Category Archives: Health

Feeding Baby

Wow.

There is an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information out there.

I ignored it all.

My advice to anyone who is soon to becoma a parent: find what works for you and your baby.

I couldn’t eat much during the pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gradivarium and if you think that is the same as morning sickness, try hurling until you suffocate yourself and begin to feel panic rising alongside the bile as your airways close and you think you are going to die SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES A DAY FOR 39 WEEKS!

Anyhoo.  As a rule, I cook from scratch.  Even when I’ve been cash rich and time poor, I tended to devote a day to cooking and make huge batches of chillis, soups, stews and even bread that could be put in the freezer as “convenience” meals.  I’m lucky because my Mum and Step-Grandma loved to cook so I learned to cook.  Convenience food and even a lot of restaurant food just isn’t up to the high standards that were set by the magnificent women in my life.  In fact, in recent months, our menu for the week was set by what Mr PinQ brought home form the food bank – it’s amazing how much more inventive you become!  I suppose that I was hoping to be able to breast feed as a natural progression from that, feeding my baby formula that is full of palm oil really didn’t appeal to me.

“Oh here we go.  Another of those self-righteous, blow-up-your-own-backside posts about how marvellous a mother you are because your baby was breast fed.” I hear you think.  Well read on…

As it happens, I’m a realist.  I was hoping to be able to breast feed but I know plenty of lovely mums and some of them chose to breast feed, some chose to bottle feed and others had to bottle feed whether they liked it or not.  I was under no illusions on that score.  To be honest, I found the posters in the local maternity unit intimidating because the message was that the best mums breastfeed their babies and I actually felt inadequate before my baby was even born!

One of the things that went into my “grab bag” was a tub of Cow & Gate formula, just in case.  In the hospital, everyone was talking about Aptimil like it was the food of the Gods so again, I felt inadequate.

I had HELLP Syndrome, my kidneys were failing a week before the birth, my liver was failing during and after but I managed about half of my Baby-Girl’s feeds myself but I had to combination feed.  After 5 months, my milk was completely gone.

On her first day, she showed me that she was hungry by sweeping her finger down her cheek towards her mouth so on our second morning when I was snapped at by a midwife:

“When did this baby last have a feed?”

“About midnight.”

“That was over 5 hours ago!  You must wake her up for a feed every 2 to 3 hours.”

I thought, “F*** off.  She tells me when she is hungry and this place is covered in posters about feeding on demand – which is it?”

Anyway, my milk should have come in on the Wednesday (I gave birth on the Sunday) but even by the Friday, it hadn’t.  I had been too poorly and we’d been thrown on a ward with a bright light over us all night on our last night in hospital so that messed us both up and my beautiful little girl lost far too much weight.  I decided to combination feed for as long as I could and persevered with expressing and lots of skin-to-skin but I was never going to be able to feed her wholly myself, regardless of how much I wanted to.  In 5 months, I had only two days when I was able to feed her entirely myself.

I decided to do a little research into baby formula, partly because of the people raving about Aptimil and partly because we have very little money and guess what I discovered… there is NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERNCE between the brands of baby formula because it is so highly regulated.  That decided me.  Cow & Gate – that said, Lidl are now selling baby formula in their Bebivita range and it’s only £4.49 a box so I shall be trialling that in the next few weeks.

I had also planned to take the Baby Led Weaning route.  I read about how stressful spoon-feeding could be and saw the sense of letting baby have control over what they ate etc.  Then I had a little lightbulb moment.

If all baby has ever had is milk, he/she is bound to pull their face when you shove a spoonful of dinner in their mouth.  It must taste really strange.

So, the plan changed and a little shy of 15 weeks, everything that I (or Nanny or Nan-Bear) cooked got my little finger dipped in it and I let my Baby-Girl have a tiny taste.

At 17 weeks, she had her first baby porridge (Aptimil stank and she wasn’t keen so we replaced it with a plain Cow and Gate porridge and some Heinz Peach and Apricot porridge) and for dinner, vegetable and rice medleys that I’d boiled, blended and frozen and she absolutely loved them.

We tried a couple of flavours of “proper” baby food time and again but she didn’t like them.

At 33 weeks now, she has a list of “Big Girl Dinners” 50-something long which includes: hot smoked salmon; home-made celery, onion, rice and green lentil soup; crumpets; bacon sammiches; blueberries, mashed banana, smoked mackerel; tiny pots of fromage frais; scrambled egg; salami and cream cheese sammiches; home-made butternut squash and red pepper soup, black pudding; mashed potato with broccoli and cauliflower; tiny pancakes with lemon and many more.

I started a list in case there was anything that she wouldn’t eat but so far, she’s liked everything!

As a tiny baby, she set her feeding and sleeping routine and by week three, she slept through until 05:30.  That gradually got later and later and now, she normally wakes up at about 07:00.  I suspectthat is because of the combination feeding, the people that I know that were breastfeeding seemed to have to get up a lot in the night.

We start the day with a 150ml bottle and then play and cuddles for an hour and a half to two hours; then she has her baby porridge with some juice or water (I’ll come to that) and a nap until about 11:00; then it’s time for her second 150ml bottle and play for a couple of hours until lunch.

Lunch consists of one of her big-girl dinners, followed by a fruit pot, mashed banana, chopped strawberry or about 7 blueberries with a drink and then it’s time for another nap of about an hour and a half.  When she gets up, she has a little bottle (120ml) and we play for another couple of hours and at 17:30 ish, she has her next big-girl dinner, followed by a fromage frais and then it’s more play for a couple of hours and a 150 ml bottle before bed at about 20:00.

