Christmas Gifts: Last Minute Gift Ideas For Babies 6-12 Months

If you haven’t been following the blog the last few weeks, then you’ll be pleased to know that recently we’ve posted several Christmas gift guides for foodies, parents-to-be, new parents, those who are breast/chestfeeding and yesterday, we posted a last-minute gift guide for babies ages 0-6 months. So to finish off our 2021 Christmas gift guides, we’ll be sharing our last-minute gift ideas for babies aged 6-12 months in this post. All of the following ideas are gifts that Alice is getting for Christmas, except the booster seat, which we purchased before Alice’s arrival! So without further ado, let’s start the final guide for this year! 

That’s Not My Dinosaur Gift Set:

Fluffy toy? Check. Interactive book? Check. If you want to gift the gift of getting a little one to love books from a very early age, then Usbourne’s range of interactive books from its That’s Not My series are a great place to start! Each page of the That’s Not My Dinosaur book has textured areas for little ones to explore and develop sensory awareness, on top of the language awareness that reading from a young age brings. The That’s Not My Dinosaur gift set also comes with a cuddly purple dinosaur toy, perfect for little hands to snuggle up to! 

Vtech Sit To Stand Music Centre:

If you want a musical toy to last a good couple of years, then look no further than the Vtech Sit To Stand Music Centre! The centre comes with 15 melodies, 7 sing-along songs, various sounds and phrases, a microphone for the little one to sing into and 4 voice-changing effects. The panel containing the keyboard, drum, saxophone, guitar and microphone detaches from the stand to allow it to be used when sitting down. In addition, the centre teaches animals, colours, instruments and more and being suitable from 12 months to 3 years means that the centre is an excellent choice for a gift if you want something which will last. 

Carotina Blocks And Mat Set:

Previously reviewed on the blog (you can find the full review here), the Carotina Blocks And Mat Set is another excellent multifunctional, space-saving toy. Not only does the playmat come in a jigsaw style, but it also has pop-out animals and houses which can be slotted into some of the blocks for little ones to create their own themes and stories. In addition, the bright colours of the set catch little ones attention for more extended periods, allowing their creativity and imagination to truly flourish when playing with this set. There are 38 building blocks of varying sizes and colours in the set and 24 pieces that make up the playmat if you include the pop-out animals and houses. 

Benbat Portable Booster Seat:

We’ve posted about Benbat’s Portable Booster Seat before, but we’re posting about it again because we love just how useful this is! This portable booster seat has similar functions to a highchair but is lightweight, great for travel so you can feed little one anywhere, and can be placed wherever it is needed. Another thing I like about the Benbat is that not only is it portable, it also comes with storage compartments to pop some bits and bobs in for little ones. This is great, as you can forgo the changing bag and pop nappies, wipes etc., into the storage compartment of the booster seat when going out locally. As they get older, they can pack the storage compartment themselves, which further helps to aid their independence and development! 

That’s the Christmas gift guides for this year complete! If you’ve found any great gift ideas for the little ones in your life, add them to the comments to help others with their last-minute Christmas shopping! Although the gift guides may be done, we’ll also be sharing blog posts on how we’re prepping for Alice’s first Christmas, so do keep an eye out for those! 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

Christmas Gift Guides: Gift Ideas For Pregnant And Breast/Chestfeeding Parents!

With December 1st here, Christmas prep is in full swing! But, if you’re like Steph and haven’t fully finished Christmas shopping because you have no idea what to get people, then fear not! Following on from our Sous Chef review with gift ideas for foodies and our gift guide for new parents and parents-to-be, Steph’s sharing as a breastfeeding parent what to get parents who are breast/chestfeeding their little ones! Unfortunately, breast/Chestfeeding usually means that the go-to gifts, such as anything alcohol-related, are off the list. However, as a breastfeeding parent, I’m pleased to tell you that there are still good gift options out there! Most of the following ideas also work if the person you’re gifting happens to be pregnant (note: most of the Boobbix products can’t be consumed during pregnancy). 

1. Nursing friendly clothes from Stylish Mum

I absolutely adore Stylish Mum! Not only do they do some beautiful jumpers, dresses and nursing tops, but they also do nursing hoodies! Their nursing hoodies are how I initially fell in love with the brand, as I love my activewear when I’m not going out and about. The other thing I love about this brand is that unlike other nursing wear brands, you can’t really tell that the hoodies and jumpers are nursing wear unless you really look. It means that even once you stop breastfeeding, you can still wear jumpers and hoodies from the range. They also do a matching kidswear range! 

A photo of Steph, a white woman with blonde and brown hair is holding Alice, a white baby with brown hair whilst looking out of the window at Gatwick’s South Terminal. Their backs are to the camera. Steph is wearing a multi coloured floral jumper and Alice is wearing a light pink, grey and white jacket.
Wearing one of the nursing jumpers from the Stylish Mum range!

2. Alcohol-free gift sets

If the person you are looking for really does like a tipple and you don’t want to deviate too much from that, then luckily, there are plenty of alcohol-free giftsets out there to choose from! For those who like wine, the Just Perfect Wines Gift Set featuring 2 mini bottles of Freixenet alcohol-free sparkling wine also comes with a tin of Belgium chocolate truffles for the ultimate treat, as well as a fizz stopper! If they aren’t a wine drinker, there is also a mixed case of non-alcoholic beers, which may tickle their fancy! This case features beers from the likes of Brewdog, Maisels, Juliper and others! The majority of the brands in the case are German, which may work in your favour even more if the person likes their German beer! 

3. Boobbix

Has the person your looking to gift ever said to you that they’re struggling with milk supply or want to increase it? Boobbix is literally a magic potion for helping to boost milk supply alongside regular expressing or breast/chestfeeding. Boobbix does a range of lactation cookies, granolas and even hot chocolate. Although Alice is CMPA, Boobbix do dairy-free chocolate chip cookies and granola, which is dairy-free, meaning that I’ve still been able to benefit from their magic formula! Unfortunately, due to the ingredients, only the hot chocolate in the Boobbix range can be consumed whilst pregnant. 

