How I Get The Perfect Poached Egg

Whenever I make poached eggs, they tend to find their way on to Instagram; cue various followers upset that they can never serve a good poached egg. As I'm so often asked for my "secret" - I thought I'd write a very quick post on egg poaching, mainly to stress that I have no secret formula, just a reliable method.
The key to success when poaching eggs is to use an egg fresh-from-the-hen. If you own your own chickens then this is great, if you don't, then find someone who does. Using supermarket eggs for poaching purposes will increase your likelihood of failure, as the longer it's been since the egg was laid, the more likely it is to spread out in the water rather than form a tight, compact ball.
I fill a large saucepan with plenty of water, and bring to the boil. Once boiling I use a wooden spoon to stir the boiling water, creating a kind of whirlpool in the centre of the pan. I then crack a fresh egg in to the whirlpool (the water doesn't have to be spinning wildly, a slow circular movement will be enough to roll your egg in to a rounder shape). I do not take the pan off of the heat at all, but if you're using a gas hob then I'd suggest turning the heat down a little at this stage - I use a horrible old fashioned electric hob though and have no problems.
As soon as the egg has turned white, use a slotted spoon to lift it from the water - if you can still see a lot of raw egg white then return to the water for a little longer, but in total your egg should not need to be in the water for any more than 75 seconds.
Once cooked, I scoop the egg out of the water with the slotted spoon and serve. Do not serve your poached egg on hot toast or a warmed plate; wherever you place your cooked egg should be cool - otherwise the egg will go on cooking and you'll end up with a hardening yoke (this often happens in cafes and restaurants as they tend to heat their plates). As soon as you sit down with your poached egg in front of you - cut the egg open, to allow heat to escape and to halt the on-going cooking process.
Kebab Shop Poached Eggs: poached egg on toasted muffin with crispy fried spring onion and jalapeƱo peppers.
N.B I am choosing to still eat runny egg yolks throughout pregnancy. The NHS recommend that pregnant women avoid eating runny yolks or raw egg, due to the risk of salmonella poisoning. This risk is very very tiny in the UK. If you are unlucky enough to contract salmonella food poisoning during pregnancy there is little to no risk to your baby. I however would not recommend or encourage other pregnant women to disregard NHS advice - if you do so it should be because you've researched the risks and come to your own informed decision - OK? OK.

Sharing Pregnancy

This current pregnancy was always going to be vastly different from my previous experience, for a number of reasons, but one of the most significant, and obvious differences between my to pregnancies, would be the presence of a second parent.
Seb's father and I had already separated when I discovered that I was pregnant, and despite a rollercoaster year, our romantic relationship was never resumed, and by the time Seb was five months old, his father had already moved to South East Asia.
Last night I laid in bed with my boyfriend's head resting on my, now rather rotund, tummy, whilst our baby kicked him continuously in the side of the face; and I can honestly say that there is a contentment in such moments that you can't find anywhere else. I don't really remember the experience of being pregnant with Seb, perhaps because I wasn't aware of my pregnancy until much later, but also because, alone, I just got on with it without sharing many of the important moments with anyone but myself.
There are of course a number of trivial "downsides" to being in this with someone else; for a start, I have to run any potential baby names past my boyfriend (who, for the most part, vetoes them.) It was actually my Mum who first suggested Sebastian as a boy's name last time around (up until then, a boy baby was going to be a Rupert) but once I'd decided to go with it, I didn't need to ask anyone else's opinion. Rupert has already received a firm no from boyfriend by the way!
Thankfully, we're both very much on the same page as far as how we approach parenthood for what will be the third time for him, and the second for me. From buying almost all baby-kit second hand (not just due to financial restraints but because an alternative seems ridiculous to both of us), to delivering baby at my home if we are able.
Boyfriend and I tend to have almost identical taste in material objects as well (just not in names apparently) - so when it comes to baby clothes, pushchairs, or blanket designs, we've tended to be very much united in what we like and dislike, which helps I guess.
To compare my two pregnancies so far (ignoring the fact that at this stage in my previous pregnancy I didn't even know I was pregnant), based entirely on the experience of being one half of a pregnant couple, compared to being single and pregnant - naming disagreements aside - I fall more in love with this man every day as our baby grows. Pregnancy creates a whole new layer to our relationship that neither of us had previously foreseen or anticipated. The fact that even though this second pregnancy was equally as unplanned as my pregnancy with Seb, I can now look forward to baby's arrival with more excitement than anxiety, and lean on someone when things seem a bit tough (or I have a rotten cold, as has been the case this week!) has made being pregnant something of a breeze so far.
I guess it helps that not only am I sharing pregnancy this time, but I'm sharing it with a guy who totally rocks my socks.


