Archive for the 'Notes from Motherhood' Category

Notes from Motherhood:Mum of Four For A Year!

Some of you may have seen my mini bio on the Notes from Motherhood page of this blog and will know that I have 3 kids aged five, three and a half and two. What I didn’t mention is that for the last year I’ve also been ‘host mum’ to Tuuli, a teenage girl from Finland.

Today has been full of mixed emotions for me, because I had to take Tuuli to the airport, wave goodbye and watch her go back  to her ‘real’ family. And, rather than feel sad, I wanted to write this post and share my experience of being a ‘host mum’ this year.

We live in Brighton, where every year the population swells with summer exchange students, and we have friends who regularly turn their spare rooms into full board accomodation for teenagers from all over the world. Last summer we decided to try it out as it seemed like a great way for me to contribute to the household without the expense of childcare. We had two lovely girls from Finland with us for three weeks and everything went so well that we agreed to think about taking on a long term student.

It was not a snap decision as there are many considerations to be made, but we decided to give it a go and were very lucky as Tuuli turned out to be wonderful, and a perfect fit for our family.

The information here is purely based on my own personal experience of hosting a 17 year old Finninsh student on a High School Exchange Programme for 10 months. If you are thinking about becoming a host family then I recommend you do some research before you make up your mind.

How do you find a student?

I used the internet and reccommendations from friends to find reputable language schools and I made enquires with a few of them. Most asked me to fill out an application questionnaire and a representative from the school made a home visit.

What kind of person do you want?

Think about your own family circumstances and decide who you will feel most comfortable with. We chose a teenage girl as we felt this would fit in best with our young family

Long term-v-short term

Although short term students are less demanding of your time due to their busy schedules, we felt it would be too unsettling for our kids to have to adjust to a new person every month. Having Tuuli as a surrogate big sister for the year has a very positive effect on our kids, been great company for me and, as the homemaker,I have found the monthly contributions from the language school a much needed boost to my housekeeping budget.


We provided a comfy room equipped with a single bed, easy chair, plenty of wardrobe space (she’s a girl!), a table and chair for school work. We also gave her a radio and cd player, lamp and hairdryer. We did not give her a tv because we have no reception in that room but we also thought that coming into the family room to watch tv would help her to integrate.

Settling in

We gave Tuuli lots of support from the offset as she had so many new challenges to face: leaving family and friends behind, having language difficulties, being in unfamiliar surroudings, experiencing a different culture and living in a house full of strangers. I was so delighted when Tuuli told me that right from the start she felt safe and secure within our home and it gave her the courage to go to school everyday.

Family life

We treated Tuuli as a member of our family and tried to include her in our everyday life: mealtimes, shopping trips, outings etc.


I made it clear to the kids that Tuuli’s room was her own territory and no one was to enter it without her permission, I also gave her the resposibility of keeping her room clean and this helped to provide her with a private space within the house. We were lucky that Tuuli was also respectful of our privacy and we never had any misunderstandings.

Teenage angst

I’ve had no real experience of being around teenagers since becoming an adult so I was curious to find out what it would be like, especially since we will have 3 of our own here in about 10 years time! However, my husband is a secondary school teacher and I have confidence in his experience. Peace, stability and the safety of our kids were our priorities, and although we didn’t expect any trouble (drinking, staying out late, causing a rumpus etc) but our feeling was that we would invoke a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ policy if necessary. It wasn’t! Having Tuuli in the house proved to be lots of fun, really helpful and a lovely insight into future parenting skills. Most importantly, I discovered that a 17 year old , although very independent and mature, still needs love, support and guidance like any child does.


Even if your student is a delight to live with, it can sometimes be a bit of a strain having another person in your home for extended periods. If you really need a lot of personal space then you may find taking short term students the easier option.

Personal Opinion

Well worth doing! It was a great experience, we made a friend for life and it’s the perfect solution for stay at home mums.

I’d like to say thank you to Tuuli for being a perfect host student and for becoming our lovely teenage daughter for a year. We’re going to miss you xx


Notes from Motherhood:Births rarely go to plan!

You may have seen my recent post My Water Birth Story which I submitted to the Birth Story Carnival now live on the and1moremakes4 blog. If you love a good birth story then grab a box of tissues, hop on over there and take a look:

When I conceived my first baby I was blissfully unware of how unpredictable pregnancy and birth, and, let’s face it, babies, can be. It wasn’t until I’d done some research that I began to get a handle on how little ‘control’ you have over any of it and as a result I decided not to make a Birth Plan and just go with the flow. 

That said, reading some of the Birth Stories in the Blog Carnival has still proved to be an eye opener for me. I am amazed at the plethora of stories that have been included in the post, and I am still working my way through them! Home births, emergency sections, hypnobirthing, surprisingly quick labours, and painfully long labours are all there for us to share.

