Saturday, 30 January 2016

10 useful things every new mother should know

This is a little list of the more useful stuff I learnt in my first month of motherhood, inspired by the useful list someone sent me before I gave birth. Remember, when you go home with your (first) baby in your arms, you are basically clueless. Many people will bombard you with opinions but not many people will give you advice that's actually useful. I'm writing this list while it's all fresh in my mind - my baby is 6 weeks today - in the hope that this will mean it's relevant to new mothers (unlike some of the advice you get from people who gave birth years ago).
1. Those little nightmare vests that you can't get over the head without a struggle can actually be pulled down.

2. Most nappies have a yellow stripe that turns blue to tell you if they need changing. 

3. You don't have to become obsessed with making your baby sleep. Babies sleep for 14-18 hours a day. We do have a particularly good sleeper though so perhaps that's something to do with babies that wake up more often. It helps to feed them lots during the day and particularly before bed (an hour if on-off feeding just before bed does it for us) At 6 weeks Delfi sleeps in 4-5 hour shifts during the night and naps during the day for shorter periods of 1-2 hours. This is completely manageable.

4. Babies don't cry all the time. I really thought they did and imagined I was going to be pushed to the brink of sanity. This hasn't happened (as yet). If I had to take a guess at what makes our baby so calm and peaceful it would be yoga and meditation - a little bit every day during pregnancy. Baby loves to listen to shiva chants and watch me stretch and meditate.

5. It helps having the baby at arms' length. Delfi doesn't need to cry to wake me up, we just wake up in the night together. The first month she was in a pod in the bed, which is not recommended apparently (the one thing the health visitor was not too pleased about) yet we all loved. Many people told me that it was not a good idea, that transitioning to a bed would be hard and it was, but only for me. Delfi didn't mind at all.

6.  People who do not have babies do not want to hear poop stories, as hilarious as they might be. I remember saying to my partner just before I gave birth how being surrounded by shitty nappies was going to be horrible. In actual fact, it hasn't bothered me one bit. There is some kind of poo paradigm shift when you become a new parent, but do remember that your non parent friends still believe that poo equals disgusting.

7. Drugs during labour do not mean that your baby will have problems breastfeeding. Some drugs can make some babies drowsy perhaps, but I had 2 shots of diamorphine and an epidural for my emergency ceaserean and she came out smacking her lips at me and nursing within half an hour of coming out. I was led to believe that taking drugs affects nursing ability. Even the health visitor said "oh she's so responsive you can tell it was a natural labour. You didn't take any drugs did you?". Er, yes I did, there was no question of not taking them for me.

8. Overdue baby does not always mean big baby. We were told at 34 weeks she was 5.6 lb and would put on 0.5 lb a week. I was expecting a 8.5 lb baby and I got a 6.7 lb baby that was exactly 2 weeks late. I enjoyed my 2 weeks of waiting time, even though everyone else seemed worried and annoyed at the delay. Different countries have different due dates, don't let yourself be pressurised by anyone.

9. Anxiety does drastically increase, as do constant irrational worries. No matter how cool you think you are, the first month you are responsible for keeping a tiny, helpless human alive, you will worry. All the time. If the worry is unmanageable and making you depressed then you need to see your doctor, and don't let them fob you off. Your feelings do matter.

10. Babies have a lot of folds. You may miss one when washing/drying baby and the skin is so delicate it may shock you when you find that bit. It was under one arm for me. Don't worry, their skin heals very quickly too. Camomile baths help, as does coconut oil and sudocream. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Spicy quinoa and halloumi salad. Thoughts on motherhood and the year ahead.

January is always about intention setting for me. By the same token it's about looking back at the year that's just been, reflecting on what happened and why. What were the seeds planted and what may be learnt. One very important seed grew into a beautiful baby girl that's sitting in front of me right now, falling asleep happily while staring at the fairy lights. She's just wonderful and has opened my heart in unexpected ways. I was never sure if motherhood was for me, but an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage in 2014 revealed a part of me that was ready to be a mother. It's funny how different things look in hindsight, when you're not longer just a bug in a rug, but can appreciate the whole tapestry. Even very painful events can be useful. Motherhood is a whole new world. You learn new things every day on this journey and I will compile a list of the more useful stuff I've learnt shortly, for people that are about to embark on it.
Another reason why last year was so important was my cookbook, due to come out next Summer. The world of publishing is new to me and getting book deal has been both a dream come true and a challenge. It reminded me that things worth having don't necessarily come easily, yet also that if something is meant to be then those doors do open for you. That its always better to be swimming with the tide. So this year I will focus on swimming along, being kinder to myself (and therefore others) in the process, trusting what happens, being more conscious and present in the moment while gently shaping my future. The book will definitely still be a focus this year and this is an example of what it will feel like. It will be a whole new perspective on Polish food, and show another side of my homeland, a side that's dreamy and romantic. We're not all about meat and potatoes, you know.
The world of motherhood brings with it many anxieties, many unresolved feelings and issues from one's own childhood. It's an ideal opportunity to face oneself and to let go, if you take it as such. I am therefore very focussed on being conscious and calm right now, to not take too much on. Yet I am enjoying cooking. Nothing elaborate, just simple, healthy food like this quinoa and halloumi salad.
Ingredients (about 4 portions)

250g Quinoa
2 Corn on the Cob, cooked with the corn taken off the cob
1 Avocado, chopped
1 Courgette, shaved
Halloumi, sliced


Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Ghanan Shito sauce (or some chilli oil and fish sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa and allow it to cool, while you prep all the other vegetables. Do use corn on the cob rather then the sloppy corn in the tin for this salad, it's worth the effort. Mix everything together with the dressing once cooled and allow to stand for about 15min while you fry the Halloumi until golden. Finish off with some black pepper. This salad benefits from standing around for a while, while it infuses with the flavours and its even better the following day.