Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Why It's A Shame Fewer Women Are Having Home Births



According to The Guardian, fewer women are now choosing to give birth at home. The number of babies born at home in 2016 was lower than it has been for 15 years. Home births account for around one in every 50 babies born. The article blamed midwife shortages for the drop, with many women reportedly unsure about opting for a home birth in case midwives weren’t available on the day.

Having given birth both at home and in a hospital, I cannot stress how much nicer it was to give birth surrounded by my creature comforts. Giving birth at home meant I was able to relax and enjoy the privacy of giving birth in my own living room.

When I was pregnant with Ebony, I felt anxious that we might not be allowed to have a home birth on the day. I had heard stories of women who had planned to give birth at home only to be told that there were no midwives and they would have to head to the hospital, instead. It was something I felt really worried about until the antenatal teacher at my NCT class told us to just insist that we were having one. I’m sure that’s really difficult for midwives, but I know we would have done it if we had needed to.

The second time around, I felt slightly less worried simply because we’d done it before. However, a few weeks before the birth I saw in a Facebook home birth group that a woman in my village had ended up in that exact situation. She went to hospital and ended up having a lovely birth, but I was still worried that the same thing might happen to me. In the end, of course, I ended up having being high-risk and needing to give birth in a hospital (or, at least, only really feeling comfortable with that option because of the potential risk to the baby in my situation), so it’s impossible to know whether it would have affected me.

Having had both a home and hospital birth, I can say without a doubt that, if I were to do it all over again, I would definitely choose to give birth at home. If you’re pregnant now, or planning to be soon, and are wondering where you might want to have your baby, I thought I’d share some of the reasons why I think a home birth is the better option. In the 1960s, a third of all babies were born at home, but that number has decreased drastically. Now, just 2 percent of babies are born at home. So, here are a few reasons why you might want to consider being in the minority:

1. Continuity of care
I had one amazing midwife who stayed with me throughout the labour and birth, and two equally lovely midwives who arrived in time for the birth and who stayed to do the postnatal care. The midwife who arrived at 4am stayed with me throughout the labour. She wasn’t looking after other women or dashing out of the room to help her colleagues, she was perched on the sofa, drinking tea, in my living room, offering reassurance where needed and scribbling her notes by candlelight (we did have electricity, she just lit a lot of candles). She stayed after her shift finished and was there to meet Ebony when she was born.

When she left, I was looked after by two other midwives who were both lovely. They did the new baby checks and my postnatal care and were with me right up until they left. In hospital, my midwife was called away to look after other patients (the hospital was busy and understaffed that weekend), and it took a long time to get away from the delivery room and into the postnatal ward so I could sleep. I remember there being a lot of waiting around involved the second time.

2. Privacy
I gave birth to my first daughter in the living room at our first home. I spent most of my labour in the pool. The lights were off and I was surrounded by candles. It felt really calm and peaceful and completely private. Laurie and the midwife sat near the pool and we weren’t disturbed until the gas and air arrived by taxi at 7:30am. In the hospital, things were much busier. There were lots of people coming and going. And, while I’m sure that was because I was classed as high risk, I didn’t like that people kept just wandering into the room while I was in labour.

3. Everything you need is right there
Packing a hospital bag is hard. Even if you spend hours online researching what you need, you’ll probably still end up without things you would have like to have with you on the day. Like towels, why are hospital towels so ridiculously small? If you choose a home birth, everything you need is right there with you. If you decide you want different music, or to change your clothes or to use a pillow - you can take your pick from the stuff you have in the house instead of relying on hospital supplies. I also really loved the pool I used at my home birth but found the hospital one way too uncomfortable - I didn’t like not being able to fully control my environment

4. There’s no car journey
The good thing about giving birth at home is that you’ll hopefully be exactly where you need to be when labour starts. You don’t need to worry about whether it’s the right time to go to the hospital and you don’t need to endure the car journey from hell while you shout at your partner for driving too fast during contractions. Instead, you can use the early labour to get your room setup, relax and maybe even get some rest.

5. You don’t have to stay in hospital
You won’t feel great after birth, Empowered, sure, but other than that you’ll feel pretty grim. You’ll be covered in all kinds of fluids, you’ll be bleeding heavily and you’ll be exhausted. You know what makes that worse? Having to use hospital showers and change your maternity pad in the communal toilets and being interrupted every few hours in the night so nurses can take your obs. It was so nice when I had a home birth because, once the midwives left, it was just me and my new family. I had a shower in the privacy of my own bathroom, I changed into some clean pyjamas and I snuggled down in my own bed. It was perfect.  

