On due dates

Dear Baby,

We’ve had fun, these past 40 weeks or so, but I’m afraid to say, the time has come. In fact, you’re currently 3 days late. GTFO. Or else.

Yes, I know due dates aren’t real. They’re an estimate, and normal pregnancies last anywhere between 37-42 weeks, and no amount of pineapple eating or Clary Sage sniffing is going to make it turn up any faster. I know all that. BUT, we’ve spent the past 9 months preparing for your arrival. We’ve watched the instructional videos on how to fit the car seat, we’ve even attempted to test the baby sling on the cat (not a successful mission, FYI), not to mention the fact that I am getting spectacularly more grumpy by the day, and my stomach has started to resemble a London underground map. So just HURRY UP ALREADY.

To make matters worse, when all the people on the pregnancy forums due within a few weeks of me all seemingly do a big sneeze two weeks before their due date and end up with an adorable instagrammed newborn curled up on their chest, then I start to get a teensy bit cats-bum-face about the whole thing. It’s not just people on the interwebs either. Remember when I moaned about people coming out of the woodwork to share their overly dramatic birth stories? Well the ante has officially been upped. In the last couple of weeks, these have been replaced with stories of people’s friend’s sister’s neighbor’s colleague who came back from a long day at work, cooked a 3 course meal for 12 people, put together some flatpack furniture, sat down with a cuppa and had a baby, all in the time it takes me to seal-dive my gargantuan ass of the sofa to put the kettle on.

I know all about the walking, and the bouncing on yoga balls, the red raspberry leaf tea, hot curries and eating seven freaking pineapples, but to be honest, that’s just stuff to distract you whilst you finish gestating, isn’t it? Because I’ve bounced on my yoga ball so much it’s become slightly mis-shapen, done more laps of Wollaton Park than I care to count, have taken so many raspberry leaf tea capsules I’ve now ran out, yet still, no baby.

And then you get to the well meaning texts and phone calls asking if there are “any signs?” which have been coming through thick and fast for, oh…about a month now. From the vast majority of people, I’m genuinely pleased to hear from them and welcome them checking in. From other select people (especially if the words ‘dropped’, ‘popped’ or ‘sprog’ are used), I want to incredible-hulk-smash my phone against the nearest hard surface and go in to hibernation until you make an appearance. Don’t get me wrong, the rational part of my brain is TOTALLY aware how ungrateful this makes me sound, but unfortunately, the irrational side doesn’t care. Sorry about that.

I’m not scared of labour. In fact, it’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, long before finding myself in the family way. Like running a marathon. You know it’s a stupid idea, you know it’s going to hurt, but you’ve just got that itch, and it’s got to be scratched. But somewhere along the way, I’ve set up some additional parameters in my head. I’ve tried very hard not to have a prescriptive idea of what labour will be like, but you just can’t help having a best case scenario, and therefore, a worst case scenario too. My best case scenario involves not going too far overdue (like, NOW would be excellent) and being able to cope with what mother nature deals us. My worst case scenario involves actually being pregnant forever. Slightly irrational, but there you go.

Assuming you don’t stay in there forever, whether you come out of your own accord, or whether you get a bit of a push in the right direction, you will be here at some point in the next week and a half or so, but if you could make it sooner rather than later, that would be just super – both for me, and for the poor people who have to come in to contact with me on a regular basis.

Lots of love,

Your grumpy mother

38 weeks

So I know I’m only a week in, but so far, this whole maternity leave thing has been bloody brilliant.

We started off the week with some friends coming to stay for the weekend. Then, pretty much as soon as they’d left, Laura arrived and we spent a very chilled out 24 hours watching DVDs, going for facials and eating cupcakes.

38 weeks pregnant

 

The rest of the week was taken up by growing stretch marks and (according to my belly shot above), back fat. And having some minor freak-outs that I’m going to be responsible for a tiny human being in a couple of weeks time. When I wasn’t busy gaining body fat or freaking out, I had some bloody lovely visits from friends: Jen and Archie popped over for a fish finger sarnie in our local pub, Kerry came for tea, I popped in to the office for a meeting and attempted to swim myself in to labour with 40 lengths with Bec at our local pool. Other than doing a very good impression of one of those buoys they put in the sea to show boats the way to go, any attempts to induce labour were sadly unsuccessful.

