Some great reads

Some new or sometimes just recently discovered reads:

  • Tips for new and not so new dads, a guest post by SAHDAndProud, who doesn’t seem to be blogging any more unfortunately.
  • Cara from Big Girls Small Kitchen extols the virtues of Kerrygold. Ah, a woman after my own heart. Though I’ve never felt the need to make my own butter.
  • An elegant and modern baby quilt that could use up really small scraps of fabric for the contrast zig zag on Ahhh…Quilting
  • Although I actively shunned it until about a year ago, I’m a convert to aubergines and these Nigel Slater recipes all whet the appetite
  • love this tutorial for zippered bags, and how to finish them really neatly on Fish Sticks designs, via Attic 24

Photo from Seq’s Flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence

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Hospital tours for first-time mums

Tonight is our sightseeing Grand Tour – of our chosen hospita’s delivery suite and birthing centre. I exited our two hour NHS antenatal class last week miserable and terrified, having decided that everyone who’d opted for a home birth was very clever indeed, if only to avoid the didn’t-anyone-tell-you-they’re-actually-compulsory drugs and knives. Birthing had morphed into an 18 Cert video game, minus the car theft. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the option of pharmaceuticals and well trained medical professionals. But the stress is on “option” here.

I was surprised at how the community midwife painted everything in the bleakest terms possible in the main, firmly endorsing epidurals and surgical intervention, although when directly asked she said thought waterbirths were fantastic1. But she was reluctant to discuss anything like active labour, how the birthing centre compared to the labour ward, or the sort of advice I’d associated in my mind with a midwifery-led approach.

Frankly, she might as well have stood there bellowing “THERE WILL BE NOTHING BUT UNBEARABLE PAIN!” Yes, yes, fine. We all got that memo (and from oh so many people) but I was looking for some practical words of wisdom too, thanks. While I understand that there are all sorts of possible complications, it’s also feasible to come out of hospital without a Level Three tear and paralysis after epidural. I wonder which mental image most women at the session took away with them…

Thoughts of a calm birth went out the window for a few days but I’m hoping the tour tonight will allow me to unwind and be confident once more about choosing the birthing centre. Seems I should be grateful to actually have it booked at all (via our midwife) as other mums I met said they haven’t been able to get through.

What we know about our hospital

  • Our hospital has a birthing centre, including two rooms with water pools which we’re hoping to use, as well as the labour ward
  • parking is exorbitant and we need to bring the GDP of an emerging nation in small coinage
  • after delivery I’ll go into a four-bedded bay, wherever I give birth, though we can pay extra for a private room (if available)
  • it’s only 1.5 miles away although depending on when he deigns to arrive, that might be during Olympic rush hour. Yay. Um.

I have some questions.2

Questions we need to ask on our hospital tour

  • where I should actually be dropped, when Mr D parks the car. The place is a huge maze.
  • what the security arrangements are like, for baby and for anyone coming into the unit
  • what’s the usage rate like for the birthing centre and the water pools, compared to women going straight to the labour ward?
  • what’s the minimum time I need to stay in either delivery or the birthing centre, and how long could Mr D stay with me?
  • what are the visiting times?
  • how much space is there for bags? SIL was in a tiny room and everything had to be put under the bed and retrieved as necessary, do we need to unpack the steamer trunk?
  • is there any paperwork that you have to complete on arrival that could be filled out ahead of time?

  • waterbirths: how many of the midwives are trained for and regularly attend waterbirths? What’s the likelihood of being able to use the pool? Can the pool be used for labour only if a waterbirth isn’t going to be possible? Do the midwives assist with waterbirthing or only supervise?
  • are there birthing balls available, or could I bring my own and do they have a pump there?
  • what am I allowed to do during labour: use a ball, walk around, walk the corridors?
  • when do shifts change i.e. how many different midwives might we meet during labour?
  • can we bring food?
  • can we control the lighting?
  • can we use mobile phones, are there plugs for charging our battery-hungry iPhones, can we bring our own music?

