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

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!