28 January 2016

First Snow

There is something quite magical about snow. The way it glitters on the ground, so pure and fresh. It's not something you see too frequently in England, so to witness a Virginian snowstorm, in all its white fury, was a mesmerising sight. It came down in a thick, fast flurry, settling heavily on all that lay beneath it, transforming our world into a real life snow globe.

After the blizzard was over, the snow began to fall more gently, and watching from the warm, safe haven of home was so peaceful. I was rocking Everly, her head on my shoulder, softly singing to her, the angel wing softness of her hair brushing against my cheek, and I gazed up at the glowing halo of the moon and felt such a sense of calm in the midst of this white wonderland. And I remembered those word that fit so perfectly... "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow. Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below."

Matt and I had dreamy romantic ideas about racing down hills on a sled with the children, the wind fast against our ears and shrieks of delight, but what we hadn't known was that toddlers and babies aren't quite so keen on the snow. After spending a careful half hour wrapping Henry in thick layers, rendering him almost completely immobile, we eagerly led him out into the snow only to have him look about, realise his small body wasn't capable of fighting fifteen inches of snow, and then ask to go back inside. As for Everly, she blinked furiously in the bright white light and let out a soft sad cry when we set her down, her bottom lip quivering at the shock of it all. So it was a quick round of photographs before we headed back inside for some cosy cuddles and a freshly baked chocolate cake.

23 January 2016

Becoming A Big Brother

A sudden cry fills the previously peaceful space, and seconds later, the fast thunder of tiny feet running. Henry, racing to comfort his baby sister, his desire to reach her so great he doesn't even question dropping his treasured collection of cars in favour of rushing to her rescue.

"It's alright Evvy, don't cry little one," his soft little voice says, and I look over from where I'm stood in the kitchen to see a chubby hand reach out to stroke her soft dark hair, his head tilted with concern, and a smile passes across my lips to see my little boy being so tender towards his baby sister.

Henry delights in being a big brother. He has always been a very loving and affectionate child, but from reading others experiences, I had prepared myself for some tantrums and perhaps a little jealousy when we brought Everly home, particularly as Henry and I have always been exceptionally close. For twenty-five months he and I had enjoyed being together all day, every day, and I wondered if our new baby girl would feel like an intrusion for him - an interruption of our previously exclusive relationship.

As a believer in the principles of attachment parenting, Everly and I have physical contact for most part of the day, either through breastfeeding or wearing her in my wrap, so I thought Henry may feel a little pushed out when his mama suddenly brought home a new baby who never left my side. But from the moment she arrived, Henry has adored Everly. His face lit up when he laid his eyes upon her for the first time, a smile brightening his face as he leaned in close to greet this little creature who he'd been waiting to meet for so long, and an exclamation of, "Aww, tiny baby so cute!"

Throughout the day he asks me to, "talk to Evvy, mummy," and we both sit beside her and hold her miniature hands and chat to her about what we've been doing, watching her sweet baby face give dimpled smiles in response. He asks me to sing to her, to read to her, and I happily oblige, passing the hours with fantastical tales and melodic rhymes, these two dear children of mine my captive audience with their big eyes which follow my every move.

He brings his toys over to "show Evvy," and tells her how they'll play together when she's older. He offers her his most beloved possession, his raggedy bunny Minna - an honour bestowed upon only a precious few. He is forever giving her cuddles and sniffing her hair ("mmm, smells of flowers!") and my most treasured moment between them - a stroke of her face and a gentle kiss as he then looked into her eyes and said, "Aww, my little darling."

Watching your children together, it creates a whole new feeling of wonderment. No words can describe what my heart feels - it is a love like no other. I will cherish watching their relationship develop, their bond growing as they do. It is such a gift to have a sibling to share your childhood with. A whole collection of moments and memories awaits them, and I feel so blessed to be able to witness it.

