Donating Breast Milk

Max is very pleased another baby is benefitting from the milk he couldn’t use.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I donated some of my milk but I wanted to use today’s post to talk a little more about that process.

When I had my first, Alexandra, I wasn’t really aware about donating milk or even using donor milk so when I stopped breastfeeding we just switched straight to formula. Because I was so unwell I didn’t even express and so our journey with my milk was over – I went cold turkey and my milk dried up eventually.

With Max, I started expressing the day he was born despite the fact he was nil by mouth. I’m still expressing now so he’s having four bottles of boob milk a day and one of formula. Because he hardly drank anything in the early days when he was poorly, we ended up stocking up the freezers in both hospitals he was an inpatient at and when we fetched both batches we had around four litres of milk in our freezer.

My plan was to gradually use the freezer stock (as there’s obviously a time frame when you need to use it by) and replace it with ‘newer’ milk. This meant I could potentially stop expressing at some point but still give him boob milk from the stockpile. However at six weeks he was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy which meant I had to cut out dairy and soya to carry on feeding him. It also meant we couldn’t use anything from the freezer as that had been expressed before I cut dairy from my diet.

The thought of throwing away my milk which had taken so long to get made me feel a little bit ill! So I began researching how I could donate it. The milk bank nearest us said they normally only took milk as an ongoing thing from moms who were breastfeeding but had an over supply but when I explained the situation they were willing to take the stash. However once they started filling in the paperwork they said it wasn’t possible for me to donate because I have had blood transfusions in the past. This for the same reason that I can’t now give blood – there’s no test they can do to rule out that you haven’t been given CJD (mad cows disease) from the blood so they ban you from donating in case you pass it on. Annoying but I can see why! Donated milk is extremely heavily screened before being sold to neonatal units.

So I turned to Facebook. I joined a couple of sites including one called Human Milk for Human Babies. I posted on there explaining how much I had to donate and some details (they ask you to include things like any medical conditions you have/medications you’re on, whether you drink etc). I got one really weird message but then within hours I got a comment from a lady who was pregnant and had supply issues with her previous two babies so was stockpiling donor milk so her new baby wouldn’t struggle with weight loss in the way they had.

The lady came to pick the milk up from us, which felt a bit weird at first giving someone what is essentially your bodily fluids! But once I met her and chatted to her for a bit I felt so glad it was going to be used and not thrown away! She’s now had her baby and keeps everyone (there’s quite a few people who’ve donated milk to them) informed on a Facebook page which is lovely. Because all the milk is labelled, she was even able to tell me they were using my milk the other day!

It’s lovely to know I’ve been able to help another family and it’s really changed my viewpoint on donor milk – in fact I feel a bit gutted I don’t have enough of a supply to regularly donate but I’m already having to supplement with formula.

To anyone out there with an oversupply – or anyone who knows they can’t breastfeed due to a medical issue but desperately wants to use breast milk, milk donation is definitely something worth looking into!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Leaving The Kids

Who wouldn’t want to spend all their time with these adorable things?

If there’s one thing you learn when you become immersed in the world of motherhood (mothering? Motherdom?) apart from how to cut grapes correctly and how to poo in front of an audience, is how different we all are when it comes to our preferences and the way we bring/drag up our offspring.

Never is this more true than when it comes to leaving the kids. And by that I mean having someone babysit them while you have a break, not abandoning them on the steps of a local church when they’re being little shits. There are some women for whom dropping them off at the gates on their first day at school will be the longest they’ve left them for the entirety of their existence. For others, they’re jetting off on a kids-free holiday before the cord’s been cut.

I like to think I’m somewhere in between although I do veer more towards the ‘I made these children so I might as well spend some time with them’ camp.

With Alexandra we were forced to spend a lot of time apart in the first three months while I spent all my time lying around contracting near-fatal illnesses (dramatic I know!). When I finally made it out of the hospital, Dylan and I went on a couple of ‘dates’ while my mom looked after Alex and then there was a bit of a gap as I’d kind of bonded with this little thing and was happy to spend all my waking hours with her.

Then nana started having her for a couple of hours some weekends to take her to the park or to eat cake and whatever other glorious things grandmothers spoil their grandchildren doing. When I got pregnant with Max, we decided it’d be a good idea to get her used to sleeping at nana’s so she went there – and still does – perhaps every month for a sleepover. Other than that she’s had some time with my sister when I’ve been off at hospital appointments and she obviously was looked after by a few different people when Max was in hospital and I was by his bedside every day.

