My birth story

I tend to get a bit ranty on the subject of birth stories, as so many people seem to love sharing their own horror tales, or those of others. I don’t see this as being at all helpful to women who are pregnant for the first time, who are anxious enough as it is, who don’t need to hear flippant comments and gory details about labour. While pregnant, I much preferred to read about wonderful positive birth stories in books such as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I know that not all labours go as planned, however I found it immensely empowering to read about women who gave birth surrounded by love and calmness.

I tried to approach my labour with an open mind, aware that I might not get the room with the pool, or that things might go awry. I found no solace in dwelling on scary scenarios, instead choosing to focus on tales of positivity. I was frightened about labour and these stories gave me strength. Today I’d like to share my own birth story, which is a very positive one. I realise I am lucky to have had a smooth, relatively easy labour, but hopefully my story will give other first-time mothers strength too.

Throughout my pregnancy I had been worried about the labour – not knowing what to expect, and whether I could even do it at all! But whenever I was in work, I would look around and think “All of these people were born!” Such an obvious, trite statement, but thinking of all the millions of women who had given birth before me made me feel like I could do it too.

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My bump was always low and on the small side – so much so that I had bump envy most of the way through! In the last few weeks before Kitty was born, my midwife told me multiple times that I was “all baby”, and she was sure I wouldn’t go full term. From around week 34 the baby’s head was engaged – and boy could I feel it! Sure enough, Kitty arrived 11 days early, putting me at 38 weeks +3 days. On the Thursday evening before I went into labour, I experienced three hours of regular contractions, which weren’t painful and disappeared when I went to sleep. I realise now that my body was gearing up for labour. We had a really busy weekend, going to a gig, seeing friends and going out for tea, and really I think that helped to speed things up – for at 3.30am on the Sunday morning, I woke up to pains in my lower back and abdomen. I lay still for a little while, letting the idea that I was in labour sink in. Then I got up and woke Jim, unable to keep the news to myself.

For the next few hours the contractions very slowly got stronger, and we dithered around, knowing there was no way we would go back to sleep. I had a shower, ate some cereal, got our hospital bags together and dressed in comfortable clothes. As the contractions got more uncomfortable, I sat and rolled around on a birthing ball, until at 9am I demanded that we go to the hospital.

We live very close to our local hospital, and decided to walk there with our pram, so I could lean on it every now and then. A normally five-minute journey on foot ended up taking about half an hour! But moving around really helped to ease the increasing pain of my contractions. I was well aware that I would probably be sent home again, and sure enough, upon examination I was only 2cm dilated – which was better than I had expected! I was using breathing techniques which I’d learned at my local Daisy Birthing class (so helpful, I would definitely recommend!). Because of this the midwife kept telling me that she was impressed at how calm I was, which in turn made me feel stronger and more calm.

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I was given a low dose of cocodamol for the pain, which I threw up. It turns out food was not my friend that day, as this happened every time I tried to eat something – the most I managed was an ice lolly! I knew this wasn’t going to aid my strength during labour, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. We headed home, and I began to use the TENS machine I had borrowed from a friend. I found the relief wonderful, but the contractions got pretty intense as the morning went on. I lay on the sofa and we timed the contractions while listening to the radio. Jim and I had both been worried about knowing when would be the “right time” to return to the hospital, but at around 2pm I was really struggling to cope. This time we drove there!

Upon arrival, I was examined again, all the while praying “Please don’t send me home again!” Fortunately I was 4cm dilated, and even better, the pool room in the midwifery-led unit had recently been vacated! I felt very lucky that I would have the room I had wanted. So the TENs machine came off and at around 4pm I got in the pool, which was very soothing and allowed me to experiment with various positions. Our midwives changed shifts, and I hoped our new one would be as good as the lady who had just left. She was brilliant. It was just me, Jim and our new midwife, Zara, and for the most part she left us to it, now and then coming over to check how we were doing and calmly chat to us.

