Category Archives: Me

#thisismyhappy 2017

I’ve been sharing pictures for a while now on Instagram with the hashtag #thisismyhappy and I love it because it makes me focus on the here and now.  It also makes me realise that my happy can be a lot of things – breastfeeding the toddler, baking with my still little (but not for long) girl, walking in the park with my currently home educated boys, going out for dinner with the biggest boy, having my hair done, spending time with friends, collapsing on the sofa at the end of the day and watching TV with the lovely husband (I don’t generally instagram that…), and, of course, lots of introverty quiet time on my own thinking, planning, working and just being.

And today I shared a picture of my happiest start to any new year ever – a whole day of planning and working on my own, and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.  I’ve seen the writing on the wall for home ed, and I’m bowing out gracefully, though not in a hurry – I’m going to try and enjoy every last bit of this current home ed year.  And there are still the toddler years to enjoy (yes, really! – if there’s one benefit to having a fifth child, it’s being able to enjoy every stage wholeheartedly, including the really not terrible at all twos…)  But I’m also looking ahead and getting excited about doing things for me again.

planning day

I’m looking forward to so many things this year.  And there are other things that are scary unknowns, and some that are downright definitely difficult.  But I’m just going to go with the flow, and even if there are some deposits in the bank of bad days (credit to Matt Haig for this very helpful concept – even bad days can be banked as proof you can survive them), today, nothing can steal my joy.

Isaiah 43:19

19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

The Calm Birth School

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was offered the opportunity to review The Calm Birth School, an online course teaching hypnobirthing techniques.  The course takes four weeks to complete, and I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t manage all of it as I was already about 35 weeks pregnant when I signed up.  In fact, a combination of my lack of organisation and baby boy’s early arrival meant that I didn’t get very far with it, but I have seen enough to know that is something I would definitely recommend.

The course includes video modules, digital handbooks, mp3s and online support from the course leaders and other members of the group.  I only got as far as watching the welcome video, and the first teaching video, so I didn’t get to the point of putting the techniques into practice, but my initial impressions were very positive.

In the welcome video, Suzy Ashworth and Hollie de Cruz, the founders of the Calm Birth School introduce themselves and explain what the course covers.  These are the key points:

  • no such thing as a perfect birth
  • no place for perfectionism
  • focus on creating a positive birth experience
  • trust your body and your baby
  • breathing techniques
  • the science of birth
  • release your fears
  • support from Suzy and Hollie

I also watched Class 1 Module 1 – Physiology and Psychology of Birth, but I was a little distracted as there was a lot of noise in the background from my other children who were needing some attention.  I got to the part where you are supposed to practise the breathing techniques, and I did try, but the noise level rose to the extent that I couldn’t hear the video so I gave up, thinking I would come back to it later.  Of course I didn’t, which is the story of my life, so all I got was a tantalising glimpse of how useful the course could be if I’d managed to devote some time to it.

One of the features of the course which I particularly liked was the online support available, in the form of a facebook group, and direct contact with the Suzy and Hollie if needed.  Again I’ve been somewhat on the sidelines, but I’ve been observing the group and it is lovely and positive, and I believe the support and encouragement could make all the difference particularly to first time mothers who may be getting more negative messages about birth from other sources.  As with the course as a whole, the group clearly promotes the idea that it is possible to achieve a calm birth but it’s not about perfection, and giving birth is not something you can fail at.

baby boy first feed

As for my own experience, I had a lovely calm birth this time round, which I will be writing about separately.  After a difficult birth the first time, and a moderately difficult one the second time, I’ve had three really positive experiences thanks to the support of friends and things I have learnt along the way.  But I do wish I’d had something like the Calm Birth School to help me prepare during my first pregnancy, and I highly recommend it to anyone, particularly first time parents or those who have had a difficult birth before.  I’d like to say thank you to Suzy and Hollie for letting me access the course and join the group.  I’m sorry I didn’t make more use of it but I think you are doing a brilliant job and I will be recommending you to every pregnant person I meet!

I was given free access to The Calm Birth School course materials and support group for the purpose of this review.




