Sunday, 16 October 2016

Carry your memories with you

We have always placed great importance on preserving memories, and throughout our twelve years have collected many keepsakes. 
Confetti from pride parades, concert/cinema/theatre/plane tickets, letters and cards, champagne corks, and scrapbooks of early photographs, among many other things that tell the story of our lives together so far. We often look back through our memory boxes and photo albums and remember very happy times spent together and with family and friends, and love that in the future we can share these with Oskar too.

So we were very intrigued when we were contacted by a lovely lady who runs a company called Carry My Heart keepsakes, a small independent company who allow you to hold your memories in a rather more different way. 
Laura chatted to us about herself and what she does, explaining that she is a DNA Keepsake artist. She specialises in preserving ashes, locks of hair, material, flowers and breast milk to create unique jewellery. 

She explained "I once read that grief is like the ocean, coming in waves, sometimes calm and sometimes overwhelming. Learning to swim is how my heart became obssessed with making keepsakes.  It was my way of coping, my float, my arm bands, my way of giving back to others the piece of my heart that I lost. Perspective and loss gave my heart extra compassion, empathy and love for my family and the beautiful world surrounding us. 
 It would be my absolute honour to create a keepsake for you, using elements you hold close to your heart.Each piece is made in my home from home studio and cross my heart your precious elements will always be treated with love, care and respect."

However, Laura contacted us with information on a particular item that we had not heard of before - beads or 'pearls' made of breast milk, to commemorate the unique, sometimes difficult journey, and the beautiful bond created, from breastfeeding. She offered to make Lauren a breast milk bead, which we were delighted by. In order for the bead to be made, we were instructed to send some of Lauren's milk in 3 sealed pouches. 

We were so impressed with the finished product. It is simple, classic, and absolutely beautiful.

 Although it will always remind Lauren of a journey that will leave her forever proud of her strength, determination, and comitment, to anyone else it simply looks like an item of pretty jewellery. Any woman's breastfeeding journey is extremely personal, and this is, in our opinion, a beautiful way of preserving the memory.

Laura also kindly offered to make an item for me too, and after looking through the array of beautiful keepsakes on offer, decided on a floral keepsake bead.
When we began our IVF treatment, we planted a rose bush in our garden. Over the summer our son was born, it bloomed beautifully, which we thought was incredibly symbolic.

So I chose to send off some petals from this rose bush as a permanent reminder of the blossoming of our son's life, through the often difficult and overwhelming IVF journey, right through to his incredible birth. I loved that such a magical time could be symbolised in a beautiful piece of jewellery that I can keep forever. To add a little more magic, I also chose to include some of the petals we saved from our wedding bouquets.

We are so impressed with the finished items - to the observer they just look like pretty, understated, classic, but unusual jewellery items, whereas the wearer, no matter which of Laura's products have been chosen, they hold beautiful and precious memories. 

We would highly recommend taking a look at Laura's beautiful items: 

Carry My Heart Keepsakes can be found at 

We want to thank Laura for introducing us to her wonderful business, and to thank her for our beautiful items, we will treasure them forever.

(First and last photographs in this posts were kindly supplied by Laura)

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Cake, cocktails and a baby - my first birthday as a mum!

October 2nd was my 32nd birthday, and my first one as a mum. I love my birthday - it symbolises the start of my favourite season, and who couldn't love a day (although we stretch this out to around a week if we can!) of all their favourite things?!
My birthdays always involve food, family, and friends, and this year was no different.

On Friday, Lauren, Oskar, and I ventured into Birmingham city centre to meet up with Lauren's parents - they had a couple of hours to kill before going for afternoon tea together. As it was a beautiful day we decided to have a stroll around the city centre.

First stop was Birmingham library, where after buying coffees, we ventured up to the roof and sat for a while chatting and enjoying the views. We then walked along the Birmingham canals - being lifelong residents of Birmingham means we take the nicer parts of it for granted occasionally, but sometimes it's fun to be a tourist in your own city! Finally we stopped at a street food market for lunch, as my favourite stall, a vegan burger stall, was trading that day. We had such a lovely afternoon in the early autumn sunshine! A lovely way to begin my birthday weekend.

On Saturday one of my best friends came round to spend some time with us. We had agreed not to buy each other birthday presents this year, but he surprised me not only with the hugest Lush gift box I have ever seen, but also an extra Halloween one!

But, even exciting than half a store worth of Lush, he bought his new 9wk old Husky puppy, whose name I chose! I adore dogs, and had so much fun cuddling this little one!

