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

Where To Buy Baby Essentials

So many nappies to buy, so many options!

Everyone has their ideas about where their Holy Grail Baby Product Mecca is and often this is based on numerous factors including the price you’re willing to pay for certain things. The way I see it is I’d rather not shell out on something costing the earth if I can go down the street and get it for a fraction of the price, so we’ve always gone for reasonable and practical when picking out items. Of course there are the big one-off purchases like prams and cots but there are also the day to day costs of owning a child and there are SO many options when it comes to solutions to mop up sick, contain wee and all the other things you need to do daily.

Nappies:

Initially with Alexandra we only ever used Aldi nappies. They came heavily recommended by pretty much everyone we knew who had a child and they’ve never really let us down (aside from the odd poonami which NOTHING in this world could have contained). Recently she’s worn Asda nappies and although they don’t leak I find they sag horrendously as soon as there’s a little bit of wee in them (she’s a size five).

However with Max I actually prefer Asda nappies (he’s currently a size two). I think they fit him better although Aldi’s don’t leak and are perfectly fine. We’ve never really used Pampers except for when we’ve had promotional freebies but to be honest I can’t really see the benefit of using them when the cheaper alternatives work so well.

Nappy bags:

We used the peach coloured ones from Bodycare for a long time and I thought I was getting a bargain at 65p for a pack of I think 200. However Dylan recently discovered Asda’s mint green versions. They’re not fragranced but they’re just as thick and we find they contain two nappies easily (I try and change everyone at the same time!) and they’re about 30p for 300.

Wipes:

Aldi all the way here. The Mamia fragrance free ones are excellent and have never caused either baby any issues (although neither of them have particularly sensitive skin). I also use them to take off my make up because really who has time for all that cleansing and toning business? I hate the texture of Huggies wipes, Johnsons are fine but pricey and no better than Aldi’s and Asda’s are okay but I’m definitely a Mamia fan here.

Steriliser:

With Alexandra we bought a Tommee Tippee sterilising set on offer for about £65 which contained a few accessories too. It was fine and I didn’t really have any complaints about it. This time round while Max was in hospital I was cold water sterilising and we’ve carried this on at home. I didn’t think anything could be more simple than using an electric steriliser but this is! Literally pop a Milton tablet in five litres of water and that lasts for 24 hours so you can just throw in all your bottles after you’ve washed them and they’re safe to use after 15 minutes. The tablets work out at a couple of pounds for a month’s worth and we bought a big Tupperware box rather than an official tank so it was even cheaper.

Clothes:

This is where you can go completely overboard! We’ve been very lucky in that friends and family have passed on things their children no longer wear and about 50 per cent at least of Max’s wardrobe was first seen on his cousin Zachary. However if I’m buying for the kids I’m a huge fan of Asda (so good for leggings which are going to get ruined at nursery anyway! Plus they have sales really frequently. We also love their coats for boys), H&M (particularly for tops for Alexandra and newborn baby leggings which have feet in them – so useful to save constantly putting socks back on the baby when they inevitably fall off every five seconds), Primark (especially for vests which are going to get stained, pooed on, worn frequently. You don’t feel guilty about throwing them away when they only cost a couple of pounds! We’ve also had some lovely dresses for Alex from there and her 2016 winter coat which she got compliments on all the time).

Shoes:

I’m an utter stickler when it comes to shoes and Alexandra has only ever worn Clarks shoes. Yes they’re not cheap but the fact they measure her up every time and you know you’re getting a sturdy pair of shoes which are going to support her as she grows is the key thing. When she’s a bit older I’m sure she’ll have some cheapy shoes for playing in but for now she’s a Clarks toddler.

Toiletries:

We don’t use many products on the babies but we do have shampoo and baby bath from Aldi – as I mentioned before neither of them have sensitive skin but we really like the Mamia products and they’re much cheaper and just as nice as Johnson’s. We have talcum powder from anywhere as it’s all very similar! (Alex has ‘snow’ after a bath but Max doesn’t yet) and we use Sudocrem on her bum if there’s any redness (Max hasn’t had any yet but we will use it if and when he does).

Food:

Make your own! I was astounded when I looked at the price of baby food jars in the shops when it came time to wean Alexandra. So I bought different vegetables every week, steamed and blended them and created flavour combinations, froze any excess ready to defrost when needed. Same with fruit once she’d started eating that. Then after a while I simply blended down whatever we were having for dinner, making it chunkier over time until she didn’t need it blended. I’ll definitely be doing the same this time round – I’m sure we saved hundreds by not buying any jars or pouches!

