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Pregnancy during a Pandemic: How New and Expectant Parents are being Left Behind

Pubs are back open, #ButNotMaternity
Pregnancy in a Pandemic: How New and Expectant Parents are being Left Behind - #ButNotMaternity - The Cardiff Cwtch

“Nervous?” I ask my husband as he steers our car off the A470 and makes the turn towards Nelson.

He frowns into the rear-view mirror.  “…I’m having some serious concerns about her nose.”

I take a breath and catch my own reflection in the passenger side mirror. I wrinkle my own nose – the nose that’s made me cringe at every side profile photograph ever taken of me since my teens.  “…Yeah. Between yours and mine, she’s screwed.

We’ve driven half an hour to see the tiny, terrible schnoz we’ve joked about for years – ever since Sunny and I first got together and wondered quietly what a much smaller version of the two of us would look like. The drive’s been relatively quick but the journey’s been much, much longer; I definitely didn’t expect to go through two miscarriages along the way, and I definitely didn’t expect the one that stuck to happen in the middle of a global pandemic. Since piddling on that stick back in March – on one of those final days of blissfully ignorant freedom before the whole world locked down – it’s been a strange, frustrating and lonely few months to be pregnant. So far I’ve attended all my NHS scans and check ups alone – from the terrifying 12 week scan that brought back painful memories of last year’s empty, silent screen, to the 20 week anomaly scan, where I fizzled with excitement alone when I found out I was having a girl. Of course Sunny came to every single appointment and scan but he had to wait outside with all the other hopeful soon to be dads in their cars at the curb, nervously shuffling their feet waiting for updates via Whatsapp – good or bad. Now I’m 28 weeks, and the only way Sunny can actually see his baby before she arrives is to fork out for a private scan – a luxury not every couple can afford.

And there are so, so many out there just like us. It’s only now, 6 months after the Covid-19 Pandemic interrupted all our lives that the struggle new parents have been through during this time are being reported in the media, with questions finally being raised at PMQs, and NHS Trusts beginning to consider relaxing the strict rules that were slapped on antenatal and maternity services way back in March. Rules that have forced women to attend important screenings, scans and appointments alone. Rules that have relegated important face to face appointments to phone calls. Rules that have suspended longed for IVF cycles. Rules that have left women to be induced, prepped for caesarians and labouring in hospital all alone – separated from their support network and chosen birthing partner until they reach established labour. Rules that have kept parents away from their newborn babies during those precious first few days – treating partners as the lesser parent. Rules that have seen vital postnatal services and health visits vanish into thin air.

Pregnancy in a Pandemic: How New and Expectant Parents are being Left Behind - #ButNotMaternity - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

Worse still, it’s because of these rules that some women have been forced to go through the anguish of miscarriages and still births completely on their own. I remember my own miscarriages in vivid detail – the long and painful wait in A&E the first time clutching my belly in one hand and my husband’s in the other, and the weird crack in the ceiling of the scanning room I chose to stare at as I went through a third uncomfortable internal scan to confirm my second. The thought of having to go through all those moments without Sunny by my side holding me together when I was ready to crumble and listening to the important advice and instructions on medicinal management when I simply couldn’t is difficult to imagine, and yet so many women have been forced to do just exactly that over this strange and surreal summer.

Rules are easing, but sadly it’s an inconsistent story across the country as it’s down to individual NHS Trusts to decide how they manage their Covid Restrictions. So, while a new Mum in Bristol might have to labour in full PPE while her partner waits outside in the car, her counterpart over the bridge in Newport may find that she’s actually able to hold her partner’s hand from that very first contraction right through to the last. And that’s all without considering the threat of a second wave taking us straight back to where we started (in fact, not five days after my private scan up in Nelson, Caerphilly became the first county in Wales to go back into Lockdown). It’s utterly baffling that while we’re being encouraged to eat out in pubs and restaurants alongside total strangers, a couple from the same household can’t be together during some of the most terrifying and challenging moments of their life together. When I’m asked in the next few weeks where I’d like to give birth, I’m seriously considering putting “Local Pub” down on my birth plan with a request for an ice cold lager shandy and curry half and half on standby for when I finally pop. At least my husband would actually stand a chance of being there, and I reckon that pint would go down a treat.

In the scanning room up in Nelson, our daughter’s nose finally appears on screen. It’s absolutely massive, but lovely all the same; it’s ours. And even though I know Sunny’s laughing just like I am, I don’t get to see it because of the mask he’s been forced to wear. As moments go, I’ll take it – even though the truth is that I’ve been dying to watch his reaction to seeing his daughter for the first time for months, years even. And while I’ve been really lucky so far compared to most – during a time where people have lost so much – for me and for many other mums to be it’s the loss of those first special moments that are going to stick in my throat, as well as the thought of what other less fortunate parents to be are going through – the loss of an experience shared for better or worse.

Head to ButNotMaternity.org to find out more on how you can help get NHS Trusts to update their rules and allow partners to attend scans, appointments and births, and tweet your own experiences of pregnancy and birth during Covid using #ButNotMaternity. If you’re in Wales, sign the Senedd Petition here.

Apple Rag Pie

Scrunchy and crunchy, like edible Autumn leaves…
Apple Rag Pie - The Cardiff Cwtch - Fall Recipes

September is finally here, although you wouldn’t know it. I dug out all my cosiest knits over the weekend and was reunited with my favourite fluffy grey jumper. I very proudly threw it on to head off to brunch with the dog and husband on Sunday only to end up throwing it in the wash when I got back because it was drenched in my sweat. Lovely. Why does September always do this to us? Just when you let yourself get excited for colder days, jumpers and boots chunky enough to crunch through fallen leaves, one of those trademark September scorchers suddenly arrives. Sadly my favourite fluffy jumper is going to have to wait for a while, but there is one Autumn tradition that’s well and truly under way in my house and that’s Autumn baking – especially with apples.

One of my lovely neighbours gave me a bag full of cooking apples the other day and I cannot wait to get stuck in making making Apple Fritters, Apple Cookies and of course, my favourite Apple Pie Cake. But the truth is that I got a head start on the Apple Bakes back in August when I whipped up this Apple Rag Pie. The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, who made a traditional Greek Rag Pie using feta, sesame seeds and plenty of honey. Problem is, I’m not a big fan of Feta, but the basic idea was definitely something I wanted to try and so I switched out the cheese for spiced apples and toasted flaked almonds. Crunchy and packed full of juicy spiced apple chunks, it’s not only a doddle to make but is banging served hot with a blob of ice cream and packs a little extra punch from some Calvados soaked sultanas. It also freezes well, so whip it up now and it’ll be there waiting for you when those cold nights really begin to draw in. 🙂

Apple Rag Pie - The Cardiff Cwtch - Apple Recipes

Apple Rag Pie

adapted from Nigella’s Old Rag Pie
Ingredients
  • 270g Filo Pastry
  • 100g melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml full fat milk
  • 4 apples, skinned, cored, chunked (…is that a thing?)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100ml Calvados (or regular Brandy)
  • 50g toasted, flaked almonds
Apple Rag Pie - The Cardiff Cwtch - Fall Bakes - Apple Pie Recipes
Method
  1. Place the sultanas in a bowl, pour over the Calvados Brandy and leave to soak ideally overnight or until they’re plump and drunk. 🙂
  2. Boil the apple chunks in water until they’re soft, but still hold shape. Drain, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and then set aside.
  3. To assemble the Rag Pie; line the base of a deep rectangular baking tray with one layer of filo pastry, then brush with a little melted butter. Next, separate the remaining filo sheets into three equal piles. Take the first pile; tear and scrunch the sheets of filo – loosely balling them and placing them into the tray (careful not to press down!). Scatter over half of your apple mix and sultanas, then pour over a little more melted butter. Repeat the process with your next pile of filo.
  4. Scrunch and tear the last layer to top the pile, then pour over the last of the butter. Section the pie into equal slices with a sharp knife, being very careful not to squash down your layers of filo (otherwise you’ll get a soggy pie). Whisk together the eggs and milk, then pour over the pie. Top with the toasted, flaked almonds.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 180°C and serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream.
  6. (You can also freeze it and cook it from frozen, just pop it in a cold oven, then heat it up at 180°C for 45 minutes. 🙂

Have a lovely week!

Zesty Limeade

Easy-peasy uh, lime-y squeezy…
Easy Limeade - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh lifestyle Bloggers

I don’t know about you but I am officially done with the 30°C heat. In a country that rarely sees the mercury creep above 25, it’s been HELL; I mean, my house is made for drizzly Welsh winters, not stinking, sticky hot summers (emphasis on the ST-ICKY) – and neither am I. On a recent shopping trip I stumbled across an aisle full of thick woolly jumpers and winter coats and let me tell you, I am so ready to feel that cool September bite in the air. And while I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine yet, the summer fatigue I get every year around this time has definitely started to set in.

Hopefully we’re done with the sweat and the humidity for now, but just in case we’re not – here’s the perfect antidote. I absolutely love fresh lemonade – and if you’ve never made it yourself before then why not? It’s an absolute doddle; there’s a reason why kids out in the states set up lemonade stands in the summer (American readers, do they really do that? Or is that just “Disney America?”). But limeade somehow, tastes even better – maybe because it feels just a little bit more grown up, especially with plenty of fresh mint. If you’re planning a late summer BBQ or picnic then you can’t go wrong with a ready made iced pitcher of the stuff – and you’ll be pleased to know it takes less than twenty minutes to make up. Shake some up ahead of the weekend and keep it chilling in the fridge and ready to pour for up to five days.

Zesty Limeade - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Food Bloggers

Zesty Limeade

makes enough for 1 pitcher
Ingredients
  • 200ml fresh lime juice (from approx 5 limes)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 300ml water
  • zest of one lime
  • mint leaves to garnish
Fresh Limeade - The Cardiff Cwtch - Female Welsh Bloggers
Method
  1. Squeeze as much juice out of your limes as possible into a saucepan (don’t worry if you get some pulp in there; you’re going to strain all that out later). Add the lime zest, cold water and caster sugar, then gently bring it all to the boil – by which time the sugar should have completely dissolved.
  2. Strain the liquid into a clean bottle/pitcher and then leave to cool. Before serving, give it a taste test and add a little more water if you find that it’s too strong.
  3. Serve over ice with a slice of lime and fresh mint. (…and maybe a shot of Tequila? *shrugs* I don’t know…) 😉
Quick and Easy Limeade - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff lifestyle Bloggers

Have a lovely week everyone! 💚

Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches

time to level up your bog standard chicken salad sandwich…
Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches - The Cardiff Cwtch

I’m currently writing up this post at 4am with bat hair and Bungle snoring soundly at my feet (git). Turns out that one of the many charming side effects of pregnancy is a total inability to catch some Zs at night. AND THE BABY ISN’T EVEN HERE YET. From 2am until 5am I can currently be found either wrestling with the massive doughnut pillow I bought off of Amazon (you know, the one that’s supposed to HELP me sleep), or scoffing biscuits in front of back to back episodes of Escape to the Chateau in the dark. I’m knackered. And I’d quite like to move to France – apparently derelict chateaus go for pretty cheap.

Thankfully, when it comes to a lot of the other pregnancy symptoms – I’ve got off likely so far. I haven’t had any morning sickness (other than a weird one off the other week that could just as easily be put down to polishing off a large chips from the local chippy…), and I’ve been able to carry on eating pretty much all of my favourite meals and foods bar the few that I’m not allowed – like sushi. But I’ve even got that covered now; as soon as I saw these Katsu Onigiri over on Pinterest, I knew I had to give them a go myself and come up with my own recipe, and here it is. Crunchy chicken katsu fillets, lots of fresh greens and pickles coated in sushi rice and wrapped in nori – polished off with a drizzle of sweet and smoky Tonkatsu Sauce. Yum!

Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches - The Cardiff Cwtch

Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches

makes 4
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 50g plain flour
  • 100g panko bread crumbs
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 300g sushi rice
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • pickled purple cabbage
  • sesame seeds, to garnish

For the Tonkatsu Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • 4 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. First, cook your sushi rice according to the pack’s instructions, stir in the mirin with a wooden spoon and then set aside and leave to cool.
  2. To make the Katsu Chicken, first wrap the fillets in clingfilm and tenderise with a rolling pin until slightly flattened. Next, unwrap and season then with salt and pepper. Set up a production line of bowls, each filled separately with the flour, whisked egg and panko bread crumbs. Coat the fillets in flour first, then dunk them into the whisked egg, following up with an even coating of panko breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the vegetable oil to a shallow frying pan and cook the katsu fillets over a medium heat, ensuring they’re golden brown and fully cooked on both sides.
  4. Next, make up your Tonkatsu Sauce; add all the ingredients to a bowl and stir until completely blended.
  5. Now you can make up your sushi sandwiches! First, lay out a sheet of nori and add a thin layer of sushi rice in the middle. Next layer up with your sliced avocado, spring onions and pickled cabbage, followed by a katsu fillet. Give it a good drizzle of Tonkatsu Sauce, then mirror a layer of avocado, spring onion and pickled cabbage on top – finishing with a bit more sushi rice. Sprinkle cold water around the edges of your sheet of nori, then fold the corners inwards – parcelling up your sandwich. Slice in half and then garnish with some more Tonkatsu Sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
  6. Repeat step five with the other three fillets. 🙂
Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a lovely week (and pleeeeeeeeease send sleepy thoughts my way 💤 )!

Easy Key Lime Cake

For a sub-lime (ha ha) slice that’s perfect with a G&T…
The Cardiff Cwtch - Easy Key Lime Cake - Lime Drizzle Cake

…Not that I’m allowed an ice cold gin and tonic at the mo (see previous post). I mean I’ve got a bottle of non-alcoholic gin that’s absolutely lovely – but it’s just not the same, alas. At least I can still load up on plenty of cake – and this little lime number really hits the spot on a hot afternoon when you’re looking for a bit of a zing in your doorstop wedge.

Although not technically a Key Lime Cake since you’d need to use special Swingle Limes from the Florida Keys to own that title, it’s definitely a bit of a love note to one of my favourite places on the planet and to the massive slices of Key Lime Pie I like to scoff when I’m lucky enough to be there. The sponge is buttery and moist – thanks to a good dollop of sour cream – with just enough of a hint of lime, while the icing’s where the punch is packed thanks to plenty of zest, juice and boiling down the lime leftovers for an added flavour boost (I bet you could add a shot of gin too if you were feeling a bit frisky... 😉 ). The perfect summer, afternoon cake – and it’s dead easy to make.

The Cardiff Cwtch - Easy Lime Cake - Lime Flavoured Cake - Cardiff Bloggers

Easy Lime Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 130g softened butter
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 130g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • zest and juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

For the icing:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • zest and juice of half a lime
  • 100ml water
  • leftover lime skin
  • candied limes (optionl)
Lime Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Food Bloggers
Method
  1. Set your oven to 160C (fan) and grease a 15cm cake loose -bottomed cake tin.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then pour in the whisked eggs. Stir to combine.
  3. Next, sift in the flour, followed by the baking powder and salt.
  4. Stir in the sour cream to create a soft, airy batter. Fold in the lime juice and zest (save the skin – you’re going to use it!)
  5. Pour the batter into your greased baking tin, then bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool.
  6. Whilst the cake is baking, pop your lime skin in a saucepan with 100ml of water and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes.
  7. Once the cake has cooled, whip up the icing. Combine your icing sugar, lime juice, zest and lime water. Ice the surface of the cake and then decorate with halved, candied limes if you like. If you’ve never made candied peel before then check out this post.

Have a lovely week! 🙂