Amazing Anniversary

Valentines day and our anniversary are a day apart, so I’ll talk about them in the same post. And since I would be working on our anniversary we decided to celebrate both days a day early.

To celebrate our anniversary, we had a pub meal, without actually going to the pub! Our local had limited valentines meals that were available for collection, and we managed to nab one of them! And Jess‘s parents offered to have her for a little while so we could enjoy some uninterrupted time together. Two 10oz fillet steaks, chunky home-made chips, dessert and a bottle of wine. We had eaten at this pub before, back when we were allowed, so we knew we were in for a treat, but it did not disappoint and the food was incredible. But leaving Matilda for the first time was tough for both of us! By the end of the night we missed her, so we were glad to have her back.

Next, was valentines day. We always have made a big deal about valentines day. It’s not just the Saint Valentine we celebrate, it’s also the anniversary of us meeting each other. Cliche, I know, but it’s true.

Usually we would spend a weekend somewhere. In the past we’ve done Sweden, the Welsh countryside, Chelmsford, Warner Bros studios, and even a hot tub cabin in the Yorkshire dales. Obviously this year it had to be slightly different, with travel banned and everywhere closed.

We do have one tradition that we were able to honour, however. We never used to have a Starbucks in our home town, yet we always found ourself visiting one on Valentines day, no matter where we were in the world. It felt more novel, and like a treat, knowing it was something we couldn’t have at home. It was an accidental tradition, initially, until we realised and we started making an effort to make it so. We always get whatever the limited edition Valentines hot chocolate is. And recently, 2 have opened in our town. We were unable to sit in, but we went through the drive through and still enjoyed our drinks!

It was made even more special with a Valentines shortbread they also offered. This is something they introduced last year, which we got when we stopped at a service station to meet our hot chocolate needs, on the way to the airport before getting married, so we had to get it again this year.

But this year, we also had to make it special for our daughter! She can join in on tradition when she’s a bit older, but Jess saw this as a perfect opportunity for a bit of a photo shoot! We rearranged the living room to turn it into a studio, with a huge backdrop of balloons and heart streamers, and we all dressed in red and black, and we tried to get lots of lovely family and individual shots. Matilda had other ideas and she wasn’t best pleased, but we did manage to get a few smiley shots. We will make a romantic out of her yet!

The weekend was finished off with a delicious chicken dinner, prepared by Jess, but for both meals she made our home look incredible. She puts in so much effort to make things special and memorable, she really puts me to shame.

We didn’t go too crazy with gifts this year. Jess got me a mouse mat and notepad covered in her and Matilda‘s faces in honour of our paper anniversary, perfect for me to use now that I would be working from home. I absolutely love them! And I got Jess the usual assortment of chocolates and flowers, and a music box that plays our wedding song.

I can’t believe we’ve been married a year. We are so lucky we managed to do it just before the pandemic closed down the world. And what an amazing year it’s been. The restrictions have meant we could spend a lot of time together, creating a perfect place and environment to bring our daughter into the world.

We never in a million years, thought we would already have a child before our first anniversary. We had hoped, but we didn’t think it would happen so quick. Jess has given me the best gift, a family, and she’s an amazing wife and mother. I love her dearly, more and more everyday. Happy valentines day everyone! And happy anniversary darling ❤.

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Image Courtesy of Jess
Image Courtesy of Jess
Image Courtesy of Jess
Image Courtesy of Jess

Progression Possibility

Let me back track a bit to give you a bit of context.

After getting a degree in Aerospace Engineering, I started working at a small aerospace firm. I was wanting to work my way towards manufacture of aircraft components, and eventually become an aircraft mechanic. I was hired as a buyer, but it was a foot in the door to the industry.

My job involved using processes and systems that were out of date and inefficient, so I took it upon myself to find a way to make my job easier, and thus everyone else’s. I taught myself how to code, and I created a system that’s still in use years after I left. I’d found something I really enjoyed, and that I was capable of teaching myself. But the job I was in didn’t offer me the opportunity of career progression or to develop my new skills. To be honest, I didn’t feel challenged enough, so I completely changed my career to something more hands on, where I would be able to problem solve, and started work as a field engineer at Openreach.

