Violetta is six months old and she’s just enjoyed her first holiday abroad!
It was her Nanny’s 60th birthday and a family week in the sun was booked for all to enjoy.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what a week away with a little baby would entail; the packing, the change to her routine, the heat, the constant attention and potential overstimulation, just to name a few of the things that were on my mind.
The lead up to the holiday was pretty intense. I had to work out what she would need, what we would need, could the hotel cater for me (a coeliac) and provide everything I needed for her, would I get to relax at all or would I just be constantly worrying about whether she was cool enough, warm enough, hydrated enough; you get the jist!!
I needn’t have worried. Aside from having to take turns sitting inside with the baby as it’s been too hot for her outside in the middle of the day, the holiday couldn’t have been better!
I’ve learnt to relax (a little – definitely never going to be the type to totally switch off) and let other people help with the baby, Iv’e also worked out what needs to be found out ahead of a holiday, what to pack and what not to pack and how to make the most of local knowledge and hotel services.
Here’s an insight into what this week has taught me, a sort of Parent’s Guide to Baby’s First Holiday! I’ve never been a big traveller, so I’m sure there are more seasoned approaches, but this is mine!
1. Talk To Your Hotel
I wish I’d asked these questions ahead of arriving, as they not only help with what to pack but also they mean that the hotel has the chance to help you out and prepare for your arrival.
Do they provide a high chair and cot?
If using a transfer service do they do they provide an age-appropriate car seat?
Is there a bath in your room (if not, can they provide a baby bath)?
Can you have a kettle in the room (for making bottles/heating food)?
Do they have a steriliser?
Do they have baby toys?
Is there a pharmacy/supermarket in walking distance?
By asking these questions you will be able to eliminate some of the larger necessary items and also know ahead of arriving exactly what is provided in your room and what is available nearby. Had I of asked these questions it would have removed so many of my stresses pre-leaving and on arrival at the hotel when I discovered that there were only showers and small hand basins in every room, but that on asking (very late in the holiday) they were happy to provide a plastic baby bath!
2. What To Pack
I won’t teach you to suck eggs, but this is my guide for a week in the sun with a 6 month old baby
10 daytime outfits (cool, easy to move in and easy access for nappy changes.
7 evening outfits/changes of clothes
2 cardigans or jumpers
5 x Socks
Enough bibs for the first half of the holiday (then rinse them and dry them for the second half!) we took 10 and used them all.
5 x Pyjamas. We chose not to turn our air con on, so V went to sleep in just a vest, but if you are thinking of using the air con also take a sleeping bag and longer sleeves.
Pretty pyjamas (if you want to take your little one out in the evening and then straight to bed)
3 x swimming costumes (they take a while to dry and smell of chlorine after being used a couple of times)
56 nappies – but only if you use a specific brand – otherwise get them from the local pharmacy.
Three packs of wipes – same applies as the nappies!
Muslins (if you still use them- we do, a lot!)
Small selection of toys
Any sleep-aids (Ewan goes everywhere with us for overnight stays!)
Food pouches and formula if you use them
Sippy cup / beaker. I love the Munchkin one as it’s leakproof
Detergent (for washing clothes in the sink – the kitchen will happily wash up baby’s dinner bits if you ask!)
Snooze Shade – the best invention ever for taking baby out on hot days or bright evenings!
Buggy / stroller (I would highly recommend the Mothercare XSS which folds down so small you can pop it in its bag on your shoulder and hide it away in the wardrobe when it’s not needed)
3. What Not To Pack!
There isn’t a lot in this list because travelling with a baby means you need quite a bit of paraphernalia, but save yourself the baggage costs by leaving these non-essentials at home!
Towels – as long as the hotel can and will provide them for baby
Baby’s bedding – if the hotel provide a cot, they’ll have bedding
Bowls, plates and all the other ‘essentials’ we use at home for mealtimes
Too many toys – I took 3 fun toys (links, stacking towers and Sophie the Giraffe) and V’s absolute favourite thing the whole holiday was an inflatable penguin we purchased from the beach shop for €1! We also got a few books and games from the local children’s shop to bring home, so she got to play with those too.