Photo of 3 packets of dairy free cookies in a box. The packaging is white with purple and pink details as well as a chocolate chip cookie on it. In the background is another white packet with pink label and clear window showing the granola inside.
A recent Boobbix order of mine!

4. Elvie Catch 

I’ve spoken about the Elvie Catch on the blog before. Still, I really can’t recommend this to breast/chestfeeding parents enough! These dishwasher friendly collection cups can each hold 30ml and are great for catching leakage, let-down and more when either expressing, nursing or just going about day-to-day. They are also discreet for wearing during the day and slip-proof. I used these when I was leaking colostrum so that I could freeze it, and I still use them now, catching any stray milk to add to feeds or to store at a later date! The box itself is small which makes the Elvie Catch a great stocking filler.

A photo of two clear plastic Elvie Catch collection cups with silicone backing sat on top of a white box which they come in. The box has a photo of the collection cups on it along with the words Elvie Catch in grey on top of the picture.
The Elvie Catches and their box

Have you found a gift good for a pregnant parent-to-be or breast/chestfeeding parent? Share it in the comments below! Also our gift guides for babies aged 0-6 months and those aged 6-12 months will both be out over the next few days so keep an eye out for those!

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

Christmas Gift Guides: Gift Ideas For New Parents And Parents-To-Be

With Cyber Monday here, now is the perfect time to look for your Christmas gift bargains! If you’ve got a new parent or parent-to-be in your life, then gifts that will help them on their parenthood journey will be massively appreciated. Amazon and other stores have some fantastic deals on products that Alex and I are using as new parents to Alice, and so the following gift ideas all come highly recommended by us both. 

1. Nuby UV Sterilisers:

Alex and I are both in agreement that one of the best purchases we ever made was our Nuby UV sterilisers. These are actually genuine 59S sterilisers with Nuby branding, which made us feel much more confident about buying the sterilisers as we’d heard such good things when over in the US about 59S. The dummy one was the first steriliser we brought as a tester to see if we liked the UV sterilisers work. Considering that Alice is fascinated with launching her dummy on the floor, this has been a godsend! We also have the travel one, which can fit 2 mam bottles comfortably and 3 at a push, as well as dummies, breast pump parts, and you can even sterilise your phone and keys! The travel one also has a storage section under the sterilising bit and looks like a posh cooler bag rather than a steriliser. Both sterilisers come with a dummy included, and the travel one also has a Nuby bottle. The dummy steriliser can be battery or USB-cable operated, and the travel one is USB operated via a rechargeable battery pack which is included. Both sterilisers can also be plugged into the mains!

Photo of the Nuby dummy Steriliser and box in the background. There is also a black battery charger and white USB cable in the photo.
The Nuby dummy Steriliser

2. Baby Nails Thumble Set:

If you need just a little stocking filler, then the Baby Nails Thumble Set is a great size for that! We all know that keeping baby’s delicate nails trimmed to stop them from scratching themselves is hard work! Luckily, some fellow parents came up with the fantastic idea of using a thumble with filing stickers to file precious little one’s nails which means less of a fight! It’s that simple to use that you can even file nails using the thumble whilst feeding or during cuddle time! The filing stickers come in two varieties; one for 0-6 months and a slightly coarser one for 6 months plus. 

3. Blink Mini Camera

If you know that the parents or parents-to-be in your life want an app-controlled baby monitor that works with Amazon’s Echo Show, but don’t want to spend hundreds on one, then look no further than the Blink Mini Camera! Not only does this come with 2-way communication and night vision, but you can also view it from your phone, tablet and of course, the Echo Show. It also works as a brilliant pet camera. Alex and I use the Blink cameras to keep an eye on Alice when she’s in either her bed or the lounge if we’re out of the room (for example, in the bathroom), and Alex uses it to check in when he’s at work. We also use our lounge one to keep an eye on Fudge when out of the house.

Photo of a white Blink Mini Camera with black face mounted on a white and grey Snuzpod bedside crib. There is also a grey Snuz cloud attached to the Snuzpod in the photo.
Alice’s Blink camera

4. Amazon Echo Show 

Of course, if you go for the Blink mini camera, you can always bundle it with the Amazon Echo Show! We don’t know what we’d do without ours, from enabling skills to help settle a baby to learning skills, operating smart lighting and more. The Amazon Echo Show is a great assistant to have in the house! We also use ours to find recipes, watch videos and even as a digital photo screen. Alexa also has a skill from Tommys called the Tommys Midwife Skill, so if you’re pregnant, you can literally ask Alexa anything to do with Pregnancy. Steph says, “this skill helped me so much when I was pregnant with Alice, and even Alex was asking questions to do with pregnancy.”

The Echo Show is available in 5″, 8″ and 10″. We have the 8″ in our kitchen, the 5″ at Alex’s mums and will be getting the 5″ to replace the Echo’s in the bedroom once Alice moves into her own room. 

5. Snuza Hero MD

We found out about the Snuza Hero MD after someone we got to know through our Instagram let us borrow theirs whilst we’ve been waiting for Alice’s breathing monitor to come. So if you have an ex-NICU baby in the family or know that the parents in your life just want a monitor for peace of mind, then this is an excellent investment! The Snuza Hero MD is medically certified, and the Lullaby Trust also give them out to parents who’ve previously lost a baby to SIDS as part of the CONI programme. The monitor simply clips onto the baby’s nappy or bottoms (just make sure it’s in contact to track breathing) and will vibrate to rouse the little one if no breathing is detected for 15 seconds, alarming after 20 seconds if vibration doesn’t work. This little monitor has already worked a few times when Alice has either breath held or had another blue episode. 

