Sunday, 30 May 2010


Need I say more?

That's my glam girl, enjoying a cuddle with grandma.

We returned from holiday Friday and dropped my parents off at Heathrow this afternoon.  We had a fab week and from the looks of it, the best of the weather.  I got to hold hands with my mom and my daughter.  LLC put up with a whirlwind of "newness" like a trooper.  When you're a baby every day brings something new, but I expect our West Country adventures inundated her senses more than normal and she coped well.  I'm not trying to get all "my child is so fabulous rah rah rah" on you but I must give the my star credit where credit is due. 

I'm sure the dynamics of travel will change and get more challenging for awhile as LLC gets older but travel is part of the fabric of my life by virtue of being an American living in the UK so we hope to adjust LLC to it from an early age.  Hopefully when we venture abroad we'll have similar successes.

If you're also considering a first holiday with your little one my advice is go for it!  I've already shared some of my travel discoveries, but overall my advice is plan ahead but keep an open mind and be flexible, keeping to your child's routine the best you can but not being afraid to adapt it a bit to fit your circumstances.  There may be some tears and moments of disarray but the seeds of travel and discovery will be sewn for your little one. 

Now my big question is what Hollywood would have to say about this new hairstyle LLC is rocking?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Holiday - Celebrate!

Picture me singing this fab disco hit by Madonna. Actually don’t, because if you know my singing voice you’ll cringe at this image and stop reading (unless you are my innocent and faithful LLC).

As the song says, if we took a holiday…took some time to celebrate…..

We did. Well, we are. As of last Friday we’ve been enjoying a getaway in sunny Cornwall.

I dipped into some of the tips Young Mummy received from bloggers when preparing to holiday abroad with her hubby and young twins (worth checking out). Well travelled BG passed on some helpful hints from her vacations with Small V (put LLC to bed as normal and then take her out to dinner sleeping in the stroller). This  recon on board, we packed our bags (on Thursday night in tribute to my dear friend procrastination) and set off for Heathrow early Friday morning.

No, we weren’t flying to Cornwall, just picking up my parents who have joined us on LLC’s first vacation. The volcanic ash remained at bay so we met mom and dad and headed for our quaint and cosy rented cottage in the West Country.

We’ve taken a coastal hike with LLC in the Baby Bjorn, visited the slightly garish but noteworthy Lands End, climbed the stunning St Michael’s Mount, danced onstage at the cliffside Minack Theatre, and eaten tasty food and Cornish delights like clotted cream and ice cream (how could I resist when the region is known for them?!) and I’m relieved to report that it’s all going well. LLC has adjusted to some long car journeys, busy days and an overall shift in circumstance with gurgles, grace and limited tears. Maybe her innate preference is to be breastfed in beauty spots like the hill overlooking St Mawes castle, the sea-cliff at the base of St Michael’s Mount and the Minack Theatre’s central box?

We’ve had our moments of madness – two nights where LLC kept waking and crying and subsequently feeding and a couple of meltdowns in the car – but how can I not expect this from a four-month old who we’ve swept on a whirlwind adventure?

Some things I’ve discovered about road trips/vacation with baby:
  • Extra hands work a treat – we don’t get to spend enough time with my parents and they are psyched for quality time with their first grandchild. Yes, sometimes I get pissy at my mom’s advice but overall she is wise, and they’ve not only helped us with LLC throughout the day but allowed us some rare and valued alone time too.
  • Think ahead about feed times when taking a long journey – whether you feed at set times or more varied windows like me, when travelling six plus hours in the car a tactical plan of where/when to do feeds may save you from tears
  • Invest in a baby carrier and then don’t forget it – Carriers and slings are a hot commodity these days as they enable mama/baby closeness and free hands. When sightseeing with a small baby, they also facilitate easy exploring of old fortresses with Cliffside stairs and rocky paths. Don’t do a Tanya and forget your carrier when climbing St Michael’s Mount unless you want an extra hard upper body workout.
  • If you’re on the go, bring a spare lightweight diaper bag – I’m not advocating adding another frivolous item to the arsenal of baby luggage – I’ve found it practical to have an empty bag that I can chuck bare essentials into for our long walks (changing mat, diaper, wipes and cloth). My regular diaper bag, always fully stocked with a spare outfit, multiple nappies, muslins, bibs, and my crap would probably break my back.
  • Think strategically about where you stay, even if you have access to a car – if you want to head out for dinner with a sleeping baby, think about staying in an area where you can walk to a town with places to eat. We’re staying in lovely cottage but it’s in a village with limited options, so if we want to venture further afield, we need to navigate more transfers that might disrupt the peace
  • Do laundry – I’m learning that baby clothes have a fast turnover due to a daily detonation of either drool, poop or puke. If you have access to a washing machine, seriously lighten your load by doing a load of laundry instead of packing a gazillion outfits
  • If breastfeeding, don’t forget to dress accordingly just because you are on vacation – I got excited by yet another sunny day this morning and almost trotted out the door in a tank top that would not have easily allowed nursing.
  • Buy some baby SPF shades – Lathered in sun block and donning a sun hat, we thought we’d prepared LLC to face the coastal sun but the realized her little eyes were constantly squinting. Some Baby-Ban sunglasses helped sort out that issue and now protect her baby browns…
So we’re holidaying and celebrating and the week is proving active but relaxing at the same time. It feels good to get away from home where I always feel there is something I need to be doing and often don’t just chill out. It’s been refreshing to be outdoors and even away from the computer. It’s been really nice to see my mom and dad and vacation again as a family.

