Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rooming in

Being as I am fully pregnant and obsessed with it, I have spent a lot of time reading books about pregnancy and babies over the past few months. It really is a full time job, keeping up with various symptoms, baby fruit sizes, and the many rare but terrifying things that could go wrong.

My main sources have been two very different books. The British  bestseller, Rough Guide to Pregnancy, is irreverent and funny. Every week's chapter opens with a line showing the length of the baby, which I enjoy holding up to my belly and marvelling at.

For better coverage of medical mishaps and physical symptoms I've  been perusing the US classic,  What to Expect When You're Expecting. Every month's chapter starts with a list of what 'you may be feeling', which always includes constipation, flatulence, and 'emotional'.

It's a balanced diet of pregnancy info.

I'm also enjoying spotting the discrepancies between US and UK approaches to pregnancy. 'Rooming in' is one that, as I contemplate the hospital trip that is ahead of me, leapt from the pages. Keeping babies in a nursery while mum overnights in a nice quiet room is still apparently fairly common, judging by this What to Expect story.

I don't think it's nearly as common in the UK. Unless your baby needs special care, they usually do 'room in' with you. In fact, it's not really usual for a woman to stay in overnight in the UK, unless there's something wrong, or there's a need for longer observation of the mum or baby. A few hours after any straightforward birth, once the baby's had a feed and the mum's had a cup of tea, the NHS like to pack you off home asap.

In the US, I gather, it's much more normal to stay in hospital overnight. But then, the whole event is a lot more medicalised. Midwives deliver babies in only 8% of US births - the rest are delivered by obstetricians. By contrast in the UK midwives, armed only with gas and air and pethidine, deliver the vast majority of babies in the UK.

I've  become aware that most of my US readers think I'm a little nuts for imagining I can go into hospital, give birth without a doctor to 'help' me, and be home the very same day. It's fairly normal behaviour over here. So like the crazy Brit I am, that's exactly what I'm hoping to do. Watch this space....

Monday, January 28, 2013

Special Time

Today I entered Special Time. Special Time is a concept, or a practice, we were introduced to at that brilliant Active Birth class. It is the weeks before birth, when the expectant mother simply rests, indulges herself, and stays calm and peaceful, ready for the trials of labour.

So far, I like it a lot.

In Special Time there is plenty of time for sleeping, and for gentle exercise. I can bake to my nesting heart's content. Plus I get to dedicate a couple of hours to important matters like Pinteresting celebrities wearing bad - or good - maternity outfits, Twittering about pregnancy stuff, and surfing What to Expect. Oh, and writing.

(I'm working on a writing project to do with pregnancy, so my interest is strictly professional. And by the way, that's why I've been so socially media active lately, and why the blog is almost entirely pregnancy focussed these days. I'd like to say that normal transatlantic service will resume soon, but to be honest, this whole baby thing is quite absorbing, so I think it will continue to dominate my posts.)

Anyway, in addition to all this productivity, I also have time to indulge myself. Today, for example, I had a long hot bath, listening to my birth playlist and thinking happy thoughts. After my bath I put in a solid hour napping. I awoke to the smell of the delicious Colombian soup TLOML was cooking up for our dinner. All that on top of a decent walk, a dozen Tweets, and a couple of episodes of 30 Rock.

Bath time (melting bath cupcake courtesy of Babes with Babies)
Nap time

Dinner time (courtesy of TLOML)

Because I only began my maternity leave two weeks before my due date, I reduced the amount of time available for Special Time considerably. I now think that was plain stupid. So while most women at 38 or 39 weeks pregnant are eagerly drinking raspberry leaf tea and eating curries, I am stroking my belly whispering 'stay in, stay in' and hoping for a good stretch of Special Time before the noise machine is born.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Life isn’t what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you. So said my wise entrepreneurial friend, and so say I. The key to happiness is the ability to adapt to your conditions.

I pride myself on my ability to adapt, whether it be to the supreme sacrifice of moving to Malibu to be with TLOML, or the grand experiment of our spell in Manhattan. TLOML has had a harder challenge, moving to London in the wettest summer ever and unable to leave the country. But he’s adapted well too (albeit with the odd shaking of his fist and shouting ‘this country!’). As soon as he’s identified his local coffee place, and a purveyor of quality meat, he’s happy. For me, once I’ve established a storage system in a place, I consider myself at home. And that never takes long.

