Tag Archives: pregnancy

T minus four weeks

19 Aug

It’s less than a month before our little one is due to enter the world and whereas many mums seem to be feeling over it at this point, I am looking at my lists of things to do and hoping I can get it all done in time! Add to that, this baby is under strict instructions to make no attempt at an early arrival before his or her dad is back! I am hopeful that is less than a week away now.

The countdown really is on. The last antenatal class has been attended, the last scan done (all looking good), the things to buy list is dramatically reduced and I am in the stages of tying up loose ends with work and handing over the workload in the coming weeks.

Before the big day however, I have a friend arriving from the UK for ten days and I think my nesting urges are kicking in. I’ve started stocking up my freezer with meals, washing baby clothes, seeing dust in every nook and cranny and suddenly have a desire to clean grouting. Luckily I’m not in too much pain or waddling like a penguin yet, so it’s easy to forget at times that I need to put my feet up!

Tiny little clothes

Tiny little clothes

Nesting instinct

Nesting instinct

The Good…

In fact, the latter half of my pregnancy has been much more smooth sailing than the first. Ironically, it was during those first few paranoid weeks and months, when my body was sent into a spin with soaring hormones and all kinds of unfamiliar changes, when I was left to my own devices to ponder the, “Is this normal?” “What is going on here?” questions. It is only towards the end when the diary suddenly explodes with appointments. Having said that, I seemed to have my fair share of initial check-ups, scans and tests, which eventually eliminated any potential problems, and coupled with the recent antenatal classes, obstetrician and midwife appointments and last minute scans, the drive to the hospital has become pretty familiar.

But after having a fairly turbulent first half of pregnancy, it has actually made me extremely grateful for this relatively easier second half. There are certain things I have come to appreciate, dare I say even enjoy, and certain things I am sure I will miss.

For a start, feeling a little person wiggling around inside you is pretty amazing. There have been a few occasions when a little kick under the ribs has sent me reeling but for the most part, I have got away lightly on that front. I am currently experiencing, what I think must be a little hand, tickling behind my hip.

I can still wear non maternity clothes, for that I am also grateful, although admittedly the clothes had to have been pretty big on me beforehand, or just very stretchy!

I have been forced to go out and buy some new clothes – shame. I’m sure the football under the jumper look will catch on!

I have been forced to go shopping for… well, everything! Babies don’t need much but  it’s still amazing just how much you still need to buy. Suddenly, after years of browsing the baby stores, buying cute outfits and little things for friends and their babies, I get to do it for my own. That’s exciting.

My nails: wow! I love my nails. They have never looked better or stronger, and seem to grow overnight.

I have made new friends and seen current friends really come through and support me. This has been particularly noticeable with James away and yes, perhaps they wouldn’t have been so attentive had he been around, but it has been wonderful knowing how much I can rely on them if needed.

The Bad…

As well as hospital time, the past few months have seen me spend too much time online, researching; whether that’s dos and don’ts, baby products and items, or just those weird symptoms that you soon discover are quite ‘normal’. I’ve definitely got better at leaving the internet alone when it comes to self-diagnosing myself with some awful condition and at the same time, have felt a little more reassured when numerous other pregnant ladies have been whinging about a similar complaint!

But there are certain things, which I have discovered can be pretty annoying when it comes to pregnancy and I mean aside from the usual discomfort, aches and pains. I mean, not only are you sharing your body with another little being, but it seems the rest of joe public feels they have a right to ‘share’ in it as well. A pregnant bump seems to give people carte blanche to comment, advise, pat, rub, stroke… When it’s a close friend, I don’t really have a problem and I have been lucky not to experience the stranger on the street coming up to rub my belly (I have heard of this happening) but equally I have realised how freely people seem to think they can remark on my size, indeed anything to do with my lifestyle. I think it’s something every pregnant woman has to endure, and for the most part people are well-intentioned and tend not to make derogatory comments but if you were feeling at all paranoid (and who doesn’t from time to time when carrying a baby), comments on size are never going to go down too well.

“Well, you’ve grown since I saw you two weeks a go!” has been a common phrase. What do they expect? I am not growing a stunted dwarf and the father is 6’3″. This baby is not suddenly going to cease growing (however convenient that might be) at 30 weeks.

There has been the one occasion when shopping for a dinner party, when I bought soft cheese and wine for the guests. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many judgemental glances in my shopping basket at the checkout before. I could tell there was one lady in particular fighting an urge to ask what I thought I was doing. Next time I’ll add in some sushi, swordfish steaks and a kilo of liver for good measure.

