Thursday, 12 February 2015

Mummy Time #27: Claire Rogers

Wow! It's been ages since I had a tiny baby on the blog, and this week I'm pleased to be share Claire's story thus far with baby Jacob who was just ten weeks old at the time of writing. I, for one, found myself nodding along to many parts of Claire's post and I loved the advice she was given to banish the word 'should' from her vocabulary as a mother. Oh and I wish there were Mothers Meetings near me too!

Who are you?
Hi, I’m Claire, I’m 33 years old and I have recently had my first baby…yey me!  I am currently living in South Liverpool with partner/Baby Daddy and dreaming of becoming a ‘proper’ family where we all share the same surname!   We welcomed Jacob Edward Sadler into the world on Sunday 2nd November, 9 days earlier than expected and with a fair bit of drama too!

What do you do for a living?
I am currently on maternity leave from my job as a full time Head of Drama in an all girls school; I will return for the last week or so of this academic year and then return ‘properly’ in September., so Jacob will be just 8 months when I leave him for the first time, though I will get the 6 week holiday to be with him again!  Returning in July is a financial decision as my entitlement to Occupational Maternity Pay will have run out and if I don’t go back I’ll only received statutory pay over the summer holidays which we can’t really afford to do! At the moment, I can’t imagine handing my little boy over to someone else to look after for 10 or so hours a day!  I know people say teachers have it easy with all the holidays and so on, but in fact an average working day is very difficult and very long, especially in subjects such as mine which often offer additional activities after school.  I am just in the process of researching and arranging childcare, a difficulty being I need care from 7.30am-5.30pm and many local nurseries and child-minders don’t take children until 8am. At the moment, I’m quite flexible as to whether we go with a child-minder or a nursery, but maybe further research will help to clarify the pros and cons of each option.

How are you?
At the moment I’m pretty good, as my partner was off over Christmas (he’s a teacher too) so I’ve had help and some adult company!  As a general rule though, I’m pretty tired and find it difficult to get through everything I think I should on any given day, but that might be more to do with my unrealistic expectations about keeping on top of the housework as well as being with Jacob. We also have a dog, a Greyhound called Cassie and I feel so guilty that I don’t give her enough time and attention, and that her walks have been compromised as it’s such a challenge to get out of the house with her and the baby, especially in Winter weather.

What do you do to relax?
I love nothing more than a nice long soak in a hot bath!  I grab a glass of wine and a good book and get out my ‘fancy’ bath products, light a few candles and soak away…bliss!

What do you do when you have time to yourself?
In my spare (?!) time I go to a craft and cocktails group called ‘Neighbourhood Sewcial’ held at a local bistro once a month.  I am definitely a craft and sewing novice, but it’s been a great way to meet people since moving to Liverpool and my crafty skills are improving, and there are also a few other mums with young children who attend so it has been a great way of getting advice and talking about Jacob. I find it particularly inspiring that many of the women who attend run their own businesses, and for some it has been something they began after having children and this is something I am considering for the future.

How does a typical day go?
A typical day sees Jacob’s Daddy leaving for work at about 7am, so we are usually awake from about 6ish.  Jacob has breakfast and a bit of a play on his mat while I eat my breakfast, then he has a nap while I have a shower.  He eats again around 11/11.30am and we try and go out around 12ish, either to meet a few other new mummies for coffee, or just to the shops. And he naps in his pram or sling, or he naps at home.  Depending on when we get back, Jacob will eat around 3.30/4ish.  He then normally has another bit of playtime, and if his Daddy is back from work early we might go out as a family and take the dog for a walk, and he might nap in his pram or sling.  We start getting ready for a bath from 6ish, so when his Daddy comes home around 6.30pm he can be involved in bath-time, and we’ve just this week started ‘bath, feed, story then bed’ and he goes down about 7.30pm though he doesn’t always go straight to sleep.   We normally get a couple of hours as a couple from around 8pm, where we try and eat together and catch up, but by about 9.30 I’m usually feeling pretty shattered.  We’ve just started the ‘dream feed’ idea, so Jacob normally eats anywhere between 10.30pm and 12.30am.  He then wakes between 3am and 4am for another feed.  Phew!


How was your pregnancy?
My pregnancy was fairly straight forward; I found out I was Rhesus Negative so had the Anti-D injection, and also that my placenta was low lying, so we had a scan at 36 weeks but all was well and everything had moved out of the way so I could ahead and plan a natural water birth.

Did you find out what you were having?
I really wanted to find out what we were having, I guess the teacher in me likes to plan ahead and I wanted to decorate the nursery to reflect the gender without going for the typical gender stereotypes, but my partner wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. On the day we went for the 20week scan though he suddenly changed his mind.  He was convinced we were having a girl, and of course we would have been delighted either way.

