Thursday, 31 March 2011


This is the big one. They say women forget the pain of childbirth, but I don't see how they can. I have a notoriously bad memory, but that's not something I will forget in a hurry. All 39 hours of it are quite firmly etched into my memory. That's right - 39. Officially, 18, because they only count from when you actually arrive in hospital, but in total, it's 39.
First contraction, early Saturday evening, not long after I got back from a Christmas dinner out. I was a week overdue, which didn't bother me too much, I was glad to get to the dinner! Joseph obliged by waiting until I was home, although the irony was that I was on a table with no less than three midwives!
First twinge, not so bad. Next twinge, twenty minutes later and also not so bad. This is a doddle, I decided and sat back to await my baby, assuming I'd be speedily along like my Mum was.
Twelve hours later....
Well, here's the thing. They like you to have three contractions in ten minutes or have your waters broken before you visit the maternity unit. After a tiring night, I was still only two in ten minutes and nothing else was happening. The contractions weren't exactly strong and I was really quite tired. I had been advised to "try and sleep", though how I was supposed to manage this, I had no idea. Still, I had the Tens machine on and it did seem to be helping manage the pain. It's an odd sensation, a bit like a combination between pins and needles and a lot of ants crawling around on one small area of skin.
So, we decide to go into the hospital, just to find out if everything was ok. My blood pressure was a little raised and this worried me slightly.
As it turns out, Joseph who up and till now had been quite well positions for all my antenatal appointments, had decided to move and was now in the "back to back" position, ie facing outwards rather than to the left. This meant he was going nowhere and I had to go back home, what with being only 1cm dilated. Twelve hours for one centimetre, oh boy.
Eventually, things picked up a pace. I had a "show", nasty and disgusting and I wont go on about it. Joseph finally decided that he'd better put in some effort and with the pain levels increasing to a significant degree, we decided to go back in. By the way, when you fist phone up to speak to the medical people they advise you to have some paracetamol and a hot bath. Ha! Paracetamol! And a hot bath? First of all, if you stay lying on your back it slows things down and if your baby is in the wrong position, it doesn't help and second of all I hate baths! I find them uncomfortable and my skin always ends up itchy. Hardly something to help me relax!
In we go, and I am considered dilated enough to be admitted.
Long, long hours followed. I was given pethidine, which really really helped with the pain and I relaxed, but no sign of baby. Aromatherapy (not the mumbo jumbo stuff) actually helped speed up the contractions, but still no sign. My midwifes' shift ended and another took over. Btw, the midwife team at the Royal Berks are all lovely people. The midwives I had to look after me were excellent.
Ah, pethidine. Makes you all relaxed and happy and the pain feels like it belongs to someone else. It can affect the baby though, they can be a bit more lethargic and unwilling to feed after the birth than they should be.
Time passed. I was given cup after cup of water and even some rounds of toast and marmalade. No sign of baby and continental drift was quicker. The pethidine wore off and I became increasingly uncomfortable. As I was further on in the process I was only allowed another half dose of pethidine, which I accepted. It was that or a hot bath, and I was now so dependant on the Tens machine, I wasn't going to go near the bath.
Eventually, that pethidine wore off and I wasn't allowed any more. I still wasn't fully dilated so this meant that I switched to gas and air for pain relief, something I'd been hoping to hold off for longer as I had heard that the effectiveness can wear off in time.
It is odd stuff. It feels exactly like being a bit drunk, you get quite heady and giddy and the pain isn't really pain any more, just an odd uncomfortable sensation. You have to time it right as it takes a couple of seconds to kick in, so the moment you feel the contraction start, you grab hold of the mouthpiece and breath in as deeply as possible several times. It makes an odd wooshy sort of noise and if you've timed it right, the maximum pain relief should hit at the strongest part of the contraction.
Yet more time passed and I simply grew tired. People can harp on and on about "natural childbirth" and not using pain relief, but in my opinion that's a load of horse elbows. The pain of childbirth might be "natural" but so is the pain of a broken leg or a dislocated shoulder and you wouldn't expect people to manage though those without pain relief. Let me tell you, I wouldn't have lasted anything like as long as I did without it, I would have been far more exhausted and would have been at a much higher likelihood of needing far more drastic action when it came to the crunch.
In the end, it turned out I was not progressing. Joseph wasn't going anywhere and my body wasn't letting him. I kept wanting to push, and I was told to listen to what my body was telling me. This was a bad idea, after all, this is the same body that has told me in the past that eating a whole 1kg bar of chocolate is a good idea. I wasn't ready to push and yet I kept wanting to try.
More medical intervention was called for. I was shipped away from the home comforts of Marsh ward downstairs to the "Delivery Suites" where everything looks and feels a lot more clinical. I was examined and it was confirmed I had basically stopped progressing. I had a contraction and foetal heart monitor strapped to me and I was given an epidural.
I would like to apologise to the poor anaesthetist as I wasn't very co-operative. I was in a tremendous amount of pain and high on entonox, not to mention not having slept in a very long time. How the poor woman managed to do her job is beyond me, but she did it very well and I suddenly found myself pain free, bliss!
My second midwife came to the end of her shift and another took over, with a student under her wing. It was explained to me that I was not progressing and I would need help in the form of a hormone drip. So, feeling something like a pincushion I agreed and waited the two hours for it to work.
At this point I counted up my puncture marks. Two pethidine injections with another shot to counteract the nausea that can come with it, a cannula in my right hand for the hormone drip and fluids needed for the epidural, a blood test in my left elbow which went a bit wrong and had to be taken from my left hand and the epidural itself, in my lower back. A small tube ran up my back, secured with tape to a small disc shaped thingy over my shoulder into which they put the painkillers. I needed two top-ups.
We tried to rest. I did the best I could, but I could still feel the contractions even though they weren't painful and all Andy had to sleep on was a very uncomfortable chair. Finally, after what seemed like an age, I was good to go. The doctor prepared for a forceps delivery and I had the go-ahead to start pushing.
In the room was the doctor with the forceps, a midwife and her student and a paediatrician with a baby resuscitation unit. Boy was I on show.
I can't describe my emotions at this point. Finally, at last I was going to meet my son! He came out quickly and the paediatrician pronounced him to be perfectly fine and he was given to me!
That's enough for now, just writing about it has brought all the feelings back quite strongly. More next time.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Post Pregnancy Diet

