This Time Last Year…

…I was 37 weeks pregnant, enjoying a farewell lunch for a lovely friend, finding myself full after two slices of pizza.

…baby had gone from 4/5 engaged (the way he’d been for weeeeeeks), to 0/5 engaged and had turned posterior.

…the sciatic nerve pain I’d been plagued with for weeks had abated, and I felt comfortable for the first time in months.

…I believed this baby was still weeks away from being born.

Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Babies are tricky like that.

37 weeks pregnant

Also? My hair was looking awesome, I must say.

This is the photo I posted on Facebook mere hours before the first contraction. A very dear friend had posted a photo of herself at 40 weeks two days prior, and her baby boy was born just hours later. That’s the key, people! Facebook has the power to bring on labour.

Not really. Don’t come back and yell at me coz you tried it and it didn’t work, Melissa, Sophie or Talia ;o)

Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to a New Mum

“I lost all my baby weight straight away, you know.”

Huh. I was feeling pretty excited about being able to see my toes for the first time in months, but that’s that bubble burst.

“It’s a bit dusty in here…”

Look at my beautiful baby. LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL BABY. Oh, screw it. There are cloths in the laundry; knock yourself out.

“Do you think he needs another layer?”

No? Yes? Maybe? I. Don’t. Know.

“You look tired.”

Really?? Wow, you’re perceptive. And thanks, because I was actually feeling kinda good today.

“Isn’t he sleeping through yet?”

No, he’s not, and regardless of what you think, that’s normal. But he will. One day. And on that day, I’ll be sure to let you know.

“So you’ll be having another, then?”

Woah. WOOOOAH. Back that truck up, let me get my head around how this one works first.

“How’s the breastfeeding going?”

Don’t assume that it is. Ever. Mothers who are not breastfeeding, for whatever reason, carry enough guilt over decisions they make concerning their babies, so don’t go adding to it, however unintentionally.

“Are those maternity pants you’re wearing?”

Why yes they are. Darn comfy they are, too. But if you hold my poo-y baby, I’ll just get onto my 100 daily crunches now, okay?

“Awesome, now you can come out for my birthday drinks next weekend.”