12 January 2016

Everly Rose - 1 Month Old

Life seems to go into super speed when you have a newborn. The last 7 weeks have absolutely flown by and it's difficult to remember a time when Everly wasn't with us. I'd been very apprehensive about the newborn stage with our baby girl, as we had such a horrendous time with Henry due to his undiagnosed gastroesophageal reflux disease and cows milk allergy. Thankfully, Everly has been so much easier than her big brother was, so I'm able to enjoy the newborn stage for the first time. With Matt taking 3 weeks off for paternity leave, which was soon followed by the Christmas break, it's really the first time I've been alone with both children for an extended period of time. It's still early days of learning to juggle a toddler and newborn whilst also taking care of myself, so I consider any day I manage to get us all dressed, fed and teeth brushed to be a success! I haven't yet braved taking them both out alone, but it is currently -5'C here so I think we're better off snuggling down inside!

Weight & Height:
At her 4 week checkup, Everly weighed in at 9lbs 4oz and measured at 22 inches, putting her at the 50th centile for weight and 91st centile for height. She's tall like her mama! This has meant she barely fit into newborn clothes (luckily we hadn't bought many in this size) and moved onto 0-3 pretty quickly. I know it won't be long until I'll have to switch her into 3-6 months, which seems ridiculous as she's still looks very much like a newborn, but this little girl's legs are long and they need room to stretch!

We had a scare after Everly's newborn screening results indicated she may have Cystic Fibrosis, and we needed to take her to have a sweat test. I mentioned in my first trimester post that my blood tests had shown me to be a carrier for CF, but Matt had tested negative much to our relief. For a baby to have CF, both parents need to be carriers, and although Matt had tested negative, they only test for the most common mutations, so there was still a possibility that Everly could have the disease if Matt had a rare mutation. We took our brand new baby girl to the hospital where they strapped electrodes to her tiny arms and ran a mild electric current through to stimulate her sweat glands, before placing gauze on her to collect the sweat over a 30 minute period. Strangely enough, the worst part wasn't the electrodes (Everly was actually fine with them) it was the doctor pulling off the tape that had been used to secure the gauze. Our sweet little girl cried like we'd never seen her cry before, which just broke my heart, but thankfully she soon calmed down and dozed off. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long to get the results, and later that day we were told the good news that Everly didn't have Cystic Fibrosis, which was a huge relief.

Around the 4 week mark, Everly developed severe baby acne, which completely covered her lovely little face and reached her neck and chest. What once had been soft and smooth baby skin was now painful looking red, inflamed bumps. Due to the severity of it, our pediatrician prescribed an anti-fungal cream, which cleared it up in just a few days.

After a few weeks, we also noticed that Everly was displaying the same symptoms of reflux that Henry had had as a newborn, albeit not as bad (constant crying instead of constant screaming). She wasn't feeding well, she wasn't sleeping well, and if awake, she was crying. She's now on the same medication that Henry had which has worked well, and we have our calm and happy baby girl back again.

After the sleepy newborn haze had lifted, it soon became apparent that Everly suffered from reflux, and was unable sleep lying flat on her back. After all my hours of research into co-sleepers and organic mattresses, out of desperation we ended up placing her in the Rock n' Play to sleep, which elevated her and allowed her (and us!) to get some sleep. Once her medication was working, she started sleeping in her BabyBay crib again, and we've been treated to quite a few 4 hour blocks here and there. In the day, naps are taken on her mama using the Solly Baby Wrap. It's a miracle worker and sends her off to sleep within minutes, leaving me with my hands free to get things done around the house and play with Henry.

Everly is such a smiley little baby. She gave us her first smile on Christmas Eve when she was 5 weeks old, and she's been giving them freely ever since. It is the best feeling when I go to her and she responds with a big smile, lots of cooing and an excited kicking of her legs. She sometimes treats us with a giggle, too! I love seeing her little dimple and hearing her sweet voice. She likes to be included in the family, so we make she can see us all when she's in her bouncer, and she happily looks about at us all as we chat together.

Nursing started well initially, but then we started facing the same problems I had with Henry - choking, gasping, wriggling, pulling off and occasionally crying. Instead of the calm and peaceful breastfeeding sessions I'd been enjoying, it had turned into a wrestling match where we were both left tearful and frustrated. I knew it was due to her reflux, and once her medication had kicked in, the problems disappeared. I still have a forceful letdown which she can struggle with, but otherwise it's all settled down and she's feeding every 3-4 hours in the day and usually 4-5 at night. I have a Medela breast pump which I'll be using soon, so we can start giving her a bottle of expressed milk each day and I can have some time off once in a while!

