Back to Work!

I never intended on going straight back to work after I had Elia. To be honest, I was still reeling from the 26+kg I put on with Stevie, resulting in a further 9 months of maternity leave after she was born, that I was assuming, due to being healthier this time, I could go back to work when Elia is 6 months or so.

But here’s the thing – I’ve lost my weight already. I’m back in my 26in jeans, and, much as I’m not in my favourite, model ‘shape,’ I’m not looking too bad. And with that, comes work.

So, this weekend, leaving behind a hard-worked for 3 litres (yes, really) of breastmilk in the freezer, I boarded a flight to Cape Town, to work with the lovely James Harvest crew. 3 days of work, 3 nights from my babies. Never had I dreamt I’d be doing this again with a 3-and-a-half-month-old baby.

And it was fine. My mum sent me a message on the Sunday, after spending part of the weekend with Pete and the girls, to tell me how proud she is of him for being such a good parent (well, duh, Mama) and how proud she is of me for going away. That was lovely, and so reassuring. Of course, I really missed the girls and Pete. Mostly in the nights, when I’d wake up to express milk, and have to go back to sleep in a cold, empty bed. And, much as I love FaceTime, when Stevie fell and hurt herself mid-conversation, it pained my heart to know I couldn’t be there to comfort her.

But we all came through it. I was very, very spoiled with my first trip back. Not a high shot count, amazing locations and food, well-organised and nice people: I felt like I was working 10 years ago! Such a lovely shoot to slowly get back into the swing of things.

I can honestly say, I’m still pushing for July to be when I make my first, official foray back into work. But if jobs like this come up in between now and then, I definitely won’t be turning them down. It’s a nice way to dip my feet back in the working waters. Pus, I got to eat a hot breakfast with both hands, which is always a bonus!

PS – the nicest part of the whole thing, of course, was coming home. Those two little faces lit up when they realised Mummy was back, and Stevie’s been telling every person she sees today. It’s worth going away just for that!

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A Perfect Tuesday Morning

We’ve had a bit of a manic week and weekend. Most of it good – we had plenty of nice parties and events to go to at the weekend, plus my sister (Auntie Georgia, cheetah sister) and her man were in town, so we had lots of family time. But Cleo, our big dog, got a haematoma in her ear which has now become infected, and Stevie and Elia both decided to shout at me on Saturday – all morning – so it’s been just a bit much.

So, this morning, I woke up with the sudden realization that we have to hurry up with Elia’s passport paperwork (thank god we called to sort that out yesterday) – and this made me realise just how close I am to going back to work. Back to travelling and being away from my family.

I decided I’d get up and do the morning again this morning, to have some quality time with the two of them – and this happened…

What a way to start a Tuesday morning! We read books and watched Paw Patrol and snuggled until school time. It really cheered me up, so I thought I’d share it. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

On Tandem Nursing and Adjusting to a Little Sister…

Elia is 3 weeks old today. 3 whole weeks! Time has flown by so quickly. I knew it would – it seems like yesterday Stevie was this small. And I’m literally pinching myself every day, trying to remember every single moment, because I know that, in the blink of an eye, it’ll be June and I’ll be going back to work, missing my now-chaotic little household.

But I will be completely honest – adjusting to having two children, and also tandem feeding and letting Stevie adjust, hasn’t been the easiest – and I didn’t expect it to be.

Right now, Stevie is about 90% in love with her little sister (maybe more like 95%, actually – her love grows day g day and it’s wonderful!) but 5-10% jealous and trying to get used to not being the centre of our attention all the time. Thank god for tandem nursing!

Baby bums!

Tandem nursing has been our saving grace, but also my biggest adjustment. Stevie loves sharing her booby with her baby sister, but I’ve been trying to limit Stevie’s intake still. Which may turn out to have been a silly idea – from tomorrow, I’m going to let my girls have a lot more control over their routines. The hardest thing for me has been adjusting to having two creatures demanding not just my time, but my body. But then I sit and think how small they both still are (even though Stevie now feels giant) and I just melt. I love feeding both my girls, so I’m going to do it as they want it. Besides, Elia’s already put on 700g (900g if you count from her lowest weight) so I’m obviously doing something right!

