Making time for us food

Roasted lemon salmon on a bed of spiced chickpeas and vegetables

  

It was with an equal amount of trepidation and excitement that as Summer drew to a close we entered Anni’s third trimester. We both felt fortunate that over the last few months we had squeezed in quality time for us, holidays, weekends away and friend’s weddings but now that the third trimester was upon us, things began to get real. We had a lot to do, we had a lot to get ready and as we entered this final stage we knew that at the end of it was labour, and the arrival of a baby that would change our lives forever.

As we overwhelmed ourselves with list after list, and as I saw each weekend leading up to the due date disappear under a pile of visitors, shopping trips and DIY, I could see time slipping away from us. Before we knew it, we would be parents. We therefore made a rule during those final few months that we would make time for each other, to talk to each other about what labour and impending parenthood meant for both of us, including our hopes and fears. We talked through the birth, how Anni wanted it to go and what we should do if it didn’t go as planned. We talked about the first few weeks of our son’s life, and about how certain aspects of becoming parents made us nervous. 

If we had been on slightly different intertwining paths since Anni became pregnant, this became even more apparent during the final stages of her pregnancy. We began to go to NCT classes where the focus rightly so was on women in labour and breastfeeding, Anni started inhaling books about how to prepare for labour and she began to also practice some aspects of hypnobirthing. As her partner I had quite a few contrasting feelings. She was nervous and scared about going into labour, and as much as there are ways in which the father can help, and help I would, I knew this was ultimately something that she would go through alone.

I never talked to Anni about this, but I was also scared about her going into labour. We all just assume that at the end of the 9 months mum and baby are fine and everyone lives happily ever after. What if something happened to our son during birth that damaged him? What if he didn’t make it? What if Anni didn’t make it?

I knew the chances of something going seriously wrong in the UK in 2017 were tiny, but that thought was still in the back of my mind and there was no getting rid of it. For 6 months it had felt like we were on an escalator slowly going up a hill. With the dawn of the third trimester that escalator had suddenly sped up, and neither Anni or I knew what awaited us at the top. 

This all began to feel a bit melodramatic. So, I put some beers in the fridge (non-alcoholic for her of course), set the table outside and made us some fish whilst the sun set on a warm late-summer evening.


  

Method

-Heat oven to 180 degrees.

-Line a roasting tray with foil, add a splash of oil and place the salmon skin side up on the tray, ensuring that the sliced lemons form a bed under each fillet.

-Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for around 15 minutes.

-Meanwhile dice the onion and fry gently in a little olive oil and salt.

-Dice the courgettes and carrots, turn up the heat and add to the pan.

-After 2-3 minutes add the stock and cumin, stir thoroughly.

-Remove the skin from your tomato, remove the seeds and dice, before adding to the pan.

-Add the chickpeas and when they are thoroughly heated through, add the spinach.

-Stir in the cream and wait for the spinach to wilt.

-Spoon into shallow bowls and top with the roasted salmon, placing it skin side up on top of the mixture.

-Top the salmon with fresh chives.

ingredients

  -2 salmon fillets

-One can of chickpeas, drained

-two courgettes

-two carrots

-handful of asparagus

-1 large tomato

-one handful of spinach

-One small onion

-50ml fresh cream

-100 ml chicken stock

-fresh chives

-half a lemon, sliced thinly

-half a teaspoon of cumin

The feta in pasta game charger

Tomato, courgette, mushroom, olive and feta pasta (v)

  

As I’ve said before, feta is a real pregnancy-friendly cheese, as it contains just as much calcium as other cheese, with barely any of the calories. Anni would absolutely inhale this dish whenever I made it, due in part to the saltiness of the feta flavouring all of the other ingredients so that the whole dish was like crack for her. This was a total game changer for me and I started using feta more and more in my pasta dishes as opposed to other cheeses like parmesan and mozzarella.

This is another excellent and quick dish to make midweek after a long day as the vegetables will keep her vitamin levels up whereas the wholegrain pasta and feta is great for creating more energy. Make it, plate it and watch her go. 


  

Method

-Boil a pan of salty water and cook the spaghetti per instructions. When cooked, drain, slightly salt and set aside.

-Chop the garlic, courgette, mushroom, olives and both types of tomatoes. Add one by one to the pan, starting with the garlic, followed a minute later by the tomatoes, then courgette, then mushroom.

