Who are you?
I’m Lauren, I turned 30 in January this year, and Athena arrived in June ‘13. I am married to Sam and we live on the south coast of England. He is a hotel manager and I was a hotel manager too, pre baby. I am now an area administrator based at the hotel where I was the manager... confusing. Athena is my first (but hopefully not last) baby and although she wasn’t planned she was very much welcomed! We were in the middle of wedding planning when I found out I was pregnant and walked down the aisle the day after our 12 week scan!
How are you?
At the moment I am pretty happy. I would be happier if I was pregnant again as the bigger Athena gets and the more she learns the more broody I get for a newborn. I went back to work in July ‘14, doing three days a week which means I get to be a mama more time than I am at work, which I am happy with.
What do you do to relax?
Take a long bath with a good book, or get stuck into a box set. When Athena first arrived I watched all of The Killing in a couple of weeks as we spent so long on the sofa!
What do you do when you have time to yourself?
Nap! or go to Tesco to do the weekly food shop. It is a huge store so I can spend a good couple of hours looking at the books/clothes etc. This normally happens on a Friday night too, rock and roll I tell you.
How does a typical day go?
Athena wakes up around 7.30am (which is earlier than she used to, so although to some mamas it sounds delightful to me it is early!) and if Sam hasn’t already gone to work he’ll get her up, change her nappy and bring her to me in bed for a feed then go and put the kettle on. She plays and I drink tea/browse the internet for a bit and at 9 we have breakfast, unless it’s a work day, in which case I take her to Nursery for the day and head to work on the train. If we’re not going out anywhere then I’ll try and do some kind of ‘organised’ activity, like shape sorting, or building blocks etc before nap time, which is generally around 3 hours after she wakes up, for about 2 hours. These two hours are when I try and load the dishwasher, put some clothes/nappies on to wash and maybe write a blog post if I have time, after getting myself dressed etc. When Athena wakes up we have lunch, normally with Cbeebies on in the background. If we’ve not been out in the morning (in which case Athena will hopefully have napped in the buggy) we go out to do something in the afternoon, even if it’s a half hour walk and then a quick play in the park. I feel stir crazy if we don’t go out at least once a day! Sometimes Athena will have an afternoon nap, but this is happening less and less now which is a shame as I liked to nap too! Dinner is at 6, followed by a bath (most days) a book and then bed!
How was your pregnancy?
I didn’t really have any physical problems during my pregnancy, although I was huge by the time I reached full term and people kept asking if I was having twins, I weighed 4 stone more at the end than at the start and Athena was only 7lb 14, I just had a huge amount of amniotic fluid and legs and arms like tree trunks, and lets not mention the swollen feet... The main issue I had in pregnancy was birth anxiety, resulting in an elective C-section. I don’t regret my birth choice at all and if I have another baby would like go down the same route. Some of my concern was based round my husband being a huge baby (11.7lbs) and being huge in general, and some family medical history.
Did you have any cravings?
Only ice; I sucked it and crunched it whenever I could in the last couple of months! Apparently it can indicate low iron, which makes sense as I had to take an iron supplement in the last trimester.
Did you find out what you were having?
No! We wanted to but at the 20 week scan she just wouldn’t get into the right place, despite me jumping around! We figured it was a sign, and didn’t go for a private scan or make up a reason to get another scan like I've heard people do! I actually did have another growth scan at 36 weeks but as Sam wasn’t with me so I asked not be told!
How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
Sam, my husband, had chosen Athena and had referred to the sprog as Athena a few times during the pregnancy. He likes Greek mythology and fancies himself as Zeus I think... who was Athena's father. She has two middle names, the first is Lorelei who is a character in The Mentalist (we had been watching it when I was pregnant) and it was also a nickname Sam used to call me sometimes when we first got together. Her second middle name is the first part of my double barrelled surname. She shares a surname with Sam, as I kept my surname when we got married. If she turned out to be a boy then I had chosen Reuben, although if we have a boy in the future we wouldn’t use that name!
How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?
I was given ‘What to expect...’ which was very helpful, and I downloaded a couple of week by week apps too. I went to three NHS-run antenatal sessions, and I am glad I did as I did learn things that I used later, namely how to bath a baby, how to wipe crap with the front of the nappy and some breast feeding tips! I didn’t bother with NCT as I was moving house six weeks after the birth so wouldn’t be able to meet up as easily anyway.
How was your labour?
