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

Friday, 13 May 2016

Books Books Books!

It's been quiet here because...there has been no knitting! Sometimes when I'm under the weather I just don't fancy it (controversial, I know!). So what have I been doing for self-care while not knitting anything? Reading, of course! I have read at least five books since I last posted here, I'm on a roll!

I'm really excited to chat about this first one: The Microbiome Effect. You might have heard of the film Microbirth that was released in 2014. I didn't manage to make it to the local screening of the film, but the book contains QR codes and URLs linking the reader to relevant video footage to complement each chapter, so you get access to a lot more content than just the book itself. The book itself contains a wealth of scientific information and research brilliantly presented in such a way that the non-scientific me could easily understand. The book discusses the relationship our bodies have with the other organisms that live on and inside us, and how this relates to birth. In particular, the authors are concerned with the differences that occur between babies born vaginally and exposed to vaginal and fecal bacteria, and those born through Cesarean section who are not, and instead receive their initial bacterial cultures, or "seeding," from the air of the operating theatre. Through reference to a large body of research material, the authors show that as a woman's body prepares for birth her bacteria shifts towards a higher concentration of the bacteria needed for newborns to digest breastmilk. There is a detailed discussion of the possible outcomes for Cesarean section babies, including the emerging practice of vaginal seeding. I think this is something all expectant families should be considering when making birth plans, since every mother needs to have a contingency plan in case of Cesarean. One of the things that really touched me throughout this book is the authors' inclusion of their own birth story. Since their daughter was born by emergency C-section the work of the book is highly relevant to their own experience, and they do discus it in light of their findings, but in such a way that is not self-pitying or self centred. For me, this was the best writing feature of the book. I was so impressed by how professional they were able to be about such an emotive subject. I really hope this becomes a subject more widely discussed antenatally, in order to help women and families make the best informed decisions for themselves and their births.

I also returned to and finished Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery. Although republished, this is a much earlier work than her Guide to Childbirth (which I love!), and contains information from a very different point in her journey, with a lot of pictures of mothers on their backs, hands-on midwives, and other practices that she has left behind. One thing that troubled me about this book was that the midwives frequently seemed to tell the mothers off for having a bad attitude in labour, although I do agree that negative feelings can inhibit labour and make a birth more difficult, and should be dealt with in advance. The women in this book are so beautiful in their outlook, and feel so positive about their births, that their smiles shine out of the pages. The book itself is beautiful too, with lots of spiritual illustrations. The spirituality of the experiences of the women in the book show that birth can be deeply spiritual, and I believe that this applies however you experience spirituality in your life. Again, highly recommended!

I was lucky enough to meet the wonderful Ina May earlier this year at the Chichester Home Birth Conference, so here is a cheeky photo of us both, with her permission of course. If you ever do get the chance to hear her speak do take up the opportunity, she is inspirational! We also had a chat about knitting!

Apart from that I have read two murder mysteries by Canadian author Louise Penney. I do love her writing, especially the landscapes she creates; I feel like I am in the Canadian countryside when I read them! Every so often I find one at a local discount bookshop and treat myself! I also read Sycamore Gap by L J Ross. Like her previous book, I was drawn in by the Northumberland location, and the story is gripping, but the editing poor. One moment she is describing a suit made of paper, then the next the same suit being made of plastic. Sad times, I don't think I'm going to pursue her next one. I have picked up one of my ancient Ngaio Marsh mysteries gleaned from second hand bookshops, and that will very nicely fill the gap while I choose my next serious book.

Before I sign off I thought I'd share the beautiful day out I had with Bob this week. We headed down to the seaside in the mist and had the entire beach to ourselves!

We examined and felt all of the different types of seaweed we could find. Many of them are edible, but I think the water of the Solent is too mucky to eat them. We found these shrimps abandoned by the ebbing tide.

We climbed on rocks and found some fossils!

Then we finished our outing with an ice cream for him and a hot chocolate for me. The sweetest day out we have had for a while!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on my reading material, and any suggestions you might have for future reads! 