4. Buy When You Arrive
I wish it had occurred to me that I wasn’t going to the middle of the desert, but was in fact visiting a developed country where people need what I needed every day too! Save yourself some weight and agro, and buy these locally!
Baby bath/shower soap
Pouches/jars if your little one isn’t too fussy
5. How To Make The Most Of The Hotel
This one’s simple, ask them! Our waiters and front desk fell in love with V and couldn’t do enough for us; from sterilising her bottles and spoons in the industrial steamer in the kitchen, to providing us with a fresh towel each day for the pool and directing us to the best places for babies locally. Your enjoyment is key to them and a happy baby means happy parents!
I hope you find this useful. I’ll be doing a separate post on flying with a baby for the first time, but for now that’s everything.
With the arrival of our little one imminent (due in January!) I have been thinking a lot about the kind of Mummy I hope to be.
There are a few things that I value very highly, probably above all else, and these things I hope to be from day one (in fact some of them I like to think I’m already doing, in preparation). There are other things that I think are important at the moment, but I know that this could all change when I have the reality of a baby/toddler/child to look after. And then there are my ideals; things I’d love to be able to achieve if I can, but which I know not many Mummies have time for in reality.
I thought it would be quite fun to get these down now, and look back on them in the future to see how realistic my expectations are!
So let’s start with the things I value really highly. I feel like I have to put a caviat here; that this is IF I can. I’m not being unrealistic, I know some things may not work out for me, but they are really important to me so I’m really hopeful that I can find a way!
Cuddles on demand. This won’t be hard! I cannot wait to hold this little baby in my arms, and have taken note of the advice that babies are used to being comforted and in a close environment so will be taking full advantage of that.
Exclusive Breastfeeding. There’s no denying I’ve had a really hard pregnancy, and I’m very lucky to be where I am today. Because of this, I feel very strongly that I would like to be able to nurture my baby by exclusively breastfeeding. As it stands right now, I don’t even want to express. I would like to be the person who feeds my baby for as long as possible until I start weaning him / her and 5 or 6 months. Right now I feel like that isn’t a long time in the scheme of things – so hopefully this is a realistic expectation.
Putting baby before anything else. This is the one I think I’m doing already. Everything will come second to this baby’s needs (to begin with). It is my first priority and my responsibility; one I take incredibly seriously.
So what are the things that I think are important, but could change when I have the baby and it’s a real reality, that I haven’t necessarily understood all the ins and outs of yet!
Getting out of the house every day. I want to try this, for both myself and baby. My life has been so limited for such a long time thanks to having been poorly and then finding pregnancy incredibly daunting as a result (plus a whole load of weekly appointments!).
Getting up, getting us dressed and being sociable. Important, right! I put this here, because I know that to begin with, it can be really difficult. I don’t want to make hundreds of social plans – I want time with the baby for just me and hubby too – but I want to be mindful of making the time to see people too.
Keeping my house tidy. That can happen, can’t it? I’m a little bit of a scatty one, generally, so have been really focusing on keeping tidy and organised for the last three months, and I’m planning on keeping it up so that the time I have is time for us, not time for cleaning and tidying!
Going to some Mummy/Baby classes. This is a big one – I am the worst at new social situations. I get super super shy! So I will be putting myself out there and trying some new things with bubba in tow!
Making some time for me. This one daunts me, because at the moment I feel like all I will want to do is be with the baby. We’ve been on one hell of a journey together already, and I can’t imagine wanting to be away from it for a single moment. This said, I love a bubble bath and I don’t feel ‘finished’ when my nails aren’t painted. So from fairly early on I’m going to try and leave the baby having snuggles with someone else and doing these two things for me. We’ll see how that goes.