You know everyone tells you about these nesting urges you get when you’re expecting? Where you’re frantically scrubbing floors at 2am and downright refusing to go in to labour until you’ve defrosted the freezer? I was kind of looking forward to that bit. I’m naturally a bit of a scruffy bugger, so some short-lived neat-freakiness would have gone down a treat. However, it seems that unless you’re Monica from Friends BEFORE getting up the duff, you’re unlikely to turn in to her at 39 weeks. The floors haven’t been scrubbed, the cupboards haven’t been emptied and refilled, the nursery has not been painted and I’m entirely at ease with all of those things. I suppose there’s a chance that the baby might take one look at the nursery and tell us they don’t think much to the effort we’ve made, but then again, I doubt it somehow.

Plans for next week involve: a whole lot of napping, small quantities of baking, flicking through a few books about what to do when the baby actually gets here followed by another nap. Sounds awesome.

On stretch marks

Stretch marks and pregnancy go hand in hand. I’ve read the research, I know that logically, all the cocoa butter in the world is not going to stop stretch marks from appearing, and your genetics and rate of growth/weight gain have a lot more to do with it. However, all this logic didn’t stop me from religiously slathering on almond oil, rose hip oil, pure Vitamin E oil and various other butters and potions twice daily throughout the pregnancy in a bid to avoid them.

From the age of 11, I grew a bra size approximately every 5 minutes, until the point that I found myself as a 15 year old girl, in charge of 34G boobs and an impressive array of unsightly dark purple stretch marks peeking out from whatever over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder was available from a mail order catalogue before the high street realised that not everyone was blessed with perky 32As and gave us decent bras for well endowed ladies. I was massively self conscious about my boobs and my stretch marks, but it did get better eventually, with the passage of time. I really can’t remember what came first, me getting over myself, or the stretch marks fading in to little silvery lines. Probably the latter.

So, when I got further and further in to the pregnancy and found myself miraculously stretch mark free, I’ll admit it, I was a teensy bit smug about the whole thing. I had a few thread veins around the side of my bump which I could cope with, but I’d got away without gaining the unsightly purple stripes I’d seen on the forums I frequent. I put it down to looking after myself, assumed the religious application of various oils and creams had stood me in good stead and counted myself as one of the lucky ones.

Then, at the start of week 38, in an attempt to get out of the house quickly, I opened the door on my bump and bashed myself in the belly. I didn’t do it hard, and it didn’t hurt, so I didn’t think anything of it until later that evening when I noticed a purple line in around the same place and passed it off as a bruise.

But the next morning, there was another one next to it.

The morning after that, there were a few more.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so smug after all.

Now, whenever I look at my belly in the mirror (which is roughly a billion times a day), there seems to be a couple more. They’re currently exclusively taking up the space between my belly button and my underwear, meaning they can only be seen properly in a mirror, on tip toes, whilst thrusting belly first at the mirror, much, I’m sure, to the amusement of my husband. I can feel the difference in texture in the skin, and it feels tight and uncomfortable, although there is every possibility this is entirely in my head.

And, as all the books and apps tell me, the home stretch of the pregnancy is where the baby gains the most weight, not to mention the extra water you’re probably retaining. It’s also the time that you’re the least mobile you’ve ever been, due to the fact that you’re the size of an actual house. All this adds up to the likelihood of gaining a lot more weight between now and having the baby, which therefore suggests that my new-found go faster stripes are going to get worse before they get better.

So, in summary: I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I know they’re not as bad as a lot of people’s. Neil has done a wonderful job of listening to me moan and reassuring me that he thinks they’re badass. And I’ve grown another human being, dammit  That’s a pretty amazing feat, and if my body doesn’t look the same as it did before, then so be it. Pinterest is full of images of stretch marks and motivational clichéd phrases about tigers earning stripes, and it looks like I’ve finally earned mine.

