Why I live in London, and why I love it

I live in London. And I love it.

I grew up in Essex so London has always been a place I’ve spent a lot of time in throughout my life. I lived here for a year or so when I was an 18 year old drama student, then I moved back in 2007 and have been here ever since. I first lived with a bunch of girls in a not so nice neighbourhood in North London. I have really special memories of getting on the bus in our pjs to pick up a pizza and being broken into by someone actually cutting through the wall downstairs (we lived above a post office so I’m pretty sure we weren’t the main event.)

I moved back in 2007 to study to become a dental hygienist. I moved from Cornwall and at first I hated London, literally, hated it. Everyone was so moody, everything moved so fast, I had black bogies. I just didn’t see the appeal at all, it was just a big stinky place to me.

I met my husband here and we got married in 2009. His job is here in West London so we have lived within this small area ever since, almost seven years. During that time, I have come to adore this city. It is so vibrant and energetic and fast paced, it just has so much to offer.

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I caught the end of a radio show today in which they were discussing why people choose to live in London in a tiny residence, as opposed to living outside the city and getting far more for their money. I have a lot of friends who say this to me too. They just can’t understand why I live in a tiny flat with my two kids and pay more rent than they do for their four bedroom houses. Sometimes, I ask myself that question too. But I know the answer, because it’s where we want to be right now. A lot of it has to do with my husbands job, he works less than a 20 minute walk away from where we live. How amazing is that?! He can walk to work and we get to even meet him for lunch at least once a week. Many people ask me why we don’t rent a bigger place on the outskirts and have my husband commute. This just makes no sense to me! We would pay slightly less rent, sure, but not much. We would then pay a lot of money for commuting, when right now we pay nothing. On top of all that, we would see my husband a lot less that we do now. I love it when he texts to say he’s leaving the office and I know he’ll be home in 15 minutes or so. I feel really spoilt that we have this set up, it’s not like that for most people and I feel lucky. I know that it won’t always be like this but for now, the children get to see a lot of their Daddy and I love that.

There are so many things that I love about London, I couldn’t possibly write them all. I love waking up in the morning and deciding that we are going to take the 20 minute tube ride to the Science Museum. I love walking five minutes to the most incredible, huge park that is right on our doorstep. I loved it when we had a date night the other week and went for dinner at 11pm. I love hopping on the bus and changing my mind about where to get off at the last minute just because I have so many options.

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Today, it was the most beautiful sunny day. We met David for lunch by the river and then the kids and I jumped on the tube to central London. I took them to M and M World because they love it and it’s a real treat for them. They got their candy (that’s for you Americans) and then we just scooted around with no particular destination in mind. There was such a buzz in the air, I was almost skipping along! We walked past a guitarist in Leicester Square singing the most beautiful summer song. We walked all along the Mall and stopped outside Buckingham Palace to eat M and Ms and listen to the marching band. I just felt so in love with London today, and so grateful that so much is on my doorstep.

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I know that we can’t live in a tiny flat forever, and often I wish we had more space. But I wouldn’t trade it right now, I really wouldn’t. It makes sense for us to be here but we are also here because we love it. When you’ve lived here, you kind of just get it and you can’t imagine living anywhere else. I can’t, anyway.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the countryside has a lot to offer and maybe one day I’ll end up in a farm house in the middle of nowhere. Right now though, my children have some lovely experiences and I just want to soak it all up for as long as it lasts.

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Gemma

Dummy Fairy follow up

So a few days ago I wrote about getting rid of the dummies. We decided to go for the dummy fairy method and I wanted to write a quick update for those of you who have been asking how it ‘s been going.

George and Sophie slept through the night without any hassle and bounced out of bed, excited to see what the dummy fairy had left them. They were delighted with their gifts and were really amazed that the fairies really had taken the dummies away.

