Friday, 25 September 2009

In which our heroine’s waters did not break

Chris suggested that I should probably write a post about my waters not breaking for those of you who do not follow me on Twitter or Facebook and saw MTJAM’s comment on the previous post. So, here goes (but, be warned; as with so much pregnancy talk, there may be too much information)…

As you may have gathered, from The Mercedes Benz Pelvic Floor post, I have been having some pelvic floor issues during this pregnancy. So much so, that I am now obliged to wear panty liners constantly. Bear with me, this is important information.

On Tuesday, Chris had gone to collect Rosemary from nursery school and take her shopping for a dressing gown to keep her cosy on these cold autumn mornings (don’t you just love autumn, by the way?). I was putting the finishing touches to a set of 2nd proofs, sitting on my wonderful gym ball, which I wish I’d bought months ago. It doesn’t allow me to be completely pain free all of the time, but can allow me up to 3 hours sitting at my desk or in the living room. After packaging up the proofs, I was planning to crawl round to the post office to send them out – the post office is about as far as I can go without excruciating pain, and it’s nice to get out of the house for even a little bit.

When I stood up, I realised that I was much, much, much damper than usual. Could it be my waters? Surely not. I didn’t feel a gush like I did with Rosemary. But… with Rosemary I wasn’t wearing panty liners and already used to frequent dampness. I went to the loo to change the liner and realised I would have to check. Sniff, sniff. (Yes, I told you there would be too much information – but most of you have been pregnant yourselves, so know what it’s like. You do what you gotta do.) No ammonia whatsoever. Kind of sweet, almost perfumey smell. Ah! They must be perfumed liners! Sniff, sniff. Don’t seem to be. Read the box. Nope. Unperfumed.

“Shit! Shit! Shit! One more day! All I needed was one more day!”

So, I called Chris. Told him not to hurry back, as there were no contractions yet, and last time it had taken 7 hours between waters breaking and contractions starting. I then phoned the midwife-led unit and described everything. The midwife I spoke to agreed that it sounded like the waters. I told her I was one day off 37 weeks. And she made my day by telling me that, as it was only a few hours away and it was quite likely that nothing would happen until close to or after midnight anyway, we could go there. Yes!

This meant we could stay at home and wait until the contractions started, instead of rushing off to the big hospital and being strapped to monitors and then stuck in the maternity ward on my own waiting. Chris and Rosemary came back and Chris took the package to the post office. While he was gone, the DidiCar was delivered (our review of which you can find at The Great Toy Guide). I called my sister and she came round. Called my mum, so she could come and stay the night and take Rosemary to playgroup in the morning. Called my aunt to ask if she’d be OK to drive us to the midwife-led unit in the middle of the night, if necessary.

Rosemary was very excited about the DidiCar, so I decided that this was the best time to put it together, while Chris cleaned up the kitchen and got dinner ready (I had put the potatoes in the oven before phoning the midwife-led unit, as you do). While attempting to read (really quite clear) instructions, I had to contend with Rosemary trying to eat the parts, put it together herself, use it before it was put together, and Chris and my sister asking questions about hospital bags and the like. The DidiCar was assembled (what would probably take less than 15 minutes, took almost an hour with everything else going on) and Rosemary had a chance to play on it briefly before dinner.

At some point, Rosemary got put to bed. A little late, but not too much. We told her that we thought Eleanor was coming and that she might come in the middle of the night, so we’d have to go to hospital and so Granny would be here to look after her. She was more excited about the DidiCar, but said she understood.

Much rushing around on the part of Chris and Eva, and my mum when she turned up, ensued. Eventually, the hospital bags were fully ready, the house was in a pretty decently clean and tidy state and it was time for me to try to get some rest. I got into bed with my pint of ice and read a few chapters of Pride and Prejudice, then turned the lights out and tried to get to sleep. It wasn’t easy. I dozed on and off, but woke at every slight twinge. I was awake at midnight and Chris and I were both very happy that we had made it to 37 weeks. And then we did manage to sleep. Fitfully. Until morning, when Rosemary woke up and I got up, mostly like normal.

I seemed to be completely dry (in itself, a bit weird, considering the pelvic floor issues) and I had not had any contractions – certainly none that woke me, anyway. My mum woke up and helped out a bit – she gave Rosemary her bath, at least; I still made breakfast and tea and so on. But I felt pretty fine, so it didn’t matter.

When they were in the bath, I called the midwife-led unit (they’d asked for an update in the morning if nothing had happened) and they said we should probably come in for a check. They mentioned the possibility of a hind water leak, that could seal itself back up. So my mum took Rosemary to playgroup, came home and was handed Rupert to look after, while Emma (my aunt) drove us up to the unit. We had to wait a while, because I had misheard the time they wanted to see us (I heard ‘between 9 and 10’, whereas she had actually said ‘9.10’), but eventually got in and was strapped up to monitors for 20 minutes (all ‘textbook perfect’ readings, no contractions) and then had a speculum examination to check for waters.

Of which there were none. No sign of any amniotic fluid, either from forewaters or hindwaters. What there was was increased discharge. Which you can apparently get from hormonal releases in pregnancy. Often you get a lot shortly before labour, but you can also get a lot at other times, too, so it’s not necessarily indicative of things kicking off.


Back to square one. The waiting game.

But at least now we have passed the 37 weeks mark (37+2 today), which means we get to go to the wonderful Stroud Maternity Hospital and have a pleasant active birth with birth pool and birthing stools and minimal monitoring, instead of the not so pleasant experience we had last time.

Of course, after all my expectations of an early birth, now she’s probably going to hang in there and be really late.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The boredom of awaiting a baby

One of the things that I have loved about my life PR (post Rosemary), is the variety and balance that motherhood brought (indeed, that parenthood brought to both of us). Previously, I would spend 12-15 hours a day at the computer. A fair bit of that would be working, but I would also do online things – fan forums, writing forums, LiveJournal, reading blogs about writing/by writers… The majority of the housework was done by someone else (for a few years, this was my aunt, who we paid to come two days a week and deal with our mess without being phased by the dog) and we were both fairly slapdash about the rest of it. The day after a cleaning session, we’d be very good and put our dishes straight into the dishwasher and take our cups downstairs, instead of leaving them to pile up on our desks, and recycle the (copious) beer cans, as soon as we emptied them. But after one day of being good, we would lapse again and let it all build up for Emma to deal with.

We would occasionally go out for a meal, but we didn’t have a huge social life. I would go to the pub with my dad now and then, especially if there was some live music to listen to. But we would mostly sit at home, wasting time on our respective computers, drinking beer and eating at least one take-away a week, if not two or three. And meals that weren’t take-aways were usually ready meals from Waitrose, and eaten separately.

Our life was very, very unbalanced. And really quite dull (in hindsight – not sure that we felt it was dull at the time).

But since Rosemary arrived, I find I am much happier and have a far better balance. Instead of sitting at the computer for hours at a time, whether that be working straight out to complete a deadline, or working a bit while interspersing it with online gumph, I sit at the computer usually for no longer than a 3- maybe 4-hour stretch. When I go to make tea or coffee, I do things like load/unload the dishwasher or washing machine, rinse out some (mostly plastic milk) bottles for recycling, and so on. I don’t go straight to my computer every morning, but instead spend time with my daughter, baking biscuits or cakes, playing with playdough, just chatting away and then have a nice refreshing walk to playgroup/nursery school, before sitting down at the computer. We no longer pay someone else to do our housework, but instead keep up with it ourselves (not as successfully as some people might do, but a thousand times better than we used to). I am more likely to spend an evening ironing in front of the TV, than sat at my computer. Though we do still have busy times that require evening work, we are required to stop for a few hours to collect Rosemary, make dinner, eat dinner, put her to bed and so on, which means we’re more refreshed for an extra two or three hours’ work, if it’s necessary.

I also have a bit more of a social life, meeting up with other friends with children for coffee or a play in the park or at each others’ houses. I tend to find chattering away about children and nappies and sleep routines and so on far easier and more satisfying than attempting to address politics and culture and the like. Not that we don’t still talk about these things, but it’s nice to have an easy topic to fall back on. There’s not much going out to pubs and there are few take-aways. But when we do have either of those, they’re such a novelty, we appreciate them much more.

Our diet is far, far healthier. Pretty much every meal is home-cooked from scratch. There may be an occasional bought burger or similar in there, but they’ll be accompanied by fresh vegetables and potatoes. We both drink a lot less. And we get more exercise – walking Rosemary to and from playgroup/nursery school, walking the dog, walking round town doing the shopping. Not that we couldn’t both do with some more on top of that!

In short, everything is much, much better. Housework is a pleasure because it allows a break from work, work is a pleasure because it allows a break from Rosemary and Rosemary is a pleasure because of all sorts of reasons, including that she provides a break from work and housework!

All of this is why I am really, really bored, unmotivated and fed up at the moment. I can’t do any housework, except the washing (with Rosemary’s help, and only if Chris first carries the laundry basket downstairs, and carries the dry washed – un-ironed, arggh! – clothes upstairs and puts them away). I can only prepare the simplest of meals – I can chop vegetables, sitting at the dinner table, but can’t stand at the cooker for longer than about 5 minutes – so Chris is doing the majority of the cooking, on top of all the other housework. I can’t sit at my desk for more than a couple of hours without being in lots of pain. I can’t walk further than about 100 yards down the road, without being in lots of pain. I can’t walk Rosemary to playgroup/nursery school or collect her. I can’t do any shopping, except the internet kind (and even then, Chris has to be here to take it in when it arrives and put it all away). I can’t lift Rosemary up. I can’t take her swimming. I can’t take her to the park. I can’t do much of anything with Rosemary, except things I can do while lying on the sofa/sitting on my gym ball. I most certainly can’t walk the dog. I can’t take Rosemary to her trampolining classes, which she is apparently really enjoying. I can’t even give her a bath anymore.

My life has no balance at the moment. I spend far too much time lying in bed, because lying on my left-hand side is the best way to take the pain away. It turns out that the pain is all down to Eleanor’s position, and not SPD (which the physiotherapist miraculously cured earlier in the pregnancy), which means massages or exercises do not help. The gym ball (suggested by the physio and seconded by the midwife) is wonderful, as it gives me one more comfortable position and I can actually bounce and swivel on it a bit, which makes me feel like I’m getting something vaguely like exercise.

All of this leads to my having no motivation or inclination to do things that I usually enjoy and could be done in this situation. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to catch up on blogs. I haven’t responded to any comments on my last two blog posts (sorry, I will do my best to get round to it and have read them all and really, really love getting comments). I haven’t been writing very many blog posts. I haven’t been doing any drawing, or writing, which is what I always imagined I would do lots of if I were confined to bed for any length of time. I’ve been meaning to reorganise my hospital bag into three bags (after OMG We’re Pregnant’s post about her hospital bags) for ages, but have as yet to get around to it. I haven’t done any more to our corporate blog, which we really need to get finished and go live – just needs a few tweaks of the design and some copy written, really, most of which could be done from the netbook.

But all I can do is sit/lie around sighing and moaning and waiting for Eleanor to get here so I can get back to my perfect balance. But not moaning too loudly, because there’s only three days left before 37 weeks and it would be really good if she could wait until then. And then come on Wednesday. Please! Pretty please! I know there will be sleepless nights. I know that our routines will go up the wall for a while. I know that we will struggle to remember how to do baby stuff again. But I don’t care. I want to have things to juggle again. I want to rush round town, trying to pick up shopping and get a crying baby to sleep. I want to do the washing up while Chris bathes Eleanor and take the dog for a walk with Eleanor in a sling.

I want my life back. In three days. OK?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Table manners

Chris tends to be more bothered about table manners than I am. I generally go with the role model good behaviour and ignore the unwanted behaviour, unless it’s really awful. Of course, the latter is a problem because people have different definitions of what is really awful.

At the moment, we’re both fairly consistent on wanting Rosemary to stay at the table during dinner. Because of the role-modelling thing, I get annoyed if Chris gets up from the table when he’s finished, even if he is getting up to load the dishwasher, wash up, feed the dog and so on. If I drew a graph, I believe there would be a direct correlation between Rosemary getting down from the table before she’s finished and Chris getting down from the table before she’s finished.

We are not insistent on Rosemary cleaning her plate. We are insistent on her trying everything and eating a reasonable quantity of the different food stuffs – otherwise no pudding. There’s often a deal of ‘Two more spoonfuls or this and one more spoonful of that, otherwise no ice cream.’ And we’re fairly consistent in this.

But there are other things that don’t bother me and that I think she’ll grow out of gradually, with the right role-modelling. Putting food into her drink, for example. It’s science. It’s cookery experimentation. It’s exploration of different tastes and textures. Just because the idea of mashed potato and orange juice is pretty disgusting to us, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t get to try it for herself. I’m less enamoured with the other way round, because then it means I can’t finish off what she hasn’t eaten, but again I think it’s an exploratory process that needs to be gone through.

Making faces with food in your mouth. Well, it’s not very pleasant, and I’m happy to say ‘Ew, I don’t want to see that.’ but that’s about as far as I’ll go. Whereas Chris has been known to make a big fuss of it.

One of the things that Chris is insistent on, I have fallen in with, but it doesn’t really bother me. When she dislikes something, her inclination is to put it off her plate (which I think is understandable, though obviously a bit messy), whereas Chris wants her to put it aside on the plate. We present a united front here, but if it were up to me I would not be bothered about it at the moment.

Anyway, I think both of us quite differing views about the table manners and when to and not to make a fuss. Thinking back, when I was a child, we generally ate our dinner on our laps while watching Crossroads, so I’m guessing my parents weren’t too fussed about table manners. We just sat down properly when we had guests and for Sunday lunch. Though I don’t remember how it was when I was Rosemary’s age. Pretty sure we didn’t have a TV then, but I don’t really have any recollections of dinner times.

I think we both compromise somewhat to meet in the middle, which is a good way to do it, when your views differ. (I'm sure Chris would tell you that I’m guilty of assuming I know best about all child-rearing issues and tend to forget to discuss them with him, instead expecting him to fall into line with what I think. So, hopefully this is one area where I’m not doing so.) And Rosemary’s generally pretty well-behaved at the dinner, in my opinion, though she does have her moments. If I plotted them on a graph, I think they might coincide with Chris and I having conversations that don’t include her.

What about you? Is three too early to be worrying about table manners? Or too late? If you have another half, do your views coincide with theirs or do you both compromise? Does one of you have the upper hand and the other have to bow down? Do you even notice table manners, or is it something that doesn’t bother you at all?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

I want my mummy

She pulled the duvet over her head, hiding from the shadows and the monsters. She couldn’t sleep in this strange house. She could hardly remember what it was like when they all lived together. So long ago. was it a happy time? She thought not. She remembered lots of shouting. She remembered hiding under her duvet then, too. Covering her ears with her pillow to try not to hear the words.

More recently she remembered weekend trips with her dad. He would take her to the zoo or the cinema or a theme park. They’d eat in McDonald’s, which her mum never let her do. He bought her a DS and a new bike and those trainers her mum said were too expensive. They always had fun.

But now she wasn’t having fun. They never went anywhere together anymore. She spent more time with her than her dad. He was always out at work and he’d be grumpy when he got home. He’d kiss her goodnight, but he didn’t tell her stories anymore. He told the other children stories. Her children.

She thought it would be fun to live with him. He seemed to have lots of money and they always had fun at weekends. Her mum was always worrying about paying the rent and insisted on eating healthily. Her mum made her do her homework and brush her teeth. No-one seemed to care if she did her homework these days and no-one reminded her to brush her teeth. She brushed the other children’s teeth and cuddled them. She just told her to go to bed. Never asked if she needed anything.

She didn’t realise how much she’d miss her mum. Her mum might have worried and nagged, but she cuddled her and told her she loved her. She helped her with her homework. She talked about school and hugged her when she fell out with her friends. She made yummy meals, never things out of tins. She played board games with her. She was always there. They were a team.

But now she wasn’t there. She was in a whole other country. With Grandma and Grandpa. They had asked her if she wanted to go with her mum or stay with her dad. How did you decide that? She didn’t want to do either. She wanted things to stay as they were. First she thought she would go with her mum, because she’d see lots of her Grandma and Grandpa and she always enjoyed her visits there. But then she thought about all the fun she had with her dad. It would be fun living with her dad. Like the weekends, but all the time. And she’d still see her friends and go to the same school. And he’d said she wouldn’t get to see him, if she went with her mum.

But she hadn’t really realised that her mum would be so far away. She couldn’t just call her up and she’d be there. She couldn’t just walk out the door and jump on her bike and cycle home to her mum. She would only see her in the school holidays now. The next school holiday was too far away. Why did they ask her to decide? Why couldn’t she just be with her mum? Her mum would help her forget about the shadows and the monsters. The shadows and monsters wouldn’t be there if her mum was there.

She sobbed into her pillow and then screamed, ‘I want my mummy!’

The above is a work fiction. But for Yummy Mammy and her daughter, the difficulties of a two-country divorce are only to real. This post is part of the Save One Mammy campaign. Please visit the campaign blog and Yummy Mammy’s blog to give your support. Oh and if you happen to be a specialist in Irish Family Law, perhaps you’d like to offer your services for free?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

August 31st: Worst day to be born?

Well, it’s 1st September and Eleanor is still baking. Yesterday, I saw a magazine story on the BBC about how many people regard 31 August to be the worst day to be born (in England). I was not surprised to hear this, as I know many people who avoid August birthdays. We don’t – as you might have noticed.

The reason, in case you’re not aware of it, is the school year cut off date. If you are born on 31 August, you start school a few days after you are four, and are therefore (one of) the youngest in the year; if you’re born on the 1 September, you start school just when you’ve turned five, and are therefore (one of) the oldest in the year. Some LEAs have staggered starts, where the younger children don’t start until January, though most of these are being phased out.

The concern that many parents avoiding an August birthday have is that their children will be strongly disadvantaged by being the youngest in the year and that they won’t be ready for school at four. (Incidentally, in Scotland, the cut-off date is 31 March, so no child will start younger than 4.5 years. Though, of course, there will still be children who are the youngest in the class and others who are the oldest.)

I don’t have a bunch of statistics (there are a few figures in the BBC article), but anecdotally I know people who have been disadvantaged from having an August birthday and others who have been disadvantaged from having an autumn birthday. I think that the problem is more with the inflexibility of the system. If the decision of whether a child would start when they’re just four, or just five, or four and a half or five and a half, etc. was given over to the parents (along with any early years practitioners – pre-school teachers, nursery nurses, childminders, etc. – who know the child well), then the majority would probably start as they do now, but the few who are ready to and need to start early could do so, and those who need an extra year to get ready, could have that extra year. It seems a fairly simple solution to me.

Rosemary is an August baby. She was born on 5 August 2006 (though her due date was 28 August, so there was potential for her to be born on 31 August) and will therefore start school next September, about a month after turning four. She will be born than ready for it then. She would probably be ready for it now, and is most certainly ready for the ‘proper’ pre-school year. I have no qualms whatsoever about her starting school at four years old.

I was an October baby and, so started school just before turning five. I was ready to start a year before and was pretty bored and unchallenged during my first two years of primary school. If the opportunity had been available to skip ahead a year, I would have stayed at primary school. As it was not, though, I chose to learn at home instead, where I could skip ahead in all the subjects that interested. I was finally allowed to skip ahead and start secondary school a year early (though it was half way through the year, due to moving back from Spain mid-year). Unfortunately, I’d skipped ahead a bit far, so the first couple of years of secondary school were mostly about coasting which meant that, by the time I needed to actually sit down and work hard (sixth form), I’d forgotten how to and was more interested in boys and booze and parties. Ah well. Who knows if skipping ahead at primary school entrance would have made enough difference?

I have a cousin who is an August baby and she struggled her whole school life. I think an extra year before starting school could have made a huge difference to her. Of course, no-one knows that for sure. Perhaps she still would have struggled even with a later start. But the opportunity to be flexible would have been useful.

When I saw the article yesterday, it crossed my mind that my conviction that Eleanor was going to be born in August (which, as we can see, was wrong), might have actually been a subconscious desire to ensure that she doesn’t suffer the problems I had with being the eldest in the class. Was I desirous of another August baby? Well, if so, it’s too late now. She will be an autumn baby, whether September of October, or even (please, no) November.

Perhaps, by the time she’s four, they’ll have brought in a more flexible entrance system and, if we think she’s ready, she’ll be able to start that year early. Or perhaps we’ll have to work out strategies to ensure that she gets enough challenge out of school, or from us if the school can’t provide. Of course, it might turn out that she’s far from ready at four and will strongly benefit from that extra year. We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. And make the most of the whole extra year of free pre-school.

What about you? Do you have a summer child or an autumn child? Do you think the cut-off point is fair? Do you live somewhere else with a different system? Do you think it’s silly to worry about these things at this stage?