Category Archives: Health

The difference in medical care

You may remember that I wasn’t particularly well during my last pregnancy.

Well, I continued being sick again after the first trimester but not as badly as last time, I can live with up to four times a day…

The biggest difference for me in this pregnancy is the difference in the level of care that I am receiving from the health professionals.

Last time, in the South:

I walk into my GP surgery and explain to the receptionist that I have done a pregnancy test and it was positive.  She gives me a form to fill in and tells me that’s it, I obviously look confused so she says that the Doctor isn’t interested now and won’t see you until after the baby is born, the Midwives will deal with you until then.

Now, back at home in the North-West:

I go to the surgery and say that I think I’m pregnant and th receptionist looks for the next available doctor’s appointment.

I was stunned.

The Midwife that looked after me last time was great, don’t get me wrong on that score, it’s the rest of the care that is the biggest shock.

Pregnant women have to provide a little urine sample at every appointment that is tested for blood, protein, sugar (maybe other things that shouldn’t be there, I’ve never asked).

Last time:

Before 24 weeks gestation and beyond, pluses of protein were identified in the dip tests, the samples were sent to the lab to test for infection, none was found.  No further action.

Now:

Before 24 weeks, pluses of protein were found, samples sent to check for infection, more frequent tests and scans have been booked and I was sent for a kidney scan.  That has shown some anomalies so I am being referred to the renal experts at a different hospital.

Last time:

I see one obstetrician very late in the pregnancy, he doesn’t listen to me, tells me to diet, sends me for a gestational diabetes test that I don’t need and insists that I will have to be induced.  I argue with him and leave feeling like I might as well have not bothered because he was following a script based on my age.

Now:

At the 13 week scan, my first obstetrician appointment was being booked (for a couple of weeks later) and the midwife made sure that I was referred to the one who specialises in renal issues because I’d had HELLP last time.

Last time:

Towards the end of the last pregnancy, despite not having high blood pressure, my high PCR (proteinuria) gets me a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia without any further investigation.

Now:

During my second obstetrician appointment following the 20 week scan, I was told that there is no way it can be pre-eclampsia before 24 weeks so the kidney scan is booked as the blood tests didn’t show any possible causes for my already high PCR result.  As previously mentioned, there were anomalies so I’ve been referred to the renal department at another hospital because “they are the best”.

Last time:

When I went on for a sweep on the Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the need to be induced, the midwife (mine was on holiday) phoned the main hospital and discovered that my PCR was over 460 (I believe that normal is under 70) and insists that I get  up to that hospital URGENTLY.  I go and having waited for 3 hours, spend an hour with an ECG strapped to my belly to check that baby is okay.  I’m told: “The good news is, baby is okay.  The bad news is that your kidneys are failing but we are too busy to take you today so you’ll have to come back on Friday to be induced.”  I was, it didn’t work, I was told that it had failed so they would have to give me 24 hours rest and try again on the Sunday.

Three times over those last few weeks when I was constantly strapped up to the ECG to monitor her, I asked them to take her out so that she would be safe.  They refused and told me that would be an elective C-Section that they didn’t have time for.

Of course, the kidney failure wasn’t the end of it, I had liver failure too when she was born and you know the rest, basically, I was too ill to feed her and she lost a tremendous amount of weight, I was fobbed off when I asked for follow-up to check my liver and kidney function and my body was really wasted.

Now:

“Your PCR is already 173, if it gets to 300, we are going to just take the baby out to keep you both safe.”

I won’t lie, this pregnancy made my anxiety levels go through the roof but I am gobsmacked by the level of care that I am receiving this time.  I come home from every appointment shocked by how GOOD it is.

Could that be any more wrong?

 

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What relocation did for us – an update

For those who don’t know the history:

I was made redundant from a well-paid job, decided to take 3 months off to concentrate on my studies and get over the devastating blow and half way through that break, discovered that I was pregnant at a point when we’d come to believe that we couldn’t have children.

We were so happy.

