Pregnancy Diary: 33 weeks

Monday, 25 August 2014

This is the week when I've suddenly gone;

"Crap. I'm having a baby."

Like an actual baby. Another one. I've stopped thinking about it in terms of Ollies little brother but actually as an individual. It occurred to me that I needed to buy newborn nappies! And maternity pads. That I needed to actually pack a hospital bag.

The pram which was ordered last week arrived and is brilliant. So that made me feel a little better. My mum was here till Thursday helping with the house and we got a lot done but there is still a lot outstanding. It's odd because when I try and think of all the things we've had to do it just seems endless, but also like I can't understand why it's taken so long, and why we're still going! But then if you break it down you see how much time it all takes. 

Let's look at the one job of doing the downstairs skirting boards, this meant measuring, buying wood, cutting it, sanding it, fitting it with sprit levels and hammers and nails, painting the wood knots with oil to stop then bleeding, putting masking tape down on the tiles in the kitchen to not spoil them with paint, priming with acrylic paint, painting two layers of gloss, sanding, siliconing the gaps, touching up the wall emulsion that inevitably got a few splatters.

So one job scrawled on the "To-Do" list as "downstairs skirting" actually was 13 jobs. 

I've become a lot more practical. I'm painting, I'm up ladders, but I'm being careful. I have to be careful because my hips are really really sore, all the time, and then agonisingly painful if I work myself too hard.

I feel enormous and cumbersome and swollen. I weigh more than I've ever weighed in my whole life. And I still have up to 8 weeks to go with pounds that keep piling on from no where. I am bloated, my boobs are rock hard and filling with colostrum. I am tired and achey and keep waking in the night with leg cramps. A recent blood test came back that I'm anaemic which might explain some of it.

At the end of the week I had a bit of a breakdown when I realised that I had one week of holiday left before returning to work (I'm only going back for a fortnight, although might not manage it...) and we were meant to be going to Devon to see my sister and spend time at the seaside. We were going to be leaving an unfinished house and an unorganised baby's room. So tears ensued and the decision came to stay at home and get this all finally finished. So as I write this now, on Monday night, a bit late and already 34 weeks, we are home and we are getting there. 

I bought newborn nappies today. And maternity pads. I have washed 3 loads of white and blue newborn vests and sleepsuits and sheets and blankets and muslins. I am going to be a new mummy again and this house is going to get bloody finished.

And then the fun will really start.

Thanks for reading xx


Second time Mummy-to-be

Friday, 22 August 2014

As I reach the home straight (read: am so enormous I can't get comfy anymore as baby imminently dances on cervix...) I've been reflecting a lot on this pregnancy. 

It's been so very different and yet so much the same too. Generally I'd have to summarise that I've been more relaxed about the process, just as everyone told me Id be. Even planning conception was relaxed. We didn't even really talk about it, we didn't plan, we just wanted another one and off we went.

I was still worried about baby the moment after I did a pregnancy test. Consumed with fear I'd miscarry, which of course I wrote about, but with every little side twinge of round ligament pain I wasn't on my phone like last time, doing google searches along the lines of "7 weeks pregnant tight pain 4 inches right of belly button". Thank God. I just went with it. I trusted myself. It had been before.

When I announced we were having another baby, people told me all the time that the second pregnancy, second labour, second baby, would be easier. That 9 months would pass in the blink of an eye, baby would practically fall out of my vagina and Id be such a pro with a newborn it would barely phase me. 

Well, whilst this was comforting and of course there is a bit of truth in that experience takes away a lot of burden and anxiety, now I'm starting to feel a little under pressure. Yes my pregnancy has flown by but it's been much more physically demanding with a toddler running around. Yes I feel more emotionally prepared for labour as I've done it before and understand more what I want, but I'm still shitting myself. Yes I know how to change a newborns nappy and am not going to be so utterly paranoid about the temperature of baby's room to ratio of clothing layers, but I know that sleep depravation, WITH A TODDLER AT HOME, is going to be a nightmare.

