24 weeks: pregnancy massage at ‘totally tranquil’ – review

This week’s Baby size as fruit or vegetable: Corn on the cob

Pregnancy symptom of the week: Total relaxation!

This week I was offered the fantastic chance to experience my first pregnancy massage, courtesy of the lovely peeps at Totally Tranquil in Sunderland. I obviously jumped at the opportunity for an uninterrupted hour of blissful me-time and headed down the A1 for my Saturday lunchtime appointment with physiotherapist Diane.

Pregnancy-MassageA pregnancy massage differs slightly from what you might call a traditional massage in that the techniques used are tailored for mums-to-be; the massage pressure is gentle and relaxing, and you lie on your side or propped up on your back rather than lying face down. Your shape and size is catered for depending on how far along in your pregnancy you are to ensure your complete comfort throughout the treatment. A pregnancy-safe massage oil is also used that will nourish rather than irritate sensitive skin.

I had been asked a few introductory questions about my pregnancy before the day of the treatment, as if there is any indication that it may not be advisable for you to undergo the massage, the team may contact your midwife or doctor to confirm it would be safe to go ahead. This was followed up by Diane at the start of the appointment, when she also took a more detailed medical history. This may seem excessive for a massage but the therapists have to know if you have any conditions which may pose a problem with the treatment – these may include unstable high blood pressure, diabetes, liver/kidney problems or risk of premature labour. Fortunately I was clear to go ahead.

After completing the necessary information, Diane invited me to get ready for the treatment by undressing to my smalls and getting comfy on the massage couch while she left me to clumsily disrobe in privacy and cover myself in lovely warm towels. When I was ready, she came back and helped me get into a comfortable position using extra pillows for support between my knees and under my bump. Starting on one side, she then expertly massaged up and down my back, shoulder, arm and hand, then leg, before assisting me to turn over to repeat on the other side. She particularly commented on the tension in my shoulders – no kidding!


My 24 week bump certainly appreciated the attention!

The final part of the massage involved me turning onto my back supported by a pillow while Diane finished off my legs and feet before culminating in a heavenly shoulder, neck and head massage. I think I may have melted into the couch. As she finished I was left to relax in the warm darkened room, now smelling wonderfully of fragrant oil and candles, and to get up in my own time. I was brought a glass of water and laid there sipping it in a state of absolute relaxation. Reluctantly I got up to dress. In addition to having tension-free muscles, my skin felt beautifully moisturised from the oil. I had a genuine healthy glow.

As I left, I was advised to drink plenty of water and relax as far as possible for the rest of the day. I intended to! I was given the Totally Tranquil ‘Bump, Baby and Beyond’ goody bag which contained a Nuby dummy and weaning spoon, a little bottle of the massage oil to use at home, and a whole stack of leaflets and info for local services such as aquanatal classes and baby yoga. The only downside to the whole visit was having to drive back to Newcastle afterwards – I could have stayed on that couch all afternoon!

Pregnancy massage at Totally Tranquil is available for 30 mins at £25 or 60 mins for £40. Find out more on their website.

I was offered a complimentary pregnancy massage by Totally Tranquil in return for an honest review of their service. The opinions and experiences described in this post are entirely my own.


What have you been up to this week Bump Buddies? Join in with this week’s #BlogBumpClub linky and share your pregnancy posts!

Click to add your link:

the #bibs2015: shy bairns get nowt

BiB2015x350cI may already be a little late to the party on this one, but I haven’t made any nominations yet, so I’m hoping to pick up the straggler voters like me!

I love the buzz that inevitably comes with the blog award season. It’s our chance to celebrate what we do and why we do it and it’s brilliant to see so many lovely bloggers having the confidence to shout about how great their site is, whether they have 100 or 10,000 followers. I always feel a little uncomfortable asking people to nominate me for stuff, but I’m getting better at it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, or ‘shy bairns get nowt’, as they say round here.

These last few months have been a bit of a turning point for me in terms of my blogging and indeed my presence on social media, not least because of my current pregnancy. My absolute passion since I suffered from pre-eclampsia in 2010 has been raising awareness of maternity issues – as you will know if you are familiar with my role as trustee for pregnancy charity MAMA Academy, my day job in NHS maternity service improvement for the Clinical Networks, or just follow me on Twitter! Being pregnant again has brought a lot of these issues into sharper focus for me, bringing back memories of my experience with Little Man, and creeping into my blog posts more and more.

It has been a privilege to be involved in the #MatExp (Maternity Experience) campaign on Twitter, something I summed up recently as collaboration without hierarchy to give women a voice. There is amazing work going on around the country to improve the experiences of women and families when accessing every stage of maternity services, with some truly committed individuals pushing the agenda forward. It is social media at its absolute best.

