Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Baby Brain

If you don't already know me in real life, let me explain something:

I am not the cute but ditsy one in the group. I am not the girl who's forever loosing her mobile phone, leaving her keys at work or turning up late for everything because she got sidetracked and didn't allow time for traffic. I've just never been like that and over the years it has led to a few conflicts with my more "faff" prone friends (you know who you are) but basically, I'm happy with who I am.

That is until I'm pregnant and the dreaded baby brain arrives.

I've posted here before about my belief that pregnant women should be treated as intelligent, rational adults and I still stand by that, it's just that I'm well, a bit easily befuddled at the moment.

On Monday E had a longish nap in the afternoon, pretty normal after a busy weekend. I only started cooking once she was up and found myself rushing to have dinner ready for our normal time of 5.30pm. But I managed it and sat down to eat with her, surprised that I wasn't at all hungry. Until I looked at my watch. Then the kitchen clock, and the one on my phone, and finally accepted that it was actually 4.30pm and I'd been an hour out all afternoon. E got a very, very long bath that evening.

Worse still, a couple of weeks ago I had arranged to meet some old friends at 3pm on Sunday afternoon. At 4pm on Saturday I got a text saying: "We're all in the bar - are you ok?"

As if being a day late wasn't bad enough I decided to pile just that bit more humiliation on myself. It had been a cold morning and I'd been out in the only coat that still fitted me, a large, thick winter coat and a scarf too. As I ran out the door, yelling an explanation to poor Fred, I pulled these on and it was half way to the station when I realised:

A- It was no longer cold - everyone else was in summer clothes and I was dressed for carol singing

B- One can not run in maternity jeans - that oh so comfy elasticated waist will rapidly head for the half-way down your back-side teenage boy look if you try

C- However ludicrous you look as a result of A and B, wearing a "baby on board" badge at the same time only makes it worse.

D- My pregnant and inappropriately dressed running speed is exactly the same as the cycling speed of the perfectly sane looking man taking his young son out for a bike ride - we kept pace with each other wonderfuly, apart from the moments I had to pause to hitch my jeans back up over my bum.

Sadly I know from experience that this isn't just a first or second trimester thing, and even if it wears off after the pregnancy then the sleep deprivation of early parenthood will have much the same effect.

So if you do know me in real life, please take this as advance warning and apology for any future stupidity, hang on in there, I'm expecting my brain back in about er two years time?


PS - I know there are plenty of baby brain stories out there - anyone else care to confess?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Parties with a Passenger

I think it's fair to say that I enjoyed a good night out back in the day. On one university field trip I got the blame for pretty much everything that went on, purely on the basis that I was a member of the rugby team so it must be my fault (I won't state here if that was fair or not)!

Our Bride-to-be, who said Brummies weren't classy!
Unsurprisingly things are rather different these days, the knowledge that you will be woken up at 6am by a loud and energy filled toddler turns out to be the thing that finally makes those "I'm never getting drunk again" vows stick and it seems that some child-free friends just assume you're never going to go out again anyway, so don't bother asking. Being pregnant again doesn't really help matters either so I was somewhat daunted by the idea of a hen weekend  which was to include a burlesque dancing class and *gulp* a night club.

As it turned out it was all fine, actually it was really good. I did feel faintly distinctly ridiculous tottering about to "Diamonds are a girls best friend" in my highest heals and a feather boa (and plenty of other clothes I hasten to add) but frankly a 6 foot women in 4 inch heals she's only worn once before (and then only to sit down) was never going to have Dita Von-Tease trembling in her Martini glass! Besides this was all being done with some of my best friends, and uni flatmates at that, so it's probably not the worst state they've all seen me in! 

Look who we found at Breakfast!
(only strictly fans will get this)
I was also rather pleased to still be on the dance floor at almost 1am that night. Although as it started to get busy I was more defencive than ever of my personal dance space, not wanting my passenger to get clobbered (in that respect being 6 foot and having elbows at most peoples chest height it a benefit). When I did give up, instead of heading for a curry then tottering back to our vile student digs, I and a similarly pregnant friend got a nice civilised cab to our very pleasant hotel for a good cup of tea!

