Summer holidays adventures!

Now, this title might be a bit misleading because our holidays are not defined by the end of school yet, really. My big boy was in preschool 2 afternoons a week, so we’ve pretty much had the freedom to do whatever we want so far.

Next September he’ll be in preschool 5 days, in the afternoons (I’ve mixed feelings about this… More sleep in the mornings for me, but less time for us to have adventures mid week…).

So what we’re trying to do is make the most of our last true freedom. Very dramatic sounding!!!

With me staying at home with the kids, we’ve limited disposable income so I try to keep things as budget friendly as I can. The likes of Tesco Clubcard Boost, using money gifts towards annual passes, that kind of thing.

Nerja, Andalucia, Spain.

Our first adventure this summer was probably what will be our biggest one. It was our family holiday to Spain.

Every year we go to Nerja on the Costa Del Sol in Spain for our family holiday. We get our accommodation for free which is one of the main reasons. I absolutely love the place though, so even if we were paying to stay there, I’d probably still go. Nerja is a medium sized town about an hours drive east of Malaga. We tend to go either before July or in September, I wouldn’t be able for the heat there in July or August, as well as the fact that flights would be a lot more expensive too.

To get to Nerja, it’s a flight into Malaga airport. It’s about 2.5/ 3 hours from Dublin, so not too long to do with young kids. There are a few things you can do to make travelling with kids easier, but that’s another blog post! Suffice to say, it’s never usually as stressful as you imagine it will be, and generally other travellers and flight hosts/ hostesses are more than happy to give you a hand getting on and off the plane. And a decent sling through the airport is a life saver.

Getting to Nerja from Malaga airport can be done in a few different ways. In the days before kids, I’d usually get the bus into Malaga city centre (€1 I think!) and the bus from the city centre to Nerja which would take about an hour (€3.50 ish). It’s by far the most economical way to do it, but I haven’t done it with kids yet, knowing that they’ll be tired getting off the plane and the last thing I want to do it hauls suitcases and kids on and off buses for another couple of hours.

You can pre book a taxi for about €50, which would be the cheapest rate, or including car seats for up to around €80. This is what we’ve opted for most recently in order to have a guarantee of car seats to get from the airport. We used Shuttle Direct in May, and it cost us €78.35 each way. We were met at the airport arrivals, driven door to door with the kids in car seats, and helped with our luggage going from Malaga to Nerja. The driver on the way back wasn’t as helpful but was still ok, I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic about the company if it hadn’t been for the professionalism on the first leg of the journey.

The third option is to get a taxi at the airport. I think going somewhere closer to the airport, this might be the best value, but because it’s a long enough drive to Nerja this is the most expensive way to do it. €70 would be the lower end of the fare this way.

Places to stay would typically be apartments, houses, hotels and hostels.

As I said, we get our accommodation for free (thanks mammy!!) so we stay in the same little house in a ‘communidad’ called Neuva Nerja every time we go. It’s made up of gorgeous little 2+ bed townhouses. There’s a swimming pool in the centre of the commindad, and a restaurant, Mo Gastro Tapas, which serves lunch and dinner (and the food is delicious). Within walking distance one direction (‘up’ from the communidad) is a Eurospar, a gym, bank, playground, bakery, pizza restaurant and take away, and one route into town. The other direction (‘down’ the hill) is a smaller shop, a hotel, fruit shops, pharmacy, vets, and one of the main beaches ‘Burrianna’, and another route into the town. You could stay in the area for a week and not have to venture too far at all.

We went into the town most days, it’s roughly a 20 minute walk (with a preschooler) and the town itself has a great selection of restaurants/ cafes (PinnochiosTaberna de PepeMiramar being a few we love), a few shops though you wouldn’t be going there to go shopping, a few nice sights (Balcone de Europa is stunning), beaches (Callahonda is our favourite in the town though it’s down a lot of steps so not buggy friendly but there’s an ice cream shop at the top so it’s a bonus) and there’s often a festival on for some entertainment.

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Overall, Nerja is a pretty quiet town, there’s not a huge amount of activities to keep you occupied but there are a few nice things to do that are family friendly.

The various beaches are all safe… Burriana in particular is a great beach for families, there are little mini playgrounds right on the beach, plenty of restaurants and cafes for lunch/ snack/ drinks/ dinner. You can rent sun loungers for €7 for two for the day, or you can sit away from them on the sand.
There is a road train that does a short half hour tour of Nerja. The times for this are erratic though, which we learned as the driver spent about 5 minutes pushing the time back later and later while our preschooler had a small meltdown. He really enjoyed it once we got on though, and it worked out quite well as there is a cafe right beside where you get on to the train though, so we had a fab lunch while we were waiting.

A view from the road train

A view from the road train

Cueva de Nerja (Nerja Caves) are about 4 or 5km outside of Nerja, but are really worth a visit. It’s hit and miss whether they ‘guide’ you around (I think that’s during busier times though, as we had to wait for a guide the most recent trip, whereas we were able to go around at our own pace the first time we went in 2012). There are buses that go from the bus station in Nerja straight to the caves and back. Make sure to take note of the times though. We ended up having to walk back the first time we went, during the middle of the day, which was ok as we only had a 14 month old at that stage but with a waking child it could be a nightmare!

Really you wouldn’t go to Nerja for a high energy adventure holiday, but it’s perfect for a family with young kids. Hopefully we’ll make it out at least once or twice more!

Don't make me say goodbye!

Don’t make me say goodbye!

Sealife Aquarium and Bray Seafront

This is one adventure that can be done on the super cheap, with a small bit of forward planning. Sealife in Bray is fairly expensive to visit if you decide spontaneously to go; €9.20 (€6.80 for a child) when booked online or a very hefty €11.50 (€8.50 for a child) if you pay on the way in. For maybe an hours entertainment (for us anyway), that is excessive.
Whenever we visit, we order vouchers using the Tesco Clubcard Boost scheme. It’s €3 of club card vouchers for one entry into the Aquarium. So basically it’s free, and once you go in you an come and go for the rest of the day. The best thing I ever started doing was saving my club card vouchers for stuff like this!

Sharks in the last tank!

Sharks in the last tank!

We neve tend to spend a huge amount of time there. My big boy can often decide to sprint through, spend a few minutes in the play area at the end, and he’s done, so I’d really hate to pay €20+ for the sake of 20 minutes.

The best thing about using the Tesco Clubcard vouchers, is that they’re not specific to Sealife. You can order them, and use for a number of days out. We just haven’t got around to doing much else bar Sealife!

Parking around Bray can be hard to get, especially on a nice day, but it can be great fun to get the DART to Bray as part of the adventure, head into SeaLife, maybe manage to time it to catch one of the talks, and go for a walk on the seafront or a play on the beach afterwards. There are plenty of ice cream spots and cafes for a snack, and there is a brilliant playground towards the end of the prom to spend an hour.

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A little play in the sand

Dublin Zoo

This is another one that you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for, but we save cash gifts from birthdays and christmas, and get an annual pass every year. The family pass is €170 I think, which is a lot of money but we get great value from it. We’re in our third year of having the pass now, and I imagine we’ll be getting it for a few years to come.
Let’s just say I LOVE the Zoo. When you have a pass, especially, it’s one of the more chilled out adventures because you’re not trying to cram the ENTIRE experience into a few hours.

It’s fairly easy to get there. There’s a free car park, or the red line luas stops at Heuston station which is close to the Parkgate street entrance of the Phoenix park which is the closest entrance to the zoo.

On your way in you generally get a little fold out leaflet, which has a map and feeding times. I always try to get in for the elephant keeps talk, especially when there are baby elephants. They are so damn cute, and the keepers give great talks and are happy to answer questions.
The penguins are always a hit, and now the new seal lion enclosure is open, and it’s a million times nicer than it was.

We didn’t get to the keepers talk at the new enclosure yet this summer, but I reckon it will be great, and much easier to see what’s going on than it was at the last one. Definitely worth allowing time for, you can watch the seals swimming under the water, so mesmerising!

New Sealion enclosure!

