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.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Week 25 - 26: Beanie is viable

There is no mistaking it I now look pregnant! I feel pregnant too. My normal brisk hour long walk is becoming a slog, as I puffed my way up the hill I even considered having a brief sit down before continuing, but the bench is at the summit and so I kept on going along the easy route (Everest, it is not!)

Technically I may be on the early side but the nesting instinct has kicked in. It may be something to do with being so exhausted for the first trimester, not much got done from my permanent home on the sofa. I'm trying to take advanage of the middle months, before I start to get uncomfortable. I've been sorting, tidying and cleaning for the past 10 days - which is so out of character I can only attribute it to pregnancy. Note to self: I have more pairs of 5 inch heals than I am ever likely to wear, but they are still beautiful!

Once I have stored out all the backlog I can start to think about buying anything new for Beanie. I have started to write a list,  but I am really only focusing on the first week. More important to me is that we have a relative degree of order so that when Beanie is born I can focus on him - I think that tidying is far more arduous and time consuming than a little on-line shopping if, worst case scenario, Beanie arrives early. I will be writing a list over the next few weeks and will have hospital bag and all that he needs for the first week at least a month in advance.

Preggy Brain, truth or fiction? Well, I wrote most of this blog then forgot to write publish so that is not me working on full brain capacity. Last time around I was pretty good (I think) except for one missed meeting. Other friends find that the concept of preggy brain is an excuse for colleagues to get away with blaming them for mistakes with impunity. What do you think?

What Beanie is up to?
Beanie is having a real growth spurt at the moment am so I am having to be careful what I eat. All his organs are now in place and his skin is going from transluscent to opaque. He is almost 30cm long - which I find a bit surreal as I look down at my rather neat bump.
His nose is 'unplugged' now and his ears are working so he can hear all the sweet messages that the Pickle is giving him (even if he really can not talk as she claims she can hear)... I can start to influence his taste in music mwah, ha, ha, ha [evil laugh]!
I am still feeling comfortable, if short of breath, and slathering myself with moisturiser and stretch oils is now part of a ritualisitic 'me time' rather than a chore (even if evidence indicates that even that does not effect the appearance of strech marks).
Got a midwife's appointment next week, so must remember to take in my 'sample' as they are watching out for pre-eclampsia.

What I am cooking
I am doing loads of entertaining at the moment before I start to bed in and nest (and I am still feeling comfortable) so I have been perfecting the art of low maintainance cooking for small tribes of people. (I have also not been too proud to ask friends to bring the puddings). I like this menu as I can do much of the work the night before and display it all on a big platter with a green salad and the range of colours together look absolutely fabulous!

Slow Cooked Lamb
I was looking for a celebratory food that would not tie me to the oven, and mindful that shell fish was out and any meat needed to be 'properly' cooked, I decided to go for a slow cooked lamb dish. Remember to marinate over night and start cooking it good and early (it takes 3 - 4 hours so it is not a last min dish).

Take a large clean freezer bag, big enough to fit in a shoulder of lamb with the bone in (about 2kg). Dry fry 1 tsp of each: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamon pods for a few mins then crush in a pestle and mortar and add to the freezer bag. Next add 3/4 large pot of greek yoghyurt, juice and zest of 2 limes, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a small handful of chopped mint and about 1 tbsp olive oil and a good grind of black pepper. Mix roughly in the bag then add the lamb.

Seal up well then careful massage the marinade into the lamb before popping in a fridge overnight, if you get a chance turn it occassionally massaging the marinade into the meat as you do. Transfer to a roasting dish marinade and all and cook for 3 -4 hours at 180' - then leave to reast for about 15 mins. Cooked for 4 hours it is so tender it almost falls from the bone. Blitz up the marinade with a hand blender and it turns into a gorgeous sauce. Easy peazy - and it looks impressive!

Warm Squash Salad

 Peal, deseed and chop a butternut squash (or similar firm pumpkin), set aside.In a large lidded pan cook one grated onion for about 3 mins then add 1/2 tsp each ground ginger and ground cumin and 1 tsp paprika and cook for another min. Add  the squash, juice 1/2 lemon, the chopped rind of a preserved lemon, a handful of chopped green herbs (a mix of any parsley, coriander, mint, chives) and 1/2 cup water.

Season, cover, then simmer over a low heat for 20 mins until squash is tender, adding more water if necessary and gentley stirring to make sure it does not stick. Can be served hot or warm

Cous Cous
This is just an encouragement to enhance your couscous! I add loads of chopped mint and parsley as well as pommegranate, lemon juice and a selection of dried fruit and seeds such as raisin, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Week 23-24 The Heart burn weeks*!

I'm loving the kicks, which is just as well as I have started to wake up at night and can just put my hands on my bump and feel content that he is 'cooking' well. I really feel as if I am blooming now - although now that I have some energy I have to be careful not to over do it.

