Monday, 15 October 2012

A Sucky Start to Motherhood

You don't have to be a well read Mum-to-be these days to know that breast milk is the best thing you can feed your child.  Pro-breastfeeding material is lobbed at you by every health care provider you meet from your initial booking appointment to the day you turn up in labour.  The leaflets, like all good propaganda, only tell you part of the story in the best possible light.

I was as gungho about breastfeeding Munchkin as I had been about having a natural labour.  When it came to the crunch though my labour was unnaturally assisted and heavily medicated and I was sorely disappointed in both myself and the whole experience.  This perceived failure at the starting block of motherhood goes a long way to explaining my perseverance with breastfeeding beyond the usual boundaries of sanity.  Breastfeeding is a natural process but it does not always come naturally to either babies or new mothers and more people should be told this!

Despite my labour culminating in a Hitchcock worthy blood bath, thanks to the almighty epidural, I was in a comfortable space to have skin to skin time with my beautiful daughter when she arrived.  When some of the dozen or so medical personnel vacated the room I had a go at bringing Munchkin to the breast.  She seemed to know what she was doing and it was all good.  She nuzzled in and MC fed me some toast and for a good hour or so we were left to our own devices.  When I was taken to the ward MC seemed to have her asleep and so I assured him we were all good and I'd see him in the morning after a good sleep.  He'd only just left when she started to cry.  Despite the shaky legs I got her out the crib and into bed with me and the midwife suggested she wanted to nurse for comfort.  This was at midnight.  She went through a sequence of nursing, falling asleep and then waking screaming the minute I laid her down until around three.  My night light didn't work and I was the only woman on my ward with a baby: the others were all waiting to be induced.  I felt terrible that my baby was keeping all these people awake when they needed rest.  I twice asked the midwives to come and help me with latching and when I buzzed them again after three it was to beg them to help me get her to sleep as I was so tired I couldn't get my limbs to function.  I don't know what time they brought her back to me, all swaddled by the professionals, but when the hoovers woke me at six she was fast asleep.  She was still fast asleep when the midwife came to check us at eight where I was berated for not having woken my baby up to feed.  I had blood blisters on both breasts.

So, we didn't get off to the greatest start but this wasn't the worst part of the horrid hospital feeding fiasco.  My baby wanted to sleep pretty much all of the first day we spent in the hospital.  Two lots of visitors came and she slept.  MC and I spent a dedicated two hours between visiting times trying to wake her up.  When we'd get her eyes open we'd try to get her to latch only for her to lie passively in my arms looking at me like I was stupid.  One midwife would say, "You must wake that baby, she must feed."  The next would say, "This is normal, as long as she wakes within a few hours it's all fine."  This went on and on and I got more and more upset.  Eventually I had two midwives in front of me around nine at night and confronted them on the conflicting advice and both together they couldn't agree on what was to be done.  Eventually, around midnight, Munchkin woke and wanted to feed.  We spent a couple of hours in bed just feeding and snoozing and feeding and snoozing and the third day she was more awake and feeding regularly so we were allowed to come home. 

On day four it all went horribly wrong.  First day at home and my baby wouldn't latch at all.  She screamed blue murder at me and despite all my efforts she just got more and more distressed.  She was jaundiced and there were pink crystals in her nappies (not a good sign).  By evening I had sent MC to Sainsburys to pick up a breast pump and we were cup feeding her 10mls.  She finally slept.  That night was as close as I came to the baby blues.  I remember cradling a screaming Munchkin and MC cuddling me as I cried about how I couldn't even feed my baby.  It wasn't pretty but uphills struggles are never best attempted on no sleep while you're in less than great physical condition.

When the midwives came the next day Munchkin had lost 11.9% of her birth weight and it was looking as if we'd end up back in the hospital if things didn't improve.  I kept expressing and we progressed from cup feeding to using a syringe.  Oddly I got more and more sore, despite having given up trying to get the baby latched in favour of expressing and knowing how much milk she was getting.  The midwives came every other day to monitor her weight.  Within a week I was in so much pain I couldn't even attempt to let Munchkin feed from me.  The mere thought made my toes curl and a cold sweat run down my neck.  Being in the shower hurt, clothes hurt.  The midwives finally stopped coming to see us and we went to the feeding clinic at the hospital.  They sent me to the GP with suspected thrush.  I didn't even know that was a thing.  

Within two days I was able to feed my baby directly without expressing.  It took about another week for us to completely make the shift from expressed bottles to full time breastfeeding.  All in all, it took us four weeks to overcome our difficulties and I don't know how many times I considered giving up and feeding her formula.  

Rather than this be a cautionary anti-breastfeeding tale, I would want other new mums to take the following lesson from the fiasco above: if you are having problems get help early.  Go to the professionals at the feeding clinics, rather than rely on the advice of midwives.  If you're having problems feeding, of course there will be issues with your child's weight gain but be firm with the midwives.  Don't wait in for them, just tell them you're going to a clinic for help.  No two midwives can agree on anything I have discovered. 

There are lots of other humorous trials and tribulations when it comes to early breastfeeding.  My favourite was windmill arms.  To this day I just love it when my daughter decides she's full and presses the flat of her tongue against the flow of milk, soaking me and her in the process.  I also love waking up in the middle of the night soaked in milk and all my clothes smelling like old goats.  Breastfeeding is brilliant.

Breastfeeding is brilliant when you have it mastered.  Sarcasm aside.  It's convenient, it's cheap and it's good for your baby.  But between you and me, I'm not sure you don't have to be totally bonkers to get to that point!  I have a new theory on the history of wet nurses.  Rather than it being a 'too posh to be a child's personal coo' kind of deal, I think those women who could nurse did and kept doing it.  Failing at it wasn't an option in the days before formula.  

I take my hat off to all the ladies everywhere who have successfully breastfed their babies.  After the events we encountered I've met a lot of women who had similar experiences to mine or worse, had their milk dry up before they were correctly diagnosed with a problem beyond latching.  We need to have more open and honest conversations about breastfeeding if we are ever going to be able to turn around the formula frenzy of the previous generations.  

Breast may be best but getting the hang of it can be a totally suckerous experience.  

Monday, 1 October 2012

A New Life: A Different Brand of Bonkerdom

I had a baby.  Not news to many of you.  Said baby is now approaching ten weeks old.  It's true that between trying to sleep, eat regular meals and keep a small person alive, blogging has been low on my list of priorities, hence the lapse.  I did try and fail on several occasions to write my birth story in the weeks following munchkin's arrival.  On the one hand a part of me thought that it might be cathartic to 'get it off my chest', but a bigger part of me was just depressed about the whole experience and failing miserably to view it in any kind of positive light.  Although I still get a little sad thinking about what transpired for us, time has taken away the guilt factor and the satisfaction of watching our daughter grow has eclipsed the disappointment I felt over the birth plan going to pot.  I'm still not of a mood to share that story but I do want to start writing again.  It's a substitute for REM sleep as an outlet for sorting through the build up of bonkerdom that goes on in my noggin.

I fully plan on regaling the interwebs with our parenting adventures to date and back filling the gap (titles such as 'Breastfeeding: from Finger to Boob', 'Real Nappies: the Spectrum of Poo and the Wonders of Vanish', 'Conflicting Advice: How to Not Bop Health Professionals on the Nose' and 'Sleep or Lack Thereof'' all spring to mind).  For today though, I'm starting small and considering how my daughter has changed my life generally so far.

First up, I kind of miss my job.  Daft, I know.  Many people would consider nine months off from your regular nine-to-five a godsend.  However, I like my job.  I have a fairly good handle on how to do it and when I don't have a clue how to do something I just throw a lot of time and effort at it until the troublesome task is done.  Even on the worst days at work you are contracted to be there so many hours a day and you know that at some point it will all stop and you can put your coat on and go home.  This parenting thing is tough.  You never get to put your coat on for the day, and more worryingly, you're never quite sure you're doing anything right.  There are small achievements; ten fingers and ten toes, your child has a good weight gain, the first smiles and coos or even just making it out of the house by a given time.  However, there are a lot of disconcerting things too, like your child losing too high a percentage of its birth weight in the early days, not knowing why your child is crying, being unsure whether you're producing enough milk, are you dressing them too warmly or are their hands cold?  The list goes on.

Secondly, as a person, physically and emotionally, I am unmade as a mother.  I'd like to say I don't feel whole but that would imply that I've lost something or that I'm damaged.  I suppose it's more a feeling of being taken apart and not quite put back together with the pieces in the right places.  The emotional roller coaster of the first few days, not helped by serious feeding issues, settled quickly and only really gets rocky these days when lack of sleep is combined with the little one being unwell and more demanding than normal, or excessive cluster feeding.  I've also been really lucky and I've recovered well physically (stretch marks, or 'tiger stripes' as MC affectionately calls them, aside).  I have the remnants of some baby weight to lose but I'm content to do so slowly and steadily.  Munchkin is in a low centile for her weight gain (being a long skinny thing like her Daddy) and so I can't take any drastic measures that might affect her milk supply.  There's the physical stumbling block for me I suppose.  I don't feel like my body is my own.  I expected that of pregnancy, what with having an occupant and all that jazz, but breastfeeding is a marathon.  It's being on call to another being's needs twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  It's never being able to have your partner take the 3am feed.  It's not being able to be away from your baby for more than a couple of hours.

Would I go back and do it all over again?  For munchkin?  Definitely.  I'm not so sure I'm game for repeating the process but everyone says that at least for a while I suppose.

We created life and that's pretty amazing.  She's adorable and bright and exhausting and fun and I can't wait to watch her continue to learn and grow.  My life now: bent out of shape and slave to a 60cm tall strawberry blonde.  No paper pushing, meetings or major achievements in sight but today I got to add bogey patrol to my parenting repertoire.  It's still my life, just a different brand of bonkerdom. 

We made it through the early days and we're all still alive.  The potted plants however, didn't make it.  I apparently can't multitask living entities and I don't have the energy to beat myself up about that.  Life is about the small victories people.     

Friday, 13 July 2012

No News Is... Well Just Not News

The forty week mark looms on Sunday.  In some respects the last nine months have flown by: it doesn't feel like nearly a whole year has elapsed since we saw that faint pink line.  Yet when I think of specific events, they feel like a lifetime ago.  Our lodger left us the night before we took that pregnancy test and it feels like she's been gone for years.  Pregnancy, I've therefore decided, is like being on an express train hurtling towards the brick wall of labour.  Now nearing the end of the line, I find looking back on particular moments  like trying to recall what specific stations looked like as we flew past at high speed, while sipping water and trying not to be sick.  Those moments have a distant, surreal feel that makes them feel so much longer ago than they really were.  The last two weeks however, have been a complete reversal of all that was before.  Time has ground to a halt and I can recall each painful second with perfect clarity.

I don't think I'm usually an impatient person.  Normally, I'm good at being busy and preoccupied.  One of the perks of OCD is a limited scope for ennui.  The difficulty at the moment is that I can't get done all the things that I'm twitching to get stuck into.  I really want to cut my hedge for example - so much so that I actually got the strimmer out and made a start.  I got about six feet along before I had to consider how on earth I was going to get the trimmings off the pavement and into the garden waste bin.  With great difficulty was the answer and there endeth my effort to tame the living green beast.  MC has now placed a blanket ban on the operation of hand held power tools until Munchkin is no longer resident in my gargantuan belly.  I won't admit to him that I'm not in a hurry to repeat the experiment anyway (luckily he doesn't read my blog!).  The other job I'd really like to tackle is to transform the ugly cream gloss paint in the hallway into something white and shiny (thereby creating a living space less resembling a tobacconist's parlour).  The problem there of course is that I don't expose Munchkin to caffeine so I'm really not about to go get her high on gloss paint fumes.   

So it seems there's nothing for it but to cook, bake and keep the house tidy until I pop.  Pregnancy lasts nine months so that by the time you get to the end of it you'll smile in the face of labour (in spite of every horror story the world wants to throw at you) just to be over and done with.

I decided early on that there was no point fretting about labour.  To come back to my train analogy, why worry about so inevitable a destination?  I set out therefore to enjoy the scenery (and got a bit scuppered along the way with travel sickness).  I've moaned and groaned and gained a horrendous amount of weight but despite it all, I am now just super keen to meet Munchkin.  The imminent arrival is still causing a bit of a reality adjustment for MC who regularly says things like "We're going to have a baby," with an expression of stunned wonder.  Perhaps nine months isn't long enough for a man's adjustment... 

Poor MC is definitely ready to be done with my waddly wingeing preggers persona though.  So now that we're all geared up to complete our journey (even if we can't get heads round the concept of becoming 'Mummy' and 'Daddy'), could whoever is responsible please get off the emergency brake! 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Nursery Progress & News

Generally the news at this point is that I am slow.  I'm slow walking to the bus stop, slow in updating my blog, slow in moving my derriere off the couch.  Aches and pains are frequent companions, particularly if I've walked or stood up too long.  My big problem is that I've yet to define what exactly is 'too long'.

Anyway, I'm not going to moan today, life is good.  I'm finishing up at the office on Tuesday and will work from home until the 15th of June.  I'll save two hours a day in travel and I won't have to get up and down the multiple flights of stairs at the office.  Yipee!  It does mean a bit of very repetitive data entry for a whole 8 days but I can do that and drink tea and listen to some tunes with my feet up so it's all good.

The big news for today is that the nursery is pretty much finished!  I still have to get some little wicker baskets for storage on the shelves and I have to make the curtains to keep the dust off the hanging clothes but those can be jobs for the maternity leave.  The weather was great last weekend so I got all the baby linen, nappies and clothes washed and packed away.  It was mighty strange watching MC hang his 6ft 3'' person clothes up on the washing line next to diddy little booties and newborn baby vests.  Very cute and heart warming, just totally hilarious too.

So here's some pics of the nursery:
A huge thank you to MC's Dad who gifted us a joiner to come take out the existing built in wardrobe and build this more child friendly space.  I may have mentioned before (on just a few occasions) that the previous occupant of this house was a bit of a DIY Cowboy and doing anything requires a lot of ripping out and starting from scratch.  When we peeled the wallpaper in this room we discovered at some point there'd been a leak which had never been allowed to dry before they papered over the top of the mould.  Nice.  Some bleach, an open window and a plaster later you'd never know where the holes, the mould or the dado rail had been!
For the sake of good economy (post plasterer's bill) we decided to use up the hoard of white paint left to us by the Cowboy.  MC decided I wasn't allowed to help paint because of the fumes so it's taken a while for him to put the obligatory 3 coats of paint on the new plaster and the MDF that the shelving in the wardrobe is made out of.  It's been frustrating for me not to be able to just dive in and help get the job done.  Those that know me know patience for an upside down house is not a strong point.
I couldn't have been more delighted on Friday when I came home to find all the painting paraphernalia removed from Munchkin's room.  Unfortunately for MC I probably did not express this very well given I'd gone from work to a leaving do and consequently got home at 10pm and fell straight into bed.  Honest, my wonderful husband, I was gleeful, just too pooped to express this adequately. To break up the somewhat clinical whiteness of the room we broke up the shelved section by using up some light green paint within the frame in contrast to the white shelves and bought bright stickers to put on the walls.

The stickers I could do!  That's what I thought anyway.  Turns out they weren't cut very well and so on several occasions they tore in multiple places making them very difficult to apply to the wall without the joins being very obvious.  The only major casualty was Tigger in the first photo of the wall stickers.  He came off the sheet in FOUR pieces, the worst of the joins cleverly disguised by randomly positioned leaves and a honeypot.  Well, you do what you can says I.  By the time Munchkin is old enough to care she'll probably have decided that she's too grown up for Winnie the Pooh and friends anyway. 

Freddie moves into his new home and is joined by... 
The Hedgehog of Love.  Bought by me some moons ago for a special person who was having a nasty time of things.  He worked his magic and his previous carer, now happy and in love, has sent him back to me to bring Munchkin some luck and happiness.

In the gap under the bookshelves in the built in space we're going to put a toybox (currently buried under mountains of boxes in my Mum's storage unit) with a padded cushion on top so it doubles as a wee person seat.  We haven't built the baby's furniture yet because my Mum's coming to stay in a couple of weeks so the lodger's old double bed is making its way from our bedroom back into the nursery temporarily, courtesy of some Canadian muscles.  If we go into labour at any point during her visit - well, I figure you're supposed to labour like 8-12 hours at home with your first child - lots of time for 3 people to build a cotbed, a changing unit and the rocker for a moses basket!

A few further thank yous going out over the pond - to MC's Mum and Stepdad for our nursing chair for the baby's room.  We've been holding out on ordering until I'm due to be home during the day to receive it but we have seen the very one we'd like (at our friends' house - copying is a very great form of flattery guys!).  We received some mystery bibs from the Netherlands during the week which were actually from MC's Mum too.  She's uber creative and has many talented friends, one of which made these two lovely strawberry patterned handmade bibs.  MC's stepsister, Munchkin's Aunty V, has been busy with the knitting needles and produced a lovely lemon yellow cardie with matching hat, each sporting a cheerie royal blue flower, as well as some pretty purple mitts.  Thank you for the presents and the card peeps and fret not, Munchkin may not have to wait till the Fall to wear them - this is Scotland after all and we seem to have had our week of good weather!  

It has been some time since the last belly shot.  Here it is...

I am a house.  More specifically I am a slow moving studio apartment with one long half Canadian resident.  However, this doesn't phase me quite so much, not now that I know our actual house is ready and equipped to be the Munchkin's home too.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Midwife Bashing

Just a brief blog today because I'm cheerie and too often I come on here for a good whingeing sesh.  First up, my own midwife has returned from her gallivanting and I didn't need to see the evil witch with the lack of social skills again at my appointment today.  Added to which, she didn't want to stick anything sharp in me - always a bonus.  Secondly, the sun is shining for the second consecutive day and despite the stitchy pains I did make it back into the office this morning: bye bye for now oh ye cabin fever.  Lastly (well I don't want to go on too much in case you get jealous) baby is the right size and head down.  So, all is well with the world and I wanted to share as I sit here with my cuppa tea and a macaroon cookie.

I can't tell you what a difference it makes to see a midwife who puts you at ease.  I had a list of questions as long as my arm last month and the woman I saw was so poe-faced that I didn't dare ask any of them!  Anytime I said anything by way of conversation that wasn't a direct question she just didn't respond.  I asked a sensible question (or so I thought) about the potential side-effects of the anti-D injection (which I had to have, ironically, because I'm a universal donor!) and the response was a shrug, a slight pause, and "It hurts?"  Yes indeed, her response came complete with question mark worthy inflection.  I heard "Why would you ask such a stupid question?"  I hated her more because she was right and it was quite frankly the nippiest jab I've had ever.  Really hope I don't happen across that woman when I'm in labour.  She might say something infuriating or informative like 'this will hurt' and I won't be able to hold my tongue. 

Anyway, my own regular midwife doesn't have a problem talking, in fact sometimes I struggle to get a word in sideways but that being said I always feel able to ask ridiculous questions of her.  Munchkin decided to demonstrate her affection for said midwife by giving her a good solid belly-lurch inducing kick when she dared try to work out which way up she was.

And so both of us have done a little midwife bashing today.  Here's hoping post macaroon sugar rush, that munchkin is as cheerie as me too.       

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Undone by my Day Off!

Work has been the epicentre of my life for some weeks now.  I have been eating, sleeping and breathing project plans and mammoth spreadsheets.  And this has been fine.  It’s what I do and I do it best under pressure.  I did take one day out to attend the wedding of a dear friend, someone I lived with for four years while at University and that was a fabulous day.  She looked amazing, the wedding party looked beautiful, the venue was stunning and the groom looked happy and oddly, much more relaxed than he had at the wedding of my other Uni flatmate last November where he had been performing best man duties. 
So, it’s been a busy month and the flat, this blog, my friends and poor MC have been sadly sadly neglected.  However, project crunch time landed over the weekend and things are now OK bar the expected teething problems.  After so many twelve hour days in the run up to completion date my back was definitely feeling the strain on Monday so I decided to take a much needed day off away from the desk yesterday.  

The flat is a little pongy at the moment because MC had spent the weekend glossing in the nursery so yesterday I headed off out and about early doors.  Really enjoyed a swim though I have to say, one tires quickly at 7 months pregnant!  This isn’t helped by not being able to take in huge gulps of oxygen with the baby taking up some space up under my ribcage.  It never ceases to amaze me though how normal I feel in the water: when I say normal I of course mean ‘non-pregnant heifer’.  It really hit me when I tried after only 45 minutes to haul my now 12 stone carcass out of the water, up some creaky stainless steel steps, just how heavy I’ve been feeling lately.  Every step up that ladder was like a bag of cement being heaped back on my knees and shoulders.  I suspect I may be spending much of my time from here on in a swimming pool!  

The rest of my day was spent shopping, bussing it round Edinburgh, dropping off my little brother’s birthday card (with cakes), visiting a friend and her baby boy (who has just got to that super cute stage where they want to join in the conversation as they explore their voice box), eating cake and making chilli nachos (which in my humble opinion were very good, though as MC pointed out, perhaps not as stupendous as those served in The Waiting Room in Morningside where they do drown the whole plate in melted cheddar).  It was a fantastic day and I fell into bed happily exhausted at about 10 o’clock, sucking down some Rennies for the heartburn which is now making a daily appearance in my world from late afternoon onwards.  

Other new symptoms since I last posted… did I mention the heartburn?  First time it happened I had no idea what the hell was wrong with me.  I’ve never had it before in my life.  Felt like I’d expect my throat and oesophagus to feel after spending a week with winter vomiting virus.  (Too much information I hear you cry – moving swiftly on.)  My hands and fingers have started to swell towards the end of the day.  I’ve had to take my wedding ring off because the other day I had to pry it off only to find it had cut red marks into my finger.  

The strangest new development though has to be Braxton Hicks.  I first noticed them at the end of last week.  In all honesty, I can’t say exactly when they started because they don’t hurt and I only really noticed them over the weekend if it was happening and I tried to stand up or move around at the time.  If you imagine you have a large piece of tubigrip round your middle and that someone is pulling it tighter than it’s meant to go.  It’s a little uncomfortable but I did some reading and it’s all normal and healthy for your body to start practicing.  Some people notice their belly hardening up on and off from 12 weeks.  

When I got up this morning after my adventures yesterday I was a little uncomfortable down my right side and I put it down to round ligament pain, which isn’t really anything new, though it’s not bothered me much through the endless hours of being sat still at my desk.  However, bout twenty past 7 the Hicks thing kicked in and I felt like the right side of my belly was going to split in two in a straight line from my rib to my hip bone.  I called the people in the know for some advice and was told to pretty much sit still, take paracetamol and call them immediately if I noticed any signs of early labour or regularity in the contractions.  

So, here I am, catching up on correspondence with the world (and trying to stay in touch with work but I have to say my baby netbook hates outlook express and is very uncooperative).  The flat could really do with a clean and there’s ironing needs done but I’m to sit here and be good.  It’s not easy.  I wish MC had made good on his threat to take the iron to work with him today because I swear to the man upstairs the damn thing is calling my name!  My boss called me back to say that at least I had good timing in starting to fall apart as the worst of the project is over but I have to say the timing is indeed very very bad.  MC talked me into cancelling our Virgin TV package from 12th May – I can’t even watch daytime TV.  I’m going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to work LoveFilm on demand.  Perhaps I may make a start on baby curtains for the nursery, I can do that sat down if I can just fudge the crawling around the floor bit with the measuring tape. 

What can I say, I’m rubbish at doing nada.  I’d say if you’re in the neighbourhood come visit me, but that might just distress me because the dusting needs done.  I wonder if anyone has ever written a book on how pregnancy impacts OCD?  

Anyway, to all the people who told me I was working too much and that the stress wouldn’t be good for me or munchkin, I can now say definitively, it was the day off that did me in!        

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Inevitable & Why Scots Don't 'Baby Shower'

For those of you who were desperate to bestow a five foot teddy bear upon the munchkin I have sad news.  You have been beaten to it.
This chap arrived today from my fairy godmother and her partner.  Just for the sake of scale, here he is sitting in one of our full size garden chairs in the living room alcove, where he'll stay until the nursery is ready to house him.  He's possibly the softest thing I've ever encountered and I'm sure there will be a future cute picture of the munchkin flaked out in his lap after spending a happy hour or two jumping all over him.

Here we were, worried that the largely white nursery was looking a little sterile, but this cuddly toy who shall henceforth be called Freddie, will definitely lend an air of joviality and fun to the place.  Much as we love him though, anyone thinking of buying Freddie a buddy his own size to play with should please refrain on the basis that the nursery is the smallest room in our house.  Fear not he will have Winnie the Pooh, the Meerkats, the Hedgehog of Love and I'm sure many other companions before the decorating is done!

Oversized cuddly toys are an inevitable feature in any house with a small person in it I find.  I recall several teddy bears larger than me kicking around when I was little (and I don't think they were all mine either despite the fact I was the only child in the building for the first three years of my life).  There was definitely a mummy, daddy and baby bear trio, an enormous Sally doll and a rather large clown doll wearing pink and blue satin pyjamas.  Odd the things you remember about childhood.  MC's Gran gave me several pictures of MC through his childhood when we visited last year and there is at least one of him curled up asleep on the knees of a mighty bear that dwarfs him.

Sleep isn't something the munchkin has done much of today.  She's been on the move almost constantly since about ten am and I wonder if that's the reason I've got the almighty fidgets.  MC, as I've mentioned, is doing the painting of the nursery solo as he's down to working with gloss and I'm barred.  As a result I've been ordering up the short person necessities so that I feel I've made a dent in the essentials before getting lost in work for the next six to eight weeks.  Nowhere on my list were there Disney story books but I figure small indulgences are allowed.  Especially seen as the rest of my weekend has been spent shopping for uninspired items like nappy bins, biodegradable liners, bottles, laundry bags and maternity bras.

Now I could rant for an hour on the unpleasantness of the maternity bra thing but will do my best to reign myself in just in case I single-handedly cause a major decline in the birth rate.  Let's just say they should warn women of child-bearing age about these monstrosities before they get pregnant.  It might prove as much of a repellent/contraceptive to teenage girls as that horrid video they show in schools of childbirth.   

Moving swiftly on, a Canadian rellie was querying my purchase of essential/non-essential baby items.  Isn't this what a baby shower is for?  Now there is no such beast in Scotland.  Baby showers are seen as an American trend and although they are becoming more popular on this side of the pond, many people (especially amongst the older generations) are turning their nose up at such 'rank consumerism'.

Is it consumerism gone mad?  Is it a bit of fun and a means of helping first time parents collect the array of paraphernalia the midwifes and baby blogs advise is mandatory for preparing to bring a small person into the world?  I could bring myself to argue for and against, so I'm not going to.  A two-sided argument delivered by one well meaning middle of the roader lacks the pith and punch required for good reading.  Feel free to post your thoughts below.

More interesting to me is not why Scotland doesn't have an equivalent inherent tradition for the North American baby shower, but why tradition (or should I say superstition) actually demands a complete refrain from having any sort of baby related artifact in the house until after the baby is born.  This has obviously been relaxed somewhat over time but if we jump back to my parent's generation (there being less than twenty years between us) it was unheard of to buy gifts for a baby before it was born, although my parents prepared with the practical basics like a cot, bedding etc.  Prams or pushchairs though were (and in some families remain to this day) a huge no-no.  My grandmother ordered a Silver Cross pram prior to my birth from John Lewis because they would store the pram for the buyer until they received the call to say that 'baby was here' and it was time for delivery.

It's not that Scotland doesn't celebrate its babies.  Not at all.  The first visit to meet the new baby almost always is accompanied by gifts of soft toys, cute outfits and flowers for the new mummy.  Before leaving the guest will often 'cross the baby's palm with silver' too.  So you see, it's not the case that the Scot's stereotype of short arms and deep pockets applies here.  We revel in our consumery with Christmas and Easter every bit as lavishly as our stateside counterparts (though we don't 'get' Thanksgiving - what is that all about?!).

Superstition, like religion and the Loch Ness Monster I guess, has a power over us it would seem that is hard to move beyond.  Just as with religion and the Loch Ness Monster though, I personally dabble when it suits me (singing carols at forty decibels drunk on mulled wine at the watchnight service or spooking out foreign friends over whisky while sailing near Inverness) and then I put on my practical head and get on with business.

I may not be up for a full blown baby shower, but ahead of an eight week stint of working fifty hours a week for the office, I'm going to prepare my nest as best I can sans paintbrush.  And in the multi-cultural spirit of our household, I do not care if munchkin is blessed with kindness now, or after she's here to give the gift of a cuddle in return to her well wishers.

But just remember, Freddie is a one-of-a-kind type of teddy!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring Today Gone Tomorrow

It has been a while since my last outpouring of bonkerdom.  Fuelled by cookies and decaffeinated tea here's a brief update. 

We had a week of beautiful blissful sunshine.  It was followed by a week of snow, frost and the cold kind of wind that gives you a freshly slapped look and chapped lips.  It was decidedly glorious and the Scots descended upon the green belts with ghost white nobbly knees in their hundreds.  Within twenty four hours of the last whiffs of barbecued sausages fading from consciousness the temperature plummeted some twenty degrees.  I discovered that after only a week of not wearing my winter coat that I could no longer get the bottom buttons done up.  I'm ready for it to be summer.  I bought tulips and belly friendly shorts (which had to go back to the shop because they didn't fit my expanding bum) and everything.
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted (which was about as long as the tulips did).  That was probably it for the Scottish Summer.  It was a blink and you've missed it kind of affair. 

We're now at 14 weeks to go and there's no missing this belly now.

When munchkin has her party time in the evening my whole belly rocks out with her.  It's very bizarre: a bit like something out of Aliens if I'm honest.  It's still the weirdest sensation and it's very distracting when there's a massive burst of movement from her during the working day. 

I hate to say it but work is largely the reason for my lack of posting recently.  This week was supposed to be MC and I's last weeks' holiday together before munchkin is due but instead I'm going on a training course for a couple of days to help facilitate the speedy resolution of the current project.  MC is going to work on the nursery while I'm away as he's not keen on my being present for the paint fumes anyway.  I'll be back home in time for a long weekend with him before going all out for the next 8 weeks or so at work.  The one positive is that, all going well and to schedule, I should be able to start taking a step back from work from the beginning of June.  Indeed, with extra holidays and overtime I may even be able to finish up a bit earlier than I'd originally planned.  Watch this space.

For now I'm sticking to my guns with plans to work up to week 38 but I have to admit my confidence is shaky skates on thin ice.  We got news last weekend that MC's cousin and partner just had their second baby very early.  Out of four couples we know who have had babies in the last year, three have gone more than three weeks early.  I'm a little afraid of being massively unprepared should munchkin decide to grace us with her presence early.  On the one hand I'm happy to be busy at work because the days pass quickly, I sleep like the dead, and I don't get much chance to lament the aches and pains, but there's this part of my brain that's rightly concerned that all the extra effort required to keep my head above water at work may make me miss something vitally important that needs done at home.  On that note it's time to start making some To Do lists outside of the office. 

So, this week my extra workcular jobs include writing the birth intentions down and to find something suitable to wear to my friend's wedding next month.  I was thinking something like this might be appropriate...
Don't judge, there's a greater choice of two man tents available (in nicer colours and at better prices) than there are wedding appropriate maternity dresses.  Besides, with the Scottish Summer been and gone, it may be the tent's only outing this year.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Minor Loss and a Major Gain...

It was shiny and sleek and it saved my bacon many a morning when my otherwise feckless source of transport - the number 33 bus - would turn up late, early or not at all.  Oh how I miss the number 48 and it's express counterpart.  I used to have a choice of buses to come home on but now I must stand around for up to 20 minutes at a time waiting for the next overcrowded 33.  On top of this ridiculous reduction in the availability of bus services in my area, coupled with the fact that the whole of Princes Street remains closed along with now the East and West Ends of town meaning I require an hour to travel the 4 miles to and from work, is the hugely aggravating fact that they have dared to raise the cost of the monthly pass!

This loss pains me so much more at present given that I'm not able to choose to walk to work (a feat which used to take just fifteen minutes more than my current bus journey) or to cycle, which used to take half an hour.  Both options FREE!  With the City Centre road closures you really would need to be confident dicing with death to get amid the buses on 2 wheels without crash bars.  

MC doesn't feel my pain.  He works about a mile from our house and he doesn't drive.  He has never owned a car.  I beg and plead to be allowed to buy four wheeled transport and he makes sensible noises about the price of petrol, insurance and road tax.  I kick and scream and he points out that even if we had a car, I can't take it to my work and so I'd still have to pay the exorbitant rates for a Lothian Bus pass and put up with the miseries of the daily commute on the number 33.  We'd be poorer.  Even hormonal and irrational I have to see the logic in his arguments.  I don't have to like it.

Everyone who commutes rants about public transport.  It didn't used to get to me so much, honest, but I'm very frustrated at the moment by my general lack of mobility.  I need the buses, depend on them because I can't just take off walking if I don't want to wait.  I have now gained over a stone in this pregnancy.  It's all within the healthy boundaries for someone my height who is after all about six months pregnant but added to the evil entity relaxin I've got some hypermobile joints that are misbehaving.  The pelvic joint at the base of my spine that I'm not even going to try to spell is literally chewing up my tailbone and the surrounding ligaments.  Nice.  As is the fashionable brace belty thing that I have to strap my bones together with in order to walk anywhere.

The upshot of the post I guess is that I'm a cranky round pregnant waddler who thinks that Lothian Buses are pants and that they should bring back the (X)48 immediately or reduce my monthly pass accordingly - half the available buses should mean half the price right?!

My ups and downs have all largely come in pairs since my last post.  At our twenty week scan appointment we were delighted to learn that we are having a girl.  We got to spend a good 40 mins gazing adoringly at her little form while the sonographer tried to encourage her to stop being obstreperous and get her head up out of my pelvis so that she could measure it.  Finally she tilted the table so my feet were above my head to have gravity help out but I ended up a little woozy on coming back to rights.  I went to the doctor this week and he gave me Nasonex and eye drops to combat the hayfever that's been rattling my brain loose one sneeze at a time which was lovely but he also asked me with a perfectly straight face if they'd ruled out twins because in his opinion the bump is quite pronounced for just shy of 24 weeks.  They really should keep obese balding middle aged male doctors away from hormonal teary women.  Grateful as I am for the sneeze banishing solution I did not need it affirmed that in his professional opinion I look like a Weeble.

MC's been great.  Not only did he tell me (post run in with the doctor who has never known a gym in his existence) that he thinks I look great (and hey, I can live with the lie so long as it's kindly meant!) but he's been busy in the nursery.  We finally found a joiner and have a new, fifty-year-old-carpet-free, built in wardrobe.  Our garden looks like the MDF rejects yard but we are finally able to crack on with feathering the nest in white emulsion.  The fresh plaster is taking a couple of coats to cover up but it's looking so much more like someone might be able to live in that room again!  Wall stickers have arrived and I will do a nursery progress post as soon as I can take pictures.  MC has banned me from the wood painting because even though we have non-toxic non-gloss almost solvent free stuff it still smells pretty pongy.  So, I'm going to be busy making some funky bright curtains to cover up the hanging sections and he's going to turn some boring MDF into something pretty.

The only other major goal of the weekend is to do slightly less than I did last weekend.  I seem to perpetually suffer on a Monday the backlash from my weekends.  To that end, I bid one and all (except the powers that be within Lothian Buses) a happy weekend as I take my twin-proportioned belly off to bed to dream of the bygone days of better public transport for the peoples of the Inch.  

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Bump Finds its Feet Whilst Mine Vanish

I saw a great t-shirt on, I dunno, maybe Amazon last week.  It read "Hi there, have you seen my feet?"  The belly is so enormous tonight I'm not even going to do a bump photo.  That would entail getting up off the sofa.  So, we're twenty weeks to go and I think my days of late night working are over for now.  Was in Glasgow last night for a work thing and got home at ten which in a previous life I might have considered reasonable.  The bones however, no longer find this type of behaviour, or any prolonged walking for that matter, acceptable.  I was so sore when I finally got in my scratcher that I woke up every time I tried to roll over.  Coupled with the bathroom trips and wacky dreams it was a supremely unsatisfying night of broken sleep.

Speaking of wacky dreams actually, I'll elaborate.  Haven't graced you with the true extent of my personal brand of bonkers for a while now.  So, in last night's epic fiasco MC and I were renting a wee flat very like one I stayed in for a while over in Parkgrove.  This flat however, was underground.  Of course, I hear you sigh, because so much of Edinburgh's private rented accommodation is subterranean.  MC and I returned home in the dream to find the landlord (think Del-Boy) wielding power tools and generally knocking the flat to pieces.  We had to move while pregnant and quickly, because he was taking out the spiral staircase that provided access!  It all got very stressful and then I woke up overjoyed to remember that we own our own home and I only have to deal with the occasional unreasonable landlord in my professional life.

Some things, little things, make up for all the night-time bathroom shuffling, the brilliant bonkers dreams and the achey tailbone.  Little things, like a very small hand or an itty bitty foot poking your insides.  A week past Monday, after my late bendy stretchy session, I was lying in bed enjoying the feel of just being.  Well, that is to say I was enjoying the just being horizontal - it's my very favourite type of being in general at the moment.  (My spirituality is heading off to join the tumbleweed in my desert of insanity as I write tonight people, stay with me just a little longer.)  It was then that I felt that first distinct kick.  Not a bubble or a flutter or a roll, a kick.  I must have appeared momentarily stunned as MC asked if I was feeling well.  I declared I'd been kicked but was otherwise fine.  We snuggled and MC wanted to try to feel it too.  I pressed two of his fingers into the skin where I'd felt the jab but suspected that he wouldn't feel anything because I'd read that it can take weeks for your partner to share the experience.  Not everything you read is true.  Munchkin continued to give me and MC's fingers by extension a good beating for a few minutes before going off for a snooze or maybe to play with its fist or umbilical cord.  A switch has been flicked.  I can feel munchkin regularly.  It particularly likes to attack the waistband of any clothing I might happen to be wearing.  It parties twenty minutes after any meal and has boogie time between 10 and 11pm most evenings.

That wasn't the last of the ups from last week though.  MC and I went to Dunblane Hydro for our babymoon.  I've never had a massage before and it was very nice.  I definitely had one or two 'ah, bisto' moments.  MC did a lot of reading and I napped a lot between meals.  The food was generally impressive but the puddings were numptious.  We were only away for two days but it was very satisfying to be in an environment where you can't do much but chill out and relax.  For two days it was fine that our bathroom wasn't clean, that the laundry was amassing or that the dishwasher might need emptying.  Two days of being able to be horizontal at anytime of the day without reproach or guilt.  Lovely. 

Just so you don't feel cheated, and because I did promise, I'll share my down of the week.  I went to the dentist for teeth cleaning.  He begged me to use his electric sander thingy (which he got me to the appointment promising he wouldn't do on account of my ridiculously sensitive teeth) and agreed to scale my teeth manually.  His take on being gentle left my tongue, upper and lower gums, front and back, punctured and bleeding in several places.  Next time he tells me my teeth are fine but could do with a scale and polish, I plan to smile sweetly and tell him you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth if you get to the close of your twenties without a filling.  He can stick his power tools and instruments of torture in some other plonker who's paying for the privilege of being stabbed in the name of aesthetic dentistry.  I will take myself to the chemist for a whitening kit!

Other than the evil dentist visit I can't complain.  Spring is here.  My garden is tulipless because I was remiss with my green fingers due to early pregnancy hibernation last autumn but I left for work and returned home today in daylight and it was so pleasurable an experience I forgot to miss the tulips.  Mr Sainsbury may be able to save the day with the grown elsewhere variety. 

Life is good, and tomorrow, just so MC and I can spend the next 4 months trying to agree on a name in our usual indecisive fashion, we just might find out if munchkin is a boy or a girl.  Watch this space!   

Saturday, 18 February 2012

One Hot Rabbit, Business with Meerkats & Puppet Humour

It’s been an eventful few weeks.  Actually, maybe it only seems eventful to me because for the last two weeks I’ve been out my bed exploring the wonders of the world beyond daytime TV.  I am well.  Yipee!  Excepting the emergence of even more BELLY, I am almost my completely bonkers usual self again.  

So, as well as work, MC and I have been up to stuff.  A week past Thursday we went to see ‘Avenue Q’ at the Playhouse after a nice bite to eat at the Ghurkha Brigade over the road.  I can’t believe I’d never heard of it before.  It was immensely entertaining.  It was MC’s call to get tickets with our Christmas money from Mum and seen as I usually instigate our musical outings I was happy to go along with something of interest to him.  I knew nothing about it and as per my pregnant scatterbrained self, didn’t ever remember to get to with the Googling.  I assumed it was some pseudo-sci-fi-geeky-thing but curiosity eventually surfaced and I asked MC what we were going to see.  “Sesame Street for grown-ups,” was the reply.  

OK.  I was a huge fan of Sesame Street as a kid but wasn’t otherwise convinced that we were about to embark on a stonking evening of entertainment.  I was very happy to be wrong!  It was great fun.  I nearly ended myself when ‘trekkie monster’ started his ‘Internet is for Porn’ song.  Excerpt here:

The puppets are endearing, the handlers can sing and there’s a great energy about it.  Definitely not for the PC conscious and definitely not for children, but this is a brilliant bit of musical theatre – Go See It!

Last weekend was a bit of a laze fest.  Being back on my feet full time kind of wiped me out.  I was content to do not very much bar waddle to the shops on Sunday afternoon for some supplies.  It has started to occur to me that soon, after a week of work, my weekends will not be for relaxing: indeed they will not be for me at all.  I’m guessing it’s very normal to worry about becoming a parent.  When you’ve been responsible for only yourself for going on thirty years it’s hard to imagine letting go of your selfishness enough to be solely responsible for another being’s health, welfare and happiness.  But on the other hand I’m really looking forward to teaching the munchkin to play, talk, sing, dance and read, to going to soft-play and visiting with friends and family.    

On Valentine’s Day MC gave me a rabbit.

It’s not just any rabbit, not even just a cute rabbit - you put it in the microwave and heat it up and it smells of lavender.  It sure beats into the attic my ten year old bobbled and frayed hot water bottle.  In return I got him a mouthguard.  Who said romance is dead?  That’s exactly what he asked me for though.  It protects his nice straight white smile while he’s rolling around in those limb, elbow and knee jambalayas at Jiu Jitsu, so it’s a good bit kit in my book.

In other less exciting news we just sorted this year’s home insurance.  Not as groovy as singing puppets or as comforting as hot rabbits but it comes with a free meerkat toy which adds a delicious sense of immaturity to the otherwise arduous grown up task of spending money on something you can’t see and may never use.  We almost halved last years’ premium into the bargain too so I’m considering it one of the ‘ups’ of the week.  The fluffy toy arrival will mark the second in our family of meerkats, my Dad having provided the first at Christmas as a ‘just something to put to one side, not wanting to make it for anyone in particular in case it was bad luck or superstition or something’ kind of gift.  Obviously they will be the first of what I expect will be many soft toys for the munchkin.

The nursery is the next order of business.  Just waiting for some joiners to quote to sort the built in wardrobe and then we (well MC if I’m realistic) can start the fun bit of painting.  When we’re all cleaned up we can go cot and nursing chair shopping in the wonderful world of Gumtree.  

In the meantime, some more relaxation is on the cards: it’s Babymoon time.  We’re off this week (bar a day in my case) and we’re doing lunch with my Dad, a visit to the midwife, a visit to my friend and her new baby boy and two days at the Dunblane Hydro (as was – is now a ‘Doubletree by Hilton’ or some such thing).  We plan on swimming and reading and having a massage and eating and wandering the grounds and not drinking.  And we will have great babymoontastic fun doing not very much at all really.  It’s come at a great time as it’ll make this week fly by and then next week we have our 20 week scan where hopefully we’ll find out the gender of the munchkin!  Here's the just shy of 19 weeks belly:

And just in case all that talk of lazing around being pampered made you at all jealous, fret not.  Next week I’ll be sure to share with you news of our spa, but also of my visit to the dentist.