Who are you?
Hello! I'm Dora, a 26 year old first time mum. I currently live in a quaint terraced cottage in Leeds village in Kent, right by the castle, with my boyfriend, Leo, our daughter, Florence, and our little dog, Chopper. Florence was born on the 11th of March 2013, one day after her due date which was on Mother's Day. I'm gutted I didn't give birth on Mother's Day but I will always remember it as the day I went into labour!
How are you?
I'm actually in a great place right now. In December 2011, I lost my mother to a very short battle to cancer after being her carer for 5 months. In June 2012, I fell pregnant with our surprise baby. It was a whirlwind. After a difficult pregnancy, a quite traumatic birth and after the visitors had started to die down, my grief began to surface. I was diagnosed with post natal depression when Florence was six weeks old and I have been on medication since that day. After months of counselling, therapy, visits to the doctor, and a lot of time off of work; I'm beginning to heal, enjoy my life and look to the future. Another side of my healing is being able to talk about it. This is the first time a lot of people will find out I have post natal depression and the thought is scary but the stigma that surrounds PND is so wrong. And I would be lying if I said I wanted to go on some great mission to heal the world and the mothers out there, because I don't feel that way, but I do want to make an example of myself and show that it can be talked about without shame or worry. I’m kind of over feeling ashamed of my illness, so I'm trying to open up and learn to talk. So yes, to answer your question, right now - I'm great.
What do you do to relax?
I love reading; whether it's trashy books, biographies, fiction, fashion books, magazines - anything. I'm also not afraid to admit I love pyjama days in front of Netflix with a Nutella sandwich! A lot of my creativity faded when I was diagnosed with depression and I was very low in energy a lot of the time. But I'm beginning to be inspired again, by all different things and I'm hoping to slowly start applying it to the more creative side of my life.
What do you do when you have time to yourself?
Something I was determined to do was lose the weight I had gained through pregnancy (two stone!) and also be active as I had read it helps with depression. Every Wednesday night (although at the moment I'm having a summer break for a couple of weeks!) I go to weight watchers and then Powerhoop afterwards. I've been doing it since January and have so far lost a stone. When I find myself with a couple of spare hours alone throughout the day I love to clean and tidy, blast some music and open up all the windows to the house. I’ve always been a believer in "changing the air" in the house so it's fresh and bright.
How does a typical day go?
I usually set the alarm at 6am so I can force Leo out of bed, he goes off to work and I have a snooze until Florence wakes me up. This is usually around 8-8.30am, on some days it can stretch to 9am if I'm super lucky! We come downstairs and I change her nappy. After this I put some Cbeebies on (don't judge - it's the best babysitter if you need to spend 15 minutes doing something!) for her while I wash up her bottle. If I get distracted making a cup of tea I can feel a little tug on my pyjamas and there's Florence by my feet hurrying me up. She’s a little diva! She has about 7 ounces of warm whole milk on the sofa next to me while I drink my tea.
Then I get on with making her breakfast - she either has peanut butter/Nutella/Marmite on toast with banana or Weetabix with warm milk and raisins. Sometimes on the weekend she has scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and beans. We play until nap time which is usually around three hours after she wakes, then she sleeps for around one and half to two hours. In this time I tidy, open up the house and get ready. Sometimes if I'm low on energy, or having a difficult day, I relax on the sofa and may even have a nap!
After she wakes we have lunch together and then we either go out, play in the garden with chopper or, if it's bad weather, we stay indoors and play. Dinner is around 5pm and it is around this time that Leo usually comes home from work. We play a little more after dinner either in the garden or inside - at the moment it's hot so we're always outside! Bath is at around 6.30pm; which Leo will always do with her as it's his chance to spend some time with her. They have their own little bedtime routine, which I love. While Leo is bathing Florence and putting her down I have a cup of tea and get started on dinner. We have a nice lap dinner, talk about our days, watch a bit of TV and go to bed together.
Pregnancy & Birth:
How was your pregnancy?
