A couple of weeks before Christmas our family welcomed a brand new addition - my very first great niece, Clara Eloise, was born to my niece Chloe, and she is absolutely breathtaking. She reminds me so much of Chloe when she was a baby, she looks just like her. I went and visited them both in the hospital with my sister for new baby squishes and walking into the maternity department where my first and last babies were born brought all of the memories flooding back. It's coming up six years since my youngest, E, was born, and almost eighteen since I had my eldest (don't - I can't believe it either) but memories from pregnancy and birth always stay with you - the good and the bad.
I was very fortunate and had five straightforward pregnancies and deliveries. The most exceptional thing to happen was my fourth baby weighing a whopping 10lb 1oz when the other four all weighed between 7.5 and just under 9 pounds each. I have no idea what happened to H but I can only assume it had something to do with all the Mars Bars.
During all of my pregnancies I was inundated with (mostly unsolicited) advice and stories of personal experiences of labour and delivery. Some people seemed to want to share the most horrific of stories, almost as if they wanted me to be scared, and often it seems painted pregnancy and birth in a negative light. You couldn't say anything without someone putting their two cents in... "I'm tired" was met with "Oh you think you're tired now, just you wait!", or "I've had enough now, can't wait for baby to arrive" got "Babies will come when they're ready, just be patient" or "You could have weeks left yet if you go over!" because simply passing comment that you were tired/uncomfortable meant that you were somehow insisting baby be born immediately. Yes yes, we all know how long a pregnancy lasts thanks - you are allowed to whinge a bit when you get to the end, it is allowed. Even with my fifth, people still said the same things as if I wasn't fully aware - the difference was by then I knew to tell them what to do with their 'advice'. I understand that most are well meaning, but sometimes just a simple "I'm sorry to hear that, hang in there" will suffice, or perhaps an offer to help in some way if you can - cook dinner, babysit other children, do the washing up or even just make them a cup of tea!
I remember how uncomfortable I was in those last few weeks of pregnancy (that seem to last years - especially if you go overdue like I did 4/5 times), my maternity wardrobe consisted of comfy stretchy black trousers, ruched 3 quarter length sleeve jersey tops and my trusty maternity jeans though to be completely honest I could quite happily have spent the last trimester in my pyjamas if it had been socially acceptable.
If you're not dealing with pregnancy and birth advice you can often find yourself subjected to everyone's opinion on your baby name choices. By the time we had E, we just kept it as quiet as possible because frankly it was nobody else's business. On top of all of that, you then have to navigate the minefield that is new baby gifts - my niece specifically asked for books for Clara (with a very sweet little rhyme on the baby shower invitation), otherwise she probably would have been overwhelmed with all sorts of things she wouldn't have ended up needing or using. We bought her Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Alan Ahlberg and Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, two of our own personal favourites that I hope baby Clara will love & enjoy sharing with her wonderful mummy for many years to come, and just as much as my own children have.