I DO like… – wot so funee?

As usual, this is the week’s round up of comedy moments brought about by toddler language. I love writing these posts, they always make me laugh remembering the moments that I noted down in the week…

Although Andrew is generally a good eater and will try most things, he has recently decided that certain vegetables are no-go. He can usually be persuaded to have a mouthful, which is all we ask if he really insists he doesn’t like it, if we say that he can’t have pudding if he doesn’t at least try it (and by pudding we mean fruit and yoghurt, which he loves). This week saw a new tactic in him trying to get out of veg consumption: when asked if he could eat some cauliflower (we he had actually chosen in the shop as we’d run out of veg in the box), his reply was “I can’t eat my cauliflower, it’s too dangerous!” Gotta watch those crazy cauliflowers, they might jump up from the plate and whack you round the head or something!

Every now and then he likes to pinch a bit of Daddy’s toast in the morning. Having asked for it one day, he left it on the table and got down. When I asked him a few minutes later if he wanted it because he’d asked for it, he replied: “No thank you, I don’t NEED toast right now”. OK then, we didn’t force you to have it in the first place!

I do love a good bit of toddler logic. As he’s grown out his 2-3 years clothes, he’s now got a 3-4 years wardrobe (or at least plenty of tops, trousers he gets by but could do with a few more). However, some of the trousers are a little long for him still, so we usually roll them up a bit to stop them dragging on the floor. I have been known to forget this, or at least not do it the immediate second that he’s got them on – he wants most things done yesterday. His reaction has been to shout: “Roll my sleeves up, roll my sleeves up!” (sometimes with a please attached on the end). When I’ve investigated further, knowing that his sleeves are fine, it’s become clear that he means his “trouser sleeves, Mummy”. Ah of course, trouser sleeves, it makes sense.

We’ve been doing a lot of packing recently for the big move. Mostly when the boys are out with one of us or asleep, but Daddy was sorting his CDs out at the weekend, which is a big job so it ran over after Andrew’s nap. He came out of his room, just opposite the CD rack, and picked up a CD – the March of the Penguin soundtrack. He studied it for a moment, and then asked: “Is this Pingu?” Not sure that Pingu is an Emperor Penguin like on the cover, but not far off I guess.

And finally, his latest favourite little phrase is: “I DO like [X]!” There’s a real emphasis on the DO, usually said i an excited manner because I’ve said that we’re going to do something involving the thing he likes, for example, eat pasta, go to the park, listen to a CD, ride in the car etc. One example that was really cute this week was when I told him we were going to church for one of our regular midweek groups there: “I do like church, it’s where all my friends are!” I’m glad that he enjoys going, as we do spend quite a bit of time there each week. And it’s lovely to hear that he thinks of other children as friends, as that’s not something he’s mentioned very much.

Wot So Funee?

The making of a superhero (or 2)

This week, as well as Joel’s first birthday, has included the 31st October. Now to lots of people that means Halloween, but we’re not into celebrating something that originated in dark things, even though these days it’s just a vastly over commercialised festival that most people take part in without any intention of deliberately celebrating evil. Instead we like to join in with the annual ‘Light Party’ that’s put on at our Church, celebrating all things light, including Jesus who we believe is the ‘Light of the World’. We still have lots of fun dressing up, eating treats and spending time with friends, we just do it in a way that doesn’t remember anything like witches, ghost and the devil.

This year’s theme was ‘superheroes’, and children who went were encouraged to dress up as a superhero if they wanted to. I knew that Andrew would want to join in, and thought it would be cute if Joel did too. I also knew that I didn’t have much time to make costumes (a couple of hours last Saturday morning), but I did a quick search on Pinterest and got a few ideas for quick and easy superhero costumes.

costumes

I decided that the superhero kit would include: a cape with letter design, a belt, wrist cuffs with lightening bolt design, and a mask. They then wore ordinary clothes with these accessories – for Joel that was a nappy, leg warmers and a plain top; for Andrew that was trousers and a top that I painted a star on last Christmas for the Nativity Play, with pants on the outside. Andrew’s colour theme was yellow (mainly influenced by the star), and Joel’s was green (mainly influenced by his green star leg warmers).

superhero Collage 3

The capes were made from an old black t-shirt of Daddy’s. I hemmed the edges quickly, and folded over the top, sewed it down and passed a length of elastic through to make a simple cape. I also appliquéd a letter in the centre for each of them: A for Andrew and J for Joel.

The belts and wrist cuffs were made from duck tape stuck onto paper, and then coloured card stuck on with double sided tape to make the ‘buckles’ and lightening bolt details. I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s blog to use duck tape for these. I then used snaps (which I use for nappy making) to secure them around the waist/wrist.

For the masks I simply cut out a mask shape, cut eye holes in, and fastened some elastic to go around the head using tape. I was amazed that Joel actually kept his on his forehead for the whole party, and Andrew wore his on his eyes for a while before it broke after some rather enthusiastic bouncing on the bouncy castle.

superhero Collage 1

superhero Collage 2

It was really hard to get good photos of them in the costumes at the party, most of mine are really blurry because they wouldn’t stay still! But I think you get the idea from the photo I took of the costumes before the superheroes got into them 😉 We had a lot of fun at the party; the boys (and I, and Grandma and Pop who came too) were all exhausted afterwards because they were constantly on the go exploring all the different games and activities that there were on offer, just like little superheroes who can never really rest with all the important work they have to do!

superhero Collage 4

The essential baby kit list

A friend of mine who is expecting her first baby in April recently suggested that I could write a blog post about what I think you really need (as opposed to what the shops and media tell you that you need) when you have a baby. I agree that this sounds like a great idea for a post, and I’m happy to help her and others out in their quest to sift through the vast array of possibilities, which is quite honestly a mind boggling task as I recall.

So here is my take on which bits of kit really are essential, and whether I think each one is best bought new or whether secondhand is fine. I should stress though that this is my personal take on things, based on my own experience of having 2 babies. The suggestion for this post came after I commented on Facebook about an article in a newspaper (one I like to disagree with!) which talked about the top 10 most unused or useless pieces of baby equipment according to a recent survey of new parents. I disagreed with almost all 10, and actually would find life a lot harder without half of them; but some of my mummy friends agreed with most of the list, so it goes to show that not everyone has the same experience – we have different locations, lifestyles, personalities and, most importantly, babies! It depends to some extent on when your baby is born in the year – I’ve had two winter babies, so I’ve not had experience of clothing a newborn when it’s a heatwave (well, a heatwave for this country at least!) Also, as part of my Editor role for my local NCT branch magazine, I recently edited a baby kit list article by another mum of two children, and although I agreed with most of it, there were some things that weren’t the same in my experience.

