Family friendly breakfast at Eggspectation Doha

Friday, 29 April 2016

Since becoming a mummy, the checklist of things I look for in a restaurant have completely changed. Ornate settings and plush surroundings have been replaced by the desire for family-friendly facilities and convenience; polite and efficient service is less important than waiting staff that tolerate, or even better, seem to actually like babies and children; I no longer feel the need for a fun atmosphere which exudes passion and excitement, just so long as there is a space to park the buggy and I can see that they have high chairs for future use. The only thing that hasn't changed is that I always, always expect good food.

When the Canadian restaurant, Eggspectation came to Medina Centrale on The Pearl, I hoped that it would be a place that would fulfill all of my new criteria. After all, it is only a ten minute walk down the road from our apartment (convenience box - tick!) and the menu is based around one of my all-time favourite things: eggs!

Luckily from the moment we stepped inside I was impressed. The staff were warm and friendly, helping us to find a booth that would happily house our enormous buggy alongside us so that we could keep an eye on the sleeping babe as we ate. Shortly after sitting down, the manager came over to welcome us, and cooed over Sophia and I immediately warmed to him and the whole restaurant.

The vibe is clean and cool, with an American diner-like feel and relaxed music. We took our time over the menu, which is extensive. With a whole page dedicated to one of our favourites, the Eggs Benedict, we were both intrigued and going against our usual rule, decided to go for different variations of the same item. We opted for a Chicken Benedict (me) and Lobster Benedict (him).

The Hollandaise was both silky and sharp, and utterly delicious, and our eggs were, on the whole, perfectly runny (despite asking for them soft, Mr Sunshine had one slightly harder egg, but we'll let this one slide for now!). We loved the unusual ham substitutions on our Bennies, and as you can not eat pork in Qatar anyway, we agreed that lobster and chicken were far preferable to fake 'turkey ham'.

The potatoes tasted a little greasy however, and neither of us could understand why there was a fruit garnish on the side of the plate - it just seemed a little out of place!

For 'dessert', I had spied one of the most exciting items I had ever seen on a menu before in the form of S'mores French Toast.

This beautiful brioche sandwich contains lashings of nutella and warm, melted marshamallow, which oozes out of the sides as you sink your teeth into it. For those of you with a sweet tooth like me, it is quite simply heaven on a plate and completely and utterly S'moreish (sorry, couldn't help myself!).

As we got up to leave the restaurant, I had one of those terror-filled moments as an inexperienced new mother, as I realised that not only was Sophia starting to root around for a feed, but that she had suddenly become rather smelly in the nappy department. I bravely decided to attempt quietly breast feeding in a corner, under the safety of my feeding cover, and breathed a sigh of relief as the staff smiled on in encouragement. Afterwards, I discovered that the small, one-cubicle ladies rest room even contained a nappy changing unit!

We left full of food, and discussing which menu items we would try on our next trip. But most importantly, we left with a sleeping, and very contented baby.

Eggspectation, you were incr-egg-ible! We'll be back soon.

Sophia Molly: One Month Update

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Earlier this week, Sophia turned one month old. Looking back over the past four weeks, I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone, and how rapidly Mr Sunshine and I have transitioned from a couple into a family of three. It's safe to say that it is now incredibly difficult to remember what life was like before our little squeaky bundle of joy joined us in the world!

Because she is already growing up so fast, in order to capture all of the little moments and memories that I might otherwise forget, I am going to be writing a short update once a month from now on until she is a year old. There is already so much she has taught us!

20 things I've Learnt About Sophia: Month 1

1. She's a real daddy's girl

2. And she's pretty taken with her grannies too

3. Her favourite thing to do is feed...and she'll sometimes do it all day long!

4. In fact, even when she's not breast feeding, she's often looking for ways that she can!

5. She likes to sleep in her Moses Basket

6. And if she's unsettled, a walk in her Bugaboo over cobbled paths usually does the trick

7. But her favourite place to sleep is on me

8. Which is why the Rockin' Baby Tough Girl Pouch is my new best friend so that I can still get things done during the day

9. She doesn't like being cold, and hates getting her nappy changed

10. She's pretty good at meeting new people and doesn't mind being passed around

11. She's just started to focus on objects

12. And loves looking at bold pictures

13. But her favourite thing to look at is faces and she loves interacting with people on FaceTime!

13. She enjoys splashing around in a deep, warm bath before bed

14. Sometimes she gives us a little smile...but most of the time it's just wind

15. She doesn't seem to mind too much when we dress her up in the outfits that people have bought for her and take endless photos

16. But she does get a bit irritable at night time when she's over-tired

17. She's a big fan of Ewan the Dream Sheep

18. And loves music...especially power ballads (Il Divo, Michael Bublé and Adele are particular faves)

19. She likes her car seat and already loves to travel

20. And we have a small inkling that she's going to be super clever (which is apt as her name in Arabic means wise!)

She's grown up so much already in such a short space of time. I can't wait to see what next month brings!

Introducing Baby Sunshine: Sophia's Birth Story

Saturday, 16 April 2016

At 7.24pm on Friday 18th March, our entire world was flipped on its axis with the much anticipated arrival of Baby Sunshine. Our daughter, Sophia Molly Byles was born ten days prior to her official due date in a slightly more rapid and dramatic fashion than we were expecting. But despite a somewhat distressing entry into the world, as soon as I laid eyes on her I knew that everything was OK. From her tiny button nose down to her dinky little toes, she was healthy, thriving, and in my eyes, absolutely perfect.

The climactic story of Sophia's birth actually began several days beforehand, on Tuesday 15th, when I woke suddenly in the middle of the night with mild but noticeable contractions. Excitedly, I began to measure the length of time in between each one, and calculated an average of 1-2 hours. This indicated that we still had a long way to go and with nothing more that I could do at this point other than sit and wait it out, I gradually coaxed myself back to sleep.

The next day, much to my dismay, I awoke to find that signs of any contractions had completely disappeared. I knew that this was not unusual in the very early stages of labour, which can sometimes accelerate and decelerate again for days or even weeks, but I couldn't help but be disappointed - I was just dying to meet our little girl! In order to distract myself, I headed out for a coffee with my friend Donna and tried hard to get on with everyday life until the contractions returned.

On Thursday 17th we had an appointment with the Head of Obs & Gynae at Al Ahli Hospital where we had decided to deliver. Having described my symptoms from earlier in the week to him, he asked whether I'd mind him doing an internal examination to find out whether I was beginning to dilate, to which I agreed. I was delighted when he told me I was 1.5 cm, and that our little girl would soon be on her way! Mr Sunshine and I headed to Spice Market at the W Hotel for lunch to celebrate.

The 24 hours that proceeded can only be described as a bit of a blur. Visiting the ladies in the W after lunch, I noticed that I was bleeding. At first I put it down to the vigorous internal exam, and tried to put it out of my mind. Visits from more friends the next day helped to distract me, but I couldn't ignore the fact that the flow was growing steadily heavier. It was around 4pm when they left and as I shut the front door behind them, I felt a sudden gush of blood and rushed to the toilet. Feeling sick to my stomach, I called Mr Sunshine. I couldn't ignore this any more; it was time to go and get this checked out.

Luckily, Mr S was already on his way home from work and when he stepped in the front door he immediately turned around again to accompany me to the hospital. Now, for all of the shortcomings of my little adopted country, one thing I can say with confidence about Qatar is that the standard of healthcare in an emergency is incomparable. I've witnessed it once before when Mr S required surgery on his back. Naïvely though, I never imagined that either of us would ever be seeing the inside of an operating theatre again while we were here.

The nurse noted my symptoms and I was immediately whisked from the emergency room up to the delivery suite on the maternity ward. Despite protesting that I didn't want any more internal examinations as I was convinced this was the cause of the bleeding, I eventually conceded when they explained that it was the only way to truly find out what was going on. Two more internal exams and a CTG later and one of the senior Consultants was flashing a form in my face, saying I had five minutes to call whoever I wanted before agreeing to sign my consent to an emergency C Section. Two nurses were busy attempting to take the nail polish off my toenails, and Mr Sunshine was called outside by another doctor to discuss the cost of the operation and to be told that he wouldn't be able to join me in surgery as it's not allowed here. Left alone with my mind racing, I shakily tried my mum's number, and then my brother's. Both went to voicemail. In desperation, I then called the Obstetrician I had been visiting since week 15 of my pregnancy, Professor Badr. "You must trust the doctors there," he said, "Unfortunately I can't come out but if they have examined you and say you require it then go with it. You'll be OK".

So that was that. I signed the form, waved goodbye to my husband who gave me one of his reassuring smiles and told me that he would see me soon, and I was wheeled into surgery.

It's difficult to describe what went through my mind during the 45 minutes that I was on the table for. Time seemed to speed up and slow down at the same time. I was aware of every sensation, every voice, every movement and every feeling, as if every ounce of my being was being magnified under some kind of microscope. Over the past 8 months I had read and researched so much about the labour process, and had planned Sophia's birth in minute detail, perfecting a comprehensive birth plan which detailed the natural labour that I wished to go through: no drugs and no interventions. And yet here I was experiencing the birth of my daughter in a very different way from how I'd imagined it all that time. And I didn't care. All of this went out of the window the second that the doctor said that my daughter was in danger. All I cared about now was that she was delivered safely.

I had been given an epidural to see me through the operation, which meant that even though there was no pain, I was still awake and could still feel the sensation of the surgeons cutting into me. It also meant that I felt the moment that they pulled her out of me. At this point, I held my breath, desperately willing her to cry out so that I knew that everything was OK. As soon as it came, I felt my whole body relax. She was here, and she was alive. I vaguely remember someone pressing her warm little cheek onto mine for a second before she was taken away and everything went black.

I woke up a little later in the recovery room, and tried to make sense of what had just happened. I had arrived at the hospital at 5.15pm that afternoon, not knowing what to expect, and by 7.25pm our daughter had been delivered. And I didn't even know what she looked like yet! Luckily it wasn't long until I heard Mr Sunshine's voice outside, and then he was with me and the nurse was placing Sophia on my chest and I think I was crying. I held her close while Mr S told me that he had bumped into the nurse as she wheeled Sophia out of surgery and had insisted on doing skin to skin with her on his bare chest in my hospital room while they waited for me to be stitched up. One small but important item on our birth plan had been ticked off. At this point in the day, it made all the difference and right then at that moment I couldn't have loved my husband any more.

We spent four days in hospital as I slowly recovered from the surgery enough to be able to get out of bed and move about. Mr S stayed with us the whole time, sleeping on the bench-come-bed by the window of our private room. I was so grateful for his support. All the time we were there, I felt as though I fell in love with our little girl a bit more every time I looked at her. I felt so lucky, and I really hate this word, but am going to use it anyway...blessed. The doctor came in to see us the morning after she was born to tell me that I had been having a placental abruption - basically Sophia's lifeline was coming away from the wall of my womb - and if we had left the C Section any later it could have been fatal for either one of us. Ever since this had started I didn't care about my fate all that much, but the fact that Sophia was OK was everything to me. In actual fact, she was more than OK. Her APGAR scores were 9 and then 10. Her eye sight and hearing were perfect. At 6 pounds 11 ounces, her weight was excellent, and the paedeotrician was happy with her development and reflexes. After worrying throughout my entire pregnancy about whether she would be healthy, I could finally rest easy.

On 22nd March, 2016, having received the all clear from my doctor, we finally got to take our baby home. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. After all of the drama, pain and struggle, we were able to leave the sterile and unfriendly environment of the hospital behind and head home to begin family life for real. I was so proud of myself, and of us for getting through the past few days, on the other side of the world from our main support network and family. But most of all I was proud of Sophia. Becoming her mummy was undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I will be forever thankful to the doctors that acted swiftly enough to bring our daughter safely into this world.

Daddy and I love you Baby Sunshine. Here's to many years of fun ahead.