Making 2018 a more sustainable year.

 

We have always tried to reduce our negative impact on our environment, and self sufficiency has  played a part in this – and has been the driving force behind running our own smallholding. But as with so many big projects, sometimes life gets in the way and we let things slide. With two young boys and another pregnancy in 2017 I’ve fallen into a bit of a conveniency hole. With the New Year approaching I’m looking to re-establish some of my sustainable principles, as well as incorporating some new ones, whilst being realistic about the time and energy I will have available.

New Baby

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With another addition to the family due in March I will be bringing my stash of cloth nappies out of storage in the next few weeks for a wash to freshen up and check we’ve got everything we need. I’ve cloth nappied pretty much from birth with both my boys and have a selection of two parters, all in ones and hybrids, the majority birth to potty as I tend to have big babies, so newborn nappies don’t last all that long for us. If this is all a foreign language I will be putting another post together on the benefits of using cloth nappies and what works well for us. Ultimately, we use cloth nappies as I just can’t stand the amount of rubbish going to landfill, and by switching to cloth, even just part time makes such a difference.

Cloth is not just for babies but mummy too! I discovered cloth sanitary products after the birth of my first son, and have never looked back. Skip to the next section if you are feeling fragile, but honestly, it is a lot less gruesome than dealing with disposable nappy blow-outs! Cloth pads are so much more comfy, more absorbent, and less smelly and irritating that single use products. I would wash with cloth nappies, or with towels after a quick rinse out with cold water. I’ve recently bought some more larger pads for postpartum use that will also be fine for overnight/ heavy days when my period returns.

I’ve topped up my supply of washable breast pads and wipes ready for when Baby makes an appearance. I’ve struggled to find washable breast pads that are absorbent enough for my initial dairy cow milk production in the first months, but hope these from a Close Parent will do the trick. Washable wipes are also something that I wouldn’t now be without, they are like mini flannels and can be cotton or bamboo. They are so much better at cleaning babies dirty bottoms – one cloth wipe will do the job of half a dozen single use wipes. They are also great when weaning starts, to clean up dirty faces.

The Boys

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There has been so much in the news recently about the horrendous effects plastic has had on our oceans, so I’ve taken a few steps to reduce the amount of plastic we are all using. The boys each had a stainless steel Kleen Kanteen in their stockings this year as well as some reusable straws. This should cut out our need to by drinks when we are out and will replace the endless drinks bottles we seem to get through at school and preschool, which seem to last all of five minutes!

I don’t tend to buy a lot of clothes for the boys, and number two gets a lot of hand-me-downs, but we’ve had a few items from Frugi recently and love the quality of organic cotton.

Family

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Realistically I know there will be only so much work I will get done in the vegetable garden this year with a new baby – anything I do grow will be a welcome bonus to our diets. As an alternative I am looking into starting with a veg box scheme – I like the look of these from Riverford Organics which looks very reasonable, and I can top with organic meat/dairy and fruit if I need to. This should hopefully cut out the depressing amount of packaging used by supermarkets, and give us good quality organic produce.

Another change we’ve recently made is to buy in loo roll in bulk with no plastic packaging from Who Gives A Crap. I went for the 100% recycled paper and I’m happy with the quality – though if you are used to a bit of luxury then the bamboo may be better! The price per sheet is equivalent to branded loo roll, but I have found the sheet size is smaller, so we get through a bit more. With 50% of their profits going to build toilets for those in need, I know where I would rather spend my pennies.

There are so many more things I would like to do, but will have to see how things go this year. I know making a few small changes is more achievable than a complete lifestyle overhaul, and will still have a positive affect on our environment. I would love to hear from you if you are also hoping to take some steps into making your lifestyle more sustainable and reducing your plastic use – leave me your tips in the comments 🙂

NVP and me – when Morning Sickness isn’t just Morning Sickness

 

 

In days before Kate Middleton became a household name  Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) was only really on the radar of those unfortunate enough to suffer from this extreme and debilitating illness. It is still not widely known, or understood even by some healthcare professionals, and many many women suffer daily for weeks (and often months) on end with little to no support. I wanted to share my experiences of extreme Morning Sickness, better described as Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy as another voice in raising awareness – I am one of the lucky ones, I did not have HG, but the impact NVP can have on your life is dramatic, and to all the women suffering with HG – you are true survivors.

NVP hit me before I even knew I was pregnant with my first baby. I was helping lay a concrete floor (!) as we were renovating our workshop, the energy drained from me and I could barely put one foot in front of the other, let alone push a barrow of concrete mix. Extreme nausea built up rapidly over the next few days until just walking into the kitchen would make me retch uncontrollably. I have never felt so ill and would describe it as a cross between the flu, a hangover and Norovirus all rolled in to one. Luckily I was working from home – I don’t know how I would have made it into work, it took all my strength to drag myself around the animals to do the morning chores – having to stop regularly to retch. For some reason the smell of hay seemed to affect me the most badly – so feeding the goats was agonising. And that would be pretty much it for the rest of the day drifting in and out of consciousness in bed, taking sips of water and trying to force down some toast. The nausea was relentless, all day every day, with a brief window of relief in the early evening- my partner would get home from work and cook tea, which I would be able to keep down. Inevitably I lost a lot of weight, but neither my partner, or parents could understand why I was so ill, I was after all, only pregnant.