Sorry for my slightly ranting, verbal vomit post, but I like to keep people informed. I know tandem feeding is a controversial subject, but I see nothing controversial about it for my family.

Tandem Feeding Info

Then There Were Four

Guys, I had another baby! And my heart is so full – I have two beautiful little girls. I am so happy, that amazing, peaceful, contented kind of happy.

If you don’t like birth stories, look away now. I promise to try not to make it too graphic.

On Wednesday morning, we visited the midwife for a check up, and ended up having a Stretch and Sweep. For 3 weeks now, the fundus (basically my baby-carrying sack) hadn’t grown, and Karen was worried that baby was running out of room. So, stretch and sweep time (and let’s-move-baby’s-arm-from-its-head-internally time – that was comfortable!).

We went home for the rest of the day to wait for (hopefully) labour to kick in. Poor Pete – he was so impatient to meet his child, he couldn’t sit still. In hindsight, I should’ve sent him to the pub.

My mum also came straight back from my sister’s on hearing about the ‘sweep’ – I really needed this baby to come today, otherwise everyone’s hopes would be up high for nothing!

Thankfully, like clockwork, my labour started as I fed Stevie her bedtime booby (nipple stimulation, especially towards the end, I known for releasing oxytocin – the labour hormone. Interestingly, oxytocin is released 3 times naturally in a woman – during orgasm, during labour, and during breastfeeding. The human body is fascinating – it’s all connected to making babies!). Quarter past 8, I was feeling intense pressure and let Karen know.

Luckily for me, my doula was Karen’s daughter-in-law, Bianca – I have a history of short labour, and this meant they could get to me, together, nice and quickly.

And of course, my history of fast labour repeated itself. Karen and Bianca got to the house (and assisted Pete with the birthing pool) just in time for my contractions to start with a real bang – I was told the day after, that on my first check after arrival I was between 5 and 6cm dilated already.

When watching period dramas involving labour, I always wondered about the towels and pots of boiling water that they ask the husband for every time – it turns out, keeping a birthing pool hot is hard work! I don’t think Pete has boiled so much water in his life – because of course the geyser ran out after a while!

Anyway – the pool was run in perfect time and in I hopped (I did not hop anywhere, of course – hopping whilst 39 weeks pregnant and in labour is not an option). Water birth was the best decision I ever made. I went from 5-6cm to the full 10cm in about 40 minutes, so I have very intense labours and the water really helped with supporting me. It was still bloody sore, but I didn’t worry so much about finding the perfect position, as the water balanced my body.

Active labour started at round about 9pm. Karen kept me informed all the way through that my waters still hadn’t broken, and that she was reluctant to break them for me while I was progressing nicely – which I was thankful for. En caul births are rare – so of course I wanted one!

In the end, my water sack actually broke shortly after contact with the water. I got to feel it though, which was different. It felt like a very rough, papery water balloon. Then came the head, and a strange, primal moment where I tuned out everybody in the room and pushed – Karen said she even saw the change. My body, knowing what to do from last time, took over of its own accord. I tilted my pelvis, let out some kind of weird noise and the biggest push I have ever known had her out, pretty much in one fluid movement.

Looking down into the pool and seeing this little, tiny creature floating in the water will go down as one of the most surreal, and amazing, moments of my life.

But wait – what I haven’t even mentioned yet is that Stevie was in the room for half of the process, and got to physically see her little sister being born! My mum brought her through and talked her through the entire thing, and she thought it was fascinating. As I lifted our new baby onto my chest, Karen called Stevie over and asked her to to be the first to see what sex her new sibling was. It was such a special moment.