However, none of this changes the fact that I got THIS CLOSE to the finishing line before the first one appeared, and if my skin could have held its elasticity just a TEENSY bit longer, I would have got away scot-free. For that reason alone, I wholeheartedly reserve the right to be miffed. Neither does it change the fact that I’m grumpy, my hormones are all over the shop, and I’m probably overdue a nap.

/rant

37 weeks

I am pathetically apathetic when it comes to politics and current affairs. Once upon a time, the first thing I did in the morning was turn on BBC News to catch up on the latest world events over the previous 24 hours. It was 10 years ago, at the start of the Iraq war, and I knew everything there was to know about everything (or so I thought). Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself in University doing a course that revolves around global relations, politics, war, migration patterns, ethnic relations and gender equality issues. And robots. And body modification. And a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer thrown in for good measure. I had an opinion on everything and pretty much thought I was a badass.

At some point since I graduated, I’ve started listening to less and less Nick Drake and more and more Girls Aloud. I still kept up to date with current affairs, but found more and more that the constant cycle of depressing political news had me over-involved and teary eyed, so I slowly retreated in to a world of blissful ignorance. I figured anything I needed to know about I would find out about from Twitter, or from the little push messages the Sky News iPhone app sends you when something they think is really important happens.

In direct contrast with my decline in to ignorance, over the same time period Neil has gone from an edgy larger drinking student to a Radio 4 listening, real ale drinking, DIY-doing grown up. A grown up that gets excited when he finds out that the BBC are coming to Southwell to record “Any Questions” with a few politicians and one of the Dimblebys. Probably also one who will be mad at me when he reads the above paragraph. Whatever, ITS ALL TRUE.

So this has been a very long way of saying that we started the week at a recording of BBC Radio 4’s “Any Questions” in Southwell. Well. First we had AMAZING bangers and mash at the Bramley Apple pub and a slice of cake at my Grandmas, and THEN we went tot he live broadcast of “Any Questions”. BBC Radio 4 Any Questions Southwell Nottingham George Galloway, Keith Vas, Kenneth Clarke

Considering my documented lack of interest in politics, I enjoyed the show much more than I was expecting, especially the heckling from the audience. I wasn’t a fan of the hard wooden seats and we made out exit shortly after the recording ended so I could get some much needed beauty sleep.

Saturday was all about making American pancakes for the first time and a dash up the M1 to see my Grandma, Aunty and Uncle. My Aunty and Uncle had previously asked what they could get us for the baby, and we’d asked for this foldable baby bath – what I wasn’t expecting was them to have filled it with really sweet and practical gifts like “In the Night Garden” DVDs, Sudocrem, bibs, socks and scratchmitts. We were really touched.

My first attempt at pancakes

My first attempt at pancakes

Neil’s parents made a flying visit from up North on Sunday, and we did the “Behind the Scenes” tour of Wollaton Hall after Kerry’s recent blog about it.  The tour costs £3 for concessions and £5 for adults, lasts just over an hour, and is well worth a visit. You get to see lots of rooms that are normally closed to the public, including the caves beneath, the kitchen, the beautiful room at the top of the house and the roof. The top two photos are borrowed from Kerry’s blog on the subject – thanks Kerry! Click on the photos for the link.

[props to Emma for teaching me how to make a pretty gallery]

After the tour, we tootled (or waddled, in my case) over to Fothergills by Nottingham Castle for a lunch with both sets of parents. This was our first time eating at Fothergills (other than Cake Club) and I have to say, I was bloody impressed. It was, hands down, the best Sunday lunch I’ve had (except my Dad’s, which rocks), and their fudge brownie was out of this world delicious. Unfortunately for my little sister (who’d actually ordered the brownie and not the lemon posset like I had), this meant that she didn’t get much of her own pudding. Whatever, baby needs brownie.

This week was my last week in work, and I got myself in to a little routine of working 8am-4pm, catching up on admin on my lunchbreak, then getting stuff done between about 4-7pm before having dinner and relaxing for the rest of the evening. Hospital bags have been packed, babygrows have been unfolded and refolded for the umpteenth time, the nursery has been cleared and the laundry has been done.

