Friday, February 23, 2007

Fed up of waiting

I'm having a real "get the baby out now!" day. My feet and ankles have gradually been getting more swollen over the last week, and now my legs feel like lead weights all the time, even at night, and elevation doesn't really seem to help much at all. My blood pressure is still normal, so the midwife says there's nothing to worry about, but it's darned uncomfortable/painful. And my legs feel like they are attached to my pelvis via big metal pins. OUCH. Add to that my pretty-much-constant headache, back ache and feeling a bit nauseous, and I'm feeling very sorry for myself indeed. All of this leads to not very much sleep, and disrupting Karen with my (slow-motion) tossing/turning and accompanying grumbling/swearing.
I've got a reflexology appointment at lunchtime, so hopefully that may help somewhat. And I'm drinking water like it's going out of fashion, to try and flux any excess salts/toxins out of my system. Must remember to consult my homeopathic book again to see if I've got anything that could help.

The good news from the last couple of days is that Pip has now properly turned around to the anterior position, with his/her spine lying down my tummy, which bodes well. He/she had a very quiet day on Wednesday, so much so that I suddenly realised at lunchtime that I couldn't remember the last time that I had consciously felt Pip move (as opposed to being conscious of the bulk of the bump). Needless to say, I got myself in a complete panic, thinking that Pip was dead and I'd have to give birth to a stillborn baby (I know that it's not at all likely, but having known someone whose baby did die at 38wks in utero, it's always been my biggest pregnancy fear). I tried to keep the panic under control, and was jiggling the bump around/poking at the baby to try and make it wake up. It was a good 10 minutes at least before I felt some movement though, and even then not much at all compared to normal. But at least I knew that Pip was still alive. I went down to our midwives' clinic for some reassurance, and they were great; we listened to the heartbeat and they didn't make me feel stupid at all for panicking; they said it was far better to come in, just in case there was something to worry about. It wasn't until the folllowing morning that I realised that Pip's new position was probably part of the reason for the much-reduced feeling of movements, but s/he was also clearly just not very active that day, as I felt a lot more movements again yesterday. So reassuring!

Our antenatal group (8 women) met up for coffee yesterday, with the first of the babies in attendance (3 wks old now; he arrived 2 wks early). He was so sweet and sleepy; not at all bothered about being passed around us all. The rest of us are still waiting, and the due dates are falling by the wayside now. We all feel more than ready for our babies to get here, but in the meantime, we're arranging a cinema visit for one afternoon early next week to pass the time, which should be fun.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Legally a couple after 13 years!

The full set of pictures from our civil partnership registration ceremony is here:

I've finally got around to uploading some of the photos from our special day - already almost 2 weeks ago! It turned out to be a really lovely occasion, even though it was so low-key. We'd been meaning to become legal civil partners since the law changed in December 2005, allowing lesbian and gay couples to register as partners throughout the UK. But first ttc, and then pregnancy got in the way of actually making it happen. Plus we couldn't agree on how we wanted to celebrate the day, so we just never really got the ball rolling. However, with Pip's arrival imminent, it made a lot of sense to do it now for legal reasons (as Karen can now apply for parental responsibility for Pip - once he/she is born - without having to go through the courts; it's just a rubber-stamping paper exercise), and then to have a separate celebration party some time in the summer, which we will combine with a non-religious naming ceremony for Pip.

So, all in all, it was a very quiet affair, with my youngest sister Fran and Karen's cousin Pat as witnesses, and my mother Diana plus our friends Mick and Mal as the only other guests. Our aim was to keep it very small so that no-one else could feel left out! Not sure if we've achieved that, but hey, where do you draw the line otherwise? With a CP ceremony, there is no legal requirement to exchange vows of any kind; you just have to declare that you are legally free to enter the partnership, and then sign a bit of paper. Not very romantic or memorable. However, the local registry office gave us a choice of 3 ceremonies/sets of vows that we could use, into which we could then incorporate readings and music that we chose. Karen and I entered to Ella Fitzgerald's "You Do Something To Me" (which started Karen off on the tears front), and once the registrar had done the welcome (she was great, and really made the simple ceremony feel like it had a lot of meaning), my mother did this reading by Anne Morrow Linbergh, from A Gift From The Sea:

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance, and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay, and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back – it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation, it is also the joy of living in the moment. Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined.*

My mother always cries at weddings, so she did amazingly well to keep her voice from wobbling almost until the very end of the reading! Karen and I then exchanged vows and rings; Karen went first and got really emotional so she was both crying, laughing and speaking in a really high-pitched voice which was rather funny. I was able to say mine without any problem, although I had the biggest grin on my face (my mother said afterwards how she'd never seen me look so happy). And then it was my turn to do a reading; the Atlas poem by U.A. Fanthorpe which for me expresses so perfectly how I show my love for Karen on a day-to-day basis, even though I'm pretty rubbish at big romantic gestures (see post on 19 Jan - I couldn't work out how to link directly to it). And yes, my voice did start catching while I was reading it...

Once we'd signed the register, the ceremony was concluded, and we left to the sound of Madeleine Peyroux's "Dance Me To The End Of Love", heading out to the (rather chilly) garden for photos, including rice-throwing opportunities. I ended up with a lot of rice down my cleavage! There are some good pictures of this bit in the set, including some of my flowers, a lovely spring bouquet which had unexpectedly arrived that morning, from my sister Christabel who's currently living in Australia.

We headed back home for a celebratory glass of pink champagne, then it was off to a local restaurant for a leisurely lunch, lubricated by plenty of alcohol. I even allowed myself some yummy stinky soft cheese, accompanied by a glass of Rioja (working on the basis that the baby's pretty much fully developed now) and we also had some truly delicious dessert wine from the Veneto, that was unlike any other wine I've ever tasted. And then back home for wedding cake, even though we were all full already. Everyone off to their various destinations by early evening; we were completely exhausted (and I was starting to feel hungover from my 2 glasses of wine, having been so unaccustomed to alcohol) and we were in bed, fast asleep, by 8.45pm! It was a lovely day, and probably all the more memorable for having been such an intimate affair, uncomplicated by the stresses of organising a big "do".

* the funniest thing about this is that even though Karen chose this reading, from a book of wedding/partnership celebrations written by the Humanist Society, I discovered a few days ago that her interpretation/memory of it was that it was about the weaving of a carpet, not a dance!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Glorious bread

Catching up with Jen's blog, I was introduced to this recipe by Mark Bittman, for a fabulous no-knead loaf. It really is seriously easy; just a bit of mixing (takes about 1 minute), an unattended long slow rise (approx 18hrs), which also develops the flavour, a bit of shaping, followed by a second (2hr) rise, then bake in a hot oven. And the results are fabulous.
I made the loaf with half wholewheat bread flour, rather than the original all white flour (I've been eating unrefined carbs for so long now, I almost can't bring myself to eat white bread!). And for any fellow Brits, the cup measurements convert to about 450g/1lb flour and 400ml/14 fl oz water. I baked it in a cast iron casserole measuring 23-25cm/9-10 inches in diameter. The dough was decidedly on the sticky side (I had to work in a fair bit of flour when shaping, just to make the dough possible to handle, so maybe with our different flour types you need a bit extra to start with), but as you can see, the recipe turned out looking fantastic. It tastes great too, and I love the texture; chewy crust and a moist (but not damp) crumb. And I didn't have any problems with it burning (although having baked it in the Aga, the oven temp is probably closer to 425F/220C/gas 7 than the specified 450F.
Thanks for the recipe pointer Jen - I can see that it really would be easy to make this loaf on a regular basis. Although it would also be far too easy to eat too much bread as well - I've already eaten a third of the loaf in the past 2 hours! Next however, I'm going to try Mark Bittman's recipe for sourdough (from How To Cook Everything), following Emilin's comments on Jen's original bread post. I've never had much luck with sourdough starters before, so it's good to get a personal recommendation for a recipe.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Antenatal appointment update (plus a bit of astrology)

My midwife Lisbeth has just been round to do the 38wk check and everything is looking good, but not imminent for labour starting. Pip is now partially engaged (1/5 of head in, 4/5 out - woohoo!), and has definitely made progress in finding a better position for birth. Lisbeth confirmed what I thought, that Pip's back is now down my left hand side, so hopefully he/she will keep moving round a bit more to get into the optimal anterior position, aided by my efforts to encourage him/her. She said that I have the blood pressure "of an 18 year old" at 110/60, and there were no problems with the urine test. She found Pip's heartbeat straightaway; average rate of 150bpm.

Quite apart from the antenatal stuff, we had a lovely long chat over coffee; she was very pleased to hear about our civil partnership and name change (and enjoyed seeing the photos - I'm going to do a post about this later, with the Flickr link). I also talked about all the birth prep stuff that I've been doing, and she was delighted to hear about the antenatal yoga, homeopathy, breathing and hypnotherapy - she's really incredibly supportive of all my/our plans for a natural birth, and had lots of encouraging things to say about how these things have helped previous women in her care. She actually asked again if we definitely wanted a hospital birth. I said that I wasn't averse to a homebirth by any means, but that we feel "safer" planning for a hospital birth for our first baby (Karen in particular feels this way; over time I have been leaning more and more in favour of a homebirth). Lisbeth said to see how it all goes when labour actually starts, as we could change our minds when the time comes and stay at home for the birth if all is going well and my coping mechanisms work out. I really hope that Lisbeth is on call when I go into labour, as we would both love her to deliver our baby. It's not that we don't like the other 4 midwives on the team (although there's one that's a bit quiet/dull), but we have definitely bonded with Lisbeth, and not just because we've seen her the most (as she's our "named" midwife). However, she's just about to take 2 weeks holiday - arrrgh! She'll be back at work on the 5th March, so Pip needs to wait until after the due date if this is to happen. I'm still thinking that Pip is going to be born around the 7th/8th March; Karen's guess is by this Friday, 23rd February!

Whenever Pip comes, s/he is going to be a lucky Golden Pig, now that Chinese New Year has passed. Karen and I are both Dogs (she is an Earth Dog, I'm a Metal Dog). Apparently, this is the year of being a Fire Pig/Boar; individuals born in this year are deep, motivated by affection, stubborn, sensual and irresponsible! I've never really looked into Chinese astrology before (I ignore most star sign stuff, as I don't think that I really fit the characteristics of my Western star sign, Aries, very well at all), but the brief characterisation of a Metal Dog that I just read seems to fit me pretty well. Interesting!
Sleepless in Colchester

Another rubbish night's sleep; less than 4hrs. I woke up to go to the loo at 3.40am, and that was that. Unfortunately, I also woke Karen up (she doesn't sleep well at the best of times), and we mostly just lay there awake in the dark until her alarm went off at 6am. I listened to my birth hypno CD on the iPod, followed by the accompanying relaxing birth music, which took up about 1 3/4hrs. And we had some nice cuddling. But it was mostly just frustratingly pointless, not helped by the various aches and pains in my body (lower back, neck and shoulders, plus "heavy" feet). At least Karen didn't get to share that part (apart from my grumblings, huffing and puffing).

Cali commented on my hacksaw search seeming like a good sign for impending birth - sadly, this is something I'm typically obsessive about, so it's not out-of-the-ordinary behaviour. When I start a project, I like to make sure that I finish it, and tidy everything away as well. I'm kind of stubborn like that, so the fact that the curtain rail is still lying on the kitchen counter is a bit of a bugbear right now.
One project that I haven't finished is an embroidery intended for Pip's room - I actually started it during the 2ww of this IVF cycle as part of my positive thinking, and have barely touched it since we got the "pregnant" result. I'd forgotten all about it until I found it in the hunt for my thimble yesterday, as part of my curtain making. I do want to try and get it done (there's nothing at all on the walls at the moment), but I want to concentrate on the bigger sewing jobs first. Today's task is to make a curtain for the front door. And then maybe some more towelling changing mats/wash mitts, as I've already given away most of the ones I made.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

No news

Having been fairly convinced that I might go into labour overnight, there is absolutely no change in status whatsoever! Looks like all my instincts were wrong (and maybe my manic activity yesterday was just down to adrenaline fuelled by cumulative lack of sleep).

Spent the morning making a heavy curtain for our back door, to guard against draughts, but haven't been able to put it up yet as I couldn't find a hacksaw to cut the curtain rail to size. Will go and buy one tomorrow so that I can finish that job, and I've also got to make another curtain for the front door. We drove to the coast at Walton-on-the-Naze for lunch; our intention was to go to the pie and mash shop (Karen's favourite form of comfort food, being a true Cockney girl), but sadly they've changed their opening times and are now closed on Sundays (perhaps because it's low season). So we had fish and chips instead, with a mug of tea and a buttered roll (more proper English food), and then went for a walk on the pier (a very short walk due to the cold and my back feeling sore). Karen then insisted on playing some arcade machines, trying to win a cuddly toy with one of those grabber machines that never let you win anything. We headed back home and had hot chocolate to warm up, then I had a long nap. Woke up feeling decidedly sick with the fish and chips repeating on me - not so nice second time around. Have been feeling fairly crappy for the last 3hrs now, but will head for bed soon.
Haven't listened to my hypno CD yet today - maybe I'll upload it to my iPod so that I can listen to it in bed without disturbing Karen.

Oh, and no antenatal visit after all, as our midwife got held up delivering a baby this morning, so I'm seeing her tomorrow instead. I'm hoping that there is good news on either the positioning or engagement front. I'm finding it completely impossible to judge Pip's position myself, partly because it keeps changing, but also my bump feels too hard most of the time to be able to distinguish body parts easily.