Being on the other side of Labour

I don’t know if many of us get to experience being on the other side of child birth. Watching someone you love go through something you have also gone through really is quite an experience, a moment, a memory that changes your life forever. I’m lucky to say that I witnessed the birth of my best friends baby boy and it’s something that will always stay with me.

I wake up to a whatsapp from my bestie that she sent at 0530 saying that she’s been in pain since 1am and hasn’t slept at all. ‘It’s like strong period pains belly and lower back.’ I got super excited and was like OH MY GOD yes it’s going to happen, today!!! I told her to get her boyfriend on stopwatch duty straight away to track each contraction.

She is also Portuguese, and we used to work in Lisbon together. We weren’t really friends in Lisbon but then she moved to London a few months after I did and we pretty much became besties straight away. Her family are all in Lisbon and although she has her boyfriends family, she was pretty much adopted by mine. She calls my dad Baba just like I call him too and he loves his additional daughter very much. All of my brothers and sisters have at least one friend that is treated like an ‘adopted’ extra sibling to us.

Her due date was Sunday 8th of April and just a week before I’d been with her and joked saying ‘MJ’s due date was also on a Sunday, but she was born on a Thursday. How funny would it be if your baby was born on a Thursday instead of a Sunday too?!’ And it looked like my joke was becoming a reality. They way she was describing her contractions, I was confident it would be on the Thursday.

We had once mentioned about me being her second birthing partner when she was around six months pregnant or so and she seemed to like the idea, but she would then always change her mind to be honest. So for me it was kind of a if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t then it just doesn’t and I was fine with that.

I have always found labour to be a pretty fascinating thing and well I mean that’s because it is. So to be able to part of something like that for me, would be incredible. I’m one of those people that loves to watch ‘One Born Every Minute.’ I watched it all during pregnancy and even now with the bubba and each episodes amazes me. My boyfriend finds it weird as to how much I love watching it.

I had gone to Rhythm and Rhyme in the morning and then went to a pub nearby that had a gorgeous garden to soak in the sun with some other mums. I kept telling them how my best friend was about to have her baby and that I was just patiently waiting for a message from her telling me she wanted me to come. I wasn’t actually patiently waiting, as I kept looking at my phone every minute.

She got to the hospital at around 1430ish and sent me a voicenote saying that she was doing good and that I didn’t need to come. She’d let me know once her bubba would be out and then I would go and visit her. So I automatically relaxed. I was back home when she sent me the message and so I knew I didn’t have to worry about expressing any milk or get anything ready for MJ if I’d leave. But my relaxation mode lasted for about five minutes.

Five minutes later her boyfriend sends me a voicenote and said ‘Yeah, hi Naimah, urm yeah she wants you here kind of like now please.’ I was like what? Now? Omg! Where do I start? So I let him know ‘Ok no worries, let me get things organised and I’ll be as soon as possible.’

I called my sister straight away and told her she needed to come over asap to look after MJ. She had just sat down in a beer garden with her fresh pint. ‘You better just down it and hurry on over because I need to get to the hospital!’

I’d got MJ’s food ready for dinner, fed her so she wouldn’t be so hungry and was expressing from the other boob whilst feeding her. I was ready to go, and my sister was taking her sweet time.

Once she finally turned up, I knew I would have to leave without MJ realising I was going as I had no idea how long I was going to be away for. I ran to the train station to get the next train which I thankfully made but my god did I get out of breath too easily. Hate that I’m this unfit, it’s crazy, but anyway. It was a direct train to Waterloo and I was at the hospital by 1630.

I went to the delivery suite her boyfriend had told me but she wasn’t there. She had already been moved in to a room with a pool, as she wanted a water birth.

She was in the corner of the room leaning against the bean bag, holding on tightly to gas and air.

‘Hi babe, I’m here.’ She put her hand in the air to signal a hello, but I understood that she couldn’t really talk. It was so hot in London that day and so my gosh the hospital seemed like a sauna. Their a/c wasn’t working very well, so you can imagine how we all were, in a small room with a tub filled with hot water, a woman in labour and three people staring at her.

When she had got to the hospital she was 4cm dilated. During her time against the bean bag, any time either myself or her boyfriend would talk she would put her hand up signalling us to shut up. Looking back at it and any time I tell the story, I can’t stop laughing, because it’s so typical of her, but also having been in that position I completely get her. Any time anyone apart from your midwife speaks your just like ‘hush your mouth please, you are not permitted to talk whilst I am in pain.’

She got into the pool around 1715. Before she got in I had asked the midwife if she thought the temperature of the water wasn’t too hot. She put the thermometer in and had told me it was at the temperature it should be. During my labour, when I had attempted going into the pool, I had to come out after a short while because the water was too hot and it wasn’t settling me. As soon as she got in, she said the water was too hot and we turned on the cold tap to cool it down a bit. I could see the midwife was like oh, you were right, but I only said it because it was a boiling hot day, the room had basically no working a/c and also because I just know my bestie.

As soon as she got in to the pool, I basically took on midwifery duties in regards to telling her what to do. I made myself take control of the gas and air and only let her have it when she was having a contraction and not between them.

When she was still on the bean bag, she kept telling the midwife she couldn’t do it anymore, she just wanted the baby to come out and that she wanted an epidural. I kept telling her how amazing she was doing and that she wouldn’t need it. The midwife was also telling her that it would be a long process to get an epidural at that point as they would need to find a room, find an anesthetist and that getting it wouldn’t help the baby come out any faster. Once in the pool she kept saying how tired she was, asked for an epidural, for a c-section, anything to just get the baby out. I know we all know how she felt.

I kept telling her when to breath and to take deep natural breaths in between contractions. I let her squeeze my arm as hard as she wanted to each time a contraction would come. At one point though, she squeezed it so hard I thought the contraceptive implant I have in my arm was going to burst out, but it was ok because it was all for a good cause. Her boyfriend was holding her up from outside of the pool and she would sometimes lean back to have her head laying on him. Her eyes were closed for most of the time, and she would glare them open when a contraction was about to come, which was my queue to give her gas and air.

At around 1730 or so I’d asked the midwife and what time would she be checking to see how far along she is, just to see how she was doing. ‘Only at 8pm.’ All of our eyes popped out and we were like what? why? why only at 8pm? She couldn’t handle hearing that and you could see how exhausted she was. I knew I just had to keep her motivated by telling her how amazing she was doing. Which was no lie at all. I kept telling her how I was screaming the place down in pain and she was going through the contractions like a proper trooper.

I would signal to her boyfriend that she would need to drink some water or need some water on her lips as they were so dry. We made a pretty good tag team to be fair.

The controlling of her breathing, of the gas and air and the keeping her motivated just by saying positive things to her and letting her know how well she was doing seemed to sort of come quite naturally to me. I think once you have been through a pretty ‘straight forward’ labour, you sort of know the ins and outs. I think it just made me confident in being able to guide and support her. Of course the midwife is there for that but having someone you know, who is close to you and that has been through it, makes the world of a difference.

The midwife not long after says that she can see some bubbles and was like ‘Yep, I can see a head about to come through.’ Oh my god what?? Not long ago was she saying that she was only going to be examined again at 8pm and now the baby is coming??

I kept telling her again when to push and then I just saw the babies head already out. Tears came to me straight away but I needed to concentrate. ‘You can do this, your baby is here, he’s here already! Just one more push and we get to meet him.’ It took a while for next contraction to come for her to push and I got a bit worried that his head was just there under water for what seemed like an eternity, but the midwives were not reacting to it so I knew it was all good. And then, just like that, she belted out a huge scream and her bubba was out. We were all in tears and he was put straight on her for skin on skin, whilst he was still trying to catch his breath as he’d swallowed some water. He was covered with a towel to keep him warm whilst he was on his mama. I sent a voicenote to everyone straight away and it’s literally me in tears saying ‘He’s here, he’s gorgeous, he was born at 1830’.

