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Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has been interviewed by ITV news recently and shared the stark reality of her feelings when she became a new wife and mother.
The thing is, how many of us recognise that look in her eyes? I’d be willing to bet we all do in one way or another.
But as she says, nobody has really asked her how SHE was doing. She’s been keeping up appearances, looking so incredibly strong on the outside, that it probably never occurred to anyone that she might not be feeling that way on the inside.
How many of us are guilting of doing that, too?
How many of us have a picture just like this one? Smiling and happy on the outside, but actually suffering a lot more than people would realise?
When you have a baby, you’re “someone’s mum”, and all of a sudden everyone is concerned with the new baby, how they’re doing, if they’re okay. It’s a lot less often that anyone is concerned with how YOU are doing, and if YOU are okay. It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that you are your own person, especially in Meghan’s case, where she has the entire world watching her through the eyes of the press. I felt lonely and isolated enough after having a baby, that I cannot imagine how it must feel for her.
I recently had the strange experience of actually having some time off work, and decided, for once, to treat myself. I took care of ME for once, invested in myself a little bit, and felt so much better for it.
It’s important to remember that every “new mum” is still a person in their own right. It’s important to remember that YOU are still YOU, not just “so and so’s mum”, no matter how many people call you that.
Meghan, thank you so much for being honest about how you’re feeling. Being a parent is so hard, but if you’re only ever told how amazing it is, so that you’re never fully prepared for when it isn’t so amazing all of the time.
I don’t think I’m alone in being in awe of how inspiring a woman Meghan is, all the more so for this honest and frank interview. But there are SO many other mums in the UK and abroad just like her, feeling like things aren’t really okay.
Rosey (@PNDandME on Twitter) is also one heck of an inspiring lady, working so hard every day to make sure parental mental health is taken seriously, and providing an amazing support network for new mums and dads who are suffering with their mental health. I 100% recommend her weekly twitter chat #PNDHour on Wednesdays at 8pm if you feel like you’re alone and could do with a supportive network of people around.
If you are reading this and could do with some extra support, check out these online resources to access help with mental illness:
On the morning of Sunday the 13th October, we headed to Port Lympne where we were going to spend the next couple of days. Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is about a 25 minute drive from our home, the perfect sort of distance away for a short break! Here is my review of how our stay went!
The Accommodation- Our Pod at the Pinewood Pods facility was lovely. It had the room to sleep four, although in doing so- leaving the pod is definitely made a little more difficult. The bedding and towels were clean. The beds were comfortable and we had more than enough tea and coffee bits and bobs to get us through our stay. The Pods are located right next to the Lion and Tiger enclosures and hearing the Lions, especially Daddy Lion ‘Milo’ throughout the night was magical. The Lions have three beautiful cubs that were born about five months ago, staying so close to them was definitely very special!
The facilities- Despite the Pod being well cleaned, the toilet and shower block was pretty dirty, not only did it not look clean, but it didn’t smell clean either. We checked out the facilities right after check in, so they were not dirty from use- if anything they should have been cleaned and ready for new guests. The extractor fan was thick with dust. The floors had a fine layer of watered down mud. The pedals on the sanitary bins did not work. The access to the toilet and shower block had steps, meaning that even if you were to stay at the accessibility friendly pod, you wouldn’t necessarily have an access friendly stay.
The Staff – The staff at Port Lympne generally seemed very helpful and genuinely happy to be there. The Safari drivers were fantastic and very knowledgeable. The restaurant and shop staff doted on my daughter and were full of praise for her manners.
The Pinewood Restaurant – When staying at the Pod we decided to bring our own bits and bobs for breakfast- juice, croissants and long life milk for F. I am very glad we did, because a basic dinner of hot dogs and chips for three of us, set us back over £35. I cannot imagine how much we would have spent if we’d had to buy all of our meals, snacks and refreshments there- but based on the prices for four meals at the Pinewood Café alone, we’d be looking at around £140 alone.
