Welcome home littlest loaf: Cleo’s birth story

And then there were five.

Over the last seven years I’ve been pregnant four times, given birth three, breastfed a total of thirty three months and lost who knows how many hundreds of hours of sleep. I’ve celebrated and argued with my husband, discovered new highs of happiness and lows of exhaustion, felt my heart expand and fallen in love again and again and again. 

Motherhood is a tough gig. It’s easy to lose some of yourself whilst focusing on the lives of little people and I’m definitely deep in that season, attached to a newborn whilst juggling a feisty two and a half year old and her five year old brother starting back at school after the twilight world that was total lockdown.

But being a mummy can also be magical. Maybe it’s the hormones, maybe I’ll feel different when the kids are driving dinosaurs over the baby’s head tomorrow morning at 5am, but these really are the days. Happiness isn’t objects or places or planning ahead but the here and now. Life is really good.

On Friday 5th March 2021 at 6.28pm, Cleo Carole Susannah appeared in our lives and made this family complete. Not wanting to be outdone by her big brother and sister, she arrived the quickest (which, given Joy’s birth story, is saying something) and the biggest – if only by 300g – weighing in at 8.1lb.

The kids and I were paying a doorstep visit to my older brother when I felt the first contraction. Like with Joy, it wasn’t anything painful, just a general tightening around my tummy. I’d secretly been hoping the baby would arrive that day – one day before her due date – because the timing couldn’t have been better, giving her a whole weekend to settle into the family before Nino started back at school. I texted Luke as a heads up but tried to play it down, not wanting to raise anyone’s (ok, mostly my) expectations in case it was a false alarm. 

Heading home I started to time the contractions and as we arrived, the first waves of something closer to pain arrived. I was still slightly in denial but, having played midwife with Joy, Luke was insistent we call my parents over and head to the hospital. We gave the kids an early bath and tea before setting off. 

In the car park I had to pause as a contraction took my breath away. Arriving at the maternity reception, we were shown to a very orderly waiting room which wasn’t quite where we’d expected to be. Then another contraction came and the receptionist quickly clocked that we might be a little further along than she’d thought . . . The midwife admitted us to the Birthing Centre at 5.50pm and less than forty minutes later, our beautiful baby girl was born

Just before Joy arrived, I couldn’t quite contemplate how my heart was going to expand to love another person as much as my two boys. This time round, I knew what was possible, but it wasn’t til Cleo emerged that I was hit by the full weight of that love, that power. Luke wrote down a quote from one of Nino’s story books we both adore which says ‘some things live in places words can’t reach’. That place is where the love I feel for Nino, Joy and now Cleo, lives, somewhere deep but ever present, incomparable, indescribable, inescapable. I feel like I’ve loved them all forever, and know I always will. 

Cleo, we’re still getting to know you. Facially you’re a lot like your brother and sister were at this age, dark and serious and stern. Your eyes are perhaps a little lighter, your hair a little darker, with long piano playing fingers and stretching toes. Personality-wise, I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be the most calm and considered of our lively lot, but we have so much still to learn both from and about you. 

Whoever and whatever you end up being, sweet girl, I’m honoured to call myself your mummy. I love you. 

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Ginger Molasses Cookies - 3

Last week we celebrated Nino’s heart day. Two years since he underwent over ten hours of open heart surgery. Two years in which we’ve all changed and grown in so many ways. Two years full of life and love which somehow also, cliché as it sounds, zipped by in the blink of an eye. Nino’s wasn’t the only heart we celebrated last week. An hour long scan of a tiny, second, fingernail-sized heart came back looking more than positive too. Although we’ll need to monitor that little muscle over the coming weeks, a healthy little life appears to be blossoming and we’re more than over the moon.

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Christmas in the Kitchen with a Ten Month Old

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When Nino was just seven weeks old, two weeks before his open heart surgery, we hired a professional photographer to capture a morning in the life of our little family of three. Those newborn days disappear so quickly that it felt like a precious and important milestone to mark, and, with the operation (hopefully) far behind us, I can now admit I was also scared that those happy moments could be some of our last. This world we live in works in weird and wonderful ways, and two thirds of a year later here we are, happy as can be. A little sleepless, perhaps, but I’d rather be kept awake at night by a bouncing ten month old with a lust for life than intangible fears for its future.