… And The Funny

Well, no pregnancy is without its ups and downs, but then that can include a few amusing moments as well. I mean there’s that whole, impressive arm levering manoeuvre I’ve discovered pregnant women have to adopt just to haul themselves out of bed.

I could write an entire page of, “You know you’re pregnant when…” type lists.

They would include the moment I got trapped in my own car because I’d parked too close to a pillar, forgetting I can no longer squeeze out of a space that small and the time we ended up taking our posh Italian meal home in a doggy bag because I was suddenly overcome by nausea (the most expensive takeaway we’ve ever had.) There was the embarrassing moment I was stretchered out of a shopping centre after fainting in the middle of a supermarket, or had to lie down tramp style on a bench in a bus stop  while a dizzy spell passed.

There are the times I’ve arrived at someone’s house only to have to skip the pleasantries and barge straight past them to use their bathroom and how I have slowly edged James to the edge of the bed as the pillows have taken over. It will be interesting to see if he can fit when he’s back.

Oh, and of course, there’s the fact I can start crying at losing my keys, a sad song on the radio, or you know, puppies. There are days I might be going crazy, but then there are days I actually have the evidence to prove it such as leaving the house wide open when heading off for the shops or toasting the bread twice because I’ve forgotten it’s already popped.

Yep, pregnancy has certainly been eventful at times, but I am fully aware the biggest, or at least perhaps most daunting, part of pregnancy is yet to come. Right now I’m feeling quite calm about the whole birth thing – perhaps ask me in two weeks. I am also aware that the real journey is going to come after that. Just four weeks away now – better get on scrubbing that grouting!


The Kindness of Strangers

13 Jul

As a military wife, you get used to periods on your own and getting on with the day to day. A lack of companionship aside, you soon establish your routines and develop strategies to get through the weeks and months solo; arranging social get togethers, scheduling catch-ups and making lists of things you need to get done and coming up with little projects you can do on evenings or weekends.

But there occasionally comes a time when that question, “Can I call your husband?” is necessary and that’s when being on your own can prove more difficult.

As ‘deployments’ go, eight weeks is not a long time but admittedly I was a little anxious beforehand this time round because being pregnant adds a layer of vulnerability, and inevitably, the further along you get, the fewer tasks you feel up to doing.

I’ve had my weekly yoga classes, antenatal classes and catch-ups with friends. Periodic check-ups have meant trips to the hospital and GP, which do mean there has been some reassurance on a regular basis as well.

In fact, everything had been going pretty well for a few weeks and I’d only been told to come into the hospital for monitoring and a scan once after questioning how much I’d been feeling the baby move. Of course, as soon as I arrived, it was kicking up a storm again and all was fine.

Then came 28 weeks and my midwife checkup at the hospital. All looked normal and I set off on the drive home, but decided to call into the supermarket en route to pick up a few bits and pieces. It was nearly lunchtime so, being sensible (it happens sometimes), I stopped and had a bowl of soup before braving the crowds in a large supermarket in the middle of a bustling shopping centre.

That’s when I started feeling hot. I began fanning myself, thinking I was having some sort of odd, pregnancy-induced hot flush. Maybe this is one of the joys of the third trimester… But the fanning was futile and I was just becoming hotter and perspiring and started feeling really sick. I looked down the mall to the toilets, thinking I needed cold water on my face but at that point I didn’t think I was going to make it through the throngs to get there. I needed to cool down and so my next thought was the supermarket opposite because supermarkets have fridges and freezers and so that’s where I headed.

It all happened very quickly. I think I had just gone past the Asian dipping sauces and was somewhere between the crisps and the line of cashiers when my hearing went. At that point I knew I was going down and in that split second I just put myself on the floor. I didn’t think there would ever come a time in my life when the cold, hard, tiled floor of Coles would look appealing but in that moment, it won over falling.

It wasn’t long before a few people had rushed over, asking me if I was ok. At that point I was too hot and dizzy to point out that if I was ok, I would not be choosing to lie there… I would have clearly chosen the ice cream section. I think I murmured something about being pregnant and heard another voice say, “Call triple zero.” I was pretty sure I didn’t need an ambulance but I was equally a little concerned that this might be affecting the baby. I had no idea, I was just aware of a girl, feeling my head, pulling an elastic from round my wrist and tying back my hair.

“Has someone called a ambulance?”

“Yes, they’re on their way.”

A bottle of water was shoved under my nose and I managed to half sit, slumped against a checkout booth and sip water. This is when the reality of the situation sank in and I became aware of several pairs of concerned eyes coming into focus and the ogling faces, pretending they were just stopping to stock up on hot chilli sauce, which had never been more popular.

In the minutes that followed I think I explained the same story of what had happened to at least four or five different people. There was the man, I assume was the floor manager, who suddenly had a legitimate reason to start using the walkie talkie strapped to his belt, there was the shopping centre security manager, who had been called and had come with first aid box in hand, the girl at the checkout who went to fetch me a chair and there were the two girls who had stopped and stayed by my side until they knew I was going to be ok.

One girl, the one who had tied back my hair, had managed to get through to an emergency service I hadn’t even known existed; a local volunteer service, who act as a first response and bridge of medical care before a main NSW Ambulance can arrive on the scene. It meant that within no more than five minutes, someone was there, an oxygen mask was clamped to my face, my blood pressure was being checked, my pulse monitored and my finger pricked to check my glucose levels.

It was around this time that the floor manager returned and cordoned off the area, so I felt more like the victim in an episode of Crime Scene in the Crisp Aisle  than a pregnant lady with low blood pressure.

However, amid all the attention and drama, I was incredibly touched by the solicitude shown by the people around me. As both the medical guy and the centre manager got all my details, the girl by my side was asking who she should call.

“Can I call your partner?”

I shook my head. “He’s away.”

“Ok, what about any family, are they local?”

I probably could have cried at this point but just shook my head. ‘In England.”

I told her I didn’t think I needed to call anyone but when the ‘Ambos’ arrived (you will find Australians abbreviate everything and stick an ‘o’ on the end) and informed me they thought it best I went to hospital to get checked over, I realised I probably should tell someone. I ran through the list of friends, most of whom I knew would be at work and settled on the wife of a Navy friend. The message was passed and I was told she would call to check on me.

The ambulance crew seemed concerned that I was on my own and would be going back home alone and with my blood pressure still “too low” for their liking, they got ready to take me to hospital.

The security manager assured me that they would look after my car and I needn’t worry about leaving it and to come back when I was ready. Just before the ambos decided to cart me away, the girl who had waited all this time, made sure I had all my bags and took my number, saying she would call to check if I was ok and if I needed anything, she lived near by.

If the whole incident of collapsing on the floor in the middle of a supermarket wasn’t embarrassing enough, being wheeled out on a stretcher and into the crowds of shoppers in a packed Westfield was definitely mortifying. I stared at the ceiling and tried to avoid any eye contact.

The ambulance guys were brilliant, although they kind of reminded me a bit of a young Chuckle Brothers (a not-that-funny-comedy duo to the non-English residents). I could almost imagine them saying, “to me, to you,” as they parked me in the ambulance. However, the guy in the back of the ambulance was lovely and explained that his wife was also expecting their first child.

Although still very shaky I was feeling a lot better and I started to realise how lucky I was that I had been in a public place, despite the obvious embarrassment factor! I was also incredibly touched by the number of strangers who had shown so much care and concern: from the girl in the shop, to the supermarket staff, the security manager, the initial emergency response team and the ambulance crew themselves.

I felt completely safe and in good hands and shortly after arriving in hospital (I should have just stayed after my morning check up), my friend and her husband both arrived to see how I was doing and insisted that I come home with them.

So it was that I ended up spending the next couple of days at their house, with their four children, being fed wonderful, home-cooked, family dinners and being able to curl up in front of the TV with their Labrador.

I did call the girl and let her know I was ok and in fact we went out for a coffee a few days later so I could say thank you in person, with a bunch of flowers. I also left with a few more tips about becoming a mum and good shopping advice, as it turned out she has a nine-month old.

It can definitely be hard at times when you are on your own and your husband is somewhere in the middle of the ocean but if I needed my faith restored in humanity, that day was probably it. Now just two more days to go before James is back, but you will be glad to know I have set up online supermarket delivery for the future.


Can I breathe yet?

20 Mar

When we started this blog, we titled it Upside Down because not only were we making the move ‘down under’ to Australia, but we were changing our jobs, home and entire lifestyle. We were turning our lives “upside down.”

Well, if we haven’t already, in about six months, we are going to understand the true meaning of that phrase because James and I are expecting our first baby in September.

Hopefully, this news explains the recent hiatus in blogging. Shortly after landing back in Australia from the UK the nausea hit and after several days of feeling less than wonderful and wondering why a walk down to the beach and back (uphill) had take it out of me, I began to assume something was up. Turns out it was, and by the time we had the first dating scan, I was already nine weeks pregnant.

Before then, the little person growing inside me had already been well and truly making their presence felt. The fatigue was one thing but it seems I was a text book case in every way: from the strange tastes in my mouth, the food aversions, and the nausea to the more weird symptoms of constant sneezing and odd aversions to certain smells. In fact I think I suffered the full gamut of early pregnancy symptoms.

What I hadn’t realized was how debilitating that lovely misnomer, “morning” sickness can be. There were days when I could not leave the sofa and any position other than horizontal had me running to the bathroom. On the plus side (there had to be one) it was mainly nausea rather than sickness, but a day when I felt well enough to make it out into the fresh air and even do something normal such as pop to the shops became a lovely novelty.

Food was fun as well. Carrs probably saw their profit margin double during January and February as I munched my way through packets of water biscuits. The things I usually don’t care about, my body seemed to crave, and the things I used to love became the food of the devil. I still can’t look at a pepper, worse still if it’s roasted.

Luckily, if only on a nutritional level, I can face broccoli again and my penchant for salt and vinegar crisps has died down to maybe just one bag a week!

James had to put up with the brunt of it; for a start, he was often left to fend for himself in the kitchen, although he got his revenge by cooking some stinking concoction, which meant I had to spend a good half hour out on the balcony while the smell dispersed.

My newly developed bloodhound sense of smell meant I couldn’t (and at times still can’t) abide the smell of his shower gel or deodorant. As he steps out the shower, thinking he’s clean and fresh, he is greeted with me retching in the bedroom and ordering him out the room. It got to a point where I had to buy different soap for the bathrooms because the scent, which I usually love, was turning me green.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he had to be on bathroom cleaning duty as well until I changed to the eco-friendly, less potent products. (I should have done that a while a go to be honest).

On the subject of eco-friendly, the things you are advised to buy and not buy nowadays when you’re pregnant can be a little like navigating a minefield.  I have to say if I envy mothers-to-be of the pre-digital age, it is because of one thing: they didn’t have Google.

Google can be at once a question-answering God send and a panic-inducing scaremonger. Sadly when it comes to pregnancy it is quite frequently the latter.

Type in the phrase: “Is (insert food/product) safe when pregnant?” into Google and inevitably some website will tell you explicitly: No.

We’re not just talking soft cheese, raw fish and alcohol, but over the past few weeks I have seen warnings about eating rhubarb, pineapple, mango, basil and parsley to name a few. I think some people seem to think we plan on munching on handfuls of poisonous rhubarb leaves, drinking mugs of essential basil oil or eating ten pineapples in one sitting (which I admit, could cause a few problems).

It’s not just what you put in your body, but on your body as well. I am all in favour of eliminating toxic chemicals from your life but I am starting to wonder how so many healthy babies have been born in the last decades when their mothers washed their hair with shampoo, put moisturizer in their bodies and maybe even did their makeup once in a while. If you were to take heed of every warning out there you would spend hours searching for products that not only did not contain sodium laureth sulfate, parabens and other ‘nasties’ but are also organic and have no essential oils, which can be “harmful”.

In fact, I was reading a blog by a lady discussing her pregnancy who said she avoided anything with citric acid in during the first trimester because she had heard too much vitamin C could be dangerous.

If you add this to some advice out there such as avoiding new cars (chemicals used to clean interiors) and not getting your hair cut (fumes from the salon), and you can begin to understand why I might be wondering if it safe to breath.

By some miracle I have survived the first trimester and I even managed to keep clean and not starve in the process. Now we feel able to tell our friends and family, it has been very reassuring to see how many friends out here have come forward offering any help they can, whether it be from accompanying me to appointments if James is away to simply coming over and having a chat if I am worried about anything. One of our good friends even sent James home with a lamb casserole for us to heat up one evening because she knew I was struggling to get out to do food shopping and cooking.

Already saluting and getting ready to meet "dad"

Already saluting and getting ready to meet “dad”

Luckily the symptoms have started to ease and although our plans for a romantic meal out after our 12-week scan did not go quite as planned after I started feeling so sick after ordering that we ended up taking the meal home in a doggy bag, I am feeling a lot better.

I do sometimes look down at my stomach and think, “(insert expletive) when did that appear?” but judging by the fact people aren’t leaping up out of their seats to offer them to me on the bus, I am not actually showing very much… yet!

I look forward to that day, because as much as everyone tells me, “the time will fly by”, right now I am looking ahead at six months and I feel as if there is a very long way to go!

Great Expectations

8 Apr

Baby showers: had never been to one, never had one and didn’t even know anyone who had hosted one, so I was wondering what I had let myself in for after a friend asked me to help organise hers.

At over eight month’s pregnant, she wanted something low-key, with no fuss and relaxed. It sounded simple but then you know how the simple things always seem to take more time and effort? Like natural-looking make-up probably takes twice as long to perfect than a full face of gaudy colour. Plus, not only have I never experienced child birth, none but one of the girls she invited had children either, so her vision of women all offering her pearls of wisdom and advice was also looking a little doubtful. Not to be defeated, I set about researching baby showers and thinking of ideas, which would give my friend the relaxed afternoon surrounded by girlfriends that she wanted.

If the term ‘earth mother’ fits anyone, it fits my friend. She has stocked up on bamboo silk, reuseable nappies, her windowsill is currently abound with jars of oil, infusing with calendula to bathe the baby-to-be, the baby will be fed on wholesome, organic foods and she holds dear all things related to her family and particularly the advice of her own mother, who happens to live in South Africa. As such, it was no surprise that she wanted, in her words, ‘a day of female-power’ and the pressure was on; it had to be meaningful with a capital M.

We discussed the guest list and dates and then she told me she would like everyone to write a message for her baby and place it on an ornamental tree that she owns. With this as a starting point, I then just had to organise, the gifts, the food, the drink, any activities and the decorations. It may have been my friend who was expecting but it dawned on me that there was going to be quite a lot of expectation on me too.

Given that my friend already has a lot of clothes, equipment and products for the baby, choosing a present she wanted or needed proved tricky so it seemed clubbing together to get something she would not get for herself was going to be the best way forward. I knew she would love a family photo shoot once the baby is born so between us we came up with enough to buy credit for a shoot and several prints. I used the extra to put together a pamper box of goodies she could use before and after the birth and a a couple of little things for the baby. Luckily in Sydney it is not too hard to find eco-friendly, paraben-free, sulfate-free, organic products!

Then there was food: baby-sized tea party was the theme so bite-size brownies and scones, mini cupcakes and cake pops, miniature carrot cakes and plenty of teas and champagne were on the menu. I made afternoon tea cup cakes and attempted cake pops (cakes on sticks – they should be simple as described  by Bakerella here  but mine were far from perfect and at 9am on the day of the shower after the first batch flopped and fell apart, I had to make do! I definitely did not give mine long enough to firm up.)

cup cakes

For the activity we ‘ummed and ahhed’ over doing something like a joint painting or decorating bibs and babygrows but whatever it was it had to be able to be done seated, involve everyone and hopefully create something that mum and baby could keep. That’s when I saw the calico teddy bears and had the idea that everyone could stitch a patch on to the bear. Cue an afternoon in my idea of heaven trawling craft stores for suitable materials for the bear and pretty papers for her messages on the tree. I reminded myself how to do a blanket stitch and started off with an ‘A’ for the baby’s name, Ash. Then it was on to making the card.

homemade baby shower card

Patch teddy

Of all the items on my to-do list, locating decorations and bunting seemed hardest and what to do when the places you go to have either sold out or require a second mortgage to purchase them? My solution: two packets of Cath Kidston napkins, a ball of string and a couple of hours in front of the TV that evening, sticking and sewing.

emergency hand-made bunting

Come the day before the shower I had a box of pampering goodies all wrapped and in cellophane, a scrap book for her to put all the messages in also filled with quotes and photos of her and the bump over the past few months, a card, a voucher for a family photo shoot, a teddy bear, sewing materials, Japanese papers for the messages, organza bags in which to put said messages to hang from the tree, trays of cupcakes and cake pops and some home-made bunting.

The day of the shower I arrived to set up with a couple of friends and mum-to-be disappeared for an hour to leave us to it. In that time, her mother-in-law, who she is very close to, arrived, so she was there to surprise her when she got back. Not only that, I had got in touch with her mum in South Africa, asking her to be part of the day too, so over the past few weeks I have been receiving parcels from Cape Town containing messages from her mum and other members of her family as well as a present and poem, written by her mum, to read. If all else failed, there were going to be enough surprises to keep the excitement levels up, I just had to hope they didn’t also cause the onset of labour!

After gifts were given and poems were read, we all got crafty and got our granny on and each stitched a patch on to the teddy bear. She now has a very individual gift, which we have all helped to create.

heart work

sweet talk

sweet treats

message tree

Loving Granny's blanket

I think I can hesitantly say my first baby shower was a success. There were screams (of surprise when she saw her mother-in-law), there were tears (when she saw there were messages from her family in South Africa), there were smiles and hugs for the presents and most importantly she loved being surrounded by her girlfriends, exchanging stories and words of support and encouragement. Hopefully there were enough meaningful moments and expectations were met and we get to meet the biggest expectation of all in just a couple of weeks.

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