Category Archives: Pregnancy

Received wisdom

You know that feeling when that person you most hoped would give you something really, really wonderful as a gift turns around and gives you…

…food from the tree in the middle of the garden,

or…

…frankincense (duty-free),

or…

…festive socks that play jingle bells?

And all you can do is be polite and just bite it, because you are either (a) happy not to question someone else’s mistake, or (b) under two years old, or (c) a dog?

So you take it and eat it. And everyone else tries to stop you and the whole thing gets a little messy, especially as It Wasn’t Really Meant For You In The First Place. We all know there are gifts you should not just take and eat. And there are others that are designed to make up for that. Take and Eat Jesus says at the last supper. Quite right. Take. Eat. Receive. Heal. Restore.

Which means that you can’t assume it is OK just to refuse gifts. Especially in the season of accepting God’s most precious gift to mankind. Refusing gifts is actually very rude. A relative once told us not to send presents to them at all, and I felt hurt that it was not an option. Gift-giving all around the world, is a sign of respect, honour and strengthening relationship. I imagine William, Kate and the baby will be inundated with gifts appropriate, inappropriate and almost certainly superfluous for the coming year or more and must weather it all with good grace and British cheer. And hopefully donate every excess item to baby clothing exchanges up and down the country (*ahem* Rainbow Toddlers *ahem*).

[I personally am hoping it is twins born at precisely the same moment by caesarian section, called William Alfred Leo Edward Spencer, Alfie for short and Diana Isabella Anne Naomi Alexandra, Bella for short.]

b2r

But I digress.

Gifts, and the unfortunate receiving and eating thereof. My husband and I have asked our immediate family to consider not buying the two of us physical presents which need to be found a home, used, eaten or carefully and quietly passed to a more appropriate recipient. We have more than we need and no desires for Things at this point in time. In fact, we are desperately trying to declutter and simplify the stuff that has accumulated in our lives. The children (5 and 2) only really warrant a tiny actual present, so that they have something to unwrap and to help them realise that Christmas is not about Bigger and Better and stuffstuffstuff. We value time together and happy memories, kind words, hugs and humour. Thoughtful gifts are always genuinely appreciated, but gifts for gifts’ sake are uncomfortable and unnecessary. Less is more when it comes to Christmas presents these days for us. Last year we tried not get each other a gift at all (I was in Canada: the only thing I opened there from home was a DVD from my husband that he thought I wanted…) Instead we decorated our bedroom from the January sales and it was a far better decision.

Gifts, and that awkward zero-sum moment. You don’t want others to think you have forgotten them or spent less on them than they did, or that they might feel bad for spending less than you did, or that the number of items was not equal across the family. Was it OK to settle for something that can only be classed as ‘gift’ when what might have been far more suited was a nice cuppa and a chat?

Gifts, and the other love languages, and knowing that to love everyone means to love in diverse ways, and sometimes that means receiving too. Or saying the words that need to be heard. Or giving a hug that is so, so needed. Or spending time washing up, together. Or just being, without complaining, and without thinking what you might otherwise have been doing.

Gifts, and the complications of thank you letters, at least in my own family. Because we all want to love in the way we feel the others ought to receive our love best.

Receiving is so, so hard.

I am not going to complain if you give me a gift.

I am not going to complain if you give me a gift I really didn’t want, couldn’t eat, couldn’t use or don’t fit.

I am even going to try very hard not to be bitter, flippant or confused should that happen.

 

A King is Born! And what do they give him?

Frankincense.

Seriously, Frankincense?

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Ten green fingers, ten green toes

A baby boy arrived in our family today, care of my brother, his lovely wife and a hospital in Essex. I am ever so excited, and looking forward to meeting him at the weekend.

He has a name which is something of a project. I’ve already given it quite a bit of thought today. It would also suit him well should he ever choose to become a gardener.

 

Saints and Sinners

I don’t personally know the way to the San Jose mine or its workings, but I’m glad others did and that some ground-breaking rescuing went on this week in the Operation San Lorenzo. When I was briefly an engineer, I was told that if you looked up Boring in the Yellow Pages, you were advised to See Under Civil Engineering. Unfortunately for urban mythology, said text no longer prints this little gem. Unfortunately for boring, sometimes in life you have to prove that you are more than your name.

Boring it was not. I cried when I saw my first live miner emerge. It was on a par with watching a birth, and had shocking parallels. There was a long wait, nervous expectant families, then a body emerging head first, checks for vital health, loud screams, and all the rest. I guess babies rarely greet daylight with sunglasses on, but perhaps Oakley have missed a major marketing opportunity here: a little Acornley line for 2011 is in the offing I am sure.