I honestly can’t recommend home birth strongly enough, it was absolutely the right choice for me and my family. If you’re thinking about having a home birth, talk to your midwife about it at your next appointment.

Autumn Toddler Fashion With Esprit



I've already written about how autumn parenting isn't quite what I imagined it would be, so I'm not going to wax lyrical about how much I love this season. I do, the idea of it, but the reality is much colder, windier and wetter than I remembered.

The good news is that the colder weather means it's time to break out the warmer clothes from my wardrobe and, in the case of my kids who never stop growing, go shopping. I've been keeping an eye on the winter clothes appearing in the shops and have already bought a couple of jumpers and little bits.

I thought I'd share a few of my favourite items from Esprit's AW17 baby and toddler range. They have some really beautiful things in the collection and I particularly love the grey dress (£30).

1. Formal flannel dress with cotton lining £30 - isn't this the most adorable dress ever? We have plenty of dresses for playing in, but not many that are well suited to meals out and formal occasions, so I'd love to get this so she had something nice to wear for parties.

2. Knit cardigan in 100% cotton £20 - this is available in both pink and navy, I chose the navy because I love dark colours on babies - I always think they make their eyes stand out more.

3. Knitted scarf with jersey lining cotton £11 - I think this pale pink colour would look so cute with the grey dress. I am not usually a huge fan of pink on baby girls, but I don't mind the odd bit every now and again.

4. 100% cotton mittens £11 - mittens attached to a string, just like my mum used to make in the 90s! Is there anything more genius? We lose about three toddler socks a week so I hate to think how many gloves we might lose come winter. I definitely need to invest in a pair of these.

5. Knitted hat with a jersey lining cotton £11 - well, might as well eh? Who doesn't love a toddler in matching knitwear!

This is a collaborative post. 

5 Money Saving Tips



























It’s that time of year again, with Christmas looming and plenty of wet weekends to fill, suddenly money doesn’t seem to stretch quite as far as it did in the summer. The end of the year is always the most expensive for me, especially when you factor in household bills and activities to keep the kids entertained. Plus, it’s around this time of year when things start to break. Either the boiler won’t switch on (thankfully not this year) or the guttering is doing a terrible job of keeping rain away from the house (again, not this year). The washing machine did break last month, but we managed to replace that quickly without too much stress.

We have savings we can dip into when we need to, which means we were able to buy as new washing machine without taking out a short-term loan. I think if you have a little bit of money saved for emergencies, it can take some of the stress out of those unforeseen financial expenses that crop up when you least expect them.

I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’ve been trying to reduce my expenditure recently:

1. Meal plan
I spend an absolute fortune on food when I haven’t had the time (or inclination) to sit down and plan out exactly what we’re going to eat. It means I end up popping to the overpriced local shop every day instead of doing a big weekly shop. This month, I’ve been planning out our meals so that I can do a big shop and make sure we have everything we need. Shopping online also means you can take better control of your budget because there are no surprises at the checkout (why oh why do I always succumb to impulse buys).

2. Switched my phone contract
We usually shop around when it comes to household bills, and check every year that we’re still getting a good deal. For some reason, I’d never applied this logic to my phone contract. Last year, I switched from one of the big names to Giff Gaff and I can’t recommend them enough. It’s not a contract, it’s cheaper and I get really good service. It only costs me £10 a month and I get plenty of data, messages and minutes.

3. Enjoy free days out
This is way easier to do in the summer, but it is possible in the colder months, too. It might not be the weather for picnics, but we’ve still been spending plenty of time exploring outdoors. I love going for big family walks so we try to factor that in when we can at the weekend. We also visit museums and other places where we can explore for free and keep the kids entertained for a bit.

4. Choose my toddler groups carefully
When Ebony was born, I spent a small fortune on baby groups. I went for the all-singing all-dancing groups that cost an arm and a leg (and they make you do the singing and dancing so it’s actually quite terrible). This time, I’ve been more careful about where I spend my money. We’ve been visiting the local community and church-run groups instead. They’re way cheaper, they usually last longer and Ember has a great time so there’s really no need to spend the extra £5 a session.

