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Wow. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat down at my laptop and starting typing…it feels good. Good to be back, but it was also good to be away!

After six years of blogging non-stop (plus Instagram, and all the other social media that goes alongside running a blog), back in January I just…stopped. Deleted my emails from my phone, stopped worrying about keeping my numbers on Instagram up or sharing particularly popular or ‘likeable’ content, and decided to take a break from posting on my blog all together. The effect was like a cool breeze on a summer’s day- all the years of trying to keep up and keep posting and keep current and keep on keeping on, all that pressure just gone in an instant!

It’s been a mini maternity leave of sorts, and it’s been just wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, blogging isn’t the most stressful job going. At least, not for me. I love working from home, and being able to work around my family. Love the creativity, the freedom to experiment and try new things on a whim. But equally, it means that the work/life divide can become blurred at times. The constant pressure that sits on your shoulders, almost imperceptible until it lifts, to make sure that not only are you staying present and ‘living in the moment’ and giving your children your fullest attention at all times, but also documenting and photographing and planning content simultaneously without dropping any of those spinning plates.

I never feel like I’m doing it especially successfully. In fact, I follow countless incredible women online (Hannah! Gem! Jaclyn! Jess! Elena!) who inspire me on a daily basis but also make me wonder why I seem to plod along without ever making any progress.

But there’s going to be a shift here, as of now, and I’m so excited about it. Blogging used to be one of the greatest joys of my life. Cider with Rosie was my first baby! Back in 2012 when I first starting my blog, I used to get a little thrill of excitement every single time I published a post. The blogging community was the most exciting place to be, the community was supportive and close and way less ‘professional’ than it is now, and still now my Instagram DMs are full of messages from amazing, intelligent, insightful women whose advice and perspective and experiences my life would be poorer without.

I want to recapture that magic.

~ ~ ~

As of September, this won’t be my job any more. That feels so strange to say! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that back in January I accepted a place at university to start training as a midwife. A midwife!! And THAT feels WONDERFUL to say!!

Midwifery has been a sort of secret passion of mine ever since I had Ottilie. Before then I never ever considered it as a job, it just never seemed to be on my radar! I always knew I wanted children in my early twenties, and had dreamed of being a mother my whole life.

As a teenager I was absolutely obsessed with pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. I used to devour pages and pages of Mumsnet threads, feeling like I was being let in on some secret world I wasn’t yet part of. Pregnancy fascinated me- round bellies stretched tight with a small miracle growing away inside. I used to daydream about what it would be like to be pregnant, grill family members and older friends about their birth stories, and remember vividly crying at the age of 14 because I knew I had years left to wait before I could experience it all myself.

I felt as though I was just in waiting, waiting to become a Mum.

And then I had Ottilie, and something clicked in my brain. I left the hospital, bruised and battered and elated and sore and absolutely sure that I was supposed to become a midwife.

It was like a fire had been lit in my belly, and I knew that all those years of obsession with birth and pregnancy weren’t just a longing to experiencing it all personally, but a desire to learn how to provide care for women and their babies at the most pivotal moment of their lives.

 ~ ~ ~

It thought maybe at first it was just a hormonal thing, that I’d get bored of the idea and move on in a few months. But it didn’t. The interest grew, I researched and learned and made initial, tentative enquiries to local universities about their admissions policies. I doubted myself, whether it would be possible or if I was academic enough. Midwifery is tough and competitive, with roughly a 20% success rate. I contemplated training as a doula instead, and at one point had a course picked out and my finger hovering over the ‘Pay Now’ button on the page ready book.

And then I had a chance meeting in our local CoOp with a retired midwife. Her name was Helen, she stopped to chat to me about Ottilie and we got to talking about midwifery straight away. Her words were the sweet, encouraging push I needed- she told me that she could tell I wouldn’t be satisfied as a doula since my interest was in providing medical care as well as emotional support, that I should have my babies first and enjoy every minute of them, then to be bold and go for it.

So one more pregnancy and another baby later (my sweet Arlo boy, he’s 6 and a half months now if you can believe it!), one UCAS application started 10 days postpartum and one personal statement written in the evenings with a small bundle sleeping on my chest, two interviews and two offers and one place joyfully accepted…and I’ve done it!

~ ~ ~

I won’t lie, I’m nervous. About the pressures it will put on my time, about spending less time with my own babies and about the responsibility of caring for others, about keeping up with the academic rigours whilst maintaining balance at home and in my personal life. I’m nervous I’ll drop the ball, not keep up, find it too challenging.

But I’m ready. And I’m excited! It’s been a pipe dream for two and a half years, and now I’m just 5 months away from the start line. Let’s do this!

~ ~ ~

I’m not sure exactly how much I’ll be able to share here or via my social media about my training. There are, rightly so, tight regulations about confidentiality within the medical field, and I’ll err on the side of caution always so as to protect myself and and anyone I meet in a professional setting.

