Monday, 30 July 2018

Baby Blogging - The Vlog!

The night before we met Annabelle we took time out to do the pregnancy tag for our YouTube channel. It' so strange watching it back to think how much life has changed in 4 short weeks and yet how we still end every night as a family on our couch.

It's fair to say that is exactly how we feel having Annabelle, she has changed things but fundamentally she has made our regular life better.

So if you fancy checking out our answers to the pregnancy tag click here to access our YouTube video.

To complete the video we also introduced Annabelle, we thought it was only fair.....even if she slept through the whole thing :)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Baby Blogging - Newborn Photo Shoot!

When Annabelle was 11 days old we had a newborn photo shoot with Sally Josko Photography a local photographer who had been recommended by another photographer we met at a blogging event. 

It was a last minute change of plan as Laura had won a competition for a free photo shoot and £50 off a photo package from a company in Leamington Spa. However having looked at the packages available, even with a £50 discount, the cheapest package would have been over £300. We love our girl but that was out of our budget.

We were looking at the packages on Monday and on the price discovery I immediately called Sally. It ended up being the best decision. On Thursday we went for Annabelle's photo shoot.

Sally's studio was less than 10 minutes from our house and as our first proper trip out it meant we didn't have to be prepared too far in advance. On arrival Sally was warm and welcoming and as we entered the studio we felt immediately at ease.

The session started with us looking through existing photos to see what styles we liked and picking out accessories to use. Impressively Sally makes a range of headbands so we had plenty of choice.

Once decisions were made it was on to the session. Thankfully Annabelle was well behaved and as Sally started putting her in poses she happily dozed. With a shoosher (a machine that literally makes the 'shoosh' sound) and a white noise machine playing Sally placed Annabelle on the cushion to get her positioned. It was fascinating watching.

In total the session ran for 4 hours, Laura and I were kept well fed and watered and we took plenty of breaks to feed Annabelle without it being an issue. We even learnt a few tricks to soothe Annabelle. We didn't get out without a few accidents, turns out hanging out without a nappy inspired Annabelle on a number of occasions but Sally had a whole trolley of equipment on hand.

And so to the results. We opted for the digital package for £250 and got a large range of photos with the digital rights. Here are our favourites:

Relaxing before the shoot

We got involved briefly
Love our little lady

My personal fav

That smile will always make us melt

One of the highlights of the shoot was that Sally was happy to let us take our own photos too. In most cases we stood back and let the professional do her thing but there were a few moments we captured just for us. And a few that we took between shots.....

Lets hope Annabelle is always so chilled!

To find Sally check out:
Facebook: Sally Josko

Monday, 23 July 2018

Baby Blogging - Breastfeeding!

If you are pregnant, have recently been pregnant or know anyone who is/was pregnant you may have heard the term 'Breast is best'.

As I am currently breastfeeding, I wanted to share my experience and what I wished I known beforehand.

If you have followed our journey so far you may remember this post that detailed our experience of NHS antenatal classes, while we loved the general parenting class this was the summary of our breast-feeding class:

'The room was packed so there was very little space for practical exercises and the class tutor was insistent that breast was best (until age 3!!) and dismissed questions about bottle feeding. '

With most things in life I like to be prepared, to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work and with breastfeeding it was no different. Plan A was to breastfeed but I wanted to understand what happened if that wasn't possible. It was surprising to me that we had to pay for a different class to get that information as the NHS is so focused on 'breast is best'.

I mean, we get it, breast milk is packed full of nutrients but what isn't considered is what if the baby can't / won't latch and feed or what if the mother doesn't produce milk....or enough milk. It makes sense to us to understand what is involved with formula feeding and all of the things you need to know about sterilizing equipment. Even if you are expressing breast milk you need to know the basics!

One campaign run by the NHS over the years included this one:
Details here

Anyway the paid for class gave us the basics and made us feel a lot better.

However what both classes failed to tell us was exactly what breastfeeding is really like - especially at the start. They taught us the practical advice, how to hold the baby, how to encourage a good latch etc but here is my experience.

Day 1: Annabelle arrived and within the hour was ready to latch and try to get milk - for me it was a weird feeling and over the first few hours it went from a novelty to a feeling of frustration as Annabelle clearly wasn't getting anything and was crying to feed every 45 minutes or so.

The calm between the feeding
Night 1: Annabelle continued to want to feed almost constantly, my boobs were starting to get bigger and I could tell she was starting to get something. Frustration subsided on my part as tiredness took over. As I was on a ward the nurses frequently popped by to provide pain relief (after my c-section) and they would either get Annabelle out of her crib or put her back in depending on where we were with feeding.