Well, it's come to that time. You can't help but gain some weight during pregnancy, to start with it's simply about what foods you can eat that will actually stay down, and it's invariably ones you shouldn't be eating in any quantity. I've heard of women eating whole packets of ginger biscuits every day "to help with the sickness". Thankfully, they made me feel worse, but I didn't escape the inevitable weight gain. By the end, you're simply hungry all the time and so big and unwieldy you simply end up making a permanent dent in the sofa, having spent the whole day doing nothing but reading a book or watching the telly.
So, I've broken out the slim-fast and the step exerciser and have had some modest success. In five weeks I have lost seven pounds, which is not to be sniffed at. My biggest jeans are at last showing signs of not being totally skin tight any more and I live in hope that my middle sagginess will not be permanent by doing 50 to 60 stomach crunches almost every evening before I fall asleep.
Every woman, with few exceptions, gets a bit paranoid post pregnancy. I managed to gain a stone whilst pregnant and have no plans to let it hang around. I am training myself to eat smaller meals and not to snack in the afternoon, something I am quite notorious for. I could get away with it as a young adult, all that walking to and from school and carting a heavy bag around. Even at university I didn't balloon up, I was walking everywhere.
Now, being something of a car-addicted lazy person, I can't nosh all I want and expect to burn it all off. I have to persuade my brain that it doesn't need in excess of 2000 calories a day any more, as much as it wants to. I have a fridge full of celery and carrot to snack on if the urge takes me, and that didn't bother me five weeks ago. Now it's the most depressing thing in the world, sometimes I just crave sugar and fat! I find myself looking down at my legs and saying "There's plenty of fat down there, burn some of it if you're so desperate!" but my metabolism wants what it wants. To be totally successful I think I need to live in a sealed box with nothing but a bed, an exercise bike and a fridge full of vegetables. Still, Joseph is a very good distracter, he's getting very chatty and playful now!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Pregnancy - third trimester

This is the point when you start to wish it was all over. The little fluttery kicks that made you feel happy have increased in intensity and number so that by the end you feel like you're being beaten up from the inside out. Your belly is huge and looks like the surface is starting to boil when baby really gets moving.
Having a hot bath is fun, really causes some wiggling! What's not so fun is realising that your abdominal muscles are so stretched and strained that you're not sure if you can get out. Nobody warns you that by the end you're unable to lace up your own shoes or even get up off the sofa without help.
I wish I'd suffered from the lack of appetite some women get because their stomachs have got squashed into a smaller area by the increasing baby. No, I was starving the whole way through, and with a little run-up, could still eat my own body weight in sausage rolls if given half a chance.
Alas, my favourite food was denied me thanks to another quirk of pregnancy. Curry!
As if I hadn't been denied enough! Thanks to various nutritional type people I was already banned from eating rare steak (as if I'd eat it "well done???!!??", who do they think I am?), soft cheese, runny egg yolk and pretty much anything pre-prepared. You can't take cod liver oil supplements, most hayfever pills and any of the painkillers that work either.
My favourite meal, a nice spicy curry, was denied me due to the increased action of a hormone known as "Relaxin". Increased relaxin is nothing relaxing, believe me. It helps the bits of you that need to stretch get softer so the baby doesn't get squashed and helps prepare other bits of you to give birth. It also affects the rest of the body whether you like it or not which results in soft joints and problems with your involuntary muscles. This leads you to fart quite a lot and the valve that keeps the stomach contents from going the wrong way doesn't work as well as it should. The net result? Acid heartburn, indigestion and a very painful condition called reflux, which I had. Spicy food makes it a whole lot worse, as does lying down and I ended up sleeping propped up on four pillows. This left Andy with none and he was very unhappy.
In the last few weeks you just feel like a hippo and are essentially just waiting. Every tiny sensation has you on tenterhooks - is it now? Can I finally have my waistline back?
Joseph was a week late and took his sweet time in coming out, but that is a story for another day.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Every day, something new

I didn't know you could have an in-depth conversation with a three and a half month old baby. Admittedly it's a touch one sided, but there you go.
Me - "How's my cute little bubba today?"
Him - "Goo!"
Me - "How sweet!"
Him - "Urgle."
Me - "Really?"
Him - "Ump, ghur... oooh."
Me - "How fascinating!"
And so it goes on. He's getting the idea of making noises and every day he seems to master a new one, definitely getting more and more chatty.
Yesterday we were having our regular "tummy time", as we are supposed to. Apparently the whole "back to sleep" campaign has had a few unintended consequences, namely a rise in flat head syndrome and babies crawling later. Babies spend almost all their time on their backs now and some end up developing flat spots on the backs of their heads or worse, a misshapen skull. Now, health professionals are recommending supervised periods in the prone position, or tummy time as the rest of us prefer to call it.
He hated it to start with. If I laid him flat on his front, he just used to scream. I use a little kidney shaped pillow that came with his play mat for the purpose and he hated that too, but less so. Tummy time, until yesterday, mostly consisted of me struggling to get him on the pillow in the right position so it was supporting his chest and him winging and wiggling away to make it extra hard for me. He'd try for a little while, end up cuddling the pillow in a very uncomfortable looking pose and dribbling all over the play mat.
Yesterday, it happened. He lifted up his head! Not just a little, but the whole way so that he was actually looking up! It lasted for several minutes and was accompanied by a lot of foot waving and hand flapping. After a while, he decided that when it came to it, he'd still rather flop forwards and drool, but a milestone had been reached. Today, the experience was repeated and for a longer spell.
He's also started to enjoy being bounced on the knee. His neck is a lot stronger, which means I can support him by having my hands under his arm pits rather than behind, which makes it a lot easier. I jiggle him on my knee and his mouth opens wide into a huge smile!
All this has been happening in the last week. He's moved up into size three nappies and it's as if he's decided that it's the catalyst to grow up a little!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Pregnancy - second trimester