Clothing

  • Totally fine to get secondhand, and you’ll probably be given lots when baby is born.
  • A note on sizing: There are three ‘newborn’ sizes – tiny baby, newborn and 0-3 months. Both my boys were pretty much the national average for birth weight and were long and thin. We only had one actual ‘newborn’ size babygro that was given to Andrew as a present, and both of them grew out of it within a month (we made sure they wore it lots in that time!) So if you have an average-large baby, there’s no need to get the newborn size, just go straight to 0-3m. If you have a smaller than average baby, then the newborn size would be handy so they’re not swamped, and if you have a very small, maybe premature baby, then you may even need the tiny baby size. But too big is better than too small – they can always grow into it.
  • Babygros (also known as sleep-suits and, from across the pond, onesies) – about 12. We bought a pack of 3 in size 0-3 months, but were then given many more. If you have a very sicky baby you’ll get through more than you think! They sleep in these, and wear them in the day too until you can be bothered to dress them in anything more fiddly to get on.
  • Vests – about 12. These can be sleeveless or with short sleeves (like t-shirts), but useful if they have poppers at the bottom to secure under the bum so that it doesn’t ride up baby’s tummy, which is particularly important in winter, and for a summer baby you might find they live in vests rather than babygros.
  • Outfits e.g. dungarees for a boy or dresses for a girl: These are not essential, as most of the time you’ll probably prefer the ease of babygros in the early days, but it’s the kind of thing you’ll be given and can look very cute 🙂
  • Wooly cardigans – about 5-6. We were very kindly knitted a lot of these. Cardigans are so much more practical than jumpers. Obviously if it’s the height of summer you’ll need fewer, but even in spring and autumn you’ll need them, and definitely in winter.

    A selection of our hand-knitted cardigans - in loving memory of the member of Tom's family who knitted most of them.
  • Hat: It’s the kind of thing you’ll be given probably. We have quite a few, but they are easily lost. Both cotton jersey ones and wooly knitted ones are handy.
  • Coat: Unless it’s really warm (July or August), I’d get a snow-suit style all-in-one coat, either in a ‘puffa’ style or a fleecy one. Look for a good hood and one with feet (and gloves if in winter).
  • Socks/bootees: These are not so important if you use mainly babygros that have feet, but necessary for outfits without built-in feet. I find socks stay on better than bootees, which aren’t really much use until they’re a bit older. We’ve not had too many problems with socks coming off, but I’ve heard other mums who have – you can buy things called ‘sock-ons’ which help keep them on, apparently.

Changing

  • Changing mat: We bought (with vouchers we were given) one that sits across the top of the cot, but soon found it easier to do nappy changes on the floor when Andrew started to roll, and it’s stayed on the floor ever since! The same thing would have happened with one of those changing stations where baby lies on top. You could buy secondhand if you gave it a thorough anti-bacterial clean, but they’re pretty cheap new for just the plastic mat, and you don’t need anything fancy.

    Cot-top changing mat now on the living room floor
  • Changing bag: I’ve recently blogged a bit about this here. There are some quite cheap, and even free (if you join Boots parenting club and buy some nappies) bags out there, but I think it’s a case of you get what you pay for, and if you want something that’s going to last, you’ll inevitably pay more for it. Think about whether you’d prefer a satchel style or a rucksack, something plain or something fancy? I can recommend one with lots of pockets to keep stuff organised so things are easily accessible when you desperately need them! I guess there are secondhand ones out there, but I haven’t looked into it, as I knew we’d use it loads and so I wanted one with lots of life left in it.
  • Nappies: Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while will know that I’m a big cloth nappy fan. I blogged about it here and here, and I must do an update on how we’re doing with two bums to cover at the moment. I’d definitely recommend thinking about it, even if you decide it’s not for you – the main attraction for us was the money we’re saving. Recently I’ve heard of cloth nappy libraries that allow you to try before you commit to buying – why not Google for one near you? (I wish there was on in Cambridge; I’m very tempted to look at setting one up – anyone interested?!) Whether you decide on cloth or disposables, I’d get stocked up on a few weeks worth (reckon on about 7 a day) of newborn disposable nappies – size 1 should be fine unless you have a teeny baby or a very chunky one. We didn’t use cloth with Andrew until he was about 6 weeks old because it took us a while to get used to the big shock that having a new baby brings to your previous lifestyle!

    Some of my favourite cloth nappies - they look so gorgeous 🙂
  • Nappy sacks: The value ones are OK, or you can get eco-friendly biodegradable ones. We don’t use many as we mainly use cloth, but they are handy for getting rid of disposables.
  • Wipes: At home I mainly use cotton wool and water in a little plastic bowl, especially for big poo explosions! Wipes for sensitive skin (suitable from birth) are essential when we go out. I’ve heard quite a lot recently about reusable wipes, or even making your own from face cloths, but I’ve not gone down that route yet as we stocked up on enough wipes to last us months when I had a voucher that gave us a cheap deal on bulk buying.
  • Muslins – lots, maybe 12 for one child (I don’t think you can really have too many).They can be used for pretty much any mess wiping from babyhood to toddlerhood and beyond! Ours have seen sick, wee, poo, snot, dribble, drinks, food, paint etc. (not all at the same time obviously!!), and they wash easily to be used again and again. I think there’s not much difference between the different brands that we have (Boots, Asda and Mothercare) in terms of their performance – wash them first as they aren’t very absorbent before you do, like new towels. The price can vary quite a bit though – recently I bought some more and Mothercare were almost twice the price of Boots and Asda.

Sleeping

  • Moses basket: This is a good idea for the early weeks, but they only last for around 3 months (probably a bit longer if your baby is shorter than my long boys), so definitely borrow one or buy a secondhand one. We were kindly given one to borrow from a friend of my parents. Neither of the boys have slept in it for a long time each night – Joel seems to settle off there at the start of the night but then we co-sleeep (baby next to me in our bed, and Tom on sofa bed) after the first waking for feeding, and Andrew did the same.

    Moses basket next to my bed, plus sleeping bag for when he decides to sleep in there rather than in my bed!
  • Cot or cot-bed: We got a bargain secondhand cot and cot-bed, both from eBay, thanks to my mum’s bargain hunter’s eye! It’s fine to get the frame secondhand, but you need a new mattress for each child that sleeps on it. A cot lasts up to about age 2, and a cot-bed until about age 5 as it’s bigger and you take the sides off to turn it into a toddler bed. We got a cot-bed for Andrew and have just taken the sides off, which went very well – he’s low to the ground so no damage done if he falls out, and we think it’s helped that he’s familiar with the mattress and sheets, so the transition to a big boy’s bed has been quite uneventful for him. Joel is still in with me, but when he’s ready to go in the bedroom with Andrew, we have a cot, because there isn’t room for two cot-beds. The plan is that by the time he’s ready for a bed, Andrew will be old enough to go in an adult-sized single bed and Joel can have the toddler bed (and we’ll have moved to a bigger house!)

