Monday, 8 September 2014

Softly Softly time sneaks past us

The apron strings are flapping manically like cage birds and there's a dull thud in my heart.   I'm clock watching again.  Trying to imagine that what I cannot see.   I hope you're okay.  I hope you're having fun.   I hope you're happy. Yet in that pocket of my heart that has your name upon it.... I hope you're missing me too. Not  overwhelmingly,  just a little bit. In the background.

The Preschooler is no longer a preschooler.  Last week was his first week in reception yet it was just mornings.  Today it starts for real.  Today The Dude is there all day.

I knew it was coming.  It even makes a little sense now that Moomin is here. It alleviates some of the guilt born of having a demanding newborn to attend to, knowing that you're occupied rather than sat wanting.  Wanting me. I'm not ready though.

You'd think with him being my third it would be easier yet with each child your youngest stays younger longer.

It only seems like yesterday when I'd cuddle you to sleep in my bed and you'd cuddle me awake in the morning.  Even when debilitated with this last pregnancy my little cuddle monster.... You were here. Cuddling me.

One day you won't ask for cuddles anymore.  One day you won't want them anymore.

Nothing reminds you of how powerless you are against the passing of time than having a child enter full time education.  It becomes even more obvious when you bring a new baby into your family.  You realise how far we've all come.  You realise how fast the time passed.

So I'm sat here missing you whilst cradling your newborn sister to the breast knowing that one day she'll be starting school too.  I'm determined to cherish every minute.  I don't care for houswork it can wait.   I have one last baby.  Time is ticking.  I'm filling the time with cuddles.

Thing One has started his last year of primary,  Thing Two has started her first year of primary and you my darling your first year of infants.   Where has the time gone? With Moomins birth so recent I still vividly remember you all being born.  Being newborns then toddlers then preschoolers.



As soon as you're born it's like someone presses fast forward.  You end up battling between the futile task of trying to freeze it or  at least slow it whilst at the same time trying to cherish it.

Under four hours now and you'll be home.

Squishy nappies have reappeared in my laundry, I can remember all three of you wearing nappies and they're now all replaced with uniforms.

You're still as much my baby as Moomin is though.  So are Things One & Two. You'll always be my babies.

Fairy are currently running an #OhSoSoft campaign encouraging us to make the most of the precious preschool years and the oh-so-soft cuddles they bring.

You're never really too old for cuddles though.  Not really.  They'll always be a time when words are unnecessary and not enough.  When only an oh-so-soft cuddle from mum will do.  Yet whilst your babies are babies and cuddles are in abundance, embrace the moments, the chaos, the mess, the noise but most of all the oh so soft cuddles.

You'd better believe it that as soon as you get home from school today, there's no escape.  This cuddle will tell you I love you,  I missed you,  I'm proud of you and that you're home.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post yet all words and opinions expressed are my own

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Moomin's Birth Story

Out of all my pregnancies, this last one was the only 'surprise'.  The Husband and I had marriage shattering debates on the topic as I desperately longed for one more baby and he categorically declared no.  It's hard to accept something that someone else has decided with regards to something that means so much to you.  However when it comes to having children, both partners have to be on the same page.

So how apt that after all that, our darling Moomin decided for us, there would indeed be a fourth baby.

I knew from the very start that this is it, my last ever pregnancy and wanted to cherish every moment of my final pregnancy.  Pregnancy enthralls and fascinates me.  I find it awe inspiring and magical that a whole life...a soul..a person is created.  Yet it's hard to enjoy something when you're so affected. 

By 39 weeks I'd had enough.  We're not talking the usual full term fed up blues here.  We're talking about being virtually housebound for months leaving the house around once a week due to chronic pain.  Hip pain, pelvic pain, back pain.  It hurt to sit, to stand, to lay down. Everything hurt then add to that sciatica that felt like it was on steroids.  9 months of unmedicated mental health wasn't helping combined with the M.E/CFS and Insomnia.  I couldn't go anywhere or do anything.  Even the family annual day out to Blackpool was cancelled because of my pain.  The summer holidays were a wash out, it was heartbreaking not even being able to bend down to pick something up or walk to the shops let alone do anything with my children.  This has the knock on effect of The Husband having to do everything.  Then came two weeks of back to back headaches/migraines and a chest infection which 5 weeks later i'm still recovering from.  Needless to say I was miserable.  All out of cope.  I spent my time either in tears or in a venomously vile mood.  I was awful to be around.  The straw that broke the pregzillahs back was the sweep, or lack of.  It had been agreed with my Midwife for some time that i'd get an early sweep at my 39+5 appointment.  I was living for this day.  It was the beacon that stopped me spiraling into quite frankly, despair.  