By this point I was using gas and air, which, rather than dulling the pain only seemed to make me groggy and dry-mouthed, but it did help me to concentrate on my breathing. Zara kept saying how calm I was, but as the afternoon wore on I felt my control slipping. The contractions were getting really intense and a couple of times I dropped the F-bomb, and one time I simply shouted out “Help!” I can’t really say that the contractions were painful, to me they just felt incredibly intense and just as everyone told me – like I needed to do a really big poo!

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The whole time Jim sat by my side, passing me cold water to sip and the gas and air when I needed it. He was great, and so supportive, as was Zara. At one point, when I asked her whether I should resist pushing, she said that she wouldn’t be examining me. She told me to trust my body and if I felt like I needed to push, I should do it. This moment came at around 7pm, and I’m not going to lie – it was scary. Really pretty scary! But also quite exciting, as I knew our baby would soon be with us.

At this point a second midwife arrived, and I started to push. This process seemed quite drawn out, and with every push Zara would say “The baby’s head will be out on the next push!” and each time it wasn’t, for which I kept apologising! Eventually, though, the head began to crown, with immense stinging that floored me. This for me was the hardest part, but I knew I had to endure it only briefly. I had really wanted to avoid giving birth on my back, going against gravity etc. But the midwives needed to see what was going on! They also asked if I wanted to see the baby’s head with a mirror (no thanks), and then to touch it (NO THANKS!). Once the baby’s head was out the body felt so easy in comparison, and our little girl was born at 7.17pm, on Sunday 8th March (International Women’s Day!), weighing 7 pounds 5½ oz. In all I was pushing for 27 minutes, and on record my labour was 5 and a half hours.

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And then she was on my chest, her pink body scrunched up and covered in vernix. We put a hat on her and she cried softly, and Jim and I gazed at her with tears in our eyes. The midwives asked us what her name was, and without hesitation we looked at each other and said “Kitty”. Once Jim had cut the cord, he had a wonderful hour of skin-to-skin cuddling with her, while I pushed out the placenta. This was not what I had expected! It took almost an hour to get rid of that bad boy, and I felt so exhausted from lack of food and of course the labour. Five minutes before I was to be given the injection to help the placenta along, I did it, and felt the most immense relief. Kitty was placed on my chest and began to greedily breastfeed right away, which was amazing. I had done it!

I had such a textbook labour that we were told we could go home that same evening, if we wanted. The thought of me and Kitty being in the hospital without Jim made me feel quite sad, so we decided to go home. Living so close to the hospital reassured me, knowing the labour ward was only next door if we needed anything. Our parents came to the hospital and helped us take Kitty home. It was surreal walking through our front door with her at midnight, and we sat and ate cereal and stared at her. Needless to say, that night I got zero sleep, starting at every snuffle and sigh, constantly astonished at the little person we had made.

So I hope that my positive birth story can bring strength and hope to other first-time mothers. Yes, bad things can happen in labour, but sometimes it all goes smoothly. I felt like I had been beaten up for the first few days after Kitty’s birth, but I also felt incredible – superhuman, in fact! Like all mothers, who are superhuman however their little people came into the world. High five, mamas.

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Welcoming Kitty

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our daughter, Kitty Cosmo Ashworth, on Sunday 8th March – International Women’s Day, no less! She arrived 11 days early, at 7.17pm, weighing 7lb 5½oz. We have spent the past four weeks getting to know our new little friend, and coming to terms with everything that goes along with a newborn – plenty of sleepless nights, groggy mornings and cobbled-together meals. But also plenty of cuddles, kisses, and a huge feeling of awe that we have created such a beautiful little person. She is our best and favourite new thing. Forgive me while this space stays quiet for a while – I will be back when we have this whole baby thing a bit more figured out. And in the meantime: photos!