With all of her big-girl dinners and during play time, she has juice or filtered water.  Initially, my Mum had bought some baby juice and I carried on but then I realised: I was paying £1 for 500ml of watered down fruit juice.  I checked the sugar content and it’s 4.7g per 100ml and she can easily drink half a bottle in a day so…  I went into Lidl (Tesco’s or Asda’s own would work just as well) and bought cranberry and raspberry – less than 60p a litre – and watered it down with filtered tap 1:1.  The sugar content is 6.2g per 100ml so watered down, it is only 3.1g; so in making her baby juice myself, I am saving over £1.40 and she is having less sugar!

I also researched whether or not she could have fromage frais when she got to 6 months old and discovered that she can! You can buy 18 Petit Filous for £3, although it was half price in Tesco the other week so that was a major bonus.  The sugar content is 9.9g per 100g and the pot size is 47g, so she’s having 4.65g of sugar in that pot.  With a 200g jar of baby yoghurt at 10g sugar per 100g, even if you separated it into 4 portions, that’s still 5g of sugar per portion- although I suspect that you’d be tempted to feed a third or a half a jar as one dessert.  If you averaged one jar for 3 desserts, you would have to buy 6 jars and at 80p per jar, that’s £4.80.  Yet again, I am saving money and feeding her less sugar.

She eats beautifully and daintily from a spoon with only a tiny bit of mess around her mouth when I’ve overloaded the spoon or she’s been excited about what she’s eating and so far, with the exception of actual baby food, she has loved everything – she even tried Kiełbasa this evening (Polish sausage)!  I swear that it’s down to the finger dip tastes that she had just prior to trying her on puréed solids.

Now, just because that worked for me, doesn’t mean it is what other people should do.  So regardless of what route you take, it has to be what’s right for you and if you want to (and can afford to) buy organic fruit purée, then do it.  My only advice would be to read enough to make sure that you can make an informed decision but try not to be overwhelmed and let the volume of inormation out there confuse you.  In truth, you will know what is right for you so even if you read something that tells you that you MUST feed your baby on a diet that includes meat and oily fish but you want to raise them on a gluten-free and vegan diet, just read how to do that in the right way to make sure that your baby gets all of the nutrients he or she needs and you’ll be fine.

Broken by leg cramps

Warning – pregnancy post that includes bodily function detail!

I was 35 when we got married.  Many people believed that I would never find “the right man” for me (including me) and to be honest, I needed to find _me_ first.  Mr PinQ was very much the same in that his first marriage wasn’t the right relationship to bring a child into and it is only after that marriage ended that he became himself.  We met at the right time for both of us, despite our paths having crossed many times over the years.

When we got married, we said that we would let nature take its course but between our working hours and stress, I said that it wouldn’t happen and until my redundancy last year, it didn’t.

We’ve waited a long time to have a baby.

Maybe that sentence will make this post seem selfish and ungrateful.  Maybe I should feel guilty about what I am about to write but I don’t.  I am writing it because I didn’t know that pregnancy could be like this and if I had known, I might have been able to prepare myself mentally.  You see, even a relatively easy pregnancy can be a horrible experience and I’m going to tell you the truth.

I know women that have had Hyperemesis, that have been hospitalised several times through pregnancy for various reasons, I’ve seen how tired they get and some have had the most dreadful experiences but they don’t really talk about it.  I don’t want to be a bore and only talk about my pregnancy to people and there are some details that you really shouldn’t divulge in polite society (some listed below – you were warned) but bollox to that, the reality of pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and roses!

I am over the moon about my baby-girl and can’t wait to meet her and I am willing to go through it all again in a couple of years; but for those of you that have only seen/heard of the lovely glowing pregnancies or absolute horror stories that are, thankfully, rare, here’s a little taste of a quite “normal” pregnancy.

At about week 3, oblivious to the fact that I was pregnant, I was feeling nauseous and extremely fatigued.  My boobs were really swollen and tender but I put it down to the fact that I was “due on” – never mind the fact that they never got THAT swollen and tender!

By week 5, I realised that I must be pregnant and went to the pharmacy to buy a home test which of course, was positive.  Around about that time, the nausea had progressed to being violently sick 4+ times a day, regardless of what I ate or drank.  I thought: “Oh well, that’ll be the morning sickness.”  It was several weeks before I discovered that morning sickness is generally feeling nauseous and MAYBE being sick once or twice a day – by the time I found that out, I was being violently sick about 8 times a day, had no energy and had the most horrendous dehydration headaches.  That level of sickness is Hyperemesis Gradivarium, NOT morning sickness and if you live in the right area, you will be admitted to hospital like Princess Kate and put on a drip to get your fluid levels up and won’t have to do battle to get anti-sickness medication.  Don’t let them brush you off.

I had to fight for anti-sickness medication.  It turns out that my next door neighbour (who has just given birth to a gorgeous little boy – her second child) had the same thing and she used to be a doctor so we must live in the wrong postcode.  The response I kept getting at the GP surgery was: “Aww bless, well, that’s morning sickness for you.  We don’t deal with you now until after the baby is born, fill in the form to register with the midwife.”  I did, and after pushing the midwife over the phone, the Practice Nurse called to say that she had issued a prescription for my sickness.

At about week 10, we saw the midwife for the first time and explained that the tablets worked for about a week.  She asked if I could still wee.  My reply was honest: “Yes, once or twice a day and it’s like passing a tablespoon full of golden syrup because I can’t even hold fluids down.”  Her response?  Oh that was brilliant… “Oh good, your kidneys are still functioning then.”