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is looking at the camera with eyes open wearing a white long sleeved vest and light blue jeans. On Alice's jeans is a white and purple Snuza Hero MD breathing monitor.
Alice wearing the Snuza Hero MD

Do you have any ideas for what to get parents-to-be or new parents for Christmas? Share them in the comments to help other readers with their gift shopping! 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

Going To Big Events With A Newborn

For some parents of newborns, there will be events that you wish to attend but are worried about taking your new bundle of joy with you. Whether it be a summer fair or a big event for your town or city, a fireworks display or a Christmas light switch on, attending with a brand new baby in tow means lots more things to think about! Big events typically mean lots of noise and lots of things going on, which can be overwhelming for your little one! 

Despite many stressful events surrounding Alice’s health, we have still managed to get out and about with her. Alex and I crave normality and for us, going out and about to our favourite events gives us that little bit of much-needed normality in what has been a stressful couple of months. But how do you safely take your precious bundle of joy to significant events and on busy days out? Well, here we share products and tips that have really helped us! 

1. A suitable baby carrier

Alice has two baby carriers, one which I use with her when out and about, and the other one is Alex’s favourite. For me, the Ergobaby Omni 360 is the best baby carrier for many reasons. Firstly, as the carrier is structured, I can safely carry Alice despite being a wheelchair user without risking any dislocations. Secondly, the pouch on the front of the carrier is large enough to put cards, passports, phones and other small but essential things in there and keep them on me. Not only is this excellent safety-wise, but it’s also an excellent feature for when travelling and at large events. For example, I used the Ergobaby when taking Alice to her first football match. In addition, the carrier is easy to get babies in and out of. This meant that Alice had lots of time out of the Ergobaby that day! 

a selfie Steph, a white woman with brown and blonde hair wearing a black baby carrier with Alice, a small baby with brown hair and wearing a white jacket inside. The baby carrier has blue and blue ear defenders and a blue Chelsea bib attached to it.
Alice in the Ergobaby!

Whilst I absolutely adore the Ergobaby, Alex loves the wrap style carriers, so we also have the Hana Baby Wrap, which he uses with Alice when we’re out and about. However, he is going to try the Ergobaby later this month when we go to London! The wrap style is great as it can be used with smaller babies subject to clearance from a medical professional. It also allows little ones to be held in many different positions and closer to whoever is wearing them. However, I found that as a wheelchair user, the wrap style isn’t that safe until little ones can hold their head up, which is why Alice is carried by Alex a lot more than by me! 

Alex, a white man with red hair and wearing glasses is looking towards the camera smiling. Alex is wearing a blue and pink jacket, and a black baby wrap which has Alice, a small white baby with brown hair inside.
Alex carrying Alice in the Hana baby wrap

2. Good ear and eye protection! 

Tiny ears and eyes are extra-sensitive. A baby’s hearing can easily be damaged by loud noises and speakers if too close. For us, getting Alice not one but two pairs of Banz Baby ear defenders was a no brainer. Having two pairs means we can keep a pair at Alex’s and a pair at mine, which means no worrying about losing ear defenders and having no backup, or worse, leaving them at the one house when going to an event from the other! True story; Alex didn’t know about the second pair until I took Alice with my dad to her first Chelsea match! He was panicking about her having no ear defenders until I sent a photo of her second pair attached to the carrier, ready for when we got to Kingsmeadow! 

A selfie of Alex, a white man with red hair wearing clear framed glasses carrying Alice, a white baby with brown hair wearing light blue and black ear defenders.
Alice rocking one of her pairs of ear defenders!

As for eyes, sunlight can damage little eyes, and it can be hard to find suitable sunglasses for babies. Luckily, Banz Baby also have a selection of matching sunglasses to go alongside their ear defenders! The sunglasses fit around the head using an adjustable headband, and both the ear defenders and sunglasses can be used until the little one is around 2 years old before needing to move up to the next size. 

3. A good changing backpack

I have raved about this changing backpack in a previous post, but it really is excellent for days out, going to large events, travelling and just as your usual day to day changing bag. Not only does this particular bag from Amazon have a big main compartment for a change of clothes, snacks etc. It also has a bottle pocket that can store three bottles, a phone charging port (need your own battery pack) and a pocket for baby wipes! The most significant function for me, however, is the inbuilt cot and changing mat. Not only does it mean you can change your little one with privacy, but they can also nap in it when out and about during the day if at a picnic, for example. The cot also features a sun canopy for protection on sunnier days or as a barrier against the wind when using it when outside. It’s important to note that the inbuilt cot isn’t suitable for overnight sleeping, however, so you’d still need a travel cot if going away. 

Overall, large events can be done with a bit of planning and organisation beforehand. However, having a baby doesn’t mean life has to stop! You can very much still have a life and attend events like Christmas light switch on, Pride, picnics, fun days etc., with your bundle of joy! 

Do you have any tips to help new parents who want to go to events with their little ones? Then, share them in the comments! 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

Introducing Your Pet To Your Newborn

If there’s one situation we had to spend months preparing for before we had Alice, it was getting Fudge used to no longer being the only baby in the house and preparing him for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those chihuahua owners who babies their dog. Although he’s almost 8 years old, Fudge is a rescue we’ve had for just over 4 years, and from the start, I’ve let him get away with things such as sleeping on the bed with us and having free run of the house. However, we have also trained him with basic commands like sit, stay, wait, down etc. and knew that these basic commands would help massively with the arrival of a new baby in the house! 

