Thursday, 9 April 2015

Mummy Time #35: Carrie Anne Roberts

Owner of, quite possibly, the best brows on the internet, Carrie Anne seems to have transitioned into motherhood so naturally. She's a spirited, baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, milk-donating super-mama, and she's working on an exciting project that's bringing mums from Instagram together in real life and sharing stories through a blog. Watch this space for updates and here's more on Carrie and her bundle of four month old joy, River...


Who are you?
Hi! I’m Carrie Anne. As of two days ago I moved back to North Wales after living near Peterborough during my third and fourth trimesters. I’m 24 (soon to be 25! I share my birthday with a little guy called Joseph, you may be familiar with him) and I entered into Mamadom on Dec 16th last year when a tiny man we now know as River decided to arrive in the most unspectacular fashion (more about that later…)

How are you?
I’m half-dressed most of the time and usually a frazzled self-critical mess by 5pm but I’m extremely content and happier than ever. Promise. I get by with the help of my boyfriend’s ability to make me bellylaugh through almost all situations, the beautiful words I read and endless support offered on IG daily from other mamas and, of course, lots of custard creams.

What do you do to relax?
My go-to move for guaranteed relaxation is and always has been a long hot bath. It’s just about the only thing that shuts my chattering brain up for a while. I prune away for as long as I can possibly get away with. The restorative silence of bathing past is now often replaced by the screams of an overtired baby in the next room but still…

What do you do when you have time to yourself?
Like so many mums I speak to I am useless at resting, I definitely haven’t got the balance right yet and I’d rather catch up with chores than sit and relax. I’m working on it! I donate some of my breast milk to a local Milk Bank so I try to get some expressing done when I have the time to wash and sterilize and label etc. I aim to get at least one full bottle a day. I have also JUST this week managed to launch a new IG home for mamas, mamas-to-be, mamas of 12 and papas wanting to share stories and join a larger community with a new mama who I actually met on IG, Jody Ewen. We are in the process of setting up a blog (deciding on a layout is the hardest part by FAR) and you’re all welcome to guest write and contribute in any way you want to. This is the heart of DIY mama-ing and we know there are some of you write/draw/cook/organise/listen/make/do/mama well. We don’t want people to have to pay for this so we aim to book easily accessible venues for medium-sized groups and you can eat/drink as little or as much as you like. There is no fee. The IG community has given me so much and I know so many of you feel the same way after being unable to find like-minded mummy friends in your local areas. We are part of such an inspirational group of women and we can all bring something to the table so come and join us!

Carrie donates her breast milk to a local milk bank.
How do you get things done?
Most of the time I scurry around while he naps, flipping the kettle switch before haphazardly launching all sorts of mixed items that I’ve juggled down the stairs into the washing machine and trying to do the dishes as quietly as possible before the water boils and I attempt to put together something that resembles a coffee which I end up dunking half a pack of biscuits into anyway. The Solly wrap is also a guaranteed snooze-inducer and is a lifesaver when a busy schedule clashes with a baby who refuses to nap.

How does a typical day go? 
River sleeps through the night and has done for months now, usually about 10pm-8am (sorry if you’re reading this after a difficult night, I DO feel guilty and I wish I could share my good fortune) so he wakes up in the best mood most days. We don’t have a strict order to things but we usually do each activity around the same time every day and sometimes we might possibly, maybe definitely, take a few photos in between. The ‘storage space running low’ notification now plagues my screen!


How was your pregnancy?
It wasn’t entirely problem-free. I have a bicornuate uterus which basically means that my uterus is heart-shaped and the baby has to choose which side of the heart to grow in. It was considered high-risk and lots of nasty things can happen during the third trimester so I never fully relaxed (we had a number of scares and emergency trips to the hospital) but I really did love being pregnant. It’s something I always knew I wanted to do and I felt so strong and capable but at the same time incredibly vulnerable and definitely had to work hard to get over the crippling fears I had. I am definitely one of those mums who would do it all again tomorrow. Then maybe a few times after that until it’s both immoral and physically impossible to have any more.

Did you have any cravings?
I would have sold my soul for a goat’s cheese and red onion tart with a big glass of red wine and a cigarette. Basically, a combination of everything that is off-limits! I was obsessed with ice lollies though and I still am! I’ve had far more obvious “cravings” while breastfeeding than I did during pregnancy. I can’t go to dinner without ordering 3 different drinks and at least one side. I want all of the food all of the time.

Did you find out what you were having?
I couldn’t wait to find out what we were having! There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my pregnancy so I wanted to know absolutely everything I could. Naturally, I wanted to buy ALL OF THE THINGS! I was careful to avoid anything blue and/or covered in cartoon characters. That rule soon went out the window when I realised that most things will get covered in sick, stained by poop and only be worn a handful of times before they become totally useless. Mamas old and young told me I’d feel this way, I never listened.