But I want to keep Cider with Rosie alive. It’s a relationship I’m not finished with, and a love I’m ready to rekindle.

And I hope you’ll stay with me, as I start this exciting new chapter of my life. <3

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I’ll be honest, I keep writing these happy lists and then never getting round to posting them, and by the time I come to put them live they’re so old not relevant any more! Newborn Mama life, hey? I wouldn’t say I’m in the newborn fog over here so much as just being so busy with every aspect of life I feel like I barely sit down all day long. It’s a hectic season of life that’s for sure!

1. Mince pies. Every year I forget how much I love them! Especially when eaten midway through a busy afternoon looking after the children, when I’ve barely had chance to eat all day and am completely and utterly ravenous. That makes them taste all the more delicious!

2. M&S 3-wick rhubarb candles. They’re my absolute favourite at the moment, they throw out so much scent and at £9 each? A total bargain!

3. Personalised stockings with my babies’ names on. There’s something about seeing their lovely names printed out side by side that makes me so happy!

4. Arlo’s double chin. I made that!

5. Baking and crafting with my sweet little girl. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve done Christmas biscuits, painted baubles for our tree, visited the pottery cafe…it’s the best! (Let’s just not talk about my epic fudge failure this week…it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever made!)

6. White noise. Because it helps my baby go to sleep…and because after 9 weeks of listening to it I now find it so relaxing I can’t sleep without it. Basically, I’ve sleep trained myself!!

7. Breaking into the courgette pickles I made earlier in the summer, to eat in a delicious wrap alongside veggie ‘pulled pork’ and hummus. The best lunch! (p.s. have you tried the veggie meat by a brand called Vivera? So good!)

8. How easy having children makes it to connect with new people. I feel as though I meet so many lovely people when out and about these days, and it’s never felt easier to make friends. It’s a positive I never saw coming ahead of becoming a Mama, and I love it!

9. Ottie referring to whispering as ‘little talking’, because she didn’t know the word. My heart melted!! <3 <3 <3

10. Tuesdays with my Mum. She comes each week to lend a hand, before Arlo was born it meant I could crack on with work but nowadays it just means there’s a person per child which makes the day go by so much smoother, haha! Forever grateful for her love and support.

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In the weeks leading up to Arlo’s arrival, to say I went into nesting mode is a slight understatement. Our house has never been so clean and organised- every spare minute I had was spent mopping floors, cleaning skirting boards, vacuuming carpets, and tidying Ottie’s toys to within an inch of their lives. Trips to Tesco for new cleaning products became a fun jaunt for me (I’m being deadly serious), and I had such strong aversions to certain cleaning product scents that I was genuinely upset with Jason when he bought the Wrong Kind of Washing Up Liquid.

Of course, that’s all died away ever so slightly now that I’ve got my hands full of newborn! And with two dogs in the house who seem to shed mud and hair with every step they take, you’d never know a very pregnant cleaning-obsessed woman was present in this house just a couple of weeks ago…

But the one thing I am so grateful to my past self for is the effort I made in filling our fridge, freezer, and cupboards with delicious food to enjoy in the first couple of weeks post-partum. There was a courgette and lemon cake stashed away in the freezer to serve when our parents came to meet our sweet baby boy, portions of garlicky courgette and tomato sauce frozen ready to be tossed together with pasta for easy dinners, and I kept our cupboards stocked full of tasty snack food and sweet treats to keep our energy and spirits up in these energy sapping early days!
 

Perhaps the best thing I prepared in advance was cookie dough mixture for the Best Cookies in the World, made with the chocolate of my childhood- Cadbury’s Dairy Milk!

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed a slight change to wrappers of Cadbury’s chocolate lately, in the form of a new logo marked ‘Cocoa Life’. The Cocoa Life programme is Cadbury’s new venture to support and give back to the communities who grow the cocoa from which their delicious chocolate products are made.

Cadbury’s are aiming to create positive change for their growers and their communities, which I think is a brilliant thing. They’re keen to encourage quality education for young people, protect the landscape in which their delicious cocoa grows, and improve farming methods too.

The good that comes out of the programme- including treating farmers fairly and ensuring they have an excellent quality of life- makes me feel happy every time I buy Cadbury’s chocolate, which is why it’s such a pleasure to partner with them in this post!

The recipe for these delicious cookies came via my friend Lucie, the kind of friend everyone should have who never fails to have some delicious baked treat ready and waiting when you visit. We met met on our NCT course and quickly discovered that we lived just two roads apart, and the first time I ever tried these particular cookies was when our older two babies (born 3 days apart, and our second two are less than a month apart!) were around 8 months old. We ate them whilst the babes got stuck into a sensory tray of jelly in the garden, and I’ve never forgotten how delicious they were!