    Cot-bed with sides taken off - fitted sheet and sleeping bag the same as he had before sides came off (plus red pyjamas, teddy and green slippers!)
  • Mattress: There are so many choices to make on this! I must admit that my mum did most of the research on this, as she bought the cot/cot-bed frames for us so bought us the mattresses too. I’d say that a sprung one will last longer than foam, which soon gets indented to your baby’s shape. If you’re concerned about allergies then some are made of more natural materials than others.
  • Baby sleeping bags – 2-3. These are absolutely amazing, I don’t know what we’d do without them. Andrew was and still is such a wriggly sleeper, so if he’d had the traditional blankets, he’d have kicked them off and got cold, or worse still there’s a suffocation risk if they come up over his head. Sleeping bags allow him to move around as he likes and he stays covered in the right places! Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs – I saw loads of bargain ones at a nearly new sale in the autumn.
  • Fitted sheets – 2-3 for each type of bed (Moses basket, cot etc.). These are easier to put on, and stay in place better in, a cot/moses basket than flat sheets do. Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs.
  • Swaddling sheets: You can buy cotton sheets that are shaped specifically for swaddling your baby for the first few months, instead of using a sleeping bag or blankets. We bought a couple, but I haven’t been too impressed by them, as both my boys seem to kick them loose or almost off over the night, and when in with me (though not under the duvet of course) I find it’s warm enough for them just being next to me.
  • Blankets: If you prefer these to sleeping bags, make sure you get the ones designed for sleeping in, which will be obvious where they are sold (e.g. John Lewis, Mothercare)We were kindly knitted quite a few by various family members. We’ve not used them for sleeping, but I find them useful for around the house when we’re doing skin-to-skin feeding during the day (which involves taking most of his clothes off), and other places like the car (as bulky snow suits are hard to fit in a car seat) and in the pram (at least for Andrew we had a pram – Joel just goes in the sling). Fine to get secondhand, just wash them once at a high temperature to kill any bugs.
  • NO other bedding needed! Especially no pillows or cot bumpers – not recommended these days for babies, and even at nearly age 2, Andrew has only ever had a sheet and sleeping bag.
  • Night light: We didn’t have one of these for a while, but there was a light on the mobile which Andrew had in his cot for a while until he was old enough to pull up and therefore potentially pull it down on himself (see next bullet point). But then Tom’s mum gave us the night light that Tom had had as a child, and recently this has been essential – if Andrew rolls out of bed, which only happens occasionally, he can get back in on his own and he’s happy to do that, rather than when there was no light and he got very disorientated in the room and cried for help.
  • Mobile: Not exactly essential, but we found that it helped at one stage when Andrew was going through a phase when nothing seemed to settle him to sleep, not even feeding. The mobile didn’t solve it, but it did help at least keep him calm and give him something to focus on other than me or Tom. I wouldn’t buy one new myself, but it’s a nice present idea.
  • Monitor: As we live in a small flat, we don’t need a monitor – we can hear everything from everywhere and our room is right next to the boys’ room. But my parents bought one for their house and we found it very handy when we stayed. They got a secondhand bargain, though it is a simple one, and I’ve seen others that have fancy functions like talk back or video. I imagine these would be handy in some situations.

Travelling

  • Pram/buggy/travel system: Well, where do I start?! I’ve already blogged about our experience with our old iCandy Cherry travel system here. It was an awful product and I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to walk anywhere further than 5 minutes away. But in general we liked the idea of a travel system – a chassis onto which you can fit a carrycot (in other words it makes a pram), a seat unit (to make a parent-facing and outwards-facing buggy) and a car seat (handy if baby falls asleep when you’re in the car and you want to transfer to something you can push without waking). Our secondhand Bugaboo Cameleon does all of the above, and we’re very pleased with its performance, although we haven’t used the pram with Joel as I’m carrying him in the sling all the time and pushing Andrew in the Bugaboo with seat unit attached. The things you need to think about when deciding on a pram/buggy are: How far and how often will I walk with it? Will it be mainly on pavements or across grass/mud too? Do I need it to fit in the car boot? Do I need to lift it often into the car, so does it need to be lightweight? Do I like four wheels or three? Do I want a pram as well as buggy option? Where will I store it in the house, so does it need to be compact or easily foldable? You need to look out for whether they are suitable from birth, or from 6 months, as a newborn needs to lie completely flat. Also a note on double buggies – I know some people who bought a buggy with their first  child which could convert to a double when their second would come along later (the Phil and Teds is a popular choice for this). We decided against this when buying for Andrew, because I didn’t like the style of either an inline double where one child is close to the ground or a side-by-side double which is so wide and wouldn’t fit in our flat. Instead we have gone for keeping our single travel system and I carry Joel in a sling. Which leads nicely onto….
  • Sling/wrap: There are several different styles of sling or ‘wrap’ (the ones which you wrap around you and tie in place instead of one with buckles). But if you just look on the high street, you’ll probably only come across one or two brands, like the Baby Bjorn. We didn’t get on very well with the two we were given when Andrew was a baby, but since then I’ve  come across much more info on ‘babywearing’, and learned that babies and parents are much more comfortable in slings and wraps that are designed more ergonomically than the most popular brands – you have to look online to find them though. I could write loads about babywearing, so I should probably write a whole post on it some time. But for now I can say that a comfortable sling/wrap is making my life much easier with Joel, because I can do quite a few things with him attached to me like that, and he loves being walked in it and falls asleep almost instantly most of the time. I’d definitely recommend one, even for your first baby, and if you have any more, it’ll come in even more handy! I currently have a Moby stretchy wrap, and hope to move onto a structured sling like the Ergo when he’s too heavy for the stretchy wrap. Some slings are fine to buy secondhand, though it is often advised not to buy a stretchy one secondhand as it could well have lost some of its stretchiness depending on how much use it has already had.

    Our lace-patterned Moby stretchy wrap
  • Car seat: Only buy this new or from people who you know and trust, because it could be dangerous if it has been in an accident before. Even if you don’t have a car, I’ve heard from friends who don’t (plenty in Cambridge and London) that it’s still worth getting a car seat, so you can accept lifts from people or get a taxi if you need to. If you go for a travel system, you’ll need to get the car seat that attaches to the chassis that you choose. We found it handy to put the car seat on the chassis quite a bit with Andrew if he fell asleep in car and we wanted to get out and walk without waking him up, but so far we’ve not needed to do that with Joel, probably because we’ve hardly done any car journeys with him yet.

Playing

  • It’s fine to get most of this secondhand, though always check that things are safe and in good working order before giving them to your child, especially anything electrical or mechanical.
  • Toys: You’ll probably be given loads so I wouldn’t buy any to begin with, especially as baby won’t play with them properly for a while. Rattles and soft toys suitable from birth are good to start with. For older babies and toddlers, you can even have a go at making your own! Some of Andrew’s favourite toys have been things made from household items, like a shaker made from a plastic drinks bottle with dried lentils in.
  • Books: It’s never too early to start reading with a baby – they love it, listening to your voice and looking at pictures. Simple books with black and white designs are good to start with, and any ‘board books’ that baby can start to turn the pages of when they’re a bit older – chunky pages for little hands.
  • Play gym, mat: We’ve found this to be very useful, even though it takes up quite a lot of floor space in our small flat. Although I use the sling a lot, it’s also good that I can lie Joel down on the mat for 10 minutes and he can gaze at and kick the pretty things hanging above him – there are some things it’s not easy to do with a baby strapped to you. It’s also useful for doing ‘tummy time’ with him, though any soft mat or towel would be fine for this too.
  • Play pen: This is useful when baby starts to become mobile, so you can put them in there for a short period and know they can’t escape, for example if you need to nip to another room to fetch something. Our flat is very open plan, so the other option of using a stair gate to block a door to a child-proofed playroom wasn’t an option for us. With Andrew, it also became the place where we would scoop up all the toys into at the end of the day when he went to bed. With a second child, it’s very handy to be able to pop Joel in there under his play gym arches and know that he is safe from Andrew getting to him whilst I nip to another room – not that Andrew has shown signs of intentional harm, but his well-meant affectionate ‘hugs’ are rather crushing for a little baby!