Everly loves being chatted to (Henry is always telling me "talk to Evvy, mummy," and being amongst the family. She sleeps best on mama and dada's chest, she enjoys watching Henry play and she is very calm and peaceful at bath time. She loves when I kiss her tiny toes and lets out a big laugh!

- - -

I just adore our darling Everly Rose. I'm completely captivated by her beautiful almond shaped eyes, her sweet little upturned nose and fluffy chick hair that sticks straight up in the air! She is such a blessing to our family and each day I love discovering more of her personality. It's a joy to see the interaction between her and Henry, it is just the sweetest thing when he gives her cuddles and kisses, or says "it's ok Evvy, it's ok" and strokes her head when she cries. They are my world.

4 January 2016

2015: A Year of Change

Wishing all of my readers a wonderful New Year! I hope the festive period bought you much merriment and that the arrival of 2016 has been met with excited anticipation. The end of a year always serves as a reminder to reflect on the months gone by - what has changed, the highs and lows, the hopes and wishes for the year ahead. 2015 has felt the fastest year of my life. A whirlwind that saw time slipping away so easily, and now when I look back on photographs taken at the beginning of last year, I cannot believe how much Henry has changed and developed. A visual reminder to celebrate each and every day and the ordinary yet precious moments they bring.

So much change, love, happiness and freedom has come to our family in 2015. I look back on the past year and feel truly blessed. The beginning of 2015 saw a big change on our horizon - a move to America. It was something I had expected to carefully document here on my blog, but the joy of a new pregnancy was tainted with severe sickness which was so debilitating that I wasn't able to do anything at all, which lead to a long absence from blogging and social media. 

The first few months here in the USA were difficult. We were in temporary accommodation for longer than we had expected, and what we thought would be a month at most stretched slowly into eight long weeks. The apartment itself was perfectly fine, albeit small. What made it hard was living out of our suitcases for so long - the only items available to us were a small collection of clothes and a selection of toys for Henry. It was a tough time, being in a new country with a new pregnancy, severe sickness and none of our homely belongings or family to bring any comfort. But we got through it, and thankfully, found a beautiful home where we now live. It is palatial compared to the Victorian terraced house we left in Nottingham, surrounded by tall trees, so peaceful and calm, and every time I make the drive back to it, I can't believe we live somewhere so incredible.

One element of this past year that really stands out for me is the weather here in Virginia. It sounds so trivial, yet the weather has always had a big impact on my mindset and general wellbeing. Anyone who has ever lived in the UK is well acquainted with the perpetual grey days, frequent rainfall and seemingly absent summers. So arriving in Virginia and experiencing 'holiday weather,' year round was an absolute joy. Waking up to sunshine and blue skies almost every day certainly lifts your mood and gives you a new zest 
for life.

We've already made so many happy memories here, and our home is a place that I hold dear to my heart. I think back with fondness of Henry and I sitting side by side on the sun warmed steps of our porch, the glow of the late afternoon sun on the tall trees, enjoying the warmth on our faces as we chat and take wonder in the sweet simplicity of our surroundings whilst we wait for daddy to return home from work. The memory of placing my hands on the firm roundness of my blossoming belly, feeling our baby girl move beneath my fingertips as I watch my beloved husband and son play together, uninhibited and free in the dappled shade of our garden, the sound of their laughter filtering back to me where I sit on the decking under the never-ending expanse of blue sky. And the fast thuds of little feet running along the hallway, accompanied by giggles of glee, the sweet sound filling the walls and my heart with so much joy.

For the first time in a long time, I've felt truly happy. After all the trauma and grief that Matt and I faced as fresh faced newlyweds, we made a new start in the most dramatic way possible, a move to the USA, and now we're the happiest we've been in years. We never believed we'd get to this place. In the days and weeks after William and Noah died, when grief consumed us and made us heavy and sunken with sorrow, and each day was a matter surviving, we couldn't envisage ever being happy again. But here we are, living a life we never imagined, and finding joy again in a country we didn't know we'd been living in.