  • after birth, is the baby in the room with me?
  • is there always someone available to help with breastfeeding: lactation consultant, midwife, maternity assistant?
  • is there a shop for necessities we forget, and what are its opening hours?

It transpires that different hospitals, even within the same catchment area, can have vastly different policies on things so also ask about:
– formula: some provide it, some like ours only endorse breastfeeding so don’t
– nappies: best to bring your own, and wipes, and check if the hospital supports using reusables if that’s what you’re planning
– visiting times: seems rare for dads to be able to say overnight even in private rooms and visiting hours can start anywhere from 8:00 to 11:00am

Now, wish me luck. And remind me of anything else I’ve forgotten!

*Photo “Rocket View” from Charlie North’s Flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence


  1. and I immediately thought “Feck off out of MY pool, the lot of ye” 

  2. because at this point, there really aren’t any dumb questions. At all. 

Surprise Victoria Sponge

World Baking Day

There hasn’t been enough #caking around here of late, but then the Silverwood Victoria Sponge arrived. It Even though I don’t actually like cream, I do like ice cream. And I’m a glutton who appreciates the opportunity to double up on cake filling.

I used a standard all-in-one recipe which gets divided into the two tins, with the special “surprise” inserts in there. It’s like baking two flan cases. I melted some dark chocolate and brushed it on to line the interior of the sponge shells, then layered summer fruit and vanilla ice-cream.

It should have gone back into the freezer to firm up a little, but our guest had arrived so we sliced it up there and then. Gooey, fruity, creamy and crumbly. Now roll on the Jubilee weekend, and may it be four days of eating cake.

Thank you to Lakeland for sending me the tin to try

Our pregnancy education

Just before the 30 week stage, our “formal education” began. OMG indeed.

The exciting part: antenatal classes

  • NHS antenatal class (flinty stare from midwife was the decider there) – 2 hours or so
  • NCT – 2 full days plus a half day on breastfeeding
  • Antenatal yoga for me – actually I’ve pretty much given up on those because I kept missing them with transport problems which ironically, made me very stressed out
  • Hypnobirthing classes – four three hour weekly sessions 

There are different rationales around each thing we’re doing. I’ve been a bit rubbish about reading about pregnancy apart from occasionally dipping into this and I read Ina May Gaskin too because it was recommended by sensible friends. The birth stories in the first part get really repetitive but it’s full of common sense. Some of it seems more applicable to the US healthcare system though.

That’s why I’m keen to do the NHS class – to get a midwife-led insight into protocols and procedures our hospital would prefer to use. Mainly so we can make informed choices when writing our birth plan (or ‘wish list’ as I heard it called the other day).

The NCT classes – well, a full two and a half day program feels like a definite commitment.  Mainly to getting the emails of local parents who are having kids when we are, but still.  

We’ve done one hypnobirthing class and so far I’m really enjoying the fact that the thinking behind it really involves the dad (or birthing partner, whoever it is) Next week is all about relaxation techniques and I’ll probably be asleep by the end.

The sobering part: the cost of having a baby

Everyone tells you that this time is expensive (especially for your first) and I’m not going to lie: the education budget so far is a gut-wrenching £650, give or take. We could have saved money by buying Marie Mongan’s book and CD on hypnobirthing rather than take a class.1 Similarly with the NCT there are options other than classes. Instead we’ve scaled back other things, elected to go down the ‘preloved’ route for many things, or been lucky enough to receive gifts and hand me downs.

What did you decide to prioritise when having a baby? Was it important to you to have everything new, or did you try to keep spending to a minimum? Let me know in the comments.

Blackboard photo from Patrick Haney’s Flickr stream, under a Creative Commons licence


  1. also that hoary old chestnut of certain things such as classes being more expensive in London than elsewhere in the UK does seem to apply – demand? venue hire? We’re mugs? Who knows. 

Great Maternity Sewing Patterns

Megan Nielsen maternity patterns

Even though I’m running dramatically short of time I’d love to have a crack at making some of these. I haven’t been massively inspired by much of the maternity wear I’ve seen and I’ve got lots of fabric waiting to be used!