Over the summer we go at least 3/ 4 times as a family, and often I’d head in midweek once or twice with a few friends, as you can get a good gang in on the family pass.

My preschoolers favourite animals at the moment are the lions and tigers, the penguins, hippos and the reptiles.

He also loves the playgrounds on the way around… some of these are impossible to avoid- the one between the lions and seals is the newest. It’s covered over and has picnic tables, so it’s a perfect spot to have either a very early or on-your-way-out break even if it’s raining. There is a big and a small slide, so suitable for pretty much any age, and theres a hot drinks machine so you can sit and have coffee while some excess energy is burnt off.

The second playground is inside the african plains on the way up to the hippos and giraffes… it’s basically a big slide. There’s a few picnic tables around but there’s no cover.

Near the chimpanzees there is an old land rover sunk into the ground which is always a hit. My big boy could spend HOURS playing in it, pretending to drive or be off on adventures. All the kids seem to end up playing together here, so it’s lovely. Its near toilets too, so handy if you need a toilet break!

Another small play area is at the next ‘corner’ of the African planes. It’s near a little shop that sells ice cream when it’s open, but is tucked into a corner so it can be an easy one to avoid if you’re trying to keep things moving.

There’s a tractor slide on the farm. Sometimes this can be totally over run, so unless the zoo is a bit quieter I tend to try and avoid it, which isn’t to hard as the farm is quite set back from the main path going around the zoo.

If you’re going to the zoo as a once off:

  • Get there early and make a day of it. It can be good to plan your route to catch any of the talks that you’re interested in, and plan for breaks for food in between.
  • Bring a picnic. The food there used to be rotten, but they seem to be upgrading a lot of the food spots now. There’s a Costa on the African Planes (sounds totally logical!), but it makes such a difference to be able to get a decent coffee.
  • Be comfortable. It’s a long walk around the entire zoo, it must be nearly 5km, so wear comfy shoes especially.
  • Resign yourself to the fact that you will be spending time in playgrounds, wondering why you’re in a playground when you’ve come all the way in to see the zoo.
  • There aren’t a huge number of places to sit down comfortably, especially around the African Plains, or if the zoo is busy, so bring a blanket if you’re planning a picnic.

It’s definitely one of our favourite adventures!
Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular

WHY HAVE I NEVER GONE TO THIS BEFORE!?

Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular is a weekend long family festival that takes place in Merrion Square. There was SO much going on at this. The boys and I headed in on the Saturday, and spent 7 hours taking it all in, and we still hadn’t covered it all, so we ended up going back in the next day. It’s free in, and most of the activities and shows are free too.

The giant tractor bouncy castle, mini tractor race track, and little sand play areas each gave stamps when you took part in each one, and you could then claim a goody bag, her.ie had a little family tent with a play are for toddlers, and comfy seats for parents to sit and feed their babies (such a treat to be able to sit and breastfeed in a comfy chair rather than on the road!), with bottles of water and snacks from Lidl. There was a photo booth set up in an old VW beetle, which my big boy loved.

Photo booth!

Photo booth!

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Dressing up fun

Inside the park itself there was a Learn- It tent that hosted Lego work shops and a science show, a very fun section with old french toys that were really difficult but really entertaining especially watching some of the kids do so much better than their parents! Face painting, balloon animals, a contortionist show, a chill out area with the most amazing hammocks (pictured below), a dress up area, climbing walls, fun yoga… I’ll be there for the whole weekend again next year! I had as much fun as the kids!!

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I wanted to bring one of these hammocks home, maybe next year!

As well as all this, the new playground in Merrion Square is FAB. We spent at least an hour in there at the end of both days, and could have stayed longer only it was getting so late. That on it’s own would be a great free day out.


Festival of Curiosity

The Festival of Curiosity is a very cool series of events that takes place in Dublin over a long weekend (Thursday to Sunday). It’s split into Curious Days (family friendly) and Curious Nights (some more suitable for adults). Again, many of the events are free, though some are paid for. A lot of them can be booked in advance which is worth doing as they’re very popular.

We booked into Dizzy O’ Dare’s Giant Balloon show. My big boy, Ro,  loves going on the train (or luas), so we took the Luas into town and walked across the quays to Wood Quay venue. The host, Dizzy, was brilliant, really entertaining and high energy straight away. Sometimes Ro is a bit sensitve to loud noises though, and when the music started it was a bit much for him. I was really disappointed because he really wanted to get involved and get up with the other kids, but he just couldn’t hack the noise (which was all 80’s music!!!) We enjoyed as much of the show as we managed to stay for though, and maybe if it’s on next year we’ll bring some headphones so the noise isn’t too much for him.

Dizzy O' Dare

Dizzy O’ Dare

The second Festival of Curiosity event we went to was the Curiosity Carnival. It was in Smock Alley theatre which is an AMAZING venue. The mezzanine was set up with a heap of different things to discover and play.. marble runs, wooden shapes, gooey magic sand, little electronics, paper plane making, lego, and sound canons! Each session was an hour long, and even though there was so much to do, it was nearly a little overwhelming!
The sound canons were brilliant. Once Ro got the hang of them he loved them, and the people working there had endless patience setting up plastic cups for him to knock over again and again.

I would love to go to some of the more grown up events… one that really struck me was The Anatomy of a Lobotomy (yes, I am a bit morbid!), it was an airing of a radio documentary made about the secret history of lobotomies in Ireland. Maybe next year when my baby is bigger I’ll be able to go to more evening things!

So, that is a good selection of our adventures so far this summer!
I’ll do a part 2 in a few weeks time…

Anything coming up that we can’t miss or that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

L

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Having a second baby.

So your first born is doing pretty well. No major injuries (hopefully), typically gets fed each day, has miraculously learned to crawl, walk, maybe even talk at this stage. You’ve done well. You’re not sure how it’s happened, but you got this! You’re pretty confident now, well, slightly more confident that you were when that tiny, mewling, helpless little creature first came into your lives in a blur of baby equipment that you’re not entirely sure was really necessary, night feeds where baby was latched on by the back-light on your phone in order to avoid side boob hickeys, generous visitors heaping you with cards and gifts (maybe even some dinners or cleaning company vouchers if they know what’s really useful!), breast pads, and the obsession with baby poo you never ever guessed you would have developed.

These days you’re mostly dressed by  noon, albeit in the momiform of leggings, tank top, and hoodie, complete with converse, you’re able to leave the house without numerous bags of various sizes and purpose, and you occassionally manage to finish your morning coffee before it’s cold/ without having to reheat in the microwave at least once. (Why did nobody tell me of that trick sooner?! I would have saved a fortune on coffee and milk!)

It’s hard, you miss the sense of accomplishment you had pre- baby, when you finished a project in work, the steady income, the freedom to not be at home.

Either that or you’re back in work, and you have your daily routine down to a precise morning and evening schedule that only other parents can appreciate for their real worth.

It’s tough though. You miss your baby every day, maybe you’ve even some big ‘firsts’, and that really hurts.

But overall, things are working pretty nicely. And maybe you’ve decided that life is pretty perfect with one amazing child.

Or maybe you’ve start thinking, maybe it’s time to have another.

You’ve done it once already, how hard can it be to do it again?

Now. You’re pregnant, and hopefully it’s all going beautifully.
The next panic is, how the hell are you going to love a second baby as much as your first?! It doesn’t feel possible. How can there be enough love for another baby when the love for the little person in your life now is so utterly consuming and unconditional (you may not like them sometimes, when they’re looking at you brazenly while spilling a full box of cereal on the floor and then walking oh-so-slowly across it to you… but you still love them). Terrifying. Can you bring another baby into your like, feeling that there’s a risk they won’t be loved as much?