In terms of social events I’ve been to without her, there’s probably been a handful in her life. I went to a theatre show once, went for a morning at a spa with my sister and went out for my second hen do last summer.

Since Max has been here, I’ve spent most my time with him or both of them (Alexandra goes to nursery twice a week and that’s the longest time I spend without her normally). I haven’t yet got to the stage where I feel the need to have a break from him so apart from when he was in hospital the first time round and I slept in parent accommodation nearby, we’re pretty much together 24/7. I’ve been to the gym a couple of times and once or twice popped to the doctor’s just taking Alex with me and leaving Max with my sister.

So why am I sharing all this? I guess to promote the fact everyone is different and that’s fine. I know people with babies younger than mine who’ve been on nights out already and equally I know parents with babies older than mine who wouldn’t even dream of going to the gym for an hour at this stage (and some who would take their baby with them to the loo. I say pee in peace until they’re old enough to follow you there and ‘help’ with the loo roll in the style of an Andrex puppy).

I think you just need to have the courage of your convictions so if family ask to look after your little one and you’re not ready, then tell them ‘thanks but no thanks’. Approach them and ask weeks, months or years down the line when you ARE ready. Equally you need to respect your partner’s views when it comes to leaving the kids.

Dylan’s off on holiday in September for a week by himself (our children will be two years old and five months old at this point). He’ll have minimal, if any, phone contact with us as he’ll be diving off a boat in southern Egypt. The thought of leaving our children for an entire week brings me out in a cold sweat but the point is he’s happy to do it and so that’s fine by me. However I may decide to jet off somewhere sunny by myself when the kids are teenagers as I have a feeling I really will want some time apart from them by then!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Babies At Weddings

A few weeks ago we were invited to the first wedding we’d attended since having two children. In fact, the last wedding we’d been to before that was our own way back in September. In terms of kids, that one was a breeze because my parents were in charge of Alexandra pretty much all day and of course everyone wanted to cuddle her and spend time with her. In fact, I remember a few people commenting in the following weeks how quickly she’d got up on her feet when they saw her toddling round – she’d actually been walking by the time we got married but hadn’t had the chance to show off cause she was being cuddled so much!

Fast forward to this June and we had a toddler and a newborn to contend with. At the church, we decided to take one child each and I’d packed a big bag full of toys and snacks to keep Alex occupied. While we waited for the bride she was golden and I thought we’d done really well until the second after the bridal party had arrived when Alexandra suddenly decided she didn’t want to be in there anymore. That meant I missed the entire ceremony while walking around the grounds with her. Dylan reported Max had also been a little unsettled inside.

Later at the hotel we missed some of the drinks reception as I was expressing and we needed to feed Max and change nappies etc. At the meal, I watched as my starter was taken away uneaten as I’d been feeding the baby while everyone else ate. Alex had become restless at times but luckily the bride’s uni friends were on our table and were fab with her, she played games with them all and watched Peppa Pig on one of their phones.

So altogether while we’d had a lovely day, it was pretty full on! We were wondering what the evening would bring but luckily Max slept in between feeds and Alexandra LOVED it. She danced until 11.15pm bless her. We then had to contend with both of them in the same room which had never happened before so baby woke toddler who ended up in our bed for the first time ever. I expressed late in the evening and decided not to overnight due to the possibility of waking everyone up but ended up sat on the bathroom floor early morning as I was about to explode!

The next day was much easier, Alex seemed fairly well rested considering she’d had nowhere near enough sleep and enjoyed a big breakfast and a swim. As I recall there was a bit of crying as we got into the car but both babies soon zonked out as soon as we started the journey home.

I think my summary is that toddlers don’t like behaving themselves by sitting in churches or waiting for meals – but they do love running around like a lunatic chasing lights on the dance floor at the evening reception!

Congratulations Jordan and Tom and thanks for having all of us at your special day!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Joie Twin Aire Review

I’ve never been keen on the idea of spending a lot of money on prams. The idea of shelling out nearly £1,000 for a travel system makes me feel a little bit ill – although I appreciate for some people the pram is a massive deal. For me I’d rather spend that on, well, everything. If you take into account £300 odd on a car seat you can get most if not all the other things you need with the rest of that grand.