Somewhere around that time, I learned what it was like to choke on your own vomit.  It was really, really frightening.  The sheer speed and frequency of the vomiting meant that I couldn’t breathe and my body just tried to take in a breath.  Unusually, Mr PinQ had already gone up to bed just a few minutes before and I was on the floor in the bathroom, kicking and choking.  On the fourth round of violent coughing, my airway cleared and I just curled up, tears pouring down my face.

At about 21 weeks, I started to feel baby moving.  I didn’t have a belly at all until week 20 and she just popped into existence almost overnight!  It was amazing.

I had to laugh when, at about 24 weeks, I stopped being able to put my socks on and tie my shoelaces normally.  It’s just not something that had occurred to me but my belly is in the way!  Most of the time now, you will find me in my Fit-Flops (slightly chewed by a puppy that we babysit) or my tatty old velcro-fastening Hotter flats because they are so much easier to get on.

A couple of weeks ago, the sickness started to settle down to only once or twice a day for most of the time.  I have had a couple of days where I haven’t been sick at all!  I also have a couple of days every week where I am sick all day.  The ability to retain some food and drink has had consequences.  Of course there’s the pregnancy thing of needing to wee more, and it’s not just because your bladder (along with the rest of your insides) is all squished up, sometimes, it is because baby is actually standing on it!  You know how it feels when you need to pee so badly that it hurts?  Multiply that by 1000.  I am also alternating between being constipated for several days and then days when I really have to run for the loo.  Joy.

Occasionally, I crave junk food.  I suspect that is because it is high fat and high sugar and my body is desperately in need of the extra calories.  However, the constant sickness has given me an insight that I didn’t really need but here’s the truth of it.  We cook everything from scratch and when I am sick, unless there’s nothing there so all I can taste is bile, what comes up tastes basically the same as it did when it went down.  When I have given in to a junk food craving and been sick, there is an awful chemical taste as it comes back that then lingers for most of the day and night.  If I needed a reason not to eat processed (plastic) food, that would do it, trust me.

For a long time now, I have struggled to get a good night’s sleep, I usually wake up between 04:00 and 05:00 and eventually give in and get out of bed.  I am absolutely exhausted.  I sometimes try to nap during the day but usually end up getting about an hour and it just doesn’t make up for the missing sleep.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that when I wake up, my hips really hurt.  I am lying on one side or the other now because I can’t sleep on my front anymore and it’s not really safe to sleep on your back at this stage because the womb presses on the vein that returns the blood from your lower body to your heart.  According to my favourite source of good, solid information,  The Baby Centre, you should, ideally, be sleeping on the left side but as many of you know, my left hip is the busted one so I can only cope with that for short spells.

This week, my little Twinkle went from kicking and waving to turning into a proper little alien.  Watching and feeling that level of movement in your belly is totally freaky.  Daddy doesn’t know what it feels like but even he will feel a bit sick when he sees it!

I have had to take a day of sickness absence from work this week due to exhaustion.  It’s the first that I have taken so I’ve done really well.  They did send me home one evening because of sickness but even so, many people suffer much more in pregnancy.  I’ve been able to work around my sickness and fatigue the majority of the time because I only work 11 hours a week now and I’ve just had to switch off the rest of “normal” life but it has meant that I can cope.  If I was still working full-time, I wouldn’t have.

Mr PinQ has been the main factor that has saved me from utter collapse.  We always shared the household chores but because I haven’t been sailing through pregnancy, he is doing almost everything on top of working full time and he looks so tired.  My poor, beautiful, darling boy.  I do little jobs to try to make sure that he gets a bit of a rest but I can’t physically do much so he ends up having to do most of it.  For someone that has always worked hard and been really active, I am struggling a bit with my inability to do stuff!

No-one tells you how it feels when your womb stretches as baby grows.  It’s like having really bad period pains but so, so much worse.

Yesterday was week 29 and “staff day”.  We went to a forest for the day and after the walk and guided tour by the Forestry Commission’s Visitor Centre Manager, headed back for barbecue.  Two of the party had sloped off 30 – 45 minutes previously to light them but when we arrived, were still struggling.  It was embarrassing.  Charcoal in first, then firelighters, then cardboard on top – it was no wonder they wouldn’t light.  I realised that if they were struggling with lighting the barbecue, the food could be something of an issue so, a dab hand at barbecuing, I took over – What?  Really?  No!  I can hear you all…

I only got tetchy when a couple of people decided to come and “help” by sticking meat thermometers into the food and had to ask me what temperature it should be.  If you don’t fecking know, FECK OFF and leave me to it because I _do_ know what I am doing!

On the way back, I wondered out loud about how soon the sickness would stop when the hormones settle down after giving birth and my lovely manager was telling me about the scary leaflet that her midwife has just given her.  She is 34 weeks so I expect I’ll get one soon.  It tells you all about labour and childbirth, including that most of the time, mum poos herself as she gives birth.  That makes sense, all that pushing – especially after all that constipation!  There’s also a high probability that mum will throw up during the birth – I gather that’s a stress thing.  Great.

We got back to the Youth Centre at 17:00 and it took me 1 hour 45 minutes to get home, just because it was rush hour.  Hours on my feet and a stressful journey home – not helped by the youngster in the Corsa that did an emergency stop in front of me to allow a car to pull out of a side road despite there being NO traffic behind me didn’t help my mood – left me in pretty bad shape.  I didn’t even manage to say hello to Mr PinQ when I came in but did, thankfully, make it to the bathroom in time to throw up.