It’s almost 9 months since I became a mama of two babies. Honestly, it’s amazing, fun, hilarious watching them interact, love each other (I’m lucky, we haven’t had much jealousy or many issues) but even when it’s easy, it’s fucking intense. Absolutely. Fucking. Intense. I don’t know (remember?) whether it’s more or less of an upheaval as having a first baby. It’s different. A first baby throws your world into chaos, upside down, life is totally changed, you’re a changed, new, different, being.
A second baby… my heart absolutely grew, doubled with double the love. But to be honest, there were nights when I would feel I needed to do bedtime with my 3 year old because his world has just been turned upside down too… from being the only person who depended on us, to someone who had to fend for himself a little bit more, and I absolutely feel it was my (our) responsibility to try and minimise the negative impact that might have on him. To try and keep the important things going. I wasn’t willing to give up our sacred bedtimes together. But sometimes , my baby would be downstairs with his dad, I would be upstairs with my big boy, and my baby might be crying. He would go from awake to hysterically puking in 5 seconds, and my heart would split in two. He wasn’t on his own, he was with his adoring dad, but i wasn’t there and he wanted me. I lost count of the number of nights that I would be crying coming back down the stairs, wanting to snatch my baby out of his daddy’s arms, but not wanting to make it seem like I thought it had to be me to comfort him. But really, a brand new baby is most quickly comforted with a boob, and I was the one who had those.

And even though my big boy has somehow grown to have oodles of patience and empathy, he’s still only small and I can’t expect him to have infinite amounts of grown up abilities. The early days of breastfeeding meant many hours on the couch, my big boy begging for me to play with him but I’d have to fob him off or compromise by either having him sit beside me and watch cartoons or I would sit on the floor while he played by himself. Not a whole lot of fun for an energetic 3 year old.

Writing it all down, it sounds really insignificant, really basic… don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing. Having my second baby when I did worked out perfectly for my family. The age gap, the personalities (so far), the support I have… I suppose what I’m trying to say is that even when it’s the easiest it can possibly be, it’s still another HUGE change in your life, but now it’s not just the impact on yourself that you have to take into consideration, but the impact this new tiny little person will have on your precious first child.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, various Facebook groups, and the network of parent friends I have developed over the last few years, I did have the expectation that it was going to be hard, a bit heart wrenching, and brutally intense, in between the moments of loveliness and sweetness. I’m lucky that I expected it, that I was warned. I’m really more sure how I would have coped thinking that the feelings and heartache wasn’t something that many second time mothers felt. I suppose on your second, unlike on your first where you’re sick of people with good intentions but a slightly smug attitude, telling you that you won’t know what hit you, enjoy the sleep while you can, all that crap… on your second, maybe it was just me, but I was far more receptive to the advance warnings I was given from friends who were on the same page as me, instead of this acquaintances who nearly delighted in scaring the shit out of me first time around.

So look, it is absolutely incredible, it’s lovely, it’s amazing watching your first baby grow up over night into a big brother or sister, your heart will burst as they embrace their role with delight. But it’s going to be hard. And it’s normal that it’s that way. You’re probably going to cry many, many tears of heartbreak, exhaustion, guilt, love… You’re going to feel torn in two, emotionally, physically. There will be a whole new depth to meaning of the phrase being in two places at one time. If you had one wish, that is what you would be. You will overflow with emotion. It’s ok. And a few months down the line, you will feel normal again. You’ll feel competent and able and not so overwhelmed, and you’ll forget again how it can take so long to leave the house with a small baby.
Suddenly your baby won’t be small. He’ll be growing up, even quicker than your first baby ever did. So just take a breath, and know its ok.

Breastfeeding my Baby

My beautiful boy is 8 months old now. He’s in that lovely stage where he’s still a baby, but he’s starting to grow up a bit, play games, laugh at us… It’s pretty amazing watching him grow and learn.

He’s starting to fall in to a predictable routine during the day now, which is nice. 11am is nap time. We’ve been up a couple of hours, he’s had his breakfast and a little play. Time to have a snooze. What’s even better is that he’s now happy to nap in bed. I love our slingy cuddles, and love that he can still nap in the sling occasionally but he’s a big baby. So I also love that he is ok napping in bed.
I leave his big brother playing downstairs, and bring him up to bed and lie him down, kick off my shoes and lie down beside him, both of us tucked in under the covers.

Aahhhhhhh………

I love this. Cuddling in beside my baby, his warm little body turned into mine, his little knees tucked up.

Heaven.

I never ever want to forget what this feels like. He, of course, is oblivious to how lovely it all is. He wants to nurse. I let him latch on, and he has a few sucks. Then he hears his brother coming up the stairs. BIG smile. He loves his brother, and maybe he thinks it’s time to play? Little laughs. They’re very cute together.

His brother wanders into his own bedroom, so baby latches back on. He’s taking it seriously this time. He’s tired. Another few sucks, and his big blue eyes are heavy. He looks up at me a lot at the start of his feeds. Sometimes I get a bit of a jolt. He looks like me. He’s absolutely mine. (For the moment.) Another few sucks and he must get a let down, and a mouth full of milk. His eyes roll with pleasure and contentment. His little body relaxes and he falls into sleepy feeding pattern.

Really. Heaven.

His sleepy little eyes are half closed, his blonde hair (mine) is so soft, his cheek is so perfectly round. Sometimes he loves when I rub his ear. His eyes close even further, and he lets out a little feathery sigh. Other times he’ll bat my hand away with his. HIs little arms and hands constantly on the move as he nurses. His chubby arm reaching up to my face. I know if I let myself relax too much I’ll fall asleep too, but I can’t. But it’s so hard to keep awake. His little fingers on my cheek, my chin, on my arm, at my necklace, on my chest. Little strokes and tickles. Sometimes he’ll wring his hands together or catch the cotton covers between his finger tips as well, just like I used to do. Still do for comfort. He’s mine.


I have to repeat to myself Stay awake, stay awake, stay awake. I can feel my own eyes closing. Stay awake. His little slow dancing hands lulling me, sleepy sleepy. Stay awake. 

He’s almost gone. His eyes are closed. His wandering hands have slowed their pace. His arms is stretched over his head, his fingers near my lips.

Nearly there. I’m struggling not to nod off.

Just as he’s a out to drop off, one of his little fingers finds it way into my mouth. I’m too to stop him.

Fuuuuuuck!!!!!! In his sleep he catches me in a death grip fish hook. Jesus, the pain. His nails are like razor blades only they do more damage. I can feel my lip being ripped from the inside out. I can actually taste blood. How the fuck am I going to get out of this?! It’s no trouble trying to stay awake now. I lie frozen. Oh god. Don’t make noise, don’t flinch. Don’t wake him up. Oh fuckity fuck, don’t wake him up. I catch his wrist. It’s like a military manoeuvre on a miniature scale trying to get my finger around his little fist to break his grip.

Please don’t wake up.

Phew, he’s let go. His hand jumps up. His finger is in my nose now. Tears spring in my eyes. He’s right up there. Little unintentional master of torture. I manage to free my nostril. I need to move, I need to escape. Quietly.

Please don’t wake up. Please, please, please.

My big boy comes bounding out of his bedroom. Gahhh! I open my mouth and my mother comes out.

You’re like a herd of elephants!

Please don’t wake up.

I inch away across the mattress from him. The bed creates loudly. I silently remind myself, again, to try and fix it.

He flinches and I freeze. His hand lands on my chest. On my breast. I reach to move it but not quickly enough. Fire stabs my nipple. He’s got me. This is a whole new level of pain. One of those breastfeeding images you see of a serene mother clothed in floaty white 100% angelic garments nursing her cherubic infant flashes into my mind. Yeah right. I mentally stab it with a large knife. I bet she never had the purple nurple of doom.

Do all babies do this? Are they all little adorable beastly thugs that innocently leave their mothers scratched and scraped and bruised?!

I prise his hand off me. I can feel the blood rush back into my nipple.

I finally make my escape, with much holding my breath, sliding across a bed that seems to take on a voice of it’s own and that voice is LOUD. I invariably trip over the shoes i forgot i left beside the bed. Really, I was actually *trying* to commando roll off the bed. Basically I make as much noise as I can while trying to be as quiet as I can. I guess that’s a universal factor of being a parent to a napping baby!

But I manage it. I’m off the bed, and standing by the door. I look across the bed and at the sweet little sleeping face framed by those blondy strands of hair.

