Facing the Fear: Birth After Trauma Part One

No matter what anyone will tell you, cesarean sections are NOT the easy way out. Yes, they might be the best decision for you but we must remember that everybody is different. Your recovery could be a walk in the park or could be a little similar to mine: a small slice of hell with severe abdominal pain, severe swelling from excessive drugs, months of ‘deflating’, months of poor movement and continuous body-confidence nightmares. One of my biggest fears I will have to face this time around is birth and I’m going to try my best to document the process of pregnancy & birth post-emergency cesarean, step-by-step to help any other mama’s out there – whether it’s your first or fifth!

Now, you non-newbies will know I’ve previously talked about my birth story with Rory, my battle with mental health that followed and the ways I’ve tried to face these many demons in the hope of expanding our family –  well the moment has arrived for me to put my money where my mouth is and face ‘The Fear’. I plan for this to be the first of a few blogs following my journey through consultant-lead care and how I make my birth choices.

This pregnancy started off like every other: you make a midwife appointment and meet somewhere around the 8th/9th week of your pregnancy, you go forth and have a 12-week scan and see your midwife at the 16-week mark too – all textbook and running smoothly but it was here I was reminded that no matter how I look at things, this pregnancy will (most likely) result in childbirth – whichever form that comes in! It was at my 16-week appointment that my midwife (coincidentally the same midwife I had for Rory) asked whether I had thought about a natural or assisted birth this time around. I, of course, panicked and jumped straight in with ‘elective C-section is my preference’. WAS I MAD!? Who would think surgery would be a sensible idea? Why and how had I made this decision in my mind already? I worked out that it all boiled down to wanting a better experience than I had. With that, our first consultant appointment was booked and I was ready to fight my corner.

Let’s start off by saying I am lucky. We saw the consultant last week and it was so much more relaxed and successful than I had played over in my over-active brain. You can hear some real horror stories of consultants telling mamas-to-be that they can’t choose a cesarean birth and trying to put them off but I am fortunate not to be in that boat – PHEW! The meeting was calming and I felt listened to. *Worth noting here that we were seen by the consultant and a midwife*. I went in and was checked over as normal. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat, the midwife had a feel for the position and we sat down with my previous birth notes and went through what the situation was and what my choices are going forward. Did you hear that!? CHOICES! Hurrah, the words I so very longed to hear: ‘Whatever you wish to choose, we will support you in those choices‘. Absolute result! I was handed an A4 4-page leaflet on the benefits and disadvantages of both an elective cesarean or a VBAC (‘vaginal birth after cesarean’ for those not aware of today’s lingo!), which I am yet to divulge into, and sent on my way. Now, here are some FAQ’s the consultant answered for me during our meeting:

  • ‘When do I need to have decided my birth preference by?’
    In your second consultant appointment, which will be booked for around 36 weeks.
  • ‘If I chose one, when will my C-section be scheduled?’
    Between the 39th and 40th week mark allowing the baby to be as ‘cooked’ as possible. This means the chances of your baby having breathing issues or needing NICU attention is minimal.
  • ‘What would happen if I go into labour before this date?’ 
    You can either choose to progress with your labour naturally if you so wish OR you can be brought in for an emergency C-section straight away.
  • ‘If I decide on a VBAC how long will I wait after my due date before induction?’
    You will be induced at 41 weeks and no later.

So as mentioned, following on from an initial appointment, you are given a second appointment around the 36th week of pregnancy – so for us, this is around the 28th of November. This will be crunch time. This is where you should have done all of your research and be able to tell the consultant what it is you want. From here, if you wish to choose an elective you will be advised on a date (or selection of dates) for your baby’s big day – again, as mentioned, this will be around the 39th week of your pregnancy to be sure that the baby is fully cooked and ready to be brought earth-side.

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I am yet to make my ‘final decision’ or even half of it – we do still have 10(ish) weeks to go before I absolutely need to have decided and I am in no rush to put this in concrete. I know it’s going to be a very personal decision and one I am rather unlikely to take anyone’s advice on (in case you were unaware, I can be stubborn!). However, if you are reading this and have had a successful VBAC or a positive elective cesarean second time around, I would LOVE to hear from you. I’m trying to build a much bigger picture and would really like to feel as well informed as possible before I decide. Please head to our contact page if you would like to get in touch!