As of tomorrow, the out of office is on, and I’m officially on maternity leave. I originally had plans to sit on my arse and wait for the baby to arrive, but now I’m actually on the brink of being able to do that, there’s too much I want to get done before the baby gets here. I have stuff to return to shops, grocery shopping to do, we’ve got friends coming to stay for the weekend, my best friend Laura comes to stay on Monday and we’ve got a facial booked, I’ve got the midwife on Tuesday, Kate and Jen coming on Wednesday and a meeting at work (WHAT? I’ve only just left!) and swimming on Thursday – which takes me nicely to 39 weeks. By which point, I might just be ready for that sit down.

In my hospital bag…

There’s not many parts of pregnancy that have quite many blog posts dedicated to them as one’s hospital bag. Typically, these involve a snazzy new bag in a funky geometric print, and stylish shots of baby booties that have been instagrammed to within an inch of their lives. There’s something about the “new-ness” of baby things and the anticipation of packing a bag when you have no idea what you’ll need or when you’ll need it that gets bump-bloggers all giddy. Also, either they’re not packing sensible stuff like biscuits and plastic bags which double up as laundry bags for puked on PJs, or they’ve conveniently left those bits off their blog posts because they’re not very photogenic.

Sorry to disappoint, folks, but I have zero inclination to instagram the contents of my well-battered weekend bag, or the ultra-stylish maternity pads contained within. I do love a good, practical list though, so here goes:

Clothes for me:

  • Mamas and Papas Long Sleeve Nursing Top: I treated myself to some tops to wear after the baby is here which are easy access for feeding and loose around the middle.I picked soft cotton ones that I could wear at the end of my pregnancy, and hopefully ones I will wear in the future as well. I told this to my mum and she laughed, asking me what was wrong with just wearing a normal top and lifting it up to feed? She probably has a point, but I will have just had a baby by this point, so if I want to treat myself to some clothes I’m going to be comfy in, then so be it! Plus, this one has jazzy side flaps for easy boob access. Score.
  • Mamas and Papas Long Sleeve Wrap Top: This is a loose jersey wrap style, so boob access comes from the front.
  • Tallulah Twist Nursing Top: This is a bloody lovely modal top with boob holes, but it’s empire line, so will be comfy and (hopefully) flattering  (currently £19.50 on ebay if you’re quick)
  • Bravado Silk Seamless Bra: I’ve made my thoughts on this bra very clear in a previous blog post.
  • Panache Nursing Bra: Still yet to take the tags off this one, and as yet, it still fits.
  • Asquith London Yoga Pants x 2: Bloody lovely bamboo trousers that are so soft they feel like a tiny trouser cloud. I love these kecks so much, I resented that I had to stop wearing them long enough to pack them in my hospital bag.
  • John Lewis Granny Pants x 5: Lordy me, they’re big.
  • John Lewis Hipster Pants x5: These are my new faves, plus, they fit my ever expanding arse in to them, score!
  • An old nightie: for the actual giving birth bit.
  • Socks and slippers
  • Towel: You know those birth plans that people write that go out of the window the second they go in to labour? On mine, it says I would like to go in the birth pool if possible. We’ll see how that one goes.

Other stuff for me:

  • Toliletries bag: toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, showergel, soap, deoderant, moisturizer, body oil, nail file, lipbalm, hairbobbles, hairbrush.
  • Arnica capsules and ointment: Arnica is a natural remedy for reducing bruising. I don’t know whether it works, and the only way you would find out is by giving yourself an identical bruise on each leg, then applying cream to one and not the other. To be honest, I’m not that arsed about the science, but it can’t do any harm.
  • Lanisoh nipple cream: According to the mummyblogger hive mind, this is the best nipple cream out there bar none. Also doubles up as a good lip balm, by all accounts.
  • Breast pads: I have some gel ones, some disposable ones and some washable ones. Overkill?
  • Boppy breastfeeding pillow:This pillow fits around your middle and supports the baby in a comfortable position, so you don’t have to hold the baby mid-air. I got it second hand off ebay and bought a new cover, but there are lots of different brands out there.
  • Maternity pads: Holy moly, have you seen the size of those badboys? I was given a huge pack by a friend who bought way too many when she had her little one, and was gobsmacked to discover there was only 10 in the pack.
  • Eye Mask and Earplugs: in case I end up on a maternity ward. I have an exceptionally low tolerance for other people of late, although I’m not quite sure how earplugs and a baby that is going to be awake in the night are going to co-exist…
  • M&S Green Fig Room Spray: A few months back, we did a “Mindful Mammas” day-long course which looked at how you can best keep calm and keep your confidence up during labour. I blogged about it here. It also talked about the importance of home comforts in making you feel safe, which can increase your body’s natural production of oxytocin. This fragrance was burning during the course, and afterwards, I emailed to ask what it was as it was so lovely. Ever since, when we’ve been relaxing at home, I’ve burned this oil and it’s come to be a very homely and relaxing smell for us both. They don’t let you burn candles in the maternity unit, so a room spray is the next best thing.
  • Plastic bag for laundry: Because that’s the practical shizz right there that no-one ever includes in their blog posts.
  • A pen: I have no idea why, but I bet you I use it.

For baby:

  • Vests x5 in a range of sizes
  • Babygrows x5 in a range of sizes
  • Scratch mitts
  • Hat
  • Muslin cloths x2
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Blanket: this John Lewis blanket was a present from my friend Stef. It’s warm, cuddly and I wish they made them in grown-up sizes.
  • Nappies and baby wipes: I am perplexed at the fact that any offspring of mine is going to have a bottom small enough to fit in to those teeny things.

For Neil:

  • Change of clothes
  • Contact lenses
  • Glasses
  • Camera
  • Kindle
  • Emergency Pot Noodle
  • Chocolate muesli bars (who am I kidding? These are for me)
  • Chocolate hobnobs (these too)

Stuff that will be packed at the last minute:

  • Make up bag, mirror and moisturizer: call me vain, but I look approximately a bajillion times better with a bit of Benefit Erase Paste under my eyes, a bit of tinted moisturizer, a swoosh of blusher and a swipe of eyebrow pencil 
  • Hairdryer and straighteners: (see vain comment above)
  • iPhone and charger: obvs. Neil has also prepared a Spotify playlist, so this will double up as a mp3 player.
  • Kindle: might be wishful thinking that I’ll have time to sit down with a good book before/after giving birth, but I’d hate to be bored when I could be finishing the Handmaid’s Tale
  • Maternity Notes

I think that’s about it. Considering I intend to stay in for as little time as physically possible, this little lot fills a handluggage sized suitcase and an overnight canvas bag. I predict I’ll use approximately 10% of it, but I’d hate to be without my creature comforts when all I want is a bloody nailfile, damnit.

Have I forgotten anything?

Update: So, about a month after writing this, I actually used those hospital bags when I went and had that baby. As predicted, I packed entirely the wrong stuff and used very little of what I thought would be essential. My follow up post is here.  

36 weeks: An update from the world’s worst Matron of Honour

About a year ago, back before I got married, and before we’d even thought about getting a bridesmaid dress for my Maid of Honour to wear, we ended up buying the dress I would wear at HER wedding, some 15 months later. It’s a beautiful blue dress in a Grecian style, in heavy flowing fabric. At the time, I was humming and hah-ing over whether to get the 12 or the 14 as both fit me well, and a year was plenty of time to get a bit thinner and a lot buffer, but in the end, decided on the 14, “just in case” there was a little baby bump to conceal at the time.

Never in a million years did it occur to me that instead of a baby BUMP, I might have an ACTUAL BABY to contend with on the day, as well as a body that would have only given birth some 4-6 weeks previously (makes mental note to google how many layers of Spanx can be worn on top of one another). I blogged about this first time round right after I peed on a stick, put my dates in to an online calculator and worked out I was due the same weekend as her Butlin’s 90’s Weekender hen do.

