You can't have a rainbow without going through a little rain

It's a bit of a cringe saying, but in this instance it's very true...

You can't have a rainbow without going through a little rain
When I last blogged about my motherhood journey, poor Peyton was not at her best. It was a complete downpour for us. She was so unsettled, full of cold and, I'm pretty sure, she was going through her third developmental 'leap'.

Anyone who has a baby and doesn't have the Wonder Weeks app, I would totally recommend it. It explains your baby's moods week-by-week, gives you signs to look out for when a leap is approaching, and forewarns you of any 'stormy' periods.

The app says that last week was P's third leap, and that she has entered into a sunny period now. However, I am convinced it was the week before. Last week was a super sunny period, she was the happiest and smiliest she has ever, ever been. We even got her first laugh.

I feel like my posts have been quite negative about motherhood and parenting recently. If I've not been moaning about the things nobody tells you about breastfeeding, it's been feeling lonely while Peyton has been having her meltdowns and I was stuck at home all day with an over tired, poorly and fussy baby. Literally the worst combination!

After my last post I got so many lovely messages from so many other mums who had all felt the same as me. It was comforting to know the feelings I was experiencing were completely normal and there wasn't anything wrong with me.

Isn't it crazy how motherhood makes you so critical of yourself?!

I was also recommended some groups locally to try with Peyton. I'd mentioned about going to a couple before and stumbling across the competitive, 'perfect' mum brigade - who I am not down for joining. These encounters had put me off taking her to any other groups.

However, I went to three groups last week, all of which were recommended by friends. I know, look at me go!

We started off going to one called Music, Movement and More at our local children's centre. It was £1.50 and was basically an hour of nursery rhymes, songs, musical instruments and movements to the songs. Peyton say wide-eyed and in complete awe of everything going on around her for the full hour. She stared at other babies, loved the sound of the instruments and didn't whine, cry or fuss once. She also had a 90 minute nap when we got home - the first time she'd had a proper sleep in the day weeks!

The mums I spoke to there were so, so lovely as well. Nobody was judge-y, everyone was so welcoming and friendly and very much my kind of people. It was such a supportive atmosphere, rather than competitive.

We went again and it was another hit! Peyton enjoyed it so much and was fast asleep before we were even out of the gate and onto the path outside!

Wednesday morning we went back to the children's centre for a stay and play session. This one cost us a whole £1 (bank breaking, I know!) and was basically a free for all. It's themed differently each week, so has a different focus and toys etc. each time.

Last week's theme was sensory, so there was lots to touch, smell and taste. Obviously Peyton couldn't take part in some of the more hands-on experiences, like the big tray of jelly, but she did have a great time with anything that jingled, jangled and reflected. We only stayed for an hour because she was exhausted. We'd not even got across the road on our way home and she was fast asleep!

Finally, on Friday morning, we went to a baby and toddler group in a village hall about 10 minutes away from where we live. I'd heard lots of good things about this group so thought I'd go along and, oh my, it's one of the best baby groups I've seen. Especially for one run by volunteers! The hall was full of toys for all ages. The baby area had three giant plastic boxes filled with toys, as well as mats, rockers, chairs, walkers and jumperoos. There was also Play Doh, painting, musical instruments, ride-on toys, tunnels, dolls and prams, train sets... It was like Toys R Us and Smyths had pro-created and made this ultimate toy heaven. Again, Peyton was shattered. She fell asleep after 45 minutes, so we headed home.

I'll say one thing for all last week's activities, it's definitely helped her sleep better. Especially during the day when she's been fighting sleep a lot recently.

I've booked for Peyton to start swimming lessons from this weekend. We are going to the pool at the gym near us where a company called Puddle Ducks run sessions. She absolutely loves being in the water, and has loved it when we've taken her swimming before, so I can't wait to start going to proper lessons with her. It'll be so good for us to get the confidence of what to do with her in the pool, and learn how to make her a confident, competent swimmer.

We are going on holiday next week (wahooo!) to Center Parcs so I can't wait to take her swimming everyday! However, the long list on my phone of stuff we need to take with us is giving me a bit of anxiety. I have never been one to travel light anyway but, holy hell, there's no way of that with a baby in tow! She literally requires so much stuff!

It'll all be worth it, though. I'm so excited!

Peyton is 12 weeks old today and I honestly cannot believe how quick the time has gone. It feels like only yesterday that the tiny little 7lb 12oz ball of newborn was slapped onto my chest after so many hours in labour.

She now weighs a whole 12lb 4oz and is such a joy. She smiles all the time now (when she's not having a meltdown because she's over-tired/hungry/generally cranky) and has even started properly laughing. It's honestly the best sound in the world.