Today’s Daily Mail features an article TV stylist Nicky shunned the NHS for a private home birth – then things went terribly wrong..which illustrates just how unpredictable birth can be. You may remember I recently wrote a post Celebrities Love BornFree about Nicky Hambleton-Jones and I mentioned that she had endured a rumoured 5 day labour.

Well you can now read the full story of how her planned home birth turned into a five day labour followed by an emergency c-section under general anaesthetic. Nicky talks about how her traumatic experience effected her ability to breastfeed and how exhaustion delayed her bonding with her baby.

So many mothers go through a traumatic birth of one kind or another for so many different reasons and it takes a huge amount of love and support to get through those first days, weeks and more. For many of us, sharing our birth story is a not just a way of  remembering the precious arrival of our children but can offer a very therapeutic way of accepting the unexpected and calming troubled waters.

So next time a mother you know starts to bore you with her birth story again, just grin and bear it; after all that’s what she had to do!

Notes From Motherhood: My Water Birth Story

When I was pregnant with my first child I never imagined that two weeks before her 3rd birthday I would be giving birth to my third. And here we are now, a month away from her 5th birthday, her sister is 3 and a half, and in 2 weeks time her baby brother will be 2.

I have very special memories of all my children’s births but when Amy at the blog and1moremeans4 told me about her Birth Story Carnival I knew I had to share my water birth story.

Even though I was working at the time, I seemed to have all the time in the world to focus on my first pregnancy.  I spent most of that time daydreaming and reading up on what to expect during the next stage. I came across the idea of a water birth, and although I had decided not to make a detailed birth plan I did ask for this request to be put in my maternity notes. On a recent visit to my local hospital I had seen the new birthing suite, with pool (opened by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen no less!) and I can tell you it was a lot nicer looking than the rest of the labour ward.

 I gained 4.5 stones with my first pregnancy (95% due to cake and ice-cream) and consequently, towards the end I was very uncomfortable and dreaded the baby being overdue. I do remember, though, ‘knowing’ in that not so rational pregnant lady way, that this baby was going to be early. A friend came to visit me a couple of weeks before my due date and she was planning on coming the following week. I was a bit blunt and said ‘no the baby will be here before then so I’m not making any plans’. And lo and behold my little bundle started her long journey out a few days later and arrived 4 days early.

So the process began with me staying up all Friday night being sick as a dog and spending  most of Saturday feeling rotten and having to dash to the loo with the runs (39wks pregnant, very fat, downstairs bathroom-all not helping my situation). I wasn’t worried as I knew this was the start of things -it’s normal for the body to empty the bowels and stomach before labour begins. Come 8 ish that evening I got my first contraction and was thrilled to be at this point of no return. I stayed in my bedroom timing contractions (at this point hardly anything more painful than the Braxton Hicks pangs) and after about an hour of having them every 6/7 mins I told my husband that we were on.

I settled down next to him on the sofa and he rigged me up to the tens machine. To be honest all it did was annoy me so I dismissed it and concentrated on breathing instead.

It was around midnight when we decided to go to the hospital. The contractions were pretty regular by now and lasting longer so we figured in our innocence that our baby must be pretty much ready to come out. I won’t say the midwife who examined me was scornful of my 1cm dilation but she sure wasn’t very impressed. Go home, stick it out and come back in the morning was the instruction so we got back in the car, more than a little gutted to have invested £6 in the parking meter.

I sent my husband to bed, terrified at the thought of the night ahead but knowing that he’d be no good to me later if he’d had no sleep. I was really tired as I had already missed a night’s sleep, but no one ever said birth was easy so I stuck my chin out and decided to face the night ahead with intrepid spirit.

I spread towels on the sofa, switched on the TV and stuck it out. I paced, I panted, I yelped, I took baths, I cursed and I wet myself-I thought my waters had broken at first, then I realised it was actually wee- I wasn’t ashamed though, it was all part of the game.

I don’t know at what point it all got too much but I remember losing the plot about 9 am and screaming at Paul:  “I can’t cope any more you have to help me”. He was utterly fantastic as usual and leapt out of bed, helped me to calm down, fetched my bag, packed me into the car and drove like a maniac to the hospital.

I remember the slow walk from the car punctuated every few meters by an agonising contraction, then I don’t remember anything until they gave me the gas and air. Bliss! I was aware of being in a room, 5cm now and not coping. I heard myself shout “I want an epidural” and saw the midwife scuttle off. A long wait, then a new midwife arrived, Martina, with her student Sarah. They were calm and I felt safe.

Martina: “Hi Anne, what about your water birth? The room is free, shall we go?”