The second trimester of pregnancy is probably the easiest. Thankfully my migraines had started to finally ease off a bit and the morning sickness was at last getting less and less. By the way "morning" sickness is a myth, it can strike at any time of day. The worst thing for me was tea, it just started tasting wrong! Anyone who knows me knows I NEED caffeine or I simply don't function and I end up like a bear with a sore head. I like a nice cup of black earl grey and the only way I could stomach it was putting two spoonfuls of demerera sugar in it! Someone offered me a tea with milk in it when I was about a month pregnant and the smell alone made me sick.
Thankfully by week 13 my head and stomach had stopped giving me such a hard time. The second trimester is when the next amazing thing happens - you get kicked!
I thought it was indigestion the first few times. It was an odd sensation, not dissimilar to the mild discomfort that tends to herald an IBS attack. It was only a bit later that I realised it wasn't as I usually felt those sensations far to the left or right of my abdomen and this had been much more central.
I was lying on the sofa when I felt it for sure. I was seventeen weeks pregnant and I happened to have my hand resting on my belly at just the right moment when he decided to kick me. It's strange, despite my increasing waist size and the magical 12 week scan, it was only now it began to feel real. I send Andy a message to let him know what was happening. Later that day, Joseph rewarded Andy with a most definite and strong kick.
At week 20 you get your second scan. This is where you find out important things like the general health of the baby and the sex. I wanted to know, I really wanted to know! Why not? I wanted to pick a name for my baby, so I could say "Him" or "Joseph" rather than "them" or the horrible "it". We were told we had a boy and my baby turned from a mystery into a real person - Joseph Andrew Card.
On the day of my 20 week scan there was a heart specialist doing the rounds and she wanted to look in on our scan, which I was quite happy about. This meant we got quite a long time looking at Joseph's heart in close detail and it was incredibly fascinating, seeing all four chambers, the valves flicking away and the blood flowing through.
They check all over for potential problems, they even take a look up his nose to check for cleft lip and palate! All the while, Joseph was having a good old wiggle and kick, just to make it difficult! He hasn't changed.
Oh, and you have to give your employer your MATB1 form to prove you are pregnant, as if the increasingly swollen belly wasn't enough of a clue. There's something about pregnancy and ever increasing piles of paperwork.
It's also around now that your bump really starts to show, although I kept getting accused of being too small, something my midwife refuted. I had a "perfect" bump, according to her, just the right size! It was my strong abdominal muscles, she told me, holding it all so neatly in place.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

He's getting bigger

Well, today I have the fun opportunity to pick up some new baby clothes when I do the grocery shop this morning. This is because he's doing what all babies do - growing. Before he was born I bought him a cute pair of blue trainer shoes but now, as he's reached the important milestone of three months old, he's grown out of them. The last time I tried to put them on, it was quite a battle and Joseph really didn't like it so we gave up.
It's funny, what still fits him and what doesn't. He's got a pair of dungarees from Next that clearly state "1 month, up to 10lbs" that he only started wearing a few weeks ago because they were too big and they've still got growing space in them. At his last weigh-in he was over 14lbs. We also have T-shirts that are still big on him that are supposed to be for a much smaller baby. A case in point is the one he's wearing now, it's supposed to have a matching pair of trousers that are so small on him that there's no point even trying, but the T-shirt still has lots of room! He's got long legs you see, it's not obvious unless he has a stretch, but there you go.
So, I need new shoes for him and some new little vests as his current lot are now too short in the body. Thankfully his rate of growth will slow down a bit, but for the next 15 (or thereabouts) years I suspect I will constantly be discovering that he's growing out of everything.
You know, I never was much of a 'maternal' person before having Joseph. Where other girls would go and coo over a new baby, I never really could see the point. Babies were mysterious things to me, full of vomit and messy nappies and drool. They made a lot of noise and mess. Everyone said I'd have a different attitude when I had my own and just I wasn't convinced.
It was the socks that changed me. Yes, socks.
There was something about their teeny-tininess. I'd bought them when I was about 6 months pregnant and was at home taking them out of the pack to pair them up and put them away when it hit me. They were just so small! How could anything have such tiny little feet? I really did go all mushy. It's with a significant amount of emotion today I go to the supermarket to buy new things for him. He's growing out of his socks, you see. No more teeny-tiny feet!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Baby Routine - update