Can you believe it 1830?! She got to the hospital at 1430 at 4cm and four hours later her baby was born. It was the most beautiful and smoothest birth I’ve ever seen. Taking into account all the ones I’ve seen on One Born Every Minute. I kept telling her and I do tell everyone, her birth as a first time mum was so amazing. I was envious of how beautiful it was and if she would go on OBEM I’m sure many others would be too.

She wanted to be out the pool to give birth to her placenta, so her boyfriend helped her out the pool whilst I held her little bubba, my nephew. I couldn’t believe I was holding a baby that was only a few minutes old. Oh my god all the memories it brought back to me. The newborn smell is like a drug to get high on honestly! I was like please can I have another baby like, right now.

I stayed with her to continue my support to her when needing to push out the placenta. Little bubba was with daddy now. The midwife checked her for any tears after she was done and can you believe, she didn’t tear. I mean it’s what I was saying earlier, everyone would be envious of this woman: first time mum has gorgeous water birth, only had four hours in the hospital til her healthy baby came and did not tear at all, I mean come on!

We went to her room where she had a gorgeous view overlooking the Houses of Parliament and I walked baby over as her boyfriend pushed her in the wheelchair back to the room.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had just witnessed child birth from a completely different perspective. Not only that, but my first experience like this was with my best friend. I was so proud of her, of how well she’d done, when she kept doubting herself. She was also so thankful I was there. She does say that she couldn’t have done it without me, which even though I know she could’ve, it’s still lovely to hear.

I stayed until around 9pm and then rushed home to my little munchkin who had not had a fun time with her aunties and grandmother. My mum and other sister went round to look after her too, but there was a strong crying attack at one point and it killed me to get home, see her asleep but still sniffing. Poor munchkin, but it was for a good thing, so I didn’t like myself get upset about it.

The entire experience just made me realise how much I loved being a part of child birth. I think it made me realise I had a passion for something I had never contemplated before.

Midwives are absolutely extraordinary and I genuinely respect their work so much. Dealing with women shouting at you is not easy. But it really made me think about if I could ever turn this passion into a reality. The world doula came straight into my head.

I have researched about how to become a doula and really think I will go ahead with it. At the moment I don’t feel like this is the right time for it, but it’s something I don’t want to give up on achieving on day.

If anyone has any tips or advice on how to become a doula, please dm me!

Baby Noah was born on 5.4.18 weighing 3.03kg.

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A Busy Baby

I never thought that my little baby girl would have more of a social calendar than me!

I started on all the baby activities maybe a bit later than most mums set out to. We travelled a bit during her first four months so I was unable to commit to any activities because you need to normally buy all the activities in bulk package of normally six weeks or so.

I think it is so important to have your baby busy and active with all sorts of baby groups as it really helps their development and social skills. It is also important that you choose activities for you, to keep you active, where your baby can be a part of it.

In this post I am going to share with you what activities I do with my little fig and what I have enjoyed with each one of them.

Swimming:

I have always known that I wanted swimming to be a main activity for my children. I was advised by the swimming school that the best time to start swimming is when the baby is around four months old, as they are more mobile by this age and they’ve had all their jabs up to date.

We started our classes in January with Waterlife Swim School in Richmond. I was so excited for her first class but also absolutely dreading it as I had no idea how MJ would react to being in a pool. I knew she loved her bath times so was hoping she would react well to it. Luckily she did so, but after having completed Level 1 already, I know there are certain things she just really doesn’t like doing.

She hates swimming on her back unless her head is on my shoulder. Every time I put her fully on her back in water she twists her entire self around just so that she can be facing me.

The first half of the class will be spent with her crying each time she has to do a submersion but then the second half she is absolutely fine and does them perfectly. Her favourite part of each class is when the toys come out and they are all motivated to swim to them to be able to play with them (I’m holding her towards them, she can’t swim by herself yet).

I know that some people find swimming classes a bit useless so early on, but I have genuinely found it beneficial, especially when the instructor explains the reason behind each thing they learn.

The first main point is losing any fear of being in water. In every activity you are always holding them, you are always next to them. So this will give them that reassurance that they are safe because you are there with them, you are nearby at all times and I feel that allows them to feel confident in water because they know you are with them.

You get to motivate them with each new skill they learn. Whilst MJ is kicking her little legs away I’m always singing to her ‘kick, kick baby, just keep kicking, just keep kicking’ (like Dori’s just keep swimming). She smiles each time I sing that, so I know she relates to it as something positive.

When they are taught to hold on to the side wall, it makes them realise that when they are close to the wall they can just grab it to be able to hang on. They teach these sorts of skills incase something bad were ever to happen, if they fall off the side or something they can associate the wall with being able to grab on. They learn this in various different ways, but the main ones being swimming up to the wall then grabbing on and sitting on the outside of the pool with feet just hanging and then jumping in (we jump them in) and turning them around to grab on and then even whilst they are swimming towards the wall, they submerge under water and then once they are back out again they see the wall and grab it. I know it sounds intense but trust me it works.

The way they are taught to submerse and go under water is so great. In every class you do some ‘Ready? Go!’, which basically means you say that to them and place a handful of water over their head and face in separate goes. They learn to close their eyes each time you say that because they know what’s going to happen. So each time we practise a submersion, I say ‘Ready? Go!’ and she closes her eyes ready to go under water. And oh my gosh it just makes me smile from ear to ear because it makes me so proud of how much she’s grown.

Each class in 30m long, which is enough time for the little one to learn and be active enough. I have seen such a development with her in only four months already and I am so glad we decided to continue into level 2. She will finish level 2 by mid-July, which is perfect timing for us because we will be going back home to Lisbon for the summer, where there will be lots of swimming by the pool and at the beach.

•Paid Classes

Baby Yoga:

I have never practised much yoga at all prior to becoming a mum and wasn’t really sure if I was going to enjoy it much or not.

I booked a six-week session at Yogabellies Richmond and started end of January.

Triona, the instructor was fantastic and always starts the class by telling everyone to feel completely at ease. If your baby starts crying for a feed, that it’s fine to feed them in class or to go change their nappy if needed. It’s the best way, I felt, to make mums feel comfortable in a class and not like there were any rules to stick by.

There is a huge play mat in the middle of the class for any active babies to spend their time playing on.

After my first class, I was like oh my god yoga is tough! I didn’t remember how much it did to your body, especially if you’re as unfit as I am. It really is both a great workout and relaxation activity for mums. The class is 45m long and the first half is mainly activities you do by yourself whilst baby lays in front of you. In the second half a lot of the positions are incorporated with baby. MJ was hilarious because she would spend most her time tummy time just staring at everyone and then would either laugh or cry when I’d hold her to be part of my yoga position. There were also activities where you would sing songs to the baby whilst they did their own yoga moves too and that was great. But that’s the fun of it, not only are you doing something for yourself but you get to have fun with your baby too. The last three classes, MJ was already crawling and preferred to spend her time on the play mat which I genuinely didn’t mind as I got o focus properly on my yoga time.

There are also classes arranged for Daddys to do baby yoga. I’m still trying to convince João to go to one.

•Paid Classes

Grovaroo:

Ok so I absolutely love to dance. I mean who doesn’t? MJ and I start our mornings by having breakfast listening to music and I dance around in between each spoon I give her. She loves it and dances in her chair by kicking her legs and smiles at me with so much excitement. I’m sure many of you have seen that video of dads in the America dancing with their babies in carriers. I never even thought that was a thing of having actual dancing classes like that, so once I’d seen that video I knew I needed to see if there was anything like that in London. I found about three or four companies I think that had these classes but they were all far from me, until I luckily found Groovaroo in London.

Veronika (who is AMAZING) holds classes in Mortlake, Hammersmith and Wimbledon. I bought a six-week block of classes, which what I love most about is they are flexible, meaning you don’t have to commit to six weeks in a row. You go whenever you can, which is great for us mummas!

