Monday, 8 August 2011

The end is in sight Week 39 - 40

With trepidation I went to the consultant for my 39 week check - last time she informed me that due to my age there was a cut off point that Beanie could not be late. I had tried the acupuncture and the famous Aubergine Parmigiana (see below) and going on long walks in anticipation of this assumed deadline. The first thing she said as I entered her office was 'So do you want to have your baby now?' what a way to start the appointment, I had visions of her whipping out her scalpel before I had said hello.

Despite that introduction as my blood pressure is fine and she has relaxed the three line whip the c-section and so the pressure is off - I have to see the midwife at 40 weeks and the consultant again at 41 weeks. I have read up on all the ways to get babies to get a move on and no, I will not try Castor oil and I do not believe that pineapple will do the trick and if you read the NICE guidelines (yawn) not surprisingly they do not advocate any alternative induction methods. However, there are so many sites discussing natural induction processes, I had to have a good read and I found this page interesting. I have cherry picked ideas that suit me, so arranged to hike up a beautiful local hill that seems to have brought on the labour of many a neighbouring Mum.

The phone calls and emails have started. Messages from friends and family checking on me and Beanie's progress. Last time around I told everybody the due date for the 42 week mark to avoid all the premature calls.

What Beanie is up to?
 Before I start a reminder that only 5% of babies are born on the due date - so think of it more as a guess date.  Beanie should be fully cooked and around 7lb / just over 50cm long, but whether he is ready to make an appearance, now that is still a mystery. Earlier this week at 39 1/2 we weeks while my cervix was central  the cervix was still closed so a fair way off.

The consultant is renowned for being straight talking, and has told me when you are over 40 the risk of stillbirth is the same for me at 40 weeks is the same as for the baby of 35 year old at 42 weeks so I have to monitor Beanie carefully. One midwife told me, if in doubt, to lie on my side and drink iced water (without spilling) and here is advice on How to Monitor Movements from the Count the Kicks charity. I have a scan booked for 41weeks as at this point they start monitoring things very carefully.

I'm watching out for all kinds of indications of the onset of labour, noting that waters breaking is critical as it can open Beanie up to infection once they have broken - this could come in a whoosh or a trickle. If I remember from last time there was a surprising amount of fluid, which reminds me, keep up those pelvic floors they must be working overtime!

Apparently I have more puff soon - as Beanie moves down there should be more room in my abdomen for me to breath. The Hubster reminded me of that when I almost keeled over after a 10 pace run - so that has not happened yet.

What I ate

Labor-inducing Eggplant Parmesan
Here is the precise recipe for the infamous dish. I have tried it in the interests of this blog, nothing here convinces me – at most evidence would indicate that the herbs and spices may help induce but I can find nothing else except folklore to substantiate its mythical properties. It took so blimin long to make that the only inducing type properties may but the amount of time you spend standing in the kitchen gently (or frustratedly) going between the counter dipping endless slices of aubergine and the frying pan. Once accomplished I have to say that it is probably the least favourate recipe that I have featured in this blog, I felt that I was undergoing an aubergine endurance test – and I actually like aubergine. It makes a huge quantity, when I heated it up I decanted what I needed into a smaller dish covered it with foil and warmed it slowly in an warm oven for about 40 mins - it tasted better that way, but it is barely an eco-recipe!

Once upon a time in a small restaurant in follows the recipe verbatim with my comments in italics.
Nearly 300 baby pictures decorate Scalini's old-fashioned Italian restaurant in Cobb County, Ga. All of the babies pictured on the Italian restaurant wall were born after their mothers ate the Scalini's eggplant parmigiana. The $9.95 plate of breaded eggplant smothered in cheese and thick marinara sauce is "guaranteed" to induce labor, the restaurant claims.
The eggplant legend began not long after the restaurant opened 23 years ago. "Two or three years after we began, a few people had just mentioned to us they came in when they were pregnant, and ate this eggplant and had a baby a short time after that," said John Bogino, who runs the restaurant with his son, Bobby Bogino. "One person told another, and it just grew by itself by leaps and bounds." To date, more than 300 of the pregnant women customers who ordered the eggplant have given birth within 48 hours, and the restaurant dubs them the "eggplant babies." If it doesn't work in two days, the moms-to-be get a gift certificate for another meal. We make no promises, but the restaurant has graciously shared the recipe.

