The JoJo Maman Bébé Treasure Trove

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I can (just about) remember the days when I would walk past JoJo Maman Bébé and roll my eyes. JoJo was only on my radar as that-posh-baby-shop-where-Kate-Middleton-shops. Who on earth would pay so much money for BABY clothes?! Don’t they just throw up on everything?!

Yes old me, they do. And I am that person who will spend £££ on baby clothes – or the person who wants the clothes at a fraction of the price. My love of JoJo started when L was bought a gorgeous embroidered duck sleepsuit. Although it was Tiny Baby size, it still swamped my little 4lb baby on the day he left hospital. Once I was brave enough to take L into town, I’d wander around JoJo and admire the range. I couldn’t imagine L ever fitting into newborn sleepsuits, but I knew it would be ridiculous to splash out on more Tiny Baby outfits.

So I continued to admire and somehow ended up on the JoJo Maman Bébé New and Preloved Buy & Sell Facebook group. My admiration turned to obsession. I needed some breton stripes and cute dunagrees in our life asap. The JoJo New and Preloved group has over 25,000 members – it is dangerously easy to get swept up in the craze! Once L finally grew out of his 0-3 clothes, I began to fill his wardrobe with classic JoJo pieces. But one day something incredible caught my eye…there is a JoJo Maman Bebe outlet. IN NEWPORT!

The outlet is absolutely incredible. Well, for non-JoJo obsessives, it is a small hut on an industrial estate selling reasonably priced children’s clothes and accessories. For die-hard fans, it’s the adult version of an Easter egg hunt (sadly minus the sugar rush). The JoJo outlet stocks seconds (items with small defects – sometimes simply missing packaging or a small mark), old stock, samples and clothes that are still in stores…yes, some of the items outlet status is simply a mystery! Prices can range from anything to 30-70% of RRP. The range of stock varies from week to week, but as a general rule they are usually well-stocked with:

  • Maternity and nursing clothing
  • Clothing in smaller sizes (newborn/0-3/3-6)
  • Toys and gifts

The outlet can stock anything in the JoJo range. My favourite finds include a Sleepyhead Deluxe in perfect condition, wooden London themed toys minus their packaging, a Spotted in Ireland t-shirt for my friend’s baby and a teeny L-sized wooden walker.

To give an idea of typical prices, I’ve dug out the following from my stash for reference (all without defects):

Members of the JoJo Preloved Group have admired the bargains that local mums have picked up at the outlet and posts asking for advice on a trip to the outlet keep appearing. So to save my fingers from repeatedly typing recommendations and to thank the lovely ladies for introducing us to JoJo, here are my tips on making a day (or weekend!) out of visiting the outlet.

The treasure trove: The outlet address is Oxwich Road, NP19 4PU, Newport. The sale store is located next to the JoJo Maman Bébé factory (photo available on the JoJo website). There are several parking spaces outside the store and plenty of room in the overflow/staff car park. The store has a fold-down changing station but customers are also welcome to use the toilets in head office (with baby changing facilities).

Bargain hunting: If you have any room left in the boot after a trip to JoJo, there are other outlet stores in neighbouring industrial estates.

Newport (Spytty) Retail Park is a typical out-of-town complex with high-street brands including H&M, River Island, Next, M&S and New Look. A Gap Outlet (NP19 4QQ) is also located alongside the normal stores. Spytty also has a huge Tesco Extra and several chain restaurants (Nando’s, Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny’s etc). But my favourite shop in Spytty is the incredible Matalan Clearance store (NP19 4TX), located behind the main retail park. So. Many. Bargains! Prices are generally around 50% off RRP but there are random special offers. A few months ago the store had all bikinis for 25p a piece (!) and yesterday they were offering 50% off lingerie – which was already reduced. I bought 4 bras and matching knickers for under £10. Amazing! The store has a Facebook page which is updated with special offers.

Maesglas Industrial Estate (five minutes in the opposite direction from JoJo, or ten minutes from Spytty) has a number of stores, with a Next Clearance store at Mendalgief Retail Park (NP20 2NS).  Mendalgief also has branches of Argos, Smyths Toys and TK Maxx, with discount retailers Home Bargains, B&M Bargains and a Lidl across the road.

Mainstream (boring) shopping: The nearest shopping centre is Friars Walk in Newport. It has cheap parking, a great range of restaurants and most high-street shops. If you fancy more variety, St David’s 2 in Cardiff has all the big names and some *luxury* shops. And a pretty huge Primark too.

Keeping the kids happy: I can’t vouch for any of these places but places to keep babies and children entertained near the outlet include a walk around Tredegar House, exploring Newport Wetlands and soft play at Funky Monkeys (nearest to JoJo), Childsplay Cafe or Crazy Club.

And the friend or partner you’ve dragged along: Just go to the Celtic Manor. You will not regret it – an amazing resort right off the M4. Have a spa day, play a round of golf…or copy me and just have a cuppa in the bar. The Celtic Manor Resort is an incredible hotel and you can spend a good few hours simply exploring its grounds. The hotel often has good value deals for overnight accomodation – and check out the sister hotels The Manor House Hotel and Coldra Court Hotel for even better deals.

So whether you’re local or not-so-local and desperately trying to justify a trip to the outlet – enjoy! But leave some bargains for me please!

BBC’s NICU: ‘Five Days’ on Casualty

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Spoiler alert: review of Casualty series 31 episode 28 ‘Five Days’ – watch online at BBC iPlayer. Photo credit: BBC 

Despite being sick of the sight of hospitals, I’m a big fan of BBC’s Casualty and Holby City. I hadn’t registered at the end of last week’s episode (when nurse Robyn gave birth to her baby prematurely in a graveyard) that the show would be featuring Holby City Hospital’s NICU. When my mum came over for Mother’s Day, she cautiously asked if I’d watched last night’s episode. I’d fallen asleep at 8pm (not an unusual occurrence), so no. She warned me against watching and said it had brought everything back for her. So of course, I quickly loaded up iPlayer…

Yes, I did shed some tears. Although it was only 10 months ago, it was hard to comprehend that my own baby L was also so small. It is easy to forget that we were also separated by the wall of an incubator and I had to ask permission to touch my own baby. Of course, there were various inaccuracies or exaggerations which bothered me. But on the whole, I was impressed by the BBC’s efforts. The episode captured the raw emotion of Robyn’s experience as a new mother of a premature baby. There were subtleties that the average Casualty viewer might miss, but poignant to those that have lived through the NICU.  If you still intend to watch the episode, look away, but the following scenes struck a cord with me:

  • The sight of Robyn languishing on the maternity ward, alongside mothers and babies. Great progress has been made in creating specific areas for mothers who have tragically suffered a bereavement during childbirth or a stillbirth. But the only place for NICU mums is the general maternity ward. I was fortunate enough to have a side room on the postnatal ward, but I could still hear the cries of babies for six nights straight during recovery.
  • The generic NICU environment is captured perfectly and brought back many memories. The room is lit by the blue glow of phototherapy lamps and alarms are constantly buzzing away. There are numerous shots of hand-washing, which is an all-too familiar aspect of the daily NICU parental routine. I even spotted a copy of Little Bliss on the NICU noticeboard!
  • As Robyn prepares to meet her baby Charlotte for the first time, she dismisses the nurse’s medical update to get a glimpse at her precious baby. Unlike non-NICU mums, parents like Robyn are forced to wait many hours before they can meet their newborn for the first time. A mother will often need time to recover herself from the unexpected or surgical birth and will not be fit enough to visit NICU. It is incredibly difficult to meet your child for the first time in the presence of strangers. The abrupt nature of the nurse mirrors my experience too. Whilst NICU nurses are generally incredible, they can often forget the overwhelming experience of greeting your baby through a plastic box. The curt remarks aren’t intentional; I imagine they are desensitised to the sight of a 2lb miracle.
  • The nurse’s general attitude is pretty rubbish, but again, accurate. Robyn is chastised for touching her baby too much. There is nothing more frustrating than being told what you can and can’t do with your own baby. But it happens. And like Robyn, I often left the ward in floods of tears or went outside to scream. I can remember the invisible brick wall of NICU vividly. NO-ONE WAS LISTENING TO ME! I had meltdowns in the middle of the ward. I would spend hours crying at home, on the verge of calling the Bliss helpline to ask what my options were. But like Robyn, I learnt to play the game and ask the right questions to the right people (specifically: always be around for the daily consultant rounds).
  • But the nurse does show us her softer side. Robyn is summoned to comfort Charlotte before a procedure. A dejected Robyn has lost faith and asks “What difference am I going to make?” A familiar emotion in NICU. At times I just felt like a cow, rocking up to provide the milky goodness and do a token nappy change to make myself feel better. The nurse is proved right and Robyn takes comfort from her daughter’s calmness. The nurses I despised the most in times of crisis often turned around to be my biggest ally in making progress towards discharge. Sometimes there is a purpose behind the tough love.
  • Breastmilk. A hot topic in NICU and for good reason; breastmilk is especially important for premature and sick babies. I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding and was fortunate enough to receive incredible support from my midwives with expressing. But I know many mums will recognise the pressure placed on Robyn by the nurse to keep expressing. I hope the scripted lines strike a cord with viewers – baby Charlotte only needs 2ml for her feed. However meagre Robyn’s attempts to express may be, she should be able to get enough for her baby’s tiny stomach. I loved the scenes of Robyn excitedly asking for photos of her baby’s first feed, administered by Robyn via a tube. It IS a milestone! And what an incredible achievement to feed her baby mother’s milk.
  • Robyn’s friends and the nursing staff seem surprised at her eagerness to post photos on Facebook and share updates. She must be in denial, not realising the gravity of the situation. Is it such a crime to try and think positively in such a devastating situation? I could really relate to Robyn’s need to share snaps on social media. Once you reach a certain age, timelines are flooded with photos of gurgling newborns and chubby cheeks. Robyn has a legitimate urge to recognise her baby in the same way. I uploaded a photo of L a few hours after he was born, before I had even met him. It made the birth feel real to me. Over the next few weeks, I shared endless photos with cute taglines. It is only now I can see the tubes, the yellow tinge to his skin, how desperately unwell he was. But at the time, he was just my gorgeous newborn that I wanted to show off.
  • But of course, the Beeb was bound to include some scenes which had us NICU parents shouting at the screen. Thankfully, L didn’t have the same medical issues as Charlotte so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the procedures. I did tut at Robyn being allowed far too many visitors around the incubator. I have no idea if there are different rules if you work in the hospital, but I doubt it. My hospital had various rules about who could visit at different times and it was always two around the bed maximum. Robyn’s position as a nurse seemed to entitle her to a full house.
  • And her step-brother kissed the baby at the end! A NICU baby! I actually lol’d at this point. My mum was constantly watched for any signs of interaction when she came along to visit L. As a treat, she was allowed to touch him on her birthday until I got permission from the consultant for parental rights in L’s fathers absence. But touching is a big no-no on NICU. Everyone (apart from parents with their magical powers) is a germ-ridden infection risk.
  • UPDATE: Catherine (@catjay79) kindly got in touch via Twitter to share her perspective on the episode as a mum of a necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) survivor: “The portrayal of a baby undergoing surgery for NEC was inaccurate and downplayed the severity of the condition. After surgery babies are often critically ill, kept ventilated and require intensive support. My daughter remained on a ventilator for 6 days following surgery and was bloated due to fluid retention. Holding her was simply out of the question; I could not hold her until 9 days later. The first 48 hours after surgery are crucial for these babies. Surgery is a huge risk and some tiny babies sadly don’t survive. We owe it to them to portray these things properly.”

I’m sure I’ve missed other exaggerated scenes. My focus was on the familiarity, the sounds and sights that I lived for six weeks. Five Days may not have been the perfect representation of my NICU experience, but it was a marvellous opportunity for prime-time views to peek into our secret world. Thank you BBC for showing NICU through the eyes of a struggling mother, rather than merely dramatising the plight of our tiny babies.

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A diary: the single mum on Mother’s Day


05:30 – thanks to daylight savings, the time has magically changed to 06:30! Not that I have had the inclination to change any of my clocks of course. Although I’m as tired as ever, I consider this a success as technically I’ve had a lie in.

06:50 – can’t ignore L’s protests any longer so we get out of bed. No breakfast in bed for me and no card waiting to be opened. Usual morning routine of Little Baby Bum and finding a small window of time to eat my breakfast. Make L’s breakfast.

07:30 – still getting L to eat breakfast.

07:45 – give up after 2 bowls of porridge and a slice of toast thrown at me.

Blur of time, nappy changes, boob and random crying until 09:30 – find some time to scroll Facebook while L is occupied. Cute statuses from people wishing their mums a good day. Some poignant statuses from those who have lost their mums or children. But mainly lots of statuses showing how thoughtful partners have been in helping their children spoil their mums. Lie ins, breakfast in bed, presents bought with pocket money…and the mums with children too young for the concept seem equally spoilt.

10:00 – my own mum arrives with a lovely card ‘from’ L and some Mummy branded goodies. I love her and the gesture but I feel guilty that she’s made more of an effort than I have for her! It may be my first Mother’s Day, but she’s my mum too! But guilt is an everyday occurrence anyway, so I try and move on.

11:30 – we finish a weekly food shop together (no other time to manage the shop with L in tow) and he kicks off halfway around the store, so I take him to the car. He feeds and then throws up all over my seats, door and my clothes. Spend 20 minutes shivering from stripping off layers and mopping my child and car.

