First Time Mum: The Early Days

Today, Becky is back with another update on her journey as a new Mum. When Becky first sent me this post she told me she had left a few paragraphs out as she didn’t want to scare any mums-to-be with the changes inevitably ahead. I asked her to send me them and we eventually agreed to include them here. Thankfully, these days the challenges of motherhood are more openly discussed along with the inherent joys and so I dont think some of the feelings Becky experienced will come as a shock to many, but if you are expecting and feel like today is not the day for a dose of reality, then feel free to skip down to her tips for getting thorough the first few weeks – about halfway down the page.

During the first few hazy days of motherhood, most people tell you that the first 2 weeks are the hardest but to enjoy every minute of it. I found it difficult to understand at the time but now, on the other side of the first three months, I totally get it. I think Mother Nature’s memory loss trick has a lot to answer for, but as I fought back the tears whilst packing Connie’s newborn clothes away recently, I realised that they are tiny for the shortest snippet of time. Blink and you’ve missed it.

Being a new mum is amazing in so many ways, but it’s also a time when you feel an enormous pressure to feel completely over the moon with life. I know that not everyone feels like that as not only is it really tough physically and emotionally, I think many new mums, me included, can feel completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of getting it right. No matter how many times you tell yourself that your life is going to change forever while you’re pregnant, the actual reality of it in the early days is mind blowing. All of a sudden you realise you are never going to be the person you were ever again. There were moments when I felt as if I was mourning the loss of my previous self but also feeling guilty for thinking it at the same time as Connie was everything I’d asked for. This was a post that I read, on Renegade Mothering, that I really identified with.

Most importantly, you must trust your instinct. Even in the first few days of motherhood when you think you haven’t a clue about the best way to care for your baby, just believe in yourself. You will know your baby better than any midwife or health visitor. You will be given ‘helpful’ advice from everyone you speak to. Most of it will be conflicting and everyone will suddenly have an opinion. I’d suggest quietly taking on board what they say and then doing things the way that you feel suits you and your baby. I was given some terrible advice by a health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor when I sought support in the early days. I knew deep down that it wasn’t the right advice for Connie and I but I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I knew better. As a result, I followed their advice and fell to pieces for a week. Thankfully my Mum was able to come to my rescue and we got back on track doing things the way we’d been doing them from the start. It was a tough lesson in self belief.

For today’s post, I wanted to share some of the things that helped us through those tough early days and hopefully, they might make it all seem a little more manageable.

EATING
During the later stages of pregnancy, start cooking in batches to stock your freezer with home cooked meals that are easy to re-heat. This is the most useful thing I did on my maternity leave.

SLEEPING
Sleep when your baby sleeps – even if you have a house full of visitors. Newborns don’t know night from day and need to feed every couple of hours.

It’s common for babies to go on feeding frenzies at night time (called cluster feeding). Connie regularly fed until 4.30am. After the first few nights, I was starting to struggle as I’d been staying up with her watching TV, reading or online. On day 6, a midwife suggested I try to keep night as restful as possible even if I wasn’t sleeping and she showed me how to safely feed in bed. This was the best piece of advice I was given. It saved me from becoming nocturnal and eventually, your baby will start to recognise the difference between the bright, noisy day, and dark hushed night.

For settling your baby, I cannot recommend this advice enough. We also used a hot water bottle to warm the moses basket before placing Connie into it. White noise is also your best friend. There are white noise apps available which we used regularly, along with the hairdryer!

Make sure you’re clued up on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You’ll find everything you need to know on The Lullaby Trust website

The long nights can get very lonely and overwhelming. Remember that everything seems better in the daylight.

SUPPORT
If you’ve attended any ante natal groups and classes and have met new mums to be, try and suggest setting up a Facebook group so you can all keep in touch. It’s invaluable to have an instant support network of people who are going through almost exactly the same thing. I regularly posted questions in the middle of the night and got a response within minutes.

Ask your visitors to run errands, help with housework, bring meals etc. Play to their strengths and you should have all bases covered.

