Friday, 31 July 2009

A MEME award and a meme

The lovely Emily, at Maternal Tales from the South Coast, has kindly bestowed upon me this MEME award.

Rules of the award need me to list 7 personality traits and pass it on to 7 other wonderful blogs.


  1. Mild OCD. Is that a personality trait? Of course, most people will say you can’t have mild OCD, you either have it or not, but this is the only way to describe it. It’s not debilitating in any way, just odd! Examples of some of my symptoms, include a need for symmetry and a dislike of anything matching. These both lead me to be rather fussy in how mugs are hung up – no two matching cups should ever be put next to each other; the pattern should be symmetrical. When I put Rosemary’s alphabet blocks away, they have to be in rainbow order. To the point where, if one of them is missing I cannot properly relax until it’s found. I will almost never where matching pyjamas – different bottom and tops are required (though the colours do need to match in certain ways!). I have veered towards this non-matching pyjama thing with Rosemary, though can just about cope if someone else puts matching ones on her.
  2. Problems delegating. I find it very difficult to admit that anyone could possibly do anything as well as (or, God forbid, better than) me. In the work situation, this means that it takes me a long time before I will ‘let’ Chris do a certain type of project. I have to write up ridiculously complicated instructions on how to do it and then, once I have let it go, I will get very annoyed if it’s not done in exactly the way I would do it – even if the end result is the same. This is why I could probably never be a good manager. In family life, this attitude follows through to having to do too much housework, because I can’t let someone else do it. I am getting better at this, at least for the moment, because growing a baby is pretty hard work and if the washing up isn’t done exactly the ‘right way’, it won’t really hurt anyone. Not really. Much.
  3. Difficulties with small talk. I’m pretty rubbish at making comments about new haircuts or looking thinner. I’m not very good about asking about people’s holidays and what they’re up to at work. I can answer these questions myself, but forget to reciprocate. And I have difficulty following a conversation if there are lots of them going on – e.g. in a pub, at mother and baby group. I tend to miss words and sometimes fill them in incorrectly, which can lead to confusion and embarrassment. There is no way I could be a hair dresser. And this trait probably leads to my difficulties in making new friends.
  4. Good listener. Oddly, despite No. 3, I can be a good listener. But it does have to be in a one-on-one situation. Problems with your husband? Problems at work? Problems with your flatmates? Problems with your teenage offspring? Problems with your menopause? Problems with your health? Settle down, have a cup of tea and tell me all about it.
  5. Messy and disorganised. Yeah. I don’t care too much about tidiness and housework. If you’re coming to visit me, don’t expect sparkling, dust-free surfaces or even an obstacle-free floor. I like to kid myself that, once I win the lottery and buy that 7-bedroom, 5-reception-room house with 10 times the storage we actually need, I will suddenly turn into a tidy and organised person. But, really, it probably would make no difference. My desk is usually covered in piles of stuff, with a small space to type and move the mouse around. If Chris ever has to work at my computer, it really gets on his nerves. I’ll clean and tidy the desk maybe once a month. The rest of the time, I’m quite happy with it like that and know where (almost) everything is. I am happier in an environment where flat surfaces are piled up with things and where you have to move things out of the way to sit down for dinner, or unpack shopping. Unfortunately, Chris is happier in an environment with clear flat surfaces (especially when they are dining tables!), which leads to a certain amount of conflict/compromise.
  6. Information devourer. In the past, whenever embarking on a new endeavour – setting up my business, being pregnant, learning something (a language, a programming language, a piece of software), getting a dog – I would go to a bookstore (or more often to Amazon) and buy at least three books on the subject, often five or six. It is still my first instinct to do so, but I have managed to curb my desires somewhat and will do an Internet trawl instead, and maybe borrow something from the library. I have a ridiculous number of seriously outdated computer books sitting on my desk, as well as more general tomes about UI design and managing software development. A good few hundred pounds’ worth, at least, though none of it worth much now.
  7. I would be an early adopter, but am fortunate (at least in financial terms) to be married to someone who can hum and ha about a new gadget for so long, it’s no longer new, but cheap. But, you know, if I won the lottery, I would have all the latest gadgets, as soon as they became available, not two years down the road. (And a big house to keep them all in, of course!)

Hmmm. Who shall I pass it on to? Have no idea who’s had it already, except of course Maternal Tales because she gave it to me – so can’t give it to her. …

  1. geekymummy, because she likes gadgets too (even if they sometimes come from Apple)
  2. More than just a mother, because she is finally back online, needs some distraction, and should clearly spend more time answering silly/funny questions about herself, rather than writing beautiful prose. (Feel free to ignore!)
  3. Jo Beaufoix, because she is very cool and funny and popular (number 4 on the Tots100!)and we should all be given the opportunity to find out more about the cool and the funny.
  4. Platespinner, because she lives sort of up the road.
  5. Musical Mummy, because you have a blog now, so you need to fill it with stuff – and one of these is an easy way to start (you can ignore the pass it on bit, if you like).
  6. Zooarchaeologist, because isn’t archaeology everyone’s dream job? Or is that just me? And hopefully she’ll write something about it, so I can feel more knowledgeable about it and realise it’s not all Lara Croft and Indiana Jones (unless it is?).
  7. Dancinfairy, just in case Squiggler is staying put and you are bored, or Sguiggler has come out and is going against the tide of new babyhood and sleeping through the night and leaving you twiddling your thumbs. (Or, you know, feel free to ignore it!).

And now for the extraordinarily fun Blame Tara Meme, which Tara of Sticky Fingers has been tracking all over the place. I have been waiting and waiting to do this one, so thank you Clareybabbling, for the opportunity.

  1. Who is the hottest movie star?
    I’m not hugely into ogling movie stars, but… John Cusack. And from TV… David Boreanaz, George Clooney (when he was in ER).
  2. Apart from your house and your car, what's the most expensive item you've ever bought?
    I was going to say my wedding dress, which is most definitely the most expensive piece of clothing I have bought, but then I realised our sofa cost £200 more than it. Then… I was reading someone else’s answers and realised that, of course, it would have to be a computer. Most of our computers cost more than the sofa (except this dinky little netbook, which was less than £300).
  3. What's your most treasured memory?
    Only one? Well, because he’s no longer here, I really treasure the memory (and photos and video) of Papa walking me down the aisle. And am very sad that my sister won’t get to experience that. I’m also quite fond of the rest of that day! And walking through town from Stroud Maternity, bringing Rosemary home, is a lovely memory. There’s a whole bunch more, too, though and choosing one is just not possible.
  4. What was the best gift you ever received as a child?
    I remember being very excited when I got my rollerskates. We were living in Spain and having Christmas at a friend’s villa in the country – freshly picked and squeezed orange juice for Christmas breakfast was a bit weird. But she had this big carport thing underneath the villa, where I could skate for hours. The skates were just the ones that you strap onto your normal shoes, but I loved them.
  5. What's the biggest mistake you've made?
    Well, that would have to be being talked into having an abortion when I was 15 (well, probably getting pregnant in the first place was pretty stupid, now I think about it!). The trouble is, with regrets like this, if you could take it back you would change your whole life. I probably wouldn’t have met Chris and wouldn’t have Rosemary, now. Who knows what would have happened. But I should have stood up for myself.
  6. 4 words to describe yourself. 
    Inquisitive, quiet, content, hard-working.
  7. What was your highlight or lowlight of 2008?
    Highlight = my sister moving round the corner. Lowlight = Realising we were spending too much money.
  8. Favourite film?
    Just one? Die Hard. When Harry Met Sally. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Grosse Pointe Blank. Nope, can’t do just one.
  9. Tell me one thing I don't know about you.
    I lived in a caravan for the first year of my life.
  10. If you were a comic book/strip or cartoon character, who would you be?
    Well, my form tutor in the first year nicknamed me Gnasher. Thanks Mr…. can’t remember his name! Um… Willow Rosenberg – What? There are comic books of BtVS!

I’m supposed to pass this on to people I want to know more about. Well, that would be everyone over there on the right. See that blogroll? If you’re on it, I’m passing this on to you. (Sorry, I’m tired. I should never try to do two of these in one post, as I always get lazy at the end.)

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

How can you tell if you’re having a contraction?

So last night we had to pay a visit to the delivery suite. ‘Huh?’ You may be asking. ‘Isn’t it Dancinfairy who’s supposed to be giving birth any second now?’ ‘I know Rosemary was early, but 29 weeks is taking it a bit far!’ Yes, all of this is true. Nonetheless, there were contractions, yesterday.

At about 4pm, while Chris and Rosemary were still out shopping and I was doing a bit of washing up, I stayed having pains. They weren’t too bad, the strength of period pains, probably, but they were leaving a dull ache across the top of the bump and they seemed to be coming in waves and fairly close together. Not regular, though. ‘Those feel a bit like contractions.’ ‘Nah.’ Finish washing up, wipe the table. Feel the need to stand with my arms and head resting on the table. ‘OK. Maybe they are.’

I waited for Chris and Rosemary to come home, pottering about while having a fairly small wave of pain every couple of minutes. While waiting, I recalled that this had happened with Rosemary, too. At about the same time. I remembered going into Gloucester and being strapped up to a machine to listen to the heartbeat and measure contractions. I remember being half-convinced that I was being stupid and silly and someone would tell me it was wind or indigestion or a stomach bug or something. And I remember a midwife pointing out the lines on the paper coming out of the machine and saying ‘Yep. There’s a contraction. And another one. Pretty small, but definitely contractions.’ And I remember the finishing and being able to come home and not having any more until the actual birth.

There wasn’t much pain, really. Perfectly manageable. Just a bit uncomfortable. And last time it had all turned out fine, so maybe I wouldn’t need to go and be checked out. Maybe I could just wait it out and they would go away?

Chris and Rosemary arrived home with exciting tales to tell about meeting a friend in the park and inviting her to Rosemary’s birthday tea and how, after a very difficult time in town where Rosemary was being challenging to say the least, Chris had been able to calm down by talking to another adult and seeing Rosemary being happy and nice. I had to interrupt, to tell him I thought I was having contractions. We talked a bit about what to do and what I was worried about. (It turned out that I was, again, most worried about looking stupid and it turning out to be wind or indigestion.) We decided to call the midwife and see what she thought. She said to see how it went for the next half an hour and if they didn’t go away to call Gloucester and ask them – at this early stage, it’s all about Gloucester.

So… dinner plans changed, as it was already 5pm now, so there was no time to cook the couscous and tomato and chick pea sauce. Rosemary had a bowl of noodles and some cherry tomatoes. I called Eva to come round and be available either for staying with Rosemary or coming with me, if necessary. And we sat and had tea and wrote down timings between contractions. They didn’t go away. They didn’t get worse. They didn’t get better. They just kept going.

So I called the delivery suite and asking a bunch of questions, they said I should come in to be checked out. They thought urinary infection was most likely, as that often manifests as labour pains, and then I remembered them saying the same thing last time. Also remembered that it wasn’t a urinary infection. Fortunately, my aunt (Emma) has just got a new car after being without one and it was evening so there were plenty of people to look after Rupert, so she came and took us to Gloucester. Eva stayed with Rosemary and put her to bed.

And it was all very much like last time. I’m pretty sure Emma was there last time, too. She did end up driving me back and forth from Gloucester hospital a good few times during that pregnancy. There was no urinary infection. There were some (very teeny) contractions. I felt stupid lying there when I was just a bit uncomfortable and not in pain, but it was necessary to rule out early labour.

A doctor came, who was probably at about the same stage in pregnancy as I am (that must be strange, to be expecting yourself and constantly seeing pregnant women with various problems) and talked about a new test to look for a specific protein. This protein comes from the baby and, if it’s present, there’s more likelihood of early labour. If it’s absent, they’re very reassured and early labour is unlikely. The test involves taking a swab directly from the cervix. Oh what fun. She also checked the cervix to make sure it wasn’t open at all. And it wasn’t. And after waiting five minutes the test showed that there was none of the protein there (one line for negative, two for positive – rather like another test with which we are familiar).

Various possibilities were suggested, from overdoing it (I did the washing up, surely that’s not overdoing it?), to stress (not really, a bit busy with work, I suppose, but nothing else worrying), to just one of those things. I’m inclined to go for the latter, especially as it happened last time.

We left the delivery suite and opposite it is the corridor that leads down to the SCBU. A very familiar corridor to both of us and one that didn’t really bring back happy memories. I turned left to go to the loo – knew exactly where it was, even though it was three years since I’d used it. And then went out to the car to drive home. And both of us expressed a desire to never see Gloucester hospital again. Because, if we don’t, that means everything will be fine and we’ll get to have the birth in Stroud Maternity instead. Please.

So… all is well that ends well, as they say. A little scare, but I never really thought I was going into early labour. They most certainly didn’t feel like the real thing, which brings me to the question in the post title. How can you tell if you’re having a contraction? Well, if it’s a proper, labour contraction, sorry to repeat the annoying mantra you’ll have heard a million times, you will know. There is really no mistaking it. That’s my experience, anyway. Mild contractions like yesterday, though, it’s all about the waves of pain that travel down the bump. You may also feel your bump harden, though I didn’t really notice that – to be honest it feels hard all the time! The real thing has those waves of pain, too, but they really really really hurt. They may well double you over with pain. And they’ll last longer, too. If they’re very close together, you may just be getting over one when the next one starts. But you’ll know.

Anyone else have a better description for those who have yet to experience it?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

My birth story Number 1

There seem to be a number of birth stories floating around the mummy blogosphere at the moment (and, yes, I do mean Mummy, not Parenting in this case, as I haven’t as yet seen any Daddy bloggers posting birth stories – correct me if I’m wrong, please, as it would be interesting to see one from that point of view), possibly because Peggy at A mother’s secrets has been calling for birth stories (by the way, do go over there and subscribe – it’s going to be a really useful resource).

So… as I have less than three months to go until my second experience of the whole birth process, it’s been on my mind a fair bit and I thought I might just get mine out there. As can often be the case, it didn’t go exactly how I would have liked it to go, though it was far from as horrible as All grown up’s horrendous birth and post-birth experience.

As most of you will know, or should hopefully have worked out from this blog’s title, Chris and I work from home. Rosemary was due on 28 August 2006, and I had planned it so that I would have almost no work to do throughout August, so that I could get ready and just do lots of relaxing and sleeping. Rosemary, it seems, had other ideas. The day after completing a long-running job my waters broke, on 4 August 2006.

I was sat at my computer checking something or other on the Internet (ah, plus ├ža change…) and whoosh. There was no mistaking it. Despite having been on crutches for more than a month due to SPD, I ran down the stairs to find the midwife unit number (on the way, changing my clothes, quickly) and called them up. I was 36 weeks + 4 days at that point. Which meant I had to go to Gloucester to the delivery suite, rather than the lovely, homely midwife-led unit I’d been planning on using. By this point I knew the place pretty well, having been in overnight a few times during my pregnancy, with various problems. I didn’t much like it there, but needs must.

Chris was out shopping and had fortunately remembered to take the mobile with him. I called him and he dumped the shopping he hadn’t yet paid for and ran home. I called my dad to get him to come round and look after the dog. Both my drivers were on holiday, as was my midwife (I had jokingly said to my midwife the week before that I was convinced I would have the baby while she and everyone else was away; only half-jokingly, in fact, because I had had a show already), so I called for a taxi. From the taxi, I called my mum, my sister (who had just arrived at my aunt’s in Lincolnshire for a week’s holiday and had to be rushed to the train station to get the next train back here) and texted a couple of friends.

As we arrived in Gloucester and started driving through the familiar streets, it suddenly hit me that I was I going to have a baby pretty soon. I turned to Chris and said ‘You know, I could really, really do with a cigarette right now.’ (we had given up smoking when we found out we were expecting). The taxi driver overheard (as they are wont to do) and offered me one of his. My first test. I refused and realised I didn’t really want one.

We got to the hospital and spent a fair amount of time waiting to be checked out, then a fair amount of time being checked out and then we were sent upstairs to settle me into a room to await contractions. As the contractions had not yet started by 10pm, Chris was asked to leave (which I was not happy about, but they were the rules) and my friend, Sadie, came to pick him up and drive him back to Stroud.

I lied down to try to go to sleep, but then the contractions started. Oh boy! I had been asking everyone I knew who’d had a baby to tell me how on Earth I would know when the contractions started and all anyone could say was ‘Oh, you’ll just know.’ No-one could describe them, but said there would really be no mistaking them. And they were, of course, all right. I got up to start walking round the room, and to time the contractions. I hardly had time to look at my clock, before the next one came along. They were really painful and really frequent.

I pressed the buzzer for midwife. Three or four contractions later, one came in. I told her I was having contractions and they were really painful and could I have some pain-killers and could someone phone Chris. She told me to ‘give it some time, you won’t be ready that quick’ and went away. I tried walking around some more and kneeling on the armchair in my room, but nothing was cutting it. I pressed the buzzer again. This time I got given some paracetemol. That didn’t do much good. I insisted that it was time and that the contractions were very, very quick, but she left again. Again I pressed the buzzer, by which point I was losing track of time I was in so much pain. Fortunately, this time, the midwife (a different one, I think) stayed long enough to see for herself that the contractions were incredibly close and she ran out to get a wheelchair and took me down to the delivery suite. I’m fairly certain she said something like ‘Why didn’t you tell us your contractions were so close together?’ Ahem.

Down in the delivery suite, a new midwife took over, who seemed quite nice. As I recall her name was Emma, and she had red hair, just like my aunt (though obviously not just like!). She examined me and strapped me to a bunch of monitors (because of the ‘early’ dates, Rosemary’s heartbeat had to, apparently, be constantly monitored – I was only 2 days off from 37 weeks at this point) and told me I was only 5 cm dilated, so there was no point calling Chris yet. I said that I was pretty sure this was going to happen quickly and I wanted him there. She still hummed and hahed about it for a while, but she did call in the end.

During the time between her calling Chris and him (and Eva, my sister) arriving, the midwife somehow persuaded me to take pethadene. I strongly believe that if Chris had been there I would have resisted it and he would have stood up for my wishes. Ah well. I was also sick. The midwife said that was pretty common. I was quite pleased that this happened before Chris and Eva arrived.

After that, it’s all quite blurry. I had lots of gas and air. My mum turned up at some point and, despite the rule being only two birth partners, they let her stay, which was a relief because I hadn’t packed any hairbands and she gave me hers! I know there was lots of pain, and I was stuck on the bed the whole time instead of walking around. At one point I was allowed to try kneeling on the bed, but that didn’t seem to help.

I recall lots of shouts of ‘Don’t push!’ and really feeling I wanted and needed to push followed, at some point by shouts to ‘Push! Now!’ at which point I really didn’t want to push. This, apparently went on for an hour. But Rosemary was not coming out. A doctor (called Sarah – the name of another of my aunts) was brought in and informed me that Rosemary was turned and wouldn’t come out without some help. She said that it was an incredibly painful procedure (What? More pain? How could that be even possible?) and that I should have an epidural for it.

So off we were swept (only me and Chris -  my mum and sister had to wait in the delivery room) to pre-op, where a junior anaesthetist tried and tried and tried to put an epidural in. He could not do it with me lying down, but every time I sat up, they lost Rosemary’s heartbeat and were not happy to do so for the length of time it would take to put the epidural in. They were paging the consultant anaesthetist, but he never turned up. In the end the junior anaesthetist said the only thing he could do was put me under general anaesthetic and they would have to do a c-section. By this point, Rosemary really needed to get out, apparently, so we agreed.

Suddenly, my legs were grabbed and stuck up in stirrups. ‘She’s turned!’ I heard and ‘Here she comes!’ ‘Push! Now!’ and, with a bit of help from a ventouse, Rosemary was born. I was so woozy by this point, I really don’t remember it well. I do remember seeing her and thinking she looked quite grey and a bit odd. I also remember seeing Chris holding her, though it’s possible that was later. I think they gave her to me, but the rest of the time (delivering placenta, being sewn up, etc.) was all a complete blur and I don’t really remember much else until we were back in the delivery room.

In the delivery room, the midwife was trying to get Rosemary to latch on. Her breathing was quite gaspy, but the midwife said that this would often clear up with a drink of breastmilk. But I couldn’t get it to work. (Personally, I think that was down to the pethidene and really wish I’d said ‘No’ to that.)We were trying for an hour and I was completely exhausted.

After a while, more doctors came into the room, this time paediatricians. They were examining Rosemary and then said that they needed to take her away to check some things out. I was starting to get a bit of a second wind by this point and was chattering away to Chris and Eva and my Mum. Then, at some point, I realised that it had been a while since they’d taken Rosemary away. ‘What’s happening? Where’s my baby?’ Chris went off to find out and came back with a wheelchair.

I was pushed down to the NICU, where Rosemary was lying in an incubator all wired up. She was getting antibiotics and had a CPAP blowing as she breathed (to help her breathe) and also some oxygen through her nose. It was quite a scary sight, though one which I was familiar with as my sister was premature and had spent quite a while in that same SCBU. I remember crying.

I went back to my room upstairs. Someone bought me a newspaper and it was suggested that I should get some sleep. And Chris and Eva and my mum all went off to get some sleep. At some point my dad arrived to see Rosemary and me and brought me a book to read. I was given a photo of Rosemary to look at and to help me try to express. I cried lots. Fortunately, I’d been lucky enough to get a room of my own. I don’t know how I would have coped being on a ward with lots of mums and their babies.

It didn’t feel real at all, because I didn’t have my baby to cuddle. I couldn’t put her to my breast, instead having to manually squeeze and suck up what little collustrum I could muster into syringes to take down to the NICU. I did get to hold her again at some point later that day and had some skin-to-skin contact. But mostly I was in this weird kind of limbo. I’d survived the birth, but didn’t have anything to show for it. I couldn’t go home – didn’t want to without Rosemary. I wasn’t experiencing sleepless nights with a crying baby, I was experiencing sleepless nights because she wasn’t there.

Rosemary spent the next week in SCBU. She was off the CPAP the next day and off the oxygen within a couple of days. They were keeping her in because she wasn’t putting on weight. I was trying to breastfeed, mostly unsuccessfully and was expressing milk for Rosemary, while she was supplemented with formula. I went home for one night (delivery ward would no longer keep me in, as I was pretty much fully recovered myself), when Chris parents came down. My dad made a welcome home meal for me (at my special request) and I even had a glass of wine. But I was not feeling sociable and had to hide away to milk myself.

And I finally got to do a poo, which I had not managed for four days at the hospital. Giving birth is incredibly painful, but you (usually) get a baby at the end of it. Doing that first poo, I would swear, is even more painful (though perhaps it would not be if we could have some gas and air) and the end result is just feeling a little less bloated. If you’re giving birth for the first time soon, I hereby warn you to try not to put off that first poo for too long. The longer you leave it the worse it will be.

The next day, I went back to the hospital and roomed in at the SCBU. This is a very useful facility. At first I was there so I could go in and breastfeed Rosemary on a regular basis. This was all regimented – nappy change, feed, sleep, nappy change, feed, sleep – and was not working very well. The day after, though, I got to have Rosemary in the room with me, and just left her in the nursery when I went to eat or make calls. I was still supposed to be following the regimented routine, which really wasn’t working very well. And I was not taking to the breastfeeding at all. She just didn’t seem to want to stay on there for any length of time. The special care nurses were not trained in breastfeeding support, though they tried their best to help. We called the delivery ward to ask if a midwife could come down and help. They were too busy. But a health care assistant came down to help, and by pushing and shoving my boobs around a fair bit, actually managed to get a position where Rosemary stayed on for a decent amount of time. The breastfeeding got a bit better, though I was definitely not finding it easy.

Rosemary was still not putting on any weight and they wouldn’t release her until she was. This despite the fact that newborn breastfed babies almost always drop weight in their first week and put it on quite slowly even after that. She shouldn’t have been putting on weight, so I was being expected to not just establish breastfeeding, but get it to work twice as well as would normally be the case. In the least uncomfortable of atmospheres. The doctors were just doing their job, of course. The vast majority of their cares in the NICU and SCBU were seriously premature babies who needed to show that they were putting on weight before they could go home. Rosemary was two days off full-term. She had some fairly minor breathing problems, which almost certainly would have fixed themselves if she’d latched on properly after being born. It was not necessary for her to wait until she was putting on weight. We should have gone home, the day she came off the oxygen.

The doctors scared us by talking about the fact that she wouldn’t be able to come back to the SCBU if went home and had problems. She’d go straight to the children’s ward, which was full of germs and where she might catch something horrible. So we bowed to their ‘wisdom’ and stayed and stayed. Until they ran out of room and needed to get rid of us. Rosemary’s weight was stable, which they suddenly decided was OK and they suggested that we could go to Stroud Maternity (the midwife-led unit where I’d wanted to give birth in the first place). I cried tears of joy when the sister told me this was happening. I was so relieved.

My aunt came with the car seat and drove us to Stroud Maternity, where I was welcomed and settled into a lovely little room and where I suddenly found breastfeeding a doddle. To the point where I was walking around the room breastfeeding, while talking to Chris’ mum on the phone. At one point, I asked a midwife how long I would have to stay there. And she told me we could go home at any point. I cried more tears of joy at this, but decided I would stay there that night, because it would be good to have some midwives on hand who knew what they were doing and could help with breastfeeding and other things, if necessary.

Chris arrived the next morning with the buggy, into which we slotted the car seat. We packed up the many bags I had accumulated over the last week and walked down through town, finally bringing my baby girl home, where she should have been for almost a week. And thus started our journey into parenthood.

I hope I have learnt some lessons from this experience and that, for Eleanor’s birth, I will be able to stand up for myself more. Of course, the ideal will be that she isn’t earlier than 37 weeks and I can go to Stroud Maternity, where I will have much more confidence and the kind of support that I want to have as natural a birth as possible. But if that doesn’t happen, I will have more confidence in my instincts and will not let anyone tell me that it’s not time to phone my husband. I will not be persuaded into taking drugs I don’t want to take, unless absolutely necessary. I breastfed Rosemary for more than two years, so hopefully I won’t have any trouble with latching on this time. I know how to get the positioning sorted out without people man-handling my boobs. And, most important of all, if Eleanor is unlucky enough to land up in SCBU I will sign her out myself if she is medically fit but not putting on weight. I will bring her home as soon as I possibly can without endangering her life.

(Sorry, this is probably the longest post I’ve written, but I think I needed to go through it in order to be ready in October – or September, if necessary.)

Monday, 20 July 2009

Les vacances

We are back from our week in Normandy and, as is always the case with holidays, it’s already fading away amid the mists of the daily grind.

We had a lovely time and, whatever anyone else says about going away with one’s in-laws or parents, we didn’t have any issues. Rosemary adored having her grandparents to keep her amused, and keep her amused they most certainly did. She was so exhausted on Sunday evening, after they left that she fell asleep on the armchair at around 5.20pm, watching Wonder Pets.

One of the benefits of going with Grandma and Grandpa was that we had Grandpa to drive us around. The beautiful house where we were based, isn’t really hugely accessible by public transport (though not impossible). But having a driver with us meant we could go somewhere every day. We went to the beach a couple of times (once near Granville and another time near Bayeux), went to Mont St Michel (what an amazing place), saw the Bayeux tapestry, went boating on a local lake (not me, I just watched – have a phobia about small boats; scary enough just watching), visited a few markets, and even explored an Enchanted Village.

We ate lots of lovely food, though my pregnancy meant I had to forego many of the gorgeous cheeses. I made do with Port Salut, Tomme and Emmental, all of which are lovely, but would have liked some Camembert. Most of our meals consisted of salad with bread and cheese (and various cold meats, for those who indulge – i.e. everyone but me) and they were delicious and very substantial meals. We did have some cooked meals and we had lunch out a couple of times, the first time being pretty useless for me (I had a big bowl of frites, though did have a very nice dessert) and the second time being pizza, so very nice, with a very refreshing sorbet for dessert (it was an incredibly hot day).

The weather was pretty good for us. It rained in the morning quite often, but was usually very hot by the afternoon. We made the mistake of forgetting the sun cream a couple of times because it was so cloudy and wet in the morning. Thursday, when we went to Bayeux, visited some of the Normandy Landing beaches (Chris would be able to me which, but he’s out at the pub quiz at the moment) and then went to the beach, was absolutely scorching and was followed by a stunning thunderstorm later that evening. Friday was wet most of the day, but we still managed to visit the market in Brecey, the Enchanted Village and the waterfall in Mortain. Calmer weather would have been much appreciated on the ferry home, though. I don’t normally get seasick, but I found that being rocked about considerably at the same time as being danced on from within is quite a good combination for causing nausea. Luckily I managed to resist and Eleanor settled down about half way across.

Rosemary was pretty brilliant. She had a few smallish strops, but mostly was just really happy and loving. She really didn’t like being stuck in the car, though got used to it by the end and was quite good. She would say ‘I’m not going to cry in the car.’ whenever she got in – trying to persuade herself as much as us, I think. She really loved the swimming pool at the house (I did not manage to go in; tried once but it was too cold and was a complete wimp and didn’t try again; though did go in the sea on Thursday) and the ‘park’ next door (swingset, seesaw and roundabout in the owners’ garden, which we were allowed to use). She loved playing with her Grandma and Grandpa and especially enjoyed Grandpa’s stamina in letting her climb all over him (metaphorically as well as literally). She loved having croissants for breakfast and was particularly keen on getting to have hot chocolate or an ice cream whenever we went to a cafe. She loved the beach, especially on Thursday when she could go in the sea without shivering too much.

The house was lovely and I would definitely recommend it. The price was very reasonable, too (though we were treated by Chris’ parents, so didn’t have to worry about that side of things). I’m hoping we may be able to go back there again in future years, with Eleanor. They had some really beautiful pieces of furniture and had thought of most things a British family would need (the owners are British), including things like extension leads with multi-point English sockets on, a kettle, an iron and even Sky TV (though just Freeview unless you bring your own Sky Viewing Card). The garden was lovely and we ate outside on the decking overlooking the pool almost every night and sat outside on the swinging seat, reading into the evening. The views from the house and garden were lovely. In fact, the main adjectives I would use to describe the house are ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’. It was pretty clean and tidy, but not so perfect that you would feel uncomfortable taking your shoes off or eating pasta sauce. Just right, really.

Oh yes, and we saw extraordinary numbers of fields of corn. And lots of cows. I will never not recognise a field of corn again. In fact, we saw one on the journey home on this side of the channel.

I got to do lots of relaxing, too. I did some cooking (or chopping up salad), some washing up and hung the clothes out once. But I got lots of time to put my feet up and read and enjoy watching other people run round chasing Rosemary. It as nice to have a week away from work, and even away from the Internet (shock, horror). And it was lovely to spend some quality time with husband, daughter, and mother- and father-in-law, when we were all at our happiest and not stressed about Christmas or work or screaming babies or anything like that.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Turn off the TV, Mum!

Yesterday, after nursery school, Rosemary wanted to watch Willy Wonka (for like the gazillionth time in a week). So, on it went and I started pottering around getting a bit of washing-up done (dishwasher is on the blink, and we’re waiting until we get back from France before calling in an engineer), putting some washing on and so on and so forth. I came through to the living room :

Rosemary: I don’t want to watch this.
Mummy: OK, do you want me to fast-forward to where they go into the factory?
Rosemary: No, thank you. I don’t want to watch it.
Mummy: Oh, OK. [Takes DVD out and puts it back in case. Then picks up remote controls and starts to put Tiny Pop on.]
Rosemary: No! Turn it off, Mum! I don’t want to watch TV. I want to play.
Mummy: [Falls over backwards. Switches TV off and plays.]

I had conflicting feelings here. On the one hand I was proud and not a little pleased that Rosemary was willingly turning the TV off to do something more worthwhile. On the other hand I was concerned at how her vehemence suggested that I sit her in front of the TV far too much. And on someone else’s hand, I did kind of want to finish the chores.

We played for about an hour. Played catch with the (In The Night Garden!) beach ball. Played doctors and chemists with Tiger (just a plain old tiger, nothing to do with any TV show at all – as far as I know, anyway). Read an alphabet book with sliding doors where Rosemary told me all about the letter E, which is for Eva (my sister) and Ear and Elephant and did I know that they learnt about the letter E at nursery school today? Gosh. Telling me what she did at nursery school, instead of her usual response ‘Shh. It’s a secret. I might tell you later.’ Played some more catch.

When the hour was up, she asked if she could have a biscuit, a cup of milk and watch some TV. I was more than happy to oblige. And got the washing-up finished and the dinner on, while she did that.

Now I know lots and lots of you had the same idea as me when they were first pregnant. No TV ever. Or maybe half an hour, twice a week. And I know most of you, like us, gave in fairly quickly. We all turn our noses up at the parents who use the TV as a babysitter and wonder why they aren’t reading more books. Until we really, really need a break one day and discover the wonders of CBeebies. Which, you know, is really educational. Mr Tumble teaches you sign language. Big Cook and Little Cook teach you how to cook and, even more importantly, tidy up afterwards. Mama Mirabelle teaches you about animals all over the world. And Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy teach you to embrace the bizareness of your dreams. Or something.

Or was that just me?

Friday, 3 July 2009

Rosemary tells us about her Mummy and Daddy

Following in the footsteps of A Modern Mother and The Wife of Bold, I thought we would see what Rosemary would come up with. And I thought it was only fair to ask her the same questions about Chris. Here are the results:


  1. What is something Mummy always says to you?
  2. What makes Mummy happy?
    Not shouting.
  3. What makes Mummy sad?
  4. How does Mummy make you laugh?
    Tickling me [did give her some hints after an initial ‘I don’t know’]
  5. What was Mummy like as a little girl?
    I don’t know.
  6. How old is Mummy?
  7. How tall is Mummy?
    This tall [pointing at me]
  8. What is Mummy’s favourite thing to do?
  9. What does Mummy do when you’re not there?
  10. If Mummy became famous what would it be for?
  11. What is Mummy really good at?
  12. What is Mummy not very good at?
  13. What does Mummy do for her job?
    Maybe paddling pools
  14. What is Mummy’s favourite food?
  15. If Mummy could have one wish, what would it be?
    Chocolate, maybe.


  1. What is something Daddy always says to you?
    Milk [holding up a cup of milk]
  2. What makes Daddy happy?
    Spraying [pointing at water spray]
  3. What makes Daddy sad?
  4. How does Daddy make you laugh?
  5. What was Daddy like as a little boy?
    I don’t know.
  6. How old is Daddy?
  7. How tall is Daddy?
    This tall [drawing a long line all the way up the page]
  8. What is Daddy’s favourite thing to do?
  9. What does Daddy do when you’re not there?
  10. If Daddy became famous what would it be for?
    I don’t know.
  11. What is Daddy really good at?
    Looking for snails and slugs
  12. What is Daddy not very good at?
    Not eating bananas [not sure if she understands about double negatives or if she actually means he’s no good at eating bananas!]
  13. What does Daddy do for his job?
    Music, maybe
  14. What is Daddy’s favourite food?
  15. If Daddy could have one wish, what would it be?
    A toy

We were amused, anyway.

I am posting twice today so, in order that you don’t miss anything essential, here is a link to my review of Primal, by Robin Baker.

Review: Primal by Robin Baker

Blurb from back cover
A group of naked and ragged survivors emerges one year after going missing on a field trip to an uninhabited Pacific island. All but one of the women have conceived and three of the party, including the group leader, are missing and presumed dead. In the glare of the world’s media, each survivor sticks to the same unconvincing version of events.

Through one man’s determined investigation the true story emerges of what happened on the island – a Lord of the Flies scenario of regression, tribalism and suspected murder. But are there signs of something more monstrous at work to confirm the group leader’s theory that there is no beast more savage than man?

When Virgin Books tweeted that they had some copies available to review, I jumped at the chance. Partly because I had been wanting to review some fiction for a change, but also because it sounded like it could well be a good read.

And it was a good read. Kept me turning the pages, though not as quickly as some. It was also a bit disturbing, intentionally so, I would say. There’s a lot of sex in the book and most of it not the fruits of candlelight and dinner. And, as the blurb promises, there is definitely plenty of regression.

The structure of the book is interesting, being presented as a book compiled by someone not on the island from a combination of first person narratives, sketches and medical notes, as well as a certain amount of surmising.

There is a mystery, though one I worked out fairly quickly. I do read a lot of crime fiction, so can perhaps spot the signs more quickly than someone who doesn’t. I don’t think the mystery was really the main point of the book, so this doesn’t necessarily distract from the overall read, though it was a little disappointing for me, personally.

The book did make me think a fair bit – about society and civilisation and whether what happened in the book could or would happen in real life. These thoughts were somewhat unsettling, but interesting nonetheless. I have to say that I hope that it is not a true reflection of human nature.

Would I recommend it? As long as you’re not easily offended/disturbed and are after a quick read that makes you think a bit, then, yes. I wouldn’t buy it for any of my teenage relatives, though. Nor for my mum!

I am posting twice today so, in order that you don’t miss anything, here is a link to Rosemary’s questionnaire about her Mummy and Daddy.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Back in the world (or should I say online world?)

Well, that was weird. Two days without any non-work-related internet. I think two days without internet at all would be easier. In fact, will presumably be coping with a whole week without it, when we dash off to France next Saturday (or the Saturday after next, if you are my husband or sister).

Unfortunately, when you are sat at the computer all day working and answering emails and even having to check one of your google mail accounts because that’s where all mail about the domain transfer thingummy jig is going, it’s so, so, so, hard not to open the notification emails telling you about new comments on your blog, or new twitter followers or new facebook friends. So difficult.

Even more difficult though, than swearing off social networking of all kinds, is the realisation of just how much non-work-related use of the internet you make. At 2.05pm on Monday, I called Chris on the internal phone (we live in a four-storey house – I’m not going to walk all the way downstairs!) to ask whether Spotify counts as work-related or not. I would be listening to it while working after all. He came down against. So I had to look through the stuff I’ve managed to transfer from the old computer and find something. But I wanted to listen to Abba. I have Abba on the old computer. I probably have Abba on a CD somewhere. But not in my Windows Media Player playlist.

Emails I subscribe to about pregnancy and pre-school children came flooding into my inbox. But I couldn’t open them. I wanted to check the weather, but I couldn’t. I wanted to google (or actually Bing, which I’m using much more than Google these days – try it out, it’s great) somebody I saw in some TV show or film and now can’t remember what or who it was, and couldn’t. I was thinking about our holiday and was going to re-read the information on the house we’re staying in and the area around it. After winning half of a £50 lottery prize with my sister at the pub quiz on Monday night (woo! No need to get lots of questions right!), I wanted to find out how much the last couple of series of ER that I haven’t got yet are costing at the moment, or browse to see if there’s something else I could get with the windfall. But, no. Couldn’t do that either.

Yesterday evening I was ill (dizzy, heavy, flu-like symptoms) and slept lots, apart from watching Dollhouse (thank goodness we don’t get our TV through the internet). It’s most likely that it was too much heat – even though I didn’t leave the house all day, our office is in the (very very hot) office and my chair is directly under a sunlight, which I often forget (today I wore a hat all day). But part of me wonders if it wasn’t maybe a little bit of withdrawal symptoms and little bit of an inability to do anything other than sit tapping away at the netbook, writing blogs, commenting on blogs, tweeting…

It’s nice to be back.