    Play gym in play pen, which keeps toddler and baby separate - essential for a second baby.
  • Bouncy chair: Generally useful, again if you want to put baby down for a short while, and many babies love a bouncy chair, so I’ve heard, but Andrew didn’t – the concept of sitting still has never really appealed to him! We haven’t felt the need to use it for Joel yet, so we gave ours to my niece who loves it. Lots of them come with a bar of toys hanging over where baby sits, to keep them fascinated.
  • Door bouncer: When baby is strong enough to stand up supported, this is a great way to keep them entertained if you need to get on with a few jobs in the same room. We don’t have room for one of the free-standing baby walker style bouncers that go on the floor, so the doorway one was a better option and Andrew loved it, especially when he was at the cruising around furniture stage and basically wanted to be upright all the time. I wouldn’t get his secondhand unless from someone I knew and trusted, because you never know what condition it’s in and there’s a potentially serious accident in it being faulty.

Bathing

  • Baby bath: This is a good way to save water rather than filling the normal bath with the same depth of water. You can get different styles, for example some with inserts to help you hold a young baby more confidently, some that even fold up for easy storage (though we just stood ours at the end of the bath). Ours is just a plain tub, nothing fancy, which Andrew was still in until Joel was born, when he outgrew it, and now we put them both in the big bath, obviously with one of us holding Joel whilst Andrew splashes around him! This is totally fine to get secondhand – we got ours off Freecycle and just gave it a good scrub down before we first used it.

    Baby bath in the big bath
  • Top and tail bowl: I wouldn’t pay money for one of these as we haven’t used it much and tupperware bowls that you already have in your kitchen would be fine. We got ours off Freecycle with the bath.
  • Towels –2-3 just for baby. We like the little ones with a hooded corner so you can wrap them up nice and warm from head to toe when drying them after a bath. Secondhand is fine, as long as they’re still nice and soft, and give them a hot wash to kill any bugs.
  • Nail clippers: We’ve found these much easier than nail scissors for cutting little nails on wriggly hands. With a small baby I just peel the nail tips off as they are still so soft.
  • Toiletries: To start with you really don’t need much at all. We just use water to bath Joel in, and haven’t needed baby oil or lotion or anything like that – his skin is still silky smooth. We used to massage Andrew’s tummy quite a bit when he was a baby as he was prone to constipation now and then, so baby oil was good for that. As he got older and his hair was already a mop very early on, we used baby shampoo and still do. We’ve only used nappy rash cream a handful of times, usually when teething as he’s had a sore bottom then too, but you might find you need it more. I would wait until baby is born before you get any of this, and just see what you need as you go along – it’s not like you can’t pick it up easily from the supermarket with your groceries.
  • Hairbrush:  It depends how much hair your baby has and what its texture is as to which type, if any, you’ll need. Andrew had so much thick hair that we hardly needed to use the soft bristled brush that we were given and went straight to a small adult brush when it started to get long enough to be messy if not brushed. Some babies hardly have any hair for ages, so you may not need to brush it at all for a while.
  • Thermometer: You can get thermometers for the bath, but we’ve never felt the need and just trusted our judgement on how hot the water should be – neither boy has complained so far! If you’re not confident at doing this, a thermometer may help, but I think it’s the kind of thing you soon learn once baby is here and you do it all the time. The other type of thermometer worth getting is one for taking baby’s temperature if they are ill. We haven’t had many temperatures between them yet, but it’s always better to be cautious and take it just in case if they feel warm and are grumpy. We have an accurate digital one that goes in the armpit – this is easy to do on a baby, but I have to admit it gets harder as they get older and want to move away whilst you wait for it to take the final reading, which can be up to a few minutes. A quicker one would be the type you put in the ear and it takes a pretty much instant temperature – these look good for mobile babies but I’ve always been put off  by the much more expensive price and the fact that we’ve hardly needed one. You can also get the strip across the forehead thermometers – these are cheap but not that accurate, I guess good if you just want a rough measurement.

And finally…… Feeding

  • I’ve decided to write a separate post on this at some point. In theory there is no special kit that you need to start breastfeeding, though there are some things that you might want to get as time goes on depending on your experience of how it goes. Of course there is the option to bottle feed formula right from the start, and although personally it never crossed my mind to not even try breastfeeding, every mum has the right to make her own decision on this, hopefully based on the correct information, in which case you’d need to get the kit for that.

Phew, that took longer than I thought! And I still get the impression there’s more I could go on about if I was asked specific questions. Two areas I haven’t covered are baby-proofing devices for when they get mobile, and eating equipment for when they’re on solid food; of course these things aren’t essential straight after birth.

I think my take home message from all of this is that of course it’s good to be prepared and get the basics sorted before baby arrives, but there are several things that are pretty easy to pick up once you’re actually doing the parenting and figuring out what your baby needs and what you think are useful things to help you with this. We were amazed at how generous family and friends were, so we’ve still hardly needed to buy much ourselves at all, and what we have bought has often been secondhand or something I know we can sell secondhand later (like nappies). It was worth waiting until after the births before buying some things, because it allowed us to spend vouchers and not have multiple items!

I hope this has been useful to any pregnant mums and their partners out there! Let me know if there’s anything else I haven’t covered and I’ll share my experience with you 🙂

Andrew models the ‘me&i’ spiky body top (review)

When I went to the BritMums Live! conference in the summer, I entered lots of competitions – the general way to do it was place your business card with blog name and contact info in a big receptacle of some sort and hope for the best. Needless to say I didn’t actually win anything (I never do), but one competition that I distinctly remember thinking would be amazing to win was the one by ‘me&i’, a children’s clothing company founded in Sweden in 2004 by two Swedish mums who’ve been in the UK since early 2011. They were offering such a cute little outfit that was being modelled by a mannequin just the same size as Andrew, and I thought he would look gorgeous in it, if I won it (a big ‘if’, I know!)

I think that's a still shot of the beginning or end of signing Grandad or Granny. But anyway, it shows off the body top nicely 😉

So when I was recently contacted by Pernilla at me&i, I was keen to find out more about the company and their products. All their clothes are made in Europe by manufacturers who look after their workers properly and ensure that the dyeing and printing processes don’t damage the environment; the clothes are also Oko-tex labelled, guaranteeing that they’re free from harmful chemicals. Another great thing is that the fit and fabrics are carefully chosen to be durable and perfect for playing in. All these things are good to know as a parent choosing which clothes to buy for my children. But, most importantly, as well as being ethically-made, environmentally-friendly and long-lasting, the clothes are fun and colourful with playful prints and patches, which means kids will look great as well as feel comfortable in what they’re wearing. In fact, me&i clothes are tried and tested with a panel of children for both comfort and looks.

The way me&i sell their clothes is through home parties, where a hostess invites some friends round who then all get to look at a selection of clothes up close and take their time in deciding whether to buy anything. Although this is something I’d be interested in doing in the future, I of course can’t commit to anything right now with baby due any day. So instead Pernilla suggested that Andrew try out one of their products and I write a review on the blog – I was happy to take her up on this offer, and I was sure Andrew would be happy to model it and give it a road test!