Hope that’s useful or interesting to anyone looking at where to buy all those things you need to sustain a baby. I think it’s just confirmed to me that I need to buy shares in Asda and Aldi!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Two Under Two Survival Tips

We’ve now been the owners of two children under the age of two for eight weeks. So far, so good in that all four of us have survived the experience and the children have at least been fed regularly. I’d like to offer up some advice based on the small amount of two under two experience I have under my belt for anyone utterly mad enough to sign up for the crazy experience that is the newborn/toddler combo experience:

– Consider becoming a Pampers shareholder or finding out if Aldi offer staff discount and joining their workforce. The amount of nappies we’ve got through is hideous.
– Save your voice by recording the following phrases and playing them on repeat to your toddler through the day: gentle, careful, no that’s the baby’s, give that back to the baby, please don’t tread on/kick/sit on the baby.
– Accept that everybody leaving the house in some form of clothing is a bonus. If the baby’s in their pyjamas, the toddler has banana in their hair and you have sick down your leggings then it’s fine. You made it out the house and that’s some sort of minor miracle considering the likelihood of someone needing to eat, drink, have their nappy changed, nap, have a tantrum or any combination of the above at any one point in time.
– Just don’t even bother attempting to nap. You probably discovered about a week in to life with baby 1 that sleeping when the baby sleeps is some sort of bullshit advice given to you when you’re pregnant to lull you into a false sense of security about how easy this is going to be. If the planets ever align and you find both of your children are napping at the same time then do not under any circumstances bother closing your eyes (not even a long blink) or, heaven forbid, lying down. They will know. They will both wake up within seven milliseconds even if they’ve only just gone to sleep. They will both begin crying like they’ve never cried before and you will have to choose which one of them to console first while praying the other doesn’t explode they’re crying so hard.
– As above, don’t bother starting to cook some food you intend to eat hot, getting the iron out or dialling someone’s number for a chat. The best you can hope for is you manage to speed eat a packet of crisps and half write a text that you’ve been meaning to send for the last week and will forget all about for at least another month before finally sending.
– Don’t be afraid to let other people do things. With baby 1 you might have been mildly possessive and insisted on doing EVERYTHING. Now you have two, if someone wants to assist in any way then thou shalt bite their hand off and be forever grateful. Whether this comes in the form of occupying toddler while you feed baby, making you a cup of tea or just having a cuddle with baby so you spend some time playing with your firstborn. If you can find someone willing to do nappies (thanks mom!) then consider holding them hostage in your house.
– Pick a child each and sort that one out. Regularly swap which child you each entertain, otherwise one of you will be on a constant feed, wind, nappy change cycle while the other is forced to talk on repeat about dogs, ducks and stars (current favourite in our house – I never noticed how many stars there are on everything until it was pointed out to me every day).
– Let Mr Tumble babysit. There’s no shame in plonking the toddler in front of the TV, having a cuddle with the baby and just not doing much for a while.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Best Advice Ever

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I figured as I’d done a post last week about the Worst Advice Ever (here), it was only fair to have a think about what kind of excellent advice I’d heard. Some of it hasn’t been given directly to me, some of it is paraphrased but all of us is top notch advice from my point of view.

Do your research:
I’m astounded by the number of times I’ve seen/heard (mostly read on the internet to be honest) people asking questions it would be simple to find the answer to, or accepting ridiculous advice off strangers on the internet because they somehow think that’s going to be the best advice they can find? Not everyone wants to spend hours trawling the web for every expert’s opinion on weaning or bedtime routines, but there is SO much information out there that it’s very simple to educate yourself. I find the NHS a good place to start when looking for guidelines, seen as they actually know a thing or two about keeping a baby safe!

Know about the risks:
This kind of links in to the point above, but I have seen so many people celebrating the fact their child has got to the minimum legal weight they can be to forward face their car seat, as if it’s a right of passage? When if they educated themselves a little bit they’d know it’s far safer to keep them rear facing for as long as possible. If they know the risks and still choose to forward face then that’s their own decision (I strongly disagree with it but they’re entitled to do what the hell they like!) but there’s no excuse for being ignorant. Same with cot death, if you still want to put them in their own room before six months or do anything else linked to a higher risk, then go ahead but don’t do it because you ‘didn’t know any better’.

Use their sleep time however you want to:
I wrote in my Worst Advice Ever post about sleeping when the baby sleeps and how ridiculous that concept was. Really I think the most important thing is using any time your baby sleeps for (ie about 20 minutes twice a day for us at the moment!) in whatever way you prefer. If you want to do the dusting or ironing because it’s important to you to keep up to date on the household chores, go for it. If you want to sit scrolling through Facebook on your own, don’t feel guilty because believe it or not as a mom you’re still allowed some time for yourself.

Don’t drop the baby:
I’ve spoken about this one before – it’s our NCT group’s main bit of advice and I think we’ve all managed it successfully so far. Not dropping or breaking your baby (if you can try not to lose them too, that’s also a winner) is one of the most important aspects of parenting.

Remember you love each other:
This was a piece of advice given to us by our NCT tutor and it’s so true. In the hardest, most exhausting, most exasperating times you will need to remember you’re a team and that you really, really like your other half – to the point where you chose to have a baby with them. You are allowed to like them a little bit less when the baby decides they’re her favourite though! 🙂

Harriet and Alexandra x