Well, the original purpose of this was to keep a diary of my ups and downs trying to get my baby into a routine and I haven't been thinking about it much to be honest.
The truth is that he is in a settled routine now, more or less. It isn't exactly what Gina Ford suggests, but it's near enough.
Night feeding has been the sticking point. The idea was to feed him so he is ready to sleep at 7pm, then wake him up 10.30-11pm for another feed and then have him sleep through till 7am. (a top up at 3am if needed, to be slowly phased out)
The problem has been the 10.30pm feed. He always went to sleep well at 7pm - a little too well! We were finding that he simply wasn't hungry at 10.30, so the feed got moved back to 11.30pm and then to midnight. Even then he wouldn't take a big feed, and was still waking up 3-4am for a top up. On some memorable occasions, he simply couldn't be woken up enough to take a feed at all, short of actually yelling in his ear. Andy's job was the late feed, with me taking back over for the early morning so that both of us could get a minimum sleep allowance. Andy turned the late feed into a demand feed, i.e. Joseph deciding when he was hungry by waking up and asking to be fed in the only way a baby knows how - waah!
This, essentially eliminated the late feed as Joseph simply wasn't hungry till 3am, which Andy did. I was then getting up 5 - 6am for the morning routine. We did try to re-introduce the late feed, but it made no difference as Joseph simply carried on waking up at the same time in the night for another feed regardless and we still had disrupted sleep.
Eventually he started sleeping till 6ish without a demand feed in the night. 7pm-6am, pretty good for a 10 week old at the time. Now, at 13 weeks (3 months) we've had days where he's gone the 12 hours straight with me having to actually wake him properly for the feed. Usually, we tend to get a bit of grizzle from 6am onwards and I try to silence this with a dummy and this usually works. I want to get him used to the day starting at 7am and no earlier! Perhaps you think I'm cruel in doing this, but if he was really very very hungry, I wouldn't be able to persuade him to go back to sleep by simply giving him his dummy, would I?
Tonight we're upping his 7pm feed to see if that is an extra help.
The biggest problem his night sleeping has presented is making sure he gets enough food during the day. A baby his age needs 5 feeds of 180ml, or thereabouts. By loosing one of the night feeds before he is weaned means I have had to tweak the day feeds to fit an extra one in. Instead of 7am, 10.45am, 2.30pm, 7pm and 11pm as Gina Ford recommends, I have 7am, 10am, a half feed at 12pm before his longest nap, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7pm. The 4.30pm feed is flexible as it comes right before his afternoon nap. If he's looking drowsy earlier he has the feed moved forwards to compensate. Due to the closeness of the feeds he doesn't tend to take a full one at 4.30, but it doesn't matter as he's had the extra top-up at 12.
The naps are working pretty well. Had a few problems with him waking up after 45 minutes with the nap in the middle of the day, but the addition of the little top-up feed seems to have really helped him sleep through till close to 2pm. This gives me a much needed 2 hour break in the middle of the day to catch up on things, relax and generally do a few self indulgent things I haven't had time or opportunity for when he's awake. I do think it's wrong to ignore him when he's in awake for something that's a bit self indulgent, but having the little break in the day for my mind to think about things other than baby does really help.
We've just filled in another section of his diary sheet for the clinical trial. One of his injection sites has healed so well you can't tell where it even was but the other seems to have some residual swelling and hardness, not a lot, but enough to record. It doesn't seem to be causing him any pain and we had a much less drowsy and grumpy day today, which was really rather nice. We've also started giving him his infacol on a spoon so that when it comes to weaning, the whole process will be a lit less scary. That's the idea, anyway.
We've also noticed that he recognises Andy straight away when he comes home from work, which is really sweet! But, as Andy points out, this doesn't stop him having a good old scream.
I'm sorry, health professionals, but Andy and I are agreed that the reason Joseph is sleeping through the night so well is, in the greater part, down to Gina Fords routine. I know that most of you would happily take all of her books and make a Fascist style bonfire out of them, but in our case it really seems to have worked. I do know that babies can settle into a routine of their own by 3 months, but it often isn't one that is particularly convenient or in any way sensible and limiting his day sleeping means more overnight which means Andy and I sleep better... and so on.
All in all, something of a success. That doesn't mean I'm stopping the blog, though. There's lots more things to blog about, he's got two bumps in his bottom gum, for instance, which means I've got all the 'wonders' of teething to write about and then there's weaning....

