Making and using an umbilical cord tie

One of the birth choices I made this time that I really rate was to make and use an umbilical cord tie. Up until the week before Delilah was born I’d intended to just go ahead with the standard hospital clamp that the midwives provide. As the due date approached, I started to remember why I didn’t like them. With Talitha I felt like it got in the way. It seemed a hard, ugly object between us.

I knew I didn’t want to do another umbilical cord burning like we had with Ophelia. It took too long (which is kind of the point because it’s a slow, ceremonial separation between baby and placenta) which wasn’t a great idea since she was a bit cold. It also smelled while healing which is apparently normal with burning.

For us, it just wasn’t something we fancied trying again. I had intended to make an umbilical cord tie with her, braiding embroidery threads, but I was disorganised, not expecting her to arrive at just 40+3 when her big sister had arrived at 40+13. The idea came to mind again with Delilah.

After asking other home birthers how they’d made theirs, I crocheted three ties using double knitting, so that we’d have spares just in case. They started with shapes: a heart, a flower and a star. There are so many instructions for these shapes out there and it’s totally the kind of project a beginner could do. When I finished each one off, I carried on stitching a 30cm length for the actual tie. The process was such a joyful way to get ready for Delilah. The girls were involved in helping me choose the shapes and were intrigued to see what I was doing.

Then I boiled them, put them in a sterile breast milk storage bag and kept it in the freezer. Sterilising is apparently unnecessary but I didn’t want to get into a debate with a midwife who might already feel uncomfortable with using a homemade tie.

As it turned out, our midwife was uncertain but in the end she was willing to give it a go, warning that she needed to be able to get it tight enough. I’d taken them out of the freezer as soon as labour started so they were defrosted. The wetness helped to pull the tie tighter. In the end, we were all satisfied with the end result.

It was easy to keep out of the way of the nappies (we did eco disposables the first two days and cloth after that) and healed quickly. I eventually got a bit fed up of the bit at the end so I cut it off after a while. Even cut, it looked so pretty whenever we changed her nappy and she was mostly in a nappy her first week because it was the hottest week of the year!

What can I say? It was such a little thing – frivolous maybe – but it brought me such joy to see this pretty tie. If we ever had another baby, I’d do it again.

To read more, check out Delilah’s home birth story, Ophelia’s home birth story or my ideas for preparing kids for a new baby.

To keep up with Beautiful Tribe, join me on Instagram or Facebook.


Newborn shoot with Annie Crossman Photography

Four weeks before Delilah was born, we had a maternity shoot with Annie Crossman, a Bristol photographer and friend. It was a fantastic way to celebrate this third pregnancy and to focus as a family on the excitement of welcoming a new baby into our lives.

Actually, our first family shoot with Annie was last year, when we mistakenly thought our family was complete with two children. Now, it’s impossible to imagine our family without our third child, Delilah.

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-4

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-2

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman

Annie came to our home to do a newborn photo shoot with us when Delilah was just one week old. What a week it was! The girls were besotted and we were all in that dreamy newborn honeymoon phase. At just over three weeks on, the new baby effect hasn’t worn off yet.

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-10

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Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-11

I admire the effort and artistry that Annie put into capturing these images of Delilah and of our family. She was so prepared with props and ideas, really open to our thoughts. She made it a completely relaxed experience, which is just what you need when you’re in the thick of the postnatal period. Also, Delilah kept waking up throughout and Annie patiently waited while I fed and comforted her back to sleep between shots.

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Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-7

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-9

Looking at these photos and looking down at the one-month-old baby asleep on my lap as I write this, I still can’t get over the fact that she’s here – she really is here. I’m so struck, thinking of all of my children, that I did nothing to deserve so much love and beauty in my life. I just hope I’m making the most of this fleeting time when they are so small.

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Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-8

Newborn photoshoot in Bristol with Annie Crossman-5

PS: Talitha and Ophelia are wearing dresses from Piccalilly that I bought specially for this shoot. I think I’m going to keep offering them matching outfits as long as they’ll let me!


First month with Delilah

It’s crazy to think Delilah has been here four weeks already. A month. A month with three children. A month as a family of five. It’s strange to think that a tiny person who mainly sleeps, feeds and excretes has taken up so much space in our lives.

