I found all of the youtube videos and blogs on this topic so interesting just to be nosey about how everyone approaches packing their hospital bag (!) and super useful in working out what to take in mine, so I thought I’d do a similar post.
as the base of what I was taking, and then I supplemented based on videos I watched where I felt like I identified with the people filming (as some people, for example, pack a tonne of fairy lights, battery operated tea lights to transform the hospital… that wasn’t really for us, so pick people who you feel match your temperament best!)
Videos I liked and found most helpful were by Fleur de Force and Lily Pebbles, but there must’ve been a million that I watched for inspiration – just search on youtube!
Note: this is what’s in MY hospital bag; we also have a separate bag for baby’s things, and one for my husband which includes all my snacks/drinks etc for labour 🙂
PS. Top tip – don’t pack it yourself! Get your partner to do it, as they’ll be the one needing to root around to find you stuff in it when it’s all kicking off…! Plus if you’re lucky like me, there’s the added bonus that they’re actually a neater packer…! 😉
PPS. If you’re home birthing, it’s still worth maybe considering all the things you’ll want accessible for your birth and immediately afterwards so you and your partner don’t have to stress about locating stuff while you’re mid contraction… just a thought ❤
What’s in my hospital bag
Extra copies of our birth preferences (we based ours on the PBC template and planned for all scenarios)
Iphone, charger, headphones (to be packed on the day!)
Bikini top & sports bra (options to wear if we do get a pool, if I want to wear some kind of clothing – I probably won’t care!)
Flip flops (incase I do take a shower in the hospital and don’t want to walk on gross floors!)
Lightweight dressing gown (one I got from a spa to relax me, and not too fluffy as apparently hospitals are hot AF…! But also one I don’t mind leaving behind me, because you know… hospitals, gross, hygiene, COVID etc…)
V. v. loose short dress (instead of a nightie – loose enough that it’s easy for breastfeeding, comfortable for labour if I’m not in the pool, and if I did have an unplanned c-section it wouldn’t irritate a scar)
x2 flannels (for cold compress during labour and/or washing my face later!)
Lip balm (gas & air dries your lips a lot apparently)
Hairbands, hairbrush, hair clip (gotta keep the mane off the face!)
Pillow (?) In non-covid times I’d take a comfy feather one, but I might just take one of our less nice spare room pillows and chuck it, but that seems pointless as the purpose of this is more for comfort/familiarity/relaxation, so I may not bother…
Water wipes (these didn’t fit in baby’s bag… in baby’s bag we have cotton wool as you’re only meant to use cotton wool and water on newborn skin but apparently the first meconium can be super tough to get off, so you can sort of cheat with 99.6% water wipes… we got these Aqua Wipes)
Breast pads (the bamboo washable ones from Boots – I think they’re these Boots maternity pad ones but I’m not sure as Boy bought them for me – TMI but my colostrum started leaking from week 19/20 in pregnancy so we bought them early)
Big knickers (high enough to go over an emergency c-section scar just in case! I can’t remember which ones I got but I got navy as they were out of black and it was a pack of 6 or 7 from Amazon)
Disposable maternity knickers (yep, adult nappies ready for all the blood. JOY. Again, I found these on Amazon)
Dark towel (dark is best because you will bleed!)
Toiletries (toothbrush, paste, cleanser etc)
Mini makeup bag (with my MAC concealer, some lipsticks, mascara… nothing scented so that baby can smell me not my makeup though. Fleur took a makeup bag in and I just agree that it’s a fab idea as you don’t know how long you’ll be in hospital, I don’t know how much of it will be without Boy due to COVID restrictions, so if baby is sleeping and I’m alone, I might want to actually sort my face out and feel some semblance of normal human being. I also might not give AF (probably gonna happen!) and ignore it, but its nice to have just in case!)
Going home clothes (I picked a long black dress from ASOS that isn’t maternity but I’ve worn all pregnancy as it’s so comfy and makes me feel less like a whale! But the key is its loose fitting and won’t irritate me, even if I have an unplanned caesarean or something!) I’ll also have the maternity leggings, top and jumper I’m going to wear into hospital incase I’d prefer those!)
Essential oils – lavender, frankincense, bergamot and clary sage (for my compress/relaxation during labour – I find lavender and clary sage super relaxing – just don’t go sniffing clary sage before you’re 37 weeks! Bergamot I find really relaxing too (I love earl grey tea and it’s the same scent!) And apparently frankincense is a good one to help with breathing when you’re in transition and completely freaking before the pushing phase…!)
Liquid yoga room spray by Mama Mio – this smells divine and the peppermint notes are really refreshing. I saw so many mums and Lucy Flow Yoga recommend this, and just had to have it! I spray it when I do yoga at home, so for hospital it should help me get back into that more chilled headspace.
Sleep/relaxation blend roller for pulse points – this was a gift for xmas one year and it’s a nice destress little blend 🙂
UPDATE post publication: also packing paracetamol & ibuprofen – my due time buddy just gave birth early and recommended I pack these because it can be a few hours wait sometimes if they’re busy before you’re brought pain relief on the post natal ward, so I just shoved some in my bag and I want these for when I’m a bit sore/uncomfy when it’s all over!
What did you pack in yours/what are you currently packing?! I’ve seen people take huge wheelie suitcases but we’re just taking a small weekender bag (given we live like 10 minutes from the hospital, and Boy will be visiting hours restricted due to COVID 😦 he’ll also be able to pick up any extras from home if we need them in between, we just wanted to take the essentials.
Might do a separate post on baby’s bag too as that’s waaaay cuter 🙂 More gorgeous little outfits and less adult nappies haha!