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters

Well, this week I broke one of my own rules and read a book about baby sleep! Sarah Ockwell-Smith of Toddlercalm fame sent me a review copy of Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters, and I have rather enjoyed it! I have felt for a while that expectant and new parents have been fed some serious misinformation about infant sleep, and the result of this is that their expectations as parents of babies are unrealistic. Sarah's book gently presents parents with the science and facts behind how babies sleep, and why they sleep the way they do. She discusses the cultural reasons we expect babies to sleep in a particular way, and what lies behind our beliefs, founded and unfounded. I was so pleased to read this, and I will definitely be putting it on my list of recommendations for expectant parents. The safety information alone could save lives, saying nothing of what a better understanding of infant sleep could do for parents' sanity!

My jumper for Husband continues in the "black hole" of knitting and knitting with no perceivable progress. Our wool anniversary has, of course, been and gone. I don't feel too bad, since husband presented me with a hand drawn card and a cup of tea in bed a day early! We have two of those memorial cross stitch pieces on our bedroom wall, both with our wedding date on. Fortunately we love each other including our failings!

I did manage to finish my recipe socks, and have worn them already. They're a bit disappointing, but they are my first proper socks! I think I need a different heel pattern, I don't really have any heels on my feet. Any suggestions?

Apart from that I have a little secret knitting going on, which I will share with you in a couple of weeks. What are you working on at the moment? Read any good books? Survived infant sleep? I'd love to hear from you!

Do pop along to the yarn along to see what everyone else is up to! And pop back on Friday for a little Real Nappy Week surprise!


Friday, 8 April 2016

Love, Love, Love

I finally found the time this week to finish reading Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution by Antonella Gambotto-Burke. I have flipped and flopped over how I feel about this book. The book contains "conversations" about attachment and motherhood with some of the current leaders in the field, including Michel Odent, Laura Markham, Sheila Kitzinger, and Steve Biddulph. What these luminaries have to say on the subject is absolutely fascinating, but I cannot get my head around Gambotto-Burke's style. It isn't an interview as such, but part casual conversation, part therapy for Gambotto-Burke, who has a tendency to talk where the interviewee might, and to introduce random tenuous anecdotes from her own life. Having said that, her choice of conversationalists is spot on, and the chapters in which she talks honestly and openly about her own experiences and opinions are rather beautiful, even if she does occasionally run to the saccharine (her description of her daughter at two and a half seeing a television for the first time and asking "mama...what's that box with pictures in the air?" rings particularly smug and false. Had this child really never been to a doctor's surgery, or a friend or relation's home?). Gambotto-Burke's own story within this book is a sort of tragic love story, framed perfectly by the discussion of bonding and attachment. The love story is multi-generational, and speaks of the lack of attachment and failure of love in her own childhood home and youth, and in the family of her husband. Their union seems to be one of love, and they certainly feel strong attachment with their daughter, the product of this loving relationship, but tragically they cannot overcome the demons of their past, and again love and attachment fall apart. At the end of her account Gambotto-Burke and her daughter seem like the survivors of some shipwreck, clinging to each other and drifting in a sea of emotions, while her husband and other family members float further and further away. Part memoir and part complementary exploration of attachment and maternal love, what at first I found annoying I came to find beautifully and poetically tragic. 

After what came to be a bit of a tear-jerker, my next book is short and practical, and now I have my computer up and running again I will tell you all about it next week!

My second pair of socks for the Marigold's Loft 2016 sockalong are my first pair of socks actually knit in sock yarn. The only pattern is the Yarn Harlot's sock recipe, the basic principles for knitting a sock. I'm enjoying it as an exercise in knowing the basic construction of a sock before I start some of the exciting patterns I have lined up! The sockalong is supposed to be a pair a month, but I'm a busy mum and I'm aiming for a sock a month, six pairs for the year. I'm closing the gusset on the second sock, so I think I'm doing OK in that regard! I keep them in a locker in my car, and work a few rounds when Bob falls asleep in the car before the school run. Yes, I'm that crazy lady sitting in the school car park an hour before the children come out, knitting!

My main knitting at the moment continues to be this textured sweater for Husband. It's supposed to be a gift for our "wool" wedding anniversary, but at this rate I might possibly have the back finished in time. Fortunately I think he'll be around to see it finished! I was worried that the texture wouldn't show in the dark yarn, but actually I think it's just perfect for Husband. Understated.

