Lessons from Lockdown

Here we are, heading into month seven of our new normal (thanks to Covid-19 for sponsoring this blogpost). And whilst there is a LOT to complain about, I never want to forget how much there is to be thankful for over the last few months.

As much as I still love and miss NYC I will be forever grateful that we didn’t have to live out lockdown in our 10th floor, one bedroom apartment with J working from home. I have friends that have done exactly that, and I truly don’t know how they managed. I mean a lot of them didn’t – we have so many city friends who have gradually left the cities that they loved through this because it is just too much. I can totally understand that, and I think that would have been us had we not had this space. Being out West in a house with a yard and an office for J is something that we could never have planned for. But wow, I am so thankful that we were here when this hit. Not to mention having a car for the first time in our married life and living somewhere with no shortage of beaches and open space. This home has felt like a life raft in a storm.

 

 

Yes, having a 1, 3 and 5 year old in lockdown has had its challenges. But I think the fact that there are three of them so close in age has been the best thing. They were used to seeing friends a lot, being out and about and busy. They haven’t played with any friends since March. We have had to navigate two missed birthday parties and a much anticipated trip to the UK to see family getting cancelled, and they have just been incredible. I don’t know if it has been their ages, the fact that there are three of them, or that we were homeschooling long before lockdown, but they just have taken it all in their stride.

 

 

Whilst not seeing friends has been sad, they have never been closer as a three. Sure, they have their moments (they are siblings) but on the whole they play together from the moment they wake up until they go to bed. Trains, blocks, crafts, make-believe, dress up, cars… they just play and we honestly never hear them complain that they are bored. I feel that this incredibly simple life that we have been thrown into has actually been good for them in a lot of ways. There has just been so much more time and space for play and imagination and simplicity.

 

 

What has really blown me away is how easily they have understood the reasons why life has changed so much. We hesitated about going into much detail with them at the start of lockdown but as always little ones are often able to understand far more than we expect. It eventually felt unavoidable so we explained that there was a nasty virus in the world but that we didn’t need to be afraid because the doctors believed that we would likely be okay because we are all so healthy and strong. But we then explained that some people would get really really sick, and that we felt that it was important to do whatever we could to reduce the risks to people more vulnerable than us. Considering how naturally selfish kids usually are (brutal but true!), it amazed me how with such little explaining they wanted to do what they could to keep other people safe.

As a Bible-believing Christian family, we are often teaching them about our duty to love others, but it has been such a special opportunity to teach them through this pandemic how to practically love others more than themselves. That means not going to the zoo, not playing with friends, not having a birthday party or traveling to the UK. They understood. When they put their little masks on I will hear them remind each other that they are wearing their annoying masks to keep other people safe. I could cry when I hear them say that. I am SO proud of them. If I take one big thing away from all of this, it will be how we got to demonstrate as a family in a really practical way loving others more than ourselves. I know that that lesson has helped shape their hearts and I will be forever thankful for that.

 

 

 

J and I have woken up in the middle of the night to watch a Zoom family funeral and then again for my sister’s Zoom wedding. This pandemic has stolen so much that we can never get back. We have seen friends be sick, hospitalised and living with the aftermath of having Covid. We have felt the pressure and strain on relationships as everyone navigates how to respond to restrictions and this ‘new normal’ and what that looks like for their household. It has truly been awful.

We have watched people check out of church, and I get it. Online church is HARD. But I have so much faith that God is in all of this, that He is doing a new thing, reshaping us all, stripping away what wasn’t fruitful and rebuilding His Church. As Christians we often say how ‘Church’ isn’t the building, it is the people – I think this has really tested that. We will persevere with online church and Zoom community for as long as is needed because right now THIS is the church and there will be a next chapter.

I have finally stopped wishing for things to go back to ‘normal’ because these last few months have revealed that ‘normal’ isn’t what we really want. I have seen and learnt too much from our time in lockdown to be satisfied with ‘normal’. We took way too much for granted and didn’t appreciate simple things enough. When we finally get to be with family in person I want to lap up every moment because that time is SO precious. I never want to take for granted that we are an 11 hour flight away to the UK. That always felt way too far (especially with three little ones) but I would give anything right now to simply book and jump on that flight and not have to worry about being a risk to our grandparents. I don’t want to feel that we have to fill our calendars with busyness because time at home together is great and good for us. I don’t want to see Sunday church as something we attend each week again but as an incredible privilege that we can safely gather and worship together. I can’t wait to have our kitchen table full of people with stools and benches pulled up for extra seats again, and the kids’ playroom full of their friends and all the chaos and mess. To go out and see people’s facial expressions and not have to wear a horrid mask. I know that there will be a day that I wash those masks for the last time and that wearing a mask everywhere wont be our normal.