Then things went onto a rapid decline.  I discovered that in my high-stress, well-paid career, I was no longer employable – who wants a Quality Manager who won’t put in the 70 hour weeks and puts her baby first?  Then Mr PinQ lost his position in the charity that he worked for and had to start temping whilst his dream job application failed to be processed by one particular organisation’s HR department.  I started a little business doing sewing, including working for a local (then) shop one day a week and taking their alterations home and with the help of some very generous donations from friends, was able to buy a sewing machine capable of doing the work and a pot besides for building the business further (buying fabric, creating a website etc).  Then we were given notice to leave our home because the landlord wanted to sell.

That gave me an idea and I talked it through with Mr PinQ.  We could go North.

After every visit over the previous 6 years, he had said, “When are we moving North?” because he always loved it and we knew that one day we would, which had been part of the decision not to buy a house when it was just my wages coming in back in 2011. The funny thing is,one of our biggest deciding factors was walking our pup.  We looked at walks within an hour of (our then) home and a specific postcode in the North-West and spent 10 minutes on each.  We managed to get 12 walks in our bit of the South and 58 in the same sized area in the North!   So it was decided, we would both apply for jobs in Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire and whichever one of us got accepted first would decide where we would settle and who would stay at home with our precious baby girl.

It was a logistical nightmare with a rambling old 3-bedroom Victorian terraced house worth of “stuff” to move as well as a baby, pup, cat, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchilla…

If that wasn’t bad enough, the purchase of the new house by our landlord was delayed and we found ourselves a week away from the move with no home to go to!  We were again rescued by kindness and a lovely couple who are good friends of friends, allowed us to rent a house from them in the short-term but we couldn’t even tell them how many weeks it was going to be!

If that wasn’t enough, Mr PinQ didn’t have a start date for the new job so with no money left to live on and no job to go to, we moved.  Within a week, he had secured himself a job as a labourer for a landscape gardener whilst out walking the dog!  He loved it and by late summer, his boss was very sorry to lose him when the start date came through.

We were still on the bones of our collective arse and I walked around Lidl with my calculator to make sure that I didn’t go above the £30 a week for the family shop and Mr PinQ was living away on training.

Whilst he was away, I managed to re-decorate most of the house during the night when Baby-Girl was asleep (one room left to go, plus I still need to gloss the woodwork on the stairs and landing!) for less than £40 – because I already had paint etc that I’d bought for the old house.

Those 13 weeks were particularly difficult for Baby-Girl because the same week that Daddy moved away, Nanny and Grampy went on their lollibobs for 2 weeks.  In both cases, she was with them, she fell asleep and when she woke up, they were gone.  It devastated her and for a while, she didn’t want to go to sleep.  Especially when Daddy came home at the weekends!

Since the end of the training and Daddy’s return, her separation anxiety has gone and she’s a happy little monkey again.

In addition to which, we have a little spare every month now and can go ice-skating once a month.  Okay, I know, it’s not the once or twice a week that we used to be able to do but compared to not being able to go at all, it’s brilliant and baby-Girl has astounded us with her ability to stay upright on her toddler skates at 18 months old and her pure joy at being on the ice!  It also means that I can cook more varied meals rather than the bulk/batch style of cooking that I had to do on limited ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I made sure that Daddy and Baby-Girl had all of the correct nutrients and he never once complained at eating the same meal for 4 or 5 days in a row but it is nice to be able to have a roast dinner or to do a small pan of soup for just a couple of lunches rather than for the whole week.  We’ve even been able to have little treats such as Lidl’s basic tortilla chips with a dip on an evening when Mr PinQ isn’t on shift!

Mr PinQ is doing his dream job – and in an organisation that actually cares!  With the difference in the cost of living, that means that I have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mum until Baby-Girl is old enough for a free nursery place.  Once the house is done, I’ll be able to split my nights (when Mr PinQ is on shift) between my studies and building my business and it doesn’t matter if it takes time to get off the ground because I’ll be home-based anyway.

