Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Natural Birth Plan

I am now 37 weeks pregnant with our second baby and looking forward to my birth. Elise was 10 days 'late' which means she came 10 days after my estimated due date. I had a wonderful first birth - it was exactly as I had imagined it would be: calm, relaxed, short and enjoyable. Truly, it was enjoyable.

And with 3 weeks to go (give or take a week or two) I am really, really looking forward to my next delivery.

I learnt with my first pregnancy, when reading books or talking to people to were natural birthing advocates, that knowing what you want is really crucial. At the very least, you need to have a good understanding of what your options are when it comes to Delivery Day.

There are so many options available to you:
  • Where you want to birth
  • Who you want with you
  • What birthing positions are best for you
  • Whether you want medicated pain relief or not
  • Whether you want to use natural pain relief methods or not
  • How quickly - and how - you want to bond with your baby after birth
  • Who will cut the cord
  • What vaccinations (if any) you are prepared to give your newborn...

...the list is truly endless. And it is so important to have an opinion for each variable.

I decided to be explicit in my first birth plan (and I have hardly modified it for my second) which for me, meant being assertive and clear about what I wanted and what I did not want. 

I'm of the view that a labouring woman, with no pregnancy complications, is not ill. She is not sick. She is simply having a baby. That means she needs to have awareness of what her options are and to have clear opinions about those options

Yes, midwives and obstetricians might be more experienced in helping to birth more babies, but a labouring mum-to-be knows her body and her wishes better than anyone else. Her body is also perfectly capable of birthing a baby, just as her heart works without her thinking about it and her lungs inflate without her having to make them do so.  

Of course, complications can arise. And although you should have a clear Plan A that you are committed to in your birth plan, you should educate yourself as to what your options may be should special circumstances arise on the day. 

My Natural Birth Plan

My birth plan is logical and divided into the different stages of labour. I've been lucky and have had no complications during this pregnancy which means a 'natural water birth' is more possible. Women who have had complicated pregnancies/labours would potentially need to deviate from a natural birth plan but they could still use the principles of natural and/or hypnobirthing to help them through C-section deliveries. 

Here's a snapshot of my plan which I have adapted from different sources, namely my birthing bible, 'Hypnobirthing - The Mongan Method' (Marie F Mongan) and from Kathryn, my natural birthing tutor at Natural Birth Sydney. And of course, it takes into account my own birthing preferences too.

My plan is simply about setting out my wishes and politely requesting that they be followed, all being well. Here it is:


  • I request the most calm, natural, gentle labour and birthing experience possible.
  • I have chosen the Hypnobirthing method and intend to follow this practice throughout labour and birth.
  • My preference is a water birth and to labour and birth in a birthing pool provided by the hospital.
  • do not want artificial induction; do not want artificial rupture of membranes; and do not want episiotomy.

Special Circumstances
  • Should these arise, and mean I may need to deviate from my planned natural birth, I trust that our medical care providers will give me a clear verbal explanation of the special circumstance; the medical need for any procedure they might anticipate; and all of my options.
  • In the absence of any special circumstance, I ask that my birth plan be followed by all medical care providers.

Arrival at Hospital
  • To remain at home for as long as possible before coming into hospital (NB: this timeframe will vary depending on your health, baby's health, and whether this is your first or a subsequent baby).
  • To decline routine IV drip on admission (NB: I prefer not to be attached to wires unnecessarily... it is highly unnatural and I can keep myself hydrated during labour.)
  • To decline any internal examinations if I choose (NB: I believe internal exams are usually unnecessary so long as you're healthy and baby is doing fine. They also interrupt your state of calm and risk bringing on contractions before you, baby or your body are ready... what's the point in that?).
  • To have a private birthing pool and room ready upon arrival.
  • To play music if I choose to.

During Labour
  •  I wish to labour naturally in my own time – however long that may take – and to be allowed to do so in peace and quiet
  • Artificial inducement will only be considered if there is a medical emergency (NB: it is important to know what the options are here and what methods of inducement you'd be most willing to try and in what order. You may also have a view on methods you want to avoid).
  • Caregivers, please do not mention ‘pain’; ‘pain tolerance’; ‘pain relief’; ‘pain levels’; ‘medication’; ‘failure to progress’.
  • To decline discussion of ‘moving things along’ and to allow labour to take its natural course.
  •  A natural, drug-free birth. Epidural is not wanted.

During 'Thinning and Opening' Stages
  • The patience and understanding of all medical caregivers to refrain from any practice or procedure that could stand in the way of me having the most natural and calm birth possible.
  •  Freedom to move, walk, sit or do none of these things during labour.
  •  To change positions and assume labour positions of choice.
  • To be fully consulted before the introduction of any medical procedure including gels; Pitocin; sweeping membranes; episiotomy; suction.

