With love, to Liz Jones

I wasn’t going to write about the Liz Jones article [non-Daily Mail link] and the fuss it caused all over Twitter yesterday. Fuss? It had Twitter chortling and gasping in waves of indignant amusement and horror at the Daily Mail columnist’s latest confession about how she tried to steal some sperm from a couple of men. It wasn’t just general sperm theft. It was all about making a baby without the man’s consent or knowledge.

Is this what brought on the righteous indignation of a lot of people? Not entirely, apart from some angry women who thought to add a little warning to men to be careful. It was Jones’ admonition that this unilateral baby-making was what every mid-30s non-attached woman was up to.

This made me a bit angry, then sad for her, then I took it personally and got even more sad. Now I’m a little less sad and more peeved. I became pregnant outside of a relationship in my early 30s. We made a baby without either of us intending to. Keeping the baby, our beautiful 8-month old daughter, was solely up to me.

My first, and constant, priority since finding out about the baby was to be as loving about the process as possible. To think, even for a second, that it was because I tricked someone is such an abhorrent accusation that it made me quite upset. I wasn’t going to write about it because others in the New Statesman and the Guardian had already written some lovely heartfelt pieces about feeling sorry for Jones and about how brave she was and that she needed compassion. I agree with the sentiments but I also think that her position of being paid to write about something which millions of people will read is one of responsibility.

My pregnancy was not the easiest both physically and emotionally. The last two weeks were a particularly trying time where I had to make a huge effort to keep in mind my goal of making this a loving experience but I did my best. I always had compassion and love as my goals for raising our daughter and I intend to stick to that.

If I can do that for the sake of one person’s life then Liz Jones who is an adult and affects many peoples’ lives can also put a little thought behind what she is doing. Her accusations and actions are so unpleasant and full of unhappiness that she can’t help but pass those feelings on to other people who read her. She certainly passed on the unhappiness to me, albeit briefly, yesterday.

She may not get paid if she focuses on love and happiness but she will be helping the world. So why did I write about it in the end? I was walking along with a friend and was explaining to him how I felt about the article when he lost interest and set about looking at a shop window. That didn’t make me feel very listened to, so I resolved to fulfil the function of my blog which was to express myself.

I can feel a lot of compassion for someone, like Jones, who wants to be heard but I won’t feel bad for wanting to have a baby. I’m not sure she should either. Doing anything in a sneaky and selfish way would understandably feel bad. Doing something out of love however is a whole different matter.

Progression: bump to baby

12 Weeks, July 2010

20 Weeks, September 2010

September 2010

November 2010

February 2011

Day 0 – February 14

Day 1, 15 February 2011

Day 5, 19 February 2011

Day 9, 23 February 2011

Day 13, 27 February 2011

Day 14, 28 February 2011

Day 18, 4 March 2011

Day 19, 5 March 2011 – with auntie Alia

Day 20, 6 March 2011

Something with which I struggled in 2010

Physical mobility was my biggest challenge in 2010. Near the end of January I over exercised my right knee, while running with poor form, and I hurt / irritated the area.

This was pretty bad news because I had just signed up for the London Marathon and I needed the training. On the plus side though, my running technique needed work and my muscles needed a lot of building up. I may not have been able to run the marathon at all without the injury getting me to see a physiotherapist.

Mobility issues were a big part of my life until the end of April. I couldn’t climb stairs, couldn’t walk more than 10 minutes without hurting, limping, needing to rest. Once the damage had healed I started to face different issues, namely my body having to handle the long runs and then build itself up again. Black toe nails, swollen toes, damaged knees, hamstring injuries (well, just one), general aches and pains.

It was fascinating. The only suffering, as opposed to pain, I remember, was the frustration at not being able to run. The pain itself was manageable and even enjoyable since it seemed worthwhile.

Once the marathon was over, there was the Bristol 10k on 9 May and I’m not sure if it was too soon or not but I completed it in 1:00:17 but with a painful, spongy feeling in my right ankle. The pain started at around 3kms in to the run and didn’t let up until the end. The physiotherapist said to give my body some time to get back to normal before we started to look at what to do.

On the 1st of June however I found out I was pregnant. I was fatigued for the first few weeks and went to the doctor to find out if I was anaemic or if I had caught some other kind of bug but no, it was a baby.

The next few weeks / months were taken up with fatigue and morning sickness. My body was completely unwilling to run and in the first six months I ran twice because I only felt well for two days. I had a month or so when I felt ok and then once I got to seven / eight months I started to struggle with walking again.

I am now 39 weeks pregnant and walking, sitting and sleeping are pretty painful. Standing isn’t much fun and bending down to pick things up is barely feasible.

I have been back to see the physiotherapist because of pelvic problems. My tendons and ligaments that keep the pelvis fused together have been relaxing to prepare for labour. This means that the bones have no support and the pain can once again be immobilising. I was offered crutches and told not to do too much and I told her I barely do anything. Two – three hours of the house every couple of days isn’t much.

She told me to try to stick to five minutes walking since I would have to walk another five minutes back. No housework and nothing like vacuuming or anything strenuous. I was a bit shocked. Five minutes? I couldn’t even picture that.

Once again, the suffering is from frustration and not from the pain but it has made me think a lot about immobility and patience.

To The Left

Baby: Acquisitions, Visitors and So Much Silence

38 weeks, four days

The bump and I had visitors this week. Two of my colleagues came over with their little ones, 11 week old Juliette and 16 week old James, and we caught up on gossip while I tried to see how I felt about having little babies around. It may be a little late to back out now but curious is curious and I’d been looking forward to seeing them since I went on maternity leave.

I’d first held little James when he weighed just six lbs and nine ounces, so tiny. Baby B probably weighs more than that now. He was two – three weeks old then and now he’s a completely different baby full of smiles and curiosity. I think he spent most of his time enjoying everything around him.

Juliette enjoyed herself calmly until it was feeding time and then she made her displeasure known to mama, who was preparing her bottle, while I walked around the kitchen with her. Tiny fingers sported tiny nails which scratched across me now and then in response to her wails. James looked on quite unaffected.

Some feeding, some nappy changing and then the babies were dozy and getting grumpy. For a little while there was a chorus of cries which sounded so normal that I felt little bereft with the silent little person inside me.

It’s not that baby is totally invisible, not with this protrudence in front of me and all the movements which make me cry out with surprise and occasional physical shock. Yesterday, in the middle of the night, baby decided to stretch and did it so violently that I’m sure I heard a snap of some kind. I had to stretch out myself to provide more space for this languid little person who seems a little crowded in there.

Soon the stretching will be taking place either in the Moses basket that is waiting to be occupied or the pram which was brought over last Wednesday. There is a car seat in the house too and although I don’t have a car, I just wanted to be sure that I had everything in case of you never know what.

For now, I have an active bump and a stretchy baby and lots of silence. I am sure I won’t look upon the noise as a lovely thing but the baby’s first cry is one thing I can’t wait to hear. I’ll see how I feel about the rest after that.

Baby: Four Weeks Sitting Around

35 weeks, four days

Four weeks and three days left until my due date but only 10 days until the baby’s arrival becomes imminent. Sounds like soon and getting ‘sooner’ every moment. For a while I was stressing a lot about nappies. Must get nappies. Nappies. Nappies. Nappies. I only had one packet of newborn ones and have now bought two more. On to the next mantra.

What do I do about the baby wipes I bought? We were warned at the class not to use them on newborns. Babies should need nothing more than water apparently and the midwives had seen some terrible rashes from those beastly wipes. Get rid of wipes. The cot is still in its box against the wall in the living room. Cot. Cot. Cot. It weighs 20kg and the delivery guy didn’t bring it upstairs. The lovely Tesco delivery guy brought the microwave and vacuum cleaner right into the flat. Mothercare you failed big time.

The mattress is resting against the bottom of my bed. I need to pack my hospital bag by next week according to the recommended advice and I probably won’t be able to tweet too much from the hospital. The phone only has about 12 hours battery life and we’re not allowed to plug anything in. I have my ipod though and I’ll load up some videos just in case I’m there for a very long time. Is it silly to think I’ll be bored?

I’ll need to bring some food and remember my toothbrush, toiletries, dressing gown and slippers. I need a nightgown or an oversized t-shirt or something. It may be get a bit a messy so I don’t plan to keep it.

At 35 weeks the baby is not growing any longer but is putting on fat instead. The movements are much more obvious and I could feel a little hand or foot yesterday, bony little thing, right up against the surface of my tummy. The bump is now all the way over my ribs and things like sitting up and sitting back down are starting to be more painful than uncomfortable.

On the plus side, the little one has full-length fingernails and toenails and a fully developed pair of kidneys. My hemoglobin levels have increased to 9.8mg / l from 8.4mg two months ago but that’s still anaemic. I am breathless often and my heart starts racing with most activities. I have been referred to the physiotherapist because my walking became too painful but there’s not long too go and I should be back to normal after that.

So I’ll be putting together furniture and clearing out space in the next four weeks but mostly I’ll be sitting down. It’s not all restful though. The only comfortable position these days is lying down and I can’t be doing that all day.

Baby: Are You Sure?

34 weeks, four days

The bump measures 35 inches from pelvis to the top and I look more like Humpty Dumpty than ever. I am gaining lots of respect for his sitting on a wall since I can barely get comfortable on the couch these days. I’m growing daily and am meant to be gaining a lb a week in weight – I refuse to weigh myself and figure I will get more interested in that once baby arrives and I start training again.

The baby is arriving soon. There is a five week window of time when the arrival is expected as normal and two weeks beyond my due date I believe that they induce birth. That period of time begins in two and a half weeks and the baby will definitely be born by seven and a half weeks from now at the latest. That doesn’t sound too long to me.

Last night I dreamt that I was in a sporting goods store and wanted some clothes for running in the snow. I was planning to also go skiing and thought I should start seeing a physiotherapist again since my right ankle starts to hurt after about 3kms. Then I remembered I was pregnant.

My maternity leave started on Friday 24 December and people were asking whether I was getting excited. I’m waiting until I set up the cot before I get excited, I would reply. Before that I would say that I’m waiting for maternity leave to start before I start thinking about the baby. I’m now at home for a while and I have started to make a list of things to do before the arrival: read books, write up a review or two of some previous books, work on my shorthand, watch movies, knit, meditate, finishing my pregnancy books and another 20 or so items. Maybe after all that I will be ready?

I received five newsletters telling me I was 34 weeks pregnant and updating me on what’s going on. The baby should be running out of space right about now at around 45cm long and over 2kg in weight. The baby’s eyes are now blue regardless of what they will be in later life although I think they will probably remain light. Dad has blue eyes and I have grey-ish ones and both colours are genetically recessive. The baby’s brain is now apparently fully developed and while the lungs aren’t quite complete, the rest of the organs are fully mature and the hearing is fully developed [song choices: Motorhead, Britney, Pearl Jam, Kings of Convenience, Alphabeat? Must choose].

Some mornings, however, I wake up and am quite confused about what’s going on. Me? A baby? Are you sure?

Baby B: and Iron

Third trimester, 29 weeks, four days

I had some blood tests at my 28 week midwife appointment and one of them was to check my iron levels. Five days later I received a phone call informing me that they were too low and that I should contact my GP. The midwife spent the next couple of minutes telling me the kind of foods I should be eating and that orange juice should be drunk with meals to help absorb vitamin c. I wrote some of it down but took more time researching it on the internet.

The baby is having a growth spurt apparently and I’m now entitled to 200 more calories a day.

The baby needs iron to help it form red blood cells. How much extra did I need however? Apart from knowing that it was about double the ordinary intake, I wasn’t too sure. The normal levels are 12 to 15 mg and my levels were down to 8.4 from 12 in June.

As the volume of blood increases in the body so the nutrients are diluted. My nose bleeds had stopped the past couple of weeks and the GP paused a moment when I told him. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not. I was told that the breathlessness and the heart racing were probably due to the low iron levels. The last few days, I have had to go back to bed after eating because my heart just wouldn’t slow down from its breakneck speed. My normal heart rate is just over 90 these days.

I was given iron supplements and told to continue with my pregnancy multi-vitamins. I went shopping. I changed my whole diet, primarily adding lots of meats, cereals, juice, leafy greens, chickpeas, black pudding and Marmite to it.

On that first night after the phone call I had an iron rich meal.

240gms of chick peas
250 gms of beef steak
1 slice of black pudding 4.4mg iron

And on a personal note it was my birthday last week. The first birthday where the baby exists.

Celebratory Birthday Menu
Sultana Bran – around 80gms – with soy milk – 200 mls
Starbucks Venti soy latte 20ozs (1.8mg iron, 10gms protein, 80mg calcium, for 8oz)

2 rashers of bacon
1 slice of black pudding 4.9mgs iron
1 bak choi
some carrots / sweetcorn / green beans

20 dried apricots
1 small brownie

Happy Birthday.

Baby B: Mama In Tears, Baby Chilling

28 weeks, four days

I was talking to Baby’s dad, a few days ago, and mentioned that there had been little kicking and activity going on that day. Baby had been all over the place the previous week, kicking and rolling and arching out. One early morning, I woke with a start as I was kicked very energetically near the ribs. I admire the energy and enthusiasm that must be behind all these movements and I half enjoyed it while still maintaining a level of wariness at the sustained attack.

The wariness turned into confusion as the activity slowed right down. The first morning of not being woken at the usual times of 3am to 5am was a slight interest. Since the 20 week scan there had been a gradual build up of activity and it had now slowed down. The next day there were some movements but very small ones. That night I kept waking and waiting for some movements but nothing really happened. I barely slept and woke in a panic. I had read a leaflet from the NHS about reporting any change in movements straight away. It said “don’t wait until the next day but call someone now”, so I did.

The first time I was put through to the midwife I was crying so much I could barely make out the words. I was told to call the Hospital instead and nearly had to get my housemate to come back home from work to call for me. I managed to stay coherent however and then trekked my way up St Michael’s Hill and on to the Day Assessment Unit.

The first thing they did was to scan the bump to make sure everything was ok. Baby was on its side and the beating heart was visible and much bigger than previously. The whole baby was much bigger since it had been two months since the last viewing and was facing me – more accurately the little scan machine thing – and the little hollows of the eye sockets were visible. The umbilical cord was pointed out and the little tummy. That was one very chilled baby, barely moving at all but doing very well.

The next stage was to hook me up to a machine which traced the baby’s heartbeat and recorded it. I was there for about half an hour and heartbeat was in range and steady. Sighs of relief all around.

I was impressed with how nice and calm all the staff and midwives were. They told me to call whenever I had any doubts, to not worry about wasting anyone’s time and they even wrote in my notes that I should do so.

Baby’s back to being a kicky little creature again but is more into somersaults and bouncing around from side to side. I even had a flurry of little kicks at some point as if she was pedalling to get away. The frenzied activity has calmed but we’ll see what happens. My favourite is when she kicks the laptop off my tummy. When I get a chance to record that I will post online.

Baby B: Some Stories To Tell

I have been hearing friends’ and random strangers stories about their pregnancies and some of them just leave me astounded. Mine are full of ooohs and aahhhs of pain mostly, messy nose bleeds, frequent night time awakenings (every night), painful feet and hot flushes. Other women seem to be going through Wonderland pregnancies that even the weekly newsletters don’t tell you about.

Two women I met recently, both at 20 weeks of pregnancy, hadn’t felt any of the morning sickness or exhaustion that I encountered, but both claimed to have started to feel a little tired recently.

A friend with a 15 month old baby told me about how she loved being pregnant, loved getting bigger, loved having everything taste delicious and wonderful and wished she could do it all again soon.

Someone on Twitter mentioned a friend who was able to keep running and cycling up to her seventh month before she started to rest. I am seven months this week and I have managed perhaps two runs in all that time.

My mum claims to have had no morning sickness and to have been just fine all the way through both her pregnancies. She may be experiencing some post-hoc rationalisation though because I doubt she remembers the fine details 33 or so years later.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s psychological rather than physical. While other mothers-to-be have their partner’s support, the house with the nursery and the clothes already bought and accounted for, I am planning to share one room with the little one and have the cot in the same space. I haven’t bought anything yet but have received lots of little clothes and blankets. There are 85 days to go until my due date and I’m starting to think I should get a move on.

On the positive side, I have started to feel better physically. The tiredness from the physical exhaustion is creeping away and I’m just stuck with the ordinary five-times-a-night-wake-up tiredness. My body has replaced its constant queasiness with a constant heartburn which doesn’t encourage much eating, although I do my best. The reduced eating means that while the bump is growing well, the rest of me has slowed down somewhat.

I have already mentioned the nose bleeds and they are the most unpleasant part, although struggling to put socks on is a close second. All in all, the baby is growing and the pregnancy is progressing. My first hope, above all, is for a healthy baby and second to that is for a healthy and pain free me. 12 weeks to go, hopefully.

Baby B: Forgetting The Baby – Pregnancy Brain

My midwife is on the first floor of the building and I usually get in the lift, press the button which indicates Midwife and head on up. This time however, I walked into the building and saw that the lift was broken so I walked up the stairs but couldn’t remember which floor to go to. I went up to the third and then worked my way down to the second. Then made it successfully to my appointment on the first. When I left 15 minutes later I noticed that there was nothing wrong with the lift. Nothing about it suggested broken at all.

A few days later I was determined to get the 8 o’clock train and I set three alarms to make sure I woke up on time. I’ve had a tendency to sleep through just the one recently. The alarms went off and I was up in plenty of time to leave at 7.30. The day seemed a little brighter than I would have expected but I dismissed it. I bought two croissants from Tesco and a vanilla soy decaf latte from Costa.

I checked my phone and there was still plenty of time. While crossing over Pero’s Bridge I realised that my phone had said the time was 8.05. How could that be right? It doesn’t take me more than four-five minutes to get to Costa. I decided that I had read it wrong and yet when I made it to Temple Meads the big hand was pointing at four and the little one at eight. I was late and I had completely missed the train.

I am also convinced that no coffee was added to my latte. I saw her make it but I saw no coffee going in. In this case I had the evidence of the awfully sweet soy milk to accompany my perceptions so that one I believe. The rest however are still lost in a fuzzy state of reality.

Pregnancy brain, apparently, is a condition that affects expectant mothers, usually during the first and third trimesters. Sometimes known as placenta brain or baby brain drain, the condition is usually characterized by short-term memory loss or forgetfulness. I won’t quote the part which states that some ‘medical experts’ call it an urban myth.

I had a dream last night where I had placed the blue woollen capped baby into the car seat and then went off to talk to a friend of mine who also had a baby. At some point I heard a noise and I woke up in a panic because I’d forgotten the baby. My heart took its time slowing down after that and I hope that it all gets a little more back to normal by the time Baby comes along.

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