And finally, a few things I was grateful for…
Comfy loungewear – treat yourself to some nice pyjamas and a dressing gown for home rather than the hospital – something you don’t mind visitors seeing you in.

A baby swing/ bouncy chair to give you 5 minutes in the shower when your partner has returned to work.

A minimal make up bag and speedy way to style your hair.

A repertoire of songs you can sing to your baby – 10 green bottles is always a good starting point.

So readers, do you have any advice to share that got you through those newborn days?

Love,
Becky
x

PS Some of Becky’s previous posts:

First Time Mum: Changing bags

Hurrah! Becky is back with more of her fascinating insights to being a first time mum. I know that lots of new mums don’t want to lose their style identity along with their sleep when a new arrival comes along, so finding the perfect changing bag that is both functional and fashionable can be a difficult task. Thankfully Becky has done the leg work for you and shares her finds today…

During the later stages of my pregnancy, the piece of kit I was most looking forward to purchasing was a changing bag. After all, having a baby is a genuinely valid excuse to purchase a new bag.

The bag had to fulfil 3 criteria:
1. My taste
2. Less importantly, but a definite consideration was my husband’s taste, and
3. It had to be practical to take everywhere, every day.

Here’s a roundup of my favourites…..

1. Ashley, coral // 2. Elizabeth, leather // 3. Tania Bee // 4. Firenze // 5. Coromandel // 6. Isabella, leather // 7. Amanda Quilted // 8. Satchel

When my husband and I couldn’t agree on a ‘purpose built’ bag within our budget, I widened my search to create our own changing bag. I’d been given a separate changing mat and put the nappy change essentials into a washbag which could be thrown into any of my existing large handbags. Then I treated myself to a new bag in the sales and we bought my husband this.


Bottle warmer and matching changing mat, BabyMel // Jonathan Adler for Skip Hop changing mat // Kissing stags toiletry bag>/span>

Both bags sit packed and ready to go in the hallway. We just transfer the mat and washbag into whichever bag we’re taking out. I can’t say that accessorising my outfit is back on my radar yet but I’m sure with time it will be, and I’ll be pleased to be able to swap and change the bag with my mood and outfit.

One last thing… a tip I was given was to join the Boots parenting club. You get more advantage card points when you buy baby items (nappies, cotton wool etc. all included) and you get a free changing bag for joining. The bag itself isn’t great, but it includes a really large and lightweight changing mat which you can stuff into any bag or take away with you on holiday.

So readers, do you have a favourite changing bag? Any tips for choosing the right one? Or what are your essential or unusual changing bag contents?

Much love,

Becky x

First Time Mum: Bringing Home the Baby

I’ve been a Mum for over a month now and have no idea where the time has gone. Looking back, the last 6 weeks are a haze of euphoria, love, tears, feeds, broken nights, nappy changes, washing, gifts, visitors and cake. It’s been the toughest thing I’ve ever done and I know it’s a cliche but it really is also the most rewarding.

I’ve learnt a couple of things about myself during this time too. Firstly, I have a lot of patience and secondly, I’m pretty good at multitasking. I’m sat writing this in bed with Connie attached to one boob, the breast pump on the other, having just finished a telephone conversation with one eye on the TV in the background.

Connie’s first few weeks haven’t been the smoothest of rides and there’s so much I want to share with you all but for now, here’s my take on labour and birth and the few days after.

My labour was straightforward and lasted just 23 hours. I was very lucky and got the birth that I’d hoped for. I spent almost half the time at home with a TENS machine for pain relief. On arrival at hospital, I had a short stint in both triage and the ante natal ward before being moved to the midwife led birthing unit where she was born, pretty rapidly, in the pool using gas and air. As she came out so quickly, I needed a lot of repair work and ended up in theatre afterwards. That part wasn’t what I’d hoped for but once Connie had arrived, I couldn’t have cared less about my own body.