Eggplant Parmigiana Alla Scalini's
3 medium sized eggplants – aubergine :)
1 cup flour – 140g but I did this by eye just adding to a bowl as required
6 eggs, beaten – I managed with only 4
4 cups fine Italian bread crumbs, seasoned -About 5 slices of standard sliced bread blitzed in a food processor
Olive oil for sauteing
8 cups of marinara sauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese – 50g
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese - 50g
1 1/2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, shredded - 680g
2 cups of ricotta cheese – About 500g

1. After you wash the eggplant, slice them into 1/4-inch thick slices. [slicing them thin about ½ cm or 5mm really does make a difference, don't be tempted to slice thicker otherwise the end result is inedible stodge, did I mention this recipe is faff?] You may choose to peel the eggplant before you slice it. However, you may want to leave the skin on since it contains a lot of vitamins.
2. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, then cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture. Let them sit for about an hour.
3. Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, dust with flour, dip in beaten eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs.
4. Saute in preheated olive oil on both sides until golden brown. [Keep the heat to medium so they start to cook rather than just browning the surface]
5. In [a large] baking dish, alternate layers of marinara sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, until you fill the baking dish, about 1/8 inch from the top.
Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree [190 degree C] oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Scalini's Marinara Sauce
2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
8 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)- 4 large cans
`150g 1 cup onions, chopped -1 largish onion
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley- About 30g or a small supermarket packet of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1/8 cup of fresh chopped sweet basil – A small handful
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of rosemary
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon black pepper

1. Lightly saute the onions in olive oil in large pot for a few minutes.
2. Add garlic and saute another minute.
3. Add tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil, then turn heat low.
4. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Week 37 - 38: Almost cooked now

We have made it to the 38 week mark and that means we are at 'term' and Beanie could Pop at any moment now - unlikely as he is only 2/5 engaged, but technically if he is born now he is not early. I am still feeling remarkably well - although I have taken off my amazing Hug-a-Bump band as I want to give Beanie a chance to engage. The most unexpected thing happened, I have been so worried about a repeat of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia and yet after the Pickle's 5th Birthday party and the carnage that goes with entertaining 12 mini people for an afternoon my blood pressure actually went down!

For loads of us soon to be Mums we start to get loads of pointed questions and advice on breastfeeding at this stage, my NCT classes focused loads of time on how to make feeding easier, even though as a group we had only positive experiences of feeding. Some friends of mine have been traumatised by the subject before they even started - convinced that it will be an ordeal only mastered by the few. We have enough to think about at this stage without adding breastfeeding to our list of worries - thinking of adjusting to limited sleep and a new family dynamic - so I have linked an article I wrote on my other blog with further links to other bloggers experiences.  Other Mums to be in my antenatal classes talked about the varying breastfeeding support that they got with their first babies - support may not be necessary, but if it is, I hope that it is there for you so that you can make informed decisions.

Everybody seems to be giving up work at different times. Professional advice seems to be make sure that you give up work early enough so that you have time to really relax and build up your sleep reserves before baby arrives. Most friends seem to want to spend maternity leave with their babies rather than playing the waiting game. None of this quite works for me as my boss is terrible - err, it is me. I can't foresee a moment when I can walk past me desk and not consider what I should be doing and feel guilty if I don't finish off a few loose ends.

How about baby showers? None of my antenatal class were having one - but then we are second time Mums, and British at that. Baby Showers do seem to be coming across the Atlantic in the same way that Trick or Treating suddenly appeared then became ubiquitous, so I am sure in a few years time no birth will not be heralded by a Baby Shower. Last time around I just arranged a couple of weekends away, one to Copenhagen with the Hubster to have a final honeymoon (future holidays would be family events) and a weekend for intensive gossip, debate and mischief with my best mate. After the Pickle was born we then had some great large lunch parties to celebrate and to meet the new arrival - which seemed to delight friends and family who were too superstitious to celebrate a baby before its arrival.

I am hoping that the next post will be all about a successful labour - but I am thinking most about not being late. The consultant is adamant that that I can't be late as I want to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) but as an aged Mum (over 40) the statistics for still birth start to look concerning if Beanie is left cooking after 40 weeks and having had a c-section I can not be induced. Ho, hum! Had my acupuncture session and know the points to go for, but there is little evidence that home spun methods influence the outcome (except that taking Castor oil does NOT work).

What Beanie is up to
Only 5% of babies arrive on their due date, so Beanie can be born any time now. He is fully developed at around 50cm so he is now just putting on weight getting ready for birth. His head is down and every visit to the health professionals they are noting down in fifths (or fingers) to what extent he is engaged - he was 2/5 on Monday.

Oh the glamour of being pregnant - I can expect diarrhoea as my body gets ready for labour and I may pass the 'show' an icky plug that has been sealing the cervix that is made from mucus and blood (the show normally indicated that labour is only a few days off). Meanwhile the Braxton Hicks keep on rolling on, they are mainly on the lower part of the bump so despite them being really quite painful I know that it is not the on set of labour as contractions start at the top of the bump spreading down and are more intense.

I am having the most vivid dreams, which is not uncommon when we get close to delivery. There is no theme to my dreams - but I seem to wake up exhausted, but then that could be because I am not sleeping so well.