What are your holiday triumphs? What tips can you share that made the vacation a success?

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Breaking Bread with Fellow Bloggers

Yesterday LLC and I attended our first “blogging event” a la Huggies to chat about my new role as a Huggies Mum and to meet fellow Huggies mama bloggers.

What does it mean to be a Huggies mum? We’re not paid (aside from travel expenses to meetings), or roped into writing rave reviews of every Huggies product under the sun – Huggies is providing a platform for UK mum bloggers to meet, network and keep up to speed with Huggies products and events. They’ve kindly sponsored our tickets to the much anticipated Cybermummy and occasionally pass on some free goodies for our little ones. I was psyched to be offered the opportunity to get involved.

So bloggers event virgin I am no more! Several members of the very friendly, baby-loving Huggies team (LLC received many cuddles and I even had my nails done!) met us in London and I got the chance to meet some of the bloggers I regularly read along with a number of their adorable kids. Check out their blogs for some great reads:

A Place of My Own
Young & Younger
Me, The Man & The Baby
A Mothers Ramblings
Perfectly Happy Mum
The Alice
Wahm Bam

It was a lovely, laid back meet and greet. We also learned about some cool competitions Huggies has on the cards for bloggers (more on this in a future post). Thanks for a lovely afternoon Huggies.
Speaking of blogger love, I felt all warm and fuzzy last week when I received two blogging awards.
First, the Beautiful Blogger Award from the lovely, witty Nappy Valley Girl who currently resides on my native Long Island. This award involves revealing seven things about me and tagging other bloggers to do the same. Hmmmm, what is worth sharing....

• I met Chris in a nightclub in Plymouth, UK while on a high school trip to England. I blogged about this recently but you may have missed that....
• I wrote a small children’s book series as a kid called The Pam & Beth Stories; writing hooked me from an early age
• I bought my wedding dress on Ebay from a girl in Texas –it cost about $200 and looked as good as new. Don’t discount the power of the bay...
• I’ve had a crush on Christian Bale since I saw him sing and dance his heart out in Newsies – I try to ignore his venomous tongue and temper of late and concentrate on the fact he is h-o-t
• I’m a sleep freak – i.e. a very light sleeper who has trouble sleeping in front of other people
• I played soccer for about 10 years as a kid – midfield because of my stamina, heh.... – it’s really popular for girls on Long Island where I grew up

I’d like to learn some fascinating facts about A Mother's Ramblings, Living with Kids and Deer Baby.

Next, the Prolific Blogger Award from the fabulous Michelle at A Mid-Atlantic English, a fellow American Expat.

This award comes with the following rules from originator Advance Booking:

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!
2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award (see above).
3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

I’d like to share this award with the following excellent bloggers that always keep me coming back for more, some that I’ve been reading for awhile and some more recently discovered: MWA, A Place of My Own, Glowstars, Angels & Urchins, Readily A Parent, Tiddlyompompom


Thursday, 13 May 2010

My Loud Fish

I set LLC down on the changing mat and the storm blew in. One quavering, downturned lip and whimper later I had a full on down pour on my hands.

What is it LLC? Mommy just needs to change your nappy. What happened? I try my best soothing tone. We’re going to go swimming. It’s like a big bath. Mommy just needs to fasten your special swim nappy on. Come on little one, not so loud. Screaming isn’t respectful to all the other ladies in the changing room.

I’m at the gym taking LLC swimming for the first time and this is not an auspicious beginning.