Heartburn is a killer though. This pregnancy should be sponsored my Caramel Snack a Jacks - caramel has been my major craving and Snack a Jacks are the least bad option for me, given half a chance I would be grazing on them constantly to abate the heartburn. I don't like Gaviscon / Rennie, so I have been trying to follow advice and steer clear of fatty, fried, acid, spicy foods, tomatoes or chocolate. In desperation I have started making home made rye crispbreads (recipe below), so that I can nibble them instead of the caramel rice crackers.

The highlight of the past few weeks was meeting up with the girls. As we met while studying for a Masters we are not identikit school leavers but we are hugely different in many ways not least age - so this meet up was extraordinary: three of us were pregnant, and the last friend was in a great new relationship thinking of adopting dogs before too long. It was interesting (amongst MANY other things) to hear how three intelligent Mums-to-be take health warnings and advice and how it affects us all - none of us drunk alcohol at the meal (see our virgin punch below) but there were varying attitudes to total abstinence, ditto tuna and a variety of general prohibitions. I seem to err on the side of caution, but as the Hubster says I am an admin case following the birth of the Pickle and I am over 40.

With the start of the glorious weather I have started to 'wear in' my new funky flip flops and ballerina pumps. My style resolutions for the next few months (not medically recommended):
- Wear my highest heals and most gorgeous shoes before my feet resemble Shrek's.
- Wear my favourite dresses while they still fit. I'm planning to breast feed and lifting up the hem of my dress to access a boob is not a good look - so I want to wear my dresses while I can.
- Deck myself like a Christmas tree. Rings get uncomfortable as pop date draws and near and long earrings are a big no, no when it comes to little fingers (unless you like to have your ears lovingly yanked).
- If all else fails on the style stakes, remember that it is tradition to receive an eternity ring from your beloved for a first born, so why not scale up the hints for the siblings :)

What is Beanie up to?
At 24 weeks Beanie is officially 'viable' in other words; thanks to the wonders of modern medicine he now stands a good chance of surviving if born now and he weighs over a pound! Beanie's ears are quite developed so we are musing as to what noises he will now recognised after birth: the cat's purr, the dog's bark, the clatter of fingers on keyboard and the Pickle's giggle?

Beanie is so busy growing he may be zapping your brains, preggy brain may be setting in (I could not possibly comment). It seems the least bad symptom that could be expected, watch out for cramp, heartburn (did I mention that), head aches and back pain.

Midwives start to watch out for Pre-eclampsia  (I know the symptoms, I had them all with the Pickle, yet we still lived happily ever after as we were so well looked after thanks to a great doctor and the Royal Berks Hospital). Chat to your midwife about what to look out for, it is fine if you are well looked after like us, but untended it is not pleasant. What may seem more serious (but is all good) is if your womb muscles start to stretch so you get a stitch like sensation -  it is not the Braxton Hicks yet!

What we ate and drank for lunch

Virgin Punch or Mock Mock Champagne
I am fed up of elderflower cordial, truly fed up. I hate most other sugary soft drinks and anything that I had once liked now seems so tedious. While on holiday I chanced across a bar that served delicious virgin cocktails - so here is a version that worked well for us - it is based on Mock Champagne from 'The Texan Experience' book,  but I misread it the first time I made it and my version was more to my taste.

A few spoons of sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup of orange juice
2 cups of ginger ale
A slug of Grenadine syrup (optional) to taste - or to colour :)

Start by mixing the sugar into the water - stir well. Then add the rest of the ingredients. If you are making for just you, make up to to the point at which you add the ginger ale, chill the fruit and water mix and just mix with an equal measure of ginger ale as required. Enjoy!

Rye Crispbread
This is a good one for heartburn - if you are trying to keep to keep to the little and often theory (although I have been so fed up of heartburn I have been off my food when I have not been entertaining, which is rather out of character).

250g bread flour - strong white or I use a 1/2 and 1/2 white / wholemeal mix)
200g wholemeal rye flour
100g chilled and cubed butter
200ml milk
A choice of flavourings, either added to the flour or sprinkled on top (not all together):
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp Za'atar (sesame seed and herb mix)
1 tsp cumin and a pinch of salt
2 tsp Dukkah
2 tsp Beetroot powder (yes, I was baking with the Pickle, a pink obsessed toddler, and this went down very well).

Heat the oven to 230'C.
With the tips of your fingers  rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the milk little by little and mix in with a palate knife until it mixes into a dough.
Taking batches of the dough, piece by piece roll out to  a thickness of about 2-3mm (to make things easier I roll out directly onto baking parchment) meanwhile, cover the remaining dough with a clean damp cloth so that it does not dry out.
Place on a baking tray, score lines in it (where you want to snap it later) and prick all over with a fork. When I was entertaining I did one large round crispbread on a pizza tray as it looks really impressive. I cook each baking trays as I go along (it will be about 3 trays), it takes from about 6 mins. It can burn easily so watch out, sometimes it can take up to 5 mins longer for it to go golden brown in places.

