Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Mummy Time: Emma Morgan-Boalch

Boring is Best t-shirt; check. Specs; check. Grey chevron Tula; check! If I ever manage to haul my ass back over to Bristol, Emma is a mama I'd really like to hang out with whilst daytripping down memory lane / bankrupting myself on Park Street... (And I'd not-so-secretly really like it if we twinned our outfits, because I'm really cool like that.) Anyyywayyy, this week's (much belated) post features mama to eight month old Alethea Mei, and we talk Tulas, tears, ten-pound babies and Totoro! I hope you enjoy!

Who are you? 
Hello! I'm Emma, 27, originally from South Wales, for the past nine-ish years I've been living in Bristol with my wonderful husband, Adam. We've been together for ten years in September and it's really been such an amazing adventure.
Alethea (also known as Leafy or The Beast) joined our adventure last year on October the 16th. She's almost eight months old. (That feels so wrong to write!! I have an almost-eight month old?!)

What do you do for a living?
I’m a stay at home mama! Before Alethea came along I had just started work as a teaching assistant. I had to leave a few weeks in due to morning sickness and anxiety.
I always felt like I didn't fit the job roles I had, I studied photography for five years then wanted nothing to do with it; I've worked in shops and call centres and they just made me ill, but I feel like I fit into my new role as a mum.

How long did you take for maternity leave & how did you decide how long you'd take?
I'm very lucky that I will be able to stay at home and not return to work for the foreseeable future. Adam and I discussed this long before having children and has always agreed it would be good if I could not work. He just needs to find a way where he can be home too! A lottery win maybe?

How do you get things done?!
I don't! Our house is a mess! We have a list as long as all of our arms combined of things that need doing.
If something really needs doing though, like baking cakes, I will use a carrier (my carrier of choice is the Tula).
Adam does lots around the house, the kitchen is his area and he makes most of the meals in this house, quite often while wearing Alethea (his carrier of choice is a Babyhawk). If Adam is with Alethea I can sometimes be found frantically tidying or sorting things out, but that is very rare.

How are you?
I'm in a really good place, I don't think I've ever felt so good mentally before. Since I can remember I've had anxiety and I started having panic attacks as a teenager. I've had really bad patches with it which resulted in counselling.
Since the morning sickness stopped in pregnancy I could probably count on my hand how many panic attacks I've had, when it used to be pretty constant. I do have bad days where I just want to curl up into a ball and hide from everyone and when I feel like that Adam does his best to give me some space, even if it's a bath alone. Although usually after 10 minutes I'm calling him in because I miss him and Alethea.

How does a typical day go? 
Every day is completely different, we have no routine whatsoever. We might have friends over or be going out somewhere. I like to have days where we do nothing but lounge around the house too. I'm a big fan of being comfy.


How was your pregnancy?
I think I enjoyed about a week of pregnancy. Maybe two weeks at a push. The thing I enjoyed the most was the pregnancy hormones making me feel very calm!
I had morning sickness until about 14 weeks. It wasn't just morning though. I would feel sick all day long and be sick at random times. I went off all food. This was really hard for Adam as he has always been the one to make things better but he couldn't with this.
Once the sickness stopped I then experienced round ligament pain. For me this felt like contractions, but only on one side. It would last 30 minutes tops and I'd have to breathe through them, often crying. The first time it happened I ended up in A&E.  Yoga definitely helped these pains. When that all calmed down things were pretty good. I had planned a home birth so Adam and I would spend our time practicing hypnobirthing techniques and doing yoga.
It wasn't until the last few months I became really uncomfortable. I was huge. I couldn't stand up for long, I was constantly out of breath and my belly was red raw and itchy from being stretched so much. 

Did you have any cravings?
Oranges and doughnuts!

Did you find out what you were having?
Yes! I'm way too impatient.

How did you decide Alethea’s name?
If we were having a girl her name was picked long before we decided to have babies. I’ve always loved my Nan’s name, Alethea and for the middle name we decided when watching My Neighbour Totoro that our child would probably be like one of the characters in the film, Mei. (May is also Adams Nan’s name) So that's how Alethea Mei happened.