So when it came to choosing a pram for Alexandra we firstly used a second hand Hauck system (from good friends so we knew it was fine!) and then we purchased a Joie Nitro which has never let us down. It’s still going strong, we use it now if we only need a single and we’ll be buying Max one once Alexandra is too old for a pushchair.

So when my nephew Zachary was born and we decided to buy a double pram for Alexandra and him, I was won over by the Joie Twin Aire which Max now uses as well. It’s essentially two Nitros stuck together with some nifty reversible blue and pink inserts (I’m not bothered about gender colours and will happily reverse them if the kids want a different colour when they’re old enough to choose – you’d be amazed how often people still ask what gender the kid is though as if the blue pram insert and blue outfit isn’t giving the game away).

I’ll start with the cons because there are so few:
– It’s quite wide so often you’ll find doorways and shop aisles a little bit of a challenge. If you’re really worried about that then you might want to look at a different option which isn’t side by side.
– When you fold it down it needs to be lifted rather than dragged along because of the positioning of the basket. A minor point but at first we thought the basket was faulty because it sits so low and drags along the ground in the folded down position.

The pros:
– Each seat lies completely flat so it’s suitable from birth. We bought an insert off Amazon for Max just so it’d feel a little bit less roomy in there but I haven’t been using it when it’s been super warm. I’ve also slightly inclined him because of his reflux which works really well to allow him a comfortable sleep.
– It is so light weight. Once you add two children and all their stuff, it’s obviously fairly heavy but the pram itself isn’t bulky so it pushes and corners beautifully.
– The basket is massive. I can fit everything I need in it. The only slight drawback is if I pop the entire changing bag in there I need to have the seats upright to get it back out but I just take Max out first to save having to move his seat while he’s in it.
– The price. Lots of places do it for £120 but if you shop around some do it for £99 which is the price we got it for doing a price match at Mothercare. You can’t really complain about getting a double for less than £100!

Have you used a Joie? What do you think?

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Dairy And Soya Free

You have to like someone an awful lot to give up milkshake for them.

Long term readers of my blog will know I breastfed my first baby for just under a week before switching to formula for a variety of reasons not limited to her generally being terrible at feeding and me being incredibly unwell. She thrived on formula, started putting on weight, importantly didn’t become jaundiced again and has been on the 75th centile since she was a few months old. She’s a happy and healthy toddler who (touch wood) we’ve only ever taken to the doctor’s once and that was just to confirm a little rash was indeed viral as we suspected.

This time round I decided I’d quite like to give breastfeeding a go again. By the time he was a few hours old, Max was on NICU so I was advised to begin hand expressing for a couple of days then move on to using a pump. I welcomed the chance as it meant I could do something useful while the doctors, nurses and machines were doing their own extremely important jobs.

Fast forward to him being two weeks old and they were happy he was tolerating being tube fed following his surgery, so we could begin feeding him orally. That evening I opted to try him with a bottle of my expressed milk and he took to it so well we carried on doing it that way rather than him breastfeeding directly.

Skip to six weeks and Max was back in hospital after becoming incredibly unwell after we were advised to begin introducing formula as he wasn’t putting on weight quick enough. Three days into that stay and we were given a diagnosis of a severe dairy allergy and told it was likely he’d also react to soya. So I had a choice – either I could stop expressing and we could rely solely on prescription formula or I could cut out these things from my diet.

I chose the latter, not realising at the time how many things have dairy or soya in them! Dairy on its own isn’t too bad (apart from crisps – why do so many crisps have milk in them?) but so many of the alternatives have soya in that trips to the supermarket are no longer about choice but about having to have the one thing available.

I wasn’t allowed to give Max the expressed milk I had in the freezer and because I’ve had blood transfusions in the past I can’t donate my milk to an official milk bank but luckily I found a lady through Facebook who was collecting expressed milk for her baby (who was born last week! Congratulations!) so I didn’t have to face the shit situation of throwing four litres of the stuff down the sink.

Of course, some people would say I don’t have the right to moan because I’ve chosen to go dairy and soya free. But I’d invite those people to come and see how well Max takes a bottle of my breastmilk compared to a bottle of formula. With his reflux (a side effect of his hernia), he struggles with too much formula – even the prescription stuff which is free from the things he’s allergic to – and he’s like a different baby now I’ve managed to increase my supply and only offer one or two bottles of formula a day compared to the four he was having previously. We deliberately don’t offer him formula overnight and he’s so much more settled because of that.