Due to Fudge’s history, he hates and is scared of anything or anyone he doesn’t know. We have to lock him away if strangers come to the house, which isn’t great as his separation anxiety goes through the roof. However, we enlisted the help of a behaviourist after getting gran home in 2020 to help with socialising Fudge enough that he’d accept people and gradually get used to those who need to visit repeatedly, as well as working on his anxiousness. When meeting someone new, Fudge is prepped beforehand with calming remedies from Vita Canis and given many treats and fuss whilst the person is there. On the first visit, the person is told to completely ignore Fudge, then the second visit, or if the first visit is long enough, Fudge will gradually go toward the person to sniff them out and eventually allow them to fuss him. It’s meant that he gets on really well with my community nursing team and Alice’s health visitor. It’s also meant we’ve been able to get him to accept friends and family who regularly visit as well. 

Thankfully when it comes to babies and toddlers, we know from experience that Fudge is protective of them and takes to them a lot quicker than adults and older children. For example, he took to Archie, my 2-year-old brother, almost straightaway as Archie never corners him and always allows Fudge to go to him when he wants to play or have cuddles. With Alice being newborn, we knew the introduction would be easy from this experience. However, we still wanted to prepare him as best as possible since Alice would be at home all the time, whereas Archie only comes over a couple of times a month. 

So how did we do it? 

Well, there were several things that we did to prepare Fudge for Alice’s arrival in the months before she was born. 

1 – Setting up the main items earlier.

We had Alice’s pushchair up at 20 weeks, mainly so I could get used to the handling of it by pushing Archie around. However, it allowed Fudge to get used to something new in the house. Then 6 weeks later, we set up Alice’s Snuzpod. Fudge has free run of the house and is allowed on the beds and sofa, so we needed him to learn that this one bit of space isn’t for him, and he isn’t allowed there. Luckily, he learned quickly, which is why he’s still allowed to sleep in our room. 

2 – Calming remedies

We use a combination of calming remedies with Fudge. For example, even before Alice was born, we were using Zylkene each day after it was recommended to us by his behaviourist to take the edge off of his anxiety. We also have two plug-in diffusers from Pet Remedy to create a relaxing environment in the house for Fudge and use calming remedies from Vita Canis before any significant events like going to the vets or groomers and when people come to the house. Before bringing Alice home, I had dad put both comfort blend and calming spray on Fudge to help him relax. 

3 – Allowing Fudge to smell Alice’s clothes before washing them 

If you know that you’re likely to be in the hospital after birth, then taking some of the clothes that your baby has worn and allowing pets to sniff before washing enables pets to pick up baby’s scent so that it won’t be so difficult when it comes to the meeting. For example, I had dad take Alice’s clothes home once we’d been downgraded from NICU to transitional care so that Fudge had a few days to get used to Alice’s smell. It meant that when we came home, Fudge sniffed Alice and then left her for a while before going back to her a few times and laying next to us.

4- Using muslin squares

If you don’t feel comfortable letting your pet sniff your baby’s clothes, you could also get muslin squares to place under them, which pick up their scent and leave those in various locations around the house. We also did this with Fudge and popped some in her Snuzpod so that Fudge knew why that was a space he couldn’t go in. We also put them in her car seat so that Fudge knew she’d be in there sometimes too, which helped when getting home as he didn’t jump at the car seat when we arrived. 

Using all of the above tips, we quickly managed to get Fudge and Alice to live alongside each other to the point that not only is Fudge allowed to sleep in our room still, but this photo was taken a couple of days after Alice arrived home! 

Alex, a red haired man with glasses and wearing a dark green hoodie is smiling whilst holding Fudge, a blonde and tan chihuahua in one arm and Alice, a small white baby with brown hair in the other.
Alex holding Fudge and Alice!

Did you have trouble introducing your pets to your new edition? Or do you have other tips that worked for you when preparing your pets and introducing them to your newborn? Comment them below! 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

Meet Our Little One!

TW: This post details our NICU journey and the reason why our baby needed NICU. 

Following on from our birth story blog posts, it’s time to introduce our little one to you all, as well as what happened next! 

Our little miracle and fighter, Alice Frances Margaret, was born at 0710 on 21st August 2021, weighing 2480g. She came into the world face up, which meant the first of Alice’s many facial expressions we were greeted with was her extremely grumpy one which Alex managed to get a photo of. 

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is wrapped in a white towel and wearing a white hat. Alice has various bruises from the forceps on her face and is extremely grumpy!
Alice at 23 minutes old!

Perfect in every way, I was so glad to get some skin to skin with her. However, my right arm had been severely affected by the epidural, which meant I couldn’t lift my arm or move it very well, so Alex and Paige, the midwife who took over from Sarah shortly after Alice was born, had to help me with holding her. All was going perfectly until 79 minutes after Alice’s birth. 

People always say expect the unexpected, but what happened at 0829 on that Friday, just 79 minutes after Alice’s birth, shook both Alex and me to our cores. It really was the worst moment of our lives so far, as Alice stopped breathing while on my chest, and we didn’t even realise it. I genuinely thought that Alice had fallen asleep on my chest. Even when I mentioned it to the nurse looking after us in recovery in search of reassurance, the fact that she didn’t respond made us both think it was ok. It wasn’t until Paige came back in 30 seconds later and realised what had really happened that all hell broke loose. 

Having your baby swiftly taken off of you and seeing medical staff resuscitate them whilst the emergency buzzer means more medical staff are swarming into help is something that neither of us would wish on our worst enemy. I honestly thought we’d lost our baby, and Alex was that focused on trying to see what was being done to Alice that one of the staff had to try and force him to come and comfort me as I was being pushed out of the bay to a different area of recovery. We had no idea at that moment in time if our baby would make it. The 15 minutes it took to find out the update was the longest 15 minutes of my life. It truly felt like hours. 

The doctor who came to give us the initial update on Alice happened to be one of the doctors who looked after my mum in 2013 when she was fighting for her life in ICU. The second he said Alice was breathing, I felt the most enormous wash of relief pour over me. It didn’t matter that they were still trying to stabilise her and that the neonatal team were transferring her to NICU at that point, she was alive, and that was all that mattered. 

Shortly after the initial update, I was transferred back to the labour ward, and Alex came with me. At this point, I was trying to process exactly what had just happened to us, but if I’m honest, my brain couldn’t take anything in. As soon as I saw my dad and he realised that Alice wasn’t with us, I burst into tears once more because I couldn’t get out exactly what happened and Alex had to tell him for me. It would be another 24 hours before my dad met his first grandchild, as our NICU had a rule that grandparents could only visit on weekends in the afternoon due to covid. Still, it was a lot more lenient than most NICUs in the UK. At the time of writing this blog post, some weren’t even allowing parents to visit their child/ren together. 

Soon we received another update from the doctors working on Alice, and with them came the news that our baby was finally stable but not yet out of the woods. One of us was allowed to go and see her, but I couldn’t push myself in my wheelchair, so I told Alex to go down and get lots of photos and videos for me until I could go myself. As upset as I was that we weren’t going together, I knew that Alex would be able to prepare me for when I finally got to see Alice. After Alex got back, we were moved to postnatal, so I sent dad home to get some rest before bringing the colostrum we’d harvested to the hospital. I was an absolute hot mess, so before going to neonatal myself to check up on Alice, Alex helped me get showered and changed. He then briefed me on all the rules and what to expect, but if I’m honest, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to be wheeled into. 

Having a baby in NICU is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Seeing your child so unwell and not being able to hold them is tough. Once Alex wheeled me down, and we’d both washed our hands, he took me over to Alice. She looked so unhappy, which make me shed tears once more. She was covered in wires, hooked up on oxygen and on fluids. Her incubator felt like this massive barrier; I couldn’t hold her or do skin-to-skin to comfort her. It was a far cry from how everyone expects the first few hours after giving birth to go. Thankfully, one of the nurses came over to ask if I wanted to put my hand in and comfort her that way, which I jumped at the chance to do. I felt awful for Alex, who couldn’t hold or touch Alice the entire time she was in NICU. It wasn’t until Sunday, when Alice was on transitional care, that he got to hold her for the first time since she’d stopped breathing 2 days earlier. On the other hand, I got my first cuddle on Friday night whilst being able to feed her. However, it was filled with anxiety as the position I had her in for feeding was the same position she was in when she’d stopped breathing 12 hours before. 

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is laying on a pastel yellow and pink coloured patterned mat in an incubator. She is wearing a nappy as has oxygen prongs in her nose, a cannula on her right hand and various wires over her body. She looks very grumpy!
Alice in NICU

Although Alice was out of NICU after 40 hours, followed by 2 days on transitional care before going home, those 40 hours taught me so much about a world few know about. Being NICU parents really showed Alex and me just how strong we are, even if we doubted that strength before. Before going home, we managed to catch up with Paige, the midwife who literally saved Alice’s life and between her and the neonatal doctors got as much information as we could. Unfortunately, not all the questions were answered; we’ll never know the reason why Alice stopped breathing. The fact she did in the first place shocked even the team looking after us, especially as Alice had an Apgar score of 9 just 1 minute after birth and then a perfect 10 at 5 minutes. A few have asked us if my Group B Strep infection caused it or if the reduced fetal movements played a part, which again is something we’ll never know. However, although we were fully covered with antibiotics for Group B Strep, Alice’s infection markers were raised when checked, so she was placed on IV antibiotics for a few days as a precaution. Since we’ll never know what caused her to stop breathing, we have been warned it could happen again. It’s something I constantly hope doesn’t happen, but if it does, Alex and I both know how to resuscitate babies and infants thanks to work. 

September is NICU Awareness Month, and we’re so proud of our little fighter who made it through. We’re forever thankful to all the staff who worked on Alice and got her well enough to come home as quickly as she did. We’re also grateful for the support of Bliss, a charity here in the UK that provides information and support to parents of babies born premature or sick, as well as research into improving care and treatment.

Alice, a small white baby with brown hair is wearing a white vest and laying on her back with her head turned to the side in her snuzpod, which has a white sheet with grey stars on the mattress. There is a grey blanket covering Alice and she is asleep.
Alice Now!

Our Birth Story: Part Two – Labour/Birth

Following on from ‘Our Birth Story: Part One – Induction,’ we’re so excited to share part 2 of our story with you all! This blog post will take you through our labour and birth, what happened and why. Then in the next blog post, we’ll introduce our little one (for those who haven’t seen our little one on our Instagram already) and what happened next. 

For now, let’s take you through our labour and birth journey! 

0300 Friday 20th August 2021

At 0300, Sarah, who was looking after us, checked my progress and excitedly announced that I was 4cm dilated and officially in labour. Considering that my cervix was still very much closed at midnight, most of the team on the labour ward couldn’t believe the quick progress. Thankfully, my epidural, which was fitted the evening before, was working brilliantly at keeping the headaches at bay, with them only resurfacing around the 10-minute mark, which was when I could press the magic button for more pain relief. 

With dad being my second birth partner, he and Alex decided to go and get some fresh air to keep themselves awake whilst I tried to get as much rest as I could whilst my body was doing its thing. Since the headaches first really kicked off in the early hours of Thursday morning, I hadn’t been able to sleep much, so I needed to get as much shut-eye as possible. With the headache resurfacing every 10 minutes, however, that wasn’t easy. We also had a problem in that little one’s heart rate dropped with every contraction, thankfully recovering each time. Dad and Alex returned, and whilst Alex managed to stay awake, it was a different story for my dad, who fell asleep bless him! 

At 0500, Sarah rechecked me to see how dilated I now was, realising I was 9cm dilated! We now knew that it would be a fast labour and that the big moment was upon us! The doctors came in to recheck the CTG, and as our little one was still dropping heart rate with each contraction, they decided that I needed to be rechecked in an hour. I decided to continue getting as much rest as I could on Sarah’s advice, although the epidural was beginning to not work as well as it had, which made resting difficult. 

0600

Finally, the magic 10cm had been reached! From here on in, things went very quickly. Half dazed, all I remember was hearing the word theatre and panicking that the doctors would switch to c-section last minute. One of the doctors came to speak with us about the plan now and decided that a trial of forceps would be done in theatre so that the doctors could quickly switch to a c-section delivery if need be. We knew the birth itself would be difficult as I wouldn’t be able to push, but with little ones CTG still showing decelerations, letting my body do its thing was no longer an option; it had done all it could. Whilst I was disappointed that I couldn’t continue letting my body do its thing, I knew that our little one needed some help getting out and making it safely into the world. 

At 0615, I was wheeled down to theatre with Alex in tow while dad stayed in our room on the labour ward. The whole time I was praying that my hips wouldn’t dislocate so that it would only be forceps and not a switch to c-section, which had my hips dislocated would have ended up being the case. We arrived in theatre and was introduced to the theatre team before they completed the various checklists. Luckily, my consultant’s extremely detailed delivery plan included suggested positions to make sure my hips stayed aligned, meaning that they didn’t dislocate! Then, with a more potent anaesthetic popped into my epidural, it was time to get this baby out! 

All I could do to assist the team was focus on my breathing and try to use my top two abs to help push down (those are the last muscles I have voluntary control over). Paige, who was taking over from Sarah, arrived and together, they told me when to take a breath in and when to breathe out, timing my breathing with the contractions. Alex later told me that the doctor pulling our little one out with the forceps had to use all their strength, so I’m not sure how much my breathing helped! 

0710 and 6 contractions later, our baby’s head was born! After some delayed cord clamping, which was one of the main things I wanted along with skin to skin as soon as possible, we got to meet our little miracle and fighter at 0714! All in all, my total labour was 4 hours and 15 minutes – pretty quick, all things considered! 

In the next blog post, you can meet our little one and find out what happened after the birth, including why our little fighter had to spend some time in NICU and later on transitional care. 

Our Birth Story: Part One – Induction

Finally, the time has come for us to share our baby’s birth story! After our baby was born on 20th August 2021, we thought it would be nice to share our birth story and what happened. As it’s pretty lengthy, we’ve split it into two parts – induction up to labour in part one and labour/birth in part two. We hope that sharing our story will help those of you who are giving birth in similar circumstances.

Wednesday 18th August 2021

After nearly three weeks of being in hospital (bar home leave to sort out the last few bits between CTG monitorings), the day had finally arrived to induce labour and meet our little miracle. Although this date had been the planned date for the last four weeks of my pregnancy, getting there wasn’t guaranteed, especially after finding out about the fetal growth restriction and the low baseline heart rate that would often get picked up on overnight CTG monitorings. 

At 0830, the midwives who we’d gotten to know very well in the final few weeks came to transfer us over to the delivery suite. Unlike most people who have their inductions started on the antenatal ward, my consultant wanted me on delivery suite to keep a closer eye on me because of my risk factors. We were fortunate that because everything had been well planned out in the weeks leading up to induction day, we had the largest room in delivery suite, which is usually reserved for multiple births. It meant that I had room to move around in my wheelchair, even with all of our bits and pieces. 

A few minutes after arriving in our room, my consultant and the team on the delivery suite with her that day came to say hello, discuss the plan and see if we had any questions. After we discussed the plan and exchanged a few jokes about the size of my suitcase (a great mood lightener which helped put my nervousness at ease), we were left to get settled in. About an hour later, the midwife looking after me for the day came in to examine me and start the induction! 

As my cervix wasn’t entirely favourable, our induction was started with a Propess pessary which was left in for 24 hours. Alex and I spent the rest of Wednesday morning watching Netflix. Later in the day, dad arrived, so we decided to go outside and get some much-needed fresh air before they went home.

Thursday 19th August

At around 0330 on Thursday, the contractions I’d been having for weeks beforehand were finally strong enough to trigger my headaches. The problem with this, however, was that my blood pressure also became spiked. Thankfully paracetamol took the edge off a bit for a couple of hours until it stopped doing anything. 

Come 0900, the contractions were getting stronger but still not regular. The team looking after us for Thursday came to introduce themselves and discuss seeing if the Propess had done anything. At 1030 we had another monitoring done before the pessary was removed. Although it had softened my cervix, we still weren’t in a position for my waters to be broken, so it was time to try the gel! The gel went in around 1100, meaning we’d be checked at 1700 to check progress. 

By lunchtime, the headaches had really ramped up, and nothing was working. Alex had to help me transfer when I needed to catheterise as the pain was triggering my spasms and making transfers nearly impossible. Eventually, at around 1500, the team asked me if I wanted to try an epidural and set the wheels in motion to get it set up. Anaesthetics were called to discuss when to start it. As my waters hadn’t been broken, they were worried it may be in for too long if they were to do it at that point, so instead, they inserted a cannula to try and push IV paracetamol through in an attempt to take the edge off. Unfortunately, due to poor veins on my right side, it took the anaesthetist 3 tries to get the cannula sited. 

1700 soon came, and it was time to check my progress. Alex had gone home for a few hours around 1600 and joked that it looked like I’d peed myself; knowing that it would take a lot of retention for that to happen, I told him that was highly unlikely. Well, you can guess what it actually was that Alex saw – my waters! Somewhere between 1500 and 1700, they’d decided to go on their own. This was great news in that my epidural could be started. However, it also meant my IV antibiotics needed to be started as well. The team of midwives I’m under for my care were called, and Sarah arrived soon after. 

Sarah jumped into action when realising my antibiotics to cover us for the Group B Strep infection I was found to have hadn’t been started. It turned out that most of the team on the labour ward that day hadn’t realised I’m Group B Strep positive on top of all the other things they needed to know about me, so Sarah made sure they were brought up to speed. Around this time, the anaesthetics team came to put in the epidural, which thankfully went in without too much trouble, providing much-needed relief from the headaches. 