My god, he’s cute. I’d nearly wake him up to have a cuddle. I’m not that much of a glutton though. I’ll sneak down the stairs and enjoy the few hours of personal space. I won’t be devastated when he wakes up though. 🙂

Parenthood does mad things to your brain.

You know you’re a breastfeeding mama when…

I’ve been breastfeeding for the last 3.5 years. I’m at that stage where, 2 kids later, it’s become part of my identity.

‘What do you do?’, ‘I breastfeed!’.

I spent a day traveling during the week, and just happened to get a super full boob which leaked ALL over the place, resulting in the picture below, and it made me think there are certain things that when they all happen make you realise you really are a breastfeeding mama!

1. You have to remember to check you t shirts for evidence of yesterday’s leaky boob!

Well, that’s me! I got dressed yesterday morning, went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and saw this. A big milky white patch on my t shirt where I had leaked the day before. So it was back to my wardrobe to find something a little less… Milkified!

2. There’s an obsession among the general population with your baby’s weight. 

Or lack thereof. I’m lucky, I have big babies so don’t get so much of this, but so many of my friends do. Seriously, what’s going on! Breastfed babies are usually their natural weight. Can we please put away those scales (oh, that autocorrected to scares, how appropriate!), and LOOK AT THE HEALTHY, HAPPY, THRIVING BABY. Please?!

3. You simply cannot leave your tiny baby.

This obviously isn’t exclusive to breastfeeding mamas. Some mums (no matter what way their baby is fed) are happy to get a few hours headspace to get their hair done, get the grocery shopping done without having to navigate babies and car seats and trollies (though just to slip in here, slings can be a lifesaver in these scenarios!), or to go for a nice meal with their partner/ friend/ themselves. And that’s perfectly normal and fine.

But it’s also perfectly normal and fine to be physically incapable of walking out the front door without your baby in your arms. And you shouldn’t be expected to! For breastfeeding mamas, it’s not just as simple as pumping a bottle and heading out. Pumping is so much hard work. It’s. hard. Work. Why would you do that to yourself?! Boobs are portable, don’t need to be sterilised, heated… If you’re asking a breastfeeding mama to come somewhere with you, assume the baby is coming too! And if that’s not ok, don’t be offended if mama just can’t come. Yes, even if it’s just few a few hours. Yes, even if it’s her favourite cousin’s wedding. They’re a package deal for the next few months, minimum. Got it? Great!

4. You get asked; how do you know how much he is taking? She couldn’t be hungry again?! You’ll stop now when he gets a tooth? Can ask for it? Can walk?????

(And those questions can give you Rage!)

Really, baby is hungry/ thirsty/ tired/ sore/ teething/ sick/ unsettled… Boob fixes so many things. Breastfed babies breastfeed regularly. Breastfeeding is not just food! It’s food, drink, relaxation, pain relief, medicine, comfort, cuddles. Babies breastfeed for a huge variety of reasons. And as they grow, they still breastfeed for all those reasons. They’re always able to ‘ask’- from the newborn feeding cues of turning their head from side to side, moving their hands around and opening their mouths, right up to a child verbalising ‘mama I want booboo’.

5. The ‘milking’ scene from Bad Neighbours is the MOST HILARIOUS THING you’ve ever seen. Ever. Seriously, we cried laughing. 

Gratuitous topless Zac Effron picture.  Source: dailymail.co.uk

Gratuitous topless Zac Effron picture. Source: dailymail.co.uk

In fact, breastfeeding humour in general becomes a whole lot more funny and cute. Can you say ‘What kind of bees make milk?’ “BOOBEES!’ Adorable.

66243df282bc4c27e647d4f094c07a53

6. You have a whole new set of culture references. 

That Time magazine cover. The breastfeeding bible that is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. WAB for those in the know 😉 The La Leche League conference actually translates to ‘social event of the year’. Kellymom is your new encyclopedia.

Your new superheroes are Dr. Jack Newman, Dr. Wendy Jones, Ina May, your nearest IBCLC and the group leaders in your local breastfeeding support group. That mum you know who relactated.

Where you never had an interest in celebrities before, suddenly you’re avidly following Alyssa Milano, Gwen Stefani, Gisele Bundchen on Twitter and/or Instagram and sharing their pictures and brelfies all over the internet.

7. You’re learning/ have learned a whole new language. 

Let down, cluster feeding, laid back, oxytocin, expressing, pump, tongue tied… none of them mean the same thing anymore!

Never mind whatever IBCLC, LLL, EBF, EBM stand for!

Words like cluster feeding and growth spurt prompt you to grab the remote, at least one litre bottle of water, and enough for to last a day and take to the couch with a new series on Netflix. (And it’s totally justified!)

The word niplash makes you freeze in panic.

8. Trying to find a nice dress/ top to wear for an occasion is next to impossible. 

They’re all either maternity and nursing dresses, or plain fugly. I know it’s not the case for all of us (me included!) but some mums tums are back to flat while they’re still nursing .The saggy-bellied clothes just don’t work! High street options are usually limited to wrap dressed or something low cut. That’s if you’re lucky. The options with tops are usually horizontal stripes. And if those styles aren’t your thing/ don’t suit you, your options are even more impossibly limited. Is it assumed we lose our sense of fashion as soon as we’re pregnant?

The options that are half decent are either the ‘vest top under normal top’ or are usually way out of the normal person’s price range. Brands like Peaks of London will cost around €100+ for a dress. They are quality and look great, but just a tad on the steep side.

Thankfully, there seem to be a few people realising that this gap is in the Irish market. Tarawet and Itsy Bitsy are two companies based in Ireland that are starting to stock beautifully designed nursing clothes. Yay!!

For boob design t shirts and dresses for every day, my go to is Once Born.

Source: The Leaky Boob

Source: The Leaky Boob

9. You keep pushing out your goal. 

Baby is born. Your goal is to feed for 2 or 3 weeks. Then you hit that growth spurt and ohmygod it’s so hard. But you get through it. Feeding still takes up a LOT of your time, you and your baby are still figuring out how to make it work for you, but you’ve just made it though this epically difficult few days. Damned if you’re stopping after overcoming that! So the next goal… 6 weeks. And then you’ve made it to six weeks, and it’s just been getting easier and easier. Still, there can be some niggling problems but you feel like you’re getting a handle on them.

Next goal is keep going till 6 months. It’s second nature at this stage. And before you know it you’re feeding a walking’, talkin’ really big kid! At this stage it’s just easier to keep going!

10. There’s a lot of fake rules you’ve been told you need to follow.

You can’t take any medicine at all. You can’t have any wine. You can’t eat cabbage. Or peanuts.

Just. No. A small percentage of babies can be sensitive to foods their mum eats. I’ve discovered my baby doesn’t seem to get on well the night after I eat sushi with wasabi (I could cry over this.), but generally there are zero issues with food. Eat what you like. With wine. Of course. (Within reasonable limits though, please don’t feed your baby if you’re totally pissed and definitely don’t co sleep if you’ve had a few)

11. You consider breastfeeding to be one of the best things you’ve EVER done. 

I LOVE breastfeeding. Yes, it can be intense, it can be frustrating, it can be sore if there are some issues going on (but these are usually solvable). But it’s intense, it’s healing, it’s amazing.

My first baby’s birth was far from ideal. We were separated for a day after he was born and i wasn’t ‘allowed’ to feed him. I had that horrible irrational mother guilt over it. So despite struggling with breastfeeding for weeks, I was so determined that we would persevere with breastfeeding. It was very healing for me.

My second baby’s birth was amazing. But we were also separated for a while. This time I was better informed and better prepared. And now I’m honestly a bit blown away. During pregnancy I grew my baby to term. Now that he’s out, I’ve kept going him with ONLY my milk. He’s a little tank, and I’ve grown him completely! Even after years of breastfeeding, I am so amazed by this!

Breastmilk is your answer for everything… gunky eye, nappy rash, tummy bug… breamilk’ll fix it!

Night feeds are exhausting, but the cosiness of a little baby snuggling in for a sleepy feed is the most melty feeling. Or the little milk drunk eyes and milky smiles. I just love it. ❤

How about it booby mamas? What has made you think ‘Yep, I’m definitely a breastfeeding mama!’??