I just thought I’d pop on here and do a quick review of a course I found really useful in my prep for getting our beautiful baby born this October, however that ends up happening (!) be it vaginal delivery or out of the sun roof 🙂
This is not sponsored, nor was it gifted – I found this over the course of lockdown and The Maternity Collective were kindly offering everyone free access to their online antenatal course (usually at a price point of circa £80 I believe) because of the COVID situation.
COVID clearly did reduce access to ante- and post-natal support for so many women, so access to The Maternity Collective course was incredibly useful, but regardless, it’s still something I’d recommend to you if you’re pregnant even when we return to more normal times!
The course is delivered online in easy to access videos, and has subtitles for anyone with accessibility issues in all sections except the breastfeeding and newborn behaviour presentations (at the time of writing this) but these do have written accompanying slides you can download with the key information points on them.
What I loved about the course is that while all of the hypnobirthing content and books and the online course I’ve done have been super helpful and include some science,The Maternity Collective was created by a wonderful, highly qualified obstetrician and so it better covers the medical ins and outs in more detail, with more clarity, than hypnobirthing-geared content – but Dr Ellie Rayner (who you can find on instagram here @maternitymedic) also appreciates the value of hypnobirthing techniques and that approach to birth and so fuses the best of both worlds into a really helpful, informative, calming and reassuring course (she is a hypnobirthing instructor as well as an incredible, highly qualified medic!)
I’ve found ‘pure’ hypnobirthing books and techniques very helpful, don’t get me wrong, (I recommended many of their resources in some of my other recent posts!) but I do think some hypnobirthing content out there almost creates the impression that it’s hypnobirthers vs. hospitals/medical professionals/’bad’ over-medicalised birth, which really shouldn’t be the case, and The Maternity Collective will give you all of the medical facts, pros and cons, from an unbiased perspective, whilst the value of hypnobirthing is completely recognised and optimal practises are recognised and encouraged.
The course is thorough without being overwhelming, and covers:
Preparing for labour and birth (and understanding how it all works!)
Normal labour and birth (the various stages, what happens, and pain relief options)
Reasons you might meet an obstetrician (all the details on everything from inductions, delays, assisted delivery, tearing, episiotomies, caesareans and what happens if there is too much bleeding after birth)
The postnatal period (physical and emotional recovery, and caring for your brand new baby!)
A quick summary (on how to create your birth preferences, and make informed decisions throughout labour so that you are in control of everything that happens to you)
Breastfeeding and newborn behaviour (all the science of milk supply, techniques for feeding, baby’s body clock, sleeping, what to expect, what’s normal and trouble shooting, plus a guide to formula feeding)
There are also some course notes, birth preference templates and breastfeeding and newborn sleep slides for you to keep.
I loved the course’s simple and accessible format, and it will tell you everything you need to know to prepare for labour (you don’t even need to buy any other books if you don’t want to!) and it has some amazing content to get you thinking about what happens afterwards as well, particularly the detail on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a topic you hear about so much and is shrouded in mystery because on the one hand it seems so natural and on the other you hear all these stories of problems, struggles, pain and experiences where it didn’t work out.
The Maternity Collective course goes in to a lot of detail on how milk supply works, common breastfeeding issues and the best action to take, seeking support, how and when to feed and what to expect from your baby, how you will know if they’re feeding enough or if there is cause for concern, why babies need to be fed so much at night, and much, much more! There is also the recognition though that you may want to formula or combination feed and so there is a handy pdf guide to formula feeding should this be the best option for you.
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to prep for labour and afterwards, I would say this course is it!
It’s also a good one for husbands like mine who might find some of the slight ‘woo’ perceptions of hypnobirthing branded courses or content off-putting – with The Maternity Collective you get the same important information, but in a more factual, practical manner (and more of it, from someone who is very, very qualified!)
Hope this helps, let me know if you do try the course and what you think!
If you liked this post, you might also be interested in reading these:
Well hello again everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet on here which is odd given that you’d think in lockdown I’d have had much more time to blog… but being pregnant in a global pandemic, having started a new job (my first fully qualified lawyer job) remotely and various other things have meant that blogging just hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.
Today, though, inspiration struck and I wanted to share some resources that I’ve used to totally change my mindset about giving birth.
This post will cover the resources I’ve used which I’d credit (alongside a lot of time investment on my part!) with taking the fear out of the prospect of giving birth for me, and also helping me prepare for birth generally and the postpartum recovery period.
*(Reminder nothing in this post is sponsored/gifted/other, it’s all stuff I’ve paid for [except the Maternity Collective course which they were giving free to everyone during COVID] and loved and 100% recommend!)*
Where does fear of labour come from?
Because let’s face it, I’ve spent my entire life TERRIFIED of giving birth, like many, many women.
What you see on TV – Rachel on Friends, for example – people lying on their backs, screaming, faces contorted, sometimes legs in stirrups, yelling for epidurals… and that’s just movies and light entertainment (I’ve never even watched One Born Every Minute).
In my ED days I was even scared of pregnant people because of their size – how messed up is that?!
Then you get the STORIES. The whisperings and ‘oh you wouldn’t believe how bad her labour was’, the horror stories, the drama, the nightmare scenarios that people like to tell you…
So as a base line, generally, as a culture, birth has become a very medicalised thing, and something to be feared.
Growing up, I swore that if I had kids I’d get an elective c-section. Now, because I know all the benefits for my baby, I want to try to birth vaginally (if allowed – I may not be able to because at the time of writing [28 weeks pregnant] I still have a low placenta and if this hasn’t moved by the time they do the extra scan to check it at 36 weeks, I will have to have a c-section due to it basically blocking the exit and also high risks of haemorrhaging!)