Fruit Brulee
This is a real cheat's recipe - ideal for Mums-to- be who entertain. It would be fair to say that I have never seen such a clean dish that once served a pud!

400g rhubarb (a standard pack)
Orange juice
Stem ginger in syrup
1 tub best quality bought custard
1 small tub Greek yogurt
Sugar - I use unrefined caster sugar (the off white stuff)

Toss the rhubarb in the orange so that it is well covered but not too much excess, add a couple of balls or finely chopped stem ginger and a desert spoon of the syrup. Place in a pretty baking dish then pop in a medium over for about 30 mins until it is all lovely and soft. Allow to cool. Taste, it may need a little sugar, but not too much as it needs to provide a good contrast to the sweet topping.
Mix the custard and yogurt together then pour over the cooled fruit. Sprinkle liberally with sugar then caramelise with a blow torch or under a preheated hot grill. Either way, watch carefully so that it does not burn and be extra careful not to burn yourself (you know what they say about clumsiness in pregnant women).

* Sorry, the title is misleading it may be the long heartburn months...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Week 20-22 Hello Bump you are getting big

After a rather gloomy trip to the consultant last week, we had a scan this week. We thought that Beanie was likely in great working order so we decided to take the Pickle along. Being a girly girl she was very keen for a sister, so we thought that we ought to find out now if she is going to have a sister or brother; then all we have to look out for at the birth is sibling rivalry not disappointment. Once the Pickle knows, everybody knows so I can confirm we are having a boy! Not only are we having a boy but so far it looks as if we are having a very healthy boy. Yippeeee!!

Before the Pickle was born we went to Copenhagen as a farewell to our independence - as we waltzed happily towards life with a longed for baby. Back then, halfway through the weekend the Pickle made an appearance and I had to go emergency maternity wear shopping. Well, this time around we went off to Paris where I lived 20 years ago before five* becomes six*.

The focus was 'Granny's' 70th Birthday. We had four days of me marching around tour guiding and planning - always cut short for a few blissful hours a day in Parc Monceau playing with the Pickle. It was fairly arduous, but rewarding for us all. We bought the Pickle a scrap book, glue and craft scissors so that she could draw and stick in pictures to make a memory book when we stopped at cafes. Even so after four days it was heaven to escape the Granny circus and go for real family time at Disneyland Paris. Would I recommend it? Well, the Pickle would and I enjoyed seeing the park swathed in cherry blossom, but it did feel like one huge retail opportunity or Butlins with gold cards. It was a wonderful chance to enjoy time with the Pickle ahead of what will be a busy time when Beanie comes along.

True to form, Beanie made an appearance. Before I looked as if I had a few too many pies, by my return there was no disguising the fact that I'm pregnant. They say that pregnancies show earlier second time around, and Beanie made an appearance at 21 weeks compared with the Pickle's 23.

With the scan started us thinking of names. I got two books from the library, and I have been scouring the Internet. Of all the sites I like the Bounty Baby Names - a great time waster! I have been asked if the Pickle is helping choose the name and the answer is no! When I ask her for input I like to act on it - and I am not going to ask  just her suggestions to be overlooked (although I do know the power of careful suggestion). Any ideas for names is strictly between the Hubster and me until we have made up our minds firmly made up.

Time Line

Maternity shopping! Still half way through the pregnancy so I am trying not to buy too wintry clothes when Beanie will be born in the height of the summer. I also found some great tops that go from maternity to breastfeeding without buying too many extra clothes. A few bump bands are great to avoid that hideous fleshy gap La Fee Noir have a greater selection than available at the standard high street store.

Beanie is making himself felt - kicks at ten to the dozen and pressure on my diaphragm so I am getting short of puff. For one friend this has been combined with anaemia - which strikes me as doubly unfair!

I have seen him so that I know that he looks like a real baby now - waving and sucking his thumb. Beanie’s eye will still be closed to help protect against wandering hands and toes but he can stilltell between light and dark though - how amazing is that? He is now up to 27cm long - yes, almost the length of a school ruler. No wonder it shows!

What to cook.
The hunger has really started - and with it the err...need for fibre (and loads of water to drink). Here is a great easy recipe that has been great for my current needs - it is also a little unusual so feels more fun than my standard veg or minestrone soups.

Armenian Soup

3 tablespoons of washed red lentils
5 large dried apricots
1 large potatoes chopped
2pt veg stock
Juice half a lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
3tbsp chopped fresh herbs parsley/chives/coriander/mint (I like parsley and chives)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 mins. Cool then blitz until smooth.

Optional - stir through some baby spinach leaves or watercress to add a little extra green.