5. Buy second-hand
I love going to the charity shops to look for books, clothes and toys for the girls. You can find some real bargains if you know where to look. I’ve already got a stash of second-hand things for their Christmas presents. It makes Christmas much more affordable and I don’t have to feel so guilty about all the stuff they end up with. I also tend to look on eBay for second-hand clothes and presents.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Friday, 13 October 2017

Autumn Parenting: The Dream vs The Reality



Ah, autumn. If you ask me towards the end of summer, I will tell you autumn is my favourite time of year. My eyes will glaze over and I will let out a sigh of nostalgia as I tell you about how much I love crunching through a carpet of fallen leaves. Ask me in autumn and I probably won’t hear you over the sound of my own misery because why is the world so cold and wet again?

I spent most of September feeling excited about autumn drawing in. Then the first leaves started to fall from the trees, the house became an igloo and I realised I had no winter boots. I was ranting to Laurie about the horror of autumn on the first of October when my five-year-old sweetly piped up, “But, Mummy, what about all the crunchy leaves?” Yeah, I get it, kid, I was an insufferable dick in September.

So, here it is, my dream of what autumn parenting would be like, followed by the cold, cold reality:

1. The school run
The dream: Dry, crisp mornings, grabbing our scarves and coats as we run out of the door (even in my dreams, we are late for school, to imagine otherwise would be laughable), holding hands as we crunch our way through the carpet of dry leaves on the pavement. Ebony kicking the leaves high as she runs beside me, both giddy with the joy of autumn.
The reality: Constant rain. Umbrellas dragged inside out by the wind. Shoes and sock and underwear soaked from the waist-deep puddles that line the path to school. Shoes squelching beneath our feet. The soggy leaves sit in clumps at the side of the path, doing little other than hiding the piles of dog crap beneath.

2. Nature walks
The dream: Taking long walks in the woods, kids laughing and giggling in delight, searching beneath the leaves to find the acorns and conkers beneath. Pockets bulging with chestnut-coloured conkers on the way home. A bag filled with delicate and beautiful autumn leaves.
The reality: Dragging the kids out, bribing them with stories of fairies and other things we definitely won’t see on our walk. Mud everywhere. Wet leaves, deep puddles, so much mud.
Jumping in puddles very quickly turns to sitting in puddles which very quickly turns to crying in puddles. The walk home is more of a hardship as I carry a mud-dipped toddler home, my coat getting coated in mud thanks to the filthy pair of wellies pressed against me.

3. Autumnal crafts
The Dream: Cosy afternoons at home with glue, glitter and a selection of foraged autumn leaves. Conkers become caterpillars, leaves glued to card to form a variety of wild animals and pinecones decorated to become hedgehogs. The walls of the house become an art gallery paying homage to the season.
The reality: The five-year-old manages to make one picture before the leaves are picked off by the toddler. Glue gets spilt. Craft afternoon quickly descends into chaos and tears. Scrunched up leaves cover the house, I spend most of the afternoon wrestling conkers from the toddler’s mouth, everybody has specs of glitter stuck to their scalp for weeks. I stand barefoot on a pinecone and teach the kids a new expletive in the process.

4. Autumn clothes
The dream: Evenings spent knitting beautiful homemade scarves to go with their adorable snuggly winter coats. Each time we leave the house, strangers ask to photograph us because the girls look so sweet.
The reality: Frustrating evenings spent knitting scarves that inexplicably end up triangular. The new coat comes home on the first day with three missing buttons, only one of which the five-year-old managed to hold onto. School mornings spent fixing yet more holes in the already ridiculously crap scarves I knitted. People laugh at us as we run down the street on the way to school.

5. Halloween
The dream: Afternoons spent crafting to create beautiful decorations to decorate the house. All of the food we eat is Halloween-themed with a healthy twist - jack o’lantern muffins, ghoulish bananas and spiderweb noodles. Both children look adorable yet terrifying in their Halloween costumes.
The reality: The Halloween Pinterest board gathers dust for another year as I am forced to concentrate my efforts on the impossible task of trying to find non-sexy Halloween outfits for small children. Eventually, give up and dress the kids up in obscenely short and corseted witches outfits, grown-up versions of which are probably popular in fetish brothels in remote corners of the globe. Sugar overload.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

5 Ways To Make Your Terraced House Feel Private



We live in an old terrace on a busy-ish street. There is a steady stream of traffic outside during busy times and a lot of footfall on the street outside. The front room has a big bay window and, though there is a very small front garden (not a garden, just concrete) outside, it can feel a little like living in a goldfish bowl at times. People walking past tend to glance in as they pass, which is fine unless my semi-feral children are climbing the windowsill in a state of undress (this has happened, unfortunately).