How did your prepare for Alethea’s arrival?
I was lucky that my best friend is a trainee midwife so I would spend all my time talking to her about birth. I didn't go to any classes, I really didn't fancy that. I read lots of books, mainly Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and The Hypnobirthing Bookby Katharine Graves. I practiced yoga almost daily, I was going to use this during the early stages of labour. I stuck a poster on my wall of all the good birthing positions and I also had a wonderful antenatal midwife who would go beyond my expectations of a midwife. She was fantastic.
If I had any worries Adam would make me discuss them with him; that always helped. We were very excited so we spent lots of the pregnancy making lists of what we'd need and discussing how we'd like to parent. We're both very passionate about that.

How was your labour?
Traumatic. It was the opposite of what I would have liked. A water birth in my home would have been the ideal. I never had a fixed idea as such, I was well aware these things don't always go to plan but I had a lot of hope that it would. My waters broke on the 14th and when contractions didn't start I was told to go to hospital. The doctor wanted to induce. I didn't. I knew the minimal risks of infection and I wasn't showing any signs of them (apart from a raised pulse which is always raised and will raise more when you're in labour) I went home promising I would be back in the morning. My contractions started early in the morning of the 15th. Off to hospital I went after a few hours of contractions that were coming fast. At this point I'd had very little sleep and very little to eat.
At one point all of this was very raw and I couldn't get the birth out of my head but now everything seems to be hazy and clouded by love for my little beast.
I paced the room, breathing through contractions. I got in the bath and that's when my body decided it wasn't going to play anymore. My body started to shut down I was so tired and I got onto the bed. I didn't get back up. I couldn't talk to anyone, I couldn't open my eyes. I remember hearing my mum and Adam being upset, that still hurts to think about.
I was examined and I was only 2cm?! I asked for the epidural. Long story short had the epidural and a hormone drip to speed it all along, I ended up pushing for 5 hours, and my midwife was a complete disappointment. As soon as shifts changed the next midwife got me the help I obviously needed. Off to theatre I went for forceps. This was all a complete blur, I was convinced I was going to die, I don't even remember Adam with me in the room, I just remember those lights! Every time I closed my eyes for weeks after I'd see those lights.
Alethea was placed on me for skin to skin. Something I do remember was the feeling of her soft wet squishy skin. She was taken to be weighed and I could hear people guessing her weight. Someone said 11lbs, I thought how cruel to joke about this when I'd been through such an ordeal. Turns out they were very close and she was 10lbs 10oz


How did you get on with breastfeeding?
Alethea latched on straight away without any problems. My first hurdle was getting comfy enough to feed. I had a third degree tear from her birth so wasn't able to sit down for weeks. Luckily a midwife told me to feed lying down. This is how we usually feed. Alethea doesn't get on too well feeding upright, it sometimes ends up with her hysterical. I have a lot of anxiety over feeding her not lying down because of this, but I think we're getting there.
At first it was very painful too. I would cry and one night a mix between the pain and the baby blues resulted in a massive panic attack. Things with breastfeeding have only just got to a great place for me. I'm finally able to enjoy it without any pain, worries that I'm not filling Alethea up, and I'm able to feed out and about now. I realised that if we're at home Alethea must know and will only feed properly in bed and that's fine. Now when we're out she will feed just fine too. It's taken eight months but we're both comfortable with feeding away from home now.
When I struggle, I Google constantly. Adam has always been a great support and would search out anything he could find to help. I saw a lactation specialist very early on and although she was great, she didn't offer me any advice that would make things magically better. She suggested breastfeeding support groups, which I’m sure are great for people that aren't like me, terrified of everyone. I just carried on feeding through any pains and kept trying again and again with breastfeeding in different positions. My only tip is if you're struggling ask your health visitor to put you in touch with a lactation specialist, or get some support from either your partner, friend or from a group. Having someone there that will listen to you always helps.

Does Alethea have a feeding routine?
Not really no. I've always fed on demand or offer every 3 hours if she hasn't shown any signs that she's hungry.