I have thoroughly enjoyed taking the reins of the #BlogBumpClub linky, a supportive community of expectant mums, which I feel is very important to enable women to share their experiences of pregnancy.  Similarly, my friendship with Susanne of Ghostwriter Mummy has opened my eyes to the full range of maternity experience via the #MaternityMatters linky. Blogging can be a very cathartic process when trying to process what has happened to you – I have found this to be the case myself.

I don’t like to pigeonhole my blog into one category or another – part of my ‘multitasking mummy’ ethos! – but for the Britmums BiBs2015 I would truly appreciate your vote in either the Family, Social Media or Inspire category, depending on which element you most identify me with. My family is the single most important thing to me in the world, and I love documenting the little things, especially as our family is about to get one bigger! At the same time though, I use my blog to raise some serious issues that matter too, and hope that at least a handful of people find some inspiration there. Social media is the natural extension of this and I adore the interaction it provides, the connections I have made and the friendships I have forged.

If you have appreciated something I have shared, on my blog or elsewhere, I would certainly appreciate your nomination. Maybe a shy bairn will get something after all. Thank you.

You can read a little more about my experience and my journey to this point in my post ‘All of this': taking the unexpected path

Follow any one of these categories to nominate me:


23 weeks: a week of bittersweet emotions

This week’s Baby size as fruit or vegetable: Aubergine (or eggplant as the American app insists on calling it)

Pregnancy symptom of the week: Freakily vivid dreams


My beautiful Mother’s Day flowers chosen by Little Man

The last couple of weeks have been emotional as we lost my lovely Grandma, who had been cruelly suffering with dementia for several years, and we said our final goodbyes on Tuesday in a small family ceremony. While her death was expected and I found some comfort in the knowledge she was no longer suffering, it has still been a difficult time, especially when you add pregnancy hormones to the mix! I have felt mentally and physically drained at times this week, although now the funeral has passed I find I am more able to relax again.

My sleep has been plagued with vivid dreams, which cause me to wake up feeling as if I’ve been somehow busy all night. My sleep has not been restful, although I think this is getting better. My pregnancy support cushions are an absolute godsend though to actually get comfortable as my bump continues to expand at a rate of knots.

Wonderfully I can now feel lots of distinct movements from Bump, rather than the vague rippling and bubbling sensations of a few weeks ago. I can almost imagine his little limbs poking me as he wriggles around, sometimes higher up my stomach, sometimes lower down kicking me in the bladder.


23 week bump – it feels bigger than it looks in this photo!

I feel increasingly aware of the extra weight I’m carrying in front of me and have to factor in the bump when putting on socks and shoes or bending down to Joe on the floor. Little Man now realises I can’t lift him up like I used to (at four and a half years old he’s quite heavy enough as it is!) so I have to go down to him for cuddles. We love having snuggles on the sofa anyway, and he has taken to cuddling and stroking my bump which is just heart-meltingly cute. He often talks about the baby in a very accepting way – although whether this continues once the new arrival is here remains to be seen!

This weekend I am off for a pregnancy massage at Totally Tranquil in Sunderland, which has come at the perfect time for me to enjoy a bit of relaxation. Look out for my review next week!

I loved reading your #BlogBumpClub posts last week, and always find everyone’s pregnancy experiences fascinating. I can’t wait to see what you’ve all been up to this week! Link up your #BlogBumpClub posts below and say hello via @GreatNorthMum



I’m linking up with Ghostwriter Mummy’s Maternity Matters

Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy

words and pictures

This week for my weekly local newspaper column in the Chronicle, I sent an edited version of a post I wrote a while ago about the importance of taking the time to read books with your children. I was thrilled with the positive responses I received from like-minded parents and organisations promoting reading for kids who wholeheartedly agreed with me. The Chronicle even put together a fancy quote graphic from my article which sums up why enjoying a book with the little ones is so beneficial.