Posing! (shame about the carrier bag outside on the balcony)

The piece of clothing she sent me was the ‘spiky body’ – a long-sleeved body top with popper fastenings under the legs and on one shoulder, in a fabric with a funky hedgehog print (cream and brown) and orange trimmings. My first thought, which Pernilla herself mentioned in the package too, was that it’s a lovely neutral colour-scheme that can be worn by both a boy and a girl – so it’s great for Andrew now and can be a hand-me-down for his brother or sister. I find it really hard to find fun-looking clothes that aren’t covered in either vehicles for boys or princesses and butterflies for girls. I usually go for darker colour clothes for Andrew, due to the inevitable food spillages and mud encounters. But the fact that this top has a repeated pattern of brown hedgehogs on the cream background means that the eye is to some extent drawn away from patches of dirt by the busyness of the pattern. The day Andrew first wore the spiky top, we went out for lunch and these days we don’t usually bother with a bib/apron, so he did get a bit of food down him (nothing too colourful), but this wan’t too obvious and came out fine in a normal 40 degrees wash.

Funky hedgehogs up close

The fabric has a lovely soft cotton feel to it, and it felt good to put it straight on Andrew without washing it first, which I don’t always like to do with new clothes. The top also comes out of the wash feeling very soft still, and it dries pretty quickly compared to some of his other clothes, even in our small flat on an airer. Andrew was very impressed with the look of it, and was excited to put it on, pointing at the hedgehogs – a word we haven’t really come across much when talking/reading to him, so this top has also been educational for him!

Hungry for lunch - but there's no bib/apron to protect the hedgehogs!

It currently fits him just about right, and is lovely and snug against his body, without being tight, a style which I like because it’s a bit different compared to the usual long sleeved t-shirts that you can buy in supermarkets and high street children’s clothes shops, as those are usually quite baggy on him (apart from around his nappy). And on that note, the spiky body top even fits over his big cloth nappies, which isn’t always the case for clothes that go around the bum, and he ends up wearing the next size up. Andrew probably won’t get masses of wear out of this top with the rate that he’s growing, but I’m sure his brother or sister will, and by the look of the fabric, I’m sure it’ll have even more wear in it after that. The cuffs have double fabric which makes them very easy to turn up, to fit a child who doesn’t need so much length in the arms compared to the width across the body, or to allow for more growing room.

Posing from the back!

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with poppers under the legs on toddler-sized tops. Primarily they are a good thing, especially in winter, so that his tummy stays covered no matter how much running around, bending down and moving his body in all sorts of directions he does when playing. I’ve found it quite hard to find tops with interesting designs, that aren’t just vests to go under other tops, which also have poppers under the legs, so this is a real plus point for the spiky body top. The down side of poppers is the time it takes to get the top on him, because he just doesn’t stay still long enough to do them up! Usually our getting dressed time takes the form of me chasing him round the flat, quickly shoving a top over his head when I can and then finally getting trousers on once he’s had the promise of going out and is convinced he needs them on otherwise he can’t go out. The day he tried the spiky top on for the first time, my parents were staying, and it was helpful that Grandad could distract him whilst I came from behind and did up the poppers. But overall I think it’s worth the extra faff for the extra warmth around his tummy on cold days.

Playing on the floor with Daddy - no gape from the top as it's poppered up under the legs.

Another plus point for the body top is that it has poppers on one shoulder, so it goes over his head more easily than most of his tops that I have to really pull hard on – he’s generally not that fussed about me doing this, but if he’s tired this can be tricky, and I’ve heard that many toddlers really don’t like the whole getting a top on experience because they are often tight over the head. Lots of young baby clothes have provision for making it bigger around the head (e.g. poppers or clever folds) but this seems to stop routinely in toddler clothes, especially at the cheaper end of the market.

Hedgehogs poking up over the table

Andrew is at the higher end of the ‘Baby’ section age range in me&i clothes – from approx. 24 months it’s the ‘Children’ section, which goes up to about 14 years. The sizes are not actually in age ranges (e.g. 0-3 months, 18-24 months etc.) but rather in numbers that I didn’t understand to begin with; however, after a quick look at their website, I soon found a handy size guide that made perfect sense, and if I was buying at a party, I’m sure there would be some guidance available. Whilst on the website, I also came across the cost of the spiky body top – £19 each for any size from 0-2 months to 12-24 months. Although this is on the higher end of toddler clothing prices, and definitely on the higher end for baby clothing, in my opinion it’s a case of you get what you pay for – the knowledge that it’s quality fabric that will last and is environmentally more sound than other children’s clothes brands, and that it hasn’t been made in a sweat-shop in the Far East somewhere. I personally wouldn’t be able to afford to deck Andrew out in many me&i clothes, but it’s the kind of thing I’d suggest to grandparents and other relatives who like to buy him clothes for Christmas and birthdays, and buy the occasional thing myself as a present for him.

Overall I would recommend this body top as a good quality product with a funky, fun and unusual design that fits well. You can find out more about me&i on their website: www.meandi.eu

Disclaimer: All views expressed are my own. I received no incentive for reviewing this product, other than the product itself free of charge.

With thanks to Grandad for the photos 🙂

Pregnancy diary: week 33 – hospital bag and home birth kit

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I thought it was about time that I at least started thinking about packing my hospital bag. Although I hope I don’t go into labour for at least another month, it can’t harm to have things organised well in advance of when the time comes. Tom has been asking me for a couple of weeks when I’m going to pack my hospital bag, I think because last time I did get it packed around this many weeks of pregnancy, because we were going to my parents’ house for Christmas and I wanted to have it with me, just in case. (Of course it came all the way with us and all the way back completely untouched, but better to be prepared than not.) And I guess Tom knows that he’d only have to do it if I went into labour and it wasn’t already done, and I suppose that thought terrifies him slightly!

Stripy bump!

I know I’ve already given birth once, but when I sat down and thought about what I needed to prepare for this second birth, my mind went almost blank. I say ‘almost’, because I had a few patches of inspiration, like nappies for baby and drinks for me and Tom – funny what stuck in my mind from last time and what didn’t. What I do remember quite vividly from last time is having quite an enormous bag for what turned out to be a short stay, and most of the contents went unused; I remember Tom dragging it through the hospital corridors on the way in and out, whilst I carried just myself and a baby, either inside my bump (in) or in a car seat (out). Not that I regret taking most of that stuff – we might well have needed it if things had gone less smoothly and we were in hospital for much longer than we were. But I can’t honestly remember what most of that ‘stuff’ was! So I thought I’d better look up some hospital bag checklists for inspiration, and maybe that would bring back some of my memory of packing the bag last time.

One of the first websites that came up on a google search was a Mumsnet guide to packing your hospital bag. As I read through it, I thought it looked promising and was also quite comical in places with comments from various mums, rather than just a dry list of things. Here are the things that they suggest, with my comments as to whether or not I’ve packed them.

