Monday, November 14, 2011

The other wedding

Nap time

The other wedding that we went to was a mere week after the first one and presented a totally different set of logistical challenges. We were guests rather than family (the groom is our neighbour of several years) so we didn't have to do anything other than turn up, but the wedding was held in Strathpeffer, a village in the Highlands which is about four hours' drive from Edinburgh.

Regular readers of this blog (ha! that would suggest there is anything regular to read...) may recall that we don't have a car, and that J doesn't like driving and I don't have a driving licence. Our total experience of long drives amounts to two trips to see J's parents, over very familiar roads. We have never driven an unfamiliar route, and indeed J had never been north of Perthshire. So that was a bit stressful in prospect.

However, it was all fine, and much of the route was rather scenic, although neither of us understands why 90% of drivers break the speed limit. Clearly we are both actually old ladies.

Strathpeffer is a pretty little village almost entirely composed of largish hotels. It was a spa resort that had its heyday just before the First World War, and the land round about is very scenic, divided between arable land and wooded hills. It's a gentler landscape than one immediately pictures when thinking of the Highlands. Our hotel was a strange mix of the grand (the exterior, the large wood-panelled lobby) and the basic (our room, which had rather 70s decor and 50s bathroom fittings). I think it mostly caters to coach parties. J said that it reminded him of Fawlty Towers and I can see what he meant - not that the service was in any way like that. In fact everyone was charming and helpful (being accompanied by a cute baby seemed to make us popular) and the food was rather good - not something you can count on when your party consists of a vegetarian and a pescatarian who's allergic to nuts and gluten.

The wedding itself went with a swing - held in a pretty little church a stone's throw from the hotel, and the reception in the Spa Pavilion, just a little way down the road. So it was all very easy for those of us with buggies (not just us). It was fun to compare the two weddings - I've never been to two on consecutive weekends before - and I can tell you that it is currently the done thing to have your bridesmaids wearing teal, design your own stationery on a turquoise theme, have a "cast list" in the back of the order of service listing people who've helped out, have female friends singing while you sign the register, and give your guests badges attached to their place cards.

Tom Kitten
As usual, the Peanut wore a particularly dapper outfit.

We had a lovely time, but the next day the boys were both exhausted.

Tired boys

After they had caught up on their sleep, we decided to make the most of our weekend in the Highlands and go for a walk somewhere in the afternoon. What we had in mind was maybe going to a town, having a wander around with the buggy and maybe going for a coffee somewhere.

The bride and groom were still around in the hotel and we asked their advice - the bride (who is from the area) suggested we go to Cromarty. For good measure, we asked if the hotel had any tourist info, and the receptionist suggested Strathconon as a good place to go for a walk that was near and easy to drive to. We decided to go to Strathconon.

We had gained the impression that Strathconon was a valley with a road along it, where we might stop at any point and have a stroll. That last bit was a misconception (and when we thought about it, the receptionist did not actually say that). It is actually a very beautiful long valley which has a single-track road leading through hilly woods and past lochs, but for much of it there is no place you could stop without blocking the road entirely. We got a bit lost on the way there, and J (who, as I've mentioned, is a nervous driver) was somewhat unnerved by the twistiness of the road and the impossibility of turning around.

By the time we got to the car park at the end of the single-track road, the rain was hammering down.

J in the rain

Some of our party were inclined to be a little discouraged, but we summoned up some British grit and decided to go for a wet walk anyway. The junior member of the party had not noticed the rain.

N hasn't noticed any rain


In the event, we walked for an hour and once we got going we enjoyed ourselves - the path was OK for the buggy, and the scenery was beautiful. We went back at the end feeling that we had been rewarded for our perseverance. And that we now deserved a hot drink (and maybe a glass of wine with dinner).

The next day we did go to Cromarty, and it was pretty much exactly what we'd been thinking of - a pretty town, easy to get to (a scenic drive on easy roads), and where one can walk by the sea.

Cromarty Firth

And as you can see, the weather was much nicer. I'm not sure what the moral of this little tale is: listen to your friends rather than a random lady in a hotel? Or alternatively: go off the beaten track and you may find something good even if it wasn't even remotely what you were looking for?

Answers on a postcard. Anyway, the Black Isle is a very nice part of the world and I'd like to go back sometime for more than a weekend.

Smiley Nick

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Smily face

It has been a busy few weeks in our household. As Isabelle posted a little while ago, our family has experienced rather a lot of big life events this year (birth, a death, marriage, moving house, retirement, redundancy...).

One of the biggest was three weeks ago, when my sister got married. While I can't claim I did all that much towards her wedding, it did occupy us for a while before it actually happened - Mum and I made several trips to the dressmaker both for L's dress and my bridesmaid dress, which had to be made at the last minute because we had no idea what size I was going to be, nine weeks post-baby. It was really nice to have an excuse to meet up with Mum and spend time with her (we became regulars at Cuckoo's Bakery for a restorative coffee afterwards).

I feel a bit guilty about not doing more towards the wedding. I realise that having a very small baby is a fairly good excuse, but my sister's best friend did a lot more than I did.


This is the only photo I have of us... we don't have the official ones yet.

Anyway, the wedding went off beautifully. My sister looked beautiful and just sparkled with happiness. Her other half is an actor/musician and many of their friends are musical too, so the singing (and signing-of-the-register jazz numbers) were of a high standard. She designed all the orders of service, stationery, place cards and so on, so it all looked very pretty, smart and uniform, and they did something which worked really well - they asked each guest for a "fun fact" about himself or herself, and made them into badges which they put at each place as conversation-starters. (The Peanut still has his, stuck to his car seat - it says "My womb name was Billy". You haven't accumulated many facts when you're only nine weeks old.)

The Peanut was very well-behaved throughout, even though we dressed him up like this:

Fancy suit

This suit was a present from some family friends in Spain and we feel it has a certain retro charm, although it is perhaps not the most practical babywear ever. He did also have socks and shoes on. The Peanut spent almost the entire reception being passed from admirer to admirer (allowing his mother to do some dancing!) and eventually went to sleep in his car seat/carrier thing depite the ceilidh band still being in full swing. My great-uncle and aunt were staying in the hotel and lent us their room for feeds, which really saved the evening for us (especially as I had to take my dress off to do this - not really feasible in public).

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the wedding - not that I was expecting it to go badly or anything, but I haven't attended a party with a baby before and I had thought it was likely to make things a bit difficult. But ir really didn't. And it was lovely to see so many of our relatives over the weekend, and meet the groom's family, mostly for the first time. His sister and her husband are lovely and I hope we get to meet them (and their two little boys) again.

And then the next weekend we did most of it again because our friends R and E were getting married up in the Highlands. But that is another post.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Five and a half weeks on

Firstly, thank you for all the congratulations on our boy's birth!

The following extremely self-indulgent post is mostly a record for me, so I can write down things about our little peanut's first few weeks before I forget them. So apologies is this is boring (unless you're one of the grandparents or something, in which case it probably isn't).

Blanket testing

The Peanut is now five and a half weeks old, and we are starting to settle more into a routine. J took some extra leave from work, so he was home until the baby was almost a month old, which was a great help as we were finding our feet. As babies go, the Peanut does not seem particularly difficult (I may regret writing this later!) He doesn't sleep all that much, but most of his sleeping happens at night, which is pretty good. So although he's too little to sleep through the night yet, often he only wakes up once, which is not too hard to deal with.

Everybody tells you that babies change and develop really quickly at this age, and it's true (not that I thought they were lying...) When they're born, they don't seem to be aware of very much other than milk. But the Peanut started to "track" with his eyes when he was only a few days old, and we had a Skype conversation with his English grandparents when he was about a week old and you could clearly see him trying to work out where their voices were coming from.

At about three weeks he started to take some interest in objects, usually ones with high-contrast patterns on them (which is what the health visitor said would happen - young babies don't have great colour vision but they can distinguish light from dark).

Freddy the firefly

Around the same time, he started to smile as if he means it.

Something is hilarious...

He's also grown. A lot. He was 7lb 2oz when he was born, and now he's 10lb. One week he gained over a pound. As you might imagine, we are no longer having any trouble getting milk into him, although there have been many days when he has wanted to feed all the time. This makes it a little tricky to do anything other than read or watch TV with the baby in my lap. I haven't worked out how to knit one-handed yet (or blog...)

Here he is at four days:
Starry suit

And this is him at just under a month, wearing the same suit. It's now too small for him (but he has it in a bigger size!) Mum thinks it makes him look like a tiny wizard.

Little wizard

He doesn't look like quite such a new baby any more. His first fuzzy hair is just starting to fall out and his legs and arms are getting stronger. He's still not very chubby, but he's definitely both longer and sturdier.

Jolly face

And we love him.

Monday, July 25, 2011

He's here

Nicholas was born a week ago, at 1.27 on Sunday morning.

I'm quite pleased with him

Since my last post, another week went past without any sign of labour starting. As a precaution, I was booked in for an induction on the 20th, at which point the baby would have been officially two weeks late. I was told that I’d be offered a full health check before they went ahead and if the baby was still fine, they’d be open to the idea of holding off for a little longer, which was a relief to me as I wasn't keen on induction - partly because J and I were not convinced that our official due date was really correct. It was revised from the 16th to the 6th after our first ultrasound, so going by the old date, the baby wasn't even late yet. I was also worried about the higher risk of having to have a caesarean section if induction failed. As I may have mentioned, I've got a phobia about surgery and anaesthesia which I'd been doing my best to deal with, but I was still hoping to have as few interventions as possible.

As the weekend approached I was beginning to come round to the idea of going ahead, though, if the baby really wasn’t here by then.

However, I woke up at 5am on the 16th with contractions that were about 30 seconds long and 7 minutes apart. I lay there for a bit trying to decide whether to wake J up, and eventually I did. We’d been told at our ante-natal classes to phone the hospital when contractions were 7 to 5 minutes apart, so they’d know to expect us later, so we did. They said not to come in until contractions were 60 seconds long and three minutes apart or less.

It was a long wait for that to happen, though. For a long time the contractions didn’t get any closer together. This did give me a chance to finish putting the binding on the cot quilt I was making (perhaps Nicholas was waiting for me to get that finished?)

Finally finished!

Mum came over mid-morning, since she was going to drive us to hospital and it seemed as though we'd be needing her services soon. But the contractions never did form a regular pattern, much to everyone's frustration - sometimes they’d be 5 minutes apart, sometimes 10. They stayed closer together but mild if I was on my feet and moving around, but if I sat down on the sofa or on my exercise ball, there was often a slowdown followed by a really intense one when I stood up. Not being able to predict the next one made it hard for me to distract myself with anything else! At this point they weren't hugely painful, though.

J was also there throughout and was great - he and Mum both helped with timing contractions and talked to me to keep me occupied. His parents live 350 miles away, but as it was a Saturday they drove up. Unfortunately they arrived in mid-afternoon, at which point labour wasn't speeding up at all - so much so that I was able to go to bed for a nap, and when I got up the contractions were more than 15 minutes apart again. I wondered if they’d driven for six hours for nothing!

At about 6pm, things started to move again. I had some intense contractions with 2-minute gaps, began to have some back pain which didn’t fade between contractions, and started to use the TENS machine which a kind friend had lent us. At this point I was mostly dealing with the contractions by getting on to hands and knees on the floor or sofa.

We called the hospital again and were told to come in, and got there about 8pm. We had to wait a bit to be assessed and get into our labour room but it wasn’t as bad as waiting at home; by this stage it no longer felt as though everything might just stop. I was examined and told that I was 6cm dilated, so things were definitely happening, but that I would need to labour on a ward rather than a birthing suite, because they had some concerns about my phobia of anaesthesia. I think this was just so that if I did need anything they would be able to provide it without moving me very far and upsetting me.

However, apart from not having a birthing pool available, I don’t really know what more would have been available in a labour suite - there was a bath, an exercise ball and some big beanbags, and I was free to move about and be in whatever position I wanted. In the end, that was mostly on the bed, though not lying down - I had the end raised and used it to support me as I knelt up, which was certainly easier on the knees than the floor. I used the TENS throughout and started to use Entonox after a bit.