 

But when that time comes I don’t want to forget the closeness that we have had as a family. Our marriage has been put under pressure and made so much stronger through it, the kids are closer than ever and more content. Our worship times involve the kids dancing around the room and suggesting songs and I love all of that. We have a Friday night sabbath and the kids countdown to it each week and it has become this highlight of the week and that has been so good for everyone. We know the people who live on our street (and their dogs!) better than ever and that is all too good to leave behind.

I am very aware that everyone has had a unique experience of this time and I am so aware that we have our health, each other, our kids, a home and an income and so many other things that have made this time easier for us than for people that don’t have some of those things. My heart breaks for those who have lost family, friends, jobs, homes and hope to this virus.

Sending lots of love from our family to yours.

Arlo’s Birth Story *Homebirth*

Better late than never right? Over one year later and a fat chunk of COVID-19 ‘staying home’ means that I have finally found time to do this. Let me tell you, life as a Mum of three little ones is full. It is full of joy but it is also very much full of needs and demands, which doesn’t leave much margin for anything else. It especially doesn’t leave much time for this space – and I miss it so much.

 

A homebirth never even crossed my mind as a first time Mum. But, by the time that I was pregnant with Freddie we were really open to it, largely because it solved finding someone to take care of Belle. But by the time we had Freddie we were living in America and between cost/insurance, finding a midwife in our state and living in a small apartment on the 10th floor in the city, it just wasn’t an option.

Just a few months after finding out we were pregnant with baby number three, God did something incredible and we moved to California… to a house! For the first time in our married life, we were going to be living in an actual, real, literal house which was a far cry from our 850 sq ft apartment in Jersey City. Something shifted in my pregnancy this time around and the idea of birthing at home sounded so great.

It is really amazing looking back with hindsight and seeing how God was leading us through all of that. I remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t have Freddie at home – his birth turned out to be a little complicated and had we been at home we would have had to transfer to hospital anyway. God knew that we really needed to be in a hospital for his birth and I am so thankful that we were.

Thankfully, after speaking to midwives, we found out that the complications that I had with Freddie’s birth were no more likely to happen again than with any other woman, so given my good prenatal/birth medical history and that our baby was doing really well, we were perfectly placed to attempt a homebirth this time around.

I am most relaxed and calm at home. I know that no one likes hospitals, but I really, really hate them, even for check ups or just visiting someone. The smell, the lights, the strangers, the beeping, the hand gel – it all puts me on edge and I know that that is the last thing you want to feel when birthing. I really felt that for this baby, home was the best place for me to birth.

J wasn’t sure about a homebirth at first, but after watching our friend’s incredible homebirth on YouTube, he started to feel differently. Our friends had used the Positive Birth Company’s Hypnobirthing course and so J suggested that we do the online course together and during that he totally surprised me and was all for planning a homebirth.

PSA to the ladies, if your husband/partner is not on board with a homebirth then please do not persuade/nag them into it. Sure, show them the statistics, learn about natural birth together, watch ‘The Business of Being Born’ and you might see their feelings change on it, but don’t force them because it is so important that you are both comfortable with the plan.

In my experience a homebirth demands so much more unity, cooperation and trust between you and your birth partner, so you both being at peace with the choice to birth at home is crucial. That said, I will forever recommend this course to ALL of my pregnant friends and their partners for whatever type of birth they are planning because I think it is just the best resource. Considering this was our THIRD birth we learnt SO much. I just wish that I had this resource as a first time Mum.

Finding our Midwives

We moved to California when I was around five months pregnant. That meant I had to find my midwives a little later in the game, which can be really tricky as there are not many of them and they get booked up fast. Miraculously, the midwives that we loved had an opening for around when this baby was due and they were exactly what we were looking for.

