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Classic Beef Bourguignon

Recipe by ByRuby

Makes 8 portions (Approximately 300g per portion)
Dairy free

This is always a hit for a dinner party or a cosy solo supper at home alone.  Use the best quality meat you can afford and you will truly taste the difference.  Cooking low and slow tenderises the meat beautifully and it will fall apart when cooked.  This dish tastes far better if left for a day after cooking so that flavours have time to intensify and penetrate the meat.  Serve with a baked potato or tagliatelle and a sprinkling of parmesan….

INGREDIENTS LIST:

1.5kg diced organic / grass fed beef (chuck steak works well)
50g plain flour
2 large onions, diced
5 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 stick of celery, diced
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme leaves, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
200g smoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
750ml bottle of red wine
1 beef stock cube with 1 liter of water or stock reduction equivalent
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
500g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
½ bunch parsley
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

COOKING METHOD:

  1. Dust the diced beef in flour then brown the meat in batches in a large saucepan with a little oil. Once all the beef has been browned put aside.
  2. In the same pan wipe any burnt bits away, then add the onions and with a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt, sweat down until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes
  3. Once the onions are soft add the carrots and celery then cook for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the chopped thyme, rosemary, garlic, bay leaves and tomato puree then cook for 5 minutes
  5. Add the bacon and cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the beef back into the pan
  6. Cover with red wine a turn down the heat to a low simmer. Reduce for 15 minutes then add the beef stock and water. Cook low and slow for 35 minutes
  7. Then add the mushrooms and chunky carrots, carry on cooking until the beef falls apart, about an hour or so, make sure the sauce doesn’t become too dry and keep topping up with water.
  8. Once the beef is soft take off the heat and add the mustard and parsley. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Freezing tips: In a freezable and microwaveable or oven proof container (see page .. for more information on freezing tips) portion out 300g of the beef casserole then once the mixture has cooled put the lid on and write a label ‘Beef bourguignon’ with a best before of 6 months. 

To reheat straight from frozen, microwave:  Put into the microwave for 3 minutes, take out of the microwave and remove the lid and stir, place the lid on top but not sealed closed then put the container back into the microwave and heat for another 5 minutes or until piping hot. Leave to stand for 3 minutes then serve.

To reheat straight from frozen, oven:  Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF), Gas Mark 4. Take the lid off the oven proof container and then cover the top with foil to ensure the food will not dry in the reheating process.  Place on a baking tray and heat in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until piping hot, Leave to stand for 3 minutes before serving.


About ByRuby

Seriously special, home-cooked food. That’s what ByRuby is all about. We source the finest produce from local, ethical suppliers then lovingly prepare all your favourite meals in small batches. Super fresh, nourishing dishes made with sustainability in mind, for you to enjoy whenever you like.

“As a busy chef, I knew what it’s like to have little time at home, but still crave proper home cooking. On my days off, I loved to visit farmers markets, meeting the producers so that I could buy the catch up day, the freshest veg and the most ethical, local meat. Then I’d come home and happily spend the day batch cooking all my favourite recipes. When friends started asking me to send dishes to them too, I knew something had begun.

ByRuby was born because I want to share the joy and comfort of home style cooking, using the very best ingredients available”

BAME Breastfeeding Peer Supporter Training

This post is contributed and written by NWL Breastfeeding Support for All Minority Communities

The founders of NWL Breastfeeding Support for All Minority
Communities (BSAMC) – (formerly known as NWL BAME) – are very
excited to announce that, thanks to the many generous donations we’ve
received, we now have funds available to pay for 20 mothers to train to
be breastfeeding peer supporters! 

We have put together an application form (link below) and invite anyone
who is interested to apply for a funded place on the Association of
Breastfeeding Mothers’ “Mother Supporter” online training course. You
can find out more about the course here:

https://abm.me.uk/mother-supporter-course-introduction/

As part of the funding, we will also pay the cost of one year’s
membership of the ABM – required in order to do the course – a total
amount of £45.

If you receive funding, we will ask for a commitment from you to
complete the training, which requires a minimum of 3 hours work a
week, for 12 weeks. The work can be done on a smartphone, as well as
on a laptop or computer. Please reflect carefully on whether you will be
able to complete the training within the specified time, as we would really
like the opportunity to go to someone who is able to take full advantage
of it. 

