Thursday, 31 December 2009

Party Like It's 2009!

Par-tay! Yup, that what Chris and I are doing this New Year’s Eve 2009. Scene of the crime: our living room. Life and soul of the party: Chris post a half day in the office, big blooming me, Rico the cat purring and bump kicking....along with board games, a yummy Mexican dinner and some bubbly. A random mix for a random lady.

Yes, it is the close of 2009 and yes, our celebrations fall nicely in line with our imminent life chapter where New Year’s celebrations are likely to be toned down at notch or two. In all honesty, I’m one of those who sees New Year’s fiestas as often over-rated and overly expensive. I think even our local pub has a cover charge. Whenever too much expectation is placed on one night it often doesn’t live up in reality. Some of our best New Year celebrations have been at home with friends, something that shouldn’t be too tough to integrate babies into.

I started 2009 with my usual “Goals for 20xx” list. I think I had about 20 items on my list. You know I tend to go overboard with the damn lists. Well, I’m not going to bore you with the details of my to do’s aside from to say on the whole, it’s been a pretty productive and life changing year. We have our little lady on the way and I began writing again, a latent passion that I’m pleased has been galvanized by this new pregnancy/parenting phase of my life. Ticking those two items off gives me great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

As two become three, (or four counting little Rico), 2010 promises to be all the more life changing, exciting, challenging and hopefully productive. I feel I have so much more to learn and that I want to achieve in this new life chapter that I better keep my 2010 Goals List short and sweet or it may run a million miles long.
Three major things I’d like to achieve are:
  • Have our baby! This is on the cards, and although women may be built as baby making machines, to actually do the deed will be my biggest feat to date. I hope we are able to have our home birth as planned, but ultimately all we want is our little lady, safe and sound.
  • Find our new life balance with baby while maintaining our own independence as individuals and a couple, something of a life ethos for Chris and me and a running theme through my blog and soon to be website. 
  • Launch my new website, which will feature my blog (a journey of my transition to parenthood and chronicle of pregnancy and parenting advice/news/etc from both sides of the pond), a sharp & topical weekly advice bulletin from other pregnant and parent writers (an expansion of mama chat) with real advice to share and a forum for my freelance parenting writing projects. This launch is on the cards for January 2010 once I overcome a few technology hurdles so watch this space! Parent blogging is such a hot commodity on both sides of the pond that my mission often seems daunting but I’m dedicated and hope you enjoy the read. Three social networks I’ve recently joined but can tell will prove invaluable to my blogging journey are the British Mummy Bloggers, Mom Bloggers Club and My Best Birth, where there are countless impressive, creative and real mama bloggers that generously share wisdoms and knowledge about their lives, their birth experience and making headway in the black hole of parent blogging. If you are also an aspiring mama blogger definitely check them out.
Now I better re-join Chris in the living room after this frenzied "close of 09" post! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

My Hectic Chill

Are most women swimming at the gym at nearly 39 weeks pregnant? Are most still plodding away, slow but steady, on the cross trainer or taking power walks on the beach? Do many subject themselves to one last pre-baby retail therapy session involving Ikea, John Lewis, Sainsburys and horrendous traffic in torrential rain during half term in the week after Christmas? Maybe so….I expect more often not….but I am not most pregnant women but just little old active me and this is my hectic chill in the run up to my “last” week of pregnancy. Hear me roar!

If you’re shaking your head and thinking I should slow down, I don’t feel like I’m wearing myself into the ground. Plus, I just had a lot of rejuvenating down time with family over Christmas. If you’re of the similar “I can’t sit at home alone all day, especially when everyone is telling me make the most of my last week pre-baby before my life changes forever” then you may have a sympathetic hug to offer.

Since going on maternity leave I’ve made time to put my feet up in front of day-time TV but there is only so much Come Dine With Me that a person can take. I can’t stand Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women is just not my thing.  I expect it's a whole different ball game when you have other little ones to tend to, but I don't and it has been an adjustment not to get up for work each morning when the daily grind was all I knew.

I’ve done nesting. Maybe I’m still nesting. Chris says I’m always cleaning at the best of times, and I’ve tidied the house, washed the baby clothes, cleaned out cabinets, rearranged drawers. But there is only so much nesting I can do before I go stir crazy and need to get out of the house. Plus, with all this rain and mud what’s the point of mopping a floor as clean as a dinner plate only to have some inevitable muck tracked in next time someone emerges from outside, even if they do take their shoes off? Plus, I keep hearing once the baby comes I’ll have no time to clean my house so why set an extra anally high bar of cleanliness now?

Don't get me wrong.  I'm thankful for the time I've had to get organized for our little lady.  I'm grateful to be able to lay in bed past 7am and sit down when I need to.  But I'm still, in the words of Chris and in my usual on-the-go style, actively moving and using. Swimming and shopping; walking and errand running; reading and Internet browsing; preventing my days alone from dragging or my mind from idling over “Is she coming, is this it?” through this home stretch of pregnancy.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Mama Chat Volume 2 - A Dish on Parenting from Real Moms

First, week 38 pictures:


In the holiday spirit of giving, lovely moms EW from the USA and LG from the UK have agreed to share more parenting wisdoms with you and me.

As usual, some of these tips may be your cup of tea and some may not, but I’m certainly grateful for the ideas and insights.

If you are an experienced mama willing to be contacted for future mama chat installments, please leave a comment on this post and I’ll be in touch.

Today’s hot topic: Early Day Parenting Advice

What’s the best advice you can give new moms for their early days with baby, as well as something you wish you had been told before becoming a mom?

EW in the USA:

Early day advice:
  • Take as many pictures of every inch of that sweet baby girl because she will grow daily and change daily! Get everything-each toe, wrinkle, hairline, etc! You won't believe how quick it all changes and the development continues.
  • Sleep when the baby sleep or else you'll run yourself in the ground! Put a note on the front door that says you're sleeping/nursing and to leave a message! You'll be high on adrenaline for a few days but then it catches up with you.
Something I wish I had been told:
  • Girls also like to pee in the fresh air! I thought that was just a boy thing-hence the invention of the peepee teepee! I can't believe how many diapers I go through-you barely get one on and then there's a blow out! Little babies can burp and pass wind like the best truckers!
LG in the UK:

Early day advice:
  • Try and keep visitors to a minimum and ask everyone to call or text before arriving. Someone told me they kept their dressing gown by the front door and put it on before they answered it, if it was someone they didn't want to see or were too tired to entertain they would just pretend to have been asleep and ask them to come back later!
  • If you feel like crying, cry! Don't think it means you're not coping, your body has just been through a massive change and your hormones are all over the place so let those emotions out!
  • Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions about anything and everything, again it doesn't mean you're not coping or are a rubbish mum. I found it so helpful to speak to other mums who knew exactly how I was feeling and it was reassuring to know that they all felt as clueless as I did!!
  • If you end up having stitches then my mum gave me some great advice which was to have a quick bath in the morning and before bed, this really helped to soothe the pain and they healed pretty quickly!
  • Once you are discharged from midewife care (usually around day 10) they take your pregnancy notes with them and you can't see them again unless you request them from your GP and you have to pay for this privilege! It’s a good idea to photocopy them - a lot of mums have enjoyed reading their labour notes 6 months down the line as it gives them a whole new perspective on the whole event!
Something I wish I had been told:
  • Don't think that you are supposed to know what to do just because your the baby's mum! I found it very frustrating that some midwives/health visitors could make mum's feel guilty that they weren't sure about what to do with their baby and made them feel like a failure! One of the most empowering moments for me was realising that I didn't always have to know what to do. As long as she was loved, fed and washed that was all that mattered!
  • Don't put too much pressure on yourselves with regards to going out, and if you are brave enough to have a family trip out then I would add an hour to any planned meeting time. Although going out can seem like the scariest thing ever it is good to go out even if it is for a 5 min walk! Once you are out everything won't seem as scary and you will finally start to believe, maybe life will get easier!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Lights, Christmas Lights

Merry Christmas to all plus a day – Happy Boxing Day to those in the UK!

My sister and I always loved spotting all the Christmas lights decorating houses through December. During car trips, we’d turn eagle eyes out our respective windows and shout “Christmas lights, Christmas lights” every time we saw a display.

It’s a shame my attention to lights has diminished with my years....while I still love my Christmas lights, now I struggle to notice things like my car headlights, which I left on during a rainy December 23, draining our car battery and leaving us with a dead car on Christmas Eve – not good news when we were due to drive to the South of England for festivities with Chris’ family. Can I blame poor careless observation on the pregnancy hormones?

