ANNA AND LESLEY ARE IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

Today we have a super special double whammy ‘in the motherhood’ featuring not one, but TWO amazing Mamas! It doesn’t get much more exciting than that around here folks. Lesley and Anna are mamas first and foremost but also the founders of Lara & Ollie, a teething jewellery brand. Their colourful baby-friendly beads and bangles are great for teething babes to gnaw on and are fast becoming the accessory of choice for stylish mamas.

I have had the pleasure of meeting this lovely mum duo now in real offline life and more recently I had the honour of ‘modelling’ for them, evidence of which can be found on the Lara & Ollie website (don’t laugh)! Their candid interview which you can read below brought actual tears to my eyes; it is so refreshing and eye opening and made me want to squeeze each of my children tight and thank my lucky stars.

Here they share what is it like to struggle to conceive and how it feels to become a parent at long last to the child of your dreams…

**Readers of the blog are being treated to 20% off with the code THEDOUBLEMAMA**

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Name: Anna Wicks & Lesley Newsholme

Age: 37 & 41

Location: Lee, South East London

Number of Kids: 1 each (at the moment)

Names and ages of aforementioned: Lara & Ollie, both aged 2

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Anna: Very much planned. 3 years, lots of tests (no identified problems), lots ‘not pregnant’ peeing on sticks so we chose to brave the IVF route. 3 rounds of IVF later we were blessed with pregnancy and an awesome little girl called Lara. And we’re braving it all again at the moment… big eek.

Lesley: Planned… 4 years in the making! 4 failed pregnancies, followed by a diagnosis of an early menopause, followed by a failed first round of IVF. Ollie was the result of our second round of IVF using an egg donor.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Anna: Massive massive relief after the hideous ‘2 week wait’. We’d also agreed we’d stop at 3 IVF rounds so it was kind of our last chance. But also petrified – we were only 3 weeks pregnant and has such a long journey ahead.

Lesley: Elation, relief, tears and huge anxiety that it would not result in an actual baby again.

How did you tell your partner?

Anna: I made him go and read the test so he knew before I did!

Lesley: He was there when I peed on the stick!

His reaction?

Anna: Speechless – and happy. He’s such a level headed person he didn’t get too excited and kept me calm

Lesley: Same as mine

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

Anna: Luckily I glowed – no sickness, no tiredness, no water retention, I didn’t become a hormonal bitch (although I’m sure some people might disagree!)

Lesley: Glow – All my back pain (which I’ve suffered from for years) just took a hike for 9 months it was bloody marvellous!

Tell me about your birth experience? 

Anna: Lara was born in the labour ward at Lewisham hospital. My labour was pretty good really. I laboured quickly so no time for drugs or faffing around as I was fully dilated when I got to hospital. But she got stuck so I had to have an epidural, forceps etc. But we didn’t care, we just wanted her out safely. It was just my husband and I, then as soon as we were in the ward our families all rocked up together liked an emotional bunch of excited teenagers – it was really special. All straightforward, home the next day. Then discovered they had left a swab inside me which was pretty gross so rushed back in for another night – that wasn’t so fun. Long and boring story but resulted a full maternity department investigation, interviews and the works. And processes have been changed at the hospital because of it. We didn’t take it any further. The care we got was amazing and we were all fine.

Lesley: Unfortunately for us there won’t be a next time for us and I kinda feel sad that I won’t get to experience an amazingly calm and relaxing birth… It was fairly awful. My waters broke a week before he was born, but was told they hadn’t when I went to the birthing centre so was sent home! That resulted in an infection and a bubba with a high heart rate so I got whisked out of the birthing pool after only an hour and taken to the labour ward. After pushing for what felt like a lifetime with baby not even fully engaged, exhaustion kicked in and I had an epidural and a forceps delivery. When he was plonked on top of me the relief and joy we felt was immeasurable, and the pain of not only the previous 48 hours, but the pain of the almost 5 year struggle just vanished. It also made us not really care that much that we were burgled while I was giving birth… The fact I had to spend the next five nights in prisoner cell block 5 (AKA the Maternity Ward) was more annoying than our stuff getting nicked!

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Anna: Awesome, miraculous, exhausting and a massive rollercoaster from one day, minute and second to the next.

Lesley: Hands down the best job in the world!

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Can you share any highlights?

Anna & Lesley: Literally every day is filled with funny little moments – but probably only funny to us! We see each other most days and some of the things Lara and Ollie say and do cracks us up!!

Can you share any low points?

Anna: In Sainos a few weeks ago; after negotiating over pulling the wheelie trolly, nearly taking out old people with said wheelie trolly, running off at speed down the booze isle and trying to take everything in the naughty aisles I let her mess around in the buggy while I had 20 secs of peace to pay. Obvs she fell out backwards and hit her head hard. Cue a lot of screaming and a huge egg on her head. Then about 2 hrs later she was helping me cook standing on her stool and burnt her arm on the hot saucepan. Wasn’t a great day and felt very guilty about being such a rubbish mum. Until my mum reassured me by relaying a few similar stories!

Lesley: Ollie is the kamikaze king! So there have been a few bumps and scrapes for which I feel totally awful about. The worst one being when he face planted into a blunt chunk of metal in a play area and two of his teeth went through his bottom lip- right through to the other side, even leaving marks on his chin… Blood everywhere, a trip to A&E and a referral to a Maxillofacial (the fancy word for facial reconstruction) Consultant. He’s still got a lump of scar tissue, and every time I look at it I think ‘yep, my fault’.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Anna: Work, work, work. Oh and eat, of course. And try to have a quick conversation with my husband before he works too. Because we have no daytime childcare during the week it’s quite difficult to get anything done in the day for our teething jewellery business so nights and nap times are our only chance. Masses of admin – emails, DMs, customer stuff, organising ourselves for events, trade fairs bla bla, not to mention making and packaging products in an attempt to keep up with demand.