-Reduce the heat and stir frequently, allowing a small sauce to create from the tomatoes.

-Add the precooked spaghetti to the pan and crumble over the feta. Stir thoroughly.

-When the pasta has heated up and most of the feta has melted, divide into two plates and serve with fresh oregano.

Ingredients

  

-300g wholegrain spaghetti

-50g feta

-one courgette

-handful of small cherry or vine tomatoes

-8-10 sun dried tomatoes

-handful of mushrooms

-handful of black olives

-fresh oregano

-one clove of garlic

Cooking with fruit, part two

Stir fried beef and orange

  

Just like with the mango, adding orange to this stir fry not only ups the vitamin C content but gives a real sweetness that works well with the minced beef. As the orange is so juicy, I find that using minced beef instead of chunks of beef allows more taste to penetrate the meat. You can also be quite liberal with the heat here, as the orange juice will nullify it to some extent. 


  

-In a bowl mix together 3 spoonfuls of soy sauce, the juice of one orange, 1 spoonful of rice wine vinegar and one spoonful of honey. Stir and set aside.

-In a dry pan heat the cashew nuts and then set aside.

Finely dice the onion and garlic, season and heat gently in the pan. Season the beef and add to the pan, mixing in well.

-Dice the carrot, courgette and pepper and add one by one to the pan.

-Add the frozen peas and then stir in the soy sauce mixture, turning up the heat to reduce it down.

-Peel and cut an orange into bite-size pieces and then add to the pan along with the cashew nuts.

-When the orange pieces have heated through, remove from the heat, divide into two bowls and top with the sesame seeds.

Ingredients

  

-300 grams minced beef

-two oranges

-one shallot

-2 garlic cloves

-one handful of cashew nuts

-one courgette

-one carrot

-handful of frozen peas

-soy sauce

-two teaspoons of sesame seeds

-one green pepper

-rice wine vinegar

-one spoonful of honey

Eating more fish in trimester three, part one

Mexican sea bass with wild rice, avocado fresh mango, sweetcorn and a wholegrain tortilla

  

During the third trimester, a baby’s brain grows at its fastest rate so its really beneficial to help that growth by eating 2-3 portions a week of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acid, such as seabass.

Anni’s third trimester coincided with the onset of autumn and the nights were beginning to get colder and darker, therefore I wanted a dish full of flavour and summer to liven things up a bit. I love how in Mexico fish is a really popular ingredient for tortillas and it’s a real shame that this style hasn’t quite made it over here yet. 

This tortilla is packed full of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain rice and so is a perfect meal for a third-trimester mum. The juicy freshness of the mango reminds you of the sun and works really well with the delicate sea bass, all in all a really healthy and delicious meal.


  

-Boil the rice, drain and set aside

-Squeeze the juice of one lime into a pan, season the seabass and cook skin up for around 3-4 minutes. Then flip the fish over, add the butter to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes, spooning the butter over the seabass. Set aside

-Slice the mango and avocado into strips and arrange on the wholegrain wrap

-Finely dice the coriander and add half to the cooked rice, along with the sweetcorn.

-Spoon the rice onto the tortilla and then cover with the seabass. Sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top of the fish

Ingredients

  

-two portions of seabass

-150g of wholegrain rice

-half a can of sweetcorn

-one mango

-one avocado

-juice of one lime

-fresh coriander

-knob of butter

-one wholegrain wrap

-one lime

Eating more fish in trimester three, part two

Japanese style salmon with egg and vegetable fried rice

  

We would eat at least two portions of salmon a week as it was a fantastic way of getting more Omega-3 fatty acids inside Anni and baby, stimulating brain development. I found that during pregnancy Anni couldn’t stomach fish ‘that smelt too fishy’ so salmon, halibut, seabass and tuna worked well in our house. No squid or cockles then. 


  

-Finely slice the ginger and garlic and mix with the brown sugar, soy sauce and mirin. Cover the salmon steaks with the marinade, refrigerating for 30 minutes if you can.

-Put your rice on to boil.

-When the rice has cooked, remove from the heat and drain. Then pour cold water over the rice until it has cooled completely. Drain and set aside.

-Heat the oven to 180, line a baking tray and roast the salmon, skin side up for 8-10 minutes.

-Finely slice the carrots and courgettes and cook in a pan. Add the peas and a little of the leftover marinade.

-Add the cold rice to the pan and stir thoroughly.

