Hypnobirthing Husband

Me and Jess done all the preparation we could, in order to have as much an easy labour and birth as possible. We both had apps on our phones that had several suggestions for different aches and pains, as well as things to prepare before the birth. I had an app called DaddyUp, which breaks the pregnancy down to light, humourous sections, comparing the pregnancy to an uphill hike, and makes reference to being a lumberjack and your upcoming child being called a cub. While it sounds juvenile, it also does offer suggestions to help you and Mum feel better. Jess also used some apps that gave her great detail about what to expect from the following week and how the baby was progressing. I especially liked the size comparisons, where it told you what your baby was currently the size of in terms of different movie props, animals, toys and many other interesting things.

Out of all of the suggestions we had read from books, online and our apps, we found that bouncing on an exercise ball would ease Jess‘s hip pain, as well as walking around or rocking in different positions. We also read that these positions she was using to ease the pain, were also ideal delivery positions, so it was good to get some practice in.

I would often massage Jess‘s lower back and rub her feet and ankles to ease the pain and the swelling, and they were all things she wished me to do when the labour began. We even tried remedies that were suggested to reduce tearing, but there was one more big thing that we wanted to master before the day came, and that was hypnobirthing.

Hypnobirthing is a breathing and mindfulness technique used to ease and distract from the pain of contractions and delivery, and we got a book that showed us how to do it. The book was great, it showed Jess the best way to breathe through the pain, but also create pictures in her head associated with inhaling and exhaling, such as the rising and setting of the sun.

Within the book, there were extracts that I could read to Jess to distract her from what was happening, and some weren’t even linked to breathing, they were just there to relax. Our favourite made you imagine a scene where you were out walking and returned home to a nice cosy cottage where a hot fresh loaf of bread awaited you for supper, detailing the smell and taste and texture. I got to practice my best relaxing voice, when I would read to her in bed.

I definitely feel that these exercises helped enormously throughout the contractions, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Pregnancy Partnership

I’ve nearly got to the end of Jess‘s pregnancy now, so before I start on the labour and the arrival of our little girl, I wanted to talk about the pregnancy as a whole.

While Jess was the one that was pregnant, we were both expecting, so this pregnancy needed to be a partnership. And that’s always the case, whether you’re married and trying for children, or your relationship turned sour after discovering the pregnancy, or even if the pregnancy was unexpected, you should support each other, and put your differences aside. I’m not saying “stay together for the kids” but you can still appreciate and support one another.

I found a whole new admiration for Jess. In the early stages of the pregnancy, she suffered with hyperemesis, which is severe nausea, often leading to vomiting. She really struggles with being sick, as all of the blood vessels in her face and eyes burst and cause her agony. It was difficult to watch her go through that, as I was helpless. No medication seemed to work as it would come straight back up, and all I could do was hold her hair, and cuddle her when it got too much. But while it was difficult, that was enough.

She also went off all kinds of food, and even the smell of some foods made her poorly, especially poultry. So, because we live and eat together, I adjusted my diet to match hers. This meant that we could continue to share some quality time eating and talking at the dinner table. It was small, but the time together only helped our relationship grow.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, she really struggled with heart burn and indigestion. This, and the others I’ve mentioned, are all totally normal symptoms, and I’m so glad that I, as a man, do not have to go through it. We really do have it easy, women are incredible.

And lastly, hormones. The dreaded H word that even the mention of can wreak havoc. There are times when Mum will just be upset or angry, for no reason. A TV commercial might even set her off. So just be there for her. Listen, cuddle, try to distract her, whatever, just try not to take anything she says personally, don’t make her feel crazy, she’s just a little hormonal, it’s to be expected.

We were in lock down so it was quite difficult, but if you and Mum are still together, or trying to make it work, carry on as if you weren’t pregnant. Go on dates, go shopping, make time for each other, have a laugh. If you’re not together, just try and be a friend. You might realise you admire each other even more than you thought.

