Wednesday, 27 July 2016

On The Last Day of Nursery

I just dropped Ebony off for her last day of nursery. She ran through the doors for the last time, failed at hanging her coat up for the last time and waited impatiently to speak to her teacher for the last time. Next time she sets foot in that building, she’ll be walking into reception on her first day of school.

It really doesn’t feel that long ago since she tried on her nursery uniform for the first time and we realised how huge it was. The sleeves of the jumper more than covered her little hands and the trousers gathered on the floor. Now, all of that uniform fits her. In fact, she’s outgrown the trousers in the past few weeks. She looks so much older than she did at the start of the school year. Her chubby cheeks are gone, her hair has grown down to her shoulders (at long last) and she has grown taller.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been waiting with baited breath for the meltdowns about finishing nursery. I was expecting her to regress a little, to start getting upset and to generally seem a little frustrated. But she hasn’t. I asked her, the other day if she was sad about leaving nursery. She looked genuinely confused, “Why would I be sad? It’s summer and the baby will be here and then I’ll start school!”

She has loved nursery. I’ve never had to deal with tears at the door or dragging her out of bed, in fact, she’s run most of the way there pretty much every day. She can’t wait to get inside and play with her friends. She spends hours playing mummies and daddies, mummies and dogs (?) and ice cream shops. She loves riding round the outside area on the two-person trikes. She loves the teachers and spending time learning skills like reading and writing with them.

Since September, she has learned the basics of writing, reading and maths. She has learned conflict resolution skills, how to stand up for herself and how to get what she wants. She has made new friends, learned new games and tried new things. And she has loved every minute of it. With her being in the morning session, we have still had our afternoons together and that has been really important to me. It’s allowed us to see friends, go to Manchester and go on adventures. Admittedly, it has also allowed us to have a lot of ‘movie afternoons’ but I’m pretty sure that’s ok when you’re pregnant.

When I pick Ebony up in two hours, it will be the official start to our summer holidays. It’s raining, of course. Being 38 weeks pregnant, I am slightly worried that Ebony won’t be having the best holidays with me. I definitely don’t feel like adventuring far from home. I predict we’ll spend most of our time at home, waiting for the baby to arrive. But then, when it does, Laurie will have a month off work and we’ll be able to spend some quality time together as a family of four.

And by the time Laurie heads back to work, it will be time for Ebony to start school. In some ways, it doesn’t feel that huge a deal because she’s been so happy at the nursery and is already so excited about reception. I’ve managed to sort out a vegan school dinner menu with the catering company so I’m not worried about her feeling left out at lunchtimes. Her uniform is sitting upstairs waiting to be worn. And she’s ready for school. But I know I’ll miss her so much. I know the days will be long without her there to chat to at lunchtime. I know she’ll be tired by the time she gets home and that I’ll miss the quality time I’ve taken for granted these past four years.

I know she’s growing up, but she still feels so little to me. I wish I could stretch out these early years and make them last just a little bit longer. I’m not ready to have a little girl in school, not just yet.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pregnancy Update: Weeks 36 & 37

I’m combining pregnancy updates here because I just won’t get around to catching up otherwise. I know my limits. Week 36 was all about the tiredness. I’d had a sickness bug a few days before and it took me a long time to get my energy back. Missing out on a night’s sleep isn’t easy when you’re 36 weeks pregnant, up every day for the nursery run and desperately trying to get things sorted for the birth. We watched a lot of Netflix during week 36 and I took a lot of naps.

On the Friday, we had our home check appointment for the birth. My regular midwife came with a student midwife. I ran off upstairs to find my green book and Ebony followed me saying she needed to find hers too. When I eventually found my book, I ran back downstairs to find Ebony ‘reading’ all her birth books to the midwives. She’d even brought down her book about where babies come from so was sharing some of her pearls of wisdom from that book with them.

We talked about the birth and the midwife wrote down a birth plan for me. She spent a lot of time going through all the reasons why we might end up being transferred to hospital and we had a brief chat about what would happen if they were short of midwives on the day. She said it’s incredibly rare that they have to refuse a home birth due to staff shortages but then looked a bit concerned and said, “Why? You wouldn’t refuse to go to hospital, would you?” Laurie gave a vague, “Oh, probably not,” in response.