Likewise Jack. He’s adapted very well, being moved from my old flat into a new, bigger one with my activist friend. And then moving back into Fox Corner, and getting to know TLOML. Once he knows where his food bowl is, he’s happy. He also likes it when you put something flat (like a newspaper) on the floor so he can sit on it. He like to be able to go where he likes, when he likes. And that includes jumping on the bed at any time of night he wants some attention.
Jack, happily sleeping on a bag.
Now everyone is telling us how dramatically our life is going to change when the baby comes. Apparently we will be sleep deprived monsters, snapping at each other, unable to string a sentence together and with no more time for long, relaxed dinners. Our cosy, coupley life will be altered beyond recognition.

Well, call me na├»ve, but I’m remaining positive. So long as my storage system remains intact (and no-one puts the blankets on the swaddle clothes pile), I’ll be okay. And so long as TLOML can still walk about and get his nice coffee from Euphorium (even if he has to do so wearing a baby in a sling), I think he'll be happy.

The question remains about how Jack will cope. He’s rolled with the punches so far, but this baby is going to change everything for him. No more unsupervised access to our bedroom. And we’re imposing a new zero tolerance for being woken up. I fear for him: his cat equilibrium is about to be rather upset. I wonder if it will be enough if we just keep leaving newspapers, empty bags, and such like around for him to sleep on.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hopes and wishes

I'm hearing lots of lovely hopes and wishes for me, TLOML and our firstborn at the moment.

Everyone is wishing a quiet final week at work for me. Friends who've done this before are hoping I get a good few days, after work and before I go into labour, to relax, nap and watch rubbish films. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a straightforward labour and birth.  And of course we all hope she'll be healthy from birth - and grow up to be wealthy and wise as well.

All these things are largely out of our control (though I'll do my best to avoid working too hard) But there's another hope someone has for us - and it's entirely in my power to grant it. It's from G, my goddaughter's little sister, the daughter of my fabulous, e-entreneurial friend - and she wrote it in a card for us.

I like the wish, and the card, so much I've pinned it up in the kitchen, right next to my birth affirmations.

'I hope you call your baby Hip'

The only thing is, I'm not sure I'm going to make it come true. 'Hip' did not make our shortlist of baby names.  How to break it to little G, I just don't know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pangs for pork

This Christmas I presented TLOML with a map of our old neighbourhood in New York, embellished with cards from all the restaurants we used to love. I know, I'm sweet, aren't I? Sadly my ability to execute doesn't quite match my creative ambition, so it looks a little, well, home made. But still, the thought was there and we'll hang it with pride.
Making the map, and reviewing it with TLOML gave us both pangs, for all those places we used to know and love. From the cheap thrills of Gotham Pizza to the fine cocktails at Tipsy Parson, we were well served in West Chelsea.

A few places were not in our neighbourhood, but made the edges of the map. What map of our New York experience would be complete without Fedora, the cocktail bar we tore it up in a few times more than I care to (or can clearly) remember? And Porchetta - ah, we loved Porchetta, the little 'standing room only' place in the Lower East that sells roast pork and not a lot else.

Some of those haunts we can recreate or substitute easily. Our local Euphorium bakery has supplanted Joe for a coffee and something sweet. We don't miss Gotham Pizza half as much when we console ourself with E.Mono kebabs.  Pho isn't quite up to the standards of the East Village but fills the gap when sweaty noodley soups are called for. And we've subbed out Iberian delights at El Quinto Pino with a rock solid local curry house.

But there's nowhere like Porchetta. Fortunately we have some salt that TLOML bought as a stocking filler last year. So this weekend we rubbed an Ocado pork loin with some of this delicious, fennelly, garlicky, sage-y salt and roasted it to juicy perfection.

It was almost like being back in Manhattan.

Except that we ate it sitting at our dining table - rather than perched on our sofa in a too-small-for-a-dining-table Rabbit Hutch apartment. That did rather ruin the authenticity of our slice of NY, but made for a much nicer meal.

As a result - of both the food, and the memories of life without a dining table - I'd say the pangs for Manhattan have been kept at bay

Friday, January 11, 2013

Never mind the placenta, what will we do with the cord?

Recently I've received a few emails via the various American pregnancy websites I've signed up for (a girl with a bump can never get too many pregnancy-related emails) promoting cord blood banking for 'just' $1300. I just did a quick Google and it looks the going rate is $2000, plus another $200 a year for storage.

