How Life Changed

Isn’t it funny how life can change? I was chatting to an old school friend the other day and she casually mentioned her 30th next year. I was like wow she’s got that wrong – til I realised she was indeed completely correct. Mine’s not til the following year as she was older in the year and I was one of the youngest. But still, it’s been ten years since I did my A-Levels this year. Ten years since I left school and started journalism college. Nine years since I moved out of my parents’ home and into my first little flat with a grand sum of a microwave, a couple of towels and some clothes to my name.

Nine years since I took a job at a newspaper as a junior reporter (which means I’ve known Dylan nine years) and eight since I moved and settled in a new town where my job was based. Eight years since I became acting deputy and seven since I passed my senior exams. Six since I moved again and five since I ran a half-marathon, launched a paper and also began running a mental health group. Four since my own mental health took a turn for the worse and I spent a summer as an inpatient on a ward. But also four since the guy I sort of liked who I knew through work asked me on a date and also four since we got engaged and booked our wedding (it took five years for him to ask me out but once we got past that hurdle, we moved fast!).

Three years since we found out we were expecting a baby girl, since we moved in together, since we had our amazing honeymoon in Thailand and since Alexandra Cavanagh was born. Yeah, three years ago was incredible but also some of the hardest days of our lives. Three years since we were forced to cancel our wedding 48 hours beforehand, since I spent what should have been my wedding day on oxygen being taken to the bathroom in a wheelchair, since Dylan was told I might not make it. But also three years since we put our middle fingers up to a CAPS diagnosis and the shoddy odds of survival that offer and three years since I came home and we began life as a family.

Which makes it two years since we got married! Finally! The best day of our lives, so incredibly full of happiness and love. And two years since we found out that a baby boy would be joining our family (oops! But also yay!). Two years since we took Alexandra abroad for the first time.

And a year since Max Llewellyn Arturs was born. A year since the days of NICU and operations and ventilators and medicine and nurses and so many ups and downs. A year since we brought him home and settled into our new life together. A month since the turn of the year, bringing with it the hope of a calm and peaceful 2018!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Two Under Two

The brighter and more mathematically minded among you will have worked out by now that Alexandra doesn’t turn two until late summer and we’re due our second baby in the spring, which means we’re soon joining the magical ‘Two Under Two’ club. I say magical, more apt words could include terrifying, scary or frightening.

There is probably no age gap in the world which is perfect and every family (and every child) is completely different so in reality, what works for one set of parents probably won’t work for another. I think it’s pretty much universally accepted though that popping out two tiddlers in less time than it takes for us to orbit the sun twice is either really brave or really stupid. We’ve been very open about the fact Baby 2 was a complete surprise to us, and I genuinely don’t know what we would have done had we planned to have him in terms of the timing (I suspect Alex would have been closer to two by the time we started trying but we’ll never know). As it was I was five weeks pregnant when we found out a few days after her first birthday that she was set to become a big sister, add in a planned early delivery on the cards for 2 and you’ve got yourself an estimated 19 month gap.

There are some positive things about Two Under Two (there are, right?): you don’t get used to more independence and no nappies and then have to go back to it all again, they’re more likely to enjoy the same things as they grow up because they’re similar ages, fewer years til both are in school and you can consider your career options, everything you learned with Baby 1 is fresher in your mind.

There are also some things which, quite frankly, scare me: what the hell do you do if they’re both crying at the same time, the likelihood of Baby 2 being a good sleeper considering we were so blessed with Alex is slim – can I cope with that on top of the daily demands of a toddler, Baby 1 is likely to try and climb on/poke/otherwise maim her brother if I leave them alone for even a second and most of all: two turd-factories to change all day, every day.

I’m sure that you just cope. Before I had Alexandra I just didn’t get how it all worked, even after I had her it took a long time before I was fairly confident both of us would survive the day until daddy got home. I’m sure the TV will be on more, I’m sure the hoover will be out less and I’m sure there will be more than one day where I phone Dylan to have a little cry even though the extent of how much he can help when he’s 20 miles down the road and working is very minimal. But I’m also fairly sure that we’ll get along okay.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

13 Months Old

At a tiny pal's birthday party.