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Nursery tour

Although we plan to have our baby sleeping in our room for the first six months of her life, we recently spent a bit of time organising our spare bedroom into something of a “nursery”. A place for her clothes to live, somewhere to change her, and a quiet space for me to feed her during the night. Luckily, our spare bedroom was was already painted pink – very handy when we discovered we were having a girl! So all that was left was some sorting and clearing out, adding shelves for my craft books (rather than the, ahem, pile on the floor) and children’s books and toys, and folding away some tiny lady clothes.

We bought an antique chest of drawers for storage, and I succumbed to the lure of Elisabeth Dunker’s famous Pirum Parum poster, which I’ve been lusting after for years! It also happily ties in with the loose pink and grey colour scheme of the room. We made shelves out of the original floorboards from our house, and used antique brackets to attach them to the walls. I have already amassed a small – but growing – collection of adorable knitted cardigans, some gifts and some vintage. I think I need that pink cabled wonder in my size!

I have an old pretty nursing chair, and paired with a sheepskin rug, it will be a cosy place to sit with our baby. I love this room, and although the nursery will also double as a guest bedroom for now, we’ve made the most of the limited space in our little house. I sometimes find myself standing in the doorway, just looking around and taking in the quiet calm before the baby storm. Not long now, my due date is 16 days away!

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Go pink or go home

Another baby project today, in the form of a dip-dye baby blanket. A little while ago my friend Mel gave me a white cotton blanket for our baby, which was lovely, but I planned to spruce it up a bit. Knowing the sex of our baby has definitely given me free reign to go a bit more girly than usual when making things – but then again, I’m a fan of pink anyway. So after a bit of Pinterest inspiration, I decided to try my hand at dip-dying the blanket a very bright and bold shade of PINK! I chose Dylon’s ‘Flamingo Pink’, because, go pink or go home, right?

There are loads of DIY ombré dip-dye tutorials out there, and they all tend to suggest slightly different hints and tips at getting the perfect ombré dip-dye. After doing lots of research and reading, I realised the best thing to do was probably just to go for it. I covered our kitchen table with copious amounts of newspaper, and, following the instructions on the dye packet, filled a bucket with water and mixed in some salt – a lot of salt, actually, as this helps the dye to take to the fabric.

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First off, I rinsed the blanket in cold water so it was damp – one great tip I read was that any bits you don’t want dying should stay totally dry, as the dye will only spread up the wet parts. So as I wanted the top of my blanket to stay white I kept that part as dry as possible. Generally, with dip-dying, I found that you can either submerge the fabric in the water and then pull it out a bit at a time, or go the other way and feed the fabric into the dye. I decided to submerge the blanket and then gradually pull it out, onto a towel on the table. Each time I left the blanket for around 10-15 minutes, as I wanted as really good, dark pink at the bottom. Another good tip is to sway the fabric slightly in the water, to avoid getting a rigid line of colour between the sections.

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Once the dying was complete, I emptied the bucket and gave the blanket a rinse in cold water in the sink, then washed it in the machine to set the dye. Then hung it out to dry. Done! Although I really enjoyed the whole dying process, I would have preferred to have a longer fade from white to pink, whereas I ended up with a huge dark pink section and not much pale pink/white at the top of the blanket. I did wash the blanket again to see if this would help it to fade, which it did – but only slightly (probably all that salt). Considering this was my first attempt at ombré dip-dying I am pretty pleased, though!

To complete the blanket, I continued with the all-out pink theme and, inspired by this great blanket, made some bright pink tassels and sewed them onto the corners. And there you have it – a full-on girly baby blanket! Just hoping they didn’t get it really wrong at the scan and a boy pops out…

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Maternity style: 35 weeks

I’m a week behind with the maternity posts, as these photographs are from last week, when I was just over 35 weeks pregnant. Today I am 36 weeks pregnant – officially 8 months! Over the Valentines weekend we took a trip to Betws-y-coed, for a night away and to eat all the delicious food. On the way home we stopped off in the tiny village of Carrog to snap a few maternity photos. Sunday was bright and clear, if rather windy, and the view was stunning. We also happened across a chance passing of a steam train!