Ebony got a bit excited when the midwives were here, probably because she’d just told them how babies are made, and this made me feel a little panicked about the birth. I love the thought of Ebony being there, calm and sweet, waiting to meet her new baby brother or sister. But the thought of her jumping on the sofa, demanding snacks and having a meltdown is less appealing. I’ve been trying to talk to her about what birth should be like and how important it is to stay quiet and calm so the baby wants to come out. I’m really hoping it will work out because I would hate for her to miss such an important moment in all of our lives.

Laurie went away for the weekend to celebrate his birthday with friends and I was worried about how exhausting that might be, but actually Ebony was really lovely and let me sleep in while she played downstairs. We seemed to spend most of the weekend tidying the playroom, I don’t know how that one job manages to take up so much of our time.

And then all of a sudden I was 37 weeks and very aware that the baby could technically arrive at any moment. I sent Laurie out in a panic to buy a hose and tap connector for filling up the pool when the time comes. There are so many details we are yet to organise and it’s hard to find the time to sit down and discuss things because we’re both so exhausted by the end of the day.

Ebony arrived three days late but I have a feeling this baby will arrive sooner. I hope so, anyway, the thought of being pregnant for longer than 40 weeks and three days is more than horrifying. I’ve been trying to get sorted for the baby so have been busy washing baby clothes and digging out the nappies. I’ve also been collecting things to put in a birth box for Ebony so she has something to keep her entertained during the birth.

I spent most of the weekend having Braxton Hicks contractions. They seemed to be every half hour at least and sometimes more regular. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable they can be and it did make me feel slightly panicked about labour. I woke throughout the night on Saturday thanks to the tightenings so was feeling pretty exhausted on Sunday.

Aside from that, I’m feeling huge. The baby has dropped which means I can breathe a little easier but also means I’m getting bashed in the cervix a lot which isn’t very pleasant. Ebony has two days left in nursery and then she’ll be off for summer. I’m trying to get work done but not being very productive which I think I’ll regret as soon as Ebony is home full-time and I have no chance to work. My plan is to get the house and all baby things sorted this week so we can spend these final weeks together having fun instead of doing chores. I think we’re going to try and have some days out (to places with toilets) over these upcoming weekends so we can really appreciate this time as a family of three.

Missed my 35 week update? Catch it here.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Blinds Safety Advice for Parents

Children love to play near windows. The photo above was taken during a game of hide and seek. Ebony loves to hide behind the curtains, use the curtains as part of her shows, climb on the windowsill and look out at the world passing by.

If there’s one thing all parents worry about, it’s their children’s safety. I sometimes scare myself with just how much I can worry about Ebony’s safety. If she’s playing upstairs and it goes quiet, I suddenly panic that something bad has happened. I must drive her insane because I am always interrupting her games to check she is ok.

I think part of the problem is the internet. It seems like every time something tragic happens, a million articles and blogs are written about it and then something very rare suddenly feels like a very real risk. That said, I do think this awareness-raising is important as a way of families reducing the risks in their home. I’m sure lots of parents bolted furniture to the wall after hearing about the recent deaths in the US. And I bet people took precautions about the risk of button batteries in their home after the fatality over Christmas.

One of the things I think all parents should be aware of are the dangers posed by window blinds. Young children are at risk of strangulation by low-hanging blind cords and sadly these accidents are not uncommon. This is something that has attracted a lot of news coverage over the past few years, yet accidents still occur regularly. When Ebony was born in 2012, the Sure Start Centre were giving out free blind safety clips so parents could keep blind cords well out of the reach of children.

Now that people are more aware of the risks caused by blind cords, many blind companies have started selling safer blinds which don’t use traditional cords. Some of the newer designs are cord-free and others feature safety features that allow the blind cord to break under pressure. So if you’re buying brand new blinds, you should find they’re already safe. Thanks to legislation introduced in 2014, all blinds sold must now be child-safe. If, however, you have older blinds in your home, you may need to talk simple precautions to reduce the risk of injury.  

