Wednesday, August 17, 2016

having two children

I'm now over seven months into this experience of having two children and I wanted to write about it before my thoughts disappear and it becomes 100% routine.

The novelty of two car seats, two bedtimes, two different attention spans, extra clothes to wash, a new naptime to fit in with seeing Mostyn's friends etc is wearing off and the joy of their budding relationship is starting to take precedent in my life above the nitty gritty, military levels of organisation that life with two children demands.

Although Gruff is still so small I am constantly having moments of looking at both of them together doing things, eating strawberries next to each other at the table, forming a starfish of long and tiny limbs on the floor as Mostyn lies down to squeeze chubby cheeks, giggling together at some new way they have discovered to make each other laugh, and think: there are TWO of these little guys here, that I made, and they are buddies, WOW.

I feel like Mostyn was made to be a big brother. I don't know if it's the 4 and a half year age gap or what but his level of patience, understanding and love for the baby is beyond the wildest hopes I entertained when I was pregnant. He shows him things, kisses him all the time, runs in to see and hug him the mornings and Gruff responds with smiles and stares of adoration and worship. I'm lucky that it's all gone so smoothly in that regard, so far at least...

A second child is undoubtedly not as seismic as a first, your life changes immeasurably but in a completely different way to the first time. The shock of life with a second newborn is not as strong, you know what to expect, however the hard part is keeping up the facade of an ordinary life for your oldest in the sleepless, hormone riddled fog.

Very little chance to 'sleep when the baby sleeps', no lying in bed all day checking if they have cut any teeth, no forgetting to eat lunch, no planning a nice routine of walks or figuring out naps or feed times - your oldest must be taken to playgroup whether the baby is ready or not, a crucial nap must be cut short to pick them up, feed them whenever you get a chance inbetween chores and trips to the park, bedtime is some kind of crazed relay sport with your husband, passing children backwards and forwards doing baths and naps and feeding and stories, food must be cooked and appear at the right times. I felt like I was drowning a lot but as the months pass (so fast) it's all heading back to an even keel again as I knew it would.

How did I cope with having a new baby again? Last time I felt myself disappear into a haze of anxious exhaustion and didn't get anything done but this time it was different.

It sounds bizarre but now, my instinct when I feel out of control is not to step back, try to relax or let things go but immediately embark on the opposite - do anything I can to create control or 'progress' in some other area in my life.

If I'm struggling I clean, organise or start some new hobby or money making scheme. I'm not sure I recommend this as a stress busting strategy as although it creates an illusion of control as other areas of your life spiral into disarray (a newborn doesn't care about your physical or emotional needs), it does create a lot more things to do. Maybe that's the beauty of it. Days fly by and I fall into bed exhausted, too busy to wonder if I have the energy to carry on.

It says a lot about my state of mind that within weeks of having a second baby I had a bullet journal set up, an ambitious new weight loss/health related Instagram account (I reached 4lb from my pre-pregnancy weight and abandoned it), started learning matched betting to try and earn some of the money I won't be getting each winter on my new seasonal work contract, reorganised my food shopping, meal planned and sorted out various tedious admin tasks I'd been putting off for years. At night during the long hours of breastfeeding my newborn I wrote endless lists of things I needed to do and developed a strange obsession with watching YouTubed episodes of awful American reality TV shows featuring people utterly out of control of their lives (My 600lb Life, Hoarders..) and in the daytime I managed to organise and declutter so many neglected areas of my house.

I'm through that phase now and I feel like I am out the other side. The urge for control at all costs is not so strong but my bullet journal and matched betting is carrying on! My Instagram account is abandoned, I'm not anywhere near I want to be right now with my fitness and that's ok, it will come, my priority is getting Mostyn settled into a school routine and spending the remaining time before I have to start work again (next March) as wiselty as I can. I know in a couple of years I will get a bit of time back for myself - I just need to resign myself to this and use my energy for my children as much as I can.

I sold all my maternity clothes on eBay before I could even fit into my normal clothes, I have been ruthlessly sorting through baby things, giving away stuff the second Gruff grows out of it. After being birth obsessed for years I find I have absolutely no interest in it anymore, hearing about it, empathising with horror stories or beautiful stories (unless they are from people I know very well), I feel like that part of my life is over and I can't afford to spend any more headspace on it. I feel so relieved to have my two amazing boys, I am getting on with things, this is my life, my entire world now, onwards, upwards and outwards from now on.

At 7 months Gruff has two teeth, is crawling everywhere, pulling himself up and eating anything you put in front of him. He's just started going upstairs to sleep in the evenings (we had him down with us until the last couple of nights) so I might get more time to blog.. or I might not..

