Who are you?
Hi, I'm Holly. I'm 25 (but a lot closer to 26) and I'm currently living in Leeds with my other half, Liam. We met as teenagers in a muddy field at Leeds Festival back in 2006, declared our love to one another a few months later on New Years Eve (I'd like to thank vodka for the little nudge there) and here we are all these years later. 2014 was our year - we got engaged in Berlin and then on 5th July we got to meet our daughter, Elsie. Elsie is now six months old and we really can't remember our life without her!
What do you do for a living?
I'm a Department Manager at Urban Outfitters and I'm currently on Maternity Leave. I requested to take twelve months off so I could spend as much time as possible with Elsie, so I'm due back at the end of June. I'm looking forward to going back to work in the sense that I think I'll enjoy a bit more adult conversation, but in all honesty I've been avoiding even thinking about going back as the thought of potentially missing breakfast/bath time/bedtime or having someone else spend more time with her than me really depresses me. When I do go back, Elsie will have to go into nursery as all grandparents work full time. I have a lot of decisions to make with work, but for now ignorance is bliss!
How are you?
Right now, I'm great. I'm in a really good place. But I won't lie, I've had some really tough weeks where I've thought "I can't do this" and I felt like I was almost losing my identity a little bit. It was around the time when we were trying to introduce the bottle and she was having none of it, but at the same time she wouldn't really breastfeed in public as she got far too distracted, she was no longer sleeping through the night and the only person who could comfort her was, of course, me! I just wanted to be able to have some 'me time' - only a couple of hours - but it was impossible as she was exclusively breastfed and she was adamant it was staying that way. I would feel guilty for even wanting to spend some time away from her, like I was a bad mother for not wanting to spend 24 hours a day with her attached to me and I thought by having a bit of a meltdown I wasn't doing my job properly. And don't even get me started on eating cold food every evening and eating it alone as you're both taking it in turns to settle her!
However, we've come through the other side now and she'll accept the bottle and sleeps through most nights. I'm not holding my breath as these babies tend to change things up just as you're getting used to it, but for now I'm making the most of it and couldn't be happier. Being a mum is hard, but it's so worth having a sleepless night when the next day you're greeted with a butter wouldn't melt smile.
What do you do to relax?
Have a bath, read a book or wear the comfiest, most discoloured clothes I can find and lay on the sofa watching some car crash TV!
What do you do when you have time to yourself?
While Elsie is sleeping I tend to try and get bits done around the house and other boring, responsible stuff. But we all know I just get distracted and end up on Instagram and Pinterest!
How does a typical day go?
I found with breastfeeding that no day was really the same as it was all on-demand feeding, rather than set times. However, over the last few weeks our days seem a lot more structured.
Elsie tends to wake up at 6am on the dot every morning. Thankfully she doesn't wake up crying, she's usually just having a little natter to herself so it gives me a few minutes to wake up. I'll go and get her, feed her, change her nappy and then she's usually ready to go back down shortly after and will nap for anything between 30 minutes to 1 hour & 45 minutes. I tend to take that time to have breakfast, shower and get ready. Even though I have been known to go back to sleep when she does.
When she wakes up from that nap we'll have a play downstairs. This is when she's probably at most energetic, so as we've started weaning it's at this time of day we tend to have some time in the highchair trying out different foods. It's possibly one of the highlights of both of our days as she seems to love it.
She'll then go back down for a nap. After that early morning nap, all the others that follow only seem to last 30 minutes so that's when I try and cram in anything that needs doing (eating, cleaning, sitting in silence).
We then usually either go for a walk, a baby group of some sort or meet up with other mama's for a coffee/play date.
She then goes down for her final nap which is right before bath/bed time. I used to try and stop this happening as I thought she wouldn't be tired enough to sleep at night. However, it's the complete opposite - the more she sleeps in the day, the better night sleep she has.
She'll wake up around 4.30pm, have a play, I'll breastfeed her and then we head up for bath time at around 5.15pm. She would happily spend hours in the bath if it was up to her. Once she's out, it's quiet time with cuddles, occasionally some baby massage and a top up of milk and then in bed by 6pm.
Liam and I then make the most of being able to eat together again and just have a quiet evening. Elsie sleeps through most nights, or will sometimes wake up for a quick feed and then straight back down again.
How was your pregnancy?
Quite straightforward and boring really. The only issue that occurred was that my bump always measured too small, so I had to go for an extra scan to check everything was OK, and luckily it was. I had morning sickness and nausea for the first 16 weeks or so and I suffered with backache, which probably didn't help with working in retail and I had the most horrendous heartburn. I would eat about 5 Rennies at a time and had to sleep sat up and then when I finally nodded off I woke up with crippling leg cramp! I was quite paranoid throughout my pregnancy; I had a tiny bump, so like any hormonal woman I was convinced people thought I was just fat. I was also paranoid that I had to prove I could still work at the same pace as when I wasn't pregnant. However, I wasn't as mental as I'd thought I'd be, if anything being pregnant made me calmer and more laid back.
Did you have any cravings?
In the first trimester it was ice lollies, cold water & chocolate milk. With the morning sickness I just wanted plain and bland food, but even that was a struggle. I once put a jacket potato in the oven, changed my mind as the thought of it made me sick, but couldn't face going back into the kitchen so I just had to wait until Liam came home about 5 hours later to turn the oven off. The potato was black and had shrivelled up. Lovely. Then, after that it was nothing. Literally nothing. I'm usually such a foodie but those entire 6 months I just wasn't interested in food at all and I never wanted a cup of tea, which was really out of the ordinary!
Did you find out what you were having?
Yes, I don't think there's any way I could have lasted that long not knowing!
How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
We wanted something traditional but not particularly well known. I'd search the internet for hours and would pay close attention to TV credits waiting for a name to jump out at me. The night before I went into labour, we both wrote down our top 3 names and compared. I think we both had 2 of the same names, but we always said we'd wait until she was born to decide. After she was born the midwife asked her name, all emotional I pretty much started crying and said "I forgot I had to name her". We both decided she suited Elsie and that her middle name would be Iris, after Liam's Nan.
How did your prepare for your Elsie’s arrival?
We attended antenatal classes which were helpful. I tried not to read too much as I knew I'd scare myself too much that I wasn't prepared or that I wouldn't be able to do it. I kind of just told myself to trust my instinct.
How was your labour?
Again, like my pregnancy, my labour was very straightforward. I was told that as she was my first that I'd more than likely go overdue, so when I did into labour the day before my due date, I assumed it was a false alarm (and so did the midwife I spoke to on the phone). I started having very small pains at about 9am, and they started to get noticeably more intense by about 4pm. I remember in our antenatal classes we were told to stay at home for as long as possible and that adrenaline slowed the labour down and I surprisingly managed to stay extremely calm just being in my bedroom. Things seemed to speed up quite a lot at about 6pm - I couldn't finish a sentence on the phone to the maternity ward as my contractions were so close together and so intense and everything from then on is a bit of a blur. By the time I managed to make it down the world’s steepest stairs in our house we headed to the hospital at around 8.30pm. The 15 minute car journey felt like a lifetime, I was contracting the entire time and all I remember is the radio playing Craig Charles on BBC 6Music. We got to the maternity ward (after thinking I was going to stay in the car park and give birth there as I couldn't move) and they sent us to the examination ward. The midwife there left me leaning against a wall while she went to find a bed. There were no beds. So we were taken back to the maternity ward where I'd just come from. She was convinced she'd be sending me home again - it was my first child, my waters hadn't broken and I hadn't been in active labour for that long, apparently. I was clearly just being a wuss. She examined me, and turns out I was 8cm dilated. I was telling her I had the urge to push, she told me to save my energy as there's no need to push just yet. She gave me gas and air and I pushed anyway. She then said she was going on her lunch break and Geraldine would take over, but she said she'd be back before she missed anything. Geraldine said I could push, and within 10 minutes she was running to get the original midwife as she could see the head. I think I'd given birth before the other midwife managed to even get her gloves back on. And to think she told me not to push!
So there we have it - I think I was in hospital for less than two hours before giving birth!
I was told I should do a home birth next time. So if there is a next time then I reckon that's what I'll do as the most stressful part of giving birth was actually being at hospital and it was such a nice feeling knowing I'd gone that long doing it on my own, without any pain relief.
PS Geraldine was on One Born Every Minute. She's my claim to fame!
How did you get on with breastfeeding?
I was really lucky - it was about 20 minutes after giving birth that I tried and she latched on straight away. It took a few days for my milk to come in, but those first couple of weeks I found it complete agony. I would dread the thought of her nursing and I'd wince the entire time. Once that passed (Thank God for Lansinoh) I absolutely loved every minute of it. Even though I was absolutely shattered waking up every 2 hours, I really enjoyed that time, when everyone else is asleep, where it was just us two. As cliched as it sounds, the bond you create is absolutely amazing and I've never felt anything like it before. I'm still predominantly breastfeeding as we've only just started introducing solids, and as much as I moan about having to wear breastfeeding friendly bras and clothes, I know I will really miss it once I've stopped.
What has been your approach to weaning your Elsie onto solids?
We only started weaning a couple of weeks ago, but so far it has been successful and she really seems to enjoy exploring new tastes and textures. We're doing a combination of pureed food and some baby led weaning. She's wolfed down pretty much everything we've put in front of her so far but she seems to really enjoy banana.
Does your Elsie have a sleep routine?
Her sleep routine at night is pretty much the same every single night. There's a loose routine during the day, but it all just depends on how long she naps for at one time as it has a knock on affect throughout the day. The naps throughout the day have all just fallen into place, it's just ensuring that we notice the signs that she's tired before it's too late. Once she's over tired it messes up the entire day and night. We've structured the bedtime routine and make sure we stick to it every night so that she knows after bath it's bedtime.
When Elsie’s freaking out, what helps to calm her down?
I used to just put her on the breast as that'd instantly calm her. However, due to trying to encourage her to self soothe when it comes to falling asleep I've been more conscious of doing that and try to not immediately give in (easier said than done). Luckily she's a very calm baby so doesn't freak out often, but if she does then usually a bit of singing does the trick. It's amazing what a bit of The Wheels On The Bus can do!
What are your go-to resources for information about your baby when you're worried?
I try not to Google too much as it usually freaks me out more, so I tend to stick to reliable websites only such as the NHS website. I'll either pester my sister for advice as she has a 2 year old or I've found Instagram a great help. It's such a great little community and all the mamas on there are always so supportive and you can guarantee you'll find someone who's been in the same position as you!
Does Elsie have a favourite toy?
At the moment, when she's not making a bee-line for my phone, she is really enjoying anything that makes a noise when she shakes/moves/bashes it. So the mini band set we got her for Christmas is going down a treat. Other than that, she's happy with anything she can bite on!
What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
With Christmas just gone, we've not bought any new toys or clothes, so it's just been sensible and boring things. We bought some more baby bowls as the lovely one we have from Buddy and Bear seems to be getting used as a frisbee at the moment, so she can use these ones until she gets the urge to launch them across the kitchen out of her system!
What has been the most useful thing you've bought?
A Grobag - from day one she managed to worm her way out of a blanket, even when swaddled and would end up with nothing on her. With the Grobag she can wriggle to her hearts content and still be toasty and warm!
What is your baby’s mode of transport?
If it's to get her to sleep we'll put her in her pram, but she much prefers being in the Baby Bjorn Sling as she's close to us and gets to do some people watching.
What are your absolute essentials when you go out?
Nappies, a change of clothes, and array of toys and something to chew on. (And my boobs)!!
Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?
I love Zara kids stuff. I don't really put her in very girly clothes so the basics from H&M are perfect as they're unisex and they sell a lot of black. There's not enough black baby clothes out there.
How was Elsie's first Christmas?
It was great and so special! I'm not usually that bothered by Christmas - working in retail during the festive period turned me into a bit of a scrooge and I just used to resent people who got to spend more than one day with their family. This year was different - I didn't have to cram in all my shopping on lunch breaks and even putting up all the decorations was much more exciting as Elsie found all the lights and baubles fascinating. The three of us drove back to Cheshire to stay with my family for a couple of days and then on Boxing Day we headed up to the North East to spend a couple of days with Liam's side of the family. Everyone made her first Christmas so special and she was spoilt rotten. Elsie didn't have a clue what was going on and was just happy eating all the wrapping paper, but I took hundreds of pictures and videos to show her when she's older. We were all absolutely knackered after and finally getting back to a bit of normality and still trying to find space for all her new toys!
What did you get her?
With her being only 6 months old we were limited to what we could buy - we wanted to buy her plenty as it was her first Christmas, but it's easy to get carried away and just buy complete tat for the sake of it. We got her plenty of books (the Pantone colour books from Scout & Co Kids were one of the favourites) and some loud, musical toys (already regretting that). But her 'main present' from Santa (he has great taste) was some moccasins from Amy and Ivor. They're blush pink, a colour she never usually wears, but I absolutely fell in love with them. And, of course, the moment we put them on her feet she put them in her mouth and gave them a good old chew!!!
If you could give your pregnant self some a heads up, what would it be?
Make the most of being able to make selfish decisions and enjoy your time together as a couple. Also, don't take early nights/lie ins for granted!!
What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
Everyday is completely different with a baby, so just take it one step at a time and enjoy it - it goes very fast!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Trust your instinct! Nothing will prepare you for the amount of unwanted advice you'll receive from friends, relatives and complete strangers. At the end of the day, you know your baby better than anyone else and you know what will settle them and make them happy.
Thank you so much for sharing, Holly!