Mummyhood, Mental Health & Me | Just Add Ginger

Becoming a mother for the first time was a massive rollercoaster for me. Not only was it daunting, exhilarating and exciting beyond measure, but it really took its toll on my mental health and led me to  experience one of the darkest times in my life so far.

I have always been a bit of a worrier but in the first few months of Eric's life I felt like I was going crazy with it. Consumed daily by anxious thoughts, compulsive behaviour and feeling completely out of control, every day was overrun by negativity at a time when I should have been elated. It was a long and bumpy road to recovery but I finally turned a corner in the Autumn of 2017 - right around the time Eric was six months old. (If you want to know the full story I made a YouTube video all about it which goes into a lot more detail).

And since then I've only been getting stronger. I am more open about my feelings (not looking for sympathy, but more so that I'm doing myself justice), I am able to stay calmer and more rational thanks to techniques I learnt at CBT, and I feel for the first time in a long time that I am myself again.

stock image of a woman holding a newborn baby's hand

However, it's not always great. Especially at the moment. Up until a week or so ago I was doing brilliantly, but my worries and anxieties don't care about timing, and at the moment I've been having more fretful moments

I've had such a different, more positive experience of being pregnant this time but it is really starting to take its toll on me physically and that in itself is affecting how I feel mentally. Lack of sleep combined with long days, a toddler who is currently residing right in the middle of Tantrumville, aches and pains, Braxton Hicks and massive mood swings and I'm just all over the place. 

I know part of it is something that just happens during pregnancy. With hormones raging it's only natural I feel a bit out of control of how I feel. But it's not just that. 

This time of year is a massive trigger for me in itself. This is when everything started for me the first time and I think I associate warmer weather too much with the start of my descent into that dark place. So as much as it's amazing to be expecting a baby it is also really, really difficult. 

I am having to be so careful with how I go about my day. I don't want to do anything that will cause me to slip. And that's hard because a lot of my coping strategies revolve around avoidance and with social media being pretty much inescapable and uncontrollable that isn't always easy. 

 My worries are completely irrational too. They spring up out of something I usually see online and then just stick. For example (and I cannot believe I'm admitting this in a blog post) the other day I decided I had Lyme disease. For no reason. I just decided I had it. That's how unpredictable and somewhat ridiculous my mind can be. These thoughts appear and just make no sense although to be, they are the absolute be all and end all. 

And naturally when I start to feel anxious trying to not be upset in front of Eric is incredibly difficult. Because he is just too young to understand. But it happens. I just can't control it. I cry and cry and cry and he has to see it happen. Thankfully he's pretty laid back so he hasn't gotten upset at the same time but still...it does make me feel like a bit of a Mum failure.  

I'm doing all I can to prepare for labour and birth so that I am calm and relaxed. With control being a big factor in the direction of my thoughts if there's something I can organise I will. I'm planning a home birth, have been practising hypnobirthing and have called on lots of local friends to be on my 'Labour Tree' should I be by myself and need help. I'm also hoping to start going to a pregnancy relaxation class. 

And whereas I isolated myself when I was feeling so bad last time I'm now reaching out. I've admitted to myself that I have been struggling and am trying my best to surround myself with love. I'm getting in touch with friends and trying to arrange regular catch ups so that I don't feel alone. Getting back into creating content has also really helped because my mind is occupied and I am less inclined to let the negative thoughts work their way in.

But as much as I'm trying to be social I am also valuing my privacy. I'm not sharing lots about my pregnancy online and am even being quite reserved when it comes to friends and family. My midwife appointments are for me only and I keep it that way. If there are any issues I will tell people but otherwise it's my business and mine alone. Bump shots are kept to a minimum as are scan photos and videos. I'm just not putting that pressure on myself this time. I'm enjoying this journey for exactly what it should be...mine.

So that's where I'm up to at the moment. A lot of days are wonderful but some days are utterly shit and everything gets too much. But that's okay. It's only natural. And I'm embracing that fact. 

I can't imagine being a mum of two and just knowing how it's going to work is daunting in itself. I can't plan for it. I'm not in control. So it's no wonder these feelings are filtering back in - I may just be misplacing those feelings of anxiety over this big life change and putting them on something else

I don't know how things are going to change in the next few months. Nobody can say. But I really do feel that I'm helping myself by opening up about my struggles so fingers crossed I've already set myself on a better path.


