Our Trip to Geneva, Switzerland

geneva-switzerland

So when we told people Mummy and Daddy were off to Switzerland, everyone assumed we were going skiing when in fact we were going nowhere near the ski slopes.

Our annual trip is a time for us to be together, to reconnect and not have a toddler, teen and so much work in the middle.  We originally decided to go to Iceland but when we realised how popular it was and just how many people we knew had been, we decided to explore somewhere a little less explored, hello Switzerland.

Our Hotel

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Staying close to Lake Geneva but not overlooking was our Hotel NvY.  Super trendy, arty and well located we chose well.  With couches by the fire, it was great for that last drink before bed.  Downside, the sound of a million empty bottles being disposed of outside early hours of the morning as well as the price tag for a G&T at a whopping £14.

hotel-nvy

We decided to get the train from the airport into Geneva and it was fairly straight forward and saved us around £100 on transfers, which was obviously needed for our extortionate drinks!

On the plus side, public transport in Geneva is FREE, tram, train or bus, there is no charge.  The same goes for some of the attractions we visited, FREE FREE FREE, who doesn’t love a freebie.

lake-geneva

Now it’s no secret that Mark and I like a drink in the form of beers or a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so our first task was to suss out the cosy pubs and trendy bars. These days we much prefer to get cosied up in a pub and drink lots more than we really should and talk rubbish, by the end of the night (OK 9.30pm we’re getting old) we’ve put the world to rights as well as talk about the kids non stop, sound familiar?

So what did we do and where did we go…

Our Top Pubs & Bars

Our favourite pub was found on the very last day and was called Lord Jim Pub, it was cosy, friendly and they kept on bringing the snacks! No matter which pub or bar we went to it was around £10 for a pint and £10 for a teeny glass of vino.

We managed to find an Irish Bar, because let’s admit it, everyone looks for an Irish Bar wherever they are in the World. However the only irish bar similarities was the sign outside, no thank you!

Grand Duke Pub & Mr Pickwick, proper pubs with proper pub grub, they had sport on the TV and comfy booths to relax.  All bars and pubs visited were visited on foot, we walked a fair few steps! Maybe stumbled a few times too 🙂

Our favourite swanky bar was probably Riverside Cafe, sitting outside on the couches with tapas and drinks watching the world go by and over looking the lake.  I loved it here!

Yvette-de-marseilles-geneva

The Converted Garage!

And for all of you who loves the authentic touch, Yvette de Marseille was one of the bars we found which had been converted from an actual persons garage, you could tell it was where the cool locals hung out.  I’m not sure we pulled off ‘cool’ to fit in with the locals, but we stayed anyway, there was just something really authentic about it, it was most definitely not a chain. We’re all for the independent’s! If you like authentic and not so much the swanky prim and proper , straight back designer watch joints, then this is your place.

Lake Geneva Attractions

Running with the free theme, well most of the tourist attractions here are FREE! Except the Phillipe Patek museum, if you are a watch lover, yes i’m talking to all you men, then it’s pretty fascinating seeing all the watches from when they were first created, to those created for the Royals, to those with such detailed paintings on them.  No photos were allowed though, in fact you had to leave your belongings in a locker and there were plenty of security to make sure you did.

The Natural History Museum was excellent, the dinosaur exhibition and animals were really impressive, i almost wished i had the kids with me..almost!  Set on 4 floors, there is plenty to see and a cafe for a rest in between. It was cool, it was arty and really quite busy.

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Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

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For all the art lovers and even if you aren’t an art lover to be honest, i think you would still appreciate the collections on offer here.  I found myself at one point sitting and just looking at some of the pieces, i looked like a real professional 🙂 They had everything from Egyptian artefacts to Art Nouveau, some of the furniture i’d love for my house now. Again, no photos allowed, i obviously realised this after taking the above shots, sorry Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

Les Bains de Lavey

bains-de-lavey-switzerland

For me this was heaven! Set in the snowy mountains, only a bus journey away from the centre of Geneva, was the natural thermal baths of Bains De Lavey.  With both indoor pools and a selection of outdoor pools, although there were many people it wasn’t too busy.  The water was so warm and clean, they had a small cafe and shop on site and even turkish baths amongst other wellness areas.

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I lay with the sun on my face and a slight breeze through my hair in utter heaven whilst the hot bubbles massaged my whole body.  For around £25 for 3 hours, it was worth every penny.

Saint Pierre Cathedral

I think we have been spoilt living in Durham City with our fabulous cathedral, it’s quite hard to top it.  The cathedral in Switzerland was great to visit and explore, but it didn’t beat Durham.  However, we paid a few pounds to go up the towers to overlook Lake Geneva and that was impressive. Make sure you aren’t scared of refined spaces though, those spiral stone staircases get very tight and steep.

So our verdict overall, Switzerland was a lovely place with lots to see and do.  It would be very expensive to go for more than a few days, as drink and food is very highly priced.  But as long as you are prepared for that then it really is great.  And although every time i leave the kiddies i get a horrible feeling in the pit of my tummy, it was much needed Mummy and Daddy time, to just be us without a million things in between.

Michelle x

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Our Top 5 European Family Destinations for 2017

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Eeek it’s that time of year again. Spring is just around the corner, quickly followed by summer (I type this as the snow is tumbling down outside) which means it’s time to start searching for that summer holiday. Here at Freya-Lillie, we have been on a quest to find the best European holidays for families…

According to travelsupermarket.com if you have a family with school aged children, or work in a job with restricted holiday periods, booking as soon as possible will be your best bet! Getting in early means that you get the pick of the crop and will be able to snap up that holiday you dream of, before everyone else snaps up those valuable seats on the plane. Booking early does also mean that you can take advantage of early booking discounts such as meal deals, free or highly discounted child places!

So now you know when to book here’s what we think are the pick of the crop:

Ikos Olivia, Gerakini, Halkidiki:

ikos-olivia

Set in 22 acres of manicured lawns and olive groves, this beachfront hotel is super slick with stylish rooms and amazing cuisine. This all inclusive hotel boasts 4 a la carte restaurants**, 1 buffet restaurant and 6 bars (oh yes). As well as plenty of catering options there is also a fitness centre, a range of activities to join in with and 3 outdoor pools & 1 indoor pool.

Ikos Olivia is also perfect for your little ones as there are a range of kids clubs, creche, playgrounds and daily entertainment suitable for all ages (0-11years).

Hotel highlights: free wifi, range of luxurious suites, an on site mini market and has an official rating of 5* hotel.

If you haven’t already been sold by this beautiful place – infants go free on all Jet 2 holidays!

 

Iberostar Playa Gaviotas, Fuerteventura:

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If you’re looking for something for a family of all ages –  this all inclusive, beachfront hotel has is your answer!

Iberostar Playa Gaviotas is only 500m from shops and restaurants and 2km from the resort centre. This hotel has 4 bars including a pool bar that serves a wide rage of local and international drinks, there is also 2 restaurants**, 4 outdoor pools including a children’s pool – with free towels. You can also use the facilities of Iberostar Playa Gaviotas Park which is located next door.

The hotel also boasts: children’s pool, a bowling alley, a range of kids clubs suited for ages 4-17 years, and a children’s playground. And for the adults looking for zen – spa/beauty treatments, saunas, turkish baths, whirlpools and massage treatments are within the hotel grounds to make your holiday unforgettable***.

Hotel highlights: free wifi, a range of luxurious room options suitable for families and couples, all inclusive, entertainment programmes, and an official 4* rating. If you’re quick enough there are limited free child places (ages may vary) and again, infants go free with Jet 2 holidays (I promise I’m not on commission)!!

 

Hard Rock Hotel, Tenerife:

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I’m sure almost everyone is aware of Hard Rock and their Global chain, but not as many will be aware of this brand new hotel in Tenerife.

This Hard Rock Hotel oozes luxury, situated on the beachfront and its 5* rating this hotel isn’t short of things for the family. From world class entertainment, to the ultimate spa experience you will leave this island feeling refreshed and more than satisfied.

Board options are bed & breakfast or half board, where there is a buffet style breakfast, dinner in the main restaurant and a choice of a la carte restaurants. There are also multiple bars to keep your drinks topped up! Including a swim up bar, sports bar and a rooftop bar.

The hotel has 3 outdoor pools including a splash park for the younger ones.

Hotel highlights: a range of children’s clubs each suited for different age groups (6 months – 17 yrs), children’s playground,and a splash park. And for the adults there’s a selection of spa and beauty treatments, free wifi, and unique decor.

 

If you book early enough there are limited child free places and again, book with Jet 2 Holidays and infants go free!

 

Mediterraneo Hotel, Hersonissos, Crete:

her_mediterraneo_hotel

So if you’re looking for a simpler, and cheaper holiday, look no further – this typically Greek hotel has great facilities for all of the family.

A simple all-inclusive service with a buffet style restaurant and 2 bars serving local and international drinks, this is your Greek go-to for the family. At 1km away from Hersonissos resort centre, this hotel is situated in a perfect position for relaxation.

Trip Advisor reviews boast that the hotel is good value for money – with 3 outdoor pools, regular in-house entertainment shows, children’s playground and a spa, sauna and steam room – this is a place to go back to simplicity with your family. The rooms are clean and basic – everything you would expect from a Greek holiday.

Hotel highlights: free wifi in communal areas, gym, pool table, darts, table tennis and volleyball to entertain. 400m from the beach. Approximate transfer time of 1 hour.

 

Hotel El Paso & Theme Park, Portaventura, Reus, Costa Dorada:

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This extravagant Mexican themed hotel has been named as a Jet2 Holidays family favourites experience and more hotel. It brings all of the rustic beauties of the Americas, with classic Mexican eateries, a sunken pirate ship lies at the centre of the pool, and endless fun for seafaring adventurers.

All-inclusive hotel, with 2 restaurants (1 buffet and 1 a la carte) boasting international and Mexican cuisine, serving a range of local drinks in a choice of 3 bars. There is also a dine around option for half board guests.

This is the perfect place for a family fun packed holiday, situated 800m from Portaventura Park and Caribe Aquatic Park you have the ideal position for relaxation and play. A complimentary shuttle bus takes you from your hotel to the parks every 15-20 mins.

Hotel highlights: free wifi, 4* rating, daily entertainment, 2 outdoor pools, watersports, aqua aerobics, and a range of deluxe rooms.

 

So there’s our top destinations around Europe for families, and that’s us dreaming about summer for the rest of the day!

Hope you have enjoyed the read?

Amy x

 

** Smart dress code may apply in restaurants.

 

***Charges for treatments may apply.

 

Workout at Home in Ten Minutes Flat!

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January, the month of dread that follows the festive period. That beach body season looming, and apparently not enough time in the day to do anything about it. But what if a quick and simple routine to kickstart your day was there to make a difference?

I’ve been trawling through the internet to find quick and simple routines that can help us make that change to our day, without having the worry of childcare or added expenses! I found some great simple and quick routines, and I have selected the two that I think would be most time effective. I know that everyone is different so some will suit others better, vice versa.

The first routine I came across was labelled “Mum friendly – all over 10 minute workout” – I often think that referring to things as mum friendly restricts them to appealing to just mums, however, coming across this workout can appeal to anyone and everyone that is short of time to work out. Not only does this workout shift those extra inches and tone up those flabby bits, it is easy to access and not complicated to actually perform946bc4346f15b5a2cef148a55ef59d14

I bet you’re wondering what this magic worker is – it is in fact, a good old fashioned skipping rope. Yes, a skipping rope. This workout is all about those short bursts of exercise, you can squeeze this into your busy day by skipping for a couple of minutes at a time, and repeat 4-5 times a day. You could even do this as a team – get your little one and skip together!

If you want to challenge yourself throughout this quick workout, follow this routine courtesy of Darebee.com, you can change your method of skipping to really see the difference!

However, if skipping isn’t for you, how about following this quick and simple body workout routine. With 6 different body weight exercises, this routine is perfect for juggling mums and it even targets your whole body – win, win!

So let’s get started with it, this is broken down into the exercises and the workout so that it is easy peasy to follow. (Thanks to http://www.fitwirr.com/)

The exercises:

1

the-perfect-squat

2

jumping-jacks-exercise

3

tricep-dips

4

how-to-do-the-perfect-plank

5

reverse-lunges

6

how-to-do-the-perfect-push-ups

The workout:

You need to perform these exercises in a circuit, then rest for 1 minute, do 10-12 reps for each exercise and then repeat for 3 sets. Got it?

So by following these quick and simple exercises, making that little change now could make a huge difference by summer. Don’t forget to take progress photos from the beginning – you will love seeing the difference!

Amy

My Top 5 Healthy Snacks

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So if your house is anything like my house, you will have had umpteen tins of quality street, throw in a few boxes of Ferrero Rocher and not to mention the numerous cheeseboards. So you are ready to have healthy food but weaning off sugar is literally torture.  The answer…find alternatives!

Snacks are my biggest downfall, especially as i work from home.  Lets face it, if you have treats in the house you are going to eventually cave and eat them.  SO GET RID! I would never cut out snacks and I have a mid morning and afternoon snack every day.  They get me through the working day! The snacks below include those to make from scratch and a couple of easy snacks to grab from the supermarket.

We’re dreaming of our Summer holidays now and wearing that bathing costume in public. Making a little change now could actually make a huge difference by the Summer!

Snack 1 – Yushoi

So if you are all about the crisps and savoury snacks, these are the best substitute ever.  In fact, i don’t feel like they’re a substitute at all.  I love them and they taste great.

Made with vegetables, it really is eating a healthy snack.  Basically green peas baked and lightly salted which are also gluten free too, they are delicious.  They taste a little like chip sticks, plus they come in other flavours too and you can grab a 6 pack for less than a couple of pounds at Tesco. I promise they taste so much nicer than they look.

Snack 2 – Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

My yummy thick and creamy chocolate mousse.

Use half a ripe avacado (i know what you are thinking, avacado in a mousse, but honestly you can’t taste it, the avacado gives it it’s creamy texture), add in a mashed banana, drop of milk ( i use Freya’s soya) and a tablespoon of raw cacao powder.  Blend them all together to make this yummy chocolate desert which is absolutely healthy, no feeling bad for this bad boy.  It does taste like dark chocolate and i would suggest adding a couple of spoons of honey in to begin with for a little added sweetness since you’ll be weaning off the dairy milk and onto the pure cocoa!

I usually pop these into a couple of small containers and add sliced bananas or berries to the top and stick them in the fridge.  That way i can grab them when i need a sweet kick.

 

Snack 3 – Nutribombz

Nutri bombz

Subscription boxes which are delivered to my door each month, you can choose fortnightly or monthly if you wish. These are also like little sweets but made of only goodness such as fruit and nuts. I eat them after the gym as they’re fab little protein balls or just as an afternoon snack. It’s so hard to just buy products with out all of the additives, but these are clean and yummy.  My three year old can also vouch for that!

Snack 4 – Homemade Healthy Humus

Homemade Humus

A household favourite and so easy to make is our homemade healthy humus.  We dip in carrots, cucumber, bread sticks, tortilla chips, basically anything you can dip.

One tin of chick peas drained, two tablespoons of greek yoghurt or soya if you are being particularly good. One teaspoon of tahini (this lasts for ages in the fridge). A sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper and blend together.  This is a good sized portion that will last up to 5 days in the fridge. Great for a savoury kick.

 

Snack 5 – Tortilla Chips

Tortilla Chips

A great weekend snack to dip into humus.  You can make them any flavour you like too.  Take one wholemeal wrap and spray with spray oil, once on each side.  Then season with whatever you like, i pop on salt and pepper with a touch of garlic but Mark loves paprika on his for a little kick.  Use a pizza slice to cut them up and pop them in the oven for around 7 to 8 minutes 170 degrees in a fan oven. Easy peasy!

 

So don’t starve yourself and cut out your little treats, just choose wisely, even if that’s the only change you make this month, it’s a huge start!

 

Michelle xx

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My Top 5 Healthy ‘faff free, toddler friendly’ Breakfasts

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So it’s that time of year again, chocolate, cheese and alcohol overload and a midriff that shows it! But the one thing i can’t handle after the indulgence, is eating teeny tiny portions and no snacks in between to try and shift the weight.  Guaranteed if you starve yourself, after keeping it up for a week, you’ll be so hungry you’ll binge on EVERYTHING. What a waste that will be.

So instead of eating less, just eat right and remember good fats are good for you, don’t be afraid of them.  They are great for energy levels and for keeping you fuller for longer and you will lose weight if it’s part of a balanced diet.  Ok so you may have a Friday night treat, but your only human.  I certainly won’t be doing dry January, i work bloody hard, i like my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on a Friday eve!

Anyway enough of the waffling, this month, each week i will give you my top 5 healthy snacks, lunches, breakfasts and dinners that are all faff free (don’t you hate it when it takes 5 times as long to prepare and cook than to eat it) plus they’ve all been tried and tested on one two year old. Plus my top 5 exercises to do at home with a toddler watching and even joining in too.  They will most definitely enjoy it more than you!

Top 5 healthy breakfasts

Number 1 – Overnight Oats

overnight-oats

So there are lots of variations on the internet and these are great if you don’t have time on a morning to make anything.  Please don’t ever skip breakfast, that’s just silly.  Breakfast starts your metabolism moving, gives you energy and has been known to switch on that dark lightbulb inside your head. You can literally grab these from the fridge and take them to work. Made the night before, preparation time is around 5 minutes.  The great thing is they keep you full all morning!

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My recipe

1 cup of oats (gluten free if you’re being particularly good)

1/3 cup of greek yoghurt (i’m a bit of a clean eater)

2/3 cup of soya milk (you can use rice or almond milk too)

Berries and honey to finish

Pop the oats, greek yoghurt and milk in a dish.  Mix together and then pop in a jar or tubaware, garnish with whichever fruit you choose and drizzle with honey.  Stick them in the fridge overnight. Get really prepared and make 3 pots for the next 3 mornings! (BTW these fab jars are from Ikea, cheap as chips!)

You can totally mix these up and add in mashed banana, raw cacao if you like it chocolatey or anything else that’s a bit healthy.

 

Number 2 – Poached Eggs on a Slice of Wholemeal Toast

Ok so you don’t need instructions for this, although poaching an egg is an effort at times.  I literally fill a pan 1/3 full, bring the water to boil, turn down to medium/high heat and pop in the eggs for around 3 minutes.  Add a little salmon or a turkey steak to jazz it up! This may actually be the breakfast i cook most often.

 

Number 3 – Banana Pancakes

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My toddlers favourite, well actually one of mine too. If you have a little time in the morning these are great and super simple.

My Recipe

2 Eggs

1 Ripe Banana

Mash the banana with a fork until the lumps are pretty much gone and then whisk in 2 eggs.  Add a little coconut oil to a frying pan, medium to high heat and using a large serving spoon, spoon in the mix.  The pancakes are more runny than a normal pancake so keep them small and let them cook on one side.  Check the under side is golden brown before flipping.  Use a spatula and carefully slide half way under before slowly flipping.  These only take a couple of minutes to cook.

When cooked popped them onto a plate with a dollop of greek yoghurt, a sprinkling of blueberries and a drizzle of honey.

 

Number 4 – Smoothie To Go

banana-blueberry-smoothie

Ok so you never have enough ingredients for a smoothie or time to chop up and prepare?? Well don’t worry, i have the answer.  Purchase yourself some freezer bags and after shopping day, in each one make sure you add a handful of greens.  I usually use spinach, i promise you will not taste it one little bit! Chop up the other fruit you desire, mix and match so each one keeps it exciting.  Add to the freezer bags along with your spinach and pop them into the freezer.  No waste, no faffing each time.  Just grab your choice of smoothie from the freezer, add it to the mixer along with some water, you could also use coconut water or almond milk too. Give it a blast and your good to go, totally healthy breakfast in less than a minute! What better way to have your five a day.  I usually pop in some chia seeds for an extra added superfood boost.

Number 5 – Homemade Granola

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My Recipe

2 1/2 cups of oats

1/2 cup of desiccated coconut

1/2 cup of almonds

1/2 cup of crushed walnuts

5 tbsps honey

3 tbsps coconut oil

3 tsps of cinnamon

I sometimes add a couple tablespoons of flax seeds, or linseeds to give it an extra boost.

Heat your oven to 190 and have a silicon or baking tray.

Melt the coconut oil and honey together for a few seconds in the microwave and add with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. This just makes it easier to mix.