I assume the cord blood banking market in the UK hasn't matured yet, as I haven't seen anything like that from the British sites.

But when we first met our midwife back in August we were given a leaflet about cord blood donation. Many UK hospitals offer this service, whereby you donate your cord blood to a public bank, like the Anthony Nolan trust, or the NHS one. They will apparently use it in transplants for people suffering from leukemia or blood disorders - or for research into the same kind of disorders.

It's somewhat speculative stuff, this cord banking. It's a medical advance that's still in the 'great idea' phase. To quote Wikipedia (so it must be true), 'apart from blood disorders, the use of cord blood for other diseases is not a routine clinical modality and remains a major challenge for the stem cell community'. The chance of your cord blood being used to treat a blood disorder (if you develop one) is 1 in 435.

So we've decided to donate our cord blood to our daughter, on the event of her birth. If there's any left, and the hospital works with a cord blood scheme, we'll donate the rest to the public good. What goes around, comes around, after all.

We're off to see the midwife this morning, to get properly registered with the nice birth centre. We have a list of questions relating to the birth. So far they are mainly about the hospital canteen opening hours and whether they have an ipod dock or we'll need to burn CDs of the amazing birth playlist I've created. We're keeping this whole 'creating new life' thing simple, and focussed on comfort above all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bump Size Matters

I know it matters, because the midwife gets a tape measure out  - occasionally to declare it 'too small' - every time I see her. Presumably she's not just doing it for shits and giggles.

I know bump size matters, too, because it's the reason I can no longer wear most of my baggy, pre-pregnancy jumpers. It's pure maternity wear from here on in.

But there are a couple of unexpected consequences from wearing a bump that's measuring on the small side of 8 months:

1. Getting through the slightly annoying half-width door into the Fox Corner loo is increasingly difficult.

2. On the plus side, it makes an excellent resting place for a wine glass or perhaps a tumbler of extremely weak gin and tonic.
(Yes, I know, it looks way bigger when I sit down).

Friday, January 4, 2013

I guess we'll never make potato farmers

...said TLOML sadly to me today, as we harvested our crop of potatoes.

Tragic, isn't it? I planted four or five big spuds a few months ago excited by the promise of 'potatoes for Christmas dinner'. And this is the return. Rubbish. How do you even peel a potato that's the size of your thumbnail?

I was so happy to move into a lovely garden flat, full of hopes of reactivating my green fingers. I remembered how much I used to love pottering in my little garden, growing, with some success, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes and more.

Since then I've lived with an ocean-side balcony and a janitor-managed rooftop deck (I know, poor me). I think it's ruined me forever. I can barely even keep a sturdy rosemary bush alive. Our lawn is sodden and patchy, the herbs were never any better than pale and mean, my geraniums got all leggy and straggly and fell over, and the peas and beans just disappeared in an overnight slug attack. Disappointing doesn't even cover it.

So while other gardeners are clearing, digging over, and getting excited for Spring, I'm just pleased we'll be leaving this garden behind by the time the weather warms up. Hopefully we'll trade it in for a small patio with just enough room for a table and chairs and that pot with the wilting rosemary bush in it. I think that's about all I can handle these days.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

2012 was quite a big one for me and TLOML. The small matters of a move from New York to London, getting married, getting pregnant, and - perhaps most life-changing of all - reuniting with my obese cat.

You might think in 2013 we'd plan for a little more stability. But no. We embrace change, the one constant in our life together so far.

Our plans for the year ahead include having this baby - well, yes, that's inevitable given my current physical state. And we think we'll move to Saltburn for a few months while I'm on maternity leave. Then back to London for my return to work. Unless I move jobs and we stay Up North. Or we decide to call time on the experiment of TLOML running his California-based business from the UK (so far it's not exactly easy) and need to move back to the US.

The uncertainty about where we'll be living 6 or 12 months from now is nothing new - it has been ever so since I first moved out to LA in 2009. I have real estate alerts running on Saltburn, London, Malibu and Manhattan Beach simultaneously. Considering my love of a highly predictable routine, I am a lot less disturbed by this than you might think. I figure wherever we end up, we'll have a lovely time together.

So yes, just a couple of house moves and a baby. No biggies.

Whatever 2013 brings you, I hope it comes with bags of laughter and happiness.