For the rest of y’all, we will be back soon with more updates!

Love and all,
OCM xo.

Happy 70th Birthday: Why I’m Infinitely Grateful

Even though I’m a little late to the party, I feel my thank you to the NHS had to be a piece carefully considered. This took longer than expected and this isn’t a particularly long one but here it goes…

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As we all know, this year The National Health Service has reached its 70th birthday; an incredible milestone for a service that can sometimes be the hand to hold in every step through the circle of life. Today, this piece is an open letter on why I’m grateful for the NHS.

Happy 70th Birthday to the NHS: Thank You Flowers

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To The National Health Service,

What an incredible job you’ve done. A job you do with such courage and compassion, every single day. I’m beaming with pride and thankfulness whilst writing this as it is not without you that I sit here today, cuddling our precious son. 

After years of studying, racking up debt and working around the clock, your journey into a job becomes a role of unimaginable pressure, expectation and at any moment of every day, you could be faced with any possible and sometimes impossible problem. This is aside from the negative press, the government funding issues and the struggle to recruit; the overworked GP’s, overcrowded surgeries and in many cases, lack of available resources, you are without a doubt pushed to your limits every day. Despite this, in our deeply personal experiences, there has always been above and beyond treatment and care for each and every one of us.

As a family, we’ve faced some terrifying times; from my Great Auntie Lesley’s brain tumour and stroke, to my Papy’s viral heart failure, my Dad’s appendicitis to much more recently, my emergency c-section for the birth of my son, Rory. It wasn’t long after this that my parents wrote a letter to you expressing their utmost gratitude and thanks for Rory’s safe delivery and both my antenatal and postnatal care. A letter they were so eager and so proud to write you.

My most recent care through The Trust has been for an incredible postnatal care programme: ‘Every Birth Matters’. After struggling to come to terms with and face Rory’s birth, I was left unsure how to feel. Traumatised by the events and lacking a true understanding of what had happened and if it was at all, preventable in the future. With a fantastic midwife to walk me through my pregnancy and journey through labour and birth, she fully explained every step going into tremendous factual and emotional detail. This has been the most intense but worthwhile hour of therapy I’ve ever received. It has not only helped me accept what has happened but I’ve learned that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of Rory’s birth: He hadn’t progressed into my pelvis enough and after 30+ hours, they weren’t willing to give him any more time to try to. It was to save us both but what has saved me the most is knowing I didn’t fail, that my body did its job and even with the harrowing recovery – there was nothing more I could have possibly done: the outcome would have lead us down the same path. Even with this breakthrough, the best news was learning that I wouldn’t have to go through it again if we chose to have more children. That I could successfully have a VBAC if I wanted or a scheduled c-section should I wish. For someone who struggles with personal control, knowing that next time the choice could be mine, feels like a weight has been lifted. The Trust has been invaluable to my recovery and one day, I just hope I can express my gratitude enough.

Life is fragile and every day it’s put into your hands: a birth, a death, an illness, a broken bone. The list is endless. Nothing can prepare us for what life brings and no one will ever know what’s coming around the corner but it is from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you have done and all that you continue to do.

In our deepest and most desperate times of need, even in the most stretched state, you provided the absolute best treatment, care, and support for us to heal and move forwards without fail. You are a service that has become priceless for those who need it most.

You are priceless, you are treasured and most of all you are lifesaving. Happy 70th Birthday superstars!

Yours gratefully,

Naomi Pridding

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We must, must try everything to help the National Health Service and respect it for what it is: a life saving, irreplaceable free service providing an incomparable and incredible care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I really don’t think I want to say any more for this – I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m just forever grateful for the care we’ve been provided with.

Loves to all,

OCM xoxo

‘I Need To Drink More Fish’

I apologise it’s been a few weeks since my last post but between recovery, several medical appointments, health visitors and family coming and going time just ran away from me. Let’s get underway with this weeks blog topic: Breastfeeding – A topic which is always in the spotlight.