And so, inspired by the strength of feeling there seems to be for the joy of reading with children, I have decided to start a new linky called Words and Pictures, to celebrate all things children’s book related – and I need you to share your posts with me! Words and Pictures will work like this:

  • wpid-img_20141022_114007.jpgShare your blog posts to the weekly Words and Pictures linky on my blog – the first one starts now so link up using the button below! Anything goes provided the focus is children’s books, reading or related activities, book reviews, favourite reads, photos, vlogs, poems – whatever you feel fits the bill, old or new.
  • I’ll share all linked posts on Twitter with the #wordsandpics hashtag, and I’d encourage you to share your own posts to spread the word.
  • Grab the Words and Pictures badge below to add to any posts you link up with.
  • I will put together a regular round-up on my blog of my favourite posts and reviews from the linky, in case you missed anything. If any children’s literacy charities or organisations have something they would like me to include in the round-up – events, campaigns, etc. – drop me an email at greatnorthmum@outlook.com.
  • Look out for Recommended Reads which I’ll share via #wordsandpics and in the Words and Pictures round-up – if you’ve recently read something that went down a storm with your youngsters, from first picture books to teenage fiction, I want to know about it so that we can share the joy. Send me a Tweet @GreatNorthMum.

It’s as simple as that. I’m excited to see how this will all pan out and I’d love to create a little Words and Pictures community – if you love bedtime stories as much as I do, please get involved.

Link up your Words and Pictures posts here:

Grab the Words and Pictures badge!

Great North Mum
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.greatnorthmum.com" title="Great North Mum" target="_blank"><img src="https://greatnorthmum.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/words-and-pictures-badge.jpg" alt="Great North Mum" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

21 & 22 weeks: Blooming with #BlogBumpClub

This week’s Baby size as fruit or vegetable: Cantaloupe melon

Pregnancy symptom of the week: Blooming bump!


22 week blooming bump!

The last couple of weeks have simply flown by and I’m getting a real feeling that pregnancy is running away with me. Bump is still expanding nicely (to the point where someone said I was ‘blooming’ this week, which I think is a compliment) and I’m enjoying the relative ease of mid-pregnancy, with only a few niggles of discomfort to remind me what my body’s busy doing. But I can’t help starting to feel a bit apprehensive as time ticks by, with the coming weeks filled with extra appointments, scans and check-ups all to make sure that all continues to be well. And then I have to give birth at the end of it! Eek!

I find myself reflecting more and more on my first pregnancy and birth, and how different I want and hope it to be this time round. The uncertainty of how everything will pan out can be unsettling, even though I know every pregnant woman must feel it too. I want to get past 37 weeks, I don’t want to be induced, I don’t want to have pre-eclampsia again, I don’t want to be confined to a bed during labour, I don’t want to be in hospital for 10 days, I want to have skin-to-skin, I want to try and breastfeed successfully – I just want to feel in control about what happens to me. I am realistic enough to realise I can’t plan everything out as I want it to be, but where I do have a say in anything, it will be different.

new logo backgroundOn the much brighter side, I am loving feeling my little wriggler moving around with reassuring regularity now. I often feel him getting comfy while I’m at my desk at work, or sitting watching TV at night. One thing I am very conscious of, through both my day job and my work with MAMA Academy, is the importance of monitoring fetal movements as pregnancy progresses. It is vital that all expectant mums get used to their babies’ usual pattern of movements from around 24 weeks and report any change in this pattern to their midwife or maternity assessment unit. I’ll be blogging more about this potentially lifesaving advice in the coming weeks.

Two purchases I talked about making in my last update have started to make the world of difference to the pelvic discomfort I was experiencing. The first is a gym ball (for a bargain £6.99 from Argos) which took some pumping up but is great for sitting, bouncing and gently exercising on to take the pressure off aching joints. My only slight complaint is that despite getting a 65cm ball which is the recommended size for my height, at 5’7” I find that my legs are actually too long to sit with knees lower than hips as they should be. If you’re any taller than this I would certainly recommend a 75cm ball if you can find a reasonably priced one. But everyone should have a ball – they are great.


One of my pregnancy essentials from Beebies Baby Store

The second purchase which has significantly increased my comfort in bed is the brilliant pregnancy support pack I bought from Beebies Baby Store. A support cushion was first on my wishlist when I became a Beebies Brand Ambassador, and I eventually plumped for the two-in-one pack which includes a small foam wedge to put between your knees when lying on your side, or to support your back when sitting, along with a lovely big u-shaped cushion which you can use in all sorts of ways to improve your pregnancy comfort. I have taken to cuddling around it while lying on my side so it supports my bump and goes between my knees which has helped no end with hip and pelvic pain. I still find it painful to turn over in bed though! The bonus is that the pack comes with an extra cushion cover in a contrasting design for you to use the big cushion with baby once it arrives, for feeding or to support sitting up. Definitely one of my recommendations if you’re looking for something similar.

And finally, you can now link up your #BlogBumpClub pregnancy posts on my blog! I’ve had the baton passed to me by lovely Bex of The Mummy Adventure now she has welcomed her gorgeous new arrival. If you’ve got a weekly update, review or anything randomly pregnancy related to share, here’s the place to do it. Make sure you share on Twitter using #BlogBumpClub and encourage friends with bumps to do the same. Just click below to add your post to the linky!