We welcome applications from women who are London-based and have
breastfed their baby for a minimum of six months – exclusive
breastfeeding, pumping or combination feeding all count. We are
encouraging applications from women who are Black or Asian, or from
another ethnic minority community. We are very keen to promote
diversity in breastfeeding support.

In the application form we will ask for your post code, for more
information about why you would like to train, and also about what you
would do with the training once you have it – whether that is supporting
online, helping at a local group, or something else. It’s crucial that these
questions are answered in detail. 

If you’d like to apply, then please click here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QL665G3

If you have any questions about the application process, please email: NWLBreastfeeding@gmail.com

Postnatal Depletion

By contributing writer: Clare Young, Registered Nutritional Therapist and Founder of Seed Nutrition.

You have most likely heard of postnatal depression, clinical depression involving the lack of pleasure or joy from a situation. Your midwife may have discussed the signs and symptoms with you and your doctor may have asked you a few questions surrounding your mental health in your six week check-up. But has anyone discussed postnatal depletion with you? And what even is it?

Postnatal depletion is a relatively new term coined by the Australian Doctor Oscar Serrallach. He describes a collection of symptoms from hormonal, physiological, psychological, mental and emotional changes that happen to a mother after she gives birth. Although the term is relatively new, I bet every single Mumma reading this can relate to at least one, or more, of these symptoms included in postnatal depletion even if you gave birth
10 years ago:
– Intense fatigue and exhaustion
– Anxiety
– Hypervigilance (feeling constantly wired)
– Easily startled and sensitive to bright light
– Difficulty concentrating (baby brain)
– Poor libido
– Poor Immune function (mastitis, catching every cold going, reoccurring infections).
– Loss of confidence and self-esteem
– Feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope

Your body goes through immense changes externally and internally from the moment of conception. The nutrients used while your baby grows, during childbirth, the postnatal healing process and breastfeeding are on a much larger scale than pre-conception. If your baby is taking your stores of nutrients in the womb and you don’t replace them with nutrient dense food, supplements and rest, you are likely to feel exhausted once your baby is born. This is also coupled with sleep exhaustion, which has a huge affect on your physiological and emotional health. Then topped off with adjusting to your new Mum life, potential social isolation and looking after a tiny human.

Our Western culture attributes pressures to the modern mother that other cultures do not. We are expected to open our doors to friends and family days after baby is born. We feel we must lose the baby weight and bounce back to our original jean size in a few months. We must be super mum and keep the house tidy, make cake and tea for visiting guests, appear
in control at all times, and look after a new-born baby! Other cultures employ traditional practices that involve the new mother resting for up to 40 days whilst she takes care of her baby and relatives take care of her.

So how can we prevent postnatal depletion in our modern Western World?

The key is in the preparation before the postnatal period, known as the fourth trimester. Ensuring you have a nutrient dense diet during pregnancy will not only supply your baby with the correct nutrients to grow but it will keep your stores topped up so you are not running on empty after the birth.

Our current health care system classes ‘postpartum’ as 6 weeks after childbirth, but actually postpartum recovery can take up to 2 years and postpartum depletion can exist for even longer.

These are some tips to consider for positive postnatal health:

SUPPORT
Help you can organise before the birth;
– To ensure you get some rest and time with your new family pre-warn friends and family that you don’t want any visits in the first few weeks.
– Ask close relatives to drop off food parcels for you. You will appreciate having a nourishing meal ready prepared.
– Someone to help do your house-hold chores. Anyone who visits needs to bring a meal or do the washing up!
– You may receive endless bunches of flowers and cards but why not plant the seed to friends and family that they could contribute towards a gift voucher for a postpartum massage or acupuncture and osteopath appointment.
– Sign up to a regular an online food delivery service to ensure you have a constant flow of ingredients to keep you going.
– Employ a doula who can help with many of the things listed above as well as emotional support and a wealth of knowledge. https://doula.org.uk/