But, Mother Nature works in mysterious ways, and Laura has thankfully been an incredibly gracious bride-to-be – even moving her hen do to January, so I could still be part of it, even if I was the size of a house.

So, this weekend, with 25 inches of snow forecast, 18 people travelling from as far as Kent, Dorset, Glasgow and err, Leeds tootled off up the motorway to spend the weekend in York.Here’s a quick roundup of the weekend:

Friday night involved pizza, wine, kareoke, distasteful hats, moar wine and masks of the bride and groom.

Laura and I (cunningly disguised as her husband-to-be)

Laura and I (cunningly disguised as her husband-to-be)

The future Mrs Curtis

Team Singstar

Team Singstar

Saturday involved a lot of bacon, the realisation that we’d had half a foot of snow overnight, and some seriously competative go karting:

Team Go Kart

Team Go Kart

…before donning our party dresses and hitting the (rather slushy) city centre.

Team Laura Says I Do

Team Laura Says I Do

Sunday morning involved more bacon, gallons of tea, giving Laura’s car a jumpstart in our PJs after realising her battery was flat (I’m going to go ahead and put pushing a car uphill on the list of things I didn’t think I would be doing at 36 weeks pregnant), and waving goodbye to a very lovely York.

Team Jump Start

Much earlier on in the pregnancy, I was more than a little apprehensive about the prospect of co-ordinating 18 hens, in January, whilst heavily pregnant. However, the pregnancy gods have been kind, and I failed to take in to consideration what a well-oiled organisation MACHINE Laura is, as she did lots of the co-ordinating herself. I can only hope she has as much fun as I did.

For the rest of the week, I’ve fairly much fluctuated between feeling ON TOP OF THE FREAKING WORLD OH MY GOD I THINK I’M GOING TO GO FOR A FIVE MILE WALK OR MAYBE I’LL EMPTY ALL THE CUPBOARDS TO GIVE THEM A SPRING CLEAN and generally being so tired/grumpy/hungry/hormonal that the only thing I can do is curl up in a ball and have a quick nap. Sod’s law dictates that it’s seconds AFTER embarking on a nesting mission that I will develop sudden narcolepsy. Like when a friend gave me a load of absolutely beautiful baby clothes. I took them out, organised them in to age/size, folded them in to piles and promptly fell asleep on the floor using the piles as a pillow. And I wonder why every item of clothing I own is creased.

I’ve also developed what the internet informs me is rib flare. Basically, the space formerly occupied by your organs is now full of baby, so those important bits like your liver and stomach make their way northwards in to your ribcage. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

pregnancy organs gif

 

In situations like, you know, sitting down, lying down, trying to sleep etc (all that non-important stuff), your ribs start complaining and a burning feeling spreads across your intercostal muscles. The two solutions I’ve found to this (arching your back and taking off your bra) are, I’ve found, best done in the privacy of your own home.

So, a quick run down of the scores on the doors:

  • As of the end of this week (which, as I’m a day late in posting this, is actually today), I’m 37 weeks, which means the baby can come any time it likes, and the powers that be will class it as being fully cooked. I’m still under no illusion Baby R is going to make an appearance any time soon (my money’s on March 2nd, FYI), and Neil has put in a request for Bubs to be at least a teensy bit late so he can get all his current projects finished and signed off. Will see what I can do.
  • I have 4 days left in work before the out of office is set and I officially forget everything I’ve learnt in the past 18 months.
  • Baby is measuring right on track (filing this under: sentences I never thought I would say) and is 3/5ths engaged. This means it’s head is about half in/half out of my pelvis. The midwife confused me with words like ‘palpate’ and whether the measurements were how much was IN the pelvis or how much was OUT of the pelvis, so I’m just going to say half/half and be done with it.
  • I now officially weigh eleventy-billion pounds. I cannot confirm this with actual measurements, as I’ve stayed the hell away from the scales for months. I’m saving that joy for the day I go in to labour in the hope that the shock from the number on the scales will hurry things along a bit.