I scoop her into my arms and we head for the swimming arena. Then, like British rain showers, this storm blows over as suddenly as it arrived. Poolside she’s agog and smiling, the dark pools of her eyes intent on the aqua pool before us. Relief floods through me; I start to relax.

We enter the pool and she loves it. I float her on her back, move her through the water on her front, splash her face and lift and dunk her (without submerging her head – I wasn’t ready for that). She’s as happy as a pig rolling in mud and I’m relieved, smiling, proud of my small fish.

Some things I'll remember for next time:
  • Only put the swim nappy on just before entering the pool - I waited to do this and it was a good call as she did a massive poo between leaving our house and arriving at the gym
  • Make sure you are ready to head into the pool before you suit up your baby - I wore my bathing suit to the gym but didn't undress before suiting her up; this left her undressed and cold while I madly rushed to strip off 
  • Bring baby to pool changing room in a carrier but remember an extra towel to lay baby on while you are dressing 
  • Check the timetable and swim while there are no classes - we had the pool to ourselves and that made the experience all the calmer and all the better
Maybe these all sound pretty basic but I'd never considered them before.  Ahhh, the learning curve is constant. Do you have any tips for swimming with a baby - or avoiding changing room fits?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Some Leather-Bound Book Moments

Unlike Will Ferrell in The Anchorman, I don’t have many leather-bound books but I do have one, compliments of my sister, and it’s where I jot down noted I want to remember on LLC. My hand has been busy the last few days, as she’s had a lot of firsts: first wedding (she attended - we haven’t married her off just yet); first roll (from front to back); first dabble with baby massage (tear-free, until I put her clothes back on).

Saturday we attended L&J’s wedding in Oxford and LLC was one of several babies on the scene. I had grand plans of feeding her in the car before we went into the Church but in usual fashion, we were running late and I had to resort to a five minute power feed before sweeping LLC into the Church. Her little wide eyes drank in the scene, she remained silent and offered no objections at the critical moment and although I had to duck out into an alcove to give her a milk top-up mid-ceremony, she did extremely well.

Then she partied with the best of us and got lots of attention in the process. L&J organized a beautiful celebration and it was lovely to enjoy it as a family. As a bonus, LLC slept through most of dinner so we could eat and then afforded me a nice glass of red following her last feed when she fell asleep for the night CW’s arms. Thank you CW for all the cuddles!

L&J also went to great lengths to make their day family-friendly. They organized a parking permit for us near the reception, placed families with kids near the end of tables where there was space for prams and even bought a little entertaining present for all the kids. There was even a room available for breastfeeding and baby changing. I appreciate things like this so much more now and would definitely tap L’s brain if planning a big event including families.

Yesterday we had a chilled out, post-wedding day, event free, until LLC decided to roll over. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it as I was chatting to Chris (me talking? Surprise, surprise….) and putting away baby onesies at the time. I happened to turn around at the very moment that LLC, on her front and in the middle of our bed, planted her until-now often limp and spaghetti-like arms firmly on the bed, locked them and flipped over onto her back. We cheered and put her back on her front and she did it again. We were so proud! Today she did it three more times so it appears we have a roller on our hands. I guess that means I need to be much more careful with her on that bed.

Today we went to our first day of baby massage with the other mums and babies in my NCT group. I hope to learn some relaxing moves we can practice on LLC. I’m always so quick to get her dressed and probably don’t give her have enough naked time (the one time I left her on her play-mat diaper-free she managed to wriggle off the towel I put under her and pee all over the mat!) so massage will encourage that as well. The session felt refreshingly relaxing for me too – it made me slow down and just focus on the exercises with LLC. I think I’m going to enjoy it and importantly, LLC did too. She laughed, smiled and babbled throughout the session and only went into meltdown at the end of class when I put her clothes back on. But then she fell asleep.

What will tomorrow bring?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Time for a Top Up

After our trip to the beloved health visitor last week I learned that LLC's weight gain/week decreased for the second time running.  She's gaining weight, just very slowly.  She's now fallen to around the 0.04% line.

I've mentioned this previously and it does weigh on my mind, even though I know that she just happens to be that baby on the bottom percentile line and that all my mama instincts tell me she's thriving.  I've had some great tips on increasing my milk supply yet upon reflection and examination, I'm pretty sure this is not the issue.  She just seems to be a light eater.  Couple that with being an active baby who is always kicking and wriggling and you get a lean baby.

But I can't help thinking that babies should have a bit of meat on them and it's slightly worrying that her weight gain, always small, has lately been dropping off.  So as of Saturday, we decided to introduce a bottle of formula for her evening "dream feed."  This way I see her getting one large, full feed a day, importantly at a time when she previously might have drifted back off to sleep without taking much from the breast.

