Stella & Dot and Every Mother Counts

As some of you may know, I recently signed up to be a Stella & Dot Independent Stylist.

Not heard of Stella & Dot?  Well let me clue you in.  Stella & Dot  is an American based jewellery and accessories company that creates flexible entrepreneurial opportunities for women. Their boutique-style jewellery and accessories line is available exclusively through in-home Trunk Shows by Independent Stylists and online.  The company arrived in the UK in 2011 and has been growing ever since.  The founder, Jessica Herrin, wanted to give all women the opportunity to have their own business.  You can do as much or as little as you like and fit it around family, work and all those other commitments. 

I’ve loved Stella & Dot jewellery for a long time so it seemed the perfect business to get involved in to make myself some pocket money whilst I’m on maternity leave.  I’m enjoying it so far (despite a few negative comments, begone detractors of mine!) and attended my first training day at the weekend where I got to see the Autumn collection and boy, are there some stunning new pieces!

However, it’s not all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories I’m here to talk about today.

Stella & Dot have a long held tradition of designing pieces in support of various charities.  In the UK they are continuing Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  However their newest bracelet is in support of the Global charity, Every Mother Counts.  Called the Enlighten bracelet, it’s made of a bright orange leather strap with a gold-plated brass bar. Embossed inside the strap are the words, MOTHER-SISTER-DAUGHTER in French, English and German. I tried it on at the weekend and it’s a truly lovely piece.

Enlighten

So what is Every Mother Counts, and why do I personally care so much about it?  Every Mother Counts is a non-profit organisation working to reduce the number of women who die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. They do that by raising awareness and educating audiences about the challenges and solutions facing mothers-to-be around the world.  The charity itself was founded by Christy Turlington Burns who was moved to take action after reading about the numbers of women dying from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth.

Every year, 287,000 women die from such complications. That’s one woman every two minutes and almost all are preventable. Maternal health is an important issue for all women, no matter where they live, even in wealthy countries such as the US and UK. When women are not at their optimal health before and during pregnancy, their birth outcomes can be deadly. On average, each mother who dies leaves behind four orphaned children. For each maternal death it is estimated that an additional 20-30 women suffer lifelong injuries and childbirth-related disabilities.

As someone who myself nearly died giving birth to Woody, and is still suffering the after effects of his birth, you can see why I am so fully behind this charity and am delighted to be able to share it with you and hope that some of you may be moved to do your bit and buy one of the fabulous bracelets, and support the charity at the same time.  100% of the net profit of the bracelet goes direct to the charity so that they can continue their work in areas of the world with the worst maternal health and highest rates of maternal death.

I’m setting myself a personal challenge to sell 20 of these bracelets.  Why 20?  Because here’s what the proceeds of 20 bracelets can help fund:

  • Essential medical equipment for midwifery students
  • Pays for two prenatal visits for uninsured women
  • Buys six safe birth kits for mothers-to-be

So help me reach my goal and help women in some of the hardest hit areas for this truly preventable occurence.

Enlighten Bracelet

Every Mother Counts

This entry was posted in Life.

Newsflash! I’m Still Here!

I am still here, surviving, riding that giant rollercoaster.

Lately I’ve had a few conversations with people about Woody’s birth. The first time it just happened, a new friend asked, and I gabbled it out, surprised at how big the lump in my throat was, but how desperately I wanted her to know what had happened, her concern touched me and I felt I had to get it out, the dark little secret which hasn’t been told to anyone new in a while.

The second time was on Twitter, and I headlined it purely with, “I nearly died”.

Now, I kind of feel like I need to stop putting it in those terms, I guess I do it because, “What?! You nearly died?! Tell me more!”  Why do I go straight for the jugular (ha, funny story, they couldn’t even get a line into my jugular, because I was…. nearly dead).  See, even in my own garbled trains of thought, the fact that I thought I wasn’t going to make it still seems to come to the forefront.

Is this normal after such a traumatic event? Is it any less interesting to tell people the actual truth rather than the shocking headline?

I think I do it because it’s quite a long story, I feel like I want an index card with bullet points thus:

  • I wanted a VBAC
  • I developed Obstetric Cholestasis; it’s a problem with your liver; it can be quite serious, the only cure is to give birth
  • They didn’t have an Elective Section slots booked; I chose to be induced despite my better judgement and the research I had done
  • ARM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes) didn’t work; they gave me Syntocinon
  • They gave me too much Syntocinon
  • Woody was in distress; his heart rate was Bradycardic
  • He was born via episiotomy and forceps; yes, I had an Epidural; no, my bits aren’t the same but I’m too scared to see anyone about it
  • I lost 3.8l of blood; that’s about 80% of my total blood volume (or so I am told)
  • I went into hypovolemic shock; my veins started collapsing; they were even trying my feet and groin to try and get a line in somewhere; even my jugular collapsed
  • I thought I was going to die; so did Andy – he actually thought we were both going to die
  • Woody didn’t breathe on his own for 4 minutes; within 10 minutes he was doing okay but he was still taken to neonatal care for observation
  • Eventually I went to theatre; I was then sent to HDU for 36 hours so I didn’t see Woody until that time
  • I’m generally in a pretty messed up place about it; I don’t know where to get help from; I cry when I think about it

I think that about sums it up, and it’s not any less traumatic or shocking, but it’s just easier to go straight for the bottom line.  Although, yes, thank you, the bottom line should be, WE SURVIVED THE FUCK OUT OF THAT SHIT!

I know it sounds all very dramatic, and well, it was actually. And I know I sound melodramatic for either going on about it, or dwelling on it, or continuing to battle with my emotions over it, but that’s to be expected, surely?  Am I not allowed that?

I’m not saying I like dwelling on it, and actually, even just looking up Uterine Rupture or Hypovolemic Shock scares the shit out of me, but it’s something that will forever be here, indelibly marked in my soul, I have the scars to show.

I’ve had some incredibly hard times lately, I’ve mostly wanted to hide in bed a lot of the time, but that’s no good when you have two children!  Andy keeps asking me, “What’s the matter?”, but I invariably don’t really know, and I feel like everyone gets mad at me when I say, “Just thinking about Woody’s birth again” or even, “I don’t really know.” In fact, the latter seems to wind Andy up more than the former.  It’s hard for people to help you when they don’t know what’s wrong.  That’s frustrating beauty of depression, right?!

Even last night, I started thinking about the operation I’m going to need to have my gallbladder removed, and I started panicking; the thought of going into theatre, of going under, of the pain of recovery.  It should be a walk in the park compared to what I went through, but, there it goes, sneaking back up on me, reminding me how awful it was.

And that’s sad.  I’ve spoken before about how ultimately sad I am about Woody’s birth. He’s growing into an utterly amazing, adorable, characterful little boy, and in some ways I’m glad, because he has not been an easy baby, but then I think, but you’re not that little newborn any more, I missed that, because I was so ill and suffering SO tremendously from PTSD and flashbacks and all sorts of nonsense,which I still am, but to a much lesser extent.

Anyway, I’m rambling now.  Heh, that’s my blog for you…!

I have lots of other things to update on and I will do, in more happy posts.  Needless to say, I’m back bitches!

This entry was posted in Life.

Book Review: The Hive by Gill Hornby

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of The Hive by Gill Hornby by Mumsnet for review (my very first review at that!).  I’ve struggled, what with the house move and a teething Woody, however, in amongst some of the chaos, I’ve had the pleasure of snatching snippets of me-time to read it.

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I saw this book when it was first published and like so many things I just never got round to treating myself to it. The reason I  was attracted to it? Well, it’s about a primary school PTA….

Those who know me, will know that I have been Secretary of Scarlett’s school PTA since she was in Reception year and it’s had it’s moments let me tell you.  Coupled with interesting personal conflicts at the school gates in general, I was looking forward to getting stuck in!

I felt the need to identify with one of the main characters early on, but struggled as so many were introduced – some we knew a lot about, some we knew little about and I was overwhelmed by all the names and had to keep flicking back to remind myself who was who.  I kept thinking maybe I was Georgie, certainly her attitude towards housework was something I identified with and for some reason, her husband was strangely attractive (in my mind, he was a rugby player turned farmer…!)

It became quite apparent though that despite their lives seemingly revolving around their children and the groups activities aimed towards improving their school, the childrens characters weren’t really developed and it did give the sense that the women in this group were rather self-absorbed and pre-occupied with climbing the food chain – and I guess this is where the beehive analogy really does ring true. Equally the elusiveness of the main character Bea, resonates with the behaviour of a real-life Queen Bee.

When the new Headmaster (who was merely there as the inevitable love interest - he’s apparently single and ‘sexy’ and half the female population seem to want to get their claws into him, given that they all seemed to be newly divorced or separated) dares to call the Committee  a ‘clique’ I couldn’t help but respond with a snigger and a snort as I felt I could relate this to my own experiences at the school gate.

That is to say, there were some very cleverly observed nuances in the book, and it’s clear that the author has done her fair share of time at the school gate.  In the acknowledgements at the back of the book, I noticed Hornby had directly referenced ‘Queen Bees and Wannabes‘ by Rosalind Wiseman.  For those that don’t know, this is the self-help manual which Tina Fey used as a basis when writing Mean Girls, and I felt Hornby’s reference to this was quite interesting; at times, the main female characters in the book were definitely more like cliquey adolescents (and trust me, I went to a girl’s school, she gets it nearly spot on!)