Lesley: werk werk werk on our little biz – ditto to everything Anna says!

Tell me about your business…

Anna/Lesley: We set up a silicone teething jewellery business called Lara & Ollie when the kids were a year old. When we became mums we put all our costume jewellery away and when we found teething jewellery we thought it was a brilliant idea, but couldn’t find anything we liked. So we sourced some beads, made our own and the rest is history…! Our aim is to help mamas feel stylish again and dress up an every day outfit with something fun – that also happens to be safe for a baby to chew and fiddle with.

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How to juggle it all?

Anna/Lesley: It’s a tough one trying to build a business with toddlers as they never sit still. Ever. But as we live close to each other we throw the kids in the garden with all their toys and talk shop as we supervise/break up arguments. We get together almost every day so talk shop whilst we’re Sainsbury’s, en route to play groups and have a ridiculous amount of Whatsapp chat as we think of ideas, remember things we need to do etc. It’s a massive juggle because we also try not to let it take over our primary jobs as mamas. However we’re super ambitious and excited about what we’re creating so sometimes it’s hard to just put it to one side and concentrate on being mamas.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Anna: Unconditional love from someone who doesn’t judge. Then there’s the laughter and silliness and the incredible sponge that a 2 year old is. She remembers everything and is so inquisitive and interested in the world – it’s amazing. Seeing her unconditionally love her daddy and having so much fun with him too that’s pretty special. And being a family unit – love it when the 3 of us hang out.

Lesley: So many best bits I don’t know where to begin… The unconditional love, the kisses, the cuddles – Ollie gives the best cuddles ever. And after the journey we’ve been on just being a family – the 3 of us together – I’m grateful for that every day.

What are the worst bits?

Anna: At the moment the constant negotiation to do anything – from getting dressed, leaving the house, getting in the bath. Then there’s the eating. How can someone be that fussy about food that is so yummy. Oh and the terrible 2s tantrums – oh the drama!!

Lesley: yeah he still doesn’t sleep 2 years on! Small price to pay though.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Anna: The worry – not all the time but worrying about their safety, injuries and the world she’s going to grow up into – the Internet in particular

Lesley: For me there is absolutely nothing harder than wanting to be a mum and not being able to fulfil that dream, so I find this really hard to answer. Yes there are tough moments, but they pass and are soon and easily forgotten.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d be warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

Anna: that everything really is a phase and you worry like hell, then it passes and you’re onto the next phase/challenge and have forgotten all about the previous one.

Lesley: You can survive on very little sleep… for a very long time!

If someone agreed to mind your kid(s) for a week what would you do?

Anna: Go skiing with hubby – but in a 5 star luxury spa hotel so I could awesome food, amazing wine and a bit of pampering too.

Lesley: Worry about Ollie for a week!!

Is there anything you’d like to share with new mums / mums to be that you wish you’d known?

Anna: Breastfeeding is frikkin hard work and you’ve got to be dedicated, strong and determined – not easy when you’re sleep deprived and have no clue what to do with this small person! And everything is a stage. It passes, then there is another stage!

Lesley: Nothing is as straightforward as the books suggest… All babies are different and just because one does one thing at a certain age doesn’t mean yours will too. Take sleep for instance… Lara slept through from about 12 week, Ollie however only managed it at 14 months (and has since regressed!!!).

What do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to- be need to pack in their birth bag?

Anna: My bag was in the car until I was back in the ward so was chuff all use – I just drank a lot of water. Our NCT group had lengthy conversations about what we were going to wear to give birth in. Comedy!

Lesley: Ah those comedy conversations about what to wear in hospital!!.. You really don’t need to sweat it about maternity nightwear!

What’s been your best baby product?

Anna: Stokke Tripp Trapp (totally didn’t copy Cat on this one but massively agree with her). It’s amazing. A few family members said we were mad spending so much money but it’s worth every penny and more. And looks lovely!

Lesley: A sleepyhead baby pod – although it didn’t make him sleep through we certainly got more sleep after buying one. Then there’s the Kokoso coconut oil – it’s like a miracle cream for everything from nappy rash to cradle cap. Also a digital thermometer – boring but takes the ‘oooo did I do it right/for long enough etc etc’ out of temperature taking.

What was really useful in the early days?

Anna: Biscuits, cake, hubby and my mum – phoned her at least once a day to ask what the hell to do (still do ha ha!)

Lesley: Coffee and my other half (both still are!)

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Lesley: That flipping sheep that claims it will help your baby sleep!

Anna: That frikkin sheep was ace – we loved it and Lara slept with it singing lullabies for months ha ha!!!!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Anna/Lesley: Our Lara & Ollie teething jewellery. Obvs!!!

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How many children do you dream of having?

Anna: Really hope we can have a sibling for Lara. And then that’s it. I don’t think I could cope with any more than 2 and frankly our bank balance couldn’t either!

Lesley: One was a dream come true

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what would you do?

Anna: Travel

Lesley: Go travelling again

What do you miss about life before kids?

Anna: I genuinely don’t miss anything. Ok maybe not having our house overtaken by toys, but I even like that! I get really annoyed when people constantly moan about parenting and their kids. When you’ve been faced with the possible prospect of not being able to have a family you feel grateful every day. And I’m definitely not saying it’s easy, it’s bloody hard work – way harder than a high powered career but it’s also a lot more rewarding and you get so much more back. Parenting is a choice!