This fabulous Megan Nielsen Wrapped Maternity Top pattern, shown above in red, is available from The Village Haberdashery and it’s made in stretch jersey – with instructions for either using a normal sewing machine or an overlocker (serger).

I also like the look of her Perfect Nursing Maternity Top which has built a in modesty panel and concealed nursing options and it’s worth checking out her blog DIY Maternity too.

Adapting sewing patterns for maternity wear

New Look 6636 isn’t a maternity pattern but looks like it has potential for after the baby’s here when you want something comfy, stretchy and suitable for breastfeeding. It’s cut for stretch fabrics and it’s one of their 2-hour patterns. That’s usually just sewing time mind you, but I like the fact that the pattern only has six pieces so there shouldn’t be much faffing about with this one. The neckline looks like it’s easy to pull aside (or you could adjust it when setting in the bodice pieces).

For lovely organic jersey in a range of colours for £12 per metre, try Ray Stitch in Islington. They are also available by mail order.

Looking at the construction here, I think that Very Easy Vogue 8380 could be quite easily adapted so that you could mix a top from a larger pattern size, to accommodate pregnancy boobs, with a gently flaring skirt to give good coverage to a post-baby tummy. Playing around with the casing and tie front should give relatively easy access for nursing too.

And to really make it stand out, what about making it in this hula girl fabric?

Aloha! Red Pareo Surf’s Up by Alexander Henry £12pm from Fancy Moon

Now just imagine it accessorised with unwashed hair, a small red-faced screaming infant and some baby barf.

Do you have recommendations for great pregnancy-friendly commercial patterns that you’ve used in the past, or what’s on your ‘must sew’ list?

Cybher 2012

When I was getting myself organised earlier this year I started seeing lots of excited tweets about upcoming conferences – and one of them was Cybher. I bagged a ticket for what would be a sold-out event.

Three things I thought were great

  1. I met some tweeters in real-life, saw old friends again, and of course met lovely new people and by extension, discovered some new-to-me blogs. On that note, hello to Alexandra, Emma, Judy, Tara, Rosie. It was really invigorating and I came away with a list of things to -well, to at least think about, if not get around to doing them!
  2. Literally the best goody bag ever – as it was a custom mini satchel from the Leather Satchel company which is going to work perfectly as an iPad bag and should fit the keyboard in too (faffy but better than humping my old doorstop of a laptop about)
  3. Some great sponsors – although Freya are my favourite lingerie company I wasn’t in the mood for a fitting but it’s good to know what nursing bra options they have are as I’m bored to death with the utilitarian M&S ones I have. I heard grey leopardskin mentioned… And I came away with lots of Palmers new formula lotions and potions for stretch marks. Certainly smells nice, will report back on it in due course.

Three pieces of feedback for next time

if the ladies have the energy do to it again!

  1. Loved the venue and its location – I wonder if the pink lighting throughout was bespoke for Cybher’s branding? Although all the afternoon sessions I attended were in the ‘Annex’ which got very noisy with people coming and going behind, visiting the make-up station etc. The fresh orange juice was amazing but I think I got to the sandwich selection a little late and was a little disappointed.
  2. Some fabulous speakers – although for things like the ‘Ask A Blogger’ panel, I’d have preferred if there had been a moderator keeping them fed with subjects. The ladies did a very fine job, but I suspect it would have been easier if they’d just been answering the audience’s questions especially when some rather left-field questions popped up.
  3. Huge kudos for the tech achievements – the wifi got a bit overloaded occasionally but I was impressed with the commitment to being paper-free. A few of us had problems accessing the QR code schedules, so it would have been great to have more pre-prepped tweets with schedule info going out throughout the day. Was impressed that they successfully ran one session as a vimeo livecast as the speaker wasn’t able to be there in person.

Future of blogging?

There was a real mix of women there who blog about beauty, fashion, kids and parenting, erotica, budgeting, lifestyle and on and on. There was lots of mentions of niche blogging – possibly a reflection of so many of the well known bloggers who were there, who have mature blogs they’ve worked hard on for a long time with what’s probably evolved into a reasonably specific remit. I met lots of people who wondered if they should perhaps aim for a more narrow focus.