I must say, it’s been pretty plain sailing! Way easier than I ever imagined it would be, thank goodness. Sophie has only asked for the dummy twice and when I remind her about the dummy fairies, she seems happy and accepting. There also aren’t any more arguments over dummies which is wonderful. They were both so in love with them that things could get pretty intense. It feels so good to just remove them completely. My husband said we should put them in the cupboard just in case of an emergency! I told him that we had to be strong, we couldn’t go back after all this. If we did then it would totally confuse them, it just wouldn’t be fair. So in the dustbin they went, and it felt so good.

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I am surprised that Sophie hasn’t been asking for it at bedtime. The only thing I have noticed is that she hasn’t been falling asleep as quickly as she usually does. When the dummy would go in, she would immediately snuggle down and just knew it was time to sleep. Without that cue, it’s just taken her a little longer to get sleepy but this is really no big deal.

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I know that a lot of people don’t agree with dummies in the first place. I did give my children dummies from a very young age, even though I never thought I would before I became a parent. Sleep deprivation can make you change your mind on all sorts of things that you hadn’t planned out previously. I always felt a bit bad about it but then again I always knew that it wouldn’t last forever. I wasn’t going to let them go to school and still be having a dummy, they would be gone before the kids were old enough to be affected in a negative way. I would say that limiting them to nap and bed times is a great way to slowly start weaning them off, and it also reduces the risk of problems with speech. Dummies have their place, I really believe that.

I am soooooooooooo happy with how this has gone. it’s been a few days now so I’m hoping we won’t have a relapse. I whole heartedly recommend the dummy fairy method, as well as a little gift being left. I just love seeing their little faces and hearing all of the questions about where their dummies went. They decided that the fairies live in a dummy castle. Perfect.

Gemma

Bye bye dummies

It’s time for the dummies to go. Forever. And ever.

Last night I was woken up four times by crying children. Sophie (two and a half years old) was screaming because her brother George (four years old) had stolen her dummy while she slept. I took it from George and gave it back to Sophie which then made him scream. This scenario continued throughout the night and I realised it’s all my doing. I have been way too soft as far as the dummies go and I should have taken them away ages ago. We took them away from George when he was around two and a half but since Sophie has had them, he has become obsessed with them again. He just loves them! I have been a lazy parent and just put off taking them away because I know it won’t be easy.

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There is lots of advice out there about the best way to remove the dummy, it can be a bit overwhelming. You can go cold turkey and just take it away without much explanation other than ‘you’re old enough not to have it any more.’ I feel like that’s a bit harsh. Before I had kids, I would have said I would definitely go for that because I’m the parent and I’m in charge. I never imagined, though, that children can become so emotionally attached to the dummy. It becomes a real comfort to them and is something that’s been constant to them for as long as they can remember.

Another technique I heard about is snipping bits off the teat of the dummy so that the child doesn’t like it any more. I did try this with Sophie a while back and she was so distressed that it was different that she just went insane. I could have stuck to it but I’m weak, so I didn’t.

Another idea, which is what we are going for, is the dummy fairy. The dummy fairy comes and takes the dummies and leaves a little gift in return. I’ve been really bigging it up to the kids and trying to get them excited about it. I’ve explained it a few times so they know what’s coming. I also had the idea that we could make a house to put the dummies in so that the fairies can collect them. We spent the afternoon constructing our Lego house for the fairies to come and play in.

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They really enjoyed building it and making it nice a cosy for the fairies. It’s nice to make it fun for them and get them involved. They put it by the front door before bed and the final step was to put the dummies inside. It was kind of a sad moment for all of us, which I know sounds weird. I suddenly had this pang of sadness that my babies are growing up and leaving behind things that they won’t ever need again. They were both saying a fond goodbye and having a last suck before placing them carefully inside the house.

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George hopped off to bed, excited to see what would be waiting for him in the morning. Little Sophie was crying and crying, she really wanted a dummy so badly. I managed to settle her but she kept periodically shouting out for me. I heard George telling her in such a sweet way that she needed to go to sleep or the dummies fairies wouldn’t be able to come. I love hearing him take care of her. I got them each a little present that I hope they’ll like and I’m excited to see their little faces in the morning.

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Fingers crossed we make it through the night and from this day on, my kids are dummy free zones.

