Things That Weren't As I Expected

I blogged a fair bit during pregnancy. I had very clear ideas about the type of birth experience that I wanted, and the sort of Mother I was going to be second time around. Some of it, I'm unsurprised to report, has been spot on. However, as is generally the way with life, there have been things that have struck me by surprise, despite the fact that Quinn isn't my first baby. 
 
Actually, having already had Seb is the root cause of most of the surprises, as Quinn has turned out to be a very different kind of baby.
 
I'm sure there are way way more unexpected turns in my parenting journey to come, not to mention plenty that I haven't thought of to include in this blog post, but here are at least a few of the bits that haven't gone strictly as I foresaw them going.
 
 
Homebirth - Ok, my birth experience was actually a whole lot better than I expected. However, I had in mind that it would be this gentle, serene experience, where I'd be silently "in the zone" and everyone would be sat about by candlelight, as I drifted through contractions for hours on end. I ended up giving birth about an hour after my waters broke, and my labour was ridiculously intense and full-on. There were no candles, no calming birthing music, no chanting... just some insane out of body experience on my bedroom floor. 
 
Breastfeeding - This did not go to plan. I mean, for one, I was knowledgable on breastfeeding (I thought), and I knew that it was absolutely supposed to be a painless experience, unless my latch was wrong. So if it did hurt, I'd just get the latch sorted out then it would be totally cool. Except, you know, Quinn was born with a significant tongue tie and silent reflux. I ended up with cracked, bleeding, scabby nipples and had to feed with nipple shields. I have suffered with multiple bouts of mastitis, blocked ducts, blisters, thrush and vasospasm. I didn't realise it could be this hard. Saying that, I also didn't realise it could be this rewarding and I never in a million years expected to become as passionate about breastfeeding as I am.
 
Return to Work - Being self-employed (from home) I expected to be back to writing within weeks of baby's birth, and by now I definitely expected to be working at pretty much full capacity. The reality is that a) I've chosen to follow and entirely different career path, which I hadn't even entertained this time last year, and b) I don't have a huge amount of time for freelance work, actually, I have no time for freelance work. Quinn is a thousand times more time consuming than Seb ever was, and the fact that I've fully embraced the idea of "attachment parenting" makes it difficult to also accept a particularly strong work ethic. 
 
Siblings - I didn't give that much thought about how the baby would fit in to a family with three existing children whilst I was pregnant. It wasn't that I didn't care, just that, the baby, and the three boys, had no real choice in the matter and I accepted that what would be, would be. I totally wasn't prepared for how much they'd all fall in love with one another. I worried whether Seb would feel someone abandoned when a new baby arrived, but if he does, he doesn't show it. He's always far more excited to see  his sister first thing in the morning and when he comes out of school, than he is to see me. He, and the older two, absolutely dote on her, and it's so heart warming to see her fond reactions to them all too. 
 
Money - I thought we'd really struggle financially once the baby arrived, and don't get me wrong, we live on a seriously minimal budget - but we do live. I actually stress less about money now than I did pre-baby, and I think it's because I've really found my groove and got into a certain mind set of living with very very little. We can't afford many luxuries, and what we perceive as luxuries may seem trivial to other people, but I do feel as though I've found a thrifty balance now that Quinn's here. I know that we're saving heaps of money by using cloth nappies and breastfeeding, so that helps!
 
Body - Not gon' lie - I kind of thought I'd be back to my pre-pregnancy figure by now. That was probably really unrealistic, but before pregnancy I ate so so healthily, and whilst I relaxed my diet a bit when I was pregnant, I remained really active. I thought I'd be doing so much yoga post-baby, but realistically, I carry Quinn for most of the hours of a day, and the chances of me getting 30-60 minutes to myself to do yoga are slim. Breastfeeding hasn't been the magical weight loss trick that I wanted it to be either, it's just given me a serious sweet tooth which hasn't helped matters at all! I was a size 6-8 when I fell pregnant, which, retrospectively, is very very small on my frame. I'm now a size 10-12, which I should probably be more than happy with, dropping another dress size wouldn't be too shabby, but I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who loves me and (so he says) fancies the pants off of me regardless, and I probably will shed a few more lbs, even if I'm never back in that bikini!
 
I'd love to hear from other Mums (or Dads!) about how the reality of parenthood has differed from the dream! I could add quite a few more to this list myself!
 
 

10 Benefits of Bed Sharing with a Breastfed Baby

After I took part in a radio discussion last week on the positive aspects of bed sharing, following the publication of a study that provided evidence that co-sleeping was not only safe, but beneficial, I've decided to write a little more on the topic here.
 
I've previously blogged about our own bed sharing experience. I'm forever trying to pursue an intuitive and natural parenting experience, that doesn't rely too heavily on "expert advice" (other than where clear, evidence-based safety advice is concerned of course) so for me at least, bed sharing is as natural as breastfeeding. I breastfeed, primarily, because I'm a human mother with a human baby and it's how nature intends me to feed her. Putting a baby into a cot feels to me as far removed from nature as feeding a licensed medicine in place of breast milk.
 
I feel equally awkward about the fact that Seb slept in a cot as a baby five years ago, as I do about the fact that I fed him infant formula from birth.
 
Babies are born with no concept of the country or century they're born in to. Like all mammalian babies, they're born reliant on their Mothers; for food, but also for warmth and protection from predators. Granted, in the UK, we're unlikely to have our babies snatched away by wolves, but a baby isn't born realising that - and the thought of being apart from it's Mother, the one person responsible for keeping it safe from said perceived wolves (or bears, snakes, tigers etc.), is terrifying.
 
There's a lot to be said for applying primal principles to parenting, and indulging a babies primitive understanding of the world it's born in to. If you asked a baby where it would most like to sleep, it would obviously choose to be against the warmth and familiarity of it's Mother, close to the breast, in the same way that most other mammalian babies sleep.
 
That's the main reason that I bed share with Quinn. Guidelines dictate that babies should sleep next to their Mothers, but not their Fathers, without pillows or duvets etc. but their own blanket or baby sleeping bag. Babies should only bed share before 6 months  if breastfeeding exclusively, and with parents who've not been drinking, smoking, using drugs (legally or otherwise), or who're excessively tired.
 

 
Here are a further 10 reasons that bed sharing ought to be accepted as a more common practice among Mothers and their breastfed infants:
 
Benefits for Mum
 
  • Bonding - Co-sleeping has been shown to lower rates of maternal cortisol production in sleep, and increase the rates of oxytocin produced by the brain during the night, which plays a key part in creating the correct neurological pathways that would prevent a Mother from abandoning her child. Of course, improved bonding leads to an all round more positive parenting experience.
  • Better breastfeeding success rates - Bedsharing has been shown to massively improve a Mother's chances of continuing to breastfeed exclusively to six months. This may be in part due to the neurological balance created by the reduced levels of cortisol and higher oxytocin, and the improved bond that results. More likely, however, it means that Mothers can breastfeed easier through the night without having to even get out of bed. Breastfeeding has many benefits to Mother's health, from eliminating her risks of non-hereditary breast cancers (where other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, are removed), to reducing her risk of osteoporosis in later life. For Mother's who really want to breastfeed, bed sharing is often a life saver (perhaps even literally).
  • Reduced risk of PND - Breastfeeding itself has been shown beyond any reasonable doubt to significantly risk PND rates. There are a number of potential, and probably combined, reasons for this. One leading theory is that if a Mother doesn't breastfeed her baby for the first six months, the resulting lack of key hormones created when breastfeeding, causes the Mother's brain to believe that she has lost her baby. This makes sense, when you consider that many PND sufferers report being constantly anxious about their baby's safety and health, constantly checking that they're breathing, or worried that they're going to come to harm. For the same reason, Mothers and babies shouldn't be separated, the production of oxytocin throughout the night as a result of bed sharing, helps to maintain maternal mental health. N.B - breastfeeding and bed sharing only reduce, but do not eliminate, a Mother's risk of suffering from PND.
  • More sleep - Perhaps the holy grail of early parenthood, all parents strive to get even a workable amount of sleep at night. Bedsharing babies tend to sleep longer, and Mothers who don't have to constantly get up out of bed to fetch their babies for every feed, feel less tired in the morning. All too often you hear a sleep deprived Mum say how she was up all night because her baby would only sleep against her, and would wake as soon as they were laid down in their crib. Just think how much more rest that poor Mama would get if the crib itself were removed from the equation!
  • Saves money - If you're not lucky enough to have someone gift or loan you a crib/hammock/moses basket, you'll find yourself forking out for a bed that your baby will probably grow out of in a few short months. If I were to have another baby (I won't) we wouldn't bother with the infant sleeping thing. Quinn's Amby hammock was awesome, and for anyone who really wants a non-bedsharing option for a newborn, I'd point them towards the hammock every time, but retrospectively, we could have just coslept exclusively from day one and saved ourselves the money. 
 
Benefits for Baby
 
  • Better sleep - Bed sharing babies benefit from a better quality of sleep which perfectly acknowledges their own, natural sleep cycles, lessening the symptoms of "over tired" babies.
  • Better breastfeeding success results - No baby, other than perhaps a few with very severe allergies, would choose to be fed anything but breastmilk in their first six months. Every baby expects to be fed their Mother's own milk, and so anything that increases their chances of receiving that food is something that they'd get right behind if they could. Babies who bedshare are more likely to be breastfed for at least the first six months of their lives (often longer), significantly reducing their risk of infections, and reducing their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by over 30%. Breastfed babies are significantly less likely to be obese, in childhood or adulthood, and are less likely to suffer poor digestive health with diseases such as IBS.
  • Promotes healthy brain development - Breastfeeding contributes some of the way towards optimum brain development, and these benefits are even greater promoted by bed-sharing alongside exclusive breastfeeding. Just as in their Mother, bed sharing means that babies brains produce higher amounts of oxytocin, and almost no cortisol, compared to those babies sleeping in their own cots, whose cortisol levels can become dangerously elevated during the night. High levels of cortisol can permanently impede brain development, whilst the more oxytocin pumping through a baby's system, the better, in terms of neurological health.
  • Lower SIDS risk - Co-sleeping massively reduces a babies risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome, which we know from extensive studies, is often a result of a baby simply failing to breathe, for no obvious reason - linked to their inability to adequately regulate their own breathing. Babies rely on their Mother's breathing pattern to regulate their own, and where they're removed from their Mum, and therefore from this benchmark for their own breathing regulation, they're at an elevated risk of stopping breathing whilst asleep. Unfortunately babies still die in unexplained circumstances when bed sharing, or sleeping in a cot in their parent's room, but we do know that being safe besides their Mum see's a babies risk drop dramatically. Unfortunately, as modern parenting practices see babies move in to various sleeping arrangements that don't mirror our natural instinctive desire to keep our babies close, SIDS rates continue to rise.
  • Lower risk of injury - One of the biggest objections to bed sharing, is parents worrying that they'll roll on top of their children. This is the reason that it's recommended that baby sleeps next to it's breastfeeding Mum, and not Dad, and that only breastfed babies co-sleep. Breastfeeding Mothers have an incredibly advanced intuitive awareness of their baby's position in the bed, and the chances of a breastfeeding Mother suffocating or harming her baby in the night are unbelievably low. However, breastfeeding Mums who're having to get up in the night, to feed their babies in an upright position in the bed, or on a sofa, or in a chair, are more likely to fall asleep in these positions, presenting a high risk to baby, of suffocation, or being dropped. Breastfeeding Mums often report falling asleep whilst breastfeeding, and waking, terrified that anything could have happened to their child in their arms. Safely breastfeeding in a bed that is arranged for co-sleeping removes risks to baby.
 

15 Facts About My Relationship

I quite liked taking part in the 73 Things post the other day, which Lauren from Belle Du Brighton roped me into. I'm a huge fan of a list, what can I say.
 
Having avoided the likes of "Valentines Day Gift Ideas", or "Alternative Date Ideas" posts etc. to cash in on Valentine's Day fever this year, I thought I'd honour it with something a little more personal to me and the Boyf.
 
We don't make a big deal about Valentine's Day, mainly because we're pretty soppy all year round, sometimes sickeningly so. This year we'll be hanging with all four children on Valentine's Day, which isn't exactly romantic by most people's standards, and we'll flop into bed by about 9pm and watch back to back box set episodes until we're too tired to stay awake. I'm totally cool with that though.
 
I decided to celebrate my (really very lovely) relationship with a little fact storm. So, here are 15 Facts about my relationship, which haven't been discussed previously on the blog.
 
  1. We have the same favourite colour. It's orange, for anyone who's interested!
  2. Our birthday's are precisely 6 months apart. Basically, his birthday is my half birthday, and vice versa.
  3. When we first started dating we had the same book on our bedside tables. It was Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, incidentally.
  4. We have no anniversary. I have no idea what date we first met, and he did actually ask me to be his girlfriend, because he's old skool, but I have no idea what date that was on either.
  5. We had a baby after a year of dating. One year, to the date. The one calendar date I do know is that of the first time we went "out" together on anything even remotely resembling a date, and that was the 23rd July 2014, exactly one year before Quinn was born.
  6. I've never seen him without a beard. Obviously I've seen photographs of him before he had a beard but I just refuse to accept that they're pictures of him.
  7. He has a better skincare regime that I do. I'm pretty crap at using products effectively. I treat myself to new skincare stuff and use it for a few days and then forget all about it. He is totally unable to go a day without moisturiser (one with an SPF for during the day, and one without for the evening). Add to that the face scrubs, the cleanser, the beard oil... I'm an embarrassment in comparison (not that I have need for beard oil). He even reminds me to take my makeup off before bed.
  8. We met on Instagram. I ought to do a separate post about this really because there are couples who've made national news by meeting on Instagram (they did get married within an hour of meeting in person, to be fair, slightly more newsworthy) but whilst everyone's finding love on Facebook, and maybe Twitter, we are an Instagram couple... which is obviously way cooler.
  9. We've had more dates in his van than we have bars and restaurants. In the early days, our relationship was all very hush-hush (because I was married and stuff, you know, semantics) so he used to pick me up on his lunch breaks from work and we'd go and get a take away cup of tea from a little café and sit chatting in his van. Good times!
  10. We've only been "away" together once. I fell pregnant within months of us getting together and life's been pretty hectic ever since, not to mention we already had three children between us before Quinn was born, so weekends away and holidays have always been a non-option. I arranged for us to spend a long weekend together, just the two of us, in the New Forest when I was about 36 weeks pregnant, and that was such a treat.
  11. I always steal his clothes. I'm not sure how much this actually annoys him. I mean, he complains a bit, but if he isn't joking then I just pretend that he's joking. Annoyingly for him, we're pretty much the same size. I wear his underwear if I don't have any clean. I always steal his socks. T-shirts and hoodies are generally fair game. I usually wear his pyjama bottoms in the evening. His hats. His coats. Even his wellies fit with thick socks... I basically dress as him. I'm wearing his hoody and a pair of his socks as I write this.
  12. We've never had an argument. We've faced a few difficult times in our almost-two-years. We've definitely upset one another (mainly I've upset him, actually...) but we've never actually argued. We're like, the most diplomatic couple I know!
  13. We have this thing about rain. Once we were officially "an item", in the Summer of 2014, there seemed to be Biblical amounts of rain. It didn't stop raining for that entire Summer it seemed. Some of my favourite memories are of the rain storms of Summer 2014. I have a photo next to my bed, which I took at the beginning of August. We'd gone out and it was the first time I met a lot of his friends, and the first time we'd been with some of our mutual friends "as a couple". We drank a lot and danced all night long and then on the way home it rained unbelievable amounts, it was some of the heaviest rain I've experienced in my entire life - like someone just standing above you pouring a bucket of water over your head. We were so wet it was just silly, we laughed so much. When we walked through the door we just had to get undressed in the hallway, I had mascara streaked all the way down my face, and I took a photograph of us both standing in his kitchen.
  14. We're both cat people. I have my two cats, Bucket and The Kitten - although I only has Bucket when we first met, and Boyfriend has a black cat called Elphaba. In fact, he first contacted me by sending me a photo of his cat via a private message on Instagram (clearly, it doesn't take much to win me over!)
  15. We're super tactile. I can think of loads of reasons that I think our relationship is a success, but we've never really stopped cuddling, holding hands, kissing loads, snogging like teenagers, slapping each other on the bum, and so on. I think the fact that we're very physical as a couple (and I'm not talking about bedroom antics) has helped us to stay very connected and content in our relationship. I definitely know something's up if we're not as touchy feely as usual!
There we have it. I'm actually pretty obsessed with him, I think as men go he's incredible; he's such a loving and fun Father, he works crazy hard at a physically demanding and highly skilled job, he's my biggest cheerleader - and super supportive of me in everything from work endeavours to parenting. I just proper love him. And his beard.
 

6 month update

Blimey! 6.5 months now!
 
For the first 12 weeks of Quinn's life, I posted weekly updates on her development and our life together, and then I dropped down to monthly updates from then on. When she was born, six months seemed like a lifetime away, I looked at six month old babies and couldn't imagine Quinn at that age. Now - here we are!
 
 
 
 
For one, I can safely say that the past six months have totally taken me by surprise. Somehow, Quinn isn't the baby I was expecting, and I've gone above and beyond the Mother that I expected to be second time around. Our life now certainly isn't how I envisaged it being - it's better.
 
If you haven't ever read Quinn's birth story then please feel free to do so but be warned, I wrote it in the few days following her arrival and it is probably the worst piece of writing I have ever produced. I had no idea at the time, I'm pretty sure I proof read the shit out of it, but it's really awful. I did consider editting now, but actually, the spelling mistakes and the entire paragraphs that genuinely make no sense at all, add to it's charm, because at least I know that they're the product of being a bit off-my-nut, as all new parents generally are.
 
I expected to go very crunchy Mama with my second baby, I learned a lot from the first, and over the five years of Seb's life leading up to his sister's arrival, that made me want to do a lot of things differently with her. For one, I was a really defensive formula feeder with Seb, I didn't just quietly give my baby a bottle of replacement milk, but I went out of my way to defend my decision to do so. I was never ever anti-breastfeeding, but I was a really outspoken formula feeder. Over the following five years I did a complete 180, I learned a lot about breastfeeding, I was influenced by the people around me who made me question my previous attitudes, and I also began to seek a more natural, gentle, and sustainable lifestyle. Basically, I knew I wanted to breastfeed this time. I won't say any more about breastfeeding here because I wrote a post recently on my feelings having reached six months of breastfeeding. Now though, Quinn feeds every few hours, with several big long feeds throughout the day, and she grazes throughout the night.
 
Because we co-sleep, Quinn can pretty much help herself through the night, which means my sleep isn't really effected by night nursing. She just rolls into the boob, does what she needs to do, and rolls off again (bliss, all round).
 
Co-sleeping is definitely one of the best decisions we made. It was kind of forced upon us as Quinn's a seriously velcro baby and likes to be with me pretty much 24/7 (which I totally indulge), but rather than push her to sleep in her own bed we just kind of followed her lead and accepted co-sleeping as her preferred arrangement and it's been lovely so far. Yes there are nights when she's a fidgetty pest, but it's made breastfeeding at night a lot easier, and I can't lie, the cuddles and snuggles are the best. There's a lot of evidence doing the rounds at the moment to suggest that children benefit enormously from cosleeping into their toddler years.
 