Don't get me wrong, motherhood has been bloody hard work. Some days have been dreadful and I've cried just as much, if not more, than Peyton. It's so hard when they're so upset and distressed and just can't tell you why. But, for every difficult day, we've had dozens of happy, smiley, joyful days full of love, laughter and so many memories.

I can't remember my life before her, now. She is everything I ever dreamed of and so much more.

And, finally, people are starting to say she looks like me now! After almost three months of "isn't she the spitting image of her daddy!" comments, it's now all "oh, Nat, she looks just like you!"  Hurrah!


I've lost ten and a half pounds in four weeks

And, yes, I am feeling pretty smug about it. If not a bit shocked/undeserving.

I really didn't expect a loss this week, so I was a bit taken aback when I stood on the scales and discovered I had lost 2.5lbs. You see, I have hardly been following Slimming World this week and, instead, fell off the wagon face first into a huge chocolate cake.

Here's the cake, let's just take a moment to appreciate this...

It was as good as it looks. In fact, it was better than it looks. I had more slices (chunks, if I'm being honest) than I care to admit. I also had some Betty's cakes, a very large glass of red wine and an Italian meal out (our first date night since Peyton was born!) I expected a 2.5lbs gain - not a loss of any type!

So I definitely cheated the scales this week. I was that woman who arrives and has a loss after having three Chinese takeaways, a pizza, a family share size bar of Galaxy and three bottles of wine.

God, I wish I'd eaten all that. I definitely wouldn't have lost 2.5lbs then!

Anyway, back to it. I did manage to consume some Slimming World food in between all the bad stuff.

When we went out for our meal just the two of us I had an antipasto board to start (I was tempted by a big garlic pizza bread, but resisted!) and then had a chicken dish in a tomato, pepper and onion sauce with roasted veg and 'crushed potatoes' (like mash, just not buttery/creamy).

It was so nice to go out just the two of us. My mum and dad basically told us they were babysitting and sent us out, it was lovely. And Peyton was a dream for them, too, so that made the night a complete success.

I managed to fit into some pre-pregnancy skinny jeans that I squeezed into the other week, this time with a little bit more room. They're still much more snug than they used to be, but I felt fabulous.

I was smiling inside, honest!

Most of the bank holiday weekend was spent at other people's houses, which meant I avoided cooking from Thursday right up until Tuesday - the absolute dream. Friday night my mum had made a chilli for us. I was working Friday (she looked after Peyton again, she's an actual godsend!) and she didn't think I'd be up for cooking when I got home so she made us a huge bowl of Slimming World friendly chilli which we had with rice (and spinach for me!)

Sunday night we went to mum and dad's house for tea and she made the chicken kebabs and syn free Nando's spicy rice which was beaut!

Tuesday night I finally reclaimed my spot in the kitchen and made us a firm favourite in our house - pizza topped chicken. Mine was topped with tomato puree, bacon, cheese, peppers and red onion. I did Tom's with tomato puree, bacon, mushrooms, peppers and cheese. I served it with homemade chips and salad.

It's so, so tasty and tastes very naughty.

Now I've written down the meals I've eaten this week, it was a bloody miracle that I got a loss. But I'll take it and run.

I'm not going to try and cheat the scales again this week and get complacent. I'm back on it 110%.

Today for lunch I made tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, spinach, red onion and garlic and a tablespoon of red pesto for two syns.

So easy, so tasty and so filling. Everything you want from a lunch!

I also have got the new Take 5 recipe book from Slimming World, where all the recipes have just five ingredients. There are some absolutely beaut sounding recipes in there so I have ordered all the ingredients needed on my shopping, which is being delivered in the morning, and will make them this weekend.

Just using five ingredients is great as it makes everything so much easier - and cheaper!

Some of the meals I'll be trying this weekend include a turkey jalfrezi (hopefully not too spicy given I'm still breastfeeding...!), a king prawn jambalaya, a chicken in creamy leek sauce, and a Mexican chicken stew.

I'll report back next week on what they're all like!

I've also started doing a lot more exercise. The last five days I've walked at least 10k a day and smashed my 10,000 steps goal. My Fitbit has never seen such productivity levels! I think that probably played a part in my unexpected loss - I'm clutching at straws really.

Either that, or Charis is going to make an absolute fortune by selling her amazing chocolate cakes which make you lose weight!

I'm hoping to have another good two weeks. I'm setting myself the target of losing half a stone before we go to Center Parcs in three weeks - so fingers crossed! I'm just over a stone away from the weight I was when I found out I was pregnant, and just over two stone away from my original target weight. I'm not sure how close I'll get to that while still breastfeeding and carrying around my massive milk jugs, but we shall see! They must weigh half a stone alone!

