Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jumping in front of a bus

Incredibly, another week has passed. No wonder everyone tells you to take lots of photographs of your newborn; it is shocking how they grow before your eyes -- not like weeds exactly but more like bamboo! Right now the little bub is sleeping peacefully in his new bouncy/vibrating chair and even though I feel like a bad mother for leaving him in it, he looks far too peaceful to be roused. Yet more days of high highs and low lows in the Green household. The battle against the dark forces of colic rages on, and we are no nearer to a solution. (If anyone has suggestions, by all means...) The only thing worse than the incessant screaming that steals away his breath and the sheer pain that turns his face scarlet is how helpless we feel as parents to alleviate the discomfort. Amazing what the need to fart can do! But as usual on this blog, in my quest to vent and paint an accurate picture of events, I fear I have skimmed the surface of the happy and magical times -- when it is just the two of us in a darkened room in the wee hours and he is wide awake and staring deep into my eyes... Or when I am holding him, stroking his back and nuzzling his cheek and the downy hair on the back of his neck. Words can't describe the intimacy of those stolen, private moments. And you can't seem to do them justice in a few lines on a website. So I'll try no further. But it just seemed right for me to try to redress the balance somewhat after so much negativity in recent posts. If giving birth and the early weeks that follow are infernal, then there is no doubt, to coin a cliche, they are worth every minute.

A friend recently told me the reason babies start smiling at around the 6-week mark is no coincidence but a clever biological trick: they serve to charm their carers into continuing to care for them at a time when patience and accrued sleep are both wearing perilously thin. During the health visitor's last visit she asked whether I had yet experienced the overwhelming sensation most new mothers experience -- i.e. would I jump in front of a bus to save Little Green? At the time I was too ashamed and numb to admit that all I could think about was jumping in front of that bus myself. But now I am beginning to understand the powerful range of emotions that belong to mother(and father)hood. With each new day, there is a new challenge, for sure. Yet there is also a new delight waiting around each and every corner that is enough to compel you to keep on moving forward.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I would nurse but I don't have the equipment

Wow. Have 3 weeks really passed since LGO's birth day? When you have a baby the clocks seem to stop and day and night merge in a senseless blur... In hospital the midwife advised that we new parents ought resist the urge to think of night and day as two distinct lunar phases and to disregard the clock altogether, and now I can see why. To say that the days since his birth have been the hardest of my 30-odd years is no word of a lie. Newborns who have no knowledge of the outside world tend to operate in sleeping/shitting/eating cycles around every 2-3 hours which -- surprise, surprise -- causes the worst kind of sleep deprivation in a parent who (with the exception of teenagers, uni students or rock n' rollers) is accustomed to sleeping in blocks through the night.

After the first week, when I was over and done with grieving about not being able to breastfeed (still a sore point if I'm honest, but at least my nipples, if not my psyche, have healed up), I could see the benefit in the bottle: the misery/loneliness of night feeds can be shared by dad or some unsuspecting friend or family member; sleeping on one's stomach can be resumed after nearly a year of being off limits due to the bump and engorgement; boobs can be enjoyed by husband again even though they have shrunk from Jordan-like proportions; ugly nursing bras can be done away with in favour of old favourites... However, for all its perks, the bottle still holds its fair share of conundrums. Constipation. Like every day with a newborn, we only learned about what was ailing LGO through a process of trial and error. And believe me, there is nothing worse than seeing your little helpless baby wail himself red-faced with his eyes pinched and his gums showing for hours on end, and not having a clue what to do to make it better. Some cooled boiled water before feeds eventually sorted out his little bowels but not before his prolonged screams split mummy and daddy's eardrums and cut our hearts to the core.

And we weren't even alone, like some. We had support from Mr Green's parents and my own flew in from Canada and stayed with us for 2 weeks. With the best possible intentions, having seen how wrecked I was from the breastfeeding/labour and still in need of recovery, they took over most of the feeds and baby care so I could rest. Eventually I managed to catch up with sleep while paradoxically my mental state deteriorated. One night I didn't get up to feed him at all, and I think an afternoon passed without me even holding him in my arms. None of this was intentional or obvious of course. And it only became a problem once I noticed my increasing detachment towards him. The more they did for their grandson, the less competent and confident I felt as a new mother. Catch-22. The perk -- and the trouble -- with bottles is that anyone can feed and look after your baby. As a mom your job is made redundant. You are not special anymore. Your baby doesn't need you per se. Or at least this is how I felt at the time. Pride is a terrible, terrible thing. Even though Little Green was by now thriving and healthy on formula, which should have delighted me after his rough start on the breast, I hit rock bottom during the second week of his life. I sobbed the minute someone looked at me sideways. I sobbed several times a day; the slightest thing would set me off. And I was convinced, though everyone kept telling me how 'normal' I was, that I was going mad. That I couldn't cope. That I'd made a mistake thinking I could be a decent mother, now or ever.

Ironically, once I'd come to the realisation that my parents' involvement had actually helped the baby's development but hindered my own, things got easier. Of course they only wanted to help me and to maximise the time spent getting to know their grandson. Then they left, and I felt like a terrified and abandoned little girl clinging to the hem of my mother's skirt. But being forced to deal with a new baby, you have no choice but to rise above how you feel in order to look after him. Everything else comes a distant second, including brushing your teeth and hair and sometimes even emptying your bladder! In a way, in doing more and taking care of him, even though I am still fumbling to some extent, has given me more confidence. I am not perfect by any stretch but I am trying and concentrating on just getting through every hour of every day with each new trial and tribulation it inevitably brings. I've stopped crying, though I am often frustrated that babies are not straightforward creatures and come with no clear-cut instruction manual that I could digest from cover to cover. In time it will get easier. This is my mantra, and so I share it here for all mums at any stage and for those to follow... It will get easier.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Aftermath

Mr Green and I recovered in a nearby delivery suite, sipping on tea and munching on toast and, it goes without saying, ogling our new son while the midwives prepared the paperwork. Mr Green returned to the pool room to fetch my CD and was horrified to see, now that the lights were up, the bloodbath left behind. (Thank God or whoever for the invention of the dimmer switch). On wonky legs, I trundled across the hall to have a much-needed shower. By about 11pm we made our way to the ward, and it was sad partings between Mr Green and me. If the adrenaline hadn't quite worn off, then the lack of entonox made the night seem very long indeed. I was given a few paracetamols and tried to rest, but the various screaming babies weren't having any of that. For hours I gazed over at my own newbie, contentedly sleeping through the ruckus, filled with pride that he was such a beautiful lamb. All of that changed a few hours later when he stirred. I put him to my breast every hour or so when he demanded it, and rang the buzzer so the midwife on duty could check that he had properly latched (most problems with breastfeeding are down to an incorrect latch on the nipple). It was a long night to say the least. LGO had worked up quite the appetite, and I was exhausted. At one point it seemed relentless. As soon as he fed (sometimes for up to an hour), he was inconsolable again. Eventually dawn broke, and I counted down the hours until Mr Green's return. I had the option of staying in the ward a second night, but despite the support on offer I couldn't bear the thought.

In the morning one of the midwives showed us how to bathe and change LGO, and we were discharged around 4pm. Being at home was wonderful yet disquieting. Our little angel slept peacefully during the day, and was a complete terror from 10pm onwards. No matter how long I fed him, he never seemed satisfied. In distress, I rang the ward. The midwife believed it was trapped wind, but no matter how long we burped him he refused to settle. Hearing his little cry escalating to the point of a squawk was so upsetting, not least of which because we felt powerless to soothe him. Mr Green's mother came to stay a night, then my own mother arrived to help. But after a few nights of this, I was beside myself. The more frustrated LGO became, the more aggressive he was on the breast. Painful cracks on my nipples split and then bled. Eventually raw, open sores developed on my nipples, and despite several desperate phone calls and visits from breastfeeding counsellors and midwives I ultimately had to throw up my hands and admit defeat. Even with nipple shields, I could no longer feed my son. He had stopped pooing; he had stopped peeing.

