Top Beauty Bits

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Its a funny thing, that after the birth of both my children I have suddenly become obsessed with make-up. I have always loved make-up and beauty products, but over the last few years what with pregnancies and exhaustion and house projects and no money, frittering away cash on yet another M.A.C lipstick has seemed silly on many levels. I also, now, would much rather see my little boy's face light up with a new toy, or get something useful for our grown-up house.

But in the immediate aftermath of popping the babies out, both times it appears, I have suddenly turned into a greedy little magpie, wanting all things pretty and sparkly.

Happily, this surge of interest coincided with a birthday, and many gift vouchers from generous family members. The result has been the recent purchase of some new bits and also the rediscovery of a few golden oldies.

Here are the products I am loving:

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm and Marine Cream.
I had an Elemis Pro-Collagen facial a few years ago and it was totally transformative. I walked around for weeks afterwards feeling glowing. The lovely therapist snuck me out a bag full of samples from the range, including half a dozen sachets of their famous marine cream. I used them up tentatively over the next month and couldn't believe the difference this fantastic moisturiser made to my skin. It is plumping, smoothing, nourishing, basically all the good stuff. It smells expensive, it looks expensive, it feels expensive (most important - very luxurious) and it is bloody expensive. My mum bought it for me for my birthday. An off hand joke of "well you could always buy me the Elemis marine cream, ho ho" - genuinely said in jest, resulted in a surprise gift that blew me away.
I decided to use one of my vouchers to purchase the cleansing balm to go with as I am a sucker for 'matching' skincare products. And I love cleansing balms. It turns out that this one hands down beats the others I've tried - Emma Hardie, Clinique and the Bodyshop. All of which I did love using, but this one has something extra special. It feels amazing on the skin, smells lovely and effortlessly melts off my makeup.

Laura Mercier Sik Creme Foundation.
I bought this a few months ago but virtually stopped wearing makeup in the late stages of my pregnancy as I spent so much time crying there was very little point. This foundation is the best foundation I have ever used, and I have used many. Like the Elemis products, it feels luxurious on your skin. It is literally like smearing rich thick clotted cream all over your face, that gives you a perfect finish - medium plus coverage, but a soft glow. I am going to repurchase in a lighter shade as I bought this when I still had a bit of summer tan to me. Alas I am now back to my palest self and can't wait to use a shade that doesn't require excessive blending out to look natural. A point to note: I also bought the Laura Mercier secret camoflage concealer which was disappointing on two levels - 1. They gave me SC-4 which is too dark for me but I'd already started slapping it on before I realised that I should have got SC-2 instead, 2. It just isn't creamy enough to be workable.

NARS Laguna Bronzer.
I feel a little ashamed that I call myself a bit of a make-up geek yet I hadn't tried this. For years I just loved my M.A.C. and Dior bronzers too much. Laguna always looked very average in the pan. Neutral, maybe a tad too pale, shimmery (don't generally go for shimmery bronzers.)
I was so totally wrong.
I decided to take the plunge with yet another Selfridges voucher and this is the best bronzer I have ever tried times by a million. It is the softest and most finely milled product I have come across and the shimmer is invisible, it just leaves you glowing. This is the only bronzer I have ever used that truly makes me look tanned as opposed to 'bronzed'. Its a beautiful natural and wearable shade. I am never going to try another bronzer again, this is it, NARS, you got me. Now let me try your face powders as if they are milled as finely as this I will love them.

M.A.C. Modesty lipstick.
I did a 'back to M.A.C.' which is such a brilliant idea. I wanted a new nude to replace blankety which, for years my favourite, I have now conceded is a tad too brown and therefore a bit nineties. It is also running out. I sampled a few and went for Modesty which is quite simply 'my lips but better'. It is also very definitely a member of the deeper nudes which I so love. When I say nude, I mean a nude lip colour, not a nude skin colour. Creme d'Nude and Shy girl just look ridiculous on me. I can somehow get away with Hue because of the pink content but I need a deeper tone generally not to look washed out. And I'm a bit over pinky pink lipsticks. Especially for winter.
When I got Modesty home I decided to do a few swatches and realised that I had totally forgotten about Faux which was my favourite last winter and is just a smidge more 'berry', and Honeylove which is just a smidge more brown, but is also matte which I find hard to wear.
I really really love M.A.C. Lipsticks. And I think Modesty is lovely, but I still haven't found the perfect nude (but not too nude) for me. High Tea (too frosty?), Jubilee (too orange?) and Brave (too pink?) are on the list to be tried, but I'm not allowing myself any new purchases until I have used up what I already own. 