Our jump leads were locked in our trunk, which won’t unlock since it’s linked to the car electrical system. With a rising irrational hysteria in my gut, I called Chris at work and left a message for him to call me back urgently. He did, thinking I was in labor. I realized I need to be more careful about the type of messages I leave. He suggested I ask around for jump leads before we called our breakdown service.

So I pulled myself together, wiped my tear stained face and took to our streets in search of a motorist who might have jump leads. Where we live we have on-street parking and our car was parked halfway around the block from our house. I made a few sheepish approaches to people leaving our local shop and/or getting into their parked cars with no joy. I finally knocked on the house in front of my car where I was saved by a kind man with three young children! In little time he had his car connected to ours and soon I had a charged battery and drivable car. He and his wife were extremely friendly and kind; in an area where many of our neighbours look the other direction when we try to say hello, this was a real treat. They exemplified the giving spirit of Christmas. I need to write them a thank you note.

We made it to Dorset for a chilled, family Christmas full of festivity, food, fun and games. Bump has been treated to numerous sweet treats and I feel relaxed. I needed that after the emotional headlight fiasco. In fact, I think this past week I’ve been set off by lots of random little things: a touching TV show, random apprehension as to how I’ll handle parenthood, when I dropped my Christmas mug on the floor and it shattered. I tell myself I’m not cracking up and it’s just that her due date is around the corner and it's normal for me to be a little bit of a hormonal headcase. Right?

But a change of scene and change of pace has proved invigorating, for now I sit, calm, cool and collected. On Christmas I hit the 38 week mark and the little lady should now clock in at about 19.5 inches, the length of a leek, and 7 pounds. After all I’ve been eating, maybe she’s a bit heavier....whoops! She’s been very active and feels like she’s dropping in my pelvis. The whole region feels a bit tender. Good signs.

All we really want this Christmas, this New Year, is our baby, healthy and happy. I’ll keep you posted – not long to go now. For the moment, I’m sitting back and enjoying the bright and brilliant Christmas lights.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

"Secret Report" Leads to Axing of Home Birth Group

The home birth may be slowly growing in popularity and availability here in the UK, yet it's still considered risky taboo for many and scare stories like this highlighted by The Times don't help its case.

The Albany practice, an independent South London midwifery group specializing in home births has had its contract terminated by the NHS because of a confidential report suggesting it had ten times the normal rate of babies born with serious complications like brain damage.

Yet experts, Albany advocates and government figures alike have raised concerns over the confidentiality of this inquiry and why it was not carried out in conjunction with the Care Quality Commission, the health regulator.

King’s College Hospital commissioned this report and claims that its findings do not equate with an anti home birth stance but rather the need for closer monitoring of midwifery services. Yet details of the "serious shortcomings" identified and comparative assessment of birth rates between Albany and other midwifery practices are glaringly absent, and create a transparency gap that undermines the very nature of the report's findings.

It's crucial that NHS and contracted home birth midwives follow strict due diligence and safety protocols. When they do, it's been shown the home birth can be a fantastic experience. Shortcomings should be identified and rooted out, however the key here is identification and transparency. Axing a leading midwifery service over ambiguous failures only serves to scare and rile up the masses.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

My Cervix the Trampoline

Dear sweet Baby Stevens, my cervix is not a trampoline. But you don’t see it that way I suspect….

Zing! There goes another shooting pain, one of Cupid’s good old arrows, down below! This has become an almost daily occurrence, particularly when I’m active. I tried to explain to the little lady that it’s fine for her to settle down in my pelvis rather than bouncing down there like a gymnast but she’s having none of it. As she continues to fill out, her acrobatic maneuvers have become limited so I guess she's enjoying this little “move” while she can.

I’m actually happy for the zings because with each one, I know she is gradually settling in my pelvis or at least preparing my body for this imminent pre-birth event - and that’s a good sign at my stage of pregnancy. Still, I had to ask myself if my secret want of a trampoline while growing up despite the many things generously given to me by my parents has now come back to bite me.  Be careful what you wish for!!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Feet Up, Stocking Up


Chris and I are, dare I say it, prepared for Christmas. We decorated our house a few weeks ago, attempted some paper snowflakes (below, our first attempt), hung a home-made wreath on our door (this one we didn’t make but it’s the kind of one I want to try), sorted out our present purchases and mailed off all our cards. Woohoo! Now we have some time to mull wine (Chris loves doing that), put our feet up and listen to The Gift CD, one of our Christmas favorites. It’s our last Christmas without a little one so we better make the most of it!



My other mission of late is stocking up – not on Christmas candy and cakes (though I had to buy some of those too) but on food in my freezer for when the little lady arrives. Pregnant Mama E suggested this to me some time back, and I’ve since heard others say how useful the cook-freeze-stock plan of action proves if you have time to do the cooking in the first place. This weekend I made meatballs, lasagna and some veggie chili for temporary hibernation in our freezer. If anyone has any other ideas on easy to prepare and freeze dishes, I’m all ears! I’m anticipating a the first few weeks I won’t have so much time for cooking so hopefully this stock will provide a well needed head start – we do still need to eat, after all!

Here I am post-cooking - I don't think the sitting down angle is working for me but I no longer have any shame when it comes to these photos!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Birth Plan, Check! Supple Perineum, Eeek!

My birth plan is complete! In homage to my love of lists, it’s in bullet point fashion and conveys my preferences for labor and birth while miraculously staying short and sweet. Not that I’m ever prone to loquaciousness – ha! I’m pleased it’s now sorted and not hanging over my head and tempting my tendency for doing things at the last minute. Now we’ll just need to see how this “plan” plays out in reality.

Never one to chill out entirely, I’m on to my next “to do” for this stage of late pregnancy: perineal massage. If you’re unfamiliar with the perineum, Wordnetweb defines it as “the general region between the anus and the genital organs,” i.e. the sensitive zone that bears the brunt of delivery and is prone to tearing as baby makes her entrance into the world.

Ever wondered how babies will fit out of THERE? We know they do, but they often leave their mark on the region via an episiotomy (medical cut) or natural tear to the perineum, particularly common in first timers.

Think of you perineum as a piece of tight elastic that gradually needs to stretch to accommodate a baby’s head....or perhaps as a piece of pastry that needs to be moulded and “softened” so it has give over a larger surface area. Yup, that’s what I need to do to increase the elasticity of my trusty perineum. 

BabyWorld gives an easy to follow overview and how to on perineal massage. In brief, dress clean fingers with some natural oil, slide them 2-3cm into your lower vagina and stretch/massage downwards and outwards.  It’s suggested that you start around 36 weeks pregnant and that the practice will familiarize you with the pressure, stretching and burning sensations that you may experience during birth, making you more relaxed in the moment. Perineal massage stimulates blood flow to the region, increasing its elasticity and speeding the post birth healing process.

The manoeuvre does not look sexy or feel comfortable and that’s before I consider that I’m navigating around a bump as lofty as a stalk of Swiss chard that weighs about 6 1/3 pounds.  And my arms are short!

In the end, all my efforts may be in vain. It’s not proven that perineal massage will prevent tearing. But you know what? I’ve heard tales aplenty of the crowning “ring of fire” and tears of various degrees and if I can learn to work with the burn and lessen my chances of tearing or needing an episiotomy, I’m up for some non-graceful dabbles with olive oil in my nether regions.

For those interested in water birth, check out this ultimate water birth.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho, Not Long to Go....



With Christmas only a week away and my due date only three, I’m buzzing on a nonalcoholic cocktail of festive spirit, hormones and excitement. I will forever be a sucker for the magic that is Christmas - a time to connect with and give something back to those that you love, heaped in our own special traditions. This year I’m thinking ahead to future Christmas’ with our little lady alongside considering ways to bring the festive season back to basics without breaking my bank. From Christmas dos to food stocking to present shopping, this time of year courts spending sprees that I just can’t afford as a lady of leisure on maternity pay, i.e. a tight budget.