Sunday was my birthday, and it was so lovely to wake up not only with my wonderful wife, but with my smiling son too. I even had a card and present from him!

After a long lie in (quite different now with a 16 week old baby squealing at you and practising his kicking and grasping), Lauren cooked me the most amazing breakfast of vegan pancakes - blueberry ones, pumpkin ones, and Jam donut ones. They were AMAZING!

And then time to open my cards and presents. I got so many lovely things - clothes, my favourite vegan chocolate, a winter coat, lots of books including the new Harry Potter, coffee and one of the new Starbucks Birmingham mugs (we were in the first couple of people to buy one!). My work colleagues also spoilt me with flowers, a Cath Kidston cup, and a gorgeous bracelet.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing - perfect!

That evening we had booked a table at a cocktail lounge, and Lauren's parents were coming round to look after Oskar for a couple of hours. We are really lucky to have our families so nearby, and were happy in the knowledge Oskar would be happy with his grandparents, as he is extremely used to seeing them due to spending 2-3 days a week with them (and Lauren!). Even so, it was our first time leaving him with someone, so we were glad that if we needed to return home, Lauren's parents hadn't had to drive far! We needn't have worried, as they all had a wonderful time, as did we!
It was lovely to dress up, and have long conversations over a few cocktails. People always joke that the first time out for new parents involves a lot of talk about their baby, but I am pleased to report there was very little talk of our favourite tiny human, we have so much more in common that just being parents!


The following day was a Monday, and I had booked the day off work as holiday. I was so glad, as it was a beautiful warm sunny day, so we decided to take Oskar for his first trip to the beach! It was such an amazing day - we stopped on the way and bought food for a picnic, and to top up Oskar's tummy (and coffee for us!).

And then spent the day wandering along the beach, having a picnic, finding an awesome vegan ice cream shop, and dipping Oskar's toes in the sand!

It's such a surreal, wonderful feeling to look back on this time last year. Our embryo transfer day is still so clear in our memories and still remains one of our favourite days of all time. 7th October 2015. A beautiful, perfect, crisp autumn day, with soft golden sunshine and glowing leaves on every tree. We went for an acupuncture session, out for breakfast, then drove to the clinic with a playlist of our favourite music. We sat hand in hand in theatre and watched the embryo on the ultrasound screen as it was transferred. Afterwards we went for a gentle walk, full of hope and excitement, that that could have been the day Lauren became pregnant. And it was!
We took a test on holiday whilst glamping in the black mountains in Wales, and again, the autumn leaves and sunshine stick in our minds. Autumn has always been our favourite season, but these memories have made this season even more special, and our yearly walks admiring the leaves have been given a lovely new meaning.
We repeated the same walk this year - with our four month old son!

The magnitude of how our lives have changed since then is amazing - it seems so strange to think there was a day when Oskar wasn't here.

And so my first birthday as a mum was over. At the age of 32, although I've been happy for a long while,  I don't think I've ever felt more at peace in my whole life. Settled in a house that we've made our own, in the city I grew up in, with wonderful family and friends, married to my soul mate, in a job I enjoy with colleagues I love, and with a beautiful son. I have always been someone who avoids following the crowd, but as I've got older, this has became even more of a way of life for me! I wouldn't say age always brings wisdom (!) but it has definitely bought me a strong sense of knowing who I am, what makes me happy, and what's important. Cheers to peace and love!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Don't you dare say you're proud.

Honestly. Mummy wars drive us up the wall. There is nothing more controversial or more likely to get a very heated debate going than the way you feed your child in those beautiful first six months. 

We breastfeed. Do I make a big deal out of it? I don't know, but I don't think so. We just kinda get on with living our lives and when our son is hungry he latches on to my breast and gulps away at my milk until he's done. Wherever we are and whoever we are with, we just get on and feed when he needs to. I don't make any effort to be particularly discreet but have pretty much got the whole "one top up one top down and in your mouth it goes" down to a fine art. It's natural, necessary and normal, and needs to be seen as such. The uk has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates with 'social pressures' commonly given as a reason.

But despite the fact breastfeeding is a very normal part of any normal day for us, I am damn proud of the fact we are here, we are doing it. And I am sick of people telling me I have no right to be proud, in case it offends other people. 

Breastfeeding, for us, was bloody hard work. In the beginning our son was 3wks early, in hospital and sleepy from antibiotics for about a week and a half, and wouldn't latch at all, so I spent days expressing my milk and feeding him by syringe. Then he would latch, and it was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. People told me to stop and to formula feed, I didn't, I continued to nurse him because it was the best thing for him and I had absolute sheer determination to get through it. Then he would only latch with a nipple shield, a flimsy piece of silicone which falls off 20 times whilst you are trying to position a wriggling newborn and get him to open his mouth enough. The amount of times I lost them was ridiculous, cue much screaming from the boy whilst we hunted for it and washed it ready for use! Then there was the tongue tie division, which left my son screaming in pain whilst they held him still and cut his tongue. But I let them do it because I knew it was the best thing for us. And then we had to re-learn how to feed, him with a new moving tongue and me without the protection of the shields. I have cried many tears whilst holding my hungry boy to my chest, I have wanted to formula feed him so many times through hours and hours of cluster feeding sessions, I have thought I might just die of tiredness when he has wanted to nurse night after night every hour on the hour. But we have gotten through it, and for 16 weeks I have provided our son with milk that was made especially for him. And I am so damn proud of that. 

Does any of what I've just written make formula feeders feel inadequate, awkward or like I am trying to shame them? No. Well at least I hope not. Because my journey, with my son, is about me and him and no-one else. I am not telling you that you SHOULD have breastfed, I am not saying you COULD have tried harder, and I am certainly not saying I am better than you because I was successful. It's like my friend saying to me that they are better than me because they wanted to run the London Marathon and so they did. I have no intention of running the London Marathon, but even if I did, her saying she completed it wouldn't make me feel less adequate about the fact I haven't. 

So, although I really hate the term "fed is best", what I do really believe in is maternal choice. Every single person had the right to choice, and to be proud of the way they fed their babies and the journies they took to get there. I will stand up for my sister's right to formula feed her daughter who is slightly older than Oskar and I will also stand up and say I am proud of myself. For getting through what we have, for all of those tears, all of that pain, for all of those awful nights when I just didn't know what to do anymore. I am a successful breastfeeder. But in order to be that I really don't need to tear down anyone else's choice of feeding. Isn't it about time we all built each other up instead of tearing each other down? Or being afraid to say we are proud of ourselves in case someone else takes offence? We are all doing our best to mother our beautiful children, can't we just leave it as that?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

A dozen years together.

My heart is so full. Today my wife and I have been together for twelve magical years. I remember the moment well, we were in my Uni room, I'd just started, we'd seen each other a few times before I moved up to Leeds, but as soon as I moved I missed her terribly, and asked her to visit. So she arrived, and I asked her if she would be my girlfriend. She said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history, 

It is fair to say our lives have had many ups and downs in our 12 years together. We have been through University, first jobs, moving out of home, moving back to our parents homes to save for our own home, buying a house and making it our home, new jobs, promotions, leaving jobs for another, an engagement, a beautiful wedding, an incredible marriage, trying to conceive, a difficult pregnancy and then the wonderful journey of parenthood. We have held each other through difficult days when it felt like the world might end, and cried and laughed together at our very happiest moments. She is my rock, my entire world, and we are utterly perfect for each other. 

We are often greeted with surprise when people (knowing we are 30 and 31) ask how long we've been together and we reply twelve years. We are then asked what our secret it! In all honesty, of course there are things that help. Communication is a huge one - if you aren't happy with something, speak up! There's also being that person's biggest supporter - knowing what their dreams are and making them happen as part of a team. But ultimately, we are soulmates. When we met at 18 and 19, we definitely weren't looking for a relationship. Lauren was about to move away from Birmingham and go to uni, and Sarah was more than happy at a gig or pub with her group of friends! So for someone to make us want a relationship, that person had to perfect! But when you find the one, you just know, and suddenly they are all that's important, because you know if you have them, everything else will be ok. 

This time last year we were in quite a different place. I was struggling with a career I loved and hated in equal measures, and midway through a gruelling frozen embryo transfer cycle. I remember our anniversary clearly, we had so much hope, so much uncertainty and so much desire for this to work. Little did we know, our answer was just around the corner. 

In the past year we have navigated an unpredictable and often difficult pregnancy, I have made a decision not to return to the job that was making me so unhappy, Sarah got an awesome promotion in a job she excels and is incredibly happy in, and then there was our son. The birth of our precious, incredible, beautiful boy. The day that changed our lives forever and gave a whole new meaning to me and her. We became three, and from that moment forward we are not just us, we are a family, our love runs deeper, is more powerful and more magical with each day that passes. 

