2 December 2020

Newborn Essentials

Maggie May's Newborn Essentials

Back when I was six months pregnant, I wrote a post featuring my pregnancy essentials - think non-alcoholic gin, maternity jeans and stretch mark solutions - and it went down so well that I knew I'd have to write one for those first few weeks of parenthood. 

Baby MM was just 2.5 weeks old when this picture was taken, and it makes my husband and I go all gooey and emotional when we look at it - which, if I'm honest, is exactly what we do when we look at him now at the grand old age of 3 months! Those early days are the emotional rollercoaster everyone promises - you are hit with waves of such love, elation and joy that you end up weeping into your cup of tea with happiness, but then after several consecutive nights of 1-2 hours sleep, you find yourself crying due to sheer exhaustion. Anything which makes the transition easier is therefore much appreciated.

There were several lifesavers for us; we were lucky enough to find ourselves in between lockdowns when Baby MM was born, meaning my parents were able to stay with us and help out for the first few days. Having someone on hand to do the washing {so much washing, right from the start!}, keep the kettle boiling and provide baby snuggles when you're desperate for just a 20 minute nap is something both Mr MM and I would 100% recommend. Obviously you want your helpers to be exactly that: helpers, and not guests who expect you to be serving up three meals a day and playing the role of hostess with the mostess. In our case, Mama Maggie May ensured I always had a plate of toast lathered with jam and butter in front of me, and neither she nor my dad batted an eyelid when I didn't get changed out of pyjamas for several days. They were a godsend!

Aside from helpful parents/grandparents, we found that having the right 'baby stuff' from the start made a big difference too. It's so hard to know what to buy for your first newborn, and I spent many hours trawling the internet for reviews and articles in a bid to find out. There were a few products that we discovered after Baby MM was born, because we suddenly found a need for it, and I'm sure most new parents would agree that some of the purchases you make turn out to be rarely used, whereas late additions can prove invaluable. That being said, it certainly takes away a lot of the stress if you can do most of your baby and nursery shopping before their arrival.

Hopefully you will find our recommendations useful, and please let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all about any of the products listed. I never buy anything online without scouring the reviews first, but I know it can sometimes be difficult to find the exact answers about specifics. Feel free to quiz me!

- P R A M. Bit of an obvious one really, isn't it? Choosing your pram is a big deal, and actually a very personal choice. Amongst my friends alone there is a huge range, and it very much depends on what your intention is {Will you be using public transport? Will it fit in your car boot? Will you be using it on walks in the countryside or just pavements?} as well as your budget. It's the purchase that took us the longest to decide upon, with my husband swotting up on Which? reviews whilst I looked back at the Made for Mums award winners from the last decade... There was one in particular I fell in love with from the beginning, and luckily it turned out to be an excellent pram to use as well as look at! So we chose the Ocarro from Mamas & Papas* and we absolutely love it. There was a 6-piece bundle available at the time we bought it {along with the pushchair came a carrycot, car seat adaptors, a changing bag, footmuff and coffee cup holder} and we went for the Grey Mist. Not only does it look lovely, but it is brilliant on muddy tracks and bumpy roads, steers easily and most importantly, folds and unfolds in one quick and easy motion. 

- N I G H T L I G H T. Not something I would have thought about myself, but I stumbled across this product* while perusing the John Lewis website one evening. It's so good that we ended up buying two! It's an adaptor which fits to your usual light; if you flick the switch once, the soft nightlight comes on {and the brightness can be adjusted}, and if you flick twice, your normal light comes on. We keep the low setting on overnight so I can check him in his crib easily {see below} and see to breastfeed. We also have one in his nursery so that if we change him overnight or want to rock him in the nursing chair, we don't wake him up with bright lights. 

- C H A N G I N G  M A T. Again, another obvious one - but I was delighted to find this mattress* that isn't ugly or garish! The neutral sheep pattern looks perfect in the nursery, it's cushioned, and easy to wipe clean - a very important factor. I'd also recommend a changing table - a few people told us we didn't need one, but it is so much nicer for your back if you can squeeze one in! We bought ours as part of a nursery furniture set from Silver Cross.

- B A B Y  B A T H. Baby MM hated his first couple of baths, screaming as soon as he was lowered into the water. We went to visit my parents when he was a few weeks old and they'd bought this* for us to use when we stay with them. As soon as we placed him in it, the crying stopped and he looked around calmly. Now he absolutely loves bath time and we find it actually calms him down if he's in a grump! I think the baby bath really helps as he feels supported and comfortable, and the plug makes it so easy to drain out some water if needed - it's a product I have recommended to several of my mum friends, and they love it too! 

- N I P P L E  C R E A M. When I got this* out of my hospital bag, I was delighted when the midwife told me it was the best product out there for preventing sore and cracked nipples. I'd simply chosen the one which I'd heard of before, and had been impressed by the global five-star ratings. I can see why; despite breastfeeding for hours through the day and night, and initially having issues with a difficult latch {due to Baby MM having a tongue tie which was ultimately treated} the soothing cream provided a level of protection and prevented any damage. I found I didn't have to use it anymore after the first month or so, but up until then I made sure there were tubes dotted around the house!

- B E D S I D E  C R I B. We were incredibly lucky that Mr MM's brother and sister-in-law gifted us their bedside crib*, as it is absolutely wonderful! It attaches to the side of our bed, and with the option to open up the side it means we feel like we are sleeping cosily with Baby MM whilst being safe and comfortable for us all. If he becomes unsettled in the night, I can simply reach over to him without having to really move, and when he needs feeding it's easy to pick him up. I can't really imagine having it any other way.