I know, I my new-mum, baby-brain muddle I will have missed something out of this birth story – probably something really vital, like how Pete was with me in the pool the whole time, or how important perineal massage is. But this is just how I remember it now, 3 days after the event. Birth is beautiful, and painful, and overwhelming, and the best thing I have ever done now – twice! Even if there was a small moment on the last contraction before her head crowned where I wondered why I’d ever put myself through this again.

Home birth isn’t for everyone – as stated, I have a history of quick labour, I had a textbook, complication-free pregnancy, and I don’t like hospitals, so home birth with a midwife was ideal for me. If you feel as though this sounds like you, and something you’d like to do, then I highly recommend it. I got to labour and birth in the comfort of my own home – I got to use my own towels, tandem feed my kids for the first time in my own bed, and wash off in my own bathtub. Plus, I now know how to clean off a murder scene – always handy, no?

My midwife was Karen van der Merwe, who also works as a private midwife at Genesis Clinic in Rosebank, if the whole home birth thing seems a bit much. To contact her re a home birth: karenvdm61@gmail.com

0823357731

My doula was Bianca van der Merwe. A doula is a birth assistant, who can be hired for both natural and assisted births, and also c-section. Bianca also offers pregnancy massage and reflexology.

https://www.facebook.com/SimplyBinx/

binxycastle@gmail.com

0615467020

Writer’s Block

This past couple of weeks have gone so fast. Somehow, I’m 39 weeks pregnant today, and I’ve had the world’s worst writer’s block.

I also can’t read, or concentrate on anything. I remember this stage from being pregnant with Stevie – hopefully it means the end is near!

All I’m concentrating on, right now, is waiting for this baby to arrive. My sister has a book going – r20 per person to guess a day, winner takes the whole pot. Stevie lost out yesterday, Pete’s guessed today and I’ve got a loose bet (no money) on tomorrow. But of course, really, it’ll probably come on Xmas day.

Goodbye, toes

So we’re here trying to look forward to Christmas, without thinking too much about the baby. It’ll come when it comes, and there’s actually nothing I can do about it.

My friend Al├ęsia bought me this from Cotton On – will baby get to wear it?

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! See you all on the flip side (hopefully with a brand new baby).

Baby’s room is ready – wall decals from Kikki and Franki

A Mum and Dad Love Story

Yesterday, we were with friends when someone asked me “What were you doing, this time 8 years ago?”

I answered, tongue-in-cheek, “Trying to get in my best friend’s pants.” This friend, who we know very well, just said, “Well, how did that go?”

I pointed at my best friend, and said, “I think it went pretty well, eventually.” My mum piped up, “Well, she did marry him…”

It got me wondering – very few of us share the stories around how we actually met our other halves, or how we came to be together. It’s the sort of subject that’s only really brought up on a drunken night around a fire. So, in the sharing spirit, here’s ours.

Babies!

In May, 2009, I was cast, last minute, in Wrangler denim’s lookbook/catalogue/campaign. All I was told was that it would be shooting in Las Vegas, where I’d been 6 months prior to shoot, and that there would be a male model. I was told his name, and asked a couple of male model friends whether they knew him – I sussed out he was Northern, like me, and a ‘nice guy.’ So far, so good – and nothing new. I saw a picture of him at a different casting, and I really didn’t think he’d be my type.

This is the picture I saw – he looked nothing really like this!

Fast forward to Heathrow T3, a few days later. I knew we’d most likely be flying together to Vegas, and lo and behold, at the gate, earphones on and waiting to board, was the guy I was working with. He was so engrossed in what he was doing, I left him to it, deciding to catch him after the flight.

But fate intervened. A few hours in, as I was waiting for the loo, as the toilet flushes, out comes this incredibly handsome young man. That picture definitely did not do him justice – he had huge, aqua-coloured eyes, cheekbones to die for and dimples like you’ve never seen. Plus, his hair kept falling across his face, which was pretty adorable.

