Friday, 18 April 2014

Glad påsk! (Happy Easter!)

Happy Easter or Glad påsk as they say in Sweden.

This lovely Easter card was handmade by my husband when he was a child!  It was so lovely to be able to show it to the boys as we were making ours.  It makes me think about what I should be keeping of their artwork? 
 You can read all about Swedish, French and English Easter traditions from some of my earlier posts.
This year the eggs contain special LEGO pieces that the boys love and some lactose free chocolate eggs.

I'm not planning on dressing up as an Easter witch this year - I still remember the look of terror on Henry's face when I did it last time....

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Amélie's quilt

When Freddy was born my sister in law in Sweden made him  beautiful patchwork quilt.  She then did the same for Henry which you can see here.

Well guess what?  Wr received one for Amélie in the post today!

One side has a lovely bird print.
Whilst the other has purple shade patches. 
Mind you, she doesn't get much of a chance to lie on it as Roly has commandeered it as he can smell Mia (his favourite person in the world) on it.
Thank you Mia!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Introducing Amélie!

Here is little Amélie's birth story!

As you know my 10 month pregnancy involved lots of waiting and waiting and waiting for baby to arrive (due mainly to my mathematical incompetence and lack of medical guidance throughout pregnancy).

Here I am at our little holiday cottgae where most of the waiting took place.
Well, after all that waiting the actual birth couldn't have been more of a contrast.....

I woke up at 3:50am and felt a gentle contraction.  I was reluctant to wake hubby because I had had many contractions during the preceding weeks, which had turned out to be nothing.  Instead I thought I would just wait and see if another one would come along.  I started counting in my head and after 7 minutes I had another one.  I tapped hubby on the shoulder and said, "I think she's coming" to which he immediately sat bolt upright and then jumped out of bed.  He was taking it so seriously but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that the contractions would probably stop - I'm not sure why I was in such denial?

I immediately stuck my TENS machine electrodes onto my back.  For those that don't know this is basically an electric shock machine that electrocutes you to take your mind off the labour pains.  Of course the packaging describes it as a way of stimulating the body's own pain relief mechanisms etc etc but basically it's simple electrocution which does actually take your mind off the pain of your cervix and replace it with the pain in your back from the shocks.  

Then, another contraction came and I decided to time them - they were now 4 minutes apart.  It was only my 4th or 5th contraction but they were starting to hurt.  The pain was enough to convince me that something was actually going to happen so I rang the Birth Centre to tell them I was coming as well as my sister to ask her to come over (to be my birthing partner along with hubby).  However, the main hospital answered and said that the Birth Centre had been closed down due to staff shortages overnight!!! So that meant no water birth!!! I was furious.  I rang another birth centre in a different town only to be told that I couldn’t just turn up because the local authority was different so they would not accept me as low risk.  Aggghhh! I was so upset.  The whole point in returning to England was to have a water birth at the low risk birth centre; if I had wanted a 'normal' hospital birth I could have stayed in France.

In the meantime my sister had arrived and she convinced me that I really ought to get to hospital as my contractions were now about 2 minutes apart and it was only 4.30am.

I got in the car with hubby and my sister followed behind us.  Mattias later confessed that there was no diesel in the car - he even took a photograph to save for prosperity.  Thank goodness he didn't tell me about it as I was still in a bad mood after the news of the closed birth centre.
The hospital was 30 minutes away so we arrived at 5am by which time my contractions were happening one on top of the other with only brief pauses of a few seconds inbetween.  I couldn't speak or walk because of the pain and even being ellectrocuted every few seconds wasn't enough to take my mind off the contractions. 

I was taken into the delivery suite and the midwife examined me and concluded that I was 7 or 8 cm dilated.  "It won't be long,” she said.

I tried my best to find a comfortable position that ended up being kneeling on the bed whilst holding onto the raised backrest.  I had to stop the midwife from continuously draping a sheet over my back to protect my modesty - it made me feel like she was laying a tablecloth out for dinner - funy the things that annoy you when you are in labour..

Labour continued at full throttle without any rest between contractions and I was given gas and air for the pain.  Gas and air is another one of those 'pain management' techniques which basically just takes your mind off the pain without actually reducing it.  You have to breath in the gas really deeply to have any kind of feeling from it (a slight feeling of being drunk if you manage to get a good lung full) and so in reality the benefit is that it controls your breathing somewhat and stops the kind of rapid and shallow breaths which often accompany stress and panic.

This continued until just before 5.50an at which time I had an urge to push.  This is the moment I enjoy - its was a wonderful feeling knowing that she would soon be here and it was the first moment that I had to actually think about anything for a split second.  As I pushed gently I could feel her moving down, I felt completely in control and didn’t need anyone.  With the next contraction seconds later I felt her head crown and then with the next one I gently pushed her whole body out. 

Amélie was born at 6:01am just 2 hours from start to finish.  She was perfect in every way and immediately began nursing.  She had a brilliant latch and we both seemed to be completely at ease and in sync with each other.

