Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Baby Blogging - Weeks 34 - 38!

The last Baby Blog I did was just over a month ago (see here), we had 7 weeks left to go and we had excitingly had a scan to see our little girl in 4D.

That time seems like a while ago now. Time is flying.

These last 4 week have been a whirlwind. You may have seen this post: Pregnancy in funny pics where I found a number of pics and memes that I felt really summed up getting to the end of pregnancy.

Or maybe you saw our Instagram getting filled with pictures of our maternity photo shoot?! If you didn't you can check out the highlights here.

And there was the week that contained two Baby Showers - one organised for our family and friends and the other by my colleagues. Full details are here.

What none of those posts talk about are the rest of the baby drama that has been going on. It didn't really 'fit' into any of the posts and to be honest it has been something we have been exclusively talking to our family and close friends about.

The headline is 'Baby girl is breech and we are booked in for a C-Section on the 5th of July 2018.'

To get to that headline has been a journey though.

After our weekend away in Norwich and the maternity photo shoot I had a midwife appointment. Just a routine check up, blood pressure, pee test and then a quick measurement of baby. It was here that things took a slight twist though. (If you read the previous post you will know baby girl had turned breech but as we were only at 32 weeks they said she had plenty of time to turn.) We were know at 34 weeks and the 'time for her to turn' was now. When the midwife couldn't decide if she was still breech I was booked in for another hospital check up. (Turns out heads and bums can easily be confused in the womb).

Between the midwife appointment and check up we Googled ways to 'spin' baby girl and while there was no definitive answer we tried a few resting positions to see if we could encourage her. No luck. The hospital appointment confirmed she was still breech.

The other twist was that there was now a pocket of growing water around baby girl that they wanted to monitor. They think the volume of water could be the reason she has stayed breech and  in weeks 34-38 I have had 3 separate scans to measure the water and baby girls growth. Both are tracking fine. Thankfully.

Add into the regular hospital visits a crazy time at work and you have my last month. My maternity cover started, my new starter started and I needed to make a final trip to our head office in Bournemouth as well as numerous trips to London to do training and handovers.

The biggest day we had was on the 13th of June, at the hospital appointment we had our consultation about our 'new birth plan'. We had discussed it privately and agreed that if baby girl was staying breech then we would go for a C-Section.We were completely aligned on it until we were face to face with the consultant and running through our options.
  • Option 1: breech vaginal birth - as baby girl is head and feet up she could be born bum first
  • Option 2: ECV - where the doctors try to turn baby girl by giving me drugs to loosen the area and then physically push her around
  • Option 3: C-Section
When the consultant was running through the options she very clearly wanted us to try option 2 and it threw us. We asked for some time and ran through the pro's and con's (which they helpfully lay out in a document). Option 1 sounded too painful and if there were complications it would end in a C-Section anyway. Option 2 just sounded painful and in the 'cons' it lists 'baby distress' and only 40% success rate. We decided if we weren't going to have the birth we planned (calm, water birth in the birthing suite) then C-Section it was. We accept the recovery time, the fact that it is an operation and the medication but ultimately we want baby girl born in the least traumatic way for her and I have the best support network around that means I can focus on recovery. If a C-Section gets her out in less than 8 mins and takes away the complication of the excess fluid, my two placenta's and her potentially getting stuck then it's the right decision.

That said it took us almost an hour sat in the consultant room and once the decision had been made she went to check availability. She said due to the fact that we were only 3 weeks away from official due date it may be that we have to join a waiting list and we'd get called in if there was a cancellation. Thankfully there was one free spot.....on the 5th. We turn up at 7.30am and wait for our turn. That's the new birth plan.

We can't thank the consultant/doctor for taking the time with us, while she clearly had a preference, once we had made a decision she was 100% with us. She was calm, reassuring and didn't rush us even though it was 7pm. We left reassured that we had made the right decision for us.

Now the decision is made it has also meant Laura can swing into planning action, having an exact date to work to has focused us on our last to-do bits. Including finishing the nursery, which we can now say is done :) We have made plans with my parents and sister around visiting times. I have booked annual leave Monday - Wednesday so I can officially start maternity leave on the 5th and maximise the paid leave with baby girl. In some ways we have taken a sigh of relief - neither of us are great with the 'unknown'.

We have also been speaking to other couples who are in our situation and those who had the ECV failed to get the baby to turn, in one case the baby was clearly in distress and the Mum almost passed out. I know everyone's experience will be different but for us it was confirmation we made the right decision.