During Birthing

  • To remain in the water and to allow natural birthing instincts to facilitate the birth of the baby. Caregivers please don’t be pushy; I ask for gentle encouragement.
  • To assume birthing positions of choice to facilitate gravity and to avoid episiotomy.
  • That episiotomy only be discussed if absolutely necessary and administered only after consultation and agreement.
  • No forceps. Suctioning is preferable if there is medical urgency.

Post Birth
  • I request that I receive baby onto my chest after birth to enable immediate skin to skin contact and to be allowed to stay in this position for as long as possible.  APGAR testing and weighing can wait please. Skin to skin contact is more important.
  • Do not remove vernix from the baby; please let it be absorbed.
  • Please allow umbilical cord to pulsate and wait until it has stopped before clamping the cord. Obstetrician to cut the cord with our agreement.
  • Vaccinations: NB: have an opinion on which vaccinations you're willing for baby to have. These are country-dependent. Some countries advocate for BCG and Hepatitis B at birth. You can do this, or request to wait until baby is a little older - it is your choice as parents what you believe to be best for baby. Similarly Vitamin K is usually offered at birth - know in advance what your views are on that too. 

  • Placenta: NB: there are lots of options here too about how you'd prefer the placenta to be expelled (naturally or with help of drugs).
  • Cord blood: again, know your options. 
  • Feeding: NB: make it clear whether you intend to feed baby with breastmilk or formula and whether you want the baby to remain with you throughout your hospital stay or to be taken to the maternity ward nursery.

There are so many variables with a birthing plan and with a birth. There are no right or wrong answers but there are opinions. Know your own opinions well in advance of Delivery Day and it will aid a smoother, more enjoyable birth.

If you want to read more about what info you might include in your birth plan, click here.

Happy birthing!
Rebecca x

How to Make Dinosaur Eggs

My mum sends Elise a copy of the Peppa Pig magazine from the UK every fortnight. It's a lovely magazine full of stories; phonics activities; spot the difference games; as well as a large helping of arty ideas for activities with toddlers.

I loved this idea that was in there a few weeks ago and pulled it out:

Elise is now learning about dinosaurs in her play school so I thought let's make some dinosaur eggs and take them in to show her friends. I combined this 'show and tell' with reading them a story, Meg's Eggs, all about dinosaur eggs hatching for the witch Meg and her friends Mog and Owl:

So we followed the instructions as per the Peppa Pig magazine and left the cracked eggs overnight in coloured water and this was the result:

Elise outside playschool proudly holding her dino eggs!

But the real excitement happened when the eggs later 'hatched' in front of Elise and her friends during the story! They looked amazing:

I reckon the pink one is a T Rex egg...

Thanks Peppa Pig magazine!

Love and hugs
Rebecca and Elise x

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Easy Mince Pies for Christmas

I love mince pies. But I don't tend to like shop-bought mince pies... just the home made ones. They taste so much better don't you think? And anyway, we need to make some for Santa!

Pic courtesy of Fine Art America

All you need for 12 mince pies:

  • 1 sheet short crust pastry (frozen)
  • 1 jar Robertson's mincemeat (fruit mincemeat obviously)
  • 2 tablespoons milk and milk/pastry brush
  • Icing sugar (for dusting at the end) 
  • Some coarse brown sugar (for sprinkling)
  • A shallow pie tin suited to 12 pies

1. Flour your surface and roll out your pastry. Make sure it is still cool to the touch - it makes it easier to work with if you've let it defrost a bit before rolling. You don't want it paper thin but you also don't want it too thick.

2. Use a cutter and cut out 12 round discs and then use a fork to make the edges of each disc look pretty :) then place each disc into your buttered tin.

Step 2
3. Add a generous teaspoon of fruit mincemeat to each base.

Step 3

4. Roll out your pastry again and this time, cut with a smaller cutter. You can use a fun Christmas shape instead of a traditional circle; I used a Christmas Tree cutter.

5. Coat the edge of your base disc with milk, then add your Christmas Tree pastry top, then coat that with milk too. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar - the best sugar to use is a coarse (crunchy) variety.

Step 5

6. Bake in the oven at for minutes and when browned, remove.

7. Dust with sieved icing sugar and then serve to a round of applause from your friends!

Step 7

Merry Christmas!!
Rebecca xx

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to Make A Simple Doll's Dress Part 2

Following on from my last post, I wanted to share another of my designs for a simple doll's dress. You don't need any sewing skills to make this!

This design does have two big buttons (press stud style) but is, again, extremely simple to make and even more importantly, easy for your toddler to fit on her doll all by herself.

Ross calls this my Cube Design... which might make you think it could be something cool from the 70s... when in fact, it really does just look like a cube. :)  It might not be the most flattering design but it is the most practical design. No fuss. No tears. And Elise has hours of fun dressing Dolly all by herself without any help from any adult.

What you need (this design will fit a doll that is approximately cm tall):

  • If you're making a dress that is all one piece of material you'll need a piece of material 36cm wide x 27 cm high. If you want to make a two-tone dress (like the one featured, with polka dots and a block colour) you'll need two strips of material:  36cm wide x 10cm high and 36cm wide x 17cm high).
  • You'll also need a piece of material for the straps 11cm x 14cm (cut into two strips: 5.5cm x 14cm).
  • Two press stud buttons. Choose big ones that will be easy for your toddler to connect by herself.
  • Thread, needle, pins.
  • Embellishments - I have used a button. 

To make the dress:

1. Fold over one edge on each piece of material to create a mid-point seam, lie the two pieces of material on top of each other, pin and sew to create a seam across the chest of the dress. Obviously omit this step if you're using just one piece of material.

2. Hem the dress all the way around (the two sides, the baseline and the neckline).

3. Add big press stud buttons and sew them to the inner and outer seam.

4. Add straps. Simply fold your strips of material over to make them look neat, sew along the inside of the strap to finish it. Then attach it to your dress at the appropriate point. The straps vary from doll to doll so I can't give exact measurements here. Just put the dress on top of your doll to work out where the shoulder straps need to go.

5. Add a pretty embellishment, such as a button or ribbon:

 Here's another dress that I made using the same design (with slightly wider straps):

Hooray for easy doll's clothes!

Love and hugs,
Rebecca and Elise x

How to Make a Simple Doll's Dress

How many times does your toddler have a meltdown because she does not have the ability (yet) to dress her doll in the clothes the doll came with? I am amazed by some of the clothes toy companies manufacture. Why are they so tight? Why are they so fiddly? And why oh why are the designs sometimes better suited to a pole dancer rather than to a child's doll?

Toy companies seem to have forgotten that the average 3-5 year old has an attention span of about 20 seconds and that, coupled with the fact that their fine motor skills are only just developing makes it phenomenally difficult for most toddlers to dress their dolls by themselves. And here's the rub: all they want to do is do EVERYTHING for themselves at this age.

And so ... there's my problem and here's my solution.  

I'm no seamstress. But I do really, really enjoy sewing simple creative projects, especially if they bring some fun and joy to Elise.She adores dressing her doll and asked me the other day if Dolly could have some more clothes. "Why not?" I thought. So Elise and I went to our favourite Spotlight shop, bought some material off-cuts and off I went.

My latest design is extremely simple and will fit a doll that is approximately  cm tall. The crucial bit is this: the design is so simple even a 3 year old could dress her doll with this dress and do it all by herself. No meltdowns. No stress. Happy lives for all. :)

All you need is:
  • Some pretty fabric (for this design I have chosen a lime green and purple for the straps)
  • Some elastic
  • Thread, needle and pins
  • And some pretty bow embellishments if you want them (more on that later)

So let's get started!

How to make the dress

1. Cut out a piece of material 48cm wide x 26cm long. The width needs to be long because you'll gather it together at the neckline to create a ruffled look. It might seem ridiculously big for the size of your doll but it will all make sense soon!

2. Lie the material in front of you, with the width running along the top and create a neckline hem. You want to create a wide hem because this is where you'll run your elastic later. Pin the hem down to keep everything level.

Step 2

3. When you sew the hem, you want to keep a really tight stitch that is close to the edge. This will allow for your elastic to move easily through the hem.

Step 3

4. Next get a safety pin and thread it through the elastic. Don't cut the elastic yet! Thread the elastic through the hem (if you've left plenty space, this will take about a minute to do):

Step 4

5. Loop the finished hem around your doll to make sure you make it tight enough (I suggest making it tighter than the circumference of the doll's chest) and sew the two ends of elastic together. Make sure it is very secure... the more you sew and knot the thread around the two ends of elastic, the better.

Step 5

6. Now the dress looks like a cone, with a tighter elastic 'neck' and a wider base. Turn the dress inside out and pin the two open sides together. Sew them together to make the back hem.
Step 6b Pin the two edges together

Step 6a Fold your two edges over 

Step 6c Turn the dress the right way out and marvel at your skilled straight seam! I did!

7. Nearly there! You just need to hem the base of the dress now to suit the height of your doll:

Step 7

How to make the straps

8. Now for the shoulder straps. Cut out a piece of material roughly 11cm wide x 14cm high. And then divide it into two equal strips (5.5cm x 14cm). Turn over the rough edges to create a seam on the inside of each strap, pin it and sew it up.

Step 8

9. Turn over the end of one strap and sew it into the dress at the appropriate spot (over dolly's shoulder). You might find it easier at first to pin it and secure it in place.