And so with the idea in mind of having a batch of warm, freshly baked cookies ready and waiting for me in the hours after I’d given birth to our new baby, I got to work. I weighed out and mixed up dry ingredients, stashed the mixture away in the cupboard, and made sure that our kitchen was never without a bar or two of the chocolate

And cookies have never tasted better than these ones did, whipped up and baked by Jason when we got back home from hospital just a few hours after our beautiful boy had arrived into the world. It was cold and blowing a gale as we left hospital late that afternoon, and getting back home to our warm, cosy house and then curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea and warm, meltingly soft chocolate cookies was just bliss. Thank you Cadbury’s, for the best cookies I’ve ever eaten.

Makes 9-10 perfect chocolate cookies:

Ingredients:
110g butter
200g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
1 capful vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
30g Bournville cocoa powder

200g Cadburys Dairy Milk chocolate

- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

- Cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the egg and vanilla extract.

- Add in the flour, baking powder and bicarb, and cocoa powder, and mix to combine. Add in the chocolate (chopped into smallish chunks), and stir again to evenly distribute into the dough.

- Roll into balls, and either bake immediately for 10-12 minutes (until the edges are just beginning to set), or put into the fridge or freezer to be cooked at a later date.

The tastiest cookies ever, whether you happen to be eating them a few hours post-birth, or simply because it’s a day ending with a y. And with the feel good factor too, thanks to Cadbury’s Cocoa Life scheme. What could be better?

~ This post was sponsored by Cadbury’s. Thank you supporting the sponsored content that makes Cider with Rosie possible! ~

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1. The joy of a baby sleeping in my arms. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to while away an evening with a newborn snoring quietly on your chest <3

2. Smoothies! Salads! KALE! After craving nothing but cake, pasta, and biscuits for the final couple of months of my pregnancy, my body has finally started asking for healthy stuff. And I’m more than happy to oblige! Though it’s been four days now since I stopped gorging on biscuits every waking hour of the day and I’m not yet back in a size 8, which is totally outrageous.

3. Tea tea and more tea. I can’t get enough!

4. This week’s thunderstorms. Nothing makes me feel cosier than listening to heavy rain falling when I’m laying in bed at night.

5. Seeing my two babies in the bath together! Ottie’s always been a water baby and it seems her brother is the same- he’s so relaxed and peaceful in the water, and his evening bath chills him out so totally he always crashes right after. Right on cue for an evening of him sleeping on my chest on the sofa (refer back to point one)…

6. Season two of The Sinner! Have you watched it yet? Jason and I loved the first season so much we binged it over the course of a couple of evenings earlier in the year, and the new one is shaping up to be pretty great too. I get genuinely excited to watch another one when Ottie goes to bed each evening!

7. Homegrown cabbage! I could eat it until I turn green, honestly. With a little butter and salt, there’s nothing better!

8. Buying little boy clothes. The cutest! Zara Baby is killing it, as per! Just don’t get me started about why the vast majority of high street shops seem to put trucks/diggers/trains on 95% of their boys’ clothes…

9. Spontaneous baking with my little girl! She asked to make a cake late on Sunday afternoon, and we had a chocolate cake baking in the oven half an hour later! It was truly delicious.

10. New PJs. Candlelit evenings. Cosy dressing gowns. Loving every second of this season, so far…<3

What’s made you happy this week?

(p.s. That photo above? Ottilie’s concentrating hard on stomping in a big pile of rabbit poo. Delightful…)

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Oh hi. It’s me, sharing an outfit post for the first time in literally forever!

You might have noticed the complete lack of photos I shared of myself during the last six weeks of my pregnancy. That was mainly down to the fact that blowing up like a balloon (water retention’s fun isn’t it? Didn’t have that with Ottie, so it was a fun surprise!) and carrying a 9 pound baby when you’re not an especially tall woman and there’s nowhere for it to go but aaalllll out front, makes you look roughly the size and shape of your average double decker bus. And so surprisingly, my confidence wasn’t especially high as a result!

But four weeks post partum, and I’m starting to feel slightly more like myself again. A totally different shape of course and with a belly that still looks kind of sad, but it’s a joy to be feeling somewhat ‘normal’ and able to dress my non-pregnant body again!

Choosing breastfeeding-friendly outfits comes with its own set of challenges, of course, but my formula for an easy ‘Mum day uniform’ kind of outfit is the same as 99% of other Mamas out there- a top to pull up, a top to pull down (my vest top collection is taking over our house), and jeans! Speaking of jeans, I fit into mine again! Not the normal kind, just the maternity ones I got too fat for by the end of my pregnancy…ha!

This sweater is a new one from Boden, and it’s just what my wardrobe needed. It’s been a very long time since I loved a top this *isn’t* stripey as I love this one, so this is a big moment for me.