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Don't worry, I'm not, again.
I just thought that it's a subject worth writing about and I wish I had kept a diary through the process. I had intended to start, but during my first trimester I had such bad migraines that reading or writing anything was virtually impossible. I've always suffered from them every now and again, but this was pretty much constant. If I was lucky enough to be pain free, trying to read anything would usually set me off.
The main problem was pain relief. When you are pregnant, the only painkiller you are allowed is paracetamol, something that has all the pain relieving effectiveness as smarties. So, my initial months of pregnancy were endured rather than enjoyed. I also had quite a bit of nausea, but I wasn't sick all that often as I discovered that a plate of oven chips for breakfast helped keep it down. Yummy! :-S
At this point he became known as "Peanut" because one morning when I was feeling particularly rough, I commented "How can something the size of a peanut be having this much of an effect on me?"
I did have a very nice midwife called Nicky, she was very patient with me, especially in my first appointment when I had forgotten most of my important paperwork. That was a result of the migraines I mentioned before.
Probably the best part of the first trimester is the last week of it!
No, seriously, it's when you have your 12 week scan, the first chance you get to see your little one. It's an absolute modern miracle and totally breathtaking. Baby is still absolutely tiny at this point and most women aren't starting to show in any real way and yet there it is - a perfectly formed little person, arms, legs, head, all there! The heart, which started beating at eight weeks is observable, even if it is little more than a tiny grey dot flicking from white to grey again at quite a startling rate.
Joseph, being something of a naughty boy right from the start, was not lying in the correct position for the nuchal measurement (downs syndrome check) to be made. To make him move, I was prodded quite hard in the belly and made to lift my hips up and bash them back down on the bed again. Joseph was having none of it and I was instructed to go for a walk and come back.
Even having studied foetal development at university, it still surprised me just how fully developed he was. Scientists say that at that age he wouldn't have a fully formed nervous system and wouldn't feel any pain, but he was clearly reacting to the stimulus of me being poked in the belly by kicking and wiggling about. 
That's the first trimester in a nutshell really - sickness, filling in forms (oh so many forms!) and a fantastic scan right at the end. I'll sign off now as Joseph is getting unhappy and talk about my second and third trimesters at a later date.

Monday, 7 March 2011


It seems like he changes every day sometimes. He's getting much stronger at holding his head up now, often not needing any support at all. He's not yet strong enough to lift it up, so he still needs support when you're picking him up.
He's starting to grasp really well too. It doesn't always work, but we're having some success waving toys at him and having him grasp them. Currently he can grasp the dangly plastic rings on his play mat the best of all, and sometimes doesn't really want to let go! Quite often we're seeing things heading in a mouthwards direction when he has successfully got hold of them. I've bought some plastic bowls and cutlery to be ready for the great experiment that is the weaning process. We've decided that one of the spoons should be a toy so it's not so much of a shock when it turns up with food on the end. Within a few minutes of playing with it, he got it in his mouth! He was rewarded with Mummy and Daddy both dancing around like idiots shouting "Well done!". Perhaps weaning wont be so bad after all. I am going to get one of those magic mat things with the sucker on it so the plate is pretty much glued to the table (or highchair) although I am informed that while they are pretty good, they don't stand up to a determined karate chop from an angry toddler.
He babbles sometimes now. I think he's trying to imitate speech, but doesn't really know what it is yet. We've had many a fun hour with one or the other of us mugging away at him like a complete idiot shouting "Gooo!" and having it repeated, albeit with more drool. He's mastered Goo, Coo and something approaching an Egg sort of sound. He'll be reciting poetry in no time, hehe.

Had the second round of vaccinations today. There was a lot less screaming after the jabs, but we've had quite a grumpy and drowsy afternoon. We've also spent a little while taking his temperature and pouring over his injection sites to give the correct information to the clinical trial people. This time one of the sites is a teensy bit pink and swollen, unlike last time when I simply wrote "0" in every single box for five days. Still, it's nothing to worry about, I'd much rather him have all of 4mm of pinkness and a grumpy afternoon than diphtheria or meningitis.
We've just completed the bedtime ritual. Andy gives him either a bath or a long (and hilariously funny) nappy change and does his last bottle feed. He's then put in his baby sleeping bag and gently put down in his cot. I always give him a goodnight kiss and Andy has started saying nightly prayers. I didn't think the two of them could get any cuter together, but they managed it! Aww, I've gone all mushy!
Right, I think it's dinner time and I'm off to poke about in the freezer.