Can you prepare for birth?
I’d read somewhere that to have a positive birth experience, it’s not about the way you give birth, but instead it’s being happy with all of the decisions that are made during your labour and birth, whatever happens. I didn’t have a birth plan. I had written down a few preferences in my maternity notes but had always wondered how I’d know what I wanted if I’d never experienced any of the feelings before. I went in with an open mind, hoping for a natural as possible water birth but open to any sort of pain relief should I need it. After all, there’s no golden pelvis award for doing it without drugs. I knew that if I’d written down a detailed plan of how I wanted my labour to go, I’d always feel disappointed if it didn’t happen that way. I truly believe that having an open mind is the best preparation you can give yourself.

Your Hospital Bag
You’ll find endless lists in books and online to assist with your packing. You’ll most likely take a lot that never gets taken out of the bag. I would suggest packing for one night only but have a second bag ready at home with extra clothes in that your partner or a friend can bring to you in hospital should you have to stay in for longer. You don’t want to be explaining which pair of comfy knickers you want and where they might be in the chest of drawers.

Take a look here for a great list of things that you’ll be very grateful for that you won’t find on most other lists.

  • My own top labour bag items were the following:
  • A bendy plastic straw -enabling water intake from any angle.
  • A bath pillow which I used in the pool.
  • A flannel for brow mopping.
  • A playlist of my favourite songs on the iPod.
  • A sandwich for my husband which he ate while I was in theatre. It’s a long and exhausting experience for them too. Forget the food for you, you won’t want to eat!

The First Few Days
Your baby will most likely sleep a lot during it’s first 24 hours. They are sleeping off labour. Although it’s really hard to sleep when you have so much adrenalin running through you, not to mention a newborn to stare at in amazement, I can’t recommend enough that you try and make the most of sleeping during that time. I had to stay in hospital for an extra night and so the Grandparents visited us throughout day 1. The moment that my husband left that night, Connie came alive. I hadn’t slept for almost 2 days and had a fractious newborn to cope with. A couple of hours sleep during the day would have certainly made that night a little easier for me.

When you get discharged from the hospital, there’s nothing like coming home as a family. It’s an important time to be together as a family and start to get to know your baby so really think about who, if anyone, you’d like to visit. We had a few days on our own which I can’t recommend enough if you’ve had a relatively straightforward delivery. If you do have visitors, make sure they’re useful at the same time. Ask them to bring meals or pick up some shopping for you. You certainly shouldn’t be the one organising the tea and biscuits.

And finally, there’s no escaping the fact that having a baby is painful. If the thought of giving birth fills you with fear, please don’t fret. The pain will be virtually erased from your memory very quickly by Mother Nature. I’m sure it’s her way of ensuring the continuation of the human race. In the short term however, these are the things that I swore by to aid the healing:

  • Arnica tablets for bruising
  • A salt water and lavender oil bath twice a day if you’ve had stitches or are tender. I did this religiously for 2 weeks.
  • Lansinoh nipple cream – use it from day 1 if you are breast feeding. Don’t wait for cracking or soreness.
  • Plenty of fluids, lots of iron rich food, and a serious dose of rest.

So readers, did you have a labour bag essential? Any advice for the first few newborn days? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Love, Becky x

Florence’s Florals: The Seasonal Series [Spring]

It’s the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time to welcome Becky Hay from Blossom, with her visual feast of flowers. I’ve always wanted to do a piece on the best seasonal flowers, for a wedding, or just your dining table. Becky is the perfect person for the job and I hope you next visit your florist armed with new knowledge and inspiration….

March is here at last. It’s the month when spring firmly kicks winter’s backside. In the shop it brings with it Mothering Sunday (18th March) the excitement of the Easter window (more of that next month) and the start, in earnest, of wedding season. To me, the start of any new season is the most exciting time, and a big part of that comes down to the new arrivals of flowers that I see in the shop as well as in my own garden.

It dawned on me recently that like most people, I take the knowledge gained from my job for granted. When you do something for long enough, it becomes common sense doesn’t it? So this month I thought I’d start a little ‘Seasonal Series’ in order to share some of that knowledge with you.