Me: “Don’t care. Not coping. Need drugs”.

Martina:”We’re filling the bath, come and give it a go. If you don’t like it you can have an epidural”

Me: “Not coping. Help me”

It was all very chilled from there on in; Martina chatted to Paul and organised the bath while Sarah sat me down on a ball and showed me how to keep my shoulders down and relax through each contraction. What a difference, suddenly I was back in the game!

JJ Cale playing on the ipod, the lava lamp and disco ball in full swing, 45 minutes later the bath is ready and I’m in. “OMG” I declared: “I won’t be getting out of this bath until my baby is out!”

I can’t describe how much easier it was to cope with the contractions in the water. Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt and I still needed the gas but the lack of gravity made it much more manageable. The bath itself was huge, I had enough space to paddle around and I could have fitted a small crowd in there if I’d been in a party mood.

The rest of my labour was so calm. I felt safe knowing Paul was there and we had some beautiful moments just staring into each other’s eyes, in silence  but with deep love and understanding. Otherwise, I was in the zone, focussed on my task and barely acknowledging anyone else. I think I was in there about 5 hours and at some point I was aware of a doctor trying to persuade the midwife to get me out. I had been severely anaemic throughout my pregnancy, due to the hyperemesis, and for some reason the doc thought it best to get me onto dry land. I remember telling him he’d have to drag me out himself, but luckily a satisfactory blood test result meant it never came to that. I was vaguely aware of other comings and goings in the room too; other members of the labour ward staff coming in to observe their first water birth (I did say the suite was very new).

The birth was awesome, a real joy. At the end I pushed out my girl in around 3o minutes and she was the calmest baby I’ve ever seen.  The midwife held a mirror under me so Paul could see her arrive and then Francesca Lucy and I stayed in the bath for a while just gazing in wonder at each other. 

Then it was time to leave the bath, hand over my girl and push out the placenta. It was at this point that Martina noticed some bleeding and called the doctor in. My girl was nuzzling and taking colostrum and I wasn’t paying attention to anyone else but I understood there had been some tearing and I would have to go and be stitched.

At the time it didn’t really bother me, I assumed the pain I felt was normal, but I did have to wait another 2 hrs before anyone came to take me to surgery. They told Paul I’d be back in 45mins but the tear was 3rd degree and I was also very badly torn inside. Two surgeons tried for 2 hours to stem the bleeding, I had a transfusion, and in the end they had to call their consultant who worked on me for another 2 hours before the bleeding was stopped. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t really worry about what was happening, I just drifted in and out of sleep and tried not to look at the reflection of my wound in the light fitting above.

Meanwhile, Paul was waiting in a room with his hungry newborn baby wondering if he’ll ever see his wife again. That 45mins turned into 5 hours and no one thought to tell him what was going on.

It took a year for my wounds to heal and some say it was because of the water birth, some say I pushed a 9 pounder out way too fast and some say the midwife should have coached me better.

 But I say this was how my girl decided to come. I say I wouldn’t have it any other way. I say this is our Birth Story. I say it was beautiful. And so is my girl.

Notes from Motherhood: Breast or Bottle? Is it really anyone else’s business?

Back in December I wrote a Notes from Motherhood post on my experience of breast feeding, Breast is best, except when it’s not after being inspired by another post called Bottlefeeding from the blog

The latter highlights the difficulties and controversies faced by a mum when she makes the decision to bottle feed, and what was also very interesting to me was the long list of enormously supportive comments that were added to the post.

I’m blogging about this again because it is such an emotive issue and I wanted to share some things that I have learned recently.

Firstly, during the course of my networking on Twitter I have become aware of a group of women who are pro-breastfeeding to the absolute extreme. My feeling is that of course, given the right circumstances, breastfeeding is the best choice for your baby, but the reality is that sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Secondly, I have discovered, to my delight, that there are a lot of mums out there, many of them breastfeeding mums like me, who feel very strongly, that all mothers deserve support and advice no matter what their chosen feeding method is.

Finally, two more of the mummy bloggers that I follow have recently picked up on the Breast vs Bottle debate and have independently collated some of the related posts that are currently in the blogosphere.

Many thanks to and to LivingWithKids  I know there are many more like minded mums out there but these two posts in particular are the reason for me picking up on this subject again. They each illustrate perfectly how much we have to learn from each other and how ultimately, every mum deserves to make her own choice based on her own experience.

We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.

Paulo Coelho

Please feel free to add your own comments, I have a feeling this debate will go on and on and on….

Notes from Motherhood: Cry Baby Cry!

One of the best things about my job is that I get to read lots of wonderful blogs written by mums and dads. They are all different, each one an insight into the personal world of that individual and their family. But they do have one thing in common, all of them are written from the heart and touch upon issues that all mums and dads want to hear about because they either have direct or indirect experience of them.

