My Home Birth Story

My Home Birth Story

A month ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. In a paddling pool in my living room. It was 8 days later than planned but weirdly, it all went to plan. No one was more surprised than me….here is my home birth story. Enjoy. 

At 8 days overdue, I was beyond hacked off! I was enormous, emotional and exhausted. Having had twinges for almost two weeks, I wondered whether I would ever go into labour. My midwives had agreed to take induction off the table so I was hugely relieved and we had a Cesarean section booked in 6 days later, the Tuesday after the bank holiday. I had asked if we could move it forward to Friday. There was no way I could spend another week in my hippo-state. It sounds ridiculous – it was only 6 days! – but I didn’t feel like I could do another minute. GET OUT, BABY!

The day before d day

On Tuesday morning, the last day of April, I woke up at 6am (thanks Girlies) with mild contractions. Waves of period pain every ten minutes or so. By 11am they had stopped. I sat on the bed and cried like a 5-year old. Big shoulder-wracking, ugly-faced-sobs. Husband came in, somewhat exasperated as this had happened repeatedly over the last week. He suggested a bath. I suggested sex. I saw the resignation in his face and cried again “I’m sorry I make you have sex with a hippo…but Shirley said it would help!” He laughed and suggested that cake might make me feel better. He knows me so well.

We went for afternoon tea and sat in the sunshine amongst the old and white-haired. I felt better among people that moved at a similar pace to me. Many had the same vacant expression I did. I ate all the cake – I managed to eat an additional 14lbs worth of cake and Easter egg in the last month of my pregnancy – and I went to the toilet twenty five times in the hour we were there. We had a wander around the gift shop.  I stopped every ten minutes and breathed deeply. Husband looked at me excitedly but I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t falling into the “I think this is it!” trap again. The emotional roller coaster was more than I could bear.

could it be?

Our two Girlies, aged 2 and 4, came home from nursery and went to bed. The waves quickly moved to about 9 to 10 minutes apart. Occasionally the gap between them would be 12 mins and I would panic that it had gone. Occasionally it would be 5 mins and Husband would panic that it was ‘time.’ He kept asking if he could set the pool up. I barked “NO!”, knowing how livid I would be if I woke up in the morning and it was sat there, unused.

By about 10pm they were every 7 or 8 minutes and Husband sent me to bed to rest. I didn’t go to bed. I sorted out 4 boxes that had been piled up in our room for months. I crept over the creaky bits of the floor so Husband didn’t know I was up. At about midnight he appeared at the door and I looked up guiltily. I agreed to try and get some sleep, admitting that this could be actual real-life labour, but still refused to let him set up the birth room downstairs. “I’ll probably be in this state for the next 3 days, we’re NOT putting the pool up. Besides, one of the girls will fall in it.” pleased with myself that I had come up with a reason not to.

I put the relaxation music on, torn between sleeping and timing the contractions. I laughed at my stupidity, recalling those exhausting newborn days and turned the lights out. Eventually, at 1am, I drifted into something like sleep.

ow

At 3am, I woke up with an “owwwww, that hurt!” Something had changed. I sat for half an hour breathing through what I was now willing to admit were contractions. Well, surges, if I was to use my hypnobirthing terminology. I put on a relaxation track and visualised bubbles and balloons floating up. I was ready. This was it. I was, at last, in labour. 

it’s time

 Around 3.30 I had a particularly aggressive contraction and thought I probably ought to let someone know what was going on. I woke Husband up and said “it’s time.” He jumped to his feet in one swift manoeuvre, rubbing his eyes, and after I answered all his questions, he disappeared downstairs to set up. I texted my Mum and asked her to pick the Girlies up at 6, thinking that would be plenty of time and put something funny on to distract myself – Russell Howard in this case. We’d used up all the good ones earlier in the previous week – Micky Flannigan, Michael Mac and James Acaster – during all the false labours and tears. Anything to avoid murder, child abuse or Brexit as I had been doing for two months; another hynobirthing requirement (possibly not Brexit, that was my own addition).

I can’t remember a word of what I listened to. I crawled and rolled around the bed in various positions trying to be comfortable. No position was comfortable but kneeling on parted knees with my upper body over pillows was the best. The surges built up to one every 3 or 4 mins. I stood up to go to the toilet and had another big one. I fell on to the bed sideways and as I did so I felt something pop (an elbow through the sack?! That’s what I imagined) then there was a warm, wet, jelly-like feeling between my legs. I knew immediately my waters had gone even though it was completely different to the watery wee-like fluid from my last labour.

I went to the loo, put a pad in and quietly called Husband, conscious of not waking the Girlies up yet.

humming

The contractions really ramped up after that.

It was around 5am and I was starting to “hummmm” through them. Husband suggested giving the TENS machine a go. He figured it out quickly and slapped on the pads. I hated the sensation at first but then as I worked out what to do, it felt nice to be able to do something in response to the rising wave of a surge. I was breathing and visualising my bed balloon floating away but pressing a button as well somehow gave me an illusion of control. I kept it on right up to the point I got in the pool.

call the midwife

I was getting quite loud at this point so agreed that we could call the midwife. I heard the voice at the other end of the phone and was disappointed that it wasn’t Jodie or Tanya, the first midwives I saw when I approached the Surrey Hills Home Birth team, asking if they would have me. I loved every one of the team I had met after that, but Tanya and Jodie were the first.

From day one they were shocked in all the right places when I told the story of my last labour. They said “we’d never do that” when I detailed the examinations and they were horrified when Husband described how he had been forced to ‘look’ when just the baby’s head was out. Meeting them was the adult equivalent of a big cuddle and head stroke from your mum after a playground fall. They made me feel safe and protected and gave me confidence in my abilities. They told me it didn’t have to be like last time and that I could have the birth that I wanted. They knew my biggest fear was tearing again and had reassured me it was unlikely, as long as I listened to them at the critical points. I totally believed them but wasn’t sure I would be able to do it without them there.

in safe hands

It would be fine, I told myself. All the midwives in this team were wonderful and expert, even the student midwife I had met numerous times. I later reflected on my rapid and deep attachment to Jodie and Tanya. It took me a long time to forge emotional connections with other women. Was I a complete weirdo?! Did they think I was some strange stalker?! Or was this how you should feel – like the person there for the most intimate and vulnerable moment of your life believes in you and is on your side; that they know your history and genuinely want you to get what you want as much as you do? Definitely the latter. And I don’t mind if they think I’m a bit odd. I’m in awe of them all.

I moved down to the home-made birth room. The floor was covered in a huge sheet of tarpaulin (thanks to a late-stage pregnancy trip to Covers for paint) with everything else on top. Half the room was taken up with the pool and the other half was covered in duvets, pillows and cushions. The sofas had plastic sheeting and there were towels everywhere.  The candles were lit and the shutters closed. I was pleased at how cosy Husband had made it. After our practice run a few weeks earlier, he had packed it all away in an order he was going to get it out again. I thought I’d be moaning and complaining for things to be moved but it was perfect. Exactly as I envisioned. He did listen after all!

my heroes tanya & Jodie 

Some time later, at about 6am, I was knelt on the floor with my upper body over the sofa when I heard the front door open and some quiet whispering. I looked up to see Tanya doing a little dance in the doorway and Jodie looking at me with big concerned eyes. I was chuffed to bits. I felt a big wave of emotion that could have made me cry. Not that I let them know that, as the biggest contraction yet gripped me from head to toe. I did my best to breathe through it and relax my body.