As a last ditch resort, armed with a breast pump, I decided if I couldn't bring the baby to my milk, I would bring my milk to the baby. After 45 minutes, I expressed milk a measly 20ml -- about a quarter of his intake in a single feed (he feeds roughly every 3 hours). Seeing what little came from such an effort was illuminating. For his own sake, I switched him to formula to stave against dehydration. The result was an utterly different baby. Contended. It was a scary, emotionally and physically draining week. The adrenaline of labour had worn off, and the culmination of sleepless nights and strain on my body had taken its toll. Despite the fact that the baby either had an adverse reaction to my milk, or that I was not producing enough to meet his needs, I felt incredibly guilt-stricken. After all, a mother's ability to nourish her baby seems so fundamental that failure to do so felt like a first, crushing failure as a mother. Common sense says that making sure your baby is sated and hydrated by any means is surely of foremost importance than the means by which he feeds. Still, it took me a few days to come to terms with the bottle -- as real as any physical impediment -- coming between us. And I felt cheated of that closeness. When the midwife visited the other day, she reassured me that I had given him the best start since during the first few days of feeding he received colostrum: a substance packed with antibodies that the hind milk comes in around day 3.

To say that these past few days have been the hardest, far harder than the relatively brief period of labour, is no exaggeration. But I feel like we have come through a dark patch together, and I need only give myself space and time to heal and enjoy my baby now that he is thriving. I owe it to him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Drum roll, please...

Weighing 8lbs 6oz, LG was born at 18.27 on 11 October at Pembury Hospital near Tunbridge Wells, Kent. But let me rewind somewhat to events leading up to his birth... Last Wednesday I checked in to the hospital overnight for voluntary induction since I was over a week overdue and going out of my mind with impatience and excitement. After several hours of fetal monitoring and a night of roaring newbies, I was told the following morning that the ward was now too busy and short-staffed to induce me. Discouraged and angry, I was discharged and told to stay home until the hospital could accommodate me. Of course now I was getting seriously worried. Post-mature babies carry an increased risk of stillbirth among other things, as the placenta gradually becomes less efficient at nourishing the baby. By Saturday, exactly two weeks past Little Green's due date, and according to hospital policy, I was now considered a "priority", meaning the hospital couldn't reasonably fob me off anymore.

Thus it was we returned to the hospital on Saturday morning. After the usual monitoring, the midwife assessed me and much to my dismay, said that she didn't think I was quite ready to have my waters broken and that perhaps I would need the pessary after all (a gel to stimulate the cervix) and let's see what happens in 6 1/2 hours' time. I begged her to check again and to go ahead and attempt to break the waters regardless of how painful the procedure might be. She did so, and yes, as pain goes, it was the eye-watering variety. Mr Green went so pale and sweaty just watching me I had to stop holding his hand. Finally a hot gush. Success! And midwives senior and student left me to wait for the contractions to begin, while Mr Green vanished for a McDonalds. Not 45 minutes later I as pacing the room listening to bad pop on the radio and reading magazine snippets in between contractions that were coming increasingly thicker and faster. By the time the party returned to the room, I was kneeling on pillows against an armchair, Mr Green was massaging my back as the waters continued to gush down my thighs, and I was asking to try out entonox, commonly known as 'laughing gas'. While it didn't exactly make me laugh, it distracted me from my own brain and pain without quite relieving it entirely. Mr Green (bless him) was all-too present in his own mind, helping to mop up the fluid that was coursing from me with each contraction. I warned the midwives of his history of hospital squeamishness, but he made me proud and never once fainted.

Because the waters mercifully came out clear (sometimes a substance called meconium, basically baby poo, is present which indicates fetal distress -- again, the likelihood of this happening increases with post-maturity), I asked if I could still use the birthing pool since the baby appeared to be fine. While the pool filled, I sucked from a canister of gas and air: my new best friend, calmed by my 'whale music' CD. A while later (maybe an hour or so, but truly I had no concept, which is probably a good thing) I stepped into the warm water of the pool which had the soothing effect of a nice bath. The lights were dim. Lightheaded, I sucked my way through the intensifying contractions. I remember there being a moment of sheer panic, as I emptied one canister and waited for a second... By the time I was 9cm, the pain was unbelievable and even as I professed that I couldn't do it, I knew the end was nearing and soon I would be holding my baby boy in my arms.

When I felt a searing burning sensation which I knew from TV to be the start of the baby's head crowning, the pain was the worst I have experienced in my life, and no amount of laughing gas could detract from it. However, in some far recess of my brain I knew I was too far gone for any real painkillers so I made my way through it gasping and later, howling for what seemed like eternity (about an hour and a half, Mr Green informs me). I squeezed his hand and occasionally paused for a sip of water, alternating between gagging and whaling. Around this time I was on the verge of throwing up, the body's natural reaction to shock... Finally, with some fancy tricks with mirrors and underwater torches, Mr Green watched the head emerge. Instant blissful relief. Then I could feel the baby squirming while still partly inside me. The sensation was so surreal. Another push or two and he was lifted onto my chest. While Mr Green blubbed like a little girl, I was speechless. My first impression was how huge and not-purple he was!! No small baby despite what we were told in previous scans. Certainly passing his head was pure hell, without a doubt the worst part, but because of the water I suffered only a couple very minor tears requiring stitches and one graze which was worse than any of the tears and would have to heal naturally.

Midwife senior asked if Mr Green wanted to cut the umbilical cord. He did! A minute later I left the pool. Mr Green cuddled his new son while I lay in the bed next to them, delivering the placenta (in 4 minutes according to the midwives' notes). After a few stitches, I held LG in my arms and then fed him off the breast. He was wide awake, staring inquisitively at me for ages. This beautiful, perfect creature Mr Green and I had made together. Quite simply a miracle. As for not remembering the pain... I don't think you forget exactly but it does have a way of being overshadowed by the rush of love you instantly feel -- that and the combination of adrenaline and hormones which make you feel like superwoman -- so much so that any pain which proceeded holding this little person in your arms suddenly becomes an irrelevance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Help, this bump is past its sell-by date!

This may well be the last entry for some time... Officially past my sell-by date and in an impatient bid to finally meet Baby Green (forgive me little man), I arranged to have a sweep done this afternoon. For those of you fortunates unfamiliar with the lingo, a membrane sweep isn't a cosmetic treatment but a kind of internal examination whereby the midwife uses her fingers to literally 'sweep' the cells of the cervix. Similar to a smear but a much more bloody, painful and drawn out affair, it is (incredibly) considered less intrusive than other means of inducing labour in late starters such as myself. The hospital guidelines about induction claims the sweep can be uncomfortable. In short, it f-ing hurts (or at least it did for me) yet the process did grant me an opportunity to trial those tedious deep breathing exercises you get taught in antenatal classes, and to relish a little taste of the painful feast to come. Honestly, mothers are the real gangstas, the true and unsung tribal warriors of our time... No one but other mothers has a clue quite how brave and tough as nails you must be in order to give birth. Just hearing me describe the ordeal over the phone had Mr Green feeling faint. Thank God the survival of the human species doesn't rely on men who, it has to be said, have no qualms about rising to the occasion when it comes to mating but would struggle to give up the goods at the nth hour. Granted, even I went a little pale when the midwife cheerily announced, her hand up to my kingdom come, that she could feel the baby's head!