NUTRITION
Everyone’s health is individual but here are some general tips to support post-partum recovery:
– Replenish depleted nutrient stores with a multi vitamin from a reputable company. I like Terranova, Wild Nutrition and Cytoplan as these all have high quality food source supplements.
– Eat when you are hungry and when you need it. Don’t wait until breakfast time if you are hungry at 3am. Keep some oatcakes or an apple by your bed so you can eat something nutritious that will keep you going until breakfast.
– Think nourishing foods – soups, broths, protein smoothies, overnight bircher muesli, dahl.
– Reduce sugar, caffeine and processed foods as these spike blood sugar levels, which if regular will contribute to hunger, tiredness and weight gain.
– Snacks like nuts, seeds, oatcakes with nut butter or guacamole, vegetable crisps, hummus, energy balls and natural fermented yogurt will nourish you and provide energy.
– Focus on the macronutrients in every meal – protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates.
– Replenish important micronutrients -Vit D (supplement), Zinc (nuts and seeds, lamb), Iron (spinach, red meat, lentils – eaten with Vitamin C rich foods), B Vitamins (beef, chicken, yogurt, eggs), Magnesium (spinach, kale, nuts and seeds, legumes), Calcium (leafy greens, oily fish, dairy)
– Stay hydrated, especially if breastfeeding.

WELLBEING
– Gentle exercise like going for a walk, yoga, pelvic floor exercises (if signed off by a doctor)
– Introduce a sleep hygiene routine with ways to wind down before bed (Epsom salt bath, lavender essential oil, sleep tea, eye mask, yogic breathing, black out blinds).
– Nap when you can to restore energy especially in the early postpartum phase.
– 4-7-8 Breathing technique to vitalise and improve energy
– Keep socialising to a minimum in the first few months and spread out meet ups to allow rest days in between.


About Clare

Clare is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and founder of Seed Nutrition, focused on supporting women during pregnancy and postpartum with personalised nutrition plans which tackle common health complaints in motherhood.

She is also the founder of The Nourished Mumma Box, a new venture creating supplement and wellbeing boxes to support pregnant and new Mumma’s that Nourish, Relax and Restore.


You can find more information and recipes for postnatal recovery and free downloadable wellbeing guides on Clare’s website at www.seednutrition.space.

15 LGBTQ-Friendly Children’s Books

To celebrate Pride month, we’ve published a list of 15 LGBTQ-friendly books, suitable for a variety of ages, that you can read with your little ones at home.

These books will help you approach the topic, and encourage and open the conversation about the LGBTQ community, which will help nurture a home environment that is inclusive and accepting.

If you have any more books to add to this list, please do leave them below in the comments.

A Family is a Family is a Family

ABC A Family Alphabet Book (ages 0-5)

And Tango Makes Three (ages 0-5)

Sparkle Boy

Queer Heros: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heros From Past and Present!

The Different Dragon (ages 0-5)

Everywhere Babies (ages 0-2)

The Great Big Book of Families

Love Makes A Family (ages 0-2)

Worm Loves Worm

The Family Book

Princess Princess Ever After

I Am Jazz

Heather Has Two Mummies

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag


For other books on acceptance and inclusion, please see our post on the 20 recommended children’s books on race, ethnicity and acceptance.

Black Lives Matter Resources

Pachamama is committed to educating its team and community on the injustice and racial privilege that exists in the world today. As the business grows, we will foster an internal and external culture of diversity and inclusion, and raise the profile of black business owners in the parenting and fitness spheres.

Below is a list of helpful anti-racism resources we’ve either found online or pulled together to help educate you and your little one, should you choose to. 

Reading Lists
The Guardian Reading List
The NYT Anti-Racist Reading List
Pachamama’s Children’s Book List

Videos
Everyday Racism (under 5 mins)
Reparations & White Privilege (under 5 mins)
George The Poet on BLM (under 5 mins)
Not All Superheros Wear Capes (15 mins)

Podcasts
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
Make Motherhood Diverse
Code Switch
Talking to Your Kids About Race (episode)

Instagram Accounts To Follow (For Parents)
@hereweread
@theconsciouskid
@inclusivestorytime

Toys
The Pattycake Doll Company
Sugar Foot Rag Dolls
Craylora Multicultural Crayons
PebbleChild

TV & Movies
Daddy Daycare (2003)
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Space Jam (1996)
Cinderella (1997)
Are We There Yet? (2005)

Charities
Stop Hate UK
Black Women’s Project
Black Thrive

20 Children’s Books on Race, Ethnicity & Acceptance

If your ever wondering when the right time might be to talk to your little ones about race, ethnicity and tolerance, the time is now.