So that’s my dairy and soya free story. I don’t know how long I’ll express for – I’d like to get to six months but we know weaning will be a tough journey with this one so it may be I keep going with the boob milk as we know he can tolerate it, especially if he doesn’t outgrow his dairy and soya allergy (his paediatrician doesn’t think it’s likely). In which case next March will be my next taste of chocolate, pizza or milkshake!

Some tips for anyone who’s having to cut out dairy or soya, in terms of what I’ve found out there:
– Koko products are really good. Their yoghurts actually taste like real yoghurts! And their coconut milk is much tastier on cereals than almond milk, in my opinion.
– Doves Farm do an excellent range of Freee bars which don’t contain allergens. I was looking for an oat based product to help my supply so was thrilled to find these in apricot, apple and even chocolate flavours.
– Co-Op’s donuts! Neither their custard nor their jam donuts contain soya or dairy. Winner.
– Pringles. Lots of crisps contain milk but their plain and Texan barbecue varieties don’t (possibly some others but I haven’t checked up on all their offerings).

Do let me know if you’ve found any other great soya or dairy alternatives!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Postnatal Without A Baby

Once you’ve given birth in hospital, you’re usually transferred fairly quickly to a ward called postnatal where midwives look after you by providing regular monitoring of your blood pressure etc, help you establish breastfeeding if you’ve chosen to feed that way and make sure baby is okay too.

First time round, I spent 11 days between postnatal and labour wards after the birth, with Dylan allowed to stay most nights because of how poorly I was. Whilst it was tough and I was in horrendous pain – not just from the stitches and general soreness of giving birth but also from the clots and pneumonia that had decided to join me for the post partum experience – we met some genuinely lovely people there, healthcare assistants, midwives, cleaners and doctors.

The second time round, I was taken to postnatal (I gave birth in a different hospital this time) where I spent six days. But the key difference this time was I didn’t have my baby with me. He was downstairs in NICU and was really quite poorly at the time.

I know how severely under funded the NHS is right now and that you’re lucky to get a bed and some meds! But I so wish the money was there to provide a separate ward for all the NICU mothers before they’re discharged. Having a baby in intensive care is a pretty harrowing experience anyway, but to come back on to postnatal every night and hear the (healthy) cries of everyone else’s baby who is right by their side on the ward is awful. I remember hearing one baby cry while I was waiting for them to intubate Max for the first time because he was so unwell he needed a ventilator – that was probably one of the lowest moments of the whole process. Especially as I knew I wouldn’t hear my baby cry until he was well enough for them to take the tube back out.

I missed most of my regular checks because I was downstairs with Max and only popping back up to express, eat and sleep. I’m sure it was frustrating for the staff me not being there (although I’m assuming most NICU moms do the same?) but it came across in the tone of some. Like I was inconveniencing them or being a nuisance. Some of them would happen to catch me a few times during my shift and never even ask how my baby was doing.

Generally I felt fine. I coped with all that NICU life threw at us. But every time I was on postnatal or thought about it, I felt upset and angry. I dreaded going back on the ward and I couldn’t wait to be discharged. Everyone told me the parent accommodation I moved into for the rest of Max’s time on NICU was super basic and lonely but I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when they finally let me leave postnatal. I think I skipped off the ward at the thought of no more checks, no more stern words from some of the staff and mostly no babies crying.

If I suddenly became a billionaire I would love to fund special private wards for NICU moms where they could come and go as they pleased, chat to the other moms in the same situation and get some support from midwives trained to deal with how they may be feeling. It’s an ordeal but there are ways to make postnatal life easier for those who have sick babies.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

100 Days Old

To my incredible son on your 100th day in this world,

What a 100 days it’s been. We knew from the word go things were unlikely to be simple. Two lines showed up on the pregnancy test on Friday, September 2, just days after your sister turned one. Your dad and I stood in our bedroom for a while just looking at each other in shock.

We never had a conversation about what we would do. From that second you were my baby and we would take on the risks to get you here safely.

The next few months were filled with worry. We tried to carry on as normal and in general you gave me a really easy ride during the pregnancy with you – much more so than your sister who made me feel really poorly most of the way through. But sometimes we look at each other and panicked. Especially in the latter weeks, I spent so many hours lying awake in the middle of the night contemplating what might happen.