What I'm trying to say is that for second time mummy's to be, experience doesn't mean everything. It doesn't mean you're not scared or overwhelmed. And just because you've experienced one pregnancy and one labour and one newborn doesn't mean you're equipped
to cope with or understand every possible eventuality.

Because it's never going to be exactly the same second time round.

Im nervous about going into labour at
home, if that's what happens this time. I never experienced contractions at home. Never had to time them, manage them, or make the judgement call about when to go to hospital. Im scared about leaving it too late. Scared about being in pain in the car. 

Because I've experienced a very bad labour it actually makes me more scared second time round (note how many times I've used the word scared?!)

I'm more prepared yes, but I know how painful it was for me and I know how absolutely awful it was once I was suddenly high risk and being monitored and bossed around by consultants. What if there is meconium again? I will know from that instant what lies ahead of me. Last time ignorance was somewhat bliss.

I have no idea what natural labour is really like or how ill deal with it if that's what comes to pass. I don't know how it feels to push a baby out whilst still feeling the lower half of your body, without a metal implement dragging them out for you. I don't know how it will feel afterwards if I do manage a natural birth. 

Last time I stood in the shower, alone, and wept because I was so shocked, in so much pain, and felt so utterly destroyed by the situation that had just happened. I wondered what everyone meant by the "glorious post labour shower and toast and tea" when I got some soggy cold bits of bread and just wanted to cry.

I breastfed Oliver for a year but he wouldn't latch for the first 14 weeks so I had to express. I have no idea how to latch a newborn. By the time he got it, I just waved my nipple at him and he clumped on. I don't understand positioning or "bringing baby to the breast". I don't get what they mean by the nose should be in line with your nipple. What line? A vertical one? 

I never felt particularly phased about bringing a newborn home last time. I had an immediate natural instinct and felt confident in myself. So this time I hope will be similar, and I also hope I will feel less shell shocked, but it's still going to be hard. I don't know how I'll cope with being up all night and a 6am
wake up call from Ollie. I don't know how I'll cope without being able to go back to sleep all morning undisturbed with a cuddly newborn. I had such an easy baby. What if this one's a terror?!!!

My point is, all the experience of one type of birth and one type of baby isn't filling me with much hope that I won't have
my fair share of wobbles over the next few months. I feel excited, overwhelmed and nervous, just like I did last time. Everything's amplified because I know to an extent what's coming. So I'm possibly more excited, because I know what that new love feels like, but I'm possibly more nervous, because I've knowledge of what the first poo after labour feels like, and last time I was certainly NOT prepared for that.

Being a second time mummy-to-be has been a crazy journey, and yes has flown by so far, but the reality is I'm only just getting started. I hope it all goes okay. I'm sure I'll be letting you know either way.... ;)

Thanks for reading xx

Pregnancy Diary: Week 32

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I was all doom and gloom last week and now, predictably, things are on the up again.

It's been a good week. We said goodbye to the builders on Wednesday. My mum arrived Thursday to help. 

There's still a few bits that are needing doing, the electricians are coming next week to finish off, and we're having a new front door fitted, but in principle, we are done.  The house is still a war zone because we have to decorate the two downstairs reception rooms and my husband is just finishing the hall, so there's ladders and silicone and so much paint everywhere.

But I feel like we're making progress.

Also this morning after much deliberation and issues regarding stock and delivery times, I have ordered a new pram, which I will review, and I bought a Moses basket mattress. Even though nothing at all is sorted or washed, in principle if baby came tomorrow we'd have somewhere for it to sleep, a car seat and access to clothes, all of which are Ollies old ones which my mum has brought up to us as she was storing them.

I need to really get it all sorted though, and pack a hospital bag, but we are busy with the house still and then on holiday next week in Devon.