Talitha and Ophelia are besotted with her. I wondered if their interest in her would wane but it hasn’t and, thinking about it, it never did between them either. They continue to be in love with each other, always wanting to know where the other is and what the other is doing. Now with Delilah here, they both come looking for her first thing in the morning, arguing over who gets to lie next to her “to see her eyes”. Ophelia keeps asking “Where Lilah?” and “Is she awake?” followed by “I want hold her”. Talitha’s refrains are “Delilah’s so tiny!” and “She’s such a beautiful baby!”

Third time around, the baby thing is so familiar, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Changing her, burping her, dressing her, slinging her, holding her one handed while doing all sorts – it’s all practically muscle memory. We’re confident we won’t break her.

There’s also no worrying about whether we’re doing the “right” thing. I mused to Laurence about this last night as he sat in the arm chair holding a sleeping baby while watching The Olympics. With Talitha we might have spent the evening making many attempts to put her in the Moses basket. Putting Delilah down hadn’t even occurred to him as an option. He was quite enjoying a cuddle.

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The new challenge is learning how to parent the older children with a newborn. This struggle is mostly mine. I’m the only one who’ll ever have all three on my own at least for the next few months.

I’m also the one who has grown and birthed a baby and now has all her instincts pulled into this tiny, needy human being. It’s easy to feel that the older ones are just too hectic, that they’re crowding us and to feel a bit out of control. I have to consciously keep reminding myself that my older ones are very little still; they still need much from me. At two and a half, Ophelia won’t let me forget that, often asking to be picked up or to be cuddled in bed at times when I can’t. Talitha is a lot more independent at five years old, and willing to go with the flow as is her personality, but I’m aware that she needs more than she’ll demand.

We’ve tried to make time for me to be with each of the girls individually, either with Delilah or on my own if Laurence is around to hold her. That’s done masses both to help me recalibrate and to give the girls the reconnection they need. I’ve found in these times that Talitha gets more affectionate than she normally would, cuddling, kissing and saying the sweetest things. Ophelia melts into me. Both drink up the attention.

delilah's first month-2

I’d thought that I might be tandem breastfeeding again and I had massively mixed feelings about the possibility. Las time, breastfeeding a toddler and new baby simultaneously built up my milk supply quickly while helping me avoid any engorgement. It kept the connection between me and my first born strong and I credited it with helping us avoid jealousy or feelings or rejection.

Still, it was hard work. I struggled to help her wait her turn when I found it too difficult to nurse them together. My breastfeeding aversion never completely went away though I felt fine breastfeeding the baby. When she finally weaned about a year and a half later, I felt sad but ready.

This time, I was willing to wait and see what would happen. Ophelia readily accepted that the baby would have my milk. She needed no explanation. She also did not ask to nurse. She told me that “muh” was for the baby. For a long time she didn’t breastfeed and I wondered if that was the end of it. I knew it would be easier in some ways to just breastfeed Delilah but I didn’t want to withhold something my toddler might still need. Two-and-a-half is on young in the natural weaning age range. “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” is weaning strategy so I knew that by not offering, I was weaning her. I felt conflicted both ways.

In the end, she did ask again. In the past month, she has nursed a handful of times. I don’t feel I can call it breastfeeding as she just puts her mouth to the breast but doesn’t really latch. In a few moments, she is done. She is weaning. I have to trust that she is ready. I have to trust that I will meet her need for attachment in other ways now that she is moving on.

delilah's first month-4

Breastfeeding Delilah has been its own experience. I haven’t worried like I did with the others. With Talitha, everything was new and so much was a battle. With Ophelia, I worried that I’d once again end up not making enough milk and having to fight to breastfeed her. With Delilah, I’ve known that it would be OK. Still, I had to work to help her latch correctly and she’s only just started waking up on her own for feeds. I also dealt with a bout of mastitis a couple of weeks ago.

When I was pregnant, friends asked if I was looking forward to breastfeeding and babywearing a newborn again. To be honest, I’d forgot what it was like. Once I’d adjusted to the news that we were having a third child, I mostly focused on the idea of having just that, a third child. I hadn’t really thought that much about what having another baby would be like. I feel like I’ve spent most of this month drinking in her baby smell, delighting in the light weight of her, staring at her sleeping face and playing with her tiny toes.

tots bots nappy - instagram

How could I have forgot any of this? And how can someone we’ve known so briefly seem like she’s always been a part of our family?