If you, like so many of us, want to know how to help and affect change, we would encourage you to proactively address the topic with them from an early age, rather than waiting for them to come to you with questions about what they might have seen at school or picked up in the media.

“Silence will not protect you or them,” said Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and author of “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.” “Avoiding the topic is not a solution.”

We’ve pulled together a list of children’s books, for a variety of ages, to help get you, and them, comfortable about having these often difficult but vital conversations.

We truly believe that education is the key to unlocking everything, and what better way to help them understand race, ethnicity and acceptance from as young as possible. So let’s start learning:

Mixed by Arree Chung (age 2+)

The Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi (age 2+)

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (age 2+)

Skin Again by Bell Hooks

Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

One Family by George Shannon

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

The Snowy Day By Ezra Jack Keats (ages 3-8)

If All the World Were by Joseph Coelho (ages 3-8)

The Color of Us by Karen Katz

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

All Are Welcome Paperback by Alexandra Penfold (ages 3-8)

A Poem for PeterBy Andrea Davis Pinkney (ages 3-8)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (age 4+)

Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan (age 6+)

Thunder Boy Junior by Sherman Alexie (age 3-8)

We March by Shane W. Evans

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts (age 3-8)

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (age 8-12)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (age 8-12)


This list was pulled from a variety of source, including: Mother.ly, NYTimes, and parent recommendations

5 TOP TIPS FOR ESSENTIAL BABY FIRST AID

Let’s face it, being a new parent is stressful enough and in those first few days, weeks, months, you’re number one goal is keeping your new baby alive.

When you’re out of the safety of the hospital walls, medical emergencies can happen and may seem extremely daunting, so knowing some basic first aid skills may help you feel more prepared if an incident should arise.

Here are five top tips, by first aid training specialists Tigerlily, for essential baby first aid.

1. DON’T PANIC.

Easier said than done of course, but try your best to remain calm and focused. Take a deep breath and then fully assess the situation in front of you.

2. FOLLOW D.R.  A.B.C. 

When assessing the situation, follow these steps:

DANGER – Ensure that you and your baby are safe from any danger.

RESPONSE – Is your baby responsive? Do they respond to your touch or voice? If not, shout for help, ask someone to call 999 or 112.

AIRWAY – If your baby is unresponsive, tilt their back head slightly, to allow oxygen into the lungs.

BREATHING – Look, listen and feel for normal breathing. If you discover your baby is not breathing normally, you will need to start CPR immediately (see tip 3 below). If your baby is breathing normally, good – this is a positive outcome and you can now move on to next stage.

CIRCULATION – Once you’ve established your baby is breathing normally, check for any signs of bleeding. If there is bleeding stem the flow to preserve circulation. If your baby’s circulation is good, ensure their airway remains open and hold the baby in your arms, facing you, with their head supported and tilted slightly downwards. This is the Recovery Position for babies. Continue to monitor their airway until help arrives.

3. SIMPLE CPR. CPR will be needed if your baby is not breathing normally. It can seem pretty scary thing to do to your child, but doing something is way better than doing nothing. If you can, you should also have the ambulance crew on the phone, talking you through each step as you go and they will also stay on the line until they arrive.

Start by giving 5 RESCUE BREATHES – to perform rescue breaths, ensure the baby’s airway is open and seal your mouth over the baby’s mouth and nose. Steadily blow the amount of breath you can hold in your cheeks into the baby’s mouth for about 1 second, just enough to see the chest rise. Repeat this 5 times.

Having breathed oxygen into the baby’s lungs, you now need to circulate that around the body and to the all-important brain. You do this by performing CHEST COMPRESSIONS (this is the part many parents are afraid of, but don’t be).  Using the index and middle fingers together, press them into the centre of baby’s chest / sternum to a depth of at least a third
Do this 30 times at a rate of around two per second. Don’t worry about the numbers here, just remember to push at a nice regular rhythm and deep enough to squeeze the heart.

Then start a cycle of 2 rescue breaths to 30 compressions.