What I cooked
Time to start thinking about maintaining some form of a balanced diet after babe is born - without having the local take aways on speed dial. This is not so much of a recipe but a really handy hint that was SO useful last time around.

Roast Vegetables - For now and for the freezer
Courgettes - diced to roughly a 1cm cube
Red and yellow peppers - sliced as above
Aubergine - diced as above
Butternut squash, peeled and cubed as above
Chopped herbs to taste - I like finely chopped oregano and a little finely chopped rosemary on the aubergine and freshly ground pepper - you can also add garlic.
Other possible veg to include: onions, carrots, beetroot, mushrooms.

Lay veg out on a baking tray - pour over a tablespoon or so of olive or cold pressed rape seed oil and use your hands to mix it all up so that the veg are evenly coated, then smooth out to a single layer. I like to keep each of the veg separate. Roast at about 200' C for about 45 mins.

Eat what you want to today and leave the rest to cool. Once cool freeze (I freeze the veg separately) being careful to lay the freezer bags out flat so that the veg is in a single layer so that they don't freeze in one big lump. Once they are frozen you can rearrange the bags as they are now less likely to freeze back into a lump.

If you want to roast tomatoes I prefer to half or quarter, drizzle with oil and herbs then then slow roast them at 100'c for a couple of hours. Not so eco friendly but they do taste better that way - so I tend to do a big batch when tomatoes are in season and plentiful.

This is quite a bit of chopping - but they are so versatile later, great with starchy basics such as cous cous, rice, potatoes or bulgar and either a little crumbled feta, grilled halloumi or Parmesan or some simply griddled meat.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Week 34 - 36 - Relief I've passed the 34 week stage

Well Beanie can come at almost any moment now. I am going into the preparation zone. A little distraction with my teeth first. Good news, bad news there. The hygienist was hugely impressed - my flossing efforts have paid off, and I have no sign of pregnancy gingivitis (or bleeding gums) so no problems there. Then disaster struck, my Mum's teeth turned to mush when she had us and mine seem similarly inconsiderate and hence a painful session of root canal work.

I recovered quickly from the tooth pain but my hormones were raging and so I had to find something to worry about. It could have been the recent statistics correlating age and incidence of Downs Syndrome in babies, but no, I have been pointlessly focusing on pre-eclampsia. At this stage last time around I skipped along my 34 week midwife's appointment feeling fine and ended up in hospital hooked up to all kinds of machines, my blood pressure shooting through the roof and my feet looking like Shrek's (while all the time I still felt curiously well). This time in the days leading up to my 34 week appointment I did not know whether to sob or decapitate everyone I came into contact with; so while I needed to keep my blood pressure down my paranoia was more likely to be forcing it up. Help I'm a liability to myself!

Woohoo - blood pressure and urine is fine! Sure, anything could happen now it is still great to have overcome that hurdle. The rest of the midwife's appointment seemed to go really well - but it was not exactly pleasant having to take the swabs for the Strep B testing (fortunately from the throat and nose not the more intimate areas) and there were yet more blood tests as apparently they forgot some at the last blood letting.

The baby preparation list that I wrote is proving really useful. I heard from a friend, who is only 34 weeks pregnant, and her waters have broken and so is just hoping that they can hold on for as long as possible -  perhaps I should make sure that we have a few more things ready! Poor M, in hospital and has not even got a cot, but she is in great hands and we look forward to hearing great news from her in about a month's time. In the meantime I have packed a hospital bag even if I don't have a cot ready and have not washed Pickle's newborn clothes ready for Beanie.

I am also thinking about the birth. I am actually feeling really excited about it (have I mentioned that I am the eternal optimist?). The consultant has told me that I am not allowed to go over term - and last time I found that being induced is not the way to usher in the ideal birth. I seem to spend a whole heap of time finding out about old wives tales and wishful thinking that 'could' help Beanie arrive on time, but there is very little science* about how to ensure that your baby does not arrive late except the via the direct medical route of sweeps and induction.

As I was researching my birth plan I came across the section about whether or not to give Beanie the Vitamin K jab on birth to help his blood to clot. This same vitamin is still really useful if are planning to breastfeed - so maybe it is the right time to start eating my 'Special' Vitamin K. I have been eating loads of green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower, green beans, wholemeal bread and pasta - and other key ingredients are fresh parsley and even chickpeas.

What Beanie is up to?
He is a big boy now, over 45cm long and my bump was bang on the expected 34 inches when measured by the midwife. He is so big that he is finding it hard to move so the kicking seems less exaggerated now. Thinking of kicks there is a relatively new charity called Count the Kicks that you may like to read about- I will let them introduce themselves in their own words "COUNT THE KICKS™ wants to empower Mums with knowledge and confidence during their pregnancy. We want to raise awareness of the risks surrounding later stages of pregnancy and also to teach Mums to take responsibility of their own health and care and that of their unborn babies."