They actually turned out to be two amazing, gifted women who are total experts in all things pregnancy, birth and newborn care. They went above and beyond what I ever expected and I am forever grateful for how well they cared for our whole family. For any L.A. mamas-to-be, I wholeheartedly recommend our midwives and I would be happy to share their contact information to anyone interested.

Not only were they a small two-midwife practice, but they both attended births together which we LOVED. A lot of the time a midwife will attend with a student/assistant. We felt that extra bit taken care of knowing that, in the event of something not going to plan, there would be a midwife for me and a midwife to work with baby.

Most of my prenatal appointments were done at our house – this was such a treat as I didn’t have to figure out a sitter and battle L.A. traffic to get to appointments. They popped in, we drank coffee, listened to baby, checked that I was healthy and built a really special relationship with them both so when the big day came, it really didn’t feel like a BIG DAY. They knew our house, our family, our kids, where to park, where the trash can is etc! It sounds silly but it meant that when they arrived on Arlo’s birth day, it felt more like our friends popping in to help welcome our baby. There were no uniforms, name badges or intimidating medical equipment around (not that I saw anyway), no funny hospital smells or bright lights or beeps or strangers or interruptions. Just our midwives, us and our bump, some music, tea lights and a HUGE birthing pool in the kids’ playroom.

The Big Day

I started feeling like something was happening on Friday afternoon (eight days past my expected due date). I had spent the morning pulling weeds out of the garden trying to encourage baby to make a move as I was determined not to end up with a hospital induction this time around. The cramps were there but gentle so we carried on with our evening, played outside with the kids, put them to bed and waited to see what the night would bring. We didn’t tell Belle and Freddie what was happening and just secretly enjoyed our last California sunset as a family of four.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, I didn’t let excitement get the best of me and went to bed at a normal-ish time and managed to mostly sleep through early labour until 5am Saturday morning when I woke up to my first really strong cramp. I pottered around the house, made some coffee and waited for a pattern. I practiced my breathing and relaxing, had a bath, prayed for my new baby and waited for my body to start doing its thing.

By 6am J had called our wonderful friends who had offered to take the kids. They had slept with their phones on loud all night waiting for a call. Half an hour later, J was waving them off and our midwives were on their way. It really felt different this time, doing it at home. I can only compare the feeling to waking up on your birthday as a child waiting for your party to begin. I was SO excited and couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. Not even a hint of fear or worry, just excitement.

By 8:30am our midwives had arrived and I heard one of them whisper to J that things could move very quickly. I remember being told so many times that this baby was going to be here ‘soon’ but I didn’t believe anyone because my first two labours had been SO long – Belle’s birth had been 18 hours and Freddie’s 26, so I just couldn’t believe that I could possibly have a ‘quick’ birth.  I remember telling my midwives and J that it was too soon to be filling the pool because I was so sure that I had hours to go – I am so glad that they knew best.

I was blissfully unaware, busy listening to my birth playlist, but our hot water tank couldn’t keep up with demand and we totally ran out of hot water! One of our midwives ended up having to boil five pans of water on rotation on the stove to fill the pool.

It is funny looking back on this birth because with Belle and Freddie I remember pain. Pain so intense that I just couldn’t cope with it – even with various pain relief. But this time around was just so different. All I had was lavender oil and warm water, yet it was not ‘painful’. Between being in my home, hypnobirthing, the pool and being fearless (mostly!) I felt totally in control, empowered and in charge of my birth. I had never experienced that feeling before and it was honestly euphoric.

Don’t get me wrong, it was uncomfortable (I was having a baby!) BUT nothing felt scary or more than I could handle. I felt so safe. Not having to think about when to leave for the hospital was such a nice change too. All that I had to focus on was calmly breathing my way through each contraction and remembering that each contraction was a step closer to holding my baby.

I held off getting into the water for as long as I could so that I could enjoy to relief of the water when I felt that I needed it. This was my first waterbirth and let me tell you, getting in that water was incredible. All of a sudden the discomfort reduced, my body felt light and I got a few minutes’ rest from the cramps.

 

 

J was amazing. He spent so long kneeling at the side of the pool pouring water over my back and shoulders and telling me over and over how well I was doing. Towards the end he was leaning in holding me up when exhaustion started to take over and eventually, despite it not being the plan, I asked him to get in so that he could hold me. He didn’t even question it – what a good one.