Work! Ahhhh. As you will know if you’ve read any previous posts from me, I run my own company; a dance and performing arts school. I have tried super hard to get everything to a point that I can enjoy a sort of maternity leave (I won’t be teaching classes and I’ve scheduled out as much as I possibly can to other staff members for between now and Easter). This said, I’m an absolute control freak – and I hate the thought of being away from the business again. So I’m going to try and juggle a little bit here and there. We’ll see how that goes!
Bilingual baby! Hubby’s half Italian and we so want baby to speak both languages. This means I’m going to have to up my game and work on my Italian too. Being a super busy man I don’t think we’ll get to see Papá very much during the week, so lots of the learning will be down to me during the week.
Now for the dreaming! I know that the reality of having a baby is very different to the dreamy state of pregnancy and what will be achieved when said baby arrives! So here are things I’d love to do, if I can!!
Thank you cards – quickly!
Photos, printed and labelled if possible, not just sitting on my iphone taking space.
Personalising the nursery – we have it looking stunning for our neutral baby, but it’s going to need making special when we know we’ve had a boy or a girl!
Crafts – I love love love crafts and it’s one of my favourite childhood memories so I’m definitely hoping this is something we’ll be able to do!
Home made food for me and hubby. We love all sorts of cuisines and I take a lot of pride in my cooking from scratch. I hope I still find time to do this.
Entertaining. Another thing we love – sharing our lives with friends and families!
So there you go! Let’s see how we go and hopefully lots of this will become a reality. I’ll report back, honestly, in the future!
Yes, I have been pregnant for 30 weeks (7 and a half months!). Yes, I do have a rather sizeable bump. And yes, I’ve been to five scans and seen the baby.
But…. do you know what made this pregnancy suddenly seem very real and baby’s arrival seem very soon?
Having the car seat fitted!
How silly is that! We’ve bought furniture, decorated the nursery, collected clothes, muslins, bedding, a moses basket, thought of names and signed up to ante natal classes. But until that car seat was in my car, I honestly felt like we were playing Mummies and Daddies!
So now it’s really happening, in the very near future, I’m upping the ante on the Mummy-to-be posts.
Yesterday I went shopping for all the bits and pieces for the hospital bag and baby’s first couple of weeks of residence in our home.
Watch this space for a hospital bag post (which I’m sure I’ll soon update and alter and even be amending after the bubba is born)!
I am a big lover of Peter Pan and his creator, J.M. Barrie. I first enjoyed the Disney film as a child, then when older I watched Finding Neverland and was absolutely captivated.
Many of the quotes from this lovely story are very special and every child should be reminded of the important lessons imparted through this magical fairy tale.
Yesterday I enjoyed the most wonderful day out with my Mum; our annual trip to the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair . It a really special day out and for me it marks the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas time!
The atmosphere, the stalls, the food, the drink (I may have indulged in a particularly fabulous white hot chocolate with all the trimmings!), the people and the products available to purchase all contribute to a memorable day out and inevitably a boot full of goodies!
With our impending arrival due in the next couple of months, I was on the look out for a little something for the nursery. This is made a little more difficult as we haven’t found out if we’re having a boy of a girl!
As you already know if you’ve read a post before, I’m a huge fan of words, so when I saw this stunning framed print on one of the stalls, I was drawn to it instantly.
It covers every base for my husband and I, the typeface is stunning and it will look gorgeous on the little shelves I have in the nursery, ready to be filled with loveliness.
Watch this space for the nursery progression… the furniture arrives tomorrow!
So today we had our 28 week growth scan….. and everything was perfect!
As always it’s super exciting and special to see your little one on the big screen, but following the dramas of the last few weeks, today carried extra significance for us.
It gave us quite a giggle when we walked into the ultrasound room and met the consultant sonographer, who asked how I was. When I replied ‘so much better thank you’, he wanted to know what had been wrong. So I very briefly said I’d had a parathyroidectomy a few weeks ago. His priceless response? ‘Oh yes, I know all about you, we all do here!’. Right, ok then! Good to know that I’m a minor celebrity at Tommy’s thanks to my crazy pregnancy journey!