In addition to my credit crunch busting/festivity bursting suggestions from last year, I have some fresh ideas on how to stay jolly on a budget this Christmas, partly inspired by my soon-to-be mommy status:
  • Brush up on your Christmas Carols: Even if you sound like a dying cat (like I do), singing some Christmassy tunes should bring a smile to your face when you think of how you’ll soon be teaching the words to your little ones…Jingles Bells and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer never seemed so appealing
  • Go Martha Stewart and create DIY snowflakes and wreaths: These projects will cost you next to nothing, are green, festive and not too complex for little ones to help with. I’ll have some time before our little lady can lend a hand, but I need the practice. Stay green and cut snowflakes from paper from your recycling bin. Compost the green odds and ends you don’t use for your wreath. For a ton more Christmas crafty links, check out One Pretty Thing.
  • Recycle your old Christmas cards for gift tags: Garish gift tags can sell for highway robbery and they’re just one more thing to buy – why not cut out the fronts of your Christmas cards post holiday and save them as your gift tags for the next year?
  • When you’re shopping, shop smart: Sort your coupons, shop online through a cash back scheme like KidStart that allows you to save for your child’s future, join Parenting Clubs to cash in on holiday offers, shop second hand via Ebay, Nappy Valley and in charity shops, shop around…
  • Introduce Secret Santa: If present shopping for extended family or a group of friends is getting too pricey, put everyone’s name in a hat and draw names for the one person you will buy for. Set a reasonable price limit and enjoy major savings.
  • Fruit Cake Doesn’t Have to be Taboo: If you want to give a little back to someone that has been particularly helpful this year, don’t reach for your cash or your plastic. Perfect a holiday Christmas recipe and Voila!, you have a tasty, easy gift that can be made in batches. My mom makes apple raisin bread that has been receiving compliments for years. I used to help her with it as a child and now am making it myself today. Start the kids in the kitchen early I say!
  • Invite friends over for a pot luck supper: I hear I won't have time to cook let alone shower during my early days with a newborn.  Even with young kids, putting together a dinner party sounds like it could be stressful.  Why not mix dinner parties up with pot luck meals where friends bring their own festive dishes.  You provide the venue, guests provide the culinary mix.  Result = fun night for all that doesn't require a hefty supermarket bill.
  • Little one on the way?  Make sure you are aware of all the government "gifts" you are entitled to: I've previously posted about benefits for parents but a good overview those available in the UK can be found on Payments for Parents.
  • Make decorating your tree a family tradition: Chris and I were really excited to put on Christmas CD, string our lights and adorn our 4 ft glory. We try to get one new ornament each year and keep track of where it’s from/why it’s special to us. Our trees tell a growing story over the years that we will share with and add to with our little one. It makes for quality family time and stirs up some great memories.

Though I’m hoping to keep our bun in the oven until 2010, the prospect of Christmas as a parent gives me a thrill and I’m struck by the responsibility we’ll have to create a jolly caroling, cookie eating, spirit of giving magic for our little lady that she can carry with her for always. I believed in Santa until later than I’d like to admit. I sang Christmas carols in my shrill little voice in medley formation with the gusto of Diana Ross (as my dad kindly reminds me through an audio clip – evidence – that I can’t hide even if I’d like to). I understand that Christmas is a time to give back to those I care about, not just receive, and that this can be done largely through custom, creativity and without buying up the high street.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

UK Swine Flu Vaccine Update

Though I’ve decided not to get the swine flu vaccine while pregnant, a posting on my NCT area bulletin board recently suggested that those considering vaccination while pregnant or for their under 5s look into the Celvapan (by Baxter) vaccination rather than the more common Pandemrix jab (by GSK). Apparently Celvapan has neither thimerosal (preservative) nor squalene (an adjuvant) as opposed to Pandemrix.  Its also pricier and less readily available in the UK so the best way to be considered for it is to claim a family or personal history or egg allergy. Even if you’re not up for telling this little white lie, this is something to consider/ask your GP about if you are considering the vaccination.

At the end of November Sky News confirmed that this Celvapan is now an “available” option for pregnant women though supply is limited. NHS Direct now has more detailed information about Celvapan available.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Birth Plan – Oxymoron, Wish List, My Voice….All of the above?

I need to write my birth plan. But how does one “plan” for birth, the inevitable but uncontrollable event that marks the end of pregnancy?

I’ve had contractions described to me, but I don’t really know how they’ll feel and how I’ll cope with them. I’ve heard of women who want a natural birth with candles and massage for pain relief but decide to go full throttle on medical intervention when push comes to shove. I’ve heard that you need to be prepared and informed, but flexible, and that your “plan” can’t be set in stone. I’ve heard a lot of things.

It feels a little strange to put pen to paper when something as intimate as birth is the subject. Will what I write seem pedantic….or perhaps just plain mundane?

But I need to get over that. Although I know my birth plan may not go as planned, it’s my way of playing an active role in my birth and letting the midwives know Chris and my preferences, our birth wish list of sorts. At my NCT ante-natal class they suggested that where you have your baby and who you want at your birth are the two most important decisions that you can make. I know we are going to try for a home birth, and that Chris is my birthing partner, so hard job done.

So what do I know/hope for?

I know I want to try for as natural a labor as possible, full of upright positions, yoga breathing and as little intervention as possible. If I do opt for more assistance in the moment, I have ideas on what I’d like offered to me and how I’d like it discussed. I know I want skin to skin contact with baby as soon as she is born. And that I’m fine with the Vitamin K injection, but want to try for a natural third stage. Chris hopes to cut the cord. Unless I plan on having a cozy chat about this while in the throes of contractions, my birth plan along with Chris will be my voice.

Here’s a useful birth plan from the Boots Parenting Club. It’s short and sweet but provides a good outline of things to consider. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Tic Toc, Power Kicks & Bump2Bump

At 36 weeks pregnant, impending mommy-hood is affecting me in many ways. At the end of last week I found myself prune faced with disturbance on the gym cross trainer. The source of my distaste: Kesha’s Tic Toc video, a catchy upbeat, good for a gym workout tune that happens to feature a teenage girl dressed coquettishly, gyrating for boys and singing lyrics like “Tic toc, make it pop, DJ blow my speakers up” and “Boys trying to touch my junk.” 

Eeek – is this what could become of our daughter if we’re not too careful? I mean kids today….everything seems to start so early…. Wait a minute. I’m sounding very parent-like all of a sudden.  I generally think of myself as pretty youthful and open-minded. I’d still maintain that I am, but with a newfound protectiveness for pretty young teens and the ill-advised signals they are likely to give off if they’re not mindful. But now I’m really getting ahead of myself.

We had a fantastic weekend with JBT & LEH full of good chat, gaming and country walks. It’s probably the last time we’ll host friends for the weekend before our little lady makes her debut and I really enjoyed it. LEH are also expecting their first in March so I’ve featured a pic here of some of LH and my bump 2 bump action! It’s nice to be taking this pregnancy trip together.


Babycenter updates me that baby is now about the weight of a Crenshaw melon. She feels that way. She is strong. Some of her kicks this weekend were so strong that they sent my hand flying off my belly. It’s really cool to feel her moving with increased power, though it can be uncomfortable at times. Maybe this is a sign we have a sporty girl in the making. Chris will be so pleased.

Apparently she should now be in the process of shedding her launugo (body hair) and vernix (waxy substance) that have been keeping her toasty and warm in the womb. I knew this was on the cards; what I didn’t realize is that babies actually swallow these substances and they are what partially forms their meconium, or first bowl movement…tasty.

Fruit Photo Credit: Babycenter.com

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Numb Hands, Warm Words

No, this blog is not migrating its focus to fingers and hands; their just hot topics during my 35th week of pregnancy...

Here is pictured my right hand, as proof that it’s not overly swollen and my ring still fits on it without issue. Still, my hormonal body must be maintaining more fluid than normal since I’ve woke a few mornings in the last week with numb, pins and needle-like hands. The situation is hardly dire – I’m not unable to sleep because of the tingling and it doesn’t ail me during the day – but when I wake up in the morning, I seem to have a mild bout of carpal tunnel syndrome. For those unfamiliar with this little gem, it involves swelling and compression of the main nerve in the wrist, resulting in tingly, numb hands.

Pretty common in pregnancy (Babycentre.co.uk suggests that up to 60% of pregnant ladies may experience it), particularly at night and in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, carpel tunnel syndrome often disappears once baby is born. Still, if I can kick this little plight in the ass before it gets established, I’m going to try. Taking action abated my legs cramps by stretching before bed, so fingers crossed some of these natural remedies might do the trick here.  If anyone else has experienced this and knows of any tips to share, please do!
  • Kneel on your hands and knees, leaning your body forward and stretching your wrists. We do this in pregnancy yoga so I’m going to introduce this into my bedtime routine.
  • Massage your wrist from the inside outwards when you have the opportunity. Doesn’t sound too intrusive, I can do this while reading or watching TV.
  • Sit with your hands elevated during the day. Difficult to do while going about my daily business but maybe doable on the couch?
  • Sleep propped up or with your arm on a pillow at night. I think I do this already but maybe I’ll add another pillow since I’m down to one under my head as my other one is under my leg.  I guess no one can really control their "sleep position" though....I can't at least...
  • Use a wrist splint at night or wrist rest at the computer. I don’t have either of these things; maybe I’d explore if the problem became chronic but these are useful FYIs all the same.
Ahh, the exciting ramblings of a pregnant mind.