Pup-Dog has completely changed since we moved.  She gets a different walk every day and now that Baby-Girl is running around with her, I’ve revised all dog-walks to only those that allows both of them to enjoy themselves.  When Baby-Girl was in her pram, it didn’t matter what the terrain was like but now that she’s chasing Pup-Dog, it has to be something that she can manage.  The walks aren’t too long in distance but because Baby-Girl only has tiny little legs, she’s quite slow (except when you have to catch her!) so Pup-Dog still gets the same amount of exercise because she’s constantly chasing a ball.  Of course, that means that when Daddy takes her hill walking without Baby-Girl or a ball, she sees that as an extra-special walk.  The best of it is that we have 7 park within 10 minutes of the house that are suitable for both Baby-Girl and Pup-Dog, never mind how many there are within an hour!

We have lovely nieghbours on both sides of us now.  Compared to one set of lovely neighbours and one horrible one in our home in the South, that is a massive bonus.

I’ve caught up with (not enough) old friends and met some of Mr PinQ’s friends that live in the North-West that he hadn’t seen for years and Baby-Girl gets to see more of Nanny and Grampy as well as seeing Nan-Bear more often because she’s now only about 100 miles away, not over 300!  Baby-Girl and I managed a flying visit to see a couple of friends (not enough) in the South but illness prevented the second planned trip so we have to re-schedule that soon but it was lovely to be able to go down and say hello.

I won’t lie, I’m exhausted.  Some of the big jobs that I need to do have been postponed because the day-to-day tasks are wearing me out and with Baby-Girl and Pup-Dog, I can’t afford for the acute ME to return or worse, for chronic ME set in but I’m slowly chipping away at my to-do list.

Being back amongst the hills is so good for the soul.  When we’re in the car, regardless of what road you are driving along, you can see hills (unless it’s foggy!) and we live at the bottom of a little hill that we can stroll up, let Pup-Dog run around and play and just take in the views.  Bigger hills and hills walks are only minutes away and we have 3 town centres within walking distance whilst being within spitting distance of massive amounts of wild, green space.

Our house is warm and dry.  In the old house, I didn’t really dare let Baby-Girl crawl around on the floor because of the damp and I know that restricted her confidence in herself so that it took a long time for her to let go of her walker and walk on her own but here, I just make sure that I sweep or vac every day and steam mop every other day and she has no restrictions.  It’s lovely to see her running around and giggling when she’s stolen Pup-Dog’s toy or toddling upstairs and sliding back down on her belly (we are always a couple of steps below her but let her enjoy doing it herself).  Of course, having a warm, dry house means a significant reduction in the combined monthly gas and electric bills from £130 a month to £50 a month!  That said, just knowing that it is safe for Baby-Girl to run around means more to me than the £80 a month saved.

It’s lovely to get on a bus, take the dog for a walk or go to the shops and find yourself in conversation and laughing with complete strangers – I missed that when we were in the South where even a lot of the dog-walkers could be very stand-off-ish.  On Pup-Dog’s second birthday, we were walking in a park and she and Baby-Girl were running around and getting filthy when a lovely elderly gentleman and his friend interrupted their walk and conversation to play with Pup-Dog, then another pair of dog-walkers were throwing her ball whilst their older dogs played with Baby-Girl, it was an absolute joy to see her chasing the beautiful, big, old Golden Retriever and watch him transform into a pup when she had a little ride on his back.

When people ask about the move and I say how happy we are, the usual response is, “Yes, but what about Mr PinQ?”  Well, it turns out that he’s as happy about the move as I am, if not more so!  As well as the dream job, lovely home, happier Pup-Dog, lovely people and marvellous views – he has an awful lot of exploring to do and the reality isn’t an anti-climax in comparison to the anticipation when new places are discovered.  I am loving re-visiting places that I loved as a child but Mr PinQ is seeing them for the first time and things like our New Year’s day adventure to Lytham and finding little reservoirs and paths in the hills or seeing the beautiful old mills are an absolute delight for both of us.

I went into Manchester on Monday and it re-affirmed my love for the city.  When I was in the South, I regularly proclaimed that I detested Portsmouth and Southampton because I’d been so spoilt with the likes of Manchester, Leeds, York and Sheffield being close by – but part of me thought that I maybe I was looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses.  It turns out that I wasn’t.  There I was in the middle of this beautiful, bustling city that as well as the slinky modern architecture and trendy places to be, it still has a proud heritage, beautiful old architecture, independent shops, restaurants and clubs and the really important thing: superb transport links.

I thought that the only thing that I would miss bout the South would be our friends but over the winter, we’ve had a few foggy days and I realised there is something else I miss.  When I open the back door to let Pup-Dog out for a wee on a foggy day, it’s silent.  It turns out, I miss hearing the fog horns from the ships!

That said, it’s good to be home.

I don’t know what possessed me!

++++ POLITE NOTICE ++++

++++ MISSING SPACES ARE DUE TO BABY REMOVING SPACE BAR EARLIER TODAY ++++

N.B. Any other mistakes are entirely my own 😉

When I was walking to Mum’s a few weeks ago in the rain and my feet were getting wet. Unusually, not because I had my flim-flams (fit flops) on – they finally broke earlier this summer.

No, it was all down to my tatty old hiking boots.  They weren’t brilliant boots to start with but they were on sale in the Trespass shop at Gunwharf Quays and I needed a pair so I thought they’d do.  The soles were having a conversation.  Now, I can’t afford either new flim-flams or new hiking boots at the moment and had requested the latter for Christmas but I was sick of getting wet feet, luckily, Mr PinQ had delved into some of the (still packed – I know, I know but I have decorated two rooms,made a couple of sets of curtains, repaired appliances and a million and one other things!) boxes and had rather randomly, pulled my trail running shoes out.

They were a last-minute buy before my first event.  I had ordered some at booking but the week of the race, they hadn’t arrived and when I contacted the seller, they offered to bring me a pair on the day.  Yeah right.  I asked for a refund and ordered a cheap pair of Karrimor ones because I had no intention of ruining my Brooks on a February cross-country event.  They were tight but I didn’t have time to return them and get the half-size bigger that I should have ordered in the first place!  I then wore them for the next event.

I cycled, skated and swam my way through most of that summer and early autumn but with the Team disbanded by our employer and a very poorly pregnancy, I didn’t run again.  I carried on cycling, swimming and skating (the latter until a few weeks before Baby-Girl was born) and of course, Pup-Pup had come into our lives too so I was walking every day again.

I guess it was the wet feet thing.  I binned my hiking boots when I emptied the bin and litter tray this morning, having worn the trail runners to walk to Mum’s yesterday and not only loving that I had dry toesies (it was a mizzy day yesterday) but also realising that they fitted beautifully!  I’ve lost about 2st since that first run 2 years ago so my feet are back to normal – I was so pleased.

So today, I set off walking to Mum’s with Baby-Girl in her pram (which also contained a nappy bag, handbag and laptop) and Pup-Pup on her lead, which was slung over my shoulder as I had no spare hands.  What did I then decide to do?

Run.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I have all these beautiful hills around me again and what a shame it is that I can’t go cross-country running because I am (temporarily) a single mummy and whilst I can walk the dog all day in the hills, Baby-Girl is getting rather heavy in her little harness and the pram isn’t brilliant on most of the footpaths. I’m odd.  I love cross-country running but I don’t particularly like road running and I hate treadmills.

I was doing a variation of fartlek training.  There are lots of roads to cross on the way so I ran a block, walked a block, ran a block, walked a block etc.  I’ll be honest, I do need to find my sports bras; a lovely, soft, cotton, non-wired maternity bra really isn’t the best for running but it didn’t stop me.

If I hadn’t surprised myself enough by running there, I only went and did it on the way back as well!  The best bit… I thought that one block would kill me because it has been such a long time since I did any training but I feel fine.  Let’s see if I edit that last bit tomorrow.

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…