4. ASSIST WHEN CHOKING.

If your baby is choking, you’ll need to act quickly and assertively. And follow these simple steps:

  • Shout for help immediately and ask the helper to call 999/112.
  • Sitting or kneeling, lay your baby face down over your arm which should be resting on your thigh and ensure your baby’s airway is open.
  • Using the palm of your hand, give up to 5 firm back blows between the shoulder blades. Between blows check in their mouth to see if you have cleared the obstruction. Stop if you have.
    If that is unsuccessful, will need to perform CHEST THRUSTS:
  • Remain seated or kneeling and turn baby over so they are face up and lying along your arm with the support of your thigh as before.
  • Keeping their airway open and their head supported slightly lower than their chest for gravity to assist, use two fingers on the chest and give up to 5 firm chest thrusts in the same way as CPR but sharper and slower. 

    Check between thrusts and stop if the obstruction is cleared. Seek urgent medical assistance to ensure baby is recovering fully. If the obstruction is still not cleared keep repeating as above.
    If the baby becomes unresponsive, start CPR as before. Always get the baby checked by a medical professional, even if your treatment is successful.

5. DOs & DON’Ts OF FEBRILE SEIZURES.

Febrile Seizures are quite common and occur when a baby’s temperature exceeds 38C – usually due to an infection. Seeing your baby have a seizure can be frightening but they are usually harmless and over quite quickly.

DO: 

  • Stay calm and confident.
  • Take note of the time.
  • Protect your baby from injury using soft items or your hands.
  • Remove warm clothing and bed covers.
  • Cool the room.
  • After the seizure, check the baby’s airway for normal breathing and place in recovery.
  • If this is your baby’s first seizure, it lasts over 5 minutes or breathing problems persist, call 999/112.

DON’T: 

  • Over cool the baby or use a fan or wet sponge.
  • Leave the baby at any time.
  • Medicate the baby without professional advice.
  • Mix Ibuprofen & Paracetamol without the go-ahead from a medical professional.

We appreciate this can sound terrifying and overwhelming, but remember, there is is plenty of support out there and NHS 111 is a fantastic source of information and guidance.  

— 

The information above is taken from first aid training specialists Tigerlily, and complies with all currently accepted first-aid practice. 

 

Investing in Yourself, as well as your New Arrival.

Supporting Mamas is what we’re all about! So we caught up with Lara Russell-Jones, founder of Apparently Kids – an online directory of trusted antenatal and postnatal professionals – about the realities of postnatal care in London (UK), what inspired her to start the business and her advice for expecting Mamas.

What inspired you to start Apparently Kids?

Like many new parents I found the transition to being a mum hard. My son arrived early, so I finished a very busy city job and before I knew it, I was rushing into hospital and was out again just a few hours later with a new baby. My husband and I had read the books, attended antenatal classes, got the birth plan prepped, but in hindsight I don’t think we had really thought beyond the birth. When we arrived home, it really hit us that we didn’t know what to do and we suddenly had a very vulnerable baby dependent on us.
I was so fortunate to have been recommended a wonderful private midwife for postnatal care. She arrived the following morning and over a few weeks guided us through a number of complications. My son had a tongue-tie, reflux and I had significant tearing. Over the first few months I was put in touch with some amazing professionals without whom I would really have struggled. In particular, I hadn’t known about specialist women’s pelvic health physios. I saw a fantastic lady who over the course of three appointments and regular homework exercises helped me regain control of my pelvic floor, tighten my diastasis recti and build confidence in my own body again.
It was only when I met my antenatal class and other new mums that I realised how lucky I had been to have found these professionals. When a close friend ran out of a baby class 5 months in, due to incontinence issues, I suggested she go see a women’s pelvic physio. She also had never heard of them before and thought mild incontinence ‘was part of having a baby’.
It was then I realised how many women were in this position. We’re so incredibly lucky in the UK to have our NHS, however they can only do so much. In London especially, we’re also lucky to have so many fantastic ante and postnatal professionals to support us, however it seemed to be a lottery if you were recommended to one. I want to remove the lottery and give all new parents a single platform to find and access the diverse range of ante and postnatal professionals in their area.

