Sunday, 12 November 2017

Baby Swimming Essentials & Tips

Lily's TurtleTots baby swimming lessons are by far my favourite activity we do. I love seeing her skills develop and her confidence grow. Due to her not being very well she had a few weeks of not wanting to partake much, preferring to cling to me and be swooshed around the pool, but despite that she still giggled her way through classes and clapped gleefully when her turtle pals did something fun. The last couple of weeks though she's slowly coming out of her shell again and she's been doing some incredible things like jumping into the pool from standing up on the side! It's brilliant having my adventurous little turtle back.

The little snippets of videos I post on my Instagram are some of my most viewed and liked and I can always guarantee a few messages from parents asking for details about classes or more frequently, tips on what their baby should wear or what they should take. With that in mind I thought I'd share our baby swimming essentials and tips.

TT towelnappy cover and Next swimsuit (no longer for sale).
Clothing

First up and most importantly, the nappy situation! We use Huggies Little Swimmers disposable nappies underneath a Turtle Tots NeoNappy Cover. Turtle Tots operate a double nappy policy meaning you have to use a neoprene nappy cover over a disposable (although, for you cloth bum fans, they also do a Reusable Under Nappy) to ensure no leakage in the event of a pool poo! (A year swimming and touch wood, no pool poos yet...)

When we first started swimming I spent a small fortune on a SplashAbout swimsuit with a built in nappy cover but it turns out babies grow like weeds and Lily didn't spend long enough in it to warrant the cost. The TurtleTots nappy cover seem to see us through at least two clothing increases so we get far more use out of them. And it means I can afford more cute regular swimsuits! We also have a Warming Wetsuit for swimming in other pools that aren't a toasty 35 degrees like the hydra pool we have our lessons in!

Green TT rucksack

Top Tips
 

  • For younger babies feed them around half an hour before swimming so they have time to digest but won't be getting hangry halfway through the class. For older babies and toddlers take a packed lunch for immediately after. Swimming is hard work on little bodies and they build up quite an appetite!
  • Take an extra towel or a mat like the Turtle Tots Roll and Go Baby Changer to lay or sit baby down on whilst you get changed so they're not directly on the floor. If your baby is mobile snacks are the key to keeping them amused whilst you get changed. 
  • Invest in a baby poncho towel or a towelling dressing gown. Take it with you to the poolside so you can pop them in it just in case there's a drop in temperature from pool to changing room. 
  • Get yourself dressed first after class. If you get them dressed first they're likely to sit down and get their clothes wet. We tend to strip the babies out of their wet things, dry them off quickly and let them roam around (naked if it's warm enough otherwise in their poncho/dressing gown). That way they can dip in and out of everyone's snacks whilst we get ourselves changed before wrangling them into their clothes. 
  • This last one is for you, not your baby. Let your body hang ups go. I've lost count of how many times I've seen or heard mums say they'd love to take their baby swimming but don't want people to see them in a swimming costume. I'm a very wobbly size 24 in among a class of bodies all shapes and sizes but all smaller than mine. I might be the biggest and wobbliest but I don't imagine for a second that I'm the only one who has had to take a few deep breaths before stepping out of my clothes and into my cossie. Almost everyone, no matter their size, will have things they don't like about their body especially when they've just stretched and housed a human. I know I've never once looked at any of the other mums and thought anything negative and I'm sure they would say the same. Everyone is far too busy wrestling their wriggly baby or shielding their eyes from their excited splashes to worry about how many stretch marks the mum next to them has. Whatever is holding you back, let it go because there is so much fun to be had when you do. 
If you have any tips for taking your baby swimming, leave them in the comments!

Love,
Elena x

*This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.
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Friday, 3 November 2017

Keepsake Gifts For Bereaved Parents

I've had a few emails lately both from parents asking where I've bought my own keepsakes and from family and friends of parents who have recently experienced the death of a baby asking for suggestions for meaningful gifts. It can be difficult to know where to look or what to get so I thought I'd put together a few of my favourite businesses who create keepsakes for babies.

