Thursday, August 30, 2012


  • You return more exhausted than when you left and then catch a tummy bug that wipes you out for days. 

  • You spend the first three days after returning home failing to reach the summit of the Basecamp Laundry, only to be set back even further by the vomiting bug - because little ones don't rush to the toilet, they puke over everything.

  • It's left to yours truly to do all the packing and unpacking, remembering things for all weathers, all activities, and again when it's time to leave. Wo betide if mum should forget something such as Pjs for the kids, or have a terrible memory for anything.

  • You decamp to a house so basic and badly built that it makes caravans look good. 

  • Kids sleep in draughty rooms that give them sniffles and have barely a see-through white sheet as a curtain. Cue 6.30am starts every day. Too early!

  • Acoustics in the house are such that once one person is up, everyone is awake. So much for a holiday lie-in.

  • You take loads of stuff like wellies and wetsuits that you never use, which means you spend ages at both ends trying to stuff everything into the car whilst the kids go mental with boredom. 

  • You spend too much money renting a place you hope is going to be a lovely home-from-home, but it's all potluck really. Needless to say, it makes our own shoebox seem like a palace. Makes coming home more rewarding.

  • You become dependent on a landlord who is only interested in your money. I doubt he has even put down mice traps in the attic since we reported the mice problem up there. 

  • You eat too much and drink too much wine because "I'm on holiday, why not".

    Despite all this, you have a wonderful time, bonding with the kids and hubby too, creating memories the little ones will cherish all their lives.


  •  At least we won't be going on a big family holiday for at least another year, houraay. 

    Except me & the hubby, we are going away next weekend for my 40th birthday. Yippie no kids. They say you need a holiday to recover from a holiday, that is so true in this case. 


    Feel free to add your own problem with holiday comments below... I'd love to hear yours too...

Friday, August 17, 2012


I love my home - it's where I chose to give birth to my babies - but every now and again, the walls cave in on me and it gets too much.

I need to get away.

Last week I had my first break ever away from the children. I went back to London for two nights to reconnect with myself, and it was great, not being on red alert nor saying "Don't" the whole time.

This weekend we're going away as a family. All of us, hubby is finally going to be off work for more than a day at a time and we can all spend some quality time together. We're even taking my parents so that we might enjoy ourselves, rather than it being a repeat of last year's Enduarance Roadshow when we went away with two crazy toddlers and a newborn and it lashed rain all week.

Chaos Roadshow

Last year I came back from holiday suddenly falling in love with all my home comforts and everything there is to do with kids around here.

Why is it that a change of scene is manna for our souls?

And why do we need to go away in the first place?

I think it's because we need to re-programme our brains slightly. That we need to be more external all of a sudden, and realise that there is life out there waiting to be explored. That we need to get our of our rut and laugh a little.

That we need to live a little bit more, differently and out of synch with our usual routines.

I'm contemplating what to pack for this chaos roadshow now; wetsuits, wellies, rainmacks and bikes. Thankfully I'm a lot more relaxed than I was last year when I had a screaming newborn consuming my every thought.

I'll probably be craving home after a few late nights and early mornings prompted by kids out of their comfort zones unable to sleep without blackout blinds.

Craving the safety of home where we have high bolts on the external doors so the kids can't escape onto the road, and a garden that is unescapable.

But sometimes we have to push ourselves to do something we know will provide positive early memories for the kids, because holidays to beaches is what childhood is made of.

And if only to prove to my eldest that our wet week in Kenmare last year wasn't the best holiday ever - as he still asks people if they've been to Kenmare because it's amazing.

I'm excited now, because we're providing a new experience that the kids and we will remember all our lives.

Even if we're only going to Wexford, hoping for sunshine.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Some people might find this disgusting, others could find it inspiring. I took the plunge after reading an article about it in a parenting magazine, so I wanted to share my experiences to educate others. 

An edited version of this recently appeared in the Cuidiu [Irish Childbirth Trust] National Newsletter. 


If there was a miracle pill that promised to speed up your recovery and energise you after a hard labour and pushing out a baby, then we would all be taking it wouldn't we? 

Not quite.

Most people dismiss this pill as disgusting, immoral and regard those of us who have taken it as bonkers hippies. Why? Because this pill is made of placenta.
It is something most people balk at, can’t even look at in fact, preferring to leave it behind in hospital ready to be incinerated with the next batch of medical waste. 

