Saturday, August 19, 2006

Shock news!

My sister dropped a bit of a bombshell when she rang me earlier today. She's unexpectedly 6 weeks pregnant! (hey, at least it's not 7 months like Sarah-Journey of a Co-Mom-'s sister). She's in shock, and I have to say, so am I. When we were up there a few weeks ago, she said that they definitely didn't plan to have a third child in the near future, if it all, so it was obviously accidental, not planned. To be honest, the timing of it couldn't be any worse, and I actually feel rather sorry for her/worried about how she's going to cope.

Their children Ella and Lewis have just turned 4 and 1 respectively, so she's already got her hands pretty full (especially as Lewis is just starting to walk, and is a really active little boy), as well as working part time as a GP. On top of all this, the family is supposed to be moving to Australia in the next few months, for her husband to do research/further his career. As if the actual fact of emigrating to the other side of the world (for 2 years, not permanently) wasn't stressful enough, they don't actually know when they are going. It was supposed to be October, but her husband has been utterly useless and not organised his work stuff in regard to visas - he has to get all his medical qualifications recognised by the relevant boards in Australia, something he has apparently known that he would need to do, in order for them to be able to get the right visas, since last November! Chris only found out recently that this was what was holding the whole situation up, and has been running around frantically organising it all for him. He's a nice bloke, but he just doesn't make her life, and their family life, very easy. Work is his number one priority, and even though they are going out there primarily for his benefit, he still can't get his arse in gear to sort these things out.

So it's all very unsettling right now, with no-one knowing what's happening when. It could all happen pretty quickly, and they've got to pack up their belongings, put some in storage and ship essentials to Oz, then rent out their home. But no date is fixed! So my poor sister has been stressed enough anyway, and now this; still all the uncertainty, and wondering how the hell she will cope with being pregnant/having a 3rd child many 1000's of miles away, without the huge amount of family support she has had up until now (especially from our mother). She really did sound completely shell-shocked when we spoke.

If I'm honest, after I spoke to her, I felt a bit upset about it for us. Obviously it's not on purpose, but I feel like it's taken a bit of the shine off the specialness of us expecting our first, and very longed-for, baby. Even though our due dates are about 6 weeks apart, Chris has never gone past 36 weeks due to pre-eclampsia both times, so our babies could end up being born very close together, especially if I'm overdue! In some ways, that's a lovely thought, as we'll want all the cousins to be close anyway as they grow up. But it's going to put my mother in a very awkward position, as she is going to feel utterly torn as to who she should be with. She has already said that she'll be with us, and I hope that that will stay the same (I don't think that she would go back on her word, and she also really wants to be there for us, to help in the early days, and to welcome this baby. She's been a real support to me/us through ttc, and is absolutely thrilled that I'm pregnant at last). But on the other hand, I know that she is already worrying about how Chris is going to cope in Australia, without the support network; and now there's a new baby to add in to the mix. I think that my poor mother is more stressed than my sister!

I suppose that we'll have to see how it all turns out as time goes on. Chris is going to ask for an early pregnancy scan, as she lost 2 babies, both at 12 weeks, in between her 2 "term" pregnancies, so we all know that there are no guarantees that this one will end happily. Despite the crappy timing of it all, obviously we all hope that everything will go well for her. It's worrying though. I wish that they weren't going so far away!

And, being totally selfish now (but mainly joking), I'll have to give my sister back her maternity clothes that she lent me! Oh well, an excuse for some shopping.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ode to my Aga

Following my spice post, Jen, quite rightly, asked for an Aga "translation" - well here is an explanation. I know that Agas are increasingly being imported to the States, so I wasn't sure whether people would be familiar with the term or not.

An Aga is a range cooker that works on stored heat - it's on permanently, but uses only a small amount of energy. Being able to cook without having to preheat an oven makes things much more spontaneous, and it's easy to chuck in a baked potato for lunch, without having to worry about wasting energy.

Originally they were developed in Sweden, and worked on solid fuel (wood, coal etc.). These days they can work on oil, electric, or gas (like mine), and can have 2, 3, or 4 ovens. The basic model is the 2 oven, which has a hot roasting oven (equivalent to about gas7-8/425-450F), and a slow simmering oven (about gas1/275F). A 3 oven model (like mine, right), adds a baking oven (around gas3-4/325-350F), and the 4 oven is half as wide again and has an extra plate warming oven, plus a flat hotplate on top (for keeping food warm etc - not a grill). You'll see that mine has 4 doors - the top left one (with the badge) hides the control panel and burner. There are 2 cooking rings on top; the boiling plate on the left and the simmering plate on the right. You have to cook slightly differently with an Aga, as the longer the lids are lifted on the plates, the more heat is lost and the internal oven temps will fall. So you just get food started on the rings, and then transfer to the ovens to cook. It's odd at first, but it's actually quite easy to adapt to cooking this way. Slow-cooked food like casseroles are fabulous in an Aga, as are roasted veg, steam-cooked root veg done in the simmering oven, fluffy rice etc. A kettle comes to the boil in a matter of minutes, and you use a special wire rack to make toast on the boiling plate. Fried eggs and pancakes can be cooked on the simmering plate - it's all very versatile!

Not only is the Aga an oven, it's a drying vehicle (and it even sort of "irons", if you put folded sheets etc. to dry on the closed lids). Lots of people have an old-fashioned drying rack hanging over the Aga to take advantage of the warmth that is given off. They are often found in farmhouse kitchens, and now in more and more middle-class homes (they are a bit of a status symbol). Tales are told of plate warming ovens being used as an impromptu incubator for sickly new born lambs! (door open, I hasten to add). I grew up cooking on an Aga, as my mother had a 4-oven one, so I've always wanted to have one as part of a family kitchen. They are often described as being the heart of the home, and friends always come and lean against the warmth of the Aga when in the kitchen.

There are two disadvantages to an Aga - the fact that it throws off a lot of heat (which makes the kitchen wonderfully cosy in winter, and acts as a magnet for both people and pets) means that in high summer you often have to turn the Aga off because it's just too darned hot, and resort to some other form of cooking facility. With our generally unpredictable British summers, you can pretty much use the Aga as a weather predictor - as soon as you turn it off because the heat is unbearable, the weather is bound to take a turn for the worse! The other disadvantage is the initial cost; mine cost a cool £7,300 (c. US$14,000)! My accountant assures me that I will be able to put the cost of my Aga against my tax bill this year, because I cook from home as a living. He'd better be right!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Introducing Pip

Yes, it was the dating ultrasound today and young Pip posed beautifully for pics, lying head down. We're guessing he/she was asleep, as there wasn't really any movement, but at least we got to see plenty of identifiable body parts. It's absolutely unbelievable how s/he has changed in a mere 4 weeks since our early scan (when it was a vaguely turtle-shaped blob). This time - a baby! In case you need scan pic intrepretation, that's the head bottom right, and the bump that seems to be growing out of it is actually a hand (we could see the five fingers, but they're not very clear on the pic). The white bones of the spine curving up the LHS (that's also where the placenta is) were really obvious - as K said, they looked like piano keys! And you can just see a leg/foot curving out at the top. Awwww.

It was great to be reassured that everything is happening just as it should - inevitably with these scans, you always worry beforehand that something dreadful may have happened. Thankfully, after all the traumas of ttc, the pregnancy seems to be going relatively smoothly so far - long may it continue! Pip measured right on target for dates, so our EDD was confirmed as 1st March 07. We're actually having another scan next week; a private nuchal fold/translucency test to look for Down's. The midwife at the clinic said that this gives a more accurate result than the blood test, so we won't be having those done at 16 weeks. Obviously we're hoping for a low risk result from the NT scan; but unless the odds are very high, we wouldn't have a diagnostic test anyway.

Yesterday was my first midwife visit; my "named" midwife, Lisbeth came to see me at home, which was very relaxed. She's Danish, bright and breezy but friendly. I told her straight off about me & K, as it's so much easier to be clear from the outset (and it's not like we live in a gaybourhood, so I knew it would be fairly unusual). She was completely cool about it though, and said it made not one jot of difference; the most important thing is that the baby is coming into a loving environment. Hopefully the other 4 midwives who make up the team will be just as blase about the situation, when I/we get to meet them. Apparently though, we'll be only the second lesbian couple they have had; the first was a much more complicated situation as both women left their male partners during their pregnancies, to start their relationship. Doesn't sound like they can have been very calm pregnancies!
Throughout the antental care, I'll get to meet all the midwives, and there's a 75% chance that Lisbeth will be there for the delivery - if not, one of the others will take her place. Until we were assigned to this midwife team, I had been thinking strongly about having a doula, but now I'm not so sure that it will be necessary. M, I will get around to answering your question about birthing plans soon!

In other news, the house is in desperate need of a clean (we're not untidy, but our cat Toohey sheds hair like you wouldn't believe. And I don't feel I should be lugging the Dyson around at the moment). I just can't summon up the energy, even to dust, despite the fact that I'm at home with not a lot of work on this week. K has been trying to persuade me that we should get a cleaner in, and I think that it's finally time to give in. She works such long hours that the last thing she wants to do is clean in the evening/at weekends, and the state of the house is getting us both down. Ahh, the mundanities of home life.