Life with a newborn

We did it! We survived two weeks with a new baby and as a family of four!

I’m not going to lie – there were times when I wasn’t sure what we had let ourselves in for. Most notably the first few nights when Kit literally DID NOT SLEEP! I mean, not at all. He was genuinely on my boobs for about eight hours straight – every time I tried to take him off as he appeared to be asleep he would cry within about two minutes of being put down. My nipples were hanging off (sorry if TMI) and we were honestly at our wits end. I just don’t remember Flynn ever being THAT bad! Either he wasn’t and we were blessed with a dreamy newborn or he was and we’ve forgotten / managed to block it out. Either way, it was certainly a shock to the system!

In desperation, I bought a bedside crib to replace the moses basket and with a Sleepyhead inside, (touch wood) we appear to have found something that works. Kit tends to go down about 11pm, wakes four or so hours later for a feed, and then goes back down for another three or so hours – waking at around 7am. For a two week old that seems pretty good so we’re fairly happy with that – to be honest, I’m probably getting more sleep now than I did in the few months leading up to his birth due to needing a wee every twenty minutes and pregnancy insomnia.

The days are filled with feeding, changing and napping but I’m trying to savour every moment as I know how quickly this newborn bliss stage will pass. I love it when he’s awake (in the day) as I could spend hours looking into his knowing little eyes and sucking up every little facial expression. Whilst in the first few days I would put him down in his moses to sleep during the day so I could have a break, now I find myself picking him up to give him a cuddle because I miss him. Crazy I know, but I just don’t want to miss a second.

Kit now weighs 8lb 10oz – a giant leap from his 7lb 14oz birth weight. He only lost about 10% in the first week and is sufficiently piling on the pounds – unsurprising really considering how much he eats! I had an absolute nightmare breastfeeding Flynn! I managed seven months but was plagued with multiple bouts of mastitis, thrush and plugged ducts! I’d be lying if I said wasn’t terrified about doing it again this time round but again touch wood, things appear to be going much better. The first week was pretty painful – the constant feeding during those first few nights before my milk was established definitely didn’t help – but once the milk started to flow and I felt confident in Kit’s latch, we turned a corner on the feeding front and fingers crossed it will continue that way.

Whilst breastfeeding has most definitely improved since last time, one thing which has been way worse and which I wasn’t prepared for was the pain of uterus contraction. The midwife in the hospital told me it gets worse the more children you have but as I don’t recall having any pain after Flynn’s birth, I wasn’t too concerned about it this time round! That was a monumental error on my part! Exactly a week postpartum I was hit with what I can only describe as crippling period pains. I was at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was unable to move. It felt like being in labour again. I had to call my husband to come and drive us home – I could barely stand! My blood loss increased dramatically too which was a little scary but after calling the hospital and speaking to friends with multiple children, I was assured it’s all normal. The bleeding lasted a good few days and whilst the majority of the pain subsided over night, I had to take it easy for at least 48 hours and was dosing up on ibuprofen to keep the discomfort at bay.

Aside from the above, these past two weeks have been fairly drama-free. Flynn has taken to being a big brother so well – I couldn’t be prouder of him – and like last time, my husband Jonny has been incredibly hands on and sympathetic to my postpartum needs. Obviously now is when the real fun begins as he is back at work and twice a week I will be on my own with the boys – wish me luck for those!

But I’m hoping with at least a few hours sleep behind me and soft play around the corner, we should be just fine. Oh, and cake. Lots of cake!

A labour of love

So this time last week (7.45pm at the time of writing), I was having mild to moderate contractions at home. My waters had broken hours earlier at 9am and a visit to the hospital showed baby was head down and fully engaged. The midwife who examined me said she would book me in for an induction the following day but that she’d be amazed if I didn’t go into natural labour beforehand….and she was right!

Nothing happened for hours and I did begin to think whether induction might be on the cards for baby Gregory number two. But like with Flynn, once things started going, they REALLY got going.

A walk around the block at 5pm brought on some cramping and a few hours later I felt like things were progressing enough to warrant inviting my mother-in-law over to watch Flynn in case we had to rush into the hospital. She arrived at around 8.15pm and we sat chatting on the sofa whilst I timed my contractions – which at that point were merely just some tightening. I called the labour ward but as I was having no problem talking through them, they said to stay at home and monitor things. Less than half an hour later, and boy had they stepped up a notch. I was finding it harder to speak during them and the tightening had begun to hurt and was lasting roughly 45 seconds every 4-5 minutes. Knowing how quickly things progressed with Flynn – I went in at midnight, was sent home because “not in labour”, was back two hours later when I was 7cm and 3.5 hours later he was born – I wasn’t prepared to hang around at home any longer, even though the midwife said they’d prefer it if my contractions were closer together. We jumped in the car and four or five contractions later, we arrived at Frimley Park Hospital, eventually getting round to the Mulberry Birthing Suite at about 9.30pm. By this point I was in a fair amount of pain but it wasn’t until I got on the bed five or so minutes later that I really began to suffer. The pain in my lower back was super strong and it was making my whole body go stiff to try and counteract it. It was also getting harder to concentrate on my breathing as the pain was overriding it. Obviously unaware and unconvinced of how far along I was, my midwife (who was lovely by the way, just clearly not expecting things to progress quite so quickly) was busy doing other things and finally arrived back to take my obs, stating that if I wasn’t dilated enough I would have to go home. At this point, I knew that was never going to be an option….and she never even got round to checking how dilated I was. My body was starting to push and I knew that either I was about to do the biggest poo of my life or this baby was coming…and quickly. I informed her that I felt like he was “there” and when she eventually took a look, she realised that I wasn’t over exaggerating. I was rolled onto my back, the emergency button was pressed for an additional midwife, and just three or four pushes later, baby Gregory the second was out!

Born at 10.02pm, he made his appearance a mere thirty or so minutes after we first arrived at the hospital. And we were  all home by 6am, ready for Flynn to wake up and meet his new baby brother.

I had dreamt of having a peaceful water birth with just gas and air for pain relief. What I got was an on-my-back bed birth with no water and NO PAIN RELIEF! Not even a paracetamol!

Now I’m not saying this because I want some kind of medal for enduring labour without any meds….although if my husband is reading this, a new Mulberry handbag would be the perfect pushing present (and seems only fitting considering I gave birth in the Mulberry Suite). The truth is, if we decide to go for baby number three I would probably do the same thing again – yes, seriously! I can hardly believe I’m saying that as trust me, the pain was excruciating and as a result of being totally ‘in the room’, I can remember every last second of the labour. But do you know what, I quite like that. I was entirely present for the birth of my baby and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

With Flynn, I took on so much gas and air in a short space of time that I was pretty much off my face. I couldn’t open my eyes, I couldn’t speak and I just felt completely out of control. In contrast, this time round, although the pain all but took over my body, I was fully aware of what was going on and I knew what I needed to do to get the baby out. It also meant I was able to fully enjoy and appreciate the moment he was born rather than being so exhausted and confused that I couldn’t even look at him – which is what happened with Flynn.

Obviously I’m very lucky that it was quick and that I didn’t have to endure labour pains for very long – would I be as brave if I had 24 hour plus labours….no probably not! But in a weird (VERY weird) way, I kind of enjoyed the whole experience and just ten minutes after giving birth I was already saying I could do it all again. With Flynn, it took me ages to come to terms with a potential second childbirth…..three-and-a-half years in fact!

So the point to this post is to say that whilst labour is of course a terrifying prospect, it doesn’t have to be as traumatic as you might think. I never imagined I could give birth with no pain relief, but when your body is doing what it needs to do and showing you the way, it is possible to just go with it and focus on the end goal – your baby. Whilst gas and air would have been nice (and don’t worry, I well and truly got my fix during the stitches), being completely free of all meds meant I was able to take in every second….and if you’re going to remember every last bit of something, surely there’s no better occasion than the birth of your child!

The human body really is the most incredible thing….

P.S. The Mulberry Birthing Suite was amazing – I would wholly recommend it!

Studio tour

It dawned on me the other day that I’ve never taken any photographs of my garden studio. I’ve had it for nearly a year and a half now and meant to do a post on it when it was first built but as with most things, life got in the way and here we are, 16 months later!