Alex arrived back just after the epidural was sited, and then it was time to get the oxytocin drip in that would make contractions more regular! The drip was started around 2130, and at this point, my cervix was still very much closed, so we knew it would be a slog – or so we thought! 

Fast forward to midnight and another check, we were still closed. But at 0300 on the 20th August 2021, the unexpected happened. We were 4cm dilated and officially in labour! 

Find out tomorrow in part two for what happened during labour and birth! 

Our Hospital Bag Must Haves: Aromatherapy, Alternative Therapies And Affirmations

With induction day looming (and potentially being brought forward after the last few days of yet more reduced movements), I’ve been preparing more for what I want to use during induction and labour to help me through. However, with multiple allergies meaning that most forms of pain relief are out of the question, I’ve ended up looking for alternatives to use which will help me through. Although I’m unable to feel from the top of my naval below, which means I won’t feel contractions and can only palpate them, I can get redirect headaches if there are any painful stimuli below my naval. Worse still, they can spike my blood pressure if it’s not controlled – something you don’t want happening in labour! 

So what am I planning to use? 

Various oils, pillow sprays, and roll-on's are laid out on a light grey sofa. The spray pillow sprays are contained in a purple organza bag and there is a rose gold and silver colour bracelet in the middle. Towards the bottom of the photo is a pack of 2 black anti-sickness bands.
Some of the aromatherapy items as well as sickness bands going in my hospital bag

Aromatherapy: I’m a massive fan of aromatherapy. Despite having brittle asthma on top of everything else, I often use aromatherapy to relax and calm myself. There are some essential oils that I cannot use as they set my asthma off big time, but others work really well. Products I adore using include Aveda’s Stress-Fix Composition Oil. This oil is so versatile that you can use it in the bath as a bath oil, on its own as a massage oil, or just warm up a few drops in your hands and breathe in to relax. Unfortunately, it has clary sage in meaning I haven’t been able to use it during pregnancy. However, it is safe to use in labour, meaning that Alex will be on massage duty! 

Another duo that I often use, especially when travelling, is the This Works Choose Sleep Bundle. This pillow spray and roll-on combination is a dream! The Deep Sleep Pillow Spray really helps to send you into a nap, whilst the Stress Check Roll-On contains a mix of essential oils to help you fully relax. I also recommend getting an additional pillow spray if you’re being induced, especially as some inductions can take a while, and you’ll want to get your sleep in whilst you can! 

I’m also putting in The White Company’s Relax Pulse Point in my case to work alongside the This Works Stress Check Roll-On. Although they do similar things, they have different essential oils. The pulse point contains the perfect mix of lavender, clary sage, and peppermint. This combination is said to be perfect for helping you relax whilst also speeding up labour, plus reducing sickness and headaches. 

As well as using aromatherapy blends like those above, I’m also taking pure lavender and peppermint oils to use in an aromatherapy bracelet. This bracelet has felt discs that you pop a few drops of oil on, then place in the disc holder on the bracelet. This is an excellent option if you find that putting oils directly on the skin irritates you, as the oil doesn’t come into direct contact with the skin. You can also use the oils in a diffuser. Some hospitals have diffusers on their labour wards or in the birth centre, so it’s worth asking your midwife about whether or not this is something they provide. Also, some hospitals require you to use their stock of oils, but you can choose which oils you want to use, so you may not be able to use your own oils with the diffuser if they do provide them.  

Other non-medical options: As well as my combination of aromatherapy products, I’m also taking sickness bands in with me, just in case. Even though I’m still on a powerful cocktail of anti-sickness medications to control my sickness, there are still some days I use the bands on my ankles as well as my wrists. 

I’ll also be using the relaxation techniques and breathing exercises that I learnt through watching The Positive Birth Company’s videos on YouTube. I also have some of their affirmation cards packed ready to go for during induction if I need a pick me up! They also have an affirmations function on Alexa, which I use at home each evening. However, if you download the Alexa app, you’ll be able to use them on your phone at the hospital as well! 

What About TENS or water?

Unfortunately, because of my condition, as much as I would love to try TENS in the early stages of labour, it’s contraindicated, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to try. I’m also not able to have a water birth as there’s no way to be able to hoist me out of the pool in an emergency. I am, however, hoping that we get one of the rooms that has an ensuite bath in so that Alex can help me get in and out of that in the early stages of labour. Of course, this is dependant on how much monitoring little one requires. Still, we’re hoping we won’t need to be on monitoring continuously. 

What if we have to go down the medical pain relief route?

As I said at the beginning, I’m allergic to most medical forms of pain relief. Outside of the hospital, the only painkiller I can take is paracetamol, so of course, that will be the first thing. I take paracetamol regularly to keep the edge off of my day to day pain levels, so, likely, I’ll just continue that regime through labour. Luckily, I’m able to tolerate fentanyl in small doses. There’s a fast-acting version that can be given if needed, but I’m hoping to avoid it. We also have the option of gas and air. I just have to be mindful of how much I take at once.   

What about an epidural?

Epidural is something that has been discussed at length with various people in the team looking after us. We’ve already decided that if we need it, we’re going to try it even though it’s technically challenging because of how my spine is. Another problem is that my body doesn’t always respond to local or regional anaesthetics, which caused my thumb fusion to be done under a general last year after a regional failure where I ended up screaming in pain. However, you never know if you don’t try, and I’m willing to try anything to get the birth I want! 

Did you use any alternative therapies or treatments during labour and birth? Share them in the comments for others to see!