How did you decide on River's name?
Hus (my better and more patient half) liked Noah. We played around with Farris and Abel, we definitely discussed Aslan (yes, really) amongst a few others but the only suggestion I brought to the table was River. We kept them all on standby until we saw him and even then we were still unsure.

How did your prepare for River's arrival?
I chose not to attend any classes or groups as I felt so strongly that I wanted to figure it out for myself, not have my choices influenced and to just find my own way. It just didn’t feel natural to me to be in that kind of environment at the time. I started to read ‘Mindful Birthing’ by Nancy Bardacke C. N. M. It was full of useful and practical ways to learn how to control the way your body responds to pain and included lots of inspiring birth stories (Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May is also amazing for this, I wish I’d read it before having River). It also taught me how to be prepared for any eventuality and not to be discouraged if the birth doesn’t happen how you want it to. All the PMA!

How was your labour?
My labour was, as I put it earlier, quite unspectacular. There was no dramatic gush of water, no intense pains and no real warning. My waters trickled away over a couple of days (I didn’t even realise they had officially broken). A midwife I’d been in contact with advised me to go to hospital for what I thought was a check-up. I was told that my waters had broken, he was in the breech position and I was going to have to have a c-section. Seven hours later I was numb from the boobs down, listening to some sort of NOW! Chill Out album (their choice, not mine!) and shaking violently from the spinal block. He was wrapped up and shown to me about 10 minutes after his birth but I didn’t hold him until I was back on the ward because one of my arms was strapped down. Not ideal, and definitely not what I wanted or hoped for, but he was safe and with his Daddy. Unbeknownst to me at the time I was on another planet so it’s all a bit of a blur. The hours after birth were full of lazily mastering latching on, consuming all the food I could get my hands on despite throwing it all up every few minutes and several thousand complaints of having an itchy nose coupled with constant requests for someone to check my catheter bag because it was almost definitely filling up and re-entering my system. Yeah, I was THAT guy.


How did you get on with breastfeeding?
The intense sleepiness it caused at first along with the tightening sensation was just the most blissful thing. After a few days it became clear what everyone was talking about when they said that it wasn’t going to be easy. I was in seriously intense pain and would shake and cry whenever he latched on. It became so bad that I was terrified of his next feed and I definitely had the mother of all meltdowns at 1am that night which resulted in a trip to Tesco for organic formula. We gave him that for a day while I let myself recover and bought a pump to keep up my supply. It worked a treat and I’ve had no problems since. I have managed to increase my supply with tactical pumping and perseverance! I’m so grateful for being able to get this far. I’ll do it for as long as it feels right/is possible. I have never had a bad experience when feeding in public and it was all a lot easier than expected.

Does River have a nap/ sleep routine?
We feed him on demand and let him nap whenever he wants. We have always tried to look out for his cues and adopted certain aspects of gentle approach parenting. We get all of our answers from him and I believe this is why he sleeps through and is mostly really content. Either that or we’re just reeeaally lucky.

How do you keep River entertained?
Who needs expensive toys when you’ve got a stretchy face and lots of time to put it to good use!?! He loves faces and people and plenty of mock-shock expressions. He also loves a good chat so I’ve started explaining everything I’m doing to him and now he thinks getting changed is hilarious. He also loves ‘Wicked Game’ sung in an outrageous French accent. Don’t ask how I figured this one out.

When River’s freaking out, what helps to calm him?
Plonk him in the bath. Every time. As soon as his toes touch the water he is a different baby. Hus plays Bob Marley to him which I never thought it would work and was definitely a bit sore about him proving me wrong. If all else fails then using my boob, boob and more boob.

Does River seem to suffer with anything and what do you do to help it?
He had colic when he was tiny. We tried everything from Dentinox to Gripe Water and Infacol, the baby massage techniques, bicycle legs, baby wearing to keep him upright etc. Infacol worked best for us and the rest was just trial and error. We’d run through everything and it was so miserable but he just improved with time. He has just started teething though so I guess we’re preparing for Round 2.

What are your go-to resources for information about your baby when you're worried?
After google I always ask other mamas. Either on Facebook or via Instagram. They’re a constant source of non-judgemental information and advice as long as you have the right support network. I’ve found that most of the time they’re worrying about the same things or have just been through it themselves.


Does River have a favourite toy?
His favourites change every few days but if it lights up and/or makes noise then it’s usually a winner. Failing that, he will laugh at anything you’re willing to shake and swoop around as long as you count to three while you’re doing it! Why do babies love that so much??

What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
I’m a sucker for baby books. I’ve bought books that are not only laughably age-inappropriate but cost more than I’d spend on a book for myself. Of course his favourites are the bargain Tales from Acorn Wood lift-the-flap books so we bought the rest of the collection.