12:30 – we go for lunch at a local club and are thrilled with the scenery from the restaurant. Lots of families in the room; we are the only women dining without extended family around. There are flower presentations galore. L refuses his food and is grumpy, so we take it in turns to eat. No chance of either of us having a relaxing meal as there is no-one else to give the mum and grandmother a break. Eventually L falls asleep in his pram and we can eat our dessert in unison.

13:30 – I break my Slimming World allowance to eat a cake and immediately feel guilty. My mum chastises me and reminds me that it’s Mother’s Day, I deserve a treat. Says who?!

14:00 – we treat ourselves to an hour in the garden while L has a nap. It is amazing! Sun on our faces, peace and quiet. But we both keep shuffling around and reminding eachother of all the errands we should be getting on with. I get emotional thinking about this time last year, when we also sat in the garden and I worried about whether to get in contact with L’s dad or not. If only I knew what would unfold as a preemie mum.

15:00 – guilt takes over and we sort out L’s newborn stuff to go in the attic.

16:00 – I build L a new highchair to use at my mums house.

16:30 – highlight of the day; L manages to move himself off his mat and change direction. Countdown to crawling! We both coo over him and I couldn’t be prouder.

17:00 – unsuccessfully take it in turns to try and feed L dinner.

18:00 – somehow I manage to eat some food in between playing games with toast to try and coax L into eating. I decide my mum deserves a break so prepare to leave.

18:10 – L does a poo as soon as we step out of the house. Back in!

18:30 – Another attempt to feed L some fruit. He just wants the spoon. I have loads of things to put away, dishwasher and washing machine to unload but I’m drained. I sit and play with L on the mat.

19:10 – L has gone to bed and it’s still light outside!! Thank you daylight saving!! Finally I might actually have an evening!

19:15 – but as usual, I’m exhausted. It’s too much effort to even take my make up off so I retire to bed. I’ll be shocked if I manage to stay awake past 9pm.

But I’ll be even more shocked if you’ve read to the end of this post! I’m well aware this is an incredibly mundane post. A boring chronological account of the daily grind – except today should be a little different, it’s Mother’s Day. I am acutely aware that I am so incredibly lucky to have spent the day with my mum and baby. I really have had a lovely time with them. I’m also aware that Mother’s Day is just a gimmick.

But maybe one day, I will get spoilt on Mother’s Day. The breakfast in bed, the flowers. The energy to spoil my mum too.

Maybe one day.

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Beloved London 


The amazing charity Kicks Count has shared this image on Twitter this evening. This sums up exactly how I’m feeling this evening.

I don’t want L to be scared of big cities like London. I lived in London for most of my pregnancy; the first time I saw L on a scan was at Chelsea & Westminster hospital, a teeny flickering little heartbeat.

I’d already decided that L needs to be immersed in London life. It is the best place in the world. It isn’t the best place for me to raise my child, but my heart will always be in London. So at nearly 10 months old, L has already visited London four times. We’ve walked around Parliament Square, up Whitehall and into Soho. I’ve stopped in the street and attempted to show L the sights of Big Ben. I’ve struggled onto the tube at Westminster, managing to navigate the buggy and baggage (and baby!) safely onto the platform. And yes, we’ve walked along Westminster Bridge too.

We will do it all again, soon. I am spooked but my baby will not be scared of London. He will grow up loving London as much as I do.

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Why are you pregnant and single?

There are many reasons why women find themselves pregnant and single. Most of these reasons are met with sympathy and understanding, such as:

– Your partner has passed away
– Your partner was cheating on you
– Your partner was abusive
– You are a victim of rape
– You are a single mother by choice via a sperm donor
– You are a surrogate mother
– Your partner left you

But what if you never had a partner and you’re not a victim of crime? As we all heard in sex education classes, it only takes one encounter to get pregnant. One drunken mistake. One case of failed contraception. One moment of passion. So why is society so surprised when women fall into another category:

– You got pregnant with someone you were only dating/met for the first time/hooked up with your ex/having an affair/a random one-night stand…and the list continues.

My pregnancy fell into the first category. We had been dating, it seemed to be going well and then the father blocked all contact with me when I discovered I was pregnant. Ouch. For me personally, carrying on with the pregnancy was not a decision to be made. I was going to have the baby. I did not encounter a single woman in my situation during my entire (ha – 30 weeks) pregnancy. And I was active on the mummy-to-be circuit; I was in a Mumsnet due date club and attended pregnancy yoga, NCT classes and birthing classes. I only discovered after L’s birth that a woman I’d met was also a single mum (but in one of the earlier categories).