We reached 24 weeks and while we could breath a little sigh of relief that we had a chance at a ‘take home’ baby, utter fear took over every time I thought about what might happen in the weeks after your birth. Fast forward another eight weeks and there was a hospital admission and talk of early delivery.

I sat for ten days in hospital not knowing if I’d be coming out with or without you, pregnant or not pregnant. There was still a risk at this point your dad would be taking you home on his own. We avoided induction and even booked in a date for 37 weeks. But of course we didn’t make it that far and instead they decided at nearly 35 weeks we needed to get you out.

Holding you in my arms for the first time was the most empowering moment of my life. Many, many medical professionals helped deliver Alexandra but I gave birth to you without any extra assistance and I felt so strong in that moment. Looking at you it was like everything fell into place. A little hole in my heart was filled in and everything was complete.

I made your dad go with you up to the ward while I had to stay downstairs for a while. And then came the explanation that you’d showed a couple of worrying signs so you’d been taken to NICU. How could we know then the journey we were in for? You spent ten days on the unit with the incredible highs – getting to cuddle you for 15 minutes each on day four, being extubated both times, starting tube feeds. And the crashing lows – being told you needed to be ventilated, hearing your pained cries as you struggled to breath, not being able to see your eyes for a week while you were having jaundice treatment, two lung collapses.

And then on day ten we had our answer. What was going on apart from the sepsis, pneumonia and jaundice. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Something I’d never heard of before but is now a common phrase I use. My baby boy had a hole in his diaphragm. It was action stations from then on as you were transferred to another hospital for your surgery.

An operation you absolutely powered through like the brave boy you’ve been since day one. Even the doctors couldn’t believe how well you recovered, getting home a week later when most babies would still be on a ventilator in intensive care.

And so we took you home and began our journey as a family of four with our bouncy active toddler and our tiny little boy. But the time we had at home getting to know one another was to be fairly short and you were less than six weeks old when you were admitted to our local hospital this time.

We kept calm at the time but looking back that night was terrifying. You were becoming more and more pale and cold and listless. The doctors had to abandon a planned lumbar puncture when you spaced out for a few moments. There was talk of transfer to a specialist hospital, of more surgery, of a potential liver condition.

But of course three days later we discovered the problem was an extremely severe dairy allergy. We were relieved in a way to finally know what was wrong with you and how we could make you better. So began a long process of getting dairy and soya out your system and once you were back on full feeds we had our happy baby boy back. I was so tired at this point having been up through most of the nights as you were so upset from being restricted with your milk, plus the machines and trying to express and a horrible camp bed. Your sister and daddy were down the road at home in an attempt to keep things normal for her. It was awful being separated again so after five days taking you back home was wonderful.

Since then you’ve dealt with so much more: reflux which we were told to expect you to have given your CDH, brain scans, X-rays, appointments. You’ve finally begun putting on weight and actually reached the 0.4th centile whereas before you weren’t even on the graph.

We don’t know what the future holds for you, whether anomalies on your brain scan will cause developmental issues, whether your dairy allergy will be lifelong, whether you will reherniate and face more surgery. We watch you every day for signs of your breathing deteriorating. I read the ingredients list three times on everything I eat just to check I’m
not exposing you to dairy.

But for all of the drama and tears and fears and hospital visits, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Your smiles are just incredible. Your cuddles are wonderful. Watching your bond with your sister grow each day is just the best thing ever.

Alexandra had to fight to get here safe and sound. Never did we imagine how hard you’d have to fight both in the womb and for the last 100 days. Miscarriage and stillbirth rates for APS sufferers are appalling, and CDH only has a 50 per cent survival rate so even without all your other complications, you are a miracle.

You and your sister have taught me so much. I never realised how calm, composed and strong I could be in a life or death situation. I never realised how intensely I could love another human being. I never realised how protective I could feel. How selfless I could be. How utterly devoted to a family I could be.

As I write this you’re sleeping on my chest and it feels like you were always meant to be here. I hope you never stop wanting to cuddle me. I hope you never stop smiling as beautifully as you do now. I hope whatever challenges life throws at you, over and above those faced by others, you continue to tackle them so bravely. I am so proud of you and I’m so thankful you came into our lives. You were meant to be Max. Meant to be.

Momma x

22 Months And Three Months

I hope they always like each other this much.