I had moved on to ghost-like noises now as the contractions got bigger and bigger. I no longer knew how long or frequent they were, I just knew that they were powerful (in non-hypno language – they hurt!).

I did a happy dance in my head back to Tanya and focused on the task at hand. “Wooooooooooooooh….”

off with the girlies

Some people do home births with their children in the house. Not me. I wanted to be able to relax and focus, not be worrying that they might hear weird sounds coming from me. I thought I would traumatise them and I couldn’t bear the thought of not being accessible to them when they wanted to check I was OK. It was the best decision for us. Every so often I heard one of their little voices and it brought me out of my birth mind and into mum-duty mode. My own Mum (eventually!) turned up at 6.45am and I felt relieved. Now I could do my thing, and have Husband back.  

I had started feeling more nauseous the stronger the contractions got. Now they were strong and I felt more sick than ever. Jodie gently suggested I get in the pool as she quietly checked my blood pressure and listened to the baby every so often. I said I didn’t want to until the girls were gone…until I had the next contraction which knocked me to the ground again. “OK I’ll get in the pool” I agreed.

The warm water felt amazing but the contractions were getting stronger still. I dealt with it by shouting, and later swearing. Hilarious as I’m so quietly spoken normally, and not much of a swearer. I had gone from humming to ghost noises to an angry kind of growl interspersed with the odd swear word. I was really conscious of the girls still being in the house!

A short while later I heard them come downstairs with Mum and Husband. I looked up ready to say bye but as I did so I was gripped by another one. “Ooooooooaaaaaarrrrrr!” I roared pushing my face into the side of the pool. I lost awareness as one of them asked why I was making that noise. “She’s singing to the new baby!” was Mums answer, I later found out. Mum joined in, making different animal sounds. She must have looked like a mental woman leaving the house.

what will the neighbours say?

I gave in to the surges more once the Girlies left, and the contractions ramped up again.

Husband finally returned to my side. I think it was around 7.30 by now.  I muttered something about my knees hurting having spent the best part of 3 hours on them. Tanya suggested I move onto my back and float. I was comfortable that way. For about 4 seconds, anyway. Now, with the Girlies out of the way and me relaxing fully, the contractions ramped up another notch. I gripped Husband’s arm and shouted my way through them.

It briefly crossed my mind who was walking past the house and what they might report to the police. Murder? Torture? A mild case of assault?!

They hurt more than I could bear now and after a few more I told the three of them that I couldn’t do it anymore. The nausea was overwhelming and I spent the brief periods in between with my head in a bucket. Tanya told me I could do it. Jodie told me I was doing it. As I half cried and half shouted that I couldn’t, Jodie gave me the best news. She said I felt like that because I was transitioning. I knew that that meant I was moving into the third and final stage of labour.

I couldn’t believe it, I would have my baby soon.

the third stage

The first part of the third stage was, if I’m honest, unbearable. I want to use hypno words like powerful, but they hurt so much, so consistently at this point, they were relentless. I felt like my pelvis was being pulled apart with crowbars. “It’s just him moving everything out the way” Tanya said. It conjured up visions of a raging bull through a Spanish crowd. In a really narrow alleyway. Where the crowd was my internal organs, the alleyway my body. I didn’t want to be part of it.

I wanted the pain to stop. I tried every line in the book – I want to go to hospital, I want an epidural, whose stupid idea was this, I can’t do this, it’s barbaric – all of them. And there were some pretty colourful expletives leaving my mouth with each contraction! I was doing my best down-breathing and visualising slides and waterfalls but it was as though I couldn’t get enough air in to breathe back out.

I said I needed something for the pain. Tanya offered gas and air. That made me cry. Not with relief sadly but because I had some during my previous labour and I knew it made me feel horribly sick. Given how nauseous I was already I knew I couldn’t have any.

I resigned myself to getting through this next bit without it and instead asked for some milestones. “How much longer? How many pushes? Can you see his head yet?” I knew the answer to this last one as the urge to really push hadn’t kicked in.

“He’s nearly here Jess. You can do this. You’re doing it.” Jodie said.

“No I can’t!” I whined. “I can still feel his body up in my tummy! He’s miles away!”

oh poo

A few minutes later and there was another change. A big surge followed by the want to push (you know how when a poo suddenly comes out?!).. I was scared to as I thought it would make things worse but I remembered Shirley’s “go wit’ it” and “let your body do its thing.” (she’s Irish, I haven’t forgotten how to spell).

I did a big push and something flew out. Let’s just say it wasn’t a baby, and that one of my biggest fears had been realised. I also heard, in the distance, someone mention the word “constipated.”

Oh man.

Not cool.

 

 I need a break 

I had no time to care though as an overwhelmingly huge surge galloped through me immediately afterwards. After this one I tried to get out of the pool. I’d had enough and just wanted to leave. I needed a break.

But my body had other ideas. Surges were coming thick and fast. I felt as though there was no time to recompose myself in between. I just needed a little rest before the next one and made this weird strangled animal crying noise. Tanya told me to relax my body and my jaw. I’d been holding myself rigid across the top of the water.

the ring of fire

As I relaxed and repeated “relax and soften” to myself, I knew his head was near. Tanya, Jodie and Husband were all encouraging me enthusiastically. I started to feel stretching. The ring of fire was upon me, and strangely I felt relieved. I could cope with this. The sensation was familiar because of the perineal massage, and it meant I was nearly at the end.

I asked how many pushes, knowing I wouldn’t get an answer. “Keep going Jess, you’re nearly there” came Jodie’s reassuring voice, “just a couple more.”

After two more I whined like my 4-year-old “you promised he’d be here!” We laughed about this afterwards but I was distraught at the time. Within two pushes though, his head emerged and on the third, I felt the rest of his head come out. I felt his nose pop out (I think).

 

The Boy is Here

I took as big a breath as I could and waited for the next push. I only remember there being one for his body but I’m not sure. I was on another planet at the very edge of my limit. As the surge eased off, I heard Jodie’s voice telling me to open my eyes and look down. He was here.

I made a strange gargled sob and asked her to pass him to me. Each of my arms were tangled amongst John and Tanya’s and I still didn’t think I could move.

I shuffled up to sitting as Jodie placed him on my chest. He lifted his chin up and had a little stretch then made the tiniest, most pathetic wail.

“Hello little one….” I said to The Boy.

I sat in the corner of the pool on the little seat, waiting for the wave of relief but I still felt full and so sick. I was wondering if anyone had ever thrown up on their newborns’ head before. The Boy had a little wail but we dipped into the water, which I noted with relief was still clear, and not brown or red. I wanted Husband to hold him but I was scared to move as the little purple vermix-coated bundle was still attached to my insides. It felt really odd, like a giant tampon string.

white cord

We studied him as he laid on my chest and just as I thought “I’ve had this baby before!”, Husband pointed out how much like Girly no2 he looked. They still look really similar now. We waited for the cord to go white while Tanya and Jodie typed up notes into their newly-introduced and much-hated iPads.

Jodie asked if Husband wanted to cut the cord. He didn’t, comparing it to a gristly steak, so I asked if I could. I was nervous about the giant scissors so close to the little willy I was now responsible for. But all appendage remained attached and intact. Well done me. First willy-test passed!

the placenta

I passed The Boy to Husband, reminding him to take his shirt off so they could bond skin to skin. I was sitting in the water, itching to get out, but alarmingly felt a contraction coming. Jodie reminded me about the placenta. She promised me it wouldn’t hurt and said to gently push, which I duly did through a comparatively mild contraction. 