My pregnancy was quite a difficult time for me as I suffered with terrible morning, noon and night sickness! It started at eight weeks and carried on until I was about twenty-two weeks pregnant. I also suffered with terrible migraines which slowed down after the morning sickness subsided. I was on medication for sickness because I was being sick about fifteen to twenty times a day and couldn't keep any food down! I was wondering when the pregnancy glow would appear! And hurrah, in my third trimester, albeit I was the size of a house, I actually felt good. I loved my big ole bump and I loved being pregnant. I had an over active thyroid which meant I was closely monitored by a specialist and had to have monthly scans to monitor her weight as it can cause some babies to be premature or very small. Luckily Florence was neither! This also meant, sadly, that I couldn't have the water birth I wanted as I was too high risk.
|Seven months pregnant.|
I absolutely loved Marmite in everything - tea, toast, soup. I also was addicted to salt and vinegar chip sticks or salty popcorn. I loved fromage frais yoghurts and would eat about twelve in one sitting!
Did you find out what you were having?
Leo and I decided, with advice from our family, not to find out Florence's sex. We concluded that you don't get many surprises in life so to just go with it. I honestly couldn't tell. With my Italian family, they made all sorts of predictions based on old wives tales and came to the conclusion she was a girl (we'll have to give that a go next time to see if they're right second time round!) We bought all white or neutral outfits.
How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
I don't know how, but Leo and I just seemed to agree on names straight away. We had a name for a girl and a boy. As we lost my mum and Leo's nanna in a year, and we wanted to honour their names, so we picked Leo's nanna's middle name (Florence) as a first name and my mum’s first name (Margaret) as a middle name. And we got Florence Margaret Rew-Smith. As for the boy’s name, we're keeping that quiet for when and if we have a boy!
How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?
Leo and I went to two antenatal classes over two full days called The Journey. I would maybe pick a different class that was shorter over a longer time as I got very tired doing two full days, but that was the only option at the time. We bought nappies and stocked up on things that last a long time like wipes, muslins, bibs, baby wash. It helped us so much in the first few months. Also, I bought a book called The Food of Love: Your Formula for Successful Breastfeeding by Kate Evans. It was a wonderful, funny and informative book which was a positive take on breastfeeding. I would recommend this to any breastfeeding mother or any expectant mum who is interested in breastfeeding!
|Adorable newborn Florence Margaret Rew-Smith|
How was your labour?
My labour was a big blur. My due date was Mother's Day so we had planned to visit Leo's mum for lunch and then make our way to my dad’s house for dinner and an overnight stay. I woke up at 8.30am with mild period pains which over the next few hours got increasingly worse. I started to panic and called the labour ward. They told me it was the early stages of labour and I should have a warm bath and some paracetamol. I decided to write my mum a Mother's Day card telling her I was in labour, take my maternity bag to Leo's mums and have a bath there before lunch. After the bath the pains had got so bad we started timing them. I could barely eat. Everyone was so excited and I was super grumpy! We went back home at around 3pm and I paced around trying to forget the pain. We called the labour ward at the William Harvey in Ashford and they called me in at around 7pm. I was only 1cm. Wow! I was annoyed! They sent me back home and told me to take more paracetamol. I came home, bounced on my birthing ball and insisted on playing ACDC monopoly much to Leo's annoyance! I couldn't sleep but Leo got a little sleep in before things progressed. We went back to the labour ward at around 3am when I couldn't cope anymore alone. I was 3cm. They kept me in and gave me gas and air. At this point it all becomes a massive blur!
At around midday they broke my waters and afterwards the pain had got so bad that I was given Pethidine. I, personally, would never have Pethidine again. I was hallucinating, I was passed out and I couldn't speak. It was horrible for Leo to see. I begged for an epidural which took over 40 minutes and two attempts to put in place as I opted to have a trainee nurse as I wanted to help them learn. Again I, personally, would never do this again. I felt immediately calm and Leo cried because he was so happy to see me back to normal again. Labour wasn't progressing and I had been put on the hormone drip, Florence's heart rate was suffering and she had something attached to her head - I can't quite remember what this was. I was stuck at 8cm. The specialist told me if I couldn't progress any further than 8cm in the next hour I would need an emergency Caesarean. This made me cry and panic, I didn't want that. But at the same time I wanted the pain to end!
