Statistics, statistics

Call me a geek, but I just love some statistics to help me prove a point.

On one of the pregnancy and baby forums I use, there have recently been a few homebirth related threads and I have noticed a lot of fear about not having immediate access to doctors and theatre. A lot of this appears to be influenced by prior birth experiences or experiences of others around them, but it’s very sad.

I may be naive, I’ve never had a baby before so realistically I have no idea how I’ll cope with labour – maybe I’ll be begging to go to hospital for an epidural (although I sincerely hope not, as there are so many negatives to them!) but until I get to that point, I don’t really get the negativity that surrounds homebirth by the vast majority of the general public. I even saw one lady state that she thought homebirth was selfish because it ‘took midwives away from the hospital.’ This shows a general lack of knowledge as the community midwives who attend homebirths – certainly in my area – don’t work at the hospital anyway. If they weren’t attending one of their community patients, they’d be tucked up asleep in bed or doing a normal shift in the community!

Whilst doing my research, I came across the Birth Choice UK website, which is full of lovely statistics. Sadly, caesarian section, instrumental deliveries and inductions rates just keep increases year on year, with the resultant unassisted delivery (which still includes epidurals and other intervention) reaching a shocking rate of just 45.5% pregnancies in England in 2012. In 2011, homebirth rate in England was 2.36% but this seems to vary hugely across the country (from less than 0.4% up to 9%!) My local area is pushing 5% which is reassuring in itself.

Looking more regionally, the website allows you to look at induction, c-section, instrumental and normal birth rates at each health care setting which I found fascinating (and a little worrying). In my area, my local hospital (where it would be assumed I would birth, if I wasn’t aiming for homebirth) has the highest induction level (7.6% higher than the national average), an average c-section rate (1.8% lower than national average), average instrumental (1.2% lower) and almost exactly the national average of normal birth (at just 41.7%). Compare this with the only exclusively midwife-led unit in the area (over 96% normal birth) and it makes you think a bit.

I can’t wait to try homebirthing and know it’s right for us, but it isn’t right for everyone.


Time flies…

Wow, time really does fly when you’re having fun (or is that when you’re working your backside off, trying to ignore the pain, and suffering with insomnia?)

33+4 today. I have 4.5 days left at work before maternity leave starts, and it can’t come soon enough! The sciatica has unfortunately got worse; last weekend I did far too much walking and driving on both days and by Sunday night, I needed a crutch to walk anywhere. I’ve had to continue using it all week, but am hoping that a weekend of complete rest will make a big difference and hopefully I’ll manage my last week at work relatively crutch-free!

So what is a girl to do with a weekend of ‘rest’? Online shopping is bound to be the answer…

I haven’t really bought many more things since I posted my last brain organising entry. A few things have arrived or been found; we’ve bought a lovely teal black-out blind for the nursery which hubby will put up (eventually…!) and I also found the sling that my sister had given us – a lovely stretchy Hugabub wrap. The changing bag has a waterproof-ish section, but I think I’d like to get a proper waterproof bag as well – the iCandy bag is too gorgeous to risk spoiling it!

I’d ordered 2 nappy buckets (one for the nursery, one for downstairs) and they’ve arrived so one less thing to buy. I’ve found quite a few hats in our donated clothes piles, plus some gorgeous snowsuits!

So what’s left?

From Boots:

  • Nipple cream
  • Wipes
  • Cotton wool
  • Sponges / baby flannel
  • Baby bath (holding off on the gorgeous flower one at the moment…)
  • Sudocreme

From somewhere (!):

  • Bedding sheets
  • Grobags
  • Child-view mirror and sun-blinds for the car
  • Waterproof bag for nappies
  • 5 nursing bras – leaving this as late as possible
  • Strappy tops in a couple of sizes too big – to use for feeding, instead of belly bands
  • Nursing pillow
  • 2nd changing mat
  • Morrck hoodie / T&C star wrap (keeping an eye on ebay)
  • Carbon monoxide alarms
  • Extra fire alarms

Phew! Countdown to maternity leave now, and then I’ll get some shopping in!