Now the dust is settling, people are curious about all the things they should know better not to be curious about. How many women can one miner need? Is a proposal more serious for having taken place under duress? What is the right pronounciation of Chile? Did they leave anything important behind in the mine? What is the Queen really going to do with her piece of Copiapo?

I am curious about how I would have fared if stuck with 32 of my colleagues or friends at any given time in a similar predicament. I am certain I would not have had the survival know-how that the group leaders relied on. I would not have even known where the tin can opener was kept or what to do if there wasn’t one. I would hope that I would have been part of the solution rather than the problem, perhaps in terms of group harmony and thinking of ways of passing time. However, I know I am no saint, and would have had my rocky moments too. I would have been grateful for the variety of those around, so that there would have been others to support and be supported by.

Another parallel I cannot ignore is that of redemption. The miners, dependent on being rescued by others could do no more than make loud noises and petitions in the hope someone would realise their need. Seemingly abandoned away from life and all that is good, they had to trust and hope that rescue would come. Rescue for all, saint or sinner. It matters little whether preacher or scoundrel. All needed rescuing. The palomas that sent good things kept them inspired and sustained. Paloma is the Spanish for Dove, as I understand it. The process of rescue involved much cost and for others to descend to where the miners were, to give them the chance of freedom. The parallels go on. I wonder how many books will be written about it. For now, here is a clip which got me thinking, especially after chatting with dad about the words on the shirts of the freed miners.

Carried – Part 3

Let’s see if I can remember the rest of the birth story and attached anecdotes worthy of mention.

I felt carried through the final weeks of pregnancy and the labour by an army of folk wishing me well, picking me up emotionally and praying for us as a family. I have the tendency to be naturally depressive and like to plan for every eventuality. The hormonal joyride of late pregnancy and a clingy regressing toddler were not the best starting point for thinking through labour options or the reality of parenting a family with two children. Two is a lot more than one, I kept saying to myself. I needed to be carried.

As the first midwife Delice’s shift came to an end, Nina came to deliver spare entonox and see to me during the changeover before my own midwife could arrive. This was a tense time for me, as I had done a lot of active labour overnight, but was not progressing at all. I had stalled at 3cm some hours earlier. Mum was due to collect Lily for the day at 9 o’clock, but we asked her to come an hour earlier so that she could get her up, fed and dressed. Lily sleeps late in the morning, and hadn’t woken overnight which was another mercy. Mum got here around the same time as Sarah, my real midwife and the one who had wanted to deliver me. She had intended to take the day off for her grandad’s 100th birthday, but was glad to attend us and tell Grandad all about it later. Lily was able to see me briefly, but was taken care of without fuss.

We decided that once Lily was out of the house we’d try an artificial rupture of the membranes (ARM), which means breaking the waters. I was warned that being 15 days past my date meant a high chance that the baby’s gut would be mature and would already have passed meconium: an inevitable trip to the hospital. By that point the pain levels were so high, I was so tired and the entonox had made me so light-headed that I didn’t care and would have happily signed anything providing pain relief. Sarah broke my waters and told me that I was still only 3cm. There was no meconium and this was a relief in some respects, but I was also disappointed because I was ready to stop being in pain. I realised later what a mercy the clear liquor was: the contractions almost immediately went from 2nd gear to 5th gear, and continued at enormous intensity for just 90 minutes until I was fully dilated. I could not have travelled to hospital in that condition without enormous discomfort. The pain at times was more than 10 out of 10. I honestly believed I could not do it or that something terrible would go wrong, and blocked from my mind horror stories I had read about. Sarah told me that there was not much that the hospital could have done to alleviate my pain by that point, although they would probably have monitored the baby and kept me horizontal to do so, which was something I wanted to get different in this birth. I could not have had a bath for relief either by this point. So it was a mercy that Sarah was prepared to do the ARM at home, in the hope it would work out. We were able to use gravity and get there faster.

At one point the entonox bottles were being changed and the valve was broken. I became aware that it would be foolish to complain. Thinking quickly, my husband found the missing rubber washer and fixed the parts. It took long minutes from where I was. More contractions. Deep waves of pain rolling through me. I focused. It was fixed. That sweet nitrous mix was the best sensation I had felt all night. Better than dancing to Lionel Richie. Better than laughing to home-grown videos. Better than knowing Lily was safe. I felt foolish that I was relying on it, but so, so grateful that my husband was able to solve it for me. This was another mercy.