  • An old nightdress to give birth in – I’ve found a couple that I packed for giving birth to Andrew, but as I was in the pool for most of it until the very end, I didn’t have any clothes on at all! At the time I had a few seconds worth of a strange feeling that I was naked in front of two people I had only just met (the midwife and midwifery assistant), but then came another contraction and I jumped into the pool, after which I didn’t give another thought to the fact that I had no clothes on. I’ve packed one nightdress again, just in case I don’t end up in a pool for some reason (I hope not, but you never know).
  • Nightdress to wear in hospital – One of my best maternity wear bargains has been a simple nightdress with poppers down the front at the top – it cost me about £5 in the sale and I’ve worn it since Andrew was born, as it allows easy access for feeding at night (I also have other pyjamas, so I don’t just wear that nightie all the time and can wash it!!) I’m taking that again, though I was so hot last time in the hospital overnight that I just lay with no nightie on under a thin bed sheet.
  • Clothes to go home in (me and the baby) – My mum is bringing over all our newborn baby clothes next week, as they’ve been stored in their loft since Andrew grew out of them. So I’ll add some babygros, vests and cardies to the bag when they arrive. My joggers, a t-shirt and a jumper are in; I’m sure these were what I wore for a few weeks after Andrew was born as they were the most comfortable thing, especially the joggers as I had a 2nd degree tear which was quite painful and I needed something loose and comfortable on by lower body.
  • Bodysuits and babygros (five of each – just in case) – Hmmm, not sure five of each is really necessary? I’ve gone for 3, because if we did need to stay in for longer, I know that Tom or my parents could always bring us in more clean stuff and take dirty ones away. It’s not like we live miles away from the hospital and would have no visitors!
  • Baby blanket – This is an interesting one. Last time we were given plenty of blankets to swaddle Andrew in at the Birth Centre. Also, from what I now know about breastfeeding, I’m going to make sure we have much more skin to skin contact in the early hours and days, rather than what happened to Andrew – he fed well straight after birth, but once he’d finished and I was getting cleaned up (after about 2 hours of skin to skin), the midwives layered him up with clothes and swaddled him, and he stayed like that all night until the next morning because he sept so soundly. This time I’m going to keep baby close to my skin until we go home, to maximise the help it will give to my milk coming in. Of course I can put a blanket over baby whilst we’re skin to skin, but I don’t think we need lots of layers like last time.
  • Maternity towels – Check. I still have some left from last time, and will get some more for coming home to.
  • Loads of pairs of ‘old’ knickers – I did this last time (rather than buying paper knickers) and it worked out well. This time I have quite a few old pairs that really could do with being thrown out once they’ve been used for maternity purposes!
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste were essential last time, as I was very sick after the synotocin injection and really needed to brush my teeth after that. I also washed my hair and had a good shower a while after the birth, so I have the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel to do that again. A hairbrush was also useful, and I keep one in my handbag all the time anyway.
  • Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks – I can’t believe how tiny the newborn nappies are! I bought some last week, and went straight for size 2, because the weight range said 3-6kg, and given that Andrew was 3.5kg at birth, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a baby much below that this time, unless he/she comes very early, in which case we’d need the premature baby nappies anyway. Of course the wipes and sacks are what we have in anyway for Andrew, so they’re all in.
  • Camera – Yes this sounds obvious. We took it for Andrew, but I wasn’t really up for having lots of shots literally straight after birth, it’s not really our style. We just wanted it to be a moment for the three of us to enjoy, and besides, I really didn’t want photos of me having just given birth. The first pictures we have of Andrew were a few hours after birth once he was swaddled and asleep. Then we have loads from the first few days when we were back home and our family were visiting – they took loads of him and us.
  • Your birth plan and hospital notes – Good point, I need to write a birth plan! Well, last time I wrote something resembling a ‘plan’, but given that birth can so often not go according to how you imagined it would, I wrote at the top that is was less of a ‘plan’ but rather a general list of things I was hoping for and not hoping for. Even though last time things did turn out smoothly and how I was hoping, I do intend to write something similar this time, and this will need to include an option for home birth if things go even faster than last time.
  • A list of phone numbers – All in the mobile, both mine and Tom’s. Last time Tom phoned both sets of parents straight away, and they started passing the news around family. He was allowed to phone from inside the Birth Centre on a mobile, which we were’t necessarily expecting. We then put an announcement on Facebook the day after – that seems to be by far the easiest way of reaching lots of friends in one go, and they all like to see pictures with the announcement anyway.
  • Change for the car park – Last time we got a reduced flat rate for the two occasions that Tom parked the car at the maternity hospital: once for the birth itself and once the day after to come and collect us to go home. So it was handy to have change available for this (I think it was a couple of pounds each time).
  • Towel – For me to use after a shower after the birth. I’ve got an old one that we don’t mind getting a bit red. I’m trying to think whether last time I was provided a hospital towel for after the birth, but I can’t be sure, so I’m taking one just in case, or in case they’ve changed the policy of giving out towels.
  • Plastic bag to take dirty stuff home in – This is a good tip from a mum on the Mumsnet webpage.
  • Food and drink – Last time I remember taking quite a few snacks and drinks in, like bottles of water, cartons of juice, flapjacks and cereal bars. I didn’t actually eat/drink any of them in labour, because it all happened so fast and not long after I’d eaten dinner (I like to think that the hot curry I’d eaten made my waters break and push me into proper labour!), and the midwife gave me a bottle of ice cold energy drink, which is all I consumed before the birth. Then in the first hour after the birth, we were brought drinks and snacks (juice, tea, toast) by the midwives – not that I had much of that either, because I was sick so many times from the synotocin injection, and Tom had most of it! By the time the sickness and nausea caused by the injection wore off, it was about 4am, and I finally tucked into some of my snacks and drinks. This time I’ve packed similar things to eat and drink; I’m just wondering how much of it I’ll consume this time…. Better to have it than not though.
  • A water spray – Last time I took some water in an old hair product bottle with one of those spray tops on, as I’d heard it would be refreshing when I got all hot and sweaty. But again, because it happened quickly, and I was in the birth pool for the hardest part of labour, I didn’t actually use it. I plan to take one again, in case I labour for longer or for some reason don’t get a pool. I’ve just got to find another bottle as I must have thrown away the one from before.
That’s the main things on the list from the Mumsnet webpage. There are also a few other suggestions that might be relevant to some mums, but I’ve decided that most of them are not for me. One thing, though, that I hand’t thought of is a present that the baby can give to Andrew when he first meets his new brother or sister. I’ll have a think about this; the first thing that springs to mind is a t-shirt that says ‘I’m a big brother’ or something like that.