Lesley: Nada

What do you love most about being a Mum?

Anna: So much – I don’t know where to begin!

Lesley: Unconditional love and all the cuddles as a starter for 10. I could go on and on and on!

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Anna: I wish I had more patience. My fuse is so short and I wish I could be better at taking a deep breath and letting things go. Luckily my husband is very patient so he’s trying to coach me!

Lesley: Ha ha – more patience.

 

Thank you ladies for being so open, I’m sure your respective journeys to motherhood will resonate with a lot of women and give hope to those who are going through similar struggles. And for those of us out there who’ve not had this experience, thank you for reminding us how very lucky we are because on the hard days, I for one can sometimes forget.

Finally Anna and Lesley are kindly offering readers of the blog a cool 20% off any Lara & Ollie purchases using the code THEDOUBLEMAMA. Happy shopping peeps!

From one Dad to another: Tips for helping your breastfeeding partner

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This post is a little bit special as it’s not been written by me but my kind-of –instagram-husband. I say ‘kind of’ because 1) we’re not married and 2) he doesn’t take that many pictures for me, but he is definitely the behind-the-scenes guy. One of the things that he does do without recognition is support me with my breastfeeding (and write blog posts about it because he knows it’s so important to me)! So on that note, here’s his tips for other Dads so they can feel a little less useless if their partner/wife decides to give it a go! So mamas if you’re breastfeeding or planning to, just share this little list with your other half…

 

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It’s National Breastfeeding Week and as a father of 2 babies under 18 months, I have some recent experience of trying to support (sometimes unsuccessfully) a breastfeeding Mama. Breastfeeding is an incredibly personal experience/decision, so please don’t put me down as some kind of evangelical ‘breast is best’ Dad, this is just some advice for Dads whose partner has decided to breastfeed because, it can be tough and we can actually help…. a little….

1 – Support

It can be tough in the early stages and I’m told very painful. Encouraging your baby Mama and reminding her what a good job she is doing will go a little way to her not wanting to lovingly place a pillow over your face you in your sleep as she does the 3am feed. On this note, getting up and offering to do the settling/burping so she can get back to sleep is another way to avoid this occupational hazard.

2 – Drinks!

Breastfeeding is thirsty work but Mama being able to make a drink for herself with a baby latched to her boob is tough. I help by regularly filling up a big drinks bottle, which a) doesn’t spill if there is no level surface to hand and b) holds a lot of liquid so has to to be replenished less often.

3 – Cook up some healthy meals

Fairly self explanatory, but a good healthy diet will help Mama’s milk supply and general wellbeing. As above it can be tricky for her to find time to eat herself when feeding baby around the clock. So do what you can to make sure she is eating well, but to be fair, as long as it’s you who is ‘cooking’ it, beans on toast will probably be well received.

4 – Baby must be hungry….

Your crying baby might not necessarily be hungry if she/he is crying, especially if they have just been fed. I have been guilty in the past of just handing baby over as soon as he became a bit irritable to the annoyance of Mama. Ask (if you don’t know) when the last time baby was fed. If it was less than an hour or so ago, don’t automatically hand baby over. Try burping, rocking, taking them for a walk etc. Remember, you have just as much ability to settle/comfort baby as Mama does.

5 – Encourage her to pump

Even the most dedicated breastfeeding Mama will want/need a break at some point. When she is ready and breastfeeding has been established maybe encourage her to pump some baby fuel. This means you can potentially do a night feed and give her the gift of sleep, or let her have a night out. If you do give mama a night off, make sure the pump is ready in the morning, as you don’t wan’t to end up in this situation…

Overall though I think it’s just about doing what you can to help Mama and baby, which I am sure we all want to do. Finally, if your baby mama wants some tips on breastfeeding, tell her to have a look at my partner’s blog; The Double Mama and/or her Instagram for loads of advice.

And if you want to see what I get up to with my three boys (can’t promise it’s that exciting) then you can find me on Instagram here!

Bits for Boobies (& breastfeeding)

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On the whole breastfeeding is definitely the cheaper option when it comes to feeding and you certainly need less in terms of ‘stuff‘. But that’s not to say you need nothing. To make the whole thing easier and more comfortable here are the top bits I think you need (read essential) for your boobs and successful breastfeeding…

1.A comfortable feeding bra that also looks nice. You’ve grown, carried and birthed a small human, you’re exhausted and your body feels foreign, the very least you deserve is comfort. And if your nursing bra looks nice too then that’s a massive bonus. So many feeding bras are big, white, non-wired and fugly, which does zero favours for new mamas who are learning (or struggling) to love their postpartum bod. This one by bravado ticks all the right boxes for me. In fact after posting about my love for it on Instagram, a fellow Mum commented and said amongst her friends it is known as ‘the magic bra’. Enough said.

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2. Breast pads for those inevitable leaks. I find the washable ones from Boots to be great. They are softer against the skin than disposable ones and when damp they keep their shape. With some of the disposable ones I find when the ‘filling’ gets wet, it clumps together and sags at the bottom of the pad leaving you looking like you’ve got a bad case of lumpy boob. Also the washable ones are kinder to your conscience being more eco-friendly. Oh and they’re more wallet-friendly too in the long run. Win, win, win.