The pain was more than I remembered from Lily’s birth, and the head was ready to come out before the midwife could get the floor covered and her gloves on. I remember thinking that there was no way I could physically not push, so intense were the contractions and urges. Nina had already left, and the fourth midwife, Laura (for the birth stage) had got stuck in traffic on our street. Although Sarah was more concerned about the curtains than we were (they survived intact) and I forgot about focusing on the baby, everything happened remarkably quickly and so, despite everything, I gave birth in our toy room, in the clothes I was wearing the previous day in presence of just my husband and our midwife. I had been leaning over a gym ball and no harm done to the baby, myself or the curtains. This is also a great mercy.

I did not see the baby emerge or touch the head crowning as I had with Lily. I did not watch him take his first breath and change colour, and had to ask my husband what we’d had while the first crazy precious moments dragged past. These things made me feel a little sad, although certain positions of labour do not allow the mother to see as much. At least I had kept upright by jigging around to music or bouncing on my gym ball for almost the entire labour, which helped the last part go more quickly than it might have done. In hospital I am sure I would have been monitored in bed by this point. This too I am grateful for.

And then the realisation that a baby was here too.

I was in shock. I shivered. I was confused. I was drunk with gas and air. I was in denial. How could we have a son? I had mentally prepared myself for a daughter, thinking that might be the more difficult situation to accept. Two girls were going to be great fun. Pretty clothes. Secrets. Tying up each others’ hair. We were going to have more options for holidays (with fewer bedrooms). We could use the knowledge we had gained from the previous two and a half years to help raise our next daughter. We had a lot of lovely girls’ clothes in stock. We were going to have a beautiful sister for Lily, not a competitor but a complementer. Alys Katherine. Or, maybe, Daisy Emilia or Katie Sophia. She was going to be like Lily, but different. How could we have a son? How could I not immediately know that everything was going to be all right? Everything about how we bring up a daughter was going to be challenged from a new dimension. A noisy one. A less pretty one. A challenger. A fighter. I was in shock for more than an hour, and my body was only partly responsible. Now I feel guilty for these thoughts, but they are true. And now I have bonded with my amazing little boy, I would have it no other way.

The placenta would not come out. I was not ready to stop labouring. But I had no fight left. The shock had winded me. I had wanted a boy so badly. Why was I hurting so much? The fog gradually lifted. I fed him. The midwife clothed him. My husband smiled. We tried a syntometrin injection. The reason we had not had this injection at the point of delivery, as many people do, was that we wanted the cord blood to pulse back into the baby before cutting it and this usually means delivering the placenta without artificial intervention. We had managed this with Lily (although we’d had a wait then as well). It was over an hour later that the midwives, keen to avoid having to take me into hospital for the final stage, tried cutting the cord shorter and physically pulling the placenta out. It came out in one go. Another mercy. And no trip to hospital.

The baby was doing well, and passed all his newborn tests. He was named Joseph then and there, but we wanted to consider the middle name overnight. I wanted my husband to name him, as I had had a major say in Lily’s name and in the Joseph element. His choices were not being used (for Alys and Katherine, with joint agreement when we discovered the Cornish and medieval spelling of Alice, a name which features a lot in his family tree). Independently we both considered Micah for Joseph’s middle name, so I was very pleased when my husband said to me later that night that he had been thinking about Micah himself. The sounds suited the face and the meanings felt appropriate. We had been carried so much. Micah, which means ‘who is like God?’ echoed our feelings about God’s sovereignty in our recent journey. There is a verse in the book of Micah which many people are familiar with:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

The threefold verbs resonate with what we believe life is about, even when we get it wrong. The rest of the book deals a lot with social justice, a topic close to our hearts. Micah is the Yahwistic version of Michael, and is cognate with Micaiah as well. It is on the rise in the US, but relatively unused in the UK. It is also easy enough to pronounce. I am an Old Testament geek, but the choice of name surprised me as being so biblical in the final cut.

If Lily had been a boy she would have been Joseph Mark. For various reasons we didn’t quite feel this was right this time. But alternatives we toyed with needed to be a little different so that the name could be googled easily enough, as well as having some character. Joseph was always the front-runner for first name. But alternatives we considered for the middle name included Matthias, Malachi, Kenan and Kea (the last two are both Cornish names – I have taken more of an interest in Cornish names as my great-grandfather was Cornish). I also liked the idea of a middle initial M to mark my birth surname.

What about the date? Should we have considered saints names? According to the ever-useful wikipedia, 16th April marks the saints day for the interestingly-named Drogo, Fructuosus and Turibius. Not serious contenders… but while we were at it, we checked out who else shared that birthday. Wikipedia tells us that Joseph shares his date of birth with Wilbur Wright, Charlie Chaplin, Spike Milligan, Peter Ustinov, Kingsley Amis, Dusty Springfield, Billy West and the Pope.

Confessions of a Bad Liar

I have two confessions to make.

One is that I am a Liar, and a Bad one at that. And don’t go using Logic on me. If Person A says they never lie and Person B says they always lie, should you believe either of them when they state whether the other would lie: that sort of thing. I told a lie last Thursday that resulted in my parents being woken at some unearthly hour (8:00 am I heard) and nearly got me sent a double bouquet of flowers for the imaginary twins that I announced to a large portion of my family. At last count something in the region of three uncles and two cousins were convinced to my knowledge, despite unlikely names, impossible timings and an image of not-quite-newborn twins which a short google image search provided. Maybe there were more (it would be interesting to know!)

I feel bad. But I did make a lot of people laugh, and as joy is one of the great things in life (spiritual and otherwise) I do hope that a small amount of untruth can be taken in context. We all need to be fooled from time to time, and if people genuinely take me seriously much of the time I hadn’t realised the power and responsibility that held. Hmm. I expect it’ll all come back to haunt me when I meet up with many of the family in the summer.

The second confession is that I have miscalculated Lily’s heritage and needed to be corrected by my mother. Lily is not one-eighth Cornish. She is one-sixteenth. This is a lot less pasty than I had reckoned on. It also made me draw a diagram with concentric circles representing each generation, with double the ‘slices’ in each one. All this proved was that the other sixteenths were mostly a mystery to me. Although I am certain Lily’s great-great-grandparents were all born in England, I cannot place more than three of them without more research. Possibly more pregnancy forgettory, but I suspect there is more to it: I just don’t know. But then I don’t know quite a lot these days.

Unlike a certain Alex Guttenplan, who I think ought to be our next Prime Minister. He gets my vote solely on the basis that he was prepared to correct Jeremy Paxman, who claimed he had guessed an answer on the way to winning University Challenge last night for a local university team. If you can stand up to someone called Jeremy you must be a good egg. And knowing a few facts can’t help* either in politics.

We have made progress on the colour of the front door though. I decided something sage green might be nice, so chose something else (I am not certain why), which looks blue in some lights and green in others. Farrow and/or Ball call it Green Blue. Or Blue Green. I forget and cannot reach the thingy any more. Anyway, after a few days of doubt having put the first coat on, the walls of the house have now been painted something in the region of magnolia, which has meant that Green by Green Blue is actually quite a good choice. Dad suggested it looks like Cambridge Blue. In which case I feel personally responsible for helping our local university out in both the TV quiz last night and the boat race last Saturday and would like to take some of the credit.

You can rest assured that I will not be running for parliament, calculating inaccurate heritage statistics or announcing any more April Fool jokes for at least another 360 days. I have other things to work on, and having washed the microwave and de-cobwebbed every vertex in the house today I hope and suspect the next job may involve producing and sustaining a newborn for the foreseeable future.

* Errata – for help read hurt…

“You’re actually starting to look pregnant now”

Maybe it’s because I’m an Intuitive Introvert, but I do like leaving things until the last minute.  I have a feeling baby Bean may be the same. Finally I have a bump I am proud of, and which leaves me unable to put socks on without real effort. Sometimes when I look down to pick Lily up I cannot see her. I have developed a huge urge to eat, and when I am not eating, to have a light snack or something. As a result, my new name is shown above. Catchy. 99% of people who see me call me this at the moment. I am not yet sure what the most polite response is, and am less and less inclined to search for it. I mean, I’m due in 9 days time and some people who see me regularly are still surprised to discover we are expecting. This makes me sad. I don’t feel like a proper mother.

Leaving things until the last minute is not a trait I am proud of, but it is definitely part of who I am. It explains the burst of DIY and building on the kitchen over 2007, and the work we’ve been doing on the windows, door, painting and moving rooms round this year. It explains why I can spend 2 weeks researching a topic and put it all together in one night. At a pre-ordained time, I gather up my conclusions, make decisions and take action.