We started chatting, and he let someone else in the queue before me so we didn’t have to stop. Sadly for me, he mentioned his girlfriend straight away – but he was such a nice guy, and we got along pretty well. We didn’t see each other for the next couple of hours, but once we got to Vegas we were inseparable.

Funny interject, here – Pete told me, about 5 years into our relationship, after we were married, that he’d actually let the person in the loo before me because he’d just *ahem* done a number 2 and was terrified of me judging him if I went in after him. That still makes me giggle, now.

Meanwhile, we are in Vegas, and had both recently turned 21, so that evening we shared a couple of beers by our hotel. The job was great fun, and we got on like a house on fire – Pete was from Leeds, close to my hometown of Manchester, and there were 6 months between us. He’d been with his girlfriend a few years (booooooo) and she was a student. On the last night, we went into the casinos and got very drunk – very good fun. On landing in London, we exchanged numbers and promised to stay friends.

Terrible quality Blackberry photo of one night in Vegas

This story is in danger of rambling, so I’ll try to rush it along. Fast forward to Paris, in July 2009 – I was on stay for a couple of weeks with two friends, and it coincidentally mens’ fashion week. So we met up, a big group of us, and went out drinking and dancing. Two nights in a row. And, my goodness, this man got stuck in my head. I fancied the pants off him – and he had a girlfriend! So not fair – so I snagged his friend. Childish, I know.

On return to London, we decided we’d had such fun in Paris, as a big group, that the nights out partying and dancing until the early hours continued. At the time, my sister, Hollie, worked as a promoter for various high-end London nightclubs, and because we’re models, we got in for free. We went out probably 6 nights a week – and Pete and I became very close. We’d spend time outside the nightclubs in the daytime, watching movies or having coffee in town. I never once lost my feelings for him, but he became one of my best friends. I dated other guys (partially to try to make him jealous) but nothing ever came of it. My mum, upon meeting Pete, was determined he was the man I would marry (well done, Mama).

Round about Xmas, 2009

Unfortunately, by the time Pete’s girlfriend was due to come back to London to stay for a while, my feelings had grown pretty strong. To this day, he denies ever knowing how deep my feelings were for him, until I told him I couldn’t see him or be around him anymore. I never gave him an ultimatum or asked him to leave his girlfriend – I would never have known how he really felt if he’d been pushed one way or the other. We didn’t see each other for over two weeks (which was a lot, for us) until he sent me a message whilst I was working in Germany, telling me he’d broken up with her. I was so elated, I vomited. I know – I’m a closet romantic.

Our first Hallowe’en together

The rest is kind of history – we actually took things fairly slow. I don’t think I referred to Pete as ‘my boyfriend’ for a good 4 months, and we didn’t say the ‘L’ word for about 6-7 months. We felt no need to rush. We lived in NYC for the majority of the start of our relationship, and saw each other probably for 2 days a week as we were so busy travelling with work. We got engaged in August, 2012, and married a week before Xmas in 2013 – 3 and a half years after becoming ‘a couple.’ Then Stevie followed, and now the other is on the way!

Share your stories with me – how did you meet your other halves? I love these tales – I really am a romantic!

Less-Common Pregnancy Fears

This is my second pregnancy. You’d think, because of this, I’m familiar with pregnancy safety, and keeping myself healthy and comfortable, right?

Well, mainly, you’d be right. But every pregnancy is different. Oh, I remember the heaviness at this stage, and the tiredness and the restless legs. But this baby is carrying totally differently – meaning I feel ultra heavy, so much so that I have no appetite, feeling as though my stomach is so small, nothing will fit. Trust me when I say, I did not have this problem last time (thank you, all the world’s food, for my excessive weight gain). Right now, I’m eating 6-7 small meals/large snacks a day to keep myself going. Sounds like a great diet trick – until you realise this is not good when you’re carrying an extra, precious parcel.

My current favourite place in the whole world.

But the lack of appetite I can deal with. The food poisoning I got earlier on the week? Not so much.

