Counting down – more running and pregnancy comparisons…

I have less than two weeks to go until my Expected Date of Confinement (when I expect to be swept behind some heavy velvet curtains and only receive visitors by appointment) and I’ve been musing about the similarities between this point of pregnancy and running. Clearly this has little to do with my physical appearance and abilities (I nearly got stuck under the stairs the other day) but bear with me.

Taper Madness
If you taper before a long race, you inevitably go a bit stir crazy. I have been stuck in the house waiting for deliveries (which I appreciate is somewhat apt…) and workmen, which does little for my mental health at the best of times. I want to be doing stuff but circumstances, tiredness and risk assessments (getting stuck under the stairs again would be embarassing) mean that I can’t. There is this a nagging feeling that I should be doing something. I don’t like enforced not doing stuff, however choosing not to do stuff is different….

Good intentions
As race day approaches I always have good intentions. I intend to eat well, abstain from alcohol, stretch, roll and cross train my little heart out. Inevitably, none of this happens. At the moment, I intend to do some yoga at home, practise my breathing and get to grips with my tens machine. Inevitably, none of this has happened. I can’t blame not having enough time to do this, I am just procrastinating.

Acute hypochondriasis
Alongside taper madness sit a few nice imaginary ailments. Am I getting a cold? Is that a niggle in my back/hip/foot? Does my knee always make that noise when I do that with it? Pregnancy is just the same. I have been fit and well for the last 38 weeks and yet in the last few, I have self-diagnosed invented pre-eclampsia (bit of a headache), symphysis pubis dysfunction (been sitting in a funny position for too long) and DVT (wearing unfamiliar heels to a wedding). Add to that the fact that at this point every twinge could be the onset of labour (especially at two in the morning…) and it’s all one big bucket of fun.

Making comparisons
I know that we all run our own races, but it’s easy to get sucked into comparing ourselves with other runners (and usually not coming out well). We choose our training plans, we do what’s right for us…but then we talk to someone else and the self doubt kicks in – should I be doing something else…? Have I made the right choices…? Have I done enough…? Physical comparisons are also hard to avoid; it’s funny, as soon as you get pregnant there are pregnant women everywhere and you start looking at their bumps. I love my bump, but it was a watershed moment when I looked round the ante-natal yoga class and realised that I was the biggest one there that day (I’m also the next but one due date which is even scarier…).

Getting familiar with race day
Whilst I can plan my race day strategy as much as I want, I have absolutely no control of what happens on the day. What we have done though is get to know the course metaphorically (by going to our ante-natal classes) and actually (by visiting both of the maternity units that I might go into). Having worked at both the hospitals, I knew whereabouts in the building they are (and more importantly, where they are in relation to the canteen) but nothing about what goes on in the unit. If you’re expecting, I would definitely advice having a look round your maternity units just because it means there’s one less unknown to worry about. Also, check the parking situation and start saving up when you have your twelve week scan…

Breast cancer awareness month – TLC and The Great Pink Bake Off

It’s fair to say that I’ve been thinking about boobs this week. Specifically my own and their soon to be new role as a mobile buffet. Monday was the first day of my maternity leave and I marked it by attending a midwife-led breast feeding workshop. This involved six of us (plus one very uncomfortable dad and a gran who wasn’t expecting audience participation) nervously clutching large baby dolls to our bosoms whilst trying hard not to be the one who dropped our baby on the floor. All in all it was a very positive and informative session, with the over arching message seeming to be “try it, persevere, if it doesn’t work out for you, that’s fine and we won’t judge you”.

Personally, it’s what I want to try doing because (a) as a concept it seems to have worked out ok for the mammals over the past millions of years and (b) it’s free and at the end of the day I’m a bit of a cheapskate.

Anyway. Hopefully next month even more women will be thinking about their breasts because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s range of pink products can be found all over the high street and it’s an opportunity to remind women to give themselves a little TLC.

Most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes, taking the initiative and visiting their doctor. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it – so you can see how important it is to make regular checks.
Being breast aware simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally, being on the lookout for any unusual changes and getting them checked out by your doctor.
It’s as simple as TLC…
TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
No one knows your body better than you and everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes – there’s no special technique and you don’t need any training.
For more information on how to Touch Look Check and changes to check for, visit breakthrough.org.uk/tlc.

If you text SIGNS to 70500, Breakthrough will send you a credit sized TLC guide that not only includes the key signs and symptoms of breast cancer, it also includes information about what to do if you notice anything unusual.

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This year, Breakthrough are also inviting people to put on their pinnies and join in the Great Pink Bake Off on October 18th (or any day in October, cake should never be constrained to just one day) by baking for friends, families and colleagues. So if you’ve been inspired by the Great British Bake Off on the telly, now’s the chance to show off your skills for an excellent cause (and have a look at this blog for an excellent round up of each episode).

 

 

Join the Great Pink Bake Off for Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Ante-natal yoga class (part two)

Well the pie is now eaten (not entirely by me I hasten to add, it has brought joy to a lot of people) so I can carry on about my ante-natal yoga.

The first week didn’t put me off and the second class was a lot less stressful. I knew where I had to go, how to navigate the car park’s one way system and how to use the secret code to get into the room. I knew where I liked to put my mat, that I’m still happy using one cushion and that none of it was as scary as I had imagined a week before. It was also bank holiday Monday, which meant that we were a small but perfectly formed class of three. One woman due about the same time as me and another who was 39 weeks*, keen to have a go at positions that might get things moving…

The majority of the session was spent squeaking about the wooden floor on our gym balls. Whilst I have owned a gym ball in the past, it soon became one of those forgotten good intentions of home exercise plans and was relegated to the back of the cupboard (well it lived at my mum’s house…). I’d bought one the week before and have found that at times it’s comfier than the sofa (although there may be health and safety issues with me doing my knitting whilst perched on it).

This class was a chance to have a go at some of the suggested birth positions that had been revealed to us in our comically hand-drawn ante-natal class worksheets. We lunged, rolled, bounced and swivelled our hips on the balls, all the while accompanied by a nagging sense that we were a collective of large round women sitting on space hoppers. The class rounded off with some breathing exercises. Now, there is an expectation that your ante-natal classes will cover breathing (and some of the posh non-NHS ones probably do, but I haven’t been to them) but what we had was the very pragmatic midwife telling us that, looking around she could see none of us had turned blue, so clearly we all had got the hang of breathing before we got there. When the big day comes, our midwife will talk us through exactly how they want us to huff and puff at each stage.

The breathing we covered at yoga was more to do with staying as relaxed as possible and breathing through contractions when you’re still at home (having had your paracetamol and a warm bath…) waiting for the green light to present yourself at the hospital (if that’s where you’re going). I was reassured that our teacher referred to ujjayi breathing as being “a bit like Darth Vader” because that’s what my usual teacher says, and that this offset all the talk of focussing on the sound of the sea or a child’s gentle breath (I need you to read those in a soft, calm Relaxation Voice that rises…and falls…with pauses………that don’t quite match…. the punctuation…of the sentence).

Despite my self-confessed rubbishness at relaxation and breathing exercises, I did find that the concept of ‘mountain breathing’ caught my attention (probably because it is short and practical). We had to visualise ourselves as being 7cm dilated (cue nervous laughter from everyone in the room) and having contractions about a minute apart. As the imaginary contraction started we breathed in and out through the nose, then in through the nose and out through the mouth as the contraction built, before it hit its peak and we breathed in and out through the mouth. We then descended the mountain in the opposite direction before returning to our normal breath and refocussing our thoughts (which apparently should be calmer and stiller than “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…”).

So ante-natal yoga. Does it give me the same satisfaction and physical challenge as my normal classes? Not in the slightest. Does it cover stuff that’s relevant to rapidly approaching due date (four weeks today. Gulp)? Of course it does, that’s what its there for. Do I wish I’d gone a bit earlier? Kind of. I’m glad I kept up my usual yoga routine as it gave me a sense of confidence and normality (and appealed to my sense of sheer bloody mindedness), but I’m glad that my hand was forced into going to the pregnancy stuff too. There are people a lot earlier in their pregnancies who go to the class and they’ll have chance to perfect all these techniques and possibly have a lot more tricks up their sleeve. Having said that, the class is 4.15 on a Monday afternoon and is 25 miles away from where I work. I know I’m entitled to take time out to attend these things, but I would have felt guilty skipping out of work any earlier than a few weeks ago.

Today is the first day of my maternity leave and of course the class is cancelled. Instead, I have a breast feeding workshop, which I suspect will leave me pining for pigeon pose.

*39 week lady was still at the class the week after, for her sake I hope that she won’t be there next week…

My adventures in pie making

This was supposed to be the second half of my post about ante-natal yoga, but who can think about cobbler’s pose and mountain breathing when there is pie in the fridge?

I have been threatening to make a pork pie for about three years now, it’s one of those long-term projects that exist in a completely abstract form, moving from one annual To Do list to the next year’s until I either ignore it completely or am forced into action. It had dawned on me that if I wanted to spend most of a weekend making a single pie, it was better to do it now while I can still attempt to make things that are more complex than toast and Cup A Soup.

I had also made the mistake of telling Ginge, who very kindly placed an order of pig parts at our local butcher so there was no turning back.

So on Saturday morning, I trekked off to the butcher and collected a large carrier bag of pork neck, pork belly, streaky bacon, pork bones and two pig’s trotters (I was trusting a Nigel Slater recipe for this epic). The bones and trotters went into the stock pot…

Mmmmm, gelatinous feet...

Mmmmm, gelatinous feet…

While the bacon, belly and neck were chopped and minced. Nigel advocates hand chopping 1.5kg of meat into 5mm pieces (but concedes that giving half a quick whizz in the food processor is ok) – I opted for hand chopping half and feeding the rest through the coarsest setting of our hand mincer (for mincing by hand, not mincing hands. As a rule).

Mince to the left of me, chopped bits to the right

Mince to the left of me, chopped bits to the right

The stock bubbled away for an hour or so while I fettled with meat and cracked on with the pastry. This is the first time that I’ve made a hot water crust and was slightly fearful of the whole process. It was made easier by the fact that I was lining a cake tin with it, rather than trying to hand raise a proper crust around a mould. It was also made easier my the fact that it was a strangely enjoyable experience, a bit like messing with warm playdoh.

In recent weeks I have embraced lard as an ingredient. This is probably not a good thing.

In recent weeks I have embraced lard as an ingredient. This is probably not a good thing.

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Tin, meat. Meat, tin.

And then on with the lid before going into the oven for longer than I realised (which had the bonus of giving me enough time to clear up AND have a bit of a nap). It emerged shiny and golden, but I still had to wait for the lovely stock to be properly cooled before I could funnel it in. I was a bit concerned about leakage and knowing that the pie was full, but again I needn’t have worried – you know it’s full because you can’t fit any more in….

The pie stayed in the safety of its cake tin for some overnight chilling and until Ginge got home from work (delivering it from the tin was a two-person job), before we could release the first slice.

My first pork pie.

My first pork pie.

I am unfeasibly proud of this venture, but am now faced with the issue of what to do with a pie that’s as big as my head.