I now trusted this woman with my life and had she asked me to hold my head under the water for a minute I would have done, even if it were brown. The placenta slid out painlessly and I remember wishing the baby had felt like jelly too. Surely that’s a design flaw?! I immediately felt better and finally had that deflated feeling I’d been expecting.

I was marvelling at how “me” I felt so soon after birth. After the previous two I had felt fuzzy and out of it, I barely remembered the first 24 hours after each of the Girlies were born.

But this time everything was crystal clear. I could hold normal conversations and my thoughts were all in order.

early finish

I asked what time it was, expecting them to say 3.30pm and I wondered whether the school kids that walk past would have wondered what was going on behind the shutters. But it was 9. In the morning. The Boy had been born at 8.25am, just two hours after I got in the pool. I was stunned.  

the damage

Tanya and Jodie helped me out of the pool, dried me off and put me into some sexy lingerie. You know….those giant Tenna pants?! Hot Mumma! I laid on the sofa wrapped in a dressing gown and towels, and Tanya and Jodie looked at each other and then at me. It was time to check the aftermath.

Had we achieved what we all set out to achieve? Was my gooch still intact?! I laid back and closed my eyes. “Last indignity for a while, we promise…” they said. I saw surprise on their faces and then smiles. No blood. No tear. Just a tiny little nick that wasn’t even bleeding. We had done it! I laid back smiley and relieved. Husband put The Boy back on my chest, the three of us hugged together cozily. Tanya and Jodie left us to it so we could quietly enjoy some time.

my incredible home birth

We Facetime’d the Girlies who were in the bath at Mum’s. “Look! Your baby brother!” Girly no1 was delighted and asked if she could come home and meet him. Girly no2 showed us her rubber duck and carried on playing. She’d warm to him later, I’m sure.

This childbirth experience has taught me so much. Mostly that childbirth isn’t a medical procedure. It’s just nature’s way. It might not be the best way in today’s day and age but having played (and won) childbirth bingo (full house), I can honestly say that I was finally converted to the ‘natural is best’ school of thought.

I thought you couldn’t study for childbirth, but you can in a weird way. You can study what happens physiologically and how best to let your body do its’ thing. I particularly came round to this after learning about the woman who gave birth in a coma. Your body is programmed to do this stuff without your mental input. You can study hypnobirthing which gives you that education and then some labour management techniques. I knew I would never be one of those You Tube women that peacefully breathes the baby out, or, as a close friend of ours asked, did you “just squeak and close your eyes and he came out?” Err, no. Not that gal sadly.

I learnt that I’m not good at completely letting go and confirmed that yes, I am the control freak I always thought I was. I can relax but my thinking brain is almost always on.

But I tried to turn it off. I did the best I could.

And it turns out that was enough.

It was amazing. Every day I look at The Boy, and I walk downstairs, and I marvel at what I achieved in our living room. I think about Tanya & Jodie, and I well up. Between Tanya, Jodie and Shirley, I feel as though I have been shown a different way to use my body and cheesy as it sounds, I have a new-found respect for the female form.

The fact that I gave birth at home in a pool of water spurred on by two women who had absolute faith that I could do it, is mind blowing to me. And the hard bit was only two hours. It makes you see why women do it again and again and again….and again?! Ha! We’ll see!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. If you are considering a home birth then I can highly recommend it. It is the most amazing experience and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Please share this post, it’s important that people hear positive birth stories as well as negative ones. This blog now has both!

My overwhelming and heart felt love and thanks go to the Surrey Hills home birth team. This wouldn’t have been possible without you so thank you for adopting me and thank you for believing in me. I am forever in your awe and if ever I can do anything to help then let me know. And the same to Saint Shirley, my absolute hero and the lady that kept me sane during late pregnancy. Thank you for being in my life! Thanks to Mum for taking my Girlies and making weird animal sounds. And to Husband. None of this would have been possible without you. Literally. You were amazing. Not as amazing as me. But amazing all the same! I love you. 

Overdue and waiting for labour

Overdue and waiting for labour

I was overdue at more than 40 weeks pregnant. All of the weeks pregnant. All of the growing done. Everything was done. I was ready. Then I was just waiting. And waiting and waiting. And getting mad and sad.

Due Date

I told myself I’d be chilled this time around. This time it will be different, I said to myself. I will not be impatient, I will wait like a calm person.

On my due date, I took the last pregnancy vitamin from the packet. I rubbed my last drop of Mama Bee oil into my crepe paper-looking bump. And, having had period pains on and off for about 5 days, I sat and waited for labour to begin. It must be going to happen now, surely…..

Then my due date came and went. And despite only talking about “late April” rather than a due date to myself and to others, I was still furious when the day passed with no event. In my last pregnancy, my waters broke on the due date so I never had this agonising post-due-date period that 85% of Mother’s experience. I was dishing that stat out left right and centre.

Braxton Hicks

Each period pain was just more “practice” contractions. More Braxton effing Hicks. Who is bloody Braxton anyway? And his Hicks? He could poke them up his bum. That’s how I felt about everything. Everyone could poke everything up their bum.

I’ve never been great at waiting. Patience is not my virtue. I’m normally unapologetic about it – it gets me through life, has helped my career no end and helped me “get shit done”, as Husband eloquently describes it. Except childbirth. That shit I couldn’t seem to get done. I think the problem is that childbirth requires you to switch off your thinking brain. For me this is where all my natural aptitudes sit. But no amount of planning, thinking or doing would get the baby out.

Baby will come when baby is ready

I had prepared very differently for this birth, using Shirley, a local Doula and the Kathryn Graves hypnobirthing method. I was aiming for as natural a birth as possible. Not because I wanted to be a hero, but because I want to avoid some of the awful things I had experienced last time. This meant no interventions. I wanted my baby and my body to do this themselves.

“Baby will come when baby is ready,” said Kathryn Graves, in my daily affirmations. I thought I believed this, having listened to these supposedly empowering statements every day since week 28. But now he hadn’t come when I was ready, I wanted to punch her. I was trying to be cool and patient. But mostly, in those last few weeks, I was sad and frustrated.

Emotional rollercoaster

The last few weeks of pregnancy are an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you’re as pumped and excited as an American school kid heading to prom. New family! New life! It’s going to be amazing! The next you’re sobbing on the stairs before the school run because you can’t get your own sock on and your 4-year old had to do it for you. I

To start off with, I had been strangely comforted by these outbursts. I hoped they were hormone surges preparing me for childbirth.

I tried to carry on with life as normal for the sake of the Girlies but I couldn’t cope with them. I called a lot on the Nana’s those last few weeks because sadly, I just couldn’t look after them on my own. They ran circles around me. Especially Girly no2, aged 2 and a half, who sensed my weakness and abused it all day long.

hating everyone

I couldn’t really cope with other people. I was mean or rude to people. Especially to those who asked me questions about my bump, my baby or my due date. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t want to see your “I’m sorry for you face” or have to say “yep, still pregnant” when you say “still no baby then?” I just thought, “it’s bloody obvious isn’t it?!”