Me and Jess went pumpkin picking, we went for walks in the park, we even went walking through a sunflower field that popped up near where we live. And, in August, the government launched a “Eat Out to Help Out Scheme”, which intended to encourage people to support the hospitality industry which had been so badly effected by the pandemic. It meant that guests got up to 50% off their order, so of course, we also took advantage of that.

As the pregnancy progressed, Jess started to struggle to do things that she would usually take for granted. Things like reaching for things, standing for long periods of time and bending down. This meant that things that she usually enjoys doing, like cooking and cleaning, became more of a challenge. And, while there were things she struggled to do, there were also things that she was advised not to do, like cleaning with strong chemicals, using step ladders for decorating, and even clearing Nala‘s litter tray due to the strong ammonia smell. But we are a team, and wherever she struggled, I offered to help. And even better, helping without being asked will go a long way.

Image courtesy of Jess

Dog Days

Towards the end of the pregnancy, there wasn’t much more to do but wait. We had everything sorted, the nursery, the pram, the car, plenty of supplies for different contingencies and we were as ready as we were ever going to be.

Christmas was coming, and with it comes an early pay day that has to last the 5 months of January, so I took this opportunity to put in some hours at work and earn a little bit extra, ready for Matilda’s arrival.

I work as a telecommunications engineer, fixing and providing phone and Internet service.

Over the last couple of years, I have worked away for 2 weeks of nearly every month. It was never a million miles away, just a couple of hours away where there was too much work for the engineers in that area. I’ve worked all over the North West, covering the likes of Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and many more. I even carried on working away occasionally while Jess was pregnant, and while it was difficult, especially during a lock down where she couldn’t get help, she soldiered on, on her own. I’m incredibly proud of her.

But, we were nearing the end of the pregnancy, and I didn’t want to be too far way in case anything happened. So while the business was crying out for people to travel further afield, I took an opportunity to work in Yorkshire for a couple of weeks, travelling there and back daily, just over 90 minutes away. This meant I’d be home every night and wasn’t too far should I be needed at home.

I even knocked that on the head when we hit December, and worked some of my days off close to home. We were getting far too close to be taking risks with long drives.

I love my job, but it is tough in the winter. A lot of what I do is outside, and I could be laid on the floor in a puddle, in pouring rain, trying to fix an essential service for a customer. And once you’re wet, on a wet day, there’s no drying until you’re home.

When lock down was announced back in March, we were given key worker status. The lock down meant that so many people had to work from home, and needed a good stable connection in order to work. Not only that, but there were many vulnerable people who had to shield who relied on a phone line as a life line.

All of a sudden, a lot of people’s Internet that had been just about doing the job, was no longer sufficient. Spending more time at home meant people were noticing issues they hadn’t noticed before, combined with the added pressure of many people using it at the same time.

So, work wise, this year has been tough, and it has been for all of us in the industry. I do see a lot of people complaining about their service, and I understand the frustration. But in an already tough year, we have been as busy if not busier than ever, so bare with us. If you think there is an issue, report it, and we will do our best to give you the best possible service, with many of us, including myself, working additional hours and days, in additional locations, just to keep you connected.

We’re people too, and we’re doing our best.

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Skype Shower

Well, it was Zoom, but I’m keeping up with the alliterative titles!

By November, Jess was starting to get quite upset. She missed her family and friends, and all of the occasions where we would all usually meet up, had to be cancelled due to the lock-down. And by now, it was becoming apparent that she was also not going to be able to have a baby shower.

Throughout lock-down, I had heard of people using Zoom for online conferences and meetings, and its popularity had exploded due to people not being able to meet up in person. So, I suggested to Jess that we organise a virtual one. And that’s what we did.

We found a day that was accommodating for our guests, and sent out invitations. We even invited Jess‘s family that live at the other end of the country, and fortunately, everyone was able to attend. We probably had more guests than we would have done in real life!

