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