- M A T T R E S S  P R O T E C T O R S. Following on from the above, it's been essential for us to have a surplus of these as we have a baby who suffers with a lot of vomiting and reflux... These ones* were included with the gift of the crib and are lovely and soft; they wash beautifully too. We picked up one of these* too and it's just as good. Unbelievably, despite Baby MM's best efforts, not a spot has made it through onto the mattress. Definitely worth the money! 

- B A B Y  W I P E S. There are so many to choose from, and although it's advised to stick to cotton wool and water to start with, before long you'll want to be armed with wipes so you can tackle all sorts of disasters! I decided to try these* at first as I liked the fact they'd been approved by the National Eczema Association, and had many reviews commenting on how gentle they were. They are more expensive than some other brands, but we both think they're a really good product and have continued to order them - we now get them in boxes of 9 packs as it works out a bit cheaper and keeps us stocked up. 

- P L A Y M A T. I spent many hours researching all of the different playmats out there, and with hindsight I think I became a bit fixated on the topic...! But I wanted one which was fun for Baby MM and good for his development without being a complete eyesore in our living room. After much discussion we chose this one*, and I can honestly say that we have used it every single day since he was two weeks old. He LOVES it. In the last fortnight he has worked out how to hit the keys on the piano and is so pleased with himself when he hears the notes! The tummy time cushion is a useful addition too, and the textured sensory book is brilliant.   

- B A T H  J U G. When I bought this*, Mr MM accused me of making unnecessary purchases, and said that any plastic jug would do. To an extent I agreed with him, but I couldn't resist, and now I think it's an excellent addition to bath time; the bright blue colour grabs Baby MM's attention, and the rubber lip is great for preventing water getting in his eyes. If you're looking for a present for parents-to-be, this would be a good one!

- M I L K  C A T C H E R. I'm not going to delve into breastfeeding in this post - a huge topic for another day! - but if you're looking for a simple breast pump which shouldn't play havoc with your milk supply, then this is the one* most people recommend. It's different to a standard manual or electronic breast pump in that you're not actively stimulating the breast to express milk, but instead using gentle suction to encourage let-down on one side while you feed on the other. On my midwife and health visitor's advice I made sure not to use this for the first month so as not to disrupt my milk supply in those crucial weeks, but since then I have managed to build up an excellent stock of breast milk in the freezer from using just this!

- S L E E P I N G  B A G. I can highly recommend The Lullaby Trust's website for advice on safe sleep for babies, and I spent quite a bit of time reading their guidance and product recommendations when I was pregnant. Based on this, we decided to get sleeping bags for Baby MM to sleep in instead of traditional blankets {although we did use blankets for the first few weeks when he was tiny!} and these* are the original and the best {we have two which are very easy to use and wash brilliantly}. Be sure to check the tog measurement and weight restriction before buying as they do vary. 

- S E N S O R Y  T O Y. You don't need to go mad with toys for a newborn - let's face it, they can't really do much! - but it won't be long before they're looking around for stimulation and exciting distractions. This little chap* is much loved the world over - rated 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon based on 15,785 reviews and counting! - and we can see why; Baby MM gurgles at him, stares at his bright colours, and gives him the biggest smiles. We're not jealous of the toy at all... 

- C A R R I E R. This* is such a lovely item to have for your little one. I personally didn't want a stretchy wrap or carrier, but wanted to get something a bit more structured for family walks and jaunts into town. Having asked a few parents what to go for, this was the product mentioned time and time again. We decided to go for the mesh version as it's a bit more lightweight and breathable - and it can be unbearably hot having a baby pressed against you, no matter what the weather!

- B O U N C E R. Chances are that if you have started looking at baby rockers and bouncers, one very expensive brand hits the top of most searches. Is it bad then that we simply weren't that keen on the look of it?! We opted for this one* instead, which Baby MM has nestled in since he was a few weeks old. It has enabled us on many occasions to be able to eat dinner together while he bounces merrily next to us! It's worth saying that it doesn't bounce so well on carpet, but gets good momentum when on a hard floor - he becomes a bit of a blur when we use it in the kitchen! 

- B A B Y  M O N I T O R. I initially thought I was being a bit over-enthusiastic by getting one of these* before Baby MM would be in his own room... How wrong I was! We have used ours frequently from around 6 weeks onwards, whether it be for daytime naps or during the evenings when he sleeps in his crib while we finish off the washing up and our bedtime cuppas. There is a more recent model than ours, but the only difference is the screen size; we therefore decided to make a bit of a saving on this particular purchase, and I would argue that ours is definitely big enough to be able to see everything in detail. 

- H I G H  C H A I R. This last recommendation* is a bit of a cheat really, as we actually only bought it this week! Why would I need a high chair before weaning, I thought - I decided to wait until the Black Friday sales before getting one, but oh how I wish we'd had this from the start! Although Baby MM is obviously not having meals yet at only 14 weeks old, thanks to the newborn insert and different recline settings the chair is suitable from birth - and he loves to sit in it! I've put him in it each morning for the last few days while I do the washing up and general kitchen tidying, and he really enjoys being able to see what I'm doing. It also means that he's at our level while we eat dinner, so he doesn't feel as left out as when he's in his Moses basket {we have one in our living room for daytime naps} or the bouncer. I spent ages scouring Google for a high chair that looks nice as well as having good reviews, but we also decided that we wanted to store it away in our dining cupboard between meals {otherwise we would have gone for the Tripp Trapp by Stokke*}. All three of us are extremely pleased with this one. 