The Animals- I wholeheartedly believe that Port Lympne is one of the greatest zoos in the country for conservation efforts. This can be seen in their successful attempts at breeding endangered animals such as Lions, Gorillas and Rhinos. The work they have done to reintroduce animals that have been on the brink of extinction is nothing short of amazing- especially in regards to Silverback Gorillas, over 50 of these beautiful and endangered animals have been sent to wild Congo over the years where they are safe and thriving, all thanks to Port Lympne’s conservation and breeding success. The animals all appear happy, healthy and well cared for. The keepers and staff clearly adore the animals that they work with and see on a daily basis.
The Safari- The Safari as an experience was excellent. Being able to see the animals wander free, without bars or the conventional confines of an enclosure was fantastic. F wanted to go on it three times and still didn’t tire of the whole experience! Some facts given to us by the three different safari drivers varied, for example “We only have one male giraffe here, if we have more than one, they may swing their necks to fight and this can cause a massive amount of damage, injury and distress to the animals and their enclosures” compared to “We have 4(?) females and 3 males in the giraffe house and surrounding enclosure” .. and “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 20 to 40%” compared to “African hunting dogs have a success rate of up to 90% unlike other comparable but larger carnivores like tigers or lions who have a success rate of 30 to 50%” Leaving us wondering what exactly was true and accurate and what wasn’t. We were also quizzed by one driver on F’s age, when other drivers let babies less then six months on board- the inconsistency in safety information was definitely confusing! I also feel that maybe, like with rides at a theme park, it could be beneficial to warn people about how bumpy the safari is, so they can make an informed decision to ride- especially in case they are pregnant, suffer from back / neck complaints, arthritis, complex pain syndromes or heart conditions.
Accessibility- Some types of accommodation include a Golf Buggy to use at your leisure throughout the park along a Buggy route, our accommodation unfortunately did not include this. We enquired to see if we could maybe hire a Buggy for the duration of our stay but sadly the reserve only ever has enough buggies to cater for users of higher end accommodation. I feel that if additional buggies could be made available, it could really benefit Port Lympne’s guests with additional mobility needs- the park is particularly hilly and access to manual wheelchairs is a nice option, but putting their use to practice seems almost impossible in a park where even pushing a three year old in their stroller was a struggle.
We enjoyed our stay and really recommend going if you can find a similar experience at the off peak reduced rate. For the full £200 to be worth spending, the toilet and shower facilities need to at least be clean. As a whole, I feel that if I had paid the full £200 for a nights stay, I would have been disappointed, solely based on how dirty the toilet and shower facilities were. However, as I paid the off peak price of £100, I was very pleased with the value of money for two days park access for two adults and a child, a nights stay in a lovely little pod and unlimited rides on the safari- Realistically I would have been happy to pay up to £150 without extras for this experience! I have been visiting Port Lympne for just under 25 years and have never been disappointed- visiting the animals makes learning about them and their habitats super fun and interactive. I grew up visiting this zoo and I am pleased to be doing the same with my daughter as she grows!
I want to start by saying I LOVE the idea of a home birth and adore hearing people’s experiences of giving birth at home, so please don’t read this as anti home birth, these are just the reasons it wouldn’t have worked for me.
I had never considered a home birth until a saw a friend talking about it being what she wanted when she was pregnant and later what a wonderful experience it was. It piqued my curiosity and sure enough several of my friends had done it or planned to. I joined a group on Facebook (as you do) and started seriously considering it myself. In the end, for a couple of reasons, I opted for a birth on the midwife led unit at my local hospital.
So, why didn’t it happen?
I mentioned it to a few people, close friends and family and they were all terrified. No matter how much I explained why it was just as safe as the hospital and that it would be okay there was always fear. My husband witnessed my previous traumatic birth and still struggles with it himself and my mum had to have an emergency cesarean with my brother. These were to two people I needed on board, wholeheartedly, or it wouldn’t have worked.
I don’t want to hear how it’s my body, my birth and my choice – I know that, just ask the midwives who were around for my birth. If I had gone ahead with a plan for a home birth they both would have stood by me but not with the confidence and conviction I would have needed from them. I didn’t have my heart set on it and I certainly can’t hold it against anyone, it just wouldn’t have been right and it was 100% my choice. A home birth is supposed to be in a relaxed environment with no fear or negative energy and as supportive as they would have been if I told them that’s what I was doing I have a feeling they would have been poised to call an ambulance the entire time.
Of course, there is also the small matter of my house not being at all “birth ready”. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a total mess, particularly towards the end of pregnancy when I could hardly move without pain and a four year old with a massive aversion to tidying. Not to mention the fact that I wanted a water birth and had nowhere big enough for a birthing pool. I really didn’t fancy giving birth in the chaos.
I stuck around in the Facebook group I joined. It was a hugely helpful resource for learning my rights as a pregnant woman and helping me decide how I wanted my birth to be. I’m not sure exactly how confidently I could have delivered a 9lb 8oz baby at almost 42 weeks with no intervention without them.
I would encourage every pregnant woman looking for an empowering birth to at least look into home birth, even if you decide it isn’t for you. The things I learnt along the way shaped my attitude which got me the positive birth experience I craved.
Have you had a home birth? How was your experience?
When you start to wean your baby, the last thing you want to do is prep separate meals for the whole family.
The best kinds of meals are going to be ones that you can batch cook, and have plenty leftover to make up baby sized portions and that freeze easily!
When I started weaning Olivia, I still suffered with anxiety and had a particular fear around her choking. So baby led weaning didn’t work out for us very well at first. Instead, I prepped lots of (pescetarian) meals for her and blended them up.
These are my top meals (and quick recipes) that I used a lot while weaning Olivia onto solid food!
LEEK AND POTATO SOUP
Frozen White Fish Fillets x 6
Frozen Haddock Fillets x 4
Plain Flour (25g)
Milk (1 pint)
Baking Potatoes x 3
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
Chop the potatoes and place them in a pan. Add boiling water to bring the potatoes to the boil and keep them on a medium heat. Stir regularly.
In another pan, add the butter and flour. As the butter melts, whisk the butter and flour together to make a roux.
Add a little milk at a time, whisking the roux into the milk. Whisk out any lumps and continue until you have used all of the milk to create the sauce. Do not let the sauce settle for too long.
Sear the haddock and white fish fillets in a frying pan and remove the skin from the back of the fillets.
Add cheese to the sauce and continue stirring. Add as much as you want for however cheesy you want your sauce to be!
Add the fish and 2 cups full of garden peas to the sauce and stir regularly.
Now add your herbs to the sauce. If you’re using ready chopped herbs, you need a pinch of black pepper, about a teaspoon of parsley, and a teaspoon and a half of chives.
By now your potatoes should be soft enough to mash. Drain the water, and mash them using a splash of milk and a dash of butter.
Pour the sauce, fish and peas into an oven dish.
Gently scoop out the mash and spread it over the saucy layer into the oven dish. Use a fork to spread the mash so that it covers the dish evenly.
Add more cheese to the top and put it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned.
This can easily make 6 portions, and is very easy to blend thanks to the sauce!
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese
Mince / Quorn Mince (500g)
Chopped Tomatoes (2 tins)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Put a little bit of oil in the bottom of your slow cooker and turn the heat onto low.
Peel and chop the onion and add that to the slow cooker.
Crush the garlic and add to the slow cooker.
Add the mince/quorn mince and chopped tomatoes.
Stir the pot thoroughly.
Peel and chop the carrots and add to the slow cooker.
Add some tomato puree and stir the pot again.
Add your herbs and stir again.
Now you can leave your pot and come back to it later. I don’t tend to leave it more than 4 hours, even on a low heat, without stirring!
About 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner, boil enough spaghetti for all of you. Then drain once cooked.
Grate your cheese (cheddar or parmesan).
Plate up and garnish with your cheese on top! The leftovers can be blended up for baby to enjoy with you, and are easy to freeze.
Mince / Quorn Mince (500g)
Chopped Tomatoes (2 tins)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Easy Mix Béchamel Sauce / Ready Made White Lasagne Sauce
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
If you need to prepare your Béchamel sauce, do that now.
Put a little bit of oil into a frying pan and turn the heat onto low.