M.A.C. Well dressed blusher.
I bought this in 2007 because Laura Farrant (lollipop26) told me to. Simple as that. You will either know exactly what I mean here or have no idea...lollipop26 broke a lot of hearts when she stopped making beauty vlogs on YouTube...
I never got this blusher. A cool toned frosty pink that barely showed up on my skin. Soon afterwards I purchased Dainty which is more yellow and a stronger pigment and it became a favourite for years. But Dainty is long gone (think I got through two, actually) and I retried Well Dressed the other day. And I really like it. How bizarre. I still wish it was stronger, but it gives a flattering pink glow. I sense a new blush obsession (along with lipsticks) brewing as I feel like I should explore some more pinks... especially NARS.

Do you think I'm ridiculous for falling in love with makeup again? Any nude-but-not-too-nude lipstick recommendations welcome please!

Thanks for reading xx

Windy Harry

Saturday, 25 October 2014

I was really nervous about how breastfeeding Harry was going to go. I can't really express in words how frustrating and demoralising it was with Ollie, having an abundant milk supply and a baby who just wouldn't latch. That frustration was what gave me the patience and determination to express for those 3 months. But it was hard to live with. Hard to see other mums breastfeeding and know that I had all the tools to but a baby who wouldn't open his mouth. When Ollie latched at 3 months, it was incredible. We had no issues with breastfeeding, with latching. No pain, no fuss.

So all my preconceptions about feeding, all my worries and anxieties, were tied up in newborns and their ability to latch.

Harry latched within seconds of trying. It was wonderful. It was then the opposite of wonderful on day 2 when he started fussing when I wanted to latch him because my breasts were hard and filling with milk. I persisted, again the determination rising inside me. A midwife's suggestion of using a syringe made me feel physically sick. This baby was going to feed from me and that was that. 

And we've got there. It probably took two weeks but Harry will now latch with both his and my eyes closed. Whatever position I choose, he gets on. Occassionally he doesn't open his mouth wide enough so it's a bit sore, and I have the confidence to unlatch him and force him to open his mouth widely to go back on. It's been such a learning curve, but we've cracked it.

Of course there is always going to be an issue somewhere. My abundant milk supply, my furious let down. The one which perhaps was the reason that Ollie refused to go near me until he was older and stronger. When Harry feeds he gulps and gulps. Straining to get air in amidst frantic sucking. Breastfed babies are supposed to control the flow of milk themselves, but Harry is not in control once my milk is flowing.

The result is that after each feed, he is literally full of air. I have tried every trick you can find in every book, and nothing really makes a difference. He is having dentinox, being fed practically upside down and vertically upright, I am pinching my boobs during feeding to try and stem the flow. Whatever happens, we end up with a very windy baby, who takes literally hours to relieve. 

I have spent the last 4 nights up literally all night trying to burp him. I think I'm going a little insane. I really thought there was nothing worse in terms of breastfeeding dramas than having a baby who wouldn't latch. But actually, I think it's always been my silly big boobs all along. The milk that pours down my stomach and sprays all over the room when Harry starts hunger crying. It's like a comedy show.

I know we will get there but it's so bloody hard. I love feeding and I'm so proud of him for working so hard. But a part of me dreads feeds because of the winding that will ensue afterwards. I am crap at getting wind up too- my husband is better but when I wake him in the night to help, knowing he has to work the next day, let's just say we both feel bad about it. 

I am loving being a mum of two and finding so much of it such a joy- and so easy! I am relaxed and confident and Ollie is being completely adorable and exemplary. 

But I am really bloody tired. And I wish there was a valve I could open to get out all little Harry's wind!

Thanks for reading xxx

The Birth Story

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

In my usual way, I'm going to find it hard to condense this, and also hard not to whitter on about my feelings and emotions whilst doing so. I will also be making a lot of comparisons with my first labour with Ollie, as much of what happened then influenced my decisions and feelings second time round.

I've talked about it a LOT, but if you don't know, my first labour with Ollie was not what I wanted. 

(If you do know all this, skip a couple of paragraphs!)

Meconium in my waters and a hospital policy that I had to lie flat on my back strapped to monitors, was a bad start. I felt very unprepared emotionally and physically. My midwife was useless and didn't speak to me. I wanted a natural birth and at no stage felt any thing natural at all was going on. I felt completely out of control. My coping mechanism was to stay very quiet. I didn't breathe through contractions, more like held my breath and wished it wasn't happening. Ollies heart rate was constantly unstable. At 7cm they gave me the drip to speed up labour as he was distressed. The pain was significantly stronger but I was managing on gas and air, although they kept pushing me for an epidural. 