I was absolutely shattered and after a light dinner, snuggled up in bed and was asleep in seconds.

Then I was woken up in the small hours by the most godawful pain in my right calf and ankle.  My foot was twisted up and to the right.  I got out of bed and worked through the pain to flex and stretch my foot, massaging the muscle that was cramping.  I got back into bed thinking that I had it beaten and my foot flipped back up and right and the pain was so intense that I woke Mr PinQ.  I lay there sobbing.  I felt like I just couldn’t take any more pain.

Dearest friends, please don’t say, “I hope you get better soon” or similar.  I know that you say it because you love me and you are trying to offer me some comfort but I’m not actually ill, I’m pregnant, so the physical turmoil that my body is going through will be over in just under 11 weeks.

Interestingly, none of the above cr*p that is happening to my body matters one jot.  When my little Twinkle is having a shuffle around, when I stroke or hold her through my belly and when the kitten gently pats her with her paws or the puppy licks my belly because they have felt her move; I forget all of it.  There’s a tiny little human in there and I will get to meet her soon.  If she’s early, she’s mine; if she’s late, she’s Mr PinQ’s but either way, she’s ours and is worth every second of the months of yuckiness and pain.

It’s not a good idea…

…to look in the mirror when you’ve been struggling with nutrition for months, have a tummy bug and are very, very tired.

I had slept for an extra 2 hours this morning but when I glanced in the bathroom mirror, the exhausted face that looked back was something of a shock.  Even my skin looked exhausted.

I scooped up my fringe and  realised that my eyebrows were suffering from months of neglect too and thought: “I’ll feel better if I tidy up my eyebrows.”  Those of you that know me of old will be well aware of how big a “thing” that is for me.

I grabbed the tweezers and then did something _really_ stupid.  I nipped upstairs and got my magnifying mirror.

Suddenly, I could see how bad my psoriasis looked and discovered that my face was also covered in evil looking blackheads.

I know better than to pluck my eyebrows when my psoriasis is up, I end up ripping out little chunks of flesh with every hair but I proceeded all the same.  The trouble is, the blackheads were somewhat distracting and it took me an hour and a half to trim and pluck my eyebrows into a satisfactory condition because I kept having to go and grab a tissue and deal with the evil little monsters that were growing on my face.

Cleansed and toned, awaiting a nice, soothing face mask, my skin – apart form the psoriasis – is blemish-free and my eyebrows have at last been tamed.  I hope to meet a younger, fresher version of me in the mirror later!

Pregnancy: the good, the bad, the not so pretty & the slightly weird

The Good:

1. The Baby Centre

When we’d decided to have children, I confided in a dear friend who happens to work for The Baby Centre UK and she pointed me in their direction and sent me useful links from time to time.  It’s a wonderful resource for good, common sense advice for every possible topic and stage of pregnancy, right up to your child starting school.

2. Finally finding out that I was pregnant!  When we got married four and a half years ago, we made the decision to let nature take its course.  We weren’t actively “trying” but in all honesty, with my hours, his shifts and my stress levels, chances were pretty slim.

3. Seeing my husband’s face when he realised that, “You are going to be a Daddy” wasn’t referring to the fostering application that we’d submitted.

4. Seeing your baby for the first time on the 12 week scan.

12 week crop

5. Getting the letter that says that your baby is at low risk of having Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s Syndromes.

6. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time at your second appointment with the midwife.

7. Being able to share your news with the people that you love.

8. Starting baby’s “bottom drawer”.

9. Feeling baby move, from the little flutters to the little kicks and dance routines. The best bit of this is that you can really share baby with your husband because up until now, she’s been more of an intellectual concept for him.

10. Seeing baby move during the 20 week scan (she was waving her little fingers in this pic) and, if it’s possible on the day and you want to know, finding out if baby is pink flavour or blue flavour (no gender stereotypes here, just helpful for Nanna-Bear and the Fairy Godmothers who are knitting).

20160222-Maggie_20 wks

11. Realising that your kitten is responding to your baby so you won’t have one wake you at Midnight, 02:00 and 04:00 and the other wake you at 01:00, 03:00 and 05:00.  She cuddles up to my belly for sleeps when baby is asleep and runs around like a loon when baby is dancing!

20160206-Snowdrop

12. Being able to love having a belly!  Mine appeared from nowhere at about 20 weeks and now it’s huge but it is probably the only time in your life that you can enjoy having a massive belly.

13. Free prescriptions and dental care – you’ve got to love the NHS!

14. The feeling that you get when you put on your first pair of maternity trousers *ahhhhh*.

The jeans were too big but just recently, the waistband has started to cut into your belly; your leggings and joggers sit under your belly (or roll down) and baby doesn’t like the cold and the only things that have been really comfy are your ice-skating leggings and pyjama bottoms, neither of which is appropriate for work, shopping and other activities!

15. Having a truly wonderful Osteopath.

16. The cessation of menstruation!  As someone who loved being on Depo-Provera because of shift work and horrendous period pains, it is such a relief to be without one’s “curse”.

17. Discovering the “Baby Wish List” function on Amazon when people have been asking you to provide a list.  It’s like a wedding list, you get exactly what you need and/or want, delivered to your door!

