Who are you?
I’m Sarah, Sammy’s Mama. He was born on 26th April 2014. I’m approximately 30 years older than him (possibly more like 31) - although from looking at me, people are still suprised that I’m old enough to have a kid. I live in the west London ‘burbs with my Husband of two years, Jonny. We also have a cat Buddy, who’s had his nose put out of joint a bit this year. Poor Buddy. He doesn’t know what’s about to hit him (literally).
How long are you planning to take for maternity leave?
I’m a graphic designer, working mainly in packaging and illustration (most recently for M&S). I finished working 3.5 weeks before my due date - I was going to try and leave it later but the commute (a waddle, a bus and two tube rides) got a bit miserable towards the end and those ‘baby on board’ badges often seem to make you invisible. It’s amazing how many balding men in suits will suddenly fall asleep behind a paper when you haul yourself onto a packed carriage. Grrr.
As I am a freelancer, I don’t have a strict timescale or job to go back to. This is both liberating and terrifying! I’d like to be around for Sam as much as possible but financially, I will need to work (I’m very grateful for the government maternity allowance, as being self-employed I wasn’t eligible for statutory). In the new year, I will be sharing some childcare by having Sammy’s cousin once a week and visa versa. Louis is six weeks older than Sam, so it will be lovely for them to hang out. There’s going to be some mischief going down, that’s for sure. Eeek.
2015 will see the re-launch of our shop too, selling a brand new range of nursery prints as well as other children’s products. We’re excited about that.
How are you?
Smitten and exhausted.
Let’s get the hard days out the way first. The ones when the growth spurts make Sammy extra clingy and grumpy and you can’t get anything done. Those days feel like you’re swimming upstream - when you’re exhausted with a fractious baby who won’t be anywhere else but in your arms (no sitting down mind! No, no, no) and looks at you like you’re doing it all wrong. The house is filthy and you haven’t got any food in to eat one-handed apart from one lonely bendy Rivita at the back of the cupboard. The to-do list is getting longer by the millisecond, the spot of your chin is ripening nicely and all you can see is other mammas who look like they have it nailed… after all you only have one baby to look after and you feel like a bit of a failure.
Those days are hard, but soooooo worth it. Whilst I find that the occasional tears and meltdowns are an inevitable part of motherhood, for me it’s usually a sign that I need to give myself a break (easier said than done) and try my hardest to get an early night (also tricky). Tomorrow is another day and when you see those little tiny toes and eyelashes that you made, it’s all ok. Most days are great. I constantly stare at Sammy in disbelief that I am getting to hang out with him and make him giggle like nobody else can. He’s such a smiley little soul and I can’t kiss his cheeks enough. All mamas have their bad days, and the support they show for each other is brilliant. I absolutely love being a Mum, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What do you do to relax?
Sit down, watch tv, maybe some Pinterest (sarah_weston_) or go to bed! I aim to get early night most days (my husband does the dream feed) but in reality it never happens as there’s always stuff that needs doing. When I’m with Sammy, we go for a walk to blow away the cobwebs.
What do you do when you have time to yourself?
Errr, I probably waste the snippets of me-time playing with my phone… If and when Sam does sleep in the day I tend to catch up with boring things that need doing and tidy the house. I get really grouchy when the house is a mess! I like to read when I can too.
How does a typical day go?
No day seems to be the same. One day he’ll nap just fine and I think it might be the start of a routine. Then I’ll try and put him down the next day when he’s sleepy, to find the little monkey giggling and jiggling his arms about two minutes later. I’ll keep at it…
In the mornings, Jon usually takes Sammy down to make our breakfast. I take the opportunity to shower otherwise it’ll never happen once he’s at work and I have my hands full. We’ve done this from the day his paternity leave finished and it’s worked well for us. Usually by about 9am Sammy will need a sleep again, lasting up to about 40 mins. He might then nap again once or twice (I emphasise the word ‘might’) and be ready for bath and bed by about 6.30. He’ll usually have crashed out by the time Jon comes home at 7.15 despite my efforts to keep him awake.
During awake time, it’s definitely good to get out and about. We always try to do something, whether it’s shopping, seeing friends, going to a music class or just a walk to the river. I’m also learning to take it easy, making sure we have a duvet day maybe once a week. That’s important too. And so, so nice. This time won’t happen again.
How was your pregnancy?
I got off lightly. I had no morning sickness apart from some nausea. However, I did find it made my asthma play up, especially in the mornings on the busy commute which could be quite scary. Also, Sam wasn’t a very active baby in the womb, so I was often concerned that I hadn’t felt him. Luckily the hospital is only down the road and they encourage you to come in to be monitored if you have any worries. That’s even why I went in on the day he was born.
Did you have any cravings?
Food in general. Especially plain spaghetti.
Did you find out what you were having?
No; we debated for a long time. I always thought I’d want a surprise, but I was wavering by the time it came to the twenty-week scan. Jon didn’t want to find out, so as a compromise, we asked the sonographer to write it down and seal it in an envelope. We resisted looking until after he was born!
How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
We had a few but nothing certain. It took us a couple of days to be sure once he’d arrived.
How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?
Books, apps, websites, blogs, NCT classes (made some lovely friends) - you name it, I loved it. I’m not sure what books I found useful then, but now I often refer to ‘My Baby Week by Week’ and ‘The Wonderweeks’.
How was your labour?
As I mentioned, the Friday I went into labour (two days after dd), I’d been concerned about the lack of movement. This happened a lot throughout my pregnancy and the hospital were great about monitoring me even if there was the slightest doubt. I had been worrying that afternoon but felt a bit too silly going in yet again (a stupid thing to think). Jon came home from work and persuaded me to put our minds at rest. I had been having some twinges for about an hour at that point but I was in denial and didn’t think ‘it’ could actually be happening.
The nurse noticed contractions on my trace but said I should go home and rest. Jon knew that I’d be too shy to make a fuss (I think he could feel me silently clenching his hand every few minutes), so he asked her just to check. She was surprised to find that I was seven centimetres; so off down the corridor to the natural birth centre I went. We didn’t have our bag with us and hadn’t had dinner (a foolish mistake as I could have really done with that energy later).
I’d hoped for a water birth, but found it too hot in the pool. In the end, I tried all manner of positions as Sam was back to back, my waters hadn’t broken and he hadn’t dropped. After being really calm, this panicked me a bit and I remember feeling so out of control as it seemed like there was no hope of him ever being ready. It all gets a bit hazy as it became intense quite quickly - I hadn’t eaten much that day and threw up any supplies that we brought with us. I was given meptid to try and have a rest but I’m not sure that happened… I hung on to the gas and air for dear life. Quiet Sarah shouted. A lot.
By 4.30am (about nine hours since getting to triage), Sammy popped his head out after two hours of pushing. Sam’s cord was wrapped round his neck so J wasn’t able to cut it but he did reveal that we had a beautiful little boy, weighing 7lb9oz.
Shortly after, I was taken to surgery for a third degree tear and despite being (almost) drug free through the labour, had to have an epidural. Not that it mattered though – Sammy had arrived safe and sound. We got to go home a day later in complete disbelief that he was ours to keep.
How did you get on with breastfeeding?
I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to, perhaps to avoid disappointment if I couldn’t. I remember being on the trolley outside theatre when my midwife showed me how. He latched on ok and with Jon’s guidance (clever man had paid attention at the NCT class) we were away. He’s still feeding now but not as much as I would like as my milk supply dwindled when he went through the four month fussy period, we had lots going on, I was exhausted and he was given a bottle a bit too often. I was pretty gutted about it but I’m trying to get it back up, as it’s not something I am ready to stop just yet. I treasure the time I have when he’s snuggled up to me feeding and I know I’m incredibly lucky to have had it at all.
Does you baby have a feeding routine?
From early on he was breastfed on demand, apart from a bottle of formula at 11pm so I could get an early night. Now he has mostly bottles of formula and we’re just beginning to start solids which is really exciting but no hard and fast routine as yet.
What does your baby eat?
We’re only just venturing into solids – so far he’s had carrot, cucumber, parsnip and banana. It’s going quite well but early days. Some days are more successful than others…
What has been your approach to weaning your baby onto solids?
With weaning it seems like there is so much contradicting information, especially when it comes to people’s opinions on baby led. I got vaguely told by my health-worker that I should start ‘in about three weeks’, so we did. We’re going for a combination of purees and blw as I do think it’s nice for them to be able to get messy with the food. So far he’s mostly loving it and definitely prefers the finger food over purees. I do get a little nervous about choking but watching (like a hawk) the satisfaction he gets nibbling a cucumber baton is so lovely. He seems to know what to do.
Does your baby have a sleep routine?
Ha. Sammy’s always been good at going to bed in the evening – he’ll crash out at about half seven and we won’t hear from him till we get him for his dream feed. That’s been the case since he was about two months when we started with a massage/bath/feed/bed routine. He still wakes up usually once a night (4.30am) for a feed and then wants to start the day at about 6 (or 4.30 if we’re lucky - zzzzzz). A couple of nights a week, he’ll like to shout from his crib a lot more than that and end up in bed with us.
During the day, he’ll usually have a short morning nap at about 9am but we’re still getting there on the others… some days he refuses, some days he’ll sleep for hours. I’m not sure why we were able to crack the bedtime routine but not the rest.
How do you keep your baby entertained?
The Jumperoo. He loves Doggins, his Jellycat friend. Watching our cat is also a recent discovery. You can always tell when he’s been spotted as Sammy’s face lights up. It’s getting quite tricky to keep him entertained for long, he’s no longer satisfied with the baby gym. Going to the park to look at the leaves and people watch always goes down quite well.
When you're baby's freaking out, what do you find helps to calm them down?
He loves his dummy. Going for a walk in the pram often does the trick (once the initial screams from being strapped in have subsided). The white noise app sometimes calms him down.
Have you taken your baby on any holidays?
Our first trip was a five hour car journey to Wales when he was two months. It was ok, I sat in the back with him and he slept through most of it, which is good. A trip to Tesco never goes that smoothly.
When he was 18 weeks, we went to Greece. He cried quite a bit, although luckily there were no death stares from fellow passengers that we were aware of – he’d been sensible enough to charm them with his gummy grin in the check-in queue. He was going through a fussy period feeding, rejecting the breast in favour of the bottle at that point. Thankfully we took some Aptamil through security, which helped pacify him on take off and he subsequently drained another one and a half. We wouldn’t normally give him so much milk but in this case, it kept him happy so we went with it. Maybe it was his nerves.
What were your baby holiday essentials?
We asked the hotel to provide a cot and kettle for making up formula (you couldn’t buy ready made where we were and we booked last minute so couldn’t use the Boots airside ordering service). Our case was full of formula just to be safe. The best thing we brought was a Snooze Shade for the buggy so we could take him out in the evenings. A Milton Sterilising bucket was also brilliant – we packed it full of clothes in the case so that it wouldn’t take up much room.
Was your baby's routine affected by being on holiday?
It was ok – in fact I think he slept more because it was hot (about 29 degrees), we were more relaxed and had more time to make sure he had a nap rather than being on the go.
What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
Weaning stuff (ie plastic spoons, sippy cup, plastic bib and mat). We bought the Ikea highchair after knowing lots of people who like it. So far so good. We’re trying to be careful and not buy everything that you’re told you ‘need’ for a baby.
What has been the most useful thing you've discovered?
Possibly the Sleep Sounds App. It’s given us extra time to ourselves and Sammy the sleep he’s been fighting, so for that we are forever indebted.
What is your baby’s mode of transport?
We have a Bugaboo BeePlus which was great on holiday as it’s not too bulky. I wanted a travel system that would be lightweight, narrow for buses and hopefully last till he’s quite big. Obviously, I wanted it to look nice too! The only annoying thing is that it doesn’t fold in one piece easily.We use a Baby Bjorn occasionally, especially in the supermarket as he prefers it to the seat. When he was tiny, I used a wrap style sling which was great but he started to protest at being in it when he was a bit older. I think I should have used it more often when he was small so he was used to it.
What are your baby essentials when you go out?
Milton dummy ball steriliser!
What do you wish you’d known before you had a baby?
I didn’t realise how physically exhausting it would be. You are aware of the aches and pains carrying around your bump, but picking up and carrying around a baby all day is super tiring on top of the no sleep. So maybe the classic put your feet up more? Spend quality time with your partner. Stock up on snacks and bottled drinks to have next to you in the first few weeks, when you need energy and can’t move. Breastfeeding makes you so, so thirsty!
Oh and make sure you have a proper meal before you go to the hospital. Duh.
What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
A good friend told me not to stress about routines and they’ll come in their own time. I’m glad she said that as he certainly has his own ideas as much as I’ve tried. Trying to stay relaxed about things helps a lot and I think babies definitely pick up on it.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
We’ve ditched the steam steriliser for a traditional bucket - so much easier when you need something quickly. Relax, trust your instincts, you will be amazing!
Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah! xx
Sarah has also writes a gorgeous blog about being Sammy's mama called Pocky & Bud, and has recently been featured on Rock My Style.
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