I pause here to offer you a little piece of advice. When you see a pregnant woman, overdue or not, don’t say it. Whatever you’re thinking, just don’t say it. Pretend you haven’t noticed and have a normal non-baby related conversation because chances are, whatever you say will make her want to cry or punch you. Pregnant women have a reputation for a reason you know. I lost count of how many times I cried in the car after an encounter with someone I knew in those last few weeks. I just stopped leaving the house. It was easier that way.

Social media blackout

This solitude would have been fine if it weren’t for mobile phones. Because of these contraptions, I was receiving between ten and twelve messages a day asking “any news?” or “have you had it yet?” I want to pause here again and ask you why you would send this message to a heavily pregnant or overdue woman. Consider it for a second. There are three possible answers to this question:
1. “Yes I had my baby” but I didn’t want to tell you yet or you weren’t on my “tell immediately” list so get back in line
2. “I’m in labour now” and the last thing I want to do is be messaging you
3. “No. Nothing.” and you asking just exacerbates all the emotions I am feeling including feeling like a failure for missing my fictitious due date. You’ve probably made me cry again.

Another dangerous message to send is the seemingly innocent “how you feeling?” Answer – like a fat, angry rhinoceros who doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore and pissed off that everyone is having a nice life except for me. If you are going to message then a “thinking of you” is perfect. Or if you were overdue yourself, a “I know how tough these days are and I promise it will be over soon” message. That is all I wanted to hear. 

After a post-due-date meltdown, being really rude to my tall friend (sorry Mands) and just about every person I know messaging me, I turned off all notifications on my phone and I didn’t go on Facebook or Instagram for three weeks. I barely checked WhatsApp telling my sister, best friend and parents to reach me only by phone. Old school.

The pressure relief was immense. I stopped having FOMO over the things I wasn’t doing and only knew what day it was by the Girlies routine. And most importantly I stopped crying because I hadn’t yet performed this miracle everyone was waiting for.

endless tears

My Dad called. I answered the phone because it was him and with parents you know they are worried about you, not just being nosey! Dad asked what I was doing. “Having baths, bouncing on a ball and crying.” I sobbed. He apologised lots and I reassured him it wasn’t his fault. I cried when I talked to anyone.

He asked if there was anything he could do. Nope.

He asked if there was anything I could do. Nope.

He sounded sad for me, so I changed the topic. We had a normal conversation and I was OK again. 

NATURAL LABOUR INDUCTION

I was doing everything I could to force labour despite saying I wouldn’t. I had tried all the natural methods available to me. When I answered the phone I was in a bath of Clary Sage oil. I spent all my time sat on a birthing ball until my back ached too much to sit up straight. I had hot baths every day, spicy food, orgasms and when we could muster the time/space/energy/logistical planning…sex. 

pregnant sex (skip this Dad)

The problem with sex at the late stage of pregnancy is that in your head it’s like a nervous bear humping an angry hippo. It’s lacking many of the vital ingredients one needs to enjoy it and you’re limited to one, maybe two, positions where angles of incidence have to be perfect and then you can only lie like a corpse while “the act” is performed. Every noise and facial expression is misread. It takes twice as long because you feel as sexy as a dead fish and he worries about hurting you or poking his baby’s eye out. You try and be in the moment but can’t help but wonder whether your baby is being repeatedly poked in the head and whether it qualifies as “early years trauma”.

Maybe that’s just us. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s driven by my “giant baby” (actual words used by my consultant in the last appointment 👍) or my are-you-sure-it’s-not-twins body (yes dickhead. I’m sure.)

well overdue

I was trying to be cool. I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught up in due dates, expectations or induction methods. I told everyone “85% of babies come after their due date.”

Except at 6 days overdue I was so caught up in my own misery I couldn’t cope anymore. I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. I was cross and sad. I just wanted it to be over. “Stop taunting me body!” I thought, “Turn these niggles into something real!”

saint shirley

Luckily, I had a lady called Shirley on my team. She is the doula and hypnobirthing teacher I mentioned in my last post. Shirley checked on me every couple of days – she’s one of the few people whose messages I read. A couple of times I spoke to her and crumpled into a heap of tears (obvs).

The good thing about Shirley though is that was that she could do something in response to my despair. She talked me to sleep over the phone (a relaxation exercise, she’s not boring); she gave me an Indian head massage and sound bath in my living room (Husband asked if I had joined a cult); she took me to a Yurt in a field to sleep on a mat (for a guided meditation and sound bath, not to murder me). I was temporarily converted into a total hippy,

But Shirley is much more than a hippy.

Shirley also reminded / re-educated me of all the science and physiology behind childbirth, highlighting the logic and the science. She spent ages on the phone telling me I was normal and no, this didn’t mean I would suffer with post-natal depression. She sent me useful articles like this one and agreed that yes, time really does slow down for the last few weeks of pregnancy, but promised me it would be over soon.

And I believed her. Most of the time.

Sadly though, Shirley has a life of her own and didn’t want to come and live with me so I just used her on my bad days.

amazing midwives

The other people that really helped at this time are the midwives on the Surrey Hills home birth team, who adopted me at 36 weeks pregnant.

I live on the border between three counties so we had a choice of three hospitals. Initially I went with the same hospital I had given birth to the Girlies in, but after speaking to Shirley and making the decision that this birth would be done my way, I transferred to the Surrey Hills home birth team. I went to see them at one of their coffee mornings telling Tanya – the head of the team and runner-up midwife of the year UK – my whole sorry story.

I told her my experiences last time around, my deep-rooted fear of tearing again, and my desire to remember the 24 hours after birth. She nodded knowingly throughout our meeting, inviting Jodie, a member of her team to listen too. She told me I absolutely could have the birth I wanted and that of all her mums that had given birth after a third degree tear in the last two years, none of them had torn again. She was quiet and calm and oozed experience, and I felt a flicker of excitement.

Tanya had an obviously amazing relationship with her team and I immediately believed in her and what she told me. Jodie was equally as warm and reassuring. They said they would take me in and Jodie would “book me in” the following week. I felt like I had passed a test. I smiled for the first time in a while and actually made it through the experience without crying.

The home birth team

Fast forward a few weeks and I had met all the members of the team. They operate on the basis that your baby won’t ever be delivered by a stranger. Each team member was wonderful in her own way. The quietly spoken mother of four who brought with her an overwhelming sense of calm; the pretty and bouncy Mum of two who snuggled cross legged into the sofa next me for a chat like one of my friends would; the technology-averse community midwife who gave great hugs; and the shy one who lit up when she talked babies and pregnancy. Then of course matter-of-fact but still warm Jodie and funny, experienced, “I got you” Tanya. Even the student midwife was lovely, she was being trained well by a team of superstars.

For those last few weeks I saw someone once a week and they saw me in all states. Chipper, excited and busy pre-due-date; dark depressed and teary post-due-date. Once I had passed my due date, I started to worry about being induced. I read the AIMS book, Am I Allowed?, a book that tells you what you are entitled to as a pregnant woman, to understand what I was “allowed” to do. Every pregnant woman should read it, especially those who are under the care of a less forward-thinking midwifery team.

the new birth plan

By the time lovely Laura the midwife came when I was 4 days overdue, I almost immediately barked “I don’t want to talk about induction!” really meaning “I don’t want an induction.”

Laura very gently, like a friend would, said we wouldn’t talk about it. And then we did.

She coaxed out of me why induction riddled me with fear and why I thought it was to blame for all of the issues last time around. Then she said the magic words “so we won’t have one, let’s take it off the table.” We agreed to book a caesarean in for 7 days’ time, meaning I would be 13 days overdue by the time I had to go in for it.