Notes from preschool

My 3.5 year old started montisorri preschool a couple of weeks ago. He had been asking for months and months to go to school. I don’t really know where he got the want to go, but because I was going to be having a baby I held off for a while, thinking it would be too much going on for him all at once.
Come January, he was still asking to go, so we started looking around and found a lovely little place within walking distance of us. We went up to see it, and to meet the teachers, and he instantly loved the place. I think that has to say a lot. He was off doing water play, painting, chatting to one of the teachers, playing with the other kids. I had planned on staying for maybe half an hour, seeing what it was like, having a chat with the owner and heading off then. But I couldn’t get him out of the place! He absolutely loved it, and thought he was such a big boy going to school.

We decided that seeing as he had taken to that place so much, we would go with it. He started the following week and has been doing 2 afternoons a week since.
The first day he knew he was going, he woke up at 4am saying he had to get ready for school (err, go back to sleep!), and then spent the morning going around holding his lunch box. So cute!

He’s made it so easy on me, he walks in the door, never ha any tears, always happy to go in. He rarely even waves or says goodbye! Obviously there’s some separation anxiety there! Yeah right!

It’s so.. indescribable. There are so many feelings around him going off to school. On one hand, I love that I get a few hours a week where it’s just me and my small man. I wasn’t sure I’d get that with a second baby, and it’s appreciated all the more, being able to sit and have relaxing baby snuggles on the couch. I love that I can drop Rory off to school and then go do some job alone, even going to the bank or library.  On the other hand, Rory is suddenly so much more mature. A few weeks in school, and he’s coming out with phrases he never has before. He’s talking about his friend, his best friend with the Angry Birds shoes. We think this friends’ name is Bear, but couldn’t be sure. My little boy has 2 afternoons a week that are all his. His own little life without me or his dad. Of course we have an idea of what he does in school, what the “themes of the week’ are. But rarely has he ever before been away from me, and never before has he been somewhere that I wouldn’t know pretty much exactly what’s going on.

He’s only 3.5, its only 2 afternoons a week, but it really is the start of him growing up and having his own life! A friend said that to me when he was starting, and I laughed, and kind of dismissed it, but really she was right. It makes me so goofily proud of him that he’s taking it all so much in his stride.

The very sweet thing is knowing that he’s thinking about me when he’s in school. Most days he’ll come home with something in his bag. Last week he came home with a painting of a ‘robot’. Not wholly robot- like, but still, that’s what it was. More often, he’ll come home with ‘notes’ for me. He’ll tell me he wrote me a letter, or wrote me a shopping list and start listing off; ‘tea, milk,  toast…’ How can I not love that he does these little notes for me when he’s in school?! My heart literally bursts with pride every time he tells me there’s a note in his backpack for me!

rory robot

Rory’s Robot painting

rory note

The note for me… so sweet

I reckon I may as well enjoy these little things while they last. I’m sure in a few years time I’ll be cursing school trying to get him to do his homework!

How did anybody else’s little ones get on starting preschool and school?

40 bags of no sugar. My lofty ambitions.

I’m not in not one but two Healthy lifestyle Facebook groups (yes, STILL with the Facebook groups!) in order to try and get myself healthy. Generally my diet isn’t too bad, my meals are mostly good. But my big downfall is in the evenings, especially if I haven’t eaten enough during the day. I’m tired, hungry, total slump. So after dinner, especially, I reach for ALL the sugar. I could easily eat a full packet of biscuits/ bag of jellies/ share size bar of chocolate, and still want (and eat) more. It’s so unhealthy. I’m going to bed on a sugar high, have two babies- well, a baby and a preschooler- who wake me during the night, and then in the morning I’m exhausted because I’ve completely crashed. I need to get this under control.

During pregnancy I was very kind to myself, and while I didn’t pile on a whole lot of weight the bad sugar habit I created has stuck. So even though I’m not a catholic, I’m going to use Lent as a time frame to break my sugar habit. 40 days of no sugar- no chocolate, no sweets or jellies, no biscuits with my tea, no sugar in that tea or coffee, no sugar in baking. No low fat yogurts with buckets of sugar. This is going to be rough, and honestly I’m pretty scared! I’m hoping once I get over the first week that the worst of the big crash will be behind me. I’m hoping the ‘Body Positive’ programme from Gentle Birth will help too.

What I can have will be fresh and dried fruit, and honey. I’m going to try baking treats using this stuff instead and hope it’s enough to curb my very sweet tooth! Any recipes suggestions will be gratefully accepted and hopefully attempted.

I’m not sure what the best way to track any changes are… I know sugar can have a huge effect on people, so I’m guessing I should notice a difference in a few different ways.I’m going to keep an eye on my overall energy levels, skin, and weight.

The second challenge I’ve set myself is a 40 bags in 40 days challenge (a la http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com/40-bags-in-40-days-2015/). There is so much clutter in my house. It’s overwhelming, depressing, unsettling… and still accumulating! I’ve been living in this house for less than 3 and a half years, but it’s already so full of stuff. We do try and keep one end of the sitting room a little clear, otherwise it’s impossible to relax when we sit down in the evenings.

So Ive joined yet another Facebook group (I daren’t count how many there are at this stage), of people taking on this 40 bags in 40 days challenge. The idea is to take a small area each day (or a bigger area over a couple of days), and just focus on there, and either bin, donate or sell the unnecessary stuff. This is going to be a tough challenge as well. I have become slightly less sentimental and a little more ruthless when it comes to the stuff, but not enough! In the original challenge you’re meant to take Sundays off, but I have so much to get rid of It think I’ll keep going straight through. Some areas (under the bed!) are just too much to be shared! But if I get brave I’ll share some before and after photos. I can’t wait to see the difference in the bigger areas like the spare room, master bedroom and garage in particular.

My schedule will be fairly flexible but over the next 40 days my list of areas to declutter is:

40 bags Challenge

1 Coffee table,
2 Toy bucket
3 Bookshelves
4 Toy storage in sitting room
5  Shoe rack in hall
6 Storage unit in kitchen
7 Junk cabinet in kitchen
8 Junk corner in kitchen
9 Around kitchen table/ toy kitchen
10 Under stairs cupboard (sweep 1)
11 Coat hooks in back hall
12 Upstairs bathroom
13 Kids wardrobe
14 Shelves in single room
15 Single room
16 Junk on bed in spare room
17 Desk in spare room
18 Wardrobe in spare room
19  Cabinet under kitchen sink
20 Cabinet under stairs (sweep 2)
21 Chest of drawers in master bedroom
22 Hotpress in master bedroom
23 Wardrobes in master bedroom (baby clothes)
24 Under bed in master bedroom
25 Toy storage in sitting room (sweep 2)
26 Garage- things to give away
27 Garage- things to put in recycling bin
28 Garage- things to bring to the dump
29 Car
30 Shelves in garage
31 Drawers and under bed in spare room
32 Junk corner in kitchen and expandable file
33 Kitchen counters and baking shelf
34 Wardrobe in master bedroom- hubby’s clothes
35 Make up and toiletries
36 Garage- things to give away (sweep 2)
37 Window sil in kitchen
38 Baby clothes (sweep 2)
39 Toys in sitting room (last go!)
40 Wardrobe in master bedroom (my clothes- PLEASE let some of them be too big after my cutting sugar!)
Anyone else taking on a challenge??
Thanks for reading! 🙂
L

Book Club

A couple of months ago an old school friend set up a book club. I really wanted to join, but I was a little wary. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more… Introverted I think is the best word. I find it a little difficult to push myself out of my fairly tiny comfort zone, which is comprised mostly of some amazing “mummy’ friends and a limited number of parenting related networks. Even at that, I’m pretty quiet a lot of the time. Inwardly awkward. Many of the friends I had in school and college I have either lost contact with or only keep in contact via occasional ‘likes’ and comments or the odd message on Facebook posts. Since having my first baby, all things baby and breastfeeding and birth and parenty have consumed me. I sometimes joke that my brain is still mush. I guess that’s a bit unfair on myself. My brain is just focussed on things that are much different than what I was focused on over 4 years ago. Along with that change in focus has been a change in what I spend my time doing. I used to be a total book worm, even when I was a kid. I’d sit up all night and read everything from Roald Dahl to The Saddle Club. I would walk from school assembly back to our classroom with my face in a book.When I was a teenager, my Uncle Philip’s freely lent collection of books opened up the world of science fantasy when I read Raymond E Feist’s book, Magician (still one of my favourites), the beautifully descriptive books of Wilbur Smith, and a whole host of other worlds.