I had a C-section the day after my due date at the hospital in Brighton. It was scheduled for 2 days before but due to emergencies I got sent home! I had no signs of labour at all, and when I was examined before theatre she wasn’t even engaged, so I could’ve gone way over my due date and possibly needed medical intervention to speed things along anyway! Because it wasn’t an emergency C-section we had a lot of students in the operating theatre with us, 14 people in total I think! This was fine with us as people have to learn their trade somehow!
How did you get on with breastfeeding?
We did well, I have no idea how or why it was fairly stress free for us. We breastfed until 15 months. My advice is don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about how (or where) you choose to feed your baby! Happy baby = happy mum, whatever milk is consumed!
What does your baby eat?
Right from birth I never followed a feeding routine, I breastfed her when she was hungry and hoped for the best! It worked out okay though and around 7 months we fell into a routine of sorts (well, to do with timings anyway!) We started solids at five and a half months with rusks/rice cakes/baby rice and took a mainly baby-led path, although these days she’s a bit lazy and likes to be spoon fed her dinner! She eats almost everything we offer her, and when we are out for a meal we tend to just feed her from our plates, and since she got teeth she can eat burgers/meat without having it cut up into tiny pieces that go down whole! There was a point around 11-12 months when I found dinner times really stressful as she’s hardly eat anything, or throw it all over the place. I have been reliably informed by many other mamas that this is normal though! As well as breast milk she drinks water, cow’s milk and very rarely squash as a treat!
Does your baby have a sleep routine?
Athena naps for two hours in the morning, and perhaps another two-ish hours in the afternoon on most days. Generally Athena sleeps from 7pm till around 7.30am without waking, which is glorious for me! She used to sleep at least six hours until she hit five months old, then for a few months used to wake up once in the night. If I could go back and do it again I would train myself not to leap into her room at the slightest cry (which I did!) as I’m sure she then got used to having a midnight feed and woke up especially for it! I think sometimes she was just moving around and woke herself up and would’ve gone back to sleep on her own. Oh well, I know for next time!
How do you keep your baby entertained?
Generally the things that keep Athena entertained the most are the things she shouldn’t be playing with, like phone chargers, the bin, the cupboard under the sink and the bookshelves. If I can prise her away from these things she currently loves putting things in other things, and ‘dancing’ to music (even if it’s the 6 o’clock news theme tune) Oh! and she loves the swings at the park too.
When you're baby's freaking out, what do you find helps to calm them down?
Standing up holding her and stroking her back normally helps!
Does your baby seem to suffer with anything and what do you do to help it?
Touch wood, no! When she was a lot smaller and solely breastfeeding she used to get awful wind when I had eaten onions, bizarrely!
Does your baby have a favourite toy?
The Fisher Price ‘cookie jar’. I hear that song in my sleep I think...
What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
Some wooden stacking discs that thread onto wooden dowels, from Sainsbury's. They help fine motor skills, but actually I just LOVE wooden toys!
What have been the most useful things that you've bought, been given or discovered?
Bought: the ‘snot sucker’ (or nasal aspirator) and I really don’t know where all the snot would go if we didn’t suck it out... ick.
Been given: A bath support. It’s a wire frame with a towelling cover and you just pop it in the bath (or sink when they’re really small) which was great for when I didn’t have her in the bath with me, until she was old enough to sit up.
Discovered: Baby massage, I was sceptical at first but she really loved it and it helped to calm her down lots!
What is your baby’s mode of transport?
We were given a Mamas and Papas Pliko pramette, which I would not recommend at all! Clunky and hard to steer with separate handles. At 7 weeks we bought an ObabyZezu travel system which was great and we used that until we won a CosattoGiggle travel system in Oaker, which we still use now, it’s bright yellow with a leaf pattern and I love it! Athena is higher up, can face us or the world and it’s a three wheeler and folds really easily and fairly compactly. I use a buckled carrier (a bit like an Ergobaby) and a mei-tai which is soft and has ties, both can be used for front or back carries, and should still work into toddlerhood!
What are your baby essentials when you go out?
Snacks! A book or two and anti-bacterial hand gel.
What do you wish you knew before you had a baby?
That people often exaggerate the ‘bad’ things, like the lack of sleep you’ll get and all your hair falling out. They never tell you how amazing the endless cuddles and gorgeous smiles are. Just because it happened to someone else doesn’t mean it will happen to you!
What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
Trust your own instincts!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Buy lots of biscuits, and pre-cook a lot of meals to stock your freezer up for the early days!
Lauren also blogged about her first pregnancy in The Realistic Mum's Club which she no longer writes, but expectant mamas may find useful.
Thank you so much, Lauren!