There are many flowers that are available all year round thanks to the Dutch growers (Roses, Lilies, Gerbera, Carnations….the list is endless). And if you’re prepared to pay for it, you can get hold of almost any flower at any time of year. But what I’m talking about here are truly seasonal flowers, the ones that would grow in your garden if you had green fingers and time to nurture them. Even the flowers that are grown all year round have a proper season when they’re at their strongest, most beautiful, and have the best scent.

So, whether you’re planning a wedding, hosting a party, or just want to know what to spend your hard earned cash on for ultimate seasonal joy, here’s my guide to spring and early summer cut flowers. The flowers marked with an * are the ones that you should find readily available from your local florist. The others are certainly available but you’re likely to have to order them a week or so in advance. I’ve referred to each flower with the name most commonly used in the shop. This varies from the Latin to the common names so apologies to the purist horticulturalists out there.

Spring (March & April)
Anemones*, Black Iris, Blossom, Daffodils*, Forsythia*, Fritillaria, Forget me Not, Foxglove, Freesia*, Genista* (Broom), Grape hyacinths, Hellebore, Hyacinth*, Iris*, Lilac*, Lily of the Valley, Magnolia, Mimosa*, Narcissi*, Pussy Willow*, Ranunculus*, Snowflakes, Scillas, Tulips*, Viburnum opulus* (Guelder rose), Violets.

Early Summer (May & June)
Astilbe*, Allium*, Alchemilla mollis*, Aquilegia, Achillea, Brodea, Delphinium*, Hydrangea*, Larkspur*, Lily of the Valley, Lisianthus*, Nigella (Love in the Mist), Peonies*, Ranunculus*, Snapdragon*, Solomons Seal* (Polygonatum), Scabious, Stock*, Viburnum opulus* (Guelder rose).

The most important thing to me about all of these flowers is the fact that they’re not around all year long. If they were, would our love affair be so strong? I don’t believe for a second it would.

Please do leave a comment to let me know your favourites, tell me I’ve missed something, or ask a question about a party or event you’d like to arrange flowers for.

Becky

Florence’s Florals: The V-Day Edition

This afternoon, it’s one of my favourite monthly posts, Becky Hay from Blossom is back with some most beautiful florals for V-day or in fact any other special day that takes yourfancy. Book mark it, forward it on to your loved one, or to anyone else who needs some gift giving/brownie point achieving advice. :)

In my world, February is a month dominated by St. Valentine, sadly not because my husband whisks me away to spend the month in Paris. It’s one week of the year in the shop when the pressure to get it right is immense. No other day comes close to instilling so much panic in men. What to purchase to convey the correct sentiment?

The red rose doesn’t reach my list of favourite flowers, and I know I’m not alone. The most popular Valentine bouquet at Blossom doesn’t include red roses, something I’m rather proud of my customers for! I’m not saying that the premium red roses aren’t very beautiful or romantic. They most definitely are, but they don’t suit everyone.

Whilst I’m sure that Rebecca will be taking care of some non-floral gifts for Valentine’s day, I thought I’d put a floral wish list together providing some alternatives to the red rose. Hopefully it will include a gift that you will find a little more individual. You could always forward a link to your significant others….there’s nothing like a little nudge in the right direction.

And if Valentine’s Day isn’t for you, please bear with me this month. You could always replace the ‘V’ word with ‘Birthday’ for the rest of the post. Regular service will resume in March.

For something truly British and seasonal:
This Limited Edition Green Velvet Luxury Valentine’s bouquet from the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall just shouts spring with some unusual ingredients.

One of my all-time favourite flowers….50 stems of Cornish Anemones grown and picked by Clowance nurseries – With their jewel tones and furry black centres, no flower is exactly the same.

For the keen cook:
A Kitchen Herb Bouquet from the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall will last for ages in a jug on the kitchen window sill or could be hung upside down to dry in a warm spot.

For the keen gardener:
A beautifully fragrant rose plant from David Austin. You do need a sunny spot in your garden for success with these. How about ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, ‘Eglantyne’, or ‘Gertrude Jekyll’?

