Luck, Guilt and Breast Feeding

I’m a very lucky girl. Not only are my family and friends happy and in good health, not only have I had the opportunity to visit places all over the world but I met my husband just as I returned to the UK, we bought the house we wanted and we could be married where we wanted and I’m now enjoying well paid maternity leave. We also fell pregnant immediately, there were no complications and apart from mild heartburn, occasional hives and sleeping discomfort in the latter stages the pregnancy was textbook and rather enjoyable. The birth was relatively quick for a first baby, I managed to get through the contractions at home until I was 4cm dilated when I got to the hospital, and only 4 hours later Spencer had arrived, too quickly to allow me to have an epidural but not too quickly that I couldn’t have an episiotomy rather than tear. He was in good health and we could eventually go home later that same day. I’m incredibly lucky that he latched on straightaway and we’ve had no issues with breastfeeding, something I wanted to do. Spencer is now careering towards 4 months old and now I come to the guilt part of this post, I’ve had enough. I don’t want to breastfeed anymore and I feel guilty. The press is full of brelfies, bottle-feeding mothers being publicly shamed and all the miraculous benefits of breast milk. There’s no doubt that breast milk is prefect for babies, it’s what mother nature intended after all, but that by giving your baby breast milk until their three year old will make them a genius with the immune system of a Greek God I just don’t buy. I was bottle-fed and I can fight a cold much more effectively than my breastfed husband, and I know plenty of bottle-fed people who are not riddled with eczema and asthma. It seems like everyone has an opinion, only yesterday Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for children and families, said there was a ”growing cultural obstacle” preventing working class mothers from breastfeeding their children and mothers on the likes of TOWIE and depicted in soaps should be shown breastfeeding to encourage working class mothers to follow suit; great, more pressure for those who can’t breastfeed. I had planned to breastfeed until Spencer was 6 months old and enjoy the bond between us for as long as possible, and it is lovely to have that closeness but that can also come from bottle-feeding. It comes down to some practicalities, my boobs are enormous and I have very little to wear and I want my body back, breast-feeding him can take twice as long as with a bottle, I worry he isn’t getting enough from me as he seems fuller with formula than with breast milk. I have days when I’ve simply had enough and will start the next day at giving him formula at every feed not just the one before bed, but then other days it’s so easy when he suddenly gets cranky to drop down my nursing bra and make my baby happy and I don’t want to lose this convenience anytime soon. Most mothers I’ve spoken to have some story of feeling guilty about feeding their baby, it can be pressure from family members about either using bottle or boob and neither being approved of, or of trying to persevere with breast-feeding at the insistence of midwives and health visitors to then be told by medical professionals that the child needs formula to gain a healthy weight. I know I won’t be breast-feeding Spencer when he’s 6 months old but I still don’t know when I’ll finally finish because the guilt of stopping too soon is sometimes overwhelming. I know I should just do what’s best for us and that’s what every mother should do and I will listen to my son and my own needs in the end but there’s so much pressure out there it’s hard not to be affected and feel the guilt.

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30th celebrations

This year my friends and me turn 30. A momentous birthday that deserves, or rather seems to require, some larger than normal celebration. The first of my friends to commemorate was Rachelle in early December, we had planned a weekend break to Centre Parcs, but this had to be cancelled when two of the group, one being me, fell pregnant, one with a very close due date to said weekend. I had been planning a Friday night arrival of champagne and cake and a dress code of little black dresses to keep the event very grown up, the Saturday would be free to enjoy the activities of the centre and then a meal out with perhaps bowling and drinking. The Sunday would be finished with a roast dinner, movie and ice cream pyjama party before driving home Monday morning. I gave each of the attendees a questionnaire to ask their breakfast likes, major food dislikes, film options and other light-hearted questions so nobody would be inconvenienced and the birthday girl would get her preferences. With the questionnaires I gave personalised pencils, so easy to find on eBay or etsy, which add a cute personal touch to events or planning. I had planned to buy individual bottles of champagne and decorate with black and gold paper tassels and a black table runner which I could chalk details of the cake heavy buffet.

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I’m still a little disappointed this weekend never happened. To make it up to her we ended having a day out in Leeds, a day spa session, champagne at Harvey Nichols and then a meal and personalised glittery badges ordered from eBay so there was some memento from the day.