39+5 came.  I knew my cervix was favourable.  I didn't get a sweep.  Moomin was still 'free'.  The Midwife declared the (small) risk of cord prolapse meant she couldn't do it.  I respect this.  I'd never want her to do something she wasn't comfortable with.  Yet not once did she discuss ways to get her to engage or even the fact that Moomin is my fourth baby and was unlikely to engage before labour anyway and that labour itself is often what makes them engage. However, knowing my predicament she had several choices:

1. Refer me to the hospital to see if they'd be willing to do a sweep
2. Offer to check babies position again in a few days
3. Discuss induction

What she actually did was say 'see you in a week'.  

This quite frankly broke the tiny parts of me that weren't already broken.  I'll be honest, I felt let down and abandoned by her.  She just didn't seem to care, at all.  The level of pain i was in and the mental health issues should have flagged her to keep an eye on me, she just didn't care.  When she left I had to disappear to my room, away from The Spawn and cried, for 40 minutes solid.  

I couldn't talk about sweeps, labour, babies or pregnancy without falling, hard, into the dark.  I finally got to a GP for antibiotics after three weeks of a chest infection and broke down in tears.  Bare in mind, apart from in this particular pregnancy, I don't cry.  Especially in front of anyone. Even The Husband has only ever seen me cry around 5 times in 14 years and three of those were in this pregnancy.

The darkness was around me.  My head was broken.  I even did something I'd never done before and cut off one of my only lifelines to real people and deactivated my facebook.  Sounds mellow dramatic but other than my family, the only contact I have with other humans is online.

The antibiotics I got at 40+3 didn't agree with me at all.  I started to feel nauseous, I couldn't eat or sleep and just felt shaky and 'strange' so had to stop taking them.

My bottle of clary sage oil was now empty.  I'd been riding my birth ball like a cowgirl on crack.  I'd been twiddling my nipples like a bored porn star.  Nothing.  Nada.  Not even a tickle let alone a cramp.

Don't get me wrong, I'd have begrudgingly held on an extra month if I wasn't so debilitated, in fact it would have ensured Moomin would start school at 5 instead or 4 which I'd love.  

40+5 The Midwife came round.  Immune to my misery and despondence.  Moomin still not engaged yet now she decides she actually would try a sweep despite my situation being identical to last week when she'd refused.   

She recorded me as having a Bishops Score of 6, stated I was 2-3 cm's dilated and that my waters would be incredibly easy to break.  She booked me in for an induction for 41+5.

With Things One & Two labour started 4 hours after my sweep.  With The Little Dude (formerly The Preschooler) labour started within 24 hours.

Back on the birth ball I went, yet no cramps or anything.  That evening I lost lost copious amounts of the mucus plug and soon that was followed by bloody shows which continued throughout the next day yet that was it.  No twinges or cramps or anything else.  Zilch.  Nada.  Induction it would be then. A whole week to get through.

Until i woke up two days after the sweep at exactly 41+0. I went to run a bath and felt a drip down my thigh.  Not an 'oops my pelvic floor is drunk' drip.  Strange.  I returned to my room and felt, heard then saw random splats of clear liquid hit the carpet.  My waters have never broken on their own before, they'd always been broken during labour by a Midwife, usually minutes/seconds before a baby followed.  

In labour tradition I text my bestie.  Still unconvinced it was my waters yet unable to substitute an alternative explanation for the splats of liquid that were constantly dripping.  Still no pains, no cramps not even a rumble in the tummy.  This was approximately 09:35am.

09:50 I phoned antenatal Triage.  She told me to put a pad on and a community Midwife would call round within 6 hours to check on me and to phone back if any pain started.  

At around 09:55 the community Midwife phoned to tell me she was on a visit but would come round within the hour.  Dean called his parents telling them to start the two bus journey to get here.

10.00 Ouch. No preamble.  Full on knee buckling contraction.  The Husband phones his parents back and tells them to sod the buses, get a taxi. NOW.

10:10 I'd had three huge contractions lasting 1.5-2 minutes each.  

After the next few I stopped timing because they were on top of each other.  I couldn't tell when they started and stopped any more.  I was breathless, in tears, leaning over the cot gripping it for dear life.  Waters still dripping, then gushing....continually.  Knickers and pad are saturated.  I couldn't move.  I couldn't talk.  10-15 minutes before this I was 100% fine.

I call Triage SIX times, they're engaged.  I'm panicking. The Community Midwife calls to check on me and tells me to go to hospital immediately, she'll tell triage for me.  Dean phones for an ambulance but not until his parents arrived to look after The Spawn, I was on all fours rocking, gasping through none relenting pain, trying to remember how to breath as my waters continue to gush and drip through what seems like an eternal contraction, no break.

The ambulance took 30+ minutes to get here.  I won't lie, I had images of The Husband having to deliver.  

The paramedics come up to my bedroom where i'm on all fours on a nest of towels, the 999 phone operative had tried to get dean to convince me to lay on my back, wasn't going to happen. The longest walk ever ensued, hobbling down the stairs, rigid with pain, a towel between my legs, in my slippers up the outside steps and towards the ambulance where thank fuck, they had Entinox.

When in pain, I become incredibly detached and internalised, this is often mistaken for an absence of pain when in fact it's the reverse.  The more removed from people and situ I become the more I'm engulfed in pain.  I was guessing I'd be at least 8cm.  I refused to accept I'd be any more.  One of the reasons I barley have to push to birth my babies is because I block out the feeling of needing to push so that they descend completely on their own.  I guess it's a form of denial.  

The journey seemed to take forever, the paramedic wouldn't shut up and the Entinox kept making sounds like a ripe fart.

At the hospital the paramedics take me in on the bed, to the central delivery unit where we were met with a right battle axe of a midwife, with a 'none shall pass' attitude claiming she had no idea who we were and why we were there.  A human midwife took pity and asked if maybe we were booked in with the birth suite (midwife led).  Yes, why yes I am..... the paramedics had brought us to the wrong place as they had no idea there were two.  We eventually got to the right place.  In an Entinox high I just about manage to get from the ambulance bed trolley to the beanbag bed and roll onto my side.

The Midwife starts to read my notes and birthplan.  She tries to carry out her initial checks but to do that she needs a break in the contractions yet she could see there were none.  Eventually she just about managed to get my BP and heart rate done.  I can't move.  I'm actually rigid with pain yet she needed me to roll onto my back to check me.  I'm still in my clothes and slippers.  I beg for diamorphine, she manages to look and tells me it's too late, babies head is already there.  It probably had been for quite a while.  

Denial. This is not happening.  This is not part of the plan.  Where's my water birth?  Where's my diamorphine?  I'm still fully dressed.  I know she's right though.  I pretended to myself I couldn't feel it but of course I'd known, somewhere in my head, all along that that horrendous weight down below bearing down was her head.  No way could I push her out without more drugs.  I was desperate for us all to be wrong, so secretly flexed more then bore down, a nudge so to speak.  More like a fart than a poo.  Just to test.  Shit.... that's all it took and her head was out.  We'd been there less than 20 minutes.  The surprise is like thinking you've farted and realising you've actually shat yourself.  That tiny little experiment should not have resulted in her head being born!  I did it again, more a reflex than an actual effort and the body whooshed out with even more liquid.  That was it.  She was born.  That's all it took.  I stared at this vernix covered chunky baby being held up to me in disbelief.  How had this happened?  I can only describe it as surreal.  

Moomin was cross.  Really cross.  Pissed of even.  I jokingly remarked mid Entinox high that she's pissed off by the lack of available boob.  I was right.  I stripped off and she latched on immediately and began to feed for best part of an hour.  My others took days to really feed being sleepy from labour meds.  Moomin was alert and knew exactly what she wanted.

She's fed none stop since.

We were due to go home that evening but blood results came back that we had ABO incompatibility and she had to be observed for 24 hours.  Thankfully due to our absolutely amazing Midwife, because of my mental health issues she managed to secure me my own room and let us stay in the birth suite until The Husband left that evening.  She was so intuitive and respectful.  She left us alone with Moomin for an hour before even suggesting she got weighed etc.  I couldn't have asked for a better Midwife.  

Moomin turned out to be 8lb 14oz.  The vernix was so thick that they could only conduct part of the hearing test later that day as her other ear was full of it.

Labour was 90 minutes from the first contraction until birth.  She was born at 11.41am on Friday 29th August.  We registered her before we left the next day.  Afterpains are a horrid bitch.   I only needed three tiny stitches.

I am absolutely besotted with this little enchantress as are her siblings and The Husband.  She's still feeding like a champ.  In fact writing this up has been the longest she's been out of my arms, other than at night, since she was born 8 days ago.  She's fast asleep in her reclined chair next to me yet my arms ache to scoop her up as she spends the majority of her time laid on me.    She's my last baby.  I'm going to enjoy every cuddle I can.  As soon as they're born it's like someone presses fast forward on time.  I still can't believe she's already 8 days old.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Matalan Back to School review

It's that time of the year again, The Summer Holidays, also known as bankrupt time as more often than not our delightful little cretins are in need of new uniform, P.E kits and school shoes.  The very thought of this mammoth shopping task makes my purse positively weep in utter despair.

The lovely people at Matalan chose us to review their back to school range for The Spawn providing us, for the purpose of a review, a voucher for a selection of their school wear range.

When looking for schoolwear there are several important elements we look for:

1.  Quality.

The Spawn spend longer in their school uniform then they do in their own civilian clothes so it's an absolute must that the items we buy are of a decent quality.

2. Value

Whether you have one child or several, we all want value for money.  I for one resent being dictated to what my children should wear, so if they must wear a uniform I refuse to spend more than absolutely necessary on it.

3. Durability

Be it painting or skidding in the playground, kids will be kids.  Their uniforms need to be able to withstand this.  Their uniforms take a lot of abuse and a lot of washing thus it's important they don't stain, rip or shrink too easily.

4.  Comfort

As previously mention, our children spend a large proportion of their week in their school uniform thus it's vital that the uniform is comfortable and adjustable.

First up, we received some lovely items for Thing Two.  Thing Two will be starting year 3 in September.

Look at the cute flower shaped button detail!

Thing Two loves trousers.  They're comfortable, warm and practical especially with Autumn and Winter just round the corner.  Whenever possible I look for jersey stretch fabrics for her uniform as she finds them comfortable and they wash and wear well.  They enable her to learn and play without feeling restricted.

This pair are an incredibly purse friendly £5, they're soft, stretchy and a decent length.  As with all the Matalan back to school range they're machine washable and if you're lucky enough to have one you can bung them in the tumble drier too so perfect for parents as well as children.

The pockets have cute button details too!

Whilst she's still young, I'll admit I'm a sucker for a pinafore.  As I'm an ironless slattern it's important to find a retailer that offer styles without pleats.  This particular pinafore fits the bill perfectly.  It's a decent length on her, has a slight girly 'flare' for twirling and gentle elastic at the back for a perfect fit.  It even has the added quirk of pockets, who doesn't love a dress with pockets?!  An added bonus is the Teflon fabric protection which should help it last until she dares to grow again.  Priced at £6-8 it's competitively prices and makes a quality yet affordable addition to her uniform.

The bow is adorable, we love it.

Variety is the spice of life or so they say, so to complete her uniform we added a skirt to the mix.  In the past we've found many of the skirts for her age range to be ridiculously short, not a problem with this one.  Once again I opted for jersey both for comfort and the lack of fierce pleats that need an iron.  It's soft to the touch and as it's stretchy it provides an excellent fit.  Both Thing Two and I were charmed by the cute bow.  I'm especially impressed with the shape, many skirts are either too tailored or else offer a shape that I personally feel is unsuitable for the age group.  Once again the price is unarguably good at £3-£5.