So, twelve incredible, beautiful years with beautiful you. It has been by far the most amazing journey of my life. Here's to the next dozen! 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Let clothes be clothes.

You may have seen the "Let clothes be clothes" campaigns flying around social media, often hand in hand with "Let toys be toys". It refers to the campaigns to urge retailers and consumers alike to stop stereotyping clothes, and indeed toys, in to genders, and instead to see them for what they are, items of clothing, and toys. As the saying goes "if you don't need your genitals to be able to wear it then it you can wear it regardless of your gender."

Obviously the opposers of this campaign argue that society has certain levels of acceptance and rules, and a little boy wearing a pink frilly dress would not fit in to this, and would be quite frowned upon. I remember seeing the campaign when I was pregnant with Oskar and talking to Sarah about how we felt about it. We both agreed that if our son wanted to wear an Elsa dress to a birthday party for example, because he liked it, or because his two older cousins (who are both girls and only slightly ahead of him in age) were both wearing one, then we would absolutely support that choice, and God forbid anyone say anything to our son about his choice of clothing. However on the other hand we wouldn't purposefully be dressing him in a pink cardigan etc just to make some kind of point. We were happy that our views fell fairly in the middle of the argument, and that like most things, we were able to agree on where we stood. 

It wasn't until Oskar actually came along that I realised just how strongly I feel about the idea behind letting clothes just be clothes. Like most new parents, we were inundated with visitors in the days and weeks following Oskar's arrivals, and as is fairly customary in our country, most people brought gifts. Piles upon piles of beautiful clothing chosen especially for him, and 90% of them were... blue. 

I've never been a particular lover of the colour blue, and I don't particularly like pink either, but it both surprised and then in turn annoyed me that because we had a new little bundle of joy that happened to be a boy, most of the things we received were blue. And this got me thinking, did well meaning visitors buy us blue because he was a boy or is it because when you go shopping for a newborn boy the vast majority of choices are of that colour. And if that's the case, why is it? And does our buying of that colour reinforce to shops that we do indeed want to comply with that stereotype, thus making them manufacture more clothes in the same colours. What we did, in fact, was dress our tiny new son in the fairly unisex colours of white and grey. In the tiny sizes there are plenty of these to find, catering of course for those people who choose not to find out if their bump is "pink or blue".

We easily had enough clothes for Oskar to see him through his newborn days and early weeks from the clothes we had bought in pregnancy, and it is only now at 15 weeks that he is fitting comfortably in to his 0-3 clothing. So last weekend Sarah and I spent some time packing away his tiny vests and sleepsuits and went shopping to find some clothes we liked in his bigger size. And this is when it struck me, again, just how much colour stereotypes are enforced on to genders, even as young as 3 months of age.

Each shop you go in to has a separate area for boys clothes and girls clothes. In the boys section you will find lots of jeans, blue t-shirts and sleepsuits of various shades of blue. You will find slogans referring to how strong your boy is, how cheeky, and how naughty in a "boys will be boys" kind of way. And in the girls section? Row upon row of pink dresses, leggings and t-shirts, slogans such as "as pretty as my mummy" and things about girls being cute and delicate. I couldn't help but feel sad that even at such a tender age we are emposing society's gendered stereotypes on to our children, when they aren't even old enough to understand what gender even is. Boys are strong, cheeky and like blues and sports and diggers, girls are feminine are delicate and like pinks flowers and teddy bears. 

As we walked round the various shops we spoke again of our belief that our son does not and will not be required to conform to society's stereotypes and expectations, and for us that starts right now. We bought him some jeans from the "boys section" and we bought him some grey cord trousers from the "girls". Then we bought him a mix of sleepsuits, some with crocodiles and rockets on aimed at boys, and some with flowers and ballerinas on aimed at girls.

 And then we bought him some fabulous glittery grey converse-type shoes, which are gorgeous and sparkly and cute. The clothes we bought are a gorgeous mixture of greens, purples, reds, whites, greys and oranges. No blue for us thank you!

We will bring him up to value his own likes and dislikes, to know his opinions matter and should be heard, and that extends to the clothing he wears, the toys he chooses to play with and the colours he likes. And will we be disappointed if after that he still picks out some blue jogging bottoms, a t-shirt with a tractor on and wants to play football in the garden? Absolutely not, because that will be his choosing, not ours, not because we or society says he has to wear those things or do those things. So please, can we all just agree to let clothes be clothes?