Day 2: With less than 3 hours sleep, day 2 started with me crying when Laura walked in with Maccy D breakfast. Over our time together we have always dealt with challenges together and this was the first time I had to go it alone (partners aren't allowed to stay overnight in the ward). I had missed Laura. As soon as Laura arrived she took charge, changing Annabelle and making sure I had everything I needed. What Laura couldn't help with was Annabelle needing to feed.....almost constantly.
My loves
If day 1 had been a novelty, day 2 was reality. By this point my breasts were starting to get sore and I was so grateful for the advice of bringing in Lanolin cream as I started applying it immediately.

A breastfeeding consultant visited us on the ward and checked Annabelle's latch, which was thankfully good, and taught me how to bring on the milk by hand with massage. It was a crazy moment seeing my boobs actually producing milk (or really, colostrum).

The technique of hand expressing my milk made Annabelle's latching quicker as she could smell it, and also reassured me that she was now being fed something.

What was challenging was that every time Laura picked Annabelle up she screamed - in fact, she screamed if she was anywhere except my boob. It took every bit of love, support and teamwork to get through day 2. At one point I needed the loo and due to the c-section wound the walk there and back was slow. It meant Laura had Annabelle for 20 minutes. The first 5 minutes were fine, the next 15 were awful. Annabelle screamed at the top of her lungs, nothing settled her. Laura cried too in frustration, not being able to soothe her! It wasn't until I was back and able to feed that she calmed down.

By this point the thought of continuing to breastfeed was an unpleasant one. My boobs hurt when Annabelle latched to the point that I needed a deep breathe before starting every feed. If someone had offered me a bottle at that point I would have been very tempted.

Over the day I was able to nap as Laura supervised Annabelle feeding - thankfully once feeding, the pain subsided and didn't stop me sleeping!

Night 2: After night 1 I was more prepared at what to expect, or so I thought. Annabelle still required feeding frequently but with 4 ladies on my ward (the first night had just been me and 1 other) the nurses visits were less frequent. Worse still my 'call button' was stuck behind the bed so I had to find a way to pick up and put Annabelle down without pulling my wound. It was an added challenge as Annabelle would decide to scream within 10 minutes of me putting her down.

When I popped to the loo Annabelle decided to test her lungs and wake up the entire ward - I felt terrible and from 4am I picked her up and kept her in my bed. That way I could deal with whatever she needed.

It did mean that when Laura arrived I was once again in a state and had very little sleep.

Day 3: Home time. Laura arrived with another Maccy D's breakfast - my hero! We were on the ward until 4pm so had most of the day waiting on checks to be sent home. The feeding had slowed to every two hours as my milk had properly come in (great job, Annabelle!) but it was now my engorged boobs that were the challenge. Putting on a bra was painful, even with the cream my boobs were still in pain. It was becoming a real mind over matter situation to continue the feeding.

Once home, Laura set me up on the couch with cushions as support and went into caring mode. We ordered pizza for dinner (and caught up on Love Island!) and started to figure out what life was now going to be like.

My Mum popped over with cushions and pillows to make the couch a comfortable throne. What Mum also brought was invaluable advice, my now engorged boobs were agony. Add to that the latch was awfully painful and I was ready to quit breastfeeding. Mum, however, told me how a cold cloth would reduce the pain, and it really did. Laura provided a constant supply of cold cloths and I honestly think it is the only reason I could continue.

Night 3: My c-section wound meant I couldn't make it up the two flights of stairs to our room so we stayed in the guest room. Laura had set up the 'beside me crib' next to the bed and it worked so well when Annabelle needed feeding - which continued to be every 2 hours. We didn't really sleep but we survived. Laura did all nappy changes and I did all the feeds.

Day 4: The midwife visit assured us that everything (all the pain) I was experiencing was normal. Surprising as the classes had played down the pain. Also the level / frequency of feeding was totally underplayed. Annabelle was feeding every 2-3 hours and the amount of nappies being used was WAY higher than we expected. Thanks Aldi for super cheap nappies! We plan to use cloth diapers but want to first get to a point where there is more of a routine.

My sister came over and allowed us the opportunity to have showers, another tip was that warm showers also help relieve the pain from engorged boobs and it really did. I also tried using our expressing machine and that reduced the pressure too. If it wasn't for my Mum and Laura's support breastfeeding would have been impossible.