Beebies Ambassador Badge

I’m linking up with Ghostwriter Mummy’s Maternity Matters

Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy

if you could see what’s really there, you wouldn’t smoke

A couple of weeks ago MPs voted in Parliament to introduce a ban on smoking in cars carrying children from 1st October this year. This was something I strongly supported so was more than happy to write about the subject in my Evening Chronicle column when I was asked to help promote the story by Fresh, a regional organisation here in the North East aligned with NHS Smokefree. I’m sharing my column again on my my blog to help raise more awareness of this vitally important issue for child health.

I’m the kind of non-smoker that smokers must hate – I can’t see the attraction of smoking, I find it genuinely unpleasant, and I welcome anything that makes it more difficult for smokers to do, not least when it might be inflicted on others. That is not to say I don’t appreciate how easy it is for kids to pick up the habit in the first place, or how viciously difficult it is to break that habit once it is started; smokers need a huge amount of self-discipline and support to quit successfully and I applaud those who try because they desperately want to escape its clutches.

However, there are those who continue to wish to smoke, despite the overwhelming evidence of its harmful effects, and that is their choice (something pro-tobacco groups are at great pains to stress). Those who do not have a choice though are the children of smokers, who are suffering in great numbers as a result of their parents’ second-hand smoke. According to the regional Smokefree programme Fresh, 13,000 North East children need hospital or GP treatment every year from breathing in cigarette smoke, as those exposed are at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis, and sudden infant death, among other conditions.

Of course this is not a case of parents deliberately wanting to harm their children – more likely it is a lack of understanding of the very real dangers being posed, even when parents feel they are taking precautions to limit their children’s exposure. The prime example of this is smoking in the car with children present, which will be banned completely through new legislation which comes into effect on 1st October.

Even with the window open, which in reality makes little difference to the amount of smoke circulating in such a confined space, having a cigarette in the car can result in concentrations of toxins up to 11 times higher than you used to find in the average smoky pub prior to the public smoking ban. Blowing the visible smoke out the window does not prevent the invisible, odourless chemicals from making their way straight into the little lungs in the back seat.

The argument that an outright ban is one step too far is not a valid one – children need protecting from harm, and legislation may be the only way to do that. You wouldn’t drive without your child being safely restrained (also illegal), so why should smoking be any different?

Find support to quit at www.nhs.uk/Smokefree

Read more about the smoking in cars campaign from the British Lung Foundation



20 weeks: when turning over in bed is no longer an option

This week’s Baby size as fruit or vegetable: Mango

Pregnancy symptom of the week: Pelvic discomfort (again)

After last week’s excitement of the anomaly scan and finding out we are going to welcome another boy to the family, this week has been excitement free, and that’s mostly the way I like it. As long as everything continues to tick along nicely without event, I’m happy!

20 week bump in gorgeous top from The Essential One

20 week bump in gorgeous top from The Essential One

Our boy bump has been noticeably more active by the day, with the movements feeling stronger which I am loving, but Daddy is still waiting for that first kick to be felt from the outside. I can’t wait for Joe to be able to feel his little brother wriggling around – he has been talking about the baby more, and often asks to read There’s A House Inside My Mummy. I think he still has it in his head that the baby is going to burst forth from my stomach at some point in a scene reminiscent of Alien, so I have had to explain to him that won’t happen and that it will all be considerably less violent – hopefully! His curiosity about how the baby got in there in the first place is lovely but I still don’t think I’ve satisfied him with my woolly answers. It’s harder than I thought it would be!

As my bump continues to increase in circumference I am feeling a few more pregnancy niggles by way of stiff hips and some pelvic discomfort. This still hasn’t progressed to the point of being truly painful, but I have winced a few times getting up from my desk at work, and turning over in bed is the worst! I have to almost sit up and use my hands to help me turn around. I am thinking of making two purchases now – the first being a support cushion or pillow to help me get and stay comfy in bed (check out the great selection at Beebies Baby Store), and the second a gym ball to sit on and get the benefit of some gentle core exercise. Sitting on an appropriately sized gym ball can also help you to maintain ideal posture and relieve pressure on a painful pelvis. Thanks to those yummy mummies on Twitter who gave me some tips and recommendations for using one.

Lovely Lucy Howlett of LIFT Personal Training shared this video with me containing some fab tips for using a gym or birthing ball during pregnancy:

I’m planning on getting myself one this weekend so will update on how I get on with it next week!


I’m linking up with Ghostwriter Mummy’s Maternity Matters

Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy