My Nanny Cherry passed when I was only around five years old, so it’s hard to differentiate between what I’ve been told, what I’ve seen in photos and what I truly remember of her. However, I’m almost certain her appearing from behind the beaded curtain that covered the entrance to her kitchen with pumpkin fritters, is one of my one and only true memories. I couldn’t tell you if it was a one-off thing or a regular occurrence, but I like to think making these sweet fried treats is something she’d do for my sister and me whenever we visited her, in her one-bedroom South London flat, with my dad.
She was born and raised in South Africa and my mum will still regularly make traditional curry dishes, for the whole family to eat; Bobotie, a curry with egg on top, is a firm favourite! I have a South African cookbook complete with handwritten notes and recipes from my Nan, that I took from my mum’s stash of recipe books when I moved out. Included in there, was of course, pumpkin fritters, which are traditionally eaten for breakfast or dessert in South Africa.
I made them for the first time a year ago and they were delicious. (So delicious in fact, that they were eaten shortly after they came out of the pan and before I could take a final photo, hence the lack of them here!) They’re also dangerously easy to make, which is exactly why I think I’ll only be making them as a seasonal treat! I love being able to make something that’s from my heritage and introduce them to the boys too.
Pumpkin fritters are something I think more people should try, so here’s an adaptation of the recipe that I can only assume my Nanny used, from her cookbook. I’m sure she probably would have used fresh pumpkin, but tinned pumpkin puree is much easier! You can add more or less sugar depending on your tastes and I think a sprinkling of ground ginger would be delicious too.
The transition into motherhood is one that no one can prepare you for; emotionally, mentally or physically. Your list of priorities has changed; everything you do now is for someone else. With every decision you make, big or small, there is another life, opinions and feelings to consider. It can feel like you live in a constant cycle of feeding, nappies and naps during those first few months and life in the years after is defined by snacks, school runs, questions, homework, snacks, cooking dinner, developing negotiation skills, snacks, repeating yourself non-stop until you’re listened to and preparing snacks.
Did I mention snacks? Seriously, it’s probably the word I’ve heard the most in 2019 so far.
All I wanted to do after both my boys were born, was stare at them, cuddle them and pinch their little cheeks. I might have been constantly covered in regurgitated milk, have a dreadlock in my hair or not be able to remember the last time I had a hot cup of tea, but I was content. It would be easy to think that a new mum might have ‘lost’ part of her former self when she looks different on the outside; but I enjoy make-up free days when I’m not at work and I live in an easy jeans / t-shirt / jumper combo a lot of the time, because I want to. These aren’t things that define me or my identity, now or previously. We’re all more than the clothes that adorn our bodies.
It can be hard to accept your main role now being one that involves spreading nappy rash cream rather than spreadsheets.
Do I miss being able to pee without someone opening the door? Absolutely. Eat a snack without being interrogated? Yes please. Watch Hollyoaks without someone flying across the room pretending to be a Pokemon? That would be great. But these changes are all trivial things. Women with high-flying careers, who travel the world and spend their weekends propping up a bar, might mourn their old lives once they’ve started a family as the media would suggest. They might not be able to work and travel like they used to, or have to think about the consequences of a night-out and looking after their child whilst suffering a two-day hangover; but they are never things I had or wanted. I can see how some women might miss their ‘old life’ when they become a parent, as it’s so different to what they’ve always known. It can be hard to accept your main role now being one that involves spreading nappy rash cream rather than spreadsheets.
However, I’ve never been particularly career-driven. There was always one thing I wanted to be though; a mum. For me, life was growing up, getting married and having children. That might be old-fashioned, traditional or outdated, but it’s the path I wanted to take.
Some mothers who have had to change or lose their career might feel like they’ve lost a big part of themselves that they might never get back and don’t want to be defined as ‘just’ a mum and nothing else, but I waited and wanted to be defined as a mother. I feel like I’ve found part of myself over the last seven years, since having Big B. I can almost hear the eyerolls as I type that, but it’s true. I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything.
Is there more to life than parenting? Yes, I don’t doubt it. But right now, it makes me feel content. And in a world where we are told you can have your cake and eat it too, where you don’t have to be ‘just a mum’ and you can have a career too, it can feel like mothers who don’t want that right now, are looked down on for not wanting more. And yet if you’re a working mum, carving a career for herself, there will be people frowing at you for that too!