18. Realising that in x weeks, you are going to be holding the tiny human that you both made.

The Bad

NCT

1. My lovely Midwife baffled me a little.  Maybe because I’m an old first time mum or maybe because she has so many mums who have had more than one baby, I’m not sure but she occasionally says something and I’m clueless.  The first time she said: “Right, it’s time to check baby now” and looked a bit surprised that I didn’t realise that I needed to take my jeans down to my knicker line and lie on the bed.  Mr PinQ was talking to our neighbour about this (soon to have her second baby) and she recommended that we sign up for ante-natal classes with the NCT.

I went online and nearly fell over when I saw the prices.  Money is tight since my redundancy and even if we fall into the cheapest price band, £10:30 an hour is way more than we can afford.  There are enough mothers in our lives who would undoubtedly share their experiences and common sense advice freely and with love.

We then planned to attend a sale of pre-loved baby things that was organised by the NCT. One of the organisers (our neighbour) and the venue gave us the times for the event as 10:00 till 14:00 and we planned our day around it.  We arrived at 12:20 and were shocked to see the sign segregating Members and Non-Members and then even more shocked to see a note at the bottom of the sandwich board declaring, “NO BUGGIES”.   Seriously?  We know the venue, we are members, they ask that you don’t leave buggies by the door as they could prevent easy egress in the event of a fire but they do allow buggies in.  If that wasn’t enough, they were charging £1 per person entry fee because they clearly don’t make enough money with their astronomical costs for classes/workshops.  The final insult was the NCT representative that “welcomed” us at the door.

Abruptly: “Are you here for the sale” Looking me up and down like I was filth
Glancing at my obvious baby belly a little incredulously, “Yes”
Abruptly: “It finishes at 12:30”
“Oh!  Two independent sources: the venue and one of the NCT organisers (our neighbour) told us that it was ten till two” peering hopefully over her shoulder at the full stalls with mums stood attentively in the hopes of making a little money from the things that their babies had grown out of.
Abruptly: “No, it definitely finishes at 12:30” and ushered us out of the door, stopping short of actually pushing us.

I warm smile with: “I’m sorry for any confusion/misunderstanding but the sale is only on until 12:30” would have been the right way to represent her organisation.  I wouldn’t really expect a: “It finishes at 12:30 but you’ve got 10 minutes for a quick look” although I’m quite sure that the chance to make a few extra £s would have been appreciated by the mums doing the actual selling.

I’m so glad that I have The Baby Centre, a great Midwife and lots of lovely friends – if I had to rely on the NCT I’d be in a mess!

2. Being told that the £60 per hour job is yours during interview and then having that swiftly retracted when you tell the interviewer that you are pregnant.

It had been advertised as a 3-6 month contract and I applied when I was 5 weeks.  The company then changed the job spec and delayed the interviews by a few of months.
Realising that it sounded like a longer contract, I asked how long he envisioned it continuing and when he said a year, I knew that I had to tell him.

To be fair, he did say that my telling him said an awful lot about my integrity and that in a couple of years, he would be looking to grow the team so I should keep in touch but I was pretty gutted and I know deep down that my lack of continuation training and current experience & knowledge will be an issue in a couple of years.

3. Being lectured to and patronised.

4. Discovering that someone you love dearly has lost their baby when you were only about four weeks apart.

The Not So Pretty:

1. The sickness.  A step up from “normal” morning sickness, Hyperemisis Gradivarium is not fun!  Eighteen weeks of being violently sick 4-8 times a day, evil dehydration headaches, learning what it feels like to choke on your own vomit and just the total wipe-out that it brings is horrendous.

With the tough fitness regime just prior to pregnancy, followed by the 1st 8lb weight loss in weeks 6 – 12 and ongoing sickness since, I am half expecting to come out of this pregnancy thinner than when I went in!

At 23 weeks, the sickness is largely down to once a day most of the time with just a few bad days at 4/5 times a day.

Now that baby is now starting to hear and have been trying to sing to her but my vocal cords are wrecked because of the sickness – I hope they get better!

2. Belching.  It’s embarrassing!  I have never belched so much in all my life.  Imagine drinking a can of fizzy pop in a one-er… Well, the resulting belch is my constant companion.  I get that baby has squished up all of my innards so things are bound to be a bit peculiar but she is so rude with all the belching and burping – because believe me when I say that it is ALL her.

3. Realising that you can no longer power through a 17 mile+ bike ride when 7 miles wipes you out for a day.  On the plus side, I am still happily cycling, Tai Chi-ing and doing gentle ballet warm-ups before skating; I’ve just had to learn my new limitations, so: no jumps on the ice, no running, stop when I’m tired even if it is a only fraction of my normal time/mileage and take it easy – gentle exercise is good for baby too!

4. Tiredness.  Not just when exercising but day-to-day.  I’m not sleeping as much or as well and with the sickness draining my energy too, I find that I am getting tired really easily.  An afternoon nap helps when I can get one.

5. Maternity bras.  At 5 weeks, I went from a FF to an H cup – because I really needed bigger boobs!  My fabulous Freya sports bras and pretty lacy ones had to be put into storage and maternity bras purchased.  Several that arrived are underwired – if I could wear underwired, I wouldn’t be buying goddamn maternity bras!  The wires are the cause of much pain now that I am pregnant.  Instead, I now have these massive boobs that are not properly supported in something that looks like a piece of kit for a Russian shot-putter.

Joy.

6. The constant feeling of having a cold, caused by the swelling of your mucous membranes.  This also brings with it a whole new level of snoring that drives your hubby to sleep in the guest bedroom.  Well, one of us has to sleep!

7. The changes to your senses of taste and smell.  Nothing tastes right any more and you are enjoying food less and less but the impact on the sense of smell is far worse.