From now on his head may start to engage - and to be sure am starting to remember to keep my knees below my hips and I'm sleeping on my left to try to ensure that he gets in the best possible position for labour. This is called Optimum Foetal Positioning - that link that seems to go into all kinds of detail or here are loads of other OFP links. There is no medical evidence* that it works, but it does not present a hardship so I may as well take heed, besides it sounds better then an External Cephalic Version procedure that doctors perform if they think that Beanie is breech. The other preparatory exercise that has no basis in science* is perineal massage in an attempt to avoid tearing - our NCT trainer seems very keen and gave us a hand out to encourage us to give it a go - and the inevitable reminder to keep up the pelvic floors.

Beanie's digestive and intestinal systems are now ready and working - I am strangely freaked out to read that he can wee up to a pint into the amniotic fluid. The better news is that even if he is born now he should be absolutely fine,

Have I mentioned heartburn recently? WOW - pill popping the antacids.There seems to be no space left for me anymore, as I am constantly dashing to the loo, get full after half portions and struggle to find my breath. I'm not complaining as Beanie may over hear so it is more fun just to go with the process and enjoy chattering to the Bump happily.

*I have made a few comments about actions and beliefs that are not substantiated by science.  I am not blinkered by science, there is a place for faith and trust. I just like to have a read and look at evidence, balance of probability, potential side effects and benefits. I seriously do not share the consultant's opinion that an elective caesarian would be the only effective way to ensure that there are no complications!

What I have been eating?
Well, we have all been snacking on fruit salads of strawberries and cantaloupe melon - fortunately the Pickle shares my  yearning for melon and it is both seasonal and is great to eat now it is so hot. I have also been having avocado salad sandwiches in wholemeal pitta - but that is now what I have been craving - I want my chickpea pancakes!

Chickpea Pancakes
This is quick and easy and totally yummy! Just remember to cook the beetroot in advance.

Wash but don't peel three beetroots then wrap in foil and bake at 180' for about an hour or until they feel soft. Once cooled to a reasonable temperature rub off the skins, ideally with clean latex or rubber gloves (otherwise you can do a mean Lady Macbeth impersonation).

Take a tin of cooked chickpeas and blitz in a food processor, add one egg, two dessert spoons of plain floor and a teaspoon of baking powder and season with pepper and  a small handful of chopped parsley and a teaspoon of cumin. Add a splash of milk so that all binds down into a thick, spoonable mixture. Heat a frying pan and add a little oil and spoon in tablespoons of the mixture - after a a few mins carefully turn the pancakes. Cook until they are firm in the middle, this is about 5 mins on each side - if the oven is still hot you can finish them off in the oven to make sure the egg in the centre is cooked.

If you want to add extra vitamin K cook up some spinach.

Layer up a chickpea pancake, a slice of beetroot, crumble on some feta cheese (and mix in the chopped, cooked spinach if using) and if you can find it sprinkle on some dukkah (a Moroccan spice mix with dried chickpeas). Add a lovely green salad.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Week 31 - 33: Time to focus

Pregnancy seems so long, but suddenly now everything seems very imminent. I think writing the Baby Preparation List really seemed to focus me.  Are you writing a Birth Planner ? I had a long debate today about Birth Plans; my friend was adamant, to prepare a plan is to plan to fail as so often mother nature ignores how you ideally want to deliver your baby. I may have mentioned that my ideal of a home birth with the Pickle went awry when I got pre-eclampsia and I ended up with an emergency c-section - and by the time I got to hospital I don't think the midwives would have really cared less what was on my ideal birth plan! This is NOT a scare story because I have a wonderful healthy daughter and I am happily and confidently planning Beanie's arrival.

I think that we should have in bold letters at the top of any Birth Plan (or as my friend would like to call them Birth Ideal) GIVE BIRTH TO A HEALTHY BABY. Home birth / natural birth / with or without a water birth / with or without pain relief / epidurals...whatever we write down and aspire to, by focusing on having a healthy baby with the Pickle I recovered quickly from the unexpected turn of events. I still think that it is worth writing a birth plan (or birth ideal), for me it helps me be aware of the kind of options that are available. I can read up on the pros and cons of different pain relief and the kinds of decisions that I may be asked to make when I come to give birth.

The other big reality check is starting my NCT antenatal classes.  Technically speaking I am not sure if it necessary, but after five years it is good to have a refresher. It is also really amusing to see the differences between the two antenatal teachers! The cynic in me thinks that the NCT is just a way of aspirational Mums to meet each other, and true to form when we did our introductions meeting fellow mums was the main reason why everybody had enrolled.The antenatal classes are also a great way to answer concerns, gain an alternative perspective and for me to ask questions that I have considered since my first attempt to write a birth plan/ideal.