Strangely, the ritual left me in high spirits. Not only did the midwife commend my aura of calm as she discreetly balled up countless bloody tissues like Jack the Ripper, she was surprised to find that, considering the 'ripeness' and dilation of my cervix (about 2-3cm already -- to put that in perspective, a baby's head starts to crown at about 10cm) it was a wonder I wasn't already in labour. And in any case, she said she'd be incredibly surprised if actual labour hadn't started within the next 48 hours. Music to my ears. These past few days have been incredibly challenging -- an understatement akin to saying the sweep was 'uncomfortable'. With each passing day, the 9-month haul has been feeling like the build up to death row when you just want the damned needle already. My back has been hurting almost constantly from the 42lbs gained. Add to that the fear of straying too far in case your waters break in the supermarket aisle, and you start to feel like a prisoner in your own house but without the bonus of satellite TV. The mental hurdle is the hardest to overcome once the due date has been and gone and still no baby. I guess -- if you'll forgive the mixing of sporting metaphors -- it has to do with moving the goal post after your sights have been firmly fixed on it for months. Due dates are approximate and, like any anxiously awaited celebrity, rarely does a baby appear when he's scheduled to. Still, you can't help but focus and consolidate your energies on that calendar date regardless of the dictates of common sense. It is especially difficult as a 21st Century Fox to relinquish control over the events in your life and hand the reins back to Mother Nature. But ultimately it is she who has the upper hand, and pregnancy reminds us of this fact time and again.

So even though there are 'helping hands' out there in the guise of my matronly midwife, in the end our bodies are subject to nature's whimsy. We are all at her mercy. I just hope when the time does come that she goes gentle with me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The hottest curry imaginable couldn't bring you home

Just under two weeks 'til D-day. Although I know first-timers have a habit of turning up fashionably late for their own party, I am particularly, for reasons obvious, hoping Little G will make an early appearance. 'Any time after Monday works for me,' says Mr Green after consulting his hectic diary. Never have my phone calls been returned so expeditiously. Yesterday my mother-in-law not only called back in seconds, she also left a voicemail and text message asking if I was okay. Every time I call Mr Green at work, interrupting any meeting of importance, he answers on the first ring asking if this is the call, which makes me worry that what we are inadvertently creating is a cry wolf situation. Indeed, being so close to my due date has instigated great attentiveness and brushed up interpersonal skills in those around me in the most unlikely way, e.g. impromptu visits from neighbours' giving me their telephone numbers to call 'day or night', thus inspiring a sense of community I wish could last beyond September 27th...

Of course there are some silly endeavours you can try to bring about labour -- spicy food (vindaloo anyone?), penetrative sex (yeah right, a handstand on water would be more apt at this stage), raspberry leaf tea (if fruity teas are your thing; they are not mine but who says I won't reach that level of desperation yet) -- none of which are medically acknowledged but might be a lark to try, especially the nipple stimulation! However, I have a feeling it's more a case of when the baby is ready, the mother will slip into gear. So I've been trying to put a Zen face on, but it's tough even fooling myself. No amount of physical preparation these past few weeks has readied me mentally for what is to come, nor would a few more... Which begs the question: is any woman ever truly ready for the sandblast that is motherhood? Didn't think so.

At tea and cakes last week, we ladies-in-waiting were paid a surprise visit from one of the new moms, a Caesar no less, with hubby and pint-sized daughter in tow. Throughout the visit I sat mouth agape, shell-shocked. Babe, needless to say, was a revelation, the tiniest reminder of the biggest miracle of which our bodies are capable. Yet it was mom and dad, fresh from battle but with not so much as a hint of a limp or scar, that held my fascination. I mean, even the bravest face shows some sign of fissure. But perhaps the surge of love and awe still had these two walking around in the beatific daze of junkies despite their not having slept for more than two consecutive hours a night for the past week. Perhaps that early insomnia has less to do with the baby's disruptive needs than his sheer presence in the room as a mini me. It must be disconcerting to see him at last sitting there staring back at you, this moving breathing incarnation of the love between mommy and daddy. I doubt I will be able to take my eyes off of him for the first few days and wonder how many wails and dirty diapers it will take before the beguiling novelty of his existence dims somewhat. Maybe that is the glory and the tyranny of parenthood -- that it never does. I hope it never does, anyway.

Now that my own turn is coming up (pointless musing, Cher-style, on the merits of turning back time) anxiety is well and truly bottling up the bottleneck. How is it humanly possible to giddily anticipate an event that at the same time scares the living bejesus out of you, that evokes a witless, out-of-your-skin fear? After nearly 40 weeks of playing host to this faceless miniature, I am dying to meet him but equally petrified about the prospect of the next 40 years! What will he make of me? What will I make of him for that matter? How will our little dance carry on outside the womb, when I cannot wilfully pull the wool over his eyes, convincing him that I am cucumber-cool when on the inside I am a floundering wreck? Do not kid yourself: newborns may look puny and underdeveloped yet this belies the fact that they are sophisticated creatures with an emotional intelligence hardwired like a lie detector. It's been said that babies can sense stress just as a bear can smell fear, and react accordingly, usually mirroring the very state you are trying desperately to conceal from them. A vicious circle which no doubt leads to even greater stress, even greater anxiety. You may fool some people sometimes, it seems. But there is no fooling baby who, by the time he has packed his bags and left Hotel Womb, knows you better than you know yourself. Let's just hope he can find it in his teeny-weensy heart to cut mommy and daddy some slack as they learn the ropes. The ride promises to be rough in the first, but isn't that always the way before you reach calmer seas...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Locked and loaded

Apologies for keeping you in suspense. The follow-up scan went fabulously well. While both Mr Green and I were keen to see our little man on screen again, we honestly weren't expecting any change with regard to the placenta situation. And despite the fact that we told ourselves it didn't matter either way, we were pleasantly surprised to find that not only had my placenta risen of its own accord at this late stage but Little Green himself had completely turned around in the womb (i.e. he's now head down, in prime position as it were). Which means a natural, vaginal birth is now an option for us. Hurrah! Of course there is still the possibility of a complication that would require forceps or a Caesarean, so we'll take it as it comes. I quite fancy the idea of giving birth in a pool (supposedly minimises pain and tearing), but I know better than to set my sights on that, or on anything as far as labour is concerned!

In fact, after so many antenatal classes, I'm a bit tired of dissecting and analysing what is supposed to be a primitive experience. While it is good to be informed about procedures, it's possible that in doing so we've 'belaboured' the whole experience to the point that many of us expectants are now terrified by all that can, and probably won't, go wrong. Yet in the same breath we are told to stay calm because anxiety is the enemy in labour. Sometimes in the face of a scary situation too much forethought can actually be a curse. Sometimes ignorance (or some degree of ignorance at least) truly is blissful. So here I am, a sitting duck with only a fortnight to go, and I'm trying to set aside all these pseudo-facts about labour and its aftermath lest I become paralysed with fear.

It's funny that labour, which lasts for anywhere between a few hours or days, gets so much press time whilst the business of looking after a new life in the weeks and years that follow scarcely gets a mention. Indeed, I've often thought intensive parenting courses should be on offer, and maybe in the advent of recent TV programmes like Supernanny, broadcasters have sensed this anomaly and responded accordingly. I may have an inkling about how to have a 'good' labour, but as for how to be a good mother I haven't a clue. However, I do suspect from what I've observed over the years that being a good mother isn't necessarily as instinctive as we're led to believe. For example, I know virtually nothing about a baby's development, be it physical, emotional and psychological, and frankly that's a bit sad given that I am just about to give birth and spend 24/7 with this fascinating and strange tiny being.

To mark our last antenatal class this week, new parents visited with real 'live' babies. Seeing their little bundled bodies and curious faces was a welcome tonic and reminder of why we had been gathering every Tuesday night for umpteen weeks. Not something you would think possible to lose sight of and yet... On the advice of one of the new moms, I will be making a concerted effort to clean less and rest more as my body demands it, especially as my nighttime sleep pattern is increasingly disturbed by Jackson's head engaging in my pelvis and pressing down on my bladder (to the point where I am seriously considering investing in a plastic sheet... Can pregnancy get any less dignified?).

In the spirit of treating myself, I have also booked in for a luxury pedicure and bikini wax -- to see to the bits I can no longer see! The moms-to-be from class are coming over tomorrow to scoff on cakes while we can still do so with impunity. Hopefully we will continue to meet regularly and build new friendships as our lives change in tandem. As a stranger in a strange land, I have often found England less than hospitable, so the commonality and warmth of these women is proving an unexpected delight. Sisterhood is really underrated, especially its value for only children like me... In an ideal world, Mr Green would have more time to spend with mom and burgeoning babe but, as is symptomatic of our sick times, the work-life balance seems to be tipping unevenly at the moment. And even though I know this to be the case for most households, knowing doesn't fill his seat at the table. Is the world moving far too quickly these days, or is it just because I've slowed down that I have noticed?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The dreaded C-section

Okay, so I'm feeling pretty guilty for putting the blog on the proverbial back burner as of late -- especially being I am now on maternity leave and have time to kill in between pre-washing all those too-cute onesies, especially knowing the blog has acquired something of a devoted readership, a cult following. And who would have thought the state of my ever-expanding uterus could generate such enthusiasm... Imagine!

This is a big week for Little Green and his folks. On Friday afternoon we'll get another cheeky sneak peak of him via ultrasound, the main purpose of which is not to coo or to postulate over which parent he'll most resemble when he makes his red carpet appearance in just over a month's time, but to examine his position and that of my lowly placenta. Needless to say, much mental coaching has been going on behind the scenes in anticipation of this big event. If the placenta stays stubbornly put (thereby partially obstructing the birth canal), a vaginal delivery is out of the question, and he will arrive via Caesarean section. Big deal, I hear you say. But this is where the mental coaching comes into play. In my naivety I thought it would be sensible to read up on what is, by all reckoning, a pretty major procedure. Shame, double shame on me for filling my mind with such polemics. Such pollutants are hardly good for the heavily pregnant woman, and should for the most part be guarded against. While I'm not advocating an all-out bonfire, Rushdie-style, better to grab a novel by a favourite author than to consult such incendiary printed material...

I had previously been of the mindset that C-sections (as they are affectionately known in North America - ah, what a sobriquet!) were commonplace. And that should this be Little Green's fate, it was by and by whether he arrived by station wagon or by stretch limo as long as he arrived safely, soundly, healthily... Boy, did my heart nosedive when I read of the butchery described in the so-called labour 'literature', only to have this reiterated at last night's antenatal session. To listen to the teacher describe it, having a 'Caesar', whether planned or not, was the worst kind of horror story, one which promised to be a devastating experience for both mother and baby. This, she supported with the most unflattering photograph of a C-baby: blue as Smurfette and wrinkled as an old man's foreskin. Unfair. Wholly unfair and depressing.

It took me till this morning, after an angry sleepless night, to revert to my evenly keeled mindset, naysayers be damned. Sure, having a rosy birth experience, with minimal pain and intervention, would be nice. More than nice. But I'm not living in dreamworld either, thinking I can will this dreamy picture into being. No woman, not even Madge or Angelina, can totally control how her baby gets himself or herself born.

So I'm learning to relax about the whole thing. At least if the choice is taken away from me on Friday, then I will have plenty of time to flex my mental muscles and prepare myself for the main event before it comes. Ask any Olympian athlete (or mother) and they'll tell you it's all about the training, all about mind over matter in the run up to getting the gold. Well, isn't it?

Friday, August 1, 2008

32 weeks, but who's counting? (or help, I swallowed a basketball!)

I got the baby bump blues

Alas, a case of baby bump blues is setting in and I've only been on maternity leave for just over a fortnight... Blame it on the recent extreme temperatures (a.k.a. summer) keeping me housebound. I know it's what everyone else has been gagging for since May or thereabouts, but intense heat and humidity is a heavily pregnant woman's worst nightmare -- read swollen feet, calves and ankles, read diminished lung capacity and increased sebaceous gland activity, read overall unpleasantness. I actually cheered during a rainstorm the other night. I must be turning British after all!

Fortunately I no longer have to commute into work in these conditions, and for that I'm immensely pleased that I went off as early as I did. Just as well, really. Having rounded that corner of 30+ weeks, I have been beset by all manner of weird and wonderful surprises. Sleep no longer comes between conventional hours but generally can be expected to start anywhere from 1am to 5am then perhaps resume again at 7am for a couple of hours. Some people say this is nature's way of preparing you for what's to come, or lack thereof. I'm not so sure. I have also recently been plagued by a urinary infection which required a course of antibiotics, which in turn caused a yeast infection also requiring treatment. And through all this my little man tossed and turned, too. Never a dull moment in gestation, let me tell you!

Call it case of careful what you wish for but when you are suddenly faced with lots of time on your hands, you often don't know where to start. Certainly in this age of cash-rich, time-poor (or, most recently, no thanks to Labour: cash-poor, time-poor), the sudden luxury of a clear diary can actually scare you to the point of near paralysis. And because as a society we are generally so starved of downtime, when it does come we have a tendency to feel inordinately guilty about doing anything that might seem 'unproductive'. To some extent we struggle -- or I do at least -- to give ourselves permission to just laze about, daydreaming or napping or whiling away the hours the way we did when we were kids ourselves and the summers seemed endless and bo-oring. So much for sunning myself in the garden with the latest paperback; my To Do List is as long as one of Shakespeare's folios and packed with not-so-tantalising domestic and admin chores!

So, while these past few weeks have been 'productive', they have on occasion also been lonely. You tend to forget in your little pregnant bubble, that most other people, including other mums-to-be, are still working. There is email, of course, there is telecommunications. But nothing beats the great outdoors. I guess this is a good precursor to the long winter (with a newbie that does little else but eat, sleep and shit) that lies ahead. Mind you, I probably won't mind so much then, as I myself will follow much the same routine... Still, I'm not looking forward to those dark days. And I know these feelings will only intensify as Little Green's due date nears. For nine long months the anticipation builds and builds until ironically, this motherly impatience and anxiety can actually delay bub's arrival.

The good news is that while his mother may be progressively falling to bits, Little Green appears to be thriving at least. At the latest appointment with the midwife, his heartbeat sounded like a jumbo-jet compared to the faint flutter of yore. He has wriggled his way back to breech, though, so looks like more gardening is in store for me to get that little worm back into the ideal position. Other good news: a close friend has announced that she is expecting, while another has just given birth in the wee hours of last night. Roll on playdates should our plans for moving back to Canada come to fruition. It's official: 2008 is the year of the bump.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Nice to know someone else with spew-strewn hair

Last week we started antenatal classes, an invaluable resource for clueless kid-less folk like Mr Green and me. I am especially keen to hook up with some local moms since in a few short months, when I am at home tearing out my spew-strewn hair, it'll be nice to know someone else with spew-strewn hair is only down the road.

We're about eight couples in total, hailing from nearby villages and all stricken with first-timerly nerves. The course is run by a very nice lady who reminds me of a Brownie leader I might once have had - Tawny Owl? Come to think of it, the format is very Brownie-like too: use of silly props to demonstrate a point about pregnancy or labour, eg. we spent a good part of the first session blowing bubbles in order to practice drawing out our 'out' breaths to help us relax in the throes of labour.

Surprisingly, Mr Green is thus far enjoying the classes, as there have been no John Carpenter-type videos (yet) and there is ample opportunity for double entendre and repartee among the other blokes. Jaffa cake anyone? Somehow I doubt he'll still be smirking at the next session, though. Labour: the final stage. It does have a ring to it. Maybe John Carpenter should attend in Mr Green's place. I bet he'd learn a thing or two...