Preparing for Hypnobirth (The Early Days)

Before I carry on with this post, now seems like an ideal time to drop in that Baby #2 is (somewhat surprisingly) on his or her way in the Lawrence-Rye household! More on that another time but that hopefully goes some of the way to explaining my long absence from blogging (although you can also factor in a lack of broadband connection at home, work commitments, and a little dose of writer's block).
I'm certainly not about to re-launch as a pregnancy blog (though there are some wonderful UK and international pregnancy and parenting blogs out there if you're keen!) but as this blog is a very personal space, and tends to reflect my lifestyle and loves of the moment, it shouldn't come as any surprise if some pregnancy and baby related content makes it's way in.
I will be making a point of writing lots of content on how we are planning to do "A Baby on a Budget" which I hope that other expectant parents will find useful - my blog has been, and shall continue to be, about living the best life you can with the least impact on your bank account, and I'll be focussing on ways to save money, be kind to nature, and live positively, whilst preparing for a new arrival.
Pre-born baby at 21 weeks gestation
Something which I've been especially interested in as a second time Mama, is the impact of my own and other's birthing experiences. My son, Sebastian, was born at our local hospital; the end product of a pretty textbook labour. I relied upon drugs to help me manage the pain of childbirth, and thankfully was spared the additional discomfort of further medical intervention or an initial artificial induction. In fact, I've often described my labour and birth experience with a smug sense of having "gotten off lightly", with my total labour only totally around 5.5 hours, and Seb entering the world naturally, head first, avoiding leaving me with any physical damage in the lady area. Various people have exclaimed at how lucky I am, to have experienced such a quick, straight forward first labour; and I've been "entertained" with other's tales of five day labouring, forceps deliveries, epidurals and the six week recovery period following a caesarean section - feeling increasingly relieved to have kept it simple.
However, I've also been aware that other women, women as healthy and physically able as me, have birthed their children drug-free. When Seb was born I accepted the offer of gas & air almost immediately upon arrival at the labour ward, and later asked for a pethidine injection to be administered, which wiped me out in to the drug infused oblivion through which I birthed my son. I remember it hurting, I remember crying that I couldn't physically cope with a single second more, I (sort of) remember a lot of swearing, some hysterical laughter between contractions, and my best friend Jade yelling "Oh My God!" as Seb entered the world. But at the same time, I don't know how much of my son's birth I can consciously recollect as I was, for all intent and purposes, off my head on drugs and in intense pain.
A few people around me have turned to hypnobirthing (a form of self-hypnosis) to get them through labour, and for the most part I had dismissed the option as fascinating but unobtainable - like people who go through major surgery with no anaesthetic, under the cloudy haze of hypnotism that leaves them unable to feel the surgeon's intrusion. Amazing, I want to read all about it - but I'm not actually going to let anyone remove one of my kidneys without anaesthetising me (or at all, if I can help it!)
My chiropractor's wife is a trained hypnobirthing practitioner (a tenuous link I know) and a couple of my own friends had loosely adopted a few hypnobirthing techniques in their most recent (interestingly, second or subsequent) labours - so it's been on my radar for a little while.
I recently picked up a book on hypnobirthing, by the movement's founder, Marie Mongan, almost on a whim; but I felt compelled to find out a little more, as I had already set my heart on giving birth to my second child at home... and I don't have spinal blocks available in my living room.
I hadn't got far in to the book when I realised, with much enthusiasm, that hypnobirthing was not only perfectly obtainable - but totally up my street. I already meditate, on purpose, regularly, as a means of managing stress and anxiety (and to a degree in my yoga sessions). Hypnobirthing seems, to me, to rely heavily on meditation as a means to reach a self-hypnotised state, something that I already know I can do really easily. The relaxation techniques adopted by hypnobirthing Mothers and their partners are exercises in no way dissimilar to those that I already use; and hypnobirthing could ensure that I have the home birth I so desperately want.
Turns out; not as much crazy arsed hippy bullshit as I thought.
If you do reach for a Marie Mongan book or CD though, please do be aware that Marie is American, most of the couples she works with are American, and therefore some of the content of her teachings is very American. I've since spoken with a few people involved in the British hypnobirthing movement, who've sought to un-Americanise some of the "scripts" and "affirmations" used in hypnobirthing, so that they don't sound as daft to British ears!
A few people have asked me, since I began preparing for a hypnobirth, what the Hell it is, and in short, though I will try to explore the concept in more detail later, it is using meditation and relaxation techniques to bring about a completely natural (and pain free) birth. There's so much more to hypnobirthing than that straight forward definition but it goes some of the way to explaining what it is that I hope to achieve.

Seb was a wonderful baby, and has grown in to a wonderful boy; my previous birthing experience was something that I was proud of, wearing almost as a badge of honour, but it also taught me to seek more joy and fulfilment from birth - rather than simply enduring it as the hideous process that had to be completed in order to reach a happy end result. My attitudes towards child birth and parenting in general have matured ten fold since my son was born in 2010, and this time around I don't want to deliver a drug filled baby through a drug fuelled, painful, and relatively scary labour. What I would like, ideally, is to be in the comfort and familiarity of my own home, not surrounded by the hideous beeping and whirring of hospital equipment. I want to be able to support my boyfriend through our baby's arrival in this world as much as be supported by him (no I in TEAM peoples) - and I'd quite like to know what on Earth is going on when our son or daughter finally does take his or her first breath. That's the plan. As it is, I see hypnobirthing as the most reliable and safe mode of getting there.
Having read Marie's book I've been researching hypnobirthing online as thoroughly as possible. There are tonnes of amazing hypnobirthing videos on YouTube, but by far the most amazing I've watched thus far is Joshua's birth in a birthing pool at home - it's a good 10 minutes of video, but the bit that totally knocked me sideways is from about 04:30 minutes onwards - basically - that is what you can do with hypnobirthing - if that is an option why would you opt for anything else? Watch the video here.
The best way to access plenty of necessary material to prepare for a hypnobirth (such as appropriate relaxation CD's etc.) as well as getting the greatest possible level of "training" in hypnobirthing your baby, appears to be through a hypnobirthing course with a trained practioner; so I nearly cried when I realised that locally I would be looking at upwards of £400 for a course.
I may be able to get around this, having found a qualified hypnotherapist and certified hypnobirth tutor locally, who runs a far more affordable course over two six hour sessions. I spoke with her today regarding my previous birth experience, my hopes for how things will pan out this time around, and how hypnobirthing could be used to ensure that I get the labour and birth that we want.
There's still a cost involved, and it might seem odd that I suggest, on a blog that focusses on saving money, that people should pay to learn how to have a baby - but what being careful with money should always involve, is investing in what really matters; not doing everything as cheaply as possible with no consideration for the consequences (which quite often ends up more expensive) - but being mindful about spending. What's worth investing in won't be the same for every individual, every family, but for us, the safe, drug free, pain free, happy birth of our child is worth a small expense (the cost of the course is already less than what we've saved by buying our pushchair second hand on Ebay!).
It should go without saying that I would love to hear from anyone who's had experience of hypnobirth - or who's expecting a baby at the moment too. I promise to keep you updated on this journey and will cover hypnobirthing in more detail as I learn more.
For now though, that's all on the baby front!