Does anyone feel the pressure of having to celebrate big birthdays or have you organised something similar for your friends? I’ll post later with the details of the other 30th plans we’ve made and are yet to make.

My life now

I’m sat writing this with an 8-week-old baby on my lap, he will probably wake up if I move him and he looks so peaceful it’s too difficult to effect his slumber just for the sake of the feeling in my legs. This baby, this little blonde haired blue-eyed boy is the reason this blog has been quiet of late. He is the reason I felt compelled to paint the house on my maternity leave and fill the 3 weeks with shopping, cleaning, ironing, organising and not as much sleep as I wish I had had. He is the reason I haven’t had a full nights sleep for 8 weeks and 5 days, and that might not be because he’s necessarily woken up but that I was in an anticipatory or anxious light sleep. He is the reason my online life revolves around nursery decorations, romper suits and baby showers. He is the reason going for a bowel movement still isn’t a fun carefree activity it used to be. His face is the reason my Facebook posts gets 4 times as many likes as before. He is a red-faced straining farting and pooing machine. He is an ever hungry, frowning, long finger spreading, snoring beauty and now I’ve got to know him* he is my everything. I still want to talk parties and weddings and homes, budgets, planning and life but that life is now babies, nurseries and baby showers. I now I feel in a position to continue with this blog as my son starts to find his feet (although not physically) and I have the extra hour a day to update my Pinterest and write to whoever is reading out there.

*more on unconditional love in another post.

new year and exciting happenings

Well happy new year to you all, we had a rather protracted start to 2015, our household was stricken with flu in the first week of the year and then we’ve been so busy trying to get to grips with the new working year and organise our house ready for our baby’s arrival in a few weeks. This has impacted on our shop and blog activity but at the start of the second month of 2015 (seriously one month down already how quickly is the year going)? it’s time to get back on the party planning, wedding and general loveliness bandwagon and hopefully any of you who struggled through Dry January will be in the mood to join me. Congratulations to anyone who can proclaim “I’m getting married this year” or who was newly engaged over the festive period. This year I will be welcoming my first child, turning 30 with many of my friends and my parents will celebrate 50 years of marriage. There will be baby showers, French holidays, interior design and wedding inspiration coming your way, so while I can’t join you just yet, enjoy a glass of something crisp and white, put your feet up and enjoy your twice weekly instalments and here’s to 2015.

pregnancy style

Last week I went to a charity ball, and at 6 months pregnant my outfit choice took more consideration than normal. I’m current experiencing an ambivalence to clothes due to my burgeoning bump, a resentment in buying anything new that’s too pricey in the thought that it won’t get worn very much, if ever again. Then there’s how to dress a bump, a smock, A-line style dress which could border on swapping me like a tent (I’m not the tallest of girls) or go for a more Kim Kardashian approach of showing the bump off more proudly with something a little more body-con. My friend bought a beautiful lace dress from Isabel Oliver for a wedding and some occasions she had planned and there were some lovely options on the site, I can understand why she is popular but it was a little bit more than I’d like to pay and I spent hours trawling the asos maternity collections but a lot were uninspiring copies of what Miss Oliver was producing, the same went for New Look and other high street maternity ranges. It’s nice that the options are there, even if they’re not in abundance in actual stores, but the ranges are all a little similar rather than a maternity version of the dresses they’re flogging for the party season to the non-pregnant shopper. In the end I went for a size up in a body con dress from boohoo.com which should fit me through the next few week to Christmas and then I’m giving up in leggings and big jumpers until the big arrival. Below are some of favourite ladies rocking their bumps in various ways and me in the mix looking as glam as I can get these days. Any of you pregnant out there and having similar issues or have you found the best retailer of maternity wear glam or otherwise? Share with us your finds.

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baby shower

My friend Anneka is expecting her first baby any day now, about a month ago a friend and me put together a baby shower for her and I’d like to share it with you today At the start of our planning process we divided our jobs into food, decorations, venue, guest list and invites. Due to the timing of the shower, late October, we went with a woodland theme, keeping the colours red, brown and green, this also fitted a gender neutral theme as we are yet to know what baby will be. We sorted venue, Granma-to-be’s house, and guest list first, sending out save the dates so we had more time to pull together the invites. Pinterest was a main source of inspiration, for decorations, food and game ideas, we actually planned more games than we even got round to playing on the day. We held it on a Sunday afternoon, one lesson learnt was that baby showers, although becoming more popular in the UK are still an idea from America, like gender reveal parties and Black Friday. So with hindsight the invite should have specified more details we assumed would be known, mainly the playing of games and the serving of a buffet lunch. We divided the tasks and everything came together nicely, we met up on evening in the week before the shower to pull all our resources together and make sure we had everything checked off and from the response we had it was a resounding success. The only thing left to do is share the photos from the day on here and with the attendees. I hope you all enjoy.