I'm feeling very positive and confident about how my body is adapting to the post-baby life and I can't wait to carry on shedding the pounds in the week to come. My initial target of being back into my size 10 skinny jeans by Christmas could still be achievable! 


The One Where Nothing Works

Despite never having Peyton away from my side during the day, and rarely having any time actually on my own, some days do feel very lonely, isolating and completely and utterly exhausting. I wasn't prepared for that aspect of motherhood.

Sure, we kitted ourselves out with half of Mamas and Papas, we got our Snuz Pod and Sleepyhead set up by the bed, and we had enough nappies to sink a cruise ship. The practical side? We had it covered.

It's hard to explain. Unless you've been there yourself, you'd struggle to understand. (Either that, or am I just losing the plot entirely - please tell me I'm not alone here?!)

Before I had Peyton I'd hear mums say they felt lonely and I always wondered "how?" when they had a constant sidekick, a shadow, a friend. But you do.

I absolutely hate spending the day at home all day; especially when Tom is at work and it's just me and Peyton. I'm not saying I don't like spending the day with her, I love our mummy and daughter time. The day just feels so long. I end up feeling mentally drained and totally exhausted at the end of the day from trying to keep her entertained/just settle her in general. Talking to her, playing with her, singing to her, walking around with her on my shoulder, constantly offering her the boob, changing her, winding her... I start to feel like I'm going insane. And what will work with her one day, won't the next. Some days I feel like my life is like that episode of Friends - The One Where Emma Cries. NOTHING WORKS WITH THIS CHILD. 

When we stay home all day she fights sleep like a trooper, and getting her to nap for more than 15 minutes at a time is a real task. I'm always so pleased to see Tom as he pulls up on the drive - "finally, someone to have a conversation with!"

Don't get me wrong, the days when she isn't cranky and grouchy, and is super playful and smiley, are an absolute dream. If I could bottle the feelings I have at the end of those days and sell it, I'd make a fortune. Thankfully, those days are the ones we have the most of. But when we've had days like today, they feel like a distant memory.

It gets lonely just you and a two-month-old baby, though. The visitors soon stop once the novelty of a newborn wears off. You go from having three or four different sets of a visitors a day to nothing - it's one extreme to the other!

The loneliest, most difficult days, are when she is poorly or particularly unsettled. Last week she'd been unwell in the night and was awake a lot in the night - requiring clean bedding, pyjamas etc. - which meant I was exhausted the following day. She was still unwell, still unsettled, and still struggling to sleep properly. We'd both gone through two changes of clothes within an hour of getting up and I knew it was going to be a long, difficult day. There was no reprieve. No chance for me to rest or catch up on the missed sleep because she constantly needing soothing, settling, feeding or cleaning up. I was on the same cycle with her all day and I was so drained.

Today has been another unsettled day. I'm not sure if there's been a particular reason or if she is just 'that way out'. During the brief times she isn't crying, whining, squealing, or screaming she's been her usual cheeky, smiley self. But, my God, the rest of the time has been hard work. I spent almost an hour earlier just aimlessly walking the streets around where we live just so she would nap.

I seriously take my hat off to single parents. I honestly do not know how they manage all day and all night, every single day. I don't think I'd be able to cope.

The worst thing about those poorly days is that you don't dare leave the house incase she has a poo explosion in the car seat or the pram, or projectile vomits all down herself, and you don't take enough spare changes of clothes. And you don't want to socialise with any of your friends and their babies at the risk of passing on whatever it is that has upset her that particular day. So staying housebound it is.

I absolutely love being a mum. It's the most rewarding job I've ever had. I've experienced love I never thought was possible in the last ten weeks and have such a strong feeling of protection over Peyton.

Yet, despite living in this bubble of love, happiness, excitement and adoration, it has suddenly got a bit lonely. We try to get out everyday; even if it's just for a walk into town or to the supermarket, or a drive to somewhere new for a walk around a park. I love the fresh air, it sends her to sleep and it's a bit of exercise for me too (which is deffo needed!)

Many people will probably say to me the answer is going to some mum and baby groups, but they fill me with so much anxiety. I went to a playgroup last week with her and, while it was nice to get out for an hour, I felt it was such a competitive environment. People constantly commenting on everything you say your baby is doing at that age: "what do you mean they did xx at 9 weeks?" or "Oh well my xx was doing that by 8 weeks." It was also completely pointless because Peyton didn't want to play with any of the new toys there. She just sat on my knee for the full hour staring at everyone and everything going on around her. She's genuinely so nosey!

I find some of these groups are breeding grounds for mums to brag about what their little darling is doing and compare them to every other baby. I don't really care if Peyton isn't doing things that another kid was doing at her age. Likewise, I don't care if she's doing stuff other kids haven't been. She's fine, she's happy - I'm happy - and that's all that matters. Why is it a constant competition between mums? It's so unhealthy and I really don't like it.