This is my current uniform of late: comfortable trousers or leggings, and a loose smock top or dress. This Topshop dress isn’t maternity, but it has served me very well over the last few months (although I think wearing it as a dress nowadays would create a bit of scandal). I’ve lately began to get bump-and-back pain when I stand up for too long. Still, I love knowing that my bump is growing steadily and these are all good natural pains, telling me that I’m getting bigger by the day. My stomach has been making some very odd shapes lately as our baby moves about, which isn’t painful but a bit uncomfortable and odd! I have enjoyed whipping my top up to show friends when it happens, haha.

I finish work for maternity leave this week, hooray! I’m looking forward to having a few weeks of knitting, relaxing, Netflixing and finishing off a few baby projects. That is, as long as the baby doesn’t have ideas about coming early!

My rad jewellery is by Loela, a wonderful jewellery and clothes-maker based just down the road from us, in Manchester. I have designs on her beautiful silk mustard shorts and coral trousers – perfect for the summer, post baby-bump! I love the colour combination of this necklace and bracelet, great for jazzing up an everyday outfit.

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Wearing: vintage aran cardigan, eBay | dress (worn as top), Topshop | maternity jeans, Topshop | boots, Sainsburys | jewellery, Loela

Dog days

More baby stuff today (sorry – this has become a baby blog! for now at least), in the form of presents for friends’ babies. If you’re a sewing fan, you may be interested to know that you receive a free pattern when you sign up to the Purl Soho newsletter. When I did this last year, I chose the pattern for the Purl Soho pup, an adorable sausage dog made from cotton and wool felt. When cutting out the pattern pieces, I knew it was going to be fiddly, but the accompanying tutorial (with photos!) was really easy to follow and I actually enjoyed the whole sewing process a lot. Rather than, ahem, other times when sewing makes me stressed and sends me into a rage. I just took my time and followed the instructions, and before long, I had a pup!

I love this little sausage dog, the cute face and ears, and the squishy body is the perfect present for a little one. The first pup was made for Jim’s cousin, who had a little girl in the summer. Hence, pink and florals. The next one (sewed up a lot quicker) was for my friend’s little boy, born in October. I love the combination of beige and polka dots on this one – and, of course, the pom pom trim for a collar! I die.

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I often think I’m not very good at sewing (I certainly have yet to master curtains or dressmaking) but achieving small projects like this – and for them to actually look good – is really satisfying. It’s definitely helped to build up my sewing confidence. They’re not perfect, but in my mind that’s what makes them special: the little bits of handsewing, the slightly wonky ears! Of course, choosing the fabric combinations is one of the best parts, but seeing the faces of loved ones receiving a gift you have handmade with love – well that’s got to be the best part of all.

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Maternity style: 34 weeks

We’re nearing the home stretch now, so these days I’m all about comfort. It is in equal parts interesting and frustrating to find out how little of my wardrobe I can still fit in – and I am very grateful that I have a penchant for oversized smock dresses! I have also recently fallen for maternity leggings. Obvious, I know, but SO COMFORTABLE!

I wore this outfit this past weekend for lunch – I love a good striped dress, and this one is still comfortable enough to throw on with tights, and great for layering in the chilly winter weather. My awesome necklace is from Benu, and I love wearing it to add a fun pop of colour to my outfits. It’s also a good talking point!

Our little one is wriggling as much as ever, and she must be getting pretty cramped in there now as I’m feeling some of those kicks and rolls quite sharply nowadays! Our nursery is coming together, and we are ticking off the last few baby things from our list. I can’t quite believe how quickly the last couple of months have gone and the excitement/nerves are starting to kick in. How am I almost 8 months pregnant!? I’m still loving it, though, and am trying to savour the feeling of carrying our little one around with me as much as possible before we get to meet her. In around 6 weeks! Come on time, give me a break.

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Wearing: jumper, Zara | shirt, Topshop via eBay | dress, H&M | vintage moccasins, Beacon’s Closet, Brooklyn NY