It’s difficult enough in the early days to answer the endless questions about ‘the father’ both from friends and health professionals. It took a good few months before I could answer questions about the father to the range of midwives I encountered in London. But once I was able to nonchalantly answer any daddy questions, the onslaught would often follow. How long were you dating? Do you know any of his friends/family? Don’t worry yourself, he’ll come around after the birth. Did you think he was a nice person? So, have you heard from the father yet?

I guess some of these questions were well-meaning and just small talk. Instead of the usual ‘how are you feeling’ pregnancy chat, I always had the ‘what’s going on with the father?’ questioning. And the answer was the same for seven months – nothing. Zilch. My situation was clearly novel to most people. It was novel to me too and I spent so much time analysing other pregnant women I encountered. Checking if they were wearing a wedding ring. Feeling hopeful when I saw ringless women and wondering if they were part of my secret tribe. I could pass away hours in the evening (the time between 7-9pm when I had taken myself to bed straight from work) googling ‘single and pregnant’. I never quite found the reassurance I was looking for, just dozens of online forum posts from women asking the same question. But these women had usually been left by their long-term partners rather than my situation.

The closest analogy to the ‘single, pregnant and never had a partner’ category is probably the sad history of the Irish Magdalene laundries. These fellow fallen women were sent to workhouses to hide away their indiscretion. Someone actually commented to me (as a joke) that I was lucky things had moved on since then and avoided that fate. The laundries had expanded in the 19th century to confine women who had been seduced or behaved promiscuously, in addition to prostitutes.

Thank goodness things have moved on. But society is still a little baffled by us single, pregnant ladies with no exes in sight. I got so many blank looks when I said L’s father wasn’t involved – it isn’t rocket science. If you have sex, you accept there is always a risk that it could result in a baby. I wish I’d had the confidence to question why people were so puzzled.

Being a single parent is much more socially acceptable. The baby is the focus of everyone’s attention and maternity leave can be spent in a bubble with other mums and babies, trying to fill their days with playgroups and activities. The fathers have long gone back to work and finally you’re not the odd one out. But if you are still pregnant and single, you’re not the first or last person to get into the situation. Be kind to yourself and remember that it could’ve happened to anyone. It will get easier.

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This is what a 30 weeker looks like

A few days after my admission to hospital, it began to sink in that my baby might be born any day. Or in a few weeks. Maybe a month. The prognosis was uncertain, consultants were vague but there was only one purpose of the two painful steroid injections I had received. My baby was being given the best possible chance to survive outside of my womb.

In my typical fashion of wanting to prepare as much as possible for every scenario, I googled ’30 week baby’ hoping to see a glimpse of what my baby could look like. I was scared. Would my baby be covered in hair? Would he be translucent? Focusing on his appearance was a distraction from dwelling on his precarious situation.

The Google results were fairly mixed. Lots of Bounty-type websites came up, telling me what exciting stage of my pregnancy I should be experiencing. There were photos of big bumps and smiling ladies next to 30-week milestone cards. And dotted throughout were photos of real-life preemies. The results were so variable. Some babies were in plastic bags, most had wires and some were wrapped up in little blankets. When I clicked through the results, it seemed that most babies were a few weeks earlier or later than my baby. I just wanted one page were I could see a real life story and outcomes.

So here is what my 30 week baby looked like. L was born at 30+6, weighing 2lbs 10oz. He was born via emergency c-section due to absent end diastolic flow and IUGR (I was in hospital for 5 days before hand).

He was placed in a plastic bag (which I never saw) and taken straight to NICU. He was on CPAP (a type of breathing support machine) from birth until he was a few days old. Apart from being tiny, he was fine. Perfectly formed. I still can’t quite believe it.

L’s eyes were not fused shut. He did not have hair on his tiny body and he was not translucent. He was nothing like I had imagined even after my Google search. He was jaundiced, which made him look very very red rather than yellow.

He could cry, urinate and poo like a normal baby. I have no idea if he followed the same ‘first poo’ cycle as a term baby as I didn’t see him for around 6 hours after his birth. Mainly because I was bedbound after my surgery. He did not feed for a few days and received total parental nutrition via a long-line in his foot.

On his first day of life, I couldn’t hold him but I helped changed his nappy. I stroked him through the incubator and he held my finger. When I eventually held him on day 3, his head easily fitted in the palm of my hand. I held him down my top (kangaroo care) – with his head on my chest, his body stopped before my belly button.

My 30 weeker was in hospital for over 40 days. At 8 months old, he has no known ongoing health issues. He is still small but he is perfectly healthy.

I hope someone afraid of their 30 weeker finds this post. And mums of fellow 30 weekers, please do add your experiences in the comments.

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