**  I have two wonderful step children who have grown up and left home - but they are still an important and loved part of the family.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Almost halfway:Week 18 - 19

Had an appointment with the Consultant this week - there was lots of teeth sucking, "Ooo you had pre-eclampsia...and 4 attempts at induction....and...." enough! I forgot about then birth after about a week of sleepless nights, then I was just dumb and happy - yes, very happy, I had a healthy baby which was the aim of the whole giving birth thingy. Anyway, I am relieved that I am been given the option of a natural birth this time - although the odds are that in the end I may have to have another C-section. Besides as I am over 40 the stats are against me and they will not let me go beyond term.

I loved the myth based gender predictor I told you about last time made me think what other old wives tales effect our pregnancy. What do we believe but is not backed up science? Science certainly changes, when I was pregnant with the Pickle peanuts were forbidden, but now provided we have no family allergy history we can eat peanuts to our hearts content. As for theories of child rearing - there is an informed decision to fit your persuasion.

Have you started to read up on what to expect when bump becomes a baby? So which  book to read? I linked to an earlier blog where I chat about the some of the books I read. It is so funny that books can polarise parents, some books go advocate strict routine, some seem to offer more hazy advice. Allegiances seem to be made over parenting styles - the controlled crying disciples drift away the continuum parents. Well, vive la difference! There is a book out there that will reinforce your natural prejudice so just keep searching until you find an approach that makes sense to you. Just don't get carried away, your way is not only way and it is not a personal affront if others do not follow your lead.

I have heard that there are no prohibition on eating soft cheeses in France, in America you can't at ham or 'deli meats' and the views on eating spicy food varies dramatically according where in the world you live. Leah Hardy wrote about this back in 2004 in the Times. Then there is local advice that can be confusing, we should be eating at least two portions of oily fish a week - but then no way should be eat more than two portions, we read else where.

In Asian countries the advice is to avoid pineapple - I started to research this more when I starting playing around with recipes for this week. So the advice ranges from avoiding it altogether to avoiding just fresh fruit as canned fruit does not contain the 'dangerous' enzyme. The enzyme is said to relax the uterus in a similar way that semen affects us when we have sex during pregnancy. Hence the myths when we reach our due date we get frisky and eat pineapples.

What do you believe? I would love to hear myths or other nuggets of advice. Do you know what other countries recommend to pregnant Mums?

I'm off to France in a few weeks for a major family celebration - what should I expect? Is it true that they may find the prohibition on eating soft cheeses strange?

No doubt you will have taken advice and have common sense - but as a reference point you may be interested in reading NHS healthy eating advice for pregnant women or Centre for Pregnancy Nutrition at the University of Sheffield

Hello Beanie - you have started to be very active kicking away in quiet moments and measure up to 20cm which is even longer than my hand. Beanie now sleeps and wakes at regular times, has got its protective covering (or Vernix Caseosa) and  has started to exercise its lungs and practice breathing techniques in preparation for the outside world.

Like most Mums, I have started to feel really hungry - fortunately it has not struck in the middle of the night. The rice cakes, carrot sticks and hummus have made a reappearance for when the munchies strike - er, and other treats I am not so proud of. When you see the midwife you may want to ask for the current advice on heartburn as it is likely to start from now - I was lucky that it kicked in later with the Pickle and a cup of Horlicks before bed did the trick for me.

What to cook?
This started off as an experiment as  I peppers, pineapple and fish in the fridge and very little else. The recipe was a winner with everybody including the Pickle so I have tweaked it for you. If you have not had your oily fish this week you can replace the white fish with salmon. I hope that you enjoy it, it tastes delicious and is a great way of using up vegetables.
Sweet and Sour Fish

Fillet of white fish (or firm tofu)
For the Sauce:
A small onion cut into thin slices
A love of garlic
An inch of ginger, finely grated
1 or 2 tablespoons of honey
1 or 2 tablespoons of malt vinegar
Up to 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
A hearty squirt of tomato puree
A dash of Worcester Sauce
(Chili powder to taste - up to 1 teaspoon)


Flour and extra sprinkling of chili or cayenne for dusting
A selection of fruit and vegetables that can include:
Pineapple (fresh or canned)
Red peppers
Baby sweet corn
Bamboo shoots

First start by preparing the sweet and sour sauce. Saute the onions then add the garlic, the sliced peppers - then add the rest of the ingredients, you can add a little then top up the flavours to taste. Add the rest of the fruit and veg and cook through. If you are cooking for little ones you can leave out the chili until you have served up for the little one (or that is what we did).
Next check that the fillets of fish have no bones in them - cut to individual portion sizes, then dip into the spices flour. Cook in oil / butter over a medium heat for about 5 mins on either side, watch carefully the cooking time will vary with the thickness of the cut. Meanwhile cook up the rice.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

I'm getting into this now: Week 16 - 17

I have just spent the weekend with my Mum - she kept on querying why we had told anyone about the pregnancy "so early" (er, 14 weeks?)   and every time the phone went she seemed to take great relish in repeating how a friend of hers had gone on an emergency mission to help a daughter who had suffered a bad miscarriage. Well, she does mean well (honestly) - even so, I am delighted that to counter this I am starting to regain my energy and really enjoy the pregnancy; I could rebuff her gloom knowing that at this stage the chance of miscarriage has dropped to just 3%. It is not as if I have not been excited by the pregnancy thus far, but I have been so exhausted that I have just been focusing on just getting by.