YUP, this is a sentence I said out loud when trying to make a decision about what to have for tea one day. Safe to say, lately it definitely feels like my baby is sucking all of my smart out. Turns out whilst breastfeeding you can get baby brain just as you did during pregnancy. This would explain why my brain cannot retain information for longer than half an hour, I can’t remember simple tasks or instructions or really understand anything post 9pm. Still totally worth it!

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When a baby’s gotta eat, a baby’s gotta eat!

Breastfeeding is one of those wonderful natural things. It is totally magic. Each woman’s milk is tailored to their baby providing the perfect cocktail of nutrition and support to help their baby grow. It can help strengthen the bond between a mother and baby. It’s also one of the hardest things you face as a mother; just knowing you’re solely producing the food that’s keeping your little bundle of joy alive… So why is it one of these crappy taboos!? When did someone decide somewhere that this topic needed to split the nation in two!? Why do you have to be either pro breastfeeding and nothing else or all anti-breastfeed?! There is that subcategory of people who think breastfeeding is repulsive and you feel the need to shame the mamas that are confident in feeding their child in public BUT we won’t include them in this discussion as they’re super mean – NO MAMA SHOULD EVER BE SHAMED. EVER. Whatever your own personal decision is, it should be just that: PERSONAL. Somewhere in the middle of this ‘breast or formula?’ discussion there is those mama’s who are stepping forwards paving the way for future attitudes by being confident and comfortable (LIKE EVERY MAMA SHOULD) about both breastfeeding and not breastfeeding. Sometimes this is through choice but other times thus choice is made for you. Some mothers are unable to breastfeed, others find it difficult and some have been shamed for it. There are some super mama’s out there breaking down those taboos about breastfeeding and formula feeding and today I’m going to talk about our personal experience with breastfeeding and formula feeding and what we did to make it work for us and how we made sure we are all happy and healthy whilst doing so.

For me, breastfeeding didn’t start off all plain sailing. It didn’t come naturally and was difficult. Little Rory was very fussy and it left us both rather distressed 99.99% of the time. Every attempt ended in intense screaming, trashing around and tears – my daydreams of bonding with my little boy seemed very far away at this point. We continued to try feeding which was hard but eventually it lead to latching on which unfortunately lead to falling asleep having after having a feed for all of two seconds – NOT IDEAL. Despite this, I chose persevere which was a really difficult decision to make. We took all advise offered and engaged in many hours of skin to skin which resulted in a few feeds but not really enough. After everything that’s drilled into you by either family member, friends or midwifes around ‘breast being best’, you can’t help but feel rather uneasy when the word ‘formula’ is mentioned. Why is it that you instantly feel like you’re failing when breastfeeding doesn’t pan out like you imagine!? With such lack of information around what breastfeeding can really be like in the beginning, I feel many like myself are left feeling a little unprepared. Luckily for me, the midwives who cared for me whilst I was in hospital spent every moment reassuring me I was doing all the right things and that I should keep plodding on and Rory would eventually just ‘get it’. This is when I decided to stuff feeling like I wasn’t enough. My body was doing all it could so I took a deep breathe and took that formula in my stride. I never went for the tin of powder you mix yourself and heat and wait and TOO MUCH FAFFING – My inner lazy-gal went straight for the ready-made small 70ml bottles complete with steralised teat. Safe to say within seconds of assembling the two parts, he was guzzling down the formula at lightening speed – YAY! The happiness you get when your baby is finally feeding, whichever method you chose, is unreal. He only had a small amount of that bottle to start with but he slept like a dream afterwards. This left me time to express my colostrum to syringe feed him in between formula feeds and then my milk when it came in on day 4. I was not giving up without a fight, I really wanted breastfeeding to happen for us and I wanted to at least try every option and combination to help get there.

