Saturday, 22 October 2016

Yarn Along

I haven't posted a Yarn Along for a little while, but I have been enjoying everyone else's posts, so I thought I'd squeeze one in this week. I'm reading something I don't really know what I think of, so I'll wait a bit to post about that. Instead I'm sharing what the boys are reading this week:

Hello Baby has become a much loved classic in this house. It's the story of a home birth, told from the perspective of a small boy. I've had it out to help the boys prepare for our planned home birth for baby 3. Rather wonderfully, Sausages has been reading it to Bob, and adding in details from Bob's birth off his own bat. I might have had the odd secret proud tear at that one! I really feel their wonderful introduction is the foundation of their good relationship, and I'm hopeful that they will also meet their new sibling under good circumstances.

The two Sears books I bought this year for Bob, because he is a lot younger at nearly three than Sausages was at the same age. He's not delayed or anything, I just didn't appreciate how unusual Sausages is. I bought these books with a view to helping him develop some expectations of what life will be like in our house when the baby arrives, and to understand that the baby in my tummy will be coming out and joining our family as a whole new person! These are big concepts when you are two! The books are quite American, but beautifully explain these facts for a small child to understand. I'm pretty pleased with them.

I have two big Christmas projects on the needles, both moving at a snail's pace, so I don't want to post them over and over. This week a friend offered to do an incredibly kind thing for me and take care of bob for six hours. That's a long time! And she has a toddler of her own! In the end it didn't come off, but I wanted to say thank you and don't have funds for flowers at the moment. I do have this lovely soft yarn though! I knitted myself a pair of these mittens earlier this year and love them, and I hope she will too.

Happy knitting and reading!


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Why Human Rights in Childbirth Matter book review

I mentioned last week that I had been privileged to attend the Positive Birth Movement's Be the Change event in London, at which I had met and heard some great speakers from the birth community. One lady I was desperate to hear was Rebecca Schiller, and I was lucky enough to have a chat with her and come away with a copy of her book for myself.

Rebecca is the chief executive of Birthrights, an organisation based in the UK that promotes respect for human rights in maternity care. I suppose many readers know that I was a keen student of human rights before I became a mother at home, with a particular interest in the rights of vulnerable groups, so this book is everything I want to read! The book is split into two main parts. The first half of the book explores the human rights issues surrounding childbirth, including what the relevant rights are. The issues are explored with reference to specific cases of human rights abuses. This is harrowing, but I feel that there is such a strange haze around the human rights of pregnant and birthing women that without these real life examples of abuses that have actually happened readers would struggle to work through the subject matter of the book in their own minds. Rebecca goes to great lengths to explain how pregnancy and childbirth have long been used as reasons to divorce a woman from her rights and humanity. A patriarchal medical environment has taught us to justify the violation of women's rights in all sorts of terms, but a woman does not give up her rights to privacy or autonomy or health just because she is pregnant or giving birth. Since these reproductive rights are fundamental to the lives of well over half of women around the world. their continual violation constitutes a major human rights issue, and compounds the marginalisation and inequality of women. Rebecca points out that by improving the standing of a woman's human rights during childbirth in developed countries we can support the protection of those rights throughout the world.

One thing I do feel Rebecca skirted around, however, is the matter of US influence in the healthcare systems of some of the poorest parts of the world. It is known that the US system of maternity care is in crisis. Their rates of maternal deaths are rising not falling, and their rates for cesarean birth are well over WHO recommended levels. For decades the USA has constituted a substantial power in the United Nations and programs of international aid and finance. During this time it has made a prerequisite of aid and development parcels a healthcare and pharmaceuticals system that reflects its own system of private insurance and healthcare paid for at the point of access, unlike the majority of European healthcare systems that are free at the point of access (which is very different from free). The case quoted of the mother who could not afford drugs to end a postpartum haemorrhage that would have ended her life (p67), and those women detained after birth until their care could be paid for (p72), are the clear victims of these policies.

The second half of the book forms a handy guide to human rights, providing specific guidance applicable to women in the UK. This is followed by suggestions for further reading on the subject, and details of other relevant organisations, including those involved in promoting human rights for pregnant and birthing women around the world. This can provide us with practical tools for defending our own human rights in childbirth, those of women birthing in our society, and the rights of women around the world. I highly recommend that everyone involved in maternity care read this book, and especially those going through it. Not to scare them, but to empower them! If you want to read more by Rebecca on the subject this short ebook is also available.

This book is another title from the "Why it Matters" series of concise works on pregnancy, birth and parenting. I am a big fan of this series, and wish all prospective parents could have access to it. All children's centres should have them in their lending libraries!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Baby Days

I finished this book last week and was completely blown away! This is a collection of birth stories, all told from the perspective of the midwife and the mother, and often a sibling or birth partner too, and accompanied by stunning photographs of the labours, births, and postnatal moments. The stories include many of the different forms that birth can take, such as cesarean section, breech presentation, multiples, hospital and home births, and really show what can be achieved for women by giving the kind of care Becky's team of midwives were able to offer. Continuity of care and supporting the mother to make informed choices has real impact in terms of outcomes, and this can clearly be seen in the stories told here. The book ends with a comment on this type of care by Sue Brailey that everyone working in maternity services would benefit from reading.