Learning Hypnobirthing At Home* | Just Add Ginger

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When I was pregnant with Eric I read a book on hypnobirthing but I never really followed through on anything it said. It came with accompanying tracks which I would listen to and they would send me to sleep but when it came to labour I think I was just too scared for anything to resonate. 

This time round things are very different and hypnobirthing has played a big part in helping me keep focused and relaxed. I don't even really know how I rediscovered it. I think there have been quite a few people over the past couple of years talking about it and the idea must have stuck. With my determination to have a calmer pregnancy I became hyper aware of any resources or recommendations that were mentioned and it just went from there.

image shows a flat lay of red roses, a book on hypnobirthing and three birth affirmation cards

I made the decision to learn about hypnobirthing at home rather than on a course so that I could take things at my own speed. I wanted Ryan as my birth partner to be fully on board and with his work hours not always being consistent, the 'at home' approach just made more sense. 

So with all that being said, here are the three main resources I have been using to help educate myself when it comes to hypnobirthing. So if you are wanting to know more about the whole thing or are looking for a place to start, I can honestly say that all three of these resources have revolutionised the way I think about pregnancy, labour and birth, have made me really appreciate my body in a whole new way, and are making me really look forward to the experience of pushing this baby out.

The Positive Birth Company Digital Pack - I jumped on the chance to invest in this the minute I saw that there was a special offer running a few months back. And it was by far the best impulsive decision I've made. 

The pack is broken down into 43 videos which cover a range of topics - from the science of hypnobirthing right the way through to relaxation techniques. And everything makes so much sense! I would watch a couple of videos every night before I went to bed or in the morning when I would first wake up and they are really easy and enjoyable to watch. 

You have access to the course for 12 months after you purchase it and the pack comes with other resources too (MP3s, a course booklet, birth preferences template and more) so you are getting a lot much bang for your buck. 

'Make Your Birth Better' by Siobhan Miller - Off the back of investing in the digital pack I decided to buy Siobhan Miller's (founder of The Positive Birth Company) book. Watching videos was great and so easy to digest but I also wanted something I could read through to accompany all the information I was being given. 

I am halfway through the book at the moment and like with the digital pack, it is really resonating with me. It's full of tools and techniques you can apply during labour and delivery and also has positive birth stories from real mums with different birth experiences that all illustrate how well hypnobirthing has worked for them. 

It's a really inspiring book to reference, especially if I find myself second guessing my abilities or if I feel my confidence waning. 

I would say that the digital pack has worked slightly better for me (I think it's because I'm more of a visual learner), but the book complements and reinforces everything the course teaches you so combined the two are great for keeping your spirits and your motivation up!

I Can Do This Studio Birth Affirmation Cards* - I was very kindly gifted a set of birth affirmation cards by Hannah at I Can Do This Studio and they have been the perfect addition to my hypnobirthing education. The cards themselves are beautiful and all the phrases are really empowering ands uplifting to read. 

I keep the majority of the cards hung up on the wall by my side of the bed so that they are the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to bed. I also keep one perched on the mirror in our living room (I spend quite a lot of time in that part of the house so it made sense to have one there). 

At times when I do feel my confidence slipping or I need a little reminder of how strong I am I look at them and repeat the phrases a few times in my head. This is normal enough to get me back on the straight and narrow. 

I think the affirmation cards will be incredibly helpful during labour and the birth (Ryan can read them to me if I can't do it myself) but even now in the lead up to the big day having them in my periphery at all times is enough for them to start embedding themselves in my subconscious. 

During labour I'm planning on having the affirmation cards displayed downstairs in the living room sitting in between some little tea lights I've bought. Even just being able to spot the outline of them out of the corner of my eye should be enough to prompt the positive feelings they are already evoking in my mind and fingers crossed help keep my spirits up if I am starting to panic.

My Hypnobirthing Playlist - A random fact you may not know is that Eric was born as a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show was playing (Hot Patootie (Bless My Soul) for anyone who is curious). When it came to compiling my birth playlist back then I wanted upbeat and motivating tracks that I could dance, sing and ultimately push to. 

pinterest friendly image that shows a flat lay of a book, red roses and birth affirmation cards

But this time I've changed my mind. Hypnobirthing touches on using visualisations during labour so I've taken that idea and used it when finding tracks that I will want to listen to. 

Everything I have chosen evokes a memory, creates a mental image or is from something that makes me feel really relaxed. Every song or piece of music is calming and soothing and it is my hope that when my surges begin, instead of being scared and stressed, listening to the playlist will help me stay focused and remember to breathe


What My (Fussy) Toddler Eats | Just Add Ginger

Up to a point, Eric was a really good little eater. He would try lots of foods and didn't really turn a lot down (except avocado, which I still haven't come to terms with). However, on the lead up to him turning two that completely changed and my once adventurous toddler became the fussiest, pickiest little thing and I just wasn't prepared!

It's gotten to a point where I just am having to wing it - which is pretty much the story of my life when it comes to motherhood anyway. I've gotten some advice from the lady who did Eric's two year review which I am trying to make work, but when it comes to meals, it's literally a guessing game as to whether he's going to eat what you put in front of him every single time. 

image shows a flat lay of a variety of foods on a black plate

And that's why I thought I'd write this post. Not only as an insight into what I feed my toddler but also to hopefully give a little support and inspiration to any parent out there who is currently going through the same thing. Because as frustrating a stage as it is, we are not alone in it!

Breakfast - This is easily the time of day when Eric eats the most. He is a creature of habit with breakfast so always asks for an apple or banana and then will have either a pancake, toast or a small pastry (as a treat) with it. Throw in some more fruit and some water and he'll happily munch away with minimal protest. 

Lunch - Before we had Eric's review I used to give him a sandwich, some dried cheerios and some more fruit and a yoghurt or cheese for lunch, but one thing that was suggested at his review was that I try switching lunch and dinner around to see if that helps with Eric's eating. 

So now - if we are not on the go - Eric will have a bigger lunch to dinner. He will have some leftovers, two fish fingers / chicken nuggets and some sort of vegetable or if I'm feeling daring, a jacket potato followed by fruit and cheese or a yoghurt! And it does seem to be working (kind of). Sometimes he will turn his nose up at what's on his plate but more often than not he will eat (or at least pick at) his food. 

Dinner - Eric's appetite definitely decreases as the day goes on, and realising this I have started to give him an earlier dinner and opt for something lighter - a piece of toast with cream cheese and some dry cereal, Weetabix or a scotch pancake with fruit usually go down really well. I give him his dinner in between 4.15-5pm and then if he still shows signs of being hungry I will offer him some milk before bed (although Eric is still not the biggest fan).

Snacks - Snacking is our biggest problem with Eric. If you gave him the chance he would just graze all day (I wonder where he gets that from.) I used to give him a morning and afternoon snack but now I only give him something if I need to bribe him up the stairs for nap time (or bedtime) and then we have the 'biscuits and bed' routine that I mentioned in this post.

However if Eric is showing signs of being really hungry fruit or dairy is always my go-to. Eric is a fiend of fruit so it always is a hit and since he has discovered apples he will happily carry one round with him chomping away. He eats the entire thing so it keeps him occupied for a good while and is normally enough to carry him over to the next mealtime.

pinterest compatible image showing a plate of food and title of accompanying blog post

What meals are a big hit with your little ones? Are there any tactics you use to get your fussy eaters to finish off a meal? Let me know your ideas in the comments.


Our Private Scan Experience At Bump of Churchtown, Southport | Just Add Ginger

After my last pregnancy and how much it affected my mental health, this time round I wanted to go straight into things as prepared as I could be. True enough - I can't be in control of how my pregnancy was going to go, but I could be in command of managing my emotions and feelings of anxiousness that I know so, so well. 

A part of this was booking myself in for some private scans - little milestones I could look forward to if things should get a little rocky or I felt myself start to wobble. I'd heard about Bump of Churchtown from Codie, and after being told some really good things I decided to head there for a little peek in on baby.

Image: Bump of Church-town

Because we found out about Baby no2 so early the first thing I did was book an early reassurance scan. I think we went for this around 7/8 weeks and it was such a good decision to make. Nobody knew we were expecting and I was just so on edge that having the knowledge baby was nestled in there with its heart beating away was the comfort I really needed to carry me through to the dating scan. 