Having spent several years trying different antiperspirants that your beloved can use that won’t affect your psoriasis and eczema whilst effectively preventing him from smelling like a men’s locker room and that actually smells nice; you suddenly find it unbearably cloying and nauseating and find yourself sitting and shivering because you’ve had to open all of the windows to air the house following his morning shower.

8. Not being able to do everything that you used to.  Bending to tie your laces is uncomfortable.  You can’t lift that heavy box out of the way.  Some housework tasks are proving difficult.  You can’t empty the litter tray and aren’t sure about the safety of even handling all of the animals.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a comfortable position to sit/sleep in.

9. Your brain doesn’t seem to be quite as high-functioning as it was.

Don’t get me wrong, whilst I was always reasonably bright and very good at thinking on my feet, I have always been a bit dizzy/dippy but I have achieved new levels of dizziness that astound even me.  Is baby eating my brain?

10. Loose ligaments.  One of the dogs that we babysit from time-to-time is not very good on the lead and pulls dreadfully so it is getting to a point where I am struggling to walk him because he pulls even my good shoulder out of the socket a little.

This is actually a good candidate for the evolution or design argument.  You see, if we were designed, the ligament loosening would be targeted to the pelvic area where it is actually going to be needed when it is time to give birth and wouldn’t affect the whole body, offering you up more readily to injury at a time when you need to be strongest.

I am grateful not to have experienced the spreading of the feet though, another size up wouldn’t work with my height.

The Slightly Weird:

1. People asking to touch your belly.  To be fair, that is preferable to them just touching it but still…

 

 

 

 

Getting back on track

Since being made redundant, it has been difficult getting my routine right.

The first obstacle was the soul-destroying and time-consuming hours of job seeking and applying for positions that I knew the recruiters wouldn’t look twice at me for as demanded by the Job Centre when I signed on in order to make sure that my stamp (National Insurance) continued to be paid.

Just as I was regaining control of my life, had started working part time and we were a good way through the application process to become foster parents, I discovered that I am pregnant and found myself being violently ill 7/8 times a day, extremely fatigued and on an emotional roller-coaster caused by my raging hormones.

Consequently, my plans for my studies, the house and the garden were all thrown out of the window.   This was particularly difficult to deal with because I have always been extremely well-organised.  I’ve had to be.  In order to build rabbit hutches adn chicken coops, keep on top of the housework, do the gardening, make time for me, make time for us, have time for leisure and pleasure and make time for friends on top of working more than full-time; I have always made the most of my time and energy.

Of course not being able to do anything for so much of the time meant that even on days when I was feeling almost human, the tasks around me were so overwhelming that I didn’t get any of them done.  I’m lucky though because although I have been feeling somewhat isolated and as if my life was spiralling out of control, this hasn’t led to a major depressive episode.

I am feeling a lot better now and only tend to be sick once a day most of the time and have even started to make progress with some of the tasks in the house.

Unfortunately, I am dangerously close to the completion deadline for the whole of the first module of my BA (Hons) in Creative Arts  with 2 assignments left to do and at the start of this week, had to complete 4 assignments for my Nutrition and Health qualification.  I realise that the latter is not as important as the degree, partly because I started it because of our ambitions to become foster parents which has been put on hold for a year or so and partly because it is a Level 2 qualification and as such, doesn’t have much impact on my future career prospects.  That said, I decided to focus on that one first for several reasons: firstly, I had 4 assignments to complete as opposed to the 2 outstanding on my degree – one of which is almost finished; secondly, I knew that if I knuckled down, I could probably manage an assignment every 2-3 days, whereas the degree work would take a few weeks; and lastly because the sense of achievement that I would get from completing (and hopefully passing!) the course would spur me on with the degree.

I really enjoyed studying for my Foundation Diploma in Art, Design and Media a few years ago, despite my experience with the internal verifier at the end.  I had a great tutor who was extremely supportive and I loved the structure of the course, within which I was able to experiment and find my voice.  The degree has so far been very difficult because I have felt that the tutor has not bothered to read the written work that I have submitted – perhaps because it isn’t mandatory but I write it in support of my work and to give him an insight into how and why I have produced the body of work that I have for each assignment – so I really need to feel some sense of achievement from completing the level 2 course to spur me on!

April, May & June will see me focussing on the house in preparation for baby’s arrival in July.  I have no plan of action at present and don’t intend to worry about it until after I’ve finished my studies.  After that, it ill all be about baby and the next module of my degree which will thankfully bring a new tutor.

I submitted the third of the four assignments for my level 2 in Nutrition and Health this afternoon so I just have to wait for the feedback on that before I crack on with the last one – happy days.

 

 

 

It’s week 6…

…and I still haven’t completely recovered from the last couple of years!

Those of you that know me well will no doubt mutter something about the fact that I don’t rest but although I have been doing lots of things, I have also been resting.

Of course, a fair chunk of my time is spent searching for jobs, attending interviews and the Job Centre.  It’s so strange because what I really want is to just do something part-time (preferably mornings) so that I can spend the rest of my time focusing on my studies, Magical Maths and other things that I want to do but of course, in order to get my stamp paid, I have to apply for EVERYTHING.

Anyway, job searches aside, I have done a variety of good stuff too.

Most importantly, I have spent time with old friends who I haven’t had quality time with in ages despite living only a few miles away!

I’ve done 60 workouts in 55.06 hours: covering 168.39 miles (cycling and walking), 12 hours of ice-skating, 4 hours of ballet and burned 35,618 calories.  In part, because I only drive if I absolutely have to now.