Pregnancy wise my hips have been less painful as I haven't had any more chasing Ollie incidents and my husband has been massaging my feet and lower legs each night which really helps general achiness. I've started producing a little bit of colostrum which I'm VERY excited about as I can't wait to breastfeed again (fingers crossed).

My stretch marks from my last bump are now starting to look a little pink again, but I don't have any in new places. Generally I look absolutely massive but still a wee while to go! If this baby comes at 38w as Ollie did, it's only 6 weeks left though. 

My husband and I went on a date night last night to a lovely candlelit Tapas restaurant. I even found my GHDs in all the chaos so could look slightly more presentable than usual. A bit of romance always cheers me up!

Thanks for reading xx

The Genie

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I'm not one to normally jump on the bandwagon and write a post relating to a news story. Well actually quite often I do write something and then hestitate pressing publish, and it ends up in a very long list of drafts, that quickly becomes out of date or irrelevant. But this time I am determined to publish.

Robin Williams, a brilliantly funny man who touched many of my generation's childhoods, has died. It is so sad, and so sad for those he left behind.

But I am not actually going to talk about that, or the impact he had on me or anyone else.

I am going to talk about a tweet.

This was actually the first thing I saw, which informed me of Robin William's death. Links via Facebook.

And it immediately sat oddly with me. A colleague had posted the link and written a status about it being touching.

And it wasn't touching to me.

Yes I get the sentiment. I understand. A man tormented by Demons. A man whose life was lead granting others happiness when he couldn't find it himself. A man who is finally free of those demons.

And no I'm not one of those despicable people who comment on the daily mail about suicide being selfish and how dare he or why on earth would someone with all that money and success be "sad".


To me this tweet has got it all wrong, because death is not freedom. Death is not liberation. Death has not cured this man's terrible disease. It has not given him rest. It has not given him anything. It has taken life. And yes it has also taken a loved one from his family.

Suicide is depression's final triumph. It's final act. It's final horrible cruel laugh in the face of happiness and hope and life and love.

I have never managed to blog about my depression on my blog. It is too big. It is bigger than me, bigger than anything I could begin to put into words. I've tried, and along with the posts written about news stories are several drafts along the lines of "Depression: My Story" etc.

But I am not a good enough writer to put it into words. Not fully. 

I have wanted to die because of my depression. To die a hundred times. When I was first ill, in my early twenties, the depression had hit me so strongly, so completely, that I felt like I was constantly choking. I was constantly sinking, drowning, engulfed in this black misery that had me in its grip and wouldn't let go. It was a physical suffocation. It wouldn't leave me alone. I was haunted. All day and all night. This choking darkness, this nightmare.

And that is when the thought sets in. "If I am dead this will stop". 

I thought about it a lot. I thought it was the only answer. I didn't want to die because something specific had happened to me that I couldn't live with. I couldn't bear life with the symptoms of my illness. The constant black. The despair. The physical toll it had on my body. The inability to have any hope at all that anything would ever be any good again.

During both my pregnancies the ghost of my depression has tried to haunt me again. My pregnancy with Ollie where I battled against my work environment and my anxiety was so severe it made my skin crawl. This pregnancy when I have felt so stressed and emotional and unsettled I felt like a lost ship floating into darkness. Darkness again. The shadow looming. 

I am very lucky that I have managed to hold on to something to keep me afloat. To not go under, to not go in. 

But I know that if depression ever grips me again in the full, all-encompassing way it has gripped me before, I will struggle. I will think about death. My state of mind now is that I have too much to live for. I couldn't leave Ollie. I would rather suffer every day for the rest of my life than take a mother away from my son. 

But sometimes the darkness is so acute that it is impossible to see this sort of reason. I can't speculate on Robin William's situation but he has left behind a wife and 3 children. He must have felt there was no way out.

He is not liberated now. They are not. Liberation speaks of glory, of achievement, of reaching a final goal. 

