Motherhood One Month In – What Does It Really Look Like?

What do you feel when you see Beyoncé’s twins introduction photo? What do you see?  Do you just see a beautifully styled photo and think “aww, a Mum and her babies”. Do you see a perfect image of motherhood? Does it make you feel jealous that you didn’t look like that one month after giving birth?  This post is about my thoughts on that photo and a reflection on my own experience.

Motherhood 1 month in blog

The first things I thought when I saw the photo below were  “What cute babies!” and “Wow, she looks amazing” and then seeing it over and over again the media the last few days has got me thinking more about what this image means for mothers and what it portrays in terms of how far it is away from reality.  Yes she probably has a multitude of help, both with the babies and with all household tasks.  Is she doing the night feeds, the nappy changes?  Did she choose to share this photo because she wants to keep the public at a safe distance from her real private life?  Is it all about her image as a strong female public figure?  Or is it just trying to be arty?  She is a second time mum so in that way it’s not comparable to my experience at all but do most second time mums look like this after four weeks?

Sir Carter and Rumi 1 month today. 🙏🏽❤️👨🏽👩🏽👧🏽👶🏾👶🏾

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

 

So what was I doing when my twins were one month old?  We had only been out of hospital two weeks. Matteo had waited until we were discharged to start his paternity leave so we could have the first two weeks at home before Christmas (and before his parents and sister arrived) as a new family of four.  I don’t remember much of it.  It was a haze of feeding, changing and very little sleep.  I was feeling completely overwhelmed as a first-time mum, still very anaemic (even after a blood transfusion) and was struggling to build up my milk supply.  I was also still trying to bond with my babies, struggling to come to terms with the loss of the birth experience I had wanted and the shock of being separated from them after the birth.  I was tired and very emotional, I now understand that I had mild postnatal depression.  I felt like my body had failed my babies and that’s why they had come early and had to be delivered by caesarean section.  I felt guilty that I wasn’t breastfeeding them fully and that I didn’t really love them yet.  It was supposed to be perfect (like the picture above) but instead I was in a thick fog which in the end took three months to clear.

Motherhood 1 month in

I’m not saying that all mothers suffer from postnatal depression or low mood (one in ten new mothers do) but I feel like I wish I had been more prepared for the reality of becoming a parent.  It’s just so hard to imagine and I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for the changes it brings to your life.  The relentless feeds, I was breastfeeding, topping up with formula and pumping, it seemed never ending, trying to look after myself to get my strength back.  We need more balanced truthful accounts and photos of life with newborn babies, not as to scare parents to be, but to give them more knowledge about what they might expect.  What got me through was the help and support I received both from the health professionals and from my family and friends.

Motherhood

I’m so grateful for all the help I had over those first three months.  Matteo woke up for every single feed in the night, even when he had gone back to work. My Mum stayed over many times to help in the night and helped around the house. Matteo’s parents and sister came for two weeks over Christmas and my friends and my neighbour came over, brought food, took the boys out or a walk so I could sleep, helped with feeds.  Matteo made sure that I didn’t spend a day on my own with the boys until they were three months old.  By that time I was beginning to feel a little bit more confident, that I could go out by myself with them and not feel completely overwhelmed and panicked about what to do if they started crying and I couldn’t hold them both at the same time.  I kept in touch with another new mum of twins I had met in hospital which was an amazing support in those first few months, knowing that someone else was having the exact same challenges as me.  I went out and met other new mums at baby groups so I could have some adult conversation and didn’t feel isolated.

Motherhood 1 month in

The first two photos were taken just before the boys were one month old. The third photo a few days later and the photo below when they were around three months old.  I did spend most of my time propped up in bed feeding them, I don’t have any photos of me holding them anywhere else until a lot later on!

Motherhood 1 month in

For me I think the Beyonce photo is a perfect example of the motherhood dream – the goddess mother in a garden with beautiful flowers and the tranquil sea in the background holds her sleeping babies, a sight to behold.  What was your reality?

JakiJellz

 

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Me & Mine Project {January 17}

As well as doing the Siblings Project monthly photos of our boys, one of my other aims for this year is to take more photos of the four of us together so I’m joining in with the Me & Mine Project for the first time this month.  It’s so difficult to get family photos unless it’s some specific special occasion I think so I’m really going to make an effort to get more of these images of us, and can’t wait to see our image library grow full of memories.