If you want the short answer for how I overcame the fear, I guess there isn’t one – it’s a process that took time, effort and mental reprogramming! But a combination of education (and more education!), and taking elements of hypnobirthing which worked for me and my personality (not all – see below!) and basically using my previous study in mindfulness to create an approach to birth that worked for me. I didn’t go on any expensive course or find a magic bullet, I just put the work in.
Getting informed (but still scared!)
One of these books was The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill. Did it make me feel positive? HELL NO! I found it scary on first read. But I read it 3 or 4 times, alongside some other books which I’ll list below, because it took away the mystery and the unknown, and made me understand all the options for birth (location, pain relief, what interventions might be needed and why, induction, caesareans, pros and cons of absolutely everything).
While initially scary for me, getting educated was a key part of the process to make sure I was in control. Because guess what? You have to consent to everything. You do not ‘have’ to have internal examinations to check dilation. You do not ‘have’ to have an induction. It may be there is a good reason to have them, but knowing you have the choice, and knowing you should ask for all of the benefits, risks and reasons was a game changer for me.
Both are hypnobirthing books, a concept I thought sounded a bit hippy but I’d heard people I admire and respect who didn’t seem completely ‘woo woo’ rave about it on podcasts, so I gave them a go.
I also used the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack(an online hypnobirthing course, which was discounted due to the lack of pregnancy support in hospitals etc during COVID 19).
Hypnobirthing is perhaps a woo name, but it’s not really all that woo and certainly isn’t to do with hypnotising yourself, or ‘out there’ practices (full disclosure: occasionally I found hypnobirthing does have a slight push towards home birth (which isn’t for me) which I found a bit annoying, and it could get a bit focussed on fairy lights and candles and prioritising natural birthing to the point it almost felt like it was saying non natural birth was negative [although they explicitly do state ALL births are valid] sometimes, but generally it is science based to help you ensure you stay calm to keep your body hormonally optimal for labour to progress smoothly, with less pain).
Some hypnobirthing fans recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which is a book I HATED because it was waaaaaay to weird and spiritual and hippy for me. But we’re all different I guess!) But if that’s not your bag, more practical and let’s say ‘modern woman’ rather than ‘earth mother’ approaches do exist, and those are the ones I’m talking about here that helped me.
I don’t for one second buy all of it, particularly that birth is pain free (some hypnobirthing teachers claim it doesn’t have to be painful, others state that they disagree with this like me!), but I do believe that naturally our responses to what is happening in our bodies (e.g. panic, fear, relaxation, understanding, acceptance) can influence that and how bad it feels.
I found that hypnobirthing is really an approach that focusses on empowering women to:
understand your body during labour, how the muscles and hormones work to facilitate your birth and what you can do to keep these as optimal as possible;
understand your choices during labour (you ALWAYS have a choice, and it is important to be informed and that you know you have the right to give or refuse consent for anything)
learn relaxation techniques to keep adrenaline (which inhibits labour) at bay and maximise oxytocin (which makes labour happen) – these can also be used to keep you calm during interventions or caesareans, they’re not just for vaginal births!;
understand natural techniques for labour e.g. using upright, forward and open positions to allow gravity to help you, instead of mindlessly following TV over medicalised assumptions that you should lie down, which really just helps doctors/midwives see what’s happening!; and
essentially to feel empowered and have a positive birth experience, whatever path your birth takes (rather than feeling traumatised and like decisions were made for you, or that you were not in control).
Plus it helps guide your birth partner on how best to support you during labour.
Many of the relaxation techniques weren’t for me and my partner (if he even tried to read me a relaxation script we’d both die laughing!) but the breathing techniques, positive affirmations and emphasis on re-wiring my view of birth from something necessarily traumatic to something that can be a positive experience really helped me move past being scared.
Rewiring your brain
I was NOT up for watching videos where I’d have to see a baby emerging from a vagina. I’m way too squeamish, and not one of those women who thinks that sight is ‘beautiful’. Sure, babies are beautiful, I’m sure the experience of birth can be beautiful, but that’s too much gore for me personally.
Hypnobirthing advocates using positive birth stories, photography, videos, and affirmations to gradually re-condition how you perceive birth. Stop all negative input, and crowd it out with positive.
I didn’t really want to see pics or graphic videos, but I did use:
I started skipping ones which had trigger warnings that particularly worried me (episiotomies, tearing, forceps, ventouse, emergency c-sections) and just read ones that sounded smooth and simple.
As I did more hypnobirthing practice and read more of these, I became less afraid and started reading the more complicated birth stories too – this made me realise that even a complicated birth which has things go ‘wrong’ or not as planned can still be a positive experience. So many women wrote about births which on paper you might think could have been super traumatic, but because of their mindset, their hypnobirthing, the fact they were informed and in control and had prepared for all scenarios, they still felt empowered and that the overall experience was positive. This was a game changer for me.
I also listened to the birth experience of my nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on her podcast (here) which sounds very traumatic and happened during the height of COVID-19. I found it so interesting to hear that a lot of the stress comes from feeling things are going ‘wrong’, not knowing what happens for certain procedures and feeling like birth isn’t going to plan. This really brought home to me that being prepared for birth to take any number of unexpected courses is key and has helped me lose the fear in the build up to it.
Limited (!) videos – I watched a few you tubers talk about their positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing, as an intro so I didn’t need to see it. Then I found a couple of you tubers who vlogged their labour (but don’t show you anything too much!!) helpful – especially Kerry Conway’s third labour (no epidural) (part 1 here and part 2 here), and Jess Hover’s two births without epidurals (vaguely remember some brief religious mentions which I just ignored as that’s not my thing).
