Saturday, 30 April 2016

Surviving Ikea with a Toddler

I've read many a guide to surviving Ikea with your partner but never one for your kids.

I know the words 'Ikea', 'new born' and 'toddler' mentioned in the same sentence would be enough to cause a panic attack for some, but for me a trip to Ikea (sans husband) is a fun morning out. I think at this stage I've got it down to a fine art so I ventured out to one of my favorite places last week with a toddler and a new born, and decided to put these tips together.

Bring a Friend 
For me that's my equally Ikea crazy friend Sarah, and her toddler and new born. The company is great, as a two year old tends not to share your enthusiasm for clever wardrobe inserts and amazing lamps. It's also nice to have another breastfeeding Mammy with you, especially if you're feeling nervous about feeding in public. (For the 1st of the 100th time, it can still be daunting, give
yourself credit).

Get There Early
The car-park opens a half hour before the store, so that gave us time to park up in family spaces, strap the babies into their carriers and the toddlers into their buggies. It's also good to get there before the rush so you don't get stuck in the Ikea shuffle (similar to the Ryanair shuffle, in that people que for no reason and move slower than snails along the marked track on the ground).

Don't Waste Time
I know it's tempting to spend ages wandering around each little show home and you start to imagine your life in a 55m2 studio apartment, but realistically this is never going to happen, and if you could afford to kit out your apartment the exact way Ikea do, chances are you could afford a bigger apartment, There's probably nothing up here you actually need, so don't waste time that could be spent shopping in the Market Hall.

Take a Load Off
Take full advantage of how child friendly the restaurant is. If you don't already have one, get yourself a Family Card at the little kiosk before you order, on top of other benefits, it gets you free coffee. And what mother doesn't love free coffee. We got ourselves comfortable in the little breastfeeding snug, and let the two boys run in the play corner right in front of us. They have bottle warming facilities, kids cutlery and plates etc, and hot and cold kids meals for fairly cheep. Plenty to feed and entertain the toddlers while we fed the babies and had our coffee (Did I mention the free coffee?!)

Use the Facilities
This is also a good time for nappy changes before you're an entire store away from the bathrooms again. There's changing tables in both the mens' and womens' restrooms, and there is enough space to move a buggy in and out. They've thought of everything; low down loos for children toilet training, and steps so they can reach the sinks to wash their hands. There are even nappies and wipes available at customer service is you've found yourself stuck.

Treat Yourself
(and your toddler)
You'll probably have to buy the child something. Just like I couldn't walk past hangers and storage boxes for Fionn's room, he took a liking to an abacus, ad wouldn't let me move on without it. To be fair he spent the rest of the trip in his buggy counting and naming all the colours, so for £10 I really didn't mind adding an educational toy to my haul.

Have a Shopping List
Know (roughly) what you want from the Market Hall, it didn't take us long to fill our bags, with mostly things we had gone in for. Frames, candle holders, glasses, the usual! Then it was a quick march to pay and get out of there before a toddler melt down. Top marks for us this week, as I even remembered to bring a Big Blue Bag for each of us. Honestly, how many times have you got to the check out at Ikea and realised you had to buy yet another one to add to your pile of them at home.

All in all it was a lovely morning out. It got me out of the house, Sarah and I had a good catch up, and Fionn had a chance to run around and play with his friend. So the next time it's raining or cold and you just can't face a trip to the playground for the 5th time that week, pack up the car and give your local Ikea a try!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Water Baby

I took Daithí swimming for the first time today. It's amazing how babies have no fear of water. This was the main reason I wanted to take both my boys at a young age. To get them interested in, and hopefully to love swimming. My parents brought me swimming as a baby, and I did lessons right the way through school, as a result I was always a strong swimmer and even did IWS lifesaving courses as a teenager. It is so so important that children are confident and know how to stay safe around water, and they're never too young to learn.

So knowing all this I had wanted to take him sooner, but I kept making excuses, putting it off and have been dreading it. One reason being I wasn't sure how I'd manage both of them by myself, but mainly because I didn't feel confident enough to get into a swim suit in public. I knew I was being silly, and selfish, it's for Daithí's benefit, not mine. So when my Dad who was visiting for the weekend mentioned he could come with us and take care of Fionn while I minded Daithí, I knew I had to just go for it, but not before I had a bit of a chat with myself.

Chances are I'll wobble for the rest of my life, and chances are I'll go longer between waxes than I did before children, and I'll be blindingly white, and my hair may not have been washed in a week, but to be fair, who'll be looking, let alone judging at a 9.30am parent & baby swim? Other mothers who probably are having the exact same insecurities as me? Doubtful! I'd just have to get over myself.

There is always the one mother who has her hair done and a full face of make up on, a cute bikini and not a stretch mark in sight, but thankfully there's also an awful lot more women who look as tired and unkempt as myself. Also, the handful of nervous looking Dad's, slightly on edge because they've ventured into the predominantly female environment. You can often see them looking to the kids for guidance on what Mammy normally does. So far from judging how each-other looks, we coo over the newest babies and share knowing eye rolls at each toddlers excuses for not getting out yet.

But for some reason, I still felt I'd be judged. so after getting myself and Daithí dressed I found Dad and Fionn and guided them towards the pool. In true Fionn fashion he ran and jumped and splashed around, he loves the water, 'at least it's paying off' I thought to myself and walked in with Daithí in my arms. Once I hit the water and lowered Daithí in, I completely forgot that I was self conscious. I was doing something important for my son and that trumped any complex I was building up in my head. He seemed to like it, as much as you can tell of a 5 week old, he didn't even cry when I dunked him, and was very chilled out floating on his back. He seemed comfortable kicking his legs out behind him with his head on my chest so we spent about 30mins just floating about. 

A quick dry, get dressed, and feed in the cafe afterwards and he passed right out, I remembered then another reason I always brought Fionn swimming; the naps. The glorious, 2-3 hour post swim naps. They make it all worth while.

The obligatory first swim selfie.
There are so many options for swimming lessons available from as young as 4 months, but they can be costly, if this works for you great, but I feel that just getting into the pool with babies and children is beneficial. You don't even have to be a strong swimmer yourself, just get them into the water before they learn to be afraid of it, and you're setting them on the right track.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The First Month

Daithí is one month old today. It's crazy how the first month of a babies life goes by so much quicker than the last month of pregnancy. On one hand I feel like he's been a part of the family forever, but on the other hand, it could have been two days ago that I was taking him home from the hospital. As exciting as it is to look at all the changes in Daithí over the last 4 weeks, it's just as important to recognise and acknowledge the changes in me too.

My MIL this week told me that the best mothers put themselves first, after all you cant look after your baby 100% if you're not well. I don't mean ignoring your kids so you can have a peaceful coffee and flick through Vogue, I mean making sure you're eating well, drinking plenty of water and resting, and if something doesn't feel right or you're unwell talk to your doctor/ midwife/ health visitor! Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, if this was one of my kids, what would I do. chances are you'd have sought advice much sooner.

What has me thinking about all this? Well I think it's somewhat frustrating, that for the 10 months of pregnancy there is more information and advice than one could possibly need covering every eventuality that could arise from pregnancy and labor, then as soon as the baby is born, that information overload shifts to the baby, from rashes to colour of poop. But there is very little information in comparison, relating to how Mammy is doing after the birth; uterus contractions, hemorrhoids, PND, body image issues, all subjects that seem to be skimmed over briefly, before getting back to the more important and frankly cuter topic of the new born.

Well I've struggled with all of the above between my two 'after pregnancies', and found it difficult and embarrassing to talk about and get help. This time round I feel wiped out, both physically and emotionally. Granted a certain level of physical exhaustion is to be expected with a two year old and a new baby, but something I didn't know, was that my body was trying to tell me something. I was worried my bleeding hadn't slowed down as quickly as I (and the midwives) would have liked, but it was because my body was sending me warning signs to STOP! That's right, my body was telling me to chillax, sit down and put my feet up.
Hard to do with a toddler I know, but I had to heed it. I was trying to get out and about by myself with both boys everyday at two weeks, because I felt like I had to, and I was failing if I didn't. As soon as I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to be so active, and accepted the fact I had just done something incredibly draining on my body only a few weeks previous, I started looking at my needs a little more, and have felt much better physically for it. It has meant Fionn has become best friends with the CBeebies presenters, more than I would like to admit, but hands up what mother hasn't relied on a bit of TV every so often, I know it's not ideal, but it's not forever just until I get to a place where I have recovered from birth sufficiently and have built back up my  energy resources to return to being SuperMam*

*I kid, I'm no where near SuperMam, more like OkishMam

I've found some great advice and had some lovely 'me time' reading Minding Mum, by Alison Canavan (no relation!), I received it as a gift from a close family friend, and think it would make an especially lovely gift for a first time Mam.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Fionn's Birth Story