Spread the mix onto the baking tray and add to the oven for around 20 minutes giving it a little stir half way through.  You can also add in raisins or cranberries or any other nuts you desire.

When it has cooled pop it in a tubaware box and enjoy throughout the week with either your choice of milk or my favourite, greek yoghurt!

 

So that’s my top 5 healthy breakfasts, make sure you are following us on facebook or instagram for next weeks top 5 healthy easy lunches! Pass it on too if you know anyone who’s on a health kick 🙂

My Preemie on World Prematurity Day

Our First Cuddle

Our First Cuddle

28 weeks pregnant to the day, that’s the day it all started to go downhill, the day my waters broke and i let someone tell me different, the day i should have followed my gut instinct. From that day till 7 days later i gradually became more poorly developing an infection (due to my waters breaking) and losing more fluids.  I will never forget that seventh day, lying in bed early hours knowing that the pain i was having was in fact contractions. Around 6 or 7 hours later Freya was born.  My teeny preemie, in fact she wasn’t all that teeny, she was 3lb 5oz and i’m told thats actually a good weight for the gestation.

Day 1 - Off to Intensive Care

Day 1 – Off to Intensive Care

Whisked away on her own to Intensive Care at RVI Newcastle all swollen and bruised, it wasn’t until the next day i was able to hold her.  God i remember feeling like i would break her, like she was made of glass, there were so many wires and so many alarms sounding. That’s the day my little trance began and my only focus was willing for Freya to get better, to not contract any infections, for her lungs to get stronger, to take my breast milk (well actually for my milk to come through, i was supposed to have another 12 weeks to develop it), for her alarms to stop sounding and just to go home.  I was lost in my own world and it stayed like that for around 6 weeks until we finally got to take our little girl and introduce her to her real home.

We are Home

We are Home

I pretty much spent all day every day in hospital for those 6 weeks, so much so that i became really friendly with the nurses, i thank them so much for breaking up my days.

From bringing Freya home we had numerous appointments with different consultants, right up until she was 2 years old.  Thankfully they all resulted in what we wanted to hear, that she was developing well and was a healthy little girl.

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2 1/2 years later Freya can talk in sentences, she would like a green horse, a peppa pig jigsaw and some choc from Santa Claus, she can count to 15, demand everything in sight and throw tantrums until she’s sick.  Yep, she’s just the same as every other toddler.

Someone isn't Happy

Someone isn’t Happy

We did have worries that she may be behind with her development and it was only really a worry as we didn’t want her to feel different to children her own age.  I know all kids develop at different rates whether they were born early or not.  But actually, she’s doing just fine.

We Love a Family Holiday

We Love a Family Holiday

Freya does get a little poorly when the weather changes and has been in hospital a couple of times with coughing.  In fact the first time we realised it was due to being allergic to dairy.  We cut it out and the chesty cough vanished! This time it’s most definitely a poorly cough.  I do wonder if it is because her lungs weren’t properly developed when she decided to come meet us a few months early.  Other than that we have a healthy happy little girl.

Perfect

Perfect

 

I think on days like World Prematurity Day it’s important to remember how far our preemie has come and be thankful that we got to take her home, some parents were not as lucky as we were.

Daddy's Girl

Daddy’s Girl

Freya is the most loving and funny little girl who adores her big brother more than anything.  She has a huge personality and is so independent that it adds on at least an hour to every day.  We wouldn’t change her for the World and thank our lucky stars every day for our gorgeous little family.

Our Family

Our Family

 

Love Michelle xx

P.S. If you have just had a premature baby and would like to read about our journey in the first few weeks, here’s our first ever blog Freya’s Story

Our visit to Ramside Hall – Pemberton Carvery (kids inc!)

Pemberton Carvery- Ramside Hall Hotel

Pemberton Carvery- Ramside Hall Hotel

Seriously, i could eat my Sunday lunch every day of the week.  I love it, it’s so tasty, there are so many flavours and textures and add a covering of gravy and well, job done, happy Michelle! But sometimes on a Sunday, day of rest, i just want someone to cook it for me with no cleaning up afterwards. So this week we decided to try out Ramside Hall’s Carvery, it’s literally 5 minutes from our house so i was hoping for good things.

Free parking is always a bonus and there were many spaces to choose from.  The carvery serves food from 7.30am until 10pm, although the ‘help yourself’ carvery is from 12pm until 10pm every day, so no waiting til Sunday.  Another big tick for me!

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On arrival at the Pemberton Carvery, we were greeted by live music at the grand piano and plenty of guests, although still many tables vacant.  The decor in my opinion is very traditional and old school, but the actual building itself is very old. Having said this, it was clean and comfortable and the guests were a total mix including young children.

Live background music

Live background music

We chose a booth as it’s easier when you have a toddler who wants to sit near Mammy and Daddy.  We all visited the food bar where we were presented with a choice of meats including turkey, beef, chicken or pork plus a large bowl of crackling…guilteeeee!!!

Freya & Daddy

Freya & Daddy

I asked if children’s portions were available as it wasn’t made clear on the menu, however i was given a small bowl for Freya and a yorkshire pudding which was probably the size of her head along with some succulent looking turkey.  I opted for the beef which showed signs of minimal fat, there’s nothing worse than chewy beef.

We helped ourselves to greens, carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy.  There wasn’t a huge selection of vegetables, and the one thing that was missing for us was some roast potatoes.  Although it was our first time so possibly we missed them.

Yummy

Yummy

Mark and Liam heaped their plates and by that i mean you couldn’t have fit another pea onto it. When we got to the checkout to pay, they didn’t charge us for Freya’s meal which i thought was great, in the cashiers words ‘oh don’t worry about that one, we won’t charge’. I thought it a very nice touch. The adult meals were £9.95 each which seamed very reasonable.

All four of us ate it all, the food was tasty, it wasn’t piping hot but actually, since we had Freya, that was a bonus.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the children’s meals tend to come hotter than the sun and by the time you’ve cooled it down, your own food is tepid at best, so we were all able to eat together.

Duo cheesecake with icecream

Duo cheesecake with icecream

The kiddies finished off with a duo cheesecake and ice cream and a rocky rode, there were some lovely fresh cakes on offer.

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In a nutshell, we’ll be back.  It’s quick and easy, it tastes great, enough choice, reasonably priced, it’s family friendly, no booking required, they had a little live music on which was not too loud at all and the little details such as not charging for a kids meal. It’s a thumbs up from us.

We'll be back!

We’ll be back!

 

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My Top Ten Beauty Products for the Thirty Plus Mum’s

Dirty Thirties

Dirty Thirties

So it’s no great secret that once you hit thirty, those little tell tale signs start to appear. Faint lines around your eyes, hair a little dryer, skin a little duller, wow i’m starting to depress myself! But with the wonders of modern science there are lots of products out there to banish those bloody awful tell tale signs and make you look as glamorous and youthful as those darn twenties.

Being in the modelling industry for many years i’ve tried my fair share of products but there’s certain products i go back to every time because they just can’t be beaten.  If they can help you lovely lot then my work here is done 🙂

1. Waterwipes

Water Wipes

Water Wipes

Let’s face it, people see your face first so it’s important to have that healthy, clear complexion. I won’t lie, i tend to use babywipes quite a lot to take off my make up as soap products can be quite harsh and babywipes, theoretically, should be quite kind to the skin.  Waterwipes are one of my favourites as that’s exactly what they are, wipes with water and a little seed extract. You can even use them on eczema and they take every last bit of make up off!

2. Perfectly Clean by Estee Lauder

Perfectly Clear

Perfectly Clear

This facewash is gentle, it foams up into a luscious lather and most importantly, doesn’t dry out your skin.  Yet it makes your skin feel fantastically clean and fresh.  It even doubles up as a purifying mask, win win.

3. Daywear by Estee Lauder

Day Wear

Day Wear

You’d think i was being paid to write up an Estee Lauder review but i promise i’m not.  My face moisturiser is a very important product.  I need my skin to feel completely clean and fresh and fully moisturised without it feeling heavy clogging all of my pores.  Daywear is a rich yet light cream and i feel like my skin is actually moisturised all day long, even when i have no make up on. It’s great used as a primer too and the great thing is a tiny bit goes a long way.

4. Clarins Pure & Radiant Mask

Face Mask

Face Mask

So it’s hump day, you’ve ran yourself a fabulous bubble bath and maybe even a cheeky glass of wine.  Ok so you’ve brought up the bottle and popped it in a wine cooler, it’s been a tough week and needs must.  Pop on this Clarins mask and feel that clay get to work, sucking that nastiness out of those pores and closing them bad boys up.  But seriously, from the first application, you will see your pores minimised, it’s fab.  One downside, because it brings all the nastiness out, you may end up with one or two spots just in time for the weekend.

5. Bodybrush by Body Shop

Body Brush

Body Brush

I read in a magazine about a certain celeb using a bodybrush to get rid of cellulite and thought, hmm she looks quite good, i think i’ll give it a go. Now i don’t have a huge amount of cellulite but around my bottom and thighs the orange peel effect is most definitely visible. I used it each day before i showered.  Starting from the knees up using a dry brush and circular upward movements, i spent around 5 minutes before i showered.  After a few days i was little gutted that i looked no different.  However after a couple of weeks of doing it out of habit and not really checking, i was pleasantly surprised that my skin was so much smoother and the orange peel was almost gone.  I now do it a few times each week but not only does it reduce the signs of cellulite but it’s a great exfoliator, my skin has never felt so soft and smooth.

6. Coconut Shower Cream by Body Shop

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So i think most people know The Body Shop don’t test on animals which is great but they also don’t have soap in their soap products.  I promise you still feel clean but without any of the drying effect.  I love the coconut as it leaves a subtle scent all over your skin which is totally maximised but not over powering when you add a touch of Coconut Body Milk by The Body Shop to moisturise your lovely exfoliated skin. Be warned, it may cause partners to sit extremely close and even kiss your skin all over, it smells so delicious!!!!!!

7. Mythic Oil by Loreal

Mythic Oil

Mythic Oil

Ok so you can’t tell in most of my photos but i have the hair from hell, hate it.  It’s neither curly nor straight but if a drop of rain hits it, wowzers, it looks like i’m recreating the Monica humidity scene from Friends. The reason you can’t tell on my photos is because i use this little life saver.  I put it on damp hair before i blow dry it, i use it as a serum after i straighten it, i use it when i wake up in the morning and can’t be bothered to wash it or i run it through my curls after i’ve scrunch dried it.  I don’t think i can live without it.  As it’s an oil you really only need a tiny bit and it will last FOREVER.

8. Hocus Focus by Soap & Glory

Hocus Focus

Hocus Focus

Make up, i’m not a huge fan of the matte foundation look i love a youthful glow.  I tend to think the matte look makes all of your wrinkles…sorry, fine lines stand out more and your skin dry and dull.  Either a few drops of this illuminator across the cheek bones, brow and the temples, on it’s own or mixed with your foundation, gives your skin that youthful dewey glow that i love so much.

9. Nuts

Seriously, ask my beautician, if i’m on a health kick eating lots of nuts and flax seeds my hair grows like wild fire as well as my nails and unfortunately my brows.  My nails and hair feel stronger and thicker.  Your diet really does make a difference to how you look and feel. But i still live by the rule ‘a little of what you love’.  Does a glass of wine every night count??

10. H20

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Water water water, my goodness, this may be my favourite drink and i can’t get enough.  I may drink around 2 or 3 litres every day.  However if i have a busy week and my water intake is reduced to a few glasses per day, my skin looks dull, i get dark circles around my eyes and generally feel YAK.  I honestly believe that water is a key ingredient to looking and feeling great.  Stock up the fridge, buy a new fruit infused bottle but ensure that you are drinking lots of this magic ingredient every single day.

Click on any of the images to take you to the website to read more on each of the products.

Michelle xx

If you enjoyed reading my blog and are interested in beauty tips, fashion advice, healthy recipes and more, follow my new instagram profile @thismodelmummy

Mammy & Daddy Do Vegas

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When an opportunity arose last year for a trip to Vegas to attend our friends wedding, it didn’t take much persuading for either myself or Mark to jump onboard. There was never any doubt that the kids were staying at home, it was Mammy and Daddy’s time to let their hair down and to do it together.

Now i don’t know about other mum’s but anytime it gets close to leaving the kids, i get a huge knot in my stomach and could quite easily say ‘i’m not going’ but each time i make the decision to go without them, i realise, actually, i need them more than they need me. Fun with the grandparents and being spoilt the whole time, Freya didn’t even want to speak to us, she was far too concerned with Peppa Pig on TV. That made me happy as Mammy and Daddy could totally relax, drinking as many beers by the pool as we wanted, taking naps whenever the hell we felt like it and obviously, Vegas, gambling away our hard earned cash…we loved it!!!!!

Freya Lillie

Freya Lillie

With a short flight to London and then a 10 hour flight to Vegas with BA, the beers were flowing and we felt like teenagers about to embark on a naughty weekend, it was great. You get so consumed with everyday life, wake up, get dressed, go to work or look after the kids, come home, grab some dinner together, couple hours of mummy and daddy time on the couch before bed and then repeat it all again. These little trips away, mummy and daddy become Mark and Michelle, laughing, talking and planning the future, i forgot how much i loved them.

The Hotel

The MGM

The MGM

We stayed in the Signature at MGM Grand, the Deluxe Suite was modern and clean complete with widescreen TV, jacuzzi bath, shower, seating area with couches and even a kitchen. We thought we hit lucky on check in when they announced we had been upgraded to a balcony room…so did everyone in our party. Damn it!

The wanderers

The Signature was great, it had several smaller pools which were used by families and those who aren’t big fans of 45 degrees of intense sunshine. Myself and Mark however headed straight for the Grand Pool, music, atmosphere, people whom were all shapes, sizes, nationalities. Everyone was so friendly and the frozen cocktails WOW!! This may have actually been my favourite part of Vegas or is that just the knackered Mum in me that wants to lie down and do nothing while i can…maybe.

A relaxed mummy

A relaxed mummy

 

The one common theme in all hotels is the amount of slot machines, roulette tables and other gambling devices and it never sleeps.  But you don’t have to be into gambling to enjoy Vegas.

By Day

There is so much to do in Vegas as every hotel is so big you could spend hours just wandering. With shopping centres in most of them, aquariums, fair ground rides, famous folk (part of our party had a meet and greet with Mike Tyson, by all accounts it wasn’t all that), cafes, restaurants, bars and more. There’s so much to see and do and one thing we didn’t see at all were any drunken idiots, we were actually quite surprised at just how many families were holidaying in Vegas.
By Night

Omnia

Omnia

Now i’m at a bit of a mumsy age where i just love to go and relax in a pub and chat all night with good company so when the hen party was organised to party at Omnia nightclub which is part of Caeser’s Palace, i was a little apprehensive but my love for Calvin Harris who was playing that night sealed the deal. When we arrived the que was huge, luckily we had booked our tickets online $100 which included a $100 bar card so wasn’t too bad at all. Unfortunately for males the price was $150, wowzers!

The club itself was awesome, VIP areas had perfect access to views over Calvin (starting to sound a bit stalkerish aren’t I). There was a little mishap of becoming lost in the club and having a slight moment of panic, what the hell do i do? However the hen was also lost and luckily we bumped into each other and found the best part of the club, the roof top terrace. Cool, trendy with fab views, we were like giggly school girls. Calvin came on around 1am and we danced like no one was watching until we were asked to leave and not because of our totally awesome dancing but because we actually danced away until closing time!

The Roof Top

The Roof Top

So even with a mix of jet lag/time difference and my love for sleep, i crept back into our hotel room at around 5.30am after having such an amazing night. Calvin was fab, the club was fantastic and company was great and after only 3 hours sleep, i was actually still half human 🙂

Gambling

A gambling expert!

A gambling expert!

So it wasn’t my first trip to Vegas but i hadn’t even used a slot machine never mind visit one of the tables. When Mark suggested i gamble $100 on the roulette tables i thought i’d give it a go. Total novice, no idea what to do, Mark explained exactly what to do and the guy working the table was pretty nice too.  We picked a table with a minimum bet of $10 and the fun began.  An hour later i had $240 in front of me and thought i’d give Mark a shot at the fun.  The thing we loved was that the drinks we ordered from the lovely bar staff who visit you whilst sat at the tables gambling, were actually free.  They’re not daft are they? Unfortunately after a short period of time Mark realised he wasn’t going to win more than $20 (hehehe) and we headed to the Bellagio for fountains and more drinks. Be prepared for the pricey drinks in Vegas too!

Bellagio Fountains

Bellagio Fountains

Overall i had far more fun than i anticipated, the wedding was beautiful and not remotely tacky let’s go get married by Elvis, it was on a roof top terrace with a full wedding dress, it is certainly one that will be remembered. Just like Mammy & Daddy’s trip which is now such a good memory, life is just too short to miss out on opportunities.  I’m certain that when we’re sat in our rocking chairs with our slippers many years from now (OK in a few), we’ll remember the trip.  Life is a journey and it’s what you do along the way that counts…now get booked for Vegas 🙂

 

Michelle xx

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It’s For The Last Time…

He'll always be my baby boy

He’ll always be my baby boy

I’ve spent the last week with a little knot in my tummy and slight sadness in my heart, no one prepared me for how i would feel this week.  You see, this week is the last week my baby boy is a school pupil.  I know this doesn’t really mean much to you but it was the last time, like the VERY last time, i topped up his dinner money account, the last time his school shirts were ironed, the last time his bus ticket was purchased and tomorrow will be his very last day at school with his last GCSE.

First day at big school

First day at big school

Where has that time gone? In my head it’s still his first day at secondary school with a blazer way too big but a big cheesy grin, feeling all grown up ready for big school. He’s 17 this year and can learn to drive and although i’m excited to see what he does with his life and so proud of the man he is turning into it still makes me sad that in the click of a switch those years have gone. Why didn’t I see it coming?

building snowmen

building snowmen

For those that know me, they know that Liam, my son, is the one constant in my life, from teenage single mum to now living in our very own dream home with our gorgeous family and i won’t lie, there were some turbulent times, but he is the one person that lived those with me and actually, pretty much watch me grow up.

Perfection right there!

Perfection right there!

As a teenage mum i didn’t have the choice whether to work full time or not, i worked full time and studied at college too for 8 years.  I could have spent more time with Liam and not studied at college but i wanted a better life for him and actually, i wanted it for me too. So there was always that guilt as i’m sure many many other mum’s have, that they don’t spend enough time with the kids.  If i’m honest, i think whatever choices us mum’s make, whether to spend more time at home, or work more hours to be able to have those holidays and luxuries,  the ‘i wonder what if…’ scenarios will always cross our minds. There really is no wrong or right, just choices we have to make.

My happy boy

My happy boy

When i look at Liam, i see someone who always has a smile on his face (providing it’s after 11am), he is loved by his family and many friends, he has a very bright future ahead of him and i really couldn’t ask for more from a son.  So actually, i did a bloody good job and instead of sat here in my little world of sorrow i’m going to take my own advice and be happy, live for today and just stop every once in a while to appreciate everything.

Love x

Love x

The glass is half full people!!!

Just make sure you really think about those words ‘you only live once’ because you really do only get one shot at life, make it count.

Michelle xx

Leavers 2016 (he's the one on his knees!)

Leavers 2016 (he’s the one on his knees!)

 

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How to Potty Train in 5 Easy Steps

Freya Lillie

Freya Lillie

OK so i’m not going to lie, the thought of potty training did not bring me a sense of excitement like many other milestones of parenting, 14 years since the last time i endured it and my lack of memories meant either A) it was so bad i blocked it from my memory or B) actually it was OK so nothing major to remember.  I was praying it was the latter! Only 2 weeks later and with a fully potty trained 2 year old, what was i so worried about?

Freya had been showing signs since before she was 2, going for her own clean nappy and lying down on the floor to be changed.  We knew we couldn’t really potty train before the age of 2 as her muscles hadn’t fully developed, just like all other 1 year olds, so she wouldn’t be able to ‘hold on’ and we didn’t want to set her back before her journey had begun.  We still introduced the potty and she was very familiar with it and would often sit on it, so it wasn’t some alien object when the time came to use it for real.

We knew it was time and didn’t want to wait until nearer 3 as i had several friends struggling with strong minded threenagers.

There is no correct age or correct way to potty train, but if these steps i followed help others, happy days.