It worked in our favour though as he gave us a fantastic print off of 6 photos and even did a cheeky 3D scan setting for us to see the little ones face. What a special day.
I haven’t stopped smiling all day, and I finally feel like I’ve got all the good news I need to thoroughly enjoy the remainder of my pregnancy!
To top off a fab day, I got home from the hospital to find that the nursery’s paint job has been finished! You can’t see the colour here, but I’ll try and get one in a better light when it’s not rainy and bleak outside. It’s Laura Ashley’s Duck Egg White, a very very pale blue that will work beautifully whether beanie is a boy or a girl.
I’m beside myself with excitement to get the furniture in (21st November) and then add all the trimmings. I won’t finish it off completely until we’ve had the baby and know whether it’s a boy or a girl – but I’ll keep the updates coming of my fun little finds and how I decide to personalise it!
That’s what you’d think, isn’t it, if someone told you that there was too much calcium in your blood!
Well, that’s what I thought when, two months ago, I was told by my obstetric medicine consultant that my blood calcium was too high, during a routine check up at the antenatal clinic.
But before I go in to what’s happened in the last month, let me go back to the beginning of this story.
A (not so) Brief Medical History
My medical journey began back in my my teens. Like many youngsters I had both my tonsils and my appendix removed before the age of twenty. I also had a cyst drained from my synus on a couple of occasions, by the same ENT surgeon who removed my tonsils. I went on to be diagnosed with endometriosis (an autoimmune disease) and polycystic ovaries and remained under the care of a gynaecologist for many years, having two operations to help reduce the pain caused by the endometriosis.
Late 2011, I returned to my gynaecologist complaining of fatigue, lethargy, aches and pains. I thought perhaps this was down to the pill I was taking and asked if we could look into it. Following some blood tests, I was re-reffered to the ENT specialist, as my thyroid hormones were not at the normal level.
My thryoid was examined with an ultrasound and biopsies were taken. I was told I had that the thyroid had an ‘unusual architecture’ and that I would need to start taking Levothyroxin (a hormone replacement) due to the fact that my thryoid did not produce enough on it’s own (underactive thyroid). I was also diagnosed with a second autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
I was hopeful that this new development would mean that the tiredness and lethargy would stop and I would go back to feeling like me again.
A few months later, this wasn’t the case, and I went to the GP a number of times over the course of the next two and a half years compaining of tiredness, lethargy, aches, pains, thirst, anxiety, stomach cramps, sore throats, difficulty overcoming normal coughs and colds and a general feeling of being permanently run down and unable to get over it. I was often told that it was normal for a young girl running her own business/studying a degree to be stressed and tired. I was told again and again that I looked well. Now that I have a full copy of my medical notes I can see that this was a common theme; I looked well, so I couldn’t be as run down and poorly as I was reporting to feel. Occasionally my Levothyroxin dose would be upped and I was sent on my way. I have popped a few pictures into this of me over the years – just to show that looks can be deceiving! All of the pictures were taken during the period of time when I was going to and from the doctors and the hospital.
Prior to feeling this way I was a bubbly, full of energy girl in my early twenties with a huge zest for life. I had recently finished school, moved out of home, set up my own company (a dance and performing arts school), embarked on a Business and Management degree and was working a part time job as a teaching assistant to ensure I could pay the bills. I was always busy, always alert and aside from the odd cough, cold and sneeze (and several bouts of tonsillitis!) I really couldn’t complain.
In early 2014 I was beginning to find it hard to get out of bed in the mornings and could easily sleep until past 11am. I would go to work in the afternoons and come home to sleep again before preparing dinner and then heading back to bed. I was very run down, felt permanently sad and anxious and no matter how positive and upbeat I tried to be, I felt very unwell. I headed back to the GP and requested some sort of further bloods tests. I knew it wasn’t right to feel this way and it was time to get some answers, no matter how ‘fit and well’ I looked/appeared. Sometimes, just because someone is succeeding on the outside, smiling and pushing forward with life, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bigger problem under the surface.
