heart grow fonder and I sure as hell appreciated everything he does a lot more in the weeks after he came home! But on the whole I kinda had my shit together and that was a nice feeling when I looked back at the end of the week and realised I’d done it.

It sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? So many people cope on their own with children, or have partners who work away a lot. But I guess it was just a big change from us to go from having daddy around to not being able to call him. It’s definitely made me take my metaphorical hat off to anyone going it alone though!

(Oh and before I get the ‘when are you having a week away?’ comment, I’ve deferred mine until the kids are teenagers and then I will gleefully board a plane and leave Dylan to fend for himself with two feral youths!)

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Six Months Old

(You know when you think you’ve posted something then suddenly remember at 4.30am while expressing that you totally didn’t? I can still use the baby brain excuse, right?)

Tuesday was a milestone in our house as the baby turned six months. Yes, Mr Max has been around for half a year now – and what a half year it’s been!

He’s doing so well and we’re really proud of the leaps he’s taking each day and the new things he’s learning. Of course, anyone is proud whenever their child achieves something but considering how poorly he was we often look at his progress in amazement!

Weaning:

I will no doubt post many times about his weaning journey, but I can’t update you at six months without talking about food. He’s not sitting up unaided yet but we decided to try him on some solids when he turned six months to see how things go. We’re doing the traditional purée route as well as giving him some bits and bobs to try and pick up and gum and starting off with two weeks of just veg before moving on to the fun stuff like fruit and the really fun stuff (carbs).

Development:

Max is a little wriggler and he’s very confident at getting from his front to his back. He can roll from back to front but spends a lot of time on his side and somehow managing to move across the floor using a complication system of lying-down lunges and half rolls.

His head strength is much better and he’s also enjoying being sat up more, although he still needs some support with that. He’s now reaching out and grabbing toys and he LOVES bouncing in his jumparoo and being on his playmat surrounded by toys.

Routine:

It’s still 150ml bottles every three hours from 8am to 8pm roughly. He’s up any time from 7am and is the chirpiest morning person I’ve ever met. He’s just started having solids at 12pm and 6pm. Naps are variable but he tends to have one approximately 9.30am for anywhere up to an hour, then another one mid morning or early afternoon then perhaps another one before dinner.

Growth:

Max is set to be weighed next week so we’re not 100 per cent sure how much he weighs but he’s definitely gaining so that’s positive. He’s fitting most of his 3-6m tops now although a lot of them are still a little baggy. He’s about ready to go into 6-9m babygrows in the next couple of weeks and he’s also rapidly outgrowing most of his trousers. Unfortunately we either have the option of horrendously baggy waist and the right length or less likely to fall down but way too short when it comes to his trousers! He’s still very skinny and people are quite surprised when I tell them he’s six months.

We think he may be teething as there’s a lot of dribbling and hand chewing going on, but I feel like Alexandra did this too and she was nearly 11 months before her first tooth came through so we may be in for another long wait if he takes after his sister!

All in all, he is still so happy and cheery. Yes he has his grumpy moments and he cries and he grumbles (don’t we all) but if he’s fed, not tired and not in pain from his reflux then he is just the loveliest little boy. The kids do this thing where most days at least once they lie together and get the absolute giggles and just spend five minutes laughing at absolutely nothing. Looking at them and how much they love each other is honestly the best feeling and makes any and all of the hard bits of his pregnancy and the early days more than worth it. I wish I could share that moment with anyone worrying about having two babies close together!

Here’s to the next six months and all they have in store for us.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Becoming A Mother Then Adapting To Two

There’s always a lot of talk on ‘mommy forums’ about what’s harder – the leap from no children to one, or from one to two (obviously higher as well but I have no experience of that and the thought of four/five children is a little hive-inducing to say the least).

Personally, the leap from being childless to having a baby was huge. It completely tilted my world on its axis and made me think, behave and feel totally differently about pretty much everything. I think that may have been amplified by the fact I hadn’t been with Dylan for very long (Alexandra was born 13 months after we began officially dating, although we had known each other for years beforehand so he wasn’t a stranger!) so in the space of little over a year I had gone from single journalist, living in a house share, doing pretty well what I wanted with my life, seeing friends ALL the time – to being engaged, living with my partner and now having a brand new baby.

Of course, add a two and a half month hospital stay into the mix, the emotional aftermath of an intensive care stay and the long recovery and struggle to get my body back to as ‘normal’ as possible, and things were never going to be easy. I was so incredibly lucky, especially given a history of mental health issues, to not get post natal depression or become unwell with anxiety and depression again. But it was hard.

Like any new mom, I had days where I just thought it’d be easier to stay in the house than try and transport this whole other person and all the things she needed around. I had so many days where I just wanted to hand Alexandra over to her dad when he got home from work and let him deal with the bath and bedtime routine to enable me to have some space and time.

I didn’t really wear make up or do my hair much, a real change from before when I was working and had nice nails and made an effort most days. I would scroll through past instagram pictures and feel a bit nostalgic for that old person. And then I got to a point where I thought you know what, I can get some of that back. I can make time to wear make up or do something I want to do. But I’m never going to get it all back. I’m never going to be Harriet first anymore, I’m always going to be Alexandra’s mom first.

And so as our bond grew I tried to relish it a bit more, to enjoy my new life rather than comparing it to my old one. And I still had days where it was rough – it’s NEVER going to be easy when you’re a parent. This was our new normal.

Then the world tilted again, we found out we were expecting our baby boy. Max’s arrival certainly came with its own set of problems. No one can watch their child on a ventilator or get diagnosed with a condition with a 50 per cent mortality rate or go down for surgery at 11 days old and not feel like a different person.

But crucially this time round I didn’t have to learn to be a mom. I was already well practised in the practical side of things – the bath time routine, the nappy changing, the changing bag packing. There were places I simply had to be with Alexandra like nursery or Tumble Tots or just getting out the house for a walk to stop her chucking all her crayons on the floor for the 95th time that hour.

So it was no longer a case of sitting there thinking about how different life was and building up the confidence to not think someone in Starbucks is going to judge me if my kid starts crying. It was all about adapting to being outnumbered. I’m not going to lie, two instead of one is an adjustment. You have to think about the logistics of everything – and sometimes you just have to let one of them cry.

If you’ll excuse the language, I said to Dylan the other day: sometimes one of them is being a dick, sometimes both of them are being dicks, sometimes neither of them are being dicks. If no one is being a dick it’s great, if one of them is then it’s manageable, if both of them are then it’s terrible!

Do I feel differently being a mother of two? Yes absolutely, but mostly in positive ways (except the fact my hair has genuinely started going grey). I’ve been finding time to do my make up most days and indulging in as much TV that I want to watch when Alexandra is napping to counteract all the CBeebies I watch these days. I haven’t yet managed to use any of the bath bombs I got for my birthday in early July but I will at some point and right now a cuddle with Max or reading a book with Alex is much better than a soak in the tub.

There is something so magical about watching your children interact with each other and I feel so content that we’ve created two babies who will always have each other, who will grow up side by side and – although they may fight and may not get on as adults – will always have that sibling bond that you can’t get from anyone else in life. To me that’s a fair trade for any of the sanity, hair or free time I may have lost by having two children.

The leap from zero to one was monumental and probably the biggest change I’ve ever made in my life. But in a lot of ways one to two felt natural and the learning curve this time was less steep. Life with two is busy, manic, stressful, nonstop but I have at least one moment in every day where I look at them and feel so so glad that we have two. It just feels right.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x