Classes are an hour long, and you learn two different dance routines. The class starts with Veronika helping to make sure your baby is snug in the carrier (she always has spare carriers if the one you have doesn’t work well for the class). We then warm up and then beginning learning our first routine. We have regular water breaks because trust me, dancing alone is already a tiring sport, but dancing with a baby on you make you even hotter and in the need for more water. By the end of two routines, you cool down and this is when my little MJ always falls asleep. When I get her off me, I can see she has given me a sweat patch on my belly from the heat created between whilst I dance, but I can luckily place her in the pram and go and enjoy a coffee after class.

•Paid Classes

Rhythm and Rhyme:

We have only started going about a month ago to rhythm and rhyme classes at my local children’s centre. Once a week we head off to enjoy a class of singing and playing. The teacher is lovely and sings all nursery rhymes using props and goes around the class showing the babies what he has. There are also songs where baby participates too like row, row, row your boat. MJ is so funny and spends the singing part of the class to me whilst I sing to her and she just stares and me and the teacher in awe. When playtime begins and the teacher gets the box of toys out, she’s one of the first to crawl over and start playing. What I have noticed to be her preference though is standing at the box and holding on with one hand, whilst the other one grabs toys and she just plays with them in the air.

My local children’s centre also holds Spanish singing classes once a month. We went to our first one last week, and it was actually quite fun. I know she doesn’t understand anything but it’s fun to keeps things diverse with our little ones.

•Free Classes

Baby Gym:

We haven’t started this yet but are already signed up. The local gymnastics school has a class for babies once a week for 45m. It is great value at only £25 for the term. A local mum had told me about it and my little brother actually used to go there when he was a toddler so I was gutted I hadn’t thought about it sooner. It is a great time for babies to be active and to develop their movement skills. I will share more about baby gym in a post on my Instagram feed once we go there, but I think it’s a great one to consider.

•Paid Classes

Bumps and Babies:

This is the local NCT Group that created a local mums get together at a coffee shop in Richmond every Wednesday morning. It is a great way to meet mums from the local area, where the conversation topic of babies never gets tiring.

•Free

We never did baby massage when MJ was younger, as I mentioned due to the fact we kept travelling. But I have heard so many great things about it and hope to attend those classes when I have my next baby.

Baby Sensory is also something we haven’t done yet. I want to find a local one that has free classes. My maternity payments have now ended so I’m looking for fun and free things to do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed knowing about what I get up to with my little fig around the Richmond area. Check out our week below and my top tips.

Our week at the moment looks like this:

Monday: Day off with Daddy

Tuesday: Grovaroo 0930-1030, Baby Gym 1145-1230

Wednesday: Bumps & Babies 0930-1130, Swimming 1600-1630

Thursday: Rhythm and Rhyme 0930-1015

Friday: Free Day

Saturday: Free Day

Sunday: Day off with Daddy

Top Tip:

-Download HOOP, it’s a great app that tells you about all baby related activities within your area.

-Download MUSH and PEANUT, both apps to meet mums within your local area.

-Try and find your local mums group on facebook.

-Keep yourself active and out of the house with baby at least three times a week. It leaves the other days free for you to do whatever you want.

Sunday Sound Out – Round 1

I started Sunday Sound Out as a way for us insta mummas to help each other out with questions on topics we have probably all asked ourselves before. It’s a great way to see what other mummas are doing if we maybe feel a bit helpless and clueless on something.

Being a first time mum is tough, but I really feel that the strong community of mummas on instagram is a great way to boost our confidence and help us feel like we are not alone on this adventure and that we are all pretty much going through the same.

Below you can find the weekly topics with the questions I have asked in this first month of Sunday Sound Out and the poll results from each one. I will also share with you my personal response to each one.

If you have any topics that you would like me to ask questions on just comment below or DM me on instagram.

Month 1

Week 1 – Sleeping

1-MJ normally is breastfed to sleep. But it really does vary. If we are out, she can easily fall asleep in her pram and normally at her set nap times which works well because I plan things around that. When we are at home her morning nap has recently been her falling asleep on me without having to feed her whilst her afternoon naps are still me feeding her.

2-MJ used to nap around 30m at a time when she was a bit younger. Depending on what time she wakes up is how I can tell how long her naps will be. If she has woken up earlier than usual she will nap for at least one hour each nap sometimes. But if she has woken up later than usual, than her naps will last between 30-45 minutes.

3-Again this varies if she has decided to have a lie in or not. On days she has woken up a bit later she has two naps a day. One mid-morning and one mid afternoon. If she has woken up early than she will have three naps, one mid morning, one after lunch and one late afternoon.

4-If I am able to place her in her crib whilst sleeping then I tend to do housework or if she has fallen asleep whilst we’ve been playing in the living room floor then I do so too. If she has fallen asleep on the sofa then I stay with her and enjoy the snuggling.

Week 2 – Routine

1-I don’t have a set day time routine for her so to say. If we have activities on set days then I work around those timings. But we will usually start the day with breakfast, play, nap. Then play, lunch, play, nap.

2-Our bedtime routine is bath, dinner, play, bedtime. Her evening routine begins as soon as the hubby is home. He likes to have his quality time with her first so he will normally bathe her whilst I’m preparing her dinner. Once she has had dinner she will play whilst we are having dinner and then she is ready for bed. It works really well for us because João gets to spend quality time with MJ and we get to have some time as a family every day too. We don’t like waiting until hubby is off for our us time. Once she’s asleep in bed we both stay up and catch up on whatever series we’re watching.

3-If a routine is disrupted she normally adapts well unless it’s the evening routine. I’ve only been away from her on three occasions during the evening and only one of those times was she asleep when I got home. The other times she stayed awake until she would see me back home and it was 11pm both times, so imagine how tired my bubba was.

4-At the moment as the hubby bathes and gives her dinner (some nights) I put her to sleep alone. She seems to be currently going through a major ‘I just want my mummy’ phase, so even if she wakes up during the night she will only let me settle her back to sleep, where before she would easily fall back asleep in daddy’s arms. Think this is mainly due to teething.

Week 3 – Weaning

1-I started weaning MJ when she was about 4.5 months old. Our pediatrician back home gave us the get go and said she was ready to begin blw. She actually surprised us, as she adapted really well even being so little.

2-I mainly prepare all her food. I tend to batch cook on a Monday and freeze it all then I have her meals set for the week. I do however always have a pouch of Ell’s Kitchen in my cupboard just in case I forgot to defrost a meal or if I’m heading out and I’ll be out at her lunch time, it’s easier to have one of the pouches on me.

3-When I first began MJ’s weaning journey I followed the guideline our pediatrician gave us. I then found a few recipes from different websites and just created my own menu calendar.

4-I introduced finger foods just before she turned seven months old. I was always worried because she has always choked since she was a little bubba, even if she’d be crying. So I was quite scared to be honest of introducing finger foods. I first began with bread which she absolutely loved and slowly began introducing more different options to her. There is a lot more playing with food than eating it, but I am always next to her whilst she’s eating to make sure she’s ok and doesn’t chunk a large bit in to her mouth now that she’s got her two bottom teeth.

Week 4 – Nappies

1-I use disposable nappies because they are just so much easier right?! I have got a bag of re-usable nappies that my mum got for me that I could use, but I’m just trying to mentalize into thinking that I will need to find the time to wash them and I just feel like I would never have time for that. Truth is, I would save money and it is more environmentally friendly.

2-Since MJ was born I use only water at home and wipes when out. She has very very sensitive skin and I noticed that even when we decided to use wipes at home as a trial, the constant use of them didn’t react well to her skin.

3-Now that MJ is moving non stop, pull up nappies are an absolute life saver. I also opted to use pull up nappies since she began using size four, as the taped nappies were beginning to cause her a skin allergy right where the tape crosses on her hips.