Peel and chop the onion and add that to the pan. Stir until the onion starts to go transparent.
Crush the garlic and add to the pan.
Brown the mince/quorn mince and then add chopped tomatoes and stir.
Stir the pot thoroughly.
Chop the aubergine and courgettes and add to the mixture.
Add some tomato puree and your herbs and stir again.
Leave the pan to simmer while you pre-boil your lasagne sheets.
Lay as many lasagne sheets as required on the bottom of your oven dish, then pour about half of your lasagne on top.
Pour some of your Béchamel / White Lasagne Sauce over the lasagne.
Repeat no. 11
Top off your lasagne with more lasagne sheets, and the rest of your Béchamel / White Lasagne Sauce.
Grate your cheese (cheddar or parmesan) and sprinkle it over the top of your lasagne.
Cook for 30 minutes or until the cheese has all melted and begins to brown.
Plate up – the leftovers can be blended up for baby to enjoy with you, or for you to have on another rainy day.
Chopped Tomatoes (1 tin)
Tinned Tuna Chunks
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
Boil enough pasta to fill your oven dish when cooked. Remember that pasta doubles in size when cooked, so don’t do too much!
Drain your pasta and put it back in the pan. Add your tomatoes, tuna and sweetcorn. Depending on how much pasta you’re making, you may need more than 1 tin of chopped tomatoes.
Stir the pot and add your purees.
Grate some cheese. Add about half to your pot and continue stirring.
Now add your herbs and stir thoroughly before you pour the pasta into an oven dish.
If you’re not making baby a portion, add some crunched up crisps to the top of the pasta to make it nice and crunchy once baked. If you are making a baby portion, it’s probably best to just sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Plate it up and blend/keep the rest for baby! Pasta is a great weaning food because it’s soft and easy for little ones to pick up with their hands.
Leek and Potato Soup
This one is one of my all time favourite recipes, so I’ve blogged it before! Check it out here.
This one is also great fun for babies because
it’s already blended
they get to munch on bread and butter with it
What are your favourite weaning recipes for your tots? Have you used any of these ones before?
After more than a year of threatening to wait until Daddy is away and bringing home a cat, Olivia and I finally managed to talk Daddy into letting us get one! I think he knew I was starting to get very serious about just moving one in while he was out one day…
So, off we went to our local RSPCA centre and found ourselves a lovely pet cat.
When you adopt from the RSPCA you have to have a home visit from RSPCA staff. Ours came and went quite quickly and gave us a pack of helpful information and advice when introducing a pet to your home. It included tips like:
Isolate your cat to one room at first
Make a cat friendly room with a scratching post, their food and litter tray, and somewhere they can get up high
Keep their diet the same as what they’ve been eating in the RSPCA centre
Keep them indoors for 4 weeks
When we went to collect her, she came with her blanket and toys in order to help her settle. We were also given another pack of helpful information, and the RSPCA gave us 4 weeks free pet insurance, which was one less thing to worry about!
We moved her in and she was a bit nervous at first, but she has gotten used to Olivia’s pestering now.
Olivia was so excited to have a pet cat that she would not leave her alone (and she still doesn’t 2 months later). It was important for us to get a cat that was friendly with children, and Shadow was perfect – so chilled out, and a little older as well so she wouldn’t get too excitable around Olivia. She’s 7 in human years, which I think is around 44 in cat years, but she still has a lot of life left in her!
It’s also been really helpful having friends with cats to ask advice about things. For example, did you know that cats eat grass to help their digestion? Well, I didn’t! I am planning on getting her some cat grass that we can have in pots in the house, as Shadow mostly stays indoors.
What else have you found to help your pets settle in the first few months?
Sorry this is so late! It’s been a busy month for all of us and we’re all a combination of exhausted, delirious and happy at the same time!
So here it is… our Top 5 from September:
Top 5 Blog Posts
Top 5 Instagram Posts
Top 5 Things we did
Charlie had her baby boy! Welcome to the world Baby Leon. Mummy and Baby are doing very well.
Imogen not only became a big sister but also had her birthday this month! Lots of celebrations for Charlie and family.