PS: The TotsBots nappy Delilah wearing is the Annabella Floral Easyfit Star, a special edition print by Joules. It’s a handy one-piece nappy system and so far, no leaks. It was sent to us by TotsBots – a pretty addition to our nappy stash.


This Homeschooling Life – What July looked like

OK, so this update is a little overdue but since the big educational centrepiece of the month was the appearance of the girls’ new baby sister, I reckon I’m allowed to be late. I’m hoping to soon write about all my big reflections from our first year of “officially” home educating.

Talitha has a pretty even split of friends who go to school and who are home educated so she’s well accustomed to telling people that she’s “homeschooled” (“home educated” is too long to say, she tells me). She’s also excited about being in “Year 1” though it doesn’t really mean that much here as we move according to her abilities and interests, as well as the rhythms of family life. To her, it means she’s growing up. I’m so aware that she is. I am challenged by what it’s going to mean, keeping up with her this year.

That I mostly look forward to that reminds me that this is once again the right choice for our family. We have a lot happening this year that home educating fits well with. I’ll hopefully be able to share that soon too. For now, on to a little of what we got up to in the month of July (what I remember at the moment anyway!).

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Spotting nature
Like most young children, the girls are always fascinated with stopping to notice the small things. They’re always asking me what things are called and more often than I’d like, I don’t know the answer, so we take a picture and they look them up in our books at home or we have a look online.

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A week before Delilah was born we took a walk in Leigh Woods which I actually had to coax Talitha into by offering to print out a nature scavenger hunt. She loves having a list to tick! I gave Ophelia one too and they both had great fun finding different things in the forest, especially birds. We had some time just being quiet and listening carefully then talking about what we’d heard. The girls even got to build their first den.

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They’ve also done quite a lot of nature walking with Laurence, which saw Talitha start a nature journal and he took them to a nature spotting session with the RSPB at democratic community The Garden, in Bristol.

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Words and numbers
We actually haven’t done much in the way of formal work for a while as Laurence has been around more than usual and we’ve fallen out of routine. I was pretty tired and distracted towards the end of pregnancy and have been a wee bit, um, busy, since. But late July Talitha started bringing books to me and surprising me by reading them. They were books we’d laid aside weeks before because she was finding them too difficult.

Then I realised that she is almost constantly working on reading in moments alone. She’s also reading lots to Ophelia. She’s still in the process of figuring out that she can read quite a lot, which is interesting to see. Ophelia is now insisting on “reading self” by making up little stories to go with the pictures.

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Adding, subtracting and counting in twos and tens are games of Talitha’s own making. Ophelia continues to count everything and the two can now decently play certain board games together with a bit of support.

Other than that, we’ve just done bits and pieces off the cuff as we get a pocket of time when the mood strikes, as with this Olympics print out from Twinkl.

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Chapter book of the month
We had to abandon The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the end as Talitha was just finding it too scary. She kept worrying about what would happen when they eventually found Mr Tumnus and the white witch. So I figured that what happens to Aslan at the stone table might be a bit too much just now. Instead, she asked to read The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. She was so taken with The Magic Faraway Tree that her godfather and his family bought her its prequel for her birthday. She’s enjoying spotting familiar, well-loved characters as they’re introduced in the book.

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Gardening
With Laurence around and me needing a fair bit of space, the girls have spent a lot of time gardening. They harvested their potatoes from the Grow Your Own Potatoes scheme and have observed butterflies and bees taking in their wildflowers from a Kew Gardens’ educational project we started back in April. They’ve also done much else with him, planting, weeding, harvesting. This is an exciting time of year when the garden gives us almost all the vegetables we eat.

this homeschooling life - july-8

Ballet and music
With the term ending, Talitha finished another year of ballet, complete with a big show. At her age, it really is just a bit of fun but she takes it quite seriously and never wants to miss a class. Having to get dressed up in different costumes and performed learned routines for a big audience was extremely exciting for her. She’s also finished her first term with Blackbird Early Years Music and is keen to keep going with that.

this homeschooling life - july-11

I think things will continue to be easygoing over the next month as my hands are full of newborn, my mother is staying with us for the summer holidays and Laurence is away at least one day a week with work. By necessity, we will have to do some structured work as Talitha is actively requesting it, though. We will probably get back into routine at some point in the new “term” but with a new baby, I can’t say for sure what that will look like. There’s a lot of learning in rolling with that too, for all of us.