Step 9
Step 9

10. Then do the same for the back-strap attachment. Be mindful to sew all the way around the strap - for example make sure the front of the dress is also attached to the strap with some 'invisible' sewing! See picture 10b. Then repeat for your second strap.

Step 10a
Step 10b

11. Add any embellishments. I've used some cute bows which I bought from our $2 shop and then just sewed them on like I would a button. I've seen all sorts of embellishments: pretty images you can iron onto the fabric; buttons; ribbon; beads... the list is really endless!

And voila! A cute and easy dress to make and more importantly... a dress that Elise can easily put on her doll without any assistance from an adult.

Here's another dress I have made using the same simple design:

Happy sewing and happy play time!

Love and hugs,
Rebecca and Elise x

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Positions for Labour

With only 11 weeks until my due date (15 February 2016), I am starting to think about the birth itself. I'm not concerned about it - on the contrary, I am extremely excited about 'D Day'!

My 28 week bump!

I know so many mums who have had difficult births. By that I mean long labours. Painful labours and births. Disappointments.

Many say the most important thing is that the baby came out safe. And of course that is the most important aspect: that you and your newborn are both safe and well.

But there has to be more to it than that. One thing is always certain with birth: the baby will come out. But what I think a lot of people miss is that you have plenty of opportunity to determine how that baby will come out.

My Own Positive Experiences

I have never wanted to feel robbed by any birthing experience. I'm extremely fortunate to have had a very positive first birthing experience and I am determined to have the same sort of experience this time round.

Much of my own thinking about birth, I've realised, comes from my own mum's positive perspectives on birthing. My brother and I were both born naturally - my mum had a bit of gas and air and she focused on being as relaxed as she could until we were born. So much so, she was watching a film at home when she went into labour with my brother and refused to leave for hospital until her film had finished. Mum has only ever talked about the 'ease of birth' to me and as a result, I have only ever believed it to be a straight forward process.

This is why I always actively avoid women who want to share their horror stories with me. They add no value to me as a pregnant woman - who wants to hear about someone else's 65 hour labour or birthing agony when you are faced with your own birth in a few short months??

Birthing Preparation

Preparation is absolutely key to a pleasant birthing experience. I prefer to listen to my hypnobirthing CDs; practice my hypno breathing; research videos of women giving birth naturally and pleasantly; doing yoga that focuses on my pelvic area; and stretching.

It's also really valuable to have thought about what positions you might want to birth in when the day comes. Obviously you might be really lucky and have a really quick labour and birth, but the positions are really useful all the same.

Gravity is a really key aspect of birthing naturally - the more you move around and the more you are upright, the better. So standing, sitting and squatting are all really good upright positions that will help gravity help you bring your baby into the world.

Here's a fab article, with illustrations, on good natural birthing positions ... 

And here's another one!

Happy birthing ladies!
Rebecca x

Ariel Birthday Cake - Elise turns 4!

For her birthday Elise can bring a cake into school... and seeing  as I love making cakes and getting all creative, I thought well why shouldn't I do two cakes this year?
Elise is mildly obsessed with both Ariel the Mermaid and Elsa from Frozen so these have become the themes for her two cakes.

I plan to keep the one for playschool simple, cheap and fun. It's going to be a number '4' shape with red and green icing, inkeeping with Ariel's colour scheme.

Incase you're unfamiliar with Ariel, she looks a bit like this, maybe without the socks:

In preparation I have done the following:

1. Done some research on the internet for a cake topper. I found this pretty green photoframe, complete with Ariel, and then added (in PowerPoint) the type saying Happy Birthday Elise. I laminated it on both sides (if you want to use really wide cellotape it does the same job) then cut it out:

2. Looked for some pictures of the two main animals in The Little Mermaid. These are Flounder (a fish) and Sebastian (a hermit crab). I've copied them from the internet, then pasted them into PowerPoint slide and then added a circle around them. I've also added some numbers 1 -2 -3 -4... Elise will be four and I thought it would be fun for her and her friends to count to 4 when the cake arrives. :) I've also found some seaweed graphics... all will become apparent soon enough!

To make the cake decorations:

1. Print your images onto decent paper (suggest 100gsm minimum).

2. Cut all your shapes out. There are 4 images and so I need 8 seaweeds and 8 mini cocktail sticks...

3. Turn one seaweed cut-out over and glue a cocktail stick down so that about half of the stick sticks out. Then glue the other seaweed cutout to the back.

Step 3

4. Glue your number 4 image (mine is a fish) together but again put a cocktail stick inside to give it some strength.

Step 4

5. Slide the number 4 image into the seaweed and glue the seaweed over it. Hopefully your number image is quite stable. :) Repeat these steps for each of your number images and then you'll have 4 fun sticks to poke into your cake!

Step 5