Me: "I really feel I can cope with this, it's important to me to have a natural birth"

Anaesthetist: "Do you really think you'll cope for another few hours?"

Yes, really. Great vote of confidence. 

When I had the epidural I felt a failure because it wasn't what I wanted, what I chose, and I knew I could have kept going. What saddened me was it felt like no one believed in me. This quiet girl who was staunchly trying to crack on with it. The decision to use forceps after 5 minutes of pushing was another blow to my confidence. I felt like I did nothing at all, had nothing to be proud of, and was quite shocked and stunned when they handed me my beautiful Ollie. It felt like I hadn't even given birth, it had all been done for me.

I was convinced this time round that all the fault lay in the fact that I wasn't prepared, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what might happen. I was also convinced that the epidural ruined it all. My husband was prepped that under no circumstances was I to have pain relief. 

Well that went out the window...

My waters broke at 7.30am on my due date when I got up to do my morning wee. I was completely elated that something was happening and that the waters weren't green like last time. I was literally buzzing with excitement. We went to the hospital and they said I was 2cm and gave me a sweep. Within minutes of getting home again I was having regular mild contractions. Within a couple of hours they were 4 minutes apart and I was using breathing techniques, my husband counting through them for me. I felt really in control.

Suddenly I had a flurry of contractions 2 minutes apart that I had to moan my way through. We decided to go back to the hospital but on the way the contractions just stopped and when I got to triage they were mild and 4 minutes apart again. They said I was 3cm and should walk around the hospital for a bit as it would probably heat up again quickly. The last thing I wanted to do was walk around and suddenly I had a whopping big contraction, followed by another and another. A lovely midwife excitedly trilled "change of plan!" and guided me across the corridor into the birthing suite complete with dim lights, bubble machines and a large birthing pool. I remember feeling really elated that everything was going the way I had hoped.

She told me I was now in established active labour and things were progressing quickly based on the timings and the way I was reacting. I sat on the birthing ball and started on some gas and air which was brilliant. The contractions were coming quickly and were strong, but I still had this sense of control and power. I wasn't frightened and I didn't want to escape, I was embracing what was happening.

As she started running the pool suddenly the pain shifted and I felt this incredibly forceful surge downwards through my tummy. It felt like something was diving through me and trying to split me open between my legs. Gasping I explained what I was feeling and she told me baby was coming and to follow my instinct to push. It was a bizarre thing though because I couldn't work out if it was an urge to push or something different. It felt like the baby was doing something I couldnt work out. It was pushing down but in the wrong way. I did not, at this stage, have the time to think through what could be happening, that weeks and weeks of worrying that my baby was back to back and in an awkward position was actually having an effect on my labour. I had been repeatedly told by midwives that baby would turn in early labour, but baby had definitely not turned...

As I got into the pool I didn't feel the instant relief I expected. The water wasn't soothing to me and I felt awkward, like one of those enormous inflatable toys you get in holiday swimming pools. Half floating, half sinking, knees slipping on the bottom of the pool, I tried to stay calm and focus on breathing. The midwife and my husband were chanting at me to push and I tried to follow this but when I did push it felt wrong and it felt very very painful. At the same time, the surges downwards were almost an automatic push in themselves, so I felt sort of trapped and unsure. Suddenly I didn't feel like things were going the way they should be. My midwife, on the other hand, was getting gloves on and had a table ready for the baby. She put a finger inside me and said she could feel the head and baby was about to be born. At the stage suddenly the surges took on a new level of intensity and I have to say I was screaming blue murder. I remember not recognising this noise coming out of me. I sounded like an elephant, this sort of manic guttural fog horn noise. I was shouting that I couldn't do it, and I really felt like I was about to die! as the midwife said that I could I could, baby was coming!!

But all of a sudden she stopped, I opened my eyes and saw a lot of blood in the pool.

What happened next was a bit blurry, but involved a lot of people coming in to the room, the midwife telling me that baby was not coming and that I was only 6 cm! She had never examined me and just assumed I was fully dilated because of the pressure I was feeling. She said it was all wrong, and that I MUST stop pushing. Having literally been hanging on for dear life and under the illusion that I was seconds away from delivery, I felt like someone had punctured the inflatable elephant. I have never felt so deflated and exhausted and confused in my life. The pain and the surges and the sort-of-sort-of-not pushing was still ongoing as the team tried to get me out of the pool. I looked down and there was just blood pouring down my legs. They took the gas and air away from me as they put me on a bed and wheeled me to the delivery unit and I felt so completely and utterly terrified and in so much agony I couldn't think straight. My insides were splitting open, the pressure was so intense.