I had my next midwife's appointment and all is going well and even the midwife had no suggestions on how to regain my energy - then suddenly it was back of its own accord. It was great to hear Beanie's heartbeat, so I am slightly regretting my decision to turn down a free second hand foetal heart monitor, even if the NHS recommends against them.

I have also bought some maternity jeans, when I was pregnant with the Pickle I did not show till later so my only maternity clothes are cool linen outfits which are not much use. Also, I rediscovered the bliss of a well fitting maternity bra - underwires are not recommended for us pregnant ladies.

What do you call your bump? The Pickle was called Twinkle until she was born (at the 7 week scan her heart beat looked like a twinkling star) and now I am carrying a 'Beanie'. We have a friend who called their little girl Pip after the Bump name - but I promise we are working on an alternative to Beanie for our baby. Are you going to find if you are expecting a girl or a boy? I found this site that offers a hysterical Gender Predictor that seems to amalgamate every known old wives' tale.

Timeline - What Beanie and I are up to...
Beanie is now around 16cm long - the length of  pen - and body is growing bigger so that it looks more in proportion with the head (so no more looking like an alien). The face starts to look more human with hair starting to grow and buds that will form into teeth.

I thought that I felt Beanie a few weeks ago and the concensus is that we start to feel something from about 16 weeks, although some claim sensations earlier and most people from about 18 weeks. We may start to feel hot and sweaty as our metabolisims soaring and start snoring or snuffling as pregnancy can cause nasal congestion or even less glamourous thrush - fortunately my only symptom on this front is a bunged up nose, so pass me the tissues!
Aparently my uterus is rising, which is a posh way of saying I look pregnant now.

What I am Cooking
Now that I have regainned a little energy I am ready to cook, the Hubster loves Asian fusion food so I have been testing out a few recipes that are big on impact but relatively low on effort if you have a hand blender or other kitchen blitzer. I have included both a meat and a vegetarian option - we love both, but not together as that would be too much effort and too much to eat!

 Thai Chicken Cakes (serves 2)
2 chicken thigh fillets
1 crust of bread
----- Vegetarian  ingredients -------
1 egg
About an inch of fresh ginger
A small onion or 2 salad onions
1/2 red chili (or to taste, less or more)
1 desert spoon fish sauce
1/2 lemon grass stalk, or an equivalent squeeze of lazy lemon grass

Start by blitzing the crust of bread on a blender to make bread crumbs, add the lemon grass, garlic, chili and onions and blitz again. Next add the chicken, fish sauce and blitz until the chicken is minced. If you can be  bothered whisk up the egg separately and add slowly so that it does not get too sloppy - you may only require 1/2 an egg. Next shape the small patties about 3cm big, having wet hands makes this SO much easier. Fry for about 3 mins on either side and serve with vegetables and noodles.

Sweetcorn Pancakes (serves 2 - 3)
1 small can of sweetcorn
3/4 mug of self-raising flour (this is preggy food so I don't bother measuring)
A slash of milk
Vegetarian ingredients as above
A small handful of coriander (optional - I don't bother with this)

Blitz all the vegetarian ingredients, including the whole egg. Stir on the flour and the sweetcorn - if the mixture is too solid add a splash of milk, normally about a tablespoon, but this will depend on exactly how much flour you added. With my experimentation I didn't need to be too precise. Heat up some oil in a frying pan, then carefully spoon  a dollop from a full tablespoon directly into the pan. Cook over a medium heat for a few mins on either side.

Noodles with vegetables
This is quick and easy specially for Mums- to- be. It is very loosely based on a recipe from my fave Rick Stein Far Eastern book - but he may decapitate me with a blunt spoon for suggesting that this sluts version has anything to do with his more complicated original.

Egg noodles
Chopped vegetables - bok choi, carrots, peas, sweetcorn (if not making the pancakes)
Dark soy sauce
A desert spoon of tomato ketchup
Sweet chili sauce
Hot chili sauce (optional)

Start by cooking the noodles as per the instructions, ideally steam the vegetables above the pan of noodles but worst case scenario you can always pop the vegetables in with the noodles for the last couple of minutes. Stir in the sauces and mix altogether.

Serve up the noodles and place the pancakes / chicken cakes on top.

Have you been having any cravings? Is there anything that you are yearning for? Let me know and I will see if I can include something especially for you.
Also what are you calling your bump? I'd love to know.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Well on the way: Week 14 - 15

Emotional? Pass the next box of tissues please! The good news is I am regaining my energy - okay, it is early days and this still involved drifting off to sleep at 4.30 when reading with the Pickle. Thank goodness the Hubster was working from home, so she toddled off to see him so they sat side by side on their own laptops 'working' until the end of the working day.

At this stage your pregnancy we may start to show - first pregnancies tend to show later than subsequent pregnancies - although like everything to do with being human this will depend on the individual. My Mum is always proud to say that she did not show until she was 6 months pregnant. When I was pregnant with the Pickle we went away for a last pre-baby break when I was 21 weeks, at that point she suddenly decided to make a bold appearance over the course of the weekend, so I had to  go emergency maternity clothes shopping! This time around at 15 weeks I am fighting a loosing battle with waistbands and so it seems consoling to know that an uber-glam and svelte friend who is one week behind me has already bloomed  beyond the confines of her pre-pregnancy jeans.

Much more fun is knowing that at 15 weeks Beanie starts to hear me- so I can chat away to myself and it will not be considered insanity! I listened to loads of classical music when pregnant with the Pickle, then when she was born if she got fractious I could put on Classic FM and she would be soothed in seconds!

Time line - What Beanie and I are up to.
I am now into the second trimester at 14 weeks and Beanie is around 85mm and growing to around 100mm in week 15. Can you believe it, Beanie is growing eyebrows and may even be sucking his (or her) thumb.
Beanie's heart is now beating very rapidly and may be picked up by an ultrasound detector. But a note of caution, the NHS recommends against foetal heart monitor.
The placenta is fully supporting and nourishing Beanie. My womb is the size a grapefruit (eh?tart pres) so can press against against my bladder - which is great for keeping up the requirement to drink 8 glasses of water a day.

I have got my FW8 form for free prescriptions and dental treatment and booked a session at the dentist (a joy to look forward to).

What I am cooking?
I have been having major sweet cravings - but in an ideal world we don't want to eat for two as there is life and normal 'pre-pregnancy' clothes to be fitted back into (they reckon that we only need another 200 calories in the last three months). I tried 'healthy' muffins made from carrot and courgette,  researched so called healthy chocolate recipes and to be honest they just did not cut it. The muffins were a limp consolation prize and most so called healthy recipes are either so blimin complicated that they are beyond my preggy patience or they replace sugar with sugar alternatives which are normally not recommended either. So I finally come back to chocolate flapjacks. Then for good measure there is also a recipe for chocolate bread and butter pudding - pure unadulterated stodge and calories.

Chocolate flapjacks
Grease and line a standard (normally 18x27cm) baking tray and heat an oven to 160cm.
Peal and chop 2 cooking apples then cook in a saucepan with 25g butter until soft. Add another 125g butter, 150g demerara (or muscavado) sugar, 2 tbl spoons golden syrup (or a mixture of golden syrup and either honey or barley malt extract for slightly different sweet flavours) and 1/2 tea spoon of cinnamon. You can also add a handful of dried fruit, raisins, sultanas or  cranberries and a handful of nuts or seeds - we add sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Gently heat until the butter has melted and the sugar is starting to dissolve. Remove from the heat and add 225g porridge oats (or for a less chewy version replace a couple of tablespoons of oats with Ready Brek) and stir well.
Smooth down into the baking tray and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 mins.
Sit down and have a lovely drink then when the flapjacks are cool melt 150g chocolate (we mix dark and milk chocolate) and spread on top - 150g is a thin layer, 200g if you want it thick. Cut into pieces before it gets too cold and enjoy!

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding
Okay, this is NOT healthy but it is yummy and I first made it from desperation when I had no pudding and only the store cupboard as inspiration.

Preheat an oven to 180'C and grease a 2pt baking dish. Butter a number of slices of bread (depending on the size of the loaf) and arrange in the baking dish until full and put on a baking tray to avoid spills later. Sprinkle with a handful of dark chocolate chips.
Measure out 275ml milk and top up with up to 60ml cream (as a Slummy Mummy I use whatever cream I have, single or double and have even done without the cream when I have run out). Add in drinking chocolate or cocoa powder and sugar to taste - for us a couple of table spoons. Whisk in 3 eggs an then carefully pour over bread and butter.
Cook for 30 - 40 minutes. Remember, us Mums to be need to have fully cooked eggs!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Over the first hurdle (week 12 - 13)

How are you feeling? Well the good news is that for most Mums to be the worst of the morning sickness and early exhaustion are about to be a thing of the past, so I should  regain your energy in time to cope with the weepy period. Yes, my hormone levels are increasing along with the size of Beanie. In fact, Beanie now looks like a mini human and is a full 8cm long weighing around 60g.

Most people start telling friends and colleagues about the pregnancy now as the threat of miscarriage is now greatly reduced. Have you checked your maternity rights? you may also want to find out what paternity leave is available too.