E "helps" get the BBQ ready
(she plays drums on it)
Last week was also my birthday (no I'm not saying which one!). When we moved into this house we identified a spot in the garden that would be perfect for sitting around the BBQ and celebrating but it hadn't yet happened. This is now my third birthday here and on both the previous ones I've had to flee, with E,  to my parents place, as something major and messy was falling/being pulled down at ours. This year, at last, we are hopefully (touch wood, fingers crossed) structurally sound! So with a brief break in the hideous weather we lit the BBQ, got a few friends round and popped open some bottles of fizz (for me to watch them all drink)! 

So no 3am curry, no waking up having managed to remove only one shoe but good times non the less. Quite what Smidge2 made of a his/her first trip to a dance floor I'll never know I hope s/he enjoyed it as much as mummy!

More help - blowing out my candles....

...and helping me eat the cake of course


I may be a very good girl now, but I did give the groom-to-be a cheeky snog!

Friday, 15 June 2012

R2BC - Wiggles, Friends, Bump

I have two rather special reasons to be cheerful this week and I'm going to throw in a first bump picture too!:

1- Wiggles
I've felt the odd bit of movement from Smidge2 in recent weeks, but it's always been in could-just-be-gas territory and followed by days with nothing. But this week he/she has decided to make a proper appearance. Actually I think he/she has decided to take up a very energetic form of street dance! So this probably means I will now get no peace for the next 5 months (actually lets make that 18 years) but it is nice to know that there really is someone in there and it's finally making this pregnancy feel a bit more real. Hello in there!

This afternoon I am off up to Birmingham, where I spent my student years, for a lovely Uni friend's hen do! I can't go into detail of what we'll be doing as the bride to be hasn't been told yet but I can say that I am looking forward to, er, most of it! I'm also really looking forward to catching up with some of my old uni flatmates again. Our lives have taken us all over the country and can make it very hard to find time to meet up, or even chat on the phone. But when we do manage to get together we seem to just slip comfortably back into our relationship and it's hard to comprehend that 11 years have passed since we were all sat around our kitchen table worrying about our finals and how the heck we were ever going to get a turn in the shower!


17 weeks - here we grow!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Childbirth and the Science of Woo

I spotted a notice today for a free childbirth workshop, I took a look and immediately wished I hadn't. On the plus side it may have gone some way to improving my low blood pressure!

The notice said you would learn (amongst other things) how to avoid the need for pain and unnecessary interventions and how to breath, rather than push your baby out. It reminded me very much of my NCT classes.

I've heard very differing reports of NCT classes. A while ago I did a rough survey of friends with scientific and medical backgrounds who had attended them and although some felt they had been given balanced and useful information, others thought that a natural birth agenda had been pushed far too hard. This was certainly the case with the classes I attended. We were told, as fact, that we were just like any other mammal, perfectly capable of going off alone into a corner of our cow field and gently mooing until our baby arrived. We were also told that all doctors had a hidden agenda to medicalise our births (basically letting one anywhere near us was tantamount to inviting a physical assault). Home birth was strongly encouraged and one couple (both doctors) were forced to justify their choice of a hospital birth at our very first class.

To be clear, I'm not against natural childbirth or homebirth in the right circumstances. I have friends who have had wonderful experiences of both and had aimed for a doctor and intervention free waterbirth with E. What I am against is people in a position of authority talking nonsense.

We are not just like any other mammal, we are uniquely bad at giving birth. Human childbirth is a finely balanced compromise; in order to walk upright our hips and pelvises are proportionally far narrower than those of our mammal cousins, at the same time we have utterly enormous brains and thus heads. To allow for this the mothers pelvis can stretch a little during birth and the babies skull can safely squish a bit. We also have our babies when they are far less developed than most other mammal young and the baby comes out facing in the opposite direction to it's mother. The latter adaptation means it has to perform complicated turns to get through the pelvis but it's less likely to get stuck. Thanks to all these adaptations the majority of births are safe and straightforward, the continued existence of the human race is testimony to this - but it isn't proof that "all women are exquisitely designed to give birth easily and naturally" as I have read far too many times. The benefits of being smart and bipedal are so great that even if a small percentage of women die in childbirth as a result, it's still worth it for the rest of the species.