The photos are the absolute star of this book. Taken from the midwife's perspective, they are both intimate and graphic. I haven't reproduced any because I feel that you really have to read the book, but you can get a feel from the cover. When this book first arrived in the post Sausages (6) took it from me and wouldn't give it back until he had inspected all the pictures. He has seen childbirth before, including being present at Bob's birth nearly three years ago, and he found them fascinating, not shocking. I picked the book up and began flicking through the photographs, thinking that I would return to read the book properly at another time, but the set of a baby who turned from vertex to breech between contractions in the second (expulsive) stage had me hooked, and I just had to start reading the stories! I was privileged to meet Becky Reed at the recent Positive Birth Movement event "Be The Change," and she commented that she hadn't been convinced about leaving that story in, but the fact that Ina May Gaskin commented positively on it in the introduction convinced her. I'm very glad she did!

A little knitting and finishing this week for the gown for baby 3. I ran out of yarn without being able to make it long enough to close with buttons like the previous one I made, so it will have to be daytime wear, but that's fine. The bamboo yarn is ever so soft, and the ladybird buttons are very sweet! Bob chose them himself.

I'm linking up to Ginny's yarn along this week, so do pop over and check out what others are making and reading. And if you do have any recommendations for must-knits before baby 3 arrives, please do let me know!


Monday, 5 September 2016

Vegetable Biryani

I've had a lot of requests this week for my vegetable biryani recipe, so here it is!

I really enjoyed watching the recent BBC programme The Chronicles of Nadiya. In the second episode Nadiya makes a delicious looking goat biryani in a ship's galley, and that set me craving one, so I had a little look around the internet and put a few recipes and ideas together. I just used whatever veg I had in the house/garden, as is my want.

Chop root veg and onion, scatter in a few tomatoes and a fresh chilli if you have it, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes in a little vegetable oil. Mix together about a litre of stock (I used lamb bone broth from my freezer stash, but veg would of course be fine), with two teaspoons curry paste, chilli flakes if you're not using fresh, back mustard seeds, and a tsp of turmeric. Oil your casserole. You will need a lid, so if you have a Le Creuset or similar this will be perfect. Remove the vegetables from the oven and mix in any lighter veg, such as beans or courgette. Staring and ending with rice, make alternate layers of veg and rice in your casserole. Pour over the stock and cook around 180 degrees C for 45 minutes to an hour.

I used 300g basmati rice, and I'm pretty confident it will do two meals for us. Serve with yoghurt and flatbreads if you wish. I think this would work very well in the slow cooker too, let me know if you try it!


Friday, 2 September 2016

September Stress Management

Back after another little break to share more summer holiday reading and knitting with you! It's been too nice outside to be inside on the computer, but today it is too hot to be outside, so here I am, snatching five minutes while the boys snooze.

First up these two great books by two great women, Virginia Howes and Sheena Byrom. These two ladies have followed very different paths through midwifery, one as an independent midwife renowned for fighting like a lion for her patients, and the other as a force for evolution within the NHS. I was privileged to meet Sheena at the Chichester Home Birth Conference earlier this year, and it was truly a delight to read her experiences. I enjoyed both books so much!

`I was delighted to receive a copy of this colouring book for review recently. Have you tried adult colouring? I hadn't before, although I had been given one as a gift and wanted to try it out. This was the push I needed!

The designs in this book follow a set of themes: mother and child; feathers; botanics; birds etc. Sadly my photos aren't great, but they do save you from seeing the extent of my awful colouring. Who knew it was so hard to stay in the lines! I'm past 30 for goodness sake!

As you can see, while the boys have many colouring resources of their own, mummy's are irresistable. In the picture below you can see where Bob has taken on board our little chats about the baby in my tummy, and as he proudly told me, coloured in the baby's "water!"

I like that some of the pages have a blank space in the middle, and I plan to use them to frame birth affirmations as I get closer to meeting our next baby.

I wasn't sure what to expect from adult colouring, but it turned into a nice reflective exercise on growing and meeting number three. It would make a lovely gift, especially for an anxious or first time mother.

I love this last one, don't you?

Sausages took charge of my knitting photos this week. The light green is a baby bundler, a repeat of a pattern I knitted the last time I was expecting and loved in use. I'm digging around to find the modifications I used last time. It's pretty tiny! And thanks to the bamboo/wool blend yarn very very soft. Sausages has artistically perched it on some flowering heather! The mittens below are similarly posed on a dry log that he thought matched them. They are the Maize pattern from Tin Can Knits, and the yarn is leftover natural shetland black from my baable hat. I rather adore them! They will be perfect for forest school with Bob this autumn, and I might manage to make him a pair too, since the pattern comes in all sizes. I do like this pattern collection, and they are all free, do pop over and take a look!