We use the back room as our living room because it feels completely private. We don’t have anybody at the back overlooking our property, so I can half-heartedly follow yoga DVDs to my heart’s content without worrying that I’m being watched. We use the front room as a playroom (hence the feral naked children), but I still spend a lot of time in there (mostly tidying or raging about the fact that nobody else is), so I’ve been thinking lately about ways we can try to make it feel more private in there. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Window shutters
My next door neighbours have these and I covet them. They look so much nicer than blinds or curtains and they allow for complete privacy. I would love to get some wooden shutters fitted in the front room, it would be a great way of blocking out the street on dark winter evenings. They also trap in warmth and have the added benefit that they don’t come with terrifying blind cords. Shutters can be pricey but there are ways of keeping the costs down, take a look at this DIY shutter guide to see how you can save money by measuring and installing the shutters yourself.

2. Triple glazing
When your house sits on the street, as opposed to being hidden away behind a long front garden, it’s not just people staring in that can disturb your privacy. The noise of the outside world can also shatter the illusion of being tucked away in your cosy home. We have double glazing and this does help to minimise noise from the street, but we still hear the scream of sirens or the chatter of drunken people walking home from the pub on a Saturday night. I would love to have triple glazing, I think that extra layer of glass would help to further minimise street noise and help our home feel a little more private.

3. A focal point outside
We have a very small space at the front of the house, but we haven’t done anything with it yet. There’s a little wall with a short railing on top, but not much else to look at. Most of the other houses like ours seem to have hedges or neatly pruned bushes outside. This creates a focal point for people to look at while they walk past, rather than them staring in through your windows. I quite liked the idea of putting a hedge along the front wall, but have since decided that it would block out too much light so I think we might opt for something slightly less intrusive instead. I am a big fan of colourful window boxes so we might do something like that in the spring when it’s warm enough for me to consider doing anything remotely garden-related.

4. Think about your furniture layout
If you want privacy, it makes sense to try and position your furniture in a way that helps you achieve that. If you don’t want people to see you all the time, position your favourite chair so it isn’t in the line of sight of those walking past. Avoid things that will draw people’s attention into the room, like a huge TV lighting up the entire room from the wall.

5. Think about floor coverings
Privacy isn’t just about feeling watched, worrying that you’re being overheard can be pretty miserable, too. When I’m negotiating with my kids about whether or not it’s appropriate to stand in windows naked, I don’t really want strangers overhearing. Carpets, curtains and rugs are great at soaking up noise, so can reduce the amount of noise that travels out of your house. Basically, anything fabric will reduce the amount of noise you create, so pad your home out with soft furnishings.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by AndrĂ© Branco on Unsplash

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Importance Of Self-Care: A Piece Of Advice For New Mothers



When I had my first child, almost six years ago, I had no idea about the importance of self-care. I put everything I had into my daughter. I was with her pretty much constantly, my little shadow, and I thought that was an important part of my parenting style. I wanted to be the best mother I could possibly be, and I thought that meant always being there. I hated the idea of her crying for me and me not being there to soothe her.

I’ve since realised that being there isn’t always enough. Looking after small children is hard and it’s simply not enough to be there. You have to be patient and caring and loving and energetic and in the mood to read the same book thirty-four times. You have to be present. And you have to be that way even when you have had no sleep and you don’t feel well and you’re touched out and your baby is clingy. And sometimes it just doesn’t feel possible. Sometimes you are so tired that it’s not easy to be patient, and sometimes you are so touched out that you don’t want to give any more cuddles or have your hair stroked (pulled) or your face slapped (worst game ever).

And, so, this time around, I’m making time for myself. I have to. If I think back to those days as brand new mother, when I hadn’t showered or slept or eaten, and I was just exhausted, I wish I could go back in time and force myself to take care of myself. Because, it’s cliche for a reason, you really can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s just not possible to be the best parent ever when you’re barely able to function as a human. If I could back in time I would force myself to take a break, just a few hours to do something for me. I was so worried that that would make me a bad mother, but, in hindsight, it would have made me a better one.

I’m still not a fan of spending too much time away from my second born, but I know that some time apart won’t hurt us. I can go to the theatre or out for a meal with friends and she will be just fine without me. And I get to spend some time not being a mother which always feels like a real luxury. To just be me, for a while. No nappies to change, raisins to dole out or toddlers to chase after. Just me, an actual person in my own right.

And, this time around, I’m better at recognising when I need to take that time. I know that when I’m feeling touched out, I need to take a little break to reset my batteries. I know that being overtired does none of us any good. And perhaps having two (and so twice the parenting to do) makes that all the more important. If I could give any piece of advice to new parents, it would be to take care of yourself, too. Make sure you’ve fitted your own life jacket so that you don’t exhaust yourself trying to stay afloat. It’s ok to take a break, be it a bath or a walk alone or drinks out with friends. You need that time to be you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Conservative Party Conference Protest March





It’s become a bit of family tradition to protest the Conservative Party Conference when it comes to Manchester. I still don’t really understand why they hold it here, it’s not exactly a tory-friendly city. It feels almost ceremonial. They come to flaunt their austerity and then we turn out with pun-ridden signs telling them to sod off.

We wanted to march with the NHS this year, I think that’s the issue that feels the most important to me at the moment. We found a group of nurses and doctors who had travelled up from London to attend the demo, so we situated ourselves just behind them. Laurie got talking to one of the nurses who told him how dire the situation was at his hospital. Apparently, the trust had run out of money and, in an attempt to reduce costs, had downgraded all of the nurses by one band (this doesn’t mean much to me, but apparently there are different bands of nurses and they get paid accordingly). Because of this, lots of nurses quit and the hospital was now understaffed and unable to hire new nurses (because of the lack of money). He said, quite simply, people were dying because there simply weren’t enough nurses to look after them.

When I was in hospital during the world’s longest pregnancy, I got talking to one of the staff. I don’t remember if she was a nurse or something else, but she was very lovely. She was telling me that they simply didn’t have the resources to help new mothers learn how to breastfeed. They were understaffed and overworked, most of the time she only had a few minutes available with each mum so would end up just putting the baby on the breast for the mum rather than teaching her how to do it herself.

The NHS is crippling, staff shortages are causing more stress to the already undervalued, overworked and underpaid staff and this is then leading to even more staff leaving the NHS. The NHS is such an amazing thing, and I worry that the government are starving it of money so that it can be dismantled, but I fear that, if this happens, it cannot be undone easily.

So, we found an NHS group to march with. Ebony had made some signs. One said “We are keeping an eye on you, people” which was quite creepy. And an even more sinister one that said: “Don’t hurt animals if you don’t hurt people, too” which I feel like could be easily misinterpreted. Ember wore her new “I am the future” jumper because she isn’t old enough to make signs and, honestly, had no idea what we were doing anyway. But she really enjoyed the drumming, the whistles and the general noise of the march. We didn’t manage the full march because Ember kept marching in the wrong direction, but we managed to do most of the most march.

I think it’s important to take kids to protests because it teaches them the importance of speaking out against injustice. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss social issues with them, so we spent the journey there talking about the importance of the NHS and why we wanted to march in support of it. My parents always took me to protests when I was younger and I love carrying on that tradition of standing up for what you believe in.

Monday, 2 October 2017

6 Things To Consider When Leaving Your Child For The First Time



Leaving your child in somebody else’s care for the first time is a big step. It’s something you’ll probably give a lot of thought to and, understandably, feel anxious about. Taking time out from family life can be a sanity saver though and, in my experience, allows you to return feeling refreshed and a little bit more ‘you’.

When Ebony was born, I was pretty much superglued to her. I didn’t let her out of my sight very often and I was happy with that. As she grew older and more independent, I felt able to leave her for the odd evening here and there so I could have some time to not be a mum. With Ember, I found I was happy to leave her earlier. This could be second child syndrome or it could be that I finally understand how important self-care is (I’m not sure I ever really did when Ebony was little). And, of course, they’ve both been perfectly fine without me.

Here are some things to consider when leaving your child for the first time:

1. Wait until you’re ready
Society seems to push the idea that women should be ‘back to normal’ within weeks after the birth. That means you’re supposed to shed your baby weight, go out all night and generally act like you did pre-kids. And if you want to do that, then of course, go ahead, enjoy yourself. There’s no reason why you need to stay chained up at home if you’d rather be out letting off steam. But, equally, if you don’t want to go out, then don’t. You don’t need to rush yourself, just wait until you’re ready - and one day you will be, even if it’s not today. If you want to soak up a little more time with your baby, do it.