And with that sweet star design, it’s kind of a nod to the festive season ahead! It’s suddenly struck me how quickly Christmas is creeping up on us, and I need to get organised.

We shot these photos exactly four weeks since Arlo’s arrival, and the baby days seem to be slipping by so quickly. Too quickly!

We’ve hit the evening witching hour phase for sure, and yep I do seem to be wearing some sort of bodily fluid at all times, but second time round it’s all just dreamy. Please don’t grow too quickly, my not-so-little little boy.

Star sweater (very kindly gifted to me…shown below in alternative prints!). There’s 25% off everything this weekend…go go go !

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Up until maybe three or four years ago, you couldn’t get me out working in the garden for love nor money. Too cold, too dirty, too many bugs- absolutely none of it appealed to me! It seems bizarre now to look back on my past self, and think of what I was missing out on.

I’m not sure exactly what the turning point was or why I changed my mind about the whole idea of gardening, but last spring, when Ottie was around six months old, I decided to try my hand at growing some vegetables in our little garden.

Two growing seasons, one move to a house complete with so much land I didn’t even know where to start with cultivating it, four beds (then four more…), more bags of compost than you could count, and thousands upon thousands of seeds, and it’s safe to say I’m addicted!

And it’s absolutely changed my life for the better, in every way.

Over the past two years I’ve taught myself, through knowledge gleaned from books, YouTube, and the incredible Instagram ‘allotmenteer’ community, how to grow enough vegetables to keep us from having had to buy any since around May of this year. The novelty of being able to wander down to the vegetable patch to pick some fresh beans or courgettes or cabbage for dinner still hasn’t become old, and we’re eating a greater variety of veg than ever before. In fact, there were times this summer when we couldn’t eat the produce growing in our garden fast enough and everyone who came to our house was sent away with a bag or basket full of veggies!
 

Possibly my favourite thing though about gardening and growing our own vegetables has been what it’s given Ottilie.

This summer as she’s grown, she’s learnt how to identify vegetables by looking at the shapes of their leaves and how they grow. She’s eaten her way through an entire season’s worth of raw peas picked straight from the plants, and almost every single plum tomato that our little greenhouse had to offer. She has unfailing faith in my ability to conjure up a fresh cucumber for her at a moment’s notice, and wants to stroke and hold every single worm, caterpillar, and frog we come across amongst the soil and plants.

To know that she truly understands where her food comes from, and that she’ll grow up with a connection to the natural world around her, makes me so very happy.

And if gardening with a toddler in tow has taught me one thing this year, it’s about the importance of speed and efficiency.

Ottilie loves being out in the garden with me and taking part in any jobs I happen to be doing, but as with any young child, her attention span is short! So I’ve learnt that in order for us both to have fun and also for me to get as much done as possible in a short amount of time, we need to work fast and efficiently when we garden together. And that means having the right tools for the job!

I’m so proud to be partnering with Fiskar’s for this post, a company who make quite possibly the sleekest tools for gardening I’ve ever had the pleasure of using! I naively had always thought that a spade was a spade and a fork was a fork, but I was so wrong!

The trowel that Ottilie’s using was so lightweight and easy to manipulate, and made planting out our rows of garlic such an easy job! I’d also used the cultivator tool to prepare the bed just before planting- loosening up the top layer of soil and working in the manure I’d spread on it a couple of months previously, and scraping out the many, many weeds too!

I’ve never owned or used a tool like that before, and it was honestly amazing and made such light work of a job I’d been putting off for ages!  

The fork in these photos too is a dream to use- it’s part of Fiskar’s ‘Light’ range, and my goodness I wish I’d had it to use all this year instead of the super heavy one I inherited from my Grandma! It would’ve made easy work of all the prep work that went into creating and filling the raised beds back in January!

Also on my list of jobs was picking the last of the borlotti beans to have dried on the wigwam, and cut down the plants that have finished cropping for the year.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was being down in the veg patch again with my hands (and trowel and fork!) in the soil, after being too heavily pregnant for the last 6 weeks or so to manage anything much beyond picking a few veggies here and there! I’d missed the gratification of preparing ground, sowing and planting, weeding and harvesting. It’s a wonderful, refreshing break from the all-consuming nature of keeping two small children fed, happy, and entertained (though granted Arlo needs nothing on that front just yet!)- a little bit of ‘me’ time I’m always grateful to have taken.

I’m so thankful to Fiskar’s for giving me pause for thought about how much gardening has brought to my life, and for the tools too! I’m ready to tackle that rather weedy, overgrown vegetable patch now and tame it ready for next year…

~ This post was sponsored by Fiskar’s. Thank you for supporting the sponsored content that makes Cider with Rosie possible. ~

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It feels as though this post has been a long time coming…mainly because my little boy himself took his sweet time to arrive! And it’s a long post in itself, too, since this labour was another long one just like my first! Ready? Time to settle in…

Like every woman who has ever been pregnant, I felt I was on tenterhooks during the final few weeks of those long 9 months. The pregnancy had felt so different to Ottilie’s- instead of getting 38 weeks and finding out that I had a baby who was breech, as I did with her, Arlo (or as I feel I should refer to him, ‘the baby’, given we didn’t then know his sex!) had been engaged since week 35. The Braxton Hicks were strong and constant, and since I’d gone into labour on my due date with Ottilie, I hoped and expected that perhaps this baby would follow suit with a timely, or even early, arrival.

But my due date came and my due date went, sadly unmarked by the arrival of our baby. I’d had a sweep from my midwife that morning which set off a day of regular tightenings, but they frustratingly tailed off to nothing at bedtime. You can imagine what mood that left this grumpy pregnant lady in!

~ ~

Wednesday 10th October, 40+5.

The day I went into labour was such a lovely one. It was bright, crisp, and sunny, and at Ottilie’s request we spent the morning in town together, drinking juice and eating pasta in the cafe and watching buses driving up and down the high street. I was looking forward to seeing our lovely midwife later that day, not least because being with the home birth team meant all my antenatal appointments were at home and accompanied by plenty of tea and biscuits!

I had another sweep done at the appointment, and then spent the afternoon stomping round the fields with the dogs and bouncing endlessly on my birth ball. Surges had begun almost immediately following the sweep, and by the time I’d put Ottilie to bed, eaten dinner (Pasta! I carbed up!!), and then bounced on my birth ball for a couple of hours, they were coming every 5-10 minutes and I knew they were the real deal. We set up the room with tea lights, lavender oil misting from my diffuser, dim lighting and gentle music, and at 10pm Jason began to inflate the birth pool and called my Mum to come round so that someone was here for Ottie if things ramped up fast. I felt like Christmas morning had arrived, knowing that our little baby was finally on its way!

As the evening wore on and I got tired, we decided to go to bed to try and get some rest. I learnt during my first labour how exhausting it is to contract for days on end, and having a feeling that I was in for another lengthy one, we decided to strategise! I’ll admit though that I did have a wobble here, convinced that if I were to lay down and rest the surges would die off all together and I’d have wasted everyone’s time. But though that night whilst I slept the surges slowed to every half hour or so, they were still enough to wake me up and required a little breathing and concentration to get through…

Thursday 11th October.

We woke the following morning and while I had breakfast with Ottie and my Mum, Jason got the final few bits ready for Ottilie’s sleepover at Grandma’s house. I paced round the kitchen as the surges began to ramp up again in frequency and intensity, and around mid-morning, once we’d waved goodbye to Ottilie knowing she’d be a sister the next time we saw her, they’d kicked up another notch and I was making full use of the ‘up breathing’ technique and visualisations I learnt on my hypnobirth course.

That day we walked, and walked, and walked! I wanted to try and stay active to bring the baby down, and as we walked through the fields that I’d paced so many times trying to bring the labour on, I reminded myself over and over to welcome each surge with open arms. The mantra ‘Every surge brings me closer to meeting my baby’ went over and over in my head, and I truly was glad each time I could feel one approaching! Which was a positive, as at times whilst we walked they were coming every two minutes and lasting a minute each time! I held tight onto Jason whilst breathing strongly through each surge, rocking my hips back and forth to release the tightness and pressure in my lower belly.

But over the course of the day the surges would increase and decrease in intensity and frequency, even easing off to every 10-15 minutes at times which was so incredibly frustrating! I text my midwife, Heather, asking what to do, and her advice was to rest, not think too much about it, and to call her when things had increased to a level where I knew I needed her there. I wasn’t sure I’d know when that moment was…but she was right!

Friday 12th October.

At around 1am, I knew. I’d been laying on the bed on my side trying to sleep, and the surges had become so strong I was pulling down hard on the bed frame as each one came on. I’d begun to sink into that ‘labour zone’, where time slips past in flashes and you start to retreat inside yourself. Jason phoned Heather, and she was with us just a few surges later.

I remember laying on the bed whilst she monitored a few of my surges, and then said the magic words ‘Do you want to get in the pool?’

The relief from the water was complete and utter bliss. I didn’t realise how heavy my belly felt until the water took the weight of it, and though the surges were getting stronger and stronger at an overwhelming pace by now, it was such a peaceful time during the labour. We had candles burning and classical music playing, I was overjoyed that things were going ‘right’, and between surges we were chatting with Heather and the lovely second midwife about how Jason and I had met and how it was my Grandma who gave us the nudge to be together! It was honestly an wonderful experience, and I was so so happy!

After a couple of hours the surges began to change and I had started to get a strong downwards pressure, and so Heather suggested checking how dilated I was as my body had started to bear down with each surge already. It came as a shock (and slightly devastating for me at that point!!) then to find out I was only 3cm! It was the first sign that things weren’t going exactly to plan.

In order to get some rest and help my body relax and dilate, I had an injection of Meptid (a home birth-friendly version of Pethedine), which strangely didn’t do anything other than intensify my surges massively! As I was laying down in bed they became relentless, every two minutes apart and each one lasting seemingly forever. The pressure in my pelvis was becoming so strong I found it hard to focus on my breathing, and though I didn’t feel like I could push intentionally yet it felt as though the baby was trying to force its way out already! Jason and Heather sat with me on our bedroom floor, and I tried to keep control of my breathing and focus as each surge came and went.

I remember getting up to use the loo, and as I left the bathroom the biggest surge yet hit and I couldn’t stay standing through it. My whole body was bearing down, and Heather told me my baby was on its way! We went back downstairs and I returned to the pool, and I couldn’t help but make loud mooing sounds with the intensity of each surge.

I’m not quite sure how long passed, but it felt as though something changed. Up until this point I’d been welcoming each surge, despite how intense they were, but they suddenly became unbearable. In my mind’s eye they went from intensity to pain, from surge to contraction- I felt as though I could barely think straight with how quickly they’d changed. It was as though my body was simultaneously trying both to push and not push at the same time, and an examination showed I was still only 5cm which didn’t match with what my body was doing.

I think in that moment we all knew that something wasn’t right, and so an ambulance was called. Enduring that bumpy journey with contractions coming every two minutes and no pain relief (gas didn’t work for me at all!) was probably the worst part of my entire labour! I was desperate to keep my hips raised in the air to try and take the pressure of the baby’s head out of my pelvis, but was stuck laid down on my side on the stretcher. I had to just close my eyes tight and get through each contraction one at a time.

~ ~ ~

When we arrived in hospital, I had an epidural to try and encourage my body to relax. It was only a small dose so I could still feel all the contractions and never lost any control of my legs, but it was enough to knock the edge off the surges and the most blessed relief of my life!!

Not long after, our midwife started trying to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. As she passed the wand low over my pelvis where I knew it’d been picked up through all of the intermittent monitoring we’d had at home, I remember thinking to myself how faint and slow it sounded.

An emergency buzzer was pressed, and in an instant the room filled with people. The baby’s heart rate had dipped to around 50bpm and wasn’t picking back up, and all of a sudden, less than an hour after I’d been labouring in the comfort and quiet of my home, I was being prepped for a crash Caesarian section under general anaesthetic and Jason was told he wouldn’t be able to be in the room whilst his baby was delivered. I felt totally numb and in shock in that moment, and just had my eyes fixed to the monitor showing the baby’s heartrate praying that it would come back up again.

I’ve never been so relieved in my life as I was when that number started to rise, when I was laying in theatre on the bed. After conducting some tests and an examination that somehow showed, despite all the stress we’d been under I was now fully dilated, the consultant decided that so long as the baby’s heartrate continued to be stable I should try and deliver naturally.

So with no time at all to breathe, I was back in a delivery room and told I was going to be laid flat, would have forceps used to deliver my baby, and since the small initial epidural I’d had had worn off, a big top up was suggested too! In that moment, I felt I took back some control over my birth experience. I politely declined all three of those things, and asked to be given chance to deliver my baby myself. The consultant agreed I could have 10 minutes to push unassisted, but that after that point an instrumental delivery would be needed to get baby out quickly.

And so with forceps threatened, I’ve never worked so hard in my LIFE!

It took every scrap of strength I had, but within ten minutes of starting to push, my baby was out! And a quick peep showed Jason and I that we had a baby boy! He’d been born with the cord around his neck, and so after being put on my chest very briefly was taken outside to be given a puff of oxygen and a check over by a paediatrician, but almost immediately after being taken from the room we heard his wonderfully loud, strong cry, and my baby boy was back in my arms within just a minute of his arrival.

It was heaven, feeling the warmth of his soft pink skin on mine and seeing his little dark eyes blinking away. He looked so much like his sister, and the relief of having him safe in our arms was overwhelming.

Arlo Louis, 9.9lbs, born at 12.27pm on Friday 12th October <3

~ ~ ~

And so, despite all the challenges we faced, I’m so proud of what I accomplished with the arrival of our beautiful baby boy. I’ll admit though that I’ve shed a fair few tears over how far from a gentle, intimate home birth it turned out to be, over how scary it was seeing things go wrong so quickly, and over what my body went through in having to deliver such a surprisingly big baby in such a pressured environment. But all in all, I came away from the experience feeling empowered by the strength it took to deliver him, and by the knowledge and ability hypnobirthing gave Jason and I to speak up for ourselves and our choices even in a high-stress environment. And spending the vast majority of the labour at home was absolutely amazing, and an experience I would recommend in a heartbeat.

This last week has been complete heaven- falling in love with our baby boy, seeing Ottilie cuddle her baby brother and watching how he turns his head to the sound of her voice, breastfeeding, evenings spent with a warm little bundle snoozing on my chest, and finding our feet as a family of four.

~ ~ ~

Welcome to the world, baby Arlo! We’re so glad you’re here <3

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Oh September. What a month you’ve been! I feel as though I’ve barely set foot in the vegetable patch, other than quick trips down here and there to collect veg for dinner or pick kale for a smoothie on Ottie’s request (I know, so middle class ;).

What with being nine months pregnant and having a baby the size of a watermelon getting in the way of pretty much my every move, the nights drawing in so fast now we’re moving into autumn, plus work and all the last minute preparations that come the month before a baby is due, it’s become so tricky to keep on top of the gardening lately!

In fact, it’s made me feel kind of sad at times seeing the weeds growing as fast as the vegetables in amongst the neat rows I planted back in spring, slug damage galore on some of the brassicas thanks to the nettles providing such a perfect hiding place for them along the bed-edges, and caterpillars eating away unchecked at a few of the kale plants.

But I’m trying to remind myself not to fret too much, that I can only do what I can do, and that even the biggest of weeds can be pulled up come next spring!

We’re moving into the season of brassicas now, and it’s so satisfying watching them grow. Most of the kales and swedes were netted until just a few weeks ago, but since they seemed to be fast outgrowing their tunnels I braved removing the netting, and for the most part they’ve been fine!

To take us into the colder months, I’m growing a few different types of brassicas- ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Red Devil’ kale, ‘Filderkraut’ and ‘Savoy’ cabbages, and a variety of swede promisingly called ‘Best Of All’! I’ve found kale such a satisfying thing to grow this year- being able to nip outside and pick three or four big, iron-rich dark green leaves to go alongside my meals is amazing, and the taste is a world away from the bags of pre-chopped, dried out curly kale I used to buy from the supermarket! I’m really, really hoping it lasts the winter…

The swedes I maaaay have gone overboard on- if they all grow to full size, we’ll have a good 10 or so to harvest later in the year! And beyond carrot and swede mash, I’m not that sure what I’ll do with them…answers on a postcard please!

The promise of leeks to come…

I can’t say that our leek harvest will be particularly large, but it will be exciting nonetheless! We’ve maybe got 8-10 leeks that have made the grade- next year I’ll know to sow 10x as many, and also that they like a lot of water during hot weather to keep them from frazzling!

Still, I grew them and they’ll be delicious just for that fact alone I’m sure. I’m thinking of cooking them into some sort of gratin with potatoes and a creamy sauce, which is making my mouth water just thinking about it…

 

This time of year is just so colourful isn’t it? What with the trees beginning to change colour and lose their leaves, the bright pink and red and yellow Swiss chard stems, and dark ruby of the beetroot leaves, the garden’s looking just as beautiful as it did back in the height of summer.

I’m excited to see the beetroot I planted as a second crop (after my failed attempt at onions…) do so well! They should be ready to pick around December time, and will accompany many a meal of sausage and mash I’m sure. I’ve grown them in multi-seed clumps again, with up to four beetroot seedlings per position. As they grow I just pick out the largest from each group, leaving the others to grow on longer. It’s worked so well the rest of the year, and has provided more food per row from the soil than traditional spacing!

The Borlotti bean crop is still coming along, though since I’m leaving them to dry and only after the beans themselves instead of the pods, it feels like the most meagre harvest so far! But they do look so beautiful hanging from their teepee, and the dried beans will make a lovely addition to soup or a stew later this winter I’m sure.

Perhaps the vegetable I’m most excited about though are my prize butternut squashes! Ironically of the two plants I have growing, it’s the that seemed to be lagging behind for weeks on end that’s suddenly put on a burst of growth and produced three full size fruits. They still have a little way to go before they’re that familiar tan colour and so ready for picking, so I’m just praying the weather doesn’t get too cold and nip them with frost before they fully ripen!

We’ve already had a mini butternut squash from the other plant already, which we cooked into a massaman curry a few nights ago with lots of coconut milk and some homegrown carrots too. It was the most delicious thing, creamy and warming and the squash itself was soft as butter too! I was so proud, ha!

And that’s the round up for my little vegetable patch this month! I’ve managed to snatch some time in the last few days to pull up weeds, tidy up all the mess that had gathered round the edges of the beds throughout the summer, and just generally do a little maintenance before the weather turns truly cold (and before I pop!).

Our jobs for the coming couple of months are more about maintenance and preparation for next year- we’ve got compost to order ready for mulching all the beds over, two new 1x4metre beds to fill ready for raspberry canes going in later this winter, and four bulbs garlic to plant too! I’ve promised Ottilie she can help with that job, so I’m looking forward to a half hour of gardening soon with my favourite girl <3

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1. Finally having my birth bag all packed and organised! Ready when you are, baby…

2. Having a husband who came home from town a week and a half ago to tell me he’d booked me a pedicure for last Friday morning. The best gift ever for this Mama whose feet are so tired and sore by the end of each day!