Hospital bag almost ready - just got babygros and vests for baby to go in. Oh and I've actually packed it all in the bag, it's not just spread all over our bed still 😉
Having prepared all this for going to hospital, there is still the possibility that I could end up having a home birth. My latest thought on this is the same as when I last wrote about it on the blog. I’d like to plan for giving birth in the Rosie Birth Centre, but if baby comes faster than Andrew did, I may decide that staying at home is the better option, because although we don’t live far from the hospital, I’d rather stay at home and give birth rather than risk giving birth in the car. I will have to see how things progress on the day/night itself, and make a decision based on my previous experience and what I feel is happening this time. This means that we need to have some things prepared at home as well. My midwife gave me a leaflet on home birth at my last appointment, so I’ve copied out here the list given in the leaflet.
  • Good torch with new batteries or extension lead.
  • New box of tissues.
  • Plastic sheeting approximately 2 square metres, preferably bubble wrap (padded and non-slip).
  • Old sheet or large old towel to cover plastic sheeting.
  • Two bowls and a bucket.
  • Soap and hand towel for the midwife.
  • Large old towels including one in which to wrap the newborn baby.
  • Work surface in the room chosen for the birth.
  • A set of baby clothes, including hat, and nappy in a warm place.
  • Birth paperwork provided by the midwife.
  • Bag packed for you and baby in case of transfer to the hospital.
Well, the one thing I can say I definitely have on this list is the last one! Of course we have things like a hand towel and soap out in the bathroom anyway, and the baby clothes can easily be got out of the hospital bag if needed. The other things need some more action before the day/night itself. Some are easy enough, like getting our torch out and making sure we have new batteries, and buying a new box of tissues. The harder things are the plastic sheeting, which we don’t have at all (and I have no idea where to get such a thing), and finding enough old towels and sheets. The only work surface we have is the kitchen – it would have to be the table because the other bits of work surface aren’t big enough to fit a baby on. You see, this is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t plan a home birth – our flat it just not very big to have all this stuff around our ordinary furniture without getting blood and gore all over everything!
So at the end of week 33 I’m feeling more organised in terms of preparation for the birth. I’m also happy that our wrap for me to wear baby in for the first months has just arrived, literally in the past hour! It had been out of stock for a while, but I’m so glad that we now have it. I feel like things are gradually coming together more and more. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so that will be the main thing to write about; I hope to discuss my latest blood test results with her. As I haven’t heard much from the doctor (other than they’d like to test me again in a month’s time for the platelets), I’m assuming that things can’t be that bad, but it will be good to chat with the midwife about this. And I’m sure I’ll be sitting down to write week 34’s post before I know it – time is really flying now!
Thought we'd better have a shot from the front - after all, I do love my bump! This top was a nice birthday present 🙂

Pregnancy diary: week 32 – “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139)

This week I’ve been thinking about knitting. It’s not me who’s been doing the knitting – I fear it would take me longer than a 9 month pregnancy to knit even one item of newborn clothing, having not done any since I was a child and having little time for craft these days. Recently we were very kindly given two new cardigans in baby sizes (1 newborn, 1 second size) by Tom’s Nan. She loves knitting, and can whip up garments in no time, even those that are bigger than tiny baby sizes. She, along with two of Tom’s aunts, knitted lots for us when Andrew was born, which was great because he was born in a cold January and needed a woolly top most days, but he grew so quickly, as babies do, that he didn’t get much wear out of each individual jumper/cardigan, so there’s plenty of wear left in them all for our new baby. Since Andrew was born, Tom’s Nan and aunt have also provided us with jumpers and cardigans throughout the year, so we’ve not had to buy any woolly clothes at all, and again there’s plenty of wear left in them for our second child.

2 new white cardies for the newborn (1 first size, 1 second size) and 2 of Andrew's most recent jumpers/cardies, all beautifully knitted.

I know we are very lucky to have such lovely handmade clothes given to us when they would cost a fortune to buy, and it’s also nice to know the person who made them, and know that they were made with our kids specifically in mind. In fact, because we are still being given more hand-knitted garments by Tom’s family for this baby, we’re able to give some away to another family baby, who is due to come into the world 4 weeks before ours. I’m so glad we can share these lovely gifts with another baby who will benefit from gorgeous warm clothes in the winter months. I’m sure the bigger sizes will continue to come in too, as Andrew has also received some bigger jumpers recently that he’s just about growing into. So there will be lots of hand-me-downs in the months and years to come.

Wow! Will the new baby really be that small?! It's hard to remember that my big buster boy was once a delicate little newborn who fitted into something this small.

All these knitted clothes have reminded me of a verse in the Bible which I really love. Psalm 139, verse 13 says:

“For you [God] created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

I’d read this verse before I was even thinking about becoming a mum, but it wasn’t until after I’d given birth to Andrew that these words took on such a strong meaning for me. I remember lying on the hospital bed the night after Andrew was born, just looking at him sleeping peacefully – his little chest moving up and down as he breathed air after so many months of developing his lungs in the womb, his tiny but perfectly formed fingers wrapped around my big index finger, his tiny mouth that instinctually sucked whenever my breast (or anything else!) came near it. It suddenly hit me that this little being had developed from just one cell inside my womb, he had been knit together, all his tiny parts perfectly formed into one body that was now living on its own outside of me. That thought really made the verse in Psalm 139 hit home to me, and I was grateful beyond words to God for giving us this amazing gift of new life. I just lay there in utter amazement, and got not a wink of sleep, but it didn’t matter to me.

I had thought about the verse a couple of times in pregnancy with Andrew, but I don’t think it was until I held him in my arms that I fully grasped what this meant: God had knit Andrew together inside me, and there I was holding this amazing piece of God’s creation. This time in pregnancy, the verse has come to me again a few times; this time I have more of  a sense of what it means to me, because I am constantly reminded every day when I look at Andrew of God’s amazing creation. Already in 19 months he has grown and developed even more; from being that tiny newborn baby fast asleep, he has turned into an active toddler who walks (read: runs) around and is starting to talk words that I understand. He no longer fits in the white cardies in the picture at the start of this post, and is rapidly growing out of the blue ones in the picture too! Conception to birth is one incredible act of knitting, and the finished piece of knitting at birth continues on its journey of growth throughout childhood.

Before I finish, I’d like to share the section of Psalm 139 (verses 13-16) that the verse about being knit together in the womb comes from. This is from The Message translation (a modern take on more traditional translations)….

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me [knit me together] in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

It’s not just the knowledge that God knit Andrew and this baby together in my womb which I find so amazing – I love the fact that God has a plan for my life and He knows exactly what will happen, in fact he knew before Iwas even born. That is mind-blowingly awesome! And it certainly makes me want to praise God like the person who wrote the Psalm did. Mind-blowing it may be, but I know that it’s true because I have already experienced so much of God at work in my life, even in times when I couldn’t see the plan myself and I was going through difficult times.

Another week down, another bit of growth from bump.

Next week I know I’m going to have to start thinking about packing my hospital bag and getting some things ready at home in case I end up being at home for the birth. Tom has been asking me this week when I’m going to do it! I’m usually the one who gets prepared first out of the two of us, but I think I’m just so busy still, and lacking in energy in times that I do have to myself, that I’ve not got around to it yet. Let’s see if I get around to it this week…..

Pregnancy diary: week 20 – scanning for anomalies but not blue-/pink-ness

Believe it or not (I can’t quite believe it really) this week is half-way through this pregnancy already! Where is time flying to?! I suppose the first half is in practice shorter than 20 weeks, because (if baby is conceived naturally) you’re already some weeks pregnant when you’re first aware that you’re pregnant: a test shows up positive or you start feeling sick or noticing other signs. For me this was around 4 or 5 weeks, so I’ve only had about 15 weeks of knowingly being pregnant. Somehow over the next 20 weeks or so I don’t think will fail to know I’m pregnant!

