Pregnancy: The day my belly button changed, trimester 2 to 3

Looking back now from the lofty heights of week 31 of pregnancy, pregnancy at week 22 for me was a breeze. At week 22, I popped to the loo in work and it was only when I looked down I realised something was different - my belly button. It hadn't yet done that completely flattened out thing, or the popping out thing but it was definitely different. I'd spent the last few weeks trying to tell if I looked pregnant or just like I'd had a big meal, and trying to tell if I was 'bumpy' enough or if my bump was too small compared to other people at my stage. I guess the answer to all of that was, and still is, (as annoying as it is to hear) that everyone is different and will experience it in different ways! There is no right or wrong answer, just answers, lots of answers.

Now on reflection the majority of the second trimester was lovely, I could still go to the gym, movement was still fairly easy, I had my appetite back. I even felt like I had that pregnancy glow everyone talks about, but seems like a lie to keep pregnant women happy. Fast forward only a few weeks and I'd developed eczema on my face, cramps in my legs and a lovely bout of acid reflux after almost everything that I ate - not so enjoyable.

When I was a child I'd had very mild eczema in little patches behind my knees and in the creases of my elbows, and in adulthood I'd had the odd bout of it including on my face, but usually it was reactive (probably to some new product I'd tried, certain brands of fake tan being one of them), and it would clear up with an antihistamine. Now obviously antihistamines are a no go so for weeks I struggled on with red, itchy patches developing all over my face until it got to the point that I was quite miserable because nothing I was trying was working. I even stopped wearing make up in case that was the cause. I finally went to my GP who prescribed a cream to use sparingly which cleared it up within a week. But within a few days of not using the cream it returned with a vengeance. Now it isn't completely gone but I'm able to manage it better now. I don't know if its just luck or a combination of things but I've added more vitamin C to my diet, switched to using coconut oil to cleanse and the sun seems to have helped too.

I've upped my water intake massively to help with the leg cramps but there are a few times I've woken in the night with my calves cramped like nothing else and had to wake my husband up to stretch them, so he's started helping me to stretch my legs before bed to try and prevent it. And the reflux, although not pleasant, and not being able to pinpoint exactly what foods cause it, I'm managing with standard pregnancy approved antacids, and making sure I sit up properly to eat and for at least an hour after eating. It still creeps up at night, usually before bed, but I understand it's because this lovely little baby is growing and taking up all the room where my organs should be, so I kind of let it get away with it, knowing its only temporary.

I will eventually write a bit more about this third trimester but for now I can say that for me it's been difficult, I went from feeling great, to little annoyances, to a couple of really bad weeks, to the point where I am now, which is that all those little niggles mean nothing in the grand scheme of things so I'm trying very hard not to complain about them. A returning health problem I'd first had last year (when I wasn't pregnant) and had been operated on for over a year ago returned, with perfect timing, the week before we were due our pre-baby holiday in Barcelona. Given antibiotics, I went away anyway (after many doctor's visits, and a trip to the hospital to make sure there was no risk), knowing that when I came back I may need to have another operation. I'd already had a break down in front of the surgeon I met with because I didn't want a general anaesthetic while pregnant but was told it was necessary.

While we were away the issue got worse to the point of spending 10 hours in a Barcelona hospital, (whilst I can't really fault the care received, I can say I am eternally grateful for our NHS), where I received a local anaesthetic, several antibiotic drips (I made sure they were pregnancy safe) and paracetemol for the pain. I was able to finally enjoy the last few hours of our trip almost pain free but I'd only just coped with it all for the first few days - so much for relaxation. Another trip to a UK hospital when we returned confirmed that what they had done in Spain was fine and since then I've thanked my lucky stars that it wasn't any worse.

Now at 31 weeks I'm counting down to finishing work and then our magical due date, but in the meantime I've been using my rest time to research as much as possible.

It's been quite nice because there are a lot of bloggers and 'social influencers' who seem to have been pregnant lately, are currently pregnant or have recently given birth, so reading about their experiences has been quite comforting. Some people would rather feel their way around things like this themselves, but I am most definitely in the camp of the more research the better! Give me all the pregnancy books, show me all of the 'One Born Every Minute' episodes and tell me all your stories - honestly!

So, with that being said, if like me you want all of the information I have compiled a list of my current favourite books, people and beyond that I have been paying attention to. Because the way I see it, the more I know, the more informed decisions I can make, and as a super organised person, the better (and calmer) that makes me feel, because I feel empowered and in control!

1. Natasha Corrett

Natasha of Honestly Healthy is quite a few weeks further long than me currently, but it's been nice to follow her journey on Instagram and her blogs and to understand that as healthy as you try to be in normal every day life before pregnancy, sometimes you need to listen to your body and just do what you can - and if, like me, that means eating pizza and falling asleep on the sofa at 8pm then that's OK, it's all about finding a new balance that works for you. And trust me, the most important thing is just getting through the day sometimes. Plus it's inspiring to follow someone who is running their own business while pregnant, hats off!

2. Madeline Shaw

Another health and wellbeing inspiration who has been completely honest about her current pregnancy and all the things that go along with it. Madeline is a couple of weeks ahead of me, so it's nice to see how she is handling her pregnancy and the cravings, and sickness and exercising with a bump, plus her recipes are great - healthy and tasty.

3. What to Expect...

I bought What to Expect When You're Expecting because, well, I thought that was what was expected when you're pregnant! It's actually been really useful to read up on all the symptoms you might experience at different stages, if a bit of information overload at times. So far I've just been reading the month by month sections as and when they apply to me, but at some point I'll try and read ahead - so I know what to expect (ha!).

