Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Our Summer (In Pictures)

So the summer holidays are coming to an end, and although I can not wait to drink a coffee in peace, or my house to stay clean for more than a few minutes at a time, to not pick up fucking Lego constantly or to not have to split up fights, I am really gutted and reckon I'm going to be a bit lonely, it's no longer mummy and Tommy's adventures, it's the start of mummy and Noah's adventures, and is the first time I'll have just one left at home and not be pregnant(!)

This summer we've celebrated 3 birthdays, a wedding anniversary, attended a wedding, eaten our own weight in ice cream, been abroad on holiday, been camping, been on woodland walks, explored a castle, visited a theme park, and even more-we've built loads of memories. 
I really feel like we've made the most of the past 6 weeks, and am already looking for stuff we can do next year!
So with mixed emotions I thought I'd share the highlights of our summer-it's been an amazing one!

Can't wait for next years adventures!
Lucy x

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Body posi holiday

So, when on holiday, all imagined this post to be is gushing about my wonderful kids and how much amazing family time we had-which it was going to be, but whilst balls deep in sangria, I realised what I really wanted to speak about. And that was something wonderful that I noticed happened to me while we were away, or maybe before. 

So if you came here for a post about my semi feral but equally lovely kids, you've come to the wrong place, sorry. If you're happy to read my (still slightly drunk) ramblings, then read on. 
So in between pondering bellybuttons, reading Cherry Healey-Letters To My Fanny and drinking copious amounts of cocktails (or coctels as the board read, not funny in the slightest but still made me laugh every time), I got thinking. Now bare with me because it may just be ramblings, but I needed to share something amazing that's happened to me recently. 

Firstly the mirror in the hotel room was like something out of a fun fair. We don't have a full length mirror at home, I tend to go on how I feel as a rule of thumb. Risky business maybe but I get through the day, and not many people recoil in horror at me. I don't know if this is how I really look or if the Spanish mirror is set up to make people want to book liposuction. Anyway, the first glance at myself was a bit of a shock. I didn't realise I looked like that, so I avoided the mirror swiftly day-by-day. But as I caught myself in it, each day I cared less and less about what I looked like. 
On the first day I took my kids to a water park. The old me would have been dreading it, all them people and me in a swimsuit, vulnerable and open to criticism for the disgusting sight I was. But I honestly didn't think about it once, I didn't even think about my body, and wore my dresses and costumes that I would previously have been put off over them "not suiting my figure".
I realised, amongst the copious amounts of sangria and sex on the beach cocktails, I do not care if other people look at me in disgust. I really don't. I realise the problem lays with them. We can not please everyone, and the last way we should look to please others is with our appearance. 
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm 100% happy with my body, there's a few things I'd like to change, for myself.  But if I'm comfortable in 37 degree heat in a sundress, then that's what I'm going to wear. If you're disgusted with my appearance, then look elsewhere.
I have housed 5 babies to full term, and am continuing to nourish one with breastfeeding. My body is never going to look how people perceive perfection. Never.

At the end of the day, when I die (sorry to be morbid), no one is going to remember me for my figure. They'll remember me on the amount of memories I built, how much I smiled, and how I didn't let small mindedness bother me. Because that's what judging someone on their size, shape, dress sense etc is. It's small mindedness, and it's sad.
I can see this is slowly changing, I'm amazed my attitude towards my body is changing. But as I get older (ugh) I am realising there is more to life than looking good in a skin tight dress-who makes the rules on what looks "good" anyway?

Oh and my kids had an amazing time, and I'm gutted to be home, in real clothes.
*goes and books next years holiday*

Sunday, 14 August 2016

10 Things People Don't Tell You About Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

In the past 10 years I've had my fair share of midwife/antenatal appointments, done my fair share of baby classes, and I've read more than my fair share of pregnancy books and magazines.

While it's always good to have a base of information to go on, these books aren't gospel, and health professionals don't always give you the whole truth either. 
With each pregnancy, birth and baby I've learnt things that I've never been told or read about, that, now, in hindsight I can laugh at. Mainly because I'll never have to do them again. If you're reading this about to go through it, honestly it probably isn't as bad as it sounds. Or if it is, it's all totally worth it and you will be able to laugh about it in years to come. Promise.