I have been checking out what is available for Mums to Be,.  The NCT classes are a great way to meet fellow Mums as well as to help prepare for the birth and the first months. In London there seem to be loads of great private practices that offer ante-natal classes as an alternative, I was recommended HypnoBirthing - and while I did not have a text book 'Hypnobirth' it did help me focus on something positive. But before you spend any money on courses, remember your local GP's surgery who may also run some for free.Our local surgery only runs sessions for first time Mums so I'm booking in the a refresher NCT course (complete with advice on sibling rivalry).

I am keeping up my brisk hour plus dog walks.  It is important to stay active, here is a great point of reference when considering the do's and don'ts of exercise. Check in your local area to see what is available, yoga and swimming are amongst those that are popular, Mumsnet and Netmums can be a great place to start your research (for what it is worth, I love the main Mumsnet for info, chatter and research but think that Netmums Local offer seems better in our area).

Have had the 'Dating Scan' - how emotional was that? A few tears were shed! There were also a raft of screening tests, but ever since a friend had a little boy with Down's Syndrome, so I do not have the heart to have the screening as I could not cope with having to make decisions based on difficult results.. Many hospital's ask for a cash contribution for the photos from your scan - after you have hunted in the bottom of your handbag for the change for parking will you have the cash left over? Enjoy, I hope that you find it a magical experience as you first get to see your mini baby!

Spinach Pie

This is what I have been craving, so I will share it with you. It is really easy to make, full of goodness (and folic acid) and a small slice is a great snack if you want to avoid biscuits.

1 large bag of well washed spinach - frozen is okay too if necessary.
1/2 medium tub of cottage cheese (150 to 200g)
1/2 a standard tub of curd or cream cheese (about 100g)
1/2 pack Feta cheese (about 100g) crumbled
2 eggs
Filo pastry
A few spoons of melted butter

Take the filo out of the fridge and allow to warm in its packaging while you prepare the filling. Cook the spinach, drain and squeeze out any extra liquid then chop. Start by lightly whisking the eggs with a fork, then add in the curd/ cream cheese, then add in the other ingredients. Grease an oven tray and heat the oven to around 180'c. Once you open the filo start avoid delays as you don't want it to dry out!
Take the first sheet and place off centre so about half hangs over the edge, brush with melted butter, then add another layer off centre in another direction and again brush with butter. Continue until you have filo hanging over all the edges. Pour the mixture into the middle (it is much easier if you squeezed out the spinach well and it is not too liquid) then fold the overhanging filo into the centre so that the pie is covered up - you may need to add another sheet to finish the centre. Quickly wrap up and unused filo pastry so that you can use it again (maybe for strudel?). Brush with a little more butter then pop into the oven and cook for about 20-25 mins, just tap it on top and if it feels firm, the eggs are cooked, and then it is done. Enjoy!
(The feta is a little salty, so let that be your reminder to keep drinking the 8 glasses of water that you need!)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Honest, there is nothing wrong with me (Week 8 - 11)

Still keeping it a secret? Have colleagues, friends and family noticed that you don't have the energy that you once had? How ironic that when you most feel in need of energy then the little boost that coffee offers is denied you? Be kind on yourself your body is hard at work, even if you appear to be clinically attached to the sofa. Just don't watch anything too challenging, you are a maelstrom of hormones and I find myself sobbing over the smallest things!

It is a toss up between appearing lazy or 'fessing up to your secret when faced with anything even mildly physically challenging. Okay, pregnancy is not an illness but still where does all your energy go?  On making lame excuses why you over react to simple things, covering for the fact that you aren't drinking caffeine or alcohol or just your general exhaustion? How many reasons can be for the lack of drinking? Detox, a virus, antibiotics or a hangover? Some friends seem to know just by looking at you - but then again that has probably been offered as a hopeful prognosis every time you feel off-colour.

If you are working start to check your contract and your staff handbook - find out when you need to inform your line manager / HR team and what benefits you receive. Some small companies may not have a maternity policy; I once worked somewhere where a colleague was in effect shown the door when she announced her pregnancy and just reading up on her Maternity Rights we could negotiate her a more acceptable outcome.

If the count down to pop date seems abstract at this stage you can count down to the end of the first trimester and then at least the veil of secrecy can be lifted.

Time line:
Beanie is now growing fast - although any sign of bump is more likely down to any cravings as he / she is around 16mm long.
First midwife appointment for the 'booking in' session - loads of questions and blood letting.  Blood is taken for a number of screening tests including blood group and , haemoglobin level, immunity to German measles (Rubella) as well as syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV could see no reason to refuse to allow any of the tests). In our area they seem to test for even  thalassaemia, so more blood letting even though it tends not to affect Mums from my ethnic origin, but I don't need the sickle cell anaemia test.
Filled out the vital FW8 form to give free prescriptions and dental treatment - always work asking for one of these babies.

Beanie is starting to look more like a recognisable foetus, with a face slowly forming. By 9 weeks hands and feet are will be recognisable - by week 10 the internal organs are building a pace too. By 11 weeks that little bean is now a 60mm foetus with organs (yes, ALL organs) developing away. Not long till the scan and I can sneak a peak!

