I am continuing the “Mom’s Around the Globe” blog series with Kiri from Cumbria, England.
About a year ago when I was on maternity leave I ran across Kiri’s blog – Kizzy and Izzy, and quickly realized that Kiri and I were living similar lives across the globe.
The internet is a funny thing – it brings us closer to people that we may never meet, but still makes people feel familiar and you can just tell that, if in the same room, you’d be friends. Cue me reading Kiri’s blog daily… I kept feeling like she was experiencing the newborn stage (but with much more experience!) a few days before me – it was like a glimpse into the future the first few months.
Kiri has 2 (very cute) girls (Izzy and Clara, who is less than a month older than Simon!), has recently returned to work after an extended maternity leave. Kiri lives in Cumbria, England. Here’s what she has to say about being a “mum” in Cumbria.
Spoiler alert, Kiri’s husband had to run and find a staff member at the hospital to tell them that the baby was crowning when she was in labor the first time! WHAT?! Read on…
Where are you from? England
Where do you currently live? Cumbria in Northern England
Where were your babies born? Cumbria in Northern England
If you’d like to share…how old are you? How old were you when you had your baby(ies)? I’m 30 now, and I had my first baby when I was 26 and my second when I was 29.
Are there any specific things that we should know about pregnancy or childbirth in your country? I can’t think of anything!
When you were pregnant, what kind of care did you receive? (What healthcare was available for you and what did you take advantage of?)
In the UK, first time mums will have up to 10 appointments with a community midwife (7 for second time mums). In addition we are offered 2 scans – the first is a dating scan at 12 weeks to determine estimated due date, and the second is an anomaly scan at 20 weeks to check that the baby is developing properly. It is also possible at this scan to find out the baby’s gender, although both times we chose not to find out. It was nice to have the surprise!
If there are any concerns, there may be extra scans and appointments with a consultant. During my second pregnancy it was discovered that I had an ovarian cyst, so I had 6 scans in total plus consultant appointments to monitor the situation. We are very lucky in the UK that all pre and antenatal care is provided free of charge by the National Health Service (as well as free prescriptions, dental and eye care during pregnancy up until baby turns 1). During both pregnancies we were very well looked after.
There are also NHS provided antenatal classes, which seem to vary quite a lot depending on where you live and what resources are available. We were lucky that the antenatal classes in our town are really good, and we had 6 classes to prepare us for the labour, delivery and the first few weeks with a new baby. When I was pregnant the first time I also went to aquanatal classes at our local swimming pool.
Did anything surprise you about being pregnant?
I was surprised by how natural it felt. That may seem like a strange thing to say as I know that pregnancy is a very natural thing, but I always thought it would feel very freaky to have a baby move around inside you. It didn’t feel as weird as I thought, and was obviously very reassuring! I loved making the baby move by placing an iPod on my bump and watching it bounce up and down as the baby kicked.
What “old wives tales” did you hear / follow when you were expecting? Did you follow any of them?
I heard loads – when you are pregnant everyone has an opinion! For example, carrying weight all around means you are carrying a girl and carrying it all out in front – like you have a football up your top – means a boy. This wasn’t true for me! I’ve also heard that lots of heartburn supposedly means you are having a baby with lots of hair, while some people grow extra body hair during pregnancy – which apparently means you are having a baby boy!
Did you have your baby at home, in a birthing center, a hospital? What was your experience like?
I had both my babies at my local hospital, which is only about 5 minutes away in the car. The first time I was 9 days overdue; I started with contractions at 11am, and went to the hospital at midnight, when I couldn’t stand it any longer! The midwives advise you to stay at home for as long as possible. I had my heart set on a water birth but once I got to the hospital I was told I wasn’t able to use the birthing pool, so I had morphine and gas and air. I even managed to get some sleep through the night but I had no concept of time and everything is quite hazy thanks to the drugs. Izzy was finally born at 10.42am, almost 24 hours after my contractions started (and after my husband had to leave the room to find a member of staff and let them know the baby’s head was starting to show!) Izzy mainly slept for the rest of the day (which is what I really wanted to do!) while we had a few visitors, and we went home the next day.
Clara was 11 days overdue. I had a couple of weeks of false starts. I kept getting contractions which would then stop after a few hours. So when I started with contractions about 4pm on a Monday afternoon I thought it was just another false alarm. I was up all through the night and finally admitted to myself about 8am the following morning that this was the real deal. Again I tried to stay at home as long as possible, as I wanted to be comfortable in my own home rather than in a hospital. At lunchtime I headed up to the delivery ward and started having some gas and air. This time I had hoped to avoid anything stronger as I wanted to know what was going on. However when they told me at 6pm that I was only 4cm dilated and that they would check on me again in 4 hours I decided I really couldn’t cope with the pain for that long. Turns out I didn’t need to. Just as the drugs started to kick in, so did the need to push. At 6.45pm our beautiful baby girl was born! I felt very sick and exhausted and couldn’t hold her for very long in case I dropped her. But I managed to stay awake while Izzy came to visit her 1 hour old little sister with my parents. She was so delighted, I could hear her crying all the way down the corridor as she was leaving. “But my little sister needs me!” We only had to stay in hospital for one night again and went home the next afternoon.
Did you take a maternity leave? For how long? Tell us about it…
I have been very lucky that I have been able to take just over a year off work after the birth of both my children. In the UK, mothers are able to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, although the regulations have recently changed so that both parents can share parental leave. I know some people choose to return to work earlier – and many don’t have a choice – but I wanted to have as much time off as possible. I have only just returned to work at the start of June, just after Clara’s first birthday. So far it is going ok and it is nice having time to be just me again, and do actual grown up stuff, but I do really miss the kids.
It was lovely having time to focus on being a mum. Those first few months go so quickly and I know I will never get that time back – I’m pleased I was able to make the most of it without having to worry about trying to juggle work at the same time,
Did you follow any specific traditions (cultural or familial) after the baby was born?
Nothing in particular. We did have both our girls christened. Not because we are religious, but I just think it is a nice thing to do – it’s a lovely way to celebrate their birth with family and friends.
Was your baby named after someone? Is there any cultural significance or tradition in the baby naming process?
We found it hard to choose names, especially the second time round. We wanted something traditional, but not overly popular, something classy without being pretentious and of course had to avoid a whole list of names of other children that we knew.
My husband suggested the name ‘Izzy’ – we liked it but wanted her to have a ‘proper’ name rather than a nickname. It was just coincidence that Isabel (or Isabelle) is a family name (my great auntie was called Isabelle, and it’s also my mum and niece’s middle name).
Clara was chosen when – after getting nowhere reading a huge book of over 10,000 baby names – I resorted to television for inspiration. While watching Doctor Who I asked my husband what he thought of the name Clara (the name of the Doctor’s companion). He wasn’t that keen at first so I discounted it and kept thinking, but it grew on him and by the time she was born, the name was on the top of our list. Someone recently pointed out to me that Clara is the name of the little girl in the nutcracker – which is probably a far more classy and cultured response than ‘We got the name from Doctor Who!’
If your baby is old enough, what was their first food besides breastmilk / formula? Is there a specific “rule” here?
The guidance from the National Health Service is that soft, pureed food can be introduced anytime from 17 weeks, but preferably after 6 months. We introduced Izzy to pureed food around 5 months (starting with baby rice) and it was a while before we gave her anything more solid as I would constantly be worried about her choking. I must be more relaxed with Clara, as shortly after starting with pureed sweet potato at 6 months, she was eating toast, biscuits and other finger foods. Mainly because she wants what her big sister has!
What is your favorite activity to do with your baby/child(ren)?
We like painting and doing crafty activities whenever we get the chance. Clara is a bit young to really join in at the moment but she does quite like doing painted foot prints. Izzy loves anything arty and she’s getting really good at drawing people now – a huge difference from all the scribbles she used to do just 12 months ago.
What kind of childcare to you use for your child(ren)?
We rely on a mix of nursery and family. I have just returned to work and Clara spends 2 days at nursery and 1 with my parents, while Izzy spends her time between pre-school and my parents’ house.
In the UK, all children aged 3 can have 15 hours free nursery or pre-school care each week during term time until they start school (in the September after they turn 4). Some families on low income also get 15 hours a week free childcare for children aged 2.
Izzy took really well to nursery – she never cried or fussed, and loved playing with all her new friends. She started pre-school at 2 and has learnt so much. It has really helped her prepare for starting school this year. She is always full of stories about what she has been up to and loves playing ‘schools’ and pretending to be the teacher. Clara has only just started going to nursery and despite crying loudly the first few times she has settled in really quickly.
Are there specific services or websites that you rely / relied on as a new mom? Advice, teaching, etc.
I found the Bounty (www.bounty.co.uk) and Emma’s Diary (www.emmasdiary.co.uk) websites quite useful – especially the weekly pregnancy updates on what to expect. I also found the NHS website (www.nhs.uk) a really useful resource for information about pregnancy and labour.
I love reading blogs by other mums – for inspiration, advice and generally reassurance that other people are going through the same things. When I have been awake at 3am doing the night feed and reading blog posts on my phone it is refreshing to be reminded that I’m not the only one who is sleep deprived and feeling like I’m losing the plot!
What advice do you have for new or expecting moms in any country?
Keep an open mind – in everything from what pain relief you use during labour to how you feed your child. It’s one thing to have strong opinions about what you would do, but when you are actually in the situation everything can change.
Izzy meeting baby Clara / Baby Clara
Clara’s Christening / Clara eating her first bite of sweet potato!
Seriously with this cuteness?
Thank you, Kiri, for sharing a bit of your story with us. You’re the best!!
**All photos in this post were provided to me by Kiri.