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Our High Risk Pregnancy So Far: Why We’ve Accepted Induction Of Labour

The last few weeks have been stressful with no news and, as a result, no plan. Finally, at 36 weeks, we now have one, but it might not be the plan everyone was expecting us to have. If you haven’t read our previous post about our pregnancy journey so far, you can read the last one here

From the start, we always knew that I’d require some sort of medical input when it came to labour time and birth. Our biggest fears were that I’d be pressured into accepting a c-section which for me would mean a difficult recovery and relying on Alex and our families for almost everything for the first 8-12 weeks, both in terms of my care and little one’s. I’ve always been for a physiological birth, or as close to it as I can possibly get, only going for a c-section or other interventions if absolutely necessary, especially as it would very likely need to be done under general. Luckily, the result of the MDT meeting was that if I don’t want an elective c-section, then I don’t have to have one, but it’s under the condition that I’m aware we could still be heading down that route if either little one or I don’t cope well in during labour. 

How the option of induction came about and why we accepted

One of the biggest things about not going down the c-section route is unpredictability and the risks involved. For us, not only do I have a medical condition which means I can’t feel movements or contractions and have to palpate for them, but I’m also at risk of precipitous labour. Then, to top it off, we found out that I have Group B Strep at 26 weeks, and I’m also at risk of other complications. It meant that the idea of induction was proposed to us, with all the risks and benefits involved. Benefits? We’d have an idea of when my labour will begin, and with it, the option to ensure Alex is off work for a few days so that he doesn’t miss the birth. It also eliminates the risk of me giving birth at home with no help other than Alex’s Avmed training, which, whilst the scope of what Avmed covers is fantastic, where childbirth is concerned, it doesn’t equip you for a complicated labour birth. Cons? If it fails or something else happens, it’s a c-section since assisted delivery via forceps or ventose is out of the question due to dislocation risk. It also further increases my haemorrhage risk, something my consultant already factored in early on so that there’ll be medication drawn up and on standby if it’s needed. 

As my midwife talked to me about induction some weeks ago when Alex’s roster and being back at work was causing me stress around whether or not he’d even make the birth, Alex and I had actually spoken about the possibility of induction. We researched the risks and benefits before my consultant had even offered it to us to come to a decision together without feeling pressured. After those discussions with Alex and my midwife, I said that if induction was offered to me, I’d accept it to reduce the risk of that happening as him not being at the birth would be heartbreaking for us both. It also gives us some control over the situation as long as little one stays put and I don’t go into labour before induction day, something which could happen and my consultant warned us about when we accepted the offer. Alex had already made it clear that he’s scared of waking up during the night to find me still asleep whilst in advanced labour, something which we both know would affect him massively even with all of the training he’s equipped with, thanks to him being crew! 

As you can see, accepting an induction of labour was an easy decision for us once we’d weighed up all of the risks and benefits. Even with the risk of having to go down the c-section route if something goes wrong, the thought of having an unattended labour and birth with all of the dangers attached due to my complex medical history scares Alex and I more. We are also fortunate that we never felt pressured by the team looking after us to accept induction, mainly because we’d had that discussion ourselves beforehand, giving us time to fully consider everything. Not only is there information on induction of labour available to read in my handheld notes, but we also turned to Google to research the specific risks that are unique to our situation and spoke to other pregnant people who have EDS. But what if you’re enjoying a lower risk pregnancy and offered induction, or just don’t know if you want one?

Research is your best friend

Alex and I both know people who have been offered induction of labour and felt little pressure to accept, as well as plenty of people with low-risk pregnancies who felt forced into accepting an induction to keep their team happy. We started looking into our options quite early on once our consultant told me that she’d do everything possible to keep our options for labour and mode of delivery open. That kind of support from her when every other specialist outside of obstetrics had told me that c-section was the safest way forward meant the world to both of us. It also meant that we felt even more supported by the teams looking after us, both at our local hospital and the Silver Start Unit in Oxford, who we’re so thankful to have the specialist input of. 

Great places to research induction include Google (especially as you can tailor your search to your unique situation) and your handheld notes if your hospital provides information on induction of labour in these. I also highly recommend speaking to people who’ve had an induction of labour offered about their experiences, even if they didn’t accept the offer, as firsthand experiences can often help the decision making process. This same piece of advice goes for those who have medical conditions which could influence management. There are plenty of online groups on Facebook etc., which allow you to connect with others going through similar! If you can, start researching and discussing your thoughts with someone else early! This means by the time an offer of induction is given to you (if it is), you’ll have already thought about it and either decided on whether or not to accept, or you’ll have an idea of what questions to ask. It also means that whatever your decision is, you’ll be able to explain the reasoning behind your decision to whoever is looking after you knowing that you’ve given yourself time to consider all the risks and benefits. I’ve also learned to use one acronym that has helped us massively with each decision we make, called B.R.A.I.N. 

What is B.R.A.I.N?

B.R.A.I.N really is what it says it is; it’s using your brain to make an informed decision. 

B – Benefits (what are the benefits of this test or procedure for me and my baby?) 

R – Risks (what are the risks of this test or procedure for me and my baby?)

A – Alternatives (What, if any, are the alternatives?) 

I – Instinct (What is my instinct telling me? What do I think and feel about this test or procedure? Who else can I ask about it?)

N – Nothing (What could happen if I decide to do nothing or wait and see? Can this test or procedure be delayed? Can I take some time to think about it or research?)

B.R.A.I.N is something we’ve used throughout our pregnancy journey to make informed decisions and choices that we know are right for us without feeling pressured into doing something we may not necessarily want to do. It’s also something that we will continue to use and advocate that others use, especially as it is such a handy tool to have. With the NICE draft guidelines meaning that an increasing amount of people are already being offered induction at 39 weeks even if there isn’t a clear clinical need, now more than ever, birthing people and their partners must be able to make informed decisions without feeling pressured into accepting something they may not actually want. 

Have you been offered an induction of labour or had one in the past? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments with us!