4-I am hoping to begin potty training this summer with her, so as she is turning one. I think the summer time is the best time to have my little one running around butt naked. My mum had us all potty trained by the age of one. So I am hoping to get MJ confident by then too. Fingers crossed it will go well 🤞🏼

I hope you have enjoyed the first month of Sunday Sound Out. Keep a look out on my insta stories every Sunday!

My Breastfeeding Journey

It has been over seven months of breastfeeding my little fig and I couldn’t be prouder. In this post I have divided my breastfeeding journey into topics and explain my experience since before little MJ was even born.

Breastfeeding Classes?

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I remember during my ante natal classes how there was an entire class dedicated to breastfeeding and I thought how bizarre. Do we really need a class on how to breastfeed? It had never crossed my mind that this is something we would need help with. In that class we were asked to place the baby in the position we thought was best to breastfeed them in. And guess what? We all got it wrong. We were all shocked that we had got it wrong. The first thought that came into my mind was: oh my gosh I’m not going to now how to feed my baby, how can I be such a bad mother already when my baby is still inside me? All these terrible thoughts kept running through my mind. I kept thinking how I wouldn’t know what to do and how I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream of breastfeeding my child.

Labour Day:

When a midwife came in to help me breastfeed as soon as MJ was born, I had tears in my eyes because she wasn’t latching on. I was thankful enough that it was just a momentary thing and she did then seem to latch on quite well. But those thoughts I had at the time of the ante natal class seem to have popped up in my head again and I instantly thought I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her. When she did first latch on, I remember looking at João with my eyes wide open like oh my gosh this is such a strange feeling, but god it’s such a good strange. We then went to our room where I called the midwife twice during the night so that she could make sure I was breastfeeding correctly. I was so adamant on doing it properly and confidently that I only left the hospital on the Saturday when MJ was born on Thursday night. I wanted all the extra guidance and advice I could get to make sure I wouldn’t be under feeding my baby. During my time in hospital, I had to feed her on two different occasions through syringes as she wasn’t latching on well again. I took about 10 syringes back home with me in case she would stop latching again and then I’d panic as to how I’d be able to feed her.

Cracked:

My first week breastfeeding was tough. My nipples were cracked and my left nipple was not only cracked but also bleeding which led to creating scabs. It was painful. My mum tried to make me feel better and would joke around and say that it was revenge, because I had done the same to her. Straight after I had been born, I was checked if I had teeth because I’d made my mum bleed from her nipples straight away. The feeling on my left breast was so painful that I had to express from it for a few days instead of feeding because I couldn’t handle her latching on. I then bought nipple shields and I cannot thank the person who created these enough. Oh my gosh it was a god send to be able to still breastfeed my daughter and have the painful aspect of it nearly entirely gone. I remember commenting with a friend of mine that I would hope to breastfeed her until she is at least one year old and that I would always use nipple shields and no one could stop me from doing so. The health visitor had said that I would need to use them for about a week and then go without them again. I ended up using them for two weeks only and slowly got her back on the nipple without causing me so much pain.

Mastitis:

As I mentioned in a previous blog post it really is quite a horrible thing to go through. What you read on google is true. My breasts were extremely engorged which led to me feel very cold and shiverish. I had to ask João to cover me with blankets even though it was about 26 degrees because I was just so cold. It also led to getting a fever and having all of this at the same time was just too stressful to deal with. I didn’t have a breast pump yet and begged João to run out and buy one. It was something I had on my to buy list but didn’t want to get it until I knew I would be able to breastfeed. He rushed out to get one and as soon as he was back I sterilised it and pumped out as much milk as possible. I had also taken a paracetamol to help with the fever and placed warm cloths over my breasts because they were so sore. I didn’t think I would ever get it as I was breastfeeding on a regular basis, but it can still happen ladies.

Logbook:

Because MJ was a very small baby (born at 2.6kg) I really wanted to make sure she was gaining weight well and that she wouldn’t ever be under fed. I bought a baby log book, where I logged everytime she would feed for four months. Yes it does sound crazy, but it gave me my own peace of mind. I could see days where she would’ve fed more or less and know when I would then need to feed her more to compensate for a day where she fed less. The truth is she is a small baby but jumped a percentile in her weight within two months and has been gaining weight well ever since. I stopped logging at four months as I was confident she was doing well.

Social Pressure:

There is such a social pressure to breastfeed, but it’s not something I have necessarily felt affected by in terms of the demand of having to breastfeed. What I feel most affected by and I have seen other mothers talk about it too is the way mothers who do breastfeed are made to feel ‘bad’ for doing so. It’s a strange feeling to describe. I am made to feel bad because I can whip out my breast whenever I need to, to feed or comfort my baby. I’m made to feel bad if I need to feed my baby in public whether it be on the tube, bus, a coffee shop or even a restaurant. I have never been ashamed of publicly breastfeeding nor have I ever felt intimidated by a look anybody gives me whilst doing so. My baby is hungry so I feed her. I have never let it stop me, ever, but it doesn’t mean that deep down I don’t feel ‘bad’ about it. If I was bottle feeding, I wouldn’t be receiving those looks from anybody. How can doing something that is part of mother nature, be natural to the human body affect people that I don’t even know. I never have my breast fully exposed unless in a comfortable environment that permits it (when in baby classes). And I still wonder, why am I made to feel bad for doing something that I love to do and that is natural to the human body?

Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful experiences during motherhood and I ache for those mothers that are unable to do so. I have never questioned a mother that does not breastfeed as I believe it to be a sensitive topic and a personal experience and choice for each mother. We never know what a mother has been through, therefore, unless she wishes to open up to you then that’s ok but we should never ever judge.

But I shouldn’t be made to feel bad for something that I can and wish to provide my daughter with. It has been seven months of breastfeeding and she still wants and needs my milk and my comfort like never before. Yes, it is tiring but since when has becoming a mother ever not tiring, whether you breast or bottle feed. I hope I can continue to breastfeed her until she is a year old and all I want to say to end this post is FED IS BEST.

Air Baby

Ahh the horror of having to prepare for your first ever flight with your little baby. I was genuinely scared of flying with my little fig. She was only five weeks when she flew for the first time and was just so small and fragile, I really didn’t know how it would go.

My first flight journey:

The first thing I had to do was sort out Maria João’s passport. We had already taken her passport photo and had collected the passport forms from the post office. Now this application process turned out to be a lot more complicated than expected. Not because it is a complicated situation in itself, but because when I called the passport helpline I received four different types of information when inquiring about what paperwork is needed. The reasoning behind my questions is because when only one parent is British, there seems to be more paperwork needed. I ended up booking an appointment for fast-track one week service. I wanted to get the passport as soon as possible, so that we could book our tickets to go home to Lisbon. One vital thing needed to have a complete form, is to ensure I had a countersignatory, someone that can identify MJ’s identity. I had a close family friend who is a civil servant, countersign the form. So I took MJ’s birth certificate, our passports and the forms to the appointment. Once that was all handed in, I received her passport in less than a week, which was great for us. On a little side note; my little fig looks nothing like her passport photo and she has to have until she is five years old, poor girl!

So the flights were now booked and I now needed to begin to pack for a five week old baby, going on a two week holiday back home. We went to Lisbon at the end of September, but the weather was still around 30 degrees.

I began a checklist of what was needed and had the following on there:

-Pram, carrycot, car seat

-Carrycot+Car seat net and rain cover

-Car seat sun/wind cover

-Pram Gate Check Bag x1

-Carseat Gate Check Bag x1

-Carrycot sheets x2

-Breast Pump

-Nipple Shields x3

-Sun Cream for baby

-Sling

-Blankets x3 (x2 thin, 1x thick)

-Muslins x10

-Hats x3

-Dresses/Rompers x5

-Short Sleeve Body x12

-Long Sleeve Body x12

-Tops x4

-Leggings x6

-Tights x2

-Socks x7

-Babygrow x6

-Hairbands x4

-Dribble Bibs x4

-Changing Bag: pack of nappy bags x1, nappy creams x2, nail cutter x1, nail file x1, changing mat x1, wipes x2, Aloe Vera body cream x1

-Red Book!