At a tiny pal’s birthday party.

Deary me, it’s time for another monthly update already. Alexandra is 13 months old today – where did that month since her birthday go? This month Alex:

  • Has perfected her climbing skills. She can now climb off the sofa and the bed, climb on to the sofa and the windowsill, and likes to climb on to tables whenever she gets half a chance. Basically if you take your eyes off her for half a millisecond she’ll find somewhere to shimmy up.
  • Still hasn’t got any more teeth. Although there are signs one of the top two is coming through. Update: I wrote this on Tuesday then the day after the corner of the top one popped through!
  • Has been busy growing her hair. It’s really lovely and thick now. Every few weeks we decide on a different celebrity she looks like: for a while it was old-school Justin Bieber with the flicky fringe, then it grew into a Gallagher brothers barnet and now it’s most definitely the same hairstyle as Pauline Quirke. We’ve been calling her Pauline for the last couple of weeks which must be fairly confusing for the poor child!
  • Possibly has worms. She wants to eat non-stop. We took her out to a buffet place for lunch on Monday as Dylan was off and I swear she ate more than the two of us combined!
  • Is even cheekier than before. She knows if she’s doing something wrong and keeps glancing back and grinning, wondering if you’ll catch her. I’ve spent the entire month picking up things she’s thrown/broken/moved out of their correct place/hidden.
  • Has become much better at walking. She now hardly crawls anywhere and spends about 70 per cent of the time walking holding on to something or someone and the other 30 walking unaided.

She’s got such a little funny personality now and although it’s hard work keeping up with her as she wants to mess with EVERYTHING all the time, she’s really good most the time and an enjoyable little person to spend time with!

Harriet and Alexandra x

1st Birthday Party


Last Monday, we held Alexandra’s first birthday party in our garden. We decided to host it at home which meant a lot of hard work (mainly for Dylan!) to get the garden ready in time but I’m really glad we did in the end – especially as we had lovely weather for it!

Among her presents, Alex had got a trampoline, sand pit, ball pool and inflatable skittles game for her birthday which we put outside along with some picnic blankets and the paddling pool to keep everyone entertained. Food wise we offered up the typical party buffet with sandwiches, crisps, pizza, samosas plus a fruit platter and chocolates and biscuits plus the all important cake!

As we’d gone for a teddy bears picnic theme, the cake was a bear (Oscar cake from Sainsbury’s), we put teddies outside and the little guests bought some too. For the party bags, each child had a Barny bear snack plus a little tiny teddy bear (bought in packs of eight from eBay) plus some cake in a little white paper bag bought from HobbyCraft. We’d also found some teddy bear bunting from Amazon which did the trick alongside some white, pink and purple balloons for decoration.

All in all, everyone seemed to have a great time and we had a fab turnout of family and friends to celebrate Alex’s big day!

Harriet and Alexandra x

A Letter To Alexandra


Dear Alexandra,

A long, long time ago when you were little more than a few cells I decided I would log my pregnancy and hoped I would continue that throughout the early part of your life. Now as we celebrate your first birthday I want to write to you so in years to come you can read back on this, and all my other posts, and get a real sense of what your life as a baby was like. Hopefully you will one day write me letters too and mine and your dad’s shared love of writing will have passed on to you!

When we decided to have a baby, I could never have imagined what a journey we would go on to get to this point and just how emotional, rewarding, terrifying, crazy, happy and lovely it would be! It was back in October 2014 when we were on our first weekend away together in the Lake District – that weekend we went to the zoo and I got to feed the lemurs, we took a boat out across the lake and we ate a lot of chocolate! I’m sure we’ll take you some day and we can do all those things and many more. Back then your daddy and I were incredibly happy – but we knew we were both ready to be parents (me for the first time and your dad for the third!) and we thought we’d do an okay job of it together.