I have also booked my TENS machine - it was great during my last labour. Just one of the options if you are looking for non medical pain relief. I'm also listening to my hypnobirthing CD again - which is wonderfully relaxing and helps me sleep as it is starting to get uncomfortable, regardless of whatever birth we will manage.

What Beanie is up to?
Isn't he big now - around 40cm long. He is starting to get his head down and ready for his first big job of his life and in preparation for this the both the furry lanugo and the white greasy vernix are starting to disappear. As there is less room for him to move there is less potential for him to kick with abandon.

I am turning into a balloon,  gaining around 1lb a week, but then I am not really weighing myself. Pregnancy is starting to get a little cruel  more Braxton Hicks, insomnia, heartburn and breathlessness. The glamour never stops but at least my breasts have not started leaking yet and no increased vaginal discharge (both things to watch out for at the moment - all of this is very natural but if the discharge starts to get bloody or coloured chat to your midwife).

Just for comfort when walking the dog I have got a supersonic bump band suitable for SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) technically it is not necessary but after walking briskly for more than half and hour my bump starts to feel heavy. SPD is a pregnancy condition when the pelvis ligaments loose to the extent to which the joint holding the pelvic bones together is impaired.

What I am cooking?
I try to be veggy friendly, but this week my cravings were for meat. Besides I have made it a few times an the Hubster loves it - and hey, it is full of iron! When we lived in London our neighbourhood restaurant was a Thai called Addies on the Earls Court Road, here is my take on their excellent Weeping Tiger. No tigers (or even Tiggers) and harmed in this recipe. It is fairly simple, hopefully not too simple, but it is what I really felt like and it is the only way I have found that cooking a steak to well done does not make it resemble leather. The chili is not ideal for heartburn - but, a girl has to have her vices :)

Weeping Tiger
Steak (I have been buying one large Sirloin for the Hubster and me,
Soy Sauce - I've been using the lo-salt version
Finely grated ginger
Finely chopped red chili
Chopped coriander (or basil if your Hubster has a coriander aversion)

Marinate the steak in the soy, ginger, herbs and chili for anything from half an hour to half a day. I tend to start the marinating when I prepare the Pickle's supper. Cook some rice, Thai Jasmine rice work well, and wash some salad leaves. When the griddle is really hot cook the steak, then pour the excess marinade over the rice and salad and serve.Super simple yummy supper!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Week 27-30: Ironing out the bumps

Baa Humbug! Got the results for my blood tests and I am border line anaemic. My Mum just replied that from early pregnancy she was highly anaemic every day and my mother and sister in law confirmed that they were both on high dose iron supplements. Looking up can see that pregnant women need 27mg iron a day, compared with 14.8 mg that women regularly require - which is almost double.

If I have been low on iron the low energy and the craving instant energy and caramel now seems to make sense. I have been trying to be so healthy, but ultimately I have been letting myself down in two areas: to a lesser degree occasionally skipping supper because I am too tired, but my worst failing has been breakfast; I have been focusing on making packed lunches rather than eating myself - I have ended up by eating the trimmings of the Pickle's sandwiches rather than eating something wholesome.

I have been busy finding a high iron breakfast that works for me - not only is the iron essential to me but vital for Beanie - and also upping my Vitamin C intake (fruit juice with my Iron Power Granola) to help me absorb the iron.

The other thing I have been focusing on has been what I need to get organised for Beanie. Having started sorting out things a month or so ago I don't feel as if it is all getting on top of me.  Next weekend I buy the Pickle a new chest of drawers (I will  not buy one in pink! stomping my foot) so that I can move the changing unit into what will be Beanie's room.

I won't be rushing to get his room ready yet, apart from having the changing unit set up. It is recommended that you sleep with your baby in your room for the first six months, so there is not rush as yet. Likewise I am not placing a bulk order for everything that I could ever possibly need at this stage. As a first time Mum it is easy to read the endless 'baby lists' and buy everything well before the due date - but is everything necessary? Certainly, not everything is essential from day one and if budgets are stretched you can hold off buying many things until after the first month.

With the Pickle I had great fun making things, I designed the chest of drawers with a detachable changing unit which my FiL made up, I made changing mats, I bought a beautifully soft organic bed and bath sheets that I cut down and edged until I had the cutest and softest range of hooded towels, bath mittens and sheets that matched the decor. Totally unnecessary, but for me it was both fun and relatively frugal.

Preparing a baby's room and going shopping for things should be fun - and can be kept to most budgets. My lists are partly to help me organise myself and partly to highlight that being a good parent is not dependent on buying a coordinated version of everything that a department store nursery consultant can possibly list. Having thought this through I now have a smaller list on my pin board of things that I should be able to comfortably organise in the next month.