-Whisk one egg in a bowl and add to the pan. Allow to scramble and then mix thoroughly.

-When the egg has cooked completely divide the mixture into two bowls.

-Top with the salmon, arranging skin side up and garnish with fresh chives.

Ingredients

  

-2 salmon steaks

-300grams wholegrain rice

-1 egg

-handful of peas

-2 carrots

-2 courgettes

-thumb of ginger

-2 garlic cloves

-2 spoons soy sauce

-2 spoons mirin

-1 spoonful of brown sugar

-fresh chives

I guess normal rules don’t apply when pancakes are involved

Blueberry and pancetta stacked pancakes

  

See technically this should be a healthy dish for a woman to eat in her third trimester as it has vitamin C from the blueberries, protein from the pancetta and eggs and calcium from the milk. But put all this together, add a little maple syrup and all of a sudden people are telling you that you can’t eat an entire stack of pancakes in one sitting.

As with everything, moderation is key. This is a delicious dish that true, you shouldn’t eat every day, but once in a while it sure did make Anni feel good and that’s all that mattered to me.


  

-sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl

-add the milk and eggs and whisk together until a batter forms. Add the butter and whisk again

-Pour a ladleful of batter into a greased frying pan and cook each pancake for roughly 2-3 minutes each side

-In a separate pan, fry the pancetta for a few minutes. Drain the fat from the pan, add the blueberries and a teaspoon of maple syrup. Cook for a further minute then remove from the heat.

-Spoon the pancetta and blueberries over each pancake, topping with maple syrup


Ingredients

  

-300grams self raising flour

-1.5 teaspoons of baking powder

-450ml milk

-2 eggs

-one knob of butter

-100grams pancetta (or bacon), cut into little chunks

-one handful of fresh blueberries

-maple syrup

Give me carbs damn you, part two

Chicken breast in a lemon cream sauce served with fresh vegetables and wholegrain pasta

  

We ate a lot of pasta during Anni’s pregnancy. And I mean a lot of pasta. So much so that I went out and bought myself a pasta rolling machine, which to this day is still sitting untouched in its box due to the obvious fact that pasta is really, really cheap to buy and relatively laborious to make.

My challenge, especially when Anni was out of her first trimester, was how to make carb-heavy pasta dishes healthy. This is a good dish for just that as the addition of lots of spinach, mushrooms, olives and tomatoes increases the vitamins, iron and calcium content. Wholegrain over normal pasta is also a no-brainer. Also, if in doubt just add a load of spinach leaves to whatever you’re making and you can’t go wrong.


  

Method

-Boil the pasta in a pan of salty water per packet instructions. When cooked, drain and place aside.

-Cut the chicken breast in half, salt and cook in a pan for around 10 minutes, remembering to turn halfway.

-Finely dice the onion and garlic, lightly salt and heat gently for 2-3 minutes.

-Chop the tomatoes and olives in half and add to the pan.

-Mix the lemon juice into the cream and leave aside.

-Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan.

-Stir in the pasta and cream into the pan, mixing thoroughly.

-Add the spinach and allow it to wilt.

-After a minute of the spinach cooking, remove the pan from the heat and divide into two bowls.

-Place one piece of chicken on top of each bowl, garnish with rosemary and grated parmesan and serve.

Ingredients

  

-One chicken breast

-300grams wholegrain pasta

-a big handful of black olives

-6-8 small vine or cherry tomatoes

-4-6 mushrooms

-One shallot

-2 cloves of garlic

-a big handful of spinach

-50ml cream

-juice of half a lemon

-fresh rosemary

-parmesan

The last brunch alone

Scrambled eggs with cavolo nero and parmesan (v)

  

Late on in Anni’s pregnancy everything we did together took on extra significance as we wondered if it was the last time we would do it alone. Last country walk before a pub lunch, last drive to the beach, last night out for dinner, even the last time we would collapse on the sofa after a long week and casually open a bottle of wine.

Rather than just wait for our son to make an appearance we decided to make a pregnancy bucket list to celebrate all the things we loved to do so that when our son joined us we could look back on those final few weeks as packed full of fun.

We both loved long lazy brunches, either at home or out in restaurants. For our last few weekends as just a two we made sure we took time over our brunches, and took time to be with just each other.

This dish is a wonderful pregnancy brunch as it’s packed full of rich, leafy greens, perfect for Anni and baby. 