And that's when I had the light bulb moment. Epidural epidural epidural. I grabbed my husband. I had to have an epidural right now. My choice, my decision. No more of this nonsense trying to make up for last time, trying to prove something to myself or whoever. I was frightened and this was unbearable and something was wrong and there was blood everywhere and I literally needed to check out. Needed to escape. There was no way I could face this pain. 

I don't know whether I'm just not brave enough, or whether the pain I was feeling in that moment was worse that the pain many other woman feel. I will always wonder how on earth women give birth without pain relief, and of course that is what they've had to do for all time before modern medicine gave us more options. Even now I know so many women who have given birth without even gas and air. Of course that is what is natural-  we are designed to do it. We should be able to do it...

What would I have done 100 years ago? Would I have just had to cope? Would I have died?! I literally can't imagine coping with that pain. Maybe the circumstances and the blood made it all worse. Maybe the knowledge that there was the option of the epidural. But I just couldn't do it. I had to have the epidural. As I lay on the bed the doctor were desperately telling me not to push and I had no control over myself. With every surge blood gushed out and I kept pooing myself. It was literally chaos. 

After the epidural they were able to properly examine me. Baby appeared to be back to back, twisted at an angle, with his head lodged chin-up rather than chin-down in my pelvis. Rather than feeling the crown of his head through my cervix they could feel the front of his forehead. My contractions were extremely forceful, as strong as they can get, in a bid to turn baby. Every contraction was forcing the wrong part of his head down- not onto my cervix to help it dilate properly, but onto my back passage and spine. Hence the horrendous pressure and the blood and the pooing. 

Now all we could do was wait for me to dilate and the contractions to naturally, hopefully, turn the baby. After a few hours they put me on the drip to increase the intensity. It took hours and hours. Consultants visited and the only thing that kept me from a c section was that Harry's heart rate was miraculously steady and calm. I didn't feel pain or the unstoppable pushing urge, but I felt tightening and pressure, so I still felt part of it all. I kept repeatedly being sick and got a temperature, so wasn't feeling particularly well, and I just wanted to get it over with.

At 11pm, 16 hours after my waters broke and about 13 hours after I started having contractions, I was finally 10cm. The baby hadn't moved. They left me another hour, and then at midnight I started pushing. Pushing with an epidural is bizarre because you can't really feel where you are pushing into. But I pushed as hard as I possibly could, every single time. I think this was the point that I suddenly realised I could do something. That I could be a part of this. Id opted for the epidural and the dream of a relaxed water birth was long gone, but now I had the chance to make myself proud. 

My pushing was successful in that I managed to turn the baby. The midwife, unless she was just being nice, seemed quite astonished that I was able to do it. The doctors came in and kept congratulating me. I felt like less of a failure, less of a wimp. Suddenly it was 1am, id been pushing for an hour, he was turned, but not with us. The consultant came in and said that if he wasn't out in 10 minutes it would be forceps. 

I wasn't having forceps again. I had to do it. We put my legs up in a different position on stirrups and I used the angle to push as hard as I could. The midwife gave me a look and I asked her whether I was going to deliver this baby and she sighed and shook her head. Again, more motivation. I needed to prove her wrong. 

I gave it everything I had and suddenly everything changed. Baby was coming. The midwife looked really surprised and delighted. Harry's head was born at 1.34am. It was an amazing moment. I felt myself opening up, felt all the pressure and force, but no pain at all. When his head delivered it was twisted towards my right inner thigh, with his arm up wrapped around his face and then the cord wrapped twice around his neck, binding his arm to his face. No wonder pushing had been hard! Not to mention his 99th percentile enormous head!

At 1.35 I delivered his body and they put him straight on my chest. I have never ever felt more alive than I did in that moment. It was the most beautiful and amazing experience. I felt so fulfilled, so empowered, all those emotions which I had so hoped to feel. And yes I had done it without the pain, so cheating slightly (!), but I had birthed my baby naturally. I had given it everything I had. And he was here.

Welcome to the world my darling Harry.

Thanks for reading xx

Our First Week

My darling Harry is one week and one day old today. Im automatically inclined to say I can't believe how quickly its gone, but then actually, it feels like he has been here for so long with all of us, like he has always been here.

I am absolutely deliriously, and probably quite sickeningly, happy. 