Stepping into the studio it immediately felt so welcoming. The decor and layout of the waiting room feels really intimate and helps take the edge off your nerves as you wait for your appointment - it is almost like you are sitting in someone's living room and the little rustic touches really add to the calm and cosy atmosphere.

Image: Bump of Churchtown

The first scan was so long ago that remembering it all is a bit of a blur but I do remember being so relieved that everything was okay I cried. The whole experience left a good impression on me, so much so that I decided to sign up for the studios scan package , which meant that I would get to come back an additional two times to see baby alongside the scans you receive on the NHS. 

Each time I came back to Bump of Churchtown I felt so well looked after. The staff must see so many women every day but they really do make the experience so special for you. Rachel (owner and sonographer) took the time to point out so many interesting things on the screen and answered any questions that we had. She was very patient with us when it came to bringing Eric (who naturally didn't keep still and wanted to raid all the cupboards and play with everything and really took her time with the scan to ensure we got to spend plenty of quality time with our littlest boy. At no point did we feel rushed or like there was a time crunch working against us. 

As someone who does get worried easily and is often visited by anxious thoughts, opting for private scans really helped to put my mind at rest. The studio is staffed by qualified sonographers so I knew I was in safe hands and Rachel also gave so much insight to what we were seeing during the scan and you just don't get that level of detail at your regular hospital ones (which is completely understandable - #noshade). 

I had private scans with my last pregnancy but going to Bump of Churchtown made the experience much more special - more than I could ever have hoped. Going there has been one of the highlights of this journey and the team made every visit just so wonderful for us. From seeing baby as a little tiny blob to finding out we were having a boy to one last look in at him in 4D I feel like going there has helped my pregnancy become such a positive experience and I actually miss having an appointment to look forward to.

When you find a hidden gem of an independent business that really leaves a lasting impression on you you should shout it from the rooftops and if you are pregnant or know someone who is and you are in the Liverpool area, then you need to book in to Bump of Churchtown. For a calm and comforting atmosphere, exceptional staff and an experience you'll cherish forever you really couldn't ask for a better setting!


Dirty Dancing at the Liverpool Empire* | Just Add Ginger

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There's definitely one thing I really struggle with when it comes to being a parent and that is making time for myself. I find it really tricky. Partly because there are always a million and one other things that need doing and partly because I don't want to miss out on family time. 

flat lay image for playbill for dirty dancing - the classic story on stage with two pink flowers framing the programme

But when SeatPlan reached out and asked me if I wanted a pair of tickets for a show at the Liverpool Empire - well - the opportunity for a very rare night out sans husband and child sounded too good to refuse. So, with one of my friends in tow, on Monday evening we headed out to the city centre to watch Dirty Dancing.

Dirty Dancing is one of those films that is up there on my list of all-time favourites. From the music to the dancing to the absolute dreamboat that is Patrick Swayze all in all I must have seen it about a hundred times if not more. And with being so in love with the film I was really keen to see how it translated to the stage. Would it do Johnny and Baby justice? Or would I be left sitting there unable to separate the stage show from the film? 

official production photography for Dirty Dancing
Image: Alistair Muir // c/o Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage

The minute we stepped into the theatre you could tell everybody was buzzing for the show. Everyone seemed so excited for it to start and were chatting and laughing animatedly amongst themselves. And as the opening music started and the whoops and cheers from us all came right on cue. 

I don't quite know what I was expecting from the show but it was completely captivating. From the seamless set changes to the music to the choreography it was almost like you had been sucked into the film. There were a little differences between the film and the stage production but all in all the story we all know and love so much was exactly the same. 

I'm going to be completely honest - because some of the set changes were really swift I did find myself getting a bit confused as to what was going on. But looking back I can appreciate the decision to do this. With the stage having modular props and sets the show ran really smoothly, drawing your eye from scene to scene with the same smooth transition that emulates the way you watch it on screen. 

official production photography for Dirty Dancing
Image: Alistair Muir // c/o Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage
But now to the part that I'm sure most of you are reading this review for. Did the stage show live up to the film? In a nutshell yes and no. 