  

Method

-Remove the woody stalk from the cavolo nero and discard.

-Whisk four eggs in a bowl, adding a little salt and pepper.

-Heat the eggs in a little butter over a gentle heat. When the eggs begin to scramble, add the cavolo nero and stir well.

-Serve with freshly grated parmesan. 

Ingredients

  

-four eggs

-two large handfuls of cavolo nero

-grated parmesan

Better snacks

Healthy cheese toastie (v)

  

By the start of the third trimester, the concept of ‘meal time’ had gone completely out of the window and Anni found that she could happily eat all day, every day as we counted down the weeks until baby was due to arrive. As she was snacking a lot I wanted to make sure that at least some of what was going in was healthy, good for her and baby and also contained food that would give her energy to carry on working and generally walking around with a watermelon inside you. 

This is a great snack for when Anni was carb craving (so, all the time). The wholegrain toast means the carbs she was eating are the good ones, and the addition of coriander, avocado, cheese and tomato means the toastie also has a decent serving of the major vitamins and nutrients important during pregnancy.


  

Method

-Mash the avocado into a paste.

-Slice the tomato into small discs.

-Spread the avocado onto the bread, top with the tomato and grated cheese.

-Grill until the cheese has melted.

-Remove from the oven, sprinkle with sumac and the coriander stalks.

Ingredients

  -Two slices of wholegrain toast

-One avocado

-One tomato

-50g cheddar

-6-8 coriander stalks

-Sumac

Who needs sushi anyway?

Smoked salmon sushi bowl

  

Anni was a sushi addict in those pre-pregnancy days and so going cold turkey (or should that be salmon?) was pretty tough going, especially as there was no way on earth I was going to stop eating the stuff. 

Smoked salmon is absolutely fine to eat in pregnancy and so I started to sub it in to dishes where you would normally have raw fish. Whilst this dish doesn’t taste as good as proper sushi, it comes pretty close. Especially for someone who’s been craving it for months and months by now. 

It’s also a really healthy dish, especially if you use wholegrain rice, avocado and sesame seeds, all really positive foods for a pregnant woman. 


  

Method

-Cook the brown rice in the vegetable stock as per packet instructions. Once cooked, drain and allow to cool.

-Cut the cucumber into small chunks and mix in to the cooled rice. Add a few squeezes from the lime and a teaspoon of soy sauce. Mix well.

-Arrange the rice in a bowl. Cover half with the smoked salmon.

-Cut the avocado into thin slices and use it to cover the other half of the rice.

-Sprinkle chilli flakes, sesame seeds and the remaining lime juice over the rice and avocado.

Ingredients

  

-250g smoked salmon

-200g brown rice

-one avocado

-a quarter of a cucumber

-sesame seeds

-soy sauce

-half a lime

-chilli flakes (optional)

-200ml vegetable stock

Make your own pesto, the frozen edition

Homemade frozen pesto (v)

  

This is probably my favourite time and taste saving tip and something I really can’t get enough of. Making your own pesto is so ridiculously easy, you can experiment with flavours much more than with shop-bought pesto and most importantly it is an absolute godsend in late-stage pregnancy and early family life. 

I made a ton of these in the weeks leading up to my son’s birth and filled four ice cube trays full with different flavours. Having pre-prepared pesto in the freezer meant that I could relax always knowing I had a backup. If both Anni and mine’s trains were delayed when she was pregnant we both knew we had a nutrition-rich meal ready in minutes. During the first few weeks of my son’s life, those crazy times where it feels like you have no time to cook, I would just pop these in the pan with some pasta for an instant and healthy meal. 

When I went back to work I also regularly restocked the ice trays as they were a perfect winter lunch for Anni who most of the time only had one hand free. Frozen pesto tastes exactly the same as fresh pesto and I just can’t recommend it enough. 


  

Method

-Simple. For each pesto, blend all ingredients together and then taste, seasoning and adding more olive oil if you need.

-Clean out an ice cube tray and spoon the mixture into each empty cube. Freeze and just pop a cube into a bowl of hot, cooked pasta when you need.