We also managed to fit in an evening class that covered baby first aid and bottle feeding. We felt that the NHS class had taken a focus that 'breast is best' and while we really hope we can breast feed we felt unprepared if that wasn't the case. I mean how you sterilise a bottle, measure out formula and make sure baby is getting fed enough were all things we were clueless about. The class was brilliant though. While the first aid bit terrified us we left with far more knowledge about what to do in an emergency and it covered points we would never had considered.

I am also relieved to be on my final countdown at work and so glad that my last few days are working from home as the UK experiences the current heatwave. With temperatures around the high 20's the thought of commuting is enough to make me hot. The radio is talking about the train tracks buckling and the tubes being a nightmare, my team are telling me that even with air con the office is still too warm and there is no air outside. I am so glad I am not in as part of it. It's also giving me the opportunity to clear through my inbox so I really ready to close my laptop knowing nothing is outstanding.

Having ventured out to my last Birthfit class last night at 7.30pm and seeing 29 degrees Celsius on the car thermometer also confirmed just how hot it was. I only went as the discussion was on C-Section recovery but after an hours work out sitting down to 'discuss' was in reality me concerned about how big the sweat circle was going to be around me after sitting down for 20 minutes. (I am mainly kidding - it was a very useful discussion and I'll be sure to post the advice shortly.)

I have had my last lunches with my favourite clients, had my last meetings with my team and set up my last handover calls, it feels strange. When I wrote my first 'Baby Blogging' post it was December, I was 13 weeks pregnant and today has seemed a million miles away. I feel kinda sad at just how quick the time has gone (I mean remember this video of the first 3 months?!). It is balanced by excitement to finally meet our family's newest addition but I know it will be the end of life as we know it. The comfort through pregnancy has always been collapsing on our couch at the end of a busy day and being able to just talk. To reassure each other and just relax. In 10 days our focus will forever shift from just being us and that is scary. We want the change but it's hard knowing there is no going back. Our nights away from baby girl will no doubt end up with us forever talking about her, worrying about her. I'm not sure where 'we' will fit in with all the chaos but we'll be sure to keep you updated.

Whatever happens we have our 4 year wedding anniversary on the 28th of June and a last chance to celebrate just us. I can't believe it's been 4 years! If you weren't following us back then here are the wedding highlights: Blog Post and Highlight Video.

So this post could be it....we will share pics of the nursery at some point soon and keep you updated when we get the chance.

Also *side note* the end of my pregnancy has come with A LOT of tears - I mean in the last 2 days alone I have cried no less than 10 times. At the generosity of my parents, at the hard time our friends have just gone through with their dog, at Laura leaving to go out, at Bisbee for being so cute and hoping that she knows even with the changes we will love her completely, at paying £4.50 to park at the hospital, at the fact that I wasted 20 minutes in the wrong waiting room at the hospital, writing this blog. Here's hoping it stops soon!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Review: Head of Steam Birmingham

Have you heard of Head of Steam? It is Birmingham's latest pub/restaurant now open in the city centre.

With a wide array of craft beer from the UK and beyond, a great menu and a dogs welcome policy this place has to be on your 'to-do' list this summer.

Located a short walk from Birmingham New Street station, the main shopping area and the cathedral it is in a prime location for a lunch drop in or evening meal. Or if you really like beer it's a great place to get your beer tasting on. In fact June see them offering exclusive European beers as part of the brands Euro Beer Week.

Birmingham is the latest location for the company who have established themselves in locations from Newcastle and Huddersfield to Leicester and Nottingham. You can find all locations here.

You can see why they have successfully expanded, while the concept isn't new, Birmingham has a large offering of craft beer pubs - it does provide something different. With live music and the location split into a restaurant area, a 'traditional pub' area and a front area that make it appear as if you are sat in a beer patio it has something to offer however you enjoy your drinks.

With Bisbee in tow we visited the Birmingham location on opening night and from the moment we walked in we were impressed. Bisbee welcomed the attention and we liked the decor - an industrial style with a clear railway focus that meant there were plenty of things to discover during our visit.

Due to pregnancy we skipped the beer menu but did peruse the vast cocktail menu, Head of Steam REALLY know their drinks! We were kindly offered a virgin version of a number cocktails and enjoyed the strawberry daiquiris so much we ordered 3!

The food decisions were the hardest part of the night. We did plenty of eyeing up other peoples orders before settling on a chicken and ham pie, with mash and musheys and then a halloumi burger with chips. We also added a side of mac and cheese sticks - and so should you. They were so so good!

The full menu can be found here.

The portion sizes were reasonable and the food tasty - I would definitely recommend the pie, super flavourful and jam-packed with filling. Oh and it's a proper pie, not a pastry lid on a bowl!