When the same photographer got in touch to say she was keen to capture the preparations of a few families in the run up to Christmas, we jumped at the chance. She describes her photos as ‘imperfect, real, crazy, messy, funny, impossible, bonkers’ and ‘one of the best future gifts you could give to your children’ and I couldn’t agree more. A baby’s first Christmas is an incredibly magical time, and although it will stay etched in my memory forever, I’m so happy Nino will now have something special to look back on too. Continue reading

Spelt & Apple Star Biscuits

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Last weekend I was chatting to someone and mentioned that Nino isn’t going to be allowed refined sugar until he turns one. The topic came up because we were eating flapjacks which Nino was desperate to try – you know, that full body baby intention with propeller arms and slightly wild eyes – and this mean mama diverted his attention with a crust of bread instead. Lots of people I discuss this no-sugar rule with think it’s a perfectly sensible idea in an era where we’ve come to see the sweet stuff as the root of all evil, but this particular someone looked at me with the weary eyes of a parent of more than one child. ‘Wait til you’re onto littlest loaf number three, you’ll be feeding them birthday cake for breakfast without batting an eyelid’.

True as this may be, I’m sticking with the courage of my first time mum convictions for now and allowing Nino sugar only in the form of fruit, milk etc for the next two months. There’s a whole rainbow of incredible natural sweets he’s been working his way through before anything more processed. And although straight up juice is a no-no for those teeth (six so far with an adorable middle gap), when an irresistible urge to bake takes hold of me, there’s the possibility of naturally sweetened wholesome treats like these spelt and apple stars.

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A Day in the Life of a Seven Month Old Baby

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Since becoming a mum, I’ve adored reading about others’ experiences with their babies, devouring ‘day in the life’ posts and watching mummy vlogs while Nino naps and I work out (true life, sad but true). I appreciate this post may not be for everyone, but life is speeding by so quickly at the moment that I wanted to capture this sweet time for my sake as much as anyone else’s. If baby stuff is your bag, I hope you’ll enjoy these random ramblings; if not, I’ll back next week with a cake you’re not going to want to miss 🙂 Continue reading

Rhubarb Rye Crumble Tart + Stem Ginger Cardamom Ice Cream

Rhubarb Rye Crumble Tart

Time both flies and stands still when you have a newborn. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been home from hospital for over a month, that Nino will be six weeks old on Friday and while I feel like we’re really beginning to get to know this little personality, at the same time he changes on a daily basis. Life is sweet, if more than a little sleep deprived, and I know I’ll look back on these weeks in the months to come and wonder where they went. Continue reading

Blood Orange & Pistachio Pavlovas

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Over the years, friends have sought advice about relationships. I’m not an overly qualified – or interfering – agony aunt kind of a person, I just mean those conversations that come up over morning coffees and late night cocktails as people wonder if a particular love interest is working out, are they worth the extra effort and ‘is he or she THE ONE’? One friend, while drawing up a list of pros and cons about their partner, asked how they’d truly know if this was the love of their life and my answer – the fact they were writing that list and even questioning the relationship – was simply, you’ll just know. Yes there will be ups and downs and reasons to feel frustrated with, or maybe even momentarily hate, the most important person in your life, but beyond all shadow of a doubt, that underlying love and need to be together will win out. True love is unconditional, all consuming and inescapable. Continue reading

Welcome Home Baby Nino: Our Birth Story

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At 7.22pm on Friday 5th February, Nino Adrian Maurice Doran came storming into the world weighing 7lb 5oz. With lots of dark hair and navy blue eyes (for now), he’s the most perfect specimen of a human being I’ve ever seen. And although it happens every minute of every day in every single country around the world, I still can’t quite believe that we created a human being from scratch, that we get to take him home and that he’s ours to keep for all time. Continue reading

Coconut Pancakes with Pomegranate & Figs

Coconut Pancakes with Pomegranate & Figs
To my darling boy,

Today your Dad and I celebrate our eleven year anniversary. Not of getting married – we did that just over two years ago in Kew Gardens under blazing sunshine and surrounded by all of our favourite people in the world: I’ll show you the photos when you’re big enough to roll your eyes and be bored and embarrassed by them – but of meeting for the first time. We were twenty, at university, fresh faced and with no idea what would happen in one year – let alone eleven – except that we seemed to have fallen in love.

We talked about the future from fairly early on, not marriage and kids and mortgages in any sort of sensible grown up way, just a mutual understanding we needed to be together, and that everything would turn out all right if we had each other in our lives. When conversation did turn to children, we knew we wanted lots of you, couldn’t wait to see what would happen when our features and personalities combined (my eyesight, Luke’s ears please) and even had a favourite boy’s name long before you first appeared as a kidney bean-sized heartbeat on the ultrasound scan.  Continue reading

Leek & Potato Pizzette + News!

Leek Potato Pizzette
The morning after the launch party for my cookbook, back in June, I woke up early with a racing heart, a slight sicky feeling and butterflies in my stomach. Given the gallons of prosecco that were consumed the night before, this shouldn’t have been surprising. Except that I hadn’t been drinking. Twenty one weeks later and it’s about time I shared some important news with you. I think you might guess where I’m going with this . . .  Continue reading