Once again, luckily for me when my milk came in, Rory became less fussy and latched on like a dream… BUT only for all of 5 minutes. My thought process immediately went to ‘hopefully we have started the route towards successful feeds!’ – At this point we were alternating between the boob and the bottle meaning I could pump when he had the bottle and dear Daddy could join in whilst feeding too which he really enjoyed (even at 4am!). Our aim was to eventually swap the bottles for breast milk in bottles in hope that the breastfeeding would become more regular and then only be breastfeeding. This was an open ended plan with no time frame but we managed to achieve this within a matter of three weeks, which was a dream! He knew exactly what he wanted and finally the boobs were the answer. I’m sure like many, even though we had lift off and a great result with breastfeeding, in the beginning it was rather uncomfortable. It stings, throbs and is sometimes just god damn uncomfortable. Why is it whilst feeding on one boob your other boob feels left out so you get the sensation of feeding in both? And can we talk about the leaking?! Even with breast pads in, there are many times where I have been caught out with overactive milk supply leaking through pads, bra and even my top – Just what you want whilst taking a countryside stroll with no spares, no privacy and no shops!

My journey taken to get us where we are now hasn’t been an easy one. Looking back now there’s a lot of advise I would give myself: I’d start with ‘it is all going to be ok’ and that each day will get better and yes it will hurt and yes you’ll have good days and bad days and yes it’s easy to give in and find an easier route but just bring it in and really focus on you and your baby and do what is best for you. At the end of the day no one can tell you what will work best for you.

 

What have I learnt from my journey into breastfeeding?  So. Many. Things. Here’s my top 5:

  1. Don’t fret or worry. Things didn’t start off easy for me but worrying about it didn’t help at all. Which leads us on to…
  2. Don’t be afraid to seek help. I spoke to my midwife, my health visitor, had a call from the nursery nurse from my local children’s centre and even researched Facebook groups and Mother and Baby groups in the area. You are never alone!
  3. Pumps are handy to have. Even if you can’t bare the thought of pumping in between feeds, all it takes is one extra long nap for your boobs to fill up to the point of explosion. They are fantastic for relief and there are so many to choose from. Plus you never know, it mighty come in handy when you finally get a night off!
  4. Be prepared! Carry extra supplies – I now keep extra breast pads in my handbag or the nappy bag for when life loves to surprise me.
  5. FEED WHEREVER YOU PLEASE. Even if formula or breast DO NOT let anyone let you think feeding your baby is something for behind closed doors. If your baby is hungry when you’re out shopping or, yes you can find the nearest family room to feed or you can go for the nearest bench/seated area. Wrap or no wrap, you feed your baby however you want!

What are my preferences? I LOVE my Tommee Tippee manual pump. It’s comfy, easy to use and comes with a microwavable sterilising box. It was one of my many bargain buys brought on sale for 10.99 down from 21.99! You can find it here at Boots online – http://www.boots.com/tommee-tippee-closer-to-nature-manual-breast-pump-10205689It’s currently on sale! (This may change. Price true to date of published post)

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Who has inspired me? Instagram has me hooked! These ladies are my heroes and inspiration. They are my daily reminder that it’s ok to have problems, ok to power through, ok to breastfeed wherever whenever and to never shy away. A reminder that every mama should be a proud mama!

(Photographs are screenshots / I OWN NO COPYRIGHT / all originals are copyrighted and owned by said women)
  1. TESS HOLLIDAY (@TESSHOLLIDAY)
    https://www.instagram.com/tessholliday/?hl=en

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  2. EDEN GRINSHPAN (@EDENEATS)
    https://www.instagram.com/edeneats/?hl=en

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  3. KAT (@LITTLEBIRDDOULA)
    https://www.instagram.com/littlebirddoula/?hl=en

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We have reached the other side. Our breastfeeding problems are slowly but surely disappearing and we have bonded with every feed. We’ve overcome every difficulty thrown at us and learnt that FORMULA IS OUR FRIEND but that breast is what is best for us.

ALL FEEDING IS GOOD FEEDING.

Love to all!

One Curious Mother x

 

Disclaimer: All instagram screenshot images are NOT owned by One Curious Mother. All original images featured are copyrighted and owned by @tessholliday, @edeneats & @littlebirddoula. Please follow links provided to see their profiles.