I really hope you have found these suggestions useful - as always, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. Let me know if you've tried any of these products and what your thoughts were, and if you have any recommendations for fellow mums and dads, please do share them with us!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.


5 November 2020

My Birth Story

Maggie May's Birth Story

I’d always loved to read people’s birth stories, even before becoming pregnant. Hearing about all the different ways in which babies entered the world fascinated me; whether at home, in water or in an operating theatre, I found each account quite magical and moving. Even those births which perhaps didn’t go to plan, or were more traumatic than others, still had beautiful elements to them - namely the mother getting to meet her newborn baby at the end. 

Therefore I knew I would always want to share my birth story on the blog too; partly for expectant mums who are looking for reassurance and positivity, partly for those of you like me who just enjoy reading about all things birth and baby, and partly for myself. There’s something incredibly therapeutic - and important - about reflecting on those moments. It’s a once in a lifetime event; no matter how many children you have, each birth is unique. 

As Hollie says in her excellent book*, there is no such thing as a perfect birth, but you can have a positive one - and I’m delighted to say that our birth ended up being far more positive than we ever imagined it would be.

At the beginning of pregnancy, I started to panic about childbirth. Through my work I had been fortunate enough to witness many deliveries, however a lot of these were traumatic in some way, or were emergency situations, and I think those negative memories had stuck with me. I spent many nights lying awake genuinely worrying about how I would cope with the pain of labour, and fearful that I would let both myself and my husband down. Before long, I started to read some recommended books about preparing for birth; The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill* is a brilliant choice, as is Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie de Cruz* as mentioned above. I also completed The Positive Birth Company’s digital hypnobirthing course, and generally read up quite a bit about hypnobirthing. I enjoyed practicing my breathing, preparing my playlists and imagining how our labour would play out, and before long I found myself incredibly excited about giving birth. The fear had gone!

Unfortunately, there was then an unexpected turn of events. As the end of my third trimester approached, Baby Maggie May was refusing to move from his breech position inside me {meaning he was bottom down with his legs folded up towards his ears - the wrong way for being born!} Everyone was pretty relaxed about it when he first got into that position, saying he still had plenty of time to spin back again. But as time went on, and he got bigger and bigger, the wiggle room became less and less! Despite my best efforts to encourage him to turn {envisage me practically standing on my head in the evenings, attempting all sorts of positions which various sources recommend to try and flip your baby naturally}, he wouldn’t budge. Just a couple of weeks before my due date, I went to hospital to see if they could turn him around in a procedure called external cephalic version (ECV). Two doctors covered my bump in talcum powder, gave me an injection to relax my uterus, and pushed, shoved and squeezed Baby Maggie May in an attempt to get him to move. I gritted my teeth and let out the odd moan of pain, determined to let them give it their best shot so that there would still be a chance of having a natural vaginal birth - someone had told me beforehand that it would be uncomfortable, and all I could think throughout was that they were a big liar; it was PAINFUL, not uncomfortable! The success rate of the procedure tends to be fairly low, especially for first time mums, and unsurprisingly it didn’t work.

This meant we were left with two choices: wait to go into labour naturally and give birth vaginally to a breech baby, or opt to have a planned Caesarean section. Neither of these options were at all what we’d hoped for. A vaginal breech delivery has many risks attached to it, and having spoken to lots of different people and researched it ourselves, it did not feel like a safe option for our baby. This left us with the Caesarean section.

We were both so disappointed. We’d spent so long talking about what it would be like when I went into labour - that Mr MM would be on bath-running duty; how regular my contractions would need to be in order for him to phone the birth unit; what snacks I thought I should have on standby; my playlist for the latent phase of labour, and what songs I wanted for when I began pushing.

Suddenly, the whole vision had been snatched away from us. I’d dreamt of the moment when I would give a final push and see our beautiful baby slip out into the world, when he would then be placed on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact and we’d be left alone as a family of three for our "Golden Hour". Being cut open on a set date, regardless of whether my body had given any signs it was ready to labour or not, under bright lights in an operating theatre felt so far away from what I wanted. But we both knew it was by far the safest way for Baby Maggie May to be born, and so the decision was easy.

We left the hospital after the ECV that day, with the operation booked for just 10 days time, when I would be 39 weeks pregnant. We told only our parents, wanting to keep some element of surprise and normality to the birth. It felt incredibly bizarre to go about our normal business, knowing that we would definitely have our boy the following week! We booked in a food delivery, Mr MM arranged his paternity and annual leave, and before we knew it, the big day arrived.

I’d been to the hospital for a pre-operative assessment a few days before, and they’d told me I was last on the operating list. This meant we didn’t have to turn up until about 11.00am, which I found disappointing as I wanted to have him first thing! We inevitably got there early and sat in the waiting room, laughing at how surreal it all felt - literally sat in a waiting room to have our baby...

Maggie May's Birth Story

Dress - Seraphine | Mask - Etsy

After what felt like an agonising wait - especially as I was starving having fasted since 10.00pm the night before - the midwife appeared and said they were ready for us. The consultant did a final quick scan of my belly to check his position, and then it was time to get changed and walk down the corridor to the operating theatre. Having been waiting for a couple of hours - well, nine months in fact - it felt like a matter of minutes from the time the midwife appeared to us walking into the theatre.

As I perched on the operating table so the anaesthetist could administer my epidural, the midwife chatted to me and got my husband to prepare our Spotify playlist. The mood was relaxed which was great, but I remember saying even at that point to the midwife that I was disappointed I wasn’t going to be pushing my baby out. I know a lot of people don’t get this - one woman said to me, “Why would you want to if you can have a section?” Because that’s what I’d always imagined. Because for me, that’s what giving birth meant. Because although I had been frightened about the pain and the duration of labour, I was also excited about experiencing such an incredible miracle. Thankfully, there are those who do understand, and in fact would encourage us to grieve for the birth we would not have - because Mr MM was also sad to be missing that experience. They explained that it was entirely natural to be upset, and that it was important to acknowledge this. But that also, at the end of the day we would have our baby to cuddle, no matter how he arrived with us.

The epidural kicked in and I giggled at how strange it felt to be unable to move my legs. I lay on my back grinning at Mr MM nervously as people bustled around me, connecting drips and wires and making their final checks. As the consultant began to clean my belly, our wedding song started to play over the speakers {In My Life by The Beatles} which helped me to relax. Mr MM and I continued to beam at each other as there was lots of tugging and pulling behind the drapes, and suddenly: there he was.

The drapes were lowered and the consultant raised our amazing baby boy from my belly in a Simba-like pose; he instantly opened his eyes and blinked a few times cautiously before letting out the most almighty and wonderful cries. As tears streamed down my face I sobbed with happiness as Mr MM reached down to give me a kiss. The midwife asked what his name was and I choked it out as I couldn’t stop crying - he was finally here! Our beautiful son was here!

He was carried off to be weighed (7 lbs 8 oz) and cleaned up, and Mr MM went with them. As I lay there being stitched up, I could hear our baby crying and my husband’s laughter, as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. I was smiling inanely at the ceiling, in a state of complete joy and also shock, and then my boys reappeared, with Baby Maggie May placed on my chest for that skin-to-skin contact I had always dreamed of.

About half an hour later, we were all finished, and I was wheeled down the corridor to recovery. The magic toast everyone talks about was produced, and Baby MM had his first breastfeed - an excellent and conscientious attempt it was too! Mr MM had the chance for some skin-to-skin cuddles, as I dreamily watched them both from the bed. After a couple of hours we FaceTimed our parents, introducing them all to their new grandson. We spent the whole afternoon simply gazing at him, exclaiming to each other how perfect he was and how lucky we were.

We both got our skin-to-skin moments; he had his first beautiful breastfeed within an hour of being born, and our favourite music had been played as he was brought into the world. Yes, it wasn’t ideal that our first hours as a family were spent in a poky recovery room with several other post-operative women, and yes, I do still feel sad that I didn’t get the birth I’d always hoped for. But all we’ve ever wanted is a child of our own, and from the first moment I held him in my arms, with my husband by my side, I felt utterly complete. He is our world, and the amount of love we have for him is overwhelming, growing each and every day. He is ours, and the day he was born was the best day of my life.

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available 


9 July 2020

My Skincare Routine: AM & PM

I've been meaning to share my skincare routine on the blog for ages!

Part of the reason why it's taken so long is that I've spent a while trying out different products to see what suits my skin and lifestyle best. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another, and I also like to trial just one new product at a time so I can really notice the positive effects {or rarely, any reactions}. 

It's worth explaining that my own routine is very simple - some may even describe it as lazy! When it comes to good skincare, you could go the whole hog and really splash out on some luxury - and effective - products {Caroline Hirons' website is a great place to start for some product recommendations and tips} but I personally tend to choose products which are mid-range or high-street prices. It's all about choosing what works for you.

Before delving into my bathroom cabinet, I would advise that if you are struggling with acne and it's starting to have a negative effect on your life, please see your GP and discuss whether a referral to the dermatologists is appropriate. You can read about my own experiences of severe acne and subsequent treatment with roaccutane here - and don't feel you need to wait before getting professional advice yourself!

M Y   A M   R O U T I N E

Step 1: Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Wash, 200ml - RRP £24.50 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

I first started using this face wash around 9 months ago, and I've used it every single morning since because I love it so much! It smells beautiful, scented with thyme, German chamomile and Lady's Mantle, and you only need a small amount to lather up and cover your face and neck. It's perfect for my sensitive skin, and always in my overnight bag when we travel. It's also vegan friendly and free of sulfates and parabens.

{Optional Step 1: I aim to exfoliate a couple of times a week as the last time I had a facial - way before lockdown happened, sob - I was told that my skin could do with a bit more. I've been using Liz Earle Gentle Face Exfoliator* before using my facial wash, and it seems to do quite a good job, although I'm not over keen on the scent, so I'm still looking for the perfect product. If you've found a good one, let me know!} 

Step 2: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+] Anti-Imperfections Moisturiser, 40ml - RRP £17.00 {Currently 25% off on Feelunique*}

This feels so light on my skin, which is great for my oily complexion. It's packed full of clever ingredients including niacinamide, lipohydroxy acid, salicylic acid, zinc PCA, procerad and glycerin, and the great thing about La Roche-Posay is that they work closely with dermatologists to ensure that their products are evidence-based and show good results. 

Step 3: The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50+, 40ml - RRP £18.00

We all know how important sun protection is, but I hate the feeling of suncream on my face - and it often causes my skin to breakout. There are lots of excellent specialist facial suncreams out there, but this is the one I use daily. It has a pleasant smell {an added bonus!} and doesn't feel at all greasy. I aim to put this on every day I know I'm going to be spending any time outdoors - but some experts will argue that we should wear it all the time. I leave this to dry for just a few minutes before applying my make up, and it leaves no tackiness or stickiness which is perfect when I'm in a rush to get ready...

M Y   P M   R O U T I N E

Step 1: Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Cleansing Balm, 105 g - RRP £43.00 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

My girlfriends and I went to a spa last October for my birthday, and we all treated ourselves to a facial. As soon as the facialist started to gently apply this to my skin, the beautiful rose scent made me feel calm and relaxed - and it left my skin feeling so soft and clean! It's excellent at removing a full face of SPF and make up, including waterproof mascara {the ultimate test}. You can buy a travel-size version too which is handy for holidays. I apply this to dry skin, and then use a damp flannel to wipe off. 

Step 2: Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer, 200ml - RRP £16.00

Liz Earle's products are renowned for being great, and I love this spray. Again, the scent is wonderful; on the ingredients list are aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, cucumber and pure essential oils, including rose-scented geranium, lavender and sweet orange. I either spray onto a reusable cotton pad and sweep over my face, or if I'm feeling warm and want to feel really refreshed, I spritz directly onto my skin which is lovely and cooling.

Step 3: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream, 14ml - RRP £12.00 {Currently 15% off  on Feelunique*}
Due to my olive skin, if I am just the slightest bit tired I end up looking like a raccoon, with heavy, dark circles under my eyes after just the smallest amount of sleep deprivation. I dread to think what they will look like once Baby Maggie May gets here...! However this surprisingly affordable eye cream from CeraVe does actually seem to help - whilst it doesn't completely get rid of the circles {only concealer will do that} it does help to reduce the darkness and puffiness. I've had no irritation from using it around my eyes, despite having sensitive skin and being a contact lens wearer, so I would definitely recommend it.

Step 4: Neal's Yard Remedies Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Oil, 30ml - RRP £32.00

A friend of mine recommended this to me, and once she squeezed a couple of drops onto the back of my hand I could instantly see what all the fuss was about. It feels luxurious and nourishing, and is a lovely little treat for dry skin. I've taken it with me on flights before, as it's perfect for when the plane air conditioning leaves your skin feeling ruined! Just a few drops are all you need for an instant moisture hit, and the scent of frankincense is beautifully relaxing.

Step 5: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, 50ml - RRP £12.99 {Currently reduced on Amazon*}

I really love this stuff, and it's so affordable! I think I first saw it recommended by the aforementioned Caroline Hirons, and thought there would be no harm in giving it a go. The gel-like consistency means it's both incredibly lightweight and yet super hydrating at the same time, which makes it a bit of a miracle product in my eyes. I'm already on my second tub, as I sometimes use this in the mornings too. It's very cooling too which is great if your skin is inflamed or angry. Of all the products I have mentioned above, if you were to go out and buy one thing, I'd probably recommend this.

I obviously use other products too, and don't strictly stick to the exact items listed every AM and PM, however the ones I have linked to are those which are my fail-safes. As you can see from my skincare shelf {I'm so lucky to have this in our en suite!} I have a range of different moisturisers, toners and serums to use depending on how my skin is feeling, and I think that's an important skill to develop - recognising what your skin needs on a day to day basis, responding to the hormonal and seasonal changes, and adapting what you use to help it out. 

If you have any skincare recommendations that you just can't live without, I'd love to hear them! Either comment below or you can tweet me - especially if you have the magic ingredient for banishing dark circles forever...

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.


12 June 2020

Being Honest about Pregnancy

Being Honest about Pregnancy - Maggie May

We've finally hit the last stretch of pregnancy - I've passed the 28 week milestone which means I'm officially in my third trimester!

I've learned several lessons since becoming pregnant, for example; morning sickness can be debilitating, reflux can be very uncomfortable, and those pelvic cramps and aches throughout pregnancy are no myth. I've also learned that 40 weeks is actually quite a long time to be pregnant - especially if you're an impatient person like me!

To know that this is the final push now {no pun intended} is incredibly reassuring, and I have to say I'm relieved. Something I've found quite difficult to cope with during this time {other than being pregnant in a global pandemic!} is how my experience of being pregnant is so very different to how I imagined it would be.

I have dreamed of having children for a long time, initially feeling broody as a teenager and eagerly looking forward to the day I would carry a baby. {Please tell me I'm not the only person to have stuffed clothes under their top to see what a bump would look like...?!}

I often used to say to Mr MM that I was just as excited about the idea of being pregnant as I was about having children. I couldn't wait to see my body changing, to feel a baby growing inside me, and to spend 9 glorious months bonding with my bump. I wasn't completely stupid; I knew it would be tough and tiring, and especially gruelling towards the end, but I saw these as challenges that I would willingly take on with very little complaint.

My experience of pregnancy has been so far from my expectations! Admittedly, I was simply unlucky to be affected by hyperemesis gravidarum, and suffering with regular sickness up until 20 weeks made everything much harder. But there have been other aspects which have surprised me; I really struggled with body image and confidence issues as I started to gather weight around my middle. As the bump I had so desperately longed for started to appear, I felt ugly, overweight and sometimes even disgusted by my appearance in the mirror. Having imagined cradling my ballooning tummy, I now found myself angrily trying to find clothes in my wardrobe to stretch over what I thought looked like an unflattering beer belly.

Being Honest about Pregnancy - Maggie May
Looking back, I think I was frustrated and upset with my body and how it had responded to pregnancy. I felt like it had failed me, and that I was terrible at being pregnant. Passing comments from people about how their pregnancies had been fine, or how they'd loved being pregnant and maybe even missed it added to my guilt. Was I an awful person for not enjoying this time? I know how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to have a child - so was I being ungrateful by not loving the experience?

And then the penny dropped and everything became easier. My pregnancy has been tough. Yes, all pregnancies are tough, but I have really struggled with mine for lots of different reasons. And that's OK!