1. Pregnancy Nipples Are A Thing
So, let me paint a picture here. I'm 17 years old, just found out I'm with a beautiful grape-sized mini me inside my tummy. I catch a glimpse of my naked changing body in the mirror and tilt my head to the side adoringly, imagining who could be inside. I sigh, smiling. Then- WHAT. THE. FUCK. 
I had read Pregnancy & Birth about pregnancy changes, and this was definitely not there. Why the fuck have my nipples gone 4 shades darker and increased diameter by a few centimetres? Not only was my waist fast disappearing, but my boobs looked nothing like their former selves. 
After a quick google, turns out it's totally normal, and there's actually quite a sweet reason for this; babies are born with limited vision and can only easily distinguish contrast. So your nipples get darker, so the baby can find them for food. Very cool. A bit weird, but eventually they do go back to normal afterwards so no need to panic (like I did). 

2. You Need Some Kind Of Birth Plan
There seems to be a mixed bag about this, while most health professionals don't seem to really push you to make a birth plan, books and mags have quite a bit on it, though I see a lot of mums laugh at making a birth plan as they say it will all go to shit anyway. 
Well, in totally honesty, there is a middle ground somewhere. Birth does go how it goes, it's out of anyone's hands. But it's good to have a plan with every scenario-with the ins and outs of anything that's important and how you'd like to deal with certain turns of events. Research is key. If you're an easy, go-with-the-flow sort of person then maybe just write down the basics, what you want, what you don't want.
I wrote an "ideal" birth plan, then a back up of what I would like to happen for example, if I had a Caesarian, how I would like that to go, what I would like, and what I really wanted to avoid. Even if you're having a planned Caesarian, you can still have it your way. 
You're meeting the people that will be delivering your baby for (probably) the first time. You want them to get a full picture of what's important to you. It may not go how you plan it either, so it's good to keep that in mind too. At the end of the day, it's about getting your baby here safely, but it's also about YOU. So pen down your ideals, drill it into your birth partner, but also remember not to beat yourself up if it wasn't exactly how you imagined it would be.

3. Contractions don't "hurt"
OK, OK bear with me here. Everyone reading that has been through labour is probably laughing in sheer disbelief that I've just said this but honestly, hear me out. 
When I was pregnant with my first, up until 6 weeks before I gave birth, I didn't know what a contraction was. TV didn't really give an accurate portrayal of a painful labour, and the books told me to expect "period type" pains.
So, what does labour feel like? Anyone you ask will describe it as painful. But no one can describe what sort of pain it is, and until you feel it yourself, you can't imagine it. 
A contraction is heavy pressure, it's intense, strong, tight. But I feel pain is the wrong word. 
When pregnant with baby number 5, I read a book called Ina Mays Guide To Childbirth, written by a spiritual midwife who delivered thousands of babies in America, and is full of these women's positive birth stories. It doesn't refer to "pain" and speaks about trusting your body and speaks about techniques and your body. It has quite a hippy undertone, but if that's not your thing it's still worth a read if you're wondering what sort of experience to expect, or if you're worried about the pain. All about turning negatives into positives. 
I read it before delivering baby number 5, and I can say that taking the word "pain" out of my mind, really helped me cope, and I remember in between contractions, whilst pushing, thinking to myself how it wasn't that bad. Don't knock it!

4. The Breast Crawl
No one ever mentioned this to me, and it's only recently I've ever seen any mention of it thanks to the Internet. Not knowing about this maybe made it a little bit more special but had I prepared myself for it, maybe I would have soaked it up a little bit more or taken more pictures. When my first baby was born, I didn't know what the hell I was doing so was basically letting her lead me. We were laying in bed straight after delivery, having skin to skin when all of a sudden she started wriggling from side to side and pushing up with her feet. I had literally never even held a baby before so I didn't know what to do and the midwife was just standing watching. She wriggled and rooted until she found my nipple and latched on perfectly, she herself initiated the start of our breastfeeding journey and what an amazing moment that was. The midwife joked that it's a good job I had planned to breastfeed, because she just helped herself. Turns out the "breast crawl" is a thing, just like a newborn cat or dog, a human baby instinctually smells for milk and tries to look for them huge dark nipples. Very cool and very special. 