-Toys x3

In my changing bag for the plane, I pretty much had what I would usually have on a regular day out. With the most important being to have two sets out clothes, as I was sure we would need it.

I felt quite well prepared for our first flight with her. Our flight to Lisbon was the first TAP flight leaving Heathrow at 630am. I purposely booked an early flight to avoid all the afternoon/evening madness you get in airports, especially at Heathrow. We had to wake up super early and it killed me having to wake her up from her sleep, but luckily she didn’t make too much of a fuss. Booking an early morning flight with a newborn baby was the best thing I did. We got to the airport around 4 am and it was pretty much empty, which was exactly what I wanted. We had one suitcase each, and all of Maria João’s clothes were in a trolley bag that would stay with me on the plane along with the changing bag. I checked in her car seat and took the carrycot pram to the gate with me. I had wrapped the car seat up in a lot of bubble wrap and placed it in the car seat gate check bag that I had bought.

We checked in our bags and headed to security, where there was no queue! Yes, no queue! Can you believe it? I was so happy that I was able to slide through security without having to be hot, sweaty and stressed out whilst holding a newborn in my arms. All the security staff made such a fuss over MJ and were very sweet and helpful. I got my jacket, shoes, changing bag etc all on to the belt and then had to get my little fig out of the pram. We grabbed some breakfast and headed over to the gate. At the gate I had to place the carry cot and pram folded into the gate check bag. I bought these because I didn’t want the pram to get wet, when on it’s way to the plane and also didn’t want the pram having contact with a dirty luggage room on the plane or people’s hands on it. It may sound extreme, but when it comes to germs and my baby, I am extreme. Whilst I was folding the pram away, I had asked João to change MJ’s nappy before the flight. I suddenly heard my name being called, and it was João shouting across the gate area and pointing to our little baby. I ran over to him scared and worried as to what had happened to her. And all it was, was that she had vomit quite a bit all over herself and him in that precise moment. Why do dad’s freak out when something like this happens? I had run over to him with the changing bag in my hand and took her back to the changing room for her first outfit change of the day. We were the first to board and were happy when we saw that once the entire flight was on board, there was no one sitting next to us. The air hostess came up to us, gave us her little belt and explained everything in detail in regards to safety with our baby. I then asked if we could later take a photo in the cockpit as a memory of her first flight and also get a first flight certificate from the airline. My mum was the one that had told me about this and had got a certificate for all of us five children on our first flights. Unfortunately, TAP don’t do that anymore, but they were very sweet and got one of their welcome cards that they use for their elite members signed by the entire crew, with the flight details on it too, so that was a very sweet touch. I breast fed Maria João during take off and can you believe that she slept the entire flight. We were so so proud of our little fig. We had no idea what to expect, so she really exceeded any expectations we had. I breastfed her again during landing and she continued well rested. João was embarrassed to go in the cockpit with me because he thought I was being too cheeky, but of course later regretted it when he realised what a great keepsake the photo is! She seems quite grumpy in the photo, which she was because she had just woken up. But despite that it’s a memory to keep forever.

Our return flight was also very smooth, and she slept through the entire journey again. Although we did do two things differently. Whilst in Portugal we went to see a pediatrician and he had told us to do the following. Because the air conditioning in aeroplanes is so strong, even if you have your mini one turned off, it really affects the babies breathing by causing a blocked nose, and can also lead to a cold. And this is exactly what happened to Maria João. Even though she was wrapped up well, after the flight she unfortunately had a blocked nose for a while. So he prescribed us to buy Neo-Sinefrina. These are nasal drops specifically for babies. He told us to give this to her 10m before take off. It helps with the breathing and avoids getting a blocked nose and I felt it really did work wonders. A similar equivalent to this in the UK, would be to use sterile saline solution. Calpol and snuffle babes also have nasal drops. We also did not send off the car seat at check in and took it with us to the gate. Instead, we sent off the carrycot all bubble wrapped up, just like we had done with the carseat initially. When we landed in Lisbon and my cousin picked me up, we took forever trying to rip off the bubble wrap without any scissors, to be able to place her in it. We go to and from the airport by car, so it made sense to have the car seat with us instead of the carrycot. I also placed my baby wrap sling in my changing bag to be able to place her in it once we would land as due to where the plane sometimes parks, you are left unable to get the pram straight and only at oversized luggage. It was so much better having the sling then having to carry her for an over twenty minute walk from the plane to luggage collection.

At a month a half old, my little fig had been on two flights and was an absolute heroin in both of them. Despite it all having gone very smoothly, I did want to hold off flying until Christmas time. But being away from João’s parents was hard. They, of course, really missed her and wanted to be with her at every opportunity they could. João had a week off in November, where we had planned to stay in London but they offered to pay for our flights and spend the week with them, especially as it was my mother-in-law’s birthday during that period too. I wasn’t inclined to go at all, due to MJ still being so small and the hassle of packing/unpacking which is pretty exhausting! But of course we ended up going in the end. And then again at Christmas time. So by four months old she had been on six flights already. Do I regret it? Yes and no. Yes, because I feel she was very small to be constantly taking in the stuffiness of a plane so often and the horrid air conditioning. But also no because I believe she has gotten use to it very well, she got to be with both of our families and the truth is, it’s only a two hour flight and Portugal is in the same time zone as the UK, so it’s not like she would necessarily be affected with jet lag.

I made to sure to hold off a few months before we would travel again and I’m glad I did. It was good to have a plane rest both for me and for her. We recently flew to Lisbon just a few days ago and she was awake the entire flight. It had happened in the last two where she would sleep about half of the flight and the other half she would be awake. So it was definitely a fun experience having a near to seven month old fully awake and energetic for an entire flight. What was great was that she breast fed during take off and landing. She ate all of her dinner, whilst I sat her up on the pull out tray. And she made friends with most of the people sitting around us by playing funny games with them and just smiling her gorgeous smile to everyone.

Our first flight was with TAP and then all others since have been with British Airways. They have a great keepsake that I believe all airlines should have. It’s called the Sky Flyers Logbook. It’s a little booklet where you placed your little one’s details and then there a few pages where each flight that your baby has with BA, the captain will sign it off with all the details of the date, flight number, plane model, air miles and their own signature too! It really is a great memory to have and when they reach a certain number of miles they get a sticker to fill up their booklet. We were given this on our first BA flight, so I get them to fill it out each time.

I have been fortunate enough to have had either João or my mother with me when flying with Maria João. On my return to London in a few days, it will be my first flight alone with her so wish me luck!

Check out the following tips to help you when travelling with a baby!

Top Tip:

-Breastfeed during lift off and landing to avoid ears from popping

-Nasal drops to avoid baby getting a blocked nose

-Change your little one’s nappy before getting on the plane

-At least two sets of clothes for any incidents for short haul and I would suggest four sets for long haul

-Take a hat for your little one to wear on the plane to avoid getting sick, due to the strong air conditioning

-More nappies than you would usually have in your nappy bag

-Toys to entertain

-Ask for mileage baby book

First Week as a First Time Mumma

Oh my gosh what a week!!! Not only has my life given me the 180 turn for the better, but so many things happened in the space of just 7 days that it was so much to take in. Nobody can prepare you for such a radical yet positive change. One of my reoccuring first thoughts was that you find yourself thinking how did you ever live your life without your little one.

So as I’d mentioned in my previous post, we were in hospital until Saturday lunch time and were then given the ok to go home. It was so strange now being outdoors with her already, when she was only a day and a half old. I felt like she needed to be protected from everything and everyone as she was just so fragile and tiny. João walked with her in the car seat from our room to the uber and I was walking slowly behind him. I just kept telling him to slow down and to be careful, to always look around but to also look at her. And funnily enough I still do this now 6 months on. I found myself with this instant need of protection over her. I know that for many mothers it is something that comes so naturally and I was lucky to also feel that. It was strange because at the same time it didn’t feel so much like a ‘new feeling’ it was like it was there already. I think being the eldest of five children probably has something to do with it, I’ve probably deep down always had that natural instinct. It was a very very hot day, and we got our uber driver to drive home through Richmond Park, so our little fig could get some cleanish fresh air on the ride home.