How did you decide on your names and you already have the names ready before they arrived?
As my partner is a Lay clerk at Liverpool Cathedral we wanted something quite traditional and biblical, but we couldn’t settle on a name.  We went to the hospital with two names, Jacob and Isaac and even when he arrived we couldn’t decide and he was ‘Baby’ for the first day!  Then my Dad came to visit and said he’d had a dream that we had called him Jacob; we hadn’t discussed it with anyone so we knew it was a sign and the name was chosen!

How did your prepare for your baby’s arrival?
We attended the Antenatal classes put on by the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, and an additional Breastfeeding workshop.  I also attended pre-natal Yoga classes for breathing and relaxation, having previously taken Hot Yoga classes prior to being pregnant.  I read a couple of books, but actually found that when he first arrived I was obsessed with checking the books and trying to work out what to do, that I was ignoring my instincts and putting unnecessary stress and myself and on Jacob in those early days.

How was your labour?
Labour was a bit dramatic!  My waters broke in the early hours of Halloween but my contractions didn’t start.  I went in to hospital and they told me to go back that night for induction. When I arrived, I was told that I could be managing myself at home for a couple of days before induction was necessary, so I jumped at the chance to go home and wait for labour to start naturally. Obviously, this was because I wanted a natural birth, but it was also because my partner was in New York at the time!  I wasn’t due until the 11th November so he had gone on tour with his choir!  I rang him and explained the situation, and he began making plans to get a flight back! 

Natural labour started the following morning, and yes my partner made it, via Heathrow and a long car journey back to Liverpool.  I went in to hospital around 4pm and was 6cm.  I had wanted a water birth in the MLU, but as my waters had gone with no contractions  I was put straight onto the Main Delivery Suite.  I was determined to just use gas an air and all was going well, making it to 10cm around midnight.  The midwife was so encouraging, and I believed I’d be able to go the whole way without any other pain relief.  I also found labour a huge bonding experience; my partner was great, and we played lots of our favourite music to create a calm atmosphere, and thought it might sound strange, I love it that certain songs now remind me of that night, as I felt a real closeness between us as we worked together t bring new life into the world! But when it cam to pushing nothing was happening, and soon the midwife was telling me she would need to get a Doctor, as it had been too long since my waters broke and I was at risk of infection.  At around 2am a Doctor cam and told us that Jacob had his head twisted and that I wouldn’t be able to push him out.  They decided on an Assisted Delivery with Ventouse, but prepped me for theatre in case an emergency caesarean was needed.  I was so upset and disappointed.

All that matters though, is that he arrived safe and sound at 4.35am on Sunday 2nd November!


How did you get on with breastfeeding?
Initially I thought breastfeeding was going well; he latched on quickly after delivery, and anyone who came to see me to check how it was going seemed pleased.  It quickly became difficult though when Jacob was admitted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for light therapy for Jaundice, only two days after we had brought him home. Further complications arose and I became very stressed in the hospital environment, which I think affected my milk supply, and when we returned home, only to be re-admitted the following day it became apparent that Jacob wasn’t eating enough to help his body clear out the Bilirubin causing the jaundice, and the Doctor recommended topping him up with formula. I was devastated, and felt like a failure.  These feelings continued for about two weeks, along with an overwhelming sense of guilt that I had ‘given up’ to easily.  Though I continued to combine feed for a month, the midwife doing our follow up care was concerned about my state of mind, and how tired I was as I was basically spending all my time feeding by offering the breast and then topping up.  After about 4 weeks, I knew my supply hadn’t really established and we moved over to formula only.  I knew I had to just let my feelings of guilt go and start enjoying my time with Jacob, so that’s what I did!

Does Jacob have a feeding routine?
Jacob tends to eat every 3 to 3 and a half hours- his routine is becoming more established now and if we are out and about he can go a bit longer. He is currently on six ounces of Aptamil at each feed.  We loosely follow a routine of eat, play, nap which has just sort of developed as we’ve spent time together.  We got him a ‘Ewan the Dream Sheep’ for Christmas which has been great at helping him settle, and indicates to him when it is time to go to sleep.

How do you keep Jacob entertained?
Jacob is really starting to focus and be entertained by our interaction now, which is brilliant.  He loves lights and mirrors, and a squeaky dinosaur hand puppet he got for Christmas!  He loves his play gym too, and is now reaching out to hit the little fishes that hang from it.   

When you're Jacob's having a freak-out, what do you find helps to calm him?
Jacob definitely likes to move, so I tend to walk around holding him or with him in his sling, and have a dance and a singsong to whatever is on the radio, though he does like a bit of Stevie Wonder! 