Otherwise this is a short phase in my life where, as much as I like to convince myself I have enough time to reflect/do anything significant for myself - I definitely don't, but that's the way I chose it and how it has to be.

I wouldn't realistically have it any other way although every day I do mourn all the delicious, luxurious, shimmering hours of beautiful spare time I have foolishly wasted in my life. What was I thinking? Did I reallly read enough books? Did I savour enough hot cups of tea? I don't think I did. I threw it all away and I want it back.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Birth Story - Gruffudd Ifan - 26th Jan 2016

Gruff meeting his proud big brother on the day he was born
My second son is 4 months old and I want to note down my birth story (it won't be too long I promise!) before it fades. The massively long, therapeutic stream of consciousness rant that was my first birth story (a failed home birth that took 52 hours) hasn't been shared on this blog, but it has been elsewhere. My first labour was a long drawn out affair and took me a while to come to terms with but, here is a nice positive story to complete the record of my child bearing experiences (no more babies, seriously).

It's true what they say, second births are quicker, but they are also so healing if you've had a less that positive experience first time round. I couldn't have asked for a better or more convenient birth, and I am so grateful to have had the experience. I now understand why people have loads of babies, if it was this easy and quick the first time I probably wouldn't have waited over 4 years before having another one.... anyway - here's what happened to me:

I was 4 days over due and totally miserable. Being 40 weeks pregnant is exhausting, painful and all round hidious. I hated it. I refused to leave the house or do anything, so many scenarios constantly running through my mind. I felt like I was spinning into madness.. What if I went into labour in the middle of the night and we had to leave Mostyn? What if it was too quick? What if it was too slow? The weather really bothered me, with a 40 minute drive to our chosen (quite rural) hospital in January, the roads were icy some nights, and flooded the next (we actually almost got stuck in a flooded road on our trial run to the hospital to visit the ward). What if the car tire that was dodgy blew out on the road, what if I had to give birth in the car, what if my body couldn't actually give birth by itself.. what if I had to be induced?! Had I got enough stuff? Could I remember how to breastfeed? What if the baby was tongue tied?

I always said if I could get through a second labour with only one night of missed sleep instead of two I would be eternally grateful, but as it turned out... no sleepless nights were required!

Ever since my due date (a Friday) I had been getting crampy period pains and pinching feelings. I couldn't even tell if the baby was engaged. 4 days of this and I was convinced nothing was ever going to happen. These signals don't mean much, you can have them for weeks or hours before you deliver.

On the 3rd day I began to lose my mucus plug. Again, hours of pointless, angsty Googling confirms this is also meaningless and the baby doesn't necessarily come any time soon after that. I was so grumpy and pathetic and complained to anyone who would listen.

On Monday night I stayed in the kitchen for ages and made a hugely complicated lasagne from a recipe that involved things like infusing milk with bay leaves, onion and cloves. It was delicious. I went to sleep at about 11 and woke up at exactly 2am (thanks Fitbit!) feeling a bit of pain. I went to the bathroom and saw even more plug... something instinctive told me to stay awake for a bit. I knew something was happening. The pains seemed different, they were coming regularly and I lay in bed breathing through them, noticing they were about 20 minutes apart.

I didn't want to wake Huw yet but he noticed my breathing changing as the surges came so I told him I thought I was in labour but it would probably take ages so just go back to sleep. I downloaded a contraction timer onto my phone and started timing them. By 5.45am they were around 7 or 8 minutes apart and I was finding it difficult to lie down in bed in the dark and breathe through them. I felt slightly concerned at this point, I wanted to get to morning before we had to go to hospital and it felt so close yet so far...I was worried about rush hour, the weather, getting Mostyn to playgroup, the long car journey ahead of us and all the rest of it....

I went downstairs at 6am and called the labour ward for advice. The old adage came back... take a paracetamol and have a bath - they wanted the contractions between 4 and 5 minutes before I left the house. I remember being irrationally annoyed when they told me this last time round and I felt that same annoynance fill me again but I decided to take their advice anyway... I took two paracetamol, ran a bath as quietly as I could so as not to wake up Mostyn (our house is very small!) and sat in it... It was pretty wonderful and helped a lot so, please believe the midwives when they tell you to have a bath!

7am came round and I was still in the bath, turning on the hot tap every so often with my toes. Time goes so fast when you are relaxing and timing contractions. At some point it occurred to me that I had already been in labour for 5 hours and I was managing fine completely on my own, and in fact, feeling pretty calm and confident now things were kicking off.

The contractions were pretty irregular.. sometimes 3 minutes, sometimes 8, some big, some smaller. I was still convinced it was going to take ages, days even. In the bath I was breathing through them fine, I was using my hypnobirthing techniques and the water was so soothing. The contraction timer app kept flashing a quite irritating "GO TO HOSPITAL OR CALL AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY" warning which I totally ignored. Surely this was going to take hours and hours yet.

Mostyn and Huw woke up and got ready for the day. Huw brought me a toasted teacake and a cup of tea. I ate and drank a bit but not much. He kept looking at the contraction timer with a concerned expression while I said "No don't panic, it'll be ages yet, they'll send me home if we go now, that 3 minute one wasn't even a big one" and at 8am took Mostyn round to his aunties so she could take him to playgroup and be on stand by for the rest of the day.

Moss came into the bathroom to say bye, holding his overnight bag I'd packed for him just in case and I tried to give him a final special hug and a kiss goodbye from the bath, but I don't think he really understood the significance as I did! The last time I would hug him as an only child and me as a mother of one!

While Huw was out of the house dropping Mostyn off I had some stronger contractions so I got out the bath and got dressed, getting my bags ready by the door. I called the hospital and told them I was coming in. Making that judgement was difficult. The several car journey's I had to make in my last labour were so unbelievably painful and stressful, I was absolutely dreading this one. I hoped that giving myself 40 minutes to get to the hospital was enough time, but I was so scared that I'd get there and be not dilated at all and be sent home. While I was sorting out my stuff I had to keep stopping and going on my toes to get through the contractions. Huw returned and looked at my contraction app. Some contractions were 3 minutes apart. "We're leaving RIGHT NOW" he said and I barked "CAN YOU STOP FREAKING OUT? IT'S FINE". It was 9am.

I was nervous getting into the car but I sat on a towel and hugged a cushion. My hypnobirthing track was 38 minutes long exactly so I plugged myself in and listened to the calm voice. With each contraction I focused on my breathing and tried to relax. They were still irregular but on the approach to the hospital I had some that were only 2 minutes apart. The journey flew by and suddenly we were there. I couldn't believe it was all going so smoothly. I hobbled into the maternity unit, having to stop a couple of times (in front of some elderly people, I tried to look like I wasn't about to have a baby but I don't think I was successful....). Outside it was raining and windy but the day had a kind of brightness about it, a freshness in the air that made you want to stride about on mountain tops.

We went into a small room with a bed, not a delivery room but a sort of assessment room.. a kind midwife took my blood pressure and all that jazz, she noticed I was having pretty regular contractions but as I wasn't making too much of a fuss through them so she didn't seem in a hurry. I was just happy that we weren't being sent home. Finally she said she would examine me. I was dreading being told I was only 1cm dilated but a look of slight alarm came into her face as she told me I was already 4cm and in active labour! She immediately offered me gas and air which I took even though the contractions were still very managable on my own. I could barely believe it was happening so fast.

Last time gas and air was my saviour, I absolutely loved it and used it religiously for over 12 hours straight, but this time I just couldn't get the hang of it for some reason. I kept getting the high at the wrong point or overdoing it so I was just dizzy between contractions. It did give me something to do though so it wasn't so bad. I sat on a big ball which seemed to open everything up and make the contractions stronger. It was painful yes, but I welcomed the pain, I was smiling and laughing between each contraction, so cheerful and pleased it was all going so quickly! I wanted Huw beside me for the contractions but he wasn't the total necessity that he was during my first labour (sorry Huw!)

Another hour or so (it was about half 11 or 12 by this point) and the contractions were really getting frequent and strong. I could feel a bearing down sensation occasionally so we moved across the corridor to a delivery room. The room was cool and dim (I hate being too hot!), the windows were open and a huge pine tree swayed outside as rain lashed on the windows. Huw said afterwards he watched jackdaws swooping and swirling around it all day. It was pathetic fallacy in action as my labour progressed... the surges getting stronger and stronger and my voice changing as I worked through each one.

At about 1pm, transition (that time you go from 8->10cm dilated and your body goes into a weird hardcore mode right before you have the baby) suddenly hit me SO hard. After all I'd read, knew and understood about transition, I still didn't recognise it when it occured to me. (It didn't really happen to me first time round with all the intervention and stop/start nature of my first labour). I wish someone had told me what was going on because from being cheerful and positive one moment, the next I was drained of all hope I was ever going to have a baby, and it was probably the most miserable and depressing thing I've ever experienced.

Tears were running down my face, I was full on sobbing. saying I couldn't do it, it was taking too long, I didn't feel pushy enough, I was too tired, why hadn't my waters broken yet? At one point I just lay down on the bed and had a break from contractions, they actually completely stopped for a few minutes and Huw was saying "is this normal??" to the midwife who made non commital sounds.

I can see now that I was pattern matching to Mostyn's birth, convinced that it was all going to slow down, the baby was stuck and nothing was going to happen for hours like before. No one had examined me again (they did so many times in my first labour, and I realise now it was because the second they called the ambulance I was 'high risk') and my brain somehow took that as a *VERY BAD SIGN*. Little did I know that it was so obvious I was about to give birth there was no need to!

My first midwife finished her shift and another one came in, I didn't even have the wits about me to to say goodbye to the first one. As she handed over I heard her say that she was just about to miss the baby and I didn't believe a word, nothing was happening, and I was never going to have a baby.

Literally a few minutes later I was pushing... I pushed for 26 minutes, and I knew the baby was going to be bigger as it was much harder work that last time. They switched off the gas and air (I was barely using it anyway) and told me to concentrate on pushing and I put every bit of my body and soul and voice into it. I felt totally present and lucid and it was amazing. It hurt, yes but that actual feeling of fearlessly giving birth all by yourself is just so overwhelming and impressive, to be right there experiencing that power with no physical, emotional or sleep deprived barriers was awe inspiring. I can honestly say I was esctatic as it was happening, and I have now run out of adjectives to describe how I felt. He was born at around 2pm (I can't remember the exact time!) and was 8lb 3 oz, almost 2 lb larger than Mostyn.

I had told everyone exactly what I wanted to happen when the baby was born and it went like a dream. I wanted to find out what sex the baby was myself, I wanted immediate skin-to-skin and to initiate breastfeeding ASAP. Last time I missed all that because of the shock and the sleep deprivation. I wanted to savour every second of the first few golden minutes of my baby's life, see him, touch him, and experience everything I didn't get to last time and this was exactly how it went.

The midwife passed me the baby under my legs (I gave birth leaning over the back of the bed on my knees like last time) and Huw put my glasses on my face (I have awful eyesight) at the same time - and I will never forget that moment, when I finally met the being who had been with me all that time, a baby boy! And just like that my family was complete. The placenta came easily and there were no stitches required so the wonderful midwives left us to it, after bringing us tea and toast of course.

He latched on straight away and then it was just me, Huw and Gruff in the room for a long while. The light was dim, the wind and rain was still raging outside and the pine tree was still swaying in the window, black against the sky. I was so grateful for that time alone together, as after Mostyn was born we were all seperated. Huw called our relatives (he put my mum on the phone to my ear "Mum, I just had a baby! ..Yeah, 10 minutes ago! It's a boy!")

Someone had put a little yellow knitted hat on Gruff and I wrapped him in blankets next to my chest and just held him and drank him all in. His frowny face, his little peeping eyes, his soft skin. I had a bath and had this strange green vitamin drink I'd brought with me for some reason and it was the best thing I'd ever tasted. We sorted out our things and left at about 6pm, stopping off to pick Mostyn up and introduce him to his new baby brother. I want to write more about their relationship in another post as it's the best thing ever, but it was another moment I will never forget.

So there it is, the birth of Gruffudd Ifan in Abergavenny, a birth experience I didn't have to write reams about, endlessly mentally process, cry over months later, talk out with someone or struggle to rationalise and think about afterwards. Just a beautiful Winter day that ended with a new baby. Thank you my child for giving me such a healing experience, I can't imagine life without you and your brother.

He doesn't look so frowny these days!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


We are gearing up for autumn, winter, new baby and possible unemployment (me..) next Spring so here are a selection of pictures from the summer months. Mostyn turned 4 and we spent a lot of time outside.

The view from Goodrich Castle

Garden pickings

A new blanket I made

Undiscovered woods near our house

I had some summer gigs, am now on maternity leave from the band.

We finally got a new bathroom

Went down to the Thames with my family to celebrate my birthday! I'm 30

I now have a 4 year old

Castle gig

Quiet mornings in Wyndcliffe Court

View from Ystradfellte

Another gig

We stayed in a Mongolian Ger in Herefordshire for a weekend (this years only holiday!)

So lucky to live where we do with all this on our doorstep

Penterry church

My bean tent

Visited my mum and took Mostyn to the Seven Sisters

Grew lots of stuff in my garden.

High and over

Stumbled across my 6th form music teacher conducting a choir rehearsal in Alfriston

The present me and my sister got mum for her birthday - Above Alfriston by Sussex artist, Keith Pettit