Amy had her tonsillectomy, and unfortunately managed to get an infection! She’s feeling much better now. Speaking of infections, Harriet and Paige also suffered a bit this month! They both had 2 kidney infections but are on the mend.
Maria’s little boy started Reception in school (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!) He has settled in really well and his favourite lesson is Maths.
Maria’s baby girl has been diagnosed with CMPA like her big brother. Maria has had to change her diet to carry on breastfeeding but it’s going well and the little one is so happy she did her first smiles!
Many of us are familiar with the signs and symptoms of chicken pox- if you’re not click here and have a read! Sadly it is inevitable that our little ones will deal with it at some point- so we thought that we’d put together some (tried and tested*) top tips for helping your little ones to cope with the Pox!
(*All of the following has been tried by Harriet, with Flo, during her case of chicken pox in late July / early August. She recovered remarkably well and despite having sensitive skin, we managed to keep her comfortable and barely ever had to remind her not to itch or scratch! Her spots scabbed over very quickly and she had little other symtoms. I tried all of the below to keep her comfortable and feel that these things really helped to get her through ‘The Chicken Pox’ with ease!)
Avoid giving your child Ibuprofen at all costs! Ibuprofen disrupts the healing process and increases the risk of soft tissue / skin infections- including serious infections like necrotising fasciitis. Ibuprofen is an anti inflammatory and because of this, it can react with the chicken pox- making them go deeper into the skin tissue.
Avoid giving you child any form of Aspirin!Children who have Chicken Pox Virus can develop a potentially fatal condition called Reye’s Syndrome, which can cause severe brain and liver damage.
Remember that you can use Piriton (Chlorphenamine), in children 12 Months and Older – this helps to soothe the itching and discomfort that comes with the Chicken Pox blisters healing. Please always read the instructions!
Calpol can be given when your child has a fever or is struggling with cold symtoms that often accompany Chicken Pox. If your child doesn’t like the taste, you can try mixing in with squash. You can buy cheaper versions of liquid paracetamol at your local supermarket or at drugs stores like Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy or Superdrug- they do exactly the same job as Calpol, often at almost half the price! Please always read the instructions!
Applying Diprobase Emollient can soothe sore spots. Diprobase is often used as for nappy cream and for eczema. The emollient properties soothe the itchiness from the outside!
Using Vosene Frequent as bubble bath, at bath time can help to keep the scabs nice and dry. Florence said it made her skin feel “nice and cool and comfy again”.
7. Apply PoxClin CoolMousse to soothe itchy spots. PoxClin Is a relatively new product that you can apply to your child’s spots. It can apparently accelerate the natural healing process and prevents the infection of wounds. It is super light and fluffy so it is very quickly absorbed into the skin. 8. Calamine lotion is the cheapest way to soothe those nasty spots. It is a tried and tested approach that goes back decades, just dab on with cotton wool and away you go!9. Keep fingernails short to stop the blisters from being scratched, as this can lead to scaring. In children under three you might even be able to get away with putting socks on your child’s hands to avoid scratching when they are asleep.
10. Ice lollies are a life saver if your little one has cold symptoms with their Chicken Pox or, of their Chicken Pox has spread to their Mouth, Lips or Tongue!
11. Keep your little one very well hydrated, they might not feel like eating much- especially if they have spots in their mouth, so their usual milk or milk substitutes may help keep their energy levels up. Offer them fluids frequently as drinking lots can keep nastier symptoms at bay and can aid the healing process.
If your child is too young to be given Calpol, it is recommended that you seek medical assistance. Here are some signs and symptoms that aren’t always ‘normal’ to have when experiencing Chicken Pox, these might indicate that you need to seek further medical assistance for your child-
If you your child has a temperature of over 39 degrees.
If the skin surrounding your child’s chickenpox becomes red, sore or appears to be infected.
If your child has pain in their chest or difficulty breathing.
If your child is not managing to drink enough fluids.
If your child is struggling to pass urine.
Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity).
Nausea or vomiting.
Sleepiness, fainting, difficulty waking or unconsciousness.