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how to ask your bridesmaids

When we got back from the holiday where we got engaged I met up with the girls I wanted as my ‘maids separately and asked them if they’d do me the honour of being my big day back up. It was all very simple and polite but I wish I had waited and done something a little more special.

It was only once I was in the planning internet whirl that I found loads of great gift ideas and ways to ask your friends to be your bridesmaids. They center around ‘I have the man but I can’t do it without my girls’ and ‘I can’t do it without you’. I wish I had taken the time and made a gift box which asked the question and given them a memento and a selection of things that have significance in our friendship. There are some beautiful eternity bracelets on etsy which are a lovely way of showing your friendship won’t change even when you become a missus or a bottle of something you enjoy together with a personalised note for your BFF. I think it’s lovely to make an occasion out of everything to do with the planning process even right from the start and I’m gutted to have missed out. Are any of you planning on going that extra mile for your girls?

Before I was engaged I thought I knew who I would have as my bridesmaids, women from different times in my life but all still with me and all quite different to one another, that wasn’t the important factor of my decision it was because they were my best friends, I loved them and I wanted them by my side. When I got engaged I asked them to be my ‘maids. The first I have known since  I was 6, we spent our years growing up together and while our lives have taken different directions I feel like I can talk to her about anything and everything and there will always be laughter when we are together. The second I met at college and was a slow burner of a friendship as we were on the outskirts of each others circles but after some adventure holidays together and a mutual love of American high school dramas we became firm friends. The third was my room-mate through university and 2 years afterwards, in those 5 years we helped each other along a road of learning, DVD collections and abject poverty, we don’t see each other like we used to but I think we’ll always have a special bond. At the time of wedding planning maid no.3 was working in Africa and suffering family bereavement so as we didn’t know if she’d even be able to attend she was demoted to “cross everything I hope you can just be there. I had my two bridesmaids sorted. They are both very different to each other but that really helped, you need a calmer pragmatic person around, and you need a helper, someone to take your mind off things and encourage and make things easy and someone to take the reins of certain tasks, there’s no way I can thank them enough. When we knew maid no.3 would be back in the UK she was given a reading so I could have her be part of the day.

I also had two other close friends take a reading. One of these friends got married a few years ago and reader no.2, maid no.2 and myself were her bridesmaids. I don’t go in for “I was yours so you’ll be mine” theory to bridesmaids and best men, everyone holds their own friendships up to a different light and nowadays people have such wide groups of friends you need different people for different things. I guess back in the day when you had smaller groups of friends and relatives this kind of decision had much less pressure to it. Has anyone out there felt pressured to have someone be part of their day they had rather not? If you have siblings, has anyone decided not to have them as part of the wedding party and what was the fall out? What I did do, is do it all wrong. I asked my maids to be my maids and they said yes and I was sorted. I didn’t say anything to the girls who might have thought they would be included that they weren’t. I didn’t want the confrontation, awkwardness and weirdness of it all, I don’t know if they did expect to be included or not, there was never anything said or remarked upon, it came out in conversation who would be the maids and that was that. But that was all wrong. When they were asking questions in the early days of engagement I should have said “oh and I’ve decided on my bridesmaids but once were further along with planning I like you two to be part of the day hopefully with a reading but we’ll decided nearer the time”. But I, for once, stayed quiet and it was spineless and I will always regret it. I took the opinion that you don’t tell someone that they’re not doing something, and I while I still think that is true, it’s just an excuse to stop me from feeling bad for being a wimp. What do you guys think? Was I a bad person? No friendship has suffered (I hope not anyway) so no harm, no foul? Have you been in a similar circumstance and do you regret not telling someone they wouldn’t be your maid or do you wish you hadn’t had that conversation?

bridesmaid dresses

I wanted my favourite girls to have something comfortable, something they would wear again and something they would look fabulous in, but isn’t that any brides list of requirements when they pick the bridesmaid dresses?

I have always liked the idea of either a SATC look, 3 rich bold colours or black. When one of my bridesmaids took a job in Africa and we didn’t know whether she’d be able to get back for the wedding let alone be accessible for bridesmaid duties the idea of different colours was out of the question. I love to see a spectrum of hues but with only 2 girls it wouldn’t work, you need a troupe.

Our colour theme was purple but I never wanted it to take over everything and have chairs, bridesmaids, groommen’s accessories and all the flowers looking like Cadbury’s wrappers, so black made sense for the girls. I spent a while looking around seeing if anything in particular caught my eye but we went shopping for their dresses with a fairly open mind, as we were an autumn wedding a long to the floor number was a vague front-runner though. We had an appointment at one bridal shop which stocked Mori Lee bridesmaid dresses and pretty much every style of dress you can imagine. There was to be no satin, nothing heavy that they wouldn’t wear again and then I got them back for making me try on a million dresses when I looked for my dress, and got them to try on loads. One little black number caught my eye and it was between that lace number and a long purple strapless gown. We then went to Debenhams and had some lunch and they tried some off the rail dresses on, some were nice but not as good quality as the Mori Lee ones. Again if I’d have had more than 2 bridesmaids I think I would have been more inclined to let them get what they wanted, so different style but in the same colour or different range of colours in whatever style they wanted. It came back to the two in the original shop and the black one won out. I got a bit nervous about not doing the traditional thing but then my mum reminded me of two things, I’d always mentioned black as a dress colour before I was even engaged and I wanted something they would definitely wear again, this ticked both boxes. It was great to have a girly day out so I would recommend making an event out of it. My girls were so helpful giving me a spec of “we’ll wear whatever you want us to wear” and “they’re all comfortable we’d be happy to wear either”. A dream, I hope you can all be as lucky. Despite ordering the dresses just over 6 months before the wedding day we didn’t have them until the weekend before. I had contemplated ordering them from the internet and saving some cash as I knew the design and designer but had decided that through a shop would give me more security, was I wrong. The shop didn’t chase the dresses and relied on the fact they’d never had any problems with their suppliers before. While the shop were helpful in every other aspect, on two occasions when we thought the dresses would be in it took my phone call to prompt them to chase and in my opinion that’s bad customer service. I was never worried there would be something wrong with the dresses or that they’d need much, if any, alteration (and one of the girls in fact needed none) it was that will less than 10 days before your wedding you expect things like this to be sorted and you want to be as organised as you can be. There were loads of little things to do and chasing after 2 dresses should not have been on the list. All was well in the end and not only we they happy with them they looked stunning in them too.

people who were helpful and unhelpful

 “You know Aunty Sandra, – not your real aunty but you call her aunty cause she’s a family friend or went slimming club or bingo with your mum!” – Peter Kay

Aunty Margaret is that to The Boy, friend’s with the Mother In Law since French language class, and then child minder and close family friend ever since. She baked with him as a child and made things after school and they enjoyed playing out in the fields with Margaret and Uncle Geoff’s dog. She offered to do the flowers for our wedding and she was brilliant. Margaret is an inspirational woman who has recently fought breast cancer so to still be recovering and offer to take on the floristry was amazing.

She didn’t even want to discuss details until a few months before the wedding, so I had time to get ideas together and have something not to think about. I gave her my ideas and some pictures and she threw the bridesmaids bouquets together in a few days and we never changed them, and after a shape change my bouquet was sorted with the same skill. She is a master with silk flowers and apart from The Boy’s button hole we never contemplated that fake flowers wouldn’t do the job because Margaret was doing such a good job. She simply took my ideas away and brought back what I imagined and I got to trawl the wondrous aisles of Country Baskets to pick up more supplies or decide which specific flowers I would prefer (as I am a flower novice). For me in the midst of planning a wedding Margaret was perfect, asked the right questions but didn’t pester, went away with my ideas and came back with a product and we took any changes/ideas from there. I’m sure you’re reading this saying “a florist does the exact same thing” but as a family friend taking on some of the responsibilities of our wedding she was all I could have hoped for. So if you have offered to design the stationary, arrange the flowers or bake the cake of your closest friend, sister or brother well then firstly well done you, you talented people. Secondly, don’t pester, ask the bride and groom what kind of time scale they need your skills by, when the time comes ask them for their input and ideas and then go away until you bring back your work. This may sound cold, but for the sake of the bride and groom act like you’re being paid for the job, because with the best will in the world being friendly and mentioning it all the time or asking questions about it when you’ve nipped round for a cuppa will only do one thing…make them wish they hadn’t have asked and stress them out.

For me once a decision has been made it’s because I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I’m happy with it. While planning the wedding I had people who were being helpful with their opinions and other ideas; these were close friends and family wanting to share in the build up to the big day and they were giving their opinions from a good place. But if a bride-to-be says she’s going with roses what she doesn’t want to hear, if you’re anything like me, is “have you thought about peonies”? The response from me is yeah I probably have considered other flowers because I’ve said I’m going with roses!  I got loads of ideas from friends and family but I didn’t like hearing different ideas once I’d made a decision, it allowed doubt to creep in and the process was made longer.

If you want to stay friends with someone who is planning a wedding, then leave them alone, offer advice when asked, throw out some ideas in the early stages and do let them know you are there if they need you. But that’s it, leave it, it’s stressful enough without having to consider everyone’s perspective.

Wedding dress shopping

Slightly epic post today about my month-long search for The One, no, not The Boy I would spend the rest of my days with, but the dress I would wear for 12 hours (but love every minute of). I booked myself into 4 wedding dress shops in the local area, 4 Saturdays varying support along for the ride, easy right?

I knew what I didn’t want, not strap-less, not one shoulder, not a big fan of lace up backs, should be ivory, I was open to suggestions.

Dress shop no.1 small town, small shop, left alone to put tags on the dresses I liked the look of, advised to find around 5 or 6 and then try them all on. This was perfect as a first visit as it was used to get a feel for what suited me, but there was little advice from the shop staff so I might have been a little disappointed had this been further down the line. The choice was limited but me and mum came away with one for the short list and it felt like a positive start.

Dress shop no.2 next small town along, very small shop, worried I might set fire to myself on the small electric heater next to the changing area. We filled the shop, me, mum, future mum-in-law, 2 bridesmaids and the 6 month old angel of bridesmaid #1. They made me try on a million dresses! I got dress fatigue, but it was great fun and there were a few contenders for the next round, some were strap-less and would have to be altered to have something round the shoulders and I was unsure as to how an altered dress would look.

Dress shop no.3 nearest city, well-known boutique, offered a cup of tea and my helpers got a seat, I had a larger dress area and assistance getting in and out. Slightly perturbed by one of the first questions being; “What is your price range”? Not the most inappropriate thing to ask as they had quite a selection but it would have been nice to browse more rather than being thrust the appropriately priced gowns. Mum and bridesmaid with baby were poorly and the weather was snowy and miserable outside but bridesmaid #2 and mum-in-law soldiered on despite being told off for taking a picture for those absent. Some contenders, more choice, less of an army of strap-less dresses and more of a variety of styles which gave me lots to think about, a beautiful plain satin number particularly caught my eye.

Dress shop no.4 same city, beautiful and warm and welcoming inside, I had my own runway and large dressing area, drinks and sofa for the ladies. An unusual choice from bridesmaid #2 left me in a dilemma up against a dress I had tried on in shop no.1 which was now a serious contender. They were completely different, one lacy the other frilly and modern and suited my straightened hair on the day, how would they suit the venue and the feel of the day and did I see myself in either of them? Yes and no, I liked them both but wasn’t I meant to burst into tears when I found The One?

There had been a dress in a magazine that I thought could be a winner so with that still at the back of my mind I found the closest stockist and made an appointment for the following Saturday in Doncaster. With mum and mum-in-law I clearly had a better idea as to what I wanted because we picked out 3 dresses to try on, much less than the usual 6 or 7. We had the dress from the magazine, a Justin Alexander dress and a lace number. The magazine dress was lovely but didn’t suit to me as I had imagined, the Justin Alexander was beautiful, lace and heavy on detail but also quite heavy so while I was reluctant to take it off I did see myself being uncomfortable in that one. That left the lace Sincerity dress and I didn’t want to take that off, the style suited me, it felt really light and comfortable and my mum cried. I didn’t, but it felt the most right and I was glad I hadn’t jumped with the previous dresses the weekend before. It’s definitely worth investigating that thing that might niggle at you and you wish you’d tried on/been to see/tasted. That’s my dress finding story, anyone want to share theirs, any magical mystery tours and adventures to find The One? Has anyone opted to have a dress altered or even designed their own?