I know many new mums who have moved on to formula because of choice, or because of genuine issue with breastfeeding.  I know the many benefits of breastfeeding but also believe formula feeding is nutritionally sound.   Even though this is only one bottle a day and I've always said I'd keep an open mind to combination feeding, it was a difficult decision for me to make. 

I'm not sure exactly why.  Perhaps I liked the achievement of exclusively breastfeeding?  As dear LH pointed out, perhaps I liked the idea that breast milk is something only I can give to LLC as formula dilutes the "exclusivity" of a mother/baby feeding relationship.  Maybe I wonder if formula might upset LLC's system, or I cling to the ease of breastfeeding with no bottles to sterilize and no formula to buy?

Ultimately though, I went with my gut and my gut told me it was time to supplement to see if it might help LLC further recognize her potential in the weight charts.  I'll keep you posted.

Did you ever combination feed and if so, how did it work for you?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

It's a Small World after all....

This week’s Sticky Fingers Gallery explores the world we live in. I hope our “transatlantic life” will give LLC perspective on the richness of the world, its relative norms and limitless opportunities.

In the trunk of the car
We played
That was enough
My world knew no bounds
My experience contained it

Years later
One ocean away
Two worlds apart
New York City, Dorset sea
Meet in my head, my heart

I now know a big world
With age
From living
I have two homes
Life makes both tangible

Innocence was easy
Experience is not always
Though I’d never trade it
And when I look in the night sky I remember
It’s a small world after all

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Are London Maternity Services Really That Bad?

Chris turned my eye to this article in Wednesday’s Evening Standard that showcases the inadequacies of London’s maternity services for birth and suggests growing numbers of average pregnant ladies (i.e. non “new age hippies”) now resort to DIY home births for fear of over-medicalized hospital births.

It’s a long, rambling article so to summarize:
  • Mothers do not get one on one care: Soaring birth rates, a shortage of trained midwives and clinical-minded, controlling consultants result in a lack of support and choice for women (particularly older mothers). 
  • The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS) claims London has some of the most interventionist hospitals in Britain.
  • A recent investigation by the Conservatives found that more than four in 10 NHS hospitals have refused to accept expectant mothers at least once last year.
  • Labour’s women-centric vision of childbirth featuring choice and continuity of care have fallen down; parenting charity the NCT claims just over 7% of women in the capital give birth how and where they want.
Wow. On this basis, I’m shocked that we haven’t seen a mass exodus of pregnant women from the capital. Maybe they are all just giving birth at home instead?

I’m no “new age hippie” but I did plan for a home birth, decide to be a natural birthing warrior and criticize the ambiguity around the closure of the home birth providing Albany Midwifery Unit, cited in this article.

Yet I still feel that there is a huge middle ground between a completely natural home birth overseen by an attentive midwife and a completely medicalized and/or clinical hospital birth with little aftercare and support. This article oscillates between the two extremes. I think that’s a bit misleading.

My birth plan didn’t go to plan: I ran overdue and requested daily monitoring rather than induction; was finally induced at 2 weeks 5 days post dd when my blood pressure spiked; I had some “medical intervention” at the hands of a consultant when LLC’s heart rate fluctuated during birth. Yet I delivered a healthy baby; I felt the midwives and doctors considered my wishes; sure, they could have spent a bit more time post-birth helping me learn to breastfeed but overall, I couldn’t fault my care.

I have met many other new mums whose birth plans have not played out in reality (it seems they rarely do), who have some complaints but overall had a positive birth experience. Yet our voice is glaringly absent from this article. Not to mention the voice of the many women that prefer to give birth in a hospital and have no interest in home birth.

The article shows little discretion for how women can proactively improve their birth experience. Women must ask questions and be their own advocate when it comes to maternity care. If I hadn’t asked for daily monitoring, I would have been induced as a matter of course at 42 weeks. I learned in retrospect I could have given birth in a neighboring mid-wife led birthing unit if I had requested this even though this option was not offered to me. There are definite gaps in ante-natal service choice and information, all the more reason why women must ask or they won’t get.

The article also courts political drama. The Conservative report that women have been turned away from certain maternity units is a problem, but would it not be worse if maternity wards took women into care with no staff to accommodate them?

There may be truth in many of this article’s assertions. The issues run deep and I'm not belittling the problems that exist. But does it take it too far? Are London maternity services really that dire? Have you given birth in the capital and if so, what was your experience?