Last Autumn when I first started my role as Social Networking Coordinator for BornFree I connected with a lovely woman on Twitter called Claire Lancaster. I sensed at the time that Claire was going through a very difficult time with her colicky baby and I could relate very well to this, having gone through a tough time with my second child Molly for the same reason.

Claire has, amongst many of her talents, a gift for writing that allows her readers to connect and relate immediately to her subject matter. When you read her words you immediately feel comfortable, as if you are chatting with an old friend.

Last week Claire wrote a post on her blog which I wanted to share with the BornFree audience because it has so much in it that is relevant to all parents, be they first, second, third or eighth time around.  Feeding, sleep issues, caring for a toddler and a newborn, coping with colic and living with a baby who cries all the time are all discussed with warmth, honesty and positivity.

Claire has very kindly agreed to write some posts for the BabyBornFree Blog in the near future and I can’t wait to post them up and share them with you.

In the meantime please follow this link and read Claire’s blog:

Notes from Motherhood:Here come the Dads!

The Daily Mail has featured an article today which talks about how the Labour Party wants to put fatherhood at the heart of social policy.

In the run up to the general election competition between the parties is hotting up. In a new move, to counter the Tory’s plan to tackle family breakdown, Labour have announced that they will give new fathers more access to ante-natal classes as well as a New Dad’s guide.

The article features a quote from Schools Secretary, Ed Balls

‘We haven’t done enough in the past to support dads and their role in childbirth in the months and weeks beforehand, even though we know this is the most vulnerable time for a couple. All the evidence is if fathers are properly engaged and involved at that time, then they stay, they’re supportive to their children, they do all the things which then lead to better child outcomes.’

It’s great to know there is recognition from the government that the role of the father in childcare is so important, but the article ends with this rather cutting remark from the Conservative spokesman for family policy, David Willetts:

Labour have spent a decade focusing only on mother and baby and at this late stage they’re claiming at last to have discovered the importance of fathers and grandparents.

You can read the Daily Mail article here:

Notes from Motherhood: It’s Snow Joke!

Notes from Motherhood is written by Anne, Mummy to Francesca, Molly and Benjamin. Anne is the BornFree Social Networking coordinator for the UK.

I don’t want to be a party pooper but, honestly, I have had enough of snow.

I know! The kids love it and we can build snowmen and igloos, have snowball fights, go sledging, make snow angels and generally do all the fun activities associated with the white stuff. But still, I am finding it all a bit wearing now. Let me explain.

I have 3 children under 5 and no matter how hard I try to have everything handy it will always take at least 15 minutes to find 3×3 layers of clothes, 3 pairs of gloves, 3 hats, 3 coats, 3 pairs of wellies and one pair of waterproof trousers for the little one. It then takes approximately 20 minutes to cajole and squeeze 3 very impatient, wriggly, and increasingly hot and floppy small people in to all of this garb.

By the way, one very important piece of advice: NEVER put on all your own layers before attempting this task as there is serious risk of spontaneous combustion while you struggle with the kids. It’s also much harder to maintain your sense of humour.

So, almost 40 minutes after saying yes to going outside, the kids are hot, cross and more than a little bit whiny. We get outside and the little one falls flat on his face and can’t get up, the first of many times. I right him and help the girls onto the sledge and off they go. I turn around and the little one is stuck in a mound of snow and crying. The girls have got to the bottom of the hill and now need help to pull the sledge back up it. I have to take the little one with me to the bottom of the hill otherwise he’ll try to follow and end up skidding down on his face, so down we go and he gets a pull back up the hill. Now the girls want to go back down again and I have to take little one of the sledge. Abject misery ensues with a lot of hysterics thrown in. The girls get back on the sledge and zoom back down the hill and so it continues.

After 10 minutes of this the little one has had enough and wants to go back inside  but the girls are just getting into the swing of it and more hysteria follows until they are persuaded to relocate to the back garden where they can play where I can see them from the kitchen.

Little one is unwrapped, given warm milk, cuddled, then happily settles down to watching In the Night Garden.

Ten more minutes of  hilarity and snowball fights go by until 3 year old gives in and wants dry clothes, warm milk and cuddles too. 4 year old is persuaded to follow suit even though she would happily lie on the ground and make snow angels for hours. Note, however, that once inside, cold and fatigue have taken over and the wet things cannot be peeled off quickly enough and a lot of moaning and groaning goes on until more warm milk and cuddles are issued.

I then spend 10 minutes picking up the wet things, putting them on radiators mopping up puddles and wiping noses.

Five minutes later this is what I hear:

” Mummy can we go outside and play now?”

Do you catch my drift?

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