Baby Preparation List - I kept this separate from this blog entry as it is quite long...

What Beanie is up to?
Wow, Beanie is almost cooked - his lungs and digestive tract are almost developed and his heartbeat is getting so strong that it can be heard with a stethoscope and the Hubster, if he could ever find the right place, may be able to hear it by putting his ear against my bump. He (Beanie not the Hubster) has established sleep patterns, the bad news is that they do not coincide with mine - he seems to like to hear the dawn chorus which, at about 4.30, is a bit early for me.
He is almost 3lb and just under 40cm long - which is why I am delighted that I now have my uber-bump band so that I can still do my hour long walks.

Apart from looking quite big - my big news is that I am ready for the onset of the Braxton Hicks, or fake contractions, that are helping my body get prepared. Have I had mood swings, often associated with this stage of pregnancy? I could not possibly comment!

What I am cooking?
Checking the list of iron rich foods, and knowing that breakfast is where I really fall down I have come up with a recipe that tastes good and is full of iron. I have been eating it dry for breakfast and as a snack throughout the day. I have also experimented with different ways of cooking it, either to make a straight forward granola or a tray bake.

Iron Rich Granola
500g oats - jumbo oats have great texture if you can get hold of them
125g butter
150ml honey
1 tbsp light tahini
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Handfuls to taste of the following:
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Nuts - almonds, cashews, hazel
Chopped dried apricots (prunes, raisins and dried figs are also iron rich, but I like dried apricots)

Melt butter with honey, tahini and cocoa powder.Fold in the oats, vanilla, cinnamon and seeds and nuts.

Option 1 - For standard Granola
Spread the mix (excluding the apricots) across two lightly greased baking trays and cook for 20  mins at 180' - checking and stirring carefully every five minutes. When it is golden brown it is ready.  Take out of the oven and continue to gently stir until it is cool - leaving it to cool like this stops it from going soggy. When it is cool add the chopped apricots and pop into an airtight container.

Option 2 - For a tray bake
Add in the chopped apricots (but not raisins as they go horrid) and preheat the oven to 250'. Spoon onto two greased baking tray and pop into the hot oven, immediately turn the oven down to 100' and cook for about 1hour 30 mins. Take out the oven and cool then break into rough shards and store in an airtight container.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Baby Preparation List

You don't have to buy the department store, love and patience are more important than co-ordinating nursery furniture! This is just a handy check list and in some points a reality check that not everything is necessary and what you do buy can often be staged over a few months and salary cheques.

For the Hospital
Hospital Bag - For Labour
V.IMPORTANT - Antenatal notes
Nightdress or large T-shirt for delivery
Snacks and drinks
Magazines / books / CDs / MP3 (check what facilities the hospital has, often they have CD players)
Dressing gown and slippers
Money and change for parking(if driving)
Birth plan if you have made one. Here is a template for the  NHS Birth Planner (I chat about birth plans in Week 31-33 )
Thick socks
TENS machine (often hired to help with pain relief)
Own pillow (I took my own, with a dark colour pillow case, and that little bit of home comfort was bliss)
Lip balm and facial spray
Items for the Ward
Two or three nightdresses or pyjamas – front opening for feeding (I used old big silk shirts and had a sarong, somehow I felt more in control and comfortable than in my bed clothes for during the day)
Disposable or cheap underpants (an ideal way to legitimately throw away any of those old saggy pants)
Maternity pads
One or two towels (brighter colours are easier to identify)
Clothes for going home (maternity wear / unstructured clothes)
V shaped pillow (great for comfort for Mum and as a support for breast feeding)
Nursing bras (I forgot these with the Pickle and never even realised, but for some wearing bras even at night is essential for comfort)
Breast pads (ditto, had these but did not use them until I started properly getting dressed after I got home)
Nipple cream ( I never needed any)
Make-up bag (Great to feel glam, but everyone is focused on the babe)
Arnica tablets/cream/ aromatherapy oils / spray
Anti-bacterial wipes
Phonecard or change for the phone - check to see the hospital's attitude on mobiles
Items for Your Baby
Essential - Before you pack think of the season, in a new Mum's desire to get things right it is easy to ignore the seasons, the Pickle was born in a heatwave so the cardigans I lovingly bought were Oxfamed unworn)
Newborn nappies (even if you opt for washable, as I did, disposables are handy for the first days until you hit your rhythm).
Three vests
Three sleep suits (babygrows with feet)
Muslin squares
Shawl or blanket
Clothes for going home - midwives recommend a hat and cardigan as babies feel the cold more than us Mums
Cotton wool 
Warm jacket or all-in-one if cold weather