Next time we will head back for brunch as the menu looked delicious!

After finishing our main course we got a low down on the up and coming events and what's involved in the beer tasting.

We also got to find out that Head of Steam have trained beer sommeliers on hand to offer advice on food and beer pairings as well as what craft beers and cask ales are available.

The fact finding mission gave us a chance to work up an appetite for our dessert, I ordered the strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake and I can honestly say it was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. It was light, sweet, flavourful and every bite was so good. It was so good that I would be tempted to head in just for that dessert if I needed a reboot while shopping.

One of the highlights of the evening was the service. Everyone we spoke to was lovely, super helpful and knowledgeable.

The only challenge we have found is that as far as we can tell there is no way of booking online and when we did try and walk up it was way too busy to go in with Bisbee. Plus the city centre location means you have to pay to park so it's best to know you have a table guaranteed before you park.

Overall though if you like beer or good food or a pub with a lot going on or all these then Head of Steam is well worth checking out!

Monday, 18 June 2018

Baby Blogging - The Baby Shower!

Technically I should call this post the 'Baby Showers' because last week included two. Both were full of surprises but one was a little more planned.

Our wonderful friends Sam and Sara had kindly offered to host our Baby Shower and Sunday the 10th had been the date we picked way back at the start of the year. Laura had been nervous that it was so close to the end of the 9 months, I was always confident that baby girl would still be quite at home. 

In the months leading up to the Baby Shower the girls had collated names and contact details for all our guests, inviting them with stunning paper invites detailing the plans for the day. We had wanted to invite family from across the globe although we fully appreciated they wouldn't be able to make it. What we hadn't fully appreciated was that so many of our UK family and friends would make it.

As the replies came back Sam and Sara kept us in the loop and the final count was 38. We were blown away. Not only had our Nan's managed to make it - Laura's from Windsor and mine from Tunbridge Wells - but we also had a mixture of work colleagues, people from our 'social activities' and, in my case, my closest family, and in Laura's case her brother. It was amazing.

Thankfully my parents were happy to host the shower at their house and their large garden was perfect, especially as the sun decided to shine. Since the start of the year my Mum had been hard at work prepping her garden, flowers beds had been put in, new turf laid, new decorations added and it paid off. The garden looked show home worthy.

Sara and Sam had headed to my parents house early on Sunday to set up and we had no idea what to expect, by the time we arrived almost 2 hours later the garden was transformed into a beautiful setting. My Mum and Aunt had added bunting and the girls had added balloons and decorations. The kitchen smelt delicious with all kinds of party food being prepared and in my parents dining room there was now a dessert table. It looked incredible!

Our guests started arriving at 2pm and we were able to welcome everyone as they came into the garden. It felt almost wedding-like as we very much felt like special guests. We had been provided with 'Mama-to-be and Mummy-to-be' sashes and our only job was to mingle and catch up with our guests.

My Dad had kindly driven to Windsor to pick up Laura's Nan - a 3 hour round trip - and we were so relieved they had made it in time to enjoy most of the shower. If anything this baby has really had people going to extreme lengths for her so far. We also really wanted to make sure Laura had her Nan there on the day. (She was kindly dropped home later that day by my sister).

My God Parents / Aunt and Uncle and cousin and his wife had made the journey up with my Nan from Tunbridge Wells and had stayed with my parents the night before, along with my sister and her boyfriend so my family were all on site and ready to help if needed.

Laura had colleagues old and new and people from choir and almost my entire netball team had made the effort to attend. We had Charlotte and Hannah up from Norfolk, Laura and Allana over from the Malverns and Lisa, my old boss, all there and we couldn't have felt more loved.

The Netchix team and their furry mascot!  Baby girl even got her own Netchix babygro :)

The garden was packed and buzzing and the food provided was the perfect amount. Once most of it had been eaten the girls started with the fun activities. Firstly they had asked people to bring baby photos and they had been placed on a line with numbers, the game involved matching the baby with the guest. Not an easy task when you have people meeting for the first time. (Thankfully the girls had provided name tags for everyone).

The slightly simpler task was then filling in a postcard with predictions for the baby - arrival date, weight, length, name and a wish for her. We almost cried reading them after. And someone guessed the name (we think we are going for) correctly!

The third task was to guess the number of sweets in a jar, this was won by my sister and her boyfriend who were only 4 sweets out! Not bad as the jar contained 163!

With all the fun going on we almost ran out of time to open the wonderful gifts that our guests had bought. Laura had asked that everyone bring a book they loved as a child so our little lady will have quite the library. What we hadn't expected was that we get anything else. It turns out that cute baby clothes are irresistible though and baby girls wardrobe is certainly well stocked now.