It is irresponsible and wrong to put out a tweet, that is now favourited and retweeted by thousands, that suggests that this man is finally free. He never was, and now never will be. And death is and can not ever be the answer for people who suffer from depression. We must find a way to help them find the light, to find life, to find a real freedom.

Thanks for reading xx

The Teacher in Me

Monday, 11 August 2014

As a child I was really into all things academic. Totally useless at anything physical, crafty, or creative in the artistic sense, but really into books, writing, maths, science etc. A bit of a geek, and probably a pretentious one at that. I was a really hard working little soul and after starting piano lessons aged 7 ploughed all my spare time when I wasn't writing stories or devouring books into becoming a music geek too.

It all paid off, because when I was 11 I sat the entrance exam to a local Independent Grammar school which happened to be one of the best in the country, and was offered a place with both an academic and music scholarship. So going somewhat against my late Dad's aversion to private education  and the fact that my two sisters went to the local comp, off I went.

I loved school. I adored it. I was very lucky that I had an amazing education. The opportunities were endless. I thrived as a young musician, toured Europe in the holidays playing in orchestras, won national competitions. It was brilliant. I loved most of my teachers. My favourites were the most inspiring people I'd ever met. I will never forget my final lesson of A-Level English, when the entire class broke down in tears as we hugged goodbye to our teacher and told her how she had changed our lives. It sounds awfully pretentious, but what a miraculous gift to be able to affect young people like that. Yes many of my cohort were very privileged and we did live in a bit of a bubble but we were also normal teenagers with normal worries and hang-ups. 

It was this English teacher, and a handful of others, who made me want to become a teacher myself. The nature of going to a fee-paying Grammar school is that the majority of parents are professionals and highly successful earners, who encourage their children down similar career paths. Whilst my friends opted for medicine or business, I took a music degree (albeit a very academic one), with the intention of doing teacher training afterwards. I wanted to change children's lives. I wanted to instill in them the love of learning and the love of music I had.

I'd also always felt like I was a born teacher. Something in my character leant itself. I was and am always the person who will happily sit down and explain something to someone who doesn't understand. Draw out a diagram if they can't fix an appliance, or a map if they don't know where they're going. Explain the meaning of an unknown word, or solve a practical problem. I always think about whether someone understands what I'm saying, whether its accessible to them. When I don't understand something, I systematically try to work out why that is, what piece of the puzzle I'm missing. 

Maybe I'm just a bit of bossy, or worse a know-it-all, but I genuinely like helping people, I like making things clear and easy. I take my time making sure they understand, making sure I explain things in a way that works for them, that isn't condescending or overly complicated. 

I was teaching my own class of younger students music theory aged 15, after school in an empty classroom. I had private piano pupils aged 17. There was a teacher in me for as long as I can remember.

But then I actually qualified. And it all went wrong.

The school I took a job in has a lot going for it. And a lot going against. The biggest issue by far is that the catchment is generally a socially deprived area, and the social climate for what I would say is the sometimes a majority of children, is that school is a place to be sneered at, education is worthless, and adults in general don't deserve respect. Basically, the behaviour and attitude of the majority of children is appalling. 

Every day is a battle to be heard, to be looked at, let alone listened to. Suddenly I realised that I not only had to teach my subject, pass on information so that it was actually retained, assess how well it was retained and how skills were developed, but also fight my corner that it was worth learning anything at all, that any skill other than having underage sex and texting your mates was worthwhile. That life would be better with an education. With a job. With a home.

Every day when I walk into the school building, teenagers are rude to me, whether directly or indirectly. They are horrible to each other, the corridors are littered with appalling language. I am laughed at, sneered at, ignored, walked into, ridiculed. I've had children throw used chewing gum in my face, I've been sworn at, told to fuck off countless times, I have children everyday turn their back on me, ignore me, grimace at me, make racist comments about my Polish surname, and walk off when I'm talking to them. I've been told by a twelve year old girl that she hopes my baby inside me dies.

