It's only 9 months... but it feels like Maternity...

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sooo.... I had an appointment with Dr. Onymous, as my midwife had had the nerve to go on holiday.
He seemed neither happy nor unhappy with the small urine sample I gave him, although he made a big show of washing the pot out and wrapping it carefully in tissues before he gave it back to me. After taking my blood pressure, he looked at me and then at my notes, as if one or the other would suggest something else for him to do.
"How many weeks are you now?" he asked.
"Erm - about 32 I think," I replied.
He looked sceptical, and reached into his drawer for the round plastic wheel thing they use to work out when you're due. It seemed to tell him the same thing. "Right. Everything OK?"
"Yes thanks," I replied.
He looked around his room for a second, then he suddenly thought of a way of making it look worth both our whiles my being there. "Would you like to hop up onto the bed and I'll measure you," he beamed. I 'hopped' up onto the bed and he produced the ubiquitous tape measure. "Yes, you're 32 centimetres," he agreed. Then he said "Although to be honest, I don't really see the point of this - it's going to be different on women with different builds, and 32cms on a six foot woman would be a different indicator than on someone who's 5 foot 2 surely." You tell me, pal. "But I have to do it, or the midwives tell me off," he confessed.

He then had a listen to the spawn's heartbeat, and a bit of a prod, and then said the most useful thing I've heard for a while, just as an afterthought - "He's the right way round, with his head down." It's amazing how they can tell these things. That was it really. It wasn't as pointless as I had been anticipating.

Today was the penultimate antenatal class - 'Abnormal Delivery'. There were only 6 of us today - Scandinavian Woman, Cats Bum Mouth, one of the single mums this time WITH dad (not the 'friend' who'd she arrived with at week 1) which she clearly wasn't too happy about, and me and the husband. Single Mum, it turned out, is due to have her baby in 5 days' time. She is skinny as a rake with just a pudding bowl bump, but the husband pointed out that she is also only about 20 years old.

The midwife went through the different components of labour (again) this time by putting coloured cards on the floor in the order that everything happens, with phrases like "***Painful***" and "HURTS!" on. Then she discussed things like induction, ventouse and forceps deliveries, and showed us a ventouse cap which didn't work, and the forceps, which looked massive. THEN she dragged the husband up to the front, put a hospital gown on him and a paper hat, pretend-attached a drip to him and shoved the baby doll up his gown, so she could go through caesarian sections with us, explaining the difference between elective (e.g. when the baby's breech, or you've got medical problems they know about beforehand which would mean you really would be better off not having a vaginal delivery), urgent and emergency. Urgent are the ones they decide to do when you're in labour and things are not going well, for whatever reasons. These are the ones that everyone likes to call emergency ones, whereas real emergency ones are rare.

She reckoned that from the time of first cut on the skin to the time the baby's out, is around 2 minutes! (At which point, she made a violent slashing motion over the husband's groin, which alarmed him, then yanked the baby doll out of the bottom of his gown, and shoved it down the top, for the "skin to skin contact"). They really don't piss about. I had a friend who was a trainee nurse, she watched a c-section as part of her training and said she couldn't believe how rough they were with the woman, really shoving and pulling. I suppose they feel they don't have time for niceties.

We had a bit of a question and answer session, from which I learned that I'm the only one not having to take iron tablets. Ha! (Well, yet, anyway). And the midwife told us that no matter what we thought was going to happen, she would make money if she put bets on us crapping ourselves during labour. And if you have a water birth, the crap will float to the top. One of the questions came from Single Mum's baby's dad, who asked how soon you could have sex again after the birth. The midwife said "As soon as she feels ready," and a very definite look of "Forget About It" crossed Single Mum's face. The midwife then added "but gentlemen wait until the placenta's been delivered." I like her lots.

We get to go and have a look around the labour ward on Sunday. The husband and I are going earlier than everyone else as he is working a late shift, and we're getting a personal guided tour with the midwife. It does mean that I can't have a lie-in on Sunday though.

Now, just a few points that I feel I must make:
1. Everyone keeps staring. I catch people doing double-takes, or talking to my belly. It's similar to wearing a low-cut top that shows your boobs off, although not as erotic. The husband says he has also noticed this - he reckons it's because I haven't really got bigger anywhere except my belly, so when I turn round or stand up, it catches them unawares. I suppose this means that I can't pretend no-one has noticed any more.

1a. Some people also stare at my boobs, which I have to admit are fairly sizeable now.

2. I am very tempted to make a sign for my desk at work with the following phrases on it:
  • I'm due in March.
  • No, it is not long to go now.
  • Yes it is my first.
  • No I am not 'all set' yet.
  • Yes I can register it myself.

Just to save myself 5 minutes each time I see anyone.

3. Despite my moaning, I am going to miss everyone being nice to me once the evil alien spawn is out of me. I have never really had this much niceness directed my way before. The head of our division of the county council was telling me that she believes it's because at a subconcious, primal level, society is trying to protect and nurture me as I am expanding the group. Hmmm.
I thanked the husband for being so nice to me the other night, and he replied "that's alright - I have to be, you're bigger than me now."

4. However cute it sounds, being kicked by the spawn is not entirely pleasant. I know that it's a good thing, it shows that it's moving around properly, blah blah blah, but sometimes the little bugger gets something wedged under my hip bone, or seems to be trying to stand up, or gets hiccups, and it's just bloody uncomfortable. I can't really lay back on the sofa, as I get stuck, and I can't bend in the middle so I can't reach for stuff any more. Also, the slightest thing seems to make it wake up at night, and then it decides to morris dance for half an hour or so. And the cat now prefers the husband's lap as there is more of it.

5. Buying baby stuff sucks. It's massively overpriced; there's a million different choices of just about anything you think of buying, all of which claim to be the absolute best one bar none, and I know I'm probably not going to use half of it; everything is in shit twee little patterns or vile colours or drowning in frills and lace and flounces. I got completely fed up with looking at moses baskets - what a pointless, stupid thing they are, I hate them so much, and yet you try and find something more sensible which isn't silly money or unbelievably ugly or doesn't take up so much room that you need to build an extension just to fit it in. The husband has completely refused to let me buy a dog basket for the evil alien spawn to sleep in. Also out are ironing baskets, drawers and cardboard boxes. I am in a sulk about the whole thing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Second antenatal class this week - "Normal Labour." There were only half as many of us this time: Cats-bum-mouth on her own, Scandinavian girl and her other half, and two of the single mums as well as me and the husband. We went over a few things that the midwife had actually told us last week, but either no-one wanted to appear rude or it was only me and the husband who realised.

The knitted uterus apparently makes an appearance in other antenatal classes - the woman in the Rough Guide to Pregnancy mentions it in her diary too. I wonder who knits these things, and do they all follow the same pattern?

Cats-bum-mouth and Scandinavian girl were talking about how nice it is that they can just eat whatever they want now they're pregnant and not have to think about it. Scandinavian girl was saying that she had been on a diet for most of her life so she was taking advantage of not having to worry about food. I really couldn't help thinking "Whatever diets you've been on love, they've clearly not helped," (she is a big girl) and I was thinking to myself about the paragraph in one of the books I was given that said expectant mothers only needed an extra 200 calories a day for the first couple of trimesters, rising to about 300 calories for the last one. Which is equivalent to a couple of pieces of toast. I noticed that the midwife didn't agree with what they were saying, she chose instead to remain tactfully quiet. I'm not saying that I have only had a couple of pieces of toast extra a day, just that I know what I should have been having. (Those chocolates went down very nicely).

Then the Scandinavian girl was really interested to learn about epidurals again - she is cacking herself. Her main reason for wanting one is that she's terrified she won't be able to cope with the pain. I was thinking "Oh come on, don't be such a wuss," I mean, how can she know that, and isn't it more likely that she'll be panicking and terrified if she assumes she will be right from the off? Not to say that I won't be, but if you start off with an epidural at the beginning, where do you have to run to ten hours later when you REALLY know that you can't cope?

We went over stuff to bring with us in a bag for labour, which mostly centred around making sure your partner has got stuff to eat. The husband perked up happily at this, especially at the midwife's suggestion that even if we don't want to eat when we're offered the hospital menu, to order something they'd like instead. One of the single mums (who had been irritating everyone by making stupid comments on everything the midwife had been saying) asked "Is it alright for someone to bring a McDonalds in for me?" at which point the husband snurfed with laughter and had to pretend he was coughing. The midwife kindly said that yes it was fine.

She then went over different positions for labouring in, none of which looked particularly inviting, and demonstrated the plusses and minuses of each one with a u-bend to represent the position of the birth canal in each one. They are so creative, these midwives, you have to hand it to them. The husband at this point had a relieved, smug expression on his face. I said "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" and he replied "Yep - s'not happening to me, I'm just there to be shouted at" and grinned widely. He also refused to let me use his knees to support myself if I chose to squat, or to hang off his shoulders in what looked like the drunken-slow-dance-in-a-nightclub position. And to grow a beard, which the little man on the diagram sheet had done.

Then, in the last half an hour of the class, something very strange happened. The bloke who was the Scandinavian girl's partner, suddenly decided to have a rant about the state of society - how when he was growing up, both his parents smoked and he and his siblings were fine, how no-one ever used to have asthma or allergies, how there was no discipline any more and if he wanted to hit his kids then no-one was going to stop him. Cats-bum-mouth and McDonalds girl joined in wholeheartedly, and suddenly there we were in the middle of a Klan meeting. The midwife kept trying to bring things back to safer subjects like perineums, but there was no stopping them. "My mum never..." "when I was a kid...." "Don't you agree that... " (this directed at the husband, him being a custodian of the law - he raised an eyebrow in reply and turned away). They then started on religion, asking the midwife if she agreed that it was all nonsense. Bearing in mind she'd mentioned that her mum is Irish Catholic, the poor woman's diplomacy was being stretched to the max (just like the perineums she'd described earlier). I did enjoy the Scandinavian girl's face when her partner was going on about hitting his kids though - the second he tries that little stunt, she's clearly going to rip his arm off and beat him to death with the soggy end.

It was just incredible. If it'd been in America they'd have been firing their guns into the air and whooping. I mean, the thread of the ideas you could understand, even if you wouldn't necessarily agree with them, but coming from such obviously ill-educated, ignorant people it was just alarming. When we came out, I told the husband I was going to ask the midwife if she'd got any other classes running in nicer areas that I could go to. He agreed, saying that some horrible mistake had obviously been made and we'd been given the 2-star class in error. We tried to feel bad about being so stuck-up and snobby, but sometimes you just know you're better than other people. More importantly, we could have gone home half an hour earlier if they hadn't been so bloody rabid.

We set up the cot and had a count-up of all the baby stuff we've got, and found that we've acquired 21 short-sleeved bodysuits and no long-sleeved ones. Hmm. Oh and we still haven't got anywhere to put Spawn to sleep when he first comes home - the drawer option is starting to look increasingly likely unless we get our act into gear. We really must get around to doing a list and buying some stuff.

Friday, January 05, 2007

First Antenatal Class yesterday.

Or Parentcraft or something - I can't remember what I'm meant to call it now. Anyway - there are 4 of these, lasting for a couple of hours each. They're held at my local clinic, set in the middle of the Rough estate which my old comprehensive school is also set in. The husband remarked as we walked up to it, "Always nice to go to a clinic which has graffiti on the signs outside."

We were the first to arrive and were chatting away to the midwife, who remembered me this time (she'd only seen me two days before for more wee-looking (I peed in the pot, gross) and blood-pressure taking - she also wanted to listen to Spawn's heartbeat and he wasn't having that at all so she spent a couple of minutes chasing him around my belly, and she measured me with the tape measure again and I'm 29cm now, erm ok). Gradually everyone started to drift in - we had a couple of young single mums, one of whom looked like she was licking piss off a nettle (30 weeks?), one was wide-eyed and earnest (36 weeks? Can't remember); a slightly older (than us) bloke with a large younger girl with a Scandinavian accent who, from a few things she said later on looked like she'd totally signed up to the Earth Mother cult (34 weeks); another single mum who'd brought along 'a friend not the dad' (37 weeks); another couple younger than us who seemed harmless enough (24 weeks - she looked terrified at the size of some of the bumps), and arriving late one further couple (diamond-geezer bloke, cats-bum mouthed woman, both probably racist (30-ish weeks I think)), and us, who were probably the oldest ones there but looked by far the most together and relaxed and sophisticated. Ahem. Didn't spot what I would call potential lifelong friends amongst this lot, but you never know. (Except sometimes you do).

I think we were all First Time Parents, so when the midwife asked us stupid things like "Have any of you had any Braxton Hicks contractions yet?" every single one of us looked blank - how are we meant to know? (Braxton Hicks - practice contractions felt as your uterus 'tightening', apparently). There was a lot of information about what the onset of labour might be like e.g. signs to look out for (main one - human being coming out of your body), how to get into the labour ward if you turn up at 3 in the morning because it'll be locked - actually I have forgotten how, I hope the husband was listening; I was class swot because I'd brought along my notes (the ones I mentioned before that they like looking at) and no-one else had, the midwife used them to show us the phone numbers for everyone we're supposed to ring for different things (again, wasn't really paying attention). Something about Kick Charts if we don't feel spawns moving around for any length of time (I have mental images of karate dojos with pictures on the walls showing them how to kick, but it's not these they mean). Descriptions of what is going on during labour with accompanying skeleton pelvis, baby doll being wedged rather fiercely into said pelvis, large knitted uterus with a small sleeve for the cervix and balloon in it representing amniotic sac, and cutaway anatomy pictures of uteruses (uteri?) like you get in biology textbooks. I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, I was very good at Biology at school, although the husband didn't help when he kept murmuring "Ooooh! That's really gonna hurt!" to me.

After a short break - one of the single mums (37 weeks) said to the midwife "Is it alright if we go outside for a cigarette?" (at which point Cats-bum-Mouth next to us pursed her mouth up even more and my husband snorted with laughter and had to go and get a drink of lemon) then everyone except us, them and the midwife disappeared out for a fag - we got to play with gas & air masks and pipes, and to see an epidural needle, and all different sorts of pain relief were discussed. The midwife told us that they know when mothers are ready to push out the sprog as it's normally the point at which they demand the strongest drugs known to man, refuse to do any more and want to go home.

It was all very interesting, in a nice theoretical learning sort of way. I can't see me actually doing any of it though, in the same way that it's fascinating to learn about how the heart works but you would never actually want to see one open in front of you there on the operating table. I'm perfectly happy with the colour drawings and the models thank you very much, I don't need to do the practical.

Next week we are doing Normal Labour, then the one after that we're doing Abnormal Labour, and I don't know what is planned for the last one. Some of the girls who were there will probably already have their babies by then.

There were no biscuits.

Ok, yes I know it's been a while - so much to tell you! Well, not that much really, just thought I'd start off positive.

I'm now 30 weeks into this fun-a-palooza, which means I'm 6.8 months apparently. All of a sudden I seem to have got massive - almost every person I meet asks me when I'm due, so I can no longer pretend that it's not obvious. It's all sticking out at the front, so I now look like one of those African fertility dolls. I can't bend over very easily so I have to do squats every time I want to pick something up from the floor, although once I'm down I can't see what I want to pick up any more because my belly gets in the way. I haven't seen my pubes for a few weeks now either.

Of course we have had Christmas since I last blogged, so this could very easily be down to the 2 full Christmas dinners (one Christmas Eve, one Christmas Day), 1 large buffet (Boxing Day - thank you Other-Sister-in-Law) and 1 New Year's Eve smorgasbord (cheers Mr. & Mrs. B) that I have consumed over the last fortnight, not to mention the mince pies, Christmas cake, stollen, chocolates, crisps, leftover turkey sandwiches and pickles (mmm - almost better than Christmas dinner itself), cheese and biscuits and nuts that also got stuffed into my face every day while I was off work. Well, what else are you supposed to do at Christmas? I was on my own from Boxing Day as the husband had to go back to work, so I did what I most enjoy about Christmas, and that's Lying On The Sofa Watching Telly And Scoffing. To quieten the healthy voice of reason that was screaming at me when I had leftover Christmas pudding and cream for lunch one day, I reminded myself that this is going to be the very last Christmas where I can get to do this stuff. God knows what it'll be like from now on, but it'll never be the same again. I thought it only fitting to give it a proper send-off.

...Hmm perhaps just an ounce or two of this rotundness may well be food rather than spawn then...

So anyway, do you want to know about the 4d scan or not? How about we start off with them cancelling my appointment the day before we were due to go? As I've said, we were meant to go on Christmas Eve Eve (a Saturday), thus we'd invited the Mums over for dinner on Christmas Eve with the intention of giving them a nice Christmas screening of their new grandchild. Both the husband and I were off on the Friday, so we had gone food shopping for the meal (full 3 course turkey dinner with a fine selection of beers, wines and spirits (and Schloer for me), coffee and mince pies and Christmas cake and mints to be served in the lounge afterwards), done a bit of last-minute present-buying in town and came home full of Christmas spirit and feeling very pleased with ourselves. Really we ought to have known better. We're the sort of couple that if for a microsecond we fail to be sceptical or cynical about any tiny little thing, it will turn around and bite us on the arse immediately. We'd slipped here and were really looking forward to meeting the spawn face-to-face and finding out what flavour it was.

One answerphone message later and this was all out of the window. A rather blase voice told us that their scanner had broken, so we couldn't come along tomorrow as booked, but we could call them back and re-book it if we liked, for after Christmas. I called them back, and got their answerphone. I called 3 more times over the next 3 hours and got the answerphone each time. We assumed that they had cleared off home early for Christmas, so the messages I was leaving got stroppier and more furious each time. Finally someone did call us back - she was the owner I think, and she clearly hadn't listened to her messages because I don't think she'd have dared ring me back ever again. We had to rebook for the Friday after Christmas, which meant we were having the Mums over the next day for nothing more than dinner now (which me being antisocial and lazy I probably wouldn't have bothered with if we hadn't had the floorshow planned) but she did offer us a DVD of the scan for free (saving us quite a bit of money) which we grumpily agreed to.

Fast-forward to the scan - what an odd little place it was, looking like a little shop in a row of little shops in the middle of nowhere. We got there much earlier than our appointment, there being about 60% less traffic than we'd thought there was going to be. The lady (not the one I'd spoken to) made us a nice cup of tea while we waited for the sonographer to drag his arse into work, and then in we went. I'm au fait with this blue jelly and belly out business now, but he squirted tons of it on me, it was actually piled up there was so much. Anyway, the scan starts off as a normal ultrasound and then they select bits to switch in and out of 4d for, he explained that for a good scan they needed the spawn in a certain position with some fluid in front of its face so the camera can focus more easily. Spawn got top marks for hearing and obeying this straight away.

The sonographer asked us if we wanted to know the sex of the baby, I said "Oh yes please" and he started laughing. "Erm - it's fairly obvious" he replied. The husband and I were gawping at the big screen with not a clue - so not that obvious then. Mr. Sonographer then started pointing out what I'd thought was a strange shaped head as an enormous pair of bollocks and a willy. "Ohhh!" we both rather gormlessly said, and I was ridiculously pleased (this is the point where I can pretend that I KNEW it was a boy all along). The rest of the scan (it took about half an hour) was spent looking at his face (4d makes it look a bit lumpy, but the lad is quite clearly his father's son - phew, got away with that one then) and occasionally filming his bits so we can all have a good laugh on his 18th birthday. I have to say I watched it all rather breathlessly, it was very very strange to have a face to picture when I think about this thing squirming around inside me now.

We've shown the DVD to the Mums, who were thrilled - the Husband's mum just kept saying how much he looked like the Husband and what a pretty baby he was, my mum couldn't believe that she'd lived to see such futuristic technology in her lifetime and nearly had kittens when Spawn did massive yawns to show how bored he was of the whole thing, and to Mr. & Mrs. B, who were exceedingly complimentary and didn't once let on how bored of all the baby talk they were, I take my hat off to them.