My playdough baby

This week saw some pretty major developments on the baby front. On Monday Mr Green and I came face to face (okay, face to screen) with our son for the very first time and in 3D/4D to boot. Initially visibility was obscured on account of his face being smooshed against the placenta. I was therefore sent away to drink more and walk around in the hope that filling my bladder and moving about would alter his position enough to get a clear view. It took the better part of a morning but we finally got to see him "live" in utero. So strange to witness the little guy moving around in there quite contentedly, crossing his legs, smiling occasionally (must've been an inside joke) and sucking on his own arm (common apparently). Yum! Well, compared to amniotic fluid laced with his own wee, that is...

Anyway, I'd just like to say God bless modern technology for making such a viewing possible. And whilst he still looked somewhat like a clay model, he did at least look and act like a human baby, which is greatly reassuring and is more than can be said of the early scans. Of course Mr Green was quick to lay claims that junior resembled him and while it is difficult to say with any certainty at this stage, that nose most definitely isn't mine!

Only trouble is, now that we've seen him we are even more excited to meet the little critter in the flesh. It has made the two and something months till D-day seem that much longer...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sperm whale beached in Provence

Enough doom and pre-baby gloom already. Upon the sound advice of elders and generally Those Who Know, Mr Green and I recently escaped London and environs for a week in sunny Provence. And sunny it was, hitting mid to high 30s every day while Marseilles airport registered 41C on the afternoon of our departure. A bit too much so for my Irish-skinned husband and for junior, who let me know in no uncertain terms when the amniotic fluid reached boiling point by thrashing around in his very own mosh pit. Still, our 'babymoon' location, in the countryside just north of Salon-en-Provence, proved nothing short of idyllic with its lavender bushes thrumming with bumble bees. And for the first few days at least we had total monopoly over the luscious inground pool at our B&B/villa. Only the crew of an Apollo shuttle could understand my giddy delirium at the sudden feeling of weightlessness. In the bath I may have been a sperm whale stranded in an estuary, but in the pool I was Willy freed! At one point I even managed to hitch a ride on Mr Green's back without crippling him, thereby vowing to find the nearest watering hole back in Kent so I can repeat the experience until a dorsal fin grows out of my skin (hey, at this rate of change, I wouldn't bat an eyelid.)

I was so taken by my newfound aquatic prowess that I accidentally ordered the coquilles St Jacques -- okay, so I confess to being a little taken by the name -- which the waitress merely described as 'white fish, very good'. Much to my dismay, out came a plate of scallops with the roes and all. Dismay, because all the scaremongers keep insisting that shellfish is one of a long list of foods which you must avoid like the plague whilst pregnant. Most cheeses feature on said list, as do pates, peanuts, cured hams, smoked fish, etc... But I needn't have panicked. Even though the waitress looked like she hadn't cleaned under her fingernails since 1986, my dismay quickly evaporated. What the coquilles lacked in freshness they more than made up for in cooking time. Hours passed and by some miracle I wasn't sick. Which made me wonder, as I tucked into lots of lovely warm goats cheese salads with impunity, whether the French aren't more laidback for a reason. Because life is too short maybe and the risks too slim to warrant such scare tactics? I'm not sure of the reason exactly but I relished their philosophie all the same. Then licked my fingers.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The skinny on pregnancy weight gain

As soon as you fall pregnant, suddenly everyone is an expert extolling advice, whether you want it or not. Whole bookstore shelves are jam packed with "manuals" telling you what to do and what not to do when you're expecting. One such "commandment" recommends a 25-35lbs weight gain during pregnancy, regardless of your starting weight and general body shape. Unfortunately, like most one-size-fits-all guides, this approach fails to consider the individual woman. And even more unfortunately, it encourages pregnant women to obsess about the numbers on the scale at a time when they should be focusing on being healthy and happy.

As someone who has always had something of an issue with weight, pregnancy was always going to pose a challenge for me. In fact, most of the teasing I endured in the playground stayed there; it was my own family who carried on the torch, relentlessly commenting on how fat this or that person was, and quietly monitoring everything that did -- or didn't -- cross my lips. A stark reminder that you can pick your friends, but not your family. While I never had an eating disorder per se, I came perilously close one summer, close enough to scare myself back into eating well.

However, just when I thought I'd put those demons to rest, and mortised the cellar door, back they came the minute I fell pregnant. Even the most innocuous maternity fashion depicts a six-foot-something model with twigs for arms, bean spouts for legs, and the most infinitesimal bump (more kumquat than watermelon). Far from being in proportion, she hasn't gained an ounce of flab elsewhere on her body the way real life pregnant women do. In short, she looks as alien as the average catwalk model does in correlation to the average non-pregnant woman. Fortunately I take this media ploy for what it is, savvy and grateful that I am no longer quite so impressionable. But insecurities die hard, it seems. Having my mother recently delight at the width of my rear end, and repeatedly remind me to make sure the midwife checks on my weight, well, I snapped.

The truth of the matter is, my midwife has never taken any interest whatsoever in my weight gain. In fact, not once has she made me set foot on a scale. And provided her ample experience tells her she has no bona fide medical reason for concern, I think rightly so. As long as I am eating healthily, and not consuming an excessive amount of Haagen Dazs; as long as I feel well (or, as well as a woman in her final trimester can), let the scale gather dust! My aunt gained a whopping 80lbs with each of her pregnancies, and then lost the weight. Not that I'm advocating an all-out binge fest, but surely pregnancy is the one time we as women can, and should, relax in our (stretching) skin.

For the first time in my life, ironically, I love my shape and feel confident enough to parade around in a bikini. I believe my husband when he tells me I look beautiful, because I really do feel beautiful. The female form is amazingly resilient. Through the transformative powers of pregnancy, I am developing a new found respect and admiration for my body -- even the extra 50lbs of it. My eyes no longer appraise it as harshly as they once did. With any luck, some of that esteem will linger into the years beyond my child's birth, when no doubt I'll have more important things to worry about, like loving my son...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bob and the Builder crack

Nearing week 26 now and what a turning point it is, too. Gone is the honeymoon phase of sauntering around gazelle-like and posing with oh-so-little bump, and hello to the I Can Just About Fit Through Doorways phase and the Get the Hell Out of My Way Or I'll Bulldoze You phase. I officially waddle and I tell you, it ain't pretty. My T-shirts seem to have all shrunk overnight and now ride up to leave an unsightly 2-3-inch gap reminiscent of Bob the Builder. Charming.

In the past week or so I seem to have come full circle, with the first trimester hormones flowing on tap, and all of a sudden someone has pulled down the shade on my life view, making it very dark indeed. Little Green now kicks the crap out of me at all hours of the day and it's no longer the butterfly flutter of yore either. I swear last night I saw my tummy skin register a tremor worthy of the Richter Scale. All sorts of anxieties have been nibbling at my brain. What right do I have to bring a child into a world teeming with squalor and unbelievable cruelty? What temporary madness inspired me (me, who can just about call herself a respectable grown up at the ripe age of 31) to think I could look after some guileless little angel? How brazen and selfish and irresponsible and misguided must I be for believing I could just bring another human being into the world and not balls up the whole thing?

Nevermind myriad aches and pees, no wonder pregnant women don't sleep much; there are too many of these Gremlin-like critters coming in and crowding round the bed and secretly nibbling away at her brains throughout the night for her to get any much-needed shut eye. This says nothing of the usual anxieties about surviving labour (easy -- just don't, AT ANY COST, think about it) or panicking about the baby bursting out of the womb with two heads (Sigourney Weaver has a lot to answer for).

At my anomaly scan the other week I was told that Little Green is currently in breech, meaning his feet are aiming the wrong way. I was also told that my placenta was low-lying on one side but that in most cases this usually lifts as the baby grows and anyway, I could probably still have a "normal" birth. The humourless sonographer clearly euphemised the situation, which Google later informed me could, in serious cases, lead to mandatory bed rest for weeks prior to a Caesar (which is where, bluntly put, they hack into your belly to wrench out the baby since it won't squeeze through the little hole)... Sex in this case would be off limits. And, as a matter of fact, since sex proved too painful and awkward anyway, I'm becoming almost as humourless as the sonographer himself. So much for all the phony hype from the marketing gurus that guarantees you'll have the best sex of your life in the second tri. Some silver lining. Of course this is true in some cases but you have no choice but to hate the women who do get what's promised on the packet, just as you loathe the women who can eat chocolate all day long and still look like Kate Moss in skinny jeans...

So prick up those teeny ears young man. Invaluable life lesson #1: Life is seldom fair.

Monday, June 9, 2008


So 24 weeks, and it's been a rocky ride back to British soil. Not only has the usual jet leg been compounded by pregnancy, the lead up to the flight was also marred by hormones. The fact is fatigue during and post pregnancy magnifies everything, crafting molehills into mountains. Case in point. On the drive to the airport Mister Green and I had "words", the result of which led to us missing our turnoff on our way to meet my parents for a goodbye-for-now meal at our favourite Italian. In the end, although we were only 20 minutes late and my parents were magnanimous about the whole thing, I burst into tears which seasoned my linguine and did not let up for the duration of the meal... I don't know about you but sobbing like a tantruming toddler in the middle of a packed restau has to rate in the top ten most humiliating experiences (along with the skirt tucked into the underwear thing, though, granted, that has never happened to me -- yet).

Digressing. With reflection, I can see the error of my ways. Back at work after several sleepless nights, I had to call in sick and at last grant myself some much needed slack. After all, a relaxed mother is a relaxed baby according to that frightfully posh matron to the Royals, Betty Parsons. It must happen in all pregnancies, to every woman at some stage in her progression: she ploughs on full steam ahead until, inevitably, her body gives her a stark reminder of the task at hand, e.g. making a little miracle is no small feat! We would do with being gentler, more forgiving on ourselves and on each other, and not just in pregnancy either.

Digressing again... To other women. To each other. The reaction of strangers when commuting to the City this past week caught me off guard now that I have, for want of a better expression, officially "popped". From disdain to sheer contempt -- these are the looks I've been fending off from women, old and young. Where is the empathy? Where is the sisterhood, I beg you. Why such sour lemons? Is it fertility envy? A deep-seated hate of fatness in all its forms? Theories are welcome...

Men are another story, of course. A strange breed they are (admittedly I'll have to get used to this if I am to raise one myself). Their reactions vary from complete oblivion to outright leering with seemingly no in-between. Until now I never understood the pregnant form was so sexually charged, so desirable. The media wouldn't dare broadcast the fact, but it's true. There is no state more feminine, more exalted than that of the heavily expectant woman, so it only figures that she to cannot escape the lusty gaze. Of course this is reassuring in a way. You don't want to cease being attractive to your partner because that would go against nature, but by the same token neither do you expect to be visually groped by Tom, Dick & Co. Maybe I'm being naive. I'll bet there are entire syndicates and URLs devoted to this particular fetish. Mr Green helpfully supplies the term MILF. In which case, darling son, I'm sorry you had to read about your "old lady" being sexualised before you were even down the hatch. How gross and inconsiderate of me to even bring it up. So sorry...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is that a soother you're toting or are you just happy to see me?

Well, so much for April showers bringing May flowers. The wet damp is keeping me indoors long enough to catch up on overdue baby news. The week we flew to Canada was eventful to say the least. Not only did we have a tour of the maternity ward where I'll be delivering if Mr Green's foot is heavy enough on the accelerator (no worries there, then), the following day it was back to the hospital for the 20-week anomaly scan. A few tense minutes waiting while one woman came out of the darkened ultrasound room in tears. Up until that point I must admit I had been so eager to find out whether Little Green was a he or a she that I hadn't stopped to brace myself against other, potentially devastating possibilities. We arrived for the appointment in such a haste that I'd left my glasses at home and had to watch the monitor through prescription sunglasses like some D-list celebrity. But the sonographer was non-plussed. (I guess he would be, in his line of work. I can't imagine being the day-to-day bearer of such extremely good and extremely bad news. Needless to say, he must get through some boxes of tissues in there...) Fortunately for us the news and the visibility were equally good. It never ceases to amaze me seeing the little being flipping around inside me like a fish. What a marvel modern science is, what an undervalued tour de force! All of the organs were on show, including the ones Mr Green couldn't help but notice. 'Is that what I think it is?' he said, and the sonographer confirmed his suspicions. So my instinct for the past week or so was right on the money. Wow. For the next couple of hours we sat reeling while the realization set in: IT'S A BOY.

I confess to harbouring an initial preference for a girl, if only because -- as I think is the case with most women -- I feel more attuned to what I know and can personally identify with. But shortly thereafter I felt elated about my little boy. How could I not? We were lucky to find out, though. Many hospitals have a staunch policy to refuse, no matter how you beg, to reveal the sex of the baby in case it leads to wilful abortion and infanticide. To think that some cultures still see girls as any less precious than boys truly makes my stomach churn.

But what of Little Green? Would he share our affinity for the natural world and all of its wondrous creatures big and small? Would he be a passionate artist drawing beautiful meaning out of meaninglessness? Or would he be an ambassador trying, in his own small way, to redress the many injustices and cruelties of this world? Whatever he does, whatever he becomes, I love him already, my Jack. (I know it sounds odd, but I can't help but feel like I know him - his Jackness - already, even though his name hasn't yet been 'formally' agreed upon with Mr Green Senior.)

No sooner was Little Green pronounced a 'he' did my mom host a baby shower in the North American tradition. The house was beautifully decorated in blue banners. Friends and family gathered en masse to play silly games, to eat and generally spoiled our bambino with lots of gorgeous soft toys and outfits. At this rate he'll be infinitely better dressed than both his parents. The day was topped off when my friend Josee presented us with the original canvases (see inset) she'd painted for the nursery following our dog theme, ensuring Jack has no choice but to be an animal lover! Another high point: the album my mother put together featuring baby pictures of both Mr Green and I which culminated in photos of us as a couple in love progressing to parents in the making. All I can say is if our love for the baby comes remotely near our love for one another then he will be a truly blessed little man. I only wish it were the case for every new life entering this world...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Some quirky Week 18 facts for you

 By now Little Green measures approx 14cm long, weighs about 200g (7oz) and has:
  • fully functional fingers and toes including teensy-weensy nails
  • downy foetal hair called lanugo (which Mr Green and I always call languo for some reason, making it sound like a type of pasta. Apparently it means 'ancient wool') that may or may not be there to keep him/her warm
  • sex organs even though the nature of these is still are a mystery to mom and dad
  • kidneys that wee every 40-45 minutes inside me (charming!)
  • an active aerobics routine that involves swinging around the umbilical cord (there's enough room in there, though, so I'm not feeling it yet)
  • and... facial expressions (no doubt wincing at the taste of the amniotic fluid since tastebuds are currently forming)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As they say, it's all good. Just don't ask me to explain it to you...

Didn't get a wink Sunday night for giddy exhaustion. Started to get Little Green's room in order. Mr Green did all the muscle work, of course, schlepping the double bed downstairs while I tidied and organised the baby/guest rooms. An artist friend of mine has sweetly offered to produce some canvases for the nursery. She emailed me the sketches and they are gorgeous, so original. Unfortunately I can't upload the sketches here because they are in the wrong format. I can't wait to see the finished product. It's amazing how quickly the room has transformed already. Just by throwing a few soft quilts on our old rocker and piling it with a few pillows, I could already imagine myself there in the quiet hours humming to soothe baby and self. Okay, so for someone who always claimed her maternal clock hadn't audibly ticked, both "hands" have certainly gone into overdrive.

My mother, among other mothers, always vowed motherhood would change me in ways that I couldn't begin to fathom, ways which she herself was at a loss to explain or describe. Although this sort of circular argument which seemed to lack logical foundation in my books (how can you argue or refute a notion someone can't even explain to you?), enraged me at the time, the worst possible scenario has transpired: mother was (yet again) right. Even at this early stage I feel the experience has altered me in some irrevocable way - a softening let's say, rather than an outright mushing.

Impending motherhood gives you a focus, enabling you to take a close, pointed look at what actually matters. It gives you an appreciation (for once) of all that is good within our ever decaying self-absorbed "society". By helping to see the inherent goodness in new life, parenthood also fosters a renewed ability to seek out the same and to recognise it in other human beings, treating this quality as the general rule rather than the exception - great news for the wizened modern cynic I was well on my way to becoming...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Club Med birth, please

Had another appointment this week, this time with a midwife at Pembury, the hospital where I plan to deliver. Unfortunately we weren't yet able to have a tour of the facilities, but apparently there are a few of the conventional all-singing, all-dancing labour rooms (take for that bleeping machines and deeply unflattering tube lighting). There are also a couple of 'homely' rooms at the end of the hall reserved for low-risk, 'normal' pregnancies (take for that dim lighting, potpourri and Barry White). Okay, so not that sort of ambient. Still, the idea of giving birth in an atmosphere more like a boudoir admittedly holds far greater appeal than the surgical slab. In fact, all things considered, this room seems the next best thing to delivering in the comfort of your own home. If (God forbid) anything untoward should happen when labour is well and truly underway then it's just a case of being wheeled down the hall.

Fingers crossed all will remain healthy and (there it is again, that word) normal till the finish line, so I can have a dip in the birthing pool. They almost make it sound like Club Med, but I'm not fooled. The fact that labour is probably the single most violent ordeal the female of the species will undergo -- a natural process that not so long ago occasionally resulted in her own DEATH -- never strays too far from my thoughts. Praise be modern medicine! And yet. And yet I fear we've come full circle to some extent. These days there is all manner of gadgetry and fancy tests you can have to detect (as early as 10 weeks) whether or not your baby is 'defective'. While these screening tests are optional and inconclusive, when I decline on the strength of my low-risk status, each and every midwife I see raises a dubious brow and stares at me like I'm short of a few crucial well-placed marbles.

Just the other day I listened to a radio programme about a woman whose first scan revealed that her foetus was 95% defective and doomed to die in the womb. Rather than focus on the other 5%, medical staff strongly urged the woman to terminate the pregnancy then and there, offering all kinds of support should she choose to abort. When she decided to continue with the pregnancy in spite of the risk, she was virtually shunned by the medical community and beyond. Because she didn't want to terminate, she was utterly alone. There is a happy ending, though: the child did live but with some minor defects (she wouldn't grow taller than 5ft1 or 5ft2). So it does make you wonder.

Of course I pray Little Green will be born healthy and happy but whether he/she does is not in my hands. Even if an abnormality is detected, I wouldn't have the heart to terminate (a euphemism if ever there was one). So screening is a moot point as far as I am concerned. I am not a particularly religious person but neither am I godless either. I have long ago learned that my fate -- and, by extension, the fate of Little Green -- is not for me to decide or to control, try as I might. All I can do is vow to be the best mother I can, whatever path is set out before me by the powers that be.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hi Mom! Hi Dad!

Yesterday afternoon Mr Green and I had our first face-to-face encounter with Little Green, and all I can say is WOW. I hadn't expected the visibility to be quite so clear or for it to be moving around so much already. Most early ultrasound pictures I've seen are little more than a silhouette of a large shrimp-like head and body that are really only exciting or interesting to the parents-to-be. But on the side profile I could make out an ear and a small shaded area that was the heart fluttering on screen. The arms were windmilling, or waving perhaps (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!). And from the front not only were both brain hemispheres visible - reassuring, considering Mr Green is the father! - so were the eye sockets, nose and mouth so it looked like a real face looking out at us. We all know the nuts and bolts of how nature works from science class 101 but until it happens to you, in your own body, it is impossible to grasp what a truly amazing and indescribable feeling it is. A 7.6cm miracle.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Before (6 weeks) & After (12 weeks)

Met with the midwife again this week to undergo the standard blood and urine tests. She took my blood pressure but did not weigh me. (Personally, I think I'm gaining too much too quickly - see above pics for proof in the pudding, literally. But she obviously isn't concerned because I was not grossly obese to begin with.) One exciting thing happened during the visit, though. She asked if I wanted to hear the heartbeat. Did I? She then produced what looked like a small wireless radio, placed a prod on my uterus and felt around. Static like you get in between stations, and a moment that smacked of E.T. and his Speak N' Spell. I half expected a young Drew Barrymore to appear carrying a geranium.

'Did you hear that?' she said. I shook my head, and she prodded some more until at last a very fast pulsating came over the airwaves. Less like a heartbeat than a sign, a telegram from the other side. My first communication with Little Green, albeit one-sided and strange, was still very cool nonetheless. Can't wait for the dating scan next week when Mr Green and I will get to see and hear him/her close up...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You're what? Grrrr...

So the cat's out of the bag at work, the bombshell officially dropped. Pick your cliche. It happened somewhat sooner than I was expecting, too. I happened to go for an impromptu lunch with one of my bosses, to a sushi place, when I quickly realised (and had to explain) why I couldn't eat three-quarters of the raw, slimy things on the menu. He was thrilled since he will be retiring at the end of next month anyway and won't miss my services when I go off on mat leave in the fall. Unfortunately he is also the worst kind of office gossip, and I knew it was only a matter of hours - if not minutes - before word spread around the floodlit cubicles. In a way this made the telling easier - namely because I wouldn't have to do much of the telling myself.

I did, however, make a point of informing a few crucial people: my direct bosses and my job share. Then nothing. Stone cold silence ensued. I'm not sure what reaction I was expecting but it certainly wasn't that. Okay, so perhaps email wasn't the best format, I'll concede that much. But it seemed the most non-intrusive means at the time and preferable to banging on closed doors. The first reply came over an hour later, even though I knew they had all read the email immediately. Funnily enough, it came from my only female boss, who has only recently returned to work from her own mat leave. I can understand and to some extent, sympathise, with the plight of employers these days. Hiring a twenty- or thirty-something woman is a gamble that can potentially cause expense and inconvenience if and when she decides to procreate. But I have to say the overall reaction (or lack thereof) in my department shocked me. After all, I have been with this firm for over three and a half years, not three and a half months. And yet women are still made to feel, at whatever stage in their career, they are deliberately duping their employer by undertaking what is the most natural and wonderful decision a woman of that age can make.

First and foremost congratulations, how ever grudging or insincere they may be, are in order. That is the bottom line.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The great name debate

Already the great name debate has begun. This, after some deliberation about finding out whether or not Little Green will be in possession of an all-important "little winkie". Some parents-to-be specifically request that their baby's gender be kept from them at scan time, thereby saving an element of surprise for the birthing suite. Personally, I've come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of surprises - or not surprises on this kind of scale at least - surprise chocolates, surprise roses I can deal with, no problemo. To be honest, at this point surprise would consist of being handed a baby with ten fingers and ten toes, devoid of any clandestine numbers tattooed on its teensy-weensy scalp. At this point I am acquiescent to my role as mere vessel, as "hostess with the mostess", being gatecrashed and trashed from the inside, used and abused by a grape-sized being.

Focusing on something as inane as names at this early stage helps preserve my sanity if nothing else. But I got off track there. Aside from the obvious practicalities of pink vs blue, knowing your baby's gender early on is said to allow you to bond with the little critter, to visualise its (human) face and (human) features. As long as it's healthy...

Due to Mr Green's lineage, we were tossing around Irish names. Well, the pronounceable, spellable ones at least, which narrows the list considerably. So far there is little consensus. My Jake or Jacob was swiftly poo-pooed. We sort of agree on Aidan but Jack is always a lad so we might give that a miss. Girls' names, though, draw a blank. There is the option of honouring either great granny - Una or Aledra, respectively - but the main thing is not to cripple your child with a name so unusual they limp around with it for the rest of their days, bitter and shamed to the core. After all, it's all about giving them the best possible start in life, isn't it?

If all else fails, there's always deed poll. As long as he's not called Damian...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


For the first time all week I have arrived at mid-morning and not felt the constant urge to vomit so, all things considered, I've declared this a good day. In fact, to coincide with my dog entry, my prime, canine-like craving thus far has been for red meat. Previously I must admit I thought the whole idea of pregnant women craving certain foods was, frankly, a load of bull. A carte blanche allowing them to devour whole tubs of Ben & Jerry's with impunity because "the baby needs calcium". But perhaps there is a crumb of validity to this argument: can a craving be another way of your body telling you what it isn't getting enough of?

I'm no tofu lover by any stretch. My pre-preggers diet predominantly consisted of fish and poultry and yet lately I can't seem to get enough M-E-A-T. Pork, mainly, which is funny because normally I'm not much of a fan. But then pregnancy does funny things to both your brain and your body. The sight of pork pies at work last week got me hot and bothered. And even as the grease and fat was oozing onto my napkin, I knew a single pie was just not going to be enough. Shamefully, when no one was looking, I went back for more. On Valentines, it was posh pork ribs in a chilli bourbon sauce followed by slow-roasted belly of pork... Hmmmm... Then on the weekend, it was sausage rolls and more sausage rolls, then these honey mustard sausages again last night. Mr Green is hardly complaining because men tend to like meat.

If I stop and think about it rationally, as far as cravings go it's pretty damn gross. But at the moment rational doesn't even figure. Right now I am a prisoner to my body's whims and follies. And, after all, the baby needs protein, right?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whingefest 2008

Not that I have any intention of turning this blog into a whingefest. Consider it more of a public service announcement to all non-mothers out there. There are many myths surrounding both pregnancy and childbirth - i.e. that the second the baby is born you magically "forget" the violent thrashings of labour. Or another personal favourite of mine: that the pregnant woman blooms in her second trimester - her hair turning thick and glossy; her skin radiating good health; her libido soaring, and so on. While I am still praying that the aforementioned aren't just myths propagated by one generation of women to another in order to keep the human race from extinction, I am beginning to have my doubts.

As countless people inquired after my well being, I was starting to think as I rounded the seven-week mark that I might just get through the first trimester unscathed. Imagine my shock and horror then as I emerged last weekend in a Kafkaesque moment only to find that lo and behold, I had become a dog. A beagle perhaps, with those permanently droopy, overtired eyes and a nose like a radar. At the moment I could probably tell you what the neighbours three doors down ate for dinner. And every 30 seconds or so the urge to wee will take me (and WCs aren't nearly as numerous as lampposts, it has to be said). Like a dog, I too will devour anything in sight, having lost the faculty to impose my own limitations.

Sick as a dog... Well, I'm not sure where the expression came from but it fits. The urge to hurl also overcomes me every 30 seconds or so (see above), abating only when I am eating (see above). No wonder dogs doze and generally mope around all day long. Far from being lazy, they are worn out, the poor rascals. Do them a favour, will you, and let them lie.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Little green, have a happy ending

Born with the moon in cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who've made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer

He went to California
Hearing that everything's warmer there
So you write him a letter and say, her eyes are blue.
He sends you a poem and she's lost to you
Little green, he's a non-conformer

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You're sad and you're sorry, but you're not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending

Just a little green
Like the color when the spring is born
There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green
Like the nights when the northern lights perform
There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

***No, I didn't write this (I wish); Joni Mitchell did. About the child she gave up in 1965 and was reunited with in 1997. It's beautiful and apt, a first song for our own Little Green. Have a listen...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Boobie talk

I want to talk for a moment about breasts. Now that I've got your full and undivided attention...

Suffice to say that mine have been playing havoc these past few days. I can't say I have noticed a significant increase in bust size yet. However, they are tender and heavy and sensitive as hell. Hence the current look-no-touch policy. For many women breast engorgement is the (no pun) biggest perk of pregnancy. Let's see, when faced with crying jags, piles, exhaustion, nausea, it's not hard to see why. Many women can go up as much as three cup sizes - the equivalent of free implants.

Move over Jordan, move over Britney - here I come!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Everything you mustn't eat, drink or smoke

First doctor's appointment was a bit of an anti-climax. In his inimitable brisk manner, my GP said: Yup, that would make you six and a half weeks pregnant. He waited to see that I was smiling before he issued his congratulations. (As you can imagine, he gets lots of terminations.) After telling me what I could not eat, drink and smoke, I was in and out of there in under 10 minutes. My appointment with the midwife happens at week 10, and at least that meeting will last a satisfying 60 minutes!

Spoke to Nanny B again last night with the official news. Unfortunately any time anything remotely medical enters into our conversation (which is often with pregnancy), she promptly reminds me that I am not a medical professional and don't have a clue what I'm talking about. Maybe so. But my worry is that the birthing suite may not be big enough for two nurses. And I could do without a cat fight there when, frankly, more important things are going on and calm is of the essence.

It goes without saying that pregnancy is the time when most women feel closest to their own mothers - assuming they are on speaking terms - wanting to learn and share what they are going through with the one who brought them into the world in much the same fashion. However, as with weddings (that other major milestone) the reality is rarely as rosy as the picture painted. Wanting only to help, many grannies-to-be have trouble not crossing that faint line between considered advice and all-out control. While I would be desperately disappointed if my mother wasn't by my side every step of the way, there will be times when she'll have to stand behind me as I make my own decisions and learn to become a wonderful mother in my own right.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sexyloverwife vs Supremegoddessmother

First time Mr Green and I managed to get amorous because of all excitement of the week. While I am keen to stay intimate with my husband throughout pregnancy (and am assured that it is both perfectly healthy and safe to do so), my body certainly felt different. If I'm honest, I had some trouble letting myself go completely. Couldn't quite push the "growing baby bud" out of my mind. And pushing it out of the mind (at least temporarily) is almost necessary if you are to have a good time -- so to speak -- with your partner. It is important for men especially to recognise this dichotomy, to learn early on to differentiate between the sexyloverwife from the supremegoddessmother. Ditto for the woman if she is to continue being a happy, if less active, sexual being. I have a feeling that from hereon in, it might be a case of quality versus quantity. Sigh.

Take cover, Mr Green

Hormones have already gone into overdrive. Poor Mr Green. We weren't through the door a minute and I jumped on every word he said, even when he foolishly tried to crack a joke. Then I burst into tears. We quickly made up and had a cuddle. What a rollercoaster the next few months promise to be. I knew my moods would be volatile, like the worst-ever case of PMS imaginable, but I never expected it to happen quite so soon...

Back at work with the Knowledge

All day long I had the feeling of a fugitive, sneaking around, and not being able to tell anyone was torture. Already I found I was taking care of the way I move, having the added awareness of a guardian protecting something precious and sacred within.

Are you positive?

Came home from work and took the pregnancy test just before dinner, fully expecting it to come out negative. Before Christmas I was similarly convinced that I was pregnant when my period was also a week late, and being utterly crestfallen to find -- after about 3 tests in a matter of as many days -- that I was not. This time the litmus took no time at all in registering the positive sign of the cross. Needless to say, Mr Green was over the moon and couldn't stop smiling at dinner. After calling both future nannies, I decided to take another test just to be sure. Again, positive. A sleepless night followed as we tried to absorb the reality of what we had accomplished and just how drastically our lives would now change from this moment forward.