I loved my new job. I trained for 12 weeks with a great bunch of people, end thoroughly enjoyed my time. As I became competent, the job got more enjoyable. No two days were the same, and there were often problems that I could really sink my teeth into. I felt a great deal of job satisfaction. But I was still enjoying developing my programming skills in my own time, by delving into a bit of game development.

I started Openreach in 2018 and its now 2021, so I’ve been doing it a little while. I still love my job, but its predominantly outdoors, and the winters are tough. There are days where the rain just doesn’t stop and there’s just no way to dry off or warm up without getting instantly soaking again.

So imagine my delight when I received an email, advising of a job role within Openreach, that would involve me using and developing my programming skills, while being desk based in the dry and warm. I drafted out an application, and sent it off.

In fear of this starting to sound like an application, I’ll get to the point. 8 days after Matilda was born, 2 days before Christmas, I was told I had been shortlisted. My interview was to be early in the new year, and I had the next couple of weeks to prepare. This was obviously going to be difficult with a new born, but Jess was amazing and understanding, and made sure I had time to study. But there were times I tried to settle her while working, which proved an interesting challenge.

But my efforts paid off, and shortly after my interview, I found out I had been selected. Better still, the current lock down meant it would be working from home, and I could spend a little bit extra time with my new family.

It’s initially only temporary, but if I show what I’m capable of and make an impression, it may just become permanent. I can only hope!

Image Courtesy of Jess

Poor Paternity

In the UK, new Dad’s are only entitled to 2 weeks Paternity leave. This is the standard in a lot of places around the world, but some countries lead by example, and I would love it if we followed suit.

Take Sweden, for example. New parents have an allowance of 240 days per working parent, to use between them. This means that if both parents are working, they have 480 days, with a minimum of 90 days each, and the rest shared between them however they see fit. These days can be used until the child is 8 years old. This means that Mum and Dad could take a minimum of 3 months each at the same time, or one parent take more than the other, or even alternate their leave, whatever best suits their family. Not only that, but if only one parent is working they still get that 240 day allowance, meaning new families get to be just that, a family.

But we live in the UK, so it’s pointless dwelling on that. I booked my 2 weeks leave to coincide with our expected due date, and I put in an additional week as annual leave when my Paternity was due to end. But then Matilda made her debut 2 weeks early, so my plan of spending a continuous 3 weeks at home went out the window.

My 2 weeks expired on 29th December, but after Jess‘s surgery, she hadn’t recovered enough to look after a baby alone all day, and the restrictions due to the pandemic meant that getting help was a little bit more difficult. I couldn’t go back to work yet, my family needed me, so I arranged an additional 3 days off with my work. Fortunately, they were incredibly understanding, and the way the weekend and Bank Holidays fell meant I actually got another 6 days.

I returned to work in the new year, but it was only a week until my scheduled annual leave, so it wasn’t so bad. And in no time at all, my extra week came and went. I was grateful for it though, because it allowed me to share precious bonding time with our daughter, but also allowed Jess the occasional break she deserved. I was sad to be returning to work, as I had no more scheduled time off, other than weekends, but little did I know that something was around the corner that would allow me to spend a lot more time with my family.

Image Courtesy of Jess

Winter Walks

For a little while, we were housebound after Jess‘s surgery. We couldn’t walk anywhere without her being in agony, and the pandemic restrictions meant that we couldn’t drive anywhere either, though the car was also painful.

So when the day came when she felt well enough to go on a short walk, we were over the moon. Not only could we get some fresh air, but mobility meant that Jess could take off her flattering, post-surgery stockings!

Our town is by the sea, and our local park is lovely, so we have a few options when it comes to walks, but the park is our favourite, so that was our first choice. Going on our first walk meant using the pram for the first time too, and allowed us the opportunity to figure out all the attachments and the best way to fit it in the car.

We enjoyed a quick 10 minute walk, and while it was painful for Jess, she loved getting outside, and even pushed the pram the whole time, pushing past the pain. She done amazing!