Don't forget to pop along to the yarn along at Ginny's to see what other bloggers are up to. I confess I find most of my blog reading there these days. I see Ginny is knitting for her expected baby girl, it's enough to turn a mother of only boys green! Thank you for popping by, and I look forward to hearing from you,


Friday, 25 March 2016

One blustery morning

I had resigned myself to failing to post this week, but sitting at my parents' kitchen table at 6 a.m. With a cup of tea and a home made hot cross bun, I thought I might have another go at posting from my tablet.

My knitting this week is Broadleaf by Pat Menchini, apparently not on Ravelry. This is to be a gift for Husband on our upcoming "wool" wedding anniversary. I'm not terribly optimistic that it will be finished on time, but I think it will look lovely. I got off to a slow start when I swatched a few times, couldn't get gauge, bought new needles, got gauge, then Bob climbed on the needles, snapping them. It's a really good job he's so cute!

Reading this week is Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution. An interesting book about becoming a mother and bonding with your child. My favourite feature of this book is the short lists of helpful tips at the ends of the chapters or interviews. More on this next week when I have got to the end! I do have so many lovely things to read at the moment!

I m hope this finds you well, and I wish you a happy Easter if you are celebrating!


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Yarn Along!

I've been wondering for a while how to talk about the book I have just finished, Michel Odent's Do We Need Midwives? I do not have a scientific or medical background, and this book pushed me right to the limits of my knowledge. It was like being a grad student again, and I was glad to have those skills to fall back on!

Odent is concerned with the future of human birth practices, and the implications of this for our species as a whole. Drawing on a large selection of sources Odent points to implications of our birthing practices that can already be identified in terms of epidemiology. However, some of these conclusions seem to have been reached by looking back into studies that actually had a different focus, so it is hard to say how accurate they might be. Odent talks about how our birthing practices have evolved. In the primitive case he suggests (using anthropological cases) that the birthing woman would have been alone, possibly with a trusted woman guarding the space from a distance. These women were more likely to experience fetal ejection reflex and an easy birth. The midwife has developed as a social construct from companion to helper/guide/coach, and has assumed more and more control over the process. Odent points out that their very presence may mean a harder birth for the mother (certainly I experienced a fetal ejection reflex during my easy second birth, significantly when I was alone in the room). Odent considers the impact that the increased use of artificial hormones in managed births may be having on us as a species. Given that synthetic oxytocin does not cross the blood/brain barrier, it is easy to see the use of artificial hormones will change they way we parent, and as this becomes a normal way to give birth this will be reinforced by social conventions. There must also be evolutionary biological repercussions for our abilities to produce and respond to these hormones. In terms of cesarean section Odent considers the long term implications of several factors, such as the fundamental differences between pre-labour and in-labour cesarean, and the popular idea of "seeding the microbiome" of section babies with their mother's vaginal flora. Odent finishes the book with an addendum to be read in 2030, which is concerned with the issue of genetic selection/manipulation. The book reminds me of a Malthusian concern for the future of mankind, that something must be done to steer us, as a species, down the right path; a call for us to make conscious decisions about our evolution. This idea is so overwhelming for me. There are, of course, no hard and fast answers in the book, and for me certainly it raises a lot more questions. Where do we go from here? I have no idea! I would LOVE to hear the thoughts of others who have read this book, especially those with a background in obstetrics and midwifery.

This week I am mostly knitting on the Baby Bluejay for Bob, to match Sausages' Bluejay, which is completed and waiting for buttons and blocking. The smaller one has whizzed up and is nearly at the end of the hood, so I should have a matching pair by Easter! My car knitting has been a pair of basic socks, but my experiments with gauge and fit meant that I have ripped them out to start again. Still, a good opportunity to practice the German stretchy cast on!

The picture above is my little collection from Unravel. SocksYeah was the thing I most wanted to get. I'm hoping to get Rachel's collection When Granny Weatherwax Knits Socks for my birthday, and these skeins will be a pair for me! I wanted a skein of lace weight to knit Who Goes With Fergus, and on the day I went for this glowing green skein from Triskelion Yarn. I have no idea what the cream and brown yak will become, but there's 75g of DK there, and it's the softest thing on earth! My favourite walking boots are made from yak leather, and I have an urge to make something I can wear at the same time! Probably a hat, I guess. Did you go? What did you choose?

I'm so grateful to Ginny for creating and curating this wonderful link up. I love to see what other people are creating and reading around the world, and it has led me on so many adventures! Do leave me a note to let me know you've been by, and thank you for visiting!