You’ve spoken to lots of expectant and new Mamas –did you see a common concern regarding the levels of ante and postnatal care they’ve received?

The overwhelming feeling is that our NHS is a truly wonderful service, but it’s inconsistent. On average new mums have 12 antenatal appointments, but very few mums saw the same midwife twice. Postnatally, mums had just two midwife checks and health visitors, again rarely seeing the same person.  Some mum’s felt that common issues (such as difficulty breastfeeding or tongue-tie’s) were missed or not discussed/seen due to time constraints.
New parents also felt unprepared by some of the antenatal classes they had attended. Common feedback is that classes focus too much on the birth itself and gloss over the postnatal period as ‘the wonderful cuddles with your newborn’. Especially when sleep deprivation kicks in, many parents wished there was more emphasis on this period and access to formal support.

What would you recommend expectant Mamas to consider?

It’s natural that new mums are completely focused on preparing things for the baby, but I really recommend mums consider investing in themselves to prepare for the new arrival. In particular:

  1. Book an infant-specific First Aid course for yourself and your baby’s main caregivers to do before the birth. You will feel so much more prepared and confident. We have some fantastic ones on our website, they’re not expensive and it could make all the difference.
  2. Book a specialist women’s health physio appt for 6-8 weeks after your birth. No matter what type of birth you’ve had, they will be able to properly assess your pelvic floor and posture, supporting you with rehabilitation exercises. It’s so important to look after your own body so you can properly support your new baby.
  3. Think about what support or help you may have access to. Have you got friends or family nearby who might be able to help for the odd afternoon? It’s amazing how little things like someone cooking, cleaning & running a wash can make all the difference. If you don’t, consider a postnatal doula who can act as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to help you. For a little extra help, you could consider private midwives or maternity nurses.
  4. Think about how you intend to feed your baby. If you’re keen to breastfeed, seeing an IBCLC lactation consultant within the first couple of days of birth can be really helpful. Our mum’s say that IBCLCs were able to immediately spot tongue-ties and support them with correct latching and feeding positions which set them-up for their breastfeeding journey.
  5. Finally – consider a few things closer to home. Stock your freezer with your favourite meals, your fridge with healthy snacks (especially for those 3am feeds when you’re a bit peckish too) and queue up those guilty-pleasure Netflix series!

What’s been the best and toughest thing about starting a business as a new mum?

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of starting this business which gave me something to focus on and think about which wasn’t necessarily when my son last fed or did a poo…! Meeting all the wonderful professionals in the area and hearing their stories has to be the best thing. The toughest element has been working in nap times. I felt like I was reducing my free time even further, but it’s been more than worth it.

How are you finding juggling work in lockdown life?

This is definitely the tricky part. My husband has a full time job and a month ago I also went back to work 4 days a week. We’re now looking after our little one in a shift-pattern to make sure we both get enough time. A colleague recommended just blocking out your diary with childcare commitments two weeks ahead so that colleagues know when they can book you for meetings or not. This advice has really worked for us and we’re pretty strict on it.
It’s challenging to create ‘me-time’ with kids in lockdown, so we’re trying to be creative. I’ve started taking a kettlebell to the park so I can do some circuits whilst my son plays in the shade. He absolutely loves watching me do burpees and giggles away – not sure if that is a complement to my technique or not!

Finally, what’s the one thing you’d say to any new parent?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, in whatever form you need. I think becoming a parent is possibly the biggest transition you’ll ever make in your life and you can’t be expected to know everything and be perfect at everything straight away. You can be the best parent in the world, but it always helps when someone is there to pop food on the table, clean the house or hold the baby so you can take a shower!


www.apparentlykids.co.uk

Buckwheat Pancakes

Like a lot of folks, we’ve upped our baking game in lockdown. So much so that we’ve been waking up to these buckwheat pancakes a lot! They are eggless, gluten free and delicious.

Details below. Have a go and let us know what you think! 🥞

Ingredients:
350ml water
3 tbsp coconut oil
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
Olive oil or rapeseed oil for frying
Toppings of your choice. For a sweet start try: berries, bananas, cinnamon, coconut yoghurt, nut butter. Or for something more savoury go with: cream-cheese, smoked salmon & rocket

Directions:
1.Whizz up all ingredients in a blender
2.Heat up a spoon of olive or rapeseed oil in a non stick pan and heat
3.Pour enough batter in to make a pancake and swirl around to make a circle
4.Cook for a few minutes until bubbles appear, then flip and cook the other side

Thanks to nutritionist, Alice Godfrey, for the simple and easy to bake recipe.

Coming off the pill after 10 years

I’ve never had a particularly good relationship with my period, or my vagina for that matter. And until recently, I would have never even dared write those words down, let alone share them on an open blog. I expect some of my nearest and dearest are thinking ‘I can’t believe she wrote that about her vagina.’ Well, I did. And if that’s made you squirm, then maybe this post isn’t for you.

So who is it for, exactly? It’s for anyone who’s been taking the pill for a long time. It’s for anyone who’s recently come off it. It’s for anyone with a period. It’s for anyone without one.

I’m hoping that by writing my experience down, it will help break some of the taboos around period chat, and let anyone who might be going through what I’m going through know, that it’s ok – it’s not just you.  I’m definitely no doctor, nor do I pretend to offer medical advice, but when it came to seeking help about what I’ve been going through (and currently still am going through), I found it really hard to get information from my GP, online, or from friends. So even if only one woman stumbles upon this story and feels a sense of relief knowing that she’s not alone, then my job here is done.

To start, we need to take a few steps back.

I got my period when I was 13. I remember it so well. I was with my family at a friend’s house and it came out of nowhere. I called for my mum from the bathroom and she said we needed to get home. As we said our goodbyes she mouthed to the hosts: ‘she’s just got her period’ as if it was some big secret or something that needed to be dealt with in private. And I guess that’s how I’ve always felt about it.

At that stage of my life I was at an all-girls boarding school, where I stayed until I was 18 years old. Some pretty fucking crucial years spent there. And aside from using my period as an excuse to get out of swim class, I can’t actually remember ever having an open discussion about my menstrual cycle with anyone. It was something that happened to every single one of us on a regular (or sometimes irregular) basis – and it was never spoken about. What’s worse is, when we did talk about it, we’d called it ‘the curse’, as if it was some awful, misfortunate thing that was happening to us. Thinking about that now, I realise how crazy and sad it was that we called it that.

I used to get some of the worst period pains. With some cycles I’d be able to pop a couple of pain killers and get by, but with others I’d have to skip school and lie down for days. On the odd occasion I’d actually vomit from pain.

My relationship with my period wasn’t helped by the fact that I had an even worse relationship with tampons. I don’t know if it was a generational thing or a cultural thing (I’m Persian), but I was always told not to wear them. But seeing all my friends graduate from pads to tampons was really hard, so one night, I took a tampon and inserted it fairly easily. When it came to taking it out though, I couldn’t, and had to be taken to the on-call doctor who told me whilst removing it, that I had got it caught in my hymen. Fucking excellent. I never touched a tampon again after that until years later.

Skip forward a few years: I’m 22, got a steady boyfriend and decide to go on the pill. I end up on a Progestin-only pill – or the cute sounding mini-pill – that I took religiously every day. As is common with this type of pill, there was no break between packs, and because of the way in which this particular pill works – it thins the lining of the uterus and thickens the cervical fluid so sperm can’t get through – my periods went from heavy and horrific to nonexistent.

So for years I had no pads, no pain, no bleeds, no worries….right?!

We’re now in the present day: I’m 33 years old and at the end of last year, that steady boyfriend of mine (who is now my husband) and I, decide that we’re as ready as we’ll ever be to start a family; so the first step is to come off the pill, after ten years.

I was genuinely afraid (still am) that coming off it would alter my personality – one that I’m incredibly proud of, but one that’s also prone to stress-induced snaps and bouts of anxiety. I realised that my husband had never known me to not be on the pill, and was worried that he might not like the non-pill version of me!

I came off the pill in October 2019 and the day I stopped taking it, I ran into Boots to stock up on pads, pills and (believe it or not, having still never worn one) tampons. The NHS website, which I trust whole-heartedly, told me that when you come off the pill it can take up to 2 weeks to get your period, so I was well prepared. But two weeks later, my period hadn’t arrived, and I assumed I must be pregnant. (If only it were that quick and easy)! I wasn’t, so started to panic. I made an appointment with my GP, but they couldn’t see me for another two weeks. More panic took hold as those levels of anxiety got a little higher: “what have I done to my period?”, I kept thinking.

It wasn’t until after I spoke to a friend who had also recently come off the pill and hadn’t had her period either, that I calmed down. Her GP had told her it can take up to six months to get your period back. Six months?! Why wasn’t I told that? Why wasn’t that written anywhere that’s easy to find? I was annoyed, but also relieved.

It’s probably around now that you might be thinking: ‘of course you were going to have problems with your cycle after taking the pill for such a long time.’ And you’re probably right. But each time I’d gone to my GP for repeat prescription – which was every 3 months – I’d always ask if taking the mini-pill back to back without any breaks (or bleeds) would harm my chances of fertility; and the answer was always no.

At this point it might be worth my mentioning the realities of your cycle when taking the combined pill vs. the mini pill. And apologies if you already know this, (I only found it out recently), but it might be useful to know that if you’re on the combined pill (the one where you take a break at the end of one packet before starting the next), the bleed in between those packets isn’t actually your period. It’s called a ‘withdrawal bleed’, and it can take just as many months to get a regular cycle after taking the combined pill as it does the mini-pill.

It took me a total of 2 months and 2 sessions with a reflexologist to get my first bleed in ten years, and my gosh, I’d never been happier about it.

The silver lining in having to wait for what felt like so long for it to arrive, was that for the first time in my life, I was grateful to see blood. I saw it as a blessing (not a curse); a sign that things were working and that I hadn’t completely fucked up my insides by stuffing myself full of hormones for so many years. And along with that gratefulness came a whole bunch of other feelings I hadn’t felt in a while, like femininity and sexuality. Those emotions were definitely harnessed by reading Maisie Hill’s Period Power which I cannot recommend enough. It completely changed my outlook on the female body, my vagina (or vulva, I should say) and periods.

So my period came, and with it, my first cycle. I’m a type-A planner, so I started tracking my days to better understand exactly what I could expect from my hormones during the different sections of my cycle. I went from being almost disgusted with the thought of having a period in my teens, to openly telling people what stage of my cycle I was in, and almost boasting about being able to use tampons (yeah, fuck you hymen!) My menstrual cramps were practically nonexistent compared to how they were when I was growing up – I think this has to do with leading a healthier lifestyle now compared to when I was a teenager – and I see them as sign that things are working just as they should be. So at 33, I not only find my period empowering, but also genuinely exciting.

That said, things are still far from back to ‘normal’. It’s now April 2020 and I’ve only had two periods since my first one back in December 2019. My husband and I are now actively trying to conceive, and I don’t know what the lack of periods mean (if anything) or if I should be worried about them. I can’t find any information online, and unfortunately now with Coronavirus racing through the world, there are far more pressing matters that the NHS is dealing with (and rightly so); but it means I’m back to square one of not really knowing where to turn to get the information I need about my body. Cue anxiety.

My friends try to comfort me by telling me that it’ll take time for my cycle to regulate as my hormones are still adjusting, but I’m worried that missing periods might mean something more serious (like a lack of ovulation). Unfortunately there’s not much I can do about it at the moment, so I’m trying not to overthink it (that definitely doesn’t help with baby-making), and instead, make the most of the quarantined-time at home with my husband, by having more regular sex (which definitely does help).

So who knows whether or not what I put into my body for all those years has impacted my chances of getting pregnant now. I hope not, and I honestly don’t believe it has. I just wish the information about all this was out there in a much more obvious way, and that my GP had been much more upfront about the realities of long-time pill taking. If I had known, then maybe I would have come off the pill years ago. Maybe I wouldn’t have. I don’t know. But I do know that it would have saved me from a lot of worry and stress over these last few months.

That’s why I felt it necessary to share my journey with this so far. So that anyone who has experienced this or who is going through it right now knows that they are not alone. We need to share our stories and experiences, however icky or uncomfortable others may feel hearing it – in fact, that’s exactly why we need to keep talking about it. If you have anything you want to share or talk about, then to please get in touch: arianna@pachamama-london.com

And in the meantime, I’ll keep tracking and we’ll keep trying. Wish us luck. x