I have to also put in a mention for the warm words I’ve been receiving from women in the street, at the gym, in the shops. “When are you due?” “Is it your first baby?” “Do you know what you’re having?” “Ohh, I hope you get through the Christmas period before the birth. I don’t mean to scare you but I was 4 weeks early with my first.”

Does being pregnant mean that all of a sudden random British people will break the silent ranks and talk to me? Great!  Maybe I should be pregnant all the time. I’m grateful for all the newfound conversation I’ve been having.

JJYM3N34TKAJ

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Butter Fingers

I have a tendency toward clumsiness at the best of times. I’ll never forget the time I floored it in front of the busy student union at college. I was wearing sneakers and essentially tripped over my own feet. Then there was the time that I dropped a glass, on a knife on the dinner table, which then shattered and cut me landing me in the emergency room for stitches. I have a poorly stitched up scar to this day as a badge of my troubled dexterity.

So every time my pregnancy updates warn that my shifting center of gravity and looser joints would only exacerbate this less desirable trait, Chris shakes his head and warns me to be careful and I silently curse under my breath. I don’t need anything else working against me in the clumsy department.

So far I’ve avoided any crash and burn spills and I am trying to “slow down” and take care in protection of my bump. But today I just had a really clumsy day. I dropped Rico’s food bowl on the floor and sent his food a flying. Then I dropped my hair brush on the dirty gym floor and had to stoop and rummage under the counter for it (more easily said than done these days). Later I banged my head on the kitchen counter on my way up from the washing machine and soon after dropped a whole role of aluminum foil, which unraveled across the kitchen floor.

By that point I was pretty frustrated, probably cursed out loud and decided I needed some time out with Rico and bump. As I sat at the kitchen table grumbling the little lady started belting me with her foot as if to say, “buck up mama, chin up, easy does it!” Yes, that’s exactly what she was saying…..in my world where babies in the womb dish out adult advice. Either that or she could feel me getting riled and wanted to fight back!

So I'm ready for bed tonight. I’m tired and looking forward to A Christmas Carol, which Chris is in the process of reading to bump. We thought we’d try to get her in the holiday spirit a la Dickens – with his wordiness and my jabbering she’ll probably come out of the womb talking!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

"Honey, do you know why I have to flip onto all fours to roll over in bed...?"

Because I have a baby the weight of a honeydew inside my uterus, which is pressing up under my ribs and weighing me down! I'm all for the all fours position when it comes to shifting from side to side in bed.

So I'm 35 weeks pregnant.......5, 4, 3, 2, 1 week to go! I spoke last week about the final countdown being imminent. I feel that countdown has arrived.

I still feel pretty good but look like a house. I'm not overly pleased with this photo but Chris will go nuts if I keep asking him to "take the perfect shot" of me....these days, there IS NO perfect shot :)


Teresa Strasser's I Said a of Things post is fantastic.....although she swore she would be a vain, primped and put together mama who didn't resort to conversations on baby poop, her little boy is now 10 weeks old and she often finds herself milk stained, un-showered and craving motherhood banter and gems of advice. I think her wakeup call is insightful.

Chris and I often discuss how we want to integrate our little lady into OUR lives. We know "she will change our lives" and "things will never be the same;" unlike Teresa, I'm certain conversations about bedtime routines and poop and Baby Sensory will soon be our reality and that in the beginning, our routines and cleanliness will probably be uprooted. Yet, simultaneously, we also want to get out of the house on walks with our little girl; we want to drink fine wine with friends and talk about Obama, the Tiger Woods scandal, the World Cup.... We can't wait to be parents and we are committed to being fine ones, but we want to make time for ourselves, each other and our interests as well as baby focused chat. We're not totally sure how this approach will play out in reality, but we hope to lay the ground for this new life balance from the start of our parenting lives....

On that note, I'm in the process of building a new website, which will soon host this blog along with some of my other parenting writing projects and featured articles from other pregnant and mum writers! This site will also embody Chris and my ethos of embracing parenthood and simultaneously keeping our own identities. Watch this space for when it goes live!

Fruit Photo Credit: Babycenter.com

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Is Labor Hereditary? Will I be late too?

Those dastardly pregnancy hormones caught me out again! Earlier this week I felt positive. Then those raging inner chemicals decided to wreak havoc on my equilibrium by bringing to the surface an occasional bad habit of mine: over-thinking. It’s like they said, “you are 34 weeks pregnant and have been calm, cool and collected for too long. You’re due for a frenzy!” 

My pregnancy newsletters and books warn that anxiousness about labor and birth, impending parenthood, finding a new life balance with baby, etc can set these hormones off and it’s totally normal. Oh good.


My hang up concerned whether I’ll be overdue with our baby like my mom was with my sister and me. Three weeks overdue to be exact. No matter that this was nearly 30 years ago and when we were ready to come out, we came out without issue. I’d heard conflicting theories on whether late labor was hereditary and I felt the need to explore this further, particularly as once you go overdue here by one week they start talking about induction, which I hope to avoid.....(This pic is of mom in labor with me!)

So I ventured onto My Best Birth and posted this query on the group forum in search of further insight.  Women responded with a mix of thoughts and experiences; some had similar labors to their moms, others didn’t; one thought labor could be linked between sisters, another found this not to be the case. Others suggested I should not compare myself to anyone else but instead relax and let nature take its course.

I came away with the impression that there is no clear rhyme or reason to the hereditary labor theory and that I needed to stop thinking, comparing, wondering and just chill out. It was just the advice I needed to snap out of my over-thinking rut. Relevantly, CD sent me this very interesting post on research she completed into the inaccuracy of estimated due dates. Her site is well worth exploring for wisdoms on getting the best out of your birth experience.

(Longstanding followers may remember I haven’t always been a fan of community forums because of the many acronyms and worrying suggestions that can come with them. While the acronyms still don’t appeal, I’ve learned to avoid scare-story posts that set off the sinister elements of my imagination in exchange for obtaining advice/opinions on topics of interest and sharing my own thoughts. I’ve since posted on a few different community forums and found the exchanges insightful, as above. So I retract that community boards are not for me – just to be used in moderation with focus so I don’t get lost on or freaked out by them!)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Pregnancy Courts Debate

Pregnancy is smitten by debate. Pregnancy is a sucker for debate. Pregnancy just can’t get enough of debate.

And that’s usually okay with me, for as pregnancy courts debate I am encouraged to think laterally and broaden my perspective. Only occasionally when the debate in question concerns copious baby retail options (i.e. what are the relative merits of baby mattress types?....gag me and fast!) or the sweeping scythe of the nanny state do I want to bang my head against a wall and renounce all deliberation as painful and/or confusing and/or insane.

Today debate was so “hot to trot” that pregnancy managed to finagle two dates. I’d like to share the details and my take:

Debate #1: A Council in Wales hands out pink badges to heavily pregnant ladies so they can bag favourable parking spaces. An online news blogger decries this as yet another policy that will be abused. 

My father-in-law brought my attention this afternoon’s BBC Radio 2 report. I can’t find anything in print on this story, so please let me know if you can. Without more information it’s hard to pass judgement, but my gut instinct is that walking an extra 50 extra feet might do a pregnant woman good. Badges like this most likely would be abused unless monitored, which I don’t see as the best use of Council resources.

Debate #2: Are Doula’s “helping hands or stepping on toes?” The BBC today reports anaesthetist Dr Abhijoy Chakladar’s view that the increasing trend of women hiring doulas (birth assistants that offer emotional support before, during labour and postnatally) is a side effect of lapses in midwifery care that often hinders clinical decisions by disturbing the relationship between the mother and medical team.
 
I beg your pardon? My understanding is that doulas offer mothers and their birthing partners emotional support and encouragement in preparation for and through birth, as well as during the early days of parenthood. Doulas are not medically trained and unlike midwives, are not responsible for the physical care of the woman through her birth. While it’s important that doulas don’t overstep this boundary (and perhaps some do), to suggest that their presence upsets the clinical side of birth wreaks of practitioner speak to me! Many women hire doulas to develop firm emotional support and coping strategies that help them approach labor as naturally as possible and don’t want a clinical birth. Doulas should not be berated for helping women participate actively in their birthing experience - having said that, should medical care be needed, it is not their place to argue with practitioners but to support their client through whatever shape the birthing experience takes.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Cupid's Arrows


Yesterday Chris and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary! This year he's got all the more to love, as you can see from my 34 week picture :) It was our last anniversary sans children and we toasted (yes, I had a small glass of red wine) that after 5 years of married life and 10 years of knowing each other that the romance is still in the air. Thank you Cupid for your love arrows in this respect.

Of course the love in the air extends to our little one in utero, though she was keen to remind us of that a la Cupid as well. "What am getting at", you ask? The sharp, arrow-like pains that I now sporadically feel shooting into my nether regions. Don't be alarmed; it's nothing bad or sinister - the opposite in fact. It's my body and baby's way of preparing/stretching/doing something to ready me for her birth. It just feels like she got Cupid on board and asked him to shoot some of his love arrows down under. Sorry, TMI, but true.  But I'm still smiling.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Baby Bargains on Black Friday

Fellow Americans know the sales/magic/madness of "Black Friday," aka the Friday after American Thanksgiving and purported busiest shopping day of the year in the USA.

Though I did host a Thanksgiving meal to an international group of six (3 Americans, 2 Brits, 1 French) yesterday, I didn't partake in the post turkey (or in our case chicken - there were no fresh turkeys in the supermarket when I went shopping on Wednesday!) retail fest. After all of yesterday's cooking and subsequent ingesting, I didn't have the strength! In fact, I felt a little ill after dinner but that's what you get when you eat "turkey," mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, string beans, Bisquick biscuits, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach with bacon, pumpkin pie and apple pie all in one sitting with the baby the size of a cantaloupe squishing your stomach and intestines into a cramped ball! But I digress....

Today I'm 34 weeks pregnant; I feel like I'm in the final countdown and that birth is on the horizon. With this reality dawning, Chris and I have been taking stock of the baby essentials that we need for when she arrives. So although there was no shopping spree for me today, the last couple of weeks have involved a flurry of buying baby items.

This buying has set my money saving instincts into motion and in honor of Black Friday bargain shopping I'd like to share them with you (these are UK specific savings but maybe the US has similar schemes....if anyone knows of any, please share!)

  • I have a Coupon Folder Thing! Call me Martha Stewart, or foolish for not doing this sooner, but I now have a little coupon case where I'm saving all baby/food/gas coupons that I receive/find and think we may use. There are tons of good offers out there if you are willing to look for them and remember to slip your coupon case into your bag before you head out to the stores!
  • I joined Sainsburys Little Ones Baby and Toddler Club. This at the suggestion of Chris' mum and LH. I wish I'd done this sooner! You get a free welcome pack from Sainsburys and a "Huggies Mum and Baby Bundle" worth £9.99, more coupons and a quarterly magazine. I'm a Sainsburys girl but other supermarkets like Tesco also have these baby clubs - if the offers are out there, join, join join!
  • I claimed my Mum-to-Be Essentials Bounty Pack. Here in the UK you get a free Pregnancy Information Pack compliments of Bounty when you "book in" as pregnant with your NHS hospital/surgery. In this pack is a week by week "Your Pregnancy" guide, which includes a coupon for the Mum-to-Be Essential pack that you can collect from select local retailers when you are 3 months + pregnant. My guide didn't have this voucher but if you join Bounty for free online you can call and request that a Mum-to-Be pack voucher be emailed or posted to you - I only just did this!
  • I shopped online via Kidstart. Join Kidstart for free and you can earn back a percentage of your purchases by shopping at a wide variety of retailers online. This cash back goes into a KiddyBank for your child, which you can then transfer into an external savings account. Why not do some Christmas shopping online and earn cash back for your kid in the process?
I'm a Coupon Queen in the making, determined to keep baby expenses at bay. Yes, I'll buy new things, nice things and not always the cheapest things. But I'll mix this with my ebay and second hand buying/borrowing and money saving schemes in an effort not to break our bank!

Fruit Photo Credit: Babycenter.com

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dads in the Delivery Room: Delightful or Disastrous?

Today the BBC brings to light French obstetrician Michel Ordent’s view that dads should NOT be in the delivery room during the birth of their children as they are likely to be more of a hindrance than a help in the birthing process. The French doc shuns the notion championed by US doctor Robert Bradley that a husband’s presence during labor provides his wife with much needed support and solidarity. He even suggests that an anxious male partner will make a women tenser and increase her likelihood of ending up with an emergency Caesarean section!

Oh ye of little faith Dr Ordent! While not all men want to be present at the birth of junior (celeb chef Gordon Ramsay for example) there are loads out there who want to actively participate in the life changing experience that is birth to the extent that they can. And although the c-section rate has risen over the last several decades, this is more likely a side effect of our increasingly litigious and medicalized society that features older moms and women who struggle with obesity.

On Babyworld, midwife Catharine Parker-Little suggests that women talk openly with their partners during pregnancy to gauge their true opinions about attending the birth - and not to lay on a guilt trip if they decline. I couldn’t agree more. Rather than make sweeping generalizations about whether men should be in delivery rooms, we need to talk it out with our guys. Do they want to be there? If so, do they want to be down “the business end?” If not, who can better offer moms support?


Chris can’t wait to be there for the birth of our daughter – look at him with Rico – he’s a natural! But since I’m one to lay things on the table, we’ve had the birthing “talk” to different degrees over the course of my pregnancy. I’ve tried to condition him to the idea that he’ll see me in pain, that we’ll both ride an emotional rollercoaster, that he may be subjected to some grim and gore like blood, poop, placenta and stitches.

Yesterday we went to our NHS Labor and Birth ante-natal class that featured a short film showing a labouring woman taking gas and air on a birthing ball. Afterwards one of the husbands admitted that the image made him feel nauseous, and that he was “going to take some quiet times to come to terms with all that labor may entail.” We shared a laugh about this, but props to that guy and his wife for preparing for birth as a unit. He might decide to attend his child’s birth, he might not, but they were in the learning together.

From our chats, Chris is on board and prepared to be my labor partner, coach, advocate and rock. He hopes to cut the cord and be as active a participant as possible, partly why we’ve opted to attempt a home birth.

Tonight we had our first couples NCT class, which also featured the first stage of labor, including the need for a woman to relax and let her oxytocin (hormone of “love” that causes uterine contractions) flow while in labor. As a birth partner, the man is instrumental to this process; if he gets in a flap, it’s likely to kick off his wife’s adrenaline, which counteracts oxytocin production and slows labor. I hope Chris is by my side throughout labor, but learning like this helps us both recognize that it depends how he feels in the moment and if he’s able to give off positive energy in the face of his own apprehensions. If it all gets too much and he needs a breather, we accept that.

So Dr Ordent, you can take your study and shove it! Whether a dad is a birth partner should be an individual choice – not a given but not ruled out either. It’s up to couples to do their research and make the best decision for them.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Not all candy is that sweet....

I love my candy, but not when it comes as a 60 lb muddy golden retriever that barks, bites and bounds at my bump with what some might call "playful affection," but what I'd rather describe as over stimulated and uncontrolled abandon.

In between the incessant sheets of rain we've been having, Chris and I took advantage of a brief sunny spell to try out our new wellies on an afternoon stroll.  The air had that earthy post-rain smell and the fields and foliage looked particularly verdant and healthy for the middle of autumn.  It's nice to see some benefits from all this rain.

Anyways, we walked, we talked, the wind whipped our hair and the scene was serene until ARRAF, BARK, YAP!  Peace shattered in the blink of an eye as a large, excited golden retriever came running at us at full speed yapping like a banshee.

I've always been more of a dog person (though now I really love my cat Rico) and I do care for animals, but Chris is clearly the bigger animal lover of us two.  He laughs at bears on TV, sees a snake and wants a closer look and has time to say hello to whatever furry friend we might run into where I don't always feel the need.

Maybe bounding dog, aka Candy, sensed my apathy and wanted to set me straight; maybe she smelled the remnants of a date and fudge cake wrapped up in my bag - but she bypassed Chris and went straight for me, lunging towards my bump with muddy paws, yapping and snapping happily and spurring me into a sit, hush, nice dog gig as I tried to avoid her leaps.  "Chris, help me, she's going to pounce on the baby," I half grimaced through clenched teeth,  trying simultaneously to smile at this over-energized dog and acknowledge her owners, now approaching at a relaxed ramble and offering gentle scolds to their runaway pooch. 

It was a beautiful afternoon to walk a dog and let her run off her leash.  I know animals can have minds of their own and get a little over stimulated, but just like I'll be expected to pay attention to and reign in my daughter if she's causing havoc, these people could have done a little bit more to soothe and control their dog!  I don't care about the mud on my coat.  I care slightly more that she almost dislocated my ring finger when her barking mouth got a little too close to my flapping hand.  But most of all - I'm pregnant - I look pregnant - and it irritated me that Candy's owners didn't crank up their efforts to get their freaking dog off bump and me!

Maybe I sound uncaring and mean.  Maybe I sound like I don't like animals.  I do, I really do.  But come on people, if your pet is a little hyper, don't just assume that everyone is going to be as tolerant as you.  I'm not saying don't let her run free, but make sure you monitor her and make a genuine effort to deter her/remove her from the pregnant woman, or any person, that she may be bundling.  Isn't that just common courtesy?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pineapple Anyone?!


Oh wait, sorry, you can't have any pineapple because it's in my belly or rather, my uterus.  That's right folks, this week our hefty little one should be weighing in at just over 4 lbs and is about the size of a pineapple.  My spirits raised that my 33 week fruit comparison is one that I enjoy so much; then they dipped a bit when I started picturing myself birthing something the size of a pineapple - and I still have 7 weeks to go if I'm on time!

Here's my 33 week photo - as you can see, bump is blooming more than ever.  I'm experiencing a lot of movement right below breast level.  These must be kicks since she is now in a cephalic, or head down, position according to my midwife at my appointment this afternoon.  This is the preferred position for birth so let's hope that she chills out and stays that way so she can engage in my pelvis with greater ease over the coming weeks.  Fortunately the more she fattens out, the harder it will be for her to shift.

I witnessed an example of how this "pelvic engagement" works at my first NCT ante-natal class this morning a la doll in sample pelvis so this is fresh in my mind as I write.  There are six other girls in my class and I can tell already that I'm going to enjoy them - even though I knew I was not the only one with a million questions, it is comforting, fun and supportive to chat with others at a similar stage of pregnancy in our area.  This morning was women only session and everyone was lovely; next week we have our second meeting and the guys come on board!  Classes like this and more intimate/grim pregnancy chat come a bit more naturally to women in my opinion so it will be interesting to see how all the men fare!  Hopefully Chris will not have the urge to laugh like he did at our home birth talk.

My missions for progress this coming week - start to wash her clothes in non-biological powder for sensitive baby skin (I only just learned that you are not supposed to use biological powder to start with) and pack them away in our newly acquired baby drawer unit and secondly to stop bumping into things.  I'm used to be able to squeeze through tight spaces and I just can't do it anymore without jostling someone or something with my bump!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mama Chat - A Dish on Parenting from Real Moms

Tonight I'm introducing a new feature - Mama Chat - to this blog.  I keep saying that knowledge is power, and throughout my pregnancy I've enjoyed gathering advice and ideas from other pregnant girls and real moms.  Mama Chat will bring these gems of wisdom to you, directly as told from the real mamas who know the drill.

Some of this advice may ring true with your actual or imagined parenting style and ethos and some of it won't.  I'm sharing these wise words not because they are the right way to parent  but because they are interesting insights and practical solutions that have worked for others and may do so for you.  As you know, I'm a glutton for food for thought.

Tonight's insights come from two fine mamas of one wonderful little girl each, LG & EW.  LG lives in the UK and EW in the USA.   Thanks for your input ladies!!

This is what they had to say in response to a mix of questions (in bold) from me on baby changing:
LG: We never bothered with a top and tail bowl as, personally, I think they are a complete waste of time. I just bought 2 small plastic bowls and these worked perfectly. I did put a F for face on one and B for Bum on the other just to be sure we kept as hygienic as possible.
  • Do newborns need to be bathed or just wiped down in order to get clean?
LG: For the first 6-8 weeks we only bathed her twice a week, in the early days they don't recommend bathing every night as their skin is so sensitive. It's advised that you only use water and although its tempting to use some soap, it can irritate their skin.
  • Changing - Chris thinks I'm nuts for thinking about this one....cotton wool and water or wipes?  If cotton wool, which type (balls, pads, big pleat that you can rip pieces off of....)?
LG: We used cotton wool and water for the first 4 weeks, as again, all the midwives and health visitors advise that baby wipes (even the un-perfumed ones) aren't suitable for newborn skin. However, as you will find you can never get their bottom's really clean when you are only using water, so that is why after a month we moved on to the Pampers sensitive wipes. I would recommend using the cotton wool that you can pull off as then you can use as much or as little as is required.  My sister also recommended buying some cheap flannels (Ikea do a pack of 10 for about £1.50) and these were handy for using if she decided to pee while i changed her and for the poops that end up halfway up their backs - they did make the whole cleaning up process much easier!
  • I've looked into re-usable diapers in the interest of being green but they look like hard work and like they require a lot of laundering.  What's your take on this?
EW: As "green" as I wanted to be after giving birth...the reality is that the first couple of months are hard to accomplish this.  I wasn't interested in wipes or disposable diapers but thought I'd have a starter set around for the beginning until we worked out our system.  With the timing, schedule and lack of hands during the day....we've stuck with these for the time being.  Laundry is hard to do every day so if you're going to do cloth....you might want to look into a diaper service for washing for the first few months until you can leave baby alone or get longer naps in where you can do laundry.  

I have the starter set for g-diapers which are just the coolest thing ever!  We use them occasionally during the day when I'm home.  Our goals have shifted to just "surviving" with the disposable stuff until it's easier to set her down to deal with the eco-friendly products.  Since you're out of hands & the g-diaper is a flushable layer, it's hard to do one-handed! Also...there are some disposable diapers that vanish quicker in landfills than normal diapers too....those might be of interest for the beginning too.

  • Dirty Diapers - did you get a little box for them? I don't want to put them in my kitchen garbage and have them smell it up and my bathroom one is tiny!
LG: We managed without a box but only because we could put all the dirty nappies straight into the dustbin, you definitely don't want them smelling out the house. We also used the scented bags and they seemed to work pretty well. You may have come across 'nappy angels' in your research, these are basically a nappy disposal system which works by sealing each nappy in its own bag inside a plastic container, most of them hold up to 20 nappies (probably 2-3 days worth in the first few weeks) and helps to avoid endless trips to the bin. I know various people who have these bins and they have all found them really useful. I think I remember getting a voucher for a discounted 'nappy angel' in my bounty pack but forgetting to redeem it in time, so it may be worth seeing if you got one in your pack.

Monday, 16 November 2009

It's Raining Baby...

Yes, it's been raining baby - baby quizzes, bunt cakes, homemade cupcakes that look like Magnolia Bakery professional creations, advice cards, grandma's meatballs, pin the pacifier challenges, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fine family & friends, wise words........so naturally, I had to take a shower. A Baby Shower. That's what dear N&J organized for me this weekend, and I had a blast!

Thanks guys, and to and everyone that came out to celebrate and talk babies. I'm lucky to have such awesome family and friends on both sides of the pond that have showered me in such fine baby glory.

I didn't think I'd have Baby Shower in the UK since it's more of an American tradition. Though the trend may be starting to take root, it's not firmly established. Fellow American UK residents, N&J suggested we bring our custom to London and they put together a fabulous afternoon for baby and me that mixed traditional US-style baby games with UK-style afternoon tea at my house and lots of baby chat and amusing, comforting words.

Following my brick wall moment of madness last week, this little party had the big effect of firmly pulling me out of my vortex of "what ifs and how’s for when baby arrives" and reminding me that I'm soon due for an amazing, challenging and exciting adventure that should be enjoyed and celebrated. Yes, it will be tough. Yes, we have a lot to learn but we're up for the learning curve and on the right track. Plus, we have a great support network and for that I'm really grateful.

To me, the true ethos of a Baby Shower is to "send off" mamas-to-be into the fray of motherhood with a dose of reassurance and love for the journey. I hope to return the favor some day as more friends take the plunge towards parenthood and think this is one US tradition that the UK should make some space for.

I'll add some 32 week pictures from the Shower to this post imminently. Also coming soon, some wise words of advice from a couple of my mama friends who are "there doing that", which gave me food for thought and further comfort!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Here's the Rub....