Alphabet drawers project

We needed some kind of storage in the nursery, and decided on drawers. My husband and I are generally IKEA fans anyway so when I decided I wanted to modify some drawers (having seen similar ones made by someone with more creative flair than I), in the absence of some that we already owned or could get second hand locally, going for the relatively cheap MALM drawers seemed like the sensible solution.

As I was going to paint them anyway, we bought the white ones, which are £10 cheaper than any coloured / finished one. We wanted to use it as a changing table, so researched the ‘standard’ height of most changing tables, which seemed to range from 90cm to 100cm. The MALM drawers are either 80cm tall (for a 3-drawer unit) or 100cm tall (for a 4 drawer unit), so even with taking into account a few extra centimetres to build a changing table on top, we opted for the 4 drawer unit for a bargain £45.

Here is how I made the drawers…

1) Before putting them together, I worked out which pieces would be painted (top, sides, drawer fronts, the bits that form the front between the drawers) and sanded these down with medium grade sandpaper – just enough to rough off the surfaces.

Sort the pieces carefully - no need to prepare / paint more that necessary!

Sort the pieces carefully – no need to prepare / paint more that necessary!

2) After sanding, I painted each piece with B&Q Quick Dry wood undercoat – low VOCs and water-based, so safe for nursery furniture. The only pieces I didn’t paint at this point were the 4 drawer fronts.

One undercoat was sufficient as the drawers were already white.

One undercoat was sufficient as the drawers were already white.

3) This is where the design bit came in. I looked all over the place for a good supplier of wooden letters, not having the time, patience, tools or skills to make my own, but most places were very limited. I could buy a whole set in one size (which wouldn’t work for what I needed) or order different heights, but they automatically came in different thicknesses (which would look odd). I finally found a company online called Infinite Crafts and found that they could offer 6mm thick, individually cut plywood letters in a huge range of sizes. Hurrah!

From their website, I decided that the font ‘Cooper Black’ would look the nicest as a full alphabet so set about creating a scale image on MS Word to work out how I would arrange the letters, and what size each one needed to be. This was probably the most time consuming part of the whole project! Eventually I worked it all out and ordered the letters, which worked out to less than £26 and had free postage – bargain. I have to say I did this section before we bought the drawers, because as we already owned some, I could measure up each drawer face to save time.

The time consuming bit!

The time consuming bit!

4) I set out the letters on the drawers to check for size and layout, then drew around each one in pencil to ensure that I glued them in the right place.

I guess you could glue the letters straight on, but I am too cautious!

I guess you could glue the letters straight on, but I am too cautious!

5) Next, I used standard wood glue from B&Q to stick each letter on. It didn’t take much and fortunately dries clear if a bit squidges out, but it’s best to wipe it of ASAP or it’ll make your paint finish uneven.

Letters glued on.

Letters glued on.

6) Once all the glue had dried, I painted each drawer front with the white undercoat. The edges of the letters were quite dark (as you can see in the photo above) due to the singing that occurs when they are being cut, so I did double-coat the edges.

Letter glued on and all undercoated.

Letters glued on and all under-coated.

7) The next stage was to gloss everything except the letter fronts, using B&Q’s ‘Light Rain’ quick drying gloss from their Colours range. I painted the edges of the letters and the insides, so all that was left white was the very front faces. I did two coats of gloss everywhere – I find gloss quite tricky to get smooth as it is so thick and dries quickly, so if you brush over it when it’s started to dry, it can cause brush strokes. My top tip (after painting several bits of furniture with it!) would be to work as quickly as you can, and don’t be afraid of using it generously – just keep an eye out for drips.