Me & My Mummy

Me & My Mummy

Step 1 – Plan ahead

We chose the Easter holidays and blocked out 3 full days in which i would stay home all day with Freya during which time she would be pretty much naked morning til night. Meaning we could quickly get to the potty which we placed in the living room and there was no safety net in the form of a nappy! It took some persuading for Freya to sit and use the potty for the first time but when she realised she had to go, well she had to go and then it quickly became the norm.

Step 2 – Nappy Fairy

Our nappies were always placed in a cupboard and Freya knew where and could easily grab whenever she liked.  We removed all the nappies and left an empty packet, she’s pretty smart, she knew no nappies meant she had to use the potty. If she knew there were still nappies she would have screamed until she had one on.

Step 3 – Big Girl Pants

Freya wore pull ups for the first few days and for our first outings and although she did pull them down to use the potty, she also got lazy at times and didn’t bother. This only really happened a couple of times but we didn’t want her to rely on that safety net so decided to make the next step to big girls pants to see how she handled it.  We made a big deal of purchasing her new big girl pants and she chose which ones she wanted, happy with her purchase showing the whole of the shopping centre, Freya then demanded to put them on as soon as we were home. This was a good move, much easier to pull down and she knew she couldn’t just have a wee wee.

Step 4 – Praise and Treats

Chocolate Lover

Chocolate Lover

Ok so using the potty for the first time may have included bribery in the form of ‘ if you have a wee wee on the potty Freya, you can have some choc’.  This worked great until she started sitting on the potty for fun and claiming she had ‘done a wee wee’. But hey whatever works! She was also showered in kisses and cuddles, i think she preferred the choc 🙂

Step 5 – Supper Time

Part of Freya’s bedtime routine has or had always included a drink of milk but we knew that eventually she would have to be potty trained at night too so these drinks would have to be stopped or brought forward.  Freya started to wake during the night and shout ‘wee wee’ after around a week so we knew she was ready to lose the pull ups at night too.  We moved her bedtime drink of milk from 6.30pm to 5pm and when she requested it we offered her alternatives such as berries or toast which she thought was great, she now very rarely asks for her milk on an evening.

I’m sure Freya will have the odd accident which is very normal.  Our biggest challenge was to get her to use an actual toilet, she was a little scared of them at first but with a little persuading and after being caught short at trampoline lessons and knew she had no option, we tackled the scary toilet syndrome.  It’s important to say that after the first time on a toilet she then began an obsession which involves trying every public toilet she can, Mummy hates public toilets.

Over to you, good luck!!!!!

Michelle xx

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5 STEPS TO

My 5 Top Tips For A Sizzling Summer Body

Holiday in Dubai

Holiday in Dubai

April already, no idea how that happened but what i do know are the effects of Christmas and Easter are somewhat apparent…trousers a little tighter, tummy a little more wobbly and dreadful skin with enormous black circles under my eyes….ARGHHHHHHH

There’s nothing worse than that lethargic feeling, at the moment i’d much rather slum it in the house, search for any sugary goods and most probably have a glass of vino this evening whilst watching Sons of Anarchy, which by the way, myself and Mark are totally addicted too and have not watched anything else since we discovered these biker thugs.

It’s hard to believe but Summer is in touching distance and almost time to unleash that bikini!

2 or 3 months before my holidays each year i give myself a good hard shake, remind myself how good i actually feel when i eat healthy, exercise and make an effort.  It’s not that i am really unhealthy the rest of the year but, like i said, sugary treats and vino are hard for me to resist.  It’s just too easy to think ‘oh i’ll worry about it next week’ sound familiar??

Bikini Body

Bikini Body

These 5 tips, every time i follow them i lose weight, tone up and feel wide awake with lots more energy.  You won’t starve, you still get treats but i won’t lie, it’s not a simple solution and does take a little discipline and hard work.  You just have to remember that one bad meal won’t make you fat just like one good meal won’t make you skinny either.  It’s all a balance, what i will say is if you try and eat less and cut out lots, 9 times out of 10 you will end up binging on all the wrong things and wasting your hard work.

My 5 Top Tips

Planning Is Key

Work out every meal and snack needed for the next week and write it down.  Breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and tea. Weekend food too even if it includes a naughty day! Make yourself a little chart, stick it on the fridge for all to see, so there’s no surprises and no disappointments because everyone knows exactly what they are having.  I have found by doing this it actually reduces your shopping bill too, especially if you are doing it online.  Use the search function to search for each of the items, that way you won’t be lured in to any false economy deals or sugary treats.

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Snacking

I usually find it takes me around 3 days to wean off sugar and although it is quite hard, as long as i’ve got alternatives then i manage.  Plus, once those 3 days have gone i really don’t crave sugary snacks at all.  I’m not going to lie, i don’t give up wine, i just drink a lot less!

My fav snacks include homemade humus with carrot and cucumber sticks, you can take these to work with you too.  Just pop a little humus in the bottom of a beaker style container and make sure you have nice long cucumber sticks to stick in, pop the top on and take them with you, easy! Make a nice big pot for the fridge and it lasts all week.

Smoothies are another favourite, i did have a Nutribullet until it decided to give up on me.  I’m currently using an old school blender but it works so why go spend £100 unless you are a hardcore juicer! I take 7 freezer bags and in each one i throw in a handful of spinach or kale and then a couple handfuls of any fruit, frozen or fresh and pop them in the freezer. When you take the bag from the freezer each day, pop it in the blender with a couple of cups of water and give it a blitz.  Go one healthy step further and add in some chia or flax seeds or maybe a few nuts.  You can have lots of fun with these and even toddlers love them too.  Don’t worry, you really can’t taste the greens at all!

Be warned, daily smoothies will cause your hair and nails to grow at a ridiculous rate. Oh and yes, toddlers love them too and teenagers and grown men 🙂 Easiest way of feeding them greens and goodness.

There’s a few more examples over on my Pinterest board Healthy Food

If you aren’t already, make sure you become addicted to water and if you can start your day with some lemon and water, even better.  I started drinking lemon and water daily because i enjoyed it but a few weeks later noticed that actually, my skin looked nicer, i was a few pounds lighter, cellulite had reduced and i could only think that it was down to my new favourite drink.  I had heard it was great for weight loss and detoxing but never thought twice.  It’s now a staple in my diet. Fizzy drinks are bbbbbbbbad, so try and cut those out and maybe just that one cup of coffee in the morning 🙂

Meals

If you don’t already have them, check out The Body Coach and Jamie Oliver Superfoods books.  So many easy recipes and seriously tasty.  Friday nights i still have pizza and i promise, homemade one’s taste really good, you don’t feel like you are missing out.  Even Mark loves them, experimenting with different toppings, plus they take 10 minutes in the oven.

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

With our meals, i don’t miss out carbs but i won’t have them every day either, i have sweet potatoes instead of white and wholemeal products too. I fry food in coconut oil and exclude most dressings unless i’ve made them myself.  Get rid of cereal on a morning, go for homemade granola with fruit and yoghurt or poached eggs or even baked avocados which are delicious and keep you from feeling hungry for hours.  Breakfast time might be my favourite meal of the day.

Make sure if you are having salad for lunch you compliment it with an exciting filling not boring old ham or tuna.  Fry up some steak strips or chicken fillets or a little seafood, you need it to be appetising and something to look forward too or it will become a chore.

Prep

After the shopping has been delivered and your meals planned out, the next step which is so important for keeping on track, is the preparation.  Usually on a Sunday afternoon you will find me in the kitchen for a couple of hours.  The granola will be in the oven, the eggs boiling away, salad and fruit all chopped and boxed in the fridge and smoothie bags complete and in the freezer.  By doing this one simple task it gives me all of my snacks for the week, whether i am at home or at work, the salad i can quickly throw into a sandwich box along with some filling and my snacks are all prepared and ready to eat or take with me. If i don’t prepare on a Sunday my week is usually very different, missing meals, grabbing a mars bar at the garage because i’m so hungry, you get the picture…prep, prep, prep!

HIIT

You don’t need a gym membership but you do need to be exercising to lose the weight and to tone up.  For me HIIT (High intensity interval training) is perfect as it’s short but you get results.  I do go to the gym and take part in metafit classes but when i don’t have time i do 4 x 15min sessions at home during the week. Freya loves joining in too trying to perfect her burpees. The Body Coach has some great examples but if you have an internet TV or a laptop there are thousands of videos to follow on YouTube.

We all know what it feels like when we do make an effort, even if it’s sticking on some lippy and a pair of heels.  It can feel like a task at the time but is worth it when your confidence takes a major boost.  The time has come ladies to step it up, get focussed and make those Summer bodies sizzle.

Good luck xx

Mummy’s Preemie Turns 2 by Freya Lillie (aka Mummy’s Preemie)

Mummy’s Preemie Turns 2 by Freya Lillie (aka Mummy’s preemie)

Me & My Mummy

Me & My Mummy

My mummy is a bit busy at the moment (i think she thinks i haven’t noticed) she’s working on a new clothing range named after me, Freya Lillie, so i’ve decided to help her out and write a blog because it’s nearly my birthday.

Mummy says it’s important that our followers are kept up to date with what’s going on and to try and give them something interesting to read every now and then. For some reason she thinks people are interested in me, i suppose i am quite cute but i think it’s maybe more about my journey since it started 11 weeks early!

Me...doing great!

Me…doing great!

People always ask mummy ‘so how’s she doing?’ and mummy always responds ‘she’s doing great’ because mummy and daddy think i’m pretty brilliant, they don’t compare me to anyone else and they always look so amazed every time i say a new word or put puzzles together myself. I can even count to six now, you should see mummy, i think she thinks i’m a child genius and she cuddles me and claps and kisses me all over. I won’t even mention how excited she got when i started putting 2 and 3 words together, wow!

Only a few weeks old, learning to suck, breathe and swallow

Only a few weeks old, learning to suck, breathe and swallow

The difference between an 11 week preemie and a regular 2 year old, hmmm i’m not sure, i just feel the same and act the same, i’m a little bit naughty sometimes too. The thing i hate most and makes me upset is going to see the lady at the hospital every now and then with mummy. She makes me play with toys and asks mummy lots of questions, i even have to have my head measured and then take all of my clothes off to get weighed and measured. I really don’t like this and it makes me cry lots, so mummy has to get on the scales with me and cuddle me. I’m in aged 2 clothing so i think i’m growing ok. Mummy says it’s a good job she has a stock room full of clothing because i keep on growing, i think she’s happy about that though. They said if i’m doing well at my next appointment this year i won’t have to go back until i’m 5!

Me nearly 2!

Me nearly 2!

Mummy and daddy always seem to worry a lot in the cold weather, they think because my lungs weren’t developed properly it causes me to get a poorly cough a lot and it makes me sick and sometimes it’s a bit harder to breath, so mummy puts so many clothes on me when we go out i can hardly walk, silly mummy!

Mummy says this rocking chair was a god send

Mummy says this rocking chair was a god send

I still don’t sleep through the night and i think mummy and daddy are really tired now but mummy says if i need a cuddle or my milk during the night then i can have it because i’m only a baby for such a short time that she doesn’t mind sitting on the rocking chair reading a book or singing a song to get me back to sleep, i think she quite likes it. It makes me feel all safe and secure and i go straight back to sleep.

Me at the top of the Burj in Dubai eating sandwiches...i was hungry!

Me at the top of the Burj in Dubai eating sandwiches…i was hungry!

Mummy says my development in the last year has been pretty amazing and i’ve come on leaps and bounds, i don’t know what this means but i think it’s a good thing. I’ve even got friends now at nursery and we play together with the dollies but i like playing outside the most and reading books, i read to mummy all of the time and i’m not sure why but she sits and smiles at me while i’m reading to her.

Love my Daddy

Love my Daddy

My mummy and daddy love me lots and even my big brother Leelee (his name is Liam but i like Leelee)

My Leelee

My Leelee

I’m sorry mummy for making you so worried when i was born, for sitting by my cot for 6 weeks solid, for you having to leave me and go home each night without me, for still having to get up in the night to express milk even though i wasn’t there with you, for making you panic when i kept forgetting to breathe, but you never needed to worry because i’m made up of one part you and one part daddy so i was always going to be made of something strong.

Love x

Love Freya xx

Teenage Mum to Mumpreneur…never let anyone dull your sparkle!

From teenage mum to mumpreneur…never let anyone dull your sparkle

Mumpreneur, victoria beckham

Mumpreneur

I read an article quite recently which talked about a famous mum as a role model AKA Posh Spice and how women in business should be a little bit more realistic when setting their goals and dreams.

I could totally see what they were saying and why they were saying it, but this really saddened me. I don’t want to be realistic with my dreams, i want to dream big, reach for the stars and believe i can achieve whatever i desire. My dreams motivate me everyday and yes in the back of my head i may have a little bit of a resounding doubt that maybe i won’t make millions and be super successful…but maybe, just maybe i actually will.

Victoria Beckham may have limitless pots of money, people falling at her feet plus a slightly handsome husband 🙂 But she was once normal like you and I, she has been knocked off her pedestal many times for singing credentials, clothing choices and then when she started her own brand, she wasn’t taken seriously and mocked. She did all of this in the public eye and each time got back up and started again, she didn’t give up and today she is a highly respected designer making a pretty penny too. Some of us daren’t even put a video on social media never mind every step monitored and discussed, so to me, actually, she’s a pretty good role model. Plus i would do pretty much anything for a VB handbag!

Barack Obama

He Had A Dream

I wonder what might have happened if someone had said those same things to Barack Obama, first African American president who grew up herding goats in a Kenyan village with a school with a little tin roof (www.history.co.uk) I think you may agree that becoming president may have been an unrealistic dream some may say, but he dreamed big and believed he could do anything, put in a lot of work and achieved his dream.

When i left school at 16, i had very few GCSE’s and by the age of 17 i was living in a council house on my own with a newborn baby boy (whom might i add, is 17 himself this year eeeeek) and i had no qualifications. I came to the realisation that i was responsible for this tiny life and i wanted to be the best mum i could be and be someone he respected, a role model. As well as have nice things and to go to nice places.

My Everything

My Everything

I dreamed big but took small steps, i worked full time and i studied pretty much non stop for 8 years. I knew there were no quick fixes and it would take time and effort. After 8 years had passed i graduated with not only a BA Hons Degree in Business with a decent 2:1 but a PGCE teaching qualification too. I bought my first home with my son with no help or handouts from anyone else. All of those things were a huge dream to someone that at times had to feed her son rather than herself, and in the beginning wasn’t sure if i would achieve my dreams, but i was going to try my damned hardest…and i did. It’s not really on the same scale as first African American President or Designer Extrodinare.
But my point is that everyone starts somewhere, as long as you understand that it will take hard work, drive and small steps to start, the World is your oyster.

Inspiring Quote

 

Success comes in many shapes and forms and only you will know when you’ve reached it, if you are happy and in a place where you want to be, then i’d say that’s pretty successful!

I now have my own business www.freya-lillie.com which i love so much and is continuing to grow, i am helping other mum’s on the road to their dreams and even looking at business number 2.

I am aiming for Victoria Beckham status in the world of entrepreneurism and i won’t be allowing anyone to dull my sparkle! Even the word impossible has the words i’m possible 🙂

Go chase your dreams!

Michelle x

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How To Increase Your Facebook Reach…For Free!

IMG_00349 Steps to Increase Facebook Reach & Engagement

Worldwide, there are over 1.55 billion monthly active Facebook users (MAUs) which is a 14 percent increase year over year. 1.01 billion people log onto Facebook daily  and there are 1.39 billion mobile active users (Zephoria.com)with these statistics you can not ignore the fact Facebook is an essential tool for your brand and to let the world know you exist. It’s all good and well having a very pretty website, but if there’s no path that leads to it 🙁

The problem that occurs is that it’s sometimes like banging your head off a brick wall trying to increase your reach or engagement. I don’t for a second believe anyone has the magic answer or that each and every post is super successful, it’s all about measuring what works for you and trial and error. You won’t always get it spot on, but that’s OK. Don’t keep doing what you are doing if it’s not working, try to think outside of the box and ask yourself, who are your followers and what are their interests?

Sometimes your reach may be fabulous but you have very few likes but that’s great as people have seen your logo and your brand awareness has increased. The amount of people when i attend fairs who have said ‘Oh i’ve seen your logo somewhere’ and then have stopped to chat and look is great, so it’s not just about direct sales from posts (although they are very satisfying!)

Anyway, I’m hoping these helpful tips will improve your reach and engagement!

  1. Create visual posts that people will notice, even if you are asking a question, try canva.com free software with hundreds of free images and editing tools…it’s addictive!!! You can even create magazines/brochures and download a PDF
  2. It may make you feel a bit awkward but if your not feeling awkward and uncomfortable your not challenging yourself…posting video clips which include you!! Even Mr Zuckerberg has said that the future is very much video heavy (wired.com) so we need to get into it and quick. What short clips could you post? If you see any video’s on Facebook, save them and create a bank to use in future posts.
  3. Plan your content for the week…but not all of it. Leave room for any new trends, stories, articles that you can post, i find these are often the ones with the highest reach. If you’re one of the first to post, it will be shared hundreds if not thousands of times (make sure you are following pages who offer this information to you). Go one step further and rewrite it in your own words with your own branding (Reference your source to authenticate your info!).
  4. Think outside of the box for your content. I run an online shop selling baby and children’s clothing. I know that my customers are 25+ females (i use my insights to find this info). I have shared nostalgic posts, car seat safety videos, saving ideas and each of those have reached over 50,000 people with only 3000 followers.
  5. Not too many sales post – if Facebook recognise that you are selling they will not show it to your audience or to a very limited audience as they want to give their followers value. Sell without selling, for me flatlays of outfits or customers in outfits work great. Don’t let people forget what you do but don’t post so much of the same thing that people scroll past and ignore you.
  6. Branding – make sure your logo and website is visible. Ideally have your logo as your profile picture for brand awareness so when you are reaching thousands of people they are unconsciously seeing your logo which will stick in their brains!
  7. Facebook tools are there to help so use them. Use insights to see who your fans are so when you boost any posts you can target those who are interested and visit your page. Each week or even month if time is limited, look at your insights and find out which of your posts have worked. Use this information to make notes of similar posts you can post when planning your content, try posting them at different times to analyse if it is the post or the time you posted that caused the interaction.
  8. People sell to people – add in some posts about yourself, the face and personality behind the brand.
  9. In your insights add similar pages to your own to watch, if they are interacting well and have great results, what are they doing? Don’t copy, just get a few tips! Are they asking questions, have great images or videos, maybe competitions. How often are they posting and when?

Don’t forget that although having a business’s is 80% marketing and 20% running it, you can’t be everywhere in all social media platforms all of the time. Find out which 2 platforms work best for you and interact with them daily (10 minutes morning coffee, lunch and watching the soaps) then use your lovely planners that I know you’ll all have to pencil in time to spend on other platforms keeping them upto date and interacting, even if it’s only once per week.

Remember, there’s no secret ingredient, but if you find one…let me know 🙂

Good luck

Michelle x

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How to be a Mumpreneur…and not get stressed!!!

How to be a mumpreneur…and not get stressed!

I love sitting in the car...really!

I love sitting in the car…really!

So the grey hairs have quadrupled, i’m not yet a millionaire and neither have i achieved world domination, but all good things come to those that wait…WRONG!!!!! All good things come to those that work hard, make sacrifices, make mistakes but get back up and try even harder.

I know, i’m not really selling the whole mumpreneur thing am i? Honestly, it’s bloody hard work but i get up every morning so motivated, my brain instantly switches on, well after one large latte that is, but then i’m raring to go. Move over Richard Branson (well you have to dream big).

Mumpreneurs generated over £7bn last year according to the Telegraph as well as supporting over 200,000 jobs, that’s pretty fantastic. Mum’s up and down the country just like you and I, had and have a dream along with a want and desire to be home more for their families. To do the school run, attend sports day and have something they could call their own. Sound familiar?

My first fair showcasing Freya-Lillie

My first fair showcasing Freya-Lillie

Mum to a teen and a toddler plus a 36 year old male who requires attention, a housewife, a cook, a cleaner, general dogsbody, an assessor and lecturer in business 2 days per week oh and i forgot to mention a mumpreneur trying to run a successful online clothing business and all that goes with it. The secret…time management! I know, sounds boring but it really is that simple.

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The lecturer in me sets my yearly goals making sure they are realistic, achievable and i can measure them to see how i’m progressing. These are then broken down into smaller more manageable tasks and added to my weekly/monthly business to do’s which i store in my beautiful planner (i’m a stationary addict, sad i know). At the end of the week i review what has been done, what needs work and then plan for the following week. For me this is the most productive way of working, i know exactly what needs to be done and when. Tasks have even got an estimated time attached so i know when i can fit it in. It helps with direction, efficiency and productivity.

It means sometimes you have to put down the phone and ignore social media for a short while, we all know you can lose hours lost in the world that is social media. If social media plays a large part in your business, finish the task at hand and then take some time to interact/answer questions etc but don’t get lost in something that isn’t going to bring you any value. You can still be effective on social media and not spend every waking hour checking your phone, i promise!

Both of my babies

Both of my babies

So when do i get time for working on world domination? The one thing i don’t do is work through the day as it’s not fair on my little lady, she’s only little once and i won’t get that time back. Maybe a little social media updating but even that’s limited now nap time is becoming shorter. So basically it’s a couple of hours on an evening Monday to Thursday after the bedtime stories have been read and the mouths have been fed. Friday, Saturdays and Sundays are my nights off to spend with the better half, sampling a vino or two and reconnecting whilst working our way through a good box set. Then while daddy and kiddies spend some time together on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, i get time to work on my world domination. I could do more and may not get where i want to be as fast as other mum’s starting out at the same time as me. But that’s ok, it’s all about the balance.

If opportunity doesn't knock,build a door!

The morale of the story, if you are a mum with a business idea but just waiting for that eureka moment and unsure how to fit it in…stop waiting, do it now! There’s so much help out there, all you need to start is the idea and to believe in yourself. If you don’t go out and follow your dream, someone else will pay you to help build theirs.

Michelle xx

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Adults Only! Mammy & Daddy Visit Edinburgh Christmas Market

Just Us Two!

Just Us Two!

My favourite time of the year, Christmas. A time to eat more, drink more, spend more and basically, just be merry. This year Christmas is kind of passing me by with the responsibility of Freya-Lillie.com, selling toys to mums and dads up and down the country.

But the one thing that stays the same year after year is the annual Christmas shopping trip to Edinburgh for mammy and daddy. I am such a fan of a good Christmas market, wrapping up warm, visiting the brightly lit stalls and the sound of Mariah Carey, All i Want For Christmas sounding out in the background, everyone is so happy and it just feels festive and full of cheer.

It's all about the notes

It’s all about the notes

More importantly it’s time for me and my other half to reconnect. I don’t know about other families but sometimes you just become ships that pass by in the night. Bathing the kids, cooking the tea, sending work emails…the list is endless. Where did that quality time to chat and cuddle go? Time? Sorry, what is that again?

Smile

Smile

Each and every year we follow the same plan, train up to Edinburgh planning who and what gifts we need to buy and making notes in our phones (can’t live without my iphone notes!). Arrive in Edinburgh around lunch time and head to Harvey Nics for a Fourth Floor Smash cocktail, yummy! It’s like this new found freedom, we can do what we want and when we want, it’s fab. Don’t get me wrong, Freya is pinned to my side 24/7 so I’m already missing her before i’ve even left, that horrible feeling in the pit of my tummy, it’s enough not to go at all. But i know she’ll have lots of fun with nana and mummy and daddy will have some much needed quality time together to laugh, chat and drink so much we talk about such rubbish like ‘can you remember when we…’.

Fourth Floor Smash

Fourth Floor Smash

Friday is a shopping day for us, mummy and daddy, new purchases and the odd pit stop at a wine bar or pub for some refuelling. I love it!!! This year we visited The Honours restaurant for a ‘posh’ meal, a treat to ourselves. Posh meals or meals of any kind don’t tend to happen very often, so we like to make the effort to dress up and dine out somewhere nice. I won’t lie though, i do prefer my skinny jeans, flats and a winter coat. Oh no, when did i become OLD!

Oysters in Pink Champagne

Oysters in Pink Champagne

The restaurant was welcoming, the staff very friendly and helpful and the food…WOW! Oysters in pink champagne followed by poached lemon sole was out of this world. It was a little pricey but the flavours were immense. Mark had a steak fillet and at £38 i was hoping it was the size of his plate, it was unfortunately not. However, Mark’s face said it all, so juicy and tender and according to Mark, well worth the money. Most definitely a thumbs up from us!

The Dome, another Christmassy venue...be prepared to get squashed!

The Dome, another Christmassy venue…be prepared to get squashed!

We tried a new bar afterwards which has become my new favourite, Copper & Blossom is situated just off George Street and it’s cosy, trendy, welcoming and you guessed it…full of copper and blossom. It was very busy and during the day is seating only so no standing around having a drink. I could have quite happily spent a full day relaxing, snacking and drinking in that bar, loved it and so did Mark.

Afterwards was the very trendy yet a little pricey Tiger Lily bar, i love the cocktails, the decor and how trendy it is in this bar. We were lucky enough to stay here one Christmas trip weekend, it was ideal and the room, although a little small, was right up our street. We do like to be central and make it our mission to visit a different hotel every year…but that’s a different blog!

Saturday is all systems go, operation Christmas shopping in one day begins. We have our list, we have our route, lets go shop, but first…a full Scottish breakfast please, yum yum. This seriously does set me up for a good day of shopping, that and a comfy pair of shoes.

Edinburgh Christmas Market (and Mark)

Edinburgh Christmas Market (and Mark)

Edinburgh is fab, you have your designer stores, high street stores and little boutique style shops for when you need something ‘a little different’ and when we can’t take anymore it’s time to drop off the bags and head out for the best part of the trip…the Christmas market.

Hot Beer...Yum!

Hot Beer…Yum!

It’s dark and cold, everyone wrapped up warm and cosy. The fairground rides and wooden stalls are brightly lit and the sound of Christmas music is everywhere. That’s when it hits me, that warm and happy feeling that Christmas brings. Last year i gave hot beer a try, i won’t lie, it was actually quite nice, but this year i opted for a hot chocolate complete with a proper mug, you just drop it back off later. I may have also had a shot of baileys added to it just to make it taste a little creamier, honest.

We Love it here x

We Love it here x

When you take a moment to look around, everyone is so happy and full of joy, you can’t help but smile and cuddle in, sipping drinks and listening to the Christmas music and getting excited to do it all again next year.

Michelle xx

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Post Natal Depression & My Best Friend

 

Best friends sipping champers at the races

Best friends sipping champers at the races

A fear installed in many mum’s to be, what if it happens to me. For my best friend Sarah, that was a reality, she went to hell and back but made it through to the other end. Sarah and I have worked together on this blog as we feel it’s important to make other mum’s aware that they aren’t alone and to give an honest account of Sarah’s experience of PND and how she dealt with it.

Riley Robinson!

Riley Robinson!

The gorgeous Master Riley is just over 3 years of age and anyone who knows him will agree, he has the biggest personality and is a little too clever for his age and most definitely a mummy’s boy. This was Sarah’s first child, Sarah suffered PND after having Riley and found it hard to bond with him in the beginning as well as suffering panic attacks but had no idea she was suffering with PND. It is only looking back she has realised.

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

Sarah and Paul (AKA Daddy) had wanted a brother or sister for Riley for a while, they had suffered a miscarriage in the past and when they finally received the news they were expecting again they were over the moon and the planning and shopping began. The pregnancy was not an easy one with Sarah and Paul pretty much on edge for 9 whole months. But beautiful Scarlett was born healthy and perfect with all ten fingers and all ten toes.

In The Beginning

Scarlett Rose Robinson

Scarlett Rose Robinson

Sarah was initially fine but after a couple of weeks, started to feel a little down in the dumps and one day received a call from Paul who had been in a car accident, luckily he was fine even though his car had been wrapped around a lamp post. Sarah believes this was the trigger that tipped her over the edge, she was supposed to be in the car with the kids but luckily was not. The very next day Sarah had a serious panic attack, shortness of breath, uncontrollable crying, heart beating out of her chest, she knew something was not right and called her Mam to come and help.

They immediately called the health visitor who came straight to the house and referred Sarah for an emergency appointment with the doctor that day. In the doctors surgery Sarah suffered yet another panic attack and the doctor prescribed her anti depressants, at that time Sarah was willing to try anything as she was desperate for the horrible feelings and thoughts to leave her alone. She had no control over them and they would continue to keep on coming over the next few weeks.

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Sarah described the daily feeling of ‘living under a black cloud’ she could try and act normal, do normal things but would always have this horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach that wouldn’t leave. She would argue with her own thoughts and most days she didn’t want to get out of bed or get dressed and missed many meals. Everything was a huge chore and Sarah had to force herself to make all of these small steps that most people do without thinking everyday.

Her health visitor had mentioned to her the Crisis Team, the group of people who decide if your kids are safe to be with you. Sarah had known this was a possibility by contacting them and letting them know how she was, but Sarah had remembered how bad she had been with Riley and how bad she was feeling at that point and the fact that she needed help, she didn’t want to do it on her own. She would be closely monitored with frequent visits from her health visitor but Sarah was surrounded by friends and family that love her very much.

When Things Were Bad

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Sarah admitted that she had thought about her Mam taking Scarlett to look after and thinking it would be best if she wasn’t around as everyone was so worried. To make her family and friends feel better and to worry that little bit less she would post photos on social media to show that she was ok, but she wasn’t,far from it. She admitted that in her deepest darkest thoughts she’d question why she had even had another baby because she just couldn’t cope with how she was feeling. But then as soon as she was having a period where she was feeling a little like her normal self, Sarah couldn’t believe she had actually thought those things and absolutely loved the bones off her kids and couldn’t live without them. Anyone that knows Sarah knows that her kids come first every time and everything she does is for them.

Good Times

Good Times

Sarah was messaging me a lot and i was doing my best to reassure her everything would be ok, i researched different articles and gave information such as certain foods to avoid and things to try. I knew these weren’t going to do much but i felt helpless and that’s all i could do, how could i possibly know what she was going through or even try to understand. I asked Sarah to bring the kids over one night for a sleep over and we’d have a girls night in where we could either talk about what she was going through or watch chick flicks and eat chocolate and try and be normal.

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Sarah forced herself to leave the house like she did every day, Paul had to come with her, he was going out with friends that evening but was very worried about leaving her. Sarah needed to know that if she panicked she could jump in the car and go home but also needed Paul to help her come over, she didn’t want to be on her own at any time. That’s when i knew how bad it was, she was at her best friends house, the place she usually just kicks of her shoes and gets comfy on the couch, instead she was on edge and wouldn’t sit down and just burst out crying saying ‘i just can’t help it, i don’t know why’.

I had never given thought to mental health and people who suffer from depression as i’d never really had too, if i’m honest i think i just thought it was just people feeling down and never thought of it as a real illness. That is until now.

It took Sarah a little while to settle and we ended up talking all night and Sarah felt , well, as happy as she could with a black cloud over her. The next morning whilst making breakfast she broke down again, i could tell she was just so fed up but had no control over it. She phoned Paul who got ready and came straight over for her.

The Crazy Kids!

The Crazy Kids!

Paul had been her rock, Paul and Sarah fit together like a glove, they are a little bit crackers, up for a laugh and everyone loves them. One thing they aren’t is overly affectionate in public, it’s just not them. But Paul changed this, cuddles and kisses and texts of reassurance and they made a huge difference. One text he sent while Sarah was sleeping over (sorry Paul) just told her he loved her, he was there for her and they would get through it together. I’m filling up now just reliving it, we were obviously both in tears. Sarah needed Paul to be her rock and although he didn’t understand either he just made sure that she knew he loved her and he wasn’t going anywhere and however long it took, it would get better and they could do it.

What Helped

Sarah was given the contact details for Talking Changes who are a group of trained counsellors who are just at the end of the phone to listen and help. Sarah spoke to these on several occasions. She also received help from her health visitors as they visited on a regular basis.

Big Brotherly Love

Big Brotherly Love

Sarah said there were a few things that helped her through, she actually stopped the anti depressants after a few days in fear she may start to rely on them and wanted to try alternative methods.

Sarah received private baby massage classes which you can ask your health visitor about, a lady comes to your house and it helps you bond with your baby. She was also told to keep looking into Scarletts eyes. Sarah said it all sounds silly but it did actually help her to bond more and feel better.

Sarah would lie in bed and hearing crying even though Scarlett was asleep. She would panic incase Scarlett would wake up and she couldn’t get her to stop crying. To deal with it Sarah put all of these thoughts into boat and sailed them down the river. I think Sarah has become a firm believer in brain training and it was definitely a factor in her recovery.

She had said that she had been told not to look into the future or in the past and just the day your living in. One small step at a time!

When We Were Young...Much younger!

When We Were Young…Much younger!

Sarah being Sarah, thinking she is superwoman gave in and asked for help, family and friends would babysit and help with household chores. This eased the pressure from Sarah. I think other mum’s suffer from ‘superwoman syndrome’ too, being a mum is non stop never mind those who work too. The dust will still be there tomorrow, but your babies won’t always be babies tomorrow.

Sarah forced herself to go to baby classes such as Song & Rhyme, visiting friends, doing ‘normal’ things. She was determined not to let this illness beat her and although it took every bit of strength and lots of tears, she pushed through until it eventually started to get a little more bearable.

Everyday i would text ‘So how are you doing today?’ and each day i would receive the same response ‘i’m ok but i had an episode…’ then one day her response had changed ‘i feel OK, i haven’t had any episodes, i feel like i have won the lottery Shell, i feel happy’.  It had been so bad that to have a day where the black cloud was lifted and she felt OK, to Sarah no amount of money could have been better than that feeling. Those texts continued over the next few days, although Sarah wasn’t and still isn’t 100% she has figured out how to control it.

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Sarah’s Baby Shower

I can’t tell you how proud i am of my best friend, she tackled her illness head on, didn’t hide it from friends and family and now wants to be able to help others if she can. Please don’t sit in silence as you really aren’t alone, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to professionals then Sarah would be happy just to chat as Sarah understands sometimes it’s better to talk to someone who has been through it too. Email michelle@freya-lillie.com and your details will be passed to Sarah.

Please share this blog with anyone that maybe going through something similar or that has just had a baby. They don’t have to sit silently with this awful illness and they certainly shouldn’t be ashamed, it could happen to anyone.

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Me & He…The Afterbirth

Date Night

Date Night

Ah the good old days, remembering our lengthy evening chats on future goals, our ambitions, places we wanted to travel too, our next weekend away together or family holiday. I say the good old days, but that was only a year ago! Conversations these days include ‘you should have seen Freya’s funny face she pulled this morning’ or ‘ you’ll never guess, Freya slept for a full 2 hours this morning, i got lots of housework done’.

Now i’m not saying this is a negative change, it’s just a change, things are a little different now.

I’ll be honest, i can’t say i thought about how our relationship may change after a baby or how frustrated i may sometimes get over little things like washing my hair! I know how ridiculous that sounds but new mum’s know exactly what i’m talking about.

Baby Carrier

Snuggles

I was lucky enough to have 10 months maternity leave and only return to work 2 days per week. Now i don’t know about you lot but trying to look after a baby all day, get myself ready, get the baby ready, eat, prepare food, do some washing, get the shopping, have a little clean, make meals, well i’m tired just even thinking about it. It’s not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a 24/7 job with you as primary carer and it’s nice to have that recognised. My 2 days at work is sometimes like a little break, at least i can get a cup of coffee hot or eat my lunch with both hands if needed, i can even have adult conversations. But i won’t lie, i do miss her cheeky face when i’m not with her.

Cheeky

Cheeky

Now i may get annoyed with my beloved other half more than i used too, but as far as daddy’s and partners go, well i have to admit, i do have a good one. He helps with the housework, we’ve always took turns in night feeds and he does make me feel very loved. However, we are far from perfect, although i am slightly more perfect than he is. I always say an argument every now and then shows the passion in a relationship and how much you care, on the plus side the making up is great. If you had no disagreements, well, that’s just boring and maybe even says that you’re just not that bothered?

So what are the changes and disagreements about you may ask, well, read on…

Wear a hat, it's easier!

Wear a hat, it’s easier!

How do i look?
How many of you find it impossible to shower, do your hair (like actually clean it), put on some make up and get ready all in one go whilst having a baby with you? Wouldn’t you love to just wash your hair, maybe even paint your nails or stick on some fake tan to give yourself a little boost but the opportunity never really appears as there is always something that needs doing.

Putting the kids to bed, making the tea, finishing some work or whether in fact you’re just so blooming tired you want to lie on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine and don’t even care your legs need shaving and are starting to resemble something from Planet of the Apes! It’s even more frustrating when your other half hasn’t really got a clue, he’s showered and ready in ten minutes, child free and if on the off chance you do have the opportunity, within 20 minutes your presented with ‘how long do you think you’ll be’…roll on argument number 1

Helping me get ready

Helping me get ready

Intimacy
So, you’ve just given birth only weeks ago, you haven’t had a slap of make up on since, you have a bit of a wobbly baby belly, maybe carrying a little extra weight, prickly legs, emotions flying all over the place and the thought of being naked does not make you feel sexy, plus you are just so blooming tired. The last thing that is even crossing your mind is a little slap and tickle, you’d rather do nothing at all because that very rarely happens too. But we do have to think about it at some point, it is important when you are feeling a little more used to things, getting yourself organised and on top of things, you take the time to stick that make up on, buy some new underwear and get that intimacy back. Feel close and connected and just to remember how god damn sexy you are!

Kisses for Mummy

Kisses for Mummy

Affection
When a tiny little bundle comes into your life and your just bursting with love, they do consume a lot of your affection. Now i’m not saying i’m an ice queen but…!

Freya is showered with kisses and cuddles all day long and if i’m honest, i sometimes neglect my other half, bless him. That’s why it’s so important for date night, to spend some time with just each other, who cares if the conversation does revolve around babies and teenagers, just to have that time away from the distractions of TV’s, housework and everything else, it’s just the 2 of you. It’s sometimes like a big effort for date night to happen but it’s totally worth it when you come home laughing, hand in hand and just remembering why you fell in love with him.

How do i?
Now i don’t think there’s a qualification in having a baby but i do think men assume you have achieved one of these qualifications asking many many questions such as ‘what clothes shall i put on her today’ ‘what can i give her for dinner’ ‘is this bath too hot’, you get the picture. I don’t know whether it’s down to;

  1. Easier for them to ask without thinking
  2. They’re scared of doing something wrong
  3. They’re scared of being told off for doing something wrong

How many times have they done something without asking and possibly been told they’ve done it wrong? We do have a tendency to put them right for doing things wrong and i do give Mark a funny look when i see Freya in clashing prints in a ‘what were you thinking’ sort of way.

Loves him x

Loves him x

My advice, embrace the changes, talk to each other and don’t assume he knows what’s wrong because let’s be honest, they really aren’t very good at that game!!

Remember you made something precious together

Remember you made something precious together

Love Michelle xx

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Drum Role Please…My Last 3 Clean Eating Recipes

Frozen Yoghurt Slices

Frozen Yoghurt Slices

So, we’ve covered eggs for breakfast and pizza for lunch now it’s time for sweet treats, my favourite. But I thought I’d give you the last 3 recipes together in one easy place!
Today’s delights consist of yoghurt slices, a super duper clean and totally healthy dinner and a yummy smoothie.

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

I’ve only been clean eating a few weeks and although I have added extra exercise in too, I feel healthier, slimmer, less bloated, more awake by the afternoon (usually need match sticks to keep my eyes open) and more tight and toned. I won’t lie, it feels good to feel like this. How long will I keep it up? Well who know’s, I know I’m certainly going to enjoy myself on holiday and not think about what I am eating, but I am finding that I enjoy this diet and it’s not really a chore like some diets can be. I suppose it’s more of a way of life rather than a diet.
I find myself getting all excited when I find new recipes and I’ll start explaining them to Mark (my other half) and bless him, his response Is always ‘that’s sounds nice’. Ok, I get the picture Mark, you’re not that fussed what’s for dinner tonight as long as it tastes good! So far so good though, no complaining.

Spinach & Mushroom Muffins

Spinach & Mushroom Muffins – Brekkie

We all like a sweet treat and it’s been a tough one experimenting with sweet treats that actually hit the spot but are relatively healthy, clean and easy to make. The yoghurt slices I really enjoy and so does Freya, plus there’s no need to feel guilty. If you’re looking for a quick fix frozen yoghurt is always the better option over ice cream.
Ingredients
1 cup of your favourite white yoghurt
1 tbsp of rice syrup or honey or any other sweetener
1 tsp of vanilla extract if you have it, don’t worry if you don’t.
2 handfuls of raspberries
Handful of white choc chips
Handful of desiccated coconut
(If you want to use dark choc chips or different fruit, go ahead!)