When I first started offering posed newborn photoshoots I held them in my dining room, which I had converted into a temporary studio. It was absolutely fine shoots wise, if a little cramped, but having them in my home meant that my house was just overrun with props, blankets, lighting and suchlike. Furthermore, my poor husband and son Flynn would be banished during photoshoots, which during the winter months meant them venturing out into the cold and rain for up to four hours while I worked. It just wasn’t sustainable so we discussed the idea of a garden studio and agreed it was the way forward.

Quite simply, I haven’t looked back since. It was the best (albeit expensive) decision I ever made. It allows me to keep all my photography stuff separate, away from the house, and it’s given me heaps more space and freedom. Prior to the studio, my cake smash photoshoots were held in client’s houses. This was fine if they had wooden/tiled floors or play mats to lay down to contain the mess, but it was somewhat restrictive and far from ideal – I’ll be honest, if I were a parent wanting a cake smash photoshoot I would NOT have wanted to have it in my own home for fear of the mess left behind (and I’m not exactly house proud as it is). Now, parents can come to me in the studio and allow their kids to make as much mess as they like because afterwards I just cut off the affected backdrop, throw it away et voila – it’s like they were never even there!

I love that it gives me the option to shoot with both studio lighting and natural lighting thanks to the floor to ceiling windows down the whole of one side. I’m a big fan of a naturally backlit shot – and the silhouettes you can create shooting against it – especially when it comes to my maternity photoshoots. Nothing beats the outline of a beautiful baby bump shot in stunning black and white.

And I just love that it provides parents with a comfortable, relaxing setting in which to have their photoshoots, especially with newborns. I feel a real sense of achievement when I’m photographing a new baby and either mum or dad has dozed off on the sofa while I work. The fact that they feel at ease and cosy enough in the environment to have a little sleep is exactly what I wanted to achieve when I had the studio built.

Of course, I haven’t turned my back on location / lifestyle photography completely. I’m still more than happy to head to people’s homes or out in the forest for a photoshoot if that’s what my clients prefer, but having the studio has definitely given me more flexibility and freedom – and takes away the burden from parents stressing that their own homes may not be light enough, big enough or dare I say it, tidy enough for a photoshoot.

There’s still a few things I want to do to the studio – I have some rails I want to put up to hang props from, some of my favourite images to hang on the walls and there are a few items I haven’t yet transferred down there that are currently still living in the house. But even as it is, I adore it!! It’s my own little space where I can do the work that I love, meet beautiful babies and their lovely parents and create beautiful images for my clients to treasure forever. That, for me, is priceless!

Bluebell photoshoots

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve booked onto one of my bluebell mini sessions this weekend and what to know how to dress your kids for the shoot. Well, you’ve come to the right place….

First things first, as the location is going to be very bright purple and green heavy (from the flowers and the grass), I would urge you to avoid these colours and not try to match outfits to the scenery. It can end up looking very garish and we want your gorgeous children to stand out from the bluebells – not blend into the background.
Saying that, purple and greens are fine if they are pastel, muted tones. When choosing outfits, think neutral colours that will compliment a child’s soft skin tones but also work nicely in among the flowers. White can be a little too bright, but cream, beige, baby pink, lemon yellow, mint green and baby blue are all perfect shades to aim for.
Light denim also works well, so for a girl think a pretty summer dress covered with a denim jacket or for a boy, jeans with a lightly coloured T-shirt or long sleeve top is a good look. Mid tones also photograph nicely, so muted coral pinks, lavender, teal, sky or duck egg blues. Oh and I love texture so frills, lace, chunky knits and tasselled scarves all get a thumbs up from me. Hair accessories – bows, flowers etc – are also super cute (hats not advisable due to shadow/masking the face)
Despite the above, if you’re still swaying towards darker colours, opt for navy or maybe a dark emerald green or hazelnut brown – these are all preferable to black.