I’ve started knitting a sweater for Mr PinQ and begun lessons in crochet from my panto-mummy who taught me how to make raggy quilts.  I unpicked my first & second attempts because they were too wobbly but my third was one of the white squares.  I was determined to master the double crochet before my next lesson and learning my next stitch so I have continued with my squares most evenings with a view to making a blankie.

20151008-Crochet Beginnings

The house is cleaned more frequently than it was when we were both working and the kitchen had its deepest clean in the four and a half years that we’ve lived here!  I also decimated the front garden, it was horribly overgrown and although I haven’t removed all of the little weed that blankets the gravel, it looks so much better.  There are much larger jobs needed, the “bit of decorating” that I had planned has turned out to be more – the bathroom, for example, needs the tiles and floor replacing, not just the papering and painting that I had initially thought and of course, if the tiling and floor are being done, the toilet and basin need to be replaced *sigh* but no matter, one thing at a time.

I’ve been cooking and baking beyond just what is necessary.  I’ve made several kilos of raspberry jam (because it is so easy), which has led to Mr PinQ getting a couple of little cream teas in his packed lunches for work:

20151001-Raspberry Jam 3 20151006-Packed Lunch Cream Tea

I sterilised the jars and lids just by popping them in the oven on 150°C for about 20 minutes to kill off any bacteria.  Then for the jam, I used: 2 kilos of raspberries, 1.5 kilos of preserving sugar and the juice of 2 lemons; pushed half of the fruit through a sieve to remove some of the seeds (raspberry jam wouldn’t be raspberry jam without seeds getting stuck in your teeth!) and then boiling it, continually stirring until it began to set.  I don’t have a jam thermometer, jam funnel or any sexy equipment but the old plate test works a treat.  Put a plate in the fridge before you start and when you think that it might be ready, put a teaspoonful on the plate, leave it for 5 minutes and give it a little push, if it wrinkles up, it is ready to pour into the jars.

I have also made ice cream, vanilla, raspberry ripple and a new flavour – coffee cream swirl:

20150924-Vanilla 20150924-Raspberry Ripple 20150924-Coffee Cream Swirl

Now, this is the very old ice cream recipe that a friend recently posted online – a 397ml can of condensed milk and 800ml of double cream whisked until soft peaks are formed then I fold in the flavour and turn it out into a plastic storage tub and pop it in the freezer.  Tips: 1. I don’t measure the cream anymore so you might want to experiment with the quantities. 2. This makes up a lot of ice cream so have two flavours ready – a small punnet of raspberries pushed through a sieve for half of the mixture and a little vanilla essence for the other half or whatever you fancy, again, experiment!  I’m going to try making chocolate ice cream next so I’ll let you know how that goes!

I’ve been baby-sitting two lovely dogs, sadly not at the same time because they love playing together when their stays overlap and spending more time with my animals.  Hyacinth, our beautiful little house-chicken, passed away on Monday.  It is the first time since Agatha and Beatrix that I have grieved one of the chooks.  Several of the birds from the more recently rescued batches from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust died before I had the chance to really bond with them but Hyacinth was very special.

Singing in the finals for a competition on Saturday, I’m down to 10 choices for the “movies” theme:

1. The Time Warp (The Cast)- Rocky Horror Picture Show
2. Wishing Well (Free) – Almost Famous
3. Everything About You (Ugly Kid Joe) – Wayne’s World
4. I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles) – Rainman
5. Mrs Robinson (Lemonheads version) – The Graduate
6. Ironic (Alanis Morrisette) – The Internship
7. Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett) – The Commitments
8. House of the Rising Sun (The Animals) – in lots of films
9. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young) – Fahrenheit 9/11
10. Stuck in the Middle (Stealers Wheel) – Reservoir Dogs

Because I can’t learn Happy (Pharrel Williams) – Despicable Me 2 in time!

I dressed to cycle today but decided on a lazy day instead.  I have a hot bubble bath waiting for me so I must go, then it’s Panto rehearsals this evening – Oh no it isn’t! ;o)

Ta ta for now lovely readers,

PinQ

Out of Work

I’m now in my third week of being out of work and this is my journey so far…

Week one was like having a week off:

Mr PinQ had won tickets to go and watch the premier show of Strictly being filmed.

Strictly logo

We decided to drive to Elstree Studios because the joining instructions state that the dress code is “glamorous” and I didn’t fancy an hour or so on the train followed by getting the tube or a bus – especially as it was likely to be a late night.

I decided to wear my pretty yellow Monsoon dress:

Yellow Monsoon Dress

I’ve only worn it twice, the first time when my little exhibition opened and then for a friend’s wedding so it was a great excuse to get it out of the wardrobe.  As before, I teamed it with jade green satin Karen Millen shoes and bag – similar to these but without the ruffle on the side:

Karen Millen Green Satin Shoes

It took a couple of hours to get there and there was a car park just off the roundabout exit directly opposite the studio which was free in the evening so I only had to pay to park for the afternoon.  We joined the queue, validated the tickets and waited to be allowed in.  We didn’t take our mobile phones because they have to be checked in as you enter the canteen/bar area where you spend the next hour.  There is seating for a couple of hundred or so of the 500 audience members and two ladies toilets but it made the experience quite chummy because strangers had something to chuckle about.

The audience were called in batches of 50 and we all walked to the Strictly stage.  As we passed the George Lucas stage, we saw a man in a butler’s costume peeling a banana – I made him laugh (and choke a little on his banana) because he heard me say to Mr PinQ: “He’s not in Star Wars!”

I made a request to be seated at the end of a row because I knew that I made need to move because of my back so we were seated in the production area at the edge of the dancefloor.  The thing that strikes you first about the set is how very small it is.  I believe that the ceiling height gives the illusion of a huge dancefloor because of the ability to show it with a bird’s-eye-view.

Whilst people were still being seated, I nipped out to the ladies and bumped into Cassidy Little.  I stopped him to say that we had been to watch The Two Worlds of Charlie F and that it was the best and most moving piece of theatre that I had ever seen.  He asked where we’d seen it and chatted a while and at the end of our conversation, he thanked me for being so kind and gave me a big hug! That made my day, everything else paled into insignificance.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Brendan, Anton, Aljaž, Pasha, Natalie, Janette, Darcey, Bruno and Craig and Caroline all came over and chatted with us.  Len kept his distance but I heard him talking to one of the production team about the fact that he was suffering from a cold.

The singers did their spots first and embarrassingly, too many of the audience were unable to clap in time and had to be told not to clap as it was off-putting for the artists!  We watched the entrance from the Strictly Express the introductory dance of Oti, Giovanni and Gleb, the group dance and Caroline and Pasha’s dance as reigning champions.  It was really entertaining but really tiring because there were several takes of some of the songs and dances and filming didn’t end until about 23:30 but we had a great adventure so it was worth every minute!

Week two of my new life was far more eventful but far less glamorous:

I set myself two fitness goals of cycling 50 miles and doing 10 workouts.  I cycled 52.85 miles and completed 16 workouts.  I started my NISA Bronze Passport training (old passport because I did the old NISA levels 1 – 10) and had an impromptu skating lesson from a Hockey Coach on Thursday afternoon – he really put me through my paces and spent a great deal of time helping me to get rid of my fear of going backwards by teaching me a new way to go backwards, pushing me to keep going, making do back crossovers on the corners and all the while, chatting about random subjects so that I would notice what I was doing.  It was great! I use those tactics sometimes when I’m teaching other people but it was so nice to have someone doing that for me for a change.  He also taught me a new way to lace my boots so that I didn’t get “lace bite” and what a relief that was – I can at last skate in comfort without having to keep getting off the ice to re-lace my boots.  It was also the first week of ballet for the new academic year and I finally managed to do the dance that has eluded me for 6 months.

I did the housework without tiring myself out because I wasn’t trying to squeeze it into a weekend along with shopping, socialising and exercise which meant that I have had plenty of rest.  It will be a while yet before I’m totally rested and fit again so I won’t try to push myself too much – I would like to enjoy my time out of work.

I felted the roof of the new rabbit hutch that we made a few months ago and tidied the shed so that back garden looks a little less like the Clampetts have moved in and Florence (the chicken in quarantine – chicken post to follow soon) now has a much better shelter on her temporary home.  It couldn’t have been timed better, the temporary covers that we’d put on Rocky and Drizzle’s hutch and Florence’s quarantine cage wouldn’t have protected them from the dreadful rain that we’ve had over the last few days.

I had a successful interview to run Magic Maths.  It’s an after school club teaching and supporting Key Stage 1 & 2 mathematics.  Schools are approached and if they are interested, the lady who runs the program goes in to do a school assembly, if the school then want the program, a register is set up and a night agreed and then this is where I would come in.  Magical Maths is a 6 week program and each week has a theme, so week 1 is “Maths Detectives” and my character would be Stately Holmes, there are 5 themes and the children get to choose their favourite for week 6.  I have started my DBS application but hit a wall when the electronic form refused to work and I will be attending training on 3 Oct 15.

I also took deliver of my new laptop and PC from Dell.  Joy!

Much as I would have liked a brand new, sexy inspiron, I was able to get both a laptop and desktop from the Dell Outlet store for the price of the one sparkly new one so I’m really pleased, it’s been difficult being without a working laptop for the last 3 and a half months!

We made new friends and spent time with old friends at a wine-tasting, had a lovely evening at dinner with two of our best friends in their new home, I had a great leaving do and we’ve had friends over for dinner so we’ve had more of a social life than we usually have the time or energy for so it’s all good.

I’ve tried out some of the fabulous new art supplies given to me as part of my leaving present from work but I’m still not feeling brave enough to apply water to the watercolour pencil sketch that I did of one of the chooks.

Week three (now):

Sunday was great, we took a trepidatious but excited young lady to Uni, spending an hour or so to help get her unpacked and settled more quickly, leaving her with only her clothes and bedding to sort out before the Fresher’s Ball and Mr PinQ collected a few bits and bobs from friends on his way home.  All was well.

Then came my first experience of the Job Centre for many years.  It didn’t start well.

Having applied online for Jobseeker’s allowance (after all, what else have I been paying National Insurance and taxes for?) I’d had a text from DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) telling me that I had an appointment at 08:50 on 14 Sep 15.  I duly arrived a couple of minutes early and when I tried to get into the building, discovered that it doesn’t open until 09:00.

I was not a happy bunny.

I then sat through all of the questions and was told that I could have interview training and assistance in writing my CV from my Coach.  I pointed out that I could probably teach my Coach a few things on that score.  The lady dealing with was oozing false empathy and that just made my back go up all the more.  Anyway, I left with an an “agreement” which was a list of things that I will do to find employment.  There was no agreement.  She told me what I would be doing.

I cycled for about 8 miles to work out the anger and was left feeling totally demoralised.