3. Nipple cream – I wasn’t expecting to have to use any time this time with baby numero 3 since I had no issues feeding baby no2. However I was wrong, which only goes to show that no matter how many babies you’ve had, you’re still learning as every baby is so different. What saved me (or rather my nipples and sanity) was lanolin cream. Luckily I knew the drill this time but I wish I’d known about this stuff from day one with my first. Aside from working real life miracles,  lanolin is totally safe for baby so you don’t need to wipe it off before feeding (although this does mean baby finishes a feed looking like they’ve wolfed down a greasy fry up rather than some wholesome mama milk!). If you’re really suffering, then use some nipple shields for a bit whilst your nipples heal. These really helped me. And if your nipples are in a really bad way and you’re in huge pain then you can always try expressing and feeding baby with a bottle until they’ve recovered.

4. Something good to watch on demand, since you’ll be feeding on demand, 24/7. Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer etc. all offer good options. Last baby, I got through the night feeds with Orphan Black. This time I’m all about BBC4’s The Disappearance. It’s French and subtitled which is handy since you can watch it in bed with the volume turned down and not disturb anybody. It’s a classic whodunnit and it’s gripping, addictively so, but it’s still no Breaking Bad. I’ve found nothing on par to fill that void.

5. Breastfeeding-friendly clothes to wear like this top from Mamas Little Secret or this jumpsuit from Mothers Love Fashion. Honestly these items, designed by fellow breastfeeding mamas, are total game changers. If you’re worried about feeding in public then invest in something that will allow you quick access to your boobs so you can feed easily and discreetly. I literally love these two items. Absolute genius designs.

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6. A decent ELECTRIC pump. I had a manual one first time round and it was hugely time consuming and would give me repetitive strain injury after 5 minutes. Totally counterproductive. Nowadays I really rate the Medela Swing pump and seemingly so do the rest of the world, including Top Five Baby who consider it one of their top 5 baby essentials! It will literally LIBERATE you by enabling to go out sans baby (or even go to bed for some sacred uninterrupted sleep) safe in the knowledge you’ve left some of mama’s best in the fridge for them.

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Extra Tips!

Here are some extra tips that I’ve been given over the years which you may find useful…

For sore nipples:

Cling film – Use this to stop breast pads sticking to sore nipples. It will act as a barrier, allowing your nipples to heal.

And as mentioned above; lanolin cream, nipple shields, breast pump.

For engorged breasts:

Savoy cabbage leaves – use these to relieve the pain of engorgement, which generally happens around day 3-5 when your milk comes in. Simply place a big chilled leaf over your breast.

Breast pads soaked in camomile tea and refrigerated – yes you read that right. Soak the pads in camomile tea and then pop them in the fridge. Once cold, place them against your breast to relieve any discomfort. Camomile is well known for its healing and soothing properties.

For increasing milk supply

Placenta encapsulation – if you’re pregnant, seriously consider getting this done. I had mine encapsulated by Amanada Denton of Earth Bound Baby and I’d definitely recommend her. Studies have shown that consuming your placenta increases your milk supply as well as there being a ton of other benefits including increased energy, reduced risk of postpartum depression etc.

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Boo.B Smoothies – if the idea of eating your placenta doesn’t rock your boat or perhaps you missed the boat and already have the baby, then check out Boo.B Smoothies. You can order a box of sachets to be delivered straight to your door no matter where you are in the world. Then simply add a cup of milk and half a banana and whizz it up. The smoothies are packed full of ingredients which are known to boost your milk supply.

If you fancy winning yourself a box then take a look at my Instagram feed to find out how!!

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For the tough days:

As well as local drop in clinics or breastfeeding cafes, there are also lots of wonderful private lactation consultants out there such as Imogen Unger who can provide advice and support over the phone or in person at your home.

Finally this isn’t strictly a tip, but I recommend getting yourself something like this Boob appreciation mug from Mere Soeur to remind yourself each day what an incredible and amazing job you are doing. Especially on the days when baby won’t stop screaming.

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With it being National Breastfeeding Week, I will be posting one of my own breastfeeding photos each day over on my Instagram page. I hope this might encourage other Mums to feel confident about feeding in public and to support one another. Please go have a look and maybe even share one of your own…

GIFT IDEAS FOR FATHER’S DAY 2016

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This blog is usually about everything relating to motherhood, but since Father’s Day is next week (take this as your official reminder!!), I thought maybe they deserved some airtime too, just for once!

Although we often resent them for being at work and having ‘time off’ whilst we’re stuck home 24/7 covered in sick and juggling a tricky new baby with demanding older ones (it definitely IS possible to simultaneously feel grateful and resentful about this – that’s just the kind of confusing emotional rollercoaster that motherhood is), and we moan that they get to use the toilet in peace and eat their food without having to hold off a toddler and begrudge them that they don’t get fat, or suffer stretch marks, or experience torn, blistered nipples, and we reiterate frequently that they can’t ever possibly understand what we have to go through (which is all true), but we should probably (even just occasionally) admit that they work pretty damn hard too.

From going to work on little to no sleep and missing those precious newborn days and baby cuddles and toddler firsts, to coming home every day just when shit is hitting the fan in the midst of witching hour, to help with the exhausting dinner, bath, bedtime routine and subsequent clean up operation, to the fact that yes they don’t suffer the side effects of pregnancy but they also never get to experience carrying or birthing a baby. It really isn’t an enviable job and more a case of poor them. I for one would definitely rather carry the extra few stone and get to experience the magic of giving birth and being a Mama, than miss out altogether, be on the receiving end of my irrational and hormonal pregnant partner and keep my figure. The few extra stone, tiger stripes and mild incontinence is a small price to pay for the joy that is having a baby.