As always, I’m back with a monthly update on both the children. Time marches on so they’re 22 months and three months now and both growing so well.

Alexandra:

Just two months away from her second birthday and Alex’s vocabulary has exploded. She’s much more willing now to repeat words you say which results in her attempting words like sausages and purple. Her particular favourite phrases are ‘see you soon’ ( said more like see soon so as a result I’ve started saying see soon in a really chirpy little voice to people), ta ta, ta da and of course no is used all the time in our house. She has occasionally started saying yes though!

It’s animal noises a plenty and she’s a firm fan of anything that roars (lion, tiger, dinosaur) as well as doing the best pig impression I’ve genuinely ever heard.

On the subject of animals, she still absolutely loves them and loved having a trip to the zoo this weekend. We also went to a farm in Wales where you could feed the animals and she spent so long with the goats feeding and stroking them bless her.

She’s just had a great report from nursery and will be starting her settling in sessions in the toddler room from next month. I’m not sure I’m ready for her to make the leap! I think she’ll cope better than me with the change.

Some exciting teeth news – all of her four canines have broken through in the last few weeks plus at least one of the back molars. I need to have another look soon but at the very most we’ve got three to go! We’ve been so lucky with teething as I know other children who’ve really suffered but she’s been largely unaffected which is great.

Alexandra loves her little brother and is mostly wonderful with him, although of course there are odd moments of jealousy and being silly. Overall she definitely knows how to throw a strop but when she’s not doing that she’s an absolute delight – eager to learn, confident, funny, loving.

Max:

Max is doing so fantastically well and we’re so proud as we really didn’t think he’d have progressed this well at three months.

At his last weigh in he was 10lb 3 and gaining nicely so they’re now happy for him to be weighed monthly rather than weekly. He’s also got longer and his head circumference has grown which are all really positive signs for his development.

He’s been struggling with reflux which we knew was likely to happen due to his hernia. But with some medication, putting his mattress on a slant and letting him nap on his front in the afternoon (I know you’re meant to keep them on their back but he’s SO much more settled that way) he’s been just about coping.

Despite everything going on, he’s got such a lovely nature and we’re getting plenty of smiles from him now along with some cooing. He smiles the most for Alexandra and you can tell he thinks she’s great!

He’s in 0 to 3 clothes now which is good progress although some stuff is still way too big for him.

Medically, his FPIES and CDH are completely under control so they’re just doing more checks on his brain but other than that he’s continuing to impress the doctors. His paediatrician remarked on his double chin last time we went for an appointment – I’d be offended if someone pointed mine out but in Max’s case the doctor was thrilled to see it!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Midwife Appreciation

Max is very happy we got a lovely midwife.

During every big life event you’ve ever gone through, the people around you will have mattered hugely at the time. Roll on a week, month, year or decade into the future and their name, manner or appearance may have blurred so badly that you can’t recall anything about them.

That’s certainly the case about birth. Both times I was in hospital for longer than average. 12 days in total on antenatal, labour and postnatal wards with Alexandra, then ten days on antenatal while pregnant and a week on delivery suite and postnatal with Max. (We’re just talking pregnancy/birth specific wards and stays here so not my long hospital admission postnatally with Alex or any of the care Max received)

Along the way we met many midwives and other staff who were utterly amazing, whose names and faces are imprinted on our memories, and none more so than the midwife who delivered Max. Her name was Antoinette and I knew from about 30 seconds after the start of her shift that I liked her.

She walked into the room on the morning of the 26th March, introduced herself and had a quick handover from the night midwife and then immediately began tidying the room. A woman after my own heart! She instructed Dylan what to get out of the bags then put them away, and got out everything she might need for the delivery even though it wasn’t imminent at that point. She wanted to be ready for every eventuality and, as someone who writes lists like it’s going out of fashion, I was won over by this!

She chatted to us about her family, asked us questions and got to know us as well as you can in a couple of short hours. Everything was sorted so she could focus on us – even fetching Dylan some breakfast. Then when everything ramped up (Antoinette told me once I got into established labour it would be quick and she wasn’t wrong!) she knew the time wasn’t right for chatter anymore and began guiding me calmly and efficiently through the process of giving birth. There was no panic, alarm or harshness. There were just suggestions, advice and care. She knew what to say and do at any moment and her decades of experience combined with the joy you could tell she still feels every time she helps bring a new life into the world.