As she recovered, we started walking more frequently and for longer, alternating between the park, several different beaches, and even just our local area. We probably walk more now than we did before Jess fell pregnant! We even had a long, great walk with her family (our support bubble) and she did amazing.

The down side of living by the sea is that we rarely ever get snow. Lots of places around us do, though, and this year they got quite a lot of it. In any other year, we would take a little road trip to go and find the best snow, but the pandemic restrictions prevented us from doing so. It was probably for the best, because it was unwise to put Jess in a position where she might slip not long after surgery.

Even without snow, we regularly make a trip to the lake district for a day out, and a bit of a walk. We can’t wait to be able to go there again with Matilda, but for the time being we don’t mind keeping it local. At this point in the pandemic, we’re grateful even for the fresh air.

While I was on my Paternity leave, we tried to get out as much as we could, in order to spend as much time together as possible. But my leave was soon coming to an end.

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Image Courtesy of Jess

First Festive Fun

Those who know us, know we absolutely love Christmas. Even Matilda‘s middle name, Noelle, means Christmas. And if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that we had had our decorations out for quite a while.

Even before Matilda was born, every year we would watch as many Christmas movies as possible, watch White Christmas on Christmas eve, and leave milk and cookies out for Santa that were magically gone the next morning. I even have a little cheese board to myself, complete with patê and chutney, which is a nice little treat to myself because we don’t often have cheese in the house. It’s a magical time of year, and we put in a lot of effort to keep it that way.

Even with the chaos of a newborn, we managed to do all of our Christmas Eve traditions, apart from the “Matching PJs” photo, which Jess won’t let me live down. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, shops like Primark, where we would usually go for pyjamas, were closed, and they got so busy upon reopening that we never managed to get any. We will try again next year when we have a one year old to match us!

As for Christmas morning, we also have our traditions. Before we moved in together, we both woke up at the crack of dawn to enjoy Christmas as early as possible, but since, we have taken a more leisurely approach and wake up naturally. I’m sure the early mornings will come back when Matilda is old enough to get excited by it all, but this year was no exception. Aside from the night time feeds, we still stayed in bed for quite a while. We always start the morning with a cup of tea or coffee and a bacon sandwich, and this time we enjoyed them in bed. Then, usually, Jess would have a glass of Bucks Fizz, but she wasn’t drinking alcohol on account of her breast feeding. She still had her usual Christmas second breakfast, though, tucking into a box of Fox’s assorted biscuits.

Usually, me and Jess go a little bit crazy at Christmas, and our choice of gifts would typically be something personal that we know the other would enjoy. This year we kept it simple and low cost, not just for us but for everyone. We knew our financial priorities were going to shift, so we prepared as such. Jess got me a perfect little keep-sake gift. I play guitar, but I haven’t for a little while, and she got me a stainless steel engraved plectrum, saying play me a song Daddy. This has spurred me on to try and get back into it, so that is my goal for this year.

We’ve always grown up spending Christmas with our families, but when we moved in together we decided to start our own tradition of staying home all day on Christmas day, and see our families on other days, keeping Christmas all to ourselves. This means we would usually have a lovely, romantic Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings, cooked to perfection by Jess. But we knew that this year, she would be either heavily pregnant, or we would have a new born, so we made other plans.

We were under tier 4 restrictions, which meant that we weren’t allowed to form a Christmas bubble like other places could, but thankfully, we were already in a support bubble with Jess‘s parents, so we were over the moon when they invited us round for lunch. It was our first time out in the car since having the baby, so Jess still struggled a little with the bumps on the journey, but we got there in one piece. Jess still wasn’t allowed to drive post-surgery, and since I was having a little drink, we had to trust a taxi to bring us home gently. Luckily, I had forewarned them when I booked it, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

We had several Christmas outfits to choose from to dress Matilda in. She had already outgrown our first choice, so we ended up dressing her like an elf. She looked so funny! We enjoyed a delicious Christmas meal, and welcomed the relief from constantly seeing to Matilda thanks to others taking shifts. Jess even got to eat her meal while it was still hot! The company was great too, and thankfully, the taxi was gentle and understanding like we hoped.

We enjoyed the rest of our evening at home, snuggled up on the couch, watching whatever was on TV, before heading to bed.

Usually, just after Christmas, we would have had a party with our closest friends, to celebrate Jess‘s birthday and Christmas. Unfortunately, this year, the restrictions prevented this, but I have a feeling we wouldn’t have done it regardless, with a new born and all.

New year came and went, and again, it was nothing that special because we couldn’t really do anything. We did stay up to see the new year in, but by then we were exhausted! And soon after that, it was time to dismantle Christmas. It’s always a sad time because the decorations make us so happy. Because they had been up a while, we decided it would be best if Matilda wasn’t home in case we disturbed a lot of dust. So I dropped them both off at Jess‘s parents while I took everything down and took it to our storage unit. We only live in an apartment and it took me a whole 7 hours to do! But our home was now clean and tidy. It always feels huge when we clear Christmas away, which is a good thing because it will gradually start getting filled by baby toys!

2020 was a tough year for everyone, but for me, I won’t remember it for the pandemic. I’ll always remember it as the year I married the love of my life, and the year she carried and gave me my first child. I love them both dearly, and eternally.

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Image Courtesy of Jess

Contaminated Company

When Matilda was born, our area was under tier 4 restrictions. This meant that, because of the pandemic, we were not allowed any visitors to our home, and we weren’t allowed to meet with anyone outdoors either, outside of our support bubble.

While Jess was pregnant, our household formed a bubble with her parents, and the support is allowed to continue with a child under 1 year old, so we have kept the bubble going since. Of course, that’s not without sacrifice. In the run up to Matilda‘s birth, I barely got to see my family, and Jess‘s family had to isolate themselves from their other loved ones.

After the birth, my parents did meet Matilda a few times, but we had to ask them to wear a face mask and disposable apron to protect her. We felt awful doing it this way, we’d just brought this incredible human into the world and we wanted everyone to meet her and to give her a cuddle. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t possible.

The aunties and uncles came to see us from our window, to meet their new niece, but even that was difficult. With the cold, winter weather, we couldn’t keep the window open for too long without Matilda getting cold. But we all talked for a bit and longed for a time when we can all have a hug, especially Matilda.

So, in the first few weeks, people met Matilda for the first time in ways I’d never imagined for my first child, but that was the way it had to be.

Since then, we’ve tried to video call as many people as possible, as often as possible, so they don’t miss out on Matilda growing up. The last thing we want is for her to be much bigger and much more developed the next time anyone meets her. We’ve managed to bump into my parents, “Nanny and Gramps”, while out on one of our regular walks. We remained socially distanced but it was great to see them, and for them to see Matilda.

Christmas was nice. Thanks to our support bubble, we were able to spend it at Jess‘s parents’ house (Christmas blog to follow). But then came January, and with the announcement of a third full national lockdown, it was about to get harder.

It’s difficult, and we miss everyone dearly. We can’t wait for a bit of normality to return and for Matilda to properly meet and cuddle her grandparents, great-grandparents, aunties, uncles and some of our closest friends.

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Nappy Newbie

As I’ve said in several other posts, I hadn’t had much experience with babies before we had our own. So when it came to dressing and changing Matilda, I was quite nervous. Warning, this post contains some dirty details 💩, which I’m sure she’ll love when she’s older!

In the hospital, I was asked to put some clothes on her for us to go up to the ward. Up to this point, she only had a nappy on, but luckily, that didn’t need changing yet. I must have looked terrified, because the midwife asked if I wanted to watch her do it first, which I obliged.

Then, when we wanted to get our announcement photo, it was my turn to dress her for real. Again, I got out of doing the nappy, but even the clothes were scary at first. Jess got a video of me trying to dress her, and it’s hilarious to watch back. I was so gentle with her, scared to bend her arms and legs into their respective holes in her clothes. I have got much quicker since then, babies are much less fragile than you realise.

It wasn’t until we got home that I did my first nappy. Because we were breast feeding, nearly every nappy was dirty, so that was fun. It’s so strange, the first few poos were black and like a tar consistency, before going like a dark green. It will change colour regularly after that, but it depends on how you’re feeding and how your baby reacts with the milk. My first nappy was a success, but the fun ones were still to come.