After the date was set, I told Jess to let me handle it, and that she should not worry about it. Now obviously, I had never organised a baby shower before, or even attended one, so I had no idea how I was going to pull it off. So I done some research to find out what usually happens, and also looked into ideas that I could do in a virtual situation. I didn’t want the call to be a quick chat with a few people, some not even knowing each other, other than Jess. I wanted to pad it out and make it last a little while, keeping everyone entertained in the mean time.

I created a PowerPoint, with the intention of sharing my screen, to give the call a flow. And my research gave me some ideas on games and content I could use to fill out the time. So, I started with some questions asking how well the guests knew Jess, and asked for their predictions on date, time and weight for Matilda’s arrival. Then a few ‘matching’ games, where the guests had to match the animal to their offspring and the celebrity to their children.

For another game, I had to scour the internet for baby photos of all of the guests. The challenge was to match the baby to the guest. Now, some of the guests hadn’t met some of the others before, so I also had to put pictures of the guests as they look now around the screen, because, while I was sharing my screen, the view of other guests was limited.

And finally, I created a game of baby themed Pictionary, where the guests could draw on the screen for the other guests to guess their baby related word. This could go on indefinitely, so if the call was running short, I could pad it out a bit that way.

Once the call was planned out with games and what not, I had to figure out how to use zoom. I had never used it before, and wanted to know that half of the things I was planning was possible. So, I used my work laptop, my personal laptop and my phone and created a virtual meeting with myself to see how everything would look and work. I managed to figure it all out, and everything was good to go.

We created little goody bags that I could deliver to the guests (those close enough for delivery) on the morning of the call. These included prediction cards, popcorn saying “Ready to Pop”, and a baby themed cupcake, so the guests could feel as much a part of the call as possible

We also had a last minute idea, that I could ask the guests to write a small message in a book that we had got for Matilda. This would replace a guest book that would usually get filled with messages of support at a real baby shower, and ended up being a great little keepsake with messages from our loved ones.

The day came for the call, I made my deliveries on the morning, before starting at 2pm. It was a great success. Jess got to see lots of her family and friends the she had been unable to see for so long, and everyone had a great time. I managed to make the call last about 2 hours, and we have a record of everyone’s predictions and quiz results to look back on in future.

Image courtesy of Jess
Image courtesy of Jess

Appropriate Automobile

My job has the perk of providing me with a van for work. This means that me and Jess are able to share a car. It’s great, bills, travel expenses and even our impact on the environment are all lower than they otherwise would be.

Before I had this job, we did use 2 cars, but mine was a cheap run about and Jess‘s was a newer, better car, so when the decision came to go down to one car, there was no contest over what we would keep.

It was a silver Ford Fiesta, and it was Jess‘s first car, and the first big purchase she had ever made, so she had grown quite attached to it. Even while we were sharing the car, Flo (what she called it) was hers. It was her pride and joy.

So, I approached the subject cautiously when I mentioned that we might need to change the car to be more accommodating for a baby. She was understanding, and the hunt began. We knew we needed something a little bigger, but not so big that it would be difficult to drive.

We started by looking online, and found a few fairly local that we wanted to take a look at. We weren’t wanting brand new, but we did want something fairly recent, with low mileage and from a reputable dealership. Unfortunately, the pandemic meant that we couldn’t just turn up and ask for a test drive. So we made an appointment, and we both had a go at driving it. We both really liked it, and decided to go for it. We tend to have a habit of going for the first thing we see with everything, but it’s never failed us yet.

And we took home a blue Renault Captur, not massive but ample of space for all things baby. We had finally ticked off every big thing we needed to sort before Matilda’s arrival.

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Yearning for Yuletide

Me and Jess love all of the different holidays that occur throughout the year, particularly those close to the end of the year, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Usually we would have a big Halloween party with all of our closest friends, and we had still planned on having one. The lockdown was no longer in place and as long as we followed social distancing measures, we wouldn’t be breaking any rules. We were already going to reduce the guest list to accommodate this.

We were so excited, we decorated the house ready for Halloween and for our party. We usually watch a Halloween themed movie every day during October, and then put on a big spread of themed food and drink for our party. Obviously, Jess wouldn’t be drinking but we had a great idea for a costume, and once again it was going to be the party of the year.

Then, the government announced that they would be introducing a tier system, whereby different parts of the country would have to follow different rules depending on the local infection rate. We were initially placed in tier 2 which meant that we would have to follow the rule of 6 for guests inside a house.

So, that was it, we had to cancel Halloween, and we were beyond fed up. We had already cancelled one of our annual parties earlier in the year. We always have a shindig for Eurovision, in May, where guests are challenged to come dressed in a theme to represent a competing country. We serve food from different European countries, and it’s always good fun.

So, the Halloween spirit was well and truly gone. We gave up watching movies, failing to even watch our traditional Hocus Pocus on the day of Halloween. We put all of our decorations away, and decided that we also wouldn’t be doing Thanksgiving.

Christmas was next! A little Christmas spirit might cheer us up, and nothing can spoil Christmas! And anyway, if we left it too much longer, Jess wouldn’t be able to stand close enough to the tree to decorate it! So there we were, late October/early November, our Christmas decorations went up.

We love our home at Christmas, and it really did cheer us up. Yes, we got called for putting the decorations out so early, but after the year we had all had, who cares?

And, we had a new room we could decorate! So we got Matilda her own tree and some ornaments, and made the whole place look festive.

We just needed her to make her grand entrance!

Image courtesy of Jess
Image courtesy of Jess

Picking the Perfect Pram

We knew this day was coming, but we had been putting it off! There is just so much choice when it comes to prams! Fortunately, this was being gifted to us and we had been given a budget, but it still did not make it any easier!

There are so many things to consider! Will it fit in the car? Is it easy to push? Is it easy to fold? Is there enough storage? What about bags and drinks? And it’s easy to get lost in it all. We tried our best to keep things simple. We started by looking around some local shops to get a feel for different styles and looks.

Our research made us realise that we wanted a travel system. A travel system is usually a 3-in-1 pram, consisting of a car seat, a carry cot and a stroller that can all be interchangeably mounted to the pram frame, and is very useful to not have to store and transport 3 different things every time you go anywhere. We had our eyes on one, the IckleBubba Stomp V4, and we went to our nearest stockist to take a look. We probably would have ended up with that one, had the member of staff at the shop not make a pigs ear of demonstrating it. She made it look so difficult to use and unpractical, that we were completely put off.

We went to a different store to check out a different system that we had had our eye on. The staff here were great, they left us to our own devices to test and play with the pram. Due to the pandemic, there were no customers in the store so we did not feel rushed or pressured. We just located the pram we wanted to take a look at, and we figured it all out ourselves, and realised that it’s really not that hard to use. We had found the pram we wanted.

It was a Venicci Soft model. It had a nappy bag that conveniently hooked onto the handle bar, a height adjustable handle which was useful for mine and Jess‘s height difference, a drink holder, a large basket, and the attachments were reversible, meaning the baby could be world-facing or parent facing. It came in a variety of colours, which suited our quirky character, and came with some extras like wheel covers, rain cover and insect cover. All of the fabric components were removable for washing, and could be vented on warm days to keep the baby cool. And, as an optional extra, you could get an ISOFix base, which is something that permanently stays in the car, securely fixed to fixing points in compatible cars, and means that you don’t have to mess with the seat belt every time, as the car seat just clicks in and is secure.

The car seat that comes with a travel system is only suitable up to the age of about 1, in which case you will need to replace it with a more permanent seat, but you should try and keep them rear facing as long as possible, so this is something to think about if you are wanting a travel system.

We ordered the pram in a green fabric with a black chassis. We hadn’t seen many green prams, so we thought we would stand out. It turns out, several others had had the same idea. The green was out of stock, and had been discontinued, so we changed our order to grey with a white chassis and we are still very happy with our choice. We opted to get the ISOFix base too, to make our life easier. The pram was a little too big for our current car, but we knew we would soon be upgrading that too.

But our pram was sorted, and we were starting to feel a lot more prepared. It was all starting to feel very real.

Image courtesy of Venicci

Lovely Lakeside

While we did get married abroad, me and Jess never felt like we got a honeymoon. The trip was only short, and it was a strict itinerary we had to follow. Far from a relaxing, post-wedding break. We did have a trip to Mexico booked, but it was with Thomas Cook, which as you know, ceased trading just after the summer of 2019. The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 would’ve seen that it didn’t go ahead anyway. But we felt like we needed a bit of a break. Besides, we were expecting, and aren’t “baby-moons” a thing these days?

Several years ago, I took Jess to the lake district for the first time. I had been several times growing up, and it is easily my favourite place in the UK. And as soon as Jess set her eyes on it, it was hers too. The first place we went to was called Pooley Bridge. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged in the floods a few years ago, so we hadn’t been back since, but this year, work was pretty much finished. We’d been to other places in the Lake District in the mean time, but we thought we would give this a try again.

We borrowed a tent, and found a campsite that sounded like it would do for a couple of nights away. There were no bells and whistles, it was literally a field on a hill, with a portacabin for a bathroom. But we did not regret our choice in the slightest.

We arrived on a Thursday, so the weekend campers were yet to arrive. This meant that the site was basically empty, and we could pick wherever we wanted to pitch our tent. Our spot had a perfect view of Lake Ullswater. Not only that, but while the rest of the country was hit with down pours and strong winds, our time camping was one of the best British summers we have ever known.

On the first night, we went in to Pooley Bridge and found a pub so we could enjoy a nice meal together. We got back to our tent quite early, and just enjoyed each other’s company and the serenity that was in front of us, before settling down for the night.

Obviously, Jess was pregnant during all this, so getting through the night without needing the toilet was out of the question. It just so happened that the toilets were quite a hike away, up a hill, so it was quite a mission every time. But had Jess not been pregnant, we would have missed one of the most spectacular things we have ever seen, because we would not have been trekking to the bathroom underneath the perfectly unspoiled sky.

The stars were so clear, and there was so many of them. Completely undisturbed by light pollution or clouds, we could see the Milky Way as well as constellations galore. While everyone else slept, the stars were shining, just for us. And as we walked up the hill, fixated on the sky, 3 shooting stars flew by. We had never seen shooting stars before, but there was no mistaking them, very quick lines of light, all travelling in the same direction, there was no way it could have been anything else. We looked at each other in amazement, and just hugged each other. It was actually quite emotional, and we took it as a good omen for our new family.

The next day, we drove to Keswick. It is one of our favourite places in the lakes. It has a market, and lots of independent, quirky shops. Not only that, but it right by another lake. The sun was shining, so we took this opportunity to do something we had always wanted to do. Hire a boat.

There was not much difference in price from hiring a row boat for 30 minutes, to a motor boat for an hour, so we decided to go for the full experience. We did have to queue for a long time, but wow was it worth it. We eventually got to the front of the queue and got kitted up with life-jackets, given a quick tutorial on piloting a boat, and we were off.

It was incredible. It felt like the world was ours. I wish I could describe it better, but words fail me. Please, I urge you to experience this!

We headed back to our tent for the final night. After packing everything away the next day, we went to the village one last time to look at some shops and take back some souvenirs and gifts, ready for Matilda‘s arrival. And we went home.

Though short, our little getaway was exactly what we needed. We felt closer than ever, and had ticked several things off our bucket list. Everything was great.

Image courtesy of Jess
Image courtesy of Jess
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Naming the Newborn

Long before we got pregnant, we had been compiling a list of baby names that we liked. The list covered boy and girl names and we just wrote things down when we seen or heard them in books, TV shows, even real life.

The list grew and grew and eventually it looked like we were planning on having 30+ kids, so we started whittling them down. Jess previously worked in a school, so any name that reminded her of a naughty child was taken off the list.