Baby girl also has a baby sling, play mat, baby monitor (I guess that's for us), sunshade for her buggy, some cloth nappies, teething toys and some cute Peter Rabbit cuddly toys. Not only that but one of Laura's friends gave us a hand knitted blanket, headband and shoes in our nursery colours and another friend had stitched an Alice in Wonderland picture - both gifts were so thoughtful.

Before everyone left they also got given a slice of the amazing red velvet cake the girls had got and decorated with beautiful real flowers, as well as a bag of popcorn to pop at home.

We sadly didn't get to thank everyone in person for their gifts so the next job we want to get done are thank you cards.

Not only was the girls organisation outstanding, to the point that my usual control freak wife even took a step back, but everything was so personal. The food was all our favs, the dessert table was my heaven, the decorations were gorgeous and everything had been thought of. It truly was a day to remember.

As I mentioned at the start of this post as if one baby shower wasn't enough, just as I had recovered from Sundays shower I walked into my team meeting on Tuesday to be greeted by my team throwing me a baby shower. The look on my face was indeed a picture.

This shower was short and sweet. I was greeted with an incredibly generous voucher and adorable Unicorn themed baby grow (my company is Unicorn Training). There was only a few seconds to compose myself before the games. We started easy with a guess the baby - this time I got almost everyone right but there were only 7 people to pick from. From there they upped the anti and we were split into teams to dress the 'baby' in a nappy. Sadly my team lost.....not the best start to motherhood!

We finished with a team selfie and tucking into the pile of goodies that had appeared. It was a complete shock and I genuinely had no idea my team had been planning it.

A trip to Head Office in Bournemouth later in the week also proved beneficial as baby girl was gifted her own Unicorn and I got a lovely card signed by the teams and a voucher to spend at Amazon. I am certainly very lucky when it comes to where I work.

In fact Laura and I are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such love. My work team had included a picture of Laura in the baby guessing game and my head office made sure the card was addressed to Laura and I. I know they are small things but they are things that mean the world.

The baby shower(s) was the last event we had planned so we are now on baby girl countdown!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Baby Blogging - Maternity Photo Shoot!

The end of May saw us reach 34 weeks pregnant and to celebrate we had organised a maternity photo shoot while staying with our friends Charlotte and Hannah in Norfolk.

It was our first trip to Norfolk and with weather on our side and great tour guides we were able to enjoy what the area had to offer. From stunning miles of beaches to fields of rape seed to the broads there was no shortage of areas to pick for the pictures.

With Charlotte as our photo assistant she was ready with hair brush, make up top ups and most importantly dog treats when we needed Bisbee to pay attention. Hannah was a our professional photographer and we can't thank the pair of them enough for how these pics turned out.

So without further ado here are our favourite pictures from the day from the 100's Hannah took.

The day was wonderful, the experience amazing and the results were better than we could have hoped for. The photos truly capture us, the excitement of this time and the fact that we are enjoying every last moment together before we become parents.

It's so strange to think just how soon our little lady will be and we couldn't be more excited. The countdown is well and truly on.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Review: Bicester Village, UK

Have you heard of Bicester Village? If you live somewhere north of London or South of Birmingham the likelihood is you probably have. Put simply Bicester Village is a collection of around 150 stores offering designer fashion brands open 7 days a week and till 8pm most weekday evenings.

To check out the full list of stores here.

The village is accessible by train from London in 46 minutes, Birmingham or Oxford. Or you can take a coach from London. There is also a bus service from Oxford or if you drive it is just off the M40 and there is a fair amount of parking.

Our visit to Bicester Village was not because we fancied a new shopping location, in fact if we did 'designer village' would not be top of our list, it was because I had a Virgin voucher to spend. On Virgin Experience days you can exchange you voucher for varying amounts of gift cards and lunch vouchers at Bicester Village so that's what we did.

On arrival we collected our gift card and lunch voucher from guest services and agreed a strategy. Start at the furthermost end and work back. The only challenge would be committing to buy items when in a store to save walking back and forth. At almost 8 months pregnant tons of walking is out of the question right now.

It's been a while since we shopped for ourselves, recent budget has all gone on baby related items, but we started strong with a trip to Calvin Klein for some underwear. It seemed unnecessary as only Laura ever sees my undies but I have always wanted a matching pair and now seemed like an appropriate time to get them. I got sizes I can wear post-baby so I have a reason to get back in shape.