There were some wickedly funny parts to the story that did have me chuckling to myself in recognition of the situation and some pretty sad parts too; I felt sorry for a few of the characters on a couple of occasions – mainly Heather with her desperation to fit in which leads to a transformation in her character and Rachel, with her ex-husband woes.  However, with so many people on the periphery of the plot, it was hard to feel anything more than a pang of sadness for some of the incidents in the story.

Overall, it was an easy read, if we do manage a holiday this year, I can see myself probably re-reading it alongside similar ‘holiday’ reads by Marian Keyes or Sophie Kinsella.  I’ll be honest, I think Hornby has a fair way to go to be on a par with her contemporaries, but I think this is a pretty good first novel.

 

 

* Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this novel by Mumsnet for review – however all the opinions expressed are my own and represent my honest thoughts. *

This entry was posted in Reviews.

#MarriedMay – First Dance

I’ve not managed to do as many blog posts as I would’ve liked for Married May, but we’ve moved house in the last 10 days so things have been a little bit hectic around here!

Our First Dance was to Chuck Berry’s, You Never Can Tell.  Andy and I don’t really have a song that is ‘ours’. I think we both like such different and varied things that whilst I might think something by the Beastie Boys might be resonant for our relationship (you never know!), he would think it was absolute dirge and would pick something by Duran Duran (or other, appropriately 80s band…)

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You Never Can Tell was picked by a couple of our guests for the evening playlist – as part of our RSVP form we asked people to choose up to three songs (I have to say, there were some bloody good choices in there, and some rather questionable ones that we chose to exclude…!)

As the day drew nearer we realised that we hadn’t given much, if any, thought to the first dance, we had decided at various points that we just weren’t going to do one or that we’d just play something by The Specials and pogo our way through it!  We knew, absolutely, utterly knew (no offence everyone!), that we didn’t want three minutes of awkward shuffling to something slow.  Sorry, as I say, that’s likely to offend a lot of people, but I just didn’t want that to happen, it always ends up being awkward, everyone standing around watching, awwing, taking photos.  And so we chose to pretty much ignore it, pretend it wasn’t going to happen!

Come the Thursday before the wedding we realised we’d better do something. So we trawled the playlist and You Never Can Tell came up.  Not that we’re teenagers but the first line talks about a ‘teenage wedding where the old folk wished them well.”  We realised it had quite a good beat and that we could probably throw some of our swing dancing knowledge to it.

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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, many moons ago, Andy and I had enrolled in Swing Jive lessons with Surrey Jive. They were brilliant and I really enjoyed our lessons. Sadly, we didn’t practice as much as we should’ve, and despite saying we’d go back in the run up to the wedding, things obviously didn’t quite work out that way.

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In the end, we didn’t remember enough to fill the entire song. So we decided to start off with a bit of good old hand jiving a la Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. As any keen movie fan will know, You Never Can Tell was the song Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega danced to in the Jack Rabbit Slim’s Dance Competition.  Copying their moves for the first verse of the song seemed to work well followed by the short bit of swing dancing we were able to remember!

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Come the day of the wedding, things went slightly wobbly.  The plan had been to do our first dance, then present the band which we had kept a secret, Beatles for Sale, then a playlist of stuff we had chosen that took us from the 50s right up to current day (being the music nut I am, I had my own playlist, the aforementioned Dance Through The Decades, and then the second playlist for after the 2nd band set which was all the stuff chosen by our guests.  I think I even had a special 10 minute playlist to be played at the end of the night – of course, we weren’t there so I don’t know if this happened!!)

In the end, ‘George’ got stuck on the motorway so we had to do our first dance and then into the first playlist. This worked really well as it meant we could get people up and dancing straight away to limit the embarrassment factor!

I was given a large glass of whiskey, and off we went….

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Sadly I don’t have a video anymore, we had uploaded it to YouTube but thanks to Copyright infringement it was removed! I think we did pretty well if I do say so myself.  I think one of Andy’s friends even more or less said, “For a bigger girl, you can dance really well….!”  Why thank you!

#MarriedMay – DIY

I so wish I had posted this earlier (or at least started it before 9:15pm!) because our wedding really was, pretty much, totally DIY.

There were so many aspects of DIY to our day it’s hard to know where to begin.  Our main reason for DIY-ing so much of it was budget.  We saw lots of things and ultimately thought, “Sod it, we could make that ourselves!”  We applied this logic to pretty much everything, including the cake (more on that shortly!)

Let’s start with my own personal labour of love, the bunting.  I wrote a post about how I made my bunting way back when.  It took a very long time, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  Unfortunately it looked a little swamped in the barn in the end, it was hung up so high you couldn’t really see it, but it looked nice nonetheless and I was proud of my small contribution to the DIY.

Bunting Colours

Because I have to admit, none of the DIY aspects would’ve worked were it not for my parents and sister.  They pulled out all the stops to make things happen for the wedding.  The paper confetti cones were handmade (Oh dear, please don’t let us get into a copyright tussle, sorry Mr McCartney (or whoever owns the Beatles back catalogue these days!!)

Confetti Cone

To fit in with our music theme, we bought some cheap Ikea frames and printed off pictures for each of the bands (Okay, so table names and numbers must be the easiest DIY but still!)

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At the last minute we realised we didn’t really have a table plan (we had a rather elaborate and complicated play on American style ‘escort cards’, see below!) so we had to throw this together the day before the wedding so people had a rough idea where in the barn their table actually was!!)

Table Plan

Yeah, so we had this whole music theme going on with the wedding and we had this really elaborate plan that was based on escort cards we’d seen on Pinterest (CURSE YOU PINTEREST!!!)  The idea being that each tape had the guests name and the table printed onto it.  This was a FAFF!  A: It was a faff to make; do you have any idea the strange kind of website I had to visit to buy these tapes, matching ones, in bulks?! Printing and sticking the labels was an effort using the crappiest template ever onto pre bought tape labels!! and B: It was hella confusing and we had to station the bridesmaids next to the table to speed it up a bit!!  I hope no one ever played their tape, they were all terrible spoken word horror stories!!

Seating Plan

The place names themselves were also a faff, but this time, for my sister.  But they looked so bloody good, I hope she agrees it was worth it!  Basically each person had a record with a printed label which had their names (obviously!) and a different Beatles track on it.  I think they had a little fun choosing some of the song titles for our guests…!  People loved them and at the end of the meal we handed out plain paper record sleeves for people to take them home.

Record Front

I’m not sure where we had seen a wedding post box, but it seemed a lovely idea.  Enter Mr Fleming.  Papa.  As a cabinet maker and general creative whizz, he created a beautiful post box for our guests to post wedding cards in (it saved them getting lost!)

Post Box

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I wish I had a proper picture of our guest book but that was another DIY thing, we bought a book and stuck a coloured envelope onto each page.  Then when guests had been in the photobooth, they could write a message on a card and leave it all in the envelopes.  It was a great idea, it looks lovely, BUT the book ended up being so big I think the spine might go!!

Another thing we DIY’d was the big metal hoop of sheet music.  We had visited the Hard Day’s Night Hotel in Liverpool for the Hen Weekend (EPIC!) and in the Reception area they have Beatles sheet music hanging from the ceiling.  We decided to emulate this using a book of Beatles sheet music and some net.  The barn had two big metal hoops, one above the main area, and another over the ceremony area.  We (no, sorry, Ruth, Lex, Andy and dad) hung the net and music from the hoop.  It looked quite effective I think, although you did have to be told it was specifically Beatles music….

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There were lots of other little aspects of DIY; the sweetie bar, the ribbons on the backs of our chairs, the dressing table the cake was on, the stand for the beer….

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But perhaps the most epic of all the DIY aspects of the day was….

Cake

THE CAKE!

Epic really.  To think my family did that.  What clever chaps!

Cut a long story short, the cake was something that seemed time and again to just cost more than we wanted to pay.  Coupled with the fact that I couldn’t decide what I wanted, my dad decided he could manage it.

In the end we bought the cakes themselves ready made.  They arrived the weekend before the wedding and then the fun began.  They kept it all a secret, so all I really saw was the white icing, rolled out and covering the entire breakfast bar in their kitchen (a huge slab of granite!)

It wasn’t until the day before the wedding that I got the big reveal!  We had bought an old dressing table from eBay which my dad had resprayed a lovely cream (oh how I miss my dressing table, I hope to be reunited with it soon!).  He had a glass top made for it so that the cake sat higher as the middle mirror on the dresser was really tall.

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Layer by layer it was revealed. In the end, I had a layer of everything I had asked for over the previous 18 months! First the bottom layer, painted by my sister using our stationery design as a template. Then the stripy layer (apparently, this was the hardest to achieve!).  My mum cut out hundreds of little purple hearts for the next layer and to increase the height, they added a layer of silk flowers.  Next the spotty layer and finally, a plain little top finished off with a fabulous topper from Miss Cake!

It really did look stunning, and was quite literally, the icing on the cake for our DIY day….

 

* Also, credit where credit’s due: Some of these photos, and from the posts preceding were taken by our talented photographer, Liam Smith.