A book on growing cut flowers, and a selection of seed packets of flowers with romantic names such as ‘love-in-the-mist’, ‘forget-me-not’, and ‘sweet pea’.

For the outdoor type:
A Snowdrop day out – these beautiful flowers carpet woodlands in February and offer the perfect backdrop for a romantic walk. Countryfile magazine has chosen their top 5 snowdrop gardens or find a garden near you using this guide.

For the very extravagant:
Not just one bouquet of scented garden roses, but a bouquet subscription from The Real Flower Company – There are some serious brownie points attached to this gift.

For the wo/man who almost forgot:
I beg you to not stop off at the petrol station on the way home but instead use The Good Florist Guide to find your nearest quality florist and call them directly. It’s more than likely they’ll be able to come to the rescue at the very last minute….we always do!

And finally, if my Valentine is reading, you know how much I love a snowdrop, or how about one of these…. ; )

Xx

Florence’s Florals: Spring Bulbs

This Tuesday, it’s Florence’s florals, our monthly column by Becky Hay of Blossom with a post that is guaranteed to brighten up this cold January day…

A little late in the month, but Happy New Year to you all. Today I’d like to help you all brighten up a dark January day with the promise of what’s just around the corner… Spring.

Spring bulb flowers such as Hyacinth and Narcissi look good, smell divine, flower for twice as long as a cut flower if they’re left on the bulb, and are extremely wallet friendly. They’re also fat free, perfect for January!

If you have only two pennies, spend the first on bread and the other on hyacinths for your soul.

–Arab Proverb

In October, Rebecca wrote a post on planting bulbs outdoors. If like me however, you’re not one for planning ahead, here’s how to bring bulbs into your home right now.

Pot grown bulbs:
Pots of growing bulbs in compost are currently available to buy from all good florists, garden centres and large supermarkets. The most commonly available are Hyacinths, in pots of 3 bulbs, usually in blue, pink, lilac or white. Other favourites are Narcissi (mini daffodils), Muscari (grape hyacinths), Crocus, Snowdrops, and mini Iris.

You can leave the bulbs you’ve bought in the plastic pot and just pop that directly into a container at home for display. Teapots, mixing bowls, vases, mugs, and jugs are all good shapes.

Alternatively, you can take the bulbs out of the plastic pots and break them up to fit them into smaller receptacles. The bulbs are really tough so don’t worry about tearing the roots apart to squeeze them in.

I like to cover the top of the bulbs with moss. This is available from good florists or for free from the woodlands (if you’re prepared to take a scraper and a carrier bag out on a walk with you)

Turn the container regularly so that the light gets to all sides of the bulbs. This also stops them growing at funny angles. The warmer your house, the faster they will grow. A drizzle of water now and then will be sufficient. Don’t leave them sitting in a boggy pool of compost.

Troubleshooting:
Once Hyacinths are in full flower, they can become top heavy and start drooping. Rather than using ugly cane supports to tie the stems up, collect some broken twiggy branches which look much more natural and will support the stems just as well, (see above). They also add interest when the bulbs aren’t in flower. Alternatively, cut the flowering stems off and pop them in a little vase of water to enjoy their last few days.

Some people can find the scent of hyacinths overpowering, the blue ones have the strongest smell while the white are a little less heady.

Aftercare:
All bulbs can be planted out in the garden once you’ve finished enjoying them inside. Narcissi are the hardiest and are likely top flower again year on year. Hyacinths never flower as well second time round so don’t feel too guilty about putting them in the compost bin.

Tips for enjoying cut spring flowers:
Nothing beats a simple jug of daffodils. Rather than mixing them with anything else, just pop a few twigs amongst them to break up the solid mass of yellow.

If you buy cut hyacinths, avoid cutting the stems as you would with other flowers. This is because hyacinths usually have the cleaned bulb still attached and this will help the flowers last longer in the water.

Change the vase water regularly. Spring bulb flowers leak sap into the water which encourages bacteria to grow rapidly, reducing the vase life of the flowers.
Tulips continue to grow even after they’ve been cut. This is why after a day or two in a vase, they start to droop. When this happens, wrap the tulips up tightly in a piece of newspaper and re-cut the stems at an angle. Pop them into a vase of clean cold water and let them drink for a couple of hours whilst wrapped up. They should stand upright again when they’re unwrapped.