So what do you think was the first thing that the midwife said after she was born?  "Would you like a cup of tea?”  Such a small thing but greatly appreciated!!!  I couldn't help but find it amusing that health and safety regulations mean that you are not allowed to walk and hold a baby at the same time and yet its perfectly acceptable to hold a minute old baby with one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other.

I had had no time at all to talk to the midwife about delayed cord clamping, no vitamin k, natural placenta delivery etc but luckily I had a midwife who appreciated that I had wanted a natural birth and even pretended to not be shocked when I asked to keep the placenta.

Ah yes, the placenta.... delivering the placenta was almost harder than delivering the baby.  It was so painful that I had to use the gas and air again and I just could not get comfortable enough to relax.  Finally it came after about another hour but not without a fight.  I even wondered if I had actually been pregnant with twins and this was the second one coming out.

A few minutes after birthing the placenta something strange happened.  My whole body went into shock, which is apparently quite common if the birth is really quick.  With a quick birth everything happens so fast that the body cannot adjust and compensate for what is going on.  I began shaking so much that I couldn't hold my (second) cup of tea or even the baby.  My temperature increased rapidly and then plummeted and I felt dizzy and sick.  This lasted for hours afterwards.

And that is pretty much it.  Amélie is an amazing little girl and is already quite settled into our family.  I'm really looking forward to learning all about her and Freddy and Henry are proving to be the best big brothers ever with lots of kisses and cuddles lavished upon her.
Freddy did make me laugh though when he asked why I still have a big tummy after she had come out - some things are just so black and white in children's minds!

Here she is with her cousin.

Monday, 7 April 2014

My 10 month pregnancy

Do you remember that I was quite proud of the fact that I avoided contact with doctors and gynecologists during my pregnancy as much as possible? Do you remember that I said it gave me a feeling of being somewhat liberated from the more and more medicalised business of having a baby? Well, an unintentional impact of this approach was that my pregnancy lased 10 months instead of 9. Let me explain.

I paid for an ultrasound at 12 weeks just to check that all was ok with the baby and of course this was carried out by an ultrasound operator and not a doctor. All was well so as far as I was concerned and I had been given a due date of the 22nd March so that was all I needed to know for the rest of the pregnancy. But then the ultrasound operator explained to me that in France pregnancies last 42 weeks instead of 40 weeks. “Really? How come?” I asked. He explained that statistically babies are more likely to arrive after 40 weeks than before and for this reason in France a pregnancy is often measured as 40 weeks from the date of conception (as opposed to the first day of the last period) which gives a total pregnancy time of 42 weeks.

That was the only explanation I had and so when I arrived in the UK for a check up (in order to be accepted in a low risk birthing unit) and explained this to the midwife she said “OK, we’ll just take 2 weeks off your due date and call it the 8th March”.

This made sense to me until the 8th March came and went.

Now I should also say that Henry was 2 weeks early so I was pretty convinced that baby number 3 would also be early and as such I made plans to be back in the UK by the 17th February in order to be sure we were there for when she arrived.

Then the 15th March also came and went and all of a sudden I found myself having appointments with the community midwife to discuss options for induction. This was not how I wanted my low risk and low intervention birth to play out at all!

Thankfully she understood my reluctance to be induced and we compromised on me having a scan to confirm the size of the baby and expected due date. So I had a scan and guess what??? They told me that the due date was the 22nd March! It appears that despite what I had been told in France the date recorded on the scan was indeed consistant with a 40 week pregnancy and not 42. In effect I had confused the whole matter and nearly had to be induced just because I hadn’t understood my scan notes: something that a doctor or midwife would have done if I had had an appointment with one.

So what do you think happened? When did she arrive?

The 22nd of March of course :)

All in all I felt like my pregnancy lasted 10 months as I had been so convinced that she would arrive in February but of course the most important thing is that she is here and happy and healthy.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Preparing for the new arrival!

The latest addition to our little clan is now overdue and we are all eagerly awaiting the moment she decides to leave the mothership......

This pregnancy has been a little unusual in that I decided to avoid all contact with doctors and gynaecologists.  You might wonder why and I do to.  I think the explanation is that in France when I was pregnant with Henry I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of appointments and tests that I had to go through despite having a normal low risk pregnancy.  Every month I had to go for a blood test, have an ultrasound exam at the gynaecologist’s office and have an internal examination.  On top of those appointments came the regular scans at 12, 20 and 30 weeks.  My gynaecologist was extremely concerned with the fact that I was not naturally immune to toxoplasmosis (most French women are and most English women aren't) and so scheduled extra blood tests just to be sure.  French gynaecologists are also quite concerned weight gain and my monthly appointments would generally start with a check to ensure that I had not put on a gram more than I "should have". 

All in all I guess I rebelled against what I felt was a bit too much surveillance and decided instead to do it my way.  I had a scan at 12 weeks just to check how many babies there were but other than that I was wonderfully liberated from the medical establishment.  

Births in France more often than not involve an epidural and water births are in no way the norm.  I found somewhere to have a water birth in Paris but found that I should have registered the moment I found out I was pregnant in order to get a place.  This all therefore led to me deciding to return to England to give birth in a Midwifery Led Unit like I did with Henry.  MLU's, as they are known, are like home births in a semi medicalised setting.  You get a midwife and access to a water birth but no possibility of having pain relief other than gas and air (something else which doesn't exist in France).