I learnt all this studying human evolution at university, as far as I know it's not particularly controversial in scientific circles but it seems to be a complete taboo to some childbirth educators. The over-riding concern is that all women are terrified of giving birth and must be eased towards the event with a relentlessly positive, almost pseudo-spiritual, message.

I'm not saying for a minute that an anxious pregnant woman should be sat down and lectured on the shortcomings of her anatomy. Being confident and calm in labour is undoubtedly helpful but can't we just assume that most pregnant women are intelligent adults and give them accurate information? Here is the message I wish I'd been given:

For the vast majority of healthy women childbirth is painful, but perfectly safe. For a few it will actually be easy, even enjoyable and for a few others it will be difficult, scary and exhausting. But even if you are in that last group the chances of anything going really, horribly wrong are utterly tiny. Doctors aren't lurking in the doorway desperate to cut you open, but if things go wrong you are immensely fortunate to live in a country where you and your baby will be saved. You can do a lot to prevent being in this group, be informed and have a good birth partner, keep healthy, eat well, don't smoke or get obese but also know that if it doesn't end up how you'd wanted it to, that's just bad luck and there are people there to help you. Basically, you'll be fine.

What's so bad, so dis-empowering, about all that?

I did the hypnobirthing, the NCT, yoga, swimming, birthing pool etc. etc. but in the end I could no more breath out my baby than the burly surgeon could yank her out with his full body weight and a sink plunger. It wasn't because I was afraid, or had no faith in my intuitive maternal powers, I was just unlucky. But I was also lucky enough that ultimately non of that mattered, my baby and I would have been fine whatever happened. No well meaning lies, no denial of basic biology, and absolutely no woo* required.

PS. of course this time around I will be placing my faith in a Koi assisted birth - the universe is telling me to.

*Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.
Definition from the Skeptic's dictionary

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Present From Big Sister

Today E decided to give her baby sister/brother a present and if you're two what is the best, most exciting present you can give anyone? Stickers of course!!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, 8 June 2012

Baby On Board Update

Charitable Thoughts

Since deciding to pin on my TFL Baby On Board badge I've been interested to see if it actually works - so far I've got a seat most days, although not because someone has offered me one. Half term means the trains are slightly quieter than normal and there has been a spare seat or two every morning. To some extent this is still a victory for the badge though, as the good people of Nunhead have generally noticed it and let me on the train first, or hung back once on it so I have first go at getting that spot - Thank you lovely Nunhead folks, it's much appreciated!

Pre-half term I had one fail- all the seats were taken when I got on board, I stood near the priority seats, expecting no one to look up, but they did! Several of them, right at the badge. In fact one young chap had a jolly good look at me on at least two occasions but decided he needed the seat more. Before getting off two stops later. I managed to get a spot at this point from another priority seat occupant getting off at the same stop.

Of course it's quite possible that jolly-good-look chap really did need the seat more than me. He could have a nasty back injury, some unseeable heart condition or be exhausted after a night voluntarily rescuing tiny, dewy-eyed, orphaned kittens from the clutches of evil kebab shop owners (ok the last one is less likely).So I did try to keep this more charitable opinion of him, after all I'm not massive yet and there are certainly people more in need than me etc. But a  little voice in my slightly squiffy head just kept muttering :


Thursday, 7 June 2012


Never is the need for something comfortable to wear more pressing (quite literally), than in these first few weeks of the second trimester. I've given up all hope of wearing "normal" trousers or skirts, even hooking one of E's hair bands between the button and button hole of my flies isn't enough to get me into my old jeans anymore. I dispatched Fred to the loft a few weeks ago to retrieve my maternity clothes, hoping to find some salvation there, but alas, no. One pair of jeans - clearly stretched by the latter stages of pregnancy (and a first trimester spent mostly eating chips) just wouldn't stay up. My favourite, most beloved pair were still as comfy as ever, but the extent of their duties last time around was apparent in the large hole all down one side. My black "smart" trousers were no longer smart nor entirely black and thus, fit only for the bin. Apart from one pair of still serviceable summer combats this left me trouserless.