5. The First Toilet Trips After Giving Birth
Three words; Take. A. Jug. 
If you've had any graze, tears or stitches, a jug of warm water will be your new toilet bestie for the next few days. I don't need to go into the gory details. Just pour warm water where needed whilst peeing and thank me later. 
The first poo feels like you are going to turn inside out (sorry there was no nicer way to put it) and you may need a supportive partners hand to hold. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and veg in them first few days, and you'll be soon shitting like a professional again. 

6. After Pains
Again something no one told me about, but logically after such a big change of course you're going to have some discomfort. It's your uterus and other organs going back to where they belong. It comes in waves, and although with my first I didn't really have many after pains worse than a dull ache, with my second I remember calling the midwife asking her if I was still in labour and should I expect secret twin number two, but no, turns out your body has to work extra hard the more times you've done it (so imagine my delight for the days after baby 5). 
Think dealing with your most painful period on no sleep and a screaming infant. Look after yourself and make sure you get rest. It passes quickly, especially when breastfeeding, as babies suckling helps the uterus contract back. It's not the worst thing ever, but seems to be something that no one ever mentions, and an easy scenario for a new mum to think something's wrong. 

7. After Birth Bleeding
Let me start by saying I HATE this word. But "lochia" is the after birth blood loss. No one told me you bleed for up to 6 weeks after giving birth. So after celebrating for 9 months of no calls from Mother Nature, it does catch up with you! Ok I was expecting some bleeding, or really I hadn't even thought about what to expect afterwards, but it's a bit excessive if you're not expecting it. And it stops and starts too. Don't get caught short, plan ahead just in case. You also can only use sanitary towels in this time, which can be frustrating these aren't usually your thing. It may be worth investing in reusable sanitary towels for cost efficiency and comfort. 
The days after giving birth I bought some post partum herbal pads and these were a god send. Just wet, pop in the freezer for half an hour and then place where needed. My bits have never thanked me enough. 

8. The Baby Bubble
The first few days with your baby do not seem real. I don't know if it's because of lack of sleep or because of the massive shift in circumstances, but it's all a bit "floaty", sort of like no one has ever felt the way you feel, and you're the only person that's ever given birth. It's special, and you should soak it up while you can. Before you get to day 3 which is when I cried because I liked my curtains.
Day 3 you will cry, your boobs will be rock hard whether you chose to breastfeed or not, it's something to do with hormones (isn't everything?). I was actually warned about this but wasn't prepared for it. It will pass. 

9. You Will Get Shat On
Babies poo. A lot. The first few weeks it strongly resembles korma. To be fair, in the first weeks the smell isn't too repulsing, but nappies don't always contain it. The amount of next sleepsuits I've heavy heartedly thrown away due to bright yellow stains is uncountable. And it doesn't always stop at leaky nappies, kids are comfortable enough to actually poo ON you. Bonding and all that. There was once an incident, with my first (I quickly learnt my lesson), where I was letting her dad sleep, so changed her nappy with the light off, having to really lean in close to concentrate on what I was doing. You can probably guess that she swiftly did a flying liquid shit straight in my face- a story I will tell proudly at her 18th birthday party. The truth is, parenthood is filled with body fluid. Just laugh and deal with it until it passes, with the compensating thought that one day, when you're grey and old, you can liquid shit at them when they're changing your nappy. 

10. There Will Be Days That You Hate It
Last but definitely not least, is the taboo subject of not enjoying being a parent. You should be grateful for the life you've been so fortunate to create and grow so you can't ever moan about not having adult conversation, not showering for 2 days and ears ringing from the sound of crying/screaming/moaning-wrong! I'm sure most parents are very very grateful, but all parents have these days. It doesn't mean you're not grateful.
If you have bad days, that's ok. Not every day is sunshine and rainbows. Although being a mum is the best thing I could have ever done with my life, there's days where I dread it. For a long time I thought if I admitted I struggled, that would mean I wasn't a good parent. And it totally doesn't. 
Kids are stressful. And it's ok to admit that they're stressful. If people say they get through parenting without having days where they've thought they're not cut out for this-they're lying. It's ok to ask for help, it's ok to not find it all perfect all the time. Children will bring you the most amazing light and joy to your life, but raising another human is no mean feat. Be kind to yourself, let yourself recharge and enjoy the journey, it flies before you've even realised. 