During this stage, the contractions were fairly intense and I lost all track of time. I think I spent a long time just leaning over the end of the bed clutching the TENS control and asking J to pass me the Entonox inhaler at intervals!

The midwife told me that they’d check my cervix again at 2am but to say if I felt the urge to push any earlier, and at about 12.30 I did feel it. So they checked and I was fully dilated. Another midwife came in and they helped me to get into a sort of semi-squatting position against the raised end of the bed, and we got on with it. At this point I found it quite hard to feel when the contractions were happening because I felt pressure all the time, but the midwives helped with that. (J asked me afterwards if I’d noticed their “good cop, bad cop” routine, and he’s right - one of them was telling me how well I was doing while the other was saying “You have to push hard NOW, you’re wasting this contraction!”)

After around an hour of pushing, I had a small episiotomy because there was just not quite enough room for the baby’s head - it had looked as if it was going to appear several times but no progress was happening. At that point I was so ready for him to be born that I didn’t care. Nicholas was born a couple of minutes after that, beautiful and remarkably un-squashed looking. I had him on my chest right away and he breastfed four times before morning. We were really elated although poor J had only had 4 hours’ sleep since the previous evening.

The new family

The next day, Nicholas was very, very tired and slept for long periods without demanding any milk. This was a bit worrying, especially as when woken up he didn’t latch on very well. He was also a little jaundiced. However, I had plenty of colostrum and was able to express some to give to him by syringe, and that woke him up enough for him to feed on his own. He continued to have difficulty latching on when he was tired or fretful, especially at night when he seemed to want to feed constantly. We stayed in for three days in the end so that we could have one-to-one help from the midwives, but on Wednesday his jaundice was disappearing, he had had all his tests and was passed as feeding well - he’d only lost 5% of his birthweight - so we came home.

Frog pose

I feel very lucky that the delivery went so well, and almost nothing that I was worried about happened. I seem to have recovered remarkably well.

Four days old

J and I are now engaged in learning to be parents (we've mastered changing disposable nappies and are getting better at cloth ones). J has taken some leave and is getting very adept at cheering N up by singing to him. N is so lovely and we are so glad to have him here.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

40 weeks, no baby yet

Little stripy jumper

So here I am, a day past my due date and wondering when this baby will actually turn up. It's funny - I have been saying for some time that I'm in no hurry for the baby to arrive; I want him to stay in there as long as he needs to, because although I want to meet him, I know life will never be the same again. And I've always thought he would be late, because the official date of conception seemed a bit early to us, and then the due date got moved up by 10 days after the first ultrasound (which would mean this is really only week 38 and a bit).

But... now I'm starting to worry slightly about whether labour really will start to happen naturally. I've no reason to think it won't, but I don't feel any different from a couple of weeks ago. On the other hand, the baby's head is now engaged, according to the midwife, so he's going in the right direction.

Then again, maybe it's just that it's hard to imagine giving birth when you've never done it. Mum says this is normal. I had a hard time believing I could get pregnant, if I'm honest. So I suppose labour will just start when it starts, and then we just have to see how it goes.

We are now officially Ready. We have clothes, we have nappies (disposable for the first few days, then cloth - pre-folds, should anyone be interested), we have a moses basket and a Moby sling. I have made and frozen lasagne and spiced savoury lentil cakes and stocked the freezer and the larder. The baby's room is ready and tidy. I still need to finish my baby quilt and blanket, but I'm working on those.

The baby is not quiltless, however, because one of Mum's blogfriends, Dianne, gave us this beautiful quilt, and a shawl and hat too:

Totally unexpected, but very much appreciated - the quilt is now beautifying the baby's cot, which he won't actually be using for a while yet.

So the baby can come any time. I wonder how we'll feel once things start moving? J is a bit nervous; I'm more apprehensive about needing labour interventions than about the natural course of events. But we can't tell how things will play out, so we're just trying to stay calm.

Some people in this house have no trouble staying calm at all.
Cupcake, sleeping

Right. It is tea-time. I have no idea what we're having for dinner. (I think the aunt-to-be would suggest curry followed by pineapple... she's quite eager for her nephew to arrive.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

38 weeks (nearly)

I'm now on maternity leave. This should leave me lots of time for blogging. And knitting. And doing all sorts of things. It isn't working out quite like that.

I'm conscious that I should really be making the most of this time because I am not going to have this level of freedom again for a very long time... but I'm finding that a lot of the time, I don't really want to do very much other than maybe poke around reading blogs and Ravelry. Unsurprisingly, I don't have much stamina, and I'm tending to find that if I spend a couple of hours doing anything much I have to have a nap. This is a bit weird, given that I don't usually need much sleep.

We did take on one major non-baby-related project: the lawn, which was infested with large quantities of soggy yellow moss. The process of removing it was made more tricky because I am not really up to the heavier work of raking, scarifying and so on, and J is not a very confident gardener. But he has provided a lot of hard labour, and no doubt has removed the moss much more thoroughly than I would have done myself. We've now re-seeded the bald patches and the rain we've had recently seems to be getting the grass off to a good start. This hasn't been a great year for the garden, but at least the lawn will look nice.

We are maybe 90% ready for the baby in practical terms. The baby's room was repainted and had new carpet put in a couple of months ago; we've assembled and arranged a cot and a moses basket, and we have bedding, and clothes (selected with Mum's help a week or so ago). And nappies.

Psychologically... I'm not so sure. Despite the fact that I can feel Billy scooting about (mostly from side to side) it is a really weird thought that sometime in the next two or three weeks, I will be giving birth and we will have a new little person to bring home.

It hasn't been a particularly rough pregnancy. I haven't had any of the pregnancy symptoms I was dreading (sickness, backache, gingivitis). And I haven't had any real health problems or gained a lot of weight. Even the pelvic girdle pain responded to the exercises for a good few weeks and wasn't much of a problem, although for the last month it has definitely been putting a bit of a kink in things. But there could be a lot of worse problems, and at least it doesn't affect the baby in any way.

Until a few weeks past the 6-month point, I didn't look all that pregnant either. Last weekend my in-laws and parents were both here, and Mum was saying "She definitely looks more pregnant now." Well... since the baby is due in three weeks, it would be a little worrying if I didn't.

I still have things I want to do before the baby gets here; both baby-related and non-baby-related. I've got a cot quilt in progress, and I still need to finish off the baby blanket I was knitting. I'm so lucky that my mother-in-law and a lot of my Ravelry friends have contributed knitted garments, because I have so far managed to knit a total of one baby jumper - which I'm quite pleased with, but wouldn't really be enough on its own!

Other than that... I have a few house-cleaning and re-organising tasks I want to do, but so far the famous nesting instinct has failed to strike. I'm trying to get on with things nonetheless (interspersed with naps).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

23 weeks

The weeks of this pregnancy seem to be slipping past awfully quickly. People tell you that the time goes very slowly, and maybe it did in the earlier stages (especially when we were waiting to tell people) but at the moment it feels like it's whizzing along. I can't believe we're more than halfway through.

In part it's hard to believe this because I still don't look pregnant, or not that anyone would notice. I am not particularly small-framed and so far, my stomach isn't sticking out any more than it ever was (although it feels different to the touch). I'm not complaining - so far all my clothes still fit, though I don't suppose this will last long.

But we had the second scan two weeks ago and Billy Baby is growing on schedule and appears to have all the requisite organs and things. And he's a boy. Fairly clearly. We are going to have to think properly and seriously about names now (it won't actually be Billy).

I have been able to feel him moving around for a few weeks now. He seems to object to my sitting down for any length of time... and today, in the bath, I actually saw my stomach twitch in response to a kick, which was pretty strange.

Along with not looking particularly pregnant, I have also not had much in the way of health problems, fingers crossed. The only trouble I'm having at all is some pelvic girdle discomfort, and an increasing tendency for my hips and lower back to seize up if I sit still for too long (which is apparently part of the same problem).

Extra-stretchy ligaments run in my family, and all the oestrogen floating around in pregnancy makes them even stretchier, hence the troubles. Apparently my mum had them too. I've seen a physiotherapist, though, who has given me tips on good sleeping positions and some exercises to help, and I am crossing my fingers that if I behave sensibly, it won't get too much worse.

Meanwhile, J and I have been thinking about moving house. We are not absolutely certain that we'll get this done before Billy arrives, although that was the original plan - at the moment, we are concentrating on doing things which will be necessary if we move but still a good idea if we don't, such as getting new carpets to replace the worn-out ones which were here when we bought our house. This is proving a bit time-consuming, especially as I can't lift anything to speak of (unless I wanted to risk my back) or move furniture.

We like our current house a lot, so mixed feelings abound, but it would be lovely to have more garden and an extra bedroom (especially as we are hoping Billy won't be an only child). And we could do with being in an area with better schools. But all the houses we've looked at seem to have been on the market a long time - over a year in some cases - so we're not certain of being able to sell ours, in which case we may have to put the plan on hold. We'll see what happens.

J has not been too well recently, unfortunately. He's been having terrible headaches, and (probably unconnected) severe nosebleeds. We aren't certain why, although the headaches might be down to some sort of food intolerance, or that's the theory. He's been on a gluten-free diet for a couple of weeks in an attempt to see if that's the problem. So far, it is a bit inconclusive. He hasn't had as many headaches, but he hasn't been headache-free either. He's been tested for coeliac disease in the past, and it came back negative, but apparently it is possible to be gluten-sensitive without being fully coeliac. Tricky.

We're sort of hoping that gluten isn't the trigger, because it is such a pain to have to find complete meals he can eat, especially as he doesn't eat meat. We usually eat a certain amount of Quorn and similar vegetarian products, but only the "chicken-style pieces" are gluten-free. Most things you can quickly stick under the grill are out; pasta is out, unless it's an expensive gluten-free version; lots of sauces are off-limits, and so is anything containing malted barley (a surprisingly common food additive). I have had to get creative with lentils, experiment with baking gluten-free cakes and biscuits, and cook lots of dishes with rice or potatoes. It's not impossible - just slightly harder work.

And if it's decided that gluten isn't the problem, we will have to try something else, I guess...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seriously overdue post

OK. I have been terrible at posting this last few months. For what it's worth, I've been a bit preoccupied...

J and I are having a baby.

You probably know this if you read my mum's blog. I have been finding it a bit tricky to write about, though. Which is why we are through the first trimester and halfway into the second before I've managed to do it.

We decided at the end of last summer that we were ready (if anyone is ever ready) to start a family, and then... decision made, in theory, we didn't start trying until the end of September. I had sort of assumed that we would need to try for a bit before we would conceive - perhaps because most of the stories one hears on blogs are about people having trouble - but we were lucky. I got a positive test at the end of October, just as we were about to drive down to see J's parents, which was a little strange for us as we'd decided not to tell anyone until the 12-week mark.

At that point, I was very tired, and having slight difficulty explaining why I was so tired. My father-in-law spotted this and I was convinced he was on to the reason why (but he says he wasn't!)

Luckily for me, I didn't have any morning sickness to speak of - I felt slightly off-colour and went off some foods I normally like, but that was all. For this reason I had a lot of difficulty convincing myself that everything was going OK. I don't know whether it was hormones, or what, but I stressed out a lot over whether the baby was healthy and what we would do if it wasn't.

The 12-week scan came as a great relief - the baby was actually there, moving, with a heartbeat! And arms and legs and things!

12-week ultrasound

When this was on the screen, it was a moving image, and you could see the baby sucking its thumb.

That was the 28th of December. Yup, more than a month ago. Since then, things have gone remarkably smoothly. The occasional nausea went away, and I haven't yet put any weight on. I went back to see the doctor last week and all seems to be going well.

J and I are beginning to feel able to talk about this as if it is definitely going to happen. It still feels a little bit like tempting fate, but on the whole I have calmed down a lot. I thought I would get all stressed out again when the time came to take the triple test (for Down's, spina bifida and Edwards' syndrome) but I've managed to stay fairly calm; two weeks to wait for the results.

At the moment, we are 17 weeks along, and the baby is due in early July. We have plenty of time to get things ready before July... right?

The guinea pigs are all fine.