The main reason being that I don't think you could ever really fill Patrick Swayze's shoes. He is synonymous with Johnny Castle. Nobody could really portray the character in the same way. And the same with Jennifer Grey. The film and the characters are just too iconic. 

However what the production did do is portray the story in a new way. A fresh way. And if you can see the two as separate entities then you will love the production just as much as the movie. From the inclusion of a live band on stage to Kira Malou's charming and comic portrayal of Baby to the injection of humour in some of the staging it is a really fun show to watch. 

And the dancing ... oh my god the dancing. It was just sensational. Especially that of Simone Covele who plays Penny. The chemistry between her and Michael O'Reilly (Castle) as dance partners was incredible.

Dirty Dancing is a show that is sensual and sexy, seducing you with every song and dance number and drawing you into the story of Johnny and Baby. If you're a fan of the film you will find yourself joining in with those iconic lines ( 'I carried a watermelon' and 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner' got the best reception). And those who are new to the story will get swept away by the production. 

The show is still touring in the UK so if you'd like to catch it, head to SeatPlan to nab tickets while you can. But if the show isn't for you then there are lots more for upcoming shows available across the country (Les Mis is coming to Liverpool in the autumn and you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to be twisting Ryan's arm to taken me to see it)!

Imagery: Alistair Muir - c/o  Dirty Dancing Tour - The Classic Story On Stage

* I was very kindly gifted a pair of tickets by SeatPlan to review in exchange for this post. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer


How I Manage Temper Tantrums | Just Add Ginger

As a parent I am no stranger to tantrums. Eric infamously had his first one at 14 months (over a yoghurt of all things) and well....things have only gotten more interesting since. 

If you have watched Eric's 2 Year Update then you'll know that we feel that since he had his birthday Eric has just decided to grow up. And whereas there are some great improvements in some of his areas of development (he seems to be picking up new words every day) hand in hand with that has come a drastic increase in the intensity of his temper tantrums! 

image shows a mother, father and child sitting together on a blanket in the woods

Now I am by no means an expert. In fact, at the moment with my hormones being all over the place I find managing these tantrums pretty difficult. However it is for this reason that I wanted to share some of the things I do to cope when I do find myself in the middle of a temper storm. These are the things that make things a little bit better and - quite frankly - stop me going insane! 

Stay Calm - Yeah I know - easier said than done right? But as much as trying to cope with a tantrum can make you want to tear your hair out it's important to try and look at things from your child's perspective. I saw a quote recently about toddlers trying to manage their feelings and the importance of the adult to remain calm and it just resonated with me. 

So now I just sit or stand in silence and watch. I practise my "up breathing" (thank you hypnobirthing) and try and stay as level headed as possible. Believe me it isn't always easy, but if I start to get stressed I take a step out the room, have a minute to myself and then head back into the fray. 

Don't Punish The Emotion, Challenge The Behaviour - As he grows up I would never want Eric to think that he could not tell me something. So I'm starting early and when his temper strikes I let him feel. He can't verbally communicate with me so tantrums are his way of expressing himself when he gets completely overwhelmed. 

That being said I do intervene of his behaviour is starting to become unacceptable. Whether that is throwing things, hitting, knocking over furniture or gnawing. He isn't the type of toddler to lash out at others in malice (although the gnawing has been aimed at Ryan and I once or twice) and I'm working hard to not let it get to that point. 

And if he's getting really irate, not paying attention to what he is doing and is looking like he might hurt himself I (if I can) put him in his cot so that I know he is safe.

pinterest pin image from just add ginger - how to manage temper tantrums

Take A Breath - As exhausting as it is for Eric to have a tantrum it can be for me too and sometime I do struggle to hold it together. And that's okay. Because as parents we can't have it together all the time. So, if I know Eric is safe I do step away for a moment, take a deep breath and then carry on. I don't want him to see that I am not coping - he needs me and I need to be there. But I need to be there for myself too. 

Cry Out Of Sight - Once Eric has calmed down and we have moved on from the tantrum I put a pin in how I feel and come back to it when I'm alone or with Ryan. I vent, I cry and I get everything off my chest. You just can't hold on to things as a parent. It isn't fair to you or your child. So at the end of the day I let go of everything that has made me feel angry or frustrated or sad and I move on, ready to start over again the following day.