I hope you are having a good week and if not knitting and reading, then something is bringing you joy. As a household with one child in school and one parent teaching, plus a joint birthday coming up and a new baby on the way, we are embarking on the most stressful week of our year. I am grateful for these small creative pleasures which give me headspace in the melee.

Joining in with Ginny's yarn along to see what everyone else is reading and crafting, always a great source of inspiration!

Take care,

E x

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Holiday post!

I'm writing today from my holiday, and I only have my tablet, so please bear with me! Yesterday I read the most gripping short novel by Sam Vickery, a lovely lady I know through the gentle parenting world. The Promise is a very gripping tale of mother love, bringing all sorts of emotional and moral questions into play, and really forcing you to think about how we decide what is best for children. I love that Sam has used the context of a woman being unexpectedly plunged into motherhood without warning to explore what might feel instinctive to her, where her emotions rather than her expectations might lead her in her mothering journey. This book has just come out in paperback, but as a short novel it's ideal as I read it, downloaded to my tablet and read while Bob napped at the beach. If you're looking for something to liken it to, as I always do when considering new fiction authors, I'd definitely say an English Jodie Picoult. It's compulsive in the same fast paced way as the crescendo of her novels.

Holiday knitting this week has been the Shetland week 2015 Sheepheid hat. Husband treated me to the recommended yarn for Christmas, although he switched out the brown of the grass for a more Irish green. It has been very appropriate, since we have had only damp days for most of our holiday. I was chuffed to finish this and have barely taken it off! Its my first real fair Isle project, and I think I have mastered holding one yarn continental and one English,  so I'm feeling quite smug about it. The children have both requested one of their own. Next year perhaps I will knit the 2016 Shetland week pattern, which has crofts all around. I'll just have to work out how to Irishify it! Better pictures on my Ravelry page when I get back to my proper computer.

I hope you're enjoying the summer wherever you are, and look forward to hearing from you. Do you have holiday knitting tailored to your location or activities? Have you discovered a new author that you like? Do share!


Saturday, 2 July 2016

Hello! Excuse me while I dust off a few cobwebs and reopen this space! It's been a tricksy couple of months here while we've been battling our worst hyperemesis yet, but things are starting to improve, and here I am!

I'd love to share with you a great book I have just finished: Why Babywearing Matters, by the wonderful Rosie Knowles of the Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library. This is the fifth book in the Why It Matters series, and I have reviewed some of the others here and here and here. I can't wait to read some of the upcoming titles in the series, they are little bombs of evidence based information. I love them!

One thing I love about this book is that it covers all the different aspects of babywearing so comprehensively, which is impressive considering how petite the book is. Dr Knowles discusses the anthropology of babywearing; how it helps babies; how it helps families; how to wear your baby safely; how babies are worn around the world; the different styles of carrier; and how you can babywear in different circumstances. It really covers everything you might want to know about babywearing.

What is babywearing? I admit, it's a funny term used to describe carrying your baby using a supporting sling of some kind, rather than just your arms. The sling might be a single piece of woven or stretchy fabric, something structured with padding and buckles, or anything in between that is strong and safety tested to keep your baby safe. There are great explanations of lots of different styles of carrier within the book, many with pictures. Husband and I discovered babywearing when Sausages was a tiny premmie. I would take him out to groups, doctors or shops in his stretchy sling, and nobody could see his nasogastric tube, or poke him! I was very ill with postnatal depression, and keeping him in the sling made a safe little bubble for the pair of us outside our home. When Bob arrived we upped our babywearing game in order to keep up with Sausages, and we still wear him now at two and a half. I'm already planning which slings we will use with our next baby when it joins us later this year!

One of the things Rosie talks about in her book is the "fourth trimester," or "exterogestation" of human babies. Born developmentally behind many other mammals, human babies do best when they are kept close to their parent. Babywearing allows a parent easily to keep their baby close to them with their hands free. This helps the baby to regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature, and to feel safe and secure. It helps the parent to get on with what they have to, like preparing meals, dealing with older children etc, since it is significantly easier than carrying in arms. It also supports breastfeeding and bonding between the parent and infant. Dr Knowles cites studies that suggest that carried babies cry less, and suffer less from colic and reflux. It is certainly known that keeping a refluxy or snotty baby upright can help immeasurably. The oxytocin released by baby and parent while in such close contact can help those suffering with post natal depression (alongside treatment and support).

This book also includes important information on how to wear your baby safely and comfortably. The biggest issue is supporting the infant's airway, since they cannot yet hold their own head and ribcage up, and have curved spines. Babies in slings should be carried upright, tight against the parent's chest, with their chin off their own chest, and "close enough to kiss," so that they are in view at all times. A low or loose carry can lead to a baby slumping in the sling and compromising its airway. Carrying babies with their legs in the natural "m" position can support normal development of the hip joints.

As with all the books in this series, this is a great read for expectant parents who think they might like to try a carrier, and for those with babies or small children who think it might be for them. If it weren't for the fact that they are all closing, I'd suggest that all the children's centres invested in a set of this series.

I'd love to hear your babywearing stories, please do say hello!

E x