Monday, 28 June 2010

Daytime TV

Currently on the telly: interview with a woman whose tortoise (called Lettuce) was stolen, along with its two daughters. And it was blind and had to be hand fed.

Oh, the humanity.

I am going to the gym before my brain melts (will be back in time for eight hours of Wimbledon, naturally).

Friday, 25 June 2010

Six things I didn't think I'd get a chance to do when I was stuck in a hospital bed last week...

  1. Get to Rigby and Peller to be properly fitted for a nursing bra, rather than making do with the ones I grabbed last week from M&S in the pre-hospital panic, which were fairly grim and only possibly, vaguely, maybe in my size . And a good thing too, since the mighty maternity mammeries have really outdone themselves and gone up from a perfectly ample and respectable D-cup, to an earth shattering, superhero-esque... wait for it, wait for it... H-cup (BOOB-WOMAN! Here to save the earth with her crimefighting norks! Deflecting death rays from their targets of innocent children's eyes, rebounding meteors from their collision paths with orphanages, providing lots of milk for hungry Lumpies... (etc.)) Anyway, on Saturday I got to venture up to the big city (where I always feel like quite the yokel, chewing on a straw and scratching my head in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, going 'ahhhh, there sure be a lot of peoples in this here place. And they all know where they're going...') and visit the greatest bra shop in the world. I first experienced the wonder that is Rigby and Peller (or R&P, as those of us in the know call it) about three years ago, in the run up to the Badger wedding. That time was truly epic, with a grand total of £800 spent (I know, I know, it's disgusting. But I did discover that my bra size was actually 32D and not the 38B I'd been wearing thus far, and therefore needed to replace all of my bras, plus buy two full sets of wedding lingerie because, you know, who can possibly decide? And the pants in this place cost £89. Pants!) This time I was somewhat more restrained, and only bought two bras for a modest £100. They're not exactly as lovely as the purchases on the previous visit (I mean, how sexy can anything with full-frontal access really be? Oh, okay, very.) But they fit, or at least hopefully will still fit when I'm engorged (what a great word engorged is. We should use it more. Engorged, engorged, engorged.) Right, moving on from the engorged orbs...
  2. Make it to my last official day of work, and actually get all the jobs done that I wanted to do. This was one of the things that actually upset me the most about being admitted unexpectedly - the fact that I was leaving things in a mess at work and hadn't been able to finish up properly. If I hadn't have got a chance to come back, I know those loose ends would have bothered me the whole way through maternity leave. It's not that I'm terribly important at work, or that the others in the department couldn't cope with sorting out the few things that would have been left, but it just felt completely wrong to leave stuff undone. I'm a control freak, okay? But now the jobs are all done, I can leave a nice 'I'm now on maternity leave...' message on my email, I can tidy my desk a bit, and make sure I haven't left an old banana or half a sardine lurking in the back of a drawer, and this will all hopefully ensure there are no waking-in-a-sweat-at-three-in-the-morning-stressing-about-work incidents (just lots of being-woken-in-a-sweat-at-three-in-the-morning-by-screaming-baby incidents, which is fine and to be expected).
  3. Got my hair cut and my highlights re-done. This was truly essential, as I'm fairly sure I will not be one of those beautifully groomed, organized, and accessorized yummy mummies who somehow manage to care for their babies and pick out coordinated outfits, get their hair done, wear make-up, etc. etc. This is because I am not one of those women who manage to pick out coordinated outfits, get their hair done, wear make-up, etc. etc., so I'm guessing things probably won't be improved by the addition of a squealy, demanding, projectile vomiting little person. But things had reached a fairly drastic stage, and my roots were scaring small children and animals in the street, so something had to be done. And so I am now once again blonde and cropped, and it'll be a good two weeks before the roots are showing through. So I'll look massively glamorous in the post-birth pictures, which is what really matters.
  4. Go for a pregnancy massage. I've been intending to have one of these pretty much the whole way through this pregnancy. I even had an idea that I could get into the habit of having one every few weeks, as a treat. But when do I manage to finally book it? For next Tuesday, the day before my due date. Excellent work. So I haven't actually managed this one, yet, but fingers crossed I might make it...
  5. Get back on my bike. I love my bike and it has bravely borne my ever-increasing bulk over the last 9 months, with only occasional chain-snapping incidents. I thought I'd just keep cycling for as long as I could, and would stop if it got uncomfortable or too tiring, but it never has (and has certainly been better than the prospect of a crowded, sweaty bus or a very long walk). I always had a secret hope that I'd be able to keep cycling up to my last day in the office, and here it is. I may have slowed down somewhat, my hands may get weirdly numb from the extra weight I'm leaning on them, and poor old bikey may be very happy when the mighty burden is dismounted for the last time, but I made it (and with those engorged baps along for the ride, too).
  6. Go for a curry, laze in a beer garden after work, watch lots of Wimbledon, and have a barbecue. All of which I'll be doing this weekend. It's not that we won't be able to do any of these things once Lumpy has arrived, and in fact we're determined to continue our lives much as before, and just bring him along, but I'm also savouring these last moments with just us, before we start on the next big adventure as a threesome.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Classy moments in pregnancy, number 3672: the buying of cigars

You know what's really good for pregnant women? Cuban cigars.

That's right, there's nothing that growing fetuses like better than some fine, hand-rolled tobacco passing through the placenta. Mmmm, nutritious!

Which is why I'm baffled by the funny looks I got walking out of the tobacconists clutching a bulging box of fat Havanas the other day.

What? It's a craving, all right?

(they were for my dad. Honest.)

Friday, 18 June 2010

Five litres of wee

And so we learn the golden rule of smugness. And that rule is 'indulge in the smugness at your peril, for to do so is to tempt fate to come and kick you up the bottom with its big boot of fatality, and leave you sprawling in the mud of your own smugdom'.

Mere hours after writing that last post, about how Zen and calm and in-control I am about this whole pregnancy and labour thing, I was in hospital, weeping at fairly regular intervals and peeing into a jug which I then had to store beside my bed. Oh yes, I can hear the Pregnancy Fates sniggering right now (they exist. They do. Now shhhh.)

I had a bad feeling about the appointment, right from the moment it was booked.

"Ohh," said my midwife, a couple of weeks ago. "They've just started doing clinics up at the Spires again. Let's book you in for one."

The Spires is where I was/am hoping to birth the Lumpy. It's a midwife-led unit on the top floor of the hospital (great views over the dreaming spires! Which is exactly what you care about in labour, I'm sure), and is super and luxurious, and not filled with machines that go 'beep!' It seemed like the sort of place that wouldn't fill me with the medical heebie-jeebies, while having the reassurance of lots of doctors and drugs and sharp implements a mere two floors down.

But for some reason the idea of this appointment there filled me with dread. I had no problem with the thought of going in there once I was in labour, but I just knew something was going to go wrong during this routine, friendly, straightforward appointment and visit.

At the risk of summoning the smug boot of justice firmly to my behind once again, this pregnancy has been, so far, really not bad at all. I've basically been able to carry on with my life largely unchanged (though I've cut the daily two bottles of vodka down to a modest one), have been cycling into work, going to the gym, driving, mud-wrestling, pole-dancing, the lot. My midwife has seemed pleased with me, the test results have all been normal, everything seemed good. I have a long standing and impressively dramatic case of 'white coat hypertension', where your blood pressure goes all show-offy and mental when it knows it's being taken by a professional, but I've always had that, and my usual midwife has been completely understanding, not made a big deal out of it, and trusted that I keep an eye on it at home, where it always measures at a completely normal and healthy level. My bump also looks pretty small (even at 38 weeks, I could just about pass for not pregnant, in the right clothes (i.e. a small marquee)). But that's based on how I'm built (like a brick shithouse), and my ABS OF STEEL (excuse me - it's impossible to type that in anything other than FULL CAPS), which have held the poor Lumpy firmly in place and prevented any belly explosion. But the bump has been progressing perfectly throughout, and growing at every appointment. Nothing to worry about.

Till last Monday, and the appointment of doooooooooooom.

So, Mr Badger drove me to the hospital, and we parked up, me merrily chirping that the next time we came here I'd be in labour. Ha ha! What a thought! We headed up to the Spires and were met by a cheery midwife and a young trainee, and showed into one of the rooms. The views were, indeed, lovely, and I'm sure would work better than any epidural at taking my mind off contractions.

We had a little chat, the trainee took my wee sample off to test, and the midwife asked how things had been going so far.

"Brilliant," I announced confidently. "All very straightforward. I just have this thing with my blood pressure. White coat syndrome, you know. But it's always fine at home..."

She flicked through my notes and took in the collection of, ahem, eccentric BP readings from the last 8 months.

"Okay..." she said, with just a hint of caution tingeing her previously cheery tone. "Let's just have a check."

At that moment, the trainee came back into the room and announced that there were 2 points of protein in the urine sample.

And cue mental blood pressure leap from the pregnant lady - GO!

She then took my blood pressure. 160/80. Pretty high, even for me.

"Well," she said, sounding about as unconvinced as a very unconvinced person. "Not too bad... Let's just have a feel of your baby."

I lay back as she poked and wiggled and measured, trying to breathe and stay calm, and not feel like what I feared would happen was totally and utterly happening.

"Feels a bit small to me..." she said.

And that's when the madness really began. They tried to book me in for a scan, to check the size, and a trace, to check the heartbeat and the placental function. But the Day Assessment Unit was too busy, so it looked like we'd have to come back the next day.

Okay, no big deal. Annoying, and it'd mean missing even more work, but so be it.

Some more faffing, and a rather awkward conversation about breastfeeding followed, where she seemed to suggest I should breastfeed my child till the age of five (I started to lose concentration at this point, and was mainly checking escape routes, but we were 7 floors up, and nimble though I am, this may have been a little too much at this point). They then decided to do the heart trace right there (mainly, I think, as a delaying tactic to stop us from escaping), while she went off to talk to the people downstairs.

I was strapped to a machine that went 'beep!' (after they'd promised they didn't have those up here - the liars!) and tried not to cry as I apologised to Mr Badger for failing so utterly at pregnancy, and he patted my hand, and considered throwing himself out of the window.

After a while the midwife came back and said that they would see me downstairs, after all. She'd shown them my notes, and discussed what she thought and they had found this worrying enough that they would try to squeeze me in. Great! I could feel my blood pressure lowering all the time (er, not.)

We then got to go downstairs to the high-risk pregnancy unit, where we were introduced to more machines that go 'beep!' and I managed to produce an even more impressive blood pressure reading. A consultant came round to see us, and started making noises about inductions. I tried not to weep. They decided to admit me for '24-48 hours observation', though they did decide it was safe enough to let me go home and pack a bag first.

We walked out of the hospital slightly stunned. My low-risk, easy, happy pregnancy had, in a matter of hours, been transformed into a scary, high-risk, medical nightmare. And I had no pyjamas.

A swift visit to Primark later, and the second of those worries was resolved. We went home, where I wept over our cats and went around the house touching everything, convinced I would never see any of it again. I threw stuff into a bag, with no real idea whether I'd need to take breast pads, nappies, babygrows... Were they really going to induce me? Please, please, no.

I just wasn't ready. It all felt horribly wrong. And then I felt guilty, as if I didn't actually want this baby. If I wasn't ready now, then when? Was it really going to be better in 2 weeks time? What was wrong with me? I was an awful mother, already, at minus two weeks... eeeeeeeeee!

Eventually, Mr B bundled me into the car, and took me to prison. I sat in the waiting area while they got my bed ready, trying to read while a football game raged on the TV beside me. New mothers with babies and proud grandparents milled around, and I tried to get my head around the fact that I may have one of those of my own, in a matter of days. Hours, even. The thought made me feel sick. And then I felt even sicker, for feeling sick at the thought of having my own baby. But all I could think was 'not yet. I'm not ready yet. It's the wrong time.'

I started to lose faith in everything I'd done to prepare for the birth. For all the time I'd spent listening to the hypnotherapy CDs, visualizing the birth, breathing, reprogramming myself to view the whole thing as a positive, natural, wonderful event. It was, clearly, all bollocks. I was scared, again. Scared and alone and totally unprepared.

I got taken to my bed and lay down. It was by a window, and I could see the richly, excessively green trees of early summer, glowing in the sunshine. A midwife who looked about 12 came and took my blood pressure. 140/78. A tiny flicker of hope lit up in my chest. She also presented me with a big plastic container and a jug and told me they wanted me to collect my wee for the next 24 hours. I eyed the jug. It was about 2.5 litres in size. A challenge. Now I had something to work on. I asked for a jug of water, and got drinking.

The next 24 hours were, as anyone who has spent time in hospital will know, fairly grim, in a dull, repetitive, numbing sort of a way. I tried to read, stared out of the window, and attempted to listen to some of the hypnotheraphy CD on my iPod. I started filling my jug of wee, and calculated that, at this rate, I'd need at least another one before the 24 hours were up. They took my blood pressure again and again, and it seemed to follow the same pattern. One good reading, one not so good. My blood results came back. All normal. Mr B came in to visit and I cried on him again, until he had to shuffle out, all covered in snot and tears. They took my blood pressure at 1.30am, then again at 6.30am. The woman in the bed opposite was big with twins and snoring like a grumpy warthog, a noise even earplugs buried deep couldn't hope to cut out. Two new women were moved onto the ward between 2am and 4am. Sleep didn't really happen.

At 6.30am my blood pressure was pretty good, and then again at 9.15. I was sent for a scan, to check out how miserably small Lumpy was, and to see how badly my placenta was failing. The scanner swept the ultrasound over me, took a couple of measurements, and then declared that 'this baby isn't small at all.' The growth was completely normal. Bang on for 38 weeks in every way. Blood flow through the umbilical cord was also normal. All was well. I could have hugged her. I got strapped to another machine that went 'beep' and told to press a button every time Lumpy moved. Now, he likes wiggling as much as any other baby, but this time he really outdid himself. I was on that machine for 13 minutes and he moved 46 times. Maybe it was sending little electric shocks to really get him going? Who knows?

The doctors were due to do their rounds at 2.30pm, and I started to vaguely let myself hope that they might, just might, discharge me. My wee sample that morning had shown no protein whatsoever. I started to fixate on my next blood pressure reading, convinced that if it could be okay, they'd let me go, but also convinced that I was building it up so much, it was sure to be high, and they would strap me to the bed once more. The nurse came round. I took several very deep breaths. In and out. In and out. In and...


Good enough, surely.

The consultant came to talk to the warthog... sorry, woman, opposite, and told her she was being discharged. Then she said the same thing to the person next to me. And then.... nothing.

They weren't coming to see me. I wasn't going to be discharged. I was going to be forgotten, and left here forever. And I'd almost filled my second jug of wee! What was I going to do?!

And then, finally, they came to me, and she said those magic words. We're letting you out. The initial urine sample had been tested, and, actually, the protein was normal, nothing to worry about. My blood pressure had stabilized, and everything else was fine. She was still cautious, and wouldn't want me to go too far over my due date, but she was happy to book me in for an appointment on July 1st and see what happened in the meantime. I was free to go.

I thanked her profusely and struggled not to start weeping again. Then I held up my five litres of wee and asked her what she wanted to do with them. I have rarely been so proud of myself.

And freedom has never tasted as sweet as when I walked out of those hospital doors.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Natal Hippy-no-therapy

Like a lot of women, I was fairly petrified of giving birth. I'd heard all the stories, all the catchphrases which seemed to have been invented especially to scare the bejesus out of anyone who would ever consider attempting to pass a baby out of their body. Worse pain than you have ever experienced or can even begin to imagine. Tears, episiotomies, haemorrhaging, howling, weeping of biblical proportions. Oh, and the pain? Did we mention that already? Pain. Pain pain pain. PAIIIIIIIIN.
So, yeah. About 5 or 6 months into this pregnancy I realized that I waas actually going to have to give birth to this baby at some point. Now, Despite the hysterical rantings in the last paragraph, I'm actually not that much of a wimp. I can generally handle pain, and think I have a fairly high threshold. I've done a lot of competitive sport in the past, have hit the wall, and felt the burn, and pushed myself to the point of projectile vomiting more times than I particularly care to remember. And I've had injuries, operations, illnesses, and have lived through them, just about. But still. I had never attempted to pass a bowling ball through my lady hole before. And, hey, wasn't this pain different? Worse then any other? Unimaginable, even? How was I supposed to prepare for that?
At best I saw it as the ultimate physical challenge. My chance to prove just how hard I was. If I could get through it without an epidural, a ceasarean, or dying, I would have won. Otherwise, I would have failed. Failed at birth.
You see, I'm a bit of a twat, at times. An extremely competitive twat. The fact that I'm fit, strong, and can take pain are all closely tied to my self image. So I started to steel myself for this, the ultimate physical trial.
But I was still petrified. Petrified to the point where I secretly hoped something would happen to mean I needed a ceasarean, so that I wouldn't have to face the pain. So I wouldn't have to be responsible for failing.
And all this time, a little voice in my head kept going on about how weird this all seemed. Why were women designed so badly, that this supposedly natural thing, the way we all had to come into the world, was the cause of such pain, horror, and fear. We couldn't really all be suffering the curse of Eve, surely? Just because that silly tart couldn't resist a nibble on a juicy apple, every child that was to be born was doomed to cause his mother unthinkable pain? It made no sense.
And so I went onto Amazon, and tried to find a book to teach me how to do it. I like books. I like knowledge. And I realized I didn't actually know all that much about giving birth, so happy had I been to buy in to all of the horror stories. I don't know whether I really thought I'd find the solution, but I figured it was worth a try.
The first book I found was , I would later discover, a classic. Grantly Dick-Read's Childbirth Without Fear. Linked to it, I came across Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. Despite the positive reviews, I was still sceptical. But it was my birthday coming up, so I added them to my list of demands.
I sent my sister this list, slightly bashfully, it should be said. My sister is a pretty no nonsense character, about as unhippyish as it is possible to be without veering into active fascism. But to my surprise, instead of derision, she responded to the birth books with huge enthusiasm. A friend of hers at a previous workplace had done hynobirthing workshops before having her baby, and had had an amazing experience, needing no pain relief, and even enjoying the birth.
Enjoying the birth? Was this witchcraft?
Just hearing that an actual, real woman had got through birth without pain and horror was enough to pique my interest. And I remembered that actually, my strident sister had given up smoking by attending a hypnotherapy course. She hadn't wanted to go (hadn't wanted to give up smoking at all, if truth be told), but her then boyfriend had paid for her, so she'd thought why not? She'd maintained her skepticism throughout the course, and in particular during the actual 'hypnotism' bit. But she walked out of that course and never smoked a cigarette again. Maybe there really was something in it.
So I turned to the Internet. And on one of the baby web boards, hidden amongst the stories of horrible births and hideous complications, I found a mention of Natal Hypnotherapy, the UK version of hypnobirthing. A few searches further and I found they ran courses.
I raised the issue with Mr Badger, expecting derision at such a silly, hippyish, yoghurt-knitting type of suggestion. But no. Once again, my expectations of my nearest and dearest were pessimistically wide of the mark. He was enthusiastic, revealing that he'd actually been interested in hypnotherapy for a long time (stemming from its links with sport's psychology, and his many years coaching rowing). Neither of us expected miracles, but we were prepared to give it a go. We booked in to a class.
And to cut a long story short (TOO LATE!), I'm really very, very glad we did. Okay, I still haven't had this baby yet, and who knows what that experience will be, and how far I'll be able to put what I've learned into practice. But the last few months have been so much calmer and happier than I thought they could be. I actually feel positive about the birth. I don't imagine it'll be easy, I don't claim I won't feel any pain, or even go through moments where I think I can't cope. I may still end up having an epidural, or a caesarean. Who knows? But I don't see it as a horrifying gore-fest that I somehow have to try to survive. It makes sense now. I believe that women aren't actually fatally flawed and badly designed. I understand that the fear of birth is the problem, not the birth itself.
I'm not scared any more.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hello the Interwebs

So. A blog. After years of procrastination, here it is.

Hopefully it will make me do some writing. In the past, I've done quite a bit of that, but have got tied up and lazy recently. I haven't kept a diary since my teens (and hopefully this won't turn out to be anything like that hideously cringeworthy document), but it would be good to have a place to record stuff. Incidents. Anecdotes. Massive life-changing events.

And why now?

Well, I'm due to pop a sprog in a little under three weeks (due date 30th June). Really, I should have started this about 8 months ago, when I peed on a stick wondering where my missing-in-action period had got to. But a combination of superstition, laziness, and the mania of baby preparation has delayed it till now. But here we are. A blog, and a first post. I shall try to post as often, and as entertainingly, as I can. Maybe one day Lumpy (as we've nicknamed the wiggly tummy-dwelling one) will get to read this and be hideously embarrassed. In which case, my work here will be done.