Home Preparation List
Baby Clothes Essential
At least six short-sleeved vests (bodysuits) with poppers between the legs
At least six sleepsuits (babygrows)
Bootees or socks (don't spend much on these as they are the first thing to be lost - you can always get SockOns* to keep them on)
More muslins - (I have mentioned them above, but they are VERY handy!)
Weather dependent
Two or three cardigans
At least two hats (generally recommended)
One all-in-one or warm jacket for going outside in winter
Mittens (some are scratchers - but even then keeping the mittens on is no small task, instead some babygrows have mittens that fold out from the sleeves if this is an issue)
Bibs (on all 'The Lists' but the Pickle never dribbled and was rarely sick)
A range of cute outfits
* SockOns - they are a funny accessory to keep socks on, either Google them or you can buy them from my commercial website)

Bathing Essentials Newborn
Two small bath towels
Two hand towels
Clean bowls / Tupperware for 'topping and tailing' (you can choose to buy special top and tail bowls - but I am not sure why you would)
Baby towels with hoods - cute, yes, essential, no.
Suitable Oil (olive oil is good but  there are a range of baby oils, which can also be used for baby massage if you remember to do a patch test to check for allergies)
Surgical spirit / rubbing alcohol for caring for your baby's umbilical stump (check to see up to date advice, most midwives recommend just keeping dry and washing with water only if necessary)
Baby Bathing Essentials - After first few weeks
Baby soap or liquid wash
Moisturizing cream or lotion
Baby powder (bought but never used)
Two sponges/ soft flannels
Shampoo (many young babies have no hair)
A soft hairbrush
Baby nail scissors with rounded tips (some midwives recommend biting the nails short)
Bath thermometer (for generations using an elbow to test the water worked fine)
Waterproof bathing apron (can be very useful, but somehow I did without)
Baby bath and stand (they are not essential and can be bulking and a pain to store in small bathroom so when the basin worked well for me I was delighted)

Changing / Nappy List
Changing mat (or a suitable towel / blanket)
Cotton wool
Newborn nappies (disposable or washable)
Barrier cream for baby’s bottom
Disposable or washable baby wipes (use from 2 weeks onwards, prior to that use water and cotton wool)
Nappy bin or nappy wrapper (After buying a special nappy bin I realised how dim I was and soon replaced it with a pedal bin, which is much easier if you have your hands full, they also come in a decent range of designs)
Changing unit with safety strap (the ones that fit over the cot can be a nightmare with boys - as an ill timed effort can drench the cot. Instead think about a height that will be good for your back)
Changing mat liners  - either disposable or washable
If you are opting for washable nappies here is a great source of advice on washable nappies

Baby Bedding Essentials
Drop-side cot and new mattress (if you have a big baby he/ she may have outgrown her basket by six weeks. New mattresses are recommended except for siblings)
Bedding for the drop-side cot: four fitted sheets
Room temperature gauge  - see Bedtime basics from FSID (The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) 
Dummy - see FSID bedtime basics above so maybe this should be on the essentials list, but I never been able to get enthusiastic about dummies so doubt I will be using one with Beanie either.
Moses basket/crib and mattress
Bedding for the Moses basket: at least four fitted sheets
Sheets and blankets for both the crib / cot - (Are you going to use sleeping bags? If so the need for top sheets and blankets may be limited)
Sleeping bags - some have poppers under the arm so are suitable from a younger age.
Muslin squares (place under baby’s head to catch any milk he/she  brings up)
For swaddling you can opt for: shawls / extra large muslins / specially designed swaddling outfits (there has been limited research on the safety of swaddling read the FSID site for more details)
Baby monitor

Feeding Essentials
Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed? I'll chat about this in a later blog. It seems to be quite a loaded issue that can lead to polar opinions. If you can gather the facts, don't believe all the scare stories and hold off buying sterilisers / pumps / bottles until you have a good handle on the situation.

Out and About Essentials
Rear-facing car seat suitable from birth - it is worth getting this fitted for your car
Pram and/or pushchair/travel system suitable from birth - careful this could be your most expensive mistake, start researching but think really hard before buying. I ended up by using a sling most of the time as our travel system was cumbersome. I wish that I had waited until after the birth to discover what I really needed. The only draw back to this is if you need a car seat to get babe back from the hospital it can be cost effective to buy the who set together.
Changing bag - or regular bag that you allocate as a changing bag
Baby sling or carrier (the best bit of kit we had, so I would argue it is essential but not optional)

Toys and Playtime
When buying toys for your baby, check that they are suitable for his/her age and have the appropriate CE safety mark.
Black and white baby books/toys
Musical toys/mobile (while certainly not essential a good mobile with a soft light can be great at bedtime)
Adjustable or bouncy chair (not needed until about 1 month old)
Activity gym
Activity arch for car seat/bouncy chair
Soft toys - check age suitabilityy

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Week 26-28 - Into the final trimester

Everything is going really well. I had another appointment with the mid-wife and more blood letting as well as a chat and general reassurance. Blood pressure and urine were both fine, which is reassuring after the pre-eclampsia I had with the Pickle (although technically at this stage it could occur with the Pickle it did not start until much later, and even then I felt so well I almost thought that there must be some mistake).