Nowadays, the majority of women have heard that the old-wives’-practice of taking castor oil to bring on labour is unsafe. The contractions/cramps brought on from the effects of the oil can cause major contractions (similar to being induced) and can also cause said previous parcel (the foetus) to suffer the same, releasing meconium (poo) into the water and making baby go into distress.

In a similar way, food poisoning and diarrhoea can also bring contractions along with the tummy cramps. Fun, isn’t it? There’s something I never had to deal with in my first pregnancy. Never again will I eat suspect sausages, blaming the funky taste on pregnancy sensitivity. I spoke to my doula after I first started suffering, so I felt comfortable knowing my ‘team’ were informed (my midwife and doula are mother-and-daughter-in-law). But I was warned to keep an eye on those pesky stomach cramps, and to call if I started vomiting (another fun thing – dehydration can also cause pre-term labour. Vomiting may have required a quick trip to hospital to be put on a drip).

Factor 50 loaded…

The second thing I’ve learned this week, thankfully before it was too late, is a funny fact about sunburn. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to Google this information, so go ahead.

Sunburn releases prostaglandin – one of the ‘labour’ hormones. In very extreme cases, my midwife said, extreme sunburn can cause premature labour. She herself has had 2 cases so far. Now, 2 cases in 25 years doesn’t sound so bad – but I really, really want my unmedicated home birth, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to not get this baby out before 37 weeks. No pool time (the only place I’m comfortable) without factor 50 cream. No dodgy meat. No bending over – okay, so that one’s not about keeping the baby in, just about keeping my food where it’s supposed to be!

The best way to enjoy pregnancy…

Pregnancy’s great. Some people really enjoy it. I just can’t wait to get to the baby at the end!

The Most Magical Place in the World

I’ve been to both DisneyLand and DisneyWorld, but nothing can prepare you to seeing Disney through the eyes of a child.

Disney in Florida is separated into multiple parks, but the ‘main’ park, the one we all think of a DisneyWorld, is the Magic Kingdom. Called ‘the Most Magical Place on Earth,’ it’s where a giant Sleeping Beauty castle sits centre stage, surrounded by leaping water fountains, performing dancers and rides – all the rides, for all ages (but sadly not many for pregnant women).

Yes, they have badges

There was a small faff on entry, so Stevie and I were waved through on our own. She gazed around in wonderment as she took it all in – the music pipes non-stop and there are people everywhere. Then she spotted Pluto. Her little face beamed and we decided to get in line, autograph in hand, to see the ‘Woo Woo,’ as she calls him. My little heart broke – she was so excited. But then she saw the end of the parade while we were waiting in line, and there were Mickey and Minnie Mouse. For two whole weeks leading up to this holiday, all Stevie had wanted to do was see Minnie Mouse. And here she was. Well, my hormonal, pregnant self couldn’t take it. I burst into tears as she shouted ‘MINNIE MOUSE!’ I was finished. Then Pete wandered over and burst out laughing, as I had tears of sheer happiness streaming down my face. I’m not usually one to gush, but it was pretty magical. Disney through the eyes of a child is AMAZING!

We spent the rest of the day running in and out of water displays and going on rides – well I didn’t go on rides, but Stevie certainly did. She definitely takes after Mummy and Daddy, enjoying the Rocky Mountain Railroad (a mini rollercoaster) so much that she asked for a second go. Yes, Disney is expensive and there tend to be massive queues (we were lucky, though, in that we went just out of peak season). Then we actually met Stevie’s idol – Minnie herself. She was made up, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. She also got to watch a show with Anna and Elsa, her second favourites, and met Buzz Lightyear.

I trudged around like a good little tourist Mummy, having an absolute ball – BUT I would not recommend doing Disney at 7 months pregnant. There’s a lot of walking around and it’s very hot – I definitely don’t regret it, but I was exhausted for days.