Have you taken Jacob on any holidays or away from home?
Having hosted Jacob’s first Christmas at our house, we decided to go away for New Year, just the three of us.  We booked a converted barn on a working farm a few miles outside of Cardigan Bay, South Wales for four nights.  Jacob was a bit poorly with bronchiolitis, so it’s difficult to say if it was the change in surroundings, or him feeling under the weather but he was definitely unsettled, particularly in the evenings.  We travelled by car, which took about four hours with a stop on the way.  Jacob was great and slept most of the time.  It was lovely just being a little family of three for a few days though; Jacob’s spell in hospital for the first week of his life meant we only had one proper week together before my partner returned to work.

What were Jacob's holiday essentials?
We seriously over packed!  We took far too many clothes for Jacob given that we spent most of our time snuggled in front of the TV. We took the electric steriliser for his bottles, as we are not used to sterilising them by any other means so this was definitely an essential.  We also took his Bednest, which we are renting for 6 months as this fold down really well, and we were worried he might not sleep in a large travel cot.  We also use a Sleepyhead pod, which has been a lifesaver for getting him to sleep as we co-shared at first and this meant we could do it safely.  I’m hoping it will also ease the transition into his cot in his own room when the time comes.  We also took a folding book (another Christmas present!), which stands up and can also be used inside a pram/crib to keep Jacob entertained.


Does Jacob have a favourite toy?
Jacob is only just starting to show an interest in toys, but he has loved his Mamas and Papas Octopus play gym since birth.  He loves to watch the fish, and has now realised he can see a reflection in the mirror, though I don’t think he knows it is him!

What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
My most recent purchase was a large activity play mat, again from Mamas and Papas. I wanted somewhere a bit larger than the play gym for Jacob to play on, ready for when he starts wiggling around and rolling over.  It looks great in our spare bedroom, which we are trying to use as an office/play room, and it means we can leave it laid out, rather than using it down stairs where I’m sure our dog would take ownership of it!

What has been the most useful thing you've bought?
Without a doubt, our most useful purchase has been the Tommee Tipeee Perfect PrepMachine.  When we moved onto bottles full time, we found it difficult to keep Jacob calm while we waited for the bottle to cool down.  This way, we know that we can prepare a feed in a matter of minutes- it certainly makes the night feeds easier!

What Jacob’s mode of transport?
We’ve got a Mamas and Papas Urbo 2, and use a Maxi Cosi Pebble car seat, with adapters so it can fit our pram base, though we try not to take him out in the car seat for too long.  I’ve loved having the carrycot in the winter as it is keeping him warm and snuggly.  I’ve also started using the NCT Caboo wrap; we bought a more structured Mamas and Papas carrier during pregnancy, but when I used it the first time I wasn’t sure it was providing the right support for Jacobs hips, but I was nervous about using a traditional wrap, and the NCT Caboo has rings which feel so secure.  I’m definitely a baby-wearing fan!

What are your absolute essentials when you go out?
Obviously I need to take formula if we are out for a few hours, and we tend to use ready mixed single serving bottles.  My friend recently gave me a Skip Hop travel changing mat, which can fit into a regular handbag, so I can see that becoming a staple item too!  I also keep a mirror/rattle toy in my bag it is portable, and seems to be keeping Jacob entertained for now!

Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?
I love Gap Baby wear, and Next have some great quality baby clothes… but I do try to support independent business by purchasing from Etsy etc. I love browsing Instagram for cool, independent brands, and now Jacob is getting a bit older (and is growing out of the clothes he was given as gifts) I’m really looking forward to styling him up!


If you could give your pregnant self some advice what would it be?
I know people say the first few weeks are hard, but I don’t think you can comprehend just how hard they will be until you live through them!  I wish I had been less obsessed with what ‘the books’ said and trusted by instincts a bit more, and basically just relaxed and let things take their course without putting myself under too much pressure. I wish I’d read ‘How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing Your Cool’ by Jenny Scott whilst I was pregnant, as it really reinforces that its ok to make mistakes, that’s its ok to just keep doing the best you can, and that as new mums we are not alone.  I just wish there were ‘Mothers Meetings’ near me!

What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
Banish the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary!  As in ‘I should be cleaning the house as well as looking after the baby’, ‘The baby should be sleeping through’, ‘I should be able to cope on my own’.  We need to stop ‘should-ing’ and just deal with things the way they are.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Make sure you find time to do something allows you to be you, and not ‘Mummy’. Of course, being a Mummy is a life changing experience, and another facet to our identities, but it isn’t all we are and it’s ok to have interests outside of Mummyhood. 

Thank you so much for sharing, Claire! x

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Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It really means a lot! Nicki x