We expected it would take a long time but less than three months later we found out one Sunday lunchtime that we were going to be your parents! We had so many hopes and dreams for you, some we still hold with many more added into the mix now. I was convinced you were a boy until halfway through we had a scan and the man told us you were going to be a girl. Although I’d been looking at all the blue clothes in shops, before I was ever pregnant I’d always wanted a girl so it was a shock but a good one! I love being a girl mommy, girls are the best!

As you grew, we revelled in seeing you move, kick and roll around but I was so incredibly tired all the time and I couldn’t wait to not be pregnant anymore! I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience but it was more than worth it in the end.

I expect you’ll know by now that we had a pretty traumatic time once you were born. I didn’t really feel like your mommy for a long time although I already loved you so much. When I was in hospital all I wanted was to get back home to you. I stared at your pictures on the wall 24/7 and felt equally delighted and sad to hear tales of how amazingly you were getting on. Right from the word go, you were the most contented little baby (and you really were tiny! 6lb 7 and the smallest of your little friends by a whole pound), even the midwives used to talk about how lovely you were. One of the healthcare assistants in particular, Mel, used to come in and cuddle you all the time. I think she would have taken you home had we let her. Even Jane Pannikar, the consultant, used to come downstairs to the postnatal ward to hold you!

There has always been something very captivating about you that made everyone go gooey – even people who don’t normally like children – and made strangers stop and coo at you. Of course, we’ve always been biased and thought you were the prettiest and best thing ever!

Meeting you again when you were eight weeks old was the best moment of my life. At one point I was convinced I would never see you again so just to get to see your little face (which had changed so much from how I remembered you) was something I will never forget. Daddy would have done such a good job with you on his own (with plenty of help from everyone we know of course) and you are incredibly lucky you have him as your dad. But right from that moment, my determination to get back to you just increased as the days went on.

I learned how to use my silly hand to change your nappy, it took a few goes to get there but we did in the end. When we were finally all home together, I got strong enough to pick you up and then to carry you up and down the stairs. After a few weeks I was well enough to be left on my own with you and that felt a bit terrifying. All your little friends’ mommies had been looking after them for months so I felt like they knew exactly what to do whereas I was still completely clueless. I worried that you’d always prefer daddy over me, I worried you’d never smile at me the way you smiled at him and your nanna. I worried I’d missed out on so much and I knew we’d never get that time back.

But being together 24/7 from Christmas onwards has been an experience we’ve both grown throughout. You have changed beyond belief and learned so many new things in your first year, and so have I. Every day I feel incredibly proud to be your mommy. You’re already a courageous, funny, strong, cheeky, ambitious little girl and every day you learn to do something new. You make us laugh endlessly with your little sing-song voice, you make us worry constantly with your fearless attitude to everything and you make us so incredibly happy.

Life has completely and utterly turned upside down and sometimes I still feel overwhelmed when I think of how much my life has changed since you were born. Sometimes I think back on simpler times when I didn’t have to remember a million and one things to take with me when I left the house, when I didn’t have a little being stealing my food or distracting me from things I need to do. But being your mom, whilst the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, is without doubt the most rewarding.

The first time you came to me when you were crying is a moment I’ll remember forever because it symbolised to me that we’ve got a bond now, a bond I will never break, a bond that it took a lot longer for me to make than some other mommies. But a bond that will forever mean so much because we nearly didn’t get to make it.

Keep being you, darling baby girl. Keep being the kid who dances like an idiot and doesn’t care. Keep being the kid who has enthusiasm for everything. Keep being the kid who looks at your daddy like he’s the best thing she’s ever seen (he is!).

You are so, so beautiful and I love you beyond any words that I could ever manage to write or say.

Love you endlessly, completely and totally,

Mommy x

When Did My Baby Become A Teenager?

Driving? Yes driving us potty!

Driving? Yes driving us potty!