Even once Max was born, she was fabulous. She made sure I was washed, changed and fed as soon as possible and kept me company while Dylan and Max were on the transitional care ward then got me in to see him as soon as possible once he started showing signs of being poorly and had been transferred to NICU.

I’m sharing all of this because I can’t believe what a difference having such a great midwife made to the birth. Altogether it was better anyway owing to the lack of need for intervention but she made it so positive and something I look back on fondly despite the pain and blood and gore!

Having someone championing you and telling you you’re doing great (other than your husband cause you know he’s GOT to say it and what does he know about delivering babies anyway), having someone who intuitively knows what you may need at any given point or how you may be feeling, having someone who makes you feel like the most important person in the world right now – let alone the room. That’s something you can’t pay for, you can’t order, it’s luck of the draw.

Whoever walks into your room to deliver your baby will be qualified, but what their nursing degree won’t have given them is that amazing attitude we saw that day where nothing was too much trouble, everything was kept calm (as calm as it can be when you’re pushing a human out of you) and we were the focus – not the doctors or the medical side of things or even Max, me as a woman giving birth and us as a couple having a baby that day.

Dylan’s had four children and been at all of their births. He can’t remember any of the other midwives’ names but we know we won’t be forgetting Antoinette ever!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Names I Love But Won’t Be Using

Max showing off his personalised cushion from J&PR. Thanks guys!

I’ve seen lots of people recently talking about names they love but won’t be using for their children, mostly on YouTube. I love the idea and really enjoy thinking about baby names so I thought I’d join in on here! If you have a blog or YouTube channel then please share your list too!

Girls:

Georgina – when I was six months pregnant with Alexandra, we went to Thailand and while we were bobbing around in the pool, we had a theoretical discussion about what we’d call a second baby. We quickly decided we loved Georgina and that it went perfectly with Alexandra, who we’d already named at this point. We loved the nicknames, especially Georgie, although did worry people would hear Alex and George and assume we had boys! When we got pregnant with Max, we knew straightaway that was our girl name.

Imogen – this was one of the names we discussed during the pool times and was probably our choice for the third girl we knew we’d never have. I love the nickname Immy and think it’s a beautiful name.

Zara – I regularly use a baby names board on a popular pregnancy/parenting website, just for fun, and I’ve seen Zara discussed a few times. I absolutely love it but as Dylan has an older daughter called Cara it would have never been on the cards for us.

Avie – Avie is the name that I probably would have called my daughter had I had one at any point in my very early 20s. It was the name of Dolly Parton’s mom and I remember falling in love with it the first time I read it. She was called Avie Lee but I loved the sound of Avie Cavanagh as I’d already chosen my little girl’s middle name at the time. I love it as an alternative to the more popular Ava/Evie type names. However I’m so glad now we didn’t use it for Alexandra as I don’t think it would have suited her.

Quinn – this is a unisex name but I’ve always imagined it on a girl, maybe because I grew up watching the American cartoon series Daria and that’s her sister’s name. I think it’s a really lovely name that works well for a baby and an adult.

Boys:

Oscar – this has always been one of my favourite boy’s names but Dylan doesn’t like it so it was discounted both times. I think it’s really cute and again works for a small boy and an adult. My sister had it  on her list too as we have a fair few joint boy favourites (but differ quite a lot on girl options!)

George – this was a name I put forward as an option when we were pregnant with our second, but again Dylan wasn’t keen. I guess as I love Georgina so much it makes sense but it wasn’t to be!

Noah – just like Avie, this was a name I was a huge fan of when I was a bit younger. Isn’t it weird that had I named my children five years ago on my own without any input from Dylan they would be Noah and Avie, but I actually own an Alexandra and a Max which are pretty different styles.

Ace – even though we’re quite traditional with our name choices, we stumbled upon Ace in the early days of number one pregnancy and it was on our boy list for a while. We ended up deciding our boy would be called Max and then obviously didn’t need the name anyway when he turned out to be a she. I still harbour a love for the name but Alexandra’s initials are ACE so I guess that’s the closest I’m going to get.

Clark – I don’t like all of the American surnamey type names but I do like Clark, and again it was on our boy shortlist the first time round although not the second time as we felt we needed a less modern name to go with his older sister’s. I also love Blake but as it’s the surname of one of my best friends it would have been a little weird!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x