Ingredients

  

For the walnut, spinach and parmesan pesto 

-two handfuls of spinach

-2 tablespoons of crushed walnuts

-one tablespoon grated parmesan

-one garlic clove

-3-4 tablespoons of olive

-salt and pepper

For the spinach and rocket pesto

-two handfuls of spinach

-two handfuls of rocket

-one garlic clove

-3-4 tablespoons of olive

-salt and pepper

Can I have French toast for breakfast every day, part three

French toast with maple syrup, blueberries and bananas (v)

  

I know, I know. Another French toast recipe. Maybe by now you’re beginning to understand what its like to live in my house where instead of an alarm clock I just have an incessant ‘French toast, French toast’ noise drilling away at the base of my skull each weekend. Still, this one is different because as we headed towards the end of the third trimester Anni started to eat a banana every day, carb loading for the marathon that lay ahead. It’s just that this particular banana has lashings of maple syrup over it.


  

Method

-Mix the eggs and add a sprinkling of salt.

-Mix the sugar with the cinnamon. You now have cinnamon sugar (I make this in a large batch so I always have some).

-cut the brioche into slices. Take one slice and submerge in the mixed eggs. Fry gently on each side until the eggs are well cooked.

-place two slices on a plate. Top with sliced banana, blueberries, a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar and maple syrup

Ingredients

  

-one banana and a handful of blueberries

-teaspoonful of cinnamon

-25g granulated sugar

-one brioche loaf

-2 eggs

-maple syrup

Small-portioned food

Paprika and lemon-flavoured seabass on fresh tomatoes and rocket

  

Towards the end of her pregnancy, when Anni was uncomfortable for pretty much all of the time, sitting down to a big, heavy meal was the last thing she wanted to do. She was restless, fed up by now of being pregnant and we were both nervously and impatiently waiting to meet our new arrival. The challenge I had was to make sure she was still eating the right sort of food for her and baby, but that it was also in portion sizes that she would actually eat. Seabass is a great third trimester fish as it is packed full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids but more importantly it’s a delicate fish so one Anni could easily get down. As seabass is such a delicate fish you don’t want to overwhelm it with lots of ingredients so I would always flavour it with some lemon juice and paprika with a little salad on the side.



  

Method

-Season the seabass with salt and the paprika, heat half of the butter in a pan and cook, skin-side up for 3 minutes.

-Turn the seabass, adding the lemon juice and remaining butter. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, frequently spooning the butter and lemon mixture over the fish. This keeps it nice and moist.

-Remove from the heat and serve. Tastes great on its own, or with a simple salad or a bowl of rice.

Ingredients

  

-2 seabass fillets

-spoonful of paprika

-juice of half a lemon

-25g butter

Upping your bagel game

Smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagel with parsley butter and ground pistachio

  

By adding some fresh parsley, chives and ground pistachio to this egg and salmon bagel, you’re immediately increasing the nutritional benefits of this dish for mum-to-be. It’s also a dish that can be eaten with both hands, a luxury I had no idea would be cruelly taken away from us after our son was born.


  

-Using a pestle and mortar (or a hammer and a dishcloth!) ground the pistachio nuts into tiny pieces.

-Finely chop the parsley and add to the butter. Stir vigorously until the two combine.

-Cut the bagels in half and grill.

-Whisk the eggs, adding in a little salt and pepper and cook on a low heat.

-When the bagels are toasted, remove and spread with parsley butter.

-Remove the scrambled eggs from the pan and place on top of each bagel.

-Arrange the smoked salmon on top of the eggs and sprinkle over the pistachios and diced chives.

Ingredients

  

-4 eggs

-200grams of smoked salmon

-2 bagels

-25g butter

-handful of fresh parsley

-a large tablespoon of pistachio nuts

-a thumbful of chives, diced

Her favourite dessert when the end’s in sight

Sticky toffee pudding with banana ice cream and crushed pistachios

  

Forty weeks came, and forty weeks went with no sign of our all too comfortable in there son. By now Anni had been off work for three weeks and was thoroughly bored. We were both on edge, as from pretty much 36 weeks we had been acting as if our son could come at any minute. Anni’s bag was packed, and by bag I mean two carry-on suitcases full of clothes for each of us, a bag of clothes for our son, a bag of nappies, wet wipes and towels, a bag of snacks, pillows, bed sheets, dressing gown, sleeping bag (for me, not her), yoga mat, large camera, video camera, back up batteries, phone chargers, back up chargers and maternity exercise ball. The corner of our bedroom looked like we were either going on a really weird holiday or about to go to a surreal car boot sale. In my head, like in the films there would be a small suitcase left by the door which we would casually pick up as we left for the hospital. Instead I was running after maternity balls bouncing down the street and worrying about if our son would even fit in the car when he was born. (Looking back now I can say that we probably used about 2% of everything we took to the hospital, and half of that was the bag of snacks for me).

So, by forty weeks Anni was getting not only bored but pretty uncomfortable. She was also making daily trips to the supermarket to send me pictures of her holding objects that were by now smaller than her belly. I’d get a message from her at work and jump up excitedly, expecting to run out of the office saying, ‘she’s in labour!’ Instead it was just a picture of Anni looking pissed off in a shop and holding a pumpkin or a watermelon.

Sleep was also becoming a distant memory. Anni was sleeping badly, waking up frequently because of the baby moving or kicking. New mums gleefully told her that this was good practice for what was to come but that’s like saying running a marathon every day for four weeks is good practice for running a marathon tomorrow. It may be, but you’re still going to arrive at the start line bloody knackered. 

Even though we could be on our way at any minute I wanted to use this time to spoil Anni a bit. Daily massages and foot rubs became the norm, we watched her favourite films and I packed and repacked the car when she kept changing her mind about what our son’s first outfit should be.

I also made her favourite food as much as I could. Sticky toffee pudding is one of Anni’s favourite desserts, so I made a huge batch, cut it into squares and kept it in the freezer, defrosting chunks every few days. 

The banana ice cream and crushed pistachios add some healthy benefits to the pudding but by forty weeks when baby was cooked, I don’t think Anni cared anymore.


  

Method

-To make the banana ice cream cut four ripe bananas into thin discs and freeze for at least two hours. Remove from the freezer and blend until the mixture runs smooth. Refreeze until required.

-Remove the stone from the dates and cut into small chunks. Place in a bowl, add the earl grey teabag and pour the boiling water over the dates.

-Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a deep square cake dish with baking paper.

-Using your fingers break up the butter into small pieces and tip into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and using an electric hand mixer combine the two well. Mix for a few minutes until both the sugar and butter are mixed in.

-Add the treacle to the mixture and stir well with a spoon.

-Crack an egg and add to the bowl. Mix well and then repeat one by one with the other eggs.

-Sieve roughly half of the flour and bicarbonate soda into the bowl and fold in using a metal spoon. Add half of the milk at this stage and stir well. Then repeat with the remaining flour, bicarbonate soda and milk.

-Remove the teabag from the bowl and using a spoon roughly mash the softened dates. Add the dates and water to the mixture and stir in well.

-Pour the entire contents of the bowl into the cake dish and cook for around an hour. To see if the pudding is done insert a skewer into the top of the pudding and see if any mixture clings to the metal when it’s removed. If it does, it’s not done yet.

-Remove from the oven and using the baking paper remove the pudding from the cake dish. Allow to cool.

-Meanwhile melt the butter and sugar together in a pan. When the two have come together stir in the treacle and half of the cream. Mix and gently bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the rest of the cream and then pour into a jug.

-Cut the sticky toffee pudding into squares. Pour the sauce over the pudding and top with the banana ice cream and crushed pistachios.

Ingredients

  -one pack (around 200grams) of dates

-four eggs

-200ml boiling water

-one earl grey teabag

-180 grams butter

-300grams light muscovado sugar

-3 tablespoons of treacle

-375 grams of self-raising flour

-2 teaspoons of bicarbonate soda

-200ml milk

For the sticky toffee sauce

-200 grams light muscovado sugar

-100 grams of butter

-200ml double cream

-1 tablespoon of treacle

-4 ripe bananas

-2 tablespoons of crushed pistachios

A note on frozen food prep

Do it now and save yourself so much hassle

  

I admit it, I used to be a massive frozen food snob. But all of that changed when I realised just how little time I would have to cook in the first few months of my son’s birth. The freezer has now become my friend and starting with a few weeks before Anni went into labour, every month I’d make a load of ready meals to eat midweek. The amount of time it has saved us is amazing, and I can feel confident that both Anni and I will eat well during the week, and that any time I save cooking, can be spent with my son or helping Anni. It’s also invaluable for those times (and there are many) when your train is delayed home from work. 

I predominantly freeze hearty meals like spaghetti bolognese, chilli con carne, chicken pie, stir fry etc etc but to be honest, anything works well. You may have to sacrifice one Sunday afternoon a month to make it all, but trust me it more than makes up for it during those long winter weeks when all you want to do is be home with your family. It also turned out to be a lifesaver during paternity leave and we saved a fortune not getting take away all the time.

Food in early stage labour

Chicken, potatoes and vegetables in broth

  

I woke up one Friday morning in October at about 5am and turned over to find an empty space next to me. Nothing unusual about that as Anni had been sleeping badly these last few weeks and was prone to getting up in the middle of the night for a snack. However, on this occasion I heard a low voice coming from the lounge so got up to see why Anni was on the phone at such an early hour.

Turns out she’d let me sleep a bit as shortly after midnight she’d had her first contraction, called the hospital and they’d told her to stay put, relax and get some rest. Telling the ball of energy that is my wife to relax had obviously had the opposite effect because when I came into the lounge I found her bouncing up and down excitedly on her maternity ball already wearing the clothes she wanted to give birth in. Her contractions were light but getting closer and closer together and it was almost time to go. This will be a breeze, I thought as I loaded up the car (again), impressed at how cool and pain-free my wife seemed to be. We even had time to take the ‘off to hospital’ selfie before heading out the door

How wrong I was.

We both now refer to the 58 hours that followed as the ‘dark weekend’. As soon as we got to hospital they of course laughed at us and sent us straight off home again telling Anni to take it easy, go on walks, have baths, keep in touch but mostly just get out of our hospital thank you very much. We were sent home because it turns out that even though her contractions were coming regularly, they were ‘the wrong sort of contractions’, obviously.

Back home on an early Friday afternoon and things began to take a turn for the worse. In my head, this time at home when Anni was in early stage labour and we were both indoors alone would be a special time. I had also day-dreamed that this magical time, the last few moments we would ever have as just a two would take place in the evening and involve calming music, candles and box sets before a middle of the night hospital dash. I’d even planned a lovely carb-loading last meal to give Anni the energy she would need to see the labour out.

Reality was a little different. Anni couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit and couldn’t keep any food or water down. Frustratingly she was now having ‘proper’ contractions but they stayed rooted at 7 minutes apart, well above the 4 minutes apart we needed to go back to hospital. Our son, in his excitement (or fear?) at the prospect of meeting us had managed to flip around so his spine was pushing against Anni’s, making each contraction even more painful. I was on back-rub duty and every 7 minutes for the next 36 hours I rubbed Anni’s back to ease the pain of each contraction. Little by little we watched as all of the plans Anni had made for a relaxing and positive birth went out the window.

There really wasn’t much that I could do beyond rub her back, run her bath and refill her water glass. After about twenty-four hours of this she finally managed to get some food down her and I took the chance to make a chicken, vegetable and potato soup, lots of protein and carbs to try and give her some energy for what was to come. I made an enormous bowl of the stuff and we hunkered down, waiting to meet our son. 

All sorts of thoughts and emotions were colliding in my mind. Part of me had just switched to auto pilot and entered a seemingly never-ending cycle of looking after Anni, but part of me tried to stay sharp. I knew I would be the one to now decide when to go to hospital and I didn’t want to go too early again, I knew Anni wouldn’t be able to face being sent home for the second time. As Saturday night approached I also knew that there was no-way we could go through another night like this at home alone.

In all of our classes you are told to watch out for one moment, when the woman suddenly says, let’s go to hospital, it’s time. With Anni’s pre-labour entering the 36th hour and her only being able to keep down small bits of food she was too far gone, and I knew I would have to look out for that moment. 

Anni was finally admitted to hospital late on Saturday night and our beautiful and healthy boy was born the next day at 11.40pm. My wife was an absolute hero in every way, and I’ll never forget how strong she was over those three days. 

As I stood there holding my new-born son in my arms and watching my wife smile up at me I was overcome with emotion, feelings of love and pride for my new family. I was also pretty damn surprised at how all the medical staff had cleared off out of the room minutes after our son was born. Pregnancy was over but how the hell were we supposed to know how to look after a new-born?!


  

Method

Remember that this is a deliberately bland soup

-Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Slice the shallot and carrots and add to the pan

-Peel the potato, cut into small squares and add to the pan

-Slice the chicken breast, lightly season and add to the pan

-Finely chop the cabbage and mushrooms and, you’ve guessed it, add to the pan

ingredients

  -2 chicken breasts

-one large potato

-4 carrots

-handful of mushrooms

-one litre of chicken stock

-one shallot

-a few cabbage leaves