When we got home, everyone was too excited of course and wanted to hold her straight away. But I did need to ensure I had full control over everyone. Living with your parents and siblings can be quite overwhelming, especially in my family where as we are all so close, we tend to be very much involved in each other’s personal lives too. But luckily my parents and siblings didn’t overstep their mark too much and let us be new parents without imposing during Maria João’s first week.

We couldn’t believe this tiny human was the new addition to our family. Being the eldest of five and the fact that I babysat a lot of children during my teens made me quite comfortable around children and babies. But a newborn is on another level and it’s your child, your little one to love and look after. João, on the other hand, has never really had a lot of contact with children. So I was always quite scared in the beginning each time he would hold her and I’d make sure I was close to him to help him. To my surprise that feeling and need to always be coaching him disappeared quite quickly. He seemed to be a natural with our daughter. He was so careful each time he would pick her up and thankfully took his nappy duty very seriously. The thing he loved most was having her fall asleep on his chest. He would lay on the bed, and she would mold into his chest perfectly and dose off to sleep. He always says how much he misses those days because it is impossible to keep her still when on his chest six months on.

Everyone always says that mummy should nap when baby is napping and I really tried to do that but I also wanted to be awake and interacting with people and not solely become this robot that worked on a timer every three hours. But after a few days I realised how important it really was to nap when baby is napping, especially taking the opportunity that you have others around to help you with anything if needed.

My body had shown itself already that it had gone into a major shut down after giving birth. On the day I left the hospital I had a serious level of cold sores from my nose to my top lip. I had never had it this bad before. It was so sore and made me feel really shitty about myself. The worst thing about it is that I couldn’t kiss my newborn baby for a week! Can you imagine that?! Having something so precious that is with you 24/7 and the only affection I could show her was with warm snuggles with my face turned the other way. It killed me not being able to rub my nose on her pretty face and smooch her with kisses. I avoided at all costs even having photos taken of me where you could see my full face because it just made me feel like crap. So yeah, everyone has great photos with my little one in her first week and I pretty much have a few where it’s just half of my face and I’m looking the other way.

The midwife came to see us when she was three days old, to weigh her and do the heel prick test. It was her first needle interaction where I would be holding her as when she got the vitamin K in hospital she wasn’t in my arms for that. Nobody tells you how hard it is to see your baby getting a needle put in them even though in this case it’s just a tiny prick. Maria João didn’t make a sound, but I had full on tears dripping down my face. I was so scared for her and then when I saw that she didn’t even react to it, I was so proud of her, which made me cry even more.

I had experienced something I was dreading not to during motherhood and whilst breastfeeding. Mastitis. It really is quite a horrible thing to go through. What you read on google is true. My breasts were extremely engorged which led to me feel very cold and shiverish. I had to ask João to cover me with blankets even though it was about 26 degrees because I was just so cold. It also led to getting a fever and having all of this at the same time was just too stressful to deal with. I didn’t have a breast pump yet and begged João to run out and buy one. It was something I had on my to buy list but didn’t want to get it until I knew I would be able to breastfeed. He rushed out to get one and as soon as he was back I sterilised it and pumped out as much milk as possible. I had also taken a paracetamol to help with the fever and placed warm cloths over my breasts because they were so sore. I didn’t think I would ever get it as I was breastfeeding on a regular basis, but it can still happen ladies.

Our first walk with our little fig was when she was five days old. We went into Richmond to take her passport photo, which is hilarious because she has her eyes closed and her face pulled back so all you see is a sleeping baby with all her chins on show. We then went for lunch at a pub, and it was so exciting to have her out and about with us. We took it slowly and were not out the house for too long and the pub was also quite empty as it was a weekday. I breastfed her at the pub, which was my first time feeding in public, but I will go into more detail of that in another post.

We felt like everything was going well. She was sleeping every 3 hours, pooping on the clock and when she was awake she would never really cry. My mum kept saying how lucky we were to have a such a peaceful baby. But of course we all spoke too soon. Within her first week we had experienced our first sleepless night where she would just not sleep and was crying non-stop. We didn’t know what to do anymore, I had fed her, we had both cradled her, sang to her, had white noise playing but nothing was working. My dad was still awake and asked if he could help. He took her into the living room and sang to her while he cradled her. After about 30m he placed her in her bassinet and she was sound asleep. We were trying so hard not to burst out laughing as my dad placed her in because we were exhausted and then just scared she would wake up again. And unfortunately it didn’t last long, she was awake again about 40m later. We soon realised that this is really what life as new parents is like.

Maria João’s umbilical cord stump fell off when she was six days old. It was quite scary when it happened because I first thought it was too soon to happen and then got worried as it was quite gooey and wondered if it was normal. I called the midwife either way and after describing it they said it sounded like it looked normal. Cleaning that part is so difficult! Making sure it doesn’t get infected was another new experience of having a newborn.

We gave our baby girl her first bath when she was exactly one week old. It started off great with her peeing all over João. We were so careful and split the bathing between the two of us so that we could both experience it. We had my mum filming and taking photos of her first bath so yes it was pretty hectic but thankfully went well. She seemed to enjoy the water quite a bit.

One thing that happens when you have a newborn apart from the overwhelming texts and phone calls are, of course, the visits from your friends and family. We really wanted to limit the number of people visiting our newborn baby especially in her first week. We already lived with so many people, and a newborn is just so fragile that we didn’t want her being exposed too much. So we told only our four best friends to come and they came on two separate dates which worked out well. It was so nice to see and be with other people. It was lovely to see those who are closest to you happy to be holding your baby in their arms. They also spoilt her too much with too many gifts! One thing I always made everyone and still do to this day is wash their hands very well before holding my baby. No germs please, thank you!

I couldn’t let my cold sore, or my new routine of lack of sleep get to me as we were moving into our new flat on the 1st of September. I was so grateful that João was at home with us for 10 days. It may not have been a lot, but it felt like the best 10 days ever. Having him with me to experience this together really meant a lot to me. So it definitely made it hard when he went back to work.

So anyway moving day came about and I was so happy with our new place. It is modern and has amazing natural lighting, and I just couldn’t wait to begin living our new life in our own home. But of course it was all too good to be true. Our new flat was actually not ready and to add to it the lift was not working either; our flat is on the fourth floor. So I really was quite upset that we were not able to move in straight away and had to wait two extra days. When we eventually did move in, my amazing brother and sister helped João take everything up eight flights of stairs. I was worried that Maria João would notice the different ambience and not settle well in her new surroundings, but luckily she did.

Our new life as a family of three in our new home had officially begun and I couldn’t have been happier.

Top Tip:

Sleep when baby is sleeping! Even if it’s just every three hours, you will feel a lot better.

To avoid mastitis make sure to rest as much as you can and drink lots of water.

If you have family or friends that live with you or near you, use them! Getting help whilst you adjust to your new life is something to take advantage of. I personally am extremely grateful to have had my family there in that first week so I didn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning. Of course I was back on all duties as soon as I moved into my own place but if you can get help don’t say no!

Keep visitors to a limit and only have over who you really don’t mind ‘intruding’ into your new life.

My Birth Story

I am sure my birth story will add to the collection of birth stories you have all read. But one thing I know, is that no story is the same. We may compare notes but no child birth experience will be identical and that’s what makes each one unique and incredible. So here is my birth story (you may find some details a bit gory, so I apologise before hand, but I wanted to share my true experience and as most of us know, labour isn’t a simple squeeky clean process).

Due to the kidney stones I had when I was around 28 weeks pregnant, it led me to have a continuous urine infection until the end of my pregnancy. So on the Friday 18th of August 2017, I was admitted once again into hospital due to the infection that had still not gone after two rounds of antibiotics.

