Monday 22 December 2014

Milk bottles on ice, it's happy birthday, babies!

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

Emma and AJ Leahy
Emma and AJ Leahy
Niamh and Hector Hughes
Jane and Priya Edgeworth
Kelda and Elin Ward

Our babies have reached their one-year milestone. In the final part of our mother and baby series, Andrea Smith talks to our four mums about the highlights and challenges of the past year.

Earlier this year, Health & Living was invited to meet a very special group of new mums, who formed an online group as they were all due babies in August 2013.We were present when they met up in person for the first time, having supported each other virtually through pregnancy, childbirth and those emotional early weeks.

From this group, we followed the progress of four fantastic mothers and their gorgeous babies every month, examining their opinions on various aspects of raising a child. Oh, and we also met the fab dads, Rob, Fran, Daithi and Dan.

It was a very enlightening experience, and we were privileged that our mums shared the emotional and practical challenges of raising their adorable new babies so generously and honestly.

It wasn't plain-sailing for any of them. Jane shared her experiences of a difficult birth, developing postnatal depression and baby Priya's silent reflux. Niamh sadly suffered an ectopic pregnancy, and described her fertility issues prior to conceiving Hector.

Emma and her family moved to a new county - a challenge even without the arrival of baby AJ. And finally, self-employed Kelda discussed going back to work within weeks of Elin's birth.

We have been fortunate that our four families have let us into their lives so openly, and we thank them and wish every happiness in the future to our lovely mums and babies.

Jane Edgeworth and Priya

Jane Edgeworth, 32, is from Raheny, Dublin, and is married to Francis Edgeworth. She has two children, Hayden, 2, and Priya, 1. She works as a part-time beauty therapist and consultant for Elizabeth Arden.

What was the most challenging aspect of the past year?

Priya having silent reflux. It was so hard seeing her go through so much pain, which led to her stopping her feeds and losing weight instead of gaining it.

The worst thing for a parent is there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You just have to ride the storm as best you can. All the doctors could really say was that she would become more comfortable when her digestive system matured.

And when we reached seven months, she finally started to turn a corner. It was truly amazing to see her wonderful, happy little personality finally start to shine through.

Is the online group as important to you?

Although not as busy as it once was, there is still great activity there. We still chat about our babies’ development and going back to work, and we give each other just as much advice as we did when we were all expecting. Some of us who live close to one another have formed lovely friendships, and we meet up for play dates.

It’s wonderful to watch the babies playing together.

What advice would you give to a new mum?

I think the best advice is to live within the moment. Don’t worry about all of the things you think you’re doing wrong, and just trust your own instinct. We mummies are way too hard on ourselves. August is a wonderful month to have a baby as the evenings are still bright, so get out for a walk as much as you can. It will be good for you and baby.

Lastly, I would highly recommend joining a mums-to-be or new mums’ group. With everything from pre-labour anxieties to night feeds and baby weaning, it is invaluable having the support of other mums who are going through exactly the same thing.

Niamh Hughes and Hector

Niamh Hughes, 37, is from Castlebar and lives in Carrick-on Shannon with her secondary school teacher husband, Daithi Hughes, and baby son, Hector, 1. She is currently on unpaid maternity leave from her local authority position.

What changes have occurred in Hector over the past month?

Hector, in Olympic style, is faster, higher and stronger. He has a few more words this month and seems to comprehend almost everything we say. His curiosity level is increasing, and his play has developed into building, not just demolishing. It’s so amazing watching him observe new experiences and trying to process them. He is also loves to play games with our dog, Putog.

Hector has also started a slow introduction to creche, in preparation for my return to work later this month. Unfortunately there has been a tear or two shed, but luckily the staff are well equipped in comforting us blubbering mothers!

We’re quite confident that he will take the new surroundings of the creche in his stride, as there is so much for him to savour and enjoy while there.

How has the past year been, and have you seen any changes in yourself ?

The past year has been fantastic, I have never been happier in my whole life. The honour of becoming a mother and the magical transformation of my newborn baby to a confident, happy little man before my eyes ensures I will cherish this past year forever.

The biggest change is that I have realised that I need much less sleep than I previously thought — who knew Saturday mornings could start at 6.30am?

What has delighted you this past year?

We’ve both been blown away by the love and support from family, friends and new friends. This has been so important for us over such a spell-binding first year.

Friendships have been taken to a new level and we’re so grateful for the recent friends we’ve met. We look forward to many happy and eventful play dates — for mammies and daddies too!

The biggest surprise has been the speed at which time passes. The last 12 months seemed to have whizzed by, and it can be challenging at times to really relish and acknowledge the wonder of this life we have together.

What has been the most challenging thing you have had to deal with in the past year?

The unplanned separation from Hector and recovery from emergency surgery in April.