To round off the day, we went for an amazing dinner at the California Grill, an amazing fine dining restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort, one of Disney’s flagship hotels. Eating dinner whilst watching the sun set over the lake was lovely! Our meals were beautiful, and my word were we ready for them, but the highlight was the children’s menu. For context, when eating out we usually order Stevie the smallest fillet steak, medium rare, and we finish what she doesn’t. Therefore, no wastage – and there are always doggy bags! But here, Stevie had a wedge salad starter (two lettuce quarters – perfect for our leaf-lover!) and then a kiddy fillet steak which was a perfect, mini version of Daddy’s. The pictures don’t do it justice.

If, unlike us, you don’t have a small child who needs sleep by latest 9 o’clock, then guests are permitted on the balconies to watch the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT fireworks after dark.

Magic Kingdom entry prices are $113 per adult for one day entry into this park only, and $108 for a child. However, for a ‘park hopper’ pass (including all parks in one day) it’s $173 for adults and $167 per child.

A special thank you to our friends at The Crown and Crest in EPCoT, who helped with our entry into Magic Kingdom. They do family crests on a plaque while you wait! Always worth a visit – ask for Pete or Bev and tell them where you heard about them!

D-Day is Almost Here…

For those of you who don’t know, tomorrow, Thursday, in the evening, just over 24 hours away, we will be boarding one of the world’s longest direct flights. I’m 6 months pregnant. We have a 2 year old. And we will be flying Economy.

Now you’ve caught your breath on just how stupendously daft this idea is, let me make it even worse.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, we have an 8 hour layover. We have to collect our bags, as we’re on a different airline, and then sit for 8 WHOLE HOURS in the airport. Then we board another plane (2 hours this time) to Detroit. Then, finally, we have arrived.

Now, contrary to popular belief (and the above photo) we have done long flights, in economy, with Stevie. She’s very much the seasoned traveller. She sleeps well on planes, she’s very used to the noises and the goings on, and the normal 11-hour flights we do are a doddle. But this one is seventeen – yes, seventeen – hours in one go.

I don’t want to give her any drugs or herbal remedies to make her sleep longer, as sleep isn’t the problem. It’s the 5 hours or so of awake time that we’re going to struggle with. There are only so many movies she can watch on a little, tiny screen, and only so many trips to the loo we can take, before she starts to go stir crazy. I’ve done this flight a few times before, and, hell, even I go stir crazy.

So we’re going to stock up on stickers, prepare her favourite books, and load up on bolting, popcorn, cheese and any other snacks we know will keep her even slightly occupied. I can’t promise the same for us!

Wish us luck!

The Family Unit

Recently, I’ve been considering going back to work much sooner, after this baby, than I did after Stevie. Much as I hate to admit it to myself, my job and my independence are quite important to me.

Quite a few of my close friends and family have ‘warned’ me that, once the baby arrives, Stevie will become a lot closer to her Daddy. Now, for your standard life, this may well be completely true. And it’s not at all a bad thing – fathers or father figures (or just plain, simple parental figures who are not mum) are so important to children’s welfare.

But in our family, this is already happening. I went back to work when Stevie was 9 months old (yes, it was a very long maternity leave – that’s why I’d like to half it this time). So, from 9 months old, Daddy has looked after Stevie at least once a month without me.

I refuse to say he babysits – she’s his daughter, she’s as much his responsibility as she is mine, and therefore he is just looking after her solo.

I won’t be sad to leave my kids (yep, plural) with their daddy when I go back to work. I have no worries that they will love Daddy more than me, or that they’ll resent me. I don’t worry about him seeing more milestones than I will – because these are his children, too. I am so, so lucky to be married to a man who is happy to let me go to work, to let me earn some money, and who is happy to look after the kids, to nurture them and provide for them, and pace-feed them breastmilk in a bottle.

I know how privileged I am to be in this position. And I’m very aware that families are different – but this works so well for mine. I know some mothers struggle, and this isn’t meant to be smug. I am fully aware of how golden this situation is, and this is just a post of gratitude.

If anyone wants to follow my beautiful hubby on Instagram, his account is @petebolton07