So I was wondering what the best way to start this would be and I guess, at the very beginning, they say it's a very good place to start! 
I'll probably take a few posts to share my background, starting with Fionn's birth story, I actually wrote it 4 weeks after he was born, so it's nice even for me to read again. Daithí is 4 weeks old tomorrow and it's funny, the differences I'm already noticing between baby 1 and baby 2.
Note; this post will also be a good introduction to how bluntly honest and often too open I can be. I've deliberately included things I wish I had read about in other peoples' birthing stories when I was trying to do some research when I was pregnant.
So here it goes...
I am absolutely loving motherhood, it's so hard to believe it's only been 4 weeks. The changes in Fionn are HUGE! He's doing so well, putting on weight, and starting to sleep in a pattern. I knew I'd have to write off the first 6 weeks because yeah, I'm breastfeeding on demand. It's tough, but so definitely worth it. I have decided to donate breast milk as I am over producing, it is something I would definitely recommend everyone look into if it's something you can do, most people can give blood, but breast milk is in a much higher demand than you'd realie, for pre-term and seriously ill babies.
I was very, very lucky with my labour, I had a sweep at 4 days over, and was disappointed when I thought nothing was coming of it, so I spent the next two days on my birth ball (If you don't have one, get one, I actually can't tell you how great they are for so many things) and walking to try move things along. I thought maybe something was happening at 5 days over, so called the hospital and was called in, I was only 2cm, so was given another sweep and sent home. Contractions started at 11pm that night (what I thought were contractions earlier, weren't, it's so hard to know, or so I thought, because it's not something I'd ever felt before, but believe me when they start you know!). Anyway, I took some Paracetamol and went to bed with my contraction timer on my phone. I wasn't able to sleep, but knew I had to conserve my energy, so I just lay in the dark with my eyes closed breathing through them and timing them till about 1am, when they got too painful to lay still through, and I didn't want to wake up Shane, so I got up. I was managing by myself, but still managed to wake my Mam up at about 2am, I was sending her back to bed but she made me a cuppa and stayed with me. at about 2.30am they got really, really bad and I felt like I needed to poo. Mam thought I had hours of this ahead of me, so she thought it best let Shane sleep and hold off going to the hospital, but come 2.45am I rang the hospital and could hardly talk to them with the pain, I got Shane up and Mam dropped us to the hospital. Arrived at the hospital at 3.10am and he was born at 3.39am!!
I had planned a water birth, but there was clearly no time for that, I got to the hospital, having to stop between the car and the labour ward for a contraction, got in, had an internal exam, the midwife said the waters were bulging and I was 8cm, so she gave me some gas, I took one mouthful and had to get sick, so ran (I say ran, it was probably more of a waddle) to the bathroom, didn't actually get sick, so she guided me back into the room, I got another contraction so knelt up on a chair, with that my waters went, literally everywhere, I was mortified, but there was no time for that, she got me up on the bed, I was adamant I didn't want to lie on my back (your tail bone is curled up and gives you about 12% less space to push when you're on your back), so I was kneeling, but she couldn't hear a heartbeat, so I had to lie down, as soon as I did she could see his head, so I pushed a little, his head came out, then about 20seconds later the next contraction came and I pushed and he was born. It all happened so quickly he didn't even know he was born, so they had to shake him a bit to get him breathing, but he did within seconds and was put on my chest. The afterbirth came on the next contraction with hardly any push, which I was happy about because I didn't want the injection to speed it up (it was really frustrating, they ask you pretty much in the middle of a push if you want it, and it was only that I knew strongly I didn't want it and Shane knew that we were able to strongly say no! I had a delayed cord clamp (to allow the blood from the placenta be pumped to him, as babies are born with up to 1/3 of their blood in the placenta), Shane cut the cord. I tore slightly internally, so had two stitches, I was given the gas so she could give me a local anesthetic. Again, I was strongly against having an episiotomy, as they have a much longer healing time, but luckily they aren't done unless completely necessary in the UK.
He was weighed, and had a nappy put on right beside me and put straight back on my chest, I had asked for uninterrupted skin-to-skin until he fed, so we were left with him on my chest and brought in two coffees. He latched on himself and fed for about 5 mins, then Shane held him, and I rang my Mam, she was over to the hospital like a light to meet her first grandchild. The Midwife came back and gave me things for a shower and Shane dressed him. The only thing that noone had mentioned and so I was not prepared for was the gush of blood as soon as I stood up, it really took me by surprise as it went everywhere, but the midwife didn't bat and eye lid and it was all cleaned up by the time I got out of the shower. I wasn't aloud up to the recovery ward until I had peed, they have to check to make sure nothing is ruptured. Holy shit, I would have taken another hour of contractions over the sting!!! It was the most painful part of the entire process! but I managed to walk to the recovery ward wheeling Fionn.
I wanted to go home that day, so once the pediatrician checked Fionn over, and I had a midwife help me with the first proper feed we were sent on our way! The whole experience was amazing. I was happy I managed it without any drugs, the breathing I learned in the anti-natal classes definitely helped, the contractions were bad, but knowing they would end in 60seconds made them manageable. As for the pushing, it actually felt nice in a weird way, it wasn't painful, just amazing knowing that it was finally time to meet him!!
And then the fun began!!
I'd love any feedback/ questions/ comments :-) <3 X