This was great for some pregnancy-friendly yoga for relaxation, and also learning more upright, forward and open optimal birth positions. She also had helpful resources on the fact that it is sometimes possible to be mobile even with an epidural or continuous monitoring – how to ask and how this can be done, which was really useful.
Lots of the yoga flows are designed to help ease pregnancy specific problems (back pain etc) and to prepare your pelvis to really open up. It was amazing to learn the facts about how you can get 30% MORE SPACE in the pelvis by not lying down and preventing the sacrum from moving etc.
It was also nice because membership comes with free access to her Member’s Hub where you can chat about all things pregnancy, yoga, other, ask questions and generally support other mums!
As I’d done so much reading and research, and the fact that due to coronavirus antenatal classes in person being cancelled, when I looked at antenatal classes charging £250+ for stuff I already knew, I didn’t see the point, especially as most people say the value is in making mum friends, and I didn’t feel like paying that much money to do that over zoom.
Then I found the Maternity Collective who generously offered free access to their online antenatal course (normally circa £80), again because of the lack of pre and post natal support for women during the coronavirus situation.
It was SO helpful because it was more medically / scientifically detailed than the hypnobirthing content on the physical parts of labour, pain relief, interventions etc.
It also had extensive sections on feeding options and newborn sleep, to help prepare for the part which comes after the labour!
Postive Birth Company – Post Partum Pack
PBC’s postpartum pack (an online course covering everything you need post-birth!) was also reduced to £20 because of COVID for a limited time, and I found this really helpful to prepare and swot up on breastfeeding, baby sleeping (or lack thereof!), maternal mental health, physical and mental recovery from labour, post partum rehab, exercise and yoga, and much much more! Definitely recommend this, especially if coronavirus or other things have prevented you getting to classes or having the normal amount of support with this.
Thanks for reading my ramblings!
I hope if you did stumble across this post as you prepare for birth that you found it helpful – everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but I was so so so scared and anti the idea of labour before and now I’m so excited for it, so it is possible to have a complete mindset shift!
Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth prep if you’re at that stage of your journey, or if not and you’re curious ahead of time like I was… fab, I genuinely don’t think you can get enough prep in because these are things we can never ever be fully prepared for!
Sorry not sorry that the baby spam starts now…! I’d look away if this isn’t your thing… 🙂 you’ve been warned!
In this post I’ll cover:
The technical stuff – tests, OPKs, sperm friendly lube etc!
But first, I just need a quick natter with you guys!
It’s crazyyyyyyy to be expecting our little cub after so much planning…! I am the kind of crazy person who before we even started trying (like, months before) had done ALL the research, read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, read all the blogs and articles and magazines and watched all the youtube videos. I was on special supplements well over 4 months before we started trying and went to see my nutritionist to discuss my ‘planning to conceive’ diet and check my supplements, and had loads of chats with Boy about his nutrition and supplements too and he was even taking the Wellman Pregnacare trying to conceive ones before we were trying – we were checking his zinc levels and all sorts haha! (You can buy the Pregnacare Him & Her pack for couples here which will have you both covered!)
I get that not everyone would want to be that prepped, and also that some people are more spontaneous – totally fair! We’d known for about a year that we were ready, and we just wanted to wait for the wedding in December to be sorted so I could enjoy my champagne (!), my training contract to end so I was a fully qualified lawyer, and Boy’s probation to be over as he changed jobs during the year. We then had a month to get healthy and back on track post Xmas, so the trying point was set to Jan 2020 and we expected it to take 6 months to a year to conceive (that’s totally normal for healthy couples our age). I know that doesn’t match what we told people our plans were, but we wanted to keep it private and pressure free.
Also, it seems it paid off, because we had expected to be trying for a year and then bam! First try, we had a little cub!
So, OTT though all that planning might be (I can’t help being over-prepared!), it means I’ve collated some useful resources that you may or may not fancy trying if you’re a mum, about to become one, or just super keen to know what you’re in for before you start your TTC journey (trying to conceive for anyone who hasn’t yet stalked all the mummy corners of the internet!). So much of this stuff is personal taste and unique to you, so you might haaaate the things I love, but here are just a few resources that helped me feel prepared!
These are my pregnancy & #TTC favourites, covering everything from nutrition, wellbeing, keeping baby healthy, fertility and maximising your chances of conceiving, baby psychological development, and keeping sane on the pregnancy new mum journey… plus the ever-terrifying and intriguing topic of labour/childbirth aka the stuff of most girls’ nightmares! Knowing more can take some of the fear out, so get reading gals.
I took these for 4+ months before we started trying which is potentially overkill, but 3-4 months in advance is good, and 3 months ahead of trying is apparently when you ideally need to begin building up your folic acid stores especially.
We also got these joint packs about 2 months before so Boy could be on the right stuff too:
As soon as I was pregnant I switched to these Pregnacare Plus ones which also include omega 3s for brain and eye development 🙂
Of course, being a book obsessive, before we were even trying I ordered a tonne of stuff to get reading up on everything I wanted to know on Amazon. These are the ones I’d recommend you give a go too! For me, I just felt like if you’re going to try for a baby, obviously you want TTC information, but also it’s important to know what you’re in for! The most useful were easily the Henrietta Norton Pregnancy Nutrition Guide, Your Baby Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz, Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make your Birth Better by Siobhan Miller, and The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill (it didn’t make me feel v positive haha but it’s super informative and helpful and worth a read anyway).
