Saturday, 27 June 2015

How to make a papier mache jellyfish

My daughter's school is running a competition to encourage children and their parents to make some underwater resources for the classroom.
The theme is sea creatures. 
There's nothing like a little contest to bring out the competitive mum in me. So, we I set to work to create a stunning jellyfish to hang from the ceiling.

Unfortunately, I'm not the most crafty of mums. But, I have to blow my own trumpet a bit and admit that I'm just a teensy bit proud of our efforts. This is such a simple project, that even I managed it.

All you need are:
  • a balloon
  • some bits of old newspaper
  • some plain flour
  • some water
  • some pink paper
  • a couple of old carrier bags
  • PVA glue
  • glitter 
  • aluminium foil
Here's what we did:
  1. Blow up a balloon and try to rest the bottom of it in a mug. Unfortunately, you'll find that as you add the papier mache, it turns a bit top heavy and it won't stay in the mug, but it's useful to have as a sort of base.
  2. Mix up a mug of flour with a few splashes of water to form a paste.
  3. Tear up your newspaper into thin strips and dip them into the papier mache paste. Then stick them onto the top half of the balloon.
  4. Once you've covered the top half of the balloon in newspaper, tear up bits of your pink paper and a layer of pink paper to the newspaper layer.
  5. Leave to dry overnight. It might take longer if you've used a lot of paste!
  6. Remove burst the balloon.
  7. Cut the carrier bags into long strips and glue them around the base of the papier mache jellyfish body.
  8. Decorate with glue, glitter and bits of silver foil.
You now have a beautiful papier mache jellyfish.

I'll keep you posted about whether we won anything. But it was a fun craft activity for my 4 year old and 2 year old.

What craft projects have you recently done with your young children?

Friday, 26 June 2015

Yes, I really did eat my placenta!

While I was pregnant I watched a programme where a woman ate her placenta after giving birth and became interested in placentophagy. So I began reading up on the subject with a view to maybe, just maybe, giving it a go.

We had the perfect glassware for a placenta smoothie!
At first, I admit, I was a bit grossed out by the practice. I mean, why would you eat your own waste?  But the more I investigated, the more it seemed to make sense. Although there is little scientific evidence to back up claims that consuming your placenta can increase energy, improve breastmilk production and prevent post-natal depression, I figured I didn't have anything to lose. After all, most mammals eat their after birth. They also lick their young clean, which I didn't really fancy doing - sniffing my newborn obsessively is the nearest I get!

So when I gave birth to Baby O I told the midwife I wanted to keep the placenta.

There are a few options available if you fancy eating your placenta:

  • You can pay for it to be encapsulated, or you can even encapsulate it yourself
  • You can cook it up into a lasagne or stew
  • You can blend it up with yoghurt and fruit and drink it like a smoothie
I opted for the smoothie because I wasn't sure if I would stomach the smell of my own organ being fried or baked. It seemed a bit close to cannibalism for my liking. Plus, I wasn't sure if any of the nutrients would be lost in the cooking process. For the same reason, I ruled out the encapsulation.

I bought a big tub of natural yoghurt and some frozen red berries in preparation and when Baby O was born the midwife put the placenta into a plastic bag, which we put into a plastic tub and popped in the fridge.

My placenta (with the cord attached)

The next day, I rinsed my placenta thoroughly and then cut off a couple of meaty chunks the size of a 50 pence piece away from the membrane side. I popped them into the blender along with the yoghurt and the berries and whizzed it for a couple of minutes before pouring them into a glass. I have to admit, it was yummy. You couldn't taste the placenta at all. I offered some to my husband but he politely declined.

Whizzing it up in the blender
I have to say, the hormonal monster who usually replaces me at about day 3 failed to emerge. But this could also be because this was baby number four and I was more relaxed this time round. I also felt like I had more energy. But again, this might just have been because I expected to feel this way and my new baby actually slept at night!

I chose to wash my smoothie down with a glass of bubbles to celebrate the new arrival
I had about three placenta smoothies, which didn't really make much of a dent into the entire thing. The rest was safely disposed of. Although, in hindsight, I wish I had tried to encapsulate the remainder. I'm now eleven weeks in and feeling a little weary.

Who knows if eating, or drinking, my placenta helped me recover from the birth? 

I'm glad I tried it and I think if I ever have another baby, which is highly unlikely, I'll probably do it again.

Did you eat your placenta? Would you? How was it for you?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A positive home birth story

Whenever childbirth comes up in conversation, it generally involves horror stories with women trying to outdo each other about their life or death experience.

Well, it isn't always like that. Some women are blessed with truly positive experiences. I'm one of them. I gave birth to my fourth child at the beginning of April (hence the lack of updates recently) and it was another amazing and empowering experience.

O was 8 days overdue and I opted to have a stretch and sweep done to see if we could encourage baby to make an appearance. I wasn't particularly bothered about being overdue, but I was keen to avoid induction. My older three were beginning to get impatient though!

1 week overdue and waiting...

After the sweep, I took my 7 year old, 4 year old and 2 year old to the skateboard park, play park and we had an ice cream by the beach. I was a little uncomfortable, but I wasn't sure if this really would be 'it'. When we got home, we had tea and I decided to run a bath to see if it would ease up my niggling pains or even kick things off properly. It did neither. So I started getting the children into bed.

Finally, as I was nursing my 2 year old to sleep at around 8pm, I suddenly got some pretty decent contractions. They were coming every five minutes, so at around 8.30pm I decided to call for a midwife. I have a history of very quick labours, so I didn't want to hang around. I also called a student midwife friend who had expressed an interest in watching a home-birth (insurance issues meant she couldn't participate) and my mother.

I jumped in the bath again and had a cup of tea and a chat to my friend and then asked her to leave so I could relax and find the right headspace. The midwife when arrived at about 9.15pm and I invited my student midwife friend back in to observe what the midwife was up to. Things were all very calm and relaxed. The midwife did a couple of basic checks and concluded that I was 6-7cm.

The midwife was due to finish her shift at 10pm and just before she clocked off her replacement arrived. As they were chatting through the handover I could feel the contractions start to really intensify. I focussed on the music I had chosen and the candles that were burning around the bath and breathed through the contractions, allowing myself to moan, which helped to relax my body and ease the tension that was building up as the contractions peaked.

Just after my first midwife left I began feeling the urge to push, so I got out of the bath and eventually found a comfortable position on all fours, with my arms leaning on a stool, to deliver my baby.

As I felt him descend further (although I didn't know it was a he at that point), my waters went and with the next contraction his head crowned. I slowly breathed him down. I have a history of tearing so I needed to control this bit and let him out as slowly as possible. The next thing I knew, I could hear a muffled snuffly cry and then I felt something stick out. I asked, 'what was that?' and my husband replied, 'his arm!'. It seemed like forever until the next contraction came, but when it did I was able to deliver the rest of his head and then his body.

My beautiful son was then passed through my legs and I sat down with him on my chest. He seemed a little bit stunned and his breathing was laboured with some foam at the mouth, from where he had obviously swallowed some mucus while trying to cry before he was properly out. However, after some skin to skin he quickly recovered. I offered him the breast, but he wasn't particularly fussed so we just enjoyed more cuddles while we waited for my body to release the placenta.

Attempting our first feed.

I had opted for natural third stage because I don't see the point of taking drugs to deliver the placenta when I had managed to deliver the baby with no help at all. It took a little longer than it probably would have done had I opted for the injection, but I wasn't in a particular hurry and it meant my husband had plenty of time to wake up my oldest son so he could cut the cord.

My 7 year old has been around, pretty much, for the births of all his siblings. When he was two, he was downstairs watching Fireman Sam when his sister was born and when he was four, he came home from nursery, literally minutes after his brother was born. We had asked at the time if he wanted to cut the cord, but he preferred to watch daddy do the honours. This time round, he was determined that he would be the one to separate his new sibling from mum.

My eldest cutting the cord with the assistance of my lovely midwife.

So while I was enjoying some skin to skin with my gorgeous newborn, my husband went to wake up my eldest son to ask if he still wanted to cut the cord. He was overjoyed at the prospect and came through to meet his new brother and release him from me. It was an amazingly intimate family moment, despite the fact that it took several attempts for the scissors to actually get through the cord. Once the cord was cut and the placenta was delivered, my eldest and youngest son enjoyed some cuddles while I went to get examined and to double check I had not torn. And - for the first time - I had escaped with just a minor graze.

The midwife stayed on to do her checks on both mum and baby before checking I was OK as I showered and got cleaned up. I then sat in my own bed with my newborn son and a cup of tea.

This is likely to be my last birth and, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a totally relaxed but empowering experience and I'm just a little bit sad that I'm unlikely to experience childbirth again. Still, onwards and upwards to the next stage in our lives.

Welcome to the world Baby O.

I'd love to hear your positive birth stories.