As soon as we agreed no induction, I felt a thousand times better. I wasn’t going to be pumped full of Syntocinon  (the fake version of oxytocin, the labour inducing drug) to convince my body it was in labour. No one was going to gawp at me under bright lights. I wouldn’t be confined to a hospital bed.

I would either be cut open, as I had in my first, relatively calm birth, or my plan to deliver naturally would pay off.

After they left, I heaved a sigh of relief. And went to bounce on my ball. 

More waiting.

Apologies for the grumpy post but I hope it will resonate with someone heavily pregnant or overdue! I have included links to useful resources but feel free to contact me with questions. My birth story will follow 24 hours after this is posted so keep an eye out for a more uplifting read! Please share if you have enjoyed reading xx

Ready for Birth

Ready for Birth

In my last post I talked about how terrified I was about giving birth. I couldn’t stop crying and was dreading it. I left you all on the edge of your seat (in my mind anyway) ahead of my Birth Rewind session, where I was to relive my birthing experience and get myself ready for birth. I’m sure you’re itching to find out how it went and what else I’ve done to get myself into the slightly surprising place that I’m kind of looking forward to giving birth to my third child?!

I didn’t really realise that I was traumatised by last birth. I know it sounds melodramatic but apparently splitting my gooch inches away from three unfamiliar faces while my husband looked on shouting “DRIIIIIVE” was just a step too far for my sensitive disposition.

After a painful couple of weeks post-birth, I wrote about it for your enjoyment and then promptly tucked it away in mental box never to be opened again.

Until I fell pregnant again. Turns out the locked box method isn’t the best approach for trauma! Who knew!

Is it PTSD?

For the first 28 or so weeks it didn’t matter but then my mind did that thing our minds do and started whispering “you do know you’re going to have to push a baby out of your vagina again, right?” at the most inopportune moments. It was like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I was Whoopi.

The midwives and consultants were all pretty pro-Caesarean after reading my notes. But consider looking after a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn whilst unable to get up the stairs or walk for the first week, do any of the promised fun stuff like Peppa Pig World (yep!), playing in the garden or drive for 6 weeks?! This was not my favoured option. Not to mention the inability to exercise for 12 weeks afterwards – both of our Mums are (rather inconsiderately) re-marrying within a few weeks of me giving birth so exercise is pretty high on my agenda. I’m desperate not to be eternally immortalised as the hippo on the wall in both of our Mum’s houses.

As well as that, my husband is pretty awesome as husbands go but even he would draw the line at driving me and our brood everywhere for 3 months! Particularly as he’s the only earner at the minute so he does reasonably need to head out without us sometimes. A C-section just isn’t for us at this point and I’ll be pretty peed off if it ends up going this way.

Which means there’s only one way out for this Bad Boy.

And it’s not one I have a great experience of. It was in fact the original inspiration for this blog!

After admitting just how scared I was to myself and then to you, I looked into what I could do about it. Not a lot is the answer! Other than get myself into a psychological state where I feel ok about the fact that I am giving birth again.

Birth Rewind

My chosen way of doing this was via my new hero, Shirley Stump. A local doula (woman who helps you through birth), hypnobirthing counsellor, musician, Indian head masseuse, local Positive Birth Movement leader…general pregnancy and baby obsessed superstar helping the mothers of Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey maintain their sanity. She performed something on me called a Birth Rewind Session.

The Rewind method, I later found out, is a common treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I felt embarrassed that childbirth gave me PTSD. Only me. But then I remembered the ever growing bump. And turned my attention back to my session with Shirley.

I was dreading it.

Before I go on, you have to imagine Shirley. She’s little and Irish and bouncy. And very funny. And very warm. She loves a cuddle. Both Husband and I are a little bit in love with her (don’t tell her though, she’ll think we’re weird).

She arrived on a gloomy Monday afternoon and I was in tears before I even opened the front door. The next two hours were rough! We spent the first hour talking through the whole labour in minute detail, interspersed with my body wracking sobs. Poor Husband hadn’t been adequately prepared. I had told not to come in the room so, unknown to me, he paced up and down the hallway hearing me cry but not able to come in and comfort me. Big error on my part. Big soz to Husband.

Once all my tears were out, I was able to be a bit more rational and we got to the bottom of the things about the birth that had upset me. Weirdly it wasn’t the pain, as I had attributed it to, but a multitude of other things. The lack of control, the bright lights, what sounded like a murder victim in the birth room next door, the long journey to the hospital, the metal table I was examined on, the not being able to do the things I had been told would be ok (birth pool, no monitoring etc)…and the biggy, the 3 midwives all in a row staring at my fanny for two hours as they all barked instructions at me on how to push effectively. Oh, and the fact they made Husband look at a baby’s head poking out of me when we had explicitly agreed that we didn’t want him to look. So apparently quite a lot about the whole event had really got to me.

We then talked about how I imagined the perfect birth to look. We picked out the key things that really mattered to me – privacy, dim lighting, as few people as possible – and then my mind was left to imagine what a positive birth could look like for me.

We did a guided meditation where I had to watch myself watching my previous labour from beginning to end, then watch it again and then relive it. We then smashed it up and recreated a positive story, where all of the important things to me were included.

I immediately felt more at peace, if not a little bruised. I slept all afternoon, after reassuring Husband that Shirley hadn’t been torturing me.

Feeling Better

For the next few days I had a stinking headache and was still pretty emotional. But in the days and weeks that followed, everything kind of levelled out in my mind. Shirley and I spoke regularly and we did another guided meditation a couple of weeks later. After three weeks I found that I could talk about labour without crying. I was amazed.

Husband and I agreed that we could do with more of this magic and signed up to some Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing sessions with Shirley. I read the book, asked Husband to read the book (he read a third, not a bad result), listened to the tracks and then we threw ourselves in as good students. We have the pictures around the house, we listen to the relaxation tracks every night and I repeat the mantras daily. And a couple of weeks ago we started the pièce de la resistance….perineal message.

It’s not the most enjoyable but we have been repeatedly reassured by all the health professionals that it really does make a difference. I selected an organic heaven-produced-and-tended-to-by-angels oil and sent Husband a few links to learn how to do it properly. We agreed every other day was enough for us both and have stuck, almost, to this plan. In terms of the errrr….stretching part, I don’t know if it works or not. What it has done, rather unexpectedly, is taught me how to use the hynobirthing technique. I can take myself out of my head and forget it’s happening and relax to the point where I almost can’t feel it.

And that, my friends, has led me to the point where I am actually beginning to feel quite calm and confident about the whole thing. Success!

Ready for Birth

We are trying to overcome all the other problems from last time by having a homebirth. I am trying to balance confidence in my abilities with accepting that sometimes you have to transfer into the hospital. But generally I tell myself that this little man is being delivered on the sitting room floor. I’ve just finished my shopping list – extra large groundsheet, plastic polythene sheeting, puppy pads, towels, Tenna pants – it’s happening people. It’s like preparing for a murder clean up (according to Dexter, not my experience).

Even if things don’t go to my plan, I have at least done everything in my power to prepare for a good birth. The things within my control are being controlled, and anything beyond that I am prepared to accept as natures way. From a practical perspective, Angel Shirley has helped me recover from the crippling dread I was feeling and got me into a positive mindset with an incredibly supportive team of midwives caring for me. Which is why I think it’s worth it, regardless of what happens.