With that in mind we can hopefully all agree they deserve a treat, so just as I did prior to Mother’s Day, here’s a little round up of gift ideas for the Daddy in your life…

1.Selfish Mother ‘Papa’ Sweater. If your other half has been stealing your SM sweater for too long, now might be the time to treat him to one of his very own. As with the Mother sweaters, profits go to support worthy causes so you can feel extra good post-purchase.

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2. There are also ‘Papa’ t-shirts, ‘Papa’ baseball tees and ‘Dadding It’ tees all available from the Selfish Mother Fmly Store (that’s not a typo, FYI…)

 

3. I’m loving these ‘Breaking Dad’ t shirts from Parent Apparel, not least because Breaking Bad was my most favourite TV series EVER.

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4. Also from Parent Apparel, check out their Dad Ass tees and badges. That’s Dad Ass like Bad Ass, for those who might now be thinking Dads also suffer from flatter and fatter arses post-procreation. (Spoiler: they don’t. That non-perk is reserved solely for mamas).

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5. YESMUM Pops. Dads don’t have to make do with affirmations made for regular humans anymore (although they are great too), because they’ve now got their very own tailored Pops range. What better gift is there than a daily pat on the back to remind them they’re doing a great job too?!

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6. Ticket to Dad’s Breakfast Club. These meet ups are organised by the uber-friendly @LondonDad and are a win-win when it comes to gift buying; Dads trot off (with the smalls) to have breakfast and make new friends whilst Mama chills at home child-free. See what I mean? Win-win.

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7. Another gift that Mama can benefit from too; a stylish unisex changing bag from Tiba + Marl. We know Dads change nappies too, so surely they deserve their own changing bag? I certainly think so. And if that means buying him the bag you’ve been long-time lusting over then so be it. Hopefully he’ll be none the wiser and you’ll be able to ‘borrow’ it whenever you fancy. Natch.

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All of these gift ideas listed above are from small, independent, parent-run brands. So when you make a purchase you’re not only sharing the love with the Dads you’re buying for, but also the wider community of parents who are out there working hard raising babies and businesses. So if you can, shop independent this Father’s Day.

JENNY’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

It’s back!! Y’all be pleased to know the supposedly-weekly (but not at all weekly) ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature has returned! This is where we get the opportunity to virtually meet and get to know the Mamas we’ve been busy stalking a little better, learn what motivates them and be inspired etc.

This week all those boxes are being ticked because we have the wonderful Jenny from Top Five Baby on the blog sharing her story and experience of Motherhood thus far. Be warned it’s not all rose-tinted as Jenny and her husband sadly lost their beautiful little boy Elliott at just ten days old. Here Jenny talks about how those experiences have shaped her journey and how she’s managed to turn the loss of Elliott into something positive for Great Ormond Street Hospital in his memory…

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Name: Jenny Walker

Age: 32 (although my daughter tells everyone I’m STILL 21).

Location: North Derbyshire now, near Bakewell (was Stoke Newington until recently, all my babies were born in London)

Number of Kids: This is always a tricky question for me, if I give the most honest answer this confuses people and stuns many into silence, but I’m a mummy to three and always will be. My second baby, a little boy called Elliott, died at 10 days old and I have two girls now.

Names and ages of aforementioned: Nia age 4; Cora, 20 months (born a year and a day after her brother) and Elliott.

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Very much wanted and planned for all three.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Pure delight.

How did you tell your partner?

I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure I waved my wee stick in his face (probably every time!)

His reaction?

Very happy too (at least he seemed to be!) he was probably not too pleased about the wee stick in his face.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

All three were nauseating for the first 14 weeks and then much better during the second trimester, followed by obstetric cholestasis (again all three pregnancies) at around 37/38 weeks. So not exactly dream pregnancies but as is always the case, I remember them being a lot easier than they were.

Tell me about your birth experience?

All three were hospital births at the Homerton in East London.

Nia: horrendous induction followed by epidural and forceps. Yikes.

Elliott: induction again but this time without pain relief (not on purpose) and a much calmer, happier experience. I gave birth standing up and he (sort of) fell onto a pillow. I did a lot more reading about being relaxed during birth (thank you Ina May Gaskin) and approached the whole process in a more accepting way (contractions = rushes/sensations etc).

Cora: another induction but I had my superstar midwife Cate (who had been my midwife with Elliott so knew my history) by my side. She knew what I wanted and was so gentle, kind and wonderful throughout the whole labour. I am grateful to her every day and am now very lucky to call her a friend. We pinched her name for Cora’s middle name. She’s Cora Cate.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Awesome, happy, hard and the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Can you share any highlights?

Seeing my girls interact with each other and love each other so much. My four year old gets into bed in the morning with our 20 month old and (sort of) reads her stories. I watch and listen on the monitor and giggle in bed as it’s hilarious. Cora shouts for her big sister in the morning sometimes instead of us. Win!

Can you share any low points?

When my 4 year old tells me to “stop texting Mummy!” leading to the guilt. Why do Mummies have to have the guilt? I really don’t like the guilt!

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

At night I sleep! During the day I try and squeeze in some time to work on topfivebaby.com see below!

Have you got a business? 

I have spent much of the past year setting up a review site bringing together the best baby kit. It is called topfivebaby.com

I know there are other review sites out there but topfivebaby.com aims to make the research process super simple by doing all the leg work and narrowing it all down to five items in each of the categories covered.

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)? 

Currently, trying to make topfivebaby.com a success! After everything we went through with Elliott I vowed never to return to an office. I’d been made redundant whilst pregnant with Elliott, and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me as it gave me an excuse to live in a much happier way.

After Elliott’s death I focussed most of my efforts on fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he had been treated. We have raised a lot of money and managed to put in place a special end of life care room at GOSH in Elliott’s memory for families in similar situations to ours (nothing like this existed when Elliott died).

I squeeze all of this in around the little people so I never really feel like I’ve finished a job, but I’m learning that this is actually ok.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The cuddles and the kisses. I never want them to stop.

What are the worst bits?

Currently breath-holding. My youngest Cora, is punishing us with this. She breath-holds whenever she really hurts herself and it is terrifying for all of us to see because she passes out and goes blue. Given everything we’ve been through with Elliott we all panic every time it happens.

And losing a child. It really is an unearthly pain which very few people fully understand. We are extremely lucky to have had incredible help from Great Ormond Street after Elliott’s death. For anyone reading this who might be struggling, please do ask for help, it helps make something incomprehensible, eventually bearable.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Trying to get on with “normal” life after Elliott died.

If someone agreed to mind your kids for a week what would you do?

Go to a beautiful spa hotel and relax. But I’d miss them if it was a whole week. A couple of nights would be enough (I think).

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Go with your instincts, if you have just a tiny clue about what you’re doing then that should be enough. But if you’re still struggling, ask for help.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Lots of knickers, nursing bras, maternity and breast pads. Oh and all the stuff for the baby to wear plus nappies. I can’t think of just one thing, sorry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

I have to give you five😉

1. The Medela Swing breast pump. It is really, really good.

2. The Stokke Tripp Trapp, so incredibly well designed and ergonomic. It allows your baby to be up at the table with the rest of the family right from the start (if you buy the newborn set).

3. Aden and Anais swaddles, they’re quite pricey but wonderful. We still use ours as bedding in the summer as they’re so lovely against the skin.

4. BabyBjorn soft bouncer. It is unobtrusive, easy to store, looks great and is a perfect, simple design.

5. I love my Ergobaby. Both our girls (still) go in them which means we can get to places we otherwise wouldn’t go with tired little legs.

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What was really useful in the early days?

My husband (he’s still useful though).

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Yes, I bought our first buggy second hand thinking I was saving money. It was broken when I bought it (the brake didn’t work). I couldn’t do a thing about it as I had no receipt. I’ve spent more getting it fixed than if we’d bought new! So annoying!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Again another five!

1. Lovely smellies. I adore Neal’s Yard and recommend Seaweed and Arnica for post birth sore muscles. I also recommend their citrus hand wash and hand lotion. It is antibacterial and kind to hands that need washing every five minutes.

2. Concealer: I use Clinique’s All About Eyes. It’s really gentle, super easy to apply and seems to last forever.

3. Liz Earle hot wash cloth and cleanser. It makes cleaning my face super quick (including removing mascara!) with no need for anything else other than moisturiser and also lasts forever.

4. Bio Oil: not just for tums and thighs. I apply mine to my forehead and eye area at nighttime to discourage the wrinkles from getting any more obvious.

5. Eight hour cream. Massive “mum” cliche this one, but it seems to cure every little issue for all of us (Nia always seems to have an invisible scratch that needs attention) so I always have it on me.

Who inspires you?

My mum who managed four kids and a career and my sister who is doing the same.

Plus I’m constantly inspired all the time by friends just doing their best at this mothering malarkey, whether they go to work and do it, whether they’re running their own business and especially if they’re managing to get through full time without anything else but being a mummy superstar.

How many children do you dream of having?

Just one more.

If you could go back to your pre-child life,  for a short period of time, what would you do?

Cliche again, but I’d take a few more long haul flights!

What do you miss about life before kids?

Not having to book a babysitter whenever you want to go out and drink wine.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

The fact that I’m their mum and that I know no one else (apart from their dad) loves them like I do.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

There is a constant pressure on us all at the moment to “be more present”. What does that even mean anyway? Putting pressure on yourself to enjoy all the moments can make those moments a lot more stressful.

 

A big thank you to Jenny for sharing her journey with us; she is one brave, strong and inspiring lady! If you’d like to make a donation and support the family’s fundraising efforts for GOSH, then just visit their page here.

Also do make sure you check out Top Five Baby before making any baby-related purchases! I for one think it’s a FAB idea. I’m sure I speak for most mums when I say we’re a time-poor collective so anything that makes the process of deciding which bit of baby paraphernalia to buy a little easier, is surely a winner. You’ll also be happy to know the site is very clean, simple and user-friendly. Check it out!

Finally, if you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, just drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

 

RE: Me-Ternity Leave

motherhood

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Dear Meghann,

I wanted to write this letter yesterday when I first became aware of your me-ternity proposal. I’m on MATernity leave at the moment with a 5 week old baby (and a 16 month old toddler and a 9 year old) so I guess the reason I didn’t manage to is because I’ve gotten lazy.

I mean between all the lounging about, resting, recharging, taking time to refocus etc and just general well-deserved ‘me’ time I really ought to have found the time to bang out a letter.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!!

I’ll tell you who deserves a me-ternity break, the mums who have just finished their maternity leave!!

I’m on maternity leave with a newborn and a toddler and I don’t have time to wash or even eat some days and that is not an exaggeration. The only ‘me’ time I get is when I’m sleeping and even that is strictly limited since I am disturbed every couple hours. When I say ‘disturbed’, I mean fully awoken to feed the baby, soothe the baby, attempt to resettle the baby. This routine can take 1-2 hours. At most I’ve had 3 hours uninterrupted sleep since his arrival. Some nights I am woken every 45 minutes. The really bad nights I just don’t sleep.

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To read that you’re jealous of working mums who get to dash out of the office promptly at the end of the day using the ‘excuse’ they need to collect their kids is mind-boggling. Maybe I’m jealous that you get to go for casual drinks after work ON A WHIM (ok, there’s no maybe, I am jealous). You then get to saunter home, pondering what you fancy for dinner, before settling down to do whatever the frick you want. Working Mums have to run to childcare, often quite literally as they can be charged a £1 a minute for every minute they’re late, to scoop up their tired, irritable kids who they’ve been separated from all day (oh the overwhelming guilt), rush home, prepare a dinner, make sure their homework is done, give them a bath, make sure their teeth are brushed (can be a battle in itself), then put them to bed with a story and whatever else they demand, before getting stuck into ‘Operation Clean Up’ which includes washing up, putting crap away (aka a million noisy plastic toys), washing clothes, preparing everything they need for the following day, for school, for clubs etc. Next up is dealing with the daily life admin which increases tenfold with each kid you have. Then maybe some time before midnight, if they’re lucky, they might try and throw some dinner together for themselves. Or just go to bed with a bowl of cereal. Standard.

Yes you might work later in the office but at least you do get to clock off at some point and then your time is all yours. A mum’s work never ends. She’s on call 24/7 365 days a year. In any case if you work late it’s because you choose to, because you have the luxury of choice. A working mum doesn’t have that choice.

So when they return to work all empowered and confident it’s because they know there’s no shit they can’t handle.

Which leads me nicely to my next point… You say that women return from maternity leave more confident and self-assured and you attribute that to the fact they’ve had time off to focus on themselves etc. I’ll tell you why women come back from maternity leave feeling confident! Because they just survived the most difficult period of their entire life! A women who has grown and birthed a small human and then spent many months caring and nurturing this same small human, tending to all their needs on little to no sleep, can do ANYTHING. Mums are freaking superwomen. So when they return to work all empowered and confident it’s because they now know there’s no shit they can’t handle. They do not return sure of themselves because they’ve had a break and a bit of RnR.

And when it comes to those that don’t return to their careers but do something else entirely once their maternity leave is up, it’s often because THEY HAD NO CHOICE. They didn’t spend their maternity leave recharging and refocusing nor were they afforded the time to think up some great new career plan. The grim reality is that for many women returning to work and paying for childcare is simply not an affordable option. Or not an option that pays. The results of a recent study published in The Sunday Times showed that women with 2 kids would need to earn a salary of £40,000 just to break even on the childcare. A woman making £60,000 a year, would be left with just £36 a day after paying tax and childcare. You’d have to be pretty damn dedicated to return to your job and work for free, or work to pay the childcare bill. Unless you really wanted that job, it seems a pretty pointless exercise. That’s why so many women change careers after having a baby and start up their own businesses, because they are forced to. They need to make some cash so they have to think creatively even though they’ve had no sleep and no time to themselves whatsoever. They still manage to do this. They learn to juggle like they’ve never juggled before. They become masters of spinning plates. The women I know are launching businesses on broken sleep whilst bouncing babies on their hips.

Mums are the most capable people on the planet so when they return to work, it’s a doddle in comparison to parenting.

So if you want time to refocus and consider changing career, how about you use all that time you have to yourself every evening and weekend, because you already have more me-time than any new parent will ever have.

And if you still really want to experience the ‘break’ that is maternity leave, so you don’t feel as if you’re missing out, then take a sabbatical and go work as a childminder for 6 months. 7 days a week. All day and all night. With no lunch breaks. And then try doing it for free! That’s right, many mums on maternity leave don’t get paid at all or they get some small token amount in the form of statutory maternity pay. See how much fun you have doing that!

I’ll tell you what will happen, you’ll be desperate to get back to work! Where you get your own desk and nobody climbs on you, a lunch break (WHAT A LUXURY!!!), actual food to eat and the chance to drink hot cups of tea, where you can go to the toilet ON YOUR OWN and nobody throws up on you or in your hair. Best of all you don’t even have to clean up anyone’s faeces.

When I first went to work in an office after having my son I thought I’d hit jackpot. That 1 hour lunch break was the first ‘me time’ I’d had since he was born. A whole hour to do as wished. I could just go and sit somewhere quiet and be alone with my own thoughts.  It was such a novelty. To be honest it being in the office felt a little getting a break from the real work.

That’s my final point! You’re jealous of colleagues waltzing off on maternity leave on what you perceive to be a ‘break’ from work,  but YOU GET ANNUAL LEAVE! Know any new mums who get a holiday or even a weekend off? You’ve got to be joking. Most are tethered to their new baby around the clock. If a new mum is feeling burnt out, they’ve just got to dig even deeper. Usually there’s no option to do anything but. The mat leave gig is 7 days a week, day and night and there is no holiday. It’s relentless. Not exactly a job description to be envious of.

But of course Motherhood is also very wonderful and fulfilling and life affirming. In writing this letter I am not trying to deny that motherhood can bring much joy. Indeed some days of my maternity leave are the greatest days of my life but alas some are also my very worst. That’s the thing about motherhood that you don’t understand until you’ve lived it; it’s a rollercoaster of a journey with massive highs and equally enormous lows. But whatever it is, on any given day, it’s bloody hard work. So I get that you might want a family and feel jealous of your colleagues who do have kids and I’m sorry for that, but comparing maternity leave to something of a vacation is absolutely mental. If only to give you a heads-up in case you do ever have any kids of your own, I want you to know you will never have any more ‘me time’ than you do right now. So make the most of it. In fact, thinking about it, you know really needs a me-ternity break….!! Working Mums!

So yes I whole-heartedly support the idea of me-ternity! It’s a brilliant concept. All new Mums should get one once they’ve finished their maternity leave, before returning to work. Because they are the ones that don’t get any me-time at all and the ones, sleep deprived and hard-working, that probably need and deserve it most of all.

With warmest wishes,

Siobhan Miller

Working Mum to 3 boys, currently on Maternity Leave.

The dark days (nights) are over

motherhood

This post is just going to be a quickie, I promise. Basically it’s just three wonderful things from the world wide interwebs that I wanted to share with you.

These things aren’t new, in fact they’ve been around years but they are my go-to if I need a pick-me-up. They never fail to make me laugh no matter how many times I’ve read / listened to them. So if you’ve seen them before, don’t rule out looking at them again.

I had actually almost forgotten about them until recently when James, whose memory has been unaffected by pregnancy and childbirth, sent me an email with links to them, causing me to wet myself.. in a good way (not actually, but it was pretty close).

So for all you new exhausted mamas out there, feeding and soothing babies in the dark of the night, I hope you enjoy these little gems and they bring you a little light and laughter…

 

  1. Texts from Dog                                                                                                                                              tumblr_mv4j44v8Jz1rt9zy5o1_1280.jpg

 

2. Missing Missy

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3. This is what crazy looks like                                                                                                                      Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 12.06.10

REVIEW: Great Little Trading Company

Reviews

So I feel like I have a MILLION AND ONE blog posts to write and publish. In fact I know I do; they’re all sat in notes on my iPhone. If you follow me on Instagram it’s unlikely you’ll have missed that I had my baby a few weeks ago what with the relentless baby spam you’ve had to endure (sorry about that!). Because he arrived a little earlier than expected I didn’t get the chance to finish my ‘preparing for birth’ series (nor did I get that mani pedi as planned to mark the start of maternity leave * sad face *). I even missed seeing Roald Dahl’s The Witches at the Theatre with my eldest, because baby no3 decided to quite literally steal the show by making his appearance that very same day, which also happened to be the first day of my maternity leave. But of course I didn’t really care because I got to meet my little boy and had a beautiful, calm, water birth with everything I wished for, no complications, no drama. I obviously want to tell you all about it but I’m going to save it for my birth story post, which will come as soon as I have time to write it!! In fact all of the posts I have planned will be written, as soon as I’ve had some time / sleep and am able to string a complex sentence together.

In the meantime I thought I’d tell you about my recent trip to the Great Little Trading Company (GLTC) Showroom which opens officially this week, not because it’s the biggest and most exciting thing to have happened to me over the past few weeks (obviously not) but because it’s not too taxing on my sleep deprived brain to write, and it allows me to ease myself back into blogging after my recent hiatus. I always find it’s hard to get going again after a break, so here goes, this is my very first postpartum attempt..!

 

 

At the weekend I was invited to the launch of the GLTC showroom. It promised to be loads of fun for the whole family with everything from champers to children’s entertainers, cake pops to goody bags, the whole she-bang! In the end I went alone (due to poorly kids) and opted for the elderflower juice, but never mind. That’s the thing about having kids; plans rarely pan out as… err, planned.

Anyways the GLTC has until now been a mail order / website only affair. The new showroom in Wandsworth (London) is their very first. You’d be forgiven for thinking it strange that just as more of us are opting to shop online from the confines of our comfy sofas, the GLTC should be opening its first physical showroom / shop!

I initially thought the same. However having been to look around I have realised there are at least two really great things (and probably a load more that I’ve not considered) about having a physical shop. Firstly it’s really difficult to gauge quality when shopping online. Buying a dress from ASOS and sending it back is one thing, buying a set of bunk beds based on a photo is another. If they’re not as you expected it’s going to be a pain and a half to get them returned and meanwhile they are taking up your entire hallway/living room and your kids are presumably without a bed. Not ideal. When buying big ticket items it’s always preferable to have the opportunity to see them before purchasing and that’s exactly what you can do if you visit the GLTC showroom.

Plus, and here’s the second great thing, it’s not a “Don’t touch that!!!” kind of showroom which, if you visit with kids especially, is a one way ticket to a stressful afternoon. Nor is it the headache-inducing maze that is more commonly known as IKEA (don’t get me wrong I’m a big Ikea fan but a trip has been known to break a good relationship). The GLTC showroom has an altogether different kinda vibe. The place is an interiors enthusiast’s dream but with toys including play kitchens, play shops, tippees, under-bunk dens etc etc. to entertain the kids. Making it a wonderland for a pre schooler. In fact it’s a bit like going to a playgroup but the toys are in really good condition and it’s less noisy/mental.

Whilst I was there I found loads I liked and wanted. What surprised me was that besides all the beds, desks and innovative storage options which I expected to find, there were loads of cute toys and room accessories on offer. I thought I’d give you an idea by sharing some of the items from their new collection that I particularly liked…

You’ll notice there’s a bear theme. I’m a big fan of bear-branded stuff since my middle one’s moniker is bear. I know I’m not alone in this and bear is a popular pet name, so hopefully many of you will love this lot too…

 

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This lot is all from the Mr Bear range. They also have a Miss Cat range. And a whole load of other stuff. You can find everything on the website or pay a visit to the showroom yourself from this Friday, 29th April 2016!

 
The GLTC showroom can be found at Number 12 Buckhold Road, Wandsworth, SW18 4GP (next to Southside Shopping Centre).