To cut the next bit of the story short, blood tests were sent off and I was shortly thereafter diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (another autoimmune disease). I went on a strict gluten free diet, and a number of the symptoms eased, but not the tiredness, lethargy and general aches and pains.
Last year (2015), as I was preparing for my wedding, I started feeling worse than I have ever felt before. I went back to the GP and begged for more tests to be done. I have a very good friend who is a pathologist and she had suggested I ask for an autoimmune profile to be taken. Given that I had now been diagnosed with three autoimmune diseases (Endometriosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Coeliac Disease) she felt it was worth ruling out any others.
My doctor at the time took the most comprehensive set of blood tests I have ever given, and to cut this part of the story short too, I was tenuously diagnosed with mild Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. I say tenuously, as the markers that were present in my blood were only slightly positive and the rheumatologist did not want to formally diagnose something so serious without first monitoring me for a number of months. It was also not deemed necessary to put me on any medication at this stage, as my husband and I were trying for a baby and the treatment for the symptoms I was experiencing would be steroids.
In May this year (2016), I was delighted to discover that I had fallen pregnant. Due to my pre-existing medical conditions it was recommended that I registered to have the baby at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, under the care of a consultant obstetrician and her team.
This has turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me.
The start of my pregnancy was fairly standard – morning sickness, tiredness, absolute euphoria! The twelve week scan was the highlight of our year and knowing that I was growing a very special little bean made me the happiest I have ever felt!
After twelve weeks, I started to feel poorly. I was suffering from very bad fatigue, intense headaches, a serious thirst, incredibly painful muscles and joints, all-encompassing brain fog and I felt anxious and sad a lot of the time. Not how you want to feel when the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you is busy growing inside.
As you can see above – none of this was new to me, but it had seriousy intensified and was affecting my ability to do my job. It also made being pregnant quite scary – I was constantly wondering whether my body was up to carrying the baby and giving it everything it needed to thrive and grow.
I went to see my consultant and explained the changes I was experiencing. After consulting with a colleague, the consensus was that I was having a flare up of Lupus and I was quickly put on a medicine called Hydroxychloroquin (completely safe in pregnancy) to supress what was assumed to be the autoimmune reaction, as well as a daily dose of aspirin to hopefully pre-empt and deter pre-eclampsia.
Off I went and started on the medication. It definitely helped with some of the symptoms, particularly the painful joints, but overall I wasn’t feeling all that different. I carried on attending regular consultations and having regular blood tests.
Three weeks after one of these appointments, with a different member of the consulting team, I was sitting with the lead Professor of Obstetric Medicine, when an unexpected blood test result was picked up. My Calcium was reportedly high, at 3.02mmol/L.
I was immediately sent off for further testing and the high calcium result was confirmed.
Then followed the scariest, most overwhelming and daunting few weeks of my life.
I have condensed this part of the story and taken out a lot of the little waffly details that made it all the more scary and overwhelming. But you will get the gist.
Hypercalcaemia in Pregnancy
This is a rare condition. So rare in fact, that it came as quite a surprise to the team that I had it. There are a number of reasons for hypercalcaemia. I’m not medically trained so I’m not going to go into all the different options I was given, but the main one that was being investigated was a condition called Hyperparathyroidism.
The parathyroid glands are located around the thyroid, and it is their job to control the amount of calcium in the blood (click on the links for more complex info, I decided not to paraphrase it all here).
About a week after receiving this news, I became very unwell, very fast and was admitted to hospital for IV fluids and round the clock observations. I won’t go into all the details, but over the course of the next four weeks I had daily bloods tests, spent 24 hours a day on a drip, had to monitor every bit of fluid intake and output, had daily injections, daily consultations with obstetric medicine and endocrinology. I had two ultrasound scans of my throat, the second of which identified an adenoma (small tumour) on one of the parathryoid glands. This was almost certainly what was causing the hypercalcaemia.