Of course it’s only roughly half-way, because babies don’t generally decide to come into the world on their so called ‘due date’. To be fair, the ‘due date’ is technically an EDD – estimated due date – so a certain amount of discrepancy from this is completely normal. A baby is called ‘full term’ if it is born somewhere between 37 and 42 weeks. Born before 37 weeks a baby is called ‘premature’, and the medical world like mums to be induced, or their labour started artificially, if baby is still showing no signs of coming out by the end of 42 weeks. Theoretically it’s a mum’s choice to be induced or not, but from what I’ve heard, most do choose to be induced because of the potential risks that increase as baby stays longer in the womb. So who knows, I might have already passed the half-way point a week ago, or I might have another week to go. Andrew was born only four days after his EDD; it would be nice if this baby also arrives within a week of the EDD either way, but I know it’s not something I can plan.

Not sure this is much different from last week. I don't feel very big yet, even for half-way through, but I remember from last time that all of a sudden around 30 weeks I suddenly grew and then felt *really* pregnant.

Anyway, apart from doing a little happy dance to celebrate getting to 20 weeks, the highlight of this week has been the ultrasound scan we had on Tuesday. All pregnant mums in this country are offered a routine scan sometime around 20 weeks. You don’t have to have it, but I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t taken the opportunity to see the growing baby inside her. The main point of the scan is to check for structural anomalies in the baby. And we were pleased to know that there were no anomalies visible to the sonographer. She had a very detailed look at everything! It’s quite amazing what you can see these days with ultrasound, such detail.

She started with the head, checking the brain and the facial features including lips and jaw for cleft lip. I said to her jokingly that it was a shame they couldn’t spot tongue-tie before birth with the ultrasound 😉 Then she moved onto the limbs, checking all the bones, and counting fingers and toes. With Andrew there had been a short flash through my head that something wasn’t right when she said ‘four fingers…’ hang on, I thought…. just as she followed it with ‘…and a thumb’ Phew! This time I was prepared for the four fingers comment. All present and correct. After that she moved on to the back, checking the vertebrae in the spine, and the skin on the back. The detail in seeing each vertebra was incredible, especially when baby moved and they all waved in harmony along its length. She scanned in two different perspectives, one at a time: first from the side, so we could see the length of the spine as one picture, then from the bottom to the top, going through each vertebra one by one from baby’s bottom to neck, as a cross-section through the body.

Then came a search through the body for the vital organs, including the stomach (which was black, indicating that baby was ingesting some of the amniotic fluid, as he/she should), the kidneys (which were pretty tricky to spot with the untrained eye, until the sonographer pointed them out), and the bladder (at which point we had to look away in case we glimpsed any signs of whether baby is a girl or a boy – more on this later in the post). Apparently the heart is one of the trickiest things to see, especially if baby is lying face down rather than on their back in the womb. Of course our baby was lying face down, which meant she kept getting shadows from the chest as she tried to get at the heart. After tipping the examination table up so I was almost doing a headstand (well, not quite, but that’s what it felt like – I never knew a scan could turn into a theme park ride!), and getting me to bounce my bum up and down on the table, both in the hope of flipping baby over, she decided to send me out for a walk around, and suggested I drink something and eat something sugary as that sometimes gives baby a boost and makes them move! Good excuse for some chocolate if ever I heard it. I should add that ours really didn’t need any encouragement in the wriggling department – he/she wouldn’t stay still for much of the scan – but the idea was that it might encourage a complete flip onto the back.

Baby Cumming at 20 weeks. If you need a little help in figuring out what things are, here's a description. On the right is the head, with an arm held across the head so the hand with 4 fingers visible is in the top right of the picture, next to the nose, mouth and chin that lie to the left of the hand. The other shape (circle-ish) on the right is a cross section through the abdomen (apparently baby was at a funny angle here, so needs a bit of interpreting!) The white line around the edge is the skin, and the black blob to the bottom-left of centre is the stomach - the fact that it is black is a good thing because it shows baby is taking in some fluid and its stomach is working properly.

It was pretty successful, as baby managed to turn onto his/her side, so we got a better view of the heart. Again the detail was unbelievable: you could see each individual chamber and the valves opening and closing with each heartbeat. This has to be one of the most awesome (as in puts me in awe of God’s creation, not dude language) things I have ever seen. Then the sonographer switched on some kind of colour coding, which I presume, if I remember from Biology A-level, was a depiction of the oxygenated (shown as red) and de-oxygenated (shown as blue) blood, to check where each was flowing. It was all good. Finally, she did a few more measurements, another overall check, and took a picture. It was reassuring to know that everything was alright, and that baby was very active (although I can feel this myself, it’s nice to back it up with visual as well as sensory information).

The position of the placenta was also part of the check. If it is significantly low in the womb, near to or covering where baby needs to get out, this would cause complications during birth, and it might be recommended that you have a c-section. But even if the placenta is low-lying at 20 weeks, often it moves up in the womb as pregnancy progresses, so you would be given another scan around 32 weeks to check this. In our case it looked great, and was nowhere near the opening of the womb. She showed us the currently tiny tube that will be baby’s exit, and it’s hard to believe that it dilates enough to fit a baby’s head through!

The other thing that is possible to find out from this scan is the sex of the baby. This is an interesting point to discuss with other parents and parents-to-be. Some cannot wait to find out the sex, for various reasons, and don’t hesitate to be told at the scan. Others know they definitely don’t want to find out the sex, and like to be very clear with the sonographer when he/she asks if they’d like to know. Others are somewhere in between – perhaps they are very curious, but ultimately would like to have the surprise at the birth. I am definitely in the second category I described: I do not want to know what sex the baby is before the birth, and I was the same with Andrew.

My reasons? To me it makes no difference what sex baby is, as long as it is healthy I really don’t mind whether we get fountains or lakes on the changing mat! I’m most certainly not into the whole pink for girls and blue for boys thing, especially not for newborns – I’d rather see them in simple neutral white/cream/multicoloured etc. clothes. In practice it’s actually very difficult to buy clothes beyond the baby stage that are not pink and flowery or blue with vehicles on. If this baby is a girl, she would be dressed in Andrew’s baby clothes that are mainly neutral, and when older, we have kind offers of hand-me-downs from friends with girls, and she would wear these as well as some of the less overtly boyish clothes (e.g. jeans) that Andrew wore. Of course if it’s a boy, we won’t have any issues in the clothes department as we’re kitted out already. One of the best bits of giving birth to Andrew was that surprise of finding out that he was a boy for ourselves when he was placed straight onto my tummy. To be honest at the time I was just happy to hear that amazing cry and know that he was breathing for himself, but after the feeling of relief that the birth was over and went well, I loved the discovery that he was a boy (I don’t mean I loved the fact that he was a boy – a girl would have given me the same feeling – rather I loved that feeling of discovery at that moment in time). I would not want to give that up this time either.

What about Tom? Does he not get any say in this? Handily, and like many other things in life for him, he is describes his take on this matter as ‘indifference’. On the one hand he’d quite like to find out before birth, out of curiosity, but on the other hand he’d quite like the surprise. With one indifferent vote and one adamantly against vote, I win! But everyone is different, and I completely understand why others do want to find out – it’s a personal choice. In talking to other parents I have generally felt in the minority for not wanting to find out baby’s sex before birth.

So that concludes this first half of our pregnancy journey. I hope you’re enjoying the ride with us, and that you’ll come back for more in the second half. There’s no interval or half-time team talk I’m afraid – we start straight back again next week 😉 If you fancy getting an ice-cream though, make mine an ice lolly, thanks (can’t stand sweet and creamy things at the moment, but something cool and fruity would work).