In order to be allowed into the MLU I have had to prove that this pregnancy is low risk which has meant a number of tests and appointments in the last few weeks but thankfully all is well and we have been accepted!

Henry's labour was 3 hours in total so I'm wondering if this time will be as quick or perhaps even quicker?  Either way though, being back in England with my family around is lovely. 

What about Sweden I hear you wondering??  Well I would have also loved to have gone to Sweden to give birth but water births were banned after a baby drowned during birth several years ago :(

So now we are waiting and enjoying life together each day in the English Countryside and wondering when we will get to meet our new addition.......our now overdue addition.......

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Yes, they are mine....

This is the moment I realized that both my children thought a shopping centre rubbish bin was a television.....
It took a few minutes to convince them otherwise!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Bedtime routine

Speaking of sleeping arrangements......

What's your bedtime routine?  Is it as unconventional as ours?

Our bedtime routine starts much like many others with a story, teeth brushing, attempting to get some pyjamas on the boys (which always fails) and climbing on the furniture.
But then what follows is pretty much 30 minutes of bed gymnastics  - just what you need to calm your little ones down ready for bed.....
I must admit it's quite fun to watch (and slightly terryfying), and in case you were wondering the boys always find things to jump off themselves and "set up" their activity for the evening - I quite admire that!

I love the way that our dog doesn't even flinch during the jumping - you can tell that this is not the first time that the boys have done this!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sleeping arrangements.....

Baby due in a few weeks?....check 
2 year old and 4 year old still sleeping in our bed?.....check
So where is the baby going to sleep???
Is there enough room here for 5?????

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Taming the toddler – a huge victory which still makes me cry.....

One of the reasons that I stopped writing this blog for a while was Freddy’s behaviour.  From when he was 15 months old he started to have these periods of aggression.  I couldn’t understand where they came from – after all I’m gentle so why wasn’t he?  Things got so bad at one point that I stopped taking him to parent toddler groups. I had to apologise everywhere I went.   He spat in the face of baby sitting in a car seat, he hit other children, and head butted his brother in the supermarket resulting a outpouring of blood I never thought possible....

I stopped all playdates and missed the regular contact with other mums some of whom I thought could have become good friends.

When he was being aggressive Freddy seamed to almost not be aware of what he was doing – a bit like a zombie.   No matter how many times I talked to him nothing seemed to register with him that there was anything wrong with fighting.  He would just calmly walk up to another child and push them over – almost seeming to want to see what would happen.

He also seemed quite emotionally detached.  He never ever cuddled me or wanted cuddles and a kiss was completely out of the question – these things can be hard for mamas!

I didn’t want to put this into writing in case it somehow formalised it as a part of his personality. Feeling like a failure as a parent was an understatement.

We even enrolled him in a local nursery (a truly wonderful one that I will talk about another time) in the hope that he would learn to play nicely and not fight.  He continued to fight at school and was often unhappy.  The teachers said that he was quite and didn’t participate much and we didn’t want to force him to go to school so if he didn’t want to go we didn’t make him.   I think he missed 6 months nursery in one year.

We even started to wonder if he had some kind of autism or behavioural problems. I am absolutely certain that if we had taken him to a conventional doctor and explained his aggression he would have been diagnosed with something and perhaps even prescribed medication to manage it.

Then something happened which changed our lives....

We noticed that Freddy’s legs were becoming hairy (bear with me, this will make sense). We were suddenly horrified to realise that the topical steroids that we had been using to try to control his eczema was causing physical side effects. Until that moment we hadn’t questioned the use of topical steroids and thought that they were our only option to control his flare-ups apart from a strictly controlled diet.

Without giving it a second thought we stopped the steroids immediately. I have since learnt that this wasn’t necessarily the right thing to do especially as his creams were quite potent in terms of their steroid content. But thats what we did anyway.

And so....

Within 2 days of stopping the steroids Freddy said “I love you”. He was immediately calmer. The “zombiness” disappeared and he started giving cuddles. All of this was within 1 week of stopping his eczema creams. How could this be possible?

Within weeks the teachers at his nursery started asking what had happened to cause such a big change in his behaviour. It’s hard to explain just how much happier he became. He started to empathise, he started to interact with other children and all in all he was just completely transformed.

Now I am not saying that he never hits his brother any more but I would no longer say that he is anything other than a normal child.

I cannot emphasise enough how glad I am that we stopped his steroids and I am absolutely certain that we will never use them again. The amazing thing is that without making any other changes his skin is no worse than it was before. I would even go as far as to say that his skin is better now.

Did I mention the fact that he has not had asthma or used any asthma related medicines since we stopped his steroids 5 months ago (compare this with 3 or 4 hospitalisations and countless uses of his inhaler in the 12 months before).

I then started researching side effects from steroids and found many other mothers describing similar experiences to ours and whilst I would never criticise anyone for using steroids on their children I just wanted to put our story out there in case it helps anyone else.
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