The real problem in all of this was that the only choice I had in order to get better, was to have surgery to remove the affected gland. The surgeon who would be able to carry out this operation had just left the country and wouldn’t be back for over two weeks.
During my time in hospital I was put on a low calcium diet, went through a couple of days of thinking I had gestational diabetes (brought on by the fact that my diet largely consisted of fruit) and was diagnosed as anaemic and consequently put on iron tablets.
Skipping forward now: after a couple of weeks in hospital and finding that it simply wasn’t proving possible to keep my calcium down no matter how much I drank (6 litres a day for a whole week) or how long I was on the drip for and given that no medication was an option during the second trimester, plus trying to send me off to another hospital to be squeezed in to another surgeon’s timetable (unsuccessfully – but that’s a story for another day!), the surgeon finally returned from his holiday.
These few weeks were a huge drain on my husband and our families. I steadfastly refused to Google the conditions I was being diagnosed with, instead focusing on remaining positive and strong-willed throughout. This wasn’t easy, and of course there were a couple of times when I cried and felt for myself for what I was going through, but mostly I had one end goal in mind – to come out the other side fighting – and I fixated on making sure that could happen.
The day of my operation was the scariest day of my life. If you’re reading this and you’re pregnant and facing an operation, have courage; you can do it. So much will go through your head, and the consent forms and essential information that the doctors and aneasthetists have to give you is daunting, to say the least. But I am proof that it can all be ok.
When I woke up to find out that both myself and my baby were ok, it was the hugest relief. I still had a little way to go with the recovery (low blood pressure and a healing neck scar for starters), but the problem had been removed and I was awake and ready to move on.
The weeks I spent in hospital, before and after the op, weren’t without challenges, not least my crippling fear of cannulas and drips, something which every nurse, midwife, doctor and anaesthetist was soon aware of! Some of these challenges/obstacles have only really dawned on me since being home, and I just have to remind myself that I got through it at the time and it didn’t defeat me then, so it can’t defeat me now.
I’m now two weeks post op, back at work (well a little bit – I’m not teaching just yet!) and settling into real life. I’m feeling leagues better – my headache, muscle and joint pains, intense fatigue and anxiety have all but disappeared. My husband keeps running through the list to see how I’m feeling, and it constantly surprises us when I continue to answer in a positive way!
These photo show my neck the morning after, two weeks after and three weeks after the op:
So why am I writing this down?
Well, if you’ve stumbled across this because you (or your wife, daughter or friend) finds herself in the same place I was in two months ago, I hope I can reassure you. It is scary, it is overwhelming, there is so much medical information to take in, so many tests and variables and limited literature to educate yourself with. But, you will come out the other side stronger, more complete and feeling immeasurably better than you were before. You will have a small scar on your neck (see above, it’s already barely visible and I haven’t started on the Bio-Oil yet!) and you will have memories that last forever (and not necessarily the treasured kind), but you will have survived, you will have beaten your body’s imbalance and you will be ready to face the rest of your life.
I’m only three weeks in. I’m tired and hungry, but I’m six months pregnant and judging from my friends with kids, this is how it’s supposed to be. Problems and ailments that have troubled me for years without answers appear to have cleared up and disappeared. I will post again in the future to update on how I’m doing – but put it this way: in the last week I have cleaned my whole house, I have cooked home-made meals, looked after my husband, been there for my friends and caught up with my business. I am planning our baby’s nursery and getting excited about it’s arrival (it’s the first time I’ve let myself properly plan and dream!).
I guess the title of my blog couldn’t be more appropriate. This has certainly been the cloudiest period of my life. But the sparkly lining? I am feeling better. I am stronger (both mentally and physically) than I was before. And the ultimate? My husband and I have endured the most challenging period I can imagine, and it has brought us closer, made us stronger and made us more excited than we ever imagined possible about our future as a family of three.
It’s time to get me back to being me again – but this time without anything lurking under the surface – this operation should have cured the problem, now I can live my life!
Want to know how I feel one month post op? Just click here.