But I’m happy with ‘mum’ being my identity, because there’s more to me than that, in the same way that there’s more to someone who defines themselves as a businessman or photographer or beautician. We are not just our ‘job’. We all have interests or conversations outside of parenthood or our careers and enjoy child-free time or time with loved ones.
And so I’m happy to define myself as a “mother”. It’s something I’ll always be, even when my babies aren’t babies. My time to eat my cake will come, whether that’s tomorrow, or in a year or in five. Right now I’m just savouring my cake and not rushing to eat it.
(Which makes a refreshing change to be honest, because damn I love cake.)
It’s been a whopping 7 months since I gave birth and in a typical, new-mum way, I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed! So finally, here’s what happened at the birth of Little B, our second baby boy.
My due date, 20th September 2018, came and went. Big B arrived six years ago at 41+5 Weeks, so it came as no real surprise that I was overdue again (despite friends, family and professionals thinking I’d be early!) I started to second-guess every single ache or twinge after 40 weeks, but there were no signs of labour. I was bouncing on the birthing ball regularly and ate a vindaloo among other labour-inducing myths, but it started nothing. This baby had set up camp and wasn’t moving without a fight!
Last Antenatal Appointments & Failed Sweeps
At 40+4 weeks, I had a failed sweep at my checkup with the midwife. My cervix hadn’t come forward enough yet for her to reach properly, despite the fact baby had been head down for months and she could feel around it. My body just wasn’t quite ready to give birth! She made an appointment for a few days later before I was booked in to be induced, where another midwife would try for a sweep again.
…this time, she had concerns about his heartbeat
My 41 week checkup was possibly the worst day of my pregnancy. Before the midwife could try for another sweep, she did a routine check of my blood pressure and listened to baby’s heartbeat, which we’d never had any issues with previously. Except this time, she had concerns about his heartbeat, as she believed it was too fast, for too long. The sweep wasn’t performed and she sent me straight to hospital, where they could monitor baby properly, for longer.
Crying is how I deal with things, so how I held it together while I got dressed and left the room, I don’t know. I burst into tears on the phone to my husband when I explained what was happening, before my dad took me to triage. In the end, I was kept in for an hour or two and we were both fine. It was put down to the midwife misreading his accelerated heartbeat as his resting heartbeat, as he’d been wriggling about so vigourously. I’d rather be safe than sorry of course, but a mixture of hormones and worry made me fear the worst that afternoon.
Going to the hospital
On the morning of 2nd October, I rang the hospital as advised, to check when I should come in for my induction. The midwife I spoke to informed me that if I was low-risk (which I was), they’d be able to offer me an outpatient induction; I’d be given the pessary, sent home and come back in 24hrs (or sooner if it worked and I started contracting.) That was news to me, as I thought I’d be staying in hospital waiting around, which I didn’t want to do if I could avoid it.
I took my hospital bags just in case though; and it’s a good thing I did, because I wouldn’t be leaving until I had my baby!
We got to the hospital at 10am and once again, we were both monitored. There were concerns this time about my blood pressure (which had been fine throughout my pregnancy) and baby’s heartbeat again. By lunchtime, I had an IV of fluid to see if that would help us both. That is, once they could find my vein! Two midwives tried and failed to put the cannula in the back of both hands and one of my arms, before a doctor managed to put it in the other. I honestly think a cannula hurts more than the epidural I had with my first baby!
I started to get a little emotional as I just wanted our baby to be okay and I was anxious about the unknown. Everything was pointing towards having a caesarean, which I had wanted to avoid if possible. The midwives and all the medical staff who saw us were lovely, but every time one particular midwife came to look at my trace, she’d shake her head and tell me, “This is really not good”, in the most unassuring way and didn’t expand on what she had seen. They are not the words a hormonal, anxious and overdue mum wants to hear! The doctor who inserted my cannula was reassuring though, as she saw the baby move around a lot and told me that an angry baby who’s not okay, doesn’t move like that.
I was essentially tethered to the bed because of the IV and the CTG machine that was monitoring us both and started to get constant backache, which would ease on the odd occasion where I was allowed to move around.
I’d wanted a relaxing labour and a water birth in the Birth Centre which was looking less and less likely as time went on
A delivery suite became available at 1:30pm and we were taken down there, despite me not yet being induced or in labour. The machines they had down there meant I could be monitored for longer periods of time. I’d wanted a relaxing labour and a water birth in the Birth Centre which was looking less and less likely as time went on, but I was happy to see a birthing pool in my delivery suite when we arrived. I was given a hospital gown and lovely stockings to put on and hadn’t been allowed to eat or drink. No one ever came out and said that it was in case I needed to go to theatre, but they hinted at it a lot.