Clue – (free!) this was my go to for period/fertility tracking in the period before we were properly trying, just to familiarize myself with my cycle, so I’d know the dates of my periods and rough fertility windows etc. but then I changed to a different one which if you’re TTC is more accurate because in Clue, you can’t log ovulation tests. In the app below, you can log what your ovulation tests say and it feeds into the algorithm and re-calculates your dates!
Glow– (the basic version is free, and is super extensive but I did upgrade to premium as they did 40% off for the new year!) I downloaded this before we were TTC officially and I used the info I had from Clue about my cycle to input all my previous periods. This one is a lot more involved. Clue lets you track emotions and sex as well as periods, for example, but with Glow you can go the whole TTC 9 yards (TMI possibly, but you can include if you were on the bottom or top, or had sex multiple times, log your cervical mucus consistency (this is something I never thought I’d care about when I was younger haha, and you can also log, believe it or not, whether or not your orgasmed!) It also lets you record your basal body temperature so you can really hone in on the ovulation day predictions. You can also track your stress levels, join groups (and weirdly even talk to women on the same cycle as you, but I must admit I didn’t do that!) Anyway, this was so helpful, and I might do a proper review of the app on here if you guys might find more details useful?! It also has meditations if you subscribe to premium, both for general life and de-stressing, and also fertility-specific meditations. But key for me was that while it and Clue looked equally accurate (they initially predicted the same fertile window), Glow updates according to your ovulation tests (it turned out I was ovulating a day earlier than it thought!)
Glow nurture– once pregnant, I used the Glow sister app to track Cub’s development 🙂 ❤
RelaxMelodies – for keeping calm and helping me sleep, and de-stressing (you need to reduce stress as much as possible while TTC and pregnant!)
Freya – this is The Positive Birth Company App and helps with breathing exercises to try to reduce pain and stop you freaking out during labour. I’m all about trying to learn these kinds of techniques in advance! You can also use it to time contractions when the time comes…!
Peanut – I’ve heard the founder interviewed loads. She is an amazing entrepreneur and mum, and this is like tinder for mums, to help you meet friends who will also have little ones and be around at the same times as you (and help you find like-minded mums so you don’t end up bored out of your brain on nappy chat if that’s not your thing!) I joined a bit early and spoke to some TTC mamas too!
I’ve done the Hypnobirthing Digital Pack by The Positive Birth Company which was comforting, and I’m now doing their Post Natal course which teaches you what to expect in the period immediately after birth, and recovery from their, feeding, all that jazz!
These two episodes from Rhiannon Lambert’s Food for Thought:
These are just a few but there are loads out there, I guess it just depends what you like.
Made by Mammas (by Zoe and Georgia, who do the podcast of the same name!)
And then I was lucky enough to already know of two mummy bloggers as we were friends at school years ago for a bit – Sarah over at Whimsical Mumblings and Kerry Conway at Lived with Love .
I also discovered Kayla Buell on my TTC googlings and she has a blog over at Lost Gen Y Girl that I also found helpful.
Plus the gorgeous and glamorous Rose – of The Londonerfame, who was an old fave lifestyle, fashion and general recipe blogger of mine – now has a baby and so does some posts on mum and baby life which are helpful. (Ps an old non-mum fave: check out her recipe for Slutty Brownies!)
I didn’t discover her until I was pregnant, but Lucie and the Bump is great too, and I like following her because she’s just a couple of weeks ahead of me in her second pregnancy.
I am very particular about the youtubers I watch, and I struggle with mum youtubers sometimes. These are the ones I like, most others I struggle with. Always keen for recommendations though!
Fleur De Force & Fleur De Vlog (I love that Fleur didn’t start as a mum vlogger, she’s first and foremost herself doing mostly beauty, fashion and lifestyle but NATURALLY her life changed once she found out she was having a baby, and I love her pregnancy vlogs etc. I find her really relatable and maybe one of the youtube mums I feel like I’d be similar to, so I really like and relate to the style of her videos. Also her little girl River Wren is ADORABLE and I REALLY RESPECT Fleur’s decision not to feature River too much and put her all over the internet and keep it about River’s choice as she gets older!)
Kerry Conway (we went to school together so maybe I’m biased haha but I love following her adventures with her 3 girls and her husband back where I grew up. Loads of helpful info and tips, and she juggles motherhood with entrepreneurial work which is great!)
Kayla Buell(most US based mommy vlogs haven’t been my cup of tea but I love Kayla’s videos! At the time of writing she has a little girl called Riley and is about to pop with her baby boy! I love that she was smart, educated, with a career but fully owned her choice to say “screw the haters, I want to be a stay at home mum”)**
Lucieandthebump – I discovered Lucie when I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and she’s at 14 weeks so a little bit ahead so it’s fun to follow her journey as we’re so close with where we’re at! She does other content too that I don’t really follow so much.
Jessica Hover – she has a couple of baby 101 and newborn tips videos that seem like they’ll be super useful**
**with these American ones, if you’re an atheist like me, the religion can get a bit much, so usually I skip any of those parts!
The technical stuff – tests, OPKs etc.
So I was determined not to use ovulation kits and not to obsess and just enjoy our period of trying when we first talked about it. That went out of the window for various reasons, including Boy having to travel for work and us wanting to maximise our chances… obviously at this point we had no idea it would happen first cycle. So… we ordered the OPKs and then I ordered a BBT thermometer to be extra careful. Here are my technical bits & pieces that I’d recommend.
Clearblue ovulation test advanced digital – these are pricier than the super cheap ones on Amazon, but I wanted a clear, definitive answer on fertility, not to stress about whether there was a line or not! You have a super clear smiley face if you’re ovulating, and a flashing smiley if you’re high fertility. Simple. Stress-free!
Clearblue digital pregnancy tests, especially the Clearblue Pregnancy Early Detection Triple Check kit – these just feel more reliable to me to confirm what you’ve seen on a cheapie, but obviously they’re too expensive to keep shelling out for if you’re testing a lot, so also invest in the below!
Pre-seed lube– apparently regular lube can kill swimmers (fact of the day haha!), and even if you don’t normally need or want lube, if you’re having a lot more sex than normal to try, trust me – buy some of this! Makes everything super easy, and it’s sperm friendly. Woo!
I am obsessed, as you can tell, with learning what the hell I’m in for as I want to be as well prepared, happy and healthy as I can be so that in turn our little cub is super happy and healthy too… so any books, pods, apps, you name it, hit me up!
Also please, PLEASE share your fave pregnancy workouts and any youtubers you think I might like who are similar to the above.
How crazy is this?!! I can’t even explain how excited we both are ❤
So you may have seen on instagram I became a bit sporadic posting in early Jan this year, and then went offline for a few days with some health stuff.
Nothing like something feeling wrong with your body to make you focus on taking care of yourself, right?
I usually rely on my hardcore boxing workouts in mornings, but in giving my body a break I established a new morning routine that has definitely helped me heal and get better.
Rather than a 6.30 start for hardcore workouts, I let myself sleep in til 7.30ish.
I started trying to start 4 out of 5 working days a week with a 10 minute yoga flow. No videos, no structure, just listening to relaxing music, moving my body and finding what feels good a la Yoga with Adriene’s philosophy.
I’d then, post yoga, wash up, clean my teeth, dress and make my way to the kitchen where I drink peppermint tea, a weak green tea, and/or plain old hot water to start my day.
Handful of spinach
I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work at 9.30 but during my morning down-time, I started grabbing a handful of spinach to munch on, so I know I’ve got a hit of some good stuff first thing in the morning. Spinach is amazing – just one cup contains, according to Medicalnewstoday.com:
Instead of being sporadic with breakfast at work, I’ve decided to opt (every work day) for something I know gets as many nutrients, antioxidants, a good burst of fibre and keeps my blood sugar levels steady with slow-release energy as possible – I make blueberry, banana & cinnamon porridge by microwaving plain quaker oats (1 sachet) with water for 2 minutes, stirring in a lot of cinnamon, a handful of fresh blueberries and chopping up 1 small banana on top. Voila! Even when I’m not hungry, I have this at my desk at 9.30 and it’s meant I’ve already got 3 portions of fruit & veg in (the spinach at home first thing included!) before lunch, and I don’t get hangry later in the day or crash out of energy.
So, while I do want to get my boxing back and feel better, putting self-care first and allowing my body the rest it needs has taught me some valuable lessons, especially how much you have to work at keeping your stress levels down! But I feel like all of these things have helped me de-stress, helped my body return to normal and I’m hoping my hormones should all be balanced out now.
I’m definitely going to keep up the caffeine free habit, the handful of spinach, and incorporating as much yoga and meditation into my day as I can.
I’m also going to keep up the better breakfasts, but some days I may swap the blueberry-cinnamon-banana porridge for raspberry, goji berry and maca or blue spirulina just to get a bit of variety.
Some other elements of my January self-care I’ve been loving (not morning-specific!) are:
being alcohol free;
warm baths with essential oils (rose and jasmine are my faves at the moment!) and epsom & himalayan salts;
focussing on getting as many portions of fruit and veg in per day as I can, as per usual but ramping this up to as near to 10 a day as possible!;
eating whole foods;
cooking from scratch as much as possible;
experimenting with new recipes, and being more adventurous with vegetarian recipes for Boy and I; and
making as many of our meals plant-based as we can
What are your January wellness routines or rituals (morning or evening!) that you’re hoping to hang on to for the rest of the year?
I love this one. Venetia Falconer is a vegan and sustainability guru but this isn’t a vegan podcast. She explores amazing food-related topics, health, wellness but also ideas around activism, mental health, and society, interviewing an amazing range of guests. Definitely check it out. Easy and fun to listen to.
Rhiannon Lambert is a super-smart, highly qualified Harley Street nutritionist and her podcast explores all kinds of nutrition-related topics and issues with amazingly qualified guests. Definitely one to inform and bust some myths!
The episodes can be long and occassionally a bit woo, but Rich is an incredible example of what we can achieve. He found himself overweight and an alcoholic approach mid life crisis, and almost overnight turned his life around, becoming vegan, and becoming an ultra-endurance athlete achieving incredible things. He explores fitness, nutrition, wellness and spirituality with long, meandering, chilled conversations with a range of guests. Pop on in the background if you’re working on boring admin tasks!
Much like The Doctor’s Kitchen, this is another podcast by a medical doctor who explores nutrition, fitness and lifestyle issues and questions. A great one to help you live a healthier, happier life.
6. Fit & Fearless, by The Girl Gains (Zanna Van Dijk, Tally Rye and Victoria Spence)
A BBC 5 Live podcast hosted by young, kick ass female PT and influencers, this is a positive, upbeat and uplifting podcast where the girls chat all things health and fitness, bust workout myths, interview leaders in their fields (athletes, nutritionists, you name it!) and give you a much-needed confidence boost to love yourself and your body, and to find workouts you enjoy. A girl power podcast that’s not just for the girls. A nice pre-gym motivator.
What do you think?
Any others you’d recommend? I also love podcasts more generally that aren’t just on health/fitness/food but wanted to share these first as I think they’re really great introductions to these topics by people who are experts in their respective fields, and/or super super inspiring.
Sorry it’s been a while – I’ve been so busy reading I forgot about sharing exactly what I’m reading!
I’ve read a lot of really awesome stuff recently, but I reeeeeaaaaally had to share this one with you next.
Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot
I’ve taken a summary of the book from Goodreads as it’s a pretty good introduction to jump in with:
“Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.”
This book is an unusual one but it’s absolutely incredible. I don’t know how well you know Sylvia Plath but there’s a line she writes that ‘the blood jet is poetry’. This book brings that to life because my god, the blood jet really is poetry. Heart Berries is incredibly raw, vivid, almost Plath-ian and ‘confessional’, but its also so refined, carefully crafted and wrought, so the intimacy isn’t just dumped on you or exposed, but painstakingly built into art.
The vivacity, brutality and pure honesty of both language and content is refreshing – sometimes hit-you-in-the-face loud, and sometimes so subtle.
It’s not an easy read but the rhythm of her writing and the way she weaves words and disjointed syntax together is something you eventually fall into. Mailhot pushes the emotion via both content AND craft, into your very bones.
I love the way she writes about life, love, motherhood, mental illness, and she takes genres of abuse narrative and Native American writing and makes them hers, simultaneously defying and transcending claddification. This book shatters any box that could try to contain it.
Mailhot rejects white culture’s exoticised conceptions (a la Said’s Orientalism) of Native American mysticism but doesn’t disown those aspects of her culture – she just strips out the whites’ imposition of romanticism and mystical tropes and crafts her own magic with clarity and authenticity and a very personal, sometimes wavering, poignant yet strong voice.
One of my favourite quotes in the book is:
“In white culture, forgiveness is synonymous with letting go. In my culture, I believe we carry pain until we can reconcile with it through ceremony. Pain is not framed like a problem with a solution. I don’t even know that white people see transcendence the way we do. I’m not sure that their dichotomies apply to me.”
I can’t recommend this read enough! If you’re not already sold, I also recommend reading Roxane Gay’s review of it – it’s brilliant!
“Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here, is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small. She writes of motherhood, loss, absence, want, suffering, love, mental illness, betrayal, and survival. She does this without blinking but to say she is fearless would be to miss the point. These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much. What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined, testament.”
– Roxane Gay, author – Review of Heart Berries
I’m not a beauty blogger so this is straying a little out of my natural territory, but I’ve recently developed a bit of a new passion project for skincare, and working out how I can better take care of mine.
I’ve never had massively ‘problem skin’, growing up I was quite lucky… but as I got more active, I did find that parts of my cheeks got much drier… from all the salt in my sweat from working out so much I think (nice!)
It took me a while to perfect my plan of action as this moved me from the normal skin range to more combination skin – not super oily, but very slightly more oil-prone T-zone, and then drier elsewhere. After much research into the routines of my favourite beauty muses, and sampling lots of different products, I’ve arrived at something that’s simple and quick (it has to be, to be sustainable for me!) and seems to get results. Obviously we’re all prone to the odd breakout now and then, especially around that time of the month (!) but I’ve definitely honed my beauty routine and learned to love the skin I’m in much more. Here are the secrets I’ve discovered and stolen from the glitterati!
1. Invest in good skincare products
I love Pretty Athletic, as it’s specifically targeted at athletic women so it’s great for gym-problem-skin. Their cooling cleanser doubles as a facemask which is amazing, and their workout glow hydraulic vitamin tonic just makes you feel super fresh and glow-y.
Whatever your jam for products, I really think spending a little more on quality here helps. Cheap and cheerful makeup wipes are fine in a pinch for when as a one-off you’ve had a few too many cocktails with the girls and don’t have time for a full facial and just have to get your makeup off, but they’re quite harsh and drying on the skin. Ditching the makeup wipes for quality cleanser has made a measureable difference for me.
I personally also really love Rituals skincare products. Their face oil is my secret weapon.
Sounds strange or super-expensive? It doesn’t have to be. I discovered this releatively recently while internet-stalking my long-time girl crush Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex (who seems to have managed to convert me from a republican to an okay-with-the-royals kinda girl! I’m ridiculous haha. I didn’t like her in Suits as she went from being sassy and independent to Mike Ross’s whiney girlfriend, but then all her humanitarian work and now defunct lifestyle blog made me fall IN LOVE. And as much as I want to be all ironic and nonchalant and politically principled, the Royal Wedding was beautiful and so much fun to obsess about! I am a bit ashamed of myself ha!)
I pop 2-3 drops of this rituals face oil on my hands and follow the steps Nichola Joss gives above and it honestly feels AMAZING. I don’t know if scientifically it actually makes any real difference (although massage does stimulate blood flow to the relevant area and allegedly give the benefits listed below, taken from the Elle article!) but it just makes you feel so good… and even if they’re ‘placebo’ cheek bones, half of the battle with skin and beauty generally is feeling confident, in my book!
1. Removes tension and stress from your jawline leaving you with a softer but stronger muscle and the face shape you’re actually meant to have.
2. Improves blood circulation which helps speed up skin cell renewal which in turn means nice, plump new skin.
3. Gives your skin vibrancy and bounce.
4. Moving the muscles in your face helps flush out toxins and pollution that can cause congestion in your skin.
5. Improves your overall facial structure so there’s less need for botox or fillers.
6. Stimulates your lymphatic system, draining fluids that can cause puffiness.
7. Stimulates endorphins! You’re always happier after you’ve done some facial massage.
[Edit – after original blog publishing update – On the theme of this ‘massage’ tip and my new skincare obsession-cum-quest, I discovered (thanks Harper’s Bazaar) and bought a jade roller this week. While I personally don’t believe in the alleged powers of crystals, although I am of course always open to being wrong and hearing new evidence, my mind can always be changed if you show me why – and I really do enjoy learning about other cultures’ beliefs around them. I totally appreciate that science doesn’t understand everything yet, so it would be crazy to be certain about anything. Jury’s out on if jade rollers have scientific benefits, apparently, but they feel damn good.
They were part of the beauty rituals of ancient Chinese Princesses throughout history, some claim [this article states that dermatologist David Lorscher, MD, consulted a colleague from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, who said she’d found ancient textual references to jade being used to even out a spotty complexion]
I’ve recently tried it – pop it in the fridge and use it for a morning ice-cold massage and it feels amazing and does seem to reduce puffiness (supposed to be from the lymphatic drainage benefits!) Either way, it feels bloody good. I bought mine from Spitalfields market for just £18. This chalkboardmag post tells you how to use one, or this greencreator article!]
3. It’s what’s inside that counts
Okay, so it’s totally boring to keep being told to hydrate and drink water for clear skin, but drinking water really is key. Our bodies are made up of crazy amounts of water. Drink lots of it kind of goes without saying, really.
But it’s not just water. Getting the right vitamins and minerals can do wonders for your skin, so make sure you’re aiming to beat the recommended 5 a day. I often strive for (not that I always achieve it!) 4 – 5 different portions of dark greens a day (so maybe spinach, broccoli and watercress on my lunch salad, then kale, rocket and asparagus with dinner!) plus 4-5 more serves of the ‘rainbow’ (red or yellow pepper, apple, Satsuma, pomegranate, carrot, blueberries, raspberries, courgette…) as Rhiannon Lambert, my beaaaautiful Disney Princess-esque Harley Street nutritionist days, NUTRIENTS NOT NUMBERS! (Her skin is flawless, too).
Omega-3 and general healthy fats in salmon and avocado and nuts like almonds are important for that plump, healthy, dewy-skinned effect too.
And finally, when working from the outside in, both of my celeb skin crushes who have the most glowing skin – Emma Watson and Meghan Markle – are yoga fans (Emma Watson is even a certified yoga instructor!). Whether or not this has any direct impact on your skin is of course dubious, I’m not saying it’s magically skin-linked, but it’s great for body, mind and just generally feeling more poised and confident.
4. Keep makeup minimal
This is easier said than done for some people, but I’m a big fan of a natural look (although on actresses who are naturally beautiful I guess it’s easier than for mere mortals like me who don’t have an inbuilt glow and often feel a bit horrible bare-faced!) I do think it’s silly though that we’re made to feel less-than without makeup so it’s good to try to make peace with the skin we’re in and use makeup to enhance things, not cover them.
I try to ONLY WEAR A FULL FACE for a big event or if I need to have a photograph taken (and even then if I can avoid foundation, I will).
Sadly, living in cities, we’re exposed to a tonne of pollution, so a daily cleanse is super important… it’s scary how much gunk can collect just waltzing around London for a day.
Similarly, sunscreen is super important to protect from UV light and not just avoid burning, but avoid prematurely ageing the skin. It’s the number one thing that ages women quickly – and not in a graceful way! To avoid dry, leathery, extra wrinkled skin, it’s best to use SPF (high factor ideally!) and don’t forget to moisturise. I prefer face oil to moisturiser, but it’s personal preference and skin type I think.
Alcohol and cigarettes are also like kryptonite for the skin, so if you can’t quit, make sure you at least cut down as they’re pretty bad for our general health too!
And finally, we think a lot about what we put in our bodies food-wise… but have you ever considered what we put on our skin? Natural makeup and skincare products go a long way to minimising the additive junk we’re pouring through our pores – The Body Shop, Lush and The Honest Company are great places to start collecting ‘cleaner’ products. I didn’t even think about the chemicals in beauty products and the idea of using more organic stuff until I read this interview with Emma Watson. While maybe going 100% organic or whatever isn’t sustainable in affordability/practical terms, we can certainly aim for more!
Recently I’ve become super interested in sustainability and transparency and understanding what I’m putting on my face and on my body. It’s been a fun little mission to see how far I can go with it… Can I create a completely sustainable wardrobe? Can I dress sustainably on the red carpet? Can I put together a hair and makeup look with completely organic products? I needed to figure out if it was achievable or not. You can’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk. So that’s what I’ve been discovering over the past couple of years.
Just a little thank you to all the amazing professionals I’ve connected with via Instagram, whether you’re studying or working… and since you all loved the meme so much on Instagram, I got Bruiser to sniff out and Elle to approve a cheeky brunch or post-workout snuggly bargain…
As of TODAY you can shop this brand new limited edition sweater! Shop now.
You have 28 days from today to get your hands on one ❤
If you follow me on instagram you’ll already have seen that I’m feeling all loved up this week (courtesy of a post-workout high!) and I wanted to share the endorphin buzz with all of you! So I’m planning an exciting giveaway that will run EXCLUSIVELY on my instagram so wriggle your perfect peach-emojis over to @legallygymliving and keep your beadies peeled for an opportunity to win some prizes (they’re beaaaauuuuutiful, I promise!)
The giveaway will open on Valentines Day (aw!) February 14th 2017, and run until 15th March 2017. That’s a whole month and a day to get your mits on some free workout gear!
Details of how to enter will be announced on instagram, so keep an eye out… but a bonus 5 entries will go to anyone who can guess why the giveaway stops on March 15th. Hint: what’s special about that day?