Yeah…not gonna happen. Got this unpredictable little thing called a “baby” to look after, see? But hey, thanks for the reminder that my social life is now over (it’s not, really, but for those first few years months weeks, it sure feels like it).

~~~~~~~~~

Just days after I had Tiny, I introduced him to my sister via Skype. My nephew (2.5 years old at the time), popped on screen and said, unprompted, “Aunty Angela, you look beautiful.”

Now that is what you should say to a new mum. It still makes me smile, almost three years later, knowing that he knew the right thing to say when many adults didn’t.

Things I Wish I’d Known: Advice for new mums

Dairy-free Meal Planning

This week, I’m making a concerted effort to go as dairy-free as possible. I’m lactose intolerant, and Tall had a dairy allergy as a child, so it’s most likely that the dairy in my diet is causing Pickle’s wind and vomiting.

Having gone dairy-free before, I know what my own system can and can’t handle. For instance, cheese and ice cream are definitely out, but a little bit of yoghurt or milk in the morning is okay. At the height of my restricted diet, I consumed no dairy whatsoever. It was tough, but I’m a creative cook, so I still managed to eat pretty well. However, now that we’re eating more and more meals with Tiny, I want to be able to sit down and enjoy the same meals as my boys, so I’m not going to be as restrictive as when it was just me.

However, I’ll be steering clear of family favourites like macaroni cheese and lasagne for a while, and Tall will have to eat all of the Whitestone Vintage Windsor Blue by himself. I’ll be back to ordering teas or long blacks at cafés, and I’ll have to satisfy my sweet tooth with something other than baking and chocolate.

But I’ll do it, because if it takes away Pickle’s discomfort, it will all be worth it. He had a very unsettled night on Sunday after I’d eaten ice cream for dessert; his screams of pain and the wee legs kicking about violently broke my heart, and I know it’s unfair to not do something about it if I can.

So on the menu this week, we have:

~ Thai chicken dumplings (last night’s dinner…I loved that the recipe was for pork dumplings but there was no mention of pork in the ingredients!

~ Mexican pork and beans (currently smelling divine in the slow cooker) – the tortillas I’ll serve it with contain dairy, but not much

~ Steak sandwiches – the ciabatta I bought probably contains dairy, but again, it won’t be a huge amount

~ Sausages, spuds and salad

~ Smoked salmon, potato salad and rye bread – might use a little mayo for my potato sala

~ Sticky pan-fried scallops with chilli rice

So far, I’m doing okay, but no baking is going to be tough!

Pickle’s Birth Story: Part Two

(Read Part One here)

It’s 1am, and I’m an hour into being 37 weeks pregnant.

I wake up, feeling uncomfortable, as though I’ve been sweating in my sleep. I shift in the bed, and wonder why my pajama pants feel damp.

Last time I felt like this, my waters had broken, I muse. Funny.

I get up to pee. There’s something not quite right; the toilet paper shouldn’t be pink. It’s definitely pink. I wonder stupidly if my waters have broken, but there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid and besides, the baby isn’t engaged anymore.

I shake off the feeling of deja vu and clamber back into bed. No sooner have I gotten comfortable than I feel an intense cramping in my abdomen. I breathe deeply and it seems to pass. Bloody Braxton Hicks, I grumble inwardly. Sleep, sleep, sleeeeeep.

Five minutes later, another cramp. Geez, these are intense, I think, panting a little. I fleetingly wonder if they are actually labour contractions, but the thought is quickly dismissed. It’s not possible, I tell myself, squeezing my eyes firmly shut. 10 hours ago, he was posterior and completely out of my pelvis. This CAN’T be labour.

Twenty minutes and another four “cramps” later, I sit bolt-upright in bed. I groan, and finally accept that I am having contractions.

I get up, and call my midwife. She’s surprised to get my call, but is calm and rational as always. “Call me when you want to go in to the hospital,” she says. “And call your parents to go to your house, too.”

I get back into bed, remembering the advice to “rest and relax” as much as possible. Two minutes later, I’m back on my feet; lying down is not an option.

I wake Tall and tell him what’s going on. In stark contrast to last time, he’s calm and coherent. I tell him to keep sleeping, and that I’ll wake him when I need him.

Then I go and do what any normal woman in labour does at two o’clock in the morning – I file my nails and hang some washing on the clothes horse, all the while thinking, Tiny’s got no dry nappies, dammit.

My parents arrive, wide-eyed and surprised. They settle themselves into bed in our spare room (thank goodness I had the foresight to put clean sheets on the bed that week), and I continue with my pacing. At 3.45am, I wake Tall and tell him it’s time to go. While he has a quick shower, I call the midwife. By 4am, we’re at the hospital.

The midwife asks what I’d like to do, and I say I want to get in the bath. It takes a while to fill, but I’m feeling okay. I even have a chance to comment to Tall about how different I feel this time around. I feel in control, and I feel as though I’m letting my body do its thing, instead of fighting against it.

In the bath, the hot water is dribbled in, in a constant stream. By this point, I’m shaking uncontrollably, but it’s not because I’m cold. I can’t stop it, and it’s the first time I feel like I’m not in control.

The midwife is sitting quietly in the bathroom with us. She’s unobtrusive, and let’s us spend these moments in relative peace. I relax into the water, bracing my feet on the side of the bath whenever a contraction becomes too much to bear unsupported. When I feel the sudden urge to push, I don’t need to say anything or ask for permission; I do what my body is telling me to do. I push, and I feel my waters break. I’m surprised at the violence with which they pop, and it takes my breath away.

Then I hear my midwife’s voice. “I’m just calling for assistance…everything’s okay, there’s just some meconium in your waters…your baby will be fine, you just need to go slowly and not make any sudden moves, okay?”

I know I shouldn’t panic, but I do, momentarily. And then I breathe, and I keep the midwife’s words in my mind. Our baby is fine, our baby is fine, our baby is fine.

I push and I push. Just once, I tell Tall I can’t do this anymore, and then I know that with the next push, the baby’s head will be free. I feel him crown, and I know that I have to get those little shoulders out. And then he’s out, and I’m turning around in the water, performing all sorts of gymnastic moves to swing my leg over my baby and the cord, and then I’m being handed my slippery little newborn son. I clutch him to my chest and cry and smile and kiss him, and welcome him into the world. It’s 5.23am, on June 22nd, 2012.

Once he’s swaddled and fed, and I’ve had a shower and we’re snuggling on the bed, I wolf down apricot jam on toast and sip milky sweet Milo through a straw. I look at my husband, and say, “His name is Henry.”

Tall laughs and says, with a twinkle in his eye, “Oh, really?”

I know he’s teasing, but I respond vehemently: “Yes!” With my eyes, I challenge him to argue with me. With ME, his wife, who has safely, naturally, confidently delivered his second son. There is no argument forthcoming, and I whisper into our newborn’s ear, “Hi, Henry. Welcome to our family. We love you so much, little man.”

Because we do. We are instantly smitten with this determined, I’ll-arrive-when-I-decide, black-haired little boy.

At that moment, I think of Tiny (hopefully) fast asleep at home, and feel a sudden sense of fulfillment with the knowledge that our family is now complete.

(Read Tiny’s birth story here)

~~~~~~~~~
Linking up the love here

Pickle’s Birth Story: Part One

The day of my 36-week midwife appointment, I was feeling very sorry for myself. I had a sinus infection and a pounding headache, Pickle was doing headstands on my cervix, and every part of me ached after I’d decided – foolishly – to go for a walk that afternoon.

“How are you feeling this week?” my midwife asked.

“Uncomfortable!” I replied, miserably. “I’ve got a sinus infection, and it feels like the baby has dropped down even more.”

“Let’s check him out,” she said, helping me onto the bed. “No wonder! He’s 4/5 engaged…”

“I thought he might be,” I groaned. “There’s a lot of pressure down there.”

We talked about my cold and I agreed to make a doctor’s appointment for the following Monday. I got ready to leave. My midwife stopped me.

“If you’re still this uncomfortable next week, and if your cold has gone AND baby is still this far down, we could look at doing a sweep…”, she said slowly. “It’s not necessary, but something for you to consider…I’d be happy to deliver your baby any time after 37 weeks.”

I left the appointment with these words racing through my head. I’d been over my pregnancy for weeks, and the idea of it being over, and meeting our little fella, was immensely appealing.

I sent a text a close friend in Rotorua who was due two weeks before me. “Man, I’m only 2/5 engaged!” she wrote. “The race is on! ;-)”

A week later, I was having lunch with friends, and after two slices of thin-crust pizza, I was struggling to eat any more. I thought it was strange, but put it down to the two muffins I’d eaten earlier.

However, at my midwife appointment at 3.30 that afternoon, I was surprised to learn that Pickle was 0/5 engaged and had turned posterior; the inability to eat was in fact because my stomach was once more being pushed up into a tiny space in my chest. I left the appointment feeling disappointed; no doubt this baby was going to be on time (or late!) after all.

I sent a text to the friends I’d lunched with, and said the same thing to my parents when I collected Tiny again: “This baby’s playing games with me! Looks like he’s settling in for a while longer.”

After dinner that night, I felt the first Braxton Hicks contraction I’d had in a few days. “You know what?”, I said to Tall. “I’m actually glad he’s popped back out. I thought I was ready for him, but I don’t think I am!”

(Read Part Two here)

Tales of Travel: Leaving London

The decision to leave London was one that we made early in 2009.

Everything started to fall into place when Tall was head-hunted back by the company he’d worked for prior to us leaving Dunedin. He’d already put them off once, but with the doom-and-gloom recession starting to hit New Zealand, he recognised he was lucky to have received such an offer.

Flights to South America for one final jaunt on the way home booked and paid for, we then found out I was pregnant with Tiny. A few weeks of tears and “should we? shouldn’t we?” later, we both handed in our resignations, and began the process of packing up our lives and preparing to leave the country that had been home for almost two-and-a-half years.

London

I knew that the hardest part about leaving would be saying good-bye to my sister and her family (they stayed in England for a few more months longer), and to the wonderful friends I’d made. But I always knew we wouldn’t stay indefinitely, and that my sister would head back to Melbourne, and I knew that I would always keep in touch with those friends who really mattered. So instead of spending our last few months thinking about what we were leaving behind, we chose to make the most of our time and made sure we saw and did all those things we’d been putting off.

Picnic at Hampstead Heath with my sister and family

Things like visiting museums and galleries, going to see The Phantom of the Opera and having a picnic at Hampstead Heath.

Brighton Pier

Visiting Brighton, taking last strolls for squirrel watching around Hyde and St James’ Parks, and having one last shopping spree on Oxford Street and the maze of streets in Covent Garden.

Course four at Le Gavroche – scallops cooked with ginger, oh my!

Going out for a fancy eight course Michelin-star meal at Le Gavroche, and having “last drinks” at the various pubs we’d spent so much time in over the past couple of years.

Squirrel!! I love squirrels.

There were tears – copious amounts of them – and hugs I never wanted to end, and promises of keeping in touch. There were removal men collecting our boxes for shipping home, and strangers collecting items we’d sold on eBay. There were new tenants to take over our lease, goods to be donated to Oxfam, and food to be used up.

And suddenly, it was the 1st of November, and we were in a taxi in the driving rain, on our way to Heathrow Airport. The tears had dried up, and the excitement and anticipation of eight weeks in South America had set in.

Lady and the Bump: 37w

While hubby was playing squash last night (and injuring himself again – oi vey!), I drafted up a post about being 37ish weeks pregnant.

This morning, when I read it over, I decided to delete the whole thing.

Why? Because it read like one big moan. And I suddenly realised that through this entire pregnancy, I have done nothing but complain. I’ve been all, “Woe is me, I’ve been throwing up and I’m sore and uncomfortable and WHY CAN’T HE STOP KICKING ME THERE???”, instead of stopping to take a moment and relish the miracle that is pregnancy and the little person growing inside me.

So, today, instead of my usual rant about the discomforts of pregnancy, I am going to reflect on all the good things about being pregnant.

37w

~~~~~~~~~

* Laying on the couch with Tiny, during those first 22 weeks, catching a wink of sleep while he snuggled in and watched some cartoons.

* Feeling those first flutterings of movement and feeling just as excited about it as first time round.

* Eating potato chip sandwiches and chocolate bars because that’s what the baby wanted.

* Sharing maternity clothes with similar-sized friends who have just had babies, and passing clothes on to another who is about ten weeks behind me.

* Watching the numbers on the scales creep up and up – without any sense of horror – after the initial weight loss.

* Washing all the teeny tiny little clothes and folding them lovingly, arranging them into Tiny’s scotch chest (and thus confusing Tall when he tried to find Tiny’s clothes and pulled out onesie after tiny little onesie!).

* The excitement of finding out whether Pickle was pink or blue, and subsequently being able to talk to Tiny about his baby brother.

* Wondering what this baby will be like – will he be a wee baldy like his big brother? Will he have reflux? Will he be a shorty, like mummy, or a tally, like daddy? Will he have the same delicious chocolate-coloured eyes as the other men in my life?

* Feeling that immense sense of love for this little person we haven’t even met yet, knowing that when he arrives, our little family will be complete.

37w pregnant with Tiny; 37w pregnant with Pickle – bigger, methinks??

~~~~~~~~~

(You’ve got to allow me a couple of little moans, though…)

I miss being able to put on my shoes without grunting like a pig. Actually, I miss being able to dress my entire lower half without uttering an involuntary and oh-so-attractive, “Oofff”.

And I itch. All over. I expected it on the stretched skin on my tummy, but on the palms of my hands? The soles of my feet? In my EARS???! Gah! Last night it was so bad that I had to get out of bed three times for full-body scratching sessions. I was at the doctor this morning and mentioned the itching to her; she took one look at my hands, declared me to be “very dry”, and sent me away with soap substitute and two types of hydrocortisone-based cream. Yey.

Lady and the Bump: 35w 3d

I am choosing to believe that we have at least five weeks until we are a family of four, but other people seem intent on Freaking Me the Heck Out by saying things like, “But if he’s anything like his big brother, you might only have three weeks…”

Yes, we might. But please, for the sake of limiting the number of grey strands in my hair to four, please stop saying that!!

Not helped by the fact that at today’s midwife appointment, she informed me that Pickle is currently 3/5 engaged. Yep, I’ve been feeling that for the last little while, and have been enjoying comments such as, “You’ve started to waddle!” and “I think your baby has dropped. Has he dropped? Shirl*, don’t you reckon he’s dropped?”

I’m well aware that at this stage, he could still pop up and down a bit, but Tiny was 4/5 engaged for a month before he was born and did not budge during that time. I put that down to his extra-big head getting stuck down there….which doesn’t put me at ease right now, for obvious reasons.

Taken at 34w….not sure I like how this dress looks from side-on!

Otherwise….all is just the same. Achy back, loads of Braxton Hicks, sporadic heartburn, and much foot-jabbing in the ribs. I’m hoping my 36-week blood tests will show that the ferritin tablets have raised my iron levels beyond almost-zilch, but it’s hard to tell when tiredness just comes with being a lumbering elephant.

Tiredness that is not being eased by a poorly boy (again! Winter lurgies – be gone!!) who is waking numerous times in the night and will only re-settle if I clamber oh-so-gracefully into his little single bed beside him, so he can proceed to sneeze and cough all over me, and wipe his snotty little face in my hair in an attempt to get closer for cuddles.

Needless to say, it has been a looooong, grouchy week, stuck indoors, and while I’ve relished the chance to do a few things at home, I’ve missed society somewhat!

Earlier in the week, Tiny and I sat by the fire and assembled the bassinet; partly to be prepared, but also to get Tiny used to it being around. He helped me build it, all the while saying, “I love baby brother.” My heart was melting, until I realised he was meaning that he liked the bassinet.

Teeny tinies…one-two-three: “Awwwwwww!”

We’ve had some chats about what’s going to happen soon, and he seems excited about the idea of his baby brother coming to live with us…but let’s see if theory and reality can be reconciled in his little two-year-old brain. I’ve warned him that the baby will cry and will need lots of cuddles from mummy and daddy, but that he’ll still need lots of cuddles too, and we’ll do our best to administer them when required.

I don’t think we need any new clothes for this bebe…

All the teeny tiny baby clothes have been freshly laundered and sorted, we’re stocked up with teeny tiny nappies, and I bought a slow cooker on the weekend – the idea of preparing a meal first thing and then forgetting about it is rather appealing, especially when I recall those early months with the infamous “witching hour”.

~~~~~~~~~

* I don’t actually know anyone by the name of Shirl…it just sounds good, ‘kay?

What I’m Reading: the “What’s in a Name?” edition – Part Two

So I finished ‘Titus Groan’.

[Insert crickets chirping and tumbleweeds tumbling here]

I’m still digesting it, and am honestly not sure what to say about it right now, other than it’s been a little bit mad, a little bit fantastical, and a little bit compelling, all at the same time. I’ll sit on this one for a while before giving my thoughts, I think!

The trilogy: one down, two to go

I was in two minds whether to carry on and keep reading the other two in this trilogy (I have them in one massive volume), or pause and read something else for a while. I was worried that if I stopped, Pickle would arrive and it would be quite some time before I had the mental capacity to read anything other than light-and-fluffy chick-lit. However, I’ve decided to keep going, and have thus started ‘Gormenghast’.

Right from the start, it feels like it’s been written by another person. The tone is so different to ‘Titus Groan’, and I’m already feeling a bit wary of it. I shall persevere, though, and will hopefully knock off a fair chunk before baby arrives.

Tiny getting into the name-choosing action

Speaking of Pickle – last night, Tall finally had a flick through our baby names book. He threw out a couple of options that I don’t like, and one that I feel a bit so-so about. In my mind, there are two very clear winners, and I’ll be surprised if he comes up with anything that comes remotely close to these. He’s said that he thinks of names that are cool, but then forgets them, which (a) isn’t very helpful, and (b) means they can’t be that cool.

Surprisingly, my former favourite-best-name-ever name has been pipped from top spot! I know!! I’ve been playing around with another name, seeing how it fits, and I love it more than I thought possible. When I realised it had overtaken my previous top name, I was shocked.

And the best news? Tall likes it! He likes it a lot!

~~~~~~~~~

You can read my thoughts on Jude the Obscure and Les Misérables, and many more great reviews, on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.

Lady and the Bump: 33w

Holy moly….there are now just seven weeks left until my due date. SEVEN WEEKS, people!! That’s less than two months. GULP.

Even though I’ve been whingeing and complaining about how uncomfortable I am, I think I’d still like a little bit more time to prepare myself for sleepless nights, leaky boobs, endless laundry and splitting my time between two little people!

Pickle has, like his big brother, been head down for a while now. It appears my babies like to hang out upside down and practise their headstands for as long as possible before they arrive, and now I’m just awaiting the onset of The Waddle.

33 weeks of baby and me

My midwife and I have had a couple of chats about labour, and I’ve expressed my desire to have a water birth (at the hospital) if possible. Last time, everything happened so quickly and I panicked in the pool when I realised I needed to push, and I just wanted OUT of that water. This time, the idea of giving birth in the water is immensely appealing.

Tiny and I signed up for this term’s swimming lessons, and despite it becoming increasing difficult to haul myself out of the pool, I have been relishing the feeling of weightlessness when in the water. I think this has probably helped with my desire to at least labour in the water, even if I decide last minute that I want out.

I’m considering packing my hospital bag soon. I lay awake last night thinking about what I took last time that I didn’t need (virtually everything), and the things I wish I had packed. I guess it will all depend on how this birth goes, and how long we stay in the ward. With Tiny, I was home within 20 hours of getting to the hospital (it felt so wrong being there without Tall, and I just wanted to get home); this time, the idea of having a couple of nights bonding alone with our new babe is very appealing. That might change though – I know I’ll miss my bigger boys!

Pregnant with Tiny at 33w 5d; Pickle at 33w