One of my bug bears about the mandatory uniform is the P.E kit, they have to have both an outdoor and an indoor one despite the weather often putting the kibosh on outdoor P.E in winter, it's just more expense.  However, since it's mandatory it's always nice to find comfortable and affordable items.  These jogger bottoms come in a pack of two, personally we don't need two but my ever fashion unconscious Thing Two is delighted to keep the grey pair at home as they're so comfortable! The Plimsols are cheap as chips so it's hard to argue about buying them when they're this price.

All in all i'm impressed with the staple girls pieces. The quality,, styling and price all surpassed my expectations.  Thing Two turns 8 in September and these items are all size 8-9yrs and fit as i'd expect with room for growth too.

The Preschooler will no longer be The Preschooler soon as in September at the tender age of 4y5m he'll be in full time reception class.  Uniform isn't a new thing to him as he also wore it at the school preschool.

Despite being 4, he's a dinky little fellow so it's necessary to find trousers in size 3-4.  Thankfully this is not a problem at Matalan.  Better still, they're elasticated waist allowing them to be 'pull on' perfect for his age range.  The key to uniform at this age is comfort and ease.  It's vital that they can dress/undress themselves so fiddle-free pull on trousers are a must.  We received this terrific two pack which are competitively priced at £7.  If you have a little boy you'll know how messy they get, so it's always wise to have more clothes than you think you'll need.  Impressively for the price, they're also Teflon coated!

Although our school do have logo uniform, it's thankfully not mandatory which enable skint families like us to shop around and get cheaper alternatives.   This red sweater is only £3, that means we can get two from Matalan for less than one of the schools own.  Judging by the state they come home in from a hard of gluing, painting and playing, it's nice to be able to afford several spares whilst the washing machine is kept occupoied.  The colour is lovely and vibrant with plenty of growing room and the sweater passes the cuddle test as it's so soft and squishy!

This just leaves Thing One.  Thing One will be starting his final year of primary school, year 6, in September.

Trousers are often a nightmare to buy for Thing One.  He's very tall for his age with a slim waist yet large bum.  Anything none adjustable is just not an option.  No problem at Matalan, the waists are adjustable using the familiar button and elastic system that is pretty universal.  We chose the cargo style trousers as they offer a slightly more individual and boyish style then the usual formal ones which are so widely available.  At the risk of sounding old, they're just funkier!  The fit was perfect for him, usually trousers are either too tight across the bum, too gaping across the waist or too short yet these were ideal for Thing One.  They come complete with Teflon coating and i'm drawn to the attention to detail such as the handy velcro on the pockets to fasten them.

Thing One is not only going to be a Prefect when he starts back at school, he's also Head Boy.  The Prefects are identifiable by their black sweaters (everyone else has to wear red) and red polo shirts.  The polo shirts are great value for money, a great fit and lovely and thick 100% cotton.  The buttons are easy to fasten and unfasten without the stiffness we've had from other brands.  

One of the main issues we have with Thing One is shoes.  He literally walks through them.  We gave up buying Clarks etc for him as they simply didn't last and we couldn't keep up, cost wise, with replacing them.  However, we are adamant on leather shoes.  These leather shoes from Matalan are an amazing £16 a pair, he's a size 4 now so we were especially impressed at the price.  They have a older boy styling whilst still managing to keep the velcro fastening without looking babyish, Thing One is a tad lazy so prefers velcro over laces.  I'm impressed with the chunky sole and grip, an absolute necessity in this wet and wild weather.

Having been buying uniform for the past six years from various retailers I can honestly say I'm impressed with Matalan.  I'd always blithely assumed they would be more expensive yet I can happily say, they're not.  The prices are extremely competitive, the quality is plain to the eye and touch, the sizing is accurate and the styling is spot on.  As a mum with three school age children I'll definitely be returning as and when more uniform is required.

As an aside, we've already established that I'm a slattern without an iron (though in my defence, items were creased in the pictures as they'd come straight out of the delivery packaging!) but i'm also unsurprisingly lazy.  I refuse to fork out the money, time and effort on name tags when I can use a laundry pen on the labels.  It may sound strange to mention but the labels are actually really decent quality.  Many cheaper brands we've had the ink immediately blurs and there isn't enough room to write despite them clearly having a gap for name and class.  However, the same pen on Matalan labels, is clear with no ink run and the labels are actually large enough to write on!  Hoorah!

*** For the purpose of review I was provided with a voucher to purchase uniform from