What has been the most useful thing you've bought/ been given/ discovered?
Our breast pump has saved the day more than once, so has our Solly Wrap. Youtube has come to our rescue a few times with white noise, heartbeats, and a plethora of nursery rhyme playlists. I’m sure it’s been said before but the Wonder Weeks app is worth getting too. It was brought to my attention after several IG mums suggested it during a weird time for River.

What is River’s mode of transport?
We have 2 prams and 2 carriers. Our first pram is like a transformer, it has every imaginable feature but it’s SO heavy and impractical. Our second is a Hauck stroller, which I call the sports edition, it’s really lightweight and narrow which is amazing for getting on and off trains but I prefer our Solly Wrap or our Ergo Original because you have next to no limitations when travelling and you have your hands free! He loves it in there too!

What are your absolute essentials when you go out?
I try to keep everything really low maintenance. I usually throw some infacol into my bag which always has a dribble bib and the standard nappy set-up in it anyway then grab whatever toy he’s loving on at the time and scarper!

Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that my heart belongs to baby knits. Hats, jumpers, cardigans, rompers. I have no idea what he’s going to wear in the summer as half of his wardrobe is made of wool. H&M are always good for organic cotton basics though and you don’t have to search very hard to find a million cute independent brands on IG. Everyone loves a bit of Zara and even George have a few cute basics too.

How do you get on with reusable nappies, which are your favourites and what made you decide to use them?
I had always wanted to use cloth (my 3 year old niece had one of her disposables explode in an unfortunate paddling pool incident last summer and seeing the actual contents just totally put me off) but I knew that I'd have bigger fish to fry once River was born and decided to give myself a break and use disposables until I was back on my feet as my c-section left me pretty immobile for a good few weeks. My favourites are Bambino Mio Miosolos, they seem to leak a lot less on River and they always have the cutest prints! They will keep baby's butt happy from birth to potty because they have adjustable poppers and a velcro wrap around which was essential for me because I didn't want to have to buy new nappies for each stage of growth (ain't nobody got time for that). 

What’s your reusable nappy set up like and do you have any tips for mamas interested in using them?
I bought about 10 and started using them just when we were at home so I could get used to them and I knew there was no danger of me having a meltdown in John Lewis breastfeeding room and running for the nearest Pampers. I bought a few different kinds and was lucky enough to be given a bunch of varieties to try but settled on the 'all-in-ones' purely for ease and longevity. My set up now consists of around 20 nappies, a few rolls of disposable liners, a sealed bucket-bin for the dirties and a wet bag for when I'm using cloth on the go. I have a bunch of boosters but I only really use them if he's wearing cloth at night to soak up extra moisture and I imagine they're insanely comfy too. Who wouldn't want a pair of terry-cotton cushioned underpants?!? It seems like a lot to take on at first but you will NEVER RUN OUT OF NAPPIES again and you could always hold onto them for the next tiny butt you create. The most important bit is finding the type that work for YOU because every baby is a different shape and figuring out a way of fitting it into your own lifestyle whether you decide on full-time or part-time you'll still save a bunch of money!!


What do you wish you’d known before you had a baby?
I wish I’d understood just how unpredictable every day will be and that I can’t possibly prepare for everything or control what’s going to happen. I also wish somebody had told me I wasn’t going to need or use half of stuff I was convinced was essential. Actually, somebody did tell me and that somebody was my boyfriend. Consider this a public apology.

What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
The single most important piece of advice I ever received about motherhood was from an old friend and mum of three (a very reliable source in my opinion) and it was that you know yourself and you know your baby. Instinct is everything and if you’re unsure REACH OUT, whether it be to a midwife a friend or another mama on Instagram (I’ve sent and received many a DM in the wee hours asking/giving advice or just for a bit of reassurance and company). That is what will get you through the moments of doubt, the first and sometimes recurrent pains and strains of breastfeeding, the uncertainties and the moments of loneliness that we all inevitably experience. Never underestimate the power of sisterhood.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
The most important thing you can do is be kind to yourself, keep an open mind and stand your ground. Believe in yourself and embrace the change as best you can.

Thank you for having me Nicki!

Thank you so much for sharing, Carrie Anne, and watch the Crafted Sisterhood space by following  Carrie (@fantasy_dragon) and @craftedsisterhood on Instagram.

P.S. If you've every enjoyed reading my blog, please consider taking a mo to nominate me for the Brit Mums 'Fresh Voice' blogging award. It'd only take a few minutes and would mean the world to me; This is the nomination form but details to help you fill it in can be found here. Thank you so much!

Have a great Thursday! x

1 comment

  1. What a beautiful, inspiring mama (instagram goals ;)) Looking forward to updates x


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