Looking back, it was so special that we were in the pool together when our sweet baby swam into the world. Had I known how incredible that moment would have been, I would have planned it that way all along. I will never forget catching our little one in the water and holding him for the first time, together.

 

 

It was so lovely not having any of the constraints of the hospital. We got to hold him for so long, he didn’t have to leave to go anywhere, all of his checks were done on our bed when we were ready, I got to shower in my own shower when I felt like it, and within a couple of hours, Arlo and I were snuggled up in our bed, eating food and resting.

I know that a lot of people worry about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘worst case scenarios’ when it comes to homebirths; thinking about that is a really important part of deciding to birth at home. An hour or so after Arlo was born, I experienced a postpartum hemorrhage. Whilst it was terrifying at the time (especially for Jono who was left watching holding our tiny baby), our midwifes handled it incredibly. They jumped into emergency medical mode with all of the medicine and procedures that would have been given in a hospital and got my bleeding under control. Having absolute faith in the skill and expertise of your midwife is really everything in that moment and I knew that I was safe in their hands. I didn’t even have to go to hospital and received the best postpartum care from them over the next few days. Looking back, J and I agree that we were actually glad we were at home under the midwives’ care, as they dealt with it so well.

The blood loss meant that my recovery was a lot slower than my previous births and left me in bed taking iron supplements for a couple of weeks until I felt well again. But I was so thankful to be home, in my home, for that recovery.

Arlo’s birth was without a doubt my least painful and most empowering birth experience. Honestly, I kind of feel like a superhero after it and having him at home was just the best.

 

The most wonderful birth experience, with the BEST birth partner and fantastic midwives.

Arlo Benjamin Wylie, we are so thankful for your safe and peaceful entry into this world.

Belle’s Rainbow-Unicorn-Dinosaur-Volcano Birthday

Last weekend our sweet girl turned four. FOUR! Weren’t we in London bringing her home to our tiny apartment in Holloway about four minutes ago?

I can see that it is probably easier to do all of your adventuring, meet someone, settle down, move to a good school district and THEN have kids but boy am I thankful that she has been on this adventure with us. Our little London/East coast/West coast girl who adores baseball cards, Chipotle and anything with wheels – we love you.

 

 

 

It was such a joy to take a day and make it all about this sweet one. I know she is mine and I am of course biased but she really is incredible. She is such an open-hearted, smart girl with an insatiable curiosity. She thinks so carefully and deeply about everything, asks 100 questions a day, has the memory of an elephant and energy in abundance. She thrives off the ridiculous and the hilarious. Seeing the way that she fiercely protects and loves her brothers is beautiful. This girl knows how to love and I am excited to see what God is going to call her to do with that heart of hers.

 

 

 

We had such a sweet morning opening her gifts and cards around the breakfast table with Granny (J’s Mum). Being four, I was totally expecting her to dive into the presents (which would have been totally fine – I think!?) but she sat and carefully opened each card first (without being told!) and asked Granny to be her ‘card reader’. I even offered her a gift to open and she said “no thank you, I am going to open my cards first!” – what a kid!

 

She went to her first few birthday parties when we moved to LA towards the end of last year and ever since, she has been talking about her birthday. We hadn’t done a party before now, so this was a first for all of us. We kept it super simple, just a few of our close friends, some games, a homemade pin the tail on the dinosaur (thanks J!), some takeout pizza and then a big bucket of soil and sunflower seeds for each of the kids to plant and take home with them.

I totally made the mistake of scrolling Pinterest with Belle a few days before and the end result was me panic-dipping chocolate strawberries and sticking on icing eyes an hour before the party. I really love this kid guys.

 

 

 

It was actually so fun to plan and arrange it with her. We made a list of her friends, wrote out little invites and planned her cake (which our lovely friend made for us!). Belle even choose the theme (and kept adding to it as the weeks passed), hence the rainbow/unicorn/dinosaur/volcano theme.

The timing all worked out, as both her Granny and J’s uncle and two cousins were here. It is always fun to add a few extra Brits into the mix. Who else would have made a round of tea at 5pm?

 

Also, this was just another example in our lives of our community pulling together and being amazing. Making cakes, playing with kids, helping clear up, baking, taking photos when I didn’t get chance to pick up the camera – our friends and family are the best.

Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate our sweet Belle, until next year…