Pregnancy Diary: the Last Week

The last pregnancy diary post I published was at 36 weeks and 2 days.  Just over a week later I went into labour, and baby boy was born at 37 weeks and 4 days.  In the last post I wrote that I was “hoping that the increase in intensity and frequency of the Braxton Hicks contractions doesn’t mean baby is going to come too soon.  A bit early would be okay, but not this early please baby, I am so not organised.”  I never really did get organised, but I think what was most worrying me was the idea of giving birth before 37 weeks.

The first couple of days of the last week of the pregnancy were quite difficult, because the Braxton Hicks were really painful and frequent, and I was just exhausted.  I felt a bit better on the Wednesday as we had the final growth scan which was lovely.  It was very reassuring to see baby boy, and know he was okay, and a very normal weight of approximately 6lbs at that point.

I remember saying to a few people the weekend before that I wouldn’t mind giving birth early, but not before I’d had my pre-baby hair appointment!  That was on the Thursday, and was very relaxing.  It also marked the end of week 36, as I was exactly 37 weeks on the Friday.

Pre-baby hairdo

Hair Done – baby can come now!

37 weeks

37 weeks

I would have been very glad to know, when I took those photos, that I only had to wait four more days before meeting baby boy.  There was just one more obligation that had to be fulfilled first and that was Messy Church, which Paul and I were running on the Saturday.  The theme was the Nativity, and the children were hoping that the baby would be born in time to be Jesus, but I wasn’t quite so keen on that idea!

After Messy Church was over, I went home thoroughly exhausted but feeling that now baby could come when he was ready, and even though we weren’t organised it wouldn’t really matter that much.  So when I had a show that evening, and realised that my instinct was right that he really was coming soon, I felt reasonably calm about it.  I went to church on Sunday in a positive mood, wearing my favourite maternity dress and feeling rather fabulous.  I was also pretty sure I was showing off the bump for the last time, and it turns out I was right.  (I’m not counting the following two days spent in scruffy but comfortable clothes while I was in labour!)  After the service I mentioned to a couple of people that I thought baby was imminent, and later that day I finally got round to packing my hospital bag.  Once that was done I tried to go to bed early, but unfortunately couldn’t sleep at all.  I had contractions on and off throughout the night, and though they weren’t distinctly different from the Braxton Hicks, I had the feeling that they were gradually changing.  At five to six in the morning I had a contraction that was much more intense, and I knew from that point that I was definitely in labour, though still in the early stages.

And now, baby boy is demanding my attention so I will have to save his birth story for another day.

Mindfulness and Staying Afloat

It’s been a difficult few days, and I’ve been very glad of the 31 days of mindfulness to keep me going.  I’ve enjoyed looking at the variety of photos on Instagram, and especially reading Leigh’s latest blog post on mindfulness which I found very helpful.  Two things in particular jumped out at me.  Firstly, the encouragement to “be kinder to myself” – like Leigh I have good friends who tell me this, and like her I also find it very difficult.  But I am trying.  Secondly, the advice to “accept however I am feeling, whether that feeling is happy, sad or anything in between.”  I am working on that too, and it helps to focus on small positives without allowing negatives to take over and cloud the view.

mindfulness 2

So these are my latest four days of minfulness.

Day 5 – It was a rather up and down day, but it ended well.  I spent a relaxing evening having Turkish takeaway with a very special friend who always makes me feel better about everything, but I didn’t have a photo of that.  So instead I took a picture of my favourite blanket when I came home and snuggled up on the sofa with the lovely husband.

Day 6 – a long, tiring day at the church fair, but the children had a good time and I enjoyed twenty minutes of peace and quiet in the chapel in the midst of it all.  There was a sort of “lucky dip” basket of blessings to take away, and I love the one I picked out.

Day 7 – another tiring day, and too much on my mind in the evening, but I tried to focus on something positive, and I chose the cushion which I bought at the church fair.   I love the fabric, which came from Dublin.   Pretty things make me happy – it just takes a bit of mindfulness to pay attention to them!