My blood pressure had come down and baby’s heartbeat was levelling out, slowly but surely. It seemed like he was most comfortable when I was on my back, which was, of course, the most uncomfortable position for me, because of the backache! Another doctor came along 45 minutes later and he tried to break my waters, but he was unsuccessful as I was only 1cm dilated.
By 4pm, I was really bored and uncomfortable. I asked the midwife to take me off the machines just so I could go to the toilet, even though I didn’t need to go. It just meant I could walk around and stretch my legs for a bit! My blood pressure and little one’s heartbeat were looking much better now, so at 4:30pm, after over six hours in hospital, I was finally given the pessary to hopefully induce labour. We were still being monitored, in case either of our stats accelerated again, but after about an hour I was taken off and free to roam around.
Slowly but surely, the pain in my back started to get worse and I realised it was contractions I’d been having this whole time. That was where they started with Big B too, so I suppose I should have known, but they really were nothing more than backache at first. There’s no doubt that the pessary (and the failed breaking of my waters) accelerated my labour though!
A few midwives came in over the next few hours, but no one seemed to confirm I was having contractions, as I’d had the pessary in for hardly any time at all. They had no concerns nor did they want to examine me at this point. The doctor I saw said hopefully we’d see baby that night, if not in the morning, so it felt like there was still a long wait ahead of us. I was able to speak through the contractions and breathe through the pain. The room was very warm though and I started to feel faint and queasy at one point, so I urged my husband to go and get a midwife to get me something to throw up into. He arrived with a bedpan just in time! My body cleared itself out like this for labour the first time around too, but I don’t think the heat and my empty stomach helped things either.
It was now around 6:30pm and I hadn’t eaten since before arriving at the hospital that the morning, so my husband went to get us both some dinner, as I was finally allowed to eat! He came back with a sandwich, crisps and a millionaires shortbread. I had half a sandwich and a few crisps, but they didn’t stay down for long either.
I spent most of my time perched sitting on the side of the bed and rotating my hips constantly. I hadn’t done any hypnobirthing classes or courses, but I’d picked up a few techniques from others over time and remembered the breathing I did during early labour with my first born. I’d close my eyes every time a contraction started and concentrate on simply breathing in and out. I imagined the pain as a mountain I was climbing and the peak was getting further and further away, as the contractions got stronger; but once I heat the peak of the mountain and the pain, I knew there was no other way but down and the contraction would subside for a minute or two. I focused all my energy into managing my pain, so I didn’t make a peep of noise.
I was becoming more and more uncomfortable though, so I asked her if I could have gas and air, to which she laughed
It was now 8:30pm and by this time, my husband was timing my contractions using an app on my phone. They were lasting around 45 seconds and coming every two minutes, which the midwife was aware of when she came in to see how we were, but I don’t think she had any concerns as I wasn’t being very vocal and contractions can be close together when you’ve been induced, even if you’re not dilated. I was becoming more and more uncomfortable though, so I asked her if I could have gas and air, to which she laughed and told me that I could have that when I was in labour. I was absolutely horrified when she left the room and I told my husband I couldn’t do it if this wasn’t labour already. I seriously considered an epidural again, even though it went against everything I’d wanted for this birth experience.
I accepted her offer of cocodamol, even though I knew it wouldn’t touch the sides! At that moment, something was better than nothing. I just wanted the damn drugs.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if it was a baby or a poo, but something felt like it needed to come out!
20 minutes later, I was still sitting on the edge of the bed, circling my hips, when I realised things felt different. It felt like I needed to push. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if it was a baby or a poo, but something felt like it needed to come out! With Big B six years earlier, I’d already had an epidural by this point, so I didn’t know just how strong contractions could get towards the end nor did I know what it felt like when you needed to push.
We were alone in the delivery suite, so I asked my husband to get the midwife and let her know how I was feeling. He was quite nonchalant about it, as was the midwife; and I don’t blame them, as I’d only had contractions for a few hours. I was quiet. I wasn’t screaming or complaining. She finished her paperwork and came in a few minutes later to examine me. As I stood up to sit on the bed, there was an almighty gush and my waters broke all over the floor!
It released some pressure, but now it felt like baby’s head was so low down I couldn’t close my legs or move. I had been so focused and in control of my body, but I felt like I lost that a bit at that moment, as I knew he was coming and I wasn’t prepared for it to be happening at this point.
The midwife told me I had to get on the bed, but I kept telling her I couldn’t do it. I could hear the urgency in her voice and my husband’s too and I somehow go myself onto the bed on all fours. I don’t remember it, but I’m told it was at this point, she hit an emergency button and shouted for a delivery pack. I got myself on to my back and my husband told me they could see our boy’s head and he had lots of hair. I couldn’t believe he was suddenly almost here!
I was pushing for just a few minutes and then at 9:02pm, our little baby boy was here. I’d done it. I’d given birth, with no epidural as I’d wanted! I’d delivered on my back on a bed, rather than in a pool as I’d hoped for, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Had I been examined and told how much I was dilated, I’m almost certain I would have panicked and taken more pain relief. I certainly would have taken the gas and air at the very least! It was mind over matter though and because I thought I was onlyhalf way or so, the pain seemed more manageable as I thought there was worse to come. As it turns out there wasn’t!
I had lovely cuddles with my baby and quite frankly got off my tits on gas and air while she stitched me up, in places I didn’t know you could tear or graze, to be quite honest. That first wee did sting like a bitch, but the long hot shower I had after was the best, especially as I’d never been allowed a shower the first time around with my epidural with Big B! My husband fed me the millionaires shortbread I’d not got around to eating earlier, while I squeezed my warm, little, wrinkly baby, before we were taken to the postnatal ward at 11pm.
I had tea and toast, while Ashley settled us for the night and went home to get some sleep himself. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, even though I could have; I just stared at Little B and cuddled him until the morning!
When I was a teenager, I discovered Livejournal.com. Anyone else? There was a whole community of like-minded people, writing about our teenage angst and spots and boys. A lot of us moved to host our own websites and blogs at places like GeoCities (RIP), before moving to our own domains (or being hosted on a friends domain. Remember that?) And whether the graphics were bold and beautiful or dark and grungy; you had the freedom over the design of your little space on the internet.
And I think that’s where my love affair with graphic design began. I loved writing and blogging, but I don’t think I realised at the time, that more than that, I loved making it look awesome. I taught myself HTML and my sister had Paint Shop Pro, which I loved playing about with and making so many images for my blog. I changed my layout more often than I changed my knickers.
Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but it was a lot.
Things haven’t changed in recent years either; I’ve always been a visually creative person; photography and photo-editing is my jam, but there’s something special about graphic design and creating an image from scratch.
So last year, when I was made redundant while pregnant, I started thinking about what I could do from home; photography is great, but it can involve a lot of travel, which isn’t always easy when you’re pregnant and have a child and school runs to think about too.
And that’s when it came to me. Graphic design. Why don’t I start designing prints and cards? Up until that point, I’d only ever designed things for me, but I loved the idea of designing things for others too, that they might want to buy! And so, Designed by Aimee Marie was born.
The last year hasn’t been as easy as I thought; who knew morning sickness and the newborn haze could wipe out entire weeks?! But I’ve enjoyed making prints and cards in between nappy changes, feeding and the school run.
Alice recently did a business webinar which has spurred me on to revive my blog (which I’ve been wanting to do for months now, but new-mum-life got in the way) and has also made me realise my business doesn’t have to be a little side-hustle and it’s okay to shout about it from the rooftops! One of the first prints I made stated “Never Forget Why You Started” and so I think it’s time to remind myself of that too.
There’s something so definite and final about leaving one year behind and starting afresh, isn’t there? Yes, you don’t have to wait for January to roll around to make a resolution. But I’m someone who enjoys the idea of a new day, week or month to start something new, so I’ve always looked forward to the idea of setting myself goals, big or small, for the year ahead. It might be a huge cliche, but I love the idea of a clean slate. Time to reflect is really positive. While lots of other people are doing it too, you can find inspiration in their resolutions for the coming year.
My resolutions have always been measurable in some way; though whether it’s been to take a photo every single day, lose a specific amount of weight or publish a number of blog posts every week, I don’t think I’ve ever actually achieved one! I’m too much of a perfectionist and to complete a year of something but having missed a day or two, here and there, doesn’t sit well with me.
This year, my resolutions are more ambiguous and focused on self-improvement, which is near impossible to measure and eradicates that need for facts and figures in my goals, to show success. I don’t have a numbered list of specific things to achieve.
We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad
In 2018, mental health was discussed a lot more in the media. It’s very easy to think that the term is only applied to those who are struggling with it, but we all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad, just like we all have health in general. My own mental wellbeing is something I want to keep in check this year. Despite it not sitting on the ‘bad’ side of the fence, I think it’s important keep tabs on my own happiness and fulfilment.
It’s really easy when you’re a parent to become so focused on your children and their needs, and forget about your own. Particularly when there’s a baby in your household, you are in a constant cycle of nappies, milk, cuddles and naps. Little B has come to the end of the newborn phase now. Quite frankly, you’re lucky if I’ve brushed my hair some days in the last 12 weeks, let alone washed it, applied make-up or pampered myself in any way, shape or form!
Self-care is something that’s at the top of my agenda for this coming year and I love that it can mean anything you want it to mean. For some, self-care might be having a candlelit bubble bath on a Sunday evening without your children in sight or immersing yourself in a good book. For others, it might be going to the salon for a blow dry or taking a long walk to blow away the cobwebs. Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes.
The Law of Attraction
There’s also something to be said about the law of attraction; essentially, you focus on positive thoughts and attract into your life whatever it is you are focusing on. You might think it’s a load of rubbish and I suppose no one really knows if it works. But is there harm in thinking positively, rather than focusing on the doom and gloom that may be around you?
I’m going to spend some time focusing on lots of aspects of my life this year, including love, my career and health. I don’t know exactly what that will look like yet, but I’m looking forward to a positive outlook!
I’m generally of the opinion that here in England, we have two seasons; a few hotter than average weeks we call ‘summer’ and the rest of the year, known as ‘winter’.
I always thought I was a summer girl, at heart. Afterall, I love the heat, the sun and the long days. And it’s my birthday in June, so I’m sure that’s a factor too! If we’re ever lucky enough to have a good summer in the UK (read: more than a week of sunshine), it means numerous trips to the park or the seaside, ice-creams, picnics, holidays abroad and beer gardens. Whether I’m out in it, or looking at it through my window, the sunshine simply puts a smile on my face. I much prefer a warmer climate.
Until you’re in the thick of the summer though, you forget about the buckets of sweat that you produce every time you move and make it hard to put your make-up on, without it sliding down your face. And what about the gallons of sun cream you need to frequently re-apply? Plus, you need to be scantily-clad to even attempt to keep cool. And let’s not think about the humidity that makes your hair do a Monica.
Winter on the other hand, has the opposite effect. The school run is done as the light is disappearing. You have to factor in extra time in the mornings to layer up and warm the car, before going anywhere. It’s usually wet, cold and I generally don’t want to leave my house. The only good thing about those few months is Christmas!
Autumn is Awesome
Spring and autumn have never been a contender for my favourite season, because they’re over so quickly. The last few years however, autumn has popped up on my radar and I’m loving it.
As unpredictable as the days can be weather-wise, I love the happy medium of sunny days where I can still sip on a hot chocolate and snuggle in a scarf. Myself and Big B can get creative with autumn leaves and make a start on Christmas crafts indoors (Pinterest, eat your heart out), but the days aren’t too short and cold to spend time outside. I can invest in cosy jumpers, big scarves, cute gloves and the perfect winter coat without having to wait an age to wear them. I spend October and the following months looking forward to Christmas. The build up to it is just as good as the big day (if not better, right?!)
Yep, autumn life is pretty good, it’s just a shame it’s coming to an end! I’m lapping up the last of the sunshine before the frost well and truly settles in.
On Tuesday 2nd October at 21:11, my world changed again when I gave birth to another beautiful, baby boy.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram (@helloaimeemarie) then you’ll have seen him already on my stories and my profile, so his arrival won’t be news to you! In fact, I started this post ages ago, but I was interrupted before I could finish it. The story of my life right now! I thought, “Ooh, I’ll finish that tonight” and well, here we are nearly four weeks later. Oops.
Little B is six weeks old now. As cliched as it may sound, it feels like he has always been here. Life before him, though still memorable, seems distant (as does a full nights sleep.) Needless to say, we are all absolutely besotted with him! I can’t believe how much he’s changed in this short time. We’ve learnt so much about this brand new human already, quirks and all.
Upcoming posts and videos
If you’ve read anything about my pregnancy, you’ll know the end of it dragged. Being overdue is not fun! Subsequently, I’ve dragged my heels a little with my content. Despite wanting to film and write, I still have a few pregnancy posts to complete and videos to edit, such as ‘What’s in my hospital bag’ and a chatty one about the labour and birth itself. They will be available shortly, as I try to get bits done while he naps!