What I am cooking?
I still need my folic acid so now you really should try and I am trying to maintain a healthy diet. Something quick and easy is always good - and this recipe takes just a few minutes.

Chickpea and Chorizo Stew

Chop some chorizo and fry in a minimal amount of oil - it does not need much when it starts to cook the fats will melt. After about five minutes stir in a little turmeric and cumin (and either paprika or flaked chili depending on your tastes) and cook the spices for a few minutes.
Add a can of chick peas and passata / chopped tomatoes and stir in. Next add a bag of well washed spinach, pop on a lid and cook until the chickpeas are warms through and the spinach is wilted down (check and stir every few minutes).
One pan, 10 minutes and loads of folic acid and protein. Perfect!
Serve with couscous or flat bread / pitta.
For as vegetarian option miss out the chorizo, instead saute a little garlic and sprinkle with feta before serving.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Watching for the line (week 4-7)

So you I've cut out alcohol, caffeine and have definitely quit smoking. Now time to hope that practice makes perfect and you conceive. A few days late, maybe a week... Time to take the test! Deep breath, breath again and go - remember to breathe and watch for the line. Re-read the instructions so no mistakes are made (done that once before and what a disappointment) - a second line / a cross / or a digital assessment. Breathe again - and what does it say? Congratulations!

The first months seemed to mired in secrecy, do you tell or do you wait until you have reached the magic 2nd Semester when the risk of miscarriage is hugely reduced? Most people wait - so now is the time for solo research (before everyone from the midwife to your maiden Aunt start to stake claims on your changing body and bark advice at you).

Is a glass of wine safe? do you avoid sushi? I found it interesting how different countries alter their advice to take account of local delicacies - rumour has it that in Italy (raw) Parma ham seems fine but in the UK would not be recommended . The best bet is to start off with the standard advice offered by the Government in a Guide to Healthy Eating While Pregnant. Once you know the official line then you can consider the finer detail.

Initially you may not feel much different, then morning sickness (a misnomer in my experience as mine seems to get worse in the evening). You may have a personal trigger, find out what it is and avoid - more general tips include avoid getting hungry (high protein snacks and meals keep your blood sugars relatively stable) and eat ginger.

I start the day by making a jug of hot water with strips of fresh ginger and lemon peel that can then strain and sip as I go along. Ginger beer and biscuits are great too.

A word about numbers - it gets complicated but generally in the UK the weeks of pregnancy are calculated from the date of your last period, but it is worth having a note of the estimated conception date (about half way through your usual cycle) and the estimated due date (EDD) 40 weeks after your last period. It seems odd that you go from being not pregnant to being four weeks pregnant in the time that it takes to pee on a stick, but that is pregnancy for you!


I am the proud mother of an embryo! It looks a little like a tadpole; when I say 'it' that is not being rude. At around 6 weeks your embryo's chromosomes start to differentiate and the gender to assigned and the embryo becomes a foetus. From around week 6 1/2 our little foetus has a heart beat -we are under consultant care so we are invited for an early scan at 8 weeks - and yes, that twinkling star the size of a small bean will grow into a baby!

Told the GP and feel efficient for organising the booking in appointment with the midwife .

The less good news is that for most people pregnancy side effects - such as morning sickness to kick in at around 7 weeks for me it is not so much sickness as queasiness and radical exhaustion!

What to cook?

Who does the cooking in your household? If it is Mum to be - it may be a good time to start teaching Dad his way around the kitchen. You may well need that extra help in the next few weeks as exhaustion may well set in (if you little bean has not already zapped your energy. They say that being pregnant allows you an additional 200 calories if you want to stay healthy which is a couple of slices of toast not eating for two, so you can not sit back and wallow in nine months of comfort food.

Cottage (Garden) Pie

This is a great one, as you can combine loads of green veg rich in folic acid and remind a partner how to tackle a few basics! As a recipe it is no great revelation, but it works well!

Finely chop and saute one onion.

Add some mince (lamb / beef / quorn all work well) and brown well, then add passata*/ a can of chopped tomatoes. Season with pepper and Worcester Sauce.

Steam any green veg - I like a combination of broccoli and spinach

(You can add a layer of thinly sliced spuds here if you like, it will just take longer in the over for them to cook - or you could par boil them - but that would mean washing up another pan).

Make a cheese sauce. Do you have a silicon whisk? It was my extravagance when I got new pans, and I have never had lumpy cheese sauce since. If you are making cheese sauce my sluts tips are - make double and freeze half - and I never bother to grate the cheese I just chop thin slices and crumble in - it melts just the same and takes less effort.

Layer the mince with the green veg and pour over the cheese sauce and either let it bubble under the grill or pop into the oven.

* After suffering pre-eclampsia with the Pickle I am now cautious about salt and have found that Sainsbury's have great passata with no added salt.