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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

If the Drugs don’t work…….

By Jarlath Keating

Hannah Mary Keating: 22.28 pm. 8th September 2010

I am going to try to capture the story of Hannah’s birth on paper. I embark on this with some trepidation given the events and emotions that ensued during that time, but Hazel has asked for my personal account. I hope you enjoy this recollection of the hours leading up to and after the birth of our daughter.

It is strange to think back during those hours on the 8th September 2010 when Hazel was in labor and realizing that the time I felt most calm was the last 2 hours when she was ‘pushing.’ Nine months had distilled down to these few hours and I think that collectively we were completely focused on the birth. No nerves, no trepidation, just focus on the moment.

17 hours prior to 22.28 pm, the situation was a little different. Not panic though. At no time did this emotion threaten (although I can’t speak for Hazel or Vicky). We arrived at Sibley hospital around 4.15 am after Hazel’s water broke. It is typical by the way that Hazel fell into the 10% of women whose waters break – she always has to do it differently! The admissions process was pretty smooth as Hazel had pre-registered and we knew the layout of the hospital as we had taken the child birth classes in the same building. What do I remember at that particular time? Hazel worrying about the amniotic fluid making her look like she had wet herself. The first wave of nerves mixed with impatience to get through the admissions process. How long would we be here? Would everything go as planned?

We were admitted to room 6. It was one of the bigger birthing rooms (considerably larger than the one they showed us during the orientation tour) and we quickly got settled. We had to wait a while before Dr. Sartawi came in to examine Hazel and when she finally showed, she described how she saw the labor progressing. As Hazel’s water had broken, but contractions had not started, it was going to be necessary for Hazel to be given pitocin. This drug would basically start the contractions and is administered via an IV line. The initial dose was relatively low at around 4 mls / hr. I recall that during the first couple of hours we were there it was a question of just hanging out. We both tried to get some rest and I crashed on the sofa. By about 7.30 am, the pitocin was being administered and the first mild contractions were kicking in. I was also beginning to feel pretty crappy. I put this down to a combination of post adrenaline ‘come-down’ lack of food and rising nerves. We both agreed that the best course of action was for me to go to the canteen and grab some breakfast. I felt comfortable doing this as Hazel seemed fine and the contractions did not seem to be too severe. On hindsight, we were a little complacent and were not expecting what was to come.

I went down to the canteen which was pretty good as hospital facilities go and had some breakfast. Tea, orange juice and a breakfast bagel (I think). The place was pretty quiet and I took my time sort of knowing that we had a long day ahead of us. It was on my return to the birthing room that the real fun started.
The pitocin was doing its job and the look of distress on Hazel’s face as I walked in the room really unsettled me. As each contraction came and went, Hazel’s eyes would widen and a look of panic would engulf her face. I think that the pain took her by surprise (I know it did me) and the magnitude of what lay ahead was daunting. What upset me the most was that feeling of helplessness. All you can do is hold a hand, offer verbal support and all that other stuff they tell you to do as part of the birthing process. You feel pretty useless to be honest and you are.

The option for pain control had always been on the table. In fact, when Hazel first found out she was pregnant, her immediate reaction to the whole subject of epidural vs. no epidural had been one of ‘give me the drugs.’ This position had changed over the course of her pregnancy mainly due to the reading and classes that we took and Hazel’s interaction with my sister. Alison had had her 2 children without an epidural and was a strong advocate for a natural birth. For the record, I find this description somewhat bogus. Going into the hospital, Hazel had taken on a ‘wait-and-see’ approach and I was in full support of that.

As the contractions began to get more severe and Hazel’s distress levels also increased, we made the decision that an epidural was the best course of action. We realized that there was no way Hazel would get through the birth without pain medication and I was pushing quite hard for her to take it. Obviously the decision was Hazel’s but there was no way I was going to push for a natural birth. Why would you subject yourself to the pain of a natural delivery if you did not have to? You take aspirin for a headache so why the hell would you decline pain medication when it is tenfold anything you have experienced before. I should also mention that when we checked into the hospital, Hazel’s blood platelet count from the previous day had been around 85,000 p/ml. Based on this level, we were advised that Hazel would not be able to have an epidural due to the risk of bleeding at the site of administration (the minimum level was considered to be 100,000 p/ml). Hazel had been prescribed a steroid to help increase her platelet level but had only taken 1 dose so far. We did not think that the steroid would have had the time to function but when they retook samples on admission thankfully, the level had increased to 117,000 p/ml overnight. We had the green light for an epidural if it was needed. It was.

We had to wait about 35 minutes for the anesthesiologist to administer the epidural as he was involved with another patient having a caesarian section. The actual process took about 10 minutes. I cannot remember how long it took for the epidural to kick in (too long in Hazel’s opinion I’m sure), but what I do remember was the look of relief on Hazel’s face. The tension and anguish left her and the atmosphere in the room changed almost immediately. The fear had gone. This had a huge effect on me as well. My wife was no longer in pain and we could focus on the baby.

I think it is appropriate to introduce Vicky as this stage of the story. Vicky had arrived around 10.30 am after I had called her earlier that day. Vicki had wanted to be part of the birth and we were glad to have the support. As it turned out, her support was more than I could have ever asked for and I owe Vicky a huge debt that will be difficult to repay.

The day took on a slightly surreal quality. Hazel’s pain was being managed (she had an IV but also had a ‘pain button’ whereby she could increase the dose of the epidural as she needed it), she was steadily dilating and it became a waiting game. Vicky and I took the opportunity to go to lunch, I spoke to some of my co-workers to let them know the situation and I was keeping my parents and sister updated on the progress.

So we waited. We went through another change of staff (I think we had 4 nurses in total) and Dr. Sartawi had been relieved by Dr. Osmun much earlier in the day. The staff were very good. All of them without exception were professional, polite, friendly and knowledgeable. I would recommend Sibley hospital without hesitation.

Hazel was now on a higher dose of the pitocin and the contractions were regular and strong. The pain medication was not keeping up with the severity and Hazel’s distress levels were rising quickly. Ultimately she needed 2 additional boluses of the epidural before the day was out.

By mid-evening, Hazel was fully dilated and Dr. Osmun advised that it was time to start the ‘pushing’ process. We had a young nurse in attendance (I can’t remember her name but do remember her grinning for most of the process) and she was basically the coach for the remainder of the labor. At this point, all modesty goes out the window and it is at this juncture that Vicky became a member of our family. Now here is a funny thing. I had always envisaged myself on the right side of the bed when thinking about the actual birth and this is where I found myself at around 8.00 pm. I had one leg, Vicky had the other. The nurse was generally to be found in the middle (the business end I guess). I also had the privilege of being the ‘dose man’ for the epidural. Every 20 minutes I would hit the button to ensure Hazel got the maximum level of pain medication. Crazy not to.

So here is how it goes. We would watch the monitor and the graph that measured the start, duration and end of Hazel’s contractions. Once a contraction started Hazel would push for a count of 10 and repeat 3 times. The monitor was really accurate which surprised me. On occasion, it would indicate a contraction was starting before Hazel felt it. The nurse would lead the counting and on occasion stretch the birth canal. Model teamwork at play!

If you had asked me before the event which part of the labor I was most concerned about, I would have said this stage. I imagined that I would be nervous, anxious, even freaking out a little. It was the complete opposite. I felt very calm, focused and in total control. I have no clue if this was actually how I came across to the others, but that is somewhat irrelevant.

The baby slowly descended with each push. Before we could see the top of her head, Hazel’s stomach started to lose its fullness – obviously a good sign! After about 1 hour of pushing, we could see the top of the baby’s head. I remember having two distinct thoughts at this time. First of all was the baby’s hair. We could see black curls of hair on the top of her head. She was not bald! The other thought related more to the biology of the whole thing. It is difficult to get your head around the fact that for the entire pregnancy and birth process the baby is getting oxygen through the umbilical cord. It did not seem possible that the baby could survive without breathing through her lungs at this stage. I tried to push this out of my mind, but it was not easy.

Here’s one other thing that I was resigned to. Newborn’s for the most part are ugly. Being no oil painting myself, one was quite prepared for a less than aesthetic looking child.

After Hazel had been pushing for over 2 hours, Dr. Osmun decided that it was time to intervene. Hazel was getting more and more tired and whilst the baby had made good progress and we could see a good part of the crown of her head, the last few centimeters seemed to evade us. Dr. Osmun explained that he would like to use suction to complete the birth which involves attaching a suction disc to the top of the baby’s head, applying a small vacuum and pretty much pulling her out. We had gone over this procedure in the birthing classes and we were happy to agree to this.

The activity in the room increased suddenly. Up until that point, it had been Hazel, me, Vicky and the nurse with the doctor popping in on occasion to check on the progress. Now we had about 4 additional people in the room, including the baby specialist (I forget the technical term) and support nurses. It was now around 10.20 pm and we were about to meet our daughter in person for the first time!

The procedure was pretty simple. Dr. Osmun attached the suction disc, applied the vacuum and told Hazel to push hard on the next contraction.

Hannah Mary Keating was born at 10.28 pm on Wednesday 8th September.

How do you describe it? Well for one thing, she just kept coming. The words of encouragement were replaced by exclamations on how big she was. Not so much in terms of bulk, but in length. She had a head of black hair and was beautiful. Other emotions? Relief and excitement. We had our baby daughter and she was perfect!

The doctor quickly cut the umbilical cord (I was not allowed to given that they had applied the suction procedure) and handed the baby to the specialist staff who quickly went to work on cleaning her up, weighing and measuring her (9 lb 2 oz and 21 inches) giving her the vitamin K shot and applying antiseptic cream to her eyes. As soon as the umbilical cord was cut and she took her first breath she let out a healthy wail and immediately began to exercise her lungs. Needless to say, she bitched through the examination process as well. I was now standing beside the examination table, Hannah was gripping my finger and all those emotions sweep through your body. Relief, love, tiredness, helplessness, responsibility, concern, gratitude. A multitude of emotions and she was only 5 minutes old. They completed the examination, swaddled Hannah and put a wee pink and white hat on her head that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

So it had been a pretty routine delivery up until that point (at least from the hospitals point of view). Hannah was a healthy baby girl and Hazel had withstood the rigors of childbirth pretty well. The doctor was working on the placenta delivery and the staff was going about their post-delivery routine.

The change was not immediate but still happened over a short period of time. The activity level in the room started to increase and the smiles begun to fade. The delivery of the placenta was turning out to be less than straightforward. By this time, I was holding Hannah in my arms watching the doctor work on Hazel. Vicky was still holding Hazel’s left leg and was talking to her. I was then instructed to sit on the sofa as it became apparent that an emergency situation was building and I was surplus to requirements (once again). It is not easy to describe this episode. From my vantage point, I could see Dr. Osmun working on Hazel, who by this time was not fully conscious. Dr. Osmun had removed most of the placenta, but a portion was still attached to the womb and was causing heavy bleeding (a condition called placenta acreta). What will remain with me for a long time was the sight of Dr. Osmun covered in blood. From the tip of his fingers up to his shoulders and down to his feet was red. The bag /and tray in which the placenta and blood were collected were alarmingly full. Obviously it is normal to loose blood during delivery but this level was getting dangerous and it was at this point that Dr. Osmun started talking about surgery. I also remember Vicky’s face. Concern was etched all over it and given that she had a front stage view, this did little to reassure me. However, throughout the entire procedure, Dr. Osmun looked in total control. He later admitted to being given a ‘right scare’ but at no point did he look like he was in trouble. I will also mention that the other members of staff were equally impressive going from routine to emergency mode in the ‘flick-of-a-switch.’ Nobody looked flustered or panicked and I feel a huge debt of gratitude to them for all they did.

In order to remove the entire placenta, Hazel required surgery. Dr. Osmun brought in another surgeon for a second opinion and they quickly agreed that it was necessary to perform a trans-vaginal D&C. Hazel was still semi-conscious and not really aware of what was going on. Vicky and I were now both by-standers whilst they prepped Hazel and transferred her to the OR. It was not the post-birth experience any of us had been expecting and there was nothing I could do about it. I am thankful for one thing. I have great faith in the medical profession for the most part. I knew that Hazel was in the best hands and never felt that she was in true danger. A warning to those people who take childbirth for granted. 40 years ago my wife could have bled to death – especially if she had been at home. There was no indication prior to the delivery that Hazel had placenta acreta. It is somewhat ironic that it is the proficiency of the medical profession that has led to complacency in childbirth. I for one am grateful that we have people who dedicate themselves to this profession.

It is hospital policy that if the mother cannot immediately nurse the baby, then the baby has to go to the special care unit where she is examined, sponge bathed, fed and cared for. After seeing Hazel off to the OR, Vicky and I went to the special care unit to be with Hannah. I still look back at this moment and feel quite proud of myself. If there was a time to lose it, it would have been then, but I did not (and neither did Vicky). I still felt entirely focused and surprisingly calm. We went into the special care unit and watched and assisted with Hannah’s exam. She needed to have a glucose test as big babies tend to have a lower blood glucose concentration. Hannah’s glucose level was a little lower than ideal, so she had to be given some formula to rectify this.

I am truly sad that Hazel was not able to feed her daughter immediately after she was born. We have joked about the fact that I was the one who gave Hannah her first feed and that her first ‘burp’ was produced shortly afterwards. Hannah is a ‘daddy’s girl’ because I was the one who interacted with her in the hours after her birth. All very cute. I would have given that up in a millisecond if it meant that Hazel could have held our daughter.

I had been told that Hazel would likely be in the OR for an hour. After about 90 minutes the nurse came and told me that Hazel was out and I could see her. They had wheeled her to a holding room whilst they organized the admission into the ICU. Admitting Hazel to the ICU was a precaution. She would receive 24 hour monitoring and given that she had lost 3 units of blood, it was the best place for her. When I walked into the room, Hazel was heavily sedated. She was lying on the bed with a heated blanket over her but still shivering (involuntarily) as the blood transfusion lowers the body temperature. She was semi-conscious and not really aware of where she was or what had happened. This was a tough moment for me. Hazel repeatedly asked where Hannah was and that she needed to feed her baby. All I could do was tell her everything was fine, that we had a beautiful baby girl and that she would see her soon. Just to add a bit of melodramatics, Hazel also whispered ‘will I survive.’ ‘Yes’ I told her. ‘I am not doing this on my own.’

They transferred Hazel to the ICU around 1.00 am on the Thursday morning. The experience had lasted 21 hours. Hannah was sleeping peacefully in the special care unit. Hazel was sleeping peacefully (with the help of pharmaceuticals) in the ICU. It was time to go home and try to get some sleep. My plan was to come back first thing in the morning to see Hannah and then see Hazel at 11.00 am (the earliest time I could visit the ICU).

By the way, Vicky had been at my side through the whole thing. I have not mentioned her too frequently in this account, but at no point did she leave my side. She was with me when they wheeled Hazel to the OR. She was with me when I fed (and burped) Hannah. She was with me when we went to see Hazel in the ICU. Vicky was a rock. We fed off each others strength and kept each other focused and centered. A huge thank you to a true friend.

We went home.

It was inevitable that the events of the previous day would catch up with me. The emotion threatened to break through as I got myself showered, dressed and had breakfast the following morning. I phoned Mum and Alison and Martin to keep them appraised and it was difficult to maintain my composure but I managed. It was only when I got to the hospital that I started to crack. Walking into the special care unit and seeing Hannah sleeping safely crushed me. I could barely stand up. I cannot describe the feelings I had at that moment but it took me a long time to get my shit together.

I sat with Hannah for about an hour before heading down to the ICU to see Hazel. I was a little early, but the nurse on duty was okay with me going into the unit. As I walked in, I could see Hazel was just out of bed and being assisted by one of the nurses to the restroom. Once again the relief and emotion crashed over me. Bloody hell. It wasn’t even 11.00 am and I was flaking out again. Of course, Hazel sees this and immediately thinks something is wrong with Hannah (pessimism is a character trait of Hazel’s for those of you who do not know here well). Shortly after 11.00 am Dr. Osmun came to the room to check on Hazel and he explained in more detail what had occurred and what would happen over the next 24 hours. Hazel was responding well to the treatment and they gave the all clear for her to be transferred to the post natal ward.

More importantly, she was finally able to meet her daughter.

I will end this ‘guest blog’ here. It has taken me quite a while to write this and has been an interesting experience. Reliving the events of that day and the following morning bring back many memories and emotions. I hope it was worth the read.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Christmas Carol

A lovely start to the holiday season was planned for me as a surprise from my beloved husband.

He had been in California on business all week and when we were speaking on the phone on the Friday he suddenly told me that he had arranged a surprise for me on the Saturday night and I was to get myself organised for an adult night out without the baby.

I have been very nervous about leaving the baby with anyone for any length of time, no reflection on my friends but rather on my separation anxiety. Jarlath knew this and also knew that I would not take the first step so decided on a forced intervention to make me leave her.

My night out was to see the play A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC. Lovely on many levels as the Ford Theatre is a historic landmark in DC and is the very theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assasinated.


I had visited it last year during the day on a free theatre tour and we had discussed going to see A Christmas Carol last year but, unfortunately, when we tried to book tickets they were all sold out. So Jarlath had clearly stored this information away and made plans for us to go this year. I had re-read the book last year as one of my Christmas reads and was well versed on the story (but who isn't on this popular tale). The production was just delightful and as the theatre was very small parts of the play actually took place in the aisles amongst the audience and when the smoke machine was going you were engulfed in smoke adding to the feeling of sitting in a foggy day in London town. The cast were also very good and all through the play I thought they were actually British until at the end a couple of them spoke and they turned out to be American - gold star to their voice coaches!

But where was Hannah I hear you ask! Well she was safely tucked up in the home of our friends Kim and Andrew Yang. They have a six month old boy, Alexander, so are up to date on child care. Jarlath had secretly arranged with Kim for us to drop Hannah off at their house before the performance for them to watch her for the evening and we would then pick her up on our way home - perfect as they only live 10 minutes from our new house. I was anxious that she would be unsettled and cry all evening and not be fun to be with. Well my perfect little baby was just that. We left her at 6.00p.m. and she was sound asleep by 6.40p.m. she then slept through the whole evening until they had to wake her up to give her her 10.30p.m. feed. We got back just after 11.00p.m. and she was fussing slightly but nothing to worry about. We then took her home, tucked her up in her crib and she slept through until 8.30a.m. the next morning. Clearly she is unperturbed by being in a strange house with different people. It must have helped that she is used to Kim as we have had several play dates with the kids over the weeks.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a great to start to get me in the mood for the Holiday season. No Bah Humbug here this year!

H Xx

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Signed off by the Doctor

Well I have had my six week check up with my OB/GYN and I saw Doctor Osmun the Doctor that delivered Hannah and saved me! All is well and everything has healed up nicely, or so he says, I can't see myself!!! The funniest part was when he started contraception and if we were going to have another baby. After I had picked myself up off the floor from laughing hysterically we agreed that never would be a good time to go through all that again. He has a good sense of humour as well and makes the whole "poking" around bearable. Hannah was with me and it was a nice moment seeing her staring at the man who delivered her and the first face she encountered in this world. I then moved back into the waiting room and fed Hannah and while I was doing that I bumped into a girl that was at our Prenatal classes. We had a lovely chat and she had a baby girl as well who was a big 9 lbs as well. I forgot to give her my phone number before I left which is a shame as we got on quite well in the 20 minutes we were chatting and it would have been nice to have a play date with her.
Anyway back to contraception. It is not something I have had to give a lot of thought to in the last 18 years ( or so I believed) so the options are all a bit scary. They are also limited by the fact that I am breast feeding. Any advice is appreciated and if you are shy, please do give me it by private message or email.

What else is happening? Well we have moved house. Hannah is thriving and is really tall and big already. We are all off to Boston this weekend for a wedding. It will be Hannahs first ever flight and I am quite nervous about it as I always hated screaming babies on planes. Lets hope she is well behaved. If she screams I will just have to pop out my Booby and latch her on, that usually works!

Well will report how it all goes after the weekend.

I am trying to organise some time away from Hannah at the moment. All my RISI pals are following this. So hopefully I will have a dinner out with Vicky next week for a couple of hours and then a girls Spa day at the Elizabeth Arden spa next Sunday while Jarlath and my Mother in law watch Hannah. Having the two of them there to look after her makes me at ease as there is back up if anything happens, which I am sure it won't.

Well rambled on long enough for now. love to all. Xx

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Confidence being sucked out with the breast milk

How is it that one can help run a multinational company and be responsible for hundreds of staff and be completely in control and confident but confront me with one 9 pound baby and all confidence and ability seems to fly out the window.

I am used to being in control - and I am sure you will find several members of my old staff that would call me controlling - no comment from Fay Johnston please!! Give me a new born baby and suddenly I am Mrs insecurity who cannot make a decision or statement with any confidence. I am lucky in that Hannah is a content baby who is regularly sleeping through the night already but I still have this insecurity over everything to do with her. Jarlath will tell you how much it is driving him mad as he is used to me being more decisive and confident.

I guess it is like any new skill or job where you have the bedding in period where you are not sure what you are doing. I can't imagine how I would feel if I had a fussy or colicky baby as I would probably just break down completely if that were the case.

I hope this is a natural feeling for all first time Mums and that it will go away over time. I am looking forward to our house move in a couple of weeks as I plan to join some local Mother and baby groups in our new area - I haven't bothered where we live at the moment because I am just about to move away. I hope this interaction with other Mums will take away a lot of my own anxiety and help to make new friends in the same position as myself.

Generally life is good and baby is doing well but I just wish I could shake these feelings of insecurity.

On the plus side Hannah got the all clear on a suspected hip problem from the Orthapedic surgeon today. We are also getting a visit from Grandma (my mother in law) in November, which I am really looking forward to as it is important to me that Hannah gets to know her one remaining Grandma. I don't have any family that will come and visit so it is very special to me the support I am receiving from my sister in law Alison and the visits we will get from other members of Jarlaths family.

Sorry the blog is a bit short and a bit negative but just trying to adjust to all these new emotions in my new role.

H Xx

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An unexpected arrival


Well not entirely unexpected given that I was nine months pregnant but slightly ahead of the plan.

After the latest visit to my Haematologist and OB/GYN, my platelets were even lower. To take out some risk at birth and to allow me the choice of an epidural, if I so desired it, we had to get them back up over 100. So a cunning plan was hatched between the 2 Doctors. I was to go on a 5/6 day course of steroids twice a day to temporarily help increase my platelet count and then I was to be booked in for an induction on Thursday 16th September so that I would give birth while the count was up at an acceptable level. All sounded like a good plan so we left the Doctors office late Tuesday afternoon and took my first steroid tablet that night. Off to bed we went relaxed in the knowledge that a good plan was in place.

Well, clearly my baby had not received the memo with the plan and at 3.30a.m. on Wednesday morning after getting up to go to the toilet, I found that my waters had broken! When your waters break you have to phone the OB/GYN immediately even if you are not experiencing any contractions, which I was not experiencing yet. After Jarlath talked to the Doctor we were told to head straight to the hospital to be assessed. Of course, because it was ahead of plan Jarlath had not packed his bag and I still had a couple of items to put into mine but we got organised and made the short car journey to the hospital.

On assessment I was booked into a Labour and delivery room and after discussion with the Doctor it was decided to give me Pitocin (an induction drug) to start of my contractions and get the show on the road. So off I went. I must admit my body responded very well to the drugs and over the course of the day all the relevant parts of it were responding as they should - cervix effacing and dilating and baby moving down into my pelvis. It was all quite uneventful although after several hours the pain became so unbearable that I did give in and have an epidural. The decision was fairly easy in the end as I knew I could not take that level of pain much more and I was fairly bed bound anyway due to the IV I was already hooked up to with the Pitocin and Saline I was receiving. I am now a big advocate for an epidural - why suffer pain when you really do not need too??!!

So late morning my other birth partner, Vicky, turned up and we just spent the afternoon going through the contractions and waiting for my body to become ready to give birth. It was good having both Jarlath and Vicky there as it allowed each of them to go and get something to eat or step out the room and I still had someone with me to distract me or just to chat.

Eventually by about 7.00/7.30 in the evening on the Wednesday (16 hours after my waters breaking) my body was ready to push. Off I went with Jarlath holding my right leg and Vicky holding my left, allowing the labour and delivery nurse to concentrate on taking action to minimise tearing "down there" and allowing her to move around the room checking monitors etc. I just remember her smiling face telling me that the pushing was progressing well and that I must have very strong stomach muscles and the baby was moving down with each push. Just after eight we had a wee concern as my OB/GYN was involved with another woman in labour and hers was not going so well. I was told that dependent on what happened to her I might have to stop pushing as my Doctor may have to be called into an emergency Caesarean or other procedure on her. While I understood and was only concerned for the welfare of her and her baby it was rather annoying to have to consider halting the process when it was going so smoothly.

Luckily, I didn't have to pause so continued pushing until about 10.00p.m. when the OB/GYN, Dr Osmun, came in and saw that I was tiring significantly, so we discussed various options. The main option was to give baby a little bit of help with a suction cup (I guess the modern equivalent of forceps) with no risk to me or the baby it was an easy decision to make. The only side effect was a slightly more pronounced "conehead" on the baby from the suction cup. I still had to push but this just meant that the baby did not slip back into me when I stopped pushing. After only about 3 more pushes out came the head and my beautiful daughter was born at 10.28p,.m on Wednesday 8th September 2010. In my OCD way I love the date of her birth when written in the British format 08/09/10 as the numbers are sequential - typical accountant in me still coming out. She was taken over to the corner of the room followed by her Daddy and fully checked out by the Neonatologist. She weighed 9lbs 2oz, lengtth was 21 inches and everything else was perfect and she had scored well on her Apgar score.

So this is where the drama began. While the baby was getting checked out in the corner and Daddy was taking photos and getting footprints in the baby book, my OB/GYN had to deliver my placenta. Usually fairly routine and takes about 10 minutes or so and you can hold your baby during it. Unfortunately, it went all horrible wrong at this point.

I had what is known as Placenta Accreta, whcih is a very rare condition where the placenta grows into the deeper layers of the uterine wall and becomes firmly attached to it. There is no apparent symptons of this during pregnancy and it only became apparent when my Doctor tried to deliver the placenta and it would not separate from the uterine wall. This combined with my low platelet count causing blood clotting issues posed a serious problem. In severe cases it could rupture the uterus but in my case it led to a lot of bleeding. I am lucky in that I became slightly disoriented at this point due to the blood loss and didn't suffer the trauma that poor Jarlath and Vicky did seeing me bleeding heavily. I only really remember snippets - seeing the Doctor covered from neck to knees and up to his elbows in "someones" blood, lots of medical staff suddenly coming into the room, clutching Vicky's hand, seeing Jarlath being ordered to take the baby and sit in the corner out of the way and then I felt incredibly cold. The last thing I remember hearing was a discussion about various procedures and the words "Hysterectomy" but again I was lucky in that I was so out of it that I didn't truly appreciate what was going on.

Skip ahead and I must have been coming round from surgery as I was being wheeled on a trolley and I remember seeing the words Intensive Care Unit over the door I was being wheeled through. Jarlath was at my side immediately when I opened my eyes and he says my first words were " Where is the baby?" and "Am I going to survive?" - being a bit of a Drama queen there methinks, lol!! I was seemingly also muttering about them pumping my breasts so that the baby could feed on some breast milk - makes a slightly hilarious visual now of me expecting someone to administer a breast pump while I am hooked up to all sorts of monitors in ICU.

So my night in ICU! From Tv and movies ICU is a quiet place where all you hear is the whispered voices of nurses and the rythmic sound of machines helping to keep the patients alive. In my experience it was the busiest, noisiest place ever as every hour os so a nurse would come in and poke or prod me, change IV to put fluids in and stick me with needles to take fluids out. Not really ideal for a restful night. I was wide awake bt 5.00a.m. feeling relatively ok but absolutely aching to see and hold my newborn baby. They decided to give me another pint of blood - my third that night - as my blood volume was still low, along with Magnesium, Antibiotics, saline, steroids and goodness knows what else. It was very surreal just lying there watching the heart monitor on one side, which kept rechecking my blood pressure every 15 minutes, as well as watching all these lines going into my left arm. It took every molecule of patience in my body just to lie there and wait until Jarlath was allowed in to see me.

I got to see Dr Osmun, who looked like hell, after going through that the night before - he only looks about late twenties/ early thirties in age but I am told by Jarlath was so amazingly collected as he instructed the team the night before. I then got a visit from my Haematologist who happened to be visiting someone else in the ICU and when my name came up he popped in to visit me. Then I had a long wait until 11.00a.m. when Jarlath was allowed into the ward. He immediately burst into tears on seeing me, which of course made me panic that something was wrong with the baby but he assured me there was nothing wrong and it was just the trauma of the night before catching up with him as he was conscious throughout it, I was lucky to be knocked out. He had visited the baby that morning before visiting me as she had been cared for in the special care nursery. The poor man was in tears when he saw the baby and the nurses were all very good in trying to comfort him. I can't imagine having to go through what he did mentally. On the lighter side he said it was slightly funny seeing our 9lb 2oz bouncing bundle lying amidst all these teeny, tiny premature babies who were all hooked up to machines. It made us both realise, despite everything, how lucky we actually were in that the baby was a big, bundle of health and did not have to go through anything herself.

So the moment I had been waiting for eventually came and at 1.30p.m. on 9th Sept I was taken up to the Postpartum unit and my baby was brought to me. I can't even put into words my feelings when seeing her for the first time 15 hours after giving birth. I will never get those hours back but I am sure they will become meaningless with the many hours I will get to be with her from now on.

On the plus side they did not have to carry out a hysterectomy and managed to just give me a D & C (Uterine scraping) and cauterise the bleeding. So I guess I am a very lucky girl.
Well I will sign off there for now as I am exhausted just writing it all down. Lots more blogs to come of me boring you with all my new baby is achieving!
Love to everyone and thanks for all your kinds thoughts and wishes and gifts and cards.
Hazel, Jarlath and Hannah Xx

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quick Preggers update

I have been very remiss about blogging over the last couple of months and I apologise for that. I have lots to write but just can't seem to concentrate enough to put it all into written word. My brain is so mushy that I can't even seem to concentrate long enough to knit or do any sorts of crafts.

So thought I would give a quick update on the pregnancy as I have now reached 37 weeks which is classed as full term and the baby is fully cooked in there.

Had a doctors appointment yesterday - I now get them every week and they involve the ever lovely internal, two finger salute to check on the cervix and position of baby.

My Blood Platelet count from last weeks blood test was too low at 117 so they repeated the blood tests and will advise if it has gone back up or if it is stable. Nothing serious for now but may mean limited options at birth if too low as clotting issues or that they will induce labour early if it keeps going down.

Weight is still going up and I am way over the recommended average gain but not too worried because it is still all baby and the doctor says I could do with an extra 10 pounds to begin with!

Blood Pressure 120 over 70 which is higher than my normal but perfectly fine for average BPs

Cervix is open 1 cm and softening! So I guess I missed the mucus plug coming out. At least this means my body is getting itself ready.

Baby is head down. Again good as I was worried for a while as she was sitting across the way with her feet sticking out my side and a breech position like that would have meant a caesarean. She has been head down now for the last two weeks so looking good.

Bump measures 36cm which is spot on for time of pregnancy. I may get an additional scan though due to the Keating history of giant babies as the Doctor says because I am so tall and have a long torso that I still could be hiding a larger baby in there but nothing to worry about at the moment. I am not sure whether I want a scan I would rather everything just started naturally and then we could see how things progress before having to make any decisions.

I have another Doctors appointment this week but with a cardiologist - one thing I hate about the American medical system is that you have a different doctor for absolutely every different ailment. This appointment was insisted on by my OB/GYN to check out my heart murmur to ensure that my heart will be able to cope with a labour - he doesn't want me having a heart attach while trying to push I guess. I am confident that everything will be ok as I have had this heart for 39 active years and never even knew that I had a problen until last year.

Here are some photos from my baby shower for those who have not already seen them on Facebook. I do plan to blog about the shower but just in case I don't get around to it I thought I would share the photos on here.


So feeling good for now, tired as not sleeping but just taking it nice and easy.

Other news for future blogs will be our new house!

Take care

H Xx

Monday, July 5, 2010

A tale of two Ocean Cities

The first tale is my weekend chilling at the beach in Ocean city with Vicky. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will remember our trip last year to the same place. We stayed in Castle in the Sands again as it is well located for us. It was quite a different trip to last year where we made the most of the beach bar at happy hour and the local nightlife to drink and party. This year I am clearly not drinking and luckily Vicky was also just in the mood for a fairly quiet weekend with relatively early nights and relaxing days on the beach.
We started out on the Thursday in Vicky's car. As usual Vicky was late picking me up so instead of leaving at 10.00a.m. we didn't get on the road until nearer midday. By leaving on the Thursday we managed to avoid the usual weekend traffic on the road and with a lovely stop for lunch overlooking the Chesapeake Bay at Kent Narrows we still made it to Ocean City by just after 4.00p.m.
The first night we got cleaned up and were planning to walk down to the Boardwalk and see the sights but as we stepped out the room the thunder and lightning started so we decided to take the car and go for a nice Italian meal instead. It was lucky we did because within 5 mintues of getting in the car the torrential rain came down and we just sat and enjoyed some very tasty Italian food and watched the rain through the windows instead of being caught in it. The storm down the whole East coast was quite bad and there was a bit of damage in New York state from it and Jarlath's flight home from Albany, NY was significantly delayed.
Our days were just spent sitting on our chairs on the beach where I positioned myself in the shade of the umbrella and just read, dozed and people watched the day away. The weather was just perfectr as there was a nice cooling breeze at the beach and with some nice cooling dips in the ocean (which was fairly rough as usual) we stayed relateivly cool.
Evenings ended up just a gentle mix of ice cream, good food and friends conversing.
By the Monday we had both had a lovely time and were ready to come home. Again we had delayed our drive from the Sunday so that we were not caught up in the worst of the weekend traffic. We stopped for lunch at Harris crab House overlooking the Chesapeake bay again and just took our time coming home. Unfortunately there was another downpour of rain just as we had crossed the Bay Bridge so we were held up slightly in the volume of traffic as it was all going quite slow.
I didn't take any photos of this holiday and we were just so relaxed that I never got aorund to taking my camera out with me. Vicky took a few, I think, and hopefully she will post them on Facebook soon but I have not seen them so no idea what they are off.
An enjoyable first trip to Ocean City.

Well the second trip the following weekend was a lovely surprise even to me. It was the 4th of July weekend which meant that Jarlath had the Monday off and could, quite happily, leave early on the Friday so we thought that we would go camping somewhere. This was to give us our last camping trip together while it was just the two of us to get our last use of our wee two man tent. We had previously tried to book Assateague Island Seashore park a couple of weeks back but it was fully booked. While looking at other state parks they were insisting that you booked three nights stay as it was the holiday weekend but we only wanted to camp for two. So we had not booked anything but knew we wanted to go. On Tuesday the 29th June we decided to have a search on the internet to see what we could find but nowehere was really inspiring us or still had the three night rule but something made Jarlath have a look at the Assateague Island qwebsite again and, would you believe, there must have been a cancellation and there was a nice little oceanside loop campsite available for the weekend and allowing us to book just the two nights so we snapped it up.

We had visited Assateague island last September during the washed out trip that Jarlath and I had made to Ocean City then - all in my blog from last year.

Assateague Island National Seashore is a unit of the National Park Service occupying much of Assateague Island along the Atlantic coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is a barrier island shaped by stormy seas and gentle winds.

In the 1950s, some 5,000 private lots comprising what is now National Park Service land were zoned and sold for resort development. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 halted the plans for development. The Nor'easter destroyed the few existing structures on the island and ripped roads apart. In 1965, Assateague became a National Seashore.

Bands of feral horses freely roam among plants and native animals that have adapted to a life of sand, salt and wind. Special thickened leaves and odd shapes reveal the plant world's successful struggle here. Ghost crabs buried in the cool beach sand and tree swallows plucking bayberries on their southward migration offer glimpses of the animal world's connection to Assateague.

So we ended up setting off about 10.00a.m. on Friday morning as my plans changed at the last minute and Jarlath was able to take his work and some business calls into the car if I did the driving. It was great because we made it to the campsite just before 2.00p.m. so had the whole afternoon ahead of us to set up camp, pick up some firewood and then spend some time on the beach. Our pitch site was perfect as it was right on the beach and about 50 yards over the dunes to the sea. It was quite basic camping with just a couple of portaloos and a cold water shower (although I didn't realise it was a cold shoer until I stepped into it on the Saturday). After setting up camp we put on our swimming costumes and went straight into the sea. It was quite cold but very easy to get in quickly as two steps and it got so deep that you couldn't stand up so you basically just plunged straight in without getting time to worry about how cold it was.

We spent the evening just chilling at the campsite, reading our books, cooking sausages on the grill, watching the beautiful sunset and then just sitting companiably around the campfire. We always find a campfire so realxing and find it easy just to sit around it in almost silence. At home you always feel the need to watch tv or read or do something but there is something about a campfire that just allows you to sit without doing anything for hours on end.The best bit came at bedtime when we tucked ourselved up in our tent under our sleeping bags, leaving the door open with just the bug net closed and fell asleep curled in each others arms watching the embers of the campfire and looking at the stars in the very clear sky - just sheer bliss.

Not so bliss was needing to pee half way through the night and getting a mild shock from the coldness of the sand on my bare feet and the cold wind on my bare ***! I was shaking with the cold but once tucked back up in the tent and stealing all of Jarlath's body heat I managed to warm up and get back to sleep.

Like all campsites you are awake very early with the sun outside the tent and the general noise of people moving around. Noise travels so far out in the open air when there are no buildings or background noise to soak it up. Awake and 6.00a.m. and up and out by just after 7.00a.m. To wake us up completely we decided to jhust put on our swimming costumes and go and through ourselves into the sea before breakfast. It was very refreshing and a wake up call that beats strong coffee any morning! Another joy of camping is preparing and eating breakfast out in the open air. Why does such simple food and a cup of tea taste so good just by cooking it over a gas stove and eating it while the sun is settling itself in the sky.

The rest of the morning was spent on the beach and then we decided to get dressed and drive into Ocean City, which was about 8 miles up the coast, to have a walk around the boardwalk and just enjoy the sights. Not our best decision as it was just chaos with all the holiday weekend people and daytrippers and after the tranquility of the campsite it was a bit of a shock. We had a lovely lunch at Bahia Marina and then walked 21 blocks of the Boardwalk and then back before deciding to just get out of dodge and back to our tranquil little spot. Our treat on our journey home was an ice cream which again always tastes so much better sitting in the campsite. then another evening of cooking outside, enjoying the sunset and sitting around a campfire.

Sunday morning and we had to choose whether to pack up and go home or stay another night and go home on the Monday. After seeing the crowds in Ocean City on the Saturday we decided to spend the morning on the beach and then head home about midday and missing all the holiday and weekend traffic. It was a good decision as the traffic going into the beach was horrendous so I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like later that day when everyone decided to leave. We had a lovely drive home with Jarlath doing all the driving and I was a bit sleepy so just dozed most of the way home.

It was a great camping trip and we are talking about trying to go again in August depending on how I am feeling. We also talked about going back next year with Junior as it was a perfect spot for a baby/child and we are determined to still do the things we enjoy like camping even with a baby in tow.

Well that is our tale of two Ocean cities and two thoroughly enjoyable weekends for me. Rather tiring, I must admit, but very satisfying. Now I have 10 days to chill and prepare myself for 3 weeks of visitors in July but that is for another blog.

Here are our photos to share in the beautiful sunsets:


Love to everyone and special congrats to Mrs Mac for becoming a moderator on RISI. Xx

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is my bump big enough?

Can you believe I am already seven months pregnant? I know I can't. The most wonderful feeling in the world, at the moment, is feeling the baby move around inside me. The kicks can be quite sore at times but I most love it when she turns over completely and you can watch your belly moving across in a wave. It still freaks me out at times to think I am carrying a "living" human being inside of me.

My main worry recently has been that I have not been getting a very big bump. I went out to a BBQ on Saturday and met a lot of new people and they didn't even realise I was pregnant until I told them. It may be my memory playing tricks on me but I seem to remember most people I knew at seven months pregnant being clearly pregnant, so I was slightly worried that baby girl was not growing enough inside me. The non-pregnant logical side of my brain (which is reducing in size every day, lol) was telling me that it was only due to my height that I wasn't showing very much. I have a long body so there is a lot more room in there than the average woman.

My last monthly visit to the OB/GYN was yesterday and I had a lovely doctor called Dr Osman. He did seem very young but is part of a reputable practice so I trust him completely. I had to take a Glucola test which is a standard test for Gestational Diabetes and Anemia. You have to drink a super sweet drink and then you get blood taken and tested an hour later. I should get the results today or tomorrow but have no reason to believe that I will have any issues but will report once I have received the results. One of my main questions was about the size of my bump so the doctor dully measured me and confirm that as my bump is 27 centimetres (yes this American doctor actually used centimetres rather than inches unlike everyone else in America!) long so is fine for my stage. He also confirmed that it is just due to my height that I am not protruding out the way very much as the baby has lots of room lengthwise to stretch out so doesn't need to stick out. That and the fact that I am not retaining any water or putting on excess weight (although an extra 19 pounds onto my weight feels fairly sizeable to me) all adds to my neat little bump. Long may this neatness continue then through the long, hot summer months ahead of me.

Starting putting together some preparation. We have ordered the crib and nursery furniture and I ordered the stroller. I did a lot of research on the strollers as I knew I wanted a travel system that had a built in bassinet, could take a car seat and was a regular stroller as well. The options for this, at first, were either to buy separate units or invest in one of the more expensive designer brnads like Bugaboo or Uppababy. Being the tight Accountant still at heart I was reluctant to pay the money for the Bugaboo along with all the extras you had to pay for separately so continued with my research. I came across a newer option called Stroll Air Zoom which had all the same specifications as the Bugaboo but came with all the extras included in teh price and worked out at at least $400 cheaper. The only downside was that there were no local stockists so I had to order from the internet without trying it out in person. Be assured I watched every video of it I could, checked and double-checked the spec and read the reviews before I committed to ordering it. So thanks to Kim and Andrew for buying me the $20 book called Baby Bargains which helped me to get the stroller system I wanted at a price that I could justify to myself.

Well off now to prepare myself for a busy few weeks which should give me lots to write about in my blog. A weekend at the beach in Ocean City with Vicky, a visit from Dale, Sonia and their kids and a visit from my sister in law Alison. I will be tired out by the end of July but really looking forward to it. I have August free to relax and get back my energy reserves before baby comes along.

Hope everyone is well and lookign forward to a fun summer whatever you are planning. Xx

Friday, June 18, 2010

Goodbye Doggy Friends.

Yesterday was my last day at my hobby job and it was quite a sad event. I had some of my regulars and my favourite three doggy pals to take care of.
I surprised myself as to how attached I became to the dogs. Never having a dog myself I always wondered just how much love you would get from them and I certainly found out that it is a lot. Even only seeing the dogs once every weekday and not being their owner they gave me such a lot of love. I have given up the walking slightly earlier than I had intended but it was motivated by a couple of reasons.

The weather has been really hot and the temperature has been in the high eighties or nineties most days (thirties celsius for the Brits). This along with the high humidity has been quite sapping of my strength. I sometimes forget that my body is supporting two people at the moment and it does get tired out a lot quicker. Walking over 5 miles in that sort of heat every day does eventually take its toll. This added to the fact that I have a very busy July with several family members coming to stay, I decided that it was best for myself and the company if I just packed it in completely.

So here are some memories of my three favourites:

To Plato the Standard Poodle. He is my number one favourite and shows so much love despite being a bit daft - definitely relies on his looks rather than his brains to get through life! His owners tell me he was moping about the house on Wednesday after I left and would not even go to his master. They swear he realises I am leaving and is depressed because of it, not sure myself whether a dog would be able to sense this. I have made a friend through Plato though with Esfira the Russian Grandmother who looked after the child in the house. We have swapped contact details and hope to continue to have afternoon tea a few times over the summer as we had started doing this after I had walked Plato. Plato will be surprised when I turn up at the house as a visitor.This little one is Ellie a rat terrier/chihauhau cross. From the early days when Ellie was so scared of everyone that she would not come out from under the bed and actually snapped at my finger the first time I went into the house to her running to meet me at the door and jumping all over me with love. I still find it hard to think that someone could have abused this little mite the way she had been abused as a puppy but glad to see that through some tender, loving care we have helped gain her trust and shown her that human beings can give her some love.
This old dear is Sheba a black Lab. Now 13 years old I am not sure how many more years she will have left. Her owner Barbara will certainly do all she can to ensure she has as long and happy a life as possible. She also asked for my contact details so I can tell her when the baby is born as she wants to sent a baby gift but does not want to send it before the birth. Hopefully, I will get to hear how Sheba is doing as well at that time.
I was also happy that I got to take my replacement around with me yesterday so I could introduce her to the dogs and some of the owners and let her know all their little habits and dislikes. I think she was grateful as well as it makes her job a lot easier knowing where everything is in each house and having met the dogs there is not that trepidation as to what you are going to be facing when you enter a new house.
Well I always knew it was just a hobby job but it certianly served it's purpose, particularly getting me outside over the worst of the winter. I need to try and keep going out a walk every day to keep some movement and fitness even while pregnant but at least I can go out earlier in the morning when it is a lot cooler and less humid.
So Goodbye to all my Doggy friends, I will miss you all very much. Xx

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sober Baseball???!!!

The funny thing about American sports (particularly Baseball and American Football) is that they can make 40 minutes of actual sporting action last longer than 3 hours! How do they do this? Well by the time you change, on numerous occasions, between the offence and the defence teams, have various time outs, advert breaks (yes even at live events) and just generally fannying about (Scottish term for wasting time) a baseball game can last hours and hours and hours.

Every time you are fooled initially into thinking it will be a fast game as the first three innings uisually go quite quickly. The seem so unimportant that about a third of most of the spectators only arrive during the third inning!

In the past I have enjoyed these sporting events but, I must admit, they have usually been helped along by a few beers as everything seems more exciting and interesting after a couple of beers - even when the said beers cost $8 a bottle. So, it was an experiment in itself when Jarlath and I went along to see the Washington Nationals play the Baltimore Orioles at Baseball and, of coruse, I couldn't help the game along with any beer. A local derby match so the turn out for fans was very good on what turned out to be a lovely warm Friday night after a rather wet week. It was an event organised by his company where they booked a block of seats and it only cost us $9 a ticket.

I must admit it turned out to be a good night but that was more to do with the company and the guys from his company that I was chatting to and then the after game fireworks than the actual baseball action itself. I don't think I will ever call myself a baseball fan and would not choose to go regularly but if you get a chance to take in a game, do try it just for the experience. The halftime show itself makes it worth it - in Washington they have the Presidents race where guys in large president heads and suits race around the track being tripped up by the mascot bird - bizarre but a laugh out loud moment.

In summary a fun night out but, if you can, do have a few beers to make it more enjoyable.

Some photos of the night and spot the, now rather sizeable, bump that is Junior. Xx


Friday, May 21, 2010

A Good Death by Victoria Eduoard

My friend Vicky has started taking a writing class each week and she has kindly allowed me to read and share her first homework assignment for the class. It is a short story but she feels she eventually wants to use it as a basis of a full book. Please be so kind as to give her some of your best constructive feedback.

A Good Death
By Victoria Edouard

It was a good death, I thought, not like my father’s. I almost said it out loud but then thought better of it. Driving home from his mother’s funeral was probably not the time to share another one of my unusual observations with Michael.

I suppose it’s easier for me. I came to know Nell at the brink of adulthood. She wasn’t my Mama. Over the years as our friendship deepened, there were times I wondered if I didn’t love her more than my own husband, her son.

Nell was a plain woman who lived a plain life. But hers was an outward life. This was evidenced by the overflowing crowd of mourners at the country church we had just left. Through the passenger window, I watched the open, golden fields pass by periodically interspersed with the cool shaded protection of a stand of woods. I reflected on Nell’s life.

She was a straight A high school student with a full university scholarship. But her father told her women didn’t need a college education. So she married the love of her life. She met him on a train during her big adventure to New York City.

A world war broke his spirit and broke her heart. Alcoholic and forever despondent, he eventually abandoned her, leaving behind four fatherless children and a mountain of debt from a string of failed businesses. She was forced to move in with her now retired father living in Florida.

The unfairness of the many stigmas and judgments she endured as a divorcee in the reluctant South of the civil rights era crushed down on her with unexpected force. Other women avoided her as if her condition was contagious. There was the young black man she saw everyday at the bus stop who finally implored her to stop trying to engage in conversation because he might be beat up or worse. There were the tears she had to dry when other children refused to play with her’s because they were poor, white Yankee trash. Finally there were the liberties men thought they could take with their words, eyes and hands as she waited on them at the local diner.

The choices she had seemed continually dictated by men. None of them ideal, but she did the best she could. Her brother found her a job back up North. But she couldn’t afford to bring her children right away. That decision would have ripple effects on all of them for many years to come.

Up North she thrived with the opportunity to use her brain as a secretary in the Federal government. She enjoyed travelling to conferences and meetings around the country despite the frequent advances from male colleagues, married or not, who expected divorcee equated to party girl.

Despite her plain features, men were attracted to Nell’s independent spirit and intelligence. She was forthright, open and had a quick wit. She carried herself well and fashionably. On her days off she loved to scour upscale boutiques trying on designer fashions that flattered her tall, thin figure. She’d linger in the dressing room, examining every detail, then spend equal hours searching for similar patterns and fabrics allowing her to re-create the same design late at night in her room.

She started dating again. Some were powerful and wealthy men. But at the end of the day she carried too much baggage for anyone to make a long term commitment.

After a year or so up North, saving every penny she could while relying on her brother’s good will and spare bedroom, she could finally afford to rent a one bedroom apartment and bring her children back to her. The girls and baby could share the bedroom with her and her oldest son, Michael, would have to sleep on the couch but at least they could all be together again. But even this couldn’t happen without a man’s help. With a good job and savings, Nell still had no credit. No landlord would rent to her without her brother agreeing to sign for her and take responsibility for the lease. Grateful for his continued generosity, a part of her was still resentful. However, she knew her children needed her. She would have an uphill battle to repair the damage done by the children’s unspoken perception of having been abandoned twice.

Thankfully with time, close quarters and necessity knit her family together again with a rare bond that would remain throughout her life. Even more remarkable the love within that bond was able to grow, expand and absorb anyone fortunate enough to come close to it. Nell worked hard and was thrifty. She became solidly, comfortably middle class. After her children had lives of their own, she married again.

Nell was an easy person to be around. Her advice never seemed to be advice so much as a conversation, a parable. She could be trusted not to judge. Through the worst adversity she could point out the path through it. She treated every child, grand child and friend with equal importance.

By the time of her illness she was a great grandmother. And her family and friends closed in around her in a pool of love and support. As her health deteriorated, after giving up on further chemotherapy, her focus was always on her family first. She’d tell us: this is her diagnosis, these are the odds, this is how we will attack it, this is how it will affect her… how are you all doing? She called a family meeting with the hospice worker…for us, not her.

Nell planned her funeral, suggesting favorite hymns and Bible passages. She never showed fear. Never a regular church goer, subtle hypocrisy annoyed her, she made sure we knew how deep her faith still ran and exactly what she believed. She had a living will and made sure we all acknowledged it. She did not want to die in the hospital and she did not want to linger too long. She spent time individually with everyone important to her. The family willingly took turns caring for her. Someone stayed with her every day and every night. As Nell faded and the pain increased, the hospice worker showed us how to administer morphine orally. We learned when the mind finally goes comatose maybe a little extra morphine could mercifully hasten things.

Within two hour of Nell’s passing, the entire family once again closed in around her. We were sad but at peace. It was a good death.

With the countryside behind us, I stared out the car window at the series of steel sided warehouses and impersonal strip malls lining the highway back to the city. I thought about how different my father’s death was.

His was an inward life. He collected wives and mistresses. Not so much because he was a stud-ly man, but because he was never present enough to protest, either the marriage or the divorce. With the exception of his first wife, none of his women were particularly younger or less successful than he. He respected them intellectually, which too many mistook to imply an emotional attachment as well.

There were reasons for this of course, as a lifetime of therapy could justify. His college educated mother, who died too young, was too absorbed in her books and philanthropy to ever take much interest in her four children. His father believed children should not be seen or heard. The children never knew how to address their father – he wouldn’t answer to Father, Dad or daddy. My Dad and his sisters used to joke as adults that whenever they received a phone call and there was silence at the other end, they knew it was their father; they would have to start the conversation. Even then my Grandfather still had no idea how to acknowledge his relationship with his own children.

Unbeknownst to my Dad, the joke continued into the next generation. My siblings and I would laugh and roll our eyes on the few occasions Dad would call one of us. He would announce, “Hello this is your Faaatherrr” with a clear, drawn out emphasis on the word “father”. While we never really knew the man, we all knew who was calling us.

The only emotion I ever witnessed from my father was at the age of four as my mother was packing me and my older sister and brother into the car to leave him. I had forgotten my favorite stuffed animal in the basement playroom where my dad had been sleeping for some time in the spare bedroom. As I was running back up the stairs, he grabbed me and held me close and crying, he begged us not to leave him. I don’t recall being able to answer him, but I had to go.

After that, I can probably count within my ten fingers the number of times I visited with him during the rest of my childhood. Those few visits would form the basis of our conversations into my adulthood during our equally infrequent encounters. Dad was famous for telling the same stories over and over again about the past. He just couldn’t connect with his children in the present or personally. My brother, Dad’s only child to attend his funeral, was surprised to find that none of our father’s work colleagues over the past twenty years even knew he had children. I wasn’t surprised.

Dad’s death was not a good death. After his cancer diagnosis, Dad and his last wife decided death by starvation was preferable to the potential pain and indignities suffered as cancer eats its way through a body.

I visited one last time. Mostly to say goodbye and stave off any future guilt, but maybe also with a tiny piece of that four year old girl hoping to finally make a connection. I arrived in the middle of a sunny, beautiful Colorado spring day to a dark house with heavy curtains drawn against the bright and teeming life outside. My father said he was having a good day. He thought he could sit up in the living room to talk with me. He was taking pain medication by pill and it helped to get it down by taking it with a spoonful of yogurt. As we were talking I watched while he eagerly continued to spoon yogurt into his mouth. Until his wife gasped in horror, yanked the yogurt from his hand and said, “What are you doing?” He apologized. He went on with our discussion. He didn’t believe in God. He really didn’t think anything happens after death but, just in case, he laughed, don’t step on any bugs after he’s gone.

Dad then asked his youngest child to tell her brother, who had previously visited, that he could have the new grandfather clock they recently bought, after his wife passes away or didn’t want it anymore. He also asked me to please tell my older sister that she could have Grandmother’s marble top dresser. I could have his desk. Of course, he continued, once his wife passed away we would all inherit whatever was left of his estate. His wife quickly assured me that we can trust her. She never had children of her own and she sincerely promised, even though she wasn’t legally required to, that she would remember us in her will.

Dad said he was getting tired. He thanked me for visiting. As we were helping him back to bed, he got dizzy. He said he couldn’t make it to the bed, he had to lie down right away in the hallway. As he collapsed on the floor, his last wife hysterically called out his name and asked over and over, “Is this it? Are you going? Is this it? Is this it?” He weakly answered that he didn’t know, he didn’t think so. Their fear was palpable. After a few minutes we helped him back up and into his bed. I told him I loved him and I said good bye. When he died a few weeks later, I was in the middle of an important short term contract. I didn’t attend his funeral. My sister was out of the country. She didn’t make it either.

I think a good death reflects a good life. A life spent with enough introspection to comfort and encourage others but not so much that you never connect with those around you.

As Michael and I pulled into our driveway, not having said a word to one another on the long drive home, I noticed for the first time the distance between us that had been bridged too long by our mutual love for Nell. With a deep sigh, I closed my eyes and silently prayed, God, please help me to have a good death.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's a girl!

A quick blog to update you on my 20 week scan from last Friday.

All looked fine and we found out that the baby is a wee girl. She has long legs and is on the big side (no surprises there!). It was funny to see her on the screen as she was pumping her wee legs away, kicking the hell out of my insides. I couldn't feel a thing either which was quite strange as she looked like she was giving me a good, hard kicking.
The Sonographer was really funny and nice and he took all the important measurements, showed us all the important bits and was very patient with all my daft questions - some truly numpty ones as usual from me.
We saw the heart chambers and vessels as well as the different areas of the brain. He showed us the Cerebral and explained that the shading and the shape showed that there was an almost zero chance that the baby has cerebral palsy - another reassurance for us. Heartbeat was 150 beats per minute which is good and healthy.
All limbs look fine and he showed us the developing sex organs - although I couldn't tell what they were but he assures me it is definitely a girl.

How exciting we are having a daughter. It shows you the power of the mind and my dreams telling me it was a girl already. I am now listing all my girlie names to try and decide what to call her. I have so many on my list and they are a mixture of modern, traditional and Celtic names so I just know it is going to be very difficult to make a final decision. What a responsibility giving a living being it's name as I believe a name is important in how a person is viewed. Like the quote from the movie The Breakfast Club - "Clare is a fat girls name" - and every name I come up with has some history or opinion that will affect our decision.

After the sonogram we saw the doctor. Dr Sartawi again and I really like her as she seems very matter of fact. She is quite young and I feel like I could be her mother but she really puts me at ease and does not have any of the american bullshit you sometimes get (perhaps because she spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia). I have put on 10 lbs which she says is perfect for the halfway mark as you should only put on between 25 and 35 pounds in a healthy pregnancy. Again she was patient with all our daft questions.

Well that is all the news from the visit so here are some of the scans and the latest pisture of my bump.

In the one below she is actually having a yawn which was so lovely to see. the sonographer had a laugh and made used this and the previous still photo to make her talk to us.

You can just see her long legs on the right hand side as she was doing her bench presses against my Uterus. I was not expecting any 3D scans so it took my breath away when the sonographer suddenly switched the machine over to 3D mode. The joys and benefits of expensive American healthcare system and the advance equipment it provides. You can make out her face and the ears, eyes, nose and mouth were very clear as well as her wee left hand up at her mouth.

Giving a smile for the camera!

The bump at halfway through. I am still in regular clothes for now with the help of my belly band for my jeans, so not had to spend any money on pregnancy clothes yet. I am sure in a month I will invest in some but holding off as long as I can.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Layette?!

What is a Layette?
It is a term I had never in all my 39 years heard of until I found out I was pregnant. Even during friends and families pregnancies the term had never appeared in my awareness and vocabulary.
I first came across it when I starting reading some pregnancy books and there it was used in abundance as if we all knew what the author meant. It was only when we phoned my In laws and my Father in law - an extremely eloquent, well read man - mentioned something about getting the babies Layette ready. Well I thought, clearly I am the only person in the world (apart from my darling husband) who has not heard of this term. So a quick google search produced the following definition:

A layette is a collection of clothing for a newborn child. The term "layette set" is commonly used in the United States to refer to gift sets of baby clothes.

Traditionally, women would hand-sew their baby's clothes during their pregnancy. Today "layette" is often used to identify a baby clothing section of a store. The term can also be used for bedding, accessories, and baby care items

Well perhaps that is why I have never heard the term as it is most common in the US.

My next question is how does one pronounce it properly. I tend to pronounce it Lay et, although I have heard people say Lie et. Perhaps our resident Linguist, the LovelyTreez, can give me her expert guidance on this?!

After finding out what the hell everyone was talking about I set off on the task of producing myself a traditional Layette for Junior. As I have not sewn for many years and don't possess a sewing machine I am limited to knitting what I can for the sprog. I also mentioned in a previous blog about the tradition of knitting shawls and blankets that my Mother used to do. Well on this note I picked up one of her old patterns and made my first attempt at a pram blanket. I am quite pleased with it but especially with the thought that I am carrying on a family tradition. I would have loved one of her own hand knits but I have no way of getting them now, even from family in the UK .

So here is my attempt at a pram blanket:

This photo is trying to show how the leaf detail is actually raised to give the blanket some texture.
Here are some fluffy mittens for the winter.I fancied trying something with blue in it, in case it was a boy so just added some blue edging to this simple cardigan and mittens.

Then I fancied trying something pink and frilly in case it is a girl, so did these girly bootees and mittens with ribbons.

Well that is all for this blog as I just wanted to share my latest crafts. Just finishing a coat for baby to come home in and will then do a wee hat to keep the head warm. After that I will be attempting the seond of my Mothers patterns and doing a swaddling shawl. I bought some nice cream wool for this so will make an attempt and share the results in due course.
Take care all and next update will be very soon as I have my 20 week scan this Friday. Photos of the bump to come as well as it is getting quite big - well for me anyway. Xx

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Cherry Blossom, a Baby Shower and the Bump

The Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual two-week event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival® annually commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, honoring the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrating the continued close relationship between our two cultures.

In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. A group of American school children reenacted the initial planting in 1927 and the first "festival” was held in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the Nation’s Capital.

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees in 1965. In 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from our trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.

The Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse activity schedule during the trees’ blooming. Today, more than a million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and attend events that herald the beginning of spring in the Nation’s Capital.

The Festival looks forward to celebrating the centennial anniversary of the gift of trees in 2012 and is planning spectacular events to mark this historic and special occasion.

And the Cherry Blossom trees were absolutely stunning while driving around for work and in the parks of Washington DC. The only down side is the high pollen count around this time, to the point that the inside of my car was yellow with the pollen when I put my roof down in the sunshine. So I am sneezing my way around at the moment as I don't like to take allergy medicine anyway but particularly so now I am pregnant.

To join in the celebrations downtown we decided to head to The Waterfront for the day on the second Saturday of the festival. On this day they were having a family day of activities, music and then some fireworks in the evening. Vicky had warned us to go early as the crowds would be huge but I can't really get myself going well in the morning at the moment so we planned to meet Dawn, Simon, Mike and Catherine mid afternoon to head down for some afternoon sunshine and then to stay on for the fireworks in the evening. It was a lovely afternoon but Vicky was right and the crowds were incredible. Added to this the fact that they had not catered very well and we had difficulty getting anything to eat or drink we decided to pack up early and head back to Bethesda for drinks and dinner in the evening before the fireworks had started ( it's not like we had never seen fireworks before). Boy were we glad we took this decicison because we had to fight our way into the subway station against the masses of people that were turning up to see the fireworks and the stations on the way home were mobbed. It would have been pandemonium and dangerous later to try and get home amongst those mobs. As it was we managed to lose Mike and Catherine at one of the subway stations but just texted them that we would then meet them back at Bethesda so not really a problem as at least they were together. We finished the day having drinks outside at the Tiki bar in Bethesda with Dawn and Simon and hearing about there possible new plans to move to Dallas, Texas at the end of June. We will be sad to see them go but a great excuse to visit them in Texas - with perhaps a side visit down to San Antonio to see Sazzy Sarah!
I kept forgetting that I had my camera but here are the few photos I took at the beginning of our day out


A Baby Shower

Kim and Andrew were having their baby shower for Scooter ( as we all affectionately call their unborn son). They decided against the traditional, ladies only, baby shower and just hosted an afternoon party for male and female friends. It was a lovely sunny, Spring day so with the balcony doors on their condo open it was lovely eating and drinking while catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.
Kim had been on bed rest all week as she had low amniotic fluid levels. She had posted on facebook that she had a craving for donuts so Jar and I decided to stop off at Krispy Kreme on our way there and turned up with 2 dozen donuts to help satisfy her craving (and my own I must admit!).
Lots of good food, cake and company made it a lovely afternoon. My only disappointment was not experiencing a traditional baby shower so I could see what it entailed to decide whether I wanted one of my own. Although I belieive that Vicky is already plotting one for me with Jarlath!

Again here are the few photos I remembered to take:


Kim took some better photos and has posted them to Facebook but I can't work out how to share them on here but try this link, if not they should be on my facebook profile for those of you on there:


The Bump

Well not much to update you on the Bump. I am worried that I am not putting on much weight and not really showing but looking at people's comments, this seems quite common until the 6th or 7th month so will try not to fret too much - I know I will probably be moaning for the next few years about trying to lose all the baby weight that I did eventually put on!!

I am now at 18 weeks and I think I felt my first flutter of movement last week but nothing since. I am due the 20 week scan in a couple of weeks on Friday 30th April just hours before we fly to Chicago for the weekend. So, hopefully, all will be ok and we will get to see what sex it is! Any guesses as to what you think it will be?

The overwhelming nausea has gone apart from the odd moment and it is making life a lot happier for me. Still tired but I can cope with that as long as the sick feeling has gone. Still walking with the dogs every day and have been enjoying some really weird, warm Spring weather - it was in the high eighties Fahrenheit (low thirties celsius) for a few days, which was a bit too hot for walking but still quite enjoyable after a cold, hard winter.

Bobby is enjoying the nicer weather as well and has taken to lying outside under the grapevines again in the afternoons. Her is visibly getting old in the way he comes up and down stairs and has turned into quite a grumpy old man who is very vocal about his needs. I still get lots of cuddles whenever I sit or lie down and he is my constant shadow when I am in the house. Lets hope he has plenty more years left in him - he is twelve now.

Well that is all folks. Another update soon. Xx