Me & Mine January blog

It’s been a cold and dark month and we haven’t actually had much time to spend together as a family.  The first two weekends I was teaching and then the third Saturday I went on a study day so on Sunday we made an effort to get out the house for half an hour and go for a walk together to get some fresh air, even if it was absolutely freezing.  I took my tripod and new camera and was determined to figure out the self-timer setting.  I only got two good shots but I LOVE them.  I can’t believe we’re actually all smiling!  We went straight home after this as we really were getting cold. 

 Me & Mine Project January

 This weekend just gone we went to the boy’s karate grading on Saturday afternoon and to my Mum & Dad’s for lunch on Sunday and apart from that it’s been a really quiet one. We’ve watched a bit of TV, played on the tablet and built lego.

To show how scarce an event this is I thought I’d also share some past family shots:

This is us on our holiday in Italy last June

Me & Mine Project January

Cyprus 2015

Me & Mine Project January

Christmas 2014

Me & Mine Project January

Summer 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As with the Siblings project I’m linking up again with Lucy from Dear Beautiful so make sure you head over to her site to have a look what her family have been up to this month.

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The Me + Mine Project - Dear Beautiful

 

Cooking with Kids – Homemade Pizza

Obviously with the Italian influence in our household we love Pizza, in fact Matteo will eat most Supermarket pizzas, his favourite being a really cheap deep pan one from LIDL! I’m a bit more picky as I don’t like a thick base and find some of the pizzas you can buy very salty so I only really eat pizza if we go out for dinner or if we make our own.

Homemade Pizza blog

As we only have a small kitchen we don’t have room for a lot of gadgets, I literally have room for my kettle and (smoothie) blender that I use every day, add some post, a lunch box, two fruit bowls and some water bottles and it’s more than cluttered!  If you’re lucky enough to have a bigger kitchen than us and have a bread maker you can do the first bit of this recipe in it, saving some time.  You can find some other Bread machine recipes by Panasonic (including one for a jam) at the following link:

https://www.panasonic.com/uk/dhp-slide/the-ideas-kitchen.html    

The boys love having pizza because it’s the only meal where we let them eat on the sofa watching TV. We usually watch a film together if it’s Saturday evening. This time we watched Paddington again.  You can see the boys laughing in the last photo below!

Homemade Pizza

This recipe is inspired and adapted from Jamie Oliver’s basic pizza recipe which appears in his book Jamie at Home. You can also find it here.  I use one fifth wholemeal spelt flour to add some more fibre. We also like to use half normal mozzarella cheese and half mozzarella di bufala as it just adds so much more flavour.  This makes two large pizzas plus two small pizzas so perfect for two adults and two children.

Homemade Pizza

Ingredients

Pizza Dough

400g strong white bread flour (we use Doves Farm Organic)

100g wholemeal spelt flour (we use Doves Farm Organic)

1/2 level tablespoon fine sea salt

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (we use Il Casolare)

1 heaped tsp golden caster sugar

325ml lukewarm water

Tomato Sauce

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic

500g carton of passata

Salt & pepper

Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Toppings

125g ball of mozzarella

125g ball of buffalo mozzarella

Sprinkle of oregano

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Anything else you like!

IMG_1570

Method

Measure out the flours and add to a large mixing bowl/your bread maker with the salt.

In a measuring jug add the water, yeast, sugar and olive oil and then pour onto the flour mixture.

If using a bread maker follow the users instruction manual to programme the machine to mix and prove the dough.

If using a hand whisk with dough hook(s), mix for about five minutes until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough springs back when pulled.  You can also mix and knead by hand if you don’t have a hand mixer.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for two hours or until doubled in size.  I normally put up in the boy’s bedroom near the radiator in winter.

While the dough is proving, make the tomato sauce.  Warm the olive oil in a frying pan and crush in the garlic, heat for a minute until it just starts to sizzle and pour in the passata.

Season and tear in the basil leaves and then leave on a low heat to simmer for about half an hour.

When you’re ready to roll out the dough, pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C (fan). Oil three trays (we use two round pizza trays and one normal baking tray) and put to one side. Empty the risen dough onto a floured surface and cut into three equals parts.

Roll out you pizzas to your preferred thickness and transfer to the oiled trays.  You can cut the third portion in half again to make two mini pizzas for the children.

Using a metal spoon, spoon the tomato sauce onto the pizza bases and spread out.  You may have some sauce left over which you could freeze and use for another time.

Add toppings of choice and put in the oven to cook.  Check after ten minutes and then every 5 minutes until cooked how you prefer.

Enjoy!

The dough should grow from this:

Homemade Pizza

To this:

Homemade Pizza

The tomato sauce:

Homemade Pizza

Ethan & Oliver rolled their own pizzas out:

IMG_1573

With my help!:

IMG_1577

Oven ready:

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

Watching the film:

Homemade Pizza

* Disclosure – This is a collaborative post *

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The Siblings Project {September 17}

This time last month I was sending the boys off on their Italian/German adventure and now they’re back at school and it seems so long ago already.  Summer officially ends in a few days and the nights are drawing in.  We’ve literally only done one full week at school (the boys missed the first two days as we didn’t come back from Italy until last Friday.

Siblings Project September blog

We’re not back into routine at all and I’m not sure we will be for a while. I’ve been waking them up every morning and struggling to get them to calm down at bedtime. I think they’re over tired and have been having a crazy half hour just before bed every night.  I’ve just felt like a broken record, telling them over and over again to eat and get ready in a morning and then asking them to calm down and get ready for bed at night. They’re just not listening to us at all.  Oliver especially seems to be in his own little world most of the time and the only person he lets in is Ethan apart from when he wants cuddles at bedtime.

Siblings Project September

The boy’s had the most fantastic month, firstly with Matteo’s Mum & Dad and sister. They travelled to Germany and back and made some new friends.  They then travelled down to the seaside where we met them and enjoyed just over a week in the sunshine.  They loved going to the beach in the mornings and being by the pool in the afternoon although the pool water was so freezing we couldn’t get them to swim for long.  We pumped up their little boat and they enjoyed sitting in it and being pulled around.  They ate really well and tried new things like crab and rabbit and they also had afternoon naps so they could stay up a little later at night and play table football with Daddy.

Siblings Project September

These photos were taken on Wednesday 13th. We had just come home from school and they enjoyed sharing a pizza before I took them to karate.  Ethan has decided recently he doesn’t like cheese on pizza every time so he just had his as a Marinara with oregano.  We are loving this Crosta & Mollica pizza base at the moment as you can just add whatever toppings you like to it. Making them eat straight after school is hopefully going to work better for us on a Wednesday as by the time they get home from karate and have a pudding/snack and drink it’s almost 7pm and time a quick read of a book and bed.

Siblings Project September

Take a look back at August’s photos which I took at the airport here.

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful

 

Sausage & Cannellini Bean Casserole

This is a really hearty warming dish for autumn/winter. I’m craving comfort food at the moment now that the nights are starting to draw in and this makes a really comforting meal. It can be served with potatoes, rice or green vegetables. Last time I made it we had rice, sweet potato wedges and broccoli.

Sausage & Cannellini Bean Casserole blog

This recipe serves 2 adults and 2 small children but makes lots of sauce so if making for more people you can increase the number of sausages you put in. If making for 4 like us and you don’t want to serve all the sauce for dinner you can save some and have some with pasta for lunch or dinner the next day.

Ingredients

6 large sausages (I used Heck gluten & dairy free)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion

1 large carrot

1 courgette (optional)

2 cloves garlic

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 vegetable stock cube

1 sprig rosemary chopped

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 tin cannellini beans

Salt & pepper

Method

Warm a large, deep frying pan on the hob and add the oil. Fry the sausages for about 10 minutes until golden brown. While the sausages are frying chop the vegetables. Once the sausages are cooked, remove from the pan and add in the red onion, carrot and courgette. Fry on a low heat and cover for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer on a low heat for about half an hour. Once the sauce has reduced add the sausages back to the pan with the beans and cook for another 10 minutes. The sauce should be think and no longer watery.  Serve and enjoy!

If you like this you may also enjoy my Three Bean Chilli.

Sausage & Cannellini Bean Casserole

Sausage & Bean Casserole

Sausage & Bean Casserole

Tuna & Bean Salad

This is a salad that I’ve been making and perfecting for years.  We use Rio Mare tuna from Italy as it has the best flavour.  It’s in olive oil which means it’s not dry like tuna in brine or spring water can be.   It’s great for having at a barbecue, a family get together and you can take any leftovers to lunch at work over the next few days.

Tuna & Beans blog

This recipe serves 2 adults and 2 small children as part of a buffet lunch.  We like to eat it with grilled halloumi cheese, sautéed spinach and salad potatoes.  It tastes great served straight away but even better when it’s been left for a few hours or even eaten the next day.

Ingredients

1 tin/carton cannellini beans (380g)

2 80g tins Rio Mare tuna

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic crushed

The juice of ½ a lemon

1 tsp fresh/frozen flat leaf parsley

1tsp dried oregano

Good pinch of salt & pepper

Method

Drain the tuna and beans and put them into a large dish or bowl.

Put all the other ingredients apart from the salt and pepper into a small saucepan and warm on a low heat until it starts to sizzle.  Move the pan around so that everything gets mixed and warmed nicely.  Pour over the tuna and beans. Mix with a spoon to ensure everything is covered.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Tuna & Bean Salad

Tuna & Bean Salad

Tuna & Bean Salad

Check out related recipe Lentil & Quinoa Salad

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Decisions I didn’t make during my labour – a view on why we put ourselves completely in the hands of the medical professionals

It’s easy looking back now having studied for two years to become an Essentials (antenatal) Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor and think about all the things I’d wished I had known and read up on before I had my babies but there are certain things I feel guilty for not questioning during the birth of my boys.

Why didn’t I question the constant foetal monitoring, the breaking of my waters or the syntocinon (artificial oxytocin) drip to induce my contractions?  As an educated women in her late 20s who had attended the hospital’s own antenatal classes you’d think that I would have wanted to have a part in these decisions but the truth is I just went along with it.  I trusted the doctors and knew them to have more knowledge than me and to want the best outcome for me and my babies.  The thing is though, in a medicalised environment, do they always know what is best?

Decisions during labour

            I had been under consultant led care since we found out we were having twins at our first scan at 12 weeks pregnant.  I had scans every fortnight.  Thankfully our boys were always growing well and there were no concerns about TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome).  All through the first 24 hours of my labour there were no concerns about them, apart from that a small bleed had set the labour off.  After 24 hours my labour slowed down, my contractions basically stopped which I now know can be pretty normal for a first labour, especially in a hospital environment.  The next morning the decision was taken to break my waters and put me on the drip to get the labour going again.  The contractions came back from so much more intense and painful than they had been the day before until I felt I couldn’t cope any more, I asked for an epidural.  I was 9cm dilated but I never got any further. After hours of being at 9cm I ended up having to have the boys delivered by caesarean section because Ethan’s hand was stuck by his face so he couldn’t move down properly.

        I felt like the power was taken away from me, that my body failed but was never left to see if it could do it on its own.  But I felt worse because I had let that happen. At no point did I question things and say, can I use the birth pool for a couple of hours to see if things get going again, or can we go out for a walk.  I never asked about the risks.  I suppose I felt it would be rude to question somebody who has the level of training they do, who does the job on a daily basis, who has probably looked after hundreds of women like me.  For me they’re called health professionals because they are just that, professionals, experts in their field.  They do these amazing jobs every day but it doesn’t mean they can’t be questioned or asked to explain more, even if they are super busy because the labour and birth experience for a women and becoming a mother for the first time is one of the defining moments of her life.

Decisions during labour

         After leaving it for two years, I finally arranged to meet my consultant to debrief about my experience and go through my notes.  This was amazing as I got to ask all the questions that had been going round in my head for so long.  Although I can’t get any firm answers, for example, did the inducing of labour lead to Ethan moving too fast and getting stuck, as we just don’t know, I straightaway felt more accepting of what happened to me.

NCT logo

All of this plus my feeding experience led me to do my NCT training.  I now teach Essentials antenatal classes to expectant parents. This is my way of coming to terms with what happened to me by supporting others to have informed choice and a wealth of evidence based resources to go to, in the hope that they never feel the way I did.  It’s ok to want ownership of your own birthing journey.

This blog post was first published on Blended Parent Network in April 2017.

Blended Parent Network

 

Beef Tacos

The boys just gobbled up this dinner. I think they really enjoyed eating with their hands and not getting too messy. Oliver and Daddy loved theirs with cheddar cheese but you can have without if you’re not a fan or are dairy-free.

Beef Tacos blog

You do need a bit of time to make the sauce as it tastes better when the meat has been cooked for a few hours and so breaks down.  If you don’t have time in an afternoon to keep checking on it in a pan, you could try making it in a morning and leaving in the slow cooker on a low setting all day.

This recipe serves two adults and two small children with one portion left over for lunch the next day.

 

Ingredients

500g pack of Beef Mince (we use Sainsburys Organic Lean Beef Mince as we prefer the flavour to other beef we’ve tried)

12 Crunchy Taco Shells

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion

2 cloves garlic

1 medium carrot

1 courgette

1 small glass of red wine

1 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1/2 a small jar/carton of passata  or 1 tbsp tomato puree

1 beef stock cube (we use Kallo Organic)

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 jar/carton black beans (optional)

Grated Cheddar cheese to top (optional)

Salt & pepper

Method

Add the olive oil to a large, deep frying pan. Once the oil is warm add the chopped red onion and carrot and fry on a low heat for about five minutes until soft. Add the garlic and courgette and fry for a further five minutes.

Add the beef mince and fry until brown, stirring and breaking up the mince so it doesn’t all stick together. Add in the red wine and after a couple of minutes add in the chopped tomatoes, pasta/tomato puree, stock cube, oregano and spices.

Beef Tacos

Stir, put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for at least three hours checking every half hour and adding water if necessary to not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.

Beef Tacos

Once the sauce has reduced and the meat has broken down, it should look like the below.

Beef Tacos

If using the black beans, add a few minutes before serving just to warm through.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the taco shells in the oven according to the packet instructions and serve with some green vegetables.  This time we had wilted spinach with garlic and nutmeg.

Beef Tacos

Thank you for reading.

Enjoy!

 

The Siblings Project {August 17}

We’re right in the middle of the summer holidays. I can’t believe how fast the first three weeks have gone and just like that I’ve waved the boys off at the airport today to spend the rest of their holidays in Italy.  They were so excited, Oliver was a bit more cuddly early this morning but absolutely fine when they left. I hope they will both be ok when Daddy comes home in a few days.  I’m more than ready to go and join them at the end of the month for a proper holiday!

Siblings Project August blog

The boys are so opinionated about their clothes now. I’m so glad they still love their rainbow colours. They had fun choosing all their t-shirts, shorts, pants and socks to put in their suitcases. Their backpacks are full of toys both cuddly and plastic!  I know they will have loads of fun with Nonni and Zia.

Siblings Project August

We’ve definitely enjoyed the summer so far. There have been play dates at friend’s houses, hours at various parks, film nights, a morning at gymnastics, two days at school holiday club, a full week at YMCA Camp and days out with Nana and Grandad including two epic bike rides. The boys are already brown before they even go away, they’ve had so much fresh air and exercise!

Siblings Project August

I think the most amazing thing about being siblings is that they always have each other. I think that’s one of the reasons they cope so well when they go to new places like camp.  They’re such good friends, great play mates. I was watching them at the park at the weekend and a lady commented on how lovely it was that they were playing so well together.  I’m so proud to get comments like that and to know that they are such happy boys.

Siblings Project August

That’s all for this month. This time next month the holidays will be over and we’ll be back into school routine, hopefully looking back with smiles at a brilliant summer.

Siblings Project August

Siblings August

To have a look back at July’s photos please click here.

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The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful

 

Stuffed Courgettes

We’re having a bumper crop of courgettes at the minute thanks to some amazing sunny weather and lots of rain too. I’ve also had two rather large marrows because I missed them underneath all the huge leaves and didn’t go down to the vegetable patch for two days because of the rain.  I came up with this recipe and it worked really well, Oliver asked me as soon as he’d finished when i could make it again so I consider that a win!

Stuffed courgettes blog

This recipe serves two adults and two children.  We served them with some fish and spinach and garlic bread.  If you don’t have any nutritional yeast and don’t have a dairy intolerance you can substitute this with a large handful of grated parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

1 marrow sliced in the middle and then lengthways or

4 standard size courgettes

1 packet Uncle Ben’s Special Microwave Rice Tomato & Basil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 large clove of garlic crushed

1 tsp dried oregano

1 handful fresh mint leaves torn

1tbsp tomato puree

8-12 cherry tomatoes

1 heaped tsp nutritional yeast

150ml vegetable stock

Salt & Pepper

Method

Scoop with the flesh from the courgettes or marrow with a teaspoon or desert spoon and put to one side.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion on a low heat for about 5 minutes until softened and then add the garlic.  Fry for 1 minute before adding the flesh of the courgettes plus all the other ingredients apart from the rice and the stock.

Leave to cook for about 10 minutes until the courgette flesh is soft.

While this is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C ( 150 – Fan) and place the courgettes in a large roasting tray.

Separate the rice by massaging the packet and then add the rice to the frying pan. Stir and leave to cook for a few minutes. Taste and season again if needed before spooning into the courgettes.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Pour the stock into the bottom of the tray and cover the tray with foil. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for one hour. Remove the foil and bake for another20-30 minutes checking the courgettes and rice are cooked.

Serve as preferred.

Stuffed Courgettes

Stuffed courgettes

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