I've found Instagram, of all things, to be a huge help. There's a whole mum community out there that isn't judge-y, isn't perfect, and isn't competitive. And sometimes it's easier to talk to people you don't know about things that are troubling you than it is people you do. As much as I want to take Peyton to some baby groups for her own development, and for us to have some fun with some new toys and play things, I really can't deal with the competitive, judgemental mums that that they so often attract. Because, even though you can be surrounded by a dozen other mums and their babies, if you feel under scrutiny for your parenting, or your child's development, it can be the loneliest place in the world.

I think Tom is worried when he comes in and she's screaming and I'm just stood there rocking back and forth with her on my shoulder crying as well. He keeps telling me to "talk to someone if needed". In his words, he doesn't want me "to be deppy". I'm definitely not. I'm just exhausted some days. I hope I'm making sense and don't sound like I've lost the plot completely. Honestly, I am fine apart from feeling mentally exhausted some days (today being one of them!)

She can spend a whole morning not settling, not wanting to play with anything, not being soothed, just not playing ball. Yet, as soon as she stops crying and flashes me that gorgeous smile, it's all forgotten.

Tom always does bedtime. It's something we've done since she was born as a time for him and her to bond. I really wanted to make sure they had that special time together, especially with me breastfeeding her. I am always jealous, though, of that time they have together. Bath time is the only time of day where she is totally happy, without fail. She absolutely loves a bath and kicks, splashes and smiles for the entire time.

I love that her and Tom get that special time, but I'm also jealous that the time he spends with her is always when she's happy. He tells me "it's ok, it's normal for babies to cry", but it's all well and good him telling me that when he predominantly gets the happy, smiley, joy-to-be-around baby. When I've had eight hours of screaming, crying and whining to contend with, it's not much consolation to know that "it's normal for babies to cry".

Every night when she's gone to sleep I watch her on the monitor sleeping so soundly. When I go up to bed I just stare at her for ages. I want to kiss and cuddle her while she's all peaceful and settled, and I relish when she wakes up for her feed in the night because she's so snuggly and cuddly. I suddenly feel so bad for not enjoying her so much during the day. There'll come a day where she doesn't want me to cuddle her when she cries, and doesn't want to be near me or on me all the time; so I know I should make the most of it all now (as hard as it can be some days!)

I feel guilty for feeling so exasperated and impatient during the day. I feel guilty for crying when she cries. I feel guilty for wishing, sometimes, I had someone to just come and give me a break for an hour. Not even so that I could go sleep in a quiet room on my own, but just so that I didn't feel like I was going insane on my own. Am I a terrible mum because some days I just want a break from it being all on me for just half an hour? I know for a fact, though, that when I do get that "break" all I will want to do is be back with her because, Sod's law, it'll be the quietest, most settled, she'll be all day! I just can't win!

I absolutely adore being a mum (honestly, I do!) It's a role I've always dreamed of having. It's everything I ever imagined it to be and so much more. It's hard work, of course, but, despite my moaning, it's worth every single second. She's changing so much everyday, learning new things everyday and developing such a cheeky, funny, happy (on the whole) personality. I wouldn't change her for the world and I'd be so lost without her by my side everyday.

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The Brutally Honest Truth of a Dad's view on childbirth

It must have been a Monday in March. I don't remember the date because it turned out to just be any normal Monday, but at around 5.35pm the pit of my stomach grew into a cavernous ache of nerves and loss. I would always ask Nat if she had plenty of baby kicks and when she got through the front door she didn't give me the familiar reply I had heard around 100 times previously.

Little P, as we would call the bump before she became Peyton, would kick every two hours continuously for around eight or ten kicks per session - or so Nat would tell me. But she told me on that particular Monday evening that she hadn't felt P kick since breakfast and even after tea - there was no niggle, swish or roll from our little bundle of joy.

"I've just been busy, so she must be asleep," Nat told me at around 6.30pm. But, as not-yet parents, we panicked. Well, it was mainly me urging Nat to call her emergency number to the midwives at York hospital.

They say on various documents and pamphlets I had skim read that if mums-to-be feel no kicks, they shouldn't leave it until the next day. The number Nat rang was kind of a 999 call for all mums-to-be called Triage. I was mainly concerned that there was a problem that had gone unnoticed from our 12 week and 20 week scan - and I couldn't take the risk which would stick with me the rest of my life.

Being a journalist, I cover at least four baby or child deaths a week, and I've dealt with grim stories well - until Nat told me she was pregnant, that is. We were pregnant, more like.

I think the real fear for any dad-to-be is the unknowing and the life-changing, and uneasy, environment they find themselves in.