When all is said and done, parenting is beautiful and disgusting. But mostly beautiful. You never realise how much you will miss these things, until they grow up and you realise you can't remember the last time they fell asleep cuddling you/bathed with you/shit on you. You'll miss it when it's gone. Promise.

L, x

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Placenta Encapsulation And Me

So, this here is about my experience with placenta encapsulation. It contains a few pictures that you may or may not want to look at while you're eating. You have been warned.

Some of you may have heard about the benefits of keeping your placenta to "eat". Some of you may be reading this disgusted, in disbelief that women actually do it. Actually, humans are the only mammals that don't instinctually eat their placentas straight after giving birth!

Admittedly, when I first heard of it a few years ago, I didn't think it was really my thing-I'm not easily disgusted (as you can probably tell by now) so it never 'bothered' me, but I guess I hadn't delved deep enough into what it was all about. But whilst daydreaming about what would be my 5th pregnancy, I decided to read up on it and it started to become something I was really eager to try.

So before I go into my experience with placenta encapsulation (and the added extras-I'll go into these too), I want to pay homage to the amazing thing that is the placenta. This thing is a self-grown organ, tailored to your baby. It filters out the stuff your baby doesn't need and keeps them alive for however long they chose to occupy your premises.
Babies "breath" through their cord which is attached to the placenta, which is attached to the wall of the uterus. It is full of beautiful veins and one main artery, carrying all the goods to your beautiful babe. All the veins make up a pattern which makes it easy to see why the placenta is often referred to as the "tree of life" (my favourite ever term for it).
It is rich in vitamins B6 and B12, CRH (stress reducer hormone), iron, oestrogen and progesterone-all of which hold great importance for mama when recovering mentally and physically from giving birth.
Iron helps to avoid anemia-something that mums are at risk of due to post partum bleeding. Also, low iron causes extreme tiredness-not what you need when you're already not sleeping at night! Oestrogen, progesterone, B vitamins and CRH all contribute to a good mental balance.

So, what exactly is ingesting the placenta supposed to help with? It's claimed that ingesting your placenta can help:
-Increasing energy

-Increase breast milk supply
-Decrease the chances of developing post natal depression or other post natal mental illness
-Reduce post partum blood loss
-Feeling generally in better health after giving birth
-Decreases chances of post natal anaemia

So with all this information, it seemed stupid of me not to try it given my history. Here's how that experience went for us:

So, first of all I searched the Internet for the woman that would be handling my placenta, and I found a wonderful lady called Lindsay who was local, who was registered with the IPEN, the Independant Placenta Encapsulating Network. We talked a lot which products and methods I would like (there's more than you'd think!), and why I was wanting it and what I was expecting of it.
We decided to get half of my placenta made into capsules made by the Traditional Chinese Method-where the placenta is steamed, then dehydrated with herbs and lemon, often described as "chill pills". The other half we had made by Raw method, which is similar to the TCM except, as its name would suggest, the steaming isn't part of the process, and there is nothing added or taken away. These are often referred to as "happy pills". 
We also chose to have placenta smoothies and a placenta "essence"-which is basically a distilled water rescue remedy with unlimited uses!

The process was pretty seamless, when the time came we had a cool bag, ice packs and a Tupperware box to keep the placenta in for Lindsay to collect it, with all the relevant forms and stickers to sign to say we would be keeping it. The hospital staff were so amazing and I experienced no funniness or questioning, other than genuine interest. I had prepared myself for a small battle or for "medical opinions" to be shoved down my throat, but no, the midwives thought it was great and were more than happy with my choices, not just with the placenta, but with my whole birth (but that's another story for another day).

Lindsay took my placenta, and drove to a quiet place in the countryside, and prepared my placenta smoothies in her in-van kitchen. Ready to return to me asap. She was back within the hour with 3 days worth of smoothies, to tie me over until my capsules were ready.
The smoothies were made with just a thumb sized piece of placenta, blended with berries, water and we added honey to taste. There was nothing disgusting about it, and there was no part of me that thought it was weird. My husband was the first to try it (yes we're that kind of couple) and gave me the ok that there was no odd taste to it, no chunks, and it did just taste like a berry smoothie.