Day 8 – I have been trying to rest today, after getting worried that the contractions were becoming more intense and frequent as a result of doing too much at the weekend.  The children have been very good at entertaining themselves (I am doing my best not to get stressed about the resulting mess!) and I have been reading a book that I bought at the church fair, One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson.  I am really enjoying it and I need to keep making time to read – it’s hard to fit it in most days, but worth it.

I’m still struggling a bit, very tired and the pains are still quite bad, though definitely less frequent after a more restful day.  But I am surviving, just managing to stay afloat and sometimes that is enough.  So I’m off to bed to read another chapter of my book and try not to worry about anything that I can’t solve right now.

Pregnancy Diary: 36 Weeks

Today I am 36 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

36 weeks

Baby is: the size of a large canteloupe, about 6lbs and 19-22 inches long.

I am: hoping that the increase in intensity and frequency of the Braxton Hicks contractions doesn’t mean baby is going to come too soon.  A bit early would be okay, but not this early please baby, I am so not organised.  But at least I have made a start.  Yesterday I bought some of the things I need for my hospital bag.  Still quite a way to go, and not sure when I can next get out shopping, but I feel better for having bought nappies at least, and a few other bits and pieces.  I can see how it’s going to go – fifth babies do not get the same treatment as first babies, but I need to do a bit better.  So far I have two vests and three sleepsuits from the charity shop (thanks mum) but nothing else in the newborn size.  I’m all for a bit of minimalism but I seem to remember that babies go through more clothes than that in a day!

31 Days of Mindfulness: the first four days

I love this idea from Leigh who blogs at Headspace Perspective – 31 days of mindfulness to counteract the stress of December.  I am not sure how far I’ll get through the 31 days.  It probably depends on whether baby decides to arrive early or not.  But I’m going to try my best.  I’ve been joining in on Instagram, and I’ll try and blog about it every few days.  If nothing else, it will lead to an eclectic selection of photos randomly juxtaposed!

mindfulness 1

Day 1 – the notebook was a present from a very lovely friend and I’ve been using it to write down things that I’m thankful for.   I don’t manage it every day, but whenever I do it makes me feel better.

Day 2 – after a long and tiring day of feeling unwell, and having painful Braxton Hicks contractions, I was very much cheered up by Tiddler singing Jingle Bells to the bump.

Day 3 – trying not to be quite so cross about the very existence of December and making an effort to remember what Advent is meant to be about.

Day 4 – today was another really difficult day, and the contractions were worse again.  Feeling a bit better now since the lovely husband came home and ran me a bath, even if he did have to pull me out of it too!

And if that all isn’t enough, I just need to remind myself that despite the combination of December stress and late pregnancy stress, the denouement of both will be A BABY!  I am so blessed.  I don’t have to look far to find something to be thankful for.

“I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

Pregnancy Diary: 35 Weeks

Today I am 35 Weeks and 3 days pregnant.

35 weeks

Baby is: about the size of a honeydew melon, approximately 5.5 lbs, and 20 inches long.

I am: very tired today but mainly because I went to the theatre in London last night, which was brilliant, and is a better reason for feeling tired than just general pregnancy exhaustion.  I’m still having painful Braxton Hicks contractions pretty much all the time, but my back is a bit better so I’m managing to get a bit more done.  Too tired to think of anything else to say – it doesn’t feel like there’s much else to report, and no news is probably good news!

Pregnancy Diary: 34 Weeks

Today I am 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant.

34 weeks

Baby is: as big as a pineapple.  He has been wriggling around a lot and I feel a bit more comfortable so I think that foot is out of my ribs for now.

I am: feeling quite calm right now so it’s probably best to write this before that changes!  My back pain got a lot worse at the end of last week, and has continued to be quite bad over the weekend, so this week got off to a horrible start.  But, although it’s still painful, I think it’s slightly better today than it was and my movement is not quite so restricted.  I’m hoping that the improvement continues so I can get some housework done because it’s horrible watching the chaos build up, and the stress of that makes everything else harder to deal with.  I’m still not sleeping much either – all the usual reasons, with leg cramps thrown into the mix as well.