From there we headed to Ralph Lauren and within 5 minutes realised how much we really didn't belong in these types of stores. While there were pretty clothes the amount of shoppers already modelling the clothing made it feel weirdly cult-ish and when I picked up a dress for £225 I almost dropped it in shock. Who has that kind of money?! Gift voucher or not I can't imagine any dress being worth that amount. It would have to be self-washing and self-ironing and be able to re-hang itself.

We promptly left and after a confusing pop in to Ted Baker - confusing because we couldn't really figure out what they were selling except obnoxiously loud and colourful things. After the colour overload we decided lunch was the best plan. The noodles we opted for were delicious and filling but at £8 something we'd take sandwiches if we came back! Or visit, what used to be, Europe's largest Pret.

Fueled by lunch the next stop was Hunters, Laura had always wanted a pair and as the store was fairly quiet it was a great opportunity to try on the selection. As this was an outlet store we struggled to find a variety of sizes in each colour but as they say it only takes one and our one was a classic black, calf boot in the right size. Laura almost cried with happiness. We also managed to get boot socks to complete the look.

White Company came next but we were disappointed by the selection, I don't often wander into the store and based on this I wouldn't hurry back. The main things there seemed like overpriced bedding and towels and the children range, where we thought we might be tempted, ended up as nothing special. Laura opted for the large candle as it was reduced from £50 something to £33 and I was told that was a good deal.

We stopped by Pandora and were pleasantly surprised at how reasonably priced the jewellery was but not tempted into buying anything. We walked past the queues for Gucci, Mulberry and a few other designer brands and briefly looked into Havaianias, sadly my fav design didn't have my size so we moved on.

My personal success of the day was in Cath Kidston. The store was packed to the rafters with great deals and we had to do a count-up of the items to ensure we didn't go over our gift card amount. I ended up with 2 dresses, a jumper and a bag that I plan to take to the hospital when baby makes her arrival.

By the time we had finished we had spent 3 hours and we were both ready to head home. The experience was an interesting one. The way Bicester Village is designed makes it a great shopping destination - beautiful flowers fill the pedestrian areas and it's like a shopping Disneyland. There are plenty of employees walking the area ready to help, the toilets are maintained and there are plenty of them, the station looks like you arriving at a destination and the guest services is like a hotel.

There are plenty of seats for weary shoppers to rest on and enough food options to offer a choice so if you want a day or afternoon of shopping in a pleasant environment you can't go wrong.

With all that said you really have to love a brand, we struggled as it's hard to justify the 'value' in some of the stores. We aren't into designer anything though so we appreciate that is our challenge. There are plenty of 'deals' on the designer brands if that is your thing. Time it right (like we did) and they also do 20% off weekends so it's extra discount.

The highlight of the day wasn't the village for me, though I am glad to say we've done it, it was having the opportunity to spend time with Laura. We haven't spent a day with the sole focus being one another for a while and I really enjoyed it.

I'm not sure if we will be back, unless we have a specific request from a family or friend for a designer item and we are feeling generous :) We definitely belong on the high-street when it comes to shopping!

Have you been? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Havaianas - Get Your Feet Ready For Summer!

If we said Havaianas to you you'd think of flip flops right? The brand and footwear are synonymous and have been for many, many years, in fact since 1962!

They are a brand that get recognised the world over but did you know they do more than just flip flops? We were invited along to 'Havaianas Let's Summer' launch day to check out what our feet could be modelling this summer. 

The name Havaiana's means Hawaiian in Portuguese, but it was in Brazil that the footwear really took off. By 1964 it's said every worker in the country owned a pair of the flip flops. The popularity led to the specific shape being patented in 1966 so while other flip flops may have come and gone the Havaiana shape has remained. 

By 1980 the popularity of the footwear in Brazil meant they were listed as a fundamental product by the government and were used to control inflation alongside rice and beans - crazy huh?!

It wasn't until the 2000's that expansion brought the brand to Europe and by 2010 they had added a range of sneakers to their range to accommodate the European weather when flip flops couldn't be worn. 

And so to summer 2018 and the 'Havaianas Let's Summer' range where the focus was on footwear you can wear in the sun.....

Traditional Brazilian blue

Havaianas originie slims                                                                                     
We came across this exotic looking parrot modeling it's Havainas

And if you are having summer wedding did you know that you can get Havaianas with wedding specific jewels

We spotted the traditional colours 

And those designed especially for the world cup

We even got the opportunity to jazz up the pair of Havaianas we were given and this cute wallet that fits our phones perfectly and is waterproof. Super useful for the beach. 

The other range we couldn't miss was the kids range, our little girl may be a few months away from her first pair of flip flops but there is no harm looking right?

If you want to get your feet summer ready check out https://www.havaianas-store.com/en where you get free shipping when you spend over £40.