We started baby lead weaning at 6 months. I was originally going to leave it until at least 7 months, but as Quinn's sitting completely unaided and has good hand/eye coordination, I decided there was no harm in putting food down for her, on a "take it or leave it" basis. I'm totally unsurprised that for the most part she leaves it. She's thriving on breast milk and whilst she's interested in food, she's never been that bothered about trying to eat anything. So far her absolute favourite foods have been watermelon, and sweet potato and coconut dahl (a vegan chickpea based curry). I've given her various fruit and veg to feed herself with which she's not been all that fussed on for the most part, and I've also offered her tastes of almost everything I've eaten, from a Mexican bean chilli to Marmite on toast. She's more interested in closely looking at food, and exploring the texture with her hands than she is about actually eating it, but I'm staying totally laid back about it and she's still enjoying boob! She now weighs 20lbs 10ozs at 29 weeks, which means she's remained on the 98th centile, and is in such incredible health, probably thanks to being breastfed, that I certainly don't feel that following her lead and sticking exclusively with breastmilk until she's ready for other food is going to be detrimental to her.
 
 
 
Quinn's favourite toys at the moment are her Sophie the Giraffe, and her IKEA wooden activity gym. The activity gym is one of those that babies are supposed to lay beneath and bat the toys dangling above them, but now that she can sit, she just sits in front of it and reaches out for the toys instead. It's still so much nicer than a lot of plastic versions though. I had a Sophie the Giraffe for Seb and he was never really that fussed, but I wanted to try again with Quinn as I love natural toys, and the fact that the teether is made from 100% natural rubber was a winner for me. Unlike her brother though, Quinn loves Sophie.
 
People seem really hung up on whether or not Quinn is rolling over (she isn't), or trying to crawl (she isn't). I don't know if it's because she will definitely be my last baby, but I'm really not hung up on the milestones thing. I know when Seb was a baby I was always desperate for him to master the next new skill, but where Quinn is concerned, I just want to freeze time. When she began sitting unaided I was really happy as it meant she had more independence and could enjoy her surroundings a lot more, but I'm certainly not eager for her to become mobile!
 
 
Our life together as Mum and Baby is just really lovely, every day Monday-Friday we have the option to socialise with friends. On a Monday we go to a Parent and Toddler/Baby group at a local Salvation Army church, on Tuesday we go to the breastfeeding support group (or peer supporter training for the time being), on Wednesday we go to a baby and toddler music group, on Thursday we go to Baby Sensory, and on Fridays there is a toddler/baby group at Seb's school.
 
 
Our life as a family is fantastic too. Quinn just loves all three of her brothers, which is wonderful. Due to their differing ages (5, 11 and 16) she has a slightly different type of relationship with each and it's genuinely interesting to observe, as well as heartwarming, because they're a lot more spread-out than average sibling families.

 
I have some other posts planned that touch on how Motherhood has surprised me this time around, so I'll save the rest for another time.
 
 
Until the seven month update at least!

73 Things

Something a bit different today, but the awesome Lauren, who blogs at Belle Du Brighton, tagged me to take part in a Q&A style post, and I thought, why not? This kind of writing is easy peasy with a baby on the hip, and I know a lot of people enjoy reading more personal real-life content, so I thought I'd join in.
 
Thinking of which bloggers I can tag to take part, I'm going to opt with Penny from A Penny For Them, and my best friend Sush, who's currently blogging her way through her first pregnancy at Beach Walk Muse.
 
So here we are, 73 simple questions, and my responses.

1. What’s your favourite movie?
I'm not a massive film buff, but then the films that I love, I really love. My favourite is probably a lesser known Anthony Hopkins film, Instinct. It's about an anthropologist who is institutionalised after attacking and murdering poachers who kill a family of lowland gorillas that he is studying. A young psychologist, played by Cuba Gooding Jnr. is tasked with trying to prove that the professor is not insane, but the man has taken a vow of silence since entering the detention centre which makes it particularly difficult. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend! 

 
2. Favourite movie in the past five years?
A Dangerous Method, the film about Carl Jung and his relationship with Sabina Speilrein.
3. Favourite Hitchcock film?
Never seen one.... (hides).
4. A book you plan on reading?
Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali - I ordered it from Amazon ages ago and it's taking forever to get here!
5. A book that you read in school that positively shaped you?
Homer's Odyssey (I studied A Level Classical Civilisations) fuelled my love of Greek mythology, it's still probably one of my favourite books, just in general. 
6. Favourite TV show that’s currently on?
I don't own a TV. Boyfriend and I binge watch Supernatural online though, and we've just started watching Jessica Jones.
7. On a scale of one to ten how excited are you about life right now?
A 6? I guess. If you asked how content I am with life, it would be a higher score. 
8. iPhone or Android?
Android! 
9. Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram. I think I'm probably really really boring on Instagram though, it is 99% pictures of my children!
10. Who should EVERYONE be following right now?
@seashepherd - they're my favourite charity and doing some amazing stuff right now protecting the world's oceans from criminal dickheads. And Jack Monroe ( @MxJackMonroe) who's recently announced that she's remaining vegan after this year's Veganuary. The book she's currently working on will include pre-vegan recipes but all of her future cookbooks will be entirely vegan, which is awesome.
11. What’s your favourite food?
Bean burgers. All day long.
12. Least favourite food?
Currants. Bleugh. 
13. What do you love on your pizza?
Jalepeno's and garlic oil. Gimme' a garlicky vegan pizza and I'm all yours!
14. Favourite drink?
Tea.
15. Favourite dessert?
Apple crumble and custard. 
16. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Dark, because I'm vegan. I recently discovered Vego bars and... holy crap they're amazing. Even if you're not vegan/dairy free, they still beat any milk chocolate bar hands down (if you like hazelnuts).

 
17. Coffee or tea?
Tea. I drink both every day though. 
18. What’s the hardest part about being a mum?
Worrying about the world your kids are growing up in. I look around at all of the atrocities taking place and the amount of human greed, cruelty and selfishness that goes down and I panic a bit for them. That and keeping on top of the washing. 
19. What’s your favourite band?
B*Witched
20. Favourite solo artist?
Taylor Swift, don't hate me for it, I just want to be her, or sleep with her, I'm not sure which most of the time.

 
21. Favourite song
Deftones - Change (In The House of Flies)
22. If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be?
Well I can't sing, I'm entirely and absolutely tone deaf... so there's that. But probably Jared Leto, preferably in costume from the movie Alexander... (only if my boyfriend had been killed in an unfortunate accident or something though)
23. If you could master one instrument, what would it be?
The violin. I'd love to go straight to being amazing, because learning to play the violin sounds horrible!
24. If you had a tattoo, where would it be?
I already have two, one on my waistline and one between my shoulder blades, I don't really have plans for more but if I were going to then I wouldn't mind a dinky one behind my ear. 
25. To be or not to be?
To be, of course. 
26. Dogs or cats?
Cats.
27. Bird-watching or whale-watching?
Whales, I like birds too though! 
28. Best gift you’ve ever received?
Bucket was a birthday present. Never give pets as presents etc. but he is good. On a similar note I got a Bichon Frise for my 11th birthday and she was so sweet and wonderful.
29. Best gift you’ve ever given?
I'm quite good at choosing gifts (if I do say so myself!) - I bought my ex husband a kayak, that was well appreciated until he got it stolen. I also got him a signed copy of Shantaram which he'd better not have got stolen. I gave my boyfriend a baby though, I mean, what more could he want? (Quite a lot, actually!)
30. Last gift you gave a friend?
I don't know that friends and I really do gifts that often. I got my friend's son a really cute eco dining set made from bamboo fibres for his first birthday last week though! I had an unexpected gift from a friend a few weeks back though. My best friend Sushmita bought me a little wooden Ganesh statue, he's very sweet.
31. What’s your favourite board game?
Risk, and Balderdash if you play with clever people.
32. What’s your favourite country to visit?
Scotland, I know I could be more adventurous but I've never ever been disappointed by Scotland.
33. What’s the last country you visited?
Scotland actually! But then across water, Italy. 
34. What country do you wish to visit?
Canada.
35. What’s your favourite colour?
Orange
36. Least favourite colour?
Pink
37. Diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds
38. Heels or flats?
Flats
39. Pilates or yoga?
Yoga
40. Jogging or swimming?
Swimming
41. Best way to de-stress?
Breastfeeding. Knocks me right out. I honestly think it should be promoted more as one of the positive benefits of breastfeeding. Being a Mum can be pretty stressful at times, and breastfeeding gives you the biggest shot of oxytocin (the same hormones that charges through your veins post-orgasm, but lets not make breastfeeding a sex thing.) It's ridiculously good for your mental wellbeing that stuff.
42. If you had one superpower, what would it be?
The power of persuasion. Mainly because it'd be a super easy and legal way to get rich. 
43. What’s the weirdest word in the English language?
Bamboozle 
44. What’s your favourite flower?
Sunflowers. They're the first flower Boyfriend bought me, and their seeds are really useful, and bees like them (and I like bees).
45. When was the last time you cried?
Yesterday, with laughter, whilst trying to tell Boyfriend about the guy who'd tried to use the Face Swap app thingy to swap his and his daughter's faces, but ended up swapping her face with the front of his oven. It's even less funny when I write it down.

 
46. Do you like your handwriting?
Yes. When I was 15 I decided that I didn't like my handwriting so I learned French school handwriting because it looked better. Still use it now. 
47. Do you bake?
With Seb yes.
48. What is your least favourite thing about yourself?
The more extreme manifestations of my introvertedness. Like my inability to answer the door if I'm not expecting anyone. Also, my credit rating. 
49. What is your most favourite thing about yourself?
The colour of my hair. 
50. Who do you miss most?
My friend Edd. He lives really far away and he doesn't have children and he's got a cool new job and is moving to Oxford. We don't get time to see one another often and it sucks because his is one of those voices that just calms me the f**k down immediately.
51. What are you listening to right now?
Simple Man by Deftones (odd considering earlier question!) 
52. Favourite smell?
The sea. 
53. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
The receptionist at my doctor's surgery whilst I was making an appointment for Seb.
54. Who was the last person you sent a text to?
Boyfriend to ask him to pick me up after work. 
55. A sport you wish you could play?
Tennis, for the outfits. Fencing too, same reason.
56. Hair colour?
Ginger
57. Eye colour?
Green
58. Scary film or happy endings?
Happy endings! I doubt I'd have made so many seemingly reckless decision were it not for the number of rom coms I've seen.
59. Favourite season?
Summer
60. Three people alive or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
Princess Margaret (as in the late sister of our current Queen, I'm sure there's been more than one), Georgiana Cavendish, Sylvia Plath - all dead unfortunately. If anyone couldn't make it then, Taylor Swift, obviously.
61. Hugs or kisses?
Hugs
62. Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
Neither, I think both are utter shit. 
63. Where were you born?
Canterbury
64. What is the farthest you have been from home?
The Dominican Republic, I think. 
65. Sweet or savoury?
Savoury. I'm such a salt fiend! 
66. Lipstick or lip gloss?
Lipstick. Why is lip gloss a thing? I don't even have hair long enough to get stuck in my lipgloss but I still don't get it, why would you want to walk around looking like you've been dribbling?
67. What book have you read again and again?
Winston Was Worried.
68. Favourite bedtime story?
Anything Mog. 
69. What would be the title of your autobiography?
Ashleigh Rye: An Autobiography - it works!
70. Favourite sound?
Dawn chorus, or jet skis - as it's a sound I associate with Summer living on the coast, and laughing babies.
71. Favourite animal?
I try not to have favourites, but I do go gooey for an otter, I have a soft spot for sea lions too. Chameleons! They're good. Oh, and red pandas... or any pandas for that matter. I'm also a huge fan of sheep. As I said, I try not to have favourites!

 
72. Who is your girl crush?
Taylor Swift, as discussed. 
73. Last photograph you took?
My cat and my baby asleep on my sofa!

Fantastic, No Plastic, February

Inspired by something a friend shared on Facebook, I decided last week that I really wanted to challenge myself to buy and use less plastic on a day to day basis. I know that plastic production and disposable is bad for the planet, and I'm partly vegan for environmental reasons (did you know, animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change?), but whilst I'm drawn to products with environmentally friendly packaging, I have come to accept it's wide spread use in British culture.
 
 
 
One of the biggest areas in which I consume plastic is through the food that I buy and this is so easy to put right. I've fallen out of the habit of shopping with the local baker and greengrocer as much as I used to, and have started buying more bread and fruit and veg from the supermarket. The other day, Boyfriend and I were in our local Tesco, and they had no loose carrots. Our options were limited to changing our dinner plans, or buying a plastic bag of carrots, unnecessary packaging for a start, but also, more carrots than we needed. As a family we get through a lot of bed, half term is looming too which means I'll be making sandwiches for Seb during the week as well as rounds of toasts for everyone in the morning. By buying loaves from the baker, rather than sliced bread from the supermarket, I can remove another piece of plastic wrapping from my weekly shop.
 
I've considered some of the other products that I buy every single week, which come in plastic packaging. These include;
 
  • spread/margarine
  • plant milks, in a carton with a plastic lid
  • houmous
  • ice "cream"
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • biscuits
I have recognised that it's pretty much impossible in modern life to live entirely plastic free, I'll be exploring ways to avoid common plastic use, but inevitably, living without any plastic at all would be almost unachievable with a young family.
 
I have however decided that for the month of February, I'll be actively trying to cut out plastic purchases, to adopt some new habits to use throughout the year, that will drastically cut down on the amount of plastic our family gets through, and, inevitably, throws away.
 
We do recycle, and as such a majority of plastics can be reused rather than ending up in landfill (you'd hope, though personally I have a deep seated lack of trust in refuse collection people). However even the process of recycling plastics, whilst preferable over putting them in landfill, is damaging for the planet as it has to involve a pretty significantly chemical output.
 
Where we do have to use plastic products, I'm going to be finding ways to recycle them within the home, rather than putting them in the recycling bin.
 
More than a million marine animals such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins, fish and sea birds are killed every year, just through plastic pollution in their habitat. Living by the sea, I'm passionate about marine conservation, so I don't really want to support a practice which is contributing to such widespread suffering.

Raising a Vegan Baby

As a new(ish) vegan, I get asked quite often whether the children are/will be vegan as well.
 
Seb has never been a big meat eater, and recently has started going off of cheese as well, but he is still partial to a fried egg, the occasional sausage, fish fingers, and has a glass of cow's milk at school. I don't buy any of these things because it would be massively contradictory to my vegan ideals to do so; there'd be little point in me refusing to consume animal products if I was going to buy them anyway to feed to somebody else.
 
Seb however divides his time between me, his Dad, and full time school education, so yes, whilst he is with me he eats exclusively vegan food because that's all I have in the house. He has not questioned this once since I became vegan and I think the change at home has been unnoticeable on account of the fact that he's still choosing his own food at school (he has free school meals), and is eating a meat and animal product inclusive diet at his Dad's.
 
Seb loves meat free sausages and chooses those over meat ones anyway, and his other favourite meals include pasta with tomato based sauces, and jacket potatoes with baked beans. I've also made him meat-less-balls (meatballs made with soya mince) and we've stocked the freezer up with veggie fingers.
 
Now that Quorn have introduced a vegan friendly product line I'm also going to make some chicken-free nuggets, and as I get more and more confident in preparing vegan food, I'm trying out more and more child-friendly recipes.
 
My long term hope of course is that Seb will continue to grow in his love of animals and nature, and will also be aware of the choices that I and others around him are making. If this leads to him choosing to become vegan at a later date then obviously we're more than set up to support him with that.
 
Quinn is a different story. Like many babies she was born "vegan" in that she didn't consume anything but human breastmilk. She was exclusively breastfed for the first six months of her life and as I'm vegan, I guess my milk is as close to being vegan as possible! Now we are beginning to experiment with baby-lead weaning, we are introducing different vegan friendly foods. Most of the food we offer her is fruit and veg, but she's also tried some toast with Marmite, VioLife dairy-free cheese, and houmous (spread on slices of cucumber). At the moment she isn't really eating a lot, more just experimenting with different textures and the appearance of food.
 
The long term plan, naturally, is to raise Quinn exclusively vegan. I don't buy non vegan food, so those products aren't around anyway, but naturally, some people have concerns with whether it's healthy or morally appropriate to raise a vegan baby.
 
One of the many reasons that I have become vegan is because I am satisfied that a balanced vegan diet is the absolute optimum diet for human beings. We get absolutely nothing from animal sources that we can't get from a plant based diet, unfortunately there is not a single health benefit to eating meat, eggs, or dairy that doesn't also apply to a plant based diet - but there are a number of negative effects on health, caused by eating animal products, that are obliterated once one switches to a purely plant based diet.
 
Most Western adults and children suffer from a severe build up of protein in their digestive system, which causes a form of toxicity (poisoning) of the liver. I often get asked about whether my diet might be protein deficient because I don't eat animal products, when in fact a majority of these people are probably ignorantly suffering from protein toxicity. In fact, it's impossible to eat enough calories, and fail to meet your body's protein requirements. As long as I eat enough calories, it goes without saying that I'll consume enough protein, regardless of where those calories come from. A wholefood vegan diet contains tonnes of protein per calorie anyway, from sources such as beans, grains and soya. I'll also be ensuring that Quinn has a healthy, balanced diet that provides the correct number of calories to sustain her health - so I don't need to worry about whether or not she's getting enough protein.
 
 
 
Dairy is relatively high in calcium, which is required for bone health as well as a number of other bodily functions. Animal protein, however, has been shown to effect the human body's ability to absorb and utilise calcium. This means that a diet high in dairy, has the potential to meet the body's calcium requirements, but due to the high animal protein content, means the body is unable to absorb the calcium and results in a calcium deficiency. Communities that consume a diet without dairy, have almost no incidents of osteoporosis for example, compared to those communities that do eat dairy - and the more dairy a population consumes, the more prone to osteoporosis they are. Leafy green vegetables are fantastic sources of calcium (among many other vegan sources) and yet, due to the absence of animal protein, the body is able to absorb and use all of the calcium that they offer. So no, I won't be giving my daughter dairy, because I believe that by doing so I'll actually promote better calcium absorption and prevent a calcium deficiency.
 
courtesy of rawforbeauty.com
 
 
Vegetables and legumes are also a fantastic source of iron, and all other vitamins and minerals needed to promote health and optimum wellbeing.
 
 
 
The only that vegans are recommended to take are B12 vitamins. Vitamin B12 is present in earth, and historically, humans would have got enough of this vitamin from the vegetables that they grew and consumed every day. However, in modern Western society we habitually buy pre-washed vegetables from the supermarket, and even when we do buy potatoes with  a bit of mud intact, we're careful to clean them thoroughly. This does avoid various bacterial infections, but leaves us unable to get Vitamin B12 from anywhere other than by eating other animals who do eat Earth (namely cows, but all grazing animals really). Because vegans eat washed vegetables, and now cows, they take a Vitamin B12 supplement. As well as a daily vegan multivitamin, I also have a portion of fortified plant milk per day (usually coconut milk, plus organic soya in tea) which is fortified with added vitamins including B12 and vitamin D, and I also have a round of toast daily with fortified vegan spread instead of butter, and Marmite, both of which are fortified with Vitamin B12 - I'm probably getting a lot more of this vitamin than most meat eaters, and once Quinn is no longer breastfeeding, she'll be having a daily children's vegan multivitamin, as well as the same foods, to keep her topped up.
 
This was a really roundabout way of saying that no, Seb isn't vegan, because he splits his time between my house and his Dad's, and also because he's spent the last five years establishing a diet which includes animal products (but he will always have only vegan choices when he's with me). And yes, Quinn is/will be vegan, and she'll be all the more healthy for it.
 
I'd love to connect with other vegan parents raising vegan children, or anyone who wants to ask anything about what we eat/how we live, please feel free to get in touch.