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My doctor, and midwife were entirely unsupportive – as long as I was keeping some liquid down I was fine, it was just a bit of Morning Sickness and was completely normal. I suppose to a certain extent I didn’t give them the true extent of how ill I actually was – as my first pregnancy I didn’t really have anything to compare it to and could not understand why my body was having such a hard time dealing with pregnancy. The magazines they give you at your first midwife appointment convinced me that I was overreacting and that is was very unlikely that I would get any medical help. It was not just my body that suffered, but my mind as well. From being a very busy, active smallholder to suddenly being bed ridden for weeks on end took its toll. There were some extremely dark days, one being admitting to my mum that if I lost this baby at least it would bring an end to this misery. Looking at my bouncing, bright 5 year old son I could never imagine life without him or how I could ever have felt like this – but one of the most tragic statistics of HG is that 1000 pregnancies are terminated each year by women suffering from this horrifying illness.

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My second pregnancy was a very different story thankfully. It also brought home quite how ill I was with my first. Yes there was some sickness, and exhaustion, and I didn’t fancy a cup of tea in the morning, but I could look after my toddler and get out and about to do the daily chores. This, I realised, was what many people experience as Morning Sickness, and this I could cope with.

Roll on to pregnancy number three. I knew pretty much immediately that I was pregnant, and I was anticipating the nausea. It hit me like a tonne of bricks on week five, which also happened to be the first week of the summer holidays. I let those close to me know early on – I knew I would need all the help I could get, but rather than the excitement I wanted to feel about this much wanted pregnancy, the reality was I just felt very ill. This time I went straight to the doctors and was relieved to get a sympathetic response- particularly as I had two young boys at home for the summer. I was prescribed an antiemetic, and other than having to up the dosage, it brought the all day nausea under some sort of control and I was able to eat. It was not the fun packed summer I had planned, but I managed to get the boys out most days. By week 10 I was starting to come out the other side, and have cut down on the antiemetics and am looking forward to the 2nd trimester burst of energy!

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My advice for anyone suffering NVP – particularly if this is your first pregnancy – is don’t suffer in silence. Get to the doctors early and explain exactly what sort of impact is having on your life. HG is a serious and life threatening condition requiring hospitalisation, and can leave sufferers with long term ongoing health problems. There are very safe meditations available for NVP, and although they don’t alleviate the symptoms entirely, they really can make life more bearable. It can be very isolating as so many people are unaware of how severe the symptoms can be, but a great source of online support and information can be found at www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk

 

 

The Holy Grail of Independent Play

As with most of my parenting experiences, my pre-child idealistic  version  of play was very different from the frustrating reality. I was under the impression that from babies, my boys would be able to entertain themselves to a certain extent  leaving me free to get on with the household chores and errands, maintain my small business and run the smallholding. Wrong.

My eldest (J) has always craved my company, and has very little interest in actual play with ‘toys’ until quite recently (he is now 4). He was most happy being carried, and later running, round the garden, putting everything in his mouth he could find and ‘helping’ with our seasonal tasks. We soon learned that toys really weren’t for him unless they were small versions of tools that he could use to help  with whatever job we needed to be doing. He is now going through a stage of  imaginative play and dressing up, but still has little interest in other toys, and always with input from myself or their Dad.

This all sounds idyllic, but actually trying to lay a hedge, chop wood, muck out goats, or dig the garden with a baby/toddler/young child in tow is not easy, or fun, though I am sure an excellent learning environment for the boys!

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Baby boy 2 (O) has actually been a lot easier. He was happy to watch his big brother, and has always had initiative to push toy cars around or stack building blocks. I will never really know if this is because he has learned to do this from his brother or if it just comes more naturally to him. They are very different children when it comes to play.

There seems to be a few theories to why children won’t play with their toys and seem to prefer whinging and fighting:

Firstly, some parents suggest that we do too much with our children and they come to expect to be entertained – J asks me on a daily basis what are we doing today. During the holidays sometimes I just don’t know, or don’t actually want to do anything much other than pottering around the house. So there could be some truth in this, though not doing anything with them strikes fear into my heart that we will all go stir crazy.

Others suggest that they need a rotation of toys, and having everything out all the time is just too overwhelming. I regularly try to put a box of toys away for a few weeks and when it’s found there is a brief excitement of finding their long lost toys. They soon get muddled with the rest of their things and we are back to square one. More planning necessary.

I have recently discovered the joys of so called ‘open ended play’. I’m not entirely sure the boys received the memo, but we are working on it. These are toys that can be used in different ways depending  on what your child currently enjoys doing – stacking, knocking things over, sorting, movement etc. J would happily watch me for hours whilst I tried out different ways of playing with these toys, but is not that interested in trying them out for himself, he would much prefer to do a puzzle together, and I guess that’s fine by me.

One suggestion I’ve found particularly interesting recently is that we often provide our toys already set up, such as a train track already made, a puzzle completed, or a dolls house arranged. Children have had the challenge of putting something together taken away from them. I wouldn’t say I fall down too much here, I’m not really one to set up a play area ready for the boys in the morning,  but it could be an area to improve on!

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We do get brief moments when they will play independently, and when it happens I can’t help but stand there in awe. I think that I have really just expected too much too soon and the time will come all too quickly when they won’t want me to be their main source of entertainment, and then I’ll probably feel pretty lost. Are your children good at independent play, and do you have any tips to encourage it?