If we think Matilda is filling her nappy, we try and get it off her as soon as possible, so quite often, she’s still going when we open it up. How such a small person can create such a smell is beyond me, and where does she store all that poo? Honestly, we’ve often gone through 2 or 3 nappies in one change because we’ve thought she was done.

There has been times where we haven’t quite got her nappy off quick enough, and it’s exploded out and all over her clothes. Those ones are fun, particularly since most baby clothes have to go over their head to get it off! There’s been a few nappy changes that have ended up with us bathing her. Usually when we’re trying to be on a schedule!

But the most fun ones are she she decides she wants to cover us too! I’ve had one where she has weed all up my front, with the power of a jet wash. A trait I thought was typically boy behaviour, but that’s me learned a lesson. But Jess has had it worse. On several occasions, Matilda has pooed mid wipe, resulting in Jess‘s hands and fingers being covered! It’s often been a 2 person job, and while it is disgusting, it’s hilarious at the same time. And even though she can’t laugh yet, I’m sure Matilda is finding it funny too! But boy, does the smell linger!

After 1 week, we worked out that we had used about 160 nappies, which is absolutely insane. We were told to expect about 12 per day initially, so we were a little above average. Me and Jess are quite eco-conscious, and we are trying to reduce our impact on the climate. So, where possible, we are trying to use biodegradable nappies, but they are considerably more expensive, and reusable doesn’t really work well for us.

We’re using a nappy bin that you twist between every nappy, keeping the smell in. But when it’s full, you get a rather funny looking nappy garland! I think it would make a great decoration, it was Christmas after all! But Jess disagreed.

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Happy Hometime

We had a car seat that came with our pram, but now we had the scary task of putting her in for the first time and making sure she was secure. Not only that, but there was also the British December weather to contend with, so we had to make sure she was warm enough.

Several layers later, and after worrying if the restraints were too tight or too loose, we were ready to leave. Jess was still hobbling, so we had a slow walk out of the hospital. And of course, she got the photo of me carrying the bags and the car seat.

We got to the car, and we were so happy that we got the base that goes with the car seat that permanently stays in the car, because it meant that it just clicked in without battling with the seatbelt. We started the car, and set off.

I have never driven so carefully in my life. Not only did I have a new life that I was responsible for, but Jess had just had surgery, and every bump in the road was agony for her. It wasn’t pleasant, I tried to drive on the smoothest route and the smoothest surfaces, but some bumps were unavoidable. But eventually, we got home, and we went straight to bed.

I laid on the bed while Jess slept, with our new daughter asleep on my chest, and in that moment, the world stopped. I had a moment to take it all in. My wife, laid beside me, had been through so much, and came out strong and was determined to make a quick recovery. And Matilda, so perfect and peaceful, gave my life a new purpose. I thought to myself how lucky I am, how perfect and beautiful my little family was. Everything was incredible, and everything was quiet. For now.

Photo Courtesy of Jess

Anticipated Arrival

I’m going to skip the labour and delivery for now, because so much happened and there’s loads to talk about and if I don’t start on the stuff that’s happened since, I might never catch up. I might come back to it.

But to put it simply, on 15th December, at about 4am, I was sat in the delivery room, alone, worried sick about Jess, and I didn’t yet know whether Matilda had been born yet and whether she was okay. It was early in the morning, so there was no one awake to talk to. All I could do was wait.

About half an hour later, our midwife wheeled in a cot, told me some information about the birth, but had to rush straight back off to see to Jess. I had no information about her, and this just fuelled my worry, but I had to put this worry aside. In front of me was a tiny, bundle of towels, from which I heard a little cry. I peered in, and there she was, our daughter, sheer perfection.

I don’t have much experience with babies, and all of a sudden I was responsible for a living person. I felt like I had to ask if I was allowed to pick her up to settle her, but I soon realised that she was mine. I kept her wrapped up, because I wanted Jess to be the first skin she touched, and she hadn’t met her yet.

A little while passed, and the midwife came in to tell me that Jess was awake, and that she was doing well, and ready to see us. So I put Matilda in her crib, and pushed her to the recovery room where Jess was waiting.

I will never forget Jess‘s face when we first entered the room. A memory that I will forever cherish. It was a look of relief, of pain, and most of all of love and adoration. The midwife unwrapped the baby, and passed her to Jess for her first skin to skin, and her first feed. We had chosen to breast feed her, but she was born with a tongue tie, so we knew it might be a challenge, but the first feed was a success.

We went back to the delivery suite while Jess rested for a bit, before gathering our things and moving up to a ward. It was quite early in the day, and I was allowed to stay till the end of visitation at 8pm which I was happy about. Especially since Jess was bed bound for a little while, so I could help with things like changing. That was fun, but that’s another post!

We announced Matilda‘s birth, with her looking beautiful and pure in white, and everyone welcomed her to the world with lovely words of support. Everyone loved her name, as did we.

Jess was told the criteria that she had to meet before she was allowed to go home, such as standing and walking. If I was going home at 8pm, she had to also be able to feed and change Matilda over night while I was gone. The end of visitation was fast approaching, and Jess had still not managed to stand up. But she wasn’t staying in any longer than she had to, and with sheer determination and the help of me and our midwife, she stood up and was walking around, pushing through the pain.

Unfortunately, I had to leave. It felt so strange going home to an empty house, knowing I had a little family at the hospital just waiting to come home with me. But I made sure Nala was fed and that she had some time out of her hutch, as she was on her own a lot over the last few days. I cleaned up a bit and made sure the house was ready. Jess sent me regular updates throughout the night, with photos of our baby and how they were both doing, but I eventually got some sleep.

By the time I came back the next morning, she had made so much progress. She had packed a bag and got herself and Matilda ready. She was adamant that she was leaving. And to our surprise, she was actually discharged, only 1 day after a c-section. Her determination had paid off. It was time to go home.

Photo Courtesy of Jess

Suspicious Sunday

Jess woke up on Sunday, 13th December, feeling unusual. It was 15 days before her official due date, but she was already past 37 weeks pregnant, so was classed as full term. I had already decided that I was not going to be doing any more over time, as it was getting to the point where I wanted to be home as much as possible, just in case anything happened. We didn’t have any plans, so we stayed home and watched a Christmas movie.

We did have a few friends and family call that day. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, we still weren’t allowed guests, so they came to the door to drop some Christmas presents off, as time was running out to do so. Jess told those that we saw, that she thought the baby was coming that day. Not only that, but the 13th was Emily’s, (Jess‘s sister’s), prediction, and she has a habit of guessing things correctly.

By this point, though, Jess had told me on several occasions that she thought the baby was coming, so it was starting to feel like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” But, we already had some bags packed just in case. A bag for Jess, a bag for baby, and a bag for me. We had found some checklists online that we used to make sure we were taking enough of the right things. My bag was mainly snacks, as I wouldn’t really need to be changing or showering in the hospital. If Jess ended up staying in hospital, I had to leave at the end of visitation, and was allowed to return again the next day when visitation started. This had only recently been the case, as the pandemic originally meant that I was only allowed to be present when Jess was in active labour, and for 1 hour after delivery, so we were grateful for the slight relaxation. Anyway, I still doubted that the baby would be coming that day.

It came to about 6pm, and we had our evening meal. It was a really tasty, hearty, filling dish, meatballs in a tomato sauce with home made goose fat chips! Delicious! And it’s a good job it was filling because it turned out to be Jess‘s last meal for over 30 hours. Shortly after, I was cleaning the dishes, and Jess came out of the bathroom, looking rather sheepish. “I think my water’s have just broke”, she said.

We called the hospital, and asked for their advice. They confirmed that it sounded like the water had broke, and that we should make our way to the hospital, but not to rush. Jess had planned to labour at home, until she was far along enough to make the hospital visit as quick as possible, but after water breaking, the risk of infection goes up, so the hospital was the best place to be, especially since contractions had not yet even started.

We remained calm, grabbed the bags and the car seat, and made sure Nala had enough food should we be gone for a while, and set off for the hospital.

It was happening, the baby was coming, but we had no idea of what was still to come.

Image courtesy of Jess