2. Find someone you trust
This is the biggest worry for new parents, isn’t it? You want to make sure that the person you choose is completely trustworthy and sensible and reliable and, well, the you away from you. Many people choose to use grandparents or close friends, but that’s not always an option. You may live far from family or simply have families who are pretty much always on holiday (no? Just me?) or who have busy social calendars. Thankfully, there are professional babysitters out there to cover exactly these circumstances. You can hire professional childcare workers who are looking for a little extra cash to babysit for you in the evenings. Click here to find a babysitter.

3. Prepare your child
If your child is old enough to hold a (semi decent) conversation, you should spend some time chatting about the babysitter in advance. It’s tempting to just run out of the door without saying bye for fear of causing upset, but preparing your child in advance can actually make the transition easier. You’ll be able to talk through any worries your child might have and provide reassurance that you’ll be back very soon.

4. Do a trial run
The first time you leave your child in somebody else’s care, it makes sense to do it as a trial run. So, instead of shipping yourself halfway across the country for a weekend, just spend a couple of hours at the pub down the road. This means you’ll be nearby so can pop home if necessary. You’ll get a taste of freedom and your child will see that having a babysitter isn’t a bad thing. And, when you do need to go far away, it won’t feel like such a huge leap for either of you.

5. Stick to the routine
I’m not a routine kind of mama, I’ve never been a fan of forcing kids into strict schedules. But, even if you don’t favour that way of parenting, it’s inevitable that your kids will fall into a routine even if it’s a loose one. They probably eat dinner at around the same day each and have a somewhat similar bedtime most nights (or attempted bedtime, if you’re me). Keeping your child in the routines they are accustomed to will make the transition easier, so be sure to let your babysitter know what time your child will probably go to bed or what they’ll want if they wake up. Don’t be afraid to leave notes for your babysitter - it will actually make their job easier.

6. Allow time to reconnect

And, finally, plan in some time to reconnect with your child after the separation. Block out some time the next morning to spend some quality time. It could just be a chat over breakfast or some stories before nursery, but that time is key to helping you reconnect with your child.

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

10 Things That Have Changed In My 10 Years Of Being Vegan



This month marks ten years of me being vegan which makes me feel painfully old but also pretty proud. It feels like a milestone, a whole decade of veganism. And the vegan scene was so different back in 2007, I’ve seen huge changes happen during that time. I don’t have an official date I went vegan, I cut things out of my diet slowly over a month and while that might be lame by today’s standards, it worked and I was vegan by the end of the month so stop your judgement. Laurie went vegan in a day, but he pays no attention to dates so we have no idea when that was (though he always tells Ebony how he went vegan first), so all we know is that by the end of September, we were vegan. So, ten Septembers later, I thought I would write a little bit about the changes I’ve seen during my first decade of being vegan:

1. People know what ‘vegan’ means now
Ten years ago, nobody knew what vegan was. Every time I went to a restaurant or cafe I would have to explain exactly what I did and didn’t eat to the waiting staff who would then have to go and explain it to the chef. Not anymore. Nowadays, vegan has made it into society’s vocabulary. I never have to explain veganism anymore. This is probably saving me, on average, two hours a year, time which I treasure.

2. There’s more of us
This vegan thing is contagious, I think. According to one study, the number of vegans increased by 360% between the years 2006 and 2016. Now, obviously, I can’t claim all of that as my personal success, but, you know, maybe a bit of it, right? There used to be hardly any vegans so nobody knew what veganism was and most people you met said “Vegan? What’s what?” in a way that implied it might be a deadly disease. Now, it’s only my grandma who still does that, everyone else is more likely to say ‘Oh, you’re vegan? Yeah, my friend/sister/boss is vegan.’

3. Everything is labelled
Ok, not everything, but way more products say they’re suitable for vegans these days. Most of the major supermarkets have started labelling products as vegan now which saves lots of time. When I first went vegan, I used to spend a long time scouring the ingredients of everything in the supermarket, but now a quick glance will suffice. I find this really useful and I’ve been vegan for ages, so I can’t imagine how much easier it makes things for brand new vegans who need to check pretty much everything they eat. I have the Safe For Vegans app on my phone which means it’s easy to find out if products are vegan even if they’re not clearly labelled, all I have to do is scan the barcode.