Instead of making enemies with my own body and churning out negative thoughts all the time, I started to make a conscious effort to address my way of thinking and my approach:

- My body is growing a human which is pretty incredible, so cut it some slack. 
- It's hit lots of bumps along the way and suffered lots of ill effects, so be even kinder to it! 
- Acknowledge the difficulties you have faced, accept them - and then try to move on. 
- Change the language and words you use about your body - I'm not being lazy, I'm tired because I'm busy nurturing another little life inside. I'm not fat, I'm growing in size which means our child is growing too. My skin is breaking out because my hormonal levels are changing, in readiness for carrying our baby to the finish line and then delivering them into our arms!

When you first opened this post, you might not have expected these sorts of words. And I don't know if that's what I even had in mind when I started writing it. But it's so important to me to be honest about my journey. Being pregnant is hard work without putting ourselves under lots of pressure to 'do it well'. If one other woman reads this and finds that she's not the only one hating on pregnancy - that she's not the only person in the world to have felt like this - then it is entirely worth my honesty. And who knows, I may need to remind myself of these things in a future pregnancy...!

Now for the positive bit. I am so unbelievably excited about having our baby. When I feel those kicks {those very strong and powerful kicks, particularly the ones in the bladder} I rub my bump with happiness and have a little chat with Baby Maggie May, telling them how we can't wait to meet them and have them here with us. I can't wait to see them open their eyes for the first time; to feel them cuddled up against my chest; to see Mr MM with them. The thought of labour terrifies me {anyone who says differently must be lying?!} but I'm weirdly looking forward to it too.

Pregnancy has been the hardest time I've ever had to face, and I know that being first-time parents and caring for a newborn is going to be a whole new mountain to climb. But I have never looked forward to something as much in my entire life. And I know that if I went back in time, and had to experience this whole journey again - including the hyperemesis and being pregnant during a pandemic - I would do it without a second's hesitation.

See you soon Baby Maggie May!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.

28 May 2020

Simple Weekday Suppers

Maggie's Weekday Suppers

If you're anything like me, it can be a real struggle to decide what to cook during the week.

The weekends are a bit easier - you can choose to make something from scratch that needs a little more time and attention, and can leave a pot of deliciousness bubbling away on the hob for several hours for the flavours and tastes to develop. But when it's 8.00pm on a Thursday evening, you've spent the whole day working and you're starving, the last thing you want is something that takes an hour to prepare. I can't be the only one who experiences hanger...?

It's easy to get into a lazy routine; Mr MM and I can very quickly persuade the other one that we deserve a takeaway pizza or curry after a long day. But when you're both busy, these choices can become more and more frequent until you realise you haven't cooked something nourishing for a while.

Surprisingly, our eating habits changed for the better at the start of the pandemic. We started keeping ourselves at home just before lockdown officially kicked in due to Baby Maggie May and decided that we would need to start planning our meals more efficiently so we could limit trips to the supermarket. I was also keen to start eating healthier foods since my hyperemesis had improved, and I began fancying dinners that weren't just beige...!

Being our usual geeky selves, we have a spreadsheet that we fill out every fortnight to see what we have in our fridge, freezer and cupboards, so we can be sure to make use of the various ingredients in the kitchen and avoid things going to waste. We also have a meal planner pad on the door of the fridge, where I write down a flexible plan for our suppers for the next couple of weeks. If you'd be interested in a post about how we meal plan and reduce food waste, let me know in the comments! I won't rush to write it as I appreciate that not many people may be as weird and freaky as me...

As a result of the planning, we've resurrected some of our favourite suppers to cook and eat, as well as discovered new dishes both online and in our collection of recipe books. And it's been so great! We're both really enjoying taking it in turns to cook a variety of different things - but do you know what they all have in common? They're simple. They're easy. And they're all utterly delicious.

Some things we've tried haven't quite gone to plan {let's not talk about the veggie 'meatballs' made from aubergine that disintegrated into mush} but I've built up a nice little collection of the things that have worked, and am excited to share some of these with you below. And if you have any great weekday supper recommendations, I'd love to hear them so I can add them to my Pinterest board! You can tweet me or comment below - I'm sure my readers would be interested too.

S I M P L E  W E E K D A Y  S U P P E R S

Jack Monroe's red lentil bolognese from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Deliciously Ella's baked sweet potatoes from her book Deliciously Ella Every Day*

Quorn Vegan Hot & Spicy Burgers {from the frozen aisle} - in buns with sweet potato fries, or with couscous and salad

Delicious magazine's cheese, tomato and gnocchi bake

Chilli con carne - we make up the recipe each time {!} but BBC Good Food have a classic recipe

Jack Monroe's gigantes plaki from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Yorkshire Provender Rustic Vegetable Broth with Kale, Lentils & Quinoa {find it in the chilled aisle with the soups - it's lovely!}

Rukmini Iyer's crispy gnocchi with peppers and ricotta from her book The Green Roasting Tin*

Deliciously Ella's classic stir fry from her book Deliciously Ella*

Jamie Oliver's roasted vegetables and halloumi traybake

Anna Jones' carrot dahl from her book The Modern Cook's Year*

Maggie's Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup

My parsnip and sweet potato soup, pictured above

Pasta with green pesto, frozen peas and broad beans {similar recipe here}

Rukmini Iyer's crispy gnocchi with mushrooms and butternut squash from her book The Green Roasting Tin*

BBC Good Food's butternut squash and sage risotto

Phil Vickery's French onion soup

Black bean tacos - lots of great recipes online; this one is a good starting point

The Londoner's Swedish meatballs

Jack Monroe's mixed bean goulash from her book A Girl Called Jack*

Dr Oetker's Ristorante Funghi pizza {because we love pizza as a treat!}

Madeleine Shaw's butter bean and cauliflower soup, from her book A Year of Beautiful Eating{I can't find the recipe online for that one frustratingly, but let me know if you'd like it and I can post on here!} 

I hope you find something in the collection above that tempts you!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.


22 May 2020

City Guide to Edinburgh

Maggie's City Guide to Edinburgh - Palace of Holyroodhouse

I've only been to Edinburgh once, and ever since our trip a few years ago I have been itching to go back.

I've also been itching to write this blog post, and it's taken me a long time to finally put pen to paper and share some of our favourite discoveries in the city!

16 May 2020

Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup

Maggie's Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup

This may be the tastiest soup I’ve ever made.

It’s sweet, spicy and nourishing - perfect for a quick lunch, or alongside a hunk of crusty bread for dinner.

I’ve got back into making soup recently; I think because we’re even more keen than usual to not waste food due to the limited shopping trips, I’ve been digging through the vegetable drawer, determined to find a use for that odd wrinkly carrot or shrivelled potato!

It’s also easy to batch cook soup, and fill up the freezer with a few portions for days when you can’t be bothered to make dinner from scratch. Heating up some homemade soup which you know is packed full of healthy veg is very satisfying, and I’m definitely planning on making lots of portions in the weeks leading up to Baby Maggie May’s arrival...

5 May 2020

Pregnancy Essentials

Maggie's Pregnancy Essentials

I'm going to start this post off with a disclaimer: this list is most definitely subject to change as I progress through my pregnancy, and discover more and more things which have come in useful!

It might seem slightly premature to write about pregnancy essentials before I've reached the end of my own, but I've already got a selection of recommendations that were either passed on to me and were invaluable, or that I discovered myself along the way and am keen to share with other mamas-to-be.

28 April 2020

Books to Read

Maggie May's Books to Read

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, long before we were in lockdown.

As a self-confessed bibliophile {I just love that word}, there is of course a ridiculously long list of novels I would like to read - some new releases, some classics, and some books that I class as recent but on closer inspection actually came out around a decade ago...!

20 April 2020

Snickers Flapjacks

Snickers Flapjacks - Maggie May

When I posted pics of these flapjacks on Instagram last week, I asked whether you lot wanted me to share the recipe on here. The answer was a resounding YES! So here it is.

I don't blame you - these little bites of heaven are really delicious. For any fellow peanut-butter-and-chocolate-combo fiends, you will have to physically stop yourself from reaching into the tin to gobble the whole lot {although I promise I won't judge you if this does happen}.


17 April 2020

20 Weeks Pregnant

20 Weeks Pregnant - Maggie May

We're halfway towards meeting Baby Maggie May!

In some ways I can't believe that I'm now 20 weeks pregnant, but on the other hand, it feels like I've been expecting this baby for years...!

Things have definitely picked up since the first trimester; I've started putting on weight as opposed to losing it, I've gone from avoiding all food to eating constantly, and my friends and family tell me that I look healthy now as opposed to grey and gaunt {from our FaceTime chats, obviously}. It's not all rosy - hardly surprising considering my unpleasant start to being pregnant - and I still have bad nausea pretty much every day, with the odd episode of sickness even now. It does feel unlucky to still be vomiting at 20 weeks, but this isn't unusual for sufferers of hyperemesis, and I know there are so many women who have it a lot worse than me - I'm just so grateful that it's now occasional as opposed to daily!

There's also the matter of the bump that's forming...

20 Weeks Pregnant - Maggie May

Excuse the blurred photo, with my hair still dripping from the shower and my face bare of make up, but here is Baby Maggie May in all their glory. I have to say, I'm much bigger than I was expecting to be at this point!

The bump is not my favourite part though. The best bit has to be the kicks.

The first proper kick was when I was 18 weeks - and we were so lucky that baby gave us a few good ones so Mr MM could feel them too - and since then, they really haven't stopped! They are there morning, afternoon, evening and night; the rolling and wriggling and fluttering feelings are there pretty constantly, with frequent heavy nudges, shoves, pushes and bashes thrown in for good measure. Some of them have made me jump they're so vigorous, and I scared Mr MM to death the other night when I was jolted just as I was falling asleep and shouted out in surprise! It makes us laugh that we've already got an extremely active baby on our hands who shows no signs of slowing down - when people tell me 'just you wait until the kicks increase in your third trimester', I can't imagine what they'll be like!

20 Weeks Pregnant - Maggie May

We had our anomaly scan at 19 weeks, and although it wasn't how we pictured it as Mr MM wasn't allowed in with me due to coronavirus restrictions, we managed to still make it special; the sonographer was wonderful and told me to look away when she was scanning baby's nether regions in case I saw something by accident. She then wrote down the gender of Baby Maggie May on a slip of paper, so I could wait until I was back with my husband for us to find out together. We opened it excitedly and my eyes filled with tears as soon as I read the answer {happy tears!} We FaceTimed our parents to let them know what sort of grandchild is on the way, followed up by a stream of messages to other family members and friends. The most important thing of all is that the scan was perfect, with no signs of any problems. When the sonographer said it was the best baby she's scanned so far this year in terms of being able to see everything easily and complete the scan effectively, my heart nearly burst - already I am so super proud of our baby!

I'm looking forward to sharing some of our nursery and newborn purchases with you all soon {I'm still trying to work out what we need} and will keep you updated with our progress on Instagram. Thank you so much for your messages of support and advice - they've been very much appreciated, and the further we go on our journey towards becoming first-time parents, the more I panic that we need all the help we can get...!

9 April 2020

Mango, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie

Mango, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie

This recipe came about when I was deciding how to use up a slightly wrinkly mango I found in the fridge.

I'd not actually used mango in a smoothie before, but as the weather has been heating up, I've been craving refreshing cold drinks to keep me hydrated. The thought of fruity mango in smoothie form was very enticing, and due to it being slightly past its sell-by date, I thought blending would be a good way of using it up.

I basically add banana to all the smoothies I make, as a it is a great base and an easy way to add in extra fruit to recipes - plus we always have a steady supply in the house! But I knew I needed an extra ingredient to really make the smoothie zing, which is when I remembered the bag of frozen strawberries I'd been storing up. Perfect!

Mango, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie

^ Bump is definitely a smoothie fan...

The combination of mango and strawberry is an excellent one, and as soon as I took my first sip, I was transported to sunnier climes, imagining myself poolside or on a beach. Isn't it amazing how tastes and smells can produce such a strong sense of nostalgia?

I really hope you enjoy this smoothie as much as I do. I made it for Mr MM as an afternoon pick-me-up whilst he was working from home, and it's a lovely change from the usual juices and water we tend to go for.

Kids will be a fan of this too, as although it's fruity, the flavours are not too strong or powerful. Just delicious!

Ingredients - Makes 1 smoothie

- 1/2 ripe mango, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1/2 banana
- A handful of frozen strawberries, ~5-6 {Frozen work best as this affects the texture of the smoothie, but if you only have fresh that's fine! Just add a couple of ice cubes to the mixture instead}
- 200ml milk {I use almond milk}
- 200ml water
- A squirt of maple syrup
- 1 sachet VSL#3 probiotic {optional}


- Blender {I use this one*, and it's currently on sale!}
- Measuring jug


1. Add all ingredients to blender.

2. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Let me know what you think, and tag me in your pics on social media - it's always so lovely to see your creations!

This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.


1 April 2020

Springtime Pasta Salad

Maggie May's Springtime Pasta Salad

Having eaten a lot of dinners based on store cupboard essentials recently {think beans, stews, lentils etc.}, I had a hankering for something a bit fresher tasting - a dish to suit the bright, clear weather we've been having and remind me that spring is really here.

Getting hold of fresh fruit and vegetables can be a little tricky at the moment, but I've managed to cobble together a recipe that embraces that colourful, springtime feeling whilst only calling on three salad ingredients: tomatoes, garlic and spinach {and if this is proving difficult to get hold of, the frozen stuff would work too}.

24 March 2020

Hand Care

Hand Care, Maggie May
This post contains affiliate links*. Full disclosure statement available here.

I have a confession to make: luxury soaps and hand washes are my guilty pleasure, and they have been for a long time. My bathroom cabinet is heaving with a selection of different hand creams and lotions, and I spend far too long thinking about which hand care products would be best in the en suite vs. the bathroom vs. the downstairs loo. A little sad perhaps, but we all have a thing, don't we?

We expect a lot from our hands, and the current combination of increased hand washing and colder weather means that it doesn't take long before the skin starts to become dry and sore. Both Mr MM and I are prone to getting cracks on our knuckles in the colder winter months, so we've tried a lot of different products between us over the years.

In light of our current situation, I thought it might be useful to share some recommendations with you all. I've included a few of my tried and tested ones for you below, with exclusive offers and discounts too! Hand washing will always be important, so let's do what we can to replace some of those natural oils and keep our hands lovely and hydrated.

20 March 2020

Spring in Cornwall

Looe, Cornwall

A while ago, I asked my followers on Instagram which posts on The Secret Life of Maggie May they enjoyed the most. The most popular answer? Stories about my travels and adventures - and I was so happy to read this, because they're some of my favourite posts to write!

As a child, I adored reading Enid Blyton novels and imagining I was exploring distant lands. At a time when our travel options become more limited, I am finding myself revisiting that youthful phase, with a curiosity and interest in reading about what others are up to all across the world. It is an escape, as reading often is, and to imagine where I might visit in years to come is optimistic and exciting, as opposed to depressing. I will continue to share my tales of recent travels, in the hope that you find the same joy and pleasure as I do, and today's post is one any lover of Cornwall will enjoy.

10 March 2020

10 Years Together

10 Years Together - Maggie May

I've been meaning to write a post about my husband for a while now. But I think the enormity of the task {where do I even begin?!} has put me off and meant that it's fallen lower down on the blogging priority list.


3 March 2020

The First Trimester

Maggie May - The First Trimester

I can't believe I'm now in my second trimester, and a third of the way through my pregnancy.

It's been so exciting to share the news with you all, and I can't tell you how happy Mr MM and I am to be on this journey to having our baby!

However I'd be omitting a huge truth if I didn't admit that it's been a real struggle to get to this point. As always, I aim to be completely honest with what I write on The Secret Life of Maggie May, and I have found the first couple of months of being pregnant incredibly difficult. When we decided to have a baby, I put a lot of thought into my fertility, planning for a baby, and also the birth and labour. I was totally blindsided by how difficult the actual pregnancy bit would be! When I read that back, I know it sounds naive - but I didn't think that the first few months would be that bad. There have been so many weird and wonderful symptoms I have experienced - which maybe I'll share in a different post for those interested in reading more about pregnancy! - and I've found the whole process not only physically exhausting, but mentally too.

27 February 2020

We're Pregnant!

We're Pregnant! - Maggie May

We are so over the moon to share this news with you all!

Baby Maggie May is well and truly on the way, and it is such a joy to be able to finally tell our family, friends and loved ones. It still feels quite surreal, and for once I'm a little speechless as to what exactly to say!
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