I’d love to hear other people’s tips and experiences with saying bye bye to baby’s best friend!

Gemma

 

Give to the homeless, or not?

Today, I was having an interesting group discussion about helping people in need. We were talking about people that you see begging on the street and whether or not we should help them.

Living in London, it is an almost daily occurrence to walk past people on the street who are asking for money. There are people with dogs, people with babies, people who look like they are in a really bad way and people that don’t actually look so bad. Sometimes they are sitting next to a sign asking for food, sometimes they are just wrapped in a sleeping bag trying to keep warm. Some people are very vocal and try to catch your eye and just outright ask for money, while others just sit and stare into space like they aren’t really there.

I always find it uncomfortable to just walk on by. Not because I feel threatened or anything like that, but because I feel like I want to help everyone. It’s just unthinkable to be sleeping rough in the middle of winter (or any time of the year) with no food and hardly anything to keep you warm. I just wouldn’t survive like that, I know I wouldn’t. Everyone should have somewhere to live and I find it impossibly sad to see anyone in these kinds of situations. We feel really strongly that everyone deserves to have somewhere to live, although my husband’s opinion on how to help people sometimes differs from my own. We give money to charities but he feels more like I shouldn’t give to people on the street as much as I do, which view point I know is shared by many others. A few years back, I was a very proud wife when my husband took it upon himself to complete a tower run for the charity Shelter and raised hundreds of pounds for this brilliant cause.

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During the discussion, I was struck by the difference between my opinion and those I was listening to. Many people were very bold in saying that no one should give money to people on the street. One of their reasons is that we are perpetuating a problem, that people on the street will continue to stay on the street if we give them the means to do so. I get that, to an extent. I see what people are saying but it still doesn’t stop me from wanting to help.

Another reason people were expressing for not helping was that there are a lot of people on the streets who aren’t genuinely in need. Some people beg for money and then go and use it for drugs, alcohol etc, rather than food or shelter. Some people might not even be homeless, they may just want some extra cash and prey on people’s generosity to fill their pockets. I am not naive to this notion. I know full well that there are many people on the street who aren’t telling the truth and that will do bad things with the money they receive. Often, I don’t actually give money anyway. I’ll go and buy some food from a near by shop and give them that instead. I must admit, I have had some snubs from the begging person when I’ve done this as they clearly just wanted cash not food!

My view point on all of this is the following. Who am I to judge these people? I don’t know them, or their situation. I don’t know what they are going through or what has led them to the situation they’re in. I don’t know if they are truly in need or if they are scamming me, but why would that stop me from being a good person? I’m not saying I give to every single person, because I don’t. We aren’t well off and sometimes I simply don’t have anything in my pockets to give. If I do though, then I will give a little here and there. I won’t be worrying about what the person is going to do with it because I have done what I feel is the right thing.

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I had an experience with this a few months ago when a young guy approached me near a busy shopping centre. He told me that he had no where to sleep that night and he just needed £20 so that he could go and find a hostel. He seemed genuine and I felt compelled to help him. I didn’t have the money on me but I told him to hang on and I shot to the cash point and got the cash. He was so grateful and I felt so good! Now, £20 is a lot of money to me and way more than I would ever usually give anyone in the street. He may well have been trying his luck with me just to get some money, but what if he wasn’t? What if he really did need that money and I put a roof over his head for the night? I found myself not really wondering too much about what he was going to do with it, but just feeling like I’d done a nice thing.

A lot of people reading this might think I’m super gullible and naive but I really don’t think I am. I want to help people if I can and I don’t feel that I have a right to judge them. I don’t feel hurt or upset at the thought that my offerings may not always be put to good use, I’m going into it with my eyes wide open. I’m doing what I feel is right and for me, that’s the most important thing.

I’d love to hear more views on this. It seemed from today’s discussion that people do feel very strongly about the subject, whether it be to give or not to give. My feeling is though, aren’t we all beggars in some way or another?