Your toddler is, quite frankly, being a bit of an arse. Whether they’re having a full blown tantrum or simply need an attitude adjustment, there comes a point where they’ll say those words: “I want Daddy”.
The last 3 weeks of Olivia’s life have been “I want Daddy”. She even told me she hates me, and constantly tells me “Daddy’s the favourite” or “I love Daddy, not Mummy”. I know she’s only 3, but it kinda hurts.
I’ve started feeling a bit bitter, which I think is no surprise, given that I carried her for 9 months, gave life to her, altered the appearance and functionality of my reproductive organs, abdomen, vagina, boobs, the works, all to bring something into the world that was only going to grow up to hate me.
It grates on me, just a tad.
Of course, she’s 3. So, she doesn’t know that I feel bitter. She thinks she’s being funny, or maybe she just actually does prefer Daddy when she comes out with it in the middle of screaming at me.
Is Daddy better than me? He’s the classic, laid back, fun Daddy. I’m the classic, mean Mummy. It’s frustrating, right?
The thing is, our toddlers do this because they love us so much. Sounds like a cop out, but it’s not. It’s actually a really good thing that they feel so comfortable to push those boundaries with us, because they know that we will always love them unconditionally.
So if you’re noticing that your little one is misbehaving for you and not for daddy, just remind yourself (and him, smugly) that it’s because they love you more!
And remember that it’s okay if they make you feel like poop for a while, because those tantrums are physically and emotionally draining to deal with! Just try not to take it to heart (easier said than done, I know).
How do you cope with toddler tantrums? Do your toddlers have a “favourite” parent?
Olivia and I have just returned home from a lovely long weekend visiting our family in Yorkshire.
Living in army quarters roughly 200 miles away, and being ridiculously busy with work all the time, means I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, but we did manage a solid 4 days of visiting! As it doesn’t happen very often, we ended up being very, very busy and visiting lots of different places (so expect to see a couple of reviews in the next few weeks!) It became a little mini holiday for us which was really lovely, and I had some precious quality time with Olivia, too.
One of the places we went to was York Maze. We spent about 4 hours there in total as there was so much to do, but some little legs got the better of us. Never have I done so many piggy backs before this weekend! I will probably regret ever demonstrating what a piggy back is, I am sure…
What is York Maze?
It’s a fantastic, fun-filled day out that caters to the entire family. Although I only went with Olivia, who is 3, we could easily have had just as much fun if 9 year old Kiera was with us too.
It isn’t just a maze, but they mazes (plural) are of course the main attractions. Over the years, the maze has been shaped into a number of different characters/features from films/television, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. This year, the main maze was Lion King themed. You have 6 checkpoints to get to and answer some themed questions to get the magic word for the end of the maze. Olivia enjoyed shouting the secret word very loudly so that everyone could hear her!
On top of the main maze, there is also a separate Jurassic Park themed maze with 8 dinosaurs inside. Olivia insisted on stroking them all… but on the up side she was also able to name all but one! The spinosaurus evaded us, but there was a helpful list on the way back out naming them all so that you can see if you got them right!
The Jurassic Park maze is much smaller, but the classic theme tune can be heard throughout, and it’s great fun finding the dinosaurs. For my little dino lover, this was perfect!
Is it just a maze?
No, there are so many activities at York Maze aside from just the mazes, which is how we ended up spending so much time there.
As well as the maze, they have a sweetcorn themed obstacle course (which Olivia and I smashed) and meet and greets with the animals. You can hold a snake or a creepy crawly and the owls and reptiles are out for you to meet, too.
Is there much for little ones to do?
Yes! Olivia loved jumping on the popcorn pillow which had split sessions for little ones to jump together without the big kids. That worked really well and was much nicer for the children (and parents) not to worry about any big kids hurting the smaller ones by accident.
What can the big kids do?
There’s a lot of things for the bigger children to get stuck into, too! As well as all of the other activities, there’s a rock climbing wall and an adventure play park that’s suitable for big and little children.
The quiz in the main maze is probably more geared towards older children too, although Olivia still managed to have lots of fun!
Have you ever been to York Maze? Let us know what theme the maze was and whether you enjoyed it!