Method
If you mix the yoghurt, sweetener and vanilla together. Line a freezer safe dish with some tin foil and pour in the mixture.
Top it off with your chocolate, raspberries and coconut and freeze for around 2 to 3 hours.
Remove from the freezer and leave for a few minutes before slicing and eating. They can last for up to 4 weeks in the freezer
Your guilty free sweet treat!!

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TIP – If you are trying to lose weight, use an app such as MyFitnessPal to track how many calories you are eating per day, it will help you take notice of those little things such as coffees, that add up and make the difference.

Next on the agenda…a tasty dinner.
For when us mum’s have 20 minutes to whip up a healthy meal for dinner, this is it, I know I am biased because I love it so much, but really, quick and easy and totally clean and healthy.

Courgetti spaghetti and if you like cauliflower, there's even a cous cous

Courgetti spaghetti and if you like cauliflower, there’s even a cous cous

Did you know that Tesco have even got into the whole clean eating trend and when time is tight you can buy what’s called courgette spaghetti and carrot spaghetti, there’s no pasta involved it’s all veg! You can make it from scratch if you have the time but I won’t lie, I did buy it in a packet from Tesco but it’s still totally clean.
The only ingredients required are salmon filets (or a piece of red meat if you prefer) a packet of courgette spaghetti and carrot spaghetti. The salmon are usually baked for approx. 20 minutes in the oven wrapped in tin foil to keep them moist and the vegetable spaghetti is popped into a wok and stir fried for 4 minutes. That’s it, that’s all that is needed and the kids will love the super long pieces of vegetables (well hopefully).
One of my other clean eating healthy dinners is sweet potato wedges, mushrooms and a piece of red meat with maybe a little asparagus on the side. I make the wedges from scratch and use only a light oil spray such as flora for the wedges and mushrooms and red meat. Basically heat the oven to around 200 degrees Celsius, scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges. Spray with the light oil and season with salt and pepper, pop into the oven for around 40 minutes. Fry your mushrooms and meat using the light oil too. Super tasty!

TIP – If you go to a restaurant for your dinner, make sure you ask for your dressings on the side, these are usually packed with calories.

One of my delicious nutri bullet smoothies - packed full of goodness

One of my delicious nutri bullet smoothies – packed full of goodness

And finally, for a mid afternoon treat or to complement your exercise and help with recovery is a tasty smoothie. If you haven’t already got a device such as the nutribullet, GET ONE!!! I can’t recommend them enough, I was worried it would be a fad for me but I’ve had it for a fair few months now and use it almost every day. Now I’m not condoning the use of alcohol but I have heard it can also make some pretty mean cocktails ☺

Ingredients
Handful of spinach or kale (I promise you can’t taste it at all)
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
Handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Handful of mango (fresh or frozen)
Sprinkling of almonds
Unsweetened almond milk
Ice
Add protein powder if needed but you’ve already got a protein boost with what’s already been added.
You can also add superfoods and extras such as goji berries, flax seeds, chia seeds, the list goes on.
The great thing about smoothies are they actually fill you up, they are tasty, super healthy and you can experiment with whatever you like. Plus babies like them too, Freya makes sure she has some if I make one, how better to get fruit and veg and goodness into little ones.
Well, that’s my 5 clean eating, healthy recipes complete. If you didn’t see my egg muffins or homemade pizza, check out my earlier blogs on how to make them.
I’m going to continue to experiment with healthy and quick recipes so if you have enjoyed these then let me know and I will post more or sign up to our newsletter which you can do via our facebook page (click on more) or through our website.

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Michelle x

Clean Eating – Day 2 of 5 Clean Eating Recipes

Day 2 of our 5 day clean eating blogs, if you are reading this chances are your egg muffins were actually ok, didn’t take long to prepare and tasted like little mini omelettes. Well done!!

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

Now we have covered breakfast (see my previous post for quick and easy egg muffins), what’s for lunch i hear you ask? How about a nice healthy pizza? YES, you heard right, healthy with minimum calories.

Not bad for a first attempt

Not bad for a first attempt

When i made these pizzas for lunch the smell even managed to drag Liam (teenage son) from out of his pit as it smelled totally delicious. I won’t lie even i thought it was super tasty, made even better with the thought it wasn’t full of fat and unhealthy ingredients.

Takeaway Pizza

Takeaway Pizza

I don’t mind a take away pizza at the weekend, although i prefer the ‘do it yourself’ pizzas from Sainsbury’s. When the takeaway pizza arrives and you can almost see the cheese swimming, well, that’s not very appealing to me but the smell is delicious. So now i have my healthy pizza, i’m happy as Larry.

TIP – Try drinking plenty of water with ice during the day, because the water is so cold, your body burns more calories trying to regulate it’s temperature.

Ingredients
Wholewheat tortillas or pittas ( make sure you read the ingredients on the packs, there should be around 5 ingredients and not 25!) You can also use pittas if you prefer.

Tin of tomatoes
Clove of garlic
Basil
Salt & Pepper
Mozarella

Toppings – for mine i chose spinach and prawns but feel free to experiment with your own choice of toppings.

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I used a pizza tray which we cook our pizzas on usually and it worked well as they have small holes in, they can be quite soggy in the middle so these trays help crisp them up a bit better. I sprayed a little oil on to make sure the pizza didn’t stick.

So, i mixed the tomatoes, basil, garlic and salt and pepper together before spreading on the tortilla. Leave about 1/2 inch round the edge. I then sprinkled on my cheese and added the prawns before cooking in the fan oven at 200 degrees celsius for approx 11 minutes. When you see the cheese bubbling and the edges turning brown your done. Plate up and enjoy your non guilty yet tasty pizza!

TIP – If they do turn out a little soggy, which mine have in the past, they also taste great folded over as a calzone. Although freya prefers her homemade pizza cut into fingers.

Tune in tomorrow for a sweet treat!

Love Michelle x

Clean Eating – Day 1 of 5 Recipes

So, before i start i just want to make it clear, qualified nutritionist or fitness expert i am definitely not, but i have done my research, using various reliable websites and books, in which i have adapted recipes to fit my preferences.

The Goal – to feel healthier, find food my whole family will enjoy(there’s even one recipe i’ll show you later that my teenage son loved, now i feel successful), lose a few pounds (have a bikini to fit into) and not have to starve myself!

The Problem – i’m addicted to food, usually the unhealthy variety of sweets and crisps. I have limited time to prepare complex meals and i need something that a 1 year old will also eat.

Hello Clean Eating…

Natural Wholesome Food

Natural Wholesome Food

If i am totally honest i didn’t really know what clean eating was all about, but it’s exactly what it says on the tin, clean wholesome foods which are natural and not processed and filled full of chemicals. It’s actually quite alarming when i read some ingredients of even things such as wholewheat tortillas, or a packet of ham, my naivety led me to think ham was ham.

Now it’s important to say i don’t follow clean eating religiously, i can’t go a weekend without crisps and chocolate and i don’t want to either. During the week, this is when i am good, i don’t starve or do without snacks. Most of us know, if you cut food out of your diet and become so hungry and unhappy, you end up caving in and eating twice as much, epic fail! I have found the key is making swaps, if you are hungry at 10am and again in the afternoon, eat something, but not junk food because if you have yourself a chocolate bar, once the sugar is processed you will be craving another in around an hour or so, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Firstly you need to get prepared, anyone that knows me, knows of my obsession with stationary, notepad for literally everything, i can’t help it, i love it. But i found a great notepad in Wilkinson’s which plans out your meals for the week, a space for your shopping list on the side and it even has a magnet on the back to stick to the fridge. This allows your teenage son to get all of his twisting out of the way in one go when he sees the meals for the week. But it’s great for you to plan out your healthy meals and snacks and go to the shops and buy those ingredients and nothing more until the weekend, when you may have a cheat day. Add exercise into the mix a few times a week, even if it’s just long walks, and you won’t know yourself, your energy surges may cause you to do things like go out dancing or in my case, clean out the kitchen cupboards.

So, 5 days, 5 recipes, all clean eating. I’m going to cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and hopefully add in a few helpful tips along the way.

First up…egg muffins for breakfast. These are quick and easy, packed full of goodness, you can store them in your fridge in an airtight container for a few days. So when time is limited on a morning, grab a couple, microwave for a short time and your done, quicker than toast.

Spinach & Mushroom Muffins

Spinach & Mushroom Muffins

TIP – Don’t ever skip breakfast, this kick starts your metabolism on a morning and helps with weight loss.

Ingredients (this will give you 12 muffins)
4 eggs
4 egg whites
salt & pepper to season
spinach
mushrooms (it’s up to you what you want to put in your muffins, i chose spinach and mushrooms but you could have peppers, tuna and cheese, asparagus. Experiment and go crazy!)

Use a measuring jug if you have one as it’s easier to pour the mix into the tray and creates less mess. Add 4 eggs and 4 eggs whites with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and whisk together. You could add a touch of garlic to give it an extra kick.

Chop the spinach and mushrooms and heat a frying pan to a medium heat before adding a light oil spray such as flora. Cook for a couple of minutes and add to the egg mixture.

I used a silicon muffin tray so poured the mixture straight into it. If you don’t have a silicon tray make sure you spray some of the oil in first.

Make sure your fan oven is at 160 degrees celsius and cook the muffins for 20 minutes. If you use a fork or knife to stick into the muffins when done to see if they are cooked thoroughly, the fork or knife should come out clean.

Not bad for a first attempt

Not bad for a first attempt

Leave to cool for a couple minutes, grab a cuppa and enjoy your healthy breakfast.

TIP – If you want to up your healthy game, swap your coffee/tea for hot water and lemon. Make sure it isn’t boiling hot and use only fresh lemons. I usually squeeze half a lemon into my water each day. It helps flush out all of the toxins in your body, has been proven to help with weight loss and sets you up to make the right choices for your diet that day.

When the muffins are fully cooled transfer to an airtight container and pop them in the fridge.

And just so you know, these have around 40 calories each and are high in protein. I think they are great as i have no need for my 10am snack when i eat these, because they are high in protein they curb any hunger pains, brilliant!

So, no excuses, everyone has eggs in their fridge, start now and reap the rewards when you are feeling full of energy and losing the pounds!

Stay tuned for round 2 tomorrow.

Good luck x

Teen Mum v Thirty Something

 

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Me and my boy, all grown up

Stereotype – if you look up this word in the dictionary you will see a photo of me, well many years ago anyway. An intelligent and friendly girl, top sets for most subjects, 3 years into senior school, I found boys, popularity and became bored with school. At the age of 17 I had my little boy Liam and I was living on my own in a tiny little council house with quite frankly, rubbish GCSE’s.

I loved being pregnant, I also loved being a mum. One thing I realised quite quickly was I didn’t want this life for my son or for me, waiting each week for the ‘dole’ cheque to be posted. So I did something about it and applied for an apprenticeship and started fairly soon after.

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My desire to succeed and want to learn more was quickly noticed and I was offered a job as a receptionist and then promoted to Sales Secretary. At the age of 19 I applied for my first mortgage (at a time when 100% mortgages were possible!) and me and my gorgeous little boy moved into our own house, it was such a proud moment for me, i’d done it on my own, little old me.

My baby boy

My baby boy

I worked full time and Liam was in childcare, i also studied part time at college. He was such a happy little boy, well behaved, and very social. I think I was probably quite a strict mum following routines, but I had to be as there was only me. As a result Liam always went to bed at 7pm and I think that’s why he’s so well behaved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not raising an angel!
Liam drank formula milk and ate a lot of baby food from a jar. I had no idea about healthy eating or the benefits of breastfeeding, I was probably horrified of the thought! But he was healthy and happy and developing well, he could say the full alphabet by the age of 2, he was so clever.

Any spare money i had was spent on clothes or toys for Liam, i started Christmas shopping half way through the year, so i could make sure i could shower him with gifts.

My 2 men

My 2 men, Sunset Strip, Ibiza, about to watch Fatboy Slim perform

At the age of 32 i became pregnant again, i wasn’t sure if i would have any more kids as i had never been the most maternal of people, but getting a little older i felt like i wanted to be a mum again and my partner, although he took on the role of daddy to Liam at the age of 9, didn’t have any of his own.

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Being pregnant this time round, although i still loved being pregnant, there was such worry and anxiousness, although justified when she came 11 weeks early.

My outlook with Freya compared to Liam is very different, i won’t lie, she is very spoilt with affection and time , Liam was in childcare all week every week, Freya is only there 2 days per week. Freya does have her bedtime routine which we stick to religiously, i’m all about the routines! Being a little older I am a lot more clued up on eating healthy and looking at what is in food and what foods to include in her diet and making sure it’s not all processed and there’s plenty of homemade.

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Liam received sweets as treats all of the time, and as a young mum i thought i was just being nice, not thinking of the damage on his little teeth. Freya isn’t even allowed fruit juice, although she is given the odd sweet treat and I won’t lie, she does loves skip crisps.
Freya has a variety of fruit and veg every day and there was no hesitation in breast feeding Freya.

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Looking back I loved my gorgeous boy enough for a mum and dad, he always had a smile on his face and we’ll share a bond that’s always special, he’s been with me through everything. Liam is predicted A’s and A*’s in his GCSE’s, he is a popular, friendly teenager, is part of a football team and he absolutely adores his little sister.

My Two Babies

My Two Babies

As an older mum i feel a lot more maternal and have a lot more patience, i miss the naivety of being a teenage mum as worry is my middle name now and it can take over sometimes. I also love being a young mum that Liam can relate too, i wont lie, i’m not looking forward to being 50 when Freya turns 18!

Teen mum’s do get a lot of stick, sometimes it’s not always justified. I’ve always had this desire to succeed and achieve, spurred on by having my baby boy at 17 and wanting to give him the best of everything. As a result i studied at college part time for around 8 years, as well as working full time and being a single mum, achieving a 2:1 in my Business Degree and achieving a PGCE so i could Lecture in colleges and of course, i now have my little business Freya Lillie.

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If i had said to someone 15 year ago sat in my little council house that one day i would have my own business, i would be lecturing in college with a few qualifications under my belt, they probably would have thought i was dreaming and i would have agreed. My point is that i had a dream, i was willing to put in the effort and work and knew it would take time, and that dream is now my reality.

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Would i do it different if i could do it all again…probably not, i can honestly say, although it’s hard work sometimes, i love my life and the journey i have been on and i can’t wait for the next chapter. Anything is possible, just believe in yourself and work, work, work!

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One Year On – Life with My Preemie

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One year on, it’s quite frightening how quick the year has gone by, Freya is sat beside me pulling herself up to her feet on her little tub chair, she just can’t sit still, but I don’t mind. She’s come along way since that tiny little 3lb dot lying in her incubator. She can’t yet walk but is showing signs as she cruises along the furniture. I thought I would write this as there will be lots of mums and dads just like me asking similar questions; when will she crawl, when will her first tooth come,when shall I give her solids, her corrected age or actual age.  So I’m hoping to answer these for you although I know every baby is different.

Right, so, one year ago, hmmm can my baby brain go back that far? Yes, baby brain is still firmly here, my excuse is I’m just trying to store so much more information now that it’s fairly overcrowded!

Brings Tears to My Eyes - We're Going home

Brings Tears to My Eyes – We’re Going home

The day we brought Freya home from Durham Neonatal was such an emotional high for both myself and daddy Mark, we’d waited 6 very long weeks and the time had come.  We were on outreach care so we weren’t totally discharged from hospital, but that didn’t bother me in the least. From leaving the neonatal unit with Freya to fastening her into the car for the very first time, I was just so overwhelmed i felt like i had won the lottery, my baby was coming home, I could cuddle her when I wanted, lie on the couch with my PJ’s on and my sleepy girl. I could take her out in her pushchair for the world to see, I was so excited.

Amongst the excitement were also feelings of being nervous and scared, Freya still had a tube for some of her feeds and she was still tiny at only 4lb.  The day we brought her home we were constantly checking the room temperature, checking Freya’s temperature, how many clothes were too many.  What if her oxygen levels dropped or she forgot to breathe again, there was no monitor to tell me what was happening.

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One of the biggest worries was Sudden Infant Death syndrome which is high risk for all premature babies and something the doctors and nurses make you aware of. We made sure Freya never slept in our bed, she was kept cool at night, any precautions we could take, we did.

After only a couple of days of being home, Freya built up the strength to have all of her milk via bottle and after speaking to the hospital, they suggested i remove the feeding tube from her nose myself. I wont lie, it was a little scary but seeing her pretty face with no more tubes was so nice. We only needed one visit to the hospital to make sure Freya was doing ok and she was discharged, we knew we had numerous hospital appointments to attend with consultants and doctors but we were making progress. Freya would attend hospital every 6 months to check development, she would also have various other appointments dotted in between and this would be right up until she started school. One of the main appointments was for her eye screening, her ROP (retinopathy of prematurity).

ROP Appointments
Premature babies born before 30 weeks are at risk of the tiny blood vessels behind their eyes, stopping growing and surgery is often needed. The doctor and nurse advise you to stand outside as it’s such an intrusive procedure where the eyes are pinned open and they have to be quite firm when holding them so they don’t move, i know, it’s sounds like torture doesn’t it. No wonder she is so tough now! So daddy and I stayed outside although we heard every scream, you just feel so helpless praying that it’s over soon so you can grab hold of her and comfort her. When Freya reached 38 weeks she was discharged and didn’t have to go through it again, happy that her eyes were in good working order.

I love milk
Night time feeds
Freya slept a lot for weeks and i mean a lot, there was such excitement when she opened her eyes for the very brief amount of time each day, we had to wake her for feeds at the start because we couldn’t afford for her to lose any weight. You get used to working with very little sleep and i was lucky that myself and daddy took turns at feeding, that was one of the reasons i was happy to express milk as it meant that daddy could share that feeding bond too, i still love it now. When the house is still in the middle of the night and there’s just me and Freya cuddling on her rocking chair, i may be tired, but i know that they grow up so quickly, so i make the most of those times. She very rarely wakes during the night now unless poorly. I had to integrate a special formula into Freya’s feeding routine which was packed with calories to help Freya put on weight, eventually this became her every feed as expressing every few hours and feeding took it’s toll after only 2 or 3 months.

The first time…

Everyone remembers their babies first time, i think for preemie parents there’s just that little more anxious feeling, mainly because your worried it might not come and then you know something is wrong. It gets very confusing when discussing development with doctors and nurses, i use Freya’s actual age but they use her corrected age, so the age she should have been was she born on time. For ease, i minus 3 months, that’s her corrected age but when writing this i have used her actual age.

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Rolling Over
At around 6 month Freya was starting to show signs of trying to roll over but she just couldn’t figure out how to get all the way over and move her arm out of the way. She spent a few weeks like this and eventually she figured it out, the next step was rolling back over, she just cried to be picked up and didn’t even attempt at rolling back over, a little lazy i suspect, just like her big brother. She had lots of tummy time but wasn’t a huge fan, finally at around 8 month, one day, she just started rolling over and back again.  Freya is very much like that, everything happens all in one day, like magic.

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Sitting Up
Freya was around 9 month when she started sitting up, for the first couple of weeks she needed cushions behind her as she would lose her balance, but it didn’t take her long to figure it out.

First Tooth
So, i’ll keep this brief, as i am writing this Freya is 13 month and is still yet to get her first tooth. Yes we have a little gummy princess! Being the paranoid mummy that i am, at our last hospital appointment i frantically questioned the consultant on why she didn’t yet have a single tooth. She found it very amusing and explained that many mum’s are exactly the same and that they will come, just be patient. So i’m trying hard to be patient, i don’t think Freya thinks i’m being patient as i thoroughly check her gums each day.

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Weaning
I discussed weaning with several consultants and waited until Freya was 9 months (6months corrected) before i started. When you have a preemie baby you follow everything by the book as you don’t want to set a single foot wrong. Starting weaning at 9 months was mainly down to her digestive system not being fully developed. I started Freya on baby rice and porridge but quite quickly added finger foods such as cucumber and toast. It is hard when you see them gag and you want to start smacking their back immediately assuming that they are choking, but they have to learn how to get food back up when needed, as a result Freya is great at finger foods and eating. Even with no teeth! She loves Sunday lunch with all of the veg and can eat bananas until they are coming out of her ears. I do try and give her all home cooked food but i won’t lie, she does sometimes have the odd jar of baby food too, eek shoot me now, bad mummy!

Poorly lady

Poorly lady

Nursery
Freya was 10 month when she went to nursery and i returned to work, many checks were carried out before the right nursery was found. Luckily it is only 2 days per week but at first she hated it. She screamed every time i left her and couldn’t control her emotions when picking her up either but i certainly got lots of cuddles each night. This continued for the first 2 months, i think it is because she had been glued to my side for 10 whole months and looking back i think maybe i should have started her a little sooner. Luckily, when we arrive at nursery now she holds out her arms for her carer to grab hold of her, bye bye mummy. One thing that we have found very difficult with Freya starting nursery is how often she is poorly, we panicked when she left hospital that she would pick up different illnesses but in fact she didn’t catch a single cold until she started nursery. She has been attending nursery for 3 months now and she has had a runny nose for pretty much the whole 3 months but sometimes is has been a lot worse with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. We are hoping in another 3 months time she will have built up a tough immune system, fingers crossed.

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Crawling
So it wasn’t a normal crawl, that would be very unlike Freya, instead at around 9 months Freya would use her arms to drag herself across the floor. We found Freya was very frustrated as she knew what she wanted to do, but she just couldn’t figure it out. Since learning to crawl properly a month later Freya is much less frustrated and twisty and loves to just explore everything.

Saying mama and dadda
I honestly can’t remember when Freya started to say mamma and dada but i know it was dada first but as soon as she became poorly, it turned to mamma and still is mamma when she’s not feeling to well. I would estimate around 8 or 9 months, she’s just started to say hello too, although in her language it’s ‘eho’. She tends to say this when holding mummy’s mobile phone.

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Holiday Abroad
6 month and Freyas travels started, we jetted off to the South of Spain for some sunshine and family time and it was amazing. Very different to the usual as we had a little baby but we managed to each have some relaxation time too which was needed. Freya was absolutely fine in the heat, lots of extra bottles of milk to keep her hydrated and she loved the pool. She has the South of France and Dubai to see her Auntie Gemma to look forward to this year, lets hope we can keep her entertained for 7 hours on the plane!

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Christmas and First Birthday
Two very special days for us, we thank our lucky stars all of the time but on occasions such as Christmas and Freya’s first birthday we couldn’t help but look back and realise how lucky we are. She loved ripping off her christmas paper, she preferred playing with the paper rather than the toys but that was fine. She even had her first taste of chocolate which she loved. We kept her birthday very intimate with friends and family and she loved being the centre of attention, no idea where she gets that from.

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There’s not a day goes by when i don’t feel lucky and i try not to think of the ‘what if’s’ as it’s quite a dark place to go. Just over 1 year ago, i felt like my world was falling apart going into labour at 29 weeks, sat here today i just have this feeling inside that i’m the luckiest person alive, i cherish my family even more than i did and our little fighter continues to amaze us every single day.

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Holidaying with a Baby – How Too?

Happy holidays

Happy holidays

Blazing hot sunshine, the sound of the crisp ocean waves, ice cold drink in my hand and the dull beats of a little music playlist i created myself, we won’t go into what’s included on that playlist, let’s just say I’m an easy listener. When i close my eyes and think of these delightful thoughts i’m right back to my Summer holiday, total relaxation. One year on, add in a small baby to the mix and things are a little different. Don’t get me wrong, our Summer holiday may have been different but was i still relaxed, did i have a good time, would i go and do it all over again? Yes, yes and without a doubt is my answer.

Freya's first holiday

Freya’s first holiday

Freya was 6 months when we took her to the South of Spain in September along with her teenager brother. The difference being, he only needed an electronic device and wifi and he was happy. We opted for a place not too far to travel and where the temperatures would be milder than the likes of Egypt, little did we know they were going to reach the high 30’s. We had no idea what Freya was going to be like in warmer climates, luckily she’s like her mummy and loves the sunshine. Although she had set times for her bottle, extras were added in to make sure she was getting enough fluids, funnily, she didn’t seem to mind having those extra bottles.

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

Passport
First on the holiday to do list was Freya’s passport, let’s do it ourselves we said,how hard could it be? That was our first mistake, why did we think we would be able to lie Freya on a white sheet and it wouldn’t crinkle? Crinkling was a no no according to the government website which tried to guide us. Now i have no idea what we were thinking, but myself and Mark, Freya’s daddy, decided to try a photo booth next. How was that ever going to work you may ask, you are right to ask, it didn’t work. There was always a head or hands in the way and they weren’t Freya’s. So we did what we should have in the beginning and went to our local photographers studio, ten minutes it took, he took the photos, photoshopped my hands out and printed them straight off all for £5.

Lightweight colourful clothing

Lightweight colourful clothing

What to pack
Suncreams, make sure you take two different brands incase one doesn’t agree with baby skin, check out other mum’s reviews on the products you buy as we all know, mum’s know best. Take a well equipped first aid kit with ointments for burns (more likely to be used on our teenager) rehydration powders suitable for babies, paracetamol incase your little one develops a temperature, sterile wipes, teething gel, antiseptic cream. Be prepared!

Freya’s clothing consisted of lots of light cotton garments, water suits for the pool and sun hats, the majority of the time she was in her nappy, but at night times when temperatures were still late 20’s, light weight clothes were a must.

Don’t forget to pack your baby monitors too if your in a villa, just for peace of mind and sterilising tablets, much easier than taking an actual steriliser.

Hats, hats, hats

Hats, hats, hats

Before you go
Research, research, research! Whether you are staying in a villa or a hotel, whoever you are booking it with will be able to help. Questions you need to ask; Where is your closest GP/Pharmacy? If your baby falls ill you need to know how to get help and where to go. Is there a nearby supermarket? If you need to purchase nappies and formula milk instead of packing them in your case, you need a supermarket. Don’t just assume that one of the corner shops where you’ll be purchasing your rubber dinghy will have a stock of products such as Pampers and SMA.

Don’t forget to add to your insurance too and apply for your European Health Insurance card too, this will allow you to access state provided healthcare in European countries for free or a reduced cost, it’s not an alternative to travel insurance!

Have you booked a transfer, now this played on my mind, travelling for 40 minutes in a taxi with no carseat, i couldn’t relax. I’m not saying that Spanish drivers are bad drivers, but have you ever noticed how many cars are in need of a little bit of paint work? If they weren’t covered in dust it was fairly large dints in the side. So, after a little bit of googling i found a whole host of taxi transfers who offered safety seats and it only cost an extra £10…and relax.

Love my pushchair

Love my pushchair

The Journey
At 6 months Freya was drinking formula milk, taking a couple of sealed preprepared bottles and one ready made plus a few sterile bottles, we were good to go. Make sure you work out how many are needed for the journey and what to take in your carry on bag. Airport security may make you test your baby’s milk, although we didn’t have too. Airport security also make you put down your pushchair to go through the scanners, now this is a pain, especially when they are settled and sleeping and you have to take off clothing. My advice, wear slip on shoes, no belts or jewellery, it makes the process so much easier.

Airlines do allow pushchairs to be checked in free of charge providing they are under a certain weight. It’s great as they can stay in the pushchair right up until boarding. We decided to purchase a lightweight pushchair to take with us for ease and because our main pushchair was a little expensive and i’ve seen on TV how they handle baggage. If something does happen to your pushchair you may be entitled to compensation, contact the airline direct.

Now, if you’re anything like my other half, you will panic that you’re going to be that family with the screaming child, no one wants to be that family. Luckily we weren’t, in fact Freya actually fell asleep at take off, the plane had the same effect as the car journey, what a relief. She didn’t stay asleep for 3 hours but we were prepared with snacks and toys (including iPad with cartoons), she liked walking up and down the aisle with me too and people watching, i think she gets that from her mummy too. But seriously, the 3 hour flight was fine going out and returning provided she was entertained, different snacks to sample, able to sleep and able to move about. We did however play pass the parcel between us both and big brother, which helped enormously.

Aeroplane selfie

Aeroplane selfie

The Venue
We opted for a villa, a home away from home, our own pool to have fun or relax, peace and quiet (we’re talking other people’s kid’s) and the ability to pop in and out when we want and walk around in our pants should we choose too. No taking bags of products and essentials to the pool each day, we just nipped inside. A lovely balcony to sit and relax at night usually with a deck of cards and nibbles…oh and the baby monitor of course. We had a fully fitted kitchen to sterilise bottles and do any needed laundry, they may be tiny but they generate some washing. For us it was perfect and it was no more expensive than staying in a nice hotel. We use www.holidaylettings.co.uk and www.owndersdirect.co.uk, but make sure you read reviews before booking!

Both of my babies

Both of my babies

 

Day/Night

Now what? First things first, trip to the supermarket for the men, the traditional stock up of water, a few beers, sweet treats, ice cream treats, fresh fruit, supplies for the BBQ (always make sure your villa has a BBQ, there’s nothing better than a family BBQ in the warm dark nights) supplies for breakfast, lunch and coffee for the caffetiere, perfect for sitting on the balcony early morning watching the sun rise. This supermarket visit also included nappies and formula milk, which were so much cheaper than at home too but just as good (maybe even better). Mummy and Freya unpacked and explored what would be home for the next week.

Roll on Summer holiday 2015

Roll on Summer holiday 2015

IMG_0591

Family selfie…perfect

 

Days would consist of breakfast on the balcony, a wander to explore the area, mummy and daddy would take turns having an hour each on the morning or in the afternoon to lie in the sunshine and relax whilst little madam stayed indoors where it was cool. This part of the day for me was a very warm welcome, i enjoyed every minute of that relaxation in the sun and i would urge everyone to do the same. We still had lots of play time, Freya loved the pool and it was nice and cool for her too, another must for a villa.
Early evenings when the temperature started to dip, we would take a short taxi ride to the marina for a stroll and a bite to eat and end the night with Freya in bed and us three on the balcony competing for the crown of Jacks, Two’s and Eights, a very competitive card game. A one that i seem to be very bad at!
For me, that’s a pretty perfect holiday, the people love most together in the sunshine with no real stresses other than where to eat that evening. Roll on the next Summer holiday.

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Dressing for your body shape

How many of you have seen that perfect item of clothing in a glossy magazine, decided to treat yourself and buy it only for you to try it on and think ‘well that’s not how I thought it would look’.  That’s because so many of us purchase clothing without even thinking about our own body shape and how it might look when we try it on.  How we look tends to have an impact on how we feel, for me, if I think I look good my mood and confidence is boosted and I become some sort of powerful goddess (OK maybe not but I can dream can’t I) but all joking aside, it does improve my mood and I feel good which results in a happier me.  There is nothing worse than feeling a bit rubbish, it brings you down and those around you, so don’t let it.

So here is the low down of a few of the more common body shapes and a few sale items still up for grabs this January to accentuate your body shape and make you feel great!

Straight – Up and Down

If your bust and hips are roughly the same size and your waist isn’t well defined, then chances are you fit into this category.  It’s not a bad category to be in, some might say you look sporty, well that’s what i get anyway. Although slim(ish), i’ve never had that teeny tiny defined waist you see on the likes of Lucy Mecklenburgh, but I’ve accepted that, time to move on.  I do however wear clothes that accentuate my waist to give the illusion of curves. There is nothing really that you shouldn’t wear, but certain items will just suit your shape better.  For example, illusion dresses are great for us lot as they give the illusion of a little waist, you can find them all over the internet. A fitted top and A line skirt which slightly flares is also a good choice,t o help you look like you have hips and a smaller defined waist. A pair of skinny jeans with a tailored shirt, also a good look. Don’t get me wrong, i don’t always get it right and might have had the odd fashion blunder, but hey, who’s perfect? Here are a few items I found that will suit you ladies reading this.

If your looking for a knock out dress for a night out or even a wedding, this AQ/AQ dress will look great on you straight bodied ladies with the wide belt to accentuate the waist.  It was £110 and now only £44, I love it.  Shame I go nowhere to wear it or else it would be purchased!

Straight up and down

AQ/AQ

This dress from Oasis is perfect to brighten up your work wardrobe, the stitching detail and flare in the skirt will help accentuate your waist.  It was £50 and now only £12 direct from Oasis.

Straight up and down 2

Oasis

 

If you’re a bodycon lover, it’s hard to find one that doesn’t make you look straight up and down but if you stick to ones such as these which have a ‘V’ neck and show off a little cleavage as well as the banded waist to give you a waist line, I’m sure you will look hot hot hot.  This isn’t in the sale but is only £35 from Missguided.

Straight up and down 3

Missguided

 

 

Pear Shaped

For you lovely ladies who have hips that may be slightly bigger than your bust, you will probably fit into this category. Embrace those sexy curves and choose clothing that makes you feel good. Stay away from patterned trousers and stick to dark colours on the bottom, patterns and bright colours take the eyes straight to the hips as well as pockets with any detail.  What you need to do is show off that waist and balance the top and bottom.  Clothing such as wrap over shirts are great for this as well as slightly flared skirts which may offset the hips.  Tailored trousers which fall from the widest part of your hip together with a tailored shirt, very smart. The dress below by Amy Childs is great for pear shape, although it hugs the hips, the peplum bottom offsets the hips and balances the body out.  This dress is from Very and was £70 but now only £35.

Pear shaped

Amy Childs

For those of you who may be looking for something a little more covered up but still sassy, i love this Victoria Beckham dress.  I know some women hate their arms too, we are never happy are we?! But this dress has it all, it is tailored which accentuates the waist, covers the arms and has a slightly flared skirt which balance out the hips. It’s also very pretty! From online retailer MyTheresa it was £660 and now only £264 and goes up to size 14.

Pear shaped 2

MyTheresa

Hourglass

Ok so we won’t talk about you too much since you can wear pretty much everything, you lucky people!  If your bust and waist are pretty much the same size and you have a well defined waist then you fit into the hourglass category. Bodycon dresses, highwaisted pants, maxi dresses, tailored, you name it, chances are you’ll look good wearing it! Moving swiftly on…

Top Hourglass

So for you busty ladies, if your top half is bigger than your hips then welcome to the top hourglass category.  I have a lot of busty friends who feel big all over if they don’t get their outfits right.  Wrap tops, wrap dresses, tea dresses as well as dark coloured tops, these are all wardrobe staples for you.  Don’t go for bright colours and bold patterns on top as peoples eyes will be drawn straight to your assets, you can however do that on the bottom to balance out your figure.

This wrap dress is from designer DVF, the wrap helps cover the bust with the belt to accentuate the waist and a slight flare to balance out with the illusion of hips.  It also has arms which helps enormously when it’s still fairly cold outside. It was £480 but now down to £205, an item of clothing that will never go out of fashion and will see you through season after season.

Top Hourglass

DVF

For a cheaper alternative, what about this ASOS dress available in many colours.  It has the wrap over detail, it is gathered at the waist which will hide any lumps and bumps as well as defining the waist.  Plus it has arms too, this dress is only £12.50 down from £25, get it in a few different colours while prices are so low!!

Top Hourglass 2

Asos

So, i hope i may have helped some of you look at what you wear and figure out what will help make you look even better, here are a few tips just to maybe help that little bit further…

Top Tips

Shorter ladies, try and keep your hemline to the knee or above and wearing neutral coloured court shoes will help make your legs look that little bit longer.

Underwear, are you wearing a bodycon dress?  Then wear invisible pantyline underwear and make sure it fits.  If your pants are too tight chances are there will be lumps and bumps on show for all to see. Invest in some ‘fat pants’ to help flatten the tummy with tight dresses.

The only time to wear lacey shorts is underneath a flared dress or skirt where no panty lines can be seen.

If you don’t feel comfortable in your outfit, don’t wear it.  If you need a few wines to help you feel good about what you are wearing, you’re wearing the wrong outfit.

Cleavage or legs, don’t do both ladies, you’re better than that.

Invest in quality staple pieces such as neutral court shoes, a pair of really well fitting jeans, a tailored blazer, a black A line skirt, items which will not go out of fashion and make you feel good!

I know how busy mums can get but take some time when the kids are in bed to apply a facemask, paint your nails or add some tan, whatever makes you feel good.

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Freya’s Story – Born at 29 weeks

29 Weeks Pregnant

29 Weeks Pregnant

I’d like to start with an apology, for some people this may get a little bit boring, but the idea behind Freya’s story is to give some sort of support to other parents who have premature children. Even if it helps one person then i’ll be happy i wrote this. I spent a lot of time reading people’s blogs and forums to see what other people were or had gone through with their premature baby, the more detail the better. If you just want to skip to the part where Freya was born i’ll allow that, just scroll down to the RVI Keepsake Diary!

28 weeks pregnant today wahooo, one week closer to seeing our gorgeous little girl, it was the 21st February when i said this to myself. What was she going to look like, would she look like me and would she have her daddy’s ridiculously tidy traits? I had so many questions going around my head and i was so excited, so was Mark, Freya’s daddy. I became a little bit obsessive with the number of apps on my phone and tablet, what was she doing today, well at 28 weeks she weighs about 2 pound and can now blink too. This was a daily occurrence, as soon as i opened my eyes on a morning i would grab my phone to have a read.

I was enjoying pregnancy and seeing my bump grow, i loved having a bump and i loved it when she would start kicking around. My pregnancy had been pretty much straight forward at that point, i did however have my periods for the first 4 months. Apparently this was normal, my pregnancy hormones weren’t strong enough to take over my own, but they stopped eventually. I had no sickness or headaches, no cravings, i just liked to eat lots and now had the perfect excuse ‘this cream cake is for the baby’, yeah right!

On the Sunday that week Mark was out with his friends and i was just pottering around the house, having a lazy Sunday when i felt trickling down my leg like i had wet myself. I hadn’t felt that before and i had no idea what it could be. It wasn’t much, maybe a few tablespoons, so still quite significant. I had read about losing control of your bladder when pregnant, this was not a good thought, i still had 12 weeks left to go. It did cross my mind that it could be my waters but dismissed it and started googling what it could possibly be. Google was my best friend and biggest enemy during pregnancy, i know you shouldn’t google questions as it can bring up all sorts, but i just couldn’t help it. Someone somewhere had probably had exactly the same issue as me and stuck it on a forum on the world wide web. Google told me it was probably my bladder but i couldn’t stop thinking ‘what if it is my waters breaking at 28 weeks’. I decided it wasn’t worth taking the risk and contacted hospital who told me to go straight there.

I spoke to Mark who told me he would come straight home but i dismissed this and told him it was probably nothing but just incase i would get it checked out, really i was praying for everything to be ok.

When i arrived at the hospital the midwife checked me over and hooked me up to the monitors to check i wasn’t having any contractions. She explained that 6 women had been in with the same problem and only one was in labour so it was probably nothing to worry about. After a while being hooked up and after checking for leaking fluid she assured me i was fine and it was most likely my bladder and i went home.

Throughout that week i continued to have small leaks, i just felt that something was wrong and that it wasn’t my bladder, but then i’d talk myself round believing i was just a worrier and everything was fine. I did google some more, it was an addiction i couldn’t help it, the different forums i visited stated that usually the liquid would have an almost sweet smell. I decided to test that theory and a state of panic came over me, the liquid i was leaking had a sweet smell, it was definitely not the smell of urine. I decided to monitor it over the next couple of days before taking myself off to hospital again. I felt like one of those paranoid expectant mothers that are absolutely fit and healthy but believe something is wrong.

The next day i felt very poorly, sickly, tired and exhausted, it was unusual for me as i had been fighting fit the whole time. I also had some lower back pain but assumed it was because my bump was growing everyday. Walking around the supermarket i could feel myself leaking a whole lot more than normal, i left my shopping and went home. I even went to sleep as soon as i got home, i never nap during the day, i just didn’t feel right. Oh by the way, that was a Friday which meant one thing, i was now 29 weeks!!

The Actual Football Match

The Actual Football Match

I had a football match to attend that night, my son was playing. Now my first child, Liam, he’s now 14, he was born 6 days early at a healthy 8lb 7.5oz, no issues at all with him. I was only 17 when i had Liam, but again, i loved being pregnant. That night at the football match it was cold, freezing and little did i know, i was in early stages of labour.

I was awoken early hours to pains in my tummy, similar to period pains. Now i don’t know what i was waiting for but thought, just ignore them, they will go away. I think i knew something was wrong but didn’t want to believe it. The pains didn’t stop, if anything they were getting stronger so i decided to time them, they were coming every 7 minutes. My heart sunk, it cant be happening, i can’t be in labour, it’s too soon. I woke up Mark and said i was going to go downstairs as i had a tummy ache. I knew he would jump up and say he was coming down with me, i could tell he was worried too. We phoned University of Durham hospital who asked us to go straight up to be checked out. We left Liam asleep in bed thinking we’d be back in under an hour, that did’t happen.

We were welcomed by a very friendly midwife or do i say midperson as he was male? Again, i was hooked up to a machine but there were no signs of contractions, he explained it could be my pelvis, pelvic girdle pain i think he mentioned. I felt a huge sigh of relief, i could handle pain for the next 11 weeks as long as sausage was ok, this was the nickname given by daddy, i don’t know where it came from but it has stuck. The consultant then came into the room and they discussed my results as there had been changes whilst i was hooked up. The consultant was also friendly, she explained she just wanted to do a quick internal and make sure everything was ok, then those dreaded words came ‘your 5 centimetres dilated, your baby is coming today’. I couldn’t breath, i didn’t know what to think and poor Mark was stood beside me looking a little confused. I turned to him and just burst into tears ‘it’s too soon, it’s just too soon’. Mark held me trying to assure me everything will be ok and the midwife was trying to help explaining 29 weeks was ok and not to be too worried just yet. I pulled myself together, i had too, i was going to have a baby today, i didn’t know what the outcome was going to be but it was going to happen, i would deal with it one step at a time.

I was given a steroid injection to try and help the lungs with coping when she was born, they were hoping i would have time to get a second injection of steroids because at 29 weeks, her lungs would still be very underdeveloped. The size of the needle was huge and it was going right into my backside, i knew it was going to hurt, and i was right.

Myself and Mark were introduced to our midwife who would be with us the whole time and also a student midwife, both were very friendly. We were taken into a delivery room and told that a number of people would be visiting us to explain exactly what was going to happen and what to expect. Then we were left alone, Mark was great, my rock, kept his calm the whole time and was strong and positive, i knew this was for my benefit, we had no idea what to expect that day.

We contacted our parents, i knew my mam would be straight there, it was still early morning, we needed Mark’s parents to go and see Liam as he was still home alone sleeping. He was still asleep when they arrived and they asked him to contact Mark, Mark explained that his baby sister was coming early, luckily Liam had no idea this was a worrying thing, he just thought he was going to meet her a bit sooner, which was probably for the best. We contacted work, close friends, just people we thought should know. When my Mam arrived Mark popped home to put together a few bits, i was only 29 weeks, i didn’t have a hospital bag ready, i barely had anything ready, i still had 11 weeks to sort it.

Mark’s mam told me weeks later that when Mark arrived home to collect some bits, he checked Liam was in his room out of the way and then broke down in tears, he wanted to be strong for me but was terrified of what was going to happen. When he eventually told me he had broke down he explained that he didn’t realise having a baby at 29 weeks was anything to worry about until i turned round to him in the hospital room that morning and said those frightening 3 words ‘it’s too soon’. Mark was very aware of my obsession with pregnancy apps so knew i was aware of what was happening with our baby every single day. Mark liked knowing too, he would text me from work on a Thursday after receiving his weekly NHS email to say what our little girl was doing that week, he just didn’t go into as much detail as me.

Mark returned to hospital and the pain was starting to become noticeable but was nothing i could’t handle, our midwives kept us informed at every stage, the student midwife never left my side. They explained i needed some strong antibiotics through a drip, the reason for my feeling poorly on the Friday was due to a serious infection i had, she explained that my blood results had come back and CRP levels which should be 0 to 10 were over 200, there was a possibility i had passed it on to the baby too. She would also need antibiotics when she arrived. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, would she be strong enough to fight off an infection?

Consultants, midwives and nurses had started to come in and speak to us and check my contractions. One Consultant in particular was very helpful and empathetic, he explained that when baby was born she would be around 2lb’s in weight, she would almost definitely need help breathing as her lungs would not be developed and there had only been time for one steroid injection. The hospital i was at did not usually deal with babies born before 30 weeks, this did scare me a little, ok a lot! Ideally i would have been transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle (RVI) to give birth there, but they feared i would give birth in the ambulance and that certainly was not worth thinking about. The consultant explained that they are equipped to look after premature babies but hospitals that specialise in this area may request that she is transferred to them as they have a special nutritional drip which is used to feed her via a longline. He later came back to explain he had contact the RVI and they requested that when she was born to be transferred straight to them.

The nurses from the neonatal unit at Durham hospital which is where i was giving birth, came to see me and explained that after the baby was delivered she would be placed into a plastic bag, almost like a carrier bag. This was to preserve her heat as she was too small to do it on her own. She would be placed straight onto me (in the carrier bag) but would have to be taken straight away for the consultants to see to her. She would then be taken straight to the neonatal unit and placed in an incubator. They asked Mark if he would like to cut the cord but he was too afraid he would do something wrong and felt more comfortable with the specialists cutting her cord.

There were different consultants that came and told us the same thing but one also explained that it was common for premature babies to have a bleed on the brain, this worried me and Mark even more. What information do we process first, a serious infection that i may have passed on, a possible bleed on the brain or the fact she most likely wont be able to breathe on her own. I just had to focus on giving birth and deal with everything else one step at a time.

Around 10.30am the pain started to increase, the midwife wasn’t happy giving me pain relief as she thought it may distress baby so gave me a lower dosage. It worked for around 10 minutes but then wore off completely. I just wanted to give birth, each time i would be examined i was a little further dilated but not fully. Then at around 12pm i was in real pain and just had the almighty urge to push, i needed to push. Checked out again i was fully dilated, it was time, she was coming now. Nervous, worried and excited all at the same time,we were going to see my little girl.

Now i didn’t count how many people were in my room when i was giving birth but i would estimate around 12 to 15 consultants, nurses, doctors and midwives, no time for modesty. My Mam and Mark were on either side of me holding my hand. They pulled in the machine and equipment needed for when she was born and her journey to the outside world to meet mammy and daddy began. I’m kind of glad i was in so much pain as it took my mind off the worry and possibilities. Now for some reason people think because she was so small that labour must have been a breeze with limited pain, no way is this true. If anything you have to push even harder to get the little bundle out, they have no weight behind them to help labour along. I will say that it was quicker than giving birth with Liam, at 12.55pm Freya Lillie was born. Delivered straight onto my tummy in the plastic bag she was here, there was no noise but i could see she was alive so i was happy. She was huge and had a head full of black hair, where was the barbie doll i was expecting, she was like a proper baby. Weighing in at 3lb 5 oz the doctors said she was a really good weight which would give her the best chance possible.

My Little Impatient Freya

My Little Impatient Freya

It was only a matter of seconds she was on me and she was taken to the machine with the consultants who had to resuscitate her, but then the best noise ever, i heard her cry. Mark broke down in tears, the student midwife broke down in tears, i was still giving birth to my placenta, no time for tears just yet. When my placenta came so did a wave of blood, it was everywhere, my placenta had abrupted and blood had been pooling inside of me, the midwife explained that it was probably a good thing that Freya was delivered that day as it could have turned out a lot worse. There is still no reason to why i had a premature baby and i know i will never know now.

Freya was taken away and i was cleaned up, couldn’t believe my little girl was here, i was so happy, but still very anxious. Mark went straight to the neonatal unit to see her and brought back a picture for me to see. It was a little bit frightening to look at, she had a black eye, swollen body, and wired up to tubes and wires. Mark was smiling when he showed me, he said when they tried to put the ventilator on her to breathe for her, she cried and they had to remove it. Apparently your not supposed to be able to cry when on a ventilator, so they put her on CPAP. If your baby needs a lot of help they will be placed on a ventilator, the next step down is called a CPAP and when they show signs of managing a bit better they go onto oxygen which can be increased and decreased.

When i had been cleaned up it was time for me to go and see my little girl, feeling very weak, i hobbled down the corridor with Mark and his mum and dad. She was tiny, lying still on her tummy, inside an incubator, hooked up to wires and tubes, with alarms sounding. The nurses were great, said she was a right little fighter, it made me smile just because they didn’t seem worried. They explained that she would be transferred to the RVI that day, a dedicated team of specialists would arrive to collect her and take her in an ambulance and she would go straight to intensive care.

The midwives weren’t very happy at discharging me as i was still a little poorly and weak but knew i needed to be wherever my baby was. When the team arrived to take Freya back to the RVI they explained fully what would happen, it felt like my whole tummy was in knots even though i knew i would see her in a couple of hours. She was going on her own without mammy or daddy, just someone that loved her.

It was quite late when we arrived at RVI straight from the hospital, she was in a tiny room with only a few other babies. Because it was intensive care each nurse had one baby to look after and there would always be someone in the room with the babies. We just sat and watched her, doctors and nurses came to speak with us and said she was a good weight, she would be having daily blood samples taken to test for infection and other important factors that could impact on her health. In her incubator we were told we could touch her, it was like touching a feather. Scared to touch, scared we would hurt her, scared she might be in pain but we had to touch her as thats all we had to show her mammy and daddy were there and they loved her very much.

The RVI have on site accommodation ran by a charity where parents and family can stay to be close to their babies should they need to get to them quick. Unfortunately there were no rooms available so that evening i had to leave her to go home, it was harder than i ever thought possible. I did want to go home and see my other baby too although i knew he would be ok.

The next day we were up bright and early and straight to the RVI, there she was, hadn’t moved a muscle and had a steady night. I rang before going to sleep just to make sure, i continued this nightly phone call along with a morning phone call every day til she came home.

I decided to keep a diary at the RVI, i knew i was going to be there a while and i thought a log of her progress might help. I only wrote a couple of sentences each day to say what was happening and just to remember. When i read it back now it just makes me remember how much of a little fighter she is.

My RVI Keepsake Diary

02/03/14 – Today i had my first cuddles with mammy, we love kangaroo care!

Kangaroo Care - Our First Cuddle

Kangaroo Care – Our First Cuddle

Kangaroo care involved me placing Freya down my top against my chest, it would make her feel secure and safe and help regulate heartbeat and breathing. It was the first time i got to hold my baby girl, i was scared because she weighed nothing and was so fragile but she seemed so content. They explained for kangaroo care to help you would need to do it for around 30 minutes each day. I couldn’t take Freya from her incubator too much because she would use too much heat and she couldn’t regulate her own body temperature, that was the reason she was in an incubator. As she was so small, she would also burn too many calories outside of her incubator, she needed to save her energy to get big and strong.

I think most mam’s take it for granted that they can pick up their baby whenever they want especially if they need some love. So it was hard that my baby needed me more than ever and i couldn’t just pick her up and give her a cuddle.

Freya’s blood results came back and showed that there was no sign of infection but she did have jaundice and was put under blue lamps in her incubator. It was nothing to worry about and her levels would be checked each day.

03/03/14 – I have come of my CPAP and have been moved to the Blue area

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This was music to our ears, she was well enough to be moved into the Blue area (the RVI call their wards for sick and premature babies colours, intensive care is Red area, the high dependency is Blue area and then you have Green which is pretty much going home soon). We knew she was a little fighter, she did lose some weight and went down to around 3 lb, but this was expected. She was now just on oxygen too, it was great progress.

Everyday doctors and consultants would update us on her progress and we would ask them our questions, we knew they couldn’t answer silly questions such as ‘How long will she be in hospital?’ but we gave it a shot. The nurses would spend time with us and explain everything they were doing and would sit with us when we were carrying out Freya’s cares.

Freya’s cares involved myself and her daddy getting to change her nappy and give her a wash, i loved it, i felt like i could look after my baby even if it was only once every 4 hours. She couldn’t come out of her incubator so we would have to use the little arm holes, but we soon got the hang of it.

Freshening up Freya's Mouth

Freshening up Freya’s Mouth

The nurses would start different conversations with us and try and keep things light hearted, they were very friendly.

A nurse who specialised in breast feeding came to see me when Freya was first admitted to the RVI, i said i wanted to breast feed and now that Freya needed my breast milk more than ever there was no other option, this was my way of helping her too. Now because Freya was so premature, expressing breast milk was not easy. I would sit and massage my breasts and try to express even just a small amount, but it was just a few drops here and there. I wasn’t going to give up though, we used the tiny drops as mouth care and used a cotton bud to moisten her mouth with it. She seemed to like it a lot! After around 5 days of trying it finally started to come in thick and fast, i was so proud of myself, Mark was so proud too, he knew it was important for me to do this. He would come with me and just comfort me, try to relax me by rubbing my shoulders, so he was happy when it finally worked, mainly because he could see the sense of satisfaction i had. Every 2 to 3 hours i would take myself off into the breast feeding room and express as much milk as i could, even during the night when i was at home my alarm would go off, it was tough going but i was determined. It actually got to the point when the hospital said Michelle we can’t take any more milk from you, our freezer is full, mainly from your milk, just start storing it at home.

Freya was still too young to try and take milk from the breast, she didn’t yet have the ability to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time, it wouldn’t come until she was around 34 or 35 weeks and she was only 29 weeks. It would be a while before she could even attempt it, but i was happy knowing that she had enough milk to keep her going for a while.

At that point the doctors were waiting for my milk, Freya was still on her TPN nutritional drip but needed milk and they wanted to wait for my milk before introducing formula. Some of the consultants came to talk to us about a SIFT trial they were carrying out, it was some research Tiny Lives charity were involved with that looked at how milk was given to a premature baby. High volumes slowly or low volumes fast to see if they could handle their milk without being too sickly. Their digestive systems were still developing, both Mark and I thought it was a good idea and agreed to take part in the SIFT trial. They were very informative, put no pressure on us and explained what would happen. Now i may be wrong, but i think because of that trial, Freya has never been a sickly baby. She tolerated her milk excellent and never had any issues with her milk. Her milk would be fed to her through a drip from one of her many tubes.

On day 3 i was also offered a room at Crawford House so i wouldn’t have to leave my baby. I went to see the volunteers who ran it, it was literally a 2 minute walk from Freya. They were very friendly and showed me all of the amenities and then my room. I don’t know how many women have the day 3 baby blues but mine hit badly that day. I couldn’t stay in the little box with a bed on my own, it brought me to tears just thinking about it. I explained to Mark i couldn’t do it, i felt guilty that i had the chance to stay beside her but i couldn’t face the thought of being on my own away from Mark. He had been stitched to my side since going into labour, he wanted me to come home, i think he thought i wouldn’t be able to handle staying on my own and kept saying we could be back at the hospital in 20 minutes if needed. Plus someone else who lived further away would appreciate the room more as they were like hotcakes!

06/03/14 – Daddy’s gone back to work, double kangaroo care with mummy

Loved Skin on Skin

Loved Skin on Skin

So it was back to work for Mark, we agreed it would be better for him to take time off work when Freya finally got to come home. All the nurses would keep me company and i had visitors, my mam and Marks mam were regulars.

Blue Jaundice Lamps

Blue Jaundice Lamps

Freya was still on her jaundice lamps and still having her bloods taken every day, they would have to squeeze tiny drops of blood from her feet, by that point she wasn’t that bothered and she let them get on with it. One thing both Mark and I were waiting for was her first dirty nappy, the dreaded black tar! I kept questioning the nurses ‘why hasn’t it come yet’ ‘Is it normal that she hasn’t had a dirty nappy yet’, the poor nurses must have been sick of my non stop questions, but i could never tell, they answered them all and were always very friendly. Apparently it was fine that she was 6 days old and had no dirty nappy, they would start to look into it if she still hadn’t had one in a few days, but…

07/03/14 – It’s arrived!

Not usually what your waiting for from your newborn child but Freya’s first dirty nappy arrived, hallelujah! She had also been weighed and it was looking good, she wasn’t quite at her birth weight but it was slowly creeping up, now at 1478grams.

One thing that worried me every hour of every day were Freya’s alarms continuously going off. The nurse explained what the alarms meant so i had a better understanding. On the screen hooked up to Freya were her oxygen levels, if her oxygen levels were to fall below around 86 then an alarm would go off. It’s important to say that because Freya’s lungs weren’t fully developed, she would lie on her front which would help her with her breathing. As soon as she would be put on her back or taken out of her incubator, the alarm would sound. The doctors told me that they would have to keep moving her position as her lungs needed to get stronger and she needed to be able to breathe whilst lying on her back not just her front.

So Many Wires

So Many Wires

Also on her screen was her heart rate, this would also alarm if it went below or above a certain range that the doctors had set. Then lastly was the amount of breaths she was taking, again it would alarm if it went outside of the range set by the doctors.

It was mainly her oxygen levels that would drop, nurses and doctors called them desaturations but in short, desat’s, i would go home on a night and still hear the alarms. They assured me they would improve and explained even our own oxygen levels drop when we eat or when we make sudden movements. This did make me feel a little better, i just hated that an alarm was going off because it meant something wasn’t right.

08/03/14 – Sorry mammy, i forgot to breathe

Freya’s oxygen intake was down to the lowest it could be at 0.01 which was great, almost there being able to breathe without it. I couldn’t wait for the day she would stop desating and her alarms would stop beeping. That day on more than one occasion her alarms went and her oxygen levels dropped dramatically as did her heart rate, it was very frightening, i mentioned it to the consultant who explained that some premature babies have Apnea and Bradys which basically means they forget to breathe and their heart rate reduces dramatically. In some cases babies would turn blue and would need gentle stimulation to remind them to breathe. They started Freya on daily caffeine shots via her feeding tube which would help keep her stimulated so she wouldn’t forget to breathe. It was so worrying, it was like taking one step forward and two steps back. When could we get excited for our baby girl coming home and when could we just be a normal family with our baby girl. It was still breaking my heart every night leaving her, in her little box without mammy or daddy to watch over her. I just wanted her home more than anything and it was killing me not being able to do all of the mummy things, taking her out in her new super duper pram to show her off to everyone or just giving her a cuddle when i wanted. I couldn’t even dress her, she was only allowed a nappy on.

My Two Babies

My Two Babies

It took a while for big brother Liam to come and visit, he got a bit of a shock when he saw the photo of her in an incubator wired up to lots of machines. Mark had picked him up from school and brought him in to see me and Freya. He just kept staring at her, couldn’t believe how tiny she was and there was no way he ever wanted to hold her as he might break her. I got her out of her incubator for her afternoon kangaroo care and he just sat beside me. Her kangaroo care was in the morning and in the afternoon and i would spend around an hour each time, i loved it and she was so settled. Even daddy did kangaroo care and she was so settled for him too, you could feel her little chest working so quickly against your own chest, it was a little scary but we got used to it.

10/03/14 – My arms are free

Daddy Cuddles

Daddy Cuddles

Freya had so many wires and tubes it was hard to know which was what, but that day her TPN longline was coming out, her little arms which had been taped up to stop the tube coming out was now free. It was a step in the right direction, she was also tolerating her milk so well that they increased it, she was on 8.5ml per hour, i know, massive! The doctors and nurses were really happy with her progress and each day they would say there were no real concerns, we just want her to keep growing and putting on weight. And then the news came i was waiting for, we can transfer her back to Durham. This news meant that they were happy with her progress, i was on cloud nine. The hospital at Durham was literally round the corner from where we lived so knowing that i could be there in a matter of a few minutes made it so much easier.

Whilst in the RVI we realised that so many others were far worse off than us, over 100 days one of the babies had been in for. There were babies born at 23 weeks, some born with organs born on the outside of their bodies and some babies whose mum was in hospital many miles away so they were on their own. The wards had stories and pictures of the babies who they had helped, i couldn’t believe there were babies born at 23 weeks, the survival rate statistics i had read up on gave babies at 24 weeks a 50/50 chance of survival as they are so week. For babies born at 29 weeks statistics showed survival rates at around 80 percent, which was good but to me 20 percent was a big number.

11/03/14 – Off to Durham we go

My girl was already for the off, all her checks had been carried out, she had been put into an incubator dedicated for transportation with all of her monitors still attached. I was quite emotional leaving all of the staff, they had been so informative, friendly and i was spending full days with them every day. They all came to say goodbye to Freya and myself and she was taken away in the ambulance. There it was again, that horrible knot in my tummy, but i knew she would shortly be so close to home. That was one step closer to getting her home, so it was a step in the right direction.

When she got to Durham she was in a little room on her own, this was for infection control. Still in her incubator and alarms sounding more than usual. The nurses explained that sometimes babies don’t travel very well and it can cause desats but she would be fine the next day. I didn’t really like that she was in a room on her own or that she was desating so much so i stayed quite late that night. I just sat and watched her and played with my best friend, google! Mark went home to see to Liam, although 14 he still needed us too, sometimes Mark’s mam would pick him up and make his tea or Mark would meet him after school and bring him into hospital. A lot of my friends would text and offer to pick him up after school or take him home after school.

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The next day Freya had settled down and had a steady night, the nurses worked very differently to the RVI. This was the place where they made sure babies were ready to come home. As a result Freya came off her oxygen that day, her alarm didn’t really sound more than usual unless she was turned over. They had to turn her over during the day because if left on her front she could develop problems with her hips and may not be able to walk properly. She would pretty much sleep all day, the nurses said it was just like she was still inside me in her warm incubator. She very rarely opened her eyes so when she did it was like panic stations, ‘get a photo quick, her eyes are open’ she never ever cried either. It got to the point when we couldn’t wait for her to be like a normal baby, crying as she was hungry. She was still on continuous feeds through a drip so never became hungry.

13/03/14 – I’m wearing clothes!

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‘You can dress Freya if you like’, she had been naked up until now, well apart from her little tiny nappy. I didn’t even know they made nappies so small. I had no clothes, i didn’t even know where to buy premature clothes, why would i, i had never bought any before. The hospital had clothes that were donated, so Freya wore this to begin. Operation premature clothing began, i needed some clothes of her own, i had friends and family purchasing the tiniest clothes they could find, at the weight of 3lb it was quite hard. We had a few bits bought for us but they were still a little too big.

My best friend, Sarah, had gone out searching for tiny clothes and brought back some gorgeous items, Sarah had come to visit me and Freya at the RVI. Mark had been a bit worried about me, he’d heard of the term post natal depression and was a bit scared that maybe it was happening to me. I admit i did turn very zombie like, i woke up on a morning, went straight to hospital, sat and watched her all day, carried out her cares, expressed milk every few hours and went home to go to sleep. I just had to concentrate on Freya getting better, i couldn’t think of anything else, i didn’t feel depressed, i just couldn’t relax until someone told me she would be fine, unfortunately no one could tell me that. Mark and Sarah were in touch with each other, i think Sarah was a great help for Mark, he didn’t know what to do or think and Sarah knows me better than anyone. He arranged for Sarah to come in and see me, at the RVI visitors were limited so no friends and most family hadn’t yet met Freya. When Mark sneakily left the hospital one day, in came Sarah, i was really glad to see her. If anyone can make me laugh and smile it’s Sarah. She brought a bit of normality back to me, filling me in on all the gossip, it was needed and appreciated.

15/03/14 – Who needs oxygen anyway!

Freya was still without her oxygen, she still had her desats and sometimes when they would fall to their 60’s i would panic and grab a nurse, but she would pull herself round and be fine. Freya had almost reached her birth weight which was great news, the doctors and consultants did their usual daily round and gave me a thorough update. They had decided to take her off continuous feeds and change to 2 hourly feeds and they wanted me to start feeding her through her tube. I really didn’t feel comfortable with this but i knew there was a high chance she was coming home with her tube in so i would need to learn.

Before every feed i would check her feeding tube was in the correct place, if it had moved to her lungs it could be quite serious so it was important this check was done every time. Her tube was placed through her nose and down through to her stomach. Using a syringe and using a piece of special PH paper i would have to syringe some of the contents of Freya’s stomach through the tube and release it onto the PH paper. If it turned an orange colour that was fine, if it turned blue, this was a concern that the tube had moved to her lungs. Luckily that never happened, the problem i had with Freya is because i gave her breast milk it was quickly absorbed, which is excellent but it was hard trying to remove anything from her tummy. With formula milk it would take a lot longer to digest so it was easier to remove from the stomach and test using the paper.

I would then measure out her milk using a large syringe before attaching it to her tube and would slowly have to release the milk. Each time Freya put on weight the amount of milk she was given would increase. When it was daddy’s turn to give Freya milk through her tube and to do the little PH test, i could tell he was panicking but he kept his calm and did it with ease.

19/03/14 – Time for my brain scan

The consultants and doctors explained that a brain scan was necessary as it was quite common that premature babies born before 30 weeks could have a bleed on the brain. A lot of the time it would stop and sort itself out, sometimes it could lead to things such as cerebral palsy. We knew it was coming the brain scan, we were obviously very worried. It didn’t disturb Freya while they were doing it, they placed a little lubricant on her head and gently used a hand tool to scan her head, they couldn’t see any problems or issues, what a relief, i have no idea what would have come next if there had been a problem.

We decided today to give Freya a try on my breast to see if she would latch on and feed and she did, it was a little strange for me as i had never breast fed before. I was panicking that she couldn’t breathe properly but it was just to introduce her so we didn’t have to do it for long, the quicker i could get her feeding the quicker i could get her home!

Every day at doctors ward rounds, they would say the same, they were happy with Freya’s progress and she was just feeding and growing basically. She was still on caffeine for her Apnea and bradys but that was under control.

Our consultant was very informative, we wanted to know what kind of development problems we may face with Freya being so early. We just wanted to be prepared to make sure we could give her everything she needed. He explained that usually babies born at around 29 weeks have caught up with development milestones by the time they go to school. Although Freya was a few weeks old they would use her corrected age of 29 weeks. It still gets confusing, her actual age today is 8 months but her corrected age is only 5 and 1/2 months. That’s the age we use for her development, she is trying to sit up but not quite there and she can roll over but can’t roll herself back onto her back. Freya has to see consultants at both the RVI and Durham to monitor her development, so far she is doing great and we are really proud of her.

26/03/14 – I’ve broken free from the incubator

No More Incubator

No More Incubator

It brought tears to my eyes, my baby girl was finally in a cot, i could touch her whenever i wanted, i could pick her up with ease. An incubator was so restrictive, now she was free. She had just her tube through her nose for her milk and a monitor around her foot for the alarms. She now weighed 1720g, she loved her milk.

30/03/14 – My first bath

First Bath

First Bath

Full of panic, both myself and Mark gave Freya her first bath in the ward. It’s hard enough with a new baby, trying to handle them gently, but when they weigh approximately half the weight of a new baby, the panic is far greater. She quite liked having her hair washed but when she was actually put in the bath by daddy she screamed, he soon soothed her and her crying stopped.

Freya’s alarms had stopped beeping as much and she was now lying mainly on her back but still sometimes on her front. I made the decision to give Freya expressed milk in a bottle, she was struggling latching on and the nurses explained they use more muscles when feeding from the breast, so it will be harder for her. It was hard work giving her a bottle too, she would forget how to swallow and breathe and her sat’s would drop and alarms would go off, i would start to panic and the nurse would come and help me. I was so worried that i wouldn’t have the monitor to alarm when her sat’s would drop when i went home, so how would i know? The nurses kept assuring me that she would be fine and by the time she goes home she will be feeding with no problems. She was still having some tube feeds too, having too many bottles would tire her out. It was a gradual process and she was in control.

The nurses had become my best friends by that point, we discussed the TV, what we were having for tea, what clothes we liked, they made me forget i was in hospital. They used to tell me i didn’t have to sit in hospital all day, they wouldn’t think i was a bad mam if i popped home, but the alternative was to sit at home watching tv, why would i want to do that when my baby might open her eyes and want to see and hear her mammy.

By this point Freya was used to being examined, having blood taken, hearing checked, brain scanned and next was her Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) test. It is a potentially blinding eye disorder that affects premature babies born before 30 weeks, it is one of the most common causes of visual loss in childhood. This test examines whether the blood vessels behind the retina have stopped growing. It is a very intrusive examination and parents are advised to not be there when it takes place. The babies eyes are pinned open and a tool is used to keep the eyeballs still so that they can be checked. This test is carried out up until the baby would be full term. Freya had to go through it 3 times, it was heart breaking but essential. Luckily Freya has no issues with her eyes and they are developing well.

06/04/14 – Look at how much i weigh?

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Weigh in day was 3 times per week, every parent on that ward lived for weigh in day. Freya was now 4lb 5oz and i was able to give her a full bottle quite confidently, even if the alarms went off. Her bottles were increased to 3 per day, i knew they were preparing her for home, it was coming and i was so excited.

11/04/14 – Bye bye caffeine

The consultants decided it was time to take Freya off her caffeine and to see how she responded. I was pretty much on the edge of my seat all day waiting for her alarms to go off but they were actually no different than normal, just the odd alarm here and there. The nurses asked me how i would feel if they turned off the monitors but i wasn’t ready for that, to me that was a huge step, even though she was fine. I wasn’t sure i would be ready for no more monitors!

12/04/14 – What have you done?

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When i walked into the ward that day Freya’s monitor had been turned off, the nurses came straight over and explained they knew i would never be ready and i had to learn to live without the monitors as Freya was absolutely fine. But that wasn’t the only news they gave me, ‘ If Freya is still ok with her bottles and you feel comfortable giving her tubes feed, she can go home on Tuesday and we will carry out an outreach service for you’. This news was what i had been waiting for weeks, i feel like bursting into tears now just reliving the moment when they told me i could take my baby girl home. Home to her her own bed and family and cuddle her all the time and just spoil her rotten. Mark couldn’t believe it either he was so excited, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

That weekend we made sure we had everything needed, clothes, bottles, breast pump, nappies, there was nothing we didn’t have. It was almost too good to be true, i was waiting for something to go wrong or a set back but it didn’t.

Brings Tears to My Eyes - We're Going home

Brings Tears to My Eyes – We’re Going home

On Tuesday 15th April 2014, after over 6 long weeks in hospital, we finally got to take our precious little girl home, it is a day we will never forget, filled with happiness and excitement. It was an emotional roller coaster that seemed to go on forever, but we got through it and Freya is now a happy healthy little girl.

If you have or are about to have a premature baby and would like to ask us anything, from mum or dad, please get in touch as we are happy to help.

michelle@freya-lillie.com or mark@freya-lillie.com

We now donate 5% profits to Tiny Lives Charity from our small online business named after Freya Lillie and are looking at fundraising for Durham neonatal.

www.facebook.com/freyalillie

The Good Intentions of a New Mummy…hello reality!

How many of you pregnant ladies have walked past the shops with cute little dresses in the window and said ‘i cant wait to have this baby’ or tucked into chips and curry at lunch time and thought ‘i’ll worry about it after the baby’.  Who assumed that they would be totally motivated to get that lovely slim and toned body back within months of giving birth, joining the gym and cutting down on those pregnancy treats?  I think it’s safe to say the majority of us new mummies have all good intentions, until reality hits!

Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are achievable but drive, determination and discipline are a necessity (as well as a well behaved child and babysitters).  I have to admit, Freya used to just sleep for most of the day but because i had been up most of the night expressing milk and feeding, I needed sleep during the day too. I’m sure days used to be 24 hours long, when did they get cut short and why wasn’t i informed?

It seems like i had a few good intentions whilst being pregnant, they’re still a working progress, but here’s a few of the many…

 Exercise, exercise, exercise 

Morning exercise

Morning exercise

Big plans i had, boot camp, personal trainers, I was going to have a body better than before getting pregnant, i’m still waiting for these plans to take effect.  I don’t know about other mum’s but the day goes over so quickly and yet I feel like I haven’t done anything, so by the time night time hits and it’s time for Freya’s bed can I really be bothered for the gym, usually no! I do try and go to Metafit twice a week as they are high intensity classes which only last half an hour and my god do i sweat. I have the odd session in the gym too but i’ll be honest, i’m not the most disciplined person which is why i need a high intensity class and someone telling me what to do. If I don’t think about going to the gym or my class I am more likely to go, if I give it too much thought, I talk myself out of it.  I know, i’m terrible, bye bye toned tummy. I’m aiming for the New Year 🙂

Lose weight – healthy eating

Healthy food

Healthy food

I loved having my big bump, even though i only got to 29 weeks I still gained well over a stone in weight and when you take into account Freya was only 3lbs, that’s still some excess weight to lose. I’d love to know how these celebs add photos to Instagram almost minutes later with a tight toned tummy, did they get some work done straight after giving birth or have they had their head photoshopped onto a Victoria Secret model or maybe they are super human?! These are the only logical answers I can think of!

To be fair I do eat quite healthy Monday to Thursday with a typical day consisting of eggs for breakfast, some fruit mid morning, a couple of lattes (skinny of course) salad wrap for lunch and for tea maybe fish or meat with veg unless its cold outside and then it’s something like shepherds pie or mince and dumplings, I love traditional food and so do my boys (and now my girl too).

The problem hits on a Friday, in my head weekends are for eating junk and drinking wine.  Takeaways, chocolate, cookies, a couple of beers a few glasses of wine and this doesn’t just last Friday, this is Friday, Saturday and Sunday and guess what, i bloody well enjoy it, so do I really want to sacrifice that so my tummy can be a little flatter? I don’t think I do! How many people are really happy with their body and the way they look, everyone i talk to always want to change something, bigger bum, smaller waist, tighter tummy, bigger or smaller bust, more curvy, more skinny, it’s a vicious circle, so i’m learning to be happy with the way I am and enjoy my life. I’ll continue with eating healthy and going to the gym when I can, but more so because I want a healthier lifestyle and…I want to pig out at the weekend,life’s too short!!

Baby groups 

Swimming baby

Swimming baby

Oh i’ve seen some baby massage classes, some sing along classes, Waterbabies classes, we’ll have plenty of time to do them, it will be so much fun.  Bad parent alert! We attend one class, Waterbabies, if someone hadn’t cut the days down from 24 hours I would probably be able to fit more in, not my fault, blame the time changer!

In all honesty I love Waterbabies more than I thought, not only do I see Freya learn new skills that could potentially help her and save her life but it’s such a good bonding experience too, I love our time in the pool.  Maybe I should make the effort to go to other classes but when you throw having a teenager and the other half in the mix, cleaning, cooking and general dogsbody, there ain’t that much time to dedicate to much else and sometimes it’s just nice to sit and do nothing but play and have story time.

Date night 

Couple

Couple

Something i do feel quite strongly about, I know it’s hard leaving your little cherubs with that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach, worried something might happen, guilty for leaving them in the first place but you can forget what it was like when it was just the 2 of you.  You can very easily become ships that pass in the night, stop laughing together, those conversations about future goals and dreams or places you want to visit fade away. Now i’m not saying this will happen to you if you don’t have date night, i’m no relationship expert, but, when Mark and I have our monthly date night (intentions were to have it weekly), the grandparents come over to babysit, we go and eat nice food, have several drinks and just talk for hours and yes Freya and Liam are mentioned quite a lot as well as numerous texts to check they are OK.  But on that night we are Mark and Michelle, there is no TV or computer screen to distract us and it’s just us, laughing and talking and making plans together.  We go home feeling that little bit closer with a smile that little bit bigger and Freya and Liam wake up with a mummy and daddy that are that little bit happier!

Baby homemade food  

Food face

Food face

Does it make me a bad Mam buying jars of food as well as making homemade baby food? I wont lie, it makes me feel a little guilty but then I give my head a shake.  I very rarely give Freya sugary treats, other than milk she drinks cooled boiled water, she eats fruit and veg until it’s coming out of her ears, so a jar of Grandpas Sunday Lunch when mummy is having salad for tea, is probably the better option.  Why do us mummy’s give ourselves such a hard time.  As long as our babies are fed, well nourished, happy and healthy then I reckon we must be doing something right?!

Spontaneity  

Shopping bags

Shopping bags

Can’t wait for my maternity leave, I can go shopping when I want, lunch with my friends and family, take my little angel to the park, it’s going to be great, i’ll have so much time.  Reality…let’s stay home today, it’s easier and costs less.  It’s like a military operation; clean and appropriately dressed baby – check, bottle of milk and baby food – check, nappies, wipes and nappy sacks – check, clean change of clothing (for any mishaps) – check, bibs and muslin cloths – check, toy for entertainment – check, mummy’s purse, mobile and keys – check, clean and appropriately dressed mummy, whoops I knew there was something I forgot!

You do get used to it and learn to be more organised and have certain things already packed to take with you but simple tasks such as having a shower (not even including washing your hair) is now a challenge in itself.  I have stations around the house for this task, our bathroom has a chair and toys suitable for Freya to sit for 10 minutes max while I have a shower, then we move on to the dressing room, play mat with her dolly where she will lie for another 10 minutes max while mummy puts on her clothes, then move on to the dressing table to hopefully grab 5 minutes to hide those dark circles, Freya will now be in the ‘i’m bored now’ mode and have a certain pitch to her twist that pierces the centre of my brain.  Ok you win, lets go.

I do still like my lunches with my friends and trips out, but I really enjoy staying home too, playing with Freya and pottering around the house.

So, the purpose of todays blog…to let other mummy’s know that they aren’t alone and you are infact normal(well according to me anyway). Yes your tummy may still have a slight wobble, you may not have all that free time you hoped for, your poor baby may have to live with only one baby class per week and even eat baby food that’s not homemade, but, you have a tiny little person who you love so much you could just self combust, you feel it and they feel it, that’s what’s important.

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It’s a girl!

It's a girl

It’s a girl

Its a girl! Thats when my obsession into baby clothing started, the moment the sonographer said those 3 little words. I couldn’t wait to log online and see what gorgeous clothing i could find and hit all the shops, she was going to be dressed like a princess. I already had my son Liam, he was 13 when i found out i was pregnant, shopping for teenagers just isnt the same, especially when they have their own mind and hate everything you like, so i was super excited to start shopping for little baby clothing. My partner Mark knew he didnt really have much of a choice, but i know he secretly liked looking at the cute clothing and getting excited for her arrival.

Announcing on social media i was having a little girl i started to take notice of the numerous baby photos.  It seemed everyone had a baby or was about too.  Far too often i would be browsing my social media news feed and see at least 5 adorable babies knowing exactly where mummy had been shopping for that outfit. I wanted to give my own daughter when she arrived a little more individuality and variety, research further afield and to see what was out there. Thats when i had my light bulb moment! Lets bring all these great brands which are less known together under one roof and offer mums another choice.

Although some of our products can be found in stores such as Selfridges and Harrods, the aim was and still is, to try and stay away from mass produced high street clothing.  We know that most mums have purchased clothing from the high street stores (and theres certainly nothing wrong with that) but we wanted to offer a little variation,give mums a choice should they wish to take it

So my research started, i had lots of fun spending hours and days searching for clothing and i really enjoyed it, i knew there was going to be lots of work late into the evening and during baby naps but i was super excited and so very motivated. Id spent years lecturing Business, now was the time to practice what i preached.

Born prematurely at 29 weeks Freya was so small and delicate, we certainly werent expecting her arrival so soon, I’ve never seen so many wires and tubes hooked up to something so small. Freya spent 6 weeks in hospital and her days in intensive care were some of the worst of my life.  My googling global brands had turned into googling survival rates, complications with premature babies, there were a hundred questions i needed answering, it was non stop. However, as im writing this, shes now 7 months old and is most definitely a diva in the making, i have no one to blame but myself for that, but she is happy and healthy and makes me smile everyday. 

As Freya was so small and that little bit more precious, i found myself looking at labels and what chemicals were in her skincare and even clothing, i was quite shocked and never even thought to look before, thats when my business idea took a bit of a turn and i started researching organic products.  I wanted to use natural products on her delicate skin without the use of any pesticides or harsh chemicals. I found some lovely products, skincare in particularly was very important, all of which i have tried and tested and offer on the Freya Lillie website and i can testify that Freya has super soft skin.  Organics may not be for everyone but i wanted to give mums that choice should they wish to take it. I know some mums might not fully know what benefits there are to organics so we have dedicated a page on the website, just to try and explain a little further. It feels good to be helping the environment too, we also decided to use recycled packaging for our customers to go that one step further.

The day we were able to take Freya home, well i cant even describe what it felt like, but i know both myself and Mark felt it. We were very thankful to everyone who had helped us so Mark and I decided like so many other people in our situation, that we wanted to give something back to those all that helped us and were there for us, not just for the 6 weeks Freya was in hospital but who still support us now and check how our little dot is doing and developing.  Thats when we decided 5% of all profits would go to Tiny Lives charity who help sick and premature babies and carry out vital research. As well as this we are hoping to take part in events to raise money for local neonatal units and to put together little packs for parents who end up in the same situation as usunprepared with certainly no premature clothing and the last thing on your mind is shopping.  If we can help even just one person then we have made a difference and we will be happy. Our page Freyas Story is a detailed account of what it was like giving birth to a premature baby and we hope that some other parents out there who want to know what comes next, can read our story and feel some kind of comfort.

We really hope you like our products, i will continue researching and adding fresh new labels and products as much as possible. Feel free to ask any questions!