Saturday, 1 August 2015

Parenthood One Month In

It sounds so cliché, but I can't believe our little Ella is one month old already! Time has both flown, and gone by very slowly... mainly during late night feeds. Both Andy and I have learned a lot in this time, and we continue to learn more and more everyday. 

The internet is both a blessing and a curse at this time, as you can find answers to any baby problem via google, however there is a lot of conflicting information out there. We've spent countless hours googling things like "how do I cut my baby's fingernails" and "my baby always leans her head to the right". The most consistent advice that we are given is to just do what works for you, which is both comforting and confusing at the same time. Sometimes you do wish that babies came with a manual that you could follow exactly so that your baby is always content. We are lucky in that we seem to have missed out on colic.  When Ella cries she is either hungry, has a dirty nappy or wants to be cuddled, so most of the time we can solve the problem.  That doesn't make it easier when her little lower lip quivers when she cries - heartbreaking!

I have read a lot of lists on the internet regarding parenting (ie "Five Things Never To Say To a New Mom") so I thought I'd write my own list:

Things We've Learned in One Month of Parenthood
  • This article explained perhaps the most important thing we've learnt so far: A newborn and a baby are not really the same thing. When I used to think about a baby I thought about something that was probably more like six months old. A newborn needs sleep, cuddles and for you to change their nappy and that's about it. Even though you babble incessantly to them (my mom is great at this) the newborn hardly responds and you feel slightly crazy. A newborn also has no short term memory so it can be screaming one minute and then completely calm the next, which is a little hilarious. In one short month Ella has become increasing more alert. She responds to our voices and it seems like she is looking at us. You can even trick yourself into believing that her smile is real, and not because she's just farted.  
  • Breastfeeding. Oh my... This has been the most challenging part about motherhood so far. I definitely underestimated how hard this would be, and how painful it would be in the beginning. Lansinoh nipple cream is a must for any hospital bag (I didn't have any but luckily at Sandringham Hospital they gave me a few free samples). Everyone goes on about how breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, and while this may be true a few weeks down the track, it DEFINITELY hurts at first. I have yet to meet a mother who has said breastfeeding was pain free from the start. During my first day in hospital, one midwife kept telling me it shouldn't hurt (while I sat there in tears), however she didn't have any children of her own so I shouldn't have taken what she had to heart! Other midwives who were mothers assured me that this pain was normal would and pass.  In the middle of writing this post I came across this article about what the first 48 hours of breastfeeding are like and it's pretty good. 

  • There are no nice nursing clothes; or very few; or they are really expensive. I wish clothing designers would realise that nursing mums would like to go out in public in nice clothes and also be able to nurse their babies with minimal fumbling around with their clothes. I've found button-down shirts are by far the best option. 

  • I don't think anyone takes the "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice, at least not during the day. It's so hard to do that! 
  • White noise is amazing as a sleeping aid. Originally we used it for Ella as she wouldn't sleep in our quiet, dark room in her bassinet at night. However, now I think we actually use it for our own sleep - babies are so noisy when they sleep. They are constantly grunting, sighing, squealing and moaning and you never know if they are actually awake or not. Usually they are not fully awake and by the time you get yourself out of your warm bed to check they are fast asleep again. 
  • A good breast pump will be your best friend. We invested in the Medela Swing electric pump and it's amazing. 
  • Newborns don't really need real clothes or cute outfits. They need onesies - and preferably Bonds Wondersuits with built-in, removable mittens and socks and two way zippers. Dealing with complicated clothing during the 9-10 diaper changes per day is just not worth it. I am looking forward to cute outfits when she is a bit older but for now I'm all about convenience.
  • Breastmilk poo doesn't smell! Surely this is one of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding. 
  • When you live away from family your real friends are a Godsend. We have been so lucky with some of our friends who have come over and made us brunch, or brought a treat for afternoon tea, or travelled to our end of the city so we can have brunch in a nearby cafe. Some of our friends have just been so accommodating and lovely and I can't wait to repay them when they have babies of their own. I know most people are not interested in your baby, especially if they don't have children of their own, but these guys have been pretty good at faking it. Also, it's nice to still be able to have conversations about things other than babies with them. I love these guys and we would not have survived our first few weeks without them!
  • However good your friends are, there is no replacement for grandparents. They are the only ones who think your baby is as brilliant as you do, and on top of that you are still their baby. As mentioned before, having my mom here has been the best thing ever, and I can't wait until my dad arrives next week. Unfortunately we have to wait until our trip to the UK to spend time with Andy's parents, but I know that will be just as special. 

  • And yes, it's true, you can't understand the love your parents have for you until you have your own baby. And you have to accept that they will never understand how much you love them until they have their own children, but that's ok. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Nannie is here!

My mom arrived in Melbourne on Saturday to stay with us for the next four weeks. I am so, so, SO happy she is here! The only downfall is that my dad is not able to come until 8th of August as he couldn't take the time off work, but he will at least have two weeks with us when he comes.
Ella meeting Nannie for the first time!
Ella is very lucky in that she is the first grandchild for both mine and Andy's parents. She is going to be a spoiled little girl! My mom called her grandmother Nannie, and I did the same, so that is what my mom will be called by Ella. Not to be confused with "THE Nanny", haha.

We have had some lovely sunny winter days here in Melbourne, and been able to take Ella on lots of walks. And when she is particularly happy we are even able to stop and have a coffee or lunch out!

Out for a walk!
Walking along the beach - Ella is in the hug a bub!
Enjoying some lunch at the Collingwood Children's Farm Cafe
Since she has been here my mom has been a HUGE help. She is obviously totally in love with Ella and is teaching me how to be more patient with her, along with more practical things like different burping positions and bath options. It makes me wonder why the heck we are living halfway around the world when we could have the love and support of our family to help raise our little girl. (sob).

This is how you burp a baby!

At the moment I am just so grateful and appreciative of my mom, and if I am half the mother she is then Ella will be a lucky girl. 

Nannie love!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Hawthorn Common and My new chair!

We have had the best day today! Andy is back home with us after one day of work yesterday which is great. As Ella was born in the school holidays he still has 5 days of paternity leave he is able to take now. 

We started the day with a trip to St. Vincent's Hospital for a hearing screening test for Ella. This test was done the day after she was born, however they were unable to get a reading at that time. We were a little bit worried about it, but were told that it was common as babies can still have some fluid in their ears which interferes with the test. Thankfully Ella passed the test with flying colours so we don't have to worry about any hearing issues for the time being.

St. Vincent's is a private hospital. We went there as it is much closer to where we live now than Sandringham. Sandringham is public, and boy am I glad we didn't go check out a private hospital before getting pregnant... It was so nice in there compared to the public hospital!! I still don't think I'd pay for private - on top of your insurance premiums you can be about $5000-$10000 out of pocket after a private birth - but boy was the hospital alluring. A bit like getting a taste of flying first class and then having to go back to economy. 

Ella was really well-behaved (read: sleeping) so we decided to try and get a few things from Baby Bunting in Hawthorn. Andy was carrying her in the Hug-a-Bub (which she absolutely loves) and everyone in the store was oohing and ahhing over the little baby snuggled up with dad! While we were there she did get a bit restless, but they have a feeding room in the shop that you can use to breastfeed, change diapers, or warm up bottles. Ace! In the room they had this glider feeding chair to use that they of course sell in the shop:

Oh my goodness. What a chair. It was like, the best feed, EVER. I was so comfortable and my back didn't hurt at all after the feed (which it usually does after I feed her on our sofa or on the Ikea Poang chair) and I felt the most relaxed I have ever been during a feed, despite the fact that I was basically in a bland room in a shop. Anyway. We bought the chair. I am SO excited about it. It will arrive in a few days and I cannot wait. It is going to be life changing. Andy loves it too - I think during non-feeding times there will be a fight to see who gets the chair!

After our chair buying high we decided to walk down the street to get some lunch. Ella was passed out from all her milk drinking and we were in great moods. We were just down the street from Hawthorn Common, one of Melbourne's finest cafes. The menu is amazing with a focus on whole foods combined with the creativity we have come to expect from cafes here. They make everything from scratch; they mill their own flour for bread, hand roll oats, and ferment, preserve, roast and dry all food themselves. All organic waste is composted and returned to farms.  On the menu is a quote from Michael Pollan, author of "In Defence of Food", which I read when we started eating a more whole foods diet. The quote is "If it came from a plant, eat it; If it was made in a plant, don't". Basically, I love this place and wish we lived closer to it!

Ella slept peacefully the whole lunch, and we had the owner come over for a visit to our table to talk about babies; he has a 6 month old and a 2 year old who were there at the cafe (his wife is also an owner). He said his only piece of advice was that there is no such thing as spoiling a baby under 6 weeks old, which I totally agree with. At this point we know there is no routine, Ella eats when she is hungry and is cuddled as much as she wants. I have heard we should think of these next few months as "the fourth trimester" as our newborn gets used to life outside the womb, and that is exactly how we are approaching this period of her life. This is why I love the Hug-a-Bub so much, it allows us to carry her around and be close to us while we also get on with other things. 

Anyway, all in all its been a pretty perfect day :)

Exhausted after a big day out!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Ella's First Day Out

We've been at home with Ella for a week now, and are just about getting used to the irregularity of having a newborn baby. Some days are great, others are more of a challenge - mainly based on the amount of sleep we both get. I am going to have to get better at napping and resisting the urge to get something done while Ella is sleeping in the day. (For example, maybe writing this blog post can wait? I will make it a quick one...)
On Tuesday we ventured out with her for the first time. Andy has been "wearing" Ella with a Hug-a-Bub wrap, which she loves. She just settles in next to dad and has a big sleep! 

We haven't tried taking her out in her pram yet, but it is all set up and ready to go!

We had a walk down to the Collingwood Library as I had a few books that needed to be returned. The library is right by a nice park that is also the location of the Maternal and Child Health Care Centre, less than a 10 minute walk from our house - very convenient!

We then took her to one of our favourite cafes, Kitchen. We just got coffees to go, as I'm not yet confident enough to sit down in a restaurant with her! We then walked along the Yarra River to the Collingwood Children's Farm and through Abbotsford Convent. I am so happy this is literally right on our doorstep! We were out for over an hour, and Ella was snuggled happily with dad the whole time. I have yet to wear the Hug-a-Bub, as the midwife has said it is best if Andy carries her around while he is home so that my stomach muscles have a chance to recover. 

Ella's first cafe, Kitchen. 
Walking along the Yarra River

Cows at Collingwood Children's Farm
That night I had a Book Club meeting - a few months ago I set up a book club with some friends, and I was determined to try and make it. We arranged for it to be at The Yarra Hotel as it is near our house. While we had dinner and chatted about the latest book (Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari - very good, highly recommend) Adam and Luke went to our house to cook Andy dinner and help with Ella. I managed a good hour or so out of the house before I was called back to a hungry baby. It was nice to get out and I was really appreciative of the girls accommodating me, but I did feel like a little piece of me was missing!

Book Club!

Three Men and a Baby
We've been on one more walk since then, to the post office to collect some parcels, so that was a bit boring! The weather in Melbourne is expected to be freezing over the weekend so we are going to have to make sure we rug up if we go outside on another walk. 
I did not move to Australia for this weather!!! 
Gratuitous cute baby photo!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Welcome Baby Ella!

Our new family!
On Wednesday 1st July at 3:32pm Andy and I welcomed our beautiful little girl, Ella Grace, into the world. I am feeling so so happy and blessed at the moment. Not only is she perfect (to us!), she gave me a lovely birthing experience and I also have the most loving and supportive husband and father to our child. I don't think it gets any better than this...

I thought I'd share my birth story on here, as it was a really positive experience and I think it's important that people realise that labour is not always the traumatic experience it is made out to be. 

I'll start with things that I did during my pregnancy that I think helped to have a good labour. Or possibly I was just blessed with good genes as my mom also had very quick births!

  • Keeping Active. Up until about 33-34 weeks I was swimming once a week and going for a walk at least once a week. I actually think I should have been walking a lot more, however I did walk to and from the train when going to work which is probably about 30-40 minutes total walking each day on its own. 
  • Yoga. I did yoga regularly about 2-3 times a week pretty much throughout pregnancy until about 34 weeks. I didn't do a pregnancy specific yoga class but made sure the instructors always knew I was pregnant so they could help me modify certain poses. Then I got a pregnancy DVD and book from the library that I did at home during the last few weeks. Totally recommend this as the instructor, Tara Lee, gives ideas of things to do during and in between contractions which I did and really helped.
  • Acupuncture. I started this at about 34 weeks. This really helped with back pain, and also is meant to prepare your body for labour. I went to Angea Acupuncture and Yoga in Prahran. I had an appointment scheduled for the day I went into labour, where the birth preparation was to be ramped up. The World Health Organisation has written that acupuncture has been proven to relieve labour pain and reduce the length of labour.
  • Meditation. I started using the Headspace App and in the last few months meditated 10-20 minutes almost daily. I haven't meditated since the birth but am aiming to get back into the practice today. 
  • Read about Hypnobirthing. I wish I had done the full course and would consider it for our next child, if we are so lucky to be able to have another. However just reading about it took away a lot of fear I had about labour and gave me the confidence to trust that my body knew what to do. 
  • Using an exercise ball. We bought one of those big inflatable balls that you can sit on for me to use instead of just coming home and laying on the sofa (which of course I did do as well!) It was also recommended to rotate your hips while sitting on one as it can help get your baby into prime birthing position.
Things I wish I had done: Pelvic floor exercises more consistently! And more pre-natal pilates. I did a few classes but it would have probably benefited my pelvic floor if I did them more regularly.

And here is how my labour went. I will not to be too graphic! On Wednesday at about 8:30am Andy I were just about to go for a walk. I had just tied my shoes, and when I stood up I felt like I had just peed my pants! I was a bit annoyed about it, but then realised it might be my waters breaking. We called the hospital and they told us to come in and have it checked out just in case. They told us to bring along the hospital bags just in case as well, which I hadn't finished packing. Cue mad rush around the house to throw in a few last minute items and we were off to the hospital.

Since moving to Abbotsford we are actually pretty far from Sandringham Hospital, so it took us about 45 minutes to get there. We arrived about 10am and the midwife who I talked to on the phone, Chris, examined me. She confirmed that my waters had broken, and that most women will go into labour within 24 hours of this happening. If I didn't go into labour naturally by then, I would be induced the next morning as the risk of infection to the baby increases.  I really did not want to be induced, so was considering keeping my acupuncture appointment at this point, as there have been studies to show that acupuncture can be used to induce labour naturally. Chris told us to go have some lunch, go for a walk, etc. and come back to the hospital in a few hours, as I didn't feel I was having contractions at that point. I did feel some mild discomfort, which felt like period pains, but nothing too strong at that point.

We ended up going to a nearby shopping mall as I wanted to get a few last minute items for my hospital bag. Walking into Target the greeter saw us walking hand in hand and was like "Oh, how lovely! When are you due?" And I was like "Um, it's happening right now?" Needless to say she was quite surprised! As we walked around there the pains were getting stronger and coming at closer intervals, but I was concerned that we should get some lunch... I knew Andy was going to need some strength to get through this! We sat down to have some sandwiches but before we were halfway through we both thought we should get back to the hospital, the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes at this point.

We arrived back at the hospital about an hour after we left, at about 12:30pm. We were immediately led to a birthing suite and I quickly found the most comfortable position was on my hands and knees on a yoga mat. During the contractions I tried to focus on my breathing and circled my hips around as I learned in my yoga DVD. In between contractions Chris the midwife was trying to admit me, taking blood pressure, drawing blood, etc. The OB came to see me once, and then we didn't see him again for the whole birth. Chris then examined my cervix and I was 7 cm dilated, meaning I was in the third stage of labour already. She said the bath was available and did I want to try for a water birth? I hadn't really thought about this much but had heard being in the bath helped with pain so thought, why not?!

Chris explained to me some of the conditions for a water birth which are a bit hazy to me now. Basically no drugs and your bum has to stay in the water... that's really all I can remember! The room with the bath was lovely, dimly lit, warm, with soothing music playing. Getting into the tub at first was an incredible feeling, like a lovely warm hug that totally relaxed me. I spent the next 2 hours in there (they did have to put some more hot water in at one point) having strong, regular contractions every minute or so. I'm not going to lie, they were painful. I let out some pretty loud moans. I tried really hard to focus on breathing and just getting through each one, thinking that each contraction was one step closer to the end goal! Chris reminded me that the quicker I relaxed after each one, the longer I would have to recover, and that thought also helped. 

When she started crowning the midwife had Andy have a look - something I never thought he would do! I don't think he wanted to at first, but since it was under water I think it was a less confronting view! Once her head was out I knew we were almost there and pushing felt pretty good at that point. Next thing I knew, the midwife was telling me to look down and there she was, underneath me in the bath. Seeing her like that was absolutely amazing, I can't even describe the feeling. I scooped her up, and there she was, our new baby girl!

Hospital room
It is shocking how blissful you feel right after giving birth. I felt like nothing was wrong with me at all, which I'm sure was due to the endorphins running through my body. I had some time with her in the bath while they clamped and cut the umbilical cord, and then I had to get out to deliver the placenta. I didn't have any more contractions so they just had me push and it came out. We then moved from the water bath room to my original birthing suite, where our friend Charlotte was waiting. Charlotte generously agreed to be a second birthing partner, someone to support us if we had had a really long labour. It turned out she didn't have to do much during labour, but it was great to see a familiar face after the birth. Soon after I gave Ella my first breastfeed - which felt great at the time (hello endorphins!) but has been one of the most challenging parts of having a new baby so far! Adam also came by a bit later on with a bag full of goodies he picked up on his way to hospital - muesli bars, magazines, chocolate, etc. Again, I am so thankful for the support of our friends through this - it has been so important seeing as we are so far away from family. 

I ended up having a small tear that needed four stitches, that was probably the worst bit of the whole process for me! They used local anaesthetic for it however so it wasn't as bad as I anticipated it would be.

I spent two nights in hospital in a semi-private room. My roommate was a girl called Ally and luckily we got on really well. I originally thought it would kind of suck sharing a room, but actually it was nice to have someone to talk to in the night. We have kept in touch and hopefully I will meet up with her and her little boy in the next few weeks. The midwives at the hospital were all (well, mostly) great. So supportive and helpful - they have such an important job working with new mums and they gave me the confidence needed for when we left. 

We've been home now for 3 days and doing well so far. As I mentioned, breastfeeding has been the biggest challenge but it gets better every day. Andy has been fantastic, he has made a great dad already, and has been a huge support for me. It's been excellent timing as Andy is on school holidays for another week and then can take an additional week of paternity leave so we have lots of time to bond as a family. 


Monday, 22 June 2015

New House

It has been a very busy two weeks since we moved. I am now officially on maternity leave though, so hopefully will have some time to relax before the baby comes.

Our move went pretty smoothly this time around. We were all packed up and ready to go by the time the movers came, and they worked very efficiently to clear out our flat in Prahran. It took a while to go up and down the lift to get everything out and we were relieved when we got to our new house, which is on one level so no stairs or lift required! The moving company we used was called 4U Services. The two movers were friendly and efficient, and the price was reasonable ($66 per hour plus a $50 flat fuel charge). I’d recommend them and use them in the future.

Rose bushes outside the house. Will have to ask my mom how to maintain them!
I tried to help as much as I could and was feeling pretty good during the move, but pretty much crashed once it was all over! Getting started with unpacking is such an overwhelming process. The first night in our flat was pretty crap… we were very unprepared for how cold it would be. Prior to this we have only lived in new apartment buildings. The good thing about these flats is they are well insulated with double-glazed windows, so in the winter they stay pretty warm. Houses here, on the other hand, are NOT well-insulated and central heating does not seem to exist. I feel like Melbourne is in a bit of denial about how cold it actually gets here in the winter! This weekend the temperature dropped to 4 degrees at night, and at that temperature the house is absolutely freezing! We have since sorted out the heating in the bedrooms with timers so its not too bad, except that when you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet (which happens often when you are pregnant!) you have to run through the freezing hallway to the freezing bathroom and tip toe on the freezing floors! I am worried that my mom is going to be very cold when she gets here…. We may have to invest in an electric blanket for her. I am dreading the moment when we get our first electricity bill, as we are running the heating far more than we did in any of our apartments. The good thing is that the living room and kitchen have lots of windows, letting in the sunshine which warm up the house during the day, so I won’t be cold at home all day with the baby.

Other than that things we are pretty much settled in the flat now. We got a new (used) sofa which I LOVE and most boxes have been unpacked. We are still waiting on the Internet which always seems to take ages to connect here. The Internet is a funny thing, when you have it you don’t really think about it, but boy do you miss it when you don’t! I think I just want to be able to look up whatever I want whenever I want., and maybe it’s a good thing to not be able to do that all the time.

Living room before shot!
Living room with a sofa! 

My last day at school was pretty good. I have a Year 7 class of all girls and they wrote me some very sweet cards and I got spoiled with gifts for the baby from them. Some boys in my Year 11 class also surprised me with a thank you gift (for me, not the baby for once!) and a lovely card. 16-year-old boys can be much more thoughtful than we give them credit for! It was the end of term at my school on Friday so it doesn’t really feel like maternity leave at this point as everyone else is also on holidays.  Andy still has one more week of school unfortunately, but then we have 2 weeks off together before baby Nobes is born.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Goodbye Prahran...

It's moving day! It currently feels like the calm before the storm. I've just sat down to have my coffee and breakfast before packing up the last few things and waiting for the movers arrive. We have a bit of a tight schedule, movers arrive at 10am and then the cleaners arrive at 12pm, at which time we will hopefully be out of our flat on on our way to our new house. Moving out of an apartment is slow going, as everything needs to be taken down in the lift. 

Yesterday was a holiday, a day off for the Queen's birthday. I always find it funny that in Canada and Australia there is a holiday for the Queen's birthday, but in the UK there isn't. This is the last holiday weekend until Melbourne Cup in November, which just seems like really bad planning on the part of the Government or whoever plans out these things. It's a really long winter with no long weekends or holidays to look forward to!

We spent our last day in Prahran packing mostly, but managed to get out and enjoy the sunny, mild day for a bit. I dragged Andy to yoga in the morning, with the view that this would probably be our last yoga class we'd be able to go to together for YEARS. The yoga/pilates/gym that we go to is called Kaya Health Clubs, and is probably the best gym type place I've ever joined. Not only are there specialist reformer pilates and yoga classes, but there is also regular "gym" activities such as spinning, zumba, boxfit, strength and cardio machines. I love going there and regrettably cancelled my membership last week as it's getting hard to participate in the classes with my growing belly, and once we move we will be too far away to go there. It is the first place I've ever gone where I've actually started to love yoga and attend regularly. When I called up to cancel they were like "you are one of our most regular members ever!" which I was pretty proud of!

After yoga we went to brunch at Journeyman, a cafe around the corner from us on High St. in Windsor. I've been meaning to go for ages... which is the same for a lot of restaurants and cafes around here that I've never been to, and now probably never will! It was packed when we got there but luckily we didn't have to wait long for a table. I had an amazing chia coconut pudding with fruit. I've tried to make chia pudding myself but I can never seem to get it as thick as this one... I would love to know what I'm doing wrong!

After brunch we put in some packing hours until I started going a bit crazy and suggested we go for a walk before it got too late. It was really nice and sunny out and I wanted to at least be able to enjoy some of the long weekend! We decided to drive up to the Salvation Army near our new place in Abbotsford to drop off some clothes and books and then walk along the river to our new house. We stopped in at The Kitchen on Gipps St. in Abbotsford for a coffee before our walk. I think this is one of the closest cafes to our new place which is awesome. The food there is excellent and they do a "Red Latte" which is made with Rooibos tea and is even better than a Chai Latte. There is also an amazing furniture shop attached to the cafe, full of ridiculously expensive and over sized furniture for houses so big I can't even imagine what they would be like inside. Fun to look around though!

Biggest cover table EVER
It was lovely walking along the river and made me excited about exploring our new neighbourhood. I am a bit nervous about the house itself, there is not much storage space and I feel like that might be a challenge for us to deal with! Also Andy has not yet seen the property so I'm anxious to see if he will like it. If he doesn't bad luck at this point, but we are hoping, once again, that we won't have to move again in another year!

Anyway I will update once we've moved in to the new place and this horrible day of moving is all over!

Bye bye tiny apartment! I will miss that view though.