Perhaps I should explain why the trouser issue is so important:

1- I am 6 feet tall. This means that:
     a- It's really hard to find trousers long enough
     b- The few skirts and dresses I can get into are really rather short

2- My job is not skirt friendly:

For those who don't know what I do, I work in a lab with some pretty expensive, high tech equipment. By high tech I mean likely to break down at any minute. So while I may, on any given day, expect to spend my time stood at a lab bench or sitting at a computer, it's entirely possible that I will end up on all fours, crawling under a table while wielding a spanner, a 50ml syringe and large tub of Vaseline. It's not a position I'm keen to be found in at the best of times, but throw in a flash of massive pregnancy granny-pants under an inappropriate denim mini-skirt and the look is complete: knocked-up slutty mechanic. It's not quite the professional image I'm aiming for.

However, I think there is hope, following a tip off from my conveniently more-fashionable-and-more-pregnant-than-I-am sister in law I braved Oxford street last night (quickly remembering why I never go to Oxford street) and paid a visit to Mamas and Papas where I found a pair of jeans that fitted me!! What's more they didn't cost the earth and so far haven't fallen down on me once! Ok they are probably half an inch too short and they are rather snug across my hips but oh the marvellous comfort of a pair of jeans with elasticated panels instead of pockets.

And oh the wonderful knowledge that none of my colleagues need witness my jumbo sized under-crackers!


Friday, 1 June 2012

#R2BC - Looked After

I'm feeling very lucky and rather relieved this week. On Wednesday I had an appointment with the Obstetric consultant at Kings. I had been dreading it and went in expecting an argument, what I actually got was a kind and considerate registrar and an equally nice, if somewhat rushed consultant.

The last time I'd met an Obstetrician, it was at the hospital where E was born, and it was a very different experience. I had gone there to go over my notes from E's birth and to try to get a better understanding of what had happened. I did learn a few things that I'd been too exhausted/overwhelmed/off my face on entonox to understand at the time, but I also got a lecture on all the things I should have done to prevent E's bad position (I'd done them all BTW). I was also told that I'd be expected to have a VBAC* for any future babies. An elective C-section was only available if you could argue your case for one with the team's pet psychiatrist.

I've not yet decided if I actually do want an elective Cesarean, but I do know that I really really don't want to have to recover from a long labour and an emergency C-section again. An elective is the only way to guarantee this so it's not an option I want closed off to me so sternly.

Basically the message was - it's your own fault, don't expect us to make it any easier next time.

At Kings however, the registrar started by asking me about E's birth, then asked me what I wanted to do this time. I took a deep breath and "confessed" (it feels like something you shouldn't say) that I was thinking about an elective Cesarean. I braced myself for the lecture and he said "well I've seen your notes, if that's what you want, that's fine with us. Just decide when you're ready"

Wow, so that's actual maternal choice then? This is a new experience for me!

He went on to tell me apologetically that he had to say a VBAC would be safe, but he wrote up in my notes that they'd consented to an C-section and then called in the consultant, who just agreed.

The difference from last time is pretty startling, I feel very lucky indeed to be so well looked after and I know that where I happen to live probably plays a big part in this. I'll be seeing the Obstetricians every 4-6 weeks to keep an eye on my thyroid problems and will see a member of my small team of midwives just as often. To be honest it seems excessive but knowing that Smidge2 and me are being looked after by a team of actually really nice people makes a few extra trips to hospital well worth it.

Last time I felt like I was a burden on the system, this time I feel like people want to look after me. It's as lovely as it is unexpected.


* VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean