Monday, 26 December 2011

39 Weeks

MUMMY

It's a real struggle writing this post today. I am by far the most uncomfortable I have been throughout the whole pregnancy today (and for the last couple of days) and I was dearly hoping to interrupt the usual weekly broadcast with news of an arrival. Frankly, I'd really like to just crawl back in to bed right now but as I will be full term tomorrow, this really is the last chance to write the 39 week post and you know I always remain loyal to my fans. That's all of you lovely people.

It turns out my maternal instincts are pretty terrible all round. I didn't particularly feel pregnant when I found out I was; for the first 17 weeks of Shrimpy's life I was convinced he was a girl; I had a premonition he was coming on 23rd December and then I was convinced I had definitely started labour late Christmas Eve and, at that point, couldn't have been more sure really that I was going to witness the second coming on Christmas Day. Wrong on all counts, so if anyone says "trust your instincts", especially if you're me, poke them in the eye and send them on their way. I no longer have any faith at all in my instincts - they have underperformed too many times now.

My symptoms have changed quite a bit this last week. I mean, most of the usual ones continue but in addition I have been feeling very dizzy, headachey and nauseous for the past 3 - 4 days, hugely lacking in energy (apart from one day when I had a sudden burst, further convincing me that labour was imminent), the contractions, which I know now must have been more Braxton Hicks contractions (as Shrimpy is not here), have been stronger, longer and more frequent and I think the worst thing is the pain in my pelvis. The Shrimpy one's head is clearly wedged deep in to it now and I can feel it being pushed apart quite severely which results in all the nerve endings around it hurting quite a lot constantly. In fact the only thing that makes me vaguely comfortable at the moment is being in the bath. I don't think I've ever been so clean! Oh, and the other thing which I am finding particularly unpleasant is the swelling. My whole body is very swollen but I have really noticed it in my pinkies this week. A couple of days ago I noticed that my fingers were so swollen I couldn't even clench my fists anymore (which makes it kind of hard to threaten people) and my beautiful engagement ring from Ron is now making a firm indent in my sausage finger. Goodness, I hope the swelling goes down after birth, I don't like looking like a giant marshmallow.

I made Ron take one final (or so I thought) picture of the bump this week as I was so sure it wouldn't contain a baby for much longer. I have taken the liberty of removing my head and thunder thighs from the image to cause minimal offence.

Me, Shrimpy and Sausage Fingers

Whilst the constant that runs throughout most weeks of watching a lot of Judge Judy (did I ever mention that this woman is my true hero?) has still been there this week, I feel like a lot of other things have also happened since I last wrote so I think I'll just go through them chronologically.

On Tuesday, following my request to change midwives last week, I saw a new midwife, well, two of them actually, a new to the area lady but with the community midwife manager also present. The experience could not have been more different from my previous appointments which have been really disappointing and, at times, quite upsetting, so I couldn't be more pleased that I finally requested the change (seriously, ladies, if any of you are experiencing a similar thing, I cannot recommend strongly enough you request to see a different one). The pair of them were really nice and genuinely seemed to care about how I was feeling rather than just running through the absolute basic checks (which my last midwife had not even always run through). They almost went a bit over the top with the making sure I was OK thing, it was a bit like, "OK, Natalie, I'm going to use this biro to make some notes about what we discuss today, is that OK? Or would this pen be better? Are you happy on that chair? I can get you another one?" etc. etc. which was not necessary but was such a refreshing change that I made the most of it and requested the use of a fountain pen instead.

Anyway, it turns out that the baby's position, which was something I was really keen to know, is head down but in a back to back position, which isn't the ideal position for birth but not a disaster. What this means is that the baby's spine is against my spine and all his limbs are at the front. I'm fairly sure he hasn't turned since that appointment as the large bump which I now know to be a foot is in exactly the same position. Ideally, the baby's back will be to either side or to the front. This helps the baby come down the birth canal with the least amount of obstruction due to the shape of the baby's head and the position it needs to be in to come out through the pelvis and little hole comfortably (well, as comfortably as a person can come out of a person). If you imagine putting on a really tight polo neck jumper and the position you would put your own head in to do this - you would tuck your head in a little so that the part of your head that is at the top and slightly to the back goes through the hole first. It's a bit like this and it's difficult for the baby to get that part of its head facing first in the back to back position, although that's not to say it can't be done as babies can freakily turn their heads a full 180 degrees and this is what my little Shrimpy owl will need to do.

Babies can turn at any point, even right up to the latter stages of labour so I'm not getting myself too stressed about the positioning at the moment, it's just good to know that Shrimpy isn't breech. All in all, seeing the new midwife was a very positive experience and I feel so relieved that I shouldn't have to see the other midwife again.

On Thursday, it was my birthday! It was a very different birthday to normal as I had put it to the back of my mind really and it was impossible to plan too much but, for the first time in years, I wasn't working for it which was nice and my parents came up and took me to lunch and then Ron and I went to a lovely local restaurant in the evening. It's always a struggle eating large meals at the moment and by the end of the Michelin star meal I was ready to pass out but it was really tasty and the whole day was very enjoyable given how uncomfortable I am generally feeling.

On Friday, I met all the NCT ladies who haven't yet sprogulated for yet more coffee and cake which was very enjoyable as ever (a great set of ladies) and then, on returning home, had the huge burst of energy I made earlier reference to. I've been pretty tired for quite some time so it was unusual to feel so energetic so, because it's what pregnant ladies do, I cleaned the house again from top to bottom, went to the shops and just generally did fairly energetic things. I went to bed that night with a feeling of being completely ready for the Shrimp arrival and thought, this is it, it's going to start tonight and he will arrive tomorrow. On Christmas eve morning, I woke up feeling incredibly nauseous and completely lacking in energy and could barely be bothered to get out of bed all day. This continued and by late evening I was having fairly strong contractions that were frequent but not regular. I've been having Braxton Hicks contractions since about week 30 that have been fairly strong but these were different, they were much stronger and I had that feeling that the baby was about to drop out through my pelvic floor so I really thought that was it and the poor little blighter was going to arrive on Christmas Day. I woke up about 01:49 (ok, at exactly that time) on Christmas Day morning to a very strong contraction and got up and basically spent the whole night on the sofa downstairs waiting for the contractions to become stronger and more regular. This didn't happen and by about 7am after a few hours of totally erratic and irregular contractions they stopped completely and all I felt was exhaustion. It was then apparent that this was a false alarm. Strangely, having spent the whole pregnancy desperately hoping Shrimpy wouldn't come out on Christmas Day (as it would be a rubbish birthday to have), I had psyched myself up for it so much by the morning that I found myself feeling quite disappointed when alas everything quietened down.

So, since then, I've had the usual sporadic contractions and now the severe pelvic pain so I still feel like the baby is coming pretty soon (jeez, the thought of another two weeks of feeling like this is really not a pleasant one) but who knows, as I say, my instincts are pretty rubbish. One thing is certain though, I have lost yet another £1 bet to Ron about when Shrimpy will arrive (that boy is bankrupting me) as we are now closer to his prediction of 28th December than to mine. Grrrr.

On Christmas Day, again a very unusual one for me, Ron and I had very few plans and had got some food in in case we were indeed at home for the day and, for the first year since I was born, I wasn't with my parents which was strange and I know my Mum found this quite upsetting. We went for a very light walk, however, which nearly killed me and popped in to our local pub, The Anchor - a very special place to us (where Ron and I have had some quite significant moments including him proposing to me), for a small glass of wine and a mince pie and then came home to cook our roast duck and open some pressies. I'm not a huge one for the actual day itself and tend to enjoy the build up to Christmas more but it was a very relaxed and pleasant day and I got some lovely presents which I can't wait to play with when I'm not feeling quite so rubbish.

And that pretty much leads me up to today, Boxing Day, the day before Shrimpy is due - a day I have been thinking about for almost 10 months! The parentals are arriving shortly and I am desperately hoping I don't go in to labour whilst my Mum is here as she'll then have maximum timeage to get herself in a state of epic proportions but, at the same time, I want Shrimpy out now because of the fairly severe discomfort so I'll see what happens - that's all I can do really but one thing's for sure, I hope before next week's post I will have news of a little person arriving safely in to the world.

The only other thing of note to mention this week is that curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided to weigh myself! Now, I'm not generally a fan of weighing myself for lots of reasons - partly as a hangover from my anorexic days many, many moons ago, partly because I actually really don't care what I weigh and partly because I have such a heavy brain that the figure on the scales is fairly irrelevant anyway! So, I hadn't weighed myself recently before becoming pregnant but the last time I had, I was about 10½ stones and I'm fairly sure it would have been around that when I fell pregnant. As I haven't really been interested in my pregnancy weight, I hadn't done any research at the point of getting on the scales a couple of days ago as to the expected average weight gain during pregnancy, I just assumed that with baby weight, the placenta and some fluid it would probably be about a stone and a half or so, so you can imagine my shock when it turned out I weighed 13½ stones!!! Holy Macaroons! No wonder my poor ankles have been giving away under the extra strain. I was really concerned initially that I had overdone it on the cream teas but having now researched this area, anywhere between about 2 and 3 stones weight gain is fairly normal so whilst I'm right at the top end of this, it's nothing to be concerned about. It did make me chuckle though and explained a lot about why my body feels so tired. I weigh nearly as much as Ron now!

So, tomorrow, I am officially full term and from that day on, Shrimpy becomes overdue so come on Shrimpster, if you are any child of mine you will make sure you are on time and on budget!

Current Symptoms:
  • More frequent and stronger contractions
  • Headaches, dizziness and nausea
  • Very sore pelvic area
  • Swollen everything
  • Bleeding gums
  • Shortness of breath (slightly lessened now the baby has dropped a bit)
  • Sore shoulders
  • No contact lens wearing

DADDY

Daddy will write a post when his little boy pops out but until then he'll just be waiting patiently and calmly and trying to look after a crazy, pregnant lady. This is a full-time job.

BUMP

I'm over 50 cm tall and probably weigh about 8 pounds or so by now (although we'll all find out more accurate measurements pretty soon).

I'm pretty fed up this week to tell you the truth for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Mummy didn't give me all the required information a few weeks ago when I started trying to get in to the right position for exit. I'm pretty smart so I did what she said and made sure my head was down but she didn't say anything about where my blinking spine had to be! Had I known two or three weeks ago, I think I could have made the turn but now that my head is wedged firmly and deeply in this hard casing, struggle as I do to turn around, it's pretty impossible, so I think I'm stuck like this for the delivery. Not ideal for either me or Mummy so I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best but it looks like a mahoosive cone head is on the horizon. Awesome.