We are now 21 days in and I can say that the experience is totally different. It changed gradually, as Annabelle got into more of a routine, we now feed every 3 hours and that gap between feeds has meant the pain has reduced significantly. The Lanolin cream works a treat and I still use it after every feed. The amount of milk produced has also equaled out so I can now feed from one boob at a time instead of having to use both. That has also eased the pain.

My birthday breakfast involved public breastfeeding

We all got to enjoy milkshakes ;)

The only thing left to sort out is the leakage - during the day I wear a nursing bra with pads and it is under control but at night it's a different story. That's the next thing to address!

Friday, 20 July 2018

What Advice Would You Give LGBTQ+ Travelers?

As you know we love to travel and we can't wait to explore the world with Annabelle as she grows. For the moment we are starting local but in years to come we will checking off more of Europe's top 10 LGBTQ friendly destinations (you can find the list here).

It will be interesting to find out if travelling as an LGBTQ family will be any different to travelling as an LGBTQ couple. Last year we detailed our current experience in this post.

Sadly recent figures suggest that two thirds of the LGBTQ+ community are afraid, or avoid hand holding in public. To find out more the Airport Parking Shop (an online travel company and blog) are launching an investigation into what it's like to travel as part of the LGBTQ+ community and would like your help.
It's simple, all you need to do is answer the questions in this survey (which shouldn't take any longer than 10 minutes): CLICK HERE.

The results will be shared in blog that we will link to at a later point.

Previous blogs from the Airport Parking Shop include “LGBTQ+ and Transgender: How to change gender on your passport” you can find the blog here.
Find them on Twitter here
And Facebook here

Thank you for your help and support.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Annabelle's Birth Story

Our daughter at about 20 hours old
We had everything planned to have our caesarian section on Thursday 5th July. But on the Friday before, Sarah got a call from the hospital, checking she was okay to have her pre-op that day in preparation for her operation on Monday. To which Sarah said, 'Wait, MONDAY??' - it turned out they had rescheduled us because so many of the planned c-sections for that day had already happened. Sarah asked if Thursday was still an option, as we had planned for it (we had 4th July dinner plans!), and they said no, it was now scheduled for Monday! After she got off the phone, she yelled out to me 'So, we're having our baby on Monday!' I thought she was kidding. But she wasn't! So we quickly packed up and headed to the pre-op. We couldn't believe it - all of a sudden we had three days less! So we had an amazing weekend together, and could barely sleep on Sunday night for the anticipation.

On Monday morning, 2nd July 2018, we woke up at 6:30am and packed the car. We gave Bisbee cuddles and kisses (much to her dismay as it was so much earlier than her usual wake up time of 11:30!), and headed off to the hospital. We were nervous and excited, and about 100 other emotions.

We parked, I grabbed all the bags, and we checked in at the triage desk - we were the second of five c-sections to arrive. Great, we thought, we will be second in the queue! But as the other ladies and their partners arrived, we were told that actually there would be a meeting deciding the order of the day based on need. Damn, we were sure we would be last, as Sarah's notes were about 1cm thick, and the other ladies' notes were so much thicker, like the size of one of the last three Harry Potter books!

The Smiths are moving in!
So when we were shown through to the induction area to wait, we decided we would have an amazing day together, even though we would be waiting for our little girl to arrive. Sarah dressed in her hospital gown and compression socks (quite a sexy look!) we started working in Annabelle's baby book, called 'My First Story'. We love it as it is personalised to reflect both Mummies, and has a space for information about the donor, etc - it's catered to our family!

As each woman before us disappeared to have her operation, we went outside to enjoy the 27 degree C heat and sunshine - we sunbathed and played Bananagrams, chatted about how crazy it was that we were about to meet our baby, how our lives were about to change, and how great it was that we could spend the day doing things we would have done at home, sunbathing, laughing and relaxing together.

The only dampener on the day was that Sarah wasn't allowed to eat - she hadn't had anything to eat since dinner on the Sunday night. She was ravenous by 11am, and still had hours to go! I took to sneakily eating when she went to the loo, so she wouldn't have to see me eating. Poor Sarah!

We sat down to watch the Colombia vs. Mexico World Cup football match, and at half time, FINALLY we were collected to be taken to the operating room. It was finally happening!

I got dressed in purple scrubs and crocs, which I loved as it was reminiscent of the beginning of this journey - when we had our embryo placed back into Sarah, I was also in purple scrubs! When I arrived at the operating room, Sarah was already on the table, having her spinal anesthetic administered. I had to sit in a chair on the other side of the room for this bit, so I didn't get in the way, which was tough - I didn't like seeing Sarah uncomfortable but not be able to support her. She said it was uncomfortable but not painful, and soon she was laid on the table and they were prepping for surgery.

The prep included the anesthetist spraying ice water on different parts of Sarah's body to see how far the numbness had spread. It had to reach just under her boobs before they would start the operation. This took almost 10 minutes and 4 tries with spray before the numbness reached the right point.

The doctors, midwife and nurses introduced themselves, and asked if I had any music I wanted to be played. Sarah and I had created a playlist for the occasion, but in my excitement I'd forgotten it in the changing room! Gutted. They tried to suggest Led Zepplin, but I asked for Jason Mraz - as his music had always been very special to us, and we had a song in mind we would have liked her to be born to.

I sat right next to Sarah's head/shoulders, facing away from the operation. The doctors said it should be around 10 minutes before our baby was born. One of the nurses took my phone to take some photos of her just born for us. And just like that, the c-section had begun.

Sarah was expecting pushing and pulling - or the feeling that someone was washing her insides but the only real feeling she had was the internal pressure reducing as Annabelle was taken out. Other than that the conversation kept her distracted.

I remember holding Sarah's hand, and we were chatting - I made sure she couldn't feel any pain, and we talked about how quick the pregnancy had gone and how this was it, we were about to meet her.

The first song that came on by Jason Mraz was 'I'm Yours' - we had this song at our wedding and it is one of our all time favourite songs. We commented at how wonderful it was that this song happened to play first.

The second song was 'Lucky' by Jason Mraz and Colbie Callait. We both cried a little at this, as this is 'our song' - and has been for over nine years! We have two frames of the lyrics at home, and love it so much.

The third song to come on was Jason's new single, 'Have it All'. We'd put this on our playlist (which I had left outside of the room) as what we would like our daughter to be born to, because it is all about our wishes for her life. I gasped that it had started playing, and just as we acknowledged it, we heard a cry - Annabelle was here!

First pic of our little family
We couldn't believe it! She was born at 15:55, sooner than we were expecting, and happened to be to the song we had picked for her. They took a few moments to check her over and clean her up, of which the whole time we were staring at each other - we have a daughter! She is here! And she is okay!

The midwife wheeled her around to us, where I was able to cut her umbilical cord - I'd requested this, and was so pleased I was able to do it. It was harder to cut than I expected, but absolutely amazing!

They then wrapped her up and handed her to me, while Sarah was stitched up. I showed her to Sarah - such a perfect little girl, she had a surprising amount of dark hair, long eyelashes and Sarah's lips. I held her and cried a bit, we stared at her and marveled that she was ours, to keep, just like that.

About 10 minutes into the stitching and repairing, the operation took a slightly scary turn - Sarah's heart rate spiked. The anesthetist called her name, and then so did I, and she didn't respond to either of us. She came back into focus very quickly, and he got her to blow into a tube which lowered her heart rate, but it was a very scary moment. (She has now been referred to a heart specialist to have it checked out!)

After they were finished repairing Sarah, everyone congratulated us heartily and wished us well. The nurse who had taken photos for us was tearing up, it was very sweet and such a calm and wonderful experience - honestly much better than we thought it was going to be.

I took Annabelle to recovery and waited for Sarah, Maryland cookies in hand. As soon as she was wheeled in, that is what she asked for! The midwives said sometimes people feel nauseous after c-sections and to maybe start with tea and toast, but my Sarah went straight for chocolate chip cookies and a fish and chips dinner. She was so happy to be able to eat again!

We had a few hours to ourselves in recovery, where we mostly stared in wonder at our new daughter, ate the entire contents of my snacks cooler, and initiated the first breastfeed. I also learned how to change a diaper, dressed her for the first time, and didn't drop her once (all a big deal for me as I've never really known any babies!). Sarah gradually got the feeling in her legs back, and was in great spirits - I really did marry such an amazing, strong woman.

Sarah's parents came in to the hospital when visiting hours started, bearing gifts, Diet Coke and McDonalds (Sarah's second dinner!). Her dad had taken a half day at work to ensure that he didn't miss visiting for that day, and they were both very sweet holding their first grandchild. Annabelle slept for two hours on Nanny's lap, a trend that has continued since (apparently Sarah's mum is very comfortable!). They got to stay until about 9pm, when they headed home, with plans to visit us again the next day.

Usually visiting hours for partners is over at 9pm, but because of Sarah's irregular heartbeat, we were in recovery until almost midnight, awaiting an ECG. They kept apologising that the doctors hadn't arrived yet to do the ECG, to which we kept thinking, the longer they are the longer I can stay with my new little family! It doesn't seem fair that at least on the first night, I couldn't stay with them.