And by all accounts I am quite a well liked member of staff. I get really good results. But my heart breaks every morning I have to go to work. Because I am not really teaching. The good results are miraculous and a result of nearly killing myself with the amount of effort I need to use to drill into my GCSE classes the importance of learning. And these are the musical kids who opted for my subject. I am not teaching like I know I can teach. The children are not learning like I know they can learn. I am crowd control. I am the person who tries to keep them safe and breaks up fights. I am the person who probably wastes a lot of time just trying to get them to be quiet and pick up a pen. I am the older person in the room who isn't worth most of their time.

I have a first class education. I am intelligent and worked extremely hard for many years to achieve what I have. I have a natural desire to teach and to do it well. I didn't walk into teaching because I had a useless degree and liked the idea of 6 weeks off in the summer. I didn't go into teaching on a social crusade to encourage disengaged teenagers to learn how to spell their own surnames. There are lots of people who are absolutely fantastic at dealing with these sorts of children. I am lucky enough to work with and learn from some of them. But I am not one of them. It is not me.

I want to teach. Properly teach. Yes manage a classroom because that of course comes into it. Yes make the effort to prepare lessons that are engaging enough to make the children want to learn, want to listen. To deserve their attention.

But I don't want to be on the receiving end of abuse. To feel physically unsafe. To feel like my working life and my skills are being made a mockery. I'm really not paid enough for that.

I am currently trying to decide what to do after my upcoming maternity leave. I definitely do not want to return to my school. I am looking for a different post in a different school but if one doesn't come up then there is the option that I stay at home and do private instrumental lessons and save a hell of a lot of nursery fees. We could make it work. Anything better than going back to the place which has become soul destroying for me.

But I've also thought about whether I should be a teacher at all. Whether I would feel like this in any school. Am I just not cut out for it?

Oliver has given me the answer.

He is just like me, a bright little boy, who loves books and is well ahead of himself in the EYLFS assessments. At 22 months his language is within the 36-50 month bracket. He is talking in sentences. And yes most of that is him and his brilliant little head but part of it I think has come from me. From my teaching. From the way I talk to him, I always ask him questions, I always praise him when he says something, whatever it is, I always respond directly to him. I've never baby-talked to him, I've always taken what he says literally and seriously. I've never ever said no to him or corrected him if he said something wrong or got mixed up, just modeled the right example. If he has said "Mummy come room" I'll say "Yes mummy will come to your room". I've read and read and read to him. Encouraged him to repeat words and sounds that make him laugh. We give his animals and toys names and talk about them. Describe them. And the brilliant thing is that I've really followed his lead on this. He is never more happy than when with a book in his hand pointing and telling me what everything is.

The Teacher in Me has come out since becoming a mother. I was perhaps more aware of language development than some mums because he is being brought up bilingual and I didn't want to make any mistakes that would confuse of hinder him. But what has happened is he has developed this wonderful language and love of language and books. I knew that after starting to put together two words, he would start to understand possessive pronouns and plurals, so I focused on using them as much as I could. When he says " Mummy, a car!" I say, "Yes Ollie, a BIG car" or "a GREEN car" so that he starts to understand adjectives. Part of this is just an intrinsic part of me. Part of it is some research I undertook once the bilingual thing started to become an issue. Happily his confidence speaking Polish is growing.

I love that my little boy is doing so well. I am also acutely aware of not becoming a pushy parent.  I think he has developed my husband's physicality and I hope will be a well rounded little thing who enjoys all sorts and isn't just shy and bookish like I was, and the last to be picked on any sports team. I want him to be happy, I want him to be his own person. But I love helping to shape him. Helping him to develop and watch him grow. Watch him finally grasp how to piece a jigsaw together. Watch him climb up the stairs and count from 1-10 and the utter triumph on his face when he gets there and we clap and laugh and dance around.

I was born to be a mummy. And I think I was born to be a teacher too. It is who I am. I just need to find the right place to do it, but for now I can just enjoy the mummy bit.

Thanks for reading xx
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