Back to the subject of T-shirts, please try to avoid anything with big logos or animations on them. Loud, clashing patterns are also not ideal! Trust me, I’m a huge Disney lover outside of work, but in photographs, Mickey Mouse prints and huge Nemo motifs can be somewhat distracting and will draw all attention away from your little ones adorable face and the beautiful flowers they’re surrounded by. Ideally try to stick to plain clothing – she says having clearly dressed her child in a dog vest for the recce photos! haha But let’s face it, it’s cute, so cute animal tops I will allow 😉

There’s no denying the temperature has taken a sudden drop this week – I’ve actually had to sneak the heating on a few times in the evening without my husband, AKA the bill payer, realising, and I’m currently writing this whilst looking out the window to snow!! – so please dress appropriately. I know you may have bought a brand new pretty dress or smart short sleeve shirt for your child to wear for the shoot, but if they’re cold they’re not going to want to cooperate. Bring a lightweight jacket or cardigan to pop over the top – even if it’s just for while you’re waiting (we can always whip it off for the actual photos if you really don’t want it in the pictures).

Talking of waiting, there will be some as you’ll want to be in place a good 10-15 minutes before your slot so you’re ready to go when I’m finished with the previous family, so an extra layer to keep warm is a good idea and maybe even some entertainment (iPad, CBeebies app on the phone, food etc) to keep the kids occupied. Please be aware that signal is really poor out in the woods so don’t rely on that – in other words, weird American superhero videos on YouTube that my son spends hours watching will not be an option haha

Shoes wise, it’s a little bit of a walk, depending on where you manage to get parked, so I would suggest putting the kids in something comfy and then changing their footwear once you’re on location – if you’re overly bothered about what they wear on their feet that is (they won’t be seen a huge amount in the photos).

Feel free to bring any accessories or props that you might like incorporated into the pics: fluffy toys, wooden props, larger items etc. There’s no need to do so as the main focus will be on the kids, but take a look around the house and if anything catches your eye that you think “that might look cool in a photo”, bring it!

I think that’s everything – to sum up, plain, light colours and textured soft hues are a yes, bright colours and overbearing patterns/logos are a no! And if you’re bringing more than one child along, try to coordinate their outfits if possible – or at the very least, don’t put them in anything that clashes terribly!

I’m really looking forward to meeting you all and taking advantage of these beautiful flowers right on our doorstep – well, half an hour’s drive away but you know what I mean 😉

Unexpected babies

I recently watched a programme on TV called ‘I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant’. It was about women who go into labour without even realising they’re expecting and give birth to full-term babies despite having had no symptoms of pregnancy for the past nine months – or at least, not picking up on them because having a baby wasn’t even on their radar. I’ve also previously read stories in the papers about this sort of thing happening but have never actually come across anyone who’s experienced it themselves. I’ll be honest, I had this whole blog post planned about how I’m not convinced it’s truly possible and how there must be more to each individual’s story than what they’re letting on. I’ve been pregnant – it was horrendous! I was absolutely exhausted and struck with the worst “morning” sickness ever for three months – I emphasise morning because it wasn’t just for the morning but in fact all day and all night too! Then towards the end of the pregnancy I was kept up all night either by needing to wee every five minutes, the baby kicking or the fact I couldn’t get comfortable due to having this massive bowling ball-esque bump sticking out of my stomach. Teamed with the lack of periods, there is absolutely no way whatsoever I couldn’t have known I was pregnant.

So, it is really possible to get through nine months of pregnancy and then go into labour without even realising you’re carrying a child?

Think not?! THINK AGAIN!

By some very weird coincidence, about a week ago I was trawling through my Facebook and up popped a post on one of the mummy pages I follow. It was a message from a lady called Ava which basically started “I just wanted to share the shock of my life”. I read on in amazement and reached out to her to ask for more details so I could share it on my blog. This is her story….