I hope this inspires you all to get a little Spring in your lives this weekend. It’s amazing what a tiny splash of nature can do.

Becky x

Florence’s Florals: A DIY Christmas Berry Wreath

Good afternoon readers!

This afternoon we have part 2 of Florence’s Festive Florals with Becky from Blossom. It’s the second of her 2 wreath tutorials, this one is still rustic but more traditional and includes living elements, hence us deciding to post it closer to Christmas – it will last through the holidays if made this weekend. Enjoy!

Hello again, and welcome to version 2 of the festive wreath tutorial. If you haven’t already seen the rustic winter owl wreath, pop over and have a look, as the principles for making them both are identical. I’ve used fresh materials in this version which will look good for a couple of weeks if you keep it somewhere cool. Please don’t be put off by the amount of text below, once you’ve mastered how to wire each piece, it really is very easy. And once again, please remember that there is no right or wrong addition to a wreath. You can add as little or as much as you want, of whatever takes your fancy.

What I used:

  • Large ready made willow wreath
  • Fresh ivy trails
  • 2 x stems Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ – this is also available in bright red from all good florists
  • 8 x natural pine cones
  • 3 x whole dried oranges
  • 6 – 9 x dried orange slices
  • 9 x cinnamon sticks
  • Natural raffia
  • Medium – thick gauge florist stub wires

What to do:
1. Wrap pieces of trailing ivy around and through the wreath. Secure it by tucking into the gaps in the wreath frame.

2. Wire each item that you want to attach to your wreath. You may find it easier to wire everything first and attach the pieces to the wreath afterwards.

  • To wire the Ilex: Cut each piece of Ilex down to approximately 2 cm below the lowest branch of berries. Fold a piece of wire in half to form a hair pin shape and hold it against the base of the piece of Ilex. Wrap one half of the wire around the base of the stem and the other end of the wire to secure.
  • To wire the pine cones & whole oranges: Take a single piece of stub wire and dig the middle part of the wire in between the scales at the base of the cone (the fatter end), pull each end of the wire down, and twist them together as close to the bottom of the cone as possible. Pull each end of the wire back together and straighten. In floristry terms this is called a ‘double leg mount’ – the two stems of the wire are known as ‘legs’.

Use the same principle to wire the whole dried oranges, piercing the base of the fruit with the wire.

  • To wire the orange slices: Group 2 or 3 dried orange slices together, overlapping them so that you can see the segments of each slice. Pierce through both of the slices at the base, pull each end of the wire down and twist the wires together to secure the slices.
  • To wire the cinnamon: Make 3 bundles of cinnamon sticks by wrapping a wire around the middle of 3 sticks and twisting the wires together. Don’t worry if the wire feels quite loose, you can secure the cinnamon by using a piece of raffia to wrap over and around the wire. It not only secures the bundle, it also hides the wire in your display. Tie the raffia in a bow or knot on the top of the bundle (the opposite side to the twisted wire).

3. You can now attach each individual piece to your wreath by pushing the wires through the gaps in the wreath and twisting them together at the back of the wreath to secure. Tuck the excess ends of wire back into the back of the wreath so they don’t scratch your front door.

4. Tie a big bow using the raffia and pierce through the back of the bow with a wire. With the bow at the centre of the wire, pull the two ends of wire together and twist together. Use the wire legs to attach the bow to your wreath in the same way you’ve attached everything else.

5. If you need to create a hook to hang your wreath from, you can use a piece of raffia or a piece of wire.

I’ll be on hand later to answer any questions. Just leave a comment below :)

Thank you Becky!

Did you have a go at last week’s wreath, or will you be attempting this one – perhaps this is more up your ‘Christmas Street’?

Do leave a comment if you love it, or if you have any questions as Becky said – Becky will be back in the New Year with more Florence’s Florals!

Love,
Rebecca
xo