I had an appointment at the hospital clinic today, and was seen separately by a nurse, a midwife and a consultant, after which I had to have some blood tests.  By the end of it I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  It was stressful for a lot of reasons.  The clinic was running late and Paul had to go back and collect Tiddler from preschool, so I was on my own which always seems to be when things go wrong.  I found out I have protein and leukocytes in my urine, so that has to be checked out.  Probably just a UTI, but the protein thing makes me nervous as it is a sign of pre-eclampsia.  I’m sure they would have mentioned if my blood pressure was high though (in the stress of the moment I forgot to ask), so it’s not very likely to be that.

It took the midwife a really long time to find the baby’s heartbeat too, which was horrible, but she did find it in the end and everything seems to be fine.  Then I saw the consultant, who said, as I suspected, that I need to start taking Metformin because my early morning sugars have been either borderline or a little bit high.  It’s really disappointing, as my sugars have been fine after meals and it seems very marginal.  The consequence is no home birth, no midwife-led unit and the possibility of continuous monitoring in labour.  I’m not looking forward to the prospect of another hospital birth,  but I know the positions that work for me, and I know that it’s possible to be monitored without lying on a bed so I will just have to be assertive – or maybe Paul will!

So after all that, and with a sore back and two sore arms (one from the blood tests today, the other from the whooping cough injection I had yesterday) it’s surprising that I am still feeling calm but at the moment I am.  I think that bizarrely the fact that this baby is already causing trouble (like the rest of them, I’m tempted to add) somehow makes me more sure than ever that he’s entirely meant to be.  The thing about children is that they drive you a little bit crazy a lot of the time, but then they catch you out by being completely amazing and lovely and you forgive them.  I’m sitting on the sofa, the house has finally gone quiet so I’ve got time to pay attention to the smallest one who is moving around reassuringly and I’m quite enjoying watching my bump.  I’m so looking forward to meeting him, and I know all this trouble will definitely be worth it.

Pregnancy Diary: 33 Weeks

Today I am 33 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

33 weeks

Baby is: the size of a honeydew melon (around 4.5 lbs.)  Foot still firmly stuck in my ribs but I suppose I should just be pleased that he’s head down and looking likely to stay that way!

I am: beyond tired but feeling quite a sense of achievement.  I took Owl to London last night to see War Horse and he loved it.  Today we have had our Tiny Tots church service, followed by a lunch that I organised with two friends.  Then a walk in Nonsuch Park with Home Education Group, and the day finished with taking Rabbit to Rainbows.  I am thoroughly exhausted but at least I hope the children will sleep well tonight.  My back is worse again, which is perhaps not surprising.  I’ve realised that every time it gets a little bit better I do too much, particularly laundry because it’s so frustrating watching it build up when I can’t do it, and so my back gets worse again very quickly.  It’s hard to know what to do about it.  Well, the answer is probably to train the children to do their own washing and ironing I suppose!


Pregnancy Diary: 32 Weeks

Today I am 32 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

32 weeks

Baby is: about the size of a coconut.  Or, more accurately, as we’ve had another growth scan this week, about 4lb 4oz.  All the measurements suggested that he’s more-or-less exactly average, which is good news.  I’m still hoping to get away with controlling the diabetes with my diet to avoid unnecessary interventions, so it was a big relief.  In other news, he is head down which is good, but he appears to have a foot stuck in my ribs which is not so great.

I am: up and down and all over the place.  Sleeping only with the help of pills, tired and emotional and in a lot of pain.  But I’m trying to make the most of occasional random bursts of energy and get lots of things done while it lasts.  It’s been quite a productive day today so I feel a bit better, though as I’m up too late to take a sleeping pill it doesn’t bode very well for tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to seeing some friends at a coffee morning at church, though, so maybe it will be a good day.  I haven’t been out very much recently and I know that’s part of the problem.  I went to the theatre last night which felt like an achievement.  I found it hard because of a few anxiety triggers, and just having too much on my mind.  I tried really hard to be distracted, with only partial success, but the play was very good and I’m glad I went.  I came back in tears, which confused Paul, and fair enough – I couldn’t even begin to explain.  I think I just need to get out more!