“The 22nd of January started like any other day – I took my kids to school and then I went off to work. I spent the entire day at my desk, complaining to my co-worker that I must have slept funny because the ache in my bank was constant. Throughout the day the pain didn’t once subside and by 3 o’clock it was just getting uncomfortable. I took myself home and sat on the couch the rest of the night thinking not much of it. It wasn’t until I awoke at 3am that the pain was unbearable. I woke my husband Jarred and asked him to get me painkillers as my back was in agony. I took some ibuprofen and somehow managed to get back to sleep. 7am I was awoken to my three year old running into our room and jumping on our bed, which sent me crippled over in agony and I knew something wasn’t right. Jarred told me to stay home while he handled the kids, so I did. I tried to get back to bed but I just couldn’t go to sleep. Not only was my back aching but I now had the most unbearable pressure in my lower back and the most excruciating cramps in my stomach. Something wasn’t right and I knew it. I took more painkillers and tried once more to get back to sleep, but by 11am I knew if I didn’t seek medical help I was going to pass out from the pain and I was absolutely petrified. I called my friend Anna in tears and told her I needed to see a doctor. By 11:30am I was sitting in a hospital waiting room doubled over in pain begging for someone to make it all go away. Finally at 12:45pm I was called in and sat on a hospital bed. My blood pressure was taken and my temperature too – both completely normal. Jarred phoned and I told him I was in the hospital and he said to me ‘I’ll be right there’ and thank God he could be. By 1:45pm a doctor was in the room asking me all sorts of questions. The first one being ‘is there any possibility you could be pregnant’?I looked at him and I laughed – ‘No I said, definitely not. I had my period just last week.’ He laughed at me this time and said, ‘It’s entirely possible to still have your period while pregnant. Rare but not impossible.’ Next thing I knew I was being asked to give a urine sample so they could actually test me and see if I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it – ‘I’m not pregnant’, I said to my husband angrily, ‘They’re wasting time and this pain is just getting worse!’ But by 2:30pm the doctor was back – ‘You’re pregnant’ he said. ‘We will get someone in to have a look at this baby and see what’s going on.’ Before I knew it, someone was in the room looking at my baby on the monitor, then two people, then three and the next thing I knew there were at least eight doctors in the room looking at the screen. ‘What’s going on, someone tell me what’s happening’, I cried. Then a lovely doctor came and sat by me and she looked me dead in the eye and she said, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you, but you’re a lot further on than we expected. I’m going to have to examine you. It’s going to be uncomfortable but I need to do it okay.’ She began to examine me and then she looked up at me and said, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you but this baby is coming right now.’ Another doctor came to look and another and another. Finally it was confirmed – I was 8cms dilated and this baby was on its way. I was connected to machines to check his heart rate and midwives were called. An hour later I was ready to push, and so that’s what I did. At 4:47pm on the 23rd of January, 2017, my little Freddy came kicking and screaming into the world. There were tears from me, the midwife, the doctors and of course my husband Jarred. We couldn’t believe it, the doctors couldn’t believe it. I was the talk of the hospital and I had so many people stopping in to look at this little miracle laid upon my chest. After many examinations to make sure everything was normal I was able to take my Freddy home. I just wanted to go home and be with my family. I hadn’t told anyone what was going on so it was going to be a complete shock to everyone. However before we could go anywhere, Jarred had to rush out and buy a baby car seat! I couldn’t believe this little miracle.  My dad was watching the kids so we went to his place first. I walked in and I said to him, ‘Hi dad, come and meet your new grandson’. He rushed over to me, looked at Freddy, looked at me and then looked at Jarred. I nodded and said, ‘Yup, I had no idea either’ and he burst into tears. That was the reaction we got from most people. Everyone was blown away. I still am even now, nearly a week on. The whole experience has been nothing short of a blessing but it’s also been a complete blur. Everyone has been so kind to us and donated so many things to us. We’ve done a lot of shopping much to the credit card’s disgust but it’s all been worth it. Freddy is the most incredible, calm little baby. He sleeps amazingly, feeds well and he has completed our family. I just can’t believe he’s mine and he was inside me and I didn’t know. He’s not even my first – I already have a six-year-old and a three-year old. People say to me, ‘How could you not have known?’ but I honestly had no symptoms. Not a single one. I knew straightaway with my first that I was pregnant. I just can’t imagine my life without him now – I’m on cloud nine! He’s our little surprise but the best surprise in the world!”

So there you have it. I have been well and truly proven wrong! I know what you’re thinking – even if she didn’t have any symptoms she must have looked pregnant right?! Wrong! This is a photo of Ava (left) at eight months pregnant!!! Safe to say you literally wouldn’t have a clue!

I may have previously doubted the possibility of this happening, but I am now 100% convinced that it is in fact feasible. And also absolutely cr*pping myself that it might happen to me! haha

Then again, how could you possibly complain if there’s a little baby as gorgeous as Freddy waiting for you at the end of it….

Thank you for sharing your story with me Ava. Now, go and enjoy that beautiful little baby of yours <3