This bit gets graphic, haha! I then started to feel like I needed a poop! (This is funny to look back on now!) So I'm telling the nurse I think I'm going to, I'm panicking thinking oh great Leo's going to see me poop so she checks me and it's all systems go! I'm pushing Florence out! This is the time when my epidural decided to wear off and the pain all came rushing at once. It was too advanced to top it up so I was back on my old friend gas and air! I wanted to give birth kneeling but Florence's shoulder was stuck and her heart rate was suffering so it was a lie flat birth with stirrups and those wonderful episiotomy scissors staring me in the face. I writhed so much I gave myself friction burns on my ankles and elbows. Florence finally came out without the help of the scissors and Leo told me we had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, just as I wanted him to. 11:09pm 11/03/2013.
|Dora's little family|
How did you get on with breastfeeding?
I wanted to breastfeed desperately and I did try. In the end I breastfed for 3 weeks until I finally admitted to myself that I couldn't, personally, cope with the demand. It was in the very raw stages of my post natal depression and it was making me worse. I couldn't monitor what Florence was eating and I was worried I wasn't giving her enough. She had really bad gas as she was only getting the foremilk and not the nutritional creamy hindmilk. This also meant I sat there without a top on for most of the day as she fed all day and all night. And also there wasn't much that Leo could do other than change nappies. After changing to formula and bottle the whole house dynamic changed for the better. A happy home is a happy baby, for sure. I'm nervous about breastfeeding with future children but I would always give it a second go and applaud the women who breastfeed as I know it isn't easy!
Does your baby have a feeding routine?
Now that Florence is nearly 18 months old, she eats three square meals a day with 7 ounces of warm whole milk in the morning and at night before bed. When she was a newborn it was impossible to follow a routine, and it's also not recommended, so I went with Florence's needs which could be a little turbulent. I was also breastfeeding for the first three weeks which meant it was absolutely impossible to have a routine. When we switched to bottle and formula I followed the E.A.S.Y routine with the dream feed. It worked perfectly for us! I followed this up until she was a year old and having three meals a day. Before discovering E.A.S.Y I invested in a couple of Gina Ford books and quickly packed them in as I found them far too strict and really not applicable to a mum who wasn't breastfeeding, which I find a little unfair.
What does your baby eat?
She eats absolutely everything I eat. People are surprised at just how much Florence eats and the variety, too, but it's because I tried her with everything when I began the weaning process. She loves omelettes, pasta and veggies. The only things I steer clear from are junk food and overly salty food. She also only has water as I don't like the amount of sugars in juice and baby juice. Sometimes, for something a little different, I dilute fresh orange or apple juice with water and if she has a sore throat I squeeze a bit of lemon into her water.
What was your approach to weaning your baby onto solids?
I don't think I was brave enough for a full baby led weaning routine. I alternated puréed foods with finger foods. I did a lot of fork mash and bought a lot of tiny pasta and cous cous. I gradually increased the lumps and now I just cut up her food into small bits. I bought a lot of Ella's kitchen and Plum sachets, as they’re a lifesaver for days out and meal ideas; and I used the textures of the different stages as a guide. Also, with Leo being a vegetarian we don't have an awful lot of meat so used the sachets to help bring more meat and protein into Florence's diet.
|The first puree!|
Does your baby have a nap/ sleep routine?
We've always followed the E.A.S.Y routine as much as possible but if Florence fell asleep half an hour before her nap was supposed to be then I just let it happen, and if she wasn't feeling her nap at the time it was supposed to be then I would just stop and try again after half an hour. Something me and Leo always stuck to and still do is her bedtime routine - we give her a bath, her bottle and hold her or rock her until she's asleep and we lay her down by 7.30pm at the latest. Obviously we know life happens and sometimes we’re late, but I believe night sleep is really important for a healthy and happy baby so try not to let it happen often. Florence now sleeps through until 8-8.30am. I also let Florence sleep until she wakes naturally. When she was a baby we couldn't do that as she'd pass her feeding times and then start to confuse her days and nights. She would happily sleep all day and be awake all night! Also, Leo and I have just transitioned from rocking her to sleep to laying her down sleepy and letting her fall asleep alone. I didn't want to do this until we felt ready.
How do you keep your baby entertained?
Florence absolutely loves the zoo! And I make sure we go on regular trips to see the animals! She also loves nature; we'd always lay her in her pram under a tree so she could watch the leaves and see all of the different colours. She's definitely an outdoors kid, which I love. She has also learned what a ball is, and how to say it, meaning that playing catch, or playing with her ball, is now her favourite past time!