But what if you brought it home with you and used it for what nature intended? To heal and nourish. After all, it nurtured life inside us for 9 months and is full of amazing nutrients and hormones that have magically grown a perfect little human being.

In most of the countries, the placenta is treated with the great importance it truly deserves. In Asian countries where less medicalized birth is more common, women believe that eating the placenta or ‘Mother Cake’ as it’s often called, helps guard against postpartum depression, increases lactation and heals the uterus post birth. In fact, the latin word for placenta is actually flat cake.

My own theory is that because birth in Western societies has becomes so medicalized and less natural over the last century, we have become totally squeamish about all things gooey, especially the sight of blood, body parts and placenta. So when ancient rituals such as eating the placenta is resurrected, people think you have lost your mind. Many people thought I did when I told people what I was doing. Even people who I thought would have been more of a hippy than me.

But it was my third child - and by this point, nobody could influence my decisions anymore. My first placenta I’d left in the hospital (unwanted and no idea of its benefits), buried my second under a fuscia in my garden after a home birth and on my third I decided I needed to do something more holistic. Quite early on in my pregnancy, I read an article in Juno by Lynnea Shrief, who runs IPEN (International Placenta Encapsulation Network) in the UK. She was writing about how she was making a business out of encapsulating dried and ground up placenta, selling kits and for those who pay extra, taking away their placentas and encapsulating it for them.

There are currently no IPEN encapsulators living in Ireland but that is all about to change with the first training session of 8 participants during June in Sligo. Lynnea Shrief is doing the training so that specialists over here can offer the same service as her network in the UK. She said she had “been flooded with emails from Irish mothers searching for local specialists” and believed there was “enough growing interest in Ireland for placenta remedies to become a successful and popular post-natal service”.

My mind was made up. This is what I would do. With two other kids under the age of 4 to look after, I couldn’t afford to feel  tired or depressed after birth. I needed a quick and healthy post-natal recovery. I weighed up the costs. A full kit (including rental of a dehydrator and grinder) costs €135 to hire (including postage back to UK). Or I could pay €29 for the basic kit, which includes empty capsules, jar, recipe and special instructions. I went for the basic kit and picked up a coffee bean grinder in Argos for €8.

I figured that between my husband and I we could wash and steam my placenta, slice into small strips and bake it in the oven on a low heat until it was crispy, then grind into a fine powder, then pour into 200 capsules. It became our post-birth project, each of us doing a little bit when we had the energy.
On the second day, I woke up to find a jar-full of placenta capsules, magically put together whilst I was sleeping by my kindly elf of a husband. He said it gave him something to do whilst I was consumed by marathon feeding and sleeping sessions with the baby.

The only downside I remember was that the smell lingered around the house for a few days - kind of like burnt liver, but that didn’t bother me any more because I knew it had been a part of my lovely new baby, and by that stage, all my queasiness about blood-filled placentas has dissipated because I had handled and washed it right from the moment it was delivered.

In fact, because I had done so much research on the benefits of ingesting my placenta, I had even lost my fear of eating it raw (which was why I chose encapsulation in the first place - it seemed to be the less gross way of getting it back into my system). The basic kit contains a recipe for raw placenta smoothie (see below) which claims to give a massive hormonal kick-start when you’re shot to pieces after a long labour and birth. And because I had laboured overnight and lost a full-night’s sleep, I jumped at the chance to have a rejuvenating smoothie an hour after being excruciatingly stitched for a second degree tear. I figured I needed all the help I could get for healing to begin on my body.

Tom stoked up the blender and cut about a tablespoon of the finest section of placenta, washed it and wizzed it up with loads of summer fruits, bananas, citrus fruits and milk. I sat at my kitchen table staring at a pint of placenta smoothie - and drank it all in a few minutes. It was delicious. To be honest, it just tasted of smoothie, which is a massive pick-me-up in itself. If it wasn’t for Tom and my midwife watching me for a reaction, I would have totally forgotten I was drinking something that had just come out of my body.

The effect was definitely rejuvenating. Not only was this my complete 5-a-day in one quick blast, it was also an injection of iron, hormones, protein, nutrients, and b vitamins. Just the thought of its potency energised me. Once the tablets were prepared the next day, I started taking about 9 a day, in 3 batches.
Was my recovery quicker than previous births? Hard to say, really. I was two years older than my last birth at 38 - and I’d had a hard pregnancy and birth, my baby was nearly 2 weeks over and nearly 2 pounds heavier than my other two babies.

I felt I was more susceptible to post-natal depression this time around, especially since I had been quite anemic during pregnancy and my energy levels were at an all-time low. And particularly given that this baby had been a shock and I was feeling very overwhelmed by the task of mothering 3 babies. My eldest was only 3 and 3 months, my middle one nearly 2 and now I had a major addition to my workload. 

All that I had read about ingesting placenta was that it was a great way of beating the baby blues. Perhaps simply by arming myself better for recovery this time around - via the simple act of making these pills - I’d gifted myself the placebo effect of preventing post-natal depression. 

Ok I had days when I thought I was going crazy and I wanted to run away from their screaming (I still do), but I didn’t, I managed to keep it all together. Somehow. And I think in part, the pills were in some way responsible for that. The other benefit I was keen to encourage was increased milk supply, as I’d struggled to keep up with my first boy, my girl in the middle wasn’t a big feeder, but now my 2nd boy was big and demanded a lot of milk from me. Amazingly, I managed to produce enough milk for his large demands. I did take the odd tablet of Motillium during his growth spurts, as well as doubling my intake of placenta pills - and this got me through. A year on, I still have about a third of the capsules in my fridge as I stopped taking them after two months. Apparently, they’ll keep and be beneficial to me during menopause because of the hormones they contain.

Would I recommend it? Yes, especially mums who are worried about depression, exhaustion, milk supply, and have other children to look after. Considering that the placenta is a completely natural substance, created uniquely by us for us, encapsulation is worth considering if you can get over the squeamishness of eating something that once lived inside your body.

Benefits of placenta:
Placenta is considered to be a very powerful medicine as it is life giving and stores the vital essence for the baby.
The placenta is rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals that may help fight depression symptoms, such as vitamin B6. It is also rich in iron and protein, useful for women recovering from childbirth.
It can help reduce post-partum bleeding and triggers the body to heal internal wounds quicker.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using placenta medicinally for thousands of years - mainly to help with lactation.
Placenta pills may also help to:
• Increase general energy
• Allow a quicker return to health after birth
• Decrease likelihood of baby blues and post natal depression
• Decrease likelihood of iron deficiency
• Decrease likelihood of insomnia or sleep disorders

Recipe for Fresh Placenta Smoothie

Cut and wash approx 3 inch round piece of raw placenta. Chop up: Apple, Orange, Banana, add Summer fruits (raspberries, blackberries or strawberries - can be used from frozen). Blend fruits and add water or milk until drinkable consistency. Drink straight away.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Something strange has happened since I left London nearly 6 years ago.

London suddenly got friendlier, buildings got finished and people starting smiling. 

It was a delight going back for a few days earlier this week. 

It may be that the Olympics are currently on, which could explain a lot of the happy shiny people.

Or it may be that I'm not bogged down by the rat race like I was back then, working solidly, stressed and fearful. I now look at people less suspiciously and smile automatically, no more hiding away for me.

What I forgot about London was the noise. Not just the hussle and bustle but the general ambient noise from traffic and airplanes flying overhead constantly. This kept me awake at night, as my norm these days is Irish country quiet and double glazed windows. I never used to hear it in London and nothing prepares you for the shock of it again after a long break. 

How strange that I never noticed it before. 

What I found unsettling about London was the masses of people wearing purple and orange Team London uniforms, or any uniforms for the matter. In my absence, everything seems to have gone a little bit more American ( or was this just for the Olympics? ), the tube now has Team Transport helpers, even Pret a Manger now has Team Pret Tshirts! Dear or dear!

Then there's the army everywhere - it's like a military invasion surrounded by bright colours and corporate sponsorship. I met an 18-year-old army female cadet guarding an Olympic venue saying this was her first assignment and that her mum was relieved she wasn't being sent to Afghanistan. 

There just seemed to be a lot of "helpers" standing around, sudden crowds of people, too many long diversions in order to control the sheep ( sorry crowds ) and a lot of helicopters overhead. Oh and loads of people cycling around on hideously clunky bluey grey bikes cynically called 'Boris Bikes'.

I couldn't get near the Olympic stadium/village - and I almost missed my return plane to Ireland trying!

As close as I got!

When I left, London had just won the bid for the Olympics and no one thought the city would ever deliver on time, no matter organise such a massive event. But by BeJeesus, they seem to have done it, with military precision and millions of Team helpers. 

But MY, HOW YOU HAVE CHANGED London. You used to be about the coolness. 

I just can't decide if this is good or bad - but then that is not for me to decide anymore.