3. Cake. Cake for morning treat, cake for an afternoon treat, cake after dinner. Basically cake eaten at any point during the day is a winner in my book, because sugary carbs are aallllll I want to eat these days…

4. Swimming with Ottie. I’d not been with her in ages, and she’s just as much of a fish as ever! She’s decided she likes using arm bands now, and is swimming by herself when she wears them which is amazing to see!

5. Slow cooked garlic runner beans. The recipe idea was from a River Cottage cookbook, and it’s so delicious!

6. A super chic ensemble comprising a pair of maternity leggings, one of Jason’s T shirts, and an oversized supersoft jumper. Bliss!

7. Taking the dogs for an evening walk, with a bag in hand of course for blackberry-picking on the way! It feels so good to blow the cobwebs away with some crisp evening air, and lovely to see the dogs bombing around so happily too.

8. Big bowls of pasta for dinner, eaten with tons of sautéed kale and Swiss chard from the garden.

9. The start of the new school term bringing with it the reopening of playgroups and toddler classes, plus a quietening down of soft plays as so many children return to school. Win win!

10. Ottie’s frequent exclamations of ‘I love you baby! I want to kiss you baby!’ which make my heart melt into a puddle <3

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T W O   Y E A R S…

of loving you, Ottilie Dorothy!

It’s of course the biggest cliche going, but I can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’ve had Ottilie in our lives for two whole years already.

I’m an emotional wreck at the best of times anyway these days (third trimester hormones are killer, I tell you!), but I was extra soppy all last week in the run up to Ottie’s birthday. I’ve found myself just staring at her sweet face as she’s been playing or reading stories or tucked up in bed at night, thinking how strange it is that it was her we were waiting on during those long days of labour in the first week of September two years ago. We didn’t know what joy we were in for, that’s for sure! And it’s making both Jason and me extra excited to meet this new little baby, knowing that there’s a real little person with its very own personality just as distinct as Ottilie’s coming to join our family in the next couple of weeks!

Ah, parenthood. It’s a rollercoaster isn’t it?

We’d gone to bed late the evening before Ottie’s birthday, staying up past our bedtime to decorate the living room, set out gifts, and bake cakes for the family tea party we were hosting the following day.

Ottie woke around half past 6, and the look on her face when we told her it was her birthday was just the sweetest. ‘Now?’ she asked, ‘it my birthday now? I go downstairs?’

Knowing that there’d undoubtedly be a mountain of presents coming Ottie’s way later that day, we kept our gifts minimal and simple. A chalkboard easel for our little artist, a dolls house and some dolls and furniture, and her very own shopping trolley and basket because a trip to the shops or to the supermarket is still my baby girl’s favourite thing to do! I just don’t know where she gets it from…

You can’t have a birthday morning without cake, and this simple vanilla traybake was just the thing! When Ottie saw it she shouted ‘BIRFAY CAKE! Look Daddy, birfay cake!’ which made my heart melt!

She ate one single bite of cake and then decided she was far more interested in the icing and sprinkles (what toddler isn’t, I guess!), but I’ll be honest and say I ate more than my fair share that day. It was just SO delicious and the baby wanted it, okay?! The recipe was one I found on the lovely Martha’s Instagram, and it was the easiest thing ever to make. Definitely would recommend for a quick throw-together cake with great results!

This little girl was a PRO at blowing out candles!! We were very impressed, haha! I guess all the practising she’s done with her wooden birthday cake and candles has paid off…

We decided to keep the celebrations this year low-key, so that it wasn’t too overwhelming and Ottie could enjoy celebrating her birthday just with family. And it worked so well! She was so happy opening up her presents (and even wanted to share the fun of opening with her cousin Beatriz!), and playing with all the lovely new toys she was given.

p.s. Ottilie’s dress is linked below. I absolutely love it!

And a few hours of play and lunch and chat later…time for more cake!

Ottie had been requesting chocolate cake for her birthday for weeks on end and so of course I obliged, in the form of three-tiered chocolate cake, covered in white chocolate ganache drizzle, and topped with enough biscuits, buttons, and Smarties to give you toothache!

A toddler’s dream, ha!

Ottilie and Bea dove straight in, picking off biscuits and buttons quicker than I could cut slices for all our family! The cake itself went down a storm though, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It’s Jason’s birthday in less than a month, so I might have a go at making another one in a similar style for him…providing I’ve not got my hands full of newborn, that is!

All in all, the day was just perfect. So good to take time out with all our family to celebrate our sweet Ottie, and to see how happy and loved on she was all day long.

Here’s to being two, and to all that the next year will bring! <3

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