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

 

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Baby paraphernalia – what you really need to have a baby

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

A few of my friends are (FINALLY) pregnant (yay!!) and because I’m prepping (in the loosest sense of the word) for numero 3, and have spent the best part of a decade rearing small people, they’ve asked me for advice on what they should buy in anticipation of their precious arrival. So I created a list for them and thought I’d share it here too…

In short, you really don’t need a lot. These newborn babies don’t want for much and they mostly just eat and sleep (and maybe cry). So you’ll need milk (but if you’re breastfeeding, that’s already on tap) and a place for them to sleep i.e. a moses basket, a stand, a couple crib sheets and a baby sleeping bag or two. Of course you’ll also need a shedload of nappies and some basic baby clothes like vests and sleepsuits. Maybe some baby-friendly washing detergent and softener. But that’s really about it, in terms of what you NEED.

Then of course you’ll probably want a pram or a sling so you can get out and about and a bouncy chair to put them in when you need a wee (because that’s the only time you’ll be putting them down. And no, you don’t eat, unless some kind person feeds you). Oh and you’ll also need a car seat if you’ve got a car and plan on using it (go for Maxi-Cosi EVERY time – I speak from crash-testing experience).

Muslins are useful. So are dummies (you might be anti them now but withhold judgement until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation coupled with screamy baby at 4am at which point you’ll realise you will try anything. And dummies really aren’t that bad and in fact they are said to decrease the chance of SIDS. So get a few in, even if only for emergencies).

If you’re breastfeeding you might need lansinoh (magic stuff that protects nipples and is safe for babies), breast pads and a pump. If you’re bottle-feeding, you’ll need bottles (obviously), formula and a sterilising device.

You can see how things can quickly get out of control and how easy it is for a first-time pregnant mama to feel overwhelmed with all the paraphernalia on offer. Also decision making is tricky at the best of times but near on impossible when pregnant and really, how can a first-time pregnant mama really know what they actually will need?! Maybe I only speak for myself here, but I certainly couldn’t differentiate between what would come to be a literal lifesaver and what would become just another T.U.P (totally unnecessary purchase)!

So to help you avoid too many T.U.Ps, here’s my list! I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have got a couple kids and as consequence have tried and tested a lot of baby paraphernalia! So let me at least save you from the mistakes I made…

Baby clothes

You don’t need much. Firstly because you don’t really know how big (or small) your baby will be – they come in all sizes and scans aren’t reliable (I was told to expect a 4lb babe and I got an 8lb-er. I’m not alone). Secondly because you’ve got your whole maternity leave to go shopping and it’s kind of fun buying things for baby once they have actually arrived. So don’t deprive yourself by buying it all in advance! Thirdly you cannot over-estimate how much you will be given – either new gifts or secondhand stuff from friends, family, neighbours, colleagues etc.

So with that in mind, I suggest buying in newborn size (because although you will want stuff for them to grow into, you will also need some stuff that fits when they’re born and there is a surprisingly big difference between ‘newborn’ and ‘0-3months’!):

* six cotton sleepsuits (all-in-ones)

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* six cotton vests

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* two cardigans (you do not want to be pulling jumpers over baby’s floppy head)

* two hats (they have a tendency to go missing)

* blanket to wrap baby in / lie baby on

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* baby socks (can double as scratch mitts/be used to keep hands warm – they get so cold when baby is sleeping!!)

* sock-ons (an amazing invention that do exactly as they say)

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* snowsuit for the winter babes

* ecover or similar gentle non-bio detergent to wash baby clothes (which should be done before baby arrives and wears them).

Baby bedtime

* Moses basket – a really simple one will do because they really don’t stay in them long – definitely buy new – this one from John Lewis is perfect:

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* Moses basket stand – useful, also easily foldable for transportation/storage. Can be bought secondhand for approx £5.

* 4 x fitted sheets to fit the crib/moses basket – you’ll find yourself changing them frequently – 4 times in one night is not unheard of.

* At least 2 or 3 grobags for aged 0-6 months – you need a few because newborns are prone to explosive poos that escape their clothes (sorry), and they can sick up quite a bit (they may be small but they are very, very, messy). Make sure you get the right tog for the season your baby is due.

* Swaddle wraps/blankets are good but they have such a short life so maybe get some second hand if you can or given as gifts.

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*Dummies – trust me on this one. If your baby takes it(and some don’t) and it offers them some level of comfort, then you’re going to want to have them.

* Gro-egg – useful for knowing the room temp and therefore what bedding and clothing layers you should be using. Can’t really put a value on something that reduces the anxiety new Mums experience. Also works as a nightlight.

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* You might be tempted (or rather your other half might be (forgive my gender stereotyping)) to buy an expensive, state-of-the-art, tech-lover’s dream of a baby monitor. In my experience when baby is really new you’re unlikely to be leaving them out of your sight for very long, so it’s definitely not necessary to have one at the start. And later on, a regular one will do just fine and you’ll be glad you didn’t purchase the one with a TV screen, light show, lullabies and two-way walkie talkie function.

Leaving the house (!!!)

* You might want to get a sling but again in my experience when baby is brand new, they are too tiny for most baby carriers and sort of sink down and crumple, leaving you worrying whether they can breathe! So wait until they are a little more robust and have some head control before strapping them to your front. There are loads of options when the time comes so try and test out a few and see what works for you. I can recommend the ergo baby carrier and I would say avoid the baby bjorn original because it’s a back killer!

* Pram-wise, I basically tried everything with my first son until I got a Bugaboo. Second-time round I knew to get one straightaway! Our Bugaboo Cameleon 3 has been our best purchase and I would recommend everyone get one if they can! Bugaboo are like the Rolls Royce of buggies but when you think how much you’re going to use it, it becomes worth every penny. It can be false economy buying cheaper prams because they break or are difficult to use. We got ours secondhand, which I would definitely recommend doing if you’re on a budget. Not only can you get a nearly-new one in immaculate condition for half the price, they also have a really good resale value, so even after a couple years of use, you can sell it on again for not much less than you paid for it originally! A Bugaboo is a sound investment, even if your other half cannot get over the RRP.

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* Car seat – it’s a good idea to get a Maxi-Cosi car seat because they are compatible with so many prams including the Bugaboo. Also try and get an isofix base (or easybase if you don’t have isofix points in your car). Not only are the bases meant to make the seat safer as they ensure they are correctly fitted, but they also make your life tons easier as you can simply clip the seat in and out without having to faff around with the belt. Also having recently survived a pretty horrific crash, I can hand-on-heart vouch for the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix as despite a 70mph motorway crash which involved flipping our car (!!!) after a lorry went into us, our baby (who was in a Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix) escaped without a mark on him or a single injury.

maxi cosi cabriofix

* Change bag – I’ll tell you a little secret: you don’t actually need a designated change bag. You can just use a regular bag! Who knew?! But if you want to use the baby’s arrival as an opportunity to buy yourself a new bag (and why not?!) go for a Tiba & Marl one. Tiba & Marl design the best change bags out there, without a cupcake in sight, and you’ll happily use it when nappy changes are a distant (bad) memory.

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* A small portable change mat with space for nappies/wipes is super useful for when not taking a big bag out. One like this does the job:

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* Other useful items for leaving the house include a dummy clip and a portable Milton mini steriliser like this:

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(otherwise dummy ends up being thrown overboard, resulting in you having to suck it clean and subsequently spend the day worrying if the residual germs will kill the baby…or you, leaving the baby orphaned. Save yourself the trauma and buy the dummy clip and steriliser pot).

Washing and changing baby

* Changing table – Get a basic one, better still a secondhand one, as again you don’t tend to use them for long and they take up valuable space.

* Changing mat – this wedge one from John Lewis is good and stops baby rolling over to a degree – NOT failsafe, I repeat NOT failsafe.

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* Nappies – LOADS of them – buy in bulk for best value. We use Pampers because despite trying to be more eco-friendly and getting real nappies and biodegradable ones, we found Pampers to be the best in terms of absorbency (and therefore less bum soreness) and they also win hands down with the least amount of leakages.

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* Cotton wool balls – you will use these with water at first until you tire of the faff

* Water Wipes – for when you tire of the hassle of cotton wool balls and water. Water Wipes are more expensive but they are also the best (causing no bum soreness). First time our baby got a sore bum was after we started using a different brand. Buy in bulk and look out for offers in Boots etc.

water wipes

* Nappy bags – SCENTED ones! Breastfed babies’ poo looks gross but the smelly is relatively inoffensive. However once you start weaning… *GAG ALERT* Scented nappy bags are a MUST.

* Nappy bin with cartridges – we don’t actually have one of these and just take the nappies straight to the main bin because we don’t want them sat in the house but you might feel differently and want one for ease.

* Baby bath – don’t buy one! They take up loads of space and are unnecessary.

* Baby bath support – Buy one! Takes up so much less space! Get this fabric covered one from John Lewis because plastic is hard, cold and uncomfortable.

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* Natural sponge

* Organic baby wash products

* Baby towel x2 – could just use a hand towel to be honest and I would put money on you being giving a ton of these for presents once baby arrives!

Feeding Baby

No need to purchase a highchair or stock up on bibs yet!

* Medela swing electric breast pump – The best pump out there. Also gives you the opportunity to have a night off and let your other half do the feeding. Can’t put a price on that.

medela swing pump

* Medela bottles with a teat that works like a nipple (yes, really), looks like this. You’ll only need 1 teat but maybe 2 or 3 bottles.

* Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream – as mentioned before, magic stuff, 100% natural. Saved my life first time round.

lansinoh lanolin cream

* Muslin clothes – really useful for just about everything.

* Steriliser machine – get one for the microwave (if you have a microwave) – you can throw bottles in, dummies, plastic baby toys.

* Nursing bras – don’t bothing buying non-nursing maternity bras, which are rendered useless as soon as baby arrives due to the lack of easy boob access, go straight for the nursing bra option when pregnant. You will get a lot more wear out of them. Also they don’t have to be ugly: Google ‘Elle Macpherson Intimates Nursing Bra’.

elle machpherson intimates nursing bra

* Nursing sleep bra (like a crop top but with easy access – offers support and holds breast pads in place at night – definitely recommend buying. They changed my night life).

* Washable breast pads – softer than disposable ones (less chaffing), cheaper (in the long run) and greener (got to try and offset the nappies)

* Nursing chair – waste of money! Do not buy! You will end up feeding in bed or on the sofa not on some ugly monstrosity that you’ve had installed in the baby nursery but looks like it belongs in a retirement home! If you really want to buy a new chair then get a lovely armchair that you actually like the look of and will want to keep beyond the nursing years.

nursing chair

* Nursing cushion – don’t even bother. Treat yourself to a lovely cushion that you actually like instead. Your elbow doesn’t need an odd banana-shaped cushion covered in stars to support it, anything will do.

Baby Health & Safety

* Digital ear thermometer – get an in-ear one rather than one of those forehead scanner types because they’re more reliable.

* Calpol – good idea to have in the house at all times. Solves almost every ailment.

calpol

* Baby snot sucker or nasal aspirator, as they’re more formally known, (yes these things exist and yes you will want one as the alternative option is much worse – sucking it out yourself!)

nasal aspirator

* Try and go on a pediatric first aid course, where you will learn what to do in an emergency and also how rare really serious emergencies actually are (which is kind of reassuring for an anxious new parent).

* All the other stuff like baby prisons, sorry baby pens, stairgates, plug socket covers etc. will be needed once baby is on the move, but not for a number of months, so just don’t worry yourself with that at the minute!

At home with baby

* Baby Bjorn bouncer – I don’t know about you but brightly coloured, noisy bouncers with flashing lights aren’t on my wish list. Nor a new baby’s. You can’t go wrong with the simple yet stylish Baby Bjorn bouncer which folds flat for storage/transport. The fabric seat is also really easy to remove and machine washable which is a BIG bonus as you’re going to need to wash it a LOT.

baby bjorn boucer

* Baby play gym – whereas the above is really useful, the play gym is less so. Once babies can move they don’t lie under them and beforehand, well, they would be just as happy on your lap, studying your face. This is once they can actually focus! So you could go without or get one secondhand.

* Rattles and soft toys – you will be given loads. They also aren’t needed straightaway so no need to buy as part of your pre-baby prep.

* Door bouncers – not needed for a while but great fun for baby, don’t take up lots of space and are relatively inexpensive. I mention this now in case somebody suggests you need a Fisher Price Jumperoo! Yes lots of babies love Jumperoos, but lots of adults like fair ground rides but that doesn’t mean we get one installed in our house. Jumperoos cost over £100 and proudly boast ‘lights, sounds and music’. Door bouncers are the way forward and if the baby wants music, pop the radio on and choose to stay sane instead.

jumperoo

This list may seem long but it’s intended to be fully comprehensive, all-inclusive. You can get a LOT of this stuff secondhand on eBay, gumtree or at NCT nearly-new sales which are brilliant! Find out where your nearest one is here. There is also freecycle and charity shops dedicated to children’s clothes, toys and equipment, such as Fara. You’ll also find people are happy to give you stuff when they’ve finished using it such as friends, family and neighbours. You should be able to get the above lot without breaking the bank.

The really great thing about buying baby stuff secondhand is because any given item is used for such a short period of time, it tends to all be in really condition and can be bought for a fraction of the price new. However there are a few things I would buy new and these include: car seat (unless you know where its come from), mattress, dummies and bottle teats. Everything else should be fine secondhand after having been given a wash.

If you think I’ve missed anything off the list, please email and let me know: thedoublemama@gmail.com xxx