My most treasured piece of jewellery is a necklace my mum bought me for my first birthday without Aneurin containing his ashes. It may sound morbid but being able to physically carry him with me every day is very comforting and I often find myself absent mindedly touching my necklace when I talk about him. It can be difficult not having a grave to visit but having a piece of cremation jewellery helps me feel a little bit closer to him. 
Laura from Carry My Heart Keepsakes hand crafts beautiful and unique cremation and keepsake jewellery. She offers a range of designs and options including a variety of rings, necklaces and beads to fit Pandora bracelets. As ashes are completely individual, no two pieces of jewellery are the same which makes them feel all the more special. Laura also creates breastmilk jewellery as well as preserves locks of hair, material and flowers. Her work is truly beautiful. And her business name comes from my favourite poem, I Carry Your Heart With Me by E. E. Cummings, so I love her all the more for that!



Most parents like to write their baby's name wherever they can as a way of including them in their lives and take comfort when other people do too. I have a photo album I call Aneurin's Adventures where I've printed off every photo we've taken or other people have taken of his name in various places. I like noting down where it's been taken and who took it. It's lovely knowing people carry him in their heart and that he has travelled the world in his own way. 
Carly Marie's (He)Art Work is created on a beach in Australia named after her son. Christian. She creates the most beautiful images in the sand and takes incredible photographs of them. You can choose from a selection of different styles of image but please note some of the options are seasonal dependent so there is a waiting list.




Liberty Rainne recently won The Cherished Keepsake award at The Butterfly Awards and it was very well deserved. They have the biggest range of gifts and keepsakes for angel (and rainbow) babies, the majority of which can be personalised. They have memory boxes (I have one for Aneurin, pictured below), candle holders, prints, frames, ashes caskets, resting place decorations and even stock The Story Of.. books. My personal favourite item is a little wooden feather that can be personalised. It's simple but beautiful. Diane also runs a birthday club whereby you pay a subscription fee of £12.99 and throughout the year you'll receive gifts as well as a personalised card and voucher.




Aneurin's hand and footprints are my most treasured thing in his memory box.  I love knowing that his little hands and feet really touched that paper; those lines and fingerprints are all his and they are so beautiful. I recently won a set of foil prints from When You Wish Upon A Star in an auction run by The Legacy of Leo and I am so excited to receive them. We don't get to make any new memories or take any more photos of him so being able to have something new to us of Aneurin is really very special. 
Abi's foil prints are created using your baby's real hand and foot prints and can even be done to size. She also designs a beautiful range of foil prints and cards. Please note Abi is about to welcome her second rainbow baby so may not be able to ensure orders arrive in time for Christmas!


I'd love to discover more businesses who create keepsakes for bereaved parents and would love to know what you have for your babies. 

Love,
Elena x
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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Two Years (And Thirteen Days)



My darling boy, 

Forgive me. Forgive me for not writing this sooner. For not doing more, for not being more. My instinct is to blame myself for not being a good enough parent to you, for being too consumed by life, by my inability to keep the plates spinning. I feel like I'm failing in every aspect of life at the moment and a lot of guilt surrounds that, especially when it comes to you. But honestly, it's taken an extra thirteen days to sit and do this because I'm afraid. Two years later and the words are so much more difficult to get out. Everything I've ever wanted or needed to say has already been said. Words and tears feel like they're fighting their way through layers and layers of wool. It all gets through eventually but in the meantime I've just been absorbing it all.

The last two weeks have been heavy laden with memories and trauma. Most of which I thankfully, don't remember. My brain seems to have just closed the doors on them. But this day, this day when we did the unimaginable and said goodbye to you, I remember clearly.


I remember sitting on the edge of the sofa waiting; indulging my grief as I listened to your songs and feeling my body shake and heave. Watching the car door open with the most awful knot of anticipation and fear, seeing your beautiful, too-tiny coffin for the first time. My legs buckling underneath me and falling into your daddy, him catching me and not letting go.

Feeling a bizarre sense of calm wash over us as we sat either of you, our hands clasped over the top of you, protecting you and surrounding you with love. The gratitude we felt when they pulled over and got out to allow us time with you alone. Seeing the faces of our family, your family, twisted and pained with grief as we drove through the crematorium gates. Trying my hardest to look like I wasn't falling apart at the seams.

My morbidly favourite memory of your daddy holding your coffin so tightly and comfortably, as though it wasn't the heaviest, most difficult thing he had ever done. Your uncle coming to him and asking to help in the gentle, eager way he does, giving you a little loving pat.

The service itself is a strange blur, punctuated with crystal clear moments. Not wanting to step back from your coffin to sit down, hearing the words we had written for you read so lovingly by our vicar, trying desperately to catch my breath between heavy sobs and feeling your daddy's arm so fiercely clamped around me. Not being able to breathe as the curtain closed around you. Trying so hard to be present in that moment, to absorb every detail, every raised swirl on your coffin, the shine of the plaque, the way the sweet peas from your granny's garden sat on the top. Forcing myself to embrace the bubbling of utter disbelief and devastation in the pit of my stomach. Forcing myself to remember you wrapped up in your blankets in the hospital with your Peter Rabbit, or tucked up in the Moses basket when your Nana and I went to visit you three days after you were born. Not to wonder what you looked like now, knowing it wouldn't be the same.

Emerging into the sunshine afterwards, my fear of having nothing left to do for you but live our lives coming true. Our family looking at us to take the lead but feeling like a children, not knowing what we were meant to do next.

Walking into a pub knowing people must have realised we had been to a funeral and wondering what their faces would look like if we told them who for. Watching our family talk and move around us clutching your daddy's hand all the time, itching to leave and return to the safety of home but knowing this was exactly what we needed to be doing. Coming home and crawling into bed with your daddy slightly buzzed from an afternoon to saying yes to every glass of fizz offered. Sobering up as the reality of the day settled, sobbing into eachother and hanging on for dear life. 

As painful as these memories are, I want to remember them. I need to. Our moments with you are so few and so precious so I want to cling onto them. Our last day with your physical being and although at the time I thought it was the end of you, I know it wasn't. Your energy is everywhere and your memory is as alive two years later as it was thirteen days after. Only now it is more gentle, molded into lives, woven into every beat of our hearts and breath we take.

Two years later and it doesn't get easier. My heart still aches for you. My grief for you still pulls the rug out from under me, sucker punches me and leaves me struggling to catch my breath and slow my heart. I see you in your sister. I worried she would lose it as she gets older but sometimes she'll fall asleep in the back of the car, her mouth slightly dropped and I'll catch sight of her in the mirror and I smile, my heart so full of love for her and for you.

You are so loved, my sweet Pea, and I miss you more than I can ever say. We will carry you forever. 

Love,
Your mummy x

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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Planning A Christening

We are having Lilian christened in a couple of weeks time so I thought I'd share a little of the planning process with you. Although we're not overly religious the church is the backbone of our village and we appreciate the values and community it provides. Having Lily christened also feels like a lovely way of tying our family together because not only did our vicar marry us six years ago, she also led Aneurin's funeral. She was an incredible support to us after he died; we found a lot of comfort in her guidance and it feels right for her to welcome Lily into the church community. 

It's been a bit of a strange thing for me planning her christening because I'm very conscious of the fact that the only thing I will have ever planned for our first born is his funeral. If I'm honest I think my struggling with my emotions surrounding that is the reason I've been dragging my feet a little bit. Although I've managed to get everything together in time I did leave a lot to the last minute. I flit between feeling sad that I never had the chance to do this for Aneurin and feeling excited that I'm able to do this for Lily, not to mention the guilt that comes with both of those emotions. In the last week or so though something has shifted a bit, I'm able to feel more of the excitement and actually, feels lovely to plan a day in celebration of our daughter. 


A christening, baptism or naming ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. It can be as simple as the service and nothing else or it can be a huge celebration if you wish. We're going for somewhere in between. Neither mine nor Mr D's family live locally therefore don't get to see each other very often so we thought it would be a lovely opportunity to get together after the service, have some food and raise a glass to celebrate our little lioness. 

Whatever you choose to do there are a few things you can do to make the process a little easier. Here are five things I've learnt during planning. 

1. If you're offering food afterwards, shop around. We are hiring the church hall so have to provide food ourselves. For a while I couldn't decide between wanting to do it all myself (because despite the fact I barely have time to wee I'd definitely be able to do that?!), hiring caterers and ordering from somewhere like M&S. After comparing prices I found that the M&S option ended up being much cheaper per person which surprised me. I'll probably manage to cobble together a few bits myself to save some more pennies and pad it out a bit. Cheese and pineapple hedgehog, anyone?! 

2. Sort out mum and dads' outfits well in advance. This is advice I should have taken myself because we're two weeks away and I still have no idea what I'm wearing. Fortunately for the dads options are a bit more limited; a formal outfit, for example the wide selection of suits by Suits Men, or a more casual choice. Mr D has gone with the latter and chosen a pair of chinos, a fancy shirt and his favourite brogues. As much as I hate to admit it he's so good at knowing what looks good together, more so than I do! However, I have ordered a couple of bits for me that I'm hoping I can cobble a breastfeeding friendly outfit from. If not I'll be going in my pyjamas! 

3. Leave baby's outfit until the last minute. This might sound like a silly thing to do but when babies grow as quickly as they do if you buy something in advance it may not end up fitting them at the time. At 8 months Lily has only just gone into 6-9 month clothes after a quick, unexpected growth spurt so I could potentially have bought a beautiful outfit in 3-6 months and it never been used. Also, think about how practical your baby's outfit is. I had always envisioned Lily in a beautiful long gown but it's just not realistic when she is constantly on the move. She'd get frustrated and it'd get filthy so instead we're opting for something a little more understated. 

4. Utilise godparents! Get them practising their supportive roles and delegate jobs to them. I've roped one of Lily's godmothers into helping with the food (growing up in a pub means she's a dab hand at a buffet!) and I'm going to get them to help me set up the hall on the day. If any of your godparents have specific skills that might be of use like cake making, graphic design for the invitations or photography, use them and (hopefully!) it will save a bit too. 

5. A few simple decorations can go a long way. Church halls are usually full of brightly coloured posters and children's artwork which although lovely, doesn't look very elegant. Rather than trying to decorate the entire church hall I'm going to focus on the cake display to add a little personal touch. I decided to go with pastel colours to match the invitations so I've ordered a few confetti balloons, table confetti (which I'll chuck on all the tables), a tassle garland from one of my favourite IG shops, The Indigo Zebra and I've made a few tissue paper pom poms to hang. All in all it's cost me less than £30 but hopefully it'll look bloody lovely!

Have you or are you planning on having a christening or naming ceremony for your little one? Share any tips in the comments!

Love,
Mrs D x

*This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.
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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Turtle Tots Northamptonshire Review

This week saw the start of our third term of baby swimming classes with Turtle Tots and I thought it was about time I shared our love for them.

Swimming classes were one thing I knew I definitely wanted to do when I was pregnant with both of my babies. My love for swimming started at a really young age and it's something I get a lot of joy from, whether I'm swimming laps or floating around atop the water like a glorious manatee! I have fond memories of doing classes as a small child and Sunday morning swims with my dad and big brother and I couldn't wait to recreate that love with my children. Luckily for me Lily loves the water as much as I do. Even when she was tucked away in my tummy she seemed to enjoy a good splash, rolling around and kicking like crazy whenever I went swimming or swooshed about in the bath. And out of my tummy she is exactly the same.


We started with Turtle Tots when Lily was 11 weeks old. I wondered whether she was too little but a quick read on their website told me the earlier they get used to the water the better. New environments and activities are always going to take a little bit of time to get used to with a tiny human but I was surprised at how quickly Lily took to it. The first week she managed 20 minutes before she cried so much I had to get her out and flop my boob out of my cossie and into her gob but by the third lesson there were no tears and we lasted the whole half an hour! Two terms later and as soon as she realises where we are she waves her arms and legs around with glee and the second she's in that warm water she splashes and shrieks with joy! It is amazing to see and never fails to make me laugh. 

For classes Lily wears a Huggies Little Swimmers swim nappy under a Turtle Tots neoprene nappy cover. This just gives a bit of extra security should there be any poo related incidents because as brilliant as swim nappies are, I don't have a lot of faith in them beyond a quick wee! We started with a Splash About Nappy Costume which has a built in nappy cover but Lily grew out of it during Level 2. Now she's wearing a gorgeous parrot print suit from Next which I really wish came in grown up sizes!

First Level 1 class vs. first Level 2 class!

Underwater swimming is an exciting, fun and important part of the class. Almost everyone I've told about Turtle Tots has gasped at the fact that Lily goes under the water which makes me chuckle because although the first few times are a bit nerve wracking for the parents the babies barely bat an eyelid! It sounds scary but one of the big benefits of starting classes when babies are young is that they still have their breath-holding reflex. This means that the soft tissue at the back of their throat seals the windpipe when they're underwater so if any water does go into their mouths it's directed into their tummy. Even though this reflex diminishes as they get older they quickly relearn it. From the very first lesson we started practicing a cue to prepare them for their first underwater swim a couple of weeks in. Even at Level 3 we still do it a couple of times at the beginning of the lesson before their underwater swim and we do it at home during bath time. Practice definitely makes perfect because after a few weeks Lily started preparing herself and now when she hears her cue she grins like a loon, close her eyes and scrunches her face up ready! Turtle Tots also run underwater photoshoots every term which produce wonderful photos. We haven't managed to get to one yet but I'm hoping we will this term.

A post shared by Elena Davies (@elenalucie) on


Aside from swimming being a lovely bonding experience with your baby, it's such an important life skill to have. The half an hour of fun activities that make up the class are designed to teach babies the skill of swimming whilst being safe and secure in the water. For example one of the exercise we do teaches babies to turn around in the water and hold on to the side so, god forbid, they ever fall into water they know how to manoeuvre themselves round to find something secure to hold onto. The underwater swimming plays an important role in teaching babies to be confident in water so again, should anything ever happen, they know how to hold their breath until they reach the surface. The classes are also designed with mums in mind; incorporating toning exercises gentle for postpartum bodies and as baby gets bigger the act of supporting them in the water, lifting them and swooshing them around certainly gets your muscles going!

The social aspect is a big bonus too. We went along with a couple of mum and baby friends we have but have met many more. The cake, tea and catch up afterwards is always really lovely and helps to breathe a bit of life into me if I've spent a few days at home with no grown up interaction!


If you want to get your little one in the water I highly recommend Turtle Tots (the post swim naps alone are worth it!). They have over 44 licensed teachers across the UK and Ireland so chances are there will be a class near you. You can check their website or search for them on Facebook (search for Turtle Tots + your location, eg. Turtle Tots Northamptonshire) where they often run joining offers as well as competitions. Classes start from newborn right through to toddler and all teachers are qualified to the highest level so your precious babies are safe in their hands. We absolutely love our instructor, Sally, she is a large part of what makes our lessons so fun and it's clear to see how passionate she is about what she does. She makes such an effort with each baby and it's lovely to see how well the babies respond to her. We definitely lucked out with Sally!


I'm so glad we joined Turtle Tots and I can't wait to see what Level 3 brings! 

Love,
Mrs D x
*This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.
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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017

I have spent my life being told I am too much. Too chatty, too loud, too fat, too open, too over the top, just too much. But I will not shrink and I will not be silenced. It is my responsibility to be who I am not just for me but for my daughter and for all the other women in this world who do not have a voice. I consider myself lucky to have been born when and where I was and to tick the boxes that I do. I can live my life independently and I am in charge and control of my life. Yes, I have things to overcome and contend with; existing in a fat body in a fatphobic world, my mental health, my grief and simply being female are all things that present challenges but the very fact I am able to say those out loud is a privilege. I am aware of how fortunate and privileged I am when so many others are not. Equality may be a work in progress but I personally have freedoms and opportunities some women can only dream of. 

Credit: Veronica Dearly



99% of the most important people in my life identify as women. Each and every one of them are different; they have different opinions, different values, come from different walks of life, have different experiences and different things to offer. This day always makes me emotional and when I sat and thought about all the women in my life earlier I felt overwhelmed. I honestly could not list all the women who inspire me, who I am proud to know and who I love deeply. I am part of many communities of women, plus size women, bloggers, mums, loss mum, rainbow mums, but the thing they all have in common? They are all strong, supportive and bold. And each of them inspire me in their own way so thank you, women of my life, for being you. 

To women everywhere, whoever you are, however you present, you are important, you are valued and you have worth.


And to my daughter. My already fiesty, independent, funny girl. Thinking about you and what you are capable of lights a fire in me I didn't know what there. At six months old I know you inside and out and yet I am still learning who you are. I am almost certain that you've inherited the fire the women in our family hold and for that I am grateful. I cannot wait to teach you all I know, to lift you up and watch you flourish. I am so very lucky to be your mama and whatever choices you make, whatever and whoever you are and will be, I will be right beside you at every step. 

Love,
Mrs D x

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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Our Must-Have Baby Books


I was such a bookworm as a child. Whilst most kids were being told off for watching cartoons before school I was being told off for still being in a towel from the shower when it was time to leave because I wanted to read one more chapter. My love for books is something I've always been excited to pass on to my children. 

Reading with children from an early age is important for both their development in terms of language and reading skills and their imagination. We perhaps took it a bit too far and started reading to both our babies before they were even born! I've mentioned before that Haydn reading to my Aneurin bump is one of my most treasured memories and we made sure we carried that on with Lily. And from just days old her daddy has read her a story every night. At nearly five months old it's a solid part of her bedtime routine and is becoming one of her favourite activities during the day too. Whereas the combination of the inflection in our voices and the bright pictures used to just catch her attention enough to listen and look intently, she's recently started squealing and reaching out to touch the pages. It's lovely to see and I can't wait to see what sort of relationship she has with reading as she gets older. 

Despite not being five months old yet, Lily already has quite the book collection. We tend to stick to the same ones at bed time, usually ones with repetition and rhyming because they seem to calm her. So much so in fact that Haydn has started to recite 'We're Going On A Bear Hunt' word for word when she's grumbling and it almost always makes her stop! 

Here are our favourite baby (and children's) books to read with Lily. A lot of them are ones we loved as children with a few new classics thrown in for good measure.

Can't You Sleep Little Bear?









Spot's First Walk
(This is a special one because it was given to me on my first Christmas in 1987!)

I'd love to hear what your favourite books are to read with your children and if there are any you think we need to add to our collection! 

Love,
Mrs D x

*This post contains affiliate links.




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Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016: The Year of Rebuilding



2016, a year that brought so much tragedy and difficulty to the world as a whole. A year in which my heart was already broken, broke even more but eventually filled with more love than I could have imagined. Whilst the world lost icons and celebrities, my family lost some of our very beloved own. I've continued to grieve for Aneurin in new and more complex ways and I fought my way through an impossibly anxious pregnancy. I've also sadly witnessed countless families join our community of baby loss and forced to learn how to walk this path.

But amongst the darkness, there has been light. Precious babies have arrived safely, friends have been made, souls have met and most importantly, people have survived. We've put one foot infront of the other and that deserves to be celebrated because life is bloody difficult at the best of times, let alone when things are falling apart on a global scale.  


Last year I desperately didn't want that clock to tick over to 00:00. I wanted Aneurin to be 'this year' not 'last year' and now again, I am struggling with the fact that he won't even be 'last year'. I feel like the more time that passes, the less I am allowed to grieve. I know though, that time means nothing. Aneurin is as present in our family as ever and a new year can't change that. 

It goes without saying (but I'm going to anyway) that Lilian is the greatest part of this year. I will never be able to say this year was awful because it gave me her. This bright eyed, inquisitive, cheeky little girl has swept us completely off our feet. Even when it's 3am, her eyes have pinged open for the 9th time and I'm so exhausted I can feel tears prick at my eyes before they're even open, when I see her in the dark grinning that open mouthed smile that makes her ears twitch and her nose crinkle, my heart feels like it might burst with love. I can't believe there was a time when she didn't exist, it feels like she's always been here somehow just waiting for us. Waiting to come and breathe life back into us. 

Once again I'm torn between not wanting time to pass and feeling hopeful for what it might bring. I'm still so apprehensive about the future, so afraid of looking forward in case more pain lies ahead but maybe that's okay. Maybe I don't need to wonder what 2017 is going to bring. Just sitting in this moment, focusing on what is infront of me is more than enough and right now, the world doesn't look so bad. 


                              
    
Wishing you all hope, light and peace for the coming year. 

Love,
Mrs D x
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