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.