What was your approach to weaning Alethea onto solids and what was her first food?
Alethea's main food is still milk. We started bay led weaning at six months but she really wasn't interested in food until recently. It's taken almost two months but she now puts all food in her mouth. This will then end up being flung across the room after a bite has been taken. We first tried cucumber and carrots. The first food she seemed to really enjoy was banana.

Does Alethea have a sleep routine?
We don't, we just look for signs that she is tired and she's very good at letting us know!

How do you keep Alethea entertained?
I set out toys on the floor and play with her, read, baths, at the moment it's been pretty sunny so we've been going to the park most days.  Alethea's favourite thing to do right now is standing (with my help) she wants to do it all the time and is so proud of herself when she does it.

What helps to calm Alethea down when she’s having a freak out?
Usually boob will calm her down no matter what, even if she's not hungry (only if we can lie down though) we also wear her if she's having a freak out and she's usually fallen asleep a few minutes later.

Does Alethea seem to suffer with anything and what do you do to help it?
Recently Alethea's skin has gone a bit red, dry and patchy. We've been giving her oat baths and stopped using any products, just a bit of olive oil. We're still seeing if this is working out.

Is Alethea mobile yet?
This is currently our situation, we've almost got a crawler! We've ordered baby gates and a fire guard to start baby proofing the house. She's also very wriggly now at night. She sleeps between Adam and I and will roll back and forth between us all night.

What are your go-to resources when you're worried?  
Usually I go straight to my friend Bunty, she's a midwife and a mum of two so I feel like she knows everything and I'm pretty sure she does because she's always got a helpful answer. I often Google things too!


Have you taken Alethea away from home?
We've spent a few nights at parents’ houses. This was fine until recently. It's become quite stressful as we co sleep on a big lovely bed at home so Alethea is usually quite unsettled when we stay away.
However we did go on holiday to Cornwall recently and she slept really well! Probably the best she's ever slept!
We went away with Adams parents so they drove us all there and back. The journey back was the only problem, I think Alethea was so done with being in a car. Apart from that it all went really well!

What were your baby holiday essentials?
A carrier!! It's so much easier than having to pack a pram. We don't use a pram at home either so we're used to wearing Alethea a lot. We could never live without a carrier or sling!


Does Alethea have a favourite toy?
Alethea likes anything that she can shake. She has a star rattle that she gets very excited to see. She also really likes her puffer fish.

What was your most recent baby or baby-related purchase and why did you buy it?
The last of our cloth nappy stash! It was cloth nappy week so we had to take advantage of the discounts and we now have all the nappies we need!

What has been the most useful thing you've bought/ been given/ discovered?
Sling/carrier. I don't know how we'd live without them!! Luckily Adam is a Babyhawk ambassador so we've got lots of carriers to choose from!
Adam found the app Milky Child that was so helpful when I first started breast feeding. It allowed me to time my feeds and make note of what side I had fed from. Very good for those first few months when I felt completely out of it.

What is Alethea’s mode of transport?
I use the Tula carrier and Adam uses the Babyhawk.
I find the Tula so easy to use, it's on in seconds, no faff and it's very comfortable! I tried stretchy wraps when Alethea was first born, but because she was so beastly I didn't feel it gave me the support I needed.
We also have a Cossato, which was great at the start as I was unable to walk without support. But now trying to push that through the streets of Bristol is a nightmare so we stick to our carriers.

What are your absolute essentials when you go out?
A carrier, a backpack full of nappies, wipes, a change of clothes and toys. And for me, another person!! I'm not very good at leaving the house alone.

Where are your favourite places to shop for baby clothes?
Marks & Spencer and Baby Gap, and, because we love a bargain, H&M.

Body and Mind:

You mentioned you had a fourth degree tear how are things now?
The tear was pretty bad, as you can imagine with a baby being 10lbs 10oz, and it was actually the worst part. I couldn't sit for months and I still remember the drive home from the hospital being the worst thing I've ever experienced. Eight months on and I mostly can't feel anything.
I was referred to the physiotherapist after my tear. But that appointment was a disaster. The nurse was lovely and talked me through doing exercises, basically just doing pelvic floor exercises. She wanted to examine me to check if she needed to give more exercises and offer more support. Cue me bursting into tears, having a panic attack and repeating the words "no, I can't do it" at her. I never got examined and I never went back to the appointment she rebooked for me. I think the tear really affected me, emotionally too. It was a constant reminder of what happened and feeling the pain would trigger flashbacks. I wouldn't allow Adam anywhere near me, he'd only have to put his hand on me and I'd panic. If you are suffering from a tear though and you haven't been referred to a physiotherapist, get on to your doctor and don't take no for an answer. 

Has your view on, or relationship with, your body changed since you've become a mother?
It's definitely changed. It was actually something I never used to think of. When I was younger I stopped reading magazines that would dictate how women should look, I was very much aware how damaging the media was towards women and their relationship to their bodies. I used to see my body as just a body. But now I don't fit into any of my old clothes, I still look about 20 weeks pregnant, my boobs pretty much touch my knees, I have a saggy tummy and I'm covered in deep stretch marks. It's a big change and I'm trying to get used to it. I don't have a problem when I've got no clothes on, it's more that I don't feel clothes look right on me anymore. I don't look like me.

How do you relax?
A Lush bath usually! I also love a weekend day when we have no plans, no one to see, nothing to rush for and we all hang out in bed.

What do you do when you have time to yourself?
I don't really have time to myself, I breastfeed and co sleep and I end up getting into bed when Alethea does and I tend to lay next to her when she naps! I don't mind that though. Recently when she's been napping I do some writing for @mama.folk a Bristol collective hoping to support local parents and set up gatherings. If I do find myself with some time I might do some yoga or recently I've been watching Mad Men and I know there's a new series of Orange is The New Black about to start really soon!

When things are tough, what gets you through?
Adam!! I have him to thank that I'm actually able to function. He's the one that gives me the extra sleep if I need it, he feeds me when I haven't had the time or energy to make myself something, he makes me smoothies when I don't feel good, gives me the five minutes alone time that I sometimes need.

What have you found to be the most challenging age?
The first month I think. Everything was so new and I had no idea what I was doing. I'm now finding the on the move stage to be quite challenging, especially as Alethea fell and bumped her head recently, which makes me feel like a terrible mum. So much guilt!

If you could’ve given your pregnant self some advice, what would it have been?
Go on that hospital tour!!! Find out what happens if you don't get that homebirth you wanted. Maybe then you wouldn't have been so heart broken when the hospital made Adam leave not long after you'd given birth.
Don't buy any newborn clothes, your baby won't fit in them. In fact don't buy too many clothes as babies grow really quickly.
Don't buy a Moses basket in a panic, you planned to co sleep and you will. Alethea only sleeps in there for one night of her whole life.

What's the best advice or most useful tip that anyone's given you about parenting?
Bunty gave us a book on unconditional parenting, that's been full of wonderful advice.
My mum has also been very supportive of our parenting even though she brought me up very differently, she always reminds me that its okay to do things different and do what works for us.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with other mums or expectant mums?
Everyone wants to give you advice, lots of people will overstep boundaries, stay strong and remember you're the parent; you do what's best for you and your family. Be open because what works for you one week might not the next, and be open to change.
I also really recommend a sling or carrier. It really has been a life saver for us. And if you're into the idea, cloth nappies! We love them in this house.

Lastly, is there an IG mum that you'd like to see on Mummy Time?
@amyannerose! I kinda feel like she's super mum! And she's recently set up
 /@fourthtrimag. I'd love to hear more about her life! 
Thank you for sharing, Emma!

Follow Emma on Instagram @msmymble
Also have a peep Emma's Bristol-based project, Mamafolk, which she founded with @JessicaThursday who featured on here a little while ago: If you're in Bristol, these guys are an absolute must-follow.

Mamafolk posts you might enjoy:

Read Jessica's Mummy Time post:

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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