Gemma

Pregnancy hair loss

I’m having my hair cut this afternoon. Since having children, this has become something of a rare treat so I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like having something radical done but I know I’ll regret it, so I’ll probably come out looking pretty much the same as I do now.

Before I had children, I enjoyed gloriously thick and luscious hair. I used to complain about how thick it was actually, and wished there was a bit less of it. Not any more. My hair is so much thinner than it was and the texture has changed too. The worst thing of all, though, has to be all of the fuzzy hair I’ve acquired since losing a lot of hair when my babies were new born.

Hair loss after pregnancy is very common. During pregnancy, apparently you don’t lost the hair that you naturally just lose day to day. This is why so many heavily pregnant women experience the best hair of their lives just before giving birth. I always think that women have such a glow and vitality about them when they are eight or nine months pregnant.

 

For me, my babies were each around three months old when my hair started falling out. I remember washing my hair in the shower and looking down at a huge clump that had just come away in my hand. I audibly gasped! It was really distressing because I couldn’t do anything about it. My hair became very thin all around the front so I felt like it was really noticeable. I was confident it would grow back though, and tried not to get too stressed out about it. It was just one of those things, right? One of the many changes new mothers have to deal with regarding their bodies.

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Balding…

This was a distressing time but it’s NOTHING compared to how things are when the hair starts to grow back. It grows back as fine, frizzy baby hair that just sticks out all over the place. I found myself with little tufts all around my hair line. I couldn’t wear my hair up because I just had these short strands that wouldn’t tame. I had to be inventive and come up with ways to hide it but nothing really helped much. I considered getting a fringe (like our beloved Duchess) but I really don’t think I actually had enough hair to construct one. I would pin the front pieces back but they would just fluff up again seconds later. I found myself stealing my husbands hair putty and slicking my hair back, not something that makes a girl feel pretty and feminine. I’d also clip it down when it was wet in an attempt to train it to dry in a more uniform manner. I was so self conscious about it. Maybe it sounds silly to be talking so seriously about my hair like this. Words like ‘distressing’ and ‘un feminine’ maybe seem a bit dramatic but it really is horrible. Your hair can make or break you as far as how good you feel about yourself. It broke me.

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After George, it eventually grew back to pretty much normal again. It took over a year, though, which seemed like forever. I was relieved that I could return the hair putty and blow dry my hair normally again. I got pregnant with Sophie when George was just over a year old and I was nervous of having to go through it all over again. I took pregnancy supplements that were supposed to help stop hair loss but it still happened. This time, it’s even worse. Sophie is almost two and a half and my new hair has just stopped growing. It has got to a couple of inches and just given up. I’m stuck with this frizz and there is nothing to be done. I don’t hold out much hope that it will suddenly start growing again so I need to get used to the idea of this being my hair forever. I’m not loving it, I miss my normal hair. I know lots of women who have been through this now that it’s happened to me but before I had kids I had no idea about it really. It can just be added to list of ways in which we give our bodies to our children. I’ll get used to it, just like I’ve got used to the saggy belly and peeing myself on the trampoline. Those little cherubs are worth it, right?

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Gemma

Eyebrows and upper lip dilemmas!

We all like to look good, right? I feel like I don’t have a lot to work with but I try and make the best of what I’ve got.
I’m ginger. There, I said it. The consequence of this genetic mutation means that I have pretty much got no eyebrows. You just can’t see them because they’re so light. Over the years, I have tried all sorts of methods of colouring my eyebrows. I started off with a pencil which was a big mistake because it literally just looked like a three year old had played a prank on me in my sleep. I then tried actual eyebrow make up which was ok but I could never seem to find the right shade. Then my friend told me about a dye kit she got from Boots that was good so I thought I’d give it a try. It actually works really well, most of the time…

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eyebrow dye in progress…

My friend came over and I did her eyebrows for her and it didn’t quite turn out as planned. She’s very forgiving (after the dead arm) luckily for me. You do need to be careful that you don’t leave it on too long as it can totally dye your skin. Lesson learnt.
I just treated myself to the new Gimme Brow thing from Benefit with some birthday money. It’s the best thing ever. It contains microfibers that adhere to your existing hair and just make your eyebrows look so much thicker. I would highly recommend it and I can’t imagine using anything else now.