4. Clean and Lean Pregnancy Guide by James Duigan

I own most of the other Clean and Lean books and have always loved their recipes, meal plans, workouts, positive outlook and general guidance - they pretty much kick started myself and my husband in to clean eating so as soon as I found out about their pregnancy guide I had to have it. This book is written much more around advice and guidance to help you have a healthy pregnancy and is less about the recipes. I've found the workout routines really useful and although I've modified them slightly by adding a cardio warm up and some light weights to some of the exercises, they gave me a really good basis for my second trimester fitness regime. Sadly, for different reasons the most exercise I've been able to do recently is walking but the book is definitely useful if you want to maintain or get healthy during your pregnancy.

5. The Hypnobirthing Book

After all of the reading and research I found myself very drawn to the idea of Hypnobirthing. I'm yet to read this book in full and I obviously can't vouch for how good it is until after the event, but the concept is that we can train ourselves to treat labour and birth as a positive experience, try and remove the stress and that this will all improve the experience of labour and birth for ourselves and for our baby in general. I'm yet to start any antenatal classes but this book comes highly recommended and I'm looking forward to taking this all on board. Considering before I got pregnant I feared giving birth like nothing else, the whole thought terrified me, my mind set has changed considerably since doing all of my research and, as my mum says, 'it's in there now, it has to come out one way or the other'. So if I can make that whole experience as positive as possible I'll feel like I've done something right.

Do any other mums or mummies to be have any recommendations?

Oh and my belly button is now almost completely flat (and, I fear, on the verge of popping slightly).

Pregnancy: Trimester 1, coping with 'morning sickness',

I had so many blogs written before Christmas to do with getting back on track and resolutions, all ready to go, and then just before Christmas found out that my husband and I are expecting our first baby, and all those ideas went out of the window. So now that I'm (quite a bit) past the tricky first trimester I thought I would write a little bit about my experiences with those first 12-13 weeks.

I feel incredibly lucky to have not suffered terribly with 'morning sickness' - although anyone will tell you that the 'sickness' can occur any time of the day and is certainly not confined to the morning. And although I think I am one of the lucky ones (in that I only threw up once, at home, in the evening) I did have terrible nausea from about week 7 up to week 13-ish. It felt pretty much like a constant hangover. I was also very, very fatigued (as in falling asleep as soon as I'd eaten my evening meal). I could only stomach foods like pizza, bread, chips - not the healthiest of meals, but I only ate what I could stomach and even then could only handle small portions at a time. Vegetables were off the menu and still kind of are, and even though the only thing that made me feel better was eating, anything I did eat would go down OK and then would make me feel a bit 'delicate' for the next couple of hours, though I was very pleased to keep it all down, bar the one incident.

This all meant that I had to eat ginger oat biscuits while getting ready for work of a morning to halt the nausea, eat chips and gravy for lunch because I could smell it and the smell didn't make me feel sick, and try and force a smoothie down when I could just to get some vegetables in my system. Luckily I could still eat fruit and would often crave it so I managed to eat a good fruit salad a day for the vitamins. But carbs, they were my main friend and I now have a food full of freezer foods (fish fingers, chicken burgers, potato waffles) that were just about all I could eat and now no longer feel like - pregnancy probs.

But, as I said, I feel really, really lucky, and having heard about other people's experiences, so far, I've come off lightly. I'm not sure how much weight I've put on, I only get weighed when I go to the midwife, and although I couldn't fit in to my usual jeans (damn button just wouldn't fasten) at about week 12 I only started to get a proper bump at week 19-20. Comparing myself to other people just was making me nervous but lots of people I speak to say they didn't show until their 20-something week. I have a rounded, hard-ish feeling bump that starts from my mid torso so I know it's developing, it's just happened rather slowly, and can just look like a little food baby at times - it also looks bigger or smaller depending on the time of day, how I'm sitting/standing and how much I've eaten.

At about 13 weeks I started working out again, I'd done nothing from about week 6 when I found out, other than walking quite a lot so it's been nice to get back in to the gym although not doing anywhere near the amount I was - a 10 minute uphill treadmill walk, a 30 minute mat based workout routine with very light weights (focusing on legs, arms and back) and a good stretch is the new order of the day, and then I follow that with 20 lengths in the pool (taking it nice and easy). And, boy, do I sleep after that! It's amazing how much easier it is to feel out of breath and hot these days, so I make sure to drink plenty of water before and after any workout, even if it means extra trips to the bathroom.

I've managed to keep up with work, a few people have even said that if I hadn't told people they probably still wouldn't have guessed, because nothing has changed. My job is desk based so it's not strenuous but believe me I am tired at the end of the day - pregnancy hasn't affected the way I work or my capacity to work, it just takes a little more out of me mentally at the end of the day.

And in all honesty, that is about all I've experienced. I can't stress just how sick I felt for 6-7 weeks but I really do feel for anyone who has severe morning sickness, I can't even imagine how hard it must be to deal with. And I'm finding it funny how I, and I'm sure countless other women, wish their whole lives for flatter stomachs and at this time I'm wishing for my belly to grow! So for now I'll slather myself in stretch mark oil and try and get vegetables back in to my diet as much as possible!

Last days of summer - Brunching and Lunching in London

A few weeks ago now we visited a couple of friends in London, making the most of some of the last days of summer by spending a weekend with people we don't see often enough.

We wanted to stay away from the busy shopping streets, take in a bit of culture and (most importantly) catch up over brunch!

About the Young Idea - Music, food and culture

You may or may not have heard of The Jam - a late 70's/early 80's mod/punk/rock band who's songs include "Going Underground" and "Town Called Malice"? No?

Well, if you haven't they were pretty huge in the UK, and their songs continue to be played in indie bars and clubs today. Their mod style was fiercely popular and their fans are pretty die hard.