However, I feel stronger thanks to Daithi, who took great care of me, and focusing on  the positives helps me to understand that the game of life lets you win and lose at different times.

Is the online group as important to you now?

Yes, the group is just as important to me 12 months later. The advice and support continues on ‘trending issues,’ such as birthday gift  ideas, party ideas and the very exciting first steps.

There is also another benefit to this page, as not only are all these ladies new mums, they’re a mine of information. We’ve got chefs, nurses, financial advisors, Martha Stewart impersonators and much more. It’s a one-stop shop for all your queries.

What advice would you give to new mums?

Many people see the process of conception, pregnancy and birth as a forgone conclusion, but that’s not the case for one in six couples in Ireland. Whether planned, much longed for, or a pleasant surprise, cherish this baby with all your might. You have not just given this baby the gift of life — this life has given you the gift of a baby.

Emma Leahy and AJ

Dubliner Emma Leahy, 31, is married to chef Dan Leahy. They live in Cork, and have two children, Hannah, 3, and AJ, 1, and Dan also has a son Shane, 17. Emma is a stay-at-home mum.

What changes have occurred in AJ?

AJ is really beginning to make the mammoth step from baby to toddler. With every day that passes, I see less of the baby and more of the independent, funny, babbling, waddling little person. He cruises around the furniture, pointing and chatting, and will sing along to songs he recognises on the radio. He has learned to play pass the ball and will sit contently passing the ball over and back to his big sister.

What has the past year been like for you? 

I think the early days of motherhood can be a sink-or-swim situation for parents. I felt a confidence in myself after AJ’s birth that wasn’t there after my first pregnancy. Perhaps it’s also something that comes with age, but you really start to evaluate where you are and where you want to be, and what kind of life you want for your family.

What has delighted you most?

Not long after AJ was born, I made the decision to be a full-time, stay-at-home mum. It’s a big sacrifice financially, but the best decision we’ve ever made. Before I became a mum, it was almost a given that I would just go back to work. But with every week that passes now, I am increasingly surprised at how much I enjoy spending time at home with both Hannah and AJ.

What has been the most challenging thing?

We made the big decision to move from Blessington to Youghal. We initially bought our home in Blessington so that I could be close to my own mum, who was quite ill at the time. Unfortunately she passed away in April 2009.

I knew that I wanted the children to be close to their grandparents and extended family, and it was the right time to move to Cork after AJ was born. It has been a big change, and we are still adjusting to our new lives. As a stay-at-home mum, it can be quite difficult to meet new people, but I am hoping that it will become easier as we settle in.

What advice would you give to new mums?

Remember that everything is just a phase, including the sleepless nights, the uncertainty, the teething, the crankiness and the endless nappy changing, but equally, the night snuggles, and the tiny coos your baby makes in the Moses basket.

No matter how amazing or tiring it feels, these precious moments will never happen again.

Kelda and Elin Ward

Kelda Ward, 33, is from Glanmire, Co. Cork and is married to Robert Ward. She has three children, Nathan, 14, Jessica, 2, and Elin, 1. She’s a self-employed Montessori teacher at Toddle Inn Montessori Pre-School.

What changes have occurred in Elin?

Elin has mastered the art of walking, and can climb the stairs and come down the steps to the garden on her knees. She got her fourth tooth, and she now says ‘Mam’, ‘Da’, ‘hi’ and ‘Taz’ (our dog). She is very good at letting us know what she wants by combining her few words with gestures. 

What has the past year been like for you?

Very busy, trying to combine work with home life, and ensuring I catered for all the needs of my three children, as they differ so much due to the big age gap.

Now that things have started to settle down, I have taken the opportunity to return to college. I spent July and most of August in full-time education, and will continue my studies by night in September.

What has delighted you most this year?

The fantastic sisterly bond that has formed between my two girls. After we had Jessica, we hoped we would have a sister for her, and when Elin was born 15 months later, we were over the moon. I hope they will grow up as close as my sister and I have, and so far, it most certainly seems that way.

What was the most challenging aspect?

When Elin was referred for physio as she wasn’t meeting some of her milestones. At eight months she still wasn’t clapping, waving, or passing toys from one hand to the other. We were told that her core muscles were under-developed, and that she would probably walk later than most children, but we could rectify it with some physio and home exercises.

Thankfully, after some sessions and exercises at every nappy change, Elin overcame her difficulties and was discharged from physio at 11 months. She amazed us all by taking her first steps just one week after her first birthday.

What advice would you give to new mums?

Enjoy every minute, as they are only babies for such a short time. If things are getting on top of you, speak to someone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you can, give breastfeeding a go, as the closeness and the bond that I gained with my baby through breastfeeding was definitely one of the highlights for me. And if you are going to breastfeed, be sure to buy lanolin and a breastfeeding pillow.

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