Sadly, children can easily become tangled in blind cords whilst playing and this can cause injury or even death. And your child doesn’t have to be playing with the cords to be in danger, there have been cases of children running past windows and become entangled in the low-hanging cords. It’s important to keep the area underneath blind cords free from furniture because children love to climb and could easily get hold of blind cords if standing on furniture.

There were blinds in our house when we moved in, but these all have safety devices fitted which force the blind cord to snap if under pressure. As well as that, we have some string cords which are tied up using safety clips I bought online (these ones). It cost  me just £2.11 for a pack of five. If you don’t have safety devices fitted to the blind cords in your house, add that to your to-do list for today.

Are the blinds in your home child-free? This isn’t just an important question for parents, you should make sure your blind cords are child-safe for any young visitors in your home. Tragic accidents have occurred at the homes of grandparents, family friends and other relatives.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Just the two of us

Firstly, I really hope the title of this post has put the hit song Just the two of us in your head. But not the proper version, the Mike Myers version, because that is currently what’s stuck in my head.

I’m 37 weeks now and the days are disappearing fast. Like, way too fast, I am not getting through my to-do list at all. Unless you count my secret to-do list which simply says “sit down, knit, eat all the ice lollies’. I’m getting through that list at the speed of the light. In fact, that reminds me, I need to buy more ice lollies.

I am really excited about giving birth. I can’t wait to meet the new baby. I can’t work to not be pregnant anymore and be able to go more than five minutes without needing to pee. I feel really excited about this huge step, but I’m also feeling a little sad. It’s weird to think that it won’t just be me and Ebony anymore.

Ever since she was born, we have spent most of our time together, just the two of us. While Laurie’s been busy at work, we’ve hung out at home. We’ve been on adventures, got lost in games and spent hours just chatting. It’s weird to think that very soon there’ll be someone else there during all of those moments.

Ebony is really excited about becoming a big sister. She was upset the other day, she was quieter than normal and seemed a little withdrawn so I asked her if she was feeling worried about the new baby. I keep expecting her to feel worried or scared about it, but she just scrunched her nose up and said “why would I be sad about that? I’m going to be a big sister!” She is so excited about meeting the new baby and always tells me how much she already loves her new brother or sister. I know she’s going to be an amazing big sister, even though I’m sure there’ll be a period of adjustment as we all get used to being a family of four.

The idea of a baby is lovely, but the reality might be a little harder to stomach. She knows they feed a lot, but I don’t think she’ll really understand the impact that will have on our daily lives until the baby is right there in front of her. She knows they wake up in the night lots, but she might be less understanding when the baby wakes her up.

With our time together as a two coming to an end, I really wanted to do something special, just the two of us. From September, Ebony will be in full-time education and just typing that made me want to cry. I am going to miss her so much and will hate the loss of the freedom we have now. With my due date in mid-August, we will probably have two weeks of summer holidays together before the baby arrives. But, I can already tell I won’t be up for many adventures then. I’m hoping we can spend those days playing in the garden and staying close to home.

I was keen to do something before I got too pregnant, so yesterday we headed into Manchester for the day. I wanted Ebony to choose an outfit for the new baby because it seemed like a good way of getting her involved. One of her jobs at the birth is going to be getting the clothes once the baby is born. We walked around a lot of shops looking for gender neutral newborn clothes but there were hardly any. Why?! Why is everything pink or blue and covered in cars?! Jesus Christ.

The problem with gender neutral parenting is that Ebony didn’t understand why we couldn’t just buy the pink stuff. “But boys like pink too, mummy, it’s just a colour,” she kept pointing out whilst I awkwardly tried to explain that a future brother may not thank her or selecting a bright pink babygro covered in strawberries. I’m totally with her, of course, but it really seemed like the sort of thing that would be brought up at Christmas for years to come. After going to All The Shops, Ebony said we should get two outfits, one for a boy and one for a girl. My bank balance groaned (collapsed?) but I agreed, I couldn’t handle the thought of walking to anymore shops.

