book reviews

Book Review: Green Kitchen at Home

Green Kitchen at Home

It's hard to find inspiration sometimes, especially when cooking. If you follow a specific diet - like vegetarian, gluten free, or vegan - it can be even more difficult to find inspiring, easy recipes without too many specialised ingredients, which is why we are so excited about the Green Kitchen at Home cookbook.

This book was written by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl, the family behind the Green Kitchen Stories blog. It's full of versatile recipes for all types or meals and snacks. We picked up this book a couple of months ago and have been testing it with great (and delicious) success! 

Where this book Succeeds

Delicious food! The recipes in this book showcase and combine veggies in new and delightful ways - it made us love cauliflower and fennel like nothing else! We also love the side tips on how to elevate the recipe. We especially love the Mediterranean Tray-bake with Halloumi Chunks and the Green Pea, Broccoli, and Mint Soup with Puy Lentil Topping. 

It reads like a narrative. We weren't familiar with the Green Kitchen Stories prior to picking up up this book, but now we feel like we've known them for a while. The authors do a great job talking about why they picked these recipes and how their family (they have 3 little ones) feels about every dish they talk about. 

Versatile recipes! They have options for everyone - whether you're vegetarian, gluten free, or vegan! If you are an omnivore, you can easily add meat to most recipes as well! 

Points worth noting

Some recipes require a lot of ingredients. They're not necessarily speciality items but they also may not something you have on hand or shop regularly for, which can add up if you're getting them on top of your usual grocery list. 

Many recipes also require more prep work than others, which may be difficult or hassle full for some folks. We found most recipes we had to plan for - it wasn't something we do in the spur of the moment. 

If you want to check it out but are unsure about committing to purchasing it, the Toronto Public Library has several copies on hand! 

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

 

The First Forty Days - Book Review

The First Forty Days

During the forty or so weeks of pregnancy, there is so much anticipation and planning for the birth! Often, there is less planning when it comes to postpartum, especially in caring for the birthing person and/or new parent(s).The transition into parenthood or post-birth healing is filled with joy, challenges, and adaptation. Preparing for postpartum beforehand can go a long way in those early weeks when sleep is lacking, your body is healing, and you’re possibly doing everything for first time.  

Heng Ou, founder of MotherBees, wrote The First Forty Days - a gentle guide for postpartum healing and care inspired by the Chinese Tradition of zuo yuezi, the practice of sitting for forty plus days post-birth.  Zuo yuezi, and similar practices, occurs within many different cultures and countries as a way to support postpartum recovery and prepare for parenthood. While for some it may not be possible or ideal to completely shut the outside world out for this length of time, there is a lesson to be learned from this practice.

North American parents are praised for being able to ‘bounce back’ quickly after childbirth, but this overlooks a crucial period of healing and adjustment. The First Forty Days is meant to guide individuals through this period and adopting zuo yuezi to their lifestyles and postpartum experience.  Using ‘five insights’; retreat, warmth, support, rest, and ritual, Ou presents plenty of methods for self care and recovery that are easy and ranges from creating a support team and preparation for parenthood to spiritual and emotional practices.

WHERE THIS BOOK SUCCEEDS

Fundamental to The First Forty Days guide is giving yourself time: to heal, to learn, to make mistakes, to be cared for, and to move through your postpartum journey whatever it may look like. There can be a lot of pressure placed on new parents and plenty of advice and opinions (both wanted and unwanted). Ou does an incredible job of highlighting how the transition into parenthood is personal and a process through which individuals should be honoured and supported to encourage both confidence and recovery. For those birthing people not becoming parents, this can serve as guide for your physical and emotional recovery after birth as you will need time to focus on your wellness.

Ou suggests doing some of this planning beforehand, including food preparation, compiling a list of friends and family for support, having conversations about how a baby can change your relationships, and establishing the boundaries necessary for your selfcare. If you allow yourself this time and approach postpartum without expectations of certain outcomes, you will find you can adapt throughout the experience with the many tools and approaches laid out in this guide that prioritize your health and wellness.

The Food! The recipes are delicious and easy. Warming and soft foods, like soups and stews, are the basis of most meals outlined for the first forty days as these are more easily digestible and hearty enough for fueling and nourishing postpartum. When your focus shifts to caring for and becoming acquainted with your little one, it’s easy for you to neglect eating well, yet food is so important to postpartum healing and health. Heng Ou reminds readers that by nourishing themselves it will benefit baby too! What’s great about these recipes is that they could be made in bigger batches ahead of time and are easy enough that others could make for you. Beyond this, the recipes encourage simpler food preparation and eating habits, using local and seasonal produce, and can be adapted depending on dietary preferences. Some favourites include the Ginger Tumeric & Honey Tea, the Avocado Coconut & Lime Smoothie, and the ‘C-recovery’ vegetable stew.

POINTS WORTH NOTING

The choice of language in the book largely assumes that the birthing person is a woman and a mother, the baby is gendered, and the birthing experience is feminine. Nevertheless, the approaches put forth in the First Forty Days are beneficial for any birthing person, parent(s), or person playing an active role in care and support during the postpartum period.  The care practices and recipes are so beneficial and rejuvenating that they can be used by anyone, not strictly for postpartum parents.

Much of what Heng Ou recommends is easy and accessible in practice, but it requires some pre-planning and setting up supports. Ou does the stress the importance of doing this work beforehand (even better if you can start before baby arrives). It also helps those who will be a part of your postpartum journey know better how to support and help you. Depending on your personal and life circumstances, some approaches may not be for you, but this book has been set up as a gentle guide so that you can pick and choose what is useful for meeting your needs.

THE FIRST FORTY DAYS: THE 5 INSIGHTS FOR POSTPARTUM CARE

The First Forty Days is a wonderful resource for anyone having a baby, recently given birth, or for a person supporting another during postpartum. It acknowledges the experience one goes through in childbirth and why a period of recovery and being cared for is important to their health and wellness. Heng Ou puts forward five insights for postpartum care that can be adapted and used during postpartum period. There are many ways to use these insights, but some favourites include:

  • Retreat: doing something nice for yourself, your favourite self care practice, or simply finding some quiet time to be alone.

  • Warmth: a warm cup of tea, a bowl of soup or soaking in a relaxing bath.

  • Support: start early, practice asking others for help (it can be hard for some), and compile a list of people you can reach out to when in need.

  • Rest: SO important! But getting an adequate amount of sleep can be challenging after baby. Rest also includes minimizing your activity, this is not the time to jump back into your pre-pregnancy activities. Reach out to your support people. Most people will be happy to spend a couple hours with baby allowing you to rest. There are doulas and night nurses who do just this.

  • Ritual: if you are becoming a parent, this is a transformative time in your life and you may benefit from a ritual that allows you to honour who you were before baby and welcome this new aspect of your identity. Look into to ‘Mother Blessings’ if interested in this. Anything can become a ritual, what this books suggests is that it’s important to create a ritual that promotes your health and care.

Love, 

Kaia and the Spectrum Team

Spectrum Doula Collective offers postpartum and meal planning support that can help you during your postpartum journey. Our doulas make sure your postpartum transition is as smooth as possible by providing unique, expert care that suits your every need.

Book Review: Choosing Single Motherhood

Choosing Single Motherhood
I wasn’t prepared when my two and a half year old son asked, ‘So did my dad die or what?’ I thought the question would come up later than that. [. . .] By the time he was 6, he’d introduce himself by shaking hands and saying ‘Hi, I’m Ryan and I’m a donor baby.’ It wasn’t intended to shock people. For him it was simply part of who he was
— Wendy Kramer, Choosing Single Motherhood (270)

Perhaps you're thinking about being a single mom, parent, or you have a friend who has been considering it, and every time you look for a resource online, in the library, or book store, your search is largely dominated by resources targeted toward two-parent families. Although the #choicemom community has been around for decades (yes! decades), unfortunately, there are still limited resources for those looking to be a parent on their own. However, we are lucky that Mikki Morrissette, founder of ChoiceMoms.org (another fantastic resource), has written a wonderfully comprehensive book about Choosing Single Motherhood.

Choosing to be a choice mom (a woman who chooses to conceive or adopt without a life partner) is not a choice that comes without significant thought and planning around finances, security, sacrifices, and changes that will need to be made to support this new little family member. And this is before any thought is given to how this little one will come to meet us. In Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide (2008) Mikki Morrissette walks you through each step from those initial considerations whether being a single parent is right for you, choosing how to bring this little one in to your life, and the challenges faced by choice mothers.

Where this book succeeds

Considering this book is nearly 10 years old, it is still very relevant. It does justice to the very serious questions around how to conceive as a single mom, key issues to consider when weighing the pros and cons between choosing a known donor (i.e. someone you know), or unknown donor (i.e. sperm bank), and if an unknown donor is chosen the debate between an open ID donor versus a closed donor, and of course Morrissette dedicates a whole chapter to adoption as an option.

With every topic that Morrissette covers, whether it be about loss of a family dream, the debate around being raised 'without' a father (and how to answer the 'daddy' question), or how to get through the day-to-day parenting grind when doing it solo, she provides an array of anecdotes from choice moms, some of them positive, some of them not so ideal, but providing a full spectrum of considerations to each thoughtfully chosen topic.

Points worth noting

Morrissette shares several anecdotes from her choice mom peers about discrimination from various doctors and fertility clinics who either denied or made it difficult for single women to receive fertility support. I do genuinely hope that there has been a shift in care for single women seeking to conceive or adopt as a solo parent since this book has been published. I can attest that this kind of discrimination is exceptionally uncommon or nonexistent among fertility clinics in Toronto. Because Morrisette is based in the United States it is also important, whether you plan to use a known or unknown donor, co-parent with a known-donor, get help from a surrogate, or adopt, to explore the legalities in your community. Parental and legal rights vary from province to province, and state to state, and of course from country to country and it is important that you be fully aware of any legal roadblocks no matter how you choose to create your family. 

This book is written specifically for cis-gendered women who want to be single parents, and is not trans-inclusive. Despite the lack of inclusivity, this book can still be used as a springboard to harvest more information for single trans-men who may want to use donor sperm or adopt, OR trans-women who may be interested in adoption (unfortunately the book does not talk about surrogacy as an option). Many of those basic questions around finances, security, how to handle the daily grind are relatively universal to all parents doing it solo, although every person has unique circumstances that play a role in their family structure.  

Becoming Single Mother

We would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is considering being a single parent. There are not a lot of resources out there in print for women considering to be choice moms, and although there is room for some updating, Morrissette a choice mom herself, provides a relatively unbiased perspective on all the major topics around choosing single motherhood (plus a ton of solo parenting and self-care survival tips).

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with new parents daily, and parenting can be and feel very isolating. One thing that Morrissette talks about as essential for the solo mom is widening that social circle even if this is something that doesn't come naturally, she explains: "Most of them won't become close, long-term friends" (236), but a network is necessary for support, to normalize your experiences, and to provide balance for both you and your child's.

Have you heard the parable of the glass of water? Lift a glass of water and it doesn’t take much effort. One minute, okay. One hour, your arm start to ache. One day, you need a doctor. The weight never changes, but the longer you lift it without a break the heavier it becomes. You need to put it down and rest before holding it again. After we’re refreshed, it doesn’t seem like such an effort again.
— Mikki Morrissette, Choosing Single Motherhood (250)