We revelled in our new little baby bubble until the very last moment that we could, then I helped get Sarah set up on the ward before heading home, already counting the minutes until I could see my wife and my brand new daughter (!!) again.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Baby Blogging - Birth Announcement!

Our life has changed significantly since we last posted.

We are officially Mummies. 

And we couldn't be happier. It is a dream come true. 

Annabelle joined us on the 2nd of July at 15.55 at Birmingham Women's Hospital.

Pregnancy was an incredible journey that I loved from beginning to end, well all 39 weeks + 2 days, I know I was lucky. My pregnancy was smooth, the side effects were minimal and if you have followed the blog over the last 9 months you will have seen that being pregnant barely slowed us down at all. In fact my last day at work was Friday the 29th of June and Annabelle joined us on the Monday. I am super aware of how lucky I was. 

We will be sharing our birth story and a few other posts with recommendations (or things we have found really useful) and more pictures in the coming weeks but we really just wanted to spend the first few weeks getting to know our baby girl and figuring out how we work as a family of four. So far we have loved it.

I am now on maternity leave until Spring next year so will keep you updated on what I am getting up to.

If you want to get other updates follow us:
On Twitter: @SarahplusLaura
At Instagram: @SarahplusLaura

And make sure and catch our Insta story for updates on what we are getting up to.....which right now includes a fair amount of Annabelle posts!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Baby Blogging - The Nursery!

This post has been a long time coming! I definitely feel like the nursery is one of those things that I thought I'd have plenty of time for, that 9 months is tons of time, and then all of a sudden it was the end of pregnancy and we were still waiting on a few things! But all done now, just in time.

When we moved into this house 4.5 years ago, we earmarked this room for our future nursery. We didn't decorate it, in fact it became the 'junk room' haha for a few years, because we didn't want to commit to a theme or colours which we would have to change if we got lucky enough to have a baby. We painted one wall mint, which we figured would work with any nursery colour scheme, and put a sofa in there that folded out to a double bed for the occasion where we needed 2 guest rooms. This meant that when it was FINALLY time to create a nursery, we would have a pretty blank slate!

My very talented Mother in law helped me put up our chevron wallpaper, which is definitely one of my favourite bits of the room - it stands out so well and also really ties the room together! Wallpapering is NOT easy, but we rocked it and are both so proud of the result.

I inherited this giant frame from my last job in London, it used to be gold but we painted it white and are hanging cute mint bunting with baby's name in it! This is the back of the bunting, excited to turn it around!

This couch converts into a double bed - we are pleased we can still use this room as a second guest bed if need be, and we can sleep in here with baby once she moves to this room if we need to!

We bought our crib when we were only 6 weeks pregnant, which looking back seems risky, but it was on sale! We've got tubs of larger clothing underneath it, which we will switch out into her wardrobe as she grows. The crib will convert into a cot bed when she is old enough for one - we like getting furniture that can be used for ages.

We also bought a changing table that attaches to the top - perfect for this small room, so we didn't feel the need to purchase a standalone changing table!

We loved these gold foil prints from Rain and Paper Prints on Etsy, especially the 'Dream big, little one' print, good advice, we think!

Our baby blanket was croched by our good friend Allie, and we are bringing it to hospital!

We looked for ages for a mobile, but couldn't find one we loved, or that wouldn't be totally random/off theme in the nursery. So we instead saved some decor from the beautiful baby shower our friends Sara and Sam threw us, went to Hobbycraft to get some wire and a frame, and created our own! We love it and best of all, because it was so cost effective, we can change and update it if and when we want to!

We've had these LOVE lights since our honeymoon in California, 2015 - we hand carried them back with us!

All of baby's current clothes, diapers, etc are in this mint unit, as well as the beautiful book collection we got from our loved ones at our baby shower. It's so important to us that our little girl loves to read, and I think this collection will definitely help start that!

With the top of the cabinet, we have gone for a travel/exploring theme, as it's something so close to our hearts. We've put some of her scans on the Dream Big board (can't believe she has gone from that embryo to a fully fledged baby!!), and a piggy bank to help her start her adventure fund (starting early!). Also a unicorn from Sarah's work, because duh!

Finally, we've put in an imagination corner in the room! Our friend Anita cross-stitched this beautiful scene from Alice in Wonderland, and we have put it with our chalkboard wall, so she can draw and create in her room!

So here we are! Next step, put a baby in there!