I thought about that. Then realised that I read most of those blogs because I like their voice and the glimpse of life as much as for the specific subject matter. The reason I set this blog up, rather then starting to expand what I wrote about here was that I wanted this to go back to how I began blogging – almost an online diary, a craft log, and probably for a niche audience – of my family, hah – by default! However I made close real-life and online friends through my first blog in 2006, by writing about things that were important to me.

So the best thing about Cybher was that I came home all revved up about blogging again. I talked to (at?) Mr D about Tumblr and whether to consider moving to WordPress which I’m more familiar with – and then he did an amazing half hour tutorial about markdown and Disqus, blog UX, reminded me about CSS and reconverted me. Being married to a geek is all kinds of awesome.

Then I fell into bed, pretty much knackered. All in all, a good day’s work.

What to pack in your hospital bag

For some reason we’d been assuming that this baby will arrive to the world as late as his parents did (imagine, they used to let you go three weeks over back in the seventies, ahem) but it’s time to pack hospital bags. Just so they are there, waiting. As somehow ten weeks might not be that long at all.

So many lists of necessities I’ve found online seem to be retailer driven so I asked friends and the marvellous ladies of Twitter what they’d recommend – what they found genuinely useful, for them or for the baby. The list combines both the most commonly cited items, and some idiosyncratic things that I’ll be adopting. 

My bag:

  • Antiseptic wipes for the loo and bidet – seems sensible enough (sorry, NHS)
  • Maternity pads – many, many of these
  • 4 pairs of pants – disposable ones were recommended
  • Arnica capsules – to help with bruising
  • Dressing gown, slippers – things that remind me of home and are comfy, and lightweight as apparently it will be very warm in the ward 
  • My own pillow
  • Flip flops
  • Nightie or pjs – with accessible neckline for breastfeeding
  • Hairbrush and make-up, toiletries, own towel – so when I get to have a shower I’ll smell like myself again!
  • Clean going home clothes – something comfy that was suitable when I was around the five month mark. Not pre-pregnancy skinny jeans, and also easily accessible tops for breastfeeding
  • Breastpads and nursing bra – seems like disposable pads are best for hospital even if you intend to swap to washable ones later as you don’t know how long you could be in
  • ear plugs – I normally need these to sleep anyway, and they cut out the highest pitch noises
  • lip balm
  • hair clips and bands
  • pashmina or scarf cover-up for breastfeeding afterwards
  • Lanisoh cream
  • paracetamol
  • iPhone and headphones
  • Maternity tankini for the pool as we’re hoping for a waterbirth in the birthing centre
Baby’s bag:
  • 10 Nappies and unscented wipes – and cotton wool even though you’ll end up using wipes because that’s what the hospital tells you to bring
  • Clothes – at least 3 each of vests and sleepsuits – ideally in a few sizes as some babies seem to swim in ‘newborn’ or you might need the length of 0-3 months. Pack different sizes in marked ziplock bags
  • Baby hat – seems hospitals here are very keen on them although SIL in Ireland wasn’t allowed to put one on my nephew?
  • Scratch mitts – people suggested ones built into sleepsuits but I’ve yet to track those down
  • Blankets – multiple as they’ll be sicked on. But a special blanket is nice for the photos.
  • Muslins – these seem to be the single most important thing ever anyway. I’ve ordered two HUGE packs. 
  • swaddle
Mr D’s bag
  • Camera
  • Phone chargers
  • iPad – for him as much as for me
  • Damn fine snacks – for me, for Mr D and for sharing on the ward afterwards
  • Drinks with straws – for Mr D to feed me, hah, when hands are occupied with babies and trying to feed and a million other things

I’m sure there will be more to be added, and I’m going to need a steamer trunk rather than a suitcase at this rate.
Is there anything else that I’ve missed out – something you relied on? Please tell me in the comments!

Suitcase image from Lasse C’s flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence