Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Out Of Office: Autoreponse

Dear Customer,

Many thanks for your email.

Unfortunately Womb For Improvement Incorporated is unable to deliver our traditional seasonal game as our Chief Creative Officer is currently on maternity leave. We are only too aware of the irony of a company built on the joy that infertility brings during this festive period being laid low by yet another bloody baby. For that we can only apologise.

In the meantime feel free to browse our archive of Christmas treats:
Christmas Album, 2012
Merry Quizmas, 2011
Conceive or Conceed, 2010
Conception Deception, 2009
Barren Bingo, 2008

In recognition of what many of you are still going through, this email will not include a sickeningly cute picture of a baby or anything other than a metaphorical hug to anyone who is still childless this year. May next Christmas bring you what your heart desires (more games from Womb For Improvement Incorporated. Obviously).

Merry Christmas,

WFI xx



Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas is coming

I spent a lot of time, whilst infertile, thinking about "this time next year."

Christmases in particular I'd wonder if, by next Christmas, I'd have a baby. I came close last year - my first pregnancy was due on the 22 of December 2012, but it didn't make it past May.

Exactly a year ago, on the 15th of December, I found out I was pregnant again. Maybe it was because it was so close to what would have been my due date - or maybe simply because I was scarred by having miscarried earlier in the year regardless of the date - I didn't let myself think ahead.

The little girl sleeping in the cot beside me now was something I couldn't envisage a year ago. All I focussed on was the next scan, the next opportunity to see a heart beat flickering on the screen. Even when I was heavily pregnant I hardly dared to believe that I would have a healthy baby at the end of it.

Yesterday I bought her a Christmas present, and today I decorated the tree whilst she gazed in wonder at the tinsel. In ten days we will have the Christmas that I have wanted for so many years, a Christmas with my own family.

They say Christmas is really for the children.

Not this year.

This Christmas is for me.

And let's face it Olive won't have a clue what is going on.




Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Starting a routine

I am writing this at eight thirty at night. Olive is asleep and has been for the last hour. If the past couple of weeks are anything to go by she will now sleep until some point between 2 and 4 in the morning. She'll feed quickly and then go back to sleep until about 7 in the morning.

(I write this knowing full well that having set it down in black and white she will probably wake up on the hour every hour from now until 5am.)

I am sure there are many parents of three month olds who will be incredibly envious to hear that the husband and I have already got our evenings back, and that I get decent chunks of sleep throughout the night.

I was pretty happy too.

I've made a conscious effort to get Olive into a bed time routine. She has a bath at the same time every night which, despite the trepidation exhibited in this pre-bath towel-wrapped photo, she enjoys.


After a splash (and often a poo) in the bath I feed her in semi-darkness until she drifts off to sleep. I place her in her cot with skill and dexterity honed from years of playing Operation and creep out of the room.

The daytime is significantly less regimented but I was fine with this as every day was different anyway. I didn't worry about this as I have a busy social life what with baby yoga, meeting a bunch of different folk for hot chocolate, and even mummy wine tasting cluttering up my maternity leave. I didn't want to be tied to a routine so as long as Olive slept at some point during the day and continued to thrive I was happy.

WAS happy.

Until I decided that I should start to get her into a routine that enables her to sleep, in a cot, during the day.

I bought a couple of parenting books. I've finished one and am half way through the second. 

And I have cried a lot.

The first book was written by a famously litigious (and hence unnamed here) author who advocates a strict timetable and leaving the baby to cry for up to twenty minutes whilst you wait for them to settle themselves. 

I'm not sure I can do that.

The next book, the Baby Whisperer, was recommended by a friend - which is a good start. I'm only half way through it but so far there is a lot to like. The idea is more about a routine - an order of doing things rather than a to-the-minute schedule. The author has already categorically stated that she does not believe in letting that baby cry themselves out.

However even this book has caused me to burst into tears when I read that the routine should start at 6 weeks and whilst you can always change your baby's routine the longer you leave it the harder it will be. Olive is almost 14 weeks - I feel like I have lost eight precious weeks already. 

Part of me wants to say 'fuck it' and continue as I am, happy with feeding Olive to sleep and not to worry too much about things. But then I imagine having a baby morph into a child who still needs to go on the tit before bed, and frankly I don't want to be breast feeding her to sleep when she is a teenager with braces and the ability to answer (and bite) back!

So I am starting to change some habits. This is bound to impact on what is currently a wonderfully calm night time pattern, and I know there will be times when I will regret upsetting the status quo. But hopefully, eventually, the daytimes will become as easy as the nights, and maybe it will enable me to rid of the 4am feed as well. 

If any of you have any tips how to put a baby in a cot for a daytime nap, whilst she is awake, do share. 



Thursday, 17 October 2013

Top Five Moments

What are the moments of motherhood that fills you with joy? A stock response is something like: "Seeing them smile back at you erases all memories of a sleepless night/ the two hours of constant crying/ the nappies."

Olive's first smile was stunning (and it would have been even more of a memorable if she'd been smiling at me rather than the striped blind over my shoulder) but my daily moments of bliss are a little less predictable.

Here are my top five things:

1) Removing a bogy
Seeing your baby snuffling through her first cold is heart wrenching. The gasps for breath as they try to breath through a nose stuffed with snot is both distressing but also quite worrying as you frantically google "can a baby suffocate because of a blocked nose?" (Answer: no).

One way to remove mucous from your little one is to use your mouth to suck out the offending booger. I would do anything for love, but I think I've discovered the "that" that Meatloaf also drew a line at.

Instead I managed to use my little finger to pick out a massive green nose dweller the other day. It was only the reaction from the husband when I texted him him a photo of Olive's first merconian nappy that stopped me sending him a picture of my latest triumph. Which means, unfortunately, I don't have a picture to share with you guys.

Shame.

2) Saving Clothes
I have discussed, at length, Olive's propensity for projectile poo. So I am not going to go into that again. However there is little more satisfying than scooping a clean vest or baby grow out of the way of a river of piss.

I have never put on as many washes as I have since Olive was born, and if there is one essential purchase for anyone about to have a baby - forget moses baskets or changing table - I'd vote tumble dryer every time.

So going back to my original point. There is nothing like the high of rescuing an item of clothing from what would otherwise have been destined for the laundry basket.

3) Sleeping in a Cot
Those of you who follow me on twitter (@womb4improve) will have seen the other day I was contemplating cutting off my own arm to enable me to get on with some day-to-day tasks (like putting another bloody wash on - see above) without waking the baby who was happily snoozing on my arm.

Olive, like many other babies, likes to sleep a lot. She sleeps in the pram when I take her out, or the sling as I potter around. What she is less good at during the day is sleeping in her moses basket by herself. Which somewhat hampers my ability to do anything other than care for the little mite.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but I still haven't unpacked all my boxes from moving house back in June.

So when she does managed to sleep and leave me unencumbered it is a high five moment all round. (Yes, I high five myself, something I can only do because I have two free hands.)

4) Being hungry
Olive seems to spend 90% of her waking hours feeding. This might be an exaggeration, my mind says it is, my chewed on nipples are claiming it is closer to 99%. However her levels of hunger changes during the day. The witching hours between 4 and 6 are hard, with her desultory nipple-gunning without getting a proper feed.

What I love though is when she is hungry and my boobs are full. She sets about her feed with a an satisfying amount of vigour. Then, when she has finished, will pull off the tit extending my nipple by about four times, she'll throw back her head, arching on my lap, eyes half closed in ecstasy, mouth gaping and smeared with milk. Pure contentment.

And I look down at this happy, milk-drunk baby and think "I did that."

5) Recognition
At Olive's eight week check the Doctor went through a number of little tests. Reflexes, hip movement. She even counted her toes which for a moment filled me with dread as I suddenly asked myself whether I had ever counted her toes, what if she only had nine toes and I'd not noticed? Then I remembered whilst I hadn't counted to ten I had certainly made sure that she had her full complement of piggies; 'market, home, roast beef, none and wee-wee-wee'.

One thing that made my heart sing was when the Doctor said "Good tracking of Mummy with her eyes."

She is 11 weeks. Of course she recognises me and watches out for me - I am, at the moment, her whole world, but it is nice when other people notice it too.




Wednesday, 9 October 2013

In Which I Turn Fashion Blogger

There is more to this photo than a tastefully rendered in black and white image of me with my boob out.

In 1983 my family moved abroad. My Dad went on ahead to learn the language and get trained up  leaving my Mum to take my two sisters and me half-way round the world all by herself. Two seven-year-olds and a-nine-year-old.

The journey entailed a long haul flight, a night spent in Delhi airport and then another flight within the continent.

Much like the von Trapp family we were dressed in matching traveling outfits - in our case rather than pulling down the curtains we went for blue and white stripy dungarees.

All of us.

Including my Mum.

The rationale was that should one of us go astray she could point at another child and say that the child she was missing looks like that one. Being a twin I was quite use to being dressed like someone else, and it wasn't the first time my older sister had muscled in on the act - who can forget the velvet-dress debacle of Christmas '81? But my Mum joining in was novel indeed, and one that was never repeated.

I didn't think much about it at the time. It was only years later when I remembered the journey it struck me as a little odd. The four of us in matching jumpsuits. I mean who would do a thing like that?

Last month I went to a wedding. I hadn't been sure whether I would be able to make it prior to giving birth as, if Olive had arrived late, she could potentially only have been two or three weeks old. As it was she came early so was a robust eight-week-old.

The issue was I hadn't bought an outfit prior to giving birth and once I'd had the kid I didn't have the opportunity to buy myself a new frock. I rifled through my wardrobe to see what I could wear and drew a blank. Until my old mucker Caroline No (lifestyle blogger extraordinaire) gave Olive a pair of purple dungarees, telling me she bought them because I had a matching jump suit.

Well, suddenly there was no question about what I would wear to the wedding.

Olive and I in our matching jump suits (and her close up):




But that isn't all. Olive also wore a bespoke vest. On the front, a caveat in case she ruined the marriage service by screaming (not my idea, thank the womb-mate for this - it says I always cry at weddings):

And on the back to commemorate the happy couple:

They will be getting this once-worn vest if they have a kid, and judging by the attention Olive got from the both the mothers of the bride and the groom they will be under a lot of pressure to procreate, and fast.

They say that being a mother yourself gives you a new insight into how your own mother behaved.

I totally get the matching dungarees now.



Saturday, 5 October 2013

Newborn with hole in the heart


I choose my post titles for a variety of reasons. They might be song titles, or something cryptic to pique your interest, or more often than not something bunged in as I am just about to hit publish when I realise I've not thought of one. This time however my title has been chosen quite deliberately for search engine optimisation. I've noticed that if you have key words in your headings they get ranked higher than it they appear in your post body. I am not aiming for world domination through this blog but this is a post that I wish I had read nine weeks ago, and if another parent in the same situation as me finds it then the title will have done its job.

Nine weeks ago I was in the process of being discharged from hospital. Olive had to be checked before she was allowed to come home. The final check was going well until the stethoscope-wielding Doctor notice a slight irregularity in her heartbeat.

We were whisked downstairs and Olive was given a echo-cardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart). He discovered a small hole in her heart. "They are quite common" he said "this is the third I've see this week ... although ..." he faltered a bit "this is the biggest one." It was a hole of 1.8mm between her lowever ventricals.

The doctor went on to explain that in the womb the heart has lots of holes that gradually close up as the baby develops but occassionally they aren't all fully closed at birth; some will spontatneously close after birth others remain open. If the hole remains open the prognosis is variable - for some people it never affects them, for others there can be complications related to blood flow round the lungs.

We told we'd have a follow up in a few weeks and in the meantime we could leave hospital but we just needed to keep an eye on her if she has difficulty breathing whilst feeding - particularly if she starts to go blue.

Which was a comfort.

I was distraught. To the point that I couldn't tell anyone about her diagnosis. Just thinking about it  made me feel cold and weepy. I didn't want there to be anything wrong with my beautiful, hard-won baby.

I also felt responsible.

Olive was unnaturally premature, she was induced because of my pre-eclampsia. I didn't blame myself for having high blood pressure but I did wonder whether I should have resisted being induced for a few more days rather than passively agreeing to it. Maybe one more week in the womb wouldn't have done me any harm but would have been enough to let her heart develop properly.

Since the diagnosis and our appointment with the specialist this week I've tried to put the problem to the back of my mind. It hasn't been hard. All my mother's intuition has told me Olive is doing well. After an initial falter, with jaundice and failing to gain weight, she has been piling on the ounces. She has been sleeping, gurgling, getting increasingly responsive and, most importantly, not turning blue or struggling to draw breath.

On Tuesday the specialist saw her. She still has a hole but it is tiny and, apparently, not affecting her adversely. The consultant told us that to all intents and purposes her heart is normal. She will have a follow up appointment to check how things are going. But not for two years, which indicates a distinct lack of urgency which is reassuring.

Obviously a hole in the heart can have a variety of implications, but if your newborn has just been diagnoised with one don't dispair. As we left the appointment on Wednesday the consultant was at pains to reassure us that Olive's heart is normal. I can take that.

********

In other news I've written about my first seven weeks as a mother here. And as a special bonus feature you get to see a picture of me with a tit out, all done in the best possible taste...



Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For


We all know the myth of King Midas. The dude who had one wish; to be able to turn everything he touched into gold, it was only when he wanted to tuck into a nice sandwich and give his daughter a cuddle he saw the error of his ways.

Fairytales from across the world warn us against our wishes coming true.

When I was younger I fervently wanted a dog.

My Christmas wish-list would look like this:
A dog
A set of pens
A dog
A pair of pixie boots (well, it was the 80s)
A dog
Did I mention I wanted a dog?

When I was 13 my Grandpa gave me a puppy. The deal was he'd live with me during school holidays and my Grandad (who lived just two miles away) during the term time.

I absolutely adored that dog.

But, I wasn't a very good owner. I was rubbish at getting out of bed in the morning to take him for walks. I got bored trying to train him when he didn't pick up on my meaning straight away and I gave him a fucking ridiculous name (Buffle).

There is always a worry when you want something as much as a child that you are willing to spend years having medical treatment, spending your life savings on IVF and subjecting yourself to every speculum going that, when you finally achieve motherhood, you realise it isn't as wonderful as you imagined.

I'd worry, when pregnant, that I just might not be very good at it. That I might not enjoy it as much as my rose-tinted views of motherhood would have me believe.

Eight weeks in and I love every minute of it.

For anyone else wondering if all the treatment, injections and anguish is worth it. From this sample-size of one I can say it is.

Yes, there are moments in the early hours of the morning when she needs a feed that I have to drag myself into consciousness and wish that she'd lull herself back into sleep. But I find myself wanting to get up in the night more often than not. For a start if I haven't fed her for four hours not only do I find my boobs are aching, dying for a bit of milk release but also, I've missed her. She might be sleeping next to me in a moses basket but I've missed the physical contact and I am happy to scoop her up into a cuddle.

(And yes, I appreciate that I am lucky that she does, at 8 weeks, regularly sleep in four hour blocks. Which might be making the parenting easier than for some.)

And whilst motherhood is relentless - there is no clocking off at 5pm - it is also less pressured than many jobs I've done. It might take three days to answer a text message, but people understand this and I don't get hounded by emails chasing emails.

In short, I have absolutely no regrets in my wish. I am happier than I have been for years.

I also love the her name even more since I noticed Olive is an anagram of 'I love'.

(I'm glossing over the other anagram 'O, evil!' here.)

(I also have dog, and I'm a much better owner now. But he still has a fucking stupid name - Moon).



Sunday, 8 September 2013

Funny Face

My daughter is fucking hilarious.

She is starting to exhibit a wicked sense of humour.

Somewhat lacking in verbal skills, she has yet to hone her sparkling repartee. Equally her motor skills are limited. I'm chuffed if she can lift her own head even for a second - so physical comedy is mostly out.

Instead she is concentrating on scatological humour. 

Take for example the earlier today. I changed her nappy (diaper - keep up) which also included a complete outfit change on account of a little shit seepage. She waited until she was completely clean and dry and we were sitting back on the sofa. As I was telling her what a lovely, clean little girl she was she looked me straight in the eye, gave me a big smile (which the husband still insists is wind), and shat herself accompanied by a massive bubbling fart sound.

How we laughed as I got up to change her yet again.

But this isn't her only trick. The "shart" (shitting fart) is just one element in her repertoire.

My sister's told me that having a girl I'd avoid the hose-pipe urine spray from a tiny penis freed from a nappy. True, but what they forgot is I can still get caught by a projectile poo and pee. By simultaneously combining these activities she can force excrement from her changing mat a good 50cm onto one of my clean tops (it is always the clean ones).

They say the secret of good comedy is timing and she has this down to a fine art. She saves the noisiest farts for moments when I am whispering soothing sweet nothings into her ear. Or takes a piss just as I have removed her old nappy and put a fresh one under her - often not even waiting for it to be done up. 

There might not be any discernible physical resemblance between my daughter and I but maybe, just maybe, she has inherited my sense of humour.

Poor kid. 




Monday, 2 September 2013

Let's really talk about sex

When I was pregnant I wrote a post about finding out the gender of our child. Hilariously, (because that is how I roll) the title was somewhat ambiguous - implying that I was going to write about my sex life. Several people commented expressing disappointment that the post wasn't a full-blown exposé of my bedroom habits.

Perverts.

I didn't write about my pregnancy sex life for three very good reasons:
a) "Zilch" isn't much of a post. (Remember I had terrible morning sickness for the majority of my pregnancy) and I'd already written one post like this.

b) A lot of people who know me in real life read this blog - they don't want to picture the husband and I at it. You know who you are, I mean imagine having the mental image of him on top of me, we are sweating a bit, maybe a few pulsating veins ... see you don't want to think about that, do you?

c) I imagine writing about my intimate relations with my husband could potentially cause untold damage to my relationship.

So obviously I can't write about my sex life after giving birth.

Something I didn't think it'd be an issue.

Just two weeks after giving birth my midwife was keen to stress the importance of contraception. When I told her I was planning on using the coil (less as a contraceptive, because I am not convinced I need one after the difficulties of the last six and a half years, but because this is what was used to treat my womb lining so should keep any nasties at bay until I am ready to pop a frozen embryo or two back in).

The midwife positively beamed at me for my responsible attitude to family planning. But as I can't have a coil put in until at least six weeks after I give birth she cautioned that "breast-feeding isn't an effective contraception, and you can get pregnant as soon as three weeks after birth."

I countered saying that breast feeding might not be effective contraception but stitches certainly were. I couldn't imagine ever being able to have sex again.

How we laughed.

As I said earlier, I can't write about my personal experiences here.

However, six weeks and four days after giving birth hypothetically I can say that sex would be feasible. One needs to think carefully about the position.

I would imagine that the woman being on top would be the best position to enable her to be in control and ensure that if it does start to get a bit painful she can change position or speed.

Of course the slight drawback of that position is I guess that if she is breast feeding she might find that her boobs leak a bit and her partner might find his chest splattered with mother's milk. Which could cause a fit of the giggles that might detract from the romance of the situation somewhat.

Hypothetically, of course, how long do you reckon it'd take you to get back in the saddle?






Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Me


Right, enough of me cooing over my wee baby.

This post sits firmly within the Womb For Improvement genre of oversharing, because I am going to tell you how I am recovering from the birth. I asked a mate of mine (the one who declared after my birth post that we'd had almost identical birth stories) how long it had taken her to recover from her stitches and she couldn't remember, so I want to write this down.

I warn you this'll be graphic. You may wish to look away, I've helpfully headed the sections so read what you want.

Stitches
All things considered my birth was pretty easy. I mean it was painful but it was so quick I haven't really suffered from any post traumatic stress. I haven't forgotten the pain but I can absolutely see why people claim that women do forget.

Except.

Except for the stitches. I was sliced open from front to back to allow the forceps to grab hold of my baby and stitched up afterwards. This was on only thing that caused me significant pain after the birth.

I was in hospital for two days after giving birth. Desperate to go home and at one point the midwife said something that made made heart sink; "We want you to do a bowel movement before you go home."

Not only had I squeezed everything out in the hours prior to giving birth so I had nothing left to poo but the idea of straining against the stitches filled me with dread. Luckily the midwife who discharged me didn't ask any searching questions so I went home backed up.

I think it was day five before I did my first shit.

My NCT tutor give me one very valuable tip. She recommended folding up a hand full of toilet paper in your hand and sort of holding yourself in place from the front whilst pushing out of the back. "How long do you do this for?" asked a member of the group "Oh just for the first poo" was the response. I reckon I used the holding method for about a week and a half before I felt confident enough to push without the safety net.

I stopped taking the painkillers (only paracetamol, they didn't prescribe me anything very exciting) after about 9 days which was when I felt I could sit and walk relatively comfortably  but it was only after three weeks when I realised I was completely pain free and I could swap the enormous duvets of a sanitary pad for a more discreet liner.

Boobs
Many of my flatter chested buddies have blossomed mammarily when they start breast feeding. One even texted me in amazement as she suddenly realised that being better endowed now meant she physically had to lift her breast to wash under it - I've been lifting and wiping since I was 15. I have no doubt that my milk filled baps are larger but I think there comes a point when upsizing is less impressive so the increase in size is unremarkable.

I once read an article about Sarah Jessica Parker's role as Producer (as well as actress) in Sex and The City) - from what I could gather her main contribution was the innovative idea that her character's 'thing' would be she'd wear a bra in bed. Sounds to me like someone wanted and excuse to keep her norks under wraps even when it was artistically appropriate. I've started to adopt the same style, but for purely practical reasons. I'd heard of women whose boobs leak when they hear their baby crying, or if a feed is overdue. What I wasn't aware of before I started this breast feeding lark is that baps are obviously jealous types, so whether I bung Olive on the left or right tit for a feed the other one starts to leak in sympathy. The nightime bra is essential for holding breast pads in place and preventing the sheets from getting soaked.

Weight
I've been incredibly lucky on the weight front. I don't know if it was because I had morning sickness for all of my pregnancy, or because I missed the final growth spurt by having Olive three weeks early. But I have managed to miss out on excessive weight gain and stretchmarks. I'm back in my pre-pregnancy jeans - admittedly sporting a bit of a muffin top, but that is preferable to my maternity jeans that literally fall off me. I didn't weigh myself during my pregnancy, the only scales I had at home were those ones that somehow measure the ratio of body fat as well as weight and there was a warning not to use them if pregnant - I'm not sure if this is because the electric impulse is unsafe for the baby or just that the results are inaccurate, either way I didn't risk it. But I got weighed at the doctors 15 days after giving birth and my BMI was down to 26.2. Pre-pregnancy it generally hovered around 23 - 24 so I reckon it won't be long before I'm back within 'normal' range (18.4 - 24.9) and with breast feeding I don't even have to think about dieting to get there.

Postnatal Depression
Thankfully none.

There is always a worry, particularly with having tried for so long and so hard, to get here that when I did I would regret it. Either because of hormones or just being unable to bond for one reason or another.

I was warned that baby blues, which are distinct from full blown depression, can kick in on day three to five. Sure enough, bang on schedule on day four I woke up and just felt a surge of fear. It hit me that this was forever, that I was no longer the most important person in my own life and everything I did would have to be negotiated around what was best for Olive. I couldn't even imagine a time when I would be able to go to the loo by myself. I burst into tears at the enormity of the responsibility I had foisted upon myself. The husband gleefully diagnosed 'baby blues' and since then it has been all good.

That doesn't mean to say I've been giggling and skipping around the house 24/7. Both sisters have been treated to an early morning phonecall from me when I haven't been able to say anything for a couple of minutes as I've been in floods of tears. But this has been entirely due to lack of sleep and I think it would have been irrational not to be crying in these instances (might I also add they have responded beautifully, driving across London to come and support me).

I was also wracked with guilt and sobbing uncontrollably when I found out after 16 days Olive had still not gained her birth weight.

But day-to-day I am so very happy. She is just amazing, and even writing this I'm welling up - this time with happy tears - because she is all I hoped for.

Olive
Ok, maybe a little bit about the little one. We had a midwife appointment on Friday and not only is her jaundice gone but she has regained (and more) her birth weight which makes the constant nomming on my boobs worth it. She is hardly a fat knacker at 5lb 13oz (up from 5lb 9oz) but certainly going in the right direction!



Thursday, 22 August 2013

Estimated Due Date


The 22nd of August has been a date emblazoned on my mind, and on the minds of thousands of others in the UK for months. Today is my official estimated due date. For everyone else in the country it is also the date that GCSE results come out - they haven't all been rooting for me.

As it is, rather than spending the day in labour I pottered round the house with a three-week-and-one-day-old baby. I vacillate between not quite believing she is here and feeling she has been here forever.

If I think about it rationally I can't quite work out why I am so in love with her. I'll be honest, she hasn't really exhibited much in the way of a personality, her chat is atrocious, she has yet to laugh at any of my jokes, and I seem to spend most of my time clearing up her shit. But I'm used to this - all of theses things apply to my dog as well and he is lovely too (although severely neglected of late).

My daughter (I remember the first time I referred to him indoors as my "husband" it was thrilling if a little weird, I feel the same when I talk about my daughter), my daughter's enigmatic charm hasn't just captured me. Both sets of grandparents have declared her "amazing", "gorgeous" and "wonderful". I'm not entirely sure what she has done to earn these accolades. Obviously the grandparents are completely unbiased in their assessment of my daughter, so it must be true.

I'm quite glad that she came early now, despite it meaning I wasn't as prepared as I'd hoped by the time she arrived, because I've got over the first petrifying weeks and am starting to feel more comfortable with her and I think the feeling is mutual. Certainly if other people are holding her and she starts to cry she calms down dramatically if I give her a cuddle. The cynical amongst you might mutter something about her smelling my milk and anticipating some boob-juice, I like to think she is starting to know her Mummy.

***

That bit on the end of my last post I realise now, in retrospect, could seem like a cry for attention "tell me you love me and I'll stay"! It genuinely wasn't meant like that. I am wondering what to do now.

I started this blog both to record my experiences of fertility treatments (if it came to that, which back in May 2008 I didn't know that it would) but also to connect with other people who couldn't conceive and, I hoped that sharing my experiences of treatment would help other folk know what they might have to go through and understand what treatment may entail. That is my excuse for being possibly a little too graphic at times.

Continuing to blog about Olive is a much more personal affair. I want to record her first moments for me, and eventually her. If other people want to read along that is great, if not it doesn't matter, whether I continue to blog here or start a new blog I have yet to decide.

So in short I'll be around for a while.






Saturday, 17 August 2013

Disjointed thoughts on our new baby

I am entranced by our daughter. I watch her whilst she sleeps - which frankly in most circles would seem a little bit creepy. I also occasionally stroke her cheek to get a reaction - just to check she is still breathing, in much the same way I use to prod my pregnant belly to get a kick if I hadn't felt anything for a while. Turns out the fear doesn't disappear once they are born.

She is still tiny. She wears babygrows that engulf her. The labels say 0 to 3 months but she is still, in theory, five days off her due date. We hold up her clothes and can't imagine her ever fitting into them let alone growing out of them.

Everyone tells us to cherish these early days. They go too fast, we are warned. But I can't help but yearn for a time when she is more robust. When her spindly little limbs chub up At two and a half weeks she has yet to regain her birth weight. The midwives are keeping an eye on this, I am wracked with guilt about how much I should be breast feeding her.

Luckily, her output shows us she is clearly eating well. She has two nicknames depending on the contents of her nappy - Pissy Elliot or Poop Doggy Dog.

Nights vary. We've had a couple of terrible ones where she refuses to be put down and I hold her as she sleeps - petrified that I will roll on her or push her out of bed. Other nights have allowed us blocks of three hours solid sleep. Back in the day this would sound horrendous but after the sleepless nights of pregnancy three hours is blissfully refreshing.

The husband has had three days back at work, but I've yet to have a day by myself as my in-laws have been here. I was petrified at the thought of a day by myself however now after a week of house guests that fear is somewhat offset by the idea of a house to ourselves.

I've taken her out by myself once. I strapped the pram wrist band on firmly. Put on the pram brake  at every road crossing and eyed each approaching pedestrian with suspicion. It was Ok. I think I might get the hang of this.

Olive and I have a mutually favourite  position. Her snuggled on my chest. For her no doubt she can hear my heart beat and it is reminiscent of being in the womb. For me she becomes the cutest, softest, best smelling hot water bottle.

I worry about her health, her future, her size. Not her lungs though. She has a big voice for such a little lady.

Now I face the dilemma of all infertility bloggers once their first baby arrives. To continue to blog or to slip away quietly thankful to have got here, at last.










Monday, 12 August 2013

The Hands

Very shortly after giving birth, whilst the husband held our new born and I lay recovering, and with various medical staff milling around, I asked him if he thought she was his daughter.

I don't know what the staff thought.

The most natural assumption would be there was some question about who her father was. Maybe they thought that 36 weeks and six days previously I'd had a daliance with another man. Or that the husband was just a naturally suspicious type and I am an unfaithful slapper, coming to your screens on a Jeremy Kyle DNA test in the Autumn.

Of course you all know why I asked. And that I really meant does she look like OURS. With IVF there is always a little residual worry that there could have been an embryo switch.

On the plus side she is the right colour to be our offspring. Looks wise, however, I can't identify my chin, or the husband's eyes, my cheeks or the husband's nose in her tiny little features.

Her hands however tell a different story. They are disproportionally massive. Long fingers with slightly large knuckles and tapered fingers. Nothing like my titchy little mitts but she is the husband's hand twin.

They are incredibly expressive, and I've become a little obsessed with them. In the past ten days she has flicked me the Vs, the Bird, she has done some Westside gang gestures and wrung her hands like a little old lady.

 No Photos Please



 Subtly flicking me the V-sign


 Hand-wringing


Throwing some shapes

The husband is delighted and is already planning on getting her to learn the piano.










Monday, 5 August 2013

The Birth

My blood pressure was still high and the baby was, as far as anyone could tell, pretty much cooked therefore on balance the doctors decided on Tuesday 30th July that I should be induced.

Induction sounds fairly straightforward; I was told that a tampon-like thing would be put up me and then after 24 hours they would check to see whether the baby was coming. If not they might try something else - like a drip to try to get labour to start.

I've been using tampons since I was 13. Occasionally if they are put in wrong they can be a bit painful, but you just remove it bung another one in and can't feel it again. This is not the case with this induction tampon.

The midwife reminded me a little of Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter: all sweetness and light on the surface but with a core of steel. She said before inserting the "tampon", and this is a direct quote (I made the husband take a few notes during labour so I wouldn't forget what has happened and you wouldn't ... ahem ... miss out), "I'll just pop it up your frou frou now."

Frou Frou.

The next few minutes felt like being fingered by Freddy Kruger.

Tampon my arse. Sorry, my frou frou. I didn't see it but it felt more like a hard plastic biro was put up there and I could feel it from the moment it was in until it was withdrawn for me to give birth.

It was put up at 19:55 on Tuesday night.

I was told it should take a day or two to start working and they would essential leave me for 24 hours before checking anything. But I might, I was warned feel a few period-like pains earlier. This shouldn't be confused with labour.

So at 6am the next morning when I felt mild cramping I was in control. I knew what this was all about and fully expected a day of hanging out in the labour room - we'd got DVDs, some food, our books. At 07:30 I had shower. Well, no one wants to have a baby when they have greasy hair. I was in pain but I've had worse periods.

I then got strapped up to various machines - blood pressure monitor on my arm, belly bands for measuring the baby and me on my stomach.

By 09:00 I was getting fairly regular pains - not to bad but definitely with some kind of rhythm. They were being picked up on the monitor and the mid wife and doctor told me this often happened and then they'd die away again. They were still talking about this 24 hour lead time.

But they didn't die away. Instead they got stronger and stronger. At 09:45. after the night shift had changed, a different midwife figured I was in labour (albeit just 1cm dilated) and asked if I wanted my waters broken.

I am all for freedom of choice, I like to be in control but I didn't really know. However I remembered the wombmate's last bit of advice to me. "If they want to check if your waters have broken let them". Also traumatised by the induction suppository, she had initially refused to let them check - hers hadn't broken and it resulted in a longer labour than it might have been.

The midwife went to work, reprimanding me as I instinctively tried to wriggle away from the pain. It is quite counter-intuitive to remain lying on a bed, arse still, whilst what looks like a tent peg is waggled around inside you.

By this time my pain relief was being brought solely through gas and air. I hadn't realised until my NCT classes that this is a peculiarly British thing. Almost no other countries use it for pain relief in labour. It is the equivalent of a nice cup of tea and a digestive biscuit and, in my experience, about as effective a form of pain relief. The idea is that inhaling a 50:50 mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide will give you a bit of a buzz, like being slightly stoned, and whilst it might not take away the pain it will imbue the experience with a slightly other-worldly feeling enabling you to disassociate from the pain.

It did fuck all.

The thing it was most useful for was having something (the gas tube) to grip onto as the contractions became ever stronger.

I was asked if I wanted an epidural and I didn't need to be asked twice. I was well up for one. So the anaesthetist came in and started to prepare putting drips into my hands and warning me of a sharp scratch. By this time a sharp scratch felt like sweet relief compared to the all body pain of contractions.

She was poised to start the epidural. I kept remembering from my NCT class that it would take 40 minutes to work (subsequently I've checked and apparently it takes twenty minutes but I was focusing on the fact that this was still not going to be the instant relief I craved, so the sooner it was in the better). Then just as she was poised to administer sweet, sweet relief she was called out to an emergency. Leaving me with just the bloody gas.

By this time the contractions were getting bad - which led to a much-needed moment of light relief.

Labour wards aren't really wards, they are a series of individual rooms and doctors, midwives, kitchen staff (I had to shout "NO" to a woman who asked me if I wanted lunch at one point) and  students seem to wander in at out as they check on various women under their care.

A doctor came in with two students. She was careful to introduce them to me by name - like I gave a fuck at this point. As I got a contraction I didn't scream but would whimper and writhe with pain and pull on the gas in the vain hope it might pass. I was mid-contraction and one of the students at the end of my bed caught my attention - she was pulling some really odd faces and seemed a little unsteady. It totally distracted me and I watched with curious detachment as she collapsed to the floor.

By which time that contraction subsided and the husband and I just laughed as suddenly she became the most important person in the room with the doctor applying a damp cloth to her forehead. I'm guessing she won't choose to specialise in this particular area of medicine.

At about 12:00 I declared my urge to push. In about two hours I'd gone from the beginnings of labour to being ready to give birth. I untangled myself from the mass of wires I was strapped to and started to pace, and kneel and shake my legs and push, and push and push.

Then things become a blur. I remember being told that if the baby didn't come soon they'd have to get her out quickly. Then masses of people flooded into the room.

I was back on the bed and whisked into an operating theatre. The husband had scrubs flung at him and suddenly I was being asked, between contractions, for my consent for a spinal block. A spinal block is incredibly similar to an epidural only acts a lot quicker. Within minutes of signing my consent - I would have signed anything I was given - I was blissfully numb from the waist down.

I've heard people bemoaning the fact they've had epidurals or other serious pain medication during birth. They miss the real experience, feel disassociated from the birth. Each to their own. For me it was amazing. I could at last breath again and remember where I was and who I was. And frankly with such an unnatural conception I had no qualms about an "unnatural" birth - my priority was that this little being who had been growing in me and absorbing my thoughts for the last eight or so months was going to be OK.

And she appeared, safe and healthy, at 12:53. After some curious acting when I had to push for all I was worth without feeling any kind of sensation, this mucky, pale, yoda-like thing was thrust in my face for a quick kiss and then whisked to be checked in an incubator two meters away.

The husband, who had early on declared he was not going to cut the umbilical cord, cut the umbilical cord.

My placenta took its time coming which was - I think - responsible for the mass of stitches I now proudly and painfully sport. The husband wants credit here for not asking the doctor to add an extra stitch.

Suddenly the husband and I who have been a couple for half our lives are a three.



Friday, 2 August 2013

She is here!

I can hardly believe that I am writing this, partly because I am more exhausted than I ever remember being so am impressed I still have the capacity to make sense (maybe I don't but I'll only find that out when I read it back in a few days). But mostly because the seemingly impossible has happened:

Six and a half years after we started trying we have a daughter.

A gorgeous, tiny, wonderful little mite.


She is called Olive Frances (so narrowly escaped being called Ivy F!). She is the most beautiful baby in London/ the UK, I know, what were the chances we'd end up with the best one?!


She arrived on Wednesday (the 31st, was that Wednesday?) at 36weeks and 6 days. She was 5lb 9oz.

I want to write about the birth but that will have to wait until I have more energy, a computer, and home (I'm still in hospital just now).

In the meantime say hello to our little one (*** update seems no one can see the picture, she is real honest! Will upload as soon as I get home - still pushing hard to leave today):




Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Plans A to Z

Between 12noon and 6pm on Monday I hung out in the maternal & fetal assessment unit. Blood pressure taken incalculable times (well, maybe 6). Blood extracted, urine tested, baby's heart monitored, her growth scanned, placenta blood flow assessed.

The little one passed all her tests swimmingly. Me not so much. Which is why I am currently tapping this post out on my iPhone again at two in the morning, in a hospital bed, having been thoroughly wakened by more blood pressure tests (3 in a row this time whilst the nurse tried to get a response she was happy with) and that wakefulness being supplemented by a new born wailing to my right.

The plan, seems to have roughly 26 variations and at the moment I am not sure which is the most likely. I will be induced (rather than a c-section) and I would be surprised if I get to the end of the week without that happening (I reach the 37 week goal on Thursday). Whether it will happen sooner or whether I'll gat a few more nights at home before D-day or I guess B(irth)-day is anyone's guess.

The odd thing is I might have a baby any day and I am still not 100% convinced this isn't a phantom pregnancy still...





Sunday, 28 July 2013

Maternity leave - so far

I had great plans for my maternity leave.

It was going to go something like this:
Finish work on 19th of July confident that everything was in order and my cover would know exactly what to do in my absence. My desk would be clear and my email inbox down to about 20 emails that might be useful in the future. I'd bring in cake and say a fond farewell to colleagues.

I would then have four or five weeks to unpack the remainder of our boxes from the move, pack my hospital bag, cook for the freezer, read all those books about birthing which I seem to have accumulated. See friends. Bloom, glow and grow.

Instead is has been more like this:
Spend first half of what was supposed to be last week in work in hospital trying to send work emails from my iPhone. Spend latter half at home cursing works remote internet access whilst trying to 'rest'. Go to hospital on Friday for check up. Swing past work - pick up leaving present and try to hand-over work in about an hour whilst shredding the most sensitive of the files from people I use to manage.

I've spent my first week of maternity leave still trying to finish off work from home in-between fending off over protective relatives who keep trying to send me to bed.

This weekend Dad and Step-Mother arrive - complete with blood pressure monitor. Most of the weekend has been whiled away watching them unpack boxes, put up shelves and even paint a wall (I'll be honest I quite enjoy being told that I am not to allowed to do any of those activities) and been mildly rebuked for not having packed my hospital bag, started on the nursery.

My hospital bag is now packed. The nursery is getting there - at least the moses basket is up and new born clothes identified.

The problem with having a blood pressure monitor at home is my blood pressure is being monitored by my Step-mother, a retired nurse.

She isn't happy.

On Friday the hospital checked it and it was still high so my drugs were increased and I was sent home until Monday.

This weekend my pressure has been vacillating between high and very high.

My Step-Mother has extracted a promise from me that I'll go back to the hospital on Monday.

I'll be 37 weeks pregnant on Thursday. I think my Step-mother wants the baby whipped out on Thursday.

I'm beyond caring about this pregnancy.

All I want is the healthiest, safest outcome for the baby. If that is a c-section at 37 weeks or a water birth at 40 weeks I don't care. I just hope she is well, and happy.

God, knows when I'll get the opportunity to stock up my freezer!



Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Some Observations On Hospital

It really isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I am on a ward mainly with women who have just given birth and their babies. But it is oddly quiet, the babies seem very obliging only crying for short periods.

We all have our curtains drawn - round a surprisingly spacious bed area. So my neighbours are nothing but voices, however I do have very vivid mental pictures of them.

To my left is a woman who has just had her sixth - SIXTH! - baby. She gave her date of birth, she is 31. I can't compute how anyone can fit that many babies in such a comparatively short life. She seems totally unphased - as you'd expect.

Opposite, at about 8 am yesterday, the lady started complaining about back pains. Within ten minutes she was screaming and in obvious considerable pain. I heard her tell the doctor this was her first baby, but second pregnancy, the first had been still born at 21 weeks. I sat on my my bed and cried, listening to her.

She came back at 4pm, baby delivered in 45 minutes at 27 (I made a typo before when I said 21 weeks here) weeks, small, but everyone seems happy. Twice I got up to say something to her, but my British reserve sent me back to bed without a word and I've just continued my eavesdropping*.

I have only ever been three places where orange juice is considered a viable starter: 1) The 1970s 2) Formal dinner at Cambridge University 3) Hospital.

The NHS is being slated in the national press at the moment. For lack of care, empathy, poor hygiene. I have experienced the absolute opposite - there has been a fair amount of waiting around - but frankly as a low emergency case I can wait. Everyone I have seen has been lovely, patient, explained everything. I suppose I am saying GO NHS, YOU ROCK!

Saying that, it is pretty boring in here (as two posts in two days signify) so I am very much hoping they let me out today. Forgot to mention yesterday and can't work out how to edit my post on phone - I am now 34 weeks and 6 days pregnant. Ideally they want to wait until I am 37 weeks before they intervene, which as things stand looks quite doable, hopefully I'll go to term - but they have already said they don't want me to go over 40 weeks.

**UPDATE**

I am now out of hospital - hooray!  As I left I went past the cubical with the Mum who had the 27 week baby and gave her some of my old magazines. They are really pleased with how the baby is doing and the prognosis is good. She's had a rough ride to get here but is in really good spirits and the staff are doing everything for her and her daughter. She even apologised for making so much noise when in labour! (I told her that was a ridiculous thing to say.)



Tuesday, 16 July 2013

I bottled it

Another little British saying for you guys.

To "bottle it" can either mean literally put something in a bottle, or to change your mind at the last minute and, usually out of fear, not pursue a course of action.

I've done both.

I've bottled my piss - surprisingly only one of the vast containers was needed. But I also decided not to go into work today. This is the first sick day I've taken in over a year and frankly I think I deserve it!

The idea of scurringy off to the bathroom with a bag full of my urine collecting accoutrements was unpleasant enough but knowing that I want to have as low a blood pressure for my appointment yesterday afternoon as possible I figured a day off, doing sod all, was in order.

Then things turned a bit unexpected.

I turned up at five pm, blood pressure still too high. Was sent for blood tests, waited an hour and a half -which can't have done wonders for the pressure. Had test at 7pm. Then a quick trip to the assessment unit for, I thought, another hour on the blood pressure machine after which I'd be sent home.

I packed the husband off home to walk the dog and get some food ready and got hooked up.

Blood pressure was still high so the midwife decided I needed to see the doctor, by which time it was 7:30 and I was bang in shift change territory.

Eventually I was seen by a Doctor and there was much debate about what was to be done. Weighing up between sending me home or keeping me I overnight. In the end I think they bottled it and kept me in as a precautionary measure.

I'm still here at 3:30pm the following day.

The good news is they've given me pills and my blood pressure is back in normal range. But I am showing definate signs of preeclampsia - nothing too worrying yet. A scan this morning showed the baby is still getting the blood and oxygen she needs from me.

They've started me on steroids to help the baby's lungs should they decide to deliver early. And they've bunged me on fragmin, a blood thinner as it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time on my arse for the next few weeks. As I started my IVF on these drugs it almost feels like I've come full circle!

Generally though I feel safe, well cared for, and pretty healthy. Hopefully I'll be discharged tomorrow and this will just be a little blip - albeit one that requires a bit more monitoring than originally intended.

(Believe it or not I do usually proof read these but doing this on my tiny phone is doing my head in - so forgive the typos.)





Sunday, 14 July 2013

Piece of Piss


For those of you who aren't familiar with our British sayings "piece of piss" is a phrase used to denote that something is, or was, easy.

"How was the exam?"
"Piece of piss"

"Can you work out how to set up this DVD player?"
"Of course, it is a piece of piss."

I mean, we don't necessarily use it in polite company but it is a common enough phrase.

One that I use albeit not one I can necessarily relate to, on account of having at ferociously shy bladder.

Pregnancy has, to some extent, lessened my shy bladder. The first symptom I noticed when I was pregnant was the need to wee more frequently - this because of hormones racing round my body. Now, at 8 months pregnant the urge to piss is enhanced by my daughter tap dancing on my bladder.

I've done it again, haven't I? Banged on about something without explaining why.

To date this pregnancy has gone brilliantly. The sickness has been grim, and still raises its head (or causes me to to raise my breakfast) once or twice a week but it hasn't affected my health or the health of my baby.

I've passed every medical check without a problem.

Until Thursday.

On Thursday I had the day off work. In the morning I was waiting in for our internet and TV to be connected. Blessed, blessed, internet - how I have missed ye. This was the company's second attempt and they had been the cause of a number of frustrated phone calls over the last three weeks. They were due to come between 8am and 1pm and I'd rung to explain I had a Doctor's appointment at 2pm so they had to be finished by 1pm.

I won't go through the stress of the morning which had the installers turn up, go away, phone calls to call centres, the manager coming down, but eventually at 1pm they started the installation. At 1:30 I had to herd them out of the house to rush across London to my Doctor's appointment. (Internet and TV sorted, phone still to come).

I raced to the train station, hopped on train, then tube, fled up the escalator, took the stairs in the hospital two at a time and then had my blood pressure measured.

Unsurprisingly after the morning I'd had it was phenomenally high.

Then my urine was tested and showed protein.

Two classic signs of pre-eclampsia.

I got hooked up to a blood pressure machine for an hour and they took yet more readings. It had reduced a bit but is still deemed too high. I suspect the rise was a result of my morning dealing with installation numpties but the hospital cannot be too careful.

So now I need more tests. One of which involves collecting my urine over a 24 hour period.

There is a heatwave going on in London at the moment which means I am drinking like a fish and pissing like a horse (two more idioms for you there). Never fear I am only drinking water so I'm not getting as pissed as a newt (one more there).

So the idea of collecting my wee for 24 hours is, frankly, intimidating. I start as of now and will be collecting every drop. There is going to be a lot and I've been given these:

Hmm. Not really sure how I am going to feel about lugging these into work tomorrow and trying to discreetly fill them whilst going to the toilet.

Still, at least I have a pot to piss in. (Another idiom there, if I didn't have a pot to piss in it would imply I had no money, which makes absolutely no sense in this context but I couldn't resist throwing it in!)




Saturday, 6 July 2013

Happy Average

My internet silence should not be interpreted as a sign of bad news - rather moving into the new house and being devoid of Internet access. Three weeks now and I miss it more than is healthy. Which means this post tapped out laboriously on my phone shall be short, but sweet.

Sweet because yesterday, at our 33 week scan, I saw a little stubby nose, and a wee girl sucking her fingers.

The little one measured bang on average for everything. Size, weight (currently measured at 4 pounds 13oz), and, blood flow through heart and brain.

Her head is down ready for birth, and my placenta has shifted up to the top, allowing her unfettered access to the exit and taking away the need for a planned Caesarian - which was mooted at the 20 week scan.

I have never before been so pleased to hear that something I have created - albeit with a touch of help - is average. Of course once she is out (and one of the views left us in no doubt she is a she) I shall be aiming for an outstanding baby, exceptional toddler and amazing teenager. But for now average is perfect. 



Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Most Expensive Birthday Present Ever?


The husband and I aren’t overly extravagant when it come to presents for each other. We buy gifts for Christmas and Birthdays. The husband will occasionally announce he has bought me a gift, and it will be chocolate – cheap chocolate. Which is very gratefully received but not exactly pushing the boat out.

We don't do presents for Valentines, anniversaries, Easter, New Year, St Patricks day and obviously not Mother's or Father's day.

When we do buy each other presents we tend not to overspend. In fact in a very unromantic but relentlessly practical way we agree a budget before hand so that neither of us over-spends on gifts for the other. Both of our birthdays are in the summer, and unsurprisingly both of us celebrate Christmas towards the end of December which means we have a nice six/ seven month spread between present giving.

This summer (yes it is finally summer in the UK) we realised that we were likely to be at the pinnacle of our respective wealths. This is the last gift giving occasion when we are DINKYs (Double Income No Kids Yet (yet, yet, yet, yet - how I love the transition from DINK to DINKY)). We also don’t have IVF to pay/ save for - been there done that, bought the embryo, and we sold our flat in December and are renting so are mortgage free.

So we agreed to double our gift budget.

It has been quite fun. I’ve bought the husband something that he actively wants (asked for) and supplemented it with gifts that he’d like but not quite get round to buying for himself - including a dram of his favourite whisky (the bottle would have pushed me over our budget alone), a DVD of 'Allo 'Allo (in his opinion the best sitcom ever made ... discuss). Nothing too extravagant even doubling the budget doesn’t come close to what I know some people spend on their partners but I was pretty happy with the quantity and quality of the presents.

You may have noticed the ‘was’. Unfortunately my gifts were eclipsed.

On Friday, on the husband’s 37th birthday, we completed on buying a house. After six months of renting, masses of properties viewed, seven offers put in, three accepted and then the sellers changed their mind, we became home owners again. Approximately two months before Doug makes and appearance – which is a massive relief.

But back to the completion date coinciding with the husband’s birthday.

I would like to make it absolutely clear here, in front of witnesses, that despite what he may claim (and what one friend texted him and another emailed him to say): THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE HOUSE IS HIS BIRTHDAY PRESENT.

Good, glad I got that cleared up.



Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Back To School


Today was a big day. I had my first NCT class.  NCT, for the uninitiated, is the National Childcare Trust that runs classes for expectant parents.

The general consensus from my friends who have done the classes is that the instruction is OK but really limited to the birth and leaves you a bit in the lurch about what to do afterwards. But their main reason for suggesting I attend is that it is an opportunity to meet other people in the area who are about to give birth who will form your support network during your maternity leave.

It has also been likened to Fresher's week, where you enthusiastically meet a bunch of people who are your best friends for three months and you then spend the next four years trying to shake them off.

The husband and I have just got back from the class and debriefed ourselves on our new 'best friends'. There were the pair with the celebrity couple names, the young couple, the guy we thought had a dry sense of humour, the one who looks like that DJ, and the ones who were most "like us".

You know whenever you go on a training course there is always one person who asks annoying questions and the rest of the group bond by rolling their eyes at each other whenever that person pipes up? I didn't see anyone like that - which leads me to conclude that I must have been that person.

The class was interesting without being massively ground breaking. There were a few myths debunked - apparently hospitals won't bar you from leaving with the kid if you don't have a car seat, which is lucky as we don't have a car, let alone a seat for one.

The main lesson learnt, from the model pelvis and ball exercise, was that I need to give birth standing up. Um ... ok then.

I'm quite looking forward to next week.



Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bumps

Mr Bump


Mrs Bump



(Not so) Little Miss Bump





Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Viability

Viability is, for many, a huge milestone.

There is no set date when the fetus nestling in one's womb becomes a fool-proof survivor if kicked out early but – thanks to the wonders of modern medicine - there is a good chance of the baby surviving earlier and earlier.

At 24 weeks a premature baby has a 50% chance of surviving. From 26 to 27 weeks – assuming the baby is over 500 grams the survival rate is a staggering 90%. After that the survival rate doesn’t improve much until the baby reaches full-term. But this is less to do with the fact the baby is premature but those 10% who do not make it are likely to have underlying health problems that caused them to be born premature in the first place.

I am, today, 27 weeks pregnant.

Curiously enough I haven’t been hanging out for viability. I just haven’t had the feeling this baby is going to come early.

Don’t misunderstand me this doesn’t mean that I have been sailing through this pregnancy sanguine, confident of a healthy hearty baby. I’ve been petrified on numerous occasions.

The worst was Christmas day, not two hours after I’d sheepishly revealed to the womb mate why I’d decided against cooking a lovely rare joint of beef for lunch. I went to the loo and I was bleeding. There was nothing I could do, no one I could call so I went to bed for a couple of hours. It wasn’t a top ten Christmas but, thankfully the bleeding stopped and, well, here we are now.

My biggest fear is the baby just dies inside me and I have no clue that it has happened. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this stems from last May when after loosing one twin in a torrent of blood the second’s heart just stopped beating with no outward sign, not even the cessation of morning sickness, to alert me to something being wrong.

This is one of the reasons I am absolutely loving feeling the little one having a wee wriggle. Early mornings, after lunch and late at night are her favourite squirming times. Which is ok at the moment but, once she is born I am hoping things change pretty sharpish as those are times I’ve mentally earmarked for her (and me) to be sleeping.

Of course there are points where I think I’ve not felt a little internal squiggle for a while and I start to worry again. I’ve been given a few different techniques to get her moving – the cruelest was the suggestion to have a hot bath followed by an ice-cold drink. I find however, sucking a sweet seems to give her the sugar rush she needs to land a healthy boot into my duodenum.

Which is, obviously, a trial.

Generally my fears are abating.

We’ve all heard people say they don’t care whether the baby is a boy or a girl as long as it has ten fingers and ten toes. (To which there is always some smartarse who expresses the hope that the baby has eight fingers and two thumbs, and then they usually do a little snort at their incredible wit.) Even this I am quite confident about - the scans have been so exhaustive that I am pretty confident any missing digits will have been spotted by now.

The only concern that has been raised at my scans has been the last one they said my placenta was low lying. I always imagines the placenta swaddling the whole baby. In actually fact it is more like a feeding bag attached to the belly button. Where it was at the last scan was essentially blocking the baby’s escape route. If it stays in this position then I will have to have a cesarean.

Even this isn’t unduly concerning me.

It feels like there is plenty of time for things to get into the right position – I’ll have another scan at 33 weeks to check where everything is.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t relish the idea of a cesarean in the slightest. I might be too posh to pronounce bath and grass exactly to my husband’s satisfaction (yes I talk properly, unlike the husband and his vulgar vowels - I'm more Downton Abbey whilst he is a touch Trainspotting), but I am not too posh to push. I worry about the recovery time, not being able to lift up my baby and let’s face it having a fairly major operation. But I am hoping it won’t come to that, so pushed that worry from my mind for the time being.

But despite viability not being a date I’ve been hanging out for it is quite nice to have reached it.

Now I guess it is just a case of feeding up the baby – pass me another sweet please.



Monday, 13 May 2013

Little Insights

It is rare for a wife to come home from a weekend away and be delighted when her husband tells her she "definitely looks bigger."

I quite like one of his new nicknames for me; 'Bumpy'.

I'm less keen on 'Chunk'.

In fact, if he continue to choose to use the latter then thank fuck we have two more embryos in the freezer because the lack of testicles that will result will mean these are the only two options for Doug to have a sibling.

****

A guy at work got a free stamp with a craft magazine he advertises with. He offered it to me to stamp on the baby when she is born.

I told him if there was one thing this baby could not claim to be it was "Homemade".

****

I was emailing a bloke at work who is relatively new and doesn't therefore know about my six weeks off in 2011 for IVF.

I'm practicing my best street slang. As one does when conversing wit da yoot.

He writes that I'm gonna be one cool mother.

I respond that it is a worry I can't read that without thinking he's calling me a motherfucker.

To which he says it is that action that got me into this state.

I paused, deciding eventually that this random guy didn't need to know that this baby wasn't conceived in the normal way.

See, I do have some kind of self control.

****

I've added a new word to my vocabulary.

I'm off on a wee trip this week. I thought it was a citybreak.

Three separate people have informed me it is a Babymoon.





Thursday, 2 May 2013

Grandpa

If I believed in a higher power I might start to think there was a one in one out policy. That the population is aging and growing would prove otherwise but I have often noticed a death in the family around the time a new family member makes themselves known.

My Grandad died this morning.

Rationally this is a good thing. He always told me that should he go “gaga” I was to shoot him. For the last six months or so he has been in an old people’s home and confused. I am not sure he recognised my sister and I when we last went to see him, but being bought up to be polite and an eminent bullshitter he bluffed his way through the visit.

Much as I would like to say I’d fulfilled his wishes I decided against shooting him, I value my freedom too much for that. So his death now, rather than lingering for years more in a retirement home is undoubtedly a good thing.

But it is still very sad.

I have very fond memories of my Grandpa. He was a proper old school country gentleman. Hunting, shooting, fishing, playing bridge and choosing to wear a twine belt rather than a leather one. One Christmas I remember him getting about six belts as presents from various members of the family. He still stuck with the string more commonly used to bind the bails on his farm.

I felt sorry for him at Christmas because it was also his birthday and I vividly remember him telling me one year, as a child, that his sister got more presents than him. This sort of anecdote had a profound effect on an eight year old and was another reason for me wanting a summer rather than a winter baby. My sister and I tried to compensate him for a few years celebrating his half birthdays in mid-June.

He loved to recite us poems as kids. The Jabberwocky was a particular favourite. As was Tweedledum and Tweedledee – though quite what inspired him to recite a poem about the two fat twins from Alice in Wonderland to the wombmate and I eludes me. Another poem he enjoyed reciting I warned him I would read at his funeral – an idea that delighted him:

Grandpa’s fallen down the drain
And cannot scramble up again
Now he’s fallen down the sewer
That’s one Grandpapa the fewer.


I’m not sure that I’ll have the guts.

He’d read us stories. The Saki ones stick in my mind. One very gruesome tale was about a hyena called Esme. The story was horrible but ever since I’ve liked the name Esme which was very near the top of my shortlist for girl’s names until I checked its popularity and realised it had had a massive spike last year thanks to a character in Twilight also having the name. (Also spell check has just suggested the word Semen instead of Esme, which has sealed its fate as a name I won’t use.)

He was a governor at a primary school I attended for a short while and I remember sitting at lunch with a friend one day when the girl next to me snorted with laughter. “Look at that man’s nose” she said pointing at the eminent visitors who were being shown round. Of course it was my Grandfather's large hooter that had set her off. It is odd really that his snozzle had caught her attention when far more impressive was the fact that he had a glass eye as a result of shrapnel in the second world war and wore a monocle as a result.

Once, no doubt having had a lesson about oral history, I tried to draw some tales out of my Grandad starting the conversation with an innocent “You never really talk about the war...” He turned to me (right round as I was on his blindside so it could be quite an effort to look me in the eye), “That” he said “I consider a very great compliment.”

In fact the only war story I remember him telling me was when he was first taken to hospital after his eye-losing injury; he was more exhausted and ill than he’d ever been in his life and slept solidly for almost 24 hours. When he woke the man recuperating in the next bed had drawn a sketch of him with a donkey’s head happily snoring through the day.

He did, as I may have mentioned, have an impressively sized nose.

He, like my Mum – but with a different spelling – was called Francis. Which adds more weight to the idea of naming the little one Ivy Francis. Maybe if she’d shared his birthday Ivy F. would have been a shoe-in.

Whenever I saw him and asked how he was he'd have a stock answer  "I can't think of anything to complain about."

Let's hope that is still the case.

****

Whenever I write about people I always send them what I am going to write first to check they are ok with it. In this instance I couldn't do that, but I have just checked with my sister's that they were happy this post.

The wombmate added:
"It's funny how we all remember different things, my memories are of the rain poem, collecting mushrooms and being taught to gamble."

And my older sister said:
"Counting cows and playing twenty-one with matchsticks."




Monday, 29 April 2013

Two plus two equals five


I don’t know how pregnant I am.

Ok that was an exaggeration. I know exactly how pregnant I am (23 weeks and six days, I could do hours but that'd just be boasting) but I don’t know how pregnant I should tell people I am.

Back in the day, before I started on this whole trying to conceived thing, I had very vague notion of pregnancy (I hope you are impressed I can remember that far back). I knew women were pregnant for nine months. So when I asked people how pregnant they were I’d get a bit flummoxed when they would respond in weeks.

Five months meant much more to me than 20 weeks.

This a problem that followed me after the birth as well. Why did people bother with telling me their baby was 18 months when “a year and a half was” a much more manageable figure to get my head round. Don’t get me wrong I can do the maths, sometimes even in my head without the use of my fingers and toes, but I didn’t see the need. “One” is anything between 11 and 13 months, “turned one a few months ago” will get the baby through to 15 months, then progress onto “nearly one and a half”. I didn’t need a to-the-minute age.

The upshot is, when I got pregnant I decided to just use months (unless talking to someone who had given birth and therefore understood the significance of getting past the first trimester or that 20 weeks was a big milestone for the second scan).

All was fine until I was asked how pregnant I was today.

24 weeks – give or take. Divide that by four and you’d think I was six months pregnant.

But I’m due towards the end of August – it is the end of April now. So end of May should be seven months, end of June would be the eight month mark and that magical nine months ... Tadah ... End of July.

Hmm not so much.

Ladies, we’ve been sold a pup.

Pregnancy is approximately forty weeks (although admittedly this includes the two weeks between finishing your period and actual release of sperm into the right orifice / having the embryos popped back in). So one's pregnancy is actually ten months rather than nine – this is based on four weeks in a month.

Thank goodness no one is nosey enough to ask about conception, because they’d probably be very confused if I explained that happened back in February 2012.

This was a full year and a half (give or take) before my due date. Which if Doug was in the womb for that whole time wouldn’t quite take me to the dizzy heights of an elephant’s two year gestation period but puts me on a par with the Dolphins.

Oh there's a thought, maybe I should call Doug 'Flipper'.



Monday, 22 April 2013

Naming the kid

I had a moment the other night.

The husband was sitting on the sofa reading out girl's names. Not perusing his little black book but contemplating what to name our daughter.

Our daughter!

Holy shit.

I hope that every single one of you gets to have this conversation. It breaks my heart that not everyone has. It was fun.

Naming is a minefield. (Look at the picture above. I have no words).

There are definite fashions and amongst the London middle-classes, (of which I cannot deny I am a fully paid up member), there is a trend at the moment for harking back to the traditional names of our grandparents. I'm down with this. I like an old fashioned name. But as with all trends you need to be careful.

A mate of ours of the left-wing persuasion named his daughter Florence. A lovely name. A couple of months later the right-leaning leader of the Conservative party gave his daughter the same name. He wasn’t happy (the mate, I doubt old Dave C gave a damn, he doesn’t seem to care about much).

Then there are the hundreds of tales of friends who think they have seized upon a unique name for the apple of the their eye (oooh! Apple there’s a name!) only for the kid to start nursery and find they are one of five Oscars/ Archies/ Lilys/ Tabithas.

Back in the day you could try and mark a bit of differentiation by a “special” spelling. Why have Daisy when you can have Daysee? In fact I know two people whose names are spelt wrong because their dad’s screwed up their birth certificates. Once this wouldn’t have been too problematic but now you've got the dual consideration - an unique spelling can render any email address unworkable as people are inclined to stick with the traditional spelling. On the plus side, when you set up their website (come on aren't all parents registering a domain name along with their baby name nowadays?) your less likely to find it has already been snapped up.

The husband has put two strict rules on any name he will contemplate. It can't start with an A or end with an A. This is because our surname starts with an A and he isn't happy about our daughter's initials being AA. (Can't think why, I'm a fan of the Automobile Association.) And he thinks that ending one name with an A and starting the surname with another will prevent the name rolling off the tongue.

So my favourite name was vetoed.

Then there is my natural inclination to have a bit of fun with this name.

If Posh and Becks see fit to name Brooklyn after where he was conceived surely Petri, after the dish our embryo started its life in is a shoe-in for a name.

Or Ivy. Ivy is a nice name, and I could couple it with a middle name in memory of my Mum. Frances. So Ivy Frances - or for short: Ivy F.

I know what you are thinking - that I'm a fucking genius.

You aren't wrong.

For some reason the husband isn't buying it.

Finally, however, more through a process of elimination rather than choice, we have arrived at a short list of names.

The next stage is to test these names out in the field. But that is a post for another day.



Thursday, 11 April 2013

I've Changed

Now that I am half way through my pregnancy it is time to discuss the changes that I have experience since getting up the duff.

There are the normal things:

Never having been bulimic throwing up on a daily basis has been a novel experience – and the one that keeps giving. I am no longer choosing my breakfasts based on the likelihood of it easing the nausea (it doesn’t) but more on the degrees of revolting it is on its way back up. Toast = good. Yoghurt/ dairy = bad.

I am getting fatter. To the untrained eye I wouldn’t say I look pregnant just stoutly girthed. As a celebration after my 20 week scan I bought a pair of maternity trousers. Not because I couldn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy togs but because I have spent so long putting off buying new clothes “in case I get pregnant” the strides I have been wearing for the past few years finally fell apart and I felt it would be indecent for me walk around showing my arse off to all and sundry.

My boobs are weird. They have grown (much to the husband’s delight, a few weeks ago before they grew he was muttering about wanting a refund – which was frankly greedy as they have never been small). But the nipples have grown too, and got darker. I found myself gazing at them in awe in the mirror the other day in much the same way one does when leafing through National Geographic, you know with a scientific, anthropological bent.

All of these things should, I know, make the pregnancy feel more real. And I guess they do. I have no doubt I am pregnant. The idea that I will have a baby at the end is still too much to contemplate and difficult to associate with these bodily changes.

Oh and the other day, in the supermarket, a jar of gherkins caught my eye.

I had a little giggle to myself thinking, now I'm pregnant I should be craving these.

Ha.

Ha, ha.

Ha.

Mmm ... tangy ... crunchy goodness.

They went in the basket. I have yet to couple them with ice-cream, but I'll keep you posted on that culinary delight.

The most dramatic change however has been my ability to start to 'look' again.

A couple of weeks ago I walked past a woman with a young baby it was only as I peered into the pram (as I strolled past not in a creepy getting all in the crib type way) that it occurred to me I hadn’t done that for a very long time. It had become instinctive to look away from a pram. It wasn’t even a conscious thing, but now I am looking at all these gorgeous, chubby-cheeked youngsters again I realised how long I must have been averting my gaze whenever I came into contact with a stranger’s baby. Not with friends, obviously, because that would be odd - going round to a mates see a new kid and blanking it wouldn’t be considered polite.

Mind you I am going to have to have words with the wombmate at her insistence at calling me with “face-time”. I love seeing my little nephew but don’t enjoy also checking myself out in the thumbnail picture in the corner, and she does have an annoying habit of telling me how he was just giggling but can’t understand why he has now stopped. Just a guess, mate, but possibly shoving a camera in his face with a close up of a bedraggled looking Aunty Lizzie has scared the shit out of the little dude....