4. The media coverage has improved
Veganism has gone mainstream. Ten years ago, veganism was rarely mentioned in the press and, when it was, it was presented as extremism (one newspaper accused the charity I worked for of being a load of ‘anarchists in an attic’). Now, there are constant news stories talking about the benefits of being vegan. Sure, there’s still the odd article making out that all vegans are extremist nut jobs committing child abuse, but on the whole, the media is a lot more vegan-friendly.

5. It’s easier to eat out
Ten years ago, if I wanted to eat out, my safest bet was to head to a vegetarian or vegan eatery. I used to hate going out to ‘normal’ places and enduring the pitiful looks of my friends while I tucked into a portion of chips and side salad. In 2017, loads of places offer vegan options. And not just stuffed aubergines, actual tasty vegan options that make it worthwhile eating out. Manchester is great for vegan food, but even Romiley (the little place I live) can cater pretty well for vegans now. Ten years ago, I had to ring a week in advance to warn restaurants that I was vegan, but now most places have vegan options or are used to catering for vegans.

6. There is so much vegan junk food
I can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing. In terms of vegans being healthier, it’s probably not good that there is now an abundance of junk food conveniently available. In terms of me liking junk food, it’s definitely an improvement on 2007. Back then, I had to trek to a vegan shop to get my fill of chocolate, burgers and ice-cream. And those things were expensive. Now, the supermarket shelves are filled with vegan fudge, sweets, cheese, burgers - it’s the stuff my vegan dreams were made of circa 2007.

7. There is such a thing as vegan hospital food now
Back in 2008 or maybe 9, I forget, Laurie ended up with an overnight stay at Bristol Royal Infirmary. Bristol was a bit of a vegan paradise back then (in that there were some other vegans and a Holland & Barrett) so you could be forgiven for thinking the hospital might be able to cater for vegans. They gave Laurie… a plate of broccoli. Not even a big plate and not even piled high with broccoli. Just a side plate with a few florets of broccoli on. Skip forward to 2016 and I was in hospital for the worst part of a week and I expected the food options to be similarly dire. After all, if they couldn’t manage vegan options in Bristol (the city of vegans), how the hell was Stepping Hill Hospital going to do any better? But they did. They had soya milk and vegan butter and they fed me three meals a day the whole time I was in there. My first (of many) foods I ever dropped on my baby’s head were from an amazing creamy pasta thing they made me.

8. There is a lovely online vegan community
There has always been a lovely vegan community, but it’s easier to be part of now. I was lucky because I knew a lot of vegans when I went vegan so I had plenty of people around me to ask about vegan foods. Now, I see these conversations happening online in groups of strangers. People will post that they’re in M&S and wondering what they can eat and in a matter of minutes, they’ll have a comment thread filled with suggestions. People share new vegan products they find in Facebook groups and there are groups providing support to vegan parents like myself. My Instagram feed is filled with amazing looking home-cooked vegan meals and people sharing photos of vegan restaurants they have visited. It’s easy to find inspiration when I’m wondering what to have for lunch.

9. Vegan is seen as healthy now
I think one of the biggest change to veganism over the past ten years is how it is portrayed. People used to think of vegans as being skinny, pale and miserable. It’s probably down to the vegan celebrities that this is no longer the case. The general public is more aware now that animal products perhaps aren’t as healthy as they were once thought to be. And, when you realise that and see the number of vegan products available, it’s pretty obvious that a vegan diet is healthy. Ten years ago, vegans were animal rights activists. Nowadays, there’s a mix of people eating plant-based for the animals, people doing it for the planet and people taking that step because they want to improve their health.

10. Vegan meringues exist
I love meringue. My dad used to make these meringue pavlovas with strawberries and cream and they were so much a part of my childhood that I can still remember exactly what they tasted like (the same is true of his butterscotch sauce and his chocolate sauce and, yeah, my childhood mostly revolved around pudding). And, for the first seven years of being vegan, meringue was the thing I missed. I used to eat loads of cheese, but I don’t miss it. I used to love dippy eggs as a kid, but I don’t miss them. But meringue, oh man, yeah, I missed it. But then, something amazing happened. Somebody discovered a way of making meringue out of chickpea water (I know it sounds gross but I swear it’s not) and my life changed forever. Now I have nothing to miss.

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