We've seen Henry blossom into a confident and charismatic little boy, full of life, love and laughter. We've welcomed a daughter into our lives, our little American citizen. I can't wait to watch her grow and discover her personality. What an honour it is to witness the progression of your child, and I'm so happy to be able to do it all over again with our little girl in a place we have come to love so much. 

I have so many hopes for 2016.  I want to travel more around the USA. 2015 only saw us take a short break to North Carolina, due to my high risk pregnancy ruling out travel further afield. This year, we want to explore. I want to breathe the fresh mountain air of the vineyards in Charlottesville. I want to marvel over the beauty and tranquility of Shenandoah National Park. I want to feel the soft warmth of white sand between my toes in the Bahamas. I want to feel small and overwhelmed, looking up at the bright city lights of New York.

I hope to live a healthier lifestyle. In and amongst all the chaos of moving countries and battling morning sickness, our diet quickly became one of convenience, which inevitably lead to weight gain. I've never been one for exercising, but now in my late 20s, I find myself being pulled in the direction of experiencing exercise as a form of mindfulness.

I want to take more time for myself in 2016. For three years, I have dedicated myself wholly to my children. Ensuring my pregnancies are as healthy and risk-free as possible, persevering through breastfeeding, devoting myself to their development and wellbeing. Henry and I have spent every moment together since he was born. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been away from him for more than a few hours. It's the way I've wanted it, with Matt and I raising him solely in these first few years which are so precious and fleeting. It's been humbling and rewarding beyond measure, but I want to dedicate some time to myself this coming year. It's not that I have lost part of myself since becoming a mother, but rather that I'd like more time to be the person I was before I became a mother. To pursue my hobbies and interests again, to dress up more and enjoy taking time in my appearance. Fewer makeup free days and sweatpants, more red lipstick and stylish clothing, because even the little things can make a difference. On Christmas Eve, I decided to end my 15 year relationship with long brunette hair, and left the salon with a blonde long bob. I instantly felt renewed, refreshed. Amazing what difference a new hair style can make.

I want to take time out to pursue the things I'm passionate about. I have always had a love for writing, since I was a little girl, and it's something I dearly miss. I want to find more time for Project Life, which is such a beautiful way of documenting our family life. I want to get back into blogging more regularly, to document my thoughts on motherhood as I'm experiencing it, to write more on baby loss to help those who need it, to collaborate with brands I feel passionate about.

But most importantly of all, I want 2016 to bring more cherished memories with the people I love most fiercely. My family... Matt, Henry and Everly.

Here's to a wonder filled 2016. May it bring you everything you wish for.

27 December 2015

Our Christmas in Virginia

I hope you all had the most wonderful Christmas and that this festive season has been filled with joy and happiness. Mine was spent with Matt and the children, and for the first time in my life, I didn't spend Christmas Day with my parents and brothers. Having grown up in a big family, which is even larger now with my sister-in-laws and five nieces and nephews (there's 16 of us in total!) Christmas Day with just my little family of four felt very quiet in comparison. Hopefully we'll be spending some Christmases to come with extended family - either here in Virginia or back in the UK - as it didn't feel quite the same without all the hustle and bustle. It was also the first time I've ever cooked a Christmas dinner - or any roast for that matter - but it went surprisingly well!

There were two surprises which made Christmas very special this year - Henry said he loved me for the first time on Christmas Eve, the sweet words I've been longing to hear for so long, and Everly gave us her first smile in the early hours of Christmas morning. Both moments brought us so much joy, our children truly are the greatest blessing of all and I feel so lucky to have them. 

Below are a few photos from the day. I loved dressing Everly in her tiny red Christmas dress, although her tights were a little baggy on her skinny newborn legs! As I was taking some photos of her with her 'Today I Smiled For The First Time' milestone card, she decided that it was an ideal moment to practice another one - what perfect timing! I love the shots I got of her and Henry together. It's amazing to see the bond they already share. Henry is so loving and sweet towards her and she loves staring at him as he chats away to her. I know they'll be great friends when she's a little bit older.

How did you spend your Christmas this year? Please do leave me your blog links below as I'd love to have a read.