I'm 32 weeks pregnant! Wow - only two months to go now (hopefully, provided that she is not running late....). Though I've been charting each week of this journey the imminence of birth hit me today like a brick wall. That sounds bad, but I don't mean it in a negative way. While in the shower I was suddenly enraptured by my swelling tummy and the little person that it holds....a little scared that I still feel I have so much to learn and discover, much of which I probably can't plan for, planner that I am....shocked that it's really truly soon to be three of us day in day out. I can't wait, I am ready and I'm sure Chris and I will be fine. But in this moment the mix of emotions was a bit overwhelming....I lathered my belly and took a deep breath.

My brick wall moment may have spurred me to start reading my Secrets of the Baby Whisperer book by Tracy Hogg. I've heard she is structured and loving but less hard core than Gina Ford who many new parents swear by for routine making. I've only read the first chapter, but her tone and style are conversational and easy to relate to. More on that once I've read more.

I've also started wondering a bit more on random parenting logistics like when babies can sleep through the night without a feed every 2-4 hours and the best way to clean up messy poop - muslin in warm water, cotton wool...and if so which type of cotton wool? (No, I haven't totally lost it!)  I think I'm going to avoid wipes for cost saving and baby skin sensitivity issues but I really don't know what is best.... Like I've said before I'm sure we'll pave our way and find routines and practices that work for us, however, in the absence of really knowing what's best, I'm very open to ideas from experienced moms. Then at least I'll have some starting points to consider and pick and choose from. My wonderings may seem small and ridiculous (they do to me at least) but put them all together and they can be a bit overwhelming too.  Chris says I need to chill and just take things one step at a time.  I know it - sometimes I just get on a roll - I'll blame those raging hormones!

Our lady is now the size of a jicama and is moving around constantly in my belly. She may have less room to stretch out but boy can she wriggle - particularly at night! I just read on Babycenter that it's theorized babies have more control over their movement when their mom's are still at night, thus they take advantage of it! This is no proven theory but I found the reasoning interesting so thought I'd share.

Last but not least, my other odd pregnancy "rub" of the week. Yesterday the crease where my bump meets pelvic area kept really itching. I haven't had issues with itching or dryness but hey, new week, new little ailment. I think the problem may have been exacerbated by my jeans, which hitched to that area via my bump band and subsequently caused my underwear to dig into the crease! Why wear the jeans you ask? Maybe I should have changed but I didn't feel like it....anyway, I found that rubbing a little bit of Vaseline in the crease soothed the itch and kept any irritation at bay. A little tip to try if you're ever caught out with the "bump crease rub!"

Fruit Photo Credit: Babycenter.com

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Tasty Side of Nesting

We just ordered carpet for our bare, stripped but unfinished stairs and I've been throwing out tons of crap to make space for baby drawers, diapers and fun things like that. People say I'm nesting in preparation for bubba. Call it what you like, but it does feel long overdue (the throwing out crap part at least) and kind of therapeutic.

What I'm really enjoying though, is my raring interest for cookery! I've always enjoyed cooking but don't have the time to be uber-creative in the kitchen after a long a day at work. Now with baby on the way and my pregnant body to fuel, I'm upping the ante and broadening the scope of culinary delights that I can serve up.

Practice makes perfect, or more accurately, makes edible, enjoyable meals so my newfound dedication will hopefully pay off even if some meals go awry along the way. And while I'm up for attempting a more challenging slow cooked lamb shank or texmex jambalaya, I'm not talking all fancy complicated recipes here. I'm talking practical, healthy and a step off the beaten path from the tried and tested stock meals I can dish out with my eyes closed on a weekly basis.

I'm sharing one dinner and one dessert option I recently came across. Both are pretty tasty and easy to pull off.  The salmon dish is chock full of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which our bodies don't make naturally and thus need from our diet. Sorry if you're not a fish person.  The omegas are also important brain fuel for baby. The cookie recipe is super fiberlicious and thus a great answer to the dreaded pregnancy constipation I keep hearing about.

Oh, sorry about the mix of C vs. F temperatures and grams vs. cups below....I've shared one UK and one US recipe and don't have the energy to do the conversions!

Salmon with pine nuts & lime

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients: 2 salmon fillets weighing approx 130g each, lime (juice & rind), 1 tsp chopped parsley, 2 tbsp pine nuts, finely chopped lemongrass

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C / Gas mark 4.

Place salmon pieces on a flat piece of foil in baking dish.  Squeeze over the lime juice, zest & lemongrass. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper; fold over foil to create parcel.

Cook in oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle over pine nuts.  Return to oven to brown the nuts and finish cooking the fish for about 5 minutes.

Serve with new potatoes & steamed broccoli or spinach, pouring cooking liquid from parcel over potatoes and veggies.

Oaty Apricot & Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients: 2/3 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup sugar, ½ cup softened butter, 1 egg, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 ¾ cup oats, ½ cup chopped dried cranberries, 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots, 1 cup flour, ½ cup wholemeal flour, ¾ tsp baking soda, ¾ tsp salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

Cream together sugars and butter. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well.

Combine the flour, soda and salt; stir to mix. Add to the creamed mixture, kneading with the back of a wooden spoon to moisten all the dry ingredients. The dough will be stiff. Form tbsp sized balls of dough and place on baking sheet. Allow about 4 inches between each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack.

Happy cooking and more importantly, happy eating!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Doctor Says the H1N1 Flu Vaccine Decision is Mine

I decided to see the doctor to discuss my H1N1 aka swine flu vaccine dilemma.  I made the appointment on Monday, and by the time this morning arrived I felt fairly decided that I would NOT get the vaccine.  If I'd already had our baby, maybe I would, to be on the safe side.  But as she's inside me and the potential side effects of this vaccine are still unknown, I just don't feel comfortable taking the plunge.  Although I have not always seen eye to eye with my doctor (see running in pregnancy advice), I do respect his opinions and advice.

He explained that it was my decision as to whether to get the H1N1 vaccine; he also seemed to understand my concerns with taking it.  Although the official government health advice is for pregnant women to get the vaccine, I appreciated that he considered my personal situation and did not push the medical solution.  Don't get me wrong; he didn't advise me not to take the vaccine but instead didn't press me to take it.  

If his expertise and assessment of me indicated disproportionate risk, I expect he would have given different advice.  This has sealed the deal for me; I will not be getting the H1N1 vaccine (unless I have a major change of circumstance or change of heart).

I did have a hot water and lemon when I returned home from the surgery....just to be on the safe, un-vaccinated side.....

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sweet Dream, More Like Beautiful Nightmare...

The only thing beautiful about my dream last night was our baby’s birth at the end of it.

I dreamt that I had an early show and visited my American gynaecologist to tell her that I thought I was in labor. She doesn’t even know I’m pregnant by the way. I caught her on her way out the door (where from, I don’t know) and convinced her to overcome her scepticism and examine me. She did, and sure enough, our baby was on her way out. I wasn’t in any pain, but the next thing I knew she had me on an operating table and was performing a caesarean and then, poof, our tiny baby came into the world! I watched this scene removed from my own body, and when I looked back at myself on the operating table I was an old woman, cackling away and wrinkled. Then I woke up.

My brain must have been decompressing the advice I read earlier yesterday in What to Expect When You’re Expecting about how bizarre dreams are common in pregnancy. Always a sucker for weird suggestion, my subconscious jumped right on the bizarre dream bandwagon and churned this disturbing one out for me last night.

I hope I don’t have to have a caesarean so maybe that was my mind’s way of coming to terms that in labor, anything is possible? Maybe I have “latent fears” of delivering early in the wake of my rectal pressure incident this weekend? But how did I turn into a crazy old woman? Anyone else care to analyze?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Pain in My Ass

Today I encountered a real pain in my ass - literally, that's what it was.....a pain, or pressure, in my rectal area. I've had this happen sporadically throughout my pregnancy but today this little niggle decided to stick around from first thing in the morning to sometime in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn't constipated. I don't have any haemorrhoids....I checked. More uncomfortable than hurt, my butt felt like a cranked up pressure cooker, a little achy, almost sore? In past this feeling has radiated into my upper thighs but it preferred to stay nice and concentrated in my butt today.

My 31 week pregnancy newsletter had a link to signs of pre-term labor, one of which is increased pressure in the pelvic area. Red alert! Does rectal area equal pelvic area?....my gut feeling after an initial stomach lurch was no. I wasn't experiencing any other signs of pre-term labor so I then felt less concerned and more stymied....had our baby has found a pillow in my rectal passage? Did I sleep in some funny position? I've also read that first babies can engage or drop in the pelvis from 33/34 weeks but I'm not there yet and have had this feeling before only to have it fade as it did today, which does not suggest engagement. I considered whether I was again going nuts, but fellow mama-to-be LH reassured me that she has also experienced this tender/tight ass sensation since becoming pregnant. The old adage that misery, or in this case wacked out pregnancy symptom, loves company proved true. Ahhh, what will tomorrow bring?

I've included a couple of 31 week photos. Please excuse the lines on my bare belly shot; this is a pitfall of bump jeans with tight elastic at the top! Also direct your attention away from my little hooded bellybutton - not popped, but not pretty!!

This week baby is weighing in around the size/shape of four navel oranges. She can turn her head from side to side and dream! I found some maternity pads at Mothercare (they do a handy 48 pads for the week after birth pack & disposable undies for pretty cheap) and Chris and I started shifting some things in what will be baby's room.....it currently looks like a tornado hit it, but when that blows through there will be progress.

Fruit Photo Credit: Babycenter.com

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Should I get the Swine Flu Vaccination?

Yesterday my doctor's surgery called to offer me the swine flu vaccination.  The UK's swine flu vaccination program began on October 21 and apparently here in London, high riskers such as my pregnant self were being offered time slots for the H1N1 shot.

I told the lady from the doctor's office that I'd have to call her back since I'm not sure that I want the vaccination.  Please don't raise your eyebrows at me - I'm really not sure if I do.

I don't want to court controversy for the sake of it, but this is a new vaccine that is still currently being tested.  I'm not one for pill popping at the best of times and I reserve vaccination and medicine taking for when I genuinely need it.  I've never had the seasonal flu shot, which is offered more routinely to young adults in the USA but not in the UK.   (Quick side note - here is an excellent link on comparing common cold versus flu symptoms - thank you Mama E).

The UK NHS and US CDC both suggest that no dangerous, ill effects are expected from the H1N1 vaccine. Similar flu vaccines for H5N1 have come across as safe in clinical trials, and these "official, expert" sites quote that changing the strain of a virus in a seasonal flu vaccine does not substantially affect the safety of the vaccines.  But isn't it more than slightly worrying that the US has apparently granted legal immunity to H1N1 vaccine makers?

Pill popping I am not, but anti-vaccine I'm not either.  I had all the routine vaccinations growing up and I've had sporadic top-ups as and when needed for travel without giving these vaccinations a second thought.  If I delved deeper would I find lots of potentially devious chemicals in these vaccinations?  Probably.  Am I fine?  Yes.  Do I even want to venture into the black hole arena of pharmaceuticals and drugs?  No!  Yet I'm conflicted because this is a new vaccine, and conscious that I'm not just acting for me anymore.

From what I can see there are two potential concerns about the H1N1 vaccine.  First issue, the mercury preservative thiomersal or thimerosal as its referred to in the USA, which has been found to be dangerous when taken in high doses.  Secondly, adjuvants, or agents added to a vaccine to make it more effective. The CDC reports that all flu shots, including H1N1, currently distributed are adjuvant free and that there are some thimerosal-free shots available.  Worryingly, the UK vaccine, Pandemrix, appears to contain both thiomersal and adjuvants according to this link that I got via the NHS online.

So what should I do - get the vaccine in the name of protecting myself and baby from H1N1 or stay vigilant and take preventative measures such washing my hands, keeping my hands off my face, gargling with warm salty water, cleaning my nose with warm salty water and drinking hot liquids that wash proliferating viruses in the throat to the stomach where they die?

Published on Blog Her

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What to Pack Should Be the Least of My Concerns

I've got a little over 9 weeks to go until DD-Day.  Earlier today I started pondering what should be included in and when I should pack my infamous hospital bag.  Yes, I'm still planning a home birth, but packing a hospital bag is like a right of passage for pregnant women.  Even if you plan for a home birth, a hospital bag should still be at the ready just in case.  It's an acknowledgement that your baby is almost in town.  It's a sanity guard for when you're in the heat of labor and need to bust a move for the hospital.

I felt a little bizarre thinking about my hospital bag this early but it's my first time, I have pregnancy on the brain and I want to be prepared. 

Fast forward two hours and I was standing in Boots (aka CVS) grimacing over an aisle of pads and adult diapers.  I saw some Depends but I'm pretty sure that's not what I'm after.....I'm certain that they make specific maternity pads for after the birth, right?  If anyone has any advice here please share.  All the diapers and pads started to blur and then I lost the will, quickly exiting Boots and rolling my eyes that maternity pad shopping is now on my radar.

When I travel Chris usually audits my suitcase to stop me bringing too many things.  He says I like to take my clothes on vacation.  I'm not a fussy dresser, I just like options and tend to be indecisive.  That doesn't bode well for packing a maternity bag that I probably, hopefully, may not need.  Was this going to get stressful?

No!  Leave it to me to create unnecessary stress.  I'm going to stay strong; there are lots of check lists (yay, lists!) out there about what to include in hospital bags and on my walk home from Boots I promised myself that I'm going to take a minimalist approach....I'll tell you how I get on once I actually pack the bag.  Aside from working out where I can get some maternity pads and finding out what the heck arnica actually is, I have most of the things I need and ample time to get organized.

I've also stumbled across a not-so-surprising US/UK difference in hospital bag advice: In the USA diapers and maternity pads are usually provided; in the UK they are not and need to be packed (ahh, the differences of private, pricey healthcare versus NHS no frills).

Aside from the usual suspect advice and items to bring for mama, baby and birthing partner included on most hospital bag lists, here are a few other gems that I've heard.  If you have any other tips, please add a comment!
  • Pack 2 small bags - one for labor and one for your hospital stay - this may help you stay better organized
  • Remember to pack your glasses; even if you wear contacts, you may not want to wear them through labor
  • Pack a pair of flip flops for the shower; if you're a clean freak like me who wears flip flops to the gym pool, this advice was a real winner!
  • Bring along some baby wipes or cotton wool for changing your baby; these are not provided by the NHS
  • Pack baby nail clippers or an emery board in case your little one has long nails that need trimming
  • Pack your Baby Book to jot down all your baby's birth information

Monday, 2 November 2009

Parenting Trials - Prepare to be Judged

As promised here are my 30 week pictures - a close up of bump and shot of T&D and me during our weekend explorations.  T&D live in Holland and T tells me that home birth is very common and accepted there.  Following my research into the differing views on home birth in the US and UK, I was interested to hear of another Western country that champions home birth.  T, if you have any more information to share on this point please add a comment!

I was interested to read Kate Harding of Salon.com's comments on this story about a mother who was booted off a Southwest Airlines internal US flight with her 2-year-old because he wouldn't stop shouting "Go, plane go!" and "I want Daddy!"  Looking at and beyond this specific incident, Kate both suggests that parents have a responsibility to act like adults and proactively encourage appropriate behavior from their children in public BUT that sometimes even parents' best efforts are in vain and in those instances the greater public needs to understand and accept that kids are kids who can't always be reasoned into socially "correct" behavior.

I initially read this story because Chris and my transatlantic life is going to involve frequent plane travel and I'm anticipating needing to develop a bag of tricks for soothing an infant, then toddler then child when we take to the skies.  We are aware that confined spaces at 30,000 ft and screaming children are not an ideal combination, and I'm sure we'll do our best to make our journeys smooth for our family and our fellow passengers.  From this story's headline, Southwest's actions seemed pretty harsh at first glance; but then again, I wonder how much this mother did to soothe her little screamer?....

Little children attract attention, for themselves and for their parents.  They often can't be reasoned with and don't conform to social norms so I'm prepared to become less inconspicuous as a parent than I am now (or than I was before passers by started clocking my pregnant belly).  I don't know how I'll deal with this but I expect I probably won't have time, energy or the focus to really care, but I do agree with Kate in that parents need to be adults and encourage decent behavior from their kids.  If my little one is screaming in the middle of a supermarket and I'm more concerned with what brand of oatmeal to buy than quieting her, I will probably deserve dirty looks.  In fact, I'm sure I've dished out those same looks to women who ignore their crying kids and barge through crowded train stations running over people with their weapons, aka strollers!  But on the other side of the coin, if parents are genuinely trying to soothe their tantrum-throwing mite in the corner of a restaurant, I think fellow customers should cut them some slack.

As at parent every day is going to be a journey and trial, at home and in the public eye.  Chris and I are gearing up to enter an arena where everything from vaccinations to bathing to blankets to transatlantic travel will be debated and often judged, and we're just going to have to get on with it through all this white noise.  Having said that, I do feel it's important that parents act like parents and set some boundaries for their little ones whether at home or out in public.  As long as we are trying, hopefully others will recognize that and not be too harsh in their judgements!