His Grand Arrival – The Birth Story

As we gently tiptoe across the three week old mark, I finally feel ready to write about my experience of labour and how our precious boy Rory Fitzsimons arrived into the world.

I want to start by praising the NHS and every one who had an involvement in my care at Great Western Hospital in Swindon. The care I received was outstanding and each and everyone of the members of staff I came into contact with seemed to go above and beyond to make my journey and stay at GWH as best as it could be under the circumstances I faced. I find people are all too quick to complain about our health service but are too shy to praise – They saved us and helped us get through a very difficult journey and that I will always be grateful for.

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*PLEASE BE AWARE Some details in this blog may make for distressing reading so please bear this in mind*

It hit 9:45pm on Friday 17th and this wave of pain surged through my lower back forcing me to sit down. As ‘damn what the hell was that’ flew out my mouth, of which my other half reassured me that it was probably pain related to the weight of my bump. Within 10 minutes the pain arrived again – this was no regular back pain. As the pains were irregular and at this point and not unmanageable, I took myself off to bed with a hot wheat bag and put a film on for distraction. Within just 2 hours the pain had intensified and I was keeled over in the bathroom uncontrollably shaking reaching for the phone. By 1:30am I was lying on a bed waiting to be assessed in the delivery suite. With each pulse of my contractions feeling stronger and stronger I was assessed and at 2cm – next move was a 3am referral to the antenatal ward. Clinging on to my phone to press ‘start’ on my contraction counter, I continued to pace the maternity ward for 13 hours until I was finally at 4 cm and ready to be taken through to the delivery suite. Shaking profusely, it had suddenly dawned on me that after growing a baby for 9 months, he could be in my arms within hours – a terrifying but exciting thought!

In the end I decided against having a birth plan however in a moment’s pain I took the plunge and went straight in for the epidural without a second thought. Full of nerves and exhaustion, no one argued with my decision and the boyfriend was my rock and so incredibly supportive throughout. In less than 20 minutes the anaesthetist was explaining the process and the risks whilst I moved to the edge of the bed and hunched over. The epidural was the least painful and most stress-free part of my labour experience which took me completely by surprise – for some reason I had worked myself up into thinking it was going to be painful. At this point I was still in a state and became worked up as the fear of the unknown and complete and utter exhaustion collided. From here on out it was a waiting game. My body was doing its thing, just very very slowly. By 3am and I reached 7 cms and things were still going slow and I was given a hormone drip to speed things up… this didn’t really work too well.

Fast forward to 5:30am – 10cms had finally been reached! The sudden feeling of ‘OMG YES my body is actually doing this all on its own – and I can’t feel a thing!’ had arrived with the words ‘I think you’re ready to start pushing now’. For a split second time stood still. It was like looking at the finish line from a distance and not knowing if you were hurtling towards it or it was getting further away! Unaware of the strain my body was feeling, this continued for 4 hours with a hormone drip. As the sun began shining on Sunday morning I was greeted by my third change of midwife, 2 doctors, my anaesthetist and a surgeon… Yup you guessed – after 4 hours of pushing and getting no further, the word ‘caesarean’ surfaced. I had a tonne of drugs being pumped through my system so wasn’t really 100% sure of what was going on but as the midwife handed the boyfriend his very own pair of blue scrubs I figured that surgery had become my only option. Turns out our little man had turned to be back against my back and there was a chance the cord was now under his arm being squeezed every time a contraction came around – not ideal! Before I knew it I was being wheeled down to theatre and being rubbed with iodine and pumped with more drugs. I was terrified at this stage but these are professionals whose jobs are to deliver babies safely – I had to trust them. I had no preconceived ideas of what a c-section would entail even after watching the NHS ‘Guide To’ video online months back, I honestly naively believed it wouldn’t happen to me. As the room filled with around 8 to 10 people, all with their own individual jobs, my surgery began. Completely petrified as my dear boyfriend coached me through my tears and fears, it barely seemed like 5 minutes before someone commented ‘your baby is about to be born’…

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… And there he was! Perfect, all pink and screaming – the midwives whisked him over to the scales to be weighed and put a knitted hat on his little round head. Our little son was posted down the top of my gown for our first bit of skin to skin. Tears began to stream down my face as I looked across to his daddy with face beaming – our baby had arrived and all safe and sound!  It’s no secret that what people say is true; the moment you lay eyes on your baby you’ll wonder how you ever lived not knowing their face, that one look at them creates this unconditional love. He was 8lb and 3 ounces of beautiful.