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Do you home educate? Please do consider linking up any post about something you’ve been up to below. All approaches welcome! x

Other posts in this series:

June
May
April
March
February
January
What I loved about our first “term” of home educating
November
October
September
This Homeschooling Life – the very beginning

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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



Delilah’s home birth story

Delilah was born on the morning of Monday 18th July, a week ago today. I wrote this birth story that night in the urge to debrief. I have gently edited it since.

I’d been having lots of little surges (the hypnobirthing term for contractions) from 36 weeks so I knew my body was gearing up to have my baby, whether that meant at 40 weeks or beyond. Either way, Delilah was extremely low down, grinding her head on my cervix and had been since week 38. I felt sure that whenever it happened, this labour would be my shortest. At just over six hours from first surge to finish, it was.

At 40+1, I felt lots of smaller surges throughout the day as I cleaned the bathroom and picked raspberries from the garden. Laurence and the girls had gone to church without me as I couldn’t face being asked about a due date that had now officially passed.

I walked up the stairs at one point and caught my breath. I felt the baby had slipped down even further. The shape of my bump had noticeably changed. I felt sure it would happen today or tonight but also knew that could be wishful thinking so didn’t entertain it too much. Laurence had got used to me musing that each night could be the night.

I was usually high spirits that day, feeling more energetic than I had in the entire pregnancy. So I did lots of rushing about while my in-laws and my mum were over, not thinking that the energy might be needed later.

Suddenly, that evening, I got extremely emotional and stressed about a lot of different, unrelated things. All of them were real issues but none warranted the explosion that took place. I ended up turning off my phone, sipping a glass of prosecco and sticking on Chalet Girl while chatting on the sofa with Laurence about all sorts. I do think that’s the only way to watch that film, by the way, especially if you’re with someone who actually snowboards. It was the best “date night” we’d had in a long time. I felt insanely connected to him and felt sure that this was all leading somewhere soon.

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Sure enough, at 1:30, after about an hour’s sleep, I heard something pop so jumped up and ran to the toilet, where waters gushed out of me. It wasn’t enough to be the full waters and didn’t continue to leak but I reckoned something as happening. As soon as I got back into bed, proper, intense surges started.

I got up and went downstairs, thinking I’d hang out on my birth ball for a bit before waking Laurence up but discomfort was building quickly and a look at the clock said surges were about five minutes apart. I woke him up and told him we needed to get the pool ready. I actually had to tell him a few times. I’m not sure he sensed my urgency.

Once he was up, though, he snapped into action, covering our living room in builder’s plastic, shower curtains, towels and incontinence pads. He inflated and filled the pool, getting the temperature and level right and set my hypnobirthing tracks to play. Between surges, I tidied a few toys that had been left around, mixed ylang ylang and frankincense in the essential oil diffuser, lit a few candles and tuned in to the tracks. I constantly felt the need to rock and sway. When a surge came, kneeling felt most effective. It made it super intense but it just felt so right.

I went up to the loo, feeling like I needed to poo but after having a quick succession of surges there, I knew what I was really feeling was her head. I considered spending time in the shower and on the loo like I had with Ophelia but it felt like I might as well get in the pool. I asked Laurence what he thought and he reckoned I might as well. The pool felt gloriously comforting. I instantly relaxed. My surges slowed but they became increasingly effective. I could actually feel the baby move further down with each one as I breathed into it and visualised the sunrise, floating, bubbles and hot air balloons.

By this time, Laurence had called the midwives. We had a disagreement over it as having them too soon was a real fear of mine. In both my previous labours, everything slowed as soon as someone different entered the situation. I worried about this so much last time that I didn’t let him call until quite late. The midwives had got lost on the way and arrived when I’d already started pushing! So I told him he could decide when it was right to call and I think the fact that I’d been hanging off him during surges, squatting was probably pretty convincing!

In retrospect, my body was getting my baby into position for birth. Still, before I agreed it was time to call, I suggested we go lie for a bit in bed and cuddle through some surges. The minute I got into bed, I leapt up, went back downstairs and declared that I didn’t know what I’d been thinking – of course I was in active labour. There was no way I could have lain there.

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I stripped off my tunic and knickers and got in the pool. Getting naked always seems a big sign for me that things are happening. I kept my eyes closed when each midwife arrived to give Laurence time to explain that I was hypnobirthing, trying to stay in the zone. But things slowed right down and lost intensity. Worse yet, the first midwife, though lovely and gentle, was a bit too chatty. She kept making small talk and asking me questions that took me out of my primal brain and lose my concentration. She insisted on sitting next to the pool, watching me. The second also sat in the room and I felt increasingly irritated with their presence.

Laurence had asked them to be in the dining room, to keep monitoring to a minimum and not to talk to me. In the end, the monitoring was fine (despite continuing to talk to me unnecessarily, though my birth plan made it clear I wanted it done silently and quickly) as I was convinced throughout that everything would be fine, which luckily it was. Delilah and I were both find throughout.

My plan stated that I didn’t want internal examinations and I didn’t want one offered unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. That she offered me one made me desperate to give birth because I felt they were watching the clock. Aloud I just said no but in my head, I said, “I know this baby is coming and we know all is fine. A number won’t change that.”

On one hand, all of this made me feel a little annoyed that we’d called them so soon. They were following protocol but this was my body, my baby and my home. I had already been through all my plans with my community midwife and she’d felt everything I suggested made sense.

On the other, I realised they might not realise how far along I was so I tuned further into my instincts. When one suggested I go use the loo since I wasn’t managing to wee in a jug, I ended up hiding out in the bathroom where things became fast and furious again.

Delilah's home birth story-4

When I returned to the pool, I found it really difficult to relax into the surges and let them do their work. I kept pushing myself against Laurence and raising myself out of the water. I realised I was getting pushy but my muscles all felt tense. I was getting tired and impatient.

That’s when I asked for gas and air. The first item on my plan was that I didn’t want to be offered pain relief. Having practised hypnobirthing, I do not think of labour as pain but as work. Laurence had accidentally passed on to me that it was being offered just when the midwife arrived (before they’d gone through my plan) and from then, the idea of it was stuck in my head though I kept trying to ignore it.

The sensation of fighting the surges made me think I needed something to override my conscious brain so I could let the muscles work. I agonised over it because gas and air with my first labour (an induction) had taken me out of the room, out of the experience. I couldn’t even get into an upright position to push, I was so out of it. I blamed it as one of the factors that made bonding with my first baby difficult. But I felt sure that I could control it this time and hoped I would stop if it was overwhelming me or that Laurence would help me see that I needed to.

So I discussed it with the first midwife. She warned that her supply was limited. I decided to go for it and make do if we ran out but I really didn’t think it would be much longer. Unhelpfully, the second midwife said, “So I guess we’re throwing away the birth plan.” That totally pissed me off and made me determined to get this over with. What a disempowering thing to say! Laurence replied, “Only this part.”

Delilah's home birth story-5

When I started taking it, I found myself stopping before the surges were finished so I didn’t dull the whole sensation. I also found (and was a little disappointed!) that it didn’t offer as much relief I’d expected – I should have remembered this from five years ago. I was too far along for that. I still felt the surges but the entonox helped me to go with them instead of fighting against them. I wasn’t trying to push myself out of the water with each surge but could instead breathe.

We never did decide what we’d do with the girls. It seemed for a while that it might all happen with them asleep. But when 5am approached, we started discussing what to do because Ophelia would likely be up at 6.30 and I needed Laurence too much for him to be able to attend to her. We also knew that with an hour’s sleep and hours of labour there was no way we wanted to be looking after them that day! So he called his father who came to pick them up. While they sorted car seats, I held the first midwife’s hand through my surges. By now I was finding her encouragement to breathe slowly very helpful.

The first midwife suggested I get out of the pool for a bit and I decided I’d stay out. For some reason, I’ve felt throughout this pregnancy that I wouldn’t give birth in water. In fact, I asked Laurence to set up an area in the playroom because I felt it might happen there. At her suggestion, I sat on my birth bill for a bit. Moving around on it, everything quickened. She suggested I sit on a chair. I decided to kneel and hold on to it instead. It was the position that had felt the most right throughout the labour. It felt like the way this baby was going to be born.

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At this point, I was breathing in the entonox but only half breathing, half growling it out. She told me to save the energy I was spending making noise. But I knew I didn’t want the gas and air anymore. She must have sensed this because she said, “You can just push if you like.” My body had been pushing but I needed to just go with it.

I stopped using the entonox, started breathing down through my nose as best I could while growling and to my surprise, the hypnobirthing image of ripples came to me. In three minutes and two massive pushes, Delilah slipped out into the midwife’s hands and she was handed to me. It was 7.50am. I’d planned to catch her myself as I had Ophelia but I actually couldn’t have done it as I wasn’t in the zone or position.

Instantly, I was overwhelmed by how much she looked like Ophelia and how surprised I was that she was really here. A real baby. When the cord stopped pulsating, the midwife cut the cord and despite uncertainty about using the cord tie I’d crocheted instead of a hospital clamp, she went with with it in the end.

I’d had stuff in my plan about delaying baby checks and letting us be quietly together but I think the gas and air had made me little more “let’s get on with this” and less “rush of love” than I’d been with Ophelia. But I also think it may have helped speed things along by helping me to relax and keep my focus.

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The placenta took almost an hour to come and we were all getting impatient. With Talitha I’d had the syntometrine injection so it came away quickly. With Ophelia, breastfeeding and standing had made it slip out easily. I ended up accepting the offer of having my bladder catheterised, which didn’t make much difference.

I said I’d consider syntometrine as I might as well throw away the birth plan (the second midwife’s words were still with me). Laurence reminded me that I had had a lovely, straightforward, calm home birth, which absolutely was my plan. When the next surge came, with mind over matter I forcefully pushed the placenta out while the first midwife put pressure on my tummy. It was such a relief. And it was the first time I’d seen a placenta properly, this being our first daytime birth. It was fascinating but neither beautiful nor revolting. It just was.

Both midwives were extremely competent and I always felt that we were in safe hands. The first gushed about how well I’d done pushing Delilah out gently which made me feel really good. It had been a serious concern of mine as Ophelia had shot out like a cannonball and they couldn’t work out how serious my tear was, so I was transferred to hospital, which I was desperate to avoid. As it was, I tore again this time but it was straightforward and easily stitched upstairs on our bed, after which I snuggled into bed with my baby and Laurence. We stayed there for most of the rest of the day, getting up to have a shower and the just enjoying being in and out of sleep and feeding with newborn Delilah.

Delilah's home birth story

All in all, it was the easiest of our births and we kept noting how amazing it was to just be at home this time. I loved not eating hospital food for lunch and Laurence marvelled at being able to hang out with a baby this young. It was lovely having this time just the three of us to recover and enjoy getting acquainted before the older girls came home with Laurence’s parents and my mother at supper time, extremely excited to meet their new sister.

I think my take away from all of my births is that an experience doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Talitha’s ended up with induction and I found it traumatic in a lot of ways but looking back, I now mostly see the bits I am grateful for, like stopping to touch her hair. Ophelia’s carried the shadow of Group B Strep which I’d refused antibiotics for, choosing to birth at home. It ended with transfer to hospital and a two-night stay after the birth. But it was such a calm, utterly empowering birth. Delilah’s could have benefited from me knowing my midwife beforehand, unfortunately not currently possible on the NHS in Bristol. It would probably have been a good idea to have a doula this time. But, there were no concerns at any point and it all happened swiftly and relatively easily. I always felt safe in the midwives’ excellent care. And we got to do it all here, in our home!

She’s quietly joined our lives in a birth that really was just part of normal life. Sitting up in bed, cuddling her and breathing through after pains while I write this all down, I just can’t stop thanking God for these three children he has given me and for the man sleeping beside us who is absolutely the best birth partner I could have had.


Summer Crafts: CD Suncatchers #CollectiveBias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

I tried to get some bigger crafts and activities with kids in before the baby came and life inevitably slowed right down and got that bit more chaotic. As it turned out, we managed this windchime made of CD suncatchers literally just before the day Delilah was born.

As in, we started it on the due date, finished it on 40+1, I went into labour that night and she was born the next morning! I wrote the birth story that night so once I’ve reflected, talked it over with Laurence and edited it, I’ll share that here too.

cd suncatcher wind chimes - hobbycraft

Summer is all about making the most of the light. CDs are particularly effective for catching it and what I found was that their size allowed the girls to feel like they completing lots of little projects. So rather than getting bogged down in a large craft, they were keen to do another and another and another, which was particularly useful because we needed to do both sides for our chimes. It’s an ideal summer craft for families, really.

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First we went to our local Hobbycraft to get supplies. I’d forgot what fun it is in there and what good value everything is.

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I’ll need to make my way back there soon as I want to try tie-dyeing and Talitha wants to get some knitting things. Going there together meant the girls could help me choose what materials they wanted to use, giving them shared ownership of the project.

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Here’s what we used:
Music CDs for stripping
Blank DVD-Rs (blank CDs are fine too)
Dimensional fabric paint
Embroidery hoop
Indoor/Outdoor Multi-surface paint
Craft buttons
Embroidery thread
Permanent marker
PVA glue or hot glue
Glitter pony beads
Scissors

Here’s what we did:

We used a couple of bases in this craft. I stripped a some CDs by making a scratch and taking the labels off with tape so they’d be clear and fully let the light through. The others were actually DVD-Rs we had hanging about that are never going to get used. Though they weren’t clear, they are reflective so catch the light in a different way.

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We picked up dimensional fabric paint in Hobbycraft’s sewing section. Using a permanent marker, we drew mandala patterns on the CDs and traced the patterns with the fabric paint.

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I was really unsure about what Talitha would make of such a tricky medium but she got the hang of it in no time. We left the patterns to dry overnight then painted them the next day using indoor/outdoor multi-surface paint.

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Others, we painted directly without any outline.

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For yet others, we stuck buttons on with PVA glue. This worked fine for mine but I should have encouraged the kids to put more glue on theirs as we needed to restick. An alternative would be to use hot glue as the result is immediate and it gives you more options in terms of where you put your finished piece.

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We decorated both sides and once everything was dry, I threaded the CDs with embroidery thread and tied them on to the embroidery hoop at varying lengths, adding glitter pony beads at the top of each CD. I also added a couple of lengths of thread to create a handle for the hoop to hang. Now it’s up in our livingroom making everything extra cheerful.

cd suncatcher wind chimes craft - hobbycraft

What do you think? Also, do you have any summer crafts in the pipeline? Anything super easy but effective I might attempt with my big girls with a newborn in tow?


Maternity shoot with Annie Crossman Photography

Last year, we did a family photo shoot with Annie Crossman, a Bristol family photographer and friend. I’d booked the shoot as a birthday present to myself – a way to celebrate our family with one-year-old Ophelia in it.

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We then considered our family complete, not expecting to have any more children. Three weeks ago, Annie beautifully documented for us in a maternity photo shoot at Clevedon sea front how our plans can change.

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I didn’t do a maternity shoot with either of my first two babies so it feels extra special to anticipate this baby with one. It’s exciting to share it with you the day before our due date.

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Although this has probably been my easiest pregnancy from a physical point of view, even taking exhaustion into account, it’s psychologically been my most challenging.

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There have been two older children to consider, a lot of change happening in our lives outside of this pregnancy and it’s actually taken a long time to wrap my head around the idea of having a third and doing the newborn thing again. She has always been wanted. Without reservation. But it took me a few months to move on from feeling daunted.

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It’s easy to get impatient in the final weeks of a pregnancy. I won’t pretend that I haven’t. Every night I go to bed wondering if surges will wake me as they did with Ophelia. Then I wake up in the morning, disappointed and annoyed.

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Nine months has been long enough for us to feel as ready as we’re ever going to be, to long now to meet this whole other person who’s going to join our family.

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As before, the photo shoot experience with Annie was great fun. She has a real way with children and our two warmed to her with the camera right away, which (perhaps surprisingly, considering how photographed they are!) isn’t always the case. She even got them checking out some bits we’d got for the baby, including this jumper which each of our newborns has worn and which was Laurence’s originally.

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For me, this maternity shoot wasn’t just about celebrating this pregnancy for us grown ups but it was a way to involve the children in the anticipation. It was as much about focusing on them as sisters as it was on the bump.

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And for us, it was a chance to slow down and reflect on this growing family of ours and this life that we are building together that we are so grateful to share. We are mindful that we need to work to good care of all we’ve been given.

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This time I won’t make any grand declarations about our family being complete. It’s seriously unlikely that we will ever announce another pregnancy but life keeps reminding us that it is fluid and open, resistant to inflexible plans.

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Do check out Annie Crossman’s website and Facebook page and follow @anniecrossmanphotography on Instagram.

PS: Since a few people have asked, the girls’ tunics are from Mini Boden, a Christmas present from their grandmum.