We all are it seems.

This week has not gone quite as expected though. During my labour (birth story coming up...) I bled a lot and had a temperature which are indicators of infection. After the birth, I was put on antibiotics and Harry was tested for infection. His blood work came back showing raised "infection indicators". They put a cannula in his tiny hand and started IV antibiotics. We were admitted to the post natal ward for 48 hours. Then a repeat test 12 hours later which we expected to be normal showed that the infection indicators had increased again, so we were in for a 5 day stay. 

It was very difficult being stuck at the hospital for so long. Obviously we wanted Harry to be safe and well, but he showed no signs of illness whatsoever. One midwife even said that technically it was just a number- he wasn't a poorly baby. I was also feeling amazing. Unlike after Ollies birth, I felt empowered, energised and healthy. I wasn't too sore, Harry was latching and feeding brilliantly and I just wanted to get home to my big baby who was turning 2. 

But for 5 days we waited in a horribly cramped and hot stuffy ward. It was quite incredible witnessing the cross section of society who came and went. The Romanian family who all but moved in and had smelly McDonalds for every meal, the mother who snored so loudly that she didn't wake to her own baby's screams, the woman who's partner and father cheered when the midwife put an electronic security tag on the baby's ankle and shouted "first tag of many son!"

I could definitely write a tv drama about it all. Harry was unsettled at night by the other baby's cries, and after an amazing start, got very angry when my milk came in and he had to re learn how to latch. I spent a lot of time crying because I was by myself- my mum decided to go home to London, meaning my husband had no childcare help so couldn't spend the days with me. Ollie came to visit of course, and introducing him to Harry was one of the best moments of my life. But it was hard for him to spend much time at the hospital, with so many buttons to press and so little space to play.

We were discharged on Sunday afternoon and as I stepped out into the beautiful sunshine, having gone in to hospital the previous Monday and having had no fresh air since, I felt pretty amazing. Harry has just slotted into our routine and our home as if he has always been there. We have almost cracked feeding, Tuesday was a brilliant day and today he is being a bit fussy again. I have a furious let down that drowns him and so much milk he can't keep up, but I am persevering, and keep having to remind myself that he is latching, he is feeding, even if a half hour feed is started with 5 minutes of struggle to get him calm enough to cope with it. I know we will get there.

Ollie doesn't seem at all fazed by his little brother. All he wants to do is "give baby kisses" and other than that just happily plays nearby. We have Harry in his carrycot downstairs and I can play with Olllie and carry on as normal whilst he sleeps. And sleep he does- feeding every 3 hours in the day and 4 at night, sleeping in between. We are lucky we have it so easy. I don't even really feel tired. 

Harry's first bath went really well too. We had Ollie in the shower (he loves showers which is great for saving water) so the bathroom was warm and steamy, and we put Harry in his bath and he absolutely loved it. I was expecting a screaming mess and he lay there calmly as I washed him. 

I know of course that this contentment might not last forever, and that we have growth spurts and teething ahead of us, but for now, I am trying not to be too smug about how brilliantly it is going. I feel such a huge sense of relief he is here, pride in myself and Ollie, and happiness that my family now has two darling sons. On Tuesday I took ollie to his usual baby song class and took Harry with us. On my own!! And it was fine. As soon as we have totally cracked breastfeeding (don't fancy feeding in public yet as it's a bit of a palava with boobs flapping around) I feel like we can do anything together. 

My little team.

Thanks for reading xxx

He has arrived!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

I wanted to let you know that my little boy was born on Tuesday 7th after my waters broke on my due date! 

The story of how we welcomed him into the world is a long one and one I no doubt will write imminently as I want to remember and document it. Needless to say it wasn't my perfect delivery but it was a natural birth and I successfully pushed out a 9lb baby! So I am proud and happy.

Above all, his health is the most important, and we are in hospital for 5 days as he is having precautionary antibiotics due to slightly raised levels on a routine blood test. There may be a small infection. He is breast feeding beautifully (YESSSSS!!!!) and seems happy and healthy so I am trying to stay optimistic, although it is hard when I am feeling well and he seems well to be stuck on a postnatal ward. I won't be home for Ollie's birthday on Friday and we won't be having a party for him this weekend now. 

Ollie seems very settled and extremely interested and excited about baby. He wants to pick him up which is obviously a bit of a no go and we are spending a lot of time reminding him to be gentle. I am so proud of him.

And by the way, we are calling our new arrival Harry.

Oliver and Harry. My babies.

Thanks for reading xx
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