Then we started putting some of the names together to see how they would sound as a first and middle name, or even double barrelled. We managed to get it down even more.

There’s apparently a trick people used to do to know if a name felt right, and that is shout their name from your doorstep as though they had been naughty. So we tried this, but we just felt silly.

We had reduced our list to a few names for each gender, and we decided that once we knew the gender we could narrow it down even more, though it wasn’t the worst idea to have a small pool of names just in case the baby comes and they don’t suit it.

But then we found out we were having a girl, and all of a sudden, we weren’t happy with any of our choices.

Out of nowhere, we remembered about the Swedish lady who saved our wedding. It seemed to come to both of us at the same time. Matilda.

Neither of us had ever met a girl named Matilda, so the name had not been spoiled for us, and we thought it had a classic feel. The name is of German origin and means “strength in battle” so the name also meant something to us after all that 2020 had thrown at us so far.

All of a sudden, we were set on the name, regardless of what she looked like. But we wanted a middle name, as it didn’t sound complete without it. Again, list proved to be useless, offering us no good combinations.

So, back at the drawing board, we had a think. She was due around Christmas, so could we use a name with a yuletide link? Holly? Robin? Gloria? Mary? Gloria was a contender, with the fact that Jess‘s grandma of the same name had recently passed away, but it still didn’t sound quite right with Matilda.

And then, we thought about Noelle, literally meaning Christmas. And that felt right. Matilda Noelle Dobson was going to be our daughter’s name. We absolutely loved it, but kept it to ourselves until her birth. We knew a few people who were expecting before us and didn’t want anyone to use our name. But we could get the final piece for her bedroom, a wooden initial on the wall.

Writing this retrospectively, along with all of the usual comments of “she’s adorable” and “she looks like so and so”, we have received so many compliments regarding Matilda’s name, so we are very happy with our decision.

Years of planning our first child’s name was thrown away when it came to it, so it goes to show how much things can change when it becomes a reality.

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Personal Image

Reception Reveal

Because we had eloped, we never got to celebrate our wedding with our nearest and dearest, so we wanted to arrange a small get together to celebrate this. We had recently come out of a nationwide lock-down, but the pandemic was still ongoing so we would have to be clever and careful to keep everyone safe. We came up with the idea of a garden party.

Me and Jess live in an apartment with no garden, so we had to convince her Mum to let us use hers. Her garden was big enough so that the guests could be socially distant, but close enough to still be social, with a toilet very close to the back door, so it was ideal given the circumstances.

Before we decided to get married in Sweden, we did have a summer wedding planned. This meant that during our planning, we acquired lots of wedding props and decorations, so it would have been a shame to not use them. So we filled the garden with tables and table cloths, and adorned them with our original centre pieces. We had photos of us strewn around, and lots of fairy lights just in case the party went late into a summer night. We had even created wedding favours in the form of Lego mini-figures, made to look like each guest. And of course, we would be putting on food.

The garden looked great, so all we needed was for the reliable British weather to hold up. It was August, so we had a good chance. Our mini wedding reception was looking to be a success. Little did our guests know, that we had a surprise.

Jess was 20 weeks pregnant. For those that don’t know, in the UK you attend a growth scan at 20 weeks and can also find out the gender. The scan wasn’t due till the following week, and I still wouldn’t be allowed to attend, so we booked another private scan. This scan took place on the morning of our garden party, so we decided to do a surprise gender reveal.

Obviously, before this day, we did not know what the sex of the baby would be, so as soon as we found out, we got hold of a confetti cannon and made some last minute preparations for the surprise. This obviously meant that we had to keep our mouths shut until we were ready.

The party went amazing, everyone was in good spirits, everything was safe and legal, and the weather was dry. It did get quite cold at some points in the day, but what can we expect from Britain. And at 6pm I got up to make a speech, as though I was going to make a toast like a usual wedding reception.

And this is the moment everyone found out we were having a baby girl!

Image courtesy of Jess
Image courtesy of Jess
Image courtesy of Jess