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results of the gimme brow…apologies for grainy photo, you get the gist

My quest for eyebrow perfection also includes having my eyebrows neat and tidy. I started having them threaded about nine years ago and I’ve never looked back. I like the shape I get from threading and think it’s much more precise than waxing.
I usually have my eyebrows done once a month or so. There is a little pop up place at the local high street so I just turn up and six quid and five minutes later, it’s all done. I sit back on the chair and ask for eyebrow threading (they do lots of other treatments too). Usually, they just crack on and do a great job. The last few times I’ve been, however, they’ve offered me another treatment at the same time. ‘Upper lip as well?’ They ask, looking at me as if to say ‘you really should you know.’ The first time this happened, I was mortally offended. I looked at the woman in disbelief and abruptly said no thanks. It’s been so consistent though that I’ve started to get a real complex and come away feeling much worse than I did when I arrived!

The last time I went, they asked me again and this time I said yes! I thought, you know what, just do it and get it out of your system, my friend. So she threaded my eyebrows and waxed my upper lip. Agony. I’m VERY fair skinned so I looked like I had really bad sunburn above my lip, and it lasted ages.
Once it had worn off though, I was actually really happy with the results! Smooth and silky, lush. From now on, I’m waxing my upper lip. Why didn’t I just say yes the first time?!

Why do we even put ourselves through all of this? I wish I was one of those naturally beautiful people with no need for make up but I’m not. I need a bit of help and that’s just how it is so I may as well embrace it!
I’d love to hear your beauty tips…and disasters!

Gemma

Natural birth vs c-section (part 2)

It’s 11.30am on Saturday morning. My husband has taken the children to the cinema for one of those bargain kids morning films. Right now, I am sitting in a cafe with a hot chocolate, a blueberry muffin and my laptop. I’m playing at being one of those people that I always stare longingly at whilst simultaneously wiping Sophie’s nose and telling George to eat his croissant rather than scatter it all over the floor. It’s bliss right now.

So, birth story number two. I was lucky again to have a pretty straight forward pregnancy. I might say that it was even more comfortable and manageable than the first, I think my body was just more prepared to be inhabited and stretched.

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Sophie was due on 17th October and I really wasn’t surprised that this day came and went. I tried every old wives tale in the book but still found myself on a ward at 8am two weeks later being induced. I had heard so many horror stories about being induced and I was feeling pretty anxious about it. Friends had said that it makes your labour very quick and intense since they are giving you drugs to start your labour rather than your body doing it by itself. They gave me the drugs then told me to walk around for four hours and they’d check me again. I did start having contractions but I could tell it was still early days and this wasn’t going to be the quick and easy second labour I had been promised!

It got to 7pm and they said it was time for my husband to go home for the night. Um, excuse me? There was no way on earth I was letting him go and leave me there on my own. They said he could come back once I was in established labour as I would then be on the labour ward. It was news to me that I wasn’t in established labour but apparently I wasn’t. I needed to be at 3cm for them to send me to the labour ward and I wasn’t even there yet, sad times. I had this wonderful nurse examine me and she heard my heart felt petition and got me to 3cm, no more details required. I was so grateful  and happy that David and I could both go up to the labour ward.

On my way up there I started to get a real panic feeling because it was the same place where I had given birth to George and had such a horrible time. Thankfully, we were in a different room and to be honest it felt like a totally different hospital so I was happy. I was greeted by my midwife who had just begun her 12 hour shift. Her name was Frederica and she was Italian. The labour ward was pretty much empty so she really was able to give me lots of time and attention which was incredible, so different to the first time. She ran me a bath and got the room all nice and cosy. Once I was out, she told me they were going to brake my waters quite soon. I was tired and still having contractions so she offered me gas and air which I jumped at. It was amazing! I used it while she broke my waters and I didn’t feel a thing, so good.