When we found out our baby was a little girl, myself and Dylan discussed how feasible locking her in a cupboard under the stairs was from the age of about ten until she was 18 to avoid all the mood swings, strops and other related horrors associated with the teen years. There’s a huge possibility it could turn out okay (anyone read Harry Potter?!) but we decided against it – and anyway, we’d have nowhere to store our shoes and that carrier bag full of other carrier bags it’s actually compulsory to have in your house.

Either way, we thought we had years yet to come up with a solution to the fact teenagers are, by and large, annoying idiots. It turns out we were wrong.

At the grand old age of 11 months, Alexandra now displays many of the qualities of a teenager. I was speaking to a friend whose little girl is just a few days older than Alex and she’s facing the same problem too which is simultaneously comforting and worrying (is this an epidemic? Should we warn others?)

VERY stroppy when woken up, often refusing to get out of bed until SHE’S ready.
Wilfully ignores you if you ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do.
Continually looks like she hasn’t washed for days.
Wants to wander round in very little clothing most days.
Tries to push bedtime later and later.
Obsessed with phones.
Most of what she says is utter nonsense.
Spends a lot of time looking at herself in mirrors.
Very low concentration levels.
Tantrums. Oh the tantrums.

Send help please!

Harriet and Alexandra x

11 Months Old

Helping daddy do the garden.

Helping daddy do the garden.

I can’t believe this is the last update post I’ll do before Alexandra’s a whole year old! I feel like in every single update post I and most other bloggers write, there’s some sort of variation on a phrase about time going so fast and they can’t believe how old their little one is. Non-parents are probably rolling their eyes wondering whether our sense of how time works dropped out along with the placenta. But the parents among us are all nodding along understanding that time works differently when you’re looking at a little tiny thing you created.

So, on to the update and the first big thing is WE HAVE TEETH! Finally, after us beginning to think dentures were going to be the only way she’d ever have a set of gnashers, we got two through in the space of a week. Predictably, they’re the bottom middle two and while they’re not fully grown yet they’ve most definitely broken through the gum. It’s funny the little things you think about, like Dylan remarking it was odd to hear her crunch food for the first time!

Which brings us neatly on to food. Alex is down to two bottles a day now, with the intention that she’ll drop to one in the next month (if she’s happy to of course, but we’ve always dropped a bottle by offering more snacks and changing round meal times and she’s always been fine about it) and then once she’s one she’ll come off formula and start drinking cow’s milk (she has this currently in cereal but it’s not recommended as a drink for babies before their first birthday) from a sippy cup. This means no more bottles and, more excitingly, no more sterilising! I could not be more overjoyed about this.

In terms of actual meals, she’s still on three a day with snacks in between and she’s now stopped eating puree altogether. I’ll probably do a weaning update at some point in the next month so I won’t focus too heavily on that for now!

Very excitingly, she’s also doing really well practising standing up. She’ll now confidently stand just holding on with one hand and is trying every day to stand unaided. Alex can do it for about five to ten seconds and even managed 30 seconds one day. We think it’ll be like crawling and sitting where she’ll practice loads and then one day it’ll just click into place and she’ll be a pro. She doesn’t really make an effort to walk that often, but probably because she can crawl to places quicker. She does love a good cruise along the furniture though.

A few months ago we spent all our time trying to teach her to clap and she kind of waved her hands round like someone stranded on a desert island trying to attract the attention of a passing plane, without ever connecting her two hands. We’d kind of slacked on practising with her lately but then all of a sudden about a week ago she started clapping ALL the time. I’m quite enjoying it, it’s very encouraging when you do something and she claps you, like your very own appreciative audience following you everywhere.

Those are probably the main updates although I could ramble all day about her progress! See you next month for her one year update!

Harriet and Alexandra x

The Dreaded Dummy

Proof Alex could sleep without a dummy at one point - this is her arriving home from hospital.

Proof Alex could sleep without a dummy at one point – this is her arriving home from hospital.

There’s one thing that seems to cause a massive controversy in the parenting world and that’s giving your child a dummy. For some reason this tiny thing attracts a lot of criticism from others even though there really are a million worse things you could do for your child.

We didn’t really have a view either way while I was pregnant about whether we would give Alexandra a dummy, I don’t even remember buying the ones she used at first so whether they were bought by someone else I don’t know. For the first few weeks she didn’t have one at all but then while I was back in hospital she started having one. Fast forward a few months and by the time she was sleeping in her own room she’d drop off in the evening without one but want it back in if she woke during the night or early morning. Then she started having it to go to sleep with.

Now we’ve probably used it a little more because she’s teething and it’s soothed her a bit in between the pain relief we can give her. I really want to get rid of it and know that we just need to go cold turkey and suffer the horrendous few days we’d have before she’d hopefully stop wanting it. But it never seems to be the right time – we did try once and she was awful, howling hysterically through the night like she’d just heard the entire world’s supply of Aptamil had vanished. So in went the dummy (after a few hours of persisting) and all was right with the world again.

I know they link dummies with speech delays and thankfully this doesn’t seem to have happened yet, she’s babbling away at a similar level to most of her little friends. She doesn’t have her dummy in constantly in the day so that could be the reason why. A second reason I don’t like it is I just think it looks awful on an older child. It seems a little selfish to me to have carried on giving her the dummy mostly for my own sanity so we’re not up the whole night trying to comfort a screaming baby – but then I think about the fact it’s obviously comforting her and it’s really a two-way street.

We will try at one point to get rid of the dreaded dummy but it always seems like the wrong time – either her teeth are bothering her or she’s got a cold, or one of us is feeling under the weather and therefore really can’t do without any sleep. One day though we will conquer it! (Hopefully before her 18th birthday!)

Harriet and Alexandra x

Time For Another


I’ve written a bit before about my feelings about not having another baby (here). I just feel like I haven’t come to terms with it and so maybe writing a bit more about it might help with that process?

When I wrote last time, I had spoken to the haematology and rheumatology consultants but not to the cardiologists. When I met with them earlier this year they broached the subject of another pregnancy (it’s always the doctors who bring it up, never me!) and basically if I had to summarise the look of ‘don’t do it, you and probably the baby will die, it’s the most stupid idea ever’ then it would be the look both consultants pulled. Basically the warfarin I take to stop my blood clotting can be swapped for different medication which stops clots (so I’d have a daily injection throughout pregnancy and for six weeks after) but the heart medication I take can’t be taken while pregnant and there’s no safe alternative. So although my heart operates at around ten per cent less than a normal heart, which is only classed a mild cystolic disfunction, there’s no way of knowing how much damage nine months without medication would do to it. And of course if I had another episode of CAPS then I’d basically be screwed because of already having a slightly dodgy heart.

To put it bluntly, they can’t put a number on it but it’s more likely than not that either me or the new baby wouldn’t make it. Obviously I have a child and an almost-husband and family and friends to think about when I consider the risk to my own life. But for me the thought of actively trying to conceive a baby who has more chance of dying than living is scary. How would you cope with the guilt if it didn’t survive? There’s a difference between taking a risk with your own life and doing that with a tiny baby’s life. And of course Alex is a huge consideration in all this, the last thing I’d want is for her to be adversely affected by any decision we took.

I know all of this, when I think about it logically there are so many reasons it’s a truly terrible idea. But still it doesn’t sit comfortably with me yet. I can’t feel okay about it yet. When I hold my baby nephew sometimes something just catches in the back of my throat when I think about the fact I missed Alexandra being that age, and I’ll never get the chance to do it again. When I see people on forums who had babies in the same month as I did either planning to or actually falling pregnant again, I feel a little twang of something. There’s a huge physical need in me (can you feel your biological clock?) to have another baby. It’s something I feel much more acutely than I ever did before I had Alex.

Alexandra was the most wanted baby ever and it’s a miracle she’s here and alive and healthy and just absolutely wonderful all round. It’s even more of a miracle that I’m here to enjoy her. I think this a hundred million times a day. But I can’t help thinking about what might have. How might life with two have been different. Would we be trying again yet? Would we have got pregnant really quickly again? Would I get to be fully involved in (and maybe even enjoy) the newborn stage the second time around?

There’s so many questions that I can never have the answers to and there’s a whole lifetime of expectation that I have to drop. I just have to move on and get over it and deal with it. But one of the things making that even harder is the wealth of people queuing up to ask me when we’ll have another. Obviously those very close to me knows but anyone outside of that immediate circle seems to be popping up right now to ask the question. It’s like a timer’s gone off and now my baby is ten months old everyone wants to know when number two will be here.

I usually just give a short ‘there won’t be a number two due to medical advice’ sort of answer but every time it breaks my heart a little bit. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of a couple unable to have children or who’ve lost a child. I wouldn’t ever compare myself to them. But this hurts too. It’s very real for me, the sadness, the sense of losing out on something I’d almost taken for granted I could have. I try to remember there was never any guarantee of number two but I know a ‘no’ is not the decision I would have come to.

The trauma of what happened to us has become much more acute over the past couple of months and I feel much worse about it than I did in the immediate aftermath when I was fighting to get physically better. It will take a long, long time to heal but my worry is I will never fully accept the decision my illness made for us about not having another child.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Worst Advice Ever


When you become a mom (or even if you’ve been doing it a long time), people seem to line up to give you all sorts of advice. This applies whether they’ve had ten kids or none. The advice ranges from excellent to downright ridiculous so I thought I’d share a few bits of absolutely terrible advice. If someone tells you these things then feel free to punch them (or, you know, just walk away and not ever listen to anything they say again. Up to you).

Sleep when the baby sleeps:
A fine idea in theory but let’s try something. Right this second I want you to run to your sofa or bed, shut your eyes, immediately drop to sleep and then wake up again in approximately 16 minutes. Even if you did manage to get to sleep in the middle of the day at a time randomly decided by your baby as nap time, you’re hardly going to feel radically different when you wake up to the sound of crying. Also, you just can’t eat when the baby eats, wash your hair when your baby washes their hair or pop a load in the washing machine when the baby does. Apparently these little beings need quite a lot of attention, who knew? So sleeping when they nap might work as an idea but in reality you will have about 67 billion other things to do with your time.

Treasure every moment:
Yeah I’ve spoken about this one before. So unnecessary. (There’s a rant about it here). Also sometimes the baby’s just shat everywhere and then mushed their foot in it and your hand has poo on it and then you accidentally touch your face so EVERYONE has poo on them. You just can’t like every second of your baby’s existence.

Never did me any harm:
This advice usually comes from the older generation. Usually it’s something about leaving your child in a pram outside your shop while you pop in for some groceries, giving them biscuits from six weeks or lying them on their front. This advice is doubly annoying because not only are they invariably telling you to do something the guidelines written by the experts who know about this kind of shit explicitly say is likely to harm your baby, but they also seem to want some kind of medal for keeping their baby alive despite being a dumbass.

Ooh she’s hungry/tired:
The joy that fills me when someone else tells me why my child might be grizzling. Yes I appreciate some of these people might just be trying to help. But it does take quite a lot of restraint for me not to tell them that as I spend my whole entire life with the baby I might just have grasped by now, ten months down the line, what she wants or why she’s crying. The other temptation is to tell them she’s crying because they’re an arsehole.

Enjoy your pregnancy:
Harking back to the bump days here but I did used to laugh when people gave me this ‘advice’. Yeah, I had a super time for just shy of 38 weeks firstly throwing up continually then being TIRED like I never knew could be possible then being fat (really fat) and hormonal and swollen and stretch marked and did I mention fat? I enjoy the fact that my pregnancy led to being Alexandra’s mom but other than that, nope!

Harriet and Alexandra x