We went to Yo Sushi for lunch (all I want to eat all the time is their Yasai Gyoza dumplings) and ate more sushi than is socially acceptable. Laurie came to join us for a bit of sushi at the end and Ebony was really excited to see him. After lunch, we went to the cinema to watch Ice Age: Collision Course. Ebony thought it was hilarious and I had a pretty good nap. Then we did a little more shopping on the way back to the station.

I realised yesterday just how pregnant I am. I have been feeling pretty good this pregnancy, I haven’t suffered from Pelvic Girdle Pain or backache like I did last time. Unless I overdo it, that is. And a day trip to Manchester was definitely overdoing it. I may have cried a bit.

It was really lovely to spend that little bit of time with Ebony, just the two of us (building castles in the sky). I might have spent most of the evening crying in the bath, but it was worth a bit of pelvic pain to have another memory to treasure with Ebony. It’s weird to think we only have a couple of weeks together as a family of three. And I know that when the baby arrives, it will be a big leap to life as a family of four.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Homemade Mobile for the new Baby

With my due date fast approaching, I’ve been trying to get organised before the baby arrives. This has meant sorting out a little corner in our house for the new baby. We’re not decorating a nursery this time around because Ebony didn’t sleep in her own room until she was two and a half, so we’re going to enjoy having a spare room a little while longer.

After much consideration, I decided to invest in a changing table. We didn’t have one for Ebony because we were in our 20s and laughed in the face of backache but now I’m 30 and I need all the backache related help I can get. I found a second hand changing table on Gumtree and sent Laurie and Ebony to Chorlton to pick it up.

The changing table will give us somewhere to store all of the clean nappies and wipes, as well as creating a designated area for nappy changes in the house. I’ve put the changing table in my office because I have space and will probably be in there writing with the baby in a sling often enough to make it worthwhile. It also leaves our spare room empty so that if the baby is crying in the night, Laurie has somewhere to hide if he’s suffering from sleep deprivation at work.

In an attempt to pretend I don’t feel guilty that the baby is getting a changing table in lieu of a bedroom, I’ve been creating the most beautiful changing table in the world. I wanted to get Ebony involved in the decorations. At four and a half, she’s very excited about the arrival of her new baby brother or sister and I’ve been working hard to develop a bond for them during this pregnancy. Part of this simply comes down to Ebony feeling included in decisions about the new baby so I knew she’d be thrilled when I asked her to help create a mobile for the changing table.

I bought some fabric pens (I got these ones for a fiver) and some stuffing (this one) from Amazon (I signed up for a free trial with Amazon Prime and now everything arrives at the speed of light and it is amazing) and bought some plain white fabric from our local craft shop. I thought it would be a nice idea to get Ebony to draw our family for the mobile because I really love the people she draws and I thought it was a nice way to personalise the mobile. I cut the fabric into rectangles and she drew each member of the family including the cat. Once that was done, I ironed the fabric straight away to protect the images. Then it was time to start sewing.

I had some nice colourful fabric left from another project so we decided to use that as the backing. With the hand drawn image facing the patterned fabric, I used the sewing machine to sew most of the way around the drawing. Then I cut off any excess material before pushing the fabric back through the hole so the drawing was the right way round. I stuffed the pockets of fabric and then hand-sewed up the gap.

I didn’t want to fix the mobile to the ceiling in my office, so decided to buy a mobile arm and hanger to use. I ordered this one from Amazon, in hindsight, I should probably have gone for the 88cm one because the 66cm is quite low and I think the baby will soon be able to reach the dangling toys. I would have preferred a wooden arm, but couldn’t find any that had good reviews. If my dad wasn’t busy sunning himself in Europe, I would have tried to rope him into building one but alas he had a lucky escape.

Once all of the drawings had been stuffed and sewn and the mobile hanger had arrived, it was time to fix the mobile together. I simply used thread to fix the stuffed drawings in place, though I’m not sure how well this will hold out once the baby manages to grab them.

I think it looks great and Ebony is really proud of it. The mobile hanger plays music and rotates and I know Ebony will love turning it on to entertain the baby during nappy changes. When the baby outgrows the mobile, the stuffed drawings will make great toys as well, so I’m hoping we’ll get years of use out of them. It was a really simple project and only took a few hours in total to complete.


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