Pregnancy

Milk & Love: Ethical and Affordable Maternity Essentials

February 18, 2016

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wearing wrap 3/4 sleeve maternity and breastfeeding dress | Aviary teal suede heels (on sale + extra 10% off with code ‘alifeunstyled’) 

As well as being critical of what we’re buying for baby and the quantity of things we’re accumulating I’ve also been quite discerning about what I’ve bought myself. For the most part I’ve made my existing wardrobe work for me during my pregnancy. The biggest compromise being the need to swap skinny jeans out for leggings and wearing more dresses then I truly care for. With the impending birth of our first child I’ve also had to start thinking about nursing. If possible, and it should be possible, I want to exclusively breastfeed. And while part of the preparation is psychological and involves talking to Patrick, there was also a practical aspect to it. My wardrobe isn’t at all nursing-friendly. I don’t own tank tops, my camisoles are silk, my blouses are silk and fairly nicely fitted. I decided that I needed to invest in a few initial pieces to help in the first few weeks of breastfeeding while I got a handle of the reality of it all.

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I started looking for a few basics. I wanted clothing that was ethically made and using organic and natural fibres where possible. I think what discourages consumers from buying ethical and organic products is the hefty price tag. I’m not saying the prices are unfounded, it is difficult and more costly to manufacture within these boundaries but this post isn’t about why ethically produced clothing costs what it does. While I have certain criteria when purchasing clothing, I try to be reasonable about what I pay for the pieces. I struggled to find maternity and nursing pieces that were affordable, until I came across Milk and Love – on Instagram of all places! Milk and Love is a store and a resource haven for “a beautiful motherhood, naturally”. I clicked through to their website and was immediately impressed by the information they have available on their products, their manufacturers as well as things a new mum might want to know.

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I picked out three pieces: a 3/4 sleeve maternity and breastfeeding black wrap dress and two organic breastfeeding singlets (in black and white, of course!). The singlets are currently 3 for the price of 2 as well. All the clothes I purchased are made by Mothers En Vogue, a brand committed to environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices. They use recycled paper tags, coconut shell buttons, the factory workers have regular hours as well as regular and flexi-hours for the office and warehouse staff. The workrooms are ventilated and because they use natural and eco-friendly fabric, factory staff aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins. These details make me feel so comfortable about the purchases I make and the Milk and Love boutique are able to keep prices down for consumers by ordering their clothes 12 months in advance. This helps the factory keep their costs down and ultimately the costs remain affordable for consumers who want to make environmentally and socially responsible clothing choices. Ordering 12 months in advance I find also means that the consumer ends up with a store that has a well-curated stock of clothing that are practical and stylish without yielding to fast-fashion trends.

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learn more about Lenzing Modal and other ecological fibres 

I’m so thrilled to have found a store and resource centre in one, and one that makes it easy and affordable to own ethical and environmentally and socially responsible clothing. You can shop the Milk and Love collection here, you might particularly enjoy their sale items or if you’re just after information on pregnancy, breastfeeding and motherhood have a look at the Milk and Love Village.

Summer Skin All Year

February 10, 2016

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I’ve been getting a lot done during this third trimester of my pregnancy. Earlier on I fit in trips to the dentist, the optometrist (swapped my contact lenses out for new glasses), and a few trips to the hairdresser. I’ve scheduled another appointment with the hairdresser a few weeks before baby is due (fingers crossed I make it!). At everyone’s urging I’ve started doing less around the house – though I’m not sure that’s true, I think I just don’t do as much as I used to in short periods of time. I’ve slotted in more breaks and gentle walks and rest in-between cooking, cleaning, and of course my work. I’ve also started a little a home pampering. I take long, leisurely warm baths a few times a week. I painted my toe nails over the weekend – yes, I can still do them myself but might treat myself to a pedicure before baby comes along. This week (as we near the end of summer, how did that happen?!) I turned my attention to my skin, particularly, its lack of colour!

I don’t ever use self tanners but now that I live somewhere that doesn’t get very hot, or sunny, I’ve paled. My husband and sister are now darker than I am and that’s very unusual for me. I did some research and found myself completely natural and organic tanning products. I decided on the Eco Tan range as I already use their coconut deodorant,  pink Himalayan salt scrub, foaming body wash and coconut body milk.

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I prepped my skin by exfoliating a few days prior to tanning, I also took care of any hair removal situations. I gave my skin a few days before applying the Eco Tan Winter Skin, just in the event of broken skin and so on. Being pregnant I did a path test (which you should do even if you’re not pregnant) and of course check with your doctor or midwife if you have any concerns.  The Eco Tan Winter Skin is actually a moisturiser that dries instantly and builds a tan after a few applications. You can intensify your tan with each application. It’s perfect if you’re nervous about using tanning products. All the ingredients are organic or natural, with no hidden nasties and no synthetic ingredients – this gave me the confidence to use the product while pregnant.

The product is easy to apply – you’re basically just moisturising. As you apply the product, it turns white in colour which acts as a guide and lets you know where you’ve already applied Winter Skin. The product continues to develop for up to 8 hours. You can go to sleep in it, it won’t stain your sheets or clothes as it doesn’t contain bronzer or any artificial or synthetic colours. I’m thrilled with how easy application was and the results are wonderful in that you’re able to develop your perfect tan gradually and safely without going from pale or orange in a few hours! I found all these Eco Tan products at Natural Things.

Tanning might seem a little nonsensical and vain to some people given how heavily pregnant I am but it makes me feel happy having a little bit of colour and I’ll be honest the thought of having a beautiful glow in Autumn when my baby arrives gives me a little confidence! A glow, a pedicure, my hair trimmed – all little details that perhaps I won’t notice on the day but in the lead up to the birth bring me joy and I’m sure when looking back at photos of the event I’ll be thankful that I spent these weeks doing all of these things.

How Pregnancy Has Made Me More Productive

February 4, 2016

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I’m not someone who thrives on stress. I like taking my time with things. I pride myself on being organised and having systems in place to keep all the balls I juggle in the air. Five years ago when I first started seriously thinking about becoming Dr Mum I talked to my coach about what this would look like. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like to give things 100% – one hundred percent of the time. When I cook a meal, I want it to be an amazing and healthy meal. When I entertain I want ambience perfect. When I work, I need the work I produce to be at a level that I can be proud of. I’ve never thought of this as good or bad, it’s just me and how I work.

My coach smiled and suggested I started working on just focusing on giving 100% to something for a set amount of time. She gently reminded me that I couldn’t be the perfect wife, mother, and professional all at the same time. But when I was working I could be the best at my work. When I was with my husband I could focus on being entirely present and available and so on.

I’m now edging closer to having my baby and while I haven’t had a difficult pregnancy (it’s actual been quite the opposite) I am pregnant. That realisation has brought a sense of determinedness in me to really focus on what I’m doing. I can’t say that I’ve slowed down, I think I’ve accomplished more since finding out I was pregnant then the months before it. I jokingly say it’s all in an effort to baby proof my life!

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So what’s changed? 

  • I say no more often. It’s amazing how many little projects we say yes to. A 200 word guest post. An invitation to speak on something that could-kinda-maybe-remotely be made to fit our area of expertise. These are things that would just cause me a lot of grief to get done. I just said no.
  • I say yes more often. This probably sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But once I emptied my life of all the above busy stuff – the noise – I had the time and space to say yes to the things that brought me so much happiness and joy. Things I was truly happy to do, that when I sat to do it, took up almost no time and created no stress at all.
  • 100% to one thing at a time. I started doing this much more. When I was working I was completely working and not looking up baby clothes. When I was reading my baby a story,  I was there completely. When I ate I was mindful of the process. When I rested, I rested completely.

And just like that I’ve felt calmer, less tired and have been incredibly productive. I’m sure I would have come to these processes eventually but I think pregnancy provided that little nudge I needed to get there sooner. But let’s be realistic, the fear that in a few months I won’t have two hours to plan,photograph and write  my posts has scared me. Am I going to be too tired? How will I feel? What will the little one be like? This type of uncertainty and anxiety can be caused by a variety of changes to ones life – pregnancy just happens to be mine!

 

A Brave Mama? ME?!

February 1, 2016

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Last week I connected on email with a recent Instagram friend, Meng Lim from Heart In Box. A few days later this appeared on my door step and it moved me totears. I haven’t had a ‘tough’ or ‘challenging’ pregnancy but there has been of course anxiety and nerves about the pregnancy, the birth, actual motherhood. Sometimes with all the excitement and happiness the nerves are suppressed and you forget to articulate them. Not only did this little package make me feel loved, it made me feel brave – not about the pregnancy, the birth, the impending motherhood but instead it made me feel brave in taking the time to acknowledge and share some of these nerves and anxiousness. I couldn’t think of a more wonderful gift for an expectant mum, a new mum, any mum really!

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With pregnancy there is so much emphasis on the baby, even on my part. It’s all about this little one. There have only been a handful of people who have stopped me and focused on ME. On the mother who is carrying the baby, whose body is providing the nourishment and whose mind is whirling with all things that need to be done, that can go wrong, that will happen, that won’t happen. Where in the celebration of life do we stop to celebrate the mums? Heart In Box is a gift package subscription service that sends out boxes of love to the mums in our lives. Each of the boxes are designed around particular themes, Meng sent me the ‘Brave Mama‘ box but there are also the ‘New Mama‘, ‘Busy Mama‘, ‘Birthday Mama‘ boxes and the just released ‘Adventure Mama‘ box.  For those wanting something a little more specific, you can also custom build a gift box ‘Build Your Own Heart Box‘ which would be perfect for any female, regardless of whether she’s a mother or not.

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Each box comes with up to five products that are on rotation and often change every few months. My box included a Kate Spade gold striped thermal mug, a bar of Bahen & Co stone ground chocolate, a hand-stamped minimalist bar necklace that said ‘loved’ and a sturdy ‘fleurs, bonbons, champagne’ tote bag. Complete with a lovely gift tag and a little card with a personalised note.

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These beautiful boxes can be shipped world wide, the cost of shipping is additional – though there is free shipping for some parts of Australia. You also have the option for express shipping in the event of a mama going into labour suddenly, a forgotten birthday (oops!) or because you’ve woken up and just felt like you need to surprise and gently remind a woman in your life that she is loved.

I can’t tell you how special it was for me to receive this. This products were great – I can’t wait to take that Kate Spade thermal mug to Starbucks the moment my little baby is born – but more than the products, the sentiment behind the box and its overall message of love and reminding me that I was brave impacted my mood in such an instant and beautiful way. And what’s more, in giving a gift like Heart in Box you’re not only showing love to a woman in your life, but you’re also supporting a small business and a mama who herself needs to be reminded that she is brave, loved and doing such meaningful work (that’s specifically for you Meng!).

Now – this brave mama is walking with her head a little higher, a bouncier bounce in her step and heading to tackle that hospital bag!

Wardrobe Staple: Le Breton

January 27, 2016

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Popbasic has created a le Breton of flattering length, a stripe width that caters for all body types, with quality of fabric and production process that allows you to wear this piece effortlessly all year. 

I have two le bretons from Popbasic, and they’ve been on high rotation since I purchased them. I bought the first one when Popbasic released them in July 2013 and being impressed with the quality I quickly procured a second one as soon as they become available again. These breton tops have seen me through pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy. I’ve worn them to pre-natal yoga class, date nights, meetings and on those mundane days at home. Popbasic have just released another limited run of their le bretons so if you’re interested now is the perfect time to snap one, or two, up for yourself. They are priced at $48 with free shipping and you can also get an additional $15 off with this link.

What do you consider a wardrobe staple? 

Pregnancy and Maternal Health Care: New Zealand & Zambia

January 25, 2016

I’m in my third trimester and as we prepare for the arrival of our first child I started thinking about what the experience of other women in different countries would be. I’ve seen so many expectant mum’s preparing for their little one’s arrival with the most gorgeous clothing, toys and things. I’m no exception, though we have kept everything to a bare minimum. We have a place for the little one to sleep (a cot), a Moses basket that’s by my writing desk so I can keep an eye on baby as I work, and a few clothes, two soft toys that were gifts, a natural baby body wash and books that Patrick and I have collected over the years. We still need to get nappies and a few other bits and pieces but for the most part we’re going to get things as and when we need them. As I sat sorting out items for my hospital bag I made a mental note to find out what the experience of women in developing countries might look like.

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As a World Vision Australia Blog Ambassador I’m lucky to be able to reach out to a team of knowledgeable and hard-working people with questions like these. Today, I want to share with you the experience of some pregnant women in Zambia and the one nurse, Agnes, the only health care provider for 15,000 people. She works in a clinic that doesn’t have electricity, only one delivery bed – and is without a simple ultrasound machine. World Vision is currently completing a new clinic next door to the clinic where Agnes works. The new clinic will have brand new rooms, solar electricity, piped water and housing for staff.

Like my appointments with my doctor and midwife, Agnes checks the blood pressure and weight of the pregnant ladies but unlike my doctor and midwife, Agnes has been on-call all the time – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a weeks for ten years. Agnes is 56 years old and can barely muster a smile for her patients. She’s in need of more –  more staff, more medicine, more space, more everything. This temporary clinic has three rooms – one for delivering babies, one in which to examine patients and another to store medicine.

This is where many of women who see Agnes will deliver their babies, a delivery room with just one bed.

A sharp contrast to the sterile, contemporary room in which I’ll have my baby. My midwife and I spoke about the importance of single rooms for mum’s and the impact that this has on rest, recovery and of course bonding with your baby. Those considerations simply wouldn’t be possible for Agnes and her patients.

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Even more confronting is what I, a woman in New Zealand am preparing to take to the hospital, and what a woman in Zambia is preparing. The centre can’t always provide these items for women, nor can they offer women accommodation after birth, it becomes vital that the women come prepared with their own supplies. This includes a razor blade which will be used to cut the umbilical cord.

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Here’s what my list looks like, it appears completely indulgent and I’m slightly ashamed that I have it this ‘easy’.

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This is Hellen, she’s 26 years old, she’s had three children (six, four and two years old). She almost had her two year old at the clinic but did not arrive on time. She lives far from the hospital and due to the distance, she ended up delivering on the way. Hellen had her baby in the grass, “I was scared the whole time, I think I’’ll start off earlier. I won’’t wait for labour pains to start. I’’ve heard about this clinic (a modern new one World Vision is building across the street). It will have more facilities. Delivery will be better. I feel very happy and excited. You know you will have everything you need to have a baby. This clinic will have power.””

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Felistus has a different story, she’s 28 years old and had a tough pregnancy. All nurse Agnes had to examine Felistus with was a basic stethoscope, a thermometer, and a scale to weigh and measure. Without an ultrasound machine there was no way for nurse Agnes to know that Felistus was carrying twins! Felistus walked to the clinic, as most people do, ““I was almost ready to deliver, but there was someone in the bed.” They quickly moved the woman who had just delivered. Before they put me on the bed I was frightened. There was a lot of blood already from the previous delivery.” ” It was dark, and without electricity Agnes lit a candle, holding it in one hand, she prepared to catch the baby with the other.

Her first son was born and then Agnes said, “Ah, there is another.” Felistus was not prepared for two children,  ““I only had clothes for one.”” With no running water at the clinic, Felistus had to wash up in a public toilet (a latrine). With no running water, there is only a hole in the ground to use when relieving oneself. Winson, Felistus husband says he understands that “this could have been the end of my wife’s life. And my sons.” In his spare time, he makes bricks for the new clinic, ” “If I am asked to do anything, I will give myself to help build that clinic.”

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all images courtesy of Jon Warren/World Vision

And this is the new clinic that World Vision is currently rebuilding. The new clinic will have brand new delivery suites, electricity, water, more staff and medical supplies. It will truly help change the experiences of women like Agnes, Hellen and Felistus. I so desperately wanted  to get involved and help so I’ve teamed up with World Vision Australia through Vision Sisters to help raise money to fund safe birthing kits and maternal health supplies to hospitals all over Uganda and other parts of Africa. Patrick and I aren’t having a baby shower for our little one and aren’t putting up a wishlist of items we’d like but we’d love if people wanted to celebrate this time in our life with us that they would contribute to my Vision Sisters fund. Our little one is already being born into a privileged world and lifestyle and it would mean so much to us if you would contribute to this fund instead.

Please feel free to share this story and the link to my Visions Sisters fund page. Thank you all so much for your continued support and generosity. I hope together we can make a contribution towards this effort.

Quiet Morning Scenes

January 20, 2016

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I now wake up slowly and gently in the morning, without an alarm clock. Being spared the need for numerous trips to the loo through the night I head to the bathroom, I come back to bed and lie on my side with a pillow between my legs and wait. Wait for it to begin. When it does, I’ll reach over for Patrick’s hand. Half asleep he’ll reposition himself against me, his hand resting on my belly. I wait again, but never for too long because the antics commence as if on cue. We feel nudges and kicks and elbows and feet. In a few seconds I’ll hear Patrick smile. Does that sound odd, that I hear him smile? I say that because I usually have my back to him but I feel like I can hear his facial muscles move into a smile. We spend a good portion of this quiet time talking to and playing with our baby and most of all trying to tickle that little foot!

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