Secondly, it turns out I get no say when I come out either! I decided a couple of days ago after a particularly squished and uncomfortable day that today was the day and then I thought, ah crap, I don't actually know what the procedure is! I struggled and pushed and kicked and squirmed and did get some help from the water bubble I am in seemingly squeezing me down a bit but then it just stopped and nothing! Balls. I even shouted "I'm a baby, get me out of here", as I had heard similar phrases being shouted before that seemed to work for other people when they wanted to get out of where they were but nothing happened - not even a cheeky crack from AntandDec.

So, I'm well and truly ready but it seems that only Mummy's body gets to decide when I come out so I'm going to have to just lie here exercising patience, again. What a life!

Let's hope by next week's post I'll be meeting you all in person (well, you'll be seeing a picture of me and my cone head anyway).

Á bientôt (oh, I probably didn't say, I've been so freakin' bored in here I decided to learn a few languages - starting with French. Haw-he-haw).

Monday, 19 December 2011

38 Weeks

MUMMY

Arrgghhhh! Only just over a week to go. Shrimpy really could arrive any time now and I'm still in complete denial that there is a little person in my tummy! I remember my friend telling me she was in denial about having her son and I didn't really understand what she meant at the time but now I do. Even though my tummy has giant movements on a daily basis now as though someone is trying to get out through my flat but non-pokey out belly button, I still can't get my head around it being another human being that is making those movements. It's just weird. A person in a person!

Anyway, with Shrimpy genuinely due to arrive any time from now, I am pleased to report that I finally feel ready for his arrival (not emotionally and mentally, no, not that at all, I mean organisationally). There was some final DIY to do (mostly putting up a staircase handrail as even my papa has been getting anxious about the deathtrap stairs) and we took the opportunity to complete Shrimpy's room as well so it is now looking like a proper nursery. Hours of hard work from Ron and weeks of nagging from me went in to that final DIY push so I think we can both be very proud of ourselves.

Chez Shrimp
As well as that last DIY push that was on my mind, I finally managed to get my hospital bag fully packed. My brain works in such a way that I always over-estimate the time it takes to get anything done, which is good, as it means I always get things done but it also means I get unnecessarily anxious about how much I have to do and actually, when it came down to it, I finished packing my hospital bag in about half an hour (after spending a fair bit of time thinking about what I needed and buying it, of course). There are many hospital bag / bringing baby home checklists out there on the interweb but I didn't fell that any of them exhaustively suited my purpose so I composed my own which was a combination of a number of checklists and things that trusty friends (i.e. the sensible ones) suggested I pack / have at home. Should it be of any use to anyone else, please feel free to pilfer my list which you should be able to download from this location (that's right, it's an ♥ Excel ♥ file).

I'm relieved to be organised now (and Christmas shopping is complete) so that I can just take each day as it comes and do something if I feel like it or not if I don't, which is nice, but it really is a strange time of life. I can't think of any other time like it - ever - where you, or Mother Nature, is about to put your body through quite a traumatic experience ensuing possible major surgery and you have absolutely no idea (other than a rough 4 week period) when this is going to happen. It's a shame because there are so many people I would like to visit before the Shrimp arrives but I just can't risk driving anywhere too far away from home and, even for local events, I find myself having to use probably one of the best excuses of all time for possible non-attendance when I respond to invites in saying that I should hope to attend and will be there unless I am in hospital having a baby. It's not often you get to use that one.

As before, with this extra time off, which don't get me wrong - I'm loving, I continue to get quite anxious about the birth and the realisation of having a little person to look after. Every time I do anything at the moment, I find myself thinking, blimey, will I ever be able to do this again, well, for many, many years anyway. Simple things like cooking, bathing, getting my haircut, going for a run, all these activities and more seem like they would be very difficult to do with a little person demanding my constant attention. The other day, I spent about 4 hours making a lovely dinner of mushroom consommé, beef wellington and lemon ice cream and I realised that I wouldn't be able to spend that amount of time cooking for some considerable number of years, which is a shame as I love cooking. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised with the activities I can still do though. Perhaps it just needs some creative thinking!

The midwife saga continued this week but I am pleased to report that I have a positive update on the situation. I saw my usual midwife on Tuesday at which she unveiled her worst performance to date. I'll try not to jibber on too much about the specifics but, in short (actually, wait, I think this might turn out to be 'in long'), having let a work experience student conduct my exam at 35 weeks, for this, the 38 week appointment - i.e. potentially the last time I see her before Shrimpy arrives - she once again made the student conduct the entire exam. I wasn't even asked if I minded this time and whilst, yes, I should have said something, I was kind of in shock and so seething that I would have literally exploded at the poor young girl and my evil midwife so I made a decision that it was better to keep quiet and deal with it afterwards. The student, followed by evil midwife was unable to take my blood pressure as the machine wasn't working, found that my urine had protein in it, which the midwfie proceeded to explain to the student, not me, that this can occasionally be a sign of pre-eclampsia but it could also be because I had been using the same container since week 9. Rather than give me a new container and ask me to do another tinkle at the clinic so it could be tested, EM (evil midwife) felt it appropriate to just leave it as my urine is normally fine and so is my blood pressure. So, that was all rather reassuring. Then, the student was unable to find the heartbeat for about 5 minutes which I wasn't overly panicked about as I am fortunate enough to have my own heartbeat monitor at home and often listen to Shrimpy beating away if I haven't felt him move for a while but this could have really panicked someone else and I couldn't believe EM, who was busy texting someone, didn't intervene for so long. She eventually found a weak heartbeat claiming it was probably just phone interference or something. Student couldn't determine which way round the baby was again but guessed it was head down (which is a safe bet as most babies are head down by this stage) and believed she could feel 'most of the head' so the midwife told her to write in the notes that the baby was 4/5 free (i.e. about one fifth of its head was in the pelvic bone). I couldn't believe it. Most people by this stage are fully aware of their baby's position and whether or not it is engaged. I was livid. Actually, I was livid for about 24 hours.

So, the next morning I woke up and thought, I just can't do this anymore. I would rather see no midwife than one that raised my blood pressure so high so I decided to do something about it. I called the Children's Centre and got the number of the head community midwife and gave her a call. I left her two messages on Wednesday, one on Thursday, another one on Friday and eventually, on Friday late morning she called me back (it's a good job it was nothing too urgent!). Grumbling aside, when I finally got through to her, she sounded very nice, apologetic about EM and understanding about what a vulnerable time it is and completely understood why I was so upset. I am now seeing her this week instead and shouldn't have to see EM again. I'm optimistic that I will be properly examined this time which is a huge relief.

I'd like to make a further comment also about birthing centres / singleton units also after last week's disappointing experience with the tour. My good NCT buddy had her tour booked in for this Sunday just gone and like me had had to call on the day to check it was still going ahead. Due to staff shortages the tour was not going ahead and they were unable to fit her in to any of the other tours until well beyond her due date! This staff shortage thing is of great concern to me. Only yesterday I was reading an article about a new birthing centre in Maidstone having just opened up whilst two others in Kent are struggling to remain open and are due to be closed. It seems the situation is all @rse about foot. We clearly have enough great facilities for ladies to have their babies but a massive shortage of midwives to sufficiently staff them. Those that are open seem to rarely be actually open so perhaps more of a focus on staffing those facilities rather than building new ones might be the way forward. It's a shame as birthing centres are really sold and recommended to you throughout NCT classes and the various other antenatal classes available. But offering a choice which is unlikely to be available on the all important day seems more than a little mean. It's like when you are eating a bag of skittles and you still think you have one in the bag but when you go to eat it, you were mistaken and you'd actually already eaten the last one. Yes, that's what it feels like.

So, this past week, generally I've been filling my time with chilling out and totally pointless activities such as manipulating images with various iPhone applications and creating poor quality and needless videos. Some might say I have too much time on my hands (actually, many people have said that to me) but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Here's a little video I made on my phone in a matter of minutes starring Boog as the most competent midwife I am yet to encounter...

video

And here is a pregnant me as the subject of a 'Banksy'...



And those of you lucky enough to be my 'friend' on facebook may have seen some of my other many creations. They don't call me 'Woody The Creative One' for nothing, I can tell you.

Other than d1cking about with time wasting activities, I've been spending some time with Ron and enjoying local activities. One evening this week, we sang the 12 days of Christmas at decorated trees up and down our lovely street ending with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie (this was an organised event by the way, Ron and I didn't just wonder up the street singing to trees). Then, yesterday, we went to see a slightly comedy version of 'A Christmas Carol' at a local beautiful estate and gardens with more mulled wine and a mince pie and it was all very enjoyable and very festive.

My mother was a bit naughty this week, mind. I might have mentioned before but she is a lot of a worry bags and spends most of her time these days getting in a state about me going in to labour (before the pregnancy, it was just general death she worried about) and it just so happened that her daily call yesterday was while we were at the play so I was unavailable for about an hour and a half. When we got out of the play, I had several missed calls, Ron had one and it turns out she had even called my brother. It reminded me of the time when I was about 15 and I popped in to see my friend Jo on the way home from school making me about half an hour late back. When I went in to school next day it seemed that virtually every member of Swanmore Secondary School's parents had received a frantic call as well as all the local hospitals and police stations. Silly lady. I had decided I wasn't going to tell her when I went in to labour to avoid her getting herself in to a total wreck for a day or so until Shrimpy pops out but we have agreed that perhaps I will tell her so that if she can't get hold of me and I haven't said I am going in to hospital then it might just be because I'm doing something else for a bit. Silly, silly lady! Poor Mother Wood. If I could, I would give her some strong valium, put her to sleep and wake her up when Shrimpy is here.

Anyway, so this week generally brings more of the same. I'm still feeling fairly uncomfortable but not to the point where I'm so uncomfortable I just want the baby out (and am therefore willing labour to start), which I am assured will happen so I think I have at least a week or so to go yet before becoming a Mummy. Oh, I almost forgot, on Thursday, it's my birthday! I normally make a HUGE fuss about this as my Mummy was naughty and had me at a time of year where I had to share my birthday with Jesus (you wouldn't catch me doing that to my child - doh!) but this year, I have virtually forgotten about it. Ok, so I have prompted a few people that there is still time to get me a present but generally birthday and Christmas celebrations have all taken a back seat to the arrival of the sea-loving one. I am seeing my parents on the day though and Ron is also taking me out for dinner in our fabulous local Michelin star restaurant - at least that's what I have booked so I am sure Ron will see fit to treat me it being my birthday 'n' all. I'm looking forward to all these things and wondering if I'll get through to the end of another week with a little person still in my tummy.

Let's see.

Current Symptoms:
  • More frequent and stronger contractions
  • Bump significantly dropping lower
  • Frequent toilet stops
  • Lessened heartburn
  • Swollen everything
  • Bleeding gums
  • Shortness of breath (slightly lessened now the baby has dropped a bit)
  • Sore shoulders
  • No contact lens wearing

DADDY

Blah, blah, blah, the usual but Daddy's doing well and doing a great job at putting up with me and is busy working away also. He says 'Hi'.

BUMP

I'm almost 50 cm tall now and weigh somewhere around 7½ pounds, allegedly. There's really not much going on here these days since I've been in the unfortunate situation of having my head stuck for over a week now. Actually, it sucks so I'm definitely thinking of making an exit soonish.

I have noticed that my finger and toe nails are getting quite long now and I've caught myself a few times. They definitely need a trim so hopefully Mummy and Daddy will get right on that when I come out. I refuse to wear those ridiculous scratch mittens so a nice manicure would be preferable thank you.

I'm quite excited about revealing my real name to everyone as well. Being likened to a sea-dwelling crustacean for the past 30 weeks or so is starting to become really tired. It's like, change the record, Mummy, I am not a bl00dy prawn, I am a human being (I believe John Merrick first made this observation about his own life).

So, will I see you before the next post? Hmm, let's see, I like to keep you all in some semblance of suspense as it's the only power I've got really!

Monday, 12 December 2011

37 Weeks

MUMMY

I can't believe last week was only my second week of maternity leave! It feels like months ago when I was last at work bossing everyone around (ah, I miss that, and I'm sure they all miss it too!). After resting for almost the entire first week, last week was the one when I had intended to get everything completely ready for the pending arrival of Shrimpy so that as I started this week I could just chill out and do things if I wanted to and laze about if I didn't. But I'm afraid, with best laid plans aft ganging agley and all that, I achieved very little again last week. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and I am still very much enjoying not being at work but it's so easy to laze about in bed all morning with the high activity point of the day being the waddle to the sofa for the afternoon session. So, this week, now, this is the week when I really MUST get everything sorted as tomorrow it will be just two weeks until the due date and right in the zone of early Shrimp fishing time.

It's been a strange week and, for no apparent reason, a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I have gone from feeling really quite low and teary one minute to deliriously hysterical with laughter the next so I think the hormones are in total chaos mode at the moment which is a little unpleasant at times. In fact, only last night, I was lying in bed and wasting time on my iPhone after Ron had gone to sleep and found myself in absolute hysterics reading the 25 worst autocorrect texts and was laughing louder and louder whilst trying  to make no noise at all and then because I was trying to hold it all in, suddenly a huge burst of laughter came out which woke Ron up and he thought I was crying hysterically in a sad way so was worried something serious was wrong when I had to reassure him I was just having a little chuckle to myself (erm, crazy woman alert!). As I'd almost wet myself laughing, I thought it prudent to go for a tinkle and then I did a little windy pops and that made me laugh hysterically and the more I laughed, the more I windy popped and by the end of my toilet trip, I was on the floor crying with laughter and sat there thinking, what a crazy fecking nutter! Anyway, this is what hormones do to you, people.

The low points have come mostly from not feeling quite ready for the Shrimp and from it dawning on me that I really will have a little person in the house with me imminently and will undoubtedly lose my much enjoyed 'me' time for, well, many many years and sometimes it can be ever so overwhelming and terrifying. It hit me this week particularly because for months, all I thought about when I was pregnant was finishing work - a truly joyful prospect - and I didn't really need to think much beyond that because that was the next big milestone. Then, that time came, maternity leave started and for the first week, I was just so happy to not be commuting in to London and chilling out at home that I was still high on not being at work and then this week, I suddenly realised that there are no other smaller and less significant milestones to wait for, the next one is the big one, the Shrimp arrival which is formed of two parts: 1) the dreaded birth and 2) the arrival of a little person that I have to look after with not even the most basic IKEAesque instructions - a little life dependent on me (and Ron of course).

What also hit home this week when another of the NCT ladies sprogulated was that, based on due date alone, I'm next in the pecking order - arrrrggghhhhhh! Until NCT lady went and popped out her little boy, I could console myself with the fact that she was next.

Adding to the anxiety I am starting to feel now as well is that birth really does sound quite horrific! We agreed in our NCT group that those who felt comfortable to would share the full unedited versions of their labours and births with the rest of us and whilst it has been really interesting to read the full and gory details, both of them sounded really not very pleasant experiences at all - although, that said, both did state that no matter how awful some parts had been, it was worth every bit of pain and exhaustion to hold their little beans in their arms at the end so I am trying to focus on that bit. Both stories lent weight to my firm belief that writing a birth plan is pointless as well. In both of their cases, the birthing centres (which are the midwife led units over here) were closed (a point I would like to address separately shortly) and things went, well, not how either one of them would have planned. I'm sort of preparing myself for the worst case scenario now in the hope that anything better than that will be a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, congratulations to Charlotte and Jo on the arrivals of their little men (I refer to their babies entering the world, not their respective husbands turning up at the hospital). Only two of the group of seven ladies know the sex of their balls of fluff, myself being one of them (it surprised me actually how few people wanted to know) and we are both having boys so that's four out of seven boys already. I wonder whether there will be any little girls. I have observed from talking to other friends about their NCT classes that babies seem to come in waves of one particular sex which seems to be more than just random co-incidence. Strange.

So, this week, Ron and I attended Ashford Hospital for a pre-booked tour of the singleton unit (the midwife led unit as opposed to the traditional labour ward). Let me tell you, any thoughts I had in my head of giving birth in a spa-like environment in a jacuzzi with soft lighting and relaxing music have been very much laid to rest. I'm glad we went on the tour as it was a useful experience but, on the whole, I was fairly disappointed and let me tell you why.

Being generally an ultra-organised being, I first phoned Ashford hospital to book myself on to one of the birth unit / labour ward tours about 6 weeks ago. You aren't allowed to attend these tours until you are 36 weeks pregnant (which I find strange as it is leaving it awfully last minute in my opinion but I think it is a way to keep numbers down and only have people attending who haven't lost their babies prior to the 36 week point - I'm cynical that way), which was fine but they wouldn't even let me book on to a tour and told me to phone back when I was 36 weeks pregnant. OK, I thought, fair enough, so I called the singleton unit a day after I was 36 weeks pregnant and was greeted only with continuous ringing. This literally went on for an hour and I started thinking, hold on a second, this is the emergency contact number for the singleton unit that you are supposed to call when going in to labour and had I been in labour, no answer would have been less than an ideal outcome! Eventually I called the labour ward, which was answered fairly quickly (phew) and explained I was calling about the tour. The lady, who was clearly in a rush told me I shouldn't be calling them and needed to call the singleton unit, I explained I had and no one had answered for an hour and she told me simply to keep trying. I did, and about 20 mins later, the phone was finally answered by a lady who explained that there must be something wrong with the phones and she would arrange for an engineer as it appeared they had all been down for a few hours. Anyway, having finally got through to the right department, I was told that of their Sunday and Wednesday tours, all the Sunday tours were now fully booked until January! I was mildly annoyed at this stage as it was really important to me that Ron came to the tour with me as, on the day, I will be heavily relying on him to take care of the logistical side, as well as supporting me physically and emotionally (not asking for much am I?!), so to hear that only the Wednesday ones were now available having patiently waited to reserve a place on one was peevesome. Having no other choice, I booked on to the tour last Wednesday and was asked to call on the day to confirm it was still going ahead. Now, fortunately, Ron was able to work from home that day with a compromise of going to Paris the following day for his work, so he was able to join me and a couple of hours before the tour, as advised, I called the singleton unit again to confirm if the tour was still going ahead. Once again, no one answered the singleton unit number so straight away I called the labour ward where the lady, sounding slightly annoyed, told me I should have called the singleton unit. I explained again that this is what I had done with no response and needed to know if the tour was still going ahead before we make the trip. She huffed but came back a couple of minutes later saying they would still try to run it and to go to the singleton unit for 6pm sharp.

So (I've no doubt lost most of you by now with this mammoth rant), Ron and I turn up to the singleton unit about ten to six with all the lights off and no response to the buzzer. Another lady and a second couple turned up for the tour and we all decided to wait until 6pm outside the unit before trying to find someone. At just after 6, the most impatient of the three ladies (that was me, in case you hadn't guessed), decided to go up to the labour ward, labelled as the 'Delivery Suite' (this confused me, having baby brain, I assumed this was where the general hospital deliveries went initially and I was frantically searching for the 'Labour Ward', as the department is officially titled). We found it, buzzed on their buzzer and again, no answer. About 5 minutes later, a member of staff happened to be coming out so Ron and I went in and a lady rushed over as if to say, what on earth are you doing in here? I explained there were a number of us waiting downstairs for the tour with no information as to what was happening and that it would be good if someone could come down and impart afore-mentioned information. She said they had been rushed off their feet and would try to send someone down shortly and just to continue waiting down there.

We waited down there until someone finally arrived at about 6:30pm by which time, all the pregnant ladies had very poorly tootsies (there were no seats). The tour itself was fine but the biggest disappointment was that it seems as if the singleton unit is closed, if not most, certainly a lot of the time. It was closed the night of the tour due to staff shortage and the lady implied that this is fairly common this time of year so with Shrimpy's due date coming at a time when I can only imagine the staff levels will be at absolute minimum levels anyway, I am very pessimistic about the unit being open.

So, that's OK, at least I have now reset my expectations and am fully expecting a labour ward delivery and not a lava lamp in sight!

Sorry for the drawn out story there by the way but with that and the less than adequate community midwife I have been enduring, the NHS for all things pregnancy-related has been a let down. I just really hope on the day they will make up for it and deliver Shrimpy safely on to shore.

I had another great session of Aquanatal on Thursday and am, as ever, so grateful for the crazy lady who runs the sessions. As my midwife had failed to tell me which way round Shrimpy was, I asked Aquanatal Lady if she would mind doing a belly exam. She didn't, bless her little cottons, and after a thorough prod in a private room at the pool she explained exactly how baby was orientated and what she was feeling. Thankfully, Shrimpy is head down with his back to the right hand side and legs and arms to the left, which kind of ties in with the constant foot-under-left-ribs feeling I have been experiencing. She thinks the head is three fifths engaged (they divide the head in to fifths and note how much of it they can still feel - three fifths engaged means she could only feel about two fifths of the head and that the other three were deeper inside the pelvic bone). So, I was very relieved to hear this but anxious too - baby is definitely coming!

Other than being fully focused on the most horrific bits of childbirth whilst trying desperately not to be and lots more Christmas shopping (quite a few 'presents' I am ordering seem to be from me to me though - how did that happen?), not much else has happened this week. The week ended with a trip to the Rare Breeds Centre near Ashford which was most enjoyable though (you gotta love farm animals). Whilst there we saw some interesting Polish chickens - crazy looking things that I had never seen before - so I felt it compulsory to 'Auto Dance' them.


This week, well, this really is the week I get EVERYTHING sorted. I have had a stern word with myself and I think I have made it perfectly clear that I need to get things done this week rather than sit around watching TV on my @rse (I'm not suggesting there won't be some @rse-resting but other activities will be loosely incorporated in) unless of course Shrimpy decides to make an early exit, in which case, arrrgggghhhh, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Oh, and Ron and I have been making bets on when Shrimpy will arrive. I think he's coming on 23rd December - a little early - and Ron is going for the 28th, so we'll see who wins that all important pound for being the closest.

Current Symptoms:
  • Sciatica
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Frequent toilet stops
  • Lessened heartburn
  • Swollen everything
  • Bleeding gums
  • Shortness of breath (slightly lessened now the baby has dropped a bit)
  • No contact lens wearing

DADDY

Daddy's been unable to blog again for the usual reasons. Hopefully he will make another appearance before or after Shrimpy arrives ...

BUMP

Well, that's just frickin' great. I try to be organised and get myself in to position well ahead of time for this birth thing that both Mummy and I are a little freaked out by and now my bl00dy head is stuck! It appears to have got wedged in some kind of hard casing and now I can't get it back out - try as I may. I've been squirming extra hard this week to try to get my head back loose again but I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that The Only Way is Out (TOWIO - hmmm, that might make a good title for a reality series starring me).

So, I am now the size of a watermelon apparently, almost 49 cm tall and apparently weigh around 7 pounds. I am 'fully baked' as they say and could survive on my own on the outside world without medical assistance should I decide to make that early exit. It's looking more and more appealing to tell you the truth - I'm bored sh1tless in here!

Hopefully see you all soon.

Monday, 5 December 2011

36 Weeks

MUMMY

I'm going to stop apologising for late blog entries as I've decided to write all of the remaining ones on a Monday morning now. My time left with Ron, just the two of us, is running out and as he's been away with work quite a bit, I don't want to lose any more time with him and believe it or not it takes me a couple of hours to compose and edit these masterpieces!

I start this week, almost approaching the 37 week milestone, in a mild state of shock! Most of the NCT ladies have now finished work (just one poor lass still working away) so that glorious but very short era of being 'Ladies Wot Lunch' had arrived and just a few days ago, 5 of us were sitting in a lovely café in the countryside, supping the finest English tea and munching away on freshly baked scones (just two each) with clotted cream and jam, chuckling away and I was thinking, ah, how nice, five fat birds passing the time, chatting away about life, babies, what irritates us about non-pregnant people's comments / behaviour, I could get used to this. It was glorious and it was very hard to believe that this daytime activity wasn't going to become a thing of great regularity and that we would all forever just remain as five fat birds (with the other three missing NCT ladies joining us of course) who met weekly and ate cakes and drank tea. Of the five ladies present, two of them were the first due in the class, one due on the 10th December, one on the 14th, so, in my mind, we still had at least a week or two left before anything was likely to upset the cake munching status quo and this was comforting. Then, yesterday, one of them only went and blinking popped out a little person - 10 days early!! It was very strange. Normally, when I receive these kinds of texts (and I have received a lot over the last few years with many friends who have now become Mummies or Daddies), I am over the moon and feel nothing but bubbly warm feelings inside but this one, as well as evoking those feelings, instilled me with great fear! Of course, I am over the moon for my new friend Jo and hubby and I'm very happy for her but it really brought home that all of us, in just a matter of weeks really, are going to end up having a new little person in our lives and this, now more than ever, terrifies me just a little! And what this really means is that I really will be going through the dreaded labour very soon and that terrifies me just a little as well. I think I have been in a state of denial about this for the last few weeks and just waiting for lovely maternity leave to start but now that it's here, the next thing is The Delivery!

And, as the big day approaches, more and more, I feel like I do when one of my long, nasty runs, like the Great South Run or something, is coming up where I am both really excited about it but really dreading it as well. Obviously, the part I am excited about is meeting the little fella and seeing his face (and hoping that he isn't too ugly) and the part I am dreading is the actual squeezing him out through a small hole and the definitive end of The Sleep-In.

I'm still a little concerned about how I will know when the real thing is starting and I'm sure that afterwards it will be clear that there is absolutely no mistaking it but the Braxton Hicks contractions have been getting more frequent, more painful and increasingly debilitating and when they happen, I think, hmm, is this it or not and, as before, the only reason I know they weren't real is because Shrimpy doesn't pop out. I hope it will be very obvious when the real ones start as I really don't fancy having Shrimpy in the lounge to the sounds of Jeremy Kyle shouting, "Why didn't you just stick a thing on the end of it?" or the glorious Judge shouting, "Baloney" in the background.

Anyway, so, last week was my first week of maternity leave. I started the week with mild panic about not being at work but this subsided by the next day and this very unique time, probably the only time in anyone's entire life where you get to not work, not feel cr@ppy about it and have total you time (as any subsequent times there will be another little person already present), is truly glorious and I am enjoying it hugely. I am so glad I brought the start of my maternity leave forward a week and I think about 4 weeks before the due date was just spot on for me as it gives me a week to sleep, a week to get busy and get on top of the few remaining essential tasks and another couple of weeks to take each day as it comes - do something if I want to or chill out at home lazing about on the sofa if I want to. It's given me a lot of time to appreciate the magnitude of what is about to happen and to come to terms with the fact that from a day not so far away forward, and for the rest of my life, I am going to be responsible for another person. Ron and I are going to be responsible for shaping that little person in to a big person and as much as you hope you'll never mess anything up, invariably, because we are all human, you will do, and then hopefully you'll learn from your mistakes, and, well, it's all quite overwhelming. But exceptionally exciting as well.

So, what did I actually do last week? Well, in truth, not that much! I had big plans to get on top of everything that needed to be done task and DIY-wise so that I was 100% ready for Shrimpy but it was very clear that what I really needed last week more than anything was sleep. I slept a lot. And I loved it. For the first time in years, I felt quite refreshed last week and even though I was awake several times through the night and woke up early every day, because I then didn't have to get up and suffer the long commute to work, I was able to snooze some more and some days I didn't get out of bed until midday. I haven't done this since I was about 18 but I really, really needed it so I'm feeling good for it at the moment.

It is actually a really great time to be on maternity leave though so apart from the poor planning of the birth date being around Christmas (which, as mentioned many times before, I had tried to avoid having suffered a Christmas birthday all my life - and moaned about it - a lot), it's turned out really well. I'm sure there is a danger that after a few weeks of not working I could potentially have got bored (I'm still not convinced) but with all the Christmassy stuff going on and shopping to do, it's really great to have the time to do this and there is so much going on in lovely Faversham (wreath-making workshops etc.) that I really can't see myself getting bored at all. So, I have pretty much finished doing Christmas shopping now and just have some cards to write and the tree has been up for about a month already so all in all, I'm feeling very Christmassy, which is nice.

Ron was away for most of last week in Russia which was very hard indeed and I missed him desperately (I was also a little concerned about what I was going to do if Shrimpy did make for a very early exit but fortunately this didn't happen). It sounded like a fascinating place though so it wasn't all bad for him and he even brought me back a real Moscovian hat, which I don't mind admitting I look rather fetching in.

Believe it or not, I am not a Russian spy
Anyway, he's back now and it's great to have him back - just one more trip to Paris this week with work and then I have banned him from any more trips out of the country!

Being at home during the week a lot this past week (and having ordered hundreds of things from Amazon) I have discovered a few things and these I list below:

  1. Some delivery men make zero effort to actually deliver your package! On several occasions last week, delivery men didn't knock but stroked the door and then ran off back to their vans and it was only because I am a super observant detective type person, aka Agent Wood, that I spotted them and ran after them to retrieve my package. What a cheek!
  2. Lots of charity type folk are about and spend their days knocking on doors begging for money (which annoys me as I give lots of money to charity by direct debit every month and object to being asked for more or made to feel bad for not supporting their particular cause).
  3. LOTS of annoying marketing people phone in the daytime (although I quite enjoy being rude to them really)
  4. There are literally BILLIONS of pregnant ladies or ladies with babies in Faversham. My God, they are everywhere when you wonder around the high street in the daytime.
  5. Daytime TV isn't as good when you can watch it every day

Being at home, I've also been spending more time than usual with my needy cats and I am getting really quite worried about how they are going to cope when Shrimpy arrives. They seem to be terrified of every little noise and continually behave like one of us going to beat them when we move (which is strange given that they have never been anything but loved and cuddled by us in their entire lives) so I really don't think they are going to like having the chaos and noise of a baby around one little bit. I really hope they don't run away as it would break my heart and they are my little fluffball babies. Fingers crossed but there's not much I can do to prepare them for sharing their home with a very loud and unpredictable little being. Poor Boogies.

Finally, the week ended with a short trip home to catch up with some old school friends and see my folks (possibly the last time I will see my Daddy without me being a Mummy). It was lovely to see my old school buddies who almost all have children and have a chance to catch up with them before the Shrimp arrives on the scene. How strange that when I met most of them, we were just very little children ourselves! Eek, doesn't life fly by. It was great to see the olds too and we picked up our Christmas present from them which, naturally, we opened as soon as we got back (an awesome speaker for the TV so that I can really feel the bass of 'In the Night Garden').

Other than that, I bought some new boots ...

Do you likey?

... and that was about it.

Ta ta for now. Let's hope Shrimpy fancies a bit more baking before the next blog entry as I'm not quite ready for this peaceful bliss to end just yet!

Current Symptoms:
  • Sciatica
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Tiny bladder
  • Heartburn
  • Swollen everything
  • Bleeding gums
  • Shortness of breath
  • No contact lens wearing

DADDY

Daddy's a very busy boy again with work and yet more European travels so no blog entry for now but he's doing great and seems quite excited about the new arrival.

BUMP

I'm about 48 cm tall now and apparently weigh around 6 pounds (although I don't know how anyone could possibly estimate my weight accurately).

I don't mind telling you I'm starting to get a teensy bit fed up in here. There is virtually no room whatsoever for me to move about and I have to really whack and push on Mummy's little bubble to try to get comfortable. I've had to wedge my feet under Mummy's ribs on a number of occasions to try to find some extra room over this past week. I don't think she likes it but hey, guess what Mummy, I need to stretch and I will find room wherever possible at the moment. It's a dog-eat-dog world don't you know.

The annoying thing is that I'm actually ready for the outside world now. I'm in two minds about when to start heading down the tunnel at the moment as well as I realised the other day that if I wait for the due date or beyond, I actually miss Christmas all together and therefore, in my mind, I miss out on a whole load of extra presents (and I like presents) but, on the other hand, if I come out early, I have to listen to that bl00dy Christmas music at a much louder level (this fluid is a great muffler) AND Mummy and Daddy are bound to dress me up in ridiculous outfits, Santa's little elf or something, and I'm not sure that appeals either. Hmm, a double-edged sword really. I'll ponder some more on this and until I have made a decision for certain, I think I'll just stay in here - it seems like the safest thing to do.

No more changes to report this week, just fattening up like a big Christmas turkey really. Hope to see you all soon.