I couldn’t believe that my last week of pregnancy was being spent in hospital. I made me quite upset because it was my last week to pack everything up before the baby would come as we were moving into our new flat on September 1st. João was working all week so he didn’t have time to pack and with me in hospital he would come and spend his evenings with me after work. I was placed in the ante natal ward which I was starting to get too familiar with. I was in the hospital until Wednesday 23rd and had shared a room with three different women in the space of six days, all of whom had arrived in labour and left with their babies. I felt like Rachel in Friends when she’s in labour and all these women go in and out her room and have babies and she’s there still with no baby. I know I wasn’t in labour but I felt like I could still relate. Nearly a week of hospital food really gets to you. I thankfully had my family who went and took snacks for me on a daily basis to fill my pregnancy hunger. Every day I would get an update from my doctor where he would advise me if it was time to go home yet or not. And every day he would say I would need to stay in due to the bacteria in my urine and it being so close to due date.

On my last night in hospital around 3am, I woke up to pee and saw my knickers had a yellow sticky mucus so I cleaned it and called the midwife to show her asking her if it was the show already. I had previously read that the show is normally a bloody streak but it can sometimes also be clear. The midwife said it was not the show and probably just discharge due to the urine infection. I found this odd as I didn’t have any discharge throughout the urine infection, so how could I have it now when I’m on IV drip getting my antibiotic? I couldn’t let it go as all I kept thinking about was; what if I go into labour now? I know I’m close to my due date, but am I really ready? I told João about it and he told me not to stress out and that the midwife knew what she was talking about and that I should just rest. So the next day I was finally given the all clear and I told the lady in the room with me that I was finally going home but had a feeling I would be back in tomorrow to have the baby. ‘No, I’m sure your baby will come when it’s due so you still have a few days to rest.’ I was finally discharged and couldn’t wait to get home.

I had asked João to take the Thursday off so that we could use the day to pack as we had little time to do so and I also wanted to spend time with him. João suggested we go out for dinner as I’d had hospital food for a week and I deserved a proper meal. I couldn’t agree more and was craving chinese food. So we walked to our local chinese as it was a nice summer night. I was in full on waddle mode and a walk that takes about five minutes took me nearly fifteen. I kept saying that I could feel the baby was super heavy and wouldn’t stop kicking. When sitting down at dinner, I couldn’t even have my belly touch the table as the kicks were so strong. These kicks were different to fig’s usual movement. Dinner was lovely and we slowly walked back home. I was sitting down watching tv around 11pm and had my hands holding my bump from below as it just felt so heavy. I was even pulling funny faces but didn’t think these were the beginning of contractions, I was just uncomfortable.

Around midnight we went to bed. I’m laying there in my own bed after nearly a week and instead of feeling comfortable I couldn’t have been further from that. I was laying there on my left, with my eyes wide open and couldn’t fall asleep at all. I needed to pee. So I get up to go and pee and went up to the first floor. (I was staying at my parents house in their spare room till our place was ready). I got up the stairs, peed, came back down and was up there again about 30m later. This went on repeatedly until about 2am. I just couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stop thinking if these were contractions. They say you know when you are in labour because well you just know as the pain is very different. And although I was in pain, I couldn’t identify the pain as contractions. I didn’t wake anybody up as I didn’t want to worry anyone. It got to a point where I was tired of going up and down the stairs from every 30m to 15m, so I just stayed in the toilet. I then realised that I was in fact in early labour but still didn’t have the courage to wake anyone up. From 5am I started noting down how long each contraction would last. They were coming about every 6 minutes and lasting an average of 40 seconds. At around 7am my mum came to see if I was ok and I told her I thought I was in early labour. She got too excited and was like oh my gosh, are you counting, how you feeling, have you told João and I hadn’t yet as he was still sleeping. I went down and woke João up and told him I was in labour. He was like ok and I was surprised with his calm reaction as he’s in general quite a nervous person. His boss’ wife had recently had a baby and she was in labour for a week so he didn’t think it was ‘anything to be too concerned about’. My contractions began to intensify and I remember the midwife in the ante natal class saying that if you are less than 5cm and go to hospital they will tell you to go back home and only return once they really intensify. So I knew I was potentially still going to be home for a while. But either way I got my mum to call the ward. They asked how often the contractions were coming and they said it was still too early to come in. So I did what they said and took a paracetamol and had a warm bath to help with the pain. They told me to use the tens machine only after being in the bath and only if I found that the pain had worsened. By this point João was in full taking notes mode and was tracking all my contractions. He had the timer open on the phone and I would tell him when they would begin and end and if they were really strong as per my facial reaction he decided to put an exlamation mark next to it. My sister got home just after lunch and we hadn’t told her anything yet as she was at work in the morning. She walked in and my mum told her I was in labour, which she didn’t believe until she saw me in the bath. She said she couldn’t even be in there for long because I was moaning quite loud with the pain I was in and she couldn’t handle it. As soon as I got out the bath I got João to stick the tens machine on me. And oh my gosh was that thing a god send. I am so thankful that these exist and can genuinely say I found it to be a life saver. It says to only use the maximum level when the pain is really strong but I was already on high level before reaching the hospital. We called the ward again and told them how often the contractions now were and they said I was ready to come in. I couldn’t believe I was going to be on my way to the hospital to have my baby. I was so happy João had taken the day off as he was by my side the entire time. I called an uber and João, my sister and I would be the ones to go to the hospital first and everyone else would follow. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet but I had always said that João would be my birthing partner along with my Uncle Nuno. He had arrived to London that morning from Madrid and had booked an Air bnb right next to Kingston Hospital, so that he could be nearby the entire time. No one knew he was coming apart from me and João as it was a surprise to everyone. João had been texting him all morning keeping him updated and once we knew we were going to the hospital I made sure João had let him know to just meet us there. But then like in a movie scene as the uber is pulling out of the driveway my uncle is running down the road with his boyfriend waving for the car to stop. My sister sitting in the front starts screaming like ‘Oh my god, it’s Nuno!’ The uber driver was genuinely like who’s Nuno?? I told the driver to park up on the side to let them in and my sister stayed behind. She knocked on the front door frantically just so that my mum could see him. My mum rushed out and cried when she saw her baby brother. My family are all very close and live all over the place so we get very emosh when we see each other. They both got in the car and the driver was the sweetest thing and rushed us to the hospital. Each time a contraction came along he was telling me to breath and would ask if I wanted him to drive slower to help with the pain, but no, I just wanted to get there as fast as possible.

We got to the hospital around 6pm and the midwife said I was 5cm and ready to go to the delivery suite.