Once my waters had broken, things really intensified. My husband was just amazing. I really zoned out and had my eyes closed most of the time to try and manage the pain. He helped me through every single contraction by telling me when I was at the peak that the pain would soon go and I would get a little rest again. So simple but it absolutely kept me going and helped me get through the contractions. I think it’s so interesting that you have little gaps between contractions. You wouldn’t think a few minutes or seconds would make much difference but I don’t think any of us could manage it otherwise.

The hours went on and I was exhausted. They recommended that I have an epidural so I did. As time went by, I began to notice more and more people in the room, including doctors. They each wanted to examine me but I didn’t really know why. By this point, I had started vomiting so I had to stop taking the gas and air. The epidural had not been completely effective because they said the baby was in a strange position. It was time to push and I could feel pain but that was ok, I would have my baby in my arms soon. The pushing went on, and on, and on. No baby. I felt like the same nightmare was unravelling all over again.

We are just going to take you through to theatre just in case we need to use any interventions. Off we went and they gave me one last chance to push. I don’t think I’ve ever exerted so much effort in my whole life. But it was useless, that baby wasn’t coming out. They said that they would need to perform an emergency c-section. At that moment, I was surprised that I actually felt relieved. I felt relieved that someone else would be taking over and I could just stop and be still.

The next thing I knew, I had a baby on my chest. My beautiful, perfect baby girl. They had to take her from me quite quickly because I was in and out of consciousness. I felt this strange, blissful feeling of drifting in and out of the room while everyone else was so busy and alert.

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I spent two days on the recovery ward and then another couple on the normal new mum ward. It was hard, really hard. Usually they leave the epidural in place for a while as a method of pain relief but since mine hadn’t been effective they just took it out. I have a morphine allergy so pain management was complex. They ended up giving me my own clicker thing to administer some kind of drug whenever I felt I needed it.

Recovery at home was slow but steady and I didn’t have any complications from my operation thankfully. I remember thinking I just couldn’t believe how much I use my stomach muscles. Literally, every time we move it comes from our core so it really was hard to move around and do anything. I did, however, really enjoy that fact that I could sit down without that agony that I’d had with a natural birth.

Both of my births were not straight forward, at all. The second experience was better mainly because of the midwife. I think that can make such a huge difference, I felt so looked after. Recovery from both kinds of birth are hard in different ways. It was very painful to sit down etc with a natural birth. It took a long, long time to heal and feel anything like normal. I could still pick things up though, and drive and do way more normal stuff than I could after my section.

With the section I felt more comfortable in the sense of being able to sit down but it was so much harder in a lot of ways. I could barely even sit up in bed. I couldn’t lift my baby out of her cot to feed her in the night, my husband had to pass her to me. I wasn’t able to drive for six weeks and even then I felt scared that if I put the brakes on, my stomach would split open. I now also have a scar which isn’t really what you plan for. It’s not big but it’s a constant reminder of what happened. I guess you can also say it’s a constant reminder of the birth of my daughter which is actually a wonderful thing!

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If I was to have a third child then my husband is adamant that he wants me to have a planned c-section. As I have had one before, I can choose to have one again if I want one. I think it’s good that you get the choice. My husband is worried that my labour would go just the same way and I’d end up having a c-section anyway. I think is pretty likely as well but I guess it’s hard for me to admit as I still want to believe I could have a totally natural birth one day. My pelvis apparently doesn’t open wide enough for a baby so maybe I need to accept that my body just isn’t good at birthing children.

I am unsure what I would do. I kind of want to give it another go the natural way but I feel like I wouldn’t want another emergency section. If it was planned, I would imagine it would be a lot less intense and a lot more calm since we’d all know the plan.

Don’t rush into deciding to have a c-section, weigh it all up and think carefully about what works best for you and your family.

When you’re in the thick of all of the giving birth and recovery, life can be pretty bleak and impossible. Things do get better though, you will feel better. Your body is amazing and it will recover and let you do the things you want to do, and you have some little people to do it with you which makes all totally worth it.

Gemma