Right up until I finished my degree, I read and read and read. I read the entire Harry Potter series in the week the seventh book was released, while also working full time!

But between a postgrad, moving house, a baby… I had less and less time to read books, and for the last two or three years, I’ve read very little beyond blog posts and Facebook groups. What I have read have been really tweeny books like The Hunger Games. I’ve turned to TV, mostly, or sitting with my phone in my hand getting caught up in various Facebook groups that are now, admittedly, one of my main social outlets. (How strange does that sound. Apparently it’s not just me though, lots of mums in these groups would say the same!)

In order to try and get myself reading again, I got a Kindle just over a year ago. What could make reading easier than a kindle?! I had been so set against them before, I really do love the feel of a real book, but if it was going to be a kindle or no reading at all, the kindle wins. But still, I’ve only read a handful of books over the past year. Most of them have been free or 99p books!

So back to this book club… I saw the suggestion and while I really wanted to join, I was hesitant. Firstly, the introvert thing… New people… Very anxiety inducing! And secondly, the mushy brain… And these old friends that were setting up the book club are really quite intelligent people, in many ways. Even more anxiety inducing when the majority of my conversation is with a 3 year old, existential as he sometimes is.
But a couple of little pushes and nudges and I said fuck it, and joined. So far it’s not as unnerving as I expected. Though, I’ve only made it to one meeting. And only read one book. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. But I read a book! It wasn’t a great book, it wasn’t gripping or overly exciting. It was an easy read, that got me to a book club meeting, baby in sling because he’s too little to leave just yet, and I had conversation, with other adults that wasn’t interrupted by requests for orange water or cartoons or watermelon. I even had a pint. And I might even go again 😜

The next book that was picked was The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I’ve been wanting to read this book, but only managed to borrow it from my local library the week after the book club meeting about it. I WILL read it though!!

I’m really hoping that this book club gets me back into my reading habits, I love escaping into a book. I have, no exaggeration, about 50 books on my shelves that I haven’t yet read!
Are there any habits you have fallen out of that you’d love to get back into?

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Some of my ‘waiting to be read’ books.

VHI Women’s Mini Marathon 2015!

The VHI Women’s Mini Marathon registration opened today. Around 40,000 women (and a few men in drag!) will take part in the mini marathon, and it has become one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) charity fundraising events in Ireland since it first took place in 1983.

The Mini Marathon takes place on the June bank holiday Monday every year, and is 10km long.

This will be my 4th year taking part in the Mini Marathon. In 2012, I walked it for the first time and really struggled. I did it 8 months after having my first baby by c section and I was so so unfit. In 2013, I had started using the couch 25k programme, though I stalled on the 4th or 5th week, but completed the 10k in under 100 minutes, and in 2014 I did it while 21 weeks pregnant, in around 90 minutes which I was really happy with.

This year I really want to try and jog half of it, so with just over 15 weeks to go, I’m going to start the couch 2 5 k programme again (for the… third?! time!), with the aim of graduating to the couch 2 10k, and even if I don’t complete that I’m hoping it will be enough to get me fit enough to get under 75 minutes this year! If I post here, it might hold accountable and keep me on track!

Baby’s birth story

This is a long one, I feel like there’s so much I need to include that’s not just the labour and birth of Senan, but the journey that led up to the grand finale!

On my first baby, Rory, I really thought I was well informed, but at the same time, I wasn’t really prepared. I didn’t know that you could have a home birth especially with your first baby, I didn’t I could decline interventions etc., and I also didn’t expect to go so ‘over’ my Guess date- though that was really down to the hospital kind of dismissing the private dating scan we had and us not pushing it… so when I was 10 days over by the scan dates/ 17 days by hospital dates I was induced and ended up with a section due to infection/ failure to progress… I have always had such a fear of sections, I don’t know why, I don’t mind watching any other surgeries or anything but just can’t do sections. That along with being separated from my baby for so long while I was in recovery, and so many things just not being the way they should have been, is what ultimately led me to make sure that we had the birth we wanted this time.

I was in Gentle Birth and VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) Facebook groups for quite a while before even being pregnant, soaking up the information. When I found out I was pregnant in February I already knew that I wanted to go with the community midwives in NMH rather than having to go into the hospital and see a doctor for every visit, and that we would be far more in control this time. I had never thought of a home birth, knowing that a previous section would rule me out of having one.
But when Neighbourhood Midwives came on the scene, I was in contact with Heather a lot about the possibility of NM having home birth insurance on time for me to have my baby. As these things do, though, it was taking time! I joined the home birth groups on Facebook and began reading those birth stories and gathering that information. As I flew through my pregnancy, I realised that I wanted and needed to have a bit more of a set plan in my head and decided that if NM wasn’t a definite option for me by 30 weeks that I would stick with a hospital birth.
On the Wednesday before I was 30 weeks, Heather rang me to tell me that she didn’t think that they would be set up in time for me. I was really disappointed but had been purposely trying to not let myself get my hopes up about a home birth so I felt ok about it… I would have a hospital birth, and it would be better than ok, because I would have my doula, Melanie.
HOWEVER… the phone rang again on Friday, the day before I was 30 weeks, and Heather was on the other end telling me that NM were set up and ready to go if I was still interested… I think I nearly exploded! Straight away any doubts and niggle fears that I’d ever had about a home birth disappeared and I was just so so excited at the prospect! My husband was more cautious, but thankfully he supported me despite his uncertainty.

Roll on 36 weeks, and I had my last visit with my GP. It wasn’t my usual GP, but I decided to tell her that I was now planning a home birth anyway- cue a very positive reaction. She thought it was great that home VBACs were now possible again, which was a nice boost!

The next Thursday evening, we had our first midwife visit. Aoife called at about 7pm, when we were all home. Mark was still a bit apprehensive at this stage, but after a very short while with Aoife, he was happy and much much more on board as Aoife had very clear answers to all of his questions (mostly about what exactly the plan would be if something went wrong). Rory, my 3 year old, instantly took a shine to Aoife as well, and he “helped” her listen to baby with the doppler and take my blood pressure etc. Totally thrilled with himself, and that inclusive part of the whole home birth experience was so so special for me!

The next visit with Aoife, my mum came along… she has only just found out we were planning a home birth, as I’d been nervous telling her, but again, Aoife was very reassuring and by the end of the visit my mum thought she’d like to be here for the birth! And Rory loved helping again!
We had two more visits; the third visit, Melanie came for, and at this stage I was starting to think that any time now I would be happy for baby to arrive, although I had my cousins wedding and a Friends of Breastfeeding event that week that I wanted to get behind me before baby arrived!
The final visit was Aoife, Rory and myself. Rory, by this stage, used to get really excited anyone came to the door thinking it was Aoife. This visit was the Tuesday before I was 40 weeks, and we were starting to talk about having two visits the following week, and letting Aoife know if I had any updates at all. I was 100% sure that the two visits would be happening because although I was more than ready for baby to arrive I was sure that he wouldn’t be ready until I was at least 41 weeks. I hadn’t had any niggly pains, no indication that things would happen any time soon.

(And finally the actual birth story part begins!)