Although I didn’t feel ready, I mean it was happening but I don’t know if my body was ready for this. It’s like I felt I just needed a few more days to take this all in and then I’d be ready. But there was no stopping little fig. I went into the delivery suite and they connected baby to the monitor where they can see each time a contraction happens and the intensity of it. I informed the midwife straight away that I wanted try to give birth naturally and that I would like it to be in water. Whatever would happen I did not want any epidural. I am not at all against epidural, I simply have this paranoid fear that should I ever decide to take an epidural I would be in that very tiny percentage of women where something goes wrong. I mean you have to sign a waiver when you get one and I know it’s silly and probably wouldn’t happen but I am so afraid it can. Luckily I have met other people with the same fear, so I know I’m not alone on this one. So I said I only wanted to use gas and air. And oh the buzzing feeling it gives your body is perfect. I still had my tens machine on and was told I could have it on until I would get into water. It was a really hot day so I got all hot and sweaty pretty quickly. I asked the midwife what would be the latest stage to have pethadine and she told me that if it was with her she would let me take it at 9cm but with newer midwives they are taught not to give it so late so they would only give it to me around 7cm. I was a bit surprised with the answer especially because she had told me another midwife would be taking over as her shift was ending 30m after I’d arrived. I had my right hand holding the gas and air and my left hand hitting the bed in a fist shape each time I’d have a contraction. I kept asking when the pool would be ready but one was occupied and the other had only just become free so it would still take a while to clean up and get ready for me. I remember looking at João at one point and he was on his phone and once a contraction was over I took the gas and air out and told him to get off his phone. I also realised in that instance how deep my voice had gone and how I sounded like a demon speaking. At least it worked to get him off his phone even though I knew he was just updating everyone. But I then also knew not to talk straight after getting gas and air out of your mouth. My uncle eventually joined us. He is a reiki master so both his and João’s roles had been defined as soon as he walked in. My uncle would be there by my side to keep me calm and do reiki on me and João would be my support by getting me anything I needed and to also hold my other hand. Nuno had noticed how I kept banging my fist on the bed or grabbing the sheets so decided to hold my hand down so I wouldn’t keep banging away and to help me with my breathing. I just kept asking and asking when was the pool going to be ready as I needed to feel more relaxed. Eventually the good news came that it was ready and I was taken to the new suite in a wheelchair. I was in pain and found myself shouting in the middle corridor whilst being transferred. I felt horrible, because I was now one of those women that all the women in ante natal would hear and be scared of before they’ve even had a baby.

I got to the suite and took my clothes off, and got straight into the bath tub. It was great to go in although I had mentioned that I felt the water was a bit too hot. It seemed to work for the first five minutes. It was summer time and in general whether you were indoors or outdoors it was hot. So with the general climate heat, I then had four people in a room and a tub filled with hot water so I really felt the heat getting to me. I started to tear up and ask for cold water because I couldn’t take it. João got me cold water to drink and cold paper towels to place on my head. I felt like I was in a steam room. It got to a point where I went to the tap and turned on the cold water. I then placed my hand under the tap to spray myself with the water to feel more refreshed. And it was all just getting too much. I was losing my strength and energy and kept saying I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d lost the will to put up with the pain and asked for pethadine. But it was too late. ‘You can’t have pethadine now you are too far dilated’. Those were not the words I wanted to hear. It then got worse when I really felt like I needed to push. The midwife placed the mirror in the tub to see what was going on and asked me again if I was sure I needed to. I kept screaming ‘Yes, yes! I have to push it’s making push!’. And so I pushed and pushed and just pooped in the pool. Yes ladies it happens, it sucks but it’s true. I had always said I knew it would happen it to me and I was right. But at that point you really don’t care and you have no choice but to carry on. Just before this happened I kept saying I wanted to get out the pool because the temperature was too high for me and it was making me dizzy. So there was no hesitation to get me out quickly after I’d filled it up with poop. It made be a bit sad that I didn’t get to fulfill my birthing plan of a water birth, but heyho labour is like that, unexpected. João and Nuno both helped me out the pool and I felt like a puppet and they were my strings holding me up. I was so exhausted and just wanted the baby to come out already. I sat on the delivery chair with my legs wide opened. First thing the midwife did was break my waters as they hadn’t broken yet. As soon as I got on the chair, the pushing stage came about quite quickly. She explained to me how I had to push from my bum and I remember hearing that in the ante natal class and not understanding how that was possible, but then at that moment in time I knew exactly what she meant. When baby was crowning the midwife commented on how much hair baby had and if I wanted to feel it. I just thought the last thing I want to do right now is stroke my babies head, I kind of just want it out of me and I can’t even reach there anyway. She said with just three more pushes baby would be out. She had called the pediatrician ready for little fig’s arrival and the senior midwife too. Three pushes later and still no baby. The senior midwife said that I was going to have to have an episiotomy as baby could get stressed if not out soon. My face dropped as I really didn’t want that and Nuno saw my reaction. ‘Can we just try one more time?’ he asked. I know it’s the better option to have an episiotomy than tear naturally but oh gosh I was just scared I guess and didn’t want to be cut like that. ‘One more push otherwise it will have to happen’. I was exhausted but knew I was nearly there. João grabbed my hand, looked at me and gave me the strength for that final push ‘You can do this baby, it’s going to happen now’. And it did, with that one more push my baby came out of me. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around babies neck and baby was born with her hand on her cheeck so that’s why I was having a bit of difficulty getting fig out. They placed baby straight on me and João and Nuno were both crying their eyes out. As soon as I felt baby come out of me and placed on my chest, the crazy person I had been for the past few hours who was shouting at the top of her lungs had disappeared and I was me again, more me than I had ever felt with baby right there. They placed baby on me but didn’t tell me the sex straight away, I had to ask and lifted her up myself to check. I looked at her and just smiled with teary eyes. I am a very emotional person so suprised myself by not full on gushing out with tears but the exhaustion had really hit me. But I had my baby in my arms and I couldn’t care for anything else in the world. I had her so close to me and just couldn’t stop kissing her and hugging her softly. The midwife then said I still had to push for the placenta to come out and I actually laughed and was like ‘Do you actually think I have any energy at all to push some more after all the pushing I’ve done?’. We both laughed but I knew it had to be. After the placenta came out, it was time for baby to get all the attention and then I would later need to get stitched up. João cut the umbilical cord whilst she was still on me. As soon as they took her off me, I missed her already. Even though she was only a few steps away, I felt like I needed to be with her all the time. After being cleaned, weighed and measured João changed her first nappy and it was his first ever nappy changing in his life too. Nuno recorded it all and it’s pretty funny to be honest. She is placed back on my chest and we are having our moment of bonding. The stitching in the meanwhile begins. Half way through stitching I told the midwife she didn’t need to carry on and it was fine the way it was. My vagina was already sore as it is and the stitching wasn’t helping. The senior midwife said I had a second degree tear, so not too bad apparently and complimented my midwife on her great stitching skills, which I was very thankful for and of course let her finish the job.

A different midwife came in to show me how to breastfeed the baby as I wanted someone by my side to guide me to make sure I was doing it right. Little fig didn’t latch on on the first attempt but then she seemed to have got the swing of it.

My Uncle Nuno then left the room soon after and I had my parents and sister in the maternity reception hoping to meet little fig but unfortunately no visitors were allowed at that time and they would only meet her the day after. My other two brothers and sister were all away and were only to return back to London on her original due date.

I got up from the chair and I could feel my body was just so fragile. When I looked back at the chair, it seemed like I needed to place police tape around the area. There was so much blood that I couldn’t believe that it had all come from just me. I had a shower in the bathroom of the suite and João had his first alone time with baby. One thing that I really liked was that our baby never left our sight. She was never taken out of the room and was always kept near us. We were then transferred to our room around 3am. There was another bed in our room but luckily it was empty so we got to spend our first night as just us three. I called the midwife maybe twice during the night to help me with breastfeeding as it definitely is a lot harder than it seems. I decided to leave the hospital only on the Saturday as I really wanted to make sure I was feeding well and correctly before heading home, so wanted to use all the support I had access to. On the Friday morning I had to feed her through the small syringes they provide as she had decided to stop latching on. Luckily it only happened twice before both her and I felt comfortable with breastfeeding.

I was thankful to have had such a calm and lovely midwife to help me bring my baby to the world. I really admire their work. How they deal with crazy women like me shouting at them and they keep their serenity to me incredible. I found the service in general at Kingston Hospital in both ante and post natal wards to be very good and am glad I had my baby there.

I was also very lucky to have João and my Unlce Nuno with me during the entire adventure. João was such a rock for me during the that time. He slept with me both nights in the hospital and was a natural when holding our baby girl in his arms. It filled my heart with joy seeing them together.

I still couldn’t believe it. That I had become a mother. That I had made this tiny human being. That this beautiful girl was mine and João’s. All the pain and hours in labour seemed like it had happened a million years ago, like it was all a blur. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life and the one I had been most looking forward to. I was the happiest I could ever be.

Maria João was born at 23:11 on Thursday, 24th August 2017. She weighed 2.635kg and measured 47cm.