It’s here I leave you. 38 weeks pregnant and full of fresh hope.

I’ll report back après birth!

If you want to know more about any of this then happy for you to message me directly! I can highly recommend finding your local Shirley, finding your local Rewind Practitioner attending your local Positive Birth Movement groups (don’t be put off by the name) and putting in the time to prepare just to get yourself in a good headspace, maybe with hypnobirthing. That can never be a bad thing, surely?!

Please like and share if you have enjoyed!

The Fear of Giving Birth Again

The Fear of Giving Birth Again

You may have been surprised when I announced my third pregnancy. Particularly if you recall that my very reason for starting this blog was my outraged horror at giving birth naturally, after a c-section with Girly no1. Now I am having to confront my fear of giving birth. And, let me tell you, the fear is massive. (Warning: there’s a lot of vajayjay chat in this one…)

My last childbirth experience was awful. My husband did more than watch his favourite pub burn down – he watched it be vandalised, torn up, petrol bombed and then burnt….while his friends were still in there drinking. Labour itself lasted for days. I tore from front to back. I was exhausted for not having slept for 3 days. It took 7 hours after the delivery for me to be sewn back up again. I was in hospital away from Girly no1 for 3 nights. The recovery was far from the ‘tired and achey post-gym’ feeling I was expecting. I was in agony. I couldn’t sit down. I went to the doctors sobbing after ten days because the itching and stinging I felt was like gyrating on razor blades. I had thrush. I bled continuously for months. It was shit.

That’s Childbirth Baby

If you’ve had a baby you’re probably sat there nodding or wondering what I’m bitching about. “That’s childbirth!” you’re probably saying with a “get over it” type smile on your face.

And I know it’s not like I nearly died or anything. I know this stuff happens to everyone. I just think that most people just deal with it much better than I have. That or they just don’t talk about it. I think my problem is that I just wasn’t expecting it to be like that. I mean I knew labour would hurt. But I did not expect to be broken in half and feel like I had been raped and beaten repeatedly for a month. It hit me hard.

I did recover physically. More quickly than I would have with a c-section, and eventually I even had sex again, though that was no walk in the park for a long time. Mentally, I tried to get over it. I wrote about it and I talked about it (a bit). In reality, I still felt like I was being a drama queen. 

Ok Let’s Go Again

But as often happens, my flat out ‘no, I’m never giving birth again’ feeling eventually started to ebb away. With our relationship back on track, everyone sleeping and life and businesses moving on; we decided last year that we would have another baby while we were still in the baby/toddler phase of life. We didn’t want to find too much independence only to lose it again so we agreed that we should just bosh them out (for want of a better expression). One surprisingly devastating miscarriage later and two years after one of the most horrific experiences of life so far (yep, there was little magic in childbirth, I found), here we are.

28 weeks pregnant. 10 to 14 weeks away from giving birth. And it has all come flooding back. I am not feeling good about it! In fact I’m terrified. I can’t talk about giving birth without bursting into tears. I have realised this in the last few weeks as people have started to ask.

hows it coming out?

Husband was the first ahead of our last midwife appointment. He carefully picked at his words to ask if we were going for natural or asking for a c-section, him having found the whole thing no less traumatic than I did. I started bravely telling him of course natural – a c-section is major surgery, the recovery is too long, I won’t be able to drive the Girlies, I want to get straight back into exercise etc. He looked slightly alarmed but agreed to go along with it. A few minutes later he found me weeping in another room as I finally let myself think about what was about to happen to me again. He did exactly the right thing, held me for ages and then told me he’ll do whatever I want to do. He’ll have the fights. He’ll defend me to the death. That’s his job.

A few days later my mother-in-law asked the same innocent question. Again, I erupted into tears, admitting I was terrified.

It came to a head in my pregnancy yoga class. We normally have a nice cosy chit chat before we start and the nervous first-time mums rub their about-to-pop bellies talking about how they’re “sure childbirth won’t be that bad.” I have done my best to tread a line between honesty and fear-mongering to the first-time mums I have come across since. I gave birth. In this situation I just  stared at the ground. I fought with my face to try and keep it neutral. I probably looked like Jim Carey in the Mask from the outside.

sharing’s caring

As I sat there listening to them ‘wish it would just happen now’ my hands ground into each other and started to clam up. I felt that familiar lump at the back of my throat and the corners of my eyes start to sting. Our very smiley yoga teacher, pregnant with her second baby, talked fondly of labour and tried, rightly so, to keep things positive. She asked why there aren’t more positive birth stories out there. I continued to stare down at the floor silently begging her not to ask me about either of my previous two. As one of the ‘more experienced Mums,’ she often asks me to share. She looked at me for slightly longer than necessary finally sensing that I’m wasn’t a good person to ask.

Normally I am quite happy to share – ‘don’t worry, your baby will let you know when it’s hungry’, ‘sure, you’ll have sex again one day,’ ‘take your time with breast feeding, it’s a skill you have to learn, and it doesn’t always come easily’. Even to the second-time Mums – ‘no1 will be a pain but they will come through it,’ ‘the life change isn’t so severe the second time round as you’re already in a family-friendly routine,’ ‘don’t feel bad about sending them off with grandparents for days out, they’ll love it, and they probably won’t remember this in a month or two’s time.’ I’m fairly good with reassurances. I have quite a calm and confident demeanour so people tend to believe me.

It’s exactly why you don’t want to ask me about childbirth.

my fear of giving birth again

After very nearly crying in a room full of near-strangers I realised I needed to do something about it. This baby is coming out of me one way or another and even I no longer believe my casual “it is what it is” response I had been giving anyone that asked. I also know, on a logical level, that the more fearful I am going into labour, the more my body will be flooded with adrenaline which will negate the oxytocin my body needs to progress with labour. One way or another, I need to find a way to try and relax into this birth. It’s not complex. On a scientific level, I get it. On a practical and emotional level, I really don’t.

I have been looking into things I can do.

be positive

There is a general wave of positivity around birth at the minute. A desire to share more positive birth stories. I have joined a group – the ‘positive birth movement’ group in my local area. I didn’t want to because the name made me feel like I would have to get smelly dreadlocks, wear Birkenstocks in the winter and carry all my children in a fabric sling around my body at the same time. But I fought my mean pre-judgements and joined the group, first on Facebook and then in real life. I went to the first meeting, hoping I wouldn’t have to share my birth stories. “Hi I’m Jess and I’m a Birthaphobic”.

I took the Girlies with me as cover. They are a great distraction in times of discomfort. If anything will stop me crying it’s them. They are also a huge distraction when you’re trying to listen, but that’s the pay off.

The group was actually really nice. It was a great mixture of pregnant women, new mums, second, third and fourth-time Mums, doulas (women who support you through labour), post birth doulas (didn’t know that was a thing), and breast feeding counsellors. There were even two mums that I could be friends with. They are why I’ll go back next time – because there are other ‘normal women’ like me also in need. More importantly than new friends though, the lady that runs it is a counsellor/doula/hypnobirthing expert. And I think she is the only person with the power to help me right now.

what’s a girl to do

I am going to have some one-to-one sessions with her. Tomorrow we are doing a ‘Birth Rewind’ session where we talk about everything from last time around, try and process it and move on.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I am also, despite my disappointment and writing it off last time, having another go at hypnobirthing. Whilst it might not have helped me with pain management, it was my one saving grace helping me rest between contractions. And I did enjoy the excuse of lying down for 20 minutes every day to ‘practice.’ This time I am doing it properly. I’m taking the course. I’m reading the books. I’m listening to the tracks. I may even get a t-shirt.

moving on

And these things are why I have written this today. Because I’m not allowed to be negative anymore. I’m getting it all out of my system before my Birth Rewind session and I am moving forward with positivity. You can laugh if you like but just do me one favour. Keep it quiet ‘til the baby is out!

Huge thanks for reading as usual! Feel free to share. And do me a favour and publicly or privately admit that you were scared too – it will make me feel better. Any tips also much appreciated! Big love to you and your families. 

The Awful First Trimester

The Awful First Trimester

Peeps, it’s been a while. And I’m sorry. But I have been harbouring an enormous secret. And the time has come for me to announce what you may already know, may have been waiting for, or may not have given a second thought to (rude!)…Sprog 3 is on it’s way! We’re in the so-called safety zone and out of the bastard-first-trimester. Woohoo!

This post is little more than a pregnancy rant so I apologise in advance. Remember my first post childbirth post? (If not, feel free to refresh your mind here!). This has the same outraged overtone. It’s is my thousand word rant on how bloody awful the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are. It might not be 12 weeks if, like me, you found out at 5 weeks but my lord it feels like 12 years! In fact, my bad patch lasted until I was 14 weeks pregnant. It could be worse though, you may be one of those women that suffer for the whole 9 months. I salute you ladies, I don’t know how you do it. That’s only-child territory.

Nothing? Seriously?

However there are also some of you arseholes (I mean lovely people – it’s the hormones!) that have no symptoms at all. I can’t even look at you right now and it is best we avoid one another. I need another week or two. Personally I like to embrace things fully. Which means I have been exhausted, nauseous, sad, angry, snappy, in pain, sore boobed….all of the things. All at the same time. All of the 14 weeks. Oh, and did I mention the migraines? Another delightful side-affect. It’s ridiculous.

Not Me

My feeling-sorry-for-myself phase lasts for a standard first trimester only. This one though, felt particularly bad. I had days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I stayed horizontal for full 48-hour periods, excepting the two 30-minute round trips to drop off and collect my existing children from nursery each day. I felt physically horrendous, looked even worse and have emotionally been like a bag of teenage sisters. I spent 9 weeks with a pink eyed, blotchy cheeked white/green face telling everyone I’m fine.
But, having been through this twice (actually, three times) before, I know that this is all pretty standard for the first trimester. I can get over it. And I know it passes. I can even, after time, bring myself to be friends with some of you “no symptoms” people.

Judgy McJudgerson

But there is one thing I cannot get past and simply cannot understand.

That we’re not supposed to tell anyone.

We are ‘supposed’ to keep this huge, enormous, gut-wrenching, tear producing, anxiety inducing thing a secret from everyone we know! It’s so….weird. If you tell people you are 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or even 11 weeks pregnant then you are met with Judgy McJudgerson face. “Oh. Well. We never told anyone until we reached the second trimester….you know….in case the worst happens…”. 

“Yes, I do know.” I want to growl. Because the worst has happened. But surely if I would (and did) share with you my deep sadness at experiencing a miscarriage then it’s OK to tell you that I’m pregnant now?!

Some of our closest friends were more shocked by us telling them we were expecting our third child than the fact we were having a third child.

Bad Secrets

I have described previously how blown my mind was after I wrote about my miscarriage here. The reaction was astonishing, not just from a sympathy point of view but from the perspective of the staggering number of people who had been through similar experiences. This strange secret 12-week period seems to me one of the reasons that miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and a whole raft of other awful experiences people go through are not talked about more. And why it’s so much more of a body blow when it happens to you.

I can’t understand why it’s not OK to talk about pre-12 week pregnancy. Or why it’s not real news until you’re past 12 weeks. It is crazy because there is no less pain attached to something that wasn’t here as long.

Blabber Mouth

Of course at the other end of the spectrum there are the its-not-my-secret-to-keep-so-I-can-tell-anyone people. Which is how my father-in-law found out he was to be blessed with a third grandchild! That’s not actually fair, it was an accidental blab, but he still found out through someone else not guarding our secret as a secret. Pretty much everyone I told once we were in the so-called safety zone already knew through someone else.

Is it a secret or isn’t it?! I’m so confused!

Lots of people questioned our decision to tell Girly no1 our secret when we reached ten weeks. But the poor child was in turmoil. Everyone was whispering over her head and I was either screeching at her for not being able to do a shoelace up (can any 3-year old?) or suggesting we spend quality time together then promptly falling asleep. It got so bad that she started playing with my eyelashes, I assume in a bid to get me to open my eyes? All she knew is that Mummy kept disappearing, spent lots of time in bed and wasn’t her normal smiley self.

We knew that once she knew, she would tell everyone she met. I’m not sure the postman or the Poundland cashier cared but it was beautiful. Watching her be excited about this big news for our family was heart achingly lovely. We enjoyed every moment and wouldn’t change a thing!

Our news

Ultimately it is every couple’s decision when they tell but I think we should stop being so outraged at other people’s announcement choices and keep our Judgy faces to ourselves. For us, our measure was, and is, would I tell this person if I suffered a miscarriage or something else awful happened? If the answer is yes, then why wouldn’t we tell you before 12 weeks? It was nice not to be asking ‘will this person notice that I’m not drinking or smoking?’ like it was the first time around! With our Girlies, we try and be as open and honest with them as we can. The last thing we want to do is add to all of the confusion and anxiety that exists in the world. And when they’re happy, we’re happy!

This whole post may leave you asking why I didn’t tell you about this baby sooner. It’s not because I didn’t want to. It’s because I was too busy shouting at the Girlies from behind my bowl of pickled onion Monster Munch, hiding my wet cheeks and pretending my voice wasn’t breaking. Or I was asleep.

Until next time amigos!

If you have enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with your friends. Love you! Bye!

Flying With Young Children

Flying With Young Children

Flying with young children is the least possible relaxing start to a holiday one can possibly imagine. I would liken it to trying to squash five baby monkeys into a shoe box. The lid of which is a fraction too small. Whilst someone batters you round the head with a book every 30 seconds. But it doesn’t have to be so stressful. If everyone would just chill the f**k out then we could all have a lovely time…

I have been a little quiet recently. Between my two darling girlies, a (very) boozy summer and trying to get my new business off the ground, life has been a little hectic. Off the back of one of these boozy summer evenings, we…acquired (?) a week in a villa in Tuscany. I question the word acquired because it was won (?) via a silent auction at a charity ball we attended. Is won even the right word? That is like saying “I won” on eBay. The truth is that it was bid on by my heavily inebriated Husband.

Precious Bids

Despite the fact that all we had to go on was a grainy 3cm x 3cm picture and a description that read “Enchanted extravaganza in a 5-bedroom villa in Tuscany complete with private pool”, he bid rather more money than I would have for a complete unknown entity. The auction host chat had gone on a bit and we, having lingered by the cocktail bar for too long, returned to our table to see what the slightly muffled monologue was about. Drunk Husband nabbed the table iPad and sneakily bid on some random artwork and signed boxing gloves.

I realised what he was doing and squawked at him to stop. He promised he would whilst continuing to sneakily push buttons looking at me like Gollum every time he ignored our pre-agreed financial limit. He insisted he was bidding on a holiday for us and it would be amazing. I had given up asking “how much?” and resigned myself to the fact we were going to end up with an unnaturally large frame in our siting room with giant boxing gloves sticking out and looking ridiculous. I imagined paying the cleaners extra to “accidentally” break the frame and turned away, shaking my head. At which point I saw my friend, also the evening’s compère, stalking towards me to publicly, and loudly, thank us for our overwhelming generosity. Over the microphone to a room full of about 800 people, my eyes widened as our name appeared on the screen. Second highest bidder of the evening behind the Chairman of some Bank. Shit. What had he done?!

Villa acquired/won/bought/embarrassingly-publicly-bid-on, we text our most seasoned traveller family friends and asked if they fancied joining us for a week in Italy. They immediately answered yes, without asking any of the questions that were going through my head – pool fencing, stair gates, number of breakable antiques…you know, the boring stuff. I told myself I was worrying over nothing and I silently thanked them for paying half of what we would have had to pay on our own. All in the name of charity right?! We booked our flights a few weeks later, and as I write we have just returned from a week in beautiful Tuscany.

Crappy Starts

On the whole, it was a lovely week. It didn’t get off to the greatest start but it definitely improved after we arrived.

We like an early flight and so booked the 6am out of Gatwick to Pisa. Staying at the Premier Inn the night before, we had a nice leisurely drive to the airport, stopped for dinner, dropped the car off and then were all in bed nice and early ready to wake up at 3.30am. For Girly no1, who is almost 4, this first night was the highlight of her holiday. All of us in one tiny hotel room, beds jammed together in a row, she loved it. She actually spent the rest of the holiday asking when we were going back to the first hotel.

Girly no2, nearly 2, also appeared to love it. I say appeared, her fondness was expressed by crapping all over the bed sheets of all four of the beds. “How?” you might reasonably ask. In putting her PJ’s on, I whipped off her nappy and she pulled one of her roll-and-run manoeuvres, scurrying after her sister, who was launching herself from one side of Bed Row to the other. Amidst all the squealing and giggling, it just became too much. Poo everywhere. All over the starched white sheets. Eventually we cleaned up and everyone settled in to a short night’s sleep.

 I Get It

The next morning we boarded our flight with three slightly hysterical little girls. Flying SleazyJet, we were all in a row, Husband, Girly no1 and I. Girly no2 does not yet have her own seat so was excitedly flinging herself from one lap to the other, while everyone else boarded the plane. I noticed the couple that sat in front of us. They didn’t really look like “kid people” but hey, it’s an hour and 45 minutes to Pisa, how bad could it be?!

Before I go off on my diatribe, I want to tell you that I get it. I get that toddlers, babies and children can be a pain in the arse on an aeroplane. Husband and I spent many pre-children years travelling all over the world. We have been sat near the screaming child. We have had our seats kicked for an entire flight that, just when you give into the dream of being in your bed soon, you’re held in the air circling London for an extra hour. I have had my hair pulled and been woken up repeatedly from a hungover doze by a little hand tapping me on the back of my head. And sure, it’s a bit annoying. But! But, dear readers! I just dealt with it. I whacked on an eye mask, had a few drinks, snuggled up to Husband’s shoulder and did my best to ignore it. And when the parent of said child walked up and down frantically apologising I smiled warmly and said “don’t worry, it’s fine.” You know why? Because I’m not an arsehole. And I know that adding stress to an already stressful situation is the worst possible thing to do.

What I did not do was tut, complain, moan, glare, mutter angrily or stare. Which is exactly what Toad Face and Coconut Head (terms of endearment for the couple sat in front of us) did the whole way to Pisa.

Good Girlies

In fairness to the Girlies, they were really well behaved. They weren’t crying or screaming, there were no tears or fighting, there was just a bit of movement and the odd over-excited outburst.

Girly no2 couldn’t remember any of her previous flights and was both excited and terrified to be on an aeroplane. She swapped laps a few times, she stretched out her short fat legs and she played with the tray on the seat in front a bit. Because she’s 1 and a new place is interesting to her.

Girly no1 sat quietly most of the time on the iPad with her new headphones on, occasionally shouting “GORLY!” in a too-loud voice to her best friend across the aisle because she doesn’t understand that her voice increases by 50 decibels when her ears are covered. I found it hilarious. The first few times anyway! She also nudged the seat in front a few times because her legs are the perfect length to stretch from one seat to the other and at 3, she has no concept of distance, pressure etc. Why would she? She’s 3.

A Holes

The man and woman in front of us were the worst possible people to be sat in front of me and my lovely-though-not-very-still family. They were tutters. And moaners. And grunters. And starers. With evil eyes. And big pig noses. And slobber hanging from their jaws. Ok I may have made that last bit up but they definitely weren’t kind. They turned round every minute or so to glare at us. It made me paranoid, edgy and fraught. And it made what should have been quite a sweet fuss-free experience a really fractious one that had me holding my one year old’s feet together in a bid to stop her moving. We had to try and pin her to one of our laps instead of letting her gaze out at the clouds or peek her head into the aisle to make new friends.

Their behaviour had me snapping at Girly no1 to stop wriggling. It made us hissy and snippy when really, there was no need. I know there was no need, not because I can see no wrong in our children (for evidence read any of my previous posts), but because they were by general standards, pretty well behaved. And I’m very clear on whether my children are doing horrible things to upset other people. This was confirmed by a member of cabin crew and at least two other travellers who told us so, unprompted after we landed. We were the last to get off the plane. We picked up all of our toys from the fun bag I had packed (previous post on Flying With Babies here) and disembarked the aircraft.

Unnecessary Stress

This anxious start to everyone’s holiday was just unnecessary. It didn’t do any of us any good. Toad Face and Coconut Head were grumpy and we were stressed out. The girlies obviously didn’t give a shit – why would they? That said, they don’t respond well to a snappy parent, because small people are mood sponges and the more agitated their parent becomes, the more annoying the child becomes. It’s science (I know, I should be a teacher).

I wanted to stop to Toad Face and Coconut Head and discuss the impact of their behaviour with them. But what would be the point? I doubt they will be any less grumpy until they have children of their own. If they ever do. We will always be annoying to some people. I accept that. But it’s for such a short period of time. And we do our best to contain our annoyingness. We take our own entertainment and food and whatever else we need to do to try and be inconspicuous. We’re definitely not going to travel any less.

They had somehow ended up near us at baggage reclaim. I sat on some seats, glowering at them and ranting in my head. “Just you wait til you never read my blog!” I thought! The three girls ran around burning off some pent up energy. I secretly hoped one of them might trip them up, then I thought, let it go. You’re on holiday. And, in the spirit of Elsa, I did.

Bonus: Free Advice on Flying With Young Children

Just quickly, I want to point out here to any new parents thinking of flying: I have heard some of you talk of not flying until your child has reached their first birthday. NO! THIS IS WRONG! Flying with a tiny little little person is easy because they are still and they are used to being in one place. The bad time is between starting to crawl and walk and pre-being-able-to-be-engaged-in-an-activity. That’s the nightmare phase. This is the one we are in the thick of now! Just some free advice for you.

Thanks for stopping by! If you have enjoyed, please feel free to share with your friends. Apologies for the long gap between posts. You will maybe be pleased to know that I have already started on the next post so hopefully it will appear on here sometime soon. Maybe. Love you! Bye!