On Wednesday night I went to bed, I was pretty wreaked and although I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I had been on my first pregnancy, I could only sit up for so long before I would be aching. When I went to bed, I started getting some period like cramps in my tummy and back. I didn’t make much of them, but decided I’d text Aoife and message Melanie and let them know, as I’d promised them both I’d tell them if there was anything at all to tell. After a short while of these cramps and listening to some music, I fell asleep and when I woke up the next day they were barely there and fading, and they were completely gone by that night.
On the Thursday night I watched some YouTube videos of VBACs, and the AIMS 42 weeks video… Makes me cry every time! It’s such a gorgeous video!
On the Friday, I was pretty excited to be hitting 40 weeks, and wanted to make sure that my excitement didn’t turn into frustration when I passed my guess date so I started making lots of plans and to do lists for the following week.
Rory and myself went for a little walk that afternoon and My in laws visited that evening, my mother in law decided she would come up the following Wednesday so I could go and get my hair cut. I planned on organising the babies clothes, getting the house a little decluttered, a visit to the salon, using a groupon voucher for a pregnancy massage… I had also planned on letting my neighbours know we were planning a home birth…
After the in laws left, I settled Rory to bed, Mark and I decided to have a lazy evening and got a chipper for dinner while we flaked out and watched TV.
Again, I headed to bed early enough that night. Just as I was getting ready for bed, I lost a big lump of mucous. The last thing I expected as a result of this is how irrationally, manically happy it would make me! Seriously… I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat! After having no signs of anything happening bar the few cramps, THIS was something! And I felt like even if it took two weeks from now, my body was doing the things it was supposed to be doing to prepare for labour! As I lay down I started getting very occasional cramps. I text Aoife at 11:30 to let her know, and messaged Melanie as well, and we jokingly planned that I would go into labour the following morning and be tucked up in bed with my baby by the following evening. Everyone went to bed in case I needed to call on them during the night. I was still very sure that I had at least another week to wait, after going so far over on Rory, in my mind there was no way I’d ever have a baby on my guess date!

At 3am I woke up, nothing unusual for me at this stage! But what was unusual, I didn’t need to pee! I lay for a few minutes, and had a sensation somewhere between a surge and a periody cramp. I wanted to try and stay in bed to rest so I lay for an hour, with what was becoming more definite surges coming every few minutes. I was consciously trying to ignore them, but I couldn’t sleep through them so I was distracting myself with games on my phone and Facebook. My October mums group were a brilliant distraction, as they had been on more than one sleepless night already!

By 4am I couldn’t lie in bed comfortably, so I got up and although I was laughing at myself thinking I was just being overly optimistic I turned on the immersion for the birth pool ‘just in case’, went downstairs and made some tea. I had lined up loads of romcoms to watch during the slow build up I had planned for, but I didn’t think I would be able to sit through a whole movie so I put on Charmed which I’d started watching on Netflix. Nothing like a bit of super 90’s cheese to entertain!!! I kept having to pause it to stand up and move around during each surge, I couldn’t sit still through them. I got through 2 episodes, and at 5:30am I heard Rory wake up and run from his room to mine, and then looking for me, so I went upstairs. He wasn’t the happiest so I knew he wouldn’t go back to sleep. I was really quite uncomfortable at the stage, so I decided I’d wake Mark and we’d all get up.
We went downstairs, and Mark was getting Rory breakfast while I moved around the sitting room, changing between leaning over the ball, slouching on the back of the couch, generally trying to get comfortable. At 6am I asked Mark to start putting up the pool. I figured it would take 2 or 3 hours anyway, and I had really enjoyed the trial run so I thought that even if I wasn’t actually in labour (somehow I still wasn’t sure!) that it would help me relax.

The times after this are all a blur… The time was speeding up and slowing down!

I pretty quickly felt very uncomfortable, and was starting realise that I might really be in labour! Mark had been hinting for a while that he thought we should call Melanie, and maybe Aoife, and at some stage while I was draped over the ball moaning, I agreed. I think it was about 6:30am at this stage, and Mark had begun filling the pool. A short while later Mark called my mum to come and collect Rory. I would have loved if I would have felt happier for him to stay with me for a while longer but I just really wasn’t sure enough of myself. When my mum arrived, I was right at the start of a big surge and couldn’t talk, she was a bit wired (she usually is!) and kept asking me to give her some information, give her some information… It was really irritating me so I snapped at her to just stop talking so I could focus. She went into the kitchen then to start asking Mark for information!! When the surge passed I was able to tell her that I wasn’t timing the surges or keeping track, but just that things were happening. We gathered together a few clothes for Rory, and he happily went off in his nanas car.

As my mum was leaving, Melanie arrived. I had been having a bit of a panic about whether we had asked Melanie and Aoife to come too soon or not, but once I saw Melanie I started crying with relief that she was there! I think this must have been around 7:30am. By now I had my ‘spot’ in the sitting room, leaving against the book shelves and wagging my bum and making a bit of noise during each surge. Aoife arrived shortly afterwards, and I was so relieved to see her too.
Melanie asked (as she had before but I had been indecisive), if I wanted photos taken during labour. After having watched the YouTube and AIMS videos, I was pretty quick to say yes this time!

The pool was ready now, and I wanted to get in, but was still in my pjs and big hoodie. I went upstairs and got changed. I was fine getting up the stairs, but needed help coming back down.
When I got into the pool , the water did feel amazing and it did help me during the surges. I think I was too tall for the pool I had though, so I was soon getting a bit frustrated with not being able to move around and switch between leaning over the side of the pool or sitting back against the other side too easily. Melanie set up some tracks and music on the laptop. I’d had playlists made up on my phone but couldn’t decide what i wanted to listen to, if anything.

I was getting a bit stressed and upset at this stage, and at maybe 9:30/9:45am Aoife suggested getting out of the pool to maybe examine me and see how I was getting on. I was so reluctant to do this… I didn’t want to move despite being frustrated with not moving around to easily in the pool, and I was afraid that if I was examined and I wasn’t obviously progressing that I’d fall apart. Eventually I got out, and started to make my way over to the couch (I think there were some sheets and blankets thrown over it at this stage!). where I kept trying to lie down so Aoife could examine me. I just couldn’t do it though! I was really, REALLY trying, but I simply could not make myself lie down! I ended up kneeling in front of the couch with my arms up on it. At this point, my waters went, and Aoife guessed I was heading towards being fully dilated.

I don’t think it was much later that I hit transition with a bang, maybe it was beforehand that transition actually had started. I definitely wasn’t calm at this stage, but on some level at the same time I had an inner voice with my affirmations slipping in and out of my head. I also had my ‘change the channel’ (gentle birth technique) image going through my head… I was saying ‘I can’t, I can’t…’ But the ‘what if you do, imagine how you’ll feel when you DO!’ Was fighting it’s way in too!
I went back to my spot by the bookshelves, and Melanie stood beside me and helped me regulate my breathing.

Once I got through transition I felt so much calmer. I’m not sure if I actually appeared that way on the outside, but in my head I was definitely calm! My body was starting to really take over now. I got back to the couch as I was getting the urge to push. Or was it a while before… The Gas & air lured me back to the couch I think! I know now that this was at around 11:30am. I spent the next hour moving around and having the urge to push but not much was happening. I know Mark had his hand on my back at one stage and I think I just said ‘no touching!’, I really couldn’t tolerate it! And I’d thought I would want lots of contact!

Finally we found a couple of positions where I was able to push effectively… I couldn’t not push when I got the urge. The positions were a bit rough on my legs though, very deep squats, kneeling on the floor… My legs were more painful than the surges! And I was making sure everyone knew my legs were sore and tired! It was that pain that I found very tiring, and I kept having to move because I was getting pins and needles or a leg was going dead, and it was really distracting. I had to squat but hang from marks arms for a while to keep the pressure off my legs, and I had to sit up on Rorys little blue ikea kids chair and the couch with my legs pulled up a few times. (I’m sitting back on the same couch now… It’s surreal thinking it all happened here!) It felt like this stage was going on for ages… Aoife showed Mark that she could see baby’s head, that they could see dark hair, but there wasn’t much downward movement for a long time. I could feel him moving though, which was a really strange, fascinating sensation! Aoife was listening in every few minutes with the Doppler, and i kept asking if he was happy, and he always was. I felt like I knew that though, the whole time. The affirmations of my baby knowing how to be born and my body knowing how to birth my baby we’re going around my head in circles now, and I really felt so in tune with my baby… I knew he was happy.