As we were listening to Beanie's heartbeat I asked the midwife about foetal heart monitors and the NHS recommending against home monitors. Apparently midwives hate them, they only ever use them as the Mums love it, but they say that it only ever indicates a short moment in time and does not give an long term useful assessment; apparently home monitors are even worse as Mums can have difficulty picking up the babies heartbeat, sometimes picking up sounds from the placenta or even mistaking their own heartbeat for the babies. Now that Beanie is kicking away it is easy to feel complacent, but I was chatting to another pregnant friend and she was feeling so low that hearing the heartbeat was just what she needed to refocus and enjoy her pregnancy again.

The other thing that the midwife said was that veggie Mums often have the healthiest diet (as we were chatting about the blood tests for anaemia etc that were needed at this stage). Apparently if you are vegetarian you are more likely to be aware of what you eat, and less like have problems with vitamin and mineral deficiencies at this stage. I have not had my blood test results yet, but about half of women can have low iron in pregnancy it is something to be monitored and rectified but not a cause for concern if addressed.

 My twin Mum (BF due one week later, currently living in Belgium) has been told off her baby store of choice that at six months pregnant she has not prepared her 'Baby List' and emails from Mothercare are informing me that I should have bought half their store my now. I have been busy sorting out the house and filling endless bin bags and sacks for Oxfam, next week I'll try to explode some myths about quite how much we need to buy to prepare for baby (the irony is that I am an on-line retailer of baby products).

What Beanie is up to
Beanie is now got a regular waking and sleeping pattern - I can feel it and it is not coincidental with mine. His eyes can open his blue eyes, his eyes will stay blue - probably for ever based on family genes - but until he is a few weeks old we will not know for sure. Beanie may feel heavy now (over 2lbs) and he is now over 30cm long, but I am girding my loins (well, certainly doing my pelvic floors) as I prepare for him to triple in weight between now and B-Day.
Some Mums start leaking colostrum (the baby superfood that precedes breast milk), annoying, need breast pads but strangely reassuring.  After being induced last time my milk did not come in when the Pickle was born so inadvertently I let her get dehydrated as she was constantly trying to feed but there was nothing there for her to drink, so I am watching for that colostrum with interest - even though we still have a long time to go.

What I cooked
 I am getting much more hungry at the moment, I am trying to avoid random snacking so instead I am having an earlier lunch, healthy snack when the Pickle has her supper at about 5pm then a smaller supper with the Hubster after the Pickle is in bed. Mindful of needing both iron and fibre I have been fine tuning a recipe for Dal Kofta. They are great in a curry sauce and rice as a main hot meal, as an alternative to falafel or as a snack with a little humous, yogurt or chili sauce. As they are so versatile I don't mind spending the time making them.

Dal and Cashew Kofta

Pour 1 cup of lentils into a sieve and rinse in water until the water runs clear. Traditional recipes require red lentils, but I like a mix of mainly red lentils topped up with puy and any other lentils I have to add a little extra texture. Add to a pan with 2 cups of veg stock, bring to the boil then simmer for around 20 mins or until the lentils are soft and the liquid absorbed. Watch carefully towards the end, I aim to have them soft but with enough bite so they are not mushy - also it can catch on the bottom.Turn off and let it cool.

Next chop or blitz in a food processor one onion until it is finely chopped and add to the lentils. Then blitz a slice / crust of bread and process to breadcrumbs and add to the mix. Next blitz up 3/4 to 1 cup of cashew nuts - not too fine if you want a crunch to your kofta and add to the lentil mix. Next add about a desert spoon of tomato puree (I just give it a good squirt) then either 1 teaspoon of medium curry power or 1 teaspoon of cumin and a large pinch of paprika - then you can add dried fruit, raisins go well with the curry option and chopped dried apricots go well with the cumin version. Mix all together.

Pop in an oven at 180'c / 350'f and cook for 40 mins, checking and turning the balls about half way through.

Optional Curry Sauce
Fry1 tsp black mustard seeds in oil until they pop, then add 1 tsp of each of garam masala, cumin and ground coriander and a pinch of paprika and cayenne - cook for a few mins and add about an inch of finely grated ginger and a crushed clove of garlic , Add a tin of passata or chopped tomatoes and 200ml  can of coconut milk and simmer for 5 - 10 mins. If it looks a little dry add veg stock until it is a better consistency. Carefully add the cooked kofta and simmer for another 5 -10 mins.