This would be a good point in my pregnancy therefore, for me to have sussed out all that needs to happen for the labour and early days of Bean’s life as a regular, breathing human being. However, looking at my ‘still to do’ list I notice that the teddy still does not have a name (Bean has a short-list, and no, we are not discussing it). Also the nursery does not look spotless yet. Or for that matter, anywhere else in the house, although were I able to reach every last bit of dust (or pay someone to), you can be assured that baby Bean would arrive in a world cleaner than a hospital with a politician visiting. You know, I think a newborn would appreciate that. My hormones tell me so.

Talking of hospitals, I saw yesterday that the chap who invented beta-blockers died. I am eternally grateful to people who have provided such clever medicines following dad’s heart attack. It is not something I would be able to do myself.

Ok, time to waddle off and think about doing a spot of cleaning. After a quick bite.

Definitions

Less is more. Where less is defined as > 0 and more is greater than, or equal to less. Except when it is less than less, because less is more.

Taking this to its IKEAcle conclusion, we now have a small child sleeping in a small room decorated in very few colours (white, white, white and FABLER). We will soon have an even smaller child, for whom we have made a larger room available, decorated in elephants in custard. Except they won’t usually be sleeping in there: they will usually be sleeping in a basket, in a room with us. Until that is, the basket gets too small or the child gets too large or they learn to snore.

The custardy room is sheltering all kinds of newborn and labour paraphernalia. (This paraphernalia, because it is for a very small person, naturally takes up a huge volume). In the process of nesting, we have also had to make rather grand alterations to a third room which usually houses guests, drying, old telephones and second-hand furniture. Not all at the same time. This larger room has got to be emptied even further.

More than one charity refused to take away the furniture, so we used freecycle instead and made some people very happy (they were a young family the other side of town who needed beds and a Portuguese clan of scary blokes who wanted a wardrobe and could not speak English and brought their own tools). I have a lot of good things to say about freecycle now, despite meeting my first real pirates. The erstwhile guest room with en-suite office facilities has become an office-come-guest-room with nearby toddler. It will need more ‘less’ doing, and to that end I am still decluttering and trying to get on top of admin before any more important banking/car/guarantee things change without me realising. Think Augean stables. In order to make this room flexible and friendly, we are not re-painting (we already did it in white), but are going to buy a nice white IKEA chest of drawers to house things that don’t file in the filing cabinet and a nice white IKEA wardrobe to put duvets and so on into. In time we will need to buy the right kind of sofa-bed too, but as it happens we can probably manage with the inflatable king-size bed for now. When you are trying to go for the ‘less is more’ look, there always seems to be more to do. This is wrong in my head, but I can’t work out why.

So – why is the post called ‘Definitions’ ?

Good point. I had thought about writing about how Lily is taking to her new room and graduating to a real bed. She hasn’t yet realised you can get out of it yourself after you have been put to sleep. I am hoping this continues for some time. (We did finally install a stair gate, now that she is 2 and 1/3). She is doing her usual trick of facing Mecca, or perhaps Jerusalem or New York or Norwich after being tucked in. And she loves to have all her favourite dolls and teddies around her. Ergo:

Pillow: A place to keep many soft toys while you lie transversely in bed with no covers on.

Guard-rail: What you have to climb over to get into bed, using a straight body and pivoting motion.

Underthebed: Where nappies go to sleep.

Curtains: The pretty things covering the blinds which only naughty people play with.

Letters: Colourful magnets stuck to a metal sheet for learning to spell important words like dda.

Cushions: For stroking and saying ‘ahhhh’. (Compare cats, babies, books with fur in).

Lambskin rug: The place to rub your face when you get out of bed, or need a nappy, or generally want to be silly. Also using for tucking in excess soft toys (see Pillow, above).

Shelf: Out of bounds. Houses pretty things, mostly called ‘What’sthat?’

What’sthat?: Anything not yet defined. Applies to somewhere in the region of 30 items/noises/smells per day. Serious answers not always necessary.

Stories: Books mummy once thought were a good idea, until they became staple reading night after night. They seem to be getting longer, the older the child gets. This is Worrying, as we haven’t yet moved up to Chapters.

Handle: Part of the door which daddy took off to danish oil and was elsewhere (calamitous distress) for the duration, but is now FIXED and needs pointing out each time the door is used. Thank goodness.

Door: FIXED by daddy (see Handle). And also a bit by Lily, who held a screwdriver very capably throughout.

That’s enough definitions for now. I had wanted to say more, but should probably have said a lot less.

More or less.