8) The fun bit! I decided to sponge the colour onto each letter. We used the tester pots that also did the stars on the nursery wall (£1.10 each, 7 pots, and they did everything we needed) and I decided to sponge the colour on. I used a decorator’s sponge and chopped it up into small pieces so that each tester pot had it’s own bit of sponge. On an old piece of wood, I tested the sponge effect and the colours – with such an array of bright colours, I didn’t want them to clash, so the order was quite important to check! I also wrote down the letter that would be painted by each colour underneath it, to try and avoid silly mistakes.

Tester pots, colours, sponges and letters - what could possibly go wrong?!

Tester pots, colours, sponges and letters – what could possibly go wrong?!

9) Simple next step – sponging each colour onto the face of each letter. Most letters ended up needing 2 coats (as expected) but the orange and pink needed 3 coats as they showed the slight grey gloss edging through.

Loading up the sponge with some paint.

Loading up the sponge with some paint.

Begin to sponge it on.

Begin to sponge it on.



All 4 drawers complete - the colours are not quite right in this photo but it gives you the idea.

All 4 drawers complete – the colours are not quite right in this photo but it gives you the idea.

10) Finally, we put the drawers together. All done!

The modified drawers with changing table on top.

The modified drawers with changing table on top.

You can’t have a homebirth because…

I really, really want a homebirth. So far, my midwife is being really supportive of this and there has been no hint that this would change. However, my next appointment (34 weeks) is when they do a ‘homebirth risk assessment’. I am still planning on insisting on a homebirth, whatever risks they come up with, but in order to pre-empt them a bit I’ve been trying to find reasons why they may be against it. I found this handy list of excuses on the UK homebirth reference site.

For me, my ‘risks’ (based on that list) would be:

  • This is my first baby. I think a lack of clinical history makes some health care professionals twitchy.
  • We live in a rural area – but the hospital is still only 20 mins away, should a transfer really be necessary.
  • I may be expecting a big baby. My bump is measuring 2cm ahead – as it has done since I was first measured at 23 weeks. Personally I would have expected that – I was overweight before I got pregnant, and the fat layers are not going to magically melt away – they’re going to sit on top of my bump! The other thing to consider is where the baby is lying, which is my case is very much down my midline at the front – exactly where the MW measures. I have been told that 2cm either way is ‘normal’ but if it has a growth spurt and nudges into 3cm over, they’d like me to go for a growth scan – which suits me fine as I’d get to see my baby again! The problems with growth scans as predictors for final size / weight of baby is they’re so damn inaccurate! I’m mentally prepared for a 10-pounder and size won’t put me off a homebirth.
  • I am fat! My BMI was high when I got pregnant (34.7) and this has added risks of things like diabetes and high blood pressure. As it stands, I am otherwise healthy though and my MW knows my BMI and has never mentioned it as a problem. So far!
  • I have SPD. Fortunately (!) this is not actually recorded anywhere on my pregnancy notes, as I was diagnosed (and am being treated) by private physios. And that’s how it’s going to stay.

There are other ‘reasons not to birth at home’ that could potentially be thrown at me later – to do with baby’s position, or waters breaking early and not much else happening, or going ‘overdue’ – but I’ll argue those if and when they happen.

Project Nursery – nearly finished!

Well, it’s been a busy week! The second coat of Turtle Seas went up and hubby glossed all of the skirting. We had a change of plan with printing the stars and decided that stencilling would give a better finished; we were concerned that if a print didn’t work properly, it would be a bit nightmarish to re-align the printing block for a second coat / attempt.

We got some stencilling acetate sheets and carefully drew out 5 slightly different sized regular stars on paper, and then cut out each stencil by following the patterns with a surgical blade. I marked out on the wall where each star should go (just a pencil initial for each colour) and away we went – using a decorator’s sponge to sponge the colour through the stencil and layering the colours as necessary. It was a pretty long job but I’m thrilled with the result!

Finally finished! Personally I like it a lot more than the M&P wallpaper which is slightly dull in comparison.

Finally finished! Personally I like it a lot more than the M&P wallpaper which is slightly dull in comparison.

The wooden seat / shelf to go over the stairs-box had been cut to size, undercoated and given one coat of white gloss. We screwed it down and gave it another coat of gloss, hiding the screws in the process. The IKEA expedit unit went up, with it’s pink and blue boxes and looks great! Then we scrubbed the floor, moved the cot in and finished painting it, and moved the drawers (with changing unit) and [temporary] bookshelf in.

The cotbed was a hand-me-down from my sister and although it was in good condition, it was quite dark pine and just didn’t fit with our planned theme. We therefore sanded it right back to bare wood, gave it 2 coats of white undercoat (it really was quite dark and took some covering up!) and then 2 coats of ‘Light Rain’ wooden gloss paint. The mattress went in and then, even though we have 2 months to wait, we couldn’t resist adding the musical mobile, toys and the coverlet!

The finished cot!

The finished cot!

I’ll do a new blog entry on how I modified the drawers, but in the meantime, here are some photo flashes. The bookshelf couldn’t be painted grey as I had hoped (it’s not real wood and has a horrible plastic coating) so that is temporary until we get something else. The bunting needs finishing and I’d like to make some wall art for the plain white walls. Radiator needs to be re-hung and the new piping needs painting white. We’re also buying a couple more coloured boxes to go on top of the expedit unit, and finally we’re having a second hand chair that will be refurbished to match everything else. THEN we’ll be finished!

One of the pram / car-seat toys

One of the pram / car-seat toys.


Part of the musical mobile.

Part of the musical mobile.

Top of the mobile.

Top of the mobile.

Chime hedgehog on top of the temporary bookshelf.

Chime hedgehog on top of the temporary bookshelf.

Rabbit perched on the corner of the changing top - I'm so pleased with how well matched the colours are with the M&P items and our DIY stuff!

Rabbit perched on the corner of the changing top – I’m so pleased with how well matched the colours are with the M&P items and our DIY stuff!


The cot from a different angle, showing the mobile and coverlet.


The modified drawers with changing table on top.

The modified drawers with changing table on top.


And finally, one view of the room showing the expedit unit (replacing the brick-built wardrobe), starry wall and drawers.

And finally, one view of the room showing the expedit unit (replacing the brick-built wardrobe), starry wall and drawers.




Project nursery – some progress!

It feels very slow going, but we have actually made some progress with the nursery. I have to say that with the room itself, my husband has done most of the work. I’ve been concentrating my efforts on the furniture – more on that later!

I blogged about the vague plan a couple of weeks ago. Since then, we (because in marriage, I can take credit for what hubby has done…) have:

  • Knocked down the wardrobe (brick built)
  • Neatened up the remaining wall (which has to exist as it boxes off the stairs, which run under that room)
  • Bricked up the redundant grill
  • Re-plumbed the radiator (a necessity, as the pipe burst when it was removed for plastering. Water running into the floor space was not what my blood pressure needed.)
  • Had the plasterer in to re-skim everything – instant transformation, and it has since been called ‘the new room’ by hubby!
  • Door frame re-glossed with white.
  • Everywhere has been painted white – first with a watered-down paint (as it was onto fresh plaster) and then 2 normal coats of white.
  • As I type, hubby is painting one wall in B&Q’s ‘Turtle Seas’ silk emulsion.
Turtle Seas from B&Q 'Colours' range. Isn't it a gorgeous shade?

Turtle Seas from B&Q ‘Colours’ range. Isn’t it a gorgeous shade?

The next 5 jobs for the room itself are:

  • 2nd coat of Turtle Seas on the wall.
  • Paint the skirting with white gloss.
  • Finished cutting the piece of wood to create a shelf over the stairs – this will then be painted before being screwed down.
  • The white Ikea Expedit unit needs attaching to the wall.
  • I need to make the starry printing blocks and then print multi-coloured stars all over one wall. I’m really looking forward to this bit! Below are the colours I’ll be using.
The colours are more vibrant in real life, but a perfect complement to the M&P Timbuktales range I think!

The colours are more vibrant in real life, but a perfect complement to the M&P Timbuktales range I think!

Hopefully by the weekend I’ll have some photos – not quite the finished article, but getting well on its way.

Sling the baby!

Maybe not the motto I should shout, in case it gets misinterpreted. As you may have guessed, today’s research is slings / wraps / baby carriers. I am beginning to understand how new horse owners must feel when they have to buy an entire wardrobe of tack / rugs / clothing for a new horse and are faced with a zillion brands and choices. Easy enough when you’ve been surrounded by it for years, but somewhat overwhelming for a newbie.

The way I see it, there are 3 broad categories:


Baby Bjorn carrier

My gut feeling is that, on the whole, these are Not Good. A typical example would be the BabyBjorn range. I have heard them referred to as ‘crotch danglers’, which although amusing, doesn’t conjure up images of comfort. More importantly, I am concerned about the hip and spinal development of a young child in these carriers. It’s not so much how the legs are forced apart – although that’s not great either – but the way the legs dangle which not only places excess weight on the hip joints, but forces the child to brace their back in order to support the dangle – trust me, try it yourself. Sit on top of a fence or gate, with your feet resting on one of the bars. Make sure your spine is in neutral position (seatbones pointing down, soft curve in your back, shoulders over hips, abdominals engaged). Now take your feet off the support and let your legs dangle – hello braced spine!

So traditional high street type carriers are out.

The Connecta baby carriers seem a little better for the baby, and I think might be a good option for older children but they’re limiting for newborns as there is only one position safe for them. All of the other positions are on the back, which rely on the baby being able to support their heads and sit up unaided. They’re also a bit pricey (imho) at £62, given the limited positions.


The Maya ring sling

These seem better for the baby. I’m quite taken with the Baba Sling as it allows a variety of position (including breastfeeding) and appears to be quite sturdy and easy to use. However, it’s one-sided and I think it would eventually cause me quite a bit of shoulder pain (I already have a damaged left shoulder from years of carrying a textbook-laden school bag on the left side!) They seem reasonably priced (£40) and come in a range of pretty colours.

Then there’s the ring slings. Again, they result in a one-shouldered carry which does put me off slightly, but the ring slings appear to have more versatility in terms of positioning on the wearer – like making the shoulder material cover a wider area. There’s some great information on the Little Possums website – click here for a link to their ring sling info. I like the look of the the padded Maya (the rainbow fabric is just gorgeous!) and at £52 isn’t a bad price. The Ellaroo is very similar (lightly padded shoulder, fab colours, same price) but I can’t help but feel the fringed ends of the tails make them a little ‘girly’ and I can’t see my husband being keen to wear it!

The last sling that I like the look of is sold as a pouch (shoulder) sling, but actually consists of two pouches in one so it goes over both shoulders and provides much better support for the wearer. It’s the Tricotti sling and is £48. A few colours to choose from, and no rings or tying to worry about. There are only 3 positions though, and one of those is facing out which is not recommended.


The Cozy Wrap

These are basically long pieces of material that can be wrapped around the baby and wearer and tied in a variety of ways. They are split into two rough categories – stretchy wraps and woven wraps.

Stretchy wraps: these seem to have a more limited life than the woven wraps – they start to ‘give’ more as the baby gets heavier and this can pull on the wearer (and I would guess the baby?) They are generally thought to be ok for up to 6 months, or possibly up to a year in a hip carry position. They’re meant to be dead easy for the novice wrapper to use, because you can tie them and then pop the baby in – the stretchy fabric means more flexibility for stretching round the baby, rather than having to tie to the perfect sized pocket. I like the look of…

Woven wraps: there is some give and flex through the weave of the fabric, but they don’t ‘stretch’ as such. They are apparently a little trickier to tie because for some positions you need to wrap and tie them around the baby, instead of being able to tie them first. There are some really stunning woven wraps out there – for silly money as well! The ones I’ve found and like the look of within a more reasonable budget are…