How do you calm your baby down when they’re having a freak out?
I’m going to put it out there - I love her dummy! It was a godsend. Sometimes, when she was a baby she would just love to suck on it whilst being held. I'd just hold her or lie with her and pull faces. Nowadays I just try to stay calm and distract her by playing or doing an activity together.
|Florence at the Rare Breeds Centre for her first birthday.|
Does your baby have a favourite toy?
She has a snuggy called bunny which she's had from birth. It’s always with her, in her cot or, if we go away, we take it with us so she feels at home. As far as toys, at the moment it's her ball. But over time the favourite toys have all changed and had a relevance to her milestones. So when she was a baby it was her teething links - I bought a pack of 50 and always had them around! When she was crawling, it was things she could crawl after like her rolling balls; and when she could stand it was her walker.
What was your most recent baby-related purchase?
Gosh, I think my most recent purchase was a boring factor 50+ sun cream. I always buy Nivea, I like the smell and I trust the brand. I also buy the coloured spray because it's actually really helpful in showing you where you've missed spots. Plus I find it funny that she's blue for a couple of minutes! However my purchase this week is going to be Florence's second pair of Clarks as she's outgrowing her first pair already!
What has been the most useful thing you've bought?
THE JUMPEROO! Godsend! If I needed fifteen minutes to relax, catch up with a friend, have a cup of tea or nip to the loo I'd pop her in it and she'd have endless amounts of jumping fun! I had the Rainforest Jumperoo by Fisher Price and it was actually a recommendation from a friend. Also, the Snooze Shade is amazing! When Florence was 4 months old we took her to Italy and used the Snooze Shade so she could sleep in her pushchair whilst we were out to dinner; it worked perfectly for us! She slept all evening!
What is your baby’s mode of transport?
In the beginning we had the Seed Pli pram and pushchair as it was the only pushchair that would fit in the fiat 500. It was a nightmare though! I mean it did us wonders as it was so easy to push and comfortable for Florence, but it was so heavy and clunky! Also, it wasn't easy to fold down alone which meant when I was out with Florence it would take me a long time to get organised and more often than not I would get in a flap! We also had the Maxi Cosi car seat and the Isofix base which was great, it made things so much easier as I could unclip the car seat in and out and didn't have to faff with the seatbelt - a little extra money but well worth it! I then changed the Seed Pli for a GracoNimbly pushchair as it was lightweight and easy to fold down. I alternated between a pushchair and a Baby Bjorn carrier as not everywhere is pram friendly and sometimes it was easier and nicer to use the Bjorn. I now have another pushchair as well as the Graco - a Maclaren Techno XT as it lies flat and is perfect for sleeping! It's the perfect holiday pram, tried and tested!
What are your baby essentials when you go out?
When Florence was a baby we'd always take more than enough nappies, two spare outfits for her, lots of muslins and a change of top or a simple slip on dress for me! The worst feeling is when your baby is sick all over you and you have to sit in it for the rest of the day, especially if you're with company - I learnt this from experience! Now she's a toddler, I always take a favourite toy or book to keep her entertained; and her shoes in case she wants to get down and have a walk.
If you could give your pregnant self some advice, what would it be?
I wish I could have told myself to calm down and take it easy for those first few weeks. I was so wired I couldn't sleep when she slept, I was too focused on cleaning, entertaining visitors and generally just making sure Florence was okay. I was exhausted! Also, I think I would have told pregnant me she's never going to be this small again so enjoy the good times and the bad! Forget the cleaning, forget the washing up and enjoy your baby.
What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
Get up, get showered, get dressed and get out! I always put on a bit of lipstick and it was like I was human again!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Honestly - people will tell you this and you won't believe it but sleep when they sleep. Sleep deprivation is difficult - there's a reason why people use it as a torture method! Those couple of extra hours a day can work wonders and in turn give you a little bit of energy to focus on your partner. Also, I slept with Florence throughout the day and my happiest time was waking up next to her little face. Other than that - trust your instincts and don't Google too much; the internet is a scary place!
Dora, thank you so much for answering my questions in such detail and being so open.
You can find Dora on Instagram btw :-)