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After living in that new family bubble, the biggest reality check followed the return of feeling in my body: there is no way in hell a c-section is ever the ‘easy option‘. Having read 101 blogs, forums and Q&A’s c-sections always seem to be a taboo subject, there was an unbelievable amount of shame pushed upon women who didn’t give birth naturally – something I just could not get my head around. HOW could surgery be the easy way out!? I can tell you for free it absolutely was not. My recovery felt and still feels nothing short of a million marathons. I was discharged after just 2 days with an extensive list of drugs to take looking completely swollen much like a party balloon. I couldn’t get in and out of chairs or my bed without assistance and couldn’t stand up straight without a 10 minute slow motion stretch. I slept on the sofa for the first 4 nights as lying down caused me too much pain. Every time I tried to do anything physical – walk to the toilet, take a drink, lift Rory to feed – tears streamed down my face. Even eating became a challenge as utter exhaustion has taken control of my body and mind. BUT luckily for me this started to subside after the first week with the help of my incredible family and support system. The boyfriend along with my parents helped bath me, feed me, do the laundry and dishes along with food shopping all whilst I was sofa bound. Cabin fever is the worst when you’re physically in pain and mentally exhausted but I can promise you that if you are going through this right now, that each day gets a little bit better – I promise. Now 23 days on from the birth of Rory, I can get up and out of bed, cook, bath myself and Rory, go for short walks and just about make it around a (small) supermarket shop without any issues. I did struggle when the boyfriend went back to work a week ago but having my own mother just next door working from home, if I ever have any struggles she’s always there for me – something I will  never be able to thank her enough for. Our families have been the best and we can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for us already.

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It’s no secret that my experience of birth was a difficult and traumatic one and I’m no longer afraid to admit that. All through my pregnancy I had prepared myself for the possibility of a long labour but never as long as 36 hours long or for it to end in emergency surgery. This journey has taught me so much and when looking back at how far we’ve come it’s so easy to get overwhelmed so to finish off my story I want to share with you all five things I have learnt along the road to recovery:

  1. You should never doubt the power of a woman’s body and mind. Even in the toughest of situations, your body will do its job, it will do what it has to do, you will make some of the hardest decisions and you will overcome extreme unexpected situations and you will thrive! Surgery is seriously tough, no matter what it’s for. Give your body some credit for its hard work and look after yourself.
  2. Don’t give yourself a hard time if things don’t go to plan! Life can spring the unexpected on you at any moment and sometimes you have to be brave and embrace it.
  3. Your support system is one of your most valuable things. In your darkest hour having close family or friends is completely invaluable. They will bring you back to earth and hold your hand the entire time.
  4. It’s OK to cry – and yes at absolutely everything. Whether it’s because you can’t reach to tie your shoes or you’re exhausted from breastfeeding just let it all out, no one is going to judge you.
  5. You won’t look like you – but it won’t always be that way. You might not recognise yourself, you won’t fit back into your old clothes straight away and you’ll still be ‘puffy’ for a little while but it’s not permanent, it’s all part of the journey to the new normal.

Now halfway to my 6 week appointment I feel like a totally different person already – something I would never have believed in the days following Rory’s birth. We are slowly finding our way to the new normal and you will too. My best advice is that you just have to be patient and kind to yourself. You’ll be back on track to finding your new normal before you know it. It really won’t be long before you’ll be enjoying your favourite activities again – PROMISE!

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I’m glad I’ve finally been able to share my journey with you. We are totally in love and can’t imagine life without our little Rory! Thank you for coming back for a read!

One Curious Mother x

There were no sources used for today’s post but if you wish to, you can watch the NHS youtube videos at this link – https://www.youtube.com/user/GreatWesternHospital