It's hard because there is nothing for new dads. We are the strong, stone harbour, whereas our partners are the vessel floating waiting to safely bring their cargo ashore. Strange analogy, but a true one.

Being told at around 26 weeks that your little P is not kicking like the clockwork Subbuteo set she usually would do meant the frantic urgency to get to hospital was definitely on. I remember I picked up my car keys and felt I was in a dream-like state as I tried to bring up any conversation possible. I think it must have been work-related as I tried to take Nat's mind off her own thoughts and my uncomfortable numbness.

We got seen to straight away by the fantastic staff when we got to hospital. We were told we were right to come in, but after Nat got put on bed and had the doppler-thingy held to her stomach, the heartbeat kicked in and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was the first time I had heard her heartbeat in real life and not via a phone recording. We then were hooked up to the polygraph machine for about 90 minutes before the midwife said everything looked fine and, if we were happy, we were allowed to leave; which we did. We drove home, Nat thanked me for being strong - and we never mentioned that Monday to anyone again. That is, until we spoke to the midwife as we waited outside the entrance hall on the 41-week mark.

It was a heart-stopping evening that looking back we did the right thing. DADS - TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Keep on at your wife - and nag them back.

Nat, as you all know, was a week overdue. But due to her unbearable mood swings (sometimes warranted) and scorching heat, I was really hoping the baby was going to be early. I think the worst part about it all was that everyone we knew believed little P was going to be unleashed into the world early. 

We worked as a team. New dads have to feel like they are carrying some of the burden too. I would help her by putting her socks on or painting her toenails. I would honestly do anything to make her more comfortable, more at ease. I'd do the dishes, cook tea, hoover, do the washing, cut the grass, dust ornaments, put the recycling out, wash the cars... I think Nat got sick of chicken, rice and wedges; but she would get what she was given. 

She later said it helped during those weeks of sickness. So, remember fellas, don't step off the gas when you find out your spermies work. Seize the day and help her with all you can. 

I did actually do all of those things mentioned above. Not that I would want to blow my own trumpet or anything. However, this was a woman doing an incredible thing for me, for us both. She was carrying our child. 

Starting a family is something that men see as an accident that makes them grow up, or the prize 'and finally' section after saving up to purchase an engagement ring and saying 'yes' 200 times to get you over the line in the build up to your wedding day. I think, in our case, it was more of a Happily Ever After scenario. Also, note: I'm not Prince Charming. The bottom line in life is: Men don't know if they can have children. [Without stereotyping or drawing boxes] 

Men don't usually choose to play with baby dolls when they grow up and they don't push them around in pushchairs as youngsters. We were too busy jumping across dykes and playing tag, or Italio, maybe even block. 

Women dream of starting families from being young girls, some women grow up to be repulsed by children, while others even freeze their eggs just to make sure their timeline can push past boundaries - and they can become a mum in their 50s. Some couples try for years and years and years to get pregnant - so after finding out we were pregnant after trying within the first month was a dream come true. I felt like I had skipped to the end of a really hard computer game and collected the bounty. I felt like we had cheated the system. It was almost too good to be true. 

Nat, I know, was shocked and she didn't want to believe it. She even hid the fact that she had take two pregnancies tests already. She'd refused to go into town to buy a test the day before. I went against her wishes and bought a pregnancy test the same day she did and, when I turned up after a 12 hour day on the road and flung my stuff down and presented her with a pregnancy test, she did a weird smile. It was like the joker and her eyes glazed over. "You've already done one haven't you? You're pregnant'?!"- I remember it clear as day. She nodded. My first two words. "You bastard...!"

Having a child is a monumental moment. Parents sell their homes to give their children a better life, for dance school or for them to join a football academy. I knew from this moment on that my life would change forever. Dads take note - pack as much as you can into these nine months. I'm not talking a quarter-life-crisis. I'm saying sort your direct debits, stop spending money on takeouts and accumulators on a weekend that will never come off. Start that saving because when your dearly beloved hits that maternity pay then it's all down to you to provide. 

Nat would do well to keep things from me, but there are also things that I never shared with her during those [long] nine months. I remember thinking during our second hypnobirthing session when we were asked to think of all our negative thoughts. 1. What happens if we leave hospital without a child. 2. What happens if I leave hospital alone, without my partner or our child. Very solemn thoughts and ones I never shared. But of course - this is what a dad-to-be thinks. 

During hypnobirthing I was made to process every single outcome and then burn it away beneath a large oak tree, bursting the pile of questions and worries into flames. And it did work. It worked right up to that point that really matters - when our birth plan took a sideways march towards surgical equipment and blue scrubs. 

I was brave for my wife and told her everything was going to be ok. [Dads take note. Being brave has to be your natural instinct now]. 

Nat's palms became sweaty and her poor pupils dilated wider and wider as the tools were wheeled into the room on a pair of trollies. A resuscitation machine also came in with really warm lights. A thousand questions left unanswered buzzed around my head as I steadied the vessel, the ship containing my wife and soon to be daughter. 

How would we cope if something went wrong? What if we're in hospital for six weeks? What if one of us had to be a carer for her? How would we pay the mortgage? How would we tell people the bad news? I attempted calming techniques, but our iPad with the soundtrack of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and other calming tunes was long gone in the other room. However, within five minutes, at 17:11 on June 20, Peyton was out. She was squeezed out with a suction gun that Nerf would probably look into creating for next Christmas' must have gadget. 

But, let me start from the beginning. Nat, as I have just said, likes to keep things from me - after I had asked her on the Tuesday night if her contractions had gone away she definitely said "yes, they've gone now". I'm about 99.999% sure she said "yes, they've gone away now".

She'd said this for about two weeks. This old news had made me mentally and physically prepare myself for another day at work on the following day - which was a Wednesday. But, after she got up in the night at around 3am and stirred me by walking across the room in her brown dressing gown, it made me wonder if she was just trying to get it going, or we were 'cooking on gas'. After all, she didn't really sleep while she was pregnant [another thing I didn't like about her being pregnant].

So, at 6.12am and she hobbled into the bedroom and says "it's time" - I sleepily replied "time for what? work?" Of course I did, I was supposed to be up at 6.30am. She could have waited to at least I was supposed to be up for work. When we first arrived at hospital I had this burning desire, which I think was the journalist in me, to make sure I had a parking ticket. "Congratulations, we'll get you booked in you're 4cm dilated." With my reply: "That's great, thank you so much. We'd like a water birth please - but parking, what about parking? You say there is a permit of some kind?"

The next few hours were pretty dull, but at this moment - dads-to-be take note - you need to make sure you get in close to the plug with the phone charger. Get this in early, so that the you don't have to keep updating all the people texting your wife's phone who now have cottoned on that the wheels are in motion [she's about to pop out her baby] and the fever spreads in to family and friends fast. I spent the time from about 9am until about 2pm making sure she was drinking and eating so her blood sugar was up and so she had energy to push. Would she take food or water off me? Would she chuff.

"No, I'm fine thanks" and "not now, it's making me feel sick" were common replies. I would then kick back in the weirdly hard leather two-seater sofa they had next to the birthing pool and would manage the Spotify playlist of songs we had pre-picked ahead of the birth.

I also text my mum and Nat's mum hourly updates to make sure I wasn't letting anyone panic. Tommy's tip: You get extra son and son-in-law points for this.

I thought I had a pretty tasking job until Nat really kicked into gear with her contractions and I had to stop the gas and air she was sucking on from going in the water. I really did want to have a bit of the gas and air during the brief time Nat used it, but I didn't want Nat to get a throat infection or mess up the divine path we had set out in our birth plan. I didn't want to disturb Nat in her peace and serenity, so I didn't. But next time.... I'm going to have a blast on it.

It quickly rolled around to 4pm at the hospital and our snack game was pretty poor. I would suggest taking a cool bag, because the carrier bag we had was full of clothes and pieces of paper. You need a regimented snack schedule. The light bites of cakes, crisps and flapjacks were great - but they didn't cut the mustard from 6am until 6pm. You need fridge raiders, fruit, bananas, sandwiches, salads. This is just for you by the way. But try and get your partner to eat little and often. Sweets and lucozade sport energy drinks are good for your partner, but after a while, and when it gets to the business end they will power on through without.

So, yeah, anyway 4pm rolled around and I knew this was an important time for me because it was the shift change over and our wonderful middle-aged midwife of many decades of experience Clare was substituted for a younger model in the form of the brilliant Liberty.

At first, I immediately did this bigotry thought of, she looks young so she's not that experienced. However, this was a massive dick-thought because Liberty was fantastic and wise beyond her years in her field of midwifery. [Oh, and by the way Tom, she probably saved your daughter's life...]

And so, of course, this is when Tom thought he had to step up. "So maybe let's try this and if it doesn't work we can always get back in the pool" I would say every five minutes - hoping that the new midwife would allow me to input my own ideas. She obliged and we carried on pushing on dry land for a few minutes while Nat waited for another contraction to come along.

As I walked over to the sofa, with Liberty at one side of the sofa opposite Nat with towels around her, three brown splodges appeared on the paper towels from where Nat was sitting. I didn't think much of it as I had already looked at the head at this point and was adamant with my positive thinking mantra that this was nothing to be worried about.

However, as I steadied Nat for another go in the pool and then reverting to the birthing chair, Liberty quickly held up the paper towel, said that she thought the baby had done a poo and legged it out the room. "Are you sure it's not Nat who has done it?" I replied back. "No, we've checked and it's the baby," Liberty replied. "The baby is in distress, so we'll have to get her out". By this point the teenage Tom would have just ran out the room and been inconsolable, but after both hearing what Liberty said, Nat tried two more pushes as the room across the hall was being prepped for our arrival. Nat, who was visibly physically exhausted, but mentally still very focused, heaved one last push and then - quick as I had seen her all day - hooked her left arm around my neck we walked as if we were in a four legged race towards the next room. "It'll be ok I said".

"She's ok. isn't she?" I said hurriedly while Nat was out of earshot. Liberty replied with a determined "we don't know yet until she comes out". But, with that, a large foreign lady came bounding in to the room like she was waltzing up to a night doo wedding buffet.

"Who the hell is this?" I thought, secretly. But, once again, my mind was in 5th gear and heading for a big finale. "I'm not liking what I am seeing on this heart rate darling, we need to get the baby out and I am going to perform an episiotomy and ventouse" - or a 'Kiwi' as I later knew it as. I was not quite sure what that was at first, but I understood that the suction cup would be used at some point.

As I was kind of stood to Nat's left in 'no man's land' I saw Nat [my pride and joy] being cut [also note: not one for the feint hearted]

Nat, who was by this point doing fantastic in her dogged state, denied help from the gas and air and shrieked out as the next contraction came and the suction cup was attached to little P's head. As it attached it disappeared back into Nat. On the next contraction Nat smashed some big breaths and as the sister pressed the trigger, P's head appeared - a full set of black curls with her eyes shut. A whole 25 seconds came ticking and the shoulders were through and she was out.

Peyton was born. She was slapped on Nat's chest for about 3.58 seconds. Her confused eyes buried into her mum's face, then rattled around at me as she let out a scream - she was fine. She was rubbed down as I blubbed out the words "she's gorgeous" through teary and tired eyes.

I cut the cord while taking as many pictures as I could, but I wanted to see her in real-time. Not through a phone screen [old school, I know] - but instead with my own eyes. I was then passed Peyton to hold for the first time. She couldn't hold her head and just dug her fingers into her eyes, I told her to stop it.

For brief moments she stopped and just looked around and I constantly needed reassurance from the midwife that she was ok and still breathing while taking in the world around her. I searched her face, almost examining it, a sugar bug rested across the bridge of her nose, a white spot on her tongue and two marks where she had dug her claws in the process of learning she had hands that could touch her face.

As I held her, Nat was poking around from the side of her doubled-over bed as her placenta was being physically yanked out of her by the hand of the sister. Nat's cries became blood curdling and my focus was back on my wife - because even though the baby was here Nat wasn't out the woods.

I felt each stitch as Nat was sewn back up and she gulped air. "You're half way there," she was told. "No way, just half way?!" she replied.

Nat was as tough as they come during her labour and she later told her new midwife about her birth and she thought Nat had had a spinal block after looking at her notes. But, of course, it was just her putting her mind over matter and using hypnobirthing to block out the pain.

This was without a doubt the best gift I have ever received. Such a heroic gesture. Jesus crucifying himself, Aslan laying down on the slab for his kin - no doubt any woman who undergoes childbirth, whether a C section, natural or everything under the sun, has achieved an amazing feat.

I don't understand how a man can witness the human body doing this amazing thing, their wife, partner, girlfriend or fiancee do this for them and then weeks, months, years later separate and divorce.

I guess in the end, as a father you have to evolve or die. You can't be anything in-between. I don't know if I will be a great dad, or even a good dad, but I know that after sharing this experience with my wife I will give it everything I have.

I would say we are stronger than we would ever have been without it. Yes, we will argue more, we will bicker and disagree 10 fold. I guess because we have more to agree and disagree on - there is three of us now after all. We may have to make more sacrifices in the future. But, in the end, I know what she sacrificed for me, the horrendous pain she went through and the nine months prior which included sickness, uncomfortableness and insomnia. These things make me thankful to her for every day she has given me a life [Peyton] which has made my life worthwhile. 


Half a stone down in two weeks

Last night I had my second weigh-in since being back at Slimming World and lost 4lb - meaning I've lost half a stone in two weeks. I also got Slimmer of the Week for my group!

I am now just 2lb heavier than I was when I first joined Slimming World back in 2016... But, I am also three to four stone lighter than I was nine weeks ago, before Peyton was born.

I had a really good week last week, food wise, and managed to prepare my meals much better than the week previously. I also managed to get more speed on my plate, usually in the form of spinach.

When I did Slimming World the first time around, spinach was my go-to. I'd always fill at least a third of my plate with it and put it in almost everything.

This is a Lean in 15 recipe and worked out about 8-9 syns - totally worth it!
I've tried to try some new recipes this last week, too, so that it kept things interesting. That's what I love most about Slimming World, that you can still eat normally and not deprive yourself of good meals.

My breakfasts have been the same everyday - overnight oats - but that's because it's so hard to eat breakfast. Because Peyton sleeps so long at night time she feeds like a trooper on a mooring, making up for all the milk she missed out on during the night, so I very rarely get chance to eat my breakfast with both hands/in less than half an hour/before midday.

Lunch has depending, again, on how she has been. Some days I had leftovers from the previous night and others I'd just make a quick sandwich.

As I am breastfeeding I get more healthy extras. This is a godsend for me because it means I get oats at breakfast, bread at dinnertime and still have one HEB left for snacks/more bread before bed/a bowl of cereal.

Sticky five spice gammon with my trusty side of spinach.
I haven't really been spending my syns, either. Rather than spend 15 syns on one bar of chocolate, like I did before, I've been having meals that use a few syns. If I've been feeling completely full and satisfied after my tea I don't need anything else. Which, often, is a good job because I don't usually get time to eat it anyway!

What I have been really struggling with is syn free snacks during the day. When I was pregnant I was reaching for the biscuits and easily troffing half a packet, at least, in just one sitting.

Fruit is easy to snack on but it gets a bit tiring reaching for an apple, or some blueberries, every single day.

I got the new Slimming World magazine when I was at group last week and there were some picnic recipes in there that I thought would make great snacks/lunchtime options. I tried the sticky sausages first, which also included a recipe for a nice sounding relish.

The not-so-sticky looking 'sticky sausages'.
I made these one night, when Peyton had gone to bed, and snacked on them during the days that followed.

While they didn't look like the picture in the magazine, and weren't exactly 'sticky', they were still really, really tasty.

Other meals I have enjoyed have included pork and apple burgers, from the Pinch of Nom website, and a chicken kebab and spicy rice, also from the same website.

It definitely didn't taste as 'charred' as it looks - my pork and apple burger with the best Slimming World chips I think I've ever made!
I also finally got to try the 1 syn cod and chorizo burgers from Morrisons and, boy, they were worth the wait. Days when I am really hungry, I'd definitely have two. For one syn each - why not?!

They reminded me, actually, of a dish my mum used to make which was cod in a chorizo crumb. The recipe for that was from a Hairy Dieters book which she had dug out for me, so I'll give that a whirl one night.

The chicken kebab that everyone raves about - and I can see why!
Served with the syn free Nando's spicy rice
I love looking through recipe books that aren't Slimming World sometimes, just to get new ideas and inspiration for meals. It's so easy to adapt most things to be Slimming World friendly - whether it be low syn or syn free.

The cod and chorizo burger was worth the wait - so much so that I tucked in before taking a picture!
I have all the Lean in 15 books so went through them the other night and picked out a few things to do this next week. One of which is a firm favourite of mine, his beef pie.

I'm planning to do that Sunday and it'll be just 5.5 syns per portion (just syns for the pastry) once I've tweaked the original recipe and made it friendly for Slimming World.

I'm also going to make a prawn tagliatelle, something with salmon (not sure what yet, I just really fancied it!), the cod and chorizo burgers again, and the rest of the pork and apple burgers that I have left in the freezer from last week.

I was so, so happy this week to have lost 4lbs. I felt, this week, like I had lost weight.

I managed to get back into a pair of non-maternity, pre-pregnancy jeans this week.

Granted, when I wore them before I was pregnant it was with a belt - as they were a bit big - and they're VERY snug now, but I was still able to fasten them and sit down without feeling like my circulation was going to be cut off. I wore them all day and I felt absolutely fabulous!!

It's a shame the same couldn't be said for my top.

Since getting pregnant, and breastfeeding Peyton, my boobs have grown an insane amount. I've gone from my dinky, little B/C cups to huge, ginormous F cups! While this is great, to an extent, as I have always wanted bigger boobs, it is annoying because none of my nice, pre-pregnancy tops fit me.

We have booked to go to Center Parcs next month so I need to invest in some swimwear that will

1. cover my stretch marks sufficiently
2. fit my melons in
3. be easy to breastfeed in (incase P has a milk-related meltdown poolside)

I have found a few options on ASOS so will order them and try narrow it down over the weekend.

I am also hoping to have lost a stone by the time we go. It's optimistic, as it's just over four weeks away, but I believe it is do-able.

So, here goes, another week and, hopefully, another nice loss at the end of it!

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