Things were still moving slowly though… Aoife was using a mirror to show me where baby’s head was… Well, I had never seen anything like that before!! His head was right there… I could see the shape of it!! Aoife was encouraging my pushing a little more strongly by now, and eventually I felt a kind of drop and I knew before I was told that we’d turned a corner. At this stage I let out an ‘ow’ but it was more of a bit if a surprise at the sensation rather than a real pain ‘ow’. I think we all remembered then that’s c section scar was there and I was asked ‘what do you mean ow!!??’. But I was fine! (Then I broke the mirror by stomping on it! Oops!)
Someone (Mark or me) thought of getting a can of coke from the fridge (The odd can of coke was my weakness during this pregnancy!), and I think the energy boost from the sugar really helped.

I was making loads of noise. I really wished I had the chance to give my neighbours the heads up. (They’ve said since they didn’t hear anything, I think they’re just being super polite suburbanites!) I remember howling at one stage, but as I’ve read before, I wasn’t consciously making the noise out of pain, it was just coming out of me.?That and kind of whimpers, but it was (99%!) just noise.
I tried to feel baby’s head at one stage but couldn’t reach.
I had spent a lot of this time leaning into Mark while he sat on the couch. I had to have him right in front of me now. I think i had tossed aside the mouthpiece for the gas and air because the tubing was twisted and it was annoying me but I didn’t have the patience to straighten it or ask for it to be straightened.
When baby’s head started to come I started ‘ow’ing more seriously! It was such an intense feeling. I heard Melanie reminding me that this was the shortest part of it, and that all was well, and that kept me a bit grounded. It didn’t feel very short! It was two or three surges before his head was out and I felt his head then. That was incredibly bizarre! I saw a bunched up towel being pushed underneath me, and with the next surge(s?!) out came the rest of his body onto the towel. I pulled him through and scooted myself back a bit, and lifted him up onto my tummy. For some reason I was worried about his cord being very short and lifting him too high on to my chest. Totally unnecessarily, as it happened, but it’s funny the things that pop into your head! I was completely overwhelmed at this point. I couldn’t stop thinking ‘I just pushed a baby out… In my house!’, I said it out loud a few times while I looked at between mark and the baby in a bit of a daze!
It was incredible!

A few minutes after (baby had stayed attached to me the whole time), baby wasn’t really perking up much. He was kind of purple and a bit floppy, even with us rubbing him with a towel. Aoife took him to give him a bit of a rub at one stage and I had to turn in her direction as she moved because baby and me were still connected! We decided to cut the cord now, which I was happy enough with as we’d had a good few minutes, so we could give him a good rub down. Again, time is a bit of a blur… Mark had baby skin to skin, Ursula- the second midwife- arrived, and baby was still a bit purple and floppy. We had given him the vitamin k injection and it didn’t perk him up at all either. So we decided we should transfer into hospital. Ursula called the ambulance and told us that two centres had been notified so whichever ambulance got here first would bring us in. Then a fire brigade arrived! And 3 big burly firemen and a firewoman arrived into my sitting room… A lovely Saturday afternoon with my lovely neighbours out… In they come and my curtains are drawn, birth pool taking up half the room, heating blasting so it’s like a sauna, me sitting on the aforementioned blue ikea kids chair in just a sleep bra and waiting to deliver the placenta! While its seems HILARIOUS to me now, it was not so entertaining at the time! I was really uncomfortable while i hadn’t delivered the placenta. I felt I couldn’t sit properly and that it was taking ages. Aoife had, after a while, given me the syntocinin with my agreement, but I think I expected it to work more instantly than was realistic. Melanie had made toast for me and was holding my can of coke for me to drink… I could feel myself getting a bit shaky at this stage but was figuring it was a combination of tiredness and hunger, and all the drama going on around me. Eventually the placenta delivered quite easily (after one of the firemen suggested some entenox as well!) and I instantly felt much better.
The ambulance had arrived at some stage, and Fred and Scottie came and joined the party. I’ve never had so many people in my sitting room! They had small suction tube things and portable oxygen, so brought them in for baby. After a while we decided we should head into Holles street to get baby looked over.

Melanie and Mark dressed baby, while Aoife and Ursula dressed me, and we (Mark, Aoife, baby and myself) were bundled into the ambulance and sirens on (through traffic because of water charges protest) into the hospital.
We were taken up to delivery when we got there and between all the other checks etc, baby was weighed… Now he was quite the bundle while I held him in the ambulance, I guessed he was going to be 10lb 7oz. I think Mark guessed 10lb even, and Aoife guessed a little lower. He weighed in at 5.1kg or 11lb 4oz in real money. Buster!
All I could say was that I was quite impressed with myself! Haha!

I guess that’s really the pregnancy and birth story part. Senan was named after 24 hours. A name we had never thought of, but suits him perfectly, he has a wise little head.
We were in hospital for a few days, 2 nights in nicu due to TTN (kind of wet lungs), and another 2 nights due to jaundice.

The first day after Senan’s birth I was very, very overwhelmed by the transfer, and once he was discharged from nicu I was very, very frustrated and upset by the jaundice and being on the post natal ward when we should have been at home, all of together. I missed Rory so so much those nights. When we got home though, we ‘reset’ as suggested by wonderful Lactation Consultant, Nicola O’ Byrne,, and started our real babymoon.

When we had our last visit with our fabulous midwife Aoife. I bawled! Rory literally almost ran away with her, he still talks about her coming to see us.
The day after our last visit with Aoife, we had our last visit with Melanie. It’s so final that it’s over, that I’m not pregnant or building up to our home birth any more.
I can’t believe that it’s all over, I don’t want it to be over. I’d been excited about the pregnancy, birth, and baby since I peed on the stick back in February sometime, but since the Gentle Birth workshop with Melanie in August, it became so real and we became so confident- with Mark so on board it was even more exciting! And then the home vbac becoming the plan- all the Facebook groups and support really gave me the confidence and belief in myself that it was the right plan for us.
Apart from the little glitch with the hospital stay, it has been the most amazing experience. I wouldn’t change a thing about Senan’s birth; it was full on from the start and definitely the most intense thing I’ve ever done. I’d honestly do it again tomorrow.

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My ‘change the channel’ image and phrase. Art by Equine artist Tony O’ Connor words by Erin Hannon

Bedtime, introduction. In Dreams.

I’m lying beside my nearly 3.5 year old while he’s going to sleep. He’s cuddled right in, his face smushed into my boobs, his knees tucked into my soft tummy. His toes wriggling. Sometimes he holds my hand. His other arm flails around with Lolo, his blankie, firmly in his grip. He doesn’t stop moving until he’s asleep. Sometimes I don’t mind it. Other times I have to press his arm down and tell him to go asleep or I’ll end up losing teeth. Or my mind, if I’m particularly irritable.
This is our time, every night. I refuse to sacrifice this bed time. It’s so special.
My small baby gets rocked and shushed and walked downstairs in his Daddy’s arms while my big boy and me catch up and snuggle. Most nights I love the whole process. Some nights l feel like tearing my skin off and screaming at him to JUST GO TO SLEEP. They’re the nights I have to remind myself that in a few short months, or maybe a year or two if I’m lucky, that he won’t need or even want me to lie beside him until he’s asleep. And I’ll lose this nightly dose of affection from my big little boy. I’ll mourn it.
It’s a cliche, but it nearly hurts, it aches, how quickly he’s growing up. He’s a big brother now, too. And he’s in preschool. My baby, the big brother, the preschooler (not even a toddler anymore!). I know, I hope anyway, in 3 years time I’ll be doing the same thing with my small baby. And it will feel like the three years have been on fast forward, and getting faster, and that mere minutes will have passed between now and then.
So I’m going to use this to keep track, to remember, to savour, to be proud, to mourn the time passing and also celebrate it, and them.

My parents used to listen to Roy Orbison,  along with other music, on a record player we had at home when I was young. I remember being able to hear it while I was falling asleep or if I woke up at night. I’ve lovely memories of my brother and my bedtimes. They’re for another post though! I wonder if my boys will have bedtime memories, and what they’ll be.