Let me just add at this point that Noah's labour was 31 hours long. He was born around 6am, so I had spent the past two nights sleeping between contractions and in theory should have been exhausted. I do not cope well without sleep, with the added delight that is fibromyalgia, I am pretty much asleep with my eyes open most of the time. Of course I was buzzing with adrenaline as soon as he was born, soaking in every little crease of his finger and counting his eyelashes, but unlike my previous four births, there was no time in the coming days or weeks where I felt like I was hitting that wall. From the get-go I was energised, and I fully attribute that to the kick-start the smoothies gave me.

Lindsay dropped by my house on day 2, with a beautifully presented little bag of everything I had ordered, with a few extra touches. Included in my little package, was my two jars of capsules, my bottle of essence, my dried out umbilical cord, and a print our beautiful tree of life. 

The capsules were fine, although I must say they did repeat on me afterwards for an hour or two, with a herby taste. Nothing that chewing gum couldn't mask. I felt full of energy, and although Noah had a lot of trouble latching to begin with, my milk was coming in thick and fast and he started to gain weight like a trooper.
Energy wise I was on fire. With suffering from fibromyalgia, especially during pregnancy, I couldn't remember the last time I had been able to do the things I was doing! I was in little to no pain, and was able to keep on top of my mum duties. This to me was an absolute godsend!
Mentally I was ok, I had low days which was to be expected, and I think Noah's poor latch, which made breastfeeding extremely painful for the first few weeks, was the reason of that. But I certainly wasn't feeling generally down, and I didn't have the infamous 3 day teary meltdown that most mothers experience.

In a nutshell, these tablets worked for me in a way I wasn't even expecting. If I were to have another baby, I would definitely do it again, and if an open minded friend ever showed an interest, I would definitely recommend to try it. Because what do you have to lose?
My fascination with the female body and reproductive system is no secret, and this amazing organ just adds to the list of the wonderful things women's bodies can do. 

Lucy x

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Camping, Birthdays & British Weather

So, first and foremost, this week my eldest turned 9!! How the hell did that happen?!

Every year I ask my children if they would rather have a party with their friends to celebrate their birthday, or have a family outing (and pray to whoever is listening that they say a day out).
For Graces birthday she chose a day out, and being at the height of summer, we chose to go camping! By we, I mean the 7 of us and grandparents. We chose a campsite called riverside in Cononley, Yorkshire and hoped we would be lucky enough to get some sunshine. 
I know what people will be thinking, camping on its own doesn't sound the most desirable thing-sleeping outdoors in a field surrounded by sheep and communal toilets-without the sweet bribe of being absolutely shit faced at a music festival, I can totally understand why it isn't too appealing to people. Especially with the added factor of children. But honestly it's one of them things, don't knock it.

I enjoy going back to basics. And my kids so happen to love being outdoors too so we're already winning. 
Whilst there we had a day out to Skipton Castle which was beautiful and the kids really enjoyed exploring and learning the history. We had another day out, first to Billy Bobs Ice Cream Parlour (THE best ice cream in the world may I add), an American style diner with a great play barn for the kids-which we all thoroughly enjoyed. When we finished we went just a few minutes down the road to Bolton Abbey, where we had a lovely (long) woodland walk and indulged in some pebble skimming. We walked and walked, and there was kids activities called "the welly walk" along the way which kept them going (big shout out to whoever thought of that, you saved me 4 moaning children and allowed me to burn off earlier mentioned ice cream)
Even if we smelt like hell on earth, we enjoyed ourselves and no one made any complaints about the state of us. 

My kids were surprisingly well behaved, despite how little sleep they had, there was only one of the three nights we were there did I feel compelled to drink wine-that in itself is a victory over staying at home. 
We got some fabulous family time in and was made even more special to share that time with our parents.

The weather held out too, with a little bit of rain which was expected (that my kids enjoyed rolling around in) but most of the time it was sunny and quite mild. All in all it was an amazing trip, one of them that I know the kids will remember in years to come. I'd recommend for anyone to give camping a go-just make sure you take your waterproofs! 

Lucy x